If I had to describe the week leading up to the Leadville Trail 100 with one word it would probably be "paranoia".
My taper was working insofar as my leg muscles felt absolutely great. In the final weeks before the race, with rested legs, I had a spring in my step that I hadn't felt in a long while. PRs on local routes around town came easily without much effort. I'd glance at my GPS and find that I was "accidentally" running 7-minute miles. However, I was now only running every other day and it seemed that a new mysterious tweak or minor joint ache would manifest itself on each of the off days. Kneecap soreness. Tight shins. A painful sore spot on the outside of my right foot. WTF?! Where was all this coming from? It felt like my body realized that daily running had stopped so now it was okay to finally breakdown. I kept up with stretching my hips before, during, and after every run. I also iced my left knee after every run-- the knee which has given me the most trouble in the past. And I'd also foam roll my legs every night for about 5 minutes or so. I thought I was doing enough to keep any potential case of ITBS at bay.
For my final long run I ran the 11 miles from Pipeline to the Colorado Trail and back. It's become a tradition. I ran it very strongly, but I distinctly felt a dreaded tightness on the outside of my left knee. Dammit! Wasn't I icing and stretching enough to prevent ITBS? With only 7 days left until the race I went into full-on panic mode. I visited the local pool to jump in the hot tub to loosen everything up and then stretched and stretched until I couldn't feel any tightness in my hips at all. I iced both legs 3 times a day. I foam rolled like a mad man over the weekend and took big doses (800 mg) of ibuprofen to try to "break" any lingering inflammation. After debating full rest vs. sticking with my plan for my taper, I decided to go out for my remaining 5, 4, and 3 mile runs. Short, flat, easy runs on the LT100 course just to keep everything moving. I was hyper-alert during the runs-- completely focused on my knee-- but the tightness didn't re-surface. I continued stretching and icing during the week leading up to the 100, but I stopped foam rolling. I didn't think deep massage was a good idea so close to the race. If nothing else, the short runs helped calm me down. I knew that they didn't prove much (since they were so short), but they restored a bit of my confidence.
Why the paranoia? Well, I've come down with ITBS in 2 out of my 3 LT100 races. The first time, it was a pre-existing condition that I knew about ahead of time and could anticipate dealing with during the race itself. The second time, I ran the race without any knee problems whatsoever. I thought ITBS was a thing of the past. However, last year, during my third LT100, it came out of nowhere at mile 30 and derailed the rest of my race.
This year there was more on the line. I was aiming for a big buckle: 24:45. A finishing time that would require a whopping 3.5 hour PR. I was confident that I had the required fitness. I was confident that I had a nutrition plan that would work.
All I needed was for my knee to cooperate.
Before I had even declared my intention of going for a sub-25 hour finish, I had sat down and gone over my splits from last year (along with my notes) and tried to find places to save time. How could I actually shave off over 3 hours from my previous PR?
- Well, the course would be 2 miles shorter; returning to its normal length. That's 30 minutes right there.
- Historically, I've spent way too much time at aid stations. Especially from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back. I estimated that I could save about 60 minutes if I just didn't stop.
- Don't get ITBS. I hoped that staying injury-free would save me ~90 minutes on the downhills. This had more to do with proper training (and recovery) than anything that I did in the race itself.
- Only the remaining 30 minutes would come from improved fitness. Mostly during the first 40 miles.
Seriously though, I liked the fact that the plan didn't require me to push any harder than I had in the past. Hopefully, my perceived effort would be about the same as it always has been. Mostly, I would just run smarter and uninjured.
Seriously though, I liked the fact that the plan didn't require me to push any harder than I had in the past. Hopefully, my perceived effort would be about the same as it always has been. Mostly, I would just run smarter and uninjured.
Start to May Queen
I hesitate to say that preparing for the 100 the morning of the race has become routine, but it's become pretty close. I know exactly what I'll eat, what I'll wear, how long it will take me to get dressed, how long I'll stretch, etc. Pre-race jitters are no longer an issue. The only three things I did differently this year were to 1) use a heat wrap to warm up my leg muscles (prior to stretching), 2) wear compression shorts in an effort to keep my hips warmer, and 3) wear an IT band strap from the start. Mostly for the placebo effect, I guess, as I'm dubious they actually do much, if anything. At 3:30am, after my last sip of coffee, my wife, Christina, and I walked the three blocks from our house to the starting line.
