Tuesday, August 20

The Leadville Saga: How I Did It 2013

I didn't know what to expect going into this year's race. Last year I think I did exactly as I expected to. For it being my first time, and not really knowing what to expect of the race itself and its effects on my body and bike I think I was pleasantly surprised that I got away with as much skin as I did. That I DNFed last year only meant my goal would have to wait another 12 months. That's the maddening thing about not finishing the Leadville 100.

Last year I averaged over 450 miles a month between bicycle commuting and training for the race. I had easy access to significant climbing opportunities, high quality singletrack, higher altitudes for acclimatizing, and a network of cycling resources.

This past eight months I have averaged 200 miles a month or less with no daily commuting and far fewer training rides. I had easy access only to short steep climbing opportunities, with absolutely NO access to long persistent climbs. I had little and limited access to quality singletrack, no access to above sea level training, and a very limited network of cycling resources.

The main postive differences in 2013 over 2012 was that I had a strong regular riding partner (All Hail the Mozhican!) and that my lovely wife was at least as committed as I was to my success and therefore she often sent me packing on my bike to ride, giving me license and freedom to ride as much as I needed during the small windows I had. She was understanding and constructive, moreso than last year, (but still) throughout this whole saga.

I weighed almost exactly the same on both race days. Depsite repeated assertions that I'd lose 20-30 pounds for two years I didn't. Despite repeated resolutions to get in better general condition I didn't.

The major worrisome differences between 2012 and 2013 for me was that I had no idea how I would react to the thinner air, and I had no idea what effect having ridden fewer miles would have on my overall stamina. We countered altitude effectively by going to Colorado for a full week before the race and staying well hydrated and fed until race day. I got more sleep this year. I was less stressed this year. I tried to ride smarter the whole year, and I was happy I was getting more rest from my hard rides.

I continually reassessed my diet both on and off the bike. While I struggled to have a generally healthier diet throughout the year, I did manage to eat very well the last two weeks before the race. By the time I got to Leadville this year I knew exacltly what I needed to eat on the bike, how much, and how often. Because of this and my good carb-loading and eating the week before the race I was able to ride strong from the bottom of Powerline to the finish, 20+ miles without eating anything.

Last year I was still testing new foods right up until race time. And I failed miserably at eating on the bike in 2012.

So what was the end result?

You really wouldn't believe this, but my splits at all the chip-tracked points were almost identical between my two efforts. Mandy and I are both flabergasted by this reality. Perception on the course was that I was going faster this year. Reality shows I was right on my pace from last year up to Pipeline inbound which was my last time check last year. It seems like I slowed considerably after leaving Pipeline this year over last though. I was going harder when I DNFed.

And looking at the splits also tells us what we already knew. The headwinds after Twin Lakes slowed me down a lot. Columbine sucks a lot of time from me.

Click for comparison

I suffered from cramps both years. The first year the cramps were more intense, widespread and painful. This year they came on earlier and stayed with me until the end, though I had learned that by pushing through them they would loosen and I could keep going. I also didn't cramp in weird places like my armpits and my neck.

At the top of Powerline inbound I knew I was going to finish. At that moment I didn't realize I was so far behind the clock, but I knew the red carpet was mine. That had a huge impact on my spirits. Getting to the top of Powerline and knowing I could ride the rest of the course made all the difference. And when I found out I was going to be cutting it close I found a drive and energy deep within me that I didn't know existed. Like I've said, I have never ridden harder in my life as I did from Carter Summit aid station to the finish line in Leadville. I rode like my very life depended on it, even after I knew I wasn't getting a buckle.

That means a lot to me.

I finished the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 MTB race through three years of preparation, education, experience, and dedication. I finished it with the help of my family (my crew) and my friends. I finished it because I am better than I thought I was and can do more than I thought I could. I finished it because I dug deep and found that precious ore that I needed.

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