Last year, I got bit.
I caught the bug.
…however you want to put it, I went from a guy who rode a ten year old bike bike 6 times/year to one who couldn’t stand to be off it. I distinctly remember the moment it happened. I was in my boss’ office and he’d just returned from the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. I’d heard of this event before, and even as a relative neophyte on the biking front, I knew it was a big deal. 100 miles. At elevation. Next to some of the best bikers in the world. Guys who made a living riding bikes in the pro peloton and pro mtb circuits. I remember his posture as he described what went down up there – a brutal race that stretched even great riders, one that you trained for all year, one that revealed just how big a set you had on ya. He relayed the observation passed along by a fellow racer years before, that once you do Leadville, you’ll think about it every day for the rest of your life.
Something about that description stuck to my ribs, and over the next week I kept mulling it over. Could I do this? I knew a public declaration that I was doing Leadville would be like signing a blood oath, so I hesitated. I didn’t tell anyone. Finally I mentioned to my girlfriend Kate that I was considering planning for Leadville 2013, about two years from that point. My brilliant plan was to take the next year, get into biking, see if I had the chops for it endurance racing and then try to get into the big boy in 2013.
Her response was simple and elegant. She told me to not be a bitch, commit to the race THIS year and start training. It was on.
From that point until August 2012, when I rode off the line at 6:30 am in Leadville, a lot of things fell into place. The first - and by far most significant – was that I started riding with a group of serious bikers. My boss Morris, the ringleader for that group and a world class instigator, invited me as part charity and, I imagine, part fascination to see how badly it was about to go for me. This group is full of CAT 1 racers, guys who have lined up against and trained with pros, and men who still roundly outclass me on the bike. I started joining their regular Tuesday night ride through the Greenbelt, pedaling my 200 lb ass off trying to not get dropped.
I also started listening. A lot.
What did they eat before rides?
How many days each week were they riding?
What were these things called “base miles” and did everyone really have a “race weight”?
I spent the fall and early winter riding as much as I could. Long miles on a loaner road bike (one I only now admit was borrowed from a female), rolling what seemed a monstrous 4-6 hours/week through August, September and October, and more as the year progressed. I also signed up for CAT 3 mountain bike races through the TMBRA series.
Since committing Leadville last year, it’s dominated my thought process. I started that journey hoping to clear the course in under 12 hours, the stated time for officially finishing. As things progressed and I got stronger, I bumped that target time to 10 hours. As I got even closer, and as my confidence got a little higher, I ramped up the expectation to the coveted 9 hour mark, which only about 15% of the racers hit each year.
I wrote a recap of this year’s race for a few friends that got shared here on the Austinbikes blog and over on a great site called Red Kite Prayer. In response, a number of readers asked me to lay out the journey from non-biker to finishing Leadville in 9:02. My initial intent was to hash that process out on this page, but the more I thought it through, I decided to take it one step further – by not just showing how last year went, but by taking you along for the ride as I work this year to eclipse that 9 hour marker in next year’s race.
I’m doing this as a guy who isn’t any sort of expert, just one who loves being on the bike and who got a lot of help last year. If I can pay any of that forward…or back…through this page, maybe the biking gods will throw me a little tailwind in the race’s last 5 miles. Along the way, I’m happy to answer any questions or comments in the thread below for those dipping into a similar challenge.
It’s going to be a hell of a good time getting back to Leadville.