In 2004 I decided to try my hand at ultra-mountain biking and entered the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado. I had a blast so I decided to take it a step farther and enter the Leadville 100 mile trail run in 2005. I mean, I had done 6 Ironman races, many marathons including Boston so why not? Wow, that definitely opened my eyes. I finished (barely!) under the 30 hour cut-off but was forced to walk/power-walk the last 50 miles due to a severe pain in my shin I encountered around mile 47. I found out a few weeks after the race that I had a tibial stress fracture! OUCH!
Interestingly, the week after I finished the 100 mile run, I moved my family and I across the country to work as the Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Florida. Spent just over a year there before coming back to Colorado for an unbelievable opportunity to work at the Olympic Training Center and got the ultra-run bug back in my head. So, what did I do? Yep, I entered the Leadville 100 mile run again for 2007. Things didn't go so smoothly for me though. I had signed up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June but ended up breaking my foot during a high intensity trail run with a past-Ironman World Championships winner. I wasn't being stupid, just landed on a rock wrong. First bone I had ever broken in my body!
I was in a boot for 12 weeks but was still inclined to do the Ironman. I got my boot off 5 weeks before and about 13 weeks before Leadville. I just wanted to be able to run the marathon part of Ironman and ended up with a fairly decent off the bike marathon time, 4:01. I thought things were good, my running was feeling decent so I wasn't about to back down from the Leadville challenge. Besides, my best friend was also signed up so I couldn't let him down!
Fast forward to Leadville and I was feeling great on the trails until about mile 53 when I was ascending the 12,600 foot Hope Pass for the second time (the course is an out and back). It was raining and I had begun to feel very queezy. I had to stop a few times and my pacer and I spent a few minutes at the top in a tent trying to get some calories in me. During the descent is when I really felt in trouble. Vomiting started and it was getting dark. I was going to make the aid station cut-off time in Twin Lakes but I had not been able to hold any fluid or food down for about 2 hours. Now, this is my profession. I knew I was in trouble and needed to rest my body and gut to be able to bounce back but I didn't have that amount of time to take. When I walked into Twin Lakes with my pacer (Julie, god bless her soul!), I laid down on the ground and scared my crew half to death. It is then when I learned my best friend hadn't made the cut-off at 50 miles so he was also there. I changed my clothes, tried to get in some nutrients (not too successful) and took about 10 minutes (longest of my life!) to decide what I should do. I asked the opinions of everyone but it was only Julie (my pacer from mile 50-60) who really knew what had been going on.
I made the hardest decision of my life and one that has not left my psyche every since. For almost two years I have had to live with my first DNF ever. It's pretty hard to choke that down, even as I type this. I knew it was the best decision but will never forget about that incredibly difficult decision. Many factors came into play: dehydration, maybe a touch of hyponatremia and definitely altitude sickness. Yep, this Colorado-raised boy battled with the altitude and lost. I had only been back from Florida for 9 months...for what that is worth.
Morale of the story...I accomplished my goal of becoming an endurance athlete again (that subsided significantly when I lived in Florida) and was successful for 60 miles but most importantly, I had made the decision to pull myself out because the journey was more important than the destination.
"What's next for Bob?" you may ask? Well, let's just say that it is going to be a stellar year for many reasons. Stay tuned to Part 2 of this blog for all of the exciting info! Just a little teasing...I know!