2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 3: I am the Fast Guy, I am the Slow Guy

08.18.2014 | 10:57 am

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A note from Fatty: The Hammer and I are PlentyPlus™ excited to be coming to Rebecca’s Private Idaho this Labor Day weekend (the ride is 8/31) — a 90-mile (with a shorter 56-mile option) dirt road ride in the mountains outside Ketchum Idaho, hosted by The Queen of Pain herself.

The atmosphere is friendly and low-key, the ride is challenging, the place is beautiful. We’re excited to be going.

If there’s a chance you’re going — and there should be a very good chance indeed that you’re going — too, we should totally meet up. Like maybe meet somewhere for dinner on Saturday night, the evening before the race. 

I’ll figure out the “where” part once I know how many of us are going. Let me know if you’ll be around and how many are going to be in your party in the comments, OK?  

Finally, on the day of the ride itself, The Hammer and I are going to be going to be trying for the new-for-this-year RPI Bolo Tie. The only way to get one of these is to finish the ride in less than 6:30. We wouldn’t have made that time cutoff last year. This year I think we’ve got the incentive to get it done.

2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 3: I am the Fast Guy, I am the Slow Guy

Now it’s my turn. Those are the exact words that ran through my head, over and over and over. Like it was payback time. My opportunity to get revenge for an injustice done to me.

Except, of course, the slight was purely imaginary. All these people who had been passing, passing, passing me on the flattish 20 or so miles we had just completed were just riding their bikes. Racing. Going hard, like I was. It wasn’t their fault I had made the singlespeed equipment decision.

But hey. I needed something to get worked up about. Some reason to get angry, so I could stand up and climb from 9600 feet to 12,600 feet in eight miles.

(And yes, I would be standing for all but short moments of that climb.)

Revenge is is as good a fake-anger motivation as any. 

I began climbing. And I began passing people. Even though I was turning the cranks over slowly, slowly. It’s hard work, and requires some serious power, as well as a willingness to embrace pain.

Both of which I have.

To get a sense of what the The first five or so miles look like in the Leadville 100 Columbine climb, take a look at this photo, which I took while riding the Columbine climb a week before the actual race

IMG 9397

Okay, that’s what it looks like. For five miles. Except there are a bunch of people ahead of you. Some you are passing, and some are passing you.

And then, at some point, race leaders begin tearing down the other side of the road, inconsiderately leaving you to deal with the sonic boom in their wake.

So it’s extremely important to stay on your side of the road at all times. I don’t even want to think what the collision of a a racer going slowly uphill with a racer going 40mph downhill would look like. 

Inklings of Trouble

I keep riding, and — to my vast pride — I keep eating. Every thirty minutes or so, whether I feel like it or not, I suck down a Gu Roctane gel. I don’t even check what flavor I’m putting in my mouth, because I made sure when packing my stuff the night before that only my favorite flavors (Island Nectars, Cherry Lime, Vanilla Orange, Pineapple) are with me for this leg.

I don’t want to give myself any excuse to not keep eating.

And — whenever I get a moment of climbing reprieve — I sit and take a quick tug of water.

I hit 11,000 feet and noticed that — unlike most years — I still felt pretty good. It seems that coming out to Leadville a week early to make some red blood cells has helped.

But no matter how acclimated you are or well you fuel, when you’re doing this much climbing, at this high an effort (I’m pushing a 46:26 — reducing down to 1.8:1 —  gear ratio), your muscles will get fatigued.

And then they might cramp.

But they weren’t cramping yet. Not yet. But I could start to feel them twinge. My hamstrings. My quads. My calves. Both legs. Just the bare inklings that my legs aren’t a bottomless well of power.

If I wasn’t smart about this climb, I’d pay the price at some point.

Heckled

So I tried to be smart. At about five miles into the Columbine climb, suddenly you turn a corner and all the trees disappear. 

Now you’re on the final three miles to the summit. And this is the hard part.

The trail, most of the time, looks about like this: 

IMG 9408

Except with a lot more people, and a lot of them are walking, and there are people flying down one side of the road, and there are sections that are terrifyingly loose and rocky.

But otherwise, a lot like that picture above.

As you climb that last three miles, you have to make decisions pretty frequently. But really, it’s the same decision, over and over, at different places on the trail:

Is it smarter for me to ride this section, or hike it?

As The Hammer had demonstrated a week ago, the whole Columbine mine climb — all eight miles of it — is rideable. But there’s a price to pay. You only have a certain number of matches in your box for the day: do you burn one now?

It’s a hard question, because you really don’t know how many matches you have until you’ve burned your last one. 

With twinges of oncoming cramps in my legs, I opt to walk pretty early, and pretty often. Hey, I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.

Except

Except there’s a guy there. Wearing a cowboy hat. Sitting on an ATV. And he’s yelling at me.

“Get back on that bike! Get back on that bike and pedal!

It’s Ken Chlouber, one of the founders of The Leadville 100. He’s every bit as much an icon of this race as the climbs. As much of an icon as the red carpet finish, or the big belt buckles. 

And right now he’s laughing at me and telling me to get back on my bike and ride it.

I try reasoning with him.

“I’m on a singlespeed! Walking this part of the climb is a sound race strategy!”

He laughs at me again. 

“Around here, we just call that being a sissy!” (Except he doesn’t exactly use the word “sissy.”)

I’ve just been called out by Ken Chlouber, as I climb the Columbine mine. It’s like being called out by Elvis as you’re passing through the doors of Graceland.

So what am I going to do? 

I get back on my bike and climb. Obviously. Until I’m out of site of the man, anyway.

At which point I have to get off the bike, because my quads and hamstrings, on both legs, have just gone into full-blown cramp mode, and there’s nothing in the world I could do right now to keep pedaling my bike.

Full Stop

The pain of your two biggest muscles, on both legs, going into a monster cramp, is incredible. Exquisite even.

There was nothing I could do to ride. I couldn’t even walk. I just held on to my handlebars for balance and crouched on the side of the trail, grabbing my brake levers to keep my bike in place.

Hoping, hoping the pain would pass soon so I could continue on. 

Hoping, hoping the cramp would subside before The Hammer caught me. I don’t want her to find me here, immobile. If she caught me here, she’d want to stop, check on me. Help me.

Then I’d ruin both our chances at finishing this race under nine hours.

Oh great. Here comes a rider and he’s on his bike. I’m directly in his way.

I scuttle — crouching — to the other side of the trail.

Oh, even better. Here comes a racer, bombing downhill. I’m directly in his way. He’s yelling at me and rightly so. 

I scuttlecrouch back to the correct side of the trail.

I wait, and I suffer.

The pain backs off a little bit. I can stand again. I try walking, leaning forward to stretch my hamstrings. 

Yes. Yes, I can do this. 

I begin walking again. And if Ken Chlouber himself would have walked up to me and started yelling in my ear to get back on my bike and beating me about the head and shoulders with an enormous Leadville belt buckle to drive home his point, I would have kept right on walking.

Probably.

50%

The last three miles to the turnaround point in the race isn’t all hiking and misery. Some of it is very mild climbing, and a lot of it is beautiful.

I ride when I can, and walk when I need to. And during one of these marching sections, I see something important: a guy on a singlespeed. Or more to the point, another guy walking his singlespeed. 

I commence marching with purpose. I catch him, say “hi,” and push by. 

I do not know whether I have just marched myself into fourth or fifth place, or onto the podium, or maybe into second place. This is the first singlespeed I’ve seen the whole race.

I start thinking about how nice it would be to have a spot on the podium. And that thought gives me purpose as, little by little, conservatively, I get to the turnaround point. 

4:18 on my Garmin. Which, using my simple-but-reliable calculus of “finish time for Leadville is double your turnaround time,” I was still in good shape for a sub-nine finish. 8:36 was my probable finish time.

My heart leaps for joy.

I dreamed of a Columbine split time of less than 4:30 for so many years. For more than a decade I dreamed and worked toward this. I don’t think it will ever feel ordinary for me to have this kind of power, this kind of speed. 

I stop, put a leg down. This is the view from the Columbine mine, if you care to take a look:

IMG 9414

I don’t look. Not today. Today is not about sightseeing (but I’m glad I had the chance to sightsee a week ago).

I take a drink of Coke a volunteer offers me. Ask for another. I drink it, toss the paper cup in the trash, and clip in. Half a minute is all the time I want to spend up here at 12,600 feet.

Crossing  Paths

I wonder about The Hammer. Was she on track for a sub-nine-hour finish? If so, she’d need to hit this turnaround point soon. Really soon. Like, within ten minutes at the very most.

Then I begin climbing, so I can’t wonder about The Hammer anymore.

Yes, the first thing you do after climbing for eight miles and get to the turnaround point at the top of Columbine mine is climb some more. Just for a minute, though, and then it’s time to descend for eight solid miles, trying to choose a balance between going as fast as you can and not wrecking into one of the hundreds of people marching up the mountain, while also trying not to hit one of the loose or embedded rocks that will give you a flat.

It’s been maybe four minutes since I left the turnaround point. I’m picking my way down through rocks and around a mud puddle.

“Hey Baby!” 

It’s The Hammer. She’s right there. I had hoped to see her soon, but I hadn’t expected to see her this soon. 

She’s on track for a sub-nine-hour finish. Right at that moment, I become absolutely, completely certain: She is going to do it. 

I want to shout. I want to yell. I am so incredibly happy I cannot even come close to describing it. 

But also I’m surprised and my brain is not functioning and I don’t have words ready to say what I want to say.

So I just yelled, “Hey!” And hoped that conveyed everything I wanted it to. But I kind of suspect it didn’t.

Close maybe, but not quite.

PS: I think you’ll agree that once in a while, it’s kind of nice to have an installment end in a happy place. So let’s pick up here in the next installment of this story.

33 Comments »

  1. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 08.18.2014 | 11:09 am

    It was super nice to see you! I’m about to cry thinking about it!

