Leadville Pacers Guide

This is a guide to the Leadville Trail 100 Run, for Pacers, Crew, and Racers. Although focused mainly on pacing, I think the information us valuable to crew and runners too.

Since 1996, I’ve paced and crewed 8 times, raced twice with top-20, sub-23hr finishes, and have coached several runners. I’ve worked with runners from all parts of the pack including perennial top 5 finisher Joe Kulak, several 25-27 hour finishers, and runners who have dropped. I have also crewed at the LT100 mountain bike race twice. I know the race from the inside out and gladly share my knowledge, including some insider tips that you can’t find elsewhere.

This was originally posted to the LT100 Yahoo Group, in 2004, and has been revised over the years. Use the Outline headings to navigate the different sections. Please send me feedback – comments, suggestions for improvement, critiques, or comment here.

  1. Pacing Basics: What is pacing. Why pacers. Should/can you pace.
  2. How To and Pacing Strategies.
  3. Pacing Legs. Tip: Don’t change at Halfmoon. Change at Tree Line or Fish Hatchery instead.
  4. Pacing Gear.
  5. Crew and Aid Stations.
  6. Finding a pacer, or runner to pace. It’s possible even on race day.

1. Pacing Basics

  • Why pacing is important.
  • Muling.
  • Should you pace?
  • Can you pace?

What is pacing? Briefly, pacing is accompanying a runner during the race. A pacer is part friend, coach, psychologist, nutritionist, and mule (see below). A good pacer can play a big part in a runner’s success, sometimes even determining whether or not a runner even finishes. Ultra running is as much a psychological challenge, as it is a physical one. A pacer can do a lot to help a runner through the rough spots.

Muling refers to carrying gear for the racer. Unlike most other ultras, muling is not only allowed at Leadville, it is encouraged. This can mean carrying food, water, clothing, lights, and batteries. I’ll talk about what and how to carry stuff in the Gear section.

Should you pace? Yes. If you or a friend are still on the fence about pacing, jump in. Pacing is a fun and motivating. You’ll feel their joys and triumphs, their pain and struggles. It can be an extremely powerful experience to be out there with “ordinary” people doing amazing things.

Pacing is also a great way to learn about Leadville and ultras. If you’re thinking about getting into ultras, this is a great way to learn, from the inside, about the course, race tactics, managing crew and pacers, gear, nutrition, the mental challenge, etc.

Who can pace? Almost anyone. You don’t have to be an ultra runner. You don’t have to be that fast. Most racers will be doing a lot more walking than running over the last 50 miles. Even when they do run, it won’t be that fast. Only the top runners will be running sub 10 min/mile pace, even on the flats.

Pacing legs are as short as 4 miles, or as long as 50. So, you don’t have to be able to go that far. Even if you do end up going longer than you’re used to, you’ll probably be going a lot slower than you’re used to going on your long runs. So, as long as you are taking in fuel and fluids, you may be surprised at how easy it is to go far. My first ultras were done pacing at Leadville.

You don’t even have to be a “runner.” A good, strong, hiker can make a great pacer. As I said above, most of the racers will be walking most of the last 50 miles. So, if you can hike for several hours, at night, at 10,000′, you can pace many of the runners in the field, especially over the mountain passes where they’ll likely be walking anyway. I have a friend, who has paced several times, who can’t run a 60 minute 10k, but is a strong hiker.

2. How to Pace
There’s more to pacing than just tagging along. In this section, I will give you tips to help you get the most out of your runner, and get the most out of your pacing experience, and how to deal with a struggling runner.

  • Where/How to run – in front, behind, along side.
  • Hand-offs.
  • Talking vs. Silence.
  • Dealing with a Struggling Racer.
  • Injured Runner.
  • Getting Dropped

Rule #1: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST! You can’t help, and may even hurt your runner’s chances if you end up struggling. Make sure that you have enough food, fluids, the proper clothing, lights, extra batteries, etc. At Leadville, you need to be prepared for varied terrain, rapidly changing weather, and to be out there longer than expected. I’ll talk more about gear in part 3, later.

Rule #2: You are there to be of service to the runner. It’s their race. Put your own personal agendas aside for a few hours and strive to accommodate whatever wishes they have.

Everyone has different preferences about where they want you, what they want you to carry, how much they want you to talk, etc. Let the runner dictate the routine and the relationship. If you know your runner/pacer, talk about these things ahead of time. If you’re meeting each other on race day, use the start of your time together to figure out a routine. Regardless of what you may have worked out, be prepared to change. The runner will likely go through different emotional and physical states during the race. Each change may require a different routine.

Where to run? Some like you in front of them, some behind, some alongside. When I’m racing, on a single-track trail, I runner usually like to be in front – I like to see the terrain, and the unobstructed sight helps me go faster – with my pacer behind. This is especially true on the steep climbs and descents, like Hope Pass. Others like their pacer in front. Having the pacer set the pace helps pull them along.

When running behind, you’ll want to stay far enough back so that you have clear view of the trail (you don’t want to be staring at their heels or back the whole way), yet close enough that you can hear them talk, and quickly scoot up to hand them a water bottle, etc. When running in front, look back periodically and try to maintain a constant distance.

When the trail is wider, many runners want their pacer alongside. When I’m pacing, I’ll always try to give the runner the inside on curves, often crossing from side to side, behind the runner, as the trail bends.

This may change at night. While I generally want my pacer behind me during the day, at night, on rocky single-track, I like having them in front. They can pick the better line through the rocks so I don’t have to think about it, and the extra light in front helps illuminate the trail; from behind can cast a shadow. There are a few very short sections that are extremely rocky (especially along the Colo Trail, from Hagerman Rd down to Mayqueen). There, it may help for the pacer to go through first, then turn and shine their lights down on the rocks as the runner traverses them. See more on lights below.

When handing stuff, I use a baton relay style hand off. They’ll tell me what they want. When I have it ready, I’ll move closer and tell the runner to hold out his/her hand. This allows both of you to keep moving while you’re exchanging gear.

To talk or not to talk? That depends on the runner. I’ve seen runners and pacers chatting for hours. Others like to stay stoic and focused. Even then, it’s still a good idea to check in with them periodically and see how they’re feeling. Remind them to eat and drink if necessary, but don’t nag. They may ask you to remind them to take an electrolyte tablet at a specific time interval.

Everyone struggles at some point in an ultra. Success depends on how you deal with the low points. A pacer can help a runner get through those times. However, lifting the spirits of a struggling runner can be a difficult task. There are no simple tricks. Everyone deals with the struggles differently and responds to different tactics. As a pacer, be prepared to try different things and see how the runner responds. Have a few stories or jokes ready. Mental struggles are often caused by physical struggles, so make sure they eat and drink.

Try to keep them moving. Each step gets them that much closer to the finish. Look for and point out milestones and positives; e.g., “good effort on that last hill.” Touching their back or shoulder can help. You’re not allowed to push them, but often a light touch seems to help their energy. You can play games with them to keep them moving, such as running to the next tree. One time, I had to negotiate with my runner. We agreed on having him run for 30 seconds (on the flats), with a minute of walking. I had the watch, so I tricked him, and had him run for a minute at a time. Even someone feeling strong may need some reminders to run the flat and downhill sections. Remind them to keep their leg speed up. Short, quick strides are usually more efficient and faster than long, slow strides, especially when they’re tired.

No matter how much they are hurting, it’s often better to have them go a bit faster, or at least keep the same pace, rather than slowing down. If it doesn’t hurt any less when they slow down, they might as well go fast (relatively). The sooner they finish, the sooner the pain will stop.

There’s a rare incident that your runner will get hurt between Aid Station (AS). If that happens, you need to make sure your runner is safe, then get word to the nearest AS. In most cases, you should stay with your runner. Chances are, another runner/pacer will be along soon. Tell them your runner’s name and number, and ask them to get the word to the AS crew. Many pacers are EMTs and are willing to help the runner. In that case, it may be better to let them stay with the runner, and have you run to the nearest AS. Don’t administer medical assistance yourself if you are not qualified to do so. If you are a pacer and come across an injured runner, be prepared to leave your healthy runner to get to the nearest AS as quickly as possible, even if that means running back along the course.

