I was nervous about how this race would go. I’ve been at altitude for over a week now, but am only 1 week post Speedgoat...32 miles with 11,500 feet of climbing...and descending. I was actually surprised at how good my legs were feeling within a few days. Tuesday, I summited Mt Elbert, adding another 4500ft of climbing in 4.5 miles.
Climbing and summiting Mt. Elbert, at 14,500ft solo was a deeply personal experience. I don’t even know if I could put it into words. I honestly don’t even want to, it was just me and the mountain.
So, on to La Maratona. Good friends Aaron and Katie were there dark and early to see me off. The race was supposed to start at 6am 7/26, but there was a delay, so we didn't actually get started until around 6:40 or so. At speedgoat I had been conservative on the climbs...they were hard, and at some points painful, but I know there were climbing sections I could have run...maybe, but chose to hike. I am learning to find a moderate climbing effort. I am still a little shy on the long climbs, not completely trusting my ability/or knowing where my ability lay. So today, the goal was to treat each climb as an individual race. 3 climbs, 3 separate races. Get to the top of the climbs as quickly as I could, taking every opportunity to run, giving those climbs a less shy effort, and recover, if I needed to going down. I just wasn’t sure what my legs were up for today. I was afraid they would tire quickly and not do well climbing...or descending. I was afraid I would end up walking the whole damn thing after 10 miles, I was afraid of blowing up. Basically, I was afraid of the unknown. I didn’t know what would happen. I also wasn’t feeling “all in” on this race at the start like I did with Speedgoat, which made me more nervous...would i have the desire to work a little harder over the duration?
We finally got started, we ran out of the Copper Mt village straight onto single track trail zig zagging up the now grassy ski slopes. It would be a 6 mi climb to Copper Mt summit. The switchbacks were relatively runnable for me. I trusted a little harder effort, and backed off when I felt like I was straining. Initially, my calves were burning quite a bit, and legs felt fatigued, but that seemed to ease once we hit a dirt road section of the climb. There were aid stations every 2-3 miles on the course. I skipped the first one at 2.5 miles and continued up. I wore my Salomon S lab race vest with a 17oz soft water bottle in the front with a product called Tailwind, a sport/eletrolyte drink. I had been sipping on that for calories/water initially. Hit the next aid station at 4 miles and refilled my now empty sport drink with water and grabbed a couple of gels for the next hour or so. At about 5.5 miles, the jeep road ended and we were back on single track steeper trail up to the summit. We crossed a rock field and a small snowy section to reach the summit at 12,400ft. My breathing wasn’t as difficult as usual at that elevation. I could tell even just 7-10 days at elevation had made a sig difference. I was also thrilled not to have the usual nausea and mild headache that typically appears. So far this year, I have tolerated and adapted to altitude better.
Time to take off down the summit! The rock field required a little slower motion, but this section was short. I felt good going down and ran well, although going down I could feel some quad soreness and a little IT soreness after a couple of miles of descending. I Hit the aid station and on to the next section, which was up just a bit then a little flat. I noticed some orange flags next to a trail sign, “fat marmot trail”. I got tickled at the title and totally missed the fact that I was supposed to turn. Went straight for another 1/4mi and realized there were no longer any orange flags. I went back and forth for about 10 minutes before realizing my mistake and heading back to “fat marmot trail” and turning. At this point there was no one around me. I started to wonder if I was on the right track. On this course there were 10 aid stations and one of them we would hit 4 different times, this was not a simple out and back course. I followed the trail back up to the aid station before the second summit of Copper Mt. I checked my distance with the aid station, they confirmed I was on target distance wise and I headed off up to the summit. I still wasn’t sure though. This was a difficult time for me. My legs were tired and I knew I had lost about 10 minutes going past the flags...then with no other runners in sight, I was fairly convinced I had just completely jacked up the course. I decided I would check my distance against the aid station again at the summit and as I went to see if by mileage I was still on track. I realized I was distracted and not giving the race the effort I had intended. At that point I brought myself back to the race and kinda flipped a switch and got back after it. One really cool thing was seeing Stevie Kremer, female World Skyrunning Champion run! We criss-crossed paths several times on the course and it was very motivating to see her blaze past smiling and being able to encourage her and hearing her encourage me. She finished in an amazing time of 4:10..CRAZY!
Second summit down and back down, through the aid station grabbing a couple of gels and water. Tummy still doing well and even able to crave/tolerate a small stack of pringles. I was getting close to 200 cal/hr and 17-20oz water/hr. I was swelling though. I tend to have trouble with this during races. I had no trouble with this at Speedgoat, but hands were getting fat and tight today. The race would not be long enough for me to need to be concerned though and I was not feeling ill. This second descent felt pretty good, quads still mildly tender and IT bands a little tender toward end. Came through the aid station on the final climb and up I went. This was dirt road. I alternated hiking/running as I could and really tried to push effort a little knowing it was the last climb. I started seeing more runners here and had a sense of being chased, so I determined I would let loose more on the descent as it was going to be almost all downhill from there to the finish. This descent was a little more uncomfortable with quad tenderness and IT band soreness picking up a bit. I knew the soreness was temporary though, and mild enough that I was not doing any harm trying to be more aggressive on this last downhill stretch.
I finished with mixed emotions about the race. I am now quite confident I missed a section of the course. Most runners finished with distances of 28-29 miles and my watch only showed almost 26. I sent my data to the race director, who reviewed my data and replied that she thinks it’s right, but I’m pretty sure I missed some of the downhill segment after the first climb. I am pleased with my effort, I’d sure like to get better at climbing!! It’s a little frustrating..I see so many girls climbing waaay better than I, but at the same time, I see myself climbing better as well with each race. I love this type of racing and running. I feel like I have lots of room for improvement, which makes it fun. I know all things considered, I am doing well out there with these races. I’m not seeing the times I’d like yet, but I’m recovering very fast from them and hungry for the next and learning learning learning