|Elevation Gain||14,541 feet|
|Rank||335 of 360 finishers/690 starters|
Son of a bitch.
This race and I are like a bad couple. We just can’t get along but we still keep going out hoping to make it work.
The lead up to the race seemed near perfect. Had everything dialed in. Was greatly acclimatized. Not a single thing I can argue in my head.
Race morning is always so painful waking up at 2:30 AM to go stand in the cold and run at 4 AM. This is not my best time of day. Slept a bit beforehand but the secret is always sleeping soundly the day before that — which I did. Drove myself to the start line this year for the first time. Parked and walked up 6th Street a 1/4 mile into the lights. I was pumped to be there again. There are no qualifiers for this race but it feels good to swagger up the street knowing you can give this race a fair shot year after year.
Started up in the front but not the front. Just far enough up so I could chat with all my Colorado boys that would surely be leading this race out. As the gun went off, I started my jog but let the leaders fly. I settled into my pace and down the Boulevard we went.
We cruised to May Queen in a good pack. I got there in 2:08 which I knew would keep my fans/critics happy. Oddly the pace seemed a tad harder than I would have expected. I can’t fathom how I ran a 1:48 there in 2011. I dropped my headlamp and was on my way.
On the way up Sugarloaf, my day took its first turn for the worst. I was getting some lower stomach, high ab pain. Tolerable but super annoying. This was breaking my run up Sugarloaf and people on the run were quickly moving by me. Drat. As I descended Powerline this became worse and worse. I started to better identify it as kidney pain. I had an issue at Bighorn in June but after 6-8 hours, I was able to clear it and recover. Would this be another day like that?
On to Outward Bound. They moved the aid station further east in the field this year. No cars on the road at all. It was a pretty clean entrance. Then they changed the course to exit out the south of the property and then go east over to Halfmoon road. So it cut a bit of the road out but it was just a mowed path through the pasture. And there were plenty of divots/cow holes in the ground. Not sure it was a bonus.
As I headed to Half Pipe, the pain continued. I was re-evaluating my fluid intake. I was hitting 1 UD bottle of water and 1 UD bottle of UCANN between each of the aid stations. That was all I could carry so it seemed reasonable being before 9 AM. I found myself ducking off in the trees inbound to Half Pipe trying to quell the pain by peeing. But I could barely pee. Like squeezing as hard as you can and a couple drops would come out. Like you couldn’t fill a thimble. And it was dark. Orangish. Is this blood? What the hell. Not again.
I figured I would just keep on it and it would eventually clear. But the weather was not helping. This was literally the hottest day in Leadville in months. We had a rainy and overcast July in Leadville. I nearly trained there all summer. Never much in Longmont where temps are 90-100. I was forced to wear a shirt and run in 60-70s in Leadville — in the rain. I was not heat trained this summer. I used to pride myself in the hot summer workout. This year I just wasn’t in that location. Me acclimatizing bit me back.
Finally dropped into Twin Lakes just past noon. I was aiming for 11-11:30. Tim was right at the front when I arrived. He flagged me right into his camp. He had brought a chair and got there early and setup to crew me. I wasn’t planning on much support on course but it was nice to get a bit of help here. He knew I was off pace and I was showing my disappointment. But he encouraged me to move out and make it up on Hope Pass. Because that was the plan anyway. Ryan, Liz and Honeybear were hanging out at Twin Lakes and wished me well. I had a moment and bent down and let Honeybear lick my face. I told them I missed my dogs. Its weird to train with them all summer but then leave them home on the big day.
Hope Pass was a mixed bag. I felt so familiar there given my training over the summer on the course there. I moved better than I had in prior years. I used to double over hacking and coughing trying to get my breath. Today, I used my inhaler and it seemed to calm my symptoms. So I was steady but it was slow. The kidneys still aching. I finally hit the road into Winfield and Jason Koop was there waiting on his runner. He accompanied me all the way into Winfield chatting about my race and offering suggestions. I appreciated the time he took with me.
