Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leadville 100 2009--DNF

Well. The short of it, for those with better things to do than read about my failures: I roughly stuck to my pre-race plan of tritely Going Big Or Going Home and I came down on the rather more tarnished, grimy side of that coin-flip gamble. After being significantly under course record pace all day (17 minutes fast at mile 60, 20+ minutes fast at mile 70), I DNFed at mile 78. A bit more in-depth account exists below the picture, which I think displays quite succinctly what I was reduced to while coming into the Fish Hatchery aid station (mile 76.5): a person who has found himself in such a hopeless situation that all he can do is smile wryly.

("How am I still in the lead?" With Alex, my patient pacer, ~mile 76. Photo: Rob O'dea.)

Now for the (much much) longer version. The final week of tapering leading up to Saturday's race went okay. After being inspired by watching Armstrong power up Sugarloaf on his mountain bike the previous weekend I had to head down to Boulder for graduate school orientation, and to ascertain a non-Roost abode for the school year. I never felt good on the short one hour jogs I did along Boulder Creek Path and finally on Wednesday ventured onto more favorable terrain with a casual jaunt up Mt. Sanitas. This seemed to put a little more pep in my legs and my final easy runs in Leadville on Thursday and Friday my legs felt great. Fresh, rested, and absolutely ready to rock.

However, these last couple days before the race some giardia-type symptoms like I'd experienced earlier in the summer (specifically, about a week before the White River 50) reared their various heads again, but I went into the weekend unconcerned with any bearing that would have on my race.

After a typically restless pre-race night in the Roost, race morning was cool and clear, perfect weather really. The nerves were there, as they'd been for a couple of days, but it was the good kind--I was just excited to finally get rolling! With about 90 seconds until the gun I stepped to the front of the amassed ~600 runners, stripped off all of my warm clothes, probably said something sarcastic to Duncan, and we were off, striding into the idyllic night.

Immediately, running down 6th Street, with the Rocky theme blaring from someone's front yard, the rest of the top runners' strategies were pretty clear, and logical: there's no real reason to run faster than Tony. Most of the run down the Boulevard, I kind of knew that we were going a touch quick. A time-check at the bottom of the road confirmed it--we were over a minute faster for the first 3.3 miles than what I had done during training. Of course, however, my legs (and I'm sure everyone else's) felt great.

On the run over to the powerline cut leading up to the lake I consciously tried to back off the pace and run as stumble-slow as possible. In what would become a theme for the first 30 miles of my race, I would alternately succeed in my quest for this subdued rhythm and lose focus and get immediately caught back up in unconsciously racing the person I was running with (mostly Timmy Parr). Any thoughts/efforts of racing in the first third of a hundred miler are for naught, and merely waste oh-so-valuable energy and muscle resiliency (a lesson I had thought I'd learned well enough--but apparently not--in the 2007 Rocky Raccoon 100).
The powerline cut up to the lake is a short but extremely sharp and technical three or so minutes of running. Every other year I've run this race I'm the only one who runs it (probably pointless and ill-advised) but this year I followed behind Josh Meitz and was trailed by Timmy. We hit the lake in 43:45 where I snuck into the lead on the singletrack (because I like having a clear view) and tried my best to go as conservatively as possible. This went well on the way to boat ramp, which we hit just under 1:01; I felt like I was a running a nice, conservative, stumbling easy pace through here.

However, a short time later I would need to make my first of many (well, at least nine) pit-stops, and being in the lead, when I pulled over into the woods at first Josh and Timmy and it seemed most of the rest of the lead group of half a dozen or so runners followed right behind me before Duncan informed them that I was indeed stopping to shit and that the trail stayed straight. A good laugh all around, but I proceeded to lose a minute and a half on the group and realize that giardia might be an issue for the day.

The rest of the way to Mayqueen, as much as I told myself to just chill out and catch back up gradually, I would periodically catch myself edging out of the stumble-slow zone in an effort to regain the front pack and eventually did catch them just as we stepped onto the asphalt for Mayqueen campground. A solid group of us all came into the station essentially together at 1:42, but--as would become an important point in the rest of my day--this was really more of a 1:40 "effort" because of my needing to stop.

(Cruisin' through the Mayqueen tent early in the morning. Photo: Rob O'dea.)

Leaving Mayqueen it was still chilly and more than a little dark but I still decided to ditch the headlamp. I filed onto the Colorado trail behind Josh and one other runner with Timmy right behind me. The pace slowed fairly dramatically on this trail because it seemed that--even though he was using a light--Josh wasn't comfortable on the technical terrain. I was more than happy with the super-relaxed effort however, and once we hit Hagerman Road (just under 2:05) Timmy and myself ran side-by-side in the lead with Josh directly behind us, threatening to clip our heels. I guess we all wanted to be on the exact same section of road.

(Tim and I heading up Hagerman Pass Road, ~mile 16. Photo: Rob O'dea.)
Once we turned off Hagerman and began the true climb to the top of Sugarloaf, though, it was just Timmy and I cruising along comfortably climbing probably just a bit too quickly. It was still the chilliest race morning I've had on top of Sugarloaf, an odd precursor to the remainder of the day. At the summit of the climb Timmy and I both pulled over for brief pit-stops, but a mere five or 10 minutes later I had to stop yet again, and longer, handing Timmy another minute plus lead. And again, I pushed the downhill here just maybe a tiny touch too much to catch back up.

We hit the asphalt road to the Fish Hatchery side by side and ran into the aid station the same way in 3:06. I was a bit more efficient with my crew, so I headed back out a little before Tim but he soon rejoined me and we cruised down the black-top, both shirtless in anticipation of the rising sun in the cloudless sky on the shadeless road. Bottom line, we both ran way too fast through here over to Treeline/Pipeline. It wasn't a hard effort because we were both fit and rested and ready to roll but the entire time I was constantly reminding myself to slow the F down, this is 100 miles we have to run today, and whenever I would consciously slow Timmy would do the same, but always half-stepping, always wanting to go just a bit faster and before I would know it I would be right there by his side again. It was frustrating for me to get distracted by this sort of external stimulus. Either way, we hit the Pipeline turn-off (normally the "Treeline" crew access point, the Pipeline section being a course re-route around a military helicopter crash site) in 3:36 and then ran another few minutes down Pipeline where my crew handed me a full bottle and we continued on our way.

