2006 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

   
 
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BOOM DAYS & BURROS
 
SUNDAY, AUGUST 6
 
 
"This weekend is Leadville's premiere event  -  Boom Days. It's a celebration of
Lake County's unique heritage. There are incredible mining demonstrations.
There are burro races, reminding us of the way goods used to be transported. There
are all kinds of great food, live music, and other goodies, stuff we don't get up here
on a regular basis. Boom Days is Leadville's biggest party, that's for sure."
 
- Kathy Bedell, The Leadville Chronicle, August 3-9, 2006, p. 6
 
 

 

This is the fourth time Jim and I have gotten to Leadville in time for the annual Boom Days celebration, held two weeks before the 100-mile trail run. It is a lot of fun to people-watch. It is more fun to participate in some way, such as marching in Saturday's parade with other LT100 runners or running several blocks up and down Harrison Avenue with a borrowed burro.

We've done the former (marched in the parade) but not the latter (run a burro).

Yet.

If Jim had been there this morning, I would have done the burro thing. But he was out running around Turquoise Lake on part of the LT100 race course. No use running with a burro if no one I knew was there to see it!

This entry will be mostly a photo essay with a variety of shots taken yesterday and today during Boom Days. Both of us attended some of the events on Saturday. I was "alone" with the hordes today, happily taking photos of people having fun while Jim was out having his own fun running.

First, a bit of history about Boom Days.

Pre-World War II celebrations in Leadville were called Tabor Days, after one of the town's most famous residents, Horace Tabor. The name was later changed to Boom Days and featured events that honor both the area's mining history and western heritage. This is the 56th celebration of Boom Days and the 58th year of burro racing

Each year the event gets bigger. In 2005, a rodeo was added. We happen to be camped out right next to the second annual rodeo, which wasn't planned. But we don't mind the sounds of cattle or country music or the events announcer. It's all part of the fun of Boom Days. At least we aren't right next to the mining competition with all its hammering and drilling!

Those mining events actually go back 123 years, when the first drilling matches were held in 1885. In 1896, a huge Gunnison granite rock was donated for drilling matches. It is considered the hardest rock in Colorado. South of town on Hwy. 24 is an old mine with dozens of painted rocks used in previous competitions. I keep forgetting to stop to take a photo of them. Below is a photo of this year's rock before the drillers got to it:

Leadville's population triples during Boom Days. Former residents return and people visit from all over the state. Cyclists and runners like us who come from all over the country (and world) who are out here acclimating for races also enjoy the festivities. Some folks dress up in 19th Century garb to lend more authenticity to the event, such as this gentleman we remember from prior years who relishes his role as "Wyatt Burp:"

He's been known to get into "gunfights" on Harrison Avenue with "hooligans" who are also in attendance during Boom Days.

I'll highlight several of the events I photographed from Saturday and Sunday below. In addition to these events were the No O (love the name!) 5k and 10k races, softball tournament, gun show, pancake breakfast, spaghetti dinner, dance, kids' events, pie-eating contest, egg and balloon events, gold panning, and musical pies, which is played like musical chairs.

Unfortunately, they don't have the outhouse races any more. Those were fun!

EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE

Since Jim and I missed the big 4th of July parade in Silverton, we thought it'd be fun to watch the Boom Days parade this year instead of helping LT100 runners and cyclists carry the race banner, as we've done before.

We found a spot to sit on the shady side of the street yesterday morning and enjoyed the show for over an hour:

the multiple flyovers by three 1943 North American AT-6 Texan airplanes,

modern and antique fire trucks,

high school bands from as far away as Pueblo, Colorado,

a horse with a painted hand print on its rump,

crazy Shriners and their wheelie cars, little bitty convertibles, motorcycles (and an excellent band),

even the politicians who were soliciting votes in upcoming local elections. [That's LT100 co-race directors Ken Chlouber and Merilee O'Neal (yellow hat) and Ken's wife in the white hat. He's running for the Colorado House of Representatives.]

It was typical small-town America with a mining/Western theme.

As we were wandering around after the parade, we saw one of our ultra running friends from North Carolina, Joe Lugiano. Jim's seen Joe up on  Hope Pass several times the last two weeks, training hard for LT100.

Joe's wife, Hannah, will be arriving in a few days to crew for him during the race.

ANYTHING GOES AT THE CAR SHOW

After the parade, about two dozen show cars, some authentic antiques, were lined up along Harrison Avenue for inspection. For a $15 entry fee, people could display their cherished two- or four-wheeled vehicles - any make, model, or year. Here are a couple of them.

I believe this is a 1942 Ford sedan. Please correct me if I'm wrong. [Note the fella in the green shirt. There's a graphic of a bride and groom on the front. Underneath it reads, "Game Over." We thought that was pretty funny.]

Jim was interested in this '57 Chevy. He used to have a '58, but says it "didn't look anything like" this show model!

 

ARTS, CRAFTS, AND *JUNQUE*

Each year seems to bring out more and more arts and crafts exhibits at Boom Days. Several blocks of Harrison Avenue, the main drag in Leadville, are blocked off for various street events, food vendors, and for people to move freely about. Areas on Fifth and Sixth Avenue are reserved for the eighty crafts booths.

Can you imagine any setting more scenic than this for a booth, with Mt. Massive as a backdrop?

It was fun to watch people try on hats from New Zealand (below), get their faces painted, and laugh at the funny clock faces designed for every profession and hobby (except running!) that you can think of:

I forgot about reflections in the glass when I took the photo below of "Dog Time." See my fingers holding the camera?

Oh, wait. I MEANT to do that!

I really wanted to get one of the "retirement" clocks for my brother, but it was too pricey: $45.00. (Not that Bill isn't worth every penny. We just don't exchange gifts any more.) Instead of numbers, every hour except 12 said "Saturday." At the top was "Sunday." A couple of times I've joked to him that "every day is Saturday when you're retired." Being much more religious than Jim and I are, Bill quickly retorts, "Except for Sunday."

Bill is so handy he could make his own clock like this!

EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY

I had lunch both days from the Thai vendor, shown below. Thai is my favorite food, and these folks, who have a restaurant in Ft. Collins, I believe, do great meals at festivals. I was intrigued by the "monkey balls," but chose to get spicy chicken stir fry and Pad Thai instead of the deep-fried meat balls. Both dishes were yummy.

There were about twenty vendors with all the other more standard festival foods like corn dogs, gyros, burritos, turkey legs, freshly-squeezed lemonade, and snow cones.

MINING AND MORE

Included in the mining events are single and team events such as double-jack drilling, jackleg drilling, hand-mucking, hand-steeling, and spike-driving.

In the spike-driving event, competitors have to drive three very long metal spikes into the upper beam and two into the lower beam shown below as quickly as possible. It's harder to drive the spikes into the upper beam because you have to "hammer" UP instead of DOWN. No one that we watched got all five spikes in all the way without having to straighten at least one of them out, which took more time.

The jackleg event was noisy with the mechanical drills using compressed air. I got hit with some flying "sand" when I got too close to take this shot:

In the single-jack event, a sledgehammer is used with a hand-steel, a chisel-like devise, to pound a hole into the rock during an allotted period of time. In the double-jack, a team approach is used with one person doing the pounding and the other holding the steel. Steels of varying sizes are used as the hole gets deeper.

In the hand-mucking event, competitors shovel a half-ton of broken rock, or muck, into an ore cart and then push the cart along a track to the finish. We didn't see these last three events.

There is such a rich history of mining in Leadville that I will do a journal entry later on that subject.  I like photographing old mine buildings and relics. They're everywhere.

JUST MOSEY ALONG NOW

The "mosey" contests are much more sophisticated events than the mining ones.

Held at high noon on Sunday, folks of all ages dress up in their 1880s finery (the 1880s were Leadville's heyday) and stroll along Harrison Avenue in front of the judges' stand to compete in several categories - most authentic dressy couple, most authentic saloon girl, most authentic child/teenager, etc. I love seeing the beautiful costumes every year and watching the participants as they saunter in a large oval, some obviously nervous, some quite comfortable strutting their stuff and trying to act the part of their character.

[Humorous note: the mosey is conducted on the same street right after the three burro races start. Burros poop whenever and wherever they please, just like horses. Several volunteers were out scooping the street before the mosey began, thank goodness!]

I found myself drawn to several of the contestants in the mosey.

One was a pretty blonde teenage girl about 14, who was quite composed for nearly an hour as she patiently waited her turn, talking with her family and a good friend in the same category. I discovered she made her beautiful navy blue velvet and white lace outfit, which endeared me to her all the more. I have been a seamstress since childhood, made elaborate Shakespearean costumes in college, and taught high school home ec. for two years after graduating. I know this young lady put a lot of time into making her outfit and it looked "professional." I didn't stick around for the judges' results, so I don't know whether she won her category or not. She was my favorite. She's on the left in the photo below. I wish I'd gotten a better picture of her.

[I later learned from the Leadville newspaper that this young lady did win her category.]

Two women from Denver who are about my age made me laugh as soon as I saw them. They were the only two ladies entered in the "saloon girl" category, and they played the part to the hilt. They were a riot, working the crowd before the competition and working the judges during it. I talked with them several minutes while they were waiting to mosey and thoroughly enjoyed their sense of humor. I wish I was uninhibited enough to parade around like they did - in character, of course!

These two young children charmed the crowd. It was the little girl's first time to mosey, but the little boy had obviously done it before. He really played to his audience! Everybody cheered when he dropped to one knee during their mosey and pretended to propose to the little girl. Aren't they adorable?

