This article originally appeared on the Leadville Race Series blog:
There’s a first time for everything, including taking on the legendary Leadville Trail Marathon & Heavy Half – and we’ve been there. We asked members of the Leadville Race Series/Life Time team, and past finishers of this race, to share their words of wisdom as you head to the start line.
Kimo Seymour, President, Athlinks:
- Train running downhill – Note to self, for every foot of elevation gain, there is a foot of elevation loss. Running uphill hurts the legs and lungs, but running downhill crushes the quads. Remember to train running downhill…a lot!
- Eat – This marathon or half marathon will take much longer than your normal time for the distance, so teach yourself how to eat while running. You’ll need calories, and knowing what your body can metabolize while pushing yourself at altitude will pay dividends late in the race.
- Pace yourself – The start going straight uphill on 6th Street will do it for you, if you think you’re going to win in the first mile. Be mentally prepared to start at an incredibly slow pace…and probably not speed up very much.
- Enjoy the view – You are going to be running among some of the country’s most gorgeous landscape, so don’t forget to look up from the view five feet in front of you, and enjoy the journey.
- Thank every volunteer – There will be hundreds of volunteers who give up their day to help you achieve your goal of finishing. What makes them happiest is hearing that you appreciate them. Super simple.
- Smile – When you hit the lowest point of your experience, and think you can’t go any further, smile to yourself or someone around you, and laugh at yourself for actually tacking this crazy event. I promise it will lift your spirits, even if only for a moment, and help you go a little further.
- Do not quit… ‘cause we ain’t comin’ to get you! I’m kidding, but seriously, you’ll have highs and lows throughout the race. Enjoy the highs, and persevere through the lows. When you feel your lowest, trust that you’ll feel better shortly, and just keep moving!
Good luck to all of you. I’ll be halfway up Mosquito Pass cheering for you!
Abbie Yarger, Web Manager:
- While you’re training do just as much aggressive hiking as running, if not more. You have to accept the fact that you probably won’t be running for quite a bit of the race. The uphills are killer, so incline training is key! Just remember to pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
- Stop at all of the aid stations. Yes, all of them (unless your time goal really doesn’t allow for it). You’re burning crazy calories, so it’s a good idea to fuel up when you can. Plus the volunteers are so dang pleasant. Oh, and refill your water bottles! Speaking of…
- Make sure you carry some water with you. Leadville is high AND dry, so you need to keep hydrated throughout the race.
- Be prepared for the weather. The start/finish can be relatively warm, but when that brutal wind hits you up on Mosquito Pass, you may need a light layer. My fingers were so cold I could barely take a quick photo with my phone at the top before heading back down.
- Look up every once in a while and enjoy the incredible scenery around you along this challenging, but beautiful course. For the Heavy Half, 15+ miles is no joke, but you can do it! Just remember you have plenty of time with the marathoners out there.
- Talk to people. So many racers have done this event before and have great words of encouragement. Plus, it’ll take your mind off the climb for a while.
- It’s not all downhill from Mosquito. There’s a little bit of elevation gain left to go, so be prepared to engage those climbing legs again before you finish.
- Compression is your friend. Bring some socks or sleeves to rock before, during or after the race. It’ll help with any potential swelling, and you can bust out some loud colors if that’s your thing.
- Eat after you cross the line. You may not feel like it right away, but remember to grab some food at the finish festival or one of the places in town. My appetite took a while to catch up with me, but I’m not ashamed to admit I ate an entire gluten-free pizza from High Mountain Pies after the race.
Julie Elsen Seymour, Director of Apparel:
- Pace yourself when the run goes off. You are starting on an uphill climb at 10,000 feet above sea level. Start slow, gain speed and pick off all the runners that sprint as the gun goes off.
- Save some energy so you can finish strong down the pavement. In the end when you can hear the finish line, and you know you are on the descent leading you to completion, be aware that you still have a few miles (not sure if it’s two or three) to completion. The distance is deceiving – you can hear the finish line and think you know how far you are to the finish, but it is much farther than you are expecting. Many end up walking down the pavement.
Megan Timmons, National Corporate Partnership Marketing:
- Don’t forget the high-SPF sunscreen! I opted for running shorts vs. leggings at the last minute and forgot to put sunscreen on my legs. After a winter of whiteness and then a long race at Leadville elevation next to reflective snowbanks on the highest points, my legs ended up tomato red and painful.
- Bring the right hydration gear. My good-intentioned husband bought me a hydration pack the night before the race, after I had forgotten my other pack at home. It was called “The 14er,” meaning it was meant for very long treks where aid stations weren’t abundant. I thought it was a bit much, but one participant confirmed my fear when asked me if I was carrying Thanksgiving dinner in my pack. So: hydration pack, yes. Turkey-sized hydration pack, no.
- Believe the hype — you really are “stronger than you think are and can do more than you think you can.” Ken’s rallying cry is legit and it is an amazing mantra as you make the final ascent up Mosquito Pass. It meant even more when we made it to the top and Ken himself was at the summit.