Thursday, November 12, 2015

Iceman 2015. Bad Dad hammers

Race Report!

Iceman. On my bike, 2 places feel like "home". Potowatami and Iceman. Sure, I have the great privilege of living in a place where people come to vacation -- on their mountain bikes -- but the tall maples, oaks, pines, black dirt, and crisp Midwestern air will always be home.   Iceman is where I got the bug for racing...the big events that bring together all kinds of likeminded, slightly insane people.  Iceman started the journey, has brought me my best friends, and has changed the path of my life in only positive ways.  Not bad for a short little race in crap weather.  As long as I can, I will be coming back.  2015 was looking to be a lot different than 2014...a full drivetrain and brake rebuild was unlikely to be required after this one.   

Iceman Start - like being home
Poto -- there are few better places to fall in love with knobbies

I lined up in 2015 with not much to prove, other than I can have a blast going as fast as I can for something around 2 hours. Go hard, don't crash, thank everyone I could see on the side of the trail, and finish with a smile. Easy goals.

As usual (not always) 900ft started in an earlier wave (but only 5 waves ahead this time), myself along with Dead Blow and Der Roadie were together. Fast Lady, Bike Boy and Captian Sloe were spread out over the next 10 waves.  I was hoping to ride with Der Roadie and Dead Blow a bit, but Iceman does not lend itself to riding with friends.

L to R, Der Roadie, Me, Deadblow at the start  Photo from Madame LaFrench

Start to Dockery (or thereabouts)

Iceman start is a road sprint, with a sharp left hand turn followed by a fast narrowing onto single track. This is very very jittery. Mountain bikers have no idea how to ride in a pack, and even less how to ride on a pace line. This happens at the Whiskey and at Leadville, but both those races don't really have bottlenecks early, so there's less of a mad sprint for the hole shot. They are also a little more self selecting, as 50- and 100- miles at altitude will thin the field a bit. Iceman is dead flat for about 1.5 miles. The goal here is to go out pretty hard, find the wheels and sit 4th or 5th. There are stronger people in the wave, and I planned to take advantage.

At one point Der Roadie said "this is the easy part!". I replied "yeah...just trying to find people who look like they won't crash". Harder than it sounds. As we made the big left hander, I was sitting 10th or so in a line on the right side of the road, behind a woman who kept grabbing her brakes, a guy who kept trying to move up between two pace lines that had formed, and to my left a guy who kept moving up and half-wheeling the pace line to the outside, then dropping back 1/2 a length or more.

I kept waiting for the wheels to touch and peoples race days to end before their tires saw dirt.

Through the miracle of bike racing dynamics and I think Der Roadie letting me in, a gap developed in the left, I jumped in and had a smooth cruise to the right turn hole shot.

Unfortunately, now I was up with the road bikers who heard this was a "road race on dirt" and didn't know how to navigate the sandy 2-track and quick turns. The goal here is to stay upright, keep an escape route open, and position for the 3 or 4 sand hills that are more like cyclocross obstacles than climbs.

My Shadetree setup saved me multiple times. Joey has me on the biggest volume tires that fit my rig, and a new XT 1x11 drivetrain. Pushed outside the 2-track into the grass?  No problem. Bad line in a crowd onto the sand?  No worries. Bad line onto the steepest part of the hill?  Click click with the right thumb, flawless shifting, stand up for 4 turns and leave a whole lot of people with grinding gears and washed out 2.1 tires behind to untangle themselves from each other.

I'm not sure where I lost Der Roadie, but later he told me he had mechanical issues early...fortunately did not end his day.

Pacelineing...until trouble

Popping over Nettie's hill I found 3 guys working a nice pace line. The trail made it hard to rotate in a disciplined way, but we switched off wherever possible. It was great to have this little group and we made great time through the first aid station, and into what we used to call "big ring jam".  I kind wished I had a few more teeth on the ring in this section, as I was spinning pretty fast in the top gear to keep up with the pace line, but fortunately there were enough sandy bits and turns to slow folks down to make it less of a problem.

Then I noticed my brakes and gears were not where I left them. Dammit!  My handle bars were slightly loose and rotating!  I pushed them back into place, and felt a "click" as the stem settled into the grooves on protective material. I was hoping it was a one-timer but I was 99% certain I was going to need to stop. Sure enough, at the next sharp climb my pulling on the bars rotated them back. I was about 1/2 way at this stage.  Some moron must have built the bike up while talking on the phone and drinking a beer Friday.  Oh, that was me?  never mind then.

I resolved to stop at the next intersection with a course volunteer and tighten the bars. I knew I could go for a bit, but no way I could go another hour like this. To my extraordinary luck, the place I pulled over had a guy with a full toolset. Official neutral support!!  Super lucky for me, as it saved me getting the bag open, finding the tool, etc. unfortunately, I was not carrying any "volunteer tips" like I usually do, and I forgot to get his name. But I'll say mr neutral support at about 22K -- you are the MAN!

Yeah Neutral Support past where Williamsburg party used to be...

For the next 2-3 miles I passed people. I had lost my group, and there was lot of traffic. Not enough to bottleneck, but enough that I needed to focus on when to pass and when to wait. I misjudged the skills of one guy in front of me, and hit him pretty hard as he missed his line on one of the "cross obstacle" hills. No damage, but a bit of a bummer to have to put my foot down and run for a bit.

By the time I got to Williamsburg road, I was clear, and riding pretty much alone. Completely strange. 4000 people in this race 1000 had started before me. The race is infamous for its traffic and bottlenecks...and I was pretty much alone.

I kept it pegged and started glancing at the garmin. Hmmm...2:00 ain't happening but 2:15 is a real possibility....maybe even 2:10. I did know this. I was going to get to Mt Gary right on schedule.

Riding through the 2nd aid there was a bit of traffic, which quickly dissipated. I played leap frog with a guy in an Audi kit. He seemed to have more power on the long flats, I would catch and pass him on the punchy climbs or in the space immediately following as he puffed over them a bit.

I cleaned Anita's -- 2nd time ever! -- and glanced at the Garmin. I was starting to feel the effort of pushing hard (zone 4 mostly for you data geeks) for the past hour and 45 minutes. I set my finish goal at 2:10. I might just pull that off.  Passing though the 3rd aid I downed the last of my first bottle (really didn't need that 2nd one) and a bit of GU. Traffic was thick again. I was spending a good amount of energy not hitting people.  The way the course works there would be traffic all the way to the line.

Mt Gary and the Finish

I crossed Lands End road and got a smile on my face. 3 turns and about 90 seconds away was the top of Mt Gary!  Of course none of them saw me, despite my identifying sticker. No worries though, by subtly steering my bike right at them, the gang figured out I was there.

Up the woodchips and into the barriers through the single track. Then one more hard effort up the Icebreaker. I crossed the final timing mat at 2:08. 3 minutes. Time for a finish kick!  Stand up, and gears...and no kick. Nothing. I was moving, but a finish sprint this was not.  I tried cramps...not a lot of pain, just no more power to be had.  I made the big right hand turn to see the finish banner and made the line in 2:13. That's a PR, and that felt good.

Just a little confused at the finish
900Ft was hanging out at the finish line and called out as I crossed.  Somewhat thankfully, he had not had time to change yet.  I found some Drunkcyclists (always nice to have friends anywhere you go...just look for the colors!) and shared a few shots of Fireball provided for just such a purpose by Der Roadie.  

I even got to hug Steve Brown, which I think he found disturbing.  This is serious business after all.

Another great day on the bike, courtesy of Steve Brown (who takes way too much crap for the amazing race he puts on every year), great friends, (even a new one named Carl courtesy of DC and Dirty) and the beauty that is Northern Michigan.  The only sadness is that it takes another whole year for Iceman to roll around again.  

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Iceman 2015. Mt Gary comes of age.

This is all Very Serious

Bike racing is serious business best undertaken by serious men, and seriouser women.  Cheering at a bike race must follow certain established rules and decorum, and must remind all participants of their suffering. After all this is serious business.

Before we get into too much, 900ft shot this sweet video of the course.  It's just over 2 min of your life.  Watch it:

Iceman 2015 hosted by Dead Blow and Tickleticklepuke and as always enabled by the Iceman himself was a fantastic addition to the series.

For the racers, conditions were near perfect.  The just right amount of rain kept the sand in check without creating mud bogs. Hero dirt on the climbs virtually eliminated wheel slip, translating to descents with the left hand wrapped around the bar, and just a little braking for us cowards. Skies were overcast steel grey Midwestern fall, letting loose some rain and sleet as racers dressed for a 40 degree start to feel uncomfortably warm

Serious Men
Putting the hammer down off the line and keeping it pinned as much as possible left one pretty clammy at the finish. Those November North Michigan temps quickly turned the finisher into an ice cube, looking for a recovery beverage and a trademark Iceman bonfire to warm up and dry off.

Bad Dad Recovering
Wool hats and puffy coats were probably best for spectating.
Unless the coat needed to be shed to allow some ventilation for efforts incurred while screaming for world class pros like Chloe, Georgia, Katerina, and Evelyn, plus some dudes with names like Troy, Todd, Brian...

Pretty sure this sign pushed Chloe onto the top step
I am fully confident the Mt Gary crew made the ride for some racers.  Maybe some didn't like it -- after all, this is serious business. Can't say any definitive moves were made at our little patch of awesomeness -- too far from the finish really -- but more than a few gave us a smile, a wheelie or a fist pump. We were only flipped off once, we think.

Troy, Brian, Geoff, Todd...
Cheering for the fast women and very serious men who amaze us with their feats of aerobic intensity and quads of steel is certainly a fun time.  If we've done it right, those folks will think to themselves "Iceman...shitty weather, kinda short, kinda flat course, a long way from where I am....but I'm not missing out on my icemaniac love this year!" Those fast women and serious men will drag themselves out of the mountains of Arizona and Colorado again next fall. We'll be there, on My Gary, and it will be very serious. Very. Serious. Indeed.

Of course there's the Mt Gary friends and family.  Bad Dad, 900ft, Dead Blow, Captain Sloe, Der Roadie, Fast Lady (hello...3rd in her category), and Bike Boy all made it happen this year.  Of course there is The Elder.  Who, at 13 finished...ummm.....faster than all of us, and 2nd in his age group.  Barely 90 seconds off the lead.  I heard he rides a 1x10, but only uses 7-10.  Somebody get that boy a bigger chainring.  It was probably his sister in the "Unicorn" suit that gave him those last few watts. 

Fast Lady on the Barrel!

The Elder.  He's on the right.  He'll get a few more

There's another element to Mt Gary. By 12:30 or so all of the racer boys and fit chicks have come through. They're clicking their Garmins, seeing if they got a new PR, realizing they lost to their buddy by under 3 minutes AGAIN (3 god damn minutes. 2:45 actually. Did I mention the 2:13:30 was a PR?  And that I had to stop and tighten my handlebars about mile 10, which took about 3 minutes?  Ok, back to the point). They're downing Bell's, taking selfies and checking the leader boards to see if they made the podium and calculating their wave starts for next year.

Bad Dad and 900ft Post Race

That's when the heroes show up. The people who have to work for this.

First timers at Iceman who were pretty sure they could get their mountain bike from Kalkaska to Traverse City. People who have had Iceman in their "maybe one day" list for years. People who move more mass than 2 of those racer boys (and their bikes) put together. People with grand kids. Great grand kids. People who have taken 4 shots at Iceman and dammit, they are going to finish this year. Guys racing with their dads. The guy has kids.  People who are going to F-ING KILL their friend who told them this would be fun, then dropped them on Nettie's hill, 3 miles into the race.

These folks make the downhill left hander after the short sharp uphill from the road, drift into the uphill left-right S turn that starts the 1/3 mile climb, and stop. They are finished. This hill, which you cannot see the top of from the base (the only one I can think of at iceman) is a freakin' wall at Mile 28. They pull their feet off the pedals, look up, drop their head, and start pushing. Some sit down. Some eat something. Most get the zombie-look of someone who just wants it to end. Those who do stay on their bikes are spinning a 1:3 gear as hard as they can, and they just keep moving.

This is where we come in.

These people get cheers. They get encouragement. They get vuvuzuela-ed.  They are told there is beer and water at the top (there is, really) and they get a push if they can mount up. Sometimes we help them find an inhaler. We help them get a GU or a sandwich out of their packs. We also let them know they need to keep moving. Because we know, you can't give up. They made the cut off at Williamsburg road...maybe just barely. But they need to keep racing. Even 3 miles from the finish at the bottom of the hill, the sweep is coming. The quad sweeper and the Motos that clear the way for those who take this hill in 45 seconds or less while talking to their neighbor or pulling a wheelie are coming fast behind...and these folks want and need to finish.

Most of the gang has DNFd iceman one year or another. Some of us more than once. We cheer for these people so that today it won't be DNF for them.  After all, these folks had the guts to start, they need to finish. No DNF. Not once you get to Mt Gary.  Feel the love.  See you 11/5/16

Showing the Love

900ft.  moving his small mass

Captain Sloe worked traffic all day pulled a PR

Dead Blow.  Hammer wrapped in a sandbag

Bike Boy and his Baggies

Sweep Marhall gets Love too!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Iceman is here

This is it.

It's Iceman week.

I love this week.

I love this week because I am so excited.  Yes, I get pretty damn excited for The Whiskey.  I take the entire week off to go to Leadville.  both of those races the week before is more like "HOLY CRAP I HAVE TO RIDE THAT THING ON SATURDAY!"  I seriously want to crap my pants the entire week before The Whiskey and Leadville.   

There is no fear of Iceman.  There is no dread.  No concern of "do I have it in me?"  Iceman is an old friend.  I know her turns and hills, though they change every year.  She has stopped trying to kill me, and just likes to remind me who's really stronger these days.  Truth is, I'm just getting this 45 year old body over the abuse I put it through starting in February and going until mid August 15 in Leadville.  I stretched that peak another 2 weeks, and was so ready for Barnburner on August 29 that when it was canceled, I cried a bit.  Then I danced.  

But now, now I am going home.  Back to Michigan.  Back to where it's cold in November.  Where your tires roll on black dirt, and I recognize friends old, older, new and newer at every turn on the course.  Back to the race that kept me turning pedals for many years.  Back to the first place where I felt the kinship of the 2 wheel dirtbags.  

I can say this race has brought me much closer to a few of my friends, and has introduced me to people I plan to call my friends for a very long time.  And for that, I go back every year.  Yeah, it's a pain.  Yeah, it's a short race.  Yeah, the weather stinks.  Yeah, I need to drive, fly, sleep, drive just to get to where I shipped my bike.  Then build, get packet, eat, drink, sleep, wake, drive, RACE, finish, party, sleep, wake, drive, fly... 

And I'm not trading it for anything.

Life has changed over the past 20 years since I first did this thing.  I've lost family and friends to age and accidents.  Gained friends and family in the usual ways.  I've changed myself quite a bit, and so has the gang I roll with.

Iceman used to be the longest event on all our calendars.  "EPIC" 30 miles through the woods in Northern Michigan.  Yeah...that's a nice warm up these days.  I don't mind admitting it.  It's true for all of the guys I ride with.  Perhaps we're older, wiser, more stubborn...everyone is coming into this year's race with multiple 100 milers under their belt this season. Everyone is fast as they have ever been....and the energy put into the post-party seems to inexplicably go up and up and up.  And that is a great thing.

So here's to Iceman.  Here's to Steve Brown.  To Northern Michigan.  To friends.  To family.

See you all in 2 days.

There's at least this many more in the house somewhere.  And one in Dave's Garage

Thursday, August 27, 2015


I was scared. I feared I had done something terribly wrong. Not a "was that donation of an old cost worth $250 or $50, and is the IRS going to catch me?"  This was shaking me to my core as a person

I believe in helping others, as much as possible. I'm not so noble as to live as an ascetic monk and give away all my stuff (I like my stuff) but I always hope that when a call came I could do my best to help. 

During the 2015 Leadville 100 I passed a couple riders in trouble on Powerline. I was in a bit of hurt myself, but I was moving  forward. I called out to some, others I just rolled past. Sometimes people don't want you to say anything.  They are in their own personal hell of bonking and cramping and feeling queasy. I have been that guy (more than I would like) and truly, not having to say, "I'm ok" is a blessing. 

At mountain bike races, there are some basic rules.  

  1. Help people who need it.  Racers are the first responders.  
  2. Don't litter 
  3. Be nice 
  4. Don't quit  
Rule 1 basically trumps all the others.

Sunday morning, I found out a man named Scott Ellis riding about my pace had died of a heart attack on the Powerline climb. 

I was immediately paralyzed with fear. Had I passed someone I could have helped?  Was I such an asshole racer that I let a dying man suffer in the woods as I pedaled on?  

For days I did not check his splits. I was consumed with the fear that I had indeed failed to help when help was most needed. 

I finally checked. I was ahead of Scott Ellis by nearly 30 minutes at the previous checkpoint. 

While my guilty fear was relieved my heartache and self-preservation concern was not. People are not supposed to die in a race. Especially people who are fit, have done the event before, and "know what they are getting into".  True, the medical statics say if you take enough people, sit them down, and stare at them for 10 hours, someone will have a heart attack.  Over 25 years, something like 20,000 people have ridden Leadville, and it took (most) of them 10 hours or more.  Therefore, someone was going to have a heart attack.  

That doesn't help.

Riding around the following week, making some hard efforts I felt my chest tighten up.  Difficulty breathing.  I'm back in the desert...was it the dust?  Was it lingering fatigue?  Did the fact that I don't really care what I eat anymore (I simply can't eat enough) finally catch up with me?  Then it happened again, JRA (Just Riding Around).  It was hot though.  Close to 100. 

I have a lot more to live for than 2 wheels on dirt and the occasional start and finish line.  What am I doing?  I ride fast enough now, that even JRA and sticking my wheel in a rock and going over the handlebars could kill me.  

Of course, so could standing on the corner waiting to cross the street in New York when a garbage truck misses its turn and squashes me.  Or waiting at a traffic light when some texting fool slams into my car.

Somewhere in the recesses of philosophy and lessons absorbed over the years I was reminded.  Fear has no power when faced head on.  Face the fear, and it becomes the truth of what you are made of.

I won't stop.  I will ALWAYS ask.  Always.  They can curse me later.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Leadville 2015


Check out my composition...Mt Massive in the background!


This is the 3rd time I have had a chance to race Leadville.  Clearly I have a mental defect.  My amazing family continues to put up with the training, the travel, my constant talking about bikes and training and more bikes.  I'm truly a lucky, lucky guy.  I manage to keep getting in, and with  the kind of support I have at home...who can lose? (btw, here's the 2014 story and the 2013.  They spend more time talking about the course and the race vs what's in my head)

I really enjoy Leadville.  The chance to play bike racer for a week, soak in the atmosphere of a world class event, hang out with amazing people, and test myself on a iconic race course.  Besides -- Colorado, around the Continental divide, in August...what could possibly be better? 

The drive to Leadville is one I look forward to each year.  It is amazing.  Driving across the Sonoran Desert, Monument Valley, 4 corners area, Moab, Fruita, Grand Junction, Glenwood Canyon, Vail, and finally up the hill to Leadville.  It is the American west in all it's glory.  It's also completely maddening as I drive within 30 minutes of about 20 bucket list bike trails and ride none of them.  This year I smartened up and activated the satellite radio in the car, which made the entire trip go by in a flash.  I highly recommend satellite radio if you're driving for a 12 hour period by yourself.

Due to bad fate, I had no lodging in Leadville this year. Instead, I was down the slope in Copper Mountain.  A soul-less, if clean and comfortable condo.  I did sleep better being about 1500' or so lower, but I missed out on the Leadville atmosphere.  Waking up and walking over to the City on a Hill for coffee listening to race chatter, talking with friends met in person and online...all with Mt Massive and Mt Elbert as a backdrop is something I could do every day. But not this year.  I did get to hang out with Laurel Darren-Simmons, one of my personal inspirations who was working medical for Leadville and for the Trans-Rockies run, and one of her buddies, Matt before the massive waves of cyclists rolled in.  It is nice to have friends at 10,200'.

I did manage to participate in a couple of pre-race festivities happening in PbVille.  The Fat Cyclist and Rebecca Rusch hosted pre-rides, a brat-roast for WBR, and generally shared their awesomeness.  

Fatty and Rebecca have some amazing stories that you can read in their books and on their websites.  The battles they have fought with sickness and personal tragedies, the victories they have achieved on the race course and what they have given back to the world are pretty amazing.  They have lived full lives, and are willing to share with the rest of us.  For that I thank them.  Their impact on many people, including myself is hard to appreciate. Heck, I probably wouldn't even have contemplated Leadville in the first place were it not for Fatty's writings. If you're looking for some good inspiration, or good mountain biking advice, or stories, or humor check out their books and websites.  

I only managed to make it to the barbecue, and do one pre-ride, but I did make the most of it.  Here's a picture of me with Fatty:

Fatty has great advice on how to suck in your gut properly for pictures
and here's a picture of me with the Queen of Pain:

Tiaras are for Princesses.  The Queen wears rainbow stripes
CONCLUSION:  I am GIGANTIC.  Seriously.  Look back at those pictures   

Here's a shot of the group listening to Rebecca Rusch share knowledge. I think it's pretty:

I did one serious pre-ride.  I rode the Powerline climb on Wednesday to prove to myself that I could ride the "normal" part of that climb at pace.  And I did.  Even stopping for people bombing downhill I rode the 2.5 mile section from the steeps to the Sugarloaf summit in 35 minutes.  This is where the race has fallen apart for me the past 2 years.  I wanted to ride this section on Saturday, and ride it properly.  Proving to myself on the first day at altitude I could just go on up without hurting myself was key to my mental prep.  

At packet pick-up I connected with Abby froth LRS team.  She's awesome -- one of the people that makes the entire organization special.  More friends at 10,200'...always makes me smile.

Thursday night rolled around, and I picked up my race crew:

Mom as Race Crew.  How Awesome is that?
Friday was the meeting.  I'm pretty convinced that there's a group of people that sign up for Leadville 100 events so they can hear Ken Chlouber go into full preacher mode and minister to the assembled masses.  His speeches are moving, he has the gift.  I did not take pics or record.  If you're interested, someone did a great job of setting his speech to scenes from the 2014 race here.  It really is special.  Each year I've taken a little piece away as personal motivation.  This year, Ken talked about "how" and "why" we are all out here in the mountains.  "the how is easy" he said.  "Put your head down turn the pedals, don't quit".  He went on, "They why is much harder.  They why is all the sacrifice not by you, but by your families, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your job so you can be here..." True words indeed.

Race day 

I came into the week in some of the best shape ever.  I set some truly aggressive, perhaps pipe-dream like goals, but figured, what the hell.  I'm here, it's too late to go home, might as well go BIG. So far everything had gone perfectly, and that would indeed continue...

Staying at Copper was relatively easy for not being in town.  30 minutes from condo to Leadville, so 4am wake up, 5am departure.  Sure, I could have slept until 5am with an in-town place, but it worked. I was there in plenty of time for start line pic with my awesome crew:

That's my crew!
Selfie Mode!
This year, thanks to some miracle of effort at BarnBurner last year, I was in the RED corral for the start.  This means the people in front of me had previously gone sub-8 or were honest to goodness pros.  Like previous World Champions.  And the American Champion.  And last year's winner.  And the winner from the year before that.  Behind me was 2/3 or 3/4 of the field.  I am naturally very self-critical, but I did let myself puff up a bit.  Red means "you're fast Rohit", and I would hang on to that thought for much of the race. Because when this race gets hard, you need every bit of encouragement to keep you moving forward.

