Seeing Singletrack High

08.8.2013 | 9:18 pm

Seeing Singletrack High

Originally uploaded by Fat Cyclist.

The Hammer, Austin (of NICA) and me, hanging out with kids from the Leadville High School MTB team, before watching a screening of Singletrack High, presented by Gu. A great fundraiser for a great cause. And a packed house!


Doug (Way Upstate) is ready to race

08.8.2013 | 2:16 pm

Doug (Way Upstate) is ready to race

Originally uploaded by Fat Cyclist.

The Hammer and I just had lunch with Doug and his family. The dude is looking really fit and fast!

Leadville Prep Obsession, Part 2: Lists

08.7.2013 | 8:42 am

Most things I write for this site are meant to be accessible by anyone who likes bikes. Or knows what a bike is.

This one is not. This post is really just for myself — something I can bookmark and put on my phone’s home page, then go back and refer to about a thousand times during the next few days.

Because this is my Leadville Numbers, Stats, Lists, and Miscellaneous Obsessing post.

But you’re welcome to read it anyway. Especially if you happen to be in Leadville right now and are obsessing over similar things.

Mostly Failing to Learn from History

First of all, I’ve done the Leadville race before. Lots of times. Here’s a list of how I did (links go to race reports when I have them):

  1. 1997: 10:36
  2. 1998: 11:27
  3. 1999: 09:13
  4. 2000: 09:30
  5. 2001: 09:17
  6. 2002: 10:20
  7. 2003: 09:20
  8. 2004: 10:56
  9. 2005: 09:41
  10. 2006: 10:06
  11. 2007: 09:14
  12. 2008: 10:06 (Singlespeed)
  13. 2009: DNF (Singlespeed)
  14. 2010: 09:17 (Singlespeed)
  15. 2011: 08:18
  16. 2012: 08:49 (Singlespeed, 1st place)

There’s probably enough data in that collection of stories to give anyone who cares to figure it all out a good list of things one should do — and not do — in this race.

Oh, and if you’re curious how I keep all these times straight, it’s cuz my friend Rod made me a cool sweatshirt with my finishing times and defining moments listed on it:


I should probably get a sharpie and write my 2012 time on that sweatshirt, though.

The Danger Distances

For me, one of the tricks to racing the Leadville 100 is to not let the whole thing get into my head. I am always racing the current section. When I get to the end of that section, I push my mental reset button and start the next one.

So if I had a bad section, I’m mentally starting over. Just because a part of it went bad doesn’t mean the whole thing has to go bad.

That said, there are certain sections that are always difficult, and I find it helpful to know their distances. Here they are (links go to Strava segments):

  • Twin Lakes Dam to Columbine Turnaround: 10.0 miles. This is the climb everyone everyone focuses on, but it’s honestly not the hardest part. It’s the second-hardest. I find it useful to break this section down further. 2 miles from the aid station to the base of the climb. 1/2 mile of extremely hard climbing after that. 4.5 miles of medium-effort climbing. 3 miles of swapping between hiking and riding. And then you’re at the top.
  • The Powerline Climb: The hardest part of the race is the Powerline Climb. It is simply brutal. So it’s helpful to know that from when you turn off the pavement, it’s 4.0 miles to the top. For me, it’s even more helpful to know that when you go through a gate — signaling the beginning of the climb in earnest — it’s 3.3 miles to the top.
  • The Turquoise Lake Paved Climb: After dropping down Sugar Loaf, you turn on to pavement. From there, it’s 4.6 miles ’til you turn back on to dirt. The first 1.5 miles of it is downhill, though, and a fantastic place to fuel up for the long grind ahead. Then you take a hard right and it’s 3 miles ’til you turn left onto dirt again (where there’s a mini aid station waiting for you).

My Hoped-For Splits

Here’s a fun drinking game you can play when you’re in Leadville right before the Leadville 100. Just ask everyone how they’re hoping to do in the race. Drink every time someone replies with one of the following:

  • “I’m just hoping to finish.”
  • “Anything under twelve hours sounds good to me.”

And I don’t need to list anything else, because those are the only two things anyone ever says. It’s like we’ve all made a secret pact with each other to not reveal to anyone what our actual ambitions are, in spite of the fact that we’ve all spent hours figuring out our projected split times.

Well, “Enough!” I say, forcefully. I’m going to come right out and tell you: My best-case objective is to finish in 8:34. Fifteen minutes faster than last year. There, I said it. That’s what I want. However, I will be very happy indeed with any time that is faster than the 8:49 I finished with last year. 

And here’s how that ought to look:

  • Pipeline (25 miles): 2:00
  • Twin Lakes (40 miles): 2:40
  • Columbine Turnaround (50 miles): 4:20
  • Twin Lakes (60 miles): 4:55
  • Pipeline (75 miles): 6:00
  • Finish line (103.8 miles): 8:30
Yeah, I gave myself a nice little four-minute cushion. You know, just to have fun with.


What will I be eating and drinking? Well, here’s what I’m going to be asking my crew (which will be Kenny and Heather!) to have ready for me:

Twin Lakes 1 (2:40)

  • Soup
  • Water (for chugging)
  • 1.5 bottles
  • 4 gels
  • Pull off arm warmers

Twin Lakes 2 (4:55)

  • Soup
  • Coke
  • Rice cake
  • 1 bottle
  • 2 gels
  • 1 chews, open
Pipeline (6:00)

  • Soup
  • Water (for chugging)
  • Rice cake
  • 2 bottles
  • 2 chews
  • 4 gels

And that’s about it. I’m easy to crew for.

OK. I’m done obsessing. Or more accurately, I’m done writing about my obsessing. I’m heading out this evening, and will arrive in Leadville tomorrow. I’ll be tweeting (if you don’t follow me, maybe you should: I’m @fatcyclist, unsurprisingly), and — if I have time and am not too anxious — may post a few short entries on the blog.

And I’ll be back Monday, with a race report of…whatever happens.

Obsessing Over Leadville, Part 1: The Bike

08.6.2013 | 11:07 am

A Note from Fatty: Hey, this whole post is going to be about Leadville, so how about one more Leadville-related thing? If you’re going to be in Leadville for the Leadville 100 this Thursday, why don’t you come to this:


I’ll be there. The Hammer will be there. It’s a fantastic movie, and your donation will support the Leadville High School Mountain Biking Team. That’s awesome. So come see it with us.

You would think that, after having started the Leadville Trail 100 16 times (and completing it 15 times) that I would not be freaking out right this moment. That I would have this system down. That I would be having a normal day.

In that, you would be wrong. Because I am obsessing. I am fretting. I am having a remarkably difficult time thinking about anything but what begins this Saturday, at 6:30AM, and then continues for the next several hours.

Here’s what it’s like to be inside my head right now:

How ready am I? How’s my bike? What have I forgotten? Is it going to rain? Am I starting to get a cold? Do I have enough spare tubes? Am I going to start cramping partway through the race? What glasses should I wear? Why do I get so nervous before races? I wonder how fast I am in comparison to other singlespeeders this year. Should I start on the gels as I go up Columbine, or try to stay with real food? 

And it continues like this, nonstop. So I figure, rather than fight it, I’ll treat (ha) you to a few nuggets of what I’m doing to get ready for this race.

Oh, and at the bottom of this post, there’s a nice little surprise about what The Hammer is doing, too.

My Bike

I’ve written before about my Specialized Carbon 29er Singlespeed Stumpjumper (Which I call the “SSSS”). It’s the bike that I rode at the Leadville 100 last year. And it’s what I’m going to ride again this year.

But with some modifications. First, check out the whole thing, in all its glory:

IMG 7086

It’s the same frame, still with the Shimano XTR cranks and brakes. Still with the Time ATAC pedals. Still with the Banjo Brothers seat bag, which holds a tube, two CO2 canisters and an adapter, and a tire lever. Still with the Arundel Mandible bottle cages.

Instead of the 34 x 20 gearing I ran last year, I’ve switched to 34 x 19. One notch taller of a gear, in celebration of the fact that I feel like I’m lighter and stronger than last year. Mistake? Time will tell. 

But a few other things have changed. 

IMG 7090

First of all, check out those sexy ENVE TWENTY9 XC wheels, set up tubeless with Chris King hubs. Yum. I’m running them tubeless with Specialized Fast Trak S-Works 2.2 tires, both front and back. 21psi. Yep, just 21. You don’t need any more than that.

IMG 7092

I’ve also swapped out to an ENVE 740mm Sweep Bar and an ENVE 100mm Stem. The super-wide bar is awesome for extra leverage when I’m rowing my bike up a climb.

IMG 7091  Version 2

And last but certainly not least, I’ve moved from a rigid fork to a RockShox SID XX World Cup suspension fork with a PushLoc Remote. My wrists simply couldn’t take the pounding of the rigid fork on descents anymore, and with the PushLoc remote, I can still lock the suspension for efficient climbing. 

And in short, this is about as nice a bike as a singlespeeder could ever want. And much nicer than I actually deserve.

And I frequently just go outside to stare at it for a while. 

The Hammer’s Bike

But hey, what about The Hammer? What’s she riding? 

She’s riding this:

IMG 7082

Yep, The Hammer’s also riding a Specialized Carbon 29er Stumpjumper Singlespeed. At Leadville.

