Monday, August 12, 2013

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Race

I guess almost 4 weeks post the 'biggest race of your life' is a sufficient gap to write a race report. Most have moved on and are now asking, "What race did you run again?"  

So yeah, I ran a little 50 miler in Leadville.  50 miles.  In Leadville!  The Leadville Silver Rush 50. Unless you're dead and therefore not on FB to have witnessed the live onslaught of race vomit postings by my loving crew-mates (I say that affectionately to them, btw), most know already that yes, I DID IT, and not only did I do it, but I felt amazing and well and STRONG.  It sort of feels surreal, actually, like it didn't happen and was instead just a mere fragment of a convivial dream – except for days upon my return home my quads felt like a truck ran over them 80 trillion times, and my still-to-this-day lingering fatigue announce that yes, I did just run 50 miles.  At 10,200' Leadville! 

As you can clearly see, the course is very flat from mile 25.01 to 25.02.  Nice! 
Entering an unknown 50-miler world I didn’t have much of a gauge where I’d land across the finish line on race day.  Sure, I had some great training runs and incredible race results early this spring to give me a generic template, but then disaster struck: a dehydration nightmare at the Sage Burner 50k in late May formed a gelatinous head; almost no sleep in 3 days following the Boise Half IM early June caused my body wincing in fatigue for weeks after, and yet another fall on the trails in Leadville late June produced a pulled rib muscle - trying just to take in air was excruciatingly painful, so much so that that little thing called 'running' became problematic (it’s a requirement, btw, that all race reports be over-exaggerated – but these were pretty true facts).  I felt my fitness slipping quickly after Boise when I produced nothing of quality running-wise.  When Tim told me he thought I could realistically finish around 11-hours, I wanted to throw-up and hide in my closet!  Bleh, no way.  Never in my wildest happy finishing SR dreams (and I had plenty) did I think I could pull this thing off in 11-hours, not even when I was more fit and better trained in the spring. 13 hours is what I realistically thought now, 12:30 was best hope.  Basically I had no clue. All I knew for certain was that even though I'm pretty good at undermining my abilities, I can be also be pretty stubborn about what I want.  I got my head back into the game about a week before the race.  I wanted to finish Silver Rush.  Period.  

And I knew I would.  Finish time, it didn't matter.

Race Recap (aka: the boring ad nausea details)
When Marcia caught word I was running Leadville, she graciously offered to fly from the Windy City to help crew for me.

Soon, friends Terzah, Kathy, Cynthia and Melissa jumped on the crew and cheerleader bandwagon, along with my son Ryan (who was crawling out of his skin with excitement); before I knew it I had an entire entourage.  Melissa, I met exactly once, when my keys were lost somewhere on Mt. Evans back in mid-June (lucky girl got to see me have a complete melt-down the first time I met her); I can't figure out what I did to deserve such gifts in my life.
Best crew-ers ever!
L to R: Ryan, Cynthia, Marcia, Kathy, Terzah, Melissa.
I picked up Marcia on Thursday evening and we immediately high-tailed it up high to get our altitude acclimation groove on.  I always have some issues the first day with the altitude and whatever annoying alpine allergens are in thin air so it was crucial I spent as much time up in altitude as possible before race day.  We had a great time in Leadville Friday trying to dodge piercing, horizontal, torrential rain for three hours when the notorious late-summer Colorado monsoons arrived weeks early.  This did wonders for the already forming knot in my stomach; who doesn't dream of running in 35 degree freezing rain for 13 hours!  The only caloric intake my stomach could handle seemed to be ice cream and beer.  At least I was carb-loading.

Saturday, Marcia and I defined the word “slug” pretty well while Ryan went on some 200 mile sub-5 minute run.  My stomach was starting to feel better, but I was starting to become fixated on race details, like which rain jacket to take with me for the race. Rain threatened to be a constant on race day.  I modeled the two jackets I had with me to Marcia about 400 times; I'm sure her only thought was, they’re both identical.  Saturday night the banshees arrived and the living room became filled with pizza and war room race cheering strategies.  I went to bed a bit later than I had wanted, but feeling pretty calm.  By 2:30am I was wide awake - with a solid (okay, broken) 4 hours of sleep for the race. 
Race Day:
I've learned in trail racing, no one lines up an hour early to jockey for a good starting position like we insanely do in road marathons so I wasn't too worried with my 15 minutes to spare arrival, I ended up bumping into a friend, Samantha, at the start line (an incredible ultra-runner who I had the pleasure of running some with at the Sage Burner 50k back in May). It was a crisp, overcast 40 degree morning, and I was surprisingly excited to get the ball rolling.  A quick snap shot of my favorite crew-er before the start….
I had enough crap in my pack to cloth and feed a 3rd world country - just in case
And up the insane first hill (of thousands) of the day.

Marcia happened to snag a photo just as the sun rose right after we took off.  Kind of an ugly place to have to run 50 miles, huh?

Start to Black Cloud Aid Station (mile 7):
I ran a bit with Samantha during the first early miles; she knew everyone out there, I knew no one; I just listened in on her conversations and took in my surroundings.  Somewhere around mile 3, Samantha had to do some business in the trees so I bid her farewell and said I looked forward to seeing her when she passed me. Samantha had a goal of 10:30.  I did not.  I figured she’d be passing me eventually.  I chose not to wear my Garmin after deciding that this little device could potentially destroy my day if I got my head tangled up with it's display; I needed to [try to] go on instinct and have faith in my own judgement. I wore my trusty generic Nike watch - simply because I wanted to be sure I was fueling, hydrating and salt in-taking precisely when I needed to.  I learned the hard way at Sage Burner your stomach will hate you for eternity if you screw around with these things - they are what can take you out of a race this long in a nanosecond and vital to one's success.  I didn't even hit "start" on my watch, I simply used it to keep track of what went into my gut.

The first few miles of this section are a very gradual uphill on mostly dirt trail/jeep road.  I walked when I felt my HR start to climb, and ran when it lowered.  My strength on the trails are my quads and running downhill comes naturally easy to me, but I knew I had to hold back in those early downhill miles; I had no idea how my quads were going to fare at say mile 40, so I had to play it safe. Not an easy task for the girl who loves to race and pound the downs.  I stayed exactly where I intended and never got wrapped into what anyone else was doing around me (which is a pretty huge feat for me).

Eventually the trail turned into a dirt and rocky road which started to climb.  I just kept plodding forward with my run/walk method and eventually ran up a short steep hill and suddenly was into the first aid station where I was greeted with a welcoming cheering squad.  I had made a quick ETA schedule for each aid station - which was based on absolutely nothing concrete.  Ryan and I sat with the course map one night looking at the elevation and guesstimating where the course mile marking might possibly be in relation to the elevation.  I'm sure there's precise data out there somewhere if I searched long enough or emailed the right people, but the official map per se was pretty useless in this department, so I just came up with a game plan in my head based on a 13-hour finish time and threw in some random paces for each section.  I've never been good with race strategy; it works much better if I just go on instinct so now wasn't really the right time to start.  "Left, Right, Repeat.  Are you dying?  No!  Then keep going."  Easy.  The crew had strict instructions to let me know if I was fell behind my 13-hour target - my biggest fear was to not make the cut-offs. When I got to Black Cloud, Cynthia told me I was right on schedule so I smiled, thanked them all, and away I went -  feeling really, really, really, REALLY good.

Black Cloud to Printer Boy (mile 14):
Photo: Leadville Race Series
I know it's hard to believe, but this isn't me
Out of aid Black Cloud was a steady uphill climb eventually topping out well above tree-line for the first of six 12,600' peaks.  This was one of my favorite views on the course; the enormous granite walls are simply breathtaking (or maybe that was lack of oxygen). But it was a bit rocky in spots so I ran cautiously.  Those who tell you to look around and become one with your surroundings in ultra races are apparently not big face planters; I was constantly looking down so as not to leave more blood samples on those trails.  I looked around occasionally, but whenever it was rocky, my view was the ground.
Photo: Leadville Race Series
Once finished with the first major climb, I knew my time to gain a little ground was going to be on the nice 5-mile descent into the next aid station.  This section was a wide dirt-packed road with loose gravel - very runnable. The race's 450 runners had thinned out considerably by now but I tagged onto a group of five guys who had all done this race before, all in the 11-12 hour range.  As we started passing a lot of runners, the worry of whether I was running too fast and therefore would be dead at mile 30 also started.  But they were the funniest guys I run with all day and that made the miles clicked by in what seemed like seconds, so I hung with them anyway and felt a pang of sadness when I lost them at the next aid station.  Like Samantha, I just figured as the day progressed I’d see them eventually when they passed me.  I got down that hill and knew I had just checked off one of the 4 major climbs/descents, which was a huge mental uplift.  I felt fantastic.  I rounded the corner and heard my fan club eagerly cheering!
All that cheering causes lots of leg fatigue and much need to re-fuel, it appears
Cynthia checked the bladder in my hydration pack and sternly told me I wasn't drinking enough - I had only consumed about 10 oz of my water in those 14 miles and she was adamant half of my water be gone when they saw me next, which was in a mere 2 miles.  I was slightly ahead of my ETA here, but I told them I didn't want to know by how much...only tell me if I got behind.  I wasn’t even aware of the time on my watch.
Terzah clearly captivated by my tantalizing words:
"I'm doing well.  I feel great.  No, I don't want any food.  Do not give me a jelly bean, I'll barf it up.  Water, what's that?  Am I running 50 miles TODAY?"
Printer Boy to Rock Garden (mile 19):
Out of Printer Boy aid, we took a sharp turn onto some single track rocky trail in a wooded area and headed downhill.  I was flying (for me) and passing so many people but keeping my concentration on the rocky terrain.  This race isn’t very technical overall; there are only a few miles scattered where you need to be cautious with protruding rock.  I just happened to have been lucky enough to fall on them all in training.

Done with the downhill, quickly cross a paved road, and headed up on on wide gravel road on the other side.  There seemed to be more people around me now than the previous hour; I was ecstatic I was, for the most part, matching walking pace with those around me (which hasn't been the case in any other uphill trail run I've done prior to this year), and even passing some.  If there's one thing I have learned about vertical trail racing it's that your pace is based on effort and if that means walking, you walk.  I was thrilled to find my walk pace is getting quicker (one doesn't really know this unless you're around others doing the same :)).

I saw the crew just 2 miles after I last saw them (now mile 16), which is remarkable since I was now well ahead of my so-called 'schedule' and for them to reach me at this point they had to haul ass out of the last aid station, back into town, and down some some un-named road - which could be anyone's guess.

"Redneck" would be a great definition for Leadville
I stopped when I saw the crew to deal with some tape on my foot which I had put on to hopefully prevent the never-ceasing blister from Hell.  I felt a build-up of pressure on the 'problem area' and decided the tape was an utter fail and could actually exacerbate the situation, so off it went.  I thought about changing shoes but didn't want to dink around with the timing chip removal, and besides, Kathy is an ob/gyn nurse so I figured at least I'd have medical help close-by :).  Ryan loaded me up with more salt tablets and off I went on my 2nd major climb to 12.600' of the day.  I wouldn't see the gang until close to the turn-around, which was a couple hours away.

I started playing leapfrog up some switchbacks with a woman using hiking poles. The constant click click click click of the poles was driving me batty.  I'd pass her on a teeny descent and she'd re-pass me on the up; this went on for a few miles until the constant 'click' made me want to grab one of her poles and wrap it around her neck.  The Rock Garden aid station arrived quicker than I thought; I had a volunteer here grab my iPod out of my pack so I could drown out the incessant pole clatter.  I vowed then and there I wouldn't use the poles Tim lent me - even if my feet fell off and I had to crawl on my knees at some point.
Photo: Kelly Agnew
Looking to the west from Rock Garden aid station
Rock Garden to Stumptown (half way):
Source: Kelly Agnew
Heading east out of Rock Garden aid station
I've been on these middle miles training so I was familiar with what I was about to face, which was good because this area is some of the most grinding vertical on the course.  Rocky and steep.  But also incredibly scenic.  I ran well out of the aid station down to tree-line and through the trees, even when the rocks threatened to take me out. Then climbed back up to 12,600' again.  I saw Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville 100 race, standing at the top of the peak, smiling this evil grin which pretty much said, I'm so glad I'm not you right now.  I told him thanks for the awesome hill. He laughed and told me the rest of the race was all downhill from here. I didn't even remotely find his words funny.

Miraculously, I managed to get down the steepest section of the course without incident by side-stepping some of it.  Yeah, really. I started to have some minor calf cramps a couple miles back and they were getting slightly worse by the time I got down to the creek, so I stopped and stretch a bit before I started climbing again. 
The trail after the bridge is really runnable, but I thought it was better if I implemented a run/walk; I was still worried about how the body was going to hold up hours later and this is the section where I had the rib disaster 3 weeks prior.  I took my eyes off the ground for a nanosecond and saw Tim coming the other way. When he saw me, he turned around and walked with me a bit up the hill, which I couldn't be more thankful for.  He told me that I was doing great and killing the race; it was SO good to see him out there and it brought such a kick of energy that I was able to run the entire rest of the way to where I saw my crew at about a mile to the turn-around.  

The cloud cover for the majority of the race was now gone and the sun's heat was becoming pretty noticeable - and made me worry a bit.  It was great to see the crew (mile 24ish); Cynthia told me I was doing better hydrating after checking my pack (and my calves were much better now, I'm certain there was a correlation between these two) and said I was now well ahead of schedule.  I walked a lot to the turn-around; I had heard there is a mother hill right when you get to the half-way point and  rumors turned out to be true.  Thankfully it was short-lived and I got through the halfway arch in exactly 5 hours 20 seconds ....and turned around to head back out and repeat the course in the opposite direction.  I was half way done.

