Race Report: Lake Tahoe Trail 100K Leadville Qualifier
Well, I didn’t know if I was going to able to survive 100K at high altitude, but I did. And I wasn’t completely wrecked either. Almost, but not quite. Since I am a true novice at racing, my goals for any mountain bike race are modest:
1. Finish (no DNF, unless it’s a GREAT story)
In this race I added another goal:finish within the time cutoffs so that I could theoretically qualify for the Leadville Trail 100 if I won the lottery.
I succeeded on all four counts. I did not stay around to try to win the qualifying lottery, since Leadville is out of the question this year.
The race had a 6:30AM start, and I was staying an hour and a half away, which meant getting up at 4AM, a truly ungodly hour. But I correctly reasoned that I wouldn’t sleep well anyway so it didn’t really matter. I was so nervous that when I did get up (before the alarm even)I think that my heart rate was already well into my aerobic training range. Since my heart rate monitor died on me, I never did know what my heart went through as I was reduced to RPE all day. Probably better that way. In any case, I made it to the venue with enough time to get ready, even though I had to stop for gas that I forgot the previous day. I saw lots of very fit, shaved legs at the start, and lots of $5000 bikes. I looked at my hairy legs and ancient bike still using V-brakes, and knew I was outgunned. Good thing I am only here for my own sense of accomplishment.
After a neutral roll out through the convoluted Northstar base area, the route hit gravel and dirt, and I dropped my chain. With my chain firmly wedged against my chainstay, I watched the field roll on by. Now I know I’m really slow, so I positioned myself in the back anyway, but I did not like the future that this omen indicated. I yanked the chain back into position and set off on the first of several climbs. I caught and passed a few people, especially during the Burton Creek section where I was already familiar with the trails, but mostly I rode on my own. Even the dust kicked up by the main field gradually faded away. I hit the first aid station at the halfway point feeling great and full of confidence. That was because I did not know what was coming next. All the hard stuff was in the second half of the lap. Lots of climbing, especially right at the end, some tricky sections, a fast downhill that had uphill car traffic, and lots of little leg sapping, chain throwing climbs. I finished the lap with a half hour to spare for the cutoff.
At this point I was pedaling into uncharted territory. I had never raced this long, nor had I ever ridden my mountain bike longer than what I did lap 1. I may have ridden my road bike a little longer, but very soon I was riding longer than I ever have. And it was a race! Lap 2 started out with a lot more climbing than I remembered from lap 1. Did they sneak in an extra climb? I’m sure they did. While I pushed the first lap hard because of the time cutoff, I eased up for the second lap. I knew what I was in for at the end, and I anxiously did not know if I had it in me. I felt pretty certain that I could do it if I just stayed hydrated and kept the calories coming in. The “easy” first half was not nearly as easy this time around. The friendly aid station volunteers cheerfully pointed that I had “only” 25K to go. Yeah, I replied, the HARDER 25K! I definitely slowed down the second lap. I never had to walk, like a few others I saw, but I did stop a few times to recharge. The last climb dragged on and on, while it sucked my soul right out of me. But when it finally went downhill to the finish and I heard the DJ spinning my favorite U2 song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, I knew that is was a good day. And I didn’t even have to use my AK.
What I Learned:
I can ride my bike for 7/12 hours, climb 7000 vertical feet, and live to tell about it. Ken Chlouber is right: You ARE tougher than you think you are, and you CAN do more than you think you can.
Things that worked well:
Build a big aerobic base, and these events are possible. I used the Maffetone Method.
Hammer fuels kept my carbohydrate stores high enough to keep burning fat. I never felt close to bonking, which I have always felt before in super long efforts. I used Hammer Gel, Perpetuem, and Sustained Energy. I carried single serving pouches in my pack and mixed new bottles at the aid stations.
Mental training pays off. Meditation and visualization kept me focused and positive even as I went much further than I ever have before.
Thanks Maffetone, Hammer, and meditation!
You don’t need a $5000 bike to do something truly amazing. You just need motivation and some base training. I still want one though. Hey Cannondale, want to sponsor me a new Scalpel as I quest for Leadville?