Thursday, November 18, 2010

So into the mail goes an envelope of hopes and dreams for a lottery entry into the 2011 Hardrock 100. Don’t know how much of a long shot it is, but I’ll find out sometime around the 1st of February. After that I need to set up the rest of my planning for the Rocky Mountain Slam 2011, all 5 races if my body can just hang in there (Bighorn, Hardrock, Leadville, Wasatch, and the Bear).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

DNF in Silverton, CO!

Saturday, November 13th

It’s not what you might think though; a DNF in Silverton. No, it’s not a “did not finish” for anything in particular in Silverton. Hopefully the opportunity for that will be coming later, if I am lucky enough to make it into the lottery for the Hardrock 100 ultra marathon in 2011. Rather, today I climbed the Direct North Face of Peak 12,579, an awesome ice route located on FR 585, just outside of Silverton, on highway 550, heading back to Ouray.
So, my DNF in Silverton was a good thing. Especially it was good to be out on the ice so early in the season. Last weekend was my first time out for the 2010/2011 season and what a disaster that was. I hiked into Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park to try and catch a route named Stone Man in condition. After seeing some nice looking pictures on the Internet (from a brief storm earlier in the week), I was enticed and committed to the hike back in to check it out. Being that we have been experiencing an exceptional Indian Summer/Fall here on the Front Range of Colorado, I had missed the prime conditions by a couple of days, and everything was pretty much melted out by the time I got there. The West Gully, a fine line adjacent to Stone Man, was in, as it usually is by this time of year. Having done the West Gully several times before, I wasn’t super psyched to get on it again though, as well there was another party chomping at the bit to climb it too. But being by myself, and pretty much first in line, I decided to head up it anyway.
However, within just a few feet of having started to climb, I decided I really wasn’t into the experience at all. My hands were cold, despite it being a beautiful and warm day. My feet were hurting like crazy too. That, and both of my crampons managed to fall off while I was climbing. So, by the time I reached the top of the 1st pitch, I was ready to come down and call it a day.
The hike back out from Black Lake was unusually painful for my feet too. It made me start to worry about having run too much during the past year, to the point of having damaged something, and maybe I would not be able to get comfortable in my ice boots. Well, I have been climbing ice for just a few years, so I decided to give it at least another trip out to climb, knowing that it takes a little bit for me to get back into the swing of things each year. And I am happy to say that today on the DNF, I really did feel a whole lot better, especially my feet.
Yesterday evening (Friday), Lisa and I drove over to Pagosa Springs, CO to spend the weekend with her mother at a time-share resort. On the way over, we stopped in South Fork for some dinner. Not really knowing where would be a good place to eat, we settled on a simple looking place that had only a sign outside stating “Café” to let you know there was something to eat that could be had inside. It turned out to be one of those magical experiences though where the memory of it will stick with you for long afterwards. The interior was beautiful though simple, being a rough-hewn log cabin, with the inside walls being nicely stained and decorated with typical farm knick-knacks. The food was reasonably good too. But what made it so nice was the wonderful mix of music the proprietor had put together that was playing in the background. I am so sorry that I don’t know exactly who any of the artists were and that it was a mix CD anyway, so it was truly a special moment, fleeting and never to be had again.
This morning I slept in a little bit and got up around 7:00 AM, had a quick breakfast of some oatmeal, walnuts, banana, and brown sugar; then fixed a few snacks to munch on throughout the day, and was on the road to Silverton by 8:00 AM. In Durango, I made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a hat and some approach gloves, because I had left some of my things back home in Colorado Springs. Yeah, it takes me a few trips to get everything sorted out and clicking again each fall.
By 10:30 AM I was pulling up to the base of the route on FR 585 after a beautiful drive up over Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass. Driving to Silverton and looking at the surrounding mountains makes me think so much about what it might be like to run and walk through them during an ultra marathon. I hope I can get into Hardrock next summer.
There were already 4 vehicles parked at the base of the route when I go there. Those made me wonder about just how many people there might be in front of me. I could see one party topping out a pitch mid-way up the route, and another pair climbing the approach gully at the base. Not having much in the way of warm clothes with me, I wasn’t looking forward to a lot of standing around, but I decided to go check it out anyway. It would not be the worst thing that could happen if I was to turn around and just come back down.
So, I took my time getting all of my gear on, wanting to let the parties ahead get as far up the route as possible before I caught up with them. Leaving the car, I crossed a frozen creek by balancing my way across a convenient log, and was soon hiking up the slope at the base of the route. This was so much better than last week, where I had to hike like 5 miles back into Black Lake, and then struggle through some snow to reach the base of something I really wasn’t that enthusiastic about climbing anyway.
It didn’t take long at all to reach the actual gully where the climbing would begin. Here I sat on a boulder and clipped my crampons onto my boots, wondering if they were going to behave themselves better than they did last weekend. Having a crampon come off while climbing is a distraction to say the least. There were some packs scattered around the boulder too, which belonged to the climbers further up on the route. I noticed that somebody had also taken the opportunity to pee directly onto the base of the boulder. I likened it to a car I witnessed on the drive up, where the driver casually threw a cigarette butt out into the wilderness. I guess some people are just too lazy to care. At least the person who had peed on the rock could have taken the time to walk 20 feet away or so.
Time to climb; it felt good to be back out on the ice. No feet problems like last week. The route began with a series of easy rolling sections that gained some height up through the gully. Before long I got to the 1st significant piece of ice, a vertical pillar of at least 20 feet or so in height. It was pretty hooked out, making the climbing easy, though it was still just a little unnerving getting back into the vertical with the ice tools. All things take some getting used to when renewing a relationship with something you haven’t done in a while.
After the 1st pillar, a short, flat shelf leads to a 2nd vertical section that was a little longer, but perhaps not quite as technical. I think it was at the top of this 2nd vertical section that I ran into one of the parties ahead of me, and they were rappelling back down the route. For a few moments I stopped to chat with them. They told me the other folks ahead of me were soloing too, and were running laps on the lower part of the route, hiking off to the side after each lap. Eyeing a little bit more ice above, I decided to keep climbing up.
The pitches started to run together a little bit, but I think there were at least 3 more sections of ice that were worth climbing before I reached what was probably the top of the route. One of the pitches was a very wet pillar, sort of like climbing up into a shower bath. I hurried through it, climbing as fast as I could, but still got pretty soaked. At least the ice was good for getting tool placements.
Way up the slope above I could see a ridgeline against the sky. Swirls of snow were blowing off of it into the wind. However, for me it was time to start heading back down.
The last little section of ice I had just climbed was steeper than I wanted to down climb, and there weren’t any convenient trees or ice to create a rappel anchor with; so I decided to follow a set of footprints off into the bushes adjacent to the route, hoping to find a decent walk-off. The footprints eventually led into the trees and then suddenly stopped when they reached the top of a short cliff. I could tell that the owner of the prints had not rappelled down the cliff. So, that left me wondering if they had simply turned around and headed back to the route or what. I decided to make a quick rappel and continue downwards.
Well, walking off to the side of the route works for a descent after a fashion, but it isn’t something that I would recommend again. Next time I think I might try harder to find a way to rappel back down the route. After rappelling for about 100 feet, I made a very tedious descent down through some tightly packed trees and bushes that fought me the whole way. There was probably more potential for getting hurt on the descent rather than from the climbing!
After what seemed like a long time of struggling down through the trees, I reached the base of the route and gratefully sat on the boulder again to remove my crampons from my feet that now hated me pretty good. Back at the creek, what was completely frozen over that morning now had a stream of water running over the top of the ice. So, I really wanted not to slip and fall off the log as I balanced my way across to reach my car. The shadows were lengthened across the valley to make the time of day feel very late. Upon starting up the car, I looked at the clock on the dash and saw it was only 1:30 PM.
Driving back down the road to Silverton, I munched a turkey sandwich and a banana. Also I took a few minutes to drive through the town of Silverton to think about where the start/finish for Hardrock must be, and wonder what it will feel like next summer. Then I turned my car towards Pagosa Springs and a happy reunion with my wife. It was a good day to be back out on the ice, a DNF in Silverton.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pacing at the ADTM ½ Marathon

