The Leadville 100 was Tina Lewis‘ second ultra, back in 2010. Back then, she finished back of the pack, crossing the finish line with just 15 minutes before the 30-hour cutoff. Last year, she improved to fifth woman before moving on to win the race this year in less than 20 hours. In the following interview, hear about her race, the stomach problems that plague her at high-altitude races, and how she came to ultrarunning.
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Tina Lewis, 2012 Leadville 100 Champ, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar with Tina Lewis after her win at the 2012 Leadville 100. How are you doing?
Tina Lewis: I’m doing good. I’m happy.
iRF: You’re moving around pretty well for the morning after 100 miles.
Lewis: Yeah, my body is feeling surprisingly good.
iRF: This is your third time at Leadville. The first time was your second ultra and you were with the people who finished just before 10 am on Sunday morning—29:45?
Lewis: Yeah, just 15 minutes ahead of the clock.
iRF: What was it like running a race at 29:45 compared to yesterday?
Lewis: I think it’s a lot harder, actually. I think you have to overcome a lot more barriers when you’re not used to the course or altitude. I basically just vomited from Twin Lakes to the finish. My pacer had to take me off the ground, pull me up off the ground, and pretty well marched in and persevered to the finish.
iRF: Last year you were fifth here at Leadville. How did that go?
Lewis: I had stomach issues, so I wasn’t able to eat. So, I don’t really have much of a reserve, so I fell apart and had a few girls pass me with a few miles to go. So that was demoralizing, but I’m back.
iRF: You’re back. You ran a great Western States back in June—were you seventh?
Lewis: Seventh, yeah.
iRF: Did that show you that you could go for the win, or were you trying last year for that?
Lewis: I don’t know, I thought last year I would have a better shot. Going into this race, pretty stacked women’s field here, and I have a lot of respect for the ladies that were here. I kind of figured if it was my chance, it would have been possibly last year. In the back of my mind obviously it would be great to win, but I don’t know, I was kind of happy when I was in third place and just wanted to maintain that. When I was in second, I kind of wanted first.
iRF: Early in the race, Aliza [Lapierre] and Liza [Howard] really took out the pace. What was going through your mind there? Were you just letting them go and running your own race? What was your strategy on the day?
Lewis: Well, at first I actually went out with the guys and Liza right up at the front, which was stupid, but I felt comfortable. Probably within 30 minutes I realized that was too fast of a pace, so I pulled it back. I was actually alone for a lot of the race, so I didn’t have anyone distracting me or pushing me. So I just ran my own race for most of it and just tried to take it easy for the first half. Basically, I guess my race started at the top of Hope the second time—kind of what my strategy was last year. I guess my strength is downhill, but since my IT bands are flared up it wasn’t much of a strength. But I think I run downhill pretty good and thought that maybe I could catch them.
iRF: When did you move past them?
Lewis: Aliza, right before Twin Lakes, and then someone said Liza was three minutes ahead or something like that. I just tried to eat as much as I could, which wasn’t much. I literally ran the whole race with potatoes in my hands and hardly ate any of them. Then I caught Liza just after Half Moon aid station, so just before Half Pipe.
iRF: Your race, beside the IT band flaring up, was not problem-free. You had some stomach problems as you have had in the past here. Is that common for you in long events? You’ve also done adventure racing. Do you always have stomach problems, or is that specific to Leadville?
Lewis: Leadville, San Juan Solstice —I basically threw up all San Juan Solstice and Leadville the first time [half the race]. I don’t know. Something with the altitude, my stomach just locks down and then I can’t eat and I end up just throwing up. This year, I thought it was my second year racing and maybe I was more experienced because I didn’t have any of these issues at the sea-level races. I was able to eat all of Western and all of Antelope [Island 50K] and Miwok [100K]. So I was hoping I’d have better luck here, but not the case.
iRF: Not the case. So a lot of people may have heard your name a little bit, but you’re not very well known on the ultrarunning scene yet. Can you tell people a little bit about where you come from running and with your endurance sports background?
Lewis: I tried my first marathon in 2002 pretty well off the couch—just decided to run one the night before—thought it would be fun to try. I qualified for Boston. I had some injuries, so started biking at a gym and got recruited for an adventure racing team. So I adventure raced for six years in Canada, where I’m from. Then I came here to Colorado to adventure race and mountain bike race. I only got into ultras in 2010; that was my first. I just wanted a new challenge.
iRF: How did you hear about them—just being in Boulder with a pretty good scene there?
Lewis: Yeah and my husband was doing ultrarunning.
iRF: Here you are, champion of the Leadville 100. Congratulations, Tina!
Lewis: Thank you!