If you do something
There comes a time
Where once there was
Or at least apprehension
There is now only
This is what I tell myself is
With regards to the race
The race I will race
I have done this race
And I remember well
How completely shattered
At the end
(As well as well before the end)
Feet of climbing
Should I be anxious?
Should I be worried?
Should I be afraid?
Yes, yes, yes
I have not
Or pored over
I have a plan
A simple plan
I will just ride
Until I cross
The finish line
Is this shoulder shrug
Of a plan
Because I have become
Used to racing
Week after week
Or is it because
I am a fool
And shall shortly
A valuable and
I will know the answer
To a degree, at least
By this time
To race fast, or not to race fast..that was the question.
The question that I kept asking myself all summer was how, exactly, would I ride Leadville this year? Should I just take it easy? After all, I would be starting the Breck Epic one day later. Or should I ride with Blake? (He quickly discouraged this idea-He wanted me nowhere near him. This was to be Blake’s race, not mom and Blake’s race.) Or should I go all out–see what I could do, maybe even break the nine hour mark?
Stop right there.
Break the 9 hour mark? That really wasn’t an option, was it? I mean, I had been riding strong all summer…I think. Strava seemed to be telling me I was, but most Strava segments are short–they don’t have anything to do with endurance riding.
What’s a girl to do?
As we packed our many (many, many) bags for this adventure, I finally decided: I would “race” Leadville. I really didn’t think I had it in me to break 9 hours, but I would ride hard and see what would happen. If I was having a horrible day, or if the weather was bad, I would back off. There would be no use in suffering, since I still had many more days of racing after Leadville with time to improve.
Then, of course, as we arrived in Leadville, some of our riding buddies approached me with comments like “I hear you’re gonna beat 9 hours this year!” Ugh!
Elden would even introduce me as “This is my wife, The Hammer. She is the one you want to be watching for this year. She is gonna smash the course.” Oh great! Everyone is expecting a great outcome, but I have no idea what I am capable of. All I did know was that the pressure was on!
After the first two years of racing Leadville, I pretty much knew I could finish the race in less than twelve hours. Because of this knowledge, the subsequent races were not as stressful. My only goal with racing was to improve my time from the previous year. Which I had successfully done, knocking anywhere from ten to forty five minutes off each year’s times. Sure, there was one exception: the year I married Elden–I actually slowed down that year. He was fixing far too many delicious dinners and I packed on a few extra pounds.
My attitude was ride hard, but rest easy. I pushed myself while riding, but I enjoyed my breaks at the aid stations–eating a sandwich and some chips, drinking my Mountain Dew, and visiting with my awesome crew.
This year, though, my attitude was changing. I found myself writing down lists of things that I needed the crew to hand me, or have ready for me to take. I was beginning to stress about my splits. I was writing the times that I would need to be as fast as my 2011 time and . . . to break the 9 hour mark. What was I doing? I was turning into Elden!
Rising stress levels
Friday’s festivities went well. Elden, Blake, Heather, Kenny and I rode down to Turquoise Lake and enjoyed a little bit of the single track around it, then we headed back up the Boulevard.
I think that riding the Boulevard prior to racing Leadville –my favorite and mandatory Leadville tradition– is the single most important thing you can do to prepare! After talking to Blake about his experience racing, I think he would agree. There is definitely a psychological component to riding the Boulevard and once you have ridden it, it doesn’t seem to get to you as bad on race day.
We also went down to Twin Lakes and got our crewing spot reserved. My son Zac, his darling wife Erin, and my brother Scott had all come to Leadville to support Blake in his quest to conquer Leadville (but they helped Elden and me, too.) Thanks guys for your wonderful crewing!
Then, after the traditional spaghetti dinner we returned to our room and started filling our drop bags with warm, rain gear and our favorite foods as well as making lists. This is when my stress level is at the highest. What do I need to pack? And what aid station should I have it be at? What do I want to eat? Drink? And when? Should I wear a camelbak or just use bottles?
And then there are the splits. How will I ever be to “that” aid station in “that” amount of time! It’s just not possible for me to ride that fast!
And then it started to rain. Not just a little sprinkle either, but pouring in rain! What were we in for now?
As I looked out the window at 4:30 on race morning, I could see that the streets were wet, but it wasn’t raining! Yeah! While I was eating my breakfast, the hotel server said that his experience with the weather was when in rained all night (like it had just done–it finally stopped around 2am), usually the next day was beautiful. I was sure hoping he was right.
As I was headed down to the corrals, I saw Blake still looking half asleep wandering down to breakfast.
I guess he was having a hard time waking up.
I asked Blake if he was ready, and he mumbled something about he would eventually get there. I gave him a hug and wished him luck as I headed to the start line.
Elden was already down at the truck, getting both our bikes ready. Elden is fantastic to me. He had gotten down to our bikes early, checked tire pressure and greased the chain. His stess level was running at full tilt, but he was still looking out for me.
As I gave him a kiss and wished him luck, he asked me where the heck Blake was. Blake’s bike was still on his rack in his truck. I informed him that he was still in the hotel. Elden gasped and said he couldn’t believe Blake wasn’t down here getting ready! The race was to start in less than 30 minutes. So Elden went ahead and got Blake’s bike ready, too.
I couldn’t really think about or stress about Blake, I was too stressed for myself.
Just then Jilene rode up and we headed for the red corral.
Elden, Jilene, and me, before the race
I was pleasantly surprised when the volunteers kept telling us to keep moving forward toward the starting line. You see, Jilene and I have posted a time in the 9-10 hour time frame at a previous Leadville100, so we were to start in the RED corral. The red corral is positioned behind the silver and bronze corrals (super-fast riders-like Elden and Kenny and the pros like Rebecca Rusche are placed in those corrals).
I couldn’t believe how close to the front we were; I could actually see the starting line! I have never been so close, in the prior 7 times I have raced.
As I waited for the gun to go off, I formulated a plan. I really wanted to keep Jilene in my site as we descended the paved section. I am usually pretty nervous and go slow down the pavement. Today I wasn’t going to do that; I didn’t want to lose my great position in the pack.
The first 40 miles
My plan worked wonderfully. I certainly couldn’t go as aggressive as Jilene does on the pavement, but I kept her in site. As she pulled onto the dirt road, I saw that she had actually caught up with Elden. (Elden can’t descend on pavement very fast, due to his singlespeed gearing).
It wasn’t long before I caught Jilene on the climb up St Kevins. I love riding with Jilene. She is quite the chatterbox and she is usually singing or talking to someone. She was appropriately dressed in a Fatty jersey, but had also added tassells to her helmet and handlebars, as well as bright red lip stick to her lips. As I rode behind her, I was entertained with the conversations she was having with other riders.
The climb up St Kevins this year was fantastic. I think it was because I was with other riders that were comparable in ability to me — I didn’t have to surge and pass slower riders; we all just moved quickly up the hill. Before I knew it, I was at the giant switchback that signifies the end of the lion’s share of climbing on St. Kevins.
As we passed through the aid station at the top of paved descent, I glanced down at my top tube. To my horror, my valuable split times, which I had written on a piece of duct tape, weren’t there! I had forgotten to put the piece of tape on my bike. All my calculations were gone. Should I be stressed? No, I thought, times don’t really mean anything to me. I ride hard when I can and I ease off when I am tired. The tape would have probably just discouraged me anyway.
I didn’t need times; I was just gonna do what I could.
As the road turned to pavement and downhill, Jilene shot by me. I took the time to sit up and eat a Honey Stinger waffle. I wasn’t at all hungry, but knew the importance of continual eating. As we turned off the pavement, I quickly came upon Jilene. I was drafting off a guy, and we were cruising.
I blew Jilene a kiss and kept going.
Sugarloaf is my favorite climb in Leadville. By the time you get there, the crowd of riders has broken up a little and it is a very pleasant climb. I was a little worried about descending Powerlline this year, though. I figured I was with the faster crowd and would probably hold more riders up on the descent.
I was pleasantly surprised when only a few passed me on the descent.
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
I was very appreciative to Erica Tingey as I was descending. Just a few days before we left for Leadville I was able to attend a Womens Mountain bike clinic put on by her. She had given me some valuable advice about descending that I would be using a lot during the next seven days of racing! (Thanks again Erica!)
Erica had reminded me that I need to look forward — not at my front tire — when I am descending. See, usually when I get nervous on a descent, I find that I look at my front tire and all the obstacles that I need to avoid; then I start to brake, which makes me more nervous and more apt to wreck!
When I look forward and keep my fingers off the brakes, I roll over everything and my anxiety level goes down and I go faster!
Simple fact, but hard to implement when riding!
I rolled through the Pipeline aid station a little faster than I had last year. I still felt really strong. I tried to eat, but nothing sounded good. I was already breaking my number one rule!
I then cruised toward the Twin Lakes aid station. I had felt pretty good on the relatively flat section leading to the aid station. I don’t think I improved my time, but I don’t think I lost much either. As I pulled up to my crew tent, Zac quickly came up and started helping me out.
It was nice having my son wait on me. I’ve been waiting for 24years for him to serve me. I needed to sit back and relish it for a moment, but only a moment I had to keep moving. I ate part of my subway sandwich and washed it down with some Coke.
I didn’t need to refill my Bentos box yet, because I hadn’t eaten anything out of it! That is why I tried to eat a little more while I was stopped. I had them pop open a can of chicken and stars soup and I ate that too.
Then I was off.
As I started up the Columbine climb, I was pleased to find that I was with a group of riders that was riding at the same pace as me–not slower and not faster. I don’t really remember passing or being passed by a whole lot of people. I do remember thinking that I was farther up the climb this year when the first riders came by me in the other direction on their descent. That was a good sign.
As the dirt road narrowed and the rocky 4-wheeler path started, I was surprised to see people riding, not walking. In the past, I have tried riding this section, but there were too many people walking and that messes with my head. If people are walking up a steep climb, my brain tells me that the road must not be rideable, so I may as well dismount. Since most people were riding, my brain told me to continue and my legs responded.
We continued to ride and ride, then I heard a voice say, “Wow! I can’t believe we are still riding!” Now that was weird, because that was exactly what I was just thinking.
So I said, “What did you say?” wondering who I was even talking to — or was I talking to myself?
The girl behind me repeated what she had said, and I wholeheartedly agreed. She then launched into her life story…or at least the last couple of months of her life. Her name was Kristi and she had been training for the Leadville 100 run, but had experienced a running injury and had to pull out of that race. She decided — three weeks ago — to ride the mountain bike race . . . and there she was.
She did apologize for feeling so good; she is from Leadville and wasn’t having any difficulty with altitude. Her smooth-flowing conversation — without gasping — made this quite obvious! After we dismounted and started the death march, she pulled around me.
I looked her up in the results after. Kristi took 1st in her age group with a 9:10. How would it be to hop on your bike with 3 weeks of training and win your age group! Way to go Kristi!
While Kristi and I were talking, my handsome husband came whooping and hollering down the trail! I could tell he was feeling good and must be well on his way to breaking the 9hr mark! His words of encouragement buoyed my spirit for the last mile up Columbine.
I hit the turnaround point and knew my chances of a sub-9 were gone. In fact, I didn’t even know where I stood anymore. I couldn’t remember any numbers or split times. I did know that I hadn’t eaten anything on my way up Columbine, so I stopped at the aid station.
I was quickly greeted by Noah. I had met this cute 10-year old boy the night before at the spaghetti dinner. His dad, Doug, is a member of Team Fatty and we had the opportunity to ride with him last year in Davis at a Livestrong challenge. Noah and Doug were volunteering at the aid station. Noah brought me a delicious cup of Ramen made by his dad. I slurped it down, but the darn noodles got stuck at the bottom of the cup, so all I got was broth, when what I really wanted was the noodles!
I hollered a big “thank you” to Chef Doug and was back on my bike heading down Columbine. I anxiously descended, looking carefully for Blake. Where would he be on the climb? I figured I would know by his position on the climb if he had a chance at finishing in 12 hours.
The first person I went by was Jilene. She wasn’t very far behind me at all. As I crossed the beginning of the Goat Trail, I saw Blake walking his bike! “Whoopee!” I yelled. He was in fine positioning! He looked good and was right in the middle of the bulk of the riders. If he continued as this pace, he would have no problem making 12 hours.
After descending a little farther, I saw Heather. I actually was a little surprised to see Heather behind Blake. She looked really good and gave me a huge smile. She was gunning for a podium position for the SS division. I knew that she would have to have a pretty strong second half to meet her goals. “Keep up the good work Heather!” I yelled as I passed.
“Look ahead…Look ahead..Look ahead” was my mantra as I raced down Columbine. I think it actually helped. My time down Columbine was at least four minutes faster than years past.
I rolled into Twin Lakes tired. “I haven’t eaten much,” I admitted to Zac and Erin. I drank another chicken and stars soup, but I didn’t feel like eating.
I grabbed a few gels and tucked them under my pant legs. That is my new favorite place to stash food — I actually prefer it to the Bentos box. They are easier to get to and they don’t accidentally bounce out and get lost like they can in the Bentos box (which is what happened to Blake).
While I was at the Twin Lakes aid station, I made an executive decision. Up until this point, I had on a very small camelbak — the kind that is basically just a bladder. It had worked great — it hardly weighs anything and I barely knew it was there. But as I was riding down to the aid station, I could tell the wind was beginning to pick up. The forecast called for 15-20 mile/hr winds and it looked like it could be right. Not only was the wind beginning to blow, but dark rain clouds were rolling in. So while at the aid station, I ditched the small camelbak and told Zac to grab me my slightly bigger camelbak and put my new yellow waterproof rain jacket in the pocket.
Zac got it ready for me, stuck it on my back and John Mecham gave me one of his signature supersonic pushes back out onto the road.
But as I was rolling away, something didn’t feel right. The camelbak was way too tight; it was very uncomfortable. I tried to loosen the straps, but they were knotted up and I couldn’t figure them out while riding. I decided to just deal with it. This decision set me up for a very miserable 15 miles. (I later found out that Zac had put Blake’s jacket in my pack. The bigger size of jacket must have been the reason it was so tight. Blake and I had identical-looking jackets and there was no way for Zac to have known that it wasn’t mine.)
The Last 40 Miles
The section between Twin Lakes and Powerline was super hard for me. The wind was picking up and I was slowing down. Trains of riders would pass me. I would try to catch a wheel, but couldn’t hold on and would fall off quickly. This wasn’t just in my head, either. This was the only section of the whole race I rode slower than last year: about seven minutes slower!
The rain never seemed to come and my backpack with jacket seemed like overkill. As I rolled into the Pipeline aid station, I quickly found Scott. He was very helpful (but a little scatterbrained); he got rid of the big jacket and gave me a much smaller windbreaker.
He got me a PBJ sandwich, Coke and Excedrin. I needed to use the bathroom bad, and of course the actual aid station with pottyies was nowhere in sight! I had to make do with what I had: a tree. Like I always say, I love my bibshorts except when mother nature calls.
Then I embarked once again. I really wanted to find a train to ride in on the paved section to the bottom of Powerline. As I pulled out, I thought I was going to be on my own and then suddenly a group of 3-4 people pulled along side of me. I even knew one of the gentlemen. We chatted for a while as we pedaled. I was waiting for the line to turn single file and a train to depart…but it never happened. These guys just kept talking and talking.
So I decided to be the engineer and rode to the front. I put my head down and started pedaling. I had probably gone a tenth of a mile and the two guys pulled ahead of me. I thought,”How sweet, they are going to pull!”
But no. They weren’t going to pull — at least not at the speed I had been pulling. They just didn’t like being “chicked.” Which is to say, as soon as they passed, they slowed down and started talking again!
I swear this little exchange of pulling and then being slowed by “talkers who don’t like being chicked” went on for a mile! I was so frustrated that I eventually “threw the hammer down” and left them to their chatting.
Then a beautiful thing happened.
I crested a hill, just a couple minutes before the Powerline climb begins . . . and there was a Strava tent with a lovely girl passing out little cans of Coke! I had just been thinking how nice it would be to have a Coke before the climb up Powerline and here it was: an answer to my prayer!
The march up the steep section of Powerline went smoothly.
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
Riders weren’t congested like it is earlier in the race. We hiked up quickly. As we crested the first false summit, I got on my bike and started to ride.
I actually like the Powerline climb. I know that sounds crazy, but I can really climb well in my granny gear. I pass a ton of people in this section and everyone congratulates me on my climbing as I pass them. It gives me a little boost of confidence. After the first false summit I can ride all the way to the summit. Elden had reminded me earlier that the climb is exactly 3.3 miles from the gate. That little bit of knowledge is incredibly helpful!
When we had gone about 2.5 miles, some of the guys I had been riding with were pulling over for a rest. I tried to encourage them by telling them they had less than a mile to the summit. They looked at me like I was a crazy woman, speaking a different language.
I eventually made it to the summit and went flying down the Sugarloaf side of the mountain. It was a very well-deserved descent. Then I started up the paved climb. It seemed to go on . . . and on . . . and on. I kept thinking that the aid station would be just around the next corner . . . and then it wouldn’t be.
When I finally got to the Carter Summit aid station, I didn’t even bother looking at my watch. I knew I was way off from my 9 hour finish. I figured I would be lucky to squeak in under ten hours. I was a little disappointed in myself. So many people had thought I was in better shape and riding stronger this year. I was going to disappoint them all too. Oh well, I can only do what I can do.
I slammed some more Coke and headed out. As I left this aid station, I was no longer disillusioned that it is all downhill to the finish. I know there is a significant climb before we even hit the St Kevins descent. That knowledge is also very psychologically important. Because really the climb is not that hard.
With that behind me, I cruised down St Kevins trying to remember the climb “up” the hill that I had just done hours ago. It is weird how a descent down a mountain looks so incredibly different than the climb up.
The Final Push
As I got back on the paved road heading toward the Boulevard, I felt fantastic. I was flying. As I hit the dirt road, I was surprised to be immediately passed by about six guys. Those freeloaders had been riding behind me and I didn’t even know they were there!
They quickly shot past and gapped me. I chuckled to myself, for it was now my personal goal to re-pass all of them by the end of the Boulevard! I am happy to report that I was successful. I think I passed the last one just prior to entering the paved road. Woohoo!
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
As I coasted across the finish line I was pleasantly surprised to see 9:28.
I honestly didn’t think I was going to improve my time. A few years ago I would have never imagined doing Leadville in less than 10 hours. I have worked hard this year and it has definitely paid off. I’ll gladly take 11 minutes off my time.
