Category Archives: Sports and Events

Leadville Trail Marathon 2012: Formal Finish

Of 500+ finishers, I was the only one who somehow wound up crossing the finish line accompanied by an entourage of a dozen tuxedo-clad fourteen-year-olds.  It was as hilariously odd as it looks.  Lots of stories from a fun day.

 

 

 

STORY #1:  THE LEADVILLE MARATHON:

Start with a regular, 26-mile marathon.  Put it on rocky, uneven, ground with lots of slippery, sandy grit.  Add in about 6300 feet of climbing (the rough equivalent of climbing up and down the stairs of the Empire State Building five times during the run).  Then move the whole thing up to the very-thin air of Leadville Colorado, so that most of the run is above 11,000 feet, and one section climbs up over 13,000 feet elevation.

What kind of idiot would sign up for that?

Here’s some perspective on that thin air:  Aviation regulations require that if a pilot is going to spend more than 30 minutes above 12,500 feet, he has to be on supplemental oxygen.  Remember, this is a guy who remains seated at all times.  At 13,000 feet, a given volume of air has only about 67% as much oxygen as it would at sea level.  My red blood cells were sure to be put to the test.

This was obviously not a recipe for achieving a personal-best marathon time.  The only goal was to see if I could get through it, alive and smiling.  The time cutoff was 8 ½ hours, and I’d decided I would count anything shy of 8:29 as a victory.

And . . .  I finished in 5:54!  In 196th Place (out of 509 who finished).  They published a separate set of “Flatlander” results (people who don’t live in the Rockies):  I was #33 out of 169 Flatlanders!  Good enough.

Incidentally:  Later in the summer, Leadville has 50-mile and 100-mile trail runs.  Seriously.  So if you think I’m a nut, come up and watch those guys.

 

STORY #2:  THAT STRANGELY FORMAL FINISH

There’s a half-mile, downhill straightaway to the finish line in downtown Leadville.  About three blocks out, I saw four or five young Hispanic boys – probably 13 to 15 years old — wearing tuxedos, about to cross the street in front of me.  I’m assuming they’d probably just left a quinceanera party (roughly the Latin American equivalent of a bat mitzvah).  They all wanted to “high-five” as I ran by.  Not wanting to slow down to dole out high-fives, I yelled, “C’mon.  Let’s go!” and motioned for them to start running.  They did.  About a block later, “we” encounted another group of a half dozen, who also started running with me.   And they flanked me the rest of the way to the finish.  My impromptu posse.

Surreal, to say the least.  Hilarious.  Leadville is a rustic mining town and I wouldn’t have guessed there was a tuxedo to be found within 30 miles.  And yet, somehow, my finish-line photo looked like that.

 

STORY #3:  THE SUPERFANS:

Coincidentally (sort of), I had five Houston friends in Leadville on race day.  Michele and Shane Merz and Mike Short drove me to the start line, pumped me full of pre-race Gatorade, and then spent the day chasing me around the course to cheer me on and offer up more Gatorade, powerbars, Payday bars, “Gu” and general moral support.  Their trip to the first checkpoint involved a frantic 1200-foot vertical climb of their own.  Apparently they drove back to town and purchased more suitable climbing shoes, then got the bright idea to rent 4-wheeler ATVs.  They spent the rest of the day chasing me around on those.  I’m pretty sure they had more fun than I did.

One point of interest:  Shane and Mike are the founders of MRE Consulting in Houston, which was a sponsor (long story for another day) of the Leadville Race Series, so the start-finish area actually had a banner ad for MRE.  Through a combination of Shane and Mike’s VIP status and my own stupidity (lost my assigned timing chip), I wound up wearing race number 3 – a number usually reserved for, e.g., the prior year’s #3 finisher or some other elite runner.  I got some perplexed looks back in 196th place.

