I had never run more than 40 miles – in my life. But this summer I ran 309 miles for the Leadville 100K Challenge for 41 days, and I'm not even a runner.
It takes a certain level of Determination (and stupidity) essentially getting off the couch to complete a 100,000 foot challenge. It just so happens that determination and stupid ideas are my specialty.
In fact, prior to participating in the Leadville 100K Challenge, I had only run 40 miles in my life for a total of 9,000 feet vert. And, oh yeah, I was at least 50 pounds overweight. Nevertheless I signed up.
The Leadville 100K, a do-it-yourself season challenge, contestants dared to go outside and run. The Goal: Try to get 100,000 feet of vertical gain over a 10 week period. My newfound interest in trail running, combined with my COVID lockdown motto "Let's see what my body can do," made me think about giving it a try. Living in Colorado and wanting to climb some of the most amazing peaks in America got me over the edge.
Now on the other side of 100K, I can say my life has not been the same since I made that decision.
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Mindset before the challenge
It is not easy to face a challenge Leadville Trail Series – Not even in a year that Races are canceled and the world is wavering from a pandemic. Therefore, of course, the organizers of the series decided to remind everyone that the adventure will not be canceled. Nature is not canceled. And, as I would learn, human triumph is emphatically not canceled out by pain, suffering, and sheer will.
<img class = "size-full wp-image-101172″ title=”100k Vert Challenge Bryce Denton” src=”https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k.jpeg” alt=”100,000 vert challenge bryce denton "width =" 1200 "height =" 1600 "srcset =" https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k.jpeg 1200w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-225×300.jpeg 225w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/ Uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-768×1024.jpeg 768w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-525×700.jpeg 525w, https : //s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-600×800.jpeg 600w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-620×827.jpeg 620w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-588×784.jpeg 588w, https: //s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-294×392.jpeg 294w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/ 2020 / 10 / bryce-denton-100k-382×509.jpeg 382w, https: // s3 .amazonaws.com / images.ge arjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-191×255.jpeg 191w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-300×400 .jpeg 300w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-675×900.jpeg 675w, https: // s3 .amazonaws.com / images.gearjunkie .com / uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-450×600.jpeg 450w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/ bryce-denton-100k-610×813. jpeg 610w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-838×1117.jpeg 838w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie. com / uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-75×100.jpeg 75w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-150×200.jpeg 150w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-1122×1496.jpeg 1122w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com /uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k-840×1120.jpeg 840w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images .gearjunkie.com / uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-687×916.jpeg 687w , https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-denton-100k- 414×552.jpeg 414w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/ uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-denton-100k-354×472.jpeg 354w "sizes =" (maximum width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px”/>The author cools off in the snow during a trail run on a 13-meter summit; Photo credit: Bryce Denton.
Except … I'm not a runner. In all honesty, in the past I gave up sporting activities when they got tough and I was never a strong finisher. So this challenge was basically a huge exercise to uncover and overcome my worst traits.
At the end of 10 weeks, I had climbed 100,757 meters in altitude to 309 miles over 41 running days. And in those 41 days everything has changed – my body, my mindset and my way of life. At the end of the challenge, I couldn't imagine a world where I wouldn't wake up at 4 a.m. to run.
Mental and physical obstacles
I was born with a body designed for strength and short bursts of speed. To give you an idea, my junior soccer coach's nickname to me was "The Tank". I like sports like hockey, skiing and lately climbing.
I'm not naturally built to walk long distances or spend hours climbing mountains. I was also born with a mild heart rhythm disorder. Every time I ran for a long time, my heart felt like it was never going to recover.
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A challenge like the Leadville 100K is not only physically but also mentally challenging. I'd heard that trail running is both mental and physical, that it is a hell of a lot harder to break through mental barriers than to expand physical ones.
I've learned firsthand how true this really is. Getting on the trail and pushing through the miles and verts proved the easy part.
<img class = "size-full wp-image-101178 alignnone” title=”Leadville 100k Vert Challenge Runner” src=”https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2.jpeg” alt=”Leadville 100k Vert Challenge "width =" 2400 "height =" 1584 "srcset =" https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2.jpeg 2400w , https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-300×198.jpeg 300w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie. com / uploads / 2020/10 / leadville-100k-vert-challen2-768×507.jpeg 768w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2 -700×462.jpeg 700w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-1200×792.jpeg 1200w, https://s3.amazonaws.com /images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-600×396.jpeg 600w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville- 100k-vert-Challenge2-1240×818.jpeg 1240w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-620×409.jpeg 620w, https: // s3.amazonaws.com/images.g earjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-588×388.jpeg 588w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/ 2020/10 / leadville-100k-vert -challenge2-294×194.jpeg 294w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-382×252.jpeg 382w, https : //s3.amazonaws .com / images.gearjunkie.com / uploads / 2020/10 / leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-191×126.jpeg 191w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/ uploads / 2020/10 / Leadville-100k-Vert-Challenge2-500×330.jpeg 500w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-1000×660 .jpeg 1000w, https: //s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-200×133.jpeg 200w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images .gearjunkie.com / uploads /2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-1220×805.jpeg 1220w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k- vert-challenge2-610×403. JPEG 610w, https: //s3.a mazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-838×553.jpeg 838w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images .gearjunkie.com / uploads / 2020/10 /leadville-100k-vert-challenge2-152×100.jpeg 152w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/leadville-100k- vert-challenge2-303×200.jpeg 303w "sizes =" (maximum width: 2400px) 100vw, 2400px”/>
The mental challenge of running and hiking 100,000 vertical feet over 10 weeks was far more strenuous. There was planning – spreadsheets, hours on AllTrails, and reading weather reports. Then, here in Colorado, the cancellation of runs due to smoke, forest fires, and poor air quality just added a psychological aspect.
The greatest challenge of all
And then there was the discipline I needed to calm my inner critic.
Are you sure you should do this You're too fat for that. Nobody out here looks like you. Don't be stupid. Simply cancel and save yourself the time. What makes you think you can do this?
To be completely honest, my inner critic almost knocked me down several times – up to the last two weeks. At this point, I was almost certain I was going to finish, but that voice was making one final effort to interfere with my spiritual and physical growth.
Fortunately, the other voice that pushed me forward – the one that grew louder with each week of the challenge – won the fight.
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Leadville 100K Challenge: How I've Changed
I came out of this challenge mentally fit than ever before. I started this challenge with immense doubts and negative self-talk. But I showed up 10 weeks later with a new self-confidence, a healthy body and a mental resilience that will benefit me physically, professionally and personally.
The way I look at my body, myself, and the world around me has changed dramatically. I am beginning to understand after years of body shame that the appearance of your body often has very little to do with how it can function.
Many of us have heard this before, of course, but I never quite believed it until I got my stubborn self asserted. While I still have something to do to feel my healthiest, I accept who I am today as more than sufficient to take on the day's challenge, whatever that may be.
I never expected that this challenge would change my body, let alone my mindset. I just wanted to continue my COVID-19 lockdown motto: "Let's see what your body can do". But over the course of this challenge, I learned so much more about myself than I expected. Sometimes it was worth signing up for a destination that feels so far out of reach.
COVID-19 stole a lot from me this year. But this challenge presented me with something I really never thought I would find: self-love, a healthy body image, and acceptance of who I am.
My advice if you want to tackle a 100K vert challenge or something similar: When you sign up, reach out to your friends and let them help you. Thank them when you're grumpy and they keep smiling and cheering you on. Lean on your dog for assistance. (Thank you to my 10 year old lab lab technician Annabella for helping me keep a nice, relaxing pace.)
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Leadville 100K Challenge: The Gear I used
It took a lot of things to complete this challenge, but here are the gear I've used the most.
- All Trails Pro: I've used AllTrails for years without signing up for pro services and now I realize what a mistake that was. For big adventures, the ability to download the maps and use them offline is a legitimate time and life saver. Do it now. You will not regret it.
- Altra Timp 2.0: The ultra-padded Altra Timp 2.0 with a wide toe box and zero drops was like a dream on my foot. While a lot of people have thought the upper was tight compared to the Timp 1.5, I promise you it'll collapse after a mile or three. The Timp 2.0 is a far superior and more responsive shoe than the previous 1.5 model. Available in Ladies and Men's Models.
- Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0: I wasn't disappointed when I bought the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0. It was perfect for my little days and had more than enough storage space for my biggest day – nearly 17 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing. On that big day, I carried 4.5 liters of water (a 2.5 liter reservoir and four 500 ml Body II bottles) and used every drop. While carrying my cell phone, baby wipes, IcyHot, earbuds, gels and a sandwich. This really is a fantastic all-round vest.
