Just one of several things that sets the Leadville Trail 100-miler
- beer served along with water and soft drinks at
registration and the med check,
- serious medical warnings delivered by race docs with
sometimes-raunchy humor to make the point,
- muling* not only allowed but
- Ken Chlouber (what can I say?),
- Ken's trademark motivational speech that comes with a
denial that he's trying to deliver a motivational speech,
additional awards for the tough women who finish the race,
- "Hopeless" aid station with supplies delivered via llamas, and
oxygen if you want it,
- more starting runners than any other 100-miler in this country
(and typically one of the lower finishing rates),
- etc., etc. It's a unique race! Many folks love it, and some won't
come near it.
Race directors Merilee O'Neal and
* Muling means having a pacer to not only PACE the runner, but to
also carry supplies for the runner. This is grounds for disqualification
in 99% of the other 100-milers, but in Leadville it is permitted
because of the mining heritage that is celebrated here; mules were
necessary to haul equipment and supplies up to 12,000 or 13,000
feet elevation to the mines back in the 1800s.
I've even seen friends, family, and pacers practically carry
exhausted runners up Sixth Street before the finish. At Leadville, this is all OK. Don't try it in any other race, though!
Activities for volunteers and runners before the LT100 run are
similar to those about which I wrote for the bike race but they start on
Wednesday, not Thursday. This entry will focus on both volunteer and
Volunteers are crucial to the success of ANY race, and Leadville is
no exception in this regard. This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
race and more runners than ever are entered: nearly seven hundred
of them! Despite the web site warning of a deadline of May 31 to
register, runners were allowed to enter up till today, Friday, the day
before the race. Ken announced at the pre-race briefing that there are
seven hundred volunteers this year. I don't know if that's just for the
run or includes the bike race, too, but that's a LOT of volunteers. Jim
and I were two of them and proudly wore our dark green volunteer shirts
during registration on Thursday and Friday.
Here's a rundown of activities the past three days and photos of lots
of volunteers and runners. My indoor photos aren't as good as my outdoor
ones, and for that I apologize. I did pick up some helpful pointers from
Blake Wood over the weekend, however, so the awards photos are better
than the ones in this entry. (I still have a lot to
learn about my camera.)
WEDNESDAY: SHIRTS, POSTERS, & BAGS
When we arrived at the gym at 4:30 PM we started folding the
very cool entrants' shirts and boxing them according to size.
Hannah Lugiano is in the foreground below:
This is the only the second time we've seen technical shirts for the
runners instead of cotton ones, and they are very nice: black medium
weight long-sleeve Poly-Dri (moisture management or "technical" fabric)
shirts from Colorado Timberline. They have a four-inch logo on the
front and course profile and sponsors on the back:
Don'tcha just love those course profiles that are so scrunched from side
to side that the climbs look like you need a ladder??
When the "assembly line" to fill the canvas sports bags began, Jim
moved over to that operation. Runners received the same attractive black
bags with blue trim as did the cyclists, with many of the same goodies
inside. Since there are fewer runners than cyclists, only (!) about 600 bags
were filled this time and it wasn't quite as hectic as last week. Even
with fewer volunteers this week, it took less than an hour to fill the
was in the middle of the line between Kathy Lang (dark top next to pink
top) and King Jordan (tan
In the photo below, Mick (gray shirt) receives the filled bags,
which were packed in large boxes for distribution at check-in:
After I got done with shirts, I moved over to the
poster-rolling operation with Jim Ballard (tall fella to the left
in the photo below) and several other volunteers:
We rolled about 600 posters for the runners this year and it made
distribution MUCH easier at runner check-in. Previously we had to roll
them while we were doing registration. I really like this year's design.
It was a favorite from a previous race and updated for the 25th
That design will also be on the finishers' sweatshirts.
At 6 PM we were again rewarded with several kinds of delicious pizza
from High Mountain Pies. Food is never far from an ultra runners'
THURSDAY: RUNNER CHECK-IN & DINNER
But not until late afternoon. During the day, Jim was
busy packing his drop boxes. He modified last year's list a bit and we
went over it again and again to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything.
Runners can have drop bags at any of five aid stations
at Leadville. Since it's an out-and-back course, they hit four of those
aid stations twice. Jim packed a total of seven boxes: one each
for May Queen, Fish Hatchery, Halfmoon, and Winfield; two for
Twin Lakes (one box contained dry shoes, the other his Camelbak pack for
the trek over Hope Pass); and one for me to physically take to
"tree line," a crew point but not aid station.
