If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Team Footfeathers: Crewing the Leadville 100

Back up the calendar several pages to February 15, and this email from Tim pops up in the wee hours of the morning:
-----Original Message-----
From: tim@xxxxxxx [mailto:tim@xxxxxxx]
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 6:33 AM
To: HappyTrails
Subject: crew
Would you guys be interested in crewing me at Leadville 100?

Since we were (and probably still are) clueless about anything to do with ultrarunning or what this duty would entail, we said "Sure."  So began the months of tidbits here and there talking to Tim, finding out what he needed, worrying that we would suck, and so on.  (Who knew that a trail run and a Thanksgiving dinner three years ago would lead us to this juncture!)  Then, within the past week, it ramped up - Game Time - now we would be crewing and trying to keep up with the leaders of the race for InsideTrail via Tweets during the day.  Cool.  We were getting to Leadville late Friday night after work, sleeping in command central, aka the Pilot, and being out at the ungodly hour of 4 am to get rolling on this adventure.  Let's go!

We made what ended up being a very good decision (rookie luck) and skipped the start, driving straight to Mayqueen AS #1, and were the 6th car there.  The lead pack of guys went through like they were running a 10k - are you kidding me?  Holy Cow!  Tim rolled in before 6 am, right on his splits.  It was just starting to get light as we drove around Turquoise Lake on the way out.  Everything went as planned - aid #1 down, no issues - we're rolling on to the Fish Hatchery AS #2!  We realized how fortunate the plan was at the start, as there were cars parked for miles out the road - whew!
 For whatever reason, the Fish Hatchery was our favorite aid station - very cool vibe here

The next aid was at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery which was a very cool setting.  There was a lot of room to spectate, great crewing access, and just a really neat vibe to this place.  The runners come in off of Powerline, run up the road into the aid area, then right back down and out onto the road toward Halfmoon.  The fog from early on was burning off and it was opening up into a really nice sunrise.  It was great to be able to see, as we did not recognize many of the top ultrarunners since we aren't ever around them.  The lead pack went through, and we started to piece together names and faces we would see for the rest of the day.  Mike Arnstein was in front, followed by Dylan Bowman, Timmy Parr, Ryan Burch, Ryan Sandes, Duncan Callahan, Jeff Browning, Dan Vega, etc.  Guys we have read about are now right beside us - sweet!  Snap out of it, we have a racer to tend to - and he came through 2 minutes up on his splits again, so we grabbed his necessities at the aid while Kathleen filled his pack, all the while he is quizzing me on who is running up front, what are the splits, etc. - Tim is quite easy going, even while he is racing - amazing!  He was running in the top 20, right where he wanted to be.  Out of AS #2 - moving on to Twin Lakes AS #3.
 Stopped at HalfMoon Road to get a photo  - looking good
 Spectacular views along HalfMoon Road
 Arriving at Twin Lakes - the day was shaping up quite nicely
 Prime real estate - set up crew station in the main lot!

Twin Lakes is where it started to dawn on us that it was really, really nice to have a fast runner!  We arrived to a very quiet, pristine scene, got prime real estate parking, and set up next to some fantastic people that we would see through the rest of the day.  Twin Lakes is pivotal, as it is the entrance to the Big Climb - Hope Pass at 12,600' looms above the runners - standing between them and the halfway turn at Winfield, 10.5 miles away.  Once again Arnstein was through first, and we thought going too fast - but what do we know, we're just newbie crew folks :)  Parr, Burch, Bowman, Sandes - all through closely - and with some good separation to the next groups - the race was shaping up at the front.  Tim came through at Twin about 4 minutes up on splits -  this is working out great.  We loaded him up for the big climb, broke out the poles for the nasty descent off of Hope, and he was rolling out toward the halfway point.  We negotiated a sweet deal with the "neighbors" to cart their son's pacer to Winfield AS #4, and in turn, they would hold us a spot in the prime parking lot for the return trip - right on!
 Leaving Twin Lakes - the trail leading to the monster climb up Hope Pass
 Winfield AS - great views, the calm before the swarm

If (and that is a big IF) we ever crew this race again, Winfield AS #4 is off the agenda.  This is a drop bag aid station for sure!!!  The drive out to Winfield is fairly sucky.  It is basically at the end of a long, rutted, dusty dirt road, the last three miles of which you share with the runners.  There were no runners yet when we arrived, but those coming later would really pay for this section of drive.  Did we mention that it was really, really, really great to have a fast runner??? (Thanks TIM!!!)  The other issue is that there is very limited parking.  Once the lot filled, and the road started to have consistent racer traffic, cars could only come in as vehicles left.  Ouch!  Ryan Sandes made a huge move on Hope Pass - one that proved the decisive move of the race.  He went from 5th to first in the course of that 10.5 miles and would not relinquish the position for the remaining 50 miles.  Bold.
 Feeling pretty good after trip #1 over Hope

Tim did great on his first passing of Hope and was just a few minutes down on the splits, no big deal.  It was also hot - he was ahead of pace on salt consumption because of the intense overhead sun.  We took a little extra time making sure he was ready to head right back up Hope.  Some extra food, extra liquids, etc.  He was looking a little tired, but overall was just running smart and doing a great job.  He got quite a spark seeing a young lady friend pacer from Hardrock  CORRECTION, a very young lady he raced with at Ice Age 50 mile - standing there by the aid tent at Winfield - we practically had to drag him, kicking and screaming,  out to get back to his run (and you thought we wouldn't rat you out......)  So AS#4 was good to go and we were out of Winfield.  We were horrified at the scene heading out:  after the point on the road where the runners left to head up the trail, inbound traffic was parked.  For over a mile.  One car leaves, one gets to go in - back to that whole fast runner theme.....  Regardless, we were out of Dodge and headed back to Twin Lakes.
 Parting words - heading back over the monster

Twin Lakes AS #5 - round 2 at Twin Lakes, and much more of a zoo this time.  However, we had an ace up our sleeve as the fine folks we spent our morning with there had us lined out with parking in the prime lot.  Nice.  This was a longer crew spot - fresh shoes, extra food, encouragement after twice crossing Hope.  For the first time, we missed the leaders.  But that was OK.  We were tiring and needed to recharge so we could be focused on our racer.  Tim bonked hard on Hope.  I could read it on him from across the meadow coming in.  We got him in a chair and JT, who would be pacing him for the next 26 miles, helped us get him refueled and ready to get moving again.  Pretty amazing that he was charged up to get Tim running, as he had just driven up from the Springs after racing the Pikes Peak Ascent.  The aid stop was long, but we were not forceful in pulling the chair, as he really needed a little rest.  After 15 or 20 minutes, these two were charging up the hill out of Twin Lakes.  Back to the Fish Hatchery AS #6.
 Enjoyed a nice rain shower at FH - very peaceful
 Calorie fest starts before the aid station - JT gets some pep from Katie and Holly

Tim came back to life on the leg in to Fish Hatchery, running almost the entire section and regaining his competitive juice.  Man that was nice to see, and it kind of gave us a second wind.  A great pacer, a bunch of calories, and getting passed by some guys he didn't want passing him rekindled some fire in the belly.  Sweet!  The guys donned headlamps as darkness was approaching and they were off toward Mayqueen - the final aid stop.

Lucho was waiting for us as we rolled into Mayqueen.  He would be pacing the final leg of 13.5 miles, where just last year Tim had paced him through a very rough patch.  The boys rolled in looking pretty spent at about 10:50 pm, 18:50 into the race.  We got Tim into a thermal long sleeve, filled him up with hot soup, and they were on their way to the finish.  Someone had passed in the aid stop, and the focus was back to reel people in.  We loaded up the last of the gear for the day and headed into town to park at the finish line.  Ryan Sandes had rolled in before we arrived, winning in an impressive time of 16:46, followed by Dylan Bowman in 2nd, and Neal Gorman moving up to 3rd after a conservative middle of the race.
 The boys in the finishing tent - JT, Tim, and Lucho

