Friday, September 12, 2014

The Barn Burner Concludes (Part 3)

If you've missed part 1 and/or part 2, you can get back to them easily by clicking on the appropriate link, or you can simply read the end of the adventure here. As a reminder, anything written in plain text are Sam's thoughts, and anything in italics are G.E.'s.


Lap three began pretty much the way lap two had ended. I dove deeper and deeper into the cave of pain, trying to eat my way through it. I didn't bonk, which was great, but I was drained.

Back at the barn, I had picked up some Gu Roctane to refill my own version I'd had in my bottle. I downed about 30% of it before the second descent, and it actually brought me back a bit. I was averaging faster speeds and found myself tailing people for awhile. The cave returned shortly after that momentary reprieve, and no amount of Roctane or anything else was going to save me.

I was also starting to build some anger - anger over the people doing single laps around the course as part of the relay groups. Out of the 900 or so riders, only about 165 were actually doing the full solo/cowboy event. Every time I saw someone with a clean bike and tons of energy with a scarf tied to their seatpost (the scarf was the identifier for these riders), I was pissed - and not in a way that motivated me. It seemed wrong that I was in so much pain while they were happily completing their 26 miles.

After Sam left the barn to start his third lap, I wasn't sure how much time to give him for the third lap. He'd slowed down dramatically from his first lap (which was completely understandable given the circumstances), but I didn't know if perhaps he'd get a second wind and speed up, or if he'd meet his doom on this third time around. I decided to return to the barn area after about 2 hours just to be prepared if he sped up.
When I got back to the barn, I watched other riders come through. I was astonished that some racers were already through the ride. Amazing! Before too long, the ambulance that had been parked at the barn all day took off, lights flashing and sirens blaring. I hoped that everyone was okay and that nothing too serious had taken place. 

Suddenly it dawned on me that it might be Sam. In his weakened state, he may have done something that could've sent him off on a rock, off course, or any number of things. I started to panic. I was getting sicker by the moment, and before too long, I overheard some of the event staff talking about someone injured on the course pretty badly, and possibly a second individual as well. I asked them if they had a name, but they couldn't confirm anything at that point. All I could do was wait helplessly, hoping that it wasn't Sam.

Every rider that came in caused the pit in my stomach to grow. Where was Sam? Why hadn't he come through yet? I was convinced he was the injured rider out on the course.

Suddenly, disaster presented itself (but not for me). At about mile 23 on my third lap, a man wiped out hard just before a cattle guard. It probably happened about 5 minutes before I reached the spot, but he was in the hands of the EMT's and was unconscious. I gawked for about 30 seconds, but figured there was nothing I could do and it was better if I moved on to finish the lap and get out of their way.
Sam walks through the barn at the conclusion of his third lap
Rolling up to my lap three finish, G.E. was there and handed me a Luna bar, filled with estrogen goodness (G.E.'s note: I'll point this out again for anyone who may have missed it in the past, this is a joke in our house because of a comment made by someone to Sam about Luna bars having estrogen, which is of course completely untrue). She asked how I was doing (as she had every lap) and my answer was always, "Bad!" and deep down I was contemplating quitting right then. Seventy-eight miles is a really long ride on a mountain bike, in the mountains. Really, the thought had been rolling through my mind the entire lap and the format of this ride made the possibility to give up really easy.

My own reality took over at some point during these thoughts and I remembered that I don't quit. I just don't. No matter how painful, slow, or terrible I feel, I don't quit. I told myself I would take a break for 1 minute at miles 90 and 100, as a reward. I was also thinking I could ride 26 miles in my sleep, even if I was now fully engrossed in the pain cave.

Finally! I saw Sam rounding a corner not too far away. Thank goodness he hadn't been hurt. I knew that with each lap he was slowing down, and I was trying to figure out a good way to motivate him. I pulled out a protein bar and prepared to hand it off to him if he needed it. I also knew exactly what to say to light a fire under him (I hoped!). 

After handing off the bar to me, G.E. hollered, "Two hours and fifteen minutes will get you a 'big buckle' for the ride!" The announcer seemed to back this up, stating that the time cut off for the larger belt buckle finish had been extended by 35 minutes due to the accident. Apparently, not many riders after me were able to get through and they'd stopped everyone due to rescue services, including a helicopter evac. I had snuck through, though it did me no good time-wise.

G.E. was hopeful that I would finish in time to get the big belt buckle, but I knew there was almost no chance I would make it by 9:35... but, I was going to try.


I had just left Sam for his final lap. I was in a lot of pain, but I hoped it wasn't showing to him. Between not sleeping and my injury from the dog, I wasn't doing well. My feet and ankles were swollen and the burning wouldn't quit. I really just wanted to go to sleep and not be standing anymore. I hoped my shout to Sam about the big buckle cut off would see him to the finish, but there wasn't anything I could do to help him until he crossed the finish line. I retreated to our tent, packed everything up, and did my best to entertain the dogs for the next couple of hours.

I actually picked up the pace a bit on this final lap, knowing it was almost over. Everything was dry... except, there had been another downpour on the backside of the mountain that I'd just missed. The mud was back. Yay! Really, this didn't slow me down any more than my internal stuff was, but it sucked to be wet-muddy all over again, and all of those clean, happy, single-lap riders were still out there - mocking me silently with their freshness.

As promised, I stopped at mile 90 for one minute of rest. My time was looking pretty good, and I wasn't falling any deeper into the pain cave. Mile 100 rolled around and I stopped for my second one minute break. Time was tight, but there were four miles left, and I had about 12 minutes to make the 9:35 cutoff for the large belt buckle. In any other flat or downhill situation I think I could have made it, but the last 3-4 miles of this course are climbing - and not just regular stuff, but 4 mph climbing. I knew I would not make the cutoff - no way.

I didn't slow down, but I didn't break myself, knowing that no good would come of it. My only goal now was to do sub-10 hours, grab the smaller belt buckle and wait to see if I'd be randomly picked in the lottery for one of the LT100 slots.

I waited for Sam at the finish. I watched as the 9:35 cutoff time came and went. My heart sunk a little when I realized he wasn't going to make it, and I was bummed for him because I really thought he had a chance. Under normal circumstances, with proper sleep, I think he could've made it, but I also knew that just finishing today would be a victory. I really pondered what an incredible thing it was for him to even attempt this ride in the state of mind and condition his body was in. I am always amazed that he finds a way to power through, no matter what is going on.
Rounding the last corner to the finish!
About 20 minutes later, Sam was in sight. I couldn't believe that he was actually going to complete this ride. I smiled as I watched him round the corner and head for the barn.
Sam makes his final dismount at the barn/finish line
Well, well... I managed to reach the end with a sub-10 hour and a finish time of 9:58. Somehow, I didn't faint. I didn't waste any time getting out of the finish area, wrapping up the bike and changing into other cleaner clothes. The pain cave hadn't beat me.


Sam was excited to see that I'd actually managed to get everything packed up on my own (well, sort of - I couldn't get the tent back in its packaging, so I'd kind of just chucked it into the back of the car). I was incredibly proud of him for just finishing something that most probably wouldn't even attempt in his state of being. 

We had a bit of time until the start of the awards ceremony, but we decided to head over anyway.

Waiting is the hardest part. It was just after 5p and the awards ceremony was slated to begin between 6:15 and 6:30p, thirty minutes after the official cutoff time for solo racers. We got our folding chairs and plopped down in the "beer garden" thinking this could all be over by 7p, and we'd be on our way out before the sun went down.

Wrong. My biggest complaint about this particular event (beyond the mud camping, disorganization and lack of enthusiasm compared to other events held in Leadville, CO) is time management. The announcer didn't start the awards until 7p, and then proceeded to drag through with some confusion, bad paperwork and more stalling. Somewhere around 8p, they finished with the winners of each category (of course, I was not one of them).

Then, it was finally time for the lottery roll down. I knew this was my best chance to get into the 2015 LT100. Well, at least this early before the new year. I knew there were 55 coins left over to give to remaining riders randomly.

As the lottery names started to be called, I kept thinking to myself, "Say Sam's name, please! Don't let all of his torture be for nothing." I knew it wasn't really "for nothing," but I knew how badly he wanted to get into Leadville next year, and while he'd have other opportunities next summer, it would be great to know that he was in now.

It didn't take long at all after the lottery names were called for us to suddenly hear, "Sam..." and then a ridiculously long pause before my highly difficult [eye roll], basic, Italian last name was spoken.

I friggin' made it! We will go to the 2015 LT100!!

Hotel? Trailer? Tent? Who knows? I know I need to train like crazy over the winter though, and even harder in the spring. I am going to do the next round on a single speed (that isn't presently in my possession quite yet).

There are so many things I know I'm forgetting... so many details. I really, once again, could not have finished this without my best supporter and partner in life, G.E. I may convince her yet to participate in one of these races. : )



  1. YES!!!

    Awesome! We're planning on volunteering this year for a chance to get back in for 2016. We'll see you there!

    1. Very cool! We'll look forward to seeing you then. :O)

  2. What an amazing adventure you guys have had! And what a story you've told. Well done, G.E. - hope that burn is healing up quickly. And well done, Sam!!

    1. It was an adventure, and in retrospect, it was fun - even if it seemed a bit chaotic at the time.

      By the way, I think I lost my reply/comment to your interview with Josie and her blog, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed getting to read more about you and your experiences. Thanks for taking the time to share so much with all of us! :O)

    2. It was fun! Where did you leave your comment? If on my blog... well, I've just changed the comment host from Google+ (nightmare!) back to Blogger, so all comments made on the Google+ platform (basically any made during the last year!) are now "invisible". Blogger much more accessible now so hopefully an improvement in the long-term but disappointed all recent comments have "disappeared". Is that how we "lost" yours?

    3. Sorry, I should've clarified. I left the comment on Life on Two Wheels, but it seemed to vanish. I know blogger seems to continue to have issues with commenting too. For awhile I thought it was just my blog, but it seems to be happening everywhere. Frustrating when a person takes the time to write something and then it disappears into nowhere, so I feel for everyone dealing with this. I hope you'll have better luck with your switch.

  3. Wow - Congratulations! Congratulations to the dogs, too, for being so well behaved. That's a long time to be good!

    1. I think it just about killed them! :O) They were definitely glad to get home and be free to roam as they pleased once again.


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