Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Leadville 100 - The Second Half - 75 miles to Finish - part 4

Pipeline to Finish - The Last Half

The last time cut off is at the Pipeline Aid Station at 75 miles at 9 Hours and 30 minutes. 

If you do not make it by then you are pulled out of the race.  

Their are many that will quit here before the time cut off, because they are done, cooked, shot, spanked - however you want to say it, but there is not enough left inside to keep pushing.    I quit here my first year at 9 hours and 15 minutes and that moment has stuck with me far longer than the pain did that convinced me to quit.

For others, there is the desire and the ability to keep pushing, to keep suffering - they are just too slow that day.  Maybe they will always be too slow, but that will not keep them from trying.

Last year while I was crewing for Joanne I stayed after she had gone through the Pipeline Aid Station to see if our friend Mike would make the 9-1/2 hour cut off.   I think it was Mike's second, maybe third attempt to finish and he had trained hard for most of the year.   It got closer and closer to the time cut off, and the anticipation got worse and worse.  I could not stand still and started to pace back and forth.   Nine Hours and 30 minutes came and the baricades were pulled across the trail.  My heart sank. 

Five minutes latter Mike came around the corner.   It still makes me emotional one year latter to remember the look on his face, and then Mike started to cry.

In that moment it is hard to grasp all of Mike's time sacrifice and commitment for a year of training, but it was easy to see the 9 and 1/2 hours of solid effort at altitude in his face.

I gave him a hug, and then I shared with him what our friend Chris who got us into Leadville the first year told Joanne and me when we failed to finish.   "Leadville is hard and that is what makes it a challenge and it is hard for everyone.   A challenge means there is a chance of failure, and everyone that starts faces that chance.   Facing failure takes courage.  Moving past failure allows us to learn, grow, and become stronger."

This year Mike was crewing for our friend Chris's 12th race and 11th finish (he has also failed to finish), with Mike's partner Miguel and Chris's wife Pattie.  Mike is one the sitting down and has his ever present smile on his face.  Like our friend Jeffrey, Mike has a great attitude on life.   

I forgot to mention Mike is a cancer survivor, he has faced failure and he is very courageous - in my book.   

Just a little too slow for that 9-1/2 mark, but there is always next year and the years after that. 

I rolled in to the Pipeline Aid Station at 8 hours 2 minutes.

3 hours and 35 minutes behind the race leaders at this point.   Compared to them I was crawling along, but for me this was doing pretty good.

Joanne had a cup of luke warm rammen noodles and broth waiting for me.    It was absolutely delightful - salty, bland, and not sweet!

After 8 hours of goo and mojo bars I was getting what Joanne calls "goo gut".    Your system is having trouble sharing blood between your legs & lungs and the stomach.   Throw in becoming tired, dehydration, maybe a little altitude sickness, and you now are becoming nauseous.

Most all long endurance event participants experience getting nauseous to varying degrees.   Unfortunately, you have to keep eating regardless of how you feel or your muscles will run out of glycogen and you will grind to a halt.

Goo gut is when your stomach starts to rebel and says - no more sweet stuff - please - or your not going to like what comes next.

Pipeline to Powerline is a gravel road leading to a chip sealed road, normally tough head winds to push through, and your legs are now feeling the lactic acid  build up burn every time you try to go a little harder.

I was lucky to get behind and draft off a guy and a gal when we hit the head winds.    They both pulled for about two minutes and I was having trouble keeping up drafting.   Then it was my turn to pull into the wind.   My legs were aching but I told myself I would pull hard and count to 120.   If I wasn't fast enough they could pass me and go on by themselves.

I put my head down, my hands at the center of my handle bar, got as aerodynamic as I could get and started to count.   I hit 120 and looked back in my dorky helmt mirror ( which I love ), and I was shocked to find out that I had dropped both of them.     Man, that was an ego boost.   My legs were doing much better than they were feeling!

I pulled off the chip seal road onto the start of the powerline climb and caught up to about 10 riders.   I was the last in line and it was senseless to try to pass since we would soon be pushing our bikes when it got steep.

A group of spectators to our left started yelling to everyone in our line "pop a wheelie!"    The spectators were ingnored by everyone in line, since everyone was tired and not looking forward to the push-a-bike section that lasts forever.  

The chant continued "pop a wheelie" as every rider passed by.   Finally I came abreast of the fans and I popped my wheel maybe 1" off the ground.   As far as a wheelie is concerned it was pathetic. The group of spectators went NUTS!  Two of them came up beside me, which is not hard to do when your pedaling 3 mph, and slapped me on the back and the rest were all cheering.   It made me laugh inside and I think I was still smiling when I got done pushing my bike about 25 minutes latter.

