Wednesday, August 27, 2008

6th Anniversary

Today is our 6th wedding anniversary. In the past 6 years we've had some great adventures and we are looking forward to many more in the years to come.
Lounging between laps at the 24 Hours of E-Rock mountain bike race in late May 2008.
Phil in Steamboat Springs off Seedhouse Trail road.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

MTB Buffalo Creek with Jeffrey

On Saturday we rode out at Buffalo Creek with our buddy Jeffrey. We parked near the Meadows Group Campground area, and then started riding on Gas House Gulch.
Phil and Jeffrey goofing off before we took Charlie's cut-off - 1.2 miles of simple wheeee!
Phil and Joey in the burn area on the Sandy Wash trail. The Hayman fire scorched this area in 2002 (over 138,00 acres were burned). As you can see, a forest doesn't recover overnight. This one of my favorite areas in the Buffalo Creek area, though, because you can see the cool rock formations.
Phil was trying to figure out my new camera - I tried to be a good sport.
An action shot of the biker guy!

We rode just over 17 miles, all but 3 miles on sweet single-track. We are blessed to live in a state which boasts some of the best recreational opportunities in the country.

Sunday morning we rode our road bikes up Lookout Mountain (24 miles round trip) and then played 9 holes at the Links course in the Lakewood, Colorado, Fox Hollow golf complex. Phil beat me soundly, darn it. I really need to find time for some short game lessons.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race – 2004

As I mentioned in my initial post, we first competed in the Leadville 100 MTB race in 2004.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. To start with, when we (okay, I) first suggested doing the event, I didn’t realize it was a race. I thought it was like the many road bike century events we had done – start when you want, take the time you need to finish, hang out in the aid stations eating snacks and watching people . . . Instead, there is a mass start, people fighting for position, and by the way, time cut-offs. If you don’t make it to a certain check point by a pre-determined time, you are pulled off the course.

Racers start lining up at the corner of 6th and Harrison in Leadville beginning at 5 am. At 630 am, Ken Chlouber counts down to the start, and then fires a real-live shotgun. Your adrenaline shoots through the roof; your mouth goes dry, you immediately wish you had peed just one last time (even though you’ve gone at least 7 times since you rolled out of bed at 4 am) and you try not to crash into or be crashed into by any of the other 650 riders. [Also be sure to see the other side of the story . . .] By the time the people at the back of the queue (riders like me and Phil who are just trying to beat the 12 hour time cut-off, not win the race) roll through the start line, at least 3 minutes have passed and the lead riders are one-half to three-quarters of a mile ahead – a lead which will just continue to increase as the time ticks away.

But we didn’t know any of that.

So we went about preparing for the race as we would for any other century. We did a lot of riding in the spring and early summer, including a MTB trip in April to the White Rim in Utah with guides from Rim Tours in Moab – beautiful scenery, pretty easy riding and great food. We commuted to our jobs downtown via bike 2 to 3 days per week (30 miles round trip), took indoor cycling classes at our gym 2 or 3 days a week, rode the Santa Fe Century in May, the Elephant Rock Century in June, rode Squaw Pass a few times, did the Triple Bypass in July . . . and finally, in the third week of July, went up to Leadville to ride on the course.

Oh. My. Goodness. First of all, finding the course is not as easy as you might think. Oh sure, there is a map in the race booklet, but nothing is marked when you get out there. On that first trip we didn’t even find the first 10 miles of the course. Not an auspicious beginning.

The next week we rode the first 25 miles of the course – from Leadville to the Powerline. And driving home from Leadville, we sort of glanced at each other out of the corners of our eyes, and burst into a fit of uncontrollable giggles. Because we had just figured out the race thing – the first time cut-off is at Twin Lakes. If you don’t get to that aid station (40 miles) in 4 hours or less, you will be pulled off the course. And it had just taken us something like 4 hours to ride the first 25 miles. Not an omen of ultimate success.

But while we’re sometimes slow on the uptake, by God we’re stubborn. So the next week – 2 weeks before the race – we went back and tried to make that 4 hour mark. It was very close. We went back the next week – 1 week before the race – and we tried again. And made it. Yee Ha!

