Saturday, August 17, 2013

Leadville 2013 Part 5 -- Digging Deep

Walking up Powerline is something every Leadville racer does. Dave Wiens, Rebecca Rusch, Elden “Fatty” Nelson, even Lance Armstrong walk on Powerline.  

everyone does it...
I had pre-ridden the climb on Wednesday, so I knew what was coming. However, that was with fresh legs, and now I had 80 miles in. I did know once I walked up the 2 initial pitches, the remaining 3.5 miles or so were very rideable. Here’s a video I shot on Wednesday.  (I was going to insert another story about Bahram Akradi here. Somehow he got in front of me again, and was getting another push…was anyone working a Lifetime club on Saturday, or were they all pushing Bahram?) 

As I got to the top of the 2nd steep pitch, I was able to remount (after messing with the brakes again). A large slice of pizza gave me a push. I’m totally serious, and I was not hallucinating. Actually, it was a guy dressed as a pizza. He gave me a mighty push which got me started and shooting down a small hill before starting the Powerline climb proper. 

Powerline looking back
(from Wednesday's Pre-ride)
The pic is from my pre-ride on Wednesday. The pizza pushed me at the top of the road where you see it disappear. You’ll notice the steepness… Mostly what I remember about Powerline was being in pain. Legs hurt, lungs hurt, brain hurt, eyes hurt. The Garmin seemed to be broken, and the odometer kept not moving. Of course, I was only going 3 or 4 mph, so I guess that makes sense. I remember passing more people than not. I remember stopping to imitate a bear in the woods, and I remember a dude in a pickup with water (which I did not take). I passed the little firepit which I knew signaled the end of the steep climbing, sucked down another Roctane (which nearly made me hurl), ½ my remaining bottle of electrolytes, flicked into the big ring, and started down Sugarloaf.

I’m not sure if I had ever been happier to be descending. It was a rocky, rutted, sandy trail, and I was exhausted, but I was happy. The forest trail turned into Hagerman’s pass road, and I really let it fly. (You may remember from part 2 where I was looking forward to bombing this downhill) Semi-aero tuck, it was 4:15pm. I was able to steal a look at the odometer. 87 miles. I started to believe I really was going to buckle. The turn onto Turquoise Lake road is met with equal parts dread and eager anticipation. Only about 14 miles left. Of course, 8 of those are uphill. The 4.6 mile, 700 ft climb is another one that is no problem on fresh legs. Miles 87-92 of the LT100? Dude, that sucked. 

The doubt kept creeping back in. Would I bonk? Would I suddenly cramp up? I chatted (briefly) with racers I passed, and that were passing me (Bahram AGAIN! Was he using secret tunnels or teleporters? Was he a hallucination? Totally bizzare.) We were pretty convinced if we could keep the 7-8mph pace on the paved climb, we could buckle. We all encouraged each other, expressed happiness the wind was gone, and even more that the day had stayed dry and cool. Finally, I was turning left onto another forest road, and there was the Carter summit aid station. 

The Carter summit is universally known as “1 hour to go” in the LT100. There’s a short (but steep) climb to the top of St Kevins, then a nice long downhill to Leadville. Once in town, it’s just the last 3.5 mile climb up the Boulevard and onto 6th street, and you’re home. I was at Carter aid in 10:25. The very nice volunteer who gave me a coke & water (again, how refreshing is that?) slapped me on the back and told me I would need a new belt tomorrow. Just don’t crash. 

I refilled the bottle with GU electrolyte drink, didn’t bother with the camelback (1 hour!) slurped another Roctane (my god, if I never eat one more of those…) checked the rear brake (yes, it had been rubbing all the way up turquoise lake road) and off I went. I climbed most of the backside of St Kevins, banged into a guy at about 3mph when I lost my line on what must have been the final pitch up. We apologized profusely to each other, implored each other not to crash, and decided to work together to get home. This guy had a great philosophy. You can’t flat if your tires are in the air. He proceeded to absolutely shred the St Kevins descent. I stayed in his line, though going a little slower. He was catching air and executing tail whips at mile 95 of the LT 100…so he was either completely altitude brain addled, or one tough muther. 

I remember I started smiling ear to ear as I crossed the railroad tracks which said “you’re back in Leadville”. This was the happiest descent of my life. People had told me to dread the last 4 miles (the ones that come after the odometer says “100”) and they were not pleasant. But, they were not the soul crushing lay down and quit miles I thought they would be. 

Cresting the 6th street hill there was Doc Wenmark (not riding this year due to an injury) cheering us all on. He’s a marine vet, I thanked him for his service, and kept the pedals turning. The crowd was packed in around the red carpet leading to the finish line. It looked like the shots from the Tour de France with the crowd parting in front of me as I came up the very last hill onto the red carpet (every finisher gets a red carpet home). I was coming in around 11:20. About 1 hour slower than I hoped, but I was not worried, I was under 12:00. I saw Farooq first, high-5ed him as he snapped pics. Then Priya, carrying Layla in a back pack. She ran with me for a few meters. Then Mom! I high 5-ed mom as she ran along, but did not have the presence of mind to slow down and cross the line with her. You can see in the pictures she is about 2 steps behind me. I crossed the line at 11:22. I buckled at Leadville. I was in disbelief. Then Marilee Maupin put the finisher’s medal around my neck, gave me a big hug, and told me to kiss my mom. Which I did. Priya (with Layla) and Farooq came up, hugs and high-5s. Mom notices a whole lot of blood on my knee (you may remember part 3: Heart of the race, where I went down on columbine…) I guess I had bashed myself up good, but did not realize it. So, it was off to the med tent. Farooq took my bike, and pointed out the back wheel was grabbing. At that point, if someone my size had asked, they could have had a free Santa Cruz Tallboy. Was not sure I wanted to ride the thing again anytime soon. 

Many finished in ½ the time I did. I came in #1067. 1376 people finished under the 13 hour cut-off. 1281 under 12 hours. About 175 people DNF’d, and other 300+ DNS (did not start). Everyone who started that day dug deep, and found the limits they used to have do not apply anymore.

I buckled at Leadville…

Crossing the right behind!
Farooq...holding me up(?)

Go kiss your mom

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