Smile! You’re Running Leadville: In Pursuit of 100 Miles

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“Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.” -Ken Chlouber, Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100 mile race

It was January 7th when I received confirmation of my entry into the Leadville 100. This particular 100 miler is mainly lottery based, but there are a few spots left open for those that qualify by winning races in the Leadville series. It wasn’t my year to go to States, and I certainly wasn’t going to do any other 100 except States or Leadville (in my head, these two 100 milers are THE ‘AH HUNDRED’ milers of the ultra world – the history is incredible and these two races are what sparked my interest in ultra distances, but I digress…), so I told Rivers I was going to enter and odds are I won’t get in. Right. Of course. Laugh it off. So, I find in my inbox, “You’ve been selected!” and Rivers says, “ah, can you move to CO for 3 months??” And so…my pursuit of 100 miles began…

Back in January – that’s 7 months until August – I was really just focused on getting a golden ticket into States at Black Canyon and Gorge. Fail. Leadville wasn’t even a thought. And really, it didn’t need to be. Rivers had me working on a few technical pieces of my running and mastering the mountain (after a shocking find *sarcasm* at Championships – I didn’t know how to run up a mountain the right way!), but other than different components of form and endurance, there really is no need to run 99 miles before you do a 100 miler. By the time April rolled around, I was focused on training and an Altra sponsored 50k up north. I was dreading the upcoming months of Colorado races, but getting more excited for Leadville. And yet…still no idea what I was in for. 

I refocused for my first Colorado race the first wknd in June…The Dirty 30. To sum it up, my exact words to my running mate Kyle around mile 24 were, “this is stupid” bending the corner to start the hardest and longest climb ever. Although meant to be a fun training run, it didn’t go well and I just wasn’t invested. Oh crap!…not a great start to LV training and it wasn’t even remotely as high in altitude! 

Onward. Of course I had already decided the CO mountains weren’t for me and I should just stick to the PNW. I thought about a DNS for my next training race at the start of July, Silver Rush 50. It’s in LV and mimics the course. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I reminded myself that I needed to experience 12000′ (the real deal!) before LV100. I knew that. I knew the altitude simulator I dedicated my evenings to this summer would have to be put to the test. My motivation didn’t kick in until starting the race…a very odd thing for me. I was laid back and just kept smiling, thinking how grateful I am to be running these mountains. I finished SR50 more confident than I’d ever expect, earning a spot in the 2017 race. It worked. Training in the flatlands worked. I knew I’d be able to finish the 100 on this terrain now. 

It’s officially a few days away from race morning. My plan? Smile. In my pursuit to be on the Altra team or get a golden ticket or make the qualifiers, there is one missing piece that only hit me this past July. I don’t smile when I run. Why? Why so serious? Call it competitive but I realized I need to enjoy my sport and perform well. They can go together. And smiling allows me to relax which when racing is so hard. I started my next training block after SR50 and raced NF Ontario in there and with many smiles I took 4th, my most relaxed race yet (reference Brian’s post of me still passed out 45 min before starting 😬)!! It might not be your missing link, but for me in my pursuit of 100 miles, the simple act of smiling will be one small, yet critical, component of what gets me to the finish. I’m so excited to compete hard August 20th. Cheers. 

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