Tenth Time’s (Not) the Charm: My Leadville 2006 Experience

08.17.2006 | 1:54 am

Around mile 41 or so of the Leadville 100 (for those of you who don’t know: Leadville, Colorado is a tiny town, above Vail, at an altitude of about 10,000 feet) this year, something occurred to me: I had not yet checked for a single trail marker. I was riding the course from memory.

That, I suppose, is a good indicator I’ve been doing this race for a while.

Why have I done the Leadville 100 ten times? Why will I do it an eleventh? Well, the reasons keep changing, but anymore most of the reasons revolve around people, traditions, and memories.

Here are a few photos and standout memories from this year’s race.

The Ride Before the Ride
Every year, the day before the race, a group of us go out and ride some flat, fun singletrack along the shore of Turquoise Lake for about an hour. It’s a chance to talk with people about the race, get a sense for what they really hope to accomplish, and–usually–to see at least one person screw up his bike because he thought he could climb a flight of stairs on his bike, but really couldn’t.

This year, we had a lot of people in the group. Some of us were there looking for a personal best: Racer, Bry and I all wanted sub-nine buckles; Lisa Rollins wanted to best her previous time of 11:55. Some of us were trying to win: Kenny wanted to win the singlespeed class, Mark and Serena were protecting their four-year winning streak on the tandem, Jilene wanted to win the women’s category, Chuck wanted to win the whole enchilada). And some people wanted to get across the line: Nick Abbott (the guy I rode with more than anyone else back in Washington), Rocky, and Rich Rollins, my former neighbor all fit into this category.

During this ride, I ran into Mike, a Fat Cyclist reader and first-time Leadville 100 rider. I guess he recognized the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup jersey. Or maybe it was the George Hincapie glasses. Or maybe it was the Weapon of Choice. Regardless, he snapped and emailed me this photo:

Mike, by the way, would eventually finish in 11:19. Nice work, Mike!

This would not be the only time I was recognized as "Fatty" during the event. I also met JSun, his wife, and their three-week old infant. JSun would be racing the Leadville 100, but being a new dad doesn’t mix really well with racing. And I met lots of other people who I have never met who would embarassedly call me "Fatty," then let me know that I’m not really all that fat. To those people, I promise that when Winter comes, I will once again be plenty fat. It’s my way.

Strangely, my mom (who was crewing for me) started introducing herself as "Fatty’s Mom." I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with that.

The Start
I was nervous for the start of this year’s Leadville 100, and for more than the usual reasons. As always, I was nervous about the effort, but I was also worried about my bike setup. I had broken a rule I’ve always been pretty firm on: no monkeying around with equipment just before a race. But practically everything on my bike was new, and the rigid fork was only three rides old.

More than that, though, I was nervous about whether I had lost enough weight to fit back into my old "Racers Cycle Service" Jersey, so I could ride in the same colors as my friends. It was a close call, but I went with it.
Here I am, nervous and serious, lined up about three rows from the front, as if I were a fast guy or something. Mark (of the Mark/Serena Warner Tandem Dynasty) is on the far left in the same jersey. Also, I would like to call attention to my rather awesome quads and my almost-trivial paunch.

Just for fun while at the starting line (and because I’m a fidgety person and needed something to do), I set my handlebar-mounted Forerunner 301 GPS to count backwards from 8:55 minutes, and from 105 miles. I wanted to think in terms of how far I had to go, and how long I had to get there.

More importantly, I also set it to chime every half hour, as a signal for me to eat. And I made a hard and fast rule: when the chime went off on the hour, I would eat a packet of Shot Bloks. When it went off on the half hour, I would have a Gu. The only allowable exceptions would be when I was in the middle of a technical climb or descent and needed both hands on the handlebars (in which case I would eat as soon as possible), or was in an aid station and was eating something else. I told myself that my opinion on whether I felt like eating was irrelevant. The chime was the law.

The gun went off at 6:30 am. Most years, the escort vehicle heads out at 25-30mph, letting the field of 700 (or so) riders string out. This year, though, the escort vehicle stayed under 20 the whole way, keeping us bunched up and nervous until we hit the dirt five downhill miles later.

First Inkling
I started the race planning on finishing in under nine hours. By the time I finished the race, ten hours had elapsed. So at what point did I begin to understand that my sub-9 finish was in jeapordy?

Before I had even completed the first big climb — seven miles into the race.

Yes, that soon.

Here’s how I could tell: In years when I have come close to finishing in under nine hours, I have had to restrain myself on that first climb; I had to force myself to drop out of the middle ring and not blow by everyone, because I had so much power.

This year, in contrast, the small ring felt just right. Oh, sure, I could’ve gone to the middle ring, but it wasn’t a big temptation.

In short, I had power, but I was not a powerhouse.

At least the weather was good, though.

First Descent
Before long, the St. Kevins climb ended, I dropped down the paved road for four miles, and then climbed up Hagerman’s pass. I caught up with Mark and Serena during this climb, and was feeling good about myself for doing so, when Serena said, "Man, we’re just not having a good day. I guess we’re just gonna ride it, cuz we sure ain’t racing it." I’d explain the implications of what this meant, but I don’t think that’s really necessary.

After the Hagerman’s Pass climb, I began rocketing down the Powerline descent — five miles of technical downhill. I was passing people all over the place, setting the course on fire.

No, I’m just kidding. I didn’t pass anyone. In fact, I noticed that there was almost always the sound of breathing and braking behind me, and when there was a good opening, half a dozen people lined up behind me would shoot around.

You know what’s cooler than being the slowest downhiller around? Pretty much everything, that’s what.

But I didn’t flat, like a bunch of people (I’d guess I saw five people on the side of the trail coming down Powerline), and I didn’t completely taco my front wheel like one guy I saw with his bike shouldered as he jogged down the course. I wonder if he was hoping to salvage his race by bumming a new wheel off someone? Hat tip to him if so, because he had about seven miles to jog before he got to the next aid station.

When the Powerline bottoms out, it intersects pavement, and groups form to motor along in a paceline. Here, as I have probably three times in ten years, I ran into my LT100 friend Dean Cahow. I’m not sure why we always intersect on this pavement, but we do. We hopped onto a paceline, which was way too fast, let it go, and then worked together until we got to the first aid station, 27 miles into the race.

I looked at my computer — 2:11 had elapsed. I was already eleven minutes too slow. I wasn’t out of contention yet, but this wasn’t a promising sign; I’m generally much stronger in the first half of a race than in the second, and need to give myself some cushion for the likelihood that I would fade.

I powered through the first aid station; I had plenty of food and water. The next aid station would be in only thirteen miles.

Hanging Out With Friends
As I went through the first aid station, a couple of strange things happened.

  1. At least two groups yelled, "Go Fatty!" or something like that. Neither of these groups were with me (I had sent my crew on ahead to the second aid station). This gave me a huge morale boost.
  2. I thought a huge crowd was cheering for me, but it turned out that they were actually yelling for Jilene Mecham, who was overtaking me. I had recently taught Jilene the Ze Frank song, "How Do You Spank a Giant Baby?" and she sang it as she passed me. Then I grabbed her wheel and asked how she got the crowd so riled up. "You work ‘em," she said, and then showed me. Pumping a fist into the air, she yelled, "Yeah!" The crowd on both sides of us immediately responded by cheering for her. Jilene then rode away from me, but I promised myself I’d catch her as soon as the course turned up. I knew I was a stronger climber than she.

The thirteen miles between the first and second aid stations are the flattest of the day, and probably the least painful of the course. It was here that I met Joe Jensen, a local Utah rider. He introduced himseelf by saying, "I don’t care what Dug says, you’re an OK guy." I replied with, "Well I’m here racing, and you’re here racing, and Dug’s in Chicago going to fancy restaraunts. So out of the three of us, who do you think is a pansy?" Joe (who would eventually finish with a 10:40) and I agreed we should ride together sometime under less painful conditions. I look forward to it.

Next, I caught up with Ricky, one of the guys who’s done the Leadville 100 since the first edition. He and I had ridden up the Columbine Climb together the previous year, and he had been great company. Hoping that he’d have a sense of whether we were making good time or not, I asked, "Do you feel fast this year?"

"Nah," said Ricky. "I’m just cruising along."

That’s not the answer I was hoping for.

I kicked it up a notch, trying to not lose sight of Jilene.

Pit Stop
I pulled into the second aid station–meaning I had gone 40 miles–after 3:03 of racing. My Mom was there, with all the stuff I needed.

Just look at us. We’re the very model of efficiency. Here, I"m tossing off my Camelbak, to be replaced by another one, already filled and ready to go.

Okay, now it looks like I’m doing the hokey pokey, but I’m actually swapping out the empty wrappers from the Shot Bloks (I keep them tucked under the elastic at the bottom of my shorts) for new ones, which my Mom has already torn open and folded to spec (kudos to Al Maviva, by the way, for the practical advice on the right way to open and fold a packet of Shot Bloks.).

After sucking on a camelbak tube to drink all day, it’s nice to get a couple of big gulps of water just by tipping the jug back. Note that my Mom’s ready with the soup. Please note that I no longer have much of a gut (at least, not when I’m wearing bib shorts). Also, please note the ominous dark clouds. Those will factor into the story soonish.

And two minutes later, I’m on my way again. Note that Mark and Serena’s tandem is laying on the ground here; they were only a minute behind me at the time I pulled into the aid station. Also, please note that I wisely kept on my arm warmers.

Even as I pulled away, I knew that I was no longer racing for a sub-9 time. I was already 18 minutes off the pace, and the hard work hadn’t even begun yet.

Time to Climb
When I think about the Leadville 100 race course, I think about two things: The Columbine Mine climb and the Powerline climb. I was now at the Columbine Mine climb: eight miles of climbing, with 3600 feet of vertical gain. You start at 9000 feet and reach the turnaround point at 12,600.

People suffer here.

I knew, though, that this was where my main strength is: grinding away on long climbs. I put my head down, turned off my brain to whatever degree I could, and spun.

Before long I saw Jilene. She was leading a paceline of about three guys. Of course, at 5mph, there’s no aero advantage to a paceline, but there’s still a psychological one, and these guys were hanging on as best as they could.

I rode by, and loudly said to the guy directly behind Jilene, "Dude, are you staring at her butt?" (He was.) He was very embarassed. It was a good moment.

The first five miles of the Columbine climb are not at all technical. I found another Fat Cyclist reader on this climb; he told me he blogs too. I told him there’s no way I’d remember his name because I had turned off all higher brain functions for the day, but if he’d email me, I’d link to him. Once you’ve ridden Columbine with someone, you’re no longer strangers. You’re family. I rode away, feeling strong and hoping that this feeling wouldn’t suddenly disappear (it’s happened before).

Somewhere along this road, I saw Racer riding down. His knee had been re-injured; his race was over. Next year, Racer.

The 29" wheels and rigid fork were working great for me; I was climbing lots of stuff others were walking. One of the great things about Leadville is how considerate other racers are. When someone behind sees that you’re riding a part others are having to push, they’ll yell out, "Make way for the rider!" so others ahead of you will move aside, letting you conserve your breath for the climb. By riding a lot of what I’ve always walked before, this gnarly section of the course seemed much shorter to me than it ever had before.

About a mile and a half from the top, I came across my friend Bry, who I thought for sure would be going sub-9.

He was standing still.

"What are you doing waiting for me?" I asked, irritated. "I don’t want you to wait for me."

"I’m not waiting for you," Bry said, morosely. "I’m dying."

"Oh. Sorry." Not much else to say, really. If he really couldn’t go on, he’d turn around. If he could go on, he would.

I kept going.

I hit the turnaround point at 4:53. It was now as good as official: my sub-9 dreams were gone. The Leadville rule of thumb is that your best-case finish time is double your turnaround time.

Which meant I was in serious danger of finishing in ten hours, not nine.

The most common thing I heard as I descended back down Columbine Mine was, "On your right." The second most common thing was, "On your left."

The cool thing was, though, I got to see that my friends who were still working on the climb. Nick was riding strong and looking happy. Lisa was up much further than I expected her. Rocky was smiling. All good news.

And then Jilene passed me, singing, "How Do You Spank a Giant Baby?"

I wished I had never taught her that song.

Jilene would eventually finish with a 9:47. Not what she wanted, but 20 minutes faster than me. I’m pretty sure that 20 minutes is exactly how much time I lost on downhills during the race.

Pulling into the second aid station for the second time, I was no longer in quite as much of a hurry as before. Let me illustrate:

I’ll tell you what: after riding for 5:37, sitting for three minutes (or was it five?) in a camp chair is a little slice of heaven. My Mom clearly thinks this is funny.

Next, my Mom gave me a little grief over not drinking enough water, as she notes that the camelbak I had just handed her was not yet empty.

What can I say? It was a cold day and I wasn’t sweating that much. Note that the piece of foam rubber (with adhesive) that Nick had stuck to the top of my helmet the day prior is still in place.

Reluctantly, I got on the bike and took off.

In case you were wondering: yes, I did clean that steep, loose little bump right there. So I still had a little bit of juice in me.

Interesting Observation, Embarassing Moment
As I rode along the rolling thirteen miles that connects the second aid station to the very hardest part of the Leadville 100–the Powerline Climb–the guy who I passed on the Columbine Mine caught me. "I didn’t think I’d see you again," he said. I pretended to be glad that we had hooked up again, which meant ignoring the obvious likelihood that he was about to drop me. He stuck around for a moment, though, telling me that the previous year he had DNF’d and was hoping that wouldn’t happen again this year.

"Oh, you’re in no danger of that," I let him know. He was riding a sub-10 pace, for sure. One of those strong-second-half guys I envy so much.

And then he was gone.

I had a moment to think while riding along, and I had two epiphanies in rapid succession:

  1. I felt fine. By this time of the day in a big ride, I usually have all kinds of stomach pain and gas. Today, using my rigorous eat-every-half-hour rule and sticking with Wonderful, Magical Shot Bloks, I had no stomach pain or gas at all.
  2. I definitely would not do the E-100 in two weeks. It was a stupid idea to even consider it. In fact, mountain biking is a stupid idea in general.

And then it was time to do two quick hike-a-bikes up some steep hills. I felt good, though, and rode up a big chunk of the first one. I was very pleased with myself.

For the second one, though, I got off and started marching almost from the bottom. Someone called out to me, "Make way for the rider!" I couldn’t believe it. I figured whoever it was deserved an extra little push. So I moved aside and started my push.

Except it didn’t work out that way. The rider stopped riding right as I began my push.