We've always used drop boxes in 100-milers even if one
of us is crewing all day. Some folks rely totally on their crew(s). Jim
and I are too anal for that. Even though nothing has ever prevented one
of us from reaching an aid station on time (vehicle problems, traffic
accident, whatever), STUFF CAN HAPPEN and if the drop boxes aren't
there, the runner could be screwed. So we always have Plan A and Plan B.
This year we had to come up with Plan C thirty minutes
before the race. <sigh> More about that later.
The photo below shows Jim with his finished
boxes. He clearly indicated on his drop bag lists exactly what he wanted
me to have ready for him at each aid station (bottle of water with hand
carrier, bottle with Perpetuem for him to put in his single pack, and a flask or two of Hammergel -- at
minimum). I knew what was in each drop box, what he wanted to leave or
pick up, and the times he expected to arrive. Jim wants to get into and
out of each aid station as quickly as possible, often not using their
fluids or food. It's so easy to lose time in aid stations if you don't
know exactly what you need to do or if there are a lot of other runners
there at the same time.
Here he's busy printing out his pace charts from the
computer. I laminated the two that he'll carry so they don't get wet and
smudge. I have his goal splits on my copies and on the drop bag lists so
know about when to expect him and can remind him of the next cut-off. He
modified the charts from last year, based on the times he arrived at the
aid stations then and his current goals:
We arrived at the gym at 4:30 PM to eat supper before the
runners arrived. The same catering company from Copper Mountain ski
resort (or was
that COOPER Mountain?? they are both north of Leadville) provided delicious salad fixings,
fruit, bread, a choice of vegetarian or spicy meatball sauce over spaghetti, and white or
chocolate cake for dessert.
The meal is included in the race fee, and families/friends don't have to
About a dozen volunteers quickly ate dinner, then positioned
themselves for the onslaught of runners checking in before, during, and
after the meal. Entrants showed their IDs to get their numbers, then
they went down the line to pick up their bags, shirts, posters, and crew
tags. Unlike some of the cyclists last week, none of the runners had any
trouble understanding the concept of going down the line in an orderly
Jim and I alternated checking off names on the shirt list and handing
runners their shirts. This is our favorite job at registration,
especially when the shirt is nice.
We knew the runners with numbers from 1 to 199 finished in those
positions last year. Those with an asterisk after their names were going
for the "Leadman" award and ones with a "carrot" did the 100-mile bike
race, so we were able to give these folks extra encouragement to finish
the run. There are no "Leadwomen" in the run this year, but
nine men are still eligible for the award. It means they've completed
all five of the races organized each summer by Ken and Merilee:
two bike races (50 and 100 miles) and three runs (10K, marathon, and
100-miler). The 100-mile bike race was only a week ago, and the 10K was
the day after. Whew! The run this weekend is the final race of the series.
The gym was closed about 7:30 PM and our job was temporarily
over. From the names checked off, we estimated about half the runners
picked up their bags and shirts at dinner. That meant a bunch still
needed to pick up their numbers and bags the next morning at the medical
check-in. It was fun to see so many of our friends and meet others for
the first time. I was too busy to take as many photos as I wanted, and
those I took didn't come out well enough to post here.
FRIDAY MORNING: MEDICAL CHECK-IN,
CONTINUED REGISTRATION, & PRE-RACE
All entrants in this race must have a cursory medical check the
morning before the race. Volunteers who are doctors, nurses, PAs, EMTs,
etc. note the runners' weight and get information about their health
status. The weight and any pertinent problems are noted on the bright
plastic wrist band that is attached to each runners' wrist. Runners must
weigh at several aid stations in the second half of the race to be sure
they have not gained or lost too much weight, either of which could
indicate serious medical problems. Medical support is good in this race,
but not as strict as in some others.
We arrived half an hour early so Jim could go through the
medical check with the other runners who were volunteering at the
registration tables. Jim and Joe Lugiano (bright red shirt in the
background, below) compared weights on the three scales to make sure
they were the same. Jim was very happy with his weight! That's Jo Ann
Beine, volunteer extraordinaire, in the blue shirt being checked in:
From 8 to 11 AM about six hundred runners lined up for the medical
check-in. Most of the time, the line was out the Sixth Street door. In
the photo below you can see only about half of the line that was inside
the gym at that moment:
Once the runners reached one of the six medical volunteers, they were
I looked up and saw Tyler Curiel-of-the-bright-tights just after he
weighed himself and put his shorts back on. He had on a different pair
of colorful tights at Hardrock (see July 13 entry). Tyler is one of
about a dozen entrants who finished the Hardrock Hundred only five weeks
Runners who hadn't picked up their numbers, bags, shirts, etc.
visited us at the registration tables. Jim and I resumed our same jobs
distributing the shirts, which ran large this time. We had to explain
that runners whose shirts didn't fit would have to wait until after the
race to exchange them for a different size. I know some people were
disappointed by that, and I know how they feel because I've been in the
same predicament at several races. When you pay about $200 for a race,
you expect a shirt that fits! It's so hard to know what size to put
down when you register for a race, especially if you're a woman. Is it a
cotton or synthetic shirt? Is it men's or women's sizing? And even if
you know those two things, fit varies by style and manufacturer. It's as
much of a headache for race management as it is for the runners. I hope
everyone went home happy with their shirt.
At 11 AM Ken began the pre-race briefing for the runners. The gym was
packed almost as tightly as for the bike briefing even though there were
about three hundred fewer entrants in the run. It was a standing room-only crowd:
Even though the drill is about the same each year, I
enjoy the pre-race briefing. Regulars know all of Ken's jokes and
stories from prior years, but it's still a lot of fun to hear it again
and see how newbies react. Ken emphasizes the "Leadville family" theme,
and tries to make everyone feel welcome, runners and families alike, whether it's their first or
twenty-fifth time at the race.
Ken first mentioned the seven hundred volunteers and
thanked them. That was nice. I like his priorities! He also introduced
representatives from the major sponsors and thanked them.
He introduced Leadville's mayor, Bud Elliot, who
welcomed the visitors to town and emphasized how important the race is
to the town's economy. Mr. Elliot is standing to the far left in the
Next, one of the two race doctors (Tom Mayno) spoke about
the ten most common medical hazards in the race, including hypothermia,
high altitude, dehydrating sunshine, lightning and other storm activity,
overuse of NSAIDs, wildlife, etc. The race docs are seated in the rear
of the photo below in the red shirts. John Hall is on the left, and
Tom's on the right behind Ken and Merilee:
Then Ken launched into the focus of the briefing: the runners. As
usual, he had all the first-time LT100 runners stand up and be
recognized. It was a large group! He also asked all the first-time LT
crews and pacers to stand, emphasizing how important they are to the
Ken gets one of his bigger laughs each year with his
comment about how many states are represented and how many countries.
This year runners come from six other countries, which he named, then
paused to add . . . "and Arkansas."
Next each ten-year age group stood up, first the women
and then the men. It's typical for the largest ultra running age groups to be
30-49 for women and 40-59 for the men, and this year is no exception at
I didn't write down all the numbers, but there are only 17 women
in my age group (50-59) and only one woman over 60. There were a lot
more women in the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups. There are 164 men
registered age 40-49, 114 age 50-59, a whopping 39 in the 60-69 age
group, and two in their 70s (Don Adolf and Karsten Solheim, who is in
the Grand Slam).
Although there are more and more men and women in their
twenties who are running ultras now, it's still a relatively small
number compared to older folks. Ken quipped that the men and women in
their 20s "should have something better to do on a Saturday night" than
run this race! That always gets a big laugh, of course.
Past male and female champions were introduced if they
were present this year, including Marge Adelman Hickman, Julie Arter,
Kirk Apt, Paul DeWitt (who's running with his father Jim this year), and
Anton Krupika, who won last year.
Multiple finishers are always recognized, especially
those who have finished ten or more times. Folks who have won their huge
ten-year buckle always wear them to the pre-race and post-race events.
They have every right to be proud of them! In any photo of Ken in this
journal you can see his buckle. Ken has the multiple race finishers
stand up. Those who are going for their ten-year buckles or eleven-year
jackets are recognized first.
Then he gets to the ones who have completed more races
than that, such as Marge Hickman with thirteen finishes, until only Bill
Finkbeiner is left standing each year. Only two men, Garry Curry and
Steve Siguaw, have finished eighteen times. Bill has finished an
astounding twenty-three times!! I don't know what happened the
twenty-fourth time -- he either didn't start or didn't finish one year.