That's the start line.  The collective Quads and Gastrocs belonging to people in this picture are truly phenomenal

Start to Pipeline Outbound

Last year, I lost the eating contest.  I was in calorie deficit before I even started the 2nd hour of the race.  This year, per Fatty and Reba's advice, I started eating before the race started.  One cookie-like thing from the grocery and one package of GU watermelon chews.  210 calories before the gun went off.  I was ahead of the game in the eating contest.  

Pro Call ups, call-outs, Thunderstruck, Bulls on Parade, Ben Wiens singing the National Anthem, one more "love ya" from Ken and Marilee and the shotgun went off.

Unlike the previous years, I was rolling from the gun.  Maybe 15 seconds passed before I was clipped in and rolling.  30 seconds later I was in my biggest gear, and spinning easily up the little rise on 6th street.  I stood up to take in the hill, and never had to drop into a lower gear.  Cresting the hill, it was full speed jostling, no screaming breaks, no people flying up or dropping back...just that tie fighter sound of 600 knobby tires on the road at 30 mph.

Going fast in a qualifier is really really worth it.  

As we hit the dirt road leading to St Kevins the confidence was bubbling up.  I had just ridden the first few miles of this course much faster than I ever had previously, nearly all of it in my biggest gear.  No huffing, no puffing, just laying down the power and making the bike move.  On the dirt, the magic of the Red start came through again.  I could actually ride my pace, allow my legs to warm up and take in the race experience.  I saw a bunch of Phoenix area jerseys from various shops and clubs.  Even had a few people call out my own Shadetree jersey.  That's worth more than you might think to keep you motivated.  

Just before we hit the cattle guard signaling the start of the Kevin's climb, I passed The Hammer.  Aka, Fat Cyclist's wife.  I called out "Nice Shorts Hammer!" (because I was wearing FC shorts ya know).  Since she does not know me at all, when she looked over her right shoulder to see who was calling out to her, and it was this big Indian dude, her look showed "What the F??" vs "hey cool".  For me personally, knowing I was riding close to the Hammer was a great indicator that I was going the speed I needed to meet my goals. She is one fast lady, and I figured she would be a good person to mark my progress.

We climbed Kevins uneventfully.  The tempers were starting to pick up a bit with a few folks yelling about keeping lines and whatnot.  I kept Rebecca Rusch's words in mind, "your body does not distinguish between types of just burns calories.  So don't waste them being mad".  As always, I climbed at the pace of everyone around me.  This year, that pace happened to be quick vs plodding.  HOORAY RED!  I was topping the fist hard effort of the course, and I was not feeling one bit of tiredness...only total excitement.  That's new.

As we approached the big left turn there were a couple guys camped out on the road.  One was Doc Wenmark, the other appeared to be Ricky MacDonald.  Ricky MacDonald?  21 time finisher?  sitting on the side?  I must be hallucinating.  I was so stunned, I didn't even give him a shout out.  ah well, I'm sure he won't miss it.     

As the race rolled along the Carter summit I started to feel the pressure of the clock.  I wanted to be at Turquoise Lake road in 45 minutes.  I kept thinking, "the Carter Summit aid must be around the next corner" but it kept not showing up.  I was maintaining a good pace (I thought) and keeping up with the Hammer.  Keeping pace with someone as fast as the Hammer gave me a lot of confidence, as well as reminding myself where I was...riding in the clear due to the fact that I had started in RED...because I was fast. ('s all in your head, or my head as it were, is, something)

I managed not to panic with the elapsed time, and came to the road in 50 minutes.  Not bad.  And a good 10 minutes faster than I had made it in previous years.  Down Turquoise Lake Road as fast as I dared.  I tried to stay off the brakes, after all, this was a paved road downhill...what could go wrong? 

The road tilted up and I was feeling strong.  Again, the Hammer was my marker, and I was (mostly) keeping up.  That is until I took a minute to take a drink and down a GU.  I looked up, and she was gone.  I felt a little deflated as my rabbit had gotten away, but that was OK, it was time to work up Haggermans.

That's the fierce face.  This road is not flat

Heading up Hagermans I could not find wheels to follow. I was not being passed, and I was not catching people in front of me (Based on this picture, I should have looked behind and flicked this guy through...).  So I put on "fierce face" and put the bike in 1-harder gear than felt comfortable. Doing so added about 1.2mph, without putting me in too much difficulty. Magic! This year, I was RACING the Leadville 100!  I was racing a clock, but I was really racing it.  Another luxury I allow myself in a bike race that I don't really get to explore in daily life -- I was one of the (smaller) group of people that got to perform ..not just survive.  This part of the race the sweat and the effort in the legs just generated more adrenaline  and more speed.  It was euphoric.    

Taking the turn onto the Surgarloaf climb I started to get a little huffy and puffy.  We were crossing over 11000', so it was expected.  I slowed a bit, and again, did not panic even though the clock seemed to be moving against me.  I topped Sugarloaf at 1:34.  I had gained one of my 5 minutes back!  Feeling awesome (I'm RED baby!) I started down Powerline, willing myself not to crash.

That's Terrified Face.  Evidently I wear the flag of Arizona now.
I made the descent in record time, managed not to crash, even though I was in a 2-wheel slide at one point.  

The pavement after Powerline is a place I collect myself for about 2 minutes before laying on the gas.  The descent really is terrifying.  It's so steep, and rutted, and lose, and rocky...I really need that time to breathe a bit.  Yeah, it a race famous for it's insane climbs, I was most relived at the bottom of a descent.  That's not really conventional wisdom, but conventional or wise I am not.

Rolling past the fish hatchery I looked ahead to see a good size group forming.  My brain said "catch the group!  save energy"  But, rather than sprinting up, I did something smart.  I looked back!  Sure enough, there was a bigger group coming up, and they were moving fast.  About 20 riders went by before I saw a gap in the line.  I jumped over to the left and sprinted to catch up... now I was at the back of a 20 person paceline going 25mph, and I was soft-pedaling.  THAT is an amazing feeling.  Sure enough we swept up the group I had thought about catching, and there I was flying down the road towards the Pipeline spun out in my biggest gear. Beautiful!

One thing Leadville attracts are idiots on bikes. I do not know why.  I had seen one back on St Kevins trying to take his jacket off, no hands, on a trail.  He crashed.  Now I saw a guy riding inside the pace line, 30+ mph, no hands, taking off arm warmers.  I tried hard not to look at him, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when my part of the pack went by him.  He could have taken out 30+ riders with a small rock or bobble.  People are just strange.

Having avoided sure disaster 3 times (2 idiots, plus the Powerline) I rolled into the Pipeline aid at 2:08.  IT WAS LOUD!  perhaps there were more spectators, perhaps I was just earlier so they had more energy, but the tunnel of noise was amazing.  Talk about a launch pad for the next few miles!  I had lost 4 minutes to my goal time, but I was feeling good, and there was plenty of time left to race.  8 minutes on 2:00 is not bad at all...and 2 hours for 28 miles on a MTB is fast no matter how you cut it.  A great volunteer filled my empty bottle, and I was off for Twin Lakes!   

Looking for Friends on the Pipeline

The Pipeline is anything but flat (though people refer to it as "flat", people are weird).  It does lend itself to road tactics -- pacelines!  However, I must have done something wrong or used up all my RED energy, because I was alone.  I could not find a wheel to follow, and I kept catching riders going much slower than I was.  I did not really have a group to work with until I was descending the singeltrack, and back on a road the last 3 or 4 miles before Twin Lakes.  I was very happy to find some friends here, as it's a hidden hard part of the course.  It's just neighborhood roads, much of it paved, but the hills are just long enough to be painful.  I played leapfrog with someone from Phoenix in a Vassago kit riding a sweet Ti Vassago singlespeed.  I let him know he was riding my dream bike.  He let me know indeed, it was a nice bike.  I was happy we agreed, and my gears carried me forward a little faster than the singlespeed could maintain.  

About 3 miles out from TwinLakes I hit 2:45.  That was the time I wanted to be in TwinLakes, and I was feeling the pressure of being behind my goal.  The RED magic intervened again. As I was starting to despair a bit, I topped out the last rise before Twin Lakes, and started the nice long paved downhill to the dam.  

The crew area at Twin Lakes was louder than I ever remember.  Just like the Pipeline, but LOUDER.  cowbells, vuvuzuelas, viking horns, and cheering.  WOW!  Three people even knew my name in places I was not expecting.  THAT was a massive boost for me...people in Colorado at the Leadville 100 yelling "GO ROHIT!"  Talk about a heady feeling!

I crossed the dam in 2:58.  I had lost a little more time, but chin up -- I was still moving faster than I ever had by nearly 30 minutes.  I was 13 minutes off the goal, but putting in a strong effort on Columbine could make up some of that time.  It was time to put all the preparation to use.


Mom set me up awesomely with fresh bottles, GU, and a new set of electrolyte capsules.  Mom really is a great crew!

They say the Columbine climb is 10 miles up from Twin Lakes.  It's really more like 7 miles up after 3 miles of rolling hills across a ranch.  I started my attack right out of the aid station.  Both prior years my legs had started to give out, and even cramp, on the rocky climb out of the aid station.  Not this year.  This year it was time to pass folks, provide some words of encouragement to people suffering, and try and get in a draft for the flatter sections.

Coming onto the doubletrack leading the final crew area before the climb proper I was behind 3 Ironmen.  I could tell they were Ironmen because of their little "M with Dot Head" tattoos on their calves.  I figured "awesome.  here's 3 guys who think this is a short race.  They are built like swimmers with broad torsos...let me see if I can tuck myself behind them and get some free speed for a mile or two!"  

Unfortunately, they were not moving fast, so soon I was looking to pass them.  As I was spinning up, all three of them were sucking down some GUs.  Then they did the MOST irritating thing I have seen so far at Leadville.  THEY THREW THEIR WRAPPERS ON THE TRAIL!!!  This is a HUGE no-no.  This was not the trying-to-put-the-wrapper-in-the-back-pocket-and-missing drop.  This was a flat out, throw foil wrapper on the trail.  I had to say something.  I yelled "Hey Ironman, you really going to throw that wrapper there??"  I got no response so I said it again, "Dude.  this is not Kona...we take care of the land".  Gah.  Those guys were wasting my energy.  So I added a gear, and accelerated past them.  Wish I had their race numbers.  

I digress.  

So I'm climbing Columbine.  It long, its pretty steep, and it never seems to end.  I was significantly buoyed by the fact that I made 2 switchbacks before the lead moto came through, followed by the men's pros.  World Champion Stripes, former World Champion Stripes, Swiss Champion, US Champion...WOW.  Those guys are fast.  But you knew that.  What you don't know is that I was seeing the pros well up the slopes of the mountain.  Both prior years I saw them much earlier on the course.  Again, feeling RED!

I was working hard on my "fast climb" cadence.  50 standing revolutions, followed by 50 seated.  Just keep doing it.  A lot like my daughter climbing Sleeping Bear dunes this summer, just a variation on "one foot in front of the other".  At one point, I tasted blood in the back of my throat.  YES!  YES! I was making this hurt and I was climbing at a pace I had never done before!

Until I wasn't.

The taste of the blood was gone.  My legs were tired, but not cramping. I had been eating and drinking effectively, but I was not able to make it hurt more after a while. I had the fitness, but I was losing the mental game. I thought I was in a good, even great mood, but clearly, more was needed. I started cheering other racers.  Guys who were seriously struggling I reached out and patted on the back.  I cheered for guys bombing downhill.  I saw Fatty, "GO FATTTTYYYYY"  Fatty said "nice job guys". He sounded casual.  Like he was having fun, or perhaps he was just happy he was no longer one of us going up.  I kept climbing.  

Reaching the rocky section I stacked up behind other riders and dismounted to walk -- but the downhill traffic was not too thick.  If I could have made the hurt come back, I could have ridden.  But there was no hurt to be had.  So I kept walking.  At the treelike Ken was in his usual spot watching the race.  He teased us, "it's faster if you'd be surprised".  I yelled out "I won't quit Ken!" Then I got one of the truly big boosts of the race.  Ken Chlouber growls back, "I've seen you before Arizona.  There's no quit in you."   YEAH BABY!!  

I ground it out to the top of Columbine emptying my bottles and most of my GU on the way.  I knew I had a friend at 12,600', and I was looking forward to it.  

Friends in High Places.  A LDS hug will get you moving.  
Photo Credit:  Laurel from her FB page

My friend Laurel Darren Simmons was working medical at the top of Columbine.  It's nice to see a friendly face at the top of the world!  I got some water, took 20 seconds for a selfie, and started coughing.  It was time to get down the mountain -- STAT.  

I made the turn at 5:10.  I was 25-40 minutes behind my goal.  The 9 hour pipe dream had dissolved on the slopes of Columbine.  However, I was still a full 45 minutes ahead of where I had ever been previously.  No regrets.  Time to get down this mountain, see mom, and reset the goals for a glorious Colorado day.

I bombed the downhill as fast as I dared.  I was looking for friends like Bonnie Moebeck, anyone in a jersey I could recognize, anyone who looked like they needed a cheer.

As I was headed down the goat trail and the rocky section of road, I was again puffed up about my performance.  I saw plenty of gold, silver and red race plates still climbing, and I saw A LOT of people.  More than I ever had...well, duh, I was going faster than I ever had.  Joey at the Shadetree had changed my tires out 2 weeks before the race to wider, higher volume tires.  Perhaps a risky move, but those tires were paying massive dividends now. Those things were letting me fly down the mountain. (Joey and his team are fantastic.  You'll notice I'm wearing their shop colors...if you have an opportunity to let them lay hands on your bike when in Phoenix, I highly suggest it). I was going fast enough I could not make out anyone specifically in the line going up, so I just cheered for everyone.  I love this part of the race.  Hopefully I don't sound like a jerk, cheering for everyone, but it does make me feel good.   

By the time I reached the ranch it was HOT.  I needed to get rid of the arm warmers, ditch the trash, and get some cold drinks.  Time to make this whole thing hurt again.

Coming over the ridge from the ranch to the Twin Lakes aid.  Fierce face is back

Paceline on the Pipeline

Mom was ace crew again.  I was a little antsy, perhaps petulant.  But mom dealt with it.  That's what moms do!  In less than 90 seconds she had me rolling again, full of GUs, sans arm warmers, and ready to turn in a fast last 40 miles.  I left the Twin Lakes Aid at 5:45. I rode through the crew area, and there were many more cheers, Matt PNut Laney gave me a high was good!

As soon as the climb through the neighborhood was done, a pace line starting forming.  Hallelujah!  Not a very efficient paceline, as the guy on the front was just drilling it, and not moving over for anyone to take a pull.  It was however, fast, and took us all the way to the singletrack climb.  During this transition I was able to load a few more calories, and think about where I was.  My real goal was out the window.  No way to make 9.  So I started doing the math.  I was sitting at about 11.2 mph.  hmm.  If I could keep this above 10.5...I could go sub 10!  so, 9:something.  That would be awesome! I glanced down at the Gamin and seemingly at that moment, the average speed ticked up.  11.3!  Whee!  I could do this!  So 9-something was the new goal.  Love life under the beautiful (but hot) Colorado sky, and go as hard as I could enjoying the Leadville 100!  RED WAS BACK!

The pace line pretty much survived in one form or other all the way to the Pipeline aid.  My elapsed time showed I had just done Twin Lakes to Pipeline in 1:05  That was well within my original goal for the segment...and that felt awesome.

I reloaded water and headed out of the Pipeline bound for the Powerline Climb 

Blowing up and Finding the Will

This is the part of the race where I find out I'm not a very good paceline rider.  Because I'm not really a roadie.  So when I turned onto Half Moon road into that brutal afternoon Rocky Mountain wind, I just turned up the power as far as I could go without going completely into the red zone.  After a few minutes I saw the shadows on the road -- I was pulling 3 guys.  So I skipped left, gave a flick of the elbow, and they pulled through.  The three of them took good pulls and we were moving.  When I rotated to the front, something in my head said "make it hurt".  So I did.  When I rolled off after exactly one minute, 2 guys said "nice pull" and I struggled a bit to grab the back of the train.  When my turn came again, I burried myself for one minute.  I was doing my part!  When I rolled off, the guys said, "NICE FREAKIN' PULL DUDE!  WHOOOO!!!"  Yeah it was.  I had just given those guys such a sweet pull I couldn't grab the back of the train.  oops.  

Fortunately for me, I have been working pretty hard this year, and I was able to recover after a few minutes.  My average speed was still above 10.5, and I was doing better than 11mph by myself on the road.  But I was burning valuable matches to keep the pace.

Just before the turn onto the Powerline climb I passed a Specialized Factory rider.  Yeah baby.  This guy had his name on his jersey, his bike, and his helmet.  Might have been 20 or 21.  He was wearing a factory team kit, and I passed him. He laid out a tale of woe about what a terrible day he was having.  Whatever. I passed a pro. Add one point to the ego.

The steep part of Powerline was the steep part of Powerline.  I rode until the big right hand turn, then got off to trudge up the steeps.  It looks like this:

It's really steep.  You can see the Factory rider behind me.  Yep That's a gold number.  
Along the way there were people with water hand ups (THANK YOU) and Mr Pizza was there as I have become accustomed.  I also saw bRAD Keyes the man behind CarboRocket.  I love CarboRocket and I think I would love Brad if I knew him better.  As it is, I like him a lot.  He was out of water and CR, but he still had smiles to give away.  I took one, and kept on moving.

I reached the part of the course that I had pre-rode Wednesday.  40 minutes.  It should be 40 minutes of hard work, and this will all be done.  It's all rideable, and I can do it at 4-5mph, even though it is steep and somewhat technical.  

That was the plan anyway.  Then I got hit in the mouth, proverbially.  The cramps kicked in, and I got real tired.  I could not make the go happen.  Bonked.  I was done.  The number of GUs in my pocket said I had fallen behind on calories, and I was now paying the price.

So it was a slow trudge up to the top of Sugarloaf.  I watched the average speed dip below the 10.5 mph I needed for "9 something" and began to be pretty unhappy.  I tried to keep myself going by reciting some of the endurance mantras -- run across the coals, don't walk,  Keep moving,  Make pain your friend.  I tried resetting the soundtrack in my head.  "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", "Bulls on Parade", "Renegades of Funk", "Brainstew".  yeah, none of it was sticking or working.  So I was back to counting steps or pedal strokes.  I did sit once, waiting for the electrolytes to kick in and relieve some of the leg cramps.

Then it was over.  I was at the top and going down.  Fast.  Then faster.  Bouncing off rocks I would normally have braked for or gone around.  I was a bit too fatigued to choose a good line, and I was really hoping the tires, wheels, fork, and the rest would hold up to the abuse of a badly executed descent.  

I made it, and once on the dirt road I did my best to keep pressure on the pedals, keep the hands off the brakes, and make up some time.  23, 24, 27mph.  I was willing the average speed up, but it was not going to move very fast.  


I gave the 2.4 miles up Turquoise Lake road everything I had.  I stood, I spun, I sat and applied big power, I stood again.  The road required little concentration, so I put everything into leg mechanics.  Drop the heels on the down stroke, shoulders down, rock against the down stroke, shift forward to reduce pressure on the quads...shift back to relieve pressure on the hamstrings..maybe I have that backwards. Whatever.  Just keep pushing. The tang of blood was back in the back of my throat and it did wonders for my morale.  I was back working as hard as possible again, making it hurt. That. Was. Awesome. 

I reached the Carter Summit at 9:15. I had gone up Turquoise lake road in 30 minutes. 15 Minutes faster than I had previously. Even with that, only a world-class finish would bring me in sub-10.  So I reset the goal.  Sub 10:20.  I was going to make that last little goal...maybe even pull a 10:15.  2 cups of coke, 2 of water, new water in the bottle, and it was time to hammer home.

The final steeps on Kevins were not pretty.  I clawed my way up them.  Now, pretty much totally riding alone.  The downhill was terrifying, perhaps more terrifying than the powerline descent because I was going much faster.  I could see the dips and ledges coming, and the loose sand.  I tried to time the weighting and unweighting of the wheels and the brakes to make it all happen smoothly.  I must have plowed into some big stuff, but I managed not to go OTB at 30 mph.  Not sure how I did it, I was pretty much on auto-pilot.  

Off the steeps and across the valley to the railroad tracks.  Just kept it turning, pushing as big a gear as I could muster.  There was a big group of volunteers at a road crossing where the odometer crossed 100 miles...I cheered.  They cheered.  I cheered.  

I came to the Boulevard, 2.3 miles of steady uphill.  It's a nothing climb.  An easy spin.  Unless it's miles 101-103.  Then it's insanely painful.  I tried to call up the same mode I had on Turquoise Lake Road.  I wanted to taste that blood again.  I ate my last GU, downed the last of my water (no more than 20 minutes left), and put everything in.  I caught myself with my eyes closed a few times, which I guess is good? I was finished. My awareness was narrowed to my legs pushing and pulling. I was vaguely aware of steering, I saw some lightning (confirmed later).  I could not call up any songs, motivational speeches or mantras. Push-pull..that was it. I knew I was going to make it home, but there would be no victory sprint, no wheelie, no salute.  

The Boulevard ended, and dumped me onto the road.  One final uphill, which I managed to stand for.  There was the blood again...I crested at 10:15. I missed that target. 10:20 it would be.  The crowd at the finish line surrounding the red carpet was huge!  One biker-width only with kids hands out for high-5s...I think I gave out a few.

I was emptied. A truly amazing feeling that I simply don't get to have in my day to day life.  I didn't even see my mom wave and run beside me the last few meters, but you can see her in the picture!  Most of you have seen what I put on Facebook about this picture.  I love it.

I crossed the line, and crumpled onto the handlebars.  I was aware Mom was there.  I told her I was OK.  I got my finishers medal on my neck. Someone asked me if I was OK.  I told them I was.  No hug.  I was missing my finishers hug.  I was promised a hug from one of the amazing people that make the LT100 what it is.  I got no hug.  Mom hugged me after a bit.  Yeah mom!  I collapsed onto the courthouse lawn and laid there for about 90 minutes.  I wanted to get up and cheer the folks coming in -- all those people who refused to quit, bit I couldn't get up.  Instead I congratulated those around me, knowing each of them had turned in something special today.

Post Race

So I made it to the awards ceremony to pick up my hardware and my jacket.  A slight tinge of regret that it was "only" a silver buckle.  But heck, that Colorado silver sure does shine bright in the morning sun!

The usual question is, "will you do it again?"  Well, depends if they let me in.  But I do have a plan to get that last 1:17:22 off my time.

UPDATE:  Sadness

RIP Scott Ellis #1249.  Scott had finished the race 18 times, and died of an apparent heart attack on the top of Powerline.  The LRS has retired his race plate.  That's the 2nd time in 2 years someone has died at a race I was in.  The first was Iceman 2013.  It's common for people to say "at least he died doing what he loved".  Maybe.  But you never think "I might die" when you put that knobby on the start line.  We'll be thinking about you and your family Scott.  Ride in Peace.