Posted on 1:29 PM by Schottler
A couple of months ago I got offered a spot at the Leadville 100, thanks to Big Shark and Sram. At the time I was on the trainer with a broken wrist, with little time to really get prepared for the race. Once the cast was off, I did what I could to get some form back. I never came back to perfect form by the race, but I could still go fast. A good 2.5 weeks camping, riding, and relaxing at elevation was capped off with the 103 mile race.
The race started early, 6:30AM. I was up at 4:00AM with Nate Means in the kitchen preparing the perfect pre-race meal which has always lead to a good race result. Nate and Meg dropped me off just outside of town so I could ride to the start line. It was cold (37 degrees) and I was tired, so my "warm-up" was about 5 minutes. This year they changed the start positions, using corrals. My invite to the race, which was after the lottery system, gave me a number which would have put me in the back of the 1,900 registered racers. Thankfully this is now a USAC race, so my 'pro' card gave me a priority start position. The front 250 spots are reserved for top 100 finishers last year and those with pro licenses. I got there early enough to be in the 4th row, just behind some of the best in the world. I was fired up.
The traditional shotgun blast meant go, so we were off. The start of the race was a bit chaotic, the flag on the lead truck fell off, which resulted in everyone in front of me locking up their brakes and shooting in different directions, but we were all able to keep it upright. After that, it was fast. A paved descent to some unpredictable double track to the base of the St. Kevins climb. After nearly 2 weeks without any rain, the gravel was DUSTY. Clouds of dust plus all of us riding 3-4 wide and wheel to wheel made it difficult to avoid large rocks, which resulted in a number of early flats for other riders. I tried to keep myself positioned in the front 50 or so and had the leaders in sight for a while. The pace was pretty high at the start of the race and up the climb and a lot of riders were already getting blown out of the front groups, so I was riding within my ability and kept a consistent pace up the climb.
After the climb, we had a short paved descent followed by the next climb up Sugarloaf. Alban Lakata, the 2010 marathon world champion from Austria, came by me on the paved climb after flatting. I hopped on his wheel for as long as I could, which bridged me up to the next group, which then exploded apart as he went by. I was feeling good, but wanted to conserve some energy so I decided to stay with the group.
Coming down powerline I made up some positions and got in a good group for the flat roller section to the Twin Lakes aid station. Up the last climb it was my turn to pull, which somehow separated me from the group, so I just kept going. I got to Twin Lakes in 2:24, 14 minutes or so behind the leaders. Beans was there waiting to give me a couple bottles and some more food. Then it was on to the 3,200 foot vertical climb.
Columbine hurt. I set myself on a pace I knew I could maintain and held it the whole way up. I actually made up some positions on the climb, but the top riders were still riding away from me even more. Todd Wells was returning down Columbine a little after I hit 11,000 feet (12,400 is the top,) and I got to watch all of the people in front of me recovering down. The descent was fast. I probably had a little too much confidence on the gravel corners with a constant line of riders pushing their bikes up the climb. I basically stopped using my brakes and just railed everything, making up a few more positions and taking a few too many risks.
Coming back through Twin Lakes it was obvious I wouldn't be able to maintain a high pace anymore, everything was hurting. I slowed down, but was able to stay with a group of about 5 other people all the way back to powerline. Powerline sucked. I think it's mentally the hardest part of the race, you know it's coming the whole time, and you're 80 miles in. I was with a few people up the climb, including Gretchen Reeves, who was chasing down Rebecca Rusch, 4 minutes up the road. I attacked the top of the climb so I could descend by myself, which got me probably 1-2 minutes. Thankfully Nate made it to the bottom of Sugarloaf in time, I ran out of water at the start of powerline. 2 more bottles for the last 15 or so miles.
Coming back up St. Kevins was super painful, it seemed like the turn off the road to the singletrack would never come. Gretchen and I were riding together again at this point, which made it a little better than trying to do it all by myself. She let me go ahead on the descent to put in some more time.
After descending down St. Kevins there's a flat gravel section which I was trying to motor across, but my legs were toast. I had nothing left and Gretchen got up to me again. By now she was just a few minutes behind Rebecca and I took a hard pull on the front to try and help her, but it pretty much just blew me apart. The last section is a 3 mile gravel climb and I was bonking, nauseous, and falling apart, I just wanted it to end. The bad part was I didn't know we were returning in to town on this different gravel road, I never preroad this. I was going sooo sloowww. Eventually, much later, I made it up the climb and saw the finish.
I came across in 7:37, 7 minutes slower than my ultimate goal, but I told myself I would be happy with anything under 8:00. So, I am not complaining. This put me 49th overall out of about 1,600 who started and 14/89 in my age group. I am not really that happy with the position, since this would have been top 20 last year and 3rd in my age group. But, there was some serious horsepower there. A few years ago it was easily a top 10 time. This was also my longest bike ride ever, by over an hour, and my first 100 mile mtb race.
The race itself was AWESOME. I loved the course and the atmosphere, easily in my top 3 race experiences ever. I hurt so bad at the end I told myself I wasn't going to race it again, but a few hours later I quickly changed my mind. I will be back next year for a sub 7:15 time.
A HUGE thanks to Nate and Meg Means for standing around all day providing support and cooking some delicious meals in our Copper condo. I would not have been able to do this without your help!
Here is the Garmin data.