How to crush the Leadville 100 mile trail running race!
There are many ways to give’r both big and small. And ... when someone goes big it’s almost always freakin’ rad! Today, we want to introduce you to Give’r ambassador Veronica Gerhard aka V-ron!
She just did something that most of us probably don’t even dream of – run 100 miles in one fell swoop. No sleeping and stopping only to get more food and water and take care of nasty blisters, which showed up at mile 40.
On the morning of Sunday Aug. 20, she crossed the finish line of the Leadville 100 – a race with a long and storied history that takes place in the high-altitude mountains surrounding a small Colorado mining town. The race reaches an elevation of 12,508 feet above sea level, leaving athletes gasping for oxygen. And, it was made famous by the book Born To Run.
Back when The Leadville 100 was first started in the ‘80s it was mostly a rag-tag group of misfits that towed the start line. Now, it draws hundreds of hopeful competitors who enter a lottery each year to earn a coveted spot.
V-ron surprised herself last year when she suddenly realized she had scored one of those entries. That set in motion close to a year of intensive training, as she prepped her body to not only deal with long, seemingly endless trail miles, but also weather that would range from intense, searing heat to pelting hail.
This culminated at 4 am on Saturday, Aug. 19. The gun went off and so did the racers. They poured down the main boulevard in Leadville, encouraged onward by spectators who were dancing in costumes and blaring music. At this point V-ron felt excited. She ran the first 13 miles to aid station number one with a friend who was competing for the first time as well.
From there, she followed loopy, rolling terrain toward the crux of the race ... Hope Pass. Another friend had told her to “crush some calories” before heading up Hope Pass. “That made all the difference in the world,” she said. She was able to pass a lot of people, weather a hail storm and bomb down the other side. “That was definitely my favorite section,” she said.
On the back side of Hope Pass, she hit the 50 mile mark. This is where she turned around to retrace her steps all the way back to Leadville. This is also where she got to pick up a pacer – someone to run with her, keep her company and carry her gear.
By the time she hit the mile 69 aid station, V-ron hadn’t consumed enough calories and was struggling to eat. A friend brought her a hot chocolate and it was simply one of the best things she had ever tasted. She loved it so much she started dipping her bagel in it.
But she didn’t linger for long. She knew that getting to finish line hinged on whether or not she kept moving. “I can do this if I keep moving,” she kept telling herself.
She did keep moving, but it wasn’t easy, especially during those final 13 miles from the last aid station to the finish. At that point she was feeling a lot of pain and humility for the race – she was “a little stomped” to use her words.
She also got really emotional. She thought about how more than 20 friends – including several Give’r ambassadors – showed up to support her along with many family members from out of state. She couldn’t look at her dad or husband directly in the eyes as she ran past them because she knew that if she did, she would burst into tears.
During the last few mile push to the finish line her emotions continued to intensify and swing all over the place. Her husband appeared on a bike to let her know that everyone was waiting for her just over the hill. She almost had a panic attack. Then she thought, “I’m doing it. We’re doing it.”
A sense of “I” had been really strong for V-ron for the first half of the race. Somewhere in the pitch dark of night that transformed into sense of “we.”
“It wasn’t me. I was witnessing it,” she said. “It was almost an out of body thing.”
She did it with and because of friends and family; she did it for people she had lost in her life; and she prayed a bunch.
As she made her way to the finish, she saw her dad holding a really funny sign she had from high school with her name on it, along with a Bob Marley poster. “I felt home because I saw him,” she said.
And then another strange feeling came over her. She couldn’t quite comprehend that she was actually done. “Everything I had worked for over an entire year had suddenly stopped and was done,” she said. She’s still working on that part, but the future will definitely involve more time climbing with her husband, which got backburnered while she was training.
What did she learn from running The Leadville 100?
The co-founder of the race Ken Chlouber shares these words every year before the event begins: You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can. That has become a mantra of sorts for V-ron.
She’s also learned that it’s OK to fail. “That’s a lesson I might have learned even more if Leaville had gone a different way for me,” V-ron said. She witnessed several people who didn’t make it to the end and admires their courage for even trying.
“Learning that failure is OK in our society is huge, especially for women,” she said. “We’re so hard on ourselves. Were so good at holding our failures against us rather than learning from them and getting better.”
V-ron talked about her struggle with not getting in quite as much training as she had planned, including one long wilderness run that went awry. “I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough,” she said. Until she finally just decided to accept what is and go out and give’r.