Rearview Mirror

The start. I’m the one in the black jacket in the foreground.

A week has passed, the sting has dulled, my butt has healed, my family returned home safely, and I went back to work. Another Leadville 100 MTB race is in the record books. What took 8 months of training and preparation is now a distant memory. Seen only in hindsight and spoken about in past tense.

I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about where the race got away from me. Wondering if I started too slowly, ate too often, or drank too much. All questions with no answers. I had the plan in my head but forgot to let my body in on it. I mistakenly thought if I handled the mental part of the race my body would just go along for the ride given the amount of time I spent training on the bike. What I failed to realize is the amount of added stress a race situation brings to the table. When my body started to fail me my mind had no answer. I hadn’t experienced that in training. No amount of positive thinking could make the stabbing pains in my gut go away. I tried everything from talking to myself, singing out loud (which, by the way, is hard to do at 12,000 ft while pedaling a bike uphill), to bending over at the waist draping my arms over the handle bars all the while moving onward and upward on foot. Nothing helped. I was exploding on Columbine. Up to that point I felt great. I hit the time cut-offs with a little bit of time to spare (not by much but better than last year). I knew there would be spots on the goat trail that I would have to walk. It’s just too steep, rutted out, and rocky for me. Frankly I walked it faster than some were riding it. When I finally got back on the bike I had nothing. I felt like I had a hot poker in my gut and I knew I was only half-way home. I opted to skip the aid station at the top of Columbine as I had plenty of food and water so I just cruised on around and started back for Twin Lakes. Somehow that turn made me feel a little better probably because I knew I got to go downhill once I climbed up out of the aid station area. I had lost time. I needed to hump it back to the dam in order to get to the last time cut-off on Pipeline.

Standing up on the pedals letting the bike fly down the goat trail, arms relaxed, mind concentrating on the trail ahead is just about the best feeling. The world becomes silent, the tires float just above the gravel, breathing becomes easy, stabbing pain subsides, and I am suddenly thinking of getting to pipeline and then on to the finish line. I sail by the axe throwing aspens, navigate the rut in the middle of the road, and am down in good time. I cruise into Twin Lakes feeling pretty good. I stopped for a new bladder and food and took off for the next time check.

Twin Lakes outbound. My crew doing a super job while I am off in the porta-potty.

I had an hour and fifteen minutes to cover 12 miles. Mostly uphill miles but doable. I was reinvigorated. Stomach pain had sort of subsided. Crossing the dam I noticed the wind. By the time I got to the other side of the dam the wind was pretty fierce. I was behind several people going into the very short, wicked steep climb up onto Highway 82. The guy in front of me came off his bike and there was no place for me to go so I came off and had to push the bike up and over to pavement. That took the wind out of my sails and the rest of the ride to pipeline was challenging. The wind was in my face, the stabbing stomach pain returned, and I found myself watching the minutes tick off trying to figure out if I was going to make the cut-off. I still believed I could make it. I was thinking only in segments of the race.

I made it to the top of the single track and saw the nasty climb up out of the drainage. Everybody was walking this section. It is steep. I rode as far up as I could and hopped off. Pushed as fast as I could to the top and hopped back on. Still believing I could get through the time check. The pains in my stomach started radiating up under my ribcage. I couldn’t get a deep breath without feeling like I was having a heart attack. I looked at the time. I calculated. Come on. I knew the way I was feeling would make it hard to make it to the time check but I pedaled as hard as I could. And then I saw the three race marshals standing in the middle of the road waving me to stop. My 2012 race was over. I missed the cut-off by minutes. I put my head on my handle bars and sobbed. Eight months, countless hours, miles, and sacrifice came flooding to the surface. I tried to think of something profound or metaphorical to help with the tears but nothing would come. I was so disappointed. I was spent physically and mentally. I left everything out there. It wasn’t my day. The buckle still eludes me.

I rode 73.5 miles on my mountain bike as fast as I could.

I burned roughly 3500 calories.

I climbed 8034 ft. The high point being over 12,000 ft.

To most people this seems crazy.

147 women finished the race. I was not one of them and that is the part that stings the most.

To my crew:

You stood by me through all the training and doubting
Rode with me, ran with me, hiked with me, gave me time off work
Cried with me, laughed with me, sang with me
Read my blog religiously, praised my bad writing, urged me to write more
Sacrificed an entire summer to help me
Traveled long distances to be with me
Tried to shelter me from stress and worry
You were there with me every pedal stroke of the way
You cheered louder than the rest
You fueled me and hydrated me
Urged me to go, go, go
Greeted me at every aid station with smiles and encouragement
Waited nervously on me to arrive
And when I didn’t you were all there to greet me and take care of me
And to tell me how proud you all were of how far I had made it
For this I am and always will be eternally grateful and indebted to each of you
Without you none of this would have been possible.
Thank you
Cath, Kathi, Mom, Jen, Rog, Jo, Karen, TeHsing, Anne, Calvin, Mel, Amanda, Cindy, Chrisser, Gary, Nicola, Joe, Jane, Mary Anne, my blog followers, my Facebook friends, and all my well-wishers in Ohio and beyond.

Most awesome crew!

It’s best not to dwell on things in the past. Good memories were made. I made it safely through 73.5 miles and learned that sometimes you don’t finish regardless of how hard you try. Does this mean I won’t try again? Probably not because as you all know I am crazy and hate to have unfinished business. Will it be next year? Too soon to say. Stay tuned.

Why are you inside cruising the web, reading mindless blogs when you could be outside? Go ride your bikes, or take a hike, or swim, or walk on your treadmill, or walk your dogs, or climb a mountain, or whatever your passion is. Breathe deeply and enjoy yourselves.

P.S.

Here is a link to some videos shot by a fellow racer, Hillman Bailey, that happened to be on my wheel coming down Pipeline. Pretty cool. In Part 1 I come into the picture at about 4:35. I pass him on the right. There are 3 videos of Pipeline. I think this link takes you to the first video he shot which is the start. Just go to the 3rd video to see Part 1 of the Pipeline descent. Enjoy.

Game Face

The craziness of Leadville has begun. The race is on the horizon. Within view. Ten short days from now. Ten days for me to fret, fuss, worry, over think, question my training, and really just get myself worked into a complete mess. The training is in the bank. There is nothing I could do at this point that would have any positive impact on race day. Physically speaking. Mentally I could sabotage the last 7 months of training by letting Debbie Doubter take up residence. I could probably gain 10 of the 12 pounds I have lost if I continue to eat in the fashion I have become accustomed to since starting this crazy training plan. I’m tapering, after all. Which means I will be riding significantly less and less the closer race day gets. Wrap your head around that for a second. Now you can understand why I’m freaking out. Manage that gorilla in the room.

It’s probably a good thing I have a day job to keep me from going stark raving mad. I could see working myself into a maniacal frenzy. Changing my rear tire over and over again trying to decide which will be best on race day. Like it’s really gonna make that big a difference in how I finish. It really won’t but that still won’t stop me from changing between the Fast Trac and the Captain a couple of times between now and 6:30 am on the morning of August 11th. I can’t help myself. I have nothing left to do but furiously spin my brain wheels and obsess over details. How will I keep my hands from aching from the cold at 6:30 am? My feet from turning to blocks of ice and thus acting like anchors on the pedals. Not to mention how I manage the start. Do I take off like a bat outta hell at the gun and jockey for a position even though it’s a neutral start? Do I try to block out all the nervous chit-chat as we stand around like sheep going to slaughter or do I partake? Did I eat enough breakfast at the right time? Am I gonna have to pee at the wrong time? Did I choose the right shorts and prepare for the worst possible weather on Columbine? How will I carry all that foul weather gear? If I don’t carry it the conditions will be apocalyptic. Should I wear black or white socks? Arm warmers or a base layer and thin jacket? Shoe covers? Leg warmers? Knee warmers? Full gloves with hand warmers for the start? A GU 15 minutes before the gun or a Power Bar 30 minutes before? Does everybody know where they need to be and at what time? Will I make the time cut-offs? Did I cut up enough watermelon? Use enough peanut butter? Will everybody have a good time waiting on me to show up? Probably not. Better buy them all something really super nice for wasting their Saturday crewing me. Do other people worry about this stuff? They all seem so together. Maybe that’s their game face. I never figured out my “game face.” Why don’t I know what my game face looks like? Probably because I have no idea what I ‘m doing 90% of the time.

I do know this race, strictly speaking for myself, is 50% mental. Maybe even more. If I can’t get my head right, the last 7 months will make no difference on race day. If I don’t believe without a doubt that I will finish this race in under 12 hours, I won’t. I have to believe with absolute certainty that I am fully prepared and capable of accomplishing this goal.

While I was riding on Sunday I was thinking about the first time we went to see the oncologist. I need to remember the attitude I took with me that day. I knew without question I was going to be fine. There was nothing anyone could have said to me that would have changed my mind. My mind had taken over and decided, without consulting my body, that we were going to make it through this as a unit. And we did. Mind and body came out on top. Cancer can kiss my calloused, bicycle saddle shaped butt.

I’m not comparing Leadville to having cancer. I’m just drawing from my experience with cancer in order to come to a place I recognize. A place that has mental fortitude, pure guts, and the belief my mind and body will work as one to get me across the finish line. Along with 10 pounds of GU and a boat load of chamois cream.

I will finish.

I will have fun doing it.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

Why are you still reading? Get outside and do something fun.

In Case of Flood Climb to High Ground

Organized mess.

Leadville Junction resembled a small tent city  when we arrived Saturday morning. We learned the Courage Classic Bicycle Ride was coming through Leadville and the Junction was a major rest stop / aid station. Parking here was not going to be an option. We hit the dirt and headed toward St. Kevin’s. I needed to get on the bike. An 8 hour day was on the itinerary for the day. Sooner I got started the better. We pulled off, dogs spilled out of the truck, instantly chasing the unsuspecting squirrels lounging around the nearby pines.

I pulled my bike out of the truck along with the front wheel. I’ve done this dozens of times with no issue. The front wheel would not slide into the disc brake sandwich. The pads were clamped together like a clam. There was no way that wheel was going on that fork, no matter what I did. Minutes were ticking away. My temperature was rising. Wheel still was not cooperating. I took a deep breath. Counted to 10 and then proceeded to swear like a sailor. Didn’t help. I was holding a very expensive paper weight. All dressed up in my lycra and no bike to ride. Now what?

I vaguely remembered the guy at the bike shop mentioning something about the brake getting depressed when the wheel was off blah, blah, blah. That’s about as much as I remember. I messed with the brake lever, nothing. Clam shell. I got my knife out of the truck to see if I could pry the pads apart. No chance. Knife blade was too thick. Decided to try taking the pads off. The screw that holds the pad on has a really tiny cotter pin type thingy on the end of the screw. That instantly broke into two pieces. Great. More swearing. Hot flash brewing. Took the screw out and got the pads pulled apart. Put them back together, wheel slipped in, hot flash subsided. Checked the wheel rotation and there is a nasty metal on metal sound coming from the front brake. Hot flash resumes. I took the wheel off and unscrewed the pads, flipped them over and put them back in. Wheel on, noise is mostly gone. Decided to go back into Leadville to the bike shop. It is early so I knew the chances of it being open were slim to none. Lights on doors locked.

At this point I couldn’t think straight. Breakfast was getting further in the distance and I hadn’t pedaled the bike 1 mile. The rubbing was not bad so I decided to just go. I told Cath, who was understandably  hiding in the truck, I was just going to ride it the way it was. I threw on the helmet and camel bak, slammed a GU and headed for 6th St. Started the Garmin and I was off. It was 9:30. Only an hour and a half later than I had planned.

I spent the first 3 miles trying to get myself into riding for the next 8 hours. I futzed along the dirt leading up to St. Kevin’s looking for the ear piece from my Oakleys (lost last weekend coming down). It’s the color of dirt so I really don’t know what I thought I was doing other than avoiding getting to the wall that is St. Kevin’s. Finally decided looking for the ear piece was hopeless and started to think about getting my head into the task at hand. I said out loud to myself, “Get your head right or this is just a waste of time.” And then my lungs came through my nose. I got myself calmed down, heart rate a little more reasonable and started cruising up St. Kevin’s. Was just about to the top and started hearing a ripping noise coming from the rear wheel. I jumped off only to find a cable end was rubbing against the rubber of the back tire. Bent that out-of-the-way and got back on. Made the top without further incident and felt pretty good about the effort.

I was interested to see how long it would take me to get to the May Queen campground. I am pretty pleased that it took 5 minutes less time than it did last year on race day and I messed around for probably a good 3-5 minutes looking for the missing ear piece and then another 30 seconds or so with the errant cable. Feeling pretty good. Remembering to eat and hydrate. The rice cakes and potato poppers seemed to be working. I made the turn onto Hagerman Pass Road, ate a GU and started thinking about the next section. Steep little pull up Sugarloaf Pass and then a nice long downhill along power line. About half way up Sugarloaf another biker passed me. I figured that would be the last time I saw him as once I get passed by a guy going uphill, that is usually it. They are just too strong and fast. He stopped to snap a picture and I passed him. Ha that will teach him. Then I was determined not to let him catch me. Well he did just before we got to the top of the climb. I managed to stay with him to the descent. He kept looking back to see where I was because he knew that we had an unspoken race going on. He started down and I could tell he was not a confident descender. It was too rough and narrow to pass him so I just followed him down. I backed off so as not to crash if he crashed. The way my morning had gone I didn’t want to press my luck. He crossed the stream and seemed surprised to see me pop put on the pavement right on his butt. I was feeling good.

He stopped to refuel and I kept on. He caught me again and I jumped on his wheel. He dragged me past the fish hatchery. I couldn’t be satisfied with just sitting on his wheel. I decided to take a pull out front. Ha that lasted about 2.5 seconds. I tucked back in behind him and then he put the hammer down and rode away from me like I was standing still. I guess he wanted to see if I could keep up. He looked around and saw that I had faded. He sat up. We finally spoke. He is from Honduras. This will be his 4th Leadville 100. He has been in Leadville for 4 months. His name is Alex. Nice guy. Next thing I know we are on pipeline and Cath is there with more food and water. I gave Alex some water, a rice cake, and a taste of the not so secret drink mix from Skratch Labs. Before we parted ways he told me I would do fine in the race given how fast I ride downhill and my determination on the climbs. Little comfort considering the race is uphill both ways. But still a nice boost to my confidence.

Cath was a little frazzled and I could tell she needed a bit of a break from the dogs crawling all over her in the truck. I followed her to camp. She had put the tent up and chased Harley around the woods. I helped her move the pen for the little, stinky hound into the shade so she could keep from going mad. I probably burned 20 minutes with her at camp. I ate, drank and got back on the trail. First big mistake of the day, I gave Cath my cell phone so I could carry more food for the next section. Never ever give up your cell phone on a training ride.

