Figure I’ll give my Colorado vacation wrap up in one post, so grab a beer and sit down for a long one.
I arrived in Colorado Thursday and my bro and I headed straight to our destination, the town of Leadville. A few months ago, Brandon asked me if I wanted to participate in his mega-run of a lifetime, the Leadville Trail 100. Hell ya…. but it what capacity? There was Crew Chief and Pacer. I, in no way shape or form, wanted to ever slow my bro down during a race in the mountains, so I opted for Crew Chief. Sounded like a job of executing a plan of strategic nature and efficiency. I’m in!
We arrived to 10,000+ feet around noon. Got checked into the hotel and started talking game plan. Brandon led me through all his gear bags, food preparation, and race strategy. Once we got through the serious business, we headed over the Scarlet to meet some character named Brooks. Brandon and Brooks have been eFriends for some time, and it was cool to see that they finally got to meet. They had 2 for $1.00 PBRs but I had my traditional J&D. Go figure. After drinks, we met up with some other LT100 veterans and newbies (also going for the Leadman award) for dinner at the Tennessee Pass.
It was great to be around such inspired and adventurous spirits that had decided to tackle this beast of a race. Besides hearing about epic shart stories, I learned the best way to clean up after a running deuce is using flat rocks. The experts have all the secrets. Suprisingly, this came in handy days later. B and I crashed around 9pm to prepare for a short nights sleep on Friday.
Friday, we went over to the medical check in at the local gym and hit breakfast with a few of his running mates before the pre-race briefing.
I met more of his friends and finally got to meet Mr. Jon Teisher, aka PittBrownie. We’ve had a bit of online banter back and forth about who’s colleigate team was better. I’ll just say that I was owed 2 drinks on JT’s dime, but unfortunately his drink of choice is PBR. What is the deal with the PBR other than giving you the shits? (From what I hear) So thanks to JT, I tripled my beer consumption for the year after calling in his debts.
In between my beers, I managed to get a 4 mile run up into the northern range that I was at last year. I decided to get the incline over with first, and I was sucking wind but that’s expected when you came over from 500 ft above sea level 24 hours prior. Felt great during the run, how can you not with mountain views covering 360 degrees. When I got done, I headed back to the Scarlet because that’s where the “big deals” hang out, and was introduced to JP, my co-pilot for the first half of the race.
We all headed back to the hotel for some more pre-race preparation then awaited the rest of our crew, Kim and Kayla. My other two nieces stayed out of harms way and in Longmont with friends. We all hit the sack as early as possible because B and I had to be up at 2:45 am for our race check-in by 3:45 am.
B’s internal alarm went off a bit early, but we all got up at 2:30am, fired up, and ready to race! I put on my Team Shart jacket and we headed out!
You can read Brandon’s blog for all of his race details. I’ll give you the race from my perspective as Crew Chief. I also MacGyvered my Flip camera to a lanyard to capture some live action at the aid stations. B’s got that posted too.
At each aid station, my job was to have each of his aid station drop bags ready for loading up the pockets in his shorts, get his water bottles/camel back filled, and basically have everything including the kitchen sink, just in case he needed it (batteries, tape, mole skin, extra headlamp, extra iPod, extra watch). There are 4 aid stations to the turn around at Winfield, so 9 total stops for me to be ready at. The aid stations themselves are barns or garages somewhere on the course where the race volunteers are also set up with food and replenishments. But, racers are particular so that’s where a crew having exactly what you need comes in. The crew can be about a 1/4 of mile from the aid station in either direction helping the runner. We decided to crew at the same point at each station so he could easily find me and not waste time in the dark. I also was in charge of tweets for #313 during the race so everyone could follow our progress on twitter.
Brandon had organized all the gear into easily distinguishable bags and we used a wagon to haul the stuff from the Hummer to the aid station. We got to MayQueen, the first stop, and I was a bit nervous. I kept going thru the bags, triple checking, asking JP questions and he goes “Calm down. We have 2 hours until he gets here.” Oh right. Its 13.5 miles on foot for him! I spent the waiting minutes staring at the most beautiful star filled night sky I have ever seen in my life. I wish I knew how to bottle that up and carry it with me. It was amazing.
