The lower part of Columbine went according to my plan, and I managed to consistently pass at least fifty riders before the freight train of Pros came roaring past on their way back down. Then the steep part came, and trouble started. Above treeline, the road conditions became loose rock, and steep. This is where death march number one of the day began. I rode as far as possible before it became unsafe to pass due to downhill traffic and my hike began. Hiking was awful, but unavoidable. I got back on my bike and tried pedaling. That’s when the first cramps hit me, not in a subtle way either. Electrifying and debilitating, relentless cramps that I tried to work through but standing up was not going to work, and sitting made it worse. I had to dismount and keep walking. The line of riders still climbing Columbine seemed to go on for miles, and I found myself offering words of encouragement to them, between breaths, shamelessly repeating what so many others had said to me just minutes before.
Advice for future Leadville first timers that may for whatever reason find themselves reading this, don’t look up on Powerline. You don’t want to know how far you have to go, believe me, its not going to help. Keep your head down and just keep pushing. This is the part that Ken Chlouber (Race Founder) is referring to when he tells us non-pro, mere mortals to ‘Dig Deep’. I made the mistake of looking up, often, and it was a morale killer. Somewhere midway up Powerline, the grade levels for a moment and if I remember right, you actually descend for about five seconds. It’s not over, and cruelly, the climb continues for way too long after this point.
If there were ever a chance I was going to quit it would have been miles 80-83. I was never going to quit but the thought of getting eaten by a mountain lion briefly seemed more appealing than the pain I felt trying to ascend Powerline.
The finish of the Leadville 100 is, and will be the most memorable moment in cycling, or in life, for me. It is hard, impossible, to put into words how I felt after that nine hours and twenty-six minutes, to approach the finish line and see my two daughters Sarah and Amanda out in the road waving to me and running alongside cheering ‘You Did It Daddy!’ Sarah, who is twelve years old, and an eight-year kick–ass cancer Survivor, ran the last fifty yards of the Leadville 100 alongside her sister and I, down the red carpet, and across the finish line of the 2013 Leadville MTB Trail 100. No kids, ‘WE’ did it.