Here is one more contestant. There were plenty of men, but their outfits just weren't as photogenic as the women's!

 

AND NOW MY FAVORITE EVENTS, THE BURRO RACES!

There is nothing more serious - or comical - during Boom Days than the three burro races.

Serious because there is a long history of the event, prize money involved, and potential injuries from ornery burros.

Comical because of the ornery burros! They are totally unpredictable running "partners." In fact, I don't think they understand the concept of "teamwork" at all.

The sport of burro racing in Colorado began back in 1949 with the first pack burro championship race that ran from Leadville to Fairplay, towns about twenty-three miles apart and linked by 13,186-foot Mosquito Pass (and the very worst 4WD road we've ever driven).

Women began competing in 1956.

After a few years of alternating the start and finish, Leadville and Fairplay decided to have separate burro races. Later, a third race was added in Buena Vista, and the "Triple Crown" was born. All three races are still run every summer, although the distances vary, and prize money is awarded to the male and female winners in each town. If anyone wins all three races in one season, he or she wins an additional $500.00.

In Leadville, the men run from Harrison and Fifth Street up to Mosquito Pass, through the mining district, and back for a total of twenty-two miles. The women's race, which loops around Bald Mountain, is fifteen miles long.

One thing that makes the burro races more interesting to me is that I know two of the long-standing competitors. Tom Sobol, whose wife, Melissa, is a runner I used to know when I lived in the Atlanta area, often wins one or more of the burro races. This is Tom (runner with the hat on the right) and his burro just after the race began:

The other competitor we know, racing for his 30th year (!), is Ken Chlouber, co-RD of the Leadville races. Ken, a former miner, has been a state representative and senator, I believe, and is currently running for the state house of representatives. You saw his photo above in the parade section, along with Merilee O'Neal.

In the next photo, Ken is shown adjusting the mandatory 35-pound pack on his burro's back before the race this morning:

A friend is holding the burro's reins. Another hovers on the right.

Why?

When I arrived at this very spot about 45 minutes before the race began, I noticed the door to a nearby ambulance closing and the vehicle speeding off toward Buena Vista. I saw one of our running buddies from North Carolina, Joe Lugiano, standing near Ken and began talking to him. I quickly found out it was co-RD Merilee O'Neal who was just whisked off in the ambulance!

Oh, no! What happened?

Remember when I said burros are unpredictable and burro racing can be dangerous? Seems Ken's two burros got loose and Merilee tried to stop them bare-handed. She got run over and suffered bruises, including a black eye, and required several stitches in one hand. [Later: Good news! She was soon back on the job in the LT office and we talked to her there on Wednesday. What a shiner! Folks have been teasing her about the new Boom Days sport of "burro wrestling."]

Ken continued to have problems with the young burro he chose to use in the race this morning, the son of the burro with which he previously raced. He started a few minutes behind the other nine or ten competitors, and could barely get the burro to move from Fifth Street to Seventh Avenue, where the course heads east into the mountains. I could see he was in for a mighty struggle.

But Ken's a tough one. He's a former miner, remember? And his rallying cry to 500 ultra runners every year in the LT100 pre-race briefing is, "You are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can." He lives by this motto.

I later learned he didn't finish the race this time. I'm sure he gave it his best effort.

The women's burro race started fifteen minutes later with about eight competitors. None of the ladies seemed to have problems controlling the burros, at least while I was watching. What's with that?? Do they prefer more tame animals? Are they "burro whisperers?"

[I didn't realize until later that our good friend, Marge Hickman, was running a burro! I didn't even see her out there. In the photo above, she'd in the middle toward the back, in a light blue singlet and light-colored hat. Marge was 6th in the women's race, winning $60 for her efforts. Barb Dolan won the race again, and Hal Walters won the men's race. Tom Sobol was second by about one minute.]

More comical were the "celebratory" burro races. Whether that is an inadvertent misnomer or deliberately chosen to encourage spectators to participate, I don't know, but there were no "celebrities" whose names were announced. Instead, festival goers of all ages and sizes were encouraged to run in one of eight four-block-long "races" with six different (and very tame) burros. The burros also ranged in size from little to great big. It was total fun to watch young women in tank tops and flimsy sandals, overweight 30-something men in loafers, and mature gray-haired senior citizens running with those burros!

In the first heat, below, notice the young lady dressed in the blue costume. She would be competing in the mosey half an hour later!!

It was also fun to watch the spectators during the celebrity races:

Like I said, if Jim had been there to man the camera, I would have entered one of the "celebrity burro races." At least I had on running shoes!

Maybe next year . . .

Next up: back on the Colorado Trail for Segment 8 from Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass.

Moseying on up the trail,

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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil