Todd’s Leadville Experience

When Eric asked me if I wanted to share any thoughts from my perspective, I thought about what to write. It would have been easy to offer up a narrative of my weekend in Colorado, but it might also have been a little boring. So, rather than that – here are a bunch of my favorite random memories:

– Huffing and puffing with Kerri and Susan on a little run in Breckenridge the day before the race – which promptly sent pangs of fear about attempting to do the same thing the next day with an added 2000 feet of elevation. I was having to master the mental part of the run before I even started.

– Standing at Winfield Aid Station with Dan, while we waited for Eric. I was staring in awe at tiny specs of runners coming and going way off in the distance as they were traversing the side of Hope Mountain. One of them was going to be me soon. Show no fear, one step at time. I can do this.

– Marveling at how tough the runners were going up Hope Pass for trip number 2, feeling my heart pounding in my ears and feeling like my lungs had stopped working and wondering if the switchbacks were ever going to end. At once feeling the struggle of lungs and heart and muscle against that hill, and yet stunned by the beauty around us. There is nothing like shared pain and discomfort, and every runner around us was cheering for each other. “Nice job, way to go”. It was the hardest “running” I’ve ever done, and so very worth it.

– Seeing two runners I knew from home as we climbed up Hope Pass, sadly noting that there was no way they were going to make the cut-off at Winfield. 

– Hope Pass was an amazing journey, and the sheer joy of seeing the UP part END and the DOWN part start was indescribable. Woo hoo indeed. We cavorted at the top for a few minutes ( I was frantically trying to put on a jacket and grab gloves and shoot pictures with my camera), but this was a race against the 30 hour clock so we couldn’t stay long. Too bad, because it was pretty spectacular.

– The feeling of flying down from the top to the Hopeless Aid Station, and the feeling of delight that comes with running on an amazing section of trail that finally felt effortless, looking way off in the distance to Twin Lakes.

– The smiles on our faces as we saw the llamas and the tents and the volunteers, an aid station in an ultra can be the most welcoming place in the world. Campfires and soup and friendly faces. Nice place to hang for a bit.

– The trip down Hope Pass into Twin Lakes was all about transitions. Transitioning from the steep sage covered tree-less top to the wooded forest and the twisty rocky downhill. Transitioning from twilight to darkness. Leaving the cold and windy top to the warm and sheltered lower slopes. Watching our footing in the dark. Chatting with other runners.

– When we finally hit the flat I kept thinking that Twin Lakes was just up ahead, but it was a few miles to go yet, and here was the first time I was in front and I picked up the hiking pace just a bit, until we hit the icy cold water of the river crossing.

– The cheers of spectators out in front of the Twin Lakes Aid Station were awesome. I felt so proud at that moment – proud to be a small part of Eric’s journey, proud of him for the way he worked his way up and over that mountain twice. And actually, a little pleased with myself that I didn’t drag him down, that was my worst nightmare.

– Hanging out and waiting and waiting and waiting at Fish Hatchery and Mayfield, and waiting some more. It sounds aweful, but it wasn’t really – because Eric’s friends and family are great fun to be with, and there is nothing like some shared sacrifice to bond people together.

– Standing on the street Sunday morning – looking for Eric and Kerri to pop into view. Soliciting smiles from the other runners finishing. Anxious, but not really, but kind of.

– The feelings of pride, joy, relief and happiness when we finally saw Eric and Kerri. Susan running to hug Eric, the grin on Eric’s face, the smile on Kerri’s, the thrill of knowing he made it. It was just one of those moments I will always cherish.

– Getting choked up when Eric and Tami embraced, I was so so happy for them.

Like most things running – offering to go with Eric’s cousin Susan to Leadville where she was to help pace him in his first 100 was a leap into to the unknown. But then again, it wasn’t. Big races like this are always different in the details – but the emotional impact of going that far for that long is something that never ceases to amaze me. To help someone on their journey but in some small way is really rewarding for me. I love running and the community and the vibe of these events – and the bonus for me was getting to help out a really awesome guy. Eric was a a rock out there. He was as steady a runner as I have ever seen, and he ran smart and executed his plan well. I hope he had as much fun as I did. While he kept thanking us for all we did, I believe that I gained back way more than I gave – new friendships, great memories, great fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

– Todd Rowe, 9/3/12

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