Posted on November 7, 2015
I love our tiny RV. I love the lifestyle living small affords us. And If you live in a big ‘ol house, I don’t judge you one bit. Sometimes I get the feeling that this whole tiny house movement has made people a little judgey – Like the size of your home is inversely proportional to the size of your heart. Well, I’m here to tell you that ain’t true! And I have a great story from this week to illustrate my point:
Tomatoes, Tornadoes, and Volcanoes...
If you live in Texas, as we do, you will remember that the day before Halloween was rife with freakish storms. That morning, Caleb went to work as the rain was pouring down. I had plans to visit a friend who lives nearby. Just as I was clearing off the breakfast dishes, I found out there was a tornado warning issued for my immediate area. I quickly stuffed some necessities in a bag, grabbed my kids and ran to the truck.
The rain was falling so hard that I was drenched after running ten feet. We headed for my friends house to take shelter. The roads were already flooding and I was so thankful to be driving the Beast (our Ford F-250). When we arrived, my friend and her kids were in the bathroom, hunkered down watching episodes of Daniel Tiger on the iPhone. My kids and I joined them and there we stayed for half an hour or so until the tornado warning expired.
While huddled in the humid bathroom, our kids started talking about what was happening with the weather. As Abby understood it, we were hiding from a tomato. Levi asserted that it was in fact a volcano. I could not help but laugh thinking that the present danger was in fact somewhere between a benign fruit and a deadly explosion.
We stayed for a few hours after the danger had passed. But when we tried to leave for home around lunchtime, I found that the main road was closed due to flooding and several trees were down. So I turned the truck around and we once again sought refuge from my friend. By then I was completely exhausted, with a pounding headache and an emo-stink that could put a skunk to shame.
Once we got the kids down for a nap, my friend let me take a bath in her garden tub. Ahhh! I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to soak my cares and headache (not to mention my stink) away. A bath is one of those luxuries my RV life just does not provide, and it makes me sad. That’s why I am so glad I have friends with houses…and bathtubs!
I love that my friends with big houses invite me over for play dates on rainy days so my kids don’t go crazy. I love it when they let me hide there when tomatoes or volcanoes strike. I am so thankful to have friends with such generous spirits. So don’t believe the hype, people in big house can also have big hearts. I know my friends do!
Posted on October 16, 2015
I have to say I’m almost hesitant to post this review because of how much we LOVED this park. Kristy and I both feel like we want to keep it a secret, but this place is just far too good not to share. It is by far our favorite RV park we have stayed in. Nothing has come close!
The best part about Clear Creek RV in Golden is the location. It’s walking distance to downtown Golden, and there is a paved walking trail right next to the property. Where we stayed the gate leaving the park was literally 50 feet from our door. We frequently walked to town for coffee, groceries, church, or the farmer’s market, which was about a quarter mile down the walking path.
The management was also very nice, the laundry facility and bathrooms both very clean as well. It was also very quiet, and smoking is not allowed (as it’s considered a city park). Clear Creek also runs right next to the park as well, so if falling asleep to the sound of rushing water sounds appealing to you, this is your place!
I also liked the park for it’s proximity to trails. If I wanted to run up Lookout Mountain, all I had to do was run .10 miles to the trail head. Romp up Mt. Galbraith? Just jump on the paved city trail and run a mile the trail head. North and South Mesas were also in walking/running distance as well. There was no shortage of trials you could access without a short walk, or a very short drive.
Not only were there trails close by, and downtown within walking distance, but we were right next to a city park as well which was awesome for our kids. We frequented this park to let our kids roam on the playground while we just talked and enjoyed the mountain air.
- 4 mile walking trail that goes around the City of Golden and connects to numerous other paved trails and off-road trails.
- Right next to Clear Creek. The sound of rushing water is a a peaceful sound to fall asleep to, or enjoyable to dip your feet in after a long run.
- Walking distance to downtown. We rarely had to drive our car while staying in this park.
- Clean bathrooms and laundry facility.
- The park was well kept and very clean as well.
- Farmers Market on Saturday was just a short walk down the paved trail.
- Views of Lookout Mountains, Windy Saddle Open Space, at Mt. Galbraith.
- Just sitting by the creek watching kayakers and tubers can provide hours of entertainment.
- Price! For being so close to town with easy access to trails this place was a steal. We only paid about $45 per night, which was much cheaper than the nearly $55 a night we paid at Dakota Ridge, which was in a much less desirable location.
- Super friendly staff!
- Maximum stay of 2 weeks during peak season.
- We stayed in two different sites. Most of them had two places to hook up your sewer line, one low to the ground, and the other higher up for when it snows. The first site we stayed in only had the higher up outlet, so we had to go outside ever couple days and lift up the hose to drain it.
- The park WiFi was hit or miss. Most of the time it was a miss, but there were times it was blazing fast.
Posted on October 7, 2015
We’ve been living in our RV for more than four months now and I’m happy to say we are still loving it. In fact, we love this lifestyle so much we are not intending to quit it any time soon. When I think on what I love about RVing, several things come to mind.
1- The RV lifestyle keeps us outside. Being outdoors with my kids has always been a parenting goal of mine, but getting outside was hard for us even in the apartment. Now that we live in a glamorized tin can, we spend nearly every waking minute outside – when we are travelling AND when we are home. I have seen my children thrive outdoors. They are becoming so adventurous and explorative. I couldn’t be happier!
2- I rarely miss a sunrise or sunset. This kinda goes with point number one, but this is so special to me that it bears it’s own enumeration. First thing when I wake up, I go outside to have my coffee and watch the sun come up. Then every evening Caleb and I sit on our porch and talk as I watch the sun set. I don’t know why, but this little rhythm grounds me. Yes, I could have watched the sunset from my apartment porch, but I didn’t. Something about this lifestyle pushes me outside and makes me pay attention to this natural world that is happening all around me.
3- I can tidy my whole house in 30 minutes or less. I know, quite a jump from my transcendental musings on sunsets, but seriously… Cleanliness is one of my love languages. I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes my home looks like the bottom of a toaster. But I can take a deep breath and know that in 30 minutes I can have it in ship-shape and be relaxing outside with a cold beverage and a book – This, my friends, is truly my happy place.
While I could go on and on about how awesome the RV life is, I’m sure you have more internet-ing to do… And I have a good book to get back to.
Posted on October 6, 2015
I love the freedom that living in an RV brings. It has allowed us to instill in our children a love for the outdoors.
My son, who is only 16 months old is always chanting, “outsiiide, outsiiide,” any time we are indoors. He longs to roam and explore.
Our daughter is very similar; she much prefers the outdoors as well. Aside from reading books, she would rather be outdoors soaring down the trail on her balance bike.
Part of our family mission statement states our goal is to enjoy the outdoors and respect the environment. Kristy has done a fabulous job at teaching our children to be little environmentalists: they both love picking up trash they find on the playground or on the trail and putting it in it’s proper place…the trash can. Just yesterday while on a walk to a nearby park, Abby saw a yellow construction ribbon blowing in the wind attached to a tree. She immediately exclaimed, “can we pick up the trash?”
Aside from picking up trash our children love walking, hiking, climbing boulders, and just looking up into the sky. Both are already aspiring to be little rock climbers and trail runners. I look forward to the day he can share those experiences with them more deeply.
The love I have for the outdoors stems from my own upbringing. I remember spending many summers in Colorado, weekends on the lake, hunting with my dad, and just longing to drink deeply from all that the mountains provided. I worked hard as a kid to raise money to go on youth group ski trips and mission trips in the mountains… all because I loved the outdoors.
That love for the outdoors grew from all the time my parents spent with me outside. I can even remember being a well-balanced kid in elementary and junior high. I would spend part of my time indoors playing video games, but much of it I spent outside exploring the creek, climbing trees, and playing war and other creative games with the neighbors.
I can only hope that my kids grow up to have the same love and passion for the outdoors. I hope that they in turn pass that love down to their own children as well. I could care less about them becoming rock climbers or trail runners. My main hope is that they drink deeply from God’s creation and allow it to strengthen their love for the Creator and fellow man. It’s something the outdoors has always done for me.
Posted on September 27, 2015
We could not be happier to be in our home state. This past week has been fraught with difficulty and travel fatigue. We are staying with Caleb’s parents in Azle for a few days to regroup and find a place to park in Austin. We still have to get the pipes on our RV black and gray water tanks repaired and will potentially stay here until those repairs are complete.
These past three months on the road have flown by. We are so thankful for the amazing experiences and adventures we have had. We are also exceedingly glad to be home and park it for a while. Travel is fun, but exhausting.
Texas, thanks for welcoming us back. We missed you.
Posted on September 26, 2015
Getting to Arkansas for our last big stop on our way back to Texas proved to be challenging to say the least. Most of our travels have been pretty smooth, so it was a big bummer (and a unpleasant surprise) to have such a hard time.
One of the biggest challenges we experienced was with our bank accounts. Because we have been cruising through several states pretty quickly in the last week, the bank frozen all of our debit and our credit cards. We had a heck of a time getting them working again and had to call the bank at nearly EVERY gas station we stopped at from Utah to Nebraska! Needless to say, by the time we got ready to head for Arkansas we were already flustered and a bit worn out.
We left Nebraska on Monday, September 21st, which was Abby’s birthday. We had celebrated her birthday two days before with Aunt Cortney and her family in Nebraska. Of course, Abby is three and has no real opinion about birthdays, except that she knows she gets a treat. Her feelings were not hurt that we drove all day to commemorate her birth.
Even though she did not seem the least bit upset about spending her birthday in the car, she did seem upset about everything else. It was as if she and Josh had secretly plotted to make our drive miserable by taking turns crying about things we could not control. They both turned into bottomless pits, fussing for “more snack” almost as soon as they had emptied their cups. They guzzeled down their sippy cups, then tossed them into the far recesses of the truck. I had to maneuver Cirque du Soleil style over the back seat to reach them.
If their attitude was poor, mine was worse. I was getting snippier by the minute as their whining was interrupting the podcast I was so desperately trying to enjoy. Instead of just turning it off and waiting for a better time (the right thing to do), I white-knuckled down, trying hard to make the kids stay quiet. I hit my boiling point right around Kansas City. I lost it and shouted at the kids to “SHUT UP!” Caleb nearly veered off the road as he looked over at me in horror.
We found a place to stop so everyone could regain composure. I apologized to the family and, as always, they quickly offered their forgiveness. We made sandwiches and got back on the road. Thankfully we had survived the only blow-up of the day. Little did we know a literal blow-out was just a few hundred miles in our future. More on that in Part Two: Outhouse in the Ozarks
Posted on September 26, 2015
After we made it through Misery in Missouri, the trip seemed to go a little better. We had been driving for about six hours when we reached the Arkansas border. Our destination, the town of Jasper, was only two hours away.
Caleb and I both agreed that the rolling hills and winding switchbacks seemed harder to navigate than the steep mountains of Colorado. Caleb did a great job of keeping Beast and Thistle on the road, despite many hairpin turns on two-lane country roads.
Somewhere about 10 miles outside of Jasper, I heard a faint grinding sound coming from Thistle. I only seemed to hear it when we made a sharp turn and assumed it was the sway bars or something. Looking back, I should have mentioned this to Caleb.
Meanwhile a car was following us very close behind and we assumed he was probably annoyed that we were going so slow. Caleb took the first opportunity he saw to pull off the road and let the car pass us. The car stayed behind us, so we just kept moving.
I kept hearing the noise and it was getting louder, so I mentioned it to Caleb. We both listened intently and Caleb checked his mirrors. Sure enough, sparks were coming from the rear drivers side of the RV. Crap.
