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Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Gather one and all to the spectacle of the year! This is not for the faint of heart, so only enter if you dare! After much naysaying and disbelieving, we stand outside in balmy 41 degree weather at 3:30 am on Saturday, August 18th watching the anxious, churning crowd waiting for the starting gun. Our heros, Brian Block-a crazy quasi-trained rep with an adrenaline addiction, and his partner in crime Kyle Brown- a parametic from Des Moines chasing a running dream, are there at the start line, ready for the big moment. Sunday and I, official crew, waited for the start of the race before we jetted off to pack the car (in the dark:)) and then off to the first aid station.
Loaded with water, gatorade, powerbars, beef jerky and more gu than you can shake a stick at, we marched the mile plus with our 100 pound bag in tow. Loaded with a crash pad, camera, hydration duffel, rainwear, sleeping bags, and the kitchen sink. Maybe a little overkill. Once we were there, we set up our camp by the side of the road and Sunday was off to find the boys while i mixed oatmeal in our Orikaso bowls with hot water pilfered from the hotel.
Brian barely stopped for the oatmeal, so i only snapped one quick, blurry picture. But he was doing good and moving strong.
Kyle came in a bit later and then we were off to the next stop. So much done and it is only 7 am!! Posted by Picasa

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The Fish Hatchery Aid Station-23.5 miles

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Close to one marathons distance in, and they are going strong! After hauling the behemouth back to the car, we drove 20 minutes or so to the second aid station on the trail, the Fish Hatchery. Well, let me clarify, i didn't actually roll the behemouth all the way back to the car. I may have left it by the side of the road to be collected once i had the car in hand...but it was fine. No one took it, no dogs peed on it, no random wild animal stampede. No suitcases were harmed in the making of this story.
Brian came in at around 8:45, picking up the pace! All smiles our hero rides into camp on his...highlanders. Feeling good, we force feed him as he changes his socks, downs some vitamins and takes a new water bottle. Clear!
El Capitan, reveling in his glory...
Kyle came in a little while later, looking fresh and ready to continue. After a little bit of refreshment, he was off again. Go Team! Posted by Picasa

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The Fish Hatchery Aid Station-round 2

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We passed the lead guy on the way down to the second aid station, the fish hatchery. SO FAST!! We heard that second section of the trail was really rocky and loose, creating some concern amoung the non-running portion of AAO.
We got there early and were able to park much closer to the site than the last one! However, we got much smarter, pared down our haul bags and went in bearing only the hydration duffel, a food bag, a camera, a crash pad, a sleeping bag, two down jackets, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Setting up our little camp, we waited and watched for the first signs of our runners. While we were there, we got to see many other families greet their racers coming in, a really fun experience.
The diligent, dedicated volunteers from Outward Bound manned the aid station at the Fish Hatchery. Does their clothing offer hints to the cold of the day?
Sunday, holding down our little basecamp. Later on, while waiting for Kyle, the overly freezing Vanessa survived only wrapped in a huge down jacket and encased in a 0 degree sleeping would think Alaska would have made my blood thicker! Posted by Picasa

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AAO and Montrail proudly salute Darcy Africa!

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The up and coming trail superstar who just graced the cover of Trailrunner magazine, pounds silently into the fish hatchery aid station. A sponsered Montrail runner and multiple race winner, Darcy finished (unoffically) in 34th place with a time of 023:53:48. Great job! Posted by Picasa

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And proudly sponsering...

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These are just some of the many Montrail team runners we saw at the race...thanks for all your supports guys, great job!!

 Posted by Picasa

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Twin Lakes Aid Station-39.5 miles

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After leaving the little frozen fish hatchery, we drove for quite a ways to the third stop (forth aid station for the runners), Twin Lakes. Tucked back away in the mountains, with Hope Pass looming in the distance, this little sleepy camping community was alive with the buzz of excited, cheering crew, fans and family. The trail itself came out of the forest and did a severe rocky descent, so the end of the leg was dramatic. We were very suprised no one fell.
After taking a short nap and regrouping ourselves, Sunday and i went to join the L'Alpe-D'Huez crowd (minus the body painting and raucous alcohol consumption) to cheer on the incoming runners. We waited for longer than we expected before we saw Brian's telltale orange stripping peak up over the hill. Sunday and i both saw it at the same time, Brian was favoring his left leg.

Through the limp, he still smiled, checked in and told us of his slippery mishap on the slick, loose, rocky trail. In an effort to avoid falling of the side of the trail in a mistep, he hyperextended his knee, tweaking/pulling/tearing (?) someting behind this knee. In a great deal of physical pain, he had a decision to make: call it now and face the painful knowledge of dropping the race, or pushing on and risk hurting himself far worse on the top of a high mountain pass. Decisions, decisions...
He filled his belly with good nutrients and waited for Kyle, pledging that if Kyle made it into the station before the time was called, Brian would press on. As luck would have it, Kyle came into camp 6 mintues before the cut-off time. Unfortunately, Brian decided to plow on, through the searing pain.
After a brief rest, the boys took off on the trail, trekking poles out. Before we saw them again they would have to climb a steep hill and mountain pass that reaches 12,600 feet at its summit. Good luck gentlemen, God's speed. Posted by Picasa

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The final outpost-Winfield turnaround

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The final aid station at the turnaround of the race was at the Winfield trailhead past Hope Pass. Driving along the washboard road up to the aid station, the cloud cover was thick and rain was ominously hanging over close. The temperature was going down again, hovering somewhere near the lower 40's. Sunday and i had some pretty strong concerns about Brian climbing the brutal 12,600 pass to the next aid station.
As we hit the road where the trail met the runners, we saw many going out and many coming back in, the the rain was coming down steadily now and people were feeling the icy effects. Race numbers blew around frantically as runners struggled to maintain their pace through the wind breaking through rain gear and jerseys.
Once at camp, we checked the board of lost runners and saw no sign of our courageous duo. However, as soon as we got to the station, the rain and wind came in full force. We knew the racers coming over the pass had to be getting pummeled. We saw racers coming in to the check-in soaked and covered in mud. But many were leaving with soup, hot chocolate and renewed vigor that they were half finished.
As the time grew close, we watched the far part of the road to see if we could see Kyle and Brian as we talked to Ann, a leader at the local Outward Bound branch and boss to Brian's cousin. Ann was planning on pacing Brian on his first leg back down the mountain.
We knew he probably wasn't going to make it by the time 5:30 hit, but as soon as the cut-off came at 6pm, i strapped on my running shoes and took off down the trail, passing the pass trailhead and heading up the pass to find the boys. After running about 2 miles down the road, Sunday met me with the car and we stopped at the trailhead. I headed up the pass and met him about 3/4 mile up the 13% grade misery trail. Covered in a huge trashbag, limping with trekking poles, but still smiling i found Brian. I was releaved to see him hobbling down the trail toward me.
We continued on down the trail back toward the car and i ran to Sunday once we came out of the thick of it to tell her that he was found. Back at the car we quickly made him strip off the nasty nast clothes and socks he was wearing, switching them out for warm, dry, much better smelling alternatives. The nasty nast was tied up in his trash bag and carefully sealed in the rocket box, not to be opened until we were safely back in Des Moines and seconds from a washing machine.
After we tended to our fallen leaders, we waited for Kyle. Smiling, wet and happy to see us, Kyle came trotting down the trail about 30 minutes later. Slightly blistered but in good spirits, we helped Kyle get out of his Nasty nast and then loaded up in the minivan to drive back to Leadville. There was a huge prime rib dinner with our names on it. The race was a learning experience for all of us and when we go back next year, we will be pros! Thanks for the experience, guys!
The beauty of the Winfield area...

Th courageous, conquering heros.... Posted by Picasa

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SLC to DEN...a beautiful few days in Colorado

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After the show, we drove to Estes Park, CO and went to Brian's cabin for a few days to de-stress from the show and prepare for Brian and his friend Kyle to run the Leadville 100. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our favorite party-hearty, drink-'til-the-sun-comes-up, sleep-when-you're-dead, livin'-the-dream rowdy boy is attempting the "Marathon Across the Sky". Strength? Check. Courage? Check. Unwillingness to quit? Check. Gross inability to know when to quit? Check. With very little training and lots of Gatorade, we set out to try and support our boy as he takes on the treacherous peaks of the Rockies.
Sunday,official sleeping bag holder(per Brian), helping load the car before the great trek to Leadville.
Brian and his evil eyes...makes me nervous for his looks at mile 70! Posted by Picasa

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Serious fun with Brigham Young

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After the training we spent a week apart: Vanessa in St. Louis, Brian in Colorado and Sunday at the WSA shoe show in Las Vegas, where she got to see her family again. A good week! When we got back together in Des Moines, we loaded in the trusty minivan and traveled across the country to the great and glorious city of Salt Lake City. We were off to attend the Summer 2006 Outdoor Retailer Market. Always a interesting experience.
We got there early for training meetings and spent a day preparing before the onslaught of appointments and vendors. The beauty of the show is seeing old friends...and some people in Spandex! Hence this little series of pictures. Montrail threw a booth party on Thursday evening which included sprint races on the side of the booth. Timmy O'Neill, shown here in this sexy little running outfit, helped judge and lead off the races.
Jay, our Montrail sales manager, doing his managerial duties of drinking the Coors to promote the party. Beer hat...yes, please.
Timmy, lining up the racing participants with Jay supervising, or something...
And sponsered climber Brittany Griffith, donned a beautiful lilac spandex suit for the cause. Everyone had a great time! Thanks guys. Posted by Picasa

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Superfeet Training in St. Louis

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At the end of July, the whole team came back together in St. Louis for a Superfeet training with the head guru of design at the company, Jeff. He was accompanied by our regional manager as well. We had a great time and so many people from the Alpine Shop came to learn how to build custom insoles. It was a very educational experience.
aahh...Brian bowing at my feet, just the way it should be! Just kidding, we took turns building customs for each other. Brian and I switched turns to build custom greens.
An overview of the whole crew, very early in the morning. Our training started at 8:30am! Not too early, but after the crazy night we had before, the daylight came a little too soon.
While we were waiting to finish up the clinic, Vanessa took a seat in ...a huge flip-flop! Why not, ya know? Posted by Picasa

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...stories of perilous, nay, endless traveling in the ever changing midwest territory...