Friday, August 17, 2012

Leadville Race Report

Sorry Folks. I intended to spend some time writing a couple of blog entries along with all the Facebook but (and you may already know) I got really sick while in Leadville. At first I thought is was just altitude sickness. I did hit me harder than some others, but by Tuesday afternoon I was wiped out looking for a bed. We pre-rode St. Kevins on Monday (yea, not a climb to over look) and I felt alright. Then Tuesday morning I woke up and felt terrible while I tried to eat some breakfast.

About 11am we geared up to ride the big Columbine Climb up to 12,600ft. I felt terrible at the start of it, heart rate was very high (like 20 beats higher than normal) and I just plan felt ill. By this time I was really thinking altitude sickness really, really sucks, but also that maybe I would feel better later. I didn't. It got worse the higher we went. I rode it all and tried to take in the beauty at the top but all I wanted was my bed. By this time I was getting the feeling that something else was going on. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in bed, and the next day too. Thursday morning wasn't any better so I was talked into going to a doctor in Leadville. The doc was great and she didn't toally shock me when she said I had a virus. Dang. Really? All the way out here and I get sick; like actually sick? Yep, and with the race less than 72 hours away I was a little nervous. The climb up to Columbine Mine on Tuesday felt terrible and I'll be doing it with 40 miles in my legs. Then have to finish the other 50 miles back. Yikes, but at least I wasn't feeling worse.

The rest of the group had their fair share of little sniffles and altitude sickness too, but by the time Saturday morning rolled around we were ready. I wasn't feeling great but the energy of starting Leadville sure helped take my mind off of things. We got to the start line and to our respective corals. I got to start in the front because of my recent upgrade to Pro, but the other had to start all the way in the back. Yea, in the back like behind 1,800 people. From what I hear it was a mess. There were way to many people on the course and nowhere to pass for the first hour or so. Crazy.

Up front it was pretty crazy too. Leadville starts with a neutral roll out but it was far from it. Everyone jumped off the line like an XC race and then jammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the lead truck. WTF? The truck also was not going at an easy(ish) pace, 20 mph up the first little rise and increased the pace on the downhill leaving town. I had guys from the coral behind me elbowing passed me if I left more than 12" between me and the rider in front of me and on every corner we almost crashed. Locked up wheels, skids, slides and rubbing is not the way I thought it would start. I was in no mood for that and let 30 people pass me in the first few miles. Wow. 

I tried to stay out of trouble until we hit the first climb, St.Kevins. Now I knew all about this one since we rode it earlier in the week and I knew my best shot for a decent day was to really conserve my energy. Honestly, I was just hoping to get in under 9 hours and get the big buckle. I didn't care about much other than that. I paced it well up Kevins, bombed the following decent and tried to motor the Sugar Loaf Climb. My legs were alright and I could breath so I just sat in and rode steady until the Twin Lakes feed. I hit the base of Columbine with decent legs and paced it out, getting passed by quite a few people near the bottom. I got those spots back, though, near the top where most people were walking. I had enough legs to ride all of it, grab my feed at the top, and bomb down. By this time I was feeling it. I was getting really nauseous and had a really hard time drinking much on the way down. It wasn't the Infinit Nutrition I always use, it was the illness for sure. But for as bad as I was feeling I still was amazed by the line (yea line) 6 miles long all the way down Columbine! I think in that 6 miles the largest gap that I saw between two riders was no more than 60 feet. Most of the time it was more like 10 to 1 feet. It was one of the coolest things I ever have seen while riding a bike and I could not help but cheer all of them on. I think I said some variation of "keep it up" over 100 times. Truly Awesome!

The remaining 40 miles is a bit of a blur now; it wasn't then. I was suffering, bad and I remember it just dragging on and on. I really couldn't drink or eat by mile 65 and by mile 75 I was cracked just in time for the dreaded Powerline Climb. I had to walk the lower slopes (the first time I had to walk all day), but I knew it would not be worth it. Yea, Powerline was the worst part for me. I'm sure it's hard for everyone but I know I was all done at least 10 times up that thing. This is were it's all about your head, it's about how well you can control your body with your mind. There was no hiding that day and I suffered almost as bad I ever have. It was almost as bad as Stage 1 of La Ruta. The rest was bad and somehow I made it to the finish in 8:31. Survival for sure.

The rest of the group did great too. Scott had a great day and all the way from the back was able to finish in about 9:40. While Jon, the non-racer, was a diesel all day and finished it up in about 11:15. Sherry had a great day on the bike but some mechanical bad luck. She broke her chain on Columbine somehow, had to walk some and just coast down. She had to tools to repair it and was really lucky to find a SRAM tent. They hooked her up and she was able to roll the rest of the race at a good clip finishing in about 11:30 and taking 2nd in the Women Singlespeed category! Super nice job!

In the end I think most of us have unfinished business at Leadville. Scott (on a singlespeed) was looking for a sub 9 hour pace and I know he could have done it if he didn't have to start in the back. I think Sherry too had a hard time with the traffic and the mechanical. She would have been very close to winning without the troubles. 

Next year. I think we're going back next year.


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