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LEADVILLE 100: The Race!

So… onto the actual race.
 I will start with the fact that I was scared sh**less of this race. I wanted to do it soooo badly, but I was so very scared that I wouldn’t make it. I trained hard, but was that enough? I did everything I thought was good, but did I do enough? I didn’t know…

Having done all the “work” for the race, the week before was dedicated to resting and packing. With the boys starting school in Aurora, my mom flew in from Florida and to help me relax and me pack up and organize my stuff up in Silverthorne. And, boy was it nice to have her there. Go mom!
 
This is actually a picture of my mom and I relaxing at her place before a different race,
but you get the idea. She's my people. And this wasn't her first rodeo.

Note to anyone who hasn’t run a 100-miler: Holy crap! Is there a lot of planning that goes into this. I had outfit changes, nutrition needs – any single one of them I could think of, stuff for the crew at each aid station (they would be waiting for me for HOURS with no amenities), etc. Oy vey! Is that a job in itself.

When my friend, Jennifer (also doing the race), arrived on Monday from Ohio to stay with us for a night, she was so ecstatic. Anxious, but more than excited to conquer the course. I was envious of her excitement but couldn’t bring myself to share in it. After the fact, I deduced later that my lack of excitement was due to the fact that I was afraid of creating so much excitement for myself, that if I didn’t make it, the pre-excitement would've amplify my heartbreak.
Me with my Leadville Camp Besties - Donna and Jennifer - before race.
Thursday night, Ross, my dad and the boys came up and Friday, Ross and I headed to the athlete’s meeting in Leadville. 

Now, I have been to plenty-a-race meetings in the past and this one was like no other. Yes, it gave you your standard information – why you could be dq’d, course changes, specific rules, etc. But when the creators of the race Ken and Marilee (but mostly Ken) got up to speak, WOAH! Was that some inspirational stuff he was spewing. There was plenty about the history and challenges of Leadville, the meaning of the race to the town, the ability to conquer the course, that quitting wasn’t an option (or at least one you would want to live with) and what it would take to finish the race. I took it all in and that’s when I really started to get excited within. As much as my nerves and anxiety were playing on me, the need to dig deep and finish this course became even greater!
Ken and Marilee imparting wisdom and emotion on us all!
A WHOLE gym filled with Leadville crazies. It was amazing!

Next morning came sooner than anticipated. Alarm went off at 3:00 am. I was lucky and booked a cabin 3 blocks from the start, so for me it was roll out of bed, eat a little, go to the bathroom and get rolling with the family and Todd.
Everyone up and ready to go! Even Lucy. (Todd taking picture.)
The start line was energetic as all get out. I really didn’t expect that for a 4 am start. Heck! I find 6 am starts to be less than enthusiastic, so having all this energy at 4 am was INCREDIBLE! 
Getting ready to line up
 I got some pictures, got some hugs (I realized this summer that hugs are my SUPER JUICE) and then lined up in the corral. By myself. I knew if I was going to make this race, I needed to listen to my body, worry about myself and not think about running/staying with anyone. So, alone it would be. 
Reminding myself what I would need to do that day
Last minute advice and encouragement from my hubby and rock.

Me with one of my many trail sisters I met along this journey - Mary.
Go time at the start line!
When the gun went off, so did we. The first 5 miles is running out of town and mostly downhill, so I just thought about keeping it slow and steady. My coach had told me that if I came into the first aid station at the back of the pack, she would be extremely proud of me. She didn’t want me to go out too fast, so I concentrated on that.

5.5 miles is the first small climb and then it was a single track around Turquoise Lake. This part was amazingly beautiful to see the lake peak out from the darkness as the sun rose. It reminded me once again about the uniqueness and beauty of this race. Even when you aren’t climbing mountains, you can’t escape the views!

Soon enough I was exiting the trail, running through the campground and into the aid station. I bypassed the aid station and went straight to Ross and Todd who crewed me by replacing my bladder of Tailwind and some nutrition and telling me to drink more. I also got to see my friend, Andy, who had set up right next to Ross and Todd, as he waited for his wife to come through – that was super good to see familiar faces!
13 miles in and all smiles! Ready to start climbing!
 Coming out of May Queen (the first aid station), you hit the Colorado Trail and start climbing. I knew this part of the route pretty well and made my way up, up, up the trail to Hagerman Pass. Then it was more up, up, up to Sugarloaf Road. During this time, I just watched my heart rate and ran when it was low enough and walked when it wasn’t (which was more often than naught). I made some friends along the way, but I won’t bore you with the conversations. 
Here I am climbing up Hagerman Pass and even running!
(I must've been doing that for the camera)
 At the top, I was more than excited to go DOWN! I started running down. I was feeling great! I whipped out my walkie talkie and radioed into Todd and Ross and told them where I was. They were like, “Great! …but you’ve got a long way to go.” They then asked about wants and needs and I told them to adjust my Tailwind ratio (it worked in training, but for some reason it was too potent today, so I wanted to adjust) and, basically, that I needed to eat some fruit and drink some coke, so please have that ready. I realized that I had been so happy/excited to see them at the first aid station, I basically FORGOT to eat. Oy! Can't let that happen again!

Made it down the powerline descent (3.5 miles of DOWN) and met a new/old friend. How fitting, she had remembered me from another race. As we were descending, she told me how I had taught her how to run downhill at another race earlier in the summer. Evidently, she made a comment about her poor descending and I had imparted what I knew from downhill running to her.  I guess it worked! She said her knees no longer hurt as she ran downhill and we were doing it together with ease, so something was good about that union. And here we were  running the 100 together!

Two miles after the long descent, at mile 23.5, you roll into Outward Bound aid station. Here I got to see ALL of my family (minus my dad who was not feeling well) and Todd. They had everything I asked for, including my new Tailwind concoction, and off I went. 
Can a girl get much sweatier? It was getting HOT!!!
Crew at Outward Bound (minus Todd who was taking picture)
This upcoming part is (I think) the most boring part of the course. First, you have to run on road for a little bit. Then, it is uphill, with limited views, but it really isn’t THAT long. I knew mentally this would be a hard part of my race, so I just focused on my running and keeping my heart rate consistent. 
Me...smiling even through the most unscenic part.
About 3 miles from the aid station is another place where a lot of people crew their runner. I preferred to have my crew only at the aid stations, BUT it was refreshing to see people here. It is here that I saw my friend Jay’s crew and my friend Donna’s crew – who told me she was just ahead. I plugged along another 4 miles to the next aid station and coming out (while I was coming in) was my friend, Donna. YAY!

After the aid station, I caught up with Donna and we chatted for a bit and then I carried on, running in front of her for a bit. It was so awesome to see her and know we were on our way to completing this journey together!

I am not sure of the mileage, but there is a point where you stop climbing and start descending into Twin Lakes. When I hit this point, it was game on again! I think my schtick for this race was just to not kill myself on the climbs, so I could really enjoy and run most of the descents. So, as soon as I was descending I was happy again. I passed the Mt. Elbert water station, and was glad I didn’t need water (since there was a line). I was also happy to see my friends Kelly and Eric there. Yay friends! We’re doing this! I thought.

I whipped out my walkie and had some talks with both Todd (who was crewing at TL) and my kids (who were “helping” Todd and my mom crew at TL). If you ever do this race, I HIGHLY suggest carrying radios. They help with what you need when you are coming into an aid station (so it’s prepared). This time, I asked for them to soak my Koolie in a bath of ice water, so I’d have it for over Hope Pass. It was getting HOT!

Got into Twin Lakes on/ahead of schedule and really just felt great. I was excited to be attacking Hope Pass (the next section – arguably the hardest) feeling so good. In general, I try to get to halfway in a race feeling “good,” whatever “good” may be… and in this case it felt – good!
Mom and the boys attending to all my needs!!!
The aid station went smooth. I grabbed my poles, switched watches (my battery was running lowish), switched bladders, refilled on nutrition and was off with Todd and Lincoln. No, I didn’t pick them up as pacers, BUT the two of them accompanied me on the course for about a half mile. During this time, it was nice to give Todd a more complete lowdown on how I was feeling (since in the aid stations, I tend to feel rushed). AND, it was fun to have my littlest running beside me in my 100. I really enjoyed that part. 
Pre river crossing on the way to the pass!
Then… it was up the notorious HOPE PASS! My new watch wasn’t registering my heart rate accurately, so I was a little worried about over or under exerting myself, but I juts went by feel. I am happy to say that I passed way more people going up then were passing me. This was a little moral victory for me since, normally, it is the reverse. In any given mountain race, I am used to being passed on the ascents, but not this time. (yay, me!)
 
About ½ way up the pass, a guy started more-or-less pacing behind me and we started chatting. He was actually heading up to volunteer at the aid station and he was delightful to talk to. Cindy had warned me to conserve energy and not get sucked into too many or too long of conversations, but I really just liked talking to him and it made the time go by faster, so I didn’t see the harm. (In retrospect, I say that I picked up an unofficial pacer then.) On the way up, there was also some rain. Not a lot, but enough to have me stop and put on my raincoat. Thankfully, this storm was short and passed.

About ¾ miles from the summit of the pass, there is an aid station. This station is AMAZING if, for no other reason, a team of volunteers guides up 20 llamas and 4 mules with 3,000 lbs of supplies for the station and then spends time filtering water from the nearby creek, so that us runners have all that we need on race day. A-FRICKIN-MAZING! Here's an article about it, if you want to read more.

It was here that I had my first visit to the medical tent. Nothing horrible, just what I considered a little chafing on my waist, so I asked for some Vaseline. They looked, told me it was worse than I thought, applied Vaseline, and then told me to continue to keep checking in with med tents to reapply and it, potentially, had to be wrapped. Yikes!

After an ample amount of aid at the station, it was onto the summit of Hope (yay!) and then DOWN! Now, the other side of Hope (the Winfield side) is NO JOKE when it comes to steepness, it is scary to run down and HARD to go up (notice I said “go", not “run”). I was glad that I had been there a couple times and had the chance to practice it. On the way down, I channeled what I knew and just went at it running down. I caught many people on the descent and was clipping along at a good place for the majority of it. I finally found a couple guys that were also clipping along and settled in behind them. It was a lot easier to pass people going down when you were a group of 3.
View from top of Hope coming down on Winfield side
Once you finish the steepness (2.5 miles of it), you turn and run another 4 miles to Winfield (rolling up, then down the last mile to Winfield). When I rounded the corner to the ghost town, I saw some signs and KNEW they were for me! Yes, I am the LUCKY GIRL who got to have fans who actually OWNED A CABIN IN WINFIELD (there are very few cabins and they are all historical landmarks). I saw Ethan and Cade and their cousin and aunt, got sweaty hugs and continued on into “town” which is really just the aid station at this point. 
Their cabin/cheer central for me!
Me with the Brook boys (Cade and Ethan) and their AWESOME SIGN!!!
 There were tons of people and I got lots of cheers running in. I was amazed that I STILL felt great! I was so happy to be there and just ecstatic that (other than chafing), my body wasn’t breaking down, I was still digesting food like a rock star – things were just falling into place!
video



I checked in with the aid station, the medical tent (more jelly, no wrapping), and found Ross, Kelly and Christi (my friend with family at the cabin). We quickly got my stuff ready, deciding on what warm weather stuff I might need over the pass with the sun going down and so forth, what food I needed, and I was happy!

Kelly and Ross waiting for me at Winfield -- who wouldn't be excited to get to that?!?!?!
Christi documenting me at the med tent (getting vaseline on my chafing).
When asked why, she stated "to keep it real". :)
Hope Pass. I had just climbed over that. Now, at mile 50, I got to turn around and do it again!!!
From there, Kelly and I headed out of Winfield – Christi accompanied us up to the cabin, then we headed on. In the short jog up there, Kelly and I were chatting away and Christi made the comment of, “I see how this is gonna be!” referring to us chatting all the way over Hope Pass… which is basically what we did. Kelly was an excellent pacer, listening to my needs and making sure I ate, knew the mileage AND was entertained by stories and/or lively conversation.

Now, here came an unexpected hard part of the race for me. Coming out of Winfield and heading up the pass, there was certain point (maybe 2 miles out) where we knew that everyone we were passing coming down was not going to be able to make it to Winfield in time for the cutoff… and their race would be done. This was really stinking hard to deal with, especially when we saw a few of our friends. This course is hard, takes no prisoners, and, this year, had even lengthened the course without lengthening the overall cutoff time.

Onto the climb. This puppy is steep and we just plugged away. We talked for most of it (minus the steepest parts where Kelly tried to humor me so I wouldn’t have to talk) and just kept going. Not a lot of talking around us, but that was ok. Up, up, up, we went and was happy to see the top when we got there. Yay! Kelly was on top of mileage and timing and let me know that we actually summited FASTER than we had the day she and I ran it about 2 weeks earlier on fresh legs – no way!
View looking back as we climbed
And up we go. You can't see it, but there was a family of mountain goats up there.
Over the top, down to the aid station. Visited med tent (again) and they said it looked much better, didn’t need wrapping. Got some LOTS of ramen (it was past my dinnertime). I was told to "thank the volunteers at the top," so I asked if I could hug a llama... and they were happy to let us! We asked for one that wouldn’t spit at us and they gave us this dude. 
Llama love.
Ain't no drama with this llama!
Then it was down, down, down. The Twin Lakes side was not as steep as the Winfield side and I ran what I could. With the sun setting and my legs getting more tired, it was harder to run some of the rockier spots, so I did what I could and was happy with that. (I think I wanted to run ALL of it, and it ended up being more like 70% of it, I think.) Once we were out of the forest, it was another 2 miles to the aid station, including through the river, and we entered Twin Lakes Aid Station in darkness.