I struggled mightily after having been off the bike for 20 minutes. Stopping for that long is deadly. I’ve mentioned this before. I had to fight with my legs to keep turning the pedals. Felt terrible. Ate a little more and made it to the dam. Started feeling better. Headed up and over the private property. When I turned South I saw what looked like a refugee camp. There were trailers and tents as far as I could see. I thought wow there are a whole lot of people riding Columbine today. I pedaled on. Thinking I was on the road to Columbine I entered what looked like a scene straight out of Deliverance. People were mingling about carrying very large bows. I passed a sign that said CBA Jamboree. I was trying to think of what CBA could possibly be all the while keeping my eyes on all the people staring at me riding through their camp on a mountain bike. I have never seen so much camouflage in my life. People dressed in it, trailers painted in it, mesh thrown over trailers to hide them. From what, I don’t know. I spotted a youngish looking girl standing along what had turned into a dirt path made by dragging multiple trucks pulling trailers, pulling atv trailers over it many times. I asked her if she knew if this was the road to the mine, as it looked awfully different with all the trailers. She looked at me like I had spoken to her in a language she didn’t comprehend. I instantly started hearing the banjo from Deliverance as a man walked toward me. He was dressed head-to-toe in an outfit that was supposed to make him invisible to whatever it was he was killing that day. I was hoping it wasn’t mountain bikers they were hunting. Cause I was toast if that was the case. He had no idea about any road to a mine and he told me I was in the middle of the Colorado Bow Hunters Association Jamboree. Then he grinned and all I could say was, “You aren’t shooting at mountain bikers are ya?” He said nothing and I turned my tail around and went back the way I came. I turned where I thought I had gone wrong only to get deeper into the jamboree. Oh my. The hoots and cat calls from men ready to slay whatever ran or rode in front of them was a little unsettling. I turned around again and backtracked. Luckily I found the trail I had missed and proceeded on with my ride. I imagine I messed around for another 15 minutes. Tick toc.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that I was on the road to Columbine. Now to get my head back to the task of climbing this monster. As I was pedaling I kept passing people dressed in camo gear, driving atvs, holding bows and very brightly colored arrows. They seemed friendly and they slowed down so as not to cover me in dust. I decided they weren’t hunting mountain bikers. Whew. I crested the first steep pull up to the flat camping area only to be met by two men throwing hatchets at a stump they had jammed between two trees right on the edge of the road. I thought surely they won’t throw while I am riding by. They saw me because we had made eye contact. Hoping my telepathy was working. Apparently it wasn’t as they seemed to hurry up to throw their hatchets just as I was behind the stump. There was much laughing and hooting. I had made a wide berth as I was not confident they had gotten my telepathic message. They both hit the stump and I pedaled faster. Good grief. Who are these people?

In all the excitement I had failed to notice the clouds brewing above me. The climb up Columbine is pretty shaded so it’s a little hard to see the sky. Not a problem as I started hearing it. The thunder was rumbling and the lightning was striking but it seemed to be below me. I could see the rain in the valley through the break in the trees. Good it has blown over me and I will be fine to continue up. Right. Next thing I know there is a huge clap of thunder and a really close lightning strike. The first large raindrop falls on my glasses. I stop, pull out my pathetic excuse for a jacket and put it on. Zipped up, turning the bike back toward the hatchet men, hoping Cath is on her way toward me in the truck. I no more than got my butt on the seat and the sky opened up. Hail. Crap. Ouch. Going downhill in hail is not my idea of a good time. And you all know how much I like to go downhill. The road was getting white, the water was washing the road away. I was slipping and sliding all over the road. Visibility was zero and I was getting pulverized. I saw a clump of pines and decided to ditch the bike and take cover. It helped somewhat but then I got cold. Really cold. The wind was whipping, the mud was rolling down the uphill side of the rode. I was thinking what a bad idea it was to be under a tree in a lightning storm. I was fresh out of a flat meadow to crouch in to kiss my butt goodbye. This was the best I could do. I was freezing. Soaked to the bone. Then the water and mud really started to rush down the slope. I was watching it hit the road and come across toward me only to hit the gulley that had been formed by the still falling hail. I instantly saw the sign in Clear Creek Canyon with the funny little graphic and the words that make me chuckle every time we pass it––In Case of Flood Climb to High Ground.

I climbed out from under the death trap into the hail. Threw my leg over the bike and headed down again. I didn’t want to get pulverized by logs and rocks rushing down the side of the mountain with gravity on it’s side. I started willing Cath to appear. My pitiful excuse for a jacket was not helping. I couldn’t see anything. Couldn’t feel my hands or feet. Wasn’t even sure the tires were making contact with dirt. I was not in complete control of the bike but I knew I needed to get off that mountain. Finally I make a turn and see headlights. I couldn’t tell it was the Tundra until I was right on it. I ditched the bike in the mud and jumped in the truck. I was shaking so bad I couldn’t speak. Heat was blasting. I ripped the wet clothes off and put Cath’s Carhartt on. Jack crawled on my lap and the torrent stopped as quickly as it had appeared. Cath got out and rescued my bike. She got back in the truck and reported my front tire was completely flat. I have no idea when that happened but am not surprised. My day was over. There was no way under the sun I was getting out of that truck. Not quite seven hours.

We drove back down into the rain. The hatchet men had retreated into their campers covered in camo mesh. Could hardly see them. Smoke plumes from rain-soaked fires were all that was visible at the Jamboree. All I could do was laugh.

We made it back to camp. It was raining. The dogs needed to get out to pee. Wet dogs, down sleeping bags, long sleepless night. Um, not gonna happen. Not as tough as we used to be. We broke that camp down in record time. Threw everything in the back of the truck, loaded the wet dogs, and headed for the pizza shop in town. We feasted on a HIgh Mountain Pie and turned toward the Front Range.

I have never been so glad to sleep in my own bed as I was Saturday night. A day of memories and lessons learned. Sorry there are no pictures except for the truck full of very wet camping gear. I was a little busy all day.

Get outside and do something. I do not recommend riding in hail or huddling under pine trees.

When Gods Play

The newly graded approach to the infamous Powerline climb. Don’t let the picture fool you. It’s deceiving.

When I was a kid, during a thunderstorm my Grandpa used to say, “The Gods must be bowling.” A very loud clap of thunder signified a strike, of course. And a streak of lightning across the sky meant the wives were calling them home from their silly games. I always wondered why the wives weren’t playing, but thought it was very cool they got to play with lightning. I think of this every time there is a storm.

I rode in Leadville on Saturday. I started at the dam in Twin Lakes and rode the last half of the course. I was not supposed to ride hard and was instructed to keep my heart rate in zone 2. This is what the plan said. I might remind you that Pbville is situated at 10,200 feet above sea level. My heart rate is in zone 3 while sleeping at that elevation. So to try to keep my heart rate in anything remotely close to zone 2 is laughable at best. Oh and don’t push too hard on this ride. Right. Ok.

I was able to take it easy from the dam to Pipeline, which in terms of climbing, is nothing like the monster so lovingly known as Powerline which lies ahead of you once you blow through the Pipeline time check. Heart rate was in zone 4 most of the way. To be honest I don’t have a zone 1 or 2, so even talking about this is really a waste of time. My ticker just runs on high-octane. Sort of makes me wonder if it’s gonna wear out quicker too? No time for those kinds of thoughts.

I made it to the base of Powerline, the rain started falling harder, it had been misting most of the morning, the thunder started and the lightning was getting pretty magnificent. I thought of Grampy and silently asked him to please not let me get dead––while biking higher in elevation, next to huge steel towers, soaking wet with my feet clipped into steel pedals––by lightning, wielding women summoning their men. I pressed on between claps of thunder and the distance snaps of lightning. The climb grew steeper and the ruts got deeper. I put my foot down. I snapped a quick picture of the looming summit with the towers and clouds in the background. I started pedaling until it felt like I was about to go over backwards because of the steepness. At this point I just jumped off and humped it on foot to the top. Wondering the whole time how in the name of God I am going to pedal up this thing after climbing Columbine. This race is uphill in both directions. Once you get to the top of this nastiness there is more climbing awaiting you so don’t even think you get to relax. You climb and climb and climb and climb and then you climb some more until you get to the descent down to Hagerman pass road. Then you get to go downhill just long enough for your legs to start screaming from standing up on the pedals. At this point you are at the bottom of the Turquoise Lake Road (May Queen Campground) and guess what? You get to drag your body up out of this low point to the turnoff to dirt. This stretch is going to be particularly heinous. Your mind is going to really start sabotaging you. You just have to gut it out because the finish is getting closer. All that’s left is the turn onto dirt, the climb to the green gate, and then the climb up to the top of St. Kevin’s. Relax and catch your breath while blasting down St. Kevin’s because the climbing is not yet over. You are under 10 miles to the finish. A little flat section next to the railroad tracks and then you make the turn toward town only to be hit square in the face by the boulevard. This is sadistic, steep, and almost heartbreaking after where you’ve been up to this point. Don’t let the mind get you. Grind through the boulevard, turn onto pavement, climb up 6th Street into the screaming, adoring fans, onto the red carpet. The Gods have smiled down on you while you played a game very few understand. Enjoy the moment because the pain that is about to overtake your entire being is lingering like a bolt of lightning.

Overall, I was very pleased with how I felt on Saturday. I could have done the race if someone had said it was race day. A good sign. I’m prepared. Now I just have to maintain and count the days. It won’t be long now. A few more marathon training days in the saddle and then it’s show time.

Get outside. Play. Get dirty and stinky. Eat some dirt. Have some ice cream. Do a chin-up.

Where the Road Meets the Sky

Bike eating gravel, brain jarring washboard, turkey vultures big enough to cast a shadow, a baby fox playing peek-a-boo behind his sage brush––tapping out a tempo ride in Wyoming. The clouds puffy and dancing across the sky in front of me. Shapes morphing into giant images with every change in wind speed. The air thick with smoke from fires burning in all directions. Laramie peak shrouded to the northeast, Elk mountain to the west, and the Shirley mountains to the northwest. The sun trying to burn through the haze. Biking in Wyoming is always interesting.

Traffic on Fetterman Road consisted of me on my mountain bike, several pesky momma cows––never get between a momma and her baby––prairie dogs of all shapes and sizes, both dead and alive, rabbits, a badger, an antelope momma with triplets, a Red Cross Disaster Relief van, and an old Dodge pickup driven by a cowboy that cold barely see over the steering wheel. I received my finger wave  (index not middle ) for the day from the gentleman in the Dodge. I’ve come to appreciate the gesture. It makes me feel welcome in Wyoming. I can’t imagine what that man must have thought when he saw me coming at him dressed in lycra riding a bike. Probably the last thing he imagined passing on his way home from town. Either way he still gave me the Wyoming cowboy finger wave. I smiled and gave him the best wave I could without ditching the bike in the soft, thick gravel on the edge of the road. Then it was just me and the critters until Cath caught me a couple of miles before I hit the pavement.

Telling Cath I had counted 530 fence posts and only had an hour left to ride. She was thrilled and worried that I had completely lost my mind. I didn’t have the heart to ask her to stop at the dinosaur museum at Como Bluffs.

I turned north onto the Old Lincoln Highway and headed for Medicine Bow. Counted fence posts to pass the time. Sort of similar to watching grass grow. There is a lot of fencing in Wyoming. Lost count or got bored with that and moved on to watching the clouds again. Montana has nothing on Wyoming as far as being the Big Sky state. Plenty of abundant sky in Wyoming. In fact, there is nothing but endless blacktop that looks as though it could kiss the clouds. At the base of hills it literally looks like you will ride off the edge of the road into a big puffy piece of cotton. The sensation on the bike seems more dramatic than in a car. Maybe it’s the speed or maybe just my imagination. Whatever it is, two and a half hours flew by and I rolled into Medicine Bow, Wyoming pop. 284. The town consists of a gas station/convenience store, a Baptist church, a school in major disrepair, dirt streets, the Virginian Hotel and 284 people. We saw two of them going into the convenience store. Rumor has it the hotel has really good food. We haven’t worked up the courage to go in either time we have been there. Maybe I’ve seen one too many movies. Motel Hell starring Rory Calhoun comes to mind.

Post ride recovery hug from Jackson Browne Bear. What could be any better? I think the boots make the outfit. Whaddya think?

Perhaps my attire had something to do with the reason we avoided the hotel dining experience in Medicine Bow. Maybe seeing two people and the cowboy was just too much for us so we headed back to the Ranch for an afternoon of fence building. Whatever the reason we skipped the main attraction in town as we didn’t want to become the main attraction. Although I do think the pink boots would have won me some fans. Or gotten us buried in the back yard.

I’ve been a little tardy in posting the last couple of weeks. Training has intensified and I’m starting to get a little freaked out about everything. I have five weeks to go three of which will be pretty hard. Then the last two will be taper weeks. Then I will really be a nervous wreck. Worrying that I should be riding more, that I’m losing all my fitness with this silly tapering business, that I’m not going to finish, blah, blah, blah. But I will stick to the plan and trust that the outcome will be that in which I hope for––finishing the Leadville 100 in my pink boots. Kidding about the boots.

Go outside and get the stink blown off ya. If you happen to be a fuzzy black dog, go outside and roll in something stinky. I’m tired, I’m rambling, my battery is about to go dead. Not mine literally, but the laptop’s. Goodnight. Forever. Just messin’ with ya.

Walker Ranch––Quad Buster

7.6 miles, 1650 feet of elevation gain. To some people this might not seem like a bad ride. I’ve done this ride quite a few times but not recently. I got a message from Calvin early on Thursday morning asking what I thought of Walker Ranch. We hadn’t planned to ride together but the mere suggestion of a ride piqued my interest. I thought about Walker Ranch and wrote back that I loved it and didn’t give it another thought. We agreed to meet at the trailhead.

You’ve all heard the saying that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger or curl up in a ball and suck your thumb. Walker Ranch will make you feel like you are dying and definitely make you think about curling up with a blanket and a bottle. This is a tough 7.6 miles. Sure it starts out with an awesome descent to the river floor but the whole time we were descending I was thinking what goes down will eventually have to go back up. In this case it goes up rather abruptly over rocks, roots, and tight switchbacks. I recall the descent (of course) but have a vague recollection of the climbs. I did remember the spot I took a digger the first time I used clipped pedals. I have the scar the front chain ring left me. Calvin asked me if I practiced in the grass with the new pedals. No, of course not. Why would I do something that rational? Hard for me to believe I thought Walker Ranch was the place to practice the new contraptions. I was younger then. Now I might think about practicing in the grass––and then go do Walker Ranch. I love the wisdom that comes with age.

The first climb was not too terribly bad. Some steep sections intermixed with some technical rock maneuvering but overall rideable. We were rewarded with a pretty darned nice view and the reality that we were not half-way through the ride.

We started down the trail after a colorful conversation about peeing. Never mind. Yes, I said down. We went downhill again having just climbed from the gates of hell. Cruising along a pretty awesome section of sweeping single track, out of the scrub oak emerges a huge turkey vulture. I missed the turn and had to mash on the breaks to keep from following the big black monster down the side of the mountain. Then I had to laugh. Calvin reminded me that would have been an awesome time for a helmet cam. Birthday is in October, Cal.

If you look at the elevation profile of Walker Ranch you will notice it is shaped like a W (dub-ya). Funny. Not so much when you’re riding it. After the bird scare we started to climb a tiny bit and then we came to a curious sign that said, “Less Technical Trail.” It was a high road away from the ledge option. The horse trail. We took it as Calvin had reiterated to me a couple of times that he was not having fun and if I hadn’t been with him he would have been in a really bad mood. Lucky for him I was along. The less technical trail was pretty nice rolling single track and a slight downhill. And short. I caught a glimpse of the intersection with the technical trail as we blew by it. I think Cal missed the sign. We round a bend and start climbing again. This was a gut busting, lung searing, steep, technical section. We get to the top of the climb, hear the river, round a bend and are greeted by large granite stairs with log fronts. These things are the size of a small automobile. Would be hard to navigate in hiking shoes let alone biking shoes with cleats. I have no recollection of doing this in the past. I must have purged the trauma. You would think I would recall having to carry my bike down the side of a mountain to a raging river. Nope. In fact, I was thinking we must have missed a turn. But that just didn’t make any sense so down we went and eventually saw other tread marks in the dirt. So we knew there were others that came before us. What we weren’t sure of is if they parished and were washed down stream or if they made it to the bottom only to realize they had missed a turn. Oh the dilemma. Do we keep going down handing our bikes to each other as we go or do we turn around and go back the way we came? Turning around never seems to be the choice, so down we went. I finally saw bike tracks near what had to be the bottom. Sure enough it was the bottom. Again the river bed, the bottom of a gulch, a gully, a drainage ditch, hell, whatever you want to call it, we were at the bottom of it, again. It was hot. Hopped back on the bikes after grumbling a bit to each other, passed some hikers crossing the bridge fully expecting to be blasted about being on the wrong trail, only to be snubbed. Not even a hello. Maybe they knew what they were about to climb. One of them was pregnant. That child is certain to come out of the womb a rock climber.

I don’t think I need to say that we started to climb almost immediately after crossing the bridge. This climb was a double track road with little red signs that indicated a gas line. Steep little sucker. 13% in spots but rideable. Very similar to Columbine after you pop out of the trees, so good training for me. Calvin was not as enthusiastic after the whole hike a bike in your cleated shoes fiasco of a few moments earlier. I believe there was a hand gesture in my direction upon aiming the iPhone at him to snap a candid picture. I missed the gesture but still got the picture.

We climbed a little more after the photo-op and made a left back onto shady single track. Still we climbed and climbed and then we descended to yet another granite outcropping. Some could ride this as indicated by the black skid marks left by their tires. Others probably were going too fast and slid down the rocks on their heads as they left their bike above them only to have it meet them at the bottom. And then there are those that manage to get stopped and lower their bikes down in front of them and then slide down on their butts. This was heinous after the previous half hour of fun. I believe after this the trail is pretty rocky as we get closer to the trailhead. It rolls and sweeps and dives and throws in a tree root here and there and then the next thing you know you crest a small climb and descend back into the parking lot where you started. Loop complete.

I was spent. It was hot. Calvin was hamburger. I laid in the back of the 4-Runner with ice packs from Calvin’s cooler bag on my quads. He’s a smart, well-prepared guy. Thank God because those little frozen pieces of plastic felt so good. Too bad I couldn’t have just laid there the rest of the day with ice on my legs instead of going to work and sitting at my desk. Getting up out of my chair a few hours later was excruciating. My poor thighs were shredded. They felt like they had been pounded with a meat tenderizer. As I write this they still hurt. Of course that could have something to do with the 4 hours I rode on Friday morning and then the 5 hours I rode on Sunday morning. Whatever the cause I don’t believe I will be doing Walker Ranch again anytime soon and certainly not before Leadville. Thanks, Cal for being such a good sport.

Six Hours

Post six-hour training ride. White feet, white hands, and very dirty legs.

Six hours is a really long time. My butt was on my bike for six hours. Six hours is a really long time. I know, I already said that. Six hours is a really long time. In case you didn’t hear me twice the first time.

The good thing about six hours is the time your mind has to play games, daydream (not advisable on single track), make up incredibly stupid stories, and try really hard to get you to stop the madness. Yes, it is madness. I’m pretty sure I have lost my mind. I messed around last Saturday morning doing everything under the sun to avoid the inevitable. I drank coffee, read the Daily Camera and the New York Times. One took considerably longer than the other. Probably no need to explain which one. I cleaned my bike, lubed my chain, fussed about with my food, water, and Gatorade. It was getting hotter by the minute. I just figured I would do heat training. I’ll tell myself anything. Finally it’s getting close to 11:00 and I stop messing about long enough to do the math. Reality hits. I’m going to be on my bike until 5:00 this evening. Shit. Suffer fest. It’s already 85 degrees.

I finally leave the house. The heat is already a factor. Slight breeze. Nothing to worry about. Forget to start the Garmin so I have to stop and reset it because there is no way on this earth that I am going to ride my bike for six hours without a recorded record to prove it. Back on the bike for good this time.

