Leadville Part 3 – The Race

I was in a really good place before the race.  I completed many rides longer then 100 miles.  I did many, but not as many as I wanted to, interval sessions to build my FTP power.  I spent a lot of time at Sansom Park and two trips to Mt Scott to work on my climbing.  I thought I had dialed in my nutrition and hydration plan.  And I knew I would arrive the day before to limit the affect altitude would have on me.  Everything had come together fairly well considering the day to day life interruptions.  Michelle introduced me to her friend Brenda who had completed the LT100 a few years earlier and I bounced a lot of my plans off of her and gained confidence my plan was sound.

Most of the crew I was racing with arrived earlier then I.  I saw their photo’s on social media and was chomping at the bit to get up there to be with them.   I arrived as prescribed the day before the race, went to packet pickup, met Jeff and Kristin there and had lunch with them.   I had reserved a camping spot at a very touristy campground in Leadville where Marc, Michelle and her parents were camping.  Marc’s family decided not to join him at the last minute so that left room for me in his pop up camper.  Marc, Michelle and I did a short pre-ride around Turquoise Lake, a beautiful lake with mountains hovering in the background.

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Marc, Michelle, and I at Turquoise Lake

Michelle’s parents had graciously accepted my request to crew for me which meant hauling and handing me my hydration pack on the start of the Columbine climb and my return from it.  I figured I owed them for their help so I brought them a couple of bottles of wine to help them thru the arduous process.  Later that day we all ventured to the local high school for the pre-race pep talk from Ken Chlouber, we left thinking “we commit to refuse to quit” and “We are better than we think we are”.

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Michelle, myself and Roberto (Stick) after the pre-race meeting

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Ken Chlouber and Merilee

Marc and I went into town to get a bite to eat the night before the race and got to bed early.

We got up early before the race, I drove Michelle and Marc into town and as we were unloading the bikes Marc discovered he forgot his GPS watch.  Oh the horror!  We were pushing the time limits but he was insistent on going back to the campground to get it so I gave him the keys.  Michelle and I made our way to the start where we were going to meet the others for a pre-race photo.  None of them showed up in time so Michelle took a selfie of just us.

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I left Michelle in her corral and moved to mine and found Wade.  It wasn’t very long until the race gun went off.   The Leadville start is downhill and can get a little crazy from what we had read and what Brenda had told me. Wade and I took off at moderate pace, not getting crazy but passing many other people ahead of us.

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Wade following me out from the start

 

I felt pretty good and eventually had lost track of Wade.  I passed lots of people going up Sugarloaf and then found myself in the middle of the chaos descending Powerline.  There seemed to be three paces, faster than I, same as I, and slower than I.  It was crazy with people all flying down the rutted steep descent all trying to avoid each other.  After descending Poweline unscathed I found myself riding with Rebecca Rusch (Multiple LT100 MTB race woman’s winner), a parapalegic veteran she was riding with, and a few others of her group.  I ended up riding with them on and off for the majority of the rest of the ride.  As I went thru the aid stations at pipeline and twin lakes I noticed I was making really good time, well ahead of my target times.  I pulled into the alternate aid station at the base of the Columbine climb to change hydration pack and bottle.  I checked how much of the bladder I had drank and it was only about 1/2 and none of the bottle.  Michelle’s dad shook his head at me almost in disgust saying your bottle is still full you need to drink more.  I knew I had better get caught back up on drinking because all my calories were mixed in the hydration pack in the form of tailwind.  Not only was I way behind on hydration I was way behind on calories as well.  My goal was to climb Columbine and come back into the aid station and completely empty the new hydration pack and bottle.  Just after the start of the Columbine climb Wade passed me, nodding his head and just saying “John” as he always does when he passes me in races.  I replied as I always do with a few expletives.   I was still ahead of schedule at the turn around on top of Columbine.  On the long descent back to the alternate aid station I was being passed by lots of other riders who were less intimidated with bombing down the loose gravel roads then I was.  I saw Kristin and Michelle still climbing as I was descending and yelled off to them as I went by.  I pulled into the alternate aid station and swapped out hydration packs again.  Once again I had only drank about half of the bladder.  I was still ahead of schedule so I lingered at the aid station longer than I should.  I ate and drank what I could there, somewhat in disgust of myself for not getting caught back up on hydration and nutrition.

 

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taking a break with the best crew ever

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I look really tired

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Not in any particular hurry

 

I had a feeling I was going to be in trouble on the way back, I got back thru the Pipeline aid station and my splits were deteriorating.  I knew I had to be drinking but the tailwind in my bladder had gotten warm in it was just disgusting to try to drink.  I got to the Powerline climb and had no strength or will to try to ride up it and just pushed my bike up the entire thing, very slowly.  The lack of hydration and nutrition had caught up to me and I was bonking badly.  There were a few kids running around offering riders swigs of warm coke or sprite out of a can but the flat warm coke out of the bottom of the can was pretty disgusting.

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The miserable Powerline climb

When I finally got to the top of Powerline I was able to talk a spectator out of a bottle of water.  I just couldn’t drink the tailwind I was carrying with me.  As I descended I kept looking for other spectators with coolers that might have water.  I thought there was supposed to be a fluids only aid station up there but never found it.  I struggled the last 20 miles to the finish eventually being passed for good by Rebecca Rusch and her entourage.  I eventually made it across the finish line just under my goal time of 11 hours but thought what could have been if I stayed on top of my nutrition and hydration.

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Finally finishing

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“What the hell was that I just did?”

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Buckles and jackets!