Side note: Kelly took her pacer duties very seriously and even prepared a joke for me for our run. It went something like this: There were two tomatoes running the Leadville 100 and one of the tomatoes fell behind as they were coming into the Twin Lakes Aid Station… so the second one says, “KETCHUP!!!” Never dull moment with Kelly. ;)

Now, Twin Lakes, at 8-9ish at night on Leadville Night is a paaarty! We ran in. I saw Cindy (my coach) and just let her know I was good. (It was good to see her!) I had planned a full outfit change here, which just was… well, comic relief. We had a tent that Ross and my mom had set up the night before, they added a few sides so that I could have some privacy. Changing when you are tired, sweaty, a ton of people around, well… it was just kind of funny. And probably took a lot longer than necessary, but what can you say? I’m a newbie.

This aid station I wasn’t in-and-out, but that was ok. I got to see my parents, kids, coach, crew and friends. It was awesome. It was there that I picked up Todd as my pacer and off we went. 
Lotsa crew and love at Twin Lakes!!!
 Now, it is true that Hope Pass is the pinnacle and getting up and over it is a HUGE deal. So much so that a lot of people focus their energy on that task and don’t have anything (or much) left after they get down from the second crossing of Hope. I was aware of this and had “planned” to conserve energy, so I was glad that I had energy (as planned) when the day came. Yay!

*** THIS is the part where it got dark and the pictures stopped coming, so I apologize for the lack of photos from here on out. I understand if you want to skip to the end... :)

Coming out of Twin Lakes there is a 3+ mile climb… and I was glad I saved some in the tank for that! Todd (like my other pacers) was the best pacer ever!!! He had actually come out and run this (and a few other sections) of the course with me. He was great and dealt with me and my paranoia about being lost… “Yes, Randi, we are on the right trail,” to which I then further questioned, to which he then pointed out the trail marker (or just repeated that we weren't lost). God bless his patience with me!
Todd and I running a section of Leadville on a different day (obviously in the light).
We went off climbing up the big climb and then when we got to some runnable spots, I was SO HAPPY to still be able to run some. Being that I’d never really run over 55 miles, I wasn’t fully sure how my body would do and if it could keep going (at least a little) at a running pace… but it did!

We went along, run, run, run, walk, walk, walk. I needed to be ahead and all was good. We got to Half Pipe Aid station where no crew was allowed. It was kind of surreal to come upon this lighted tent with yummy and warm goodness inside. We went in and had some ramen. The medic saw us come in and checked in with Todd (to see how I was) and then checked in with me (to make sure I was as “good” as Todd said I was). I found it hilarious that, after I answered his question with one word, he told me that I had “good conversation skills.” I looked at him shocked and he told me that I had answered correctly and made eye-contact with him – I guess I aced the test. He then said I should have a seat and warm up. I said I just wanted to keep running, which he said was even better.

So, off we went, 5 more miles till Outward Bound Aid station – I couldn’t wait! This next 5 miles, the terrain is not too hard, mostly flat double-track and/or jeep road, so I was glad for the lack of technicality in the dark. As we got closer to the aid station, it got loads COLDER. (I think that was the coldest I was all race.) I was finding it hard to motivate myself to do too much running in this section, but as we got closer, I started saying “run to that such-and-such” and picking up the pace a little at a time. This helped me get warmer, so I also realized if I wasn’t going to freeze, I needed to keep myself moving as rapidly as possible for the rest of the way.

We rolled into Outward Bound (going inward – ha!), Krista and Ross were there. Yay! I was feeling good. I put on some tights and we adjusted for the dropping temperatures. And I was like, “KRISTA! We’re over 75% through!” and was so excited for that fact. I really was trying not to think about mileage in a mile-by-bile way and had just broken the sections between aid stations in my head, so getting to this aid station, in particular, I was EXCITED!
Picture of me and Krista. I guess I am always excited to see her!
 From OB, I knew it was a climb up and over Sugarloaf Pass. Weird enough for me, I was ok with that. I had done this before, I knew it would be slow, but mentally I knew where I was going so it was “ok” for me.

Krista was phenomenal! We set off, we had lots to talk about. We went up the Powerline climb – which she had mountain biked a gazillion times – so she knew EXACTLY where to tell me to go (to the point where she was like, “move over to the left side here, because it is less steep on this side of the trail.” Amazeballs.).

At the top, we got some coke and started to head down. I will say that this part I had ‘expected’ to be able to run down. Like I said, downhill were my “thing” and that was where I was excited about doing and making up some of the time I had lost on climbing. BUT, after 80ish miles on the legs, going down on the rocky terrain wasn’t as fast as I planned. I tried to run when I could, but it was really that I didn’t trust my jello legs and/or footing/ankles to get me down the rock pass without buckling. So, whilst I was still happy, I was a little slower than planned.

Soon enough, however, we were rolling into Mayqueen Aid Station – YAY! I was glad to see everyone (Steph, Ross, Todd) and get some more food. I can’t tell you how delicious ramen tasted at every station I stopped at. The sun was starting to come up and Todd informed me that I needed to pick it up if I could. 
Me and Steph (with Ross and Eric), looking MUCH better than I did that morning.
 I left there a little terrified that I wasn’t going fast enough. I thought, “oh, I run this section in like 13-14 minute miles” which I do REGULARLY, but at mile 88, I was struggling to do 18-minute miles. (This was the first time ALL RACE I had looked at my pacing.) That was a bit of a wake up. So, I plugged on doing what I could.

Steph was awesome and we had plenty to talk about. SHE informed me I was just fine at my pace to finish, it was only if I wanted a faster time would I need to pick it up – whew! I mean, I am normally bad at math, and after 25 hours of running I’m REALLY bad at it, so having her realize that Todd didn’t mean I had to pick it up to finish (only if I wanted a goal time) was super helpful!

We made our way through and around Turquoise Lake as the sun rose. It was just BEAUTIFUL! Again, my legs were having trouble with the rocky terrain, but I made it along as fast as I could.

There were spectators more so along this route because (1) it is closer to town and (2) it is through a camping area, so people can view a lot of it. At one intersection, I asked someone “how far till the dam?” and he said, “I don’t know, but I DO know that you can see your belt buckle from here!” – which was awesome.

We made it to the dam and down the mini-pipeline to where Todd and Ross were waiting for us. My last pacer – yay! And my husband. Double-yay! 
The only picture I have of us this section!
 From here till the end was 5.5 miles. Todd told me if I did 20-minute miles, I would finish in a little over 29 hours. At some point, I decided I wanted to finish in UNDER 29 hours (if I could). So, I just plugged away. I was happy at this point that the technical terrain was over. From here till the end was mostly graded dirt road. Walk, walk, walk, run, (more of a slog), slog, slog.

As the miles ticked down, I just got more and more excited to be at the end. One of the coolest things about the Leadville finish is that from one mile out, you are able to run in with friends and family… mine met me and Ross at about ½ mile out and ran to the end with me. They joined me and many of my friends and family were able to help me finish what, in essence, we ALL had started almost a year ago.
Heading in to the finish line with everyone in tow!
Finishing time-ish.
Getting my medal with Ken and Marilee
Congratulatory hugs!!!
I can't thank these people enough!!!!
Seriously! I can't thank EVERYONE enough for all the support, etc. in this journey. Near, far, and everyone on the way.
Todd, in particular, was there as my running confidant, advisor, support-giver, etc. Even though this blog does not show it in this blog, it is TRUE that he was there (almost) every step of the way. From the inception of the idea, the hours of training, the recon of the course, to the actual race day (STAYING UP 30 HOURS with Ross). There's no way I'd have gotten to the start line, let alone the finish line, without him.
My family, especially Ross and the boys, were with me every step of the way, either literally or as a support system from afar.
My friends all stepped up, whether it was in emotional support and/or physical support (running buddies).
Cindy, my coach, who paved the way for me. Who listened (for months!) to my woes and was always full of advice. She laid out a solid plan that went with my crazy life schedule AND got me to the start line healthy and with all the tools for me to have an AMAZING race.
And I can't believe the number of crazies I met along the way (some doing the race, some not) that I will keep with me forever - either in memories or as life-long friends and/or running partners.

People say this race changes you forever and they are right. What you do with it is up to you. I am glad I had a great journey surrounded my amazing people.

Here's a little of the aftermath:
First time sitting in 29+ hours.
We did it!!!
Got home to this!!!

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!!!

SILVER RUSH 50-MILER:
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!!!