|Photo by Brandon Fuller. I look happy... it's a lie!
My favorite quote from the movie A Knight's Tale.
That was pretty much the line repeating itself in my head on the drive home this evening. Today was pretty much without a doubt one of the toughest races I have ever ran in my life, ever. From the word go it was hard and it never got easier. My finishing time was 5:38:53. Not what I was shooting for today... not by a long shot.
The course was rerouted due to snow around Ball Mountain. It felt a lot tougher than in past years. But to be honest I just checked the Garmin data and the vertical gain between the standard course and this years course is damned near identical. So what gives? If I had to guess it is the nature of the gain instead of the gain itself. A couple places I swear were 20% grade. Stupid steep!
Last years marathon was like a dream. Yes it was tough, the Leadville Marathon I believe is probably the toughest Marathon around. I'd put it against Pikes any day but this is just my personal opinion. But last year it was fun in spots. I know I definitely ran more (again the nature of the course) and I laughed and goofed off. Yeah, there was none of that shit today. Back to the nature of the course, it just felt more like a hiking course than a running course... even some of the downhills proved troublesome for me today. I believe though that even given my rough day, if the course were on the standard course I probably would have run last years time. That means something to me.
But I will not put it all on the course. I can't do that. Me... well, if I had to sum it up, I would say that I was prepared but I definitely was not ready. That little switch never clicked this week where I was pumped and excited and raring to go. I wouldn't say that I was "flat" at the start but the idea of the day was definitely daunting. Any confidence, optimism, ambition, and positivity was all self-generated this week by me. None of just came to me naturally through the rest/preparation phase of the past week.
The low points or challenges of the day... My HR was maxed from the go and I had to go with it. To slow down anymore would have reduced me to a crawl. There was a nasty (for me descent) that was about 1.25 miles long starting at mile 5 which sort of slowed me down. I am slow on downhills... Cautious. I did laugh at folks bombing down it as I don't think they realized there were so many other drops to smoke their quads on later in the race. I also knew that particular drop which would be a climb in the inbound would be a total bitch. And it was. Mosquito Pass... it wasn't bad going up except I think they make it longer every year. Coming down once in the really runnable parts it was super muddy and slippery. More self-preservation skills kicked in here. Overall, some days you have it and some days you don't. That's the nature of racing pure and simple and I have to say today was a day I didn't have it. I think the nature of the course lended itself a lot more to hiking than running for me today.
But there were cool things too. Ken Chlouber was at the top of Mosquito Pass and he gave me props for being a Leadman and fist bumped me. It does my heart good to see him out there knowing that he not only loves it but also cares for each and every athlete out there. Paul Doyle was out there and getting to check in with him around miles 10 and 16 and getting my fresh fuel bottles from him helped a lot. But I guess the greatest thing thing about me for the day is that as tough as it was, I ran smart and I never let up, ever. God knows I wanted to so many times. As I told JT at the top of Mosquito Pass, "The tach has been pegged all morning." That never changed despite the output. I know I did my best and that is regardless of outcome. And even though I may be disappointed, I can sleep well knowing that. It was also cool to leave Leadville after dinner with Paul and be home in Aspen in just an hour and half. That in and of itself, being home with Melissa and Asia is beyond priceless.
I got through today unscathed, unbloodied and intact. Things could have been different. Yet more reasons to celebrate.
Four weeks now until the 50 MTB race. That will be my next focus and I will have to put today out of my mind, or just make peace with it and move on. Leadman is nine weeks long this year. It is a war of attrition. One race, hell, even two that don't go stellar are not show stoppers for someone like me who is mid-pack'ish. I have a feeling that I can make up the time lost today, and then some, in four weeks if all goes well.