Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Leadville 2013 Part 2 -- Where I completely ride within myself

3:30am. iPhone clock tower bells signal it's time to go racing. Thankfully, I had fallen asleep easily, and managed a solid 6.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I got mom up, made coffee, hit the shower, got dressed, and found mom putting dishes away in the condo kitchen! Well, that's mom.... Mom and I took the last bags to car, and headed up to Leadville under a clear star filled Colorado night. 

That's Me!  Note my lack of wintry garments!
Arriving in Leadville about 5:15am, we were pretty lucky to find parking at the Delaware available. I got mom a coffee from the breakfast room, and got myself ready. Shorts, Speedy Bike Club Motor City jersey, arm warmers and long fingered gloves. That was it. 36 degrees outside and that's all I planned on wearing. I headed downstairs to prep the bike, figuring if I could take 10 minutes outside before the sun came up, I'd be fine once we started climbing St Kevin's. 

What I saw worried me. Tons of racers dressed for Iceman, in the snow . Goretex jackets, tights, balaclavas, winter gloves...I reminded myself that I'm from Michigan, and set to work. I got the bike prepped, and could still feel the toes and fingers. I figured I'd be fine for the race, and all these people would be leaving some expensive gear by the side of the trail... I looked at the Garmin I borrowed from Strava and had a minor panic. 6:05!! Corals closed in 10 minutes!!! Then I remembered I was 1/2 a block from my coral. Duh. I got lined up, no drama whatsoever. 

Racing Barnburner and making the cut off there had earned me a small bump up in starting position. Instead of starting in the "white" first-timers coral at the very back of the field, or the blue "previous +12 hours" I got to start in orange coral. This small bump put about 1/2 to 1/3 of the way up from the back. Seemed I was in the right place. As the clock ticked towards 6:30, the PA music pumped up...and the dawn cracked a beautiful bright blue Colorado sky. Not a cloud to be was going to be a great day. A massive relief after the rains of the week had left snow caps on mt Massive and Mt Elbert. 

Race start standards came over the PA. AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", Rolling Stones "Start Me Up", etc. Then The Star Spangled Banner. I pitched my coat to mom waiting by the barricades, one more pep talk from Ken and Marilee imploring us to dig deep and commit not to quit... Shotgun blast at in...and we're racing! 

And we're off!
The start is 4 miles of downhill pavement, and it's fast. 2000+ racers going 30mph in tight formation. Most of these people are not road racers (including me), and the possibility of a massive crash was very real. I stuck to the left side of the road, kept a little distance, and let the draft and the hill pull me along at 30mph. Overhead, TV helicopter kept pace with the leaders already about 1/2 mile ahead of the rest of us. The roar of motorcycles mixed with chain music, freewheels, and knobbies buzzing on pavement punctuated with cheers from spectators made me feel massively pumped. This was a real bike race, and I was in the middle of it! 

I was also freezing. Fingers toes and nose went numb quick. After about 4 miles the road turns to dirt, and the pace calmed down a bit. Still fast, but where I was I the field was decidedly cautious. Soon, the road tilted up and we were on the first big climb of the day -- St Kevins. This was a 800', 1.2 mile climb, officially a Cat 3 hill. It was like climbing the subway stairs in New York City rush hour. The pace was slow, but there was nowhere to go. Boxed in on 4 sides, I focused on not touching wheels, and smoothly clearing any rocks and logs in the way. The best part about the climb was I got to warm up. I could feel my fingers, toes, and nose again, and soon enough, I was clearing the top and starting the rollers along the ridge. I passed a bunch of people stripping layers more suited for a cross country ski day in January...and I felt quite smug, despite my runny, drippy nose. 

Photog making me look fast
10 miles in, passed the Carter summit aid station. I was at 55 minutes. Exactly on pace! I made the right turn onto Turquoise Lake road, and started the screaming downhill towards Hagerman's pass road. Here's where I get scared again. 80 miles from now, I get to go up this hill that was propelling me at 35mph without turning the cranks...well, that's 7 hours and 4 big mountain climbs away so whatever. I needed to pee, remember to eat, and wanted to SMS the home and race crews so they would know I was doing well. By now the traffic had thinned considerably, and I could actually ride my own pace. This was a huge relief, and allowed me to relax. I made a quick stop as I turned onto the dirt Hagermans pass road and texted the gang. Another quick stop for the needful and I was headed up Sugarloaf mountain.

As the 4.6 mile 1100 ft cat 2 climb got steep, the traffic built again. I was back to following knobbies, but there was space to pass and ride my line. As I climbed sugarloaf, I had the opposite feeling as descending turquoise lake. In about 75 miles, I get to rip this downhill... I really wanted to put the hammer down and motor up the climb. I had some good legs, the HRM said I was not working that hard, and the cool, glorious Colorado morning was made for climbing. But, I heeded the warnings going off in my head and I kept the effort in check. The Leadville 100 is the hardest 1-day mountain bike race in the world, and no time to go on a flyer! 

Soon I was cresting Sugar Loaf and descending the Powerline (slowly). The fear is back...I'm now going down the nastiest climb on the course, and I'm going pretty fast down this hill. It's Cat 1. Gulp. As Powerline eased up I got to chat with a woman from alchemist threadworks who actually lives on the same street in boulder, CO as my friend Todd Kleinman. She nearly fell off her rig when I told her Todd's highschool nickname. I made it down Powerline safely, and got in a paceline headed for the Pipeline aid. The train was going fast. 25mph on the flats. I took my pulls, pushed the pace a bit, and screamed into the Pipeline aid at about 2:30. Right on time... I refilled the bottle, grabbed a GU, and headed into the pipeline "flats" intent on following wheels. 

Once again I fought the urge to put the hammer down, and tried to keep my face out of the wind. I mugged for the camera at the "little stinker", and fortunately had a good wheel to follow at the single track. There was one very unpleasant hill before the Twinlakes aid station. Not pre-riding the course cost me here as I had the "when will this end?!" feeling which is just draining and soul crushing. After what seemed like forever, my Garmin said "39.5mph" and I was at the Twin Lakes aid! I came down the hill, crossed 82, an headed into the "tunnel of love" of race crews cheering us all on. Crossed the timing mat and skidded to a halt where Farooq was flagging me down. I refueled again. Carbs and electrolytes...some more GUs, and water for the camelback. Hugs and pictures and I was off to climb Columbine! 40 miles into the Leadville 100, I was exactly on pace for a 10:30 finish, and starting one of the most famous mountain bike climbs in the world....
Farooq being a soingeur

Race Crew!

Rest of the crew!

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