Running 100 miles at 10,200 ft.
summit daily news
Mike Neal is still hurting, nearly two weeks after the Aug. 18 Leadville Trail 100.
If any race longer than a marathon beat up one’s body, 100 miles will truly demolish it.
“I was still buzzing a few days after the race, and then that kind of wore off and I was just tired. I’ve been sleeping a lot,” Neal said. He can’t quite call it feeling sick, but his body is certainly sore, and he’s fatigued.
Neal likes distance so much, he considers Sunday’s Breck Crest Mountain Marathon among the most fun “fun runs” he’s done – which shocked race organizer Jeff Westcott until he heard the comment came from someone who completed the Trail 100.
Neal doesn’t live in Breckenridge anymore – he now runs a Mary’s Mountain Cookies operation in Fort Collins – but he was local for about a decade. He started the marathon track here, at the Breck Crest.
“I caught the bug from doing that fun race, which I still think is one of the more fun races out there,” he said.
From there, he stepped up to 50 milers like the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run in Buena Vista and Steamboat’s Run Rabbit Run last fall.
“That went so good, I figured I’d just go ahead and do it,” Neal said. His first goal was to finish under 30 hours. His second goal was to finish under 25.
“Anywhere under 24 (hours) was the gravy,” the runner said.
He crossed the finish line in 23 hours and 51 minutes.
“It went well. I couldn’t have done it without the two guys who paced me on the way back,” Neal said. As he described the experience, it became clear that Breckenridge friend Teague Holmes and longtime Summit County friend KC McCallum truly did lend a hand to their friend in his quest to conquer Leadville’s course.
As Neal entered a food-starved and dehydrated haze, his friends came in with fresh legs and a fresh attitude.
“It was uplifting,” Neal said. “They made sure I was eating and drinking, and Teague kept saying, ‘Nice and easy, nice and easy.’ “He was coaching me.”
It was all Neal could do to put one foot in front of the other, whether he was hiking the course or running it.
“They took care of me to make sure I was popping gels and eating at the aid stations. Literally, they were telling me to chew my food,” Neal said.
As for the experience of putting mind over body, Neal couldn’t describe it. He used words “daze,” and “buzzing,” but wasn’t able to truly describe what it’s like to be moving for nearly 24 hours.
Except when he came within 13 miles of the finish.
“I didn’t lose it. You’re not tripping. But it was hard,” he said. “You’re just trying to focus on what you’re taking in and keep moving. Even if you have to walk as fast as you can walk to get to get the thing over with.”
Near halfway through the race, he was hurting. He figured he was going to have to walk the next 50 miles. He was dehydrated, it was hot.
“Teague kind of brought me back and got me through the rest,” Neal said. “We mixed the running in. When the going gets tough, you just walk.”
It helps that Neal has always had the ‘keep going and get through it’ mentality.
Neal even went so far as to call the race enjoyable – particularly after his buddies came along.
“It was enjoyable. I was with my buddy and we were just moving right along. He was having a great time because he was part of this amazing race. I was hurting, but I was doing what I like to do,” Neal said.
He likely won’t do the Leadville Trail 100 next year – or any time soon – but he’s not shying away from endurance races. He’s just more keen to try a hiking version rather than the runner’s race.
“The top guys can run almost all of Leadville, except a few sections,” Neal said, explaining that the Leadville course isn’t steep. “There are some races that involve more hiking than running. I’d rather do those because I do better when I’m hiking straight up hills.”
Nicholas Robinson (Frisco) – 16:45
Howard Mayson (Breckenridge) – 17:38
Mike Neal (formerly Breckenridge) – 23:51
Tom Schnitzius (DIllon) – 29:48
Eric Splinter (Frisco) – DNF
Dan Cooper (Breckenridge) – DNF
Ben Broughton (Frisco) – DNF
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