Contributed by Dai Endurance Athlete, Brian Finley, who PR’d over his last Leadville by 25 minutes and change this year.
What a race and experience this year! Woke up to crisp morning and clear sky’s for early 6:30am start.
This year was my 4th Leadville 100 and this was the year I was going to break the 9 hour barrier. I had all my splits on my top tube with split times for mile 11, 26, 40, 50, 60, 74, 78.5, 89 and Finish.
I started in the 4th starting corral (green) which put me close to the front of the 1500 racer field. The first 11 miles consist of a fast 5 mile decent out of town right off the gun. Then you hit dirt and after a couple of fast miles you come to a wall of people, 3 abreast up a steep climb for 0.8 miles. I was lucky to that the crowd of riders I was with all stayed on their bikes and crawled up at 3.3-4mph. Following this, I was pleased to be around all riders that kept their cool and just made it through the next section without getting frustrated at the pace due to the traffic. I knew I was slower than my desired split, but I was only able to go so fast considering the traffic without doing something dumb. Mile 11 I came in 3 minutes slower than my desired split of 48 minutes, but I felt good and knew a good section for me was coming up.
I felt amazing this next section that included a super fast 3 mile paved decent, then about 8 mile climb that had about 2 miles of pavement, 2 miles of relative flat which I attacked and passed so many people. I pretty much went in the passing lane and never came out of it, got on a wheel when I could and then passed when ready. The next 4 mile climb was awesome as well, kept grinding in the passing lane, stayed in myself and just crushed it to the top of Powerline. This sketchy decent of about 3 miles was nice and conservative and just held my line and did nothing to risk ending my day. The next 4.5 miles to next aid station was amazing. Pavement flat where I joined a group of about 8 that grew to about 15-20. We held a great pace and came into mile 26 about 3 minutes under pace. I was stoked to make up 6 minutes at this stage and felt amazing.
The next section of gentle rolling up/down jeep road and 3 mile descending single track was also great. Really felt like legs were feeling great, hydrating well and continued to pass more people than passed me. Mile 40 had me picking up another 2 minutes so at this point I was 5 minutes ahead of my pace and felt great going into the 10 mile Columbine climb. I picked up a new Camelback and H20 bottle for the climb from my crew. The next 10 miles is hard and I was well prepared for it and just put my head down and grinded the 3000’ feet. I had my first hint of cramps about ½ way up and as usual they quickly melted away using my electrolytes. I felt good and was really encouraged with my effort at this point. I came into mile 50 at 4:33 which was 7 minutes ahead of my pace time and 16 minutes ahead of my 2016’ time which I was more excited about.
After a careful decent from the top, I met my family again for hydration and more electrolytes. Mile 60 I was up 8 minutes on my pace! Feeling great I grinded the next section that included an overall negative grade but 3 mile single track climb. I really pushed myself to stay with a fast group which was awesome and felt great that I could stay with them up to next aid station at mile 74.
I picked up last hydration pack and bottle and was 12 minutes ahead of my pace time!! I was quick out of the aide station and left my group of riders. I ended up exposed in the pesky headwind alone through the next 4.5 miles road section to Powerline climb. 78.5 miles I was > 13 minutes ahead of pace. The next 3 out of 10 miles beat me up. I started to have severe cramps where multiple times my left leg completely seized. I unfortunately had to do much more walking of the bike than I wanted to, but I kept moving forward. I depleted my electrolytes before I reached the top of the climb. I knew I gave back a lot of time on this section but stayed positive and crushed a quick 8 mile descent before tackling the return 3 mile paved climb to Carter summit. At the 89 mile mark I realized I had given back about 14 minutes!! Ouch. I knew that I had <50 minutes to bring it home to be sub 9hours. I fought and grinded the whole way and I was stoked that I could push the pedals with reasonable force without cramping, I was beyond my redline and feeling good about everything, but my ending split was 51:00 and finish time of 9:01:37!! 25 minutes faster than last year!! I could be disappointed but I could be more excited and stoked that I cut so much time off my previous PR and that I was able to push myself so hard, I felt amazing, what a day, what a race and what a season! Thank you Julie!!!