Monday, July 18, 2016

Silver Rush 50, Part 3: Let's Ride! Who Needs Sleep?

If you missed either of the first two posts in this tale, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. For this portion of the Silver Rush 50 story, there are two viewpoints to share. In order to distinguish each of these, Sam's thoughts will be written in bold type face, while G.E.'s will be in regular type. 
After a rough night of being attacked by mosquitoes and not sleeping (well, the mosquitoes were getting me, even if they weren't biting Sam), Sam was preparing to finally race the Silver Rush 50. Even though the mosquitoes didn't really seem to be biting him it was hardly consolation when he was in pain and hadn't slept.

Sam prepared some oatmeal over the camp stove, and after taking a shower, dressing, and packing up the campsite belongings (let's face it, we weren't about to spend a second night fighting mother nature and everything else that seemed to be working against us), we were off to the starting line.

When we arrived to the preparation area, we split up. Sam headed for the start line at the bottom of Dutch Henri Hill, while the dogs and I went to the top of the hill. I've taken photos of Sam at the start line a couple of years ago when he did this ride, so I thought maybe it would be fun to get a different angle. Plus, our Labrador has issues with other dogs and I figured there would be fewer people at the top of the hill than at the start.

I was very wrong.

As we walked to the top of Dutch Henri Hill and found a spot away from any other animals, a woman walked up next to us with her young Golden Retriever. Our Lab gave no warning and suddenly snapped at him. {sigh} It was going to be a long day. I pulled our pup in closer and waited for the group at the bottom of the hill to get going.
Race day! I had been preparing for months. In fact, it's probably the most preparation I've done for any of the Leadville series rides to date. 

Originally, I had intended to race the group to the top of Dutch Henri Hill for an opportunity to arrive first to get an automatic entry into the Leadville Trail 100, but because of the exhaustion from not sleeping, I decided against it. After all, even knowing that I wouldn't place in the top of my division, I knew I'd have a decent shot at entry in the lottery at the award ceremony after the race.

The bike was ready to go, despite all of my changes at the last minute. I was barely alive, but functioning nonetheless. 

Twenty minutes prior to the start, I powered on the Garmin, but nothing was happening. Searching for satellites, and searching and searching. Unfortunately it was never able to connect with the satellites so it became an expensive timer that would tell me when I needed to eat.

Unfortunately, what Sam didn't know is that on a last minute whim, I had grabbed my Garmin on the way out the door at home thinking that if something happened with his, he could just use mine. I physically had it with me at the top of the hill and could fairly easily have passed it on to him, but neither of us knew what was taking place for the other until after the race.
These people decided to walk in front of me as I was trying to get a shot of racers climbing Dutch Henri Hill... Don't worry people, I didn't get here early or anything to get a decent place to take a photo... No, you just walk in front of me and disregard the barriers that the race staff have created. {sigh} I think I need to get meaner with people! :) 
At 9a, we started. I plodded up with everyone else to the top of the hill, being careful not to tweak a knee or roll an ankle. Once we were at the top, we all coasted for a bit because of the bottleneck right at the start. 

Hoards of people who had jumped earlier at the bottom of the hill were now falling over each other. As with the last time I rode here, I was trying to tell people to calm down and not clip in yet. I'm never quite sure why they do this when no one is really moving yet.

But, after all the falling all over themselves and dragging through, we get loose on to a slow but easy first mile or so before we started the 10 mile climb.

There are mechanical problems all around me. Left and right I hear people, noisy derailleurs, dropped chains, but fortunately for me, my gear was holding strong. 

After watching the riders take off, the dogs and I headed off for the first spot we'd be able to see Sam. I was completely exhausted and had no idea how Sam was going to survive this race, but I figured the only thing I could do was be in as many locations as possible in case he needed anything.

I think one of the most difficult things about the SR50, and why some think it is actually worse than the LT100, is that racers start out climbing 10 miles. Most of it is subtle, but it is consistent for that entire 10 miles. 

My first encounter was during that first mile of climbing. I had come in contact with one of the spinning riders who decided to unclip without warning right in front of me while we were all moving along. It was too late for me to unclip, and the guy behind me nailed me sending me off my bike.

I fall and land on a large, sharp rock while simultaneously bouncing my head on the ground. It feels like I have an open wound on my back, just below the scapula. I pick up my stuff, curse a few times, and keep climbing. I didn't have time to lay around and I was too tired to worry about a flesh wound.
There are numerous sections in nearly all Leadville events during which racers end up hiking their bikes. It's very nearly unavoidable. Everyone else starts hiking and there's no ability to pass, so we all have to hike. I find this to be completely torturous walking at 2.5 mph with a bike, in stiff shoes, uphill, with lots of rocks. But, I made it through this relatively well.

My plan is almost always the same with these races: I do my best to methodically start swallowing up groups or racers. Usually, during the first half, people seem to group up and my intention is always to slowly catch them and pass them until all the ones I can pass are behind me. I had collected the last one at around mile nine, so that was good, and I was actually climbing well, considering I was a zombie on wheels.

Around mile 10, we peak and get a well-deserved downhill/double track/fire road, which leads almost perfectly to the first rest stop at about 13.5 miles in to the race.

The dogs and I had been on our way to the first rest stop. I figured it would be the best first place to wait for Sam in case he needed anything. When we arrived, we had a long hike in because of the traffic at this particular area, but I loaded up my backpack with everything we might possibly need and started hiking up the road, two dogs pulling in two different directions.

As a side note, an observer might think that I never take our dogs anywhere and that they never get out of the yard based on their behavior. For the record, we have some of the most spoiled dogs who get to go just about everywhere from swimming to hiking and walking, and more. And, despite my best efforts with training and classes, they just don't seem to understand that I expect them to behave themselves, at least occasionally.

We finally arrived at the rest stop but there were so many people and a good portion of them had dogs. I could feel the anxiety coming from our Labrador. I tried to find a spot away from everyone, but this was no easy task. People with dogs continued to arrive and pretty soon I had nowhere to be that there wasn't another dog.

Perhaps it was just my sleep-deprived state of being, but I couldn't take it as people continued to come closer and closer with their dogs, knowing that our Labrador had already lashed out just an hour or so before. So, we had to hike back down the hill to figure out what to do.

As we walked, I remembered a cross over point on the road we'd just come up, so we went to that spot to wait for Sam.

At the rest stop, I don't bother to stop. I had everything I needed and I didn't see G.E. at the stop. I was feeling okay and seemed to be doing well (or at least I felt I was doing well). 

This is the point when we started to break down into groups with riders who have similar speed and capability. I settled in with them for the most part and kept riding.
It wasn't too long before I saw Sam coming up to the crossing where we'd settled, just beyond the rest stop area. I yelled to him, but I don't think he heard me. He continued along, pedaling his legs off and I assumed he must be okay.

Well, I thought, on to the next spot. Originally, I was going to go to the second rest stop, but after the overwhelming number of people at the first one, I went with my back up plan to go to a spot at the base of the climb up to the turn around/second rest stop.

I was surprised to arrive and find only a handful of people here. Maybe I had missed Sam? I asked one of the people standing around if most of the riders had come through and he explained that only those at the very front of the pack had come through. Perfect, I thought.

I listen to two guys talking about this race in past years and other races they have done over the summer. I watch a young girl nearly get run down by a racer because her parent wasn't paying attention. I help direct racers that seemed to be confused about where to go. Before I know it, Sam is coming down the road.
"Go Sam!!!" I can't help but shout. "Do you need anything?" I holler as he goes whizzing by. He shakes his head at me and I have to say, I'm pretty impressed that he's still upright and smiling. I didn't even feel like smiling and I wasn't riding. I decided to wait until he came back from the turn around not far away, just to make sure he was actually okay.

At the 25 mile turn around, I asked the crew of volunteers to refill my water and whatever the god-awful concoction is they have in their buckets. I swiped a few GU packs, drank a paper cup of lukewarm Coke (Exactly what I didn't want -- who wants warm Coke?) and I was off again.

In this race, the turn around is a bit of a low point so we have to climb to get back out. After I'm out of the dip and back on a downhill, it's time to head back to the first (now the third) rest stop.
The dogs and I watched as Sam came back down the hill he just climbed until he disappeared from sight. Now we'd have to figure out where to go to help him on his way back, if he needed it.

This is hell, and the lack of sleep is now catching up to me. There is a three mile stretch during which there is at least one more mile of hike-a-bike. I crashed two more times due to people who wouldn't move or that didn't warn anyone that they were going to stop in the middle of the course. During the final crash, I bent my already noodle-y rear derailleur which caused my shifting to be off the rest of the race. It wasn't enough to keep me out of the gears I needed, but enough to be a nuisance.

I headed back to the spot we'd waited in after having difficulty after the first rest stop and waited for Sam. I was trying to calculate how long it was going to take him to finish. He had trained so hard for this year's ride and I knew he wanted to finish somewhere in the early 5 hour range, but that was simply not going to happen. Finishing at all in his current state would be nothing short of a miracle in my mind.
Before too long, I saw Sam coming our direction. I yelled to him, but yet again, I don't think he heard me. He looked okay though, so I knew that all I could do was wait at the finish line and hope he would make it in okay.

At mile 40, I swear it seemed as though it took forever to get back to this point and would be more of a downhill portion of the race. On my way, I encountered a fellow who was having cramps, literally standing in the middle of the road. I asked if he needed anything (not that I had anything to really help, but I felt the need to ask anyway), but he said he just needed to rest for a bit. Even though he looked like a pro rider and as though he was prepared, he also looked like I felt. But, now I finally had my 10-miles-to-go marker and it would be down hill.

In case I haven't mentioned it in the past, I am lousy at down hill. 

During the entire second half and the downhill, I was either behind or in front of one individual with an Ironman tattoo on her calf. We spoke briefly and laughed about how badly I suck at downhill. I must have seemed crazy with my fully rigid bike (Yes, you will get hammered going down hill... something I should perhaps reconsider in the future). My hands were cramping often and horribly during this portion. It was wet, rocky, and it was now pretty hot for Leadville. Somehow, I have managed to avoid rain every time I've ridden in Leadville. 

I continued to chase "Iron Lady" as best I could and continued jack hammering myself on the rocks.

With about three miles left of the race, the route designers like to have some fun with the racers and bring us around right next to the finish, just to tease us, and then make us ride three more miles of single track. We can hear all of the people at the finish line and it's like a last little piece of torture. Ugh.

The dogs and I had been near the finish line for awhile now. I know how bratty and spoiled it sounds, but I'm trying to be honest here... I was really sick of standing around waiting for Sam to finish. I have no doubt that having two decent sized dogs pull me around all day, getting more mosquito bites throughout the day, and not getting sleep myself was not helping my mood. I gave myself a little pep talk, and reminded myself that we were here for a reason, but the heat was getting to me and I truly just wanted to just lay down and take a nap.

In my calculations, I figured Sam wouldn't make it in until about 6.5 hours, but there was still that part of me holding out hope that he had kicked it into high and would make it in before that time.

Without much fanfare, I came in around 6:26. It was okay, but certainly not great and definitely not what I would have expected with the training I've completed this year.
This hill is right at the finish line. As a side story, one guy came around the corner as Sam is in this photo and yelled out, "Oh, $#!^! I can't get down that!" and stopped dead in his tracks. Those of us at the bottom couldn't help but giggle, but warned him others were coming so he could get out of the way. Eventually he made it down, but not without saying to those of us watching, "No one saw that, right?" I just found it amusing that he thought that was the worst thing he'd encountered during the ride.
Despite my internal, child-like tantrum, I was excited to see Sam coming in at the finish line (and hey, my calculations weren't that far off, surprisingly). I felt bad that he wasn't going to get the finish time he'd hoped and trained for, but I was so glad that he'd made it in at all.

Right after the cut off time at 8 hours, the organizers start the award ceremony and lottery pull for the Leadville Trail 100. 

Because our dogs had been behaving so badly throughout the day, Sam and I had decided that I'd wait for him away from the award ceremony, just to keep anything from happening with them (well, one of them) and any other dogs. Sam headed over while I fed the dogs and tried to keep them occupied for a bit.

There were so many fast, amazing finish times in all of the age divisions. I was truly impressed! In my division, there were 20 regular coin slots (without dipping into the lottery). So many people had declined the coin that I actually thought I might have a chance to get in straight up without the lottery, but they finished just before calling my name. 

No need to worry too much though, I thought. There were a total of 50-75 coins to be given away randomly to finishers for entrance to the Leadville Trail 100 in August. 

**We're leaving off here for this installment, but the last in this series will be ready soon!

Part 4 is now up and can be found here.


  1. Sam - You are a rock star! I don't care what you finish time is, completing the race on so little sleep is amazing. Way to go!

    1. I agree completely. I'm not sure how he does it.

  2. Surprisingly, I "felt" Okay, even though I was not. Unlike Flagstaff, where I was near death.


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