You can take that quote literally or figuratively.
This three-part entry is about the Leadville Trail 100-mile bike
race, a gnarly event over rough terrain at high altitude in the Rocky
Not everyone will finish the race that is lucky enough to get in
(many more people register than are chosen in the lottery) but most of
them will give it their best shot. Some may even surprise themselves and
do better than expected.
It takes courage just to enter the doggone
One hundred miles on a bike isn't so tough in itself (it's definitely
easier than running or walking a hundred miles) but this course is
especially when you're sharing it with a couple thousand other riders
and have strict time cut-offs at various aid stations.
View from the Columbine Mine aid station (elev.
12,600 feet) during the 2004 bike race
Neither Jim nor I are entered in the bike race or the run this year
but we are volunteering for both 100-mile events again.
The bike race is the subject of
this entry, which will include three pages of photos and information
from check-in to the race itself. I'll write about the run after it is
held next weekend.
The Leadville Trail 100 race series reached a critical moment last
year when Lifetime Fitness bought the entire event from Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin (formerly O'Neill). The
company was a major sponsor of the series for several years before the
owner, an avid cyclist and now runner, negotiated with Ken and Merilee
to buy the rights to the events.
There were some
noticeable changes that we observed to the 100-mile events in 2010 but
Ken and Merilee continued to have a major influence on the races as
management transitioned from them to the new corporate owner.
This year we
noticed even more changes from our perspective as volunteers. I'll talk
about some of them in this entry and subsequent ones.
Ken and Merilee
were still visible but not in charge. Now they are primarily ambassadors
of good will and consultants to the new staff. That has to be more fun
than running the whole show! They are obviously less
stressed than in previous years.
Ken (L) works the crowd during packet pick-up on
Here's a little historical perspective of these races . . .
Ken and Merilee started the 100-mile footrace in 1983. The 100-mile bike
race began in 1992. This is the 29th running of the footrace and the
Three other shorter running and cycling events were added to the series
later on, partly to serve as training for the 100-mile races but mostly
to bring in even more tourist dollars to this financially struggling
former mining town.
It's well-known that
Ken conceived of the original race as a means to bring $$$ to Leadville
after the only remaining local mine closed and the economic base eroded.
He was correct in guessing that the best way to revive the town's
economy was to bring in more tourists (and some residents, too
-- we know folks like Marge and Mike Hickman that moved there
because they liked the area so well).
original idea was absolutely brilliant, although it took a few years for the race
to grow and prosper. There simply weren't many 100-mile foot races back
in the early '80s. Even with about a hundred of them in the U.S. now,
many runners want to run Leadville because of its history, location, and
The idea for a
series of foot races -- and branching out to include cycling
-- was brilliant, too.
I don't know how many folks currently run
the 10K and 50-mile foot race or ride the 50-mile bike race, but the two
100-mile events alone are capped at a total of about 3,000
entrants, and many more would come if allowed.
There were so many vehicles at Twin Lakes during
the bike race that
some crews had to walk over a mile to reach the aid
As the LT100 events
surged in popularity over the last three decades the series became a very
successful business venture under Ken and Merilee's direction. Even
under "outside" management it will continue to bring some much-needed economic
stability to Leadville businesses and home owners who cater to tourists.
economic effect actually extends a lot farther than Leadville.
Because the 100-mile events have grown so large communities as
far away as Buena Vista, Aspen, Frisco, and Dillon also benefit from
increased business when the hordes descend on the area to acclimate to
the high altitude and participate in the races. There simply aren't
enough available seats in restaurants or beds in Leadville hotels,
motels, B&Bs, and private homes to accommodate them all.
Then consider all
the folks who fly into Denver for the race and rent cars for the long
drive to the mountains . . .
The economic benefits of this race series go on and on, and include many
more people than just the owner of Lifetime Fitness, his employees, and
the company's stockholders.
It appears to us that there has been a pretty
smooth transition from Ken and Merilee to Lifetime Fitness Corp.
Ken and Merilee are still acrtively involved but don’t have to hassle
with the details any more since they sold the race. Ken’s still doing
the “pep talks” before each race (he hates that term!) and Merilee still
does the finish line.
Both emcee the awards ceremony and continue to
schmooze the hoards that come to Leadville for these events --
undoubtedly their favorite roles!
VOLUNTEER FOR A PROFIT-MAKING ORGANIZATION?
Mostly because of the people involved -- the other volunteers,
race participants, and crews who have become our friends over the past
All of our motives aren't altruistic, however.
I've volunteered at LT100 since 1998, Jim since 1999. We've done a
number of interesting jobs, mostly with the run but also the last few years with the
Before the races we've helped mark the course, folded countless
shirts, set up tables and chairs and taken them back down again, moved
countless boxes, stuffed goodie bags, given out shirts, timing chips,
and other items at packet pick-up, handled registration and check-in,
and other jobs I can't even remember right now.
We've done about everything there is to do during the races at aid
stations from set-up to tear-down, including erecting tents, canopies,
and tables, then taking them down afterwards; handling
food, drinks, and drop bags; doing timing and ham radio
communications; and telling people where to go (course directions,
not what you're thinking!)
Jim with Karen and Pat pose
before the 2009 LT 100 bike packet-stuffing process;
we have volunteered with Karen and Pat many times at both Hardrock and Leadville.
We do all this because it's fun to be with our friends and we know as
veteran runners that events like this wouldn't occur if there weren't
enough dedicated volunteers to pull them off.
