Monday, August 13, 2007

8/11/07 Leadville 100

"I am rocking and rolling the end of the pipeline and it feels like I am bouncing on a trampoline. After some internal mind chatter"... - Report by Ernie Wintergerst.

The morning started with the usual breakfast at 4:30 a.m. Then it is off to the start at 5 for check in and getting a good starting spot. I seed myself at the end of the projected 9 to 10 hour finishers. My goal is a sub 10 hour race. This is big for me; my previous finish was 10:45.

The start draws near I chat it up with a guy from British Columbia. He is super cool and we talk about the mtn. bike stage race that was up in his neck of the woods. I ask my crew to keep an eye out for Floyd and snap a photo if possible.

The gun goes off and here we go a mass start of 850 mtn. bikers that normally ride in small groups. Needless to say as we rolled along the first few miles 10 to 15 riders side to side there was a good speed of 20+ miles per hour and fair amount of disc brakes squealing and guys yelling woooooo woooooo when there were turns in the road. Things get going more smoothly as we ascend the first climb. I am amazed with the skill and fitness of a single speeder in front of me as he chooses amazing lines and stands up on the pedals for what seems like 10

We finish the first climb; I blow by the first aid station with out giving it a thought. We enter a fast decent on pavement everyone drinking and grabbing food for the next climb. We get into
the next climb and I recognize Eleanor, a woman I went back and forth with during the firecracker 50. Off the bike she looks like a librarian, on the bike she comes across as a barbarian in her Christian Cycling kit. She finished first in her age group Firecracker 50; I am in good company for sure. We talk about how nice it is that things have spread out and how the start and the first climb can be a bit wacky.

I take in the beautiful mountain views as the climb progresses up to the power line decent. This decent can be tricky notable by having areas where there is just one good line as well as deep ruts. I am talking ruts that suck you in and climbing gear is needed to get out. This section goes smooth in part due to the fact that I have 10 feet of space between me and the
rider in front. It is never pleasant when riders are stacked up one in front of the other rear wheels skidding on ball bearing type sand. That is how it was in 04.

I roll onto the road and see a train of riders 10 long up the road a spell. Some juice to the big ring for a a few minutes and I latch on for some efficiency and speed. As we motor through that section I hear a random "go Blue Sky" and I feel like a rock star. I dig into the pipeline section of the course making good time. My time check as I roll through the Pipeline Aid Station is right on. As I descend the second steep short section of Pipeline I see a rider being attended to by a medical person, I shout out a "take care brother" to help ease his pain. I later learned this guy went over the bars and broke his femur. By the way that is the largest bone in the body, the one between the knee and hip. OUCH!!! I am rocking and rolling the end of the pipeline and it feels like I am bouncing on a trampoline. After some internal mind chatter I hop off the bike to test a feel and sure enough a slow leak in the real tire. A quick shot with CO2 and I motor to Twin Lakes aid station to change it there. I find my crew easily, change the flat fairly quickly, swap out some bottles; grab a down a power bar and I am off.

Up and up I go to the Columbine Mine aid station. As I am about half way up the climb when
Floyd and four time previous winner Dave Wiens roar by in full race face mode. Wiens seems to be marking Floyd's wheel about 10 yards back. I reach the upper section of the climb stay on the bike more than riders around me who are walking up some of the steep tricky sections. This is good in keeping my rhythm and passing people at a snails pace is still passing people.

As I am riding one of the trickier sections I see Chris Carmichael going down. I must have
looked pretty bad because Chris gave me a look like I was some big timber that was going to come down on him. I give him a greeting of "hey Chris" like were friends since way back in the day. I get to the mine aid station at a stout 12,600 feet of elevation. The time projections on a small sheet of paper taped to my bars tell me, I am running a bit behind. I smoothly and efficiently navigate the upper sections of the decent. I shout out some greetings to my preride
pals as I see them on my way down. Scott, Gale, Dave and Steve all looking strong.

Descending skills are pushed to the limit as I rocket down on my 50 psi rear tire to the Twin Lakes aid station again. That high air pressure pays major dividends with speed during
the decent. A quick stop with the crew and I'm off and pedaling towards Pipeline. I am still feeling good but the tank has been emptied a bit during the Columbine Climb. I rock out Pipeline and soon enough I am on the road section again. I start to recognize a
somewhat familiar trampoline feeling again. Can it be true or is it just the fatigue and altitude messing with my head. I reluctantly hop off the bike to check the rear tire and sure enough a slow leak again!!! A quick shot of CO2 and I am off with the thought to change it at the fish hatchery in the comfort of a chair with my crew.

I motor along in the big ring. Another stop to air up with CO2 and buy me some more air pressure time to get to the hatchery. Thoughts of air loss help me push the pace to maximize time during this slow leak. I get to the fish hatchery and as I am changing the flat I
struggle a bit. Getting the last six inches of tire over the rim is very difficult after 75 miles of racing on the mountain bike. I stay persistent and finally get it over the rim with some deep focus and effort.

Time check. I am on track but it is going to be tight breaking my sub 10 hour goal. Now it is over to my nemesis the Power Line climb. This section really put the hurt on me in 04. I am
bound and determined to better my time on this section. As I get into it I stay steady during the hike a bike lower portion. My mind replays some of race director Ken's words during the pre ride race talk. "I am stronger than I think I am, dig deep" this race is going to sting for 365 days or more if I don't give it my all. It seems to go on for ever as there are some false summits that tease me into thinking I am there.

My gut starts to hurt with that stitch in the side, cramp type of feeling. I have not experienced this kind of feeling since I was a little kid. I press on telling myself that things change and during the next decent. I finally get to the top and shoot down the decent and grind up the next climb. This climb goes on for forever too. I top out this climb, stop at the last aid station for a final top off of the bottles and off I go. At this point I am fearing dehydration and bonking. I do not want to bonk or have the muscles lock up in the final stretch of the race. I force myself to drink to get the calories and liquid down. I roll into the final climb which is a dirt road that leads to town. I get out of the saddle every couple of minutes to wring out every last ounce of
power from my body. I see pavement, yea I am close!!!

A volunteer tells me I am sub 10 and that the finish is in sight at the top final little climb. I get out of the saddle some more. I see the finish and put it into the big ring for the last little down hill. The road turns up hill one last time as I stay in the big ring, get out of the saddle and give it everything I can muster to launch a viciously ugly sprint to the line. I am running out of juice… sit down, head down and power across the line.

Look up at the clock and see 9:59 and a lot of seconds. I straddle the bike slumped over the bars. Crew members and a volunteer come over to check on me. They ask questions, but I cannot speak. I am in a very strange place then out of nowhere I recycle my stomach contents onto 6th ave. Everyone jumps back to avoid the splash of pure liquid streaming out of mouth
and nose. I recycle 3 more times. Feeling better now I walk over to a less crowded area to collect myself.

Fast forward to bed time. I am lying in bed slow to fade off into sleep. In my head I hear the
slapping of the chain on the chain stay. In my body I experience subtle shifts in my core and twitching in my legs as if I am still pedaling and going down one of the many descents of the course. Wow, what a Leadville experience.

A big thanks to everyone! Thanks to the directors and ride leaders for all the work they put into the team and club. The Blue Sky shop for getting my bike in tip top shape, she ran like a dream. All the people I rode and raced with throughout the year helped keep me motivated. I really appreciate the support.

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