Saturday, August 20, 2016
The 2016 Austin Rattler, Dirty Kanza Halfpint and The Leadville Trail 100.
It's been a while since the last post...the 2015 DK I believe. Since then I've had ups and downs on the bike...during CX last year I think it was more down then up. I beat myself into sports induced anemia and kept getting sick...which sucked ass...needless to say 2015 could've been better.
Moving on...during the 2015 CX season I was on the trainer to get some weekly work done due to bad weather and decided to watch "Race Across the Sky". This is the race in and around the town of Leadville CO. that LA won a few years ago...I know he's a cheatin bastard but whatever.
As I watched I started thinking I wanted to do this...so I told a couple friends of mine that we will enter this as a team so if only one of the 3 of us get picked we all get in...they were on board at the time...only myself and one other entered the lottery...zero invites came from that. At this point I really wanted to do this race and the next option was to travel to a qualifier race and my best option was in Austin Texas in April.
I tried to convince my long time riding buddy to go down there with me but to no avail...so it was me and my oh so hot girlie pit crew of one to make the trip. So basically from mid January til April 8th I busted my ass the best I could, outside when the weather cooperated and on the effin trainer more than I ever had since I started riding...no point in going to try and do something "sort of" prepared...so train I did.
Finally the time to head south was upon us...was I ready...as ready as I could be I think. So we head south and finally arrive in a town called Bastrop...it's about 15 minutes from the venue and about as close as you can stay without camping.
I guess the stars were aligned for me because 4 cars were broken into at the hotel we stayed at, ours was passed by, the weather leading up to the race was hell hot, it clouded over and was in the low 70s on race day and finally...I set my goal time at 5 hours or faster thinking this would be good enough to get in on performance...not to be...I beat my goal by 8 minutes or so but the 40-49 class was the biggest at the race with 240 racers. They had 25 slots for my group rolled down to 26th and his time was 4 and a half hours...I finished 75th at 4:52:00.
I was happy and bummed at the same time. At qualifiers the have 2 ways to get in...performance which I wasn't going to get and another lottery for that race which was my last shot. You've read about how I am with karma...well...the day I inspected the course there was a turtle in the trail so I stopped to move it and said "I need all the good karma I can get"...well I guess it was a good thing because my number was pulled from the hat after the race and I got in to the Leadville 100 that day!! Woooohoooo!!!
From that day going forward it was time to build for the DK again which I started after 4 or 5 days off the bike. The training was going well and all signs were pointing to a another good DK half race. The weather was being a bitch leading up to the race like last year but about a month out I took the annual pilgrimage to Emporia to ride the 2015 course with my longtime riding buddy who was racing the 2016 DK half also. That day the weather was warm towards the end and a Little wind but I felt good for the 102 miles we rode and was happy with where I was at in my fitness with a month to go...no only if the weather would cooperate...
Finally it's time to toe the line in Emporia...we head down on Friday to check in and decide to skip the riders meeting because the promoter said they would air the first one on their website...whether they did on not I'll never know but I looked for it to no avail...I wasn't worried at the time because I knew the time it started and where I needed to be so no worries...right?? By the way the gods of gravel bestowed upon us dry gravel for the race...or so we thought.
With my bike and gear squared away I check the weather channel one last time at 10pm and see a cold front coming...with a skinny line of storms associated with it...hmmm...the tail end might hit us...I kept it to myself and tried to get some sleep...at about 3am I hear a faint rumble of thunder...a few minutes later it was on top of us....KABOOM!! I just laughed and my riding buddy groans FUUUUUUUUUUUUUDGE...only it wasn't fudge. It was the mother of all curse words...I got up and looked out the window only to laugh out loud because it was raining so hard...I told homie to come and take a look...his response was F***K THAT!! Oh well it is what it is at this point.
I get up about an hour later to get some food and coffee then we set off for the start line...fearing the impending death march that is potentially before us. The gun goes and we are lead out of town. At the first turn we are greeted with a lake across the road....in the middle of the road it was 6 inches deep...and the best part was there was another 100 yards beyond the first...after that...you guessed it mud...just like last year...and the carnage was immediate...there was ripped of derailleurs on both sides of the road...in the first mile...as luck would have it I was spared this demise only to be stopped later in the day by other issues.
As we get out of the mud the course conditions improve and I'm with the lead group of about 10. Life is good. We charge along and I finally have to ease a bit and settle in no big deal I keep the lead group in sight for the majority of the rest of the leg to the checkpoint...this is where my ride unraveled...I roll in in 9th and head to where my support was supposed to be and there was none...I freaked out a little and tried to call but the fine folks at Sprint decided that Kansas was not worth having cell towers so I had no service nor did my support who also uses Sprint...