Got asked to volunteer for the 2:15 pace group at the American Discovery Trail ½ Marathon (ADTM) this past Labor Day and had an awesome time doing it. I was a little hesitant at first because I have never paced for anybody, trying to help them achieve a specific finish time. Not really sure that I did a great job at it either; we came in a little bit faster than 2:15, more like 2:03. However, I thought about it and figured that if somebody sets a goal for a time, then they really want to beat it by a little bit. Maybe I was like the rabbit and the hounds were supposed to chase me to the finish. Sounds good in theory anyway; though actually I found it a lot harder to stay specifically on a slower pace than I am used to running than I thought it would be.
The ADTM runs along the Santa Fe Trail through the middle of Colorado Springs. For the ½ marathon, the race starts at America the Beautiful Park, runs northward to a point just past Garden of the Gods Road, and then turns around and heads back again; an out and back. The ½’s bigger brother (the full meal deal) is a point to point race, starting in Palmer Lake, CO and runs south to a finish in America the Beautiful Park as well. Both races start at 6:30 AM on Labor Day. Since I live just over a mile away from the park, it was a good warm-up for me to just run over to the start of the race.
At the park, I picked-up a flag with 2:15 on it and stuffed it into my running pack. At the packet pick-up the day before, I also received bib numbers with 2:15 and my name printed on them as well; one for the front and one for the back. There was no secret to who I was or what my finish time was supposed to be. At the starting line, a group gathered around me, figuring that was the finish time they were aiming for.
After the national anthem played over the loud speakers, we took off running, timed to the same start as the marathon up in Palmer Lake. I had bought a GPS watch the previous Friday in order to help me maintain a steady pace. For a couple of years I had held off on getting one, figuring that I always had a rough idea of how far I ran anyway, but it was cool to see what my actual speed was in minutes per mile. Only I found it a little hard to want to run at the exact pace I thought would bring me in at 2:15. So, as we took off up the Santa Fe Trail, I found myself running at somewhere between 9:15 and 9:45 per mile. My splits said I should have been running at somewhere closer to a 10:18. I wanted to build in a little cushion anyway, so it felt better to be running a little faster.
I think there was something like 4 aid stations on the way out to the turnaround point. Getting a little water to drink at each one, I didn’t stop to walk through any of the aid stations, preferring rather to just maintain a steady pace. Soon I had a small group gathered around me who was into the pace I was setting, and wanted to see if they could hang onto the finish. For one young girl in particular, it was her first half, and she breathlessly exclaimed that she couldn’t believe she was keeping up with me. That made me really glad I had come out to help, and I got excited about trying to keep the pace a little faster so she could reach a goal that would make her feel good about herself. I also passed a few spectators along the course that I recognized from other local runs and such, so it was awesome to greet them by name.
Since I have been running some longer distances lately, something like the length of a ½ marathon feels really good. Just by the time I am getting warmed up, it seems like the race is getting over with; it lasting only 2 hours instead of a full day or longer… So, the time we spent together as a pace group seemed to fly by, and it wasn’t long before we were rounding the final corner where we could see the finish line across the park. I tried to give out a little more encouragement, coaxing my group to pour it on if they had anything left in them, which I knew they did. Just before the chute leading to the finish line I stepped aside, since it was their race. Turning around, I glanced at my watch and headed back on the course shouting words of encouragement to each runner that I passed. Only one of them shouted back at me that I had run too fast. I hope they really weren’t angry with me. As I felt like I was approaching the point at which I had half the time left for a return back to the finish line to make 2:15, I turned around again, trying to herd one last group to meet the pace. Getting a little more effort out of some of the runners, we squeaked across the line in just over 2:14; perfect.
For a few moments I looked around the finish area trying to find some of the folks from my first group to congratulate them. However my wife walked up to greet me before I found anybody. We had kidded around that this was like the first race for when she knew exactly what time I was going to be done, so she wouldn’t have to be waiting around or risk missing me. Her timing was perfect too. Since there wasn’t much of a reason to hang around and I couldn’t find any of the folks I was looking for anyway, we hopped into her car and drove over to Mountain Shadows for a big breakfast; a great end to a fantastically fun morning.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Leadman – The Final Act

