Something Completely Different

08.23.2007 | 6:56 am

You know, I think I would enjoy being rich. It’s just a hunch, mind you, but I suspect that I would enjoy having enough money that I could play full time.

I would be very good at being rich, because I would immediately stop working and commence having fun as my primary occupation. I would take my new job very seriously. continue to ride my bike, of course — more than ever, in fact — but I would also take up kayaking. And cross-country skiiing. And rock climbing. And motorcycles.

Maybe that’s why I’m not rich: I’m more interested in playing than in making money.

O, supreme irony!

One More Thing
OK, so barring a sudden lottery windfall or a surprising amount of revenue from this blog (truth be known, any revenue at all from this blog is surprising), I expect to continue to be be content with just one obsession: biking.

Hey, having even one obsession that’s actually good for you is more than what most people have, as far as I can tell.

Still, though, as I rode my bike home from work yesterday, I couldn’t help but wish I had the time and money for one more thing:


There’s a paragliding park right on my route home. On a day like yesterday when the weather’s right and winds are favorable (actually, I’m just guessing those are the two components that matter. Maybe it’s something totally different), you can usually see more than 25 paragliders meandering in the sky.

Imagine that: just hovering in the air. Flying. I picture what it must look like and what it must feel like to be up there in the sky, and I desperately want to try it.

The Rub
Here’s the thing, though. I know that without much difficulty I could arrange to at least try paragliding — have someone take me up there and see what I think of it all.

But what if I love it? I mean, really, really love it?

Then I’d have two pricey hobbies. Both time-consuming, both mind-consuming, both potentially dangerous.

So I haven’t tried paragliding. Not because I don’t think I’d like it, but because I’m pretty sure I would love it. And I can’t afford another obsession.

At least, not until I’m rich. Which should be happening any day now (as soon as the book offer and high-paying ads come in, that is).

What Would You Do?
I expect you’re not too different from me. Money and time limits restrict you to being really good at just one or two things. Biking, for most of you, and Tri for those of you who have suffered emotional trauma as children.

But if you had the time and money, what else would you do?


Three Options, One Choice

08.21.2007 | 5:51 am

This happens every year.

I work myself into a fitness frenzy trying to get into as good as shape as possible for the Leadville 100. Then, after the race, I go into a fitness freefall, eating everything in sight, and exercising only sporadically and randomly.

That pretty much describes what’s happening right now.

Beating The System, I Hope
In order to fight back the inevitable weight gain and to leverage the fitness I’ve worked so hard to get, I’m going to do another race.

The only problem is, there are three interesting races coming up in the near future, and I just don’t have the courage (or indecency) to ask my wife if I can do all three of them. Or even two of them.

I need to pick one race to do. But which? These are my options, and the factors I am considering in making my selection. Listed — for your convenience — in chronological order.

The e100
The first race I could do is the e100. I had planned to do this race for certain, back when Dug and Rick Sunderlage were going to race it. I liked the idea of doing this race just as a ride, goofing off, taking lots of pictures and video, and generally suffering as little as possible.

But Dug’s not going to do this race anymore. So if I’m going to do the e100, I pretty much now have to do it as a race. And here’s the thing: it’s another 100-mile mountain bike race. I know I’m not going to win it, but I also know I’m strong enough to complete it. So I wouldn’t be exactly breaking any new ground at a personal level. However, it is acknowledged to be a very challenging course with a vast amount of singletrack and climbing. Which would be very cool.

This race is close, which is a positive — I could probably sleep at home.

But — and I feel a little bit mean saying this, but it’s true — this race has a real “what do you get for your money” problem. Let’s compare: For my $220 at Leadville, I get a bag, a t-shirt, a personalized sweatshirt, a handmade trophy buckle, a pre-race dinner, the best-marked course I could ever hope for, and aid stations beyond my wildest dreams.

At the e100, you spend less –$185 — but from what I understand, you get a t-shirt and socks for entering, and nothing at all for completing. People tell me the course is not well-marked (you’re encouraged to bring your own GPS), and I know from first-hand experience that the aid stations are pretty sad.

In short, the positives seem to be an interesting and challenging course that’s relatively close. The negatives are that the race organization and rider support seems to be kind of weak.

The Logan to Jackson (LOTOJA) road race is pretty much a rite of passage for cyclists in the area. 200+ miles connecting up Logan, UT to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I could do this ride with Rick Sunderlage, which would be fun, and 200 miles on a road bike does sound epic.

The logistics, however, seem like a pain in the butt. We’ve got to find a place to stay in Logan before the race, a way to get back from Jackson Hole after the race, and — from what I understand — someone to come be our sag wagon along the way.

When the arrangements around a ride / race become more effort than the ride / race itself, is it perhaps time to reevaluate the ride?

The 24 Hours of Grand Targhee
It’s been years and years since I’ve done a 24 Hour Mountain Bike race, and I’ve never done one solo. Kenny and the Jack Mormon Militia are planning to head up to Jackson Hole Wyoming for this 24 Hour Race in mid-September, and I’m tempted to go up with them and try my hand at riding for 24 hours, solo.

This race would definitely not have the “no breaking new ground” problem I’d have with the other two races; I’ve never done a 24 hour race solo before. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to ride for that long (though I have a hunch that I do). It’s in a new place, not too far away. That’s good.

It is, however, on a ski resort. And the description of the course makes me think that this is going to be an extremely climby course. How am I going to do at not just riding for 24 hours, but basically climbing for that long? Seems like I could wind up fully cooked well before the race is even halfway over.

As a bonus, I would get to see the Jack Mormon Militia in passing, which would be kind of cool. I could probably even leach some support from them.

And if I push really hard, I bet I could badger Sunderlage into doing this instead of LOTOJA, which would be pretty cool. And Brad.

I admit: of the three races, this one both intrigues and terrifies me the most.

Your Choice
If you were presented with these three races, which would you do, and why? Furthermore, which should I do, and why?

Provided I am given good compelling reasons, I shall abide by the consensus of the commenters.

Which is probably a really, really dumb idea.

Close But No Cigar, Part VI: Dug’s Tragedy

08.19.2007 | 8:29 pm

A Note from Fatty: OK, you’ve heard from me (a lot) about this year’s Leadville. You’ve heard from Susan. You’ve heard from Bob. Now it’s Dug’s turn. After this post, we’ll stop retrospecting and will come back to the present. Unless Brad, Rick Sunderlage, or Kenny has something they’d like to contribute, that is.

I wish I had a funny, clever recap to share, but I don’t. I mean, I hate solemn, whiny reports. Hate em. But this is all I’ve got for Leadville ‘07.

I’ve been riding the WaltWorks for a few weeks, and it felt dialed. No issues whatsoever. I started the race hoping for 10 hours, thinking 11 was realistic, and I would settle for 12.

I started toward the back, knowing that I’d be going slow on the 5 miles of paved neutral downhill before the actual start and the dirt, but really, I should have started farther up, since at the beginning of the race, the people at the back and the people at the front are going essentially the same speed (faster than me), but once we hit the dirt, what with me being on the single, well, I was going faster up the opening St. Kevins climb. Or rather, I wanted to go faster, but as soon as we hit the dirt, the road was so crowded that the train literally stopped. As in, no movement.

We got moving again in fits and starts, like stop and go on a freeway, but once we hit the actual climb, of course, all it takes is one unlucky person to slip on a rock to stop the train again. Frustrating. But really, I guess in retrospect, it only lasted 15 minutes or so before it cleared out. It probably felt worse than it was.


I rode the first 40 miles feeling very strong, on pace for about 10.5, I even felt good on the flats, which is weird on a single. Both St. Kevins and Sugarloaf felt great, like I had the perfect gearing. (Maybe I did have the perfect gearing, the golden mean. Is 32/20 the golden mean? I think it is.)

I ran into friends here and there. The weather was great. Everything was great, in fact. So great. So wonderfully, terribly great. Which makes the rest of the race so much more sucky.

At about mile 40, maybe just shy of that, I was heading down a very sketchy rutted hill (that the race people call “Clavicle Hill” – not a good omen), and I tried to pass a woman who had both brakes locked up and was fishtailing. I called out “on your right” which, apparently, where she’s from, means, “Veer suddenly to your right immediately!” Which she did, sending me into a ditch, over my bar, and into the sagebrush.

I landed hard on my right elbow and shoulder, aggravating a slight shoulder injury I’d gotten a few weeks before when my front brake (different bike) failed midride. I jumped up, thinking I was fine.

I spun the wheels, straightened the bars, and everything seemed in order. But after a couple miles, my pedal stroke suddenly felt like I’d broken either my leg, or a pedal spindle. I looked down, and the left crank arm came off, cleat still in pedal. Which is just weird.

Luckily I had recently added a Park multi tool to my bag that had an allen key big enough for my crank bolt. So I put the crank back on, tightened it as best I could, and went on my way. I went through Twin Lakes aid station feeling really good, ringing my bell, feeling like I had dodged disaster.

But of course, I hadn’t. As I started up Columbine, chatting with Lisa, who was riding very well, the crank arm came loose again, so I pulled over and tightened it again. And then, when the hill got steep (the first mile or so of Columbine is one of the steepest) I realized I couldn’t pull up with any force with my right arm, and in singlespeed riding, pulling up on the bars is everything on steep climbs.

I didn’t want to bail, so I slowed down, watched Lisa disappear up the trail, and tried to soft pedal my way up the first five miles of Columbine in the trees, hoping my shoulder would loosen up. But it got worse instead; the pain got sharper, and I got slower and slower, with people on geared bikes in granny gear going by me.

I also had to stop every mile or two to tighten the crank bolt, I guess because my little Park tool didn’t give me the leverage I needed. Oh, plus the threads were stripped and the bolt crooked. That didn’t help.

The last three miles of Columbine are harsh under good circumstances, and 90% of the racers walk the whole section, and for me this was excruciating. As I dragged my butt to the top, I saw racer after racer, friend after friend bombing downhill, and my spirits got lower and lower as I got higher and higher.

I reached the top at last, and dropped my bike and went over into the weeds by myself to cry. I knew I was done. Some nice people tried to cheer me up, but I was probably like a cornered badger, and I apologize to whomever I snapped at up there. I knew I had injured my shoulder, but I didn’t know the extent. Soft tissue, rotor cuff, separation, hey, I’m no doctor. I’m fine with pain, it’s injury I avoid.

I waited for Bob, and when he showed up, totally blown, we hung out for a minute, commiserating, and then we headed down together. I guess the advantage we had was there were very few riders coming up for us to dodge. I had to stop to replace the crank arm twice on the descent. Once we got to the Twin Lakes aid station, Bob decided to keep plowing on (he would later finish in about 12.5 hours, remarkable tenacity for how he was feeling – inspirational, really), but I called Rick’s wife, Rachelle, to come pick me up and give me a ride to town.

In retrospect, I hate myself for not at least riding to the Fish Hatchery. I’ve gone over it in my mind a thousand times. I think about it, literally, a dozen times a day. But I couldn’t stomach the thought of stopping to tighten my crank every mile or two, and the idea of pushing my bike over the two mountain passes of Sugarloaf and St Kevins to get to the finish was not something I thought I could handle. But I should have tried. At the time I guess I was sure I couldn’t, but I still feel like a pansy for bailing.

Anyway. There you go. As you can tell, I’m still bitter and depressed. I wish it were a better story. I’ll get over it. I wish I could go back and try again this Saturday. Waiting a year, maintaining fitness for a year, that’s too much to take. I need redemption now.

On the other hand, I have an appointment with the Orthopedic doctor this week, and if I get the green light, me n Elden n Rick S. are going to do the E100 in Park City on August 25th. 100 miles, all singletrack, something like 18,000 feet of vertical. And that will give me, as Rachel (or was it Ross?) said, “Closure.”

