This race is certainly one of the "classics" on the ultra circuit and I knew that I needed to get here before it was too late. The prerace excitement here was better than ever with Anton Krupicka going for the course record and a crew of hard-driving steeds behind him. Additionally, the women's field featured the return of Darcy Africa (after her new baby), the ever-present intensity (and smile!) of Jamie Donaldson, and the rising star in the form of local gal Lynette Clemons. It was shaping up to be a great race.
As for me, I was simply looking to get through the damn thing. Sure, I was hoping for a good finishing time and perhaps the Masters' win, but I knew after the summer I had been through it would be a race to test my limits and one in which I would need to lay it all out there. It was a test I looked forward to taking but also one I knew I could fail.
The start of the race was a blast and I took quick advantage of the early downhill to chat with the Big Dogs. Defending champion Duncan Callahan was looking solid and tough, Timmy Parr was talking about what a bummer it was that the US Marathon Trial qualifiying time had been reduced to 2:19 (what a rough problem to have:) and Tony was, as usual, cruising along with his effortless gait in his Cowboy shirt commenting on my pink Arm Panties (I must say, I thought they were striking!)
Shortly after transitioning onto the singletrack around Turquoise Lake I settled into a group with Garett Graubins and Bryon Powell and knew where I would be for the rest of the day. I felt kind of like the new kid in class on the first day of school; I knew where I belonged and I also knew where I shouldn't sit. Sometimes life has a way of sorting things out for you. Perhaps if this was my only race of the year I would have been more ambitious but at this point I was content to hang. In the end, it was probably the right decision. Probably...
We cruised along through this section and welcomed the sunrise on the climb up to Sugarloaf Pass. I finally began to warm up by this point and really enjoyed the run into the Fish Hatchery. It actually felt kind of easy and I settled into a rhythm that took me pretty much all the way to Twin Lakes.
The Leadville course is funny in that it basically is a runner's course for 78 miles (Start to Twin Lakes and Back) with two major climbs in between (Twin Lakes to Winfield and back). This makes strategizing the race quite difficult (unless you actually know what you're doing!). If you run too hard on the runner's sections your jeopardize your ability to climb and descend Hope. However, if you save yourself too much for the climbs up and down and up and down Hope you risk running out of real estate when the running really starts after Fish Hatchery the 2nd time through. The latter scenario is, I'm afraid, what happened to me.
So, by the time I crested Hope Pass Outbound I had given up too much time. I knew that my pedestrian 8:40 split to Winfield had left me little margin for error so I started my climb back up Hope in earnest. My pacer, Kevin Sullivan (5th place at WS, all-around Beast of the East!), kept me focused on the return to Twin Lakes and we turned some heads with our split. Then, on the trip over to Treeline, we remained steady but the runners behind me in the field were gaining on us (I hadn't gapped them enough on the technical stuff). At this point I knew I'd need to shift gears and save a bit for the last 13.5 miles. At that point three guys passed me and I said to myself, "be patient, let the race come to you."
Three pukes and several hours later I arrived at Mayqueen in 10th place. I knew I could run this section fast but I needed Kevin's help. I was on the edge of metabolic failure but I was also reveling in the joy of the last 13 miles of my summer of bliss. I passed my good friend and long-time pacer Bryon Powell with about five miles to go. I felt bad about doing it but he told me he just wanted to break 20 and was not in it to race. Me, I knew every second counted, so I hammered home.
I crossed the line in 19:49:42. Not the best race of my life but one which I'll savor.
Western States, Hardrock and Leadville all in 8 weeks and all with my family alongside. I may never have a summer like this one again but one thing's for sure...(with liberal paraphrasing!)...
"I took to the woods to live life deliberately. To front only the essential facts of life. And not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived."