In 2019, I set out to complete my first 100 miler, the Leadville Trail 100 Run. Although I really would have preferred finishing the race, I’ve learned and grown so much from experiencing the defeat of that DNF (Did Not Finish). To quote Rev Run coach Ewen North “It’s how you pick yourself up after defeat or adversity that gives you character and resolve and what drives you towards future success.”
Exactly one month from today, I’ll be back at that same start line. And I know that my experience in 2019 and life the last two years has made me a stronger person today than I was back then.
The following are 10 lessons I learned from the 2019 Leadville Trail 100, all of which I carry into others of my life.
- Be courageous. Signing up and training for the Leadville 100 was one of the scariest things I have ever done, and in doing so, it made me a more courageous person in other aspects of life. That big meeting for work doesn’t seem so daunting compared to facing 100 miles of extreme terrain.
- When overwhelmed, take it one step at a time. I had a 7-month training plan for Leadville. Looking at the plan in its entirety was overwhelming. I resolved to take my training one week at a time, and when needed, one day at a time.
- Believe in yourself. When training for my first ultra marathon (2018 Silver Rush 50 miler), a friend called me out for saying “if I finish”. Leading up to the Leadville 100, I determined not to say those words, let alone think those words. The mind is a powerful thing.
- We aren’t meant to go through life alone. I am one of those people who hates asking for help. My tendency is to try to do it all on my own. Yet, in Leadville, it was my pacers, crew and friends that made all the difference. Their support encouraged and re-energized me, and made the experience brighter and more meaningful.
- Trail therapy. Nature is not rushed; nature reminds me to slow down. Time on the trail provides a much needed digital detox and disconnect from the fast pace of life.
- Enjoy the journey; don’t stress about the outcome. Wise words from my sister the night before the Leadville 100. A reminder to be present and soak in all the moments along the way.
- Dig deep. At the athlete briefing in Leadville, Cole Chlouber shared, “Inside us all is an inexhaustible well of grit, guts, and determination.” The Leadville course forced me to dig deep into that well in order to keep going. And, when I face moments in life when it seems I have nothing left to give, I remember the depths of that well.
- Be grateful. At Leadville, my race came to an end when I missed the cutoff at Twin Lakes, ~62 miles in. What weighed most heavily on my heart in the moments and days after was an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Although my race didn’t go as planned, I gave it my all, surrounded by the love and support of family and friends, and that is really all that matters in the end.
- Always do your best. This isn’t about striving for perfection. It’s about simply striving to do my best each day, and acknowledging that my best is going to vary from day to day depending on what life throws my way. During the race, I struggled with GI issues that started early in the race. I pushed myself through levels of pain I have never experienced before to get as far as I did. There is no doubt in my mind that I did the very best I could on race day. And that makes the DNF easier to swallow.
- Character is more important than performance. My training partner successfully finished the race. I ran the final mile to the finish with her. It was just as I imagined that final mile of the race, her and I running side by side…except, the reality was that my race was over and I would not be getting a medal when we reached the finish line. It was a humbling and character building experience. And it reminded me that who I am as a person is more important than any results I may achieve.