Leadville: Party in the High Country

A very happy moment for me & my friend Reba

Support Crew

Me & two of my favorite support crewers

My training thus far this summer had been focused on the Wulong Mountain Quest Adventure Race happening in China in early September. This training includes a mix of running, paddling, biking, and just plain suffering. If you can imagine being on the tail end of a tow rope pulled by Jay Henry or Travis Macy, you would understand the need to suffer endlessly in training so that at least you would be used to it by the time you are getting dragged around the mountains of China. At any rate, my desire to get out and play with the fast girls got the better of me and I decided to get in some serious miles before the showdown.

I dusted off the road bike which rarely gets used once the trails are dry here in high country. I was amazed at the response in the legs after just a few long rides on the road bike. I’m no scientist, but there is something to that muscle memory thing. My boyfriend Cannon was also happy to go out and kick my arse on a some sweet, epic mountain bike rides…he is good like that, straight off the couch. This combined with a couple of shorter marathon races including the CB Fat Tire 40 and the Laramie Enduro all contributed to preparation for the big day in Leadville.

To back up a bit here, I have done the Leadville race before back in 2007. I turned up that year without having pre-ridden the course, stopping at every aid station (and then some) and no real plan other than to break 8:30. I ended up just 7 minutes off of the women’s record of 7:58 set by Laurie Brandt in 1997. This has eaten at me since thinking if could plan a bit better, I could break that long-standing record. In the meantime, Rebecca showed up and shattered Laurie’s record by 11 minutes. So now, there was a newer, faster record that a few of us had our eyes on coming into the race.

Race day arrived and I was the usual crap show before the race…getting up early to run late, losing my gloves 10 times, borrowing sunscreen from the neighbor, and doing the 3 minute sprint to the start line. This is called the G$ warm-up and was perfect since you’re not supposed to change things on race day, right? I did have a race plan for the day though, and once the gun was fired, full execution was on.

The start of the race was stressful because it is downhill in a huge pack, and I’m not used to that anymore. It was pretty straightforward once we started climbing just making sure that I didn’t blow early and that I was in a good group across the flats to Twin Lakes. I was relieved to get to Columbine and settle into the climb with Jenny Smith. At this point we were in first and second but I was far from counting my chickens. I also knew from several years experience in the backcountry that my power knob hits the dimmer switch pretty hard once I hit timberline. Knowing that this was a possibility, I told myself before the race that if I started to lose it on Columbine, I would pretend it was a little break for the legs. Well that “break” was like a happy hour that turned into a full night of partying and sleeping through the alarm clock. Rebecca came by me right as I rode by the last little shrub and Jenny went with her. I watched their legs spin like a windmill in Kansas as I struggled to turn over my granny gear.

By the time I got to the back to Twin Lakes, I was hearing split times of 5:30 to the leader. I got mad to build up some determination and grabbed my feed without even saying “thank you”. Then I immediately proceeded to drop my entire food bag so guess that’s what I get. Fortunately, Greg (Rebecca’s boyfriend) gave me a hand-up which was enough to get me to Pipeline.


Sticking it to Powerline - all 80 watts

From there it was hammer time. I rode across the flats alone but was able to reel in the group ahead right at the Powerline climb. I caught up to Jenny there and we were riding together again. We rode up that so slowly that I don’t know how we kept our bikes upright – that takes some serious skill. It would’ve been funny to have a power tap reading on that climb…I’m guessing it was about 80 watts or so.

Coming back down into Turquoise, I got some inaccurate but very encouraging splits from Rishi Grewal. He said we were less than two minutes from Rebecca so I said to Jenny “let’s go!”. At that point Jenny was feeling the effects of some stomach issues so I went on ahead. I was hoping to catch sight of the Queen of Pain and, if nothing else, hold off all the talented women behind me. I finally did catch sight of the Queen but it wasn’t until I crossed the line. I was thrilled nonetheless, having broken the record set by Rebecca the previous year and finishing less than four minutes back. It was funny because we were both thinking the same thing riding up the Boulevard which was that we were going to have a fun party that night. This was truly a highlight of the year if not a top 10 career moment.

I have many good friends in the peloton that I want to mention. Rebecca I’m super proud of you and your 3-peat. Jenny, great riding with you again and awesome finish as a first-timer! Sari, we missed you up front and know you’d be there any other day. Tammy, amazing top-5 finish and it’s so cool to be racing with you again.

Huge hugs and thank you’s to Cannon and the rest of my Leadville support crew, Tokyo Joe’s, Trek Bicycles, Notubes, Nuun, Smith Optics, Maxxis Tires, and Prana clothing for taking good care of me. Will try to send updates from China but remember it is hard to write from the tow line.

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  1. Dominique Desmonts says:

    Great job and great writing, Gretch!

  2. […] best advice, though, came from Gretchen Reeves, who spent considerable time at the final dinner sharing her best thoughts on getting through […]

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