Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crewing for a Leadville 100 Rider

[Guest Blog #4 by Phil Kriz]

To be honest, I thought I was going to be depressed on race day after training for 9 months but ultimately being unable to race this year.

However, it was exactly the opposite! The race atmosphere was energizing and crewing for Joanne was an intense and very fun experience for me (and for my crew mates Lowry, Colleen, and Jeffrey).

I was full of nervous anticipation and was anxious to watch an epic race unfold.

I was very nervous that I was going to miss Joanne at an aid station, forget something she really needed, or watch her have a bad day and want to quit! Lowry and Jeffrey were just as bad as me, and the 3 of us checked, checked, and rechecked Joanne’s list for each aid station. In fact, Colleen was the only truly calm one of the bunch and repeatedly chuckled watching us messing with the gear.

This is how the day progressed:

We woke up at 4 am, (well I was really awake around 1:00 am – the bed was killing my ribs), had breakfast and drove up to Leadville at 5 am in a hard steady rain.

You could have heard a pin drop in our car! Both of us know that a rainy day at the Leadville 100 can take away a finish, no matter how hard we trained.

We hit Fremont Pass and the rain slowed, then stopped. I was holding my breath all the way into Leadville, hoping that the weather would hold. And luckily it did, for the start….

Although we arrived at the starting line at the same time as in prior years, the increase in riders put Joanne a long way back in the pack at the starting line. I knew instantly that this was going to cost her time in her race.

I saw our old neighbor Jim Gill just 20 feet ahead of Joanne in the starting queue. Jim is a much, much better rider than Joanne or I, but this was his first Leadville 100. I went over to tell him to push hard on the pavement to improve his placement at the St Kevin's climb (where riders bunch up and progress comes to a stand-still).

We finally got Joanne checked in to a race official 8 minutes before the race started. I gave Joanne a kiss for good luck, whispered into her ear “I would have kicked your ass this year!” and worked my way out of the huge pack of riders preparing to take off.

I immediately started fighting the crowds to trying to see the front of the pack and watch the race start. Lance Armstrong, Dave Wiens, Chris Carmichael and our friend Yuki Saito were all lined up on the front line with nervous faces. It was nice to see that even the pros are apprehensive of this race.

The shotgun went off and 1,300 riders clicked into their pedals. It took several minutes to watch everyone go by and I was so proud when I saw Joanne ride by surrounded by all these big mountain biking guys!

I knew some of these big guys would experience the humility of her passing them on the big climbs and how that makes her soooo happy!

Before I knew it, 1,300 riders had disappeared and the sky did not look kind! A rainbow had formed in the morning sun, with dark skies in the background toward the first steep climb of St. Kevin's. There was no question that it was going to rain. It was only 38 deg F., and I knew it was the just the start of a miserable challenge for many, if not all of the racers.

[To be continued . . .]


  1. Do they all start at the same time? In other races I've been in, you wear a band that starts the clock when you pass the sensor, so your time is not relevant to what others are doing. There is no way for everyone (1400 people) to start at the starting line all at the same time...

  2. Yes, everyone starts at once - a shotgun start. This year it was really a problem - there are 2 times as many racers as there were in 2005 and the course doesn't accomodate the mass start well with that many participants. 2009 was the first year Leadville used timing chips, but your time still started when the gun went off, not when you crossed the start line. It took at least 3 minutes for me to get to the start line after the gun was fired. I'm really hoping the race director will move to wave starts if he keeps expanding the size of the field.