I felt relaxed. What would happen with my knee, would happen. I had done everything I could think of to prepare it for this day. I was confident in my training. I knew the course like the back of my hand. I had an experienced crew and a totally solid group of veteran pacers ready to help.
I just had to execute.
With a blast from the shotgun, we were off. Time to get in to position for the trip around the lake. I chatted with some friends I spotted in the pack and tried to maintain an easy 8:20 min/mile pace down the Boulevard, cracking jokes about how sustainable it was. As we hit the flats at the bottom of the valley I shifted down to 9's. I actually jogged up the mini-powerline climb and then shifted down again to 10's around the lake until Tabor. Once past Tabor, when the trail becomes a little more technical and rolling, I shifted down yet again to 11's. It was a very comfortable pace. I'd get backed up when folks in front of me starting power-hiking the small uphills, but I'd usually be able to dodge around them.
I did feel the tightness in my left knee return as I jogged around the lake in the darkness. It was intermittent and only someone as paranoid as myself would have even noticed it. All I could do was quietly sigh and tell myself to stay positive. Maybe it was nothing.
Nutrition-wise, I kicked ass during this section. 820 calories down the hatch. I drank two bottles of my homemade energy drink and slurped down two gels. I also quickly refilled one of my bottles with tap water as we passed through the Matchless parking lot (the first boat ramp). I highly recommend that strategy to top off your fluids during this leg.
I hit the May Queen aid station in 2:08. 2 minutes faster than my goal and a 9-minute PR. In retrospect, I think this is a pretty darn good goal time for this leg. Anywhere from 2:05 to 2:10. I think it strikes a nice balance between speed and sustainability.
May Queen to Outward Bound
I quickly spotted my crew, took off all my warm layers and my headlamp, grabbed two new bottles of energy drink, my hat, and sunglasses, and jogged off up the road to the Timberline Lake TH.
This is the leg where I knew my improved fitness would have the most obvious impact. I planned on slowly jogging all the way to the top of Sugarloaf. Previously, I'd only attempt to jog Hagerman Road and hike the rest. But, if I've mastered anything this summer, I've mastered the slow 12-14 min/mile uphill jog at altitude. Whether you're jogging or hiking actually doesn't matter, in my opinion. What really matters, I think, is just a steady, sustainable, consistent effort. I prefer to slowly jog-- rather than quickly hiking-- and adjust my cadence to match the grade. There were two racers next to me who were constantly power-hiking past me, huffing and puffing with their poles clicking madly away, only to drop back again and repeat the process as I trotted steadily along. Personally, I don't think those spikes in energy are optimal.
|Jogging up Sugarloaf.|
I broke my promise to myself to not run faster than 8:30 min/miles down Powerlines. I just got carried away, as I always seem to do. I was prancing down the mountain with an exaggerated forefoot strike, trying desperately not to damage my knees. I think I overdid it a bit as a few miles later I felt a slight pull/tear on top of my right foot. Stupid! I hoped it wouldn't come back to bite me in the next 80 miles. My knee felt fine, though. Perhaps some intermittent tightness, but nothing consistent and certainly not getting any worse.
I hit the Outward Bound aid station in 1:54. 6 minutes faster than my goal and a 14-minute PR. And this section was about 0.3 miles longer given the new aid station location. (Rumor has it that Lifetime pissed off the manager of the Fish Hatchery, who kicked them out. Just local gossip, but sad to hear.)
Outward Bound to Halfpipe
I met my crew near the aid station and quickly swapped my two empty bottles for one new full one. (Another 720 calories down! I was rockin' it-- though I still felt strangely hungry.) I headed off down the road, cruising along, listening to my ipod. If you're ever going to listen to music during this race, this is the section to listen to it! Flat, paved road and lots of it. I hovered around high 9's and low 10's during this section, with an 11 min/mile on the dirt road up to Pipeline. A very comfortable pace. At Pipeline I met my crew again and traded my empty bottle (another 310 calories in 40 minutes!) for two full ones, plus an extra bag of energy drink powder to mix up during the next section. They also dumped some ice water on my head. So refreshing! (My 4 year old daughter, who was there cheering me on, apparently thought this was hilarious and later emulated it at home with her own water bottle.) I continued on to Halfpipe, jogging everything. That was a change from last year, for sure, when I had begun to hike some of the uphills.
I hit the Halfpipe aid station in 1:11. 9 minutes faster than my goal and another 14-minute PR. Most of that PR was probably made on the gently uphill dirt roads, rather than on the pavement. Again, my improved fitness played a big role in this section. I could jog everything without much difficulty.
Halfpipe to Twin Lakes
Rather than stopping for 5-10 minutes like I normally have in past races, I blew right through the aid station. It felt good, but in hindsight I think it was a mistake. While I was doing great as far as calories went, I don't think I was actually drinking enough water. I was probably only getting ~17-18 oz of water per bottle given the density of my energy drink. And, in the mounting heat of the afternoon, I think that ultimately hurt me.
I realized I couldn't make it all the way to the Mt. Elbert aid station before refueling, so I waited until we crossed the major stream in this section and filled up there, dumping water on my head to cool off as well. The clouds were mostly obscuring the sun, but the heat was rising. If only I had chugged 8-12 oz of additional water here, I think it would've been a game changer. Ah, well. Hindsight and all that.
Psychologically, I had passed a huge milestone, though. Both times I had come down with ITBS during this race, it was always during this section. Right before the course hits the Colorado Trail. The intermittent tightness in my left knee had completely disappeared. I hadn't felt anything for miles. Could this really finally be happening? The magical race where neither nutrition nor my knee held me back? I definitely had to choke back some tears at the thought.
|Dehydrated, but no ITBS!|
I topped off one water bottle at the Mt. Elbert aid station and began the descent down into Twin Lakes. 9 min/miles felt amazing compared to the 11-12's I could only muster limping downhill last year.
I hit the Twin Lakes aid station in 1:45. Exactly my goal for this section and a 5-minute PR (over my time from '11-- I actually ran it 29 minutes faster than last year). In retrospect, I think 1:50 might have been a wiser goal. You need to hit Hope Pass in really good shape, so you need to absolutely nail both your nutrition and your hydration during this leg. I nailed the former, but I think I was falling behind on the latter. It would come back to haunt me shortly.
I made it to Twin Lakes in almost exactly 7 hours-- 15 minutes ahead of my goal pace and more than an hour faster than I had ever made it to Twin Lakes before. So far, so good!
Twin Lakes to Winfield
I took a quick sip of soup at the aid station, met my crew, put on my pack, grabbed two new bottles, dumped more ice water on my head, and immediately set off for Hope Pass. Having basically run straight through Twin Lakes without stopping for more than a minute I knew that I was already 10 minutes ahead of my time for this split from last year, when I had to stop much longer to try to deal with my emerging case of ITBS. That's a nice feeling, believe me. It's almost like cheating.
My energy levels didn't feel quite right, though. As I approached the river I felt a bit... foggy. Splashing through the puddles that preceded the crossing filled one of my shoes with grit. Sighing, I knew that I'd have to stop to clean it out. Luckily I knew of a great rock by the trail to sit on so I could do just that. (Yes, I guess you could say I'm rather familiar with the course!) As I sat down I realized that I had actually run every step of the course for the first ~42 miles. Wow.
|A low point in multiple ways.|
At this moment I was probably as far up as I would ever be in the race. Later number crunching put me at 98th place at Twin Lakes and I'm sure I passed a few more folks as I blew through the aid station itself. I was about to lose some places, though, as I struggled with the climb. Soon runners were hiking by me like I was standing still. I said hi to many of my friends as they passed by: Marvin, Mike, and Andy in particular. I just couldn't summon up the energy to maintain a solid pace and keep up with them. I never stopped, but progress was slow. I became dizzy and light-headed, then finally a bit nauseous. I tried to get more calories down, but I couldn't take more than a few sips of energy drink at a time without feeling bloated and vaguely sick. In hindsight, I think it was dehydration rather than a deficiency in calories. My blood was probably thickening. Ugh. I splashed water all over myself as the trail neared the stream. It felt great, but I really should have taken the time to drink more.
Still, I reached the Hopeless aid station in about the time I predicted: 1:50 from Twin Lakes. That was faster than last year, but mostly due to not stopping at Twin Lakes. When I was moving, I wasn't moving much faster than I had in previous races. But, hey, whatever works! After quickly refilling my bottles at Hopeless I took off for the summit. Again, efficient aid station management immediately put another ~8 minutes in the bank as I normally collapse on a log at Hopeless and try to choke down some soup. Not this time. I think I felt a bit better as I climbed the last section of trail from the aid station to the top. I was two or three switchbacks from the top when the leaders came bombing down past me. I looked at my watch and took note of Mike's time so that I could update Ian and Nick as they passed by later.
|Feeling better on the downhill.|
Things definitely felt better on the way down. I just cruised down, occasionally darting aside to avoid the leaders who were climbing up. I wasn't really pushing it-- it just felt nice to not feel so nauseated as I had on the climb. My knee felt fine. It wasn't even on my radar anymore. I guess I felt confident that if I had developed a case of ITBS during training it would've surfaced by now. I just had to try to recover from whatever caused that bought of dizziness and nausea on the way up (it still really hadn't sunk in that it was probably due to dehydration... I don't know why). It was really starting to heat up on the south side of Hope Pass. Again, I took a moment to stop at a stream crossing and dose myself with ice cold water. So, so good. Luckily I had previously taken note of various landmarks on this section of trail so I knew exactly when then downhill into Winfield was approaching and didn't get my hopes up too soon. It was becoming harder to jog the uphills and I definitely resorted to hiking some of the way.
|Almost half way. 20 minutes ahead of schedule.|
As I emerged out onto the dirt road my wife and I almost immediately caught sight of each other and she jumped up and down cheering for me. It was a happy moment. Even though I had struggled on the uphill, I had given myself a generous amount of time for this split and was I still ahead of schedule.
I hit the Winfield aid station in 3:34 from Twin Lakes, approximately 6 minutes ahead of my modest goal for the split. I arrived in 10 hours and 35 minutes, a total of 20 minutes ahead of my goal. More than that, this was the first time I had ever met or exceeded my goal for the first half of the race-- no matter the goal!
Winfield to Twin Lakes
I was somewhere between 3-4 lbs down at Winfield. Not too bad, I think. (I guess I couldn't have been that dehydrated.) I quickly dropped my pack, and picked up my poles and my first pacer, Terra! I was in and out in maybe 2 minutes.
Terra's paced me in every 100 I've run, so she's a pro. She works for Clif Bar and had taken time out of her busy schedule to help me complete this crazy race yet again. (Clif had a big presence in Aspen that weekend due to the Pro Cycling Challenge.) Sadly, as we proceeded uphill to the single track, my nausea returned. I just couldn't drink much without feeling bloated. Finally, I gave up and puked on the side of the trail. Almost nothing came up, but I felt slightly better afterwards. I had hoped to make it the entire race without puking, but at least I set a new PR for farthest distance run without ejecting the contents of my stomach: 51 miles. (My previous PR was maybe 43 miles for this course. 47 miles, all time. That's ultra!) I was able to trot a bit to the intersection with the Sheep Gulch Trail, then I grabbed my poles and went to work. Just like the north side, I made it all the way to the top without stopping, but I was moving very slowly. Folks were passing me again and I was loosing more spots. I wasn't very talkative and just tried to grind my way to the top without bonking too hard. Things got a bit easier as we approached the final switchbacks and the trail leveled out some. I saw many folks sprawled out on the side of the trail at various points-- not a strategy I recommend. But, I was feeling so poorly that I wasn't in any kind of position to be giving advice. Finally we reached the top, but about 15 minutes behind schedule. Again, I had set a generous goal time for the split to Twin Lakes, so all was not lost. There was still the possibility that I could make up some time on the downhill.
|Grinding up Hope Pass.|
Terra ran ahead to fill up my bottles and I jogged along behind. I made much faster progress down to the aid station than last year when my ITBS really flared up during this section. It felt so good to just be dealing with tired legs and not the feeling of being repeatedly stabbed in the outside of my knee. At Hopeless I actually grabbed one of the few remaining cups of mashed potatoes and noodles. I ran with it in my hands while Terra took my poles and managed to polish it off in a few minutes. On the way down we stopped again as the trail neared the stream and I used the empty cup to pour ice-cold water all over myself. It was a religious experience. I hooted with delight and took off down the trail, sopping wet. We made good progress down the mountain, passing a few folks along the way. (I'm sure we passed plenty more at the aid station itself.) I was running maybe 9-10 min/miles, I'd say. Much faster than I'd ever been able to do during this section in the past. We kept on jogging all the way to the river and to Twin Lakes itself.
