Monday, July 12, 2010

leadville trail marathon and Mt. Massive

My very epic fourth of July weekend. I really was tempted to split this into 2 posts but I have decided to try to condense it into one. Because while several ( many) things happened over this weekend, in my mind it seems as though it's one huge event. So without further ado:

I arrived in Leadville( elevation 10,200ft) on July 2nd nervous and excited. There was electricity in the air ( literally it was getting ready to come a thunderstorm) We checked into the Hotel Delaware, a very eclectic and interesting establishment on harrison ave that was built in 1886 and hosted guests such as billy the kid and doc holiday. Our room was on the third floor ( no elevator) NO worries about walking.. but it was hilarious how walking up two flights of stairs over the next three days would prove laborious in between tasks of running a trail marathon and 13 miles to summit mt massive the following day. I really never got used to the stairs, although I would run up them and pretend I wasn't out of breath. ( just to mess with brock or any of my friends who'd be with me at the moment. )

I went to packet pick up and then organized all my gear for the race the following day ( picked out my clothes, loaded up my racing vest with all my nutritional needs etc. ) we went to dinner at high mtn pies ( really great, but tiny pizza joint in leadville) it was pouring the rain, and we were supposed to meet up with my coach Matt Hart and another friend of mine, Sean Meissner. They were on their way to leadville after bagging 14ers: Torreys peak and Gray's peak. Matt has been travelling around this summer in his VW van, pacing, racing, coaching, and bagging 14ers, and now he is getting ready to go run the entire colorado trail next week. Sean came to leadville after pacing at WS/ winning Desert RATS 5 day stage race: to run the trail marathon, hang out, and get some 14ers, and just have fun in general:o) We ate dinner.. all excited about the race, and the Western States 100 that had occurred the week prior. So brock got to hear us all geek out on ultra running chatter ( which unfortunately for brock, never really ended until we got back on the plane to VA-- haha-- i think he is starting to get used to it all now:o)

I slept fairly well the night before the race. I really wanted to run well at Leadville Trail. I knew it would be a challenge due to the elevation ( I live at 1,800ft) and I was only in CO 2 days before the race. also, leadville marathon boasts more than 7,000 ft of climbing over the 26.2 miles. and 7,000ft of descent.. so it's really challenging both the climb and running back to town. ( thrashes your quads) I knew I had trained hard, was VERY prepared for the rocks and any sort of technical terrain. So I just tried to stay calm and not be nervous.

I woke up at 5AM mt and ate my breakfast of cereal, soymilk, and a protein bar. I walked over to the gym to see if I could meet up with any of my friends.

I first saw my buddy Frank Lilly from NC. I hung out with Frank a good while before the start. It was nice to chat in person because we interact so much via blogger and facebook. Then I saw my friend Belinda Young, and introduced her to frank. Belinda and I first met at leadville in 2006. I loved the fact we were both there 4 yrs later to run the same race.
Belinda was also going to volunteer at an aid station for HardRock 100, and so we made plans when we both got back east to run a trail race in at bays mtn in Kingsport, Tn on July 2oth. called "wolf run".

Then I saw Meissner walking around the start decked out in some pretty sweet looking american flag shorts:o) He informed me he'd walked up to 3 different chicks thinking it was me. haha. yeah, guess we all kinda look alike with hats, sunglasses, ponytails.. etc. It was 25 minutes before the start and he was getting ready to go warm up. I decided to stretch but not do a running warm up. I kinda felt tired even before the start of the race? maybe i'm just lazy and I knew how much of a 13 mile warm up I'd get? at any rate, socialized some more and then lined up.. hugged all my friends bye and told them to have a great race.
The race began, and I felt I was up there giving it a good effort, my heart rate was high, but I was just trying to keep it about 165-170. swear to you, 2 miles into the race, my fingers started swelling up BIG TIME. NOOOOO. I couldn't believe it. THIS EARLY?! not good. So I decided to take a salt tab there a mere 3o min into the race. and eat a gel. So I did.. and so this continued on pretty much the entire race. It seemed my fingers would go down and then after about 45 min- hour later they'd be swollen again. so I just started eating a salt stick tab every 40 min. I tried to run where I could and on the climbs just really mind my nutrition.

