Volunteering at the Leadville 100 Trail Run

News update: We are getting a ridiculous amount of rain here in Colorado. There’s major flooding in cities all around me. To the Northwest: Boulder, Lyons, Estes Park, Fort Collins (my college town) and Longmont – which is where my Mom lives and is having trouble getting home due to massive amounts of road closures. To the Northeast: Commerce City, Fort Luptin, and more. Then to the immediate south: Aurora and way down south, Manitou Springs. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the phone with my mom as she tries to navigate the roads as I sit on my computer monitoring road closures. I’m very luckily and the heaviest rains have gone around me and everywhere I need to go/work. It’s like there’s a dome around this section. We’ve been getting rain, but not nearly as much. Mostly just consistent misting. As I look out my window right now, the sun is actually shinning, but just 20 miles or less from me it’s still pouring.

There’s a few confirmed deaths from this storm and a bunch of people who are missing, or “out of touch”, as they are calling it. I feel horrible for them and their families and everyone else that is affected person and property. 

I’ve been working on this post for a while, so I might as well post it now. This event took place on August 17th into the 18th.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to volunteer at a race. I’ve only ever volunteered for a run once, back in my college days, when I was a member of a volunteer organization called Circle K. We provided our services to a Halloween themed 5K and my “job” was to direct runners along the course. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the event was called or what the proceeds went to benefit because it was so long ago.

I wanted to volunteer for a race this year as a way to “give back,” in a way, since all I’ve done over the last few years is run races. Given, I’ve paid for all those races, but still, you get what I mean, right??

LeadvilleRaceSeries_LogoSo, why not volunteer for the top of the line, daddy race of races, the Leadville 100. Known across the world, this race is insane! There’s a whole Leadville run and bike series including the Leadville 10K, heavy half, trail marathon, and 50 miler trail run. The bike series includes a 50 miler and a 100 miler. In addition to all those events, there is also the Leadman and the Leadwoman competitions. This means, men and women that enter the Lead(wo)man competition have to do five of the leadville race events including both the run and bike series. So this means they do the Leadville marathon, 50 miler bike OR run, the 100 trail run, the 100 bike and the 10k.

I just volunteered for the most common Leadville race, the 100 Trail Run. Known as the “Race Across the Sky,” this run takes you 100 miles in the Colorado Rocky Mountains as high up as 12,000 feet in elevation.

imagesCourse Description from the website:

The 100-mile out-and-back course is in the midst of the Colorado Rockies. Low point, 9,200 feet; high point is Hope Pass, 12,600 feet. Majority is on forest trails with some mountain roads. Pacers allowed after the 50-mile point (exceptions only by request).

Sound tough enough??

I still go back and forth in my head whether I want to do this race someday or not. Right this second I’m at a maybe, but I think I’m just going to concentrate on Boston Qualifying over the next few years. We’ll see.

Anyway, there’s a ton of volunteer opportunities, but I know from talking to a previous volunteer that you could request where you wanted to be. The person I talked to recommended that I pick the last aid station, May Queen. This is the last rest stop before the runners head in for a finish (being an out and back course, this was also the first station they encountered as well). Once reaching this station for the second time, they had traveled 87 miles over the hills mountains and trails. With only 13 miles, a half marathon, left to finish, I knew I would see a ton of crazy, yet inspiring things.

I had wanted to be at the aid station when they first crossed at the beginning of the race, but due to work obligations, I wasn’t able to journey into the mountains until later in the afternoon.

I arrived around 3:00pm to find all the station volunteers sound asleep from working in the morning. Taking advantage of the quiet, I sat, read a book and snacked for a bit. I absolutely love being in the mountains and the pristine quietness of my surrounds was refreshing from the bustle of the city I live in.

My serene surroundings

My serene surroundings

It didn’t stay quiet for long. While following the lead runners on the internet, we began to set up the station and prepped the food. There was a hot food station and a cold food station. The runners had a variety of options that we set out: ramen, broth, coffee, hot chocolate, pb&j sandwiches, bagels, pretzels, fruits, m&m’s, chips, and of course  the fluids: water, herbalife (an electrolyte drink), rocktane (a caffeinated drink), and I’m sure I forgot something in there.

get-attachment 2

By default, I became “in charge” of the hot food station. As the night crawled on and the temperatures dropped, I became more and more popular. (YES! My high school dream…hahahah JK!)

raceThe first runners came through around 5 or 6 pm, I think. (Keep in mind, I was up and going for well over 24 hours, my times are probably not accurate because the whole night and times blurred together). The first guy, Ian Sharman, came blazing through looking like he was fresh and just started; NOT like he had run 87 miles. We all rushed to see what he needed. All he grabbed was some water, a handful of m&ms and a GU!! I couldn’t believe how strong he looked and that he only grabbed some m&ms. His pacer raced after him to finish the race.

DSCN3758Guy number 2: Nick Clark from Great Britain. Although he still looked pretty good, he didn’t look AS good as the first guy. This was actually interesting. Clearly trying to catch the leader, he and his crew (including his wife and kid) frantically tried to figure out what he wanted. Actually, he wanted something super complicated. He wanted just chicken broth (which needs to be dissolved in HOT water) but he wanted it cold. We had a few cubes dissolving in water but they were not completely done yet. His wife actually yelled at me. I was super embarrassed! Being flustered, I couldn’t think of an immediate solution,  but someone emptied out a ramen spice packet into water and that seemed to please the runner’s wife. I understand the competition of the event, but if there’s something you wanted so specific and you were an elite runner, wouldn’t you think you would bring it yourself???

DSCN3768Whatever. After that crazy moment, I gained some helpers at my “hot food” stand and we became a smooth and efficient team. My helper placed each food item in cups or bowls and I used the one and only ladle to scoop the boiling water into each one. She was actually a very sweet girl and we are still staying in touch via email! I’ll be joining her in Arizona next year for the Sedona Marathon.

The next runner, number 3, Michael Aish came in sporting some Mizunos. Being as I used to sell shoes, I spent a lot of the night looking at what all these runners ran in. The mizunos that Aish was sporting were not even on the market yet!!! Can you believe that!? One of the other volunteers actually new Aish, Aish was his running coach, and knew that Mizuno offered him the shoes as a tester, a prototype. I was instantly jealous!

In addition to seeing all these super human endurance pros and what they wore on their feet, It was interesting to see what they wanted at the last aid station before pushing it in home. One of the top runners wanted potatoes with salt (yes, we had that too). Most just wanted broth, no ramen noodles. A few of the elites wanted coffee, but mostly it wasn’t until the middle of the night that we got a ton of coffee requests.

Then came in Scott Jurek. Ahhh.. one of the things that enticed me to volunteer for this particular event. He’s definitely my running idol! I’ve read Eat and Run and I’ve read Born to Run. Since then, I’ve been enamored with Jurek’s running history and athleticism. Powered by his vegan diet, I idolize him. And I finally got to meet him…well, sorta. I call it meet; I did after all, hand him, personally, a soup.

seeee that's me! i'm helping!

seeee that’s me! i’m helping!

And I was super nervous! Before Scott came into the station, one of his pacers came up to the booth (before I knew who he was) and asked what vegan options we had. Instantly, the lightbulb went off, “Why, for Scott Jurek!?” Yep, said the pacer. We actually didn’t have very many options for him, unfortunately, but after carefull digestion of the ingredients on the packets, The Oriental Ramen would suffice. To be honest, I don’t think it is vegan; the broth may be, but not the noodles. Vegetarian, yes, but not vegan. I doubled checked with members of his crew to make sure they wanted to give that to him, and they said it was alright.

DSCN3765

Making fun of me and my “crush,” one of the medical volunteers took my picture for me. I assured them I only had a “crush” on his running. To be completely honest, I don’t actually find Scott attractive (no offense) and his pacer with the mohawk was way cuter! But it became a joke throughout the night. They actually had to get some vitals on Scott, he didn’t look all that great. He complained of having been throwing up over the last leg of the race. He ended up finishing 8th. Pretty good for being on a racing hiatus for a while!

A few more elites came through: an japanese runner and a guy from costa rica!! It was so cool to meet/see all these runners from all over the world.

We got a little bit of a lull before the bulk of the racers started streaming in. Then, around I think 1am to about 4 or 5am, our aid station was the place to be!

the first lady

the first lady

Runner’s and their support crew, pacers and families came streaming in! Everyone wanting something warm to help them stay warm while waiting or to keep them going through the night. When the first women strolled in, she looked strong and relaxed and then went on her way.

So, I scooped and poured hot water all night, watching the runners and pacers come in and out. My station was right by the medical tent so I got to see some of the extremes of a 100 mile race like major muscle cramping, extreme tiredness (literally cannot keep the body awake), trouble breathing, vomiting (from who knows what), and border line hypothermia. At one point a runner came in with a serve cramp. Not quite knowing if he could go on, I offered my services: A lacrosse ball and “the stick” to him and his support crew. They worked on the muscle and he ended up continuing on and finishing the race! I’m glad I brought those things!

Another runner I remember specifically was an older gentleman, maybe in his 70’s I’m guessing, who came into the aid station early on was remarkable. He looker strong and healthy, having come 87 miles through the mountains, and when one of the medical staff asked him if he wanted to clean his bleeding arm (no idea what from), he brushed her off like she was crazy!

As the night went on, we got waves of lots of runners – there was just so many people! We actually starting running out of things, like Ramen, and boy was that devastating to people! We made up for it by offering hot chocolate or coffee.

Next year, I may try to volunteer as a pacer and offer my running services to who ever needs one. Since they had an abundance of medical helpers, one of the nurses, Jon, that I had been talking to all night, heard of a runner in need of a pacer. He changed and took off and was back before I even knew it! He said it was a blast!

I was asked, towards the tail end of the night/early morning, if I still wanted to be a pacer. At that point, I was shot, mentally and physically, and wouldn’t have been any help to any runner out there.

After the last runner was through, we all started picking up and cleaning. We packed up the runner’s drop bags (which, now that I think about it, not many people asked for them), and I took off for home.

DSCN3774

Overall, a great experience. It was inspiring and interesting to see, from behind the scenes, a race of this magnitude. It takes a lot to run 100 miles, and all these people seemed super human to me. Maybe some year I can be super human too! Maybe.

More info:

Leadville Run Series (including info on the 100)

This Year’s Results

YOUR TURN: Would you/have you ever run an 100 Miler??? 

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18 thoughts on “Volunteering at the Leadville 100 Trail Run

    • I saw your twitter! It was beyond cool! You can pretty much volunteer for 99.9% of races out there. For this one, there was a whole link you clicked and “registered” as a volunteer. Other races, if they don’t have a specific link, I’d just email the race director and say you want to volunteer!

  1. That’s really cool! What a great experience to have and good for you for volunteering. More runners should volunteer so they can appreciate how much work it take to pull a race off.

    I had a chance to run with Scott Jurek and Chris McDougall last spring in Bird In Hand, PA. It was an amazing experience running through the Amish countryside under the light of the moon. Both Scott and Chris were very cool and great story tellers. Glad you got a chance to meet your running idol!

    • oooo Scott and Chris! That’s awesome!!! I wish I could run with one of these elite guys, but i’d never be able to keep up! hahaha. And yes, it does take a lot to pull off a race, and I probably only saw a fraction of it. I met the volunteer coordinator once through out the day, and yeah, I can’t even

  2. One of these days I should get off my selfish ass and go volunteer at one of the many races the city has to offer. Your heart is in the right place for wanting to give back to the sport that has given you a healthy heart and so many excellent memories.

    I had no idea a Costa Rican placed 10th at Leadville — that’s awesome! As a Costa Rican myself, I celebrate every little success (since there are so few of us out there).

    As for running a 100-miler, I think I’ll relegate myself to pacing people at the distance. I can barely run a 50k without my stomach doing flips, so I think the marathon is my comfortable beast for now.

    Great post!

    • I did not know you were Costa Rican! Sweet! I’ve been to costa rica once….. I still dream of it! I loved it there. In fact, I was just talking to my boyfriend about it the other day, trying to convince him to take me there! ahahaha.

      I do like the marathon. Like I said, I really think I’m going to concentrating on qualifying for boston. Then maybe we’ll think of an ultra.

    • Aw that’s sweet. yeah, we got a break in the rain for about half a day, then it started raining all weekend again, flooding DIFFERENT areas of the state. I’m not affected too much, minus my trails be too soggy or my normal city route is also under water 😦

  3. That’s very cool of you and I bet it was neat to be at such an epic event. One of my teammates finished in just under the 25 hour mark (!) at her first Leadville. I think I need to volunteer as well.

  4. Glad you are faring ok in your neck of the woods. This post also makes me want to volunteer at Leadville next year. Side note, I did Vermont a few years ago, it was a great race, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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