Monday, September 7, 2009

We were There! Leadville Trail 100

The Race Across the sky, brought many Kansas and Missouri runners across the prairie. My boyfriend, Bad Ben founded the Kansas City Trail Nerds 9 years ago, so it was fitting that we aid in this epic event. There wasn't a runner in the bunch (and by runners I also include crew and pacers) that hadn't been involved in the Trail Nerds in one way or another. Past board members, race participants, race winners, record holders, volunteers and friends. Friends whom we mentored, lunched with, ran with and hosted birthday runs, shared in their first ultras, got into races after the deadline was long gone, and did whatever we could even outside of running to help. Good people we care about. We were not going to miss cheering them at this race. Our mission was to crew and pace Greg Burger. Greg is one of the oldest and certainly most loyal members of the Trail Nerds.In March we had created a " Trail Nerd dream team," to get Greg through the race. Ben, Danny Miller, and me. Our other task was to help as best we could, Fast Andy. One of our newest and equally loyal members of the Trail Nerds. Andy Henshaw. A spectacular runner and recent Mizuno convert. Shameless plug for the Wave Ronin, our neutral racing flat. We had a very serious meeting with Greg before the race. We had a less serious meeting with Andy. It was our Trail Nerd volunteer extraordinaire Derek's birthday. Andy liked the hats:

Still, we took this mission very seriously. We nerdled a bit at Twin Lakes with Kyle Amos and Darin Schneidewind. Status updates: Coleen running with Nick in good spirits.. grabbing Caleb's butt. Darin pacing Rick. Caleb pacing Josh. Kyle pacing Tony. I was starting to get worried about Andy. He was light years ahead of our fastest Nerds but I wasn't sure what HE would get for pacers. I'd called all my Mizuno buddies and begged around. Even Anton Krupicka tried to line someone up, but nothing solid worked out. Or so we thought... Driving into Winfield, through the dust kicking up from the cars on the dirt road we saw two Trail Nerd Shirts and flashes of TWO pairs of orange popsicle Ronins. "Hey, Derek is pacing Andy!" Derek and his girlfriend Shelley caravaned with us up to the race and had been crew extraordinaire for Andy along with his family. My pacing portion was to take Greg Burger over and down Hope Pass. Leadville is an out and back so he'd seen Andy and Derek. "Was Derek with him at the top of the pass?" "yes!" Way to go Derek. Trying to be uber pacer and taking advantage of the fact that muling is allowed, I strapped Greg's 12 pound water pack over my own little camelback like a South American drug trafficker. First we see Coleen. Ben, myself and our dog Puccini had seen her husband Erik earlier at Winfield (mile 50)and their great dane Otis. When I saw Coleen, it was my turn to give a status report. "Coleen, Puccini humped Otis!" She laughed instantly.

She looked so strong, and I hoped she was having a good day. Next Nerd: Nick Lang, came barrelling down, as only he can do. Ever strong on the downhills! Josh Pool: Looking fly in his Free State shirt. (Our Trail Nerd trail marathon, 40 miler and 100k) Gary Henry: Taking pictures as always. He caught my glazed look and bulging eyes. I was half way up the pass and felling woozy. "Don't loose your runner." Pacer nightmare. Can't keep up with Greg. "Take smaller steps," I tell myself. Legs like jello. I can't stop. This is crazy. Greg needs you. Willie Lambert from Great Plains Running in Topeka (one of my favorite accounts) firmly told me that the night before the race. With my heart bulging out of my chest like the Grinch as he listens to the good folk of Whoville, I do the only thing I can. "Greg, I may not make it, you're going to have to carry your own pack." He chugged along ahead and I wondered if he would loose me. Rick Mayo: One of the famous "Kearny Boys." He'd come in uder 24 hours at Western States, but was severely underweight today. I gave him a couple pieces of melon and some fig newtons from a sack of food I'd packed for Greg and wished him well. I knew he was done. He could have made the cuttoff, but his weight was too far gone. I caught up to Greg and We saw Willie and Dr. Steve Plumb. I got to see the view at the top of Hope Pass. I waited for Greg to take a dump at the Hopeless aid station. I have to insert a funny story Shelley told me here; Early in the race Anton Krupicka needed to relieve himself. Everyone followed until one of the guys shouted, "hey the course is over here-- he's taking a dump." Pooperazzi. Headed into Twin Lakes Greg was in excellent spirits.

"I'm going to do this thing. I am going to run 100 miles today." I roused more support from the hundreds of onlookers. "His name is Greg. Shout Go Greg Go!!" And they did. Over and over for a half mile, til I passed him off to the capable hands, feet and energy of Bad Ben. I raced to the finish line, hoping to catch Fast Andy. I donned my Team Henshaw shirt, getting there in plenty of time. A voice over the PA system. "Team Henshaw, would you come over here." The mayor of Leadville was the emcee and originally from Osawatamie Kansas. He needed more information on the Legend of Fast Andy. 1 2 and 3 came in. The voice! "Team Henshaw get ready your runner is coming!" We assembled with signs, whistles and excitement. Andy and his faithful friend Dallas were headed in. Dallas who specializes in the 800, paced him for 13 miles! (Dallas also recently won the Trail Nerds Northshore race.. directed by none other than GREG BURGER) "Andy Henshaw finishes 4th place in the Leadville Trail 100 and is a Kansas City Trail Nerd." I wept. So did Shelley as we carried him to the medical tent. "Sophia, the first pair of Ronin's. They are trashed." I am overwhelmed with emotion again. "Sophia, how is Greg? Is he going to make it under 25?" Greg and Andy had bonded as ultra runners as Trail Nerds do the week before the race, and on training runs in Lawrence. Andy's original plan *gasp* was to turn around after finishing and help pace Greg. " I don't think I'm going to be able to make it back out." Andy was lying under a down blanket with a Tejas Trail Nerd hat on, shivering. Moments later he would vomit. "He's strong Andy. I don't know if he'll make it under 25, but he'll make it." Young Andy reminds us. That's what nice Nerds do. They pace, they care and they think of others first, even in their own moment of glory.

Thank you Ben for taking me to Leadville this year.

It's kind of an addictive atmosphere. Just before heading out to Twin Lakes on Saturday, we stopped at the front desk of Greg's hotel. "We'd like to reserve a two bedroom suite for next year." 2010 we're running. If we can find pacers.


Andy Henshaw said...

Let me be the first to volunteer as a pacer for next year! Great story Sophia!

sophianchor said...

Accepted!! Talk about the first (fourth) shall be last.... Thank you thank you.

Sunshine Girl said...

Fun times on the trails of Leadville. Thanks for sharing!

Steve sculpts critters said...

Last time I took a walk up a muddy hill I found a snake!