Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leadville: The Other Prep Work

I can say with absolute certainty that I would not have been able to finish this race a year ago. Last October I ran my first 100 miler, Heartland 100. I trained pretty diligently for that running-wise. Right after I completed that race, I started mixing in strength training. First in a 30-minute group session: Sunday Smash, with Whitney Samuelson. I knew my upper body strength was going to be pathetic but I really thought my legs would prove to be outstanding. I had run 100 miles after all. After the first workout, my legs burned like mad for a solid week. I was definitely knocked down a few pegs there. Then I decided to start seeing Whitney for 2, hour-long, one-on-one sessions per week. And what a difference they made!

If you asked me 4 years ago if I'd be happy to know my thighs GREW an inch, the answer would absolutely be no. If you asked me that a year ago, the answer probably would have been the same. But I experienced a major body image change when I started working out with Whitney. Thanks Whit! All through high school and college and even after that for a while, my ultimate goal was seriously to look like a J. Crew model. I wanted a teeny tiny nonexistent butt. I was too stupid to accept that my wide hips would never allow my bum to get that small. And I was also too stupid to know that I had a nice butt already and could look even better if I focused more on strength training than losing weight.

But I was "young" and stupid. And 4 years ago I was really depressed (divorce) so not eating came easy. But I was running! Oddly enough, not eating much does not make you a very strong runner. You end up having conversations with people during 5k's.

Am I a J. Crew model yet?

Actual J. Crew model: Almost!

This is the first time you'll ever hear me admit to having had an eating disorder. I have admitted to being depressed, sure. But not to having a fundamentally jacked up view of what is healthy. But Laurie, you're still skinny! What's up with that? It is true that I'm still thin but I have put on at least 5lbs since that Skeletor picture above. And I eat like a horse. And check out the extra muscles on my legs!


Old Laurie: Oh no, not leg muscles! New Laurie: Oh yess! 

Still I can't claim that I don't get a bit obsessive even now. But I've learned to love my body (and the extra inches on my legs) and I'm not afraid to look athletic. I don't want pecs to replace my boobs or anything (scary) and I no longer want to be a J. Crew swimsuit model either. Hooray!

Well, THAT was a long aside! What I'm trying to say is that coming from Kansas, where we have no mountains, there is no WAY I could have physically finished this race without all the strength training I've done over the past year. And I got the added bonus of a mental improvement too. When you see the women who toe the line at LT100, you realize this. You CAN NOT fake Leadville. There are no out of shape women there: either overweight or underweight. So coming in the bottom half (31st out of 53) of the women does not make me feel bad at all. These were all amazing, strong women!

Amazing like Junko and Amy! (Who both kicked my booty.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Race Report

Prologue


Reader: "WTF? She wrote a prologue?! I better go get some coffee."

The days leading up to the race were marked by a mixture of worry, intimidation and excitement. After hiking some of the toughest parts of the course, I was feeling fairly confident about my strength and ability to deal with the altitude. Excitement. On the other hand, I had to take into consideration that these were individual several-hour hikes, and I had to string them together with the rest of the course in between and multiply by two come race day. Intimidation. I was also dealing with a bruised, swollen right foot…the origins of the injury unknown, except that it probably happened at some point hiking Hope Pass. Worry. After an awkward 1-mile test run, I began to envision a DNF at Mayqueen outbound, just 13.5 miles into the race.

This photo I snapped on a hike around the shore of Turquoise Lake sums up my emotions. You can see Hope Pass, the 45 mile point, far off in the distance. I was overwhelmed by the distance I had to traverse to reach that point. But at the same time, I imagined the great sense of accomplishment I would feel reaching that point.



Getting Down to Business


The night before the race, I headed to bed around 7 or 8, trying to outsmart the 2:30am alarm I set for the morning. I tossed and turned for several hours before I finally conked out. I still got a good 4 or 5 hours of sleep and woke up 10 minutes before my alarm went off, alert and ready to go.  I threw on the clothes I had laid out the night before, brushed my teeth, braided my hair (something new), and grabbed some breakfast (zucchini bread).

Pre-race. At the house with my crew: Nick, Sarah and Coleen. Sarah and Coleen came all the way from Kansas!

Time rushed by. We left the house at 3am and we went to Provin' Grounds, the local coffee shop, for a supplementary breakfast. I ran into friends, got a lot of hugs, posed for photos and before I knew it, it was 3:45 and I decided it was time to leave the comfy environs of the coffee shop.  Perfect timing too. The starting area was already packed with runners.  I squeezed in about 2/3 of the way back from the start line.

Start to Mayqueen (13.5mi)


Before long, all 600-something starters were bobbing along down 6th street through town.  It didn't take long for a good portion of the runners to start taking a walk break, including me. It's downhill a bit from the start line, then a good uphill to the outskirts of town. Definitely a hill you would run in most races, but not a 100 miler. And definitely not for a first-time Leadville attempt by a girl from Kansas.

In case it's not obvious by now, my intention was to walk every uphill of any significance.  And there were definitely some "hills" of significance (see below). But I had been practicing my speed walking and I was confident that I could maintain a 15-20 minute/mile pace, even walking (with the exception of Hope Pass).



Most of the first 13.5 miles were fairly flat to downhill, so I got a lot of running done. As we made our way out of town, runners headed off the course in every direction, "taking care of business". So after the first mile or two, it smelled like a rank porta potty the rest of the way to the first aid station. I was seriously starting to wonder if people weren't smearing poo all over their bodies, perhaps to keep the competition away.

I guess about 6 miles into the race, we reached the trailhead which would lead us around Turquoise Lake. It was a steep climb on a rocky trail, which I rather enjoyed. A nice little test of the legs. I passed a few people. After this initial ascent, the trail becomes soft, sandy and flat. Just a nice little jaunt along the shore.

A few miles later, we reached the boat ramp, which isn't really an aid station. It's just a place where a LOT of people hang out to cheer.  From this point, the trail becomes hilly: short ups and downs. The trail also becomes fairly technical: lots of rocks, and lots of areas where streams cross the trail (slick).  No worries. I powered on through. Passing people when there was space. On this section, I remembered that Nick had told me to relax and keep my heart rate down. I wasn't really doing that, but what else could I do with those initial race jitters?

I caught up to a group of guys, including one who was in the Navy, telling a story about diving. He said something along the lines of, "they had 80lbs in their BCs." I had no idea what that meant, but to be a smart ass, I replied, "Did you say 80lbs of feces?" That earned me a chuckle and a glance back, which was refreshing since the rest of the runners seemed to ignore my random banter. I figured why not at least enjoy a few laughs during the hardest race of your life? There would be plenty of time to suffer all day and night. I later learned that BC stood for buoyancy compensator?? I think.

Well before long (about 2:20 in), I found myself running into Mayqueen, met by Nick. I told him I'd been eating like a horse - 1.5 packets of Honey Stinger Chews and 3 gels downed - so I needed my food refilled in my pack. I chowed down on some pbj's at the aid station and when I was done, Nick had my stuff all ready to go. The crew is the most important element to success in a 100 miler, for MOST people. Your crew pretty much waits on you hand and foot, because most of the time you're too delirious to figure things out yourself.

I knew I needed to keep my calorie intake up from the beginning so I didn't crash and burn later in the race.  If I kept eating well for the first half, I could relax and just do whatever my crew told me to for the rest of the race.

Mayqueen (13.5mi) to Fish Hatchery (23.5mi)


I loved the cold air around the lake. This was a great temp for me - probably 30's to 40's. Others complained that it was too cold but I though it was JUST right. I might have made a mistake by eating a gel shortly after leaving the aid station. Soon I was feeling queasy. I suspect from the large amount of calories I had ingested in a short period of time - pbj's + gel. "OMG," says the tummy, "too much to process!"

The tummy calmed down before long, and I enjoyed running and hiking a pretty section of the Colorado Trail. We were gradually winding our way up to Sugarloaf Pass. When we left the Colorado Trail we were directed to run "up a gradual incline" on Hagerman Road. This section was really deceiving. Nobody could actually figure out if we were going up or down hill for a while. It was really weird. But we had great views, so most everyone just relaxed and settled into a run/walk routine. Eventually, it became obvious that we were going uphill, and I spent most of the time wondering when the course was going to get steep. Apparently, this side of Sugarloaf never really does. It's just long.

It didn't seem long though! I chatted with people on my way up. I met a guy with crazy socks who lived in Boulder. He turned out to be a Mizzou grad, which I tried not to hold against him too much. It seemed like we were at the top of Sugarloaf and making our descent in the blink of an eye. I took it easy going down, letting lots of people pass me. I didn't want to tear up my legs on the first big descent. Mizzou passed me and I saw him a few more times throughout the race, but I think he ended up beating me. Damn.

On the way down I saw the 20 mile marker. A few minutes later, it occurred to me to check the time. 4 hours. I was amazed by my pace. I didn't think I'd be at a 12min/mi pace, especially with all the walking up Sugarloaf plus the aid station. Oh did I forget to mention that my bruised foot didn't bother me at all, like I was expecting. Didn't feel it. I DID feel my knees aching on the steep descent from Sugarloaf though. The last mile is so steep you have to make your own mini switchbacks, winding left to right across the path, so you don't lose footing on the loose dirt.

The run along the short portion of paved road down into Fish Hatchery is fun. There are lots of spectators. And the spectators cheer extra hard for the women. Not sure why. Women typically have a better finish rate than men in these races. It's the dudes who really need the extra cheering! This was the first time I saw my whole crew. Everyone but Nick went back to the house after the start to get some much-needed rest. Not sure how much they managed. Probably not a lot, based on my experience.

Going to check in at the Fish Hatchery aid station with Coleen.

Fish Hatchery (23.5mi) to Treeline (27mi?)

The next little jaunt was all on roads - some paved, some dirt. It's all exposed and I disliked it all. 1) It was getting warm and you all know I like the cooler temps and 2) it was really flat and you could see a long way. But I settled into a run/walk routine that got me to my next point efficiently. On the way, there was a sign that read, "Any idiot can run a marathon. It takes a special kind of idiot to run 100 miles." Or something along those lines. It made me LOL. We're all a bit off in the head you know. It's good to see confirmation in writing.

When I reached Treeline, which isn't actually an aid station, just an intermediate place for crews to meet their runners, I glanced eagerly around for my crew. But I didn't see them. I began to freak out a bit once I passed by all the crews and just kept running along Pipeline Rd. I was sure they wouldn't forget about me or show up late. I reassured myself that they were set up further down the road, since it's practically Nick's dad's back yard. Sure enough, a few minutes later, I saw them set up on the side of the road. Relief.

I think I felt kinda crappy. Coleen offered me some raspberries, which tasted excessively sour and didn't sit well in my mouth after all the stinger chews and gels I had already eaten. But I kept eating them for a while. Every time I saw my crew, they gave me a swig of mouth wash, which helped with the buildup of  sugary film on my mouth for a while. A few minutes until I would eat again. But it helped me for a while anyway and was a boost, mentally. Nick put a little moleskin over a hot spot on my foot and I was back up the road.

It hurts there.

Back at it.

Treeline (27mi) to Twin Lakes (39.5mi)

There was actually a full aid station between Treeline and Twin Lakes (Half Pipe - 29.1mi), but crews had no access to it, so I was in and out pretty fast. Plus it was pretty close to where I had just seen my crew. Shortly after leaving my crew, I ran into Aaron from Panama City, Florida again. He was the 80lbs of feces I was talking to earlier. I think I passed him, then took a pee break shortly after. So I ended up having to pass him again. Life is rough. 

We started chatting more after we passed through Half Pipe and eventually fell into a run/walk rhythm. We would take turns decided when to run. Ok, we're gonna start running at that grouping of trees. We can take a walk break when we get to the bend in the road. Sometimes I felt better and sometimes he did. We just kept each other going. We talked about subjects ranging from relationships to farting. We had a gentleperson's agreement not to fart on each other. Yeah, ultrarunners are a gassy bunch. If one of us had to relieve some pressure, we'd walk behind the other. I had no such agreement with anyone else though. Hahaha. The rest of the racers were outta luck.

Things really started getting sore a few miles into this section. Pretty much my whole right leg: IT band at hip, knee, arch of foot. But amazingly, by the end, it started to loosen up and feel better again. This would happen a few more times throughout the race.

We finally reached a steep downhill section that would lead into Twin Lakes. It was probably over a mile long. The final descent is wicked steep and you have to be careful of your footing. But I made it down without face planting. Yay!

My stomach felt pretty crappy here. It was hot and exposed at Twin Lakes. None of the solid food I grabbed at the aid station was sitting well with me. I ate half of the cookie I grabbed and eventually handed it off to my crew to toss. I changed my socks, which I knew might be pointless since I was about to cross a river, but it felt good anyway. The pair that I was wearing was getting loose and bunching up in my shoes. I got out of there eventually, leaving without my hiking poles. I didn't want the burden of carrying them this early, even if it would be a tough hike up Hope Pass.

Stuffing face at Twin Lakes.


Twin Lakes (39.5) to Hope Aid Station (45mi)

As I ran out of the aid station, I spotted Aaron and sped up my trot to catch him. This apparently impressed the crews down in the parking lot and they cheered me on. Once I caught up to him we settled into a more relaxed pace. He really pushed me here. For at least a mile, we wound around a marshy grass area. I didn't feel like running any of it, but that jerk made me anyway.

Maybe a half mile out from the actual river, we started wading across large "puddles" of water - some 20-30ft long and a foot deep. Apparently it had been a wet year, because people who had done it before said it usually wasn't like that. I liked the feel of the cold water on my legs even if it was making my feet uncomfortable in my wet socks and shoes. Aaron thought the water felt way too cold. Wuss. The river felt even better. Race officials had strung a rope across it, because the water was moving fast. I think the water was maybe thigh high, but I might have dipped myself in down to my waist because it felt so good.

Once we crossed the river we began our ascent up to Hope Pass. The climb is ROUGH. Most of it is very steep. You start your climb at the lowest point on the course (9200ft) and hike up to the highest (12,600ft), in about 4 miles. Aaron had the excellent idea to take rest breaks every once in a while. Had I been alone, my ego probably wouldn't have let me stop. But the breaks really helped get out heart rates down to reasonable levels. They also helped when I started feeling queasy due to the high altitude and exertion.

Not long into the climb, I realized I had NO salt with me. Apparently it had fallen out at the aid station, or somewhere. But Aaron let me borrow some of his. What a dear. Well eventually after several rest breaks and a lot of uphill stumbling, we made it to Hope Aid Station. It's also referred to lovingly as Hopeless Aid Station by runners.

I ate a bit and Aaron and I grabbed some rocks to sit on and rest for a bit. We also had fun checking out the llamas. You know the aid station is hard to get to, when you gotta bring everything in with llamas. A few feet away from us, there was a gentleman barfing up everything he just ate. I was worried I might get hit with some accidental spray but it all turned out ok. When he got done puking he introduced himself as David Manthey. It turned out he was a friend of one of my crew members. I don't think I'll ever forget the way we met!

Hope Aid Station (45mi) to Winfield (50mi)

Well Aaron and I finally departed our comfy rocks and began the final ascent to Hope Pass. We weren't at the top yet! Aaron, being the amazing boyfriend that he is, decided that this was an appropriate time to call his girlfriend to find out how she did at the USAT Age Group National Championship in Vermont, which oddly enough was where my friend Sam was that day too. Seriously, this was the most difficult part. Loose gravel, steep switchbacks. I don't even know how he was able to talk. That is a dedicated dude. But we FINALLY made it! This was a huge milestone in the race. We still had to go down and come back over, but heck we got there once we could do it again. It was such a momentous occasion that Aaron got out his camera and snapped a photo. Is that a sweet backdrop or what?

Aaron, Devin? and me at Hope Pass.

We had a blast going down the back side of Hope. We walked the really steep parts and ran the rest. We saw the second place female running up as we began our descent. Yeah, RUNNING UP. Like 9 miles ahead of us. No way I would be running up that beast. Whew. I was ok with it though. Traveling 100 miles in less than 30 hours is still a respectable accomplishment don't you think?

Well we were just giddy on our way down. Joking like crazy. We thought our crews would tell us to stop being such slackers when they saw what great spirits we were in. It turned out, I wasn't really in great spirits by the time I reached the aid station.

Once you leave the trail, you have a 2.5mi? trip up a dirt road to the Winfield aid station. I've been told that this section is disheartening for some people. I wasn't really bothered by the fact that it was uphill. I was bothered by the fact that the pain in my right leg had flared up again all of a sudden. Aaron and I started our run/walk routine, but I let him go ahead after a bit, because I just couldn't keep up anymore. I actually reached the aid station relatively quickly. At least it felt quick mentally.

It had started to rain and I was a bit chilly sitting in the aid station getting taken care of. I had to weigh in here and found out that I was up 5lbs from when I weighed in on Thursday. I don't think that I gained all 5lbs that day. I was admittedly about 3-4lbs light when I weighed in initially and I think I gained a couple pounds over the next couple days. I also had wet shoes on when I weighed in at Winfield, so that can account for some excess too. But ideally, they want you to lose a LITTLE weight during the race, not gain. Gaining weight means you're overhydrating or just retaining water in general, which can dilute the needed electrolytes in your body. I've also read that when you're stressed out some chemical can be excreted that prevents you from peeing. Oh well, my weight gain problem is still a mystery to me. There are SO many factors in play.

Anyway, I changed my socks, had some salt and was eventually on my way WITH MY PACER!!! After the first 50 miles, you're allowed a pacer for the rest. This is great, because you start getting pretty off mentally around that point. You have a hard time remembering to feed yourself - important stuff like that. Nick was my first pacer. I chose him for Hope Pass because he had done it many times before, and actually just hiked it a few weekends before.

Winfield (50mi) to Hope Pass (55mi)

On our way out of the aid station, I saw Aaron sitting with his crew and told him to hurry up! I figured he would have been out of there already since he was doing way better than me going in. My leg was still bothering me a lot going down the road to the Hope Pass trailhead. I couldn't run a whole lot, even though it was mostly down hill. My IT band was so tight and I think my right foot was bothering me too, although not in the location of the bruise. I saw tons of people heading toward me with surgical masks to keep the dust out of their mouths and noses due to the vehicle traffic on the dirt road. Apparently they handed them out at the intersection of the trail and road (outbound) but I didn't catch on. Actually the dust didn't really bother me. It was raining when I went into Winfield after all.

Nick was carrying my hydration pack AND his, as well as my hiking poles, which I decided to employ up the back side of Hope. The trek back to the trailhead wasn't so bad and I started off feeling pretty good on the Hope ascent. About 1/3 of the way up I started feeling fatigued and slightly nauseous, but I kept trudging along. I stepped off the trail to make way for the people coming down since they were facing the cutoff time at Winfield. But really I just liked the rest breaks.

About 2/3 of the way up, everything hit me like a sledge hammer. The altitude, the incline. I felt like barfing and passing out, maybe at the same time. I sat on a rock, holding on to my poles, head down and started to cry. It didn't last long because I realized the crying was interfering with my breathing, so I had to calm down. Hey, I made it more than half way through the race without crying. I consider that an accomplishment. I sat for a minute or two then renewed my assault on Hope. Or it renewed its assault on me. Probably the latter. I got passed a LOT on this climb. I think Aaron had passed me before the crying incident. I didn't really care who passed me as long as I got to the top without dying.

As we got closer to the top, a light rain started up. It was nice and chilly. I thought it felt amazing. I was so hot from the energy it was taking to make the ascent. Once we MADE IT to the top, I kind of shuffled down to the Hope Pass aid station. The trail is pretty steep toward the top, with lots of loose rock, so I would either have to go pretty fast or pretty slow. I opted for pretty slow since my legs were NOT 100%.

At the aid station, I grabbed some "coke" and sat down on a log while Nick got me some soup. I think the coke was really half coke, half water. And the volunteers announced that they were "reusing" cups. Yummy. Well, it's tough for them out there. They have the supplies that they have. It's all carried in by llama. So when they start running out, it's for real. I think we got out of the aid station pretty quickly. Aaron was still there, talking on the phone I think. 

Hope Pass (55mi) to Twin Lakes (60.5mi)

This part went by pretty fast. We ran the whole way down. David caught up to us on the way down and we chatted for a while until he decided to fly the rest of the way down. He was feeling GOOD. Which is awesome, after the barf fest he experienced on Hope. I was excited that we made it down from Hope before dark. We even made it through a good portion of the marshy area at the bottom before the lights went out completely. I spent about 30 seconds just sitting in the river. It was cold but felt really good on my legs. It definitely helped my stiff joints.

Being stubborn and all, I refused to get out my headlamp for the last half mile in the dark. I have pretty good "trail feel", so I just ran slow and carefully and reacted to the terrain if there happened to be a rock or something. And soon we were back to the Twin Lakes aid station! Hooray! I felt really good when I got there. It was dark, cool and I had just RAN a good 4.5 miles. I changed socks at the aid station and Sarah and I were off like a couple of prom dresses. Just kidding, I never took my prom dress off. Not in the presence of anyone else at least. I can't speak for Sarah though.

Twin Lakes (60.5mi) to Treeline (73mi)

There's a big long climb out of Twin Lakes. Several miles long. But I liked it a lot. My legs were feeling fresh after the soaking in the lake. I kept up a good hiking pace. Passed a lot of people on this stretch. I think I started feeling a little queasy at some point because I remember asking Sarah for ginger. She was ALSO carrying my pack for me. Damn, my friends are too good to me. We also discovered there was no salt in my pack, so Sarah gave me some of hers periodically. Nick had set me on a strict food schedule. Eat every 20 minutes. At 20 and 40 I would eat 2 Honey Stinger Chews. At 60 I had to eat a whole gel and take a salt cap. I didn't like it much after a while but I dealt with it. I was pretty sick of eating. 

After several miles, there were some good downhills that I ran. Eventually, the pain in my right leg crept back in and running long stretches became more difficult. I also had to go to the bathroom, which made it uncomfortable to run downhill. After a good stretch, I decided I couldn't wait for the aid station and found some good trees. Felt tons better. We were actually pretty close to the Half Pipe aid station (the one crews aren't allowed to visit). I call this, pulling a Debbie Webster. She once took a bathroom break during a race and we found out a few minutes later that we were a quarter mile away from the finish line. 

I sat down at the station and Sarah brought me some soup and coke. Yeah, when you run 100 miles you pretty much get treated like a Supah Star! I can't even imagine doing a 100 miler unsupported. Gives me nightmares. We got moving again and I was really getting stiff. I tried stretching my IT band but that was really painful. Sarah asked if I wanted ibuprofen and I held off as long as I could but eventually decided that I'd take ONE. We got to Treeline, where my crew was waiting, much sooner than I expected. The sign at Half Pipe said 4 miles, which I thought was long. And I think I was right. We were to Treeline way too quickly for it to be 4 miles. I wasn't gonna complain though.

At Treeline I changed my socks and shoes. I was really going out on a limb changing into my old Inov8's. They're a half size smaller. I ran my first 100 in them and then my feet "grew" so I had to go up a size. But I thought dry shoes would feel good for a bit. So Nick took the insoles out of my old shoes to give me some room and I put 'em on. 

Treeline (73mi) to Fish Hatchery (76.5)

Once Coleen (my third pacer) and I got going, I realized that I would have to change back to my wet shoes at the next aid station. The shoes were still small even with the insoles out. And I had no foot protection with the insoles out. I felt every rock. Fortunately, we were mostly on the road so the terrain wasn't too rough.

I did a LOT of running on this section. It's mostly a gentle downhill. When we weren't running, Coleen kept me walking FAST. I knew she would be a great pacer, because she's a ridiculously fast walker and she doesn't put up with whining. The definition of a good pacer. I think the ibuprofen really kicked in on this section. Once we got closer to the aid station, I started to slow down a bit. A combination of the course being slightly uphill and my legs getting a little stiff from all the running. I passed a bunch of people on this section. Everything went smoothly at the aid station. I got my shoes changed, ate a bit then we headed out.

Fish Hatchery (76.5mi) to Mayqueen (86.5mi)

I took my poles with me on this section, because I would have to go back over Sugarloaf. Actually, Coleen carried them for the first mile on the road. We walked a bit, ran a bit. The usual, by this point. And when we reached the powerline trail, it was all walking. I was nervous that this would take forever, but I just did what Coleen told me. Put my head down and just kept going. This part went by in a blur. I couldn't believe it when Coleen told me we were at the top. Really?? Maybe it went by so fast because I was only half awake. 

