Tuesday, August 12, 2008

For years, I have heard about how great the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is. Last year we signed up, but it is very popular and works off a lottery. We did not make it. This year we had a friend and long time participant put in a good word for us and we made it. We were excited at the prospect.

I was a bit stressed getting ready for it though. I was busy in the days leading up to the event. I probably did not train very well for it either. Cross country races kept me from engaging in long rides and my spring did not have the volume it usually does due to my knee.

As I mentioned the day before the race, I was pretty nervous. That feeling stayed with me until the race actually started. I lined up with Brad, but we ended up pretty far back surrounded by the 10-11 hour racers. Each participant is supposed to line up according to where s/he feels they will finish. Chris kept saying he thought I could do it in sub-nine, but I was skeptical.

The race starts promptly at 6:30 am. It took a few seconds for my position to start rolling. This may have been due to some erratic behavior among some of the individuals at the front of the pack. Then there is a four mile neutral start led by a police car. The federally leads everything out of town escorting the race to a dirt road. This is where the race actually begins. I realized very early on that I started with individuals much slower than I am. I consistently had to go off what was essentially double track to get around people. It was a bit chaotic and going that slow was difficult. I really should have been much further up in the group. I at one point asked a guy next to me why we were going to slow. He indicated there was a climb ahead. I realized that already.

The first climb out was Saint Kevins. I rode smooth but expended some excess energy jockeying for a better position and riding out in the rocks. There had been countless discussions in the two days prior about game plans and when to stop and when not too. I was pretty confused and mistook the aid station at Saint Kevins as the first "official" aid station which it was not. This made the rest of the aid stations very confusing for me. Luckily, I really did not need them. I continued to pass people up the back side of Power Line and descended Power Line pretty well. I tried to jump on and draft as much as possible on the road sections but usually only stayed there short while due the pace not being what I expected.

I had a little spill before the Columbine Climb. I came around a hard packed corner with tiny little pebbles. When I looked up there was a truck a little ways in front of me. It spooked me and my bike came out from under me and I went down. I ended up with some minor scuffs and I think I scared the guy behind me.

Here was what I did not get though. So on the climbs like Columbine and Power Line people--and by people I mean guys--would just stop dead in the trail and dismount their bikes. Some areas I can see needing to do this because there is only one safe place to be. Other times though, it would have made sense to pull off the trail so to not obstruct traffic. Now, I am not talking about individuals who found themselves unable to move forward any more, like the guy who got yelled at because he suffered from chain suck which stopped him dead in his tracks. That I can understand. But there were people who simply decided they were going to stop riding and walk but did not bother to move out of the way when they could easily do so. Makes no sense.

The cool part of the race was seeing Dave Weins (the six time winner of Leadville including this year) lead Lance Armstrong (the seven time winner of the Tour de France) down Columbine as I was heading up. The even cooler part about that was seeing Chucky Gibson (a prominent local rider) just a few minutes behind them both. He looked intense. So Lance was there, which was cool to see him ride. No, I did not get his autograph or try to talk to him. The turn around point was at the top of this climb. It was cool because you got to see everyone in the race. There were a ton of local people there.

I felt good until the road section before climbing back up Power Line. It was a windy and I was by myself for awhile. I jumped on a descent train about half way to the fish hatchery. This guy was pulling and no one would help him. I felt bad, but kept letting people in before me to ensure I did not have a turn to pull as I was not feeling so strong.

The road down the backside of Power Line was pretty wet and as I entered the dirt by the Saint Kevins aid station the skies opened up and the rain came down. It had been overcast most the day so it was just a matter of time. Then came the hail. I was encouraged though because I only had an hour so left. I knew I could be wet for that length of time and survive. It was not that cold either. I had my rain coat just in case but did not need to put it on. The rain essentially stopped as I returned to about 10,000 ft , but the water dried out my drive train which caused some chain suck that I had to dislodge. I opted not to take the time to lube my chain because I was just a mile or so from the finish. I was very cautious about shifts though it was only an isolated issue.

At the end, I finished a somewhat disappointing 9:26. I think for the day it was good, but I could train and do better. My last long ride was RAWROD in May. I also think I may have lost some time and energy at the beginning. So I ended up 175th place overall. I think 800+ started and 680 something finished in 12 hours which is the cut off. I believe that put me as the 5th female finisher and I took third in my category which is why I brought home whiskey.

Chris has a good but disappointing race also. His time was 8:08 for 35th place overall and an 18th place category finish. He felt he lost a lot of time in the aid stations. He fueled really well and rode consistently. He too had to make up some time in the beginning and try and pass lots of people.


Doug said...

you guys totally rocked it. i wish you had asked where you thought you should have lined up at the start, any of us who've been there before would have definitely put you as far to the front as you could get. lotsa duffers at leadville. well-meaning, but inexperienced.

next year you'll be sub nine for sure.


Brad Mullen said...

Now that you have the 1st one out of the way, go for the BIG buckle. Excellent first time finish.