Sunday, August 15, 2010
Leadville 100: Crash and Burn!
Well, trying to type with a displaced clavicle fracture, a cracked rib, mild abrasions and a large hematoma on my side is not easy task, let me tell you! Since I have a few minutes before boarding my flight from Denver back to Tucson after my Leadville Trail 100 Mtb. experience, I thought I'd share some of it with you.
In a nutshell, it was a great experience for me but with a less than great outcome. I crashed hard at mile 33 down a steep hill (see pic... Bryan, a guy on the course who was supporting riders, came to my aid and sent this pic to me late yesterday of the top of the descent where I crashed near the bottom, thanks again Bryan...you are a life saver!). My injuries sustained include a broken collarbone, cracked rib and other minor discomforts. The net result is that I had to dnf and my season is over, including my bid for a 2011 Ironman Kona spot at IMWI in Sept., my 'A' race. Bummer.
I have one word for the Leadville Trail 100 Race... WOW!! What a cool event. This year Life Time Fitness bought the Leadville event series, including the Mtn. bike race and the 100 Ultra distance Marathon, among others. If you're an endurance sports junkie, I think Leadville is quickly becoming (or has been) the 'mecca' of ultra event racing.
I have always respected mountain bikers and their skills on the bike, but my level of respect has now gone to the next level. I was awed by the fearlessness of guys and girls on tough downhill sections (like Powerline) as they flew by me on rutted, rocky trail as if it was paved. Incredible! It takes lots of miles in the trails to build those skill levels.
The race started with a cool chill in the air at 6:30 am. I felt good heading out on the ‘controlled’ start to the trail, not going hard with the goal only to finish in one piece (whoops, failed that goal!). Once we hit the first climb on the trail, the altitude (10,000 plus ft.) started kicking my butt as my HR climbed to AT almost immediately with almost no effort! Breathing was a chore… even at night when sleeping. I can see why so many athletes who do well in Leadville either live in the general area at altitude or go there 2-3 weeks in advance to acclimate.
Not a great descender I tried to take it easy on the downhills but still maintain my composure. I felt OK, but the legs and lungs were getting taxed due to the altitude and the effort. I was definitely racing within myself and trying not to burn too many matches.
After the infamous power line descent, which I made it through only falling off the bike once, I was pretty excited that things were going well. Then, as we hit a single track across a ridge, there was an incredibly steep and fast downhill that caught me by surprise. I was with a couple other guys and followed their line, going around 25-30 mph. It seems like a 30% grade! Near the bottom, my front wheel hit a rut and I went over the bars, slamming into the dirt. I struggled to breath as I laid there for a minute. I knew I was in some trouble before even sitting up and ‘taking inventory’ of the body parts. The first thing I noticed was the difficulty in breathing and expanding my ribcage. Then, I suspected the next injury so common in this type of crash, a broken collarbone. Ugh, I could feel the bones grinding against each other then as I still do right now. My whole left side was tweaked from the blunt force trauma of slamming into the dirt at high speed.
After about 45 minutes, a volunteer drove me out of the woods to an ambulance waiting to take me to the emergency room in town. It was a small two room emergency room with a great staff of nurses and docs. My ‘room mate’ was another guy who went over the bars and was suspected to have a broken collarbone too. We shared war stories.
My pain level was starting to rise as the shock wore off - I felt like I ran into a truck... and they got me some painkiller. X-rays confirmed my collarbone break in which the doc said was fairly severe and will require surgery, as well as the cracked rib on the left side.
I was released about 2 hours later and walked back to my rental house near the finish line in my dirty cycling kit with the arm in a sling and with a bag full of my belongings. Spectators asked me what happened and wished me luck, asking if I needed help. What great people! A few showed me their scars from their collarbone surgeries… it would seem that a collar bone break is a ‘badge of honor’ for the hardcore mountain biker. ☺
Now, I’m hoping to schedule surgery this week asap so I can begin the healing process. I’m very uncomfortable with the rib (sitting up is hard as is taking a deep breath) and the collarbone (can’t move left arm and the bones are rubbing... nice). Sleeping last night, my first night with the injury, was next to impossible. I’m guessing I’m up for several sleepless nights coming up…ugh.
I’m very disappointed about not being able to complete my triathlon season now. I had good form and was excited about racing IMWI for a good result. Oh well, sh_t happens and you deal with it….that’s what endurance sports teach you. I’m already looking forward to resuming training again in October for 2011 racing.
Overall, it was a great experience. Sure, the crash sucked and so do the consequences, but I learned a boat load, met some great people and ‘stretched my limits’ a little more…. testing myself. I enjoyed hanging out too with my friends/fellow athletes and colleagues at Life Time Fitness… a real team atmosphere. I want to congratulate everyone who finished, or had the guts to start the race, including the athletes from Team Life Time Fitness and the chief rider/CEO, Bahram Akradi. If you want the ultimate endurance sports related challenge in cycling or running... go to Leadville!
Keep the rubber on the road and train smart.