This has been a longer-than-usual series for me, so I apologize that this drug out a bit more than anticipated. If you missed any of the first three posts in this tale, you can find part 1 here , part 2 here and part 3 is here. As with part 3, this portion of the story has 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.
I sat waiting for the lottery portion of the ceremony to begin, hoping (and frankly, pretty sure) that my name would be called. That is, until I suddenly realized things had changed this year. Apparently, the organizers decided that instead of using the computer program to randomize and select from the finishers, they were having people bring up a tag from their bib to put into a hat for a random pull.
The moment that I realized I had no chance of getting in to Leadville this year, I started walking away. I knew I had only myself to blame. Post race, I did search through the packet, wondering if I'd missed an explanation, but there was nothing to be found... simply a tear-off on the bib with a smaller version of my bib number.
Earlier than anticipated, I received a text message from Sam that he was ready to be picked up. I was excited. I assumed this meant that he'd received a slot and we could start heading home while there was still daylight.
When Sam got in the car I asked smiling, "So.... did you get in?!" At which point he made the above explanation to me. Bummer. Big time bummer.
I know Sam was thinking that the entire ride and weekend was a waste, but I don't believe that is necessarily the case. True, he didn't get in to Leadville this year, and yes, the entire weekend had been one of the more challenging weekends in some time, but there is always a lesson to be learned. In this case, as we discussed later on the way home, I think the lesson is to enjoy the moment and not be so wrapped up in what is to come.
I realized that I am such a fool for not understanding that the lottery system had changed, but we were ready to go home. The bike had been perfect and fast. My body was not. I was running on no sleep and I was incapable of pushing myself the way that I should have (and would have) under normal circumstance. I backed off when I shouldn't have and I didn't even try for the coin at the start of Dutch Henri Hill. And, of course, I didn't keep that tiny little piece of my bib for the drawing with me.
As we headed home after what felt like the longest two days of my life, we were both hungry. We decided to stop at a spot for a sandwich and let the dogs out for a bit. We were losing daylight, so I didn't want to stop too long because I fear the dark when driving with no sleep.
Quickly, we got back on the road and on to I-70 which takes us down through the mountains and back in to the Denver metro area. As we were driving, we noticed a sign on the side of the road that said there was an accident about 4 miles ahead. Now, there are always accidents on the interstate, so neither of us thought much about it and assumed it would slow us down a bit, but we'd still be making decent time.
About a mile up the road, everyone was stopped. I don't mean the sort of stopped where we move a bit and then stop again. I mean we were stopped-stopped... as in not moving at all. This can't be good, I thought, but what could we do? My sleep-deprived, barely functioning brain was using all its power just to keep us in our lane and on the path home, and now I had to figure out what to do to avoid this chaos.
Truthfully, there aren't a whole lot of alternatives to getting around something like this. We were coming up to one of the possibilities in a couple of miles, but in the meantime, we had to just sit and wait. And wait and wait.
As the sun set behind us, I knew I was in trouble. We were losing light which meant that sleepy time and yawning were about to take over. I cranked up the air conditioner and hoped it was enough to keep me coherent.
The traffic had begun to move, but at an unpredictable and very, very slow pace. Eventually, we made it to the exit I knew we were approaching and in an instant realized that everyone was exiting here because they had shut down all the eastbound lanes on the interstate. That certainly explained a lot.
It also meant that we were in for a very slow route home - or at least until we got to our diverging point about 20 miles up the road.
I should also explain that there is a reason (beyond the fact that I was beyond tired at this point) I don't like to drive at night. My vision is not the best after dark and I cannot always tell if a car is in my lane or the one traveling in the opposite direction until we are very close to each other. It causes a lot of strain to try to focus well enough to be able to make adjustments as needed, and with no sleep this was feeling worse than usual.
At this point, Sam had offered to drive, but I figured he was probably far more tired than I was and I believed I could hold it together well enough to get us through.
As we continued along our slow slog home, I couldn't help but laugh about everything that had happened. It was comical to me in my state of mind. I was so lost in the idea of the ridiculousness that had taken place that I missed our turn off and ended up taking us entirely off course.
When we were finally heading in the right direction, I believe complete delirium had set in.
"What if this is all a dream?" I asked out loud, half believing it could be true. "What if we're actually asleep somewhere and none of this has taken place... or, what if we're upside down in a ditch?"
Sam is used to my ramblings, but even he seemed to be playing along, which only made me realize that he was in need of serious sleep as well.
"What if we get home and the house isn't there?" I continued. "You know in dreams, when you're struggling to get home and when you finally arrive it's something entirely different and it's so confusing? Maybe that's what is happening? We'll get home and it will be an ice cream shop or a 7-Eleven or something."
I couldn't help but get lost in this idea of being in a dream because, well, it honestly felt like a dream in that state of mind. I pretty well continued on in this manner until we reached home, where we discovered that in fact our home was exactly where and how we'd left it (which should be a surprise to no one because we weren't actually asleep). It had been a long, long 48 hours and it was coming to an end.
Sam stated, "I just don't think the whole thing was meant to be. From start - really before the start - to finish nothing seemed to go right."
I couldn't help but nod along. It did seem that obstacles were at every corner. Even though the dogs weren't that bad (excluding the incident with our Lab snapping at the other retriever early on race day), I realized that together, our two dogs just aren't cut out for adventures on the road and camping.
"Next time," I began, "I think you either need to go alone or we have to figure out another way to deal with the dogs. Unfortunately, they are just all-consuming and it's difficult to focus on anything else."
There has been talk since the ride about what Sam wants to do. There are a lot of possibilities within the region, but I think he just needed a little time to accept that he isn't going to race in the Leadville Trail 100 this year. I know he's disappointed, but I also know he is well trained (assuming he actually sleeps) to do whatever he chooses this summer and wherever he decides to race, I know, as always, he'll put our his best.
What's next? I'm not sure. There are a bazillion events this summer and I will be ready for the next one - whatever it is. Maybe it's an opportunity to try again in Flagstaff, Arizona for the 2017 LT100 and not do as horribly as I did the last time, or perhaps there is something else that makes more sense. I have a little time to figure it out.