Fatty’s 2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 0: I Am Very Wary

08.12.2014 | 1:53 pm

Things were going wrong. So very, very wrong. By which I mean that things were going far too right, which felt wrong.

I should probably start over and explain.

My mistrust of this year’s Leadville 100 started with the weather. As usual, I checked the Weather.com app incessantly, starting ten days before the race began. 

The forecast varied, but often looked a lot like this:

IMG 9361

No, that can’t be right. It’s too…nice. It didn’t freak me out enough. Sure, that 10% chance would eventually climb to a 40% chance, but even then it said the rain wouldn’t happen ’til the afternoon. 

Something was bound to give. 

Thanks to the Hammer’s co-workers saying they’d cover for her for an extra couple days, along with my job that lets me work anywhere there’s phone service and reasonable internet access, we went to Leadville a full week before the race, for three very important purposes:

  1. To go to Rebecca Rusch’s racing clinics
  2. To make some additional red blood cells
  3. To give The Hammer and The Queen of Pain some time to strategize their race.

As soon as we got to Leadville — 9am on Saturday — we unpacked our bikes and rode to the top of Columbine.

It’s astonishing how much easier that climb is when you haven’t  preceded it by going 43 miles at race pace.

We took pictures, and smiled, and admired the scenery, and took an adorable picture of the two of us. 

IMG 9420

The weather for the ride was perfect. Maybe too perfect.

When we got back to the truck after the ride and I took off my shoes, I realized something: they didn’t hurt. At all. The Giro Codes my friend Yuri recommended were doing the trick.

IMG 9425

I didn’t know for sure that I’d be good for a full day of racing, but this was a good sign.

I don’t trust good signs. There were too many good signs.

More Disturbing Omens

Because The Hammer and I had come out to Leadville earlier than planned, we were having to be a little bit improvisational with where we stayed the first night.

Rebecca took us under her wing, letting us sleep on her couch. And use her internet access. And take pictures of her using her leg compression recovery thingies.

IMG 9462

We went grocery shopping with her: 

IMG 9466

And lest you think that we just bought little dried bananas, we also bought caramel gelato, all three of us working from the same pint container.

I refrained from using my superpower of deferring ice cream headaches and consuming ice cream at quadruple the rate of most humans.

Because, you know. Guests.

By the way, you should know that The Hammer and I have cooked egg whites and avocados for The Queen of Pain. 

OK, we might have left the yolks in, and added a bunch of cheese. And onions and mushrooms. And wrapped the whole mess into tortillas.

I was now on my guard. This “Queen of Pain” was being far too nice

Something was bound to go horribly wrong. And soon.

But things were going right. Weirdly, strangely wonderfully right. 

Like, when I did a Q&A session with Rebecca onstage at the Tabor Opera House, everything went fine.

Screenshot 2014 08 12 07 39 27

Afterward, on Twitter, Robyn Stoddard did note a startling similarity between the above photo and this one: 

Screenshot 2014 08 12 13 24 47 

Disaster, Narrowly Averted

We continued riding with Rebecca, going to her clinics, and becoming more and more impressed with her as a teacher and mentor — something we hadn’t known before.

The Hammer began to think that maybe she could do this race in under nine hours.

And then — big mistake here — she went to Strava. And started looking at her best times and my best times and how much faster she’d have to go to beat her previous best.

She didn’t think she could do it.

And then she had an epiphany: she should stop worrying about it. And stop looking at Strava. And go as hard and fast as she could with Reba’s help, and let the finish time sort itself out.

It was a good decision.

A Place of Our Own

After a night on Reba’s couch and a couple nights at the Super 8, we got to move into the house — formerly a bed and breakfast — we had rented for the rest of the trip.

IMG 9498

It had eight or nine bedrooms, all of which we had filled with friends, family, and our own enormous amount of stuff.

The Hammer and I were done with any pre-race rides of any distance. But we did take a ride on the beautiful Mineral Belt Trail bike path, as well as a detour into what I think is the most beautiful, peaceful cemetery I’ve ever seen.

IMG 9485

The Leadville Hebrew Cemetery is so restful. We walked around and admired how nicely kept, yet still natural, this place looked. 

A moment of peace before the anxiety of the race came back upon us, full-bore.

I took a picture of this, Brian Vaughan’s (CEO of Gu), race nutrition and pace plan.  

IMG 9496

I then compared it with the race plan I had created for my crew (I made three near-identical sheets like this, one for each time I would meet my crew):

IMG 9549

I felt like perhaps I could have done more. 

We went and registered, where Reba was signing a book for Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford.

IMG 9513

Yes, we really did just happen to be there when he was getting his book signed.

And we spent a ton of time hanging out with Dave and Amy Thompson, who I have upgraded from “Friends of Fatty” to “Friends of Everyone in the Universe.”

IMG 9497

They’re just that awesome.


Race day approached. On Friday, my friends Jilene Mecham and Bry Christensen — who were going to be doing this race for their tenth time — decorated their bikes and helmets. 

IMG 9534

I kind of think Bry didn’t like his helmet adornment as much as Jilene did.

As for myself, on the morning of the race I borrowed a big puffy woolen jacket The Hammer had bought at Savers for $2.00, so it could be left at the side of the starting line without too much concern. 

IMG 4573

You might think it’s easy for me to be this handsome, but really I have to work at it very hard.

Then I did a few minutes of day-job work, which made me sad. I’ve never been so caught up and under pressure with a day-job that I felt I had to work the day of a race.

Am I growing up or something? That’s alarming!

We rode our bikes the two blocks to the starting line and found — to our astonishment — that it was not a terrible, crowded mess. Apparently getting there 45 minutes before the race starts is a good idea.

I found another guy standing around in my corral and made a deal with him: if he’d watch my bike while I went and use the bathroom, I’d do the same for him.

This worked great. Almost too great?

I then stood at the start line, my GPS ready to go, eating a couple Honey Stinger Waffles. The ginger snap flavor is the best. 

There. 200 calories, right before the race starts. Good.

I looked forward to the front of the starting line. Really, I was only twenty feet back. I was happy I had earned this spot in this corral by being fast the previous year. I deserved to be where I was.

I checked my brakes. They felt fine. I strummed my Gates Carbon Belt drive. it was nice and taut. 

What had I forgotten? Everything had gone too perfect

There was the countdown. The gunshot. The race was beginning.

In my universe, something leading up to everything always goes wrong. It may not be big, but there’s always something.

But not this time. Everything had gone well in the prep for this event. This big race that I think about pretty much every day of the year, even after I’d been here seventeen times.

And now it was time to ride.


  1. Comment by rohit | 08.12.2014 | 2:03 pm

    Another perfect day (natch…week) in Leadville! You did a great job as Rebecca’s interviewer and as raffle announcer.

    Can’t wait to hear how the actual racing went for you, and how you did not blow up completely and stare into space in the same place(s) I did.

  2. Comment by Libby | 08.12.2014 | 2:18 pm

    It IS possible for things to actually go well! Even on big race days.

    I think you need a intricate beard cut & a ponytail.

    Did you retrieve the cool wooly coat at the finish line or did someone else need it more?

    I look forward to part deux of “Leadville 100: Race Day”.

  3. Comment by Kristina | 08.12.2014 | 2:25 pm

    I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I refreshed this page today, looking for the first Leadville installment! Hooray for trouble-free starts!

    Based on your finishing times… I’d nothing too horrible will go wrong in the ensuing posts, either. Wheeeeeee, another epic race report!

  4. Comment by Kristina | 08.12.2014 | 2:25 pm

    I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I refreshed this page today, looking for the first Leadville installment! Hooray for trouble-free starts!

    Based on your finishing times… I’d bet nothing too horrible will go wrong in the ensuing posts, either. Wheeeeeee, another epic race report!

  5. Comment by Kristina | 08.12.2014 | 2:26 pm

    argh… double post, after a too-late-discovered typo. Sorry, Fatty.

  6. Comment by Sam | 08.12.2014 | 3:02 pm

    I had the same worries all week, and we live about 2.5 hours away from Leadville, I just kept thinking, this can’t be right? There was this magical dome on the weather.com app that was covering Leadville on the 9th, too perfect, something must go wrong.

  7. Comment by AKChick | 08.12.2014 | 3:41 pm

    So exciting!!!! Can’t wait for The Hammer’s write-up!

    Have you seen @FitChicks aka Selene Yeager’s awesome write-up? That girl is nuts! I had no idea she had never ridden the course. She has some mad skills!

    So sad I won’t make Rebecca’s Private Idaho. Maybe next year many FoF’s can plan to attend? I’m not a very good MTBer, but not sure how I’d do on my cross with all the bumps. In any case, I would LOVE a FoF event. I miss having the Livestrong Davis event. Maybe I should take the initiative and see if I can start something. :)

  8. Comment by AKChick | 08.12.2014 | 3:41 pm

    PS It would be REALLY fun to have an FoF event in Alaska!!!

  9. Comment by Jeremy | 08.12.2014 | 3:41 pm

    Nice lead. The Thompsons are pretty awesome. We missed seeing them and all the rest of Team Fatty this year.

  10. Comment by AKChick | 08.12.2014 | 3:45 pm

    For those interested in FitChick’s post in Bicycling, here it is http://blogs.bicycling.com/blogs/fitchick/leadville?cid=social_20140812_29617526

    So jealous that Fatty and The Hammer got to meet with and ride with two amazingly awesome ladies!!! :)Actually, I’m jealous that Rebecca and Selene got to ride with you two too.

    Okay, I’m turning in DavidH. :)

  11. Comment by Christina | 08.12.2014 | 3:47 pm

    First, because it’s so exciting, I’d be down for FoF event. I say Alpine, UT, in Fatty’s backyard (we’ll bring tents) and we ride all his favorite rides and we pay like $200 for the event and the money goes to WBR or Camp Kesem or for sod after he has us camping in his actual backyard.

    I hate when things feel too perfect. It seems like something has got to give. This part 0 makes me nervous.

  12. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.12.2014 | 4:07 pm

    I second, third, or fourth(?) the concept of the Thompsons as Great FEU’s. One small example of how awesome they are is to get a picture of their “wine cooler’ in the kitchen. BCCarlos can certainly attest to it’s magnificence.

    Christina: great concept. WBR in Alpine! Though I would recommend $205.00 entry with $5.00 from each registration used to bring AKChick down…despite being ‘dissed’.

  13. Comment by blong | 08.12.2014 | 4:15 pm

    Any chance you could upload a high-res of Brian Vaughan’s GU plan? I’d love to see the details. Thanks!

    You’ll find a large version of this image here: http://www.fatcyclist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IMG_94961.jpg – FC

  14. Comment by Evan in CA | 08.12.2014 | 6:22 pm

    +1 on blong’s request! He beat me to the punch.

    Also, Robyn nailed it. Hilarious!

  15. Comment by Corrine | 08.12.2014 | 7:30 pm

    Can’t wait to hear more about the race. Glad to hear everything up to the race was perfect, except that you had to work the day of the race. That is just wrong.
    AKChick – I would so love to be part of an Alaskan FoF event although there probably aren’t enough of us up here.
    Christina – I would also be up for a ride in Alpine. In fact, I will be down in Utah next week riding around before my husband I do the Telluride to Moab hut to hut. I’ve thought about riding around Alpine to see if we could see Fatty or the Hammer but that just seemed a little too creepy. Maybe I’ll run into you guys on some trails like the Wasatch Crest Trail!

  16. Comment by Carl | 08.12.2014 | 7:50 pm

    Crap! I knew this would just be a tease. Ok, I will wait until the 2nd installment.

  17. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.12.2014 | 8:28 pm

    @Corrine. Just bring along an offering….or some pie.

  18. Comment by jose fastbike | 08.12.2014 | 9:00 pm

    What’s the over under on total number of post related to the 2014 LT100?

    I’m going with 14.


  19. Comment by JohnG-NorCal | 08.12.2014 | 10:10 pm

    I’m sitting here having flashbacks of dodging you’re water bottles flying all over the place at the start a few years back. That was craziness. Anyway, I can’t wait for part 1!

  20. Comment by Kristina | 08.12.2014 | 11:14 pm

    If we have a FoF event in Alaska, I’ll provide the bratwurst! I’m not cooking them, mind you :P … just buying.

  21. Comment by Libby | 08.13.2014 | 12:12 am

    Corrine, I know what you mean…I was in S. Salt Lake last summer and did crane my neck a few times while riding my road bike just wondering if Fatty would be wandering around that area and thought that I was accessing my creeper side (as my daughter calls it).

    I’d love to join the FoF Backyard Camp (FoFBC-like KOA except awkward)…I don’t mtn. bike though I do ask my hybrid to channel its mtn. bike side on occasion.

    I’d also like to head up to Alaska too. Both good reasons for another bike buy eh?!

  22. Comment by Amy Thompson | 08.13.2014 | 12:25 am

    Fatty, David H, Jeremy, Thanks for the kind words. We had a great time as part of Fatty’s posse.

  23. Comment by Steve McCubbin | 08.13.2014 | 2:09 am

    I’ve been reading your blog posts about Leadville for a few years now and have always thought it would be an amazing experience if I could ever get up to that level of fitness. I’ve found myself in a situation where I’m able to spend a lot of time on the bike (living in the Netherlands) and have made a commitment to myself to race Leadville in 2016. I’ll see you there.

  24. Comment by Tom in Albany | 08.13.2014 | 5:34 am

    Wooooohoooooo!!!! Another multi-part write-up from Mr. Fat Cyclist himself! And, then, The Hammer’s version and, I hope, The Queen-of-Pain’s version.

    I’m so psyched to see Fatty’s posts for the next 3 weeks! ;-p

    I’m setting the over/under on the Leadville write-up, including The Hammer and Reba posts at 7-1/2.

    Fatty, I know how you feel with having to work hard to look so good – a.k.a. your wooly coat photo. Sometimes I feel if I had any hair on my head at all it would be much easier. But, all that extra skin care….

  25. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 08.13.2014 | 8:56 am

    Don’t you just hate it when things go so ominously right? I get that all the time and its freaky, just like that wooly coat you wore.

    Kinda reminds me of this

  26. Comment by leroy | 08.13.2014 | 9:57 am

    My dog said if he had a coat like that, he’d shed too.

    As usual, I don’t get half the stuff he says.

    He doesn’t have a coat like that and sheds anyway.

  27. Comment by MLB | 08.13.2014 | 10:34 am

    Awesome woolen coat! Diggin’ the Hammers socks as well.

  28. Comment by Jason | 08.13.2014 | 12:56 pm

    My stomach would burn that plan 3-4 hours into the race. Wish I could digest food regularly like a metronome.

  29. Pingback by Review: Rusch to Glory | A Year of Living...humm...dangerous? | 08.20.2014 | 9:14 am

    [...] smitten with Reba and has declared that he cannot do a review on the book. Heck, he was the emcee at the book release in Leadville this year. I figured I would pick up the slack for him and try my best to do a review [...]

  30. Comment by Rebecca Rusch | 08.20.2014 | 11:12 am

    thanks Fatty for being on stage with me and making me feel comfortable and less alone up there! It was such a great week all the way around. Couldn’t have scripted it better and wouldn’t change a thing…even having you stay with me wasn’t that bad!


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