After finishing third at the 2010 Leadville 100, Ashley Arnold knew she hadn’t run to her potential. In 2013, she led the women’s race from wire-to-wire, demonstrating at least some more of that potential. In the following interview, Ashley talks about her pre-race goals, how she overcame wanting to drop out in the first half, what she enjoyed most about the race, and whether she’ll be back to Leadville.
For more on this year’s race, check out our 2013 Leadville 100 results article.
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Ashley Arnold, 2013 Leadville 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
Ashley Arnold: Good evening and welcome to the iRunFar show.
iRunFar: I’m Bryon Powell and this is Ashley Arnold. She just won Leadville 2013. Ashley?
Arnold: Yes, that’s my name.
iRF: Did you think that’s going to happen?
Arnold: No. You know, I entertained it because, like, if I had a good day. I knew, you know, I had, you know, I did the thing you’re supposed to do and had my “A,” “B,” “C” goals which I was really proud of myself for doing.
iRF: What was your “C” goal?
Arnold: The “C” goal was just to finish and be really nice to my crew.
iRF: “B” goal?
Arnold: Under 20:30.
iRF: “A” goal?
Arnold: Under 20 hours.
iRF: You had a pretty good day—your B goal.
Arnold: I knew that going around Turquoise Lake was going to be sort of a gamble as to what I was going to do. Depending on where my mind was, if I was on the verge of tears or if I was like, “I can’t do this,” then I was going to be slowing down a little bit. I sort of psyched myself out with all the rocks. I rolled my ankle back in December. I was just like… every time I’m on rocky terrain now I’m terrified. I walked all the way down Hope Pass. Well, I jogged a little bit at the top, but I basically walked most of the way down outbound because it was just terrifying to me. Then the downhill on the way back… you know, do you walk that—that last 3.5 miles of that really rocky downhill?
iRF: That little Powerline cut where you come off the dam?
iRF: I don’t think so. I think… well, if your quads are blown you do. But I don’t think people just generally walk it because…
Arnold: I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to slip!”
iRF: You came down the little descent into Twin Lakes alright.
Arnold: I did!
iRF: You weren’t fearful there. Maybe you have to have people watching you.
Arnold: Yes, I need the crowd.
iRF: Psych yourself up.
Arnold: I need the energy. But that was this long.
iRF: You were worried coming around Turquoise Lake that you could psych yourself out or get into a crying fit. When was the first time you had a mental catastrophe during the race?
Arnold: Let’s see. Actually, I was pretty solid mentally, I think, except when I got to Twin lakes outbound I was like, “I’m dropping.”
iRF: Except for that.
Arnold: Except for that. But it was more just like, I had this feeling that, 100 miles in my body? I can’t do this. The day before I left to come here, I had coffee with Zeke [Tiernan] and he was like, “At some point, you’re going to think, ‘Why am I doing this? I’m going to quit.’” I sort of took that into account, but then I was like, “No, this isn’t that situation. I really should quit.” The problem was that I kind of had an upset stomach. I couldn’t really get a lot of calories in the whole first half. I was going faster, I think, than I realized because I was feeling fine, but I wasn’t drinking a lot and I wasn’t eating. So when I got to Twin Lakes, then I saw my crew and they’re all wearing cat shirts and they’re all jumping up and down and excited, and I was like, Oh, shoot, I have to keep going. So I just really focused on eating.
iRF: Did you feel pretty good on the hikes?
Arnold: I made a commitment that I was going to hike all the uphills, and even walk the flats or downhills on the way uphill. And I did. And I passed people the whole way up. So I think my hiking pace never slowed going up Powerline. If the whole race would have been a hike after Powerline and we just kept going up to the finish, I would have been happy.
iRF: You would have been happier than having to run around Turquoise Lake with the rocks that probably weren’t there on the way out, right?
iRF: Somebody came and laid them down. Well, and it’s dark on the way around.
Arnold: Yeah, and I guess I did kind of have a fast split on the way out. But that whole first section is fast.
iRF: Yeah, you were 1:50 to May Queen. That’s 20-hour pace. Any really high patches? You felt a little off going into Twin Lakes. Were there any places you were just on top of the world?
Arnold: Hope Pass, of course. I love Hope Pass. Anytime I can be above treeline, I’m happy as a clam. Just to be above treeline, I don’t know, I automatically feel better which is not what you’d think.
iRF: That’s a good skill.
Arnold: It’s just the view and… Oh, at the top of Sugarloaf Pass in the morning on the way out, gosh, the clouds and the sun—it was incredible, the view! There were these moments during the run where I was like, Yeah, this is why I run. This is awesome. That was cool.
iRF: It seemed like you drew a lot of energy from your crew and pacers. Seeing you coming out of Outward Bound the second time, or seeing you going in and out of the aid station, you were so psyched.
Arnold: Yeah, my crew was awesome. The first two aid stations, they were a little not sure what to do, and I was probably a little grumpy so that probably wasn’t too good. Afterwards, it was this seamless thing where it was awesome and everyone was excited. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew. It was amazing. My pacers were awesome.
iRF: You have any other plans for this year?
Arnold: I do. I’m not sure what they are, even though I have them, they’re somewhere in here.
Arnold: I think I might run UROC. I don’t know. I signed up for it. I might do that. Part of me… it’s the next day. We shouldn’t talk about more races yet.
iRF: You’re still a little shell-shocked.
Arnold: A little bit. I’m just still surprised. I don’t know. I’m surprised I ran 100 miles. Oh, here’s another high moment, Bryon. When I was coming into Fish Hatchery on the way back in, you were telling me what my lead was and I was like, “what’s happening?” You were like, “Ashley, you’re winning Leadville.” I was like, “Oh, I am? Yeah, I am!” I knew that, but it was like something that I’d always wanted to do ever since I paced you. Leadville has been this… even though my time I don’t think was good.
iRF: It wasn’t as fast as you’d think you can run? Does that mean you’ll come back?
Arnold: Come back, yeah, I’m sure I will. It was a huge improvement from last time. To get up Powerline and not try to fall asleep and it was light…
iRF: It was three hours earlier.
Arnold: I know. All these improvements. I think I had some splits on the way back that might have been faster than on my way out. I think one place out of Twin Lakes… but I could be wrong. I think that was the section on the way out when I was just miserable.
iRF: Yeah, Half Pipe to Twin Lakes. Well, congratulations on a great win, a great run, and having such a great time out here.
Arnold: Thank you.
iRF: And since this is Ashley Arnold, we’re going to go with as goofy of a bonus question as I can think of.
Arnold: Okay. GO!
iRF: If you were a cat, what would you name yourself?
Arnold: Oh my gosh! That’s hard. My cat’s name is Fugazi and that’s not the question, but I thought everyone should know that. What would my name be? I don’t know. This is impossible.
iRF: Impossible. Are you a Tabby? Calico?
Arnold: No, I don’t think I’m a Tabby cat. I think I could be a Calico. Or I’d be a mountain lion. I’d like to be a mountain lion.
iRF: You would like to be a puma up there somewhere in those mountains? I’ll have to watch out.