Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Leadman 2013 Crew Report (Part 1)

A triumph. A shit-show. The race of a lifetime. An unprecedented cluster-fuck. And that, my friends, sums up the 2013 Leadville 100 Run.

I am beyond proud to say that my fiancée, Andy Wooten, is now a Leadman.

For those who do not know being a Leadman entails, it requires athletes complete 5 events: the Leadville Marathon, a 50 Mile Run or Bike (also called the “Silver Rush”), the Leadville 100 MTB, a 10K the day AFTER the 100 MTB, and finally, the Leadville 100 Run.

Not only did he achieve Leadman status, but he also accomplished one of his long-standing goals: earn the BIG Buckle; this means that he ran the Leadville 100 Run in under 25 hours. Last year, he ran the 100 in 26:05. This year, his time was 23:18. Amazing!

It was a different ball game this year – from both a runner perspective and a crewing perspective.
I am sure that Andy’s blog will address the runner perspective. After four years of crewing Andy at the Leadville 100, Annie (Andy’s daughter) and I are a very strong team. Experience has taught me that a strong crew and pacer team can be the difference between finishing and not – or between getting the big buckle and not. But even with the best crew and pacer team assembled, there is always room for improvement. And we did indeed improve.

Andy only sat down twice: first at Twin Lakes inbound to re-bandage his feet for extra blister protection and to change his shoes and socks (kudos to Neeraj for his savvy sock rolling technique) and the second time was at Treeline/Pipeline where he fixed the bandages once again.

This was one of the big tricks to cutting time: don’t stop at aid stations. There was no lingering. No joking. No loving kisses or embraces. It was all business.

We always set up our crewing beyond the aid station, after the timing mat. The goal is for Andy to clock in (obviously this is imperative if your runner is short on time), and then run directly to us without spending a single second at the official aid stations.

Outbound, he would discard his empty handhelds and one of us would quickly hand off the replacements and his fanny pack with fueling inside. Each aid station had its own ziplock of fuel meticulously labeled and assembled. With the sun coming up at Fish Hatchery and beating down on the runners at Twin Lakes, we heavily applied sunscreen. It still amazes me how quickly he passed through each crewing point.

Another big trick to seamless crewing: someone takes care of the body while another takes care of the fueling. In other words, Annie and his pacers, Hawaiian-Shirt Ray or Neeraj, would help with Andy’s bottles, take his trash, give him food and beverages, etc. while I concentrated on sunscreen, sportshield, medicine and gear/clothing.
You have to be very careful that there are not too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many people helping is just as bad if not worse than not enough people helping.

When you are crewing a fast runner at Leadville, the reality is that they can and will run the course FASTER than you can drive to the next aid station. In the words of Tim Waggoner, “I’m in a car and I can’t keep up with him!!!” One of the most brilliant ideas we came up with was to divide and conquer. I stayed at Twin Lakes with our Twin Lakes crew bag while Annie/Ray/Neeraj hauled ass to Winfield.

Oh, did I mention that I was also crewing for our friend and Leadman teammate/competitor, Lisa Erikson?

Around 3:30am on Saturday morning, Andy headed down to the starting line while Lisa and Chris, her other crew chief, met me at the Bed and Breakfast for a bathroom break, applied sportshield, and dropped off Lisa’s bags and gear....