On the Trail: The toughest woman I know
August 19, 2008
LEADVILLE, Colo. ” For the third year in a row, my favorite race was one in which I didn’t compete.
On Saturday, I paced my friend Kristin Malone from mile 50 to 60 in the Leadville Trail 100 race.
If you’re a Leadville trail runner (which I was until three months ago) you can pretty much count on a midsummer phone call asking you to run from the Fish Hatchery to May Queen, starting at 2 a.m.
I’ve always said yes. It’s mostly because I’m convinced that I get almost as much inspiration out of the race by pacing it as I do by running it ” but I don’t actually have to train. A pacer’s only jobs are to be more lucid than the person next to her and keep ahead of aid station cut-offs.
My section didn’t begin well. I suggested the wrong route out of the weigh-in tent ” then proceeded to ask her 100 questions while climbing the 12,600-foot Hope Pass. When I realized that forcing conversation was a bad idea, I began a four-hour monologue.
Since Kristin kept wondering why the pass felt harder the second time (the race is an out-and-back), I helpfully tried to remind her that she’d already run 53 miles and things were only going to get worse.
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A mile or so from the top, her stomach felt funny. I promised her she could get some Coca-Cola at the Hope Pass aid station.
Turns out they don’t have Coke at the top.
At the bottom, Kristin sailed through the mud flats seamlessly ” I fell on my face.
And we were seven minutes closer to the cut-off time than she’d been at the last aid station.
After showering, I met Kristin and her next pacer, Carrie, at Treeline. By then, Kristin was feeling even worse. She’d lost another seven minutes, felt sick, and it was after midnight, 35 degrees and raining. She had 30 miles to go.
While she took off over yet another mountain, Carrie and I worried about whether we’d made her run fast enough. To get an official finish, runners have to complete the course in less than 30 hours.
At 7 a.m. we called her fiance, Todd, to see if she was still in the race. She’d just made cut-off at the last aid station, he said.
She finished just 21 minutes ahead of cut-off, after running 29 hours and 39 minutes.
For context, the finish rate for first-time runners in the race is about 30 percent. And this year was particularly brutal, with low temperatures, hail, snow and rain.
Carrie said she thought having friends and family to help had made the difference.
Maybe. But right now, I’m going to chalk her up as the toughest woman I know.