After climbing LaPlata peak back in August of 2000 I noticed a bunch of
miserable and tired people jogging down the road. I later found out they were
part of the Leadville Trail 100 and I always thought it would be cool to run 100
miles. Six years later I was signed up and doing some fun training runs/hikes
with Keith, Steve, and anyone else you cared to join along. These jaunts were
some of the best times of the summer! I was a bit worried about the summer being
signed up for a 50mile run in May, a 100mile bike in June, an IronMan at the end
of June, and then the Leadville 100. Oh well, I figured I’d give it a go and
see what happened! Three out of three went great but I was slightly burned out
by the time the beginning on August rolled around. I wasn’t running much at
all but still was getting up to altitude and some good long days in.
Come race time our pacers were set, crews was ready to meet us along the
route, and the Yukon was full of anything we could imagine needing or wanting.
Keith, Steve, and I headed out to Leadville Friday morning and got the check in
taken care of. We had a couple hours to kill before the pre-race “do this race
and you’ll die” speech, so we went to Steve’s friend Susan’s house where
we would be staying for the night. May as well have a couple beers?! At the
pre-race meeting they had bins of Coors so may as well have a couple more
beers?! The meeting was cool, lots of folks introduced who had done this race up
to 22 times…YIKES! We headed to the Tennessee Pass Café afterwards for grub
and more beers. By this time we figured we were going to be doing a Leadville
bar tour and we were having a blast laughing non-stop. Some grub, beers,
pictures, and laughs and we were heading off the Leadville Legendary Saloon so
Keith and Steve could see the porn-covered women's bathroom I told them about.
The conversation went like this once there....
Jeff: What kind of tasty beers do you have?
Bartender: Well, we have Samuel Adams, PBR (pause and smirk)
Steve: PBR is tasty, we’ll take them!
We laughed through a PBR and ordered a few more. Keith opted for the Samuel
Adams and we attempted to lock him in the bathroom for doing so. Ends up the
bartender was from Philly also, so we shared some laughs and whacked back a
couple shots of Jager-bombs then Irish Car Bombs…..not a good idea!
We eventually left the Saloon and just had to stop at Manhattan’s for
another PBR and laughing with the locals about how stupid we are for trying to
run 100miles above 10K feet. Back at
Susan’s house we crashed out for a couple hours before meeting up with Jules
and Emeri for some Mexican food at The Grill. Hhhmmm, Mexican food the night
before a big race?! D’oh! Jean, Beth, Stinger, and Denali made it into town
around 9:30pm after getting stuck behind an accident in the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Sleep for me was just not happening, I was too nervous and stayed up listening
to the cold and heavy rain. Around 2:30am I hopped out of bed getting 2hrs max
of sleep. Not good!! We got the rest of our stuff together and headed into town.
It’s 4am, I feel like dog shit, and SO not looking forward to this. The
shotgun goes off and we slowly start jogging down the road. My heart rate is
racing already and post-nasal drip is getting me close to throwing up. Great!
Everyone is quiet and in their own little world. I was trying to have fun and
look around at the strings of headlamps but I could not shake the funk. Some
dude was singing behind us and I felt like killing him. Keith said his standard,
"um, yeah, I'm gonna have to ask you to not do that anymore!" Soon
enough we were on the trail along the longest lake in the world (well, it felt
like it). At 7miles Tabor boat ramp came up after 1hr 25mins, still 6miles to
the aid station. This seemed like forever but once the sun was coming up there
was a cool glow all around in the fog and early morning air.
At May Queen aid station (mile 13) at 6:33am I tried to eat some potatoes but they just
weren’t going down. I was able to drink a bunch of liquid, but food still
wasn’t happening. Stinger and Jean were waiting outside of the tent and they
could tell things weren’t going well. I grabbed a sandwich to-go and we headed
out after a few minutes. Here the trail starts to climb and climb and climb
towards Sugarloaf Pass. I was trying my best to shake the funk and we told some
jokes and shared stories with a couple other racers. I managed to take a spill
along the way trying to pass some people. The sandwich was not staying down and
I ended up tearing off pieces of ham and slowly chewing them. Once on top of the
pass it was a rolling trail along some powerlines on old dirt roads. I swore I
saw the tops of tents, but it ended up being the reflection of a puddle.
Hallucinations = 1, Jeff = 0. We joined up on the paved road near the Outward
Bound/Fish Hatchery aid station (mile 23.5) and enjoyed hearing some girl hoot
and holler at the top of her lungs non stop! The skies were still overcast and
we all still had our long sleeves on, better then being boiling hot I suppose!
