Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Leadville 2016 - Part 3 - Can't Touch This

The view from St. Kevin's

No Trespassing

The Monster and I are on Tennessee Creek road, just off the base of St. Kevin's. The gradual arc to the South gives us a taste of Northerly wind from the Hwy. 24 valley.

It's a sublime feeling that tailwind.

A third rider joins our effort, we're 5 miles from the carpet, and a bit of "finish line high" enters our bloodstream. There's a gradual descent on the pavement down to the intersection of Turquoise Lake Rd., and it's time for a big gear. A twinge in my left hamstring tells me to unclip and stretch my leg......bad idea. The stretching initiated what could only be described as a thousand little knives being buried to the bolster. I'm working my hamstring with my left hand, eventually getting to the point I can clip back in. In the interim, The Monster and the other rider have worked around my slowing pace. Fortunately, the cramp subsides and I'm able to do work again. 

The three of us pass through the intersection, charging into the B road paralleling the tracks. Knowing this section well, I hit it hard and fast.

The Monster and I scramble up the rocky climb to the Boulevard proper. Beyond "minimal" I don't recall much of our conversation in this section. In 2015 Alban Lakata blasted up the Boulevard at 17.3 mph, because he's the "Albanator" and has that whole "SKYNET" thing behind him. (Not to be confused with team SKY, that would be the "Froomenator")

We're a bit slower, let's just say 50%ish. The Boulevard, ridiculously difficult. So close, yet so very far. 


The Long and Winding Road

In the early switchbacks of the Columbine climb, just above the Colorado Trail, I'm passed by a singlespeeder. He's climbing out of the saddle, his black kit form fitted to a lean muscular build, I know this kit, I know this rider, It's Elden "Fat Cyclist" Nelson. Elden has, via fundraiser, committed himself to the service of his lovely wife Lisa. His job, a domestique for Lisa in her bid to set the women's singlespeed course record. 

You Know What Time It Is?

I say hello, and ask "How's Lisa doing?"

"She's about 3 seconds behind me" he replied. 

I say hello to Lisa and wish her well, watching the two of them seemingly effortlessly disappear into a sea of riders ahead. 

The trees slowly disappear, followed shortly thereafter by the muscles in my legs. It's then I find myself at the Goat Trail. Founder Ken Chlouber is there, typically perched on his ATV, shouting words of, ahem, "encouragement." Most would consider it heckling, I take it as a compliment. Ken, he doesn't really care how you take it, just keep your ass moving.   

Columbine, Near the Turnaround

After 30ish minutes of working my way up the conga line, I remount and make the push over to Columbine aid station. This is the where the out and back changes from out to back. As a rule, you can double your time at Columbine and estimate your finish. Mean, median, mode, it's irrelevant at this point. I'm off pace, I know it, and I try to not let it consume me.  

My Grandson Liam, having learned I'm behind schedule at Columbine.
He takes my racing very seriously. 

I enjoy the words of encouragement from inbound traffic and act in kind. The reward for that 7 mile grind up is 7 miles of "how bad to I want to warp my brake rotors."  

I make conversation with a few riders en route to Twin Lakes, cross the dam, and find my crew. 

"Do you have a coke that's not warm?" I asked. I hope that didn't come out hateful. They quickly help me swap hydration packs and resupply me with waffles and gels. 

"How long have I been here?" I asked Cynthia.

Her reply, "It's time to go!" I complied, trying to stay optimistic, but I had a bit of dread in my mind. 

The windy flat work and the Powerline climb lie ahead. I make good time through the singletrack, and quickly find my way back to the Pipeline aid station. I didn't need fuel or drink, so I headed to the pavement. I found a few riders to work with, other trains were too fast for me, and I was left solo. I thought the wind was tough until I turned left at mile 76, It felt like an invisible wall, or maybe I was towing a cinder block, or a mobile home. Thankfully this drive West was short lived and I soon find shelter in the trees as Hwy. 300 curves around to the base of Powerline.

The Powerline climb is intimidating, but I was feeling better, rode the sections I could, and pushed the bike up the rest. The monotony of this climb is broken up by a few false flats, allowing short reprieves.

I know this climb well, and welcome mile 82.5 with open arms. I take the hardtail beating that Forest Rd. 105 dishes out and do my best to stay alert. With a 180° turn on Hagerman, I breathe a little easier and enjoy the ride.

 And then this happened. 

