Monday, August 18, 2008

Mistakes were made, but not by Rebekka: A Leadville Story

Rebekka and I arrived in Leadville around 11 A.M. on Friday morning in time for me to weigh in and catch the mandatory briefing before the Leadville Trail 100-mile race. Part of the mandatory briefing came from the official doctor for the race, Dr. Tom. His briefing was both informative and humorous. To get your message across humor turns out to be a most effective way to make an imprint on the memory. What I remember from Dr. Tom's speech were 1) how to know if you were dehydrated is upon examining your urine flow if it is the color of Coors beer then you are okay, but if your urine is the color of Foster Lager then you had better hydrate ASAP and 2) the story he recounted of a woman at the Hopeless Aide Station just below the summit of Hope Pass who had become overcome with hypothermia, and how the only remedy turned out to be getting into a sleeping bag with two sweaty male runners. At the time of this briefing by Dr. Tom I had no inkling that both of these stories would have relevance to me the next day, nor did I realize that I would also get to know Dr. Tom on a more intimate basis.

At race start on Saturday at 4 A.M. it wasn't raining. Since the weather forecast for race day was at best 60% chance of thundershowers and up to a foot of snow this was a welcome start. We didn't get any precipitation until about 3 hours later with a smattering of hail on the approach to Sugarloaf Pass. At race start I tried to keep reminding myself that this was a 100 mile race. Still I found myself settling in with the front pack and wound up cruising down the "boulevard" with the two leaders. Joshua Mietz talked about running the Silver Rush 50-mile run, where he placed 5th in 8+ hours—this was a new addition to the festival of races associated with the Leadville 100. When he and the other leader ran hard up the steep cut leading to the trail round Turquoise Lake I let them go. Scott Jaime and Andrew Skurka passed me, but a little later Scott ducked into a bathroom. I was in fourth. Andrew made a wrong turn and I followed—mistake #1.

Soon we had popped out on the road. Confused we ran along the road for a few minutes before I said this is not right. Though the last time I ran this race was four years ago I knew that it never went on the road but followed the lake proper on a dirt path. Finally I said I was turning around. Andrew followed. When we came back to the trail we had mistakenly followed we came on about seven runners also going astray who we turned around. One complained that his race was over. I told him to stop complaining since though he had lost maybe 45 seconds, we had been running around off course for 10 minutes. Back on the course perhaps foolishly trying to make up ground I passed several runners before catching up to John Genet. I fell in behind John just to force myself to slow down. Unfortunately I did more than slow down--I fell down—mistake #2, in the process dislocating my little finger.

My finger was concealed in my glove but I knew from the pain that something was seriously wrong in there. Mayqueen, in and out and I was on the road again at 2:01. Pretty good running, good pace, I mostly passed runners up and over Sugarloaf Pass and down to Fish Hatcheries, mile 23 by 3:55. Mistake #3—Rebekka tried to get me to change shirts and put on a jacket—I told her I would wait until Treeline, another four miles.

The wind, rain, and lightning were wicked all along the open road leading to Treeline. By the time I reached her only half an hour later I was cold and disheartened. Taking off my gloves I saw my finger for the first time and it didn't look good. Ken Chlouber, the race director was there and asked me if I wanted to drop out. "No way!" was my response. He put a plastic bag on my hand and recommended not putting on a glove until I reached the aide station at Halfmoon. Halfmoon was no help—the medical tech there was not able to do anything to my finger though he did manage to help me put my glove on.

I left Halfmoon with only half a bottle of water in the confusion. They didn't seem to have water available--only Powerade and coke. Weird. Over the next miles I got dehydrated, though I did fill up my bottle twice in streams. As I approached Twin Lakes at mile 40 I was bonking badly.

At the Twin Lakes aide station a volunteer asked me "You're acting very spacey, are you always that way?" "No." I sat down and started eating and drinking trying to revive myself. Soon Rebekka was able to join me and then Dr. Tom came on the scene. He looked at my finger and asked if I wanted him to yank it back in socket. Yes. As soon as he yanked it into place I felt a surge of fresh pain and my hand began to swell. He put an ice pack over my hand held by a loose ace bandage. I had already been getting cold, but the cold pack only accelerated the process. They placed blankets over my shoulders but I kept shivering. Finally Dr. Tom told me to get in a sleeping bag. When that didn't do it, Rebekka climbed in with me. I still couldn't get warm. I suggested to Dr. Tom that maybe I should get in my car and turn up the heater. Unfortunately, since he now had me in his custody he couldn't let me leave the aide station without removing me from the race. By that time my legs had stiffened up and I could barely walk and couldn't imagine running another 60 miles so I let him snip off my band and dq'ed myself.


Heather said...

Hey Steve,
Sorry about the race. Between the cold and your finger, sounds like it was rough. I hope things go better next time.
We left your house at 5:30 AM and rolled into Nashville around 11:30 PM. It was a long day.
I miss Colorado terribly. Both Chris and I do. The pups are happy to be back as they love our back yard, but they miss the dog park at Bear Creek. If we can't move to Manitou, we're hoping to come back in the Spring for a couple of weeks and then next summer for an extended vacation.
Enjoy some fresh mountain air for us!
-Heather & Chris

Jason Halladay said...

Wow, Steve, that's a heckuva Leadville story! It's amazing how quickly one can get super cold and long it takes to recover from it. You made a good decision to DQ yourself. Keep up the good running!