Allow me to repeat: The Hammer is racing Leadville on a singlespeed.

She’ll be rolling 34 x 22, with SRAM XX1 cranks, Stan’s ZTR Race Gold 29er wheels, a Bar Fly 2.0 GPS mount, and pretty much everything else the same as what I’m riding.

Except for the purple carnation she has mounted on the handlebar. I don’t have one of those (and I’m really hoping I won’t need a different flower after the race).

To be honest, I’d say about 68% of the Leadville-oriented obsessing I’m doing right now has to do with The Hammer’s race. Not many women singlespeed this event, so I’m proud, excited, and anxious to find out how she does.

PS: Tomorrow, I will continue with my Leadville obsessing, detailing my time objectives, splits, distances of key parts of the race, and the three sections of the course I always hope to just survive (they’re not the ones you’d expect).

Meet the Winner

08.5.2013 | 10:27 am

 For today’s post, I’d like you to meet the guy you’re all envious of: Jim R (who frequently comments as “cyclingjimbo”), who won the Trek Madone Series 7 Project One Frame with the ENVE wheels and cockpit and SRAM components

And I’m also going to give you a big ol’ “Wow, what a small world” moment.

Jim, In His Own Words

Once Jim’s name had been drawn (I had Katie at WBR do the drawing, to ensure impartiality), I sent him a quick email, doing my best to avoid words that would make my message to him wind up in his spam box. 

Here’s what my email looked like, just so you can pretend for a moment what it might be like to win this bike.

Hi James,

You know that World Bicycle Relief Fundraiser you donated money for last month? And you know that super-sweet grand prize of a bike — The Trek Project One Madone with the ENVE cockpit and SRAM Red components?

Well, the odds were against any individual person winning that bike, but someone had to win it.

And that someone is you.


We’ll go into details on colors, wheel choice and everything else soon, but for right now I just want to make sure you got my email and know you’re the winner, and that you want the bike. So please reply right away — or if you think this is a prank or are wondering what the catch is, feel free to call me: [REDACTED].

And if you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate a little info about you to share with my readers. 

Thanks and congratulations!

Elden “Fatty” Nelson

And here’s how Jim replied:

I go by Jim. My wife and I live in the greater Philadelphia area where I work for one of the big pharmaceutical companies. I am a chemical engineer and work to develop processes for new biopharmaceutical drugs. We make medicines that change people’s lives. My wife and I have two children and four grandchildren.

I have been reading your blog for about four years now, and I kept up with you even when my job took me to the Netherlands for a couple of years. I really appreciate everything you do for the fight against cancer as for WBR. I have contributed to most of your drives, and I am very happy to have been chosen as the winner of this great bike. 

I have ridden bikes most of my life. When I lived in Colorado and the days were long enough, I commuted to work frequently on my bike, often riding every day. I rode in 11 consecutive MS150 tours in Colorado, and one in California after we moved further west. When my wife and I moved to the Philadelphia area, finding a home that would allow for bicycle commuting was high on my list, and we were fortunate that I am able to do just that (daylight hours and weather permitting).

I have nearly reached GVR status (in this case R = Rider – I have never raced, except for when I was a runner many years ago), and am beginning to look forward to retirement, when I plan to ride much more frequently than I do now. My work often requires me to be at multiple sites, many miles apart, and cycling has to be scheduled around the work calendar.

Other than cycling, my favorite activities are singing, hunting, fishing, cooking, hiking, and spending time with family. We still vacation in Colorado for skiing, and often also spend time in the Caribbean for boating and snorkeling.

It Gets Even More Awesome

I told Jim that the next step was for him to figure out what frame size he wants, as well as his wheel and components selection. To help with that…well, I’m going to let Jim tell that part of the story in his own words again.

Hi Elden,

It is a small world.

I went to High Road Cycles this afternoon, and started out by saying, “I need some help. I just won a bicycle and need someone to build it for me.” To which the person answered, “How did you win the bike?” And then I said, “Well, do you know the Fat Cyclist and the recent contest he had?” and he said, “You’re the guy!” [by the by, High Road Cycles is a strong supporter of WBR.]

“He,” as it turns out in this case, is Pat Engleman, lifelong shop head, a former bicycle messenger, and now a teacher in real life who happened to be the guy who drive you around Philly when you came out for the Philly LiveStrong ride.

It is a small world.

Pat says “Hi.”

Yes, the winner of the bike just happened to run into the same guy in Philly who basically made my LiveStrong trip in 2009 absolutely awesome:

Philly Jen on the left, me in the middle, Pat on the right

And now Pat’s gonna help Jim build up a dream bike.

I tell you, it really is a small world, with a surprisingly large number of incredibly good people in it. Jim couldn’t be in better hands, and I owe Pat yet another favor.

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