Leadville 100 recap

here we go.

100 miles or 528,000 feet, 28 hours 55 minutes and 46 seconds. That is how far and how long I ran between Saturday and Sunday. Today is Wednesday and i am finally home after the 16 hour car ride. It feels surreal that just a few days ago I was completing something so big.

This journey started a few weeks ago as we loaded up the car with my husband, the dog, and my daughter. We dropped her off by way of Minneapolis (which isn’t really on the way), then headed south and west. Nebraska seemed to take forever to get through. We stopped at a rest area Tuesday night/early morning to sleep for a few hours. 6 a.m. Wednesday and we were on the road again. We stopped at a little park to stretch our legs and let the dog get some exercise.

running in Nebraska in 95 degrees

As we approached Colorado the mountains were mesmerizing. We set up camp and at Sugar Loafin’ Campground right in Leadville and hit the hay.

The next morning we headed to do some training. I decided to climb the back side of Hope Pass from Winfield. This is one of the steeper climbs of the course and i wanted to be prepared for it. Roubaix came with me and Roger decided to ride his bike. The climb was amazing and gave me confidence that i could really do this.

Roubaix and i made it to the top of Hope Pass

Friday we climbed the powerline section. I had heard this was another climb that was going to be tough, you hit this at about 80 miles into the race. I knew that climbing it on fresh legs wouldn’t be the same, but I would at least know what was coming.

Saturday was the Leadville 100 MTB race. Coincidentally we were in town for it, and it was awesome. The night before, we were driving down main street of Leadville and we see this big tent Floyds of Leadville, and Roger whips the car around. See, he spotted an old friend: Floyd Landis. Yes, he is the retired road bike racer, but he is also one of Rogers’ oldest friends. They used to race mtb together on the east coast. It’s true Roger knows people everywhere.
He also happened to know one of the top racers, Jerimiah Bishop who came in third in the bike race. I always love meeting people from his past, and these guys were no exception.

beautiful Turquoise Lake

Sunday we ran a portion of the Turquoise Lake trail straight from the campground and got a little lost. Monday Roubaix and i ran the lake again while Roger went to ride the powerline section again. I really wanted to take in the lake knowing that both times I would be there in the race it would probably be dark. The powerline is a part of the race that the bike had to do also, and the beginning is pretty steep, so Roger had a goal that before we left he would ride the whole thing. Unfortunately his bike broke on his third attempt.

Tuesday I met up with fellow Oiselle bird Michelle (Drum), and did a nice 30 min run and grabbed some coffee. Our race strategies were pretty different, however the goal the same. To finish before the cutoffs. This was both our first 100 miler, she had never gone over 50 miles and myself not going over 100K. We cliched right away and it was awesome, we hoped to run some of the course together for the race. Friday we ran together as well and got to meet her crew and pacers.

Now its really time for the race recap.

Roger and i at the start

My pacer got in Thursday night and we went to dinner to discuss last minute logistics. i was feeling confident and in good spirits despite the rain that plagued us all week. We hit up the expo Friday morning and attended the mandatory race meeting. We went back to the campsite and i got the drop bags set. Even though Roger was going to be my crew and plan to be at every aid station he could get to, I wanted to have drop bags in case he couldn’t get there. With a race this long and the weather uncertain, you need to be prepared. I went to bed at 3pm and got up at 7pm to eat dinner. i was back in bed asleep by 9pm. That 1:15a.m. alarm came early, but i wasn’t going to let lack of sleep be my downfall. i had plenty of time to get myself ready and eat properly. At 3:15am we were in the starting chute.

i knew from camping for the past week that the nights were cold, but as soon as the sun came up it got hot. So I wore minimal layers for the start because i estimated i would be at the first aid station (13.5) miles after sunrise.
When calculating pace, i gave myself a buffer. i planned for a 28 hour finish time, and had sharpied the cutoff times on my arm. I picked up a plain old Timex watch and attached it to my pack in the event that my watch died. i set an alarm on both to go off 30 minutes apart. My plan was to start eating at the first timer and be done by the second.

We start and it is amazing, except for the fact that I went out too fast. This was an original concern for me, but decided it was beneficial. The path around Turquoise Lake is single track and i didn’t want to get stuck in a pack that was walking already. i beat my projected time by 45 minutes. Some food and change of clothes and i was off. i knew that the next section would involve climbing and 11 miles. i was right, it got warm by the time i was descending the power lines. i arrived at the Fish Hatchery Station, an hour and some before the official cutoff. i was already having a hard time eating what I had on me, so watermelon and ramen noodles became my staple at the aid stations.

