Thanks to all for your words of encouragement. I think the best thing I heard was from Sheryl Miller, our famous Colordo friend who first introduced me to the race. Sheryl will get her 1000 mile belt for completing Leadville 10 times next year. This year she was again Top 5 in her Age Group finishing in around 10:30 hours. She generally is in the top 5 women in her age group. She told me today that the first Leadville 100 doesn’t count. Despite finishes in the 10:00 to 10:30 hour range, Sheryl too did not make the 12 hour cutoff her first time. Neither did John Satory, who has since complete Leadville 5 times. It is nice to know that I am in such good company.
Finishing the Leadville 100 MTB race at all is daunting. It starts at 10,200 feet above sea level and tops out at 12,600 feet. There are 5 major climbs totaling more than 12,000 feet of climbing. Riders spend an average of about 6:00 hours on these 5 climbs. There are technical descents that have taken out first timers and pro veterans like Floyd Landis. But finishing the course at Leadville is not enough. To be recognized as an official finisher, and to claim the coveted Silver Buckle, a competitor must complete the course in 12 hours or less. Relative to the finishing times of the winners, finishing Leadville 100 in the required 12 hours is about the same as finishing Ironman Hawaii in less than 13 hours. The Leadville 100 was the toughest race that I have ever attempted.
In 2008, I didn’t claim my Silver Buckle. I fought the good fight, but in the end I was pulled from the course at 11:30 hours with 15 miles to go because race officials didn’t think if was safe for me to continue. If you aren’t going to complete the race in 13 hours or less, they remove you from the course. I guess they don’t consider it safe to hurtle down the final descents on narrow two track trails in the dark. I guess it’s a good thing they asked me to leave the course, because I would have kept on going dark or not.
There is nothing dramatic to blame my result on — no bone shattering falls, no lighting strikes, no pulmonary embolism, no serious mechanicals or even broken seats. On this day, I simply fell short of the mark. I probably didn’t eat enough during the first half of the race. I was slowed slightly by a mis-seated front tire that leaked air from the start line to the second checkpoint. I fought nausea and the dry heaves for most of the 2nd half of the race. But these are the normal tribulations for a ultra endurance race like Leadville.
I didn’t go out too fast and crack later in the race. I pretty much executed my race plan. For much of the race I was right on the cusp time-wise. I completed the first two long climbs and rolled into the first aid station at PipeLine (28 miles) pretty much on track for a 12 hour finish. I pulled a train of other riders through the flat sections from PipeLine to Twin Lakes (nobody would help me pull) and arrived at Twin Lakes (40 miles) still on track. (One of Chris Cook’s eagle eyed racing teammates noticed and fixed my mis-seated front tire and reinflated the tire). My descent from Columbine Mine to Twin Lakes was downright fast – a full 10 minutes faster than my time during training and on par with much faster finishers. And my time from Twin Lakes to Pipeline on the way back was also about the same as others who made the 12 hour grade.
It was the Columbine Climb that cost me my belt. My best on this day just wasn’t good enough on this monster. It took me 2:45 to climb the 3512 vertical feet and 10 miles from Twin Lakes to the Columbine mine which marks the peak of the race and the turnaround point for the out and back. I was 20 minutes slower up Columbine than I should have been. When I got back to the Pipeline Aid station at 72 miles, I was about 20 minutes slower than the last person who made the 12 hour cutoff last year and a mere 3 minutes from missing the 9 hour time cutoff. I fought my way up the final climb (hike-a-bike) up the Powerline, occasionally passing broken athletes waiting for the sag wagon, and down the treacherous descent down from Hagerman Pass. I was prepared to do whatever it took to get to the finish line. But it wasn’t meant to be. I loaded my bike into a pickup truck and was driven back to the start finish line by some of the race volunteers.
This morning I analyzed the race and my training and started planning to beat 12 hours next year. My power and endurance are good. I need to lose some more weight and focus on higher intensity long rides. This race will not best me. Leadville – I’ll be back.
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