Sunday, 25 August 2013

Reflections and Looking Ahead

So that's it all over and now back to normal life. It is so strange and I do not know if it will all ever really sink in what happened over in Colorado. I had the most amazing time of my life , met people who I will be friends with forever and really wish I could just keep doing it all over again.
First time up Hope Pass
It really is strange as I had trained so much for the race , planned everything for so long and all of a sudden it's over. Now what. I am totally delighted with having completed the race but now I just feel a little down , What now? Where do I go from here? What's next?
Lovin' It
It's been a week since the race and I have been reading a lot of comments on the Internet about this years LT100 , some good , some bad. There does seem to be a fair bit if criticism towards this years event. I will try my best here to give my opinion on some on the topics. 
Anna helping me up Hope 2nd time
First off there are loads of complaints that the aid stations were not stocked well enough and ran out of water , food and cups. To be honest I never noticed any of this except for when I came back over Hope Pass and the aid station had no cups left. For me no big deal , I just drank the rest of the water in my bottle and Anna filled it up again for me , yeah I guess if you wanted soup it was more of an issue but is it really that hard to use your water bottle for soup then just rinse it out. Now running out of food and water later in the race for runners nearer the back really is not good enough and I agree with complaints about this  , that must be fixed for future races. I did see many empty cups littered along the trails but not a huge amount , this should still not happen some of them were only a few hundred metres outside of aid stations , how the runner can't just use a bin that was provided or just put the empty(very lightweight) cup in a pocket I don't know , this is very bad on the racers part. 
About mile 47
Another point was the congestion and how slow it was for crews and pacers to get to checkpoints for their runners. Again I did not see any of this. My crew did say some checkpoints were very very busy with cars but some of the access to some of them is on narrow dirt roads so is obviously going to be hard , they tried to use shuttle buses at Twin Lakes but I don't think this helped too much , I would defend the organisers here as after the race briefing for runners on the Friday they did have a crew briefing and did make it clear that at the aid stations it would get very very busy so be prepared. The drop bag system works really well so I was prepared with a drop bag at every station , I knew I had crew but we just used bags as well just in case something went wrong and they were stuck in traffic , that all just seemed like common sense to me. The halfway checkpoint at Winfield was highlighted as being a major congestion point and we were advised not to drive all the way in with the pacer and to drop them off a mile or two out and let them jog in. That's what Anna and Kim did and it worked fine , so to be honest those who tried to drive in and got held up and missed runners then all I can really say is well we were told about this so stop moaning. Sorry if that sounds harsh but some people I think just expected it all to run smooth and how can it run perfect with 900+ runners plus pacers , plus crew and on top of that add spectators. I just think a lot of these runners and crew really just want their hands held for the entire day and don't realise there is some hard times and a bit of grafting involved , just get on with it.
Between Twin Lakes and Fish Hatch
More people were commenting on the race field being too congested , for me 900+ runners on a race is the norm really. Yeah it was a bit congested coming down to Winfield through the trees with runners still descending very slowly and others going back up but it really really didn't bother me. I admit I may have missed the major congestion times but really how hard is it just to step aside , the narrow tricky section really doesn't last that long plus it is a TRAIL race and some trails believe it or not are narrow and single track , shocker eh!

Now I am not out to totally defend the race here , some things can obviously be done to improve some of the issues and Lot's of the criticism came from way more experienced Leadville runners and some top runners too like 2nd place Nick Clark a runner who's blog I have been following for years. I emailed him to give my point of view as I was a bit shocked reading his blog. I was not emailing having a go at him. He knows way more about these races than me. I was just letting him know from a total newbies point of view I loved it but I did totally agree with lots of his comments.

The major talking point he made was that the race over the years had lost a bit of it's soul. Yeah I know Lifetime Fitness have taken over the majority of the organising of the race from the founders but to still have Ken at the race briefing saying welcome to our family , his son Cole give a truly awesome inspirational speech and have Ken's good lady at the finish line to give you a massive hug and medal really is special and yes when the day arrives this disappears it will be tragic. Yes it was my first Leadville so I have zero experience of previous races but again I thought the event had more soul than I have ever felt at any race I have done. Every local family I met before was still so excited for the race and the support they all gave from the start was truly amazing ,  I was hanging out drinking coffee with many locals before and after and had a great time. I do believe though that this race is just growing and growing largely due to the facts that it is not too difficult to get into and the classic running book "Born to Run" elevated the status of the race massively. Now I have obviously read it and I did really enjoy it and it did raise my awareness more of this race but I had been running for years before the book came out and already knew the history of Leadville and was already super keen to try one day to run in it. Now I like races where absolutely anyone can have a go but races like the UTMB and Western States where you need to gain points or have experience of running other Ultras to get accepted is quite a good idea. It just means that everyone doing the race has a pretty decent chance at it and are not going into the race blind. There were many runners at Leadville who to be honest did not have a clue what they were getting into. Again fair play to them for having a go but not the smartest idea to try and run your first race as the very very tough Leadville 100. I am scared that this race will soon become or maybe it has already become a bucket list race for many non trail runners who read in magazines like FHM or Men's Health etc.... in articles about "10 races to do before you die" and all that crap and find Leadville included , now that I do not want to happen , I don't want some guy who can play 5 a side football once week , can run for the whole hour by the way , who goes to his local gym twice a week and is "super tough" because he used to play rugby thinking he wants to run Leadville just to tick it off. Now that really really is not on and it drives me up the wall hearing about these people. I run these races because I love to run , I love to run in Mountains and I love to run with people like me but I do feel Leadville could turn into a bucket list race for many and I really hope they can find a way for this not to happen. Now I know at the end of the day organisers want to make money pure and simple but even adding a small entry requirement like must have completed a 50 miler in previous 2 yrs , reducing the field by a couple of hundred and even putting the race fee up a little to compensate for this would not kill this race off at all , it would still attract the greatest runners on the planet and runners like me with a real passion for running long distances in the Mountains.
What a feeling!
So there is my views, sorry if I offended anyone but it's the truth and what I experienced. A totally amazing special race I will never forget for all the good reasons. Now for me , what's next? In October I am back in Scotland and have some small races lined up , a 10k which will be fun to do some speed work again , a 50k in the Lakes District where I have never ran a race and a 17k up in the Highlands which I am looking forward to. After that it will be nearly winter and ski time. Looking to next year and big races I really have no clue. There is loads floating in my mind right now. Pikes Peak Marathon , Western States 100 , Hardrock 100 , Waasatch 100 , Transvulcania the list goes on and on. I will without a doubt be going back to Leadville but to pace(20-30 miles) and crew for Kim so might try and do a smaller Colorado race whilst over. I also have my eye on one closer to home , well actually my home race The West Highland Way , I feel it's about time I did this. I love home and love the highlands so now it makes sense to have a go at it and I should hopefully have the entry requirements for it. It is very similar to Leadville as the distance is the same but it is not at altitude. I don't want to jinx it but I do not feel it will be nearly as hard as Leadville but it will be tough as hell.
Bye for now Leadville
I already miss everyone I met back in Colorado and really do wish I could live there but that most likely will never happen but I will try anyway I can to make it work. Now back in Chamonix my knee has pretty much fully recovered but I am booked into see a specialist this week , I feel it's finally time I did something about this just in case it is a problem that will always come back and haunt me late in a race and something that can be fixed. Also my good friend Graham is running the 100km CCC next week so I am looking forward to finally being the one not running so I can help out and see the joy on someone else's face when they finish a race they have worked so hard for and I have no doubt he will do amazing in it. I thought I would want to climb again but to be honest I don't , I have lost even more passion for climbing and probably because of my summer of not doing any. This passion will most likely come back but as I sit writing this feeling a little down my whole American experience is over I have only one thing on my mind to get a smile back and that is to lace up my trail shoes and go running......and I wish it was alongside my pacers again.

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