Posted on October 4th, 2011 *Post last modified on October 4th, 2012
Debbie Burry, a regular customer at the Apex Center, recently completed one of the world’s most challenging endurance events…the 2011 Leadville 100. It’s a 100-mile odyssey by foot—on trails, up and down passes and through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Rockies, to be completed in 30 hours or less.
“It’s called the Leadville Trail 100 Run, but realistically, in a lot of spots you aren’t running,” Debbie said. “For example, it’s pretty difficult to run up Hope Pass, which is steep and has an elevation of 12,600 feet.” Nonetheless, Debbie ran, walked, jogged and hiked the distance in 29 hours and 39 minutes, less than the required time to be considered a finisher. She has also resolved to take on the challenge again. “It was a fantastic event, and I plan to do it next year, so the training will continue.”
How does a person summon the courage, stamina and strength to take on such a challenge? For Debbie, it started with a suggestion from her boyfriend Darryl Lawrence, who competes in the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. Debbie had been part of Darryl’s support crew on the bike race, and in that role, she was aware of the level of commitment and support needed to complete challenging endurance events. “He told me ‘If anyone can do it (the 100-mile trail run), you can.’” So the idea was planted and began to take root.
Like any big goal, Debbie took a lot of steps to get there. Part of her journey included regular visits to the Apex Center, starting about a year ago. She and her friend Peggy Sue Hazlett decided to work out together after Peggy Sue quit smoking. They began on the indoor track, then included visits to the weight room, step and body sculpting classes, Cycle Burn and swimming. Goal setting and perseverance paid off, and Peggy Sue recently completed the Foothills Feat and Tri for the Cure.
Meanwhile, Debbie had her eyes on the 100-mile event to come. She’d run marathons in the past, but those are “only” 26.2 miles long – just over a fourth of the distance for the Leadville 100. “I worked on a goal of one marathon a month, plus a 50K trail running event. I also did a run to Sedalia for a birthday party. It was really hot but I made it 31 miles before calling for a ride.”
Even though Debbie told this story with a laugh, it illustrates one of the most important attributes of a successful endurance athlete: knowing your own body and its limits. Pushing beyond routine human boundaries is part of the experience, but so is finding a balance and fine-tuning one’s self-awareness.
As part of that, Debbie plans to spend more time focusing on the nutritional aspect of training. “The medical director of the event described it as an eating marathon with running in between.” Staying nourished and hydrated is one of the most difficult aspects of endurance running. The gastrointestinal system is affected just as much, if not more, than feet, knees and lungs. Debbie tries to eat “real” food, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels and almonds, although she sometimes fills in with some of the special concoctions used by endurance athletes.
All the runners rely on their support crews to provide food, water, clothing and medical supplies along the route. The crews carefully plan to supply needed items as their runners reach aid stations along the way. “It’s very stressful for the crews, because they worry about how their runner is doing if they’re a little late, whether they have all the right supplies and so forth.” Runners usually have about six people on her support crew, including pace runners, which are permitted after the participant completes the first 50 miles.
“The best thing about this event is the support, not just from the crew, but from the entire community. People are awesome; they just live for this event.” Many volunteers participate in every aspect of the race, from marking the trail to presenting the awards at the end. “Their number one concern is safety. There’s always someone around; you’re never alone.” Considering the event’s 4 a.m. start time and route through many isolated areas, that’s a huge challenge from an event-planning standpoint.
The Leadville Trail 100 Run is the sixth in a legendary race series held each summer in Leadville. These are the Leadville Trail Marathon, the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mountain Bike Race or Run, Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, the Leadville Trail 10K Run and the Leadville Trial 100 Run. Those who complete five of these six events earn the title of Leadman and Leadwoman – this year there were 68 starters in this competition and 25 finishers.
Debbie plans to participate in the Trail Marathon, set for the 4th of July, to get her bearings and see how her body reacts. She also plans to include more cross-training, mountain biking and longer runs in this year’s regimen. However, she has no plans to go for Leadwoman…yet!
In looking at the photo of her at the finish line, it’s hard to believe anyone could look that good after such an effort. She modestly attributes it to adrenaline, but the fact is, plenty of time and hard work went into her achievement…and a lot of support and encouragement too. Congratulations, Debbie, and thanks for inspiring us!