Sunday, August 10, 2008

Leadville 2008

I've been replaying the Leadville race over and over again in my head. My story didn't have the happy ending I had hoped for but it was a good time spent with Rachelle and some close friends. The cool thing about Leadville is everyone has their own personal goal and story to tell. Kenny was trying to get the win in the SS class, Dug and Elden were trying to finish under 11 hours on a SS, Sam and I chasing the sub 9 on our geared bikes, Bob trying to finish in under 12 hours, Nick trying for a personal best....

There is a lot of emotion at Leadville. It's a crazy event that can dish out a lot of suffering. It's not something you can explain unless you've done it. It's hard. It makes you dig deep. That's about all I can say.

Rachelle and me on a casual ride around the lake the day before the race

The night before. Making sure I have enough Gu's for 9 hours of racing.

I brought home another Leadville 100 buckle but it wasn't the big one. My 2nd attempt at a sub 9 didn't go well. I finished the race in 9:21:11. About 10 min faster than last year but still shy of the sub 9.

I knew that in order the break the 9 hour mark, I'd need to have the perfect day without any mechanicals. I had one mechanical and that was enough to smash my dreams.

I felt pretty good most of the day and managed to work with Sam for the first 40 miles. It was nice to have a familiar face by my side for the first few hours. Once we got to the Twin Lakes feed zone, Sam would pedal away and ride his own race. He would eventually get his sub 9 on his very first Leadville race. It was a sick performance.

I knew I needed to ride my own race and find a pace that worked for me so I didn't try to hang with Sam. I wanted to be sure I had enough in the tank for a strong finish. Columbine was as hard as I remember but the course was in better shape from all the rain. As I got close to the top, I started to see friends coming down. Chucky, Kenny, Sam, Brad. As I got the top, I was still on target for a sub 9 and feeling good.

Rachelle loads up my pockets as I force down a banana and a few sips of Diet Coke at the Twin Lakes feed zone after climbing Columbine.

I managed to stay on pace through the first 80 miles of the race and then it happened. The only time in my life that I've broken a chain and it happened about 3/4 the way up the Powerline climb. Snap. I looked down and saw my chain had split in half. I didn't have any tools or extra links to fix it but that wasn't the issue. I've never had to fix a chain before and really had no idea how to do it.

I got lucky. I was riding close to Mike Lewis who saw my situation and asked if I had what I needed. I told him it didn't matter because I wasn't sure I would be able to fix it. He threw down a baggie with a chain tool and some extra links and said "figure it out" and kept on climbing.
I got to work and managed to hack my way through it. I knew Brad was close behind me so I waited for him to catch and asked him to spot check my chain fix. He looked at it and gave me the green light. I climbed back on my bike and kept going. I had lost my motivation and knew that the time spent messing with my chain had killed my sub 9 dream.

It was hard to find the motivation to ride hard after the chain issue. I was not in a good spot. the voices in my head were not helping and I still had the last part of Powerline to climb which seems to go on forever and ever.

Brad and I kept each other in sight for the rest of the ride. We took turns being the carrot. I knew Brad was not having a good day. He had not been on his bike in 3 weeks and had considered not racing. We ended up crossing the line together. Both of us in pink (at least we didn't hold hands as we crossed the line).

Me with gears. Brad on his single speed

So happy to see Rachelle at the finish
Dug would get his sub 11 on a single speed and so would Elden. Sam got his sub 9. Kenny took 2nd in SS (8:30). Bob finished in under 11:30, Nick finished in under 11 (not his best but a solid finish).
Special thanks to Rachelle for stuffing all the right things in my pockets, asking the right questions, the many pep talks along the way and for being such a hottie. How could I not keep riding knowing you were waiting for me at the finish?
Here we are after the race ordering 5 large pizzas. It only took 2 hours.


KanyonKris said...

When I saw the results yesterday I wondered if something happened to cost you the sub-9. Dang chain. Thumbs up for figuring out how to fix it - if you've never done it before it takes a while to figure it out. And if you're like me, once I fix the bike it creates a little doubt that makes baby the bike - not a good thing for a race.

Still, that's a good time and you had 80 good miles.

Sabrosa Cycles said...

Strong, very strong finish. Damn that chain - I needed you to push me just a skosh harder so I could've beat that 9 hour mark.

Anonymous said...

Wish I was there with you. We'll get that sub nine next year bro. Damn lotteries!

Anonymous said...

when i heard about the chain and the time, i felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. and yet, you are my hero. you fixed the chain AND beat last year's time by 10 minutes. how cool is that?

plus, now you get to stay in the SHINING hotel again. keep your eye out for the kid on the big wheel.

StupidBike said...

sorry bout the chain. Mine broke last year at Soldier Hollow and after 10 minutes of making it worse i gave up, finally the Husla who had dropped out fixed it for me, so i could at least ride back to the car.

9:21 is nothing to sneeze at

andy said...

oh man. i felt a bit like that when my the der hanger snapped off my ellsworth inlast year's iceman race in michigan. hopefully my superfly treats me better!

oh yeah. forgot to respond last week when you asked if i had one. yes. yes i do and i absolutely love it. although i'm not sold on the bontrager wheels as i've had the front rim buckle on each of the last two small crashes i've had. each time the wheel needed rebuilt with new spokes/rim.

Eric Gaoiran said...

Good work, you finished better than you did last year with a huge mechanical slowing you down. I would have given up the ghost if I had a chain break on me, I would not know where to start.

tibiker said...

Ditto what Dug said. When you told me your chain broke and your time my heart broke for you. I know what you've put yourself through to train for this thing and to be denied because of a mechanical just sucks. My derailleur broke in 2003 50 miles into LOTOJA and they wouldn't let me make it into a single speed to finish and made me DQ. It's bad anytime but especially when it's a huge goal like this. Next year buddy, your gonna do it. I think you've convinced me and Whit that we need to do it with you next year.

clark said...

I have been wondering how it all went, and am sorry to see it come down to a mechanical issue.

Thanks for admitting you didn't know how to fix a chain, makes me feel better. I "fixed" my brothers chain last year only to see it break again as he rolled down the driveway a minute later. Nice.

Leadville is on my list, thanks for the motivation.

Anonymous said...

My friend you are a WARRIOR! Most people would have given up and said f*ck it if their chain had broken like that. Not you. You figured out how to fix the sonofabitch, finished in a faster time than last year and on top of that it was damn near the 9 hour mark!! Nope, there is NO shame in YOUR game! Nice work man!

Rick Sunderlage said...

Thanks for all the kind words. Mechanicals are all part of the experience. It's why I stress so much the night before. Some days you get lucky and other days not so much.

I hope to see some of you there next year.

Aaron said...

9:20 is a great time, but it's still a heartbreaker. I guess that knowing you could have had a sub 9 doesn't quite cut it, but it does give you confidence for next year.

eber said...

what the hell dude - I had heard you snapped a chain, but hadn't heard you pulled rookie mechanic and fixed it on the fly! Don't hang your head - knocking that ride out in just over 9 with a chain break - what a great accomplishment.


Workaholic #242 said...

Good job buddy!

Getting by at 9:21 with a chain break and your first time fixing one is pretty awesome.

One more tool set to carry!

Now you have one more notch in your bike frame.

It is really great you have a good support system a buddies to ride with.

Keep it up!