Today I woke up at 3am to drive to Leadville Colorado to compete in the 50 mile mountain bike race with my geared 29er - http://www.leadvilletrail100.com/lt100races/LeadvilleSilverRush50MileMountainBikeRace/overview.aspx . I had been training for quite a while, and my main goal was to get to the halfway spot before the 4.5 hour cutoff…which doesn’t sound too difficult, but believe me…it is!
I think the first 25 miles had around 5,000 feet of climbing (I forget the total descent), all between 10-12,500ft in elevation, and all offroad on loose/rocky/steep terrain.
The more popular race is the leadville 100 - Lance Armstrong has competed in it twice now I think, but from what I have heard, the 50 is like the 100 with the easy parts taken out! Some of the riders I talked to that have done both, said the 50 is much harder for them than the 100. The 50 starts above 10,000 feet in Leadville (the highest incorporated city in America) with a run up a steep hill, and then it is a 10 mile climb to the first turn where there is a 4 mile descent or so to the first supply station, from there there is another mile or so descent and then it is 10 more miles of brutal climbing all the way up Ball mountain.
Anyway, I was doing great the first 10 miles of the race, and passed a LOT of bikes on the unicycle. While doing this I heard “You’re my hero!” quite a lot. On the steep downhill the bikes had the advantage, but I was using my geared 29, so the high gear helped a little bit (I was mostly in low gear for the race though). The second uphill section was far too steep for me to climb with the 29er, so I was between riding some and walking and my time really suffered. I ended up getting to highest point on the trail but not before hitting the wall a few times (I was struggling to breathe in a few sections and had to slow my pace because of my exhaustion and the elevation), and after that there were a few miles of technical downhill before reaching the halfway mark. I missed the 4.5 hour cutoff by about 10-15 minutes I can attribute about an 8 minute loss to the beginning of the race when 600 riders were crowding in a small trail section, so there was a line forming, but even if there had been no delay, I still would have missed the cutoff by a good 5+ minutes.
This is the hardest thing I have done on a unicycle, the first 25 mile portion of this 50 mile race was the harder half (with 66% of the climbing), and it was killer on the legs and the terrain was brutal non-stop. I pushed it pretty hard, and I am still happy that I made it to the halfway spot before some bikes, and I at least continued on to the halfway checkpoint (some bikes couldn’t make it).
Everyone was really cool about the unicycle and I got nothing but compliments on the trail from the 600 or so riders that competed, and even though I didn’t finish, I went home feeling achieved, and started thinking about what I would do differently for this race next year. I think the climbs would be easier on a geared 26er instead, with longer cranks (165mm at least). I was using a geared 29 with 150mm cranks, and it was great for the first 15 miles, but that last 10 miles was just killer and was screaming for a lower gear.
Hopefully I’ll see some pictures up on the site soon to share.
Time to go clean my wounds again from the few falls I had and try to sleep and recover from a difficult, but fun day.