In 1999, a friend of mine was pacing someone up the Powerline. His runner became hypothermic. They laid down along the trail, and the pacer spooned with the runner to help keep him warm. An EMT pacer came along with his runner. The EMT stopped, while his runner kept going to get word to the AS. They got the runner moving again. He regained his energy and finished strongly.

Occasionally, a runner will drop a pacer, meaning that the pacer can’t keep up. It’s not the responsibility of the runner to wait for the pacer. If, as a pacer, you find yourself struggling to keep up, it’s up to you to let the runner know, and to tell them to go ahead without you. If you’re the runner, and you find your pacer is repeatedly falling behind, you need to ask them if they’re OK. As long as they’re not injured, if they’re holding you up, it’s OK to go ahead on your own. Remember rule #1 of pacing – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST! Even if the pacer is slightly injured, if they are well enough to be able to get to an aid station on their own, and they have enough clothing, food and fluids, it still may be OK to leave them.

3. Pacing Legs

There are four main pacing legs:

  • Winfiled to Twin Lakes (TL)
  • TL to Treeline or Fish Hatchery (FH) - NOT HALFMOON
  • FH to Mayqueen
  • Mayqueen to the Finish
  • There are also a couple of shorter ones.

The descriptions and mileage can help you find your way and gauge your time and distance, whether you are pacing or running. I’ve done this for 10 years, and I believe my intermediate mile estimates are more accurate than the course description on the LT100 web site.

Winfield, 50mi – Twin Lakes, 60.5mi
This is my favorite section to pace. There are great views, both from the summit towards town, and behind you, to the south, as you are climbing. Everyone goes over the top in daylight, so you can enjoy the views. It’s also the earliest pacing section, so your runner be relatively fresh and more likely in good spirits.

From Winfield, it’s ~2.5mi, slightly downhill, on a dirt road, to the trailhead. This stretch can be quite crowded in the middle of the pack, with runners and cars going in both directions. In past years you could crew and start pacing at the trailhead, rather than at the turnaround. This cut down on much of the vehicle traffic along the course. Unfortunately, that’s not allowed any more.

From the trailhead, you climb 2,900′ in ~2.5mi to Hope Pass. Everyone (except Matt Carpenter) hikes this section. The first half is forested. If it rains, it can be surprisingly (for Colorado) humid in the trees ans slippery. You’ll pass two rocky stretches a couple of minutes apart. The second one seems to be about half-way to the top, in terms of time. Once you clear the trees, you can almost see the pass. It’s still a long way, with some extra steep sections (as if it wasn’t already steep enough). You are exposed here. So, if you have wet weather, you’ll want to keep moving quickly.

From the top, you’ll see the Hopeless aid station (AS) in the meadow below, ~¾ mile down the trail.

Below Hopeless, you can really fly if you’re a good downhill runner. You enter the forest shortly after leaving the AS. The first part of the trail has pretty good footing. As you get lower, parts of the trail are rocky and rooted.

When you come out of the trees at the bottom, you have ~1.5mi to Twin Lakes. You’ll continue north and cross the river. If the water is high, there may be a rope to help you across. After crossing the river, the trail turns south. This last stretch can be marshy. As you’re heading south, look for a round hill on your left. Once around this hill, you’re only ~100 yards from the TL lot. Look for their crew in the parking lot, or continue through the lot, left across the road, up a block, then left to the AS.

Twin Lakes, 60.5, – Treeline, 72.5, or Fish Hatchery (FH), 76.5.
This is the prettiest section, in daylight, and the nicest running trail of the course.

There’s a short, steep hill leaving the aid station, a short, steel drop, then a right turn onto a steep, rocky, 4wd road. You then hit a single-track and enter the trees. This is a nice, rolling climb, ~2mi. The sub-25 runners will run large parts of the climb. At a small, dirt, parking area, you merge with the Colorado Trail, go left, and cross a bridge. This is nice, rolling terrain, through groves of aspen and pine. After another couple of miles, you’ll take a right off the Colorado Trail. This is a new section, added in 2009, and I haven’t been on it. It’s ~8.5mi from Twin Lakes to the Halfmoon AS.

DON’T SWITCH PACERS AT HALFMOON. During the race, crew vehicles are not allowed on the road above Treeline. In order to start/end pacing at Halfmoon, you’ll have to hike or bike in/out. If you start pacing at Twin Lakes, you should continue down the road to Treeline, or on to FH.

From Halfmoon, it’s ~2mi down the Pipeline road. Go left, and it’s ~1mi up to Treeline. You should be able to see lights and hear noise from the crews as you approach. You come into Treeline from the SE and turn right. Crews set up along the dirt road, just below the last line of trees – thus the name Treeline.

From Treeline, continue another 1 mi down the dirt road. On the return, cars share this stretch of road with the runners. Near the end of the dirt road, the runners veer left onto the old road. This is a little shorter, and rockier, than the dirt road sections where the cars go. Go left for ~1.5 miles on the paved road, then left for another 1.5mi up to FH. This is most people’s least favorite part to race or pace. However, if you’re looking for a short pacing section, this may be for you.

Fish Hatchery, 76.5, – Mayqueen, 86.5

This take you up the infamous power line, and over the last big hill of the course, Sugarloaf. Maintaining good energy is important on the climb. If you are cold and your energy lags, you may not be able to move fast enough on the climb to stay warm.

Exit down from the AS, then go left 1 mile along the paved road to the trail head. Sometimes the residents cheer you on from the houses along the road. The road rises from FH. It crests around a right curve. The road curves back to the left, drops a bit steeply just before the power line trail. Look for a small dirt road dropping off to the left. There are usually crew waiting by the trail head, but last year, there wasn’t when a first time LT100 racer and pacer came through. They missed the turn and were about another mile down the road before someone directed them back.

Go left onto the power line trail. Cross the creek (look for wood planks on the right). Take a left shortly after the creek under the powerlines. The wide path winds off to the left of the powerlines for a couple of hundred yards, then back under the powerlines before the real climbing starts.

The first pitch is the steepest, so don’t be too intimidated. There’s a short, steep downhill just after that. Then, it’s a series of seemingly endless stair steps. Many runners will walk the steep pitches, then jog the flats. Don’t let your runner get lazy. Don’t be fooled by the false summits. The top is where you cross the Colorado Trail and emerge from the forest cover.

From the top, the 4wd road starts flat, or even a little uphill, then descends and gradually gets steeper as you wind though a couple of turns. Parts of this road can be rocky. You take a sharp, right turn at the Hagerman road, the first one you hit. It’s almost exactly 1mi down that road to the trail. Look for flagging, in the daytime, or glow sticks, at night. Go left down onto trail. The first part is the steep and loose. After that the descent is fairly mild, but the trail is quite rocky and rooty. You cross 3 bridges on the way down. The last one is only ~150 yards from the road. As you hit the road, there’s usually someone taking your number and radioing it on to the aid station. Go right down the paved road, and it’s ~1/3 mi to Mayqueen. Go left into the campground, cross the bridge, then left up the dirt to the AS tent.

Mayqueen, 86.5 – Finish
Bringing someone home can be the most fun and inspiring part of pacing. The trail around the lake is fun to run, especially in daylight, but most runners will be coming through there at night, and most will be walking

Exit the tent and head down the dirt to the road, go left on the paved road for ½mi, then onto the trail around the lake. This first part is a true single track. It is rocky in spots, but not overly technical. It rolls up and down, but never gets too far from the lake. The Tabor boat ramp, the last crew stop, is ~5¼mi from Mayqueen. It comes up on you quick, so you may not even see it until you are there.

After Tabor, the trail becomes pretty flat, smooth and open. This is a good place to stretch out your stride, if you have the legs. If you’re coming through this stretch at night, pay attention to the glow sticks marking the trail. You run by several campgrounds, and it’s easy to get drawn off the trail to the left, away from the lake, by the campground lights. It’s ~1.5mi to the other boat ramp, then another ~1/2mi to the end of the trail.

The end of the Turquoise Lake Trail, where you cross the road, can be another good place to crew and change pacers. Although it’s not an official crew station, race management is aware that people crew there and condone it (at least before the sale in 2010). Check with the new race management. There’s about 6.5mi to go. This last stretch is all on dirt and paved roads, so it’s good for someone who doesn’t like trails. For crewing, there’s a dirt turnout, with room for several cars, on the S side of the road, a bit E of the T road intersection, at the top of the short power line section. This is a lot easier to get to, and easier to find at night than the Tabor boat ramp.

Jog left across the road, then down a short, steep, rocky section, under a power line. Turn left at the bottom of the short trail, onto the dirt road. Continue up the dirt road for ~1.25mi, then another ¼ mi on the paved road to the RR tracks. Note: just before the RR tracks, where the road crosses the river, can be the coldest part of the course. Both you and the runner should be prepared, but it warms up (relatively) quickly as you rise to the RR tracks. There’s about 4.5 mi to go from the RR tracks.

Go right and follow alongside the RR tracks for ~1mi. This is a flat, but undulating road. There can be pools of water in the dips. Go left up a short, steep hill. You are now on the “Boulevard.” The top of the steep hill is ~5km to go. The road is wide and smooth, and the grade fairly moderate. If it’s raining, it’ll be muddy and a bit slick. You’ll see a streetlight at the end of the dirt road. Don’t get too excited yet. The light is still almost 1 mi away. The road bends left ~80 yards before you reach the pavement. This is 1mi from the finish.

Once you hit the pavement, give it all you’ve got for the uphill finish. You can have all of your pacers and crew meet you at the bottom of 6th, and escort you up to the finish. At the crest of the hill, ~½ mi to go, look for a volunteer on the right side of the street. He/she will ask for your number, then radio ahead to the finish so that they can announce your impending arrival. It’s another 2 blocks down, then 3 blocks up to the finish.

If you’re looking for a shorter leg to pace, try the following: 1) Treeline to Fish Hatchery; 1mi dirt and 3mi paved road. 2) End of Turquoise Lake Trail to finish; ~6.5mi, dirt and paved roads. See above for descriptions.

4. Pacing Gear

Pacing is different than doing a training run. First, think in terms of time, not mileage. Think of Hope Pass as a 2.5-5 hour run, not a 10 mi run. Most runners will take 2-4 hours between most aid stations (AS). However, a struggling runner might take a lot longer. Be prepared for the worst.

Second, you will likely be going slower than on a training run. Going slower is not necessarily easier. If you haven’t done much hiking, slow running, or power hiking on steep trails, you may be using unfamiliar muscles for a stride that’s a lot slower than you are used to. You will also be generating less body heat than you may be used too. Thus, you may need more food and clothing than you expect.

Also, the weather in the mountains can change rapidly. Even if it’s sunny when you start, it could turn cold and wet before you get to the next AS. Almost every year, I see people leaving Twin Lakes or Winfield without a warm shirt or jacket, when it’s sunny. And, almost every year, it’s cold and wet over Hope Pass.

Carry more than enough food, fluids, clothing, etc. to get you to the next AS. Going back to my key rule, in my part 1 posting, make sure you take care of yourself first. If you struggle, you can’t help your runner. If you are going to “mule” for your runner, carry their food and gear, you’ll also need room for that. I race light, but pace heavy.

How do you carry all of that gear? When I’m pacing, I like to carry a medium size hiking/mountain biking type hydration pack, or a small adventure racing pack. I prefer something on my back for pacing, over a hip pack, because they usually have more space for gear, and leave the waist free for other stuff (e.g., an additional pack for water bottles, tying shirts). Look for something that holds a 70-100oz hydration bladder, with storage for clothing, food, batteries, etc.

I also like wearing a bike shirt when I’m pacing. I can use the pockets for smaller items that I’ll need to get more quickly and frequently (e.g., gels, gloves, batteries). It takes a little extra time to get to my stuff from my pack.

I try to carry as much of my runner’s stuff as possible. I may use a one or two bottle hip pack for his/her bottles, in addition. I’ve even carried a 3rd bottle in my hand. One year, I carried my runners hip based CamelBak, and handed her the tube whenever she wanted a drink. Don’t be afraid to load yourself to make it easier, and lighter, for your runner. Remember, you’re there to serve them.

Practice tying clothing around your waist. This can include shirts, jackets and pants. One year, my runner was very cold, and left Fish Hatchery wearing a lot of extra layers. He started shedding them by the time we started climbing Powerline. At one point, I had a long sleeve shirt, fleece pullover, rain jacket, and rain pants tied around my waist, in addition to the CamelBak and hip pack. By the top, he became cold and it was snowing, so we ended up using it all. There’s a helpful technique for tying jackets: 1)pull the zipper almost all the way down; 2)take your arms out and tie the sleeves around your waist; 3)pull the zipper up as much as you can; 4)tuck the sleeves inside and roll the jacket up under the zipper. This helps keep the jacket tight and from flapping around.

You might want to carry a small, first aid kit: band-aids, moleskin, Ibuprofen, space blanket, etc. Check with the runner. Carry a watch. It’ll help you judge the distance, and keep track of how often both of you are eating/drinking.

Lights – Carry a light, even if you expect to finish in daylight. Things can happen on the course, and you may be out longer than you think. Carry extra batteries, know where they are, and how to change them on the run. Light technology has improved greatly in the last couple of years, and the prices have come down greatly, so there’s no reason not to have a bright light or two. Get a light that’s designed more for running, or at least fast hiking, at least 25 lumens. Lights for use around camp may not be bright enough for moving briskly along the trail. Two lights are often better than one, with the brighter light in your hand. Two lights give better vision because different angles overcome shadows created by a single light. Having the brighter light down low keeps the glare away from your eyes, improving contrast. A second light also lets you shine the light on the trail in front of the runner on a particularly rocky section, while you can still use the headlamp for yourself. While a hand light is not as easy to carry, a simple handle, even one made out of duct tape, lets you keep the light in your hand while keeping your fingers free to grab things out of packs or pockets. Hand lights are usually cheaper than headlights. When approaching others, point your light down or too the side, away from their eyes.

If you’re continuing to pace through the next section, you’ll probably need to refuel. If your runner has a crew, arrange to have them carry your gear and food. Pack it neatly and compactly, and so that it’s easily accessible. Ask them to have it out for you at the next AS, if possible. However, it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself. Their priority should be on the racer.

As a pacer, you can also use the AS supplies. The AS will be stocked with the typical ultra fare: water, Powerade, Power Gels, hot soup (e.g., Ramen noodle, potato, chicken), fruit (e.g., bananas, oranges), PB&J sandwiches, chips, pretzels, fig bars, brownies, etc. I’ll discuss how to be quick and efficient in the AS below.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Help your racer first, then be prepared to take care of your own needs. You can always take some extra time for yourself, then catch up to them on the trail. I’ll talk about dealing with crew and aid stations in the next part.

5. Crew and Aid Stations (AS)

A pacer can help save the runner a lot of time at AS. A lot of middle and back-of-the-pack runners say that a few minutes here and there don’t matter. I’m not sure why AS time is any less important to them than it is to the leaders. All that AS time adds up. Even just 5 min in each AS means almost an hour of not moving forward. Most of the leaders won’t spend more than 10-15 minutes in all the AS for the entire race. If you’re flirting with the cut-off times, 30 hours or the big buckle (25), those AS minutes become even more important.

Crew and pacers should be ready to react quickly to change. Many runners make plans ahead of time, but things can change during the race. In 2002, I had prepared detailed plans for my crew. However, a bottle of bad Cytomax left me with an upset stomach only an hour into the race. Both me and my crew had to quickly and repeatedly adjust our plans.

Some crews and pacers have use walkie-talkies. In the last couple of years, texting and tweeting have become more popular. However, even with crowded channels, I still prefer radios. All you need is a quick message; e.g., “Runner 264 is 10 min out from Twin Lakes.” Texting at night, on a rocky trail, is not any easier, or safer, than while driving. And, the signal is weak or non-existent on large parts of the course. In 2010, I remember reading dozens of tweets from runners coming off Hope Pass, that were hours old by the time they got a signal and were posted. The pacer will carry the radio and call in when they are 5-10 minutes out. You can pick up a 2-pack of radios for $30-$50, and a 4-pack for not a lot more.

As you’re coming into an AS as a pacer, you should find out what the runner wants (e.g., food, drink, clothing). Then, just before the AS, you might want to run ahead and get the stuff ready. If you’re using a crew, find them, tell them what the runner wants, then go back and help guide the runner to the crew. If the runner is using drop bags, run ahead and get the bag from the AS crew, pull out the gear they want, get the food they want, and have it ready for them when they come into the AS. If you’re changing pacers, pass on any vital information (e.g., how the runner is feeling and what they want on the trail) to the new pacer.

