The fight for a belt buckle at the finish line. This is not the only reason you’ll brave the incredible Leadville 100 course, but it’s likely going to be one of the top memories as you cross that finish line.
Considerations for Leadville
As individuals train and prepare for this fantastic course, there are quite a few considerations. First and foremost, the altitude. You start around 10,000 feet and reach heights of 12,600 feet. In total, the course elevation gain/loss is roughly 18,000 feet. Wow. With this type of course, you’ll need to ensure you’re hydrating and fueling more so than you typically would.
For my ultra-runners out there, I know you are already (hopefully!) taking in quite a bit, but we’re going to up that even more. You may be asking yourself what needs to change at these heights and with this type of terrain? You’re losing more fluids every hour, your body is working harder every hour, and therefore, you’ll need to increase fluids, electrolytes, and fuel (carbohydrates) you take in. Aim for the higher end of the nutrient (hydration and carbohydrate) ranges you set yourself throughout the course.
In addition to this, you must be prepared for changing temperatures. It might be cold at one point and hot at another. Pack options for fueling and hydration to account for this. At aid stations, if it’s a bit cool or you’re feeling a bit cold, try and grab some broth or quick noodles if available. This packs in nutrients like sodium and fluids, but will also help to warm you up. As temperatures rise, look for icy beverages. Add ice to your hydration packs to ensure you keep your body temperature from overheating. Moreover, you can get stoked up on the C30 Ice Gel from NEVERSECOND to keep in a cooler if you're able, but we know that may be tough.
There are a total of 12 aid stations on course at the Leadville 100 run, 2 of which only have Coca Cola and water. These are placed roughly every 10 miles or so and some aid stations allow crew and some do not.
Of note: Mayqueen is a new aid station this year.
Aid 1: Mayqueen at 12.6 miles
Aid 2: Outward Bound at 23.5 miles
Aid 3: Half Pipe at 29.3 miles
Aid 4: Mini Mount Elbert (Coca Cola and Water ONLY) at 35.4 miles
Aid 5: Twin Lakes Village at 37.9 miles
Aid 6: Hope Pass at 43.5 miles
Aid 7: Winfield (turnaround point)
Aid 8: Hope Pass at 56.7
Aid 9: Twin Lakes at 62 miles
Aid 10: Mini Mount Elbert (Coca Cola and Water ONLY) at 70.3 miles
Aid 11: Outward Bound at 76.9 miles
Aid 12: Mayqueen at 87.4 miles
When it comes to nutrition strategy, you want to ensure you’re taking adequate fuel and hydration to get you from one aid to another, but to also ensure you’re not packing way more than you’ll need. Carrying too much fluid and/or fuel can get heavy really quick... especially later on in the race when even lifting your feet one step or chewing on one more thing feels like it might be too much.
Typically for ultra running, you can comfortably sit around 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour and be ok due to the lower intensity level but longer duration of activity. However, that is not the case for a race such as Leadville due to the many complexities of the course, including intensity of the course, altitude, and temperature. As a result, you want to aim for the higher end of the 60-90 grams of carbohydrates range every hour that you are out there. Try to get as close to 90 grams as you can, especially earlier on to keep the tank high.
This could be through a combination of drink mixes, savory options like rice cakes (Styrkr Bar 50), bars (Maurten SOLID), quick cooking noodles that just need boiling water like ramen (which doubles from a sodium and possibly fluid side of things!), as well as gels/chews. Some options may be better consumed at the aids like the noodles; however, drink mixes with both sodium and carbohydrates will be your best friend to reduce the amount you need to carry, open, and chew on.
At altitudes as high as 12,000 feet, you’ll need to ensure hydration is a well-oiled machine. This is because you will be losing more fluids at these heights than you do at sea level, for example, through the air you breathe and the hard work your body is doing to achieve the unimaginable. As a result, aim for the higher end of the 16-24 ounces of fluid per hour each hour you’re out there. I know this sounds insane, but you’ll likely be looking for even more than 24 ounces of fluid an hour. In the heat at sea level, I am someone who needs at least 30 ounces of fluid an hour, so really, what I am trying to say here is that you want to be sipping on your hydration constantly to stay adequately hydrated aiming to consume at least 24 ounces per hour.
The other factor to consider is electrolytes. This is mainly going to be sodium as this is what we lose the most of in our sweat when compared to the other electrolytes. For healthy individuals with no prior medical conditions, we recommend starting around 300-600mg of sodium per hour. Some great examples of this are Skratch Labs Hydration, Victus During (02), and Flow Formulas. For Leadville 100 - aim for at least 600mg of sodium to start.
For my salty and heavy sweaters out there, you may even go upwards of 1000mg of sodium per hour. That would be made possible through using a higher sodium drink mix or supplementing with PH Packets or Capsules. If you’re out there and you’re starting to cramp or feel a bit fuzzy, this is likely a sign you need more hydration (both electrolytes and fluid) so bump it up. Always be sure to let someone know if this is what you’re feeling too as you may need further assistance.
For anyone out there running Leadville 100, or anyone out there with a big ultra race or race at high altitude on the horizon, what are you fueling and hydrating with?
Lastly, one final tip I have (that I learned through trial and error myself) is to always back some lip balm with SPF. I know this sounds super simple, but your lips are going to get dry/sticky as you’re out there and this can make it hard to want to continue drinking and eating. Continue to reapply hour after hour to ensure that you’re able to get in all the much needed nutrients your body will require while out there on course.
What are some of your favorite “hidden” tips that you’ve learned from trial and error?