Guest Post: Volunteering at the Columbine Mine for the Leadville 100

08.14.2012 | 7:17 pm

A Note from Fatty: I met up with Doug Bohl — a Friend of Fatty — during dinner the night before the Leadville 100. He told me he and his son would be volunteering at the Columbine Mine — the turnaround spot for the course, and the highest point (12,600 feet) of the course. I told him I’d be really interested in a guest post on his experience if he’d like to share it. He said he’d be happy to and sent it to me the day after the race. It’s a great story; enjoy!

Hi, my name is Doug. (Hi Doug.) And I have a problem. About a year ago this little roadie decided he needed to do something new and hard on a bike. That led to a mountain bike, which led to a declaration to ride in Leadville. That decision has me now officially registered (they have my money) for the 2013 Leadville 100. (Aside: I received a spot in the race through the Willmington qualifier, which could be used in either 2012 or 2013. I am riding in 2013. I have made many many questionable sports-related decisions in the past year; that is definitely NOT one of them…..But I digress.)

This year we had a family vacation planned in Colorado for the same time as the race. I decided that a little recon would be valuable, so my son (Noah) and I volunteered to crew an aid station for the race. We were ultimately assigned to crew at the Columbine aid station. I met up with Fatty, the Hammer, IT Guy, et al. I may even have caught a glimpse of some guy named “Kenny,” though I think that “Kenny” may still just be a piece of fiction Fatty made up.

Fatty thought it would be cool to get a perspective on the race from the top of Columbine. And so here we go.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Leadville 100, the Columbine climb is at the end of the out portion of the race. It is at the end of the longest climb. And it is at the highest point on the course. Because it is so remote, only neutral aid is given at that stage. What this meant is that Noah and I were 2 of about 40 people who crewed this aid station and got this unique view of the race.

The first thing I want to say about Columbine, it’s a really really long climb. If you have watched either of the Race Across the Sky videos, they do not do the climb justice in any way. It took us about 30 minutes to drive up in a truck. It has everything you could ask for in a climb. It is long, has steep sections, has rough sections, has steep and rough sections. Oh yeah: it goes above the tree line. Here is the view from the top (looking away from the course).


Each member of the team was assigned a job. Noah and I were assigned to cook hot soup (i.e. Ramen noodles). Two camp stoves, four pots for 1600 bikers — no problem. The cosmic joke is that I love to cook. But Ramen? Really? Hey how bout some seafood bisque instead? No? sigh.

We got all set up, got the water boiling, and waited for the riders to arrive.

The first riders to come in were the pros. They didn’t even slow down. No soup for you!

Truthfully, they looked good, determined, comfortable at one with their suffering. I wish I looked that good when I ride a flat, much less at the end of a long climb.

If you look very very carefully, there is a white speck in that picture. It’s one of the first riders in…Here let me help……..

Then they were gone.

After the pros came the really really good sport riders. The people shooting for times under 9 hours. You know those people. The riders who always complain they are slow, or hurt (or a little too fat) but always seem to be, well faster than us mere mortals. One Elden “Fatty” Nelson came in that group.

They stopped at the aid station, just briefly, and headed back down. Fatty looked remarkably good given where he was. He even spoke coherent words and recognized people.

The Hammer came in about 20 minutes after Fatty, looking good as well.

The number of riders began to increase as the middle of the pack came to Columbine.

And things became chaotic. Coke, PBJ sandwiches, bananas, oranges, pretzels, Gu, water, sports drink, and soup all went out like mad. I didn’t really have a lot of time to observe the riders.

Noah and I made and delivered several hundred servings of soup, but a couple of things stood out. First, the riders were really polite and friendly. I constantly heard thanks from them as they pulled out. Second, they looked remarkably good and were remarkably chipper. Ok, maybe I only heard and saw some select riders, or maybe it was total relief that they were finished with the climb. But they seemed good.

Gradually the number riders began to taper again and we began to get to the riders who were close to not finishing in under 12 hours or were in danger of not making cut-off times. Some of them blew through the aid station, trying to save valuable minutes, so they could maybe make their cut-off times. Many of them stopped to take in the view and — oh yeah — some good nutritious soup.

The ones who stopped may have been physically drained, but they were also in remarkably good spirits. I think they knew where they were with respect to the race, and were ok with it. They had made it up Columbine. That climb had not defeated them. If they were pulled because of cut-off times, so be it, but they had made their best effort.

Three riders stood out to me in this group. The first was a woman who came up to me and hugged me from behind while I was making Ramen. “Thanks so much. That was the best soup I have ever had. I’m so sick of sweet gooey things.” You are very welcome!

The second and third riders who stood out were the last two at the aid station. Fatty talked about the suffering at the back of the pack. It was painful to watch these two come up the final portion of the climb to the aid station. (Probably not as painful to watch as it was to do, though!) The second-to-last guy came in, took some food and drink and sat down. About 5-10 agonizing minutes later, the last guy rolled in. The two riders walked up to each other and gave each other a big hug.

They had to have heard our cheer back in Leadville.

It was inspirational to watch, and a good reminder to all of us about what is important.

Then the day was over and it was time to clean up. We had made a huge mess:

Big props to my son Noah. He is 10 and worked about 10 hours that day at the race. He helped me make soup, he took cups up to the riders and made sure they had it if they wanted it, and he made the other volunteers laugh. He never complained and never stopped working. I know he made a difference and I know the experience made an impact on him. (Note: Noah is racing his own first mountain bike race this September. Good luck Noah!)

My lasting thoughts? The day was awesome and well spent. If you have never volunteered to work a race, think about doing it. It was a fantastic experience. BTW. If you race, and have never volunteered to work a race, you should. You owe it to the community, and it will help keep your own racing in perspective.

Did I mention I love to cook? If you judge cooking quality by how it makes people feel, then those Ramen noodles were some of the best food I have ever cooked.

I’m looking forward to riding in the race next year. Nervous and concerned, but totally excited. I’ll put my flag in the ground now. I am shooting for totally average in this race: 10 hours, 19 minutes (10:19 is about the historic average finish time). Leadville is one of the things in this world that I would be darned pleased to be average at.

One last thing, I have Noah under contract to be my crew next year; I’m not sharing him!

So thanks for sitting at my campfire and listening (and thanks Fatty for inviting me to speak).


  1. Comment by FujiPixie13 | 08.14.2012 | 7:35 pm

    Hi, Doug,
    First, Thank You for such a great perspective on so many things about the Leadville 100. I ride and I have volunteered at 3 separate rides this year. I totally agree about volunteering to help at one if you ride or have never offered to run registration, SAG or rest stops, it’s a great experience and a truly different point of view for an organized ride. Three loud cheers for Noah and his contribution to Leadville 100. I doubt he (or you, Doug) will ever know the influence he had on complete strangers. Kids can really touch people and it sounds like he did. Really enjoyed your account, Doug. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Comment by Maggi | 08.14.2012 | 8:11 pm

    Doug, you ROCK. And so does Noah! Way to go, guys.

  3. Comment by ClydeinKS | 08.14.2012 | 8:45 pm

    Way to go Doug and Noah, really enjoyed reading your perspective. I totally agree with scheduling volunteer time along with race/participation plans. I have volunteered at various tris and getting up early to body mark 1000 arms and legs is much harder than getting up early to participate – but absolutely worth it. Some of my funnest events have been rockin’ and motivatin’ at the aid stations! Although that could also be due to the fact I’m only good at the wheeled portion of a tri :) ALWAYS feels good to give back with time and support.

  4. Comment by Carl | 08.14.2012 | 8:55 pm

    Great post Doug and you and Noah are shining examples of what a class act Team Fatty is.

  5. Comment by Jared | 08.14.2012 | 8:58 pm

    Awesome write-up, thanks for sharing.

    Good luck in September, Noah and good luck next year, Doug!

  6. Comment by Jeff Bike | 08.14.2012 | 9:24 pm

    Simply Thank you

  7. Comment by Corrine | 08.14.2012 | 9:24 pm

    Being one of the last 30 or so riders to make it up Columbine, you guys rock! You guys helped with my bike and took my picture so I could prove I made it to the top and fed me soup (the best ever and the only thing that settled my nauseous stomach and helped me revive) so I could bomb back down. I missed the cut off by 2-3 minutes but I’m still glad I stopped and rested and visited with all the volunteers. Thanks again for being out there until the bitter end and cheering on all of the riders!! We couldn’t do the race without you volunteers. Good luck to you next year and to Noah on his first mountain bike race!

  8. Comment by AKChick55 | 08.14.2012 | 10:10 pm

    Love the guest post! Thank you Doug! You and Noah are awesome to volunteer and help all the riders. I can’t imagine doing that race (esp. since I live and train at almost sea level). Good luck to Noah in his first race and good luck to you in Leadville 2013!

  9. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 08.15.2012 | 1:13 am

    So you like to cook??? Consider joining us in Davis next year. I would like to organize, and cook up something special for Team Fatty. We’re going beyond Brats.

    Bring Noah as well, my 9 yr old would like to the company.

  10. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.15.2012 | 4:48 am

    Thanks for the great write up, Doug, and thanks to Noah for all his hard work and high spirits. Your perspective from the volunteer point of view is a great inspiration for others to follow suit.

    It is a great service to the riders. The impact you have on the participants by your cheerful support and encouragement is enormous.

    Volunteers rock. Period.

  11. Comment by Anonymous | 08.15.2012 | 5:20 am

    What a brilliant read Doug

  12. Comment by Tommysmo | 08.15.2012 | 5:38 am

    Great job, Doug. You’ve set an awesome example for your son, Noah!

  13. Comment by Tom B. | 08.15.2012 | 7:34 am

    Thanks for the soup. I really appreciated it. I too was unable to get down any more gu, bars, or even pb and J at that point. The soup got me to the finish.

  14. Comment by MattC | 08.15.2012 | 7:41 am

    Wonderful writeup Doug! Kudo’s to you and Noah (and to all the other volunteers)!

  15. Comment by Mary Timberlake | 08.15.2012 | 8:05 am

    Great post–and love that you volunteered with your son!

  16. Comment by Jenni | 08.15.2012 | 8:13 am

    I will return all the kindness to you! I don’t know how to make a bisque anything, but I am STOKED to crew for you.

  17. Comment by TK | 08.15.2012 | 8:27 am

    This post reminds me why I love bikers, and people who love & support bikers. Thanks for the great read. I’m volunteering at a race sometime soon.

  18. Comment by Joe Jacobs | 08.15.2012 | 8:28 am

    Great stuff Doug, thanks to you and Fatty for sharing. The Arkansas Outside team was at the race and covered it from many vantage points (yes Eldon, we have photos of you and The Hammer if you want them) but we weren’t able to get to the top of Columbine. I included a link to this story in our article ( so readers would also have this perspective. Thanks again.

  19. Comment by ChristyMcB | 08.15.2012 | 8:45 am

    Doug and Noah, thanks for sharing your story and volunteering your time. I agree, it’s important if you ride any sort of event to volunteer, it gives you a whole new perspective of riding. I look forward to hearing your Leadville story next year.

  20. Comment by MikeL | 08.15.2012 | 8:45 am

    Great story. I volunteer at many cycling and running events over the course of a year. If you ever want to feel appreciated, a cycling event is one to work. It is rare that a rider does not say thank you to the volunteers for the help and being there. I wish I could say that for the other events.

  21. Comment by sdcadbiker | 08.15.2012 | 8:48 am


    I saw you and Noah at the aid station; thanks for being there! You both, along with Corey, Todd and the other volunteers up there, with your amazing enthusiasm helped to fire us up for the return trip and made our day just a little bit better.

  22. Comment by Chris (@PavementsEdge) | 08.15.2012 | 9:02 am

    Thank you Doug and Noah!

    All the aid station crews were great, but I have to applaud the Columbine crew over the others. You guys were amazing! Thanks for hanging out in the thin air all day! Thanks for going those extra miles!

    I was shocked by how caring the crew up there was. A guy took my bike and then asked me at least two times if there was anything I needed. Each volunteer smiled, asked if I was okay and if I needed anything and hung around a few seconds even after I thanked them and said no. As chaotic and hectic as it was when I was there (about 1pm) I felt like I was the only rider being taken care of. It was great, phenomenal!

    I volunteered last year just to get in. I am amazed by those who volunteer just because they want to volunteer. And I applaud you guys for volunteering even though you didn’t have to. Kudos!

    I’ll be back. I DNF at mile 87 at 9 hours and 40 minutes. I think I was still on an 11 hour pace, but i just hit a wall, made a couple of fatal mistakes, but I’m already gunning for next year, signed up for the Alpine Odyssey to qualify and will get that buckle no matter what. Maybe I’ll see you there next year.

  23. Comment by TomE | 08.15.2012 | 9:18 am

    Best part about this story…you did it with your son! The two of you will always have this very special story to share!!

  24. Comment by owen | 08.15.2012 | 9:51 am

    thanks to you both for volunteering and telling your story. Good luck next year!! Oh by the way your soup was so good I had seconds

  25. Comment by charlie | 08.15.2012 | 10:05 am

    Doug and Noah-

    Great job! As a 7 time finisher, I was going through withdrawels last Saturday, as I had decided to hang up my Leadville hat this year. One of my fondest memories of the race has been the cheerful and seemingly never ending support from folks like you.

    One of me less fond memories, is the cramping feeling on the way up to Columbine!

    Thanks again for being there – you guys definately make a difference, and I’m thrilled for you that you will get to experience it from the other side of the table next year!

    And, regarding Noah as crew – trust me on this, nothing helps a racer more than a friendly smile and an “attaboy” from his or her family…

  26. Comment by The Flyin' Ute | 08.15.2012 | 10:16 am


    Thanks for Volunteering! You guys helped make the race great. I love how helpful everyone is. Some guy held my bike up the whole time I was trying to get a drink and wolf down a little food at the Columbine turnaround.

    That is great that Noah helped you.

    My kids are my crew and I tear up every time I see them as I come into a pit stop. It is such an overwhelming feeling of love that it is hard to describe.

    All the love at Leadville is what makes this race fantastic.

  27. Comment by Christina | 08.15.2012 | 10:18 am

    Ha ha ha! NO SOUP FOR YOU! That cracked me up!

    Thanks for volunteering! I think that can be more brutal than the ride itself, having made about a thousand PB&Js for a ride one summer.

    Hi, Doug! Good luck, Noah! Good luck, Doug!

  28. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 08.15.2012 | 10:46 am

    Thanks everyone for the comments. The day at Columbine was Noah’s highlight of our vacation. He read some of the comments this morning and got a great big smile when he read the comments from some of the riders who saw him at the aid station. He’s training hard for his race and so I think he may have the bug. Proud dad moment..Noah looks to be a single speeder in training. He mashes up hills and doesn’t downshift. We shall see.

    @Daveh-marin I rode in Davis last year and it was a blast. When I saw the course profile for this year I had the exact same reaction as Fatty: There is a 5 hour century waiting to happen. That’s one of my life goals. But I think Davis may not happen next summer for me. The trip to Leadville is going to consume a lot of time and umm, resources. I do wish I could arrange the trip, but its probably not realistic.

  29. Comment by megan | 08.15.2012 | 10:59 am

    Way to go guys! Looks like a fun ride.

  30. Comment by Liz | 08.15.2012 | 11:00 am

    Fantastic summary, Doug! Thanks to you and Noah.

    This has sort of been an inspiration to me — I could never ride Leadville, but like others, I’m fascinated by the race. Maybe one year I can volunteer there.

    Best wishes with your race, Noah!

  31. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 08.16.2012 | 12:23 pm

    So cool! Good luck next year! And it made me choke up a little to think about Noah’s kindness and dedication. So sweet.


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