Thanks to Dave Jardinico for sending us this excellent race recap … and Thanks to his family for putting up with him all year! <GMSV>
Ah…The Leadville 100 MTB Race. I hatched the plan to do the renowned Leadville 100 MTB Race (“LT100”) about February 2014, right after my entry into the lottery was rejected. I decided to put the cash down and sign up for the Camp of Champions put on by the Leadville Race Series. My plan was fairly simple: commit to the LT100, ride my ass off all summer, and enter most of the RME races to check fitness along the way. Make no mistake my friends, training for the LT100 requires some sacrifices. As of this writing, I have an entire summer worth of “summer time only” chores that I am expected to catch up on in the waning weeks of this summer. My family definitely took a back seat to my training, and despite all of the training, I did manage an abbreviated vacation around the Fourth of July. No, I didn’t sell the family on a vacation where my ulterior motives involved two wheels. I spent many of Saturday and Sunday mornings in the winter and spring complaining about the crappy weather, snow, frigid temperatures, and boredom on the inside rides. I also missed an entire summer of fly-fishing, and I haven’t brewed a single batch of beer since 2013.
The RME series races went pretty well. In the 40-49 category, I managed 27/76 in the Ridgeline Rampage, 20/68 in the Battle the Bear, and 9/12 in the Indian Creek race. A couple Green team mates told me the Indian Creek race was a real bitch, and it was no joke. You might argue it was harder than the LT100. I posted 9/12 in that race, but I can tell you there were a lot more than 12 guys that toed the line in my category, but I’m not sure where everyone went. I can’t say I blame them. That race was a real pain in the ass, but it was great training for the LT100.
Make no mistake, the LT100 is full of fan fare. The days leading up to Leadville are something akin to the Circus coming to town. The town is definitely dependent upon the Leadville Race Series for a great portion of its summer economic success. I could not avoid the pomp and circumstance associated with the race, as much as I tried. I arrived on Thursday evening prior to the Race, put in my obligatory warm-up ride on Friday to make sure the steed was functioning properly. Saturday morning couldn’t come fast enough. I was relegated to one corral in front of the complete newbies, thanks to the Camp of Champions. In front of me, towards the start line, all I could see was spandex, carbon, and aluminum, and hear the din of pre-start nervousness. As the start approached, and the gun finally when off, we moved nowhere, as the mass of riders in front of us slowly revved into motion, much like a freight train loaded with coal. Finally, thoroughly chilled and several minutes later, off we went on up Sixth Avenue.
The climb up St. Kevins was everything people told me and worse. Kinda like I-70 West on a snowy morning in the winter – bumper to bumper, or, in my case, tire to tire. It didn’t break loose until we were over the top and out on to the road. My training served me well, but I really couldn’t let loose here. There were simply too many people on the trail at the same time.
Then the descent of the infamous Powerline. A cautious and conservative descent down Powerline with four guys directly in front of me successfully carried me down to the next paved section where the wind blows thoroughly in your face both directions. I managed to get into a group on the road to Pipeline, and we worked together very well to make the journey to Pipeline much shorter than I remember in practice runs.
Next up, the Pipeline aid station, where my son and daughter were waiting patiently for me, sending me off with replenished supplies to Twin Lakes, where my wife awaited to top off any supplies I needed for the long climb up Columbine. Columbine is a steady grind up, until you reach tree line. The Columbine approach is where one gets to see the eventual winners go whizzing past as they descend and you climb. I felt strong on the ascent, and once I reached tree line, I spotted the long train of bikers on foot, and I felt disappointed. The section definitely steepens quite a bit, and there are loose, rocky sections that require concentration. I had pre-ridden this section some 4-5 times, and not once did I ever have to walk it. But again, it was a lot like I-70 west – volume simply wouldn’t allow you to ride, and once someone bobbled and dabbed a foot, the entire “train” stopped. I found myself encouraging those in front of me to give the ole bike a try and jump back into the saddle. I must have been annoying the shit out of some of these guys and gals – Sorry folks.
Photo courtesy Mountain Flyer
The top of Columbine was a circus just like in town. Drones with Go Pros attached flying overhead, vehicles parked, music playing, and an aid station packed with goodies. I partook in some hot soup, coke, and a couple gels before pulling up my sleeves and starting the descent. The loose stuff I had just ascended beat the crap out of me on the way down, but I attempted to move as fast as I could without crashing. The descent from tree line on down to Twin Lakes was uneventful, and I finally started believing this race was doable. I flew in to TL, re-supplied water bottles, gels, and chomps and took off towards Pipeline. I managed to find a guy with the Green Mountain kit, but I could tell it was an older vintage. I asked him about it, he said he knew Corky, but moved out of state a few years ago. We worked together on the draft back to Pipeline, joined by some tall, fast girl from Kansas City. Once we got to the top of the singletrack, I took off. I rolled into Pipeline to see my kids, and my wife who had just pulled in from Twin Lakes, re-supplied and lubed for the last leg of the race, and told them I would see them at the finish.
The road from pipeline to the base of Powerline sucked, or in this case blew, as a stiff 45 degree headwind worked me over the entire distance. Luckily, a group of four fellows came past and told me to join in their line. Once we passed the fishery, I took off, with some girl from Georgia close by. She pulled slightly ahead just before the left to Powerline, and she took the left a bit too hot because she slid and went down hard on her left side. It looked like it hurt, but she jumped up, I asked her if she was alright, and when she said yes, I took off. Up the preliminary part of Powerline I rode, until I came upon another string of people walking up. In practice, I had made it up about a quarter of the way until there was a steep pitch that I just decided was faster to walk. Not today. Traffic held me back again, and I had to walk from about the first right turn all the way up to my normal re-mount spot where it levels off slightly for a short stretch. Once I was able to re-mount, the clump of riders seemed to loosen up, and I could ride the rest of Powerline. My legs still had plenty left in the tank. The rest of Powerline was uneventful, I just kept grinding up. Over the top, up and over Sugar Loaf Pass, and back down the baby-headed descent of Hagerman Pass.
A right turn on to the gravel road, and a left back on to the asphalt road for a short descent at high speed. Once you round the corner at about Printer Boy, the road is up, up, up, until you hit Carter Summit, where a neutral aid station awaited. By this time my stomach was asking “what’s up with all the gels?” and I stopped at Carter Summit aid station to refill my water bottles with just plain water to counter the souring stomach. I ate a quarter PBJ form the aid, and took off. There were still a few steep pitches to get over, but they were short and sweet. Strangely, I still had some “umph” in my legs but I could see from my watch that I had missed the Sub-9 hour cutoff and I was still at Carter Summit. No big buckle for me – shit. However, I was going to finish, and the question was, could I get a sub-10 finish.
I descended St.Kevins in a big hurry, arriving on the flat, loose sandy section very quickly. I could smell the barn. I was cranking away when someone came up and started drafting off me. Really? This late in the race, and you’re drafting off me? Once we hit the road, the person came around and said “hey, let’s work together to the finish.” I could see it was the Georgia girl who had yard-saled right before Powerline. I thought, wow, she is resilient…..and fast. How in the hell did she catch me? Anyway, we had a tailwind, and on to the railroad service road we went. She took off like she was going for a new PR or something, turning left on to the “Boulevard” about 15 seconds ahead of me. I started reeling her back in, but once we hit the easier gravel, she pulled away again. She simply had a bit more speed left in her tank, and I, for some idiotic reason, didn’t see any reason to chase her down. I could see a few others up a ways on the Boulevard, and I did manage to pass a couple guys, but ratcheting up my speed seemed pointless at this late in the game. I was getting a 9:55+ or 10:05+ time-no question. What was the point in sprinting? Catch the guy 50 yards up the road? My mind was messing with me. Once off the gravel boulevard, left on to McWethy, and a right on Sixth, where you cannot see the finish until you get over this little pitch. Then it’s downhill to the finish. Once I hit that pitch, I was elated. I looked up the road, and could see the hoards of people at the finish, waiting for their racer to come down the road. As I approached what looked like a crowd straight from a mountain stage in the Tour De France, I couldn’t help but start high-fiving people as I rode past. It seemed like the right thing to do. The red carpet finally came, and I finally finished. I shook hands with Dave Wiens, who was a coach at the Camp of Champions, and who is probably the nicest and most personable guy I met during this journey. Leadville 100 finish in the bag!
This race was a journey for sure. A huge shout goes out to my wife, who endured supporting me during the races leading up to the LT100, and the increasing stress associated with the marquis race of the season. I’m not easy to get along with when I am focused on training, which is probably why I spend most of it solo. My wife kept telling me, “Enjoy the journey. Don’t get hung up on finishing the race because before you know it, it’ll be over.” It’s true. I had put so much in to preparing for this race, I almost have a hollow feeling now, almost like when your first kid leaves for college. I am already plotting how I can shave an hour off and get the sub-9 hour buckle. Simply put, and all you other Type “A” bike racers probably know what I’m talking about, I am sure I could do better. I did not feel exhausted one bit when I finished. Sure, I was tired of being on my bike, but that’s more of an attention thing. If I could have gotten further up the corral line, perhaps the “traffic jams” wouldn’t have been so severe, and I should have emptied the tank a bit more out on the course, arriving at the finish line more exhausted. So, those are my marching orders for next year. Who knows if I’ll get in the lottery, but I am hooked. The other issue is that my wife is pretty sick of my fussing over preparation for this race, and I am not so sure she has another year of tolerance in her. All things considered, I would definitely recommend this race. The organizers have their proverbial shit together, and any way you look at it, it’s no small feat to complete it.
Final time: 10 hours, 9 minutes, 44 seconds
Place: 622 out of 1285