Montage of Photographs

Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race - 2006

"The Race Across the Sky"

So I might have been satisfied once I finished this thing in '05. I might have learned that it's painful, expensive, time-consuming... but I went back in 2006.

My goal was to improve on the 2005 race by breaking 11 hours. But things happened, like rain, and headwinds. My time was 11:25:53 and perhaps I should just be satisfied that I can at least finish consistently inside 12 hours. But who knows? Perhaps I'll throw down again next summer.

Top of Columbine Climb, 3rd Aid Station Site

This year I had a huge advantage over last year: I knew what to expect. I know the course, I know more about my body, and I know what the LT100 day is like. That proved to be a wonderful difference.

Last year, when the pictures from racers on course at the race came out, every one of the ones I found of me showed my face in a grimace of focus and maybe even consternation. I WILL NOT LET UP! I MUST SUCCEED! EVERY PEDAL STROKE MATTERS! I don't think I smiled that day until after I knew I had made it. I was grumpy, I was driven.

This year, I knew that things were going to be OK. I wanted to be a little faster, but I knew that even if I was a little slower I'd still finish. And if I didn't finish, there would probably be a good reason. The summer of '06 had been a wet SOB, so I had rain gear with and expected to need it. I figured that if it poured on me until I was hypothermic, it would be OK to stop. I wanted to succeed, no question, but I also knew I could if everything within my control went OK.

I went out fast. All my split times were a little better than last year. I climbed to Columbine with a good steady cadence, even when I was pushing the bike. I got there 15 minutes faster than last year! I was really pleased with myself. There was my sub-11 hour pace, baby! I smiled. I rolled into the 2nd Twin Lakes aid feeling good, a little chilled, but strong and happy.

Then I encountered a head wind between Twin2 and Pipeline2. My pace suffered. I suffered. I ate and drank quite a bit. And I slogged along. I arrived at Pipeline2 about 5 minutes ahead of last year's pace. So I had given back most of what I'd worked so hard to gain getting to Columbine. But I still knew I was OK. And my wife was there at Pipeline, and she got me fresh provisions. The weather was starting to look gruesome, but hell, I knew I'd be OK. I was really tired, and the Powerline was ahead of me, but I knew I'd be OK.

When I left Pipeline2, it became clear that I was about to enter a rain storm. I stopped and put on my rain jacket. Four minutes after I started pedalling again, the first drops hit me. And when I made the turn toward the fish hatchery, a hard wind was driving needle-sharp rain into my face. But even then I knew I'd be OK. Even as that was happening, I was feeling a little better than I did between Twin2 and Pipeline2. All that eating and drinking had paid off. I was going to be OK. I smiled into the danged rain. Bring it on, I thought. A little water isn't going to stop me. I have my rain gear.

Powerline was oatmeal. It was a slog. But so it was last year. Why expect it to be easy? Was it a little harder being wet? Probably. But it wasn't enough to stop me. And I was recovering from my big Columbine effort. I ate. I drank. I made steady progress. And the rain tapered off.

The pavement climb out of Turquoise Lake was almost easy. I was feeling good. I even stood and hammered some. Hell, maybe I wasn't going to be sub-eleven hours, but I was going to be fine. Then I got to St Kevins. Ah, blessed downhill. I railed it. I passed people with a happy hello and a wave. Nothing to worry about but the Boulevard.

The Boulevard was oatmeal. And it was long. But I didn't expect it to be short and easy. I was fine. I was in great shape to finish before 12 hours. And I felt good. I was really pleased with myself for riding a pace that allowed me to recover even as I dealt with the last 25 miles of the course in really crappy conditions.

Ten minutes slower than last year, but I went from 396th place to 362nd place out of a larger starting field. And I finished happy, feeling good. Not stressed, worried, driven the whole day. Knowledge is power. And I had more power this year. That felt like success to me.

Same course, here's the elevation profile:

©Tom Purvis, 2007-2012