Pacing at Leadville 100- in 2012!

I just found the beginning of this blog. Perhaps I can finish it today in a Part 2:

This blog starts back at USNA with a guy who played on the squash and club hockey team, who was the only guy I remember every being allowed to run with our exclusive fraternity of cross country/distance runners.  Blake, a fellow Marine and classmate at USNA, has always been setting the bar for me to push the limits. In his first couple years as a Marine he qualified for the Ironman World Champs and was the first Marine across the line at Marine Corps Marathon in 2001. Post Marine Corps, he works in banking in NYC and has a couple young boys that rule his house. He has done really well in ultra-running since leaving the Corps, to include a couple top 10s at Badwater. Blake is the definition of badass, but he has one DNF to his name.

In 2008, Blake came to Colorado to run the Leadville 100, his planning was decent but execution was poor as his crew was not prepared and then the weather changed for the worst and everything fell apart.  I personally remember this weekend in August of 2008, because I was on the road headed to Telluride when we drove through the blizzard that put Blake in the hospital 60 miles into the 2008 Leadville 100.  I remember wondering how my fellow Marine and classmate was fairing in that horrendous weather at 9000 to 12400 feet.  I honestly wish I had been there to help out my fellow Marine.  Therefore, when at the beginning of the 2012, Blake asked if I would pace and crew for him for Leadville 100, it was  one of the first events put onto my 2012 calendar.

Fast-forward through my summer and I was preparing for Ironman Wisconsin as Leadville 100 was approaching.  I knew that the weekend would include a long day of driving around and a long run/walk/hike and around the high town of Leadville, CO.  My biking was going well and I even considered riding my bike up to Leadville.  However, I got smart, bought a great pair of trail shoes, packed every piece of warm running clothing and two run/cycle backpacks and drove up to meet with Blake and his family Friday morning.  His brother in-law, Mark, volunteered to participate in his first endurance athletic event ever, and drive for the day and help in the crewing effort.  Blake’s wonderfully talented wife, Diane, was going to be taking care of the kids- normally she heads the crewing effort for Blake’s events.  She was very instrumental in the planning as the four of us detailed a plan in his condo Friday before the race. We drove to most of the crew points and discussed where I would be pacing Blake- over the mountain passes. I won’t go into too much more detail before the race, but I did get to witness the great pre-race meeting and speech- it was inspiring.  When we went to bed that night, I had my SUV packed with a bag of extra clothing for Blake and I, a cooler full of water, ice, cola, Blake’s brews, and a box full of nutrition products and food.  We were ready for the 0245 drive up to the start line for the 0400 start!

Leadville 100 trail run starts at 0400 on Saturday, there is a THIRTY hour limit for finishing and you get the coveted belt buckle if you break 25 hours.  Blake has not gone over 24 hours for a 100 miler, so his goal was 24 hours, or as I called it- the Blake Buckle. The start line was a unique event with only 800 starters and held in a town with one stop-light.  The start is pretty much the most exciting thing to go down each year in Leadville (second to the LT 100 Mountain Bike) and it is one of the biggest hyped and media covered ultra-run events each year. Yes, Leadville and the ultra-run community are small, but I sensed the excitement that is normally associated with events like the NYC marathon or the Ironman World Champs.  It was just smaller.  The Leadville 100 run differentiates itself from those other events in that the staggering stats are these: 793 starters, 360 official finishers, a 45% finishing rate (for 2012, other years are similar in percentage finishing).

At 0400, they fired a shotgun and the runners trotted off the start downhill from downtown to Turquois Lake.  We watched as the lights of the runners disappeared down the road.  Then we quickly made a gas fill-up, grabbed some more coffee and gear and headed to track the race.  We were able to meet up and see the leaders and Blake at 10k into the run; he was about 2 minutes back, doing his thing.  The lead pack was jogging so easily and rather cordially which was so boggling to me for a race of this caliber, but it is a long day, so I am sure you have to save for the moments with the gloves come off.  We then drove to the corner of Turquois Lake, driving through the dark to find the first check-point and tent.  We got there relatively late and had a good half mile walk in the dark to find the big tent.  There were hundreds of people there to support, but we knew that to our advantage Blake was ahead of 95% of the runners and we had a quick job to do and then keep rolling to the next crew point.  At the first crew point I ran into friends from Boulder and started to feel the community atmosphere of the crewing.  Blake arrived within minutes of where we expected him.  Mark and I changed out his hand carried bottles and gels.  Blake took a big poop and it was over.  Blake headed back into the woods for his first mountain pass.  The weather was perfect for a long run and Blake looked great sitting in the top 25 just a couple minutes under his projected pace.  Mark and I jumped into the vehicle ahead of the masses and went to the second crew point, it was only 0530!

At the second crew point, the Fish Hatchery, we were guided into a great parking spot and finally took a moment to breathe.  We were finally getting our rhythm like getting to use the toilet, eating, and finally seeing how things were working at the check/crew points. With daylight, came clarity. I then ran into another friend from Boulder, who I would later learn was from the same hometown in Minnesota as Blake. The crewing at the second point was nearly the same, Blake in, drops his bottles and we re-fit, he runs out, we hand him new bottles- Blake rolls on. We get our stuff in the car and head to the next check-point…


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