Leadville training weeks 8-10 – flatlanders unite


Although it looks like my average day blood sugars the above picture is the elevation changes of the leadville mountain bike race.  I try not to look at this too much.  Depending on what minute (yes minute) of the day how I feel about Leadville goes from no chance to a slim chance.  I have definitely put in some good hard training these last few weeks.  The weather has still been a big factor in training as any of the decent mountain biking trails have been closed most weekends.  Last week and weekend was great and I think I can finally put my winter biking gear away, however these last few days we’ve had some large amounts of rain which has closed the trails again.  Hopefully by the weekend they’ll be back up and running. And although I can’t talk about it right now I’ve had some really bad news this week which has also made me a little upset and unmotivated.


Week 8 I added in a mid-week long ride with some gravel and single track, a high intensity group ride and ended the week with a 62 mile ride on the Des Plaines river trail, again nothing much in the way of climbing.  The high intensity ride left me discouraged due to the fact that during the intervals I couldn’t keep up on the last one but that might have been because I was riding my heavy commuter bike with the rack while everyone else had carbon road bikes :).  The following day at the long trail ride I was encouraged again since I was able to pull a few folks most of the way home. It’s an emotional roller coaster.


Week 9 left me with more discouraging moments.  We had our power test and I thought FOR SURE that my power was going to be way up there.  Much to my dismay my power went DOWN!  I went home feeling utterly deflated.  Later I learned that most of the Leadville group tested lower.  Whew!  It wasn’t just me… encouraged once again. Later that week I got up super early, drove to the burbs to join their mid-week group ride before work.    There must have been about 10 guys in the group and they were fast.  I hung on by the skin of my teeth pushing so hard to catch the back wheel of the guy in front that I thought my lungs were going to explode.  I definitely left everything I had out there on the road. During the ride Robbie gave me some words of encouragement saying that he thought I looked a lot stronger and that I had a better chance in Leadville now.  It was just the boost I need to regain a positive attitude.

That weekend I signed up to do a long distance mountain bike race. I hadn’t been in an actual mountain bike race in probably 15 years.  Although I knew I wasn’t racing and was just going for the experience I was still apprehensive.  That Friday night I packed up the car as Tom and his friends were heading out for the night. They were all sitting around having a beers as I packed up clothing for a cold weather ride in Northern Wisconsin.  The forecast was not looking good. I drove the 2 ½ hours to Plymouth, Wisconsin to the lovely Baymont Inn and Suites.  The race took place in Northern Kettle Moraine about 15 minutes away.  The temperature that morning was in the low-40’s and as I left the hotel it started to rain.  I had every expectation that this was going to be miserable.  I arrived at the trailhead registered for the 100 mile long course which was really 10 9.5 mile loops.  I didn’t have any expectation except to get at least 7 laps done.  As far as I knew there was one other woman registered for the 100. In fact, I even let her borrow an extra pair of sunglasses because she forgot hers.  She looked pretty hardcore.  The race began with a short run uphill to the bikes.  I started off following the other woman and soon passed her, the course was fairly technical.  It was rocky, rooty and slippery.  I got through the first lap and felt pretty good.  Made a short pit stop and headed back out again.  The other woman and I were pretty much on par with each other.  On the 3rd loop the temperature dropped (what felt like 10 degrees) and the hail came making it even thick. slick and sloppier.  My hands hurt from the cold.  By the fourth lap the sun started to peak out.  I still felt pretty good however I could definitely feel the first signs of a tight lower back and tension in my neck and shoulders.  There was not one moment aside from the trail head where you could relax fully.  After each loop I was getting off my bike having some food and drinking some electrolytes from a bottle.   There was no opportunity to eat during the loop.  After the fourth loop I also got down and stretched my back.  My breaks were getting longer after each loop.  I didn’t see the other woman after that.  After the fifth lap my back really started barking at me. I was moving pretty slow.  I decided to do 2 more laps.  However during the 6th lap it actually started to hail and rain again, my back just wouldn’t let up, I was moving very slow at this point and it was getting late – I had been riding for about 8 hours.  Everything hurt, my back, my hands, my forearms, my feet,  and especially my girl parts.  It was 4:30 and I still had to drive all the way home.  I decided to call it quits.  I was ok with 6 laps.  It was great practice and I got about 3,000 feet of technical climbing in. More than anything I’d done in training to date.

The following is a link to some photos of the course, I’m in photo # 64 by the Hammer sign.




Week 10 was the week of VQ base camp.  4 days of riding, lots of distance and lots of hills.  We left Thursday morning from VQ-Highland Park.  Tom needed his car so I had to put the bike in the bug however I couldn’t figure out how to get the front wheel off so I had to dig out the old bones rack and put it on the car.  The whole drive there I watched my precious mountain bike bounce up and down on the rack but I made it without any problems. The rides were all on the road but the Leadvillers were riding their mountain bikes.  It had to be twice as hard as riding a road bike.  They put us in groups according to our level.  Since most of the Leadvillers are way stronger than me I was curious to see where they would put me.  I was on team pink.  Right away I felt fearful as I looked at the big guys in my group and the one other woman who is doing Leadville.  I had heard about her, she has done a ton of ironman, been to Kona and started mountain biking last year.  She is a machine almost pro.  Why was I on the same team as her?  My stomach was in knots.  Day 1 we rode from Highland Park to Alpine Valley including a loop around the very hilly Lake Geneva 92 miles and 2,900 feet of climbing.  All I could think was there is no way in hell I’m going to be able to get up and ride tomorrow.

Day 2 arrived quickly,  I’m sure my fear was written all over my face.  This ride was 75 miles plus a bonus 25 miles at the end on part of the IM Wisconsin course (one of the hilly parts).   It was pretty windy, we were going single file for a while and they were pushing the pace.  We were only 10 miles in but I knew I couldn’t keep up the pace without blowing up or burning up all my matches.  I caught up to them and told the group leader that I wasn’t going to be able to keep that pace up but as I warmed up and settled in to the middle of the pack (vs the back)I found my legs and kept up.  I also managed to pull the group for some time as well.  We arrived in Verona and took a quick break.  We all decided to do the extra loop.  25 miles up to Mt. Horeb and back, for those who have done IM Wisconsin you know how hilly that is.  We rode 104 miles and climbed 3,300 feet that day.  I sort of felt like I was in a dreamland and was in awe of what we had all accomplished.  Back at the hotel I took an ice bath which seems settle my legs down a bit after long rides.  Later I walked with a few people to “downtown” Verona for some Italian food and of course my favorite New Glarus beer – spotted cow. Then back to the hotel room to wash the one kit I brought and do Robbie’s snail method of drying it. Which for the most part worked with a little help from a few minutes on the heating fan in the morning.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLM9RYNN4x8



Day 3 soon arrived and again I was ultra-nervous.  The nerves didn’t come from the fear of not being able to complete the ride, they came from worrying about keeping up with the others.  Put me on my own and I’m fine, put me with other people and I become weak and unsure.  Prior to starting off on the ride Robbie came over and asked how I was doing. He also said that I was doing great and that he was proud of me.  If I could have banked those words I would be rich.  It was just what I needed to hear that from him.  It meant the world because I knew he meant it. I finished Day 3 feeling great, we only did 75 this day but followed up with a few hike-a-bikes.  We rode our bikes up the side of Alpine Valley ski hill then hiked the rest and rode down.  I had a great ride down the first time, fell the second, and had a cautious 3rd ride down.  The route was rocky and full of ruts from the run off much like what Leadville will be.  It was great practice.  Despite all the mileage I felt great.  We finished up the day with a bbq ( more spotted cow J)  then a group dinner.  I met and spoke to so many interesting people including the other diabetic in the group – Eric.  He is a man in his 50’s who was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  He was diagnosed months before his first Leadville race the year before.  He lives, breathes and eats biking and knows a ton about bikes and Leadville however he is still trying to nail down the diabetes.  He had had a particular hard day that day, elevated blood sugars and heart rate.  He was nearly in tears when I spoke to him at which time I gave him a big hug and told him it would be ok. He was so frustrated.  I heard his pain.  It is frustrating.

Day 4 arrived with a 92 mile ride looming ahead.  Wow.  Overwhelming is the word that best describes how I felt.  My legs felt heavy.  We had picked up an additional rider in our group and lost a couple to the faster group (including the other girl).  It was me and 7 guys.  Coach Hoag, Dan (ultra strong IM’er), Chris, Bob ( older guy who was so consistent and never said a thing about how hard it was), Eric (the diabetic), Ed, John.  All I could think about was the fact that we had to go around Lake Geneva AGAIN!  It was so hilly.  We started off at an easy pace.  Soon, the next group (road bikers) caught up to us, Robbie was part of that group.  He wanted us to keep up to the road group until the 35 mile mark.  I tried so hard to keep up but I eventually lost it on the hills.  Robbie started pushing me a bit in order for me to catch up but it wasn’t happening.  So he got in front and pulled me the last few miles to the 35 mile mark.  The pace had been much faster and it was much harder than my group normally went.  I wasn’t too far behind the group, however and my gang was still at the 35 mile aid station.  We all decided that we would not keep up that pace for the rest of the way.  We had a great strong ride the rest of the way back to Highland Park.  At about 20 miles out we caught up with one of the road biking group and rode in with them.  The pace was extremely fast.  We lost a few of the group off the back.  Somehow I hung on for dear life.  I sat behind  Coach Hoag’s wheel trying to get his draft but we were pushing between 18 and 22 mph on a mtn bike and their seemed to be no protection from the wind at all. I was suffering.  The last 8 miles I just kept thinking you don’t need to keep up with them just fall off the back.  But I pushed. Coach Hoag talked me through it.  I was swearing and moaning and groaning like there was no tomorrow.  After an hour of hell we finally arrived at Highland Park.  I just got off my bike put my head in my hands and wept silently as I was overcome with all that I had accomplished over the last 4 days.  Time for recovery.

Each day I followed the same nutrition regime – I woke about about 2.5 hours before we were to depart to pack my bag and get sorted out.  I made the room coffee and ate my breakfast that I had brought from home – low carb whole wheat bread with Justins chocolate hazelnut butter and a banana.  I bolused for the entire amount.  I would then go into the breakfast room and eat a small sampling of whatever they had with some protein and some carbs. I would also have a little something as we were getting ready to leave – either a small cliff bar or a half peanut butter sandwich.  Then I reduced my basil to 70% the first day then by day 3 I set it at 85%.  During the rides I had noshed on a few cliff blocks here and there, a gu, and I would have a coke and a ½ a PB or Nutella sandwich which was provided by VQ.  I had Skratch electrolyte mix in my camel back, drinking roughly 3-4 liters per trip.  Skratch is lower in carbs than other electrolyte drinks and tastes great.  I generally only had to pee once during the rides, even then I wasn’t dying to go.     I found that in the first hour or so my sugar would rise pretty high up to 250-300 or so. I think this was mainly due to the amount I was eating before the start. After a couple of hours my sugar would start dropping but with the cokes, the cliff blocks and everything else it didn’t usually last.  If it started to rise again from too much coke I would give myself a mini-bolus .2-.3 units. On day 3 I had some great straight line readings and kept within the 100-200 ranges the entire time. Day 4 was pretty near as perfect as I could get it. I used the Osprey Syncro 10 with a 3 litre bladder. This will be something I need to decide on, it was pretty big and maybe a bit too heavy (I was constantly teased that I had a tent back there). I’m going to switch back to my smaller camelback with the 2 litre bladder, with the missing chest strap to see if it is big enough.


Anyone else have a good recommendation?

My best readings were on Day 4.  I think I finally got it!  Here are pictures of the last 3 hours and 12 hours of the day. I seem to have lost my cord to download the actual dexcom data so pictures will have to do.

IMG_1870 IMG_1871

In the meantime I now belong to the yahoo Leadville 100 group where I can follow conversations about the race.  Great tips for first timers and “flatlanders” as they call us people who train with no hills.   I also learned that it is still snowing in Leadville!

I also saw this link to a great race report from a first timer woman.  When I need some inspiration or a pick me up I read her report.  It makes me feel like I have a chance to finish,  quite honestly I really had no business signing up for this thing.  I have also been watching videos of someone riding the entire race  and am seeing miles and miles of uphill.

Here is the race report, it is a good synopsis of what I’ve gotten myself into.


As I mentioned it is time for recovery week.  I had a massage yesterday.  The swelling in my ankles, legs and feet has finally subsided and that tight feeling is going away.  I had an easy ride to work  and ran a bit. I likely won’t ride again until Saturday morning (other than commuting). I think all that riding left my immune system a bit low and I now have a cold, the first in a long time.   So it truly will be recovery!

The next big event will be the Horribly Hilly Hundred.  A 200K road race in Wisconsin with over 10,000 feet of climbing on one day.  Apparently if you can finish this then it is equivalent to Leadville !  This is on June 15.


Over the next few weeks I plan on experimenting with a product called UCAN.  http://www.generationucan.com/home.html  .  Apparently it is good for a number of reasons:  it doesn’t spike your sugar levels like other maltodextrin products, it promotes fat burning,  and it slowly releases glucose into the blood stream.  It also has less of an impact on the gastro intestinal system, although I’ve never really had issues no matter what I eat.  My problem is that I tend to feel the need to supplement my nutrition with “real” food like a nut butter sandwich or a cliff bar.  I am going to try it out on shorter 2 hour rides then see what happens.  It would be nice if I could avoid the spikes during longer rides. And lose the 5 extra pounds for the race.

Anyone else out there try UCAN?

Stay tuned for updates of my emotional roller coaster journey!!


About Gillian

I am a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 30. I run marathons, participate in bike races , ironman triathlons and everything in between.
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