A Note from Fatty about Today’s Post: Cole Chlouber is a good friend of mine and a guy I feel like I’m fairly similar to. We both chased the sub-9 buckle at Leadville, both went the single-speed route for years, then both finally got the Sub-9-hour time we were seeking. So when I heard he was going to do the foot version of this race, I wanted to hear the story of how it went. I figure you will like it too.
Sixteen years ago as a 21-year-old know-it-all I took Leadville on, or rather, the Leadville Trail 100 ate me up and spit me out!
Under-trained and unmotivated for the challenge, I set off to run the Leadville Trail 100 aside my father, and hero, Ken Chlouber. I awoke to run the epic mountain course only to find rain on race day. And did it rain, for 12 hours.
Young and anxious, I was out too fast (for my ability) and by Winfield I was done and way too close to the cutoff. My father looked at me, pressed his fingers to his lips and said he’d see me at the finish line — a line I was not prepared to reach.
Over the years, I became fairly good at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race but the fact that I had started this journey and not put an end to it had plagued my soul year after year, for sixteen years.
It is funny that my father claims we “forget the pain,” but for me it seemed to be something I remembered well. It haunted me and the haunting was only growing stronger.
The goal always seemed so far that I always considered it unreachable. I had started to prepare a year or so back but quickly went back to the comfort of the bike race, a challenge I always knew was within me and had only challenged me in that I knew I could be faster.
The problem was that year after year as I’ve heard my father give his motivational, hair-raising speeches only to know in my own mind I was cowering from a challenge I knew one day I would have to put an end to. “Dig deep.” “Make friends with pain and you’ll never be alone.” “You are better than you think you are and can do more than you think you can.”
Wow, how these words echo through me over the years, how silently I have been haunted by my own father’s creation while hiding behind my bike, and for me, a safe challenge. My father is my greatest inspiration, strongest encouragement and biggest hero, but I also never felt I could fill this challenge, I never felt I could measure up to his creation that I had mistakenly started and never felt I could put end to.
While we all believe in the greatness of our parents, mine are truly the most amazing people I know. Just about a year and a half ago I had found myself depressed with work, stalled out in my athletics and craving change to feel alive. I decided it was my time to “Dig Deep” and I started to correct all that haunted my spirit.
I needed to change everything that was safe in my life, I needed to shake life up and leave safety behind…for the first time. I went home and told my fiancée I wanted to leave a ten year career of corporate charitable giving and was going to apply for a position with Life Time Fitness.
Oh yeah, and I told her we were going to trade Colorado for Minnesota.
She’s my biggest support, but even she was nervous about how far my mind was taking me from the safety that I had created around us.
Being who she is, she was more than supportive of my wacky idea, and off we went in search of a life I had to resurrect for my well-being. While the career change went well (I had injected myself into a career with Life Time Fitness, supportive of athletics and a less dormant life), I still hid behind the bike to keep some form of safety.
As the year grew I felt alive, I felt the passion of the run eating away at me and it was time to fully embrace what truly living meant to me. And on some levels, it meant failure could be reality but not trying was not being alive.
So, not to bore poor Elden’s audience, it is time to get on with my review of a second attempt of my Leadvillle Trail 100.
Enough is enough., it is May 31st 2011. I’d bought new running shoes days before and it was time to strap them on, relearn the art of running and find inspiration to create the success I craved. My first run was 16.4 miles. I was reading anything I could. Born to Run by Chris McDougall, and Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich.
I read many other books but having a history with these authors, they rang the most true with what my goals where. As the year grew I got to speak with Marshall a bit and the Leadville Trail 100 Doc and Leadman, Dr. John Hill. There were many others I picked the brains of along the way but I used these individuals to tailor my plan to run 100 miles in less than three months.
I kept interest by trying new shoes to keep running fun and wrote reviews about the shoes. I ran a marathon distance on the weekends and ran five to eight mile runs during the week at a higher tempo pace. I felt I wasn’t giving myself the proper time to prepare but knew I had a good base from the bike and knew I could wait no longer, so my journey was underway.
Natashia, my fiancée, had given me the green light to tackle my dreams, my father and the above-mentioned individuals gave me the bare essentials for success and my Dad gave me the heart to know this was the window of chance I had to follow. And that path is the one I went down.
August 20th was here and I was sprung awake by my father opening the door and telling me it was time to make my way to the start of the Leadville Trail 100.
Surprisingly, I felt a peace over me after living through days of anxiety in preparation for this very day. I was able to eat a good breakfast and it was out the door for the start line. It was 4:00am on a pleasant morning and the gun went off.
Almost surreal, I moved down the trail, leaving Leadville and was mechanical and asleep on my feet for the first fourth of the race. This advice was crucial and offered up by my father. As I ran around Turquoise Lake in the dark I listened as others were chatty. I knew this was not the thing to do so I never engaged conversation myself.
As the sun came up I was on Sugarloaf and finding the Rocky Mountain beauty I had traded for the Midwest.
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
Coming down Powerline I ran within myself and kept the pace reserved, something that had been my demise sixteen years earlier. The beauty made me miss having Natashia at my side but she was with me in spirit and that also helped harness feeling a need to be aggressive with my pace.
As I came to Fish Hatchery I came onto the flat roads that would be a challenge. Still mechanical with thought, I was taking 200 calories an hour with GU (which I managed to do the entire race) and just the right amount of fluids.
