I’ve been on the road between Colorado and New Mexico these past five days, so the race recap has been delayed. I am finally sitting at my hotel in Chicago post workshop. It was one hell of an experience I never really thought completely through. Here is some essential information I should cover to set up the Leadville 50 race. It is insane looking back at it.
Take on 50 miles of extreme territory that starts at 10,200 feet and reaches 12,000 feet four times. It will leave your lungs burning, heart pounding and eyes completely amazed.
There is a 14-hour time limit and aid station cut-offs will occur at 4:15pm – Printer Boy inbound (34.5m) and 6:00pm – Black Cloud inbound (40m).
START: I woke up at 4AM on Sunday morning. I was tired since I didn’t sleep well that night due to stomach cramping. I’m not really sure why that happened. I assumed it was due to my nervousness. My parents woke up at the same time as me and we headed down to Leadville at 4:30AM. I was able to eat a honey wheat bagel with almond butter on the way down. The temperature was pretty cool at 40F. This got me a bit nervous since I opted for a tank top and arm warmers for the run. Luckily I packed a long sleeve jacket for the start.
Once the sun started to rise at 5:45AM, the temperature did too. My dad and I found the drop bag vehicle that would be at aid station 4, Stumptown, mile 25. There would be 4 aid stations on this out and back route. I said good-bye to my parents and then my sister-in-law and nephew showed up wishing me good luck. I found out my brother was at the top of the hill. After the national anthem, the gun went off at the start. A few people ran up the hill but I just walked up. I ended up finding my brother and niece at the top!
MILE 1-7: Black Cloud Trail
The first three miles were a slow pace and heavenly. The cold air felt amazing. I was so amped to be up at 10,200 ft running. I didn’t feel the high altitude those three miles. People were all around due to the initial single track and removing their jackets since the temperature was rising.
I was happy and looking forwards to a long day of running. Around mile 4 to 7, it was a rolling uphills. I wasn’t driving very much water due to the cooler temperatures. I had to remind myself to take sips so I wouldn’t get dehydrated.
At mile 6 I decided to take a GU. I felt weird early in this race but wanted to keep my glycogen stores full. I came upon an empty table with a cooler. I saw people filling up their handheld bottles and assumed it was just a random aid station. It was the first aid station. I was doing fine with my water and just kept moving. I looked down at my fingers and they were already starting to swell, a side effect of altitude.
MILE 7-13.5: Printerboy (Time 3:23:39)
This section was the first of the four climbs above to 12,000 ft. I just kept doing the run and walk method. It was sunny in the direction we were heading. I absolutely loved the greenery around us but it started to fade once we were heading above treeline.
I wasn’t feeling the altitude yet, which was a good sign that I wasn’t overexerting myself. I heard voices above me and it was the other runners along the switchback. I still had about 2 miles to the turnaround point to head to the aid station and it was nothing but walking. I decided to make conversation with a few people. As I looked to my right, I saw a mountain with ice in the shadows.
A girl next to me mentioned it was Mt. Sheridan and she hikes in this area often. Another guy was telling me that we were on a 23% grade for the trail and he and his friend only trained on 15% incline. I however could not tell my tale of hill training. When they found out I was from Boston, they wished me good luck. It was a single track the last mile up to the top. Finally the steep incline was over and I reached the turnaround point, 10 miles done and 40 to go!
I ended up eating another GU at this point. The next three miles were a dirt road that was wide headed downhill. It was a nice break from the climb and we were not running into the sun. I was feeling good again and running a slow jog. I knew I was close to the aid station when I saw cars on the side of the road and it was pavement. I was running low on water so definitely needed to refill. At this aid station, the volunteers helped me fill up my camelback. I had some Herbalite (electrolyte juice) and grabbed a PB&J sandwich. I was happy to feel good at this point because some people were hurting from the first climb. I headed out back onto the trails with a slow jog.
MILE 13.5-18: Rock Garden
This area had a windy, rocky downhill stretch. I was able to pass a few people and was trying to catch a group in front of me. I heard a scream and a girl fell down. There was a large group of people gathered around the girl but she turned out to be okay. She stayed behind to rest. I continued on and was approached by a guy. He complimented on my mizunos (he was wearing mizunos), he said I was the first runner to have that brand. He passed me and continued on. The next mile was relatively flat until we hit rolling hills again. But around mile 16 I looked up, another climb.
