“You’re tougher than you think you are…”
“…and you can do more than you think you can.”- Ken Chlouber, Leadville 100 Race Director[Christy here] That was just one of the many over-used motivational quotes that Chlouber repeated during the somewhat evangelistic pre-race meeting the morning before the 2009 Leadville 100 trail run. In the time leading up to the race I had some skepticism, I wasn’t so sure what Leadville 100 had in store for me, but in the end I was in awe of the incredible beauty and excitement it had to offer.
As it turns out, from the very beginning the Leadville 100 is fast moving and full of action. When the gun went off at 4am, more than 500 runners and I took off on an unusually warm Saturday morning. I was rested, well fueled, and ready to run with an open mind. Before I knew it we were running along the banks of Turquoise Lake and just as the sun came up, I arrived at May Queen, the first of many crew-attended aid stations. Seeing friends so early in the day was uplifting and got me smiling throughout the race.
The morning went by fairly quick, I made it up and over Sugarloaf Pass and into the Fish Hatchery aid station at mile 23.5 before it got too warm. I started to feel the heat through the next seven mile section, first on flat pavement out of the Hatchery and then on dirt road, leading us up to this year’s revised Halfmoon aid station (Box Creek Canyon), somewhere around mile 30. Soon after I was on the shady trails along the foot of Mt. Elbert and barreling down the Colorado Trail into Twin Lakes.
After Twin Lakes at mile 40, the pace slows as the race climbs up and over Hope Pass. I know this part from pacing Ted in 2002 and from skiing Mount Hope (13,950 ft.) a few springs ago. The pass crests 12,600 feet and lies between Twin Lakes and Winfield (the 50 mile turn around point), and though it’s only 10 miles in length, it feels like so much more. Despite being the most dreaded leg of the race for many, it was one of my favorites. The “Hopeless” aid station near the top of the pass not only has salty, water-downed mash potatoes, but also llamas!
After descending the other side of Hope Pass and breathing in all the dust from the crew cars driving the dirt road to Winfield, I started to wonder why this was fun. But then it hit me, I made it to the 50 mile turnaround point in a 10:42, which was almost an hour faster than planned. Now all I had to do was head back to Leadville as fast as I could. And the best part? Because Ted wasn’t quite recovered from his epic Hardrock 100 run, he came along with me, pacing the 10 miles back up and over Hope Pass to Twin Lakes.
At Twin Lakes, I picked up Kathy Fry who, always upbeat and chatty, did a great job encouraging me to keep the ‘Ted Shuffle’ going. I can tell he did a good job of prepping the girls to keep me running and we did, until stomach issues came up again around mile 70. I was having trouble eating and threw up everything I ate, including a salt pill, but we had to laugh about how much better this was than Wasatch last year. Trying to push through the stomach issues while covering the flat pavement before Fish Hatchery was definitely the lowest point in the race. Everyone has one, this was mine. Thanks Kathy for successfully helping me through! I took some extra time at the aid station and wondered what my parents were thinking of all this, as they had come up from Denver to see first hand what the hell actually goes on at these races.
There was one good thing about making it to Fish Hatchery (76 mile)– my secret weapon was waiting for me there. Flown in from Missoula just for the race, my sister Jen was at my side for the rest of the night. As a writer, Jen always has stories to tell and with these we pushed up and over Sugarloaf Pass without too much struggle. If I do this race again, I could definitely take some time off the road and trail leading down to May Queen (mile 86.5).
At May Queen I left my backpack, took a water bottle of potato soup, and set off into the night hoping to hold on to my 7th overall women’s place while trying to beat Ted’s fastest 100 mile time, 26:21 from last year at Wasatch (secretly I had hoped to come in under 26 hours). These individual goals helped keep the sleepiness away. There was no time for being tired, we had a job to do. Jen kept the pace moving right along and we had a great split for the last leg, coming into the finish before the day’s light, and before Ted and Kathy were even at the finish!
I’m not sure if you can refer to a 100 mile race as sweet, but that’s what this was to me, something really sweet. I think it was a combination of things that attributed to a great, long day out on the trails. It could have been the sunny, 85 degree weather during the day, which I love, and the first hot summer night I can remember this year. It may have been the arnica gel I carried in my pocket, applying every time my hamstrings gave me grief. It was definitely the support from my pacers and the relentless encouragement from Jen and Kathy to keep shuffling through the wee hours of the night. And I’ll have to treasure the fact that I got to see Ted at every aid station because this probably won’t happen again. He’ll be back out there trying to beat the new 100 mile household record, 25:41!