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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
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