We had to keep driving for a while since the roads are so narrow and steep. We finally pulled off in an area called Dead Man’s Curve. Of course, this sounds like the perfect place to breakdown, then get murdered. Thankfully the man in the car behind us also stopped and lent us a hand. He said he had been following us for about ten miles trying to get our attention.
The man promptly called a friend in town with a tow truck who came right away. The mechanic changed our tire, which took about an hour and a half because the rim was bent all out of shape. However, we discovered that our biggest problem was not the tire but the damage the tire created. As the rubber part flapped down the road it whacked off the pipes and valves for both our gray and black tanks.
Thankfully we were able to get to our campground before night fall, but not before the total embarrassment of having all of our bank cards be denied when the mechanic ran them. I tried to explain that we had trouble with the banks freezing our accounts, but the mechanic just looked at me like I was the biggest liar he’d ever seen. We had no way to pay him and were totally humiliated. Thankfully, the mechanic’s wife took pity on us and suggested we come by and pay in the morning. Glory Hallelujah!
We were able to get everything sorted out and the mechanic paid the next day. It was an exhausting and humbling experience to say the least. We are so thankful that the damage wasn’t worse and that we were not injured (anymore than our pride, at least). We have insurance on Thistle and we hope to have our tank valves fixed soon. In the meantime, the campground we are in has a bathroom and shower that we can use.
This whole debacle really made me think about giving people the benefit of doubt. So often we judge people only by what we can see. I hope to be more like the sweet mechanic’s wife, who trusted beyond what her eyes could see. She had mercy on us and I will never forget that.
Posted on September 16, 2015
I love what Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber says:
“You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”
The race itself was only a small part of the journey to 100 miles. The journey began over three years ago when I ran a small section of the trail and was completely blown away by the beauty of the Wasatch Range. The thought entered my mind that if I ever ran a 100-mile race, it would be the Wasatch 100.
Fast forward two years latter my friend John Ryan told me he was planning on running the Leadville 100, and he had never run over 8 miles in the past two years. My gears immediately began to churn. My first thought was, I would love to pace you during the race! I still wasn’t thinking about actually running a 100 myself, but after some discussion with my wife she actually encouraged me to go ahead and run Wasatch, so that December I put my name in the hat and was one of the lucky 300 runners to get to participate in this historic Ultra Marathon.
Lots of people think I’m crazy for running 100 miles, but lots of people also thought I was crazy for starting my own energy bar company. The reality of this is, if you set your mind to something, you CAN do it. Anybody can run 100 miles that really wants to, it’s just a matter of putting in the hard work and training. It’s just like a good marriage. You have to put in the time and effort to make it that way.
I’ve discovered through this journey that I’m capable of great things. But great things don’t come without difficulty and pain. Throughout the race there were several times I doubted weather or not I was going to finish in time. I started off the race really strong, but Mother Nature decided to throw some heat our way, and since I hadn’t trained in heat all summer, I really felt it. Up until about mile 18 I was still on track to finish in around 30 hours.
As I got further and further into the race my projected 30 hour finish fell further and further behind, to the point I was barely going to finish in the allotted 36 hours. I could have given up at any point in time, convincing myself I didn’t have what it takes to go on, but I never let that sink in and get me down.
I think the same can be said for lots of things in life, weather it’s starting a business, trying a new hobby, or working to save a marriage. What seems difficult is ultimately worth it. I love the Theodore Roosevelt quote:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Training for this 100 miler (and starting my own business) has come with lots of pain and difficulty. My family has sacrificed a lot of time for me to train, my body has sacrificed comfort for pain, and I could have certainly been spending my time doing other things, easy things such as sleeping in, sitting on the couch with a book, or even spending it with family. But the sacrifice has allowed me to do something that very few people will even consider. It has even showed me just how capable I am of achieving a goal. It even has me thinking a lot about other fears I have I life, such as scary things I have been avoiding to take my business to the next level.
The race itself was the most challenging thing I have ever done. My quads began to hurt before I even reached mile 18, which scared me because I had completed 35-mile runs with little to no lasting pain. The climbs in Wasatch were brutal though, and the descents were equally as difficult.
I made the decision pretty early in the race to not try for a particular time goal, but just finish. The heat of the day was affecting me, and causing me some nausea, which led to difficulty eating. So I decided it was best to just keep moving and not worry about speed. It was this decision that allowed me to conserve enough energy to finish the last 25 miles strong.
Most of my day was filled with ups and downs. One moment I would be feeling great, the next moment I would want to vomit. The biggest thing that kept me moving was thinking about the sacrifice my family had made to let me train. I kept thinking if I just keep moving I will see them at the Big Mountain aid station (mile 39) and then just 13 miles after that I would meet up with my first pacer, John Ryan.
Coming into the Big Mountain aid station really was the boost I needed. Descending into the aid station I could here the commotion, and then heard, “RUNNER” followed by the blowing of horns and ringing of cowbells. The ascent down seemed like nothing, and I was greeted by my daughter running to me before I even entered the aid station. It was a huge boost!
After a kiss from my wife and kids I was back on the trail and headed to the Lambs Canyon aid station to meet my pacer. Most of the next section was in the dark, which gave things a more lonely feeling. But I was motivated to get to Lambs and pick up my pacer. Those 13 miles seemed like eternity, especially when I started getting pains in my knee and thought for a moment it was going to put me out of the race, but looking back on it I think it was just my body trying to trick me into quitting, but I never let that thought set in an endured on.
After arriving at Lambs I was in for an unpleasant surprise. My pacer and his wife, Bethany, were nowhere to be found. I frantically went around the aid station calling his name, but never found him. So I did what I had to do and got myself ready to go back out into the dark alone. I was scared, but knew I had to just keep going. Just as I was about to get up and head back onto the trail, JR and his wife came running around the corner! I was SO relived. The timing crew had made a mistake updating the website, and it hadn’t shown I had crossed through the previous aid station, but the update came through just in the nick of time for them to find me.
After being doused in essential oils to help my aching muscles. JR and I set out to conquer the night portion of the race. We had A LOT of climbing to do in this section of the race. I’m not 100% sure but I’m pretty sure those 22 miles had the most cumulative elevation gain. JR did a fantastic job at keeping me motivated, encouraged, and most importantly MOVING.
The night went by fast! JR is a great conversationalist, so there was never a dull moment, which helped me stay awake when I felt like sleeping on my feet. I remember crossing the Desolation Lake aid station during the night and seeing runners gathered around a roaring fire. We nick named it the DNF (Did Not Finish) fire. When we left the aid station he said he was glad I never went over to the fire. I knew in my own mind too that if I gave in to that temptation I might never leave. I see another life analogy there too. There are often distractions that keep us from achieving great things. I love the Jon Gordon quote, “distractions are the enemy of greatness.” And that night I’m sure that fire kept some people from finishing.
The last few miles of our run together where by far the best. We had some descending trails/roads to work with and the sunrise gave new energy, and awe of being out in God’s creation: it was an amazing sunrise, full of oranges and blues. Upon leaving the woods that led to a road that descended to the Brighton aid station we joined up with the Big Cottonwood Marathon. They had just begun their run and were about two miles in. The marathoners gave all sorts of encouragement throughout those two miles. It was a huge boost! Many of them were asking what mile we were on, and all were amazed when we told them 75! I even saw a fellow Austin runner, Jeannete Spears. She was actually the first person I saw when we popped out onto the road.
Upon arriving at the Brighton Aid station, JR’s wife Bethany was waiting with more essential oils and my drop bag. Next, Mike Place, who was my second and final pacer for the day, greeted me. He prodded my crew along to get me out fast, and was happy to see I was there 15 minutes ahead of what he thought I would be.
