After little sleep, we were up at 2:30 AM when the alarms
sounded. I went outside the camper to check on two important things:
the sky (clear with millions of stars!!) and Brent Craven's camper
across the woods on Jack's property (lights on mean he's up). Forty-six
degrees outside, typical nighttime temperature in August for Leadville.
So far, so good.
We got ready for the race start about three-quarters of a mile away.
Jim had his clothes and race gear laid out, so all he had to do was take
a shower, eat a little bit of food (our brains or stomachs aren't ready
for much food at 3 AM), and get dressed. His biggest decisions were
which jacket to wear at the start and whether to keep long pants on. He left
the pants and Marmot Precip jacket with me to give him later, if needed, and
started the race in shorts, a short-sleeved technical shirt over a
long-sleeved one, a light pair of gloves, and a thin nylon jacket he could leave at one of the
early aid stations if the weather was nice.
ADAPTING TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES
One of the most important lessons Jim and I have learned
through ultra running and our AT journey run is to be flexible and
adaptable when your best-laid plans go awry. We usually have alternate
plans for any training run, race, trip, or other endeavor, and still
occasionally have to come up with additional alternatives if those
won't work. Life, and running, have lots of variables.
Today we were put to the test again.
Our F-250 diesel truck, which had been running just fine the day
before the race, decided to croak on the short drive to the start. The
engine sounded horrible and the truck wouldn't go over 10 MPH without
sounding like it would self-destruct. The "service engine soon" light
Great timing, we thought. (I won't repeat the bad words we
really used.) How would I be able to crew for
Jim all day and night??
Jim managed to get the truck within two blocks of the start on Sixth
Street. It was obvious I couldn't use it for the race today, so with
half an hour to spare we had to come up with Plan C.
We had several options. I could maybe rent a vehicle but no one, even
local residents like Ken and Merilee, knew if there was a rental agency
at the little Leadville airport. I could possibly ride with another crew
person, but that can be a problem if one runner is appreciably ahead of
the other or one drops out. The best answer seemed to be using Brent's
truck if he'd let us. He was in the race and had no pacer or crew that
would be using it.
The next challenge was locating Brent with twenty minutes to spare
before the race began. We'd left our camping spot before him, so we had
to find him in the dark among six hundred runners and their families and
friends at Sixth and Harrison. Unbeknownst to us, he was parked just two
vehicles behind us on Sixth Street and somehow we'd missed him as he
walked by us to check in at the beginning of the race! We found him at
the start with less than fifteen minutes to go. We're glad he's tall!
Bless Brent, who immediately said it'd be fine for me to use his Chevy
Silverado truck to crew for Jim. We walked fast down Sixth Street
two-plus blocks so he could give me the keys and
then we all scrambled back up the street to the start. Jim and Brent had
about three minutes to get their thoughts together and position
themselves before the gun went off.
Whew! I knew I was in for an interesting day and night, and felt
sorry for the extra stress on Jim. I knew he was worried about what was
wrong with our truck, how much it would cost, where we'd get it
repaired, and how long it would take (not that we're in any hurry to get
home to 100-degree temperatures and high humidity!). I just hoped he
wouldn't obsess so much about the truck -- and whether I'd be at any of
the aid stations -- that it would negatively affect his race.
Later he did tell me he thought a lot about the truck on the
thirteen-mile trek to the first aid station, but he pretty much forgot
about it after that. He did wonder if I'd be at Fish Hatchery at 23+
miles, the first aid station where I'd go. Although he had most
everything he needed in his drop bags, he was counting on me to make
each aid station a quick pit stop to exchange empty bottles for filled
ones. I also had the Montrail Hardrock shoes he wanted to put
on at Twin Lakes for the Hope Pass double crossing, and his pants and
Marmot Precip jacket. (He had Precip pants and a warmer water resistant
jacket in the Twin Lakes drop box, which were better options for the
So. There's always a first time when a crew can't get to an aid
station. That's why we prepare drop boxes with supplies we might need in
case "stuff" happens. We narrowly dodged the bullet today, and I was
able to crew for Jim OK. But it reinforced our strategy of Plan A and
Plan B. Using Brent's truck today was a fortuitous Plan C.
In retrospect, we're glad the truck died when it did. It would have
been terribly inconvenient for the problem to surface, say, out at the
Winfield aid station on a crummy dirt road about forty miles from a
town. Worse yet, it could have happened on some hot stretch of freeway
on our way home to Virginia, pulling the camper. We are grateful it happened when
and where it did, if it had to happen at all.
Despite the uncivil 4 AM start time for the LT100 run,
and whether I'm the runner or the crew, I
always enjoy the bright lights that illuminate Sixth and Harrison, the
hundreds of runners and spectators milling around with energy and high
hopes they can barely contain, and the veteran race announcer giving
words of encouragement before the final countdown. What a rush!
When the gun goes off, it's an amazing sight to behold
several hundred runners with glowing headlamps and flashlights start
their long journey. Spectators whoop and holler as the participants run
several blocks until the first climb to McWethy Boulevard. Runners laugh and
joke with nervous energy, excited about finally getting started after
several days and weeks of tapering.
Anything is possible at this point, and most are
This year 592 runners began the race, the largest field
in race history. It's also the largest field of any other 100-mler in
this country. Only 210 of them would cross the red-carpeted finish line
before the thirty-hour cut-off at 10 AM Sunday, which may be the lowest
finish rate this race has ever had.
With about two minutes to spare, I kissed and hugged
Jim, wishing him well and advising him to forget about the truck or
whether I'd be at the aid stations. I promised him I'd do everything
humanly possible to be there for him. He didn't want me (or anyone else)
to pace -- I push him more than he wants to be pushed! -- so all I had
to do was crew for him. Even if Brent's truck broke down, I was
determined to find a way to crew.
My start photos turned out too bad to put here. Take
my word that's it's a cool sight to see those lights streaming down,
then up, Sixth Street. It's not as exciting as watching 900 bikes whiz
around the corner at Sixth and McWethy, but it's cool. Even more cool is
watching the lights bob up and down through the woods along the trail
beside Turquoise Lake when I've run or crewed at the Tabor boat ramp, but I
wouldn't be out there today. If you ever run this race, turn around to
see that sight as runners arc around the lake.
My first task was to get some things out of our truck
and put them into Brent's truck. Fortunately I hadn't put many of the
crewing items in our truck yet.
Back at the camper it took me longer than it should have to get ready to
go to the fish hatchery. I was stressed out about the truck, too, and it took
extra time to load things into an unfamiliar truck. I decided to take the dogs
with me, at least while it was cool. That worked out well last year and would
save a lot of time and gas by not having to return to the camper every few
hours to let them out, feed them, etc. They love to travel, and adapted to
Brent's truck as if nothing was different. If only I was that adaptable!
I also had to carry everything about a hundred feet between the camper and
truck while dodging mud and huge puddles of water -- with a knee that could
buckle at any time. I over-used it Monday on my climbs to Mts. Oxford and
Belford and could barely stand on it the next day. It's been getting better,
but I still can't walk much.
Before loading Brent's truck I had to relocate the things he had in his back
seat so the dogs and I didn't ruin it while crewing. I don't remember even seeing Brent's cell phone,
which I placed with some other small items into a plastic bowl in the
back end of the truck under the camper shell. That made for a long search after the race when
Brent couldn't find his cell phone and almost cancelled his service
Sunday morning. Somehow he found it while I was at the awards ceremony. Oh,
me. Sorry, Brent.
I'm very grateful for the use of his truck, which was easy to drive once I figured out (in the dark)
its unique qualities and where all the controls were located. In fact,
it was a little easier to maneuver at the aid stations than our larger
FISH HATCHERY AID STATION (23.5
I enjoyed the early morning drive to the fish hatchery
on the eastern flank of Mt. Massive. I took several photos of the
low-hanging fog in the valley. In the photo below you can see the
sun casting a soft pink glow on Mts. Elbert on the left and Massive on the
I got to the fish hatchery about 6:50 AM, well before most of the
other crew vehicles. I was shown to a grassy area along the road where
the runners go into and out of the driveway up to the aid station. Other
crews said the first runner had not yet been through, so I just stayed
in the truck for a few minutes, watching the road for some action.
Soon I heard cheering and could see Anton Krupika, the first runner,
turn off County Road 300 and run up to the aid station. He came back
out quickly, taking off his shirt to give to his crew farther down the
Every picture I've seen of Anton running has him
shirtless! This would be the last time I'd see him for nearly thirteen
hours. A traffic volunteer who has worked this location for many years said it was the earliest he's ever seen a runner
come through this aid station. It was just after 7 AM.
Wow. Would Anton be able to break Matt Carpenter's
course record, set two years ago? I love it when course records are
I don't remember who was next or how far behind he was.
I was busy getting Jim's drop box from the aid station and setting up a
place nearby with a chair, another drop box with miscellaneous items I'd packed to take to each
station, a backpack with various clothing, and a cooler. I walked around less than usual but still
estimate I put in about three miles today on my bum knee, carrying
things to and from aid stations and walking the dogs. With more runners
and crews in the race this year, I had to park even farther out at "tree
Lakes, and Winfield than previous years. I'm not complaining, though. It's still easier to crew at
this race than some others like Western States.
After getting Jim's next two bottles of water and
Perpetuem ready I sat and enjoyed my front row seat to the action as runners
passed me on their way to and from the aid station. Jim was hoping to
avoid going into the building, but the timers told me he'd have to do
the loop through there because "it's part of the course." Whatever.
It's not like this is a short course; it's already more than a
hundred miles with the relos on the Colorado Trail and Mount Hope.
It was fun to watch about half of the runners come
through before Jim got there. Liz Walker and Scott Brockmeier, east
coast friends, are shown below. Liz is one of the participants who
finished Hardrock five weeks ago:
Jim's goal was to reach this aid station about 8:45 AM. Soon after that,
Han-Dieter Weisshaar came by, basking in the cheers he always receives
at aid stations. I cheered for him, too, of course! He's one of my
favorite ultra people. This is Hans' 101st hundred-miler in about six
years, and he's 67 years old. He's another Hardrock finisher five weeks
ago, and he's doing two more hundreds the two weekends after Leadville. I joke that he's bionic. He's on the right, below,
with Stephen Plumb, #260:
Hans told me that Jim was only about twenty second behind him, and he was
right. I didn't get a good picture of Jim because he was behind a couple
other runners. As he tossed me his two empty bottles, I informed him
he'd have to go past the timers, into the building, and back past the
timers. He wasn't real happy about having to go through the building,
but knew he'd have to do it like everyone else.
He was back to me in a
flash. I gave him his two new bottles and a gel flask, asked if he wanted the
warm hot dogs he'd requested there (he took a quick bite), and checked to
see if he needed anything else (nope). Bye!
"TREE LINE" AID STATION (27.5 MILES)
I didn't wait around for any of our other friends to come in because Jim
had only four miles to run to the next crew point at the tree line on
Halfmoon Road. I knew it would take me about as long to drive there and
hike in to the road as it would for him to run and walk the four miles
on the race course. I returned the drop
box to the aid station; it contained things Jim would need
inbound during the night. I carried the rest of the items to the truck
and got out of there, driving carefully past the numerous runners on
300 as they headed for Halfmoon Road.
Crew vehicles aren't allowed on the dirt portion of Halfmoon Road when the runners are
outbound because of the dust and danger. Vehicles are routed on another
dirt road and must be parked in a field east of Halfmoon Road at the "tree line"
crewing point. In the photo below you can see lots of runners heading
south on the road toward this crewing point:
There is no aid station at "tree line" (27.5 miles). The next one
is on down the road at 30.5 miles but crews cannot go there at
any time during the race. The road
the runners use has more than enough vehicular traffic on the weekends
as it is because campers
and hikers use it to reach two popular trail heads for Mts. Elbert and Massive.
When runners are coming back later that afternoon and through the night,
crew vehicles are allowed on the road to the tree line but not down to
the Halfmoon aid station.
"Tree line" is the last place to crew before Twin
Lakes at 39.5 miles. Although Jim had a drop box three miles later
at Halfmoon, he was hoping he could bypass that box to save time and
just use it inbound. It would be twelve more miles until I'd see
Jim again, so he packed a little box for me to take to the road as he
passed by. I also took my bigger box of miscellaneous items, and those
hot dogs and some soup.
I had a longer walk here, about a third of a mile, because I'm not as
aggressive as some crews who want to get as close to the aid station as
possible, no matter how crowded it already is. There were quite a few
crew folks assembled along Halfmoon Road when I arrived and a
steady stream of mid-pack runners coming through:
Look at that bright blue sky in the photo above! Mt. Elbert is in the
background to the left, the lower peaks of Mt. Massive on the right.
I recognized runners who had been ahead of Jim four miles earlier and
knew I'd probably beaten him there by five or ten minutes. I decided to use one of the porta
potties while I waited for him. These people waiting in line probably
thought I was goofy for photographing the potties, but I wanted to make
the point that Leadville has convenient restrooms at
every aid station for the runners and crews. There are also several forest
service toilets farther along this road that runners can use.
see more of Mt. Massive and the clear weather in this photo, too:
Although the bright sun could dehydrate runners more than overcast
skies, I was happy it wasn't raining. We've gotten a LOT of rain here
recently, and it would so nice if there weren't any storms over Hope
Pass this year (very low odds of THAT, however).
Soon I saw Jim coming. His goal was to reach this spot at 9:45 to 9:47
Since he was six to eight minutes "late" at the hatchery, I thought he might be a
few minutes "late" here. He arrived about 9:55, a time consistent
with the last aid station. Jim's on the left, below, lookin' good:
He was also feeling good! This isn't one of our favorite parts of
the course, so I was glad he was in good spirits. We quickly swapped bottles and he was off to Halfmoon and Twin Lakes:
Hans ran by a few minutes later and said Jim would be along shortly. I
laughed and said he had already gone by! Hans was surprised because he
didn't see Jim pass him. Hans spent more time at the fish hatchery,
where Susi had their camping van, and Jim got out faster. Hans
ended up passing Jim between the Halfmoon and Twin Lakes aid stations
and stayed ahead of him the rest of the race.
TWIN LAKES AID STATION (39.5 MILES)
When I got back to the truck I let the dogs run around for a while in a
big field and nearby woods. I had plenty of time to get to Twin Lakes
but knew the parking situation there is a hassle. I wanted to beat some
of the other crews, so I headed out after a few minutes. The weather
still looked great, although the clouds were starting to build over Mt.
Elbert, below. The course follows trails and a jeep road through the
forests on this side of the mountain on the way to Twin Lakes:
I drove into town to see if perhaps there was a parking spot large
enough for Brent's truck but I didn't see any. If I'd had a smaller
vehicle, I might have gone up some of the side streets, but that's not
advisable with a truck. I returned to Hwy. 82 on the east side of town
where I've always parked before and found a grassy spot at the
intersection of the little road above and the highway. It was about
half a mile from the aid station, but the closest place I could find
without being a jerk and parking in front of a store. I could tie
the dogs to some shady shrubs and kill time waiting in the truck reading
You may already know the acronym for CREW: "cranky runner, endless
waiting." Fortunately, Jim wasn't cranky and the waiting is usually fun
for me because I can find enough things to do by myself or chat with
lots of runners and crews.
I wasn't expecting Jim for another couple hours. It would have been fun
to spend that time at the aid station so I could socialize and watch the other runners, but
it was getting warm and I couldn't leave the dogs in the truck that
long. I ate some lunch, walked the dogs, and waited about an
hour before heading to the aid station. By then the sky was getting
overcast and there was a breeze. That was good for the dogs and me, but
would Jim get into a storm? It still looked pretty good over Hope Pass,
where he'd be heading next:
Jim predicted his arrival at Twin Lakes at 12:25 to 12:35
Shortly before noon I began the ten-minute hike to the aid station with
his Hardrock shoes, my box of supplies, a back pack with extra clothes, and a cooler. The
chair was too much; Jim could use one of the chairs in the aid
station to change shoes.
