Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leadville 100 2014 -- Part 3

Columbine and the Eating Contest

Hour 3:15 of the Leadville 100. I had consumed 1 or 2 GU packs, and 2 dilute bottles of carborocket. Total intake:  about 400 calories. Total expected:  900-1000. This my friends is called a calorie deficit.  

Of course, I did not realize my situation.  All I knew was I was continuing to ride relatively fast through this beautiful Colorado morning, and I had a plan. I was going to turn on the power at the left hand turn onto the real slopes of Columbine, take a risk, and burn some matches in an all-out push for the top. I would make or break my race here, and if my legs were able to give as well as I felt, maybe get myself back to close to a 9-hour pace. 

Crossing the ranch gate, I decided as soon as I saw the lead moto, I would hit the gas. When the moto came by, signaling the real race leaders were just behind, I was just turning left onto the Columbine road.  This was a bit of a victory for me, as last year, I was passed by the moto while still in the Twin Lakes aid.   Todd Wells went by the picture of composure dressed in Stars and Stripes kit of the American champion. Quickly some combination of Alban Lakata, Christoph Sausser, and some others came by. Really is amazing to see pros riding.  They really never look like they are working.

Now firmly into the climb I added gear, and stood on the pedals to put in a big 30 second effort and get some mojo going. 

Except that 30 second effort had me barely moving.  I had nothing.  No juice. No zip. No mojo. Nothing to get me moving faster despite my calls to the engine room for more power. 

I settled into a steadier seated climb, and let the HR come back a bit. I took another tug of water and tried to think of what was happening.  I was lighter, fitter, on a hard tail... That's when I started counting the calories I had taken on so far. Something like 500, counting the sandwich I had just eaten at Twin Lakes. 3:40 into the LT100, and I had eaten 500 calories. 


I ripped a GU off my top tube, washed it down with a couple big swigs of Carborocket, and willed my stomach to do its thing and start processing calories. I looked at the computer. I would down another GU at 4:10, and make sure to drink more Carborocket. I knew there's no way to actually make up for a calorie deficit, but I was going to try. 

The problem with the strategy I chose is pretty clear. It's really hard to eat a lot when you're climbing close to your limit just to keep moving forward, you're above 10000', and going up, and you're also thinking about making up some time. 

Very quickly the Carborocket started to taste like paste (and Carborocket Lemonade flavor 333 is pretty good stuff). As 4:10 approached, the thought of eating a GU turned my stomach, and I began to feel a bit nauseous. 

None of this was good.  Columbine is already a relentless climb.  The base is higher than any of the famous European climbs, and it's on dirt.  Add to that my massive calorie deficit, and I was in trouble. And I knew it.  Looking down, I had about 4 miles to go on the climb, and I was going to suffer the whole way.  I entered survival mode....there was no other gear, no mental well to go to to make myself go faster.  I'd run my muscles dry of glycogen, and until I could get enough calories down and let the machine process, I was simply not going very fast.   

There are a few folks who have called bike races eating contests masquerading as athletic events.  Biju Thomas and Allen Lim of Skratch labs fame talk about it.  Fat Cyclist (the definitive LT 100 blogger if you ask me) talks about it, and every year with the Tour de France on TV they do a segment on how much riders eat on a tour stage.  They say the best riders are not always the fittest, they are the ones that can east the most while riding the hardest.  I had lost this year's eating contest, not because I was not ready for it...but because I forgot to enter it. Not eating in the LT100?  Not a mistake a 43-year old buckle holder is supposed to make.  Leave that one for the rookies and the 20-somethings.  What a dummy.  Can't win if you don't play....and all my cards were in little 100-calories packs in my jersey pocket and taped to my top-tube...taunting me.

I was now in a dark place physically, but also mentally and emotionally.   I should have been the one passing people on Columbine.  Instead I was stuck in my smallest gear, barely moving the bike up the hill.  Lots of opportunities to grab a wheel and use it for motivation, but nothing.  The Pain Train led by Rebecca Rusch came down the mountain, no pop.  I was mad at myself, going slow, and feeling like crap.

So I ground it out.  I kept moving, did not succumb to the siren song of stopping to take pictures of the lake a few thousand feet below.  I kept pushing the fluids, and whenever I thought I might not vomit, took in more calories.  2.5 hours later I was turning around at the aid station, grabbing an open GU from an awesome volunteer, and heading down for the return trip.  At least I did not make the mistake of hanging out at the top of thing going well.

I made the descent and started to feel better along the way.  I passed Randy suffering on the Goat Trail, gave him a quick cheer.  Ken was in his usual spot, mounted on his 4-wheeler in short sleeves.  I yelled, "don't let em quit Ken!" He yelled back "no one quits!"

Once past the rocky section, the descent was pretty awesome.  I was going a lot faster than i remember going last year, laid off the brakes, and even drifted a few turns.  My stomach started to feel a lot better, and I managed to pop a few calories in when we started across the ranch towards the dam.

I came into the aid station pretty tired.  Just over 6 hours.  Not really where I wanted to be...except it was exactly where I wanted to be!  My crew of mom, Priya,  Farooq, and Layla were waiting.  I was in the Leadville 100 for the 2nd year, it was an amazing day, and I was going to ride my bike for another 45 miles in Colorado. I downed a bottle and a half, ate some more, dumped the trash, reloaded on GUs and bottles, and got ready to head out.  

My sister asked if I was still going for 9.  "  Not any more."  I still thought 10 or 10:30 was in sight.  I could get the next 45 miles in 4 hours or less surely, especially since I seemed to feel better.  

So, hugs all around, I told everyone I'd seem them in 4, or maybe 5 hours.  They headed back to the houses for naps, and I headed out on the trail back to the pipeline aid station.

Click here for part 4!


  1. I spend WAM and Iceman stuffing as much food into my mouth as possible. I don't do this during training rides. I struggle on training rides, but somehow WAM is much easier. Hmmmm....

    Also, I have my GPS set to count off 5-mile laps (or, typically 16-20 minutes on my road bike), and I eat/drink whenever it beeps, so I don't forget. At Iceman, I watch my 5 mile lap times and eat every 5 miles, and TRY to remember to drink ever 2 miles.

  2. That eating discipline and ue of technology is very triathelte of you. I should make fun of you for that. Might be more beneficial if I imitate the behavior.

    By the way, Hans you are my first comment ever. There is at least one person out there willing to read my typos and gramar errors! I am validated!

  3. Well, I really appreciate your stories about PB100. See what I did there? I used the vernacular.