The whole stop at Brighton was probably about 10 minutes long, and about 5 minutes longer than I would have liked, but Mike was an experienced Wasatch runner and knew what we had to do to finish. As we were leaving he told me we could be friends when we finish, but for the next 25 miles I might not like him very much. I was fine with that though, I just wanted to get it done.
Upon leaving the aid station I immediately began to climb to the highpoint of the course, Catherine Pass: 10,222 ft. that ascended from 8,765 feet in about 3 miles. At the top of the pass is a “right of passage” in Wasatch… kissing the Great Western Trail sign. Mike had just finished pushing me hard up the climb so gave me a quick moment to kiss the sign and then enjoy the view. But we had lots of time to make up so we began what was the toughest rugged descent of the whole course, down to Ant Knolls aid station, then immediately began a tough ½ mile climb. Mike pushed me out of the aid station fast and took care of my water and nutrition needs while I kept moving, he then caught up to me at the top of the hill. This became our method for moving through the aid stations the rest of the day.
The rest of the run was pretty much a blur, but Mike really got me through and made sure I stayed on pace. At times I felt like I had all new quads and was pushing sub 12-minute paces on the downhill sections. If Mike told me to go faster, I went faster, if he told me to hike harder, I did. There was no argument on my part. He later told me how impressed he was with that, saying that most runners would have given some push back.
Once we got to mile 90 I knew the race was in the bag. Only 10 more miles, of what I thought was mostly downhill. Those last 10 miles didn’t go by nearly as fast as I wanted them to, and the sun was full-on baking again, so that only made things more difficult and slow. Even though it was mostly descent there were a lot of rollers sending you uphill. But even with that and the blazing heat I stayed focused and kept moving.
After leaving the last aid station there was only 6 miles left. Mike had looked over at me at one point and said can tell you just want to get this done and see your family. I did indeed, and we did our best to lay down sub 15-minute paces the rest of the way in, which proved to be far more difficult than I thought. Though the overall elevation was descending, there were still a lot of rollers thrown in there. Every part of me wanted to just RUN in those last 6 miles, but my body just wouldn’t let me. I eventually settled down though and became content with the pace we were on because as long as we kept it up I would finish with time to spare.
With about ½ a mile left in the race Mike set me off on my own to cross the finish line with my family. When I got to around .25 miles I thought I saw my family in the distance and began running again, but even as excited as I was I couldn’t keep up the pace. So once gain I slowed down a bit, and when I came around the corner to the finish line, there was my wife, and two kids waiting for me. With great excitement we all crossed the finish line together.
I finished in the time of 35:19…. 40 minutes to spare. My wife thought of everything too. At the finish she had a chair for me to sit in, had water, and even a couple beers. She took my shoes off for me, gave me a bit of a massage and picked up some food for me at the finish line aid station. I just sat there enjoying the hard earned victory, and listening to the crowd cheer on the final runners. It was beautiful to see a huge crowd of people cheering in the last runner, who came in with 5 minutes to spare.
What allowed me to finish this ultra endurance event was not so much my fitness level as it was the mental strength to keep pushing on. I recently heard a statistic about how 66% of small businesses fail, but it’s not usually because of cash flow problems, or lack of income, it’s usually emotional issues. People give up to early. They simply decide in their mind that they are done. If you choose to endure, you can do anything! Trust me!
Posted on September 15, 2015
The first thing wrong about today was the weather. It was overcast and cool. Not TOO cold for a day at the beach, but definitely not ideal. No sun could be seen through the clouds.
On recommendation by a fellow camper, we drove to the state park marina access of the lake. It cost three dollars per car, but there are outdoor showers and a pavilion for picnicing. When we arrived there were only a few other patrons admiring the beach from afar. We were the only ones in swimwear… that should have tipped us off.
So we started walking down toward the beach and the first major stumbling block to our fun day arrives: Abby really doesn’t like for her feet to get dirty. This is nothing new and is usually mitigated easily with proper footwear. However, the terrain on this beach is quite odd: It starts off rocky, then turns to soft, charcoal sand, then into mud with a thin layer of crunchy salt crystals on top, back into soft sand and lastly into a barrier of dead brine shrimp bodies and sea gull poop before you reach the water. Obviously, as soon as Abby reached the salt-covered mud pits she freaked out.
Caleb had to carry her, crying and flailing about, all the way past the shrimp-poop barrier and into the water. I had Josh, who was content to walk ever so slowly through the sand/mud/dead stuff so he could mine for treasures. He found a partially decomposed sea gull and an old marshmallow right off the bat. Gross.
Once we get to the water, the fun does not begin. The air stinks like old dead shrimp. Abby refuses to get wet, yet refuses to stand in the “yucky sand.” So basically she is intermittently shrieking and clawing up our legs like a cat. Josh doesn’t like the water too much either. Caleb and I look at each other, not really knowing what to do while the fully-clothed onlookers pity us from afar.
We decided to cut our losses and leave the beach, but not before Caleb got one good soak in the lake. After all, the famed minerals of the lake were the main reason we were there. Side note: Did you know you can float in the Great Salt Lake? It has around 12% salt content, which is like four times that of the ocean. Pretty cool! My kids didn’t think so.
So, yeah, my beach day was pretty much a bust. I was looking forward to sitting in the sun, watching my kids frolick. Not so much.
As I was putting the kids to bed tonight, I leaned down and kissed Abby’s head. Somehow she still smells like old, dead shrimp. The memories of today came flooding over me and I just couldn’t stop howling with laughter. At least I still have my sense of humor.
Posted on September 9, 2015
I’m a mountain man at heart, so it might come as no surprise that I loved our stay in Leadville. The whole reason we came here though wasn’t just for the mountains and crisp cool (and dry) air. The cool nights, and starry skies, and post card mountain views have been a real joy, but the real reason for our stay here has come from months of preparation.
My friend John Ryan signed up to run the Leadville 100, and I was scheduled to pace him for 37 miles of the race. Pacing entails running a portion of the race (after the 50 mile mark) and helping them with things like staying hydrated, ensuring they are eating enough food, general motivation, and just having somebody to talk to in the wee hours of the night when the race pack thins out: it would get very lonely without somebody to run with.
The energy around the town the week of the race was through the roof and continued to increase as race day approached. Just while sitting in the local coffee shop doing work you could overhear racers telling tales of previous races, even previous Leadville 100 races.
Throughout the week I was able to get a few training runs in for my own 100 mile race coming up in September: The Wasatch 100. I even ran/hiked up a Mt. Sherman (14,036ft) with one of Bearded Brothers brand ambassadors, Patrick Sweeney. Later in the week I was even able to meet two more brand ambassadors, Joe & Tim Kelley. It’s really neat to see how a trail race like this pulls together runners from all over the globe.
They day before the race was actually probably the calmest day all week, even the pre-race meeting seemed a bit on the low energy side. It was obvious that everybody wanted to rest, eat well, and remain hydrated. Aside from attending the pre-race meeting and expo we at lunch with John Ryan and his wife, and later went into town for pizza at High Mountain Pies. Soon after getting back to the RV we were in bed drifting off to dream land (aside from some pre bed-time discipline issues with our daughter).
On race day the gun went off at 4 a.m. and the runners began the gradual descent out of town (which quickly turns into a huge ascent). Even before the gun went off I could hear our neighbors in the RV park preparing to leave for the starting line. I’m sure most of them were up at 3 a.m. Kristy and I woke up around 4:15 a.m. and walked out to the street next to the RV park to watch the runners come by. We hadn’t been standing there more than 2 minutes before the first runner went by. We stood there cheering and clapping for the runners, and bidding them good morning for a solid 30 minutes as the 650+ runners went by.
I spent nearly the next 30 hours crewing and pacing for John Ryan during the race. The job of the crew is to meet the runner at certain aid stations along the course and him runner with any issues he might be facing: you help them refuel their water bottles, re-stock on food from the aid station, and bandage any wounds or blisters they might have incurred during the run up until that point. The crew is also there to encourage and motivate the runner.
I was crewing alongside JR’s wife Bethany, his dad John, and his best friend Tristan. Bethany attended JR at the first aid station solo, and meet up with us around 9:30am. At the point we headed out to Twin Lakes (the aid station around the 40 mile mark). JR was looking strong and was in and out of the aid station pretty fast.
At this point JR was going to have to cross over Hope Pass (12,500ft) twice, but we were to meet him at the 50-mile mark where I was going to begin pacing him and help to push him over the pass for the second time and stay on his time goal.
Well, what happened next I can’t disclose here. You see, JR was also filming a documentary on the race and some pretty epic things went down. All I can really tell you is that I ended up only pacing for 27 miles. To disclose anything more would ruin the story later down the road when the film is released.
I did begin my pacing duties with JR from the second Twin Lakes aid station. At this point of the race it was dark, and running required headlamps. Through my 27 miles of the course my main purpose was to keep him on pace to finish the race. My secondary duties were to make sure he was getting enough nutrition, drinking plenty of fluids, and just keeping a positive mindset.
I have paced in a 100 miler before, but it was nowhere near as demanding as this. The cutoff for Leadville is a mere 30 hours. Most mountain races I know of have a cut off time of 36 hours, thus making this race extremely legit. This meant my duties as a pacer were VERY serious. I had to make sure JR stayed on pace to meet his time goal.
I found that while running with JR, the best form of motivation was telling him what time we could finish the race in if we kept up a certain pace. Talking to him, and making sure he kept moving as crucial to his success. At one point JR actually had to call me out…I wasn’t being hard enough on him. He told me he wasn’t doing well and that I needed to step up my game as a pacer (my own words).
That was during the toughest climb of my pacing duties, Powerline. So after having full permission from JR himself, I began to lay into him a bit more and be completely real with him… letting him know that if he even wanted to finish in the 30 hour time limit he was going to have to get his butt moving.
JR and I had done many training runs together and at the start I treated it much like those runs, making small talk, and some serious talk, but I had yet to be completely real with how important it was that he kept moving at a good pace.
When we had first begun our run JR said he wanted me to run behind him, but I quickly realized that I was going to have to take the lead. At some parts of the run, on wider trail, we ran side by side, which was very motivational for JR.
We made great time during the section I paced. We averaged just over a 17-minute mile, which is not bad considering how late in the race it was. I will be more than happy if I can maintain a 17-minute pace during Wasatch after the 50-mile mark. I was very optimistic about bringing him to the May Queen aid station well ahead of his time goal.
From the May Queen aid station my pacing duties were over, and JR’s best friend since 7th grade, Tristan, took over pacing for the final 13.5 miles. I handed Tristan my GPS watch and told him what pace he had to keep him at to finish under the 30 hour cut off. Tristan was prepared to entertain through this final stretch, with a custom playlist on his iPhone just to get JR to the finish line.
Around the 29:18 mark John Ryan crossed the finish line. Months of training had paid off, and the coolest part was his son, wife, father, and entire family got to cross the finish line with him. My duty as the pacer was pretty easy compared to what JR went through, but the experience was amazing, and I learned a lot that will help me complete my first 100 miler in less than two weeks, and I also get the wonderful privilege of having JR as one of my pacers.
As far as running Leadville 100 myself….we will have to see. The course was a lot tougher than I gave it credit, and my wife might have a heart attack if we ever come back here. So, we might have to wait a while before adding this race to my schedule. But, I must say, I really love Leadville, and I hope to be back again.
Even if I never run Leadville, I will be okay with that. I have my own adventure ahead of me. This weekend I will run the Wasatch 100, and JR will return the favor by pacing me through night section of my run. I will have one other pacer helping me through the run. So, be looking for my race report on how that went.
To read about Kristy’s experience, check out her post entitled, Leadville Poisoning.