Posts Tagged ‘Leadville’

What do you want for free?

August 8, 2009

There have been the usual complaints about nothing new at Hardscrabble Times this week. Hey, what do you expect for free? Especially during the week between the final two events of the 2009 pack-burro racing season. Last week’s race at Buena Vista turned out to be a repeat of the previous week at Fairplay, with Bobby Lewis able to get his burro Wellstone over the finish line again 2 seconds ahead of myself and Laredo. It’s a little frustrating, but then I suppose I should be happy to even be in the running at my rather advanced stage of youthfulness.

Laredo, Hal and Harrison following another second-place finish at Buena Vista. Photo by Tim Van Riper.

Laredo, Hal and Harrison following another second-place finish at Buena Vista. Photo by Tim Van Riper.

The next morning bright and early I was limping away to the Colorado Springs airport to pick up my old high-school buddy and neighbor Eric Leeper and his son Sam, who were visiting from Indiana. Eric and I lived in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Annandale, Va., and attended high school in Burke at Lake Braddock but I had not seen him in 23 years. Eric is now a noted professor of economics at Indiana University.

We spent four days more or less getting reacquainted, taking in the local scenery and bugging out Eric’s mind and eyes with my lifestyle. On Tuesday we packed Sam and my son Harrison on burros to the Swift Creek Beaver Ponds, where the fishing was quite decent though tricky with all the overgrowth. Harrison even hooked into a nice cutthroat with a little help from dad, and held the flyrod as I scrambled down the bank to release the fish.

After taking Eric and Sam back to the airport Thursday, Harrison and I spent a lovely evening dining in the backyard of my longtime friends Mad Dog O’Grady and wife Shannon. After that I returned home to find an unexpected rush editing job had fallen into my lap. What’s a guy to do in this economy but stay up past midnight and get the job done?

That left me two days to get my @#$% back together for Sunday’s big race at Leadville. For tomorrow’s race I find myself focusing not so much on No. 1 or No. 2, but rather on No. 30. If all goes well that’s the number of consecutive finishes I’ll have had at Boom Days.

Like catching lightning in a bottle

August 5, 2008
Hal Walter and his burro Laredo are congratulated by Leadville Boom Days International Pack-Burro Race director Dave TenEyck after winning the 22-mile race up and down Mosquito Pass Sunday (photo by Mary Walter).

Hal Walter and his burro Laredo are congratulated by Leadville Boom Days International Pack-Burro Race director Dave TenEyck after winning the 22-mile race up and down Mosquito Pass Sunday (photo by Mary Walter).

As Laredo and I inched toward the finish line of the Leadville International Pack Burro Race on Sunday, a voice over the loudspeaker told the crowd something to the effect that I had “finally” won the thing after all these years. All I wanted to do at that point was get Laredo’s nose over the finish line, but the statement threw me back a ways into my 28-year personal history with this race. It was here that it all started for me in 1980, when Moose and I earned the “Last Ass Over the Pass” award. How soon it’s forgotten that you first won the race in 1996 with Clyde, then a second time in 1998 with Spike. Spike and I won it again in 2004 and then in 2006, an exciting and memorable race in which we nosed out Tom Sobal and Mordecai right at the finish line. And here I was winning a fifth time with a third burro, Laredo.

Laredo is a super burro and a great soul, but I’ve had my suspicions about his health. Recently blood tests confirmed that he has equine Cushings disease, which affects the pituitary gland and the regulation of stress hormones and insulin. After consulting with my vet, adjusting his diet and adding an herbal remedy, chasteberry, the vet said to go ahead and race him. I knew that I would have to monitor his stress level and pace him accordingly. I decided there would be no sudden surges as I have used out on the course to win races in the past.

At Leadville we were able to grind away from the rest of the pack on the ascent of Mosquito Pass, reaching the 13,187-foot summit about 9 minutes in the lead. From there we stretched it out somewhat, but I was careful to pace Laredo the rest of the way back to town.

Curtis Imrie once told me that winning at pack-burro racing is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. And it’s true. You have to have everything going in your favor and then put yourself in the right position at the right time. And when you do “finally” pull it off, it’s really just a flash in time. Like catching lightning in a bottle.

Last long training run of summer

July 18, 2008

video

Most summers I do a final longish run about 10 days before the Triple Crown pack-burro races begin. It’s no big deal like some of the runs up to 4.5 hours that I’ve done in weeks past. It’s just one last test of over two hours. It allows me to check out my burro, my gear, my own health and fitness. I decided to jog Laredo up Hermit Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Range just to get in a short, but steep and rocky climb. Now 10 days of recovery before Fairplay, July 27, 29 miles; Leadville, Aug. 3, 22 miles; and Buena Vista, Aug. 10, 12 miles. That’s a lot of racing miles in three consecutive weekends. I always feel a sense of relief when this training run is over. There’s nothing to do now but show up. This year I packed a digital camera along and so you get a brief 8-second glimpse of what it’s like. Eight seconds is how long a bull rider rides. Of course a pack-burro race is much longer.