Here is a short video recap of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race that I had the privilege to attempt this past weekend. http://singletrack.competitor.com/ (Click on the video on the right side of your screen entitled LEADVILLE TRAIL 100 VIDEO.) This was, unquestionably, the hardest thing I have ever done. The guy in black featured in the video is Levi Leipheimer (a Top 3 finisher in the Tour de France), who won this year's Leadville 100. Notably, he said this was the most he's ever suffered in a race. For me to say that is not surprising, for Levi to say it given all he's done and won is mind-blowing.
Quick stats: Leadville is a 1-day 100-mile race in the mountains south of Vail that begins in Leadville, CO at a measly 10,200 feet elevation, never gets below 9,000 feet, and features over 14,000 feet of total vertical climbing on the day. The goal is simply to finish--ideally in less than 12 hours so you can take home one of the silver belt buckle trophies. 1600 people were allowed an entry in the race. (Over 10,000 applied.) Only 920 finished in less than 12 hours. Hundreds did not finish at all.
If you are a first-time competitor your odds of finishing are not good. If you are from somewhere other than Colorado, Utah, or other high altitude, your odds of finishing are not good. So as a first timer and from Dallas, my odds were poor. Despite a comparatively minor crash on a rocky descent down the highest peak about 55 miles into the race, I finished the race and managed to get a buckle with 8 minutes to spare. 11 hours and 52 minutes is a long time to do anything, let alone ride a bike 2 miles above sea level on dirt and rocks, burning 9,000+ calories.
Many thanks to Lauren for making the 14 hour drive each way to/from Colorado and standing at the feed zone all day to help me and my buddy David McGaffin with food, drinks, and supplies. Thanks to McGaffin for pushing me to enter this, and to coach Michael Dawdy for helping me train for Leadville (which wasn't supposed to be the "big" focus for 2010 for me). And big thanks to mom and dad for keeping the kids the long weekend.
Yes, this was insane. I am thankful not only to have finished but to have avoided calamity. We saw two people who were all but dead… One of the top female competitors crashed coming down the same slope where I crashed and received chest compressions at the aid station where Lauren was positioned. A guy just in front of me about 18 miles into the race face planted into a boulder on a descent and was not expected to make it, but had stabilized in the hospital according to the latest word when we left town. So why do this? As the race founder said: To learn your limits, push pass them, and discover you can do more than you think you can. As vividly as I can recall coming across the finishing line Saturday, so I also recall not that many years ago that I couldn't make it up the hills of my own neighborhood on a bike or running. So, just what is it you think you can't do?