Sunday, June 21, 2015

Leadville Heavy Half Marathon Race Report (2015)

The 15.5 mile race I did yesterday was unlike any race I’ve ever done. Mostly because I ran up a mountain and back down again. What? You think I’m lying or embellishing like I usually do? Nope.

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I’m not experienced at running up mountains or running above tree line up to 13,200 feet. I knew I could do it, but I also knew I would suffer. What I have learned about myself is that I don’t doubt my abilities to finish things, but I can be intimidated and fearful of the pain and fatigue.

Let me tell you how we lucked out with the weather. While it was a bit cold driving up in the morning (38 degrees), it warmed up to 50’s at the start. This is a heat wave for Leadville, Colo., also called the “icebox of the nation” – it sits at 10,200 feet. That’s not quite 2 miles high.

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I was a bit nervous, but this one phrase kept coming into my head right before I started. “You were born to do this.” I don’t know if that’s true, but I chose to believe it.

Yeah, so I have NEVER been at a more beautiful start line. Pay attention to that 4wheeler to the left. You will see it later.

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So, the gun goes off and if you reference the above course profile, you will notice there is no warm up time. You just start climbing your ass off from the get-go.

By mile one my lungs were screaming, my heart rate was insane and I was heavy breathing like your favorite porn movie. I had a moment of “No, f’n way. I don’t think I can do this.” But it passed. I settled into my strategy of walking the super steep parts and running where I could. This seemed to be what most others were doing too.

The first 3 miles were straight up and then we reached an aid station. I downed some Gatorade and immediately felt sick. I had read something that came to mind about running at super high altitudes. It said to not panic if you felt you couldn’t breathe and to expect you could throw up. If you know me, you know that I would rather eat my own turd than throw up. Fortunately the nausea passed.

The next 1.5 miles brought some relief – a nice easy downhill before we started climbing again. I hit the second aid station at 4.5 miles in about 48 minutes. Yes, I was working my ass off and doing about a 12 minute mile.

This is where the climbing really began.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was steep, rocky and at times like a river with all of the snow melt off. I found that I was staying with the same group. We must have all been matched perfectly for pace. You can see below the guy on the left. I named him Where’s Waldo in my head. I was near him for most of the race.

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This is about the time that some guy in front of my let out the hugest fart. I mean, he didn’t even look behind him to see if he was farting on someone in a purple skirt. He just let it rip. I was like, “Dude, at least acknowledge it.” What I found was that the higher we got, the more gas I had. I was farting up a storm. They were silent, but I was kind enough to look behind me to make sure I wasn’t crop dusting anyone.

Do you ever notice you fart more on airplanes? I do, much to the dismay of my seatmates. But, I’ve learned that there is something called the ‘Tude Toots or HAFE (High Altitude Flatus Explosion). “The syndrome is strictly associated with ascent, and is characterized by an increase in both the volume and the frequency of the passage of flatus, which spontaneously occurs while climbing to altitudes of 11,000 feet or greater.” {source}

Do NOT say you never learn anything from reading this blog because I will CALL YOU OUT.

So, our journey continues. By this time we are nearing tree line (about 11,500 feet in Colo. I think). I want you to look closely at this picture. If you are not super old you might see people climbing the mountain in the snowy area (switchbacks).

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As I looked ahead and saw this ascent all I could really do was put one foot in front of the other until I got to the top and murmur “What the f&ck” frequently.

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At around 5.5 miles, I came to the next aid station. This was my first time being at an aid station above tree line. You cannot imagine how beautiful it was up there. I could not help snapping pictures. I really wanted to be competitive in my time for this race, but I kept telling myself that a few extra minutes was well worth it for the memories.

Hey, there’s the yellow 4-wheeler again.

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Here’s me at the aid station. Tired but having the time of my life, really. And, I love aid stations with potato chips and M&Ms. And headlights.

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We trudged on. And, when I say trudged, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. As we headed up the switchbacks, the trail narrowed considerably with snow on one side and a nice and steep drop off on the other. The trail was very rocky and the wind had picked up since we were so exposed. The temps dropped considerably and I stopped to put on my arm warmers.

We were in a line heading up. No one was running. It was impossible. At one point I looked down and saw I was doing a 30 minute mile. I felt like I was walking in slow motion through quick sand. My heart rate was so elevated, like it would be at the end of a 5K ,but I was moving at a snail’s pace. It was about this time that the front runners started coming back down, so we were now sharing this narrow, rocky trail.

Finally, we reached the summit. This picture does not do it justice. I wish I could have stayed up there longer but it was colder than a witch’s tit (notice the guy in the background in a down jacket and knit hat).

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Then the fun part came. Time to run down. My goal was to not fall off the mountain and die. I tried to keep my pace up.

Before the race Ken asked me my goal. I knew the average finish time was about 4:15. I looked up what women in the 40 to 49 age group did last year. My “dream”was to come in top 5 in AG, and to do that I would need a 3:30. I told myself I’d be happy with 3:45.

As I got closer to the finish my legs were really taking a beating from all the downhill. I did some dissociating where I pretended I didn’t have legs and they didn’t hurt.

I ran into the finish, knowing I’d hit my goal.

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I had a little party here, which no on cared about but me and Ken.

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I crossed in 3:20. 6/55 in my age group and 39/255 women. I was crazy happy about that. 

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Then the best part came. Beer and sitting ladylike.

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Then this adorable b*tch stole my medal.

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I am telling you, this was HARD, but in the best way possible. Today I cannot walk down steps or sit on the toilet, but I am exhilarated and cannot wait for more of these challenges.

SUAR

35 comments:

  1. That sounds so awesome and terrible all at once! I had the opportunity to drive through Leadville, I live in Fairbanks, AK, last weekend and it was beautiful! I spent a week in Gunnison with my boyfriend and his family and running at 8,000 feet is NO JOKE! Fairbanks is at 500 feet so I was sucking wind like crazy. You're amazing for doing that race and finishing! Go Beth!

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  2. Waaaaahhh!! That looks and sounds amazing!!! Great job, I probably would have either not finished, or finished in like, 14 hours haha. Awesome awesome work!

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  3. Awesome! I would have been dropping f-bombs like crazy. 'Cause that's how I roll in a really hard race. The downhills had to feel good. Did you find that all the farting gave you a power boost forward?

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  4. Holy crap this looks hard! When I was 14 I hiked up a mountain in New Hampshire. I was so speedy I threw up. I had no idea that was a thing. I can't imagine what this ascent would be like. Great job!

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  5. What an event! That elevation is mind-boggling! I am really impressed with your finish time - well-done.

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  6. ok, something to watch out for the next time i get on a plane..or maybe count LOL!

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  7. Wow very impressive finish!! I probably would have burst out laughing when the guy in front of you farted going up the hill! I fart a lot on planes too but end up having a stomach ache by the end of the flight due to holding too many in in fear of killing the person next to me!

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  9. Congratulations on a stellar result. You might want to invest in a shewee (www.shewee.com) until your quads are able to sustain a toilet squat....although I'm not sure how much use that would be for turdage...

    I'd recommend having a read of John Kynaston's running blog ( http://johnkynaston.com ) - he does a lot of mountain trail running, often ultras, with about 7000ft of elevation over a race and seems to do pretty well, particularly for 50+ age group. In fairness, his starting points are perhaps not as high altitude as Leadville. I'd have needed an oxygen tent at the start line, frankly.

    Great result!

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    1. Haha shewee. I get it She Wee! I will definitely check out John's blog, thanks for the recommendation.

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  10. What a great sounding race - you crushed your time goal!

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  11. That has to be one of the hardest races in America. Congrats on such a terrific result. Now rest up and ease back into it - don't do anythigncrazy (again) for a while.

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    1. Don't think I will do anything crazy for awhile...3 days post race and I can still barely walk down stairs. That downhill beat me up!

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  12. Congrats!!! Way to kick some butt!! That post race euphoria is pretty damn awesome isn't it? So what's next lady?

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    1. Good question...I do have an ultra relay in Colo. in September and I think I run 43 miles then. Guess I should do some training for that! How about you?

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    2. I just finished a 33 mile trail race up in Big Bear. Searching for my next race....I really like having a goal that I am working towards. I also feel that I need to get these longer races done before my body gives out! ha

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  13. Great race recap and photos - congratulations on your awesome results!

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  14. I'm envious. Wish I could have been there too.

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  15. Fantastic run and race report! You, my dear, are a machine!! Congrats!!

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  16. Congratulations, what a fantastic result. Looks like a really cool event and beautiful as well. Nice.

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  17. It's funny that Mosquito Pass never looks that steep in pictures and yet it is soul crushing to try to climb up it. Congratulations on your finish, that's an amazing time.

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