We snuck in a couple short naps, all the while listening to the announcer calling out names as finishers approached the home stretch.  Tim left Mayqueen 18th and managed to take three spots on the run in, finishing 15th at 1:04 am, 21:04 into the race (official chip time 20:59:52 !)  We were so proud - what an amazing accomplishment!  We threw a blanket over him, and got him into the med check in and in front of a heater as the chill of the night caught up with him after movement ceased.  What a day!  Would we do it again?  Maybe, but it would take a special person like Tim to get us back out for it....
Headed home - saying goodbye for a while at least

After catching a small amount of sleep, we got some breakfast in town and watched some runners still coming in.  Then it was time to head out, which was a little bittersweet as Tim is moving away this week.  Road trip, I guess....
Happy Trails

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quick Leadville Crew recap

The sun burns through the morning fog at Fish Hatchery aid station

Just a quick note - we had a great weekend crewing our good friend Tim at the Leadville 100 Trail Run. Tim finished in 21:04, good for 15th overall, and 3rd in the 40-49 age group. He did great all day, we met lots of awesome people, and were able to watch a good portion of the front end of the race play out all day.  It was a memorable experience for certain and when we have had time for sleep deprivation to run its course, we will probably be able to process a little better just how cool this weekend was.  For now, all the keys on the keyboard are running together - watch for a more coherent report soon!

Happy Trails

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Leadville awaits

Well, there has not been much time for blogging this past week and a half, so we wanted to throw up a quick post so you know we're still kicking!  Still would like to throw up the rest of the pics from our Steamboat trip, but that will be posted out of sequence as we have a big weekend on the horizon.  Running has been going pretty good, including a great run at Spruce Mountain and Greenland from last Sunday - photo above.

We will be crewing our friend Tim this weekend at the Leadville 100 Run, which should be a pretty cool and new experience for us.  As it turns out, we will also be providing some "live" coverage of the front end of the race via Twitter for InsideTrail , a new website following the MUT (mountain, ultra, and trail) racing scene.  If you want to get updates, follow InsideTrail on Twitter - @InsideTrail .  We will be tweeting with the #LT100 tag on all the entries, so you can search that as well.

The weekend is also BIG time right here in town as huge crowds are in town for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon this Saturday and Sunday respectively.  Great weekend for Colorado trail racing all around.  Would like to hit the finish of PPM to see some folks get that done, but not very likely after the day & night at Leadville - good luck to everyone racing there.

***UPDATE***   Some have asked about the PPA / PPM result Tweeting - don't know anyone doing a Twitter feed, but the Pikes Peak Road Runners website will have "live" updates every 15 minutes to 1/2 hour.  Those guys are awesome with the timing/results business!  Click Results, find Pikes Peak Ascent or Pikes Peak Marathon (depending on the day) and then click the In-Progress Results link.

Happy Trails!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Runnin' and Ridin' the Boat - Scene Two

Tuesday - Mad Creek / Hot Springs Loop
 Kathleen climbing up Mad Creek Trail

Tuesday we were aiming for a little shorter outing which had potential for a longer option if the legs felt snappy.  We decided to head out the Mad Creek Trail, with the option to continue on the Swamp Park Trail in Mount Zirkel Wilderness and loop back on Red Dirt.  Our primary goal was a 14 mile loop.  The trail starts with a nice climb up the canyon wall above Mad Creek (go figure...) and then opens out into some large meadows mixed with aspen groves.
 Note the gate - all of this area is open range, meaning you share the trail with the bovine crowd
 Landmark Mad Creek Barn, looking up valley to the wilderness
 Dense foliage - and this is a "good" section...

We were not prepared for the dense overgrowth of foliage as we got in towards the wilderness boundary.  Generally the cows keep the trail pretty cleared, but they have been slacking this year.  There were times when the growth was so dense from both sides that you could not see the trail or your feet, and the foliage was near shoulder height in spots.  So, after crossing into the wilderness (and getting the 'itchies'), we decided to try an alternate route and turned back.
 Too busy eating to trample the path for some trail runners!
 Perched above Mad Creek
 Crossing Mad Creek - used a bridge for this one!
 High above the Hot Springs Trail

We crossed over the bridge after coming out of the grazing zone, and headed up a long ridge on the opposite side of the creek.  We would traverse the other canyon wall, run up and over the ridge, and then drop down to Hot Springs Creek to loop back around to the trailhead. 
 Cooling off post run - Kathleen catches me gingerly lowering myself into the cold creek!

