The Summer of Leadman

Ever since first coming to Leadville in 2004 to race the Leadville Trail 100 Bike Race, I have loved the Leadville area.  Not being an ultra runner in 2004, when I heard about the Leadman competition during the awards ceremony, I thought it was crazy.  Fast forward to 2008 when I returned to Leadville to race the Leadville Trail 100 Run as my first 100 mile run and I became very intrigued with the idea of completing Leadman.  After 3 years of running 100s, when we returned to Leadville in 2010 for Emily’s Leadville 100 Run, I was sold on the idea that I had to do Leadman at some point.

What is Leadman?  Leadman is the completion of 5 of the 6 Leadville events over the summer:

  • Leadville Marathon on June 30
  • Leadville Silver Rush 50 Bike or Run on July 14 and 15
  • Leadville 100 Bike on August 11
  • Leadville 10K on August 12
  • Leadville 100 Run on August 18-19

The crux of Leadman is obviously the final 8 days when you have to complete the 2 longest and hardest events as well as a 10K.

When planning my race schedule each year, I apply for Hardrock 100 and everything else revolves around ‘if’ I get into Hardrock.  With this year’s failed lottery attempt, I am not 0 for 4 at the Hardrock lottery.  Since Emily was planning to do Wasatch 100 again, I decided this would be a good year to attempt Leadman.

With the less than average winter in the Wasatch, I came into running season strong and fast from skimo racing.  I started training hard in April adding in more than my normal amount of biking along with my normal amount of running.  I have had some large training weeks with 70 miles of both running and mountain biking in the same week and had planned not to race anything other than the Leadville series.  This has made for a strange spring since it is now the end of June and I haven’t raced yet – I am ready too start racing. 

Training has been more of a sacrifice than normal.  Since the Leadville events are very runnable, not a huge amount of vert, and not real technical, I have had to focus on running instead of the fun adventure running that I like to do.  In the end, this won’t be too big of a deal since I will be done racing August 19 and have late summer and fall for adventure running.  In order to do as best as possible in the events and minimize my travel between Park City and Leadville, I decided to only make 2 trips to Leadville and stay for 3 weeks at a time.  Since house rentals were expensive, I decided that camping was my best option.  I will be in Leadville from June 25-July16 and July 29-August 19.  This will be a long time away from family and friends, but spending that time at altitude and being able to train on all of the courses, will definitely pay off on race days.

While I am in Leadville, I will be taking some time off from work, but will also be working.  My base camp has AT&T 4G service and the great guys at Goal Zero Solar set me up with a couple of solar panels and battery pack so I will be able to spend some time working from camp.  For the rest of the time, I will be working from the Leadville Public Library.

     Leadman Camp 1 – Half Moon Creek

     Leadman Camp 1 – Mt Elbert

       My Goal Zero Solar Powered Work Area

My goal this week is to get out on the marathon course to see all the trail at least once.  After the marathon on Saturday, I will be dedicating my time to the 50 mile run and 100 mile bike courses.

On Tuesday, I attempted to run the first 8 miles of the marathon course.  I drove up to the aid station locaiton around mile 8, then road my mountain bike back to town.  I took a couple of wrong turns on the maze of mining roads, but still ended up at Ball Mt so I had a pretty good idea of what the first 8 miles of climbing will be like.  I had a great run with a good afternoon thunderstorm thrown in for some extra fun in the high elevations.

     Leadville Marathon Elevation Profile

     Mosquito Pass (marathon turn-around) from the mile 8 aid station

2012 Big Horn 100–A Great Day for a PR

After running Zion 50 a few weeks ago I had a little anticipation going into Bighorn. I felt really demolished after Zion due to the intense cramping my legs went through with the severe dehydration (I already feel better a couple days after Bighorn than I felt after over a week after Zion). I figured out that if I’m going to go harder than I’ve done in the past I need to make up for that with increased nutrition and hydration. I took it easy for a week after Zion to really give myself time to recover and was planning on putting big miles in over Memorial Day weekend as a final training push before Big Horn. Unfortunately, the weather really got the best of this plan so I had a little bit of intrepidation going into Big Horn.

I had the confidence that with improved nutrition and hydration I could go out harder and the world will not fall apart. I took what I learned from Zion put together my Big Horn strategy. A large part of this strategy was to start the race harder. I have historically took it easy in anticipation of the long miles, time on the feet, etc. to make sure I “felt good” later. I decided that there really is no such thing as really “feeling good” so I might as well get as many miles under my belt before it got dark since I was not picking up Chad until mile 48 and it would for sure be dark. I knew that he would be able to push me at that point.

Kristin, Chad and I left for Sheridan Wednesday after work. We traveled to Bighorn the same way that Chad has done the past 3 years by driving half way on Wednesday night then just have 4 more hours on Thursday morning. That was nice and allowed me to have over 8 hours of sleep for a number of days prior to the race. I was so happy to be going into this race feeling perfectly healthy – no coughor sore throat and body feeling great (I definitely know what difference that makes)! On Thursday, we got into Sheridan, I went for an easy 2 mile run, relaxed, then went to check-in and medical check.

The 11AM start was really weird for me. We woke up at 7:00a and had almost too much time before we had to leave at 8:20. The pre-race meeting was at 9:00. I found myself uncomfortable in my flip-flops concerned I wouldn’t have enough time to put my shoes on even though I knew we had the drive to the start line and would have more than enough time to do everything I needed before the start.

Big Horn 100 Start

Since my plan was to go out pretty hard so I went out with the front pack. The run on the gravel road was fast and then we started climbing up the single track. I felt I kept up a good clip and focused on eating and drinking in this section. This race was very competitive – women wise – I was in 2nd place until mile 4 which I knew I shouldn’t be in but I was listening to my body. Suzanne and Missy passed me at that point and my goal was to keep them in sight. There were also a couple other women that were leapfrogging all of usduring this section. I came into mile 13.4 and Kristin and Chad got me in and out very quickly that I was able to get ahead of a few others that came in before me.

The next portion of the course was a great downhill, rolling, easy running. It felt good to tick away the miles. It was overcast and sprinkled on us a little bit so the weather was absolutely perfect. The wild flowers were blooming and the colors were spectacular. There is a steeper downhill then short up to the Footbridge Aid Station at mile 30. I was feeling great. I switched out my waist pack for my new UltraSpire Kinetic pack. This was my first significant run in this pack and I loved it with all of the pockets that are so easy to access and so comfortable.

Running into Footbridge Aid Station

I headed out with warmer cloths and lights. I put on my arm warmers and gloves on around mile 40. The section before Porcupine was swampy, muddy, wet, and snowy which slowed me down a little bit. I kept anticipating the front runners heading back down towards me. I saw Mike Foote when I was around mile 42. It was fun seeing people on their way back and knew I’d be one of those soon. I saw Suzanne and David heading out 0.2 miles from the Aid Station. I got in and out of Porcupine as fast as I could as it was very cold and I really wanted to keep moving. I was 5th place woman at this point.

This next section was one of the toughest for me. It was a lot downhill but for some reason I just couldn’t run downhill. Chad tried to coach me in my form to get moving faster but for some reason I was struggling to a great extent making that happen. I also had issues with rolling my ankles which I did again and again. I would have to shake it out then keep moving as quickly as possible. This section only took me about 10 minutes less going down than going up (and it is a 4,000’ net descent) which tells you how absolutely slowly I was moving. It was incredibly frustrating. Chad and I got into Footbridge and I got some food in me, grabbed my poles, switched headlights, dropped some cloths, and took off.

I took off doing one of the things that I’m most strong in – power hiking uphill (I’m even better when I’m tired). I really focused on the fact that I struggled on the downhill so I really needed to make up some time on the uphill. I pushed myself as much as I possibly could on the uphills and found that I was running a little better on the downhills. The sunrise in this section was so beautiful!


Sunrise on the climb to Bear Camp Aid Station

We smelled the bacon at Cow Camp before we got there. When we got there Chad handed me a piece of bacon. I didn’t know if I could stomach it but I made myself eat it and my stomach felt better right away. We quickly left the aid station with a few more pieces of bacon and homemade chocolate chip cookies (I didn’t try it, but Chad said bacon, chocolate chip cookies are awesome when you haven’t slept in 25 hours). It must have been the fat that coated my stomach and made me feel better.


Running towards Cow Camp Aid Station in the early morning

As we headed up the long ascent into Dry Fork we could see a number of people in front of us including two women. David and Suzanne were right ahead of us and we waved to David. When I got into Dry Fork I quickly took a bathroom break and changed my shoes and socks. Suzanne and I were in the Aid Station together and it was great to see her looking so strong. She and David left just a minute before Kristin and I did.


Running into Dry Fork Aid Station

Kristin and I headed up the road and were able to jog quite a bit of the first section. Right as the trail got a little steeper downhill I lost my downhill legs again. I can’t even profess how frustrated I was looking down at my watch and seeing a 16 minute mile and I was “running” downhill. I couldn’t believe it. There was absolutely no reason why my legs could not run this terrain. What made it instantly worse is that the 50k racers started to pass us on this single track. So not only was I not moving as fast as I should be able to but others were passing and shooting down the train and would be out of sight in minutes. It also took time to move off the trail many, many times while people were passing which I felt took extra time. After a few rolling miles and some frustrating descents, we hit the gravel road and I was able to take off again. I ran almost the entire 5 miles of road with just a few very short walking breaks – even running the uphill sections. This section was super hot and I couldn’t wait to be done. This was a good section because many people passing express that they are impressed at the 100 mile racers. I was passing a lot of 50kers at this time and as I passed one guy who was walking I had to ask him if he was really going to let a 100 miler pass him. That was all it took for him to take off running (he later found me at the finish line and thanked me for getting him going). Even though I was moving really well this last part was tough on me mentally because I was totally set up for a under 26 hour finish and I was not able to meet that due to troubles descending. Kristin was doing major math to see what I could do I decided to just push as fast as I could at that point – while not falling apart – and try to be as much below 26:15 as I possibly could. I crossed the finish line at 26:11:44. It felt so good to be done.


The Finish

It was great to see Suzanne and hear about her fantastic finish of 25:46. Kristin and Chad got my calf sleeves, socks, and shoes off and I went straight into the river to sit down. The cold water felt so good on my legs. We enjoyed the beautiful afternoon watching other runners come into the finish line for a few hours. We then returned to Sheridan for a much needed shower and a now traditional Sheridan great Mexican meal (a margarita is always good after a 100 mile race and it’s always good to feel well enough to want one).


Recovering at the Finish Line

Sunday morning we attended the pancake breakfast and awards the next morning. I was happy to accept the rock prize for 3rd place woman in my age category (behind Darcy Africa and Suzanne).


The Wasatch Contingent – 2 of the 4 top women!

All my thanks to Chad and Kristin for all that you did for me crewing and pacing. Just knowing you both are there either at the aid stations or beside me on the trail made me feel so much more at ease so I could focus on just racing and not gear, food, etc.

I will spend the next 2+ months getting ready for Wasatch100 focusing on fast downhill running, strong uphill hiking, core and strength work, and continuing with the speed work and running that I’ve been incorporating all spring.

For full size images, view the Big Horn Photo Gallery.