Monday, June 20, 2016

2016 Leadville Marathon Race Report

Here we go..

You guys know I had some trepidation and anxiety about this race. That's what happens when you take on a huge goal that scares the shit out of you. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending, even if there was some crappy stuff (literally) in the miles between 1 and 26.2.

The drive on the way up. My poor kids.

We stayed in Breckenridge the night before - about an hour from Leadville. I slept like most of us sleep the night before a race: like hell. I tossed and turned, too hot, too cold. Woke up soaked from night sweats (WTF? Does this happen to any one else? Is it age? Hormones? Did I wet myself)? I also woke with a headache and wondered if it was altitude (Breck is at about 9,000 feet). I was having a hard time eating anything and that stressed me out too.

We arrived in Leadville at about 6:45 a.m. and grabbed my race packet. I managed to choke down some GU Chomps (watermelon) and took a couple of salt tabs. I always take Salt Stick tabs when I do long races in the heat. I didn't realize however, that the ones I brought with me had caffeine and I hadn't had those before, which kind worried me (nothing new on race day, folks!). Seems that they became my secret weapon for the day.

Basically, I was worried about a lot of things.

We got to the start and the nerves calmed a bit as the excitement picked up. It was a glorious day to be in Leadville. High 30's at the start, and would be approaching 80 degrees at the finish.

Crewman Ken helped me out a bit (we celebrated 21 years on Friday! Yay us! Our marriage can drink legally!)

The Star Spangled Banner played (I always get teary), the gun went off and so did we (8:00 a.m.). There always has to be some asshat at the start of a marathon who yells, "Almost there!"

There is nothing gradual about this course. You start out climbing and do that for the first 6 miles. It was grueling. By mile 3 I was struggling to run at all given the rocky/technical trail and how steep it was. I was in good company as no one else was able to run either. Lots of huffing and puffing. Being a marathon, I had no idea how to pace because I didn't want to blow out my legs early on. So, I kept it pretty moderate, remembering I had a few mountains to climb and miles to go.

Finally, we reached the summit of Ball Mountain (elev. 12,300 feet). It was stunning and these pictures don't do it justice. Although I think this guy's thumb is the highlight.

Next we were treated to a screaming and technical downhill for 2 miles before we started the long and grueling climb up Mosquito Pass. I felt surprisingly good. Every 45-60 minutes I took in a GU. I took a Salt Stick tab every hour without fail. So I'd remember to eat, I would run with a GU in my fist for a few miles, then down it with plenty of water. At every aid station (there were 7 over the 26.2 miles) I'd grab a handful of potato chips. GU + chips. Fuel of champions.

I love listening to conversations on the trail, especially because so many people who run races like this are hard core:

Random girl: "A couple months ago I was doing a 50 miler and broke my wrist. I finished no problem. You don't need your wrist to run"

Random guy: "Last year when I did this race I vomited the whole way up Mosquito Pass."

Having done the 15 mile course last year I know what was in store on Mosquito Pass. Miles of incredibly steep climbing up into the very thin air. I knew running would be impossible, so I did my best to keep a quick power hike going. I was able to pass many people on my way up. And, since I was walking, I kept my phone in my hand and got some pics. Oh, and on my way up I saw Bachelor Ryan Sutter coming down. Dude is a badass, and kinda hunky.

Yeah, so, this is why I do these races.

I told it it is no joke. I feel your pain, brother.
I saw my friend, Joy, and she snapped this one:

FINALLY! the 13,100 summit and halfway.

I reached 13.2 miles in 3:15 and was good with that. I had already climbed almost 5,000 feet, so I knew the worst was over. There would be one more tough climb back up Ball Mountain to come.

Mentally, getting to this point was the highlight. I knew I could cruise down for a bit and that Ken and the kids would be at the aid station at mile 16.5. This kept me smiling and going.

So, just for a bit of TMI. Sometimes when you run, things happen down there. I won't get specific, but when I got to the aid station, I needed to do some damage control. Only there was a line at the potty and I didn't want to wait.

So I improvised with a wet paper towel and of course Ken had to document it all. See what 21 years of marriage gets you?

My family thinks I'm gross. My daughter always borrows these shorts, but she never will again.

And, off I go. Fresh as a daisy.

I could not believe how good I felt at this point. I think the salt, fueling and hydrating kept me in the game. I got to the final climb (yeah, miles 20-22 were straight up grueling). When the climbing got tough, I tried my best to do a 90/30 strategy. Walk 90 secs, run 30 secs.

Isn't this how everyone feels at mile 21 of a marathon while going up hill?

Finally, downhill all the way to the finish.

My (secret) goal for this race was to come in under 6 hours. I had looked at the results from last year and knew that a sub 6 hour race would get me top 5 in my age group. I really wasn't sure where I was time wise because my Garmin was on auto pause, so it wasn't quite accurate. I was beyond excited to come into the finish and see 5:56 on the clock.

This year, that wasn't good enough for top 5, but I placed 8/50 in the 40-49 age group and 26/146 females (ALL but one were younger than me, so BAM!!). I'm good with that.

Some post race stuff:

Cause sometimes it just feels good to squat
Happy SUAR

I cleaned up. We drank beer. We got Chipotle. Perfection.

Best support crew ever

I still can't do stairs properly, but I love the sore legs cause it is reminding me I did something really tough.

Have I convinced you to come out and do this race next year? Thanks for following along on this journey - next race is the BIG DOG. Transrockies Run, August 9-15. 120 miles.



  1. Love this!! I love the pic with the birds, especially. <3 Congrats on killin' it. Can't wait to read your Trans Rockies report, too. I would love to one day run this marathon...maybe not next year, but eventually... Yay, you!!!!

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  2. Awesome! Looks like a beautiful run/venue- love the "fingers" picture! Congratulations!

  3. Just wow! How did you squat after running a marathon? It takes me days to do that.

    1. I don't know. It just hurt so good.

    2. You know, airplanes typically maintain cabin pressure at an equivalent altitude of 6,900 feet, by pumping pressurized air into the aircraft. This is to avoid hypoxia, altitude sickness, decompression sickness and barotrauma. That makes even your sleeping at 9,000 feet seem badass.

  4. Congrats! You make it sound enjoyable....but I know better.

  5. Congrats! Great recap but........ I'm not yet convinced to tackle this beast.

  6. Amazing job! "You don't need your wrist to run!" LOL!

    And yeah, your night sweats might be hormones (welcome to my world.)

  7. Congrats! You are one strong, amazing woman. I did a half Ironman this weekend and woke up in the hotel with my shirt soaked through. Doesn't usually happen to me, so I can relate to these night sweats. I am 42, so maybe it is hormones? Anyway, awesome job as usual!

    1. Congrats on your half! How did it go?

    2. It was 91 degrees during my run, so I did not reach my time goal, but I ran smart and finished strong. I can't be disappointed with that.

  8. I'd love a challenge like this...maybe LOL I'm headed to a 12-hour (overnight) endurance ultra in four weeks, so we'll see if I survive that with a smile on my face. You are a beast (with a great sense of humor)...anyone ever tell you that? ;-)

    1. Best of luck with that ultra! 12 hours/overnight...dang!

  9. Nice job - congrats! I just totally love your blog - it's so awesome to find another mom my age with teens (and married the same amount of time) who tackles hard things :) You are inspiring!

    Oh, and the poop talk/stories always hit close to home too - ha!

  10. Sooooo amazed!!! Congrats on one heck of an accomplishment

  11. So nice work on the marathon but more importantly.... check out those push up sculpted arms! Yay!!! I seriously wish you were doing Pikes Peak Marathon. Something tells me you would have me laughing too hard to notice I wasn't breathing.

  12. Well, ok then! And here I thought Big Sur was tough... of course, I do live in Illinois...

    Great job, Beth!! I mean wow!

  13. Good job lady!!! That race looks tough as hell. That makes you tough as hell!!

    Yes, the night sweats are the fluctuating hormones and the headache is from the altitude. Whatever, just keep going forward.

    I told you those 10 year age-groups are painful unless you have a zero in your age.

  14. Yay for your sub six finish👍 You looked great when I got your picture, so I figured you'd do great! I loved the HH and want to go back next year and improve now that I know what it's about. Also, I'd like to not fall and bust my ass!

  15. Congratulations! I leave at sea level FLA and I just ran the Yellowstone Half Marathon at 6,660 elevation. That shit is hard. You just kicked some serious ass. enjoy another beer or 2.

  16. You made that race look easy! Oh and yeah--the nightsweats! I'm 43, and I get them about once a week, sometimes more. Nothing like waking up drenched in sweat! :( Old lady problems suck!

  17. Woohoo! Congrats. Damage control...haha.

  18. You are awesome. Thanks for the great recap and some good laughs.

  19. You are beyond awesome Beth!! Congrats on your race and yea to you beating your (secret) goal. [And night sweats and day sweats, welcome to my world, it just sucks.]

  20. AWESOME!! That's all I can say. Yes, I now want to do this!

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  22. I have to thank you for your mentioning how much you benefited from using the Saltstick tabs during your race. I read your race report a couple of days before my first ultra, the Capitol Reef 50k and decided to give them a try. It broke my own rule of using something I'd never tried in a race, but I did and I was SO thankful I used them. I took one every hour on the hour for my run and felt AMAZING the entire run. Better during any of the 9 marathons I've done. So thank you for sharing your experience with them, I believe it made the difference between an okay run and a fantastic one!