Wednesday, September 14, 2011


As I sit here I wonder, How can it be over? It went by way to fast! We started planning our trip to Leadville a year ago. At that time it seemed so far away but during the winter it kept me focused on what I had to work for.


The week before the race we were in Leadville camping in the San Isabel National Forest. I will say if you go to Leadville these campgrounds are outstanding! Lodge pole pines, quiet and Turquoise Lake. We stayed at the Father Dyer campground. There were a few others camping there as well doing the same as me, altitude acclimation! Most of the week was spent hanging out at the campground reading, napping and just being lazy. Although I did go out for a few easy runs by the lake. A few days before the race Brian, Scout and I all went for a run/walk to the dam and back. I ran ahead of Brian and Scout, while I was on my return trip I grabbed Scout from Brian to run back with me. Scout has become a bit slow and lazy these days, so she was slacking behind me. We were just finishing up our run and I looked back to see where she was, SPLAT! Next thing I know I was on the ground! Great! A scrubbed up hand and had a bloody knee, just what I needed. I figured I got my falling out of the way ahead of time. Brian returned and said really? Can't you go into a race without being injured in some way? Nope!

Two days before the race we were able to pick up my packet, get me weighed in and checked in. We thought we would beat the rush and do the early check in but so did many others! John another runner from Oklahoma that we got to know weighed in a few people ahead of me. After he weighed in he turned to me and said "I am not the biggest loser!" he gained 5 pounds!!! Then it was my turn to weigh in and I was nervous!! oh, I gained 3 pounds okay. After I was all checked in we hustled back to the campground where the atmosphere was much quieter.

The day before the race was spent packing drop boxes, making sure gear was in order, laying out my clothes, double checking everything, going over check point details with Brian and resting! This day went by very quickly! We had a mandatory race meeting to attend in the morning. We met up with friends Dana and another Paul who was also running. The meeting was crowded and hot! We were glad to get out of that building!! It was more of a pep rally than an informative meeting. As we exited the building I ran into a fellow runner I knew from Ohio! ROY! He was there pacing another runner from Ohio. We chatted briefly and went in separate directions. We headed back to the campground to meet up with Paul and Judy since they were staying with us. Evening approached quickly and I was wound up! As we went to town to drop off my drop boxes we also grabbed pizza for dinner. Dana and her friend Paul joined us as well along with a few others that were running! It was fun chatting with everyone. We all turned in early for the evening since we had to be up by 2:30 in the morning to get to the start line. Here it is the night before the race and a nasty thunderstorm moved in!! It stormed and poured until after midnight!


That night I don't think I slept for more than 5 minutes! All I did was lay there thinking about what was about to happen. I got up before my alarm and started getting ready, letting Brian sleep. OH MY!!!! Nerves and excitement were all bundled up inside me. I pinned my number on, made some breakfast and coffee! We all got in our cars and headed for the start line while I ate my breakfast on the way. I didn't say much just kind of sat there, anxious for the day to get started.

We got the start line and lots of people were milling around. You could certainly feel the excitement in the air! Last minute instructions were given from Paul, hugs, good lucks were said and one last kiss to Brian. They left me in the start corral, I was ready to do this! I took a deep breath as the countdown began 5-4-3-2-1 BANG! The shotgun went off and I was on my way!!! I took in the chatter around me and couldn't believe that people were outside their homes at 4 in the morning to party and watch us take off. The beginning is mostly downhill and you can easily get caught up with the crowd. I tried holding back but I was also scared that I wouldn't make the first cutoff. I knew this first section like the back of my hand. We drove certain sections of it and I ran the Turquoise Lake section almost everyday we were there before the race. In order to get to the lake there is a short, steep rocky section that everyone walks up. As I started climbing I took a second to look behind me and the scene was really cool! All I could see were lots of headlamps and I won't forget that sight!!! Once we crested the hill we crossed the road to run by the lake. It's mostly single file at this point and still quite dark. As the lake made turns ahead of me I could see headlamps twinkling in the darkness. Also, the fog was hanging just over the lake which made this feel as if I was dreaming! I was running along with my music trying to keep within my own world and not get caught up with everyone else. By the time I got to Mayqueen (my first check point) it was already daylight and the crowds and crews were in full swing! When I popped out of the woods I looked at my watch and knew I came in way too fast I was 20 minutes ahead of what I should have been! I started looking for my crew, luckily they found me. I saw Paul and he said get checked in, grab any food that looks good and check out. We'll talk then. I did that and dropped my headlamp and warm clothes. I told Paul, I know I came in way too fast! Yes you did, he told me to start walking while eating and walk the up hill that I had coming. Good thing was I knew this section as well! So I knew what was coming.


As I left Mayqueen Paul and I talked about what I needed to do for this section and he sent me on my way but Brian walked a bit with me. Bad thing, my hat and sunglasses were accidentally forgotten but I would have them by the time I got to Fish Hatchery. I really needed them but, dealt with the situation. This first section is on the Colorado trail which is all woods with most of it being uphill. This gave me time to eat what was in my hands and drink more. The crowds were thinning out but not lonely by any means! After a few miles we pop out onto Hagerman Pass, more uphill and then we made a sharp left turn to start climbing Sugarloaf Pass. This is nonstop climbing!!! Everyone walks this section but with tunes playing I just power hiked up. Before I knew it I was peering down from the top of the infamous power lines!!!! They were buzzing and snapping over head as I started the plunge down! Now, I felt like I was running downhill forever! My IT band started to let me know it didn't like this. What the heck?? My IT band never complains! So let's solve this issue right now!! I popped 800mg of Motrin and 20 mins later I felt much better. What I didn't realize was that once I got down from the power lines it felt like I had a long way to get to Fish Hatchery. Running, Walking I finally got there!! This was another area that I was overwhelmed by people!!! Luckily Judy spotted me and I was so happy to see her! Again, she said Paul and Brian were just up ahead. She took my backpack while I checked in, grabbed anything that looked good and Judy was waiting outside the building for me. We walked to where they had all my stuff. Paul instructed me that I'd be carrying handhelds instead of a backpack for the next section. While eating and getting more instructions from Paul, Judy was putting sunscreen on for me. And I got my hat and sunglasses which was really needed at this point! It was warming up!!! They sent me on my way with food in hand!


As I took off walking and eating my crew went back to their cars to get to tree line. I finished eating and started running again. As I did my crew drove by and gave me more positive words! Thanks!! Brian also passed by and we quickly exchanged positive words. Brian's an awesome support for me. I decided that I would run past three telephone poles and walk one. I kept this going until I ran out of telephone poles. I was also riding off the coat tails of a guy I had seen on my way into Fish Hatchery. He looked like a skinny santa and I called him that. We talked off and on most of the day. I would be near this guy from time to time all day long. So when santa ran, I ran to catch up! It worked for me and kept me focused. This section was the most boring section of the day! Probably because it was mainly roads with cars whizzing by. As I was coming into Tree Line this is not an aid station but a spot for crews to give support for their runners. Again, I was amazed coming in. It looked like just one long line of cars with crews on both sides of the trail or 2 track is a better term. Again, Paul and Judy found me when I came in. They had everything ready for me. My backpack was filled and ready to go. Only one problem, Brian filled it really full!!! It was heavy. I took off with it and more food in hand. Paul quickly walked a short distance with me giving me more instructions.


This was a long section, which involved even more walking. I don't remember too much of this. I know we were going around Mt. Elbert in order to get to Twin lakes. I would run a bit, power hike a bit. As we got closer to Twin Lakes I hung with a group of about 4-6 people. We all ran together and then power hiked together. I could see Twin Lakes down below but knew I still had a long way to go since I was still up really high which ment more downhill running! As I got closer I could hear people cheering which makes you move a little faster knowing it's right there!!! I also remembered Paul showing me how I would pop off the trail and into Twin Lakes. It was a short super steep rocky hill. I was careful to not come tumbling down head over heels since everyone was watching me!!! I didn't, I stayed upright!!! I got checked in and out. Paul and Judy found me right away along with Brian. I took a minute to sit and eat a hotdog. I really wanted it and got about half of it down. I was starting to let them know my stomach wasn't happy. I figured with eating and drinking at the aid station it would settle down and it was rather warm out. Now it was time for the big climb!! I was at the lowest elevation (9200 ft) point of the race headed for the highest point (12,600 ft) of the race. I began walking and Paul walked with me reminding me of a few things we had went over before. As we parted ways and he sent me on my way I said to him "I hope you are ready to pace me!" He said he couldn't wait. I left saying see you on the other side!


I left Twin Lakes in a positive upbeat mood. When you leave Twin Lakes you have a marshy grassy area to cross along with a river crossing before you really get into the major climbing. This gave me time to finish up eating. We had several small water crossings before the river. The water felt good it was cold and refreshed my legs. It was pretty much knee deep for me and the current was moving fairly quickly so they had a rope across the river to use. Coming out of the river it wasn't much farther until you were in the woods. When I got on the trail in the woods this is when the relentless climbing started! I knew it was going to be hard and just tried to keep moving. The more I climbed the more I felt like crap. Also, as I started my climb wouldn't you know it, my mp3 player decided it was time to quit! So I put it away and continued climbing. I don't remember how far I got before my stomach had had enough and the puking was in full swing!! I kept pushing on. The closer I got to the top the more I felt like I had been pummeled by a train! My quads were screaming and my legs felt heavy. I was trying everything I took more salt, kept drinking, food was becoming a total turn off. I tried taking a Gu knowing I need calories. Oops! Bad idea it came right back up! I kept thinking I don't remember this feeling that difficult when we did a training hike up here. It also felt as if it took forever to get to Hope Pass. Eventually, I came out to the meadow and saw the llamas grazing in the field. As I got there the aid station was in full swing tending to runners going in both directions now. There were people up there getting IV's and others just not feeling well. I felt like total crap at this point but tried to stay positive. I was able to get some chicken broth which seemed to stay down. As soon as I finished the broth I was on my way to finish climbing up Hope Pass. It was a slow go but, everyone around me was going just as slow. Once I crested the top of Hope Pass I was headed to Wynfield to see my crew and pick up Paul for the return journey.


After cresting Hope Pass you would think I could just bomb down the mountain but, there is one tricky problem. Now I was dealing with two way traffic! Runners going up and many of us still going down. I still felt like total crap but sucked it up and I will say the down went much faster than the up did!! As I was descending I was thinking of all the runners I had met during the Pikes Peak training and I had not seen any of them yet. I kept an eye out and then when I was about halfway down there they all were!!! It seemed like once I saw one I saw them all! They all looked good and they all gave me encouragement and telling me that Paul was waiting for me at the bottom. As I got closer to the bottom of the mountain I started calculating in my head after looking at my watch. Santa was near me and I expressed a bit of concern with the cutoff. His positive words were we are okay, we'll be fine. I just kept moving looking for the parking lot at the bottom. FINALLY!!! I reach the bottom and Brian is there waiting for me. I start crying and voicing that I don't know if I'm going to make the cutoff, all while I'm walking. Brian walks with me and tells me Paul and Judy are by the road waiting for me. I get to the road and Paul gives me a pep talk and also instructs me that I'm going to have to dig deep and run more if I'm going to make the cutoff. I also tell them I've been really sick and throwing up. They all leave me to get to Wynfield on my own since they can't be with me yet. I decide this is it!!! I gotta fight to make the cutoff! I'm NOT going to give in! So, I start running with each step getting me closer to Wynfield. I had no doubt in my head, I knew I would make the cutoff! Brian, Paul and Judy drive by encouraging me to keep it up! The dirt road to get to Wynfield is dusty and has cars and runners going in both directions. I will say it felt like it took forever to get to Wynfield and the closer I got the more encouragement I got from people. This was probably the most memorable and supportive section of the race I remember. I was getting close to the cutoff but still digging deep to make it!!! I remember being less than a half mile out and a guy sitting there saying Hun, if you're going to make the cutoff you've got to pick up the pace and run faster, it's going to be close but you can still make it! I remember seeing the check point and not really knowing where to go, there were so many people around! Finally Paul is there waiting for me and runs me thru the chute. I ran towards the check point tent and the lady in the tent said if she has what she needs get her out of here. SO, we ran thru and I was checked in and out with 8 minutes to spare!!!! I sat in a chair for just a bit and explaining the stomach problems with my crew. Suddenly Bill Moyer (who is from Michigan and knows me well) appears! He is one of the many volunteers for the race. He asks Paul how long I have been sitting there. Paul says just over a minute. He gets down to my level and starts in on me! I will never forget this: Get up and get moving!!!! Michigan runners don't quit!!! I get up and start moving again, everything hurts but I had no intentions of ever quitting. I knew I had a tough trek ahead of me going back up Hope Pass!


As I left Wynfield I had Paul with me now!!! Yeah company! But, I wasn't feeling up to talking much yet. On the way to begin my final climb up Hope Pass we did a shuffle/walk. Upon reaching the parking lot we saw Judy and Brian one last time before heading up Hope Pass. I eat a bit of rice pudding and we set off for the pass. The climb is arduous and slow! I would walk a bit and have to stop for a second to catch my breath. I think this is the hardest part of the entire race. The climb is steep! As we climb I also mention that I have the urge to purge! I am able to keep my stomach under control for a short bit but, it doesn't take long for things to start coming back up. I kept the forward motion going, but stopping from time to time. This all I really remember of this climb beside puking and Paul telling someone I drank too much the night before! Funny Paul, I can laugh about that now! It was getting dark while we were still climbing to the top. Paul was so patient with me and I'm very grateful! He did point out a mountain in back of us that the last of the sun of the day was shining on a peak. It was such a beautiful sight and a nice memory for me of the mountains. Before we reached the top we had headlamps on and it was dark. REALLY DARK!!! Cresting the top of Hope Pass and peering down at the aid station was a welcome sight! At this point I knew I was not going to make the cutoff into Twin Lakes. I'm still shocked I didn't get upset or cry. But, I'm glad I was able to discuss this with Paul and he made me feel better about it. As we came into Hope Aid Station I was able to get more chicken broth. As I sat in the tent one of the aid station women came over to me and gave me a pressure point massage. It felt great and she said it would settle my stomach. I don't know if it really did but the puking stopped. As I finished the soup I got back up and we started heading down to Twin Lakes.


As we left Hope Pass aid station I looked up at the stars! WOW! They were so incredible, I felt as if I could reach out and touch them! The further I went down the better I felt and the more chatty I got. We knew I wouldn't make the cutoff so we didn't hurry getting down since I was having a hard time staying on two feet. I must have fallen 20 times going down. As we came off the mountain we still had to cross the marshy area and river yet. With the chill in the air the river crossing was really cold now. As we continued across the marshy area we were surprised by running into Brian and Judy! They were very concerned about us and started walking the trail backwards. They heard a runner was down and it was a women. They couldn't get a number or a name and thought it could be me since I was late getting in. When we came across them in the darkness I said Brian is that you? and I got a Dusty is that you? from Judy. I said yes, she shined her flashlight towards us and saw us. She ran over and hugged me!!! They were so relieved to see I was okay. Of course we are! I said we knew we wouldn't make the cutoff and we took our time coming down. I guess I gave them a good scare. We all walked into Twin Lakes together. As Judy and Brian gathered our stuff, Paul and I checked into the aid station. They cut my wrist band off. It was over, I was done. I walked back to the car, tired but with my head held high. We got into our cars and headed back town.


Now that I've had some time to think about all of this, I'm still okay with it. Will I be back?? I think so. First I have to figure out why I get so sick while running at altitude. I have never had these issues while running at sea level. Actually, I've never had a puke fest like I did at both Leadville races this year.

One of the best things that happened the next morning while we were having breakfast together was Cara called to check on my progress. Brian told her I did not make the cutoff and asked her if she would like to talk to me. She said yes and the phone was handed to me. Her phone call almost made me cry right there. SHe said she was sorry to hear I didn't finish but the proudest moment was when she said she was proud of me for making it as far as I did! That choked me up, but I held it together and we chatted briefly about the race.

Words cannot express how grateful I am to have Paul and Judy crew, pace, be a wonderful friend, a shoulder to lean on or in Paul's case a friend who patiently waits while I'm puking and says it's okay. You both are the best!

AND then Brian. He is the biggest supporter I have. He is always there for me even when I'm feeling like total crap he can put a smile on my face. I'm so lucky to be married to him! What husband would say lets plan our vacation around a race and spend a whole day chasing me around? Together we have seen some of the most beautiful parts of the country that most people never see!

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