Well, the ultra endeavors continue! This time with my first 50 miler in Leadville, Colorado. This race is an out and back that starts at about 10,000 ft elevation and climbs to 12,000 ft four times over the 50 miles. I signed up for this race in preparation for the Leadville 100 in a little over a month. The race started at 6:00 AM, pretty much daybreak. The forecast called for rain and storms starting by 11AM, so I definitely packed my raincoat! The course was beautiful, yet challenging. I struggled a little bit with left knee pain starting around mile four. My IT band, quad, and hamstring on my left leg were quite tight, which was causing the achy pain at the knee.
I was able to get icy hot on the whole hip area, knee, and hamstring at mile 17 or so which decreased the pain, though I did have to periodically stop to stretch my hamstring on the downhill (from mile 17 through 25). After the half-way point it was a long stretch of climbing which seemed to be a little better on the knee. Overall, I wouldn’t say the pain limited me a lot since it wasn’t sharp pain. However, as my muscles became tighter it definitely transitioned to feeling like a dead leg which made running a little less comfortable, but who feels comfortable during a 50 miler!
I made it to mile 35, for the most part staying ahead of the storms that were passing through the area (other people got hailed on, whereas I only got lightly rained on). After the aid station there was a 3 mile climb back up to 12,000 ft for the last time during the race. At this point I was not even trying to run the hills, but survive them! After getting passed by probably over twenty people (not a strong ultra-hiker) I made it to the top and was able to cruise the last 10 miles of downhill to the finish. At this point my knee felt probably at its best and I was able to make up a lot of time and have a strong finish. Thankfully the course was a little short, about 47.5 miles, I was definitely ready to be done! I finished in 10 hours 2 minutes, 10th female overall and 3rd in my age group.
Overall, this race was a great experience, testing my physical abilities and mental strength. I was able to run a strong time for my first 50 miler and build confidence for my 100 miler coming up! I definitely couldn’t have done another 50 to top off the 100, but gained knowledge on what my body does at elevation, how running the hills can save time, but take away from your energy storage, and gained continued experience and knowledge on how to properly maintain hydration and nutrition. I am definitely going to have a good taper to try to shake this IT band/hamstring/quad issue and feel more fresh at the 100. I will be spending some quality time with my foam roller!