PS from Fatty: According to the terms of our bet, if Dug failed to complete the race, he is required to give me both his Surly and his Gemini. Since, however, the Surly has been parted out and I would not want the Gemini under any circumstances, I hereby claim an equivalent prize: Dug’s Waltworks single speed. Unfortunately, this bike is too large for me, so I will allow Dug to continue to ride it, indefinitely, with the understanding that it is actually my bike and I am just letting him use it because I’m a really great guy.

Close But No Cigar, Part V: The Other Side of the Coin

08.16.2007 | 8:32 pm

A Note from Fatty: After four days of me going on and on and on and on about what it was like to ride the Leadville 100 last weekend, I’m finally giving Susan a chance to tell her story of what it was like to come to Leadville and crew.

To Crew or Not to Crew
I’d been looking forward to crewing for Elden since we made our plan last year. As the time got closer, I worried that I may have been a bit overoptimistic. I seemed to get tired just looking at dishes in the sink and laundry on the floor. But still I didn’t want to miss out on the epic adventure that Leadville always turned out to be.

I had only been once before — back in 2000 — and we had brought the boys with us that time. They were just 5 and 7 years old back then, so that was an adventure in and of itself. This year it would just be the two of us and I knew if I bailed – even if it was for a legitimate reason (cancer) — I would regret it in a big way.

Truth be told, I really wanted to be there for Elden, and some stupid disease wasn’t going to stop me.

Leadville and Friends
Lucky for me, everyone we met was super supportive, and the altitude was only hard when I was going up the ridiculously steep hotel stairs. So, on the whole I got to do much more than I expected…and I was less whiney than I had feared I would be.

I loved arriving in Leadville a couple of days before the race. We saw lots of friends and I realized again how lucky Elden is to have such a great group of guys to ride with and hang out with. And all of us wives got along great, as well. The night we arrived, we had a huge gathering at the restaraunt across the street from our hotel. The food wasn’t great, but I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in a long time.

The Morning Arrives
After a couple days to adjust to altitude, the day of the race dawned. Can I just say that I was probably as nervous and nauseous as Elden. I bet neither of us had more than a few hours of sleep. I tried to make myself catch a few more minutes of rest as Elden scrambled to get everything ready, but it was pointless.

I waited until the last minute to go out and cheer the riders off, though, so I didn’t have to stand for too long. I waved good luck to Elden, Rick S. and Brad, all bunched together, full of nervous energy.

It was quite a sight when the shot rang out and a thousand riders surged forward in anticipation.

After the street cleared, I joined Rachelle (Rick S’s wife, left), Sarah (Nick’s wife, second from left), and Natalie (Kenny’s wife, right) and we ate a bite of breakfast. They were wearing pink jerseys and I was happy and embarrassed at the same time. So very nice of them.

No, I didn’t wear a jersey to support myself. I just felt too weird about that.

Soon after, we hopped in our cars and zoomed off to the Twin Lakes aid station to set up our crew area.

Twin Lakes
We set up at a sort of secret spot that was off from the actual aid station. Natalie has been there every year for nine years straight. This year, though, the secret must have leaked out, or else it was a result of so many more people coming this year to see Floyd, or hoping for a last minute Lance. The narrow dirt road was already packed and we had to park on the other side of the lane, which would leave only a narrow area for the riders to pass through. Yikes. But no one told us to go and I had no ability to walk a long way, so we stayed. Soon the whole road was packed with cars on both sides.

We got out our stuff and set up chairs under an awning (Thanks for setting that up, Fish!), and waited. We all brought things to do – books, knitting, magazines – but hardly ended up doing anything.

We watched. We waited.

Sarah, Rochelle and I got antsy and inexplicably anxious. Not Natalie. She’s a pro by now. And she was crewing for Kenny, Chucky and Brad, while the other three of us just had one person: our respective husbands.

We watched the leaders fly by: Floyd in second, and we cheered for all who went by. It was great when the riders would smile and look encouraged by our shouts and encouragement. However, some just looked grumpy and put off, swearing and sour-faced. And this was before the Columbine climb. What was up with that? (I know, I know, I’m not a biker. I wouldn’t understand.)

Our Riders
Finally, after Kenny and Chucky flew by, I got my camera out to take some photos of Brad, who I figured would be ahead of Elden and Rick.

