23 August 2011

Leadville 2011: Proud of a PR

First some pics.
This year at Leadville was another stepping stone for me. 100 milers are not my best distance by any means as most of you know. Because of this I have time and time again signed up for another one with the hopes of improving and learning from the beast. Throughout my trials and tribulations the beast has knocked me down, laughed at me, spit me out, and kicked dirt in my face. Each time in frustration I got up, said, "Never Again!" and then promptly gave the beast another $300. to kick my butt for another round. I am here to say that I beat the beast in this round and the saga will continue...There is a sense of satisfaction when a goal comes to fruition. It is even sweeter when it takes many attempts and failures for it to be realized. Running a strong second 50 had eluded me for 5 years and 7 different 100 mile races. Here's the beating I endured for the first 7 rounds:

Round 1: Leadville 2007- 28:18, Went out in 10, back in 18, walked the last 30, survived my first 100!
Round 2: Leadville 2008- 26:58, Went out in 9, back in 18, walked the last 30 (injury), never again!
Round 3: Hardrock 2009- DNF 42M, Nothing in the legs, chose not to walk 58 miles for 30+ hours
Round 4: Leadville 2009- 20:51, Went out in 8:30, back in 12:30, HUGE improvement, know I can do better for future races.
Round 5: Grand Mesa 2010- 23:26, 1st 50=8, 2nd 50=15.5, 5-7 bonus miles, epic, walked at least 20.
Round 6: Ozark Trail 2010- 21:49, 1st 50=8, 2nd 50= 14, didn't eat enough first half, fell off the wagon
Round 7: Western States 2011- DNF 70M, Severe poison oak/ivy reaction constricting airway, so random!

Round 8: Leadville 2011- 18:35, Went out in 8, back in 10:35, not bad, still room to improve :) Long overdue!
Round 8 was different. I finally gave the beast a taste of his own medicine. In the epic battle of Ryan vs. The Beast the 8th round goes to Ryan! TMI: In a weird way I feel like this post is turning into a Man vs. Food episode...Adam Richman and I have so much in common!

Drove up to Leadville Friday morning with Doug and took care of all the mandatory meetings and checkin. Pitched the tents and cooked dinner at Dooper's pad. Crawled into the sleeping bag around 9PM and slept between the storms until 3AM. At 4 we were running. It started off like a training run with the boys. Crackin' jokes, catching up, and endearingly teasing Callahan, Parr, and Bowman. I asked DC if his baby daughter had been starting out with bottles of Ultragen. Without skipping a beat he calmly said, "No, but she really likes the Optagen." I knew it was going to be a fun day.

Through Mayqueen there was a train of 7 with Arnstein and Brooks a few minutes up. Coming into Fish Hatchery it was Arnstein, Parr, Bowman, Sandes, and myself. Arnstein gapped the rest of us on the road while I eventually caught back up to the other 3 on the singletrack before Twin Lakes. Leaving Twin Lakes it was shoulder to shoulder with Parr and D-Bow with Sandes right behind us. Once we hit Hope Pass Parr and Sandes surged while Dylan and I hiked at a steady clip. Once we hit the Winfield road Parr and D-Bow slightly separated from me. Coming into Winfield Sandes was on his way out with Arnstein a few minutes back. Somewhere along the road Parr pulled over and I came into Winfield after Bowman in just under 8 hours. The return trip over Hope was hot and slow for me. The leaders were moving well while Parr was steadily catching me on the climb. Shortly after the Hopeless AS Parr passed me as I took in some extra fuel. On the descent I surprisingly passed Arnstein who had lost some time on the rocky downhill.

Back at Twin Lakes I took more time to refuel while Arnstein went through with a quick transition. Twin Lakes was encouraging as I got to see my family for the second time and pick up my friend and pacer Bryan Goding for the last 40 miles. By now I was sick of sugar. This has happened to me at other 100's- I simply get to the point where anything sweet becomes despised. The plan now was to eat the nonsweet options at the AS and TRY to stomach enough sweet death to get me to the next AS in one piece. BG and I got into rhythm and steadily started moving down the trail. Miles 65-75 were definitely my low of the race. Ironically I passed Arnstein while running down some smooth buffed out singletrack before we hit the road that would lead to the Halfpipe AS. When I got to Halfpipe I had my doubts- it felt like so many other Leadville moments. Mile 70 and I feel like crap. I began wondering how many miles of the last 30 I would be walking. Mile 70 is one of the biggest mental hurdles for me in a 100. I will be having a decent go and then get hammered. At the AS I sat down and began to refuel. Lots of watermelon, lots of potato soup, some oatmeal. I really was hoping for mashed potatoes but Hopeless was the one and only chance. During my feed Arnstein came through with Gorman seconds back. Gorman was licking his chops as he devoured all the roadkill he ran over.

After the feed I began walking. Solids take longer to hit the blood stream- once they did I started to trot and then jog and then run. At this point I was trying to avoid another 100 mile blowup. BG kept encouraging me to eat, drink, and care for myself. With each 5 calorie hit of Gu I would nearly vomit. It was the last thing I wanted to do but knew I had to. Get the cals down the hatch! It was a nauseous cycle but worked to get me into the next AS.

At Fish Hatch my spirit came back. Coming into the aid I got to see Doop, and Meg, and Scott, and then three women jumping up and down chanting, Burch! Burch! Burch! Was I hallucinating? As I drew closer I identified the one in the middle being Liz Drum. The other two were bundled up enough identification was impossible. I got into the AS and was greeted by my family. Fueled up, geared up, and was on my way. Upon exiting Fish Hatch Duncan was coming in.

A few miles up Powerline he made the pass climbing steady and strong. I asked him if this was going to be like our 2007 Moab Red Hot race where we constantly leapfrogged each other. He mentioned something about my propensity for downhill running. At the top of the pass I showed BG where I proposed to Megan. Special memories. In 2008 I was at the same spot at midnight! Such a different perspective seeing it in the light. BG and I kept motoring and came into Mayqueen feeling strong and ready to put this race to bed.

I eased off the emotional thinking and logically thought, "Stop and eat, you will run out of gas if you don't. I then saw DC exit once he heard me enter Mayqueen. The drama around Turquoise was starting to unfold! After a few cups of soup I rallied BG and we began the ending. Once we hit the singletrack we donned the headlamps. 15 minutes later Jeff Browning blew past me like I was standing still. This was the work of a Professional Closer- really cool to see firsthand. 30 minutes later I saw headlamps in front of me, as I neared it turned out to be DC. I encouraged him and moved forward. 15 minutes later I saw more headlamps. Really surprised when I saw it was Parr. Wished him the best and kept on. During our time around the lake it was all about the present moment. Don't worry what's ahead or what's behind- run simply in the moment. With the Zen Master by my side all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. BG was my own Mr. Meyogi. "Ryan san, don't worry about the lights and cheering at Tabor, focus only on your breath and the step in front of you." Needless to say we had some good laughs in the present moment. A few times I focused a little too hard on the step in front of me as I would catch a toe and nearly yardsail into the lake. Thankfully my sensai said it was because of my core training that I remained upright.

Another cool experience was hearing all the cheers as we ran by all the campsites. By the time I finished other Leadvilles all these people were sleeping. Really cool to have all this positive energy hit me after 90+ miles of running. As we descended baby powerline I saw a headlamp. "Who is that?" I inquired. "Jeff's pacer" was the solemn response. Jeff was running well to say the least! After the flats we came upon the Boulevard. One last climb and I'd be home. Awesome to run 90% of this. BG would turn off his lamp and look backwards just in case we encountered some stealth boulevard creepers. At mile 97 I knew I had to eat one last time. I so wanted to run the tank out but knew better. I got a Blok down and almost lost it. For the last 37 miles I had been walking the puke line ever so close. Thought it was going to happen right then and there. Nada tostada. I kept moving feeling terrible. Soon after I saw the lights and the finish. I saw the clock- wanted to go sub 18:36 because 18:35 looks so much sexier. Ramped up the intensity, thanked BG for a great time, and put the head down until I crossed the line in 18:35:42.