This was the first time I'd ever made it to Twin Lakes (inbound) before the sun had set. It was really uplifting. I saw a lot of locals that I knew in the crowd and waved. Their cheers were much appreciated and I joking flexed and smiled as I ran by looking for my crew. I had survived Hope Pass... barely.
It had taken me 3:50 to get from Winfield back to Twin Lakes. My goal was 3:40, so I was 10 minutes late. But, considering the 6 minutes I had gained on the way to Winfield, I was only down 4 minutes for the entire grueling 21 mile section. Secretly, I had thought that maybe I could have exceeded my conservative goals for Hope Pass by a fair amount, but I'll take it. (If there's any place to put a cushion in your goal times, it's Hope Pass.) I was still 10 minutes up overall on my goal pace through mile 60. I still had a lot of ground to cover, but a big buckle was starting to feel like a real possibility.
Twin Lakes to Halfpipe
When I met my crew, I quickly sat down to change into dry socks and shoes. That wasn't my original plan, but when I had crossed the river they'd filled with sand and grit again. (Actually, it wasn't due to the river, but to the muddy puddles after it.) It didn't take long until I said thanks to Terra and picked up my new pacer, Alex-- an old friend from college and fellow ultra runner. As we set off up the hill to the Mt. Elbert aid station together I was still amazed that it was light out.
On the way up, we were quickly joined by fellow Leadville locals and friends, Smokey and his pacer Craig. Also, another Alex I had met earlier in town (brother of Drew, a friendly ultra runner who used to live up here) showed up with his pacer. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and we joked and laughed on the way up to the top. My pacer, Alex, shook his head in disbelief at how happy we all were this late in the race.
While I felt pretty good on the climb up, I was still having trouble getting down enough calories. I had switched to Coke for a change, and was able to polish off a bottle by the top of the climb, but my energy drink wasn't sitting very well. It seemed warm and unpalatable. I'd take a sip, feel strangely full/bloated, jog a bit until I burped, take another sip, etc. It wasn't very efficient. Alex and I managed to jog most of what I'd hoped to jog heading in to Halfpipe, but not as fast as I'd hoped. I also took a few walking breaks on some uncharacteristically easy terrain. I just couldn't quite pull it together to nail this section. My legs felt fine, I just had low energy. A handful of runners passed me and I leapfrogged a few for a while. It got dark just as we reached the aid station and we finally put on our headlamps. Glancing at my watch, I knew we were slightly behind my goal time for this split, but we had still barely managed to set a PR. I took some small comfort in that fact even though I felt pretty low at this point in the race.
We hit Halfpipe aid station in 2:20, 5 minutes behind my goal time for this split. I now only had a 5 minute cushion remaining on my overall goal pace.
Halfpipe to Outward Bound
We jogged past Halfpipe without stopping. Alex ran in to see if they had some ice for my energy drink, but they did not. It was a long shot. Shortly afterwards, I think, (or maybe it was after we were leaving Twin Lakes?) we were passed by a runner who exclaimed something to the effect of, "This must be the fifth time I've passed you during this race! How much time do you spend at aid stations?" I smiled and replied, "I don't." I took some small pride in the fact that someone had actually noticed my strategy and commented on it.
I managed to pick up the pace a bit during this leg and I finally stopped hemorrhaging positions. Alex called ahead to Christina at Pipeline to warn her I was approaching so they could expect us and have everything ready ahead of time. I asked for more Coke and more ice. And some Redbull. I plowed on through the line of cars while Alex ran ahead to get everything. It was still incredibly warm out (for this time of night), so I remained in my t-shirt and shorts. I proceeded down the dirt road in the darkness, headed for the pavement. Alex caught up with me about halfway there. I tried some Redbull. It tasted disgusting. I switched back to Coke and jogged along. By not having to stop to change shoes or into tights at Pipeline (like I did last year), I knew I was already 5 minutes ahead for this split. I just had to keep jogging. I knew I had averaged around 13 min/miles during this section last year, so I tried to keep under that. I could-- just barely. My legs were definitely getting a bit sore, but it was nothing compared to the knee pain/stiffness I had to deal with last year.
We watched the lights from the aid station grow slowly closer and closer. We seemed to be in a pretty big gap of runners without too many folks nearby. As we finally closed in on Outward Bound, Alex took stock of everything I needed and shot off to track down our crew and sync up with my next pacer: Justin.
I had a few moments alone out there under the stars, jogging along the pavement. It was quiet. I was holding on and getting closer to that big buckle with every weary step.
I hit Outward Bound in 1:26, 14 minutes ahead of my goal time. It really didn't feel like I was moving that much faster during this section, but I think-- again-- not stopping really helped. My legs were never getting an opportunity to stiffen and lock up.
Outward Bound to May Queen
I was back up to a 20-minute cushion on my goal pace-- which itself had a built in 15-minute cushion to the 25 hour deadline. (I was aiming for a 24:45 finish-- just to be safe.) I started doing the math in my fatigued head. I really didn't want the march from May Queen to the finish line to be a desperate race against the clock only to finish in, say, 25:05 or something. That would be soul crushing. Having walked pretty much every step of the last 12.5 miles in each of my previous races, I knew it would only take me 3:40 to hike it in its entirety. My goal pace called for a slightly more aggressive 3:15 to the finish. Well, 3:15 plus a built in 15-minute cushion, plus my current 20-minute cushion on top of that, put me at... 3:50. Solid, but not quite guaranteed. If I could just nail this 10-mile leg over Powerlines to May Queen then maybe I could rest easy.
Justin was just the man for the job. This would be the third time he'd pace me to the finish (and the fourth time, total). I know these final 23 miles are not exactly his favorite section to pace, but he's usually been my closer-- and for good reason. He's such a relaxed, optimistic guy; perfectly willing to talk about anything and everything to pass the time (even when I'm not being very responsive), and he knows the course and is very good at gently reminding me to pick up the pace or eat more or do whatever I need to do to survive. Last year, his encouragement at the river crossing near Twin Lakes, when I was suffering from ITBS (and took two frickin' hours to descend from the top of the pass), was probably the only reason I didn't DNF.
I tried to get down as much Coke as I could on the pavement before the climb, where I knew I'd need some energy. I had run from Twin Lakes to Outward Bound without poles, but now it was time to power hike again. I wouldn't exactly say we crushed the uphill, but again I made it to the top without stopping. No breaks. It was a solid pace for this late in the race and we actually started passing a few folks on the way up. I don't think I had passed anyone on an uphill for about 40 miles. Up until this point I hadn't taken a single painkiller during the race. Sure, I was a bit sore, but I don't like to take pills if I don't have to. But, I knew I really wanted to hammer the downhill into May Queen. I told Justin that if I couldn't run at least 13 min/miles going down Sugarloaf, I wanted to stop and choke down some Tylenol. I did not relish the thought. As we crested, I started jogging a bit and slowly tried to stretch out my tired legs. 14 min/mile, 13 min/mile, 12 min/mile... Justin jogged ahead to scout out the smooth singletrack carved by all the mountain bike riders the previous Saturday (which dodged all the rocks)... 11 min/mile, 10 min/mile pace! I shouted with joy. The pace seemed blisteringly fast for mile 85! I think I even saw a 9 min/mile pace on my GPS at one point. That big belt buckle was going to be mine! We must have passed well over a dozen runners on the descent. I silently thanked my quads as we turned off Hagerman Road and on to the Colorado Trail.
The two-ish miles from Hagerman Road to May Queen always scare me. They seem impossibly technical this late in a 100 mile race. I grabbed my poles again and tried not to do anything too stupid. We had caught up to Smokey and Craig again and they fell in behind us. We chatted away as we gingerly negotiated all the rocks, jogging when we could and taking it easy when it got too rocky or steep. One bridge down, two bridges; finally the third bridge...
There's minimal cell service at May Queen so as we emerged onto the pavement Justin ran ahead to track down my crew, Christina and Jeremy.