Looking up one could tell it would be another perfect weather day. This was a great sight as the day before and after were not so rewarding. The road section was nearing an end as I was passing Treeline in good form but realizing I was now over the mileage of my longest run. The nerves started to worry but I quickly revisited the calm thought process I would need for success.
I was now on the trail section and lost in the beauty that surrounded me. Before I knew it I was entering Twin Lakes and readying myself for where I’d fell apart so many years ago, I was prepared to hit Hope Pass.
Off I went, through the river crossing, across the prairie and up the base of Hope Pass. Then reality hit. My feet grew tired, doubt started to fill my mind and the climb was much more demanding than I’d remembered.
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
I kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other. I was not as fast on the assent as I had wanted to be and felt sluggish. I felt like it was all getting ready to implode, once again, on Hope Pass. My mind was just calm enough to help me up towards the tree line of the pass.
Zoom, here comes Ryan the South African, then it was Dylan the Aspen runner, than another after another. For some reason this lifted my spirits and I regained composure as I started down the Winfield side of Hope.
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
Before I knew it, the first crossing of Hope was over and I settled in to tackle the two miles of road that lie between myself and Winfield.
Forty(ish) minutes later I hit Winfield and Dr. Hill was there, along with my family, to keep my spirits high.
Elation and Despair
Scared of the distance ahead, it was time to cross Hope Pass the second time. I was entering a new place as I’d never made this point in the race. My father was amazed at my speed but I was feeling nauseous and the nerves were starting to get to me.
And then it happened. About a half mile up Hope I came to life, and off I roared up the pass, nothing would hold me back! I pushed hard as I summated Hope in possibly my best time ever. Running fast, but still within myself, I came off Hope and back into Twin surprising my family and all there watching in support.
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
Picking up my pacer, Jennifer, we left Twin Lakes and I was feeling pain. Pain like I’d never felt before. Oh no! I’d done it, I went too fast and was scared to death I wouldn’t recover from the damage I’d done.
Jennifer kept me calm and we were walking the climbs at a brisk pace, even with my nausea and mental damage I’d created. We hit the single track headed for Treeline and bam, it all came back to me once again. What’s going on? I felt as if I had not run a step and off we went into a decent run.
And then bam, we hit the road to Treeline and I was back to my bad place. Jennifer kept the encouragement high, telling me my pace was fine and I’d banked enough time to “walk in.”
Walk in? What a horrible thought!
We had over thirty five plus miles to go and the amount of time it would take to walk in was a miserable thought at best.
Treeline and Powerline
Somehow we managed to run/walk and hit Treeline. My family and a fresh pacer — my High School best friend Jonathan — were all there, waiting on me. Jonathan’s family and other family friends were also there but I didn’t realize this until about five miles later. Was I really that out of it? Absolutely.
Jonathan and I now hit the dreaded paved roads towards Fish Hatchery but he kept me going. Before I knew it the hatchery had come and gone. Wow, I am now realizing we are seventy six miles into this thing, I may have a shot!
Better yet, we were hitting Powerline and I was actually anticipating this would be my good section, as this time, I didn’t have to push a bike up the stupid pass!
Boy was I wrong.
Powerline was eating me alive, much worse than Hope had, a marathon before.
Out of It
Knowing I chose Jonathan as a pacer due to his ability to motivate me beyond what most can, we soon summited Sugarloaf and were moving down toward the Hagerman Road. I was feeling very out of it at this point and that may be how we had gotten off the horrible night’s climb.
Into the trees we went headed for May Queen and it was hard to follow the trail. Tunnel vision was upon me and I was stumbling, yet managed to stay on my feet.
As we hit May Queen I was haggard and the blisters I had felt from mile seventy were starting to get to me. We made it into May Queen and my family was there in support. I was beat and broken but pushed onto the Turquoise Lake trail, ready to get this thing done!
I had thirteen miles left, how long could it take? These words proved to be my famous last words. I stumbled, fell, cried, whined, yelled…Nothing was helping and this quickly proved to be my slowest section.
Hours later we found my family, but I had thought we were at the end of the lake. We were not. We were at the boat ramp and still had mileage to cover before ending this miserable, darkened, rocky trail.
At this point I was crushed but my knowledge to pick Jonathan for the section proved right. Once again, Jonathan drug my spirit through the space and time and we hit the road once again.
I hated the road but it was much more pleasant than dealing with the trail through the night.
Soon we were at the final three miles of the Boulevard. I was crushed and broken, the blisters were burning, my legs wanted to snap…but, this was going to happen! Jonathan pushed and pushed as he knew where we were onto a great time. Glad he did, I had no idea we were on planet earth!
The last three miles were a big struggle but we had done it.
We had hit the pavement of the streets of Leadville and cresting our final hill.
An end to what had started sixteen years earlier, there was the finish line and we charged in, crossing the line with my family.
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
This was an end to the one thing in life I had quit and it felt surreal. We crossed the line in twenty five hours and eight minutes.
The award ceremony was a blur and before I knew it I was back in the arms of my Natashia and home in Minnesota.
I cannot thank everyone enough for their dedication to me and my goal. This story nowhere nears the thanks I need to give to those I have and have not mentioned in my success.
I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings and I hope I have inspired all of you to chase the true meaning of being alive.