This will take you to the finish line.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Leadville 2016 - Part 2 - Testosterone Tim

In April of 2016, it was the Austin Rattler, I wasn't fast enough for an age group slot, wasn't lucky enough for a lottery slot. Then it was 100k at the Tahoe Trail, on a righteous tour of the West.

I had a stellar race at Tahoe, still wasn't fast enough, but lady luck tossed me a coin.

I'm toeing the line at my 4th Leadville Trail 100 MTB. 
I'm a lucky man.

Photo Credit- Eddie Clark Media

The Final 10 Miles

For 30 minutes The Monster and I have been trudging up to Carter Summit aid station. We make a quick pit and down a coke. After a minor climb out of Carter aid, there's flowing descents on the 2 miles over to the intersection of Uncle Buds Rd. The Monster demonstrates her descending prowess, and I do my best to keep up. Immediately following this intersection there's a tough bump up to the Kevin's descent. 

"Don't wait on me!" she announces. Following up with a "I'll catch up." 

After seeing her enduroesque bike handling minutes earlier, I had little doubt. 

I scramble on up the loose rocks and start that sweet release signifying the end is near, the Kevin's descent. I embrace the occasional drainage cut, feeling a little Red Bullish. With the turn at Gulch road the bottom drops out. That 12-14% gut punch from this morning, is now rutted nirvana.  I had 2 immediate goals, no broken bones and beating The Monster to the cattle guard. 

No broken bones, check. In the final downward pitch, she's there, I hear her coming, she passes, and it's well before the cattle guard. 

I feel old. I feel old and slow. 

We wind our way out of the trees, and get a taste of that wind.

That tailwind. That glorious tailwind.

Race Morning

After 2 trips back to the car, each time retrieving the essential items that my 5AM mind failed to gather. After as many trips to the porta-john, I'm in the green corral, and I'm somewhat jealous. A guy near me is outfitted in a thrift store bath robe. It's one of those full length avocado gems, you know, like your Grandma would wear all day when it's cold. It's around 35°F, and that my friends, is Grandma's robe weather. 

My steadfast crew chief, Cynthia, has done her part. She's delivered me to the starting line, and will then make her way to Twin Lakes to support my outbound and inbound stops there. The rest is up to me. I need to push myself, push myself really hard for 1 mile, then repeat that 103 times. I want a single digit finish. To finish this race is tough, to finish it in less than 10 hrs. is a substantial challenge.

On the Starting Line - Leadville 2016
It's nearly show time. My position in the green corral ends up silver after the gates drop and the file's compressed. 

The Start. Photo Credit: Eddie Clark Media

With a shotgun blast by Josh, hell hath no fury like the Leadville "neutral" roll-out. I recently heard a wise man suggest a progressive wave start for Leadville. I so look forward to that day. Beware of Testosterone Tim, he shows up to the corral at the last minute, then plows through a sea of mountain bikers to get to the leading edge of your corral. Timmy's gonna beat you to the railroad tracks, whatever it takes. Timmy will end your day early in his banzai run to the base of St. Kevin's.

Starting Line to the St. Kevin's Turn

In hindsight, I'm going to have to be more aggressive in the run to St. Kevin's turn. As you can see above, I'm trending the wrong way. I was feeling lightheaded early in the race, specifically on the Kevin's climb. Maybe that was my pace problem?

55 minutes after leaving 6th street I'm carving corners on the paved plunge to the tip of Turquoise Lake.

It's still cold. 

This cold is magnified by the 40 mph descent, in spandex. 

The Team Kuat vest, it's a keeper.

You'll work hard on the Sugar Loaf climb, but there's a reward. If the weather cooperates, and it did on race day, you're treated to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful vistas the Colorado Rockies has to offer. The sun shines warm on your chest, the race is still young, and you've ticked a couple of the climbing boxes. You feel like you're on top of the world. You're not, that comes later.

Sugar Loaf Ascent - Photo Credit: Eddie Clark Media

I'm a minute off my 2015 pace descending the brutally treacherous Powerline descent. I'm just too damn cautious. 

Base of Powerline, Outbound

I hit the paved flat and start the TT over to Pipeline. I feel strong through the singletrack and pool table smooth gravel over to Twin Lakes. Cynthia and the Atchison family have me in and out of the pit in a minute or less. 

Cynthia turning me around in short order. Twin Lakes Outbound.

I love the carnival on the outbound side of Twin Lakes. It the closest thing I've found to that warm fuzzy Dirty Kanza finish chute. A few more minutes and I'm at the base of Columbine. Team GU extraordinaire Yuri Hauswald is there. Yuri's shouting words of encouragement to the racers. I appreciate his words.

Things are looking up. Way up.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Leadville 2016 - Part 1 - Of Monsters and Men

Race Day

"How's your descending?" asked The Monster.

"Average" I replied, internally thinking that I may not even meet that criteria.

"It's the only thing I'm good at" she says.

It wasn't braggadocio, but more acknowledgement of other perceived shortcomings.  In the following minutes I witness firsthand the merit of her statement. 

Earlier, I make the near 180° turn from Hagerman Pass gravel to the sweet pavement at Turquoise Lake Rd. I relax for a moment on the descent to the tip of Turquoise Lake, mentally preparing for the push up to the Carter aid station. I'm doing my best to stay positive, but disappointed in my race performance, wallowing in a bit of self pity......okay, more akin to drowning.

Leadville is an emotional roller coaster for most riders, and it's commonplace for joy and elation to quickly turn to the depths of hell with something as simple as rounding a corner. It was here The Monster rolled up beside me. I recognized her kit, bolstered by a brief interaction with her the day previous in Leadville.

With light conversation about her age, her college efforts and accomplishments behind us, I could see The Monster was ready for the suffering to stop. Unfortunately we had a substantial climb staring us in the face. At the top, the Carter aid station. Knowing well my chances of a 9hr:5Xm finish were gone, I shifted focus to this young lady. She has a good heart, and you know this within a few minutes of meeting her. As we trudge up to Carter I mentally and verbally committed to delivering her to the finish line.

"You're going to make me cry." she blurted.

I responded with "Nothing wrong with crying, but I want you to save it for the finish line."  


Wednesday Dathan and I rode the rec trail from Frisco to Breck, climbed to Peaks Trail, then descended back to Frisco. It was a beautiful day, with a multitude of hikers on the trail with their dogs. A righteous stretch of the legs. 

Peaks Trailhead

Friday, we drove to Leadville for packet pickup and the racers meeting. 

Clinton Gulch Reservoir

After packet pickup we went for spin. I'd mapped a ride that would allow Dathan to experience the Powerline descent prior to the race. We parked at Turquoise Lake dam and worked our way up to Hagerman Pass Rd., then climbed Sugarloaf. Near the summit we were joined by a fellow rider and the three of us made our way down Powerline. Dathan now had a feel for this somewhat treacherous section of the race course. His descending is spot-on anyway, but knowing the course is even better.

Powerline Pre-Ride
We make our way back to Turquoise Lake dam and head for the racers meeting at Lake Co. High School. After the meeting, it's back to Frisco, eat dinner, complete race prep, and turn in early. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Go West Middle Aged Man - Part 2 - Off the Back

Myself, Dathan, and John are leaving Leadville, driving North on 24 after pre-riding sections of the LT100MTB course. We're en route to I-70 at Eagle-Vail, and it's been a long day.  The beautiful sunset has gave way to darkness as we wind our way up the valley on this two-lane mountain highway. We talk about the ride, and how the altitude crushed us on the push up St. Kevin. 

With limited opportunities, Dathan takes advantage of a short straight stretch to pass a car. It was a safe pass with no risk beyond everyday driving. Immediately after returning to the right lane, the car we'd just overtaken begins the most erratic behavior. Flashing the headlights between high and low beam. Aggressively approaching our vehicle, doing their best to come up beside us. I was convinced that our pass had somehow offended the driver, and they were in the process of showing us just how offended they were. It made me nervous, and I did little to hide it. Dathan done his best to get away from what we perceived as a serious case of road rage. He sped up. The car sped up. He aggressively slowed and pulled to the shoulder. The car aggressively slowed and pulled to the shoulder. I had visions of newspaper articles detailing the bullet ridden truck, chalk outlines of our bodies carefully drawn on the pavement, that place where we fell, running from the road raging maniac, gasping our last breath. 

Finally, Dathan had his fill. We stopped. We stopped in the middle of our lane. The car pulled along side, rolling down the passenger window as it approached. Dathan lowers his window. I await the barrage of expletives, the sound of semi-automatic gunfire.....


He then sped away.

Let me process this a moment.

