Monday, August 13, 2012

Leadville 2012 - Somewhere in the middle

So why does one go back for their 6th “Race Across The Sky”…. to get 10 of course.   That is how this addiction starts you know?  You do one race…and then before you know it the savvy promoters have you hooked on doing 10 to get your 1,000-mile buckle.  Now you may have seen the nice NFR style belt buckle (NFR stands for National Finals Rodeo for those of you with less humble beginnings) you get when finishing the Leadville Trail 100 under 12hrs.  However, the 1,000-mile buckle is nothing short of a WWF buckle.  One can only imagine the hush that would fall over the room when one would don this buckle on his belt and walk in with swagger. 

Ok, truth be told, I have no idea where I would wear this buckle, should I earn it…besides the rodeo of course.  But even then, I think the bull riders would sniff me out, toss me in a barrel with cut off overalls and suspenders and gym socks pulled up to my knees and see if I could make my way back to the grandstands alive.

So…beyond the buckle, lay the real reason I am drawn back each year.  It is the LT100 family reunion.  And with this reunion each year comes new goals, new achievements and the satisfaction, and sometimes regret, of goals obtained and goals unattained.  

Our crew before the start.  Steve had his THOR wings on!

I am often asked, “Who are you racing against this year?” inquiring of the big name riders who might be at the start line.  I honestly didn’t even know this year until I was at the start.  Turns out current World Marathon MTB Champ Christoph Sauser was on the line along with Hall of Famer Tinker Jaurez. 

Start line photos.  You can see Tinker just over my right shoulder

If you have read my previous posts, this race for me is a race against myself.  To better myself, to push through the pain cave and see where I end up on the other side of the finish line.  This year was neither my best nor my worst finish time.  It was somewhere in the middle. 

With 3,000 registered athletes and I believe around 1800 starters, there were all 50 states represented along with 38 countries at the start line.  The field has more than doubled since I started doing this event as well as diversified.  A comical example of this was a rider from the Dominican Republic with a facemask on at the start.  Why? Because 40 degrees is the dead of winter where he comes from. :-)

Overall, the race was fairly standard for me.  I had been nursing a low back injury going into the event that I was hoping would stay dormant.  As it turns out, it decided to flare up on the Columbine climb and I had to shut it down and lightly spin the pedals to the top.  I knew I had lost about 20 minutes on that climb so I decided the best way to make some of it up was to hang it out on the descents.  Outside of passing a four wheeler on a two way traffic descent at high speed threading the needle between it and the line of racers climbing up…I managed to escape coming close to any serious accidents and was able to pass quite a few folks coming down. 

As I headed back from Twin Lakes to the Power line climb, the winds and really picked up gusting 30-40mph.  I could tell I was well off pace of a PR and my back was still seized.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a female rider form Topeak “Sonya” who was hung out without any other riders to pull into the wind with.  Knowing my PR was lost, I decided to let up until she bridged up to me and then pulled her in the wind across to the climb of Sugar Loaf.  She was grateful and it reminded me how different MTB racing is compared to road.  We are all out there cheering and pulling for one another.  I enjoyed seeing her finish so well at the end of the day.

Knowing PR was lost; I decided to re-adjust my goals.  My IT band was on fire and the thought of pushing my bike up a portion of Powerline did not amuse me.  So…I decided one victory I could have for the day, in addition to setting my PR’s on the descents and not crashing…was to climb and clear Powerline.  For those of you not familiar with this climb…very few riders including the winners clear it in the race.  3/4th of the way up, my back was telling me in no uncertain terms it wished my IT band would take one for the team.  I’m fairly used to catch 22’s, so cleared the climb I did. 

The downside to this is that I had not noticed due to the 25%+ grade that my nutritionals had slid out of my feed pouch attached to my top tube.  Kevin Bratetic was at the base of Powerline and gave me a life saving bottle of water.   As I headed down the descent I knew I was in trouble without fuel and only water.  As things go in Leadville, the bottle found a way to eject from my back jersey pocket without me ever taking a drink and I was descending way to fast to consider trying to stop and hunt for it.  There was quite a bit of race left, and despite my fantastic support crew lead by my main hand off man, Dmac, I was out of fuel and water.

        Pictured here are Dmac in fine form and my nephew Brian having just executed a great hand up.

Let me take this opportunity to say how much our sag crews have meant to us over the years.  While it goes without saying we couldn’t finish with out them, there is nothing more exciting when in the middle of this suffer fest, than to come in and see a familiar face, excited and cheering you on.   This year I as fortunate enough to have my sister and her kids along for the first time, accompanying my oldest two children who were the seasoned veterans of this years crew.  DMac does the musette bag hand ups and E does the tweeting and texting to keep all informed of our progress.  Over the years we have had several people sag for us, those that come back more than once are inducted into Sainthood.  Our Sag Queen Kerri Peterson was unable to join us this year, but coached from the sidelines to make sure our logistics were solid.  Combine that with my Sis’ efforts, and help from sag crewmembers Jason and Don, solid they were.

As I started up the final climb of the day, there in the distance were the Strava “Angels”.  Was it true, could it be a mirage?  Were they really there handing out cans of Coca-Cola?  Sure enough they were.  I was so happy to see them I almost proposed marriage right there on the spot.  Off I went with a can of coke knowing I might just make it to the top of St. Kevins without cramping or bonking. 

Well, at least the cramping was avoided.  When I arrived there, neutral support filled my bottle with water and gave me a Gu packet.  I was bonked at this point, so I took the Gu and washed it down with what turned out to be some form of Herba Life drink mix.  Do not try this at home.  My system was so confused.  Happy for the calories and fluids, but felt like I took a cement mixer shot at the local bar.  I figured I could gut it out to the finish though and took off to set my PR on the final descent. 

As I made my way into town, I realized this year was one of success and regret.  I had failed to break my PR, but had some small victories along the way.  I suppose that within 10,000 miles you can’t set a PR every time….or can you?

The highlight of this trip for me was seeing my longtime friend Lowell Petersen set what was once again a PR for himself in this race.  What was particularly exciting was watching him break the coveted sub 9hr mark to win the BIG Buckle with only a couple minutes to spare.  As I sat with Ellie and Dillon at the start line (rather laid in the grass fighting cramps), I heard them announce his name just under the wire.  I jumped up and told Dmac to go grab his bike and we all  “high fived” in celebration. 

To top off the day, Jim Maaske who had missed his buckle last year by a mere couple of minutes, finished this year with 20+ minutes to spare.  And not to be out done racing the shotgun, Kevin Galinsky came in with a couple of minutes to spare to claim his sub 12hr buckle.  The rest of our crew all came in somewhere in between, all with stories of overcoming and persevering through mechanicals, cramps, vomiting and the like.  What else could one ask for?

This year’s finishers and buckle winners with our Flatlander crew (from L to R) were: Ken Peterson, Jim Maaske, Lowell Petersen, myself, Kevin Galinsky, Chris Peterson, and Steve Jarrett, along with Kevin Limpach and Jason Schuster- (not pictured) 

Our crew after the race.  Smiles all around!

1 comment:

  1. Kent,

    It's always great to read these re-caps--informative and inspiring!

    Blessings and Thanks,