This was my third year in a row racing the Leadville 100 mtb race. For those of you not familiar with this race here’s a bit about it.
Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the USA. It sits at an elevation of 10,152 feet. The race is 103 miles and climbs to its high point at the turn around after the 10mile climb up to the Columbine Mine which is at 12,600ft. The weather is always unpredictable as it can be snowing or hailing at any point through out the day. To make the event even more difficult, the race has a total of 13,000 total feet of climbing. This year, like the past two years, we had perfect weather at the start and throughout the race. I heard some of the later riders were treated to some snow and cold rain at the 50 mile turnaround a top the columbine climb.
In 2012, my first Leadville experience, I finished in a time of 8 hrs and 16 min. Last year, 2013, I rode much faster, however I made a wrong turn at mile 93 and finished with a disappointing 8 hrs 18 min. This was disappointing to me because I knew I was on pace to finish with a much better finishing time than my 2012 race. I had reached the 50 mile turnaround at 4 hr 5 min, which was a good deal faster than 2012. Looking at the added section of trail on Strava/GPS I took that day it had added up to 25min detour at least.
This year my father qualified in Austin, Tx in April so that he could race the event. He called me and told me he was racing Leadville. Therefore, I had to make it out there for a third time. I went to Tahoe in July and qualified for Leadville. My mom and dad drove out from Dallas and we were ready. We stayed in Vail which was much better than staying in Leadville or Breckenridge like I did last year. The lower elevation of Vail is helpful when it comes to acclimating for the high altitude race. We arrived on Monday before the Saturday race in Leadville. I did some really great rides with my dad on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Vail area.
Friday rolled around and we went to the race meeting and check-in. I also showed my dad and some other buddies that were there for the first time the first 6 miles out to the bottom of the first climb, St. Kivens. There we turned around and rode the final 6miles in where we rode the infamous Blvd that leads you back up into town. It’s a gradual false flat that can really hurt ya after 98 miles. Everyone calls it the Blvd of Broken Dreams.
Then Saturday hit and it was time to drive the early morning drive to Leadville. It was a clear and cool 42 degrees, perfect for race day. I started in the second coral (silver), based off of my Tahoe qualifying time. Leadville has a number of different starting corals you are placed in. Gold and silver both have about 100 riders in each. Then red has about 300 riders. My dad was in the green coral, just behind the red. He had 600-700 riders in front of him, I may have had 150 riders in front of me. Most of the front two groups are made up of some fast guys but I still wanted to start the first climb (6 miles in) as close to front as possible. I always dread the first and second climb, St. Kivens and Carter Summit (11,500 ft) as I have to hurt myself bad to get up and over these climbs to be with the fastest group as possible as we come down. After those first two climbs, it’s somewhat flat for 20 miles or so until the Columbine Climb. It’s good to be in a fast group as there is plenty of drafting to take advantage of.
It’s funny, every year someone on the first climb tells me to breath and take it easy as it’s a long race. This year I laughed and replied to the guy who told me that “I’m told that every year”. Maybe it’s that I’m a bigger rider who has to go real deep to get over the first climb or maybe cause I’m a flat lander not use to altitude. Regardless, it’s obvious due to my loud labored breathing that I’m hurting.
Anyways, I made it over the two first climbs in record time, sat in the group and ate and drank as much as possible. Then the torturous Columbine Mine Climb came, mile 40-50, reaching the high point of 12,600 feet. It is such a hard climb. I knew I wanted to hit the turnaround at the top with a sub 4 hr time, and I did. At 3 hr 57 min I was at the turnaround and I was close to 10 min faster than 2013. Turn around, descend to the Twin Lakes aid station, refuel and then it’s on! At mile 60, Twin Lakes in bound is where the going gets tough. The Columbine Climb can take a lot out of a rider, but I felt good and I was ready for the final 40 miles.
From mile 60-80 it’s somewhat flat and pays to have a rider or three with ya to share the workload. It’s often very windy and this year it seemed even more windy than ever. I was happy to slow up and wait for two other rides and try and motivate them to work together to get past the windy road sections. This is where you can really start to see the days efforts on the riders face. Guys are broken at this point. I rode away from the three guys I was with and rode up to a couple riders who passed me on the Columbine Climb – I’m always passed by many riders on Columbine, never do I pass a ride on the way up Columbine. We caught a few more riders and there was 5-6 of us going into the final two climbs/20 miles to go. First up, Powerline which is brutally steep and the past two years I’ve walked two different positions of this climb, this year was no different. The six of us shattered into pieces once a top the two steep sections of Powerline. The climb keeps going with many false flats, it’s very tough and just seems to keep going and going. It leaves me praying for the top to come every year. It finally did and I was alone having rode away from all the other riders. Down the Carter Summit decent to Turquoise Lake and up the final road climb I passed a couple more riders. I knew that I had blown my race at the 93 mile mark last year and I was hyper-aware of this point as it was coming up. I saw the miss turn I had taken in 2013 and smiled as I hammered past it. I descended St. Kivens and knew I had 40 min or so to ride before getting into town for the finish. I really wanted to hit my goal of 7:30 but knew that was a bit out of reach at this point. I rode hard to the finish and came in with a time of 7:42:30. I placed 42nd out of the 1800 riders or so and I was happy with that. I moaned in discomfort for the hour or two post race and ate a lot as I spent the time with my mom. I know she was thinking, why the hell do you guys do this to yourself as I know I appeared to be in lots of pain.
Unfortunately, my father didn’t make the cut off time at the 60 mile point at Twin Lakes in bound. He was bummed and I was bummed for him. Knowing my father and I share many traits, I would bet he will be back for revenge and take care of his unfinished business in Leadville next year. And you know what that means… It means I’ll have to return with him. I want to see him conquer Leadville now. A day or two after the race he said a few things that indicated he would return. Time will tell on this one. After my 2013 Leadville I was done with the event. But when my dad called and said he would be doing it, I made arrangement to be here this year.
Leadville is a special race with a special feel and for me moving forward with this race it will be something special my dad and I will share if he so decides to return to Leadville. Either way, great memories were created this past week and I will never forget it. Thanks Mom and Dad for all you loving support over the years. I love and miss you always.
Thank you to all my sponsors and my road team, KHS- Maxxis pb JAKROO. It’s been a great year of racing with lots of great experiences. Many thanks to Michael and Bike Religion who do so much for me. The Maxxis tires handled the rough, fast descents of Leadville with no problem. Hammer Nutrition kept me fueled and going strong. WD-40 Bike lube kept my drive train smooth and crisp all day long. The combination of my Velo saddle, Chamio Butt’r, and the outstanding JAKROO bibs kept the goods good all day long. Serfas cages kept the water bottles nice and secure so they were there when I needed them. I couldn’t have been more prepared thanks to you all.