Sunday, August 16, 2009

All Four Seasons

A Very Long Day

Some of you may be familiar with the Sting song “All Four Seasons.”

The gist of it is that his love is changeable – from warm and sunny to wintry in the blink of an eye:

If it's a sunny day I take my umbrella
Just in case the raindrops start to fall
You could say that I'm just a cautious fellow
I don't want to be caught in a sudden squall
That's my baby
She can be all four seasons in one day
That's my baby
She can be all four seasons in one day

Leadville on Saturday was equally unpredictable. As we left Copper Mountain at 5 am it was pouring rain and 38 degrees. Phil and I were completely silent all the way to the top of Fremont Pass – where it appeared the road was wet, but no new rain was falling – and we could see one or two stars, so the cloud cover appeared to be breaking. Whew.

Our friends Lowry & Colleen came up from California to crew for us – even after we learned Phil couldn’t race, they insisted they’d come up and support me. Jeffrey also came up – I felt like a pro rider with a full support team.

We got to Leadville, parked, and quickly set up the trainer so I could do my warm-up.

Lowry & Colleen took my mountain bike and got it staged in the starting area while Jeffrey watched the time for my warm-up, helped break things back down & waited with me in the port-a-potty line, holding my miscellaneous gear. It was cold and damp, but not actively raining at that point.

Go Baby Go!!

All too soon I was checking in, lining up, and the shotgun went off – time to ride, baby. As we headed out of town on the pavement, a beautiful rainbow formed. I hoped it was an omen of good things to come – and in a global sense, I think it was.

The race is different than it was 2 years ago when I rode. Oh, the course is the same, but there are twice as many racers now – and the course simply cannot accommodate the mass start.

There was never a time in first 25 miles when I wasn’t riding in traffic. St Kevin’s was a very slow ride because I could only go as fast as the person ahead of me – who could only go as fast as the person ahead of him. It was a bottleneck that never broke open.

It rained – hard – off and on all the way to the Fish Hatchery. The wet weather did seem to keep people in check. I didn’t see anyone making crazy monkey maneuvers like I’ve seen in years past. I think everyone was trying to stay safe.

It was cold. Very very cold. On my descent of the Powerline I was shivering so hard I feared I would wreck from the uncontrolled jerking, but I managed to stay safe.

My Team Rocks!!
The sun came out and by the time I got to the Pipeline where Phil was waiting with a fresh Camelbak and a rag to wash my sunglasses, I was warmed up and ready to keep going. I told him there would be no personal records – I was already behind my anticipated split times, and with all the traffic on the course and the wet weather, I knew I had no chance to break 11 hours.

Lowry, Colleen and Jeffrey were like a Nascar pit crew when I got to Twin Lakes. They may have rotated my tires and changed my oil in addition to swapping Camelbaks and handing me supplements & food - it all happened so fast it was hard to tell!

Phil cleaned and lubed my chain and I was back on the course in minutes.

It was a little intimidating. With such a great team supporting me, there was no time to even think about being tired or whether it was good idea to keep riding.

40 miles/60 Miles - He's Not Twice as Fast as Me . . .
As I pulled out of Twin Lakes, Lance was rolling back in – at that point he was already 20 miles ahead of me. Wow.

I felt good leaving Twin Lakes, but it seemed like it was taking more effort to turn the pedals than it should have. My shift indicator showed that I was in my small chain ring – but when I looked at my chain, I was actually in the big ring. I figured, hey, no big deal, that must have happened when Phil lubed my chain.

Whew – my legs weren’t dead at 40 miles with the hardest 60 miles still to come.

So I shifted. And nothing happened. And I tried again. And nothing happened.

I rode in the big ring until I hit this steep little incline on the transition section over to Columbine, then dismounted, ran up the hill, and started messing with my chain, derailleur, etc.

Finally, I got the bike to shift. Yippee. Otherwise, I would have been out. I am simply not strong enough to ride Columbine in my big ring.

Just as I re-mounted, Dave Wiens rode past. He had to be 10 minutes behind Lance at that point, and he looked cooked. Ugh.

Climbing Like a Monkey
I rode Columbine as strong as I have ever ridden it. I felt absolutely great during the entire climb. I passed at least 250 people. The weather wasn’t playing nice, though. It rained – hard – 4 different times. Later I heard some people got caught in hail and sleet. I had about 3 – 5 minutes of nasty corn snow, but no real sleet or hail. I just kept turning the cranks and moving ahead.

As usual, I got passed by many riders on the descent from Columbine – remember, I go downhill like a girl. Nevertheless, I had put time into quite a few people on the climb, and nowhere near that many folks passed me descending.

At Twin Lakes I was feeling a little bit shaky. I ate a Salted Nut Roll, took a few deep breaths, got more love and attention from my entourage, and headed out.

The sun was out again – I took off my arm warmers and my vest (I rode with my knee warmers on all day, though).

75 Miles, or Halfway - Really, That is How it is on This Ride
I got back to the Pipeline at 230 pm. That meant I had 4 hours to get back to Leadville and make the 12 hour time cut-off. I knew that gave me a cushion – and maybe even a chance to make up some ground.

However, there was a fierce headwind/crosswind on the Pipeline to Powerline transition – I didn’t make up any time there.

The Powerline was hard, as it always is, but it wasn’t emotionally crippling for me. There were other riders slumped over their bikes looking pretty bad. I felt good, and just hiked on by. I was starting get hopeful about maybe making my 11 hour goal after all.

Like I-70 on a Saturday Afternoon in January
Then I hit the traffic jam.

The entire climb up Sugarloaf was single file, one bike following the next, no one able to pass or make a move because there really was only one good rideable line. So, I fell into line and just climbed at the pace allowed. That was a bummer, because my legs still felt great, and I could have gone faster – maybe not much faster, but at least enough to make up a few minutes.

I did make up time on the pavement climb to St Kevin’s. My legs did not feel fatigued.

Weird, but true. So I cranked. I was not passed once on that climb, while I passed at least 50 other riders.

I hit the turn-off for St Kevin’s at 450 pm. I knew I’d make the 12 hour cut-off, barring any mechanical trouble. I stopped and ate – I was feeling just a little bit shaky and bonky – but not terrible.

Then I hit it hard. Again, there were several places where I got caught in traffic and had to simply cool my jets and ride at the pace everyone else was riding. The descent was fast – the rain had made the course tacky, and the line was obvious after 750 other riders had been there. So I went pretty fast – at least for me.

Before long I was on the Boulevard, and again, I climbed past several people who were suffering.

Then it was over. My finishing time was 11:29:48.

30 minutes slower than my goal. [Hey - Lance was 30 minutes off his goal, too . . .]

I am okay with it, though. Between the weather conditions and the traffic jams caused by the large race field, I did my best.

My fitness was good – I climbed like a spider all day.

My crew was amazing. With Colleen, Lowry, Jeffrey and Phil taking care of all the logistics, all I had to do was ride my bike.

It was physically the hardest of the 3 Leadville races I have finished. The cold and wet made it very challenging for me. It takes a lot of energy to keep the fire stoked in that kind of weather.

Also, I took several mud clumps in my left eye throughout the course of the day, and rode the last 25 miles with impaired vision. I could still see, but nothing was crisp. Thank goodness I could see well enough to follow the line carved by the riders ahead of me.

Again, thanks to everyone who supported me with e-mails, calls, text messages & psychic vibes. It means a great deal to me.

When I was shivering and miserable I thought “Quitting is not an option. Suck it up. There are so many people pulling for me I just need to keep turning the pedals and finish.” So I did.

I’ll post more photos in the next day or so, and also some thoughts on the Lance v. Dave race.

I’ll even try to answer the question I was asked, and asked myself, many times over the last few days: “Why the Leadville 100?”

My best friend and biggest supporter at the end of a very long day.

Lowry, Coleen and Jeffrey - my amazing crew.

Coming into the Pipeline on my way back to Leadville.

The race is held in a beautiful place - even if I don't usually get a chance to appreciate the views.

Lining up for the start.


  1. I had a BLAST!!!
    GREAT JOB!!!
    The Lion is Yours!!!!
    Love, PK

  2. CONGRATULATIONS on a ride well done!!!

  3. You are an amazing inspiration, and we are SO glad that you are safely finished!!! According to one account I read, over half of the riders did not even finish. Mary and I kept checking web reports off and on today. Love, Peggy & Ron
    PS. Lisa had a good race today, too. She did not meet her time goal, but she had fun. tom and the girls were able to check in with her at several spots.

  4. Great job Joanne! You have to be really tough to ride in that kind of weather! Hope you got that "I'm not training" cold beer! Definitely well deserved!

    Mark B.

  5. Nice work sis!!
    Anyone who can ride a bike in the mountains for TWELVE hours (almost) is an ANIMAL. Loiness works for me!

  6. Way to go, Joanne! You rock!!! Don't forget to bring your bikes to AZ when you come for xmas.....we can all ride together!!!


  7. Nice work Joanne!

    The weather condition made the race very hard this year.

    I was 58minutes slower than my goal;)