The 2008 Leadville Trail Marathon was better than expected. I traveled to Leadville a week before the marathon to acclimatize. This was my first true marathon at elevation (I had done a few btw 4000ft & 6000ft). This marathon started at over 10,000ft and topped out at over 13,000ft so I was a little apprehensive of how my body might react to the elevation. I did some hiking the week before the race which may have helped or hindered - not sure. My goal was to finish under the 8.5hr cutoff.
Race started well. I expected the uphill, but I didn't expect the climb around a peak at 12,000ft the first 6 miles then a drop to 11,000ft at mile 10 before ascending the last 3.1 miles to Mosquito Pass at 13,188ft for the turn-around. I took plenty of walking breaks as you can imagine. The final 3 miles to the halfway point turned essentially into a hike/struggle. The trip down wasn't much easier because of the grade and loose rock and talus. I wrapped both ankles for added support. The aid stations were well stocked. They resembled an ultramarathon aid station rather than a marathon aid station which is understandable given the difficulty of the race. The trip from mile 17 to the finish was a mix of walking and running. The last half mile or so was on the road as for me that was the toughest part of the race. I saw the finish line and tried to pick up the pace because I wanted to break 6hrs. I made it about 200yds with the faster pace and had to stop to catch my breath. That was honestly the first time my whole trip I felt the impact of the elevation.
I did break the 6hr barrier by a few seconds and limped back to my car and tried to make a few phone calls to tell family I made it, but my voice was gone because of sucking wind at altitude.