Photos and video by Myke Hermsmeyer
Focus. And smiles. That’s how Magda Boulet’s face looked when we saw her throughout the 20 hours and 18 minutes of her winning run at the 2019 Leadville Trail 100 Run. Soon after the predawn start, Magda established her lead which she kept throughout the day. As close as six-minutes at the halfway point in Winfield, her lead eventually grew over an hour at one point in the race… eventually narrowing back to 27 minutes.
It was a banner day with temperatures in the low 70s at lower elevations and cooler up high. The 100-mile course is an out-and-back that climbs 15,600 feet and tops out at 12,600 feet – earning it’s nickname the “Race Across the Sky.” High-alpine weather can change quickly, but the sky stayed mostly clear for the racers.
Runners climb steep, rocky trails to the high point on Hope Pass twice – first at mile 43.5 and again at mile 56.5. Even when a race is on the line, it’s hard not to stop and celebrate the view. On Magda’s return trip over the pass, her pacer Alice Baker was so excited to see the view, she dropped her hat and didn’t notice… even though it was Magda’s race, her motherly instincts kicked in and she jogged back to retrieve the dropped hat.
Magda would be the first to admit it takes a team to run 100 miles – and she has a rockstar team: her husband Richie – always calm and organized, her son Owen bringing the smiles and high fives, and her co-worker Roxanne Vogel, sports nutritionist extraordinaire keeping her nutrition plan dialed.
Along with the crew members, she had two pacers, Alice Baker and Andy Cochrane, that leap-frogged 10-15-mile segments to run with her, chat with her, carry her nutrition, and share the highs and lows that come with an all-day journey “across the sky.”
Like most ultramarathons, the Leadville 100 rules allow runners to pick up a pacer to provide motivation or distractions in the later parts of the race. Unlike most ultras, pacers at Leadville can carry supplies and nutrition for their racer, letting the runner focus on running freely. This unusual rule creates interesting strategies for the runners and their crew and lets runners pass by aid stations without having to stop to fill bottles and resupply on Energy Gels.
Speaking of nutrition… Magda stuck to a steady diet of ROCTANE Energy Drink Mix (which she was able to get from aid-stations along the course), Cold Brew Coffee ROCTANE Energy Gels, and Hoppy Trails Energy Gels.
“She’s ****ing flying!” With the sun briefly at their backs, pacer Andy Cochrane had a giddy smile on his face as they turned north toward the Outward Bound aid station at mile 76.9. At this point, Magda had just broken into the top 10 of the race overall, and they knew their lead over the second place woman was growing. But they weren’t looking back… all focus was directed towards the 23.1 miles of trail they had left to cover.
Switching pacers for a final time with 12.2 mile left to run, Magda powered around Turquoise Lake in the dark. The final four miles climb ever-so-steadily up from the valley to dimly lit streets of downtown Leadville. With her husband and son holding the finishing tape, she crossed the line in 20:18:07.
The first Leadville Trail 100 Run was the brainchild of Kenneth Chlouber back in 1983 as a way to generate revenue for the small town of Leadville, CO. Why 100 miles? According to Ken, if you make people run 100 miles, they are going to stay at least a couple of nights in the town!
The Leadville 100 RUN race has a 30-hour cut-off time. While Magda finished in just over 20 hours, we spent most of the early morning hours cheering on the rest of the Leadville racers who spent even more time out braving the dark trails, pressing on, and pushing their limits to cover the distance. Ken Chlouber fired the shot gun to mark the end of the race at 10 am on Sunday morning, and we are already excited to return for Leadville 2020.