- Heinemann points to a dedication to his brother on his finisher's jacket, noting his time in the 100-mile mountain bike race.
To complete the entire Leadville Series, athletes have to finish five endurance races. There's a regular trail marathon, the Silver Rush 50 mountain biking race, a 100-mile mountain bike race and a 10K run that sets you up for the big one: a 100-mile run through some of the toughest terrain a runner can face.
"Dude, I finished it!" says Heinemann. "Just to have something driving me that's a little bit more than just having it on your bucket list or whatever. I think if it's just on your bucket list to do this it's going to be a lot harder to finish. You really need something pushing you or motivating you."
For Heinemann, that motivation was his older brother Steve, who just turned 50. In an effort to raise awareness about schizophrenia and mental illness—which Steve has had for many years—Heinemann set out to accomplish this boundary-pushing goal. This allowed Heinemann to push through a discomfort he's not accustomed to—something he knows his brother has to do every day. As of this writing, Heinemann has raised $3,325 through his Go Fund Me campaign.
While he wasn't worried about finishing the biking races, the 100-mile run was a daunting prospect, and the last one to complete.
"People drop out of this race for so many reasons. Most of them are like gastrointestinal reasons—like you can't hold down food, you're throwing up or whatever. A lot of people don't show up," he says. "Apparently, 44% of people finished it [this year]. I'm thrilled. I didn't know if it was really gonna happen at all, so just to finish the thing..."
Other factors stopping people from finishing are the lack of sleep (the run begins at 4 am and you have 30 hours to complete it) and the numerous injuries one can acquire while running this kind of race, Heinemann said. But while he had some knee pains, blisters and swollen ankles, he completed the race in 29 hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds, cementing himself as a Leadville Series finisher.
A lot of meticulous planning goes into preparing for a race of this stature. Athletes need a crew (Heinemann's wife Emmy and friends Melissa and Brandon made up his), proper nutrition and equipment (headlamp, watch charger, trekking poles), an understanding of the cutoff times and much more. Heinemann scouted out much of the trail at one point or another, whether through the earlier events or during his rest days camping out in Leadville.
"I've run into this a few times in life. Sometimes I feel like I studied or prepared way too much for something and I actually go do it, and I figure out I just scraped by," laughs Heinemann. "I feel like this—I just barely did enough." One thing Heinemann's sure of now is that he couldn't have done it without his team.
"I'm a pretty rugged individualist. I like doing things on my own. I don't know why, but it's just my thing. I did a lot of training on my own. But you can have a pacer for the last 50 miles, the second half. Were it not for those three helping me out I would absolutely have not finished the race," recalls Heinemann. "My takeaway was, my brother is in New York; he's on the other coast. I'm going to call him every two weeks on Sunday, at either five or six o'clock and he'll just know it's me. For the rest of life. It's something he can rely on. It's a teamwork thing."
In a way, Steve was the unseen member of Heinemann's crew. For the whole 100 miles of that last race, Heinemann carried along a makeshift sign that read: "Race For Steve."
And now, Heinemann can continue on being a member of Steve's crew—just with much less running involved.
"He's got more guts, grit and determination than most of the folks who crossed the finish line. But no one can do it alone!"