|The family at the finish. From left to right, me, David, Mom, Melissa and Annie. It was awesome having them all there.|
Cut to the chase... the bike was hard. I've never done anything like that before in my life and the intensity of the 10:28:29 that I was out on the course was again, nothing that I have ever experienced. Breaking the ride up into different sections to explain the experience might be the easiest way to do this.
Start to Fish Hatchery - I was in the third corral at the start. Basically in with a lot of fast peeps. Basically WAY out of my league. The morning was cold... 35 in Leadville and colder down in the valley. 35 degrees on a bike is not comfortable so I was layered up to stay warm when the race began.
One observation, the neutral start is a fallacy. All the way on the hard road there were people passing within the peloton, outside the peloton, on the edges, etc... it was crazy! It wasn't fun.. it was majorly stressful. This went on for the first few miles until we hit the dirt where passing then was supposed to be allowed. Anyway... the dirt road along the pasture before St. Kevins was not easy for me. I just could not get my speeed, heart rate, or anything else for that matter in sync to be able to be comfortable. The road undulates with rollers and I just could not get a rhythm. Then came the start of St. Kevins climb which is only a mile but it is a damned steep mile.
Fortunately I was in the group and far enough ahead that I was able to ride most of it but the higher I got, the more stressed out I got and oh, warmer... it was getting warmer as we were climbing. Inverted low. Hot air high, holding cold air down lower. About 100 yards before the left turn switchback I said screw it. Time to take care of some things and get my shit together. I dismounted the bike and started walking it to the wide spot in the turn where I got my layering right for the temps, at a Gu, took some MAP, relieved myself and just got comfortable. I also just wanted a mental break and a few minutes for my heart rate to come down 15 BPM or so. That stop was probably one of my best decisions of the day... definitely the first really good one in regards to just keeping it together.
The rest of St. Kevins was better riding for me. I was just a lot more comfortable temperature wise and with an empty bladder even more so. I even ran into and passed a guy, Jim Ishman, that I rode with one day before the SR50 MTB as we were both training for that. This was his second attempt at finishing the 100 having a bad mechanical last year at mile 80. Even with my little stop, I topped out at Carter Summit faster than I had in my training rides and starting to feel a little better about things in general. But let me stress... that first hour was not fun.
But the next section, the paved road from Carter Summit to Mayqueen? Woohoo! I was flying. It is a three mile paved descent and I was rolling. Still stressed because I know this little break is going to end soon and I would have to start working to ride out of Maqueen, up to Haggerman Road and summit Sugarloaf.
That ascent wasn't too bad. I made Haggerman road 13 minutes faster than I was sort of anticipating. The rest of the climb was okay. Just pedal and get it done. Of course the higher we got up Sugarloaf the higher my anxiety went as well. For some reason I really had concerns about the Powerline descent for the race. Even though I had ridden it plenty of times in training without issues I was concerned about being pushed/pulled down a lot faster than was in my capabilities to be safe. A bad wreck there and my day could be over.
But, I sort of had an idea and a plan and god was kind and provided me with a really great rider to follow down. An older gentleman I found out but he road from the summit of Sugarloaf to the bottom just as smooth as you could imagine. I was on his wheel all the way to the bottom. He took great lines, didn't care about anybody passing him and was just smooth like I said. But that descent... holy crap, you should have seen all of the water bottles that people lost, bike parts, just stuff everywhere that bounced or rattled off of bikes on the way down. Also a ton of people with flats and that was another reason for why I wanted to take it easy. When we got to the bottom before the water crossing I pulled up next to him and thanked him at least ten times for being there and told him that he really helped. This was when I discovered that he was an older guy but what he said in response rang true... "There are no heroics on that descent. You just have to get down it." Be that as it was, we still came down a whole three minutes faster than my previous best time this summer. 17 minutes from the Sugarloaf summit to the pavement.
Now I finally get to relax a bit as the scariest part of the day for me was out of the way.
Fish to Twin Lakes - Now I get to ride. All out. Now all of the hours spent on the trainer this winter pay off. I settled in and was just flying across the flats. No groups really set up so I didn't get the benefit of a pace line at all so I just drafted when I could and passed when I had the chance. I don't remember Treeline aid station so much but somebody did yell out my name, not sure who. I wasn't stopping there as my first planned stop was to be Twin Lakes.
Anyway, this was one of the more fun parts of the course from Treeline to Twin Lakes. Lots of dirt road and relatively easy riding compared to other parts of the race. I was able to just ride within my comfort zone. I hit twin lakes in 3:23.
Columbine... The beast. Columbine in the bike race is analogous to the double crossing of Hope Pass in the 100 run. I was not able to ride this part of the course at all in training so it all unknown and a little daunting, but to be honest, I am damned glad that I never rode it. I had studied the topos and had a really good general idea what the course did so I just had to ride it and it wasn't that bad. Really.
Ten miles up, about 3500 gain, then ten miles down, 3500 loss. How I did was that I just settled in and rode up. Passed some people, got passed by others. I held my own. I rode until I couldn't ride anymore, and apparently neither could anyone else as we started pushing out bikes. Three or for times to the turnaround I dismounted and pushed (along with everyone else) but other parts I was able to ride. Next greatest decision of the day... I stopped about ten minutes before the aid station, right at five hours and took a break. I had a gel or two, MAP, peed then took off again. I did stop at the Columbine aid station but was only there for maybe, maybe two minutes to get my camel back filled up and to lube the chain real quick. The chain needed it and I planned on the water in my camel back to get to the finish, which it did. Now for the down...
Tough at first, especially in the two way traffic and the nature of the dirt road but not impossible. Again, just keeping it in check and trying to go fast yet safe at the same time. Two miles into the descent the trail reverts back to more of a smooth dirt road and this is where the fun really began.
After getting the crap kicked out of me for five plus hours that drop back down to Twin Lakes was the sweetest thing in the world. I smiled. About four miles from Twin Lakes I really relaxed and an involuntary smile just spread across my face. I was finally hitting my stride it felt like. Some nasty little rollers the last two miles or so to Twin Lakes and I was back there in about 6:20 I think. I lost time on the ascent of Columbine but came down faster than I planned. No big deal.
My stop at Twin Lakes now inbound would be my last real stop for the day. I got two bottles of drink mix, changed gloves, ditched my arm warmers, hugged Melissa, Annie and Mom and David who had flown in the day before to be there and surprise me. (That really made the weekend getting to share the race with Mom and David and to have them be a part of my Leadman pursuit.)
Twin Lakes to Powerline - I knew this would be a rough start. The climb out of Twin Lakes is up a paved road that it steep and it was getting warm. Some rollers and then we were in a conga line climbing up the single track across and exposed (and hot) south facing sage covered hill. After that climb it was smooth sailing the entire way back to Treeline and out to the hard road.
Now this is where riding the course this summer came in handy. Nasty, nasty headwind as I was heading north. Nobody really around to ride with so I drafted some and passed some again but just didn't fight it as I learned not to this summer. I knew it would last only so long and pretty much be done once I got to Fish Hatchery and in the trees anyway. And besides, it did add a welcome cooling effect. The best part of this section for me was passing Annie and Melissa as they were driving to Treeline to meet Lisa and getting to wave to them.
Powerline to Mayqueen - For me ascending the powerline is a known quantity. I knew it would be tough but I also knew it would not kill me. I rode up as far as I planned and started pushing the bike. Again, like everyone else. It really was not that bad. The higher I got the easier it got like always and I got to the summit of Sugarloaf feeling pretty good really. I stopped up there, switched out my bottles and did everything else I usually did during my stops that day and then I started down.
That part was fun, I was Haggerman road before I knew it and was just killing it riding down that road. I was going so fast that before I knew it, I was at the Haggerman Road, Turquoise Lake Road intersection. And it is here that I wrecked.
I don't know if it was because I got distracted but when I made that left turn off of the dirt onto the pavement my front tire washed out and I skidded with the bike about halfway across the pavement. It hurt. It also scared the crap out of me as I was afraid that I might be too hurt to ride and did the bike make it? Of course all of this and the accompanying thoughts all occurred in less than a second. I got up, walked it off and got my bike. My chain had popped off the front rings but that was. Someone held my bike as I put the chain back on, I thanked them and got moving again. I was so grateful that I was not hurt worse (Some minor flesh lost, a puncture wound or two but thank god for riding gloves, eh?) and the bike was okay. It served a reminder to just be more careful.
Mayqueen to the finish - I knew the first part of this segment was going to suck, period. All of that fun and free speed down that pavement in the morning I now had to pay back. Three miles grinding up the pavement to the Carter Summit aid station. No headwind but no cooling effect either so it was warm. I just settled in and said screw it. It would probably take me 45 minutes to get up there so might as well just get it done. It actually took a little less than thirty I think and of all of the aid stations that day I think I was the happiest to see this one.
The ride now was back on dirt, in the trees and shady. Thank you! Again, more fun and the descent down St. Kevins was a blast. The grind around the pasture to the hard road still wasn't a lot of fun but still it was easier than in the morning. A quick paved section and then I was on the Boulevard.
Wow... I knew that I only had three miles to go and I just could not believe it. Still no time to take it easy. I saw a guy ahead of me in a Strava jersey that I had been changing places with all day. He'd get me on downhills, I'd catch him on the ups and flats. Just giving my general attitude towards Strava I made it my goal to pass him and beat him to the finish and sure enough I reeled him in about a half a mile before hitting pavement again. Nice.
The last mile... folks... as much as the last mile sucks in the 100 run, it is just as bad during the 100 ride. That first climb up 6th street before you can see town is just as bad on a bike, believe me. I just kept spinning up it trying my best to not let off the gas as I was so close. I really wanted to come in under 10:30 so I knew I had to move. I crested the hill and then just started working through the gears again, fully spinning (almost spinning out) as I got to the bottom of that hill and then riding up the last quarter of a mile to the finish.
I crossed the line... I did it. My second bike race ever and my first 100 MTB race ever. I hugged Merrilee as hard as I could and thanked her. I was also able to catch up with Cole and get to meet him in person. Yeah, hugged him too... twice I think even.
Of course my family was there and that was awesome. Again that really put the special touch to the weekend.
Annie and I went back to the B&B, I showered and walked back down to watch the rest of the finishers. My friend that I met on a training ride earlier in the summer, the one who had the mechanical last year? I got to see him come in at 11:59:57. No kidding. He did it!
I was hurting though. The day wore me out and I was sore all over pretty much. I had no idea how I was going to run the 10K on Sunday. But it was going to be a fun run as my Mom and Stepdad David were going to run it too. Along with Melissa making it a family event. Annie had left earlier to go take care of some stuff so she didn't get to run with us. Short story on the run... Melissa did great, and so did David who has never run this high before, Mom... she won her age group.
As for me, by the time the run came around I was feeling better and I did get in a short warmup run with David and that helped me to feel better. My plan... simple... run at MAF and whatever my pace was that is what it was going to be. So that is what I did... I kept my HR below 145 the whole way down to the turn and felt okay. On the way back I let it creep up to 155, no higher, and held it there. My goal for this race was 50:00 and I came in at 50:25 so it's good. I am still in the game.
Now to just rest this week, I am on vacation. I plan to do a couple short runs, but most of the time will be spent on my ass on my couch which I have not done a lot of these past nine months. Five days until the LT100 run and I am ready, excited and anxious to get up there and get it done. We go back up Thursday.