Sunday, August 22, 2021

The 80 Year Itch

The start line of the Transrockies Run

17 minutes till showtime

The afternoon that I arrived in Leadville to photograph the abandoned silver mines in the boomtown of the late 1800s I noticed a van with the words Transrockies Trail Race on its sides and a row of porta-potties in front of the town gym. A trickle of jocks entered and exited as I photographed Leadville’s handsome historic district. I nosed around a bit and asked what was going on.

“The third leg of a six-day stage race will start here tomorrow morning. It starts at 8am sharp. The start line is around the corner to the left.”

I thanked her and pledged to be there to photograph the start of the race Sunday morning. As an endurance athlete of modest accomplishments in the 70s and 80s I crave the hubbub, jangled nerves and good cheer that infuse the hours before a big race. I realized that I missed it though there was never a start to any triathlon where I wasn’t so nervous that I swore I’d never do another. Just writing these words gives me a major case of the butterflies. True story.

Anyway, I was downtown searching for good cup of coffee at 6:30am. I asked another worker where I could grab a latte and a pastry and she said, “Go to Coffee on a Hill. It’s right at the start line.”

Coffee on a Hill satisfied. It was arguably the lone bastion of sophistication in all of Leadville. That unto itself is a story. I can’t count the backwaters I’ve suffered but I found a good locally owned and operated coffee emporium: an oasis in a desert of convenience store java.

Pure joy

Couples therapy

As I watched athletes arrive at the start line, I was taken by the bubbling of good cheer, by the bonhomie and beaming smiles that surrounded me. The percolating goodwill and excitement were energies I haven’t absorbed since I folded my singlet in 1987.

I missed the feeling and dared to wonder if I could do a race like the Trans-Rockies. I'm pretty sure I can handle the cardio part. It's the cranky back that wouldn't cooperate. Doing the race isn’t a compulsion by any means. More like an itch.

The number one seed checks his watch

And they're off

Camp Hale here we come

Running through Leadville's historic downtown

The Trans-Rockies field was not a sea of anorexics. Some of the hardy 360 competitors were downright portly. I’m a wraith compared to lots of those folks. Does looking like you could finish the race count for anything? I thought not. Michael Duran, a Taos friend who has completed 7 of the last 10 Leadville 100 Mile Trail Races, told me that carrying extra weight could be an advantage. He said that in the Leadville 100, as in miles, they weigh you at every check point and kick you out of the race if you’ve lost too much weigh.

These days I don’t have any poundage to give up. So, I’ll have to fatten up before I do the Trans-Rockies Race next year. I bet I’ll be the oldest competitor.


Blacks Crossing said...

The itch indeed. Racing is a little like actors who go on stage and have abundant nerves leading to everything from vomiting to losing voices. Great writing about finding good coffee shops in the sea of convince store java. And my question is: are you going to scratch that 80 year itch next year in Leadville? That would be an appropriate celebration indeed. You'll need to stoke your body this winter! What a fun prospect. Enjoy it and the training! With luck, your blog readers will be able to participate in the process through words and photographs.

Steve Immel said...

It's more tongue in cheek than anything. Between my back and balance it's a pipe dream. I ran 1:20 today, Tuesday, and can run as long as my back allows. Two hours, yes. 4-6 hours doubtful.

Thanks for cheering me on in my make believe world.