Monday, August 19, 2013

Hope and Uncertainty

Most competition has uncertainty at it's core. Unpredictably keeps us all watching, that along with the sublime, but mostly the knowledge that anything can, and often does happen. Such was the Leadville 100 miler this past weekend.

Ryan Sandes went into the men's race as overwhelming favorite against a past Olympian who had blown in the race last year after going off too fast, and two men in the midst of running four 100 milers in a 3 month period for the 'Grand Slam of ultra running'.

Watching a pro athlete prepare for an ultra, especially one as organised as Ryan is recognizing that of all the things that can go wrong, not having the right nutrition, meds, kit at each station wont be one of them.

Meticulous notes for each aid station
The two days before the race were a frenzy of ziplock bags, water bottles, shoes and clothing. All meticulously packed and labeled with the aid station name. Our job (Vanessa mainly, Ryan, Cassie and I) was to be at each station in advance of Ryan with the table set up for whatever Ryan needed. It worked like clockwork.

Aid station ready for Ryan at Twin Lakes outbound
But you can do all the training in the world, all the prep, and plan to the infinite detail, but if your body lets you down, it all amounts to nothing. Ryan arrived off of Hope Pass at the halfway point in a car, his race over. He didn't risk running or walking in and have us try and cajole him to continue and sustain further damage. A smart move. Coming down Hope Pass he had aggravated a dormant injury and made it impossible to run downhill.

Ian Sharman on route to winning Leadville
Dropping is the easiest and hardest thing to do. Easy because you stop the pain and the prospect of further damage. Hard for every other reason; the endless questions, the feeling you have let people down, not least yourself, the wasted preparation. The list goes on. They all go through your mind when you make that call. For a professional athlete the idea of walking to the finish for 'pride' is nonsensical, and I think most runners get that, but most pros also understand that to voice that as a reason somehow belittles every other runner. So they are, as Ryan was, humble, diverting attention away from himself, and then with a big heart going to every other aid station on the way to the finish to cheer the front runners through. That's a hard thing to do when you've been training and preparing for months for the race that now belongs to someone else. Respect.

Interviews with winner Ian Sharman and runner up Nick Clark HERE

Interview with Ryan Sandes HERE


  1. First up, I'm sorry for you as you missed out on your couple of miles of fame running Ryan in... Now Ryan, 2013 is not treating him well and nothing want to work for him. I've seen the hard work he puts in for his training and I wish I had the energy to train hard, be focused! But I don't have the time or energy to put in the extra miles of the pros... So just where did Ryan go wrong? and this is a question I always ask when something like this happends (it happens to me a lot more than to him or the other pros). Day 2 at SOX, why did my hammies want to cramp? well I can tell you I haven't run enough to try and stay with Bernard!!! and all the down hill at sub 3:15... my legs just aren't used to it. So while we learn from our bad runs it's alway leasons we should know by now and small mistakes we feel at the time aren't going to be a problem.

    I hope Ryan sorts this out and we see him on the trail bouncing over the rocks!

    1. Yeah, i'd stopped crapping myself about my run section, as it was flat :) Ryan, will be back. You should watch Mike Aish's interview

  2. Thanks for being a part of it all Ian and the kind words. Where did I go wrong ... I fell over a root on one of my first runs in Leadville which threw my hip, back and neck out of alignment. Getting it sorted out and onwards and upwards from here. Dion Well done at Southern Cross!