First 20 miles are a piece of cake. Sad thing is I am 1:45ish into this and I am about to start climbing. I was tardy with eating and drinking so I’m already behind the eight ball. Very bad idea to be tardy with nutrition and hydration. Waiting until you feel hungry or thirsty is bad news. Trust me when I say this. The proverbial wall lurks in the very near future if you don’t heed this advise. I make it to the Heil Ranch parking lot and start up the dirt road to the trailhead. Two girls sitting on a picnic table in the shade of tall lodgepoles wave at me. All I could muster was a nod. Feeling bad. Cement in the butt, legs on fire, no wind, feel like I might expire right then and there. Just kick some dirt over me. So I grind up to the shade of the first set of pines and grab a rock for my foot. I struggle with the wrapper on the Power Bar. It’s very soft and melted because it is now 92 degrees. I suck as much of it out of the wrapper as I can, drink some water to wash the ball of chocolate down, and chase that with some yummy orange Gatorade. I sit just long enough to play 2.3 mind games. I win and start pedaling again. Keep in mind I am hitting the wall. Debbie Downer is whispering in my ear. I have to stop again or so I tell myself––I have ridden Heil Ranch clean (no stopping) every time I have ridden it this year––so I put my foot down catch my breath and have another battle with myself on the merits of proceeding at this pace. At this rate I won’t complete the six hour training ride and will have to explain to Cath, who is waiting with more food in Lyons, that she now has to come get me at Heil Ranch. Never mind the fact that Leadville is 100 miles long and will take me far longer than six hours to complete. And it’s at 10,000 ft and above. So I win round two and start climbing again.

I reach the top of the climb and eat a Hammer Gel. Slam some more water and tear down the trail toward Lyons. This is downhill single track. My reason for pedaling uphill. The trail is riding great. A little dry and loose but still in good shape. I go as hard and fast as I can. I feel like I’m gliding, hardly touching the ground, am one with the bike. Leonard Cohen is singing Hallelujah in my ear. Ok, so Leonard Cohen is not your average run of the mill mountain biking slam your head against the wall kind of music. But let me tell you, that song on that trail at that moment in time was absolute perfection. He could have been on the back of my bike belting out Hallelujah in my ear for all I know. I hit every berm every rock outcropping and every jump like I was one with the trail. Right up until I missed the turn and slammed head first into a tree. Needless to say the needle scratched all the way across the record. Not to fear I didn’t come off the bike. My head ramming into the branch stopped me. A few choice words, Leonard resumed his crooning in my ear, and I was off without a scratch.

I blasted down off the Picture Rock trial into Lyons where Cath awaited with cold water and real food. I instantly dumped a half-gallon of cold water on my feet. They were on fire. It was really hot. 93 degrees. I wolfed down a rice and cheese burrito, some cold water, and a swig of Gatorade and got back on the bike. It was 3:30. Knowing this, and the temperature, I decided to scrap my plan of additional climbing and headed for Louisville. This meant riding on the road but I couldn’t face climbing back up Picture Rock in the heat of the day. Well girlfriend pavement is a lot hotter than dirt. I was sure my feet were going to spontaneously combust before I made it home. It just kept getting hotter and hotter. I kept drinking and drinking and then drinking some more. I couldn’t get enough. Then I started squirting water on my quads to cool them off.

At the five-hour mark it was 97 degrees. I poured water over my head and told Cath where to meet me. I didn’t want to see her again because I knew it would be too easy to throw in the towel and tell myself that was good enough. Good enough doesn’t cut it. If you let Debbie Downer win just a little, it gets harder and harder to shut her up. The plan was six hours so I was determined to do just that regardless of the temperature. I’m learning that a big part of training your body also involves training your mind to cooperate. Endurance activities require a very well-trained mind because no matter how well-trained your body is your mind will constantly try to sabotage you. There’s no letting down because as soon as you do Debbie Downer pops her nasty little head up and starts chirping in your ear. Then you have to work twice as hard to convince yourself to keep pushing through the pain.

The last 30 minutes were absolutely brutal. I had stopped eating about 15 minutes earlier. I couldn’t stomach another GU or shot block. Too hot. I drank the rest of the Gatorade and drained the water bladder and just put my head down and pedaled as fast as I could. Turns out I made it to the meeting point with 10 minutes left to ride. I had to ride past the truck which nearly killed me but I had to see that computer say six hours or I would not have been happy with the effort. Little snippets of my childhood show up in my mind at times like these. I hear my Father say, “Well you missed a foul shot in the first quarter.” I scored 25 points and went 9 for 10 from the foul line. But to him that was failure. No way was I stopping with 10 minutes left to reach six hours. No way was I failing this day.

62 miles, six hours and change, 140 ounces of water, 24 ounces of Gatorade, 1 Honey Stinger waffle, 1 cheese and rice burrito, several gels and shot blocks, a fond memory of my Father (sarcasm), PRICELESS.

A few observations:

white socks are better than black socks in the heat
black socks look better than white socks after riding six hours
white socks will never be white again after riding six hours, most of which was on dirt
rice and cheese burritos are not that great
peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla rocks and is my go to food
don’t mess with hydration and nutrition
bonking hurts both mind and body
Leonard Cohen in my Long Ass Leadville Playlist works
I need a longer playlist
I can ride six hours and still have a little gas left in the tank
Am glad it’s only June
Am super glad the creator of my training plan took pity and made this past week easy
I believe this is the last time I will have an easy week until the week of race day

Summer is here. It’s hot. Go outside and do something fun. Wave to me when I ride by sucking down a GU.