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September 30, 2012

Llamas and Moccasins and Masculine Fairies: Leadville 100 Post-Race Q&A

Shortly after returning to the Internet after my post-Leadville hiatus, I mentioned that I would do some sort of recap post to answer a few questions and other points that were raised in the comments section or in my e-mail inbox afterward – and then in classic slacker fashion, I proceeded to put that idea on the back shelf for a few more weeks.

So maybe I haven’t fully put Leadville behind me – and perhaps finally getting around to the post I promised will help close the book and move on.  Or not … I really have no idea.  But I do owe you a post.

However, before we get to it: if for some reason you missed either this Salomon Running Leadville video that I embedded in August, or my almost embarrassingly long race report, check them out for the background to this post.  We’ll do this in Q&A fashion, starting with an easy one:

Q: Is this a new thing: every time you come across a llama, it’s going to make the race report?

A: Absolutely.  Longtime readers may recall an earlier proviso to my personal race report manifesto: if there are cows on the course, they’re making the report.  It seems only proper that the same recognition should be given to llamas.  I’ll call this the Leadville Proviso.

And if you can get your picture taken WITH a llama, that's a no-brainer.

Q: Do you win the award for most minimal footwear that day?

A: I’m not sure.  In the first half of the race, I yo-yoed back and forth with a couple of guys wearing Luna sandals, which are significantly thicker underfoot than my Soft Star RunAmoc Dash Lites 10mm to 5mm, respectively), but the huarache-style upper leaves your foot a lot more exposed.  I also saw a couple of people in Vibrams; I couldn’t tell what model, but I think one was KSO Treks and the other might have been Spyridon LS

The problem is, I have no idea if any of these people finished.  I lost track of the Luna guys somewhere on Hope Pass, and I didn’t catch either of their names to check the results.  Both Vibram guys were inbound toward Winfield quite a while after I had started making my way back, so I have a feeling they didn’t make the halfway cutoff.   If anyone can fill me in on this one, I’d love to hear about it.

Q: What kind of hydration system do you use?  How do you carry food / gels / gear, etc?

A: My normal preference for ultras is to wear an Ultimate Direction Uno on my waist and a Nathan Quickdraw Elite on my hand, and that’s what I ended up using at Leadville as well.  However, I gave this one a lot of thought beforehand, because Leadville has longer than usual distances between aid – up to 13 miles in some cases – and some stretches that are shorter but can take in excess of a few hours due to the terrain (see: Hope Pass).  I considered wearing a hydration pack instead, but ultimately I decided to trade weight (or lack thereof) for fluid capacity.  It worked well for me, but I also saw a ton of people with hydration packs, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that was the wrong choice.

Outside Fish Hatchery at mile 25

For food and gear storage, the Uno is really ideal, as I can zip 5 gel packs into one pocket and a compact headlamp into the other.  I also carry food in my hands a lot – in particular when walking away from aid stations with a few PB&;J squares in tow.

Q: That is no “her” with the wings.

A: OK … this isn’t exactly a question, but a remark that hit me like a hammer when I saw it in the comments section.  The reader was referring to this picture of someone’s pacer that was forced to dress as a fairy with angel wings while running for 50 miles.  In my race report I (understandably) called the fairy a girl, but a reader in the know corrected me.

Here’s the funny part: when I passed the fairy in person, I seriously thought it was a guy.  But I was above 12,000’, with more than 45 miles on my legs, and as I’ve mentioned several times before, ultras do bizarre things to your head.  So when I looked at the photo afterward and realized that I only had a couple of seconds to make sense of what I saw on the trail that day … it definitely wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that I had things mixed up.  I mean, the dude is wearing women’s shorts … and upon closer inspection, appears to have shaved legs.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.*  But I’m certainly happy to have some closure on this topic, which was starting to develop a creepy Crying Game element to it.  I think for everyone’s sake, it’s best that we never speak of this again.

(*Coincidentally, taken from another post-race Q&A from several years ago, after one of my very first race reports.)

Q: What will you remember the most?

A: This one’s pretty much impossible to answer, because I brought home a ton of memories that will stay with me forever – or at least for as long as my website remains live and Google’s web storage remains intact.  Most of them were described in the report, but there is one small moment that wasn’t included there but is growing more memorable in hindsight.

In the Salomon video I posted a while ago, Leadville’s race director comments, “It’s going to get to a point … no matter how good a athlete you are, it’s going to really hurt, and it’s going to transcend the physical, and become about the mental.”  His quote was bouncing around my head off and on early in the race, but hit me like a bolt of lightning when I saw this sign in a meadow at the base of Hope Pass:

(click to enlarge)

It says “Transcend the Physical,” and more than anything else I saw or heard on the course, drove home the fact that You’re here – and this is The Moment. There are very few points in life when there’s so much clarity about preparation (and anticipation) meeting opportunity, and very few experiences where I’ve been as completely at one with the moment as I was when going back and forth over Hope Pass.  And if that sounds bizarrely spiritual … well, it was just that kind of race.

But now it’s probably time to leave it behind – and on that subject, one more question …

Q:  What’s next?

A: I truly, honestly, sincerely have absolutely no idea.  There are plenty of adventures out there, but I’m simply not at the point of giving any of them an ounce of consideration.  I feel like I might run another 100 next year, or I may never race again – at this point, both scenarios seem equally likely.  I’m sure I'll settle in some sort of middle ground, and that something will capture my imagination someday … I’m just not in a hurry to actively seek it out on my own. 

And trust me: that feeling’s not a bad thing at all. 

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Michael Jones 10/1/12, 8:17 AM  

from what i've read on your site before, i thought you were a nathan hydration vest guy. is the vest for training and the belt for races?

Stephen Boulet 10/1/12, 1:34 PM  

+1 on the llamas. There really can be no other decision.

Jacob 10/1/12, 8:25 PM  

you know that fairy finished 11th last year...

Donald 10/1/12, 8:58 PM  

@Michael Jones: Exactly. And yes, the HPL 020 is still my favorite.

@Jacob: Yeah, I heard he was pretty badass - which would explain why he and his runner were more than 10 miles ahead of me halfway into the race.

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