Leadville Trail 100 – 60.5 miles of it – Ultra marathon Race Report

Spoiler Alert:  My Leadville Trail 100 did not go as planned.

Monday morning quarterbacking is easy when your resting heart rate is below 50.  Everything looks much cleaner when viewed from behind a desk.  The struggle is real when on the trail, light headed and sucking what limited oxygen there is through what feels like a straw.  The fight beats you down physically and emotionally in the middle of a four mile long climb to the sky.  In that environment, in that setting I did my best and made the best decisions I could.  It was not enough.

 (Eric, Josh, Andrea, Marilee, Myself and race founder Ken Chlouber)

I love the Leadville Trail 100.  I’m drawn to the running community that this race attracts.  I embrace the rough edges, the unique vide of the runners who quest to conquer the highest elevation 100-mile race in the country.  I wanted to conquer the roughest and the toughest of Colorado mountains.  I vowed to dig deep just like Ken Chlouber asked me to do.

You can live the drama of this race in Running to Leadville, by Brian Burk.  Available on Amazon and this blog.

60% of the field failed that day…..it doesn’t make it any easier.

 (Race Morning, Jeff, Josh Eric, Me and Michele)

Start to May Queen, 13.5 Miles, 2:32:13 –  I stood on the starting line under the Leadville Trail 100 banner very calm and collected.  My wife, friends, and race pacers walked me to the corral, wished me well, and sent me off on my journey.  I thought I would be a ball of nerves, but surprisingly it was all business as the star spangled banner was sung and the famous shot gun went off releasing a rampart of gray smoke into the night sky.

I ran the entire way from 6th and Harrison to the Turquoise Lake trail head.  Once on the trail I fell in line and followed the conga line of other runners around the lake.  I ran the “runable” sections and hiked the hills or parts of the trail that may have been hazardous on footing.  I passed other runners where it made sense and held back when the risk seemed too great.  Coming into the aid station I believed I had run a smart and effective opening segment of the race.  I was 45 minutes ahead of the cut offs and I was feeling awesome.

May Queen to Outward Bound, 24.5 Miles, 5:05:06 – Leaving May Queen and hitting the trails toward Sugarloaf pass I knew there would be some climbing in front of me.  My legs felt great, I was tired but nothing out of the ordinary.  I settled into my run/walk plan running when I could and power hiking when it made sense.  The climb topped out at just over 11,000 feet.  The effort was long but manageable.  The views…spectacular.

The down hill was rapid and wicked.  Once off the descent I was happy to be running on black top roads and fairly level ground was we ran past the Leadville Fish Hatchery.  I rolled into Outward bound again making up time on the cutoffs and feeling GREAT.  The day was going as planned and the race I believed was coming to me.  My crew was awesome.  Josh and Andrea cleaned the rocks out of my shoes and got me in and out in amazing speed.  Kendra and Jeff fed me and provided encouragement.  Michele walked with me as I went back out to battle the clock.


Outward Bound to Twin Lakes, 39.7 Miles, 8:32:00 – The run to Twin Lakes was a mixture of black top, fire roads, and jeep trails with two aide stations, Half Pipe and Mount Elbert as we topped out at 10,500 ft.  On the backside we again were faced with a steep and fast downhill making our way to Twin Lakes.  My legs felt good climbing but here I noticed that my knees where quiet painful from all the braking action on the descents.  As I ran down the short but step down hill into Twin Lakes I was happy to have two of the six climbs out of the way.  My plan was to arrive in Twin Lakes between 8 and 9 hours from the starting gun.   I arrived 1.5 hours to the good on the cutoff times.  Although I was feeling confident, I knew Hope Pass loomed in the distance.

(video thanks to friend and pacer Eric)

In my plan for the race I gave myself the same 4 hours that the race provided in their recommended pacing/cut off sheets.  I figured this was a conservative time to make my way up and over Hope Pass.

Twin lakes to Hope Pass, 45 Miles, 11:27:42 –  There is a field section from the Twin Lakes crew zone leading up to the water crossing and the beginning of the trails up Hope Pass.  As my good friend Jeff walked me into the field after my crew stop I told him “This shit is hard.”  I had no way of knowing how true that statement would be.

Mistake #1 I fast walked the field section deciding to conserve my legs for the climb to come.  Looking back I should have ran this rather flat section.  Once across the river and on the trails I began the 3,400 foot climb.  Within a mile on the trails towards Hope Pass my legs just would not move faster than a slow walk.  My breathing got messed up and it seemed my heart rate was way to high.  At a snails pace I had four slow, agonizing, and defeating miles to go.  It felt like forever.   I don’t want to be over dramatic here but the majority of the climb up Hope Pass is without switchbacks with an angle of attack well above a 20% grade.

