Guest Post: Volunteering at the Columbine Mine for the Leadville 100

08.14.2012 | 7:17 pm

A Note from Fatty: I met up with Doug Bohl — a Friend of Fatty — during dinner the night before the Leadville 100. He told me he and his son would be volunteering at the Columbine Mine — the turnaround spot for the course, and the highest point (12,600 feet) of the course. I told him I’d be really interested in a guest post on his experience if he’d like to share it. He said he’d be happy to and sent it to me the day after the race. It’s a great story; enjoy!

Hi, my name is Doug. (Hi Doug.) And I have a problem. About a year ago this little roadie decided he needed to do something new and hard on a bike. That led to a mountain bike, which led to a declaration to ride in Leadville. That decision has me now officially registered (they have my money) for the 2013 Leadville 100. (Aside: I received a spot in the race through the Willmington qualifier, which could be used in either 2012 or 2013. I am riding in 2013. I have made many many questionable sports-related decisions in the past year; that is definitely NOT one of them…..But I digress.)

This year we had a family vacation planned in Colorado for the same time as the race. I decided that a little recon would be valuable, so my son (Noah) and I volunteered to crew an aid station for the race. We were ultimately assigned to crew at the Columbine aid station. I met up with Fatty, the Hammer, IT Guy, et al. I may even have caught a glimpse of some guy named “Kenny,” though I think that “Kenny” may still just be a piece of fiction Fatty made up.

Fatty thought it would be cool to get a perspective on the race from the top of Columbine. And so here we go.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Leadville 100, the Columbine climb is at the end of the out portion of the race. It is at the end of the longest climb. And it is at the highest point on the course. Because it is so remote, only neutral aid is given at that stage. What this meant is that Noah and I were 2 of about 40 people who crewed this aid station and got this unique view of the race.

The first thing I want to say about Columbine, it’s a really really long climb. If you have watched either of the Race Across the Sky videos, they do not do the climb justice in any way. It took us about 30 minutes to drive up in a truck. It has everything you could ask for in a climb. It is long, has steep sections, has rough sections, has steep and rough sections. Oh yeah: it goes above the tree line. Here is the view from the top (looking away from the course).


Each member of the team was assigned a job. Noah and I were assigned to cook hot soup (i.e. Ramen noodles). Two camp stoves, four pots for 1600 bikers — no problem. The cosmic joke is that I love to cook. But Ramen? Really? Hey how bout some seafood bisque instead? No? sigh.

We got all set up, got the water boiling, and waited for the riders to arrive.

The first riders to come in were the pros. They didn’t even slow down. No soup for you!

Truthfully, they looked good, determined, comfortable at one with their suffering. I wish I looked that good when I ride a flat, much less at the end of a long climb.

If you look very very carefully, there is a white speck in that picture. It’s one of the first riders in…Here let me help……..

Then they were gone.

After the pros came the really really good sport riders. The people shooting for times under 9 hours. You know those people. The riders who always complain they are slow, or hurt (or a little too fat) but always seem to be, well faster than us mere mortals. One Elden “Fatty” Nelson came in that group.

They stopped at the aid station, just briefly, and headed back down. Fatty looked remarkably good given where he was. He even spoke coherent words and recognized people.

The Hammer came in about 20 minutes after Fatty, looking good as well.

The number of riders began to increase as the middle of the pack came to Columbine.

And things became chaotic. Coke, PBJ sandwiches, bananas, oranges, pretzels, Gu, water, sports drink, and soup all went out like mad. I didn’t really have a lot of time to observe the riders.

Noah and I made and delivered several hundred servings of soup, but a couple of things stood out. First, the riders were really polite and friendly. I constantly heard thanks from them as they pulled out. Second, they looked remarkably good and were remarkably chipper. Ok, maybe I only heard and saw some select riders, or maybe it was total relief that they were finished with the climb. But they seemed good.

Gradually the number riders began to taper again and we began to get to the riders who were close to not finishing in under 12 hours or were in danger of not making cut-off times. Some of them blew through the aid station, trying to save valuable minutes, so they could maybe make their cut-off times. Many of them stopped to take in the view and — oh yeah — some good nutritious soup.

The ones who stopped may have been physically drained, but they were also in remarkably good spirits. I think they knew where they were with respect to the race, and were ok with it. They had made it up Columbine. That climb had not defeated them. If they were pulled because of cut-off times, so be it, but they had made their best effort.

Three riders stood out to me in this group. The first was a woman who came up to me and hugged me from behind while I was making Ramen. “Thanks so much. That was the best soup I have ever had. I’m so sick of sweet gooey things.” You are very welcome!

The second and third riders who stood out were the last two at the aid station. Fatty talked about the suffering at the back of the pack. It was painful to watch these two come up the final portion of the climb to the aid station. (Probably not as painful to watch as it was to do, though!) The second-to-last guy came in, took some food and drink and sat down. About 5-10 agonizing minutes later, the last guy rolled in. The two riders walked up to each other and gave each other a big hug.

They had to have heard our cheer back in Leadville.

It was inspirational to watch, and a good reminder to all of us about what is important.

Then the day was over and it was time to clean up. We had made a huge mess:

Big props to my son Noah. He is 10 and worked about 10 hours that day at the race. He helped me make soup, he took cups up to the riders and made sure they had it if they wanted it, and he made the other volunteers laugh. He never complained and never stopped working. I know he made a difference and I know the experience made an impact on him. (Note: Noah is racing his own first mountain bike race this September. Good luck Noah!)

My lasting thoughts? The day was awesome and well spent. If you have never volunteered to work a race, think about doing it. It was a fantastic experience. BTW. If you race, and have never volunteered to work a race, you should. You owe it to the community, and it will help keep your own racing in perspective.

Did I mention I love to cook? If you judge cooking quality by how it makes people feel, then those Ramen noodles were some of the best food I have ever cooked.

I’m looking forward to riding in the race next year. Nervous and concerned, but totally excited. I’ll put my flag in the ground now. I am shooting for totally average in this race: 10 hours, 19 minutes (10:19 is about the historic average finish time). Leadville is one of the things in this world that I would be darned pleased to be average at.

One last thing, I have Noah under contract to be my crew next year; I’m not sharing him!

So thanks for sitting at my campfire and listening (and thanks Fatty for inviting me to speak).


A Video Interview With . . . Me

08.14.2012 | 7:46 am

Hi there!

You have no idea how tired I am right now. And how much work this race is. I’ll write up the stories when the Breck Epic is done, but for right now, The good folks at CycleDirt did a post-stage-2 interview with me last night.

Watch it here.

Off to race stage 3 now!

Liveblogging my Bit Part in Leverage

08.12.2012 | 5:53 pm

7:01: Huge thanks to Paul Guyot and the actors and crew of Leverage for giving me the opportunity to do that! (And for letting me wear my own logo!)

Now I gotta go buy groceries and then get to bed. Another big day of racing ahead.

6:59: I’m super happy with that. Can you believe I was able to remember a full thirteen words? Me either.

6:57: Hey, me again!

6:46: For those of you who missed the start (Hi NYCarlos!), I think full episodes are put up on later. I don’t know anything about Hulu. Any Huluians know anything?

And yes MattC, my speaking moment — if it made it through editing — is toward the end of the episode.

6:17: Darren said that the TV doesn’t add pounds to me. I was surprised to see that was the case, too. Especially since when this was filmed, I was pretty heavy — around 20 pounds heavier than I am now. So I owe the crew — especially the folks who set up camera angles and edit the shots — a huge “thank you.”

6:12: But first, because I don’t think anyone will think to ask this, I’d like to say: working with the actors in Leverage was a BLAST. Christian Kane was super nice and personable, Timothy Hutton was ultra-generous and has a great, dry sense of humor. And Aldis Hodge is hilarious and improvises pretty much something new pretty much every take.

6:09: I’m going to eat and eat and eat some more now while I enjoy the show. If, however, you have questions what it was like to be on Leverage for a day, let me know. I’ll answer if I can.

6:07: I hope Paul doesn’t mind me giving one spoiler: that is not my only part in the episode. I also appear at the very end. So stick around, OK?

6:06: Question: Did I look 54 years old?

6:03: Look, it’s me! And I got told I look like Stanley Tucci!

OK, I gotta say, that was both fun and awesome. And I didn’t look as bad as I thought I would. Yay!

6:02: What’s fun for me is that I actually got to watch this particular part of this episode being filmed. In fact, my mobile phone rang during this scene. They had to start over.

6:00: I should point out that Paul Guyot wrote and produced this episode of Leverage.

5:59: Oh, there’s the end of Angels and Demons. And now Leverage begins!

5:55: While I’m waiting for the show to begin, I’d like to point out that I am currently the most exhausted I have ever felt in my life. As it turns out, doing a big ol’ ride on one day, at my absolute limit, and then doing another big ol’ ride the next day, may be more than I am capable of handling.

Specifically, my left knee hurt pretty bad by the end of the Leadville 100. By the middle of today’s ride, it hurt so bad I could hardly turn the pedals at all. The Hammer was forced to wait and wait for me as I limped through the ride.

5:51: Oh, hi there. In about ten minutes Leverage starts. It’s on TNT. You should watch it with me, because I’m in it. Really briefly, but this is how big break-out movie stars are discovered, right?

Day 2 of Racing Begins Now

08.12.2012 | 5:48 am

Updates all this week are going to be short. Full stories will be coming next week. And there should be a lot of stories to tell.

Yesterday was an amazing Leadville 100 Race for The Hammer and me:

  • The Hammer finished in 9:28, knocking 11 minutes off her previous personal best, and getting third in her age group. This is her first time on the Leadville Podium!
  • I finished in 8:50, my fourth try at doing the LT100 on a single speed, and my first time at finishing it under nine hours, netting me my second big buckle for this race, and my first for doing it on a single speed — a longtime goal reached! Ordinarily, this would not be fast enough to get me on the podium, but some fast guys didn’t show up, and other fast guys (i.e., Kenny) didn’t have a great day. As a result, I took first in the single speed division.

So both The Hammer and I got on the podium — but won’t be there for the awards ceremony, because we had to hotfoot it out of Leadville right after the race and get ourselves set up for the Breck Epic!

Today is the first stage: about 40 miles in distance, with about 5400 feet of climbing.

Our objective is to simply get through this stage. Our legs are sooooo cooked.

PS: Be sure to tune into Leverage on TNT this evening! Check your listings here for the when. If I am not too tired (or still out on the course), I plan to liveblog it at 6:00pm MT tonight.

If You Want to Follow My Race Today

08.11.2012 | 5:15 am

A quick note before I head out to the start line. If you’d like to follow my race (or The Hammer’s or The IT Guy’s), go to this page, scroll down past the picture, and enter our respective race numbers, which are:

  • The Hammer (Lisa Nelson): 781
  • The IT Guy (Blake Rollins): 3177
  • Me (Fatty / Elden Nelson): 372

Thanks! And wish us luck.

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