LooseCrew-JeffO: LT100 2007 - Treeline to DNF


Ramblings of an adventurous guy living in Denver and playing in the mountains.
For my trail adventures, visit my Trail Bum blog

Saturday, August 25, 2007

LT100 2007 - Treeline to DNF

Treeline isn’t named after alpine treeline – the opposite: the forest breaks and there’s a wide-open flood plain meadow in the headwaters of the Arkansas River.
Hallelujah, my CR-V was actually parked on the shoulder of the road! Paul and Dave had my lounge chair set up. I didn’t need my hydration bladder filled. I needed electrolytes and protein drink, and I needed to do a deep-knee squat. My CR-V tailgate was perfect to hold onto and pull myself back up again. Then we were off again. It still took longer than I wanted, but maybe I was getting too antsy about it. I didn’t pay attention to my watch so I don’t know how long it was. By then I’d lost my sense of time. Everything seemed to be taking too long.

Pavement. It was a long, easy road, though monotonous. I wanted to get over Sugarloaf, but that would have to wait. I at least held steady with the other runners around me.

Fish Hatchery – I had to run to the nearest porta-potty. The pause that refreshes. Four minutes. No toilet paper, but I had some in my rear pocket. What a Boy Scout.
One of my goals was to reach Fish Hatchery without throwing-up. Success. There was so much vomit on the trails and roads by now. I started to be mindful that what I ate would taste pretty good on the way out too. Muscle Milk and Safeway strawberry nutrition drink both taste pretty good. I imagine they’d be fine the other direction. Luckily, I never got to confirm that.

Less than a marathon between me and the finish.

I was starting to get pissed at how long the aid station stops were taking. My crew was talking and I suddenly started leaving. Doug, my next pacer, said, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” I answered, “I’m getting my ass over Sugarloaf.” Then he asked me if I needed sport drink. Holy shit! Yes. As a matter of fact. Man I was so shit-faced at that point. That would’ve been an unforgivable, critical mistake on my part.

After refilling my hydration bladder, Doug and I headed out.
Doug had the hardest job of all. I was still lucid until we started the climb of Sugarloaf. Pretty much instantly, I was in a stupor. I didn’t fight the stupor, but instead tried to use it to my advantage. I just concentrated on working my legs up the mountain in a steady, efficient pace.
Doug is a personal trainer. He’s used to constantly nagging people. Somehow, though, I think I was the biggest challenge of his life. I can’t believe how hard he worked. He probably got tired of hearing his own voice, but I hooked my trailer to it. He talked me all the way up – and it was a merciless long way up, in my condition.

About 2/3 of the way up, two women passed me – probably a runner and pacer. After they passed, I ramped-up my pace one notch. For several seconds, I was elated that I was doing it! Just as I was thinking I’d hold this for several minutes and then ramp up another notch, my vision started strobing off. Woah! Full-stop! I didn’t say anything to Doug about what just happened – that would’ve required effort to communicate. Instead I just told myself not to do that anymore.

My hope was that I’d get a 3rd-wind. My 2nd-wind was coming off Hope Pass. I needed a third wind. I was frustrated because I had consumed so many gels, Muscle Milks, nutrition drinks, and assorted other food, and kept from throwing-up. Where had it gone? There should be resurgence. I waited in vain.

We finally reached the summit and headed down the other side.
Leadville has three major climbs – Sugarloaf, the Colorado Trail on the flanks of Mt. Elbert, and Hope Pass. You do each twice. I had done it! Statistically, if you get over Sugarloaf, you’ll finish.
Somehow, there was no more speed in me. Not even downhill. My legs were concrete.

Two years ago I paced Paul G. It was his first 100. He DNF’d here. I was having memories of that. The only consolation was that I was moving three times faster than he was at the point where we dropped down the S-turn. Problem was, Paul had been down to about ¼ mile per hour. So 3x’s faster still wasn’t 1mph! Come-on 3rd-wind! Where are you?