I got into Winfield and weighed in. Down 12 pounds. Oops. Totally dehydrated. I sat in the tent and drank cup after cup of water, GU brew, whatever. I wasn’t going to stop at Winfield — but I changed plans. I decided to hang for 15 minutes just refueling to see if I could kick start the recovery. Finally, I got up and left and headed back over the pass.
The return was another slow ascent. But it wasn’t as painstaking as other years. I just kept moving and the time sort of melted away. Once I crested, it was time to go down and I could barely run. The kidney pain was too intense by this point for the jostling of the rocky trail. So I hiked down.
On my way down Hope, I lost light. Sunset came and I was running down in the dark. This happened last year and you would think I would have learned. But I didn’t have a drop bag at Winfield. Oops. So I was running down the trail in the dark using my cat eyes to veer away from the grayish looking things on the trail that looked like rocks. People with lights would bomb past me. Finally, crossing the river and then the swamp in total darkness. Losing the trail a few times and just standing there waiting for the next runner to come through and light the trail.
Pulled into Twin Lakes and Tim was right in the parking lot. I wasn’t really sure what the situation was with the cutoffs. I don’t think I need to pay attention to such things but here I am. Tim had the data and said we had 20 minutes. I was fully prepared to go home if they said I was out of time but I was guaranteed to solider on if they let me. So we packed up Tim’s camp and moved to the real aid station so we could get through the timer and make a final prep for the night time push.
We got out and hiked back up to the Colorado Trail. Tim’s fresh legs had him just drifting away from me at a leisurely hiking pace uphill. While I was there driving the sticks and grunting up the hill. Tim was trying to encourage me to push and stay with a group, or catch a light, or eat more. But I was in survival mode. I started thinking in terms of cutoffs. Could I make the next aid station in time? I continued to hurt in the kidneys. Barely any pee still. I figured night time would fix everything given the cooler temps but it wasn’t relieving me. I would try and pee and get out another drop and then try and run. It was a pathetic jog if anything.
Tim then started having his own digestion issue. He was having to stop and stretch and bend. He wasn’t well. We pulled into Half Pipe freezing cold. Tim informed me that he couldn’t pace anymore with the discomfort. He hitched a ride out of Half Pipe as I went into the tent. Cutoff was 1:15 and I arrived at 12:20 AM. Nice. Got some time back there. But the highlight was clearly dropping Tim with my wicked pace.
Off to Outward Bound. I was solo and still cold. All my warm clothes were in the Outward Bound drop bag. I didn’t pack one for Half Pipe. Whoops. When I have been on an OK pace, I never get could until Outward Bound (Fish). Not this year. I was later than ever. I took my Buff and made a glove out of it and kept switching it from hand to hand to keep some finger functioning.
Outward Bound’s cutoff was 3 AM. I got there somewhere around 2:45ish. I grabbed my dropbag and sat by a fire that some crew/family had going in the field. I geared way up. Pants. Couple shirts. Hat. Gloves. Warmed up nicely. Marched out into the night.
Up next was Powerline. It was a 2x a week practice this summer with the dogs so every step was predictable. I continued to move decently on the hike but couldn’t run the stuff I should. I didn’t lose position to many and caught plenty. Felt like a decent push given the circumstances. However, the descent off Sugarloaf was killing me. The kidneys were piercing but my feet started getting angry too. My non-Hokas all day long were starting to catch up with me.
As I approached May Queen, I was unsure of the cutoff. People were saying 6 AM but there was no big push of people around me. Maybe it was later? Maybe it was earlier? I didn’t know. I just made the best time I could and rolled into May Queen. As I crossed the timer, it read 6:19:41AM. Cutoff = 6:30. Damn. I made it. You aren’t sure if you are happy or sad at that moment. But I knew the race went on and so would I.
I was still in this thing after hiking since sunset. Now, sunrise is here and I have 13.5 miles to cover in 3.5 hours. This might hurt a bit. So I jumped on the Turquoise Lake Trail and started doing math. What pace do I have to nail to make this? How bad do I want this? I was rolling the down and hiking the ups. I found some rhythm that didn’t have me doubled over from the kidneys.
People passed me and I was passing people. There was definitely something special going on with the time left in the race. We were the last wave. And frankly, it was pretty interesting being in it. We came though the campgrounds and folks were all cheering us on like I have never heard. They knew it was close and they were pushing us. I ran what felt like super fast around to the damn. Looking back on the splits I never broke a 15 min mile but I would have sworn they were 6 minutes flat.
After the mini powerline, I started thinking I was in the money. And suddenly I came upon a group of about 15 runners in a pack. They were mostly walking and talking. There was no sense of urgency with this group. I found the last wave! They and their pacers had done the math and we were all going to make it.
We got to the Boulevard and I cruised right up it with the pack. I had memories of 2010 with my sister. I was doubled over crying like a baby saying I wanted to stop right now. Taking pauses. None of that today. I just powerhiked and never broke my stride up the whole thing. Passing by the exit for my house knowing I would be there shortly. Thinking about how my dogs and I ran this road about every afternoon. Basking in the moment.
We rolled up 6th Street and the pack decided to run it out. I let them go. I could see the clock and I had plenty of time. So I let them go so I could cross the line alone. There have never been so many people at one of my finishes. We were getting close to the end of the race and the town gathers. But you finish a few hours earlier and its tough to find anybody out there. I never ran. I walked right over the finish line and got my medal. Another one done! 3 time finisher.
I went over to the medical tent and told them my story. No pee. Pain. I figured I was a shoe in for an IV. Denied. They sent me over to the food area and told me to keep hydrating. So I did. Sat by myself and chugged what I could for 15 minutes. I was getting stiff so I got up and limped to the finish line to see them shoot the gun for the end of the race. I then hobbled down 6th Street and found my truck. Sitting in the driver’s seat felt amazing. I don’t have to move anymore!
Except that the awards were only 2 hours from now. So I had to go shower and then get myself up into the auditorium to receive my buckle. I worked for it and I needed to get it. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep in my chair during the awards. Apparently, they never called my name but I took a buckle anyway. My chip stopped working half way through the race so I never got scored. I had to go to race HQ on Monday to sort it out. I was kind of panicked. I just did that and I want my credit! Turns out they have manual data too and the put it all together except for one split. Everything is right now.
My Bighorn video seemed popular so I wanted to do another in the same style. However, I lost motivation during the day with the issues. Probably would have made for a good story but I just wasn’t in the mood or something. Then I think it popped on later and the battery drained. So you get some video of me from the start to after half way.
I usually try and end these Leadville posts with some epic plan or discovery or proclamation. This time, I just don’t have one. I am not really sure where to go from here with this race. I have 3 buckles — which I tell myself I can divide up between my 3 daughters some day. Seems about right. Is that enough finishes? Have I proven I can gut that race enough times? But I still haven’t achieved the mastery I wanted there. I want to have one good race in my adopted hometown one day. That would give me some peace. And something about that 1000 mile buckle seems right.
I talked to many friends who indicated they were going to pause after this one. I feel the same sometimes. Step away for a while. Come back some other day. This is a runner’s course and I have done less pure running lately. It used to take me months, then weeks, then days to recommit to returning to this race. This time it took me minutes. On the drive from the finish back to the cabin. But I left the year out. When you are out there, it really seems like agony sometimes and you wish you were elsewhere. But the second it was over, you realize it was a fine place to be at that time. Life isn’t about normal moments. Its about special ones. And every August I get one of those burnt into my brain forever.
The tradeoff is always more about the strain on things. This race seems to put pressure on my family in some way I can’t understand. They don’t enjoy it and haven’t attended in a few years now. My kids have never seen me finish a 100 miler. I crossed the line this year with no pacer, no crew, no family. And that was OK. Its a solo passion for me and I respect that. For my fellow runners that do get to share it with their families, I hope they all cherish the insanity of running around these mountains in the middle of the night trying to keep you from puking. Those are the stories that you will remember forever.
So I commit to coming back here again, but maybe not next year. Odd years seem to bite me. So maybe I will try a few new things next summer. Hone some skills. Really prep. And then come back and give it another go with fresher perspective. I know I can do this. I just haven’t put it together yet. So the journey will continue…date TBD.