Saturday, September 22, 2007

A yearly challenge

Well, it has been over a year since I have posted anything. Time gets carried away when one is not simply walking a trail. This year has been spent training for running long distance versus long hikes.
When I returned from the Appalachian Trail, I told my husband I was going to do Pike's Peak Marathon and Leadville Trail 100 trail Race. Last year was the year for Pike's Peak, so I guess that leaves this year for the Leadville 100.
For those unfamiliar with the Leadville 100, it is a 100 mile trail race at and above 10,000ft. Most of the race follows the Colorado Trail around the Leadville area. Beautiful Scenery to be had but some challenging terrain. This ultra-marathon distance was something new to me in the running world. First of all, I do not classify myself as a runner as I do not enjoy the sport of running. Second, I had never run a full marathon before. So, here I was thinking of my glory days and planning on seeing what I could do. Well, what follows is my account of what I did do!
Let me start with the night before the race. I reserved myself a campsite at Sugar Loafin Campground and rented a 6 person tent from REI. The tent was huge, but allowed myself, my husband, my sister, and her 3 children to sleep comfortably. Due to my nerves about the race, I was unable to focus and figure out what I needed for the race. So, my crew (Hardcore Hiker, her boyfriend, my husband, and my sister) and I were up a little late trying to figure things out. The campground attendant finally came by and explained to us how there were people running a hundred mile race the next day and we really needed to quiet things down. We chuckled seeing as though I was one of those runners. Anyway, we finished up with what we were doing and finally headed off to bed for a few hours before having to wake up at 2:30am. The race started at 4am after all.
So, I wake up and get myself together before waking the others around me. My crew needed to be awake but I told my sister she could sleep along with the kids if needed. All arrived at the starting line to see me off at 4am. The energy of the 500 people out there all planning to go 100 miles and return to the start line by 10am the next day was amazing. The mayor of Leadville started the race with his shotgun and we all slowly took off from the start line. It was a nice easy pace that took us by spectators out in their bathrobes cheering us on at 4am. The first little bit is on the road and then peels off to follow Turquoise Lake. It was dark and I found a veteran ultra-runner to chat with for a little bit before he stopped to use the bathroom or something of that nature.
Then, as the sun started to rise, I found myself wishing for the first check point. I was warned the first/last leg of this race was longer than anticipated, but wow was it ever. Finally, I pulled into the May Queen campground and headed to the restroom. From there, it was on to the aid station to be checked in and get supplies from my crew. The energy surrounding the aid stations was amazing. I made it into the aid station and informed my crew of my needs. I checked in, grabbed some food and continued on out the other side of the tent. After a quick restroom and shoe change, I was off and running again.
After May Queen, it is up and over Sugar Loaf pass/mountain along what is affectionately known as Power Lines. Many people in my realm were on the power hike mode to get up the pass. I have a pretty strong hike still, so I powered past many people. Once at the top, I began running again and headed down the other side. It was rather steep, but I was ready for it; or so I thought. As I was coming down the other side heading into Fish Hatchery/Outward Bound, my knee began to pain me severely. I tried to run it out, but was unable to calm the pain. So, I kind of skipped/ran/hobbled down the power lines. Once I hit the road and was on my way to fish Hatchery, I ran/walked.
As I came into the aid station at Fish hatchery, Mike was there to gather me and remind me to fill up on food and water at the aid station. I was going to change shoes but decided against it. All I did instead was dump the dirt out of my shoes. I had many supporters at Fish Hatchery and loved the energy. Upon my departure, I found that I was ahead of a seasoned veteran of ultras and felt pretty proud of myself. I was also well ahead of the cutoff times. Out of Fish Hatchery was the long 8 mile road section which could have been a killer, but was a welcome flat spot that allowed me to evaluate things a little. My knee still hurt but I was able to run a little and walk a little. the only problem I found was that my legs and body were beginning to tighten up. I made it to the next meet with my crew and took a bottle of just water. From there, I hit one more aid station before going all the way over to Twin Lakes.
Coming into Twin Lakes was a little rough as my knees were killing, I needed food, and the rain/thunder was rolling in. At one point along the section from Halfmoon campground to Twin Lakes, thunder cracked right over my head and mae me wince with fright. I was ready to be done. As I came out on the four wheel drive road that told me I was only a mile from the Twin Lakes Aid station, I met a man who was hurting as well. We hung together and made it into the aid station with laughter and good feelings. Both of us grabbed some food and then parted ways to talk with our family and friends. I changed my socks and grabbed my backpack to head out for Hope Pass. What I should have grabbed was more water and more food.
I was a little nervous about crossing the creek as the staff had told of ropes being put up for safety in crossing. As I hit my first large puddle of water, I waded in up to my calf muscle and laughed. Most of the puddles leading up to the crossing were mid calf or less in depth. they all made me laugh despite their numbing effect on my feet. Finally, I got to the creek crossing and went right in. It was up to mind thigh on me and very cold. The current was strong but not too bad. I was thankful for the rope. After I got out, my feet and legs were numb for a long while. It was about part way up Hope pass when they finally thawed out.
HOPE PASS!!! What can I say about this part of the journey. It was my demise! Leaving Twin Lakes, I was 1.5hours ahead of the cutoffs and feeling pretty good. Part way up Hope pass and I thought I was dead. I started to get winded and then to feel nausea. I stopped and rested for a bit as needed thinking it was altitude sickness. That just lead to anxiety about losing time. Everything snowballed into itself and left me feeling incompetent.
After much force, I reached the Hopeless Aid Station (1mile from the top of the pass). I stopped and took some water as well as trying to put some soup into my system. As I sat there evaluating my progress, I listened to the volunteers talk of how much time left and how much it would take to get to the turn around. If I did not get myself going soon, I was not going to make it in time to come back the same 50 miles I had already gone. So, I tossed my soup and headed out very slowly. About 100yards from the aid station, I sat and rested and cried a little knowing I was not going to make it.
Seeing as though I was stuck out in the middle of the mountains with another afternoon storm coming in, I figured I had to keep going. So, up and over the pass I went. It was slow going, but relieving when I began the descent of the other side despite the pitch of the descent. People were already beginning to come back up and over. I wished I was them. As I was nearing the bottom of the descent, people headed up started apologizing to me. I knew I was not going to be allowed to return to leadville along the same route I had taken out there. Despite my disappointment, I was able to cheer on those who had a fighting chance. It was amazing to be amongst some truly great people.
Once down off the pass and heading into Winfield, my husband and friend, Holly, came to greet me as they were a little worried about me. They had heard of a pacer being in trouble and just figured I had stopped to help out with the situation. I like that story and would really rather use that as the reason I did not finish the leadville 100, but I need to come to terms with my defeat.
It was disappointing as my body did not hurt as bad as it was suppose to hurt, at least in my mind. I do feel I could have done the whole thing if I would have fueled properly. Lessons learned have been great and continue to come. I am still working on getting over the feelings of failure, but that will come in time. My body does have some pains that it is trying to ignore as well as get over. I am super impressed with my friends and family who came out to support me. I have never felt so loved in all my life. Even the AT did not compare to this event. At the same time, having all this support made the feelings of failure and disappointment all that much stronger. I do have plans to attempt other ultras in the near future. My original plan was to run Leadville and then look into reproduction, but needing to overcome the failure has me driven to run Leadville in its entirety before I have kids. So, it may be a very long time before the reproduction actually occurs. Sorry moms and dads who are looking to be grandparents to my children. Thank goodness for the siblings who have the kids! Many lessons learned and many more to learn. I look forward to all the challenges life has to offer and I embrace them with open arms. Co-workers I trying to convince me of Ride the Rockies this next year. My husband is talking Race Across America next year. I bought a new bike. I may just have to switch my challenge a little. Keep tuned in to find out what will be the next challenge. Maybe I will end up on the PCT with Hardcore and crew!
Give me LIFE, LOVE, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!!! All can be found in the challenges that surround each of us every day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Peeps. I hadn't been watching your blog - but for some reason opened it today - 1/9/08. And we both know a lot has happened since your leadville experience. But I know you both have lots of more races in you in the future. It's a good thing you are both fighters. congrats on the 50 you did complete - you are a winner in my book every day. M.I.L.