It was great to be greeted by my family: Elden, Zac and Erin and Scott.
What a fantastic crew. I was so glad they got to experience this with me. But now we must wait….would Blake make the 12 hour cut off?
As I was gathering my thoughts at the finish line, I wondered if I had played my cards right. Should I have slowed down and ridden easy and conserved my energy for Breckenridge? Would I later regret my fast time?
Time would tell.
A Note from Fatty: A lot of you asked for the LT100 race perspective from The Hammer and The IT Guy (The Hammer’s son who broke his collarbone one week before Leadville last year). Using my most impressive superpower — asking people to do things — I have gotten stories from both of them.
Today will be The IT Guy’s Story; tomorrow’s will be The Hammer’s.
It’s a lot of story. So pace yourself. Take your time. Don’t let your glycogen stores get depleted, and drink whenever you get thirsty.
Me Scott, Zac and Erin drove down to Leadville on Wednesday 8-8-2012. We drove down to Grand Junction and stayed the night there.
The next morning we left Grand Junction and headed out to Leadville. I forgot to get gas until I had already got on the freeway, so I took the next exit, worried there wouldn’t be anywhere to stop in the canyon. We followed the signs saying gas station for 20 minutes down some little 20 MPH roads. I thought we were being lured into some alley that we would be murdered in. We eventually found a gas station and fueled up. We got back on the highway after that.
We stopped at The Hanging Lake to hike. I was the only fit person there so I flew up the trail and had to keep waiting for everyone else.
We eventually got to the top and my knee started hurting. I was worried down the whole descent that I hurt my knee and would ruin my ride that weekend.
We got back on the road and headed for Leadville.
We got to Leadville and met mom for our room keys.
Some of the stuff in the Delaware Hotel.
Mom and Elden left for an Elden interview so Me, Scott, Zac and Erin went to get me registered for the race. After I got my shirt and bag, we went down to the pizza place for dinner. We met Jilene, John, Kenny and Heather at the pizza place along with my mother and Elden. We ate some great pizza there.
I don’t remember anything eventful, but I am sure I went to sleep that night.
The next morning Me, Mom, Elden, Kenny and Heather rode out to Turquoise lake to ride the single track. We had a fun little ride. During the ride, I told Heather that she looked hilarious as she rode down the road in her super low single speed gear. She was spinning at about 6,500 rpm.
After the ride we showered and headed down to the race meeting. This year is the first time they have moved this meeting to a larger room, but it was still packed. The meeting was at the high school instead of the gym this year. We saved a spot near us for Jilene and John, but they ended up bringing Bry and Garrette as well. We all crammed into this bench (and pushed the people next to us off the other side).
The race meeting was extra-long this year, but eventually we heard Ken get up and give his “You are better than you think you are” speech.
The morning of the race, I woke up at about 5:30. I had a good night and was ready to ride. I walked around until about 6:00 eating a bagel. Around 6:00 I saw Elden. He was flabbergasted by the fact that I still hadn’t gone out to look at my bike or get in line. I told him that I heard they wouldn’t let you leave your bike, and I didn’t want to go stand in the cold for an hour. At about 6:10 I went to and got my bike ready [Editor's note: actually, I had already got his bike ready, or I'm pretty sure he would've missed the start].
I knew I would be in the back of the pack, so I didn’t care about being early. I kind of weaseled my way into the middle of my section.
The night before the race, I told Zac that I wanted to give him my jacket before the ride. As I was waiting in the line to start, Zac kept asking me about my jacket. I told him that it was cold and I would keep it. Zac kept telling me that I would regret it, but it was cold that morning so I held on to the jacket.
About 30 seconds before the gun went off, the adrenaline kicked in so I gave Zac my jacket. I am really happy that I did.
Waiting for the start (apparently less than 30 seconds before the race began, since Blake’s not wearing a jacket)
The gun went off and we just sat there. It took 1 minute and 45 seconds before I crossed the start line. That is a long time when you are excitedly waiting.
The Race Begins
The first descent was cold and slow. There were people that kept flying by, but I was told that everything would work out, so I should just stay in the pack. (I regretted that later on, but maybe it did help out.)
When we left the pavement for the first time, the road goes from about 8 riders across to 4 riders across so there was a total traffic jam that had stopped everyone. I rode of the road to the right around a big puddle and passed the large part of the traffic jam.
The climb of St Kevin’s was a lot of fun. Everyone was excited and ready for a day of riding. It took a little while to settle in to the flow.
There were so many people that you had to make yourself slow down and wait for the crowd. I think that it felt a lot like driving, there were 3 lanes, and it didn’t matter which one you were in, the other lanes were going faster.
Eventually we got to the first section of descent. There was one guy ahead of me on the descent. We had been going down for about 30 seconds and the guy in front of me wrecked. I don’t know why, because I don’t see anything, but he is in the middle of the trail. I stop and he says he is fine, but by then, the hundreds of people behind us are catching up. There are a lot of people shouting and slamming on the brakes, so after I hear the guys say he is fine, I rode around him and keep going.
There is a little more climb before we get to the top of the hill and the aid station. At this point, I am still enjoying the ride and am happy.
I passed the aid station and get on the pavement. I start looking at the other riders. This year the riders were separated into eight groups with different colors on their numbers, showing how fast they have finished the race before. I kept seeing numbers that were way fast and wondering why they are near me. I don’t know if I am doing well, or if they are doing badly.
Getting Into a Riding Groove
During the paved section, the riders pick up the pace a little. I keep wondering about the fast colors. I keep wondering if I should be passing these people. Maybe they know that there is 12 hours left in this ride and not to kill themselves yet. Whatever their reason is, I set myself in a groove and keep riding.
When we get to the Sugarloaf climb I am still extremely happy because I am still passing people. There is a lot of great nature around me to watch and help pass the time. There is a lot of really cool stuff in those mountains.
As I round the top of Sugar Loaf, I prepare myself for the worst. I have heard for 10 years that the Powerline descent is the most technical and awful mountain biking descent imaginable. They say it has one line and if you deviate even an inch, you will be suck into a rut and die. That is what I have learned to expect from this descent.
With all this worry and doubt in my mind, I start going down. The descent I come to learn is not very bad at all, in fact, I would say that it is fun.
At this time, I am still surrounded by people. This helps keep us moving at a quick pace, but also keeps us from going too fast and losing control. The road is a good double track where 99% of the riders stay in a nice single file line, and the other 1% bomb down the other side. There are a few climbs, but not many (you notice every one though because it brings the entire crowd to a standstill).
Coming down the descent, I see one person crashed out. When it happened, the next two guys on the trail stopped and helped the crashed rider out of the way. Other than that, everything else on the descent went great.
When I got to the bottom of the descent I know that it will roll for a little while, and then I will need to find a group that I can stay with on the flat sections. When I settle in, I reach down for my food and find out that it is gone. Sometime during the Powerline descent, my food bounced out.
I start to worry about not having any food. Every single person that has given me advice for this race has said. “Keep eating. Don’t ever let 30 minutes go by without eating”. The words ring trough my head. I know that I am only 10 miles away from the next aid station, but still I worry.
I find a group of riders on the flat that I try to stick with, but they drop me. Then I hop on the next train until it gets away. During this time, I realize that I can climb well, and I can descend ok, but when the road gets flat, I slow waaay down. I don’t understand this phenomenon, but I do know that it happens.
Eventually I see the Pipeline aid station. I am riding on the right side of the road as I round the corner to the aid station. I look up to see where I am supposed to stop and I see a child with a cup of water on the left. I start moving to the other side of the road. When I get over, I look for some food and don’t see anyone. I am still rolling along the road and look back. The child with the cup had been the last person at the aid station. Somehow I missed the aid station that I had been obsessing over for the last hour. By the time my food deprived brain realizes this; I am far enough past the aid station that I keep riding. My brain tells me I can’t go back because I am in the middle of a race.
So, somehow I miss the aid station, and I think it is ok for me to continue on without food. Clearly my brain is not working at its full potential.
I start up the dirt road past Pipeline as quickly as I can. I start passing people. Here is one of the times during the day that I feel like I am racing. Not because this is a race, but because I know that I have already gone 2 30 minute sections without eating, and I don’t want too much more time to pass before I get some food.
There is a small section of single track in the Leadville 100 race. I did not know about this beforehand, if I had known, I would have ridden even harder so that I did not get stuck behind a slow person in a situation that I could not pass them. Since I did not know about this section, I did get stuck behind a slow person. In fact, I think that I was stuck behind one of the slowest people in the whole world (Probably not really the whole world since he was riding in this race). When the section of single track ended, I believe that I was the 6th person stuck behind this slow person, out of about 150 people. I honestly think that there was a train of 150 people slowed down on this section of single track. It was horrible.
As soon as the single track ended I picked up the pace. I flew down the dirt road toward Twin lakes. All I can think about is how I have not eaten in close to 2 hours. I am extremely worried that I would not be able to recover, but then I came over the rise above the dam and saw the line of spectators cheering on the people in this race.
I met my crew right before the dam.
My crew consists of my brother Zac, his wife Erin and my uncle Scott. Jilene’s husband John is also waiting at this stop. I hop of my bike and sit down in one of their chairs as they start following the instructions that I gave them the night before the race. I pick up a PB and J sandwich and say I need to use the bathroom. Scott offers to hold my bike for me, but I tell him I don’t really have time to go, so I hop back on my bike and set off toward Columbine.
As I approach the hill, I hear some shouting and I see that the race leaders are already coming off the mountain. They pass me one turn before I reach the bottom of the Columbine climb.
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
Climbing Columbine hurt my mentality a little bit. I passed the first turn when I realized how slow I was moving, how slow EVERYONE was moving. I thought that this would be the section that may just break me, then a girl on a single speed passed me. I saw her come flying by and I decided I could stick with her. I stayed right on her tail all the way up the mountain. I felt awesome.
I passed the tree line and saw the last 4 miles of the hill with a steady stream of people walking. The whole ride I thought there were too many people, but this is one of the times it made me mad. I felt good and wanted to ride, but I couldn’t because people were walking in front of me. There was a time that Ken Clouber was standing on a boulder next to the road telling people to ride, but I couldn’t because people were in the way walking. (I actually did ride for about 18.5 seconds to make Ken happy.)
Eventually (after an hour of walking) I made it to the top, and immediately turned around. I had passed a bunch of people and I wasn’t going to let them pass me while I was stopped. (After the race I found out that I had passed 251 people on the climb. I rock).
The Columbine descent was uneventful and I soon was back at the Twin Lakes aid station. I met Zac and Erin and left them my bike and my camelback. I decided that it finally was time for me to go to the bathroom. I grabbed another PB and J and headed for the Porta Pot.
When I entered the Porta Pot, I faced one of the largest dilemmas in my life to this day. The dilemma was this. I am in a hurry to do this race, but there is no toilet paper. All I have are the clothes I am wearing and the sandwich that I am eating.
At this point, I believe that most people would go find another bathroom, but not this person. I decided that with the ¼ sandwich that I had not yet consumed, I would prevail. So I did my business and used the sandwich to wipe. It worked out perfectly.
I returned to my bike and told my crew the story. Erin started laughing and Zac went to find me some TP. I told Zac that the TP was no longer necessary, but it would probably help someone else if he went and put it in the Porta Pot. I grabbed my camelback and took off.
The Race Gets Hard
This is where the race got difficult. I got to a nice piece of pavement and slowed way down. The wind had started. Elden and my mother both know that any ride that I go on, there will be an absurd amount of wind. We all know that I am the wind-bringer. I can (and do) ruin most any bike ride because of this, but they still invite me. (How nice of them.)
Anyway, this is the part of the ride that I looked down at my clock and realize that that I have only been moving for 7 hours, meaning that I have 5 more hours ahead of me.
I don’t really remember much of what happened during the 10 miles between Twin Lakes and Pipeline, but I do know that it was slow and painful.
About 3 minutes before I reach my uncle Scott at the Pipeline aid station, it starts to sprinkle a little bit, and this causes me to make another bad choice. I stop and Scott tells me that he felt the rain too so I ask for a jacket. Scott hands me a large waterproof jacket that I ball up and put in my pocket. This doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but when you are tired and have 25 miles left of racing, and your back is aching, putting a nice big rain jacket in your pocket is more than just annoying.
I refill my supplies and set off again.
After the Pipeline aid station there is more flat and then there is Powerline. Again I realize that I need to work on my “riding on the flat” skills. After another long stretch of flat pavement, we eventually reach Powerline. I am stoked. I start up the dirt road and remember what my mother told me the night before. “It is 3.3 miles past the last gate until the top.” I told her that there is no way that I will be able to remember all the little distances she has told me, but this one did stick out. I start up the climb looking for the gate that means the climb is here, but I don’t see one, and I keep climbing.
I round a corner and I see the real climb. It looks almost vertical with 50 people walking up in single file. At the bottom of that hill, there is a small fence.
I start climbing and just about immediately hop off my bike to push it. I believe the hill is ride-able, but there are too many people, so I get in line like everyone else and keep pushing. When the really steep stuff ends, a guy on the side of the road told me that a single speed guy in the same shirt was the first place on a single speed by about 25 minutes. I said something like “I bet he was happy”, because I do believe that he should have been happy. (Editor’s Note: At that point on the course, I was most definitely not happy.)
After the steep spot, I start riding. The climb is by no means over, but the un-ride-able steep stuff is. I pass a lot of people here. Whenever someone asks me why I am riding, I reply with “Because I trained for a bike race, not a hike.” and I ride away.
I enjoyed the climb a lot.
After the climb there is a fun dirt descent, and then some pavement. I enjoyed the break and ate some Gu. (Before the race I filled some flasks with Gu so I didn’t have to get as sticky. This was probably the thing I was happiest about during the race: I didn’t even get a little sticky.)
St Kevins Climb
When the paved road starts up again, I start having some more mental issues. Before the race, I wrote down the splits for 11:55 from someone last year. So far I had been about 10 minutes ahead of those splits at every check. The splits I wrote down said that I should be at the last aid station at 10:15. My mother told me that if I was there at 10:00 I would be fine, but if I got there any later I would need to push myself. I watched my clock going up the hill before the aid station pass both 10:00 and 10:15. I got to the aid station at 10:23.
I was worried for the first time during the race.
I pulled into the aid station thinking that I want water in my camelback. I know that I have had Gatorade in my camelback for most of the ride and now I need water.
I get to the table and blurt out, “I want Gatorade in my camelback”. I give them my camelback and they start filling it. It took me another minute to realize that I said the wrong thing, but they were already giving the camelback back to me. I decide not to worry and get back on my bike. I move out of the aid station and eat a pack of Honey Stinger chews. I know that the race is not over and I need to keep eating.
I start down the St Kevin’s descent and eat some more chews. I look around and think how different the scenery is. 11 hours earlier it had been dawn, it was nice and moist and the air tasted like excitement. Now it was dry. I don’t think there was more than one turn that I could remember from the way out. It really made me feel like it was a different road (it wasn’t, I didn’t take any wrong turns).
I got to the bottom of the descent and back on the flat. I promised myself that I would not let this flat kill me, and I knew that I had to push it to beat 12 hours.
The Boulevard and Finish
I flew down the road. I ate some more Honey Stinger chews and went even faster. I was excited and I made myself believe I would make it. I turned onto the Boulevard and saw a line of people walking. I didn’t understand. Why were they walking up this little hill, we had just ridden 102 miles. Why are they all walking? I didn’t want to walk, so I rode up the side. Actually I believe I flew up the side. I was happy and full of energy and want it to end, so I kept on riding. When I got to the pavement, I think that I have passed about 75 people.
I was ecstatic and I saw that I was at 11:07. I rode up over the hill where you can see the finish line and all the sudden my right leg cramped. I couldn’t believe it. I had been feeling phenomenal for 11 hours and 10 minutes, then my leg cramped. I wouldn’t let the cramp bother me though. I knew that all I had was ½ a mile to ride in the next 50 minutes. I rode the last hill with just my left leg. It was not it terrible thing, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I passed 4 people in the last 20 yards getting me an 11:15:09 time for my first Leadville 100.
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
I hopped off my bike and put on my finisher’s medal, then my mother started screaming in my ear. It was SOOO loud. I tried to get away, but she was hugging me too. I submitted to a super hug and almost being made deaf.
I was happy. I had rocked it.
A Note from Fatty: For those of you who were expecting me to start my Breck Epic race report today, well, that will start really soon now. But not today. Because I choose to be mercurial, that’s why.
Another Note from Fatty: For those of you who were expecting me to talk about Lance’s decision not to not contest the USADA allegations against him, I’ve pretty much already said what I have to say. The only thing that is different now is that Lance isn’t going to spend a ton of time or money fighting this fight. That’s a personal decision and honestly I don’t have a dog in that fight. I will reiterate a few things, though, for the folks who might be wondering:
- I will continue to support and raise money for LiveStrong.
- I will continue to capitalize “LiveStrong” the way I do, because all-caps words draw an unfair amount of attention to themselves, making other words in the sentence feel resentful.
- I am not going to let my comments section become a debate podium or shouting match over Armstrong.
And now, on to today’s story.
(Less Than) One Month To Go
On September 22, The Hammer, The Swimmer, and I will be participating as a relay team in a very different, very interesting, and very hard triathlon: The Leadman Tri, in Bend, Oregon. I’ve talked about this race before, where I’ve described what makes it unusual: instead of going the usual “Iron” distances of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run, the Leadman Tri does things a little bit different:
- 5K swim (that’s about 3 miles)
- 223K Bike (that’s about 140 miles)
- 16.5K run (that’s about 13.6 miles)
If biking is your main thing, you can see the appeal: this is a serious endurance race with monster swim and bike distances . . . but with a much less brutal run.
I like it. I want to do it. And I think I can do pretty well at it. As long as I don’t have to do the actual swimming and running parts.
So I’ve talked with Life Time Fitness — the people putting on the Leadman Tri — and they’re putting on a contest, which they’re calling the “Faster than Fatty” challenge. It’s pretty easy to explain:
If you do the 250-mile version of the Leadman Tri — whether the whole thing or as part of a relay team, like I am — and your bike split is faster than mine, you get this otherwise unobtainable t-shirt:
Want to try? The details for how are here, but it’s pretty easy: you’ve just got to sign up for the race, and then register for the challenge.
