Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mountain Men

Written by: Michelle Kempton
Published in: Sports Stream

Ray Williams and Dave Nevitt have managed to do what no other Nova Scotian runner has done before, they conquered the legendary Leadville Trail 100 Run. This epic race is known by ultra-marathon enthusiasts as the “Race Across the Sky”. Participants have less than 30 hours to run through 100 miles of extreme Colorado Rocky Mountain terrain.

The majority of the route is forest trails with some mountain roads. The highest point of the race is Hope Pass at 12,600 feet. Leadville finishers rightfully earn respect throughout the running community as courageous and phenomenal runners. Every year, amazing athletes train and attempt the race but unfortunately some fail to complete it. In 2011, 46% of the participants did not finish under the 30 hour deadline. Projectile vomiting, numb limbs, muscles cramps, fainting and falling down steep inclines are common for runners in this race. Participants know this, but they still sign-up!

It takes guts, endurance and extreme will-power to fight excessive body and mental fatigue, high altitudes, and the excessive pain involved in running this length of time and intensity without sleep or much time to even sit and rest. But that’s what it takes to succeed at this race, both Williams and Nevitt demonstrated all of these characteristics with impressive finish times of 27:13:24 hours for Williams (age 57) and 28:55:06 hours for Nevitt (age 52). In order to prepare for this race, Williams and Nevitt (experienced ultra-marathoners) committed to training for a year. It wouldn’t be uncommon for them to run over 25-hill repeats up the steepest of our city’s hills or go for an 80 kilometer run.

The amount of training and commitment needed to prepare for Leadville is mind-boggling to even the most avid runner. Both Williams and Nevitt credit their race crew as an essential component to help them complete this race well under the deadline of 30 hours. Along the route, Cathy Carter, Tyler Reddy and Malcolm Paine provided support along the entire journey of training and race-day. For the first 50-miles of Leadville, the crew helped Williams and Nevitt change footwear, apply sun block, have a change of clothes ready and provided a variety of food and drinks at every aid station.

The clock was ticking, the runners had to keep moving. Having an organized crew enabled the runners to use the rest-stop as a place to sit and refuel, then quickly continue on without having to fumble to find the essentials to keep them going. For the last 50-miles, Williams and Nevitt were allowed to have pacers. Carter (age 40), Reddy (age 28) and Paine (age 74 and tough as nails) all ran impressive distances of this race through difficult terrain, many of the miles in the dark.

They motivated their runners and encouraged them until they reached the finish line. Williams and Nevitt say their friends pacing portions of the last 50-miles were an integral part of their success at Leadville and feel an infinite amount of appreciation and gratitude for their efforts. Anyone who has stayed awake for 24 hours understands how difficult sleep deprivation can be on the body and mind, now imagine running up and down mountains the entire time!

The Leadville race pushes participants to limits most people will never experience, regardless of if you beat the clock or not, Leadville will change you forever.

Michelle Kempton is a half-marathon runner that co-founded the Heart & Sole Running Club ( in Dartmouth. Follow her on twitter @runindartmouth or visit her website: