The Second Event: the Silver Rush 50 mile mountain bike race
I was really looking forward to this race. The course, as per usual starts in Leadville at 10,000 ft and goes up from there. I like long races with lots of climbing at high altitude as, for some reason, my body just likes those. When there is lots of uphill, well, there is lots of downhill, which I happen to like a lot as well. But, given that I haven’t been training on the bike that much (maybe 2-3x a week at most) with only a few long rides thrown in here or there, I really didn’t know what to expect.
The start of the Silver Rush is different from any other race I’ve done. It starts at the base of a steep rocky hill and you have to run/hike carrying your bike up the hill to the actual start. Needless to day, I wasn’t going to kill myself to get to the top of the hill, plus my montain bike shoes just aren’t made for running or hiking. So I played it pretty casual only to get stuck in a giant bottle neck at the top where 500 people were trying to merge onto a narrow double track trail.
The first 10 miles was a long gradual climb up to about 12,000 feet. I felt good but kept it pretty comfortable. Even so I was passing people the whole way up and navigating through the masses of riders who had beat me to the top of that starting climb.
The next big climb, though, was much steeper, rockier and loser. The whole way up guys were getting off there bikes and starting to push. There was one skinny guy though who stayed on his bike and was picking a good line through the hikers, so I decided to stick to his wheel. I think he was a local. Thankfully I was able to stay with him and didn’t have to hike my bike until the very end of the climb where it got really steep and there was a huge snow bank covering the trail. At this point we were back up to 12,000 feet. The views and scenery were pretty amazing. This was pure, unadulterated Colorado high country.
From there it was a rocky descent to the halfway point, 25 miles in. After the turn around, we were back climbing up to 12,000 feet. At some point I was told by a spectator that I was the 6th woman. As I was hoping for a top ten, this was good news indeed. Then I was told by another spectator that I was the 3rd woman. Hmm, who to believe, I suspected that 6th was probably the more accurate.
After our third visit to 12,000 ft there were some fun descents, but I knew there was a long climb up a dirt road right before the final 10 mile descent to the finish, As I started the climb I was trying to do the math and figure out how long it was. I estimated that it would be around 4-5 miles. At this point I was struggling and the idea of climbing another 5 miles just felt endless. My brain was calling down to the engine room for more power, but no power was forth coming (to coin Phil Ligget). One of the woman who I had handidly passed earlier, passed me about about a mile into the climb. I wasn't super happy about this, but I couldn’t seem to summon the effort to hang with her. I could see her up the road sitting on the wheel of another rider. So close but so far away. They weren’t pulling away but I just couldn’t bridge the gap. On a climb, even 50 meters can seem like a mile.
After climbing for a few miles, I decided to dig a bit deeper and try to bridge the gap. I took in some calories, put my head down and put some effort into the pedals. Low and behold I started feeling better. About 1 km from the top, I passed the two riders as convincingly as I could. As it turns out, they were both woman. The woman who had passed me earlier immediately bridged up to my wheel. I kept trying trying to surge, but, no sooner would I get a gap then she would catch back up.
Right before the descent, she sprinted by me. She was riding a full suspension bike and wearing baggy shorts, usually a sign of a good downhiller. She also looked liked she was about 20 years old. So in my heart of hearts I knew that she would drop me pretty smartly on the descent. I am a pretty good descender, but a hardtail on that rocky terrain is no match for a good downhiller on a full suspension bike. Plus, I am now older and wiser (mabye) and just don’t take the risks that I usded to. At any rate she immediately put a good sized gap on me and I just couldn’t hang. She ended up gaining almost 6 minutes on me on that final descent.
I still had no idea of where I was in the placings, but I kept looking back to make sure I at least stayed ahead of the other woman that I has passed. Luckily I didn’t see her. All I can say is, is that was a rough, long descent. I was going as fast as I could and it seemed to take forever. I was also getting pretty beat up, as it was quite rough in parts. I thought my kidneys were going to fall out.
At the bottom, within a stone’s throw of the finish, we turned and headed back up on some single track before the final drop in to the finish. As we wound up that single track I looked across and saw the woman a couple of switchbacks behind me. Darn, I thought I had totally dropped her on the descent. So I put my head down for a final push to the finish. I think I only beat her by 9 seconds.
After the results were tallied, I ended up 4th overall and first in my age group. I was pretty happy about that, especially after the less than stellar marathon I had had some weeks before. It felt a bit like redemption. I can only hope this bodes well for the next LV event, the 100 mile mountain bike race.
This is a 3D visual of the route from a friend of mine who also raced.