One burger, three beers, and four marathons
Here it comes: the Leadville Trail 100, “Race Across the Sky.”At Colorado’s most grueling trail running race, it isn’t uncommon for competitors to have hallucinations: jet liners that aren’t there, rollerskating bikini-clad cheerleaders, talking deer asking for a beverage.But, for the past several years, as the iron-lunged competitors climb from 9,200 feet to 12,600 feet and back again over 100 miles of mountain trails, the strangest vision on the course isn’t a hallucination, although it may look like one.Enter Daniel Munoz, a man who our valley can proudly claim as a resident, who has run the Leadville Trail 100 10 times in 10 years, and who draws more wide-eyed stares than any other competitor on course.Munoz is a Leadville legend, not only because he’s run more than 1,000 lifetime miles of the brutal track, but because he likes to have a few beers along the way.And a burger.Or some pizza, or fried chicken.”There’s nothing like having a cold beer about marathon-distance into the race,” says Munoz, who admits he gets some strange looks from the other competitors while he’s downing a frosty one at a pit-stop. “I used to think, ‘I can’t wait until I finish the race so I can have a cold beer,’ but why wait?”Why, indeed?Due to some twisted reciprocal of natural law, Munoz says the beer actually suppresses his nausea. His pal Bob Sampson, of Eat a Peach catering in Boulder, makes the trip up each year to provide Munoz with a veritable smorgasbord of culinary trappings: pizza, fried chicken, burgers and beer. Munoz ambles up to his personal display and chooses bits and morsels of sustenance, depending on how he feels.Then, it’s on with the race.But Munoz, innocent soul that he is, refuses to abuse alcohol.”I’ll drink about three beers during a race,” he says. “That’s it.”He saves the hard stuff for the end, where he tees up a shot of Grand Marnier to celebrate his finish.Then, he says, it’s T-minus 20 minutes until he’s passed out and dead asleep.Munoz, 37, has celebrated 10 finishes this way. Strangely, Munoz isn’t a pain monger in other areas of his life. His first attempt at the race was excruciating, and he wasn’t going to race again until he received a mail-out flyer inviting him back.Stuck on the event-horizon of the Leadville 100’s black hole, Munoz was sucked back in again, and again, and again.Swearing to quit after attaining the 1,000-mile mark and the dinner-plate-sized belt buckle that comes with it, Munoz wavered.So he’s headed back, but this time without Sampson. Until the race begins Aug. 17 at 4 a.m., Munoz will be on the lookout for a support crew willing to provide his 16-ounce cooler soldiers. To heed the call of a thirsty man in need, call The Vail Trail Beer Support Staff at (970) 390-1585, and ask for Dr. Boyd.Tom Boyd is a freelance writer and lifelong Vail resident. His work appears regularly in The Vail Trail and the Rocky Mountain News.