Rolling into Leadville from Houston during the race was Ned Barnett.  He joined the fun at the finish line, just in time to see my black-tie middle-school posse escorting me across the finish line.  Huge thanks to all the Superfans for the fun, the moral support and the friendships.

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Obviously, this is a post dedicated to my foolishness — not my photography.  So thanks to Mike Short for taking my camera and getting several fun shots before, during and after the race.  I carried a small camera with me on the course, though I probably should have calculated how much extra energy it would require to tote a 9-ounce camera up and down those trails.  A few of the shots are by other racers who were nice enough to stop and take my picture during the race.

Ironman Texas 2012: Just Spectating

 IM Texas swim leader Brandon Marsh approaching swim finish

IM Texas lead group “drafting” behind Marsh near swim finish

I got up early to drive to the Woodlands to watch some of Ironman Texas today.  A year ago, a group of friends and I were among the swim-capped throng out there in that icky lake at sunrise, but with IM Texas already crossed off our lists, this year I was thrilled to be just a spectator.  The outing today was mostly another chance to try to figure out my cameras.  I only watched the swim — I started home when the racers headed out for their five-plus-hour bike ride.  Like all full Ironman events, the swim is 2.4 miles long, but the IM Texas swim course has a unique finish up a canal (that’s what you see in most of the pictures — taken overhead from a bridge) that leads to the Woodlands Town Center area.  Don’t ask what’s on the shallow bottom.

 

 The water seems a lot less peaceful when you’re back in the pack:

The start:

Tropical Beast — St. Croix Ironman 70.3

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These are just pocket camera shots.  Obviously I’m not the photographer in several of them.

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About twenty miles into the bike course of the St. Croix Ironman 70.3, there’s a hill called the “Beast.”  It lasts less than a mile, but the average grade is about 15%.  That means you climb the equivalent of a 50-story building (on a bicycle) in the nine-or-so minutes it takes someone like me to ride up.  The Beast gets a lot of attention, but that’s just nine minutes out of your six-hour day, and just a small fraction of the hills you have to scale on bike and on foot.  Thankfully, they haven’t figured out how to inject nasty hills into the swim course.

The 70.3 in the race name means it’s a “half” Ironman – which is a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.  Scott Humphries, Shane Merz and I just finished the race Sunday.  The three of us have done “full” Ironman events (twice as long), so a little laziness and arrogance may have slipped into our training for this shorter race.  These are not good training strategies, so we were appropriately punished by the otherwise-lovely St. Croix terrain.  In a six-plus-hour event, Scott wound up beating me by 36 seconds!  I should’ve spent less time in the Porta-potties (or maybe more time training in the pool last month), I guess.  Shane was not too far back (he later confessed that he’d accidentally done the entire bike ride with his bike shorts on backward!?! Ouch.).  We all finished and had a fine time doing so.

It rained much of the early morning, so the twisty bike descents were wet and scary and a few places had six inches or more of running water on the road.  Triathlon bikes were not designed for any of that, so there was some nervous riding.  The consolation was that the sun was not beating down on us as we’d expected.

The event is centered in Christensted in St. Croix – the southernmost of the Virgin Islands.  The swim start is unique here:  it starts on the beach of a tiny island (pictured above in daylight) in the bay – and you have to swim out to that island (just at sunrise) before the race even starts.  It sounds odd, but as the race director said, “If you have a problem with that, you’re in the wrong race.”

Lance Armstrong was competing in the pro division.  He’d started his career as a triathlete and did this very race 24 years ago.  This time, all eyes were on #7 in the yellow swim cap.  Standing on the beach at the swim start was the last time we saw him, of course.  Obviously he finished miles (hours) ahead of us, though he came in third behind Andy Potts of the USA and Frenchman Stephan Poulat.  After they finished but while the race continued for hundreds of us mere mortals, Lance’s police-escorted SUV came right down the middle of the otherwise-closed-to-traffic run course, whisking him back to his hotel.  Meanwhile winner Andy Potts was hanging out in the finish area taking pictures and shaking hands.  That’s him in red giving me the “thumbs up” after the race.  Unlike Lance, Andy schlepped his own gear like the rest of us.  Lance no-showed the awards ceremony.  I think I became an Andy Potts fan yesterday.