(Timmy and I crankin' it on Halfmoon Creek Road, ~mile 26. Photo: Scott Nesbett.)

Here is where my problems really began in earnest. First, I knew that my left hamstring was a bit too tight a bit too early for my own good. For the past three years, my upper left hamstring has been my early indicator of leg muscle fatigue. In 2006, it was the first thing to show any hints of fatigue on the road up to the 30 mile Halfmoon aid station, the same thing in 2007, and this year was no different. Approaching 30 miles one would expect to feel some early, initial signs of muscular wear and tear. I've run nearly four hours already, afterall. However, this time I just had some intuitive sense that this was a touch too much, too early. So, I again continued with trying to back off the pace. Finally, I was forced to with yet another shit stop. Here, I lost over a minute taking care of business and I just resolved to let Timmy go so as to completely allow myself to run my own pace, my own race, and get good and comfortable.

Letting Timmy go was a bit of a relief mentally but also a downer mentally. Nevertheless, I just tried to forget about him and continue on. However, before the 30ish mile "Box Creek" aid station (probably more like 31 miles) I had to stop twice more with crapping issues and would thus feel myself still pushing just a bit too much because I had a mind to not wanting the gap to grow too large. Just before the Box Creek aid there was a long swooping, open curve in the road that allowed me to see Timmy just before he darted back into the woods and I was able to clock his lead at right at two minutes. Two minutes. That's nothing, especially with all my stopping. It is much easier to think logically, sitting here on the floor, not in the thick of the fight.

The Box Creek aid station was a mess for me, and a mental low point. I stopped very briefly to top off my water bottle and then proceeded to exit the aid station in the wrong direction, not once but twice, and then get lunged at by a seemingly rabid, aggressive-as-shit-teeth-bared-honing-directly-in-on-my-Achilles dog. All of this was fairly upsetting to me and did little to brighten my already fairly dark mood.

The forest service road that we were running on took a slight turn up after the aid station, but nothing really significant. All extremely runnable. I actually managed to forget about Tim and just run. My left hamstring and right hip were already barking at me pretty good and there wasn't a lot of pep in my legs period, so I spent this section headed up to the Colorado Trail just trying to get comfortable again. Two years ago I had kind of a rough time through here on the way out as well, so I took comfort in the fact that I could have kind of a bad patch this early and still recover from it just fine.

And then, on an annoying, fairly extended little uphill that crests right before the South Elbert Trailhead (which marks the beginning of true downhill all the way into Twin Lakes) I'm just bopping along, in a good rhythm and lo and behold, there's Timmy up ahead of me walking up the hill. Ah, the first good news of the whole morning, really. Of course, my spirits are instantly lifted, I'm sure I gained a little pep in my running stride, and I caught Tim right at the top of the rise and slowly pulled away on the resulting downhill.

I gapped him on the entire downhill into Twin Lakes, running with renewed energy (this downhill has always helped my legs recover and feel good going into the Hope Pass climb), and passed through the aid station in 5:12, nine minutes ahead of course record pace. While running through town I grabbed a singlet (just in case there was any weather on the pass), chugged a bottle of water, and grabbed a new full one from my crew.

(Leaving the Twin Lakes Aid station at mile 40. Photo: Katrina Krupicka)

(Mile 40, heading across the meadow to the river crossing and the Hope Pass climb. Photo: Andrew Wilz.)

I felt good on the run over to the base of Hope Pass, but I had to make another pit-stop in the meadow after the river crossing and had also nearly drained the water that I'd just gotten at Twin Lakes. It was hot down there at 9200'. Despite this, the climb up Hope went well. The north side is cool and shaded next to a creek most of the way, and I filled my bottle at a small stream crossing half-way up. I consciously kept everything super-comfortable by hiking the steepest sections but still running the vast majority of this uphill. It was a way easier effort than any other time I'd gone up it all summer. Before I knew it I was standing up there in the meadow with the llamas chugging water at the Hopeless aid station (elapsed time of 6:20). The remainder of the way to the top of the pass I mostly hiked and was excited to see running acquaintances Nick Clark and Bryan Goding taking pictures and providing general encouragement.

(Mere yards before summiting 12,600' Hope Pass the first time. Photo: Nick Clark.)

(Almost to the top... Photo: Nancy Hobbs)

Running down the south side of Hope pretty much sucked. The quads seemed quite a bit unhappier than they should've been and I had to stop two more times to crap. Really? I mean, really? That was certainly getting old. Also, the steepness on the bottom half of the south side of Hope never fails to surprise me. Running up the road to Winfield, however, I was in good spirits, despite running out of water before getting there.

Heading up to Winfield is often when I begin to reflect a bit bemusedly at the absurdity of running 100 miles. Each year, that road sucks. You're not even half-way and your legs already hurt a stupid amount, you've just pounded down a quad-quivering descent and now you have to turn around, struggle back up that goddamned mountain, and run all the way back to town. But somehow, it's totally possible. Certainly not easy. It's actually crushingly difficult. It just requires one to reconsider the intensity and duration of pain that one is willing/able to endure. Even with running 150-180mpw and completing regular 50 mile long runs, it's not a place that I ever reach in day-to-day life, nor an experience that one can really sufficiently physically prepare for, I think. It simply comes down to resolve, fortitude, and stubbornness that eventually must be born anew with nearly every footstep. On a good day, running 100 miles is fucking hard. Period. On a bad day, it's borderline impossible.

I reached Winfield in 7:20. This was too fast. My crossing of Hope Pass was 2:08, about two minutes faster than I'd planned, but with all the stops for shitting, the actual pace I was running was even a few minutes faster than that. Ultimately, I think that would prove to be part of my undoing--running faster to make up for all the time I was spending with my shorts around my ankles.

At Winfield I picked up my pacer, Alex Nichols, and we immediately set to work on drinking lots and lots of water. I downed a bottle of Nuun and a bottle of ice water before we even began the climb. We also ran the road back down to the bottom of the climb a bit quicker than I should've. We hit those 2.5 miles in 18:30 when two years ago Kyle and I had covered the same stretch in 21 minutes. That's a minute per mile faster. I also noted that I had an ~8-10 minute lead on Tim.

The climb back up Hope Pass was mostly fine. It's just so hard. And it was hot this year, not a cloud in the sky. Usually it's raining/hailing going over Hope; not this time. Alex and I settled into a hard hike, running only when the trail approached flat. I had a mind to take it relatively easy on this ascent because I knew I had a big cushion on the record (15 minutes at the turnaround) and I didn't want to blow up by pushing the hill too hard. Even so, once we crested the top (climbing exactly as fast as Kyle and I had two years ago) it took a fair bit for the legs to adjust to the downhill on the other side.

We hit Hopeless in 8:40 (losing a couple of minutes to Matt's record split) and navigated our way through the masses of runners making their way up the mountain. This downhill didn't go great. Again, my quads seemed to be hurting more than they have on this section than in the past (although, I thought that maybe I just had a poor memory with it being two years since I'd run 100 miles), and I was getting some pretty good cramping in my sides, reminiscent of the Leadville Marathon earlier in the summer. Some extra S! Caps seemed to take care of most of these issues, though, and by the bottom of the hill I was in very high spirits.

(Not feeling as bad as I look, Twin Lakes, mile 60. Photo: Rob O'dea.)

It was hot running across the meadow, but I opted for the full submersion in the river crossing, and Alex and I really stepped it out on the way into Twin Lakes. Despite what I felt had been a fairly poor downhill run, we had hit that split in 42 minutes, three minutes faster than I've gone in other years, and delivering us back in Twin Lakes to a raucous crowd in 9:22. A double-crossing in 4:10 (exactly what I'd been hoping for), and a 17 minute cushion on Matt's accumulative time. I was pumped.

The climb up and out of Twin Lakes went quite well, I thought. I hiked a lot, but I felt good. My right hip and my left groin were starting to threaten to cramp fairly regularly, but it was mostly par for the course as far as running 60+ miles goes. The rest of the climb up to the South Elbert trailhead and the rolling section of Colorado Trail were equally satisfying. Alex had me running mostly everything and my body was obliging. However, we were running out of water.

(Still smiling climbing up to the Colorado Trail in the hot sun, ~mile 62. Photo: Rob O'dea.)

It was hot. Later in the day I heard reports of 87 degrees, which was either a record high for race day or a record high for Leadville, period. All I can say is that I know that sounds weak by any non-Arctic standard, but temperatures in the 80s at 10,000' or higher is fairly unheard of. The power of the sun at those altitudes is unreal. Of course, we're not talking Western States or Badwater here, but it was way way hotter than any other day all summer in Leadville and certainly hotter than any other Leadville 100 I've run.

The re-route off the Colorado Trail down to the Box Creek aid station is a gradual downhill and most of it was completely exposed forest service road. With about ten minutes to go to the aid station I asked Alex for another bottle of water and I was surprised to learn we didn't have any more. I just couldn't believe I'd already chugged through all that, especially since Alex was being a trooper and barely drinking anything. Plus, it was to the point that my legs were so tired of running on the smooth, unvarying, road surface that I was just hoping for an uphill as an excuse to walk, but I knew there wasn’t anything like that before the aid station.

Again, it occurred to me what a survival, suffer-fest 100 milers are and although I always claim to anyone who appears interested that 100 mile races are essentially a different sport than even 50 mile races, this stretch of the race was making me truly believe that statement at the very core of my being.

We finally reached the 70 mile aid station in 10:42 and I was sure to dump a bottle of water over my head here before refilling the bottle and heading back out into the dusty sun. Things just got tougher through here on the way over to the Halfmoon road and crew access at Pipeline. It was a gradual thing. The road was flat and unchallenging but my legs just weren’t having it. I couldn’t believe how desperate I was to walk. So, fairly shockingly, I did.

Basically, I don’t walk flat terrain in races. Period. I don’t care how slow I’m shuffling along, it is a very stubborn, basic, animal instinct tenet in my brain that if the ground is flat, I’m running, however slow. And yet, I submitted for brief stretches of time through here and it did very little to revive me. Alex and I ran out of water again; I was just downing it. The quads began cramping regularly. Which sounds so simple and almost trivial written in an English sentence like that, but in the felt reality of life it was devastating on a physical, emotional, molecular level. The sun beat down. Life was more than a little desperate.

When we finally made it to the Pipeline crew access I felt terrible presenting myself to my crew in such a state. Jocelyn was so positive and supportive and cheerful and ready to keep us rolling, but I knew I looked horrible. I certainly felt horrible. I never stop during races, except to fill water bottles if I don’t have a crew doing it for me. And yet, I stopped here, for the first time ever in a 100 mile race, and actually sat down on the bumper of Jocelyn’s vehicle. I was actually a bit horrified at myself for stooping to such a level. This is a race! Come on! What the hell are you doing?!?! But it just seemed like I needed to do something to try to improve my situation.

After a minute or so, Alex and I got out of there, but all of a sudden running just wasn’t even an option. Crazy cramping in the quads reduced me to a humbling, pathetic crab walk on any sort of decline and something not much better on any incline. And then we hit the asphalt road and it was all over. Occasional attempts at running resulted in me either nearly falling down in a cramp-ridden mess or in a comedic, stilted, half-shuffle hop that Alex could walk just as fast. It was really kind of mortifying for me. I’ve never had my body betray me so completely in a biomechanical, muscular function sense. Metabollically I’ve had pretty incapacitating issues before, but never on the musculo-skeletal level that didn’t involve true injury.

So, Alex and I walked. Slowly. For a long time. I started looking over my shoulder, wondering when Timmy was going to come bounding by, but we could see almost four miles behind us and there was no one in sight. This was astounding. I was moving so slow. It was excruciating. Eventually, inexorably, we walked into the Fish Hatchery aid station at mile 76.5, reached in 12:28. (The official race splits will show my time here as 13:50 because that's when my wristband was actually cut, but that was after spending time in the aid station, hobbling another couple miles over to the bottom of Powerline, sitting on the ground for quite some time, and then getting a ride back to Fish Hatchery to get the wristband snipped. I'm not sure why they didn't record/log my initial entrance and exit of FH.) This was only four minutes slower than during my 2007 race, and was actually 17 minutes faster than my split through there in 2006. All the walking had given me plenty of time and opportunity to rehydrate and refuel, so for the first time in quite some while I felt fully alert mentally. My legs just would not function.

(Glamour shot? Nope, just bitterly assessing the damage coming into Fish Hatchery. Photo: Rob O'dea.)
There’s not much to tell after that. I sat in a chair for a few minutes at the Fish Hatchery where Karl Meltzer gave me plenty of excellent advice and a great little pep talk. Between Karl and Jocelyn, I was convinced to get out of there and get headed towards Mayqueen. But it was just not happening. A little ways after the Fish Hatchery I had to stumble to the side of the road for yet another pit-stop but this time the legs weren’t having it and it was quite the pathetic affair trying to accomplish this task without bending my legs and if I could’ve looked at it from a different vantage point and under different circumstances, it would’ve been infinitely hilarious.
It took almost another hour for Jocelyn and I to walk the 1.5 miles or so over to the base of the infamous Powerline climb where, after walking down slight declines backwards, with my hands on my knees, I just sat down on the side of the road and watched as finally first Duncan and then Timmy stumped past in the tell-tale half-crippled strides of humans that have already run three marathons back-to-back-to-back.

That was actually fairly inspiring, but I was done, and I soon had a ride back to the Fish Hatchery where my wristband was snipped. Done. Did Not Finish.

I do not regret dropping out. I do not regret not waiting around for my legs to come back so that I could walk in the last 20 miles in seven or eight hours to notch a simple finish. I did not sign up for this year’s Leadville 100 to simply finish. Two nights before the race I had mentioned to my friend Brooks (who, by the way, ran a fantastic race to finish his first 100 in 23:21) that if things were going so bad that I was merely going to run, say, 18 hours, I would probably elect to not even finish and save my legs for something else. Of course, he said something along the lines of me being an asshole and wanting to punch me in the balls, and that is understandable.

But, I merely mention this to relate how all or nothing my mindset was going into this year’s race. I had nothing to prove to myself about being able to finish the Leadville 100, or the 100 mile distance in general. And really, as elitist as it sounds, I in no way was interested in merely winning the Leadville 100 this year, either. Any finish time that started with a number higher than 15 was going to be a disappointment on some level. Which is not to say that any disappointing race result would be better off as a DNF.
This year’s race, for me, though, was completely about pushing the outer limits and finding where the edge was while doing my very best to not step over that edge. In some ways, I feel like I came pretty f’ing close to riding the line successfully. It’s just such a hard thing to do, and enough little things accumulated throughout the day that I was nudged off by mile 70 and by mile 78 I had plummeted headlong into the abyss.

I will, however, be back, at some point. The Leadville 100 is just too unique of a production for me to turn away from, especially in defeat. I do know also, however, that I will run another, different, 100 mile race before I return. Also, Timmy Parr deserves a hearty congratulations and a job well done for his ability to make it to the finish line in one piece. Although I had a 40 minute lead on him at mile 70, he was obviously smart in letting this gap grow as I dropped and he persevered through a pretty rough patch of his own between mile 70 and 76 (somehow, despite moving at the pace of a drunken snail, I still managed to cover this distance four minutes faster than Tim) to recover, repass Duncan and take the win. Congratulations, Tim!
And now, for the truly cliché part of this treatise. (But, to paraphrase David Foster Wallace, the more vapid and trite the cliché, often the more real and sharp the fangs of authentic reality that lie behind it, so this is not to be taken lightly.) This result in no way diminishes the veritable suite of rich experiences I had this summer living and running in the high mountains. I cannot overstate that. I absolutely relish the opportunity to spend a summer in the town of Leadville doing what I love most, with or without an extra box of rocks to send home with my parents.


Frank Bott said...

First and most important. Many of us out here in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tenn are just happy that you are ok. I have not had the time to read the entire blog.. but will later tonight.. What i did do was send out about 10 emails to ultra running friends that you had posted..

Just happy as hell that you are ok!

GZ said...

Anton - thanks for sharing. Lots of good stuff in here, and I think we all benefit to see it.

And if I shit that many times in a day I'd be flat out wasted - even without running .7 or 7 or 70 something miles in it.

Hope to share some miles with you soon.

KJ said...

Wow, what a blog. I have enjoyed reading some of your past blogs. Thanks for your candid 'replay' of the Leadville race. I'm sorry you weren't able to finish, but it sounds like you would have had real health issues had you kept going.

I hope you don't mind, I am 'borrowing' a few snippets for my column this week, which needless to say, is about you and your running.

Chris Cawley said...


Fellow CC tiger here ('05, I think we took a Furtak class together?),
with a couple shorter races worth of ultra-distance experience, and none of the discipline or rational depth with which you approach the pleasures and hardships of running a shitload.

