Wednesday, August 17, 2005

LEADVILLE 100 - take 2

The Ken Frankenbery LT100 Story

Well that seems to be the question everyone asks. After almost killing me last year, (and right after the race swearing I would never ever do this race again) why go back? A couple of reasons.

1. The Leadville 100 is the best supported-most organized race I have ever done. The town is 100% behind the race. From the time you get into town, to the time you leave-people are super. Last year while coming into town at the end of the race, (In a near death state), an older women cutting Her grass, stopped to cheer me on! - The Vibe for this race is awesome. The people who put it on are super. Plus the town and area are beautiful. From the old restored buildings downtown, to the gorgeous mountains and forest, it’s an outdoor persons dream. The more time I spend there, the more I fall in love with the town. That and a chance to spend 2 weeks in Colorado, where big factors

2. Even though I finished last year, after some reflection, I felt if I was better prepared, I could do much better. The whole race just left a bad taste in my mouth (and I don’t mean from getting sick and throwing up at mile 70) I just felt like my finish position (296 out of 750), or my time (11.02), was a reflection of what I was capable of .I wanted to leave Leadville knowing I gave it my best.

After talking with Kevin, he also had some unresolved issues. He finished in 9.45, and those familiar with the race know that of the 750 people who start the race, only a little over ½ finish. Those who do, get a Silver Belt buckle. But those few that can do it under 9 hours get a huge Gold Buckle. Kevin felt with what we learned last year, He wanted to go back and get a coveted Gold Buckle.

So it was on! The crew this year was Karen-Randy-Brenda & Kevin. Kevin’s family and Connie would drive out and meet us.


Last year we spent two weeks getting used to the altitude in Colorado before the race, and besides having a great 2 week vacation, it seemed to help us adapt to the altitude (well as much as people who lives at Sea Level can adapt).

So this year we had the same plan, but try to visit a different part of Colorado-while working our way up in elevation...

We started in Colorado Springs- a neat town, but no Boulder (Boulder is one of my favorite spots- very bike friendly-clean –a must see place for bikers). We did a couple neat rides around Colorado Springs, best was a 15-mile loop around Rampart Reservoir just west of Colorado Springs, it was like riding on the buckeye trail (not that I would ever do that!), with great views.

A trip to the U.S. Olympic center, some cool hiking, exploring some old caves, a drive up to Pikes Peak and checking out the city made several days fly by.

Our next stop was at Cannon City, where we got a great view of the “Great Gorge”
After, we drove to Salida Colorado- a cool little town, kind of like Moab Utah. Some awesome rides in the area, but so many to choose from it was hard to pick just one. We ended up doing part of the Colorado trail, where it follows The Continental Divide trail. We had Karen drive us up to Monarch Pass- about 12 thousand feet, where we caught the trail, and rode it just past Marshall Pass, not far from Salida. It was some of the best single track I have ridden, with awesome views as you rode across the top of the continental divide. The trail would drop down, and every few miles duck in deep Aspen forests, rock gardens, this trail had it all.

Then after about 16 miles, we start descending. This stretch was non- stop rocks and jumps at 40 mph!

We fit in a couple great hikes, Mt Lincoln & Mt Elbert – 2- 14 thousand footers which are adjacent to each other (And a lesson that even on cloudy cool days at 14 thousand feet you need sun tan lotion! Ouch! The back of Kevin’s neck was glowing red) Karen and Brenda did a great job on the hike, soldering up to near 14 thousand!

I love the people in Colorado- very into the outdoor life style-in general most people you meet are super nice.

Interesting billboard in a shop in Salida

“At Least when Clinton Lied-Nobody Died!!”

Amen is all I will say to that.

It was hard to leave Salida- I defiantly want to stop back there, but it was time to head up to over 10,000 feet-Leadville!


Cool town-lots of restored old homes and buildings. Neat restaurants, coffee shops and stores (if you ever go there go to Melanzana’s outdoor clothing store-they make there own clothing right in the shop). Then just 2 miles from Main Street, great forests, mountains and awesome views.

A couple days of short hikes, check out some local mines, take the Railroad tour, drive over to Aspen and of course ride parts of the racecourse each day. It was tough not to ride too much, but one lesson I learned last year, a race like Leadville demands you rest up for weeks in advance, you will need everything you have.

The weather leading up to the race was ugly. Rain everyday, cool temperatures (In the 30’s at night and some days not hitting much over 60) Anyone who has been out west knows when it rains, it not like when it rains in Ohio- storms come up fast, the temperature drops even faster. This is another factor in making Leadville so tough-last year race started at 630am it was 35 degree’s; by noon it was in the 80’s. In the past, people have been pulled off the course with hypothermia. I will never forget talking to Jim Olander (Who had been out to Leadville twice) before I went, and I asked Him what kind of gear I should bring for the race- His reply was fast and accurate- bring everything you got, cold weather gear, rain suits, cut off jersey’s sun tan lotion, lots of gloves (winter –and summer) and be ready you could use everything in one day!

The Race

The forecast looked cool and wet. But at 5am, it was a not so bad, 42-degree’s. We got there early to get a decent starting spot (it’s first come and people are there before 5am- the race starts at 630) Kevin wanted to get a spot up front; I went a few rows behind him.

The start was worse than normal. For anyone who has done large road races, you know how scary a tight pack of 100’s of riders can be. Well imagine 750 mountain bike racers, starting down hill in a pack, going down a curvy paved road, with several 90-degree turns. At 40 mph.

We did not go 500 yards before the first crash. I heard tires screech, and the sound of metal on the road just behind me, the first pile up. Another mile down the road and I see a bike flipping in the air, 2 guys had touched wheels and went down hard.

We hit the dirt, and the top 50 guys go at an all out sprint to get away from the crowd, Kevin is with them. I back off a hair, I want to be near the front, but do not want to spend all my quarters-this is a long race and I want to try to pace myself this year.

Things go well up first climb, down St Kevin’s, and threw Hagerman pass. We hit the top of The power line, and I am totally focused. This is the toughest downhill on the course. Ruts, rocks, on a downhill that’s over 5 miles straight down! I pick off several people, take some big time chances, but end up picking up several places and feel great. I hook up with a few people and we do a pace line to first check point. I hit it at 2.00, and this year, no stopping. Karen hands me a new water bottle, and I am off. I hook up with 3 guys and we work all the way to the next rest stop. I am feeling great, and way ahead of last year. I grab a camel back (it looks like rain, so I play it safe take a jacket & extra gloves), and am off to the toughest climb-Columbine- 3000 feet of climbing. It’s just as brutal as last year, and I go back in forth thinking I feel 100% better than last year, to thinking why the heck am I doing this? If my job were this hard I would have quit years ago. A few guys pass me, but I am doing well. Just a ¼ mile from the summit, Kevin pass’s me going down. I feel great, counting the riders going down, I know he is in top 60, and I am not far behind. At the top I am in 107 place, more important right on my goal time of 4.50 and unlike most others I do not stop. There are storm clouds, its 25-degree’s colder, no oxygen (its almost 13,000 feet at the top), and all I want to do is get down. As I start down (the top is super rocky and steep), I look at my watch and think this is it- if I am going to do well; I need to take some chances. I let it rip, and start picking off riders left and right. I know I am on the edge, but keep it going. When I get to the bottom, a few guys get me back on the flats over to check point 3, but I pick up several places from the summit-worth the risks! I ride alone, and hit check point 3 at 6.24, over 45 minute’s better than last year, and 20 minutes ahead of my goal time. I just grab a bottle, look back and rain clouds are coming! I am at checkpoint 4 at 6.24, almost an hour ahead of last year. Karen tells me Kevin is 16 minutes ahead, and looking good- I am happy, I have no illusion of beating him, (Just His time He set last year), I want to see Him get the Gold!

At mile 80, we hit the power line. What was a killer downhill is now a hike a bike straight up for 5 miles! I make it, and at the top lightning strikes off in the distance, and thunder booms threw the valley’s- this is not looking good! I look at time, 12 miles to go, and one more big climb up the Hagerman pass- I am starting to hurt bad, but keep a good pace going, maybe 2 people pass me. I hit the top of St Kevin’s and still no rain, I again take some big chances on the downhill, pass 2-3 guys and hit the bottom with only 5 miles to go. I am at 8 hours 50 minutes, and it hits me, I am not going to make 9 hours, but darn close- I realize now that I will beat my goal (9hours 45 minutes), and I start to get kind of emotional. That’s one of the things that’s hard to explain to people about races like this. You go threw the gamete on emotions. There were times going up the power line climb, where I was pushing my bike for miles, I just wanted to pull over and curl in a ball and lay there. There were times flying down the hills, passing people, I felt a high no drug could ever produce-I felt like super man. Then there’s the other riders-you push side by side with people, both suffering in silence, maybe a word here or there, and you suddenly feel a bond with people you don’t even know. A sense of being part of something that’s bigger than you. You notice the smallest details, yet at times you’re so focused on the job at hand you don’t notice the obvious. It’s something you carry with you for years- I remember driving my car down the freeway, months after last years race, and getting a flashback about the race- it’s something that you just can’t explain, but it carries into every aspect of your life. I can think of several times, things getting tough, and I would think, compared to the pain and agony I suffered at Leadville-this is nothing. Sounds corny I know, but when you talk to people who have done the race, they say the same thing.

I am pushing it for all I have now, but the guys I passed on downhill get me, plus a couple others. The clouds let out a couple drizzle’s, but for some reason it is not raining, its raining a; around us, but not on us- I can see the rain as I start the uphill into town, and at 102 miles (the actual mileage to the race is 103.5), I start to come unglued. The hill into town is not that big, but I am in the little chain ring, weaving bad, back and forth just to keep moving forward. I am starting to see black spots. I have to stand and pedal to make the last grade, and it takes everything out of me. As I cross the finish line, Karen is there- She starts to take my bike, and the next thing I know, I am on the ground with people around me yelling to not try to get up (Get up, Hell I don’t even know where I am or who I am!!). I fade in and out, and next thing I recall Kevin’s dad is caring me off the road to sit out of the way. When I crossed the line, I blacked out, I hit pretty hard (road rash on my side, knot on my knee), I can’t believe I make 100+ miles of pure hell without a scratch, then get hurt at the finish line in front of hundreds of people!

As I start to come around, I see Kevin, and know by the look on His face, He made it under 9 hours-I ask, He nods, great job, He is one of the top “ Non Colorado” riders in the race and gets the Gold!! I was in at 9.21.

We pick up our awards on Sunday; an awesome awards presentation, with some great stories from the race.


Kevin made His goal, and with a new family (He and His new Son Landon went together to get His awards it was great!), He most likely will not be back to Leadville for a few years (Plans to win the tandem title as a father son duo are in the works)

For me, I feel like I am leaving Leadville having met my goal, I posted a time I am proud of and if I never go back, I will feel like I had a life experience many never get to do.

But, there is that matter of the Gold Belt Buckle?????


RaceTeam said...

Sweet write up! WELL DONE!
- Kevin

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