Veronica Gerhard is the Denver sales rep for health bar maker Health Warrior Superfoods (aka “Denver Road Warrior”). When she’s not slinging bars, she’s often trail running in the mountains above the city. This summer she took on one of the toughest ultra-runs out there, the legendary “race through the sky”—the Leadville Trail 100 mile run. 100 miles at 9,000+ feet of elevation. Most people who start, don’t finish. But Veronica did. Here’s what was going through her mind from start to finish.
Starting Line – I was nervous. I went to the bathroom. I said a prayer. I tied (and re-tied) my shoes. I went to the bathroom again. I high-fived my friend who ran the race as well and got one last hug from my husband and dad.
Mile 3 – Half an hour in it hit me: I realized that I am actually running the LT100. This amazing foot race that I wanted to be a part of since I first witnessed it two years before.
Mile 5 – I ate my first 100 calories… a Health Warrior Açai Berry Chia Bar which is the first of ~8000 total calories I consumed over the course of the race.
Mile 8 – I began to start to think about how hot I was. I sweat a lot while running. I dreamt of wearing my shorts vs. my leggings.
Mile 13 – First Aid Station – I just ran a half marathon and thought about how I was 7/8 of the way done. I changed out of my leggings and into the shorts that I have been thinking about for 5 miles. I ditched my headlamp and was grateful for the sun’s presence.
Mile 15 – This section is on the Colorado Trail, which is pretty cool.
Mile 17 – My first downhill! This is the part of distance running I enjoy most. I cruised down this section with a smile on my face. It was rutted out from the bike race being on this same section the week before, so I was cautious with my footing, but speedy!
Mile 20 – I saw the valley that the Arkansas headwaters form. I drank in the sunshine on my skin and took a big breath of mountain air. This was a moment of gratitude for the fact that I am able to “be here now” and being grateful for my body’s ability to train and participate in this event.
Mile 24 – Outward Bound Aid Station – This was the first time that I saw people cheering me on. Which was so welcome! I was in and out of the aid station in 5 minutes. My Health Warrior Superfoods colleague and friend, Brad, is a great time keeper and made sure I got in and out of the aid station fast.
Mile 26.2 – First marathon… of almost three more during this race.
Mile 28 – The last three miles were mostly on the road… and I was longing for trail again.
Mile 31 – Half Pipe Aid Station
Mile 34 – I was thinking about my foot. My plantar fasciitis acted up some. I thought about the following quote, “’Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone. ~Ken Chlouber, Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100 mile race.
Mile 35 – I started running with with tunes blaring through my buds at this point. Thank you for the great playlist additions from our Health Warrior Ambassadors and team!
Mile 36 – The day started to get hot. When I’m running in the heat, I tend to crave a specific junk food: salt and vinegar kettle cooked potato chips and a cold ginger ale. Probably due to a loss of salt.
Mile 38 – I was feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. This is about where I saw the majority of my friends and family that came out to cheer me on, but I felt like I needed to hurry by and not get side tracked. I knew the next 20 miles would be the hardest of the race.
Mile 39.5 – Twin Lakes Aid Station – This is the lowest point of the race at 9,200ft. I knew in 5.5 miles I would climb to the highest point of the race, Hope Pass, at 12,600ft.
Mile 42 – Food dream: Coconut Bliss Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (I’m a vegan runner, so I have very specific food dreams!)
Mile 44.5 – Hope Aid Station – This aid station is only accessible via trail. All the equipment is hauled in via llama. The llamas actually hang out near a lake at this aid station. I’ll admit, I definitely wished I was riding a llama up Hope Pass instead of hiking it.
Mile 50 – Winfield Aid Station – I applied my last of six sunscreen applications for the day.
Mile 52 – I knew that I couldn’t have stomached it at the last aid station, but I dreamt of a giant burrito bowl with tons of guacamole and hot sauce. Instead, I ate my sixth of ten energy gels.
Mile 55 – I stood on top of Hope Pass with another Health Warrior colleague and friend, Johnny. This is the point I was standing two years ago with Johnny, when I realized that I wanted to be a part of this race. I was there to work the race expo for Health Warrior Superfoods.
Mile 55.5 – Hope Aid Station – I decided I didn’t need to kidnap a llama to finish the race and instead let my mind wander to the cost/benefit analysis of me owning a llama in the future.
Mile 57 – My hips ached. This is a steep downhill that requires focus. Instead of tuning out, I’ll had to make friends with pain… again.
Mile 59 – I once again felt overwhelmed. This is about where I again saw the majority of my friends and family that came out to cheer me on. I accepted many hugs and high-fives. Thank you!
Mile 60.5 – Twin Lakes Aid Station – I was so, so, so happy to change my shoes and socks. I had been wearing my same pairs for all 60.5 miles and through two deep river crossings. I knew keeping my feet happy the rest of the race was critical. I also ate some of my secret weapon: roasted sweet potatoes with turmeric, sea salt, pepper and a little olive oil.
Mile 63 – They say this is the point where the race actually begins.
Mile 65 – There is a really cool switchback here where you instantly switch from running through Aspens to pine trees. While training on course, this was a really cool observation. I made a mental note that this point on trail would be my marker. I knew if I could make it to this point then I could finish. I told this to my current pacer Casey, another Health Warrior friend and colleague, and he pushed me through the end of his pacing section.
Mile 66 – Around the time my headlamp came back out.
Mile 69 – Half Pipe Aid Station – At this point, no matter how the race is going, everyone is hurting. I focused on the Leadville 3-word mantra “grit, guts, determination.” I’ll ate my 6th banana of the race.
Mile 72 – Even the thought of food started to make me queezy. As Born to Run author, Christopher McDougall, says, “Ultra-marathons are eating and drinking contests with a little exercise and scenery thrown in”. In order to keep feeling good, I will need easy simple calories. Maple syrup and energy gels on the run were key. Miso soup, hot tea and rice were my simple food at aid stations.
Mile 73 – “Feeling great!”
Mile 74 – “This was a mistake. Why am I running this? What was I thinking?”
Mile 75 – Felt great again. What a rollercoaster of emotions you experience while running an ultra.
Mile 76 – Outward Bound Aid Station – Refilled my water bottle with Tailwind Endurance drink for the 8th time. (I love that stuff). I also downed some caffeine in the form of hot tea. Around this point I had been awake for almost 24 hours.
Mile 79 – I was so, so, so happy that I had my trekking poles. Some races don’t allow them. I am so happy that Leadville does. This is the beginning of the last uphill hike on the infamous “powerline” of the race.
Mile 82 – My pacer Kyler witnessed me cry and laugh and want to give up and feel great within a 6 mile span. No matter what, she told me that “I need to keep moving” as that is most important at this point.
Mile 84 – The temperature is now nearly 50 degrees cooler than the middle of the day, dipping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mile 86.5 – Mayfield Aid Station
Mile 89 – My brother, Kelly, ran with me. No doubt he fueled some of my hallucinations and made up stories to go along with whatever delusions I had. There isn’t anyone I would rather have had finish this race beside.
Mile 92 – I hurt all over and just wanted the thing to be over. I thought of literally nothing except getting my legs to continue moving.
Mile 96 – I could here the ruckus in town from other finishers! My pace quickened as my competitive edge started to kick in for one last push.
Mile 97 – I tried to say something to my brother while he encouraged me. It probably came out in a muffled, mumbo-jumbo of words that made no sense. I think he pretended like it made sense and smiled.
Mile 98 – I prayed to God to thank him for this experience and recited Philippians 4:13.
Mile 99 – As many people as you like can pace you during the last mile of the race. A crew started to form of at least ten. I started crying.
Mile 100 – Done! I ended the race like I started it: a hug from my husband and my father. Then, it was time for a chair and a change of clothes.