Monday, July 21, 2014

Leadville: Silver Rush 50 MTB - Part 3

This is the final installment for the Silver Rush 50 posts. If you're just beginning to read, you may want to go back to part 1 and/or part 2 of these posts to catch up if you haven't already. To somewhat avoid confusion, text in this non-bold font was written by G.E., while anything written in this bold font are Sam's thoughts.

I get rather giddy toward the end of any great accomplishment. It was no different watching Sam during this Silver Rush 50 race. As I headed to the finish line, there were several supporters lined up, yelling and ringing bells as riders rolled in to the finish. I arrived just as the race clock was turning to 5:00:00, and believed I'd have about 30-40 minutes or so to wait for Sam to cross the finish himself. In the meantime, I chatted with others waiting for friends and family to cross, learning where they'd traveled from and how often some of them had done this race.
This would be one of the last two sightings of Sam before the end of the race. He seemed to be doing well - smiling and all!
One woman I was standing next to told me that she and her friend were from Nebraska. When the friend eventually crossed the finish line, he told me how difficult the ride had been for him, and after having done the Leadville 100 MTB race in prior years, he thought this 50 mile ride was much worse. It made sense to me from the description - meaning that the organizers basically packed everything difficult into half the distance, so I can see why and how it could feel quite intense. This riders' thoughts also gave me a bit of concern for Sam, but I know he is capable and trained, so I continued to watch and cheer as racer after racer crossed the finish line. Time kept ticking away though and we were now at about 5:45:00. I hoped nothing had gone wrong.
These two were cracking me up as they seemed to have the same reactions and look in the same directions each time a rider came in. There were lots of dogs roaming the finish line though, making it a little easier to be away from our own pups.
At mile 31, I noticed that my chain tensioner looked as if it had been getting loose. I turned a small corner, ran through a puddle, and the entire tensioning wheel, shaft, and bolt fell off, and my chain fell off the rear cog.  CRAP!  The whole time I had been smirking about all the tech problems people had along the way, and now I just got nailed.

I stopped quickly, and found the tension wheel right away.  Not far from it, in a puddle, I found the shaft for the wheel/bearing (If not for finding this, I would have been toast for sure).  For the life of me, I could not find the bolt that held the whole thing together. It had to have fallen in that puddle, and been run over.  I spent about 15 minutes looking for it, but then resorted to bicycle cannibalism.  

I started with the screws on the bottle cage... too small... and then continued to scan the bike for the right size screw/bolt to piece my Franken-bike back together.  Suddenly, I realized that the screw that holds the top cap on might work.  I pulled it, along with the cap, and it worked.  However, the screw was way too long, so I had to use the cap itself as a spacer to temporarily make it fit. It was still wonky/wobbly, giving me only enough chain tension to keep the chain from kicking off completely.

At this point I was about 3 miles from the aid station, which would put me at about 13.5 miles from the finish. Thankfully, it was downhill.  I knew I would make it there, so I kept rolling.  When I arrived, I figured the mechanic at the site would have something to replace the screw in the tensioner.  I was wrong. His answer: "I don’t think I could have thought of something that good, and I have no screws with me."  Ack!  

Waiting at the finish line was a bit unnerving. I was fielding emails from Sam's mom (since I had a phone signal once again), who wanted to know if he'd finished yet and how he was doing. I assured her that he was fine (even though I really had no idea), but told her that he had yet to cross the finish line. Truthfully, I was a bit worried myself. Time just kept slipping away and I wondered if he was at the last aid station, unable to finish the ride. He'd seemed in good spirits at my last spotting of him, but that was still about 15 miles from the finish line. A lot can happen in even a few miles... in the mountains... with no cell phone coverage.
Loved watching these two tandem ladies throughout the race! They seemed to be having so much fun (and they were one of only two tandem groups riding).
I continued talking with people around me to distract myself from the crazy thoughts that were starting to enter my mind. I watched the tandem women pictured above cross the finish line. Because I'd seen them right near Sam most of the race, I assumed he'd be coming in any second.

The next part would be the climb back up to descend Powerline, and a good part of it (the whole last part before the peak), was another hike-a-bike.  I really hate hiking with my bike, it’s so much better to ride it!  The loose chain kept my attention, but I made it, and hiked all the way back to the peak where I knew we would be doing somewhere in the range of at least 8 miles downhill, and some mild climbing once back to the finish.

After so much mashing and grinding on my single speed, my quads were Jell-O. I was ready to go downhill, and let everyone pass me.  Powerline is scary downhill, rocky, and steep, so you can imagine what this does to your hands when constantly braking like I do.  Spin, spin spin, for around 8 miles.  The chain was not happy, but it was compliant and hung in there.