Coming out of the Fish Hatchery aid station

i knew that this next section would be flatter and more in the open and it felt good to run for a good while. Coming into the Half Pipe aid station I knew i was on my own. This was a hike in aid station and Roger was picking up my pacer Angela and would meet me Twin Lakes.

Running with John was a blast

Here I changed my socks(so glad I did), grabbed lots of food and then was ready to head out when i saw John. I ran with John Friday morning with Michelle. It was nice to see a familiar face and so we ran together.

This was a fairly up hill section and John started to have some knee issues on the downhills. But we still made good time and were still about an hour and a half ahead of official cutoff. We lost each other at the entry intoTwin Lakes. This aid station was big! I found Roger and Angela, they were with Floyd and under his tent. i tried to eat as much as i could because i knew the first climb to Hope Pass was coming and the next time I would see them would be the turn around.

Kisses from my boy as i head out of Twin Lakes

Coming out of Twin Lakes you cross a river, a knee deep river. This felt pretty good after being on your feet for 8 hours and in the sun. Then you climb, and climb, and climb. You cover about 3,000 feet in about 6-7 miles. This was very hard for me. I think the lack of energy I had was from not getting enough nutrition. John caught me pretty quick(I looked for him as i left the aid station, but no luck), and took me under his wing. So many people had trekking poles. I purposely didn’t bring them
because I kinda hate them. I can’t seem to get them to work, they feel awkward, etc. Well, they are my new best friend now! John was so nice and gave me one of his poles for the trek up. He knew from our previous run together that my timers were meant to remind me to eat, so he made me stop and eat. I am pretty sure we averaged 30 minute miles here. I had to stop to catch my breath many times, but i knew I just had to keep moving forward. Before we got to the Hopeless aid station we saw the leaders coming back down, so fast!! Coming into the aid station it was nice to see food! i knew that was my downfall on the way up and it was another 6 miles to Winfield, so I needed to eat. The llamas were everything they were hyped up to be! But, we still had less than a mile to keep climbing. This was less steep with lots of switchbacks and you knew the top was right there!

Looking down into Twin Lakes from the top of Hope Pass on our training run.

To reach the top was pure glory!! This is were my journey with John ended, his knee was still a hindrance and the downhills were hard. I gave him his pole back and I went down the hill. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the race. i had a huge smile on my face and was encouraging the people on their way back up. I knew this section from the training run the previous week, so maybe it was the confidence, or it was because I had food in me. Either way it was fun! But by the time I got to Winfield that smile was gone. I was depleted. i had lost so much time on the climb, and I had my obligatory race meltdown. I was out of it, I was worried i was going to let everyone down if i got cut off. i wasn’t going to quit, but i was afraid i was going to be forced out due to time. Coming into this aid station my pacer was right there waiting, she goes to run alongside me to see what i need and i yell at her that she cant run by me. What a way to welcome my pacer on our 50 mile journey together. Jeez, i was a B.

Knowing that I had to climb back up, even though I knew this part, was overwhelming. i started to freak out that i would lose more time and be cut off. i ate more ramen, and whatever i thought i could stomach. Roger just instructed me to meet him at Twin Lakes and that Angela would get me there. She had brought poles for me to use, and I was thankful. We left Winfield at 5:07pm. So now I was less than a hour away from the cutoff. You had to have left Winfield by 6pm. We left and started to pass people on their way in knowing that it would be close for them to hit the cutoff, it was heartbreaking.

I don’t know if it was having someone with me, the conversation, or the amount of food I ate, but I felt good. Climbing the “steeper” side of Hope Pass was much easier for me. Of course I didn’t say that until the top as not to jinx myself. The pace was still slow, but it was doable. As we were climbing it was nice to see Angela take it all in. This is an act of bravery, to willingly climb this pass and run 50 miles, and not get a medal. To do this for me, whew. So what could i do, I pointed out places for her to look out and take in the beauty that she may never see again. If you haven’t been there, you have no idea.

We got into the Hopeless aid station and eat. Remember that big ass climb that i fell apart on? Well now we get to go down. I knew I could make up some time on the downhill and I knew we were still about an hour ahead. It was starting to get dark and a little colder. Angela and i ran down that mountain, passing people who were walking. This was another section that i felt really good. We get off the climb and into the field before the water crossing and we were booking it. Spectators seemed to be really surprised that we were running that fast. I thought the river would be alot colder as the night approached, but it was still a welcome feeling. We passed a few people who were not prepared for the night and had no lights. At this point it would have been really hard to see without light. We got into Twin Lakes and tried to change shoes and socks as quickly as we could. We made up another 30 minutes getting here, I didn’t want to waste any minute of it!