The streets and aid station were packed with people waiting for their
runners to come in at either 39.5 miles outbound or 60.5
miles on the return. Even Anton hadn't come back through this fast,
however. Jim saw him about 1:10 PM between Clear Creek and Twin Lakes, the
earliest he's seen the lead runner in six times at this race. We've
always seen the lead runner on the ascent through the forest up to Hope
Pass (neither of us ran in 2005 when Matt Carpenter set the course
Anyway, Anton was flying.
In the photo below, anxious crews are watching outbound runners come down the
steep little hill into the aid station:
See that gray cloud? Storms can come in really fast in the Rockies. We
could hear thunder and it sprinkled a
couple times as I waited for Jim to arrive, just enough to put on my
Precip jacket. Jim barely got wet. I was
concerned because I knew he didn't have a jacket with him. He did have a
featherweight plastic poncho he used for a few minutes, then he didn't
need it again.
I went into the aid station, below, to get his drop boxes (two here) and
set up just outside the door on the right behind the vehicle, out of
everyone's way but close to the chairs:
Then I waited at the base of the hill and watched the various techniques
runners used to get down the hill quickly and safely.
Hans came in, as did others who had been in front of Jim.
Hans told me he'd passed Jim several miles back but assured me he
"looked good." I began to get concerned as 12:45 PM went by, and
no Jim. That would have been consistent with his previous AS times
today. The cut-off time was 2:30 PM so I wasn't worried about him
missing it, but I knew he wanted about a two-hour cushion of time here
and at Winfield so the return would be less stressful. It's no fun
running close to cut-offs for a hundred miles!
A few minutes before 1 PM Jim popped out of the trees at the top of the
little hill with a group of other runners. He's second from the
bottom in both pictures below:
He checked in with the timers in the aid station, we grabbed a cup of
chicken noodle soup and a chair, and went just outside to where I had
the boxes and shoes. While Jim was changing from Montrail Vitesse shoes
to Hardrocks for more traction up and down the mountain, I switched his
bottles and gel flasks, asked if he wanted things like Vaseline (no) or
ginger (yes), and got his Camelbak out. He had warm clothes in the pack in
case the weather was cold and/or wet at 12,600 feet.
I'm proud to say he changed shoes, kissed me, strapped on his
Camelbak, and was out of there in
about three minutes -- not quite as fast as an Indy pit stop, but pretty
fast for an ultra! He took the soup to eat as he walked the next block. He was getting increasingly tired after forty
miles and concerned about slowing down, but still in good spirits with
an hour and a half cushion of
time. He faced Hope Pass with more anticipation than dread, although the
sky wasn't looking so great in that direction now either:
Off he went to face the wetter-than-usual wetlands between Twin
Lakes and the base of Mount Hope, the flooded Lake Creek (AKA "the
river"), the 3,400-foot moderate climb up to Hope Pass, the steeper 2,400-foot
descent to Clear Creek Road, and the trudge along the road to Winfield
with crew vehicles going both directions and stirring up dust (or
splashing mud and water) on the runners.
Yeah, that sounds like fun!
[Note: as a runner and crew person, I HATE that section of
road/runner traffic and think crews should be banned from Winfield.
However, since so many runners drop there, it's a Good Thing that there
are adequate vehicles to return them to town. The volunteers alone can't do
it. Maybe they need a bus there, like at Porcupine AS at Bighorn? It's a major hassle for the runners to dodge traffic,
especially since some of the crews drive too fast. We've heard that the
forest service or Continental Divide Trail volunteers plan to build a trail paralleling the
road, but it hasn't happened yet. That would certainly help, although it
would increase the time it takes runners to get to Winfield. It's a
tight cut-off for many of us as it is.]
