BY ANTHONY LEE
EDITED BY GEORGIA DANIELSON, MUIR CONTENT EDITOR
The Ouray 100 is a 100 mile ultra-marathon in Southwest Colorado featuring over 40,000 feet of vertical gain and just as much loss over rugged terrain often at altitude over 10,000 feet. Runners are rewarded with jaw-dropping mountain views in this multi-day footrace.
This year’s winner, Boulderite Anthony Lee, shares his experience in a play-by-play of the race. This report should prove especially useful for anyone thinking about attempting this race in the future.
At just 27, Anthony has some stout race finishes under his belt in a state full of competitive ultra-runners. These include finishes at Run Rabbit Run 100 mile, The HURT 100, The Fat Dog 120, The Javelina Jundrend, and The High Lonesome 100, among others.
The un-edited race report can be found on Anthony’s blog here.
Scroll to bottom for Race Statistics, Gear, and Fuel, and follow along on his adventures on Instagram at @anthonyclee.
What an "#OurayExperience." I'm still a bit speechless.
Maria and me at the "Switzerland of America" Look-Out Point
Okay here we go... well sorta.
Let's back up first.
I first knew about this race when my ultrarunning friend Avery Collins ran it back in 2016 and created a documentary that’s featured on Amazon Prime. It had been on my radar for five years and I knew I would want to run it one day.
Then in 2019, I was approached by The North Face Japan to help crew/pace their athlete Hiroki Shimura for the last 50+ miles of his race.
We made a documentary of Hiroki's race that you can find on Youtube. It’s definitely a must-watch.
After being on the course in 2019, I knew I wanted to run this race in 2020, but you know what happened... COVID-19. 2020 was a bust to run the race, so I had to wait untiL 2021.
How I Trained
Leading up to the 2021 Ouray 100, I did not have a single race lined up to help me prepare for the race itself. I definitely wanted to get in quality training but from January through April I was working quite a bit at my daytime job, Quiero Arepas in Boulder.
I hardly trained during this period and just trained sporadically.
It wasn't until May that I was like, "I need to train." So I looked at Ultrasignup and found a race in June to run as prep for Ouray.I found Mace's Hideout 100 Miler and it was perfect for my training. A low key, first year 100 mile race in early June, in the Wet Mountains, outside of Beulah, Colorado put on by excellent race director Chris Westerman. I saw the start list and noticed my friends Alex Biesle and Laura Kaplan were planning on running, so I signed up a month prior and kicked off my training on May 1st.
Fast forward, I won Mace's Hideout 100 and it was a wonderful run that would help the training block for Ouray. Mace's Hideout was a spectacular race and I highly recommend checking it out in the future.
Training had gone very smoothly. I recovered from Mace's and then kept the ball rolling into July. I was careful not to overtrain or not take care of my body. Leading up to Ouray two weeks prior to my taper--my peak week--I ran 124 miles and 33,000 feet of vertical gain. I also set some new personal records on the second flatiron in Boulder in the process which gave me good indications I was fit and ready to race.
Preparing the Crew for the Race
My parents flew in from Washington State to help crew me with my amazing girlfriend, Maria. My folks have crewed me one time prior and it was at the 2017 inaugural High Lonesome 100, where I bagged a victory.
My parents know what to expect at these events... Maria on the other hand does not. She never knew these events even existed, but once she entered my life, she would instantly learn the sport from me and this was going to be the first time seeing me in action and supporting me in person.
We drove down to Ouray on Thursday morning and arrived just before our Chalet Inn check-in. We went to the first crew-able aid station at Ironton (miles 27.3, 35.4, and 43.6) to show them where they'd go the next day during the race.
Race Check-In and Final Prep
After driving on the beautiful Million Dollar Highway into Ouray, we went back to the hotel to change and get ready to go to the runner's check-in at Fellin Park, which is also a multiple aid station spot on course (miles 74.5, 84.8, 91.5) and the start/finish line at mile 0.0 & 102.1.
Check in was quick and easy. I threw together three drop bags (Fellin, Ironton, and Crystal Lake). I got my bib number and then bounced to get some of the best Thai food in town.
Afterwards, I got everything ready for the race: shoes, socks, etc. I ended up watching some Olympics to wind down and fell asleep around 10pm.
Laying out all the gear.
Race morning, I awoke a few times prior to my 6:00a.m. alarm...Thankfully, I did fall back asleep for a couple more hours.
I ate breakfast and then got dressed. Time flew the last couple of hours before the race and suddenly it was time to head to the start. We all headed down to Fellin Park. I took some last minute pre-race photos, talked to some other runners, and caught up with my old high school cross-country teammate Will Jones, who was starting the race as well.
Ten minutes to the start, Race Directors Charles and Chris gave some last minute pre-race talk before sending us off on our adventure.
Time to line up... Here we go. I squatted and held my hands in prayer. I was ready but antsy. I thought, it's time to rage and burn the whole house down.
The Start Line: Praying for a good, fun adventure.
Let the Race Begin!
3...2...1... GO! Myself and the other 99 other runners were off on a grand adventure. I started off leading with two other guys. Both of them introduced themselves, but I only remember one at the moment and it was Kilian. Can't forget a name like that... (Sorry to the other guy, it was a long race).
Leading the way on top of the bridge on the Perimeter Trail. Photo: Leanardo Brasil
I ran solo all the way to the first aid station without much hiccup besides the tracker not working for me as well as for a few people behind me. I think it was Chris Twiggs who helped fix my tracker as well as the other folks behind me. So I slowed down while he did this and I looked back to see Peter Mortimer coming up.
1st & 2nd Aid Station: Lower Camp Bird
I got to the first aid station at Lower Camp Bird, mile 5.5 and 2,400 feet climbed pretty quick. Saw some friends here and was out quickly as I knew Peter was on my heels.
Now it was time to head up to Silver Basin for a quick hole punch before returning down to the aid. This trip would be 6 miles and 2,000 more feet. Stunning scenery around me as I made my way up. Power hiking and never really exerting myself as it was very early.
I tagged Silver Basin and took some photos before heading back down.
I saw Peter and then the rest of the field. I cheered and whooped for everyone I saw. It was a blast. Before getting back to Lower Camp Bird, Peter caught me on the descent. He and I introduced ourselves to one another and chatted a bit before we got to the aid. He broke one of his poles and was going to have to fix them when he got back down.
Peter and I arrived at the aid station and I immediately rushed to get things refilled and ready for the next section.
Richmond Aid Station
The journey was now up to Richmond: a quick 2 mile trip and then a 7.8 mile trip to Chicago Tunnel and Fort Peabody (high point of the course at 13K) for quick hole punches before returning to Richmond Aid Station.
Epic Views and climbs up ahead.
These climbs are no joke. Just in the 9.8 miles to Richmond, Chicago Tunnel and Fort Peabody you gain a total of 4,700 feet. I was amped up on the scenery. It's just stunning seeing all the peaks and being so high and next to the clouds.
I tagged Chicago Tunnel and then turned around to see Peter coming. I bombed down and then made my slog up to the Fort.
Hole punch at Chicago Tunnel
The climb up to Fort Peabody was riddled with scaley rocks and loose terrain but eventually I made it and took in the view. Tourists were asking what was going on and I'd tell them. They'd respond back, "You guys are crazy." Again, I saw the rest of the field slowly trickling up. I saw my friends Howie and Sierra and wished them well before heading out for Ironton.
Headed up Fort Peabody
Fort Peabody Tag
Views heading down the trail with second place coming up.
Richmond to Ironton
I topped off my water bottles at Richmond, and then I'd go up and over Richmond Pass, a 1,700 foot climb, and then a huge descent of 3,400 feet to get to Ironton Aid Station about 6 miles away. The views were breathtaking and I took some videos up here as I settled into flow state and awe.
I got to Ironton on target time and pace when I told my crew I'd be there at mile 27.3. Yay, the first marathon and the warm up was done. Life truly begins after 26.2... I saw my dad first as he was taking pictures, and saw my mom and Maria as well as everyone's crew as I got into the aid station.
Rehydrating and eating at Ironton.
Maria and Me
They sat me down and I changed socks, ate and talked briefly before heading out for the lovely Corkscrew and Gray Cooper section of the Red Mountains. It's an 8.1 mile section with 2,800 feet of gain and loss. The first trip around was great with clear skies, but I knew weather was going to be coming in.
Coming back from the first loop of Ironton.
I remembered scouting this section with Hiroki in 2019. Just take it easy and soak in the views of Red Mountains #1, 2 and 3 on the way up. I made the first counterclockwise loop and got back to Ironton with ease at mile 35.4.
Refueled by my awesome crew and volunteers, I headed back to make the same loop but just the clockwise direction. I saw Peter and then the third place guy, Ben, about 10-15 minutes after I left the aid.
I started my way back up the backside of Gray Cooper when crackles started. Rain was starting to come down. I didn't bring my raincoat, but I had my poncho and emergency blanket if needed.
Well, I definitely needed the poncho. It started to downpour as I was climbing, and lightning and thunder were crashing oh-so close. I could feel the vibrations and static in the air.
Returning to Ironton #2. Thunderstorms were crazy up on Corkscrew and Gray Cooper. Thankful for the poncho.
It got downright nutty on the jeep roads heading down corkscrew. Flash flooding had wrecked the jeep roads and landslides were happening. ATVs and some Jeeps got stuck on the way down as I was running. It was so wet that the jeep road would crumble and become a gravel sinkhole. I got sucked in and was knee deep in sludge gravel. This definitely slowed a lot of folks down and I knew I could take advantage.
I made it back to Ironton at mile 43.6 with both shoes and socks filled with rubble. It was comical when I dumped my shoes, how full they were. I am so thankful to my parents, Maria, and Chris Westerman who helped clean my shoes as I changed my socks and ate while getting updates about where Peter and Ben were. I was unfazed. I definitely took my time here as the next section was to head back up and over Richmond Pass to the halfway point at Weehawken.
Chris Westerman giving me advice and helping me in the aid station.
Peter Vercio helping out at the aid station.
Maria and my mom keeping me amped up.
Heading out of Ironton, I said goodbye to my parents and Maria as I wouldn't see them until the next morning at Fellin Park; they weren't going to head to the next crew spot at Crystal Lake at 3AM.
Heading out and back up and over Richmond Pass
Ironton to Richmond
I went back up Richmond Pass, as the thunderstorm started to slow a bit. I used this opportunity to climb up the 3,000 foot pass as quickly as possible. As I was moseying uphill, there was one runner still coming down from the pass. He gave me some thumbs up and some positive energy. There was a little fog rolling in so I moved as quickly as possible over and then down to the Richmond Aid at mile 49.6, where course record holder Chris Price and his family were helping out. I refilled my bottles and talked to Chris briefly about his record.
Richmond to Weehawken
At this point, I was approximately two hours up on the record, but I knew the back half of the race was going to be a long one. I tried to keep as chill as possible. Now I just had to hold on tight. From Richmond Aid station, I headed down the 4.2 miles of Camp Bird Road to the Weehawken Aid at mile 53.7. It was pretty uneventful as this section is all downhill to the aid. I saw some deer in the bushes but then made it to the aid in good time.
At Weehawken, I got some warm food and stocked up for the 5.1 mile section up to the Alpine Mine Overlook. I knew this section very well from pacing Hiroki in 2019.
I sped up the trail as fast as I could, but it was very overgrown and sopping wet from the earlier rain. I made it to the top of the mine, hole punched, and saw the town all lit up. It was stunning. Then I turned around so as to not waste more time. On the way down, I saw Peter and his pacer. They were very close. Then before finally arriving back at the bottom of Weehawken, I ran into Kilian and his pacer.
Alpine Loop Hole punch
Weehawken to Crystal Lake
After getting back to the aid at mile 58.8, I didn't want to stay long knowing the chase group was hot on my heels. I said my goodbyes to the volunteers and was off to Crystal Lake Aid at mile 65.9. The fun thing about this next section was in the next 7.1 miles, I'd enjoy climbing the 3,600-foot Hayden Pass and descending 2,800 feet to the aid to get a fresh pair of socks from my drop bag there.
I pushed hard – maybe too hard – in this section knowing I was being chased and I got a little nauseous and my couldn’t hold down food. On the way down, I started throwing up. More adversity builds the character, I thought.
I got down to the aid and was very happy to see another friend, Bard Parnell. I tried to stomach food, but it was just coming back up as soon as I put it down. So, I stayed in the aid a bit to warm up, try to eat, and get to the exciting part: changing my socks.
But this is where again things in 100 mile race don't ever go according to plan. The aid station didn't have my Crystal Lake drop bag. They mistakenly loaded it to another area... I calmly reassessed the situation and asked Bard or any volunteer if they had a pair of injinji socks I could borrow since my drop bag was botched. Thankfully Bard had a pair of socks to lend.
Crystal Lake to Fellin Park
I got some food down, changed the socks, and then headed back up and over Hayden Pass back to Fellin Park for the final three gnarly climbs. During this time, I was wondering how Peter and Kilian were doing. Had they gotten up the pass yet or were they on their way down?
I got out of the chair and hobbled out of the aid station. I was hoping some of the food from the aid would stay down on my power hike up the backside of Hayden with some deep breathing and mindful thoughts.
Just as I was getting to the top of the pass, I saw Peter and his pacer. Then as I was going down the other side towards Fellin Park, I saw Kilian and his pacer making the slow grind up the mountain. The downhill was pretty slow, but I tried to move fast and light on its tight switchbacks which were very overgrown, wet and a bit technical with debris and downed trees to climb over.
I made it down to Camp Bird Road and was feeling amazing. I looked at my watch and it was around 4:30a.m. – way ahead of pace. So I tried to call and text Maria and my mom to have them come to the park.
I got to Fellin Park around 5a.m. which marked that I had run 74.5 miles of Ouray and had just the three final climbs before the finish. When I arrived, the volunteers weren't set up yet. Luckily, they had Chris speed to Charles' house for my drop bag. I took my time trying to stomach some more food while they set up. I once again changed socks and then was out after topping the bottles off.
5a.m. back at Fellin Park getting some noodles down.
I would have a few more miles in the dark before the sunrise, climbing Twin Peaks to Silvershield and back to Fellin Park. I ran past some dinosaur prints on the rocks. It was really cool seeing them all filled up with water all before descending to Silvershield Aid a few miles below at mile 80.6. At this point I had 31,652 vertical feet in my legs and was feeling it.
At the aid station, I was very surprised to see my parents and Maria. I forgot it was a crew access spot. They forced some food in me and my stomach was starting to feel better. I didn't want to stay long knowing I was still being hunted, but before I left, I gave a quick video for one of the volunteers, Peter Vercio who wanted to update Ranyo-San (who was TNF Japan's Team Manager).
I didn't see Pete so I assumed something happened. I saw Kilian now in second, and as I was heading down to the park I saw third male, Kent, and first female, Alyssa, and their pacers.
Fellin Park to the Start/Finish
I got back to Fellin (Mile 84.8) around 9a.m. This was 25 hours into the race, which was really solid. I was feeling alright, but the fatigue was definitely starting to creep in. I knew I had to keep moving. I refilled my electrolytes and ate some fruit. I was ready to tackle the penultimate climb up to the Chief Ouray Mine. The 6.7 mile round trip featured a lovely 3,400 foot climb and descent before coming back down to the start/finish.
Although not as bad as the ball bearings on Hayden Trail, the Chief Ouray Trail definitely has some challenging footing in the form of loose rocks and dirt that tend to give way without much force. The rain from the previous day and dodging other trail users made the trail very challenging, but I eventually made it to the Chief Ouray Mine and got my hole punch.
Outside the Chief Ouray Mine
On the way back, I was pushing it very hard knowing I just had ONE LAST CLIMB and then I'd be done. My quads were sore but I kept pushing them to the max ‘cause I wanted to see where everyone was at. I knew if I could get back to the trailhead before I saw anybody, I'd win this race. I got to the intersection of the trailhead and the Lower Falls when I saw Kilian again followed by Kent a few minutes later. I had about an hour and a half on them.
I made it down to the park to cheers and hollers at 27 hours and 48 mins. I knew the record was out of the door, but I still wanted to see how hard I could run and I was smelling the barn... I had run 91.5 miles and I had only ONE FINAL CLIMB. I refueled and was out quickly.
Bridge of Heaven
Here we go to Bridge of Heaven: a 10.6 miles and 4,800 feet gain and loss and I'd be done and won. I knew some afternoon storms were coming, but I thought I'd use that to my motivation of getting up and down as fast as possible. So I headed up the Old Horsethief Trail without any rain gear and was as minimal, yet had the fuel I needed. I was climbing steadily and weaving up the trail.
I was thinking about the whole day before and how I was so grateful for this moment and how thankful I was running well for my folks, my loving girlfriend, Maria watching me for the first time and all my family, friends and sponsors that were supporting me from afar. It was so close. Just one more hole punch at the top and then I'd bomb down the trail to the finish.
Just as I reached the ridge, here it came... The second biblical thunderstorm of the race. I had 1.2 miles more before the top... I got pelted as I climbed in and out of the trees. I was soaked instantly and the flash flooding of the Old Horsethief Trail started to have mudslides and a heavy flowing stream coming down the trail. I said my mantras and charged as fast as I could.
My body was becoming more hypothermic and cold as time passed. My hands were frozen and I was starting to shiver and teeth clatter within minutes. I still charged forward and finally turned the final switchback corner to see the Bridge of Heaven hole punch on the trail marker. My hands were so frozen I barely could squeeze the hole punch as it was also frozen and wouldn't punch through my paper.
I got the outline of the hole punch on my bib and called it solid. I was freezing and the rain was still pounding me. I turned around and bombed as fast as I could down the wet trail. Teeth clattering, my motor skills were starting to lose function. I went kinda numb in my hand and my legs. I almost tripped a few times on the descent because of how cold I was and how quickly the trail became slick. Luckily I would save myself with the trekking poles.
I then got back to where switchbacks and some private dirt roads intersect before I saw Kent and Kilian coming up. I had 2.5 miles left and they would have about 8.5 miles left, so I knew I had the race secured! I was at ease mentally, but still racing the clock. I looked at my watch and it was at 31 hours and 25 minutes... I wanted to keep the run under 32 Hours. I pushed it very hard all the way down to the road. I didn't feel pain anymore as I was smiling and felt the joy of what almost being done would feel like. I ran every inch of the road back to the hot Springs and made my final turn into the park's finish line.
Finish Line in Sight
I saw two orange cones lined up in the middle right side of the park. I am running hard. I start yipping and hollering...The other crews, the other park folks, Maria and my parents are cheering! "Go! Go! Go!"
I finished in 31 hours and 52 minutes, winning the 2021 race and 3rd fastest time to date!
WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! 🔥
Finish Line Rush
My watch clocked 101.46 miles and 39,131 feet of climbing*.
*Ouray 100 website states 41,862 feet of gain
What a rush! I had just won one of the hardest 100 milers in the US and the World.
Before I wrap things up, I want to give thanks to all the volunteers out there helping us in the crazy weather and race. Without you, I wouldn't have been successful. Big THANK YOUs to volunteers, Chris Westerman, Peter Vercio, Bard Parnell for really helping me out at crucial aid stations. Thank you to Race Directors, Chris Marcinek and Charles Johnston for creating this wild and burly demonic course.
I also would like to thank the sponsors that support me. I am a regular guy with a daytime job at Quiero Arepas and these sponsors help me and motivate me to perform my best. Thank you to PurePower Botanicals, ReNew Earth Running, and Woke Running.
Lastly, I couldn't have done this without my incredible crew: my parents, Karen and Sunny, and my amazing girlfriend, Maria. They motivated me, changed my socks, fed me and kept me moving all day, night, and into the next day. I'm so thankful for them supporting me and witnessing my lovely adventure.
Thank you to everyone else I missed and big thanks to other family members, friends and fellow runners for your cheers both in person, around the globe and virtually. You guys rock! I felt all the good vibes.
Post race portrait
Photo with RDs, Chris and Charles with my shiny new buckle
- Miles: 101.46 via my Suunto 9 Baro
- Vertical Gain: 39,131 Feet
- Starters: 94
- Finishers: 34
- Honey Stinger Waffles Eaten: 35
- Quesadillas Eaten: 8
- Mashed Potatoes Eaten: 7 Cups
- Skratch/ Electrolytes Drank: 15x500ml bottles
- Water Drank: 15x500 ml bottles
- Shoes: Topo MTN Racer 2
- Socks: 4 pairs x Injinji toe socks
- Shorts: Rabbit Shredder 5"
- Poles: Leki Trail Vario
- Shirt: Rocky Mountain Runners Tee
- Pack: Arch Max 8L Pack
Men's Podium: (left to right) Kent (2nd), Me (1st), Kilian (3rd)