It took me two weeks to unpack all my stuff from my trip to Leadville. It just sat on the floor in the closet and I put a few things up each day until all evidence of my adventure was packed neatly away. I think it's taking longer for me to unpack my thoughts about the experience, but if I don't write about it now, I won't write about it at all, so here we are.
When I signed up for the Lead Challenge, my big goals were to get an official finish at the Silver Rush 50 run (I missed the time cut in 2018 by 8 minutes) and to finish the Leadville Mountain Bike 100. I love running the marathon in Leadville and the 10K is pretty fun too, so what would be the harm in signing up for a challenge where I felt fairly confident about everything except the final event, the Leadville Trail 100 Run?
Nothing went the way it was supposed to this year, but I have learned that that's part of the adventure. With a knee injury in April, it was clear that I wouldn't be running a 50 mile race in July. Luckily I was able to switch to the Silver Rush 50 bike ride instead, and that was one of the best race days of my life. You can read about it here. But if I couldn't run a 50 miler in July, I certainly would not be ready to run 100 in August, and that's what I've been trying to unpack.
With the switch to the bike race for the Silver Rush, I placed all my attention on getting ready for the 100 mile mountain bike race. You can read about that race here. I'm incredibly proud of my effort that day. I feel like everything else is completely worth it for the amount of growth as an athlete that I experienced on that course. I'm determined to get stronger and faster and more skilled at mountain biking and cross that finish line in the future. But that's not what this story is about today!
By placing all my attention on the bike, I barely ran at all this summer. When I did, I ran easy on pavement in between days of biking. I can count the number of times I ran on a trail this year on one hand. I hated it. After falling in April during that 50K, I was scared to fall down. In general, here are all of my excuses: running in the heat and humidity in Arkansas in the summer sucks, my knee is still not 100%, running doesn't feel good, and I hated doing it. For some relief, I ran on the flat river path where there was a little bit of a breeze, but even then my longest run was 12 miles, or just over 2 hours.
My logic was that I was able to muscle my way through the marathon in June without much run training, so I wondered what I'd be able to do at the 100. It would be pretty cool to make it to mile 50, up and over Hope Pass, and get to see the llamas at the aid station up there. It seemed silly to invite people to crew and pace for me, but I did it anyway. Amy and her friend Jen came up to crew, and Lindsey came to pace if needed (pacers aren't allowed until mile 62; it was highly unlikely that I'd need a pacer). I am grateful to these girls who kept me company up in Leadville for the weekend.
I toed the start line at 4:00 in the morning. I noted that there's far less fanfare and energy at the run start line as there was at the mountain bike race, but maybe that was just my own energy reflecting back at me. I ran down the familiar gravel road that gave way to trails after three miles. I ran and smiled and felt fine until I didn't.
|All smiles at the start line.|
By mile 13 at the Mayqueen aid station, I was feeling nauseated and my feet hurt. I smiled for my crew who surprised me by showing up there, and then headed with as much purpose as possible up the trail. Then, the Colorado Trail portion of the course kicked my butt, more mentally than physically. I picked my way so cautiously over the roots and rocks and cursed trail running the whole time. I was just so scared to fall down the way that I did during the 50K that I DNFed in April. Time ticked away and after I finally popped out onto the gravel road up to Sugarloaf, I had resorted to a "run for 30 seconds, walk for 30 seconds" strategy.
|I'm telling you now, if you can get Amy Machael to crew for you, get her.|
Turning onto the Sugarloaf climb, I smiled to myself thinking about riding up it the previous weekend, and how much more energetic and confident I had felt then. Picking my way down the Powerline descent on foot, I laughed to think that I was so scared riding down it last weekend, only to be wishing for a bike now. On my way down, I was passed by a few runners who were still making an effort to get to the next time cut on time. I knew I would miss it because I was walking too slowly. I stopped to talk to a chipmunk. I called Shelly to tell her that I was on the Powerline and wished she was there, because it had been so fun practicing on it a month ago with her. I texted Amy, who was waiting at the Outward Bound aid station at mile 23 that I would not be making the time cut.
Finally, gratefully, I walked onto the paved road towards the aid station and texted Amy again, "if I drop a pin, will you come and pick me up?" Almost instantly she drove up in her car. I tapped out at 22 miles. The time cut had come and gone.
|I didn't even get all the way to Outward Bound for a hug from the cutoff queen, so she sent me a virtual one.|
We went for burritos and beers and I wasn't particularly disappointed with my day. I mean, what could I really have expected? It's kind of funny to think of the difference between my effort at the run and how I felt the previous weekend on the bike. During the bike race, I was absolutely not going to make that time cut and I knew it, but I raced like my life depended on it anyway. This time I just didn't bother. That's what I'm unpacking.
Should I even have stood on the start line of something that I wasn't going to do my best to finish? Should I have started something that I knew I hadn't even done my best to train for? That's what I'm thinking about.
After lunch, Amy and Jen drove home and even though no pacing was necessary, Lindsey drove into town anyway, just to hang out. We watched the first place finisher cross the line, which was insane and inspiring. It was great to catch up with Lindsey and spend time around the infectious energy of people who love Leadville. The following morning, it was even more inspiring to walk outside the airbnb and hear people cheering for finishers who had been out on the course all night. As I packed up my car for the long drive home to Little Rock, the town was filled with the cheers for people who had fought like hell to finish this insanely difficult event.
Now that I'm home and have had a little while to think about it, I'm still unclear on my feelings about ultra running and even trail running in general. I know that don't want to do it right now. Give me roads and easy gravel paths. I don't like being scared to fall down all the time on a run. On the other hand, I've been out a couple times on my mountain bike since I got home because I'm more determined than ever at working on my skills. I used to be afraid to fall down on my mountain bike, but now the determination outweighs the fear. Will the same thing happen with running?
What's next? In 15+ years I have never finished one big event without having the next one already lined up. This time I don't know what the next big thing is! I haven't figured it out yet, and I admit that I'm not really excited about whatever it is yet, but I'm grateful that I know I want the journey to continue.
Thank you as always for reading. 💗
|Leadville: even though you keep hurting my feelings, I'll keep coming back for more.|