This week was all about recovery from Stinger Marathon and re-charging for the weekend of crew-sing (read: crew/cruising) with Mike Bell through the Leadville 100-mile foot race. The swelling in my foot has gone down, but my toes are still sensitive when they bend. I’ve been prudent and intentional in staying off my feet and letting things heal.
Monday: Early morning drive back from Steamboat with Julia. Both of us went straight into work. I biked home.
Tuesday: Sleep in. Bike to and from work.
Wednesday: Sleep in. Bike to and from work.
Thursday: Run 3-miles with PlayGldn, then drink coffee at Pangea. Bike to and from work.
Friday: Bike to and from work.
Let the “Mike Bell 100-mile Footrace Outfitted by Track Pants Supported by the Leadville Race Series Coordinated by Team Panic For No Reason” begin!
For those of you unfamiliar with Mike’s journey to the Leadville 100, here are a lot of word, emotions, and charts to express his interest:
2:00p Drive to Leadville!
4:00p Julia and I made it to the Baby Doe campsite, where Mike and Pace were set-up and cooking dinner.
5:00p Dip our toes into Turquois Lake…delightful
5:30p Enjoy a beer and carbo-loaded dinner.
7:30p It’s bedtime!
8:00p I have to pee already.
2:45a Wake up.
3:15a Drive to the race start in downtown Leadville. We parked right behind James Walsh, his wife Maggie who was racing, and her coach, Mario Fraioli.
4:00a Racers are off from downtown Leadville!
6:20a Mike runs into May Queen AS, 13-miles into the race. It’s still dark, runners have headlamps and it’s hard to distinguish anyone! It’s also hard to crew in the dark, fumbling with supplies, and carrying everything your runner could possibly need at this point. Mike just dropped his jacket and headlamp with us, and we swapped out his hydration bladder with more Tailwind.
8:40a Mike passes through Outward Bound AS, 24-miles completed. The layout and vibe at this aid station was like being at a festival. We swapped out Mike’s hydration bladder (again) and force-fed him oat balls. Oh, it was sunny…The crew – Pace (crew chief and driver), Julia (motivational support leader), and I (comic relief) headed to Twin Lakes aid station and found a shady spot to drag the cooler to. Then we rested while waiting for our Runner. 12:00p Mike traverses Twin Lakes AS, 38-miles done. He’s calm, relaxed, and willing to eat anything we put in front of his mouth. 4:30p Mike enters Winfield AS, 50.5-miles completed, the turn-around point of the course, and having just descended from a hail/snow storm on Hope Pass. Racers head right back up Hope Pass after this check point, picking up their pacer for the journey. Just run all the way back to Leadville, uh OK!?
Mike had spring to his step on the immediate climb out of Twin Lakes. He was talking about having made a deal with the devil…and he got new legs. Much to his dismay, the deal only lasted for 6-miles or so.
12:00a Halfpipe AS, 71.5-miles complete. This place was a fulfilling oasis in the middle of nowhere. We’d been in the dark and cold for three hours, so it was nice to be greeted by the volunteers and welcomed into their warm and nourishing confines.As we neared the Outward Bound AS there was a stretch of road running that was pretty sketchy with no shoulder to run on. Even though there were very few passing cars at that hour, I was anxious. Delirious runners in the wee hours of night combined with potentially tipsy drivers is not a good combo on a straight & narrow road.
Mike was still doing great! He didn’t like the road section because it bothered his shins, but other than that he was chugging along, with not even a hint of quit, exhaustion, nor undernourishment.
The route then turned into an open field, as we followed the perimeter toward the Outward Bound AS. This wasn’t quite a trail, rather a freshly cut strip of grass that was difficult to follow in the dark.
1:30a Outward Bound AS, mile 77.5. We were joyously greeted by Pace and Julia, who thankfully weren’t out in the cold waiting for too long. The AS crowd had thinned out, but there was still a lot of revelry, camaraderie, and warmth at the aid station. Mike changed into tights and infamous track (gnome) pants, and slurped vegetable broth. I loaded up on hot noodles and tucked away a couple turkey roll-ups into my vest pocket.
We left the aid station recharged and ready for the climb up the Powerline route. There was a bit more paved road to travel before we hit the rugged, steep, and straight dirt of the Powerline Climb.Mike kept chugging up, one step at a time. I don’t know if he needed my encouragement, but he sure deserved it, so I kept dishing. I told him he was doing great, that he was clearly happier than others, and more acclimated than most. I joined him during his breaks, as to not pressure his forward progress. I reminded him to take deep breaths and we discussed his mouth breathing.
I reminded Mike that the “final” climb would soon be over and it’d be all downhill from there… the start of a new chapter that he was writing. This is a parallel that makes sense in theory, but after 21-hours of continuous forward motion, Mike wasn’t quite buying my metaphor.
2:40a Powerline Summit. As welcome as the summit was for Mike and I, there wasn’t much relief on the back side. The decent was hard to run – a rocky and technical trail. I realized that I was peeing every 15-minutes, which was strange. It must have been the culmination of all the water I’d been drinking through the heat of the day. When you’re crewing, you have ample food and hydration at arms length all day long.
Mike kept running when I would pee, then I would catch up to him. His demeanor was stalwart. He was locked into his one gear. Consistently moving forward, no aches, no stomach rumbles, no chills, just moving forward.
5:15a May Queen AS, mile 88.5. It was cold around Turqious Lake! Pace and Julia had been bundled up in their sleeping bags and camp chairs for the last hour and a half. That must have been a brutally long period for them. We both embraced our ladies, excited for the current state of affairs. Mike’s status hadn’t changed: One speed, one goal.
I handed Mike off to Pace who led him over the final 13-miles towards the finish. I was relieved to relinquish my duties, though I felt that Mike and I had paired up well. Mike never succumbed to the constant challenges running through the night time.
Julia and I drove back to the campsite to warmup, change, and re-pack both cars. The sun was up now, but we were still cold to the core.
8:00a We headed downtown to City on a Hill for Americanos and burritos. We caught up on social media and responded to text messages. The energy of the race still radiating from everywhere.
9:00a Julia and I excitedly root on Pace and Mike as they round the bend, and we join them for the march along the final mile of the course.9:30a Mike’s EPIC cartwheel at the finish! 29.5 hours later, Mike could finally stop moving, but he didn’t really want to. He still had energy, he was more coherent than his crew was, and he was eager to chat about the experience and his feat.
We fed Mike an obligatory beer and donut, and stared in awe as he just kept standing and smiling. Mike wasn’t celebratory per se. He appeared relieved, fulfilled, and proud.
Congrats Mike! It was a pleasure and privilege to accompany you on this journey. You’re will to keep on moving was impressive. Next up Western States???
Endurance Changes Time,