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LEADVILLE 100: The Journey Part 1. Getting to the start line

Wow! What a day - and night! - and following morning! And what a race!  I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the preparation leading up to it... because THAT is what really got me there.

Yes, after a summer (2016) spent running trails culminating in the Run Rabbit Run 50-miler last September, I decided to signed up for the famed Leadville 100.
RRR finish line! My FIRST mountain 50 in the books!
I had always said IF I was ever to do a 100, it WAS going to be Leadville. The mystique, the challenge and the grit of the course had always drawn me to it. I don't plan on making a lifestyle out of running 100s, so IF there was be one 100 I ran, IT was going to be Leadville. Hands down.
The elevation profile itself *kind of* shows some of the challenges

Knowing that, Leadville is a popular race with a lottery system. Since I didn't want to chance not getting in via the lottery, I signed up for the Leadville Camp (training camp) spot that included the entry into the race. It was a little more expensive that the lottery, but since I was already planning on doing the camp, it made my investment well worth it!

Next task, get a coach and set out a rock star training schedule. I found my awesome coach (Cindy Stonesmith) through a recommendation of my friend, Todd. We met, I loved her, she listened. Things were good.
Me and Cindy in March in Moab
Onto making a schedule that kept me motivated with fun stuff along the way! 
SIDE NOTE: I once trained for an Ironman (a YEAR of my life) where I got to the race, had an "ok" race, and had nothing to show for it. Not much fun in training. I had no awesome race day. No great memories leading up to it. It was almost like it wasn't worth it. From there, I vowed, never again. ALWAYS make the journey as important as the day. That way, if the race day goes bad (or is cancelled - as has happened to some friends of mine), you have the fun times leading up to it. 

Anyways, I came up with a list of races and events to keep me motivated. Each with a special purpose in mind.
Here's my countdown board to help me!

ORMOND BEACH 50K: Keep my mileage up through the winter AND get to see my parents!!! (It was by their Florida house.)
Finish line photo! 30 miles in the books. December 4, 2016.

BEHIND THE ROCKS 50K: This race I tested out "racing" a 50k followed by SPRING BREAK IN MOAB!!! I highly suggest this combination - super fun! (Not pictured: running. Pictured: active family fun.)

QUAD ROCK 50 Miler: OH MY GOODNESS! Holy early season mileage and elevation gain, Batman. But this race really got me ready for HARD MOUNTAIN running. And just time on my feet. IT took me 13 hours and 36 minutes and I worked every minute of it.
From the top of one of the SIX long, grueling climbs.
My finish line cheerers!

LEADVILLE TRAINING CAMP: This helped me get more familiar with the course (priceless), get me used to running in Z2 (and give me the confidence that I could sustain that) and, maybe most importantly, made FRIENDS!
View from climbing up Sugar Loaf Pass
Start of the night run with Jennifer - Hagerman Pass to the end!!!

Here is where all of my training started to come together. I put together the components I had been practicing. My nutrition, my pacing, my heart rate zones, and my energy!!! It was a great confidence boost and let me know I was doing *some* things right. Followed that up with a heavy weekend the following weekend and I was READY for the race!

So, along with the events and races there were the people who spent time with me on my journey -- making it all that it was!

TODD has always been my long-running BFF and played a key role this year. He met me for many a-long Thursday trail run from winter through summer. He even came up to Leadville to run some of the course with me! I would have never gotten to the start line so prepared without his knowledge, wisdom, time and friendship.
Winter running - we were trying to beat the snowstorm. Didn't quite work.
It takes a GOOD friend to meet you for a sunrise (long) run. Every. Single. Week.

KELLY, too, shared many of the trails with me this Spring into early summer, races and a special trip up Hope in the final weeks to cement she and I were both ready for the course!
"Looking out" on Golden Eagle Lookout - Just more proof
we have a hard time taking ourselves seriously.
Running trails in Denver

The top of Hope Pass with Kelly a few weeks before!!!

 Once I got up to Summit County for the summer, I found some super cool friends through the running community making it "fun" to get up early on a Friday for a run and even more FUN to go over Hope twice in one day. (If you haven't figured it out, Hope Pass is kinda a big deal in this race.)
Double Hope Pass Run with Stacey & Kaitlyn
Checking out the Breck burn area with Lynn

 And then there was Leadville Camp... where I made a few friends, but many trail brothers and sisters. Some I will keep for years and others played essential roles leading up to and on race day for camaraderie. 
Jennifer (from camp) and I finishing Silver Rush!!!
Going for our own Night Run post camp with Donna (also from camp), Skaadi & Rebecca!

LASTLY, but most importantly, since trail running is a lot about hiking (you don't "run" up a mountain with 3,000' gain over 4 miles - or at least I don't), so there was lots of times and places to do "training" with the family. From hiking 14'ers, to backpacking, to mountain biking, I just tried to keep active with the family. Turns out, Ross is a pretty good hiker! And we created a lot of great family memories -and the kids didn't even know I was using it for training!
Resting on a hike up Mt. LINCOLN. 14,295'
Chillin' at some waterfalls we hiked to.
Mohawk Lake Hike 11,860'
Backpacking = Muscles!!!
Mountain Biking with my little one with our favorite mountain in the background.

Summiting Ute Peak with my love. 12,303'

Even with all this work and training, at one point, maybe about 6 weeks out, I started to doubt myself. It was then that I printed out some pictures from all my adventures and put them alongside my "Countdown to Leadville" board to remind me (literally) of all the steps I had taken to be prepared for the race. By the end, it looked something like this:

I am pretty proud of my year and how I sculpted it to include loads of friends, family, and CHALLENGES to get me to the start line. It was about a week out when I was talking with Sheri (a non-running friend) who said, "No matter what you do on race day, it's like you have already won!" And that rang so true!

YES! I wanted to have a great day. And YES! I wanted (almost needed) to finish. But her perspective was the exact reason I had been preparing and training the way I had.
With the year I had had, I had won Leadville before I even toed the line!!!