And I felt incredible.

Half way fanfare
Photo: Leadville Race Series
Stumptown to Rock Garden Aid Station (mile 31):
The crew was planted where I saw them last, about a mile from the half-way point.  I quickly told them I was doing well and ate something at the last aid station, so I didn't stop.  I knew I was about to embark on the toughest section of the whole race and I just wanted it done.  In a few minutes I ran past Samantha; she didn't look that well but she said she was doing fine. A few minutes later I passed by the group of 'fun guys' and they all screamed and yelled for me which was, admittedly, uplifting.  (None of them, btw, ever did pass me :)).

I ran by the rock that busted my rib a few weeks back and laughed at it....which was really juvenile. Whatever. I got down the hill in one piece and put my game face on for the mother of all hills I was about to embark upon: a half mile with 700' elevation gain, and filled with loose rock.  

I've been on this beast in training but never with 28 miles on my legs, so the crawl up this thing seemed much worse (imagine!).  Inching up this thing simply sucked.  To exacerbate the carnival fun, my stomach was becoming nauseous and the higher I climbed, the more I wanted to bend over and barf.  Ugh . I tried not to panic, but the symptoms were similar to those early stages of disaster at Sage Burner. I forced down some water and a bit of a gel, but my gut was on a full-blown strike.  My iPod, which saved the life of Clicking Pole Woman earlier, was oddly making my stomach even more queasy, so I instantly yanked it out.  By the grace of I'm not sure who, I somehow got to the top without losing half my stomach; it took an entire geological era to get up this thing.  I had a great opportunity to run down the other side but my stomach was still a mess and I couldn't run.  A woman passed me and I quickly felt this frustration overcome me that I couldn't run with her.  Shockingly though, I never got negative or angry, I just keep moving forward.  I realized here though - the race was starting to become a little more....competitive.  That racer in me started shinning through.

Eventually, the stomach started to cooperate as I downed more water.  I ran though the trees and once I was out in the clearing, climbing to 12,600' for the 5th time that day, it started to hail.  Awesome.  Let me just say for you who have never been in rain and hail at 12,000+ feet - it was freezing.  And excruciatingly painful on exposed skin.  I wanted to stop and get my jacket out of my pack but decided to proceed to the aid station which was coming up soon. When I got to the aid station, I just stood there for a couple minutes trying to assess what the nutty weather was going to do.  I finally got my pack off and dug for my arm warmers and wind jacket (my crew had my heavier rain jacket - the thing I obsessed for 2 hours over the night before,  I didn't even have it with me). I took in some watermelon, oranges and some Coke, but I couldn't choke down anything solid they had.  I knew this was a sign my stomach was not happy, but at least it wasn't in previous barf-mode.  I stood under the tent for probably 10 minutes waiting for the hail to stop, which was utterly ridiculous...and starting to upset me I wasn't moving quicker.

Rock Garden to Printer Boy (mile 36):
When I finally pulled myself out the dry shelter at Rock Garden, it was raining steadily but the hail stopped and I was warm and the wind jacket seemed to be keeping me dry.  In typical Colorado high country weather, 10 minutes later the rain ended, the sun poked out from the clouds, and it turned 200 degrees.  I thought I'd see the crew in a mile so I just decided to bake to death in my layers until I saw them.  But when I got off the trail and entered the road where the crew was to be, they weren't there.  I understood there could be a chance they'd bail on this stop since they were so rushed to get here the first round, so I didn't worry - but admittedly, I was hoping to see them, just for an energy boost.  I was still feeling really great, but I'd been running the longest I've ever run before...the enormous length of the day was starting to creep into the head. I stopped to take off my jacket then took off running, keeping a woman up ahead on my radar - she just looked like someone I could eventually pass, and it was great to keep my mind distracted in something other than how long I had been out there.  I made some gains on her during the road's ascent, but once it crested and started to descent, that's when I nailed her.  I felt really strong!   I got to the bottom of the hill, crossed the road and looked up when I heard someone yell my name; it was Kiki - a really cool local(ish) woman I've met who is training for Leadman and was there with some friends cheering.  It was so good to see her, even if was just for a mere second - it gave me a big lift for the next short climb.

Back up the hill and through the trees.  OHMIGODDD, this report is getting long, redundant - and boring!!  I think a 4th grader could write better crap than this piece of garbage. Whatever. Uphill, downhill, blah blah blah - let's continue on.... 

