Eric Pence has finished the Leadville Trail 100 Run 20 times. We caught up with him to talk Leadville memories, snowshoeing, and of course, that big buckle.
You achieved your 20th finish in 2014 — how does that buckle feel?
Feels like a heavy dinner plate. It looks great up on my wall.
At what point did you decide to go for 20? Were your finishes consecutive?
I think it was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t look at finishing the race 20 times as the ultimate goal, just part of my enjoyment of running the race. Although coming up 6th street to the finish this time was pretty emotional. I have four DNFs, including the first two years. Nothing like a DNF to get you determined to finish your first 100-miler.
You just took 3rd in the Leadville Snowshoe Half Marathon – is this part of your training, or just something you enjoy?
Both. Snowshoe racing through the winter is a great aerobic and anaerobic workout. It’s a blast and something different to stay fit through the winter months.
What’s your favorite Leadville memory?
Let’s see, one of them is from my first year finish in 1993. I was in great shape that year and felt like I was flying up Hope Pass. Out of nowhere, two Tarahumara Indians that were running that year were suddenly behind me. Quietly and without effort they cruised by me and were gone. Seeing them run in their traditional clothing and the sandals they made out of old tires is a memory that is still vivid in my mind.
We read that Travis Macy is your nephew — does the propensity for ultra/endurance sports run in the family?
Yes, Travis is my nephew and holds the Leadman record. His dad, Mark, got started in endurance events in the 80s, finished Leadville in 1988 and talked me into entering in 1991. My wife, Anne; brother, Brian; and brother-in-law, Tim all have finishes. I think my son will be next. My sisters have been to many races and are the best at crewing and supporting.
What’s your number one piece of advice for someone tackling the 100 for the first time?
I don’t believe there is a number one piece of advice. To finish the 100-miler, many things have to come together. Train hard, but don’t over train or over race. Try a couple of 50-milers, not 10. Be fit and healthy. Take care of nagging injuries and try not to get sick. Then, have the mental attitude that you’ll eat/drink beginning early in the race, not get caught up racing against someone faster, monitor electrolyte ingestion and, finally, keep moving. Ask yourself: How bad do you want to finish?
What’s your tried-and-true method for fueling for the Leadville Trail 100? How has your fueling strategy evolved over the years?
I’ve tried all kinds of fueling strategies and I’ve finally settled on alternating between easily digestible food like gels, fruit and liquid fuel with water and solid food. I’ll start a race by eating a breakfast sandwich and as much coffee as I can consume between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. (which is probably only 12 to 16 ounces). After the race starts, I’ll alternate between easy foods and solid foods. I drink mostly plain water and take electrolyte tablets every hour during the heat of the day. At night, I’ll drink Coke. I find this rotation of calories will keep my stomach working most of the time.