I find failure to be a more valuable experience than success, unless we're talking resumes, or free-soloing big rock climbs. I wasn't sure if someone as accustomed to success as you must have become would be comfortable with this, and after a summer of following your blog I was bummed to hear your run on Saturday did not go as planned. So, it is great to see that just a few days later you've been able to digest the experience, write about it, and move on to another challenege.

Enjoy graduate school.

HS Matt said...

the quote

"On a good day, running 100 miles is fucking hard. Period. On a bad day, it's borderline impossible"

is a classic. Sorry about the race.

Brandon Fuller said...

Thanks for taking the time to detail the adventure. It is reports like these that I use to formulate my own vision, strategy, and plan. Many of us were following the tweets and trying to piece together the action. In the lead? How much? Record pace? Yes. Cramping? No! Dropped? Huh? Yep. Hard to follow such a drama at 140 characters at a time.

I spent a race or two going from one port-a-potty to the next. I know how exhausting and dehydrating that can be. No water for your system because it is all coming out your ass. Were you getting big drops in weight at the checkpoints?

I just started running 4 years ago -- I am no expert -- but it seems that you are flirting with a new higher level in this sport but a few casual things like drinking from streams and being slightly too minimal at times are catching up with you.

In the end, you remain on the list of dudes that inspire me. Probably got a few more points for this performance. I know you said you are going to run another 100 before you run Leadville again. Well, get that done soon because I am ready to line up there at 6th and Harrison next year and I want you leading the way.

Good luck with school. Surely, we will run into each other soon on the Boulder trails.

PunkRockRunner said...

You pushed the envelope as far as possible. All the best with your recovery and school.

Anonymous said...

I had giardia last year, and I can't imagine trying to do 70+ miles with it. I barely got off the couch except to hit the crapper. Sometimes, we're thrown a set of obstacles that, in the end, are insurmountable. As much as our minds think we can beat them, the vulture eats you. You are just as much of an inspiration in victory as otherwise.

Unknown said...

hey Anton...whats that necklace you wear?

GZ said...

There might be some interest by the readers to review some other guy who had a tough day with quads on Pikes ...

Unknown said...

and what are your thoughts on Nike's free shoes

Anonymous said...

Being someone who is new to ultra distance running, I find your blog very inspirational and educational. I learned more from your DFN that I could ever imagined. I look forward to your next adventure.

Steve Pero said...

Anton, great report...thanks for writing it so soon. Awesome effort, as usual.
Giardia's a bitch. No way you can stay hydrated shitting that many times.

Good luck with the rest of the year,

Unknown said...

Sorry about the DNF, but I have been reading your blog for a while and you are still a running MONSTER in my opinion. Take a year off and win the damn thing in '11

Anonymous said...

Many condolences, Poops-a-lot! Your hilarious retelling made me laugh out loud, though. Hope you feel better soon--

Bret said...

Thanks for sharing. Awesome report. I was volunteering at May Queen 2 all Sunday morning and "Where's Anton" was the most asked question all night. You were in everybody's head. You rock!

peter said...

Sorry to hear about the DNF. I was rooting for you to break the record, a much more compelling story than Armstrong's win. Also glad to hear that you are ok after dropping out.

I am curious about the diarrhea. Giardia is a possibility, but my guess is that this isn't giardia or any intestinal parasite.

Were you just drinking water?
Did you have any bloody stools?
Have you continued to have diarrhea following the race?
Did you vomit?

There isn't much literature on gastrointestinal complaints in ultra-runners, but there are a lot of stories like yours. There is one study that might interest you:

Relationship between gastro-intestinal complaints and endotoxaemia, cytokine release and the acute-phase reaction during and after a long-distance triathlon in highly trained men.

Jeukendrup AE,et al

Clin Sci (Lond). 2000 Jan;98(1):47-55.

It is a pretty non-physiologic thing to push so hard for so long. Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of running ultras and going after one's limits, I just want you to come away with the right diagnosis for the cause of the problem, so that you can go after that record.


Stuart Swineford said...

Thanks for the race report. I was unable to run this year so drove up on my motorbike to watch the festivities. Caught you at the South Elbert trailhead then parked it in Twin Lakes to watch everyone come through.

Sorry your race didn't go as planned. The record will still be there next year.

Recover well.


Jamie Donaldson said...

Hi Anton,
First of all, you are such an inspiration to me and many people! This was my 3rd Leadville and definitely the most difficult! I totally agree with you- the mix of high temperatures and high altitude dehydrates the body faster than the same temperature at a lower altitude. I struggled with severe cramping and dehydration for the majority of this race. I really think that this was more difficult (for me) than running Badwater this year where the temperatures were near 130 degrees. You are amazing! Thanks for pushing the limits and inspiring!

Scott Dunlap said...

Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly - Robert Kennedy.

Thanks for sharing your account (shits and all). I hope your recovery is going well.


Burt said...


I admire you as a runner; how you approach the preparation and what you have accomplished. But I most admire that after a major disappointment you can turn around and pour your heart into such a fine race(or is it soul?) report. It is so easy to post after you win; much less so after going down in flames. But that, my friend is "class" and BALLS!

Keep pushing the limits and lettin' all us mere mortals inside for a look.

crowther said...

Good report. I like the fact that you have a clear sense of your goals and pursue them without worrying about whether they seem arrogant or inappropriate to others. It's your race, so do it your way.

Natalee said...

Gesus, if you took Nick Clark's breakfast-of-champions advice of coffee and 2 glazed donuts, pre race... you'd have your answer to your frequent crapping issues at the race. Either way, I applaude your DNF and unlike Brooks, I don't want to punch you in the balls for your goals at this race. Keep on the trails my friend!

Nick said...

Dude, that first photo is an absolute classic. Two gunslingers coming into town. How appropriate for Leadville.

The shots I've seen from Rob O'Dea on this and Duncan's sites are some of the best trail running photos I've ever seen.

Nice effort on Saturday! Next time.

Unknown said...

Great job, Tony. Awesome effort. Love your attitude.

TonyP said...


