**I’ve added a baby poll on the sidebar! Vote on girl or boy! We find out September 20!!**
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…
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.
WE HAD A SYSTEM, PEOPLE.
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).
probably take them up on that offer.