<img class = "wp-image-101174 size-full” title=”used gear 100k vert” src=”https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert.jpg” alt=”used gear 100k vert "width =" 2200 "height =" 1500 "srcset =" https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert.jpg 2200w , https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-300×205.jpg 300w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie. com / uploads / 2020/10 / used-gear-100k-vert-768×524.jpg 768w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert -700×477.jpg 700w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-1200×818.jpg 1200w, https://s3.amazonaws.com /images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-600×409.jpg 600w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used- gear-100k-vert-1240×845.jpg 1240w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-620×423.jpg 620w, https: // s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-588×401.jpg 588w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearju nkie.com/uploads/ 2020/10 / used-gear-100k-vert-294×200.jpg 294w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k -vert-382×260.jpg 382w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-191×130.jpg 191w, https: //s3.amaz onaws .com / images.gearjunkie.com / uploads / 2020/10 / used-gear-100k-vert-1220×832.jpg 1220w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10 / used-gear-100k-vert-610×416.jpg 610w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-838×571.jpg 838w, https : //s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-147×100.jpg 147w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/ uploads /2020/10/used-gear-100k-vert-293×200.jpg 293w "sizes =" (maximum width: 2200px) 100vw, 2200px”/>The equipment used by the author after 100,000 feet vert: left the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 5.0; Right, the Altra Timp 2.0s.
- fuel: Every runner will have unique nutritional needs, but for me the combination of spring energy and tail wind was perfect. As a taller runner on massive vert days, my calorie needs were definitely higher than the average runner. So I went with that Spring energy SpeedNut with caffeine (250 calories) and the wolf pack (300 calories and oh so delicious) as staple food. I was especially excited to try that Tailwind nutrition Product for two reasons. First, it's made locally in Colorado, and second, I've lost a ton of salt through sweating, and a high-sugar diet has kept me from bonking. That's how I became a huge fan of Tailwinds of caffeinated endurance fuel. Each scoop contains 300 mg of sodium and 25 g of sugar. And you can mix it in water. Let's face it, you don't want to eat a gel all the time, and liquid calories are easy to keep low.
<img class = "size-full wp-image-101176 alignnone” title=”100k vert challenge equipment” src=”https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items.jpg” alt=”100k vert Challenge Equipment "width =" 2200 "height =" 1500 "srcset =" https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items.jpg 2200w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-300×205.jpg 300w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie .com / uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-100k-gear-items-768×524.jpg 768w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear- items-700×477.jpg 700w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-1200×818.jpg 1200w, https: //s3.amazonaws. com / images.gearjunkie.com / uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-100k-gear-items-600×409.jpg 600w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce -100k-gear-items-1240×845.jpg 1240w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-620×423.jpg 620w, https: / /s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-588×401.jpg 588w, https: // s 3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads /2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-294×200.jpg 294w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020 / 10 / bryce-100k-gear-items-382×260. jpg 382w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-191×130.jpg 191w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images. gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-1220×832.jpg 1220w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie. com / uploads / 2020/10 / bryce-100k-gear-items-610×416.jpg 610w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items -838×571.jpg 838w, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-147×100.jpg 147w, https://s3.amazonaws.com /images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2020/10/bryce-100k-gear-items-293×200.jpg 293w "sizes =" (max width: 2200px) 100vw, 2200px”/>
- Suunto 9 Baro: This watch has way too many features to list, but it has been invaluable in keeping me updated during this challenge. I used the Baro because I thought it would be a nice feature to be able to measure altitude – and therefore vert – with both air pressure and GPS.
- Friends. As cheesy as it sounds, the most important piece of equipment I had throughout this challenge was the one closest to me. Without their constant support, check-ins – and dog-watching services – there was no way I would have successfully completed this challenge. A good crew is just as critical to success as all of the equipment listed above combined.
Next on my runner's journey: The Mad Moose Events Rattler Trail 50 km on October 24th. Let's see what my body can do.
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With a deeply rooted love for the mountains, Bryce moved his beloved black lab, Annabella, to Colorado for daily access to the state's natural beauty. As an enthusiastic trail runner, skier and climber, he keeps discovering new places that take his breath away. Follow his adventures on Instagram @ bden10.