The triathlon gods were paying attention to the inaugural LeadMan 250Epic. They conspired to make this the toughest race possible. The tangible variables of the race being enough to warrant the ‘toughest’ title were not enough for the gods. 5 kilometers of swimming, 223 kilometers of biking with over 10,000 feet of climbing, and then a hilly 22 kilometer trail run just didn’t seal the deal for them. They turned the suffering screws to the max and added a volatile mix into the race. To make the race especially entertaining for them they worked on the details and their timing was impeccable. The triathlon gods lulled the racers for the first few hours with pleasant feel good temperatures, stunning landscapes and a subtle breeze. They knew exactly when to turn the switch. It felt personal. At mile 80 each racer utterly alone in the vast uninhabitable Nevada desert would make a turn and begin heading southwest for the next 60 miles. Here the gods made their move. First, they turned the temperature dial up; 102 degrees. Then, they turned the wind dial up; sustained 25 to 30mph with gusts up to 45mph, coming out of the southwest. EPIC.
This treacherous cocktail of distance, climbing, heat, and wind broke the spirits of many strong athletes. A few, however, remained unbroken. These select few flouted the gods and prevailed to become the first to earn the title, LeadMan.
It took something more to finish this race. More than physical and mental prowess. It took human spirit. A second chance at life? Yes, this can make one stronger and able to embolden the human spirit at levels others don’t comprehend. Jordan Rapp won his first race since coming within seconds of bleeding to death due to a hit and run accident while riding his bike. To do what he’s done and come back so quickly is a testament to the power of the human spirit. Jordan opened up a window to his motivation when he thanked Tom Sanchez for doing what nobody else at the accident scene would; save his life. He said, paraphrasing… he wanted to win the race so he could get up behind the mic and thank him. It all made sense after he said that. Jordan Rapp, the only male pro to finish took 30 minutes shy of 10 hours to finish.
Jordan is the very first to call himself a LeadMan and the second…a woman, Angela Naeth had an equally impressive race finishing an hour after Rapp. Only 14 individuals would be able to finish the race with over 40 talented athletes taking on the quest.
Angela’s tweet after the race summed up the event pretty well, “Words fall short in describing today’s @LeadmanEpic250 race, but I’ll try: A hot, hurtful hilly hurricane. The hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
This race left one to ponder the great unknown, that huge abyss of biking through the expansive desert for mile after mile. It scared me a little.
The swim at Lake Mede proved to be most pleasurable, looking back now, it was heaven. A refreshing high 60’s water temperature with the sunrise in and out of clouds illuminating the sky in varying colors of sweetness. I took more than just a few moments to feel the joy of moving through the water. The hour and five minute swim was over too quickly and the bike ride forced a deeper more pronounced respect, (fear ).
It is utterly stunning the distances one can cover on a bike. We rode through valley after valley, up hills and down mountains and passed a billion sage brushes. After a few hours of racing I finally had some company around mile 50 when Jordan passed me on the bike. I was smart to continue at my comfortable pace and after a few miles was again feeling the vast emptiness of the landscape.
Coming into the Valley of Fire after 60 plus miles moves you. Its inspiring vistas have you looking left and right exploring the giant red rock formations. For the first time all day I’m forced to move into the small ring due to some steep gradients. It feels good and you are excited to see what is around the corner. Riding through the Valley of Fire will forever bore magnificent images in my mind of dreamy out-of-this-world surroundings.
All this while I’ve been drinking (roughly 26 bottles by the end), taking salt tablets and consuming calories, over 3000 by the end.
Coming out of the Valley of Fire at mile 80 a sense of foreboding creeps in. The mercury has been rising steadily and is now bursting past the 100 marker. Then, it gets menacing. Turning right, the prevailing direction back to T2, a sinister headwind greets us.
I’ve been riding for what feels like a month, if for no other reason that the vast amount of terrain we’ve covered. With 60 miles to go, pedaling what seems like 4mph and baking golden brown in the oven, survival mode sets in.
It gave me the sense of being adrift in the south pacific, a barren ocean and sky landscape for unimaginable distances. Wide open space. Wide open space that is not friendly to life. In hindsight, it is absolutely incredible what the human body is capable of; putting out the energy it does in the most unwelcome arenas.
I reached new levels of suffering and I’ve put my body through the gauntlet more than a few times. Experience has taught me to respect the determination of the mind and its ability to push the body to unhealthy places. That’s what this sport and lifestyle is all about for me; becoming stronger and healthier through these challenges. I started crossing that line and finishing was surely sending my body into a tailspin of trouble. Compromising my health is not anything I’m willing to gamble with and that left me with the only choice I had…to pull out of the race.
The race has made me stronger and I’ve gained valuable experience. To finish the race on that day with those conditions commands a lot of respect. I couldn’t do it. I will see if I can use this year’s knowledge to finish the 2012 LeadMan.