I was almost all the way up to mosquito pass when I saw/met my FB friend Jon Neathawk who lives in Blacksburg, Va. He has been out west all summer having many cool adventures before he starts his second year of med school. He was nice enough to snap this picture of me ascending the pass:o)
It was a little above this point I passed Sean while he was descending. I am guessing he was on mile 14 while I was on 12? he looked cold ( I was cold) the wind was blowing really strong and it was cool on top of the pass. I told Sean to tell Matt that I was having some issues, that I would finish, but 5:30 finish was impossible. I just knew mathematically it couldn't happen. So I just accepted my lot, but was determined to hopefully salvage what was left of my race and run strong the last half.. maybe I could break 6 hours??
and that is kinda what happened I started feeling good immediately upon descending. I didn't hang out at the top long at all because I was so cold. and I just ran as quick as I could down the mtn. I kept thinking of mock holler and how I had ran down that rocky section of trail over and over to prepare me for this exact moment. I thought of Grossman, and how he would tell me to look out 5 ft ahead and just trust my brain to remember where the rocks are. I also thought of beth, and how she would FLY down this section and really just tried to pretend she was in front of me and try to keep up with her. I thought of Rick Gray telling me not to over stride at laurel's run ( I missed my friends and wanted to do well so they'd be proud of me)
I was almost at the bottom of the pass when I saw frank lilley. I was kinda at a low point ( felt pukey and my fingers were swelling again) so it was great to get a hug and see his smiling face. It really was some positive energy I needed. He took a picture of me I'm borrowing it from his blog
I made a quick stop at the 16.8 mile aid station.. happy to just have 9 miles left. I made myself some kona kola nuun.( and continued to do that at the next 3 aidstations) and ate a PBJ sandwich. It felt good that I felt like actually running. because the first 13 miles.. running just seemed so impossible and labored. I still was having some climbs but I had energy to run up them instead of hike.

I made friends with the people around me.. enjoyed the single track around ball mtn for a second time. I was still taking salt tabs like crazy( every 30-40 min) but I think the nuun was settling my stomach and making me feel better. ( at least it seemed that way to me) Seriously, I got to the point I was just SO insanely happy to be there running in the mountains. ( and thinking of my big brother Todd and how happy he'd be for me that I was having so much fun in leadville, a town he loved so much) That I think that just translated into me rallying and running faster. I really enjoyed those last 9 miles of the race and had FUN. I ended up crossing the line in 6:05. 141st overall and 23rd female.
Brock took a picture of Sean when he finished as well. Sean ran 5:01 ( a marathon personal worst for him, mine was 7:08 at leadville in 2006) Sean usually is about a 2:37 marathoner. yep, he's fast:o) I just think Leadville trail marathon "is what it is" and it's just a extremely hard, challenging race.
Okay, so immediately after I crossed Matt decided he was off to go climb Mt Elbert. We made plans to all go to The Grill Bar at leadville ( great mexican food) later for dinner. Also, it had been tossed around a couple of times.. we knew we were going to go hiking/running the day after the race but was unsure of where or a route. I think after Matt returned after Elbert we decided to go get Mt. Massive so matt could stand on his 4th 14er in 48 hours.
Brock was going to hang out in leadville, rest and relax, watch the parade and go to the mining museum etc. the 4 hours it would take us to climb and then descend Mt. Massive.
So about 9am the next morning. Matt, Sean and I set off to go on our epic run. I was super happy and excited at the prospect of getting my first 14er. I really didn't know what to expect because I knew how much climbing I did the day before, and I knew today was going to be challenging as well. We parked the car on the side of the road because the trail head parking lots and even overflow parking for Elbert and massive were both full. and we started off on the CT the round trip journey of 13. 8 miles.
As soon as we began to climb, I noticed that my HR was UP.. and also, I was quite.. we all were.. because we were all breathing and not talking. still the views were in credible and I was just elated to be there:o)
Up, Up, UP we climbed. I have to mention that running with Matt and Sean was a positive experience. They would say "hello" and wish everyone we passed a happy 4th of july. I was actually surprised how fast the whole ascent was going by. The guide book said to give yourself 10 hrs for this... the way things were going we'd make it in about 4 or 5 hours. We finally made it to the saddle and was still about 800 ft away from the summit. I took this cool picture of matt and sean:o)
We scrambled over boulders and finally reached the true summit. YAY! I seriously was SO surprised when I saw the view BEHIND mt. massive:
It was literally a sea of mountains that stretched the horizon. alpine lakes. etc. This was truly a dream realized for me. This whole entire year has been. I had ALWAYS wanted to climb mountains and be outside, I love to run, backpack, hike and camp. This year I've been able to do all those things and so much more. I really am in awe sometimes when I see the progress I've made and all the cool adventures I've had the past year. I hate to be greedy but I want so much more:o) I was humbled and so thankful. For all the wonderful friends I've made the past year, for the unwaivering support and love of my family. Brock is so amazingly supportive of any of my endeavors and I'm so grateful to him for letting me chase my dreams.

