Saving Leadville - Page 4
Two race spectators having a good time on the course near Twin Lakes. Photo by Scott Laudick.
The climb from Twin Lakes, at mile 40, up and over 12,600-foot Hope Pass was exhilarating. Rocky, steep terrain buried in thick forest forced me to pay close attention to my footfalls. It was the kind of technical terrain I loved most. My lungs seared as I climbed into thinner and thinner air, and the sight of Twin Lakes, glittering in the beaming afternoon sun, slowly fell away below me. The woods were—as Robert Frost once wrote—lovely, dark and deep.
Early into my climb, the first frontrunners and their pacers came tearing down the trail in the opposite direction. I cheered for each of them—Ian Sharman, Michael Aish, Nick Clark, Scott Jurek—as they crashed gracefully past me, each grinning with the bliss of surrendering to gravity.
Just below the windy saddle of Hope Pass lies Hopeless Aid Station. It’s an inaccurate name for what is, in fact, a gleaming icon of joy amid the race’s most grueling climb. Kids volunteering at the aid station rushed out to us as we approached, cheering and whooping, asking what we needed and sprinting back toward the aid station with the dedication of a NASCAR pit crew. Llamas—who shuttle in the aid station supplies at Hopeless—lounged nearby in the sunny grass. It was a good excuse to look back down the valley, the town of Leadville merely a speck in the distance, and see just how far I’d come.
Pictured in the 2013 race, Bill Finkbeiner holds the male (30) record for most LT100 finishes. Finkbeiner ran it for the first time in 1984. Photo by Zazoosh Media
Shortly after leaving Hopeless, I exchanged an elated hug with my predecessor at Trail Runner, Ashley Arnold, who was on her way to winning the women’s race. As we headed off to our respective descents on either side of the pass, I eyed the two-way runner traffic on the other side.
I tend to run descents fast, and often make friends on downhill stretches of trail runs. At many other races, fellow runners had cheered me on with, “Go get ’em, sister!” or something similar. Today, the first runner I blazed by called out after me, with an air of bitterness, “Nice work trashing your quads!”
A minute later, as I passed another runner and his pacer, I heard one mutter to the other, “There’s no way she’ll make it to the finish line, running like that.”
No one was in a good mood, it seemed. And, by the time I got to the bottom of Hope Pass again, neither was I. The final stretch before Winfield consisted of a quarter mile along a dusty road. Hundreds of cars lined both sides of the road, bumper-to-bumper and inching along. Horns honked; people yelled. There was nowhere for runners to go except to weave between the cars,faltering on shaky legs and coughing in the thick cloud of dust and exhaust.
When I finally made it to Winfield, my crew was nowhere to be found. I spent a few unceremonious minutes gulping down water at the aid station, then turned around and began the long journey back to Leadville. A few hundred feet up the road, I saw Steve coming toward me, running through the maze of cars.
“I’m so sorry!” he called out. “We couldn’t make it to the aid station to meet you. Your dad’s still farther up the road, stuck in traffic. It’s backed up for miles.”