Ken and Marilee were right; it is tremendously more satisfactory to sit here contemplating having finished the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run than think over excuses for having not. However, I should mention first and foremost that over the course of the run, I tried to come up with more excuses for quitting rather than focusing on finishing it. If it were not for my crew and pacers, in all likelihood, I would be sitting here writing otherwise, or perhaps not at all; being ultimately too let down with myself to want to put it in words. I owe them; Kelly Ping, Josh Herman, Kristy Milligan, Jacob Benzinger, and my father Norman Smith, a lot more than I feel like I can return for hauling me through this journey.
The journey began easy enough. During the week prior to the race, I spent a few days in the Buena Vista area with my wife, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. This was wonderful, quiet, and relaxing time that both of us will look back upon with many fond memories. A lot of our evenings were spent down at the Lariat Bar on Main Street. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the museum, where we got a good education on all of the old railroad lines that were built to service the mining communities in the area. This gave me a good perspective on some of the geographical features that we were travelling through and that I would later run through upon my return to Leadville.
On Wednesday, I took my wife, Lisa, back to Colorado Springs, so she could fly back east to help with a surprise 70th birthday party for her father. I spent the day cleaning stuff up from the bike race and getting things re-rigged for the run. Thursday I picked my father, Norman Smith, up at the airport, and we headed back up to Leadville. That evening we ate dinner in a wonderful Italian restaurant on Harrison Ave. We probably spent an hour and a half or so lingering over dinner. Upon exiting the restaurant and looking to our west, our gaze fell upon a fresh blanket of snow that had fallen on Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive; I mean white snow, not just hail or something like that. This was quite a shock, thinking of the possibilities of having been stuck in a storm like that. Fortunately the weather window for the weekend was supposed to be clear.
After checking my email in the motel room, I discovered that my crew chief, Kelly Ping was trying to get a ride up to Leadville the next morning. I sent her a couple of email addresses for some folks that I thought might be coming up Friday morning on the outside chance that maybe something would work out. Really, I thought it was too late for anything to be put together.
Friday morning, my father and I caught a quick breakfast over at the Trout Creek Pass Café and did some shopping on Harrison Ave before heading over to the 6th Street gym for the pre-race meeting. Kelly called me on my cell phone to let me know she was in town, having caught a ride up that morning with Mike Shafai’s wife; which was a very pleasant surprise because I didn’t think anything would get put together from the previous evening’s email, everything being on such short notice. All of us managed to find seats together in the gym; Kelly, my father, Mike and his family, as well as John Gardner, the president of our local running club, the Pikes Peak Road Runners. John was going to help pace Mike.
I had been looking forward to the pre-race meeting, having developed some expectations from the pre-race meeting to the bike race from the week before. Ken and Marilee seemed a little subdued though, maybe even a little worn out. Maybe it was due to what was probably a very long week for them. I was hoping for Kelly to see something a little more charged-up, as there was so much history and such a storied atmosphere surrounding the race.
After the meeting and a quick bite of lunch, Kelly, my father, and I piled into the car to go take a look at the crew spots. May Queen was pretty straight forward. When we got to the Fish Hatchery, my father was quite excited to go and take a look at the operations. He is an avid trout fisherman, and I am sure was quite a bit more interested in the hatchery than the race. After touring the hatchery, there was just enough time left for us to get down to Twin Lakes, and then head back up to Leadville. My sister Alexa was also showing up in town with her daughter, my 8 month old niece, which I had yet to meet.
Kelly took off to go and scout some camping spots for her and Jacob, who was due to show up later that evening. My father and I went to meet my sister, her partner, and their daughter at a local Mexican restaurant. I had been carbo-loading all day, and was so stuffed, but managed to find a little more room for some dinner. Back at the motel room, I put the finishing touches on my gear and tried to settle in for some rest at about 8:30 PM. I had my alarm set to go off at 1:30 AM so I could begin eating. Kelly has always told me to begin eating before a race at least 2 hours ahead of the start to have enough time to get the fuel into my system. She is always full of such great advice.
Did I actually get any sleep before the alarm went off? I’m not sure. It felt like most of the evening was spent in a restless state of anticipation. Breakfast was 2 packs of instant oatmeal and a bagel spread with some almond butter. By 2:00 AM I was back in bead for another hour of rest before getting up for good at 3:00 AM. By 3:30 AM I was out the door of the motel room, with my father in tow, as we walked the 2 blocks over to the starting line. It’s amazing just how much energy a crowd can generate at that time of the morning. I wasn’t nervous and let the surge of energy from the crowd flow through me. I was really looking forward to what was ahead. My father and I took a few pictures before the inevitable shotgun blast filled the air and for the last time during this saga, I was off running once again.
Down the boulevard we ran, I even ran up the first teeny hill, though my race strategy guideline recommended against this. At the bottom of the boulevard we ran across the Arkansas River, and headed up a couple of short, steep inclines to reach Turquoise Lake. Running around the lake was surreal, as all of the runners were spread out around the lake, where you could see the lights from their headlamps bobbing along the shore. I was in a good rhythm, and soon the group I was with reached May Queen; 2 hours and 5 minutes; a little ahead of schedule.
After a quick stop at May Queen to exchange water bottles with my father and grab some food from the aid station, I was walking up the trail towards Sugarloaf with my hands full of food. Back in the trees, I also stopped for the only time that day that I would go poop. This was something that I was really anxious about, as I have suffered greatly in the past from GI distress, looking to find the exact balance between sugar and carbohydrates that would not send my intestines into a death spiral. Anecdotally, I would say that as a race progresses and I get wrung out, I get better, so it seems to be the first 30 miles or so that is my nemesis. Today was not going to be a problem for GI distress though; problems were going to show up in other forms.
Up and up we climbed as an ever increasingly strung out group of runners over the top of Sugarloaf. I could see runners far ahead of me as well as behind. At the top of Sugarloaf, where the jeep road passes beneath the Power Lines, the descent begins in earnest down towards the Fish Hatchery. This is where the realization of just how hard the day ahead of me was going to be; my right knee was in significant pain when I ran downhill too hard. I guess it was some pain left over from the long day on the bike the week before. Whatever the case, I was a little concerned thinking of all the downhill miles that lay ahead of me. Well, they were out of my next 100 yards or so, except for the Power Lines in front of me, so I stopped worrying and limped down, with many runners passing me. Still, by the time I made it to Fish Hatchery, I was on schedule, maybe even a few minutes ahead.
I caught up with my father at the entrance to the Fish Hatchery, exchanging bottles again, and made my way into the aid station for some more food. Coming back out to the pavement I saw him again. I made of point of giving him a hug each time I saw him to let him know how much I appreciated what he was doing.
The next section of the race was one that I was really not looking forward to; from Fish Hatchery over to the Pipe Line. This part of the race is on pavement and dirt roads, and is flat and boring. One of the only highlights was when my sister passed me in her car and took a quick picture. I guess it is about 4 miles over to the Pipe Line crew area. At least we got to turn off the Pipe Line and head up the Half Moon road afterwards.
At Half Moon, I ducked quickly into the aid station for some more food and was back on the trail in very quick order. From here to Twin Lakes is one of the prettiest sections of the race, especially after joining the Colorado trail. Here I found myself running with a couple of ladies; one of them was a grizzled veteran of many 100 mile runs, Liz Bauer, and the other was named Shelia, a lady from Palmer Lake who was on her 3rd try at completing the LT100. So, it was very inspiring just to lay back and eavesdrops on the conversation as we climbed up to the high point of this section of trail. What goes up must also go down, and I was soon dropped by everyone as we started the descent towards Twin Lakes. I was really starting to slow on the downhill s by now. However, upon reaching Twin Lakes, I was surprised to find that I was still on schedule.
Twin Lakes is the first of the really busy aid stations, where large crowds accumulate, exactly like it was on the bike ride, with hoards of folks cheering runners on. After leaving the crowds, the trail heads through some marshy sections with many water crossings before finally reaching the river, which has a rope strung across it. I found it quicker to bypass hanging onto the rope, just slogging across, since it was barely knee deep. The water was cold and actually felt pretty good. It wasn’t long after this river crossing that the trail began to climb up Hope Pass.
On the north side of the pass, the trail climbs for maybe 4 or 5 miles to get to the top of the pass. The trail seems steep, and I was using just a slow and steady pace to make upward progress. I passed a lot of people, including Liz Bauer, which surprised me because I thought she would be so far ahead of my by this point. I said hello, and she merely pointed out which side she wanted me to pass. I couldn’t tell if that was from her focus or exhaustion level, but probably a little of both. There were even some folks I passed who were in various states of collapse, lying on the side of the trail, barely able to mumble a reply as I asked them how they were doing. This just reinforced to me how lucky I am to be able to live in Colorado and be somewhat used to higher elevations.
Somewhere along the way up to Hope Pass, I encountered the first runner who was heading back to Leadville; inbound at 1:06 PM. I recognized the runner, though I don’t know his name; we nick-named him Running Jesus (because of his long and shaggy hair). I glanced at my watch and started to time just how far he was ahead of the next runner; 40 minutes. I was amazed, but even more so later at the finish line to find out he had dropped out of the race. I guess 100 miles gets to all of us, and you never can take anything for granted over that kind of distance.
At a high meadow, I broke out of the trees, and saw a heard of Llamas calming chewing grass in the fields surrounding the Hopeless aid station. Looming above us was the pass itself. It was only 600 feet higher, but it still looked a long ways off. Eventually I got to the top, and the view was spectacular, being able to see all the way back to Leadville as well as down into the valley below, where Winfield and the turnaround were waiting.
This time as I began my descent, I could only manage a slow walk. I felt terrible as so many people were flying past me. Of course, since I was going so slowly, I stopped many times in order to make it easier for folks to get around me. Liz Bauer flew past me, shooting downhill like a streak. With each step I grew more and more miserable. I let doubt start to creep into my head for the first time, wanting to call it quits at Winfield, wondering how I was ever going to finish. It seemed to take forever, and the trail was unbelievably steep on the Winfield side, but I finally reached the road. It was only 2 ½ miles of a slight uphill to get to the turn-around. I even managed to run a bit of it. By the time I got there my spirits started to lift a little bit.
