Leadville 2017- Fourth and Final

It has taken me a while to get together this blog post and I came to realize because I don’t exactly feel like it’s my story to tell and law school has taken a bit of time (lolz). Mainly I was there as a supportive role to Sharon but also felt like I had a lackluster performance in that area. I set the goal to have this written before Christmas break was over and since classes are about to start up figured time to start writing. Instead of boring you with an 11:30 hour race report mainly just pictures with some added commentary from the day–okay more than commentary.

at the start
Final thoughts before the gun

At the start line I wasn’t sure how to ride with someone for the full day so I told Sharon if we get separated on any climb and descent and I’m in front I’ll wait for her but if she gets in front of me just go. Even with that I still managed to lose her, a few times.

The gun started and I wasn’t sure what to expect, sure I’ve done the race 3 times before but was starting only one corral from the last one and still get worried about St. Kevin’s getting bogged up. I followed Sharon’s pace on the pavement and towards St. Kevin with the plan to jump ahead of her and create a pathway going up St. Kevin. It worked well with me glancing back occasionally to make sure she was not far behind me.

st kevins
Bright, misty morning

Unfortunately I soon realized that the woman I thought was Sharon was actually not and I had forgotten what helmet she was wearing. I rode on until the first aid station and stopped there for her. She wasn’t too far behind and handed my arm-warmers off to Doug (who was volunteering at the aid station there). Sharon raced by and I jumped back on to catch up with her.

Sharon is an amazing descender and it was all I could do to stay behind her on the pavement descent. The descent down powerline was pretty uneventful too. Being further back than my pace in previous years it meant that even less people were opting for the B line. I had one woman yell at me to be careful, I replied back, “thanks, mom!”. Sharon and I hit the pavement and started forming a pace line, I took the front thinking Sharon could save some energy here, soon she was in front pulling me. We alternated with another person going towards the next aid station and the pace line blew up when we hit the dirt. One woman came up to the side of us and said all the men should thank us for pulling them, thinking it was only one or two I looked behind to see at least 20 men had been on our paceline– wimps.

sharon leading
Sharon also paced me- see I’m not a great pacer… haha 

The next section is rolling and we chatted with other riders and each other. One woman was on her 11th (or some outrageous number of Leadville) and had just finished Ironman Canada like 3 weeks before. I was just like, oh I just spent my summer writing a thesis soooo…

IMG_1868
Sharon pacing me, again- ha 

At Twin Lakes we were greeted by the the WBR tent with Sully and Michelle which is always such an energy boost. I swapped bottles and we took off again. Just across from the dam Sharon had an issue with her camelbak so we stopped and diagnosed it. I did mental math of how many fluids I had to get us to the top and realized that I had left my camelbak on when I meant to drop it. So plenty of fluids. Sharon was able to dislodge the drink mix that had clogged up her hose and we were off again.

We split up for the climb and I started going to a dark place. I kept eating and drinking but my stomach had been giving me problems on and off the whole day so not my usual schedule and I just kept thinking get to the top and make it back to Twin Lakes and take a breath. So that’s what I did, I focused on getting to the top and once there focused on getting down. I saw Sharon at the top as I was headed down and she was just about to the aid station. I figured I was maybe 3 minutes in front of her. I had thought of waiting for her at the top but had gotten cold and thought it was best to get down.

twin lakes stop
Taking a minute to breathe

At Twin Lakes I handed my bike off to Sully and took a minute to sit behind the tent and just breath and refocus. Sharon showed up quickly after and I hopped back up, grabbed some new bottles, new food, and a full camelbak and took off behind Sharon.   The next section back to Pipeline was again uneventful and even back to Powerline I was able to sit into a paceline that pulled into the bottom of Powerline.

