Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jean – Leadville Crew Chief (2004, 2005, 2007 . . . & 2009?)

In the summary of our 2004 race I mentioned our valuable crew chief, Jean. Jean's birthday is tomorrow (September 12) so it seems like a perfect opportunity for a shout out.

We met Jean at our gym (Athletic Club at Denver Place, now "Forza") several years ago. Jean was a regular at the two-hour Saturday morning Spin class/sweat extravaganza which we used to attend during the dreary winter months. When she first heard of our plans to ride the Leadville 100 she volunteered to crew for us.

Neither Phil nor I really understood: 1) why anyone would be silly enough to volunteer to wait around all day long just to support us; or 2) why we needed support (remember – we still hadn't figured out it was a race).

As the time for the race drew closer, we still didn't realize how important it was to have a personal support crew. But Jean was insistent that she'd be there for us, so we shrugged our shoulders and thought – "That's really nice. Odd, maybe, but really nice."

Friday before the race, as we spent hours fussing with our gear – "Do I really need shoe covers? A raincoat? Will a vest be enough? Rain pants? How much food should I carry? How much should I leave in the drop bag for Jean to carry to the feed zone? Sunscreen? Advil? Pepto Bismal? Electrolyte tablets? Chamois butter? Aaargh!!!" – we began to understand how crucial it was going to be to have a sane person out on the course who could talk us off the ledge as needed.

We made a lot of extra work for Jean that year just because we didn't know what we were doing, so it was difficult to give her any meaningful guidance. But Jean took everything in stride – including the fact that we put her up in the skankiest hotel you could imagine. [Any Trail Lodge in Leadville – to be avoided at all costs. Sleep in your car if you must, but don't sleep there.]
Saturday morning at 5 am Jean was up and ready to help any way she could. She held bikes and jackets, gave reassuring hugs, back pats and pep talks until – BOOM. We were off. And Jean's really long day truly got underway.

She had to fight the traffic out to Twin Lakes. Find a parking spot. Find a "camping spot" to wait for us. Haul the Rubbermaid tubs we had loaded up with the gear we might – or might not – need at least 1/2 a mile or more to the pit area. Our friend Chris's wife, Patty, was also setting up a pit area, so she and Jean were able to find a space and get hunkered down for the wait.

By the time I rode into Twin Lakes (outbound) I can't even tell you how great it was to see a familiar, friendly, supportive face. And when I came slinking back into Twin Lakes (inbound) with a pounding migraine after the Columbine Mine climb, it was so hard to tell Jean I was quitting. I didn't want to let her down. She had sacrificed her weekend and was so supportive, saying "You can make it, c'mon, keep on going . . . ." But I couldn't make it, and I couldn't keep going. So Jean loaded me up in the car and we headed over to the Pipeline aid station to cheer for Phil.

We watched some racers go through the aid station looking strong, while others pulled over to vomit or cry or stretch out cramping legs. And we waited. And waited. And paced. When Phil rolled up it was obvious he was DONE. But Jean gave him a drink and a pep talk and a pat on the back . . . and he just shook his head and said, "No I can't do it. I'm done."

So Jean loaded up his gear, too, and drove us back to town. It was a very quiet, dispirited drive. But by the time we got back to Leadville Jean was trying to cheer us up. We both felt too awful for it to have much impact, but that's just Jean – she is naturally encouraging and supportive of her friend's attempts to challenge themselves.

Several months later, when we told Jean that we were going to hire a coach and try Leadville again in 2005 the first thing she said was "I'll crew for you." Silly girl. But this time we knew both how much work it would be and what a gift Jean was offering. We jumped on the offer – and made sure to secure much nicer lodgings for her!
Happy Birthday!


  1. Happy Birthday Jean!!!

    I hope it is the best birthday yet!!! Love, PK

  2. Hi, well be sensible, well-all described

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