2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 1: Things Are Great Until They’re Not

08.13.2014 | 12:46 pm

Fzzzzzzzz.

Zzzzzrrooosssh.

Ssschrizzzz.

The above three paragraphs are my best attempts (my favorite is the third) at describing the sound I was hearing, more or less constantly, within one minute of the 2014 Leadville Trail 100 start.

That sound, for your information, was the sound of people passing me. By the hundreds.

And there was nothing I could do about it. When you’re going steeply downhill on pavement on a singlespeed MTB, you’re going to get passed. Lots. 

Lots and lots.

But you know what? It’s not that big of a deal. You expect it. Accept it, even. Welcome it, saying to yourself, “Well, I knew this would happen, and I made this equipment choice knowing this would happen.” And so you’re fine with being passed on paved downhills. And on flats of any sort. 

Except you’re not fine with it. Not really. Not if you’re racing. Not if you’re me.

Oh my, this introduction took a turn for the dark. Let’s back up a bit to the really fun, nice, positive part. Which is, honestly, most of the story here.

And then I’ll blindside you at the end of the post with the part of me crashing hard onto my side.

Obstacles and Near-Disaster

Starting the Leadville 100 is an amazing experience for most mountain bikers, because very few mountain bikers have ever started a group ride containing upwards of 2000 people. 

And each and every one of those people has either heard or figured out the advice to “get up front to get out of danger.”

Which is definitely good advice. Unfortunately, it’s not advice everyone can heed.

But everyone can sure try. Which they do.

And at the beginning of this year’s Leadville 100, all those people trying to get up front were surprised — about 100 yards into the race — to find that the entire right half of the road had been cordoned off.

The announcer had explained that this was the case before the race began, and I had cleverly moved over to the left side of the starting area.

But still: you’ve got around 2000 people all wanting to get to the front of the line, and suddenly all 2000 of those people also want to be on one side of the road.

It’s not a great situation.

Fortunately for me, only around 200 people had passed me by ten seconds into the race (I’m exaggerating; really only 175 had passed me), so it wasn’t too bad of a mess when all of a sudden everyone in front of me essentially came to a stop.

I braked hard, skidded a little with my rear tire and didn’t hit the guy in front of me. I mentally flinched, expecting that the guy behind me wouldn’t be so lucky and would take me out.

Nope. He missed me. Everything was OK.

I Am Not The Star Here

With this little push through the hourglass complete, I was able to start riding in earnest again, people zipping by me constantly. Meanwhile I considered choices I had made leading up to this moment. 

“I’ll see a lot of you guys again when we start climbing,” I said to myself, by way of self-consolation.

Mostly, it worked. And no small number of people remarked on the sexiness of my new Ibis Tranny 29, outfitted with the belt drive. 

Then I saw this:

Screenshot 2014 08 13 07 38 02
Photo borrowed with permission from Linda Guerrette’s blog post, “Delivering the Goods.”

Yep, as near as I could tell, a complete stranger had erected a sign wishing Rebecca and my wife good luck in finishing the race in under nine hours.

Hey. I thought I’m supposed to be the famous one in the family.

A Farewell to The Hammer and The Queen

As I zoomed down, going very fast but also being constantly passed by people with a mechanical advantage over me, I wondered how long it would be ’til I was passed by The Hammer and the Queen of Pain

But I didn’t have to wonder very long. 

The Hammer passed me first. “I love you, baby!” she yelled as she flew by. Which is a huge improvement over what she had said the last time she passed me while racing

Then Rebecca Rusch — right behind The Hammer — flashed by. “Hi Reba,” I said. 

“Hey Buddy,” she said back.

Buddy

When did I become “Buddy?”

Now The Race Begins for Really and Truly

Here’s a cycling-related axiom I just made up but am pretty darned sure is actually correct: Your perceived effort has no correlation to how fast you’re going. Which is to say, the days I’ve felt like crap — like there is no power or pop or jam or juice in my legs at all — are some of the times I’ve gone the fastest. And some of the times I’ve really felt great are the times I’ve missed PRs by a lot.

Which I guess is my explanation for why, in this case, even though I hadn’t been able to pedal, and had been passed constantly, I managed to get down the pavement onto the dirt, then to the base of the first climb, faster than I ever have before — including in 2011, when I rode with gears.

Screenshot 2014 08 13 09 48 52

Also, what was my problem in 2010? I was nine minutes slower getting to the base of the first climb? Really? How was that even possible? (I just checked my race report from that year; it gives no clue as to why I  was so much slower)

Just before the left turn that signals that you’re about to go uphill in a very big way for the next mile or so, took a slug of Lemonade Carborocket 333 (awesome new flavor) and sucked down a root beer-flavored Gu (awesome new flavor). 

I took a moment to reflect on the fact that energy food and drink (Honey Stinger Waffles! Awesome Gu flavors! Grape and Lemonade Carborocket 333!) has become so much better than it used to be (remember apple-flavored Cytomax, anyone? [shudder]).

Oh brave new world!

I began to climb, and that meant I began to pass people. Left and right, using the tried-and-true practice of being a nonstop, friendly chatterbox. (“Hey there racer, looking good. I’m looking for a line to pass, help me out when you can.”)

Then I saw Reba. And Lisa. Climbing together, The Queen of Pain letting The Hammer set the pace.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is The Hammer and the Queeeeeen Uuuuuvvvv Paaaaaaaaaaaiin!” I shouted, in my very best Dave Towle impression. Which, admittedly, is never very good, and is especially not that great when I’m riding my bike at race pace, uphill, at 10,500 feet. 

Still, credit for trying, right?

“I love you baby,” The Hammer said as I went by, which pretty much made my day.

And this time, Reba remembered to call me by my name: “Fatty.” (“Buddy.” Sheesh. I’m still not sure what’s up with that.)

The climbing was hard, but my Ibis Tranny 29 felt great — I’ve never felt at home and right  on a bike so quickly before. And the belt drive feels…well, it’s hard to describe, but “instant” might be an OK word for it. You put your foot down and feel like all your power is going straight to the wheel. And so smoothly too.

Things End Badly

It’s always astonishing to me to look back and see that the St Kevens climb to the left turn signifying you’re about to get a break is only 1.1 miles. It’s not a long distance. But by the time you get there, the race has thinned out a bit and you’re unlikely to have to fight a crowd again for the rest of the day.

I hit a relatively flat place, sucked down another gel, and kept going. 

The trail was rolling along now, and I was feeling great. The day was mild, the trail — thanks to a lot of rain earlier in the month, followed by occasional showers and warm temperatures the preceding week — was as perfect as could be.

I wen past the place where Merilee — one of the founders of the race — traditionally stands. “I love you Merilee!” I shouted. 

Then I hit the next quick downhill, which intersects a different trail, making for a downhill left turn across an erosion rut.

I easily popped my front wheel across the rut and made my turn at speed.

Which, as you no doubt expect, is when I crashed. Good and hard.

Which seems like a good place to pick up the next installment of the story.

32 Comments »

  1. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.13.2014 | 1:25 pm

    Fatty – Are you a turd? I have never thought so before, but only a turd would end a segmented race report so soon, so suddenly, so, so…

    Never mind – nice report, look forward to all plenty-nine parts.

  2. Comment by NZ Ev | 08.13.2014 | 1:31 pm

    Cliff hanger once again. I would consider it a privilege to be called “Buddy” by “The Queen of Pain” or even be acknowledged by her in any way at all . . .

    Looking forward to the next installment as I love these reports.

  3. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.13.2014 | 1:35 pm

    poll: Which is worse being called “Buddy” or “Dude” or “Duuud”?

  4. Comment by Bodhi | 08.13.2014 | 1:51 pm

    She could have called you “Sport” or “Champ”…

  5. Comment by Bodhi | 08.13.2014 | 1:51 pm

    She could have called you “Sport” or “Champ”…

  6. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.13.2014 | 2:12 pm

    Or even worse – “Old Sport” ala The Great Gatsby, which coincidentally was on the tube last night. But I digress.

    Great write up so far, Fatty, and as usual you have us anxiously awaiting your next installment.

  7. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 08.13.2014 | 2:20 pm

    And no one sat up to let you catch up. Cause it’s a mountain bike race!

  8. Comment by Christina | 08.13.2014 | 2:41 pm

    Last night, at the last race of my first ever MTB series, a guy grabbed my arm as I was pushing my bike uphill and said, “Whoa! You’ve got guns!” It was so random and non-insulting and left me thinking, as I pushed my heavy bike up the hill, “Christina, you DO have nice biceps.”

    But no one called me buddy.

  9. Comment by AKChick | 08.13.2014 | 3:08 pm

    Hmmm, I think Fatty was joking about the Buddy reference…

  10. Comment by Rebecca Rusch | 08.13.2014 | 3:16 pm

    Buddy, Bud, Mr. McBudderson, Buddy Boy…for a guy who’s called “Fatty”, you should be OK with trite nicknames. I meant it with the utmost sincerity. I certainly wasn’t going to call you honey or baby or anything else like that. The Hammer was being gushy enough for all of us combined.

  11. Comment by Corrine | 08.13.2014 | 3:22 pm

    Yes, the start of Leadville is incredible. My husband videotaped the start and it took over 5 minutes for all the bikers to get past the starting line!!! That is a lot of bikers.
    Don’t leave us hanging, Fatty, give us part 2!

  12. Comment by TK | 08.13.2014 | 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the write-up, Guy.

    Hope future installments are longer in nature so we don’t have to wait two months to read the whole story.

    Hey, it wasn’t too long ago that everyone was agreeing it’s better for me to write shorter posts! – FC

  13. Comment by St. Kevin's methinks | 08.13.2014 | 3:39 pm

    Something blue. Something borrowed. Something typed.

    Huh? – FC

  14. Comment by GenghisKhan | 08.13.2014 | 3:55 pm

    Maybe she was channeling Pauly Shore?!

  15. Comment by Libby | 08.13.2014 | 4:14 pm

    Yeah I’d take The Queen of Pain calling me Buddy…though that would be kinda strange me being female and all…I was thrilled (and still am soaking it in) to be “favoutited” on Twitter by her..as you can tell I’m easy to thrill.

    Good write up “old Sport”!

  16. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 08.13.2014 | 5:01 pm

    Just read Linda Guerrette’s blog post you linked. It’s true; The Hammer is never NOT smiling! That is a great photo blog. Now I’m anticipating your, and her, story even more! I don’t care how long it takes, just keep them coming.

  17. Comment by Wife#1 | 08.13.2014 | 5:18 pm

    Way better than “Hey you!”

    Enough about you though, how was the Tranny after the crash? Poor thing, not even a decent break-in period before you showed him (her?) what life was really going to be like with you!

  18. Comment by Dan_in_Sac | 08.13.2014 | 6:19 pm

    Good report Chief. Keep ‘em rolling out.

  19. Comment by ricky | 08.13.2014 | 6:38 pm

    well, there’s your problem fatty, you popped over the rut and went LEFT when you should have gone RIGHT then thru the gate…. had you skidded to a stop and given merilee a hug like i did then continue down the hill, no doubt you could have averted disaster. ;-)

    the chat with you and reba at specialized hq made a huge difference in my attitude. thank you!

  20. Comment by Elliot | 08.13.2014 | 6:47 pm

    Another good write up that has us waiting for the end as usual. Who cares what they call you lol, just bring on the second part when you can so we can read it.

  21. Comment by EricGu | 08.13.2014 | 7:45 pm

    “Buddy” is clearly short for “Little buddy”, which means that Rebecca has correctly divined Fatty’s place in her world, and is referring to him the way the Skipper referred to Gilligan.

  22. Comment by Tom in Albany | 08.14.2014 | 5:56 am

    Fatty, your ‘buddy’ Alisha has gone to the wrong site. She was supposed to go to your FatDancer.com website so she could talk about your fancy footwork – while off the bike!

    Glad you got your crash out of the way early. Reset and jump back on!

  23. Comment by Jacob | 08.14.2014 | 6:44 am

    If it had been me, it would have entirely been because I temporarily forgot your name. I have this amazing power to forget people’s name even when I know them very well. I can literally tell you the last three conversations I’ve had with a kid, but if they catch me in the hall out of context, I’ll blank on their names.

    But then I don’t use nicknames when I blank. I just steadfastly refuse to refer to them by anything. You probably would have just gotten a “sup” or something out of me.

  24. Comment by owen | 08.14.2014 | 7:44 am

    did Rebecca refuse to ride with somebody that had a bento box?

    That’s The Hammer’s story to tell. – FC

  25. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 08.14.2014 | 7:48 am

    Just for the record Fatty, people on geared bikes get passed at the start of Leadville too. Been there, had that done to me. My mantra was “race YOUR race, not theirs!” I looked at them as rabbits to catch….

  26. Comment by Dave T | 08.14.2014 | 8:33 am

    If you started in the back in 2010 that would explain it. It was like riding a human accordion. My time for this segment was 37:44.

  27. Comment by MattC | 08.14.2014 | 9:35 am

    Awesome report Mr. McBudderson! (Reba, that is priceless…I’m still chuckling at that one! I hope someday to attend one of your rides so you can destroy, thrash, demolish, crush, annihilate, nuke, and incinerate me…I’m thinking simply using the word “chicked” would be an understatement of vast proportions).

  28. Comment by MattC | 08.14.2014 | 9:38 am

    DaveT, I was wondering how the opening miles went for you…I was assuming you’d knock an easy 10 to 20 minutes off your time if you had “preferred” corral placement (such as our friend buddy, dude, chief, hey you, turd, sport, and champ).

  29. Comment by LikeyNoBikey | 08.14.2014 | 10:06 am

    @ Wife#1, a Tranny would be both a him & a her, right?

    Hey Pal, already enjoying this year’s Leadville100 writeup.

  30. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » 2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2: Starts with Pain, Ends with Beauty | 08.14.2014 | 10:11 am

    [...] « 2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 1: Things Are Great Until They’re Not [...]

  31. Comment by Anonymous | 08.14.2014 | 2:21 pm

    “Buddy the Cyclist. What’s your favorite color?”

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