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.
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.
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.
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.
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.