Have you ever had an experience happen to you in which you fell so short in explaining the magnitude and effect this experience had on you? How do you document such an event? Even though I was asked a multitude of times to talk about my first 100 mile trail race, I don’t think I ever got the story “right.” But then again, how can you when the story is about something most people think is impossible? Let’s take it back a year. I had just ran the Silver Rush 50 Miler and had came in as 6th woman overall… which meant that I had a shot at getting an automatic entry into the Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run. I kept telling myself before the awards ceremony that I wasn’t going to get it, because if I did, well then I’d HAVE to run it. After seeing and actively pacing my husband for a couple of 100’s, I had sworn off the notion of ever running that distance. Trail running itself was already a huge departure from my true love of road racing, let alone the whole 100 mile component, but as fate would have it, I finished 3rd in my age group and qualified for one of the Leadville slots. Less than a day later and to the surprise of many, I officially signed up for the longest race I’ve ever done (and honestly, will probably ever do). Fast forward to the weekend of the race. I had an amazing crew: Jill, Kyle, Zach, Taryn, Chad, Annie and Alden; all who gratefully volunteered to help me in some way – from pacing, crewing, or just being their for support! (Thanks Jill for the photos!) As we gathered in the parking lot of our hotel to eat our pasta dinner that night before, I kept thinking of all the beautiful and kind souls I’ve met through running or from the outdoor world. How these people were folks I never wanted to let go. With ginger cookies for dessert and a beer for a nightcap, I said my good nights and headed off to bed around 8pm. With a 4am start, I barely slept the night before. Thoughts of what could happen and how I’d feel kept churning through my mind. Anxiety immediately fell to the wayside once I walked up to the start line and Ken Chlouber, founding race director, started talking. Ken has a way to tug at your heart strings, inspire you, and get you pumped to run the race of your life! Once the air horn went off, I felt that spike of adrenaline and told me myself that even though it felt easy, to not push the pace, that I had a LONG way a head of me! In those first few miles, I slowly started passing runners who had started ahead of me in hopes of gaining some ground before we hit the single track trail section around Turquoise Lake. The first 13 miles flew by in a daze. Cursing myself for having started so far back at the starting line, I really only remember passing by quite a few runners (on your left!) and wondering why the heck was I seeing so many men basically peeing on the trail so soon into the race?! Heading into May Queen (mile 13.5) I barely stopped for food and to ditch my headlamp before running out towards Fish Hatchery (mile 23.5). For the next 15 miles or so, I felt amazing and was flying through the aid stations. It was around the time I had left Twin Lakes (mile 39.5) and was making my way up the dreaded Hope Pass that the effects of the altitude started to hit and I knew I was coming upon a “low.” For the next four or so miles I crept up the mountain, trying to push away negative thoughts and keep up on my eating routine. Cresting upon the Hope Aid Station (mile 44.5), which was about half a mile from the top of Hope Pass, I was not in a good place. “What can I do to get out of this? What can I say to get Zach to let me quit?” was all I could think about. Thoughts like, “well, I could pretend to faint” or “maybe I tell him my pee is bloody” actually went through my head. I was miserable and questioned why in the world this race was a good idea. I probably sat at that aid station for a good 10-15 minutes, eating and hoping I could make myself not feel like shit anymore. Once the leader of the race came back through Hope Pass, I knew I had to get my ass into gear. It’s funny how something as simple as eating a bit of food and making your way DOWN a mountain can instantly make you forget your crazy thoughts about quitting. Lucky for me, I began to pick up the pace a bit on the other side of the pass, but still felt a little off. Coming into Winfield Aid Station (50 miles & turnaround) I was so happy to see my team and have a chance to sit on a cot for a bit. The top of my foot had started aching around mile 35 after I had took a fall and by this point was starting to actually become pretty painful. With more food in my belly, hugs, and Jill as my pacer, we set off to make our way back up Hope Pass. This time, Hope Pass felt “manageable.” Having my poles helped tremendously with overall morale and eased the stress off of my legs. Most of all, Jill provided me with stories, food, positive vibes, and just an amazing attitude. She truly is the reason I went from, “I’m going to quit” to “I’m halfway done and I can do this!” Passing by the llamas at the top of Hope Pass and seeing the amazing view towards Leadville, I knew I would finish. Heading into Twin Lakes (60.5 miles) to pick up my next pacer, Taryn, I was all smiles again. Zach had brought me a grilled cheese and I shoveled it down with warm broth. The next 15 miles with Taryn passed by so quickly as we chatted away about every aspect of our lives. I loved how this race became a mini reunion to see these two amazing women in my life. Woman who feel the same way I do about running and who I share a treasured history with. It was only until we reached the road portion leading towards Fish Hatchery where the pain on the top of my foot started to really become apparent and I knew I’d need to rest for a bit. Picking up Zach at Fish Hatchery (76 miles), I was so ecstatic to see my husband. For the next 5 miles, things were going far easier then I had expected considering some of the steep climbs up Sugarloaf Pass. It was around mile 80 when I started to really complain. “How much further till May Queen?” “Why does this road keep going up?!” “Argggh my foot hurts so f*&king bad!!!!!” There was a reason Zach was chosen to do the last 25 miles with me. I knew that point in the race would be when I needed someone who can put up with my whining, who has seen the worst parts of me, and someone who has been down this exact same trail before (literally & figuratively). I knew if he was with me during these brutal last miles, I would complete this journey, because he knows how to push me to that next level and would have done anything to make sure I crossed that finish line. The last 15 miles (which took around 3 hours to run) seemed to be endless. The pain in my foot was preventing me from running down any inclines and when I could run, it was only for a few meters before I had to walk again. All I could think about was the finish line, a warm shower, and sleeping forever. As we approached the city, my crew joined me for my last mile into town. Tears of joy and a raspy “I did it, I ran 100 miles!” escaped as I crossed the finish line and walked up to Merilee Maupin for my medal.
Finishing in 24 hours and 9 minutes, I earned the “Under 25 Hour” mega belt buckle, along with the honor of being 10th female overall and 2nd in my age group. For as horrible as an idea of running 100 miles might sound and despite my foot injury, it really wasn’t that hard. I know there are probably some runners out there who think I’m either crazy or just plain cocky, but truthfully this type of race can be done by anyone who puts in a little training and has a super strong mental game. Don’t over think it. It can be done!