I've faced quite a few acronyms over the past few months, Ds, PDA, PFO, VSD, IUGR and I think I've handled them all fairly well. But DNF...this has been the hardest to take. A DNF is within your control, everything else I had to just take in stride. I'm not one blame the DNF on the added mileage or elevation and it wasn't the heat. But I didn't just sit down on a rock and give up either. What it came down to was I just wasn't as prepared physically or mentally as I should have been. But I can say I didn't drop. The difference between a drop and timing out may not really seem like much, but its the difference between just throwing in the towel and giving up and going until someone else cuts your timing chip off. To me that's a big difference!
As I finished up back in Twin Lakes I wasn't sure I'd get back up and try again, but all it took was driving through Leadville the next morning as the last finishers were coming up 6th Street to know next August I'll be lining up in Leadville again. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. I know James will face things much harder than this race and what will I tell him if I don't give it another go? That he needs to keep trying, but its okay if I quit? I want James to know that everyone has things that don't always go their way. I want to be an example to him that you need to keep trying, keep getting back up and to never just sit down on a rock. Leadville 2013 you had better watch out!
As we lined up at 4:00 am Saturday morning at 6th and Harrison Dan and I made our way toward the back, mistake #1. We knew we weren't front runners, but also didn't take into account that half the people would be dropping. I need to have more confidence in myself to start further to the front. I may not be an elite runner, but I can hold my own in just about any race. Heck, the marathon I started at the very front, toe on the starting line I ended up winning. Our pace to May Queen was a bit slower than we would have liked, but it was comfortable and everything seemed to be going well. At the last minute I had decided to run with Dan. I was originally planning to run pretty hard, but decided maybe this year I was better off just going for a finish and next year training for a stronger run. Around mile 8.5 we were chatting as we ran a very runnable trail around Turquoise Lake when the next thing I knew a monster tree root reached up and snagged my ankle. Now keep in mind I seem to have an affinity for supermanning it on trails so I actually caught myself quite nicely, managing to shed only a little blood. About half a mile further down the trail the guy in front of me turned around and started pointing and yelling. Dan and I turned around to see the beginnings of a brilliant sunrise with light pink streaming through the mist rolling over the lake. Surprisingly enough I managed to stay upright while taking in the sunrise. We quickly rolled into the May Queen aid station (mile 13) and not seeing our crew we just continued toward Sugarloaf. We came to find out later that our crew thought we had come through May Queen before they got there, when we actually came through just after they left. Starting out too far back had put us in the congo line on the single track around Turquoise Lake. It got so bottlenecked we often came to a complete stop waiting for people to continue moving in front of us. At the time we weren't too worried figuring it was better than having gone out too fast.
The run up Sugarloaf was great! Well it was more of a power hike, but compared to most of what we trained on it wasn't too bad. We both felt great heading up the mountain and were rewarding with breathtaking views all around us. The downhill was extremely runnable and we covered these miles pretty quick. The next thing I knew we were turning onto the road that led into the Fish Hatchery aid station (mile 23). We had made up the time we lost getting to May Queen, but that's when I realized we were still pretty close to the cutoff, 27 minutes ahead. I knew this wasn't going to give me enough time to get into Twin Lakes to pump, but I figured I could make that up on the downhill into Twin Lakes. That's when we ran into Dan's running partner, Larry, and Dan convinced me to take off and make up some time. This was also were we saw our crew for the first time. Dan and I dropped our headlamps, which we had forgotten to drop at May Queen, along with some of the cold weather gear we had taken over Sugarloaf. We were hitting the road section of the race and Dan knew with my road running background I would fly through this part of the course. Dan was right, I took off down the road at a comfortable pace and started passing everyone in sight.
After a couple miles we turned onto a flat dirt trail that eventually led us back into the woods and the Half Pipe aid station (mile 29). I had left all my warm, nighttime clothes in this drop bag, but since I knew I would be coming through later than originally planned I wrapped my running tights around my waist, grabbed yet more Cliff Shot gels and shot blocks and Heed Perpetum for my handheld. The section from Half Pipe to Twin Lakes was probably may favorite of the course. It was a very runnable section winding through mostly forested area and up a couple mild hills. Shortly after leaving Half Pipe I started to have a bit of a low patch. I had actually had such a great time running with Dan earlier in the morning and had now been running by myself for a bit so it was getting lonely. I also hadn't anticipated how hard it would be to leave the lil guy for so long. I just kept hoping he would be waiting for me at Twin Lakes! As I was in the middle of my pity party power hiking a hill this 72 year old man, Hans, came up and slapped my back "You've got a great pace going there". Well there was no way I couldn't muster up the energy to at least keep up with a 72 year old so I ran with him for a bit until he fell back off my pace. There is a rough downhill into Twin Lakes, but technical downhills are my strength so after finally getting around some much slower moving runners I let my legs turnover and cruised down into Twin Lakes aid station (mile 39.5).
My crew was there waiting for me at Twin Lakes. I made a quick stop in the aid station to refill my water bottles and grab some Sprite then made my way to my crew point. I was a bit thrown at this point when my crew hadn't been sure what bag my pump was in and had inadvertently forgotten it. So I sent JB back to Fish Hatchery to pick up my spare pump which I would grab at Winfield and did my best. Mistake #2 was I kept thinking I should wait for Dan to get into Twin Lakes so we could run up Hope Pass together. I wandered around a bit hemming and hawing trying to decide what to do. After wasting about 5 minutes Dan came running into Twin Lakes and insisted I take off. So I was a bit flustered and took off running pretty fast through the meadows toward Hope Pass. I probably should have taken it a bit easier since I could feel my heart rate was up too fast. Just before the river crossing Tony Krupicka came running by me and gave me a "nice job" which motivated me even more. I managed the river crossing easily and continued up the climb. Here was were things really got tough. People were laying all over the side of the trail, sitting on rocks with their head in the hands, and overall just looking pretty bad. I kept as good of a pace as I could, but it was pretty slow going and my stomach was starting to fall apart. By the time I rolled into the Hopeless aid station
(mile 44.5) I knew I needed some sort of solid food in my stomach so I grabbed some fig newtons. It took a solid 20 minutes to get 2 fig newtons down. As I crested Hope Pass I stopped and looked around me. It was unbelievable. You could see all the way to Leadville to the north and mountain top after mountain top in every other direction. One of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. Coming down from Hope was really tough. The trail was pretty steep and person after person kept coming up. The trail was single track here so every time a runner came up I had to step off the trail for them, often times slipping as I tried to do so. I'm honestly not sure how I managed to stay upright. When we got down from the pass was where the course change was made. Instead of running the dusty road to Winfield we ran the new section of Continental Divide Trail. This was hard. It was just as dusty so my throat was rubbed raw. The increased elevation was tough and no one knew how far we had to go to get to Winfield. I knew I was getting close to the time cutoff, but had no idea how close I was. A group of runners coming up from Winfield told us at one point it had taken them 45 minutes to get to us and they were running downhill. The two other guys I was running with at this point and I all realized we were probably going to be the first runners cutoff. But we plodded ahead anyways. I was now extremely disappointed, I didn't know how I would make it into Winfield on time or how I would ever get back up this pass. I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel and call it a day. As we approached the Winfield aid station (now mile 51.5) we started running...hard. Everyone around us was yelling at us to get in so we could make cutoff. I was on the verge of tears not knowing if I could make it back over the pass. What would happen if I just collapsed at 12,000ft? The volunteers shuffled me toward the scale to weigh-in and then pushed me toward my waiting crew and pacer, Robert. I just looked at them and shook my head. "I can't do it...there's no way I'm getting back over that pass and certainly not in time to make the next cutoff" I was on the verge of crying, but too exhausted and covered in dust to actually shed a tear. JB hugged me, handed me new water bottles and shoved me into Robert to head back up the pass. Before I knew what was happening I was running along the CDT back toward Hope Pass. Robert kept telling me that this was the easy side, I should have believed him. It was a way easier climb!Once Rob and I reached the treeline he turned around and stopped, pointing behind us. I stopped and turned, my mouth dropping at one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen. We soaked it in for a moment before turning and continuing up the pass.
Here was the biggest mistake of the day. I didn't look at my watch anymore because I didn't think I stood a shot at making the cutoff at Twin Lakes. Just before we crested Hope Pass for the second time we donned our headlamps. It was awesome standing on top of Hope looking down and just seeing this long line of headlamps coming up behind us. When we got to the Hopeless aid station I thought it had taken us an hour longer than it had. So I hung out at the aid station drinking some cup of noodles before finally heading down. My stomach continued to deteriorate as did my knee. Robert forced me to run as much as possible, which was tough in the dark, but I had told him "you go in front and just go and I'll keep following you". After what seemed like forever we hit the meadows. I have never felt so glad to be on flat land in my life! My knee was thankful we weren't climbing down and my quads were thankful to not be going up. I mostly shuffled along here. Its easy to say now that had I of run the meadows and not poked around at the Hopeless aid station I would have made the cutoff, but my body was in pretty rough shape so I'm not sure it could have handled that. As we crossed the river and the meadows I remembered how the year before Dan and I sat on top of this little hill over looking the meadows watching the runners come in at this very same time. We watched the line of headlamps coming down from Hope and across the meadows. In the dark it looked like the runners were just mindlessly wandering through the meadows talking mostly nonsense. Well now a year later I was that runner talking nonsense!
I came into Twin Lakes (now mile 63.5) at about 10:45 pm, 30 minutes after cutoff. My crew rushed to get me warm clothes on and get some hot chocolate. The race director hugged me and cutoff my timing chip and my race was over. There will always be the what-ifs, but I ran 63.5 miles of the Leadville 100 course and didn't give up! I did the double crossing of Hope Pass, which is no easy feat, so I need to be proud of what I accomplished on Saturday. It may take a bit of time, but I know this was how it was supposed to happen. Now I have 362 days left to train before the 2013 Leadville 100 and you can bet you will see me on that starting line. I will have more training, more experience and hopefully more confidence next August. I learned even more about myself on Saturday and how much I can push myself. I just hope that this is something James will one day look back on and realize that sometimes you don't always get it on your first try, no matter how hard you work or how much you want it. Sometimes life knocks you down and its your choice to get back up and try again. If you had asked me at mile 63.5 I'm not sure what my answer would have been, but by 10:00 am the next morning the fire was burning strong.
A huge thank you to my crew, JB, Rob and Dad, my babysitter, Mom, and especially my pacers, Rob and Brian. You guys all played a huge part in my sucess that day and I couldn't have done it without you. I appreciate all the time and effort you put into me getting through this race!
Week August 13-19
Miles Running: 72.1
Hours Hiking and Running: 21