Leadville is something I wanted since hearing about a friend of mine tackling it on the bike. I knew I’d never have the ability to do it on two wheels, but I thought for sure I could on two legs. Why not try? I am a big believer in just jumping in with two feet and figuring out the rest later. So I threw my name in the lotto and our little group from McKinney got picked! I screamed when I got the notice of our acceptance. Five Fabulous Flat Landers were in! Hard part done, right? Wrong. Training. Ah yes, training. Anyone who knows me knows I like to do thing unconventionally and ‘wing things’. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
I was coming off a freak accident and so going into training I was already behind the eight ball but Jill Price picked me up and encouraged me. She got me thru a lot of dark moments. A lot. Injury messes not just with your body but it messes with your head and your heart. I trained the way I thought was best for me and I was ready! The 50 miler out there in July (just a little training run) kicked my butt with altitude. Between the altitude and coming across my dear friend Jozef who had fallen bad during the run and helping him get to the medic, that race was a DNF for me. But again Jill picked me up. She had just kicked that mountain’s booty and here she was lifting me up. She never talked about her finish or her time but instead made sure I was taken care of. Wow! That is a moment I will never forget.
For the 100, I went out early with my family to enjoy the beauty of Colorado and get used to the altitude. Best. Family. Trip. Ever!! I honestly never felt the effects of altitude this trip. I felt so incredibly strong. I felt so excited. I was itching to go and start race day. I don’t know if the McKinney crew slept a wink the night before. I kept going thru my drop bags and making sure I had everything. Leadville was a lot different than any race I had done before. It had massive weather swings, a river crossing (up to your knees), climbs, and a whole bunch of gear you needed for the various terrain you would be on. I must have packed and repacked a zillion times.
Finally, it was 4:00 am race morning and we meet on the starting line, give big hugs, and off into the dark we go. The first few miles are nice because they are actually on road and you get space pretty easy. A few miles into the race, it was clear all of us were all going the same pace so we fell into step with each other even though Jill and I wanted to go it independently. We had decided this to not have any pressure but to go at our own speeds. A 100 miler is a long way to go. We both feared holding each other back at places. In the ultra, if you feel good, you have to go because you know a bad stretch will be coming. If we stayed with each other, we risked a lot so we agreed to see each other at the finish line. I guess our speeds were all the same that first stretch. We talked and joked and came into the first aid station at the exact same time. I still remember seeing all our crew and their faces seeing us together. It was amazing!
Going into the next stretches there were some tough climbs. People talk of hills out here in Texas and that is what the are: hills. We were climbing mountains! And mind you we started at 10,000 feet and climbed from there. I hiked the heck out of the ups and was feeling invincible. But…the downs. Oh, the downs! That was another story. I got injured (again) two weeks prior to the race. It wasn’t over training. It was pushing a wheel-chair at our first race for Team Hoyt Texas. My chair wasn’t true and I tweaked my hip counteracting the veer those few small miles. I am a very spiritual person and I couldn’t believe that God would have that in the plans for me. No! That couldn’t be His plan. Get injured while helping push a child with special needs in a race?? No! But it was true. I was injured. I couldn’t run any of the downs. The pain was crazy. I kept going because eventually it flattened out or a climb came. The course was beautiful! Stunning! I felt alive and free. I saw Jessica often and we would leap frog during the race.
Fast forward to Hope Pass-the dreaded and feared climb of the race. I had grabbed my ipod before the climb from my amazing family that was at every single aid station with cheers and food and up I went. I smiled knowing next time I would see them, the hardest stretch of the race would be behind me. Game on. I felt so strong! Then, I rolled the side of my foot. It hurt. Crap. Darn it! This wasn’t my plan. I kept going but every so often had to sit down. Each time I sat, a little bit of my confidence slipped away. The higher we got the more quiet everyone was. It became a march: right foot, left foot, keep going, keep going. I did. I made it to the top of Hope Pass!! Now 5 miles to fly down the back side, pick up my sweet friend Kate who would pace me back up and over, and on to that finish line where my beautiful belt buckle awaited me.
Nope. Not so fast Sadie. I started to run down and stopped literally in my tracks. The pain was unreal. My hip and my foot screamed at me. No! No! I fought. I tried. I fell in step behind a heavy set man who was so kind and asked me if I wanted to pass. I couldn’t. Tears started and I willed them away. I was not going to give up! We walked slowly down one behind the other. I kept looking at my watch. Time seemed to be flying away. Each time I glanced, another 20 minutes vanished. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I kept trying and kept trying to stay positive. I was averaging 20 minutes a mile DOWN hill!?!?! How is that even possible?
About 2 miles from the turn around I saw sweet Jill. She had a big smile and gave me a huge hug. I stood there and cried. She put two and two together and knew I wouldn’t make the cut off time. She willed me on. She wanted me to finish so bad. I have never felt friendship and true genuine support like that in all my life. I also knew time was against me and I couldn’t. I wished her the best and started back down blindly as the tears poured down my face. The reality of the day set in and my confidence poured out in those tears.
I was met at the 50 mile timing mat with a human barricade. The lady in charge hugged me and told me to be proud. I cried. She told me to keep my bib but she would have to cut my bracelet and take the timing chip off my bib. I then turned to see sweet Kate waiting and I sobbed how sorry I was. ‘Why are you sorry?’ she asked. ‘Because you gave your whole day for me and I failed’. She told me she had a great day cheering, sitting in the sunshine, and no time was wasted. She made me smile and laugh and picked me up. Again, what a gift of friendship I had.
Cell service was impossible to get and it took almost an hour for us to get close enough back to town in her car for her to reach my Ryan. She told him that she was bringing me home. My kids are not young. They are 12 and 14 but they were waiting for me on the porch like when they were young. Ryan flew out the door and all three hugged me. Tears were shed all around and I told them I was so sorry. I didn’t want my kids to ever think I quit. We have a family motto “Briggs Don’t Quit”. They told me my name would never be associated with that and I inspire them. My family celebrated me. They loved me. They made me see that when all the other things fall away family is ALWAYS there. I felt so lucky.
I was beat and sore and slept fitfully. I would get up and refresh my phone to see how my teammates were doing. I whooped and cheered each time they came across another timing mat. I was so proud of them but it was also very hard for me. I cried a lot. I was truly depressed for a long time after that race. It was me who wanted to enter the lotto this year and I was the only one not to finish. I had played that race out a million times in my head leading up to race day and never did it play out without me finishing. Without me having that buckle. That was hard. Very hard. It made me question so much. I questioned myself as an athlete. I am a two time Ironman. I am a 6 time Boston marathon runner. I am a Rocky Raccoon 100 miler finisher. And now, I am a Leadville DNF statistic. It shook me up pretty bad.
However, the more time that passes, the more I realized how much it taught me. It taught me that I am loved. It taught me that I am a fighter even though I didn’t achieve that finish line crossing. It taught me that goals are so important to have but they aren’t what is really truly important. I’d trade a belt buckle or PR any day for the love I received at this race. I saw I am loved for me: Sadie. Not because of times I put up or goals I accomplish. I am much more than that.
I am still looking for the exact reason why I got injured that Team Hoyt Texas race and why I didn’t get the belt buckle but I will find it. I will. As my good friend Phoebe said, maybe He was saving me from a disaster that was going to strike out at mile 75 or something much worse than a DNF. You never know but I know there must be a reason. Until then, I have a date with a finish line in Leadville. I’m hoping to have that date very soon. This time Jill and her amazing husband Larry will be at my side as pacers. I will have my family back as crew. I can’t think of a more perfect team to have. I am blessed.
Oh, one more thing. The day after the race we were packing up to come home. I swear to you I was alone the moment I walked over to the garbage and threw my bib away. I swear it. But when we got home that night and I was getting ready to go to bed, there was a package on my pillow. It was from my daughter Keeley and this is what it was:
She saved it and brought it home for me. You bet I hung it up with pride.