Adrian MacDonald’s Astonishing First 100 Miler, Annie Hughes Home Turf Victory and Krupicka’s Podium Return at the 2021 Leadville Trail 100 Mile.
This past weekend, August 21-22, the 2021 Leadville Trail 100 presented by LaSportiva and owned by Life Time, attracted some of the county’s top ultrarunners to Leadville, Colorado for this grueling high altitude 100-mile trail running race. Since its inception in 1983, The Leadville Trail 100 has been recognized as one of the most historic and challenging trail ultramarathons in the county. It’s course records of 18:06:24 by Ann Transon in 1994 and 15:42:59 by Matt Carpenter in 2005, have achieved seemingly mythical status, but this year’s field of talented athletes lead many to suspect a record might be broken.
The Leadville Trail 100 Elite Field
After a year hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 681 athletes toed the line for this year’s event. Athletes ranged from 19 to 78 years of age, representing all 50 states and 13 countries. The course followed the classic route, a 50-mile out-and-back from Leadville to the ghost town of Winfield, tucked away deep in the mountains of the San Isabel National Forest. Runners ascended and descended 15,744 feet throughout the 100 miles and reached a high point of 12,532 feet on the iconic Hope Pass.
Included in this year’s elite field was Ian Sharman who was looking to match Steve Peterson’s record of five Leadville Trail 100 wins, 2019 US Trail Team member David Kilgore, 2016 USATF 50 Mile bronze medalist Matt Flaherty, Tyler Andrews, 2021 TransRockies champion Cody Reed and perhaps most notably Anton Krupicka, one of ultrarunning’s greatest legends, who after suffering several years of lingering injuries has made a bold return to ultrarunning. Krupicka said about preparing for the Leadville 100 in a pre-race press release, “Be prepared for any weather. Go awkwardly slow for the first 40 miles.”
The women’s’ field was also extremely competitive and attracted many talented first timers including Leadville local legend and Tailwind Nutrition sponsored athlete Annie Hughes and arguably one of trail runnings’ greatest climbers, Kim Dobson, who holds the record for the Pikes Peak Ascent. Dobson was also representing the Trail Sisters Group, which hosted the Ladies or Leadville Q&A discussion the day before the race to celebrate and empower more women of all abilities to compete in 100 mile running races. Other top names in the women’s field included Tara Richardson, 2021 Ultra Race of Champions 100K Aliza Lapierre and Carrie Stafford, who finished fourth in 2019. Stafford said in a pre-race press release interview about the Leadville 100,“This race is important because I want my daughter to know she can do hard things. I want her to grow up knowing that nothing is easy…you have to put in the time and sacrifice.”
Krupicka’s Podium and MacDonald Debut Victory
Both the men’s and women’s races began together at 4 A.M. on Sixth Street in downtown Leadville. The men’s race went out fast, with the top five on record pace by the Outward Bound aid station (mile 23.4). Cody Reed led this charge, followed closely by Tyler Andrews. Previous Leadville winners Ian Sharman (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 Champion) and Anton Krupicka (2006 and 2007 Champion) ran tactically, arriving in 7th and 12th respectively. Positions began to shift on the climb from Twin Lakes (mile 37.3) to Hope Pass (mile 43.5). This section of the course reached the high point of 12,532 feet and boasted the course’s longest climb with over 3,000 feet of vertical gain in just four miles.
Andrews and Adrian MacDonald gapped the field up the climb past Twin Lakes. Reed fell off the leaders and Krupicka and Sharman worked their way up the field in route to the 50-mile turnaround. Upon arriving at Twin Lakes a second time, mile 62.5, Sharman and Krupicka moved into second and third behind MacDonald. While Andrew’s lost some time on the descent, he held onto fourth. Afternoon thunderstorms challenged the runners with bursts of intense wind, rain, hail and temperature changes and times slowed significantly over Hope Pass due to the extreme conditions.
Throughout the second half of the race, renowned burro racer, Marvin Sandoval, moved into the top ten by mile 50 and into the top five by the Halfpipe aid station at mile 71.1. As runners approached the finish, it was clear that it was MacDonald’s race to lose. MacDonald continued to gain time on his competitors and finished in a time of 16:18:19, over 40 minutes ahead of second place. This was his first 100-mile race and in contrast to Krupicka and Sharman’s tactical racing styles, his aggressive racing up Hope Pass earned him the victory. MacDonald said of his win and first 100 mile race, “I felt great all day…I told myself I was just going to go out and run all day and I did.”
The battle for the remaining two podium spots was tightly contested for the second half of the race. Krupicka made a bold attack on Sharman to take second place into the Halfpipe aid station (mile 71.1), which he held onto until the final twelve miles of the race when he was overtaken by the astonishing kick of Matt Flaherty. Flaherty had moved up the ranks continuously throughout the race and was the only runner besides MacDonald to finish in under 17 hours with a time of 16:59:38. Krupicka rounded out the mens’ podium with a time of 17:07:55. Sharman secured fourth place and said about his race, “That was the hardest Leadville yet! I made a move to try to chase down the lead at mile 62, but paid for it in the last 24 miles and had to grind it out with trashed legs for 17:46:31 and 4th place.”
See full men’s race results on Athlinks.com.
Hughes Wins At Home and Colorado Women Sweep
Similar to the men’s race, the top women went out aggressively, led by Kara Henry and Annie Hughes to the Outward Bound aid station at mile 23.4. After arriving at Twin Lakes in just over six hours, Hughes held onto her lead on the climb from Twin Lakes to the top of Hope Pass, where runners pushed through worsening afternoon storms. Dobson made a move on the climb, reaching second place by the top of Hope Pass.
On the descent back to Twin Lakes, Blake Wageman (2021 Silver Rush 50-Mile runner-up) and Ashley Arnold (2013 Leadville Trail 100 Champion) passed Dobson, securing second and third. Dobson unfortunately had to withdraw on her way back down Hope Pass. Jana Willsey came in fourth, just over an hour behind Hughes, who continued to push the pace.
In the second half of the race, Hughes stayed strong and increased her lead on second place Wageman to a comfortable 45 minute margin by the Outward Bound aid station (mile 76.9). Cecelia Williams and Genevieve Harrison put on strong surges to take third and fourth place at Outward Bound, with Arnold and Tara Richardson (2019 Leadville Trail Marathon champion) not far behind. A surprise surge from Michele Kent in the final fifteen miles put her in the top five for the first time in the race by the MayQueen aid station (mile 87.8). Arriving at the finish in first place (14th overall) with a time of 21:06:58 was Hughes. Hughes said about her win, “Living in Leadville, getting to experience altitude and having access to the course year-round was really helpful.”
Finishing one hour and one second later was Harrison in second place with a time of 22:06:59. Rounding out the podium was Wageman in 22:25:20. Kent and Richardson took fourth and fifth. The top five runners were all from Colorado.
See the full women’s race results on Athlinks.com.
Another race story to note was 6th place overall finisher and Leadville local Rodrigo Jimenez, who created the LT100 Run Dream Chaser initiative to raise money for the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation. This foundation helps support the Leadville and Lake County communities in Colorado. For the initiative, Jimenez started the race two-and-a-half hours after the rest of the field and raised money for every runner he passed. He caught 660 of the 681 runners and his time was the sixth fastest of the day.