WINFIELD AID STATION (50 MILES)
I thought it would be about three and a half hours until I'd see Jim
again at Winfield I
knew what the parking situation would be like so I high-tailed it down
there. I left Twin Lakes too fast, however, remembering the dogs (!) but
forgetting their cords. Despite being in the perfect shaded
parking spot at Winfield (although about as far from the aid station
tents as I could be), I couldn't tie the dogs out while we were there.
Their leashes aren't long enough. They did get to walk around twice and the truck was shady and cool for
them to sleep on the back seat.
Haste makes waste.
I drove carefully from Twin Lakes back east on Hwy. 82 because cops were patrolling
for speeders (lots of potential victims today), headed faster south on Hwy. 24
to Clear Creek AKA Winfield Road, and slowly made my way twelve miles west to
Winfield. It took me about an hour total from Twin Lakes to Winfield.
Clear Creek Road is always slow, but today I could go no more than 10-15
MPH on much of it. The road was in much better condition just five days
when we went to Missouri Gulch and Sheep Gulch trail heads.
What happened? Several inches of torrential rain happened. Clear Creek Road was in the worst shape today that I've
ever seen it. Near the now-drained reservoir, below, the road
was badly eroded on either side from the recent torrent of rain. On
my way back out, I saw a truck mired in the mud, probably from moving
over for an oncoming vehicle. The road needs a lot of work, and I'm glad
we aren't camped down there any more. The lakebed isn't particularly
attractive right now. The water was drained for maintenance work on the
I was heading toward the mountain in the far distance, above. It looked like
it might be raining over Hope Pass (to the right behind Quail Mountain)
but it was clear all the way back the rutted dirt road filled
with more and more holes the closer I got to Winfield. Like I said, it
was in the worst shape I've seen it in the seven years I've come here since
I lucked out getting a shady spot at Winfield. The field
around the aid station tents was already pretty full at 2:30 PM. I wasn't expecting Jim until about 4:30, so I had plenty of time
to walk the dogs, eat some more lunch, and reorganize my boxes. About 4:15
I got Jim's box from the aid station, set up a spot for him to sit, and chatted with friends, many of whom
were planning to begin pacing their runners from here.
I had fun talking with Matt (not shown below) and Ann Watts (in chair), John Cappis (on the ground), Karen Pate (yellow shirt), Scott Hirst (standing
left), and many other running friends who were waiting:
This race is one big reunion!
Here are other scenes from this busy aid station:
This is what the runners saw as they made the last left turn toward the
aid station tents (photo below). Unfortunately, they had to deal with vehicles coming
and going through here, too. I was appalled at how inconsiderate some of
the drivers were, not giving runners the right of way! If their
runner was coming, they'd have been furious. And preoccupied spectators
would sometimes block the pathway, totally oblivious to the runners.
What are some people thinking?? There were excellent volunteers here,
but not enough to police this area continuously. They shouldn't have
to, for Pete's sake!
I was happy to find a food vendor at this aid station even though I
packed plenty of food for all day and night. This year the Lake County
Search and Rescue organization was selling lunch items, including the
delicious chicken teriyaki I purchased. I asked the folks what they'd do
if they got a call, and they said they were already on standby for an
injured hiker on Mt. Elbert but his friends thought they could get him
down. Fortunately, there had been no calls yet for anyone in the
The skies looked good in most directions until about 4:30 PM:
Then it began looking more stormy back toward Mount Hope:
I wondered what kind of weather Jim was experiencing coming down the
steep trail on this side of Mount Hope or along Clear Creek AKA
Winfield Road. Since he was about due at Winfield, I was hoping he was
already on the road and getting close to the aid station.
I left my chair and drop boxes and stood at the turn on the little road
to the aid station and waited with other anxious crews who badly wanted their runners to
appear RIGHT NOW:
Hans came in, then others who'd been just a little ahead of Jim at
Twin Lakes. Marge Hickman left with a smaller margin of time than she
wanted, but still looked strong and determined to get her fourteenth Leadville
finish, the most of any other women. Go, girl!!! (She's about my age,
No Jim yet. I was getting worried as 5 PM came and went. He
wanted a two-hour time cushion here, and he was down to less than one
knew he'd be ultra-stressed when he DID come in, and maybe want to quit
if he didn't think he could get back over Hope Pass to the Twin Lakes
aid station before the cut-off there at 9:45 PM. Even though there is
usually good running back down the north side of Hope Pass, it often takes
runners more time on the return to Twin Lakes because of increasing
fatigue and the steep ascent to the pass up Sheep Gulch on the south
5:30 came and went. I was getting really worried. Could I have missed
Jim earlier on a trip back to the truck to check on the dogs? Our
friends hadn't seen them, but they were busy talking and might have
missed him, too. Was he
having problems with nausea or blisters? Was he sitting in the Hopeless
aid station, injured or hypothermic or needing oxygen? Had he gone back
to Twin Lakes?
About this time several of the Lake County Search and Rescue folks
went screaming out of the aid station in one of their vehicles, lights
flashing and sirens blaring. Now that would be comforting to all
the runners in earshot, I thought! I didn't worry that it was Jim, but
wondered who it was and what was wrong.
I was beginning
to get pretty stressed out and show my "worried face" in the photo below
that was taken near the aid station:
By 5:45 PM I was going a little nuts. Not only did runners have to be
IN the aid station by 6 PM to be permitted to go on, they had to
check OUT of the aid station by then. I figured Jim could do the
in just a few minutes, but I knew he'd want to stop even if allowed to
continue because of the time
pressure going back over Hope. We've both been known to do that
in races before when we really should have continued on until we missed
a cut-off and were pulled by race officials.
To be sure I hadn't missed him, I verified with the timers that he
hadn't been in or out of the aid station yet. By then, I wished he was
having a super run and I'd simply missed him! Then I tried to ascertain
if he'd dropped at Hopeless and gone back down to Twin Lakes, which I
did one year during a hellacious storm on the mountain. The radio guy
didn't have an updated list of drops and Jim's number wasn't on his
All I could do was wait some more.
Ken Chlouber, who was unable to run this year for the first time
since the race began, was standing at the turn with a lot of hopeful
crew people who knew their runners' races were over. It was almost 6 PM
and I couldn't see Jim. I walked back to Ken and dejectedly remarked
something to the effect of "here we are again."
Both Ken and Jim and I have timed out here. I guess it
wasn't a very sensitive thing to say, but I thought Ken would understand
my frustration. He knows how much Jim wanted to finish this thing. I was
surprised when Ken ignored me and walked back to his vehicle nearby. I
wanted some empathy, not silence. I felt worse.
Jim appeared shortly thereafter, about four minutes past the cut-off.
I was again surprised by Ken, who walked with me to Jim and put his arm
around him as both shed a few tears of frustration. Then I felt better
about Ken's reaction to my comment. I think he was about to lose his
composure and he needed to just walk away. I was crying, too, knowing
how badly Jim needed to finish this race, not just to avenge several
DNFs but as a qualifier for Hardrock next summer.
DNFs just never get easier for either Jim or me, whether
we're the runner or the support person. Jim was tired but could have
continued if he'd had time. With another hour, I believe he could have
finished the race. (With two more hours, I'd even try it again.)
He had plenty of company, with 65% of the field not
finishing the race this year. I've never seen so many crews and dropped
runners at Winfield before. Several runners in the last half hour
decided not to go back out, and many more came in after Jim did. Our
friends Kathy Lang and Jim Ballard came in before we left, and we saw
others out on the road as we were driving back to Hwy. 24. Volunteers
were scrambling to find spaces in departing vehicles for crewless runners
who needed transport. Scott Hirst, who was going to pace a runner, rode
in our back seat between Tater and Cody because there was no longer room
in the car in which he was riding.
After Jim sat down for a few minutes and drank a Coke we got going on
the long drive home. Long because we'd have to negotiate bumpy Clear
Creek Road again and dodge incoming runners for over two miles, runners who
were well past the time cut-off, tired, and dejected. It's never a
pretty sight and it's less fun if you're the runner. Been there, done
that, only a few minutes late to Winfield.
Never again for me, though. After two DNFs I won't enter this race
again unless the time limits are extended, and I never see that
Jim said "never again" in Scott's
presence as we made our way out to the main road. We both knew he'd
change his mind, of course. He's an optimistic ultra runner, after all.
Maybe he won't run Leadville again, but I know he's not ready to quit
Jim had heard the rescue squad vehicle as he descended Mount Hope and
later saw it parked at Sheep Gulch. We also passed this med-flight
helicopter a little down the road:
The helicopter took off a few minutes after we passed it. Scott, Jim,
and I thought it'd be pretty cool to be up there as EMTs, flying through
the valley over Clear Creek. We never did find out who needed rescuing.
Jim passed a hiker in sandals going up the south side of Hope as he was
coming down. The hiker seemed to be a little out of it and shaking, but refused
help (Jim's a certified EMT). Now Jim wonders if he had a seizure or
concussion or something, and required rescue.
I had to drive back to Twin Lakes to retrieve the two dog cords I
left tied to the bushes along Hwy. 82. While we were so close to the aid
station, I decided to get Jim's two drop boxes. I was able to park close
to the aid station this time because Scott knew a "secret" way in. Now
we just needed to pick up three more boxes on Sunday at the courthouse
when the aid stations returned them.
We drove past the start/finish line at Sixth and Harrison a little
before 8 PM to take Scott home on the north side of Leadville. We could see Merilee and a photographer at the finish line, surrounded by a good
crowd of people, and figured someone must be getting close. We couldn't
see anyone for a half mile down Sixth Street, though, and there wasn't
any place to park so we continued to Scott's house.
Several minutes later when Jim and
I got back to our camper at Sixth and McWethy, about 3/4 mile to a mile from the
finish, we saw shirtless Anton Krupika make the turn onto Sixth Street!
Wow, that meant he was going to finish in just over 16 hours, the
second-fastest time in the race's twenty-five year history! Good job,
Brent watched him go by, too. Unfortunately, Brent had to drop at Twin
Lakes outbound. He'd been back home a little while and was sorry to hear Jim
was out of the race, too. We sat around commiserating and talking about
the race in our camper for
a while, then decided it was time for bed. We were all very tired, but
able to rationalize and empathize and talk about future plans. Both guys
were still in the "I'm never going to do this race again"
phase, but we all
knew that was BS.
SATURDAY NIGHT QUARTER-BACKING
So what went wrong with Jim's race?
He's not sure. Nothing went wrong during the race, other than
the truck thing right before it started. That would have been enough to
compromise my race, but he doesn't blame that factor. He didn't encounter any
weather up and over Hope Pass, which was a first during the race for
him. (Other runners weren't so lucky, but the storms weren't as bad this
year as usual.)
He never got nauseas, which has often been a problem after fifty
miles. He was able to properly digest the Perpetuem and gels just fine
and still had an appetite at Winfield. He supplemented the energy drink
and gel with soup a
couple times. He didn't ever feel really hungry, as if he needed more
food. He didn't have any swelling or cramping but craved salt
after stopping, so be may have needed more electrolytes.
Even though he
wore very new Hardrock shoes (only walking around in them one day) in
the ten or eleven miles between Twin Lakes and Winfield, he had no
problems with them; last year he had blisters from shoes that
became too tight as his feet swelled during the race. He didn't fall or
have any injuries. He was plenty warm the whole way, but not overheated.
Jim really doesn't know how he could have trained any more thoroughly
for this race. He certainly had the miles and the altitude training.
Maybe he didn't do enough speed work after recovering from Bighorn.
Maybe he should have found a 50-mile or 100K race between the two races;
we looked, but nothing close by was still open for registration so he
hoped the 32-mile double-crossing over Hope was adequate three weeks ago. He was determined mentally to finish, but simply
lost time going
up to Hope Pass (despite maintaining a steady, comfortable pace) and lost the 90-minute cushion of time he had.
Will he ever run this race again after several DNFs? Who knows. We'll
at least come back in the future to volunteer, see friends, run the trails,
and climb the mountains around Leadville.
Next entry: the awards ceremony and results.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil