2013 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2: People

08.13.2013 | 6:20 am

Over the course of twenty years, how many people have ridden in the Leadville 100? And how many miles have they ridden, preparing for this race? How many pedal strokes have been devoted to achieving a goal?

I have no idea what the answer is. But it’s a beautiful thought: so many people, working so hard and long, to accomplish something that matters to them.

And with very few exceptions — the people chasing a podium position — we’re all working together, just trying to beat a common enemy: the clock.

When racing the Leadville 100, I often look around and marvel at the person riding beside me. Because I know that this complete stranger, right there, has somehow gotten to the exact same point as I have, at the exact same time, in the exact same race. Right at that moment, is there anyone in the world I have more in common with? I wonder if that person is experiencing the same strange brew of emotions and feelings I am: excitement, intensity, exhaustion, anxiety, joy, and a deep, deep desire to know what the very near future will bring (a bonk? a crash? a personal best? all of the above?)

But I don’t ask, because when I’m racing, I have an extremely hard time forming words, and sentences are out of the question. Racing ain’t no time for jibber-jabber. I’ll translate what I felt in my heart and gut during the race into words later.

So — if I am able — after I finish the race, I love to clean up and head back to the finish line, sitting in the bleachers, eating nachos and ice cream (there’s a store less than fifty feet away from the finish line that sells both, which is good, because after the race there’s no way I could walk more than that distance), and watching people as they cross the line. So many people. Every one of them with a story I would love to hear.

But it has to be good enough, sometimes, to just see it on their faces.

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My friend Jilene gets emotional as she approaches the finish line, having just given everything she had (and more) to set a personal best of 9:23. Photo courtesy Brenda Conant.

I’m lucky; I’ve been doing this race and this blog long enough that quite a few people feel like they can tell me their stories. In fact, one of my favorite things about the Leadville 100 this year was how many people came up to me and told me that my race reports had been instrumental in their deciding to do this race, or had been useful in helping them visualize the course, or had been helpful in learning what to do — and what not to do — when racing.

A bunch of us took photos together:

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I love the way Kenny’s photobombing this shot.

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UltraRob and me.

And I got to see — and hear — little snippets of their own stories. Sometimes before, sometimes during, and sometimes after the race. I heard too many to recount all of them, but here are a few things I remember.

Doug Bohl

Doug is a frequent commenter on this blog, so a lot of you already know him, at least a little. And he is doing a fantastic job of writing up his own Leadville Trail 100 experience on his blog

But one of the standout moments of the whole weekend for me was when he and his family had The Hammer and me over for lunch at their cabin last Thursday (a couple days before the race) and we spent almost the whole time talking about the upcoming race.

Through Doug, I got to experience the newness, anxiety, and obsessive preparedness that only a first-time LT100 racer can know.

We checked out each other’s bikes. I looked at him and declared, based on nothing more than his complete lack of paunch, that he would finish half an hour faster than he thought he would. 

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I also bit my tongue, and refrained from saying anything about a couple things he said he had done to prepare for, or was planning on doing, during the race. Hey, what did I know? Stuff that hadn’t worked for me might just be because of me.

And later I’d be glad I kept those things to myself, because as near as I can tell, Doug had a banner day. One thing’s for certain: his first LT100 finish time was faster than my first LT100 finish time.

Rebecca Rusch

I’ve been a fan of Rebecca Rusch for years; she’s a LT100 icon as well as an amazing bike pro and advocate for many of the same causes I care about. We’ve also become friends over the past year or so. So you shouldn’t be too shocked to know that when I got to Leadville, I sent her a text message asking if she’d like me to lob any softball questions her way to give her a chance to promote her sponsors on Twitter.

But I was concerned when she replied that her head wasn’t in the race, and she’d explain later.

The Hammer and I met her later that morning, where she told us that a good friend of hers had been killed earlier that week, run over by a truck while riding her bike.

Rebecca almost didn’t come to Leadville. She didn’t want to race; her heart wasn’t in it.

But then, instead of bailing, she changed her focus. She spent time with people. She listened to their stories, and gave advice when asked. She raced with the intensity she was able to give, in spite of this tragedy. Which was still fast enough for a blisteringly-fast third place.

And then stayed at the finish line for hours and hours, congratulating people as they crossed the finish line.


Linda has been working at the Delaware Hotel for as long as I’ve been racing the Leadville 100. We see each other only once per year, but she knows the names of all my kids, knows Lisa, and knows how I did at the race the previous year. 

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And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who Linda treats like a favorite nephew.

Matt Beaudin

I have to admit: I’m a Matthew Beaudin fanboy. He’s a writer for Velo, and he’s exactly the writer I wish I were. He writes smart, clear, and direct. I knew he was racing the Leadville 100 this year, so kept trying to find him.

Until the race itself, I kept failing. 

Then, half a mile up the Columbine climb — right about the point when being on a singlespeed stops being a liability and suddenly becomes an outrageous advantage — I came across a guy in full Velonews kit. “Are you Matthew Beaudin?” I asked. 

“Yeah,” he said, and then we talked about the climb we were on, and how it was really not as bad as the Powerline — the real crux of the race.

“I’ll be walking a lot of that,” I said.

“I hope to ride it all,” Matthew replied.

“Ha!” I laughed. I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help it. Nobody  rides all of the Powerline.

Then — somehow — we wound up at the base of the Powerline at the same moment. “OK, let’s see you climb this thing without dabbing,” I said.

“The plot’s thickened, Fatty,” Matthew replied. “My left shoe’s cleat is loose and I can’t clip out. Now I have to climb the whole thing.”

And he proceeded to do just that, at least until another rider couldn’t get out of his way in time, at which point Matthew had to take off his shoe, leaving it clipped into his pedal, and march along with the rest of us. Had I the energy, I would have begun singing “Diddle Diddle Dumpling” right then. And I can’t even tell you how desperately I wished for a camera.

That said, as soon as he got to a place where he could restart, Matthew got back into his shoe and continued riding, disappearing up the hill as I continued to march.

Be sure to read Matthew’s own impressions of the Leadville 100 here.  

When you get right down to it, the culture of a race is the people in it — the racers (both the pro and the ordinary), and the memories they bring away from it. The stories they have to tell. And that’s what makes the Leadville 100 — and many other races — great. 


  1. Comment by Jeff Bike | 08.13.2013 | 10:53 am

    If yesterday was a “Preamble” shouldn’t today be “Part 1″? Ok I’ll just read “Part 2″ first.

  2. Comment by New Zealand Ev | 08.13.2013 | 11:07 am

    As always thanks so much for your insight into the races you do!!

  3. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.13.2013 | 11:25 am

    @JeffBike I believe after a ‘preamble’ you’re required to amble, therefore an introduction would be the next logical installment. We’ll look for those soon.

    Maybe this is just one of those George Lucas style stories where we start the show in the middle and then build from there.

  4. Comment by Steve P | 08.13.2013 | 12:36 pm

    Hi Fatty, I have been a fan of yours and your blog for a couple of years now. As it happens, I started riding mtb’s a couple of years ago as well. Your blog helped inspire me to enter leadville this year. It was truly the hardest thing I have ever done. I finished, got my buckle and had an awesome experience. Thanks!

  5. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.13.2013 | 12:39 pm

    All kidding about preamble vs. amble vs. intro aside, this is a great write up – wonderful insights about the people and how they approach significant undertakings like this. Stress is the great revealer, whether it be mental or physical. Our true natures come out most clearly when we are under stress, and your observations give us all hope.

    Your contacts, due to your status as a world famous comedic blogger and the great things you continue to do to make our world a better place to live, give you perhaps more fodder for your observational skills than most of us are able to realize, but the real value you bring to your post today and every day are the observations themselves and the sensitivity you bring to the people and the event.

    This is one of the many reasons I enjoy reading your blog – you make us feel like we are there as well, and you bring your reader into the pathos of the moment. Your friends become our friends, and your pain is ours.

    Thanks for making us all part of your life, for sharing as deeply and as sensitively as you do. Good on you. You are good people – and good people gather other good people around them – it is plain to see.

  6. Comment by Jeff Bike | 08.13.2013 | 12:55 pm

    @Davidh-marin,ca Ah! now I understand! So we should expect part 6 next?

    While George Lucas is a fairly good story teller, I find that Fatty’s accounts even those that go to Episode V or Episode VI don’t become a Lost ark in a Labyrinth or all mixed up like a lot of Graffiti. In fact they get you Hooked. Even if your a big time racer with times like 1:42:08 and so saddle sore that you have Red Tails you can enjoy every Look at Life that Fatty gives us. So out of the Temple of Doom there is always a New Hope.

  7. Comment by George | 08.13.2013 | 1:07 pm

    Yeah, what cyclingjimbo said!

  8. Comment by Christina | 08.13.2013 | 1:24 pm

    Jilene’s face is everything. I love it.

  9. Comment by Chris | 08.13.2013 | 1:39 pm

    I made Fatty’s blog! That’s better than finishing on Saturday!

    Thanks Fatty! You nailed it! And your photo was better than mine, Kenny-bombed or no.

  10. Comment by MattC | 08.13.2013 | 2:12 pm

    I tell ya Fatty…every year you make me want to do this race. EVERY. YEAR. Maybe one year something will happen and I will finally get pushed off the fence and just ‘do it’. (a big part of why I don’t is simply the $…flying from CA at LEAST a week early, more would be better (I live at sea level), hotel, food, shipping bike, etc…well, it all adds up quick to a good chunk of change. But the bug is there…it would be a HUGE endeavour for me. HUGE.

    OK Matt..just walk away…don’t think about it. Move along. hey…how about that Tour of Utah?

  11. Comment by Paul Guyot | 08.13.2013 | 2:39 pm

    Tears. Fatty’s posts of Leadville always bring tears to my eyes.

    Especially his words re: Rebecca. No one knows how amazing this woman is — even those who know don’t know.

    She is the baddest badass in the bestest sense of that word. Ever.

    And Fatty and The Hammer and everyone else who dares ride this ride are badasses, too.

    Every year Leadville comes around and I read the stories, and ball my eyes out, and say I want to do that one year. Then I look down at my gut, and remember I’ve been on a mtb exactly ONCE in my life (when I crashed and broke my finger), and I think… I’ll probably never experience it firsthand.

    I salute every single rider who crosses that finish line every year. You all do something that many, many of us do not have the heart to even attempt. BE PROUD.

    I have to go find a tissue now.

  12. Comment by Matt Beaudin | 08.13.2013 | 3:23 pm

    Was a treat seeing you out there. I should note: Fatty passed me later, and finished well head of me. He is not fat.

    Thanks for the kind words. We’ll see you next time…


  13. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 08.13.2013 | 4:36 pm

    Elden, we enjoyed having you and Lisa over to our temporary home for lunch. It was a lot of fun. BTW. After you left our “neighbors” in the other cabin who came while we were looking at bikes came up to me and asked: “Was he in the Leadville movie?” “Yup, that was Fatty.”

    The best thing you said to me, wasn’t anything you actually said to help me (I don’t think). At the spaghetti dinner you asked if I was nervous and when I said you you admitted you were too. That was, in a weird way, comforting and helped me settle in. Thanks.

  14. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 08.13.2013 | 4:39 pm

    It IS about the people! My daughter was there to support her friend (9:02) and then do the 10K foot race on Sunday with him (he’s doing the Leadman series). She also went to the finish line to watch the 11-12 hour finishers and she said she was crying, laughing, cheering – the emotion was raw. She had a few good stories to tell also. Great report; just like others have said, you make us feel like we are there.

  15. Comment by Heidi | 08.13.2013 | 5:42 pm

    Wow, powerful photo of Jilene – tears came to my eyes. Big time congratulations!

  16. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.13.2013 | 6:17 pm

    @cyclingjimbo spoke for all of us, and very well. I think he should be our Team Chemist!

    @JeffBike I tip my hat to you sir, I tip my hat. Our town ‘celebrity’ recently donated space for a new small park. We know have the force as we ride the roads, and someone to crack the whip when we don’t.

    @MattC Think RV…think next year, I am. (though that ‘cabin’ of Doug’s sure seemed sweet.)

  17. Comment by Carl | 08.13.2013 | 6:49 pm

    Wow, what a beautiful story.

  18. Comment by Jenni | 08.13.2013 | 7:03 pm

    My write up is done- crewing for Doug!

  19. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.13.2013 | 7:57 pm

    @Jenni GREAT WRITE UP! Thank you for helping Doug, and sharing with the rest of us. When you’re ready we’ll be there for you!

  20. Comment by Rebecca's Mom | 08.13.2013 | 8:01 pm

    Fatty, As always you race report is the best of all. You continue to put fun into the amazing emotional and physical challenges that racers face. I so enjoy your write-ups. A special thank you for sharing the rest of Rebecca’s story. Very few people were aware of the heavy heart she was racing with and most were unaware of why there were so many tears at the finish line. She was hurting, but was glad she made the decision to stay in Leadville and compete.
    Keep up the great reporting…your blogs are so wonderful.

  21. Comment by Jenni | 08.13.2013 | 8:34 pm

    Awww Rebecca’s mom…thanks for posting. Rebecca should be well aware we all have cry o’clock and we were all there with her, sending love and support. As she spoke to the crowd at the pre-race meeting, I could not have possibly been sending her more love and healing. Please tell her we all hope for her peaceful thoughts and all things goods. Oh and hugs.

    Oh yeah, pie too. I’d be happy to actually send her a pie, Team Fatty style. (:o) Hugs to you all who are hurting with the loss.


  22. Comment by Rohit | 08.13.2013 | 10:43 pm

    Thanks for posting fatty! You are an inspiration in many ways, and I hope you know just how many of us you help propel to the finish line in Leadville. By the way, I’m in your blog. That’s me and my mom behind you Doug and Kenny!

    Thanks for everything fatty, please keep it up!

  23. Comment by AKChick | 08.13.2013 | 11:18 pm

    So many emotions after reading this post. My heart breaks for Rebecca. For her to start and finish as well as she did – she is just amazing. And for her mom to post – oh, my heart was in my throat as I read her post – hugs to mom and Rebecca. Heart break all over again! I wish I had won the contest so I could give her a hug in person.

    I have gone over and read quite a few of Doug (Way Up State NY) entries and LOVED them. I must check out Jenni’s post (read about her Tri – Jenni – you are a ROCKSTAR!). I love that Fatty shared he was nervous. That would help me out too.

    Also, @PaulGuyot – I couldn’t have said it any better! I have dabbled in mtb but it just doesn’t give me the same joy as the road or my fat tire bike. I guess I need to try singletrack. I have a feeling that would be different and I might like it. I have NEVER been tempted to do Leadville. If I lived somewhere other than 50 ft above sea level, maybe. I will say that Fatty and the Hammer have inspired me time and again and instead of dreading and avoiding hills, I seek them out.

    And Matthew Beaudin. Um. Hmmm. Um. Hmmmm. Is he cuter in person? Sorry to be a total girl, but had I seen him I probably would have made a fool of myself drooling and babbling. He is rather an attractive guy. I am also a fan of his writing (no really, I am!). And he sounds like he is super nice too. And FAST!

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up. In my humble opinion you are one of the greatest writers out there. Yes, I am biased, but I write for a living (different kind of writing) and what you write is solid gold.

    I hope we get to hear more stories from Leadville!

  24. Comment by AKChick | 08.13.2013 | 11:38 pm

    @Jenni I LOVE your report! You must come to Alaska if you like geology!!! We have tons up bumpy everywhere terrain. We have tons of fun bike rides. I need a cycling instructor. I too am a chatterbox. You need to go to Davis next year for Livestrong (please, please, please). You, me, and Wife#1 could do some serious damage, er, have some serious fun! Also, huge snort when reading “Unicorn riding a Moots!” Pure genius prose! :)I too am one of those slow people who needs the cheering and food more than those fast people! I also love your tips! And you mentioned pooping! You are right about portapotties – Livestrong Davis had HUGE lines at one of the first rest stops and I had to PEE – I’m famous for overhydrating at hot events. I went behind the portapotties. It was that or pee my bibs – not an option. :) So the tip for the modesty tent – great advice!

  25. Comment by Jenni | 08.14.2013 | 9:10 am

    I am going to take you up on your offer. We will ride together in Alaska. Someday, somehow. Let’s figure out a way to make that happen, it would be epic!!

    Thanks for the awesome feedback!! I was so inspired watching Doug through this process and all the people competing I think I could’ve written a book.

  26. Comment by lcacosta | 08.14.2013 | 12:34 pm

    I saw Jilene when riding towards Columbine and I thought she was the Hammer, we were trading spots most of the day until we reached the infamous power-line. Congratulations to all of the people that line up you are an example of courage and determination.

  27. Comment by sdcadbiker | 08.14.2013 | 1:27 pm

    I too was drafting Jilene for a while on the way back to pipeline; she looked very festive! Congrats to all who competed on Saturday; it was a pleasure to be among you.

  28. Comment by Julie B | 08.14.2013 | 8:38 pm

    I am so not a biker. My hubby SteveB found the Fatty community through me. He rides and was part of the Team Fatty Davis Livestrong. Why do I follow? Writing like this. PS Steve wants me to bike. Thinking about it.

  29. Comment by Dan O | 08.14.2013 | 10:51 pm

    Great stories about some of the folks involved with this iconic race…

  30. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.15.2013 | 10:24 am

    @Julie B When you are ready I’ll loan Steve my Tandem. Then you can say anything that comes to mind while you’re riding with him…..and blame it on the bike. Hah!

  31. Comment by alex | 08.20.2013 | 4:29 am

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