Doug and I reached Hagerman Road. It was smooth. What a relief. I was looking at my watch. It was looking bad. My body was not responding. I really think the lack of sleep was the single biggest factor. But oh man, the pain at that point. I was drowning in pain. My legs were swollen. The cement had set. My mind started changing. For the first time, I was seeing my fate, and I couldn’t believe it. Not me! I’ve always picked ridiculous goals, and I achieve them all.
Sorry if this sounds self-serving, but I’ve always been my own biggest fan. I’ve been on mountains in blizzards and run out of water with miles of desolation between me and safety. The hair stood up on the back of my neck with the certainty that this time I’d gone too far. I made it without even feeling much discomfort! I had Guillian-Barre where I was a virtual quadriplegic. The doctors told me I might eventually run again, but not like I used to, and I’d never climb mountains again. Yeah? Four months later I solo’d Mt. Wilson. In April, it’s still winter on the Wilson sisters. I’m not even sure the LT100 was harder than that. I went dumpster-diving for a couple of years pulling computers out, fixing them, and building a lab where I taught myself networking and computers, quizzed-out, and change careers. The equivalent of a college degree in 18 months. That wasn’t physical, but it was probably harder than anything I’ve ever done or ever will do.
I’ve learned that excuses are usually why people fail. Good excuses guarantee failure. They don’t require it – it just makes it easier to give up when your excuse is a good one.
So pardon me for being cocky. “It’s impossible” tends to mean I’m going to succeed – no matter what.
Not this time.

A woman wearing a blanket over her shoulders appeared out of the darkness. She tried her best to cheer me on, but Doug had already pulled out his walkie-talkie and told Paul to come up and get me.
The course follows Hagerman until it drops steeply off the side down into the forest. The trail from Hagerman road to Mayqueen is the worst trail on the entire course. My legs weren’t there. It had been hours of waiting for some sign from my body that there could or would be a 3rd-wind. We got nothing.
Instead of a 3rd wind, my vision started strobing off and on again like it had the other side of Sugaloaf, even though I was now poking along sedately on smooth Hagerman Road.
I was just stretching it out in the vain hope of a 3rd wind, but in the absence of such a surge, it would’ve been stupid and dangerous to head down the trail and into the forest below.
The woman in the blanket – whoever she was – impressed me. She’s got a heart of gold and a spirit like the sun, but it couldn’t change my situation.
Paul brought the CR-V up, but I insisted of walking until I got to the exact spot where the trail drops off the side.
I mumbled something to the woman about being a mountain climber. The mountain isn’t going anywhere and neither is Leadville. Some people who get to where I was vow never to do another 100. But I was going to do Leadville every year, and one year I was going to do it under 25hrs. Even in my state, I felt like a diehard ultra-addict. Life is running. Everything else is just waiting to run. I want to run forever. I wish I didn’t ever have to stop.

Hey, ignore how horrible I felt. Here’s how insane I am: I was still having more fun than I had ever had in my life. Not just overall for the day, but even at that moment that I fell on my hands and knees and started coughing and hacking with pulmonary edema so hard I almost passed-out and drool was running out of my mouth. The Leadville Trail 100 is all it’s cracked up to be. It is awesome and tough. Whether you finish or not, you will certainly intimately know yourself when you’re done.


At 8:06 PM, Blogger Meghan said...

Well written and so real, Jeff.

In the face of pure physical misery, where was your mind? In a perfect, happy, contented place. That's a little psychotic, but that's what these lunatical endurance sports require. Isn't it?

Oh the foreshadowing! Pulmonary edema? Are you going to blog another entry about that? Good grief.

Each evening I've set down to read your blog entry while I eat dinner. It's been, literally, the highlight of my night. I hope that doesn't sound awful, what with this being a nasty story and all.

Hope you're well.

PS. I emailed you.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Kevin said...


What an incredible story. I have been checking out your blog every day with rabid anticipation looking for the next installment in your LT100 saga. The tale that you spun was just so riveting. Whether you DNF'd or not, you probably now know and understand yourself in ways that most people never will. It sounds like you had a blast doing the race and that is what really counts in the end. Just to set such a goal for yourself and to pour so much of yourself into that goal speaks volumes about your commitment and dedication. Keep reaching for those "impossible" goals. They're only impossible until you accomplish them.


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