I arrived at Twin Lakes right at 5:00 pm. Based on Chris's split times from past LT100's, the earliest I was expecting him was at about 6:30 (with an anticipated 7:00 - 7:30 sweet spot), so I had plenty of time to get myself sorted out. I did a quick reconnaissance drive through the town trying to scope out a primo parking spot, but the place was absolutely frantic. It became apparent, very quickly, that Twin Lakes was a prime spot for pacers to pick up their runners, and a also a prime crewing area. I quickly decided to just head back out the direction I came in and take the first decent spot I could find along the road side.
|Twin Lakes - The view from my parking spot.|
Next decision - clothing. Actually, mostly just a "shorts" or "tights" decision. The forecast for the race was looking pretty decent. No snow or rain in the forecast, but it was going to get down into the 30's. Again - easy decision; Tights. I might be too warm at first, but at 4am, it would be the right decision. For my upper body I'd start out in just a tech t-shirt and my Boulder Running Company logo'd Headsweats running cap. I'd carry with me an extra pair of socks, arm warmers, a long sleeve zippered tech shirt and a light Saucony running jacket, plus some gloves and a warm hat. And, let's not forgot my trusty Petzl Tikka XP 2 headlamp with two extra sets of 3 x AAA batteries, with each set in separate plastic zip baggies that were a perfect size for that.
As a pacer, I'd have full access to all of the Aid Stations - all the same stuff Chris would have access to. Based on that, I didn't have to carry a crazy amount of nutrition and fuel. I would carry about a dozen GU Roctane Gels, some ginger chews and a dozen each of S Caps! and Salt Stick caps. All that and 70 oz of Amino Vital in my CamelBak bladder to start out. Everything else I'd get from the aid stations.
I'd also carry with me an "emergency kit" of sorts that had; toilet paper, band aids (big and small), Lanacane, Nexcare waterproof tape (I love this stuff), tough utility tape, Neosporin, a Leatherman Micra, and a single AAA battery mini Mag-lite. In a separate ziplock baggie I had a map of the course, an aid station cut-off chart (which I had written on with the exact distances between aid stations and cumulative pacing totals), and an S! Caps hydration/electrolyte chart. And, finally, what modern-day ultra-runner geek would be without his smart phone?
The jacket I tied around my waist and I zipped the gloves into one pocket and the warm hat into the other. On an inside pocket I put easy-to-access copies of the same course map, aid station cut-off chart, and S! Caps chart as I had ziplocked in my pack - plus a pen. All the rest of my gear and supplies went in my CamelBak Octane LR running pack. I was good to go.
During my drive up, and while getting ready, I put down 24oz of Hammer HEED, 24oz Amino Vital and a packet of Quinoa and Brown Rice - about 750 calories total, over 3 hours, of primarily carbs. I was feeling good about my nutrition, not only for today, but for the days leading up to race day as well. I ate smart and I ate disciplined - which can be a major challenge for someone with a food addiction.
During the weeks leading up to the race, Chris and I talked a lot about his strategy, his fueling, his hydration. Anything and everything we could think of that could and would affect his race. His strategy would be to be conservative and consistent. He'd be deliberate about his hydration, taking in extra fluids in the form of Coke at aid stations, and finishing off water bottles before re-filling. He'd be consistent with fueling and getting his calories, taking extra gels at the aid stations. Salt caps he would stay away from, unless he was symptomatic of low electrolytes. In the past he has had some issues with severe swelling of the extremities and with his breathing. His strategy this year was designed to mitigate the risk of any of that happening this year.
By 6:30pm I had checked in at the Aid Station and had signed a Pacer Waiver form - which was kind of comical. First, there were no pens, so a big, fat, sharpie had to be used. Second, all the waiver forms must've been photo-copied from a previously filled out form. The volunteer told me "You're Jason Lee today. Sign it." I did scratch out the other person's information and put in my own at least, though the volunteer said it didn't really matter as long as I signed it. Third, I got only one safety pin for my pacer bib. "We're running kinda low. Just tuck it into you waist or something. You don't need to have it visible anyways, except at the aid stations." So, I folded it over once, and pinned it to the bottom of my shirt.
|My LT100 Pacer bib.|
|Twin Lakes - The yellow cones mark the road crossing.|
|More of Twin Lakes inbound.|
|Twin Lakes - by the toilets - people waiting on inbound runners.|
"Nice work two-nine-four!" I tucked in right on his tail between him and another runner trailing him. He didn't make any indication that he saw or heard me so I just tailed him back to the parking lot just past the toilets, where I laid a hand on his back - "Good to see you, man. How are things?" He seemed pretty happy to see me. Despite all the hollering, cheering, cow belling, and the general din from the enormous sea of people, I managed to discern that Hope Pass had taken it's toll on Chris. Let's just get to the aid station and get things sorted. On our walk up and over to the aid station we chatted about the status of some of the other runners he knew, that I had seen. That was a mixed bag. Some runners were going strong, some questionable, and some - done.
We found Chris's drop bag (hot pink and easy to spot - he had one at every AS) and got to a chair inside the little fire station, now a makeshift aid station. We talked about his hydration and fueling a little bit and he seemed pretty dialed in on that. In past years at the LT100, Chris had had some issues with breathing and severe swelling of extremities. Prior to the race, we'd talked at length and done a ton of research about what the possible causes could have been. Could it have been too much salt and too much water? Too much salt and not enough water? Too much water and not enough salt? Not enough salt and not enough water? Or was it something else? We never really figured anything out for certain but strategized on "best guess."
I was doing everything I could to be helpful had and gotten into my pacer mode quickly - whatever that mode was, since this was a new experience for me. I'd try to take queues from Chris and I'd try to be pro-active and helpful without being an irritant. I also kept reminding myself about rule #1 - take care of yourself first and foremost. A broken pacer is useless to his runner and the last thing you want is to be any kind of hindrance, even in the slightest. This is your runner's day, not yours. He broke out a Ziploc with a jar of Vaseline and a rubber glove. 'Whhhoooaaaaa...' I said. 'You're on your own with that one chief!" - which we had a good laugh about. While he was changing into a new pair of shoes, I topped off his two bottles with water, grabbed some GU gels for both of us, and attempted to get some Ramen Noodles that he requested. Of course, the soup station had just run out and a new pot had been put on to boil - "A few minutes..." the volunteer says. She did manage to get out some broth at least, though that was a pretty painful wait as there wasn't much sense of urgency from her. I took that to Chris and went back for the noodles. The person waiting next to me stuck her hand on the side of the soup pot to check the status for herself - "This thing is stone cold!" I had to go to Chris with the bad news. It was a negative message that I didn't want to delivery. "Dude, sorry, but there aren't gonna be any Ramen Noodles for you at this stop."
If you have your heart set on something when you get to an aid station, be prepare to be disappointed. In this race, with 800 or so runners, unless you are near the front of the pack, there are going to be lines, and Murphy's Law dictates that they are gonna be out of, or in-between re-stocking, what you really want. Personally, I crave certain foods, and those things are what I really want. So, it's better if you can have a few things in mind that might sound good to you so as to not have your spirits totally crushed when you don't get it.
We spent close to 18 minutes at the Twin Lakes AS and now it was dark. Definitely time for lights. I did a final check on everything I could think of with him, while he downed some Coke. "Got your headlamp and handheld? Got enough warm clothes; jacket, gloves, hat? Enough gels to get to Half Pipe AS? Enough H2O? Did you drink some Coke and get enough nutrition from the AS? Do you need to relieve yourself from either end? Any trash you need to ditch?" Good to go.
Immediately out of Twin Lakes, we were walking/hiking uphill - and so was everyone else. In past runs we had discussed our pecking order - who would lead. We had determined that Chris would lead and that I would follow. I fell right in behind him.
Whoever was behind us had a super perky pacer. We got to hear all about her "engagement kayak" (and not "engagement ring"), and so on, and so forth... We had a good laugh about it, as did some others that could hear her as well. It took us some time, but we finally pulled a good enough gap where we couldn't hear her any more - except occasionally on switch-backs. Before too long, and too much aggravation, she was gone.
It was about three miles to the Mount Elbert Mini-Station and we got there pretty fast it seemed despite the climb (~1,300') and the amount of hiking we were doing - though Chris was hiking strong, and I'd let him know it from time-to-time. A quick check to see if he needed to stop for anything here got me an "I'm good" response. So, we just carried on right through without stopping.
The Half Pipe aid station came a little bit sooner than I had anticipated - distance-wise at least. Since I had picked up Chris at twin Lakes, 3 hours and 9 minutes had elapsed, and we had gone only about 9.25 miles. Time was passing pretty quickly, at least for me, just chatting the miles away. We had another good 10 minute stop here. I would take care of getting Chris settled into a chair, find his easy-to-spot hot pink drop bag, get his bottles filled, get him some GU and this time successfully acquiring some Ramen Noodles for both him and me. I was running low on fluids, so I topped up with 70oz of GU Roctane. Of course, the cap on my bladder didn't go on correctly, and sure enough, freezing cold Roctane spilled all over my legs, soaking my tights. Son of a B*$*&%!!! This reminded me of how I really need to research some different packs. While there are things I like about my CamelBak Octane LR, there are more things I dislike. Filling the bladder is high on that dislike list. Once I got the bladder fixed and zipped in, and on my back, ready to roll, I found that I couldn't get any liquid out of the mouth piece. G*DD*#%$ it!!! So, off with the pack again, to fix the tube where it inserts into the bladder. This was actually the second time today that this had happened to me (the first being at Twin Lakes while waiting for Chris). I have no idea how it managed to pop out all by its little self, because it takes me about 2 tons of force to either insert it, or to pull it out myself.
We'd grab some Cokes, suck down some GU's, pocket a bunch of regular GU gels and some Roctane gels, and off we'd go leaving Half Pipe AS behind us. Only about 30 miles left to go. Ugh.
Both of us seemed to be peeing a lot, but Chris even more-so than me. I wasn't too worried about it, but Chris seemed a bit concerned. I took it as a sign of being well hydrated, as long as the color was good - which it was for both of us. It was getting pretty chilly, and our pace didn't have us sweating all that much. I had gone from TL all the way to Half Pipe with just a t-shirt and arm warmers. Only at HP had I finally put on my light running jacket and my gloves. If we're not sweating it out, then I guess we'd be peeing it out. I think Chris was mostly worried about peeing out electrolytes, but other than his breathing, everything seemed to be fine. I'd quiz him fairly often about dry mouth, being lightheaded, his stomach, craving salt, craving sweet, etc., etc. Everything always checked out OK, but now his breathing was starting to deteriorate. We'd have to monitor that, but there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it.
From Half Pipe to Fish Hatchery was probably the most challenging of the night for me. I was getting really tired, as in sleepy, from being awake since about 7:00am the previous morning, even though it wasn't really that late at night yet. I could only imagine how Chris felt having started running at 4:00am the previous morning. Back home, my wife and girls would be sleeping soundly in their nice, warm, cozy, beds. I spent quite a bit of time admiring the clear and moonless sky. The stars were twinkling brilliantly and I would take time to pick out a few of the constellations, and planets, that I could identify. While we did chat a lot, there were also periods of silence, where all there was was the sounds of footfalls and of breathing. It gave me time to think and reflect about how of big a world it is, and how much of it there is to explore. I imagined how this race would look to someone watching from high above - and how we'd all look like little ants, carrying glowing beacons of light, carving a long trail through these enormous mountains. This was awesome.
We went through an area called Treeline, where there were tons of cars parked, and people out cheering us on - though mostly from comfy chairs and all bundled up like they were in the middle of the frozen tundra. We did a long stretch of pavement/road running, not too long after Treeline. I remember at mile 15 thinking, "This road nonsense is kicking the crap outta me" and my legs were now starting to feel it. I kept thinking, "If I'm feeling it, Chris has it 100 times worse, after 75 miles now." This stretch between Half Pipe and Fish Hatchery we got passed a lot - and that was mentally taking it's toll on Chris I think. He'd comment a lot about how many people were passing us. I'd try to spin some positivity into it. "You probably passed them ages ago, and now they're trashing themselves - we'll be passing them again before the day is done." I'm not sure he was convinced but I was trying my best to keep the mood positive.
The psychological effect in these ultra endurance events is usually bigger than the physical aspect, especially in the later stages. You have to try and stay positive, and build-up your runner - but sometimes you have to wonder if just commiserating with them might end up having a positive effect as well. A "misery loves company" kind of thing. It's also a thin line between trying to push a bit, and pushing too much. During the whole night I gently suggested, maybe five times only, that we try a little jog. Chris was good about pushing when he felt he could push. I'd give the occasional speech about getting some fast twitch muscles in action again and maybe that would help things feel better. Every so often I'd give him a "Great effort there..." or "You're looking strong right now..." - and I wasn't BS'ing him. Considering the situation, he really was doing very well. Chris's lungs were a real problem now though. We discussed a lot about what we thought the cause was. He was short of breath and could not get a deep breath in at all, so much so that at times, even short little jogs were impossible. We chalked it up to the altitude, exertion, the dust being kicked up by other people, and the smoke in the air from all of the wildfires burning in the North West. He had no swelling of extremities and was still peeing a lot - probably every 20 or 30 minutes. I wasn't a whole lot different with that schedule. Our fueling schedules were on track still too. All night long I'd time between 30 to 45 minutes for fuel and would give Chris indicators like - "2 minutes until 30 minute GU." Sometimes he'd want to wait until some specific geographic marker before fueling if it was really close by. He never went much more than 45 minutes between fueling though and I stuck to his schedule for the most part too.
It was getting colder as the night went on, maybe in the mid-40's now and Chris was still in his shorts. We'd talked about getting warmer gear on him, most specifically his tights, at Fish Hatchery. He wanted to accomplish that without removing his shoes, since he had those dialed in perfectly, and didn't want to muck that up.
About 16.5 miles, and five and a quarter hours since first meeting Chris at Twin Lakes, we finally got to Fish Hatchery at 1:45am. Chris wanted to try some broth here, but took one sip and that was it. No more. He'd be sticking with gels, water, and Coke. I, on the other hand, greatly enjoyed a couple of cups of noodles. Tonight, that seemed to be my thing. That, and Coke. I helped him get his tights on, which took some real doing, and we must've looked pretty comical - though the people passed out on the medical cots and others huddled up to space heaters probably had other, more serious, things to worry about. Chris wasn't even close to being voted "in worst shape" at this AS. It was pretty hot in the AS, and when we finally stepped outside after another 10 minute'ish stop, taking down some Coke and gels just before as usual, we got hit with a wall of freezing cold.
|Fish Hatchery AS - 1:45am|
|Fish Hatchery AS - 1:45am|
|Fish Hatchery AS - 1:45am|
We still had Powerline to climb too, and that would generate some heat - fast. Powerline is 3.5 - 4.0 miles of some serious climbing (while not the biggest of the day for Chris, it was the biggest for me with ~1,500 of climbing and +20% grade at times). This was probably the toughest part of the night. The pace was painfully slow with lots of stops to relieve ourselves. We had developed a good technique where Chris would unbuckle his waist pack, I'd take it and hold onto it while he hit the woods, and then I'd hold it in a manner where he could easily get it back on again. The tights and shorts combo he had on for warmth made taking the belt off an unfortunate necessity. At some point during the climb, about six hours since turning it on when leaving TL, I had to change my headlamp batteries, which I timed with a visit to the woods for Chris. Chris did end up holding his flashlight for me, once he was done, so that I could see what I was doing - since holding it in my mouth wasn't working out so great. Six hours on expensive lithium batteries seemed pretty weak to me. Chris's 4 x AAA Black Diamond lamp was still going strong though. Only three more hours or so of still needing the headlamps, and then dawn would break. The sun would be a welcome sight.
|Powerline - 3:00am.|
A short while after summiting Sugarloaf (11,100' or so), we hit Hagerman Road. Chris found some good legs and we opened it up and made some great progress to the Colorado Trail section, passing a few folks along the way. I let know he was kicking some serious ass now. It felt good for me to get some fast twitch muscles working again after climbing Powerline for an hour and forty minutes. Once at the Colorado Trail, we couldn't move too fast due to footing and slower people in front of us, but we were passing more people than were passing us. Still, anyone who did pass us, Chris was none too happy about. I was watching my Garmin even more closely now. The 30 hour cutoff is getting tight and we gotta keep the pace up.
We got to May Queen at just over 9 hours elapsed. Chris's pink drop bag was waiting for him, just like they had been at all the aid stations, and we ditched his now un-needed jacket that I'd been carrying. He wanted only water, but only half bottles this time. He'd cut back on his fluids, which still seemed to be OK. I gave Chris his bottles back and he told me that he would head out and for me to just catch up with him since I still had to sort myself out. I had a volunteer help me fill my bladder - with no issues this time. When I filled up at Fish Hatchery, it was a super sweet GU drink, and so I added just water this time to dilute it. I was surprised to hear that there were pancakes at this AS but they were all out right now. Bummer. Those would have hit the spot. So, I ended up going with noodles and Coke yet again. Probably for the best since if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It had gotten even colder, now that it was almost 5am, and we were down near Turquoise Lake. It was probably in the mid-30's now. This was a sub 10 minute stop this time, and I took off down the road after Chris.
A short while later dawn was finally breaking, and there was some beautiful scenery to behold, where the sun was starting to illuminate the sky from behind the swath of 14ers to the east of Leadville. It was a beautiful, clear, morning and I was anxious for the sun to peak out and start to warm our chilly, tired, bones.
|Inbound from May Queen along Turquoise Lake.|
|Inbound from May Queen along Turquoise Lake.|
|Early morning mist on Turquoise Lake.|
|Chris, somewhere along Turquoise Lake.|
|On the railway service road.|
|Right around mile 34 (for me).|
I kept checking my Garmin and doing the math. The 29 hour finish was in the bag for him. We could even crawl it in if needed, we had banked so much time coming around the lake. We didn't crawl, but we did end up walking a lot of that last 3 miles. During the walk, Chris showed me his now swollen hands. The cutting back on the drinking, and therefore lack of urinating, had had an effect - but with only a couple of miles to go, it would be irrelevant. When we reached the pavement with less than a mile to go, Chris picked up the pace again. 28:45 was on now. I had thoughts of "Right, I'm smoked. Tell Chris you're going to drop back and you'll see him at the end." But there was no way I was going to bail on him now. There's only another half mile and I'm going to see him to the finish. I started thinking about what a great journey it had been. And even though it was extremely tough, I had a ton of fun doing it. I started wondering if by some small chance my wife and girls would be at the end waiting to cheer us on. Emotions started to well up inside me and I was teary eyed coming up the avenue towards the finish line. I fell back and told Chris to go claim his victory and watched as he broke the tape at the line. I was smoked - and Chris was smoked - but I managed to succeed in my tiny little part of helping Chris in his monstrous achievement of finishing his fourth LT100.
Chris's finish - 28 hours 45 minutes.
|28:45 - LT100 Finisher - Chris 'The Agile Fox' Boyack!|
|The Finish Line - taken from outside the medical tent.|
Here's the Garmin Connect data.
|Elevation & HR|
|Elevation & Pace|
|HR & Pace|
I'll do a post "Reflecting on Pacing at the LT100" in the near future once I've had time to actually do some reflecting.
And finally, as always, thanks to my wife, Diana, and my two little girls (all the loves of my life) for putting up with all my craziness. I love you.