I had a solid race today, finishing 26th overall out of 400+ 100k racers, and 13th in my age category. Not quite as fast as last year, but I think it had a lot to do with the elevation, heat and stress of the long day yesterday. I cracked with 10 miles to go, and had nothing left in the tank. I felt what Christopher Froome must have felt on stage 18 of the Tour on Alpe-d'Huez. I bonked so hard, and at that point all you want to do is just finish the race. Regardless, I had an amazing day on the bike, getting to race alongside a ton of friends I've met in the last year, ride some of the best trails California has to offer. That's why I love the Leadville Race Series so much. They really do create the best XC race atmosphere.
In the confusion of how the qualifying system works for the Leadville 100 I had left early to check out of our hotel, only to find out I did qualify as well as won a lottery spot for Leadville. Since you have to physically be there to claim your spot I may have lost my opportunity. Bummer. I am qualified to race Leadville this year, having done well at Tahoe last year, but my goal was to qualify but defer my spot for 2014. There's always next year and the series of qualifiers, but I rightfully earned my spot, and that's what matters to me.
The race start was great, as a handful of my friends were there with me. At the sound of the gun I found myself in the lead pack until the long and painful climb up Mid-Mountain began, where I started to lose more and more positions. I knew I wanted to be out front, but had to hold back and pace myself if I wanted to have a good race. I should have listened to myself more, as I definitely paid for my effort towards the end.
I immediately could tell the altitude was having an effect on my body. I didn't have that punch in my legs going up the climbs, so I knew I really had to dial back. Having raced the course before I knew when and where all the technical sections were as well as where all the big climbs began. Even with that knowledge I managed to blow myself up. I had started to catch up with people from the start, and found a good rhythm on the first lap. I saw the start of the Strava segment, and thought I'd give it my best. I actually sit in the top 10 at the moment, which is pretty cool. I had caught up to my friend Giles, and we battled it out at the end of the segment. He actually had a great race, finishing 20 minutes or so ahead of me. He even did the Death Ride the weekend before as well as rode all week prior to Tahoe. Impressive.
By lap two I was feeling ok. I came through the aid station and made a bottle swap with my wife. I was pretty delirious at that point, and my motivation was going up and down, but I pressed on and hoped I would get a second wind. That never came, as I made my slow march towards bonkville. A quarter of the way through of the second lap Rebecca Rusch flew past me, egging me on to push harder. I should have paced her like last year. She went on to win the women's overall race.
My friend Giles caught back up to me and slowly rode away. I kept my pace with another racer for a while, but at one point decided enough was enough. I kept pedaling, but at a higher cadence so I didn't burn to many matches. It was a matter of survival. The temperature was rising, and I was running out of water quickly. I took off my sweat band to help cool myself quicker, and stopped at an aid station to fill my bottles with water and started pouring it onto my back and head along the way to keep cool.
On the last climb I was caught by a coworker from Specialized who recognized me from the lunch rides. I had a feeling he worked at Specialized as he was clad in a full kit along with a nice S-Works Epic. We worked together for the last climb, but his legs began to buckle. We crested the Strava segment together, and I decided to go full-gas all the way down to the finish. This year the race ended at the bottom at the resort rather than Mid-Mountain. The extra bit took us down along the downhill course, which turned out to be really technical. I had managed to put in a really good time on the roughest section of the course, netting myself a decent position on the segment leader board.
I crossed the line at four hours and 55 minutes, 20 or so minutes off my time last year, but it's hard to tell considering the added downhill section. I was greeted by my wife and good friend David who finished 2nd in the 50k race. Again, it was a great day on the bike. I'm bummed I didn't stick around to claim my spot at Leadville for 2014, but there are plenty of opportunities for me to earn another spot. My plan is to race Leadville at least 3 times, but then it's off to other challenges.