I have worked so hard in the past many months getting ready for this race. Many miles spent in the Cohutta wilderness, Belgian Waffle Asheville, and other rides and miles spent with friends and Jeff when he would agree to something off-road. Just like time does, July arrived and I knew the time was near.
At the end of July, I ended up with a new onset sulfa allergy (we think), and I almost thought I wouldn’t get to make the trip. To be honest, the idea of deferment sounded enticing. Went through some high dose prednisone treatment to make sure it wasn’t Stevens Johnson (Bactrim is not the best medicine) and continued the plan.
Everything cleared up, and realized Leadville was a go!!
I arrived on Thursday afternoon, two days before the race. Checked into The Rodeway Inn and was told that I couldn’t check in for two more hours and “sorry, we don’t have a public restroom.”
Leadville, Colorado is like stepping back in time. The main street through still carried history, and I thought any minute someone would come up with a pistol drawn for a dual. I’m not kidding. It felt like I had stepped into a western history movie.
There is no Wal-Mart. No Sonic. No McDonald’s. I had to go to a gas station that had an outside restroom and just wait for 3pm local time for check-in.
The elevation was something I could feel immediately. I rented an elevation tent at home and had been sleeping in it for weeks on end and had stopped early due to the allergic reaction. I needed all the recovery I could get with the allergic rash covering me and to be honest, recovery is tough with less oxygen. Leadville felt just like the elevation tent. The air was dry. I cannot stress enough how dry Colorado really is. The high doses of antihistamines I had taken for 2-3 weeks had already dried me out. I didn’t catch up on water intake before I left.
The first day I arrived was sunshine, rain, lightning, rainbow, and me with my mouth open gaping at the 14ers surrounding the town. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.
Michael and Jess had been in town for a few weeks after the Stage Race (tandem) and were amazing in helping me see the course, easing my anxiety, and supporting me during the race. Michael put my bike together after Tom G. had put it in the suitcase for me. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I’d say it takes a village to help me with my bike mechanics.
I didn’t get to pre-ride the course, because there is no reason two days or a day before the race to burn matches. I rode the loop for the beginning and the end. I never climbed St. Kevin’s but we drove up it in a 4-wheel drive. We drove almost to the top of Columbine. I saw Powerline and the beast it was. Little did I know that is where I would fall apart. Michael told me that Powerline climb is the halfway point. It’s actually at mile 75 or so.. well over half in miles, but half in effort… I would agree.
Everyone on the Leadville 100 podcast said the race is a negative split. It was not for me. My descending isn’t the fastest. I’ve always been quite the defensive descender. Likely I lost 15 minutes or more on the descents. Climbing was well until the 75 mile mark. The Death March Revival really helped me prepare. If I can get in Leadville again, I know what to do.
I cried at the top of Columbine. Why? Because I climbed it in less time than I imagined. I was thinking 2.5 to 3 hours.
I wore the wrong shoes. I wore great mountain bike shoes, but they didn’t fit well around the heel and while walking moved up and down. There’s a lot of hike a bike at the top of Columbine and the first part of Powerline climb. I’m still wearing band-aids on the backs of both heels now that I’m back.
I didn’t drink enough fluids. I drank 5-6 L total. Should have been 8-9 L. I couldn’t drink after the 10 hour mark.
Sleet fell as I summited Powerline and came down Sugar Loaf. I was really cold and had to put on a rain jacket. The climb up the pavement afterwards (last big climb) was arduous. I knew at the top of Carter’s Summit I wouldn’t make the 12 hour time. There was no way.
I crossed the 12 hour mark at about mile 100.
The race is actually 105 miles, I believe. The last 5 miles are terribly unnecessary. (laugh)
All in all, it was a race for the bucket list. They certainly make it a thing to finish and to buckle. Finishing is tough. Buckling is even tougher. To think the fastest male did this in 6 hours and the fastest female a little over 7 hours is nuts. I still believe the buckle earned for females should take into account that 1 hour difference or more in strength. They don’t (yet). In the meantime, I just need to train harder and maybe do it again! It’s a heckuva journey. The people you meet in Leadville are all driven in completing things like this. It’s pretty neat to meet people who have done this race multiple times.
I hear Grace Ragland completed this race 8 times before she buckled. I thought about her a lot on Saturday. I actually apologized to her outloud on the last 5 mile stretch that I didn’t buckle the first time. I certainly thought about her on the Continental Divide when driving the scenic way to Denver the next day. She was quite the inspiration living with MS and eventually succumbing to cancer. There are others like her around in the Chattanooga area who are driven by something otherworldly to achieve things like this. You know who you are… strong women who inspire others and help others achieve their goals.
Weight is important for this race. You need to be as lean as possible. Hard to give up the sugar. Consider a hard tail for weight savings! Consider racing another Lifetime race for a better corral position. I was in the white corral, and it was not an ideal start. St. Keven’s climb was slow with people in the white corral jamming up the path.
Add all of these things I can improve, I believe the buckle is doable. The question becomes do I train another year for something like this again or do I think about another adventure to try?
Melanie and Ed were out there, too. I knew Melanie would finish. She’s the tough lady that walked up Raccoon during a race (mechanical didn’t derail her). Melanie rode Death March with me in July. Such an amazing fun ride in hindsight. Sufferfest for sure. She can cook some mean pasta the night before a race, too. My mindset wasn’t very positive Day 1 arriving, but by the end, I didn’t really want to leave. I’d love to explore Leadville, climb Mt. Massive or one of the other 14ers around, and ride the Stage Race.
One of the reasons I had to finish this race was because the last two big events I signed up for to train for Leadville, I quit. Typically I’m not a quitter, but I quit Cohutta 100 over half way through believing that I wouldn’t make the cutoff at the end (I think I would have – as Michael says don’t do math during a race) and the mile 42 aid station ran out of all fluids, and I had to ride with none for several miles. I also quit Belgian Waffle Asheville at mile 115 of 135 miles due to a total meltdown when the last aid station had packed up around 6:15pm – still daylight – course still open. I guess the ladies manning it were not cyclists and were done. I decided to pull over and tap out.
I was worried I’d developed a quitting habit.
Leadville was full of support, full of volunteers who really cared and didn’t leave early. They were well prepared and didn’t run out of supplies.
I had NO EXCUSES. And so…