Most of the time, the runner is better off continuing to move rather than stopping and sitting at AS. Try to get them out of the AS and moving as soon as possible. This is especially true late at night, when it’s cold. Your body generates heat when you’re moving. When you’re tired, your body will stop generating heat when you stop, and you start shivering. Shivering uses up a lot of energy. And, it can take a lot of extra time to warm up enough to be able to start moving again. I have seen way too many runners come into Fish Hatchery at night feeling fine, sit down to eat, start shivering within 30 seconds, then end up having to having to lay in a warm sleeping bag for up to an hour. A runner can save time by eating and changing tops while on the move, instead of sitting. Focus your efforts on the runner first. You can hang back to fill their bottles/bladder, grab clothing form crew or drop bags, get what you need, then catch up to them on the trail. The runner doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t wait for you.

How do you know when you’re getting close to an AS? Read the legs section above and the descriptions below.

Twin Lakes – After crossing the river, you’ll curve right and head East. You’ll see a round hill ahead on the left. The Twin Lakes lot is about 100 yards past the hill. When I’m pacing, I’ll often run ahead, as I approach the hill.

Halfmoon (AS, no crew) – I haven’t been on this section since they changed the course in 2009.

Treeline (crew, no AS) – As you’re coming up the dirt road, at Pipeline (AS for the 100mi bike), the road curves right, then you take an quck left, back to the WNW. It’s ~1/2mi more to Treeline. The road drops down, and then rises just before Treeline. At night, you’ll probably see the lights and hear the noise from the crews before you get there. Sometimes there’s a volunteer taking numbers just before you hit the crew area, and calling them out loudly

Fish Hatchery – 4 miles from Treeline. You’ll see it as you’re running up the road. You make a left and go ~50m up to the AS, and then back out the same way as you’re leaving.

Mayqueen – It’s about 1/3 mi from the end of the trail down the paved road. There’s usually someone there who radios ahead with your bib#, so they can alert waiting crew. I usually run ahead when I hit the road.

Tabor boat ramp – It’s about 5¼ mi from Mayqueen. There isn’t a good advance point. You probably won’t see it until you are there.

Often a better place to crew (check to make sure it’s OK), on the return, is at the end of the Turquoise Lake Trail, where it crosses the road, just E of the dam. About 1/2 mile after the second boat ramp, you go up a short, steep hill to the road. Crews should park in the turnout, across the road, a bit E of the Turquoise trail, where the runners head down under the power line. Please don’t block the road or trail. Although it’s not an official crew station, race management is aware that people crew there and condone it (at least before the sale in 2010). Check with the new race management.

6. Finding a runner/pacer
It’s not too late to find a runner/pacer, even on race day. There are several web sites that are good for finding pacers. You can also find both pacers, and runners to pace on race day. I have done this several times, after my runner has dropped out, or after I’ve finished pacing and wanted to do more.

Some of the good websites to find pacers:

On race day, if you’re looking to pace – this includes those of you who’s runners have dropped out – you can pick up someone to pace at the AS. Show up at an AS ready to go. Make a point to look like you’re ready to go – wear running clothes, carry a pack, have your lights with you. As you see runners coming in alone, ask them if they want/need a pacer. Be and look eager, but don’t pester. Let the AS crew know that you are looking to pace. Sometimes a runner will ask the AS crew if they know of any pacers. Announce your presence loudly and make yourself very visible. A crew might know if their runner wants a pacer. I’ve picked up runners to pace this way twice, at Fish Hatchery – once by being ready to go when a runner came in asking if anyone wanted to pace, and another when a runner’s parents talked their son into having me help him. Both times were great experiences for both of us.

If you’re a runner and want a pacer, announce it loudly as you enter an AS. Let the AS crew know. They may know of someone who wants to pace. Or, you may come across someone who just came to watch or cheer on a friend, and becomes so enthused about the experience, they make a spur of the moment decision to pace when asked. This happened with a friend of mine. We were up there watching friends and crewing. She hadn’t planned on pacing. As we were getting ready to leave Winfield, she suddenly decided it would be fun to pace. As we were driving out the road (slowly), she started asking runners she saw heading back toward the Hope Pass trail alone. After several tries, she found a taker. I drove her up ahead to give her time to get ready, then she met the runner and took her over the hill to Twin Lakes.

Your best bet is with runners in the middle to back of the pack. Most of the top runners already have pacers, although couple of them might still be looking for a pacer. Don’t bee too picky. Pacing runners of different abilities offers different experience, and a chance to see the race from different angles, but all can be very enjoyable and rewarding. I’ve paced runners from the top 5 to back of the pack.

The best places to find a runner/pacer are at Twin Lakes (TL) and Fish Hatchery (FH), also called Outward Bound, on the return.

At TL, 60.5mi, the leader typically comes through around 2:00pm. The best time to find a runner/pacer is from ~6:00-9:15pm. You can still find people until the cutoff, 9:45pm, but runners coming in much after 9:15 will have difficulty making the later cut-offs. I think it’s best to wait at the AS. Many of the crew will be in the parking lot across the street or along the dirt road. You might want to announce your availability to crews there too.

At FH, 76.5mi, the leader typically comes through around 5:00pm. The best time to find a runner/pacer is from ~9:30pm, until the cutoff, 3:00am. The AS is the best place to hang out. You can keep warm and get food while you are waiting.

Winfield, the turnaround, is also a good place to find a runner/pacer. The leader might come through around noon. The best time to find a runner/pacer is from 2:00-5:00pm. Although the cutoff is 6:00pm, most reaching Winfield after 5pm are unlikely to finish the race, and after 5:30 unlikely to reach Twin Lakes before that cut-off.

Mayqueen, 86.5mi, is also an option, but is very late in the race. Most runners have their pacers set by that time, or don’t want to change their routine. However, it can be a great experience to help a mid to back of the pack runner through the final leg. The leader might come through MQ by 7:00pm. The best time to find a runner/pacer is from ~1:00am until the cutoff, 6:30am. Runners at the cut-off still have a decent chance of finishing before the final 30hr cut-off, but it’s not easy.

It’s not too hard to get a ride to an AS, or back to your car after the race. Often, you can hitch a ride from town, near the start/finish, out to one of the AS. You may find crew/friends in town after the start. You can also make announcements at one of the restaurants in town, where friends and other pacers will eat before heading out. I used to list the likely restaurants here, but since so many go out of business or change names, about any of the ones along Harrison (Main St) are worth checking.

If you drive yourself out, it’s pretty easy to get a ride back after the race. Ask people at the finish line Sunday morning, or at the awards that noon. Getting to Winfield might be a bit of a problem. If that’s where you plan to start pacing, you might be better off leaving your car at Twin Lakes or Fish Hatchery, and hitching a rideout from there. If you are going to hitch a ride out, Get there early enough so that most of the crews are still there as their runners head out on Sat morning, 8:00-9:30am at FH, or 10:00am-1:00pm at Twin Lakes. Most crews are friendly and helpful. You just have to ask.


5 thoughts on “Leadville Pacers Guide

  1. This is a great resource! I’ve paced four ultras and am pacing Leadville for the third time this year. I’ll give this another thorough read-through before then and will pass it on to others. I don’t think I can add much, but I might amend “Who can pace?” to almost anyone who loves running in the mountains in bad weather through the middle of the night. It’s really important that a pacer keeps a positive attitude, and odds are pretty good that the conditions will suck.

    • Actually, I’ve had mostly good conditions at Leadville. It gets cold, but that’s to be expected. The only time I’ve had conditions that sucked was in 1999. It started raining around 11pm night and continued into the morning. It was actually snowing lightly atop Sugarloaf. The boulevard was a sloppy mess – not all that bad as trail races go, but difficult when you’re 97mi into an ultra. Still, we didn’t get that wet. The rain tends to be fairly dry in Colo. And, rain isn’t that common in Leadville in August. I do agree with you that the pacer (and crew) need to be prepared for whatever the course throws at you.

  2. Awesomje guide, we are pacing/crewing a runner for the first time, and this will help us to be there for her…:) Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Leadville Pre Race + Pacer/Crew Plan « Mile High Running

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