By Jim Sullivan
---- — When Newburyport’s Maddy Hribar began the Leadville Trail 100 Run in the Colorado Rockies at 4 a.m. on Aug. 17, one thing kept springing to her mind.
“I’m actually here,” Hribar said. “I’m actually doing this, right here, right now.”
Hribar’s goal was to finish the 100-mile race that starts at an elevation of 9,000 feet, then jumps up to 13,000 feet, in less than 25 hours. Coming in at 24 hours and 23 minutes, Hribar accomplished her goal and finished eighth in the woman’s category.
“I’m very happy,” Hribar said. “I just wanted to finish, and I definitely wanted to be under 25 hours. But I had no idea that I would be within the top 10 women, coming from Newburyport which is really flat and certainly not at altitude. It’s a pretty big accomplishment for me.”
Nine hundred runners made it to the starting line, while 500 finished. Those who completed the race in less than 25 hours got a belt buckle, and Hribar is now displaying hers on her desk where she works at New Balance.
“Everyone comes over to check it out,” Hribar said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Hribar won her first 100-miler last year, Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Challenge, with a time of 18 hours and 16 minutes. But with the Leadville, the biggest challenge is the altitude. In addition to running 100 miles a week, Hribar spent the summer sleeping in an altitude tent.
“I think I was well prepared for it,” said Hribar. “The altitude tent, I’m not sure whether that was really a help or if it was all in my head, but going out there I felt like I had done the best that I could to prepare for it. But when you go out there, and you go for a run on your first day, it is definitely hard to breathe. There is definitely a lack of oxygen. It’s tough.”
After getting some acclimation time in over a few days, Hribar found herself facing down a 100-mile ordeal before the sun came up on the day of the race.
“I was sick to my stomach for maybe the first 30 miles,” said Hribar. “Starting at 4 in the morning, you definitely don’t have time to process stuff. You are running, so it’s definitely taking blood away from your stomach. And you’re trying to eat and drink the whole time too, and you’re not used to being up that early. That certainly puts a strain on your stomach.”
The first 40 miles went well for Hribar, then she hit Hope’s Pass and began making the climb up to 13,000 feet.
“Between miles 40 and 50, you go up Hope’s Pass,” said Hribar. “Then you have to go back and up over it. That’s the highest point of elevation. If you’re going to get sick, you’re going to get sick up there. We clearly have nothing like that anywhere near here. But at that point, I had gotten over my stomach issues, and my legs felt really good for being at the 50-mile point.
“But then, it starts to get dark when you’re coming off the mountain,” Hribar said. “So you’ve got to put some warm clothes on and prepare mentally for being in the dark for the rest of the day.”
An equal footing to the physical challenge, the mental aspect of the race can throw runners for a serious loop.
“One of my friends who was running it got really sick up on Hope’s Pass,” said Hribar. “And he was speaking to another friend up there who had stayed with him for probably about an hour. When he was finished with the race, he emailed the kid and told him he was sorry that they never got to meet in the race. The kid replied, ‘What are you talking about? We met up on Hope Pass for an hour.’ So, when you’re sick like that, and you can’t keep any food down, it’s probably a prime time to start hallucinating like that.”
Hribar said she didn’t have any such issues in Colorado.
“It went better than I could’ve expected it to go,” said Hribar. “The last 50 (miles) went as well as you could expect. But it’s starting to get dark, and it’s definitely not over. There is a serious climb around mile 77 or so. You just can’t quit, there’s definitely a lot of race left. I don’t know if the professionals don’t have aches and pains when they get finished. But my left knee started bothering me around mile 70, and my shoulders were sore and your feet are killing you by the time you have finished.”
But Hribar found her way and now has her belt buckle.
“I probably have at least 10 more friends on Facebook today, just from chatting to people on the trail.” said Hribar. “Everyone gets really friendly, and you definitely talk to people all along the trail.”