Again, a quiet moment alone. I took a breath and looked at my watch. It was 1am. I had obliterated the section, running it in 2:44, 16 minutes faster than my goal and over a half an hour faster than my previous PR! I now had a comfortable 4 hours to make it to the finish line.
I ran the 41st fastest split from Outward Bound to May Queen. Damn.
May Queen to Finish
Regrettably I kind of shutdown after May Queen. The knowledge that a big belt buckle was pretty much in the bag, caused me to loose my focus and intensity. I managed to get a few calories in me going over Powerlines, but not enough to sustain a surge all the way to the finish. I was still battling some nausea and I wasn't really interested in any of the drinks I was carrying.
Sticking with my plan, I jogged straight through May Queen while Justin dealt with logistics. We swapped headlamps and got some more bottles of Coke and energy drink. I had put on a long sleeved shirt going over Powerlines, but I was getting warm and I took it off again. May Queen is usually an ice box-- it was amazing how warm it was.
I tried jogging every so often, but I just couldn't muster the energy. I puked. I staggered on. The Tabor Boat Ramp seemed to take forever. Runners were passing me at regular intervals. I wasn't worried, but I was vaguely disappointed that it seemed a strong finish would elude me yet again. Still, my disappointment was tempered by the fact that I was actually going to big buckle. Impossible! Luckily we picked up my poles again at the boat ramp because they saved me from a tumble or two going down the mini-power lines. I was getting sleepy and I noticed that it was becoming difficult to walk a straight line. Once we hit the bottom of the valley the temperature felt like it dropped 20 degrees. I immediately put on a warm layer, a hat, gloves, and a rain jacket. I saw my parents drive by on their way to meet me at the finish line. My cheering section was assembling! I just had to survive the Boulevard. I desperately wanted to be done. Last year I had the energy/willpower to jog some of the Boulevard, but not this year. I just clicked along with my poles, chatting about whatever I could think of to pass the time. A nearby racer exclaimed with a humorous mixture of joy and disgust, "My last gel!" I knew exactly how he felt.
Finally, the pavement. 6th St. The top of the hill. I somehow summoned the energy for a victory jog to the finish, waving to all my friends and family who had woken up at 4:30am to see me. It felt good to finally cross the finish line. Very, very good.
24:28:55. 112th out of 944 starters (494 finishers).
What an amazing finish to another amazing summer of running in the mountains. My fourth consecutive Leadville finish. My fourth consecutive PR. A 3:50 PR! A big buckle. Incredible. A huge thank you to my crew and pacers for helping me get 'er done.
I accomplished something that I assumed was so far beyond the realm of possibility at the beginning of the year that it never even crossed my mind to have it as some sort of nebulous, far off stretch goal. I honestly thought I'd end up taking it easy this year; I had no plans to radically change my training. My main focus was simply to not get injured during training. Even now, as I write this a week after the finish, it's difficult for me to believe. I've always been a mid-pack runner. And yet somehow I pulled it off. If this blog inspires just one person to keep at it; to keep training for another year, to be patient, to be smart, to be consistent, and to break through and achieve an entirely unexpected result then it'll all be worth it.
Some obligatory tables. My race was far from flawless. The first 40 miles felt great; 7 hours to Twin Lakes feels about right, but yet again Hope Pass proved to be more challenging than I thought. In training, I can do a double crossing in 5 hours. Yes, of course I expect to be slower during the race, but 2.5 hours slower seems a bit excessive. I'm convinced that my slowdown this year was due to mild dehydration and a subsequent lack of calories. I need to take better care of myself from Halfpipe to Twin Lakes and stay on top of nutrition while slogging over the pass itself. Psychologically I was done at mile 87.5. I lost my motivation. I really want to finish the race strong one day. There is huge room for improvement from May Queen to the finish. So, as crazy as it sounds, I think overall I could've run at least about an hour faster. Well, maybe next time...
|A comparison of my '13 splits and my '12 splits. I ran every split faster!|
|A comparison of my '13 splits vs. the median splits for '13. (Hope Pass #2 should be red.)|
|A comparison of my '13 splits vs. my PR splits. My old PRs were from '12, '11, and '10.|
|A comparison of my '13 splits vs. my goals for '13. Not too shabby.|
|My place at each split, how much it changed, and how my split ranked. I crushed Powerlines inbound!|