I rounded the corner and saw Sully and Michelle at the bottom so I pulled off, Sharon was in a groove and said she was going to keep going so I said I’d catch up. I restocked and told Sully this was really hard. He told me I was almost done. I started up Powerline knowing Sharon was in front of me and made it to the point where riding brings diminishing returns and walking is more beneficial. I started hiking and focusing on drinking.

powerline
At the base of powerline

This section was the most frustrating for me because I could ride a lot of the uphill beyond Powerline but there is only one really good line to do it on. I would yell out “rider” for those hiking up taking the good line and no one would move. It happened over and over so I would either take the B line if it was feasible or get off hike around the person and get back on. I couldn’t figure out if it was because it was all men and I was a woman and they didn’t want to move for a woman who was riding or if they were just tired. This was the biggest thing I noticed from having a slower pace- in the past if I said “rider” people would move no problem and usually say ‘nice riding’. It was so frustrating at one point I almost started crying and then realized I didn’t have enough energy to waste on crying. I got to the top and still didn’t see Sharon, it was starting to drizzle and I wanted to get down so opted against putting on my jacket. It was pretty foggy and starting to rain as I descended the back side of powerline and onto the road. Hitting the last road climb I knew it was only 25 minutes till the aid station and should make the 12 hour cut off mark. I still hadn’t seen Sharon and while I thought I would have caught her also figured she had probably put time into me on the descent.

struggle bus
Definitely hurting

I got up to the aid station and stopped when I saw Doug, he asked me where Sharon was and I said, “she hasn’t been through?” But in my mind it was more “ohhh fudge” and then he said, well I haven’t been out here the whole time so she probably went past. I debating staying at the aid station for a while longer but not knowing if she was in front or behind me opted to keep going and assumed she must have been in front. Even though the back half of St. Kevin is uphill it still pulls you through and I was soon enough at the crest. I calculated time to finish and knew that (fingers crossed) no mechanics I would finish well within the 12-hour mark. I cruised down the front side St. Kevin and made it back to the pavement without any issues but still no Sharon. I rode the dirt section that takes you to the Boulevard and tried to find a pace line to get on to to pull me  but there was no one. With about 2 miles to go and knowing I would be well-within the 12 hour cut off I saw some wildflowers so put my bike down by the side of the trail and wandered into the field to pick some up. I was putting together my bouquet when I heard, “Kate?” and it was Sharon. I stuff the flowers into my back pocket and grabbed my bike. “I thought you were in front of me- where did I pass you?” She told me that she had stopped on the side of the road with a group of people to put her jacket on and it must have been there and I missed her. I told her that I bet Rebecca Rusch never lost her pacee. I apologized for not being a better pacer but she told me that I was there when she needed it so I’ll believe her. We cruised into the finish area and I congratulated her and stayed back a bit to try and get a photo of her but instead the announcer thought I was taking a video of the crowd so people started cheering thinking they were on video. I crossed the finish and was so happy to be off my bike but also so happy to be a part of helping Sharon get to the finish (although she definitely did all the work to get there) although she definitely helped me.

IMG_3909
Almost to the finish 

My motto for most of the day was “Fourth and Final” it was my fourth Leadville and convinced that it was also my final. Which I had planned on it until I put in for the lottery and now just waiting to find out if it will be a “Fifth and Final”.

finish line
When people thought I was taking a video but really I was taking a selfie

A lot of my struggles of the day, my stomach, aches and pains, and even my dark places (almost crying) I actually blame on getting my period at 6am that morning. I know my body pretty well but usually it throws a whole wrench into the system and when I get it I take the day off from training so this was a big 180 for my body. I debated mentioning it but it is a reality for 100% of the women racing and it was the first race that I’ve had to deal with it which I guess makes me lucky.

finish .JPG
Post race essentials: Sour Patch Kids, Birkenstocks, and flowers from the course 

I realized that in years past when I’ve done Leadville a lot of the fun comes from the prep work, the rides and other races that I do in preparation for the race. This past summer though it was a lot of intervals and time on the trainer to balancing getting in shape with writing a thesis. I really debated not putting in for the lottery but figured, uh why not. I think I find out in about an hour if I got in but wanted to get this done first! Ha

I finally got my racer’s jacket and 2 years ago I tried to put on “K8 the GR8” which they rejected and just put on “Katherine” so the next year instead I put on “Princess Kate” thinking they would also reject that but they didn’t. This year I put on “K8 the GR8” again and when my mom opened it up she texted, “what does that mean?” So maybe a fifth year to finally get it right? IMG_2726