August 14 dawned clear and cold. We lined up at the start. Boom! And we were off. Phil made it to Twin Lakes in 3:42; I made it to Twin Lakes in 3:44. Mission accomplished. Or not.

Here’s the rub. We had trained to make the first time cut-off. Not really considering what that meant.
What it meant was that we were allowed to continue.
Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
We rode up to the 50 mile turn around point at Columbine Mine, which is at about 12, 600 feet elevation. I made it there at 6:25 elapsed time; Phil made it at 6:29.
The excitement, the exertion and the stupidity caught up with me then. I had a massive migraine, and I knew I couldn’t finish under the 12 hour cut-off. I waited for Phil at the top of Columbine and told him I was going to abandon when I got back to Twin Lakes (the 60 mile mark). Riding down from Columbine that year was sheer misery. My vision was blurry, every rut and bump made my head pound and it was all I could do to keep from vomiting. When I got to the check point (7:31 elapsed – 30 minutes under the time cut-off for that station) I told the race officials I was quitting. They tried to talk me out of it. Ken Chlouber himself was there, and he tried to talk me out of it. But I really couldn’t continue.
Phil rode on to the next check point at the Pipeline (about 75 miles). He made it at 9:05. But he had taken a fall earlier and his back was starting to cramp. Also, I think it was just mentally hard to continue when he knew I was done & drinking a cold diet Pepsi (to wash down the Excedrin and Imitrex for my headache). He also abandoned.

In one of the next posts, I’ll tell you about our great support crew in 2004, Jean Carpenter, who was a big part of the reason we made it as far as we did in that first attempt.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How the Leadville Trail 100 Events Came to Be

This is reproduced without permission, but I don't know who I'd ask, so there you go. Copyrights can be so inconvenient.

Rocky Mountain Sports
Mining Their Own Business
Contributed by David Vranicar Monday, 28 July 2008

How a mining town survived a mining bust with a brutal race, changing the course of history 100 miles at a time.

Desperation made it seem like a good idea.

Desperation made people in Leadville, Col., think that constructing a 58,000-square-foot ice palace – literally, a palace of ice – would save their town. Desperation spurred them to include a skating rink, restaurant and dance floor right inside the Disney-looking castle so that tourists and their dollars would flood Leadville.

If the Leadville Ice Palace was anything, it was desperate. But hey, in 1895, so was Leadville.
Emerging after the Colorado gold strikes of the early 1860s, Leadville’s identity had always been tied to mining. Gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper saturated the surrounding mountains, and a booming mining industry sprouted.

By 1880, though, the mines began to dry out. The town’s economy – which was essentially mining – came to a halt. Stores and banks went under, and by 1895 the population was less than 15,000, down from more than 40,000 in 1880. Leadville’s newspaper, the Herald Democrat, wrote, “Those were the days of panic and gloom for Leadville.”

And this led to the Leadville Ice Palace. People thought the imposing, record-setting palace would save the town’s floundering economy. But investors ended up losing lots of money, and there would never be another Leadville Ice Palace. Designed for economic stimulation, it was an economic disaster.
So forgive Carl Miller if he thought his best friend, Ken Chlouber, was nuts. With Leadville’s economy again faltering after a mining bust, Chlouber’s plan reeked of desperation, destined to become another ice palace.

Chlouber’s idea: Leadville should host a 100-mile run. That’s about four marathons – at once.
Chlouber was reduced to such a desperate (and, most people thought, stupid) scheme because Leadville once again couldn’t mine. After 64 years of production, the nearby Climax Molybdenum Mine shut down in 1982. The Climax mine employed 3,200 people, and most of them lived in Leadville – including Chlouber and Miller.

Almost overnight, Leadville had the highest unemployment rate in the country. “We got all these guys who have been mining their whole lives – this is some tall, rough timber – and now all of a sudden they’re out of a job,” Chlouber said. “They’re just sitting here in town, of course filling up the bars. Now we got alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse. All this sort of follows this displaced aggression – old man comes home, beats up the old lady. Old lady beats up the kids. Kids kick the dog. Dog bites the postman.

“So we had to have a way to bring money into the community. We knew we had to save our community, keep from being a ghost town.”

But how? The thing that Leadville did best – and the thing that they liked best – was mining, which had betrayed them again. The town couldn’t wait for the price of molybdenum to go back up and mining to return to Climax, but there were people like Chlouber who weren’t about to leave.

But for him to stay, and for the town to survive, something had to be done about the economy.
So under his crown of untamed, frizzy grey locks, Chlouber brainstormed the “Leadville Trail 100,” the logistics of which were nearly as outrageous as the dimensions of the ice palace. The starting point would be in downtown Leadville – above 10,000 feet – and twice the runners would have to conquer the 12,600-foot Hope Pass, not to mention more than 15,000 feet of vertical elevation gain. They would embark on this journey (to the sound of a shotgun) at 4 a.m. and, if things went well, would be done 28-or-so hours later.

If you think it sounds nuts, you’re not alone.
“I was for him 100 percent, but I just didn’t think that anybody would be crazy enough to run 100 miles up here,” Miller said. As Chlouber remembers it, Miller told him, “You’re crazy as hell, but I’ll still help ya.”
Sure enough, there were about 50 people who dared sign up for that first race in 1983. The sinister Leadville Trail 100 course only allowed 10 of them to finish, but the important thing for Leadville’s bleak economy was that people came, pumping some much needed money into Leadville’s economy.

Unlike the ice palace, the Trail 100 would see a second year. In 1984 the race doubled in size, as 100 people signed up for a day’s worth of torture. But it was that third year, 1985, when the Leadville Trail 100 declared that it would never become another ice palace, another monument to the town’s desperation. The television show Wide World of Sports did a feature on the Leadville Trail 100, or as Chlouber puts it, a feature on “these idiots trying to run 100 miles.”

“Then it exploded,” Chlouber continued. “That television show set it off, and it’s grown, grown, grown ever since.” From 1986 on, Chlouber says they had more entrants than they wanted.
But unbeknownst to Chlouber and the race’s co-founder, Merilee O’Neal, the Trail 100 was still in its infancy. It would take off again in 1994 when the Leadville Trail 100 Bike Race was added. Chlouber is the first to admit that he did not want to introduce bikes into the fold. The running race was going fine, and Chlouber was convinced that bringing in a bunch of cyclists would throw off the decade-old dynamic of the race.

“I said, ‘No, no and hell no’ to biking.”
But Chlouber eventually relented, giving birth to what is now one of the most sought-after biking events in North America. Even Floyd Landis, the 2006 Tour de France champion, has done the Leadville Trial 100. (He finished second.) [editorial comment by jcm - And so has Lance Armstrong, 7 time Tour de France champion - he also finished second, to the KING - Dave Wiens. We'll now return to our regularly scheduled program. . .]

“It wasn’t any foresight or intellect on my part,” Chlouber said. “It was just I was focused on our community. The mountain bike thing, though, you talk about a bozo with blind luck, that’s me.

That blind luck has resulted in thousands of additional entrants and millions of additional dollars for Leadville. With the foot race only able to handle about 600 runners, the inclusion of the bike race as part of the Trail 100 allowed for 1,000 extra entrants each year, each one of them staying in Leadville, eating in Leadville and spending money in Leadville. The Leadville Trail 100 had done what the Leadville Ice Palace couldn’t: sustain itself for years on end, and continue to generate money for the still not-mining mining town.
Exact numbers on the economic benefits of the Trail 100 do not exist, according to the Leadville City Treasurer and Chamber of Commerce. The County Treasurer and County Clerk’s office also do not have information on what happens to the town’s economy when the city is abuzz with Trail 100 entrants. Chlouber, though, ventured to say that the boost to Leadville’s economy is “obviously in the millions and millions” over the race’s quarter century.

Leadville’s current mayor, Bud Elliot, owned a pair of motels in Leadville before becoming mayor four years ago. He experienced firsthand the annual spike in business as bikers and runners flooded the town. “It’s really impossible to quantify it exactly,” Elliot said, “but some of those people come up three months ahead of time, stay in rental homes and train. They’re buying all their groceries here, eating at our restaurants.”

“I always knew that that was revenue I could count on,” Elliot continued. “They would check in and say, ‘I want the same room next year.’”

Said the once-skeptical Miller, “The economic impacts, you just can’t calculate. But this community would be in dire need without them. And they’re a given, they’re a given every year. The lodging, the restaurant business, all the other small businesses up and down Harrison Avenue benefit tremendously from this.”

The Leadville Hostel is one such business. The owner, Wild Bill (“That is my real name,” he says), is proud to announce that he has bookings through 2011 for people who know that they will be back to beat – or get beat by – the Trail 100. “The people we see here at the hostel, we see year after year – it’s almost an addiction,” Wild Bill said.

Willie Lambert is one of the addicts. He has tried the Trail 100 the last four years, finishing once. Each time he’s in town he stays at the Leadville Hostel, which, according to him, is like staying with family. “There’s not a place in the world like the Leadville Hostel the week before the race,” Lambert said. “It’s like a reunion. You see the same people every year, and it’s a fairly emotionally charged environment.”

The only night that Lambert spent in Leadville but was not at the Hostel was a few years back when there was a reservation mix up. Wild Bill was double booked, and with racers crammed everywhere, there wasn’t a vacant room in town. When hearing that Lambert – who was with his wife and kids – didn’t have a place to stay, O’Neal offered to let the entire family stay at her house. “That just blew me away,” Lambert said. “I don’t know many race directors who would do that. That showed how much she cares about not just about the race, but how much she really cares about the runners.”

Businesses like Sawatch Backcountry, an outdoor supplies outlet, also see business soar when Trail 100 devotees flood Leadville. Sawatch actually ran out of products like hydration packs and energy foods last summer when competitors were in town. They are loading up this year in preparation for the influx of business this summer, when they will no doubt be raided again. And Sawatch is but one of a handful of outdoor shops that will be preyed upon by Trail 100 entrants come August.

But aside the from the money that race participants pump directly into the community each year, profits from the Trail 100 have also helped pay for equipment for the local fire department, uniforms for the school sports teams and vision and dental care for people who can’t afford it. The Trail 100 sponsors an annual Christmas party for area children, and has given money to the senior citizen center. In addition, Chlouber and O’Neal ink a check for between $10,000 and $20,000 each year to the Leadville Legacy, an organization devoted to the economic well-being of Leadville.

“It’s not just some giving back, it’s giant giving back,” Elliot said of the Trail 100. “The economic benefits to the hotels and restaurants, that’s important. It’s people making a living and contributing to the tax base. But the Legacy fund, that’s giving back to another group of people.
“The Legacy has done more every year they’ve been in existence,” Elliot went on. “It’s really refreshing to see someone begin a foundation and every year they’re tying to do more. They’re not just doing a little bit.”

Chlouber and O’Neal seem most proud of a program launched this year that aims to provide each college-bound high school graduate from Lake County High School with a $1,000 scholarship. Usually about half of the 60-or-so Lake County graduates go to college, so they’re looking at about $30,000 a year. Elliot says that the $1,000-per-student goal is ambitious, but adds, “I don’t know if they’ll make it the first year, but if there’s anyone who can, it’s these folks.”
People from Austria to Japan, from Florida to Washington, make their way to the 3,000-person town of Leadville each summer for the Leadville Trail 100. But the race was never about making Leadville famous around the world. It was about making sure the people who called Leadville home still had a place to live.

“The total purpose of the race was community,” Chlouber said, “bringing people here to spend money. My passion has never been that the world needs more exercise. It’s that Leadville needs more money. You’ve got your choice if you wanna stay fit, but we want you to come here and spend money.”

If it had failed, people may claim that Chlouber’s solution for saving Leadville was just as desperate as the ice palace – a rash idea devised in the midst of a city’s economic implosion.
But the Leadville Trail 100 didn’t fail. Instead, it prevented the town from melting into the mountainside.

The Argument for Boxed Wine

In case anyone thinks that I take this training stuff too seriously . . .

This Opinion piece from the New York Times makes a great argument for boxed wine. So next time you come to dinner and see me crack open a box-o-wine, it isn't just because I'm cheap! I'm environmentally conscious [and cheap].

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Leadville 2008 Unofficial Statistics

All Riders:
1075 riders registered for the race
818 riders started the race (76% of those who pre-registered)
653 riders finished in under 12 hours – about 80% of the field

210 riders finished between 11 and 12 hours – 32%
183 riders finished between 10 and 11 hours – 28%
143 riders finished between 9 and 10 hours – 22%
91 riders finished between 8 and 9 hours – 14%
21 riders finished between 7 and 8 hours – 3%
2 riders finished under 7 hours (Dave Wiens and Lance Armstrong) - .3%

Ken Chlouber, the race director, had to cough up 114 La Plata Grande belt buckles (the big ones for sub-9 hour finishers) – including one for Chris Carmichael, Lance’s former coach.

Women Riders:
Looking at the preliminary results posted on the website, 127 women registered for the race (about 12% of the total pre-registered riders). 54 women finished in under 12 hours:

20 to 30 years old - 4 women
30 to 40 years old - 23 women
40 to 50 years old - 22 women
50 to 60 years old - 3 women
2 crazy super women who rode single speeds

There were also at least 5 women who rode as stokers on tandems. In the preliminary results I can’t really tell if they are included in the age group statistics, so there may be 5 additional female finishers.

Historical finish numbers:
2004 – 426 riders finished under 12 hours out of 745 starters (57%)
2005 – 471 riders finished under 12 hours out of 597 starters (79%)
2006 – 509 riders finished under 12 hours out of 645 starters (79%)
2007 – 663 riders finished under 12 hours out of 837 starters (79%)

More geek squad analysis may follow when the official results are posted.

I do find it interesting that since 2005 the percentage of finishers has held steady at 79 - 80%. 2004 is the year Phil and I had to abandon - I guess we're responsible for the low finish percentage that year!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Fat Cyclist

"Fatty" is more obsessed with the Leadville 100 than any other blogger I've come across. Here is his report on the 2008 edition - he rocked, finishing in just over 10 hours - on a single speed!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dave Wiens is the KING

Just in case my loyalty is in doubt based on the last post, I am a huge Dave Wiens fan. The guy is an amazing athlete, humble and gracious. Here he is rolling into the finish line - with a flat rear tire, by the way.
Here is another photo of Dave, with our friend Yuki Saito, who placed 21st overall (7 hours and 58 seconds - unbelievable!)

Leadville 2008 - Dave v. Lance

Many of you probably know that Lance Armstrong rode the Leadville 100 this past weekend. Phil and I volunteered at the race, helping riders with drop bags at the Twin Lakes aid station. This photo was taken as Lance grabbed a feed bag and headed off to the Columbine Mine climb. Here is the best video coverage of the 2008 race that I've found.

Monday, August 11, 2008

363 Days to Go

August 15, 2009.
Yes, that is the date for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race Across the Sky ("Leadville 100").
But I need to back up and start in January 2004. That is when I talked my husband, training partner and best friend, Phil, into signing up for the Leadville 100. We had both done many many road bike Centuries. I got the brilliant idea to try a mountain bike Century. The conversation went something like "How hard can it be?"
And that is what this blog is about - detailing just how hard it can be. Over the next 12 months I'll share stories of the 3 Leadville 100s we have done to date (2004, 2005 & 2007) and our training, nutrition, bike set ups, tire choices, etc.
In 2004 there were virtually no resources describing the race or what to expect. Blogs have changed that and if you Google "Leadville 100 MTB" you'll get dozens of hits. But I have only found one article written by a woman. Equipment selection and nutrition needs can vary greatly between men and women on this ride, so maybe this will help all you women who are thinking about giving it a try.