After taking 2nd in 2012, McKenna Douglas returned to Leadville this year to nab an exciting win, within mere seconds.
You came in 2nd last year. Tell us how you got the win — within seconds — this time around.
I did come in second last year (and I was a tad bit slower this year). I am typically a strong downhiller, but suffered from an overuse injury at the end of my season last year. Then I competed all winter in ski mountaineering (skimo), so I am a bit behind in terms of leg impact. I became a little complacent around mile 11, settling into a comfortable stride. I had no idea the number two female was on my tail. Lesson learned — almost the hard way! Regardless, I’m pretty stoked with my performance!
Give us a little background on your running. When did you pick up — and discover you were good at — trail running? How many races do you typically do in a year, and what’s your favorite distance?
I played stopper/midfield in soccer for years, constantly running in circles on the soccer field. I started running trails in Boulder. I went to CU. I ran my first marathon in 2000 — I think in Hawaii. I was hooked on the longer distances but not in love with pounding the pavement. I moved to Vail in 2001 to be closer to my first love, skiing, while continuing to run trails. Popped out two kids — Team M&M (Maizy and Mack), a.k.a. my support team, and the race was on. All that running with the BOB stroller provided me with a great foundation. I typically run two to four races a month from May to October, with longer distances towards the end of race season. 21K’s and 50K’s are more my speed, along with some stage racing. In fall I transition to skimo.
Altitude is a big player in the Leadville races. It seems you and altitude a good mix. Do you have any secrets or tips for racing at altitude?
Altitude is a huge factor at Leadville. Lucky for me I live in Vail and train at elevation all the time, all year long. Wish I had some tricks to conquer the thin air. Acclimatize and hydrate, train high, live high!
What’s your favorite pre-race (night prior) meal?
Gluten-free pasta with heirloom tomato sauce and sautéed spinach, a glass of red wine and some lemon cookies for dessert. I try to keep this meal pretty pure.
What’s your favorite on-trail fuel?
I’m a Hammer Gel girl for anything under 15 miles. Over 15, more hammer products combined with “real” food. Love the Stinger Waffles. I accidentally chugged some Coke at the Heavy Half — it actually hit the spot!
You also compete in ski mountaineering. Coincidentally, J. Marshall Thomson, the male marathon champion, also does that. Why are the two sports a good fit?
Yes, Marshall and I are both on the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team. We competed in worlds this winter in France (it was a blast!). Marshall is a machine — and such a lovable guy, too! The two sports — trail running and ski mountaineering — complement each other in so many ways. They both require an aerobic engine, endurance and the strength to scale mountains. I love trail running. Grab a pair of runners and go! Long runs, intervals, tempo runs — all great training for both disciplines, and you are working similar muscle groups. Again I love the downhill — something that trail and skimo both incorporate. Mostly I just love traveling in the mountains, be it by way of running, skinning, or skiing.
I have the Vail Uphill on Saturday, July 6, then the Vail Half, possibly the Aspen Power of Four 50K, Imogene Pass Run, to name a few, as well as UROC Ultra in September.
Yes, I will probably do the marathon next year. I truly enjoy racing Leadville. I would love to tackle the 50 and ultimately the 100. The Vail running community had told many a story stemming from the Leadville Trail 100 last year and years prior, not to mention the book Born to Run. I ran Hope Pass during Transrockies. Not sure about lapping it twice… Hats off to the Leadville race crew. It’s always a pleasure to run there in such an amazingly supportive environment with very well stocked aid stations. They keep me coming back for more! Thanks and cheers to you all!