My cousin Alyssa recently ran the Leadville 100 race. She did an amazing job and here is her story of it. I love the adventure in her life, and encourage you to seek the adventure in yours. Not everyone can run 100 miles, but everyone can have an adventure.
Leadville 100 Race Report
After signing up for Leadville Trail 100 (a 100 mile race that begins and ends in Leadville, Colorado) on January 1, 2011, I began training immediately (the race was set for August 20). I signed my first sponsorship contract with theaidstation.com, so I knew this racing year would be different than prior years.
I did not want to fail at Leadville.
So, in preparation for the longest and most important race of my life, I consistently added mileage to my training schedule up until two weeks prior to August 20 (the day of the race).
The month of July was my high mileage month (400 miles). My training gave me confidence that I was ready.
A week prior to the race I organized everything I needed and prepared my food list. Three days before the race I hosted a dinner at my home in Winter Park, Colorado, for members of my crew. My race crew/pacers included Travis (my husband), Ryan Fey (Fraser, Colorado), Kyle Klingman (Waterloo, Iowa), Guy Willey (Ames, Iowa), and Nancy Citriglia (Fraser, Colorado). I had a very supportive and strong crew.
We drove to Leadville the morning of Friday, August 19. I went to the registration area, checked in, and relaxed the rest of the day at our camp near the race course.
I mentally started to prepare for 100 miles.
I crawled into my sleeping bag at 7:30 p.m. knowing that I needed to fall asleep as soon as I could. It began to rain that evening, and I was a little worried about how it would affect the course, but knew worrying would get me nowhere.
I received a phone call that evening from Jonathan Basham, a good friend who is one of 10 finishers on the Barkleys Marathon (a grueling 100 mile race in Tennessee) and the current supported record holder on the Long Trail (a 272 mile hiking trail in Vermont). He asked me about my goals for the race and, since it was my first 100, I told him I just wanted to finish.
True to form, Jonathan gave me a little grief, telling me I could do better than that. A sub-25 hour race was conceivable, so I told him if I could break 25 hours I would be stoked. He told me that it was possible to place in the top five amongst females.
The thought of placing in the top five females excited me, but, realistically, it wasn’t my focus prior to the race. I was going to listen to my body and go from there.
I woke up at 2:30 a.m. (the race started at 4 a.m.) with my race clothes on. I started the race wearing Montrail Rogue Racers, which I love. I ate banana bread with the coffee that Travis made for me. Surprisingly, I did not have any butterflies. The thunderstorm saturated the ground but I didn’t think too much about it. Before I knew it we were packed and off to the starting line.
I got to the start line with 15 minutes to spare, just how I like it. Still no butterflies. Travis told me to save the nerves for Winfield (the halfway point), and I guess my body was taking his advice. I stretched a little and BANG—I was running the Leadville 100.
The energy at the start was unbelievable. The crowd was going crazy. Flashes and headlights were everywhere. It gave me goose bumps.
I looked down at my watch and noticed that it didn’t start. I fooled around with it for a few minutes, but it wasn’t working. It was telling me my pace was 10 miles per hour (6 minutes per mile) when I needed to average just over 4 miles per hour to reach my goal. I was focusing too much on the watch so I forced myself to slow down. The total time was all I needed to know.
I would run at the pace that felt good and I would listen to my body.
Music was playing down the street of the start; neighbors were cheering us on in their pajamas. I ran past them with a huge smile. This was going to be an amazing day.
I got to the boulevard and the mud was sticking to the bottom of my running shoes. It was just a little extra weight, but it was the same for everyone.
I was swarmed with runners. I received advice from Stephanie Jones, a gal running next to me who had a couple finishes under her belt. During my research on the race I remembered that she was top five female last year. As we approached the lake she got in front of me. It wouldn’t be until the Mt. Elbert water station that I would see her again.
I made my way around the single track along the lake. With so many runners you have to lock into a pace. The pace felt a little fast, but good.
I wanted to be at May Queen (the first aid station at 13.5 miles) in 2:30. I got there in 2:06.
I told myself to slow down on the next section because I knew—and my crew knew—that I was going too fast.
“They’re over on the left side of the road,” Kyle told me as I went through aid station.
“You’re the 10th female,” said Travis as I received food from my crew.
Being in 10th place within the first 13.5 miles told me I needed to slow down. Ryan handed me a peanut butter sandwich, and then I was back on trail eating on the go. I took three bites of the sandwich and I tossed it in the woods. It was a little too dry and it wasn’t going down as well as I had hoped.
Climbing up the back of Sugar Loaf (the next section of the course) I met Ken, an eight-time finisher. I sought his advice and, in some ways, his insight may have saved my race.
I wanted to run this section because I ran the inclines in training. His advice was to hike the uphill sections of the course. The year he did not finish under 25 hours was the year he ran the uphills. He told me that there was a lot of racing left and that running too hard too early would catch up with me.
My strength is downhill running, so once we reached the top I had visions of bombing down the mountain. Once again, Ken told me to take it easy.
We continued our conversation down the climb, getting passed left and right by male runners. I knew Ken was right about having a lot of racing left, so I didn’t let the pace of others affect me. Before I knew it I was at the Fish Hatchery (the second aid station 23.5 miles into the race).
I checked in, grabbed a piece of watermelon, and checked out. My crew was waiting near the exit of the aid station. As Travis put sunscreen on me I looked at the food—but nothing looked good. I put two Cliff gels in my handheld water pack and started the five mile road section.
I was not looking forward to this section. Fortunately, with cars constantly driving by and cheering, this section went by fast. I was at the Half Pipe aid station in a little over an hour. Travis noticed that the heat was getting to me so he told me to give him my jersey. He soaked my shirt in cold water and that did the trick.
I ate more watermelon, a boiled potato with salt, and a hardboiled egg. My crew refilled my water and gels and, within minutes, I was back at it. It was nearly 30 miles into the race and I had no pain in my legs.
My stomach, however, was giving me a little grief and cramping. I was unsure if I should drink or gel up so I did both. I felt a bit better and continued on.
Shortly after the aid I saw a ponytail (female). This motivated me. I kept my pace and eventually passed Tina Lewis. I was feeling strong.
This section seemed long, but I took it one mile at a time. Shortly after the turn onto the Colorado Trail I was heading down hill and saw Stephanie (we met earlier in the race). As I passed her she congratulated me and told me I was looking strong. The thought of being the eighth female gave me encouragement. I strode out all the way into the Twin Lakes aid station (39.5 miles) passing a dozen or so males.
Descending into Twin Lakes was motivating because there are so many people. I reached my crew and they had some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I took a few bites, changed my shirt and took off with two water bottles to climb Hope Pass.
The energy leaving Twin Lakes was incredible. Before I knew it I was running through puddles and puddles of water. Typically there is only one river crossing before the ascent to Hope Pass, but the rain the night before created several knee deep puddles (seven to be exact).
I got to the river and the cold water actually felt good. The next four miles I focused on the climb. I passed a few guys, but no one passed me. Nine hours of race time had elapsed while I was climbing. I thought briefly about being finished with the Mountain Masochist Trail Race (a 50 mile race in Lynchburg, Virginia) where I got my start in ultrarunning—and that I still had 55 miles to go in this race.
“Think positive,” I told myself. “Get to the Hope Pass aid station (44.5 miles) and get to the top of the pass.”
This was my short-term focus point. I pushed hard to the top of the pass and I still had not seen the front runners on their return.
Shortly after I got to the other side I saw Ryan Sandes (the eventual winner). All I had to do was run down the steep side of Hope Pass, get to the road, and run into Winfield where my crew was waiting.
It wasn’t until the road section that I saw the first female. This was motivation to get into Winfield and start heading back. I was also looking forward to having a pacer the next 50 miles. I got into Winfield (halfway point of in the race) in 10 hours and six minutes—one hour and 20 minutes ahead of my goal time of 25 hours. I was okay with the faster pace because I felt great.
I was ready to start heading back toward Leadville.
At the medical check I was down six pounds. I was worried they might hold me back to gain some water weight. They pointed at the exit and I headed towards me crew. I had a huge smile on my face; I was happy and excited to see them.
Travis was ready to pace me with a backpack filled with everything crucial for my climb over Hope Pass. My crew refilled my water bottles and Travis and I were on our way. Once we started down the gravel road he handed me some watermelon, which was working for me.
As we started the climb up Hope Pass I saw Ken Chlouber (race director). He was waiting for his son to come down the pass.
It took me a few moments to get my groove up the steep climb. Once I got into a rhythm Travis was constantly motivating me. I can’t thank him enough for pushing me up Hope Pass. This was my toughest section.
I started to pass a few males on the climb. I saw Sandi Nypaver, another member of theaidstation.com team, who was pacing for someone else. Then I saw another female and her pacer and charged pass them. Then I saw Tina Lewis who was being paced by Anita Oritz and climbed pass them. I led the climb with these gals on my coat tails.
I was being fed fruit and water every few minutes—and positive energy from Travis. By the time I got to the top I was sick of the grapes, strawberries, and watermelon, but I knew it was crucial to nourish my body.
Once we reached the top of Hope Pass, Tina and Anita took off at top speed. Travis could see the worry in my eyes and told me to stay calm. Knowing that I’m best down hills, he told me that going too fast with 45 miles to run was foolish. I took his advice, gelled up and cruised down Hope Pass—watching foot placement constantly.
We conversed the entire way down, still in disbelief at how well I was performing and how well my body was holding up. I fought blisters during training, but none during this race. I was wearing ininji socks (socks with five toe holes), which I had worn one other time.
Before I knew it we were back at the creek. As we approached the parking lot in Twin Lakes I saw Nancy Citriglia cheering me on (she was going to pace me the last 13.5 miles). She ran with Travis and me as we pushed toward the truck.
I got to my crew and Ryan instantly handed me Ramen noodles. I normally would never eat Ramen noodles, but it seemed to work. Travis changed my socks and shoes as I ate. I changed into Patagonia Specter’s with Darn Tough socks. I tried choking down a boiled potato with salt, but spit it out.
Ryan handed me a bite of a homemade energy bar. That didn’t work either. My stomach was a little upset so Travis insisted I drink some seltzer water.
I continued to eat Ramen on the go as I checked in and out of the aid station. Guy would pace me this section.
As I charged up the hill on to the trail he shouted, “I don’t have your water bottle, continue, and I’ll catch up.”
So I headed up the steep incline out of Twin Lakes knowing the next miles were uphill. Guy caught up in a few minutes (he was a 4:10 miler in college) and we locked into our pace.
I liked it best if I kept the pace and my pacer followed me on my heels. This way I didn’t have to feel like I was trying to keep up. All my pacers told me how fast I was hiking and that I had a good steady stride on the down hills.
At mile 65.5 I ate a few walnuts and I lost my lunch (aka I vomited), but, surprisingly, I felt better. We continued running and in 10 minutes Guy reminded me to gel up. As much as I didn’t want to, I knew I had to. About 35 minutes later I took another gel. Guy handed me my water bottle every 10 minutes until the next aid station. I grabbed a sip of Coca-Cola and I was checking out. My crew was two miles away.
When I got close to my crew, Miles (my 10-year-old black lab) came running up to me. This made me smile. I was told he had been a good boy all day.
“Thirty more miles to go and I’m still feeling good,” I thought as I sat down to receive aid.
Nothing looked good to eat, so I decided to stick to the gels. I refueled with gels every 35 to 45 minutes until the finish line. Guy continued to pace me during this section. We ran/hiked and still passed a few people. We were at the Fish Hatchery aid station (76.5 miles) just before dusk.
I checked in, took another piece of watermelon, and checked out. I met my crew at the road. I took a quick pit stop in the port-a-john, which I’m glad I did.
Travis handed me a headlamp, not knowing it was the wrong one. It had the same batteries from when we climbed Mount Langely, but no one knew this at this time. My crew handed me more Ramen noodles and pumped me up with some positive energy.
At the start of the climb, Kyle (my third pacer) let me know I was moving at a great pace. We continued to climb, passing one guy while being passed by another. The guy that passed me was really negative, so getting away from him was important.
I pushed hard on the climb, taking a gel every 45 minutes and a sip of water every five minutes. Kyle and I started running once we reached the top, making sure our footing was solid as we descended down the mountain.
Within a few minutes I could see the lights and tents of the May Queen aid station (86.5 miles). I had run 85 miles feeling fresh. I was excited for the home stretch.
I noticed my headlamp was dimming a little, but it never concerned me. Kyle’s light was helping guide me.
Ryan and Travis were not at the last aid station, but Guy and Nancy were there.
I looked in the pacer pack and found the surefire flash light. This helped tremendously as Nancy ran the last 13.5 miles with me. I checked into May Queen aid station grinning ear to ear. I couldn’t believe that I was running the last section of the race virtually pain free.
Nancy kept telling me how awesome I looked; we were in disbelief. All day I was in the game and I didn’t let one negative thought cross my mind. I wanted Nancy to pace me this section, because she’s a pusher. Nancy is my female running friend from Winter Park and we have put a lot of miles in together.
As we made our way around the lake it felt like minutes and we were at Tabor boat ramp, which meant half the section was over. I was getting a little emotional and thought to myself, “I’m going to cry at the finish.”
We passed a male runner and his pacer and then saw another runner a few hundred yards in front of us with an extremely bright light. Knowing Nancy, I knew she wanted to catch them, but I was completely happy with the pace I was moving. We had some trouble finding the trail, but for the most part we were clipping along.
We got to the end of the lake and saw our crew sitting in a parking lot. No aid was allowed here, but seeing the crew provided extra incentive before the finish.
Nancy and I continued down the power-line cut, still following the runner with the really bright light. As we made the turn onto private property, we ran past the person with bright light: it was Tina Lewis, the gal that took off at the top of Hope Pass. I couldn’t believe it.
“Let’s really push it for a few minutes,” I told Nancy.
We made the turn onto the boulevard by pushing up the last short climb. We looked back and we saw no lights. I was ecstatic. The finish was less than three miles away. We passed a handful of runners, but I don’t remember what was going through my mind at this time.
Then we made the turn by the high school—minutes away from the finish. Nancy ran ahead to tell my crew.
I couldn’t believe the race was almost over.
I couldn’t believe I was going to break 25 hours.
I couldn’t believe I would be among the top five females.
Then, when I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe I was the 23rd overall finisher.
And, when I stopped running, I couldn’t believe I had no pain.
I had just run 100 miles in 21 hours 35 minutes and one second. I couldn’t believe anything. I thought I was dreaming.
I never thought that I would perform this well in my first 100 mile race. When I crossed the finish line I was hugged and congratulated by Travis and the rest of my crew. I think we were all in shock by the results. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t cry.
We stared at the results board and there was my name: Alyssa Wildeboer, fourth female, second in my age group and 23rd overall. I was done, the race was over. My goals and expectations were far exceeded.
We made our way to the medical tent and, as I weighed in for the final time, I was only down four pounds. As we walked back to the truck I wanted to double check the results to make sure I was not dreaming.
It was all a reality. I had successfully completed my first 100 mile trail run—flawless.