Race: Leadville 100

Runner: Matt Urbanski

Race Date: 08/17/2019

Location: Leadville, CO

Results: 10th OA, 19:51:14

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/ activities/2633042562

leadville trail 100 mile race report
Photo Credit: Alan Velazco

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The course – I love the combo of vert and flat, runnable terrain. Often, I feel like races are one or the other. This race combines a variety of ultra running elements and they all fit my skill sets fairly well – a good race for me to be racing!
  2. The support – the aid stations were hopping and so much fun to run through! Twin Lakes in particular was like a mini-cheer city – great boost to run through both times (though apparently not so fun to get to and from if you’re crew!). There were people cheering nearly everywhere on the course. Along Turquoise Lake at 5am and 11pm, tons of people set up cheering us on in the dark! And at the top of Powerline on the way home, there was an unannounced aid station dubbed “Space Camp” with a big sign across the road with the words “Nice Fucking Work”! Definite boost to morale at that point in the race! And b/c it’s a big, classic race, it’s easy to get crew and pacers – I had some of the best in the business with Josh, Teddy, and Alan!
  3. The competition – I leapfrogged with Olympian Magda Boulet throughout the day (it was a highlight for me to catch her for good going up Powerline near the finish), and Kat Bradley mid-race. There were plenty of fast dudes too, and while that’s cool and it was fun knowing they were in front of me, it was great racing with the top women!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The single track out and back on Hope Pass. Having to pass seemingly a million people on that pain in the ass climb and descent on Hope Pass the second time was a kick in the gut. I love seeing people and cheering each other on, but that trail is narrow, and I was getting my ass kicked. So figuring out who was giving way, and just the whole process of maneuvering around people for that tough section had me feeling down during the race (rare for me!)

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I kept my shit together! I was achier than I wanted to be 20 miles into the race. I didn’t go out too hard, but also just didn’t feel smooth. Kept feeling like I had to poop, knees ached, just in general didn’t feel great. Then I powered up Hope Pass and felt really good about it. Then I missed a turn coming out of Winfield and lost ground on the guys I was chasing after doing an extra km. And then I got my ass kicked on the steep climb up the backside of Hope Pass. And then I rallied on the way down and pushed well all the way to the finish, moving up to 10th in the process. I could have phoned it in and felt sorry for myself after Hope Pass the second time, but thankfully I got it back together, kept racing, and finished strong.I also ran all the hills well, except for the second Hope Pass. I made up ground and passed more people on the ups than on any other part of the course. Being born in Ohio and a flatlander by nature, this new found climbing skill this year is really awesome to me and something I’m feeling really proud of. I left the Outward Bound aid station (mile 77) in 12th place, with intel that 10th and 11th were only a few minutes up (and that they were Magda and DeNucci). I felt confident I could get them on the Powerline climb, and sure enough, on one of the false summits, I passed them as I did my slow shuffle and they were walking. To make me feel even better, DeNucci’s pacer said “who are you mountain goat?” and then Magda’s pacer asked if I’d dropped my pacer – “nope, don’t have one yet!”

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

The backside of Hope Pass is really f’ing steep. I trained on hills but I didn’t do enough to be ready for that climb back up Hope. Many other runners weren’t ready for the quad beating descent down the backside. That shit is no joke – be ready for it! There is so much that is runnable. Be ready to 1) run, and 2) manage effort well on the way out b/c there is a lot of running to be done on the way back, but you’ll need your legs for it!

I love using poles. I recommend them on many of the climbs if you are good with them and practice with them. And given the lax rules on muling and not having to carry stuff the whole race, you can trade the poles in and out for when you need them.

Cool off in the water sources along the way. You’re likely warmer than you think out there! Cool off with the best natural source possible! I lay down in the river crossing past Twin Lakes each time. There were streams along the way and I got in as much as I could, completely soaking myself. I always felt refreshed and wanted to eat after cooling down. And it’s a 30-60 second investment that pays off so big! Have to be cool running with wet shoes though!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I need to be better at climbing steep stuff and not over-extending myself in the process. I need to pay better attention to turns – I have gone extra two races in a row now – great for testing mental fortitude, but a shitty race strategy!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Besides the Hope Pass stuff, I think that at least for people in the front third of the race, there seemed to be less movement in ranking on the flatter sections – Elbert aid station to Outward bound – than on the hillier sections. Most people in the front can all run the runnable stuff and few were going exceptionally fast or exceptionally slow to make these sections a place to make or lose ground. Be a good climber and be ready for this part of the course – it’s the difference maker. Be quick at aid stations. It’s easy to crew this race, it’s a fun race to soak in the aid station vibrations – don’t ! I passed more people who were sitting in chairs at aid stations than passing people running on the course. Have your crew dialed in, have them hand you what you need, and get out and keep running!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Loved it! I love mountains, dirt country roads, running along lakes, and even paved country roads. CO mountain racing is awesome!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Tough. It’s a fairly fast course by mountain racing standards, and the total vert isn’t huge compared to other mountain races. But particularly for those not living at altitude or near mountains, this is a tough race. The big climbs crush people, the altitude can crush people, and I think this contributes to the low finish rate, ~45%. It’s also an easier course in some respects b/c it’s clearly possible to cover these 100 miles faster than other mountain races. But this requires a big skill set as a runner – mountains, altitude, flats.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Lifetime has it down! Not a single complaint, from the pre-race stuff through the awards – fine tuned machine!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Solid. Winning times were rocking, there were fast international guys, good field all around.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Lottery in December to get in. Other opportunities to get in later in the year. My brother and I won our way in via the Leadville Marathon in June. You could also win your way in from the Silver Rush 50. Not a ton of hotel options in Leadville. We stayed in Silverthorne where there was better inventory and nicer options for the family. That said, it was a 45 minute drive that we did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

leadville trail 100 mile race report
Photo Credit: Teddy Bross

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

I’m sure they were great. My crew would get me Roctane drink when I’d come through, but otherwise I was relying on my own Huma and Spring gel stash.

Weather and typical race conditions

Gorgeous. Avoided storms this year too! 40s at the start, 70s and sun during the day. The sun burns hot though and I got a bit of a sunburn.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Some of the aid stations are kind of far apart. 12.6 to Mayqueen, and another 11 miles to Outward bound, and the same distances on the way home. So in one respect, you could say you need to carry a bunch. But you can have pacers who can mule on the way back so that alleviates a lot of this stress. I wore a Nathan Krar belt with a 16 or 20 ounce bottle throughout. I carried gels in my Waa compression shirt pockets. That’s it.

I wore Hoka Torrents, they worked well.

I used Black Diamond CarbonZ poles and I absolutely love them!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Awesome! From the runner perspective, one of the most spectated 100s I’ve been to.From the crew perspective, I have heard that many of the stations are a pain in the ass for parking and logistics. My crew was thankful I was up front b/c they were usually some of the first to aid stations, but rumor was that for Twin Lakes, people were parking 3 miles down the road and having to walk in. And the line for the bus shuttle to Winfield got ridiculously long.

How’s the Swag?

I love the finisher jacket. The buckle is nice and gaudy too!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Loved it! 5 out of 5. I recommend to speedy veterans and to newer runners wanting a gnarly challenge – just be sure to prepare for the specifics of the course!

Matt Urbanski is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Matt, check out his coaching page.

leadville trail 100 mile race report
Photo Credit: Alan Velazco
leadville trail 100 mile race report
Photo Credit: Teddy Bross