Thomas Reiss - Leadville - My First 100

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My first Hundred Miler

By Thomas Reiss


WARNING: I have to warn you, the reader. This is a very very long blog entry. It was a very big deal for me to run my first 100 miler in Leadville and therefore the story turned out kind of long. If you want to just get the idea how it went in general please scroll down to the section "Conclusion". If you have the time to spare, then enjoy the whole story.


We left San Luis Obispo, CA (at sea level) on Wednesday the 11th of August 2010. After a 7 hour drive to Lake Tahoe and a 3 day stay at 6200 feet of altitude we flew to Denver the Saturday before the race. Got our rental car and off we went to drive to Idaho Springs, CO (8200 feet above sea level) our next stop on the way to Leadville.

We spent 3 days in the quaint old fashioned mining town of Idaho Springs, CO. We stayed at the "Resort" whatever that means at the Indian Hot Springs. We took a tour of the Argo Mine, went to Mount Evans, rode the Georgetown to Silver Plume train and hung out at the Buffalo Restaurant & Bar.

Idaho Springs, CO

My 5 year old son Luke on top of Mt. Evans (cold and windy!)

Indian Hot Springs (Resort)??????

The Buffalo Restaurant & Bar

Off to Leadville

On tuesday we took the beautiful drive to Leadville (10,200 feet above sea level) and arrived just in time for lunch at our rented vacation house that we called home for the next 7 days. The house was super cute and about 10 minutes walking distance from the 6th Street and Harrison Start and Finish line. It felt great finally being here - in Leadville. The whole town was electrified from just having had the MTB race the previous weekend and ready for the next big race, the 100 mile run. It was nice to have a home cooked meal after eating in restaurants for the last 4 days. Spaghetti with Buffalo meat sauce and salad was a great choice for the first night in Leadville.

Leadville, CO - Great living at 10,200

Our awesome house in Leadville, CO

Dylan and Luke at the Ice Cream Store with the race poster

We spent the next few days with a day trip to Vail, CO - Checking out Leadville, CO - going to Safeway - a drive to Twin Lakes to stare at Hope Pass - a run from Tabor Boat ramp to the finish (last 7 miles of the race) - going to Safeway again - checking e-mail - befriending our nice neighbors and their kids - - going to Safeway another time - drinking beer in the cool "ski chairs" in the front of the house - going to Safeway one more time etc.

On thursday evening we had a storm and rain. The weather forecast for race day was - low of 41 and high of 72 with no rain. I was thinking how much it would suck having to run in the weather that was happening right now outside, stormy winds and cold rain. I was thinking I would be around mile 80 right now and this would not be fun with those kind a weather conditions. We woke up on Friday morning to snow capped mountains. The view from the front of our house was beautiful.

Snow covered 14,000 foot mountains around Leadville. The view from our front porch.

I was getting more and more anxious to go and run and was tired of waiting for the big day. But here it was - Friday, I went to the medical/race check in early. I wanted to get it out of the way right away in the morning but I think I just wanted to get started doing something that was race related. It was pretty cool going through the whole weigh in, medical check in etc. the first time in my short ultra running career and I felt ready to get to the starting line. Lots of goodies in the race goodie bag, always exciting.

On Friday the rest of my crew and my Pacer came into town as well.

The team was complete:

Pacer: Brett Rivers (coming from a great race at the recent TRT100 where he finished in 2nd place)

Crew: Larissa Polischuk (she did an amazing job on getting my stuff to the right place at the right time). My Coach Karl King, his wife Daniela and daughter Karla. And of course my family, with my great wife Valerie and my two super boys Dylan and Luke. I could not have done all this without those people. Thank you.

After an afternoon crew meeting and discussing all the details about the race we all had dinner together and I went to bed early at around 8PM. As to be expected before a race that meaningful like your first 100miler I did not sleep well. The alarm went off at 0245AM after 5 hours of restless sleep. After a piece of toast with honey, a banana and a Boost+, Valerie, Larissa and myself started walking to the start area. We got there around 0335AM and I checked in. Now I just had to wait for the 0400AM start.

The big day "aka" Raceday

0350AM - 10 minutes to start the Leadville 100 Trail Run, 2010 (do I look scared? or cold? or both?

After some last words of encouragement from my lovely wife (she was so patient with me and just as nervous), a few words with some of the other runners and stripping off some extra clothing we got to count down from 10. I could not believe it, here is was after month and month of training and anticipation - I was standing at the starting line of the famous "Race across the sky" the Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run. I was thinking about how proud my dad would be if he could be here (I know you were watching from above), thinking of my kids, my friends at home that helped me get ready for this (hi Eric and Scott) and so many things. It is hard to put into words what was going on in my head in the last seconds before the start. An here we went 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 bang, the gun went off and almost 700 runners got going down 6th street at 0400AM in the dark

The start




The start at 0400AM

I have a very cool video of the start on my FB page, you can go and check it out there. It was awesome, a giant field of runners with headlamps where heading down the streets of Leadville. Most of them would not make it back to the finish line here within the given 30 hour time limit. For myself I was confident and convinced I will be running back on this road later that night to finish my first 100 miler.

My strategy was simple, take it easy, take care of myself and make it back to Leadville without any major issues (i.e puking, sleeping in the aid station, death march for the last 30 miles or something else very bad). Time was secondary but I figured if the before mentioned happens I should have a very decent time for a finish around 21-22 hours. Of course I had hopes that maybe this is the race of my life and I break 21 or maybe even get close to the big 20 hour mark. But the main goal was to walk away from this with a great experience and feeling that I want to do this again.

Start to May Queen

It was hard not running to fast down the famous dirt road called "The Boulevard". People were passing me left and right and it felt way more like a marathon or even 10k start then a 100miler. I was thinking... are those people in the know that the race is 100 miles long? I am guessing I was maybe at 80-100 place when we got to the end of the boulevard. I was just cruising around 8:30 pace or something like that. I passed a few people on the way up to the trail around Turquoise Lake and settled into a nice group for the portion around the lake to the Tabor Boat Ramp and then the first aid station at May Queen. Right before we we finished this first segment of the course the race was almost over, I tripped and almost fell really hard but was lucky enough to save myself. Tabor Boat Ramp and May Queen was lined with people, I guess everyone went from the start to cheer runners on at those to early points. Spectators where lined up left and right and cheered everyone on and this was at around 0550AM. It had to be several hundred people. I refilled y 2 bottles at the May Queen aid station and was out quickly. I came by in about 1:52, right around where I wanted to be. I kept my headlamp on since it was still a bit dark and I wanted to play it safe.

May Queen to Fish Hatchery

After a short steep technical climb we hit Hagerman Pass Road, the sun came up and it was an amazing view over the lake we just came around. I made sure to not go to hard but ran most of this climb. This is a good climb for me, not too steep and not too technical. That said, I passed a few people. Same on the downhill, I felt good and passed some more people and caught some people that ran away from me on the earlier steeper technical single trail near the lake. A short easy road section and here was Fish Hatchery. This was the first time I would see some of my crew. I felt good, took some of the warm clothing off, dropped my headlamp and picked up GUs and had  a Boost+.  I was somewhere around 30th place I think.


Leaving Fish Hatchery outbound

About a mile after Fish Hatchery on the road

Fish Hatchery - Treeline/Pipeline - Halfmoon - Twin Lakes

The next part of the course was for the first half rather boring from Fish Hatchery to Treeline, a long stretch of road, then an ugly dirt road......easy to run so. Then we turned back into the forest. After the Halfmoon aid station the trail was beautiful, lots of single track. I moved fairly quick and was well on my way to the big aid station at Twin Lakes. I was looking forward to that one since it would be the first time I would see my wife and my 2 boys. Also it would end the first part of the 3 that I had the race split into mentally (the first 40 miles - the middle 20 miles - and the last 40 miles). It also signaled that the hardest 20 miles would be coming up - the double crossing of the famous Hope Pass (12,600).

I made it to Twin Lakes in 6 hours and 8 minutes, a bit ahead of my expectations. I took my time to chat with family and crew, picked up my poles for Hope Pass, had another Boost+, picked up more Gus and just enjoyed the stop to hang out a little. I was not sure if I was excited or scared to tackle Hope Pass, but here it was right in front of me. And I was ready to go to battle with it. Hope Pass, watch out here I come.

Dropping down into Twin Lakes aid station

In Twin Lakes, the Crew hustling, earning their keep

High Fives at Twin Lakes outbound

Gotta go honey, see you in 6 hours, hopefully

Luke and Dylan, my greatest fans - "Go Papa"

Leaving Twin Lakes with Hope Pass in the background

Twin Lakes - Hope Pass - Winfield - Hope Pass - Twin Lakes

After a few small stream crossings and the bigger crossing of the Arkansas River here I was at the bottom of the BIG climb up Hope Pass. I had heard so many things and now it was my time to go to battle with this monster. The monster won by points but did not knock me out, how is that for a statement. I will spare you all the details, but man it was hard all the way. I hiked every step of Hope Pass uphill. I did not even try to run and I was very careful downhill since I did not want to trash my quads yet. The run out to Winfield felt awfully long and all the traffic sucked big time. The aid station was great, lots of action, great volunteers and a ton of spectators (at least them driving there helped with cheering on). This was the first time I got weighed and I was excited to see how my weight was since I felt I took good care of my fluids and calories. I weighed in the day before at 132.9, my weight at Winfields 50mile medical check was 132.8. Great. I decided to have my pacer at mile 60 in Twin lakes and not like most people in Winfield. So I made the hard trek back over the mountain to Winfield alone and was happy to be back with my crew and family after around 6:20, a bit longer then I had hoped to take for this segment. But I was at mile 60 and had concluded segment 2 out of 3 that I had the race split into for me. Now I had just the last 40 left. Just back to Leadville and that be it! I changed my shoes from wet ones to dry ones (danke Markus für den Tip). Had some food and of I went together with my Pacer Brett Rivers. (I have a video of the pit stop on my Facebook page if you are interested). I was 12:31 into the race. The longest I had ever been running before was 10:05, this was uncharted territory and I was curious about what would happen in the next 10 or so hours.

Back at Twin Lakes at mile 60 after Hope Pass x2

My pacer (Brett Rivers) is ready to go and take me back to Leadville

Twin Lakes - Halfmoon - Treeline/Pipeline - Fish Hatchery

I had a hard time on the climb out of Twin Lakes back to the single trail and several people went away from me, other then that it was pretty uneventful. Again I still wanted to play it safe and take my time. I started feeling good at around Halfmoon and felt good all the way from Halfmoon to Fish Hatchery. I actually felt so great that I did maybe the first stupid thing of the race when we hit the road portion with 4 miles to go to Fish Hatchery. I really hammered those road miles running between 7:30 to 8:00 minute miles. I just felt great and felt like pushing. I passed some of the people again that went away from me earlier. At Fish Hatchery the full crew was there again. My wife and the kids, my coach (Karl King) with his wife and daughter and of course Larissa my Crew Superstar. Brett and I changed into warm clothes, got our lamps, some soup and coke and got ourself ready for the night to break and the upcoming climb to Sugarloaf. My weight was still great, 132.2 only .7 down from my original weight.

Karl and myself talking things over at Fish Hatchery (mile 76)

The pacer needs calories as well - Fish Hatchery mile 76

Fish Hatchery - May Queen

We  jogged out of Fish hatchery to the start of the "Powerline" trail going up Sugarloaf. I have to admit I totally underestimated how hard this climb would be, especially at this point into the race (mile 78-82 or something like that). It is a bumpy jeep road for most part with lots of false summits (everyone told me about the false summits). Needless to say my walking pace went to snails pace, but I kept moving forward. Slow but steady. We passed a guy that was just sitting on a rock. So there where people out there moving slower or not at all. Maybe a mile into the climb it got dark and we turned our lights on. It was a long way to the top but eventually we reached the summit. After a short flatish section we turned and looked down seeing the May Queen aid station at mile 87. It looked so close but was still at least 5 miles away. We ran the downhill on Hagermann Pass road pretty well and put some space between me and the lights behind us. Sugarloaf really sucked a lot out of me, or was it maybe that I was at mile 85 in my first 100 miler? Or both? Oh well, after the technical section through the woods we finally hit the paved part right before the May Queen aid station. I was expecting to see Larissa, and maybe my wife and Karl there - that should be a nice motivational boost.