Rob Karr passed me on his way to winning the race.  A brush with greatness…

Hope Pass to Winfield, 50 Miles, 13:23:23 – Crossing over Hope Pass I felt my life renewed.  The down hills were awesome although I got caught up in the line of runners going down hill and although I made “Okay” time I was not able to capitalize on gravity the way I would have liked.  Mistake #2  I did not push passing people when I could have or when I should have.  I believe fatigue caused me to run to conservative again.  Reaching Winfield I lost 45 minutes of my cutoff buffer.

Arriving in Winfield and looking at my watch this was the first time I believed my finish was in jeopardy.  Making my way through the aid station tent and back to my crew, I told Eric I thought it would be hard for me to make it back over Hope Pass in time as I was moving so slow.  I also told him I was not giving up and would give it everything I had but my legs were toast on the climb.  My wife kissed me, told me she was proud of me and sent me down the road in good spirits.

I had 4.5 hours to do what had just taken me 5 hours….get back up Hope Pass and into Twin Lakes.

Winfield to Hope Pass Inbound, 55 Miles, 16:23:48 – Mistake #3 I fast hiked much of the road leading out of Winfield to the trails on the back side of Hope Pass.  At the time I was trying to mount a rebound, I thought with fresh food in my stomach that maybe I would be able to climb up Hope for the second time a bit faster than the first.  That did not work.  The climb on the back side is much stepper than the front side. As I struggled and made my way up Hope, Eric and I talked about whether it was worth the risk of selling out to make the cut off or running a steady race and hoping to make it in time.  The fear was if we went for broke that I might make the cut off but not have anything left to continue.

 (Back Side of Hope Pass)

I stuck with a steady climb up hope.

Hope Pass Inbound to Twin Lakes, 60.5 miles, 18:15:?? – We arrived at Hope Less aide station, approx .7-miles on the other side of Hope Pass, moving pretty well.  I was running the down hills at a pretty good pace in an effort to make up time where I could.  My legs seemed to rebound with the help of gravity and for much of the run I felt like we had a frighting chance.  At Hope Less I had a cup of noodles and some water as volunteers refueled my water bottles.  At one point a volunteer told us we had 1 hour and 20 minutes to make the cut off.  I thought it a slim chance but Eric and I headed down the trail.  In the dark even with head lamps it was hard to run full out.  I would run the sections I felt comfortable with footing and fast walk those that felt dangerous.

We made the water crossing and I estimate half way  through the field section when Eric noticed that we were one minute past the 18 hour cutoff at Twin Lakes.  We decided to keep pushing on like we had a chance.  It was also at this time we could hear some cheering off in the distance.  Unsure why the crowd was cheering we continued our fast hike through the field.  Resigned that I missed the cutoff Eric and I talked about life, running and over coming this set back.  I gave those final distances all I had.  I noticed on my watch I was hiking/running between a 13:00 and 12:00 mile pace.  I wasn’t going to quit.

As we neared the parking lot across the road leading to the Twin Lakes General Store people in the dark began talking and yelling about a “soft cut” that the gate was still open and I had maybe minutes to clock in.  Eric instantly un-clipped my hiking poles.  I dropped my vest and in my best impersonation of Carl Lewis I got up on my toes and ran as fast as I could.  Reaching the edge of the parking lot I could hear our friend Kendra, and my wife yelling “RUN BRIAN, RUN RUN.”  And I did.

 (The mad dash for home….)

I gave it everything I had.  I ran in an all out sprint.  I made my way into the parking lot opposite the general store in a mad dash, we crossed the street with people cheering us on and a red flashing strobe light blocking traffic.  My legs began to get heavy as we ran the short section of road to the final left hand turn and the run for the timer.  With everything I had I put on a final sprint down Lang road sure I had made it in time.  Everyone was cheering, the inflatable arch was still illuminated and the trail to Mount Elbert was right in front of me.

A voice out of a crowd gathered in the middle of the road called out.  “You are too late, I’m sorry.”  What?   I couldn’t give up, I couldn’t stop running I ran into the pile of bodies in front of me at full speed.  I nearly knocked the cutoff lady over and did in fact knock another runner to the ground.  I then fell on my backside as my legs or it might have been my spirit finally gave out.  As my arms covered my face I felt a cold hand touch my left wrist and a voice spoke up out of the darkness.  “We have to get his timing chip. ” My soul lay crushed on the dirt road of Twin Lakes.  Everything I dreamed about for three years was over in a few seconds at the beckoning of a soft and final voice.

“I’m so sorry” she said.  I was beyond upset, I wanted to lash out.  I wanted to yell out…”I would have made it if I knew about a soft cutoff.”   I knew she had a hard job, I believe it hurt her as much as it crushed me.  I thanked her for doing a job no one wanted to do.  I told I respected her and understood.

I was angry that I did not know I still had time.

Inside I died.  The runner I built myself up to be lay ruined in the street.  I let down all those who supported me with their time and money.  My confidence gone, the belief in myself gone…the person I wanted to be in shambles.  I gave so much to have it end this way.  I felt so bad that people had come this far to see me fail.  I wanted to hide.  My crew lifted me up, they hugged me and told me they were proud, that they knew I gave my all and that it would be okay.  My wife told me she was proud of me.

In the days since my body and soul have recovered.  Although it still stings, I’ve realize that one race would not define me.  I made mistakes but I gave this race all I had.  I dug deep, I was committed, I did not quit, I just failed to realize the toll the preceding 40 miles would take on my legs when I faced Hope Pass.

I will come back stronger, faster, better prepared and by all means smarter!

Leadville Trail 100 – My Leadville Diaries

The Leadville Trail 100 has captured my attention for a good part of three years. Prior to discovering this race running was mostly about getting to the finish line as fast as I could.  To run faster I avoided races with hilly terrain.  At that stage of my running career there was little adventure in my runs.  I was simply logging miles…some very flat miles.  Then I watched a movie call 1hundred and was captivated that people sought out and ran up mountains.  I also discovered the story of this sleepy little mining town high up in the Rockies.  I was hooked…

If I was going to seek out a mountain, if I was going to run up a mountain I wanted it to be a big one.  Leadville may not offer the highest crest but with the majority of the race over 10,000 ft I felt this was the mountain race I needed to run.

“I will run and I will complete the Leadville Trail 100.”  Became my calling card.

Fast forward to Aug, 2018.  The miles are done, the hay is in the barn….only final touches are left in my preparation.  Come along with me as I spend a little over a week in Leadville getting ready to run the biggest race of my life.

[Tweet “Check out @cledawgs video diaries leading up to his run at the Leadville Trail 100-Mile race. “]

My Leadville Diaries:

Aug 9, Day 1 / 8 days till race day:  I drove out to the site of the May Queen aide station.  This site would serve as the first and last stops on my way to the Leadville belt buckle.

In this video diary I talk about why Leadville, how I’ve amp’d up my training for this race and my race goals.

Aug 10, Day 2 / 7 days till race day:  Facebook is great.  During my day 1 dinner (Pizza) I received an instant message from a FB friend asking if I wanted to run/hike Hope Pass with him.   At first I second guessed myself when I accepted.  Did I really want to go up Hope?  Did I really want to hang out with someone I had never met in person?  WOW….so glad I went.

In no other sport/community do you meet as strangers (FB friends) and in the span of 3 hours and 3,000 feet you feel like lost souls. On this run we laughed, I learned, we told stories and shed a few tears.

In my day 2 diary I talk about why 100-miles, and what I do for nutrition on race day.

Aug 11, Day 3 / 6 days till race day:  I spent my third day in Leadville volunteering for the 100-mile Mountain Bike Race.  Instead of a video I have a few pictures from my adventure.  My first assignment of the day was to work the starting corral (4 a.m. until 6 a.m.) in the gold corral…with all the elite level bike riders.  Being this up close and personal with such talent was humbling.  The start of the race was impressive and inspiring.

After the 6 a.m. start I got reassigned with two friends, Stacy and Sho to help with traffic management on the north side of Twin Lakes Dam, aka “parking duty.”  All my experience marshaling aircraft in the USAF came in handy.  Not one signal parking indecent, but I’m here to tell you parallel parking is a lost art.

After the parking rush was over I was able to get out on the course to watch as a few of the riders made their return trip back to Leadville, mile 60.

Once done with parking Stacy drove us around to each of the locations for the run aid stations.  An experienced Leadville crew member she pointed out helpful race day hints/tips for crewing.  I’ll post this information in my upcoming videos.  After our site survey of the run course we headed back to Start/Finish line.

Back at the finish line we were able to watch a few of the riders come home.  This time at the finish line really inspired Sho and I for our adventure, running the Leadville Trail 100.

Aug 12, Day 4 / 5 days till race day:  I could not be in town and not run the Leadville Trail 10k…it would be un-American, right?  But I wasn’t here to race the 10k.  I simply wanted to get a feel for my race day intervals and/or work on my race day plan for the first leg of the 100-mile race, Leadville to May Queen.  I completed the race in 1:00:53, good for 169/435 overall.  Best of all I felt strong the entire 6.2 miles…

In this installment I talk about the Leadville 10k, how I plan to handle the two rivers crossings during the race and the use of hiking poles.