So obviously I was psyched at this point. Downhill into Mayqueen. It'll go fast right?! No. Way. Despite the excessive amounts of running I managed. It took forEVER. I remember this part just flying by, outbound. Well I guess I was fresh then and spent all my time gabbing. This was the most demoralizing part so far. You'd think it would've been going up right? Damn. Then we reached my nemesis, the Colorado Trail. I didn't know it was my nemesis yet, but I would soon find out.

It wasn't really downhill like I thought (misremembered) it would be. It was rolling hills. It was also dotted with large rocks all over the place. I really thought I'd be running this, but I was so tired and clumsy at this point, I just kept tripping whenever I tried to run. It was so frustrating. When I saw a sign along the trail that said "85 miles," I lost it. I felt like I had been stumbling along this trail forever. I still had 1.5 miles to get to the aid station??? It took one more trip on a rock and I started crying again. Coleen heard me sniffling and asked what was wrong. I said something like, "I'm just SO tired." I stopped whining after a bit and soon we were to the LAST aid station. It sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. You still have more than a half marathon to go from here.

I didn't need to change shoes or socks. I just needed to drink some caffeine. I tried eating a variety of things. Sandwich? Too dry. Bleh. Soup? It was the most disgusting soup I had ever tasted. I guzzled some Red Bull, which was also disgusting. Everything was disgusting. At one point during our run, Coleen gave me a gel and I told her it tasted like corn tortilla. My sense of taste was shot. All I knew was that everything was gross.

Mayqueen (86.5mi) to Finish (100mi!)

We left Mayqueen at around 5am. We had 5 hours to finish ahead of cutoff. I could have walked the whole way if I wanted. I did not want to. I have never wanted to be at a finish line so badly. I wanted to be done, lying in the grass next to the finish line. Nick was pacing me again for this section. I paced him on the same section when he ran it 2 years ago. I thought it only appropriate.

I started off a little stiff. It was pretty cold near the lake. I had my hat, gloves and jacket on. I loosened up a lot once we got on the trail around the lake. I mean, I was really moving good considering how far I'd gone already. I was power walking uphill and running downhill. I felt like a million bucks. This lasted a couple miles before I stiffened up again. Knees hurt. Ankle hurt. Bah. I kept up a slower version of the run/walk routine for a couple more miles until I was overcome by pain. I also got a little sassy with Nick, announcing, "I am NOT eating any more gels. Only Honey Stinger Chews." At one point I said I wasn't going to eat every 20 minutes anymore, but I got hungry 2 minutes after I said it.

I really wanted some ibuprofen again. I just wanted some pain killers so I could get to the finish line ASAP. Nick didn't have any. He said his dad and stepmom would be meeting us on the road and maybe they would have some. It turned out they weren't there, so I was extra grumpy. They probably didn't have drugs anyway. Shelley and Kelly found us on the road and walked with us for a bit. Kelly kept saying how good I looked! I felt like the crappiest of crap. All I could pull of was a fast duck walk. After a bit they headed back to their car to drive to the finish line and wait. 

Next up, I saw Courtney and Luke across the road. Luke had run too, but was forced to DNF with a stress fracture. They were cheering for me and so nice. But I was pretty antisocial by this point so I probably seemed bitchy. Nick couldn't really remember what the mileage was at various points on the course so I was just thinking the worst. That we were really really far away from the finish line.

The turn onto the paved road into town actually came much quicker than I expected. And I realized I was going to BEAT NICK'S TIME! Hahaha. Not by much though. There is a surprisingly long uphill section on the road before you reach a point where you can see the finish line at 6th & Harrison. I was walking as fast as my legs would take me. I had aching blisters, but I said "F you blisters! I'm goin' fast. Deal with it!" I told Nick I would run the rest of the way once we reached the downhill section. And so I did. I started running, running, running. Then we got to the section that goes uphill to the finish line and I thought "Uhhhhhh ohhhhhh. I don't know if I can pull this off. It's a long way." But I knew there was no way I could start walking in front of all those spectators. So I did the only thing that would make it better. I ran FASTER. I just ran faster and faster, squishing all the blisters on my feet, ignoring my aching knees, so I could get to the finish line as quickly as possible. And then there I was! Running the red carpet, tears streaming, getting my finisher's medal and flowers.

It's the red carpet!

And then it was over and it was all hugs. Hugs, hugs, hugs, and tears. I still really can't believe I finished. I keep thinking, really? that was me? Maybe it was all just a bad dream. That's what it seemed like when I was done. I couldn't figure out WHY I ever wanted to do this race. 

With my crew, after the race.

Leadville was quite a test, physically and mentally, but there is absolutely no way I could have finished without my crew. I always say crewing for a 100 miler is more difficult than running it. Crew members hardly get any sleep but instead of doing fun stuff like running all day, they're taking care of you. They'll do anything short of wiping your butt. Nick might even do that if I asked nicely. When they're not waiting around on your slow ass, they're spending two hours driving from one point to another on a crappy dirt road. It is not a cushy job. And while you feel wonderful when it's 35 degrees at night, they're freezing their butts off, because they're just sitting around waiting for you. So thank you from all of the locations of my heart, Nick, Coleen, Sarah, Chris and Bonnie.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anticipation

I really wanted to wait on this post until I had a few pictures uploaded but I won't have the equipment necessary until Friday and I don't plan on doing anything but freaking out the day before LT100.  I'm also experiencing a bit of cabin fever/taper madness since I'm alone in the woods outside of Leadville right now.  So I figured this would be a good way to occupy my time.

