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
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.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: PACKET-STUFFING
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
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
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.
FRIDAY MORNING: REGISTRATION
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.)
FRIDAY MORNING, CONT.: PRE-RACE BRIEFING
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,
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
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
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
FRIDAY AFTERNOON: AID STATION
SUPPLIES, PRE-RACE DINNER
Now it was time for some of the aid station volunteers to spring
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
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
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil