Leadville Day 3: Truth

Today was my third day in Leadville and I discovered a truth. I have to tell you all about it, because it is probably affecting you all. Well at least those of you who ride or run…with a Garmin.

Yes, I have discovered a truth about Garmins. They do not calculate the grade correctly and what is more shocking is they get worse the higher you go.

Today I was riding back into town at the end of my ride (Yeah intervals!) and its up hill (Seriously how else would you end a 103.7 mile race with 12k of climbing but up hill???). I knew this from my first couple of rides. But it struck me today when the Garmin said I was on a 2% grade, and I was breathing heavy. The Garmin was not correct in the grade. Clearly for the effort I was putting out this was a 4 or 5% grade. Here is the truth I learned:


Nope this whole lack of oxygen thing is not the problem. Clearly some joker at Garmin programed that little thing to under-report the grade when you get to 10,000ft. I suspect they did this because they through it was a funny. Well it’s not funny! I want the real grade not the altitude compensated grade. I may have to figure out how to hack my Garmin to fix it…. Be warned everyone, be warned!

Thoughts for the day:

1. Better again today. Had best day pace wise. Not a lot of climbing, but I felt good with my pace.

2. I miss my family and wish they were here. They are coming next Wednesday. This is the longest I have ever been apart from my wife.

Picture of the day:


This picture is from downtown Leadville. I picked it not because of the funeral home/race dying thing, but because of my son (to whom this is dedicated)….. Bailey.


Leadville Day 2: Acclimating

My ride on Day 1 of my trip to Leadville, well it sucked. It sucked as bad as any ride I have done in a long long time. And it lead to a mental war.

The intellectual part of my brain said: ” You are tired from traveling. and It’s DAY 1 AT ALTITUDE. Give yourself a break. You will be OK.”

The emotional part of my brain said: “Holy crap you are in trouble buddy. This is going to be a SUCKFEST.”

Intellectual me put up a good fight and I went to bed last night a little unsettled, but mostly OK.

I woke up this morning (after 8 hours of sleep) and I felt, well, just better. Better all around. Physically better and more confident. Time for some breakfast and then off to a 2 hour “easy” ride.

This is what greets you on the way into town:


(And its there, lest you forget 10,200 ft, and the course goes up from there.)

Before the ride I stopped at the Leadville store and met some of the people I knew from the Leadville Yahoo group page. Then I went biking. For the first time in a while I had someone to ride with. Steven, from Glasgow, now living in Denver, and is…wait for it… doing the Leadman competition. (If you don’t know Leadman, google it. It makes me look completely sane.) Steven was on a Fatbike. (Hear that Chris???!!!) An awkward looking thing with a cult like following.

Steven and I rode start to St. Kevans. My plan was to get up to the top and then bomb back down. Putter around and go home. Steven was going to do the first two climbs.

I was feeling better from the start. And I knew it. I felt it. When we got to the climb I geared down and climbed up. It’s a good climb. Moderately long. moderately steep, very rough in places. I really understand now why it backs up here during the race (and why some people walk). There are not many lines up this hill.  (Stay at an edge on race day Doug).

I ended up walking one short section. My heart rate crept into zone 4 (a no no right now) and so I did the smart thing, got off my bike, walked a little bit, and got my HR back down.

Steven caught up to me shortly after that (I also made a wrong turn and had to back track) and we rode the rest of the way up together. We were passed at the top by a group of sub-9 hour guys. Holy crap they were fast. Anyway, Steven abandoned his idea to do the second climb and bombed down the backside of St. Kevans. I followed my plan and bombed back down the side we just climbed. I wanted to see it the other direction and the down on the backside is paved, so really nothing to learn there. Steven and I split up.

The down was fun but you really need to have some care. Some of the water channels across the trail are very deep in places (think about a 2.5 ft deep channel cut out of the road).

After that it was a little putzing around. I ended up at Turquoise Lake:


By the dam:


I decided to ride the Boulevard back to town (the official ending of the course). Just for kicks they add a different section on the way back into town. It had a 100 yard section that is steep and babyheaded up. The rest was not so bad.

At the end of the ride I felt pretty good, way better than yesterday.

I talked to Drew today and he reminded me that I will have about 85% of my power here no matter what. No matter how long I am here. Just get used to it.

Thoughts for the day:

1. I’m not at 85% yet, but I will be by next weekend.

2. It’s funny to be biking like I was last summer (hello granny gear, you and I are going to spend a lot of time together next week) all of a sudden. Wonder what would have happened last summer…….

3. It’s going to be OK.

Picture of the day. After leaving Turquoise Lake looking towards the mountains.


Leadville Day 1: Base Camp

Traveling to Leadville was both better and worse than I expected. Worse because it involved mechanical issues on planes, cancelled flights, re-routing, and an arrival 8 hours later than I had hoped. But I eventually I got here. It was better than I expected because even with all of that my bike and bag both showed up in CO along with me. When I got in (after two hours of driving, which came after 12 hours of traveling via airplane), I hit the bed and that was pretty much it.

In the morning I woke up to investigate what Team Bohl HQ looked like. This is the cabin:


And here is the oh so terrible view from the front porch:


It’s rough but I will take this one for the team.

Then it was time to get Worm all back together, I mean he won’t go anywhere like this:


But like I said, he arrived in good shape and soon was ridable:


Today’s training instructions (now that Drew and I were on the same page for this week) were 1.5 hours, EASY. Let the body adjust. So I biked the first 8 miles of the Leadville course (town to the base of St. Kevan’s). I rode up St. Kevan’s just a little bit. I wasn’t alone:


It’s a lot narrower than I had expected. They have been having a lot of rain out here and so the dirt roads are in really rough shape.

My bike ride ended with two trips through what will be the finish line (hey I needed to get 5 more minutes in, so I went around a second time).

Day 1 ended with shopping for food (stocking HQ), and some work work. Getting tired and ready to hit the sack.

Thoughts for the day:

1. 10,000 ft is pretty high and I could feel the altitude.

2. BUT that’s why I am here now. To get acclimated. Its going to be harder than back at home, but I knew that. Today was a good reality check.


This week two things happened/are happening that have brought the Leadville madness into a clear reality. One that is staring me right in the face.

On Tuesday the rest of my training schedule was filled in. The rest of it. All of it. It ends on August 11.

August 10 2013: Leadville 100

Warm up 20-30 minutes including 3-5 x 30 second race pace build ups. Take 2 minutes rest between each. Show up to the line 10 minutes before your start. Race smart, good nutrition, smart pacing, and be patient.

August 11 2013

Relax. Off Day

And that’s it. After that there are a lot of blank days. Holy poop, Leadville in on my calendar. I know exactly what I am doing between now and then. And it is no longer some “concept” sitting out in space. I spent a lot of time Tuesday night thinking about the race and everything. The funniest thing (after I stopped hyperventilating) was that  I felt a little like the guy in this commercial:

The saving grace has been the other thing that is happening this week. I’ve been in a mad rush to get my work life under control and to get packed. I have two grad students who are doing field work in Syracuse who I have been trying to help. I have an undergrad who is in my lab who I am trying to mentor. And I have a couple of other grad students who are in my lab that I am also trying to keep on track. Its been a week. I think I have my bike stuff under control. Just need to take my bike apart a little bit and put it in the bag. (Note to self, don’t forget to deflate the tires Doug.) Then its time to pack other equipment: clothes, tools, food/nutrition, etc. I like having a lot to do right now. It keep me from thinking too much about stuff like this:

Or the reverse (going up Powerline)…..or going up Columbine….or going down Columbine…..

15 days to Leadville (that would be two weeks from tomorrow)

At least I won’t be alone.


Ferrari vs Landrover

This summer I have spent a bunch of time on my “Landrover” bike (Worm) riding dirt, riding single track, even riding road. I think I could count on 1 hand the number of times I have been on my road bike. (Yep. 4 times. I just counted.)

Today’s training ride: 4 hour Tempo: 30 minutes zone 1-2 to warm up. Then 1.5 hours at zone 3. Rest at zone 2 with most time spent in zone 2.

What does that mean? Well zone 3 is about half way between easy and time trial. That’s where a pro would ride “lightly”. That’s close to the top end of where regular people ride “hard” for extended time. I had a route in mind for this one. The road out of town that goes into the mountains goes 36 miles from town till it ends. It climbs about 2000 ft over those  36 miles (which if basically flat compared to what I have been riding). Its a traditional basic out and back trip here.

It was time to dust off the road bike for this one. Time to bring out the Ferrari.

I have really gotten into riding my mtb this summer. I love riding trails and riding jeep track through the woods. There are fewer cars, its quieter, its relaxing (well except for the whole endo thing. the scabs on my legs and arms are doing well, thank you very much). Today I was reminded that I do like my road bike too.

Frank, my road bike, is a steel Italian framed bike. Its made out of Reynolds ultra think steel tubes and weighs about 17 lbs. Not super light by road standards, but way lighter than my 23 lb mtb.

Here is the thing. That bike is snappy and responsive. I got to the first real hill (right where I needed to go zone 3), stood up and the bike accelerated up the hill. Then Frank and I kept going. We hammered the ups. We hammered the downs. We hammered the flats. And when we got to the top, we had a 19.5 mph average. Post processing the data (I am an engineer after all and love data) showed that I had a 20 mph average when I was in the zone 3 tempo phase (taking away the 30 minute warm-up).

It was a fun ride. It was fun to be able to go hard (and be able to maintain it). It was fun to go fast. I know that the difference in speed was due to the bike. But sometimes its fun to pull the Ferarri out and let it rip.

Authors note: It took me 1:45 to go from my house to the end of the out. Even with the 30 minutes of warm up (where I was not going very hard at all) I beat my old best time by 15 minutes. 16 Days to Leadville.

Last Long Ride

In April of 2012 (one year ago) I rode the Wilmington Whiteface 100k course for the first time. My goal was to ride it easy and just learn the course. What I learned on that ride was that my training pace and my race pace were basically the same thing. It was all I could do to get up the climbs. I walked a lot that day.

Saturday I had my last long ride before Leadville and this was the profile:

last long ride

That boys and girls is about 10,000ft of climbing in a 70 mile bike ride. The first 50 miles are the Wilmington Whiteface 100 course. The last 20 miles are the road to the top of Whiteface Mountain on the Memorial Highway.

Let me start with what I learned on the Wilmington course:

1. I now have more than one speed that I can go up climbs. I can comfortably ride my bike up a 15% grade, not go into my smallest gear, and not blow myself up. (Or I can ride it much faster.) I now have a comfortable riding pace for some pretty steep trails.

2. I can ride my bike up a 25% grade gravel/loose dirt road. Its not easy, and I really have to work to keep my bike under control, but I can do it.

The last 20 miles of this ride is a 8 mile, 3500 ft climb on a paved road to the top of Whiteface Mountain. I wanted to try this climb because it is the longest climb I have ever tried (and it turns out the Columbine climb is about that long, with about that much gain. There are a lot of other differences, but its the best I can do). That climb is uniquely brutal. It is a constant 10% grade climb. And when I say constant I mean it is absolutely constant. It never deviates. It never gets harder or easier. Its 10% for 8 miles. I have never been on a hill like that before.

Here’s the deal. I climbed it, with a 25 mph head wind, after riding 50 miles.

I’ve come a long way.

But there is still a long way to go. 20 days to Leadville.


My writing has been a little slow last week and this week. There are a couple of things going on. I mean how many times can you write about riding up Whitehill Road? (Even if you are doing it as an intervals and are are on your 4th trip up.) Don’t worry. I’ve been grinding out the miles and hours. The other thing is that I have been working and doing family stuff. That has felt good. This weekend we are going camping with friends. Part of me would like to be home, but it will also be fun to be with my friends and family sitting by a fire next to a lake. Of course Saturday I get to disappear for the day so I can do a 6.5 hour ride. (That ride will be epic. Right now the plan is to end with a climb to the top of Whiteface. Its paved but the climb is 3500 ft and 8 miles long).

In some ways I feel like I am starting to transition out of the Leadville madness back into “regular” life. I feel like that is a good thing. I’ve been wondering what Monday August 12 will be like with this behind me (one way or another). I’m looking forward to going riding with my friends and pulling Jen around the local roads. I’m looking forward to waking up and riding however I want to that day. Maybe a little single track, maybe a quick ride out to Higley, maybe up Whitehill Road (but only once ;))

I had some people comment to me this winter about needing to find a “middle path”. Ironically that was said to me by different people, but with basically that same language. Its strange language but seems appropriate. It’s a path that balances out my life better. (You know a path that doesn’t require a helmet all the time!) The balance is a little out of whack right now. I think finding that path will be one of my goals this fall. I also want to keep and extend my fitness level (I have worked hard for it). I think I can do that and still find a good balance.

I have ideas for what I want to do bike wise next year, but that’s for later. Right now its still full speed ahead.

22 days to Leadville.