Immediately upon finishing I doubled over while some photographer took picture upon picture of me bent over at the waist looking at the ground with a wry and pale pre puke smile on my face. The extra push at the end did me in. I managed to walk over to the scale for my final weigh in and then into the food tent. I felt horrible but knew I needed to eat and start the recovery. I spoke with Browning a few minutes with my face white as a ghost. I tried a sip of soup. Tasted terrible. Told everyone I was going to the med tent.

Once in the med tent I sat down on a cot and told them I was about to puke. They handed me a bowl. Staring at the yellow plastic I began to spin. Finally it began. I started dry heaving from the depths of my soul. Heave after heave and nothing was coming out. Thought I was having an oral alien birth. Finally, the one sip of soup I had came out. Felt so much better! It was kind of pathetic the low volume I put out. Was really hoping for some large projectile foreign object to emerge. It was out and I felt great. The eyes stopped watering and I decided to get in the sleeping bag and lay in the cot for awhile. 40 some minutes later Parr came to the tent and hopped into his own sleeping bag and cot next to mine. His wife took a picture of the two of us all cozy in the med tent. Can't wait to see it! Priceless...

Ultrarunning is inherently a selfish endeavor. With that said I need to thank a number of people for their support, encouragement, time, money, and understanding that brought me through this race and the time to train.

THANK YOU: Megan, Mom, Dad, Bridgett, Nate, Bryan, Doug, Kir, Chris, Jan, Damby, Scott, Liz, Bill, and any others I'm forgetting in this moment. Really grateful for the friendship in each of you.

SHOUT OUTS: D-BOW, super impressive! Keep doing what you're doing, really fun to watch your progression. Doug, another PR...you are a runner you know!? Aaron Marks and Brendan Trimboli- this is only the beginning, enjoy the journey.


  1. Stoked to see it come together for you Ryan! Congratulations!

  2. Awesome run out there Ryan -- you deserved this one.

    Wish we'd had a chance to catch up afterwards... but you were probably asleep by the time I finished :)

    Looking forward to crossing paths again at a future run/race!

  3. Great race there Ryan, way to battle through the demons! Love the Med tent recap, I could just visualize the experience.

  4. Thanks guys!
    PG and BT- Awesome debuts, keep it rolling this Fall!

  5. Nice work Burch, it was great to see you bombing down Hope in high spirits. Also, I gotta give credit for my finish to pesto pizza, and thus, you. So thanks for helping me get back to Leadville!

    Aaron M

  6. I hope you feel like the monkey is now off your back.

    I think I'll be a spectator at RRR if I can swing it with work. Maybe I'll see you then.

  7. Nice to see you finally get the better of the beast. Now that you know how to ride him, he's all yours! Congrats.

  8. I was feeling down with a head cold and a tough speed session tonight. Then I read the comment about an oral alien birth. I feel better after laughing out loud. Great visual. Congrats on a strong showing at Leadville.


  9. Congrats on a solid performance in Leadville and at 100 miles! Fun running with you a bit at the beginning down the Boulevard. Hoping now that you have the monkey off your back, we will see you tearing it up at the distance and beyond (well, below) in the future!

  10. Fantastic race Ryan! Congratulations!!!

    Steve Siguaw

  11. Nice work! I was following along at home. Seems like you had a great day.

  12. Ryan,
    I'm an old friend of megan's from high school. I heard she married an ultra-marathoner (from tim — i'm in fort collins briefly) and thought it was awesome. Even more stoked to see you're a darn good one. I run pretty obsessively (mostly barefoot) but have never raced and as much as I love the idea of ultra-marathoning it's probably not a reality in my future.

    Anyhoo. just wanted to say hi. say hi to megan for me. stoked you're kind of a big deal. if we ever run in to you I'd love to pick your brain, I have a million questions about uber-long-distance running...

    good luck. keep running, maybe you'll win one soon. 6th is pretty ridiculous.