Thursday, August 20, 2015

Leadville 100: From the Bucket List to the Buckle!

Serious DOUBTS, FEAR, and PAIN were constants for me throughout the days and nights leading up to the starting gun being fired at the Leadville 100 "Race Across the Sky" this past Saturday August 15th. Known as the toughest single-day bike race in North America, I questioned what business I had entering this race with only 6 months of mountain biking experience under my belt.  My determination alone has gotten me far in life, but much more than that is required for this event!  If things went badly I planned to blame Willie Stewart.  As I explained on the "Breakfast with Bob" radio show the day before the race, One-Arm Willie is the man responsible for it all. Here's the interview if you missed it:

To further elaborate on my comments in the interview, on Thursday I made a practice run down the dreaded Powerline section of the course.  I heard many people talk about this rocky, steep descent with limited traction in parts, and bike-swallowing ruts throughout.  One of those large ruts grabbed my front tire and abruptly threw me off my bike and slammed me onto the ground, impacting my chest hard and scraping skin off my right arm, hips, side and back as I slid and rolled down the dirt trail.  After dusting myself off I noticed the confidence I had gained from completing my first Tahoe Trail race last month was now gone.  And the reality was setting in that I was about to ride down Powerline again (and other tricky sections among a total of 12,000+ vertical feet of descents on the course) alongside ~2,000 other riders on race day. Step #15 of my book "Steps to the Summit" is "Never Give Up" so quitting wasn't an option, and off to the start line I went!  The pace was fast and after about two hours I had climbed to the top of Sugarloaf Pass and the Powerline downhill was about to begin again.  Despite my mental notes of the most technical sections, I somehow managed to crash again on a different part of the descent!  This time the blood and scrapes were concentrated on the left side of my body.  I quickly got back up and continued down without further incident ...until another mishap on a sharp corner on the singletrack somewhere around mile 35. The force of my handlebars hitting the dirt must have broken off my bike computer, which I didn't notice until after I was back up riding again.  My pacing, hydration & nutrition plan for this all-day event relied on that computer.  The incident reminded me of a quote by Mike Tyson that I heard at the pre-race athlete meeting: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face."  Despite these blows, I managed to keep the rubber side down for the rest of the 104-mile race, and was re-energized and incredibly grateful to have Denise providing loving support and refueling for me at several aid stations along the way.  After 10 hours and 9 minutes of grueling trail riding, I crossed the finish line a bit dusty and bloodied, but with an elated smile on my face!

This experience caused more blood, sweat and raw emotions to be revealed than I could have ever imagined. And thanks to your collective generosity we raised over $18,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and Denise and I have matched this amount providing earthquake relief for Nepal! Throughout this journey, helping these two worthy causes is what has generated the most powerful and gratifying emotions!  I look forward to the next time I see you, and perhaps I will be wearing my coveted Leadville 100 belt buckle awarded to those who finish the race under 12 hours.  It will serve as a reminder of the impactful words of Leadville Founder Ken Chlouber: "You're better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can!"  Please remember this truth, and thank you again for joining me on the ride! 

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