Not enough miles. Not enough miles. Not enough miles. That was the thought that kept going through my head as I fell further and further behind my goal pace. After a couple weeks of reflection and learning, it’s clear to me that that was a significant contributing factor to the missed goal, but there were many other reasons that brought me to the finish line over an hour after my goal.
Race week approached like the previous two L100 race weeks. I felt prepared. I packed throughout the week and ensured that I had everything I could possibly need to finish the race. Thursday brought the arrival of my parents and Uncle Tim who would be in Leadville for their second and first times respectively. Friday morning, we headed up to Leadville for athlete check-in and the mandatory athlete meeting. It lacked the energy of year’s past, but still started to put me in the right mindset
From there, we headed out to Twin Lakes to set up our tent for the next day and get the lay of the land. Big thanks to Mom for being the team photographer!
We headed back to Breckenridge for the night, grabbed a quick dinner and headed to bed. 4 am is early, no matter when you go to bed.
Having not completed a qualifier this year, I was delegated to the white corral, which is the last corral. I was pretty concerned about the inevitable traffic jam that would come on St. Kevins, so I headed to the corral fairly early to try and get a spot towards the front of the section. Thankfully, I was able to hop in towards the front, but looking down towards the start line, I could see that I was going to have to deal with more people than I was used to.
At 6:30 sharp, the shotgun went off but it wasn’t for another couple minutes that I crossed the start line and the clock started ticking. The first 3.5 miles of the race fly by on the clock but are filled with nerves and attempts to keep hands from freezing. After 9 minutes, we were on dirt and headed towards St. Kevins. Almost instantly the slow and go riding started. Initially, I rolled with it and figured it would sort itself out, but unfortunately it became the norm. Mistake #1: I should have been more aggressive at the bottom of St. Kevins working to establish my position. By the time I did, it was too late on the climb and movement was minimal without being a jerk. I slogged through St. Kevins, keeping myself calm by reminding myself to trust my fitness and that there was plenty of miles left to work back time on the clock.
St. Kevin’s Summit (10.6 miles) – 1:04
After a quick roll through of St. Kevin’s to grab a banana, I hit the 3 mile road descent, working my way up to 40 mph and trying to grab back some of the time I’d lost. Historically, I’ve enjoyed the climb up Sugarloaf, so I was looking forward to getting after it.
15 minutes after St. Kevins, I turned onto the dirt road section and worked my way up towards 11,000 feet on the second climb of the day. I was working my way up and passing riders which boosted my confidence. I was feeling good and warming up nicely. My Trek Procaliber 9.6 was climbing well and I was enjoying the speed of the hard tail.
I topped out a little under 2 hours on top of Sugarloaf and went to work on the sketchy Powerline descent as the leader of my group. We reached the bottom with only one spot where I felt like I might go down. I’ll take that on Powerline.
I was working hard to get myself back on pace and ensuring that I didn’t let time slip away on the flats to Pipeline like I had in the past. I was able to get into a good group of 10 riders and we worked well together on the road. Unfortunately, the clock kept ticking and I realized that I wasn’t pulling back much time at all from my initial St. Kevins split.
Pipeline Aid Station (28.5 miles) – 2:30
After a quick water refill, I was back in the saddle. Being honest with myself, I was frustrated that I hadn’t pulled back any time yet, but there was still 75 miles left to work with. I had time.
The course between Pipeline and Twin Lakes is a rolling mix of dirt fire roads, singletrack, and pavement. It’s a lot of fun to ride and one of my favorite sections of the course. I was still feeling strong and was getting excited to see my crew at Twin Lakes for a good pick-me-up.
A few miles outside of Twin Lakes, my goal arrival time of 3 hours ticked by. Frustrated, but optimistic I was making up some time, I pushed onward to Twin Lakes. I still felt good physically, but I needed a mental check-up to get me ready for the trip up to 12,000 feet at the Columbine Mine.
I came into Twin Lakes, continuing to be 20 minutes behind schedule at 3:20. My crew was supportive and took care of my nutritional needs and gave me the much needed mental boost for the next 3 hours. In my mind, I felt like I was taking care of what I could control and that the 20 minutes I’d lost were sitting on St. Kevins. I was OK with that and was looking forward to getting 5-10 minutes back on Columbine. Mistake #2: I was about to go too big at the base of Columbine in an effort to accomplish this.
Twin Lakes (41 miles) – 3:20
I rolled out of Twin Lakes optimistic and ready for the next 10 miles. My plan was in play and I was controlling what I could control. As we approached the bottom of the climb and started to reach the end of the tents, the rider next to me asked if we were in Twin Lakes. It was tough to tell him that Twin Lakes was several miles ago. Thankfully, I think he was able to get some neutral aid before the climb. I can’t emphasize enough the value in planning and knowing where your team tent is prior to race day. Twin Lakes is busy and there is a tremendous amount of activity. Plan ahead!
As I worked through the beautiful columbine trees at the base of the climb, I started to notice some GI discomfort, which is not normal for me. I’d eaten everything according to plan so far and hadn’t changed anything up so it took a few minutes to self-diagnose myself as having eaten too fast. This was my wake-up call to scale back a bit…but it was too late. Not long after the GI issues I was hit with cramps in my left knee.
Hoping it would pass, dropped down to my granny gear and tried to spin it out while still moving, but that didn’t help. I started getting fluids in me as quick as possible, but that aggravated the GI discomfort again so I back off that. I needed a plan to calm me down because I was a long way from home and shit was hitting the fan in my head. 2 hours of climbing with cramps plus whatever time I had left to get back to Leadville was mentally overwhelming me.
I settled into the plan of ride 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes until things loosened up. The walking helped relax my knee and held me accountable to my RFM policy of Relentless Forward Motion. I knew if I stopped, I was going to enter a whole other world of issues.
My alternating plan worked well enough to get me to the point where everyone was hiking their bike just below the singletrack. As I continued to hike, I tried to take steps to stretch out my knee and get things to relax. While it didn’t eliminate the cramps, it at least relegated it to “something else that hurt” at the time. I reached the summit of Columbine just under 6 hours. I had budgeted 2:05 for the climb from Twin Lakes, it had taken me 2:30, my slowest Columbine climb of my three L100 efforts. I looked at the clock, assessed how I felt, and made the decision that it was time to switch my goal to sub-12 hours and getting back to Leadville for a buckle.
Columbine Mine (51 miles) – 5:48
The descent down Columbine was quick, but I was struggling to fully accept the loss of my initial goal of breaking 10 hours. My focus wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be and I left some time on the table here. Knowing where I was at in the race, I was shocked by the amount of people still climbing Columbine. The thought crept into my mind that maybe the course was just riding slow today…there was a lot of water on the course early on…maybe it’s not just me! Turns out it was riding slow (the leader’s times were 20 minutes slower than most years past), but I also found out that they left the Twin Lakes aid station open until about 20 minutes past 4 hours. There were a lot of people suffering who had very little hope of finishing under 12 hours. Not to mention the building storms.
I came back into Twin Lakes knowing I was way off now. I struggled to eat. Christine tried to force food on me. I should have taken it, but for some reason, I couldn’t do it. Mistake #3: Eat when your crew tells you to eat…even if you don’t want to. It was time to head back to Leadville, but I needed to sit first. I rolled out with the marshmallow stick and got as much fluid in me as I could. My cramps were now of the come and go variety. That I could manage.
Twin Lakes (61.1 miles) – 6:30
I kept my focus on hydrating as much as I could before Pipeline at 73 miles. My hope was that I could refill there, get two more bottles of fluid in me before the base of Powerline and then get home. I wanted the cramps gone as much as possible prior to the last two major climbs.
The pipeline section went smoothly and I was right on my goal split time from my original plan, which was a nice confidence boost heading into the final climbs of the day. I grabbed water and some food (don’t know why I was hungry…shoulda listened to Christine) and got on the road to Powerline. On the pavement, I worked in a large line for as long as I could, but they eventually spit me out not far from the Fish Hatchery. I was good with the effort and it probably saved me a few minutes and a lot of effort in the long run.
I took a quick pit stop right before the left turn onto Powerline to get food and liquids from my crew. Knowing I was later in the day and with the sky filling with clouds, I also grabbed my rain jacket. That would turn it to be the first correct decision I made all day.
I was relishing the opportunity to climb Powerline…but I’m not sure why. Uncle Tim was waiting somewhere up there too! I hit the steep section and didn’t even attempt to ride it. I was on guard against explosive efforts that could risk the cramps returning. I got in line and worked my way up by foot.
Tim walked with me for a couple minutes which was a great change of pace and took my mind off a little bit of the suffering. I was good with walking and the angle of the climb was actually doing a great job stretching my knee out. From the steep section, it’s a rolling climb that is somewhat cyclo-cross in nature of how many times you are off an on the bike. I embraced each walk to stretch out a bit more and hopefully attack the last 15 miles.
Powerline Summit (83 miles) – 9:28
I summited Powerline and was promptly punched in the mouth by a descent. That took me off guard.
The descent down Sugarloaf is rocky in the worst kind of way and I just couldn’t find a line that I wanted. I was tired, crampy, and it was starting to rain. I literally cried while biking…that’s a first. Mistake #4: Not enough mountain biking…too much Zwift. I didn’t have the muscular endurance to support technical mountain biking.
I got through it and got myself back on pavement where I could relax a bit and recover. I wanted to push this last 3 mile climb on pavement to get some time back. Powerline had loosened my cramps considerably and I was able to find a great cadence that pulled me up the final 3.3 miles up the back side of St. Kevins. I grabbed a few places on the way and topped out with 12 miles to go at 10:25.
St. Kevins (92 miles) – 10:25
With 1.5 hours left on the clock, I was confident in breaking 12 hours, but I really wanted to at least beat my first time of 11:26. There are a couple quick ups after the aid station, but by and large it is downhill until the Boulevard. I took off descending, more cautious than years past due to my fatigue and the wetness of the course from the recent rains.
Mediocre descending brought me to the bottom of the Boulevard (and the actual 100 mile mark) at 11 hours. I had 25 minutes to cover the final 3 miles and 500 feet of climbing. It was going to be close!
Somewhere I picked up some energy and dug deep up the Boulevard. I picked up rider after rider and found myself looking at the finish line with 10 minutes to spare. I wasn’t moving quick for that last little uphill into town. It’s a half mile or so from when you see the finish line, but it took me 3 minutes to cover.
It’s great to finish in Leadville. The crowd was rowdy, my crew was cheering me on, and the finish was in sight. I hit the red carpet. Crossed the finish line. Satisfaction.
This was the hardest of my three Leadville 100s to date. Reflection upon the effort, I’ve realized the mistakes I made on race day as well as the mistakes leading up to it. Some of it was out of my control due to my new role as a dad. I just didn’t have time to ride enough miles. I was 1,000 miles shorter in training than my previous Leadville effort. I’d hope quality and more focused training would make up for it and to a certain extent it did, but it wasn’t enough for the aggressive goal of breaking 10 hours.
A huge thank you to Christine, Avery, Mom, Dad, and Uncle Tim who supported me leading up to the race and on race day. Sorry to have kept you out longer than planned! It’s time for a few year break from Leadville to focus on my racing skills in shorter races. Hopefully be back in a few years to break 10 hours and eventually 9 hours!