“Better to die trying then live in regret” Leadville trail 100 2011
Ok, I don’t want to die but Andrew bought me a t-shirt for my efforts as he was super proud of me and that’s what it says. I think ultra runners are crazy because this stuff hurts, some points we suffer other times we enjoy the beauty around us but then we always want to do it again. Even if we don’t finish, we come back again and again. At Leadville only 43% finished, but with odds like that we still come and try. Failure is not a word we use, as this makes us stronger and more determined and motivated to come back again. Andrew and I went to the finish to see the last few people cross the line and what an inspiration that was. Total and absolute respect for everyone that finished today.
Ken Chlouber words stuck in my head at the pre race meeting. In so many words he said it will hurt but don’t let your crew, the volunteers and yourself down. So my goal was simple, don’t quit no matter what unless someone tells you to. Early on in the race I realized statistically that I was too slow to finish. From the crew meeting, a lovely lady told us that racers should come in around 1:30pm at Twin lakes in hopes to make the Hope pass cut off (45miles). She also mentioned that statistically anyone just making the 6pm cut off at Winfield (50 miles) would not finish the race and she had been studying the stats for years and years. I figured I needed to be close to an hour faster then the cut off times.
There was a buzz in the air at the start of the race, 800 racers and there families/crew ready to attempt a 100 miles. In the end 347 finished 100 miles in the 30 hours allotted time in which 54 were women.
The first 7.5 miles before I hit my crew ( Andrew) at Tabor boat ramp was fairly flat and wide at the beginning consisting of mainly pavement and dirt road. The sky was clear and the stars where out as we entered a trail around Turquoise lake. Headlamps lit up the outskirts of the lake in the distance. It was a nice gentle warm up before hitting a small 200 foot climb before the crew access point. This is when I knew the altitude was here to play a toll on all of us. Andrew greeted me with some food and water, which I filled up on and then headed out toward May Queen aid station. We continued around the lake, towards a campground before meeting cheering crew and volunteers. At this point my previous back injury started up and I began to get sharp pain down the side and front of my leg. I had worked so hard in the last 8 weeks to remedy this and to have this come on so early was annoying at the least. Regardless, I wasn’t going to let this stop me. So I got Andrew to give me a massage and then I was off.
After May Queen we headed up our first big climb toward Fish Hatchery. I ran and hiked many similar climbs to this one on logging roads and trails back home with a consistent pace, but climbing up toward 11000 feet had me stopping every few hundred feet and feeling slightly drunk. Onward and upward I went taking in some of the views before meeting Andrew at the Fish hatchery with 20 minutes to spare going into the next leg.
I passed through Tree line and headed toward the half pipe aid station and cut off. I made Pipe line with about 6/7 minutes to spare. Time was getting shorter but I still had lots of energy because I kept eating around 200kcal every hour even when I didn’t feel like it. The only problem was I bloated up with a hard sore stomach and puffy fingers. At the pre-race meeting the sports med doctor said that too much salt will bloat you up. I guess I was nervous about cramping and ingested too much sodium. It was too early to inhibit my race but I am sure if I made it past 60 miles things may have gone sideways. I just need to work on my nutritional plan for next time.
The moment of truth
We had some more up and downs to go and with 3.5 miles left I was feeling the pressure to make the Twin lakes cut off. A nice volunteer at the 3.5 mile mark said I could make it and I said “I will” and he said “do it for us” I didn’t have much time left even though it was downhill. I had sharp shooting pain going down my leg so the downhill was murder on my body but I kept pushing on. At one point I passed two racers and I asked then how much further. They thought we had about 2 miles left in which they said there is no way they could make it with just over 15 minutes left. I told them I was going to give it a shot and the lady said “you go girl” and so I did. If it was two miles I knew I wouldn’t make it but I was going to give it all I had to make the cut off. A few minutes later I passed a volunteer that said I had less then a mile left. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the previous racers as I knew I still had a chance. I converted that into meters and I was off. This was a race against the clock. I passed several other volunteers that encouraged me on and pushed me too run faster. I sprinted that last mile and came toward the aid station with an applause of cheering crew members, and spectators and Andrew who gave me a big hug. A camera crew captured the moment and interviewed me as I hugged Andrew and then I proceeded to cheer on the last few guys to come through. Several racers I had passed along the way including the New yorker made it with seconds to spare. I gave it my all through some pain knowing that my chances of making the next cut off where slim.
Andrew was instrumental in filling up my water, having my clothes ready and a selection of food displayed for my choosing. We made a great team. A nice lady from Colorado springs sat me down on her chair and held up an umbrella as Andrew organized my stuff. I headed up toward Hope pass aid station and cut off at 2:15pm. Along the way I ended up spending most of my time with two amazing racers. We stuck together for the most part, stopping every 50 meters or so to catch our breath and to cheer on the racers that had already come and gone from Winfield aid station. We moved at a turtles pace but kept going one step in front of the other. Closing in on the 4:30pm cut off time, we knew we wouldn’t make it. As racers turned around knowing they wouldn’t make either we kept on climbing wanting to be cut off and turned back to Twin lakes. Shortly after 4:40pm we turned around and headed back to Twin lakes. I asked both of them if they would race Leadville 100 again. Without much hesitation they both said yes. Of course we all needed to figure out a better way to beat the altitude next time.
For me, next time may be in several years as I need to be faster and work with the altitude. It was a big goal to take on Leadville but hey why not? There is so much that we may miss about ourselves if we don’t dream, we don’t try, and reach for those bright sparkling stars. I used to fear failure, but it teaches us how to cope with life and what it may throw at us and it makes me at least, hungrier for more. In the end I deserve to wear the t-shirt but next time when I cross that line I’ll deserve to wear that belt buckle too!
Have fun out there!