My goal: Finish the race and get my qualifier for the Hardrock lottery. When anyone asked what time I thought I could run, my answer was "I have to finish."
I was pretty sure I could manage that, barring any major problems. The cutoffs aren't easy at Leadville, but I'm in a lot better shape and I weigh a lot less than for my Bighorn attempt several years ago. We spent a couple weeks in Silverton on the Hardrock course in June/July and then lived at the Leadville RV Corral for the month of August, so we were about as acclimated as we could get this summer. We trained on the Leadville course and I saw over 90% of it more than twice, on foot or on bike.
On the other hand, I also wondered if I might be able to go faster than I thought I could. I ran well at the GTA last year and Bandera in January and this course seemed (on paper) to play to my strengths - varying from flat-ish to long climbs, with lots of runnable sections. But I was concerned I might start out too fast and cause myself large problems later. I finally decided to go 50 miles just "for me," running how I feel, and then figure out if I might be able to push competitively after that.
Race morning was beautiful - around 40 degrees and clear. My kind of weather! The forecast was for sun and higher temperatures during the day, which wasn't so great. But we were so happy that it probably wouldn't hail, pour, and thunder/lightning on us (like at last year's Leadville 100) that we couldn't begin to complain about a little sun. After all, we're Texans... albeit the most non-heat-acclimated Texans around.
At 4 a.m. a huge crowd of 500+ runners surged down 6th Street toward the valley. I ran easily, gently moving ahead of people as my momentum carried me downhill. I joined most everyone around me in walking the slight uphill before sliding down another slope toward the end of the street. It was pavement, but it was over with quickly and soon we were moseying down the dirt road called The Boulevard.
All the headlamps around me lit up the night and the road, so I kept my light off until I got close to the first railroad track crossing. After riding my bike up this road countless times, I had a pretty good idea where the potholes and rocks begin. I used my little Coast handheld to light the ground in front of me, easily clearing the slight obstacles. The road started rising, and eventually I saw the gate where the steep rocky section started.
I already knew I wanted to stay to the left down this section, which worked well because I was also passing people as I flew down the somewhat technical little hill. I believe I saw Markus nearby, but I was paying too much attention to my feet to be sure. At the bottom the road made a sharp right and turned into a gently-uphill rutted jeep road. I ran/walked this section and watched lights bouncing off trees up ahead.
Back to pavement - another short section - and I used the time to pull off my gloves and stuff them into my jacket pocket. I kept my Buff on my head but adjusted it off and on my ears as I got warmer and then cooler whenever we hit a cold spot near a creek. I ran with a hand bottle in one hand and the light in the other, which worked fine until I had to do something that required a hand. I didn't want to stop and walk, because then I would lose my place in the pack. I love running singletrack (coming up around the lake) and I didn't want to get behind too many slower people before then.
Finally situated again, I started down the bumpy dirt road and watched for the turn-off up ahead. This road seemed to take awhile, and I was getting a little tired of running on roads. A bit later I saw lights heading to the right and soon I followed people onto the short steep "mini Powerline" section. With a few short, quick steps, and then a few more, I found the top. One more landmark down, many more to go.
Some guy in an orange jacket had his heart rate monitor on "audible" mode, I guess so he could hear how fast his heart was beating? Well, that was rather irritating, so I ran ahead of him to get onto the lake trail. Ah, nice trail! I got in a line with some runners who were going the perfect pace - gliding down the trail, speed-walking up the little inclines, easy running for me but still moving well.
We crossed a big parking lot and I veered off to fill my Spiz baggie with water from a spigot we had scouted. But there was now a hose hooked up to it - d'oh! A camp host trailer was parked where there was nothing last week. I should have checked the bathrooms for running water, but instead I just clung to the baggie in my bottle hand and continued onward, trying to work out an alternative.
Running on, through the pines and the campgrounds, I followed runners and pondered. Finally we heard some noise up ahead as we approached the Tabor boat ramp and a bunch of crew folk. A woman behind me muttered, "What is that?" It was a boisterous spectacle in the middle of the darkness. I ran through the receiving line, asking if anyone had water. When I spotted a large water jug on the ground, I asked if they could spare some, and they were happy to oblige, so I filled my Spiz baggie. Thank you so much, random crew people!
It took a minute or two to walk, mix the Spiz, drink it down, and get situated again (including re-zipping my jacket in order to stabilize the waistpack that was sliding around). I was disappointed at losing my place in the running line, but I had already decided it was much more important not to get behind on calories and drink. Starting up again, I immediately passed several people who seemed to be picking their way over easy trail. The trail was still wide enough to get around, so I took advantage of that. Once it narrowed down considerably, I was mostly happy again with where I was.
The next 5 miles passed rather quickly. I couldn't go as fast as I wanted, but everyone in front of me was (mostly) running the flats and downhills, and I was slightly slower on the uphills anyway. We had a few pauses for the more technical sections, but I settled in and got comfortable. My breathing dropped to almost inaudible, and I stole a couple glances around at the dark lake and the runners' bobbing lights around the edges of it. There were plenty of people behind me, and plenty of trail to go, so I was fine.
Still, I couldn't resist when the trail made a split for about 20 feet. Everyone was taking the high road (slightly easier) but I veered left to drop down and back up, passed a few people for the heck of it. Must be the adventure racer instinct in me. I knew a couple of landmarks along here, mostly mining-related plus a bridge or two.
The sky lightened as I approached the end of the trail. I guessed I would be able to leave my light at the May Queen aid station. John was faster (quite a bit faster!) and had to use his micro-LED light for the first part of the next section. Slower is sometimes a tiny advantage.
Someone nearby was watching his GPS and figured we had 2 miles to go, but another guy and I knew better. Soon we reached the trailhead and the paved road through the campground. I jogged along, taking a very short shortcut next to the restroom. Approaching the aid station, I saw crew milling around everywhere. Someone yelled, "Go ladies!" as I followed a woman up the grass to the aid station tent.
May Queen aid station:
2:15 elapsed, 167th place overall, 13th place woman
"Drop bag? Drop bag?" I asked as I moved through the large tent. Someone helped me locate my bag and I found a quiet corner to work with it. I dropped off my light, picked up a second hand bottle, drank an Ensure, filled the water bottles with water, returned the drop bag for later, and walked out the door. There was a lot going on around me, but I was focused on getting back to the quiet of the trail.
Up the road and back into the woods, ahh... I followed several guys onto the Colorado Trail and up a short incline. When we reached a flatter but rocky section, my dancing feet took over. Several guys were kind enough to get out of my way when they heard me coming. I passed a couple more as the trail made several gentle drops. This is MY trail, I said to myself, and I was enjoying it quite a bit. Too soon, the trail turned sharply upward and the climb toward Sugarloaf started for real.
With a hearty upward march, I made my way toward the road, passing and greeting Markus on the way. Once on Hagerman Road, I started a run/walk pattern and counted paces (30 run, 10 walk, at this point) to keep my mind occupied and my body moving. I noticed all sorts of various speeds in other runners - some motoring quickly, others walking slowly, and everything in between. Some runners were all dressed up for cold weather, but then there was the guy with his shirt off already.
After turning onto the jeep road, I eased back into a fast walk and enjoyed the scenery. A couple switchbacks later and we were nearing the top. I stopped to fill a Spiz baggie from one of my hand bottles, and consolidated the rest of my water into the other so I could stash an empty bottle into my waist pack. I was glad to finally have one hand free! The waist pack was still giving me issues, but I tried to be happy that at least I didn't have a backpack on my shoulders yet.
I walked, mixed the Spiz, and stopped to drink it. Time to move! A short downhill stretch made my legs happy. Soon I was over the top and moving downhill in earnest. The sun was out, the air was cool, I was feeling good. I stopped for a quick pee so I could focus on the downhill without a bouncing bladder. Then I motored on down, passing passels of people as I went. It was fun!
I tried to memorize a few landmarks for the return trip (since I had seen the top section only once a couple weeks ago) while still focusing on my feet. Then I reached the part that I knew well from hill repeat training, and I could turn my brain off again. Too soon I found the bottom and the paved road. All good things eventually come to the pavement.
Turning right to a few cheers from spectators, I followed some runners up the road. Around the corner someone had put up a sign reading "More whisky and fresh horses for my men" - something to ponder! A bit more pavement and it was time for another aid station.
Fish Hatchery aid station:
4:21 elapsed, 158th place overall, 11th place woman
The aid station building was all the way to the back of the Fish Hatchery, requiring an uphill climb that was rather surprising, but soon I was inside with my drop bag. I dropped off a hand bottle, drank an Ensure, got some water, and took off back down the hill. This next section had a lot of pavement, plus a reroute due to an Army helicopter crash on Mount Massive. I was hoping to get it over with quickly.
I tried to run most of the pavement, and found some gravel on the shoulder more to my liking, so it ended up not being too bad but I still didn't enjoy it. We were out in the open and even though it was still early in the day, temperatures were heating up and I looked forward to getting back into the woods. A bit of walking here and there, more running, across a field and onto the dirt road, yadda yadda yadda. I noticed a group of guys and thought one of them was Kirk Apt, but he turned out to be Les Jones, I think from Memphis.
John running, possibly in this section
The detour started at the pipeline cut where we turned left and climbed a small hill. Crews and cars were lined up all along a field, waiting for their runners and cheering people onward. I wished for a bike handlebar bell so I could just go "ding ding" to acknowledge people's cheers, like some riders last weekend in the bike race. I had been thinking about stopping at a porta-potty, but each time I passed one (Fish Hatchery, at the pipeline, Box Creek) I no longer needed to go. Not a quarter of a mile later I was again looking for a porta-potty - what's up with that?
The course ran along the pipeline for a ways and then turned right onto a forest road. I continued a run/walk pattern, focusing on speed-walking whenever I wasn't running. It started to feel like maybe I was pushing too hard, especially since I was still passing people and at the same time I was getting warm. My legs gave me a warning at the next little uphill, telling me that I needed to be careful not to push them too hard for too long. I remembered something similar at Bighorn, which turned into a huge issue. That was enough to get me to chill out and slow down this time.
So finally I eased up a bit and bided my time to the next aid station, focusing on learning the intersections for the way back. We started to get a bit of cover from trees here and there. I also tried to appreciate that we weren't on Halfmoon Road with cars and dust and stuff. But it took a rather long time to get to the aid station, and I had to ration the water in my one bottle.
Finally I saw a small tent up ahead and I heard some kids asking runners if they wanted their drop bag - cool! I ordered up my bag, they radioed ahead, and as soon as I walked into the aid station a guy handed it to me. Very nice. It only took a couple minutes to pick up a second bottle and a SPIZ baggie, fill both bottles, and drink an Ensure.
Box Creek aid station:
5:54 elapsed, 123rd place overall, 12th place woman
The next section started out long and slow. I could see Mount Elbert in the distance and it seemed such a long way away. The road was slowly climbing and I was slowly slowing down. Guys around me seemed to be doing OK and they started slowly passing me. I had a major low point in here, questioning for the only time why the heck I was doing this. The road running had put me in a funk, and now I didn't know where we were going or how long it would take to get there.
It seemed like forever, but finally we passed by some aspens so I knew we must be getting up to a higher elevation. Then the flagging led away from the road and up a small trail, under some downed aspens and across a short spot of mud to a trail intersection. I was excited to get back to the normal course, back on the Colorado Trail. I knew exactly where I was, finally, and I was happy to be back in the shade of the trees.
The rest of this section went much better, up and down and through the trees. I ran relaxed, which didn't happen much during this race, and I really enjoyed it. I filled and drank a Spiz along the way, believing I was getting enough calories and electrolytes from it plus the Ensures. Starting along the downhill side, I was once again passing people. Descending was still working well. At the bottom I navigated the last, short and very steep descent into the aid station (commenting to myself that it was pretty much the hardest part of that section, and I'd sure like to NOT fall on my butt in front of a hundred people...).
Twin Lakes aid station:
7:37 elapsed, no placing info
It took me a bit longer to get through this aid station because I switched from a waist pack to a backpack and poles with a Camelbak bottle system. I got ready as quickly as I could and then asked about a porta-potty. A lady directed me in the right direction and I finally left the aid station feeling a lot better.
I also felt very comfortable with the backpack and poles. I made my way around the long-ish field and over to the creek crossing. The water was knee-deep and felt absolutely great. I ran part of the way to the trees and the start of the biggest climb of the course. I was ready with my trekking poles, ready to tackle the next big obstacle.
However, not all of me was quite ready. When I started putting forth climbing effort, my legs didn't quite react as I had hoped. OK, no problem, I decided to just find a pace that I could sustain, and I'd get there eventually. It was an acceptable, but not very speedy, climb up the mountain. I figured I would see a lot of people as they passed by me. It actually took a little while for runners to start catching me, but eventually quite a few did. Well, that's the way it goes.
I had also hoped it would get cooler as we climbed, but that didn't seem to be the case either. I started wondering if I should be taking some extra electrolytes, and in hindsight I think that would have helped. I wasn't very motivated, though, because my throat was pretty dry, the salt tablets I carried are rather rough in texture, and I have trouble swallowing pills on a good day. I drank a serving of Spiz that I had been carrying, and hoped that would be enough.
Partway up, I heard someone calling down the hill and saw Anton and his pacer running quickly down toward us. The pacer was letting everyone know he was coming, which I thought was a great idea. It certainly made it easy to get out of the way when many people were climbing with their heads down. I saw a couple more runners coming toward me as I made my way up above the trees and into a big field where a bunch of llamas were hanging out near some tents.
Hope Pass aid station:
9:44 elapsed, 140th place overall, 14th place woman
I walked into the aid station, asking for some water to fill a Spiz baggie. The woman didn't seem to know what to do about that, so I located an actual water jug that worked. Continuing on, there were a couple more runners coming down from the pass, but mostly I saw a long line of people going uphill.
It became more of a struggle to climb, even with the help of the poles. I started having a strange problem where any exertion caused my stomach to knot up and threaten to cause problems. So I had to ease off some more, though my legs were holding up OK. I was glad that every time I felt like burping, it actually came out as a burp instead of something more solid.
Turning up one of the last switchbacks, I paused for a second to prepare for the steep steps in front of me. One last big push and I was finally at the top - yay! That was a relief.
I started down the other side, using the poles to help with the steeper parts. Occasionally I had to move aside a bit for runners coming up, but mostly I demanded at least a partial part of the trail so I could continue without waiting for them to make their way past me. As I started seeing more people, I looked for ways to hop rocks and take the "high road" around them on the narrow trail.
I heard a "whoop!" and looked down to see John heading uphill toward me. Go John! He looked a bit tired, and he was having climbing difficulties of his own. I was moving fast downhill and unfortunately didn't have much time for a greeting. Good luck, see you at the finish, love ya!
The rest of the downhill went great and passed pretty quickly. At the bottom I turned right onto the dirt road and immediately knew that the next 5 miles out and back to Winfield were going to suck. Crew cars were going back and forth, and no matter how careful they were, they kicked up quite a bit of dust. I ran/walked up the road and checked my watch so I'd have some idea when I might see the aid station. This was one spot that I had not scouted so I would just have to keep going until the aid station showed up.
Yep, it sucked. That's about all I have to say about that.
Finally I saw tents and cars off to the left - almost there! I made my way into the aid station and was told to remove my pack for a weighing. The digital scale wouldn't work very well, and it turns out that I was moving around too much - I told the guy I was just trying to breathe! Finally it gave a reading, 4 pounds down from check-in. I was good to go.
Winfield aid station:
11:27 elapsed, 133rd place overall, 12th place woman
I found my drop bag and sat in a chair for some quick work. I went looking for some water for my bottles, and ended up waiting in line at the coolers. The place was loud, crowded, hot, and not at all appealing. I was so ready to get out of there, even with another 2.5 miles of dusty dirt road ahead of me. I checked out, gave a quick wave to Brandi, and got moving again.
Back on the sucky road, at least I was going downhill and somewhat faster on the way back. I passed (and smelled) a couple campers sitting near the road smoking, which also sucked but was over with quickly. The fun part was seeing runners going the other way, cheering each other on, and especially greeting a few people that I knew - Ted and his girlfriend, Hans and Jean-Jacques, Markus, Ryan, John S., Jamie from Austin, Larry and Beth, Allan, Liz, and I'm sure I'm missing a few.
Partway down the road I glanced at my watch and happened to see it reset itself (I've been having problems with it lately). Amazingly, it happened at very close to 4 pm, or 12 hours into the race, so I let it be since the time was now about 4 minutes off from race time. I knew I was doing fine vs. the cutoffs, and that's pretty much all I needed to know at that point. I wasn't going to set any records!
I was so happy to see the traffic control guy at the trailhead, and I told him as much. Back to the trail, hallelujah!
The climb back up to Hope Pass was steep and a lot of work. I knew it wasn't as long as the other side, but it was definitely tough. Every time a runner came downhill toward me I was perfectly happy finding a tree to lean on to get out of the way and try to catch my breath. My stomach problems continued, so I was moving dang slowly, and various people came up behind me as well. I worked on being patient, knowing I had plenty of time and that this was the biggest climb of the remaining course.
It was nice to be in the trees, and partway up we also got some shadows as the sun started to drop behind the peaks. The cooler air was quite a relief. I wasn't too far from the top when it was time to put together another Spiz. I debated waiting for the aid station on the other side, but decided to sit on a rock next to the trail instead. Better to give my stomach a few minutes for digestion before starting to run downhill.
Markus came by me while I was working on the Spiz - Hi Markus! A bunch of other people did too, including at least one female runner, maybe two. There was not a thing I could do about that. I had not seen many women near me (besides pacers now accompanying many racers) up until now.
After I reached the top (double-yay!), I immediately passed a few people back, including Markus and one woman. I debated stopping at the aid station for some Coke, but it didn't appear that they had any, so I continued straight on through instead.
Hope Pass aid station:
14:06 elapsed, no placing info
Time for some downhilling magic! I was pretty excited that my legs were still working well as long as I didn't have to exert myself. I pulled out my own version of vitamin I - my iPod. It was set for the best part of my playlist, so I had Anastacia to accompany me as I bopped and boogied down the mountain. Running fast over rocks and past runners was highly enjoyable, and I didn't get tired of it the whole way down.
It turns out that one other runner (plus pacer) kept up with me down the hill, and we stayed together across the field. The creek crossing felt great again, very nice. The pacer got on the phone with their crew, letting them know they were coming and ordering some green olives (interesting). We had a nice chat and soon we were back at Twin Lakes. Kelly snapped my picture on the way into the aid station - Hi Kelly!
Twin Lakes aid station:
15:12 elapsed, 108th place overall, 12th place woman
Brandi appeared right outside the aid station building, asking if I could use any help. Well, come on it, let's find out! We found my bag and I sat to change shoes while Brandi handed me things, emptied the Camelbak bottles for storage, and filled my hand bottles. One of my feet cramped up when it hit fresh air, so I had to sit for just a second before I could put a fresh sock back on. Brandi ran to get a cup of Coke so I could take one ibuprofen, then we put poles and stuff back in the drop bag (Brandi even handled my wet shoes - that's a real adventure racer right there) and I was finally ready to go. It was a long stop, but totally worth it. I (and my feet) felt a lot better walking out of there. Thanks for the help, Brandi!
Another climb. Let's do it. I was feeling better in the evening air, ready to get back on the Colorado Trail (can you tell I really like that trail?). The first little steep rise was a rude reintroduction to climbing uphill, but then the dirt road turned out to be half-decent and not too tough. Music in my ears helped me maintain an acceptable pace, and I enjoyed being mostly alone for the first time all race. This climb happens in pieces, with a nice traverse in the middle. It was also getting on towards dark, another thing to make me happy.
Partway along the singletrack traverse I turned around to make sure there wasn't someone right behind me waiting to pass. When I turned back forward I suddenly got dizzy. That was strange! I instituted a policy of holding a hand in front of me to focus on when I turned back around, and that helped me maintain balance.
The course met up with the Colorado Trail and I noticed a whole bunch of flagging across the "wrong way" split - that hadn't been there before and I wondered what had caused someone to climb up to put it in place. Hopefully no one had gotten too lost! More climbing, more climbing, but I was ready for this section so I had some patience for it.
Near the top I stopped to drink a Spiz and take a bathroom break. Several people passed me in the growing darkness. I got out my handheld Fenix light to get a visual on the trail and then followed a couple runner/pacer pairs across a bridge without steps (you would have to see it to understand what that means). They let me pass, as I started moving well along the singletrack once it leveled out.
The trail did a bit of up and down, and I gained momentum. I was again most comfortable in this section, loving the soft surface, the weaving through the trees, the gentle swaying of the aspen trees. Not to mention the start of some longer downhills. I passed a couple runners, pushed to stay ahead of them up a long-ish hill, and then took off down the next long hill. Whoopee!
I went flying down, passing anyone I could get my hands on. The handheld light worked great, lighting up any rocks or roots, although the trail was mostly smooth and very runnable. I crossed a creek, went up one last short climb, then headed down toward the turn-off from the Colorado Trail. It was sad, but it was time for the detour onto forest service roads again.
I continued my (relatively) fast descent, passing a couple more runners on the way to the Box Creek aid station. The route eventually leveled out and then made a slight climb. I reverted to speed-walking and focused on what I would need at the aid station. Again a group of kids asked if I wanted my drop bag - yes, thank you! That was very cool. I was most impressed with the Box Creek people overall.
Box Creek aid station:
17:25 elapsed, 98th place overall, 12th place woman
After a quick stop for an Ensure and some Powerade (for a change from the water diet I had been keeping), I was back on the road. I didn't know this section beyond what I had seen earlier in the day, but I knew it was rather long. I was pretty patient about it, even passing a runner or two along the way, until I found the power line. At that point I felt slow and it seemed to take forever to reach the crew access parking lot. Probably because I could see car lights a long way before I got to them - but I got to them eventually.
Someone was yelling racer numbers out to the long row of crew people. I tried to explain that I didn't have a crew, but that didn't seem to matter to them. Whatever, maybe they were tracking people. Moving on, down a little hill and up to the road. Here was the part I wasn't looking forward to. I saw lightning in the distance and was glad it didn't appear to be getting closer.
I ran/walked along the dirt road and onto the field. Finally I had to face the pavement again, argh. I looked north to see cars moving toward Fish Hatchery - wow, they looked a long way away! I sighed and started along the road. I found a few places I could run/walk on the side of the road on the dirt, so it wasn't completely terrible.
While I was walking (which was more and more of the time), a runner came by carrying a stick. He turned out to be the actual Kirk Apt, and I went back and forth with him for most of the rest of the race. He was faster while he was moving, but I passed him in the aid stations. Eventually (finally!) I made it to the Fish Hatchery aid station.
Fish Hatchery aid station:
19:21 elapsed, 91st place overall, 11th place woman
It was a lot quieter this time through. I walked into the building and immediately found the first aid table and some Vaseline. My butt cheeks had a chafing problem that I was aware of but didn't treat quickly enough. One of the things about getting tired is that you don't feel like finding the med kit in the pack you are carrying...
Next I sat in a chair and met a pacer from Texas. He turned out to be John Sharp's pacer, so I was able to give him a bit of info about John and where I had seen him on the road to Winfield. He in turn got my drop bag for me and filled my water bottles - awesome, thanks!
