‘One of the hardest days of my life’ — Steamboat ultra-runner takes third in Leadville 100
Devon Olson isn’t sure why he runs long distances.
“Quite honestly, every single time I run 100 miles, when I’m out there, I’m like, ‘What in the hell am I doing out here? This is ridiculous,’” he said. “You can’t really put any logic behind it. … You’re trying to challenge yourself in the best way possible. I think there’s something important about pushing yourself to the extreme every once in a while, like you feel like you’re gonna step off the edge and you don’t.”
Bringing his body to the edge once more, the Steamboat Springs resident competed in the Leadville Trail 100 on Saturday, Aug. 17, taking third with a time of 17 hours, 57 minutes and 17 seconds.
“I think it was one of the hardest days of my life, honestly,” he said.
Olson, 31, started fast, holding the lead for the first 12.6 miles, zipping along at a 7:39 mile pace. By the 23.5 mile mark, Olson had dropped back to fourth, but just ahead of the halfway point, he took over third place where he remained the rest of the way until he finished, averaging a 10:44 pace.
He had no idea someone was so close in front of him, but Olson finished less than a minute behind the second-place finisher. He was more than an hour behind the winner, who completed the route in 16:33.24.
Two years ago, Olson won the Silver Rush 50-mile trail race at Leadville, earning a course record with a time of 6 hours, 53 minutes and 26 seconds.
As a seasoned ultra-marathon runner, Olson knows his body is capable of completing such a lofty feat. It’s the mental game that gets tough.
“Like everything in life, it will end,” Olson said. “I just have to keep telling myself that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s such a small part of your life, in terms of time. You just have to remind yourself that, even though you’re experiencing some of the most difficult moments of your life, eventually, it’s going to be worth it if you just hang on to the end.”
Olson said the biggest challenge isn’t just finishing, but finishing strong. He doesn’t want to slug across the line, but instead, keep up an ‘objectively-fast’ pace, maintain a healthy form, and proudly run the final 20 miles into the finish.
“You don’t want to run anymore, or you want to quit, or jog it in,’ he said. “It’s really hard to get yourself after a certain point to push yourself in a way that you’re running legitimately fast, not just what feels fast.”
Olson didn’t suffer any injuries, although by the end, he certainly hurt. He said he didn’t ingest any solid food throughout the day, relying on sugar, salt pills and water to keep his body going.
For the first 50 miles, Olson couldn’t accept any help. From then on, he was allowed a pacer. There were also many aid stations, some of which you can meet up with personal crew members who help him restock and hand him things such as a soda or a ginger beer.
“I really try to get the hell out of those aid stations as fast as I can,” he said. “Every second counts when it comes down to it.”
While he plans to pace his girlfriend over part of the 100-mile Run Rabbit Run race, Olson doesn’t have any races on the horizon.
“I’m looking forward to taking the rest of the season off,” he said.
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