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2015 Season Kick Off at the Sea Otter Classic

April 25, 2015

Now that the dust has settled at the 2015 Sea Otter Classic, we look back to celebrate one of the most successful Otter’s that Northstar California Mountain Bike Team has race.

The Sea Otter Classic is a four-day bike festival and exposition held annually at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterrey, CA. Starting in 1991, the Sea Otter has become legendary for many reasons. The festival offers on-site camping surrounded by endless excitement with road, dh, enduro, cyclocross, slalom, xc, dirt jumping, pump track races going on the entire time. At the expo, just about ever vendor related to bikes, come to show the latest products, technologies, and information.   Northstar California Resort came to promote our incredible bike park (which opens May 22nd) and Giant Bikes USA debuted their 2015 bikes, info on their latest products, and opportunities to meet some of their elite factory and co-factory riders.

As a bike racer, the Sea Otter is the official kick off race for the upcoming season. Seven top riders from the Northstar California Mountain Bike Team made the pilgrimage to the Sea Otter this year. With the courses now empty and the festival silent, our riders left with great memories and incredible results. Great work Amber, Scott, Ryan, Lindsay, Genevieve, Jordan, and Joe!

Amber Broch

1st Road Cat-4

5th Cross Country Cat-1

Amber 1st Place Cat-4 Road

Amber 1st Place Cat-4 Road

 

Scott Leland

2nd Cross Country Cat-1

Scott 2nd Place Cross Country

Scott 2nd Place Cat-1 Cross Country

Genevieve Evans

3rd Cross Country Cat-1

Genevieve 3rd Place Cat-1 Cross Country

Genevieve 3rd Place Cat-1 Cross Country

Lindsay Chirdon

8th Cross Country Cat-1

Ryan Helmuth

2nd Cat-1 Dual Slalom

Ryan 2nd Place Cat-1 Dual Slalom

Ryan 2nd Place Cat-1 Dual Slalom

2nd Cat-1 Downhill

Ryan 2nd Place Cat-1 Downhill

Ryan 2nd Place Cat-1 Downhill

Jordan Hartman

12th Open Enduro

Joe Kolda

47th Open Enduro

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JayP’s Backyard Pursuit Post-Race Recap

February 5, 2015

In Early January, Blake Bockius set out to complete and compete in JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit.   Enjoy some great words and perspective from an extremely humble and incredibly talented cyclist in this post race interview.

When you mentioned you were racing through Yellowstone in the middle of winter I envisioned snow, cold temps, wolves, grizzlies, and moose-not epic bike riding. Now that a few weeks have past since you’re completion of JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit, what are some of your strongest memories?

Unfortunately I didn’t see much wildlife. I was hoping to see some moose or elk and I thought it would be cool to see a wolf. I think my strongest memories are when I was out on the trail, the remoteness and the isolation of the area were strong. Even though the route was fairly well traveled, there were times when I felt very small and removed from the rest of the world. We travelled along the Continental Divide with access to beautiful views of Yellowstone to the east and the open country to the west. I love riding at night it so peaceful and quiet. Night time is a great time to be out in nature. During the night, I traveled over a pass outside of West Yellowstone. It was snowing hard up there, and I felt like I was ski touring rather than bike racing.

 

Heading out to ride a fat bike for 200k through Yellowstone in January is difficult to wrap your mind around. Tell us a bit a bit about the course and conditions.

The conditions for the most part were favorable for fat bike racing. We traveled a big 130 mile loop on designated snowmobile routes. The temps were much warmer than normal with highs in the 30’s and lows in the teens. A week before the race West Yellowstone was having temps as low as -20. I had actually been training for colder temps. It would have been nice to have a bit colder weather, but I should probably be careful what I wish for.

Coming from California, I wasn’t sure what to expect for the the snow conditions. I thought the trails would be more packed in. The snowmobiles really chew things up. Traction and bike control were a big challenge. For most of the race, I had to stay focused on riding in other fat bike tracks. It took a lot of concentration which added to the fatigue. Passing other racers took a major effort. As soon as the bike goes out of the track you get bogged down, and you really have to put down some major power. I came off the bike a number of times because of loose traction on the up hills and loss of control on the downhill. It’s very similar to riding in sand for 130 miles!

 

It was great fun checking in on your progress as you raced via trackleaders.com. It looked as though you may have hunkered down for the night. How did the dynamic of the race change once the sun went down?

Actually, I didn’t sleep. I did take a long break at the Man Cave aid station around 1:00 in the morning. I was having stomach problems, and I was having a hard time holding down food. I wanted to make sure that I was partially recovered before heading out into the night. My mind wanted me to get back out there in the race, but my body was telling me otherwise. As racers came and went out of the aid station, I slowly tried to get some food in and hydrate. I was a bit worried about going back out into the cold and snow, but finally I left the Man Cave after an hour plus break. Once I got back on the bike, I felt pretty good and actually raced strong to the finish.

 

From the Facebook updates JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit looked well supported. About how often would you come across support stations during the race?

There were three aid stations. The first aid station at mile 30 and was a trail side tent with water and some food. The second aid station at mile 60 was in the town of West Yellowstone. This aid station was in a private home. The racers had the opportunity to grab their drop bag, dry clothing by the fire, and refuel. The volunteers had soup and grill cheese sandwiches waiting.

Aid station three, the Man Cave, was at mile 100. This aid station also had a great bunch of volunteers. They had eggs to order and bacon among other goodies to fill our bellies.

The Fat Pursuit was very well supported mainly by volunteers. It was good to know that we were being looked after even though the racers are required to be self-sufficient. We were required to carry equipment to survive on our own overnight. Before the race Jay P. checked each racer for the required gear. Required gear included, a bivi bag, minimum zero degree sleeping bag, pad, extra clothing, stove and pot for boiling water.

 

How did you do and is this what you expected?

I finished 19th overall. My goal was a top ten finish, even though I tried to go into the race without high expectations. I was racing more for the experience than a result. Overall I was very happy with the my race.

 

Would you consider doing this again next year? If so, what changes would you make with gear, food, prep., etc.?

Yes! I’m already thinking about next year. I feel like I learned a lot and can carry some of the knowledge I gained into next year’s race.

I don’t think I would make many gear changes except not to overdress for the start. I definitely had too much clothing on this year. I ended up over heating early and getting wet with sweat. Also, I would work on eating and hydrating better early on in the race. A little more training time before the race would be nice as well.

 

Thanks Blake!  I look forward to getting some rides in with you soon!

 

 

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JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit

January 10, 2015

Scenic beauty, simplicity of travel, adventure, friends, finishing-these are the things that cement those lasting memories of our first century rides and all day epics.  Blake Bockius, our teams ultra endurance superstar, is off on another amazing ride.

Starting January 10, Blake will be riding JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit.  This event (http://fatpursuit.blogspot.com) is a 200k fat bike event through Yellowstone, MT and Idaho.  Before Blake’s launch, we had a chance to ask a few questions.

Blake's winter bike

Fat bike packed and ready to roll.

 

 

Northstar-When was the first time someone called you crazy, insane, or something along the lines of questioning your decisions?

Blake Bockius-I can’t remember the first time. That’s been going on for a quite a while. As for the fat Pursuit , I’ve heard why would you do that? Why would you ride your bike in the snow, aren’t there any races in places where it’s warm?

You’ve competed in some mind blowing ultra endurance mountain bike races. Give us a list of races that you’ll never forget.

I think the most memorable is the Tour Divide in 2012. I had done some touring but this was my first bikebacking experience. The Tour Divide fueled my passion for the sport. I think I’ve done 9 bikepacking races since.

Tell us about your next race-Jay’P’s Fat Bike Pursuit. Any predictions on what challenges lay ahead of you?

The race is a 200 kilometer fat bike race on snow. The race takes place outside of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Idaho. The race was conceived and is promoted by Jay Petervary. He is one of the top ultra endurance mountain bike racers.

The biggest challenge is the winter environment. I’ve been working on my layering and trying to figure out how to race without creating too much moisture. Once I get sweaty I risk getting cold.

Living in Truckee, CA affords it’s residents an abundance of year round outdoor opportunities. What is you background in winter sports? How do you think this prior knowledge will help you through Jay P’s Fat Bike Pursuit?

Although fat biking is new to me, I’ve been recreating in the winter environment since growing up in Colorado. I spend my winters downhill skiing, Nordic skiing and backcountry skiing. I also have experience winter camping and I took a winter survival course when I was younger.

For the average mountain biker the preparation for a 60k or 200k mtb race could take up to 12+ hours per week. Tell us a bit about you method of preparing physically for this race.

I’ve been trying to get as much time on the bike as possible. I’m definatly not in as good of shape as I am during the summer. Mostly I’ve been riding at night because of the limited day light. I’ve also been riding in the early morning from 4-7 before work. The early morning rides have helped me acclimate to colder temps and figure out my gear.

Preparing for a mtb race of any proportion takes careful planning and preparation. As you head into a race of this nature, what will your bike set-up look like (i.e. bike, bags/panniers, lights, water)?  

I’ll be riding 4” tires with around 6 pounds of pressure. I’ll have a frame bag a large seat bag top tube bag and a roll bag on my handle bars.  Some of the crucial gear is a -10 sleeping bag, bivi, pad, stove for melting snow, extra dry clothing maps, a GPS with the track loaded, multiple lights with exta batteries, 100 oz Camelbak and a thermos for warm drinks.

Nutrition can be “make or break” any ride or race. What will you eat/consume during this race?

I will carry different options such as energy gel, liquid nutrition, pbj’s, soup, nuts, energy bars and lots of water. Maybe some left over pizza. I’m not too picky about what I eat.  I feel good as long as I keep taking in fuel.  I have a pretty strong stomach so I can eat or drink just about anything.

Good luck and can’t wait to hear how everything goes!

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Introducing the 2015 Ride Giant/Ride Northstar Mountain Bike Race Team

December 4, 2014

cropped-rgrn_logoblog_2012.jpgOn behalf of Giant Bikes USA, Liv Cycling USA, and Northstar California, we proudly introduce our

2015 Ride Giant/Ride Northstar Mountain Bike Team.  

Andrew Buckley

Ryan Helmuth

Stephen Berg

Joe Kolda

Lindsay Chirdon

Ryan Icanberry

Blake Bockius

Jordan Hartman

Amber Broch

Scott Leland

Geoff Maliska

Nathan Clark

Genevieve Evans

Check back throughout the season as we learn more about our

diverse team through interviews, bios, and race/trail reports!

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Coming Soon…

December 2, 2014

IMG_0242After a fantastic race season, the Ride Giant/Ride Northstar Race Team is already gearing up for 2015.  

Big announcements COMING SOON!

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Leadville Trail 100 Race w/Andrew Buckley

September 6, 2014

Leadville Trail 100 Race Recap

Tahoe July 19– to be totally honest the Tahoe Trail 100k was my mental moment of truth. That is, it was to be a measure of my preparedness. With my South African race in April, 2000 miles of dirt training and 180 hours on the bike since April I felt I had paid my dues. Things don’t always work out though. I finished TT100 in 5h42m with a 15 minute stop at an accident, but still that was only 0.2mph faster than last time-not enough change!

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PreambleMotivation comes and goes, but commitment is forever-Ken Chlouber . The truth is my motivation took a big hit and I was still going to Leadville, after all I had committed. I didn’t think it was likely that I would meet my target (or even close), but I settled into commitment. I said I was going, so I would. And my perspective would be the joy of the Race Across the Sky and that big high country.

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Race day start– I arrived with five minutes to spare. My tactic of sleeping low in Aspen meant I had a super early morning drive with my friend Zander. A timing miscalculation (I always use my best past time as the marker) and some tummy issues put us right down to the wire with Zander helping me strap my number to my bike a few blocks from the start line and a fast pedal to a jump over the fence in to the coral. In a way it was a blessing, not too much time to stew. I always love the national anthem (this year sung by Dave Wiens’ son), I stripped off my vest and with the blast of the shotgun we were off. The pace from the silver coral was strong, I was geared out downhill toward St. Kevans, the dirt was fast and so was the climb. Unusually, the field felt so open, no one falling off in this group as we moved over the hill on the way to Turquoise Lake. I was pushing but still inside myself, not particularly paying attention to racing, just going.

The low spot-is the turn on the pavement at the tail end of Turquoise Lake, ironically it was also the early point where I questioned what I was doing. “why am I doing this again”? “what am I proving”? I could just get to Pipeline aid and quit. Well I could couldn’t I?….Sometimes just having the option in one’s mind is enough to get through this block, the danger though is that you slow down.

Going fast-is relative to space, memory and of course others. Heading up Sugarloaf seemed faster than before, I was passed by a couple of trains on the low gradient dirt, but once we hit the rocky road, I started passing occasionally. The crest came quickly and soon I was threading my way down Powerline, a human slalom thru the nervous hart tail skidders.   It felt smooth, fast and I am sure I passed forty people, one two, sometimes three at a time. I wondered if I looked reckless to my peers?

Realization of potential– is for me a direct correlation to confidence, but being overly confident is something I have always down played. Under promise and deliver a surprise has been my way, then only I am disappointed. Riding a nine day stage race in April changed my perspective on “hard”, in terms of what hard was anyway. Tahoe Trail and Leadville didn’t seem as “big”- I didn’t feel the same need to over plan my food, drink, split times et al. Heading down Powerline I allowed a thought, I am actually good at this, in this pace group I belong. Jumping on wheels once we hit pavement only doing one turn at the front didn’t feel like cheating, it felt like tactics. I passed Pipeline just after 8am and all of a sudden I realized that today I was faster, way faster than before.

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Friends at Twin Lakes-made all the difference. “Dude you’re flying” affirmed Andy Tuthill. A fast change of camelbacks to my light Rogue, told Andy I didn’t need my jacket and asked for help ripping off knee warmers in the now bright morning sun. It is hard to explain what it feels like to have your friends support you for these brief minutes, I just know it lifts me up and makes my legs spin a little faster. As you ride through the throngs of people at Twin Lakes, complete strangers cheer, whoop, ring cowbells and offer an experience for an amateur like Alp D’Huez on the Tour.

Columbine– comes quickly from Twin Lakes; I made the bend to the start of the road climb and was greeted with a yell of my name, “Andy”, from Mr. Dave Wiens. He sounded surprised that I was there at 9:20, but it made me pedal faster for one hundred yards. The Columbine climb is hard. The six mile road grade is shallow, but between 10,000 and 11,500ft pushing the pedals feels like a fight. It is all I have to push up at 5.5mph (Todd Wells @ 9.2mph). John McCulloch and I take turns leading and we arrive at the hard part of the climb together. Here I dismount and push for a while on the first steep rocky section above tree-line on the edge of cramps for the first time. Ken is parked in his usual spot on a quad and I yell “hi Ken”, he reminds me that “you bought that thing to ride didn’t you”, as I pushed up the hill. So I got a little further up and got on the bike and rode. I have never had the opportunity to ride so much of this climb before, always too many people walking. In this group there are good gaps and I actually rode about sixty percent, with occasional hiking on the steep stuff. Maybe it was the cold up here, or riding in oxygen debt, but my arms started to go numb, as if my forearms didn’t have blood and then my vision got a little funny too. This felt close to the edge-of something, something that I didn’t want to get too close to? The top always comes, a splash of coke and a chunk on banana and I was heading down (an hour later it would be snowing up here). On the way down you see your friends still heading to the top-Jeff, Sian, Paul and Andy all said hi and a few others that I didn’t recognize as I focused on the descent. Running in to your ascending peers would not be acceptable. The warmth as I reached the valley floor felt great- I was a cold skinny (no jacket).

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Friends again– were waiting to greet me at Twin Lakes. New pack, bottles, potatoes, egg, yogurt, peach, chain lube with a pro team of Andy, Jenny, Zander, Josh & Christine. In this moment time seemed to slow and I was so struck by how each person’s eyes told me they were invested in my success. I am lucky to have such good friends in this life. In past years I have taken my support from Scott for granted, my focus was me, today I had a new perspective.

Wind– is hard for me on the flats. The last thing that Andy reminded me was “get in a group”, the same advice I gave him the year before. As I ascended to the dirt roads to cross back over toward town- was there a group in site? Well yes there was, but about one hundred yards ahead and just out of reach for my legs. I looked around for others to make a new group and there was no one to be seen. I settled in and pushed the wind myself and ate the last of my egg. This roll back to Pipeline is deceptive; there are some short kicker climbs that seem to tap everything your legs have left. I did hook into a couple of guys here and there to share work, but mostly just waited for the aid station where I asked Zander to meet me with chamois cream.

Bad ass– has been a problem this year. That is my left sit bone has been trouble with saddle sores due to it protruding lower than my right and rubbing the saddle. I also have a pain starting in my right knee, but this sit bone is as sore as ever, getting old is tough. Chamois cream seems to help. A splash of coke and I was off to form a good group to push against the wind to the bottom of Powerline. Six guys can make good time even if they don’t work very well together.

Powerline– is the last brutal assault on your will to succeed. Fifteen hundred feet of vertical with twist turns, false flats and loose rocky challenge. I rode almost the entire climb with occasional push to avoid cramps. The top actually came remarkably quickly (thanks to the guy with the cold water and coke). Every bystander on this climb is in your camp. Food, cheer, maybe a little push, these folks that don’t know me make a lot of difference. It amazes me how my legs that felt so cooked on the flats can come back to life on this climb, after the first wash of lactic acid moves with the blood, the pain goes away and it’s just riding.

Sugarloaf– mountain crested the bike starts to roll and I flick my shock to float. I need to get home to Leadville and there are few people spread in front of me. As the bike comes up to speed I pick off one, two, three and maybe eventually ten people who are riding with care over the rocky descent from Sugarloaf. Strava tells great tales, I was only a couple of miles an hour slower than Todd Wells, 36th of 1600. Fast did seem easy here. Two thirds of the way down I saw my friend Garry (2012 finsiher at 9:30), he had come to meet me to offer encouragement and pace me up the hill to St. Kevans. Good to see a friendly face.

NZ kicks my butt– was not what I was expecting. Garry, a soft spoken Kiwi was ready to push me. He told me that I could catch that next guy, that I looked strong, that I could ride when others were walking, and performed as a perfect coach to take me into the pain cave. The last pavement ascent has been so tough in the past and his encouragement and company made that climb to St. Kevans very different. As we crested, he said “now you can rest-you’re good on the downhill”. We both flew down the other side and I got a little close to the edge on one water bar. I had visions of Garry explaining to Scott how he was with me when I went off trail at thirty mph, but it didn’t happen. With storms in the air a tricky downdraft had now created a headwind where there should be tailwind, so the last push to town seemed harder than it should, but soon I was on that last dirt road with the super low grade climb to town. I had just missed nine hours, but still on track for nine and a quarter. On this last climb, I passed a couple, got passed by a couple knowing that pavement meant I was within one mile.

Red carpet– can be seen way in the distance as you crest 6th street in Leadville. That last half mile is so easy as you spin toward the warmth of the crowd greeting and into the arms of your friends. Letting go as the finish line is crossed is relief that is hard to describe. But coupled with hugs, medals and smiling friends it can be overwhelming. This day for me is joy! Real joy, for a good day on the bike, supported by my friends, and coincidentally producing my best result so far. 9h 17m, 340th overall and 40th in my age group is a result I am proud of, 49 minutes faster than 2012. The lesson being that perseverance and patience will always produce a better result.

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Thanks– go to so many. Julie Young and O2 fitness for my training program and general life coaching, Andy, Jenny, Zander, Josh, Christine and Garry for crewing my journey this day and Scott for tolerating my training regime (I wish you could have been there). I am so honored and lucky to have such great friends in my life.

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Leadville Trail 100 w/Paul Zarubin

September 6, 2014

2014 Leadville Trail 100 Race Report

I know that you haven’t heard from me in a while, but for the last 10 months my focus has been on this one race. Leadville for me is the biggest longest Mountain Bike race that I have ever done or will ever do. It is also legendary among avid cyclists as the one race that you have to complete at least once in your lifetime. This race has attracted some of the top pros not only in mountain biking but road as well. Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, 5 time winner Dave Weins, Todd Wells, Christoph Sauser, to name a few. Along with the Bike race, a week later is the Leadville 100, and ultra marathon running race basically on the same trail.

For me, Leadville was a journey, a journey that started a year ago when I decided to enter the Tahoe 100, which was a 100k (60mile) race in my backyard at Northstar, and also happens to be a qualifier for the Leadville race. It was my first long distance race, and I did pretty good. Good enough that I earned a slot in the Leadville race and at that point I made a decision to race in the 2014 Leadville 100. And that decision was the start of a long and hard journey.

For starters my training had always been geared for 15 to 25 mile races, now I would be training to race 100 miles. Having never done that distance, I was going into some unchartered territory, but with everything I seem to do in life, the challenge of pushing beyond the ordinary, kind of aligns with my nature. My coach, Mark Redpath, designed a plan for me, and last October I started with my base training. Riding all winter down in Cool, I often would run out of daylight, and experienced dark and very cold trails wondering if the mountain lions would mistake me for prey in the dark. But I just kept reminding myself that the mental training was just as important, learning to adapt to suffering and being cold was essential when you find yourself in a hailstorm at 12,000 feet on race day.

I cannot stress the commitment level that one needs to have in order to be successful at an endurance race such as this one. I know that some are going just to complete the race, but I wanted to race it to win it and I did not want to question myself later if I failed, as to time spent in training. In fact looking at my stats, for the 10 months prior to the race I logged over 2500 miles on my bike, (not counting the stationary trainer), spent 640 hours in the saddle, climbed just under 200,000 feet, and burned 118,000 calories. Oh and I have a full time job, hence the late night rides.

I decided to do an old fashioned road trip with Lynn and get there a week early. When I left Truckee for Leadville on August 1 I felt mentally and physically prepared for this race like no other race I had ever done. But that changed as soon as we drove in to Leadville.

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Having never been to Leadville, Colorado, I did not know what to expect. The first thing that struck me, were the mountains. They just rose straight up and the tops were bare of vegetation as trees and bushes could not grow at those altitudes. The steepness was daunting. I remember my first day walking through town just feeling so small and completely intimidated. I went to the local bike shop and started asking questions and started the learning process of how to race this race. I had to put aside a lot of thoughts, like “did I bring the right tires, the right bike, enough tools?” etc… and decided to first buy a map of this course and head right out and start surveying what I had just gotten myself into.

Normally I would pre-ride the course before the race but my coach had me doing just easy spins the week before the race in order to conserve as much energy and glycogens as possible for this race. So Lynn and I jumped in the car and each day that week we would drive parts of the course. I cannot tell you how much that calmed me. Sure the mountains were still steep, but there were many flat sections and descents, as well. Slowly I started to formulate a plan in my head on how I was going to ride each section. One of the takeaways from this experience is that proper planning is the cure for anxiety. The worst thing that could happen to me would be to lose sleep worrying what could go wrong, and end up waking up on race day completely exhausted from lack of sleep. I have to say that each day another piece to the plan fell into place and each night I slept better and awoke rested.

The next step in the plan was to develop the crew plan. You can only carry so much food and drink so you need to be able to replenish your supplies. The race promoters do provide food and water at various locations, but I wanted the luxury of having my own nutrition during the ride to insure that my stomach would not be bothered by something that it is not used to. The first thing we learned, is that with 1700 competitors and if they each bring 3 man crews, that means that there could be 5,000 highly energetic fans lining the trail. How in the world would I be able to pick out my crew from the 1,000’s? To solve that, we had an ingenious idea. We would get some sections of pvc, drive a piece of rebar into the ground and hang a very unique flag to the top and slip the pvc over the rebar, and also to roll a piece of red carpet in front of my crew so I would be able to find them both looking up or down. Second we scouted the 5 allowable crew locations and decided on the furthest one that was historically the least occupied. It happened to be at the base of the biggest climb on the course about 43 miles into the race. On the way back it would be at the 57 mile mark. So again developing race strategy, I would drop my camelback here and climb the 7 miles with only a water bottle, 1 gu packet, and a rice cake. This would take pounds off my back and make me the lightest for the climb to 12,600 ft. Because of the harsh conditions at that altitude, I would also be able to grab a rain jacket here if the skies looked threatening, and not have to pack the extra weight for the entire race. Plus on the way back, I would be able to grab a full camelback, more food and dump jackets if needed to complete the remaining 43 miles. Now my plan was really coming together and I started to feel really relaxed.

The final step to doing an endurance race is to have your nutrition down. This cannot be done the week before the race. It took me 3 months to develop a feeding plan that worked on the run and did not leave me feeling sick or bloated. Stopping to eat at a feed zone wastes valuable time and you are at the mercy of the available food and how it was prepared. To me their feed zones were a last resort stop only. In my 8 hour race earlier in the year, I stopped every 12 miles to re-fuel and it ended up costing me 12 minutes, I still won but the point is that if you carry your food, you can save precious minutes in a race where 5 minutes could determine the win. My coach recommended a book entitled “Feed Zone Portables”. The best investment I could have ever made. I learned so much about nutrition, actually more than I cared to know, but the bottom line is this. You need to learn how many calories you expect to burn and replace them as you ride not after you burn them. Second you need to understand that salt and sugar are essential to survival and your food needs to contain enough salt and carbs or you will bonk and not finish. Third is hydration. Racing as long as I have I know that at full throttle I need to consume 16 oz of water mixed with electrolytes every hour. For this race I would need a very minimum of 152 oz. Most camelbacks will handle 70 oz so with a spare bottle on my cage, that would mean swapping camelbacks once during the race. For my food I tried many of the recipes and settled on a coconut blueberry chocolate rice cake. One rice cake was about half the size of a Cliff bar, could be consumed in about 4 bites and provide 290 calories and all the salt and carbs to sustain me for an hour. I would alternate the next 30 minutes with a gu gel, and 30 minutes later with a rice cake. This worked extremely well for me, no sick stomach and no bonk. The most interesting fact that I pulled from the book was that eating a dry bar actually dehydrates you as your stomach will pull water out of your bloodstream in order to digest the bar because bars have less than 10% water content. My rice cakes had 60% water content. I was also able to use fresh organic ingredients and my cakes were made the day before the race. I will never race with dry bars again. The book even had some foil origami that was used to wrap the rice cakes so that I could unwrap them with one hand while pedaling.

Along with all the prep that went into the race I cannot stress that the final key was to prepare for the extremely high altitude. The race starts at 10,200 with the high point at 12,600. Even though I live at altitude, it is only 6,000 feet and my plan to adjust was to drive out a week early and stay with a friend at Breckenridge, whose house was at 10,500. There was an old railroad grade that climbed from near his house up to Boreas pass on the Continental Divide at 11,482. It was perfect for doing my easy 1 hour spins that week. But one day I found out how volatile the weather was and got caught in a lightning and hail storm above tree line in a matter of just minutes. Lightning was crashing down around me and the hail came down so hard, I thought my skin was going to get punctured. I quickly dove under a bush until it cleared and then rode back down. I was so chilled I almost got hypothermia, and could not ride fast enough to overcome the chill. It was an important lesson for me to learn, they weren’t kidding about not climbing to tree line without appropriate clothing.

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Finally with all the preparation and training, I was ready. We stayed in Leadville the night before the race and I slept like a baby. I awoke at 4:30, had breakfast, coffee, and my morning rituals and felt great. My crew was my son Ryan and my wife Lynn and they were excited for me. I rolled out did my warmups and met them at the start line. I could not believe the crowds gathered that morning. 1700 racers had qualified, probably 1500 showed up. The entire town and friends and family must have added another 5,000 people to the crowded street. It was 6:30 am when the shotgun sounded, and looking back at my computer the early morning temperature was 45 F but I was not cold with the adrenaline running through my veins I was excited to get this started. The police escorted us through the paved streets from the center of town in a race neutral position, which meant that we could not pass until we hit the dirt. The course actually has a gentle descent to 9800 ft before we hit the first climb. It was really hard to hold back on this first climb, but one of my race strategies was to really watch my heart rate for the first climb. When you taper your training, your body is refreshed and strong. It is only natural to feel unusually strong and the tendency is to ride hard. Problem is that all the extra stores of energy in your muscles can be quickly depleted and then you bonk and risk not finishing. So I hung back patiently. Of course there is no way of knowing who was in your age group we were shoulder to shoulder hundreds of riders, I just did not want to get taken out. As we climbed even at a moderate pace, I started passing riders. And many passed me. We climbed about 1,000 feet in 50 minutes and popped out on a paved road descent. I managed to tuck in behind a local that I had met at the local bike shop and was able to hit my top speed of 41 mph. Then at the bottom, we made a sharp right turn onto dirt and began the climb up to the top of power line. This is a famous landmark of the Leadville course. You can see the scar from miles away where the power line was carved into the mountain. It is steep and relentless, but more on that later. The initial climb to the top is on a moderate grade fire road. This is another 1,000 foot climb that I did in about 36 minutes. I am now feeling strong and excited with my time so far. Finally we get to the top and begin the descent. It is literally a straight line down right under the power line. I loved it, super technical and really separated the road riders from the mountain bikers. I passed a couple dozen people making great time, 8 miles in 20 minutes. The next 20 miles was fairly flat and boring. It was important to hang with a group of riders to work together much like a peloton does on the road. At this point of the race I was on track to break 9 hours, which would have been an incredible accomplishment for me. But I still had no idea what was ahead.

At 3 hours and 15 minutes into the race I hit my rest stop. I have to say in all honesty that I had the best crew there. It was like having a pit crew from the Indy 500 Lynn and Ryan knew exactly what to do each doing a different chore. I dumped the camelback, Lynn fed me the sports legs pills, Ryan swapped my water bottle and loaded the food into my jersey pocket. Because the skies were still blue Ryan told me to go without a jacket and I was off. This would be the climb to the top of Columbine Mine. We were going to climb 2900 feet in 9 miles, to the highest point on the course. It started off great. I was staying with the group that I had been with basically from the beginning. In fact about 5 miles into the climb, I felt great and had not seen any of the lead riders coming down. This course was an out and back and the top of Columbine was the halfway point. We were on a smooth fire road and although there was plenty of room for 2 way traffic here, I knew that higher up it would get tight and there would be a danger of a head-on with riders descending. Mile 45 and I still did not see any leaders. I kept thinking to myself, am I really only 5 miles behind the race leaders in a 100 mile race. I was on track to do great. Then suddenly we heard the yell “rider up” the first descender, man was he flying. I think it was Sauser. It was scary to be so close to them. Finally we hit the tree line and I knew we had 3 miles to go to the top. Then the wheels came off, or rather I came off the wheels. The trail had gotten so steep that no one could ride it, or at least because there were so many walking, there was no room to pass without endangering the descenders. I literally walked the next 3 miles. It was awfull. Now the altitude was affecting me and there was nothing I could do. No one passed me, I passed a couple guys who had to stop. I just knew to not give up and to keep climbing and get back down as quick as I could. Finally I made it to the top, but I had taken too long to climb. I was at the halfway mark at 4 hours and 50 minutes and would have to fight hard to get back on a 9 hour pace. I began the descent and it was scary with so many people coming up at me. For some reason, I was losing control a little on my turns and felt real sketchy. I looked down and sure enough my front tire was losing air. Because I run tubeless, I decided to not stop and get down as fast as I could to my crew that had a pump. We use a sealant in the tire so usually you only need to pump it up and go and it would normally seal. Hence my top speed on the descent was only 29mph, so I was not making up enough time. As soon as I hit the stop, again my awesome crew had me fueled, tire pumped up, chain oiled, food and water on board and I was off to complete the final 43 miles.

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Coming back I remembered to not get caught alone on the flat sections as now we had a strong headwind. So the whole key was to get with some guys and draft our way back. Going through Twin Lakes there must have been 1,000 people crew and spectators cheering us on, it was like that every where, people out of nowhere would appear and cheer you on, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced, it was just like being on the Tour de France. Anyway instead of waiting for guys, I pushed hard and caught up to guys in front. We attacked the Goat trail, a short singletrack climb, I think the only singletrack on the entire course and then we popped out on a flat fire road. We were completely exposed and I started talking to my fellow riders and convinced them to work together. I just wasn’t going to wait. There were times that I felt like I was going to get dropped but then around mile 60 I just had a burst of energy and took the lead. By now our large group was down to about 4 riders and I kept encouraging them to stay strong. I told this one young man how awesome he was doing and thanked him for helping, he said “no I don’t feel strong, you are the strong one today.” That gave me a ton of confidence, then we hit pavement and made a sharp left turn and I felt my whole front tire wash out. Flat again. I stopped, pulled out my C02 inflated the tire and was off. Again hoping the seal would hold, I had another C02 and I was gambling that at the rate I was losing air I should be able to make it back with only one more re-fill. Fortunately we had just gotten out of the exposed roads and back into the forest where the wind was blocked by trees, where being alone was not a bad thing. Looking at my time I knew that breaking 9 hours was probably not going to happen but my original goal of 9.5 hours was still attainable.

The 78 mile mark brought me back to the base of power line and I have to tell you this was the climb from hell. I was pretty much alone but looking up I could see miles of people walking their bikes. The very first climb I had to walk, it was that steep. I was getting really angry at this course I love climbing, but hate walking. I really did not have feelings of quitting, I just wanted this to be over. I climbed/walked 1365 feet of altitude in 50 minutes, still on track to get 9.5 hours. You see the key to this race mentally is to race the clock not people. If you set a goal, stick to it and the podium won’t matter. I knew that if I could break 9 hours I could win, 9.5 hours would probably put me in the top 5, based on past results. So now it was time to descend and I did my best to make up for all the walking. But with a slow leak, I probably erred on the side of caution and used more brake than I cared to. Again, I was only able to hit 29 mph.

The next climb was on paved road and there was a rest stop at the top before the final descent. I remember hitting the 88 mile mark here at 8 hours and thinking that I just surpassed my longest race. I was starting to get tired as I entered this uncharted territory. Then I got passed by some guy and I tried hard to fight to get back on his wheel but could not, I had to let him go remembering that I am racing the clock. I kept a steady pace and actually did catch him at the rest stop, but had to get my tire pumped back up. Luckily they had a pump, but not being my crew it took about a minute and a half. I grabbed some drink and took off onto the final descent. Once at the bottom, I could only think of the finish line, but as close as I was, this section was perhaps the most discouraging.

As I hit the bottom and started the climb back to town, my computer hit 100 miles. I still had 3 miles and 430 feet to climb. I was mad. I was thinking that is a cheap shot, tell a guy it is a 100 mile race, completely demoralize him on the final 2 climbs and then just when he thinks he is done, add 3 more miles and 430 feet of climbing. I had no choice but to use my anger to turn the pedals over. Now I was in danger of not making the 9.5 hour goal. But then a rider came up and we worked together and I have to tell you he really helped me get through those final miles of discouragement. Then as I turned on to pavement my son Ryan was there to greet me and cheer me on as he ran along side of me, it was very emotional for me. Finally I crested the final hill and could see the finish line. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I rode down the paved road and there were lots of cheering fans bringing me home. It was worth it. I did it. I crossed the finish rode to Lynn and collapsed on my bars. Done, finished, end of a chapter, bucket list checked off.

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Oh and my time? How about 9 hours and 27 minutes in 103.5 miles!! Not bad for a 60 year old. Overall I finished 4th in my age group out of 56, with only 38 completing the race. Out of 1100 male finishers overall, I was 378th, again not too shabby. Most important I earned the iconic Leadville Belt Buckle for finishing under the 12 hour mark. Could I have done better, will I do it again? Maybe and no I just want to take a year and not train every day.

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What I learned about this race, is that in training for it, it was always about me. When I arrived to Leadville and first saw the mountains and how the anxiety took over me for a day, I realized how really small I was. Then I met so many people and their inspirational stories, I was humbled. Yes I am proud of my accomplishment but it pales in comparison to people like our Wounded Warriors riding without all of their limbs, others who have overcome cancer, and still others racing in memory of those who are fighting and those who have lost their battles. The greatest memory that I have about this race, are the individuals who came here from all over the world and the story of what brought them here. This race is about not giving up, no matter what, the founder of this race stresses that over and over. My story is pretty trivial when compared to others. I don’t regret doing this race, I learned a lot about myself but more importantly Lynn, Ryan, and I were blessed to have met so many wonderful people and able to share their stories, both heartaches and triumphs. Leadville called, we rose to the challenge, and I believe that we are better for it.

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Paul Zarubin