Quite a crowd had gathered there, and I met my father just on the outskirts of town. We walked together down into the aid station where I met the rest of my crew and pacers for the first time that day; Josh, Kelly, and Jacob. Their enthusiasm and concern for me were contagious and instantly my spirits were lifted even more. They took such good care of me. Kelly in particular was interested in how I felt. I told her that my stomach was cramping. Also I got weighed for the 1st time, and found out I had lost about 5 pounds. Kelly told me I had not been drinking enough, and made me promise to work on that as we headed back over the pass. They could tell I was really tired, and immediately Josh offered to mule for me as we loaded up to begin our inbound journey together.
Heading back down the road, I managed to run a little and walk a little; my knee was hanging in there where the angle wasn’t so steep. I also managed to eat a sandwich and drink 20 ounces of Power Aid before we got back down to the trailhead. Soon we were power hiking our way back up Hope Pass, passing many other parties along the way. I drank another 20 ounces of Gatorade and water that Josh mixed up for me before we got to the top. At the top, Josh ran ahead to the aid station, while I started my downhill crawl.
Here is where I should insert something that I find fascinating about how the day went. All day my knee had been sore and getting worse with each downhill section. All day I had been praying to God to help me with my knee, asking for some relief from the pain so I could continue onward with some sort of speed beyond the ever slow pace I was able to manage. When I got down to the aid station, Josh had a medic ready to tape my knee. It was simple enough, a few wraps of athletic tape above and below the knee, but it was a world of difference, and I could even manage a slow shuffling run as we headed down off Hope Pass and back towards Twin Lakes. I couldn’t get the Skillet song out of my head; Looking for Angels. God lets us find Angels in the strangest of places sometimes.
I drank another 30 ounces of fluids on my way back down the pass. All of my stomach cramps were now gone. Down by the river once again, we got through all of the water crossings in the fading light. This time the water was a little too cold, making all of my tendons and muscles in my feet a cool off; running became a chore. Twin Lakes drew nearer, and I did manage a run into the parking lot and across the road, then up the street into the aid station itself. Once again my crew lavished an embarrassing amount of attention upon me, even helping me change my shoes and socks, which were really nasty from all the mud and totally soaked. The skin on my feet was shriveled like I had been in the pool for too long, and I put some silicone spray on my feet before putting the new socks on. It was also time to change pacers, as Kelly was due to take the next leg from Twin Lakes over to Fish Hatchery.
Fortunately the world is all uphill from Twin Lakes. It lasts for a good while too, and Kelly and I made descent time. I was sorry she wasn’t able to see how beautiful this section of trail was as it was totally dark by this time. It took a while, but eventually we got to Half Moon. From Half Moon down to Pipe Line, I even managed a little more running and a little less walking. My strategy in a very long event after I am getting too tired to keep running all the time is to run 100 meters, maybe a little further, and then walk 100 meters, maybe a little less.
After Pipe Line, the wheels really started to come off of my little wagon. Once again I really wanted to quit. Given the opportunity, I would have lavished in the prospect of quitting. I was really getting tired at this point. Not physically exhausted, which had set in long ago, but tired like yawning, like I wanted to go to sleep. I also started to get quite cold, and soon had all my clothes on, which didn’t seem like enough because I was shivering uncontrollably. It seemed to take forever to get to Fish Hatchery, and I was night of the walking dead by the time we got there.
Once again my crew came to the rescue, sitting me down with the medic to re-tape my right knee and adding some tape to my left knee too, while wrapping me in a sleeping bag, and stuffing me with some hot food; a wonderful potato soup. Kristy took over the pacing, and as we headed out of Fish Hatchery, I wasn’t feeling too bad. It’s amazing how a little support can help put things back together even when you think you are all in.
Kristy was going to pace me from here until the finish. I apologized in advanced to her for what was coming next; a climb back up the Power Lines. The Power Lines was where I had come a little undone during the bike race the week before. Who wouldn’t come undone; they go on forever, like 5 miles or so. Every time you think you’re getting close to being done with the climb, it’s just another false summit, teasing you with yet another glimpse of what could be the real top off in the distance. I bet it took 2 hours for us to get to the top of the Power Lines from Fish Hatchery.
Heading back down the other side, I was able to make some OK progress as long as we were on the roads, but eventually we had to turn back onto the Colorado Trail in order to get back down to May Queen and the back of the lake. The reality of what time it was getting to be, closer and closer to 6:00 AM, and how slow I was moving was starting to sink in. I didn’t think I was going to have enough time to finish in less than 30 hours.
We were met at the where the trail joins the pavement by a gentlemen telling us we needed to get our butts in gear. He told us that the finish line was exactly 4 hours from our present location, and it was exactly 6:00 AM. I limped my way down into May Queen already accepting defeat and wanting so badly to just call it a day. I had given it the college try, and my knee just wasn’t cooperating. At the aid station, Kelly wasn’t having any of that though. I owe a lot of my finish to Kelly and her persistence and belief in me even where I had none left. At the time I was a little mad, thinking of how much more wear and tear I was putting on myself for something that I wasn’t going to be able to finish in time. I asked her to please come and look for us on the boulevard if 10:00 AM came and went without us making it to the finish line.
Dejectedly I began my journey around the lake, heading back towards Leadville. At least I had some great company, as Kristy is a wonderful friend, and there wasn’t anyone else I would have rather shared the moment with. What happened next though is where the deep digging began. You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.
I can’t remember the exact sequence of events that took place next. I think we got passed by a young lady. Kristy had to go to the bathroom. She told me she would catch up with me. For some reason I decided I would latch onto the lady in front of me and run when she did and then walk if she wasn’t running. Our pace started to pick up. She asked if we wanted to pass, and Kristy told her. “No, we’re feeding off your energy.” Soon enough, the lady informed us that if we were going to keep up that kind of a pace, she was going to stop for an energy gel. So, I took over the lead and tried to plow ahead, using the same tactic as the night before; run 100 meters or a little more, walk a little less. We melded into and out of some other groups of runners, each fighting their own battle around the lake, each trying to get back to Leadville in time. Slowly but surely I gained some time against the clock and banked some minutes for future use.
Eventually we made it to the end of the lake, and I had to slowly walk down the 2 steep hills I had come up over 24 hours ago. However, the finish was now within striking distance, and I knew it. I knew we had enough time left too because this was familiar ground. Kristy’s GPS thought we had a mile further than what I knew the actual distance was. As we rounded the corner of the trail that ran along the river and began to head up the boulevard, I told Kristy about how this was the turnaround point for the 10K we had run the previous Sunday.
Sitting here now, I can’t remember exactly how much time we had left, but I knew it was enough. It was enough that we could walk the whole way. The first set of railroad tracks passed and then the second. Soon, I could see the light poles above the high school’s football field, and I knew the turn off the dirt road and back onto the pavement was close. I was relishing the moment, as this was the 3rd time I had climbed the boulevard in the past week.
With pavement once again beneath our feet, I could begin to hear the crowds at the finish line. We crested the hill at the bottom of 6th Ave, and then the finish line was in sight. Kelly, Jacob, and Josh, joined me and Kristy for the last few hundred yards to the finish line area. Of course I was able to muster a slow run to the tape draped across the finish line. I crossed in 29 hours and 44 minutes, cutting it close to be sure, but I was done. And I was a Leadman too! Meeting me at the finish was my father and my good friend Doug Sleeger, who had come up from Colorado Springs for the day. Wow, it was great to be done. Slowly I staggered over to the grass at the side of the courthouse and was shepherded over to get weighed. Over the course of the entire race I only lost 1 pound! Kelly did a great job of staying on me to make sure I ate and drank enough. I am sure the medic was a little concerned because I probably wasn’t focusing my eyes totally on him. However I was in a lot better shape than some of the other folks who were just lying on the ground in the medical tent.
Not rally wanting to hang out in the tent for too long, I headed outside to lay in the shade and the grass and rejoin all of my friends. We took a few pictures and just as quickly started to wrap things up. All of my pacers had done such an awesome job, and now they had their lives and what little was left of the weekend to get back to. Kelly and Jacob would stay for the awards ceremony that was due to start at 12:00 PM.
I was really starting to seize up after a few minutes of non-movement, and had to be helped up off the ground by my friend Doug. My father gave me a ride back to the motel room, where I tried to take a nap, but it wouldn’t work, so I took a shower instead while Doug stayed to help me move around the motel room. Kelly and Jacob came by and we looked at my feet; swollen and a little purple around the arches along with a big blister on the ball of my right foot.
When it was time to go to the gym for the awards ceremony, Jacob gave me a ride. I limped into the gym hoping they would bring the buckle to me, but that was not to be. I caught up with Mike Shafai and we exchanged a fist bump; we were Leadmen! Ken and Marilee did an awesome job, and they called all of the Leadman participants up front first, which was an awesome recognition. Afterwards, they started to hand out the buckles and other awards based upon the finishing times, so I had a while to wait, having just snuck in beneath the cut-off time. Kelly and Jacob took off to have some time for themselves. After receiving my buckle, my father, Doug, and I slowly made our way back to the motel room, packed everything up, and headed out of town, putting Leadville in the rear view mirror. Hopefully not for the last time though; as even while sitting in the car, I knew I wanted to come back for more.
So, concludes the journey I went on this summer; my Leadman journey. I know now that it is so much bigger than just an individual achievement, as there were so many others who contributed to making this happen. Indeed, it would not have been possible were it not for all of the others who were a part of it; my wife Lisa, my son Jubal, my father, and all my awesome friends who crewed and paced. I feel like the trophy and the buckle belong to each of us as a group.
Most of all I would like to thank God for seeing me through it all, keeping me safe from all harm and danger along the way. I was not fearful because God was with me. I was not dismayed for He is my God. He strengthened me and helped me. He upheld me with his righteous right hand. Amen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Leadman Act Four - LT100 10K Run

Sunday morning after the LT100 mountain bike race should have been a day to relax and enjoy letting the accomplishment from the previous day soak in. It was not to be though, and once again Lisa and I were up early, heading back to Leadville. Due to the size of the field for the mountain bike race, the awards ceremony was due to start at 7:30 AM. As a part of Leadman series, I also had a 10K race to run at 12 noon. So, the alarm clock went off at 5:30 AM, and we were out of the door and on the road by 6:00 AM. We wanted to get there early enough to have time to drop by the coffee shop and get a bite to eat.
In the coffee shop, where there was already a pretty good crowd, a gentleman named Joseph, who was from British Columbia, was kind enough to offer us a seat at his table. It turned out that he had not completed the bike race yesterday, missing the time cut-off outbound to Twin Lakes. A lot of this was due to a malfunctioning cleat, where a screw had come loose from one of his shoes, and it would not allow him to disengage his right foot from the pedal. He wasn’t too worried about it though, as this was something like his 8th or 9th time having done the race. He also told me about how many years he had done the 100 mile run back to back with the bike race, so I was pretty inspired just to be sitting there talking to him; that and the fact that he was 70 years old! I have so far to go, even though I feel like I have worked my butt off just to get to where I am.
The awards ceremony was great. To start things off, the race director, Ken Chlouber, had all of the Leadman participants, the 23 of us now left, line up in front of the whole crowd to receive our buckles. That was truly awesome, humbling, and inspiring; especially since we went before the champions and everyone else who had been faster than me. Afterwards, each of the riders who had finished the race was recognized and awarded their buckle, starting with the champions first. After a while, Lisa and I left the gym just to walk around and get some air, use the bathroom, etc. I felt sorry for Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin, as they spent hours up in front of the hot gym, recognizing each rider. They took time to make sure they shared any extra information they had about each rider, as if they had gotten to know each of us, and I suppose they had, especially for some of the veterans who had returned year after year.
Eventually I had to go back over to our vehicle and change into some running clothes and get ready for the 10K race. It wasn’t something I was feeling very enthusiastic about, especially since I was still tired from the previous day. It was getting hot too, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Basically, the 10K race is an out and back for the 1st and last 3.1 miles of the LT100 run course. It goes all the way down to the bottom of the boulevard, turns around and then heads back uphill again. From riding it the previous day, I wasn’t really looking forward to running uphill, but at least I would not have to be seated on a bicycle. My butt still hurt.
At 12:00 noon, standing out in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 170 runners, there was Ken Chlouber with his trusty old shotgun, getting ready to launch us on yet another event. This time, though, he had some help from one of the younger members of the race, a small boy who may have been something like 12 or 13 years old… Boom! And we were off again. I couldn’t help but let the flow and excitement of the crowd help propel me forward, a little faster than I had committed myself to when I was trying to talk myself into actually wanting to do the event earlier that morning.
We crested the 1st hill, took a left turn by the high school, and then another right turn onto the dirt road, heading downhill. Gradually I started to warm up and let my legs go, increasing my stride. On a whim I was carrying a water bottle because I had worried about how hot it was and my dehydration level from yesterday. I started carrying the bottle tucked into the crook of my arm, ala Matt Carpenter, and was surprised to find how comfortable it was. Every few minutes I tried to take a sip from the bottle and then switch which arm I was carrying it in.
It wasn’t long before I saw the 1st runner heading back my way. This was a relief because I knew the turnaround couldn’t be too far away, and then I could head back too. Of course Mike Shafai, my faster Leadman counterpart from Colorado Springs, was well in front of me, and I gave him a high five as he blazed past me. The breeze felt good and cooled me off a bit.
Heading back uphill into town wasn’t as hard as I remembered it being yesterday on the bike. This shouldn’t have surprised me, because I was so worn out yesterday afternoon, and it is much easier to run uphill than it is to ride, at least for me anyway. So, slowly I chugged my way uphill, determined not to let anything derail me from a good race. A few folks stopped to walk on some sections, but I kept right on, thinking I could just slow my stride a bit, but absolutely not to stop and walk.
I was also taking some time to savor the moment, thinking about how many times I would cover this same bit of ground over the next week; 3 times. Once on the bike, a second time during this 10K race, and hopefully a 3rd time when I will bring it home a final time during the 100 mile run. You know, not to try and jinx myself, because I know this is definitely not within the next 100 yards before me; not yet, but it will be.
Soon the finish line was in sight, and I tried to step up the pace and even sprint a little bit at the very end. Lisa was there to snap a picture. Today I felt so much better than yesterday, and I went over to enjoy some of the food and drinks that were laid out for the racers. We stayed to watch the awards ceremony and cheer in the rest of the racers. Afterwards I got a hot-dog and we each got an ice cream cone before heading back down to Buena Vista.
Now it was time for some rest and relaxation. We were going to spend a few days in Buena Vista celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. On Wednesday I would drop my wife and son off at the airport so they could fly back east for a surprise 70th birthday party for her father. On Thursday I would pick up my father at the airport, and then we would head back up to Leadville for the final chapter in this saga. I have a whole crew of good friends and family members who are coming out to help get this first 100 mile run accomplished. Actually, I am really starting to look forward to it. See ya on the other side!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leadman Act Three - LT100 MTB Race

Concentrate on the next 100 yards in front of you; that is all you can control, and then deal with the next 100 yards when you get there. These were the words I used to pull myself through the toughest event I have participated in so far during my short racing career, which hasn’t quite spanned 2 years now. These were also the words that I used to finish the LT100 Mountain Bike Race, and earn my buckle.
They weren’t anything original that I came up with, but rather some advice form a gentleman wearing a black jacket at the newbies meeting held on the Friday before the race. However, they were definitely some words of sage advice that I am sure I will use again. Like in the very near future; think LT100 Trail Race.
I haven’t been a runner for very long; at least where I can say I was serious about my running, maybe just less than 2 years now. For an even lesser period of time though, like only for the past 6 months have I been riding a mountain bike. So, it was with great relief that I crossed the finish line at the LT100 MTB in under 12 hours; just barely under 12 hours and in a time that, while guaranteeing me the privilege of continuing on in my Leadman saga, was nothing to really brag upon, and left me feeling like I have so much more to do. Can you be happy, relieved, and disappointed all at the same time? These are some of my mixed emotions, and I am not sure if I am throwing too much stuff on my yoke to carry around anyway.
The LT100 MTB is a storied race to be sure, and well documented in American mountain biking culture, as it even had its own movie premiere just this past winter. The movie guaranteed an explosion in its popularity, and there are more people than eve vying for an entry into the race. To get in, one normally enters via a lottery, which leads some riders to scoff at the event, saying that anyone can get in if they are lucky enough, thus downgrading the talent pool for the race. Their argument would be that only the elite riders should be allowed entry so the race would be more legit in the eyes of the cycling community. If that were the case, I would certainly not be counted among the ranks of eligible riders, and I am glad it is not so. Though I didn’t get into the race through he lottery system, but rather had to earn my way in through the Leadman series, I was still deeply honored to be lining up at the start and become a part of the history of the event.
It was with more than a little trepidation that I had arrived in Leadville on the Friday morning before the race, as I wondered if I had inside of me what the race was going to require. Lots of folks asked me if I was nervous, and I told them no. God is brave for me, and I put my faith in God. So, that took my fear away, but that still leaves a lot up to me. For example, I have been on my bike enough now to know that I am not the best rider, and I seriously wondered if I would be able to manage all of the time cut-offs that were built into the event. Based upon my results at the Silver Rush 50 MTB event, I know I could probably do it, but just barely. Hopefully the course would not be as hard.
One of the first things my wife and I could not help but notice upon our arrival in Leadville was the size of the crowds. It was like all of the events we had been to so far, combined together, and then with some steroids thrown in for good measure; the crowds were huge. We got there with an hour to spare for registration, but the line seemed to stretch for many blocks up 6th Avenue, east from the gym. Fortunately the line was moving pretty fast, and the ranks of volunteers inside were taking care of business in a most efficient manner. Once I got inside I had to part company with my wife as only riders were allowed. A few minutes later I emerged from the back of the gym loaded with cool swag and reunited with her. Since we had a little while before the pre-race meeting, we headed over to a coffee shop to use the bathroom and get something to drink. There we ran into Mike Shafai and some of the other Colorado Springs Leadman participants. Mike told me that there was something like 35 of us left now, dwindling from the 45 that had first started out at the beginning of the series.
After hanging out for a few minutes, we headed back over to the gym. It was then we realized how the rest of the weekend would probably go, as in delayed, due to larger crowds than the organizers had handled before. I am glad we got in line early for the pre-race meeting because I don’t think everyone made it inside the gym. Once the meeting got started, there was not a lot of great substance that had to be shared about the race, but I could begin to tell just how great of a race that I was lucky to be a part of. Mostly the race director, Ken Chlouber, spent a lot of time telling us not to quit because of how hard it would be to come up with excuses to friends and loved ones as to why we hadn’t finished when it would be much easier to say, “Yes, I buckled.” as in having finished the race in under 12 hours and having earned the coveted silver buckle.
The newbies meeting held afterwards was much more productive in the sage words of advice dispensed upon us; things like what I started out this post with, concentrate on and worry about only the next 100 yards in front of you and let the rest of the course take care of itself. They also pointed out not to get too worked up over the start of the race, telling us to line up at the back of the crowd, letting the faster riders have some room to ride without us causing anymore of a safety hazard to them or ourselves than what was already there anyway. Another point that was driven home was to not go out too hard early because our race day was probably not going to made or broken on the first big hill, St. Kevens, anyway.
All of this was some great advice and contributed a lot to calming my nervousness. So, we filed out of the gym, and Lisa and I headed over to her favorite Italian restaurant to get a bite of a late lunch. Afterwards we went to scout out the crewing locations to see what Lisa and my son Jubal were going to have to deal with the next day. Originally we had planned on them crewing me together, moving from the Pipe Line to Twin Lakes and then back to Pipe Line again. However, at the newbies meeting it was pointed out that there would not be enough time for a crew to move from Pipe Line to Twin Lakes as that was the fastest and shortest part of the course for the riders; 14 miles of rolling terrain, which would be compounded with traffic congestion at the Twin Lakes dam. So, we decided to change up some plans and put Jubal at the Pipe Line and Lisa would manage the Twin Lakes aid station. We also looked at the alternative crew point that is located after Twin Lakes and just before the climb up to Columbine begins, but decided against using that spot due to its isolation and openness to weather.
Since Leadville was so crowded, the only place I could find a motel room was down in Buena Vista. So, hint to any future aspirants for the LT100 MTB, plan on booking a room like super early, where I can’t put an emphasis on early enough. Maybe consider booking a room and then canceling it if you don’t make it into the lottery.
After checking out all of the crew spots, we headed down to Buena Vista and met our son at the motel and went out to get some dinner,
Next morning the alarm clock went off early enough; I think I was out of bed at 4 AM, got dressed and made a little breakfast to eat on my way up to Leadville. I wanted to get there at 5 AM. Lisa and Jubal would get going later and try to make it up for the start of the race at 6:30 AM. I was able to park in the exact same spot as I did on Friday, which was a relief because then Lisa and Jubal would not have any trouble finding my vehicle. The next hour I spent putting my bike together and going over everything; oiling the chain, checking the tire and shock pressures, etc, making sure that I had all my fluid, fuel, and everything else I would need for the start of the race ready to go.
At 6:00 AM I wandered over to 6th Avenue and found a spot in the huge sea of riders, lining up just below the gym. This was about a block or so above and around the corner of the actual stat, but I didn’t belong down there anyway. Also it was a god spot to let Lisa know where I was because it was a reference point she was familiar with. Lisa and Jubal had no trouble finding me and got there at about 6:15 AM. It was super nice to get to see them before everything started.
I also noticed a cameraman filming my bike, which was laid over on the ground. He asked me if I knew the owner of the bike, which I assured him that I did. He explained that because I had a blue star on my race number that I had been selected as a rider for the film crew to pay particular attention to throughout the day for where they were making a new movie about the race that is supposed to be released in November of 2010. I was happy with this but somewhat puzzled too, wondering if it was a totally random event or had something to do with the Leadman.
The remaining minutes went by fast, too quickly, Lisa and Jubal and I only had a few moments to take some pictures with each other. Soon all of the riders were picking up their bikes and bunching together in anticipation of the shotgun blast. Boom! And we were off, though slowly at first because it took a minute for the mass of humanity to actually get moving. Maybe I should point out that I think there were around 1600 entries into the race as that is how high the bib numbers went. Mine was number 1317, and they were handed out based upon last name in alphabetical order, with my last name being Smith. There were a lot of riders.
Rounding the corner from Harrison and heading down hill onto the “boulevard”, I was happy to see large crowds lining the start, cheering us all on like crazy. For the first few miles we were on pavement, speeding downhill and getting colder and colder. I think the temperature at the start must have been in the upper 30’s, and it only got colder as we headed downhill to cross a river before heading on dirt roads over to the start of the climb up St. Kevens.
However, we didn’t stay cold for too long as the climb had us huffing and puffing up St. Kevens to reach the first aid station at Carter Summit. I was happy with the way I started out, not going to fast, but I stayed on my bike the entire way up St. Kevens and did not get off to walk any. Once on top of the first major climb, it is rolling terrain over to Carter Summit, where we got back on pavement and screamed downhill to the back of Turquoise Lake. I remember thinking about how I sped downhill for 3 miles and what that might feel like later in the day when I was coming back up, but then quickly reminded myself that was not currently in the 100 yards in front of my bike. At the bottom of the hill and at the back of the lake we passed a sign for May Queen campground, and another thought popped into my head about how I would be visiting that place soon enough too, about a week from now, during the 100 mile run.
Once we were at the bottom of the hill, we started heading back up the other side to reach the top of Sugar Loaf or what is known as the top of the Power Lines. After coming over the top of Sugar Loaf and beginning to descend the Power Lines, I came across what looked to be a pretty bad accident, as there were a number of riders stopped, holding the wounded rider while some others were motioning the rest of us to slow down as we came by. I gave a silent prayer of thanks to God for keeping me safe so far and also that the rider would be OK. At the bottom of the power lines, the trail gets pretty steep and technical, but I made it down OK. I rode through a small creek that everyone else was stopping to walk around, then I was back on the pavement and heading past the Fish Hatchery, another landmark of what I would be encountering a week from now.
On the way over to the Pipe Line, a small peloton started to form, and I quickly latched on the back of the group of riders, amazed at how much easier the effort was to gather some speed when there was a group effort involved.
Not long afterwards I reached the Pipe Line aid station and met up with my son Jubal. After a quick exchange of a hug, a new water bottle, and getting some more Power Gels, I was back riding once again. The roads and trails from the Pipe Line to Twin Lakes are rolling terrain that goes by pretty fast on the bike. It is only 14 miles long and is the fastest part of the course. There is a nice section of single track in this section too, the only single track on the entire course.
After the single track, it is all dirt roads, then a short section of pavement before the crowds at Twin Lakes are encountered. They start on the near side of the dam and build to a crescendo as you come off of the dam and into the aid station itself. I imagine it’s what the Tour D’France must feel like with the hundreds of people cheering you on, even if you aren’t the star of the show, just another rider out there trying really hard.
Lisa called out from the masses as I started to come out of the aid station on the far side of the dam. I stopped rather quickly, perhaps too quickly, because another rider got a little irritated with me for stopping so suddenly in the middle of the trail. But it was nice to see Lisa and get a new water bottle. I didn’t need many Power Gels from her, because I didn’t have time to eat a lot between Pipe Line and Twin Lakes. Glancing at my watch, I realized how much time had passed by; too much because it was 3 hours and 40 minutes into the race, where there was a 4 hour cut-off to reach Twin Lakes outbound.
I was a little shocked by how hard I had worked in order to get there, and I was only just a little bit ahead of the cut-off. I hadn’t stopped to dally or walked my bike at all, and I was only just barely still in the race. That’s when it started to really sink in just how hard it was going to be for me to complete it in less than 12 hours.
Leaving Twin Lakes, I came across another accident in the trail, and some ATV’s were hot on my tail in order to provide some help to the fallen rider. Not long after that I encountered the inevitable, the first rider heading back inbound, and he was flying. I learned later that the rider was Levi Leipheimer, on his way to setting a new course record in only his first mountain bike race ever!
So, I made my way over to the final crewing site, located at the start of the climb up to Columbine, and kept encountering a few more riders heading back inbound. Once past the crew spot, I started up the climb, and settled into my little ring and the big gears in back, hunkering down for the long climb ahead. Columbine lasts for a long time, on dirt roads at first, and even though they are steep, I managed to stay on the bike the whole way. The whole way that is until the jeep trail starts for the final 2 miles up to the aid station located at the top. At that point most everyone is off the bike to hike, and then back on where they can, only to be walking again shortly later, repeating this same process over and over until the top. Once I saw a rider coming back down lose control and go head first over his handlebars to roll around in the rocks. I am pretty sure he was OK, but was still quite a surprise to the other riders that were hot on his tail. Also on the way up, I passed some guys passing out hotdogs and PBR’s, which I thought was pretty awesome, though I passed on the opportunity when they offered me some.
At the top of Columbine, I gobbled a couple of PBJ sandwiches, refilled my water bottle, and stopped to use the bathroom. It was the first time I had really stopped all day. Then I was back on the bike, looking down in amazement at all the elevation we had gained coming up. After a short climb back up out of the aid station, the descent begins in earnest.
Down, down, down, and down; the descent lasts for a long time. The crew spot at the beginning of the climb flew by, and then suddenly I was back in Twin Lakes and getting another water bottle from my wife Lisa. I had made up a lot of time and was in good shape, I thought, for getting back to Leadville. So, I was 3 hours 40 minutes getting to Twin Lakes and then got back to Twin Lakes from Columbine at 6 hours; now 2 ½ hours ahead of the cut-off. I thought I was doing awesome.
However, leaving Twin Lakes and heading back uphill towards Pipe Line, I was beginning to feel every one of the climbs I had already done that day. I kept glancing at my GPS and calculating my average speed along with some projections of how long it was going to take to finish the race. My GPS was showing 8.9 mph and occasionally I could get it up to 9 or 9.1 depending on how fast I was going on the rolling terrain. Thinking ahead to the big hills I had in front of me, I knew it was going to be close. Well, I told myself, stop thinking about it; focus on the 100 yards ahead of you!
At Pipe Line, I met Jubal. Exchanging a water bottle with him, we acknowledged each other with the fact that the next we would meet would be at the finish line. I yelled out a goodbye and a “Love you” and was off again. I knew that the Power Lines were now coming within my next 100 yards, and I would have to deal with them.
The Power Lines are a special place inbound to Leadville. By that time of day, quite a crowd has gathered to watch and cheer the riders on. Also, what seemed like a fast descent to Fish Hatchery that morning becomes a monster of a hill in the hot afternoon sun. They seem to go on forever. The steepest stuff lies at the bottom of the hill along with all the crowds. If you happen to try and gut out part of the hill and ride it, most likely someone from the crowd will try and help push you up as well. That’s pretty awesome. The reality of it was that I, along with all the riders around me, was in for a lot of hike-a-bike. Some of the bystanders informed us how “Even Dave Wiens had to push his 26 up the hill. Go 29!”
Soon the crowds dwindle, but the hill keeps teasing the rider with thoughts of have we reached the summit yet? But no, around the next corner lies another section of steep hill, then you can get back on you bike again. However that won’t last for too long because we are going to repeat the whole process over again. I think there are at least 4 false summits, but I lost count.
Also, it was hot and I didn’t want to eat anything until reaching the top. So, I mostly relied on a liquid diet on the way up, which left me utterly sapped of strength. Finally, after an eternity, I could feel the terrain changing again, heading down, and I stopped just long enough to open the wrapper of a Power Bar. I would try to eat it on the descent down Hagerman Pass Road on the way to Turquoise Lake. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to eat something that requires a lot of chewing while trying to negotiate a fast and technical descent, all while still being a little dehydrated and hot. It just doesn’t swallow as easily as one would like. Eventually I got it down and also reached the bottom of the hill.
Next 100 yards in front of the tire, well actually 2.5 miles, is the climb back up to the Carter Summit aid station and then over to St. Kevens. This is where the really deep digging starts. A few riders got off their bikes here to walk up the hill. I wonder if they made it back in time. I stuck with it; little ring in front and big gears in back, determined to make it up the hill no matter how badly I was aching. Finally, after 30 minutes of effort I made it to the top. From the aid station there are still 2 small climbs that forced me off the bike before I was speeding back down St. Kevens, but they were over pretty fast. I tried to let out all the stops on my way down. At the bottom, as I was heading back into Leadville, I looked at my GPS and told myself I had only a short way to go now. It was reading almost 99 miles, and I had plenty of time to spare.
Right about then I passed a race official who was controlling traffic, and the shouted out “You’re doing awesome. Only 4 miles left to go!” If you can imagine the sound of a needle being dragged across a record, then you know exactly what went through my mind just then. I thought this was a race called the LT100… what gives? Well, it didn’t matter because there was still some work to be done. Focus on the next 100 yards.
Turning off the paved road, I followed another rider through a section of narrow trail along the very bottom of Leadville before we turned uphill on a dirt road. I don’t know if this hill is part of the Leadville “Boulevard” or not, but even though I hiked a short section at the very bottom, and slowly ground my way up the rest of the road using my little ring again, I savored the moment. I was thanking God for being with me so far, and helping me get to the point I so badly wanted to be, within striking distance of the finish with just barely enough time left to make it. At the start of the race that morning, I remembered speaking with another rider who told me that 11:59:59 would be an OK time for him, and now I was in total agreement.
At the top of the dirt road, we turned back onto the pavement to go along side of the high school. Another race official shouted out more words of encouragement, “Only 1 mile left to go!” I wanted to ask him why they kept adding miles to the course. Hadn’t we done enough already?
Finally I turned onto W. 6th Avenue and had the finish line in sight. I was too zapped to muster a lot of emotion, just relief that it was all over, and I had a few minutes to spare on the clock; 11 hours 45 minutes, and 48 seconds. I was still in the Leadman.
After my timing chip was removed and a medal hung around my neck, I slowly made my way over to Harrison Ave and reunited with my wife and son. We took a few pictures at the finish line, but I didn’t really have the strength left in me to hang out for any festivities. I passed on the beer and food that Lisa told me was in a tent just a few yards away, and opted to head back to our vehicle instead.
At the vehicle, Jubal was awesome and helped take the bike apart and stow it for the ride back to Buena Vista. Lisa’s brother Mike, who is an Ironman and a category II mountain bike racer, as well as a tireless source of encouragement and enthusiasm called to congratulate me, but I was too tired to talk much. I just wanted to ride.
On the ride from Leadville back through Twin Lakes I thought with some satisfaction of how I had now ridden through everything we were now driving past. In the back of my mind I was also thinking about how I was going to have to run it too, in only a few short days.
So, I was lucky a lot today. I stayed on my bike and did not crash. I had a great crew who helped me get through a day that would have been longer without them. Most importantly I buckled.
I could have done better. Maybe I could have found some more time to train and finished in a faster time. Maybe I will gain some more experience that will help me finish in a faster time; next year. Next year? That must mean I am coming back, huh?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Crew Notes for the LT100 Mountain Bike Race

Here are some notes that my crew came up with after the event that might help you out if you are lucky enough to get in next year and have some questions...

Bring some sort of canopy style of tent or awning that is self-supporting and can be set up in the open. This will give your crewmembers some protection form the sun or rain. This is especially handy at Twin Lakes or the alternate crew site between Twin Lakes and the start of the climb up Columbine. A place like Gart Sports may be a good place to get something like this. A few chairs are awesome to have too.

Don’t forget to plan on drinks and food for the crew members too.

Plan on having multiple folks at each location. It is difficult for one person to manage everything, such as supplying the rider with water and food, while trying to take things such as photos, etc. Also, it is easier for someone to use the bathroom if they are not worried about being surprised by the rider showing up because there is someone else to cover for them.

Plan on having separate crews for Pipe Line and Twin Lakes, as the time required to get from Pipe Line to Twin Lakes is not enough as this is the fastest part of the course for the rider.

Plan on bringing your own toilet paper for the porta-potties… just in case.

Plan on having clothing available for all occasions; extreme heat to cold and rain, etc.

Cell phones seem to be good for communicating between Twin Lakes and Pipe Line aid stations, as there was adequate cell phone coverage. We used both Verizon and AT&T.

Plan on setting up on the Friday before the race at Twin Lakes, or at least reserving your spot, as this area gets very crazy on the Saturday of the race.

If you have 4-wheel drive there will be many more parking options available at Twin Lakes. It did not appear that there were many parking limitations, and you could park off of the road if you could drive there. Expect lots of heavy traffic on the road to the crewing location and some major delays in parking. It may be easier to park at the bottom on the paved road and carry your stuff up. However, it is a long way up the dirt road if you are planning on walking.

Bring sunscreen and plan on being in a dusty environment.

Go scout all of the crew locations before the race!

Are crews really necessary? Probably not; the aid stations and volunteers do an awesome job and provide you with all of the fluids and nutrition you could desire. They meet you at your bike and will help refill your bottles or CamelBack bladders. All kinds of yummy snacks are available including gels and stuff you can take with you. Maybe the types of gels won’t be your favorite flavor, but they are available. However, it is a long day out on the course, and seeing some family members, loved ones, and friends during the day can be extremely motivating. The atmosphere at Twin Lakes is awesome; truly like something out of the Tour D’ France. You make the call.