A strange things happens at Leadville. You spend the first 60 miles riding with people. Lots of people. So many people you're often jammed into a bad line, or stuck behind some slow guy or you're the slow guy that some fast guy is stuck behind. You come down from Columbine (where you've been riding for about 2.5 hours in 2-way traffic), and you pass through 3 full crew areas. There's a lot of cheering, people pick up something about your kit and call you out. For me this year it was "Way to go Lifetime!" Because my kit was a big ole Lifetime billboard:
|Lifetime Fitness Race Kit. Price of Entry for 2014|
|Bahram and Someone Else|
Shockingly I have digressed
When you come through the 3 crew areas at TwinLakes and its really pretty amazing. Screaming, cheering, your own crew (hopefully), and cowbell. Lots and lots of cowbell. Cowebells are really one of my favorite sounds, and I am not kidding.
Then, you cross the highway where all kinds of cars are stopped for your passage (yes, Colorado state troopers stopping traffic for YOU Mr or Ms Leadville rider!) up a little hill and you're alone. Your bike is pointed downhill-ish, you can see Highway 24 off to the right, and in front of you in the distance you can see the mountains you have to go over before getting back to Leadville. And strangely, you're mostly alone. There's sometimes another rider ahead as a carrot, or some guy with an "L" for "Leadman" on his number plate passing you while eating a sandwich and talking on the phone discussing his next day's 45 mile cool down run, but mostly you're alone.
On these miles I pushed hard. I wanted that 10:XX next to my name. I had refueled on the way down from Columbine, and surely my guts would have processed some of those calories by now. I found I had some power. Not huge power, but enough to keep the speed around 12-15mph -- mostly into a headwind. I kept eating and drinking hoping to put enough juice in the legs for the Powerline and Turquoise Lake/Kevins climbs.
I came into the pipeline aid station at 7:30. I had ridden the Twin Lakes to Pipeline section in the pace I wanted for my 9 hour pipe dream -- this was awesome. As I pulled up to the aid tent to refill the bottles and GU (yes, I ate a few in the last hour), I got a slap on the back and a "hey!!" It was my friend Trina from Scottsdale! She was at the race with her dad supporting their friend on his way to a sub-9 singlespeed finish, and they were hanging around waiting for us as their duties to fast racers were done. It was great to see a friend who helped get my bottles filled and gave me a few words of encouragement for the miles to the finish.
I got rolling out of Pipeline with a few other riders, but I dropped them on the dirt trail not the way to Half-Moon lake road. So much for having people to draft with! When I made the left onto the road, the wind hit me full in the face. Last year I was going about 8mph on this section. This year I was going faster, but I was definitely hurting myself to do so. I was very happy when a fast train pulled up behind me. As the last rider of about 10 went by I stomped on the pedals and sprinted to catch their draft. For about 1/2 the run down this windy, soul crushing stretch, I was able to sit on the back of this paceline before they dropped me. It was all I needed to keep the pace up, and keep my spirits up before the Powerline climb. I found a couple other guys to work with for the mile up to Outward bound, then it was the left turn onto the Powerline climb itself. 8 hours according to my watch. a 10:30 or even a 10:00 was a possibility. Things were looking up -- thanks to the nameless friends who paced me on the road from pipeline.
Just like everyone else, I ground out the first several hundred meters, then dismounted for the slog up the really steep face. I had been alone for so many miles, all of a sudden, it was a traffic jam again! Just another strange feature of the race...
|Laurel as the Devil|
|Bill the Handsome Man (and Laurel)|
Don't let the smile fool you.
He has pink Handlebars
I was pretty tired of pushing my bike at this point...actually. I was just tired, and hugs from Laurel and Bill for me moving again. Once again, I had friends on a very lonely part of the LT100.
I made it to the little flat and downhill to commence the real climb. I accelerated on the downhill with the full intention of hammering the 2.7 miles to the top. Run across the hot coals, don't walk. Make the pain go quick. That was the plan. Then all the calories I had downed to reduce the calorie defect from not eating the first few hours caught up with me. My stomach was turning trying to deal with the untold amount of sugar I had dumped into it, and I felt like the best thing to do would be to stick my finger down my throat and spend the next few minutes puking. But I did not. I kept moving. Mostly. I also mostly walked.
I did not run across the hot coals. I crawled across them. Army style.
Powerline climb just stunk. I knew it would be hard, but it took almost 50 minutes to claw my way up the 2.7 miles to the top. I was back in the dark place...and again, mostly alone.
One saving grace...I never really cramped. Here or on Columbine. A few twinges of tightening in the quads and calves, but nothing that could not be worked out.
I made my way down Sugarloaf/Hagermans pass as fast as I dared. The Hagerman's pass road is smooth, wide, and just begging for a tuck. I did not do that, rather choosing to spin the legs and try and get any lactic acid out before attacking Turquoise Lake road.
Riding with Legends
The climb to the Carter aid seemed interminable, but it was do-able. I made it up there at 10:00. No way for a 10:something. I would settle for 11:something. My stomach had recovered (again) at the aid station, and it wanted salt. So I gave it a lot of potato chips. Then it wanted coke. So I drank one. And another. And a third. Loaded up with water for the final push home, I kicked off from the aid station right behind some Ride 2 Recovery vets. Legends and Heroes.
On the final steep pitch before the St Kevins descent, I caught Jillene of Fat Cyclist fame. Legend.
As the St Kevins road turned sharply down I caught Ricky McDonald. 21 time Leadville 100 MTB finisher. Legend.
On the Boulevard I caught Art Flemming. 70 something years old. 11 time finisher. Michigan Mountain Biking Hall of Fame inductee. Legend.
I crossed the line Ken Chlouber whacked me with one of his big mits and said "Great to see you again - welcome home!" Legend.
I got a big hug and my finishers medal from Abby Long, a LRS staffer and a woman I have come to respect for for commitment to the legend...
I had another Leadville Buckle. I was welcomed home to Leadville by Ken Chlouber himself. My disappointment of not meeting my expectations was washed away with the joy that comes from riding that red carpet, and coming home to Leadville.
And the best part? I get to do it all again next year.
See you in Leadville.