Getting fidgety as the clock was over 6 hours now, I wasn't sure what to do. Every rider that came down the hill to the finish line had me certain that Sam must be right behind him/her, but it wasn't the case. There's a cap at 8 hours to finish, so there was still plenty of time left, but I'd just expected to see him earlier. I kept waiting and distracting myself... and then... Hey, it actually was Sam!
I was (probably overly) excited to see him - and still riding. As he crossed the finish line, I actually cried. Yes, I'm a crier anyway, but it was just so thrilling to see him complete something that I knew was a tough ride.

The descent and the ride into the finish were pretty uneventful.  I was exhausted, but it was awesome to finish... and in 6:19.  The sick part was my rolling time was 5:09, so I killed over an hour somewhere out there, and I will take that lesson with me. (G.E.'s note: Not surprising to lose some time, especially having a bike malfunction that required some thinking and experimentation to resolve.)
As I went to the finish line to greet Sam, he seemed to have disappeared into the crowd somewhere. Then, I saw him off in the distance, waving. I could see that he was quite tired, but he was smiling, covered in mud, and still standing, so I figured that was pretty decent considering what he'd just been through. To be honest, I don't think Sam needed me there. There is, of course, a difference between "need" and "want," and it's always nice to have someone around, but I think he was able to deal with everything that came his way. Nothing I could have done would've made things any easier for him. With that said, I was extremely happy to be there, even if I felt somewhat useless. Just being able to cheer for him and the other racers was quite an experience and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I even found myself wanting to get on a mountain bike... which, is definitely not something that would generally cross my mind given my brief, melodramatic history with mountain biking.

The awards ceremony was to be held 30 minutes after the 8 hour cut off time, so I took Sam back to the hotel to change, grab some food, and come back to wait. Remember that rain that we'd been hoping would stay away? It had done just that, and we were very grateful, but just as I was thinking those thoughts, the clouds began to roll in. As the awards ceremony got underway, a light rain began to fall. We both commented that it actually felt good because despite the high temperature only reaching the mid-70's F, it actually felt quite a bit warmer. 

The leaders got through the top finishers in each category pretty quickly and gave away the first half of the available coins that would confirm spots in the Leadville 100 MTB. The rain began to pour. And when I say pour, I mean that it reminded me of flash flooding as water was pooling and people rushed to get under the few canopies available. A lot of people decided to leave. Lightning and thunder were carrying on closer than I'd have preferred, but I was ready to wait it out. Sam, however, was wanting to leave, believing that all of the coins had been given out. The coin process at the ceremony seems a bit confusing to me personally, but as I was adding up rough numbers of what had already been given out and subtracting from the total amount to be given to riders, I was fairly certain there were still a few coins for qualification to be given away. 

Thankfully, we did stick around and Sam got his coin for the Leadville 100, which will take place in just a few short weeks. Whether he'll choose to ride geared or single speed remains to be seen, but I was thrilled to see him accomplish a goal he set years ago: to be able to compete in the Leadville 100 MTB race.
This squirrel was making some very odd, non-squirrel noises... but, he seems appropriate for the "nuts of wisdom" Sam is about to share.
Since I’m a poor writer, I’m throwing in my thoughts and observations here at the end.  

So many people seem to not take care of their equipment, and then don’t know what to do with it when something happens. I am glad that I have the ability (at least most of the time) to fix things that go wrong.  

If given the opportunity to spin, a lot of riders will do so. I have to wonder if this is just human nature because I do the same when I have gears to use.  

I had my ass handed to me by 2 women on a pink tandem, who were playing/singing pop music the entire race. They were simply awesome (G.E.'s note: I couldn't agree more - they were fantastically fun)

Single speed is hard, but easy.  

Eat.  Drink.  

This was so much more fun knowing G.E. was there with me, unlike past events.  

Be prepared, take extra screws and stuff, chain links, tubes, and anything else you can think of because the weight will be worth it (and you can help others who aren't prepared).  

D.B.’s are everywhere.  

Spectators and volunteers are awesome.  

Encouraging riders climbing while you are descending is amazing, and it keeps everyone going.  

Leadville is cool.

The only tip or offer I would make is for riders who have someone watching for him/her, and that would be to wear something (whether helmet, jersey, or something on his/her bike) that stands out from the crowd. While typical bike jerseys often seem very colorful on their own, it is amazing how many look similar in a large group of riders. Things that stood out a bit easier from the crowd were neon helmets, unusual jersey patterns - like argyle or big polka dots, and honestly, jerseys that were completely devoid of lots of different colors (as in solid black, white, etc).

As Sam stated, Leadville is an interesting place, and I'm looking forward to a return visit in August to watch Sam compete in the next round of these rides.

Have you competed in the Leadville Silver Rush 50 (or other qualifiers)? What did you think of the event(s) and/or what was your experience? What other races or organized rides (mountain or road) are you competing in this summer?


  1. CONGRATS! Awesome ride!

    I've been pondering the Silver Rush myself since I started the Leadville obsession. This makes me want to do it even more!

    Thank you both for sharing!

    1. You should definitely do it. Are you heading to Leadville this year too?

    2. Unfortunately no. Would love to be there though!


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