That sounded OK to us, although not exactly what Jim had hoped
for. Since we'd probably be working all day Saturday and
throughout the night, we slept in for the race start at 4 AM and
didn't go out to watch the runners in front of Jack's office as
they made the turn off 6th Street toward The Boulevard about one
mile into the race. (That's where we watched the cyclists last
We figured we'd catch up to the runners' whereabouts soon enough.
A BORING START AT NET CONTROL
We were up at 4:30 AM and in the tax assessors' office by
5:15. Net control (think "mission control") is set up in
two rooms in the courthouse, which is adjacent to the
start/finish line at 6th and Harrison. Timing sheets are posted
on the front doors,
medical and drop bag tents are set up on the front lawn, and
people congregate here before, during, and after the race.
We shoulda stayed in bed longer. Much longer.
My next five hours were pretty much wasted. I wish I'd brought something to read. I kept
expecting to have some work to do at any time, so I didn't leave
and go back to the camper to get something to read;.I should
Dick was the only other person there. He was bored, too, with nothing
to do except show Jim how to work his dual-band ham
radio in case we got some actual work to do. That took about one
minute. Dick knew Jim wanted experience on the radio so he
encouraged him to take the timing information when Brian, the
ham at Mayqueen, began calling in the
runners' times around 6 AM. Jim happily waited to hear from Brian.
It would be a long wait.
I knew pretty quickly that I had no immediate job. No computers
had been brought in during the night, set up, OR networked together for the
runners' times to be input. In prior years the timing
coordinator (who I will not identify) apparently has done that the night before the race so the
whole system is ready to go as soon as the runners start coming
into Mayqueen (about 5:40 AM this year).
To pass the time without going completely nuts I talked with
Dick to learn as much as I could about the timing process,
pondered the times each of the aid stations was open outbound
and inbound, looked at the tax assessors' cartoons on the wall
(pretty funny, actually!), took pictures of the sunrise over
Mts. Elbert and Massive from our second-story window, joked
around with Jim and Dick, tried unsuccessfully to take a nap on
the cot in the room next door, wondered where I'd be if I was running
the race this time, eavesdropped on the Elk Hunting 101 class
(seriously!) down the hall for a few minutes, and generally fidgeted.
I clearly needed a job!
Sunrise on Mt. Elbert (L) and Mt.
Massive from the tax assessors' office
The timing process goes like this at Leadville:
- As each runner comes into an aid station, timers record the runner's
number and time (hour and minutes, not seconds) on a sheet that holds
up to 50 numbers. When a sheet is full, it is taken to the ham(s). The
sheet is clearly identified as time INTO the aid station.
- Other timers at the far end of the aid station record reach
runner's number and time OUT of the aid station (except at Mayqueen
outbound, where over 500 runners were in and out in less than 90
minutes). They also give the ham operator their sheets as each is
filled. That's a lot of sheets and times!!
- It gets more complicated. As the aid station hams receive full
sheets of numbers and times, they contact the ham at net control (when
they can get through). They read every number and time over the radio,
both times in and times out. The ham at net control has to write down
every single one of those numbers and times. So for 500 runners at Box
Creek, say, the ham actually writes down 1,000 numbers and times. The
preprinted sheets used at net control are exactly like the ones at the
aid stations, fortunately, so the hams can be sure they're on the same
page and line as the information is being transferred.
- When the ham at net control has written down a full sheet of
50 numbers/times either in or out of each aid station, Dick or someone
else gives it
to the person handling that aid station on one of the computers. Then
that person types in each number in or out, and the time. There is a
way to double-check for accuracy, but it takes a while, too.
- At some point, Sarah decides when to upload the times to the
website for all the world to see.
Note that each runner's number and time in (entry) and out
(exit) of each of the aid stations, both INBOUND and OUTBOUND, are written down by hand two times,
verbally transmitted once over the radio, and typed once into
computers. Times are also recorded at the finish. It makes the
use of the fax machine at Fish Hatch look downright efficient!
That at least eliminates the verbal transmission and one
In a race with 504 starters and 274 finishers, that's a huge
amount of data to be transferred in such a labor intensive, non-techy
Still waiting for something to do: Dick
catches some zzzz's while Jim stretches.
If Jim and I had known how cumbersome this process is, and how
many things can go wrong with it, we probably wouldn't have
volunteered to help with it. At least at Hardrock there are only
one-fourth as many runners and the process is simplified by the
use of "packets" at the aid stations with cell phone
Cell phones are pretty useless along most of the Leadville course.
I think the only things that can speed the process at Leadville
are fewer runners (not likely) or the use of chips (more likely)
-- but only if race management wants to improve it.
THE PROCESS BREAKS DOWN FURTHER
Dick, Jim, and I kept wondering when the timing coordinator ("TC"
for short) would be coming in with the
computers. We finally got the bad news: the TC and
assistant were both at the Mayqueen aid station for
some reason unbeknownst to us. The TC also decided for some
reason to bring back the timing sheets personally to net control
instead of having Brian radio them to Jim in a much more timely
That meant that not only did Dick and I had no job
inputting times into the computers for several more hours, Jim
also had no job receiving times from Brian over the ham radio
system. In fact, he was receiving information from the hams
(Bruce and Marsha) at the third aid station before we got what
we needed from the first one!
We were more than a little irritated and disillusioned with the
process by now. It wasn't Bruce's or Dick's fault by any
means. I think Dick was just as irritated but he tried to maintain his
sense of humor (next photo). Bruce didn't know these decisions were being made or he
wouldn't have had us report for duty so early.
The suggested (not mandatory) cut-off time at Mayqueen was 7:15 AM,
although a couple of runners came in after that and were allowed
(One of the lighter moments of our morning came
when Brian radioed in that a runner from Hong Kong
arrived over an hour late at the aid station and insisted on
going forward. He'd come all this way and by golly, he wanted to
see Hope Pass!! Can't say that I blame the guy! The aid station
captain cut off his wrist band, ending his race officially, and
informed the runner that he was on his own. We never did hear if
he made it up to the pass -- and back down. Hope so.)
The timing coordinator stayed out at Mayqueen past 7:15, collected all
the timing sheets (50 numbers and times per sheet for 504
runners), went to breakfast,
and THEN came into net control about 9 AM to finally set up
three more computers and network them with Dick's laptop.
By then, folks in cyberland were wondering what the heck was
going on at Leadville.
I'm happy to finally have a job.
It was about 10 AM when we were able to begin putting
the entry times for Mayqueen and Fish Hatchery, the first two
aid stations, into four computers and almost noon before the
Mayqueen times were uploaded to the website. (The first runners
arrived there about 5:40 AM.)
When runners started arriving at the third aid
station, Box Creek, Jim finally had more to do on the radio than
just answer questions or relay information from one ham to
another. That actually turned out to be distracting for everyone
in the room, even when he had his earphones on. Those of us
inputting race numbers and times into the computers could hear
his confirmation of numbers and times as he wrote them down, and
he could hear the information we were sharing with each other. It would be
better if the radio was in the adjacent
It wasn't long before a major networking problem developed which
shut down the computer input process for a while. Dick and the
timing coordinator were unable to resolve the problem, so the
race webmaster (I think) was called in.
Anne (L) handles the radio.
Once again, I was without a job. The timing coordinator needed
the computer I was using to try to resolve the glitch. Jim had
already turned over the ham radio to Dick's wife, Anne. We were
hungry and about at the end of our one last nerve. We finally
left for lunch at 1 PM.
WILL MATT'S COURSE RECORD BE BROKEN?
Being at net control on Saturday morning had its frustrations,
but we also had a big advantage: being two of the first
know what was going on during the race.
High on the wall over the door to the tax assessors' office were
sheets indicating the fastest and slowest previous times into each aid
station (both outbound and inbound):
It was with great delight that we listened to each aid station's
ham operator for news of who was first in and at what time. No
names were broadcast, only numbers. We had cheat-sheets so we
knew who was who:
numeric and alpha lists of runners. We quickly memorized that
#716 was Anton (Tony) Krupika, #1 was Duncan Callahan, #383 was Timmy
Parr, and so on.
Tony Krupika runs out of the Fish Hatchery
AS outbound (23+ miles) in the 2007 race.
He won LT100 in both 2006 and 2007.
Except for Mayqueen, Tony was always the first one into each of
the aid stations all the way to the 50-mile turnaround at
Winfield and back to Fish Hatchery on the return (76 miles). At each station, the fastest previous time was beaten
by an increasingly larger margin. It was exciting to listen as
Tony was 7 minutes ahead here, 17 minutes there, nearly half an
hour at another spot. As soon as we'd
hear at net control what Tony's time was into an aid station, one of us would
get up on a chair and write his number and time on the sheet.
As much as Jim and I like Matt Carpenter, it would be pretty
cool to be working the race when someone improved on his record. My main thought about
Tony all morning was by what margin he'd beat that record. It
never occurred to me that he'd stop before the finish. He's an
indestructible kid, right? He's only 26, fairly young by ultra
WHO'S ON FIRST?
It's too bad that folks trying to follow along on the internet
weren't able to watch this drama unfold closer to real time like
they did in the bike race. The people who were "tweeting" got
the news out to the general public much faster than the
information was uploaded to the race's website.
When Jim and I took a break from about 1-3 PM we returned to our
camper and immediately got on the internet. There were already
reports on the ultra list and the LT100 list about Tony's lead
and whining about "why are the times in and out of aid stations so far behind
on the race website?" Links to several crews' Twitter
recommended as being more timely, although not nearly as
comprehensive as the information that eventually was posted on
Dick (standing L) and Jim (standing R) have
more idle time
during the computer glitch on Saturday
I knew how frustrated people were getting, and I knew how
frustrated Jim and I were with the process as it unfolded. We
felt helpless. We'd done what we could that morning, seemingly to
I wasn't any more successful when I tried to take a brief nap. Naps are difficult for me on a quiet
day, let alone one with so much going on. My brain wouldn't
go to sleep.
Jim continued to listen to his borrowed ham
radio, switching from one channel used by several of the aid
stations to the other. The radio he had wasn't dual-channel like
the one at net control so he had
to stay on "his" channel most of the time in case someone was
trying to contact him. We could hear everything from net
control, Box Creek, Twin Lakes, and Winfield but we missed a lot of the
communications from Mayqueen and Hope Pass.
We didn't hear anything from Fish Hatchery because there was no
ham radio operator there. We did get the faxed sheets of
runners' numbers and times soon after each sheet was filled and
volunteers put them into the computers until the network
PAGE 2: THE ACTION @ FISH
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil