Saturday, August 16, 2014

Leadville 100 2014 -- Part 2

Riding Really Fast

I've done this once.  I have the hardware to prove it.  There's a lot of writing out there about the Leadville family, the draw of 10,200', the toughness of the  course, and the kindness of the competitors.  And you know, it's all true.

Once you have that 12-hour buckle, it looks big.  Then you see a big one.  The ones that they hand out for being one of the less than 20%ish that can get out and back in under 9 hours.  It is very shiny.  It is very pretty.  Once you have seen it, you must possess a Big Buckle.  

And so it was I came to Leadville in 2014.  Wanting a big buckle.  It would take a lot of luck to come in under 9, but if everything went perfectly, there was an outside chance I could pull it off.

The gun had just gone off, and 90 seconds of toe dabbing and scooting later I was going 25mph down 6th street.  Then I was going 30mph+.  Being very scared of the big crash, I stayed to the left, avoided getting into big bunches, and tried to make sure I always had an "out".  Sure enough, as we made the turn onto 9A for the final long downhill to the dirt, I heard the "BANG!" followed by crunching and scraping just to my right.  Someone had touched wheels at 30mph and gone down hard.  More pileups as heads swiveled around to look at the carnage, and one guy in front of me swerved right following his head around.  I kept my head up, and kept moving, as I figured at this stage (the "Neutral" roll out - HA! ) the downed rider would have no issues getting help.  

As we crossed the train tracks and hit the dirt I was feeling pretty strong. Riders were 3 wide on the dirt road, and sometimes the available line was not perfect.  I moved up whenever I could, tried hard to avoid getting stuck behind the slow guy, and focused on not crashing.  I succeeded, and as we crossed the cattle guard for the grind up St Kevins, I relaxed just a little bit. At least at 5-8mph, any crash was going to be more irritating than painful.

The St Kevins climb was uneventful, my legs felt good, and as I turned left onto the road I was able to power up the speed a bit. I told Marilee I loved her (Fatty says tell Merilee you love her, so I do.  Plus I really do love that lady) as I took the sharp right for the decent to the road.

I turned on to Turquoise Lake road for the long down hill, and I checked my computer.  55 minutes.  6 minutes faster than last year.  10% faster in fact.  Not bad Mr Bery, not bad at all.

Before the road really tipped down, I slurped down a GU (Lemonade Roctane -- YUMMY!  wish I had more than one, the rest were chocolate raspberry.  Chocolate raspberry you are good, but you are no lemonade) and took a swing from the bottle.  For those of you paying attention, you will look at the time I just mentioned, know I've gone about 10 miles, and thought about the number of calories I have so far consumed.  

The next climb up Turquoise Lake road, Hagermans Pass road, and the back side of Sugarloaf were where I planned to make up a lot of time.  I wanted to be 30 minutes faster than last year, possibly 45.   With the day as perfect as it was, and my legs feeling good, I figured it was a possibility, so I added a few gears, and looked for wheels to follow.  

Before I new it I was on the "trail" portion of the climb, and was pretty much alone.  It seemed I had climbed past the folks in the immediate vicinity, which meant I'd likely have a few minutes on the Powerline descent without someone breathing down my neck.  This was good, as I am not the world's fastest descender, and having someone over my shoulder makes me really nervous, mistake prone and slow.

There were only 2 places on Powerline I thought my day was over.  The first was near the top when the forest road-like trail is a little wider, and the dirt a little gabbier.  I had some good speed going and next thing I new I was airborne.  

I was airborne with my weight forward and my bike rotating to the front wheel.  My brain said only one thing, and my mouth said the same.  Starts with "F" rhymes with "Luck".  I said it loud.  Really loud.  And long.  You all know what I mean.

After what felt like a good 6 seconds in the air, but was likely closer to .6, my front wheel hit the ground, my jaws clanged together, and thanks to my Bonty XR2s (hooray Kaolin at the Flat Tire for telling me those are the best tires ever, and hooray Joey at Shadetree for getting them from Kaolin for me!), and a little luck, I kept rolling down Powerline.  

The next time I thought I was going to die was when there was another crash 2 bikes in front of me.  Poor guy had his wheel slip out into one of the massive ruts, and went right over the bars.  I already had both brakes grabbed hard, and my bike was going to keep going the speed it was going.  There were spectators there, so once again, I absolved myself of any guilt of not stopping and continued to move down Powerline's kitty litter covered surface as fast as I could.

I made it to the road breathing as hard as if I had been sprinting for 15 minutes instead of descending.  My heart rate was in the stratosphere -- that's how intense that descent is.  I looked at the computer.  2:00.  Not bad.  I was 30 minutes ahead of last year, but 15 minutes short of where I rally wanted to be for a comfortable sub-9.  Still feeling good, I figured I would push hard for the next 20 miles, and take some fitness risks while climbing Columbine to see if I could get back on pace.  

I managed to hold a few wheels on the way to Pipeline, though one really fast train passed that I could not grab onto.  The Pipeline to Twinlakes segment was again fast, but not nearly as fast as I wanted.  I came in to Twinlakes at 3:15.  Well off a sub-9 pace, but really, well on a very respectable pace.  10:00 or even 9:30 was well within reach.  No reason to back off and cruise through the next 60 miles...

My aid station crew was well prepped. Having done this once, they knew to swap bottles, make me eat a almond butter wrap, hand over a few GUs, and give me a bottle to chug.  Nice and fast -- great to have that awesome crew of my sister, mother, brother-in-law, and of course my 2.75 year old niece.  She really holds the entire crew together if you ask me.  

I saw in the next tent a really nice floor pump.  Remembering my tire was soft, I asked with some urgency and a whole lot of niceness if I could borrow the pump.  Connecting the pump the gauge showed I was down on the rear almost 10 pounds from ideal.  I wonder if that slowed me down?  I also noticed a serious lack of Randy's crew.  Seems there was a bit of a SNAFU on the food bag, and Randy's crew was conspicuously absent.  Hmmmm....walking a 1/2 marathon and leaving the food bag at the condo...a very interesting Leadville 100 strategy from Mr Gunzer I must say.

I clicked in, and headed out for the Columbine climb.  I had a lot of GU in my back pocket.  Really a lot for someone who was supposed to be eating 2 per hour, or at a minimum one every 45 minutes.  I also had the same 3 GUs taped to my top tube that I was supposed to eat early in traffic...

If you sense foreboding, you're right on track.  The climb to Columbine mine would be where I lost the eating contest.

Click here for part 3...
...Click here to go back to part 1

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