No Ned

The plan was for Ned to go from the Twin Lakes aid station and hike up the powerline to the top of the push a bike section with some water for me.   This is normally when the day is getting hot and I thought it would be nice to have some extra water to dump on my head.

It was getting hot and there was no Ned.   I shook it off and said to myself that there had not been enough time for Ned to get there before me.  So I pedaled up the steep south facing climb of the Sugarloaf pass.

I had gone several miles past the last spectator and was getting close to the top.   Then I saw a floppy straw hat and Ned's smiling face.   I think he said "it's a long way up here, is this close to the top?"

Whatever he said, it was absolutely delightful when he dumped that water over my head and onto my back!

I took off and crested Sugarloaf about twenty minutes later and got cooled by Ned's water evaporating off while cruising down a long rocky down hill decsent.

St. Kevins Inbound
My legs were getting crampy and I was taking salt tabs whenever the road conditions would allow to safely steer with one hand.   I had lots of time on the long climb on pavement to the top of St Kevins to go through the mental gyrations in my mind of what kind of finishing time was I looking at.    Could I break 11 hours - no.    Well, can I break Joanne's best time of 11 hours and 10    There was about a thirty minute period of dealing with my not going to make these goals.  I was passing people on the climb, but I wasn't motivated to push hard way into the pain zone.

Then I found myself at the top of the climb and the St. Kevins ( no crews allowed ) aid station, and my mind quickly fixated on "maybe they got rammen noodles!"  :)    No rammen noodles but the volunteers were incredibly upbeat!   A volunteer shoved a salted slice of water mellon in hand and I shoved off for the last five short but steep climbs of St. Kevins.

My legs were crampy and my stomach was rebelling, but my thoughts were you are going to finish and get a buckle if you don't blow up, cramp up, or crash out.  Just 5 lactic acid stingers ahead, keep it steady and keep on pedaling.

The Boulevard
The way back into Leadville is different then the way you left.   You have to climb a cobble stone, beat your sore butt, steep climb to a wash board gravel road that is tree lined so you cannot see Leadville called the Boulevard.

It is where new racers figure out that the Leadville 100 is really 103.5 miles long.   You can't see Leadville, your spedometer is past 100 miles, your butt is completely over the wash board gravel road, and your legs are to full of lactic acid to stand and pedal for long.   It is a morale tester.   I have seen people just get slower and slower on these last couple of miles.

Then you hit pavement and your butt and back go - ahhh!  Heavenly!!!

Your legs and stomach are still not to happy at pushing the last hill, but at least it is smooth!

I ground up towards the top of the last climb of the day and to my surprise, there was Joanne and Ned to cheer me on!

I stood up and did my best to power start the down hill and push hard to the finish.

I picked off and passed six more riders and then could here Jeffrey yelling in the crowd to my left.

Suddenly, I was done.  

A volunteer hung a medal over my head, and Jeffrey was there to lead me away.

The ramifications of the last hard push of the day
came to visit me.    It was time to sit down and concentrate on not throwing up.

Jeffrey was keeping me company and telling me how much better I looked than three years before.

He was right, I was in much better condition then three years ago.    That year I thought I was having a heart attack and going to throw up as I lay on the grass.   At least this year I could sit up. I guess that counts as an improvement.

Then the whole gang was there and they shared moments of the day while I slowly came back to life.


My crew was spectacular, in every way!

The weather was probably the best in the history of the race.

Started healthy. 

No mechanicals.

Ended healthy.

Got a buckle.

I now have as many as Joanne.

Set a new PR after getting 3 years older.   11 hours 30 minutes.

Finished about 771 out of over 1,329 starters.   421 did not finish.   About 1 in 3.

Did not break Joannes' personal record time.

Like my race day this year day, she is hard to beat!!!!


  1. Thanks for sharing with us, Phil. It's far beyond anything that I can imagine, but thanks for putting it into words so that we can understand a little bit better. Peggy

  2. However you prepare, plan, scheme or dream - it is always hard. It strips you down to the core. NPR does a series called "This I Believe." What I believe after participating at Leadville - as both racer and crew - is that the event gives each individual an opportunity. An opportunity to push physical limits, mental boundaries and the envelope of good sense. At the end of the day, it can be a transformative experience, or it can reinforce truths you've always known. Discipline, focus, hard work and perserverance can take you beyond what your natural talent would otherwise allow. Hats off to all who strive.