There was some generous people from Chicago that got me squared away and I got rolling again...as I'm headed out my teammate is rolling in who was using the same support and I tell him there's no help here for us...I turn around and help get him squared away and we roll out together to just finish at this point.
We ride on and get to a minimum maintenance road which was soft from the storm...I decided the riding down the grass in the middle was the way to go because there was a little mud sticking to the tires but not enough to stop and walk...we ride on for a mile or 2 and my teammate decides as we are gaining some speed down a hill to drop into the double track because he didn't want to use his brakes to slow and his bike immediately loads up and he stops. I say to him scrape it of with your hand I will ride ahead slowly. I get about a half mile up the road and stop because I don't see him...so I wait a few minutes and finally see him walking so I start back towards him and before I got to him I thought he ripped his derailleur off...sure enough...his day was over. I asked him if he had a chain tool and he said no...I guess it was his lucky day because I had mine because I don't want to walk anywhere out there.
I make his bike a single speed like so many others that day and during that time my IT band decided to ball up and my knee felt like it had a knife in the side of it....game over....we limp back to the checkpoint and try to get in touch with out crew. That finally happens and we are headed home about an hour later...DNFs suck ass!! T
This was to be my last DK...but I will go back in 2017 because I don't want to end on a DNF.
And last but not least the Leadville Trail 100...
Up until the moment the shotgun went off I still couldn't believe I was in the race...but once going it was time to get after 100 miles of "guts, grit, and determination". The time I turned in at the Rattler landed me in the green (4th) corral from the front. This ended up being a good thin because everyone I talked to about the start said I would be walking up St. Kevins, the first climb of the day. This never materialized because I moved up as much as possible going out of town and never had to stop once on the climb. Did I mention we were flying out of town? 38 mph on the pavement! My bike has 3x10 on it and the big ring is a 46...so I able to pedal comfortably at any speed really...I briefly thought about doing a 1x10 but as I passed riders with 1x10,11,12 who were close to being spun out I'm glad I rolled with the 3x10...it's old school technology but it work flawlessly and I would totally use it again out there.
At the top of the first climb you end up on a paved descent of about 4 miles...I jammed the hammer into the big ring and let her eat! My max speed of the day was here at 44mph. As I bombed away I came upon the first of 2 paved switch backs...I'm not sure how fast I was going into the first one but I totally had to throw a leg out to get more lean angle and use the entire road to make that turn...That was the first holy shit moment of the day...I totally pulled it of and looked cool doing it...at least in my mind! :)
On the Haggerman climb I settle in and stay steady...people go by and I'm okay with it. After all I still have 75ish miles to go and have no real reference on pacing in the high country...so onward it is. A little while later the powerline descent is before me...sort of technical but not really at least to me. As the group I'm with descends this I'm thinking this is gonna suck ass coming back...and a few minutes later we are on a paved section.
As I spin along I bridge up to a decent sized group that A few riders know what a rotation is and I say I will work lets do this...so 3 or 4 of us are on the same page and I rotate through a couple of time only to look back and see our group has doubled in size so I pull the plug and roll to the back and chill until we get to the 1st neutral aid. I didn't need to stop but did to fill a water bottle...I had enough to the 17 miles ahead of me but would rather have too much than not enough.
Out of that station it was dirt road for a while and I motored along in the big ring not working too terribly hard...love the big ring! A short steep descent and a medium climb later we hit some single track on this sage brush covered hillside that weaves it's way down to the final dirt road to twin lakes. This singletrack was sweeeeeet, it flowed well and was generally fun!
Now on the dam headed to the Twin lakes sag...the mass of humanity here was beyond anything I had envisioned...My girlie and I had talked about it the day before and decided that the secondary sag which was about 2 miles later shortly before the Columbine climb was a better place to be. My initial goal was 9 hours or better which meant I had to be at the 40 mile sag by 2 hours and 50 minutes. I showed up at 3 hours 20 minutes...oh well I thought, not too far off, maybe I can make time on the dirt road portion of Columbine....HA...While I did pass some riders on this climb I knew that 9 hours was out the window and I was good with it.
As I climbed away...my energy was waning and my frame of mind was going with it...when I made the last switchback to the "goat trail" I just laughed...ahead of me was a climb that went straight up...and there was a death march of riders that was wheel to wheel...this was me shortly after I saw this. I think this would be rideable if there wasn't anyone in front of you...
I begin the march and it sucks ass....steep...off camber...no air. It was here that the mental struggle fro me began...at first I didn't listen but eventually the quit voice got me...I relented and decided to quit...but only after I make it to the top at 12,500 feet. Once on my bike again I was still going to quit, a photog captured that moment and I have a pissed off scowl on my mug...a perfect representation of how I felt at the time.
Once over the high spot it's about a half mile to the neutral sag...I rolled in there and all of the great volunteers were like, what do you want/need...I spied what turned out to be a cup of chicken ramen so a take it and toss it back. That was THE BEST RAMEN EVER!!! I think I drank a cup of coke and ate a cookie and set off. While the ramen was killer it did nothing for my moral and as I set of to climb back to the high spot I tell myself just get to there...between that thought and the high spot I got pissed off at myself for wanting to quit. I threw the quit voice off a cliff at 12000+ feet and from that point on I was good with everything going forward.
As I descended the goat trail I kinda laughed to myself because I could see how I was feeling in the face of everyone still ascending the patch of hell...I threw out encouragement because it was the right thing to do and continued down to my pit. Back on the dirt road on Columbine, there was 2 riders ahead of me that weren't going as fast as I wanted to so at the first opportunity I jammed it into the big ring and charged past at my second highest speed for the day 43mph on dirt/gravel...that was FUN!!!
Now at my pit again my pit again my girlie has everything ready including my camel-bak...I kind of hesitate to put it on but she insisted and I threw it on...I rode the Columbine climb with bottles ony to make life a little easier...by the way 2 bottles is enough to do the Columbine climb especially since there is aid at the top. Fully reloaded I head back towards the Twin lakes dam. On the way to the dam there's about a mile descent the isn't terrible rough but it has its moments. I'm not 100% sure but I chucked a bottle somewhere and I think it was on that descent...good thing I said yes to the camel-bak!!
From there until the powerline is pretty uneventful...the powerline climb never really left my thoughts and as I made the left onto that climb I was like FUUUUUUUUDGE....only I didn't say fudge... :)
As I begin another death march I never thought about quitting just getting up this bitch...finally passed the steep section the "rideable" portion is ahead of me. I remount and ride a lot more than I thought I would...I managed to pass a handful of riders in the last 2.5 miles of that climb which made me happy.
Finally to the top I start the Haggerman descent...this is as rocky a descent as you will ever find...I was on the hammer which is a hardtail and it beat the crap outta me. I made okay time down it and the few that did pass me were on suspension rigs.
Now on gravel/dirt roads heading towards the last big climb of the day I eat some of a ham and cheese roll up and set sail using my lovely 46 picking off a rider or two on occasion. Finally on the last big paved climb. I settle in and steadily work my way to the top...on the way to the top I passed a rider that said I would break the 10.5 hour mark...I totally would've but I stopped at the last neutral sag to make sure I was squared away til the end and that probably is what pushed me past that mark...oh well.
On the final descent I thought I was rolling pretty fast but a rider ahead of me disappeared...I thought he was on a suspension bike and didn't think about it again that is until I caught him on the road...he was on a hardtail and I gave him props for descending like a demon possessed! I then proceeded to ride away from him in the big ring!! The weather was epic for this event and as I was on the last handful of miles the wind had picked up and for about a mile it was headwind but as the course made a few right turns it turned into tailwind and I was on the gas flat out killing it!
On this section there was one rider that was going pretty fast ahead of me and I was slowly reeling him in, I could've closed it faster but I was close to the end and was good with the progress I was making...on the last dirt section it makes an abrupt left uphill turn onto big loose rocks/gravel. The gut I was chasing fumbles, I managed to get the hammer into granny and proceed to clean this section dab free and pass a few more riders for good measure. I'm spinning along and there's one more rider on the road ahead of me...I put forth a little effort and get to his wheel. I sit there for a few minutes and decide the right thing to do is to give the man a break...I pull by, look back and I was riding away from him...oh well...it's the thought, right??
Finally on the last effing paved climb...just gotta make it to the top and it's over. Once at the top, one more big ring blast down the hill with the finish line in site...as I approached there were people lining the road on both side cheering their brains out I even got a few high fives on the way to the line.
That was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had from racing...form the depths of quitting to sucking it up and doing what you worked your ass of for, is something I don't think I can describe. Will I do it again, if the stars align for me again I will be there one more time for sure!
It has been a long season for only 3 races...now I get to enjoy short training days for cyclocross and cowbell...I got a fever and there's only on prescription!!