Friday, August 23, 2013

Leadville 100 – From a Crew’s Perspective

Jogging at Turquoise Lake II by Wayne-K
Jogging at Turquoise Lake II, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

The 2013 Leadville 100 is in the books and in a word, it was a blast! We arrived in Leadville, Colorado on Tuesday, set up camp in the Molly Brown Campground on Turquoise Lake, and went for a short jog to loosen up the legs, fill the lungs with air, and get some blood pumping through the heart. The air was thin at 10,200 feet, but the wonderful views of the lake made up for the lack of oxygen.

On Wednesday, we drove to the Winfield, Twin Lakes, and Outward Bound aid stations to familiarize myself with their locations and how to get there. It was nice to know, for example, that the drive to Winfield was down an 11 mile dusty, dirt road, with a nice washboard and potholed surface, and that parking would be limited in Winfield. Faye programmed these aid stations into the Garmin GPS, which proved to be a major benefit on race day. We also hiked up the infamous Hope Pass to scout the route up the pass. Although this didn't make the pass any shorter or less steep, eliminating some of the uncertainty provided a degree of confidence…or at least I hope it did.

The anticipation really started to build on Thursday. We went into town to pick up the race packet and for a pre-race medical check-up. Returning to camp, Faye packed her drop bags for each aid station, carefully planning the clothing, food, and gear she would need at each stage of the race. I likewise packed my gear, making sure I had my flashlights, gels, electrolytes, layers, gloves, and the rest of my gear packed and ready to go.

On Friday, we checked out the race expo and attended the mandatory final briefing and crew briefing. Faye also dropped off her drop bags, so the race folks could deliver them to the respective aid stations. We noted the cutoffs at each aid station as well as Faye’s planned arrival times. These times were documented on our forearms with a Sharpie, for easy reference during the race. Lastly, I organized my paperwork to document which aid stations I would meet Faye, what gear I needed to give her at each aid station and the driving directions to get to each of them.

The alarm went off at 2 AM Saturday morning and despite only having a few fitful hours of sleep, we were ready to go. The preparation and planning were complete, and I was confident Faye was ready to run! After an exciting start, I returned to camp to lie down for a few hours. There was no sleeping however, as I could hear the cheering as the racers ran along Turquoise Lake…and the deafening beat of my heart. After a few hours, I drove over to the Outward Bound aid station to meet Faye, arriving early to ensure I didn’t miss her. This gave me an opportunity to watch other crews in action. I was impressed with their NASCAR-like precision and timing. Faye arrived at the aid station looking good. She needed to go to the bathroom and asked me to fill up her water bladder halfway, strap her long sleeve shirt onto the back of her pack, and to get her gels and boiled potatoes dipped in salt. No problem! I had the aid station volunteer fill the bladder to the one liter mark…and then struggled to get the sliding clip on the water bladder. It was such a simple device, but for some reason, I couldn't get the clip on to seal the bladder. After fiddling with it for what seemed like hours, the cord that secured the clip to the bladder broke. My immediate thought was “oh crap, Faye’s gonna kill me!” She returned after what seemed like seconds and fortunately didn't kill me. I didn't take the somewhat pleasant, WTF look on her face personally as she finished securing her water bladder and strapped her extra layers on the back of the pack, and I quickly went to get the gels and boiled potatoes. There were chips, pretzels, candies, and fruit…but NO gels or potatoes. I really felt like a useless loser! Fortunately, I had some gels in a bag and was able to get Faye something resembling nutrition, and she was on her way.

The original plan was for me to meet Faye at Outward Bound (mile 24) and then at Winfield (mile 50). However, I noticed she was missing her planned times by approximately 15 minutes per leg, so instead of waiting until mile 50, I decided to meet her at the Twin Lakes aid station at mile 40. I figured I could help get her through the aid station and cheer her on before she had to climb the infamous Hope(less) Pass. After the semi-successful crewing at Outward Bound, I proceeded to the Twin Lakes aid station. Parking was limited along CR-82 and crews were directed to park along the road and ride the shuttle to the aid station. As with the previous aid station, I arrived early so as not to miss Faye coming through. It was inspiring watching runners descend the steep hill entering the aid station. It was also cool to watch spouses, children, and loved ones greet their runners as they arrived, offering their love and support. In preparation for Faye’s arrival, I asked a race volunteer to dig up Faye’s drop bag, so she wouldn't have to waste time dealing with it when she arrived. Faye looked great coming into the aid station and quickly made her way out toward Hope Pass and the next crew-accessible aid station, Winfield.

Based on the information from the crew briefing, I expected traffic along CR-390 toward Winfield and decided to head over there straightaway. That proved to be a good decision, as it took me three hours to get there from Twin Lakes. There was a long string of cars on the dusty road to Winfield, crawling at a snail’s pace. While waiting, I changed into my running clothes, taped my toes, taped my nipples (sorry, TMI), put on my shoes and gaiters, and packed my gear. As the clock approached 4 PM, I was prepared to park on the side of the road and run the remaining miles to Winfield, but fortunately the cars started moving and I was able to get to the aid station. There was a 14 hour cutoff at Winfield, so runners needed to arrive by 6 PM. The original plan was for Faye to arrive by 4:30 PM, but based on her progress, I estimated her arrival at 5:30 PM. By 5:40 PM, I was concerned and headed to the point on the course where the runners descended Hope Pass. I figured I could pace her the remaining half mile to the aid station and hopefully beat the 6 PM cutoff. For the next 20 minutes, I focused continuously on the hill, anxiously anticipating her arrival. As the clock struck 6 PM, her race was over.

Faye ran a nice race, looked great, and I’m 100% confident she could have finished the 100 mile distance. However, she’s slow and steady, and missed the 50 mile cutoff by a mere 30 minutes. She doesn’t know this yet, but she’ll be back in Leadville for another try. God (and Faye) willing, I’ll be back to pace her.

Here are a few more photos from Leadville.

Scouting Hope Pass
Faye scouting Hope Pass before the race

Descending Hope Pass
Faye descending Hope Pass after scouting it prior to the race

Seeking Divine Intervention
Seeking Divine inspiration (or intervention)

Leadville 100 - Target Times
Target times for the first few aid stations

Evening at Turquoise Lake
Stu and Fleur at Turquoise Lake

Preparing for the Race
Packing drop bags prior to the race

All Smiles
All smiles (before getting packed into the drop bags)

Twin Lakes Aid Station
Runner approaching the Twin Lakes aid station

Winfield - location of the mile 50 aid station

Breakfast in Camp
Breakfast in camp

Sunrise at Molly Brown Campground
Sunrise at the Molly Brown campsite

Saturday, August 10, 2013

One Week to the Leadville 100

Leadville 100 by Wayne-K
Leadville 100, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

“Pacing is so grueling and thankless, usually only family, fools, and damn good friends let themselves get talked into it. The job means shivering in the middle of nowhere for hours until your runner shows up, then setting off at sunset for an all-night run through wind-whistling mountains. You’ll get blood on your shins, vomit on your shoes, and not even a T-shirt for completing two marathons in a single night. Other job requirements can include staying awake while your runner catches a nap in the mud; popping a blood blister between her butt cheeks with your fingernails; and surrendering your jacket, even though your teeth are chattering, because her lips have gone blue.”

-- Christopher McDougall, in "Born to Run"

Pacing sounds exciting, doesn't it! After four months of training, I’m excited to be pacing Faye at the Leadville 100. I’m not family -- and time will tell if I’m a fool or a damn good friend. I fly out on Tuesday morning and Faye will be picking me up at the Denver Airport. We'll then make the long drive over to Leadville, Colorado for a few days of camping before the race (AKA, acclimatization). Leadville is situated in the mountains, above 10,000 feet, so getting acclimated prior to the race will be important. The extra days will also give us some time to scout out the race course, figure out crew access points, and plan out the race logistics. The race starts on Saturday at 0400 and racers have 30 hours to reach the finish line. By Sunday morning, Faye and I should be relaxing, enjoying a cold brew, and celebrating her successful finish.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Trail Running Ramblings

Fences by Wayne-K
Fences, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

I read an article recently discussing what trail runners think about while running. For me, trail running is almost spiritual. The solitude, peace, and serenity on the trails bring calm to my being. While I know how trail running makes me feel, I never thought much about what went through my mind during my runs. Most of the time, I think about the run itself – the next hill I need to climb, the subsequent stretch of downhill where I can recover and catch my breath, the location of the water fountain where I can fill up my water bottles, and the searing sun beating down on my head. I also consider my personal needs and condition – have I been taking in enough water, is it time to consume a gel or electrolytes, how are the legs and lungs feeling, should I increase the pace, or should I decrease the pace?

Today was my last long run before Leadville. Well, “long” is relative. I’m just the pacer for Leadville (and not the runner), so “long” right now is 20 miles. I planned on running 20 miles, but as I climbed the ridge, I felt low on energy. I decided to walk more of the hills than normal, consumed a gel earlier than normal, and consciously slowed the pace. I also decided to make a few stops to take pictures. I got a late start this morning so the high sun was not optimal for landscape photography, but I decided to enjoy the views and take a few photos anyway. I also decided to run only 18 miles today. The taper will just have to start two miles sooner!

Toward the Bay Leaf Trail
View from the ridgeline. I take the trail to the left and descend the ridge down the Bay Leaf Trail. It’s always fun climbing back up the Bay Leaf Trail after 12-14 miles of running.

Trail Ends Ahead
This sign is the turnaround point for my 18 mile route.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

16 Days to Leadville

Volunteering at the Western States 100 in June was cool, but I'm looking forward to the Leadville 100 in 16 days. I'm not even running it, but I'm excited! I've been training for the last four months just to be the lowly pacer, but I'm as excited as if it were "my" run.

Right now, the plan is for me to run approximately 30 miles in Leadville. My training has been hampered somewhat by Achilles Tendinitis, Patellar Tendinitis, and some unnamed pain behind my left knee. I saw the doctor two weeks ago for the last two ailments and he prescribed anti-inflammatory meds (NSAID) and rest. I took the meds but ignored the rest (no pun intended). At my follow-up appointment today, I told him I'm not any better, but not any worse...which is great...since I've been running on it for the last two weeks.

Overall, my runs have felt pretty strong lately. I think I'm slowly getting my running legs back, after resting for three weeks while recovering from injury. I did a ten mile run on the Pleasanton Ridge last night and although I wasn't trying to push it up the ridge, I ended up running my fastest time for the climb (which I learned later once I uploaded my GPS data to While running up the ridge, I said "hi" to a lady who was hiking up the ridge. She responded by saying I was "brave"...then she corrected herself and said I was "crazy." I'm not brave and I'm not crazy yet, but I have enjoyed my "me" time on the trails. It's been a welcome break from the stress, strain, and grind of the daily routine.

Here's a summary of last night's run: