More on the Leadville 100
This is a continuation of my Colorado Trip and Leadville 100 Trail Run post.
I left off at the Fish Hatchery aid station. Alberto was ‘running’ rather slowly into the aid station and although he looked tired, he also looked strangely energized. He had arrived later than he wanted, but there was still enough time to get him a change of socks and shoes. I was more alert than I had expected to be, due to the nap I had in our rental car. Alberto said that he did not think he would make the cut-off for the May Queen aid station, which I had incorrectly told him was 6:00 AM. I told him that not only could he make it, but that he would make it. As soon as he was on his way again I stowed our gear in the car and headed towards May Queen.
Finding parking at May Queen was much easier than the first time I had been there since the runners (and thus, their crew) were more spread out. That said, I still had to park almost a mile away from the aid station. After parking I emptied and re-packed my backpack, removing the things I knew Alberto would not need and replacing the things he had taken at the last aid station. It is always hard to tell what someone might need when crewing, so the best bet is to have at least a little of everything. Once that was done, I started walking to the aid station even though Alberto would not arrive for at least another hour and a half. I did not want to run the risk of falling asleep in the car and missing him. On long runs like this, it is crucial to the runners that the crew is at the last several aid stations. The air was rather cold, and many of us were huddled around the gas heaters scattered around the aid station. I was exhausted, but there was no way I could lay down and sleep. Instead I wound up sitting cross-legged on one of my puzzle books with my backpack between my legs. I leaned forward and used my backpack as a pillow. It is amazing what positions you can sleep in when you are stretched to your limit.
After napping a short time I woke up stiff and cold. I wandered over to one of the heaters and stood there, slowly rotating to thaw myself out. It was almost 6 AM and Alberto hadn’t come through yet. I was getting a little worried since I had thought Alberto would be there between 5 and 5:30 AM. I was talking to other crew about our runners and mentioned the 6 AM cut-off and they told me it was actually a 6:30 AM cut-off. By that time it was exactly 6 AM and while I was relieved that the cut-off was a little later, Alberto still wasn’t there. Finally five minutes later he came into the aid station. He looked frustrated and disappointed. The first thing he said was “I am too late. Some people were going slow in front of me for the last twenty minutes, and the trail was too narrow for me to pass them.” I told him that I had gotten the cut-off time wrong and that he still had time. He looked startled at first and then he told me the things he needed and asked me to help him through the aid station tent. I did my best to get him back on the trail as quickly as possible. Just before he got on the trail he asked me to please meet him at the last aid station. I promised him that I would.
I hadn’t written down the directions during the briefing since we thought we would skip that aid station. Fortunately I found someone who told me how to get there. It was a long, slow drive, and I wasn’t sure I would make it in time. As soon as I arrived I asked someone if they had seen Alberto. Thankfully he hadn’t been through yet. By my reckoning, the latest time he would arrive would be in twenty minutes. Finally about fifteen minutes later I saw him. He was holding onto the stick he had picked up after the half-way point like it was a lifeline. He handed me everything he didn’t need and then I gave him a quick kiss and sent him on his way.
I arrived at the finish line about an hour and a half before the end of the event. I was jittery from the combination of little food, too much caffeine and exhaustion. I changed into a new shirt and started packing our bags, knowing we wouldn’t have much time to pack when we got back to the hotel. I had been having problems with headaches and shortness of breath since about mid-day the day before. As I was putting some things in the trunk of the car I felt suddenly so dizzy I though I might pass out. I took some Sudafed and Motrin and laid down in the back seat. I knew I couldn’t lay down long, because it was less than an hour to the end of the race, and Alberto would be there soon. I was worried about my dizzy spell, but I got up and walked to the finish line anyway.
I waited up near the end for a while, but as I became more anxious, I walked several blocks down the final stretch of the course. Finally about twenty minutes before the race end I saw Alberto coming down the hill. I went to join him and at first I was walking faster than he was ‘running’. Then he said “let’s alternate between running and walking”. I agreed, and at first it was ok, but the more we did that, the more out of breath I was. We were about 100 yards from the end when Alberto said “let’s keep running to the finish!” I tried to keep up with him, but before we reached the finish line he was practically pulling me. Right after they gave him his medal for finishing he draped it around my neck. I was feeling dizzy, nauseous, and light-headed and as soon as we got to a open patch of grass I sat down (although it was more like collapsing than consciously sitting). One of the race officials came up and asked me if I had checked in yet. I had my pacer number on and with the medal around my neck they though I was the runner! I quickly told them Alberto was the runner and gave him back his medal. Alberto had finished the course with just twelve minutes to spare.
We were unable to stay for the closing ceremony, since it was 10:00 AM and we had to check out of our hotel at noon plus the hotel was almost an hour away. I don’t think I have ever showered and packed as fast as we did that day. Alberto was hobbling like a little old man, but surprisingly enough I think he only had two blisters after running 100 miles in less than 30 hours. In less than two days Alberto was walking normally again, although he was still sleeping a little more than usual. It amazes me how quickly he bounces back!