Leadville 100 Race Report

Posted by Josh Riff on Aug 29th 2016

Last weekend was the running of the 100 mile Leadville race. This would be my first 100 mile race and in fact would be my first trail race, my first high altitude race, and my first run over 35 miles in my life. Suffice to say I was very naive. I needed a new challenge after the Birkie and this seemed to fit the bill. Planning: as opposed to a XC ski race or an ironman this was more adventure then it was racing. After reading a few race reports I got very into the planning and in the end I had 12-15 huge ziplock bags of food, emergency food, back up to the back for emergency food. While I didn't know what to expect I was coming in prepared. My motto: "we have a name for those who bring too much fear into battle, survivor". A sample of my gear is below. Notice the poptarts and pickles.

Training: training was really basic and written up by my friend Sami. 4 runs a week. 1-2 hours a run with one long run. I was surprised at how little volume we did (longest week 70 miles) and how slow I got (10-11/mile type pace). More enticing was that I did the majority of these runs with other people which made for a fun summer. I could say without a doubt that the summer running was fun and that the race was just the icing on top. My new motto is that if the training isn't enjoyable it is not worth doing which is vastly different then the days I spent in my basement training alone for ironman. Training for this was reticent of skiing at Hyland when you see Jan and her crew and all of the other twin cities skiers. Training was a blast. The Race: my goals were be safe, finish, and maybe tag the big belt buckle (sub-25 hours). My friend chad spears and I worked through the numbers and came up with good, better, best estimated time scenarios for finishing in the 25 hour range. On friday at 8 pm I got into bed and stared at the ceiling, I flip and flopped and by 2 am gave up on the notion of sleeping. Not a big deal before a race but before a 24 hour race I was not sure what the effect of sleep deprivation would be. Well my friend Sami and I showed up at the start line at 3:45 and at 4 am we were off.

Execution Phase 1 mile 1-73 Sami and I ran conservatively and well from mile one to 24. At this point we were going to split up but we were enjoying each other's company so we continued to role. The sun came up and the day got warm. The weather was perfect so we kept running steady. Our goal was to walk anything taxing which included uphills and downhills which really left us only running flats and gentle downhills. Climbing hope pass (mile 40) which is about 7-8 miles of climbing took us close to 4 hours. We were humbled by the people who could hike by us like we were standing still. I felt like those climbers on Everest. The same phenomena happened coming downhill. We would stutter step down and these mountain goats would fly down. So we couldn't run up as well and we couldn't run down as well, so where did that leave us? Actually in great shape because from mile 60-75 we ran well. Not shuffled, not ran walked, we ran and felt great.

Execution Phase 2 mile 73-100: At the aid station at mile 73 sami and I decided to part ways. I felt sad as we were having a blast running together and laughing but 20 hours into the race we were on different energy levels and it was time to part ways. I was feeling as good as I had felt all day leaving mile 73. I was actually running which I did not think would happen. I had religiously eaten or drank every 20 minutes. I just had a red bull. All was good. I continued to run well and despite a few battery issues was still feeling good and clicking off the miles. While I had initially worried about running through the night there was no real transition in time. I kept running, the sun set, I kept running. By mile 87 we knew it was go time. It was 1:30 am so we had 3.5 hours to cover 13 miles. I felt good until mile 10 when the uphills become relentless and the downhills rocky and sketchy. My team and I pushed, harder and harder. Thanks to some bad Intel and worse math we pushed incredibly hard and finished in 24.5 hours

Conclusion: in hindsight this was the strangest athletic event I trained for. Getting slow and going long took more patience and understanding then skill and strength. It truly was an adventure to test my limits rather than an athletic endeavor. I learned a lot but primarily that I can get through 24 hours of anything. I always knew that any physical or emotional pain I had in the past would recede with time. Historically a personal set back,failure, stressor or physical injury would hurt that first day and it might feel like that day and feeling would never end, but eventually the day would end and the next day the pain or sting would be a little less. Rinse and repeat and eventually the emotion or pain would recede and you would be left with the memory or scar. I know now that regardless of the intensity of what I am going through that I can get through 24 hours of anything and that after 24 hours it is a new day.


Thanks: I would never have thought of doing it if not for my friend Sami Inkinen, I would not have the resources to know what to do without the guidance of the guru Bahram, I thank Cole Chlouber for running with me all summer, our crew Noah, Charlie, Karl, Steve, and Michael, and most importantly my wife and kids who give me everything. Thank you all for a life defining moment.

-Posted by Josh Riff on Aug 29th 2016