We spent 15 minutes here, but no worries we were feeling good. Roger was happy to see that I had rallied and was in high spirits. I knew that we would be climbing for awhile on this next section, it seemed to never end. I knew almost immediately that my feet were going to be a problem. When i had switched shoes after the water crossing, I had only a think sock with me that i thought would be warmer. but the thin sock had no padding on the foot and that was what ultimately did me in.

Getting ready to leave the Fish Hatchery aid station

We got into the Half Pipe aid station where we ate, drank coffee, and put on more clothes. i had pants and a down jacket, thick ski gloves, and a buff for my ears. Remember when i said that i was happy that i changed my socks here on the way in, well i changed back into them for the remainder of the race.

Leaving here was great, the moon was out and the big dipper was directly in front of us. This is the flatter open section into Fish Hatchery, so it was colder. We got into the aid station and layered on more clothes and drank some hot coffee. Roger was ready with some good snacks, oatmeal creme pies were delicious and easy to eat.

From here there was about 25 miles to go. One more big climb. We had about an hour and a half before the official cutoff, so time was looking good. Coming out of here my feet were starting to slow me down, good thing Angela has a pretty stellar power walk. The climb up powerline seemed to go on forever. i knew there were some false summits and was trying to count them. In the dark and with exhaustion creeping in, it was really messing with me, i swore we were at the top about 10 times. We passed a few people who were weaving because they were falling alseep. i felt good though on the climb, just overall tiredness. All of a sudden you hear music and see a runway of glow-sticks and balloons in the trees. Am i hallucinating?!! It was our welcome to Space Camp, our reward for making it to the top. Best surprise EVER. We slammed some flat coke and started our descent.

About to leave May Queen

We got into May Queen about 4:45am and the cutoff was 6:30. At this point though my feet were hurting pretty bad, I was doing this shuffle/scraping thing to keep warm and to put all the weight on my whole foot. This was however slower than our walk. For the time that Angela and were together so far i had been out front, but from this point on I needed her to lead. i knew that if i was out front i would slow the pace down. I needed to follow her because it was likely that i would be walking the last 13.5 miles.

Finish line the day before.

A few miles into the last stretch the sun started to come up and you could see the lake in its finest. Even with our walking we were passing people. People who could still run passed us as well, not many though. We got past the Tabor Boat ramp and it was about 6 am, we had 4 hours to get to the finish. We get around the lake and onto the road. We arent in enough sun yet to take off layers, but we are on flat ground. Upon hitting the boulevard we have 4 miles to go, this literally felt like an eternity. 4 miles while trying to powerwalk could still be over another hour, I couldn’t be on my feet for another hour, even the shuffle thing wasn’t working.

Finally across the finish.

We turn the corner on the boulevard and it starts to go up, a steady slight uphill. The sun is on us, its getting warm. After about the second false “top”, I about lose it. i told Angela that if I stop for any reason, i was done. My watch said a little after 8am, i wanted that 28 hour finish time.  i dug deep and picked up the pace, repeating in my mind that “my feet don’t hurt, they are fine, i feel great”. i was using a meditative exhale to keep a rhythm to keep pushing. i blocked out everyone around me and hustled. Once we got off the boulevard and onto the last piece of road leading to the finish, I knew we would make it. We crested that hill and could see the finish line. It was Angela who broke first. We both had to choke the tears back because we weren’t there yet. At the beginning of the finishers chute was Roger and Roubaix, I took Roubaix’s leash and the four of us ran across together. I lost it, she lost it. i couldn’t breathe. i did it. 28:55:56. My first 100 miler. Mother Fucker, i did it.

This race was an internal one just as much as physical. i crossed that line saying that i would never do that again. It’s been a few days, my mind has changed. If i can get the tender foot situation under control i have a lot still in me. Even with the nutrition behind, I still felt good and strong. My legs didn’t give out, I didn’t burn out my quads or my lungs.

congratulating Michelle on her finish

i had so much support from my one man crew team, Thanks Roger you are the best. I had the best pacer one could ask for. I cannot ever repay her for those 14 hours she spent pushing me and making me eat. The gratefulness I have and the connection we share will hopefully have to do for now. Angela you’re the bees knees. To John who kept me together, I know he doesn’t think it was a big deal, but to me I dont know if I would have made it without him, so thanks John. i take back what i said about your old knees. To all the friends and family, people who don’t know me, and the land of facebook, thank you. Knowing you all were following this journey made me push a little harder.
To Oiselle for bringing so much love and support. Without you I wouldn’t have my pacer, or have met Michelle from Texas. i even had the love from the Colorado birds cheering us on.

Race swag.

In the pre-race meeting the founders called us family. I get it now.

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