Great report. I think that Greg's comment above says it all. Recover well. Looking forward to reading about your next adventure.

Wayne said...


Echoing what Peter said upthread: I really think you should see a doctor and see if this truly is an intestinal parasite, or something else.

You need to get this taken care of if it is Giardia, and that means most likely taking a drug called Furoxone to clear it up. These are intracellular parasites that are nothing to sneeze at.

Nice touch with the David Foster Wallace quote, by the way. Getting through "Infinite Jest" requires the tenacity of an ultramarathoner, in my opinion.

aka Moogy said...

Thanx for sharing Tony and continuing to be an inspiration. Good luck in grad skule. Question about, as AJW calls your *cowboy shirt*, plain ole cotton short sleeve?

Buddy Teaster said...

I DNFd at Winfield (my first in 9 years of ultrarunning) though Im at best a middle pack of the finisher. That said, you are courageous for setting out to do what you did, try it, then put it out for others to read and internalize. This post was brilliant on many levels. Thanks for having the cojones to say what you did.

Benelux said...

Too bad someone stole my thunder commenting on that 1st photo. But, now knowing that you couldn't see anyone for 4 miles makes it even more awesome. A truly spectacular picture that says much. You've received a lot of encouragement, please add mine to the rest.

Richard said...

Smashing report. Better than many of the books I've read. It should be a chapter in an ultra book of race reports..............germ of an idea forms.............

rest well.

Rocky said...

I am a fairly new runner too. a middle of the packer at best. But I don't see any signs of tony slowing down

Frank Bott said...

Tony, the write up is full of lessons learned that will help many who seek to do the same including myself.

Over the years I have managed to get sick several times from drinking bad stream water. The good news is at my current age I can drink even dirty stream water and nothing happens... so there is a long term benefit.

I have a much easier 100 mile race in a few weeks. It is in the desert and it will be hot. I plan on staying very wet as often as possible and applying some of the hard lessons you shared.

Good luck in school, keep pushing,.. and hope you are as blessed as I am.. and can run 100 mile races at 52 years old! .. Just Do It!

Anonymous said...

Great piece of writing - you've got a great future as a journalist if that running thing doesn't work out for you... ;|

Such a gripping depiction of how the body responds to intense stress - no doubt your gut troubles threw off your electrolyte balance.

Looking forward to reading about your next 100 and the runs (no pun intended) leading up to it. All the best with your recovery.

Unknown said...

inspiring, pure, thanks for putting it out there

mkirk said...

"these are my twisted words
when i feel you still walking
i know i should not look down
but i'm so sick of just talking

when are you coming back
i just can't handle it
when are you coming back
i just can't handle it

when are you coming back
i just can't stand it
i just can't handle it"

must be something in the water

enjoy your writing.

thomas said...

I love to read about ultra runners who's singular goal is to finish. I also love to read about ultra runners who go for broke. Our sport needs both examples. Thanks for yours.

John Trent said...

Hi Anton,
First, echoing everyone else here, you're to be commended for laying it all out there on Saturday. Your gift as an ultrarunner is different than most of the rest of us. While most of us seek simply to finish, your finish line is more about exploring the limitations, and perhaps more importantly, the possibilities of our sport and of your own abilities. You ran a courageous race on Saturday, and as usual, did an excellent job describing it afterward. Thanks again for the really nice and genuine conversation you and Jocelyn shared with me on Friday afternoon at the park. It was great to see the inside of "The Roost" once and for all, and to hear about both of your plans for fall in Boulder. You are truly one of our sport's great ambassadors.
All the best wishes,

Shane said...

Great race, Tony. You set a goal and went for it. Blame it on luck, destiny, crossed stars or whatever, but it just wasn't to be this year. Your splits are impressive in that heat and considering all of your "squatting." You certainly have the ability to own that record some day. Those pics of you are absolutely incredible! Rob O'Dea captured the inner strength of a champion runner. Aersome! Good luck in grad school!

JeffO said...

Even with the DNF, you ran some very impressive miles.
Don't let anyone get mad at you for your DNF. If someone else wants a different race, that is for them to do. We all run for different reasons. Your race belongs to you. You went-for-it, which is what races are for. If we don't risk, then we haven't given enough.
In spite of the length, I never got bored reading this post. It really does have "lots of good stuff", as GZ said.
I wish things had turned out differently for you. Many of us have had races with multiple, irritating interruptions (eruptions?) I spent half of the Steamboat Marathon in porta-potties. My finish time was an hour longer than the year before.
Good to save yourself for your next endeavor. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger (but much skinnier), you'll be back!

Connor Curley said...

Bummer news about the shits. The even bigger bummer is that the record survived.

Local Mind Media said...

Completely admire the goal of time. You've already finished (in 1st) the race twice. Get strong and get a filter! (though I've drunk raw from the creek at the junction of Bear West Ridge and Green Mtn...
You've already solidified yourself as a special runner, so nothing lost in a learning experience in a bad race.

Barefoot Ted said...

Loved reading this report. You are a gifted writer too...which bodes well for your future whatever you do.


Bobby Loyd said...

Hey man, I just started reading your blog and, I just want to say it's very helpful to me. I'm a new ultra distance runner and reading about your experiences has helped me stay motivated and get out and run.

But, keep you head up. You'll get 'em next year.

Hoppy said...

Anton, - way to inspire us!!. Even with not the desired result. A defeat can still be a victory in the making. -back to it -RIDE THE WIND'. hopi.

Paul Ward said...

It was great reading about your experience. My first ultra was the White River 50 a month ago. I reached mile 42, but couldn't quite finish because my stomach checked out. I enjoyed seeing you at that race and was inspired by your win and course record. Keep up all your great work. I hope to see you at another ultra some day.

Mike Scammon said...

Great post Anton-
My first DNF was at Diablo 50mi.
(my first 50mi) and it sucked watching people who looked much worse than I did move forward. In the end I was satisfied and knew it was the smart thing to do. I learned more in that race than all others combined. Awesome experience.
David Foster Wallace RIP!

Mike S.

Yaar Biriah said...

Amazing account, thanks for sharing! I think you managed the whole experience very well.

Andrew Krone said...


Amazing blog, thanks for sharing.

I'll be honest here, I'm a little conflicted on this. Your story reminds me of Paula Newbie Frasier stopping because she wasn't first place at Wildflower back in 2001 (I think the year is right). She just wasn't having a great race and after being passed she quite.

Of course, I HAVE NO IDEA what running a distance like 100 miles must feel like AND I probably have no business comparing the two events. I just cannot understand the mentality.

I've never been first at a large race so maybe it's something else.

Anton said...

First, thanks everyone for all the supportive/kind comments; I really appreciate it, and it's inspiring to see how many people are interested in the running that I do. Shocking, really. Thank you.

Second, to Andrew Krone:

I don't think I understand what you're conflicted about, but I think I can maybe elaborate on my decision to drop, if that will help.

It was pretty tough to convince me to not drop at the 76.5 mile Fish Hatchery aid station after I'd already been walking for over an hour and there had been no improvement in my quadricep function. One of the things that did motivate me to leave FH and keep on for a couple more miles was the fact that I was still in the lead. My crew thought it was pretty dumb that I would drop from the race while leading. However, the fact of the matter is, I had essentially dropped before I was even passed by Duncan and then Tim. When they passed me, I was just sitting on the side of the road with Jocelyn trying to figure out how I was going to get a ride back to the Fish Hatchery so that I could get my wristband cut and officially drop. At that point, my quads were so bad that I had walked less than 2 miles in an hour and I was walking down the declines backwards, with my hands on my knees, with Jocelyn holding an elbow so I wouldn't fall over. It was ludicrous.

I wouldn't say that I dropped because I was no longer in the lead. I dropped because I was having an incredibly difficult time even making any sort of forward progress at that point. Yes, I contemplated the possibility of sitting around for an hour or two and waiting for my legs to start functioning again and then walking it in, but I didn't line up at the Leadville 100 for the third time to merely finish. I've done that twice. I didn't line up to even merely win. I've done that twice, too. My purpose that day was to take a shot at running as absolutely fast as I thought I could on that course.

In retrospect, I should've taken a less aggressive approach in the first half, particularly from miles 15-40, given a couple of unplanned-for variables (notably, GI issues and heat). But, I didn't, and I paid for it. My main reasoning for dropping (despite the virtual crawl that I was reduced to) was that I would prefer to save my legs for another day instead of further pounding them into oblivion in what would certainly be a very very sub-par (for me) performance. Even now I'm still dealing with a bruised patella issue that I'm pretty glad I didn't continue for another 22 miles on because the recovery time would be even longer. I hope that clears it up a little.


GZ said...

I was thinking about this all today on my run. I have heard a few folks (and not necessarily post it here) wonder why you ran the way you did rather than run for the win. And understandably, even you are considering that in your comment above. It is totally fair and appropriate to think about it.

But what sort of cracks me up is that this debate is often already had at the lesser distances.

People absolutely can't stand it when the 1500 goes "tactical" at the USATF meet. All the guys run the first quarter in 63, then the second in 60, and then everyone goes ape shit for the finish - usually popping the last 300 in close to 35-37.

Everyone asks - why didn't such and such take it out at the pace they could?

The answer: there is a risk in doing that. You could blow up. In a 1500, blowing up is finishing 5 seconds off the pace and out of the top 8.

Or you could win (remember that woman that did such a thing in the 84 Olympic Marathon? Everyone thought Joanie was going to come back ... but she was waiting for them with a gold medal).

In an ultra, when you blow up, it is obvious you don't finish just 5 seconds back. You end up either walking it in, or planning for your next day.

So sure ... you could sit and kick. Maybe you win. Maybe you don't. Hell, you want to chance a kick against a guy who has gone sub 30 in the 10k for the last 5 miles? Is going for it the smartest race? Maybe, and arguably in the case, no it was not.

But thankfully racing is not just always about being smart.

Helen said...

What a great report - your running ability if only equaled by your writing ability!

Thanks for sharing all of the details of the race as well as your explanation of deciding to drop. Makes total sense - you had a goal, it wasn't happening on the day, why wreck your body any more... it doesn't for a moment take away from anyone else's efforts out there. You are running your own race (well, sort of - apart from the 'keeping up with Timmy' part for the first 40 or so miles! - but hey, that's hard to avoid for the competitive minded).

Nice work. And many more amazing races to come.


Nick said...


Bill Duper came in Provin Ground on Sunday morning after the race and was talking to Karl Meltzer, Billy Simpson and I, and I cannot let go of what he said.

"The only person here that could have beaten Anton is Anton...and Anton beat Anton."

Not trying to rehash on the events that conspired, just trying to make sure you don't beat yourself up for it. Everyone has catastrophic races. The stakes were high and you stepped up to the plate and you took a swing at the parking lot, to hell with the fence. I would have done the same thing.

It's fuel for the fire, bro, keep it burning hot.

Plus, now Carpenter gets to sit on the edge of his seat biting his nails for another 365.

I hope all is well.

Nick Lewis

Anton said...

Helen, George, Nick:

Thanks. But Nick, I assure you Matt isn't sitting around biting his fingernails. With the PPA as the WMRA Long Distance Challenge next year (though I haven't really been able to figure out the significance--monetary or otherwise--of that title in relation to the now IAAF World Mountain Running Championships or to the BUFF Skyrunning Series or to the sometimes alluded-to Grand Prix series over in Europe), I suspect that Matt will be focusing on really cranking the Ascent next August and possibly the PP Double. But, I could be wrong. (As an aside, I'd be willing to bet Matt was in sub-2:10 shape this's no coincidence that he was just under Tim's time from the day before.)

