August 15, 2011 on 3:53 pm | In Random Musings | 3 Comments
I just did my first Leadville 100 mountain bike race, also known as the Race Across the Sky. I had three goals for the race – have fun, rubber side down and go under 9 hours (the time mark for getting the big belt buckle). I accomplished all three of these; however, the real story is in the sub-plot of the race and what made the race special for me.
I trained quite a bit for this race, many 300+ mile weeks on the bike with lots of climbing (most weeks had over 20,000 feet of climbing). However, like most races it is the journey to the race that is more epic than the race itself – the race is the reward for all of the hard training.
I was fortunate enough to have one of my very best friends do the race with me, Sandy Sweetland (he made it into Leadville just two weeks earlier when we did the Crested Butte Odyssey race), as well as a few guys that gave me lots of advice and did some of the training with me – Jake Rubelt (Tucson’s King of Leadville – this was his 10th one including several top 5 finishes), Paul Thomas (he went 7:13 on the day and it was his 2nd mountain bike race of his life), and Jimmy Riccitello (read his pre-race blog here). Not to mention all of the other people I knew out there on the course.
The night before the race Sandy and I were trying to figure out what time to get there as we were slotted in the “newbie” corral with probably 900 other people – all behind the 900 people that had done the race before or had a pro card. I got a text right before going to bed from Jimmy that he was leaving at 4AM so he could get at the front of the newbie corral (the race started at 6:30). Jimmy also sent me one last text that he would be my domestique up until the climb to Columbine (mile 40), after that it would be every man for himself. This audible was a good decision so Sandy and I got up early and were able to stage at the very front of the corral.
Once the race started I stayed glued to Jimmy. If he zigged, I zigged, if he zagged, I zagged. He guided me through hundreds of people for the first 25 miles until I had a small mechanical problem and we got separated. Little did I know he was having a small ass problem and I passed him – he would later blow by me up Columbine.
If you don’t know Jimmy, he is one hell of an athlete. He retired years ago but on any given day he can destroy most mortals on the bike and run. This is the most fascinating part of my Leadville story. Jimmy, along with a few other “old school” triathlon pros showed up, just for the spirit of the race – Paul Huddle and Mike Pigg were two of the others. In their heyday, these guys could easily be top 20 at this race. Here was Jimmy, however, starting in the “newbie” corral (he could have easily pulled some strings to start in the first corral) with me and the other first timers. Not only that, he knew he was out of shape and he knew he would just have to burn the candle at both ends until he went to survival mode. Yet in all of this, he still baby sat me from well before the start until my mechanical. Over 40 miles after Columbine, I finally caught up to Jimmy on the last big climb of the day. He was hurting yet he was in good spirits and offered me food and water, I was fine but was overcome with guilt that I was leaving him behind – on the same section of road that he guided me down. He would finish just a few minutes behind me (once again reiterating how good his is b/c I am in the best bike shape of my life and he is probably in his worst). Jimmy Riccitello is probably the most unselfish person you will meet and he, along with all of my other friends, showed me once again in the mountains of Colorado what this sport is all about.