A Congratulatory Note from Fatty: HUGE props to Team Fatty Philly for winning the Team Time Trial award for the 2010 Philadelphia LiveStrong Challenge! And ultra-giant props to co-captain Philly Jenn for leading the charge. Is there a more awesome team captain anywhere? No. No there is not.
Fight Cancer, Win an Intense Spider 2
Let me make a few bold assertions here.
There is no bike company that is more thoroughly immersed in full suspension mountain biking than Intense Cycles.
No mountain bike company has more credibility in the full suspension arena than Intense Cycles.
If you’ve ever wanted a full suspension mountain bike and didn’t check out Intense Cycles, you didn’t do your homework.
So, yeah: Intense Cycles is pretty much synonymous with being able to ride over rocks, roots and ledges without touching your brakes.
And the Spider 2 is Intense Cycles’ XC and lightweight trail bike. Check it out:
The Spider 2 has the revolutionary VPP suspension platform that pedals better than any bike on the market, yet still soaks up bumps from tiny chatters to big hits.
You know what you’ve got here? You’ve got one of the most desirable bikes you can buy.
Now, picture this bike, paired with top-of-the-line 2011 Shimano M980 Series XTR, from brakes to drivetrain to wheels. You can build it up with the super-light Race version … or the burlier trail version.
Which do you want to go with? It’s your call. You can’t go wrong either way, honestly…Just like XTR was designed for 2011 … It’s rider tuned giving you the options to choose the right components for how you ride.
All of this is topped off with a 2011 Fox 32 Talas Fit Terralogic Fork with Kashima coating & PRO components for the stem, bar, and seatpost.
Oh my. We’re starting to drool a little bit, aren’t we?
Darn right we are.
You know how much this bike would cost, retail? More than $6000, that’s how much. And it would be worth it.
But Shimano and Intense Cycles are partnering to give one away, in the name of helping Team Fatty in our fight against cancer.
Fight Cancer, Win a Dream Mountain Bike
As those of you who have entered these contests before know, all proceeds of the Team Fatty raffles go straight to LiveStrong, because the work they’re doing in helping people fight cancer made a big difference in Susan’s life, my life, and in the lives of many others I’ve met.
In other words, whether you win the bike or not, you’re doing something good and important.
Raise money in your own Team Fatty LiveStrong Challenge page. If you’re a member of Team Fatty, every $5.00 you raise on your own LiveStrong Challenge since the beginning of this year through Friday, August 27 earns you a ticket, too. So — obviously — now’s a great time for you to make a donation on your own page as well as to press friends and family to make a donation (You don’t have to tell them that they’re increasing your chances of winning a bike when they do). And if you aren’t a member of Team Fatty, now’s a great time for you to join and start raising money to fight cancer and win cool stuff for yourself.
By the way: if you win and live outside the US, we’ll still cover shipping, but you’re responsible for paying customs. Cool? Yeah, I thought so.
How Can You Join Team Fatty?
Luckily, it’s really, really easy to join Team Fatty.
The first time I enter the Twin Lakes Dam aid station as I race the Leadville 100, I always get a little sense of foreboding. Up until now, the race is relatively easy. Sure, there are a couple of climbs, but you’re fresh for them; all they’ve really done is soften you up for the first of the two defining features of the Leadville 100: The climb to Columbine Mine.
The Runner’s and my crew — Scott and the IT Guy — had set up before the actual aid station (and had, I should emphasize, done an incredible job of taking care of me), so by the time I got to the aid station, I was all set and could just roll through.
The crowd at the aid station was huge. Hundreds of people. Hundreds of cowbells. I daresay, for the first time ever, that no more cowbell was needed.
And then, right in front of me, a spectator lunged from the left side of the crowd to the right.
And fell down.
“Yaaaaah!” I yelled, intelligently, and with italics. There was nowhere to swerve, so I just grabbed brake and hoped.
The spectator rolled out of the way so I missed him by inches, barely saving himself and me from a painful pileup.
Disaster averted. Time to climb. I looked at my timer. 3:07. That seemed . . . too good.
I had not been killing myself. I had not been wanting to set a personal best time. I had even thought that I had been slowed down by the crowded field during the climbs and had expected my time to be slow.
Was I going to somehow get my first sub-9 finish at Leadville, after all these years, by not even trying?
I resolved to stick to my plan: have fun and be careful on the flats and descents; hit the climbs hard.
Tick Tick Tick Tick
The difference between singlespeeds and geared mountain bikes is most obvious at one particular moment: when the trail turns upward. This obviousness is manifested in two specific ways:
All the geared bikes make shifting noises. If there are a lot of geared bikes turning uphill together, there’s an audible concert of derailleur sounds. This is in fact one of my favorite sounds in the world. It’s beautiful, and I feel a little bit bad that when I’m on a singlespeed, I don’t contribute to that sound.
The singlespeed changes position relative to the group. The singlespeed is either going to shoot way out in front, or if the grade is steep enough, going to fall way off the back. One thing is certain: the singlespeed is not going to stay with the geared bikes.
Now, the first part — five miles of climbing, about 3000 feet of altitude gained — of the Columbine Mine climb is always one of my favorite parts of the Leadville 100, because this kind of climbing suits me. I’m good at getting into a climbing groove and then holding it almost indefinitely. On this part of the course, I almost always pass more than I am passed.
But something special happened last Saturday: I felt limitless.
I stood up — with 34 x 20 gearing, almost all climbing is in the standing position — and just went. I passed people constantly, and that is no exaggeration, thanks to a huge crowd of racers. For five miles, I passed someone every 10 to 30 seconds. And during this part of the course, not a single person passed me.
I was like a machine, turning the cranks steadily and easily. Tick tick tick tick.
I know this comes off as boastful; you’ll have to forgive me for that. The fact is it was an incredible, rare moment for me. To be the fast guy, the guy who drops everyone. To be, in my head, briefly, Andy Schleck.
I have never felt quite so strong.
Later, I would look my stats for the day. For the Columbine Mine section (and only for this section), the way I felt while climbing would be confirmed by the numbers (Columbine section highlighted in yellow; click image for larger version):
Out of everyone who raced — all 1022 finishers — I had the 42nd best time for the climb from Twin Lakes Dam to the summit of Columbine Mine.
1:31:54. I’m kinda proud of that.
Now I’m done thumping my chest. I promise. And the truth is, my very best day on the bike is still nothing to what the fast guys were doing.
Due to the out-and-back nature of the Leadville 100, everyone who is a racer is also a spectator, getting to see and cheer on the racers go in the opposite direction. One of my very favorite parts of the race is, as I climb the Columbine Mine section, anticipating the moment when the race leaders will come bombing down the road. Much, much, much faster than I could have ever imagined possible.
This year, though, I didn’t get to have that anticipation, because the race leaders bombed by me so early in the cliimb.
Zoooom. There goes JHK, leading the race. Yelling “Rider up! Rider up! Rider up!” as he comes down, looking for a clear line because he has caught everyone by surprise. We hadn’t expected people bombing down the road so soon and so had not crowded over to the right side of the road yet.
Zoooom. There goes Levi Leipheimer, just a few seconds behind.
Zoom. Zoom. Todd Wells and Dave Wiens.
“Those fast guys are fast,” I think to myself. Then the obviousness of my reflexive statement strikes me as hilarious and I want to share it.
“Those fast guys are fast,” I say to whoever is close to me whenever someone comes screaming down the mountain for the rest of the Columbine Mine climb.
Nobody else thinks this is as funny as I do.
No Thanks, I’m Not Hungry Right Now
The Columbine Mine climb is divided up — in my head, at least — into two sections. The first five miles are the “easy” section, where you’re climbing up a groomed dirt road. Its difficulty comes from the altitude; you’re at around 12,000 feet by the time you get to the end of this section.
The “hard” section is the final three miles, where the trail gets narrower, looser, steeper, and very, very (very) rocky.
I walk a lot of this section. Lots of people do. It’s a sufferfest, and there’s nothing to do but put your head down and try to concentrate on at least walking it quickly.
Or if not quickly, at least not lethargically.
I try, in short, to not stand still.
As people zoomed down, calling out encouragement, I looked for faces I recognized. There goes Nate! And Chuck! And Mike! And Kenny! I shout out their names. None of them recognize me in time to shout mine back. I understand why. When you’re descending, you’ve gotta focus on the trail. Though Kenny would later say he simply did not believe it could be me up that high that soon. Nice of him.
And then, as I continue pushing, I see the oddest thing: A sign — “Hot Dogs and Beer.”
And it gets weirder. A guy, in a high-class maitre d’ outfit, with a platter containing little slices of hot dogs. Energetically offering hot dogs to everyone as they go by.
Nobody takes one. Right now, nothing in the world sounds quite so awful as a hot dog.
The maitre d’ sees me. Singles me out.
“Hi, Fatty, you of all people must want a hot dog!”
“The very thought,” I pant, “makes me want…to…hurl.”
“At least have one on the way down, OK?”
“Sure. On the way down,” I lie. Knowing, already, that when I come down I will not slow down. I will look the other way and not make eye contact.
Hot dogs for racers at their very limit, at 12,000 feet. It’s the wackiest, most awful idea I’ve ever heard of.
I hope they’re there again next year.
I. Want. Cantaloupe.
Eventually, I made it to the top of Columbine. My time shows I’ve got there in 4:39. I’m a little disappointed, knowing that I am not prone to negative splits in this race. A curious thing about the Leadville course is that it takes me almost exactly the same amount of time to get back to the start/finish as it does to get to the turnaround spot. So 4:39 means I’m probably going to finish in about 9:18.
Oh well. The sub-9 dream was fun to consider for a while.
But there are more important things on my mind than a fast finish time. Specifically, there is something I have been thinking of for the past half hour.
Cantaloupe. There is cantaloupe at the Columbine Mine aid station.
While most of the other racers simply hit this aid station and turn around, I pull to a stop, shouting, as I do, “bring me cantaloupe, and lots of it!”
This, to my delight, draws a cheer from the aid station volunteers, most of which don’t have anything to do (they’ll all be much busier in a little while; most racers further down the field will relish the chance to stop and eat).
No fewer than three volunteers sprint to the food table, each bringing me a handful of cantaloupe slices.
I eat three, maybe four slices. Okay, maybe five. It is so delicious.
As I finish the last one, I see a young volunteer — maybe nine years old — who has gone back to the table to bring me a double handful of more cantaloupe. He’s holding maybe six or eight slices. All for me.
I eat two. It’s the least (and also the most) I could do.
I then down a cup full of Coke (I love that they have Coke available at the aid stations; that’s new, I think), thank the volunteers for their outrageous awesomeness, and get started on the descent.
Where’s The Runner?
I have a love / hate relationship with the first three miles of the Columbine Mine descent. On the “hate” side of the equation, it’s rocky and technical, and there are a lot of people marching up the good line. And I’m tired.
On the “love” side of the equation, however, this is where I get to see and shout encouragement to friends and family who are making their way to the top.
But there’s a problem. I do not see The Runner. And I do not hear her shout out to me.
So I start worrying. Has she had a mechanical? An accident? A bad day on the bike? Has she gotten sick?
All the way down, I worry. I worry so much, in fact, that I forget to be frustrated with myself for the fact that now on the descent, I am being passed just as often as I was passing others on the climb. That just as I never got passed while climbing, I never passed a single person while descending.
Forty minutes (about five or six minutes slower than most people around me), I pull into the Twin Lakes Dam aid station. Before I eat or drink anything, I ask, “Is Lisa OK?”
“She’s great,” the IT Guy reassures me. “She came into the aid station just a few minutes behind you. She was riding strong and was happy.”
A huge relief. I had just missed seeing her. And, as I learned later, she had just missed seeing me until it was too late to call out.
I swapped a bottle — once again, I had only drank one bottle between aid stations — and ate what is becoming my new favorite riding food: a Pro Bar Fruition. I doubt my reasons for liking them will ever make it into the marketing material but still, they’re ideal for racing cyclists for a few good reasons:
They’re really moist. Unlike most bars that you have to chew and chew and chew and then take a drink and then chew some more, these bars are very soft and moist; you can get them down very quickly when you need to.
They’re small enough to cram the whole thing into your mouth at once. It’s nice to get your hands back on your handle bars quickly.
They’re tasty. The thing I like about all Pro Bars is that they taste like real food instead of something from a lab. The Fruition bars are heavy on the fruit, and are a great change from the energy bar taste.
No, You Go On
The next fifteen miles went slowly. Mostly because I didn’t pedal very fast. At least, not compared to the people who were passing me on a regular basis. If you look at my standings, you’ll see that I was the 375th fastest person on this section — a far cry from my placing going up to the top of Columbine Mine.
Then, on the paved section leading up to the hardest climb of the day — the Powerline — I met Charlie, another singlespeeder I had met and ridden with earlier in the day. It was nice to have someone to ride alongside with as geared cyclists zoomed by, hollering at us to hop on and draft. “Can’t do it!” we’d yell, wishing we could.
And then it was time for the Powerline. I — along with everyone else — hopped off my bike (OK, I didn’t really “hop;” I actually “very slowly dismounted”) and started the slow march.
And then I heard a bell ding.
Looking behind me, I saw a guy in a Specialized jersey, riding the steepest part of the Powerline.
The sheer amazingness of this will only register with those of you who have marched this trail.
I stood aside and yelled forward, “Everyone off the trail! Someone’s riding this sucker!”
Others looked back and moved aside. Some of us clapped.
Once I got to (what was for most of us) the hike-a-bike section, I got back on my bike and eventually got this guy. I asked, “Did you really just ride all of Powerline without putting a foot down?”
“That’s a hell of a thing you just did,” I said. I would have said more, but that was all the breath I had. Still, an awesome climb like that has to be acknowledged.
Your Results May Vary
I finished the Powerline climb, staying on my bike for everything but the initial hike-a-bike section, then gingerly descended Sugar Loaf. Once again, all the people I had just spent half an hour passing zoomed by me.
Really, I should learn to descend faster.
Next up was the St. Kevins paved climb. As I rode up, I once again looked for where I had shot off the road last year. Couldn’t find it, at least not for sure. But I’ve at least now lost my terror of that road. It’s no more curvy or steep than anything I ride regularly.
Nice to have that bugaboo behind me.
I got to the dirt and the final mile of serious climbing in the race. Once again I started passing people, still feeling strong even this late in the race. I was having a good day.
Then someone asked me a question as I went by. “Do we have a chance at sub-9?”
“No,” I said. “We’re 8:20 into the race. We’re about an hour from the finish line. We’re a good sub-9:30 bet, but 9:00 isn’t going to happen.”
“Don’t tell me that,” he said.
“OK, all of that just applies to me,” I amended. “If you’re a great downhiller, you might still make it under 9.”
I hope he did.
Most Awesome Friend of Fatty Ever
Finally: the last hard pitch in the last hard mile of the Leadville 100. I started churning up it. Weary. Glad it was nearly over. Pleased to note that I was riding up a pitch on my singlespeed that people on their geared bikes were choosing to walk.
And then a guy jumped out beside me.
“Fatty! You’re doing it man! You’re almost there! You’re spanking the guys on geared bikes!”
He ran / walked / sauntered up the whole pitch with me. Cheering me on like I was some kind of superhero. I swear, I have never seen so much energy in one person at one time, and it was infectious. Encouraged by this guy’s energy, I went faster and crested that last pitch.
To whoever it was who did that: thanks. Your energy got me up a really tough hill.
[Update:The Friend of Fatty I'm talking about is named Tom E (he commented first today), and he sent me a terrific photo of me working on that climb. Check it out:
Thanks, Tom! - FC]
The nine hour mark slipped by unnoticed by me, some time as I was riding along the railroad track that leads to The Boulevard — the final climb in the Leadville 100, and a real demoralizer for people who don’t know it’s part of the race. You see The Boulevard is a two-mile dirt road climb that starts at mile 100. Which means the Leadville 100 is really more like the Leadville 103. Since you don’t go down The Boulevard on the way out, you don’t expect it on the way in the first time you do this course.
Nowadays, all The Boulevard means to me is that I’m home free. I’m going to finish the race.
I crossed the line at 9:17 — not a personal best (9:13 is my fastest time on this course), but certainly a best effort.
I went and took a quick shower and then came back down to the finish line to catch The Runner when she finished, which she did in 10:29. A strong finish, and she said she had fun talking with all the people who recognized her from this blog, not to mention the admiring comments from everyone who noticed she was riding with a daisy on her handlebars.
Then, at the award ceremony the next day, I got a chance to see how awesome the really fast guys are, even off the bike. I chatted with Dave Wiens, kazillion-time winner of the Leadville 100 and quite possibly the nicest person alive. I talked with JHK and Heather Irmiger, and started my campaign to get the two of them racing the Leadville 100 on a tandem. They say they’re not interested. Pfff.
Then I showed him how awesome I am at playing Yahtzee on the iPhone:
As you can see, Levi was impressed.
Kenny got his award for taking 2nd in the men’s singlespeed category; Heather got her award for taking 2nd in the women’s singlespeed category.
The symmetry was exquisite.
And, finally, The Runner and I got what we had been waiting for: our finisher’s sweatshirts, complete with our finishing time.
It was a good race.
Really, really good.
PS: Tomorrow I kick off a contest for a brand new mountain bike. I won’t tell you what it is yet, but I will tell you it is a very high end bike, tricked out with the new Shimano XTRgroup, and is worth more than $6,000.00!
I have previously made it clear that I did not have any particular expectations for this year’s Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race. After all, The Runner and I have been riding a lot, but not really training. As in, neither of us has ridden a single set of intervals. Neither of us have done carefully-considered recovery rides.
We’ve just ridden our bikes. You know, actually treating our recreation as if it were for fun.
So as you would expect, when the alarm went off at 4:30 on the morning of the race, I was not nervous at all.
My ten trips to the bathroom before the race? Not nervousness.
My constant sorting and fidgeting with the food I was going to put in my jersey? Not nervousness.
My asking The Runner questions she had no way of knowing (Do you think Levi will race? Do you think it’s going to be a hot day? What flavor of Shot Bloks should I start the race with? Is it better for me to have a PBJ for breakfast, or a bagel with cream cheese?)? Not nervousness.
My turning around and heading back to the toilet one last time as I approached the starting line, with only about thirty minutes ’til the start? Not nervousness.
Although I will point out that at this point The Runner grabbed me by the back of my jersey and said, “You do not need to go to the bathroom. There cannot possibly be anything for you to poop or pee out at this point.” And she was right. In fact, once the race got started, I didn’t need to pee until mile 70.
By the way, for those of you who are interested, Levi did race, I started the race with Mountain Berry Shot Bloks, it was indeed a hot day, and I had two (yes, two!) PBJ sandwiches for breakfast.
Surprise at the Starting Line
The Runner went and self-seeded herself in line with a group of people who were hoping to finish between 10 and 11 hours. I moved further up in the line, because I hoped to finish between 9 and 10 hours.
Now I just had twenty minutes to stand around, in the middle of a crowd of 1300+ (I’m speculating) riders.
Then someone asked, “Have you heard about Levi’s response to your letter?”
I overcame the shock of being recognized — after all, I was just wearing my Fat Cyclist jersey, Fat Cyclist shorts, Fat Cyclist socks, and was standing by my Fat Cyclist bike — and said, “Oh yeah, I saw the tweet he sent a day or two ago. Awesome of him to call it out!”
“No,” the guy said. “I mean he actually wrote a long reply. You’ll have to check it out when you finish the race.”
And so I was left, for the next 100+ miles, to wonder what Levi had to say to me. As it turns out, Levi has an awesome sense of humor, and is incredibly generous to boot. Be sure to check out his reply to my open letter to him.
I Am Evidently Very Focused
The gun went off and the huge mass of cyclists started down the pavement. My fingers were freezing cold, my teeth were chattering, and my brain was on high alert. I did not want to get in an accident.
Hundreds — literally — of people passed me in the first few miles of the race. On a singlespeed and with my poor descending skills, that was just the way it was going to be. I’d have to earn a place further up the field once we got on dirt and started climbing.
And then, just before I got to the dirt, I heard, over my right shoulder, a familiar voice.
“You sure are focused on the road.”
It was The Runner. She had caught up to me and had been riding alongside me for a minute or so, and I had not noticed.
It was so good to see her.
We rode together for a couple of minutes, then hit the dirt, and it was time for me to go at my race pace, and for her to go at hers.
I had told myself that I would not kill myself on the first big climb of the day — St. Kevins. But on a singlespeed, it is not easy to ride at the pace of geared bikes in their granny gear.
So I started passing. Or at least, I tried.
With 1300 excited racers funneling into a jeep road climb, things can get a little bit crowded. And for those of you who remember how crowded this climb was back in the days when 400 people would ride the Leadville 100, well, triple it and you’ll get the picture of how it is now.
Wait, did I just do a “I remember back when…” anecdote? Oh, I am getting old.
I heard some racers shouting at other riders — most people encouraging, but some as if they had chosen themselves as trail boss for the day. “Keep it moving, people!” they would shout.
I can just imagine the gratitude other riders must have felt upon hearing things like that. “Oh, that’s my problem. I forgot to keep moving! Thanks, trail boss!”
So I adopted a different approach for passing. I chatted.
“Hey there, racer 429. That’s a sweet setup you’ve got; I’m coming by on your left. Thanks man, have a good one.”
“Hi racer 777, how’d you get such an awesome number plate? Could you scootch over just a hair? OK, that’s perfect, keep it up.”
“Morning racer 1212, I’d like to borrow your line for about three seconds. No? That’s OK, just whenever you can.”
I was chattering like I was selling peanuts.
When I asked people to work with me to let me by (or just to let them know I was coming by), they almost always did. And as a bonus, I figured that if I had enough wind to keep up the talk while I passed people, I was not in my red zone.
We all knew there would be a lot of people on the course, and so we all (or at least most of us) were dealing with the crowded situation at the beginning of the race without too much difficulty.
But I did see one moment that was awesome in its crowd-related messiness.
There were four of us riding abreast at one particular moment. I was the one on the far left. And then the person on the far right lost his (or her?) line, swerved, and collided with the person on his left.
They both went down, and brought the person to their left down as well. Somehow — I do not know how — I sensed the moment coming and shot forward enough that I didn’t get trapped in the snarl of bikes and people.
But I expect about 500 people had to put their feet down and wait for a minute while those three people disentangled themselves from each other.
I got to the top of St. Kevins, then dropped down the paved side. I sat up and took it easy, not wanting to repeat the huge crash from last year. Dozens — maybe more than a hundred — of people zoomed by. As I cruised down, I began to wonder: where had I even crashed? This road was easy.
The truth is, there’s nothing especially difficult or hair-raising about that descent. Last year, it was wet, but that wasn’t the real problem; everyone but me navigated it successfully even though it was wet. The real problem last year was that my head wasn’t in the race.
This year though, it was. And I made it down just fine and began my climb.
Going up Sugar Loaf, I was feeling great. The day was warming up and people were being incredibly friendly. Several riders commented they were glad to see that I had made it down the St. Kevins descent this time, and I agreed.
The climb up Sugar Loaf went by fast — I got into a climbing groove easily and started passing all those people who passed me as we were going downhill moments ago.
And then, of course, we got to the Powerline descent and all those people I had just passed passed me again.
Powerline’s a tricky descent — the most technical of the race — and I’m always glad to get to the bottom of it with my tires still inflated and my body uninjured. Still, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “If I weren’t such a lousy descender, I’d do pretty good at races.”
David Kutcipal caught and emailed me a good photo of me coming down Powerline. Check it out:
(And chances are if you rode in Leadville, David got a photo of you, too — he took more than 1100 photos, and organized them by bib number.Find yourself here.)
As I got to the bottom of Powerline, the dirt road turns up to intersect the right turn. There were several people on the left, going straight up the little pitch, so — wanting to conserve the momentum I had built up on my ss — I veered right.
I should not have veered right.
As it turns out, the right line was full of loose gravel. My bike slid out from under me and I went down, scraping up my right leg. Right in front of about 50 spectators.
The collective gasp would have been hilarious to me, had I not been so incredibly embarrassed.
I got up quickly, without even checking to see how my leg looked or whether my bike was OK. I did not look anybody in the eye, but rather hurriedly jumped onto my bike and rode away.
Once I was away from spectators, I slowed and looked my bike and myself over. My scrapes were not a big deal, and in fact I’d soon forget about them until I showered after the race. And my bike was fine.
Only my pride remained injured.
Hi and Goodbye
The next 20 miles of the race average out to be flat. Which is awesome if you’re on a geared bike; you have a chance to get into your big ring and increase your average speed by quite a bit.
On a singlespeed, this 20 miles is where you just kind of recover. I felt like I was getting passed constantly. Like, by hundreds. Groups would come by, drafting each other, and would even shout at me to hop on to their train. I’d just laugh; draft or no draft, I could not pedal that kind of cadence on my singlespeed.
And so it’s strange for me to look at the details of my race splits and see that during this flat section (Pipeline Outbound to Twin Lakes Outbound) I actually moved up 60 places (from 378th to 318th) in the overall standings, and even moved up 4 places (from 17th to 13th) in the ss category.
But I still felt like I was getting passed a lot.
I arrived at the Twin Lakes Dam aid station and The Runner’s brother Scott and her son (IT Guy) took care of my food exchange in no time at all, swapping out bottles and food exactly as I had asked them to the night before. But the truth is, I hadn’t eaten or drunk much. I’d emptied only one of my two bottles in that first 40 miles, and had eaten two packs of Shot Bloks. I just can’t seem to get the knack of eating and drinking enough during these races.
Then — for the first time during the race — I took a look at my time. 3:07? That’s not bad at all, considering I’d just been enjoying myself.
Now it was time for one of the two defining moments of the Leadville 100: The Columbine Mine climb.
“Maybe,” I thought to myself, “I should start taking this race seriously.”
First of all, congratulations! Deciding to enter your very first mountain bike race is a big step, and you should be proud of yourself. You’re about to discover a whole new world of intense competition and camaraderie.
And while — as you’ll soon find out — racing can be hard, I think you’ll also find out that it can be very rewarding, just so long as you don’t overreach and keep your goals at a personal level. For example, when lots and lots of people pass you, don’t think “Oh no! These people are beating me!” Instead, think, “These people are not competing against me; they are competing with me. My objective is simply to finish this race in under twelve hours, or thirteen if it comes to that.”
You’ll be amazed how much better you feel!
But I don’t want to spend this whole letter giving you a pep-talk, Levi. No. I’m writing this letter to give you practical, useful advice you can use on your bike race right now.
At the Starting Line
Since you’re not used to mountain bike racing — and especially since you’ve never been to the Leadville 100 before — you’re going to be a little bit overwhelmed at the starting line. There is a huge crowd there, and you may feel intimidated. But don’t worry; you’ll be fine. Just follow these tips:
Start from the appropriate place in line. Assess yourself honestly — do you belong at the front of the line where everyone’s going to be jockeying for position, or would it be more prudent to place yourself further back, where there’s more of a ride-and-let-ride mentality?
Don’t surge forward off the line. It’s a neutral start. Don’t go attacking right off the line. You might knock someone down and make that person very, very angry. And don’t wear an iPod at the starting line either. For similar reasons.
Careful of the Shotgun. Ken Chlouber likes to start the race off by firing a shotgun. If it catches you unawares, you would not be the first person to poop yourself before the race even starts.
This isn’t a road bike race, Levi. Well, actually, most of it is on roads. But they’re dirt roads. Downright Jeepish, often. Except the paved parts.
But my point remains: there’s some bumpy, unpaved stuff in this race. So pay attention! Stay loose. And don’t, for crying out loud, go crosschaining your bike.
(Crosschaining is when you have both your front and rear cogs in the largest gears, or when you have both in the smallest gears. And it’s not a good idea.)
Next, you need to be aware that from time to time, people will certainly want to pass you. With more than a thousand people on the course, this may happen more often than you might expect!
When those people want to get by, they will generally yell “On your left!” or “On your right!”
Levi, I cannot overstress the importance of what those riders mean.
When someone says, “On your left!” that does not mean you should move left. No, it does not. It means the person wants to go by on your left side.
Please try to remember that, Levi.
And, by the way, in the interest of good sportsmanship, you should let people by when they want to go by. Remember: you’re not racing against these people. You’re just racing against the clock. It’s just that a whole bunch of other people are there at the same time, also racing the clock.
Endurance Racing Tips
Levi, I have to admit that I’m a little bit surprised that you chose the Leadville 100 as your first-ever mountain bike race. Did you realize that a lot of people take close to — or even more than — twelve hours to finish this?
This is not just one of those 45-minute rides you’re used to doing on the road, Levi!
Here are a few tips to make the miles go by a little more swiftly:
Use some chamois lube. I recommend Dave Zabriskie’s Nuts. (In fact, I believe most everyone likes Dave Zabriskie’s Nuts.) You’ll find that your taint — no doubt not used to the punishment long hours in the saddle can bring — will be glad you did.
Use a Camelbak: You want to stay hydrated, and you may not be proficient at grabbing a bottle while riding a bike. Also, a Camelbak can be very helpful if you’re going to be out between aid stations for a very long time, which may be the case: in one case there is 20 miles before you get to an aid station!
Don’t get discouraged. Sometime during this race you’re going to get tired, and people are going to start passing you, left and right. Don’t let this get you down! Just remember, you’re in this for the long haul. Try singing yourself a merry tune to lift your spirits.
Levi, I think this is going to be a tough race for you, but totally worth it. Just remember: you’re better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.
PS: Just in case you were wondering how Levi really handles a mountain bike, you may want to check out this video:
LEADVILLE, CO (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – Seven-time Tour de France Winner Lance Armstrong announced recently that he, along with RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer will race in the 2010 Leadville 100 mountain bike this Saturday, August 14.
Armstrong has also announced that he will not be racing the 2010 Leadville 100 mountain bike this Saturday, August 14.
“To clear up any confusion, I would like to announce that I either will or will not be racing in Leadville this weekend,” said Armstrong. “This either is or is not a very important race to me, and I would like to tell my fans and co-competitors that I am both looking forward to seeing and racing with them, or not.”
“Could go either way,” added Armstrong. “Depends on whether I can find someone to take care of the kids for the day.”
(Armstrong’s children could not be reached for comment.)
“Plus,” continued Armstrong, “I haven’t really put together a crew, and I’d be kind of embarrassed to ask someone to scramble their plans and spend their whole day shuttling from one aid station to the next.”
“But I dunno,” said Armstrong, evidently to himself. “Maybe I could put together a few drop bags and just use the food from the aid stations.”
“Probably too late for me to get a hotel room in Leadville, though,” mused Armstrong.
Speculation Runs Amok
Many people have reacted to the fact that Armstrong will likely not race the Leadville 100.
Levi Leipheimer: “You know how there was always this guy in college who’d beg you and beg you and beg you to come to this party you weren’t even interested in? Eventually he’d beat you down and you’d show up at this party just because that guy said it was going to be so awesome, and then it turns out that this guy didn’t even show up? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. On the other hand, I’m sure glad that I picked the Leadville 100 as my first mountain bike race, ever! It should be a blast racing it against Dave Wiens — the guy who’s won this race more times than he can count — as well as nine-time national mountain bike champion, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski.”
Johan Bruyneel: “As you no doubt know, Lance has been involved in an intense training program to learn to change a flat tire. His progress has been outstanding, but there’s still work to be done. I think that barring any future setbacks, we can look forward to Lance changing his own tires by 2012. At which point, can you say ‘Comeback 3.0′?”
Citizen Pictures, Creator of last year’s Race Across the Sky Documentary: “We were of course very excited to be filming a followup documentary to our very successful film last year. And of course, we fully intended to make the sequel revolve around Lance again. With him out of the race, we’re thinking we’ll make the documentary anyway, and it will still focus on Lance. It will be called Lance Hangs Around Aspen With His Kids. It will be a heartwarming look at a day of Lance. Hanging around in Aspen. With his kids.
Concluded the representative for Citizen Pictures, “We think it will be huge.”
“I just want to be perfectly clear,” said Armstrong. “I will probably be there, racing the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Unless I’m not.”