2013 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 3: Life-Changing vs…Something Else

08.14.2013 | 6:40 am

The Hammer and I went out for a ride yesterday evening. Our first since finishing the Leadville 100 last Saturday. As we rode up Hog Hollow — our gateway to Corner Canyon — The Hammer remarked, “I didn’t have any urge to cry as I crossed the finish line this year.”

“Huh,” I replied, to show that I was listening, but knew that this wasn’t a stand-alone thought (I am able to convey a remarkable amount of information by simply saying “huh.”).

“Not in Twin Lakes, either,” she continued. “Not anywhere during the race.”

I told her I thought this was interesting, and asked if she had thought about why she hadn’t.

“When I first started doing this race,” she said, “I didn’t know if I could finish it. Discovering that I could make myself keep going, no matter what, changed how I saw myself.”

“And now,” I said, understanding, “it’s been quite a while since there’s been any question about whether you’ll finish. You’ve answered that question definitively. In the absence of a busted frame or an act of God, you’re going to finish this race with plenty of time to spare.”

“Yeah,” said The Hammer. “And the question of ‘When will I…’ isn’t as meaningful as ‘Will I at all?’” 

I think The Hammer’s right (this is in fact, my default stance on all matters related to The Hammer). You learn more about yourself by completing than by competing. And that makes for a truly meaningful experience. Which is why Doug Bohl’s story — where he literally collapses at the finish — is special. Or why Chris’s story — where (forgive me for the spoiler) he finishes about half an hour too late to get the buckle — is inspiring. 

Contrast those finishes with this:

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media 

That’s The Hammer, crossing the finish line as she’s just set a new women’s singlespeed record at Leadville — by quite a large margin. And that’s me, about an 1.5 hours after I’d finished the race, running the last 50 yards alongside her.

Is it awesome? Yes. Absolutely. Look how happy we are:

00809 12 1068
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media

But our finishes were more of a confirmation of the value of a lot of years of hard work. A demonstration that you can make significant — albeit incremental — gains if you persist in doing what you love.

If there’s an “aha” moment in that, it’s a lot more subtle than the all-at-once discovery a lot of us have had when we finished our first big race or event…that moment where you discover that the universe of things too hard for you to do is a lot smaller than you thought.

The Obligation of the Experienced

I found myself thinking about the conversation The Hammer and I had. I wondered, for races like Leadville, once you’ve had your breakthrough moment, should you move on? Is there any point in continuing to do the race?

I think the answer’s “yes,” at least for me, for a number of reasons.

First, because I still love doing the race. Not every experience needs to turn your world upside-down. I still feel a huge sense of accomplishment in finishing the race, and I do in fact love that, in my (let’s face it) late forties I am faster and fitter than I have ever been in my life.

This is not the expression of someone who has just phoned in his race:

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media

But that’s not the only reason. I think that people who have become the old hands are crucial to a race because we become the guardians of that race’s culture.

We’re the ones who know that it’s a tradition for the people who are climbing to the top of the Columbine Mine to cheer for those who are descending. And that it’s the obligation of those descending to encourage those who are pushing their way up.

We’re the ones who know that — even though you’re completely wiped out from your own efforts — the most amazing thing you can do after finishing your race is come to the finish line and scream your heart out for those who are still on the course and are still working just as hard (or harder) than you were.

We’re the ones who know that littering during the race is completely unacceptable.

We’re the ones who know that everyone gets a little bit addle-headed by the altitude and exhaustion and might make a riding mistake, and that everyone’s in this together, and that accidents happen.

We’re the ones who need to pass down the culture of the race by example, and by making sure that everyone we talk with knows that a lot of the best parts of a race don’t have much to do with racing.

At the same time we old-schoolers need to preserve the best aspects of a race, we need to let it evolve without getting cranky about how “it used to be so much better when….” Things change. And if the change is seriously bad, we need to talk to the race organizers — as opposed to spoiling the event for others who don’t have the same frame of reference. 

Up Next?

So we’re comfortable with being the old farts sitting in our rocking chairs and acting all grandparently in the Leadville 100 race. Fine.

But we’ve been thinking: we don’t want to just keep doing what we’ve done. We want to see what it would be like to do something different. Something that pushes us outside what I guess we’ll have to call our “comfort zone,” although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m particularly comfortable at any point during the Leadville 100.

We’ve got a couple things in mind. We’ll tell you about them soon.

Once we’ve done them.


  1. Comment by Drew | 08.14.2013 | 7:19 am


  2. Comment by Brian in VA | 08.14.2013 | 7:21 am

    Very well said, Fatty!

    I’m not a racer but I know how important it was for me to complete a century road ride. Now that I’ve done several, I keep working to improve my time but the motivation isn’t nearly as strong for that.

    I really love your race reports! Keep ‘em coming! BTW, you don’t get to grandparently until you’re in your mid-50s or have an actual grandchild.

    Be well!

  3. Comment by J | 08.14.2013 | 7:23 am

    Tandem on Tour Divide

  4. Comment by MattC | 08.14.2013 | 7:26 am

    I can’t entirely tell, but is Hammer SMILING as she crosses the line? (or is she chuckling at you?) You are both huge inspiration to the rest of us, that’s for sure. Can’t wait to hear about your ‘plans’! You’ve got LOTS of people living vicariously thru you…that’s a lot of pressure, but I’m sure you won’t disappoint!

  5. Comment by rob w | 08.14.2013 | 8:07 am

    One of your best posts ever!! thanks Fatty!

  6. Comment by Chris | 08.14.2013 | 8:30 am

    Thanks Fatty! For the plug, but more even for the thoughts on this amazing race. I had decided I wasn’t going to go back after this year regardless of whether I finished in sub-9hours or DNFed along the way. I decided I was done obsessing.

    Somehow I can’t just walk away though. There’s just so much about the race, the week leading up to it, the people, the culture, and the experience that I can’t just walk away.

    Lord willing I will be there to tackle you again next summer.

  7. Comment by SLL | 08.14.2013 | 8:31 am

    Doug’s story should come with an allergy alert!

  8. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 08.14.2013 | 8:38 am

    Can I photoshop myself smiling at the finish line into a picture??? :)

  9. Comment by Christina | 08.14.2013 | 8:41 am

    I’ve never mountain bike raced. This year we entered my kid in the free races nearby in the mountains and he had a blast. I’m thinking I’ll try it next year. If it weren’t for this blog, I wouldn’t even try. I won’t be amazing, but I’ll try. Thanks for giving me that inspiration.

  10. Comment by rohit | 08.14.2013 | 8:43 am

    Awesome fatty. I offer valiation. On Saturday, crossing the line in 11:22 I was ready to give away my MTB. IN fact, someone my size hanging out looking for a pretty nice fully suspended carbon fiber bike could have had it. It’s Wednesday, I’ve spent the last 72 hours eating, and I’m ready to see how to get in and go back. I want all my friends who have ever ridden on knobbies to sign up. I want to crew for them, or pace them, or go for my sub 10…and the cycling gods willing…a sub 9.

    This thing is infectious.

  11. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.14.2013 | 9:17 am

    @MattC Let’s Go! I’ll crew for you…at least the first year. Or, I’l see if a 3 score ‘Fattie’ can complete this thing. Scary doesn’t begin to describe it.

    @Fatty: I love the tone of this report. Reflection, History, and Inspiration.
    Thank you for bringing not only your story, but Doug’s, Chris’s, Jenni’s (Doug’s ‘Crew Chief’), and all the others. I hope we get to hear about Kenny and Heather at BreckEpic, Salt to Saint Solo, and another Levis Gran Fondo (Noodle, we’re counting on you;http://vimeo.com/6946988).

    Still looking forward to the Fatty’s Alpine Days FAD party and any and all other events you might want us to join.

    Thank Elden, Congrats Lisa, and goodluck to all Fatties out there.

  12. Comment by dave | 08.14.2013 | 9:32 am

    Love this year’s race report and the format you are using. There is so much insight and wisdom that applies to cycling and life. Love the links to the other stories of people competing.

  13. Comment by NorCal Tom | 08.14.2013 | 10:17 am

    Nice perspective. I vote Leadville on the unicycle :-)

  14. Comment by Jenni | 08.14.2013 | 10:22 am

    Guys. If we dangle donations to charity as his carrot, I bet we could get dynamic duo on a tandem. Think about it.

  15. Comment by wade | 08.14.2013 | 10:43 am

    I second: “Tandem on Tour Divide”
    that would be spectacularly awesome
    duo “Tour Divide” would still be cool

  16. Comment by KenKoz | 08.14.2013 | 10:48 am

    I have never ridden a mountain bike in my entire life. Reading these race reports has finally pushed me to check it out. Of course, living in central Ohio puts a little crimp on the “mountain” part, but we do have some hills. Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. Comment by Susie H | 08.14.2013 | 10:52 am

    “that moment where you discover that the universe of things too hard for you to do is a lot smaller than you thought.”

    so well said, and completely understood by anyone who’s done something they thought they’d never do. what ever that is.

  18. Comment by Lin | 08.14.2013 | 11:07 am

    Laramie Enduro?

  19. Comment by New Zealand Ev | 08.14.2013 | 11:17 am

    THanks for your posts Fatty!!! Awesome way to sum up the LT100!!!

  20. Comment by Aaron | 08.14.2013 | 11:59 am

    Oh, yeah, RAAM on a tandem! All the da way, baby!

  21. Comment by NYCCarlos | 08.14.2013 | 12:24 pm

    BC Bike race.

  22. Comment by old guy who likes to ride | 08.14.2013 | 12:54 pm

    Great ride & read Elden & Lisa. MTB equipment question after reading yours, Doug’s & Chris’s stories; what kind of clip/pedals do you wear in the hike-a-bike sections?
    Any issues them getting beat up?

    I wear Time ATAC pedals. So does The Hammer. They’ve been good pedals for all conditions for me for more than a decade. I think. Seems like a decade anyway.

    I have Specialized shoes, primarily because they fit well. Once upon a time I beat up on Specialized pretty bad for their shoe quality; they’ve since improved in a big way.

    - FC

  23. Comment by Jerry | 08.14.2013 | 1:00 pm

    The Dirty Dozen ride in Pittsburgh

  24. Comment by Tom in Albany | 08.14.2013 | 1:12 pm

    Fatty, Did you see what Todd Wells is doing to the Breck Epic after finishing third overall at the LT100? Dude’s a beast!!!

  25. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.14.2013 | 1:14 pm

    What everyone has already said, and then some!

    Great post, great story, and wonderful perspective about why people do what they do and what it means to them. I especially like the way you have carved out a place in the world for the old farts in the crowd.

  26. Comment by rich | 08.14.2013 | 2:38 pm

    Great post and great job to you and the Hammer!

  27. Comment by UpTheGrade SR CA | 08.14.2013 | 3:00 pm

    Are you going to tackle RAAM? That would make for an epically long race report series!

    It’s in the back of my mind. Maybe once The Hammer and I are empty nesters. – FC

  28. Comment by Al Pastor | 08.14.2013 | 5:03 pm

    Why is it ever ok to litter?

    It’s not, but it seems to me that the bigger and more competitive a race gets, the more people think that their individual carelessness doesn’t matter, because everyone else is doing it too. Those who know better need to make sure others know that it matters even more in a big race. – FC

  29. Comment by Carl | 08.14.2013 | 6:15 pm

    This is another great post and I love the tease concerning what is next. But, while you are being all philosophical with us, have you thought about how fast you would have been during your peak racing years had you built on this kind of strength when you were young?

    And I love the previous Dirty Dozen race suggestion since I live 45 minutes from Pittsburgh and would get to see Fatty again.

    I think about it ALL THE TIME. And then I start to cry. – FC

  30. Comment by Mike from Melbourne | 08.14.2013 | 6:23 pm

    Come to Australia and race. You guys can stay at my place. You can race here in the sun when its snowing at your place.

  31. Comment by Micha | 08.14.2013 | 7:48 pm

    What? The Breck Epic wasn’t enough of a challenge for you two?

  32. Comment by Fred | 08.14.2013 | 8:51 pm

    “You learn more about yourself by completing than by competing.”

    Is that a Fatty original, or is it borrowed from someone else?

    I’d like to give proper credit when I reuse it. (And I will reuse it.) That one is brilliant.

    I’m thinking that Leadville-2018 just got added to my calendar. I’ve got almost 5 years to get ready.

    I don’t remember borrowing it from anyone, so I’m going to claim it as original. That said, “competing” and “completing” are so such similar-looking words that it’s hard to imagine that nobody else has coined a similar phrase. Still, thanks in advance for the credit. – FC

  33. Comment by Mark | 08.14.2013 | 9:32 pm

    The most difficult mountain bike race in the country– the Butte 100. It’s just up the road. Give it a shot.

    Excellent suggestion. – FC

  34. Comment by ScottR | 08.14.2013 | 11:46 pm

    Great post, Fatty. Culture is what keeps a race like this great.

    Is it the single biggest difference between a great race and ‘just another race’?

    I believe it is. – FC

  35. Comment by Uni-Tom | 08.15.2013 | 12:49 am

    This post inspires me to push hard again in a sport I’ve stepped back from the last year.

    NorCal Tom: Nice idea, but I’ve pushed him on the uni thing since the MS 150 in 2005. I even did the 100MON on uni to try to goad him, which was the stupidest thing ever. It ain’t gonna happen. It’s gotta be a tandem…that’s how this will play out I think. Time for Fatty and The Hammer to give that Petervary record a run for its money.

  36. Comment by AKChick | 08.15.2013 | 1:04 am

    Hmmm noticed that someone posted that they must get used to riding the Shiv on Strava. Hmmmmm Wonder what that means. :)

    @Jenni – if you’re reading this, We must get in and stay in touch re an Alaska trip. :) My email is AKChick55 at hotmail dot com I’m serious about Davis. You should totally go next year. :)

    Hey @Mike from Melbourne – how about a nonfamous Twitter fanatic and her husband? We are something of a novelty – we are from Alaska. :) We could trade – us down there for a visit and you up here for a visit. Just sayin…

    Thanks for the awesome Leadville write-up. Can’t wait to hear about the next adventure!

  37. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.15.2013 | 2:07 am


    Salt to Saint That’s all I’m saying.

    I hope we get to see you next year at Davis. Or consider joining us at RAGBRAI 2014 Team LiveSTRONG.

  38. Comment by did | 08.15.2013 | 6:14 am

    Friend o’ mine did the Lumberjack 100 on a fixed-gear, fropnt-brake-only, drop-bar mtb a few years ago. Just sayin’…

  39. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.15.2013 | 7:43 am

    ‘…that moment where you discover that the universe of things too hard for you to do is a lot smaller than you thought.”

    The completing/completing line is nicely philosophical, but this is both philosophical and inspirational. Is this an original Fatty line?

  40. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.15.2013 | 7:43 am

    ‘…that moment where you discover that the universe of things too hard for you to do is a lot smaller than you thought.” – gotta be one of the greatest lines ever.

    The completing/completing line is nicely philosophical, but this is both philosophical and inspirational. Is this an original Fatty line?

  41. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.15.2013 | 7:45 am

    with apologies for the multiple posts – we engineers often cannot think and type at the same time, and our typing skills are sometimes only slightly above neanderthalic.

  42. Comment by Owen | 08.15.2013 | 9:50 am

    still have the cross bike? Its nearing cross race season and seems a great blend of your talents and pie handups are acceptable

  43. Comment by Brenda | 08.15.2013 | 11:02 am

    Maybe a no-drop “team fatty” group ride at the LT100. THAT could put the challenge of “will you finish” back into your life! I bet more than a few would sign up AND they would work their tails off to do you proud! You could do interviews with your team (as lung capacity permits) and get the lowdown on your “peeps” and pass along all your fatty-isms.

    Did you see the bride and groom? They were getting married on the top of Columbine…I just looked and they finished in 12:49. Maybe they will get buckles next year for their first anniversary!

  44. Comment by Patty in Portland | 08.15.2013 | 5:44 pm

    Tour Divide.

    See, here’s what’s really annoying. Here I am, just had my 59th birthday, seriously undertall (which sounds much better than overweight), and have had only a few rides on a mountain bike (none off the road), and you make me want to do this thing. Now stop that. :-)

    Seriously, great report. Tour Divide. K?

  45. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 08.15.2013 | 5:50 pm

    @Patty in Portland I’m putting you down for our Rockwell Relay Team 2014

    Major Requirement: +50

  46. Comment by Homer | 08.15.2013 | 6:25 pm

    One of the most self-absorbed posts I’ve ever read. Sheesh.

  47. Comment by Corrine | 08.15.2013 | 6:37 pm

    I rode back and forth with the bride and groom all day. They made my day. So cool that they got married on top of Columbine. It’s the people that really make the race fun. Everybody cheering for everybody. Great post, Fatty!!

  48. Comment by FatArsedWombat | 08.15.2013 | 10:18 pm

    Cheers, Fatty. Mountain biking is a pretty friendly sport, and I love it when the pros offer encouragement as they whiz by. Good on you and the Hammer for keeping the cool and kind culture alive, especially when races get so big and people can easily forget that should be fun.

  49. Comment by Mike from Melbourne | 08.16.2013 | 2:22 am

    @Akchick.- you are welcome anytime. Any friend of Fatty is a friend if mine

  50. Comment by janbiker | 08.16.2013 | 2:44 am

    It’s a no brainer: ride the Cape Epic as a mixed team.

  51. Comment by CycleMoles Robin | 08.16.2013 | 8:36 am

    In 2011 I took the challenge of Leadville 100 in honor of my 50th bday. I really didn’t know if I could finish but figured I’d give it my best shot. And coming from sea level, I had some extra challenges.

    The climb to the 50 mile mark took much more out of me (and took much longer than I expected) as I was cramping badly. I was pulled at the 60 mile mark – 10 minutes too slow to continue. Was I disappointed? Of course…but I also gave it all that I had…so not disappointed there. I’m glad I took on a challenge that was WAY bigger than me.

  52. Comment by Patty in Portland | 08.16.2013 | 10:18 am

    @Davidh-marin,ca: yeah, I’m seriously tempted by that one, too. Fatty’s race reports give me all kinds of inappropriate ambitions!

  53. Comment by Neil Trueman | 08.17.2013 | 1:41 pm

    ABSA Cape Epic, South Africa? Now that is a challenge.

  54. Comment by Jenni | 08.18.2013 | 2:11 pm

    Party at Mike from Melbourne’s house everyone!!

  55. Comment by AUChefDave | 08.19.2013 | 11:55 am

    You used my story a few years back when you were out of town. Since then I have been an avid reader of you blog, never have you caught the essence of an event as this series of posts. I have taken my riding to a higher level and riding longer distances on a regular basis.
    Perhaps a FatCyslist sponsored charity event with both mtb and road bikes. Go big, go Fatty style!

  56. Comment by John Young | 08.22.2013 | 2:39 pm

    This was my first Leadville 100. Finished in 12:43, no buckle, but more importantly than anything else, my ideas of what I can do have expanded dramatically. Not just on my bike, but in my marriage, as a father, at work. This isn’t just a bike race, it is a significant life experience. I’ll be back next year for the buckle, but lessons have already been learned. Thanks for the great post, Fatty.

  57. Comment by Jorge Romero-Habeych | 08.25.2013 | 10:50 am

    wonderful post, great articulation of thoughts and conclusions I’ve come to as well. I look forward to the continuing process of self discovery. After completing my first 50 mile ultra marathon I quickly realized that nothing was impossible.

  58. Comment by Michael B | 09.11.2013 | 10:53 pm

    Tandem Leadville 100!


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