Gypsum’s Lucas Rivera goes running like crazy, finishes Bigfoot 200 race
GYPSUM — Lucas Rivera readily admits that the notion of a 200-mile endurance run sounds crazy.
That didn’t prevent him from running the Bigfoot 200 in early August. The Bigfoot 200 is one stage of the Triple Crown of 200-mile races. The grueling race starts at Mt. St. Helens in the Cascade Mountain Range and finishes, 206.5 miles later, in Randal, Washington. Along the way, runners face 50,000 feet of ascent and more than 96,000 feet of elevation changes. The route takes runners through the volcanic terrain of Mt. St. Helens, along mountaintop ridge lines and through old-growth forests. Organizers say running the Bigfoot 200 is a life-changing experience.
Rivera agreed with that assessment.
“There’s something about being so tired and worn down that just makes you come back for more,” he said. “What scares me a little gets me more into doing it.”
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Crept up on him
Rivera said his enthusiasm for endurance running kind of crept up on him.
“I have always had something to train for, something to practice,” he said.
As a youth, he always played sports, and at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, he played wide receiver for the Swedes’ football team. For two years, he served as team captain and also he met his wife, Brittany, at Bethany.
After he graduated, Rivera nabbed an internship with the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District. That internship morphed into a full-time position, and he is now the assistant manager at the Gypsum Recreation Center, where he oversees fitness programs and youth and adult activities.
To whet his training appetite, Rivera tried various sports and programs, but none of them really satisfied his competitive desires. Then, in 2011, he heard about the Tough Mudder. To Rivera, an endurance race that features 10 to 12 miles of mud and obstacles sounded like a real challenge.
“I started training for that, and I thought, ‘How am I ever going to run 10 miles?’” he said. “I have never been a fan of running. That just wasn’t my thing.”
Always upping the ante
Rivera laughingly calls the Tough Mudder his “gateway race” that led to a larger addiction. After mastering the local run, he trained for and ran the World’s Toughest Mudder in New Jersey. That event had competitors complete as many mudder course laps as they could during a 24-hour period. Rivera covered 50 miles at the race.
“That brought me to this whole endurance thing,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, if I can do 50 miles, can I do 100?’”
Rivera said the Leadville 100 was the perfect venue to test himself.
“That race was always one of those things that was a legend. How can people actually do that?” Rivera said.
If at first you don’t succeed
Rivera didn’t finish the Leadville 100 the first time he ran it in 2013.
“I was in over my head,” he said. “That kind of humbled me.”
He noted that about 1,000 people start the Leadville 100 each year, but only 40 percent of them finish it. He very much wanted to be part of that statistic. Rivera dedicated himself to a new yearlong training regime and signed up for the 2014 Leadville 100. That year, he was among the finishers.
“That was my bar, the hardest thing I had ever done,” he said.
He continued to train through 2015, again participating in the World’s Toughest Mudder. He also ran and finished the Leadville 100 again in 2016.
“At all of these races, I was meeting the most amazing people,” he said.
Among those amazing folks, the chatter often turned to discussions of this incredible Triple Crown 200-mile race series. The series included the Tahoe 200, the Moab 200 and the Bigfoot 200. After hearing about the series, Rivera checked it out online.
“The Bigfoot 200 looked just amazing — mountain terrain, waterfalls and rain forest.”
He had found a new challenge to train for.
The race started at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 11. Rivera finished on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
“It felt like I was out there for a few weeks,” he said. “The hardest thing about this race was the sleep deprivation. I had never experienced that before.”
When running 100-mile races, Rivera powers through and sleeps when he is done. But he couldn’t do that when the distance doubled.
The Bigfoot 200 offers six sleep stations equipped with hot foot massages, medical aid and crew access. There are also 14 full aid stations along the route.
Rivera noted runners are allotted 106 hours to finish the race. That means they have to be careful about using those sleep stations.
“It’s not like you can sleep forever,” he said. “I also slept along the trail a few times.”
Rain that fell for 12 hours was another challenge. Rivera brought two pairs of shoes and packed various day bags with clothing. He arranged for those day bags to be waiting at various aid stations.
“This was my first experience with day bags,” he said. “I messed up and I didn’t get waterproof bags.”
The result of this rookie mistake (Rivera’s words) was his fresh clothing was as wet as the clothing he was wearing.
“I wished I had taken three or four pairs of shoes. My shoes were wet the whole time,” he said.
Blisters formed on his pruney feet, which made the run ever harder.
Rivera said he was hallucinating a lot by the last day of the race. He thought he saw faces and “cartoonish things” in the trees. In retrospect, he is very glad the hallucinations didn’t hit until daylight.
After 206.5 miles, the Bigfoot 200 concludes at the high school track in Randal, Washington. Rivera said he sprinted to the finish line.
Pleasure and pain
It’s now been a couple of weeks since he ran the Bigfoot 200, and Lucas is removed enough from the pain of the event to revel in the pleasure of the accomplishment.
“This is actually my favorite distance now, for the pure adventure of it,” he said.
He said the scenery along the trail was spectacular.
“A lot of the mornings, we were running above the clouds,” he said.
Looking forward, Rivera said the next big challenge is to run all of the Triple Crown 200-mile races. That’s what he plans to train for next.
Beyond the fulfillment he feels when training for a massive undertaking and then successfully achieving it, Rivera said his sons, Drake, 5, and Tyce, 4, get a kick out of seeing what their dad can do. He hopes he is setting a good example.
“The boys see this stuff firsthand — the mindset that difficult things can be done if you work hard enough,” he said.
He also hopes his work inspires other people to set lofty goals.
“At work, I love to motivate and help other people reach to do something they didn’t think was possible,” he said. “I always encourage people to sign up for something they are a little afraid of, something that they don’t think they can do.”
When he offers that advice, no one can argue that Rivera doesn’t walk his talk.
“I love a good challenge,” he said.
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