here is a link to matt's twitvid of us on the summit of mt. massive. ( cool all the different mediums you can use to capture moments)
I swear, I can see why matt has been peak bagging like crazy lately. climbing that one just has made me lust for more:o) I WILL do more 14ers in my future. :o)
We began to descend, and I started feeling less tired. We were running down and having a blast when Oops!!! I rolled my ankle. pretty badly at the time... and it immediately began to swell. GREAT. I decided after a couple of minutes of walking on it, to just eat some motrin and continue to run down. and that was good for about 2 miles.. and then I just started bonking pretty hard. I was out of food, and Sean was kinda enough to give me a gu, and even though I was slowing down. Good ol Matt and Sean stayed right there with me and never dropped me. AW.. I won't forget that one. It made me realize it's kinda not cool to drop your friends when they are struggling.
We finally made it back to the trailhead, I wanted to ice my ankle in the river.. so we all got in and iced our legs. Sean felt like he was going to puke, matt was meditating to withstand the cold water he was submerged up above his waist in.. and so I got a cool picture of matt meditating and Sean trying not to hurl. :o) LOVE IT!:o) seriously, these guys are so much fun and so entertaining to run with:O) our running time from start to finish was 4 hrs 18 min.. so that was much faster than the 10 hrs the guidebook stated to give yourself. so I was happy we got in there that fast with my rolled ankle 5 miles left and me bonking hard the last 5k

SO THAT.. in a nutshell is a super condensed version of my 4th of july weekend. Epic. FUN. AWESOME. I'm still reeling from being so freakin happy from getting to summit Mt. Massive. The marathon was fun and exciting. I didn't run as fast as I would of hoped, but I pulled through and rallied and salvaged my race. i think I learned some important lessons there and got more experience running at elevation. but seriously the Mt. Massive part of the trip was easily my favorite:o)


Rick Gray said...

Jenny, What a trip. Sounds like you had one great big party. What an experience to be able to climb a 14er. I can certainly understand how your 14er was the highlight of your trip!

Triple F said...

Looks like maybe we picked up each other's spirits when we pass as I was beginng my accent to Mosquito Pass. I really needed some of your energy though!!

I too had the swollen finger thing . . . but not as badly. I took salt pills and the pills seemed to take care of it for me.

saschasdad said...

It's never to late to read a blog it?

Awesome post, Jenny! Yeah, that was one helluva fantastically fabulously fun weekend in Leadville! Matt and I were both excited to accompany you up into the mtns. for your first 14er. That's pretty freakin' sweet!

Keep chasing, and catching, those dreams!