I have learned a few lessons the hard way but also the best way from Leadville. I got the smack down there a bit and seem to be coming away with a few things:
-I went out way to fast for the level of 'speed' I had implemented in my running during the last 3 months leading up to Leadville. Basically, I didn't run with any kind of speed at all during or after my foot issue. Going out with a fair bit of speed (even if it felt casual at the time) for the first 20 miles was probably opposite of what I should have done. A super, super easy pace (even painfully slow pace...) should have been my mantra for much of the first half of the run to match what my body was capable of for that day. At the very least it would have warmed me up much more appropriately. Hard lesson but a real good one that I hope gets ingrained for next time.
-I may have been able to continue in the race with the very marginal opportunity to make the next cut off and eek out a finish with a miraculous second wind but a curious thing happened at Leadville. Instead of going for broke and potentially ending up in a med tent like a lot of other runners I read about, I instead decided to pull the plug and allow myself an easier recovery to get out there and run other things sooner than later. My decision to not 'go for it' seems to be a direct opposite of the racer mentality to go for broke and rely on the people and aid stations to help 'get you to the finish' that I witnessed at Leadville. I am so use to running in the middle of no where with no help from the outside that I am usually very conservative with 'pushing it.' Thus, I didn't feel it was a good idea to continue at the end with the odds stacked so much against me. I took the safe way out I think. Although, it was funny that I had the total racers mentality at the beginning of the race (something I'm not used to) and went out fast and crashed and burned but then in the end reverted more to my wilderness running mentality and played it super safe. Interesting...
-For the most part my food intake was good. I had very little stomach issues. The only thing that I would tweak for the future would be little things like a bit more solid foods earlier on while hiking in sections. I didn't expect to be walking so much and so slow so early in the race so I didn't think about adjusting my eating to that fact too. Good lesson to learn that I should be a bit more in tune with adjusting my food intake with what is going on out on the course. Be a bit more flexible.
-I should try not to allow my ego to run my race. I felt like I should finish in the top 100 or in about 24-25 hours (a very reasonable goal I thought at the time) and I went for it right from the beginning to push that result. Instead I could have been a bit more realistic about where I was at with my fitness at the time and been thinking more about just getting to the finish line instead. If I was able to pick it up later in the race to get in a faster time then great but I think that my ego was ahead of what I was actually able to do in the race.
Now...hopefully the lessons will be learned for next time I do something long like this. I realize that I wasn't in a position to recognize any of this before the race. Obviously, I needed to run Leadville (my first organized 100 mile race) so that the lessons could be learned and I could improve. Also, I know that there will be other surprise lessons to be learned on other 100 milers I try in the future. But, I most definitely hope that I will ingrain these current lessons so, at the very least, I don't keep repeating the same mistakes.
...here's to learning the hard lessons!
On the getting psyched for future runs front...I have already been scheming with friends to do a bit of running in the Grand Canyon to get on the Tonto a bit more to get it wired. I am thinking that if I can get a bit more comfortable with the trickier sections of it I could go for a full Tonto Trail push sometime in the near future.
I was just up at the canyon a couple days ago getting permits to hike the Hermit Trail with Susan, her brother and some friends this coming weekend and was again in immediate and complete love with running there as I became mesmerized, scanning the fantastic landscape from one of the lookouts. It only takes one look for me to bring back all the romantic memories and sensations of running in that magical place. I am in love with running in the Grand Canyon for sure.
What a wonderful feeling to have after such a tough time at Leadville too. I remembered while looking down into the canyon, why I run. It's to be in places like the Grand Canyon. To loose myself in there, totally and completely connected with it in one of the most intimate and primitive ways possible; moving quickly and thoughtfully with the bare essentials to survive while ingesting some of the most fantastic and wild scenery on the planet. This kind of running isn't just to go out for a run, it is to live life with rich intensity...to get primal. Seriously, good stuff!
So, looking ahead. I would like to get back to why I love running and get some goals going...
Maybe Tonto Trail next spring if it seems to be the thing to do... there are a few other big runs in the canyon to do still too. I would love to look into ticking off some big chunks of the AZ Trail. I would love someday to try a fast push of the whole AZ Trail but not sure if my life will ever afford the kind of time it would take to do it. Lots of other desert runs to consider this winter too. Gotta keep exploring. Damn, I love running and where it allows me to go. I feel very lucky.
Racing wise... I don't know if I will enter any races next year or not. I will have to think more on that one. Decide if it's worth all the $ commitment and such. I really am more attracted to the adventure running but you never know...Leadville was a pretty amazing experience.
To finish up the post, here is an awesome video of the UTMB from this year that I found at GZ's blog. Wow.
If the video doesn't work go here http://youtu.be/TFWDUsvLCoE