Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Leadville Marathon Race Report

Dream big, train hard and fight until the finish. Never, ever give up Ellie Greenwood

My heart weighed heavy as I walked to the starting line on 6th Street. I wished Rob was there telling me how great the extra vertical on the course would be. I thought of Fiona and Ryder, two awesome little grommies with Ds who had lost their fights this week. I knew Rob was holding their hands sitting on a mountain top watching us as we prepared to run. I thought of Annie, another beautiful lil grommie with Ds, who was fighting a courageous uphill battle, but never stopped fighting. As the national anthem played I looked to the bright sun in the clear blue sky, wiped a tear from my cheek and vowed to fight for every mile today. 

Dan and I were lucky enough to get some inside tips that there was a course change and a copy of the new route on Thursday. Of course we had no idea how much elevation this would add to the course. At the expo the guy going over the new route mentioned a pretty steep section on part of the change. Ready or not we were off and running down 6th. I felt surprisingly good running down 6th. Last year I began to worry as I was already feeling out of breath. I kept a pretty steady pace uphill for the first 2.5 miles and then we started going down. I was expecting a short downhill here, but instead it kept going for about 3/4 of a mile. While I enjoyed it I knew it would come back to haunt me in a few hours. Then we were back to climbing and I was pretty sure that would continue to the first aid station 6 miles in. I finally arrived at 1:15 which was right on pace and I felt pretty good about it. It was super windy and I was starting to get pretty cold so I filled my water bottles quickly and then headed out. 

There were some awesome views of ball as we headed around the trail. I was trying to keep a pretty fast pace hoping to drop down out of the wind quickly. Soon enough we were on a pretty steep and technical decent. I had a hard time keeping much of a pace here with the loose rocks and unsure runners. I knew I was losing time, but was more concerned with not losing my teeth on a rock. Somehow in my head I told myself this downhill was the part we weren't doing on the way back. Oh how that would turn out to be a lie! We came out on a forest service road that quickly joined up with the heavy half course. From there it was a short 1.5 miles to Aid B before the climb up Mosquito. I had vowed to run as much as Mosquito as possible and so far I had maintained a good 60 hike 30 run on the steep sections. So I continued this for about a mile up Mosquito before the trail got too steep for me to maintain that pace and I resorted to primarily hiking. Near the top of the pass I was able to resume a 90 hike 30 run pace and was feeling pretty good. I passed Elizabeth, Peggy and Bill and we exchanged hugs and kisses. Then I saw David heading down and was amazed at how well he was doing. He was really looking strong. A few minutes later I hit the summit and paused to take it all in. You never reach a summit without taking a minute to appreciate it...that's just a rule no matter how much you're racing for a time.

Battle scars
Once I started heading back down I didn't waste any time. I quickly passes the Jansen's again and then saw Ben for another high 5. A couple minutes behind Ben was Dan. He was looking really strong and I could tell he was running so much better than either year I've seen him run this race before. A quick kiss before Dan yelled at me to go get the 3 girls ahead of me. So I did just that. As I approached the bottom of Mosquito I was guessing I was near 4th place for women and feeling pretty good. I ran into Allisa almost halfway up and looking like the altitude had taken quite a bit out of her. And just as I thought that I felt my feet slip in the mud. There was no place to go except straight ahead, so I lifted my head, let my arms slide forward and proceeded to superman down the trail. I quickly popped up and began running, half hoping maybe there was some way no one saw what had just happened. Hardly the case with 1000 runners on Mosquito, but dreaming is what I do best! I did a quick assessment of my injuries and appeared mostly covered in mud. I respectfully told a couple of people who gasped at my attempt at flight that I was quite all right before continuing to race downhill. You just don't run fast downhills without a few mishaps.

Half a mile down the trail my hand and elbow began to sting and I realized I should maybe take another quick peak. Another quick assessment revealed blood was now completely running down my left arm, both knees, both hands and a significant chunk of skin was missing from a knuckle. I still didn't think anything was more than a surface scrape but figured I'd have a medic take a quick peak at Aid B. I arrived at B looking quite haggard covered head to toe in mud and blood. A medic was quickly called as someone else began to fill my bottles. I told the medic I just wanted to be sure none of the scrapes were too deep. He confirmed my suspicions that everything was surficial, but started insisting on cleaning me up. I grabbed my bottles and told him I would get cleaned up at the finish. 

Run for Rob
A mile and a half back at A 1/2 the volunteers again looked at me horrified asking if they could clean me up. Back down the forest service road to the turn off for the full. At this point I was just behind a small group of runners, but pretty much by myself. I saw the group of runners ahead of me continue straight on the trail, but happened to notice an arrow pointing up the technical downhill I had earlier convinced myself I would not be going back up. Well do they know something I don't? I stood there confused for a moment before the group behind me caught back up. Everyone had thought the same thing I had, this was the loop we were supposed to cut out, no way we had to go back up that. But no one was sure. Finally I just said well I guess I'm going to follow the arrow even if it ends up adding several miles. Begrudgingly everyone else decided to follow me. Turns out this was right and one girl even thanked me at the end for making sure we all stayed on course. 

Finish line
This climb was tough, it hurt, it was slow, it seemed to go on forever and mentally I was really struggling to get up it. I knew there was no way I was going to make 4:40 so my motivation had tanked. I also lost a couple places on the climb and was watching the podium slip further away. Finally we crested the top, rounded a corner and were back at Aid A. In previous years at this point you basically got to just cruise downhill to the finish. But we now had a pretty decent climb ahead of us again. I tried to keep the two girls who had passed me in my sights so I could get them when we finally started back down, but I just couldn't keep up. My legs were flat and just had nothing left. I finally hit the downhill and started to really take off. I could see the two girls ahead of me racing it out and pushed it another level. I glanced at my watch and saw I was at a 6:40 mile and felt good. I was gaining on the girls, but as the finish line approached I was just never able to quite catch them. I needed about another quarter mile. 

I finished with a 5:11 and in 7th for the women. I was definitely disappointed with my time and place, but I had ran my heart out and I can't be disappointed in that. It was a hard day on the trail, there was approximately 800 ft of extra vertical, a superman crash and emotions were running high. But it's the Leadville Marathon, this is what you come for and it's exactly what I got.

Week June 9 - 15

Miles Running: 47.8
Hours Hiking and Running: 9 
Ball Mountain a week before the race

new course map


Fun at Mountain High Pies!







Supporting National Headache and Migraine Month

Family recovery run along the Mineral Belt Trail






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