I just kept thinking of one foot infront of the other. I passed a few people on this section but it was a brutal climb due to the rocks, I wasn’t looking forwards to running down this later. At the top I looked and saw the surrounding view of Leadville afar.
Just then a runner was headed in the opposite direction, the first male. I was shocked. I reached the aid station and just grabbed another PB&J along with a banana. I just kept moving. Most people stopped but I knew I should just keep moving forward. MILE 18-25: Stumptown (Time 2:42:05) It was awesome to see runners in the sky. I loved this photo the most because they looked like ants.
There was a photographer here and I bought the photo below. I was feeling happy at this point.
I thought that this section had to be easy since there were so many runners headed back. I saw the first females go by. It was insane. I assumed that they were an two-hours ahead of me. I just cheered on those who passed, they didn’t look like they were in great shape. This section would then rise again to above 12000 ft since we had to head over Ball Mountain. The slow climb began around mile 19. I tried not to look up ahead, I ate another GU to keep me preoccupied. Arriving at the top was awesome. I then ran down the other half of the pass. Many runners headed back cheered me on. It was nice to see this camaraderie. Once at the bottom of this pass, I felt my quads begin to ache. I opened my honey stingers gummies. I knew that the remaining half would be brutal. The remaining four miles out to Stumptown were flat and switchbacks. The sun was beating down and I was hot. It was around 70F at this point. There was a lot of old mining equipment in this area.
Other runners kept cheering on each other and said the aid station was so close! I was happy to see the tube at the turnaround point. And also my brother! He was video recording me and running alongside and told me my mom and dad were up ahead. It was amazing to see my family at the halfway point, we didn’t plan on meeting up earlier that day.
I got more water and told my runner support crew that I was feeling good. I found my drop bag and put on my extra shirt and restocked my honey stingers. I grabbed more PB&J and watermelon. I said goodbye to my parents and brother and kept moving. I was so happy to see them.
MILE 25-30: Rock Garden
The next two miles were slow moving. The wind picked up and sprinkles of rain began. I was a good opportunity to cool down. I got to mile 27 and the altitude hit me. I was headed back up the 12,000 ft climb. This was the point that I saw other runners struggling. I knew that I was hurting at this point because I began slouching. I had to readjust my alignment to get as much oxygen intake. I was walking very slowly uphill. The guy in front of me was stopping and dry heaving. I felt bad. I just kept telling myself, one foot in front of the other. This was seriously the most ridiculous climb of my life. I tried not to look up. I used every muscle, my abdominals, quads, glutes, calves and upper back to get me up that damn climb. Finally at the top, I just kept moving. I had no energy to turn around to appreciate the view.
I started jogging again and began feeling flustered because it was so hot at the top since the sun came out. This section was brutal and I was walking slowly up on the mini hills. I saw the photographer again, I was walking. He tried to cheer me up but I wasn’t giving in. I just smiled as I walked by. Finally I saw the aid station. I dropped off my camelback and ran into the port-a-potty. I tried to see if my urine was okay but it was hard to see. I snagged more GU to store incase they were out at the other aid stations. I ended up grabbing another PB&J with a banana. I just kept moving and ate as I walked.
MILE 30-34.5: Printer Boy (Time 2:55:17)
I felt rejuvenated post-PB&J. I ended up running downhill fairly fast at the incline that I was nervous about. It went fine until I felt a pull in my quad. I decided to back off running downhill. I made it to the bottom and kept moving. I knew I was on track to meet the time cut-off so walking here wasn’t going to affect my time. I jogged further and was burning up. The temperature was in the 70s still and I tried to keep drinking water. Nothing was too memorable at this point. I reached the aid station. I was happy. I knew that I only had 14 miles left. I made the cut-off at 3PM. Wow still out running 9 hours later?? The volunteer encouraged me to keep running because I could make it at this pace with a 12-hour time. I told her that I was slowly losing my pace. But she was nice enough to fill up my camelback as I ate.
MILE 34.5-40: Black Cloud
This was a brutal slow uphill, my fingers were swollen.
I was feeling tired and my hands were gross looking. I think I hit another wall, a mini one. I tried to be make myself happy at this point since I was alone. There were two people far in front of me. One guy stopped ahead and was perched over. He was dry heaving as I passed. He was frustrated so I offered some GU but he just mumbled. I tried to job but it was just too hot on this stretch of dirt road. Then I heard a rumble far away. I knew that at this altitude a storm was brewing. I got nervous, I was hoping that I could just get away with rain and not hail. As I climbed up above treeline, the black cloud got closer. A guy with poles passed me and I asked how he was doing. He said he was feeling good and he only had run from mile 25 with the poles. As the thunder clapped once, the hail came. I put on my arm warmers and zipped up my shirt. I was glad I had a hat on so the hail didn’t hurt as much.
A few people in front of me were not so lucky. Though they had ponchos to keep them warm. It was the longest 15-miles walking up to the switchback point of Mt. Sheridan. The last climb to 12,000 ft. I was happy when I got to turn around. But my right knee started to ache. I felt nervous since the next mile was completely downhill and muddy.
I did a slow jog down and finally the hail started to ease away. I got cold and frustrated. I hit another wall. I met up with a couple that I had previously passed on the downhill and they passed me on the uphill. We decided to cheer each other on and do the run-walk. It was their first 50-mile. They thought I was crazy to run at this high-altitude. Finally we saw the next aid station. I dropped off my camelback and ran into the port-a-potty. I was happy that I was finally peeing. The first 20 miles I didn’t stop to use the bathroom. I was on my third refill of water. I jumped out and the nice volunteer gave me a strong pat on the back, I almost fell over. I grabbed another PB&J sandwich and drank Herbalite. I knew these next miles would be brutal. I was an hour ahead of this cut-off. The group that I ran with said we could make a 12:30 finish. I said, hell no. I could barely jog. I was happy with just making the cut-off.
MILE 40-47: Fini (Time 4:53:46)
These were probably the hardest miles of my life. My knee started to act up and my attempt at jogging came to a walk. My quads were screaming. I had to resort to a speed walk and walk. The time that I had built up to a finish under the cut-off was dwindling. I knew that the 7 miles to the finish may take a lot longer than I wanted to plan. I was still wet from the hail storm and the sun was covered with clouds. I started to cry because I was so cold. I just wanted to be done. I was alone for about 45 minutes and a large group of runners came through. These were people I pass 15 miles earlier. They tried to reassure me that I was almost done. It was the loneliest 5 miles of my life. About 1.5 miles to the end, I saw my brother. I was angry. He caught my frustration on camera, though he didn’t put in the video. He asked about my knee since I was slightly limping. I told him the hail storm got me frustrated and I was cold. He wanted to accompany me but there were no pacers allowed on the course. He reassured me that I was almost there. I kept moving forward. There were so many turns that I thought I was closer. Then I saw civilization.
I was so happy. But I ended up going downhill and back uphill. I could hear the noise from the finish in the distance. Such a tease. I got angry again since it was almost 10 minutes to the cut-off. I wanted to make it under 14-hours and get that damn bracelet. Then I heard a voice, “Auntie Joshlynn! Run!” It was my niece. My brother had hiked up the hill to cheer me on. He got nervous that it was taking me so long. I asked if they ate dinner. He said no. I told him I felt so bad that the kids didn’t eat and my dad didn’t eat (they have to eat early). I ended up jogging to the finish, through the knee pain, frustration, being cold. I saw the downhill and felt happy.
I saw my parents at the end and started to tear up. I saw the clock and it read 13:54:12, the red carpet was such a perk. Then my name was announced and I was done. My brother got it on video!
FOR SERIOUS BUSINESS I GOT THE GOODS!
A total of 8,000 feet of climb and experiencing a hail storm.
Division DivPlace F20-29 15/16
Final Time 13:54:46.55
The male finisher came in at 6:54 and the female finisher came in at 8:26.
I’m not really ready to discuss more about this yet, that will be later. I’ll continue a post-race recap and how it took three days to walk normal again. It’s been one hell of a week to really understand that I FINISHED LEADVILLE! One more ultra for the books!