Stronger Together

I didn’t plan on doing the Leadville 100 this year, at least not after I didn’t get in through the lottery. I didn’t think about it when I was trekking through the Grand Canyon, finishing finals or traveling in Viet Nam. In fact, most of the time in Viet Nam I thought about how out of shape I was getting and thank goodness I wouldn’t be racing 100 miles. Then I got to Switzerland and started running and had a few long days on trail in France and the thought began creeping back in that maybe I can ride 100 miles with Sharon. When I got back to the states I contacted WBR and it was almost serendipitous as one guy had to drop out due to a medical condition and was willing to give me his spot to ride with Sharon.

gravel gridning
Recon training in Boulder last week

That’s been the thought the whole time, at least since Michelle planted the idea in my brain last December that the only way I would do Leadville is with Sharon. Sharon is another member of WBR and due to circumstances outside of her control wasn’t able to finish the Leadville 100 last year. Since we’re both passionate about WBR and riding long distances (she has quite the impressive stage race resume) thought we would be stronger together.

sharon and I .jpg
Sharon and I riding in Boulder

I really thought after Leadville last year I would be done, knowing I would be traveling for a good chunk of the summer and thinking I wouldn’t be able to do enough early season riding to build up the engine I would need to PR (4 years of training for Leadville has taught me a lot). I’m convinced that riding with Sharon is the only way I can top last year’s experience is to help someone else reach that finish line.

going up hall
Working on power output

This year, Sharon and I will both be riding for World Bicycle Relief. WBR is a program that helps distribute bicycles in Africa. After a year studying global health I truly believe that the one thing we can do that will create the largest impact and ripple in a community is to educate young people, girls especially. With a Buffalo Bike (the one that is designed for WBR) a student increases classroom attendance by 28%. In all my years of schooling, I’ve been granted the privilege of never having to worry about how I would arrive for my education.

Head on over to the World Bicycle Relief to learn more or wanting to donate head over to my donation page at WBR.

boulder riding
Hoping I look this ‘fresh to death’ after the Leadville 100

 

Thesis Training

When focusing on writing and defending my thesis, my blog posting fell to the way side–Here’s just a brief recap of what I’ve been up to since arriving back in the states in mid-June.

I arrived back into the states, did two trainer rides and signed up for my first mountain bike race in almost 10 months– and my first go back on my mountain bike in 7 months.

helmet pic
Well

It was a bit ugly and 2 hours later I wondered why I didn’t sign up for the 10 mile option instead of the 20-miler. I somehow survived and was surprised that my legs went out much sooner than my lungs, so maybe running actually did something. I decided to do the race to help ‘race my way back into shape’.

podium picture
Well, at least I wasn’t sandbagging!

Within the first week of arriving back into the states I secured a spot for Leadville (yikes!) but with no aspirations of defending my age group title. Instead, I’m hoping to be in good enough shape to ride with another WBR team rider and get across the finish together (more on it all later, promise). It should be a great day and I’m looking forward to it.

thesis picture
This was my view for the past few weeks

Given the limited time frame to get into shape and the fact that I was writing my thesis, I got in touch with my coach from last year to come up with a plan, which meant a lot of road and trainer rides.

road biking nd
At least other ND cycling people were on campus

I did not tell my parents about Leadville until I absolutely had to because was worried my mom would worry more about my stress level between training and writing. Riding gave me a good excuse to take a break and ruminate on what I had been working on. Only once did I go to the doctor to get some blood drawn and have a resting heart rate of 92, minor detail.

I defended my thesis and passed, if you’re interested in reading 97 pages about influenza vaccines, lettme know! I found that prepping for a thesis defense was similar to an endurance race.

podium dome .JPG

You spend a lot of time, resources and energy working towards the goal. Don’t change your equipment the day of– I walked halfway across campus with the podium I had practiced with, and the night before you realize you have done everything you can at this point and just need to get some good sleep. Afterwards, I was able to spend about a week and half in South Dakota before heading back to ND for graduation.   bh trailsI was able to get some trail riding in with Barb why home. I’m now on my way back to South Dakota and will head down to CO in about a week for Leadville. After Leadville, it’s back to law school!

with parents
Pre-graduation dinner and not cycling clothes!

group at door

It happened to be baton twirling national championships at ND this weekend and I found a discarded baton in the grass that allowed me to relive my glory days, much to the amusement of my family- ha!