At least two of our favorite races talk about being "families" of
ultra runners and volunteers -- Hardrock and Leadville.
Hardrock is still small enough at 140 runners to feel like
family. We still know a lot of the runners and their crew members
because race veterans have an edge in the lottery. Leadville, on the
other hand, has grown so large and we now know so few people running it
that it doesn't have that "family" feel for us any more. Our
now is mostly the veteran volunteers we've been working with for so long.
Most of the people who have played key roles in managing
this race are still involved. I don’t know if they’re getting paid or
not; I think some are, or are at least getting some of their
expenses paid now. That's good. Many of them are locals but some are
from out of town and have to pay to get here, find a place to stay, and
maybe eat their meals out.
Some folks wonder
why we still offer so much of our time and effort to
volunteering at this race now that it's managed by a nationwide
corporation. After all, they're just in it for the money, right?? Why
should we work for free?
We do it for the same reasons we always did
when it wasn't so obviously "corporate" --
the camaraderie with other volunteers, socializing with friends we know in the
races, the thanks we get from (some of) the participants, the perks we
receive from race management, and the fun of being involved in the
The aid station crew at Columbine Mine during the
2006 bike race
And now that Jim can
no longer run he's got more interest in volunteering
for, and perhaps even competing in, the 100-mile mountain bike race.
You heard it here first!
Next year we intend to be in Alaska all summer but Jim's
considering entering the bike race in 2013. I'm glad to see his
enthusiasm for cycling and possibly competing in bike races, including
this one. That gave us some additional, non-altruistic motivation to volunteer for the bike
race this year.
Why? Because of the difficulty of being selected in the lottery.
The odds are even lower than the current odds of getting into the
Western States or Hardrock runs through their lotteries. It takes more
than just money and a finish at a qualifying event to get into the
LT100 bike race; you also need the luck of the draw.
But there's another way for the Average Joe to get in
. . .
Cyclists who volunteer enough hours for the bike race have an edge (but not a
guarantee) over other entrants for subsequent races.
Jim is pretty well assured of
a spot if he ever wants to enter because of all his volunteer work with the
Leadville races over the past thirteen years.
This year alone he has put in over 45 hours of work for the bike race.
Hardrock and some of our other favorite events are like this, too --
they value the contributions of veteran volunteers.
Jim talks with Mike Hickman during packet pick-up
Jim now has forms signed by the volunteer coordinators and aid station
captains that will give him preference should he decide
to enter the race in the future --
Bill Moyer for check-in, Jack Saunders for Twin Lakes aid station
pre-race assistance, and Mike Hickman (aid station captain) and
Bruce Talley (communications captain) for ham radio work at Columbine
Mine during the race.
Those four men also know our long history of volunteering for this race,
in case Jim needs that proof later.
We both worked our butts off
the last few days but only Jim will get lottery credit because I don't
need it. I have no interest whatsoever in
riding up or down the Powerline on a bike!!! It's insanely steep,
covered with loose rock, and dangerous going downhill even for runners
and hikers. No way I'd ever try to ride it on a bike. The rest of the course does
look like fun but I'd rather ride those sections
for free on my own time.
THE NEW LEADVILLE TRAIL SERIES STORE & RACE HQ
A few days after our arrival in Leadville Jim and I
drove downtown to see the new LT100 store. The old store/office that Ken
and Merilee used is now just the local race series office for Lifetime Fitness.
The company bought
another building on the main street to house its Leadville Race Series
store to sell merchandise and serve as HQ for the events.
Since the race series has grown so large there are a bunch of part- and
full-time employees working in the store this summer to coordinate the
Despite all the
new paid staff,
Lifetime Fitness still relies on volunteer help to pull off these events,
especially the 100-mile run and ride. They just aren't as dependent
on volunteers as Ken and Merilee were.
Volunteers for the bike race get ready to hand out
bib numbers inside the new LT store on Thursday.
When we checked out the new LT store early last week the first person we saw was Marge Hickman,
busy stocking shelves with race merchandise.
It was good to see her and her husband Mike, who popped in for a couple
minutes with his grandkids and son. I've known Marge and Mike since I
first became involved with the race in 1998. Both have run the foot race
numerous times and they still captain the Columbine Mine aid station
during the bike race. Jim and I have worked that aid station with them
four or five times.
Marge is about my age (early 60s). She has the most wins and finishes of any women in
the LT100 run.
This year she's taking the bull by the horns -- she has
entered the Leadwoman Series. Leadmen and women try to complete all five
of the races in the series in the span of less than two months. The
series includes 10K and 50-mile runs and
a 50-mile bike race, culminating with the 100-mile bike ride
and run only a week apart.
Jim gives Marge her goodie bag at packet pick-up on Thursday.
This is Marge's first time doing the bike races and has she got some
funny training stories! She had Jim and me in stitches of laughter.
What a gal --
talk about setting challenging goals for oneself, which I discussed at
the beginning of the last entry and alluded to at the top of this one.
Marge has more guts (and better knees) than I do. The odds are against
her because of her age, more in the bike race than in the run because
she has a lot more experience running than cycling. She does have the advantage of living near
Leadville -- she can easily train on the courses and she's used
to minimal air at 10,000 feet and up.
I admire Marge's
spunk and courage. She's a great role model for older women (younger
ones, too). You go, girl!
our pre-race volunteer jobs -- packet pick-up and
assisting Jack with Twin Lakes AS prep
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil