There's no choice but to confront you, to engage you, to erase you. I've gone to great lengths to expand my threshold of pain. I will use my mistakes against you. There's no other choice.
These words were continually running though my mind during the silent spaces of my run with Lucho this weekend.
Like two years ago, I crewed Tim Waggoner with his wife and sister for the first 50 miles of the run, then was to begin pacing him at mile 50 to the finish. He seemed to be doing well for the first half of the race but was quite late at Winfield (mile 50). I was expecting him about 8 hours into the race (about 12pm). His split from the last crew point at Twin Lakes (mile 40) was long and though I didn't say anything to him about it when he rolled into Winfield nearly 9 hours into the race, I figured he was having a rough time with the climbing of Hope Pass.
To my horror, we got off course on the new trail section out of Winfield. The turn was over marked and I can't figure out how we missed it, especially since Tim just ran that trail ten minutes previous. We corrected it pretty quickly but in that seven minutes a few people slipped past us, including our main competition, Troy Howard. Tim fell into a funk and was moving pretty slowly. Being through this stuff so many times, I assumed it'd be a brief bad patch. It wore on into the meat of the climb and we were moving very slowly. Charles Corfield is a seasoned ultrarunner but should never be passing someone of Tim's caliber when it comes to climbing. After trying every trick in the pacing book, I gave up and decided to just keep motivating Lucho to move constantly the best he could. I did my best to clear the trail, thanking descending runners for stepping off trail for us and nearly shouldering the less polite off the trail.
Once we finally crested Hope Pass and descended the few hundred feet to the aid station, we spent a couple of necessary minutes eating, stretching, and getting Lucho some more Ibuprofen. He thought his quads were shot but having "shot quads" in a 100 before, I could tell it was something less severe, like cramping and general aches you get from lack of salt. We gingerly (and slowly) made our way down the inbound side of Hope Pass with a few people passing us like we were standing still. Once in the open meadow, I could see he was moving better over flatter surfaces. At Twin Lakes aid station, we found that Troy Howard had a 24 minute advantage over us and Lucho basically conceded the Leadman title and seemed to just be interested in finding a way to finish the race somehow.
We started the grinding climb out of Twin Lakes and I could tell his mood was brightening slightly and we were moving better uphill. Once we hit the rolling single track, we popped into gear and were motoring though the section leading to Half Moon. I spent a lot of time putting the situation into perspective for Lucho, reminding him that we were chasing Harry Harcrow in 2010 over the same sections when Harry had a 20 min lead on us and then suddenly Harry was sitting at an aid station when we arrived just two miles after we thought he was up on us by so much. Lucho doesn't race 100s; he's used to racing "face to face" with competitors and a gap of ten meters is tough to bridge. Anything can and does happen in ultras. 20 mins in a 100 miler is nothing. Troy Howard is one of the best 100 milers around. His consistency and climbing ability are widely known. I knew Troy would give nothing to us. Once I got Lucho's head back in the game and convinced him we could catch Troy, we talked strategy. Knowing Troy's consistent and methodical talent, I wanted to get close to him, then sit back until after Mayqueen to pass him and lay down a hard effort to the finish. My fear was passing him too early and having to deal with Lucho slowing down if (when) the bad spells came on.
We were flying and passing people. We caught and zipped by everyone who passed us on Hope, caught several other big names, no one came back up to us after being passed. Generally, it'd be like, "good job, keep it up" then within two minutes they'd be out of view behind us. We were running so strongly that in just the short paved road section of four miles we gained three places. At Fish Hatchery (mile 78) we found out that Troy had left Fish Hatchery just 7 minutes before our arrival and, more importantly, had spent 6 mins at the aid station. Lucho and I spent about 1 min. We jogged the road section to the base of Power Line (Sugar Loaf Pass) behind Brooks Williams and his pacer and passed them just before the climbing began in earnest. At the same time we spotted two runners (racer and pacer) up high on the first climbing section and knew it was Troy. Again, I didn't want to pass such a solid 100 miler this early. We had a good five hours at best before the finish, a long time for bad things to happen and for Troy to pass us back. I held Lucho back until we were following Troy for a while about 100 meters back. His pacer finally must have heard us and looked back to see us. Game on.
We matched their speed keeping the same distance behind for a while, then moved up to within speaking distance and I called out, "one of you guys Troy?" "Yep." We bridged up to them and exchanged encouragement. Troy congratulated Lucho on Leadman, basically conceding the race. The Leadman series (especially this year) is such a big deal and such a commitment that I didn't feel comfortable with taking it easy and yet I wanted to keep an even and sustainable effort while moving as fast as possible. Over the next four miles we put 9 minutes on Troy. In the dark all headlamps look similar. You have to learn the brightness and the movement of them to know who is lurking behind. We had passed 2nd place woman, Liza Howard, on the Colorado Trail leading into Mayqueen and, being the pure and tenacious competitor that she is, she and her pacer stayed within proximity of us. So we had headlights behind us yo-yoing close and far based on our effort. It was stressful because we'd lose sight of her lights behind us, then they'd appear again. I was getting familiar with their movement and felt nearly certain it was her behind us but there was always that doubt, based on the knowledge of how tough Troy is, and I was concerned it could be him. Lucho was losing his mental state and seemed near paranoid that it could be Troy. It was making him want to run every step, leading to a couple of nice stumbles and near falls over the rocky trail along Turquoise Lake. I convinced him that we had been consistently putting time on Troy, like 1-2 mins per mile, so we just needed to keep a consistent effort and then relax with a mile to the finish.
I was definitely feeling the exhaustion of 50 miles and nearly 11 hours of pacing myself and didn't feel like trying to run hard anymore. We had Leadman in the bag, a solid placing in the race, and some energy to laugh and enjoy it. The last mile on 6th Street was solid. We ran every step congratulating and thanking one another for sharing such a special day. I'm deeply honored to have been part of Lucho's incredible Leadman Series. He beat the overall record by nearly 5 hours. It's doubtful that record will even be tickled, let alone beat, for many years.
Photos from the week:
|Bill Dooper explaining his top 10 predictions to me.|
|Me talking (and learning) with Frank Bozanich.|
|Twin Lakes outbound (mile 40). Photo Luke Crespin|
|Says it all. After a long 4 hour rough patch and 24 mins behind the Leadman leader, Lucho and I enjoying the day to the core. Two above photos and header image by Rob Timko|