Race Recaps: Leadville Marathon and Pikes Peak Double

This summer has seriously flown by.  It’s been over two months since the Leadville Marathon and I’m just now getting around to writing a recap.  What’s more, quite a bit has transpired in those two months, including that race, some smaller races, a DNS, an ankle sprain, and the intimidating Pikes Peak Double.  Here’s a recap of the past couple of months, with a bit more detail about the Leadville Marathon and Pikes Peak Double, for those that are interested.

Leadville Marathon – 6/20/15

I originally signed up for the Leadville Marathon because it suited my training schedule nicely with regards to distance, elevation gain and difficulty.  As such, I went into the race with a modest mentality; in other words, I continually told myself that it was a training race and that I didn’t need to go balls out.

What’s more, that same weekend was Pete and my one year wedding anniversary.  It’s for that reason that we splurged and got an adorable cabin just a few miles from Leadville for the weekend.

View from our cabin in Leadville

View from our cabin in Leadville

After mingling with friends before the race, I found myself quietly ascending the first few miles, trying extremely hard to hold myself back.  There was a moment around the second mile that I watched a friend effortlessly run ahead, and it was all that I could  muster to mold myself back.  The race profile boasts over 6,000′ of elevation gain, all over 10,200′, from Leadville to Mosquito Pass (13,185′) and back.

Leadville Trail Marathon Course Profile

Leadville Trail Marathon Course Profile

I decided the night before that I’d mentally prepare myself by splitting the race into sections of ascents and descents.  This actually made the race go by quite quickly, and before I knew it I was starting the grueling ascent up to Mosquito Pass.

Mosquito Pass, nice face, Amanda

Mosquito Pass

Getting up Mosquito Pass was tough, not necessarily because of the ascent, but simply because you could see the turnaround point at the top with a very long line of ant-like runners on their way up along an extremely thin trail with a steep drop on one side.  Each time I looked up to the top during that climb, I felt like my progress was minuscule.  It was quite a mind game.

After the turnaround, I managed a solid pace until around mile 18.  Miles 18 through 20 were quite possibly some of the hardest miles I’ve ever endured.  They were all uphill, in a seemingly windless “canyon” with little to no reprieve from the sun.  I felt like I was on a death march through a desert.  I ran out of water.  I slowed down to what felt like a shuffle.  When I reached mile 20 and the aid station, it was like angels were singing.  As I refueled and guzzled pop, I blurted out “that was gross.”  It’s funny how some running experiences are so difficult to articulate, and yet others are so easy to sum up in a couple of words, “I think I just lost a couple of years off my life.”  After several other runners concurred, I plodded on.

5:45:54, 24th Female, 10th in AG

5:45:54, 24th Female, 10th in AG

The remaining 6 miles were relatively uneventful, and I was happy to reach pavement around mile 25 and run across the red carpet finish line in good spirits and strong legs.  For a “training race,” I was happy with my performance and finish.

Miles for Melanoma 5K – 6/28/15

The following weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to run a 5K.  It was a smaller race in Stapleton, and I talked my friend John into running it with me.  I ended up winning, but the course was short due to some unorganized course marshals.

Miles for Melanoma 5K

Miles for Melanoma 5K

I was lucky enough to have a couple of weekends in Breck and get some training “runs” in on Mt. Quandary.

Mountain Goats!

Mountain Goats!

Mt. Quandary Summit 14,265'

Mt. Quandary Summit 14,265′

XC Clash – Cherry Creek 5K – 7/22/15

I took part in a Wednesday night race at Cherry Creek State Park called the Cross Country Clash.  It was small, but actually attracted some fasties!

3rd Female in 22:25

3rd Female in 22:25

DNS (Did Not Start)

Next up on the race schedule was the Speedgoat 50K.  Unfortunately, I had opted not to race this a couple of weeks before, simply due to not feeling ready for it.  The Speedgoat 50K is not a race to treat lightly; it boasts almost 12,000′ of elevation gain over 31 miles.  I decided instead of taking part in a race that I felt both my body, head – and heart, were not ready for, would be silly.  Instead, Pete and I surprised his dad with a visit to Prescott for the weekend.

Prescott, AZ

Prescott, AZ

Chase the Moon – 7/31/15

The weekend after Prescott, I spontaneously decided it would be a great idea to jump into the 12-hour night race dubbed Chase the Moon.  Starting at 7pm and ending at 7am, taking place on an 11-mile lapped course in the Backcountry of Highlands Ranch, I showed up knowing I’d only do a few laps and just have fun.

Amy, Christine and me @ Chase the Moon

Love these ladies! Amy, Christine and me @ Chase the Moon

The day after Chase the Moon, I thought I’d get in another hefty trail run to prepare for the back-to-back days of the Pikes Peak Double.  I headed to Green Mountain in Lakewood for a couple of laps.

Stop and smell the wildflowers on Green Mountain

Stop and smell the wildflowers on Green Mountain…

But don't roll you rankle while dodging rattlesnakes.

…but don’t roll your ankle while dodging rattlesnakes.

CO > PA > NJ > NY > MN > CO

The following weekend saw a whirlwind of travel, starting with a business trip and ending up in Minny for Kristin’s bridal shower and bachelorette.



Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon 

The next weekend was the Pikes Peak Double.  Now, I’m not a huge fan of tapering (who is?!), but my ankle sprain from a few weekends prior had really forced me to “taper” before the race(s).  I had seriously only run a few times in a two week span and was rather nervous heading to Manitou Springs.

Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon Course

Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon Course

Pikes Peak Ascent (13.3 miles, 7,815′ elevation gain) – 8/15/15

I was seeded in a later wave due to my Pikes Peak Marathon qualifying time from 2013.  Knowing I could run faster than the wave I was in, I bolted from the start line to try and get ahead of many runners and avoid the inevitable conga line up the mountain.

Case in point: my first mile split was 8:

Case in point: my first mile split was 8:43

To be honest, the rest of the race was rather uneventful.  As I expected, I got stuck behind quite a few long lines of ascenders and was a little disappointed with my time.  I’m positive I could have pulled off a sub 4-hour ascent, but due to the quantity of people on that mountain, I decided being a decent person (as in not trying to pass everyone on sketchy trails when we’re all going to the same end point) and simply being patient would bode well for the marathon the next day.  Official finish time was 4:18.

After the ascent, Pete and I had breakfast (okay, I ate two breakfasts), and headed back to our hotel to shower and relax.  We went out to Olive Garden that night (related: I LOVE OLIVE GARDEN. Judge me, it’s fine.), and then watched a movie at the hotel before getting to bed early.

Pikes Peak Marathon (26.2 miles, 7,815′ elevation gain and loss) – 8/16/15

I didn’t know what to expect for the marathon.  I was nervous.  I had a few niggles (my right hip flexor was very sore, my left calf tight and my hamstrings were sore too), but overall felt ready to tackle the beast that is Pikes Peak again.

Pikes Peak Marathon Course with popular markings

Pikes Peak Marathon Course with popular markings and elevation

The marathon has half as many participants as the ascent, due to the fact that everyone in the marathon must go down as well.  It’s for this reason (I’m going to hypothesize), that my ascent time during the marathon was only two minutes slower than the day before.  I felt great during the ascent, and hit the summit at 4 hours, 20 minutes.

The descent was what I was worried about; the descent portion of the race in 2013 was my epic downfall.  I hadn’t done any descent training and ended up trashing my quads within the first couple of miles.  “Not again!” was my mantra from the beginning of training.  I had done enough “bombings” down Quandary and Mt. Sanitas that I was confident I could hold up.

I began to descend slowly, and within the first few miles started to feel sick and mentally drained.  I believe this is where all the racing and mental strain caught up to me.  I had a really bad patch between miles 16 and 19.  People were passing me, I felt like I was shuffling down so slowly, and I felt nauseous.  Worst of all, I just wanted to be done, which is the worst feeling of all, because it trumps all other facets that can affect a race.

It was at mile 19 when I had a little heart-to-heart with myself.  Here’s how it went:

Amanda, seriously, what are you doing?  You have seven miles left of this thing and you’re done.  DONE.  Suck it up, grow a pair, and just fly down this mountain like you know you can do.  If you pick it up now, you will not only finisher sooner, but you could possibly finish under seven hours.  GO.

So that’s what I did, I said screw how I felt, screw my legs, screw my lungs, just run.  Run fast.  And I did.

Final stretch of the Pikes Peak Marathon, photo by Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Final stretch of the Pikes Peak Marathon, photo by Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

I crossed the finish line in 6:58:36, good enough for 6th in my AG.  It was official, I was a D-D-D-Doubler!!!! PPA Time: 4:17:48 Doubler Time: 11:16:24.  

Pikes Peak Marathon Strava data

Pikes Peak Marathon Strava data

We headed home pretty quickly after the race, as I had a business trip to New Jersey the next day.  And while I have quite a bit more business travel left in 2015, my final race of the season will be the Bear Chase 50K on September 26th.  I’ve had a nice week of recovery from Pikes and will start ramping up training again this weekend.  The plan is to do a bunch of shorter, speed-focused sessions in with a couple of longer runs on the course itself (Bear Creek Lake Park).  That, and not roll my ankle again :).