B made quick work of the exchange at MQ (6 am) and headed to Fish Hatchery (8 am). Not much to report from the Fish Hatchery aid station. Easy in and out. I crewed him while he waited in line at the port-o-jon. This is where a lot of the men’s shirts came off, just FYI.
Next was Treeline (9 am). It was up in the mountains on what appeared to be a runway for motorized paragliding. There were a few guys flying around up in the sky getting a look at the action. I stood atop the Hummer and flagged to JP once I saw B coming up the side. We were about 100 yds away, so I ran down to get in on the action to find him side by side with JT enjoying the day.
Twin Lakes (11:15 am) was the final crew point before the turnaround at mile 50. This place is a one road, 4 shop town out of a postcard. Cars and people lined this road on race day.
A look at Twin Lakes itself.
Final stop of the first 1/2 of the race was Winfield (about 3 pm). This place was ridiculous. It looked like a tailgate lot at football game.
It was packed and I felt really bad for the runners getting to this point. They have to run up a 2 mile dirt road that is also being used by vehicles. The dirt clouds were awful so we just tried to go slow and be as courteous as possible. B came in about 30 minutes off pace, but he looked good, so we suited him up with fresh gear and my sidekick JP took off with him for the last 50 miles of the race.
Now with JP on the course, I had 2 people to crew for. It didn’t add much pressure since JP had all his food and gear in bags as well, so I just kept making sure I brought everything to each stop in case of emergency. Before hitting Twin Lakes , part of my crew chief duty was to have beer on hand at the finish. I drove over to Buena Vista to check that item off my list.
The Twin Lakes (7:30 pm) return trip was probably the most organized. The boys would need a shoe change here since crossing a river on the way, so I neatly set up 2 chairs with shoes and gear all prepared. And I waited. And waited. And waited. And got nervous. There is no radio between Winfield and Twin to see where your runner is. He could have been mauled by a bear, JP may have taken him out for whining, you just had to sit and wait. B was about an hour late getting to this station but he was alive. He bonked and had to rest awhile. Phew. I wished them well, dried a few of my tears and headed out to meet them at Treeline again.
Treeline was pitch black this time. I put on my headlamp and prepped the back of the truck for their arrival. They arrived around 11:30 pm freezing their asses off. I suited them up in all of the warmest gear we could find from the truck and headed over to Fish Hatchery. They said they didn’t need me there, but too bad. I’m going to show up anyway because that’s what Crew Chiefs do! Turns out they didn’t need me, but I felt good just being there to say good job and wish them well to May Queen. The last stop before the end.
I arrived at MayQueen around 2 am and settled in expecting them around 3:45 am. More waiting without knowledge of what’s going on. I started getting nervous as the cut off time for the race is 30 hours. B had allotted 3h:45m to get from May Queen to the finish but using my pacing chart that he gave me, our Team Shart was now, not on track to make 30 hours. Fuck. Fortunately, at 4:50am, B and JP came through May Queen. Unfortunately, JP’s feet were shot. And Brandon had developed a massive deep blister on each pad of his feet. JP couldn’t go on and said Brandon would be fine by himself. “HELL NO” I thought! I know Brandon could have found the strength to carry on without a pacer, but there was no way I was letting my brother finish this race alone. Without a second thought, I went to the wagon, started putting on the warmest gear we had left, including the fleece Jeff Gordon blanket I’d been wrapped up in for the past 3 hours. I grabbed JP’s water pack, told him where the car was and to text me the intersection when he dropped it off in town. We needed to go! I came out here to be with Brandon during this race however he needed me to, so let’s get this thing done!
At 4:55 am, Brandon and I headed out to the last 13.5 miles back to the finish. I tried to keep his spirits up and motiviate him without pissing him off. At this point, I was trying to get ahold of Kim who was expecting us at the finish around 7am. Even though we are at 10,000 feet, cell reception sucks in certain spots. We finally made connection and Kim was to meet us 1/2 way at the Tabor boat ramp to get some photos and encourage us on. As we got there, I didn’t see her. So I ran up a ways to the next parking log to see if she was sitting there. Nope. Damn. It was daylight at this point and I need to drop the blanket, jackets, gloves, headlamps, etc. because I didn’t want to carry that 7 more miles. At this time, my stomach reminded me who was boss. Being up for almost 30 hours with 1 meal and no sleep, didn’t sit well with my gut. I found a nice spot in the trees, tested the flat rock theory, and got back out on the trail. Brandon was coming at me without his coat?! He had found Kim in the car at the lot, so I ran back and said I would catch back up with him and to keep moving!!! I dropped my stuff, and hit the dirt running to find him about 1/2 mile up the course.
I’d been doing some rounding-math about our finishing time since May Queen. I was calculating 20 minute miles but wanted us to stay at 15 to make sure we had plenty of time to hit the finish line. His mind wasn’t the clearest, so I wouldn’t let him think about the numbers, just focus on keeping my pace and push through the pain. He said as long as he finished under 30 hours, he’d be fine. I didn’t believe him. 30 was not acceptable in my book. Not on my watch. Sub 29 was the goal.
The last 4 miles are easy to recognize and count down. We had a great view of all the work B just did.
Basically, we were over in that mountain range in front of him the day before.
Kim was able to catch us a few more times for motiviation and photos.
I kept counting down “96% done”… “97% done”… Tried cracking jokes about how he had to be seen with me wearing my monkey stocking cap. You can tell I wasn’t quite in appropriate race gear, but duty called.
As we rounded our last turn, you could hear the people lining 6th street and the finish line. There we were. 99% done. We had less than 3/4 of a mile to go and I pushed him harder, cuz that’s what I’m suppose to do! He says “I have 11 minutes to the finish before 29, that’s good.” I said, no, GO! So as we pushed, his right blister shatters. Oops, sorry about that. With tears in my eyes, I left my brother with 200 yards to go and ran up to the finish line to welcome him home.
I tried to get video of the finish, but I wasn’t focused and hadn’t hit record on the Flip. Dammit. Feel really bad about that still. Would have been so awesome. A look back to the finish line and the last hill (just under the banner) of the Leadville Trail 100.
I’m happy to report Brandon finished in 28 hours and 53 minutes. A job well done!!! Over half of the field does not finish this race. To finish at all is impressive. To know the training and preparation my brother put into this race is phenominal. He didn’t shed a tear, but I did. And still do just thinking about it. I’m so proud of him and so happy that he included me in this event. Even though my job went from Crew Chief to surprise Pacer, I would do it all over again in an instant, and more!
I really feel like a part of the Leadville community. I’ve raced, paced, and crewed in this town. And as my brother promised, there is plenty more to come for both of us!
On a side note, meeting all the ultra competitors was fun, but we also had a true Hollywood celebrity sighting of Jake Gyllenhaal. Rumor has it, there will be a movie about this race, so we are unclear if he is investing, producing, or starring. Only time will tell, but this little community event is going national and growing every year.
So, that’s it. We hit the awards ceremony where B got his coveted belt buckle (yes that’s the prize) and said good bye to everyone. We headed back to Longmont and I performed my last Crew Chief duty… the 3 hour drive home. After a Smashchicken and vanilla shake, we set off and were immediately slowed to slower than our finishing pace. Traffic jam. I would have been fine if we were at normal speeds, but the slow pace was making me drift. I downed a Red Bull and waited for it to kick in. After an hour, it didn’t. I employed tactic #2 of calling anyone that would answer and talk to me about paint drying, giving a dog a bath, I didn’t care. Just entertain me. We made if safely back to Longmont. I unloaded our
weeks weekend worth of crap and we all hit the sack about 9 pm.
I slept about 12 hours that night. Got up Monday feeling refreshed and actually went out for a 3-5 mile run. I felt so good out there in the fresh air with beautiful views of the resevoir and mountains I decided to go for the 10 mile loop. I had noticed a storm cloud over the range on my way out, but figured I had time to get around and back home. At about mile 5, the rain sprinkled. Then at mile 6, the rain came. Still managable, but I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, so I flagged down a pick-up truck to make sure Rt. 5 was where I needed it. As we were standing there, the Red Sea unparted and it poured. The nice farmer insisted on giving me a ride back. It was thundering and lightening at this point, so I took it. 20 minutes later, the sun was back out. Stupid weather.
Tuesday I returned to the flatlands of Indiana, sad but with great memories and stories to share. Til we meet again Colorado…