Carbondale’s Graubins gallant in grueling event
There are those who run the Leadville Trail 100 ultramarathon. And then there are those who race it.Count Carbondale’s Garett Graubins as a racer.In 21 hours, 20 minutes and change, Graubins covered the infamous and grueling stretch of dirt from downtown Leadville to the ghost town of Winfield – and back – to finish eighth overall last Sunday.For Graubins, 31, senior editor at the Carbondale-based Trail Runner magazine, it marked his first top-10 finish in six career 100-milers, and one of the best Leadville 100 finishes for a valley resident in recent history.”Definitely a dream race for me; I’ve wanted to break the top 10, but you never know if you have it in you,” Graubins said. “So I’m very honored to break the top 10, because it was a very competitive field.” Graubins, of course, knew the field – his rivals are often sources and subjects. He said ultramarathoning fanatics make up a small crew.
“It’s a pretty odd little subculture,” he said. “For some people, it’s one of those boxes they want to check on their life’s list. For others, like me maybe, they get addicted to it and they go back again and again.”Of the 405 starters at 4 a.m. Saturday, 194 finished inside the 30-hour cutoff time. (That’s a 48 percent finish rate, well up from the 40 percent average since it all began in 1983.) And of the finishers, only 43 came in under 25 hours, the gold belt buckle benchmark (versus the silver for sub-30 hours).The winner, Paul DeWitt of Colorado Springs, set a new Leadville course record (17:16:19), and a certain maniac from Seattle, Scott Jurek, was second (18:01:46).Leadville’s “Race Across the Sky” is one of 33 100-milers in the United States and, as one of the four most prestigious races in ultramarathoning, is part of the “Grand Slam” of the sport. And Jurek, Graubins explained, is in the middle of a record-breaking run in the “Grand Slam,” based on cumulative time from the same year in the Western States 100 in California in June, the Vermont 100 in July, the Leadville 100 this month, and, next month, the Wasatch Front 100.”Now that’s serious,” Graubins laughed. “All told it’s 400 miles and 67,000 feet of climbing – in four races inside four months.”Graubins, a three-time Leadville finisher, said every 100-mile race is an odyssey, but this one was special.
“It’s like you experience the full spectrum of emotions all crammed into one day. Times when you’re feeling really low, times when it’s complete euphoria, never felt better in your life, you’re laughing … All the emotions are right there at the surface.”We had a little heat, some sunshine, some hail, some torrential downpours and the temperatures got down into the 20s at night. So it throws a little bit of everything at you.”The finish, however, is not what it might appear.”Surprisingly anticlimactic,” he said. “What’s the saying? The reward is the journey and not the end? You’d think it’s this huge celebration, people cheering, but it wasn’t anything like that.”In fact, it was 1:20 a.m. Sunday and downtown Leadville was deserted.”I finished with my wife, Holly, who ran the last five miles with me, and there were two friends of ours there, the two race directors there clapping, a medical person and that’s it. … And you’re so exhausted at that point it’s tough to muster any emotions,” he said.
Graubins went to a friend’s house in Leadville and went to bed. At 6:30 a.m., though, he awoke and dragged himself back to the start/finish to watch the final runners trickle in before the 10 a.m. cutoff. As is custom, the very last person over the line receives the “Last Ass Over the Pass” award.”If anyone wants to see what this race is about, watch the last hour at the finish,” said Graubins. “That’s when people have to dig deep – arguably much deeper than the people who finished in the time I did.”They’ve been out all night, seen two suns come up and they’re watching their watch hoping they can make it in time. That’s when we saw Aron Ralston. To see him coming across the line holding his mom’s hand, it was touching.”Ralston, the Aspen adventurer, finished with less than 20 minutes to spare. Basalt’s Gilles Cote, another valley competitor, finished in just over 25 hours.”I think a lot of people mistakenly think, ‘Oh, that guy did it all by himself,'” Graubins said. “But we all have crews out there with us, friends and family, and pacers who run the last 50 miles with us. And without that, there’s no way I could’ve finished this. They keep you motivated and inspired throughout.”
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