my path to Leadville

Riding this year’s Leadville Trail 100 didn’t just start on Saturday August 13th.  It actually started back in January 2011 when I signed up online for the entry lottery.  Only around 1200 or so people got chosen for this year’s lottery, with the remainder of the racers being selected either by invitation (i.e. sponsors or professional racers), qualifying races, or supplemental lotteries held at each qualifying race.  All told, probably upwards of 9000 people tried to obtain entry into this race.

Having never really been lucky enough to ever win any giveaways or other lotteries (boo on the Florida Lottery for never making me rich), I was quite surprised on February 28th when I received an email with the following first paragraph:

Dear Leadville Race Series Family,

Congratulations! Your entry into the 2011 Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race
is confirmed. Get ready to “Dig Deep” and challenge yourself to an amazing race
experience. St Kevin’s, Pipeline, Powerline, Twin Lakes, and Columbine Mine are all
here and waiting to challenge you.

And really what made it all the more surprising (and great) is that two of my friends (Travis Grappo and Eddie Thomas) actually made it into the race as well.  The selfish part of me wishes that the rest of the 41 Flyers Racing crew could have gained entry so that everyone could experience it together, but the fact that two of us made it is quite nice.  And honestly, I would not have been very motivated to travel out there by myself.

Training would begin for me with the Big Frog 65 race in late April.  This race was to be my litmus test for where I stood relative to being able to ride a bike for hours on end.  Unfortunately, I suffered severe cramps and ultimately broke my chain at around mile 57.  Forced to walk the rest of the way, I turned in a sub-par time of well over 8 hours.  But, I had proved to myself that my body could withstand the rigors of 8 hours of exhaustive activity.  My nutrition that day absolutely sucked, as I took in too few calories and not near enough electrolytes.  But, at least I somewhat learned a lesson about that.

The rest of my training would basically be non-existent as far as what someone like Travis or Eddie would consider appropriate (see one of my previous posts).  But, that’s life and sometimes you just have to strike the right balance and do the best you can….and I felt like I actually rode about as much as my “life” would let me.  And, while I haven’t ridden as much as I planned, I still have put in more time on the bike than any other year.  So far this year, I have logged 1239 miles (mountain bike, road bike, and indoor trainer) and have climbed a cumulative 117,307 feet.  Last year by this time I had ridden only 634 miles and climbed 45,885 feet.  So by comparison I’d say this has been a great year for me on the bike(s).

Fast forward to August 11, 2011 when I officially start the journey to Leadville by boarding a plane in Birmingham.  After a quick stop in Memphis, our next destination would be Denver.  After a good bite to eat at Keg’s in suburban Denver, we made our way towards the condo that Travis lined up in Copper Mountain.

driving from Denver to Copper Mountain

Bikes got unpacked, gear was laid out, and the 2010 version of “Predators” starring Adrian Brody was watched.

The next morning meant a trip to Leadville for the race check-in and racers meeting.  It also meant that I would start getting a big dose of altitude sickness.  I was unable to eat much of my breakfast/lunch, and generally felt weak and sick all day….sort of like being carsick with a touch of hangover thrown in for good measure.  After some pizza for dinner, we called it an early night since we had to get up before 4am to make it to the race.  I laid in bed that night praying that God would grant three things the next day: 1) that I wake up not feeling sick, 2) that I am able to ride the race without having to abandon on my own or due to race mishaps, and 3) that we have safety during the race for myself, Travis, and Eddie.

How did it all work out on race day?  That’s the next post.


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