Sunday, July 17, 2016

Turning the Leadville

In the wake of Western States, I really struggled to turn the page. This was for two reasons. First, I know I was/am capable of sub-24 hours on that course. So it hurt to come up short, especially when I consider it could have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Second, it's just downright traumatic to endure what I endured at the Devil's Thumb, Michigan Bluff and Foresthill aid stations. To have gotten that much needed medical attention at those three key aid stations just sucks.

Without going into too many details, in the past few weeks I have been doing everything I could (and can) to "figure out" my nutritional struggles in 100-milers. I truly want to crack this code. I am convinced that I am doing something wrong, versus me just being the victim of a "bad" raceday stomach. I have been practicing with different products on the run and trying to get my gut used to running with calories coming in. Bottom line: I need to consume about 180-200 calories every hour. One product I really like so far is Fuel 100 Bites. They're salty, easy to get down (with water) and not at all sweet. Larabars are good, too. I'm also liking Ultragen for recovery after workouts.

After Western States, I said no more 100s. And for about a week that feeling didn't change. But, just as you'd expect, Leadville started to enter my mind...and heart. So about two weeks ago, I decided to go back and run for another big buckle. With my recovery from Western States going pretty well, I think I can give Leadville a pretty good go.

The thing about Leadville is that it's all emotional to me. When I think about Leadville, I get these images of my son, when he was 2 or 3, running into the aid stations with me. Those kinds of images stay with you, making a race very special. He's grown up on that course. For his birthday a few months ago, we told him we could go anywhere for the weekend to celebrate...and he chose Leadville. So we got a cabin outside of town that weekend and just hung out in the high county. He loves Leadville. It's obvious the area and race mean a great deal to him (and me).

The other thing about Leadville is that it has this incredible vibe. Leadville is an economically struggling town with the most beautiful mountains all around. It's beautifully imperfect, if that makes any sense--just as we are ALL beautifully imperfect creatures. The energy around the 100-mile run is addictive. The race perfectly captures who I am deep down. It has its faults, just as any race has its faults, but it's still an amazing experience. It's Leadville!

Plus, I started thinking about how I'd feel on race morning, waking up in Parker and knowing I just DNS'd my favorite 100-miler. Didn't feel good about that.

Then I started thinking about the course itself. I know every inch of the course and what's in front of me. It's an amazing course and I know what I need to do to get a good result out of the day. For me, it all comes down to getting through the 21-mile Hope Pass section without any debilitating stomach distress. I will have my trekking poles with me on Hope.

Finally, I started thinking about what I might be able to do if I could make some progress on my nutritional woes. With good fitness coming off Western States--assuming I recovered well (which I am doing)--could I potentially go sub-24 at Leadville once again? The answer to that question was, of course, yes.

All that being said, it's been hard turning the page on Western States. I felt slow during Western slow that I wondered if I'd "lost it." But then a few days ago I went out and ran 5000 meters in 18:14, feeling good the whole way as I clicked off three consecutive 5:50something miles and held pace for that last tenth of a mile. Coming off that 5K, I realized I still have decent speed but I need to work on it. So I've been on the track, doing threshold work, and hitting the trails for some limited mileage, trying to sharpen the blade for Leadville.

The support I've gotten in the wake of Western States has meant a great deal to me. Thanks to everyone for their kind words. I agree with you: It's about finishing, especially when you're having a tough day. Enduring the tough days is what makes you a better person and runner.