It’s entirely possible I am mentally impaired. I don’t feel mentally impaired, but I learn so slowly and poorly that mental impairment is the Occam’s Razor explanation.
I offer, by way of example, three things I — on my fifteenth racing of mile 60 – 75 of the Leadville 100 (because, remember, I didn’t make it this far once, so I don’t get to say “sixteenth” on this part of the course) — finally learned:
- If you stop for a while during a race, it hurts to get re-started.
- If you stop and eat for a while during a race, it hurts even more to get re-started.
- If you stop for a while and eat during a race, and the re-start is uphill, it hurts even more than that.
Which is to say, instead of having a sandwich and catching my breath and gathering my strength and hardening my resolve for the next section of the race, I switched bottles, got a Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel and packet of Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews (I’m so glad they’re not inorganic, because that would make them very difficult to eat), and I left.
(Note: I apologize for that last sentence being such a mess. I’d edit it, but I have a strict policy in my blog that requires me to be very lazy about what I publish.)
Having taken advantage of the excellent services of Zac and Erin, I started up the steep-but-short climb that leads to the rolling fifteen mile section before the real test of the Leadville 100 — the Powerline climb — begins.
And to my delight, it wasn’t that bad. So add that to the list of important lessons learned, all you aspiring Leadville 100 do-ers: don’t take a long break at the Twin Lakes aid station, or the little climb right after it will feel much worse than it actually is.
I am so wise.
For so long, mile 60 – 75 in the Leadville 100 has been my undoing. That’s where people start passing me. That’s where I lose time. That’s where I usually discover — or convince myself — that, once again, I’m going to be slower than I had hoped I’d be.
But a couple of things have changed.
First, there’s the whole “don’t take too long of a break or eat too much” thing I just spent way too long explaining. Second, instead of there being two hike-a-bike sections where you’ve got to put your head down and struggle uphill, there’s just one of those sections now.
The other one has been circumvented with a really nice, easy section of singletrack. And even though that increased the Leadville 100 from 103.5 miles to 103.9 miles, it’s a welcome change. Riding is always better than pushing.
And it makes for a really good photo opp:
photo courtesy of Zazoosh
And hey, while I’m showing off photos here, I’d like to note a few things. First, yes, I can see that my paunch is pretty obvious. Thanks. Second, this photo shows off something I wanted to note about the weather this year: it was perfect. Warm enough that I didn’t need arm warmers after about 9:30am, but cool enough that I left my jersey zipped up the whole day without ever even thinking about it.
And third, I wanted to point out that Zazoosh does an awesome job with event photography. I’m always happy when I find that they’re doing a race, because they bring enough photographers to canvas the course, find the best spots to get great shots, get those photos up online pronto, and have fantastic photos of every single racer, to boot. Event photography is a demanding biz, and Zazoosh kicks butt at it. Kudos to them.
OK, now back to the story. What was the section heading for this part? Headwind? Oh yeah. Headwind.
Mile 60 – 75 from Twin Lakes Dam to Pipeline can be your best friend — a place to recover, get your legs back, and get ready for the big Powerline climb — or your worst enemy.
It all depends on which way the wind blows.
Last year, there was either no wind or a tailwind (like most riders, I can’t tell the difference between no wind and a tailwind).
This year, there was a headwind. A nasty headwind. And that headwind can add minutes to your time while simultaneously leaving you cracked (or outright broken) for the Powerline climb.
So what can you do? Find a group and work with them. Unless you’re on a singlespeed, in which case you won’t be able to hang with a group.
In which case, you — or in this case, I — just pedal along, as best you can.
I intentionally didn’t look at my computer; I didn’t want to know what was happening to my time. I just pedaled along, reminding myself constantly that I was still racing, not just “surviving.” That any suffering I was doing was in service to my objective. That everyone else out on the course was putting up with the exact same thing I was putting up with.
That the sun was out and looked like it was going to stay out — no freezing downpour today. That the race was supposed to be challenging. That, more than anything else, I didn’t have anything to complain about.
I kept going. Hard, even though I was pushing against the wind. Sometimes passing people, sometimes getting passed, but still treating this like a race.
I pulled into the Pipeline aid station — mile 75 — 6:03 into the race. Which is pretty much the target time for anyone who wants to squeak by into the sub-nine finish.
Scott waved me down, loaded me up with two fresh bottles and four more gels — I was way past the point where I could chew actual food. “Give me a swig of Coke,” I said.
“Why would you want a coat?” Scott asked, but obediently rummaging through my contingency bag for a jacket.
“No, Coke! COKE!” I yelled.
“Ah,” he said, understanding. He, handed me a bottle, I took a few swallows, and I was off again.
Now all I had to do was climb a couple of mountain passes in the final 29 miles of the race, and I was home free.
What I didn’t realize was that I’d shortly be visiting the eighth, ninth, and eleventh circles of hell.
Which is what I’ll talk about when I continue (and conclude, I promise!) in the final installment of this race report (click here to read it).