And so the Adventure Begins

I began law school last year immediately trying to figure out how to get back to the mountains. This year I voluntarily went further away.  I decided to take a leave of absence from law school to attend a one year master’s of science program at University of Notre Dame for Global Health. I did this for a few reasons (1) I got in (2) at this point in my law school career I have 3-5 required classes left which means that at least 1.5 years of electives can be paired more to this program (3) there is a Whole Foods near by. Not so much the last one but it was a nice little bonus. There were other factors too, I promise.

dome
Still flat here, but the view isn’t too shabby.

I only applied to this program because it’s the only one I wanted and figured if I got in, great I would go and if not I’d stay in law school and apply the next year, or the year after that. It’s funny because even though the past year at law school I only thought a lot about leaving, when I finally did it was hard to leave all the great friends I made, even if it was east river…  I don’t think this program came to a shock for most people that close to me but most people don’t know that I do have a background in environmental science and did time studying tuberculosis in South Africa–I don’t just ride bikes ALL the time. When I got in, my mom called and said, “you know that the winters are probably worst than Vermillion and there are NO mountains” It’s true they don’t have any mountains but I’m definitely excited about the program and this program makes me more excited about law school–yay! More school!

So now I’m in South Bend for the year, I came straight from Leadville, again and landed in orientation instead of classes. And I haven’t cried once! It helped that my flight leaving Leadville  got cancelled and rescheduled for the next day so I just stayed in Boulder and ate all the food.

close up dome
Obligatory dome picture….errr close enough 

I rode with the cycling team the other day. It was the first time I had done a road ride that consisted of more than 3 people. I don’t know why I didn’t get into road riding/racing sooner, the draft is incredible! It was so nice just sit back, pedal occasionally and maintain a relatively high average speed. Although the drafting does scare me a bit, I’ve mostly only done it during gravel races when the speeds are averaging a little lower. I kept “yo-yoing” off the back as Sully said. I would tap my breaks, drop off, sprint back on, tap my breaks, drop off, sprint back on…and it continued, a nice little interval circuit.

After Leadville a few of the pros went on to start the Breck Epic the day after the race, I too went straight into a race butttttt two weeks later. I didn’t anticipate being able to do a mountain bike race here this late in the season but came up on one when looking for places to ride. I had my bike shipped out (which would have happened anyways) and was off the couch for 14 miles (really haven’t done anything since Leadville except that group ride). It was a time trial style course with 15 seconds in between. It was pretty fun, but definitely different than Colorado riding and definitely different than a 100-mile race. I even have narrow handlebars and clipped two trees with them (might be time to start riding with contacts so I have some depth-perception) and had many close calls with others. The course had been rained on the day and night before and it was pretty slicky (I came in thinking it would be running fast and hero dirt, but soon realized I’m in the midwest…) which made for some squirmy corners and some pretty sketchy saves. I finished up 3rd, but I’m trying to get faster at shorter races (I have a big engine but mainly for going far and not necessarily that fast) and after about an hour felt like I was just getting warmed up to keep going, only to be finishing. The cycling team here doesn’t do too much with mountain biking so I figured it would be a good way to try and meet some people in the area who do. And try to get some short speed work in.

podium
I promise someone got first!

One of the reasons I switched my website was because as part of the ND program I’ll be in the field for 6-8 weeks next summer, and figured this would be a good way for my parents to keep tabs on me (provided there is internet…) so will start posting about course work here and there as well. But still mostly focused on biking. Up next I’m planning on doing a cyclocross race in Madison in about 3 weeks (I have 2 weddings the next 2 weekends).

butterfly
Cheers to new beginnings and more adventures!

 

LAST Big Training Ride

bachelorette
Not cycling clothes!!

My mom always gets nervous when I ride by myself (you get one brain injury…) and it’s understandable because she’s my mother. I don’t think too much of it unless it’s my LAST big training ride before Leadville and then I get a little wary just because that was the ride that gave my that brain injury 4 years ago. I’ve been staying at my family’s cabin in Tincup, on the western side of Cottonwood pass these past few weeks leading up to Leadville. I had to come down for a friend’s bachelorette party in Denver and figured I would stop in Leadville on the way and do my LAST big training ride before the race this weekend. Fortunately I solved my mom’s worries and my own about riding alone by picking up a hitch-hiker. Adam was trying to do the Colorado Trail but ended up with a bum knee and was standing on the side of the road outside of Buena Vista when I found him. For the record I don’t usually pick up hitch-hikers unless they have a huge gear pack or a bike (and I think of all those people who gave Wayne a ride when he was biking around the country) they also have to promise not to kill me, which he did. I never got his last name which is too bad because my dad could have run a background check on him like he did with all my (ex)boyfriends! Adam was only initially looking for a ride to Buena Vista and then would maybe make his way to Denver. I told him of my ride plan and that I would be going to Denver but would have a 4 hour layover in Leadville. He didn’t seem to mind waiting at a coffee shop for me and so I joked with him that I’m not sure what would cause my mom more anxiety, me riding alone, or her knowing that a hitch-hiker was my go to contact for the day (which is why I’m only telling her about it now.)

hitchkiker
He looks normal…enough, right?

The training ride was uneventful, I mainly structured it to ride up Powerline, go towards the start and then turn around at some point and head back down. I mainly wanted to see how I did down Powerline and scout out the lines. I parked my car at the bottom of Powerline, got changed and started on my bike when it started to begin drizzling. I didn’t think much of it as the cooler weather always seems to suit me better. I made it up to the top no problem and then began the back side of the descent when it started raining a bit harder. I started the climb back up to the first aid station and figured that would be a good turn around point, it’s mostly uneventful and just on pavement. I got to the top and turn around to begin heading back. The rain started to fall harder and with a sustained downhill I started to get a chill, I was only at about 2 hours in at this point and was hoping to get 4 hours. I started the climb back up and was soon tempted by the turn off for the Colorado Trail. I took it as it would give me some shelter from the rain with tree coverage. I also keep thinking that I want to do the whole CT at some point so if anything Leadville can just be really good training for it. I knew the trail would take me to the top of Powerline and then all would be left is the down. I’m never disappointed by the Colorado Trail and it’ll be hard during the race to know all the off-shoots for it without taking them.

hitch hikerI got to the top and all that was left was the down. Some spots on Powerline are pretty rutted out and last year I found myself taking the “B” line to get around people. I wasn’t terribly happy about doing the descent in the rain with no glasses (the only thing they were doing was preventing my vision at that point) and power lines right above me (beckoning to be struck by lighting) but figured if I could manage it now I could manage it when there are hoards of other riders around me on race day. Plus if I crashed Adam would be without a ride and would maybe contact someone. I didn’t crash, I certainly didn’t push it but it came back pretty quick on which side to pick and which line to follow down. I wasn’t paying attention and went straight on the trail when I should have gone right. It took me about 5 minutes to realize how far off the trail I was, and some foraging in the forest to realize my mistake. I’ve only been riding on this course for 4 years…but made a mental note of it for race day. I finished the ride but cut it short because of the rain and how cold I had gotten.

rainy day
Rain, rain to away…don’t come back till after race day!

I was talking to Sully the other day about Leadville when he made a reference to the Tatanka race something along the lines like, “well at least you know you’ll be able to finish” I came back, “I know I can finish, I’ve finished it twice before and I know I can ride my bike for that long but I don’t know how much faster I’ll be at it.” But I had misinterpreted what he was saying, he meant if I go out hard and fast and blow up after 40 or 60 miles I’d still be able to push through and finish. I hadn’t looked at it like that before then but he has a good point and there is really nothing to lose at this point by going for it.*

*Whatever it is.

crested butte
Earlier training ride in Crested Butte, the views were rough to take in