Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB The Finish

My previous 2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB posts.

Powerline Climb

I'm staring up at the Powerline climb. Dreading it. I fight this beast every year. The beast is winning. Not just winning, this 3 mile climb kicks my ass.

My Powerline Climbs - The steep section

I stop and do my best to get the sweat out of my eyes, and take this opportunity to eat and drink.

Back to pushing. Sweating. Riding. Pushing. Sweating.

Around 4 miles after you turn off the highway, it levels out. You can ride again. I find the Sugarloaf descent a welcome change of pace. Doing my best to recover and go fast simultaneously.

I'm out of water. I'm thirsty. Bad combo. Some insanely awesome spectators are handing out bottles of water at the base of the Carter Summit climb. Even lukewarm water was a little bit of heaven.

I felt some eagerness in my legs, and climbed with a purpose. I grab some electrolytes at the Carter Summit aid station and work my way through the little punch-ups en route to St. Kevin's.

The descent went really smooth.
I was getting excited.

At the base of St. Kevin's, I came upon Rhys Lyster, an Australian. Rhys asks if there's a chance to make the finish line in under 10 hours. My math, clouded by a long day, still came up with "NO".

I clarify that "NO" was just my opinion, and he should certainly try. Just be aware, you still have the boulevard to climb, and don't underestimate its difficulty.

Rhys hit the boosters and hammered through the mud holes by the railroad tracks.

I caught Rhys on that rocky section up to main road. I told him this section is short lived, and there's some smooth gravel at the top of the hill. He thanked me.

I worked the boulevard hard and a few minutes later, I was taking the right hand turn at the school. 

At the crest of the hill I see the finish line. That strip of red carpet that says you can rest now. The spectators funnel you to the finish line mats. Your mind wants to sprint that last bit, and I'm sure my pace improved, but it was lame as far as sprints go.

Merilee medals me. The awesome Linda Guerrette snaps a photo. Thank you Linda.

At the Finish Line

Super crew Cynthia takes over and guides me through the chaos. She's pushing my bike now. Cynthia, Thank You. I pushed that thing enough for one day.

My friend John Bradley crushed his way to another big buckle with a 8:48.

John Bradley at the Finish Line

Friend and Leadman competitor Jake Bradley clocked in at 10:15. Well done my friends!

Jake is Done!

A HUGE THANK YOU to Team Trailspring for all the support at Leadville. 

Myself, Matt, and Jason

Single digit finish, that's motivation for 2016.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Singletrack & SingleTrack Mind Festival

September 2nd, 2015

Wednesday evening, I met up with John² (Long & Bradley) and ventured out to Two Rivers Mountain Bike Park to recon the course, as I planned to race XC Marathon on Sunday of the Singletrack Mind Festival.

We admire the improvements to the facilities and all the new trail since my last visit. The XC course basically laps the perimeter of the park.

Two things quickly became obvious.

  • 3 or 4 laps of this course was going to be a tough workout.
  • Wow, it's been a long time since I rode singletrack of substance. 

Near the 8 mile mark of the 9 mile XC loop, you enter the downhill section which has a wall ride feature. Me, not having ridden the wall recently*, though it prudent to give it a go. 

In my minds eye, it was gonna look like this.

Actual wall I tried to ride, with a rider actually riding the wall

In reality, my ride was less impressive. I feel that 1 or maybe 2 of those pesky laws of Newton's colluded to make my wall ride less than epic. Then, my audience of alleged friends, both, exacerbated the situation by laughing, a lot.

The fall that immediately followed the shortage of momentum, force, adhesion, lack of friction and other NASAish stuff, sent me on a sliding path to terra berma**.

A path that put a nice burn on my forearm, and somehow knocked my rear wheel out of the dropouts. 

While I pick up the pieces, John² done what good friends do. 

Rode on without me.

** Similar to terra firma, just packed down with a shovel

September 5th, 2015

Saturday I volunteered at the Singletrack Mind Festival. My duties included mixing up copious amounts of electrolyte drink, and directing racers to the parking lot. I enjoyed the parking lot duty as it afforded me an opportunity to make this fashion statement.

And yes, I know the reflective vest looks good with the pirate socks. 

This is not me, nor will it ever be - Photo credit to Kimberly Metzger

This is not me, nor will it ever be - Photo credit to Kimberly Metzger

My friend Jim Phillips made a video of the gravel ride from the festival Saturday morning. Check it out. Great job Jim!

The vibe was great Saturday and I enjoyed seeing my friends, and all of the trail running participants.

Major kudos to all of the Singletrack Mind team for an impressive weekend.

September 6th, 2015

Race day. The XC marathon starts at 10:00am, and it's already a sauna.

That's me, the handsome one.

I started out really conservative, and got progressively slower, just to make sure I didn't blow up.

I did.

Lap 1 = 58:50
Lap 2 = 59:16
Lap 3 = 1:08:15 (If math is not your friend, this is where I blew up)

If you made it back to the start/finish before the 3 hour mark, you had the opportunity to start another lap, or be heckled.

I faked several mechanicals, sat with my head on the handlebars (not fake), and used a few other secret tricks to make sure I was NOT at the start/finish in under 3 hours.

Post race. Absolutely drenched.

As you can see in the results here, I absolutely crushed it*.

*Mid-pack fodder as usual

September 9th, 2015

Wednesday evening. I'm in a hurry, running late to Magruderville.

It's been a year since I had ridden Magruderville. I missed it, but had a busy racing season.

The man

Tom's place has a great laid back vibe, some righteously tight single, and post ride food and beverages.

Post ride socializing. Photo credit to Magruderville

It was nearly dark upon my arrival. I slapped on some lumens and set out on a solo lap. 

The Magruderville trail building team have been busy in the last 12 months, and I enjoyed the new sections. I was again reminded of how little singletrack I've ridden.

Tom gave me a tour of the newly renovated kitchen (the termites had attacked). It was nice to sit around the fire a while.

Thanks Tom.

September 12th, 2015

Saturday morning it was 54 miles of road riding with the usual suspects. It was different. I had fingers on my gloves, and arm warmers!

John Long and I ran out to Sac River afterwards and watched a little CX racing, then made a lap.

What a beautiful weekend.


2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB Part 4

I'm behind schedule for sub-10 hrs.

For reasons I can't define, I'm slower climbing Columbine. Slower than last year. Not to plan. It was the section from the base to the tree line, but I can assure you, no naps were taken.

Twin Lakes to Columbine

I'm d e

A welcome reprieve from the last 1hr:45min of high altitude climbing.

The smell, the sound, both familiar. 

Screeching brakes. Brakes pushed to the limit. Begging to cool down, if only for a few seconds.

That "slipping clutch" smell, for those fortunate enough to have grown up around abused manual transmissions.

"On Your Left!.....I'm coming around on your left!" he yelled. I thought to myself, there's enough room for one bike on my left, and it's currently occupied by racers trudging up.

I'm descending the goat trail, having just left Columbine aid station, en route to Twin Lakes aid station inbound.

The rider behind me, convinced I'm not descending fast enough, is trying to pass me. Maybe I wasn't descending fast enough, but I was descending as fast as my skill set and self preservation awareness allowed. There are only 2 lines in this particular area, and I'm not leaving mine so Danny Downhiller* can exercise his descending prowess.

I said nothing, focusing on the task at hand.

Danny wasn't having it. 

He's convinced there's an opening.

I know this, due to the "b-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-p" sound coming from the spokes on the left rear of my bike.

I feel Danny turning into my bike. Danny yells an expletive. Danny hits the surface of the rock strewn goat trail with a sound not unlike a sack of potatoes, tossed in the driveway..............from a 10-ft. step ladder.  

Not once did I see Danny. Not once did I even try to look back, not from apathy, but fear of suffering the same fate as Danny Downhiller. I hope his injuries were superficial. And I hope Danny finds safer places to pass. 

The remainder of the descent was non-eventful. I did see a rider lying on the roadside, receiving attention from EMS. Not a good sign. 

Columbine to Twin Lakes

At 5hr:45min of racing, I roll back into Twin Lakes. Cynthia refuels me. Mark strips me of my arm warmers, and gives me a strong shove-off.

I'm on my way to the singletrack.

Inbound on the Singletrack 

Bitch hill was just that. I work my way through the forest road double track en route to the Pipeline section. I hit Pipeline aid station on a solid pace.

Twin Lakes to Pipeline Aid Station

The wind is blowing hard, it's hot, and I'm on the flatish section back to Powerline. I have a couple of opportunities to ride with a group and do my best to help. I can't hang with the last group and find myself solo. Less than optimal.

I'm still drinking and eating on schedule, but today's temperature is hurting my performance. 

At 7hr:19min of racing, I find myself at the base of Powerline.

This climb, it hurts me. For the 3rd consecutive year. 

It hurts me.

 *Not his real name. No idea who he was.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Gravel Worlds 2015 The Finale

NOTE: You're NOT gonna want to miss out on the events leading up to this.

Hauling- Photo Credit Lisa Janssen

Brief Synopsis-

Collin's off the front, basically abandoning his gravel team mates.(I'm not bitter about this*) He's having a great race, a well deserved race day. (Although there's that 15 minute nap he took at the ball field in Roca. And a 1/2 dozen wrong turns.) Strava flybys do not lie.

Collin, two words. DIGITAL. DOPING. Wash that .gpx and be clean, as far as the rest of the world knows.

Jim. We left Jim laying beside the road at mile 112. 

I feel the need to address the 20% of my blog readers (2) - You do the math, that have contacted me with concern about abandoning Jim*. Some things you need to understand about Jim. 

He's tough. He cycled 10,000 miles last year. 

He was in the military. He can handle adversity.

He skydives. He understands risk.

Another thing, and keep this on the DL as he doesn't want to flaunt it, he has connections. 
He's a distant cousin to JC. (Hangs with us for street cred only)

Now, I hope those with concern, have a better understanding why Jamie and I had no issue with leaving him on the side of the road.

He's a single speeder anyway. 

Upon leaving Jim at the aid station, Jamie and I use the saddle time (2 or 3 minutes) to rid our conscience of guilt. I'm thankful for company on the last leg of the journey.

We head North to the 121 mile aid station and refuel. It's here we connect with Bobby Wintle and Jim Bruer of the Stillwater OK gravel clan. We jockeyed positions with these two for the next several miles. The motivation level is increasing. We're on the last leg!

Jamie and I stop at the Angel oasis around mile 135, down a coke and sit for a few minutes, watching the storm roll in.

We're lucky, with only a sprinkle from the storm as we continue on. In the final stretches back to Lincoln we form a train or two and work it.

Working in the later stages of Gravel Worlds 2015

That's QBP bikepacking specialist, Dave Markman flying the Salsa colors with our group above. Check out his Gravel Worlds experience. We've been at for +12hrs., but I still had some left in my legs and pull as much as I can. 

This train pic is significant in that it garnered me a part time gig as a Fat Cyclist kit model. (I've yet to receive a job description from Elden, but I'm confident he'll get with me soon.)

We push on West through the rollers and eventually take that sweet left on North 1st St. (No worries, it's still very much a gravel road.) We're met by fellow racer Joe Stiller, just outside of town. Joe is cruising the course to cheer on his wife, Tina. She's fatbiking her way toward Lincoln. 

As we hit the pavement of North Lincoln, I'm race stupid and struggle with the correct direction to turn. Jamie wings it and we quickly find ourselves at the finish line arch.

We roll across the mats at 13:24:44

Collin Little 11:20:55 - Well done brother!

Collin pulling the train - Photo credit to Lisa Janssen

Remember the Part 2 starting line excitement from Tim & Kristi Mohn? They went on to absolutely crush the field with a tandem top podium finish of 9:37:28 (20th OVERALL!) This E-Town duo is hardcore.

Tim & Kristi Mohn, Crushing It!

Kristi Mohn and Yours Truly

This guy. This is Neil Shirley, editor at Road Bike Action magazine. After an all day battle with 2014 DK200 winner Brian Jensen, Neil pulls away a couple of miles before the finish line. Crossing the mat at 7:54:03! That's r-i-g-h-t at a NINETEEN mph average. For 150 miles. Of gravel. Loose. Rolling. Windy. Gravel. Straight-Up UNICORN territory. Well done Neil!

Neil Shirley- Gravel Worlds 2015 Winner

Hungry for a challenge? Make your way to Lincoln, NE August 20, 2016. You'll get your fill. 

Corey Godfrey, Pirate Cycling League, and Lincoln, NE. Thanks for the memories. 

*see Gravel Worlds 2015 Part 3 asterisk

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

    Gravel Worlds 2015 Part 3

    NOTE: In order to get up to speed on my 2015 Gravel Worlds adventures, see the links below. They're all equally exciting, but in chronological order.........a mind altering experience.

    The things we'll do for a cool pair of socks.

    Jim, Jamie, and I have just left the 85 mile check point/aid station. Our enthusiasm is at an all time low. Worse than this.

    We have a 4 mile push South, and the wind, combined with over 6 hours of pedaling have taken its toll. The course turns East and we get a bit of a reprieve. At just over 7 hours of total time, and 96 miles, we roll into Roca, NE and find some shade beside the Roca bar. Jim's dealing with heat related nausea and we're hoping the rest stop will help him recover. 

    In the 45 minutes we rest at the Roca bar, we see several riders come and go. Salsa rider Andrea Cohen, Seth Wood from Stillwater, and several more briefly visit with us. 

    Jim has somewhat recovered and we're on our way over to Hickman. After a short train delay (the delay was short, the train, a-b-o-u-t average) we head East through town, battle a little Garmin vs. cue sheet discrepancy, then head North.

    At 103 miles Jim announces that he still feels ill, and he's pretty sure he's gonna puke. Jamie and I recon a shaded area beside the road and we all lay in the grass a bit. 

    Jim was correct.   He puked. 

    More than once.    More than twice. 

    For reference, it's best to let Jim himself describe as he did after his Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run.

    "We finally made it ahead of everyone and then held it precariously for a few minutes, and then I was cooked. Waves of nausea hit me like a ton of bricks, and while I was able to hold it off for a minute or two, I eventually lost the battle and puked up the last thing I had eaten which was a mango buddy fruit. It’s unfortunate too because I really like them and it will now be a long time before I won’t gag at the thought of another. I'm always a little embarrassed when I throw up in front of someone else. Mainly because of the sound I make while I'm doing it. I call it scream puking. I try to restrain it and lose my cookies silently, like a gentleman with composure, but once it starts, I have absolutely no control whatsoever and it comes out more like a, "BLAAAAAAAAAAAA...(gasp for air)..HOOOAAAAAAAA." Only you have to imagine me doing it at the top of my lungs, and it goes on for a little while, or it least that is how it feels. Anyone within a couple of miles was probably wondering what animal was being tortured to death. Emily got to experience all my best sides in one night. Several hours after the mango incident I might have had a bout of diarrhea that she got to witness as well. Pacing can be a tough job. She took it all in stride like it was no big deal."
    Jamie and I, we do what you do when your friend is puking along side the road in rural Nebraska. 

    Pretend he's not with us.

    Moments later Jamie notes that he's impressed with Jim's narration of the puking.

    "BLAAAAAAAAAAAA.................(I think that was my last gel) HOOOAAAAAAAA.........(yep, there's the chia) BLAAAAAAAAA.......(what's our mph average down to?*)"

    It sounded similar to this, right there at 00:21

    We let Jim recover for at least 6 or 8 minutes before we lift him onto his bike and demand he pedal forward.

    Another 5 miles and Jim is hit with more nausea. Jamie and I privately discuss the feasibility of dragging Jim far enough off the road that other riders wouldn't see him, later claiming he was fine, last we saw him. Finally, I convince Jamie to do the right thing and help him to the next aid station. 

    Jim finds a hydrant along the road. The cold water helps him immensely. Ten minutes later we're moving again. I'm thankful. You know how hard it is to drag a body?

    North of Bennett, NE around mile 112, we arrive at the farm aid station. Jim's feeling worse. He's in no condition to finish. The aid station happened to be staffed by some kind ladies with medical backgrounds. 

    They're convinced Jim needs to go to the hospital. Jim persuades them to just let him rest a while. 

    They made sure he had food and drink, along with a wet towel to get his core temp down. The staff at the aid station assured us they would take care of Jim and transport him back to Lincoln when they closed up shop.

    Jamie and I set out to the finish.

    It was only 38 more miles. How hard can it be.


    *Complete lie, inserted for dramatic effect only. (This is the last one**)

    **There will be several more.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB Part 3

    NOTE: In order to get up to speed on my 2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB adventures, see the links below. They're all equally exciting, but in chronological have no idea.

    I'm leaving Twin Lakes outbound. (This phrase is somewhat depressing if you happen to be racing Leadville). I'm 30 seconds quicker on the 2.5 mile stretch from Twin Lakes over to the base of the 3000+ ft. Columbine climb. This has potential.

    It's warming up, but I leave the arm warmers in place, knowing well I'll need them descending. Somewhere in here, I lose Jake. 

    (I learn from a quick exchange on the descent, he's suffering from stomach distress. Engaging in an eating contest between 10,000 and 12,000 ft. is tough on the digestive system. We've all been there.)  

    I don't mind climbing Columbine below the tree line. It's hard work, but shaded and relatively smooth. I find comfort in making it further up this year before I hear the beep, beep, beep, of the lead moto as I approach the switchbacks. A few seconds later I'm inundated by a wattage storm consisting of Alban Lakata, Jeremiah Bishop, and Christoph Sauser. There may have been others in that group, but I identified them. Keep in mind, they're coming toward me at ~45 mph.....on doubletrack. 

    Reminding myself, "stay focused, more are on the way". I can't help but be envious of the descending traffic. They're all happy, and going really fast. They're over the hump, on the way home. They all have 12 pound bikes, perfect teeth, and single digit body fat, along with cheering crowds anxiously awaiting their return to 6th St...........OK! Enough whining Don!. Just shut up! Shut up and, and,'s right there on the top tube. 

    I compose myself, and continue on. There's a steady stream of descending traffic now. I'm breaking out of the trees, the landscape is getting barren.

    It's on that sweeping left hand corner climbing up to the goat trail, I first see him. Off in the distance, a lean, muscular rider, bathed in red, accented by a blur of green. It's FATTY! He's on a mission. I give him a shout out as he screams past. This encouragement, is likely what kept him motivated, all the way to the finish line. 

    Ken's there, the base of the Goat Trail. Sitting on an ATV. Shouting words of,...ahem, "encouragement". The words sounded a lot like, "You'd go a lot faster if you'd get'yer ass on that bike". I respond in kind, "Great to see you too Ken".

    It's REALLY difficult to keep moving forward. This section makes you hate yourself, anyone near you, the sunshine, the Octogenarians soft pedaling past you, the absent oxygen.

    Eventually you see it, off to the left, what you've been looking for. Columbine turnaround. It's a cruel thing. It's cruel because you're not there yet, but you can see it. See it clearly. 

    Several more minutes of trudging and it levels off a bit. I remount, and dizzily pedal my way over to the lollipop turnaround at the Columbine aid station. A point that marks the return to Leadville. I'm running behind schedule. I try to keep positive, but quickly surmise my sub 10 hour Leadville is unlikely, if not impossible.

    I struggle to square this up in my mind. All the training. Training that has me arriving here T-H-I-R-T-Y F-O-U-R seconds quicker than last year!

    I've 53 miles to get it sorted. 


    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

    Gravel Worlds 2015 Part 2

    Photo Credit- Pirate Cycling League

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 - 5:30am Lincoln, NE

    In North Lincoln, it's windy and humid as Jim, Jamie, Collin, and I roll from the parking lot over to the Gravel Worlds start/finish line. 

    Photo Credit- Lisa Janssen

    I chat with gravel (see that?) friends prior to lining up for the start, and find a spot 3 or 4 rows off the front, next to Tim Mohn. Tim is missing the "Kristi" half of tandem team Mohn, and he's getting nervous. Shortly after the T-minus 5 minutes announcement, Tim takes me up on the offer to keep the Salsa Powderkeg upright while he finds Kristi. About a minute before the gun, they both show up, mount up, and get ready to ride, disaster averted. There's a few Godzilla and Mothra shout outs. Godzilla vs. Mothra is a friendly competition between DK200 legend, Dan Hughes, and all around GU Energy badass, Yuri Hauswald. Friendly in that, they want to destroy each other in every race. Adding fuel to rivalry fire, both are debuting appropriately themed bikes at Gravel Worlds. Dan and Yuri shared details of each bike Friday afternoon during registration at Cycle Works. Both bikes are works of art, highly functional works of art. Rebecca Rusch is toeing the line this morning as well. Evidently Gravel Worlds is serious business.

    Dan Hughes' Mothra themed Specialized

    Yuri Hauswald's Godzilla themed Marin

    Rebecca Rusch with her Niner post race.

    It's race time and all fun and games (really fast fun and games) until we hit the gravel about a mile from start. The fun and games are over.

    It's at this point, I realize my "lite" light is woefully inadequate for this gravel. This Lincoln gravel was loose and sketchy for the first several miles and I was working to maintain control. I back off the pace a bit and eagerly await some assistance from the pre-dawn twilight.  

    The early hours. Photo Credit to Someone at Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop

    Photo Credit- Lisa Janssen

    A half hour of riding brings improved gravel conditions, and some natural light. There are still problem areas, and focus is required to keep blood from seeping out of your body. 

    Photo Credit- Lisa Janssen

    Jim Phillips single speeds his way up to me at the 10 mile mark and we hang together to the 50 mile aid station at Garland. Collin and Jamie have put a 3-5 minute gap on us. We catch them here. I show a 16+ mph average, and all 4 of us are feeling good. 

    Photo Credit- Lisa Janssen

    We have a 10 mile push Southeast to Malcolm, where race rules require you stop at a c-store and buy a Lottery ticket. I didn't win a dime! Collin and Jamie have a put a 2 minute gap on Jim and I, and depart the c-store ahead of us. Collin is having a great day, and keeping a strong pace. Jamie and Collin maintain the gap on us for some time. Around mile 73 we're met with a ~200 ft. stretch of loose base rock. It's difficult or impossible to ride. I've been at it for nearly 5 hrs. now, and feel the first dark period creeping in. I push through the loose stuff and continue pushing up a little roller. Jim gaps me.   

    Around mile 75, Collin starts pulling away from Jamie, and continues on without the benefit of his awesome gravel cohorts. I roll into the 85 mile aid station a few minutes behind Jim and Jamie. None of the 3 of us are feeling stellar. I find food and water and sit down, this was a bad idea, sitting that is. There's brief discussion about finding the shortest route back to Lincoln and calling it a day. That conversation prompted me to remount and ride. Jim and Jamie joined me, our enthusiasm is 2.5 on a scale of 1-10. At this point, Collin has 15+ minutes on the 3 of us.

    The fat lady wasn't even close to singing.


    Monday, September 7, 2015

    2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB Part 2

    Leadville race day starts early. 3:15ish EARLY. Coffee is on, and John, Jake, and I eat our pre-race breakfast, then go about gathering our gear. With bikes and gear loaded, we leave Frisco, heading south 35 minutes to Leadville. We intentionally arrive early to secure a decent parking spot and a reasonable corral position. 

    John, Jake, and I before heading up to the start corrals. 

    While we're on the subject of corral position, I'm going to share some thoughts on starting corral douchebaggery, and this happens every year. You and your friends stake a position at the front tape line, standing with your bike, in the cold, for over an hour, and inevitably a guy shows up 15 minutes before the gun, wanting to stuff his bike on the front row of the corral. Unless you're up in the Gold corral getting a call up while sporting a UCI rainbow on your jersey, I have some advice. Don't be this guy! You want a position at the front of the corral? GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED EARLIER!

    Your success at Leadville has little or nothing to do with your starting position. Need proof? Ty Hall clocked in on the red carpet at 8:36, raising $7,400.00 dollars for the Leadville Legacy Foundation as he passed 1,480 riders. His starting position? DEAD. LAST.

    Kudos to Leadville native, Ty Hall

    Aside from the aforementioned douchebaggery, I enjoy visiting with friends and making new ones while trying to stave off starting line anxiety. The visiting, along with 8-10 bathroom trips, make the time pass quickly. 

    L to R- Jake Bradley (Blue), Joe Stiller, and Myself (Red) on the starting line

    It's unseasonably warm this morning, and I quickly shed my Patagonia Houdini, storing it in my center rear jersey pocket. When you're above the treeline on Columbine, the weather can take a nasty turn in short order. Cynthia checks on us a few times to make sure Jake and I are race ready. 

    Dave Wiens' son belts out another amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and moments later the barriers blocking off 6th street are pulled back, initiating a surge of bikes, bodies, and race tension, all putting pressure on the riders ahead. There was specific pressure on the back of my leg, as the rider immediately behind me tried to ride up it. You can see the starting line video here.

    Jake (Blue Jersey) Myself (Green Jersey) and Joe Stiller (Yellow Jersey) at race start.

    A shotgun blast is followed by (in my opinion) the most harrowing part the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. In the 3 mile paved section from the starting line to the railroad tracks you drop roughly 300ft. in elevation, I average +28 mph here, and the pros are averaging over 33 mph. With an abundance of testosterone, compounded by early race enthusiasm, it's a good place to end your race day early.

    The race to the base of St. Kevin's is my fastest to date at a 21 mph average. Jake and I are working together, and it's nice to have company.

    I keep my heart rate in the 160's on the Kevin's climb, knowing there's a long day ahead. In the week prior to Leadville I was fortunate enough to listen to Fat Cyclist and Rebecca Rusch share details of the course via webinars, and found it comforting to know the details of each climb, specifically the distance to the turn on St. Kevin's. It doesn't make the climb any easier, but it's a distinct psychological advantage.  

    Jake and I summit Kevin's together and make short work of the section over to Carter Summit. The paved descent from Carter Summit to the tip of Turquoise Lake is fun, dropping 800 ft. in 3 miles. Evidently I get more brave (or foolish) each year, hitting 33+ mph this year.

    In late June, I finished building up a Niner Air 9, and it's working flawlessly. 

    The 5 minutes of rest and relaxation provided by the descent is ended by the charge up Sugarloaf. Jake and I are still riding together and performing well. While I'm unaware of my improved performance at the time, I summit the climb with a new PR. 

    Now, it's show time. The powerline descent. Jake descends like a mad man, I know this, and I know he's holding back. After the first 1/2 mile of the initial descent, I shout, telling Jake to let'er rip. I will catch up on the flat over to Pipeline. A few twists and turns later, Jake is out of sight. Not sure why, but I'm 20 seconds slower descending Powerline than my 2014 descent. If sound bites were included in the pictures below, you'd hear me screaming like a baby. Sections of this descent are +20% grade, T-W-E-N-T-Y percent! Throw in some loose sandy dirt, BIG ruts, and you've got a face plant looking for some place to happen.

    Jake and I make it to the bottom unscathed and head out on the highway, en route to Pipeline. 

    The flatish over to Pipeline was quick and we averaged 23+ mph. The trip lasted about 10 minutes. In stark contrast, the return trip feels like it lasts for H-O-U-R-S. Jake and I skip the aid station, and hammer down the dusty Pipeline doubletrack. In short order, we're plunging off bitch hill into singletrack. 

    I'm in the singletrack groove and all is right with the world. Near the end of this section I see artist Linda Guerrette doing her magic. This woman is amazing! Check out her work here.

    Linda Guerrette snapped this of me in the singletrack. Good Times!
    We leave the singletrack and work the gravel over to Twin Lakes. It's here that Jake and I meet the starting corral douchebag's brother. We're using this "low concentration" section to eat and drink. Jake is hands free trying to eat, we're off to the side of the road, (the 20+ ft. wide road) and this guy comes up behind Jake and screams, "HOLD YOUR LINE!" Jake and I both give him our best "you're an idiot" look, and he rides on. I didn't have the heart to tell him that his chances to podium were already gone.

    I've got 40 miles behind me and I'm 32 seconds quicker into Twin Lakes this year, still feeling good. Like the veteran racer she is, Cynthia has me refueled and back in the race in record time. I finish crossing the dam, and enjoy a few seconds of the Twin Lakes Mardi Gras atmosphere. My friends Mark and Trevor Gullet give me a much needed shout out. Mark is fresh off of the Breck Epic and knows my pain all too well.

    Rumor has it, there's a tough section ahead.