Aug 13, Day 5 / 4 days till race day:  Today I linked up with three friends and toured the locations for the aid stations along the Leadville race course.  I also asked Mike and Jim “Why 100-miles and why Leadville.”

Check back for my next installment of my Leadville Diaries.

Running – How to start running

For the beginner any new hobby, lifestyle or line of work can be intimidating.  Running can be one of the most “scary” things a person can do to regain their fitness.  After all the actual task of running is a solo activity.  Running tends to expose your weakness and provides very little cover to hide behind.  Running can be humbling, your either in shape or you’re not and after a few feet, yards or miles your level of fitness will be exposure.  Finally running is the easiest form of exercise to get wrong…and end up injured.

So how does someone who desires to get fit begin on a running routine.  This is one of the most popular questions from friends, co-workers and anyone looking to run.

10-Tips to Start You on The Right Running Path.

#10  Visit your doctor/health care provider.  Ensure they give you the green light to begin any fitness routine.

#9  Invest in a good pair of shoes, AND get fitted by a running professional.  We all love the flash of a colorful pair of shoes.  We would all like to strut around in the latest Air Jordan’s…but your running shoes must fit your needs.  A trained professional at your local running store has the knowledge, training and experience to help you find the right pair for your feet.

 (Topo Athletic are my shoe of choice,
but the best shoe for you is the best shoe for you)

Some running stores that I have personal experience with:

In Wake Forest, NC see Run-N-Tri-Outfitters

In Richmond, VA see Lucky Road Running Store

In Newport News, VA see Point 2 Running Company

In Virginia Beach, VA see Running ETC.

AND In Las Vegas, NV see Red Rock Running Company

A good pair of shoes can make or break your running experience.

#8  Walk don’t run.  As bad as you would like to start running, you wouldn’t take your Ferrari straight from the show room or out of storage and race it up to 100-miles per hour on the first outing.  The same warm up approach needs to be applied to your body.  I recommend starting your running career by walking first.  This will allow your body to get used to the motion, regain some up-front fitness and settled into a more active life style.

The best way to start running is to walk first.

#7  Find a community.  Running is a solo activity, face it no one can run the miles for you but you can run them with friends and like minded people.  Your local running store or running club can find you a good group to link up with.  I have found that runners are a great bunch of people, we love to share our experiences and enjoy lifting up others.

(It takes a community to do what we do…join one)

Reach out on the Social media side.  Sure there is a lot wrong with the internet, be careful online, but I have met a lot of great people, and forged some long term relationships within the online running community.

There is power in numbers…a good group helps to motivate, inspire, hold accountable and make your run more enjoyable.  Find your community.

#6  Set some goals and rewards.  In running it’s okay to bride yourself.  I set short term and long-term goals.  If I complete my long run I get ice cream, if I do well in a race an extra day off…if I hit my monthly goals I get a new shirt, shorts or some piece of running gear I’ve had my eye on.

Provide a target to measure your success…how will you know how awesome you are without a measuring stick.

#5  Run for someone else.  I have a friend who dedicates all her miles to a little boy named Aiden.  I don’t know Aiden well, but I would guess he would give anything to be able to run…Once you run for someone else it enables you to view your ability as a gift, one that should not be wasted.

At Seven bridges marathon I ran for a little boy named Isaiah…changed my day.

 (It’s about more….)

Run for those who wish they could.

#4  Take rest days.  Once bitten by the running bug it’s easy to overdo it.  Your body needs rest to recover and grow stronger.  View rest days as an important part of the training plan.

Running and resting go hand in hand…take advantage of it.

#3  Seek out inspiration.  Read race reports, visit blogs, subscribe to running magazines and read a book on the gene of running you enjoy most.  There is inspiration in the victories of others.  There is lessons to be learned in the struggles of others.  There are goals to be set in the inspiration of others.  In most sports, you can only sit on the couch or on the sidelines watching your favorite team or player.  Running offers you the opportunity to retrace their literal footsteps as you venture over the very terrain they did.

Shameless plug for my books here.

Be inspired by others and then go follow them.

#2  Follow a plan.  You can either hire a professional coach or follow your own plan, but either way learn from the experiences of others.  There are many highly trained running coaches out there who would love to help you.  You can locate a coach either thru your local running store, gym, or on-line.  Most coaches have years of experience, have passed accreditation tests and have a desire to help you succeed.  An outside perspective can help you reach your fitness goals.

If a coach is beyond your budget, or if you simply like blazing your own trail, download a proven plan as a baseline and adjust your training to your lifestyle and fitness goals.

Plan for your success and follow it, tweak it, BUT enjoy it.

#1  Enjoy the run.  For some running is about racing, conquering difficult terrain, breaking new barriers and for others running is about the experience.

Smell the roses, witness the deer in the forest, enjoy the first rays of sunlight on the water front, feel the warmth of your soul on your skin, be scared to push your body, cry for the victory of others and live in the run!

Running can be a lifetime activity.  Be sure you get off on the right foot.

Do you have tip to help the new runner?  Drop it in the comments section below, Thank you!

Ultra Marathon – Running Intervals – Racing Success

A popular question at ultra-marathon seminars that I give centers around Intervals.  Or more specifically…how do you run a successful 50-mile, 24-hour or 100-mile race?

 (Notice little device that looks like a pager,
interval timer keeping me on track 2018 Leadville Run Camp)

Running to Leadville :  A story about a life finally revealed and a terrible twist of fate that turned everything inside out.  Also the story of a small mining town and a 100-mile foot race that changes you.  Available on Amazon and signed copies here.

At my level of fitness/competition, I do not “run” the entire race.  I’ve completed four 100-mile races with a personal record (PR) of 21 hours 36 minutes, and twelve 24-hour races with a PR mileage of 96.75-miles using a run/hike interval approach.  An interval approach could be defined as a period of time broken down into a run segment where you run for a given amount of time and a hiking segment where you hike for a given amount of time.

8-minute run/2-minute hike

How does an interval approach work in ultra-marathons?

Going into a race I establish goals…#1 to finish, #2 a successful time goal and #3 a PR time goal.  I have what I consider two interval approaches to a successful ultra-marathon.  The Pace Per Mile method and the Terrain method.  By no means do I believe I’ve invented either of these methods or have I cornered the market…simply outlining how I’ve used them in my running and racing.

[Tweet “@cledawgs talks about interval running for ultra marathon success, check it out…”]


This method starts with my time related race goals.  From those goals, I use a pace calculator, available on-line, to figure out an overall pace per mile.  From this overall pace, I figure out a “run pace” and a “hike pace.”  It’s not super scientific, I simply take the overall pace and adjust my run pace to run slightly faster than the overall pace to cover the slower hiking periods.


24-hour 100-mile finish = 14:24 overall pace.

I can hike a solid 15:30 mile pace for most of the day and can hike faster for shorter distances.  I like to use this solid pace as my planning factor.

At this hiking pace, I figure I need my run pace to be between 11:30 and 12:30 per mile.  During the day, I’ll check the overall pace mode on my GPS watch and adjust my pace(s) to keep on target or slightly better.  I’ll run a little faster when needed or slow down if I get to far out in front of my goal or my finish is in jeopardy.  If I fall behind I’ll speed up some.  Now saying that I will also use the downhills as bonus time.  The downhill sections I run as my body allows, cautious to not “over speed” my legs burning them out for the long haul.  I take advantage of the down hills to run a little faster to make up time or to stay even with the time I lost on the climbs/time off pace all together (aid stops).

I also have pacing plans for the first half of the race and for the second half to account for body fatigue.  For races like the JFK50 where the course covers three varying conditions, I’ve had different pacing plans for each section.


This method centers around my time related race goals and what terrain the race course offers up.  i.e.  take what the course gives you.  For my first 100 the rule of the day was to hike anything that looked like a hill, smelled like a hill or felt like a hill.  I ran all the down hills and flats at a conservative 12 minutes per mile pace.  This was a pace from my 24-hour race experience I knew I could keep up.  This approach allows you to use the race course to your advantage, make up time where you can to cover time lost on the hills or pit stops.

Whatever method you chose, or a combination of methods you decide to run for your race the key is to stay flexible, listen to your body, take what the day gives you and keep moving.

 (Yeti Success, Andrea helped me stay on pace and bring home a 50-mile PR)

I’ve run intervals of 25/5, 9/1, 8/2 and 4/2.  I’ve also fallen back to whatever interval I’ve needed to keep me in the race.  A 2/1 interval in the closing miles of Yeti 50-miler kept me mentally in the game and running faster than the previous 4/2 had.  I finished that race with a 50-mile PR.

To be honest, I also wing it a lot, as former heavy weight champion Mike Tyson said, “any plan is only good until you get punched in the face.”

