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.
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|
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!|
|Sam makes his final dismount at the barn/finish line|
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. : )
On to LEADVILLE!