My Quest for a Second Leadville 100 MTB Belt Buckle

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Leadville 2012 Overview

There were more than 5,000 entries into the Leadville 100 MTB bike race held in Leadville, CO this year. In last year’s race, I heard there were 1,900 people selected to participate via the lottery. This year, 3,999 was the highest bib I counted, but I am not sure how many riders actually were allowed entry into the event this year. This year, 1,715 racers toed the line on race day and there were 1,484 finishers in 12 hours or less. There were 1,338 male finishers and 146 female finishers. And finally, 231 racers did not finish (DNF). Official finishers are those who cross the finish line within 12 hours of the start – these riders earn the awesome Leadville 100 belt buckle. Riders who finish under nine hours receive a huge buckle and those who DNF go home with nothing.

I feel fortunate to have gotten into the Leadville 100 MTB race again this year. Last year, I was able to participate in this race – an event held at Leadville, Colorado, climbing to an elevation of 12,500 feet. I was the most difficult thing I had ever done. But participating in this race was also one of the best things I had ever done and capturing the Leadville 100 belt buckle is definitely a highlight in my life.

In the 2011 race, I proved to myself that I could accomplish this task, but the effort did take its toll. Last year I crossed the finish line at 11 hours 48 minutes, just 12 minutes under the deadline to claim the coveted Leadville 100 buckle. Following the race, I didn’t touch the bike for more than three months. The intense riding and training schedule leading to the race, and the cramps and fatigue I experienced during and after the ride, affected me physically and psychologically. Following the event, I was sickened by the idea of jumping back on the bike. Although I feel I was as prepared as I could have been, given my travel and family schedule, the time and effort required to prepare for this event seemed to have taken all I had to give.

So rather than biking, I hit the hardwood. Playing basketball was a great way to cross train. I played hoop a few times a week for about six weeks, but that ended in an injury. While running, I felt a sharp and burning pain in the middle of my calf. I took a few weeks to recover, but I hurt it again when I tried playing again. After a two-month recovery, I tried Rock Tape to wrap my calf. I started cycling again and even though I felt some strain, the kinesiology tape really gave me support and confidence. No more basketball, but I started using the tape on my longer rides.

Registering for the Lottery

My last memory of Leadville had faded – being in a medical tent, suffering severe cramping and wrapped in a sleeping bag. It was time to enter the lottery for the 2012 race and I was just as excited to do it as I was last year. I was anxious to try again, and I was determined not to make the same mistakes I made in my first effort. The goal was to one, finish the event safely, and two, to improve my finishing time from 2011.

Early Season Training

In the early months of 2012, I did as much road riding as I could when the Colorado weather allowed. Most of the rides were just long enough to get the legs moving. These rides were 20-30 miles, but on some Saturdays, I was able to go longer. My 2011 training schedule was interrupted with starts and stops, given travel and injuries, but I planned to try and follow a similar schedule this year. Race weight for the 2011 race was 175 pounds. Following the 2011 race, my weight had returned to the 185 pound range. My goal would be to lose around 10 pounds again before the event and to target at least eight hours in the saddle per week, building up to longer rides in the spring then summer. Finally, the plan was to include a few road events prior to the race.

Training schedule

I targeted a minimum of eight hours in the saddle each week. I travel frequently so there was no way to achieve this without including spin classes. When possible, I planned spin classes around customer dinners and my work schedule while on the road. Psycle Fitness in Pittsburgh really helped me in my training efforts this year. I loved spinning with the owner Tom. He is the best spin instructor I have had – intense workout, lots of cool moves on the bike, and great music. Tom helped me a lot this year to get ready for my race.

I also supplemented my training with some running and weight training. The running helped my overall fitness this year, especially since I backed off basketball. The weight training helped me to increase the strength necessary to control the bike during the Leadville event.

In 2011, I looked for ways to train in the mountains, but it was tough to find the time. I determined that I would track was the number of hours in the seat and get altitude training when I could squeeze it in. I supplemented early season training with snowboarding. Hitting the target hour goal was sometimes difficult, so the key was filling the gap for the week on Saturdays, making that my longest ride, sometimes four to five hours.

Last year, a timely bout with gout helped me lose weight before the race. This year, I lost weight slowly and steadily through June, as training time increased in the summer and by paying more attention to my diet. My race weight this year was 173 pounds, which was a 12 pound loss from the beginning of the year.

I felt my fitness level was better this year than last. My early season training was ahead of last year, and my calf, although constantly sore, it seemed to be holding up well.

When I received confirmation that I had gotten into the event again, I asked my wife Jessie if she would be my crew again. She knew from last year that this event requires a time commitment from the family, but she agreed to be my crew again this year. Jessie had entered several endurance events for the upcoming season so we would both have to weave work, family time and training, while raising our six kids. Jessie had signed up for three 50k’s and a 50 mile trail run. Also, we both signed up for the Tough Mudder event at Beaver Creek. This would be my longest run to date. The Tough Mudder is a 13 mile run at elevation with 25 various obstacles thrown in. Entering the event was a good move, forcing me to increase my running to prepare for this event.

Tough Mudder 2012

The weather during the Tough Mudder event was perfect – a cool and sunny morning in the mountains. We spent the morning, trudging through the mud and tubes, under wire and over fences, climbing over walls and cargo nets. There are also electrical wires, some as high as 10,000 volts, mixed into some of the obstacles. It was a fun event and the money raised went to the Wounded Warrior Project. Jessie did not like getting shocked and she won’t be doing this event again. I thought it was a blast – and your reward at the end is a bright orange headband.

Triple Bypass

I did get a new road bike prior to the Triple Bypass – I got a discounted carbon fiber GT Strike from Performance. It has SRAM components and the bike is much more responsive than my entry level aluminum Trek 2.1. Last year I used the Selle Anatomica saddle during all of my events – I really love this saddle. This year I have one on both my road bike and my mountain bike.

This was my second time doing the Triple. Last year’s ride was pretty tough for me. This year, I scaled back the effort on the first major pass, which is Juniper Pass. Taking it easier at the beginning saved me, as I felt steady and strong though most of the rest of the ride. The weather was nice early in the ride, but just prior to Loveland pass, gray clouds were building. I stopped for lunch at the aid station before the final five miles to the peak of Loveland Pass. I started to cramp up here as I sat eating lunch. I was feeling a strain in my injured calf. I had not put on any KT tape prior to the ride, but I carried a pre-cut strip and I put it on after lunch. Pulling the shoe off was enough to tighten my legs and I felt the onset of cramps, but I got the tape and shoes on and hit the road. My leg felt better with the extra support, and I ascended hard seeing the clouds continue to build.

Over the top and down the other side was a blast, but the clouds rolled in like a wave and then came the rain. I later found out some riders were forced to SAG over Loveland Pass – I am glad I beat the rain to the peak. But on the descent, the rain was falling hard – as I neared the bottom, the rain felt like pebbles hitting me all over my body. I thought about seeking shelter a couple of times, but some riders in front of me kept moving forward, so I kept going too. It was getting cold. As I approached the sharp left turn at a red light at the bottom, I couldn’t stop. I was squeezing the breaks enough to steadily slow the bike, but barely stopped at the light. Wet body, wet brakes, and cold, but I had made it down safely and now the rain started to fade – at least for now.

The last pass was Vail – I approached it like I did last year – with my head down, pressing forward as steadily as I could. I felt strong at the end. The last twenty miles was an emotional barrier last year – I had struggled without success to catch riders in front of me to get a pull. This year I was able to ride with a couple of groups at the end, but the rain began to pour again. I fell off the group with about three miles to go. The rain was so heavy now and I felt fatigued and cold. Coming through the last stage, there is a series of roundabouts where vehicles intermingle with cyclists. I entered the last roundabout with about a mile to go. I was moving too fast for the conditions and my ability – I didn’t turn the wheel in time and headed towards the curb. I bailed out and hit the curb. The water bottles flew, the bike slid onto the curb, and I slipped on my side along the sidewalk. Damage included scrapes on my knee, hip, shoulder and helmet. Although my jacket ripped on the shoulder, my new Primal kit weathered the slide nicely. No severe damage to me or my bike. So I put myself together, told the volunteer who rushed to my aid that I was OK and I attempted to text my wife to let her know where I was so we could meet at the finish. I was shaken by the crash and I had wet and cold fingers. So my texts to Jessie were gibberish and not one made any sense. So finally, I hopped on my bike and rode the final mile to the finish line in the rain. I was so glad to see my family inside the tent. It was raining and cold and I was shivering. After eating the most awesome burger ever, I thawed out on the drive home.

