Race Report: Leadville Trail 100

I tried to have my bike and gear all prepped by Thursday evening so that I could go out for one last ride Friday morning. Things didn’t quite work out that way. For being on vacation, it sure was a busy week.
I got up early Friday morning and went out for a final shakedown ride on the Colorado Trail heading across Copper Mountain. Rebel Sports in Frisco did some last minute work on my Salsa and I wanted to make sure everything was running smoothly. They did a great job and I simply didn’t want my ride to end!

I had to get to the racer’s meeting though, so my ride was less than an hour. I headed down Leadville for the meeting, where it was standing room only.
Lancey Pants makes an appearance at the meeting
Aside from medical information, there wasn’t much in the way of actual racer’s information given, but it was great to hear the speeches and see so many mtb legends in the same room. I’m glad I went.
After the meeting I had to get my drop bag ready and then dash over to Team Topeak-Ergon’s race headquarters for a quick interview with Jeff Kerkove. It was really cool to talk with Topeak-Ergon Team riders, Sonya Looney and Yuki Ikeda while waiting for Jeff, who had his phone glued to one ear. He was responsible for the entire team’s logistics and hearing some of the pre-race chatter and prep was pretty cool. After all, the team ended up having an amazing showing at Leadville.

I hung out in town for a little while, then made my way back to Copper to kick back. The alarm would come early at 4:00am the next morning and I wanted to be as fresh as possible. 
I made my way to Leadville early Saturday morning and found a good parking spot. I spun around the street for a while and headed to my corral at about 5:45am with about 2,000 other racers eager for the 6:30am start. The weather was milder than I expected, which was a good thing. I had a great starting position and my plan was to stay pretty conservative until Columbine, keeping my HR in zone 2/3. I tried not to get too discouraged as the sea of riders passed me by the hundreds as I coasted downhill, spinning whenever I could.

We hit the dirt and I glanced to my right. There were low hanging clouds hovering over the mountains. I was actually doing the Leadville 100. I was so happy in that moment. It’s not too often that you get the luxury of enjoying the views during a race, but I soaked in the view as best I could.

We approached the bottom of St. Kevins. It was time to go to work. I quickly started passing riders to the left, to the right, up the middle. “Single left. Single right. Single in the middle.” I couldn’t believe how accommodating everyone was. I was passing groups of 10 to 20 riders for every pass. Not once did I lose my momentum. I didn’t burn too many matches making my passes either, which was something I was concerned about. Conga lines? Yes and plenty long too, but all I had to do was throw out that magical word “single” and the sea of riders parted.  This was awesome!!

I knew I was getting closer to the top of the first major climb. About 45 minutes had passed and I was feeling really good. I was in a group of 3 geared riders who were climbing with me. Then that dreaded sound……PFFSSSSST!! I got in my saddle, not squishy, good. I looked at the rear tire of the rider to my left. His looked low, tough luck, he had been climbing really well. I looked over and said: “Dude, it’s your rear.” He looked down. The guy behind me yelled, “no man, it’s you.” Impossible I thought. Brand new rubber, my lines were clean, no way it was me. I glanced down and saw my sealant spitting out of the sidewall. It was punctured. I didn’t panic, but there was no denying I was not happy. The hole was too big to simply burn a can of air and hope it sealed, so I threw in a tube and booted the tire with a dollar bill. I was carrying one other tube and a second can of air, but flatting this early in the race was unsettling. Not to mention some of the herd I had passed earlier were now passing me by in droves. I got back on the course and started pushing a lot harder than I should have.  The descent down Powerline was a little sketchy, but fun. I just didn’t want to flat, so I took it pretty easy coming down.

The tube seemed to be holding up well, but it was pretty unnerving. In hindsight, I should have left a drop bag at every aid station with extra tubes/air. If I would have done that, I probably wouldn’t have been as worried about the tire, but as it stood, my one and only drop bag was waiting for me at the top of Columbine. I was feeling good through Pipeline and Twin Lakes, but was much farther back than I wanted to be. 

Then it came time to tackle Columbine. I was getting pretty close to the tree line when the 2-way traffic started. It was great to see the top riders flying down, but it gave me little opportunity to continue to make passes. Those racers were screaming down! Once we got above the tree line, the traffic increased, the pitch increased and I was forced to dismount and walk with the herd. Kind of demoralizing because I knew I was losing valuable time. A sub 9hr finish was my goal. I hit Goat Trail outbound with a time of 4:33. I had to be at the top of Columbine in this time to meet my goal. I started to realize I was not going to make it. I tried not to worry so much about it and simply go as hard as I could go. The descent down Columbine was a blast and a great opportunity for me to rest my legs and regroup. 

When I hit the flats on the way to Powerline, the headwinds were killer. Geared riders would zoom by and offer help, but there was no way I could hang onto anyone’s wheel. My only solace was in riding most of the way to Powerline with another SS. We pretty much leap frogged each other from that point until the finish. 

I kept trading off emotions. Disappointment in missing my goal, vs. the satisfaction of racing my first Leadville on an SS. I knew I’d be lucky to go sub 10 by the time I got to Powerline, so the predominant emotion was disappointment, but the closer to the finish line I got, the more excited I became. Other than the flat, I had a clean race. In the end, I finished in 10:05. Though the power in my legs was missing, I had stood up to the altitude and gave it my best shot. I can live with that.

Huge props to Lifetime Fitness and the fantastic volunteers. I was ‘self-supported’, but felt like I had my own crew at every aid station. The volunteers definitely make this race a unique experience.

Final Results: 15th Place, 104 miles, 12,612 ft total climbing

Not sure why my Strava data was short on the elevation data, but here’s the ride

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