Stinger and Jean met us right after the aid station at 8:54am and true to form Stinger
said into the walkie talkie, “look for the guy standing in the road drinking a
Jager-bomb”. His goal was to drink the entire time we were racing….mission
successful! We grubbed again, complained about having no fun, and it sure was
tempting to stay with those guys and have fun crewing instead of running more!
Stinger announced that they had a good method going….he would pull everything
out of the truck, and Jean would put everything back in! These two are
hysterical together and fight like siblings, great fun to watch!!
Too soon it was time to go. We headed down the road towards Halfmoon Road where
we would see our crew in 5 short miles. Keith was trying to choke down a
sandwich, and Steve was trying to keep down a belly full of Ensure and food. We
jogged some, but walked most and our crew drove by slowly with Stinger hanging
out the window screaming at us between chugs of Twisted Tea. Having driven the
road to the Massive TH several times, we knew it would be a slog. A quick stop
with our crew and me confessing to Jean that I wasn’t having any fun. The
chick with lungs was along here again and some other woman was puking her guts
out. We walked most of the way except a few short bouts of jogging on the
downhills. Whoever started jogging got cursed out immediately by the other two!
The Halfmoon aid station (mile 30.5) was just a quick stop for some soup and
chips at 10:39am. We made the turn onto the Colorado Trail for some steep uphills before
several miles of familiar territory. This is a beautiful section with
smooth/soft trail, aspen groves, small streams, and ponds. We were having
“Wayne moments”. Finally I was feeling a bit better physically, but
seriously considering dropping out. I kept thinking that I wasn’t having any
fun and it would be more fun to hangout and crew. Keith quickly let me know that
this wasn’t even an option and I was then determined to shake the funk for
good. We quoted Stewart Smally from SNL and laughed about other disgusting
stuff. Once on the final downhill into Twin Lakes I talked to Jean and Stinger
on the walkie talkie and started feeling really good. I convinced myself to take
a big drink of “shut the fu#k up” and enjoy the day. Stinger had Jean stop
in town for some Boone’s wines so we were sure to be entertained at this aid
station! The trail kept switching back closer and closer to the lake until we
could finally see the houses. Tons of people here cheering and having a great
time. We checked into the Twin Lakes aid station (mile 39.5) at 12:52pm and found Jean and
Stinger fighting like cats and dogs once again! Hysterical! Jules and Emeri were
here as well and it was a great vibe joking around, taking pictures, eating
burgers and brats that Stinger grilled up, etc etc etc. My butt crack was
getting really chaffed already and I knew this would lead to problems. I
switched into my Salomon trail runners and once again, it was way too soon that
we had to leave. Luckily the sun was out and it wasn’t storming yet….yet.
From Twin Lakes the trail works through cow pastures, then crosses some serious
puddles and the stream that feeds the lakes. The stream was thigh deep and
really felt awesome on sore feet and legs. Next, 4miles up to 12,600ft Hope Pass
and known to be the worst part of the course. All three of us are good on climbs
and better at altitude. Regardless, after 40miles…this would not be easy! Soon
enough the leader came hauling ass down the trail. We steadily passed folks and
came across the “Two miles to Hopeless Aid Station” sign. D’oh! Seeing these
signs sucks, seeing the aid station is good! It’s stocked by llamas and people
that are camped out for the w/end, we arrived at 2:58pm. Some more warm soup and Cheetos before the
last few hundred feet to the top of the pass. It was such a relief to be on top,
and we wasted no time heading down the south side since the sky was about to
open up. More and more of the leaders were heading the other way and it’s
always fun to cheer them on. My friend Kevin Andrews came chugging along and hit
tree line as soon as the hail started! Next was Bill Geist and Sean Cunniff from
14erworld going head-first into the hail and cold rain. It was freakin’
pouring. The trail turned into an un-runable mud slide that was downright
dangerous! So much for making up time on the downhills.
At CR 390 we knew we had about 40mins to the Winfield Aid station (mile 50) and
that we’d be halfway done. I was determined to drop out at that point and
Keith and I were all ready to. This was SO miserable and not fun. Why are we
doing this? Whose idea was it? Oh crap….mine. Near the aid station I called
ahead to our crew that we were close and I was so frustrated at everything that
I turned the radio off so I wouldn’t have to hear questions and comments.