I cut off an hour from last year’s time. I believe I was in better shape this year compared to last year, but I also feel my confidence and ability had improved compared to last year’s rookie effort. I was excited about my progress and I was confident it would translate to success at Leadville.

Courage Classic

We had about ten people join the Fighting Chickens team this year. Our team raised several thousand dollars for the Denver Children’s hospital this year. One of the Chickens hurt her leg in a fall. That crash required stitches and an early exit. She recovered well and she will join us again next year. Other than our team injury, it was a good couple of days of training in the mountains weeks ahead of Leadville, and we had again raised a lot of money for the Children’s hospital.

Leadville 100

Jessie and I arrived early in Leadville on Friday to check in. I signed the medical release, picked up my chip and shirt, ate a breakfast burrito and headed to the high school gym for the pre-race meeting.

This year’s race kicked off with a famous past winner addressing the crowd. No, not Dave Weins, it was Lance Armstrong. Lance gave a motivational speech and told of his love for this race. He shared his thoughts about riding down Columbine and being cheered on by all of his fellow riders. He said you see that kind of support only at this event. He also said he would not be racing this year, as he is a bit busy right now. Of course, this was right before he had his seven Tour de France titles stripped for blood doping. He is, or at least was, a great American hero. You love Lance’s story, but there are reports that he was not a great teammate and some reports suggest he is not a good guy at all. But I can say it was motivating for me to see and listen to him prior to the race, especially since it was seeing the clip of a helicopter view of Lance racing crossing Columbine in “The Race Across the Sky” that inspired me to sign up for this event in the first place.

Sitting in the gym with fellow riders and crew is where I noticed the biggest difference from my experience last year. Last year, the experience was all new. I had lots of butterflies and I was just awestruck by everything leading up to the event. And given my difficulties finishing last year, I didn’t have an opportunity to feel what I felt this year. This year, I gained a greater appreciation for race organizers, Ken Chlouber and Marilee O’Neal. Their love for Leadville, the participants, and this event is clear. And I also felt a greater appreciation for what the Leadville Race Series has done for this small mining community. It is a great story and for me, being just a small part of that Leadville family has become my favorite part of the whole experience.

We grabbed lunch, checked into the hotel and I did a pre-race bike check. Then we joined other riders at the gym for a pre-race pasta dinner. When we returned to the hotel, the rain began to pour.

Following an evening of heavy, heavy rain, the next morning appeared to be clear and I hoped for a beautiful race-day. Jessie and I parked near the start line. We took a quick photo in the dark and then rushed to the starting corral. One of my biggest mistakes last year was the failure to take in enough electrolytes. I had mistakenly believed my Perpetuem by Hammer contained that important ingredient. That was a huge mistake that resulted in a series of serious cramps. This year my electrolyte replenishment plan included Heed by Hammer, Hammer Fizz tablets, and Endurolyte tablets. This year, I would not make the same mistake.

However, I would soon realize my first error of the day – I had left my bottle of Endurolytes on the dash of the car. Now I would have to rely only on Heed until mile 40, when I would first meet up with my crew.

The Leadville 100 MTB Race – Race Timeline

My corral was closer to the start this year – I assume I was with all of the other finishers who finished the event between 11 and 12 hours. I was nervous, but I did feel comfort that I had been here before.
The air was crisp but pleasant. I was feeling a bit constricted with my new rain jacket. I had ripped my nice ultralight jacket in my Triple Bypass crash, so I picked up a discounted rain jacket at REI. It was a medium, but I could not move my arms too well – maybe I got a women’s medium. Anyway, it was cool so I left it on, but I was hoping it would not cause me any major discomfort on the upcoming ride.

Finally after the countdown and a slow walk to the start line, we hopped on our bikes and we were quickly moving fast down the road. There was some early jockeying, as some in the back were rushing past to catch groups in front. I went steady through this area. This is a fast pace with lots of anxious riders. My goal was to just get to the dirt road safely. The paved portion turns to dirt after 3.5 miles. My pace this year through this section was the same as last year.

Mile 2012 2011
1 3:24 3:23
2 2:14 2:15
3 2:11 2:18

Last year, the path leading to St. Kevin’s was extremely dusty – I had dirt in my mouth from this portion of the ride for hours. Luckily, the night before this year’s race, the heavy rains which knocked down the dust allowed better traction. My pace was slightly better than last year, especially mile seven, near the top before the route turns sharp to the left.

Mile 2012 2011
4 6:28 6:56
5 4:05 4:15
6 4:05 4:03
7 10:40 12:53
8 12:46 12:27
9 6:38 6:52

Through mile nine, I had cut three minutes from last year’s time, hitting the summit of St. Kevin’s at 52:31. After the summit, there was lots of slowing until hitting the Carter Summit Express station at mile 11.
Mile 2012 2011
10 6:36 7:28
11 6:03 5:16

Now it was time to fly – riders hit top speeds on this paved section towards Turquoise Lake.
Mile 2012 2011
12 1:50 1:56
13 1:36 1:37
14 2:03 2:25

The road curves around the lake at the bottom of the hill, and leads into a one mile pavement climb. Then the road switches to dirt as we ascend Sugarloaf Pass – this is a 1,200 foot climb.
Mile 2012 2011
15 6:24 6:43
16 6:34 6:45
17 6:09 6:02
18 10:45 12:12
19 10:56 10:11

I passed the summit of Sugarloaf at 1:51:27, five minutes ahead of last year’s pace. It is now a quick descent down Powerline, which is an intimidating downhill with lots of ruts and crevices. I really stayed focused, recalling last year’s crash at this point in the ride. So I did take it a bit slower at points on this section. I rode through last year’s crash zone at mile 21 and I continued without incident ahead of last year’s pace.
Mile 2012 2011
20 4:22 3:59
21 4:55 6:15
22 5:43 6:27
23 5:15 6:40
24 4:35 4:11

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At the end of Powerline, we hit route 300, which is a paved road where we picked up a bit of speed.
Mile 2012 2011
25 2:46 2:51
26 3:11 2:53
27 2:40 3:10

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This section switches to dirt as we head to the Pipeline Aid Station. I hit it at 2:24:44, which was eight minutes ahead of last year’s pace.
Mile 2012 2011
28 4:49 5:33
29 5:28 4:47
30 3:52 5:02
31 5:29 3:38
32 5:01 5:02
33 3:31 5:24
34 5:45 4:57
35 4:58 5:19
36 4:00 4:44
37 5:22 3:39

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Last year I crashed at mile 38 on a steep uphill climb – there were lots of riders in the area and I did a bad job bailing out and cut my leg. I recognized the section and this time I got up enough speed to make it without stopping.
Mile 2012 2011
38 5:51 8:04
39 6:01 2:58

I crossed Highway 82 and rode through the Twin Lakes parking area, across the Twin Lakes dam and entered the Twin Lakes Aid station at 3:12:59, which was 18 minutes ahead of last year’s pace. I was monitoring my time and I knew I was on pace for a better time compared to last year. But unfortunately, I was about to give back some of that time. At mile 42, I was set to meet up with my crew – but I stopped at the porta-potty for a bathroom break. I was wearing my new awesome primal bib, but getting that off along with my backpack with my water, and my tiny jacket burned a ton of time. Then when trying to get everything back on, I broke the zipper on my jersey. I really didn’t want to ride the rest of the race with my jersey flapping open but I could not get it zipped. Finally, I gave up and rode to Jessie to get my Endurolytes and my replacement of Heed and water. That total time at mile 42 took twice as long as last year and now I had an air-conditioned shirt with the broken zipper holding only the middle of the shirt together. I tossed my jacket.
Mile 2012 2011
40 2:13 2:38
41 4:24 6:12
42 21:04 7:10
43 4:25 6:10

