…So I rolled through Twin Lakes aid station, at the bottom of the Columbine climb at 3:30 into the race. Ahead of my target…so I grabbed my camelback and for the next 20 miles (10 up/10 down) I’d ride my bike about 1400’ higher than the highest peak in Oregon. I knew this was going to be a bitch, but didn’t realize just how high 12.5k’ is…the first few miles here is through some ranchland and not hard at all b/c you’re not really climbing yet. Along these long straight ranch roads is where the first of the leaders started passing on the left, already up and over and on their way to sub-9 hour finish times. From here on up, outbound riders had to stay right as the inbound riders were blasting down at 30-40mph.
Once out of the ranchland you begin the real climb (about 5 miles) up a dirt road - not a particularly hard climb except that the altitude starts to take its toll and you just can’t get power into your legs. You know (or at least hope) it’s the altitude, but it still sucks the life out of you and is slow going.
The last two miles are up a re-routed double track that is unridable with all the traffic. I’d say almost unridable in any condition…loose, rocky and steep. So everyone dismounts and begins the death march. Here it’s really just about putting one foot in front of the other. Left. Right. Left. Right. Oh yeah, try to drink something.
Going up, I started to get really nauseous and disoriented. But I knew it was just the altitude and I just needed to get up and over this rock. Towards the top it flattens out for a bit, so I remounted and started peddling. My legs did not like this and seized up on me…CRAMPS! In BOTH sticks! I rode in pain for the next ¼ mile or so to the next death march section and stretched for a quick minute before walking again. Walking felt better than riding and I was almost there. I could see the turn around about a ½ mile away…this is the only thing keeping me going. Almost there.
My initial game plan was just to roll through the top aid station and rest on the 10 mile descent back down to the Twin Lakes aid station. But by the time I got there, that plan was shot to hell and I had to stop. But despite cramps and feeling awful at altitude, I was still on target for a sub 12 finish! This gave me a boost…
The descent was fast and unremarkable, except for the cramps that still persisted and that difference in how you feel between 12+ and 10k’. I might as well been at sea level!
When I got to Twin Lakes, I ditched the Walmart camelback (never to be seen again) and ate a bunch of salt-covered watermelon wedges before rolling out. Miraculously, this did the trick. No more cramps! And I was rolling into the “flat” section of the race still on target.
Unfortunately, this is where I think I lost the race…This section is exposed and I spent so much time worrying about my cramps coming back, I don’t think I drank enough. It was hot (hottest day of the year so far) and I struggled to get back to Pipeline, which should’ve been (fairly) easy. Once there, I was still on target with 30 miles and two climbs left (one being the dreaded Powerline). I wanted to quit, I wanted to miss the deadline and get yanked from the race and the only reason I wasn’t crying is because I was too dehydrated to summon any tears. But I thought if I could get rehydrated for a few minutes I could go on…So that’s what I did, so I sat in the shade for about 5 minutes, eating and drinking as much as I could.
Upon my departure from the Pipeline aid station, I was a wreck, physically and emotionally. I had 4 miles on concrete before getting to the base of the climb and just before I got there I realized I was sweating again. It worked!
The Powerline climb starts with a semi-steep jeep road before it jogs left, back right and this is where you dismount. This is the other unridable section. Steep and rutted out, though not as long as Columbine, but the worst part is yet to come. Once you’re able to mount up there’s a series of false summits that seem to never end. People are riding, walking, riding, walking, riding, walking, bitching, moaning…myself included. I felt okay at this point, and was looking forward to the long descent I knew was coming.
At the top, I stopped to pee and realized this is the first one in 40+ miles. I tried to keep drinking and eating gels, but my gut was rejecting everything. Not vomiting, but feeling like it was imminent.
The descent is nice and long and easy. It rounds out and begins the final big climb, which is on concrete. I stopped on the bottom to refill one waterbottle and knew I had to push a little here (15 miles or so to go) to get the 12-hour buckle. The climb would be nothing of consequence if not for what I just put my body through. So that’s what I did until the halfway point at which time I completely bonked and had to walk…embarrassing! But I had no choice. From here to the top, I was on and off the bike and time and my buckle was slipping away.
At the top, I reached the final aid station at the 11-hour mark. Unfortunately, I knew I needed about an 1:20 to finish these last 10 miles. It’s not completely downhill – there’re a couple serious kickers before the final descent, then the course flattens out for a bit before getting to town.
I struggled through this section. I was able to ride all but the few kickers. I forced down one last gel and drank as much water as my body would allow.
In the flats coming into town, with only 4 miles left, I seriously wanted to just call my friends to come pick me up, but kept pedaling.
At about the 100.5-mile mark (yeah, the Leadville 100 is actually 103 miles), there’s a 2 mile long straight gravel climb. This is the section everyone hates. It seems to never end and all you want to do is to be done with the race. This is where I passed Pretty-Boy Floyd for the final time. Gave him a shout out, he returned some encouragement, and I rode away. I had no delusions that I was still in the hunt for a buckle, but I WANTED OFF THIS FUCKING BIKE!!!
As you roll into town, there’s one last hill, just to add insult to injury. It’s a concrete climb past the high school and through town on 6thstreet. I knew that’s all I had to do to finish and I got a small boost passing a couple folks…at the top of the hill, you can see and hear the finish line. I rode up and heard my name announced as I hit the red carpet…it was over...12:20:51
I’m glad to have done it and though I missed the 12-hour mark (and the buckle), I’m not sure I want to do it again. Mostly because, the course overall isn’t that fun and I have a real problem with courses that incorporate unridable sections, at least such long hike-a-bike sections.
Hope you enjoyed my misery, thanks for reading.