Steve was ahead and feeling great, Keith and I stumbled in meeting Beth and told
her we were dropping out. Regardless, we checked in at 4:50pm and drank some coffee and
soup. It was still drizzling out and as soon as I stopped moving I started to
shiver. Back at the car was a party going on! Jean, Stinger, Beth, Jules, Emeri,
Susan, Rob, Amy, and Piper were all there and having a blast. I was miserable
and could barely stomach some food. I told Jean I was going to quit and she
could tell right away I was miserable. Stinger threatened me there was no way I
was allowed to quit and I disappeared off to the bathroom to take care of some
business. My muscles felt fine and mentally I felt okay. The biggest problem was
that my ankles felt like they were about to snap and it felt like someone was holding
a belt sander between my ass cheeks.
After several minutes in the crapper I went back to face the music. Steve was
all set to go, and Keith and I looked at each other then started getting our
stuff ready. We were going to go a bit further. Beth grabbed our CamelBaks to
fill up and Jean handed us all the food we could need. Off we went,
unfortunately. Even 100yds down the road I told those guys that I may hop in the
crew car as it went by since my ankle and ass were killing me. They zoomed by
before I had too much time to think of it. *sigh* Soon after I was telling Steve
that he should run ahead since it was a slim chance that Keith and I would make
the time cut off. Steve kept offering words of encouragement and hung with us.
About halfway up Hope Pass Keith and I finally convinced Steve that he had to
run ahead to Twin Lakes and make like Forrest Gump to the finish with Bob
pacing. I was a broken man, mentally and physically. Steve took off up the mud
slide of a trail and was quickly putting distance between us. Keith and I
justified not going on for several reasons…1) we weren’t having fun; 2) our
pace was ridiculously slow and we would not even be able to job the flats or
downhills; 3) injury prevention.
At the top of Hope Pass once again. I radioed Jean to tell her Steve was running
ahead and to get Bob ready for pacing and that Keith and I were going to drop
out at Twin Lakes. After a pep-talk from Stinger and laughing about their
escapades getting pizza and gin, we slowly started walking down the pass. Sure
would’ve been nice to be able to jog down, but there was no way that was going
to happen. We hit the Hopeless Pass aid station at 7:35pm then once back in the trees the headlamps came back out and the rain
started again. Keith’s batteries were barely working and we were taking every
step real cautiously. It was taking forever, but physically I could not go any
faster. Finally we could see the lights of
Twin Lakes but still had to cross the stream and get through the cow pastures.
We made it into the aid station (mile 60.5) at 9:41pm with just a few minutes to spare for
the 9:45pm cutoff. Jean, Beth, and Stinger were waiting at the trailhead.
Stinger apparently was standing in the rain for two hours saying “if they
suffer, I suffer”. He was soaked and just about hypothermic! We told the aid
station folks that we were dropping out and they all congratulated us for making
it this far. I was completely exhausted and ready for clean/dry clothes and a
beer after almost 18hrs on the go. I could barely change clothes since I was laughing so hard listening to
Jean and Stinger bicker at each other! I’ve never before dropped out of a race
but knew it was the right decision this time. We packed up the cars and headed
towards the Halfmoon crew stop to meet Steve and Bob, we promised Steve that we
would crew the rest of the way. Stinger was snoring in the front seat and Jean,
Denali, and I curled up in the back seat until we heard from them on the radio.
A few hours later they came in and Marlene took over pacing. Steve looked great
and said he felt great. I still had no regrets over dropping out!
Next we headed back to the Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery crew stop and drank
some beers and coffee before and after Steve and Marlene came in. Another quick
stop for them and Amy took over pacing. Off to May Queen where we had to park
far away and Jean and I could not bring ourselves out of the truck. My knees
were killing me and kept waking me up. Bob took over pacing again and we all
headed off to the Tabor Boat Ramp for one last crew stop before the finish. The
sun was working its way up and we made some more coffee and hot chocolate for
Bob and Steve. These guys looked great coming through and took the hot drinks
and off they went! We all headed into Leadville and set up just a few blocks
before the finish cheering on runners on their way in. Some folks looked great,
others looked barely alive!
Around 9:10am we saw Bob and Steve chugging along. Wowza, absolutely amazing!!
With our Team WMPH shirts on we ran the last couple blocks with them cheering
and going nuts. Steve was in great spirits and was so happy to finish!!!!!! It
was awesome. We all sat around chatting and Bob is already psyched to sign up
for next year! Myself….no way.
I definitely missed doing the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon this year since
I've done that for the past 5 years. I think I'll switch back to those next
year...a better vibe, more fun, much shorter, and marg's at The Loop afterwards!
And, there is NO WAY possible I could've pulled those 60miles off without Jean
helping me along and giving me all the encouragement through long days of
training and helping me with ideas for food, gear, and clothing! It's the family
and friends of the racers that should get the awards.