It was great to see Jessie, but I barely saw her. She had set up at basically the last available crew spot on this section. She re-filled my bottles and bladder and gave me a quick kiss and I finally got going. That was way too long of a break, but I felt that I was still doing better than last year, so I was panicking.
Mile 2012 2011
44 6:11 17:20

There were six miles to the top of Columbine – the first portion is slow riding with all of the leaders racing back down the path. They are whizzing by so fast that you can barely see who they are. You try to pass quickly when you can, but you have to be ready to move to the right quickly when you hear, “rider up!”
Mile 2012 2011
45 12:24 10:36
46 11:51 12:43
47 14:59 15:38

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The last two miles are brutal – I tried to ride as much as I could but often it is either too steep or too narrow to get around other walkers. So I walked a lot but I tried to move as quickly as possible. Here is where I felt my first sign of cramps – cramps almost knocked me out of the race last year, so I continued to drink water.
Mile 2012 2011
48 13:49 14:01
49 19:32 26:53
50 24:16 23:24

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I hit the Columbine Summit aid station at 5:28:07, which was 22 minutes ahead of last year’s pace. At the top, I took a quick nature break over the mountain and jumped back on the bike.
Mile 2012 2011
51 11:52 14:22

So my list of mistakes for the first half of the ride included, leaving Endurolytes in the car, wearing the bibs, wearing too small of a jacket, and wasting a bunch of time struggling to zip up my shirt. But no crashes – I had two last year. The ride from the summit of Columbine is very rocky. I only have front suspension, so both my bike and I take a bit of a beating on this section. One of the screws holding my front water bottle cage shook loose, so now my cage and bottle were hanging upside down. I was riding in a group with no open spot to pull over. The bottle was still in the cage and it was in my way of peddling. So I did what an inexperienced rider might do, I reached down to pull the bottle out of the cage. With the hand on the bottle, I must have hit a large rock and I bounced into the bushes. I didn’t get hit from behind as the riders flew past. I lost the water bottle, turned the cage upright, checked the rest of the bike and hit the trail. And I did lose more time.
Mile 2012 2011
52 13:25 5:24

I took some care down Columbine – I recall the words of several riders I have met doing this event – “you won’t win the race on the downhill, but you can lose it”. But even riding down with extra caution, my downhill pace down was slightly ahead of last year’s pace.
Mile 2012 2011
53 5:15 5:48
54 4:07 4:04
55 3:01 3:58
56 2:54 4:14
57 3:10 3:47
58 3:00 3:12
59 3:13 11:49
60 7:49 7:12
61 13:31 3:35

I met up with my crew at the bottom – Jessie had made a friend and he zip tied my cages back onto the bike. I now carry zip ties on my rides. I got a quick water fill up and I was on my way – I was drinking significantly more water this year. Last year, I did not drink enough and I paid the price. I rode through the Twin Lakes aid station without stopping.
Mile 2012 2011
62 4:56 7:50
63 9:00 7:13
64 4:21 3:01
65 3:39 3:59
66 3:43 4:21

At mile 67/68 you hit a hill called North Face – I am sure some people ride it, but I walked it and it does take some time to get up this hill. Then there is another hill called Oh My God Hill. After walking up this hill, then it is back on the bike and we are riding towards the Pipeline Aid station.
Mile 2012 2011
67 6:23 10:07
68 9:53 10:34
69 11:16 6:22
70 5:51 4:55
71 5:08 5:14

I rode through the Pipeline Aid station at 7:36:34, which was 28 minutes ahead of last year’s pace.
Mile 2012 2011
72 4:48 4:02
73 4:52 4:30
74 8:13 4:10
75 3:30 3:38
76 4:03 5:25
77 5:03 3:35

Last year, due to severe cramps, I was forced to walk much of the path back up Powerline. This year I rode what I could. It is so rocky, that even with no cramps, it’s a tough ride.
Mile 2012 2011
78 4:03 6:30
79 5:47 13:06
80 12:38 25:30
81 17:08 22:16
82 14:34 17:11

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I reached the summit of Powerline in 9:25:13, which was 29 minutes faster than last year’s pace. I did have a drop bag here – I grabbed a couple of Stinger Waffles and filled up with water. I had help from volunteers who took care of my water. That was a huge help because my hands were not working too well. I think the duration of the event just takes a toll and the normally simple things are difficult after this long on a bike and while riding at this altitude. I took a bit longer break than I planned, but I was tired and used the extra time to recover.
Mile 2012 2011
83 14:07 5:47
84 5:02 5:16

Finally after climbing Powerline, miles 85 to 87 are downhill, but the shaking of the bike down this rocky section is tough after this many hours on the bike. I struggled not to not crash. You cannot get complacent on this section – you just have to stay focused.
Mile 2012 2011
85 4:51 3:17
86 3:01 3:32
87 2:50 2:07

Now you turn left on the road around Turquoise Lake. It is paved, but this section is tough because it is so steep.
Mile 2012 2011
88 1:54 5:35
89 6:02 9:42
90 9:44 10:13
91 10:26 12:09

I rode through the Carter Summit aid station.
Mile 2012 2011
92 9:11 5:49
93 4:55 8:05

Coming down St Kevin’s seemed rough and I was real nervous, not wanting to crash at this point. This year I rode this final section about the same as I did last year. Last year, this is the point where I recovered from my cramps and turned it on, barely finishing in time to get the buckle.
Mile 2012 2011
94 7:59 4:04
95 3:49 3:14
96 3:18 3:22
97 3:17 3:08
98 2:49 3:20
99 3:01 2:45

At the bottom of St Kevin’s, we go from a dirt road to short ride on the pavement, then onto a dirt trail. I almost missed the slight right turn here last year. Then it is a left turn towards town up a steep section called the “The Boulevard”.
Mile 2012 2011
100 2:30 5:21
101 5:29 4:42
102 4:40 5:36

This is the last section towards the finish line – it is then a short ride up 6th street and then it is down hill to the finish line.
Mile 2012 2011
103 6:18 5:51
104 6:21 7:44

Finish Line 11:22:11

I really remember this part of the race. I remember riding into town, but this time I was not scared to miss the 12 hour deadline. Finishing faster allowed me to take in the sights during that last few hundred yards before the finish. I saw Jessie in the crowd and I looked at all of the spectators waving and cheering. This is one of the best feelings I have ever had – feeling the sense of accomplishment of attaining a goal, feeling of relief of finishing the race, feeling the energy of the crowd, and seeing a loved one who has been supportive the whole way who is there to welcome you home. This is a great feeling, and it is capped by knowing you will get the buckle.

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Buckle Number 2!
My chip time this year was 11:22:11, which was a 26 minute improvement over last year’s effort of 11:48:07. I sought out Merilee to receive the finishers’ medal, which was delivered with a hug.
Last year, I was forced to recover in the medical tent – this year, it was a quick recovery and a nice dinner with my crew in town. Setting a goal, and putting in the work to accomplish something so difficult is gratifying. Three years ago, I would have never thought I could do this. Once again, I am grateful to my family for their support as I sought out to try and get another Leadville 100 belt buckle – the first was sweet and the second was sweeter.

buckle_leadville_100MTB

My race results comparing this year to last year were as follows:
Activities 2012 2011
Garmin Time 11:22:30 11:55:41
Chip Time 11:22:11 11:48:07
Avg Speed 9.2 mph 8.6 mph
Avg Pace 6:33 min/mi 6:56 min/mi
Moving Time 10:31:19 11:07:31
Avg Speed 9.9 mph 9.3 mph
Avg Pace 6:04 min/mi 6:28 min/mi
Max Speed 40.9 mph 45.8 mph
Best Pace 1:28 min/mi 1:19 min/mi
Avg HR (bpm) 138 bpm 140 bpm
Max HR (bpm) 172 bpm 184 bpm
Avg HR (z) 3.2 z 3.4 z
Max HR (z) 5.5 z 6.0 z

http://www.goraceday.com/watch/17502/

 

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My Quest for the Leadville Trail 100 Buckle

My Quest 2011
I heard about the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race one year ago. From that time, the thought of participating in this extreme endurance event consumed my mind. The problem was, I was not an endurance athlete and I had never considered taking on this type of challenge. But I was driven to be part of this epic event. This is the story of my effort to achieve the Leadville 100 belt buckle. I believed attaining this goal would be a milestone event in my life that would serve as a source of strength and pride. But I would find that my quest for the belt buckle would be as rewarding as actually receiving it. The journey tested both my physical ability and my mental toughness more than I had ever expected. My question as I began this effort was, “Did I have the ability to dig deep and push through to the finish line or would I quit?” I was determined to put myself to the test and I would do it at 12,500 feet in the rugged mountains of Leadville, Colorado.

My First Bike
My buddy Ted rides to work in Denver almost every day of the year. That was a source of inspiration to me that someone would brave the elements each day to ride their bike to work. I wanted to do that, but I work at home. Two years ago, Ted mentioned he had a road bike he would sell me. He converted my new road bike to a comfortable upright bike with mustache handlebars and I was all set to go. Easy on the back and I hooked the bike carrier on the back to carry my youngest two kids around our Aurora, CO neighborhood. But I had dreams of riding from our home all the way to Denver.

I Like Saying “Triple Bypass”
I enrolled in the Executive MBA program class at the University of Colorado. One classmate mentioned in our first introductory meeting that he had participated in something called the “Triple Bypass”. I mentioned to my wife a few times the details of this Triple Bypass. I even told her that maybe I would ride in the Triple Bypass sometime. My wife, Jessie, is the love of my life. She is my best friend and I need her support in all that I do. She did have some memorable comments during my quest. “I think the only reason you want to do it is because you like saying ‘Triple Bypass'”. I have to admit, I think I did like saying it. But it would sound sweeter if I actually did it.

Courage Classic 2009
My new classmate Dave would soon become one of my best friends. He asked the MBA class for volunteers to join his cycling team that would participate in the 2009 Courage Classic, a cycling event that raised funds for the Denver Children’s Hospital. When Dave asked for volunteers from the class, no one seemed immediately interested. Even though Dave named the team the “Fighting Chickens”, I decided to join the team. The Courage ride was my first ever attempt riding in the mountains of Colorado. To be prepared, I took my upright bike to the shop for a tune up and asked the technician how it would do climbing Vail pass for the Courage ride. He responded, “I am sure your friends will give you a head start.” I bought a new road bike off of Craig’s List later that week. I found a used Trek 2.1 and started riding in May to get ready for the July ride. After I proudly finished climbing steep mountains on the first day of the Courage Classic, Dave reached down and pulled the “made in Taiwan” sticker off my bike, telling me, “O.K., now that you have proven you can ride, we can get rid of your little sticker.”

The Fighting Chickens teamed up with the Primal Wear team. This was also my first experience interacting with serious cyclists, other than Dave I guess. Some of the guys on our team had finished amongst the top riders in the Triple Bypass. Being part of this group was kind of a motivating factor. These guys are very serious riders and most seemed to be six feet plus, and I estimated them to be in the 140 to 160 pound range, while I was clocking in at 5’10″‘ 185 pounds. Not an ideal cyclist frame, but I had my bike and we were all wearing the same team jerseys so I felt like I could ride. During the event, I did learn that I am a relatively strong climber and that my endurance was better than I realized, especially considering the minimum amount of training I did prior to the event. This was my first indication that an event like the Triple might be something I could actually do. The Courage was the only event I did for the 2009 season and I didn’t ride much the rest of the year.

Courage Classic 2010

The next year, Dave signed up the Fighting Chickens to participate in the 2010 Courage classic. Dave looks for ways to keep me humble. Prior to the ride, I could not find my sunglasses in the car. I scrambled to find a pair with no success. Finally, I found my wife’s Nike shields and I was ready to ride. That was, until Dave saw me and said, “Whoa, nice ladies glasses” and then he said something about an upcoming fashion show. Dave’s awesome. Ted joined our team, which had expanded from the original 10 to 20 riders this year. The Primal guys were on the team again. I had trained a bit more for the event this year by doing rides of 30 miles or so. I felt much stronger this year than the prior year. After the event I put the bike away for the season. But that would soon change.

The Race Across the Sky Video

My wife is a member of Lifetime Fitness. She mentioned that during a spin class, she had seen a video of a Leadville mountain bike race that she thought I would like. She showed me a clip of “The Race Across the Sky” with thumping music and clips of elite riders like Lance Armstrong flying down the mountains. There was a short clip of Lance literally racing across the sky at the top of Columbine with a cloud of dust trailing behind him – that image was burned into my mind. I watched that clip many times, and it changed me. It lit a fire within that made me want to do this event. I learned that entry into this race required a lottery. I entered the lottery and crossed my fingers.

Lottery
I anxiously awaited word from the Leadville race officials whether I would be accepted into the event. When notified that I had been accepted, I got very nervous. What would my wife say? What would people who might be familiar with the event say? But most importantly, I needed a mountain bike. I had an old, used, dented and dust-covered mountain bike that I had bought in California 15 years ago. It had seldom been ridden, and when it was ridden, there was a kid bike trailer attached.

Niner
So Dave introduced me to Adam at the Golden Bike Shop. Adam was a huge help getting me the bike needed to make this ride. We went steel frame hard tail with SRAM components and Stan’s tubeless tires. Adam fitted me and gave me a few tips for the ride and off I went. I really didn’t know much about the bike I had just bought and to be honest, I knew very little about the event I had signed up for. But this much I did know – finishing the Leadville Trail 100 race in less than 12 hours would earn the coveted belt buckle, and for anyone I talked to about the event, they said one, it is a tough event, and two, you better get the belt buckle. I had learned that Dave Wiens had won the event six times in a row. If I could look to him in how he trained for the event, I would at least have something on paper to follow. Another thing I knew was that less weight would be easier to push up the mountain. When I started counting pounds and grams on my bike and studying how much weight to carry, my wife laughed and said it was better to lose pounds off my frame than to worry about a few grams here and there. So I set a goal to lose 10 pounds. Why 10? It seemed like a good number. If I were to lose weight and get serious about taking on the event, I had to think more like a champion. So I decided to stop drinking soda. I decided to stop drinking it and I haven’t had any soda since. That has been eight months now. Another thing I decided to do was to eliminate two of my favorite snacks completely from my diet – M&M’s and licorice. These were my staple snacks during my MBA studies. I’ve stayed true to this effort too. So, these new self-imposed limits added to my lifestyle of abstaining from alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco. Now, left with no vices, it was time to train.

Start of Training
In addition to the Leadville event, my goal for the season was to participate in the Triple Bypass. The Triple was a month before Leadville, and yes, I still liked saying it. I felt this would be a good training ride for Leadville. That was also a lottery entry and I was grateful to have been selected for that ride too.

Training Schedule

I found an interview that Leadville champ Dave Wiens had given, and in it were some comments about his training schedule for the event. I took this as gospel and copied it and modified it to meet my needs. The main focus of the schedule was a number of hours in the saddle each week and a certain amount of elevation climbing each week. In addition, the schedule had expanded training hours as the season went along and included a couple of events that would gauge training effectiveness. My plan included a few trips up to Leadville to train at altitude and get a feel of the track.

My buddy Dave also got into the Triple, so I was excited to have some company, at least for that ride. I stayed up late one night crafting a training schedule for Dave and me to follow. I sent him the schedule, expecting that we would both immediately attack it. Several weeks later, Dave and I met and I asked how the training was going. I had been mostly on schedule riding my eight hours a week, while also doing some snow shoeing in the mountains on Saturdays to get my elevation training. Dave had not even opened the schedule I sent to him. He said something like, “do you realize Dave Wiens is an elite rider?” – he was implying there is no way guys like us could maintain that schedule. Turns out he was partly correct – I didn’t maintain the schedule like I had planned. The number of hours given my travel schedule for business was impossible. Trying to achieve the altitude goals was way too far out of reach. But I kept that schedule in front of me the whole time as I prepared myself. I strived to meet it the best I could. At parting this meeting with Dave, he told me something like “when you find that you can’t maintain that schedule, let me know and I will help you come up with something.” His comment lingered in my mind and served as motivation – I fully intended to keep with the schedule I had designed, courtesy of my new hero, Dave Wiens. Unfortunately, my buddy Dave got injured, and he was unable to do the Triple, leaving me alone in my training and during the ride. I was disappointed, but not deterred.

My training schedule consisted of riding whenever I could, given a pretty busy work travel schedule. This typically meant a Monday travel day to somewhere outside of Colorado, a Tuesday night and Wednesday night spin class while on the road, a Thursday or Friday travel day home and maybe a training ride either early Friday morning or Friday evening before dark. Finally, the key training effort was a long Saturday ride, lasting three to four hours. Given time restrictions with the family, the ride time was seldom more than that, but Saturday was the catch up day, used to fill the gap in the minimum eight hour weekly target. Sundays was always a rest day and was a day focused on only church and family. In addition to counting the hours in the saddle, I also began lifting some weights a couple of days a week. Mostly step ups to strengthen my hip flexors, along with push downs and power cleans to strengthen my upper body for the ride.

Setbacks
I did have a couple of setbacks during training. The first occurred in May. I fell down a step in the garage. I just slipped. I crumpled to the floor and twisted my left knee. I was scared that I had damaged my knee – it was the same knee that I had meniscus surgery on the past December. I was there motionless on the floor. I finally crawled inside more scared than hurt. I recovered from what I would call a mild sprain after about two weeks. I took that whole time off from riding. The next set back was during a trip to China during the last of May. I had no opportunity to bike and had only minimal trainingb time in the hotel fitness centers. A life cycle-type bike can be effective for training, but I again tweaked my knee while riding one of these bikes. This was a downer for me, because now I would take another 10 days off and I felt I would not be able to put in the required training, and I felt I was too far behind my plan. I returned from China and I was committed to get back on my schedule the best I could and get ready for the upcoming Triple Bypass.

Weight Loss
The weight loss efforts through May had yielded no results. I told just a few people of my goal to lose the weight because I felt if I did not tell some people that I would not have the desire to do it. But even without the soda and the snacks, I was not losing. The weight would finally come off, losing a total of eight pounds just prior to the Leadville ride.

The Bus Ride to the Triple Bypass Event
I viewed the Triple as a training ride and as a means to achieving my goal of the Leadville 100 buckle. But I must say I was very excited to do the Triple as it approached. My longest single-day bike ride to date was 70 miles, and the Triple Bypass is 120 miles over three mountain passes. Other than the Courage rides, this would be my first real event. Courage is three days of riding with full support, and while it has some difficult portions, it is a pretty casual ride. It has a sit-down lunch and the participating riders are all shapes and sizes. The Triple was a much more serious ride and as I sat on the bus ride from Avon to Evergreen, I let some doubts creep in to my mind as to my ability compared to others on the bus. I sat and listened to the other riders while on the early morning ride. Many of the riders I was with had traveled from all over the country, and they spoke of their multiple events they each had done during the season. This made me question my training in the local fitness centers as I sat during the two hour bus ride. I looked at my aluminum Trek 2.1 sitting alongside the carbon horses strewn in the bus. At least there was no sticker on my bike anymore. I glanced at my mountain bike shoes – shoes that I had gotten so I could wear them in my MBA class if I had ever made the ride to Denver, which I had planned to do, but never did. I’m a beginner and I’m a bit budget conscience, so maybe that is why I never bought a pair of road cycling shoes. It seemed my bike and I both felt inadequate on the bus ride. But then I recall, at some point, I took a deep breath – I was doing this for me, not for any of them, and I felt a surge of confidence that happened to be a turning point in my training as I turned the focus inward. We finally got to the start line – I grabbed a bit of fuel and hit the road.

Triple Bypass
I had two goals. One, I wanted to prove that I could slay something of this distance. Two, I had to finish in time to hit the road to meet my wife at Red Rocks to catch the Avett Brothers concert. I had gotten these tickets after entry into the event. I had full intention of making it to this concert. I felt great up Juniper Pass. I stayed on the wheel of a married couple from Denver who had done the event the year before. I stayed with them for the first third of the event, moving at a pace much faster than I had planned. During the middle portion, which is Loveland pass, my body was aching from every joint. My back and legs were sore and I lumbered through this section. I took a couple of Tylenol that I hoped would relieve my pain. The last portion was Vail pass. There is much of this last section of the ride that I don’t recall – I moved forward with my head often pulled down – I passed many riders as I pushed for home. At mile 110, I faced a mental barrier that briefly left me wanting to stop riding. For what seemed like an eternity, I tried unsuccessfully to catch a group of riders in front of me. I so wanted to catch them and join their pace line. My pace was steady over these final ten miles but I felt alone. That was until I glanced back and noticed I was pulling several riders. That gave me a boost as I realized I had led this train. But my lack of experience left me expending way too much energy. Exhausted, I crossed the finish line, picked up my chain link medal and a hamburger. I saw Keith, who was a fellow Fighting Chicken. He works for Primal and he is a very strong rider who looks like a linebacker. I thought, wow, he looks good and fresh. Did he even do the event? Yes he did – he had finished, and maybe showered, and had gotten a massage. Keith gave me an indication how I looked – as I approached him, his smile left as he asked me, “Are you feeling alright?” Obviously, I looked how I felt. The mirror in my car confirmed to me why he asked – dirty and pale. But I had done the Triple – I rushed to the concert and between songs, I found myself saying “Triple Bypass” in my mind – she was right, I did like saying it.

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Courage Classic 2011
The Courage was once again a very memorable experience. I bunked up with Ted at a place in Breckenridge. Also, we met up with Dave. The three of us made up the entire Fighting Chickens team this year. We rode in what is becoming one of my favorite things to do – biking in the mountains in Colorado with 2,500 friends, raising money for the Denver Children’s Hospital.

Final Two Weeks Before Leadville
My training leading up to the final two weeks before the Leadville race left me in pretty good shape for the ride. I knew I could have done more training, but following the success of the Triple, along with staying pretty true to my minimum target hours laid out in my plan, I felt ready. I was no longer nervous about the upcoming event – rather I was just anxious for race day to arrive. My plan was to do one more Saturday ride in Leadville two weeks before the event. I would try and ride at least a portion of the course and benefit from one more day of altitude training. I made my second attempt up St. Kevin’s. My first effort a few months earlier fell short as snow blocked my path half way up the climb. On this training ride, I made it over the hill and onto the next section, only to miss the gate, once again leaving me riding in the beautiful mountains of Leadville, but giving me no more course experience. I rode forty miles over the next four hours. I felt good on this cool morning, but I later learned that I had failed to take in enough water. Following the ride, on the way to Copper to meet up with my family, I stopped at a roadside jerky stand. Venison sounded good – I ate the entire package. The next day, I was limping and my right big toe was inflamed. The aching made it feel like I had a stress fracture in my foot and left the whole leg in distress. I went to the doctor on Sunday – diagnosis was gout. The doctor said this often occurs in golfers who spend the day in the sun drinking alcohol and fail to take in enough water. My extreme physical activity the day before, combined with the lack of proper hydration, must have caused the gout. Come to find out, venison can cause gout to flare up. Medicine cured this ill, but training had now abruptly stopped – it was my plan to taper at this point, but I could barely walk. I felt better later in the week, but then the following Saturday night, my neck was extremely sore on one side. Sunday, I went back to the doctor. Two weeks in a row – I think my doctor should give me a club card like they give at the grocery store. Diagnosis was an inflamed lymph node. The doctor ordered a CNC – report came back as negative. Jessie suggested that instead of going to the doctor, if I didn’t want to do the race, that I just shouldn’t do it. This comment reminded me to not share with her any of my injuries or illnesses in the future.

The Days Before the Leadville Trail 100

Jessie and I dropped the kids off at their grandparents’ house and headed to Leadville the day before the race. I checked in and we bumped into biking legend Tinker Juarez. Then the racers joined in a rousing welcome from race director and founder Ken Chlouber in the local gym. I was pumped and really ready to get this thing started. We grabbed lunch and then I did a pre-race bike cleaning, ate dinner, and then went to bed for a generally sleepless night.

Leadville Trail 100
I heard there were 5,000 entries into the event, 1,900 people would be selected to participate via the lottery, 1,600 racers would toe the line, and approximately 1,100 official finishers would cross the finish line within 12 hours of the start. Would I be one that would finish the race in time to earn the buckle? At the start line prior to the firing of the shot gun to start the race, there were two thoughts that filled my mind. Ken, the race organizer, mentioned prior to the event that we should not quit during our respective efforts to claim the buckle. He said when you are asked if you earned the buckle, it will be much better to say “yes”, than to quit during the race and have to explain for half an hour why you failed to get it. The other lingering thought was that of my family members. I could not have taken on this type of challenge without the support and sacrifice of my wife and our six kids. In addition to my heavy work travel schedule, training did take time from those who are most important in my life. I believed that succeeding in my effort was important to them and I did not want to let them down. And I did not want all of the time away from them to be for naught – I had to claim that buckle.

Sunrise at 6am before the start of the race

Race Timeline
The morning air was crisp but pretty pleasant. I expected it to be a pretty warm day, but I still chose to wear my bright yellow wind and water-proof road cycling jacket. As I looked around, even as the sun barely peeked over the mountains, I concluded that it was I who wore the brightest color in the whole field. First time participants began the race in the last corral and I estimate I was positioned in the last couple hundred of riders of the total 1,600 who started the race. The first portion of the race is on pavement, which switches to dirt after 3.5 miles. A countdown and a shot gun blast signals the beginning of the race, and then we were moving. The excitement I was feeling, along with the shock of the brisk start off the line in the cool morning, caused my heart rate to hit the highest number I would hit all day during just the very first three miles of the ride. We started on pavement and rolled downhill. I expected I might start too fast so I forced myself to back off a bit to ensure I wouldn’t red-line right off the bat.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
1, 0:03:22, 0, 131, 30.3, 184
2, 0:02:15, 0, 115, 32, 181
3, 0:02:17, 0, 124, 31.7, 181

The weather had been very dry and as I approached the dirt road for this first climb, I saw a huge cloud of gray dust that trailed the first thousand plus riders who had already started up the path to St Kevin’s mine. I was soon literally eating their dust. Later photographs show a nice buildup of dirt caked on my front teeth.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
4, 0:06:55, 71, 0, 27.1, 163
5, 0:04:14, 48, 30, 18.8, 167
6, 0:04:03, 19, 9, 21.7, 159

The road turned uphill and at mile 7, I noticed heavy breathing amongst many of the riders. I felt pretty good and did not feel that I was out of breath at all. The pace was slow and I had too few opportunities to pass, so I stayed with the group and tried to enjoy the 800 foot ascent.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
7, 0:12:53, 281, 0, 17.3, 159

The path then turns 180 degrees to the left. This is the spot where I had turned around during my first attempt to climb St Kevin’s in May. It had been completely snow packed and on that day I made a reluctant retreat feeling unsatisfied with my effort. But on this race day, I was steady to the top. I hit the summit at St. Kevin’s at about 55 minutes. The slow traffic made me maintain a slower pace than I had planned.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
8, 0:12:26, 435, 0, 14.7, 166
9, 0:06:51, 161, 111, 19.3, 170
10, 0:07:27, 183, 143, 20.9, 159
11, 0:05:16, 136, 179, 38.8, 162

The Carter Summit Express Aid station was at mile 11. I rode by and hit the paved road where I hit my max speed for the day at 46 mph. The fastest I rode on my road bike during my prior events and training was about 40 mph. Flying down this road to Turquoise Lake at this speed was a huge rush!

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
12, 0:01:56, 28, 283, 40.6, 142
13, 0:01:37, 0, 259, 45.8, 128
14, 0:02:24, 31, 204, 39.9, 153

At the bottom of the hill, the road curved around the lake and then started a one mile pavement climb. The road switched to dirt as we started to ascend Sugarloaf Pass, which is about a 1,200 foot climb.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
15, 0:06:43, 151, 3, 19.3, 155
16, 0:06:45, 204, 0, 12, 152
17, 0:06:02, 237, 0, 11.3, 152
18, 0:12:11, 313, 0, 10.2, 162
19, 0:10:11, 270, 0, 20.4, 162

I passed the summit of Sugarloaf at one hour and 56 minutes. Then at the top, things started moving pretty fast. I was having trouble seeing through my sunglasses, given the layer of dust they had collected so far. This part of the ride was testing my technical skills – it was rocky and the grooves were taking turns grabbing at my tires. But I was feeling pretty confident and happy. My pace was about 20 mph.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
20, 0:03:59, 0, 328, 22, 153

Then during mile 21, I crashed –I flew over the handlebars onto my left shoulder. I skidded and hopped up in what seemed like a single motion, hoping the riders behind me would miss me. They did. My water bottles had escaped, but without really thinking, I had my bike and bottles secured as I sidestepped over to one side of the path, leaning into the trees. Many passing riders asked about my condition – I repeated “I am fine, keep going” several times. The brotherhood and sisterhood of the cycling community is both comforting and heart-warming. I settled for about a minute to check my bike and my body – both were still functional with no obvious damage. I had torn my jacket on my shoulder, which took the brunt of my fall. I guess I just relaxed for a second and I lost control of the front wheel.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
21, 0:06:14, 19, 401, 19.4, 155

I picked an opening and I was back on the course. My nerves had been shaken and I rode the next two miles like someone who was afraid to crash.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
22, 0:06:27, 74, 458, 17.3, 161
23, 0:06:39, 47, 441, 20.4, 160

But I steadied my nerves – the bike and I were back on track, picking up speed again.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
24, 0:04:10, 28, 67, 28, 158

The end of Powerline put us on route 300, which was paved – here I picked up more speed.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
25, 0:02:51, 23, 72, 26.7, 159
26, 0:02:53, 11, 49, 24.7, 158
27, 0:03:09, 47, 45, 25.3, 169

This section was paved then switched to dirt leading to the Pipeline Aid Station, which I hit at two hours and 32 minutes.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
28, 0:05:32, 96, 0, 17.1, 165
29, 0:04:47, 47, 0, 16.9, 158
30, 0:05:01, 78, 9, 20.8, 162
31, 0:03:37, 0, 41, 23, 156
32, 0:05:01, 80, 43, 22, 160
33, 0:05:23, 100, 103, 23, 159
34, 0:04:56, 55, 178, 21, 165
35, 0:05:18, 0, 267, 17, 146
36, 0:04:44, 75, 98, 20.1, 156
37, 0:03:38, 60, 53, 26.2, 156

Ten miles into the Pipeline section, at mile 38, I crashed again. This was a slow-paced crash during an uphill climb, but it did do some damage. The riders in front of me slowed and I had to unclip, but I failed to exit cleanly. I fell into jagged rocks that scraped some layers of skin from the front of my left leg, leaving it bloody, and I had a stinging sensation and I felt embarrassed falling in front of my fellow racers. This crash also left my bike seat twisted to the side, but I was not in a spot to fix it – so I quickly hopped on my crooked seat and continued. My actions after this event showed my inexperience and haste – this crash also caused my seat to drop about two inches – unfortunately, I would not correct this issue for the duration of the ride. Riding 60 miles on a bike with a seat dropped too low would make me pay a heavy price that would almost knock me out of the race.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
38, 0:08:04, 263, 48, 21.8, 158
39, 0:02:57, 55, 105, 29.1, 155

I crossed Highway 82 into the Twin Lakes parking area, across the Twin Lakes dam and entered the Twin Lakes Aid station at 3 hours 31 minutes. I rode through this station without stopping because I had planned to meet Jessie, who was my sole crew member, later at mile 44.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
40, 0:02:37, 0, 256, 36.4, 142

Columbine is a ten mile climb – the top is at 12,600 feet of elevation. At mile 43, I stopped and took a mere 30 seconds to straighten my seat, but I failed to raise it to the proper height. I didn’t realize it was low, but my lesson learned was to take the time to check the actual seat height – my race number was on my post and it was blocking my view of the seat height. I guess I just did not want to mess with taking off the number as I watched riders whiz by me one after another.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
41, 0:06:11, 115, 23, 16.1, 157
42, 0:07:10, 229, 145, 26.7, 171
43, 0:06:09, 104, 70, 23.4, 158

At my first official stop, I was so happy to see Jessie. I was glad she was there, even though I saw here for only seven minutes. I refueled with Perpetuem and she asked why my Heed bottle was still so full. I had been drinking only water and Perpetuem. This would later turn out to be my second mistake for the day – the Perpetuem had no electrolytes. I also carried a bottle loaded with Heed that would have met this need for me, but I ignored that bottle, not realizing the Perpetuem was not an electrolyte source. Jessie asked how I was doing – I told her I was making up lost time from St Kevin’s, and kiddingly that I was averaging a crash only every 20 miles, but I was feeling a bit fatigued. But generally I felt good and I was soon on my way up the dirt road continuing the climb to Columbine.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
44, 0:17:19, 366, 23, 12.6, 169

With six miles remaining to the peak of Columbine, I began passing a lot of riders. But I had to be careful passing because there were fast riders racing down the hill, seemingly inches away from the pack that was climbing. During miles 45 through 47, I was feeling strong and my uphill pace was pretty steady.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
45, 0:10:36, 266, 0, 18.6, 162
46, 0:12:42, 434, 0, 10.7, 166
47, 0:15:38, 534, 0, 6.7, 160

But then the road turned steep and it was time to walk. Trudging up the hill with all of my fellow riders was like ants moving in a line with no thought of anything other than the next step. I heard many of the downhill riders whooshing by – these were riders who had recently crested the top of Columbine. Many offered words of encouragement to the rest of us who were trying to reach the same goal. Calls of “you are almost there” and “keep going” entered my head but my body seemed to be saying “this is not a good idea”. I was feeling the cramping start to increase a bit at this point – but I had been drinking water and I thought my drink was replenishing essential elements needed to continue – but nope, that was not the case.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
48, 0:14:01, 403, 0, 6.9, 158
49, 0:26:53, 566, 13, 5.5, 154
50, 0:23:24, 529, 12, 9.3, 152

Walking most of the last section, I finally arrived at the Columbine Summit aid station at five hours and 50 minutes. At the top, I took a three-minute break for two Tylenol from the medical tent and I took a nature break over the edge of the mountain. But my biggest concern was the onset of cramps in my legs. The medic said to take in more water. Starting the descent, my legs began to shake and I could not clip in to my pedals. I got one in but the other would not. Starting to head down Columbine I swerved to miss a crash and hit a pedal on a large protruding rock – I kept it together, but my reaction time seemed to be slowing. It was possible that this was from the lack of oxygen, given the extreme altitude.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
51, 0:14:21, 116, 122, 16.2, 153

The remainder of the first mile of the descent went smoothly. But then came the rocky section, which was littered with boulders and I witnessed another crash in front of me. I again, safely maneuvered past that situation. As I looked in the faces of the riders forced to march up this section, my thoughts were not of encouragement, but rather of pity. Some of these riders were well behind me – I felt I was on track to finish under twelve hours, but not by much. Would these riders be able to make up the necessary time to get that buckle? I wanted to yell “go back, it’s not worth it!” and “turn around and save yourselves!” But instead, I yelled “good job – you can do this!”

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
52, 0:05:23, 0, 398, 17.2, 148

I was feeling more cramping – to the point that I could not get my foot in the pedal despite my determined effort. Soon it was too late to try anymore because I started going too fast as I traveled back down the mountain that the leaders had traversed hours before.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
53, 0:05:47, 0, 488, 16.8, 140
54, 0:04:04, 0, 446, 18.9, 131

I decided to follow a female rider down the hill– I stayed on her every line the best I could, given I could barely see out of my sunglasses. She was patient but steady. Some faster riders passed – but I was thinking a faster pace for me would turn out badly. I chose control over high speed. She seemed to be a pretty skilled rider – there were ruts and rocks and she missed them all. I was moving just as cleanly and I heard a string of riders behind me, apparently following the same trail.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
55, 0:03:58, 0, 521, 19.3, 120
56, 0:04:13, 0, 406, 18.1, 132
57, 0:03:46, 0, 382, 23.4, 132
58, 0:03:12, 0, 351, 21.3, 132
59, 0:11:49, 26, 156, 26.9, 136

I flew down the last few miles and saw my trusty crew reading a book as I came to an abrupt halt beside her – she didn’t even notice. “Hello? Help me.” I hit this point at six hours and 38 minutes. I had made up my time and I was now ahead of my goal. But I was feeling fatigued. I filled up with water and got a new bottle of Perpetuem. Again, the Heed was hardly touched. Total stop time at this crew stop was again only seven minutes. “See you at the finish line, I am ahead of schedule.” I rode through the Twin Lakes aid station without stopping.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
60, 0:07:11, 170, 78, 23.1, 154
61, 0:03:34, 0, 237, 26.6, 138
62, 0:07:50, 208, 0, 14.5, 147
63, 0:07:12, 165, 44, 14.3, 145
64, 0:03:01, 62, 264, 30.8, 137
65, 0:03:58, 0, 21, 30.8, 142
66, 0:04:21, 30, 74, 23.8, 149

I faced a steep hill called North Face at Mile 67, which took about ten minutes to walk, followed by what is called Oh My God Hill, which also took about ten minutes to walk.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
67, 0:10:06, 271, 18, 13.8, 153
68, 0:10:34, 188, 57, 23.9, 153

Then I was back on the bike and headed back towards the Pipeline Aid station.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
69, 0:06:22, 151, 104, 22.7, 148
70, 0:04:54, 76, 82, 22.6, 144
71, 0:05:13, 52, 26, 24.5, 143

I arrived at the Pipeline Aid station at eight hours and 4 minutes. I rode through without a stop. I did wave at the cheering fans along the course – you won’t find a nicer group of people than those who are out along the trail supporting all of the riders with applause and cheers.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
72, 0:04:01, 0, 73, 28.4, 141
73, 0:04:30, 14, 18, 19.2, 140
74, 0:04:09, 0, 94, 20.6, 142
75, 0:03:37, 31, 87, 20.5, 139
76, 0:05:24, 61, 0, 13.5, 139
77, 0:03:34, 0, 25, 19.6, 138

Approaching mile 78 is when I really start feeling pain from my cramps – it was starting to hurt more and I was not sure why I was experiencing them so intensely – I had not ever experienced this feeling before. Here is where I began to pray for help – I knew I would need some help because I felt I was taking in enough water and fuel, yet I was in trouble. I didn’t know what to do. At mile 79 I hopped off my bike so I could walk – but this rapid motion getting off of the bike gave me my first severe cramp of the day. I was struck by what felt like a snake bite and I could not move. Every effort to move forward created a new cramp. I looked down at the muscles in my leg, which had begun to deform and contort into shapes I had never seen. It was like they were trying to disguise themselves to make me guess what they were. But then I received an answer to my prayer – a fellow rider stopped and asked me if I was experiencing cramps. He offered me Endurolytes – I had never taken these – he gave me five and said to take three now with lots of water, and to take the others later. As I looked at them, one accidently rolled out of my hand onto the ground. It looked like it was ten feet away. It was like it was begging me to be picked up. I tried to bend to retrieve it, but I could not. The cramps were threatening me to hold still or else. I chose to hold still, then sadly walked away from this abandoned electrolyte capsule. I walked up the hill and any attempt to get on the bike resulted in more cramping. So a walking I did go. Then I received another answer to my prayer – a spectator holding a bottle of something was yelling “does anyone need water or Endurolytes?” Do I ever – “I will take six please.” She freely gave and I accepted with a glad heart. “Thank you, my dear!” I made sure not to drop these and put them in my pocket for safe keeping. Some of the friends I had made earlier in the ride were now passing me and were coaching me to get back on the bike and ride through the pain. I tried, but I could not endure the pain. I felt helpless, yet I walked as fast as I could go. I knew my body was trying to shut down – it had had enough. Miles 79 to 81 almost did me in. It was taking me far too long to climb the three mile path up Powerline.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
78, 0:06:29, 128, 0, 19.8, 143
79, 0:13:05, 226, 87, 29.5, 148
80, 0:25:30, 621, 99, 14.3, 148
81, 0:22:15, 405, 14, 16.8, 140
82, 0:17:10, 374, 0, 13.5, 143

I reached the summit of Powerline in nine hours and 54 minutes. I could now go downhill so I gently snuck onto the saddle – I performed a successful mount and now it was time to move. I started down Sugarloaf towards the gravel road then I hit the pavement. I was unclipped because efforts to lock in were still causing cramps – “when would this stop?” The supplements provided me some relief and I was euphoric to finally be on the bike again.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
83, 0:05:47, 47, 191, 17.9, 136
84, 0:05:16, 0, 340, 16, 122

Miles 85 to 87 are downhill – I was completely unclipped, which created a harrowing ride down, because as I picked up speed, my feet slipped on and off the pedals. I hit 33 mph and again I was partly blinded by the dust, which I realized was also covering my eyes, in addition to coating my glasses.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
85, 0:03:16, 0, 278, 22.6, 120
86, 0:03:31, 20, 109, 23.3, 120
87, 0:02:07, 0, 263, 33.6, 119

I headed to the road around Turquoise Lake – I asked a spectator to fill my water bottles. I love these people who were saving me on this ride. Then I traveled on the pavement up the 1,000 foot vertical rise – as I climb the steep road, it becomes clear to me how I hit those top speeds earlier in the day. But then I was finally able to clip in – this was so much better because now I could create some power with an upstroke. I met a fellow rider from NE who gave me a rundown of how fast we had to finish these last miles to meet our goal. The math added up, but I knew the required speeds would be a challenge to maintain. That little chat with my new friend really motivated me.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
88, 0:05:35, 110, 30, 28.2, 135
89, 0:09:41, 305, 0, 10.4, 140
90, 0:10:12, 246, 0, 16.6, 140
91, 0:12:09, 195, 0, 21.1, 138

I approached the Carter Summit aid station with the goal of a maximum two minute stop. I yelled out for some Tylenol. A spectator appeared and gave me two tablets – I gulped them down with more Endurolytes. I ate some watermelon and leaned on a tree to help me clip in for the last 13 miles. My legs were shaking and I struggled to get in the clip so I could finally move up the hill. After two miles, I hit the St Kevin’s Summit at 11 hours and 6 minutes. Finally I was feeling good again, but my only question now was whether I would have enough in the tank to finish on time.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
92, 0:05:49, 85, 289, 19, 144
93, 0:08:04, 163, 159, 21.9, 140

The cramps seemed to be gone but I was watching the clock tick away precious seconds. I was making up time, passing riders like they were not even moving.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
94, 0:04:03, 40, 334, 21.8, 135
95, 0:03:14, 0, 388, 23.3, 124
96, 0:03:22, 0, 60, 25.9, 133

I felt renewed and I sensed that I was on track to do this.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
97, 0:03:07, 0, 30, 25.4, 138
98, 0:03:19, 55, 114, 24.3, 141
99, 0:02:45, 20, 106, 25.4, 140

We moved from a dirt road to a paved road that then turned into dirt trail. Then finally we turned towards town up a steep section called the “The Boulevard”. I follow a fellow rider, matching his cadence – we marched in unison up the hill.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
100, 0:05:20, 95, 41, 23.3, 152
101, 0:04:41, 108, 15, 24.7, 149
102, 0:05:35, 131, 0, 17.4, 151

The volunteers along this section of the path were advising riders that the clock was about to strike, or in the case of Leadville, the shotgun blast was about to be fired, signaling the end of the race. I was heading to the finish line, but I was running out of time. Then I rode up 6th street, which was another tough climb, before finally seeing the finish line.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
103, 0:05:51, 142, 0, 26.2, 154

Hearing my name over the loud speaker as I lumbered the last section of the race was like hearing the sweetest music. The fans were cheering and I had recovered from certain defeat to accomplish this goal.

Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
104, 0:02:08, 41, 0, 13.9, 151

TOTALS
Mile, Time, Elevation Gain, Elevation Loss, Max Speed, Max HR
11:48:11, 12,449, 12,454, 45.8, 184

“Buckle Baby!”
My official time finishing the race was 11:48:07 – The finishers’ medal was placed around my neck. But I hardly remember how I felt – all I know is that I was spent and in pain. I was leaning over my bike in agony as the cramps returned, like unwelcomed guests. It was like my body knew the race was over and had only held on until that last pedal stroke before finally shutting down. Jessie relieved me of my bike at the finish line and I limped to the medical tent, finally looking down, proudly watching the medal swing in cadence to my limping steps. My legs were suffering from severe cramping and I was dehydrated. I curled into a sleeping bag on a cot and I tried not to make any sudden movements, as each turn in the bag left me reeling in pain. As new cramps appeared, I labored to work to rub them out, while containing my urge to whimper too loudly. The cramps would alternately hit the calves and hamstrings, like they were competing to see which could make me scream. I downed eight electrolyte drinks and I ate slices of watermelon and saltine crackers. Jessie patiently waited for me to recover- I could see in her face that she yearned to get something to eat. She is always a very pleasant person, except when she is hungry. That was my bit of extra incentive to get better faster. But I couldn’t rush it – I tried once to get out of the bag, but I quickly cramped up and let out a shriek that made my fellow tent-dwellers wonder what was happening. Finally after 40 minutes, I was able to limp out of the tent. That sleeping bag and cot felt as comfortable to me as a new pillow-top mattress on a vacation morning – I longed to stay there, but I forced myself out. So it was off to a restaurant for a pasta dinner, then off to bed in advance of the awards ceremony to be held on the next day. Jessie wanted to leave early and just have them send me the buckle in the mail – but after my journey that had a final chapter of crossing the finish line in under twelve hours, I just didn’t have the heart to leave. So we attended the ceremony and I proudly collected my award – an award that I share with my wife and six kids. They had sacrificed like I did during my ride for the buckle, given the significant amount of Saturday hours training instead of spending more time with each of them.

Final Reflections
As I reflect on my quest, I realize I left some of my blood on the course and I left my sweat on the course as I labored the almost twelve hours, with only few minutes of rest. And although I didn’t leave any tears on the course, I had moments that, had I not been so focused on the finish line, I would have broken down – but I had vowed not to give up. And while on the rocky paths through Leadville and up and down Columbine and Powerline, my heart grew and I gained a new measure of courage as I rolled along those 105 miles. I also learned a few life lessons along the way. I proved to myself that I could take on a monumental challenge that few people will ever try to take on. I planned, trained and executed to the best of my ability, with an eye on the prize in the form of that belt buckle. That buckle stands as a symbol to me – one that will sustain me as I strive to accomplish other goals in the future. But even more importantly, I will especially recall some specific memories from this experience that may serve as lessons to my kids. I want them to seek the fortitude required to take on challenges in their lives that may at first seem to be insurmountable. I will stress the importance of setting specific goals then establishing plans necessary to achieve those goals. I will reinforce the need to execute the plan they design. I would remind them that most goals of any significance often require personal sacrifice and the support of loved ones. And striving after a goal may also require loved ones to fill the role of a support crew, who patiently and lovingly stand by your side. And finally, there are going to be times along each difficult ride in life where we have to call on God for help and strength. My message to them is if they do these things, they will accomplish any quest they set out to achieve. My proof is the Leadville Trail 100 belt buckle, which I now wear with pride.

 

 

 

 

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