Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Leadville Marathon... seemed like a good idea at the time

It's been a stressful past couple of weeks. I've been working overtime at the bank and when not working I've been running or house shopping with Cory. Last week we put in an offer on a house and got accepted! We are so excited to be making our home by Green Mountain, but this next month is going to be a crazy one as we close on the house and I run my first 50-miler and Cory runs his first 100-miler.

So to make matters crazier I was feeling spontaneous and decided to sign up for the Leadville Marathon. Why would anyone want to run a tough marathon two weeks after a tough 50k? Well I was looking at my training plan and I was supposed to do a 25 mile training run anyway. It was my one Saturday off of work for the entire month of June. AND our friends, Chris and Colleen, offered up the extra bed in their hotel room. So why not? A few days before the race Siobhan gave me a heads up that there would be some course changes and by my reckoning it looked like it was going to add some vert. I'm not the best map reader so I tried not to think about it too much.

I drove up after work on Friday night, got everything organized, and went to bed pretty early. It was a chilly morning but I think everyone was preparing for a hot day. As I looked at the crowd I saw a lot of people with sleeveless tops and no extra layers. I had my armwarmers on and a shell packed away in my vest. Maybe I was a little over-prepared, but the announcer warned us all that there were 30 mph winds on top of Mosquito Pass. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. People told me the course was tough, but it hadn't really sunk in. My thought was that a course that was mostly jeep roads couldn't be that hard.

Let me go back and explain something. I suck at adjusting to altitude. Every family vacation that we took to Colorado since I was a baby involved me having altitude sickness. My dad still reminisces about the one time when I was a toddler and I started puking my brains out on top of Mt. Princeton. He put me in his lap and scooted down a snowfield to get me to a lower elevation. I have no memories of this incident, but my dad is surely bad-ass enough to have done it. Then there was the time that Cory and I were backpacking in the Sangres and just after making camp at 10,500 feet I started the non-stop hurling. We got to hike 10 miles down the mountain in the middle of the night. Just two weeks ago at the Dirty 30 near the course high point I remember telling Liz that I would never run a Leadville race because I get sick over 10,000 feet.

Why, two weeks later, did I end up at a race where the LOWEST elevation is above 10,000 feet? I am a stubborn person and I want my body to do what I tell it to do. As soon at the race got started my stomach was already sloshy and my legs felt heavy. We climbed almost 1,000 feet in the first two miles and I just tried to hold on to a pack of people. Then we had a 400 foot descent that I knew was going to feel like hell on the way back. After that we had a 1,400 foot climb from mile 3 to 5. At the top of that climb my stomach was angry and we hadn't even gotten to the hard stuff yet!

By the time we reconnected with the Heavy Half course, about 8 miles into our course, I knew that if I didn't eat something soon I was going to bonk. Sloshy stomach be damned, my bottle of Vitargo wasn't going to be enough to get me through the entire race. I took a salt tablet and then around mile 10 I took my first gel. I started seeing the runners doing the half marathon come back to me. Chris was in 4th and Colleen was in 4th for women. I kept going and got a hug from Phil. Shortly after I saw the men's marathon leaders blazing down the mountain... Timmy Parr and Mike Aish duking it out.

The farther up the mountain I went, the sicker I got. But the memory of DNFing at Mt. Werner was still too fresh in my mind to let it happen again. I kept expecting to see the women's leaders coming down, hoping it would be Siobhan, but there were so many people it was hard to tell who was doing the half and who was doing the full. Everyone looked miserable and it was so cold and windy! I had all my layers on and was still cold, but there were people who had nothing extra to wrap themselves in. I saw one guy with a plastic bag from the aid station wrapped around him.

I finally saw Siobhan and then Laura some minutes back. They both looked strong and I tried to channel their energy, but instead I ending up throwing up everything in my stomach. After wiping the vomit off my sunglasses I decided I was going to finish this damn thing no matter what. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and I finally started seeing people that I knew were only a few minutes in front of me so I knew I was near the top. When I got there, I snapped a pic and forced myself to start running. I was determined to enjoy the post-puke euphoria as long as I could.

From the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,200 feet

After getting to the aid station a few miles below Mosquito I still hadn't eaten anything since mile 10. One of the guys at the aid station said I looked cold and wrapped me up in the best hug ever! I thought maybe it would be ok to just not leave that aid station. He said that since I kept throwing up I should probably just eat half a gel and dial back the pace and that's when I snapped out of it. Screw that! I ate the whole gel and took off down the hill.

The rest of the race was a blur and I spent most of it thinking of ways to get out of my 50-miler in 3 weeks. I passed a lot of people and just tried to focus on keeping my stomach settled. At mile 20 we had a 900 foot climb that seemed to go on forever. And then at mile 23 we had that 400 foot climb that seemed way longer than it actually was. I tried to run as much of the uphills as possible and I passed at least a dozen people in the last 6 miles. I really wanted to finish under 6 hours, but I ended up with 6:05. All things considered, I was just happy to finish. I was telling myself to run this like a training run, but I was totally trashed. I compared the elevation gain that my Garmin reported to some people's race profiles from last year on Strava and it looks like the course had an extra 400-600 feet of gain this year.

Finish line photo. Thanks Phil Synder.

I thought I would feel better after finishing but that's when the real adventure began. So many of my favorite people were hanging out after the race but I felt like shit. After getting back to the hotel room and showering I threw up some more. I tried to eat and drink but I couldn't keep anything down. Cory was driving up after work so we could hike as a group the next day but right as we gathered outside of Mt. High Pies for some dinner I threw up again on the side of the street. At this point I had nothing left and I knew that the only thing that would make me feel better would be to get down in elevation.

I stubbornly tried to tell Cory that I would drive down by myself and that he should stay to hang out with people, but he would have none of that. Poor guy got to spend a total of 20 minutes in Leadville this weekend before having to drive his wife out of the mountains and force feed her Gatorade. After we got below Summit County I started feeling better. Today I am totally beat up and dehydrated. No run today. Still trying to think of ways to get out of the 50-miler...

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