The Leadville 100-mile foot race definitely has a way of leveling the
Fog covers the valley east of Mt. Massive as we
drive out to Twin Lakes on Saturday morning.
Beautiful blue sky over Mt. Elbert; this is a view
from US 24 as we're driving south to CO 82.
Runners use dirt roads and trails on this side of
the mountain between Fish Hatchery and Twin Lakes.
Jim and I were up at 6 AM yesterday morning so we could get ready for
our communications job at Twin Lakes for the LT100 run. We could hear
the runners making the nearby turn from 6th Street to McWethy toward the
Boulevard but we were too busy to go out to watch them.
Temps were in the mid-40s at the start of the race and it was mostly
sunny – much improved over the cold, rainy weather last night.
It got into the mid- to upper 70s at Twin Lakes during the day. The town
sits at about 9,200 feet elevation, a thousand feet lower than
Leadville. Although it was cooler at higher elevations the weather was
near-perfect on Saturday morning and afternoon for the runners, perhaps
a little too warm for some.
Driving west on CO 82 toward the town of Twin
Lakes; the lakes are on the left.
There was no rain where we were but some of the runners got into
rain/lightning on Hope Pass, marked with an arrow below.
That often happens during the race. Runners should just expect crummy
weather going one way or the other over the pass so they'll be mentally
and physically prepared for it.
View toward Hope Pass from CO 82 near Twin Lakes
I never did get out to see Lake Creek where the runners cross, just
upstream a couple miles. It was high when we got here about three weeks
ago but apparently wasn’t an issue during the race. The runners I asked
said it was about the same as usual, although there was a rope this
PREPPING FOR THE RUNNERS
We had a looooong day at the Twin Lakes aid station, similar to last
We got there at 7:30 AM yesterday morning and left just before 2 AM
this morning when the
sweeps got to both our aid station from Hope Pass and another set of
runners swept from Twin Lakes to the next station at Half Pipe.
That was a 19½ hour shift – whew! There weren't enough
communications/ham radio volunteers to send us any relief.
Volunteers set up the inflatable arch in front of
the building used for the aid station.
We've got a front-row seat! Heather and Jim talk
after our truck is in place.
When we got to the aid station (AS) in the morning Heather, the station captain,
suggested we park right next to the building, not on the
other side of a big tree like we did last year. It definitely was more
convenient for running number sheets back and forth, and we had a better
view of what was going on in the AS.
The downside was being pretty much stuck in place and not being able to leave if there had
been a replacement "comm" team available (there wasn’t).
In addition, crews wanted to hang out right next to our vehicle.
I played “cop” too much and it stressed me out. I needed room to get in
and out of the truck to run numbers to and from the open doorway to the
AS and I didn’t want people tripping over the extension cord
we were using for our laptop computer and ham radio or
all the wires used in the nearby timing mat:
Setting up the wiring for the computerized timing
The crews were much more cooperative and considerate during the run at
Twin Lakes, however, than the crews I observed during the bike race last
weekend down at the dam.
It helped a lot that there weren't as many people involved in the run.
In addition, most crews leave after their runners go through Twin Lakes
at 40 miles so they can crew at Winfield, then return to Twin Lakes 2 at
60 miles if their runners are still in the race (many drop out before 60
Another factor may be maturity; I would guess that the
average age of the ultra runners is older than the entrants in the bike
Above and below: this trailer was placed between
the doors to the building; runners went in
one door and out the other, reversing direction
when they came back the second time
Soon after we got our
truck in place
I allowed myself to get too frustrated with what I perceived to be a
lack of organization at this aid station. My bad.
Things were moving so slowly
in the morning that I was fearful crews would overwhelm us and runners
would be coming in before the netting directing runners into/out of the
AS were up, the timing mats were done, etc. I put out cones to keep
vehicles out of the immediate area and I helped do crowd control near
the entrance/exit from the aid station (where our truck was parked)
until I was too busy with runner times to do that.
The arch is in place. Now we're waiting for the
runners and their crews to arrive.
Jim kept telling me to chill out; organizing the aid station was
not my job.
It’s just so hard sometimes to see things that I think would make a
difference and not be able to control them! In this regard Jim's
more Type B than I am.
It's always fun to watch the outbound runners bomb down the steep dirt
trail as they approach the Twin Lakes aid station at 40 miles. I drew an
arrow on the next picture to show where they come down and into the
In that picture, very few crew members have arrived yet. By 40 miles the runners are
strung out for several hours so most of the crews were still back at the
last aid station.
The timing chips were embedded in the runners’ numbers this year. I
assume our mat was working correctly because I could hear beeps every
time a runner went over the mat.
The mats at Winfield AS seemed to be collecting data OK but there wasn’t an
adequate internet signal in that canyon for the information to be sent
to HQ (net control). That was one reason "real-time" results didn't
work well during the race.
Heather and some other volunteers in our AS kept track of each incoming
runner outbound and inbound on sheets of paper, each with room for 27
runner numbers. This was a back-up system to check against
the chip times and to use in case the chip system failed. When they
filled a sheet a volunteer brought it out to Jim and me or I'd go in an
When the runners were few and far between in the evening I'd
go in and get partial sheets so we'd have a better idea how many runners
were still out there.
All runner numbers were listed in order as they came in. Their times were
recorded by hand only periodically. Jim entered them into
a spreadsheet on his laptop. He did not have to call them in over the
radio like he did last year -- a welcome improvement to his use
Jim came up with the spreadsheet idea. It really helped us when crews wanted to find out
if their runner had come in or dropped out. It was much easier to locate
a number that way than on the hand-written sheets from the aid station.
Jim sent the outbound and
inbound spreadsheets to communications director Bruce Talley at net control. Bruce and the ham
radio operators receiving data there were quite busy throughout the race.
Above and below: as a shirtless runner comes
in, a volunteer in green shirt
is probably asking him how he can assist him in the
Because of wilderness logistics
Hope Pass and Winfield called their runner numbers in by
ham radio. The only numbers Jim called in were drops from our aid station.
He also kept track on his computer of drops at the stations before and after ours to
help when crews asked about their runners. There was too much radio
traffic to HQ to do more than a few “inquiries” about the location of runners.
As always, it’s interesting to hear some of what goes on out there –
injuries, lost runners, etc.
One woman returning to Twin Lakes was reported by several other runners
to be “unconscious on the trail” between Lake Creek and the aid station
so S&R went out to rescue her. They brought her back on a Stoke’s
Basket with a wheel (to push her through the marsh and fields) and
attended to her in our station for a couple of hours.
There were other “patients” in our aid station, too, but none had to
leave in an ambulance this year.
A runner gets hugs from his crew.
We also heard about the first runner to finish and about the traffic
nightmare on Winfield Rd.
Getting to the Winfield AS has always been a problem, partly because of the bumpy
dirt road surface for about ten miles but mostly because vehicles are allowed
to drive all the way back to the aid station, including the two+ miles
the runners use outbound and inbound.
This time it was so jammed that crews couldn't move in and out. Volunteers
were too busy at the aid station to do traffic control, too. Bill Moyer went out to get things under control. For two
hours he refused to allow vehicles to go past the trailhead when runners
came down from Hope Pass. He let those crews meet their runners there;
normally they can't crew at the trailhead.
I'm glad I don't have to deal with that mess as either a runner or crew
person any more. As a runner I hated the vehicle traffic on the road. As
a crew member, I hated the road, period, and I didn't like bothering the
That's just one
of the downsides of allowing this race to get so big.
RUNNERS AND COUNTING . . .
Despite being only fifteen feet from where runners either entered or exited the
aid station we missed seeing most of the people we know both outbound,
when it was busier, and inbound when it wasn’t. I was often reading the
list of numbers and times to Jim and looking away from the
entrance/exit, or going inside to get the numbers.
We did have some time
to talk with some folks, including our good friend Anne Watts when she
came over to the truck periodically
while waiting for Matt to come in at 40 and 60 miles.
Cody was happy to get
some attention from Anne:
Above and below: one reason why Cody likes to
"help" at aid stations
We were amazed that 95% of the runners that began the race made it
through our aid station at 40 miles – about 585 of 611 starters. And that was
with a new, stricter time cutoff (2 PM instead of 2:30 PM = 10
hours into the race).
After that, however, there were a a lot of drops.
Many runners either didn’t make it up to the Hope Pass aid station AKA
"Hopeless" at 45 miles before
the 4:30 PM cut-off outbound or they got there late and were redirected
back down to Twin Lakes to drop at our station.
If they don't make
that cut-off there’s
no point in continuing on to Winfield because there wouldn’t be anyone
to take them back to town. “Hopeless” is about half a mile below the
pass on the Twin Lakes side, another good reason to send them back to us
instead of the more difficult trail to Winfield.
LONG EVENING/NIGHT AT TWIN LAKES
Many runners also miss the cut-off at Winfield (50 miles) and are pulled from
the race there. That's happened to me three times and to Jim several times,
too. Runners who DNF at Winfield catch rides with their crew, other
runners' crews, or the volunteers after the aid station closes.
Runners who make the
Winfield cut-off, even barely, are allowed to reverse course and head back up to
I doubt if any extra
time was given at Winfield this year. The weather was too good. I've
seen the cut-off extended at the last minute before when the weather was
really nasty over Mount Hope. That doesn't mean those runners will make
it back to Twin Lakes or later aid stations in time, however.
There is no cut-off at Hope Pass 2 on the return at 55 miles. The only choice
runners have at that point is to keep going down five more miles to Twin Lakes, either
after dark Saturday night or in the morning on Sunday (some folks are kept up there overnight for
medical reasons). If they miss the cut-off at Twin Lakes 2, they're out
of the race.
An early outbound runner comes into Twin Lakes AS
It seemed like we had more drops at Twin Lakes 2 -- inbound at 60 miles
-- this time than last year, even with the cut-off extended 15+ minutes.
We knew we were in for a long night when we heard on the radio that the last
runner out of the aid station near Hope Pass 2 at 55 miles left
there at 9:48 PM. That was after our announced cut-off
time of 9:45 PM at Twin Lakes, and the last runners still had five miles
of trail and a wide, fast creek to cross before reaching us.
Sandy Monahan, the "Cut-Off Queen," allowed runners to continue
from Twin Lakes until a little after 10 PM. I'm pretty sure I can guess
the reason. About twenty runners came
in between 9:45 and 10 PM and were allowed to continue. One of them was the
CEO of Lifetime Fitness. I wonder how many of them finished??
That didn't mean Jim
and I could leave. Although volunteers packed up most of the aid station
supplies after 10, the last runners
didn't arrive at our aid station at 12:16 AM Sunday.
didn't mean we could leave yet.
We had to wait until it was certain no runners were between Winfield and
Twin Lakes or Twin Lakes and the next inbound station, Half Pipe.
The sweeps from Winfield (50 miles) didn’t get up to the Hope Pass aid
station until about 11 PM. They reportedly left to come down five miles
to Twin Lakes at 11:24 PM. It was very discouraging to us at Twin Lakes
when we found out they were so late, because the AS captains (Heather
and George), communications team (Jim and me), and a couple medical
folks (one was a doctor) had to stay until the sweeps arrived both at
our AS and the next one.
It was a long wait. We weren't able to leave until almost 2 AM.
Although it was very clear last night and the stars were spectacular out
at Twin Lakes it was getting cloudy by the time we left early this
morning to come back to the camper.
The clouds must have kept some heat in because it was in the low 60s
when Jim got up at 8 AM; that's pretty warm for Leadville, even
in the summer. I think all the runners
got back to town before it started raining hard. Today would not have
been a good day to be running in the mountains.
Storm clouds over (L-R) Quail Mtn., Mount Hope, and
Twin Peaks late Saturday afternoon
I slept longer and felt tired all day today.
Like with the bike race . . . I’m getting too old for this!
We spent more time volunteering/driving yesterday (19½
hours) than some of the runners spent running 100 miles!!!
This time we didn’t go out to watch the runners at 6th and
McWethy like we have most previous years. That corner is very close to
our camper and 6/10ths of a mile from the finish line. Sometimes we
cheer the runners in the last one or two hours before the final cut-off
but we weren't in the mood for it this time.
Neither did we go to the awards ceremony at noon.
Jim discovered later in the afternoon that there was a Mexican
dinner at the courtyard post-race for runners and volunteers. We
probably would have gone if we’d known that. The food was pretty good
after the bike race, and free to volunteers and race participants.
“Live” results aren’t what they could be at this race. With the program
they used there was no way to get an overall list of how people placed
as the race proceeded. Most runners/crews/spectators at the race and
folks at home are used to seeing that nowadays.
You can find overall results for the race at
this link. Or go to the
page of the race series and click on "results" for age
The information posted at that link tonight shows that 347 runners came in under 30 hours, the final cut-off.
That's a finish rate of 56.7%, which is better than average for this
race. (Some numbers may change later if any corrections are made.)
Four runners’ times were listed over 30 hours. The last one is the CEO
of Lifetime Fitness. It didn't seem to help that he was allowed extra
time at Twin Lakes. We haven’t seen times listed previously for folks
who finish over 30 hours.
But hey, it's his race now and he can do anything
Now, if they’d just add a couple hours
to this race . . .
One of the front-runners in the aid station on
We are glad to see that some of our friends are on the finishers' list,
including Matt Watts, Liz Bauer, Scott Brockmeier,
Larry Hall, Tim Long, Rhonda Sundermeier, Kirk Apt, and David Snipes.
We are surprised by some of the DNFs. You can find them by putting in a
runner’s name or number individually.
Unfortunately, Bill Heldenbrand, Tammy Massey,
Karsten Solheim, and probably a few others DNF’d and are out of the Grand
Slam. We can feel their pain; Jim's one and only Grand Slam
attempt was foiled in 2004.
Joe Judd, Marge Hickman, Marcia Rasmussen, Dan Brenden, Matt
Mahoney, and some other people we know are not listed among the
Some of them have finished LT100 before. All will probably return and
try again another year.
SUNDAY'S MUSINGS ABOUT THE RACE
Jim had a better time this year than last working the radio at Twin
Lakes. He really liked not having to call in all the numbers this time. That gets too
tedious with so many runners, and last year one of the hams at net
control kept asking him to repeat his numbers (none of the other hams
He also liked
not working at net control this time. That's been more fun at Hardrock
I let myself get too frustrated (again) with crews who wanted to grow
roots near the entrance/exit of the aid station. I guess I need to learn
to be more patient with people. I probably would have had more
fun if I'd lightened up and just let them trample the timing cords and block
the way between the AS and our truck . . .
Sleepy little Twin Lakes on a normal summer day;
during the foot race runners cross CO 82
at the arrow and the road is lined with crew cars
for 1/2 mile in either direction.
The aid station is a quarter mile from here, toward
The main drawback to working Twin Lakes communications is having to be
out there so long. It would have been a much more pleasant experience if
someone had relieved us after eight or nine hours.
I don’t know if we’ll do it again. I’m not as adamant
about never doing this again as I am about never working the aid station
at Twin Lakes (different location) for the bike race . . . but
even the foot race has gotten too big to be much fun for anyone –
runners, crews, or volunteers.
Problem is, we like hanging out in Leadville in August, and if we’re
here, it’s hard NOT to work the races!
If we go to Alaska all next summer we won’t have this dilemma. (That’s
not the reason we want to go there, of course.) In two years, maybe
selective memory will kick in again and we’ll have forgotten all the
stuff about the Leadville races that drives us crazy and be eager to
Right now, not so much.
Next entry: time to move on; a
farewell to Leadville for at least two years
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil