Leadville #11 is now in the books. While I really don't have anything new, exciting, inspirational, emotional or amusing to add to my previous 10 recaps, I'm still going to throw down some words . . . because you are presumably here to read something.
After a very focused and taxing sub-9-hour performance in 2016 to commemorate my 10th LT100, I did not return to Leadville in 2017 with my usual desire (or madness). In fact, I think I was a bit complacent coming into this year's race. I did my usual perfunctory training all winter long and even managed to change my diet such that I was nearly 10 pounds lighter on race-morning this year than I was last year. No matter. As summer wore on, I simply lacked the motivation to punish myself with structured training rides. I was Sheryl Crow. All I wanted to do was get out on my bike and have some fun . . . 'til the sun came up over Santa Monica Boulevard. Sorry, pop-culture digression.
So race morning arrive on August 12 and my attitude was one of Que Sera, Sera (translation for those of you who didn't study in school - "whatever will be will be.") I would ride the first 40 miles at a comfortable pace, see where I was time-wise and then decide whether to go for another big beautiful buxom sub-9 hour buckle or lay back and settle for the cute little silver one. A sub-9 pace would be 2:53 or faster to the 40-mile aid station at Twin Lakes.
For the 11th year in a row, I was riding for Team First Descents (www.firstdescents.org) and was joined by 23 fellow Team FD racers. I don't know whether it is because the economy is stronger or because all of my friends have truly adopted the First Descents' mission, but this was my biggest fundraising year since 2007 with nearly $80,000 donated through my Team FD page as of this writing. To quote that idiot Donald Trump, "I know the best people!"
We had a fairly mild start at about 42 degrees and the usual fast descent to Leadville Junction on the pavement. No major logjams on the dirt road to St. Kevins and no major strain climbing St. Kevins to the u-turn. I hit Carter Aid at 52 minutes, bombed the road descent around Turquoise Lake and kept a moderately strong cadence up the pavement climb on the opposite side of the lake. I started noticing my first signs of weakness on the Hagerman Pass dirt-road as I simply couldn't carry the 12-13 mph pace that I wanted. Made it to the top of Sugarloaf at 1:34 and had a grin-inducing (grinly?) descent down the roller-coaster known as Powerline. Found some pacelines on the road past the Universe-famous Fish Hatchery, but once again couldn't keep the faster pace that I thought I felt I needed. I hit the Pipeline Aid timer at 2:10. This was about 5 minutes slower than my fastest time to Pipeline in 2013. The pipeline section was smooth and fast, but the final climb before the descent to Twin Lakes was a bit of a grind. I reached our FD aid station at Twin Lakes at 2:53 on the dot. Although I was exactly on pace for sub-9, I could already tell that the legs were AWOL. I smiled and thanked my wife and crew for getting me re-loaded quickly with fluids and gels and also told them that I would give Columbine my usual stubborn fight, but that I suspected that this probably wasn't going to be my day.
Once the decision was made, I started enjoying the rhythm of the climb. I was still getting passed by faster riders, but really didn't care. I reached the goat-trail at 4:15, which was a good 10 minutes off sub-9 pace. By taking it easy the last 5 miles, I actually felt good enough to ride the whole lower section of the goat-trail while navigating around walkers. And for the first time ever in this silly race, I felt no cramps or even twinges in my legs. When it was time to walk the bike, no problemo. It was simply a beautiful day for a relaxing walk. Toward the top, my chain got stuck between the lowest cog and the rear-derailleur. It took me several minutes to pull it apart, but there was no stress.
I reached the Columbine turnaround at 4:55 and immediately raced back down, pulling into the aid station at 5:30. There was no rush. I hung out for a good 5 minutes talking to Lisa and the rest of the FD tent-crew and gave Lisa an estimated finish time of between 9:30 and 9:40. Unlike past years, I was not dreading the last 40 miles because I had not brutalized myself on Columbine.
|Arriving at Twin Lakes Aid Inbound|
|Twin Lakes Inbound - No Rush|
I continued to lose time on the Pipeline section and reached the Pipeline aid station at 6:40. For the first time in 6 or 7 years, I actually stopped at this aid station, drank some Coke and ate a chocolate-chip cookie. I was now 25 minutes off sub-9 pace and quite content with the day. Even the headwinds on the road between Pipeline and Powerline didn't bother me. I just kept pedaling along with a smile (or maybe it was a knowing smirk) and relished the fact that I was healthy, not cramping, not dehydrated, not particularly hungry and generally doing pretty damn well for a guy about to turn 50 years old.
I started up Powerline with my usual resignation and was able to pedal up to the big left bend. Then it was the usual hike-a-bike for the next 15 minutes. Just another nice walk on a section that many compare to one of the Dante's rings of hell. In years past, even sub-9 years, I would choose certain sections of the remaining Powerline climb to hike instead of pedal. This year, I didn't put my foot down the rest of the climb. In fact, my time climbing Powerline this year was only 20 seconds off my fastest time from 2013.
Since I wasn't smashing any personal time goals, I descended the rock-strewn Sugarloaf section a bit more cautiously than usual and hit the bottom of the St. Kevin's road climb at 8:15. My fastest time up this next climb was just under 20 minutes in 2013. While I knew that wasn't in the cards this year, I still hit the climb with some aggression, but could only manage about 22 1/2 minutes to the summit at Carter Aid.
I drank my usual two cups of Coke at Carter Aid and then set off for the final 12 miles. I chose to walk up the 3rd of 3 punchy climbs before the St. Kevin's descent for no other reason than I didn't feel like riding it. Crested the top, tore down the front, breezed through the valley and hit Leadville Junction at 9:10. Picked my way through the loose rocks at the bottom of the Boulevard and then settled into an easy spin for the rest of the 3-mile climb back into town.
50 yards from the finish line, I found Lisa and pulled over. Our friend Matt "Mateo" Hayne, a former First Descents' participant, program leader and Team FD Leadville racer (see my blog from 2011) had recently suffered a recurrence of cancer and had to have major reconstructive surgery on his jaw. His girlfriend created t-shirts in his honor that were sold to raise money and awareness for Mateo's plight. Lisa and I bought a couple of the t-shirts and she was waiting for me before the finish with one of the shirts in outstretched hand. I whipped off my Camelbak, pulled the t-shirt over my bike-jersey and rode across the finish-line proudly showing off the "Crush Cancerasaurus Rex" logo on the front of the shirt. Finish time was 9:36. Sticking with the theme for the day, I was still smiling. I didn't break any personal records, but I had a fantastic day riding my bike in my mountains. Damn I'm lucky.
|CRUSH CANCERSAURUS REX!|