Leadville Trail 100 – Run Camp – Ultra marathon

10 Things I learned at the Leadville Trail 100 Race Series Training Camp.

Sports camps should not be just for kids.  I never got to go to a sports camp as a kid.  Until signing up for the Leadville Trail 100 Race and Run Camp I thought my days of attending a sports camp were like water under the bridge…gone.  We work hard for our money; every adult should follow their passion and attend a sports camp of their choosing.

IMG_20180624_104124850 (1)

(My first crossing of Hope Pass, 12,600ft above Sea-level)

Going from sea level to 10,200 feet in less than 10 hours hurts!  I first felt the headache when I arrived in Denver, by the time I got to Leadville I was concerned.  That first night trying to get some sleep…I thought I might die!  Now I’m no doctor, I have not attended medical school, and although I was once an extra in a movie (the Box) it was not in the medical profession.  Alarmed, I Googled “Altitude sickness” and followed the self-treatment advice of hydration and over the counter aspirin.

[Tweet “Running to Leadville and the Leadville Race Series Run Camp – 10 Things @cledawgs Learned at 10,000 feet”]

The town of Leadville is unlike none other.  Whether it be in the tattered remains of the old west, or remnants of the glory days of the gold and silver rush the proud history and culture of Leadville is still alive and well.

People are Great.  I met a lot of very supportive people at Run Camp.  Whether it was other runners, race management or the residents, the Leadville Trail 100 is a major undertaking and I got the sense the whole town supports the race series.

They treated us like professionals.  Everything needed to run 61-miles over three days at 10,000 ft was ready and waiting.

 (The trail into the snow)

The course preview was invaluable.  Prior to run camp and over the 2-years it took me to write a fictional story about this 100-mile race I spent a lot of hours researching the town, history and the course.  I felt like I understood the challenge.  NOTHING replaces shoes in the dirt.

(The climbs were taxing, but wonderful)

My lungs did not explode!  Honestly, I was scared to death that I would be totally gassed in the first 50-yards of the very first run.  I had many sleepless hours wondering what I was going to do if I could not complete the three scheduled runs.  I’m not saying it was easy…but I ran strong, smart and not out of breath.  I finished each of the three runs in the upper half of the pack.

The views were breath taking.  Our world is made up of so many wonder sites.  Sometimes I think while we live in the concrete jungle we forget how much natural beauty there is.  Run Camp reminded me that we need to get out into the country, to climb a mountain, play on the beaches, hike a forest trail and simply be outside more!

(Day 1 = Red, Day 2 = Blue and Day 3 = Orange)

The long-sustained climbs are no joke.  Coming from the relatively flatland of Richmond, Va nothing could have gotten me ready for the climbs.  Whether it be Sugar loaf, Power line or the double crossing of Hope Pass my legs took a beating.  The view was defiantly worth the effort, it was breath taking standing on top looking back from where I came from.

 (If your why is big, your how is easy)

The Leadville Race Series is family.  I’ve been to events where I felt welcomed, but here I truly felt from the people who worked in the retail store to Quinn, Paul, including Ken and Merilee that everyone wanted me to succeed.  Now I will say…they will not give you a second on the clock…but if you keep fighting, if you keep moving, if you DIG DEEP…they will do everything to help you reach that finish line and get your buckle.

(Race Founders Ken and Merilee love my book Running to Leadville)

The Leadville Race and the town of Leadville have a pull on me that I can’t explain.  I first stumbled across this race while watching the film titled 1hundred  where something called me. I enjoyed following the story of four runners as they took on the 100-mile challenge.  At the same time, I had this story to tell, I had a character in my mind much like myself who needed to overcome some past hardships and he needed to find himself.  I knew there would be no better stage to tell this story then on the stage of the highest 100-mile race in the country, Running to Leadville was born.  A story that could only be told by a runner, but it is so much more.

Now, I’m Running to Leadville.

Ultramarathon Leadville Trail 100 – My Summer of Leadville

Leadville, Co. home of the Leadville Trail 100 – I can’t explain it…I fell in love with a town, a vibe, a community and I felt challenged by a race that captured my imagination.

This week, begins my Summer of Leadville.  I’ll be attending the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp.  What is “Training Camp?”

Paraphrasing from their web site, Training Camp is a informative look at the country’s most scenic and perhaps most challenging ultra-marathon course. Three days of training runs, which provide an opportunity to see all sections of the #LT100 race course, and attend sessions with race veterans designed to help Leadville hopefuls get the most out of their race experience.

21 June – My adventure begins, west bound to the land of thin air and high mountain peaks.

22 June – Friday – 6 pm Packet Pick Up

23 June – Saturday – Run #1 Starting at 8:00, we will run from May Queen Campground to Twin Lakes Fire House (Red line on the map below, 26 miles).  After the run there will be a post race dinner and panel discussion “What it takes to finish the Leadville Trail 100″ with elite runners,  and race management.

24 June – Sunday – Run #2 Starting at 8:00, We will run from Twin Lakes – Willis Gulch, over Hope Pass to Winfield and return (Blue line, 20 miles).  A cookout will follow at Twin Lakes.

25 June – Monday – Run #3 begins after a 2 pm panel discussion with past finishers, we will run from May Queen to the race day finish at 316 Harrison Ave (Orange line, 15 Miles).

26 June – I’ll fly home for my lung transplant (some sea level runner humor here…).


That’s 61 miles and 8500+ feet of elevation gain over three days and an experience of a lifetime.

Why run Leadville?  Along with testing my endurance limits, I enjoy writing and telling a story.  As I discovered the small mining town and fell in love with its culture and the ultra-vibe…a story came to me that could only be told on the Leadville stage.  Running to Leadville – A captivating account about a lost soul, a small Colorado mining town and a 100-mile trail race that changes lives. A tale that will take you to the top of Hope Pass and beyond.   “A story that could only be told by a runner.”

Cleveland Marathon – why you should run it

Why You Should Run Cleveland.

 (Thank you American Greeting cards for this great Expo gift)

After finishing some races, I’m okay with checking the box and moving on.  I’ve run the Cleveland Marathon four times.  So why return to this marathon?

Cleveland is a favorite city of mine.  I’m a die-hard Browns fan, and I enjoy what the city has to offer.

Something about this race keeps calling me back.  At mile 22 of the 2018 edition it hit me.

[Tweet “10 reasons why you should run the Cleveland Marathon “]

Ten Reasons Why You Should Run the Cleveland Marathon

1. It’s a big city race but not so big that you get lost in the crowd

2. There is plenty to do before and after the race
– Rock-N-Roll Hall of fame
– Science museum
– West Side Market
– Shopping
– Local taverns and restaurants
– Tower City
– Lake front views and the water front
– Indians games
I could go on and on…

3.  The race provides a very cool medal

4.  The starting line provides the perfect photo op with the Quicken Arena (home of the Cavs), and Progressive Field (home of the Indians) and the Lebron James billboard as backdrop

5.  The Expo is awesome

6.  Volunteers are helpful and very positive

7.  The race is well organized

8.  Parking is NOT an issue…city parking within a block of the finish-line was available and the city did not jack up its prices on race day

9.  Breath taking views in the closing miles, i.e. the city sky line set behind the Lake Erie shore line

10.  The course offers a little bit of everything.  Over the 26.2-mile course your going to see all parts of the city.   As the miles clicked off, and time passed my mind like my body was engaged the entire time.  From towering buildings, massive stadiums, turn of the century lake side homes, congested city living, neighborhood provided beer stations, puppies on parade, bands playing, cheerleaders cheering, neighbors and friends giving high fives this race is anything but boring.

Do you want to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter)?  Pick up a copy of my book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON and your nearly guaranteed to score a PR.

I ran the Challenge series as a race ambassador, running the 8k on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday, my wife fast walked the 5k on Saturday and the 10K on Sunday.  It was a busy weekend for us but we enjoyed it 1000%

If you haven’t run Cleveland you should.  The Cleveland Marathon is one of kind, it’s not Boston, It’s not NYC and it’s not Chicago.  It’s CLEVELAND and it rocks!

The Crucible – Running – Hiking – Ultramarathon for Veterans

The hiking version of the Barkley Marathon?

I attended the Pittsburgh Marathon as a guest of Cocoa Elite and the Veterans Leadership Programs of Western Pennsylvania (VLP).  Arriving at their booth a first notice a larger red and white sign and the headline; The Crucible, 3 days, 77 miles and the figures of four hikers.  My wrapped Ultrarunners brain quickly switched into high gear.  Mmmmmm.

I met Daniel Blevins the program manager and booth mate for the weekend and asked.  Could I run that?  His replied floored me. With a slight smile and a evil sounding chuckle he replied, “I doubt it.”

This 3-day extreme journey through some of Pennsylvania’s most spectacular scenery is not for the feint of heart, but your life won’t be the same after you’ve participated in The Crucible. It’s a journey of passion, determination and personal triumph.

The 70-mile hiking trail stretches along the picturesque Laurel Mountains from the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown, PA where you can hike along a rocky footpath and dirt road through mountain laurel to the edge of a 1,000-foot gorge at 2,400 feet to the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle – located at the southern reaches of the Laurel Ridge, encompassing rugged natural beauty providing some of the best whitewater in the eastern United States, as well as spectacular scenery.

(I may have Dan hooked on Running to Leadville)

Dan told me the challenge is not the distance, it’s the extreme rocky trails, the near constant change in elevation and the heat and humidity of Central Pennsylvania that makes the Crucible so tough.  In the 4 years that this event has be held the finishing rate, those that complete all 70-miles is around 40%.

[Tweet “the Crucible – a 70-mile hike in 3 days over the rugged mountains of PA for veterans, @cledawgs tells us all about it.”]

As an ultrarunner looking for the next big challenge, could it be the Crucible? The best part of all events hosted by the VLP is that near 90% of all proceeds go back to helping the Homeless Veterans in and around the Pittsburgh area.  Their events offer more than a race, as much as it’s an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of local veterans who need housing and employment services.

Looking for your next challenge?  Consider the Crucible hike or the 335 Mile for Veterans Bike Ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

Check out the VLP and see how you can help or join one of their events.

Running a 24-Hour Race, Ten Reflections

The 24-hour event is a different kind of beast.  A race without a defined finish line, one that will take you on a roller-coaster of emotions, one that allows you to recover and one that if you can overcome the demons of defeat will lift you up in the arms of victory.

Ten Reflections

  1. No matter how many 24-hour races I’ve run, standing on the starting line is still daunting.
  2. The early miles are often the hardest mentally, in the first hours the brain has a tough time dealing with the fact you still have 23, 22 or 21 hours to go.
  3. A smile can be a real motivator.
  4. Fix a problem early to prevent a disaster later.
  5. Start slow and slow down.
  6. You can always take one more step.
  7. No one has ever died from a blister.
  8. I’ve never felt so alone as the farthest and darkest part of the trail, while running by myself late at night.
  9. The will to succeed is infinity more powerful than defeat, if you believe in you.
  10. The final mile is worth everything.

I ran my first Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer in 2009.  I ran 52.5 miles that day. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve run ten 24-hour races…of the races I intended to run the full 24-hours (three) I’ve only completed one. During the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Race I ran the full 24-hours…I covered 96.7 miles on a hot and blistering day. I have a grand total of 702.5 miles in 24-hour races.  When I look back it’s not about the miles.  It’s not about the hours…it is about the adventure, the friends, the experiences, the smiles, the victory, the defeat, the lonely times and the times with company.

A 24-hour race is your life in a day.

America’s First Ultramarathoner – Daniel Boone

America’s first Ultramarathoner?

You can’t be a marathon runner long before you read something about the legend of Pheidippideas.  According to Greek history, the first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. According to legend, Pheidippides ran the approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians to some anxious Athenians and later died.

True or not it is universally accepted that Pheidippideas was the first marathon runner.

But who was the first ultramarathoner?

Could it have been Daniel Boone?

I have just recently watched a History channel series on “the Men Who Built America – Frontiersmen which highlighted the lives of men like Lewis and Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Crocket, Andrew Jackson and perhaps the first ultramarathoner…Daniel Boone.

The show is very informative, entertaining and highlights a period when our country went through great growing pains. I can’t capture all of Boones highlight here but venture to say he played a significant role in exploring and settling what is modern day Kentucky and lands west of the Appalachian/Blue Ridge Mountains.  One event from his life stood out to me as a ultramarathoner.  January 1778, Boone led a party of 30 men to the salt springs on the Licking River.  While Daniel was hunting meat for the expedition, he was surprised and captured by warriors led by Chef Blackfish.

Eventually Boone and his men were taken to Blackfish’s town of Chillicothe, where they were made to run the Gauntlet.  As was their custom, the Shawnees adopted some of the prisoners into the tribe to replace fallen warriors; the remainder were taken to Hamilton in Detroit.  Boone was adopted into a Shawnee family at Chillicothe, perhaps into the family of Chief Blackfish himself, and given the name Sheltowee (Big Turtle).

On June 16, 1778, when he learned Blackfish was about to return to Boonesborough with a large force, Boone eluded his captors and raced home, covering the 150 miles in five days.  The History channel portrays this run for freedom and Boonesborough to be on foot. If true, and I have no reason to doubt the research that went into this project.  Boone would have had to travel 30+ miles a day to reach the settlement.

What I find fascinating is that he did this without proper running shoes, without proper food/water, dressed in mostly heavy animal skins as clothing, while trying to evade capture and without chip timing or race photos.

Can’t get enough of Daniel Boone the Ultramarathon, I found this race which as it sound may run along parts of the trails Boone himself used during his 150 run.  Check out the Yamacraw 50k. 

My coonskin hat off to Daniel Boone, if not the first, certainly one of the first ultramarathoner in US history.