MileSplit After Dark: Behind The Scenes At Let's Get REAL #2


I was somewhere south of the Denver Tech Center when the moment hit me.

Andrew McMahon's tight voice was blaring out of my speakers in a familiar tune.

"Shot out of a cannon..."

There's that heart-beat rhythm that you can't help but nod along to, and that swirling piano riff.

Something about this song reminds me of '90s techno...

I've been listening to this guy since before Facebook existed.

Google that.

And... I just aged myself...

That's Fun Fact Number One...

The beat whisked me away, taking me back to a decade ago when I was driving down to Colorado Springs on this very highway to do a story on Alisha Williams for the defunct

And in writing "a decade ago" I can feel the ever-growing salt in my hair and my beard (though, I'm grateful in the same sitting to have as much hair as I do...)

Where did the time go?

"I'm defying gravity..."

Editor's Note: MileSplit After Dark: Behind The Scenes At " - " will be an ongoing - but inconsistent - series run throughout the year.

What they don't tell you - and by "they" I mean "journalists" is that when you dive into this line of work you succumb to living from one story to the next.

One day you'll wake up like from a hard nap, wondering who you are, what day it is, and if you missed the bus to school.

It's strange to think of how many stories ago this moment was.

This was before my newspaper days in the mountains.

Before the first lines of Bolder Dreams were even dreamt of.

Before anyone really knew I could write (or really wanted to.)

This was 2013, and at the time I had only published a few stories.

I was still in the process of finding my voice.

But this moment - this one right here back in 2013, driving south on I-25 to really dive into a story by actually spending time with the subject of my story - was one of the few moments at the time that I felt in sync with the universe.

Like I was plugged in to this massive machine where everything was in its right place.

I felt that I was exactly where I needed to be (driving next to a sketchy-looking van with a twirling wheel that appeared could spin off at any moment, sending the vehicle scorching across the highway, flames flying, into me, thus ending my career before really beginning), doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing - chasing engaging stories.

I've had plenty of those moments since.

Side note: I'm not exactly sure if the wheel stayed on - I made sure to speed up and leave that sketchy van behind me...

In that moment - back in 2013 - I was a writer trying to take off.

I was still on the runway, wondering if my wings had what it'd take to really lift off.

 "We could fall or we could fly or we could borrow wings..."

The truth was this story had fallen into my lap - I was friends with Scott Naglekerke, who was (is) an Adidas Sales Rep, and Alisha's husband.

Of additional note, several months earlier I had applied to be an Adidas Tech Rep.

Another side note: Prior to my days writing other people's stories I was a shoe-junkie at the OG Boulder Running Company. And I write "OG" because this was the Boulder store, and before the original founders sold it.

Fortunately I didn't get the Adidas job, because otherwise I wouldn't be entering my sixth year with MileSplit, and undoubtedly, I wouldn't be writing these words.

I digress...

"Tonight we're leaving for another planet, planet..."

Back to the future - back to 2023 and on the same stretch of highway I was driving on a decade earlier - I was speeding (not speeding, but driving the appropriate speed limit) down I-25 on a Friday afternoon, heading back to Colorado Springs to set up a live stream of the Let's Get REAL Indoor Invitational #2.

Among the many anxieties floating around in my fevered mind were the plentiful variables that currently existed.

Live streaming a meet at a venue you've never streamed from is stressful - there are so many questions that cannot be answered until you've arrived at the venue itself.

Where can I set up?

Does the ethernet connection work?

Is there a firewall?

How far is the ethernet port from where I can set up?

Will be ethernet cord be long enough?

Are they any obstructions from camera to track?

And the list goes on and on and on.

And on.

I distracted myself by jamming out to Andrew McMahon, and considered a question I posed myself many years ago.

At what age does one stop taking on new clients for their ears?

I haven't gotten into a lot of the newer stuff that exists (some, yes - hey, I'll openly admit to really enjoying Taylor Swift's Midnights album  - that woman is a lyrical genius. But most, no.) Which I feel answers this question.

This age, the one I'm in right now, is the answer.

In my newspaper days I asked the same question but in reference to the photos on our media badges when a coworker opted to continue using one from a decade earlier.

At what age do we stop using updated photos for our media badges?

I'm not to that age yet.

82-minutes after leaving my home in north Arvada I arrived.

The Quality Inn off Garden of the Gods is a hotel I've stayed at plenty of times before - typically before the state cross country championships.

My standards for hotels I'm barely spending a few hours in is fairly low, but even then, the best thing about this one is the breakfast - eggs and bacon.

I'll admit to being a sucker for any hotel with a good breakfast.

Like the La Quinta off Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs - check out that breakfast.

My mouth just watered thinking about it...

I settled into my typical pre-meet routine of hanging up my MileSplit t-shirt like the racing singlets I used to hang when I was younger.

Some habits never die.

The room was your standard King-bed room with a flattened love-seat by the window which faced west towards the mountains - a view that never gets old.

I had a few hours to kill before the venue would open and I could finally answer some of the questions swirling in my head, so I pulled out my latest read - Robert Boynton's The New New Journalism.

I've been dancing between genres the past few months - fiction, non-fiction, and what I call "informative."

Side note for recent favorites: Steve Hyden's This Isn't Happening, and Dave Eggers' The Every.

The "informative" is the kind of book that helps shape my craft, something of a professional growth book.

Because hey, if you're not growing what are you doing?

The sun descended behind the mountains to the west, illuminating the scattered clouds in various hues of pinks and oranges.

A cotton-candy sky.

My eyes darted back and forth between the words on the page and the clock with red numerals besides my stiff bed.

Little did I know in this moment I'd be staring at that same clock that would be revealing the same numerals in another 12 hours...

My anxieties over producing a live stream never subside - something almost inevitably goes wrong.

Sometimes the internet can go out.

Sometimes the stream can drop or stutter or stagger because everyone in the area is on their phone.

Sometimes another (un-named...) media company will unplug your ethernet connection to plug in their own because they're producing a basketball game on the other side of the venue.

It's happened before...

And it's always your fault.

Even if it's not (which is rarely is.)

But when you hype a live stream, you create an expectation. And if that expectation is not met, people revolt.

Cue the hate-mail.

This fact precisely is why I've tried to eliminate as many variables as possible by arriving insanely early to answer the million questions swirling in my head.

This way, I can hopefully avoid anything that could go wrong.

It's like trying to solve a tessellating puzzle without putting your hands on it - you have to see the future movements in your head and solve it.

Like chess.

And it doesn't matter how many times you do it, because every time it's an entirely new experience.

Even more-so when it's a venue you've never streamed from.

Like the one I'm heading to.

By 6:30 p.m. my stomach was rumbling and I headed over to the Mountain Lion Field House on the northern end of the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs campus.

The field house sits on the side of a hill facing west towards the towering Pikes Peak.

The sun had already gone down, and the lights of Colorado Springs twinkled into the night.

What I didn't know in this moment - walking through the double-doors - was that I wouldn't be leaving for over two-hours.

A typical live stream set-up can take about 15-30 minutes when everything goes according to plan.

And that rarely happens.

A little after 7 p.m. UCCS head coach Ross Fellows and REAL Training director Maurice Henriques AKA "Coach Mo" arrived.

With three brains collaborating, progress was made.

Coach Mo went to work branding the walls with REAL Training banners while Ross directed me towards The Room.

The Room is where everything technical happens. It's the room the janitor with a million keys strapped to his belt has that one key for.

And inside, there were probably 30 or 60 ethernet ports, most of which were being used. This left the few not being used as probable options.

So, I went to work, plugging in my equipment.

I'll admit, I'm mediocre when it comes to tech-savviness. I can understand the basics, but I'm a writer at heart.

My wires and ports and connections are words and sentences and paragraphs. You can't just put them down, you need to find what works best.

So when the lights are blinking green I'm thinking we're all good.



I spent the next 90 minutes or so brainstorming why our production team based somewhere several time-zones east wasn't receiving my signal.

To add an additional challenge, attempting to communicate what you're seeing with someone who is much more knowledgeable about the technical issues is like two people speaking different languages.

I'm not an expert live stream producer or live stream technician with years of experience.

I'm a state-editor with a forte for writing and story-telling.

What's perhaps not always noticeable from the outside-in is that us MileSplit state editors must wear many hats.

As with the website itself, it's not just stories, or photos, or videos, or results, or live results, or registration, or rankings, or live-streams, or calendars, or virtual meets, or athlete profiles, or college commitments.

It's everything.

When you have to dabble in everything, you learn that there's always an answer, and that you'll figure it out eventually. This problem-solving, puzzle-piece can actually be enjoyable, even when stressful, because it requires that you think outside the box. 

In the same way I enjoy piecing together words and sentences and paragraphs to shape a story, piecing together a live stream is similar, just a bit more foreign at times. 

So here I was, problem-solving on an empty stomach... 

The stream wasn't coming out, and I was on Slack speaking Latin with someone who speaks French.

Editor's Note: Figuratively.

The clock ticked on passed 8 p.m. and I began asking myself why I didn't eat before coming here, because now my stomach was growling and I was growing ever Hangxious.

Editor's Note: Hungry + Anxious.

I was running out of options and patience, but knew that there's an answer out there, likely floating around like a musical note in the sky, and I just needed to find it.

At the eleventh hour (Editor's Note: It was actually the ninth, as it 9 p.m.) John Roebke swooped in with some knowledge to save the stream.

It's like waving a magical wand.


Our team on the other end of the country we're seeing and hearing the stream.

We were back in business.

By 9:20 my stomach was eating itself, but now that the connection was secure, I had to set the camera up and get everything set for Saturday morning.

This required a 20-foot climb up a metal ladder to the top of a "building within the building."


Anyone who knows me knows I don't do well with heights.

But you do what you have to do.

Nevermind this meant carrying the 10-pound live-stream kit up with one arm while clenching the metal ladder with the other, all while going one step at a time.

Oh the things we do...  

While inching my way upwards I had flashes of me falling straight down and breaking both legs.

I gripped the ladder a little tighter after that...

I'll spare you any more dramatic details about my ascent to the top of this Everest Inside The Field House and reveal that I did indeed make it up alive.

All extremities still attached.

With the ethernet connection in place, that whole "this should take 15-minutes to set up if everything goes according to plan" came into play.

As challenging as the initial two-plus hours were in getting the stream up, the set-up was great - perhaps my favorite of any indoor venue I've ever streamed from.

Not only would we have our own little area to set up and not be bothered by spectators asking questions about state meet t-shirts or how much nachos are at the concession stand while we're in the middle of live-streaming the meet, but we had an unimpeded birds-eye-view of the track.

The Birds Nest.

The clock ticked onwards to 9:30 p.m., but hey - I could finally put a cap on this day, get some dinner, and put on some sweatpants back at my hotel.


I raced back to my hotel, thinking that the Applebee's next door was closing at 10 p.m.

Editor's Note: On Fridays they close at 1 a.m.

I know what you're thinking.




Hey - It's my guilty pleasure when I'm on the road and short on time. I need to know the menu and stick with what works for me.

Plus, it's not like I was going there for the vibe. Besides, it was going to be a short night and an early morning.

This is an in-and-out kind of ordeal.

And I really like the sauce they use on their wings.

Also Michael Kiwanuka's "Rolling" was quietly pumping out of the speakers in the corners and filtering into everyone's ears while we ate.

Fun fact: If you've watched Big Little Lies, you've heard his track "Cold Little Heart" while watching those waves crash onto the rocks in slow-motion.

I was out of their walking back to my hotel by 10 p.m., eager to get into some sweatpants and stare at the television and wind down for the night.

Saturday would be a long, long day.

And I needed to conserve any energy that I had.

But my mind still raced, despite answering all those questions in my head. In these times - before going to bed, and immediately before waking - my mind races over every little detail of the day in front of me.

I play out all the scenarios.

Has anyone seen that movie Next?

It's lame, I know. But in times like these my mind works in a much more realistic version than the movie.

I turned the fan on for white-noise, knowing that without it I wouldn't be able to sleep.

By 11:30 p.m. the lights were out, and so was I.


I had originally set my alarm for 6 a.m.

But I never really need an alarm for days I have to get up early.

I'll set it for 6 a.m., and I'll wake at 5.

Or in this case it was 4.

My mind woke up before my body, prompting my eyes to peer open and at the red numerals at the clock.

Way too early.

I shut my eyes again and tried to fall back asleep. I tossed and turned, hoping that maybe the other side would be comfortable enough to send me back into dream land.


This went on for another 40 or so minutes before I threw in the towel and turned on the light.

My eyes didn't like this, but my mind did.

I counted the minutes back from when I intended to head to the track, around 7:15 a.m.

Just over two-hours.

I filled the one-page daily quota in my journal while chugging water, then moved onwards to that mediocre light hotel coffee that almost does the trick, but doesn't really.

Once this daily routine was complete, I scanned the heat-sheets and strategized how the upcoming hours would pan out.

The sun still hadn't begun it's rise in the east when my eyes had fully adjusted the to orange light inside my hotel room, and I had ingested several pages of my book.

It was time to get going.

Outside the air was crisp and cool.


I stopped by the hotel entrance to grab a quick breakfast - that eggs and bacon mentioned many lines above - then headed to the track.

By 7:30 a.m. my truck circled upwards towards the parking lot. The sun was shining golden hues on Pikes Peak high above.

10-hours earlier I had said "see you in the morning" to Coach Mo while on my way out.

Here I was 10-hours later saying "good morning!" with caffeine streaming through my bloodstream.

Fortunately the stream was all set, and all that I had to do was plug in the power cord.


Cue: Daft Punk's Aerodynamic

Side note: following these "Cues" just click the link and let the music play in another tab...

There's that twisting and bending guitar riff that resembles the twist of a high jumper or pole vaulter. And that boosting drumbeat that explodes like a sprinter out of the blocks.

I soaked in the scene as bodies made their way through the double doors, excited for the day ahead.

When I cover meets I open up all of my senses to capture the scene in its entirety - I plug into the universe.

I might be years-removed from competing, but my mind still revs up every time the starter raises their gun.

I can still feel the tingle in my spine in the moments before the pain-fest begins.

Only now when the starter raises their gun, I raise my camera.

I'm not physically running every event, but mentally I'm up and involved in every heat as though I were.


em-path ]SHOW IPA


a person who has a particular tendency or ability to enter into or psychologically identify with the emotions, thoughts, or attitudes of others.

It's probably why I'm always so exhausted after covering meets.

I'll collapse out of the trance like Frank The Tank, wondering where the previous 12 hours went.

Andrew arrived just after 8 a.m. with real coffee in hand and ready to run the stream from the bird's nest high above the track.

Th stream was good to go, and so were we.

The first event of the day provided the best kick - a shoe-in for a Kick Of The Week.

There might have only been two runners in the race - James Beam and Emerson Ingraham, but that final 200 was fire.

Beam torched a sub-30 final 200 to win the event.

While the meet was well underway, it was in this first event that we experienced our first hiccup - the stream was stuttering away, so following the 32 we had to reboot and alter the quality of the stream to insure it would hold the remainder of the way.

Off we go.

I snapped photos of each event, attempting to capture as much of the action as I could, while simultaneously splicing the live stream by each event and heat on my phone.

This multi-tasking is actually a bit more challenging than it sounds, but it saves a whole lot of work on the back-end after the meet.

You can't ever let your mind wander too far when you're doing this, because there's always another heat on the track.

Gender: Girls

Event: 60

Heat: 6


The ensuing hours were littered with the starter's gun sending athletes off the starting line in regular intervals.

I'll always get nostalgic hearing the gun echo across an indoor venue.

It's been 27-years since I sat in the stands in some random indoor track in Northern Virginia listening Thom Yorke's brooding guitar riff in "Talk Show Host" on the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack while sleepily watching what felt like a million heats of the 300.

I can still smell the icy hot...

I was waiting for my sister to run 16-laps in the 3,200.

I'd nod off to sleep listening to the Yorke's inviting voice only to be shaken back to the world when the gun went off every other minute.

Some might call this trauma.

I'll call it nostalgia.

This younger version of myself had never experience the intensity and excitement of indoor track and field until this day. And here I am still talking about

By noon I began my usual crash that comes about seven or eight hours after waking up.

Andrew and I darted for my truck to make sandwiches between events.

Honey wheat bread. Smoked turkey and slice colby jack cheese -- fresh from the deli. 

You've got fill the tank in order to drive.

Cue: Daft Punk's "Deruzzed"

 - for the remainder of the meet, because it's likely that Andrew was listening to it in his earphones.

And come on, that's a great song.

The final three hours of the meet went by in a fury and my camera continued clicking along, capturing all the action in stills.

Nearly 800 photos and 83 clipped videos later, the final heat of the final event wrapped up around the track with a thrilling boy's 400 finish.

And now we're 200 meters into the 400. Or in other words -- halfway.

There's two sides to coverage - there's the coverage itself, filming and taking photos.

And then there's loading.

And writing.

I think of it like this: before and during an event it's all about absorbing everything. Opening up all of your senses, and capturing as much of the moment as possible.

When you're done it's all about unpacking everything you absorbed into a concoction that the audience can ingest themselves.  

And there's a clock to all of this...

It's 2023 - it's not just about the quality of the product, it's also about the speed of sending it out to the masses.

In the age of Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, where everything is happening in real time, the life of a journalist must change with it.

You can have the best video or photo or story out there, but if someone else is beating you to the punch by getting theirs out before yours, who cares?

It's why I've gotten used to sitting my car in the parking lot of a Starbucks to load videos or photos, or even at times - write.

Loading photos as quickly as possible after a meet - or some times during a meet - has become more of the norm for me over the years.

But this time around it was Amateur Hour, because I forgot my dongle.

So, I couldn't even load photos if I wanted to.

Way to go, Bobby...

This meant that my eyes were on the clock during the entire drive home to northern Arvada.

My mind was doing the math of how many minutes the meet had been done, and that no photos had made their way to the site.

Fortunately since I was splicing the live stream in real time the videos were already loaded.

But there were still photos.

And results.

Emails began to file in with results on my drive, but there was nothing I could do until parking and running into my home and letting my fingers rip on the keyboard.

72 minutes after leaving the track I arrived home, sore, tired, but eager to wrap this one up for good.

I processed results first to save myself from having to read an angry email or message about why it's taking so long for results to post -- "the meet has been over an hour!"

Then I moved on to create folders for every event that I snapped photos of.

About 771 photos worth.

In order to load faster I open up multiple tabs on my computer - enough to over-stimulate anyone - and load each event simultaneously.

While photos were making their way onto the site, I quickly pieced together a new article promoting it all - videos and photos.

If you're going to go through the time and effort of capturing the meet all around, it makes sense to remind everyone of it.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Just over an hour after getting home everything was up. 

My eyes were tired in fatigue. My mental and physical sweat had finally dried. The day's work was behind me, for this moment at least. There would still be writing.

But that would come later.

It's perhaps the one thing I prefer to let simmer like my homemade spaghetti.

The longer it sits the better it gets.

And for me - unless it's a timely, big event that requires writing up a recap the moment the meet is over - I get to writing in the mornings.

It's usually enough time for me to step back from the event, and see it from the other side of the room.

By 10 p.m. I had been up for over 17-hours, and more than done with the day.


I lay motionless in the bed Sunday morning, but my mind was already racing way ahead of me.

I watched the first line of the story scroll across my mind from left to right like announcing something on a horizontal billboard.

And then the second line.

And the third.

Then a fully-formed paragraph dropped down like a four-block on Tetris.

The lines were starting to flow. I could feel the onslaught of words about to spill over the waterfall.

My eyes remained shut but my mind continued to write.

I could memorize the placement of each word for the first few hundred. Beyond that I'd have to race downstairs and open my laptop and get them out before losing these golden nuggets forever.

And then another fully-former paragraph dropped.

You know, there's that piano riff that seemingly sways side to side, backed with a drumbeat that you can run into a perfect stride with.

This is where my mind goes when it goes to work.

To a purposeful beat that prompts forward motion.

Because that's what all of this is anyway.

Forward motion with the ticking clock.

Fun fact: DJ Shadow's album "Entroducing" (of which Building Steam is on) made the Guinness Book of World Records for "First Completely Sampled Album."

It was time to write.

In times like these all you have to do is get your fingers to the keys, and let them do their thing.

I filled my kerig and placed my favorite coffee mug - the one from the Ouray Brewing Company I bought maybe seven years ago - underneath while listening to it purr to life, sounding very much like the opening bassline to Radiohead's "National Anthem."

Fun fact: Thom Yorke wrote that bassline while in high school.

I made my way to my office and sat at my wooden desk - my father's desk, the one he received as a gift when we lived in Santiago, Chile when I was four - and opened my laptop.

I plugged back into the universe, and let me fingers dance across the keyboard once again.

We have liftoff...

"I was somewhere south of the Denver Tech Center when the moment hit me."