And then they all zoomed in at once. I clicked the camera out of habit, getting a picture of Brad’s knees (and Rachelle’s back), before I could toss the camera to Sarah and ask her to take some pictures while I crewed.

Meantime, Elden was having a panic attack because he couldn’t see me. Poor guy. After we found each other, he dutifully drank his soup, took his other ‘on the road’ food, and new water bottles.

In a matter of seconds, Elden, Brad, and Rick were off again. And then I could breathe again. Sheesh. Crewing is way more nerve-wracking than I thought.

I sat back and cheered and took pictures of pink jerseys (it was so cool how many people wore pink. Thank You All!) until my stupid camera told me the battery was getting low. Already?!

Nick came in and Sarah took good care of him as I snapped pictures with her camera. He was in a good mood and happy with his time so far, too. Dug blew by with his handle bar streamers and basket, and I couldn’t tell he had already had some bad luck what with the no handed pose and grin.

Bob passed us and he was laughing, for crying out loud. I would never have guessed at his story by the look I saw on his face then. He looked like he was having a blast. I loved seeing all our friends go by: Bry, Linde, Jolene, Lisa (she had a big smile — I was so mad that my lame camera decided not to focus), Scott, and Rich. People around us were asking: “How many riders were we supporting anyway?” “Lots!” We laughed.

Fish and his friends were supporting even more riders there under the awning. It was amazing to be a part of such a huge crew.

Second Pass
Finally, the leaders raced back through, going the other way, and we saw a flash of Dave, followed by a blur of Floyd. It looked like Floyd had turfed it on his right side. Ouch. Our riders followed a while later, one at a time now, the field having spread out a lot after climbing and descending Columbine.

Elden showed up and refused to eat. Of course, I tried to chide him into obeying his own plan, but to no avail. The nasty, salty margarita shot bloks had effectively destroyed his will to eat. I let him go reluctantly with the few remaining cran razz shot bloks in his back pocket.

I had tried to give him extra food in case I missed him at the next aid station. Getting there quick enough frightened me a bit and I didn’t want him to mess up his race because of me. He just shrugged the extra food off and told me solemnly, “Don’t miss me.”


Pipeline Aid Station
My wonderful friends helped me pack my truck and I cautiously maneuvered my way down the choked lane, pulling over constantly to give way to the riders flying down the road toward me. I tore down the highway to the Pipeline aid station armed with a note from Merilee, the race director, which said I could park in an official spot. That way I didn’t have to lug all my stuff from forever away to the specified crewing area.

I was panicking all the way there, looking at the time, hoping I’d make it before Elden. Oh, I also had Brad’s bag, since Natalie took off to support Kenny at the Pipeline aid station before Brad went by the Twin Lakes aid station, and I feared that I would miss Brad for sure.

I couldn’t figure out where to go for my “official spot” and lucked out on a parking place right by a plastic net guarding the race course. I saw Natalie; Kenny had already gone by. She hiked Brad’s bag up to the aid station and I planted myself at the fence.

I got yelled at by a big, intimidating worker saying that I was not allowed to crew there. To which I forced my normally-unassertive self to yell back, lifting my cane and pointing to my bald, bandanaed head: “Do I look able to walk to you?” He backed down when he realized I was the one Merilee had warned him about. Thank goodness. I plopped back down in relief.

Elden came by soon after and I tried again to get him to eat his soup, but salty food was making him gag. I let him pass with more water and that was it. He said he still had a chance for under nine and I told him to go for it and he sped away.

Natalie helped me keep from taking out at least three cars as I tried to back out of that crowded parking area. So many people had double parked in a frantic effort to get to their riders in time.

We headed back to the hotel. My stomach starting to unclench as I realized I had been able to do everything that I wanted to do. I had had a much more physically stress-filled day than I could remember since I had started chemo. But I had done it, and Elden was doing incredibly well. It was a good feeling as I cruised back to town.

The Home Stretch
Natalie helped me lug my stuff back to the hotel and, even without the extra burdens, I felt like I took two hours getting up the stairs and to the room. I wanted to go see the first riders come in, but my energy had been completely zapped. Natalie said she heard the cheer as Dave Wiens crossed the finish line in first place just as she got into her room. Oh well. I think that was about one-thirty, maybe.

I dragged myself out to the finish line around three-fifteen. Kenny had already crossed the finish line. I was hoping Elden would make it before three-thirty. So many of us were waiting and counting down the minutes.

As you know by now, he was a bit late. I thought he did fantastic anyhow, and I was so proud to have crewed for him. I tried to hang out for some of our other friends to come in, wasted though I was.

My friend Rich, bless his heart, hiked back to my truck and brought back my folding chair. I collapsed into it and could hardly move, even when people crossed the finish line. After an hour or so, I had had it and I left. I missed seeing Nick come in. Sorry. And Lisa and Bob.

On the way back to the hotel, I saw Floyd chatting casually with a family in front of me so I slowed down and stuck out my hand when he had finished. Didn’t get a picture. But a handshake was nice. He was more personable than he needed to be and I was impressed that he stayed around after the race at all. Wonder if Lance would have done that?

After Effects
I went back to the hotel, took all manner of pain meds, and stayed in bed for about fifteen hours. I missed the brats party, the award ceremony, and saying good-bye to most everyone. But I had had an amazing time.

I was so glad to be part of my husband’s annual tradition. What an adventure.

I hope I can come back next year. I might even have hair and be able to ditch my cane. That would be something. Besides, next year, when Elden can stop using all his energy worrying about me, I know he really will spank that sub-nine.

Close But No Cigar, Part IV: I Can Do It! I Can Do It!…No, I Can’t.

08.15.2007 | 9:59 pm

A Note From Fatty: I’m going to keep writing tonight ’til I finish my story. I swear it. Four parts is really as much as I can expect any of you to put up with my blow-by-blow of this race. Actually, three parts is about as much as I’d have expected you to put up with, but here we are anyway.

However, once my story is done, I still plan to continue with the Leadville story for two more posts, because they’ve already been written. Friday, I’m going to post Susan’s story of how the trip went for her. Monday, I’ll post Dug’s story.

And then, more than a week after I’ve been back from the race, I’ll finally move on. Unless I think of something else I have to say on the matter.

I Give My All
The interesting thing about being on the fence for a time goal in a race is it presents you with an option. You can ride conservatively and hope that you’re strong enough to hit your goal, or you can go out hard and hope that you don’t pay for it with a massive bonk.

With forty miles — more than a quarter of which is hard climbing — to go in 3:45, I decided that I would pour it on. Each time I started to fade, I’d stand up and ratchet up my effort a notch.

This worked pretty well. I did the 15 rolling miles to the final aid station in exactly an hour, which was the amount of time I had alloted myself. So, no time lost on this section.

Unfortunately, I didn’t gain back the fifteen minutes I had lost so far, either. But I was eating again — no problem with the raspberry Shot Bloks. It was only the Margarita ones that seemed to be infused with Kryptonite.

I rolled into the final aid station, and there — to my surprise, I must admit — was Susan. She had used her bandana and cane too good effect, and had gotten a primo aid station spot right by her car, so she didn’t have to carry too much.

I grabbed a couple water bottles — I had four packets of Shot Bloks, which I figured should be enough, refused soup and everything else, and took off again.

“I think I still have a chance at sub-9,” I told Susan.

“You can do it!” she said. And I certainly intended to try. I knew, though, that my tendency is to fade in the final part of a race, not pick up power.

25 miles to go.

Me and My Shadow
As you exit the Pipeline aid station, you have a few flat miles before hitting the Powerline climb. I felt good as I began this section, yelling “Yarrrrggh!” to a spectator in a pirate hat, and getting a hearty “Yarrrrgh!” back from her.

I settled into my groove and, in a minute, noticed someone was behind me, drafting. I looked back.

Chris Carmichael, again.

That’s cool, I thought. He and I had managed to ride together at the beginning of the race, climbed up most of the hard part of Columbine Mine together, and now we were going to ride the end of the race together.

“How’s it going, Chris?” I asked.

No answer. That’s OK, though. Toward the end of this race, I sometimes don’t feel much like talking.

I did a nice long pull, then veered off. Chris tracked behind me, hunkered down. I flicked my elbow. No reaction.

Holy smokes, I thought. Chris Carmichael is a parasite drafter!

Before long, a couple of others joined us and picked up the pace. We all took turns pulling, except Chris. To be fair, I’m pretty sure he was being a parasite because that was all he was good for at the moment.

After a few minutes, I couldn’t hang with the group anymore and dropped off the back. That was OK, though. It was time to climb the Powerline anyway, and a paceline wouldn’t help.

Free Coke
I began my climb and before long — like everyone — was off my bike, pushing up the sandy, steep hill. Off the bike, with no breeze, the heat was punishing.

Luckily, some family seems to have made a tradition of setting themselves up on the Powerline climb with paper cups full of Coke. I told them I remembered them from last year and let them know they were currently saving my life.

“Cool,” the teenager handing me a cup said. “See you here next year!”

I tell you what: I would vote for that kid for President.

Hi Bry
The overwhelming memory I always take from the Powerline climb is the excruciating hike-a-bike part, but that’s really just a small section. And ever since I learned to pay attention to the distance of the climb and not be fooled by false summits, this climb doesn’t really get into my head anymore. So I churned away, occasionally passing people, and not getting passed by anyone.

Evidently, I still had some power in my legs.

And then I saw Bry ahead of me. I had finally erased the gap he had put on me in downhilling the Columbine Mine road so fast. I caught him as he stopped for a moment to eat, said, “Hi Bry” and kept on going.

Sub-9 no longer seemed very likely, but I wasn’t ready to give up the dream quite yet.

Within a few minutes, Bry had caught back up to me. I guess I made a pretty decent carrot for him. He said, “You’ve got to eat! You’ve got to eat!”

I would have replied, but my mouth was full of food at the moment.

Bry and I summited together, then started descending down the loose, rocky trail. As I’ve noted, Bry is a much faster downhiller than I, but he stayed with me.

I dunno, I think I should have appreciated it, but this was a race, and Bry was slowing down for me as if I needed some kind of special help.

“Go on,” I said, “I don’t want a babysitter. I know my way to the finish line.”

But Bry stuck with me.

Riding nervously because I knew Bry was right on my tail, I veered hard right off a rock and went down. Not a bad fall. No injury, no damage to the bike. I got up and was about to ride when Bry instructed me to drink some water first.

OK, this was getting on my nerves.

We continued on to the base of the St. Kevins climb, where Bry continued to ride with me, though he was obviously hanging back.

“Go on,” I finally said. “You’ve still got power in your legs; use it. This is a race. I would ditch you if I could.”

Bry pulled away from me, as easy as pie. in the final thirteen miles of the race, he put four minutes on me. So yeah, I’d say he still had some pop in his legs.

Shifting Goals
As I climbed the four miles of pavement up to St. Kevins, I knew I could no longer finish under nine hours. I just couldn’t.

Maybe, though, I could still get a personal best. And that was reason to keep riding hard.

So I climbed the last big hill, did the last big descent, and motored up the Boulevard. I was part way up this last dirt road climb when my watch beeped, letting me know nine hours had elapsed.


I kept climbing, though, watching every minute go by, pushing it harder and harder, wanting to see if I could finish in 9:12, beating my personal best of 9:13.

I thought I could do it and gave everything I could, riding right at my limit and maybe a little bit beyond. As the finish line came into sight, my clock showed 9:12.

But I was for sure more than two minutes out. Oh well, may as well push it anyway.

Now it was 9:13. Maybe I could at least tie my personal best.

Then, seconds before I crossed the finish line, my watch ticked over to 9:14.

I crossed the line, fully blown. Susan was right there and gave me a big hug.

Look at me, gasping for air. It was a great moment.

Seconds later, all my friends at the finish came up to me to offer congratulations — and, let’s face it, condolences.

Bry came over and hugged me, laughing. As near as I could tell, he was not upset at me for telling him to leave me alone to suffer on my own while he rode on ahead:

Dug handed me his Diet Coke. It was a little slice of heaven.

Kenny said, “Sorry, man. I thought you had it in you.”

Yeah, so did I.

Brush With Fame
Oh, this is the cool part.

After hanging around at the finish line for a few minutes to congratulate Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) on his first Leadville finish, I was ready to head back to the hotel to shower.

And that’s when Rich — a good friend and former neighbor — told me Floyd Landis was hanging around meeting people at the finish line. Floyd — in spite of a crash and a flat — had finished the race in seven hours flat, good for second place to Dave Wiens, who had broken the course record by eight minutes. Wow.

Susan told me to go with Rich and get my picture with Floyd. I was exhausted and started making excuses about wanting to just go get a shower, but Susan and Rich were firm. I should do this.

So here’s me and Floyd (pops to bigger version):

And I got him to sign my jersey, too.

Did Floyd have to come back to the finish line and hang around with a bunch of stinky guys more than two hours after he had finished the race? No. Was he acting like a diva? Nope. Would he talk with and take pictures with anyone who wanted? Yes.

Floyd’s cool.

More Friends Cross the Finish Line
Susan and I went to the hotel, where she loaded up on pain meds and took a well-deserved 15-hour nap. I took a shower and went back to the finish line, where Nick Abbott — my riding buddy from Seattle — and Linde were crossing the finish line together. With a finish time of 10:15, they each cut massive chunks off their previous year’s finish time (Nick had finished in 11:55, Linde in 12:20), and were justifiably ecstatic. There’s no way you can look at Nick’s face and not smile along (Linde looks like he’s sitting on Sarah’s shoulder):

And then Bob crossed the finish line at 12:26. Bob would later write that he isn’t happy with his effort or his time, but I mostly remember him with a huge smile crossing the finish line. Dug, Brad, and I rushed him and gave him a big group hug.

Bob’s tough as nails.

And after all this? Bratwurst. Fish — a nickname we gave a long time ago to a guy with an unpronouncable name — was crewing for a bunch of people, and had also volunteered to grill brats for us afterward, making it so we wouldn’t have to fight with the rest of the town for seats at a restaraunt.

Dug, who is from Minneapolis and therefore knows a thing or two about brats, agreed with me and everyone else who was sitting around, relaxing, and eating: these were the best brats ever grilled.

Part of that, of course, came from the massive hunger we all had after doing this big race. But not all of it. Fish clearly takes his brats seriously, and kicked major butt in feeding us.

I ate four.

I would have eaten five, but people were starting to stare.

At the award ceremony the next day, I got my eleventh little belt buckle and sweatshirt, showing that I have done this race eleven times. The race organizers — Ken Chlouber and Merilee Oates — give eleven-time finishers a black jacket with the Leadville Trail 100 logo embroidered on the back and your name embroidered on the front.

I have to admit, I take some pride in having done this race eleven times. Not many people have.

Years and years ago when I got a 9:13 at Leadville, I got away from people as quickly as I could, because I didn’t want anyone to see that I was crying.

This time, though I missed my goal in about as public a way as possible, I didn’t cry. I wasn’t even devastated. I think “melancholy” is the best word I could use to describe how I feel about missing my goal.

Why “melancholy?”

Because I’m about as fit right now as I have time to be. My bike worked perfectly — I never even had to think about it for a second. It was that flawless. The weather was ideal. I have no excuses. This is the best I’m capable of.

I’m not going to ask my family to give me this kind of time to train again next year (or for the forseeable future), so it’s very unlikely I’ll match or beat this time ever again.

Will I be back next year? Of course I will. And I’ll have a great time; the Leadville 100 is one of my favorite traditions. Hopefully I’ll be fit and reasonably fast for it.

But I’m putting the sub-9 goal away. That belongs to other people — people who have a gift for both climbing and descending, and good genetics, to boot.

Meanwhile, nine-point-something hours isn’t too bad for a middle-aged guy with a minor gift for climbing, no gift at all for descending, and an annual 30-pound winter curse.

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