Monday, August 12, 2013

Race Report: Leadville 100

Pain.  Just pure pain for the duration of the race.  I'm not sure what was going on, but I wasn't running on all cylinders.  Hell, I wasn't even running on half cylinders.  The whole race felt like what the last painful hour of a long hard endurance race feels like.  No, scratch that, it felt worse.  Something was not right.

You think a lot during a long race, and when something is going wrong you can't help but try to analyze it.  About two and a half weeks before the race I went to Seattle for three days, and then spent seven days at sea on an Alaskan cruise ship for my wife's birthday.  Although I had a lot of fun, there was one problem with going on that cruise.  It didn't even occur to me until someone mentioned it the day before the race, but I had just spent several days at sea level a mere week before an extreme high elevation race.  Was that really the culprit?  Was the altitude really getting to me that much?  It certainly felt like I couldn't get enough oxygen to my muscles.  I've done a couple high elevation races this year including the Breck 100 which goes up past tree line a couple times, but I didn't feel the effects of the altitude then.  The feeling of swaying like I was still on the cruise ship wasn't helping either.  The levels of dizziness varied and at times it was hard to even stay upright.  It certainly made the descents a little more 'interesting', and meant I wasn't making up any time on the downhills.  Thinking back to the the Breck 100, maybe that was what left me so depleted.  The rule of thumb in endurance racing is to give yourself two weeks recovery after an effort like a hundred mile race, and the Breck 100 is about the toughest one that exists.  Instead, I did a forty miler the next weekend, took one week off, spent three days during the week of the cruise going hard on an exercise bike, and then trained the week of the race.  Definitely not a full two weeks of recovery.  Whatever the case, every climb was a battle that felt worse then any climb I've done in my four years of endurance.  I just didn't have any spark.

A solid time for me would of been around 7:30.  Somewhere around 8 hours should have been reasonably obtainable.  Instead, it took me about 8:40.  In the Leadville 100 you get a silver buckle for completing it under twelve hours, and a big gold buckle for under nine.  Even feeling as horrible I did, I still completed it under nine.  Let me tell you, I really had to earn it.  Maybe it's better that way anyway.  Had I gone out and felt great it would of just been another race to me.  Instead, it was a physical and mental challenge beyond any I have overcome.  I'll always remember the race because of this.  Plus, I can proudly say I didn't walk any sections.  Not even the infamous power line climb!  Mission accomplished!

Power Line Climb

Let's take some time to analyze the race itself.  The Leadville 100 has gotten a lot of slack for being non-technical and catered to road racers.  Hell, I even used to call it the 'roadie-thon'.  After doing the race myself, I apologize.  Yes, there is a lot of double track, a fair amount of pavement, and little singletrack to be found, but with 1800 plus racers it's the perfect setup.  Any more singletrack and the bottle necks would have been terrible.  It had a pretty good share of rocky climbs and descents to test your technical skills, and is quite a bit more technical then what it's given credit.  I like to point out that it was a professional mountain bike racer, not road racer, that broke the course record this year.  Sure, a road racer could do well at this race, but it's definitely a mountain bikers race in my opinion.

The race was very well run and everything went very smoothly.  There was a lot of great charity events going on like Ride 2 Recovery, a charity for wounded veterans.  The meetings were full of emotional and inspirational speeches.  Just seeing the pure joy in finishers eyes was worth going to the Leadville 100.  For some, this race means a lot more then just another race on the calendar.  When you see a man was two mechanical arms cross the finish line because he was wounded fighting for all of our rights, you can't help but feel inspired.  It's great to see so many people reach such a difficult goal.  Congratulations to all the racers who completed this journey.

So, is the Leadville 100 everything that it's hyped up to be?  Of course not, but any great marketing campaign is always over hyped.  Is it worth pursuing to get it off your bucket list?  Absolutely!  If it's your goal to do this race, then I encourage you to keep on pursuing it.  You won't be disappointed.

It was a great one to get off my bucket list and a fantastic experience, but I'm glad the Leadville 100 is over.  I don't intend to do it again.   I rather leave one more spot open for someone else to get into this race and mark it off their bucket list.