Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Sure we believe in the hereafter . . . we're gonna show you what you're here after.
- Ken Chlouber, race director, holding up the silver belt buckle, hooded sweatshirt,
and medallion awarded to all sub-12 hour finishers in the mountain bike race

This has been a busy week for race organizers, volunteers, participants, and their families.

There is a lot to do to prepare for a 100-mile high altitude mountain bike race besides the training the riders must do. Ken Chlouber and Merilee O'Neal, the race management team, allowed about 1,000 cyclists into this year's race, the largest field in its fourteen-year history. And that's just the ones who made it through the lottery. Many more didn't get in this year.

Hint for folks who want to get in this race: if you volunteer a few hours of your time and energy before the race, you'll get in the next year.

We don't want to ride in next year's race, but we put in three days' worth of volunteering just because it's so much fun to work with our ultra running and cycling friends. We've done this most years since 1999 and will continue to help in some capacity in the future whenever we're here.

Another draw this year was hoping for a sighting of the two highest-profile entrants during registration: Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis, previous Tour de France winners. Even better, maybe we'd get to meet them.

Because I'm including so many photos, I'm breaking the race and pre-race activities into two parts.


Jim and I finished our respective runs on Thursday (Hope Pass for Jim, Mineral Belt Trail for me) so we'd have time to get ready for our first volunteer job later that afternoon. 

We arrived at the 6th Street gym at 4:30 PM ready to fill a thousand blue-and-black canvas sports bags with goodies donated by race sponsors. That would be about four hundred more than we've ever done before. We assumed the job would take longer than usual, but with at least forty volunteers stuffing the bags we were done in about the same time as last year (an hour). Another ten guys hung the sponsors' banners on the railings around the gym and performed various other tasks.

Most of the race shirts were already folded when we arrived. We helped with the remaining shirts. Other volunteers were setting up the tables for the assembly-line procedure of filling the sports bags. Until a couple years ago, each bag was assembled for a specific person, with their race number and correct shirt size already in the bag. Fortunately, the couple who is in charge of the process for both the ride and the run (Jan and Bill Moyer) changed to generic bags, with the bib numbers and shirts given out as the race participants come through registration. That makes filling and distributing the bags MUCH easier.

Jim and I found a spot across the table from each other with a product we didn't think would drive us crazy on the assembly line: little packets of sunscreen and lip gloss from Zombie Runner. We also ended up putting in pizza ads from Mountain Pies, but that wasn't as difficult as keeping up with the bottles (above) on one side of us or worse, the bandanas on the other side of us -- they were hard to separate and get into the bags. Maybe volunteers can fold them first if they are also given out to the runners next week.

Bags went down both sides of the table, so Jim and I each put our items into about 450 bags (only 900 were filled, taking into consideration an anticipated 10% attrition rate before the race). Everyone was VERY busy. It took about fifty bags to get into a smooth rhythm and then they went by quite fast. Filled bags were placed in boxes and stacked at the end of the gym for distribution in the morning. So were the shirts, arranged by size.

Besides the camaraderie and feeling good about "giving back," there is another perk to this job: pizza! Soon after we were done, several delicious kinds of pizza for dozens of hungry volunteers were delivered to us. Jim was in pizza heaven. I thought they were good, too. Thank you!


We were up early the next morning and arrived at the gym at 7:30 AM with about ten other volunteers to help Jan and Bill set up the registration tables. That's Jim on the left with Joe Lugiano:

Jim and I figured we'd recognize Lance Armstrong if he came through the line, but we didn't know what Floyd Landis looks like. Fortunately we had a "cheat sheet:" see the poster above Jim in the last photo? That's Landis!

When the cyclists began registering, they went through medical checks, paid their NORBA fee, got their numbers (ID required), listed their contact numbers and addresses in Leadville, picked up their shirts, got their crew tags from Joe, got a race poster from me, and finished up with their bags from Jim. The bags were put in the wrong place yesterday, so instead of getting them near the beginning of the line, they were the last item to be picked up -- oops! Bill will make sure they're at the other end of the line next week for the runners. Stuff happens. It wasn't all that inconvenient.

Joe, left below, handled the crew tags, writing the riders' race number on bright yellow tags that hang from the crew person's vehicle mirror. Crews must have the tags visible when they go to aid stations to assist their riders (same in the run). If a crew member disobeys any race rules, the rider (or runner) can be disqualified. Helps keep folks in line so they don't abuse the rules -- or volunteers! I imagine traffic control was a real challenge this year with so many more participants in the ride.

Registration was open for three hours. There was a steady stream of riders with few breaks until the pre-race briefing started (about fifteen minutes late because there were so many people in line). We kept waiting to see Lance or Floyd, but heard from some of the cyclists that elite athletes like that wouldn't come through the line -- they'd send "their people" to do that.

Well darned if Floyd Landis himself didn't come through the line! He was all smiles:

I was a bit dismayed, however, by the guy in the black shirt on the left and wondered if he was "stalking" Landis at the race. Read the message and think about it. Was that just a coincidence?

For those who don't know, Landis won the Tour de France last year. Then he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. He vehemently denies the doping charges and has written his defense in a recently released book. The arbitration process is continuing and Landis could lose his Tour title if he is indeed found guilty of doping. Since the Tour he has attended hearings, written his book, and had hip replacement surgery! He returned to competition in June and has ridden three races in preparation for Leadville.

We're not in the cycling "world" so we don't know how much controversy surrounds Landis right now as his case is pending. Who knows if he's guilty of cheating? It's a major problem in most professional sports. Look at Barry Bonds' recent achievement of surpassing Hank Aaron's home run record. Did he achieve that through performance-enhancing drugs? He's the only one who knows for sure.

I'm glad there's little or no money in ultra running or we'd have drug testing and more rumors and innuendo in that sport, too.

As far as Landis is concerned, the race directors are sure happy he's here and it appeared he was welcomed warmly by the other cyclists. I'm sorry Lance Armstrong didn't come to the race. I'm not aware of this type of controversy surrounding him and I think he would have added even more excitement to the race. As it was, we were eagerly awaiting a good duel between Wiens and Landis. Would a new course record be established as they pushed each other?? (Landis apparently has an MTB background; he isn't just good on the roads.)


With so many registrants picking up their numbers and bags, the pre-race briefing started a little late. The gym was absolutely packed with riders and their crews:


Race directors Ken Chlouber (blue and white shirt, below) and Merilee O'Neal (pale yellow shirt) welcomed the cyclists, introduced ones who have finished multiple times, and had participants stand up by age groups and sex. Since there were over 600 men between 30 and 49 registered to ride, Ken didn't have them stand up!

Floyd Landis got a special introduction (below), as did Dave Wiens (winner the last four times) and folks who are going for their 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th finishes. Ten-time finishers like our friend Kim Baer receive a huge gold and silver belt buckle for 1,000 miles. Eleven-timers get a beautiful jacket. Riders who have finished twelve, thirteen, and now fourteen times don't get a special award like those, but are honored every year at the pre- and post-race ceremonies.

All finishers under the twelve-hour cut-off receive a silver belt buckle, medallion, and hooded sweatshirt with their name and time printed on the sleeve (the Moyers and assistants stay up all or most of Saturday night doing the shirts). All female finishers receive a gold and silver necklace -- same in the run. Ken always mentions how important women have been in Leadville's history, reminding men that the two most important words for them to remember are "Yes, m'am."

Finishers under nine hours get a more elaborate gold and silver buckle. Riders who make the last course cut-off but not the final cut-off and come in just over twelve hours are allowed to finish. They aren't official finishers but they get a medal for their effort.

One of the riders who received special mention was a young man from South Africa who has an artificial leg. This is a long, tough course over rough roads and at high altitude -- would he fare as well on his bike as the amputees who have finished the 100-mile run?? Everyone wished him well.

The briefing lasted about an hour. The medical director gave his usual serious but tongue-in-cheek warnings about hazards like high altitude and dehydration and NSAIDs and such, Ken gave his usual rousing "You can do more than you think you can" motivational speech, the sponsors were thanked, and some race rules were emphasized.

Then the pumped-up riders dispersed to relax before dinner.


Now it was time for some of the aid station volunteers to spring into action.

After grabbing a bite to eat back at the camper, Jim and Brent Craven (our Utah friend who is also camping at Jack's place) met our aid station coordinator, Mike Hickman, at the Safeway store to pick up twenty-eight cases of water jugs. That weighed down our truck about 1,300 pounds! Brent, Mike, and Jim Ballard packed the rest of the supplies and the cyclists' drop bags intp their trucks with camper shells so the items wouldn't get wet if it rained overnight. There had been no rain in town for about three days. What would the weather be like on race day?

Jim and I headed back to the gym at 4:30 PM for late registration and the cyclists' pre-race pasta dinner, which is always tasty. What a job to prepare food for about a thousand people! We ate quickly before the riders began lining up and manned our down-sized registration tables at the back of the room:

In the photo above, Sandy (left), Joe (seated in center), and Hannah (blue shirt, standing) help a rider get registered. Jim handled the NORBA registrations, Kathy Lang did the medical checks, and I handed out shirts. I was surprised how many folks came through the line. Some began the process this morning but didn't get finished. Others who were just beginning to register had to pay $20 for the privilege (it's in the rules, to encourage folks to be on time).

Jim and I didn't get out of there until after 7 PM, just when the briefing for the volunteer course monitors began. Joe and Hannah stayed for that, but Jim and I were able to return to our camper to get ready for an early wake-up alarm. We'd be getting up as early as the cyclists for the 6:30 AM race start (a much more civilized time, however, than the 4 AM start of the run next week).

Next entry: our view of the race from the Columbine Mine aid station. Who would come through first -- Wiens, Landis, or someone else?? This should be fun to watch!

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

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil