Aspen’s Tiernan second in Leadville 100
August 22, 2012
Zeke Tiernan encountered a curious sight Saturday night as he jogged past Turquoise Lake and neared the finish of the Leadville 100.
“The sun was still in the sky – that’s never happened to me before,” the 36-year-old Aspen native said Tuesday. “I knew at the time I was running pretty fast, but I don’t wear a watch. … I’m almost superstitious about it. I don’t want to know the time until the very end.”
With about four minutes to go, however, Tiernan could not resist the urge any longer. He turned to brother Alex, his pacer, and asked for the time.
It was 8:40 p.m.
“I was shocked and ecstatic,” Tiernan said. “That was (16 hours, 40 minutes) – almost two hours faster than I’ve ever run on that course.”
The Aspen Country Day School history teacher wound up crossing the line in 16:44:20, securing a runner-up finish for the second time in three “Race Across the Sky” appearances (He was third in his 2008 Leadville debut). France’s Thomas Lorblanchet took first in 16:29:28.
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More important, Tiernan produced the fourth-fastest time in race history – an impressive feat considering about three miles were added to this year’s course.
“I’ve thought about a course record, but I never thought I had a legitimate shot at attaining one,” Tiernan admitted. “To be within an hour of it, to me that’s a huge accomplishment. I’m pretty stunned I was able to run that fast.”
Particularly against some top-flight ultra runners. This year’s field included: Mike Aish, a two-time New Zealand Olympian in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters; two-time Leadville champion Anton Krupicka; Nick Clark, who was third at June’s prestigious Western States 100 in California; and Lorblanchet, a Salomon-sponsored athlete making his 100-mile debut.
“He came all the way over from France, so I knew he wasn’t messing around,” Tiernan joked of Lorblanchet. “I didn’t really know what to expect place-wise; I try not to get too involved in running somebody else’s race. I run my race, and things take care of themselves.
“That’s kind of what happened at mile 30. I felt pretty good, and everybody was saying we were on course-record pace. I definitely did not feel ready to set the course record.”
Consequently, Tiernan decided to let the top guys go and settle into fifth place.
“I thought probably that one of the four guys would blow up or come back, but I’d have a hard time getting on the podium,” Tiernan said. “Three guys actually dropped off.”
One was Aish, a former All-American at Western State in Gunnison. Problems with his quads and hip flexors forced the 34-year-old to bow out of the race.
Tiernan, meanwhile, continued to work his way up the leaderboard. He picked off Krupicka and then Clark on the Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb, about 17 miles from the finish.
Catching Lorblanchet was out of the question, however.
“I tried to keep it on the gas as much as I could, but I didn’t think I could close a 15-minute gap in (the final) 13 miles – unless he blew up,” Tiernan said. “I just wanted to run as consistently as I could so Nick couldn’t catch up.”
He succeeded on that front – and even caught a glimpse of Turquoise Lake in the fading daylight.
“At that point, at mile 99 or whatever into the race, all you’re really thinking about is stopping,” Tiernan said “I knew I had ran fast and was pretty happy about that, but more than anything I was happy to be stopping.
“Everything really went pretty smooth. There were a lot of moments of self-doubt where you definitely don’t want to continue, but in terms of my stomach, injuries and soreness … it was uncomfortable but not unmanageable. I had pretty good luck all day.”
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