Leadville Trail Marathon Race Report

James and Robert, what the weekend was all about
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Jansen
I've been waiting for the Leadville marathon for the past year. And really for the past 10 months it's been one of my goal races. So it was almost hard to believe it was finally the time to run. All the hard work and training I'd done was now about to be put to the test. I spent most of the week trying to tell myself not to put too much pressure on myself, that this was just a race, like all the other races I'd competed in. But let's be honest, this wasn't a race like all the others I'd competed. This race was for Rob.

Friday Dan and I loaded up and headed for Leadville. As we drove down 285 it was hard not to think about the fact that Rob really wasn't here to run it. I could almost hear him going over all the details of the race, our strategies, goals and most of all how many peanut butter balls it would take to fuel us for the race as we ran one last training run together.

We got to Leadville, grabbed some pizza from Mountain High Pies and headed to registration. The Jansen's were getting their bibs at the same time. Hugs, kisses and tears were all exchanged as we prepared for the race, both emotionally and physically.

Finally it was Saturday morning. My alarm went off at 5:15 so I could eat, pump, get the boy ready, get myself ready and get to the starting line. At 7:45 we made our way the two blocks to the starting line. As we approached 6th I heard the announcer talking about Rob, the great race he ran the year before and everyone that was running for him this year. I choked back the tears knowing I had to focus on the task at hand. Tears could come when I crossed the finish line, but no sooner. I had 26.2 miles and 3 climbs ahead of me...there was no time to cry. Dan and I lined up near the front, knowing we needed to get a good spot before the trail bottlenecked. As the national anthem played I took a deep breath, thought about what lay ahead of me and reminded myself to take it easy. Slow and steady up the climbs, then bomb the down hills. Before I knew it the gun went off and we were on our way toward Ball Mountain.

I made it to the dirt road in just over 6 minutes, a bit faster than I had anticipated. I kept a steady climb and was feeling good as we approached aid station A for the first time. About a mile from the aid station I looked at my watch and thought I was way ahead of where I should be so I backed off a bit and took it pretty easy. Of course when I got to aid A I was behind where I wanted to be. I got into A at 48:04, 46:00 was my goal time. I topped off my water and headed for Ball. Looking back I now realize I didn't push myself nearly enough on this section. I didn't know the course and I'm used to 50s so I held back more here than I really should have. Funny to think that this was my 13th marathon, but first trail one and first marathon in over 2 years. I got back to A, now 5 minutes behind my goal time, and knew I was behind, but also knew I had a couple miles down before the climb up Mosquito so I had to stay conservative. As I left A the volunteers said I was in 4th, I thought I was in 7th or 8th, but I also knew it was early. My plan was to make my move on the downhill. Just hold your position I thought as I headed to Mosquito.

Mosquito was actually one of the highlights for me, even though it took 10 minutes longer than I had hoped. I know this sounds strange. But we merged with the half marathoners and got to see the lead marathoners coming down. At aid station B I grabbed some gu brew, topped off my water and headed for the mountain. Near the bottom I came up on Shelagh, Bill and Susan. It was great to see them and their cheers pushed me up faster. It seemed like I kept coming upon one Rob runner after another. I tried to cheer on each person I saw in a Rob shirt, whether I knew them or not. It motivated me more!

And then I began to realize I hadn't seen the lead women yet. I couldn't be that far behind. I kept counting, okay well if I haven't seen them yet I'm within 2 miles, a mile and a half, a mile. It was around this point I also saw Bill, Peggy, Elizabeth, Sarah, Jason, and Adele. Seeing each one of them pushed me uphill even faster. Half a mile from the top I saw two women coming down, but I knew there was one I hadn't seen. Had she dropped, did I miss her? Didn't matter, push on. I topped out on Mosquito and there was Susan. We hugged and then she pushed me back on down the mountain.

Here was where I knew I had to go, and really my times for the last sections were just about right where I had planned. This is my strong area so I had to push it. I kept one eye on the trail and the other on all the people still coming up. It was a bit like a ping pong game, darting around all the runners heading up and bouncing from rock to rock. I saw David nearing the top, high 5ed Ben just behind him and gave a kiss to Dan who was just behind Ben. I heard Dan yell at me that I was in 4th and it was time to GO! I continued pushing it downhill. I passed Elizabeth, Sarah, Peggy, Bill, Susan, Shelagne and Bill again as I continued down. Their endless words of encouragement were a huge help. I refueled at B and then took off back toward Ball.

I was a bit nervous about this section. I knew it was a grinder. A gradual uphill to Ball, where I'd have a good climb before finally making my way back into Leadville. I took it nice and easy, trying to maintain a steady pace. About a mile and a half from B I saw one of the girls ahead of me, she was walking backward up a small incline. I knew immediately she was hurting, but that voice in the back of my head was creeping up telling me to stay behind her until a downhill, that I couldn't hold 3rd on an up. But I kept running. I channeled my Rob legs even more, I looked to the darkening skies that thankfully had kept the temperatures relatively low, and I told Rob I would win this climb for him! So I pushed it, steady, up that hill, passing the girl and moving into 3rd. I nervously kept one eye looking over my shoulder to see where she was. In my head she was right there, ready to pass me at any moment, so I kept charging. I hit aid A for the 3rd time and realized I couldn't see her anymore. But she was probably just around the corner. I grabbed a gu, some coke and topped off my water bottle and headed for Ball.

The climb back around Ball wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I actually should have ran harder here, but I knew I just needed to hold my position.I cruised back into A, grabbed another cup of coke and asked if I was in 3rd. I knew I had the big downhill and if I was really only in 4th this was where I had to take 3rd. They all said no I'm pretty sure 2nd. Did the one girl drop? How was I in 2nd? No time to worry about it, just go. I lost another 2 minutes on this section and was ready to make it up.

At this point I was pretty sure I would make the podium, but that wasn't going to keep me from hammering the last 4 miles. I pushed it like crazy down that hill. The only person to pass me in the back half caught me here, which was a bit disappointing, but if I only got passed by one person that was pretty darn good. Before he passed me we did manage a short discussion on the beer selection at the finish and were not impressed with the change from Dales to Michelob ultra, aka flavored water. Before I knew it I crossed the small strip of asphalt Dan had pointed out to me the night before. Okay you're almost there, now time to really turn it on. My last 2 miles were at a 7 min pace, which I was pretty pleased with. I also ran this last section in basically 30 min flat, I had anticipated 32 minutes, so this was the best section of the day! Crazy how I've turned into an ultra runner and manage to get faster throughout a marathon. If I can manage to get my pace dialed in for trail marathons I think I can be fairly sucessful at this distance.

I finally hit the asphalt and knew I would be turning onto 6th shortly. I breathed a sigh of relief, I knew at this point I was going to do it, I was going to make that podium I had been dreaming about for a year. Rob said he wanted the podium, he thought he could do it, well here it was...Rob's podium. I charged down the street toward the finish line, the red carpet coming into view. As I crossed the finish line I heard the announcer saying I was the third female. I did it! I made the podium for Rob and I knew he was smiling down at me.

Peggy was standing there cheering as I crossed the finish line and wrapped me in a huge hug. We just stood there crying and hugging, the tears I had held back all day could finally be unleashed. And then Haley handed me James and my tears for Rob turned into tears for James. Peggy and I relishing the moment of the past, the future and the present. Now it was time to celebrate! Everyone was hugging and cheering and it was a pretty special time. Something I'll never forget.

This race wasn't perfect, not by any means. Sure I took 3rd, but my time was slower than I had really hoped for. But not having a perfect race means you have a learning opportunity. I definitely learned a lot from this race. I learned that my well of running reserves is a hell of a lot deeper than I thought. That I need to not be afraid to push myself, I started to slow and should have pushed the initial ups faster. I also learned that knowing the course is a huge advantage. You know where you can push, where to hold back, what's coming up. This is something I'll have to work on. While I've seen the 100 course, I still have a lot to learn. Good thing is it looks like I'll have an opportunity for a double crossing of Hope pretty soon.

While I have a lot to learn there are some things I did well. I managed my nutrition well at altitude, even though I had a few twinges of stomach pains, I handled it well so it wasn't constant. I passed a girl on an uphill and held that position, something I've definitely struggled with in the past. And I didn't run myself into the ground in the first half. In road marthons I usually push too hard at the beginning and have really struggled during miles 18-22. This time I may have had a bit too much left in the tank at the end, but with a 100 coming up that's way better than destroying myself in the first 10 miles.

My goals were to run a 4:40 and take top 3 for women. I ran a 4:57:59 and took 3rd. So I didn't make my time goal, but I did still take top 3 so overall a solid performance.

This is Leadville, this is what it is all about. Challenge yourself, push yourself, and never, ever, ever give up! And if you do...you just might surprise yourself with your results!

Dan PRing by 50 minutes!

James loves staring at the pretty ladies!

Momma love!

James and Peggy

First in my age group
I got my gold pan!

Elizabeth getting ready to make a run for it with James!

Week June 24 - 30

Miles Running: 50.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 10


  1. OMG, you are amazing. I totally teared up at the end when you crossed the finish line. Congrats!


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