Pacing Leadville- 2012 Part 2 of 3!

At this point, our next place to find Blake would be Twin lakes which would be around 40 miles into his race. This was going to take Blake a couple hours, so we had the chance to do some more route recon. One plan was for me to only run the passes with Blake, which meant I would need to be removed from the course after the Elbert climb (at about mile 70). That plan would require some sketchy driving and some interesting trail running. In the end, this plan would be changed to-Billy is just going to run nearly all the way back.  (oops, I am getting ahead of myself)

 We got to Twin Lakes with plenty of time to maneuver our vehicle for departure and then find what we thought was a great location to crew from. Unfortunately, we did not know that the actual time check was even further up into town. By the time Blake got into town, we had moved our crewing spot three times and were finally right next to the actual aid station. The town of Twin Lakes was an amazing scene and because of the difficulty of moving to the furthest crew point, many crew just stay there all day while their runner goes over Hope Pass and back.  Mark and I were going to go fast and continue to take advantage of Blake being up front. We packed up and drove out to Winfield or mile marker 50.

It was a gnarly drive and I was so glad to be in my Volvo SUV- that vehicle can crush some jeep track.  We got there in time to see the top guys run in and run out. Every time someone came in, it was a surge of energy. The runners came rolling down a chute, got to the end, got weighed, linked up with their pacer, and then ran back out to the shouts of the many on-lookers. Mark and I were dumbfounded as it was clear that some of these people had come for two purposes- to watch runners and get DRUNK! Our job was to take care of Blake and clearly many others were doing the same, but it felt like 50% of the folks were there to party alongside the race.

At this point, I was nervous because it was about to be game-time for me. Blake was going to come in, we were to re-fill his camelback and I was going to leave Mark to crew alone and I was going to pace. I wanted to be totally prepared and serve Blake to the best of my ability. Blake came in on-time, but further back in the field, he was really feeling the altitude. He moved much better than most through the aid station, but he was clearly hurting at this point. Blake was actually pissed!  There had been a last-minute route change to get to use a new trail. However, this trail does a huge loop down to the aid station un-like previous years where the route had dropped straight down to a dirt road and was a relatively easy run into Winfield aid station. On our departure, Blake slowed me down so he could gather himself before the climb. We then took a nice look over our shoulder and I got to see the frustrating loop we made – kind of like going by a finish line for a second loop.

Pacing is kind of funny because the first several hours of pacing from Winfield is STRAIGHT UP Hope’s Pass to 12,400ft. For a sea-level guy, like Blake, this was torture. For me, not only was I fresh, but I am from altitude, so I was cruising. I think it worked great, as I could keep my head on and just go to Blake’s ability. Having dealt with some asthmatic like symptoms in previous years, I could talk Blake through some of the breathing. After awhile, I could figure out when to push and when to just stand on the side of the trail and let Blake gather himself.  Even as a pacer, I did begin to wonder if the trail would ever reach the top, as the switch-backs seem to go on forever. It was also unique people watching. Most of the field was behind Blake and on the downhill into Winfield. They all had different ways of falling down the trail. There were many that were barely making turns grabbing for trees as they flipped themselves around turns. Most importantly, there was nothing but respect given by the downhillers to those going up. Clearly those going down were not in the same kind of pain and they apologized profusely if an uphill guy was forced off the trail. This courtesy was odd at first, but roles would be reversed soon and I would understand the nature of the downhill run vs the struggle up.

We cleared Hope’s Pass setting a good pace and with Blake set to see Twin Lakes well before sun-down. This was important because that meant that Diane would be there with the kids. This was going to be huge moral boosting. We barreled downhill and I let Blake lead the way and set the pace. He is a fantastic trail runner and my fitness over his fatigue is the only thing that let me keep up. Eventually we made our way to the flats and then an amazing creek crossing. I thought that this would be the worst part of the run. However, it was AMAZING. Thankfully, I had some great wool socks and my shoes were tied well. I thoroughly enjoyed the 30 second soak in the creek.  From there, I took Blake’s camelback and went rolling up to the town of Twin Lakes. We were on flat ground; Blake could manage himself. I got to the parking lots and camped out crews started to cheer.  I quickly said thank you, but asked (actually demanded) that they cheer louder for Blake when he came by. I was well into town and meeting up with Mark when I heard the parking lot explode with cheers for Blake.  There is a lot of quiet time during this race, but the aid stations are like no other experience.  I think it must be the contrasts that make it so fun to see people and get their support.

Blake, the triathlete, checked-in and checked- out quickly. Mark had all of Blake’s gear ready and I prepped mine. I gave Diane a quick down-load on how he was doing and then started to take-off. She then asked if I wanted anything else like potatoes or ramen. Hmmm…I said yes, and to this moment am glad I did. Those salty potatoes were fantastic and I will keep that in mind for whenever else I am stuck out on a course for hours on end.  Blake and I rolled up the hills out of Twin Lakes buoyed by all the cheers. However, soon the adrenaline wore off and we both breathing heavy. Our bellies were full of ramen and potatoes and we needed to allow the blood to absorb some of those nutrients. We chuckled a bit on this and slowed to a smarter pace knowing there was nearly 40 miles and two major climbs to go.

The climb to Elbert for Blake was another death march. The look on his face was pure exhaustion and most of it was due to not being able to breathe a full breathe. I really felt bad for the dude. He was crushing some GU chomps and I was constantly feeding him chomps out of my backpack- as was the plan- I mule the food. However, I was getting tired (sleepy tired) because I had been up since 0245 and had not slept very well, either. I don’t sleep well above 8000 ft. I pulled out a cola and started to pour it into a bottle. Blake then asked me what I was doing…uh, pouring my coke…uh, coke was not in Blake’s nutrition plan- but I had enough for me. Clearly Blake wanted my cola- I was crushed for the moment, but then reminded myself why I was here. If I lost my runner, then I was not doing my job. Lara will tell you, I do not like to share food, well, I don’t like to share my cola either, Blake!  Needless to say when we got to Halfpipe Aid Station, I proceeded to poor much more cola into our bottles than planned. It was about to get dark and with 30 miles to go and one major pass- we were going to be sucking on cola all night!

The next 10k is probably the easiest of the race, and it was why one plan was for me to get off the course and rest. However, I would urge all runners to have a pacer for that section as it comes in the third quarter and one can easily fall off their game plan without a pacer. Blake was clearly relying on my presence during that period. The road is long and boring and because it is dark you seem to run to the lighted aid station for several hours. We were doing a good pace, sometimes as fast at 8:30, but then sometimes doing a walk for a couple minutes. I personally was tortured by the 10 minute pace sections because my legs would have preferred we were galloping not jogging. I knew my pain was nothing, as I only had 25 easy miles on my legs and Blake was coming up on 75!

At the Fish Hatchery, I ran ahead and Mark prepped Blake’s camelback for the final climb. Mark had done a fantastic job of laying it all out and having it ready. However, he was pissed when I asked him to find more coke. He re-iterated a point that I was already clear on, “Cola was not a part of Blake’s plan, we only have cola for Billy!”  Yes, plans change, we needed more coke, please. Looking back, I still find this little SNAFU hilarious.  I knew Blake was going to want the cola!  Back to the race…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *