Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hauling Ass at the 2013 Leadville Boom Days Burro Race

Some people go to Leadville to run 100 miles.  I think that's pretty cool but it wasn't the reason I was there, (at least not yet)
I was there to race 
I have won two burro races's in the past?
 but in CA we do it a little different and I don't think those count.
What was I getting myself into I had no F'N clue?

At the Outdoor Retail Expo I asked both 
 Scott Jurek 
and Anton Krupicka for advice?
They both responded with dumbfounded smiles and wished me luck.
I have always had a love for burritos.
and I did once pet a Burro in Mexico.
This should be easy, right? 
I had been growing a beard just for this event because everybody knows burros love beards.
The day before the race I drove from Leadville down to Winter park Co (about 2 hours away to pick up my Mas Loco buddy Tyler who would also be racing with me
If we could tackle a few Volcano's together we could handle a stinking burro.

Where does someone procure a burro you ask?
Good Question.
Micah hauling ass.
I had been intrigued with the idea of Burro racing since my friend Caballo Blanco (Micah True) told me about it a couple years ago while I was crewing at the Leadville 100.

Sadly Caballo passed away last year.
Shortly after his passing his Soul mate and my good friend Maria (La Mariposa) ran with the same Burro "Samaritan" and ran the Leadville burro race in his honor.

What I though might be a difficult endeavor? (getting a burro)  Turned out to be quite easy.  I sent a message to Maria and she forwarded me "Samaritans's" owner's contact info and within a few hours I had my burro procured and I was really excited that it was the Ass got passed on to me.
That evening  Tyler and I met up  with Samaritan's owner.
Where's your beard Roger?
(I thought all Burro racers  had beards)
We didn't have time to check out the Burros but we did have time to check out the course. 
(the views were pretty damn spectacular.)
 Not only did we get to meet Roger we also met Jill his little firecracker of a girlfriend (No beard either?) who would be racing with Tyler and I the next morning.  Both of them were super nice and even if this burro race ended in disaster I was thankful to make a couple new friends.

After talking strategy while downing a few Stones Ales it was time to go to bed.
No need for alarm Clock.
Nothing like the sweet sounds of burros to wake you up in the morning
Leadville is small town of about 5,000 people and it just so happens that the house Tyler and I were staying at shares a fence with the burro staging ground
God Morning Samaritan. my new best friend.
Roger showing me the ropes, well it turns out there is just one rope, it's 15 feet long and you better hold on.
Roger's brother Rick (yes also no beard) would also be racing with us.  He was coming off a win at the World Championships the week prior and is held in such high regards that other burro racers snuck rocks into his burro's saddle
After brushing the Ass's ass for bit the burro seemed pretty happy. I really had no idea what to expect still but I was optimistic.

Time to go weigh in my saddle
Each saddle must weigh at least 32lbs and contain a pan, a pick and shovel.  I wanted to bring my camera but I was so cocky that I didn't think I would have time to take any pics
It turns out the burro and I had the same haircut.  
It's hard to tell us apart. Can you guess which one is the dumb ass and which one is the smart ass? 
Tough call?

I guess they don't get too many dudes racing Burros in sandals because the President of the Pack Burro Association came and gave Tyler lecture on how we needed shoes and that he didn't want us losing a toe out there.  Probably some wise advice but i wasn't in Leadville CO because I was smart I was there for adventure.

Any way Tyler and I are probably the 2 most experienced Sandal clad runners in the country.  when you run in sandals you develop a higher subconscious awareness to where your feet are landing.  In this case we would also need to be hyper aware of where our burro and other peoples burros were striking as well.
Tyler ended up with much smaller burro  named 
(A big burro is good if it running but a small burro is easier to drag if it is not.)

The Course
You start in town, run a few blocks, turn up  a hill for a few miles then roll up and down a bit before climbing up over 13,000 to Mosquito pass you then come back down the way you went up and make a round about 
trip back into town with a bit more climbing totaling  roughly 22 miles mostly fire road.

Nothing to it but to do it!

Roger had warned me that Samaritan gets very excited  when the race is about to begin. Weighing in at about 6 times my weight with the saddle he was one of the larger burros in the race.  Rodger stayed with me at the starting line as Samaritan started to go a little crazy.  It kind of felt like it was the first day of school and I was the only kid that needed his mommy there so he would cry.  That being said I was pretty thankful because I had no clue what I was getting myself into.
I had lined up near the back with the game plan of fallowing Rodger's brother most of the way.  Burro's are pack animals and they are more inclined to run if the burro in front of them is doing so.

Well that game plan didn't last very Samaritan was ready to go! quickly I moved my towards the front.
As we climbed out of town I wrapped the rope under my ass and let Samaritan pull me up the hill.
"This Burro racing is pretty damn easy."

I contemplated taking the lead but decided to back off a little remembering that it is easier to follow than lead.  For two miles I thought god's gift to burro racing.

That's when things began to change
By the three mile mark Samaritan was done running, and for that matter he was pretty much done walking too.  We were only 3 miles in and I was still near the front.

My burro and I think pretty much every other burro as well has been trained to be led from the left side. I presume this is because most burro racers are right handed and this allows them to use the rope to smack the burro  on the ass when when it slows down.

With myself being a left handed pacifist with all strength of a 8 year old girl in my right arm (sorry to any 8 year old girls I may have offended) did not want hit my burro with the rope.  I was informed by Roger that I really couldn't hurt the burro even if I whipped him hard.  It's not really in my mentality but I did try.

With about the same force as I would maybe snap a wet towel on a friend I tried to get Samaritan moving.
"HY Yah"
The burro would just turn around and look an me.  I'd feel bad and rub his head.

Well so there we were not moving on the trail.
 It was now my turn to be the pack animal.  I took the rope and began to pull  this 850lb Donkey up to mosquito pass. For the next 3 hours I walked backwards up the the mountain with the rope wrapped around my waist, every 10 feet or so I leaned backwards trying to gain leverage with every pound I had in my feeble body in order to get the burro to move.
(if I were 10 pounds lighter I would have failed.)

Because I had such a good start I got to watch everyone pass me.  Each time a burro came by Samaritan would wake up for 50 steps before stopping dead in his tracks.

The top runners had been cruising down on their back. each one giving me the same advice
"You got to drive the Burro!"
Every 5 minutes or so I would try and each time I felt like a dick and each time I failed.

I knew I wasn't going to win. I decided to look at this experience like a day out out at a pond fishing (I never catch any fish nor do I try anymore)  I was in a beautiful mountain environment time to sit back and enjoy the scenery.  When Samaritan wanted to eat I'd stop, when a little stream trickled through the trail I'd let him drink.
When Caballo had raced Samaritan he had suffered a similar fate. A smile rolled over my face as I imagined him cursing at the absurdity of this stupid sport.
( I feel your pain brother!)

a couple miles from the top of Mosquito pass I was passed by Tyler who was working with a group of other burros but was also having a rough day.

A storm was rolling in on the next mountain there was a lightning and really hoped it wasn't heading my way!  At the top of the pass a volunteer asked me if there was still someone behind me?  I knew sucking but I didn't realize I was doing that bad.

It turns out there was one dude behind me and I missed out on winning the "Last Ass up the Pass" boobie prize by 5 minutes.
(I think I got to the top at about the same time the winner of the race finished)

I was still optimistic that Samaritan would start running once we started heading back down?
And that he did!
for about 3 minutes
At that point the rain began to fall but lucky for me the lightning stayed away.
I figured If it got too cold I could be like Luke Skywalker slice into Samaritan belly and use him as a sleeping bag.
(unfortunately I forgot light-saber)

 On the Plus side my Luna Oso Sandals were working great, my legs felt good and most surprisingly the altitude wasn't getting to me.
Slowly and surely we trudged down the hill.
I was hauling ass down the hill but burro racing that is the last thing you want to do.  Your much better off having the ass haul you.

Hour after hour passed until  there was Roger standing out on the trail. He didn't know I forgot my light-saber
When Samaritan saw him he began to run a bit. The last few miles was a mix of trotting and walking which may have shaved an hour off my final finishing time.

As I made the final turn up a a rainy  Harrison street down the heart of Leadville I had a police Escort to the  finish line as line of vehicles as far as the eye could see piled up behind the squad car .  Moving at about 1/2 a mile per hour I persevered. With a big a smile on my face, shirtless and sandal clad the looks I received from yahoo's on the side of road made the trek totally worth while.

I was now and official burro race finisher.
Ye hA!
Official time 7:05
I finished in 2nd to last place about 10 minutes behind Tyler and a little over 3:20 minutes behind the winner. But you know what?
The one dude I did beat won this same race just a few years prior.
You never know what's gonna happen
maybe there is hope for me after all?

By the time Tyler and I got to the awards ceremony/dinner it was already over and people were starting to leave.
To our surprise we received a belt buckle and free beer just for finishing!
Can you say
Tyler and I were both on cloud nine.
Rick, Jill, Myself, Tyler, Roger
Rick and Jill both ran great races and finished in the money.  A big congrats to both of them.  And a huge thank you to Roger Pedretti for giving me the the privilege of racing Samaritan.  Everyone in the Burro racing community treated Tyler and I with sincerity and respect.  We had no idea what we were doing and many others went out of their way to help us.
Thank you to everyone for making us feel like part of the family.

A few hours after the race Tyler and I were already thinking about doing another race in in Buena Vista the following weekend where maybe are luck would be a little better. Hopefully my burro's owner will have a beard.
Later that week they posted the results in the local paper, where you can see my picture haunting through the page from the 5k I placed 2nd in the day before.
Fast forward to the 11:50 point to see Tyler and I finish.

The video has few good shots from early in the race but what I really love (if you watch the whole thing) Is how it shows how far behind Tyler and I actually were.  When the first place finisher comes in it's a beautiful day, the streets are lined with people and and the Boom Days celebration is going at full steam. Slowly the booths in the background begin to disappear, the clouds move in and the people move out.  Eventually it is pouring rain there is almost nobody on the streets except for maybe a tumbleweed or two and then finally the two sandal clad dudes come marching into town.

If you want to know more about Burro racing I highly recommend this book, not only is the author one of the best in the sport he is also a really nice guy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Leadville Boom Days and the Vonnie's Voice 5k. A prelude to Burro Racing.

I drove all day on Friday and finally made it into Colorado.
  The plan was to meet up with my Burro in the evening out at Twin Lakes about 30 miles outside of Leadville
but alas my cell phone wasn't working so I figured I'd peruse the town a bit.
The boom days celebration was underway.  
In this particular event motorcycle riders had to lay down on a mattress. Then when the Moderator yelled "Honey I'm home" They threw on some britches climbed threw a wooden window and then throttled up their motorcycle riding it 100 or so yards as fast as they could.

(The rider just before this one lost control of his bike driving straight through a wooden sign on the sidewalk. Nobody was hurt, just par for the course and the crowd laughed it off eager for the next rider.)
That evening when I got back to my friend's home in Leadville The altitude was taking it's toll on me.  Walking up the stairs to my bed I got extremely winded. (Leadville elevation is over 10,000' plus I was on the second story) so I walked back down and had a few Stone Ales. 

While sitting around I thumbed through the preview magazine for 

Vonnie's Voice 5k at 8 a.m. the following morning
That sounds like a pretty stupid idea?
Bright and early the next morning there I was.  The race raised money for a Stalking Awareness organization everybody was super nice and it seemed like a worthy cause for my $35 to go to.
The competition was tough! Check out that dude's pumps.
"So Cool"

Time to Race
Lining up at the starting line there were a couple other dudes that looked fit.  I knew that pretty much suck at elevation but I had a bit of cockiness going for me, since I had won my last three 5k's. 
If I was getting winded climbing stairs the night before I wonder what's gonna happen when I try and run at top speed? Plenty of time to breathe after the race?

The three of us went out fairly fast on course that started downhill but then had a lot of short ups and downs.  We hit the mile mark in about 5:30 with me in third place by about 50'  One of the two guys in front looked like he was about to break.  It was now time for me to make a charge during a steep climb. 

Shortly there after it became a two man race but when I tried to push harder to take the lead I couldn't find any air to breathe.  For the first half of the race I was pretending to be properly acclimated and now I was paying the price.   First place was drifting away but at the same time my lead over third was also growing.

I kind of dogged it the last mile (I had nothing).  I was in Leadville to run the 22 mile Burro race the next day and there was was very little chance I would catch the leader.
(what a weenie I am!)
This kid probably would have beat me as well if he didn't skin his knees but I got him to tough it up and smile for a pic.  I think he was 6 years old and did the whole 5k.  
What a cool kid!
2nd Place
(I look exactly the same as when I began minus the gasps for air that lasted the next 20 minutes)

The dude who beat me was kid from CO working in Leadville for the summer.  He ran a good race and totally deserved to win and I'd love to race him again.
 Later that week I even made local paper
Just your average dude running 2 miles above sea level in a pair of 
Which ways the beach?
I did score me a cool mug.
and some interesting shwag.

After the race I had few hours to kill so I decided to watch the Boom Days Parade.
It was full of Shriners in funny cars,
and miners too young to hit up bars.
(I think you have to be at least 11 years old in Colorado)
It had former race directors
(Ken Choulber)
and future waste inspectors?

The burros were starting to arrive.
Time to go pic up my buddy Tyler Tomasello and get ready for tomorrows race.
What have we got ourselves into