You know what? It’s a little bit awkward to find yourself standing on a hill with your hand on a stranger’s butt. Probably even more awkward if you’re a 40-year-old man, and the stranger is a 20-something (I’m guessing) woman.

"Um, sorry about that," I said, then put my head down and pushed on, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

Up We Go
I always have mixed feelings coming into the final aid station. I’m glad to be done with the section between the Twin Lakes Dam and the Fish Hatchery, but am dreading the final 27 miles of the race, because it’s made up of two big climbs (including the Powerline Climb, which is the toughest climb of the race), two rough descents, and a final grunt of a climb.

And chances are you won’t be at your best right then.

Still, I felt OK–still no stomach issues, and my legs were still responding. And, once again, in the same place I had seen him 50 miles earlier, was Dean Cahow. So we rode together again, but this time in the other direction. Before long, Dean would ride away from me, finishing ten minutes before I did. Nice work, Dean!

The worst part of the Powerline Climb comes right at the beginning. You’ve got to slowly march your bike up the sandy, steep hill. Riding isn’t even an option for most of us.

Near the top, though, there was the nicest guy in the world. He was pouring Coke into paper cups and handing it to riders, telling us to just toss the cup when we were done; he’d pick them up.

That was the best drink I have ever had.

I had managed to catch up with Mark and Serena again, and we were trudging along together when it started sprinkling.

"This is a nice change of pace," said Mark.

Then the water started coming down in bucketfuls.

"This is a less-nice change of pace," said Mark.


Before long, the rain and mud had completely obscured my glasses. I had uncontrollable shakes, and no jacket. My own stupid fault.

And then the descending began, through running water, with my blurry vision, my blurry glasses, my shaky arms, and my rigid fork.

I was not exactly a speed demon.

In fact, in spite of my tiredness, I was glad when the course turned uphill again, just so I could warm up.

Meanwhile, the Warners, in spite of the fact that they were riding a fully rigid tandem, rode away from me, finishing in 9:57 and winning the Tandem category for the fifth year in a row. According to the Rules of Armstrong, aren’t they required to keep going until they’ve won seven straight years?

Big Finish
After the paved climb, I descended St. Kevins–the last climb of the day–gingerly and slowly, getting passed by everyone who was not blind. I started churning along the dirt road, looking forward to the finish line that was now only about five miles away.

And that’s when Bry caught up with me. I was surprised, having figured that from the way he had looked on Columbine, he would have abandoned long ago.

But here he was, and he agreed with me that we should finish the race together.

As we rode the final three mile dirt road stretch, an idea occurred to me: since we weren’t going to finish with a good time, why don’t we finish with a little panache? I brought the idea up to Bry, and he agreed completely.

So we spent the rest of the climb planning and plotting. What would we do at the finish line? It had to be easy (we were tired) and there had to be little chance that we would crash (we were really, really tired).

So, as we approached the finish line–me on the right, Bry on the left–Bry yelled "Break!"

Then, in perfect (?) synchronization, we pulled U-turns in opposite directions, crossed paths, and came back to the finish line holding each others’ arms aloft. Here I am, halfway through our maneuver:

The crowd went wild. Natch. And here’s Bry and me, looking spry as can be after crossing the line with a race time of 10:06:

OK, so we weren’t that spry.

Lisa Rollins demolished her previous time of 11:55 with an 11:10. More to the point, she finished happy, lucid, and strong:
Rich (whose back of the head is showing above) wouldn’t admit it to himself, but he had a good day too, doing the first 60 miles of the race. That’s a lot more than he could have done a year ago. Plus, now that he’s seen the whole course, he’ll be ready to finish the race next year.

As time wore on, I became worried my friend Nick wouldn’t make the 12-hour cutoff. At 11:55, though, he barreled across the finish line, muddy as can be and with a huge smile.

Kenny took second in Single Speed class, which is just astounding. I mean, it’s astounding anyone is faster on a single speed than he is. Still, he got a nice trophy and the required shot of him standing with the race organizers, Ken and Merilee:

If you ask me, with that shiner, Merilee maybe should have avoided being photographed with the bottle of booze.

Chuck finished in 8:06. I tell you, I can’t even imagine that kind of speed. Here he is at the finish line:

As for me, I got to show off the cool blanket my Mom’s made for me out of all those "Finisher" sweatshirts I never wear:

Oh, and one more thing (6" x 4.5", in case you’re wondering):


The Hypothetical Racer Reveals Himself

08.15.2006 | 5:14 pm

A Super-Duper-Extra-Special Note from Fatty: A while back, I posted an entry saying that someone I know was considering doing a race he had secretly signed up for, but just didn’t know if he should.

At his (yes, a male) request, I was careful about not revealing who this person was, because I’ve talked about him before.

Yes, it’s Rocky, the Karmic Black Hole.

Here’s his story of racing the Leadville 100, in two parts. The first part is what he wrote before the race; the second part is what he wrote afterward.

Tomorrow I’ll post my own story; I’m still working on it.

Part I: Pre-Race Ruminations
Fatty spins a good tale. Fatty embellishes some, too.

You may have noticed.

But then, if you don’t know Fatty personally, you may not know that he embellishes. I am a brother-in-law (strike one), a friend (if you see how Fatty and his maladjusted friends carry on, you realize that this is strike two), and I have known him in all of his life phases (see his August 2 blog entry) in one form or another for nearly 30 years—that’s a lot to overcome—which makes me a bit of an embellishment target. Strike three. I provide plenty of ammo for Fatty’s embellishment indulgences all by myself, but then a strike four is moot as I’m already out with the first three.

So in an attempt to avoid becoming embellishment material for the insatiable blog, I did the stealth Leadville thing this year. No one knew about it—not even the spousal unit, and that by design. I have found that if those around me know, there are the incessant questions about feeling ready, about training, about being afraid. I opted out of the questioning, and it was working out so well. It was the perfect plan.

Or at least it was the perfect plan until Fatty, knowing that I have a lovely Gary Fisher Paragon 29er sitting in my garage with nothing to do on August 12, contacted me about using it. His friend Nick needed a bike for Leadville, and so with our 30 years of history, and the brother-in-law thing firmly in place, Fatty figured I wouldn’t mind loaning my bike to Nick.


Now I had a dilemma: I either had to tell Fatty I was going to Leadville, or that Nick could not use my otherwise idle bike, proving to him once and for all that I am a total jerk. I chose the first, and though I trust Fatty, I also know where I fall on his list of friend loyalties. A brother-in-law that is also a friend is always trumped by anyone that is a friend with no asterisks. I am certain that those that I did not want to know about my Leadville escapade now would have full disclosure.

The truth is, I am not great at endurance stuff. I accept that fact, and I choose to endure my shame solitarily. Had Fatty’s pal not needed a bike, I would have pulled this off without anyone knowing about it.


Unless, of course, it goes really well.

It won’t. This I know.

Round 1
When Fatty called about the bike, I was inclined to let Nick have it. It would have been the perfect excuse. “A more skilled rider needed a mount to complete a race—I took the higher road and enabled him to succeed.” What nobler way to bow out of a ride I don’t really care for, anyways. I have not trained for the Leadville at all. Really. Unless copious amounts of ice cream, fast food, large blocks of cheese and summer sausage, and soda pop are a part of some secret training regimen that Joe Friel/Chris Carmichael missed out on. If that is the case, then I have trained.

I told Fatty I had to get back to him about the bike in a couple of days. That allowed me time to go on a long mountain bike ride I used to use as a training ride when I actually attempted to train. It was 40 miles and it is made up of technically tougher terrain with climbing comparable to that of Leadville (just not the elevation) in over 100-degree heat. I have not ridden anywhere near 40 miles all year, so I thought that I might just spontaneously combust on such a ride. Trouble is, the ride is really remote—it’s a do or die.

I didn’t die.

I was still convinced that I wasn’t going to ride in Leadville though. However, when I apprised Fatty of my conundrum, he offered the following wisdom that pushed me over the edge.

Here’s what I’m thinking: come do part of the race. You paid for it, why not come do part of it? Like, just do the first 60 miles of it and call it good. That will give you good experience for next year.

And if by some chance you’re still feeling good at 60 miles, ride to the next aid station, and call it good there. And then if you’re good, finish it. In other words, start planning on finishing at 60 miles, and evaluate as you go.

Since you live close and you’ve spent the money, you may as well, right?

This is a direct cut and paste from Fatty’s actual email. I have submitted copies of them to my attorney in case there is litigation necessary upon my demise. The moment that I made the decision to ride in Leadville, the bad things started happening. Literally. Fatty, et al branded me “The Karmic Black Hole” about a year ago. This is how it works for a guy with such a label:

  1. Incurable virus—the doc says there is nothing to do but wait
  2. Testosterone/EPO injection—the doc says no way—“Crap.”
  3. Strep—resulting from the incurable virus hanging around for days
  4. Antibiotics—resulting from the strep, which resulted from the incurable virus
  5. No riding for the last week, due to incurable virus
  6. Weight loss—seven lbs. in seven days, due to incurable virus and its sundry and unmentionable symptoms and side effects
  7. Rash—in unmentionable but critical location(s) due to antibiotics
  8. Sunny outlook for a Leadville completion

Part II: Post-Race Post Mortem
Okay, now the race is over. Now comes the post-race perspective. Here’s what I think.

  1. Fatty should be an odds-maker—he said “60 miles.” That’s where I landed.
  2. I’m too stupid to have bailed before climbing the eight miles to the highest point of the race.
  3. Fatty’s friend Nick (he gutted out an 11:55 finish and went home in a lovely rust-colored sweatshirt replete with his name and time, and with a shiny new belt buckle, too) is a “right good fellow” (Nick’s from Sydney—insert accent here for the full effect). He can use my bike anytime.
  4. Fatty’s Utah friends are all really nice people with crazy fast legs. What do they feed those people?
  5. I understand my body’s limitations better than I ever have. I know why it is limited, too.
  6. My math skills where finishing under 12 hours at Leadville are concerned, are advanced (hence the bail at mile 60).
  7. I am SO MUCH SSSLOWWWERRR than I was the last time I rode in Leadville—even on the descents, but especially where it really counts—Leadville is a climber’s affair. For example: The last time I was in Leadville, I broke my handlebar after completing 86 miles. Yes, I was pissed. No, a stick as a replacement would not have helped—the aluminum wasn’t strong enough—do you really think that a ¾ inch piece of dry wood would have been? No, I could not have run the rest of the race. Yes, I am still pissed and a smidge bitter. Can you tell I have answered all the dumb questions one might have come up with—like 1,000 times? I digress. When my handlebar broke in 1999, I was at 7:36 in the race. I had completed the hardest part of the day. All of the really hard climbing was over. I had about two hours of work left to do—one long steady pavement climb and the Boulevard—three miles of moderate incline dirt into town. On Saturday last, I was at 7:30 at mile 60. SSSllloowwww.
  8. Putting a ton of mental pressure on myself (or anyone else doing the same) takes away a lot of energy that could otherwise be used as fuel for the ride. I did not do so, and had fun.
  9. I extracted all that my aging body was able to offer on that day. It has been through a lot since I last raced in Leadville (none of which includes intensive training—I haven’t been on a ride longer than 50 miles since then), and I wasn’t altogether unhappy with the result, given the input.
  10. I enjoyed myself in Leadville. My wife crewed for me for the first time ever, my two youngest daughters were there to support me, and got to see me for the true weenie that I am (and they still like me), and I made a few new friends along the way—lots of Fatty’s friends from Utah, people from Omaha, Minneapolis, Sydney, the Netherlands, Kansas, New York and even a guy from right here in lovely Grand Junction.
  11. Yes, I am ofer. In baseball terminology, that means that I am zero hits for three attempts: 0 for 3 (o-fer-three). Yes, ofer sucks.
  12. Yes. I will do it again.

I Ask Myself Hard Questions

08.14.2006 | 2:35 pm

Tomorrow, I plan to write a story about my experiences at the Leadville 100 this year. It will be easy to write (and it should be fun to read) because I had a great time. I met lots of old friends, made several new friends, and got some extra attention at the awards ceremony. There will be photographs of me and others. There will be charts from my GPS. I will reveal the name of the person who hypothetically had signed up for this race and was not sure whether he or she should do it.

I, for one, can hardly wait to read what I write tomorrow.

Today, though, I’m going to indulge in a self-indulgent Q&A session on what went wrong at the Leadville 100 for me.

Q. So, let’s start with the one thing everyone is at least mildly curious about. What was your finishing time?
A. Ten hours. And six minutes.

Q. What?! Aren’t you the same guy who was going on and on and on about how you thought you had a good chance at finishing in under nine hours this year?
A. Yes, that was me. Evidently, I am not anywhere near as close to as fast as I thought I was.

Q. Just for the sake of comparison, what was your finishing time last year?
A. 9:41.

Q. Wasn’t that the year where you rolled along with a voice recorder and chatted with people about how things were going, asking them why they raced, whether they were having fun, and stuff like that?
A. Yeah, that was it.

Q. And wasn’t that the year you were going on about how fat and slow you were?
A. Yes. Do you have a point to make?

Q. It just seems weird that you were 25 minutes faster last year when you were supposedly fat, slow, and chatty than this year when you were supposedly light, fast, and serious about finishing under nine hours.
A. Yeah, that’s occurred to me, too.

Q. So, would you like to make some excuses as to what went wrong?
A. I sure would.

Q. OK, let’s start with the bike, your so-called “Weapon of Choice.” Did you have a bunch of mechanical issues with this dream bike of yours?
A. Nope, the bike performed flawlessly. Racer built it and tuned it so it never had a second’s worth of problems. However, since I had only three rides’ worth of experience with the rigid fork, I was very timid on the downhills.

Q. But you’ve always been timid on the downhills.
A. Yeah, but I was even more timid than usual. I passed lots of people every climb, but got passed by even more people on every descent. I think I can say with confidence that I did not pass a single person while descending. I may have been slower going down than up. I was an embarrassment to mountain bikers everywhere.

Q. You mean more than usual?
A. Yes. Can we move on to my next excuse now, please?

Q. Sure. What about your body? You’re supposedly light and fit right now.
A. I am light. I weigh 154.2 pounds today. The thing is, I now realize I am more like Jan Ullrich than I previously thought. You know how he would always look chunky in the early season and then lose a bunch of weight just before the Tour, and people would agree that it was good he had lost the weight, but maybe it would have been better if he had lost it a while sooner and trained at that weight? That’s kind of what happened with me. Until mid-June, I was heavy and didn’t get much training in. Then, for two months, I focused and made a lot of progress. But you know what I learned on the trail last Saturday? This: Making progress isn’t the same thing as being ready.

Q. Anything else you’d like to blame?
A. Yeah. The weather. About eighty miles into the race, as I was hiking up the Powerline climb—which is unanimously understood to be the most difficult part of the whole race—it started raining. Hard. I was soaked and chilled to the bone, and could not see. If I left my glasses on, all I saw was a blurry, muddy mess. If I took my glasses off, all I could see was a blurry, muddy mess. The only reason I didn’t quit right then was because I knew I was just a couple hours away from getting my 1000 Mile award. This slowed my descending down even more, if that’s possible.

Q. So that’s why you didn’t finish in under nine hours? The weather?
A. No, I realized much earlier that I wasn’t on a sub-nine pace.

Q. No kidding. When did you realize you were going too slow to finish in under nine hours?
A. By the time I got to the second aid station, 40 miles into the race. By then I was eighteen minutes behind schedule, even though I was working hard. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t have a stronger second half than first half. And I didn’t.

Q. So are you going to do this race again next year?
A. I’ve already reserved my hotel room and secured permission from my wife, who will crew for me. The lottery no longer applies to me, since I’ve done the race 10 times.

Q. What will you do differently?
A. Stay at the weight I’m at. Learn to downhill, either with or without suspension (I still think the rigid fork was a good idea, I just need experience with it). Train earlier and more consistently, instead of doing one big panicky training push.

Q. Those all sound like great ideas. Do you think you’ll finish under nine hours next year?
A. Absolutely not.

Plan A, and a “Hypothetical” Plan B

08.10.2006 | 1:21 pm

As one of the final steps in my annual obsession over the Leadville 100, I put together an easy-to-follow plan for my aid station crew, so as to avoid being slowed down.

Yes, I do this every year, including the ones when I’m fat and slow.

In fact, I think I may pay more attention to my transitions in my slow years than my fast years — looking for any advantage I can find, you know.

For your interest (or lack thereof), here are my instructions to my Mom for this year’s race. It will not hurt my feelings if you scan through this quickly. Unless you’re my Mom, in which case you’d better pay very strict attention. 

Be sure you read "Plan B," though. That’s where the fun part begins.

Aid Station Plan for Fatty

Fish Hatchery 1:
Skip – go straight to Twin Lakes Dam station

Twin Lakes Dam 1:
Time: ~2:45 (9:15am)

  • Swap Camelbak: ½ full
  • 4 packets Shot Bloks, open and folded
  • New bottle of Gu:
  • 5 packets
  • Topped with water to about half-full bottle
  • Shake well
  • Soup
  • Paper towel, ready to clean glasses
  • Advil (3) at the ready
  • Twin Lakes Dam 2:
    Time: ~5:10 (11:40am)

    • Swap Camelbak: 1/3 full
    • 2 packets Shot Bloks, open and folded
    • New bottle of Gu:
    • 3 packets
    • Topped with water to about 1/4-full bottle
    • Shake well
  • Soup
  • Paper towel, ready to clean glasses
  • Advil (3) at the ready
  • Next meetup is in less than an hour. Leave as soon as I do to get to Fish Hatchery in time! 
  • Fish Hatchery 2:
    Time: ~6:00 (12:30pm)

    • Swap Camelbak: 1/2 full
    • 4 packets Shot Bloks, open and folded
    • New bottle of Gu:
    • 5 packets
    • Topped with water to about 1/2-full bottle
    • Shake well
  • Soup
  • Paper towel, ready to clean glasses
  • Advil (3) at the ready
  • See you at the finish line!
  • Hypothetical Plan B
    Since I was feeling extra-helpful this morning, I went ahead and sent the above list to the person I know who will hypothetically be joining me at Leadville and hypothetically racing it. I let this person of non-specific gender (actually, the person’s gender is quite specific, but I am not specifying it right now. Are we clear on that?) know that s/he may want to take a look at it and modify it for her (…or his…) own use.

    This is what I got back. I recommend reading it much more carefully than you read my own list, because it’s much more entertaining, and probably more useful.

    Fish Hatchery 1: (four hours–10:30 am)

    • Beach chair at the ready
    • Breakfast of steak and eggs with chilled orange juice and mango slices lightly dusted with paprika
    • Pallet cleanser
    • Moist towelettes for cleanup

    Twin Lakes Dam(n) 1:  (five hours–11:30 am)

    • Massage table at the ready
    • More mangos, please
    • A minty mint julep
    • More steak, with cheese fries, please

    Twin Lakes Dam(n) 2–this makes it double damn, right?:  (nine hours–3:30 pm)

    • I.V. epi-testosterone–fast drip
    • A lovely double Reuben
    • A chocolate malted
    • The bike rack

    Fish Hatchery 2:  (nine hours, fifteen minutes–3:45 pm–I think it should only take about 15 minutes to drive to the next aid station)

    • Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility
    • Carrot cake and an Italian cream soda

    Finish:  (nine hours–4:00–again, it’s about a 15 minute drive to town–I can find the race course on my own once we are there–plus, with the cloak of invisibility, I should be fine)

    • Pastrami with hot mustard and a 44 oz. Coke
    • “Before you check the station stats, may I have my belt buckle, please?”
    • “I want to thank my mother and my crew, who gave me the horsepower (more literally than you know) to finish the race ….”

    I think my hypothetical friend will do just fine at this race.


    PS: I’m off to Leadville now, and won’t have frequent Net access. I’ll call my wife after the race, though, and ask her to post my finishing time. Check back Saturday afternoon, around 5pm Mountain Time. I will, hypothetically, also reveal my hypothetical racing friend’s name and finishing time then.

    PPS:  While I’m away, be sure to stay up-to-date with the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah over at the race site! You’ll especially want to track the biggy: Stage 6, this Saturday!

    PPPS: A few folks have mentioned they’d like a Fat Cyclist decal like the one I’ve put on the Weapon of Choice. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that this is currently not a decal at all, but my logo printed from my home color laser printer (did you know a nice color laser printer costs around $300 now?) onto overhead projector plastic, then stuck on with clear packing tape. That said, if you’d like one or two of these "decals," send your address to fatty@fatcyclist.com, and I’ll mail you one. No charge, since I’ve already got the plastic and am willing to absorb the cost of an envelope and stamp. I’ll use interest in these to gauge whether I should create other stuff, like jerseys and whatnot.

    Memo to The Guy Who Has the Power to Control the Weather and Hates Bike Races in Utah: Cut it Out.

    08.9.2006 | 5:36 pm

    Once upon a time, Utah was going to have its own annual official Ironman. Furthermore, it was going to be right in Utah County, where I happened to live.

    And you know, the idea of doing an Ironman without having to travel appealed to me. You know: Sleep in my own bed, get up, go do the big race, and then go home. What could be nicer than crashing at your own house after a big race like that?

    That was a rhetorical question, by the way. You don’t have to answer.

    The only reason I didn’t sign up for that Ironman, in fact, was because my wife was pregnant with twins. I was pushing it to train for the Leadville 100; training for an Ironman was right out.

    Turns out, not being allowed to race that event was a good thing.

    Crazy Weather
    Since I couldn’t race the Ironman, I volunteered at an aid station on the bike leg. I was looking forward to handing drinks off to guys as they blew by.

    And then, the night before the race, the weather completely discombobulated.

    Wind started gusting to about 20,000 miles per hour (I’m exaggerating). Trees blew over (I’m not exaggerating). Utah lake, where the swim leg would be, developed surfable waves (I’m not exaggerating). The course buoys broke free from their tethers (still not exaggerating).

    On the morning of the race, the wind was still ugly beyond all reason, but the race started anyway.

    Well, it sort of started.

    After a few people got blown across the lake (not exaggerating), clear out of the water, and into nearby trees (exaggerating), race officials ended the swim leg early and announced they were changing the race to a duathlon. With less mileage.

    It was the right call to make, but racers were still disappointed. If you train all summer for an event, you kind of want to do the whole event, right?

    The head honchos that make up Ironman, Inc. (or whatever it’s called) were not pleased with Utah’s willfully obnoxious weather and moved the Ironman to Idaho.

    Which Brings Us to Monday
    So this week, we’re hosting the Tour of Utah, right here in Utah. So of course the practical joker who for some reason both hates big-name bike races and has the ability to bring on mighty windstorms has got his dander up.

    Monday, the wind was so brutal I didn’t even consider riding my bike to work. Of course, the pro cyclists had to deal with it anyway. What fun it must have been to be in a fast-moving peloton…in the middle of a duststorm that effectively blinded you. While you dodged debris.


    Congratulations, by the way, to Uzbekistan National Champion, Sergey Lagutin of Team Navigators, who won the sprint on that stage, taking the yellow jersey (and sprinters jersey, and best young rider jersey) for the first stage.

    And Yesterday?
    More wind. Sheesh. And it was hot—more than 100 degrees, for pity’s sake. I tell you what: I’d develop “tendonitis” under these circumstances. But these pros, they’re tough guys.

    US National Road Champ Chris Wherry (Toyota-United) took the sprint in yesterday’s stage (moving him to second overall), less than a bike length ahead of local hero Jeff Louder (Healthnet-Maxxis), who is now in third overall. Lagutin finished third, continuing to hog the yellow, sprint, and young rider jerseys.

    It’ll be interesting to see what today’s short (~8mi) time trial does to these rankings.

    Want more info on the way the race unfolded? Visit my good friends at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah site.

    Oh, and by the way, it’s not too late sign up to win that awesome Cervelo Soloist Team. That bike will be given away this Saturday, though, so time’s running out. Go sign up now!

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