A Note From Fatty: I am happy to announce that today is Susan’s and my 19th wedding anniversary. Yep, nineteen. Pretty darn cool, if you ask me. Those of you who think about this kind of thing (i.e., women) will most likely note that this means I have been away from my wife for nine of our most recent eleven anniversaries, either racing in or coming home from the Leadville 100.
And yet, Susan and I remain married. This must be because I am such a wonderful husband.
You know what’s cool? Riding with your friends during an epic race is cool. I had almost forgotten how cool this is, because I haven’t done it in years and years. All my friends are either much faster or a little slower than I am.
This year, that changed, at least for a while.
After — as I mentioned yesterday — I passed Kenny, it occurred to me: Of all my riding buddies, only Brad was ahead of me. And I could see him no more than ten yards ahead of me (Brad’s sleeveless Fat Cyclist jersey made him easy to pick out of the crowd).
By the time I descended the pavement of St. Kevins and rode along the brief paved flat section, I had caught Brad, too.
Yes, that’s right: for an all-too-short moment, I led all of my friends, including the crazy-fast ones.
Two minutes later, Brad passed me. And then Kenny passed me, politely saying, “On yer left, Fatty,” as he went by.
Frequently looking at my bike computer, I could tell: I was doing great. I had climbed so well that even with a conservative descent down the treacherous Powerline section of the trail (where, unbeknownst to me, Floyd Landis had turfed it earlier in the day), I’d hit my target first split time of two hours at the Pipeline aid station.
I felt good on the downhill. Loose and comfortable. Didn’t mind the rigid at all. And in fact, when I got to the bottom, a rider came around and thanked me for riding a clean line for him to follow. “I don’t know if you noticed,” he said, “But the guy right between us was trying to do an aggressive pass around you, caught air, nose-wheelied, and totally wrecked,” he continued.
Yikes. I hate to think that I ended someone else’s race, especially unintentionally. All you had to do was ask for my line, whoever you are. I would have pulled to the side.
Riding With Sunderlage
As soon as I reached the bottom of the Powerline Descent and started motoring along the flat section leading up to the Pipeline aid station, Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) caught up to me and joined the paceline that was rapidly forming. “That is one sexy jersey,” Sunderlage said, as he took his place in line.
I should mention here that the paceline I was in was — very briefly — a perfect machine. Though few of us had ever ridden together, most of us knew how to pull and then drop back. And since we were all pushing it, everyone pulled strongly — without surging — on the way to the front of the line, then pulled smoothly over to the right to drop back.
It was a perfect clockwise rotating paceline. Which lasted only maybe two rotations before it disintigrated. Oh well, nice while it lasted.
I’ve been using a very effective eating strategy on the bike, lately. I’ve set my Forerunner 305 to beep every half hour, which I use as a signal to eat a pack of Shot Bloks. I started with the Cran-Razberry flavor, which are nice and soft, though they do require you to hock up one monster loogey after finishing off a packet.
After the first couple hours, though, I switched to Margarita flavor, figuring all the extra sodium would do me good.
There was a little problem with this, though: I hadn’t considered how difficult it would be to eat something that salty in very high altitude, in very low humidity. As in, it took ten minutes to chew and swallow a pack of Shot Bloks. By which time, the inside of my mouth was completely mummified. Pickled, if you will.
That was foreshadowing, by the way.
Work the Crowd
Rick and I continued riding and working together as we flew through the Pipeline aid station. Two hours even. Perfect.
It was here, as we flew through the crowd, that I exercised a trick Jolene had told me about:
I yelled at them.
Specifically, I yelled, “Huzzah!” and pumped my left arm into the air (I’d have pumped my right arm, but my shoulder probably would have popped out of its socket).
The crowd, to my delight, went wild.
For the rest of the race, any time I went through an aid station, I’d either shout, do a trill-shout, or otherwise make euphoric, loud noises. All worked equally well. It turns out, the crowd — who cheers everyone on — really loves a racer that cheers back at them.
The next time you’re racing, try it out. You’ll see what I mean.
Rick and I continued working together, and the one relatively flat section in the race just flew by. Before long, we caught up with Brad, who was incredibly happy to see us. “Dude, we get to ride together! How cool is that?” wondered Brad.
Too cool for words, that’s how cool.
Rick, Brad, and I rode together as we neared the Twin Lakes Dam aid station — the spot where Susan was supposed to be meeting me — so we arrived within just a few seconds of each other.
Meanwhile, Bry was catching up, so he dropped in at the same time too. The net result being that four guys in Fat Cyclist jerseys hit the 40 mile aid station within a minute of each other.
That, my friends, rules.
I Freak Out
We hit the second aid station (40 miles into the race) in perfect time with my target splits: right at 2:45.
There was just one problem: I couldn’t find Susan.
I could see the area where Susan was supposed to be. I could see all of my friends’ crews — many of them wearing the Pink Fat Cyclist jersey. I could see everything but Susan or my truck.
Was something wrong with Susan? Was I on my own for the race? Was she too sick to come out? What was going on?
“Where’s Susan? Where’s Susan?! Where is Susan?!” I started shouting at everyone.
It turns out Susan was right where she had said she’d be, and had my stuff all set to go. In my adrenaline-fueled rush to keep moving, I had simply just not seen her.
As I slugged down a can of Chicken soup, Susan emptied the debris out of my jersey pockets — noting, approvingly, that I had eaten everything I was supposed to — and swapped out my water bottles in record time.
Brad, Rick, Bry and I all left our crew at about the same time.
At which point, I suddenly realized: I was still wearing my arm warmers.
Crap. The day was getting hot; I didn’t want to wear those for even one more second. So I tore them off with my teeth, bunched them up, and then — the next time I passed a random crew’s tent, I tossed my very nice Castelli arm warmers to a surprised, confused person. “Free arm warmers!” I shouted, and kept going.
It was time for the Columbine Mine section: 10 miles that would take me to 12,600 feet. I was feeling strong, climbing well, and hitting my conservative split times. How could I not get that sub-9 time I had been focusing on so obsessively?
Well, that’s where I’ll pick up the story tomorrow.
PS: Bob gives an incredibly engaging telling of his race over at his blog. It’s so good, I read it twice.
PPS: Give it up for Dug. He was every bit as excited for this race as I was, but got crashed out of it by a nervous rider who exactly misinterpreted what “On your right” means. I’ll post his story soon, but meanwhile, I think he’ll be glad to know that of every picture taken at the Twin Lakes Dam aid station, I’m certain that the one Susan got of him was the very best: