Leadville 100 Mile Trail Race
August 21, 2017
This past weekend was the 35th edition of the Leadville 100 Trail Race and now we reflect on the past weekend and challenge of events, to include running/walking 100 miles. We are ever so grateful for the numerous families out there that we are so proud to be a part of. I am highlighting the ‘WE’ because so often running is deemed an individual sport and really in the trail running communities and ultra-running communities there can be nothing further from the truth. Running a race like the famous Leadville 100 Trail race is not a feat one tackles on their own or on a whim. It is like the Super Bowl of running, for people outside the Western States circle, and it is the essence of Colorado Grit. The 35th edition of this “Race Across the Sky,” did not disappoint.
Started in 1983 to help a mining town recover from the devastating shut down of its primary bread winner, The Climax Mine, this race has grown into a magnificent event showcasing the best of Colorado and providing the best of venues for Ultra and Trail Runners to test themselves against the hardest of conditions. Over the years, the race has grown in popularity and lore thanks to colorful characters and brutally tough conditions that will grind down the toughest of them. One of the biggest factors that gets runners coming back is the sense of togetherness and family that the town of Leadville and the Leadville Race Series instill in each of the athletes that toes the line for one races in the Leadville series.
The oldest and arguably the hardest race is the Leadville 100 Trail race which was the first race to take stake in Leadville and put Leadville back on the map. The race is a beautiful 50 miles run from downtown Leadville to the ghost town of Winfield and then return on the same path. The course description can be summed up as EPIC. You start around 10,000 feet and spend 50 miles climbing up and down from a low of 9200 feet to a high of 12,600 feet (Hopes Pass). Depending on whose Garmin is working the best that day, your elevation gain and loss should be somewhere around 15,000 feet. The elevation is one of the biggest factors you will face on in the race as the lack of oxygen will burn your lungs and legs to the point of cramps, locking up, spasms, and pure intense pain.
At 0400 on the 19th of August, the shotgun echoed down 6th street in Leadville Colorado, and over 600 runners took off into the dark. The dance of headlamps up and down the street was hypnotic to some and a beautiful dance to others. The pack continued to grow in length and there was no more well defined starting mass when the runners all reached the mini powerline by mile 4ish. By then the mass had strung out into a long line of bouncing lights that danced around the edges of Turquoise Lake into the first Aid Station, May Queen 1. At May Queen 1 the crowds lined the sides of the street for up to 200 feet up the hill. The feeling was exciting and jubilation that you had gone 13.5 miles of one of the most prestige races in the USA. For me the feeling was not as jovial due to a nasty fall I suffered between miles 8-9. I had pulled off the course to go to the bathroom and quickly tried to reassume my pace once I was done. I dashed onto the path and my toe caught a root snake and down I went on my face. I landed hard on my two hands, but luckily had a bottle in each hand, and on my right knee which took a severe blow. I could feel the blood flow as the cool air hit it running down my leg and I began to worry that everything I had done and worked so hard for was about to become unraveled in seconds. However, what defines you is not how you sit there and complain about a situation but what you do to get up and get after it. So, my focus was on the next aid station.
Before I could reach the next aid station, I took another hard fall down power line and landed square on my left hip. The pain was intense and immediately I wondered again what was going on. I was under 24 miles and had already fallen twice. Was I lacking in sleep? Had I not worn the right shoes? All these questions race thru your mind and the best way to deal with them is to keep running and not look back. I knew my shoes were right. I don’t know if I had enough sleep or not but I knew I would find out by mile 70 if I had. I kept going with my left foot in front of my right. I was looking forward to seeing my family at the next aid station and then again at Twin Lakes.
When I got to the top of Hopes Pass this year and was making great time, sub 25-hour time, I was elated and feeling great. My climb up was one of the fastest I have had in the past attempts. It was feeling a little cool and the aid station had flat syrup soda but I was determined to get into Winfield in under 12 hours. So, I picked myself up and got going up the last ¾ mile climb to the top of Hopes Pass. On my way, up it started to sprinkle, then sleet, then snow, then hail then the wind picked up and at this point I was cold and not feeling happy about my situation. However, what are you going to do? Are you going to sit there and get blanketed with crappy weather or are you going to do something about your situation? So, I picked up my pace and I got to the top as fast as I could and then on the backside I ran as hard as I could for the tree line, about a mile down. As I passed one of my friends he commented about my look being intense and not the jovial Sean. I could only utter the weather was trying to break me, which it didn’t!
Something I told myself, aloud, and something I told other people on the course was that this wasn’t a race against other runners. It wasn’t a race against time. This was a race against the last version of me, or the past, and a race against the new version of me, or the future. I felt strongly about that and I wasn’t shy in sharing it because I feel that this race is a team effort and everyone is racing against the course. Each time I fell someone was there helping me up and asking if I was ok. Every time someone passed me and I may have looked in a bad spot someone asked me if I had everything I need and if I was ok. Therefore, I love this race versus any road course or other run where people are racing a clock and worried about their PR. This embodies the Leadville family and the fact that sometimes the race isn’t the most important thing we are doing that day.
The last 50 miles was a struggle and a challenge to maintain what I had put into the race. My body started to take a huge toll from all the falls and weather changes. My stomach was starting to not cooperate and getting food in and fluid became a problem. The dramatic drop in temperature and the night brought on a new problem of loneliness and darkness. This really hit me as my pacer and I trudged for 50 miles in 17 hours to finish. While I would have moments of running and moments of feeling good, the last 50 was tough and I felt like I left it all on Hopes Pass. Looking back, I should have not taken such a quick pace out to Winfield and maybe saved some effort for the back 50. But like past years the back 50 has plagued me and I must reach deep and search for ways to conquer this.
The finish was glorious and epic as my family, pacers, and wife were there to share the event with me. Crossing the finish line with all of them and the last 50 feet up the red carpet truly is special with loved ones and friends. When you cross the finish line and look back you realize that no matter how good or bad it was, it was done and you achieved your goal.
The next couple of days after the reality of my pain continued to set in as each step, each bump, each movement brought a flash of pain to mind and made me remember what it was I put into this race that was so worth it. I feel content that I put it all on the line for this race. The black toe nails hanging on for life remind me of the pain of sailing down powerline. The swollen pink and sprained wrist remind me of the early fall along the lake that could have easily ended my day. The swollen knee and stiff hip remind me of my other falls early in the race. In the end, they all were obstacles that I had to overcome. The saying is you take what the course gives you and leave it all out there. That I did. See you on the trails!
‘Live Free Run Free’
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: #Thumbsuprunners
Running and the Quest for the Crest: Why
do you do what you do?
By Sean Cook
Some things in life are taken for granted and we expect them to always be there, like air. We don’t count our breaths everyday but we know we breath and we know we need air. It is the understanding that things in life shouldn’t be taken for granted and we should explore and celebrate life and what we have here that drives many people to running, especially on trails in nature. Everyone has a story and a story is worth a million dollars to that person but really the story is just the motivation to start the process. Sometimes it comes out of tragedy, perseverance, failure, disgust, or just plain love. Whatever it is there is a reason that brings us back, a reason that keeps us going, and a reason that looks ahead. When I look ahead I see things like wildlife and exploring the United States, running courses and races all over, and living out of an RV with my wife and dogs. I am not the same person I was 5, 10, 15 years ago and I am glad I am not. Now I am more in tune with the world, or so I like to think. I am more in tune with what is right in the world and focus energy there versus dwelling on the past or the wrongs.
But this still doesn’t answer why did I sign up for the Quest for the Crest. Did I really sign up for a race 4 hours away to watch a sunrise on a mountain that I have seen daily while living in Colorado? Did I really sign up to travel up these mountains and little roads in my new RV with family testing my skills as a navigator? The answer lies within on why I signed up for it. It lies somewhere around a challenge for myself and preparing for my favorite race around The Leadville 100 Mile Trail Race. The easiest thing for me to do based on my previous military career is to continue to look ahead to seek new and exciting challenges and opportunities while I can still move this body forward one step at a time at whatever pace that may be. I don’t count down the days where I won’t be able to run I just plan to run and take advantage of every moment that I have. The Leadville 100 Mile Trail Race is that yearly event that has become my own personal Super bowl, yes, I know I have only run it twice but just follow me here. One of the big things many Veterans have problems with is transitioning to another line of work outside the Military. Many people are seeking that tight knit group of folks that they spent many a night with in a lonely desert outpost in some far-away lands. The reality is that there is no place like the Military outside the Military. You cannot look back and compare what you had to what you have. For me Running is next thing, that outlet, that adventure and to my surprise the people who are also runners are not normal. This is a good thing in life for me. I don’t want a politically correct crowd, I don’t want a right-wing crowd, I don’t need sensitivity, I need a group of people from all walks of life with different views who enjoy punishing their bodies, laughing about it, and drinking beer! I found that in my trail running community of friends and I found that in Leadville. If you go out to the Camp or the Town and run in the Mountains you are bitten by something deep inside that is hard to describe. Now my point of view might be one-sided, I know Western States has the same appeal to many folks, so please bear with me. But it is Leadville that has given me something to look forward to each year and in doing so it forces me to develop a plan to figure out how to get my Tall, too fat to be running 100 Miles, too broken to run body out and back in the Race Across the Sky. Being out East, with my Wife, has gotten me onto an East Coast circuit of road and trail races. Yes, I am one of those that doesn’t mind running roads but trust me I prefer trails. On this East Coast circuit, I have looked for challenges and obstacles that would help me test myself and help me move further to my goal of finishing and improving my Leadville 100 time. Quest for the Crest was a 50K race meant to be run with 100 Miles. This arguably is the hardest 50K race in the world and with one of the most ornery and gutsy Race Directors in the world. Reminds me a lot of another young RD in Colorado that comes up with some arduous races like Sheep Mountain 50 Miler. Sherpa John, you know who you are. Anyway, this was the perfect setting for me to hit the Mountains and test myself. So, I signed up and the rest is History.
Some of the biggest causes of failure in my life have been because of looking back and dwelling on the past, what could have been, or what I should have done. I forced myself to break away from this bad habit but trust me it isn’t easy in a career field driven by Type A personalities (mine included) and focused on fixing the past to be better for the future. It took me awhile to learn that you cannot necessarily fix the past but more or so learn from it and move on. I can’t fix the bad qualities of maybe who I was 5, 10, 15 years ago but I can change who I will become and chase that person down. When I think about running I came into the sport late in life and because of a significant ankle injury. I used running and yoga to help recover. I have never really been a great runner or a podium finisher but I do well for such an advanced age, nice way to say getting old. I found races I like that are more geared for me. I found races I didn’t like and don’t ever want to run. I found interesting people on the way and some good and some not. I dove into the deep end of the running community, specifically the trail running community, and forced myself to swim. So, when I say I forced myself to not look back I mean I don’t dwell on the past. I don’t sit around and discuss Leadville 100 events and the race in dissertation form. I ran it and finished. I don’t recount every little detail of my journey. I appreciate the effort and I work hard to get to the point where I am at. I use lessons learned to help change or fix issues with my training, running, diet, or life in general. The ups and downs of the past and being in the Military really can affect people for good or for bad. I have chosen to focus on the positives of my career and not dwell on all the little people with major egos I worked with or they hypocrites, or the racists, or the bigots, or the whatever. I choose to dwell on I met my wife there, I met some great friends there, and I was exposed to running in the Military. But the important part of looking back is knowing where you’re going and knowing that it takes small steps, long steps, fast runs, slow runs, crawls, and naps along the way to get you where you need to go. The cliché saying is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Well it is true. You run the Leadville 100 one section at a time. You don’t look too far forward and you don’t dwell on the past. Each experience and occasion comes with its own memories and lessons to be learned. So, when I chose the Quest for the Crest I didn’t care about the climb, it was just a number. I didn’t care about reputations or anything that came with the race. I just wanted a challenge that tested my mettle and got me to the next point in my life. I didn’t realize along the way I was running the hardest 50K in the lands, I see that looking back. But I won’t dwell on it. I need to focus my efforts to recovery form an ankle sprain. Focus on my next race. Get my mind right and figure out how I can get thru the hard spots better than I did. So, at the end of the day after a race, if you finished or you didn’t it doesn’t matter. Don’t dwell on the facts. Focus on what you know you did right or wrong and what you can do to better yourself the next time out.
What Keeps Us Going?
The fact that you got up and out the door or toed the line doesn’t complete you. You need to reaffirm that you can do it over and over and this is done thru proper motivation and training. You must train your brain to live with the pain you may experience on the trail. You should train your body to be ready for that challenge. You must enjoy the thrill of new adventures. Most importantly you should know how to get to the next place in life, you need a roadmap to help you keep going. You could easily throw a race on the wall and say you are training towards ‘Your Race.’ You can put effort into it and get nowhere unless you follow a plan or you commit yourself. Ken Clubber, RD for the Leadville 100, is famous for having all his racers repeat these words before the race “I commit I won’t quit. I can do more than I think I can.” It is all a big scene with stage and crowd and everyone hooting and hollering but these words carry a lot of weight when you look at it. When you run a race your body gets on a cycle and it comes with highs and lows. Knowing what your body can and cannot do will help carry you thru those lows and avoid crashing, becoming overconfident, during those highs. Therefore, in training you must know where you are going and stay with your plan. When I signed up for the Quest for the Crest I knew where I was going, to hell in a handbasket, but I embraced the suck before it came on. When my wet feet turned into hamburger meat I could have easily stopped what I was doing and taken care of them but that isn’t what I trained for. I trained for crossing the finishing line and then treating my feet. In my mind and in my brain, I was ready to go the distance no matter how many feet I climbed, how many streams I crossed, or how many lows I had to fight out of. Everyone has a trick or knows a way to take their mind off one thing or to think about something else. I am more of an embrace the suck and just turn my brain off. I prefer it not to function and get in the way with critical decisions that need to be made. However, in this fog you should be careful and stay focused or you will end up like me. I was moving downhill at a good clip around mile 32. I was shooting to get to the finish right around 11 hours. I saw my 10-hour goal slipping fast. I was thinking about the finish, my wife if she would be there, our dogs, and then what race I had next. I was getting lackadaisical in my thinking and in my movements. Suddenly it came crashing down with a severe right ankle sprain and I tumbled forward. I about crushed my right pole as I tried to quickly shift all my forces to the right. My pole locked in the ground and my shoulder crashed into the pole and luckily it gave way and I fell to the ground. I rolled and cursed like a baby. I knew this was bad. At mile 13 I had a slight sprain and taped it up and for the last 19 miles I had been babying it. Now I was acting triumphant and over confident and it all collapsed. A runner stopped behind me and asked if I was ok. I wasn’t but I told him I would finish. I remembered what Scott Jurek had talked about when he rolled his ankle at Hardrock. He mentioned the swelling would act like a natural splint. I picked up and crutched with my poles for the last mile. I was in severe pain. I stopped at a water point and let my ankle soak in the chilly waters. My ankle appreciated it but my hamburger feet didn’t. That last mile took me close to 45 minutes and when I crossed Sean Blanton, the Race Director AKA Run Bum, told me I looked all the part of perseverance and dedication. I told him I felt like crap! But there will be another day as long as all my ankle screws were still in place. There will be a tomorrow.
At the end of the day you must know yourself better than anyone else knows yourself. You must know what you must run, what you should eat, and what you should do to get you from start to finish line. You get out of bed each day and can fold or push all in don’t let yourself become overwhelmed or consumed with things in life that matter little. Don’t dwell on the past and the stereotypes that may come along with it. Plan, set a goal for yourself, find your inner fire or motivation that gets you out the door. Use that positivity to sign up for the next race without fear but with excitement. Seek the challenges out because they don’t find you. Finally, when I like to say, “When in doubt, Compete!” That applies to life and running. See you on the trail.
‘Live Free Run Free’
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: #Thumbsuprunners
To Sleep or not to Sleep….that is the question.
By Sean Cook
The fundamental make up of athletes and runners is what defines us on the course or the road or the trail. It is all the things that make us a better runner thru training, experience, practice or in some cases sheer luck. One of those pieces that is rarely talked about is how do we handle sleep and sleep deprivation as an athlete? How do we as runners cope with being tired before a race, during a race, and after a ,race? What steps can we take to mitigate or offset the fatigue that will soon overtake our bodies and minds? From my eyes I will look at a couple events and try to break it down on how to best prepare yourself for success in short and long distances when we are discussing sleep and fatigue. The famous quote from Robert Frost goes like this, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Unfortunately, this is the mantra many athletes use in that they don’t prioritize sleep properly and focus more on the journey (race) than the preparation. Let’s unravel that right now and get down to why you need sleep and why your body needs it.
The picture above is me after The Leadville 100 race in 2015. We stopped in at a diner to grab some food after the race and a shower. You can see I didn’t quite make it to the meal. I fell asleep on the table. Now while 100 miles is quite the extreme the same sense can follow a 5K, 10k, Half Marathon, or Marathon if you are not physically and mentally ready for the stress you are about to put your body thru. In my case I was up 30 hours running or exerting myself. However, that doesn’t include the night prior to the race where I was going over and over my preparations. It also doesn’t include waking up an hour before the race to get some food into my system for the race. So, all together I was up well over thirty hours but my preparation for the race could have been better on the last night by trying to get more sleep than 5-6 hours and to get thru all stages of sleep. But let’s be honest how many people get a good night of sleep before a race anyway? The number might be higher with elite athletes who are better trained than say the novice or amateur runners, like ME, out there. SO how do you mitigate that? Well you have to set a schedule for your sleep weeks out or a week out from the race depending on the distance. You have to give your body as much sleep as you can a night, and why is that? Well, sleep is a restorative process for your body, your mind, and you as a person. Sleeping gives your body a chance to achieve repairs that it may not be able to achieve during the day if you are always on the go. Set up a schedule and make sure you are sticking to it….and no I am not talking about running. You do that well enough. I am talking about a sleep schedule prior to an event. Make sure you build up your sleep, which aides recovery, before any event.
Sleeping before a race is one of the components that people really don’t talk about much. It is almost as if it is sometimes a machismo thing to talk about how little we sleep, how much we hurt or something on those lines of pain and agony we like to share. We grow accustomed to feeling tired and sore and accept it with the race and the run. I know there are many races, like the last Marathon I ran in Charleston, where I am simply tired or bored, which means very tired. I have become accustomed to feeling this way on many runs when I shouldn’t! We shouldn’t accept it as a norm or something we have to deal with every time. We have to be better conditioned as an athlete or as a novice to prepare our bodies for this upcoming race or event. We have to be disciplined enough to get in the sleep time like we would a run route or morning jog. But when it comes down to it sleep is the first thing we will sacrifice if we are in a time crunch. We will stay up later preparing for an event we could have planned for on another day. We will wake up earlier to get things ready when we could have done it the previous day. Humans are the best at pushing things off to the last minute, procrastination at its finest, and we are also the best at being tired, depleted and un-energized because we taxed our sleep to make other things happen. Be disciplined in your sleep and it doesn’t start and stop with writing out a sleep schedule, it is the follow thru and will power you demonstrate that makes it happen. SLEEP.
The final part of this is the right conditions for sleep. You as an athlete know that to get thru all the sleep stages, sleeping on the couch with the TV on is ridiculous. You have to have the right conditions for sleep. Some people have big fancy beds, some people like lavender in the air, some people like it really cold or warm, and some people like it dark. Whatever it is make sure it is conducive to a good sleep pattern that enables you to totally relax and get a maximum amount of sleep before your event. My wife and I have gone from a Queen size bed to a King because we have nightly visitors, dogs, that like to share the bed. We also upgraded to a firm but soft mattress to help our backs not feel like we slept on a concrete floor or in a hammock for 8 hours. Some of these little things help you and your body relax easier and fall into a nice sound sleep. Now this is just a small part of it and it can become expensive for a good bed but there are some cheaper alternatives out there. You have to again get out there shop around and compare brands. I don’t recall what the fellow at the store told us for beds wearing out but I want to say like 5-8 years. So, for all of you folks sleeping on the same mattress for the past 10-15 years might be a good time to look for a nice place to kick up the heels and stare at the ceiling. (check out these mattresses if interested in something you might enjoy https://casper.com/mattresses)
Whether you are a new or experienced runner you have to appreciate the fact that sleep is an important part of your pre-race plan. Don’t push yourself to the edge because you didn’t plan right or you put off getting enough sleep. During that last couple days before the race you should be tapering and you should be resting more. You will be treating your body to something amazing if you can get 7-9 hours of sleep a night leading up to your main event. Or you can fall asleep on the race course and crash into a tree like I have seen people do. Don’t be a tree hugger on the trails…..get some sleep and be smart in your race preparations. See you on the trail!
‘Live Free Run Free’
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: #Thumbsuprunners
By Sean Cook
Don’t look now but it’s 2017 and 2016 is in the rear-view mirror. To many of us it is a good thing for 2016 to be in the past and to some it is too soon. We are caught up in the revelries of a new year and to many people that comes with setting up some new goals, for running or life, and planning out your year, like races. I want to talk a little about goals, setting them and attaining them. I also want to discuss the difference between motivation and dedication. Finally I want to talk about the Human Body as it gets older and the challenges that arise with following thru on goals physically and mentally.
When I drew up my goals this year I took a napkin and scribbled a couple things down on them. I wanted to get in and finish Leadville 100 with a better time than I have before. I wanted to support my wife and her Tri-Boulder mission. I wanted to adapt a healthier lifestyle with respects to eating better and cutting out processed foods, except while running of course. Finally I wanted to draw up a good training plan with multiple races and some PR challenges in there that would get me to Leadville ready to accomplish that primary goal. It is easy to write them on paper and it is fun to sit there and dream about what races you want to run and sign up for them…..that is the easy part. The hard part is knowing what you have to do to get there and that is a little about what I want to discuss throughout this blog post.
I have been running scared or dedicated now for three years. Many of you have heard the story. I signed up for Leadville as a jab from some friends. I never thought I would get in having never run longer than 10 Miles in ANY race my past 42 years of life. I was recovering from Ankle Surgery and about to retire from the Military so this was my relevancy mission. I can still do it like I was young and I am still tough. Anyway I got picked to run Leadville in 2015 and that changed my life forever. Since then I have been good to bad at writing up training plans and workouts and diets. I am really good at listening to my body and doing what I need to do to sustain that but I am nowhere near where I should be in writing down notes about how I feel after races, writing up detailed running programs for myself, and sticking to a sound diet. The issue comes with the GOAL. You set a goal and reasonably expect to do anything to achieve that goal. You will literally do whatever you have to that third week of August to get up and over Hopes Pass twice, well legally. It is within this mantra that I sometimes get lost and feel like well I can still do this or that and achieve my goals as long as I am focused. For example hey its ok to eat a 6 egg omelet with bacon, fries, and pancakes because I just ran ten miles right?? Yes and No. The old me would say Yes. The older wiser me would say NO! You are delaying the process if you are not 100% committed.
But what is 100% committed? Is it me sleeping in compression sleeves and eating and drinking a strict plan or is it me stretching every hour, holistically training my body, running in any condition, pushing myself to a breaking point? Again there is a fine line you need to determine and you need to assess yourself. I have never had a coach nor have I sought out advice to become a better runner, like I maybe should. I rely on what I know. I read more, listen more, and take more in that I can process at my speed. I consider myself dedicated but not 100% committed. I still have a side job, I go to school, I have a family and three dogs. You cannot, unless you are a single person with no family and a pro, really achieve this 100% commitment level that many would like. But you can be dedicated and that is what I strive towards in my daily life.
So when you think in that framework you can start to lay out your goals. They don’t all necessarily have to be associated with you and running. You can have family goals, life goals, or other career type goals that help you to become a better or more whole human being. So the first thing you need to do is really look at what works for you. You may drive a bus, you may be in the military, you may be a stay at home mom, or you may be a CEO of an organization. Regardless you will all have personal and specific needs you need to meet to make your goals. Using that you will need to look what is your goal. Is it a race, an event, or a milestone for you or someone else? For ease here we will all say your personal event is a race of some sort, like Leadville 100. You will need to look at that event and backwards plan. You cannot develop a plan to achieve that goal from planning today out. It is not practical and you will be presented with hardships along the way that will interfere with your plan and might cause you to not achieve your goal. Backwards plan from that goal. Make that goal your Climax or your summit of Mt. Everest and determine what it will take to reach that point. For me there are several different layers. First, I need to get back into a running shape for speed at 13.1 miles. 13.1 is my magic distance because that is about the distance between most aid stations at Leadville. I break the race down into pieces and attack it that way. So for me to get better I look at half marathons and set goals along the way of improving my time, conditions based obviously. I also look at a false summit, a challenge, that I want to accomplish close to Leadville. Something that pushes me close to the point but once done you realize you aren’t there yet. The past two years it has been a 50 Mile race in Fairplay Colorado, Sheep Mountain 50. This was a tough race that really tested me, physically and mentally, to make sure I was ready for Leadville. This year I have to find a new race now that I am on the East Coast. This should be a gauge for you towards achieving your final goal. Finally, you should have minor gauges and challenges along the way that keep you focused on your goal. For me it is usually a Marathon, a back-back half Marathon weekend, or a ridiculously tough trail race. This year I have them all planned out to help me get ready. This is the real art of crafting a plan. You have a calendar you either write on or use with your computer that you are updating and changing on a daily basis sometimes. The overall goal though should never change. This is your dedication. Following thru.