And then, of course, you’ve got to actually be faster than I am in this race on September 22, less than a month from now.
And hey, even if you don’t beat me (and believe me, I do not intend to make it easy for you to beat me), we can still hang out. It’ll be awesome.
Team Fatty Gets Prepared
The Hammer, The Swimmer, and I don’t want to show up unprepared at the Leadman Tri — we want to have our transitions down cold. We want to to be fast. We want to be competitive.
We want, above all else, to not embarrass ourselves horribly and make Life Time Fitness wish they had never invited us to come play at their race.
And so — without looking at our calendar and noticing it would be exactly one week after we had been racing for seven straight days in Leadville and Breckenridge — we signed up as a Relay Team for the Utah Half, a half-iron distance triathlon in Provo, Utah (about 15 miles from where we live).
This would be a good chance for The Swimmer to get some experience swimming in open water. In fact, it would be her first open water swim, ever.
It would also be a good chance for me to try out my new Specialized Shiv Expert, which I recently described and which is pictured here again, for memory-jogging purposes:
My leg of the race — 56.6 miles — would be my first race on this bike, as well as the third time I had ever been on it.
So, two days before the race, I went to Bountiful Bicycle and had Taylor — master Body Geometry fitter and extremely good guy in general — fit the bike for me.
The guy was thorough; the fitting took around four hours. (I’ll post a video of it soon.) By the time he was finished, the Shiv felt like it was mine, and I was both excited and scared to see how I’d do TT’ing for just over a half-century.
Saturday morning, 5:45 am. We showed up at the dock of Utah Lake. As I am before any race, I am not just nervous. I am keyed up. I am bouncing off the walls. Or I would be bouncing off the walls if we weren’t outdoors and there were walls to bounce off of.
I suggest we take a group self-portrait:
We are a very happy team.
Then the race director gives the most hilarious pre-race pep-talk ever (note: intentionally hilarious), where he said this race would come to be a defining moment for us and may well be regarded as the “meridian of our lives.” He ended by screaming at the top of his lungs and dashing his clipboard to the ground, smashing it to bits.
I like this guy.
The Swimmer then went and — for the first time ever — squirmed into her wetsuit:
It is not easy getting into those things. Believe me. Here I am, helping her get one of the arms to fit right:
I thought I was going to have to bring out the Jaws of Life.
Eventually, The Swimmer got so she felt reasonably OK in the suit, and even agreed to strike a heroic pose:
Really, how could we not win?
Since we were racing as a relay team, we were several waves back: all the elite racers and male age groupers went, then us (and Clydesdale and Athena racers), then us. Then the women age groupers.
That was fine by me. Hey, I didn’t have a strategy; I just wanted to see how we’d do.
The Swimmer got into the starting line for her wave and The Hammer and I could tell right away that she was good and confident: she had gone right to the front:
Trust me, she’s in there.
As soon as The Swimmer’s wave took off, I took off for the restroom, to use the bathroom (once again), as well as to get suited up. and ready to go for my wave. After all, I’d be riding in just half an hour or so.
And then, I stood in the transition area, waiting, while The Hammer stood on the dock, watching her little girl kick serious butt in the water.
Then, 37 minutes into the race, The Swimmer came out of the water, nearly impossible to see as she was surrounded by clydesdales:
She ran into the transition area, where I was waving my arms at her, so I’d be easy to see.
I needn’t have worried, really. The TT2 helmet I was wearing made me hard to miss.
The Swimmer stopped right in front of me, just as planned. I knelt down, removed the ankle bracelet containing the timing chip from her, and wrapped it on me:
Later, The Swimmer would have time to consider why she had ratcheted her goggles on so tight:
But now was not that time.
I got up, rolled the Shiv out of the transition area — so focused on the race now that I didn’t even spend a nanosecond considering the fact that somehow I had arrived at a place in my life where I was wearing a pointy helmet in absolute earnestness.
The Swimmer had put us in a podium position, and now It was my turn to race.
The Race of Truth
I want to be clear about this: I had no plan for how hard I should go out, how I should mete out my effort, how I should finish. I had never raced a road bike for 56 miles before, and certainly never TT’d that distance. Or any other distance, for that matter.
So I just started out with a Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel under each leg gripper, and two more in jersey pockets, along with the half-liter of water the Shiv’s “Fuelsalage” onboard bladder holds. I figured that would be enough for at least most of the race, and I could always get more at the aid stations along the route.
I rode out of the parking lot, got past the first quick turn or two, and into the first reasonably long straight. With a deep breath, I leaned forward, grabbed the aero bars, spun my legs up to a good cadence, and then shifted up two gears.
“Check me out,” I said to myself. “I’m time trialing.”
And right away, I started passing people. That wasn’t too big of a surprise, because I wasn’t just starting in the relay, Clydesdale, and Athena wave. I was starting behind all the men age group waves.
That’s when it occurred to me: thanks to where we got started, I had a never-ending supply of carrots to chase.
I got as low as I could and went as hard as I could. I looked at my computer: 28mph.
Yes, 28mph. I was riding my bike — probably with a mild tailwind, but still — at twenty eight miles per hour. And I felt no need to slow down.
I passed more people, often fast enough that they must have wondered what was going on. I passed groups of people. I got so my favorite thing to do was yell “on your left!” to people who were currently passing other people.
I didn’t slow and talk to anyone. I was breathing fast and hard, and had no interest in words. I would nod slightly each time as I went by a person, because I didn’t want to be rude, but that was all.
Once I passed a person, I never considered them again. They just ceased to exist. Nobody — literally nobody re-passed (or, for that matter, passed the first time) me.
I was racing. Maybe more than ever before in my life, I was racing.
I turned, now facing into a headwind. I experimented with my head position and my back position. I could tell I had so much to learn to really cheat the wind, but at the same time, I could tell that when I got my head just right, the headwind felt weaker. The guy from Specialized who got me this helmet said that it’s the single most cost-effective way to improve your aero profile. Now, riding into a headwind and still blasting along at 23mph, I believed it.
I got to the first aid station. I didn’t need anything. I had plenty of gels, and had only barely touched my water.
“I love racing,” I thought to myself. I love seeing how fast I can make myself go. I love the empty mind it forces, the complete concentration that drives every single other thought out.
I neared the turnaround point of the out-and-back course, 28 miles into the race. I have seen remarkably few people on their return trip. I am still catching people; I feel incredible.
I hit the 25 mile mark in almost exactly one hour. It occurs to me: this is the fastest I have ever ridden a bike. 25mph, on average, for an hour.
And it occurs to me: I love this Specialized Shiv, and I love time trialing. I want more.
I turn around and start back. I am no longer passing people as often. I picture the race and the starting waves in my head and I can see why. The fastest people started 15 minutes before I did and are faster than I am anyway; I would never see them. The quite-fast people who started several minutes ahead of me were out of reach, too.
By now, I thought, I’ve caught and passed most of the people I would catch and pass.
And it was true. I rode the second half of the race mostly alone.
But I was still racing. Head low, body low. Trying to feel aero. Trying to keep my speed at or above 25mph.
But there are some problems with this.
The big one is corners; I’ve got to slow down for those, then ramp the speed back up after. I’m trying to get a sense for which corners I can stay in the aero bars for, and which I have to get in the brakes for. I err on the side of caution. This bike handles well — much better than I expected, having listened to Paul Sherwen talk for years about how awful TT bikes handle — but I am not willing to risk it.
The bigger problem is that I bungled three intersections. I’d see someone standing in the intersection holding an arm straight out — pointing left or right — and I’d see that as a sign that I should go in that direction.
In reality, though, the person in the intersection was stopping traffic by holding out an arm, so I could go straight through.
I screwed this up three times in one race. Realizing my mistake as the person in the intersection yelled at me that I was going the wrong way.
Two out of the three times, I brought another rider with me into the wrong turn.
I get back on the correct road, stand up to get back to speed, and I’m back in the aero bars. Flying again.
Over and over, I have to remind myself: “This isn’t real, you know. You need to remember that all these people you are passing and feeling so smug about have just finished a mile-point-something-long swim, while you haven’t. And more importantly, after they finish this bike ride they’re going to all go run half a marathon, while you change clothes and drink a Coke.”
And whenever I reminded myself of that, I’d take a moment to be impressed. I love bikes, not running or swimming. I don’t think I’ll ever make triathlon my thing. But I have to say, I admire the people who can — and want to — do all three sports in a race.
That said, this race was amazingly satisfying to me. I got to go as hard as I could, without any drafting or help from other racers. And I could tell, from the way I could no longer see anyone ahead of me for hundreds of yards, that I was not doing half-bad.
Then, maybe two miles from the finish, one person does re-pass me. “Good ride,” he says as he goes by.
And he was right.
I roll easy into the staging area, dismount, and run into the transition area, looking for The Hammer. The near-total lack of bikes on the racks tells me that I have ridden a good race:
I stand still while The Hammer moves the ankle bracelet with the timing chip to her own ankle. While she does this, I say something about having given it my all.
I have, too.
By my computer, I’ve done this 56.6 miles in around 2:19. I am absolutely certain that we are currently in the lead for the Relay division.
The Hammer takes off; it’s her turn now.
How does she always look so happy when she’s running?
I take a few minutes, just standing there, resting.
The first time I try to walk, unaided, I almost fall over.
My respect for those who do a half-Ironman by themselves goes up a couple notches.
The Hammer hasn’t been running a lot this summer. We’ve both been all about the bike. But she’s managed to squeeze in a run, from time to time. Not often, and not far, but she’s got in the occasional run.
And so I expect that it will not surprise you that she knocked out a 1:49 half-marathon. Except it wasn’t really a half marathon. The course was a little long. So The Hammer ran 13.6 miles in 1:49.
And I swear, she smiled the whole time. Mile 0:
Meanwhile, I am sitting on an ice chest, drinking my second Coke and third bottle of water, cheering her on. She’s the first woman on the course, and she’s keeping it that way.
After seeing The Hammer go by at the 9-mile mark, The Swimmer and I make our way to the finish line, so we can cross as a team with The Hammer.
Which we do, in full awesomeness:
And then a quick group shot right after:
How We Did
So, we had done it: finished our first triathlon relay. But how had we done?
Well, as it turns out, we had done pretty darn well. Namely, we won the relay division:
In fact, we had won the relay division with almost exactly a half hour to spare.
Even more in fact, we would have placed tenth in the overall individual competition (by the way, the bike times highlighted in yellow in the above graphic are the four people in the entire race who turned in a faster time on the bike than I did.):
Now, the big difference is that places 1 – 9 are all real individual people who were faster than the three of us each just doing a single event.
But we choose to still be pretty proud of how we did. And unlike at Leadville, we stuck around to climb on the podium:
So. That’s our first race as the Team Fatty Family Tri Relay team.
And I’ve gotta say: I’m pretty psyched for the next one.
Some are born for greatness
To strike a heroic pose
And hold bouquets of roses
While being crowned with glory
And being draped with medals
And looking all important and stuff
I am not one of those people
Nor, with all due respect
Is The Hammer
Whatever we’ve got
In speed, in endurance
We’ve paid for
Fair and square
Perhaps that is why
We are both
Only rare visitors
To the podium
And certainly never
No, not ever!
The ones who would stand atop
The Podium in a large race
Except this once!
Except this once!
Except this once!
When, at the Leadville 100
In the year
Two thousand and twelve
I was the fastest singlespeeder
And she was the third fastest woman
Between the ages of forty
And this is where the irony becomes rich
So thick indeed that it is hard to swallow
For this one time
Probably the only time
Where we would both be on the podium
At a race we faithfully attend
Each and every year
We would not be at the ceremony
For at the selfsame moment the awards
would be awarded
The Hammer and I
Would be racing-in-irony-quotes
In the first stage
Of the Breck Epic
Too tired to push it
And, in my case
So sore in one leg
t’was a major effort to pedal at all
So we would not see our finishers’ sweatshirts
Nor our belt buckles
Nor our trophies
Which look suspiciously like pie pans
Not for weeks
Or at least a week and a half
And we would not stand in front of the crowd
Taking in the deserved adulation
Driving to Breckenridge
Tired, so tired
And mayhaps a bit nauseous
We could not stop laughing
We had done it
Somehow, not so much training
As just riding a lot
We had done it
We were the fast guys
And it occurs to me that
It doesn’t matter
Whether you actually stand
On the podium
So much as that
You earned the right to.
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