It was getting pretty warm and turned out to be a fabulous day.  We ran 9.5 miles, which fit in great for our week long plan of activity, and then sat in the creek for a bit to soak the muscles and rinse the pollen from all the bushwhacking!

Wednesday - Road Ride to Lake Catamount
  Enjoying another bluebird day - on wheels this time
 Lake Catamount and great country roads

We hit the road Wednesday on two wheels, rather than two feet.  We planned a nice route that would circle Steamboat Springs, then catch the River Road out to Lake Catamount, on the lower slopes of Rabbit Ears Pass.  We had several route alterations due to the ubiquitous chip-n-seal operations in effect - winter is not far off, and they have to get their roads repaired while they can!  We saw a lot of bikes out enjoying the day - these are just some great roads to get out and ride without much traffic hassle at all.
 Stopped to watch the tractors for a bit - great countryside for a meandering ride

We could have ridden for hours on end with the perfect weather and scenery that is oh so easy on the eyes.  I, being the voice of reason, reined us in at 35 (someone else was "jonesing" for 40) miles though as we had more on tap for the week - can't spoil any days with inactivity, right???  After fueling up post ride, it was time to head over to the Yampa River Botanic Park.  We needed some fresh ideas for next summer in the Xeric garden at home.
 Fantastic mountain gardens
 Looks like more work for Kathleen next summer....
 Great ponds at the park
Foxglove framed against the Colorado azure skies - sweet!

A perfect couple days but still more to come.  The modem was smoking, so more pictures will have to wait until the next upload!!!  Happy Trails!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer in Steamboat - Scene One

Been a little while since a post here, so it is time to dust off the keyboard and put some words to a little escape we took this week over to Steamboat Springs.  We have been contemplating a long-term escape from the Front Range of Colorado if everyone and their brother continues to move to our area (another 4 million in the next two + decades, nearly doubling our state's population), but that's another story for a different time.  We're going to have to start posting horrible pictures and telling everyone how awful a place it is to live :))  Back on track here - now for some good scenery and Happy Trails (and roads, but that's next post ;-) )
Last Sunday we took a drive up to the northwest part of the state.  We like to stay clear of I-70, so we went through South Park and caught Highway 9 over Hoosier Pass - pictured above, then up through to Rabbit Ears Pass and over to Steamboat Springs. August is sometimes a spotty month for travel across these areas as the dry summers can occasionally leave a lot of brown, drab landscape.  However, with the REALLY long/cold spring in the mountains, everywhere we drove it was green and lush.  And yes, folks in the mountains are actually talking about summer starting, just in time for about 6 weeks of it until snow starts up high - ouch, is that ever a short season!  Did a double take on the sign marking the distances off the pass - see below:
 Couldn't help noticing someone had been on Hoosier Pass recently.... We had to stop and pay homage!
(Any coincidence that Beth placed her sticker so close to High Country Healing???)

After the 4.5 hour drive over to Steamboat, we drug out the road bikes and went for a nice, mellow 18 mile spin around town to flush out the legs a bit (we had done an 8 mile tempo run the day before).  This is a great place to bring the bikes as there are countless miles of quiet country roads to ride without fear of being run off the road or ending up in crazy traffic.  We even sat out at Starbucks enjoying some great weather and kicking the feet up while enjoying some high octane beverages!!!  We also spent some time pouring over the map plotting out our trail excursions for the next several days.  Let's get rolling!
 The Rabbit Ears - unique volcanic plugs atop Rabbit Ears Peak

Monday found us back over on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass at the Dumont Lake trailhead for the Wyoming Trail, part of the Continental Divide Trail that crosses from Rabbit Ears to Buffalo Pass.  This is some wide open country as the total trip across is over 20 miles by road from east to west and it is about 18 miles by trail from Rabbit Ears to Buffalo. 
 Dumont Lake - alpine lake #1 for the day
 Kathleen on the start of the Wyoming Trail

The first 1.5 miles of the trail winds gently along a diversion ditch that the forest service uses to spread out the watershed.  The trail skirts a huge alpine meadow above Dumont Lake that is bursting with wildflower activity.  The trail dips through a stream near a diversion point and then sharply climbs into the first section of forest.
 Been a while since we had snow on the trail

The dense forest, along with elevation that is mostly in the 10k + range, harbors snow for long periods of time and it is holding on to quite a bit this year.  This was the start of many miles of snow, mud, and standing water on the trails - summer is almost here!
 Indian Paintbrush bloom along the Wyoming Trail, just before Base Camp
 One of MANY creek crossings on the day - Fishhook Creek after the descent from Base Camp

After about 4 miles on the trail, there is a connection over to the USFS Base Camp trailhead.  From here, the Wyoming Trail continues on, shown at times on maps as Trail 1101, Base Camp Trail, CDT - all the same trail.   There is a sharp descent in to the Fishhook Creek drainage, quickly followed by another climb up to Fishhook Lake - #2 alpine lake of the day.  Base Camp is a popular spot for hunters who pack in on horseback in the fall - wear blaze orange if you run here in the fall!
 Fishhook Lake - stunning.  Why would anyone want to live here....???
 HT at Fishhook Lake
 Next up - Lost Lake - we found it!
 Finally to #4 - Lake Elmo

We had some great stretches of trail out past Lost Lake to Lake Elmo.  A lot of the trail passes through meadows that are seeping marsh ground and there was lots of standing water on the trail.  We got pretty used to the shlish-shlosh feeling of soaked feet as we ran 90% of the day that way.  Lake Elmo was the elusive lake for us as we have seen the others before either from the Rabbit Ears side on foot, or from the Buffalo Pass side on mountain bike.  When you look west from the trail at this point, you are looking over the back side of Mt Werner, home to Steamboat Springs' ski area.
 Starting back from the far side of Lake Elmo - just around the bend, the trail is under water
 Leap of Faith!

Given the fact that back in March Kathleen could at times barely lift her arms shoulder high, and had to carefully step up or down for trail obstacles because she had lost all her strength, seeing her regain enough strength to jump across the creek was one of the moments that made the trip for me.  While she is not by any means back to her old kick, this was a moment that gave me a spark of hope that we have her headed on the right track!
 Typical trail surface for most parts of the CDT - lots of footwork, no daydreaming
 Heading back down from Base Camp
 Racing the rain clouds back to the trailhead

The clouds had pushed in on us pretty heavy from the start.  We had several periods where the sun teased us for a while, but moreso we were watching the skies, not wanting to be caught out in the expanses of this pass in severe weather.  It is not like the rain would have hurt so much - we were wet from the knees down the majority of the run.  The lightning is what you have to fear up here!!!
 Coming out of the forest with Dumont Lake off in the distance
 Dropping out into the huge meadow and the connection along the diversion ditch
 Kathleen runs in the wildflowers
 Back to the start - Rabbit Ears monument and the end of the trail

This photo was a bit deceptive - the skies to the northeast were still showing blue, yet behind Kathleen as she took the photo were huge black storm clouds.  We finished out with 15 miles in pretty big country.  Although the trail conditions weren't perfectly stellar due to the standing water on much of the trail and the profuse number of downed trees that broke up the running rhythm at times, it was a great day to be out.  And what a better way to end a run like this - we had left over pizza from BeauJo's waiting in the car - nice!  Stay tuned for more from the trip and here are some parting wildflower shots on the way out from the trailhead!
 Could you run here?
 Red "Carpet" treatment
Flowers everywhere
Other than at the parking area at the trailhead, we did not see another person along the entire route.  Peace, quiet, and solitude......
BTW, minutes into our drive back, the rain commenced - Happy Trails!
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