by featured Local Legend Adam Kimble
There I was, running a short shakeout in Silverthorne, Colorado, just four days before the start of the Leadville Trail 100 race. It was just a 6-mile run, but right away I was feeling the effects of being at 10,000 feet of elevation. I didn’t feel awful, but things certainly didn’t feel easy, either. Even living at over 6,000 feet in Lake Tahoe, I notice a vast difference when I get up above 10k for long periods of time. I dismissed those thoughts of uncertainty and began repeating what would become my mantra for the weekend: “control what you can control.” This would play a big role throughout my race and keep my mental state strong, even when my physical state wasn’t cooperating.
When the race began on Saturday morning, the energy was electric. I was back for redemption after starting the race in 2019 but dropping at the halfway point because of fatigue from the Vermont 100-mile race I had run four weeks earlier. Even though it was two years prior, in that moment it felt like I had just been there in downtown Leadville days earlier. It’s funny how a certain atmosphere can place you right back in a moment, regardless of how long ago it may have been. Looking around the start line just before the gun went off at 4am, I felt the simultaneous excitement and nerves of what lie ahead. I was there to close the loop on a journey I had begun two years earlier, but I was also there to do what I love with the people I love supporting me along the way!
Early on, I was having some stomach issues and everything I ate was causing me stomach pain and discomfort. At the same time, I just wasn’t feeling strong and energized. I didn’t feel absolutely awful, but it seemed far too early to not be feeling near 100%. Thankfully I’ve been running ultras for several years now, and I know that occasionally you get to a race and don’t feel the way you had hoped to feel. It’s part of the process! Some days you feel amazing, some days you feel terrible, and for me on this day, I just felt “okay.” So rather than dwell on what wasn’t working well, I instead shifted my focus to my mantra: “control what you can control.” I wasn’t feeling great, but I could still keep putting one foot in front of the other, take care of my nutrition, and hydrate a bunch to make sure my body felt better later on in the race. How I felt physically didn’t change my need to handle all of those things, so I kept at it.
By using that simple technique, I was able to re-frame my situation and preserve my race. Oftentimes we as humans have the tendency to start dwelling on the negatives of a situation until they spin us out of control, or in this instance, out of the race. I was returning to Leadville for redemption, and I couldn’t leave that place until I crossed the finish line! So, I slowly moved up throughout the day. I hit the 38-mile mark (Twin Lakes) in 26th place, the halfway point (Winfield) in 21st place, the 77-mile mark (Outward Bound) in 13th place, and then caught 6 more runners between there and the finish to cross in 7th overall with a finishing time of 19 hours, 38 minutes, and 22 seconds. I always love to “hunt” late in races and catch other runners, and I’m so grateful my body allowed me to do that after such a challenging start to the day.
After crossing the finish line, I reminisced with my crew about all of the adventures of the day, and how fun it was to surge hard and run fast towards the end of the race. I’ll never forget the feeling of coming into the final aid station (May Queen) at Mile 87 and hearing my team erupt into applause after they heard me call out “Bib #456!” as I ran into the aid station. The crew complimented me on keeping a positive attitude and persevering even when things weren’t going well, and I thanked them for doing the same thing! They kept me going and gave me what I needed, even when (as my crew chief Josh put it) “it seemed like you were going to stop at every porta potty on the course!” Thankfully, my stomach and my mental state improved, and I finished in the Top-10 of one of the most competitive 100-mile races on the planet.
So many things are outside of our control in this world, and it can be hard to not try to fix all of them. In doing so, we can spend a lot of energy and time on things we have no influence over. In my experience, I find it most effective to take life’s obstacles in stride, maintain a positive attitude and do your best to “control what you can control.” The rest will take care of itself!