Okay, well, umm. Wow. I feel somewhat foolish. More than usual foolish. 

I feel foolish because......because it's MY bike on the back position. It's my bike, and there's only one reason it's falling off the rack, the back tire scrubbing the pavement as we cruise down the highway at 50 mph. It fell because I failed to secure the rear bike tire. 

Luckily the front tire restraint on the Kuat rack is designed to capture the wheel in the cradle, preventing the bike from falling completely off, cartwheeling down the road. Wreaking havoc to the bike, and even worse, other motorist. We pulled to the shoulder and I went back and surveyed the damage. I was lucky, the only damage of substance was the rear tire. 

Like asking that not-pregnant woman, "When are you due?"

Not one of my finer moments.

Go easy on the left hand corners

I properly secure the rear wheel, and we're off to western Colorado for the night. We have the breadth of Utah and Nevada to cover the next day.

That's right, we rock a selfie stick. Try waiting for someone to take a picture of you in Ghost Rock Utah

Myself and John near Green River Utah

Myself and Dathan near Green River Utah

Nevada has the loneliest highway stretch, Highway 50. 

The name is still applicable.

We arrive at the Reno airport and pick up Brad, our 4th riding partner, then head down to Northstar village, located between Truckee, CA and lake Tahoe. It's late Thursday evening. It's good to be out of the truck, and it's really good to have all 4 bikes on the rack.

Northstar Lodge

 Let's Race!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Go West Middle Aged Man - Part 1 - Scene of the Crime

This mountain biking tour of the west included a Leadville Trail 100 course preview ride, a Leadville Race Series qualifier at Lake Tahoe, and a stop in Moab just because. I'll start in Denver.

"Will the owner of a black crewcab Ford pickup, Missouri license number XXX-XXX, please report to the customer service desk" the REI Denver public address speaker repeated, for a second or third time. After finding a few discount rack bargains, and proceeding to the checkout line, John and I noticed Dathan had disappeared. We assumed he'd went to customer service to see what the page was all about. 

John and I lingered in the main foyer for a few minutes, then made our way outside and awaited Dathan's return. John's phone rang, it was Dathan, and I watched and listened as his facial expression and tone of voice made the spiral from lighthearted jest to disbelief to anger. 

"Somebody stole my bike!" John exclaimed. 

Our mountain bike tour of the west was off to a rough start.

John and I made haste to the parking lot where we found Dathan talking with a REI representative. Both of them staring at the cut cable and empty slot on the 4-bike Kuat rack. 

The Grisly Scene

It's 11:30am, all bright and sunshiny, in the MIDDLE OF DENVER! We paid to park in the semi-secure lot adjacent to the store! Thievery is supposed to happen under the cover of darkness, in seedy out-of-the-way places.

Innocence lost.

John's Salsa Spearfish had been plucked from rack. The perp cut the cable, and likely pushed the bike over to the nearby rec. trail and rode away.

The Thief Thought We Might Not Notice

I hope the thief has flats and saddle sores on every ride from now on!

After several phone calls (police, wife, insurance) the realization settled in. John needed to find another bike. The show must go on. REI offered him a reasonable discount, but didn't have the bike John wanted. We headed over to Wheat Ridge Cyclery and John wasted little time picking out his new ride. While the bike shop prepped the bike we made a trip to the local police station where John filled out the stolen bike paperwork. We did find this helpful flyer in the station waiting area.

The PSA 

With the stolen bike properly reported, we drive back to Wheat Ridge Cyclery and pick up John's new whip. Time was of the essence as we'd planned to do a Leadville ride en route to Grand Junction. 

John's New Ride

The rack is full again.

We make the beautiful drive down to Leadville, arriving way too late in the day to carry out the pre-ride as planned. We have a couple of hours of daylight and use it to grind our way up St. Kevin. That first climb at +10,000ft. always makes you feel like a diet is in order. 

St. Kevin Scenic Overlook
I originally planned to ride the LT100MTB course from 6th street to the base of Powerline, then take the highway back to Leadville. With waning daylight, we cut it short and returned to Leadville after descending to Turquoise Lake.

Turquoise Lake Dam

The mountain air, the beautiful scenery, and bike riding were good for the soul after the day we'd experienced. We made it back to Leadville at dusk, loaded up the bikes and headed toward I-70 by way of Minturn. 

It's at this point we're attacked by a psychotic driver........