Cole Chlouber was nine years old the year the Leadville Trail 100 Run began. We talked with the son of legendary founder Ken Chlouber about the race and the town that capture the hearts of so many, including his own.
Give us the scoop on your personal history running and pacing the Leadville Trail 100.
I gave the LT100 Run a go for the first time in 1995, at the age of 21 when I was trained for college cross-country running more than even say, a marathon. Let’s just say not only did it not work out, I did not even truly return to running until 2011, which was the year of my second attempt. (Oddly, I remember many racers’ kids dreaming of finishing at 21, which was the youngest legal age until 2011).
I do have a lengthy history with the LT100 MTB as well, but we can talk about that later.
My running record for the LT100 Run is two for three. When I joke with my father that my finish rate rivals are Dean Karnazes and Anton Krupicka, he reminds me of Bill Finkbeiner [30-time finisher].
I have paced my father over Hope Pass more times than I can count, starting when I was around age 12. Hope Pass is actually my favorite part of the course; it feels most like home.
What are you looking forward to about running it this year?
In 2011 I would’ve said finishing. Today my answer is much different. I look forward to a family reunion with my LT100 family, all of you. I also look forward to a return home, to play in the mountains that formed me – a mountainous homecoming – and I plan to take full advantage.
What has pacing taught you about the race? What did you learn from running the race that you didn’t learn from pacing? Any big surprises?
The only two runners I have paced are my father and Mike Monahan. Between those two you may be looking at a long list. Beyond running and pacing, I have done sweep numerous times for the event. The biggest lesson I’ve learned was during sweep, and that is that you don’t bet against your fellow man or woman, ever. No matter one’s body type, training, or place in life, you can’t see their heart and heart is what finishes this race. It’s a good 90 percent heart.
The biggest surprise for me was running through the night. It wasn’t the night part of it, it was the scare of going farther than ever before. I had to quit thinking about it.
What was it like to grow up in Leadville and to see these races begin and evolve? Did you have any involvement in the races from the beginning?
Carlyle Channing Davis said it best, “There is but one Leadville, never will there be another.”
What was it like to watch my father (my hero, my living legend) and the Leadville Trail 100 blast onto the world stage at the same time we went to the highest unemployment in the nation with our collapse of local hard rock mining? Carlyle’s quote fits. All I can say is… magical.
I was involved. Even from age nine, this has been a family thing and it took us all, even me. I would do anything from shop work to aiding runners on race day.
As a kid, did you dream of participating one day or did you think it was all crazy?
Absolutely, yes. I can’t really explain it but there has always been a deep connection between the race and me. Run it and it will change your life. I could feel that even as a child (and before I ever attempted it myself). Today, it isn’t even a thought, it’s just who I am.
Tell us what you love most about Leadville. The place is legendary and means so many things to so many people, but in what ways is it legendary to you?
It is one of the harshest environments you can put yourself into and because of this it reveals minerals, formations and a harsh beauty most of the world won’t venture far enough to see.
But when you do, you can see the beauty of man and earth through the tough rock and centuries-old mining timbers working as one to survive, to prosper. Its beauty is by sight of mineral and mountain; its feel is by columbine petal to the warmth of the sun on your face on a zero-degree day. There truly is nothing like it.
What’s your favorite Ken Chlouber quote? Are there any gems he used to say to you when you were growing up that had an effect on you in some way?
They all have such a huge effect on me. I repeat them daily with conviction and meaning. During my last LT100 I was sick the first six hours. When I hit Twin Lakes I was going to pack it in and let everyone down. My father referenced the speech I had given to athletes the day prior. He said, “Remember what you told these people.”
That was the most sobering thing I’ve ever been told and it was spoken with cowboy conviction. From that point on my race was a well-oiled machine. I often reflect on that moment when I feel weak or overwhelmed.
As a nature lover, what other activities do you like to do? Are you a mountain biker, too?
I was a mountain biker once. It became a thing for my dad to run the 100 and for me to bike it. I am five for seven on the bike and three of those where riding a single speed. I do love bikes but am on hiatus – it got a bit too serious for me and I have a bit of burnout. The bike passion will return; it’s just a question of when.
I do love the outdoors, anything outdoors. Today if I am not at work or running you will find me in the nearest skateboard park trying to stay young at heart.
Give us some recommendations for favorite things to do in Leadville — favorite sights, restaurants, insider stuff.
Go tour the National Mining Hall of Fame. It is a special place and it’s special that we have it. After that, drive up the east side of town and pick up gold (fool’s gold that is) and tour a mine or two while you are at it.
Climb a mountain. Leadville is unique in that it is surrounded by fourteeners. To the west you have Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, Colorado’s biggest! Start early, because by noon the lightning and thunder will have you lighting the downward path to the car.
There is so very much to do: fishing, camping, rafting. And if you visit the new local skate park, stop in and say hi to me.
Thank you all for your time and attention. Now get out there and train up, because come August you’ve got work to do!