· My training was done almost exclusively indoors to save time driving to and from trails. This gave me more time with my kiddos but probably left me less “dialed-in” for technical riding.
· I had a major wreck at mile 10.33 that broke my aero bars loose, cracked one of my lenses that later fell out of my glasses, broke my watch off and seriously sprained my left ankle. OUCH!!
· Initially I wondered if my race was over. Slowly I was able to start pedaling and I thought I could surely beat the 12 hour cut-off. After 10 minutes of increasing my power I thought I could probably finish in under 9 hours and get another big buckle.
· I gradually found I could ride the flats and climbs reasonably well but the very rocky climb sections were a problem. Big bumps were especially painful.
· The rocky descent sections of Powerline were just terrible. I was all over the place and had to ride slow. Descents were brutal on that ankle as my race photos showed! Instead of my usual race smile, I was grimacing most of the day!
· I hooked up with a group to ride the road from Powerline to Pipeline. We were working well together and catching up to other groups. This part was on the road so there were no bumps to blast my ankle. I was relieved to be ripping it. I certainly had the legs and lungs.
· My brother had family obligations so he couldn’t crew for the 1st time in 8 years but Hoppe was there. He’s been a part of my crew all 8 years and he even flew in a friend from Atlanta to crew the critical spot at Pipeline outbound. Hoppe gave him the whole run down that I would come through early in the race and need 1 or 2 bottles. The guys in these lead groups don’t stop so your crew needs to be ready to hand up a bottle on the roll. We rolled in and I told the guys I had an extra bottle if anyone needed it. Everybody had their own crew and didn’t need it. So I ride through looking for my guy and I finally see him filming us. The look on his face when he glanced up from filming to see that it was me riding by was priceless! I was upset at first but that look on his face was just so funny, I couldn’t help but crack up! I said to the boys “well, I’m glad none of you needed water because that was my guy!” We were all laughing at that and it seemed to lighten up the group a little.
· We worked well together but I couldn’t turn through the single track twisty section so I ended up with a couple guys at the back. We rolled into twin lakes and then to Lost Canyon where Hoppe was. I took on my camelback, banana, gels and a bar and electrolyte bottle and started the climb to Columbine Mine at 12,400 feet.
· The climb was okay but I didn’t feel as strong as usual. It didn’t seem like just my ankle…maybe I was a little flat from missing that bottle? Still, I rode well and didn’t have to walk any of it.
· Descending was terrible. I couldn’t turn right and almost wrecked into a guy coming up. I lost so much time and I was crying like a baby when I had to bunny hop a couple wash outs. The launch and landing both just KILLED! I’m glad my girls couldn’t hear the words I yelled.
· I didn’t tell anyone all day about my ankle because I didn’t want them to use it against me and know how to attack me. At mile 60 I got in a great group. We started as 5 or 6 riders working well together. Soon, there were just 3 of us including the female winner Rose Grant. That lady is STRONG! The remaining guy was a big powerful rider. He kept throwing down powerful efforts on the flats and rolling trails. It is a good strategy because a small guy like me would usually climb better on the steep trails ahead so making me work extra hard would take away some of my presumed climbing ability.
· The 3 of us rolled through Pipeline and this time I got my bottle and 3 gels! “Big guy” threw down his predictable big pull and I had to bust tail to get back on the draft. It was an effort but I was totally focused. We rolled onto the highway and worked well together.
· Then came my favorite part of the whole day. As the 3 of us were going through Fish Hatchery I saw Kelly and our girls cheering right on the edge of the road. We rode by within 2 feet of them while Emme(9) and Aven(5) jumped up and down cheering enthusiastically with proud sparkling eyes and HUGE smiles! I wish I had a picture of their proud, happy faces. Moments like that are worth hours and hours and hours of training. Rose looked over at me and said something like “THAT was special”.
· Later on I told Aven that Rose beat me and she responded “She DID!?” I could see the wheels turning in her head. “Girls can race fast too!”
· So the last 20 miles were brutal. We dropped “Big guy” on the first steep part of Powerline. I had trouble with my climb up powerline and had to walk the last 20% or so. I walked as fast as possible to stay in front of Rose but she passed me near the top and then totally pulled away on the short rocky descent. I passed a couple guys but couldn’t get a great rhythm climbing the remainder of that trail and the same guys passed me back when I descended so slowly.
· The last hour was just a battle of trying to nurse that ankle and keep tabs on my fluid and energy levels. I tried different techniques like seated descents but nothing worked. I was just all over the place and almost wrecked again on the last descent.
· There’s not much to report from the final section other than finally pulling away from 2 of the guys in a group of 4 that had formed. I got to see Kelly and the girls again at the finish. It is always such a beautiful sight…their energy and happy faces!
· When I put my foot down after the race, the pressure on my heal was just crazy painful. I couldn’t walk without help. The medics recommended I have it checked at the hospital which I wasn’t excited about. In fact my biggest regret is that we don’t have our usual post-race picture with the girls. Instead we have a picture in exam room. That’s a bummer but I can live with it.
· Leadville is a “bucket-list” race for mountain bikers everywhere – this year there were racers from all 50 states and 23 countries. I’m already qualified for next year and for starting in the Gold Corral!
Thanks for reading and thank you for encouraging me through the year! Thanks also to Hope House for giving my Leadville experience a little extra meaningfulness each year. I appreciate the work you do to help change the lives of two generations at once.