So in case you weren't "in the know", I moved to CO a week ago today.  I sold my car to my good friends in Kansas, so I know it'll be taken care off, and I flew off to CO with just a few bags containing some of my clothes.  Nick had moved out to our new place a few weeks before.  I spent a couple days at our new place in Conifer which is about 20-30 minutes west of Denver, then Nick and I headed up to Pb-ville.  Get it?  So if you see a "Pb" sticker you know what it means now.

I had some good runs and hikes while I was at the new place.  I felt 100% better than I did the last time I visited CO.  No headaches or anything.  It made me feel more confident about the race, since the altitude was my biggest worry.

We went up to Leadville on Saturday with the pups and decided to camp in the back yard since animals aren't allowed in Nick's dad's house.  It pretty much turned out to be a nightmare.  The dogs were misbehaving so Nick put them in his truck and Juko ended up chewing up a seatbelt.  Nick had planned to hike/run Massive on Sunday but since he had a rough night with the dogs, he ended up sleeping in instead.  You have to get up pretty early to ascend Massive and not get caught in storms.  It's about a 13 mile trek.

So we ended up going up the powerlines together.  This is part of the course that I will be going down outbound and back up inbound (at night) during the race.  It was a good hike.  It goes uphill for about 4 miles, but only a short portion of it is really steep.  We got some great views of Turquoise Lake from the top.

Powerlines. The peak you see in the distance is not really the top.

Turquoise Lake as seen from Sugarloaf.

Overall it's not a bad hike.  You just happen to be going the same direction (up) for a long time, which can be boring.  Regardless of the steepness, after 76 miles of traveling, I will definitely be walking all the way up this thing.  But my no nonsense pacer, Coleen, will be making sure I get up Sugarloaf as efficiently as possible.  She's probably the fastest walker I know!

Monday I decided to go for a walk around Turquoise Lake.  Not all the way, mind you.  That would be a lot of walking.  Anyway, it was a gorgeous brisk morning and I got some really amazing shots with Nick's camera.  Unfortunately, Nick left Sunday night and didn't bring a cable to transfer the photos to my laptop.  Apparently his fancy new Macbook Air is equipped with a card reader, and my not fancy old Macbook isn't.  Probably too many negatives in that sentence.

Well the views were just amazing.  When I got to the north shore of the lake, I looked south and could see Hope Pass looming FAR away.  I was located on a trail 8-10? miles from the start of the race.  The top of Hope Pass is at the 45 mile point.  It was equal parts intimidating, beautiful and exhilarating.  Just overwhelming.  It made me super excited for Saturday.

Tuesday, I went for a walk from the house out to Pipeline Rd and back into the forest on the other side.  I spent maybe an hour and 45 minutes just roaming around.  That was all I had planned for the day.  So I went into town to visit the local coffee shop, Provin' Grounds, for some breakfast and caffeine.  This has become my tradition over the past few days.  

Well by the time I left Provin' Grounds I had two hiking partners and was headed out to Hope Pass.  I really had not planned on hiking Hope because I felt it was too close to the race and didn't wanna work my legs too hard.  But I was pretty bored in the house all alone, so it was nice to be doing something with other people: Barefoot Ted and his business associate Bookis.  I felt bad for Bookis sitting in the back of my little borrowed pickup truck.  It must have been cold going 60 on the highway.

It had been a couple years since I had hiked Hope so I didn't remember a lot about it.  I'm in way better shape now than I was back then, so I figured if I took it easy it wouldn't be very hard.  Well, it WAS hard.  There is really no way of getting up Hope without feeling the burn.  There were some pretty long, steep ascents.  But I was pleased with my lungs and the lack of headaches and illness on the climb.

The good news is, I hear going up the other side is much harder!  Oh, that's not good news?  I always thought the people who took trekking poles back from Winfield (the halfway point) were pussies.  But after my ascent of the easy side and hearing Coleen say, "I would've cut my mom for some poles," I will no longer refer to these people as pussies.  And Nick ordered me some poles of my own.  

Well we made a successful ascent anyway.  The timing was perfect actually.  A nasty storm blew by a lower section of the trail while we were at the pass.  We just caught a little rain up top and things had cleared up by the time we were further down.  Even saw some leftover hail on the trail.

So there I was hours later, back at home, safe and sound, pleased with my efforts and looking forward to the race.  But when I got up to use the restroom I felt pain in my foot.  I wasn't too worried thinking it was just a minor bruise.  When I eventually looked down, I saw what appeared to be either an extra toe or maybe a small alien emerging from the side of my foot.



I was in full freakout mode, fearing the worst.  Maybe I broke something!  It later occurred to me that if I had indeed broken something, I would have noticed when it happened instead of several hours later.  Well I'm still in freakout mode a bit.  It's been more than 24 hours and the swelling hasn't started to go down, but I do have a lovely bruise.  This injury is really a mystery to me.  My doc friend, Mike, told me this type of injury is usually caused my rolling an ankle.  This is entirely possible.  I probably rolled my ankle several times during the hike/run, but nothing was so severe that I noticed or stopped.

The degree of swelling is just somewhat baffling to me considering I didn't notice the insulting injury.  Well I've been icing anyway and resting as much as possible.  I can walk around in shoes without pain.  But casually walking around and running 100 miles are not on the same sides of the pain spectrum.  Anyway, I plan to toe the line at 4am this Saturday.  I'm pretty sure there's no way my foot will be 100% healed by then, but I'll try my hardest anyway.  I've got my eyes on that buckle!





Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Heat Beat Me

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, July was the 6th hottest on record for this area.  Years that beat 2011 were 1980, 1936, 1934 and 1954.  I wasn't alive for any of those, so that means this has been the hottest summer of my life.  I've gone on several 100+ degree runs lately.  And each one just gets hotter.  As soon as I think it is impossible for a run to get any hotter, Kansas reminds me that it is.

So far, I've been able to categorize my hot runs into the following levels of hotness:
  1. I start out thinking it's hot, but this isn't so bad.  After a couple miles my body starts heating up and all  of a sudden I feel like I'm on the surface of the sun.  But I can still run.  95-100 (associated temp or heat index)
  2. See first sentence of level 1.  Running slows down after a mile or so and I have to spray myself with water every 30 seconds.  100-105
  3. I start out thinking this is f-ing insane.  This sucks.  I run a mile then mostly walk.  105+
My last couple runs have been level 3's.  Yesterday I e-mailed my friend Coleen, to see if she wanted to run in the afternoon.  After I sent the e-mail I checked the forecast and saw the high was supposed to be 111?!  I thought for sure Coleen would get back to me saying she would not be running and I would spend the afternoon indoors.  Yeah, I was wrong.  I forgot she's the one who LIKES summer and I'm the one who breaks her tailbone sitting in snow.  It turns out 111 was 5 degrees hotter than the previous record for that day.  And it's just 3 degrees shy of the all time high recorded temperature for ANY day in northeast Kansas EVER, 114.

So we were running.  I was psyched to have company though.  I ran the Shawnee Mission Park trails on Monday too (108 heat index) and it was rough.  I figured it would be more pleasant with company.  It was. 

We ended up doing the 2.5 mile loop, so we could meet up with Deb at 4:30.  Well we ran the first 1.5-2 miles.  I felt more and more fatigued the farther we went.  I drank plenty all day, had plenty of water on hand, had plenty of electrolytes, but my body could just not cool down.  I told Coleen and Chris to go on without me, because I needed to walk.  Of course they were not on board with the going on without me plan of action.  So we all walked.  Coleen speed walked, which was too fast for me.  I would walk for a bit, then jog a few steps to try to keep up.  My legs were like lead.

I'm pretty sure that was the hottest I've ever been.  When we left the trail the sun was beating down on us and I went to the water fountain so I could splash water all over my face.  Of course I had to wait several seconds for the water to go from HOT to warm, which was as cool as it was going to get.  We walked back to the parking lot to grab more ice and to meet up with Deb for another loop.  I did not want to go back out.  I tried hiding in the shade on one side of Coleen's car, but it didn't help a whole lot.  The metal from her car was radiating a bunch of heat.  There was no escape from the heat ANYWHERE.

I had a bit of a meltdown about...everything...before Coleen, Chris and Deb could convince me to go back out for another loop.  I was frustrated that it was so hot I had to walk.  I was frustrated that I didn't get my long run in over the weekend because of my achilles (which is better now).  I was having one of my occasional Leadville panic attacks in which I feel severely undertrained.  But Coleen got me going again and told me I would be fiiiine.  So my buddies let me lead the next loop, and I was able to maintain a brisk walk, which was better than what I was managing at the end of the first loop.  I think putting ice in my bra really helped.  Sometimes it's so hot that just drinking water will not cut it.  You need some other cooling mechanism besides sweating.  At least it's that way for me.  Like I said, I'm not so good in heat.

So what's the benefit of running in the extreme heat if it reduces me to walking and makes me miserable??  Well supposedly it's good for flatlanders training for high altitude events.  It definitely is difficult to breathe out here right now!  So I'm working on it.  I have a suspicion that this is Kansas's way of being all pissy about me moving to CO.  Kansas says, "Oh, so you're just going to LEAVE me after 20 years?! Well take this!"  I bet as soon as I leave, a week from today (!), the temps will drop into the 80's.  Yeah, it's all about me.  I'm not conceited or anything.

While I'm not "running", I've been hanging out with my temporary roomies, Sarah and Justin, and their kiddo.  It's been a blast.  I've totally been jealous of Nick being in Colorado and going on runs.  But I bet he's jealous of my 2 week long sleepover.  We've been doing a lot of giggling (or in Justin's case, chuckling, because men don't giggle right).  We haven't done makeovers yet though.  Maybe this weekend.