Leadville – Racing, Pacing, and Crewing

Note:  Continuation of emails and photos from Kelly during and after Leadville…

Several hours have passed since my last race update.  If you followed the race site, then you know that Sean finished the ultra-marathon around 8:00 AM this morning (28:02 official race finish, woo-hoo!).  I would have liked to update you sooner, but we were way out of commission by the time we got back to the house.  Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday were quite eventful for everyone…   

After the inbound Twin Lakes checkpoint, Gordo shifted from pacing to crewing again.  (Sean did the next 13.5 mile stretch solo.)  Gordo helped the kids and me with carrying the race cooler, medical bin, fuel bin, clothing bin, and our dinner back to the car.  (Paul was resting at the house so he could help crew thru the night and pace some.)  After I got some things restocked for the car and got the kids settled into bed, Paul convinced me to rest before we would take off again.  (I had been up and moving since about 1:30 AM Saturday.)  I closed my eyes for a few minutes on the couch then jolted up when I started doing some time recalculations with what our crew had decided would be our plan for the next checkpoint (Treeline).  We overestimated!  I told Paul that we needed to get going.  Gordo, who was resting outside in his truck, was ready within minutes, too.

As we were transporting the two crew cars, Sean called and said he didn’t see us at Treeline – my gut was right!   It worked out though because we just handed him some warmer clothes along the road.  Paul also jumped in to pace for the 3-4 mile paved road stretch.  By this stage of the race, Sean was only feeling energized enough to power walk.  This gave Gordo and I ample time at the next checkpoint (Fish Hatchery).  Gordo boiled water at the back of his pickup and had oatmeal and hot tea ready and waiting for Sean.  This was one of the chaotic parking areas though, so we decided to save our energy by carrying the bins and food over to the barbed wire fence by the road and then get gear and ourselves under or over it.  This saved a lot of time as Sean and Paul would come straight by us just before the checkpoint/aid station.  By the way, it was around midnight and rapidly dipping into the cold of the night.  Brrrr….

Gordo jumped in again to pace from Fish Hatchery for what would be a 10 mile stretch to the Mayqueen checkpoint at Turquoise Lake.  Paul and I got the truck reloaded then transported the two cars to Mayqueen.  We hit more checkpoint traffic (ugh) so we sat in our running vehicles for awhile until we could get parked.  After I got Gordo’s truck situated in an ideal spot for the next checkpoint, Paul remained and rested there.  Meanwhile, I tried to get myself out of the lake area and return to the house to rest briefly and then awake the kids so they could experience the race finish.  I was not familiar with the lake area (especially in the pitch black and with intensely curvy, heavily wooded mountainous roads), so it seemed like I was never going to get out of the lake area.  I eventually found a familiar road and an escape, but then I still had to resort to my phone’s GPS to really get me out of there and onto the main highway!  This set me back on time, getting back to the house around 2:45 AM.  I laid on the couch from 3:00-3:30 AM then got the kids up and moving (not easy) to be out the door by 4:00 AM.  Paul texted and said they just saw Sean at Mayqueen (4:10 AM) and Gordo would continue with him to Tabor Boat ramp, at which point I would pace with Sean until the finish.

Things were right on time for me until I got turned around again in the lake area.  I was following the signs for Tabor Boat ramp, but then got confused by a sign pointing left for Turquoise Lake Nature Trail.  I took the left that it pointed to (thinking it meant the lake and not a trail – this is what lack of sleep can do!).  Anyways, I went up a hill and after about 1 mile onto this road, realized I had entered a campsite with tents.  I decided to make a quick turnaround, which became a turn for the worse.  The left back tire of the Ford Explorer slipped off the asphalt and next thing I know the entire SUV was shifting backwards out of my control.  I didn’t know that I was sliding into a ditch until I got out of the car and saw that my front right tire was off the road!  I panicked – lost with the kids in the woods and risking my pacing with Sean or even seeing the finish!  I called Paul right away and tried to explain where I thought that I was.  He attempted to get out of the Tabor boat ramp only to experience a delay with a 4WD setting preventing from him getting the truck going.  He got that fixed and then started taking every possible right hand road to find me.  Meanwhile, I walked a ways out to see if I could flag him (too far – so I turned around) then I attempted to see if I could roll the car further into the ditch to get it parallel to the road and then use its 4WD to get back on the road.  The chances of that greatly diminished when the right tire met a miniature pine tree that got caught up under the car.  Thankfully Paul found us, gave one try to see if he could get the car out of the ditch too, and then we all resorted to rushing to move gear (mainly pillows and food for the kids plus my running outer wear) from my car to the truck.  We left the car in the ditch and hoped for the best later!

We arrived at Tabor… I rushed to get layered up – hat, gloves, fleece, etc.  Forgot my GPS Garmin watch though.  We walked down to the ramp and no joke, Sean and Gordo arrived within 30 seconds!  Talk about perfect timing!  Gordo gave me his head lamp, but I forgot to ask to transfer the “pacer” tag (no biggie).  Sean and I continued on the rolling lakeside trail.  By this point, he was really exhausted.  I, on the other hand, was operating solely on adrenaline.  And boy did I have some stories to distract his mind during our mileage – car in the ditch, checkpoint chaos, etc.  He could walk briskly, but had no desire to run anymore.  His body was really hurting – quads in particular.  He did snack and drink some.  It was quite cold (in the 30s), but it started to warm up more as we were moving and the sun was rising.  Gordo loaned him a down jacket so he had that on and off (mainly on).  The final journey felt really long to Sean, but he hung in there.  We think the total distance from the ramp was around 7 miles.  There were some nasty downhills and uphills (loose large rocks and powdery dirt).  Plus, the final stretch to downtown Leadville would be all up.  As we were walking, I received several texts and even a phone call from my Mom.  I tried to encourage Sean with all of your texts and emails. Thank you!  They helped a lot!  Paul also showed up near the beginning of the paved section to help encourage him up to the finish.  Then Gordo and the kids joined in about 1/2 mile from the finish.  Sean, to my amazement, wanted to shuffle/jog across the red carpet finish.  I was so proud and excited for him!  What an incredible accomplishment!

His first stop was the medical tent – required – followed by the food tent.  Ben finished 1 hour 10 minutes before Sean, but so kindly hung around the finish for us.  It was great to see him and congratulate him as well.  He and Sean have been close friends and racing buddies for a long time now.  They are pictured below both wearing their finisher medals and Hokas (big shoes, which make me laugh, but very popular for brutal distances by saving distance runners’ legs and feet.)  I have included a couple other race shots.  I’m looking forward to seeing the finishing stretch shots of all of us via Gordo, the Reeves, and the official race photographers.  We were still clad with some gear on or in hand (head lamps, hats, jackets, cell phone), compared to the posed team photos below.

Given the SUV situation, we had to make some adjustments to get back to the house now that we were down a truck and 6 people.  Gordo, again, was our hero.  We packed everything and everyone into his truck so he could get us back to Twin Lakes (about 25 mintues away) before he would continue home to Colorado Springs.  (Let me add that he is also a saint when I learned that he also contended with both of my kids getting car sick -thankfully timed out the door – as he and Paul were getting out of the lake area to park near the finish while Sean and I were on the course!)  So we got to the house, where everyone was eager to get inside and settled, but…  “Where’s the house key?”   Yep, that’s right… in the console of the car in the ditch!!  Oh my!  In all the hustle and bustle to get to the Tabor Boat Ramp, no one (especially me) even thought about the house key.  So… again in perfect timing, I got in touch with the house rental folks and they had a key ready and waiting on a Sunday morning!  Gordo was able to help us get the key.  Then we unpacked his truck and he headed south for home.  Sean got cleaned up, the kids and I fixed him breakfast, and then he was in bed by 10:00 AMish.  Meanwhile, I had the car-in-the-ditch matter on my mind.  Paul would be leaving with his rental car the next morning.  So I called AAA and waited for their tow truck service to call me on a Sunday afternoon.  I managed to get showered and rested on the couch for about an hour before it they called.  Paul and I hopped into his rental car and then met the tow man who followed us into the campground.

So the final pictures are of the SUV situation and its rescue.  The tow man was awesome – so confident that he’d get it out without a problem.  And he did!  On the way out of town, Paul and I stopped to pick up Sean’s belt buckle award and Leadville 100 finisher jacket (already stamped with his name and finishing time on the sleeve!).  We drove the cars back to the house and I slept for 2 hours, uninterrupted!  And now, I’m calling it a night and an official closing to the Leadville 100.  Thanks for sharing in this journey with us the past couple of days.

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