Always say Yes to Adventure – Leadville Colorado
When you’re asked to help pace something as monumental as the Leadville Trail 100, of course you say yes to adventure!
And, the fitting title to this blog post came from a coffee mug inside Starbucks my first full day in Colorado. It seemed very fitting for this post.
Back in 2013, my friend asked me to be her finish line pacer for the LT100. I joke that of course she’d ask me, how many of us know people who enjoy running so many miles just for fun. But, the reality of it is, it’s like picking a bridesmaid for your wedding.
She DNFed in 2014. But, I knew her, and I knew she’d be back to concur the course.
Fast forward to 2017. Game on. She’s ready. I know this is happening. I feel it in my gut and my heart.
For those who aren’t running nerds like us, the LT100 is a 100 mile race course in Leadville, Colorado, “on top of it all” at 10,200 feet elevation. And, the course goes up from there. You have to complete the course in under 30 hours.
My friend is one of the smartest ladies I know. She surrounds herself with positive amazing people. So, it stands to reason that she picked two other amazing women to help her reach her goal, #buckleorbust
By the time I arrived in Colorado, I know I wasn’t going to run as much as I planned. These ladies are atronger than I will ever be. But, I reminded myself, this is all better for her to reach her goal. I love this lady and was going to do anything she asked just to make sure she crossed that line.
It’s a humbling experience. As I said above, always say yes to adventure. And, what an adventure it was. These runners are some very incredible people. They are tough beyond measure. Runners don’t quit. They know how to fight through pain and keep moving forward no matter what. I am in awe of them all. The 606 people who had to courage to try what most think is impossible, hats off to you all! To the 287 that finished this race, I have nothing but respect and admiration for you all.
The life of the pacers. We don’t sleep for those 30 hours either. Well, at least I didn’t. I learned that refreshing your phone over and over to check on your runner will only cause you anxiety. You are in the middle of nowhere, of course you’ll lose service and not be able to find your runner at some points. As a pacer, you try to relax, but you know relaxing is impossible. You try to eat because if you don’t take care of yourself, how will you take care of your runner? And most importantly, you silently will and pray for your runner for 30 hours straight.
Once my runner picked up her first pacer at the 50 mile point, I relaxed a bit. I napped for about an hour between midnight and 1:00 am.
At 2:00am I started prepping. As a pacer, you are your runners pack mule. You load up their food, their hydration, and anything else they need. You check, double check, then triple check. As a pacer, you have a job to do and the last thing you want to do is let your runner down.
Around 4:30am I started making my way to the May Queen aid station. You join the line of cars parked on the side of the road in the pitch black middle of the night. You look up at the stars and clearly see the Milky Way. It is one of the most incredible experiences and things you have ever seen! This is why you say yes. And, because you love your runner.
As a photographer, I wanted to drop all my running gear and pick up my camera just to capture the beauty. But, I forgot to pack my tripod, and packed 3 pairs of running shoes and thousands of layers of warm running clothes. So, I thought better of it and focused on the task at hand. Oh, did I mention that it’s 35 degrees outside? For us girls from Texas, that is unheard of in August, and for the most part, not even something we experience all winter long.
You make the hike to May Queen, which is just on the edge of Turquoise Lake. And, you wait. You look up at the stars again and a shooting star flashes across the sky. Your wish? That your runner gets to you in time and finishes this dream!
As a pacer, you are an official runner on the course. You have access to the food and drinks at the aid station. So, you get some coffee to stay warm, and to perk you up.
By this time it’s close to 5:30am and the sun is slowly lightening the sky. You look up toward the mountains and are just amazed by the views slowly forming as outlines against the sky. This is why you said yes! Well, this and because you love your runner.
You can’t make out people and faces, all you see is little bobbing headlamps, but when you hear your name being called by the pacer handing you your runner, you know it’s your turn to help finish this dream!
We make our way around Turquoise Lake. It’s single file most of the way. With only the light of your headlamp, you see there are lose rocks, muddy slippery streams, and tree branches lining the trail. You point this all out to your runner as you are their fresh eyes. You keep them moving forward no matter what.
About 3 miles in, around the side of the lake, you notice the sunrise colors reflecting off the water. This is why you said yes! Well, this and because you love your runner.
Around 6 miles in, you see the boat ramp. The one your runner never thought you’d reach. She has asked repeatedly at this point if she’s going to make it. The answer was always yes. As a pacer, you know what your runners pace needs to be. You push your runner, and you encourage your runner. You tell them, run with me for a bit, just until we reach that giant Christmas tree. Your runner always listens and follows.
About 9 miles in, you spot your runners family. You point them out, “there are your people! This is why you are doing this.” You see that smile on her face, and you try to hold back your own tears of happiness for your runner.
At about 11 miles in your runner asks you to facetime her mom. She wants her mom to know she’s really doing this.
About 13 miles in, you see the buildings, you know the finish line is coming. You get your runner up over that final hill, and there it is, the finish line. Your runner and you have the Rockies at your back and the finish line in front. You take your runners poles and just want them to enjoy every last second.
Life can sometimes be hard. But, all runners know, you just keep pushing forward. You don’t stop and you don’t give up. You are stronger than you know. And, you always say yes to adventure!
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary