7 Reasons I Loved Leadville This Year

08.12.2008 | 4:38 pm

A Note from Fatty: I set out today to write a race report. But I — somehow — wound up with a list instead. Nobody’s more surprised about this than I am. I’ll have the actual chronology of my day posted soon. I promise.

IMG_9452.JPGLast Saturday, I was not fast. I was not fit. I was not focused.

But I had a great race. Really. It was quite possibly the high-water mark in my racing career. Here are 7 — among many more, many of which I probably haven’t even realized exist — reasons why.

Reason #1: I Really, Really, Really Needed a Vacation
This was my 12th consecutive Leadville 100, and I look forward to going every year. I love all the lollygagging that happens before the race. I love the traditions surrounding the race — the pre-race meeting, the standing around in line right before the gun goes off, the being greeted by faster friends when I cross the finish line.

And this year, I was doubly looking forward to it. Because I needed a vacation. A few days where I would have responsibility for nothing but myself.

And then, at the last minute, I decided not to go.

You see, the morning before I was to leave, Susan had a fall. And then another. For the second one, she banged her shins and started bleeding. Since Susan’s on blood thinners, the blood was gushing out. When we got the bleeding stopped, the bruises on her shins were already black and enormous.

So I said I was staying home. The race isn’t that important. It’s just a race.

But Susan would have none of it. I had to go, she said. It wasn’t up for discussion. She didn’t want me at home, moping around the house.

So I made sure every phone number of every person in the neighborhood was written down on a piece of paper, made sure Susan would have someone staying with her, and I went. Grateful for a wife that knows that not many things matter much to me, but this race does.

Reason #2: No Pressure
Another thing that was great about this year’s race was that I didn’t have a goal. Sure, I talked about intentionally being the last person across the finish line before twelve hours had elapsed (making myself the first person ever to try to get the famed “Last Ass Over the Pass” award), or trying to get exactly 11:11:11.

But really, I had no idea how I’d do. I’m 20 pounds heavier than I was this time last year, haven’t been training, and was riding a singlespeed on the course for the first time ever. How could I know what to expect?

Well, I could expect to have fun. And I could, for the first time ever, expect to get a good night’s rest the night before the race. No pressure meant that I didn’t have to lie awake all night, fretting.

IMG_9497.JPGReason #3: Lots of Friends of Fatty
I have no way to know for certain, but I believe that there were more Fat Cyclist jerseys at Leadville than any other kind. And every time I saw one — whether on a friend or stranger — I’d get a big smile.

Even better than seeing all those jerseys, though, was all the kind words I got on the trail. So many people said, “Give my best to Susan,” or “We’re thinking about / praying for Susan,” that I lost count.

Reason #4: I Have Figured Out What and When To Eat
Every year, I fade toward the end of the race. I’m convinced that it’s because I just can’t eat. No matter what I bring, I stop eating when the riding gets difficult. This, in turn, makes my stomach clench up and it becomes difficult to drink. And then the effect cascades, leaving me weak and wiped out. In a state of self-inflicted bonk.

This year, that didn’t happen. I went through two packets of Shot Bloks (rotating through Strawberry, Cran-Razz, and Cherry this year), two packets of Sports Beans, and a PowerGel every two or three hours. And some chicken soup at each aid station.

All of this, however takes a back seat to Coca Cola.

All of my friends gag at the idea of keeping Coke in a bottle and drinking it warm, and probably it grosses you out too. That’s fine; I’m not trying to sell you on it. But warm, flat Coke doesn’t bother me a bit. I just love the stuff. Can’t get enough. And since a good-sized water bottle holds around 300 calories-worth of soda, it’s not like taste was the only thing it had going for it. Fast calories + hydration + caffeine. And it’s available in every store in the entire world.

I also made up a new rule: any time I had to get off my bike to push, I had to stuff something in my mouth before beginning the push. This rule doesn’t make any sense at all in most places in the world, but on the Leadville 100, it makes great sense, because you’ve got to push up part of Columbine. Then you’ve got to push up a steep little grunt of a hill. Then you’ve got to push up the Powerline trail.

Usually, these sections are just frustrating to me: I’m walking in a bike race, for crying out loud! This time, though, I was eating and stretching my legs during these sections, making good use of the terrain.

Check me out: I was thinking strategically.

Reason #5: Everyone Loves a Single Speed
I remember, in Leadville 100s past, giving a shout-out to any rider I saw doing this race on a single speed. Since this year I did the race on a single speed, I now found out that apparently I’m not the only guy who does that. Dozens and dozens of people yelled things like “Go single!” during the race. I bet my time was 15 minutes faster because of this encouragement than it would otherwise have been.

What is very important at this juncture is that the rest of the world must not find out that riding a single speed is no harder than riding a geared bike. Oh, sure, there were parts where an easier gear would have let me stay on my bike longer. But there were many more parts where, because of the bike gearing, I climbed much faster than I would otherwise have. And without significantly more effort.

Consider this: overweight and undertrained, I finished the final 25 miles — the climbiest and hardest part of the race — faster than I ever have before. Why? Because on a single speed, you know when you’ve got to walk, and so you do, instead of frying yourself in granny gear to go an extra 20 feet on your bike.

And when you’re on your single speed bike on a climb, you’re going faster than you would on a geared bike, because you’ve got to turn the cranks at a certain rate…or fall over if you don’t.

And then, finally: on the flats. Single speeds are slow on the flats, no doubt about it. If I were going for a fast time, I could have tried to compensate by spinning a fast cadence. Instead, though, I just churned along at the rate I felt like going. When the course turned up, I passed people. When it was flat, I got passed.

And in this way, I passed and got re-passed by the same group of people over and over and over, until it became a joke. “Eighteen,” I’d say, passing one guy on a climb.

“Nineteen,” he’d reply, passing me back once we got to a flat spot.

The unplanned consequence of all this was that I still had some power in my legs when I got to the big climbs.

Reason #6: I Love to Climb
I don’t know if I would be a cyclist if I lived in the flatlands. Maybe I’d learn to love powering along in big gears, mile after mile. But for right now, I love to climb. I just do. I love the intensity of it. I love reaching a summit. I love looking down from the top of a mountain into a valley, knowing that I’ve earned that view. I love that I’m pretty good at climbing — considering my paunchiness — and can do it for hours on end.

And Leadville is all about climbing. About 12,000 feet of it.

Traditionally, I dread the final quarter of the race, because I’m so tired that I can’t enjoy the climb. This time, I got to the final quarter of the race feeling just as good — possibly better — than I did at the beginning of the race. How did that happen? I don’t know. But it did. And so while those around me suffered just like I normally do, I was feeling calm. Peaceful.

I just stood up and pedaled, rocking the bike left and right with each turn of the cranks. Maybe that’s it: climbing with a single speed forces you into an insistent, consuming rhythm. There’s no room left in your head or body for the demons to talk.

Reason #7: I Can Descend
Separated shoulder notwithstanding, I’m descending better than I ever have before. It used to be that when I passed friends going up St. Kevins, they’d pass me coming down the Powerline. If I passed them climbing Columbine, they’d pass me on the way back down.

This year, that didn’t happen.

Well, actually I think it did happen.

But not as often. And not as embarrassingly.

PS: Check out this great photo from CyclingNews’ coverage of Leadville 100. That’s Bry in the background, proudly sporting a pink Fat Cyclist T-shirt. Way to infiltrate the press, Bry!

PPS: For a “Where’s Waldo”-ish game, see if you can find me in the this VeloNews photo of racers waiting at the starting line.


  1. Comment by Lucky Cyclist(the d----eb-g) | 08.12.2008 | 4:57 pm

    The best revenge is living well right? Far more interesting than the last two posts.

  2. Comment by dug | 08.12.2008 | 5:02 pm

    what do you mean you’re not giving your race report today? what was that? you’ve got MORE?

  3. Comment by Canadian Roadie | 08.12.2008 | 5:06 pm

    Wow, I’m in awe. Congrats on having a great race. Unfortunately, now you’ve got me thinking about a singlespeed. And man, do those pink jerseys stand out!

  4. Comment by Steve | 08.12.2008 | 5:10 pm

    You can totally see you roll by in the race recap video on the VeloNews home page. Check it out at the 10-second mark. At least I think that’s you…

  5. Comment by Bitter (formerly known as Lissee) | 08.12.2008 | 5:37 pm

    cool. :)

  6. Comment by steve sax | 08.12.2008 | 5:53 pm

    Hooray for the SS…less really IS more
    sometimes. Maybe the SS and a strong
    shulder is what you need to get under 9
    hours next year?

  7. Comment by kentucky joe | 08.12.2008 | 5:57 pm

    now that’s what I’ve been waiting for. I like to climb as well although I am a roadie. Thanks for the report and finding FC jerseys in the photos is really very cool.

  8. Comment by Ty | 08.12.2008 | 5:58 pm

    Well put! I hope someday to be able to ride this race!!!

  9. Comment by bikemike | 08.12.2008 | 6:01 pm

    we’re all very proud of our little fatty!
    hey that makes us “Fatties”, you know, like “Trekkies”.o.k. nevermind.

  10. Comment by ann | 08.12.2008 | 6:04 pm

    “I love to climb. I just do. I love the intensity of it. I love reaching a summit. I love looking down from the top of a mountain into a valley, knowing that I’ve earned that view.”

    Hold that thought. If this blog is indeed a valid self-reflection, this thought is a distilled statement of your faith, hope and perseverance.

  11. Comment by Lori | 08.12.2008 | 6:36 pm

    Huzzah for such a great weekend!!

    And Susan is one incredible woman. I only wish I could be half as strong as she.


  12. Comment by Lizzylou | 08.12.2008 | 7:04 pm

    I found you… at least I think I did. I found a pink Fatcyclist jersey, but it’s too blurry to recognize facial details. And those pink jerseys really show the mud well. And it looked like those mayo packets were still full, for shame.

  13. Comment by graisseux | 08.12.2008 | 7:04 pm

    Could reason #7 be because you used suspension this time?

  14. Comment by gelmski | 08.12.2008 | 7:11 pm


    Unlike the crash, you had the good sence to keep your gut sucked in these photos.

    Great job!

    WIN Susan

  15. Comment by MTB W | 08.12.2008 | 7:36 pm

    gelmeski – you beat me to it. Fatty’s got the gut sucking thing down pat in these pics. And there were more Fatty jerseys than any other jersey as far as I could tell (mostly the pink versions) – good to see! Either Fatty’s got a big audience or he paid all these people to wear his jersey.

  16. Comment by KatieA978 | 08.12.2008 | 7:43 pm

    That pink jersey is pretty easy to find. You were THISCLOSE to the greatness that is Lance Armstong.

    So are we going to get some form of story about you and His Emminence competing on the track? Or how you beat his time?

    Or just that he said hi, after that nice photo he sent??

  17. Comment by rexinsea | 08.12.2008 | 8:11 pm

    So glad the race was excellent for you. Wow but a lot of people start that race. Who whudda thunk a suffer fest like that would bring out so many crazies. Awesome.

    Also, I agree with the others, Susan is the best! WIN.

  18. Comment by Angel | 08.12.2008 | 8:45 pm

    The jerseys are very attention-getting. We wore ours to the first annual Long Island Harbor Ride in NY in June and had many people stop and ask what Fat Cyclist was. I told them who you are, told them to check out the blog, and told them about Susan. Everyone thought that the name was great.

    Susan totally rocks! I’m going to be like her when I grow up.

  19. Comment by Don | 08.12.2008 | 8:49 pm

    1) Are you sucking in, in both of the photos? Just asking.
    2) I live in non stop rolling hills. I actually WANT to do about 50 miles of just flat-flatish riding for once. I’ve never known (since I was a wee lad) getting on a bike and NOT having to climb some sort of something.

  20. Comment by Emily | 08.12.2008 | 9:15 pm

    How could you forget to mention the weather? There was near perfect race conditions all day.
    Glad you had a great race.

  21. Comment by KanyonKris | 08.12.2008 | 9:41 pm

    I think what dug meant to say is:


    I’m just hassling you with feigned irritation.

  22. Comment by Primal | 08.13.2008 | 4:48 am


    I watched a brief 2 min highlights package on Velonews TV. Not having a clue what the Leadville 100 was (ignorant Aussie… I know!) Looks like a great day out. Still can’t believe that Lance took the lime light off the real star.

    Primal… also kicking off http://www.tallcyclist.com pretty soon.

  23. Comment by Mike Roadie | 08.13.2008 | 5:50 am

    Susan………..is amazing.

    You are really revelling in the weekend–that was obviously so well needed.

    The FC representation is inspiring. Is the pink T still available……I’ll go check.


  24. Comment by Mike Roadie | 08.13.2008 | 5:51 am

    Crap……only in Large……I’m an XL!

  25. Comment by Donald | 08.13.2008 | 6:21 am

    Congrats Fatty! The best part is you had so much FUN.
    I think your great experience is also a positive for Susan. She’s got to gain a little bit of energy and power when she sees you have a day like that! It’s part of the reason, I’m sure, she insisted you go. Your strength helps hers.

  26. Comment by snobound | 08.13.2008 | 6:46 am

    Sounds like it was a great race! Thanks for sharing your journey.

  27. Comment by Mir | 08.13.2008 | 7:58 am

    “Reason #6: I Love to Climb”

    That’s just sick.

  28. Comment by joel | 08.13.2008 | 9:19 am

    warm coke…arghghghghg…

    When I was a more slender man and a competitive swimmer warm coke and semi-melted powerbars (the original, nasty textured ones) were the fuel that got me through the two day, all day championship meets.

    ‘grats on the race and the “Friends of Fatty” (we should start a club…)

  29. Comment by FWCPC | 08.13.2008 | 11:07 am

    That is some serious gut sucking going on.
    BTW – on his weblog Lance referred to Leadville as “this event or race or whatever…” clearly trying to downplay his shame at being less popular than the FC

  30. Comment by Jeff at Ergon USA | 08.13.2008 | 11:30 am

    I was looking for you…but it was near impossible with the army of Fat Cyclist jerseys running around the event. Maybe next year!

    Good to see you had great event!

  31. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.13.2008 | 11:37 am

    i tried warm coke on a fast club ride a couple of weeks ago. not bad, really.

    congrats on having a great time, Fatty1

    WIN, Susan!

  32. Comment by justrun | 08.13.2008 | 11:58 am

    Sweet! Congrats on a great ride!

  33. Comment by Lowrydr | 08.13.2008 | 12:28 pm

    So, maybe the extra 20# helped on the downhill portion more than hurt on the uphill. Congrats on the time.

    For Susan that is.

  34. Comment by Jsun | 08.13.2008 | 12:33 pm

    I see your blurry face in the picture, can you see mine on the sidelines. Yet another year I didn’t have a succesful lotterization, but I still go up to watch the fun, do a ride in between the start/finish and to reduce my responsibility to four people to just one, myself. Life has a way of pulling a person in certain directions. I am just trying to stay the course. keep on keepin on

  35. Comment by Chainring.TV | 08.13.2008 | 2:38 pm

    Whatever happened to eating avacados?


  36. Comment by Rocky | 08.13.2008 | 8:32 pm

    Mmmm…warm flat coke. The perfect picker upper. Climbing, however, is just dumb.

  37. Comment by judi | 08.14.2008 | 9:00 am

    Fatty, I dreamt about this race last night for whatever reason. I guess cuz I was reading your blog last night before I went to sleep. Kenny was in the dream too! I think it was his shoes! WTF!

    Anyways, you have inspired me to get a SS this winter – going to try some mntn biking on an SS and I can’t wait.

    Sending lots of positive vibes to Susan and you as well. Happy anniversery and thanks for blogging.

  38. Comment by Louis | 08.15.2008 | 6:33 am

    Fatty (racer #135,aka Elden Nelson),

    I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, racer #845, aka Louis Baker, circus bear, douche baker, dillweed, knucklehead, color-blind superhero, bonehead, well you get the picture.
    The Crash. The gun went off at 6:30a.m., and I – along with everyone else – started pedaling. Things were tight, and the neutral zone rule didn’t cross mind especially as I listened to my mp3 player getting ready for one of the most difficult mountain bike races around. Then this happened: Ladies and gentlemen, meet Elden Nelson (Fatty) – feeling all the riders around him were following the rules except me, but lacking the skill to stay upright when things go bad, leans into me almost making me crash. Somehow I manage to catch my balance and simply try to keep moving. Unfortunately, Fatty was not so lucky and got caught up with me or something on my bike. Though I kept moving forward and didn’t check back on Fatty for fear of causing a pile up, it appeared to be a slow moving crash and I hoped Fatty was ok. As most of you don’t know, I am not an angry, resentful, sadistic person. In fact, I’m one of the most positive upbeat individuals you’ll ever come across. Hindsight, I should have checked on him. This is what I remember happening in the heat of the moment. But the rest of this post is going to be sarcastic. Why, Oh, I dunno. Maybe because some ballerina with poor balance fell off his bike and blamed me publicly. Despite Fatty’s lack of balance, I cringe at the idea of someone being hurt in these events. Anyway, if you don’t like my side of the story, you may want to read Angry Fatty’s post one more time. Oh, that atrocity of cycling garb. I feel inclined to explain. You see the day before the race I was unlucky enough to get my matching race jersey signed by Lance Armstrong and Dave Wiens putting me in somewhat of a jersey dilema. Do I ride with an original signed jersey of these legendary men? So off to the local bike shop where there was a plethora of jerseys (only 1 medium) to choose from. Now I knew going in this looked ridiculous – but I did have a cool signed jersey! You may be saying to yourself, Louis intentionally cut Fatty off and was gunning for him because of his celebrity status knowing he was the king of cycling web blogs and the ripe opportunity to be famous. Yes, that was it, forget about being in a cool race with Lance. Oh, and that picture, it clearly explains what happened. I intend to use it as a brochure in my new line of cycling clothing called “Take Out Fatty”. As for Fatty, well, let’s take a look at how much injury and time he lost in the race. Ok, this is his twelfth year doing this race, that is very cool, not a bad time at 10:06. Let’s see, my time was 10:38 and this is very new race for me and Fatty is three years younger than I am, shoot you got me…this time. Elden, some advice: next time you race, you may want to bolt on some training wheels, I have some if you want to borrow them.

    As I mentioned before, I’m not an angry, resentful, sadistic person. Maybe because when someone feels the need to be judge and jury and abuse their power, I get a little worked up. Like this week, when my wife, friends, co-workers and boss got to read this garbage. Initially I thought about responding in anger, but resolved myself to take the high road and post an apology for the good of the order aka Cyclist. Power comes with a higher level of integrity and to do the right thing. I considered not writing this response but in Fatty’s words “ it’s how I really feel at the moment” This too may not be my most noble moment, but I hope it will make Elden think before he posts…In response to Elden’s cooled down state:

    We all hopefully learn from our mistakes.
    We all have done stupid things and there are two sides to a story.
    A blog is not a place for revenge. A simple email or phone call would have been nice. Elden, you have a responsibility as a leader of your community and web master to control the content of your communication. I’m sure you are a good person and this incident is not really what you are about.
    About that gut, I’ll lose weight if you will…

    Best regards to you and your wife.

    Louis Baker


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.