published Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Greater Chattanooga area locals doing Leadville 100 trail race

Brian Costilow is leading a group of ten locals going to Colorado next week for the Leadville Trail 100 Run.
Brian Costilow is leading a group of ten locals going to Colorado next week for the Leadville Trail 100 Run.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Brian Costilow is running his ninth consecutive Leadville 100 trail race next weekend in his former hometown in Colorado, and this time he’ll be accompanied by nine other courageous folks from the Chattanooga area.

“I bet there’s not another city in the nation with 10 residents going to this race,” said Randy Whorton, another Colorado transplant and the executive director of the local Wild Trails organization. “I am just so proud of our trail running community, and this is a great testament.”

Whorton has done the Leadville race once among the seven 100-mile trail races he’s finished. Chad Wamack and Cal Hill are others in the group going from Chattanooga who have completed at least one 100. But there are some who are making the rugged race their first 100-miler: Samuel Hammonds, Daniel Lucas, Michael Emerling, Pete Persolja, Lindsay Crawford and one woman, Robin Crump.

Some of the group will be staying in a rental house for a week or more. Whorton will be going to Leadville after completing his duties Saturday as race director for the Still Hollow half marathon and 10k races in the Rock/Creek Trail Series. Wild Trails announced last week that it will be adding a 100-mile race next spring, and Whorton, Costilow and the rest of the Leadville gang will have new personal experience in helping prepare for it.

At 10,200 feet, Leadville has the highest elevation of any incorporated town in the United States, and the trail race that begins and ends there has a lowest altitude of 8,900 feet and the highest of 12,600, said Costilow, who spent the past week in Colorado on vacation with his kids and is going back this Saturday night.

There is a cutoff of 30 hours for anyone doing the race, and Costilow’s best time was 24 hours, 22 minutes two years ago But his worst time was last year — “27:40-something, I think,” he said, noting that he has “not trained as well as these other guys. I’m just at the point where I go and do it.”

At 39 years old, he’s getting close to his goal of 10 consecutive Leadvilles. Each completed 100-mile race brings a commemorative belt buckle, and a 10th one earns “a 1,000-mile buckle — like a big old dinner plate.”

As Whorton pointed out, “The deal about 100 miles is that 80 percent is mental,” and Hammonds, he said, is a budding superstar in the ultra world. Hammonds, a 39-year-old engineer who did a 100-kilometer race at Maryville in January and was about two-thirds from the end of a Georgia 100k in March when it was stopped because of a snowstorm, began competitive running just in the last three years and stepped up his training to year-round in 2012, is hoping to finish the Leadville race in under 27 hours.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he beats us all. He’s so incredibly rock solid,” Whorton said. “He’s one of the best volunteers we have in the Rock/Creek series — he’s always there — and he’s improved so much in the last year in trail running. He’s just an incredible athlete, and his mind’s so strong.”

Hammonds and Lucas, who talked him into entering Leadville, did a week of training at altitude in late July.

Persolja is another amazing story, of an entirely different type, Whorton said. He doesn’t do that much running compared to other ultra competitors, but he walks a lot in the heat of the summer while hauling weight. He’s a golf caddie by profession.

“Two years ago we did some arm-twisting to get him to enter our Upchuck 50k, and he finished third,” Whorton said. “That blew everybody away. Then we talked him into our Lookout 50-miler and he had a super strong time there, too. He’s made it look easy compared to the rest of us.”

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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