Monday, August 15, 2011

Leadville race report

  Yes, I'm going to attempt a race report.
 Something I have noticed is that for the Leadville 100 run last year I "blacked out" for much of the race, I literally don't remember much of it. I credit this to the meditative properties of running (and a chatty and awesome pacer), particularly trail or mountain running. I think that (for me at least) running out in nature can allow a person to reach an altered state not unlike meditation. I've done workouts where I swear I looked at my watch at two minutes... ran for what seemed like a few minutes... and then looked at my watch again and it read three hours. The Leadville 100 bike was nothing like that. A meditative state would have ended with me getting another cat scan at the ER.
 I drove up to Leadville on Friday morning at 6:00am in order to do the medical check which ended at 10:00am. A transparent ploy to force people in to needing to come to Leadville early in order to spend more money... I respect that. After check in I head straight out to "my" campsite which allows you to sleep under the watchful eye of both Hope Pass and Columbine. Mountains give off energy if you're receptive and open enough to feel it. Not unlike Pele.
Columbine Mine in the background
 I set up camp and lounged around a bit before heading in to the prerace meeting which ended up being really awesome. I bumped in to a few old friends from my Ironman days too. Paul Huddle and Paula Newby-Fraser, Jimmy Riccitello and Mike Pigg whom I credit 100% for starting me down the MAF path. Back in 1995 I saw Mike sitting on a bench after my first triathlon, the St. Croix International (I was living on St John USVI and this was my second triathlon... I think I was still smoking at the time), and I went up and sat next to him and chatted him up. I asked him how I could get good at triathlon and he told me about Dr Maffetone and said I should just train with my HR between 145-155. The next time I saw Mike was at The Competitor awards in San Diego where I was honored as the USAT Triathlete of the Year in 2000. Mike and I rode Palomar together the next day and then went shopping for Hot Wheels tracks for his kids. I could go on for pages with that story.
 So I caught up with old friends and then headed back out to camp. My stomach was a mess and my nerves were frayed. I was constantly on the edge of a full on panic attack.
 Race morning came super fast and I was up by 4:00 and in town by 5:00am. I headed over to place my bike at what I hoped was the front of the last corral but it was already pretty much full. I was near the back. The lady in front of me was maybe 60 and started the race with a ski jacket on. The next girl had headphones in. The guy in front of them had cellulite. At 6:30 we heard a very faint BANG... and we just stood there. About 2:00 later we started rolling very slowly and by 6th street were moving a bit more. My only goal really was to be patient and smart... both of which are not strengths of mine. I had a demonic King Kong sitting on my back after crashing out of Silver Rush last month and I was truly panicked about crashing again. Partly because my amazing wife just doesn't deserve that and partly because, well... it fucking hurts. So I sat in and I only passed when it was very easy to do so meaning I didn't really pass many people early. I was completely non-aggressive. We hit St Kevins the first climb and it was completely backed up. My HR was ~110 and I wasn't even warming up. All the way up it was just frustration. On the big paved descent I hugged the left and bombed as fast as I could and then climbed up to Sugar Loaf relaxed and fast passing several hundred riders.
 The Powerline descent I took fairly safe and I spoke my mind to more than few guys who were too aggressive but it went by uneventful and quick. The flats after Powerline went quickly but on the single track it was still too busy to make any time.
 From mile 40 to 50 is the Columbine climb. A 10 mile, 3000+ foot  gain to well above tree line and I had really hoped to make up some ground here. I did for the first ~7 miles but once riders started descending it was way to dangerous to really pass slower riders. In the last couple of miles I had to fall in line with the procession of walkers. I think it was at this point that I pretty much realized I would lose my sub9 time for the day and I sort of accepted it. I saw one guy step out of line right in to the path of one of the elite riders who was descending VERY fast, the elite guy screamed and moved as much as he could and the walker ducked back just missing a disaster.
 I hit the top in 4:40, stopped for water and started the descent. The entire way down riders were catching me and I would pull off and let them pass. I had zero interest in pushing the pace or holding up better descenders. I let off the brakes when I felt comfortable and went super safe when I didn't. I rolled through my crew point completely defeated and negative. My amazing and wonderful wife listened to me rant and tried to keep me positive but to no avail. The cancer that is negativity was rotting my already fragile brain. I stopped and told her I was just going to cruise in and take the day as it was given to me...

 And this is where an old dog learned a new trick. On paper I couldn't make sub9. But paper can be crumpled or burnt or you can wipe your ass with it. I headed out of Twin Lakes defeated but as we climbed I realized that the road was clear. The guys in front of me didn't look so good but physically I felt amazing!? I passed 10 guys in that mile. My legs felt strong and fresh and I glanced down at my split chart on my handlebars and wondered "what if". I started to push just a little and I felt no strain... so I pushed again... nothing. My nutrition had been spot on all day and I was a fueled and tuned Dino V12 ready for some work. I turned off my brain and started concentrating on the one thing that I could control... wattage to the pedals. I relaxed and I focused on spinning with the biggest gear I could hold. I was hitting technical single track and flying through it without a single ham fisted line, lines I would never have the confidence to take but I was hitting them clean. At mile ~70 I came up on a long line of guys and I commented that we could still get sub9. One guy chuckled and said "good luck!". He had on a baby blue jersey and I so wanted to wait for him at the finish...

 I rolled through Pipeline on fire and my wife held out the plastic grocery bag that was my musette bag and I grabbed it on the fly yelling that I was back on pace. I saved a little back and soft pedaled up to Powerline. I will shamelessly admit that I was wanting to look good for a few friends who were going to be on Powerline. Brandon and Patrick had planned on running up with me and I didn't want to disappoint. I looked the entire way up but they weren't there because I had been listed as a DNF on the live update coverage. I was bummed and I realized that we hold on to and grasp at small things sometimes. Somewhat deflated I started to methodically count the false summits. Near the top of the last climb I saw a familiar jersey with familiar legs. I yelled "Andy?" and my old friend who has done Leadville many times (Andy Fox) responded with "Lucho? It's about time!" and he said I was going to crush sub9. I completely trust Andy so when I heard this it was like someone punched me. My brain shut completely down and I felt only a fire in my belly and an angry desire to KILL it to the finish.
 On the descent I started to see familiar faces (jerseys) that would lead to a sort of camaraderie over the next 10 miles. I was trying hard to get a feel for the time frame asking everyone I passed if we could make a sub9 finish. It ranged from "eh... I doubt it" to "it'll be close". I trusted Andy and I kept trying to just relax and focus  on keeping my already torrid pace. I knew that the only thing preventing me from finishing in goal time was a mechanical... and sure enough, my chain dropped off on to my pedal and I tried to reset it by pedaling it back on. It tangled and got these two twists in it and it wrapped in to my rear derraileur. I stopped and literally threw my bike down and found the quick link, popped it and took my chain off, straightened it out and rethreaded it through my drive train... vaulted back on my bike and took off. Less than two minutes. My mind was on fire and my fingers raced through doing what needed to be done. I didn't have time to panic. I caught straight back up to the guys I was with when I dropped the chain.
 I climbed the backside of St. Kevins like a machine and descended sharp and full of confidence. When I hit the Boulevard (where I melted at last years 100 run) my watch was at a good great  number and I finally relaxed my brain.
 The finish line was pretty awesome. Hundreds of people cheering and I felt amazing. Unlike at the 100 run last year where I finished in the dark completely dead like something out of a zombie movie. In terms of physical difficulty I would rate this a 2... but in terms of lessons learned and fun experience I would rate this a 10. I generally do not come back from a negative melt down like I had at mile 60 and the fact that I was able to pull it off is something. Not necessarily a stellar time or placing but it will go down as one of the great days in my athletic 'career'.

 What amazing lessons I learned on Saturday. Possibly more than I have ever learned from a race.

Andy Fox who helped me a TON not only before the race but during. Thanks Andy! 

At the finish with my "Her Life" jersey... Thank you Jo. My amazing and wonderful wife. 


17 comments:

Art said...

I'd love to post your story on the yahoo groups bb....great read, for sure....

Brett said...

"But paper can be crumpled or burnt or you can wipe your ass with it."

You're like Confucious on IPA.

Lucho said...

Art- will do.

Brett- Confucious on IPA... love it! I chose to wipe my ass with the paper.

Lucho said...

Art- Pending 'approval' from the moderator and going through the entire sign up process which included blood samples and a prostate exam and the rights to my first born... jesus. That was harder than actual race!?

Dave said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome work! Congrats man, you earned every mile out there. It's been a pleasure watching this all unfold! And way to get your head back. I let my head get me out of things at some point at the Wilderness 101 and never got it back.
Glad you got the mountain bike bug! Awesome ain't it!?

Lucho said...

Dave- Thanks man. I think you're the only mountain bike racer that comes here. Definitely it is awesome! Wow. I'm hooked for sure and I have so much room to improve which makes it even more interesting. I can't imagine NOT going back next year! I would love to toe line with YOU after you move here... hint hint.

P. said...

thanks for this report. i have been living with a cyclist here in chile for the past few days and i was explaining my "training," my feelings about running etc. not stuff that i generally discuss outside of ye old blog. it was interesting that your training came up quite a bit in regards to MAF stuff, but really, it's truly significant how much i've learned and borrowed (read: stole) from your writings.

de chile, un mil gracias y ojalá que toda está bien.

Wassdoc said...

What an awesome race report! I hung on every word. Of note, everyone's time showed a "DNF" at the bottom, until they finished, not the smartest thing to have for online timing. I thing I'd mentioned previously that they had you outbound at Twin Lakes in something like 3:10, then listed you again outbound at Twin Lakes in something like 4:40, none of the numbers made sense. You'd think that with fancy electronic timing, that they could do better. It also made me feel better to know that even a remarkable athlete like yourself can be so nervous. Thanks again for sharing!

Darren said...

Great job Tim...now go enjoy that cabin an relax. You've earned it!

Darren

GZ said...

Congrats man. It drives me crazy that you ain't getting that buckle for a couple of weeks.

Dave said...

Haha, man it's gettin' close! I'm planning a long weekend out there next month to scout out possible jobs and living opportunities. I'll keep in touch. Let's get a ride in!

Michelle Simmons said...

I loved reading this. Thanks for taking the time to write it! I always like hearing/reading about what goes on in other peoples minds during long races.

So you never answered the questions about which endurance event is the hardest? I'm assuming Ironman is the easiest... mostly b/c you don't have to do any one event for more than 5-6 hours then you get to switch and do something different. In my mind a 100 mile run would be the hardest. Maybe just because *personally* I cannot even start to fathom running that far or for that long!??!

Lucho said...

Thanks guys!

Gz- If I could get someone at the race office to answer an e-mail I would pick the buckle up if that's OK. Waiting a month and paying $25 in postal fees is more expensive than just driving up to Leadville.

Michelle- Lets see... which is tougher... swimming 2.4 miles at sub 1:30 pace and then riding at over 23mph for 112 miles and then running a sub 3:00 marathon back to back to back. Or running all day. It's a no brainer in my opinion. Ironman is by far the most difficult to GO FAST. But just in sheer volume the run is the hardest. Skill is often times the most valuable and hardest obtained asset. Which is "harder"... digging ditches or being the CEO of a company?

Anonymous said...

You've never coached me, cause I'm not really worthy. Yet you have, cause I sometimes think I am, and as a result, have followed your blog for a year or two. Extrapolating what I can for free, lurking in the shaddows. Always thankful, but never expressing it. But it's not just the knowledge. It's much more. I read other blogs. books, follow guys faster than me, and push it hard. But I'm still just an age grouper with a few years experience, and pushing 50. And usually hurt. Some how I connect with you. You speak a truth that resonates, motivates and inspires. And you make things. With your hands.
Anyway, congrats on the finsh, and over coming the mental aspects of of a 60 mile handicap. It's hard to train for that. Something I can't imagine.
I'd gladly pay you back for everything I've leeched off of you for free if you'd ever like to come to Ohio and try the Mohican 100. My house in the rolling cornfields is yours. My beer (Great Lakes Brewery) is as well. I think I owe you.
Thanks again,
Jeff

Andy said...

Thanks for some undeserved credit Lucho. That was all you. I just wish I could climb w/ you so we could've spent more time together. It was great seeing you out there.... finally:-) Hope to ride w/ you soon.

PatrickGarcia said...

Still bummed about not seeing you on course. Would have been EPIC for sure! Leadman...

You, my friend, are a beast!

krystyna47 said...

I think it's safe to say that you totally owned the back half of this course. 100%.