I got up this section feeling pretty damn good, and if there's one thing (okay, two...three....ten) I will forever remember about his race it was the look on Ryan's face at this very moment: his HUGE smile and the high-five he gave me as I came into the Printer Boy aid station at mile 36. 

I can't even explain how it feels to have your child so incredibly proud of you.  It's a pretty cool feeling inside to see your son have his mom take on a huge challenge, fight, and eventually succeed.  I could go on and on about that, but I think my 4 hours of 'free time' at the coffee shop is about to expire and my mandatory 500 word RR limit has been far surpassed four thousand times over.

Printer Boy to Black Cloud aid station (mile 43):

As I got into Printer Boy, there was one last major climb - the spot where the fun people and I were passing runners earlier in the day.  I knew this was going to be a death march climb, but also relieved it was the last climb to 12,600' of the day.  Melissa graciously offered to "run" a few miles with me, and I welcomed the company.  You're not allowed pacers at this race, but she wasn't "pacing me", she was keeping me company and just there a few miles ... and best I could tell, the roads and trails were wide open and anyone could be out there running, or driving (which they were, occasionally). I was starting to feel slightly fatigued and it was great to have Melissa keep my mind occupied.  We talked about useless stuff, mostly mocking everyone in the race, myself included.  It started to rain, heavily for a bit, as we climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and still climbed more.  I was walking, and apologized profusely to Melissa for our pathetic snail's pace and the fact she was soaked to the bone (I finally had my obsessed-over rain jacket, but she had nothing to protect her.  I worried about her...something to keep my mind occupied).  I was getting frustrated I couldn't run here; it seemed fairly runnable, but my legs couldn't do it.  I looked around and the few racers left around me were also walking - so I was a bit more encouraged about my crawling pace.  The hill wouldn't end; we just climbed forever and whenever I thought we'd reach the top around the next bend, we didn't.  I told Melissa "sorry" 5 million times how slow we were going and I'm certain a few expletives came out of my mouth...remember, I had met this girl a grand total of once, and I was in a foul mood then.  I can only imagine what was going through her head now about me.  Melissa had her Garmin on and I slipped once and asked her our pace.  It was deflating - I'm not even going to mention it, but it was slower than the 17:30 avg overall pace I needed to finish within the cutoff.  I was well ahead of schedule by now, so I wasn't worried, but this hill was starting to become mentally draining.  

About 480 hours later, the hill and rains simultaneously stopped.  I took off my raincoat, gave it to Melissa, and decided it was time to pound out the next few miles to the last aid station, which was an awesome tactic, btw, since I still had some rolling hills to climb later.  But at the moment I didn't really care; I felt strong and this insatiable need to run hard just entered my head.  So we did.  Melissa said our pace was in the sub 9's, which at this altitude on legs with 40 miles on them, was probably stupid - whatever.  I really had no rhyme or reason for what I was doing and winging it at this point.  But as the miles at this over-zealous pace continued, I was getting cooked.  My sour stomach started to rear its ugly head slightly....getting to the next aid station became my new obsession; I was craving orange slices like you wouldn't believe, which I knew was a sign I was dehydrated (again). I couldn't even tell you one thing Melissa said to me here, other than I needed something solid in my stomach, which almost caused me to vomit.

Black Cloud to the Finish (mile 50):
By the time Melissa and I reached Black Cloud, my stomach was on full strike.  I ate my weight in watermelon and orange slices and nursed some gel, anything and everything liquid, until I felt good to get moving.
Mile 43: "research" indeed!
As I headed out for the last leg of the day, Terzah said she had something to read me, something from Tara that...well....I knew would shed a tear - or ten; just the mention of Tara's name caused me to lose composure, never mind the words....
Terzah reading note - my absolutely favorite picture of the day!
As a side note, I can't help but laugh at my hair here, it was a massive ball of sweat, rain, dirt, bug spray and sunscreen

Sniff sniff.  
Tara moved out of Colorado the week before my race; I'm still grieving that she's gone.  It was tough not to have her there so the note meant so much (It's currently hanging on my bathroom mirror).

After Terzah read me Tara's note, I continued down the road trying to run, but quickly started to struggle some.  I don't know for certain what was going on - I just sort of zoned out and in an odd way, no longer felt "part" of this race.  I started playing leapfrog with a guy whose legs were killing him.  I told him I felt great, nothing sore at all, so why wasn't I running more?  This was starting to irritate me; there was no explanation for my lack of speed, but for some unbeknownst to me reason I just didn't want to run much.  2 minute walk breaks turned into 5, simply because I didn't feel like running anymore.  It was so ridiculous.  I was a bit tired, sure, but nothing hurt.  My legs felt great.  My stomach wasn't the best but it wasn't nauseous anymore. My feet were blister-free and no soreness at all.  Whenever I wanted to run again, I'd look down at my bracelet Kathleen gave me for my birthday and drew strength from all her positive and encouraging words she gave me the past 8 months. This girl is going through some tough health stuff right now and yet whenever I got down or tired or complained about one tiny thing to her, she'd quickly remind me how precious life is and the pain I feel right now is only temporary (we're not talking only race pain).  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been at the start line of SR had it not been for her continuous belief in my mission.

With 2 miles to go the skies turned dark gray and thunder was prominent; I knew a heavy storm was moving in and not going to move out quickly like the previous rains I had run through that day.  This sort of lit a small fire in me, but not a full-fledged flame. I kept hoping I'd see Tim or Ryan - anyone - pop out from behind the trees and tell me to get my ass moving faster - I felt very much alone, I'd long ago passed the white coat guy I was leapfrogging with earlier and now there were no runners in sight and I just felt this overwhelming need to see someone.  As I came up on the last hill (seriously only a sadistic RD would put another major hill, however short, when you can actually SEE the finish line, yet have you run a mile away from that line) the dark clouds released their fury and it started down-pouring.  I ran (yep, finally RAN) past the arch at the top of the hill where I had run through many, many, MANY hours earlier, and heard them call out my name from below, where the final finish line chute was.  I had no idea how much further I had to go....all I wanted to do was get out of the rain.

It was only a minute at most when I turned a corner and started running downhill ... and there she was, in all her glory: the finish line....
Pretty anti-climatic finish line fanfare, eh?
I knew by my beloved little Nike watch I was ahead of my self-imposed 13-hour timetable,  but my watch display was all fogged up and it was off by a few minutes from the starting gun, so I thought running down this stretch to the finish line (with adoring fan club cheering loudly off to the sidelines - a vision I will never forget ) I was a few minutes over the 11th hour.

To say I was STUNNED to see the finish clock display is an understatement.....

2 hours and 8 minutes faster than where I honestly thought I'd land! 

And - 3rd in my age group!

A silver mining pan as an age group award!  Be still my heart!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Finish:
I can tell you with 100% certainty I was smiling when I crossed.  

And I can tell you I was proud.

I can also tell you with 100% certainty I was BEAMING when I got a huge unexpected finish line hug from rain-soaked Sandra seconds after I crossed.  Though I never really met Sandra before for more than a minute, we've exchanged countless emotionally-filled SR and ultra running emails during these past few months and I knew exactly who this girl was running out towards me.  She wasn't suppose to be there that day, but plans changed and there she was....not for me exactly, for another friend, but at that moment it was for me.

I was home.

Official results:
Start to Printer Boy: 2:59:36
Printer Boy to Stumptown: 2:17:44
Stumptown To Printer Boy: 2:33:59
Printer Boy to Finish: 3:11:58
Finish time: 10:52:15.24
Avg Pace: 13:02

Female: 30/113
AG: 3/12
Overall: 206/449

Miles: 50
Race Elevation: 10,200-12,600'
Elevation Gain: 7950' 

The Aftermath:
I always struggle to write race reports because I never think about one damn thing when I'm out there, not even for 50 miles, so all there is to share is what happened at that time or point in a race.  Sure, I had fleeting thoughts but nothing continuous; I just had a sense of calmness during the race and it's hard to capture those inner momentary thoughts into words. 

I suspect the reason why it's taken me so long to write this report is that, honestly, I've had a tough time upon my return.  I've had long, and thus exhausting wars within my head about this race. I think the biggest reason Sandra and I are friends is because we mutually ran this race for the same reasons: to find our breaking point, the point where we say no more, we've found the limit of mental or physical capacity where we will choose to not go past.  It seems to answer the question of why we do something like this more often than not.  When I crossed the finish line of SR I barely shed the emotional tears I envision for months I would, nor Molly Shannon my ass high in the air. In fact, I felt a little bit of a let-down.  Maybe it was the rain and the fact I was soaked and frozen and wanted to instantly leave, but I honestly thought I'd cross that finish line and walk away from it with something, something more tangible I guess.  The answer I was seeking wasn't out there, which is funny because I couldn't even tell you the exact question was I was searching for.

The race almost seemed .... like it was just handed to me.  

For days after I got home after SR, I fought with this.  The day was inexplicable and I had to take some time to process it all.  Maybe the shiny silver box with a bright blue bow at the finish line wasn't meant to be something tangible, or touchable, but rather was meant to teach me that I have a lot more in myself to give.  I mean, If you don't learn something about yourself in a race of this magnitude, then you aren't paying attention. I feel I could have done a lot of things differently out there: I didn't have to wait so long for it to stop hailing; maybe I could have pushed harder up and down the hills earlier on; I know for certain I could have pushed a hell of a lot harder those last 5 miles; and I'm sure I could have been more dialed into my nutrition and hydration.  

But I worked like a madwoman to do them to best of what my ability allowed.  And I did it fantastically.  Tim was spot-on where I'd land across that finish line based on my training - and that says a lot about him.  But it also says a hell of a lot about me!  I know me and I know my shit and learned in this 8 month process that the scope of what I believed was possible has expanded and I DO have the talent to do these things if I set my mind to them - and work for them. Next time, I'll know I have a lot more to give - and maybe then I'll find the answers I seek and reach my breaking point where I say this is enough.  And maybe I won't.

And that's okay, it's even great really -  there is beauty in that.  So for now, it's good enough for me.  

I was the most positive I've ever been in a race.

I am proud of what I accomplished.  I AM happy.  

And Tara....I will never, ever give up fighting.  Ever.

My heart is bursting with gratitude for the amazing souls who graciously took time out of their lives for me that day. Tim, whose words of pride I know were not just given without warrant.  My crew who took time away from their families to be there for me were simply incredible and lifted my spirit every time I saw them.  My friends Kathleen, Jen, Sandra, Gary (your note made my day!) who always had the best things to say to me - just when I needed them most.  Craig who helped me a lot the last couple months, and GZ whose generous words made me understand my post race doldrums were not unique and it was okay to feel a little hard on myself.  Ryan and the rest of my understanding family who I spent countless hours away so I could train.  And you, all of YOU who've been by my side all these months and believed in me. I am deeply filled with gratitude. It was an incredible day; I was honored to take you with me; it meant a lot.  THANK YOU!

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity...Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."    - Melody Beattie


HappyTrails said...

The race wasn't handed to you, my dear. You had a good coach who pushed you hard and you made the sacrifices to train your heart out - through blood, sweat, and tears. You set your mind to the task at hand and followed it through. I know you have felt the race was anti-climactic - fact of the matter is you were well-prepared. We'll just have to find you something tougher that leaves you feeling more fulfilled. Does this mean you have officially reneged on our verbal agreement, per your request, of not allowing you to sign up for any 100's??? You will have to sign a written release on that one. I CAN be a tough cookie if I want. :-) Savor the journey and your final destination: you did GOOD!!!

Julie said...

Love, love, LOVE your race report, and love, love LOVE you! You had me laughing as I could hear you out there bitching and crying when you talked about the pride in Ryan's face as well as the letter from Tara. I can not even begin to imagine how you would think this was handed to worked your ass of training for it...NOTHING was handed to you! I am so very proud of you! Can not wait to see you fro dinner my friend!

Jenny said...

You earned this, sweet friend! So very proud of you! You are a huge inspiration and I can't wait to see you soon! xoxo

Karen said...

This is soooo awesome! It was funny, inspiring, and thoughtful. No 4th grader could be this witty.

Congrats on kicking ass! You are amazing! I've loved watching your comeback these last couple of years. So....when's your 100 miler? ;)

Colorado Gal said...

This is AWESOME. You should be so proud of yourself!

Robert said...

I loved your race report, it was amazing to read.

I sense maybe you were looking for the very edge of yourself, hoping to creep up and peer over the precipice into oblivion.

The thing is, we only know we've gone too far if we actually lose our footing and fall.

It seems like a dangerous game of chicken.

I know it doesn't mean much coming from a stranger, but you strike me as an exceptional person, and it seems to me that you don't have a thing to prove to anybody...

Anonymous said...

From one of your many silent followers, excellent! It's a pleasure to follow along.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

what an amazing journey! you worked for that race. it wasn't handed to you. 50 miles is a journey. you made yours a great one! congratulations again!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

what an amazing journey! you worked for that race. it wasn't handed to you. 50 miles is a journey. you made yours a great one! congratulations again!

Johann said...

Fantastic run and report Jill, well done once again! I must admit I knew you would rock this one with the training you put in. A complete job well done, you are a star! Your finishing time is just super! That is what I plan to run in my next race which is half the distance... I am privileged to know you and draw a lot of inspiration and commitment from you. Awesome stuff!!!

Adrienne Langelier, MA said...

What a great report! And NO it is not too long! Races of that stature deserve a novella, otherwise you won't be able to capture everything.

Based on following you via FB and the blog, I can't say that the race was 'handed' to you. You did the work, and that provided the day that you got. Way to rock it! Congrats!!

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Best friggin' race report ever! And of course you killed it. Not surprised here! Congrats, you are a great runner!

Terzah said...

No one handed you anything--you worked for it and it all came together. I'm glad I was there to witness it (and glad to read the report for the parts that happened in between when I saw you!). I can't wait to hear what's next for you, but you've got nothing to prove to anyone.

Kandi said...

What an awesome experience! You killed it!! I can't even imagine how difficult this race is and you executed it perfectly. You have a lot to be proud of for sure!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I am so happy for you, congrats on so many levels!!

RunToTheFinish said...

god woman you are amazing. I don't know if I could take the hours of being wet, uh or the hail...and yet there is part of me that has the same yearning as you to find that point in myself where I must push past a limit and find what I'm made of.

love your cheer squad so much and having your kids really understand..well that's too cool.

I also think that post any major event there is a weird emotional phase that happens where we adjust to a new perspective because now the thing we longed for...well it's happened, so what's that mean for who we are now?

brg said...

what an awesome day! you KNOW how I feel about your well executed race. :)

Irene said...

Wow. Just wow.

Thanks for sharing your experience.


Tim said...

I'm in awe. I can barely imagine being able to do such a thing. Very inspring!

Tim said...

I do assume you have/WILL put your name in for Western States? It's quite evident that with another solid block of training that you could finish that. At the very least you could be thinking of WHEN you want to try to get into it.

Black Knight said...

Great race, great stats, great reports and great pics. You are super!
Glad you had all those friends to support you during the race.

Tara said...

Ahh-haa! I knew it! I knew that as soon as Terzah told me that you had no bad moments in the race that you wouldn't be satisfied. I know you aren't going to be happy until you find a race that you have to beat the hell out of your mind demons. Ummm.....Leadville 100 anyone? Western States? IRONMAN? Muhahaha! (I am the little voice in the back of your head, you know I am).

And that race wasn't handed to you, you worked your ass off (and I know you did) for it. You sacrificed a lot and for that you should be happy and satisfied.

Oh...and beer and ice cream are good for carb loading. I know this from experience.

Love ya!

Tara said...

Wow, this is the first time in over a year that I have left a comment with that little profile. Looks good up there.

bobbi said...

I waited and waited for this report and it did not disappoint! I'm so proud of what you accomplished, both in training (and your training kicked ASS) and on race day, and you should be too.

The ONLY reason this felt like it was handed to you is because you put in ALL the work to get you there. And it all came together.

Congratulations on a job well done. You are amazing!

Robin said...

Holy crapola! Fantastic race and amazing result! Congrats on the AG award as well. Love the race report and the photos are spectacular. Very inspiring. Planning on my first 50 miler (thought he course not nearly as challenging) in May!

David said...

You had me rolling with laughter at the part with the women and her hiking poles. I could totally see you chasing her down the trail swinging one of the poles at her. Great race report. Can't wait to read more in the future.

GZ said...

Just catching up on this (ahem, it took a moment ...;)

Nothing handed to you as was said - it was earned.

Appreciate the open-ness and insight of the report. Keep livin it.

trailturtle said...

Wow, Jill--congrats on completing the Leadville 50...wanted to contact you before the PPM tomorrow--will you be doing that? We did the PPA in 2011 where we met you, you may recall. Posted for first time in a while (yesterday) b/c of you (see blog post)and Mt. Evans event, which we did also. Sorry, haven't been able to keep up with blogs, so I might be missing something. Had trouble finding your no to text/contact you (I changed phones but will try to access the old one) so trying the blog pathway. Really hope we can meet up soon. If I can still walk tomorrow (finished Ascent today but was not trained b/c of physical problems)will try to find you at the marathon start tomorrow. Best, Ann (& Hubby)

MILF Runner said...

Just incredible :) Anything I can say doesn't do justice to this accomplishment. I am in awe.

MastHoliday said...

Wow, what the wonderful experience narrated beautifully with nice pictures! such looks a lot enjoyable and awesome climbing!
thanks for sharing your experience....

Anonymous said...

Awesome job! "2 hours and 8 minutes faster" than you expected. sweet. This race is definitely one you want to be strong in. ha. And you have an awesome crew. Thank you for sharing your race day report. inspiring.

Anne said...

What a great race report...I just knew you were going to do great! You are incredibly amazing and I'm glad that this race helped you see how strong you are and how much you still have to give...just wonderful! I smiled and had tears of joy as I read through your final miles. Congratulations Jill!!!!!!

JD said...

Thanks for inspiring me to have the right attitude for this year's sr 50: my first ultra!