The Colorado native shares some details about his training and also provides some tips for Leadville rookies.
Zeke Tiernan may have discovered the perfect antidote to the standard taper anxieties associated with the days and weeks leading up to a 100-mile race. He’s spending the days before the 2014 Leadville Trail 100 Run handing out granola bars, making peanut butter sandwiches and playing at the park with his two daughters.
“I like to be well rested for a 100-miler and tend to do a huge taper anyway,” Tiernan said. “We’ve been keeping it light with daddy daycare, pool time, park time and just hanging out.”
Tiernan has finished on the podium each time he’s toed the line at Leadville—coming in third in 2008 with an 18:36, second in 2010 with an 18:25 and second again in 2012 when he crossed the line in 16:44. After taking a year and a half off from competing, the Aspen, Colo. native is returning to face a stacked field, including 2013 winner Ian Sharman.
“I’ve been working on high intensity and high volume,” Tiernan said. “I’ve thrown all of my eggs in the Leadville basket, we’ll see who has their day on Saturday.”
We caught up with Tiernan, 38, a week out from his fourth showing at Leadville, to hear his thoughts about the race.
What makes the Leadville Trail 100 Run so special for you?
Growing up in Colorado, I’ve always known about it, especially since it was so close. It’s captivated my imagination since I was a youth. Just like I’m a Denver Bronco’s fan, Leadville is the race for me. The idea of running 100 miles in the mountains is incredible. After crewing and pacing at the race, I was taken by the spirit of the event and took it on as my audacious endeavor to run it.
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The race and its owner, Lifetime Fitness, have received criticism in recent years about race growth and open entry. Do you agree?
Not really. Leadville the race is about Leadville the town. It was started as a way to revitalize the town, it was meant for profit from the beginning. Yes, it’s an incredible course and a great event, but it’s more. That makes it different from races like Western States or Hardrock. Anyone from anywhere can run it. You can have a dream, pay your entry fee and do it. Leadville isn’t regulated to the hilt. Pacers and muling are allowed. It embodies the Wild West—there is something great about that.
What about the field size? (there are 700 official runners for the 2014 race)
It is a big race. That’s part of what makes it exciting. If you compare Leadville to something like the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in France, with more than 2,000 racers, it really isn’t that large. The out and back course means you will pass everyone, so traffic can be tough. It’s part of the race. But I don’t know what the perfect number is. Race organizers definitely need to make sure they have enough aid station supplies and we all need to respect the environment.
What’s it been like to return to training and racing?
Running long miles in the mountains has felt great—long, singletrack loops are my favorite—but I’m not totally satisfied with my race efforts yet. (In February Tiernan placed fifth at Utah’s Moab Red Hot 55K, and he finished seventh at the Quad Rock 50-miler in Fort Collins, Colo., in May.) As for training, I just run. Between spending time with my family and working as a middle school teacher, I don’t have time for two-a-day workouts or a lot of cross-training. Logging miles is the best use of my training time. I did lots of treadmill intervals over the winter and then my mileage went up in the spring. During the summer I run as many long days as I can—with “long” being at least three hours. I’ve also fit in several 8-10 hour runs this summer. My mom has helped us quite a bit with the girls.
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Do you have any tips for Leadville rookies?
— The course lends itself to going out too fast, so pace yourself.
— Don’t crush the downhill just because you can, pace yourself on that too.
— For going up Hope Pass (both times!), keep it sustainable. You want to be able to keep moving without completely taxing yourself.
— Choose pacers based upon those who can motivate you. I need to have an emotional connection with my pacers.
— Drinking Coke is key for me from mile 50 to the finish.
Editor’s Note: Started in 1983, the Leadville 100 Trail Run takes racers on an out-and-back route through the Colorado Rockies at elevations ranging from 9,200 to 12,600 feet. The 2014 event begins on Saturday, Aug. 16.