Earlier in the week, we’d met Lance’s two pilots (he travels in a Gulfstream 4, yellow stripes, tail # N7LA) and spent a couple of days hanging out with them.  Super-nice guys.  To Scott and I (both small-plane pilots ourselves), Lance’s pilots may be bigger celebrities than Lance himself.  What a fine gig if you’re a commercial pilot:  St. Croix this month, Hawaii the next, France the next, maybe Aspen after that . . . .  Apparently, though, they were bored enough to hang out with us – and nice enough to email us after the race (from 41,000 feet in the air) to see how we did.

Special thanks to Scott’s and Shane’s understanding wives for tolerating this “guys’ trip” to the Caribbean.  Given the constant rains (it’s still raining now), you should be glad you didn’t come this time.  Scott’s next athletic stop is Ironman Switzerland in July.  Then he, Shane and I do the Leadville 100 (Colorado mountain bike race) in August.  Each will be twice as hard as yesterday’s outing, so we’ve all got some work to do.

The Kemah Triathlon (with my new camera)

I just got a new camera!   So I need some practice with it.  I took it out for a test run at the Kemah Triathlon Sunday morning.  My long-time buddy Scott was doing the race as a “tune-up” to further ensure that he’ll totally kick my ass next weekend when we both do the Half-Ironman on St. Croix (more on that later, I’m sure).  In the picture (above) where Scott is getting out of the water, you can see waaaay in the distance at the upper right is a boat on the horizon.  Scott did the Olympic distance tri, so that boat was where his swim started (about a mile out in the Bay).  The folks lined up to enter the water are about to start the shorter “sprint” distance tri.

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Nikon announced the D800 in February and it only took me a few hours to get my name onto the waiting list — but I still had to wait three months to get my new camera.  The resolution on this camera dwarfs virtually every camera on the market:  36 megapixels.  But that’s not the half of it.  The downside is that uber-high resolution doesn’t help much (and may hurt!) unless your lenses, your focus accuracy, and even camera-holding stability also step it up a notch.  Thus my need for practice.  I put the big Nikon 70-200 2.8 zoom on the D800; the wide angle shots are on my “old” D7000 with a 10-24mm.  Through no fault of the camera, my favorite shots from the day turned out to be mostly those wide shots.  Maybe the most amusing part of the D800 is that, as a 36 megapixel camera, each snap of the shutter (whether great or terrible) occupies about 32 MB of file space.  For perspective:  the laptop I took to law school had a then-impressive 20MB hard drive.

 

 Fortunately, we were careful to instruct Scott’s sons — Jack and Sam — not to act silly and mess up their Dad’s post-finish-line picture.

MS150 2012: Houston to Austin with Team G&B (and MRE)

This was my ninth year riding the “MS150,” an annual charity bike ride benefitting multiple sclerosis research.   It’s usually 180 miles (in two days) though a route change this year shortened my ride to just about 165 miles.   I’ve ridden each of my nine rides alongside longtime-friend Scott Humphries.  For the last eight MS150s, we’ve led a small “Team G&B” (Gibbs & Bruns) group.  For the past few years, we’ve become honorary members of the MRE Consulting team, too.  Our jerseys even had a half-serious MRE sponsorship logo.  MRE was founded by my two friends Shane Merz and Mike Short.

Thanks to Team G&B riders Jon Worbington, Mike Absmeier, John Neese, Stacy and Scott Humphries, Andrea Young, and Bob Stokes (pictured) for making this another fun  and successful trip.  Congrats to first-timers Jon and Andrea.  HUGE thanks to Maidie Ryan, our support driver, and the Shane and Michele Merz and Mike Short of MRE for riding with us and for letting us join their fun.