To my surprise everyone was there, a couple minutes before the aid station my wife Valerie was waiting with my boys, it felt so good seeing them. Brett took off to hit the aid station while I gave my boys a hug and had Valerie walk with me to the aid station. At the aid station it was great to see Karl and his family still being out there to support me. This aid station was amazing. They had everything you can imagine from an ultra aid station. I opted for just coke and soup and passed on the cookies, M&Ms, bretzels, chips, sandwiches, gummy bears, etc.

I realized that I can't break 21 hours, I had just lost way too much time on the climb up Sugarloaf so I was back to my original goal of a good finish without problems and hopefully under 22 hours. I figured I can make it from here in under 3 hours - that should get me into Leadville finish right at around 21:45. I would be very happy with this result.

Coming into May Queen aid station - last aid station before the finish

Dylan and Luke awaiting me at May Queen (mile 87)

Karl and me inside the warm aid station tent at May Queen

My pacer Brett Rivers and myself leaving May Queen for another 13 miles to Leadville

May Queen - Tabor Boat Ramp - Leadville (Finish)

I knew I would make it all day, I never doubted me finishing this journey. But it started to feel very good knowing that I am so close that unless I would get injured I will make it. It was a great feel of joy, pride and accomplishment. It felt great being able to share this with my family and some great friends. The trail around Turquoise Lake was spent with walk/jog and moving as quickly as possible. Brett did this thing where he started to walk faster and get further and further away until I had to start running to stay with him. That same moment he would start running and he would be "let's run for a few minutes". His little system worked pretty well. Valerie and Larissa decided to come to one more stop with the boys at Tabor Boat Ramp. It felt good seeing them again and getting another coke. At this point they told me that the think I am around 21st place in the race. I got more happy as time went by. Tabor Boat Ramp, only 7 miles to go. I actually ran those miles a couple days earlier during my last run before the race. I guess it felt a lot easier running this during the day well rested then it felt in the middle of the night with 93 miles in my legs. We ran the road portion and power walked most of the Boulevard. And I was moving good enough to pass 4 more people between mile 95 and 98. It felt great when we hit the road by the football field that signaled the beginning of the City of Leadville. One more mile to go. I was so happy I can't describe it. Happy and proud about this accomplishment and honestly just happy to be done. I was looking forward to run with both my boys for the last 200 yards to the finish. I had to find out that my little guy Luke (5 years old) had to abandon the race and DNF at mile 98 due to sleepiness. My 7 year old Dylan was ready to pump his arms and get me over that finish line.


- Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run 2010

- 21:29:19.7 (official time) - 16th place overall - 3rd place Masters (40-49)

Dylan and me almost at the finish line

Me and my 2 pacers, Dylan and Brett right after the finish, tired but very happy

The awards

It felt awesome going to get that big buckle. Do I need to say anything else?

The crowd at the awards

The Conclusion

Wow - what an amazing experience. It is over a week ago now and I am still having moments thinking "I can't believe it I did 100 miles at Leadville" and I did it fairly well for my first attempt at the 100 mile distance. I took care of me all day, never puked or even remotely felt sick, hardly at all lost any weight. I never had a real bad down moment, I have to admit I did get frustrated a few times on my slow climbs. Never had any thoughts of DNF. I just had to walk more in the 2nd half of the race then I had hoped for but it was a great experience and I for sure want to tackle another 100 miler next year, maybe take some more risks and really race it hard. I love having that buckle and that great finisher sweat shirt, so proud of it. It felt great seeing everyone on my crew and family so excited about this finish. A huge thank you to all my friends at home and my coworkers for encouragement. A very special thank you to my sponsors, especially LaSportiva and of course my crew and family. A very special thank you to my wife for always letting me do this crazy stuff and always supporting me in it. Thank you Karl for all the great advice and thank you very much Brett and Larissa for totally going out of your way, traveling all the way to Leadville to help me out. Thank you.

This was awesome. Great race, great trip.

- Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run 2010

- 21:29:19.7 (official time) - 16th place overall - 3rd place Masters (40-49)

Dylan and Luke just as proud of that buckle as I am

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