You will need to train outside races on your own, with your friends, alone on the trail/road, or with a local run club. This is you motivating yourself to make sure you stay on pace towards your minor challenges along the way towards your major goal or goals. Motivation comes in the fact you can always find an excuse not to train. I need to walk the dogs, I have to clean the house, I need to cook, I need to run an errand, it is raining out, the dogs are sick, I don’t feel good. All of these could be true and still have to be done BUT you have to dig deep and find the motivation to get out of your comfort bubble and hit the trail/pavement to log your miles. You should have a target for each week 5 miles, 10 miles, or whatever but you should have a target and strive to meet it. You should also look at planning around your runs for warm up and cool downs. A lot of people can lace up and go. That is the easiest thing in the world. You tell yourself you will warm up the first 3 miles. Well bad news/good news is that you will warm up the first miles but you may also not be warmed up in some areas that you could hurt later on, i.e. your lower back. Take the time to warm up properly then motivate yourself out there door and on the run.
As the Human Body gets older you cycle thru a lot of different things. Whether it is menopause in women or depression or whatever ailment you may have. I have worked thru a lot of my own issues and the fact is you have to be committed to winning. “You are better than you think you are,” as Ken Chlouber will tell you at Leadville. This is true and not just a soundbite. He also tells you “You can do more than you think you can.” Both of these speak to me as a person that is not getting any younger, 44. I know my body well and I know I can push it as I wish but sometimes your brain is not on the same page and this will only get worse if you dwell on it and think about it over and over. The older I get the happier I am running. I find a lot to do on a run whether it is looking at nature, singing songs in my head, planning out things in life, or dreaming. It all happens as the endorphins kick in on a good run. Now there is a point where you ask yourself what am I doing out here at 4 am running 100 miles in the dark. That is when you need to laugh and look around because you aren’t the only person that is on this journey. You can really do more than you think you can when you put your mind to it. Part of that is developing a goal and developing a plan to achieve that goal. Commit to winning and you can make it happen. I wish you all the best along the trail and hope to see you on the run!
‘Live Free Run Free’
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: #Thumbsuprunners
Running Vegas without ruining your diet and workout.
By Sean Cook
Since The Rock and Roll Marathon bought the Las Vegas Marathon in 2009 the race continues to grow and really pushed Vegas to one of the go to destinations for a great race. Usually rated as one of the top 10 Marathons or Half Marathons in the United States it really begs to ask; Has Vegas become a Running Vacation location? Well with all the weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthdays, reunions, concerts, major events and meetings/conferences I don’t think it has become a premier running destination but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a destination that encompasses both fun and some hard work. That means after your long days of meetings or your long night out you can find time to physically benefit from staying in Las Vegas and doing it safely.
I have been going to Las Vegas since around 2005. To me it is a fun destination (www.Vegas.com) that brings together a whole lot of goodness with a great vibe and atmosphere, lots of fun and unique things to do, and if you like to gamble this is your place to be. I am also a runner but really didn’t get into HEAVY running until 2015. Before that I was your stay in shape for the Army 2 mile run guy. I would run on the elliptical or treadmill to get warmed up for a workout. But that never stopped me from working out. Being in a location like Vegas never stopped me from eating healthy, staying fit and working out, and doing it all safely and on the cheap!
Vegas can be a lot to absorb when you get into town for the first time but you really have to take a step back and realize Vegas doesn’t define you, you define Vegas. In that I look at it two ways, and I always do when traveling you have a Personal aspect and a Physical aspect. Personally you have to have the dedication to eat healthy and work out. Physically you have to be smart about your workouts and that means plan your workouts in advance, visit locations or places before you work out, hydrate and physically look after yourself. So I will walk the dog on how I personally and physically take advantage of Vegas for a good time and also a healthy time.
Personally the two biggest things for me are develop a plan and stick with it. For me I like workouts mid-day in Vegas when the sun is up and I can either hit the roads and sidewalks safely or more likely hit the Casino Gym. I have stayed in about 10 different places in Vegas and I highly recommend you take advantage of your free access to the hotel’s gym or spa. I can guarantee that most of the gyms will never be crowded and there is never a wait for a treadmill. Plus, you get free amenities like water and towels. So I plan my mid-day workout usually every other day while I am in Vegas. Sometimes you luck out and get a pool view while running the treadmill (Palms) or you have a choice of 10 TV’s (Venetian). Each hotel or property has a unique aspect of their facilities. Some of the bigger ones even have a healthy food restaurant or snack bar inside the property like The Venetian and The Paris. But key here is setting a time and make sure you stick with it. If you are against a treadmill and want to run outdoors be warned the weather in Vegas during the day can be scorching hot and the winds can make you feel like you are running into a brick wall for however many miles you choose. If you run outside I would choose a night run. I would also look into local trails which you can find within 30-45 minutes outside the strip. The biggest part you have to do personally is you have to know what to eat and not just eat to eat. You can eat anything in Vegas and you can really pack on a couple pounds quick or you can watch what you eat and still have lots of fun. My first thing I want to warn folks about is those big sugary drinks you see people walking around with. Those processed sugars are not what your body needs in Vegas. If you want to feel healthier and stay up running with the bulls later then you should seriously think about eating better and cutting out foods and drinks heavy in processed or refined sugars. This is easy to do as most places in Vegas water is FREE. When I am in Vegas I try to stick with either a Vodka drink or Tequila on the rocks with a twist of lime. It tastes good and you can feel happy about yourself at the end of the day. Now the catch is healthy eating. When people drink more than they should they lose their inhibitions for food and for gambling. You can get a fried meal at any casino or you can get a nice meal. The time it takes to get a wrap or a salad is the same amount of time it takes to get a burger and fries. Something you can do to help yourself out is order a healthy snack and put it in your fridge or go to the local grocery store and pick up healthy snacks for your hotel room. Don’t let a failure to properly plan your trip cause you to get sick or suffer from upset stomach because you had to much junk food or cheap alcohol. Vegas is meant to be explored and meant to be fun. Sleeping in the dark room at your hotel with the blinds shut tight is great for a movie but not for real life.
Physically you have to know your body and your surroundings while you are working out. When I used to run in Colorado I always kept my head on a swivel because of some elements of wildlife you didn’t want to encounter and some obstacles on the trails you had to avoid or work around. This is no different than in Vegas. You will have obstacles and barriers you have to negotiate if you are running outside. People aren’t usually looking out for runners but with everyone walking around town you could utilize the great network of traffic lights to your ability and keep your runs flowing smooth. Sometimes when you just don’t feel like it the walking option is always a great option. I highly recommend you bring a comfortable pair of shoes to Vegas too. Nothing is worse than walking from The Luxor to The Wynn in a pair of flip flops. Now I have done this but it is not encouraged! Plus, when you do something like this you have to plan ahead. You can get beer at a million locations but water not as often. You are better off with carrying some type of small drop bag around Vegas with some water in it to help sustain your momentum. There is nothing wrong with beer but it only hydrates you until your first bathroom break. Now in the military they teach you the art of reconnaissance and getting out there to put eyes on something before you jump in feet first. If you are going to go to the gym make sure you scout it out and recon the location so you know where it is and don’t end up in a wedding by mistake in your gym clothes, I did that too. If you find yourself in that situation just roll with it and tell them the airlines lost your luggage. But it really is important to know where you are at all times and either carry a map or a fully charged phone with a way to charge it up if it dies. You don’t want to be that person that gets lost on the strip that basically is one street running north and south. Now it also helps if you know some key phrases in other languages, like Tagalog. There are thousands of Filipino workers in Vegas and if you can speak a little with them that goes a LONG way!! I am fluent in Tagalog so this is great for getting inside info that many tourists may not get. One of the other things to consider is working out with groups, run with groups, or do something active with another person. You don’t have to risk being lost or alone in Vegas by yourself. Share in the experience. You can look up run groups or run with friends. It adds to the overall experience and sharing your fun together.
When I went and ran the Rock and Roll Half Marathon last year it was an amazing experience and I loved the run a lot until the winds and rain came. It got so cold I thought it was actually going to snow in Vegas. Be prepared when you are running a big run like this and use their drop bag system to have something warm for you at the end of the race. Friends and family can easily get up and down the strip during the race and it is a fun one to run because you run down the middle of the strip at night, basically it is EPIC and reason it is one of the top ten marathons in the United States.
When you go to Vegas to run this race or any vacation make a plan. Be prepared with whatever you need for supplies. A little bit of preparation can go a long way when you are caught in a bind. Oh and never forget your wallet or key in your room. That could make for a long talk with security. Yes, I have done that too. Be safe in Vegas, enjoy everything it has to offer, and if you aren’t running the Rock and Roll Race Series I encourage you all to run one of the many distances and have fun!
‘Live Free Run Free’
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: #Thumbsuprunners
by Sean Cook
This year has been a year unlike any other year and it is not even over yet. For me though the big challenge was retiring from the US Army after 21+ years of service. Just that idea itself is epic and huge but not unlike what has been done millions of times before me by other great veterans like my father. For me it is really the past and for me looking back isn’t something I am necessarily good at doing. I have been programmed, as most of us, to always look at the next mountain the next obstacle, look forward, set goals, and make it happen. However, I really want to take a brief look back at my birth in running and compare that to my career in the Army. I think there are some life lessons there that we could all appreciate. Looking back is the easy part because for most of us it is either a good or bad reflection that we have stored away in our long term memory. Some of us may have chosen to delete it all together but it is still there. So let’s take a little journey back and see how we can better look forward or prepare for the unknown because in running we embrace that fear of the unknown.
The past started in 2014 when I underwent reconstructive ankle surgery. I was at the peak of my mediocre CrossFit career and thought I was the next coming of Rich Fronning (Famous Crossfitter), however I was older and well much OLDER. So after years of Rugby, CrossFit and Jumping out of perfectly good airplanes my ankle decided it didn’t want to work anymore. It had determined that it was time for surgery. So I underwent an ankle reconstructive surgery and became a new man. I literally ate so much junk food for one month I got fat and I was wondering where I was headed. Would I be one of these people you see that take it sitting down or would I get up and fight this, you can guess where this is going. So I started rehab and I cut out all this junk food. Then I got an unexpected surprise to go to Germany and work for six months. While I was there one of my peers was a “runner,” so we would talk about running sometime if we found time. Well as my rehab went better I really wanted to get out there and push myself to see what my ankle could handle. I was tired of the treadmill and the elliptical machine and needed trails or asphalt! So we started making plans to run the local German trails around base. They were beautiful and the weather in Germany is always one for running, reminded me of Seattle. We ran and ran over many lunches and I got to where I could run a 10 minute, then 9 minute, then 8 minute, then 7 minute pace for several miles. I felt recovered and I felt healthy it was a good time and place for me. However, I still hadn’t been bitten by the running bug. This all happened when I got back from Germany. You know looking back this was a very important period for me. I could have continued on my current course of using machines to stay fit. I could have continued to rely on processed foods and not cooked as much. I could have put my headphones on and shut out the world as I saw fit. However, I didn’t. I got off the couch, I went for a run, I met friends on the trail, I experienced a beauty and freedom that only running can give you and then I felt like a new person. This is how I came home from Germany.
When I got home from Germany I thought I was done with running and would slide back into my CrossFit gym and push on to be that guy that didn’t run from the enemy cause I was bigger, badder, etc etc. etc. However, it just didn’t work out like that. When I got back I still reconnected with friends from the gym but I needed to be outside and needed the sun, fresh Colorado Air, and this freedom. One day talking around Thanksgiving or Christmas my friends who had run this crazy 100 Mile race called Leadville told me I should sign up. I think I laughed harder than they would have imagined. My friends had each tried it twice and not finished and this was their 3rd year entering it. It was one of those epic feats I wasn’t exposed to before so the mere fact of 100 Miles made me laugh. However, I went home and thought about it and thought back to who I was and what I have become in the Army. Was I content and happy with being this desk jockey? Well I thought back to 1998 when I entered the US Army Best Ranger Competition as a complete nobody from Ft Drum, New York. I wasn’t predicted to do anything much at the renowned competition expect put my best foot forward. What we did was finish the event where over half don’t. Each year 50-60 teams of two rangers from every unit around the military compete to see who is the best. I was happy then to just finish but I never would have finished had I not gotten to the start line or volunteered. So I signed up that night for the Leadville 100 and went to bed. When I was in Jamaica, early 2015 with my soon to be wife, I got an email that said something to the effect that I had been selected to run in the Leadville 100 Trail race. I literally dropped my phone and thought what had I done. Looking back, I can tell you exactly what I did, I changed my life for the better. I got out of my comfort zone and I sought out new challenges that you can’t find on any couch or TV Program. It was a turning point in my life but I was still a novice. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I made the first step in my new life and that was I toed the line and accepted what came ahead, of course I had no clue what was about to happen but here we go I thought.
Getting to the Leadville 100 was half the battle but it was a serious climb from someone who had never run an organized race over ten miles, EVER. So as soon as I got home from Jamaica and the rum wore off I was hitting the paths and roads of wintery Colorado. I was learning to run on ice and learning to run in snow. I was reading and absorbing so much information about running that I was the gadget guy. I had a shoe, a piece of kit, or a trick for everything. I had different bottles, bladders, gels, and drink mixes. I was like a mad scientist trying everything but what this did was 1) Cost me a lot of money catching up with people who had kit and been running for ever 2) Forced me to really look at a product and use it to see if it likes or I wanted to keep using it 3) It really made me start to look at what you need to finish a race and how to train for it properly with your kit. Well in that train up time for the Leadville 100 I ran a lot of Half Marathons. It seemed to be my go to race if I needed to do one. I put these races on my schedule and signed up for them to keep me focused and on track with my training. I was still running during the week 2 or 3 times a week and then a nice longer run on the weekend. I went to a school our east and was exposed to Sea Level running and then all of a sudden I was a Half Marathon Crazy guy. I ran a lot of them, maybe 20, and even got to the point where I would run one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I was also pushing my times and trying to stay around 1:45 for the Half. However, I knew I had to step up my game so I signed up for some marathons three of them to be exact, and I made that happen. When I came back from the East Coast I was still doubting myself and my equipment and my training. I think this is something normal with all racers and career folks. You think you are set and you have a good method then things change. For me I picked up running in Hokas which I would have never expected to do. I also picked up a Garmin and kept myself honest! When I got back to Colorado I was worried I wasn’t ready for the 100. SO I signed up for the Leadville Camp and the Sheep Mountain 50. Those two events were so tough and demanding that when I was done I knew I was ready for the 100. Yea right I didn’t know did I. Who is ever ready for a 100??
When the day came for the 100 it was another day for me. I had put in the time and training and I had really changed a lot of how I went about life and I was rewarded in the end with a finish. It was a painful finish and I broke a bone in my foot about mile 60 but it was a finish nonetheless. But like I said it was just another day and when I got my buckle I was very happy and proud. I think I was happier and proud my parents and some of my friends and family were there to share the moment with me. I am a happy runner and need those small things on long runs to get me over the edge. Not only did I finish in 2015 but I also crossed the line and improved my time by 30 minutes in 2016. As I look back on my Army career and my retirement ceremony it was just another day. I have become accustomed to big events coming and going. I have an ability to not dwell on the past. I was ready for the next chapter and the next trail and next race. As I look out I can offer you this, Don’t live for the past but embrace it as you would the fear of the unknown. Live for unexpected joys and happiness in life wherever that may carry you. If you ever need a buddy or friend to catch a race with or share a view on life with I would love to be that person. See you on the high ground or see you at the next race.
‘Live Free Run Free’
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: #Thumbsuprunners