A week or two after his 2014 Leadville experience I received a call from my dad saying he wanted to attempt the race again in 2015. In Jan 2015 he entered the lottery and in Feb 2015 he found out he was in!! He and I set up as training plan for the Aug 2015 Leadville. This race requires a lot of time training and that is a challenge in it self. It's even harder when you live in Dallas where its 100 degrees, flat, at sea level, and 63 years old. Let the training began we said! I found out in March I was going to be a father come late Oct. I put a hold on the travel and racing with my team to prepare for fatherhood and becoming a family man. I decided this would be a perfect opportunity do this years Leadville with my father.
August came quick and we made our way to the high mountains of Colorado. My mother and father drove out from Dallas, my brother was already in the Vail area visiting friends, and I flew out from Southern California. It was great to have the entire family together for a vacation. In addition to the race my brother and I hiked two 14ers in Summit County.
Race day rolled around and the weather was perfect as normal. My dad and I were placed in the Orange coral which was half way back with 900 racers in front of us and 900 or so behind us. My brother and mom were set to be at the 40 and 60 mile aid station (same location), Twin Lakes dam. The starting gun fired and we were off. The first climb came and went without too much troubles, we passed through the 40mile aid station and were doing good. It was good to have the help and encouragement of my brother and mother there. We made a quick 5-8min stop and began the 10mile accent up to the columbine mine. About 3-4 miles up the climb is there the wheels began to come off for pops. He was cramping! We stopped and walked a bit, stretch a little, but kept moving forward. We both knew we had a long way to go to the top with some real hard miles just up the road. The negative and defeated thoughts began to creep into my dads head, I could see it. To be honest I had my doubts too at times. I knew that we had a decent time cushion to play with but we had to keep moving and dad needed to desperately EAT lots. I reminded him of the time we had to play with, that he must eat now, and we were going to make it!! It was a long haul up that mountain but we made it to the top and ate and rested there for 5-10min. We had 45min to get down the mountain and check into the aid station to make the 7hr 45min time cut. I think the calories began to settle in and the decent had dad feeling a little bit better. We made it back to the Twin Lakes aid station (mile 60) with 10min to spare.
There was no time to waste as we only had 70min to get to the 75mile time cut(Pipeline aid station). The last 3 miles before pipeline was a push to say the least. I had dad on my wheel and we were drilling it as hard as he could go. I kept checking to see I had him on my wheel, he had to dig deep! I got the verbal time check from him leading up to the aid station every min. "We have 10min left, we have 9min to get there, we have 8min, 7min, Shawn, we have 6min, 5min, every min" LOL. I said, "just pedal!!!" We made it in at 3:15pm. The cut off was 3:15! This meant we weren't getting pulled, we were finishing the race!!
The final 20miles of the LT100 are the hardest miles in the race. I knew it was unlikely we would break the 12 hour mark but we kept eating and riding. At this point in the race all the riders looked like they were on a death march in survival mode. I tried telling some jokes to the riders around us as we marched out the Powerline miles but most weren't having any humor at that point in the game, or possibly they were triathletes who didn't appreciate my triathlete jokes.
As we were descending St Kevins (the first and last climb of the day) my dad asked if it was possible to finish under the 13 hour mark. I said it'd be close. Unknown to me, my dad was told by another rider if we finish outside the 13 hour mark we wouldn't be considered a finisher and wouldn't be found on the finishing results. For those of you who know the Boulevard section leading into town for the finish, its not pleasant after all those miles. It's a dirt road thats climbs a slights 1-2% grade. There we were again pushing for the finish as I was getting the count down to the 13 hour mark. We ended up coming in at 12 hours and 55min. We got the finishing medal and our names were on the results sheet as finishers!!
It was a day I'll always remember. I learned where that sick, sadistic, I can endure the pain mindset comes from, MY DAD!!
Im about to become a dad myself in just under 6 weeks. Life is strange in how we go through these chapters and phases but Im more satisfied than ever being able to help my dad get through this challenging race.