Additionally, I don't know if I myself will be back at Pb next year. There are two other 100 milers I'd like to run quite fast at before next August, and then, if things work out, I am really interested in UTMB.

Finally, though I told you in the tent after the race, it bears repeating: outstanding first 100, way to rock it.


Andrew Krone said...


I should put what I said earlier in context. I'm not trying to be negative about your race, just honest.

You wrote, "I do not regret not waiting around for my legs to come back so that I could walk in the last 20 miles in seven or eight hours to notch a simple finish."

When I read your blog I was under the impression you could have walked it in. From your latest response I can see that I probably misinterpreted this. I've been reduced to walking while doing an Ironman and there's no shame there. You also make it very clear you had some serious quad issues.

Sounds like you made the right call. My Apologies.

Anyway, Paula Newbie Frasier is an icon, a legend. I really look up to her. I just did not understand the mentality of her just throwing in the towel in a half-ironman because she was not winning. I'm not saying that your race was the same, just that it reminded me of this.


Frank Bott said...

I love this last post by Nick Lewis::

"Plus, now Carpenter gets to sit on the edge of his seat biting his nails for another 365. "

So very true.

Tony, not sure if this will help but I have climbed 7 7,000 meter peaks and 2 8,000 meter peaks in my life. I can assure you that in every good summit.. i had to DNF at least once and in some cases two or three times.

My stopping and turning back kept me alive.. and my soul's drive to keep fighting is the reason i returned.. and did it another day..

Given the issues with your health your performance was amazing.


GZ said...

Anton - good point re: MC.

It would have been interesting if the record had been broken this year to see which way MC would go - but I suspect you are right: the PPA with its WLDC (sorry, that just sounds like a radio station back east to me) status is probably the draw.

FWIW - I don't think most record holders sit around biting their nails (the historical undefeated Miami Dolphins might be the exception). I think they know records are transient. If they are still in a position to break them when theirs are broken (as MC would seem to be), they are probably going to go for it again ...

speculating ... Was MC watching Leadville to see if his record was broken? I'm pretty sure he was. Was he biting his nails? I am pretty sure he was not.

(check the comments by Bob Kennedy this week on his 5k AR being broken).

The Running Actor said...

Hard luck ... one day we can fly but the next we sink...listen to Sinatra's "that's life"...helps me...You'll be back in a big way soon!!!! :)

Erin said...

As someone who spent six days laid up last week with an intestinal bug, I'm just impressed that you ran that far. It sounds like you gave it your all but it just wasn't gonna happen. I wish you the best for your recovery and the races to come.


Spirit runner said...

Hi Tony - This is Terry from Active at Altitude in Estes Park. You may remember that we met at the Estes Park Marathon back in 2006, and then at USA x-country in Boulder in 2007. It has been a privilege to read of your running accomplishments since we met - you deserve every success you have had - I know that when you do get it right the Leadville record is there for your taking. Your writing is like your running, open and honest!
I have an idea I'd like to run by you - can you e-mail me at

Happy trails!

jotun said...

Awesome report, it shows your talent for writting as well :-) Thanks for sharing. I am curious, after all that splits..what watches{wristcomp} are you using? Something with log book? I ran with suunto hrm, but now i'm more focused on time than HR.Sure it's not that important to focuse on time when you are not racing but, for self improving it is necessary. Your blog keeps me motivated
..fingers crossed for next race

Marco Denson said...


You don't owe anybody an explanation. I'm sure you know that, and you are just being polite. That's cool. I like the honesty of your report. You going for the record and not just a win or to finish, is the same as a slow runner like myself trying to finish a 50 miler under 10 hours. Why just finish, I've done that already. Your PR is just that much faster than everybody else.


lonac said...

Anton - amazing recap. i have always considered the marathon to be the longest distance i'm interested in running, but your stories spark an interest in ultra running in me. i'm passing your blog on to my former UC Davis XC teammates. hopefully they will enjoy it as much as i did. i look forward to reading about you destroying the leadville 100 CR in the future, diarrhea free.


Rajeev said...


You ROCK no matter what! It takes courage to drop when you are leading.


St. Croix Scenic 50 said...

Anton - Very inspiring work, both on the trail and at the keyboard. It's got me all nostalgic for the Colorado mountains (Buena Vista) where my relationship with ultra's began with a Leadville 2006 DNF.

Anyway, now I live in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands where they didn't have an ultra yet, so I'm starting one. I want to invite you to come set the course record for the inaugural St. Croix Scenic 50 on January 24, 2010, if you're not doing anything else. Check it out and tell your friends:

Seriously, I remember Boulder being bleak in January. Let's get you down for the race. Thanks for indulging my shameless race promotion. Hope you are well.

Warm tropical regards,

Matt Halk
Anton Fan and
St. Croix Scenic 50
Race Organizer

tim barnes said...

Hey Anton.
It's October 2nd, and I just wanted to say congratulations to you and Kyle on the release of the NB 100! My pair came in yesterday, and they felt great on todays run. Planning on it being my shoe for the Pinhoti 100. Thanks for helping create such a great shoe.

Chris Wilson said...

Hey Anton -
As I read your post, I kept thinking that just going for a five mile run with the shits is a world-class effort, so getting as far as you did before the lock-up is far more than impressive.

As I know you're philosophically into the "minimalist" approach to running, I thought you might be interested in a book I wrote, which is about our minds and how they're a lot more "caveman" than we'd like to admit and that we need to learn to use them as they were designed to get the most out of life.

Check it out...

If you send me an address, I'll send you a copy.

Keep writing, by the way. You have a real talent there, too.

Me, Sarah said...

Anton, first of all, you are ultra hot. Second, I want to know an ultra runner. I believe I could race like that. Would love to chat with you about your process; such an inspiration to know you do what I feel in my heart can be real for me.
I am sorry about the way the race ended. But you pushed through a lot of shit (figuratively?) and for that I have much respect--hope you are up to 100% quickly.
Stride on

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