It’s the 35th Anniversary of the Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Trail 100 Run! Over the next few months, we’ll be catching up with former LT100 Run winners to get the inside scoop on the race, tips on training and how winning the Leadville Trail 100 Run impacted their lives.
This week, we are catching up with 2008 Leadville Trail 100 Run Female Champion Helen Cospolich.
LRS: What inspired you to run the Leadville Trail 100?
I love running in the mountains, and since I live in Breckenridge this was a natural choice for my first 100-mile race. Of course, when I first ran the LT100, you could register for the race up until the week before the event and it didn’t fill up. Ultrarunning was a sport that not many people did at the time, especially women, but I had a few friends who liked to run long in the mountains and who did this race annually. We were part of the early ultrarunning scene in Colorado and this race was the goal of many in that group. I have run the race 4 times.
LRS: What was the most memorable part of running the Leadville Trail 100?
Of course, winning the race was pretty memorable, but so was just finishing the first time I did the event. I really had no idea what it would be like to run 100 miles as the farthest I had gone up until that point was 50 miles. I finished the race with what was probably 2 sprained ankles, after limping the last 10 miles, and slept in the back of a pickup truck in the cold. But I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment after the race that I had never experienced before. Also, the year I won the weather turned bad in the second half of the race, and it actually snowed going up Powerline on the way back. In the end, I think that benefitted me because I had come prepared for any kind of mountain condition, and many others had not. And my family certainly can’t forget how I had to nurse my child at the aid stations one year!
LRS: What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone who is thinking about running the Leadville Trail 100?
Altitude training is key for this event if you don’t already live at altitude. While the course is challenging, the most difficult part about it is just being at altitude the entire race. Also, when training in the mountains, don’t forget to work on leg speed as you’ll benefit from it in the flatter portions of this course.
LRS: How did winning the Leadville Trail 100 Run affect your life?
Winning this race opened up so many running opportunities for me! After the race, I joined The North Face team, and was lucky to be invited to race ultrarunning events around the world. The LT100 is basically what put me in the more “elite” ranks of ultrarunners for a portion of my career. And while I have enjoyed race experiences all over the globe, it holds a special place in my heart as the race in my backyard and one of the original ultra-distance events in Colorado.
LRS: What have you been up to since you won?
Since I won, I have raced more than 75 ultramarathons around the world. This includes the Hardrock 100 (3rd place), Western States 100 (11th place), UTMB 166K (6th place), TNF Ecuador 70K (1st place), TNF Costa Rica 70K (1st Place), Ultra Trail Monte Rosa Stage Race (6th place), and many more. I have also raised a child and have spent the past 15 years working for the Town of Breckenridge in Colorado. Most recently, I have raced several long-course triathlons and I’m finding excitement in multisport events. This year I will be running the Highland Fling 50 in Scotland, and the Ultra Trail Monte Rosa Stage Race in Switzerland. I love to travel to run and experience new places, and ultrarunning is the best way to do that!