I got out as quickly as I could and continued up the road. More pavement. And some music... what? Up ahead I heard Air Supply blaring from a house. "I'm all out of love, I'm so lost without you"... what? A pacer up ahead started singing and I couldn't help but join in. Too strange!
I was pretty happy to reach the turn-off onto the trail toward Sugarloaf. Of course, that was before I started actually climbing up the mountain. Once that happened, I wasn't quite so happy. But the first steep climb had a finite distance and I knew when I had reached the top of that, so even though I was moving slowly, at least it didn't last too long.
Next I ran down a short section and started a long climb through the trees. I thought I knew this section well enough, and I counted the number of times I crossed under the power lines (I could hear them buzzing above me). That was all good, but then the trail continued up... and up... and I kept waiting for one of the two short drops, but it seemed to take forever to get there.
I finally stopped to drink a Spiz and take a break. Here and there a runner and usually a pacer walked quickly past me. I was moving at a lethargic crawl, just trying to hold onto some semblance of uphill pace to keep my pride from completely disappearing. The longer it took, the slower I got, trying to keep my legs moving and my stomach intact. Les and the Gang hiked by, and I remarked that I wasn't climbing worth a (insert expletive here) today. They told me they would see me on the downhill side, but I wasn't so sure.
After stopping a couple more times, maybe to pee or whatever, I finally caught sight of the big stump with the stone face on top that I had been looking for. If I had been hanging glow sticks, I would have definitely put one on that! But no, you had to be looking for it. Or maybe you thought you were hallucinating. Anyway, it's a neat landmark.
And then finally, finally I reached some open space, I passed by the Colorado Trail turnoff, and I could start moving faster again. Phew. Even though it was more of a traverse with an uphill slant, at least I could speed-walk again. I could see May Queen lights and Turquoise Lake below me - very pretty in the darkness.
An Asian man who had just passed me started running down the hill, so I jumped on the 2-person train and followed. He had good downhill speed that I was able to match but not improve upon, so I stayed off his tail and focused on being nimble over the rockier sections. We ran rather swiftly downward, and as we made a sharp turn I saw more lights above us at the top of the mountain. Not as many below us, but we might have passed someone along the way, I'm not sure.
I lost track of the guy in front of me just before reaching Hagerman Road, but I kept running on the gentler downhill. No sense in giving up what little speed I had left. No cars, no dust, no noise except my feet padding along the nice dirt road. The turnoff onto the Colorado Trail was very well marked, and I was still feeling fine (albeit a tad stiffer) down the rocky technical descent.
I came across Les and the Gang again - if only the race ended on a downhill, I might have had a chance to beat that group. I actually saw a whole slew of guys in this section of woods and they all graciously stepped aside to let me by. I was on a Mission to May Queen. I also knew that it wasn't all downhill from here. In fact, there were a bunch of little uphills, now that I was tired enough to notice them. No wonder this part takes so much longer in this direction. I tried my best to get to the top of each rise before my stomach noticed I was exerting myself, and for the most part that worked OK.
Finally the trail started back downhill, across a creek, and onto the road. I took the turn wide to pass a woman that I believe was a runner and not a pacer, not that it mattered to me. I could only do what I could do, I should
reach my goal (to finish), and I couldn't help it if other people finished slower or faster than me.
May Queen aid station:
22:44 elapsed, 87th place overall, 10th place woman
Brandi was hanging out at May Queen - hey, great to see you again, Brandi! She was once again a huge help, especially since I was thinking and moving slower now, plus I had three extra items to think about that weren't on my pre-written list (and I have no idea now what they were). She told me that I had tons of time, and I told her that I'd sure like to finish before it got hot out again. Motivation to keep moving! I saw Kirk eating some soup, but that was about all I saw besides Brandi and my drop bag for the next couple minutes.
Last drop bag, last Ensure, last aid station - yay! Time to go. I walked out and made my way through the campground, looking toward the lights of Leadville. I started slowly on the singletrack trail, glad to be back in the woods but still having issues with the smallest of uphills. My forte (downhills) was done, now I just had to get through the last 13 miles to finish this thing up.
The first landmark was an old mine (with a neat pile of tailings in the water next to the shoreline), and that came quickly enough. A couple runners passed me, including Kirk and his pacer. Later I saw another small mine. A couple more runners passed me, but slower now. I was still able to speed-walk. I drank the Spiz I had been carrying. A couple more miles to the boat ramp. Yep, I was getting tired! At least it was still dark and cool, and I was closer to home.
A small, muted crowd of crew folks was hanging out at the boat ramp and I passed silently by. The next section of lake trail turns flatter and easier, which by now wasn't quite what I needed - I preferred the more technical previous section for keeping me awake and alert. Ah well, must keep moving forward, always forward.
Trying to follow the glow sticks was the most challenging part of this section. Some seemed to be hidden under leaves and a lot fainter than they must have been at the start of the night. Someone passed me going the other direction and I wondered if he was checking on the glow sticks. I had to stop a couple times and look for the next little light, but I didn't lose too much time.
After crossing the big boat ramp I got pretty sleepy and slow. After a bathroom break, I finally hit the road crossing and passed a jeep with a blinking light attached to it. The short, steep mini-powerline downhill woke me up again, and I jumped into a small group of runners who were talking a bit. We traveled along the dirt road together for a short ways and I enjoyed listening to a snippet of conversation. Then I was able to turn on the "run/walk" again along the railroad tracks, knowing that this was basically the last of the non-uphill section and I should try to make the most of it.
I was alone when I turned left up the last steep climb, so I didn't feel quite so slow since I wasn't getting passed right and left. It was still dark but getting closer to dawn, and once I got to the dirt road on top I was able to turn off my light. It didn't take long for other lights to pop up the hill behind me, and since the next 3 miles go gently uphill, I was pretty sure they would all pass me soon.
Sure enough, Les and the Gang came jogging by! It was fun to see them again, even if I couldn't keep up with them. I watched another guy run by, grunting and gasping. He slowed to a walk and started weaving back and forth. However, he was staying ahead of me so all I could do was watch in amazement. Then someone came running strong behind me, and it turned out to be Markus! Wow, he was running uphill, and it looked like he was going to do that all the way to the finish. Way to go, Markus.
I speed-walked, feeling fine and not wanting to risk any strange or unnatural effort for no good reason that might cause cramps or something stupid so close to the finish. What would that get me? A few minutes off my time, which really didn't mean much to me. Instead, I continued a solid forward pace and hoped John wasn't getting cold waiting for me.
I turned onto a paved road, stayed on the dirt shoulder until I had to cross, and then took a deep breath to help me up the last little steep-ish rise. A couple spectators cheered me onward. I crested the hill, saw the finish line ahead, and was still able to run down the other side (although by now it probably didn't look all that much like running). Then I walked it in the rest of the way, except for a quick stop to give John a kiss when I saw him a block from the end. Thanks John! He told me I could run across the finish line, but it just didn't seem like the thing to do, so I celebrated my excellent speed-walking by continuing it across the finish line.
I broke the "tape" at 26 hours, 39 minutes after starting - sweet! And I got flowers at the finish line, that was also sweet. Plus a really nice necklace at the awards ceremony AND a set of prizes for finishing 3rd in my age group. That was a really nice surprise, but I was even more shocked to find out later that I was the 10th place female. Hey, I didn't tell you that I had a secret goal of placing in the top 10 women! I had given up on that early on in the race, especially when there was no way of knowing where I stood at any point. But it was a nice way to finish it off, just over 5 minutes ahead of the next woman.
Summary: Tough race, interesting and pretty course, too much pavement for my liking, the Winfield section sucks, it was a bit too hot this year but at least it wasn't raining/sleeting, and I love the Colorado Trail.
26:39 elapsed, 88th place overall, 10th place woman