I rode back through the crew area, absorbed the cheers, and hit the first of the rolling climbs across the valley. Somehow Bahram Akradi (the Lifetime CEO) had passed me back when I was playing around at the Twin Lakes aid. I caught him again, until some Lifetime employees made trail magic happen and starting running behind him pushing him up a small hill! I was a little irritated. He was paying people to push him along in the Leadville 100! Trail magic is fine...I took pushes over the course of the race from guys dressed like pizzas, hot dogs, a Miller Lite bottle, two girls in hula outfits and a Viking. But no one who worked for me! Somehow at mile 60 of this pure mountain bike experience I had become enraged over something very silly. I got over it, caught him again on the next hill, and passed him quickly. Wheee! At one point I looked back, and realized I was pulling a train of about 25 riders, including Bahram and a bunch of guys in full Lifetime kit. I thought "damn! Why do I have my face in the wind? Let's get some of this Lifetime crew up here!" So, I did the universal elbow flick that says “pull through, I’m tired”, and moved to the center of the road so I could get in the draft. Of course, no one pulled through, and I just slowed down. Bahram took control of the train, and went to the front on a "hero pull". All of a sudden, we're going 25mph on a slight uphill, and the paceline with massive potential has blown apart leaving just myself, Bahram, and 3 or 4 other guys. I don't know why he did this, after all, this was hour 6.5 of the Leadville 100, and the winners had finished 30 minutes ago. We were all in this together, no need to blow apart a paceline. Made no sense at all. I had been sucked back into the negative energy zone. All I could think about was my (potentially) rubbing rear brake, the fact that my carbs ended up in a bottle and my electrolytes in the camelback (who cares, I had them both), the nagging slight cramp that kept appearing in my right groin, and the potential that those puffy white clouds were going to let loose with a massive mountain thunderstorm and I have left my rain jacket back with my crew at Twin Lakes. I was no longer enjoying myself. Mile 65, and I was slogging under a brilliant Colorado sky.
Time for the attitude check.
Bahram came through again. He was turning the pedals very slowly on the only section of single track in the course, with about 30 of us stacked up behind him. I was 3rd wheel back. There was no room to pass on the trail. Eventually at a single-track uphill switchback Bahram slowed so much we were practically track-standing behind him. The guy in front of me did a sweet move where he wheelied and pivoted simultaneously, cutting the switchback and going straight up the side of the hill. I followed him (though with a less elegant move where I ran over a shrub) and so did about 10 other guys.
|Looking Epic, Clearing the Singletrack|
I rolled into the aid station starting to feel tired. Not ready to quit by any means, but losing the ability to keep the speed up effectively. I crossed the timing mat at 2:20pm. Nearly 8 hours into the race. I started trying to calculate what kind of speed I needed to carry over the next sections, but was tired enough the math were not making any sense. The piece of paper taped to my top tube said I was somewhere close to an 11 hour finish, but the combination of my scribble and tiredness made it hard for me to process. A guy dressed as a banana handed me 3 Roctanes, a little girl filled my bottle and camelback, and a very nice woman handed me a cup full of potato chips. I headed out again for the last 29 miles of the race (it's 104 miles, not 100...they lie to you).
Small problem, I seemed to be riding alone. The next group ahead was several hundred yards away, and no one from behind seemed to be catching me. I was headed onto Halfmoon road/Lake County 11, which heads straight North across a valley with the afternoon winds kicking up to 20-25 mph. This was not good. I was going to burn up a lot of energy getting across the valley to the Powerline climb unless I could find some people to work with.
There was a group of 3 that was dropping back from a larger pack ahead. As I turned off the dirt and onto the pavement, the wind hit me full on. I put my hands together on the bar, dropped my head in some simulation of an aero position and stared at the speedometer. 12mph...11mph...10mph...finally down to 7mph and holding steady. My brain started playing games with me. 8 hours. 4 hours to go for a buckle. 7mph or less and 26 miles to go, 4 hours for a buckle...I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!
As the lactic acid built in my legs, and the speed kept falling, the doubt and uncertainty started to take over. Somehow, I kept the pedals turning, kept sucking down the water and the GUs, and managed to catch the small group in front of me. I had accelerated to about 11mph, I guess getting tiny bits of draft off the cars passing on the road. There was a funny argument going on between the 3 people in the group. None seemed to speak English. I’m guessing Spanish, Dutch, and Frech, though I may have been altitude hallucinating at this point. The whole thing (real or imagined) gave me a little boost (an international peleton!) Based on the gestures, and the volume, I was guessing no one wanted to pull. I certainly couldn't pull. So I tucked into line, and rested a bit while the group moved along at 12mph or so. Faster pacelines started to pass and I tried to grab the wheels, but could not quite keep the pace. After an eternity of battling the wind, I was finally in the shelter of the mountains and tall pines again. I was passing the fish hatchery, and the road tilted up. I passed the unofficial Strava aid station (who knew coke mixed with water would be so refreshing??) crested a small hill, and made the left turn into the woods. In front of me loomed the Powerline. 1st mile of this 4.1 mile 6.7% grade climb averages 11%. Sometimes as steep as 23%. Time to walk, just like everyone else. 3:10pm. 20 miles to go. About 3200ft of climbing 3:20 left to get a buckle. I'm walking...at 2.5mph