Thursday, August 8, 2013

Leadville 100 MTB Preview

In 2 days, I'll be racing across the sky.  (Fast forward 2 days...the race report.)  I arrived in Leadville several days ago with my racing buddy, Jen.  We have been doing final week preparation, including (acclimatizing) a few key pre-rides, getting time splits in our heads (and later on our bikes), and topping off the fuel/nutrition plans.    Here are some pictures from the days leading up to the big race. 

We left Texas on Saturday (one week before race day) and stayed overnight in Raton, NM.  This broke up the 13 hour drive, plus gave us a "buffer" night at altitude.  We got a good night's rest at around 6,700 ft. elevation before waking up and driving into Leadville (elevation 10, 200 ft.)  on Sunday morning.  Along the way, we hit a few showers.  One of them left a full rainbow in its wake.

The Motel 6 in Raton has an interesting way of designating their rooms as non-smoking...just in case you want to break the rules, they are happy to oblige. 

Jen and I finally arrived in Leadville, and a kind gentleman took our picture.  Looks like he wanted to be in it, too.

We caught the tail end of the annual "Boom Days" Festival.  Apparently, one of the events is a burro race.  These guys go 15 miles on foot.  I wonder if the racer in back ever sneaks a sit when the forerunner isn't looking.

The local bike shop in Leadville, Cycles of Life, has been a popular place this week.  Everyone in there is super friendly despite a crazy week for them.  This is Piper, an employee's dog.  She isn't posing here, they said she loves to hug her bear.

After taking it easy on Sunday, Jen and I headed out for the first of two days pre-riding the course.  Monday we rode the start to Carter aid station almost 11 miles out.  We got a taste of the first major climb, St. Kevin's.  We stopped near the top at an old mine to snap a few shots.

Great shot of Jen.


 After the up and down, we headed back towards town to see the gradual-but-nevertheless-uphill finish, which is different than the start.  I wanted to be mentally ready for what would be required for the last 5 miles.  I mean, after 98 miles, every pebble and small slope will probably seem like a boulder and Everest. 

I love this open meadow.  Hopefully I'll employ the same tactic as in the Silver Rush and remember to look up and take in the surroundings when my mind and body get tired. 

In between pre-riding and hanging out, we stopped by the Herbalife 24 hour base camp and picked up a goodie bag.  I snapped a shot of the suggested split times and the course profile.  They had smaller handouts of the same, which were useful tools in planning for race day.

Our second day of pre-riding included the infamous Powerline climb.  We headed to the Pipeline Aid station and worked our way backwards, to and up Powerline, to the top of Sugarloaf, and back.

Jen and I showed off our sponsors' jerseys, the Emergo Group.  Well, it is actually Jen's employer who offered to pay for her entry fee ($345 big ones), lodging for a week, gas, and food.  Since I got to tag along with the lodging and gas part of it, I consider them my "sponsor," too.  Maybe next year I'll walk into the principal's office at my school and, well, nevermind. 

From the base of Powerline, you can see the grade starts mild, but at the top...

It gets so steep that only the top pros can ride it.  During the race, this climb comes toward the end, so even champions of the LT100 end up walking it.  As I began the descent on our way back, I saw Rebecca Rusch ascending.  She was climbing like it was nothing.  Pretty cool.  From the bottom to the top, I only rode a little bit and walked the rest.  It took 14 minutes.  It's really not that bad on "fresh legs."  Perhaps it's the fact that you still have a couple of miles of climbing to get to the top of Sugarloaf after you conquer the beast, or that when you hit the climb on race day you've been riding longer than a normal workday lasts, that some say it can be a real crusher. 

One more look from the top.  Jen made it up first and took a shot of me on my little stroll.

This is the backside of Powerline.  So going outbound, we will get to climb this, then descend the gnarly booger.  On the pre-ride, I descended it under control.  Even then, twice I had to really check my speed and my back tire washed out a little.  I'm telling myself to be careful during the race, when adrenaline will also be in play.  As I've heard before (and remembered during the SilverRush a few times), "you won't win the race in the downhills, but you sure can lose it."  Well, I ain't even trying to win anything, just make it safely to the finish line in under a dozen hours. 

The descent was so much fun.  I hope I'm smiling this much come race day.  That's my goal anyway.

 Thanks Emergo!

It's easy to get anxious about how the race will unfold.  For example, the weather forecast is a low of 30 something and a hi of 60 something.  With a 40% chance of rain.  What if we have to descend Powerline in the rain?  Will I have enough clothing to avoid hypothermia, or will I overheat?  It's easy to wonder if all the training will pay off, if at the end of this long journey I will be able to look back and say, "Man, that was worth it" whatever the results may be.  Of course I hope to cross the finish line.  And of course I hope it is before the cut off time so I can get all the cool swag that official finishers get.  Like a belt buckle and a medal around my neck.  And a finisher's sweatshirt and pendant and my name in the books.  I hope to accomplish the "finishing" part of this Leadville 100 goal because it is never easy in life when we come up short.  With so much on the line, no wonder it is easy to get anxious.   This is where I have to take a step back and remember reality.  (Maybe that is what inspired me to put "my story" as a permanent fixture at the top of this just last week.)  I am free to look down the long road on Saturday with a smile and enjoy every minute of it.  Rain or shine.  Buckle or no buckle.  There will be fun and beauty and adventure in the day no matter what, so I will make sure to look for it.  Nothing can keep me from that goal.  That is the goal that is attainable regardless of all the unknowns. 

 A view from the first turn onto the dirt heading towards St. Kevin's, looking back the other way to the south.

This was the first of my two fishing spots.  Getting out in nature has been the best way for me to keep this week in perspective.  Plus, I always see something incredible.  A fawn, pronghorn sheep, elk, a huge hawk, and some fish, among other beauties.

After coming up short every single time fly fishing last trip to Colorado, I finally got a fish in the net!  I had almost given up and called it a day.  It had been raining on and off (that's when I took the picture with the railroad tracks, you can see the storm coming) and I had tangled my line not once, but twice.  But alas!  I finally caught one. 
After making the fish pose for me, I set him back in the water and watched him dart away.

After success the first evening out, I had to try my hand again.  The day Jen and I parked at Pipeline aid station, we took a wrong turn when we drove in.  I'm glad we did, because I spotted a pool of water with several fish swimming.  I had to go back.  I caught two more little dudes.  Forgive the pun, but I'm officially hooked on fly fishing. 

Well, I guess it's time to sign off.  The next post will be LT100 Race day recap!

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