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Conquering the LT100 Trail Run

Positivity prevails: How Erin Laplander’s upbeat attitude kept her light on her feet through a race in the clouds

It’s been a little over a month since we first sat down with Erin Laplander on the eve of her first LT100 Trail Run. Now that the dust has settled, the lactic acid has dissipated and tunnel vision has vanished, we’re excited to finally catch up and get a race recap. What was going through Erin’s head? Does she have any advice for other first timers? Will she do it again? Join us as we find out. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself on the starting line at Leadville next year.

First of all, congratulations Erin. We’re so proud of you for committing, training, and finishing this incredibly difficult event. We can’t even imagine what you went through, so we’re hoping you can help us live vicariously. When you lined up at the start, knowing you’d be on your feet for over twenty-four hours, what went through your head?

“Don’t go out too fast! That was my focus. I knew it would be easy to do, so I just kept reminding myself of that. I started my ‘view the race in pieces’ mentality and telling myself ‘get to the first aid station’ and ‘get to the marathon mark.’ That distance is very familiar. At Winfield I was halfway done and had a pacer who was there solely to stay with me. Once I got to Pipeline I could see my family again and I only had one marathon left! The marathon is my favorite distance.”

“Only one marathon left.” It’s hard to imagine using that as encouragement. I’m sure over the course of 100 miles there are many highs and lows, what would you consider the hardest part of the race?

“That has a two part answer. Easily, the hardest part physically for me was coming back over Hope Pass. I was in a funk mentally as well, and I just wanted to sit down. It was so steep and the footing wasn’t great. If it hadn’t been for my pacer, and boyfriend, Steve, I would never have made the time cutoff. Mentally, the hardest part was from May Queen to the finish. I needed to put on tights at Outward Bound, so I took my shoes off. However, my blisters were settled in my shoes at the time but I didn’t notice them. I took off my shoes to put on tights and never recovered and was reduced to a walking pace the rest of the way. Other than the blisters, I wasn’t really in much pain. I’m extremely competitive so it’s hard to get passed in the last 10 miles.”

Last time we spoke we touched on your preparation and what you were doing to mentally and physically prepare for running 100 miles. Did you feel prepared? Looking back now what’s one piece of advice you’d give to a first time LT100 Trail Runner?

“I felt as prepared as I could have been as a first timer living at sea level. I mentally prepared for the possibility of a DNF, but I also didn’t allow myself to expect it. If you’ve trained, expect to finish. Don’t let the doubt set in. Don’t get frustrated in competition or daily life. Getting frustrated with things you cannot change won’t do any good. For example, at home, whenever I was stuck in a traffic jam or someone pulled out in front of me, rather than let myself become frustrated or respond negatively I chose to view it as a learning experience and see it in a positive light. I would think ‘maybe I would’ve been involved in an accident up ahead had this person not made me slow down.’ When you spin a negative into a positive, it helps your mood stay light. Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor both wrote books that preach that mindset, and I greatly appreciated that.

Erin crossing the finish at the 2019 Leadville Trail 100 Run

Lighter is faster! That’s a great strategy. We all know how exhausting stress can be. It wreaks havoc on our bodies and adrenal system and shedding that stress allows an athlete to stay energized and focused. Speaking of focus, what were you thinking when the finish line began to materialize in front of you?

“The funny thing is that I can honestly say I never really thought about the finish until I saw it. I’d been so focused on the race in different chunks that somehow I’d forgotten there was a finish line. I was aware that was the goal, but that’s about it. When I rounded that hill on Sixth Street, it hit me like a huge wave, and suddenly, I had a visual of something I’d basically refused to focus on. Then, with all the people clapping and congratulating me it became overwhelming. I saw my dad about 200 yards from the finish and he took one look at me and said ‘Oh boy, you’re hurting.’ I started to cry and responded ‘No, there’s the finish.’ That’s what I ran twenty-nine hours to see. Of course I’m sore, but look; there’s the finish. It’s right there.”

So you started the race on August 17th, ran for twenty-nine straight hours and finished on August 18th. How long did it take you to recover mentally and physically?

“I ran again on August 28th with a local group that meets weekly in downtown Grand Rapids called Hills & Stairs. I made it 3.25 miles before both of my patellar tendons starting hurting, so I took another week off just to be safe. Steve and I rode our bikes 105 miles on Labor Day to try and make up for the fact that I can’t do long runs right now. Steve’s predominantly a cyclist and rode the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in eight hours and thirty-eight minutes just a week before pacing me on his longest run ever! I actually just ran again on September 4th and September 5th was my birthday and I was pain free! I’m so happy! Floyd’s CBD products did wonders. I took a 25mg Gem every 2-3 hours during the race, and I really think they helped immensely. I also rubbed on the Sports Cream both times I passed Twin Lakes. Another racer had some cream with him on the back side of Hope and I stopped and grabbed a pump. That was a welcome aid. Thanks random stranger!”

We’re so glad our CBD was able to provide some extra relief. Now, I’m sure you get asked this a lot now but would you do it again?

“Well, I won’t say I’ll never do a 100 again because I plan on entering the Western States lottery. Even though the chances of being drawn this time around are low, I would still like to try that one someday. I’m honestly not sure that I would do Leadville again. It was an amazing experience but I had a perfect day; great weather, no GI issues, no nausea, no falls, and an exceptional crew, which really helped me finish. I don’t know that I’d risk a DNF on that course again. However, I’m sure if you asked me in a couple years, I would willingly jump back in!”

Now that Leadville is in the rearview mirror and Western States is a possibility, what’s next on your schedule? Are you ready for a break?

“I have a few bike races scheduled as well as a couple minor running ‘races.’ I say ‘races’ because I won’t be running for myself. We have a local organization called MyTeam Triumph. They’re ‘an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults, and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races.’ I’m pushing the Captains, individuals with a disability, in a few local events. Personally, my next big focus is the New York City Marathon on November 3rd. I’d like to re-qualify for Boston but I’m still not sure whether I will use my qualifying time from this years Boston Marathon to register for next year.”

There’s no stopping you! November doesn’t seem that far away and we wish you the best of luck. We’re glad to hear you’re recovered, back on your feet, and helping others share in your joy of running. Thank you for sharing your story and we’ll catch up with you again soon! You’re a champion.

For those of you that want to follow along with Erin’s races and running adventures you can find her on Instagram @happy_athlete_erin.