Ken warned the runners that Lake Creek was running high
after the big rainstorm on Thursday; we got several inches and our
camper was surrounded by huge puddles again. There will be one or two
ropes to assist the runners across the creek during the race. Ken also
gave instructions about crewing at Winfield, which is a challenge for
both runners and crews.
Then he launched into what I call his motivational speech. He began
by mentioning the prayer flags runners could purchase for a $5 donation
to the foundation Ken and Merilee run for underprivileged children in
the community. The flags are very impressive flying up at Hope Pass
during the race. Runners can write whatever they want on the flags. Ken
quipped, "I've looked at some of you and all you have is a prayer" to
finish the race. Kinda motivational in a negative way? The audience
always laughs anyway.
He made the same joke again about "believing in the hereafter --
here's what you're after:" nice long-sleeved hooded sweatshirts
for all finishers with their name and time screen-printed on the left
sleeve; a medallion on a red ribbon at the finish line;
silver buckles for all finishers between 25 and 30 hours;
and larger gold and silver buckles for runners under 25 hours. Women
receive a gold and silver necklace at the awards ceremony and a bouquet
of flowers at the finish line. Sweet! Age-group winners three-deep get
more goodies: a mining plate and bottle of cider. The overall
male and female also get a huge trophy. You do get quite a bit of schwag
if you finish this race, compared to others.
You also get to finish on a red carpet!
If all that isn't enough motivation beyond each runners' personal
goals and reasons for finishing the race, Ken gives them more food for
thought. He reminds them of the sacrifices their families are making to
get them across the finish line. He talks about the runners' inexhaustible wealth of personal power,
strength, and ability to withstand pain when their minds and bodies are
screaming at them to quit. He tells them to reach into that deep well
again and again and again during the race. He says it takes a lot of
courage to reach in there when it really hurts, but to finish they must
do it. He promises them that they will hurt for only up to thirty hours
if they finish the race, but they will hurt for 364 days if they quit.
He finishes by repeating his rousing trademark slogan about three
times: "You are better than you think you are and you can do
more than you think you can."
And even if you've heard it twenty times, and even if you aren't even
IN the race, you go out of that gym at 1 PM believing him.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON: DROP BAGS
Runners must take their drop bags and boxes to the
courthouse between 3 and 5 PM the day before the race so aid station
volunteers can pick them up and take them to the proper locations. Since
the race begins at 4 AM on Saturday, the first aid stations are set up
Friday evening or during the night. I think the volunteers who work the
aid station near Hope Pass go up on Friday, too, and spend two nights up
there in tents. The Twin Lakes, Halfmoon, Fish Hatchery, and May Queen
aid stations see runners coming and going, so they are open for many
After the briefing Jim had to put only a couple things
in his drop boxes, like fresh ginger to combat potential nausea. He got all his clothes and gear
ready for the next morning and was pretty much bored and anxious to get
started. I got some things ready for crewing and made a list of what I'd
need to do right after the race began. I always take more fluids, food,
gear, clothing, and supplies in case Jim wants something that isn't in
his boxes, and I need things for the dogs and me for up to thirty
hours, too. Better to take too much than not enough!
We took Jim's drop boxes to the courthouse and talked with other
runners for a little while. That's Kirk Apt and Rickie Redland-McManus
below. Both finished Hardrock in July and are back for more
Dave Westlake, below left, writes his race number on the tags on his
drop bags as other runners and volunteers mill under the big tent. Dave
is one of about twenty runners who are still in the Grand Slam, having already finished
Western States and Vermont this summer. Two down, two to go!
After an early supper in the camper Jim was getting
antsy. It rained again in the late afternoon and he had cabin fever.
When the rain ended, he went to the grocery store for last-minute items
to hold us over the weekend and saw what he described as one of the brightest
rainbows he's ever seen:
I hope that is a good omen for his race tomorrow!
We were in bed about 8 PM, well before dark. We had
several alarms set for 2:30 AM for the uncivil start time
of 4 AM. I don't think either of us has ever overslept before a race,
but we didn't want to set a precedent. I told Jim to wear
earplugs this time and I'd keep mine out so I could hear the alarm (I'm
usually the one who wears ear plugs). Neither of us slept much, of
course. I felt just as much responsibility as the crew person to get us
up in time as I would have if I'd been the runner.
Both of us did doze off eventually, wondering what tomorrow's weather
would bring: rain? sleet? hail? high winds? heat? cold? Jim was
prepared for anything. We were both optimistic that he'd finish the race
Next entry: the race on Saturday.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil