First, Mackey had to find out if he could finish any race, let alone six of the hardest events in Colorado. In January, he headed to Bandera, Texas, where he once won a 100K U.S. national title. This time his outlook—merely to complete it—was understandably more humble. But true to his character, he persevered with a hobbling gait and reached the finish line in just under six hours, taking a respectable 43rd place out of 220 finishers. In June, he ran the Jemez Mountain 50K in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and placed 33rd out of 243 finishers.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it was good to be out there and run again, even if I was slow and my running wasn’t all that,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it racing, relative to running fast, but those were both a step in the right direction and a sign that I wasn’t crazy to sign up for Leadman.”
Crazy like a fox, but not crazy. He was one of only 100 courageous souls entered in the competition, but the only below-the-knee amputee ever to enter it. He didn’t know how tough it would be to run and ride 50 to 100 miles on a prosthetic leg, but he knew deep inside could rely on his relentless work ethic, huge aerobic engine and his vast amount of experience.
His first task was completing the Leadville Trail Marathon, a 26-mile grind up and down 13,185-foot Mosquito Pass. Runners consider it the hardest marathon in the state, even harder than the Pikes Peak Marathon that soars above 14,000 feet. To the surprise of no one, Mackey stormed up and down the rocky trails seemingly with ease, finishing in 4:52:42, good enough for 53rd place out of 679 runners.
“I definitely built confidence running about 4:50, given that I ran 4:10 four years ago before the accident,” Mackey said. “To run 4:50 on a prosthetic leg was a pretty big boost for me. The sections are pretty steep and technical coming off Mosquito Pass, so to finish that fast without any face-planting or falls or stumbles was a pretty good day.”
From there, he crushed the Leadville Silver Rush 50-mile mountain bike race in 5:29 (placing 127th out of 564), followed by the Silver Rush 50-mile trail run the very next day in 9:45:03 (62nd place out of 478 finishers).
As a Leadman competitor, he had the choice of doing either the 50 bike or the 50 run, but he opted for both because, well, that’s who he is.
“I was going to be out on the East Coast with family for a while so I wanted to take advantage of the time I had at high altitude and use it as a training day,” Mackey says. “I was pretty toasted during the last half of the 50 run. But the bigger problem was that the outsole tread on my running blade fell apart on the rough, rocky terrain. It got all scuffed up and came apart. We duct taped it together but that came off over the final 20 miles, so that was a bit of an added variable, but I got through it.”
After another month of training and a new outsole for his blade, Mackey was ready for “Hell Week,” the eight-day period in mid-August when Leadman competitors tackle a 100-mile mountain bike race, a 10K trail run and the daunting 100-mile Leadville Trail 100. That’s 206.2 miles of racing.
After jamming through the 100-mile bike ride (9:40:53, 392nd place out of 1,538) on Aug. 11 in weather that ranged from 30 degrees early in the morning to 85 degrees by mid-afternoon, Mackey completed the deceptively hard downhill-uphill 10K the next day in 55:45 with a second-half surge that saw him pass more than 75 runners.