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|
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
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.|