Saving Leadville - Page 3
Winfield aid station at mile 50, with piles of drop bags lying in the foreground. Photo by Adam Danforth
Part of the appeal of Leadville is that it is, in a way, the “everyman’s ultra.” Chlouber’s rebellion against what he perceives as the elitism of other 100-mile races has granted first-timers the opportunity to tackle the tremendous challenge that Leadville presents, alongside legends like Jurek, Matt Carpenter and Ann Trason. With a mountainous course that fluctuates between a dizzying 9,200 and 12,600 feet and boasts six major climbs and a stiff 30-hour cutoff—signified by a shotgun at 10 a.m. on Sunday—it’s no walk in the park, either.
“What never gets old is the magic of being at the finish line for the final two hours,” says Garett Graubins, who’s run Leadville five times between 1998 and 2012. “You can take the emotions and inspiration of those two hours, bottle them up and tap into them for the next year.”
In 2010, something unexpected happened. Chlouber and Maupin sold the race, including their entire series of trail-running and mountain-biking races in Leadville, to Lifetime Fitness, a two-billion-dollar conglomerate of fitness mega-gyms across the country. Whispers echoed throughout the trail-running community about whether Leadville, with all its old-timey, cozy charm, would remain true to its roots.
Part of my journey was to find the answer to that question.
The sun had come up, and I was nearing the second major aid station, Outward Bound (previously known as Fish Hatchery) at mile 24. My support crew consisted of my dad, Steve Winn, who’d flown to Colorado for the weekend, and my boyfriend, coincidentally also named Steve, who planned to pace me for the last 40 miles. Though I’d run a handful of ultras over the years, my dad had never seen me race. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to share the trail-running scene with him.