2006 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

   
 
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COUNTDOWN TO THE LEADVILLE 100
 
FRIDAY, AUGUST 18
 
 
"There is no satisfaction without a struggle first."
 
- Marty Liquori
 
 

 

It's the day before the Leadville Trail 100-mile foot race. For weeks, Jim has been saying he wished it was time to run it; sometimes it seems like tapering for an ultra is more difficult mentally and physically than running it.

Well, buddy, it's almost show time!

The training is over. The best thing for a runner to do the last two or three weeks before an ultra is to rest. That's a foreign concept to some runners, particularly younger ones. But Old Farts have learned over time that it's better to go into a race rested, even under-trained, than tired and/or over-trained.

Being rested doesn't mean sitting around on your butt for two or three weeks, however. It just means fewer miles, less speed work, less intense efforts. Jim continued doing training runs on the course, but made them shorter and slower.

Hope Pass has become his friend. He's ready to go, mentally and physically.

TUESDAY

Because of the increased excitement and number of things to do this week, I've sort of been "tapering," too. I had planned to do the longest section on the Colorado Trail, Segment 6 at 33 miles, on Tuesday, but a poor night's sleep for both of us derailed that plan. I was exhausted when I woke up and didn't want to face this section so tired.

It would also have been tough on Jim because of the distance to the Kenosha Pass trailhead (about two hours from Leadville) at the beginning and south of Frisco at the end (another hour). He'd be driving around most of the day when he should instead be resting more and focusing on his race.

So we bagged the CT run until next week. Jim did a short run near Turquoise Lake, and I ran the Mineral Belt Trail around town (more about that in the mining entry). We napped in the afternoon, socialized with Brent and other friends, and felt much better by evening.

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday was a day full of packing drop bags, seeing more friends, getting a massage, and helping with packet-stuffing for the run.

The drop bag process gets easier every race. Been there, done that - lots of times. Jim wants to focus on getting out of each aid station ASAP to save precious minutes during the race, so he took a bit more of a minimalist approach when packing his boxes for Leadville this time. He's always used clear plastic boxes with lids so the contents don't get wet or damaged like they would in canvas duffel bags. It's also much easier to see what's inside, helping speed the process at aid stations. The bags weren't due until Friday afternoon, so we had three days to decide what should be included in each.

Since Jim was going to rely primarily on Perpetuem energy drink for calories during the race, we had to be sure he had an adequate supply of the powder in each bag. He determined how many calories per hour he wanted; he decided on 2 scoops of powder/hour in each 20-ounce bottle. I haven't been able to persuade him that a more concentrated mixture is easier to use; he doesn't like the taste when it's that concentrated, and he doesn't want to use his Camelbak bladder during the race like I've been doing on my AT and CT runs. When the Perpetuem is as concentrated as I make it, you have to chase it down with water. Jim doesn't need plain water when he drinks a thinner mixture.

Like Sustained Energy and Clip 2, Perpetuem contains fats and proteins. It cannot be mixed up ahead of time and left in drop bags or it will get warm and possibly rancid. We pulled out every plastic 20-ounce UD water bottle we had with us (13 of 'em), washed and thoroughly dried them, and put 2 scoops of Perp in each. We didn't add water. We'd do that just before he needed them. Jim planned to carry two with him between aid stations, with an additional baggie of the powder on the two legs going over Hope Pass. We substituted bags with the powder in the boxes without bottles since we were five bottles short.

My job at the aid stations where I could crew (six of nine) would be to add water to the Perp bottles shortly before Jim was due so he could drop off the empty ones, grab the new ones, and go. He would drink plain water or other beverages in the aid stations as needed/tolerated.

When we found out our friend Marge Hickman still does massage therapy occasionally, I encouraged Jim to get a massage. He considered it, but changed his mind. I hadn't had one for a couple months, so I was more than eager for Marge to work her magic on my tired muscles. She drives into town frequently from her country home, so she offered to bring her table to our camper - how convenient! - and gave me one of the best massages I've had in 22 years. (I've been getting sports massages since I learned how valuable they are for runners, back in the mid-1980s.)

An hour into the lengthy massage, Kathie Lang and Jim Ballard showed up. "My" Jim was gone, so Ballard left to run some errands. Kathie came on in with "us girls" at our invitation and asked Marge if she had time to give her a massage, too. Although she's had post-race massages, Kathie's never had a "real" massage. After working on me for 1 hours, Marge gave Kathie a full massage, which convinced Kathie she's been missing out on a good thing for all these years! She said her hour-long massage left her feeling wonderful before the race. This is the first time she's entered LT100.

As soon as Marge got done with Kathie, we drove to the gym to work on folding the 400+ runners' shirts and stuff their race bags, similar to the process for the bike race but faster because there were about 300 fewer entrants in the run. This is what this year's shirts look like:

The men and most of the women liked the gunmetal gray color and new logo. We folded all the shirts and sorted them by size in large boxes behind the area where the runners would be picking them up the next afternoon:

Next a group of about twenty-five volunteers, mostly runners, gathered on both sides of the "assembly line" and chose one or two products, magazines, etc. to drop into the red-and-black canvas bags as they came down the tables. Like us, Don Adolph, in the foreground, always shows up for the bag stuffing parties:

Jim's in the yellow hat in the photos above and below; Hannah Lugiano is in the dark shirt and tan shorts above:

I don't know the name of the fella in the red shirt. If you know, please e-mail me so I can identify him. In the photo above, Kathie Lang is next to Jim.

After we stuffed the bags (in only 45 minutes or so), we were again treated to delicious pizzas from High Mountain Pies. (We highly recommend their Veggie Supreme pizzas. Yum!)

THURSDAY

On Thursday the runners began having pre-race activities to attend. First up was the pre-race dinner from 5-7 PM at the gym, free to runners and their families, friends, crews, and pacers. That's a lot of people!

It seems to us that the pasta feed gets better each year. It's as good as any pre-race dinner I've had at any race around the country. We arrived at 4:30 so we could eat first, then hand out "packets" (numbers, shirts, and those bags we stuffed) to the runners in attendance. About half would pick them up at the dinner.

Jim and I chose the same job we did at the bike registration - recording who got shirts and giving the runners their correct size. We switched roles this time, with Jim marking the list and me grabbing shirts. It was more fun with the runners because we know many of them, and we knew all the volunteers helping with registration and the bags.

(Great shirt above from Gary Cantrell's impossible "Barkley Marathons" in the briar-filled wilds of Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. That's our friend Dan Baglione modeling the shirt. He has the dubious distinction of taking the longest time to ever cover two miles in the race, about 32 hours this past April!)

We also got to meet and cheer on several elite runners either at the dinner or the next morning during medical checks: Karl Meltzer, winner at Hardrock several times; Steve Peterson, four-time LT100 winner; Joe Kulak, fastest Grand Slammer; Dean Karnazes, this year's VT100 winner and controversial subject of an ultrarunning book; Darcy Africa, young woman who's tearing up the trails this year; and Pam Reed, who has won the difficult Badwater 135-mile run through the California desert in the July heat.

We speculated that one of these men would win overall, and possibly Darcy would be the first female. But ya just never know . . . there are a lot of variables over one hundred miles.

FRIDAY

We were up early for breakfast and more registration duties on Friday morning. Jim and I arrived at the gym at 7:30 AM so we'd be ready for the onslaught of runners coming in for their medical checks between 8 and 10:45. Those who hadn't picked up their race numbers, bags, shirts, etc. on Thursday evening would need to do it this morning.

But first, Kathie Lang (blue shirt below) needed to be sure the four scales were calibrated. I was amused as Jim, Jim Ballard, and Joe Lugiano played musical scales, each weighing himself four times and reporting the results to Kathie.

Note: they were all pleased with the weights displayed!

In some hundred-milers, including Leadville, medical volunteers check the runners' weights at several of the aid stations, especially during the second half of the race. If a runner has gained or lost 5-7% of their pre-race weight, they can be held until they gain/lose back closer to the weight written down on their medical wristband, which they must wear throughout the race. Occasionally a runner is pulled from a race because gaining or losing too much weight can indicate a life-threatening medical problem. Both severe dehydration and over-hydration are dangerous.

The two Jims, Joe, and Kathie helped each other get their medical checks done, including blood pressure, before the other runners came in. Kathie is a doctor and would be doing med checks the next three hours; the three guys helped with registration. As an EMT, Jim could also do medical checks but didn't this time.

Soon, almost 400 runners came in for their medical checks and patiently waited in line:

Affable Hans-Dieter Weisshaar and his lovely bride, Susi, paid us a visit at the registration table:

At 11 AM, Ken Chlouber and Merilee O'Neal, co-race directors took the stage for the mandatory runner briefing.

As with the cyclists' briefing described last week, Ken gives a moving talk to the large audience of runners, pacers, and crews, some of which are shown below:

 

 

In the photo below, nearest the camera, are Dean Karnazes (white shirt in foreground), an unidentified gal who has been a "Leadwoman" (has finished all five of the LT runs and bike races in one summer), and Anne and Matt Watts on the left.

Ken again explained why Merilee has a black eye (from chasing down his burro-gone-astray during the Boom Days burro race two weeks ago); introduced the top runners and runners by sex and age groups (tons of men in their 40s and 50s, very few women proportionately in every age group) and the multiple finishers (Bill Finkbeiner is going for #23 or 24 this year); talked about race logistics and new crew rules; and introduced the race doctor, who spoke a bit about the altitude and hydration.

At the end, Ken gave his rousing motto, "You're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can!" and 400 enthusiastic runners left the gym even more pumped than they were when they arrived.

After lunch, Jim and I went over his drop boxes one more time, making last-minute adjustments to the contents. We took them to the courthouse lawn between 3 and 5 PM as directed. The photo below shows some of the bags going out to four of the five aid station locations.

Some runners rely entirely on their crews to have their own special supplies, but Jim and I have always sent our boxes out to the aid stations as Plan B in case something goes haywire with Plan A. (Plan A is when one of us serves as crew.) You just never know when your crew might be delayed in a traffic accident, have a flat tire, or encounter some other glitch that prevents them from getting to an aid station.

When I get to the aid stations where I'll be crewing, I'll get his drop box before he arrives, take it outside where I'll have a chair and additional supplies, and try to have everything in order that he might want. After he leaves, I'll return the drop box to the aid station for his return trip back to Leadville (I'll keep the ones he won't need again).

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY!!

On the way back to the camper, Jim decided to drive down the Boulevard, the dirt road he'll be running in the dark tomorrow morning from miles two to four. Neither of us had seen it for two years. It passes quickly at the beginning of the race when you're fresh and going downhill, but it's a challenge walking back up at the end. It helped Jim to visualize the road and strengthened his resolve to make it to the end of the race:

As you can see in the last two photos above, it was raining in the afternoon. It rained even harder after supper. We went to bed about 8 PM listening to rain on the roof of the camper.

Not a good omen for the beginning of the race in eight short hours. Jim was nervous enough as it was; rain was discouraging and just complicated matters. I tried to be positive, reasoning better now than in the morning. We put in our ear plugs and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Next entry: let's run 100! (Jim's e-mail address)

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil