the 100 mile weekend

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Whew!  So, how about last weekend, eh? But wait. Before I go into any detail about that, here’s the first of many obligatory “belly shots.” This is me at 14 weeks. I’m still not really showing. Also, please excuse the outfit and the crazy hair.  Tim took this right after we finished running 9 miles…

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself once I get all big and bulbous.  I mean, I KNOW it’s coming…I’m just not really ready for all that, yet.  I guess that’s why it happens over nine months, ever so slowly…

Now, moving on to the weekend:

Tim and I drove out to Leadville, Colorado.  A tiny, tiny town that happens to host one of the BIGGEST ultra races in the country. A 100 mile trail race.  Yes, you read that correctly.  One hundred miles.  The finishing times range from anywhere around 16 hours to 30 hours.  ALL AT ONCE.  People RUN THROUGH THE ENTIRE DAY AND NIGHT AND THEN PART OF ANOTHER DAY.

Tim was all, “They end up seeing TWO sunrises….all in the same race!”

This is crazy, people.  The race is crazy.  The people who run the race are crazy.  The whole thing – crazy. So, of course, we had to see what it was all about.  So….what did we do?

(and if your guess is, “Ran 100 miles!” then you’re probably crazy, too)

Tim and I didn’t run 100 miles.  We just went to support those who were…by volunteering!  Our first assignment started a FOUR AM on Saturday.  Lucky for us, we stayed in a B&B in another tee-tiny town called Twin Lakes, which is about 20 minutes from Leadville.  Our station, a campground called the May Queen, was about 20 minutes from Leadville.  You do the math.

(and if you’re math challenged like me, all those numbers meant we had to leave to B&B at THREE AM)

Our B&B, though? GORGEOUS. This is the back of the B&B, if that tells you anything.

We had views of the “twin lakes” and mountains behind them, along with two wonderful inn keepers and three malamutes.  This one is Nick and he made Lexi look like a toy poodle.  His paws were like freaking bear paws…I think I want a big(ger) dog…loved those paws!

Anyhow, when we arrived at the May Queen, Tim and I were put on PB&J sandwich creation duty.  Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  Well, it isn’t, until you’ve made seven loaves of bread worth of sandwiches.

Tim was the spreader.  I was the bread getter-outer and the cut-the-sandwiches-in-quarters girl.  You can see our piles of sandwiches in front of Tim, along with the other food items.  You’d be surprised…potato chips, M&Ms, snack-sized candy bars, and healthy things, too, like fruit and whatnot.  And regular Coke? OMG. It’s like crack for ultra runners.  Except, it has to be de-fizzed.

I have no idea, either.

Tim got to stay where we were both comfortable – the food tent – when the runners finally got to us.  Me? I got stuck with the drop bags.

Er…drop-whatevers.  Obviously, we’ve got more than just bags going on here.  The bags were lined up in rows, with all 100-199 numbers in one line, 200-299 in the next, and so on. In total, there were 600+ runners who all had bags of stuff that they pre-packed and wanted after they finished the first leg of the race, which was the start to where we were: the May Queen. How long was the first leg?  Oh, nothing much. Just an easy-peasy 13.5 miles.  No biggie……(these people are nuts…)

Oh! And if you’ve ever read Born to Run (if you haven’t, you should, even if you’re not a runner. GREAT book), guess who was running the race?  Thaaaat’s right! Barefoot Ted and Caballo Blanco (they are two prominent characters in the book, FYI for those of you who need to read it).  I THINK I helped Barefoot Ted in the drop bag tent…and Tim thinks he saw him in the food tent…but neither of us are 100% sure…either way, neato burrito!

Anyhow, I managed fairly well until five or more runners would come into the tent at once and we’d all be looking for their bag while other runners “crew” members would barge in and take the bags for their own runner and then just toss them back in all nonchalantly.


By the end of it I was racing around, not even looking up and yelling, “What’s your number?!”

One “runner” in particular came up to me all, “This runner wanted to drop this off for the return…is that ok?”

I barely look up, still in my zone all, “What’s your number?!”

Said “runner” was Tim.  Bringing a bag from the food tent.


Before it got to a level of complete insanity, I did manage to grab a few pictures.  The first one is a white board that a race official (who thought it’d be hilarious to take a picture of me taking a picture) would update to let others know who the first runner was, when they came through, cutoff times for other stations, etc.

These were some of the first few people through.  They didn’t have or didn’t want their drop bag.  I guess they were too hard core for that mumbo jumbo at the first aid station.

Now, do you see all of that mist and mountainous terrain?  That’s where the runners came from. Basically from the middle of nowhere.

This was the crowd – mostly crews for the runners – waiting anxiously for their “person” to come through.  And when I say “come through” I mean that these runners had slogged through 13.5 miles in the dark over trails through the mountains.  The first runner came through in an 1:42.  They ran a seven minute mile in the dark.  On trails. Insanity.

The four hours that we were there, helping out, flew by in an instant.  I looked up all of a sudden, because no one was asking for a bag, it was actually light outside and I was sweating through my jacket.  It was like a ghost town.  Once the crews did whatever it was they needed to do, they were off to the next station.  I’m not really sure how those crew people do it.  It’s one thing to run 100 miles and it’s quite another to be the support team.  They are responsible for getting anything and everything a runner needs and they better be where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there.  We had quite a few runners yelling at their crews all, “WHERE WERE YOU?! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE, NOT HERE!”

Word to the wise if you ever want to crew for someone: DON’T SCREW IT UP.

I think two runners dropped out between the start and the May Queen.  I was kinda surprised.  I mean, you spend all that time training and don’t even get to the first station?! Seems like a waste to me, unless you’re hurt or something…

Either way, Tim and I left and headed back to the B&B.  We had another volunteer shift later that night…and we needed to catch some Z’s before we had to make ourselves stay awake until midnight.

The May Queen station was in the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area.  And if you’re ever in Leadville? VISIT.  It is absolutely gorgeous.

After Tim and I showered, had breakfast outside on the porch, staring at the lakes and mountains, we decided to check out Leadville before we took a nap for a few hours.

The start (and the finish).  The runners have a 50 mile out and back course.

Let me just say this: Leadville may be a small town, but it is a town with a sense of humor.

Post-nap, Tim and I went back into Leadville for an early dinner at a place called High Mountain Pies.  As in: pizza. YUM.  Two of the runners who had dropped from the race were there eating.  So we eavesdropped, of course.  One made it to the 50 mile aid station and the other dropped somewhere between the start and the turn-around point (50 miles).  Turns out stomach issues can ruin a race.

We also decided to drive around Turquoise Lake.  It had started raining earlier, so the sky was overcast and the temperature dropped to 40 degrees, but we were prepared with lots of layers.  We kept getting out of the car at all of the scenic view points and at one in particular, the thunder ripped through the mountains around us, reverberating…I’ve never heard such an incredible sound. It didn’t even seem real, the sound.

This is us, all official looking in our volunteer shirts and name tags, on the shore of Turquoise Lake.

We also drove by this pond that was totally green.  I was all, “STOP! Turn around! I want a picture!”

So Tim did.  And I got my picture.

Of a sewage lake.  Awesome.

The volunteer situation during the nighttime was totally different than the morning.  It took FOREVER for runners to come through and when they did, they mostly relied on their crews to get them whatever they needed.  The May Queen is the first AND last aid station in the race, so anyone we saw come through would more than likely finish the race.  Mind you, the first runner came through at 6:27pm.  They STARTED the race at 4:00am and the cutoff time was 10:00am on Sunday.

I can’t even think about staying awake that long, much less staying in motion.

Most of the runners had a pacer with them – a poor soul who would run anywhere from one leg of the race (aid station to aid station) to the entire 50 miles.  The pacer is to help the runner stay on course, not get lost, keep them on whatever “pace” the runner is trying to accomplish, carry food for the runner, etc.  Basically, a pack mule.

Some runners ran without a pacer.  And to them I say: You are doubly crazy.

I didn’t get many pictures of runners during the nighttime.  Obviously: pitch black.   I did get this guy, though.  I think he ended up in the top 5.

Since the going was so slow, Tim and I got put on parking detail for an hour.  Well, I should clarify.  I stood in the middle of the road while Tim told the crew cars where to park and yelled at them (not really) if they weren’t following directions.  And, truly, it wasn’t AS BAD as we thought it would be.  We got to see the runners (all of two during our detail) come down this hill towards the aid station first.  We cheered them on and stared in awe at some of these people.  They didn’t even LOOK TIRED.

They must have been, though.  I mean, they had completed 87 or so miles…with 13+ more to go.  An entire half marathon MORE to run.


The board at night?  Totally different and lots more crowded.

Lots of cutoff times.  Lots of numbers.  And a big sign to tell anyone who decided they WANTED to sign up to be a pack mule pacer where to go.

Who does that?  Who signs up to run with a total stranger IN THE DARK?

I’m not sure who is crazier.  The runner or the random pacer.

Either way, volunteering for this event was more enjoyable and awe-inspiring than anything I think I’ve ever done.  How can you not respect the people – nuts as they are – who sign up for this race?  Even if they don’t finish, they tried.  They trained and planned and prepared to run one hundred miles.

A couple staying at the B&B with us was there because their son was running.  We never saw him in action but found out Sunday morning that he had to drop out around 60 miles in.  His mom, Marilyn was her name, was upset, mostly because she knew how disappointed her son would be when she saw him.  She was so cute, though.  She made and brought him a huge chocolate cake and all kinds of his favorite things to eat.  Tim told her that she should just give him a knife and a glass of milk.  The number of calories in that cake still probably wouldn’t be enough.

Marilyn offered to adopt Tim and I, since we don’t have any family in Colorado.  Marilyn likes adopting couples, I think.  She’s already done it with a couple in their neighborhood.  Her husband, Tom, isn’t as keen on the idea I don’t think, but he goes along with it.  They live kind of near us, in Denver anyway, but it was so sweet of her to offer.

We were also told by the inn keepers to come back and visit but BRING THE BABY! They, in no uncertain terms, told us to bring the baby, drop him/her off and then we could go and do whatever. They just want to play with the baby.  We basically don’t really matter any more at that point (which, I’m told, is how it will be with everyone, so no surprises there).

Regardless, we’ll probably take them up on that offer.


27 Responses to “the 100 mile weekend”

  1. 1 jobo August 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    WOW. I have heard of this type of race and that is INSANE! Though I would LOVE to do what you did and volunteer for it. what an inspiring trip it must have been and just the experience of seeing it all happen. wow. if this doesn’t give me some running mojo, I don’t know what will! And um, baby bump? That tummy looks fantastic for a NOT pregnant chick!! Hot stuff mama! 🙂

    • 2 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 8:16 am

      Seriously…you should have come with us…just for the running mojo. INSANITY! And thanks for the “bump” compliment! Some days I feel super pudgy!!

  2. 3 carolyn August 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    You rock! And I bet you end up like my sister – she NEVER SHOWED. Unlike me, who, upon conceiving my son, I gained 52 pounds in 20 minutes.

    And I think that type of race is crazy. . .but I’d do one. 😉


    • 4 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 8:17 am

      Tim thinks I’ll have this cute little bump…and I hope he’s right! And 52 pounds in 20 minutes? I think that’s a record somewhere….just sayin 🙂

      Also? If you ever do one, TELL ME! Somewhere in my brain I’m thinking…maybe I could wrap my head around it…..maybe

  3. 5 Brandy August 24, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    So, do you think this is something you and/or Tim might try in the future? The training would be nutso.

    Also, crazy about the pacers… amazing people as are you for volunteering to help!

    • 6 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 8:18 am

      No way will Tim do this. And…highly unlikely I would, either, though I am tempted to try a 50k (31-something miles)…..

      Volunteering was SO FUN! Definitely an experience.

  4. 7 laurahartson August 25, 2011 at 5:05 am

    ah cant wait to see the bump progression!

  5. 9 Shannon August 25, 2011 at 7:01 am

    What an awesome weekend!! I have been to Leadville. Went horeseback riding somewhere in the vacinity. It was amazing. Such a beautiful area. I have never heard of this race. I don’t even think I could wrap my head around that many miles.Also, welcome to the midwest where anyone will hold your baby for you:) Free babysitting while out for a weekend away…amen:)

    • 10 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 8:20 am

      Have you?! How awesome! I don’t think the race is talked about much unless you pay attention to running things…which in most cases, no one does 🙂

      And I am cracking up on your Midwest comment. I’m beginning to think…no, KNOW that you are 100% correct. And AMEN to that!

  6. 11 Zannah August 25, 2011 at 7:53 am

    As soon as I read that you went to Leadville, I thought “Did they go for that race in Born to Run? And RUN IT?” Glad to hear you haven’t lost your senses. 🙂 I read that book, really liked it, and still think those races (and people who run them) are nuts. But cool. Very cool of you guys to volunteer. And I can’t believe you saw Barefoot Ted and Caballo Blanco!

    • 12 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 8:21 am

      YOU’VE read the BOOK! Gold star for you! Those people are nuts. Literally think they have a few screws loose up there…if you ever have a race like this close to you…or you want to come out to Leadville…you totally should. Worth every minute.

  7. 13 August 25, 2011 at 9:15 am

    What a cute bump!

    I read 100 miles and thought no big deal, then reading further down and realized no really, miles, as in several marathons put together without stoppin and I think my brain exploded at that point.

    People will start to pay attention to you and acknowledge your existence as something other than the person who brings the baby around the age of five. You will still play seconds to the child, but you they will say more than ‘Where’s the baby, can I hold him/her, OMG look at how big he/she is, look at how cute you are….’ when greeting you.

    Shannon is totally right, midwest people see a baby and immediately hold out their arms.

    • 14 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Tim and I were talking about playing second fiddle….Tim is convinced he’s already had more “experience” than me with this. I’m inclined to agree.

      Also: thank you!

  8. 15 PJ August 25, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Wow! What a neat thing to do! I have worked at a few marathons before – I usually hand out water and/or gatoraid as the runners go by, which is pretty fun. I also love to trail run, though I’m not sure I could do 100 miles – especailly since my knee won’t let me do even 5 miles right now.

    Can’t wait for more baby bump pictures, though I agree with everyone that you look good for a non-pregnant woman right now!

    • 16 Jessica August 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      Thank you! I’m so non-bumpish!!

      As for your running – that sucks your knee isn’t cooperating with you! Is it something chronic or no? Soon, I know, my body probably won’t let me even walk five miles…but at least it’s temporary?

  9. 17 lifestartsnow August 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    that’s a baby bump? sorry, you got more ass than bump – might change eventually 😉

    volunteering at a race could be the closest i ever come to running…mh…maybe i should consider that!

  10. 19 DesiValentine August 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    What an incredible experience. I don’t think I’m nuts enough to even TRY ultra racing, but the idea of it is pretty kick-ass. I have The Death Race on my to-do list, but that’s a mere 78 miles (125 km)…. Okay, so maybe I’m a little nuts.
    Also? Congrats on your wee bump. I had one of those about six years ago, and now she’s about to start kindergarten. Mind-boggling, that!

    • 20 Jessica August 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

      DesiValentine: I think your “toying with maybe running it race” totally counts as an ultra…actually…it DOES. That may as well be 100 miles! Wowza! Also? Thank you for stopping by – hope you see you again sometime! 🙂

  11. 21 darened August 27, 2011 at 6:57 am

    that race sounds intense!
    You know anyone crazy enough to enter a race like that is only doing it because running is not just race to them, it’s a way of life.

    and I can’t believe you’re running 9 miles at 14 weeks! but those shorts are awesome, something my daughter would wear

    • 22 Jessica August 27, 2011 at 9:46 am

      The shorts ARE awesome…mostly because they’re comfortable and I’m all about the comfort right now. 🙂 And the race? It was the most intense thing I’ve ever witnessed…at least in the “sporting” arena. They are certifiably insane. As for the running + pregnancy…it’s tough…but I’m trying to make it at least until the end of September when the half is, then I may stick to walking! And thank you for stopping by – don’t be a stranger! 🙂

  12. 23 nysoonergirl August 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    My bump might be bigger than yours… But it’s mostly bread, I promise.

    Seriously though, most adorable bump ever! You look great, girl!

  13. 25 Heather (Where's the Beach) August 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    You look about as pregnant as I do after eating too much pizza! And you look way better than I do after 9 miles. It ain’t pretty at all. I absolutely cannot fathom doing a race like that. I mean, freaking insane.

    • 26 Jessica August 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      I’m sure you look way better than you think after 9 miles! 🙂 And I’m sure I had forgiving shadows or something. As for the race? I’m still in awe. Nuts, those people.

  14. 27 Taryn February 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Oh my gosh. That is so freakin’ cool! I read Born to Run last spring and loved it. I am still not sure I am much of a runner- but it certainly convinced me to do all my hiking and walking in 5 Fingers. It would have been really neat to maybe meet barefoot ted. = ) I was so sad to hear about Caballo Blanco this spring. It would have been cool to be part of the run they did for him up Chautauqua- I love hiking that area but I can’t imagine running it!

    I never thought to volunteer for the event- I loved reading about your experience. I had a running friend who trained and ran a 50mi race in the mountains, but she missed the cutoff for the last of three loops and was forced to quit. It was devastating . So she tried again a few weeks later on a flat course in chicago. She finished that one. I still can’t believe she ran 50 miles in one go- and those people are running the Leadville one at altitude for double the distance!

    I found your blog looking at baby bumps at 20 weeks- but I love the whole blog. I think we might live in simular areas- I saw on your random acts of kindness posts the receipt for Huckleberry. We live in Erie and venture in to Louisville for all the good food quite often. Gotta love Colorado!

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