Leadville Trail 100
Once home to miners and outlaws, Leadville is now an outdoor adventure hub tucked away, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Leadville Trail 100 “Race Across the Sky” has been around for almost 40 years. In 1983 there were 45 runners competing, this year more than 800 runners took on the epic challenge for the coveted gold and silver belt buckles. The race begins in the heart of downtown Leadville at 4 AM. From there, the runners head to the trails with three major peaks to overcome before hitting the halfway point at Winfield. The hardest climb comes at mile 40, Hope Pass; from there the runners must hike up nearly 3,000 feet bringing them to the tallest peak at 12,600ft. Keep in mind this is all before hitting the halfway point, where they turn around and do it all over again…
From Meh, to Ultra Marathon Runner
Not growing up an avid runner, Casey Baum, Buddy’s Director of Partnerships was convinced to run a marathon by a pal, but after checking that box off the list he was determined to push himself even further. Casey is also the father of Clara, an energetic young girl born with a rare genetic disease. Casey and his family started Clara Inspired, a nonprofit that aims to raise awareness and is founded on the principle that “We can do hard things.” The Leadville Trail 100 Race was the perfect “hard thing” for Casey to go after to show his family and others that you really can accomplish anything. When asked, “What convinced you to go for something like this?” Casey answered with a popular quote among runners, “Any idiot can run a marathon, it takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultra marathon.” For Casey, it all came down to curiosity, he said, “I was intrigued with what happens to someone’s mind and body when they do a race like Leadville, and I really wanted to live the Clara Inspired ethos.”
And so the training began…
The Leadville Trail 100 Race Across the Sky is not only notorious for its length but its elevation as well. Coming from the East Coast to compete in a race like this requires a special kind of training. While Casey was able to complete some relatively higher altitude runs in the Blue Ridge Mountains, his main tactic was consistency. He began training in January of 2019, and aimed to run six days a week, getting to the longer and more time-consuming runs on the weekends. As a father of two young girls, sticking to the grind of every day's distance was the hardest part of the training. Another important message to keep in mind while doing this kind of intense training is: listen to your body. This race isn’t run on pavement. It starts in total darkness with the runners crossing over rocky hiking trails and steep mountains thwarted with roots and potholes. When asked about precautions Casey took, he answered, “During the race, you have to be cautious of every step.”
Common Running Injuries
- Stress Fractures, common among new distance runners these small cracks in the bone can be caused by working too hard before your body has time to adjust
- Shin Splints, similar to stress fractures these are typically found in runners increasing their distance or number of running days too quickly
- Achilles Tendinitis, tendinitis is caused by repetitive stress to the area where the tendon attaches the calf to the heel
- Sprained Ankle, a large fear among trail runners, ankle sprains occur when the ligaments surrounding the ankle are stretched quickly without warning
- Plantar Fasciitis, unfortunately, can be brought on for no reason at all, but this injury is typically found on runners with high arches and tight calf muscles
So you want to run an ultra…
Here are some common themes Casey focused on during training and throughout the race that got him through 100 miles: Consistency is key. Aim to run six days a week, even if some of the runs are not long. Just get in the habit of putting on your shoes and getting out the door. Definitely plan for at least one rest day per week.
Practice walking, especially when going uphill. An ultra is about pacing yourself and finding the balance between running, climbing, descending, and walking late in the race. Your body needs to get used to the feeling of starting and stopping over and and over again. Walking sounds easy, but if you went out and walked 30 miles - you’d be pretty sore the next day! Nutrition is the #1 reason that ultra runners DNF (Did Not Finish). The nutrition that you use on race day should be the same that you use throughout your training. There is a lot of temptation to try something new on race day or during the expo the day before. Don’t do it! The time to experiment is during training. You should have a plan locked in at least two months before the race. Keep moving. Every ultra runner has experienced a point when he/she thinks “I’m done, I can’t go any further.” When that happens, take a break, eat something, drink something, and then keep moving. You will come out of it and get a boost that you didn’t know you had! One thing is certain, you won’t get that boost if you quit. The purpose of ultra running is to experience the lowest of lows and the highest of highs and to prove to yourself that you can do hard things!