Filed under: Running
Many ultramarathoners comment that if they wanted a sure thing, they’d run a road 10K. Many of them learn to appreciate the uncertainty that comes with tackling distances of 30, 50 or even 100 miles. Whether it’s Mother Nature, injury, or stomach problems, an entire day’s worth of challenges can present itself in such a long race. And, at the August 22 Leadville Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, two Boa employees experienced all of the above.
The Leadville Trail 100 is widely held as one of the most difficult foot races in the world. The race takes place entirely above altitudes of 9,200 feet, in the Central Rockies of Colorado. It also crosses over two mountain passes twice each (the course is an out-and-back).
Over the years, Leadville has consistently held the lowest finishing rate of any 100-mile runs. Roughly 44% of starters endure to cross the finish line under the 30-hour cut-off.
This year, Boa Inventory Coordinator Jason Deugan and Boa Marketing Manager Garett Graubins toed the starting line in downtown Leadville. With the blast of a shotgun (starter’s pistols are left for the Olympics), they bolted into the pre-dawn darkness with over 500 other wildly enthusiastic runners.
Graubins, who had completed three previous Leadville Trail 100s, had decided to push his pace as much as he comfortably could during the morning hours. And, by 12:45 in the afternoon, he hit the turnaround point more than 20 minutes ahead of his target pace, which would get him to the finish in under 20 hours.
“Even though I hit the turnaround pretty quick, I was running on eggshells,” he says. “It was hot – near-record heat, in fact. And the sun was blasting. I was going through water like nothing and my stomach couldn’t hold much beside energy gels, blocks, and the occasional banana.” Graubins turned around and began the long trip back to Leadville with his pacer, Rich Rodgers of Cultivator Design, one of Boa’s creative partners.
On the way back up 12,600-foot Hope Pass, Graubins bumped into Jason Deugan, who was also dealing with his share of troubles, but of a different variety. Knee pain. IT bands, to be more specific. “I assumed that while attempting my first 100 mile foot race I would be happy, tired, hungry, thirsty, wanting to quit, etc.,” he says. “But I never expected to have such severe knee pain that would eventually take me out of the race.”
Deugan hobbled down the Pass and dropped at the 50-mile turnaround. Just 36 hours later, he was already talking of redemption, however. The mountains will still be there.
Meanwhile, Graubins battled his touchy stomach and the heat. At Mile 60, he was still moving strong, despite the fact that he could not eat. “I knew I had to get some calories or I’d pay dearly for it later.” He picked up a fresh pacer who fed him Clif Blox every 10 minutes all the way to Mile 71, where he arrived still ahead of his sub-20-hour splits … but losing ground fast.
As the sun sank in the Rocky Mountain sky, it became a race to beat both the approaching night and his quickly fading energy. After pushing the pace on a five-mile paved stretch, Graubins and his pacer arrived at Mile 76, the Leadville Fish Hatchery. Two pieces of watermelon and two cups of Sprite went down, and the duo continued moving forward.
The crux of the final quarter of the Leadville Trail 100 is Sugarloaf Pass. It consists of five false summits on its way to an altitude of 11,200 feet. Graubins’ pace slowed to a crawl here and his stomach turned to a churning bubble, ready to erupt at any time. “At that point, the finish line seemed impossibly far away,” he says. “More than once I wondered if my race was over … if I would end up walking back to the previous aid station rather than continuing upward and onward.”
As the sun sank behind the mountains to the west, Graubins reached the top of Sugarloaf Pass. From here, it was matter of shuffling the feet and trying to make good time on the downhill before switching on the headlamps. “Soon enough, the legs seemed to loosen up and I began to make pretty good time again.”
At Mile 87, Mayqueen Campground, Graubins realized he had a chance to crack the 20-hour mark if he could make good time over the remaining sections of trail and road. “It took a long, hard push – especially to climb the last three miles into Leadville – but I had a good pacer and was able to hold my stomach together one last time.”
Finally, at 11:38 at night, Graubins’ feet hit the red carpet signifying the finish line of the Leadville Trail 100. A crowd of family and friends stood nearby and camera flashes lit up the finisher’s tape. “It was a blur – the last couple hundred feet – but in the same way that many of life’s most memorable moments are.” After a medal was placed around his neck, Graubins hunched over with his hands on his knees, exhausted and elated. His final time of 19:38:57 placed him seventh out of approximately 270 finishers.
For complete results, visit www.leadvilletrail100.com
GEAR NOTES: Both Deugan and Graubins wore Boa Lacing System prototypes throughout the Leadville Trail 100. A very special thanks goes to the Boa Technology Product Development Team, which worked with them throughout the spring and summer to find just the right configuration to complement the footwear that suited their gaits, footshapes, and race terrain. Deugan wore the Pearl Izumi Seek III. Graubins wore the Pearl Izumi Peak XC and later the New Balance 904 Road. Says Deugan: “My trail shoes with Boa were great. Once I got the fit at the start, I stopped only one time to adjust them: at mile 41 after a river crossing.”
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