IMPORTANT: Before you read this post, please click HERE for proper context into this unfolding story.
Billy and I pulled away from Leadville last year in silence. We didn’t need to say much; it was clear we were thinking the same thing…
I never want to see this place again.
I glanced in my rear view mirror one last time to see Hope Pass and the other majestic mountains that had served as ungracious hosts for the Leadville 100. Like a model at the end of a runway, they seemed to taunt us with their unmistakable confidence. The silence spoke quite loudly of how we had conceded the victory to the prideful peaks.
At the same time, I knew Scott well enough to know he would be back. He wouldn’t let the story end here. As much as we hoped he would move on to something else, neither “Humpty” nor “Dumpty” were about to make other plans.
As expected, Scott signed up again and asked us to be his pacers. Billy and I drove to Leadville last weekend prepared for round two. To say we were “prepared” is probably a bit of a stretch, but we were present and accounted for.
The first time I saw Scott during the race was in Twin Lakes. He had already logged 40 miles, and I thought he looked surprisingly good. I asked him how he felt, and he said, “Well, the good news is that I’m not feeling pain anymore. My legs are numb.”
He managed to flash a big Scotty J. smile and headed off to tackle Hope Pass, the twenty-mile stretch that included back-to-back climbs over the grueling pass. This is the section of the course that is notorious for throwing one upper cut after the next. It’s not just a matter of survival, but it’s also about time. A runner is required to make it back to Twin Lakes by 9:45pm in order to continue.
After nearly ten hours on Hope Pass (and 18 hours of continuous running), Scott appeared in the dark of the night in Twin Lakes. Tears filled my eyes as I saw him. He was moving slowly and his head was hung low. We didn’t have to tell him; he knew he had missed the cut off time. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but his dream of finishing was extinguished.
It wasn’t long before I realized that Humpty was missing. Billy had joined Scott at mile 50, but now he was nowhere to be found. Apparently, he had reinjured his already hobbled ankle coming down the pass, and he told Scott to continue without him. Realizing Billy wasn’t in danger, Scott sprinted the final two miles alone in a last ditch effort to make the checkpoint.
Scott was spent and seated at a picnic table by the time Billy made it back into Twin Lakes. Even though he was exhausted, cold, and in pain, Billy still managed to smile as he gave Scott a big hug. The group of family members and friends that surrounded Scott sat in silence. Nobody really knew what to say. Billy spoke up, “If you ever do this race again, I’m going to punch you in the face.” A roar of laughter erupted from the circle, and we eventually got around to saying our goodbyes.
A few minutes into the drive home, Billy spoke up again, “You can be his pacer next year over Hope Pass. I’ll pace him through an easier section of the course.”
“So, you’re agreeing to do this again?” I asked.
“Yes, if you agree to take Hope Pass.” He said.
It was an agreement I couldn’t make. Not because I refused to pace the section over the pass, but for different reasons.
I plan to be running.
Just not as a pacer.