  2. Comment by Rob L | 08.18.2014 | 11:12 am

    Great job Fatty, 418 is SICK! Cheers!

  3. Comment by Steven Nichols | 08.18.2014 | 11:15 am

    “Hey” Wow, are you the smooth talker or what? I’m going with what…. LOL.

    Great chapter..

  4. Comment by Sam | 08.18.2014 | 11:17 am

    You know, I totally forgot that you “climb in” and Climb out of Columbine. These are the things I forgot to add to my own recollection! Details details, well done sir!

  5. Comment by dug | 08.18.2014 | 11:30 am

    you silver tongued devil, you.

  6. Comment by owen | 08.18.2014 | 11:37 am

    still better than what I yelled at my wife when we passed each other on Columbine “what are you doing up here..Turn around GO BACK”..long story but she had to go on antibiotics right before the race and was instructed to not do the race by her doctor and was only going to start with me then drop out. I was proud of her – just surprised to see her there and a little worried.

    I’m going to yell that at everyone going up Columbine from now on. – FC

  7. Comment by rohit | 08.18.2014 | 11:57 am

    Congratulations on entering the eating contest,and evidently, making a stake for a podium position.

    When you were descending at terrifying speed, I yelled at you while going very slowly uphill. I yelled “Ride that Tranny Fatty!” I hope you smiled. The girl in front of me did.

    I did hear it, and it made me laugh! Most of the time I couldn’t tell who was saying what — had to keep my eyes forward. Glad to know that was you! – FC

  8. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 08.18.2014 | 12:29 pm

    You know Fatty, hydration (or dehydration) is an important factor in cramping. Perhaps you want to drink more during the race :D (Sorry couldn’t resist)

    And by “couldn’t” you actually mean “didn’t try to.” – FC

  9. Comment by MattC | 08.18.2014 | 12:40 pm

    GREAT STORY Mr. McBudderson!

    So you purposely race until you actually cramp…wow. I know what full-on hamstring/quad cramps feel like…did that to myself this last Saturday holding the wheel of a ‘fast guy’ in my club for 46 miles…and it wasn’t fun (the cramp, not the ride…left leg was hammy, right was the quad…I suspect I had a rather odd looking position standing there on the side of the road trying to straight-leg-stretch the hammy yet keep the other leg knee flexed for the quad). Can’t IMAGINE having both legs w/ multiple muscles locking all at once…that would really NOT be very fun!)

    And the one other observation I’ll make: HOLY CATS! You can STAND for most of an entire LONG climb? No WONDER you’re so fast…I can stand for only the briefest of times. THAT’S what your SS has done for you…or I should say what you’ve earned by punishing yourself on your SS.

  10. Comment by Jacob | 08.18.2014 | 12:51 pm

    Wouldn’t you love to go back to your old self during one of your slower treks through Leadville and tell him that one day you’d have a huge lockup double-leg cramp and you’d still get to the halfway point in 4:18? Would your old self punch your new self in the face or just laugh and not believe you were one and the same?

  11. Comment by Big E | 08.18.2014 | 1:19 pm

    Take a play out of the Rich “Dicky” Dillen playbook and keep a couple small packets of yellow mustard in your pocket. When you feel the cramps starting, slam one down. They work great, taste funny, but work great! Has something to do with the vinegar or mustard seed I think. Any hoo, great stories. Thanks!

    No kidding: mustard? I knew pickle juice works for that, but little mustard packets are very easy to carry. I’m going to try that. Thanks! – FC

  12. Comment by NZ Ev | 08.18.2014 | 1:25 pm

    A fantastic writeup and so great to end on a such a wonderful note. Looking forward to the next installment.

  13. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 08.18.2014 | 1:58 pm

    Well Fatty, it’s not like you have a ton more experience racing than me. Or haven’t finished Leadville a lot faster than me. I figured I would share my “wealth” of experience!…. Oh wait. You do actually have more experience. And you were showered by the time I finished. Shoot. OK, I humbly ask your pardon for my prior comment…….. ;)

    As I was writing today’s post and got to the cramp part, I KNEW some people would tie my lack of drinking to cramps. It may even be part of it. But I think most of it has to do with electrolytes and a long, monster effort. – FC

  14. Comment by Jeff Bike | 08.18.2014 | 2:50 pm

    @Big E.. Mustard? yuck, but if it works!
    There is a sport drink called “Pickle Juice” comes in small bottles (3 oz. I think) that stuff really works. I think like you that it must be the vinegar.
    See Fatty I didn’t say anything about your drinking problem.

  15. Comment by Noel | 08.18.2014 | 3:59 pm

    +1 on the mustard pack idea. All the charity rides in my neck of the woods stock the rest stops with mustard packets for just this purpose. I’ve never had to avail myself of them but my wife has on numerous occasions and swears by them.

    As always, I’m enjoying the write-up. I’ve even managed not to go peek at the results so I’m still in suspense as to how you and The Hammer did.

  16. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 08.18.2014 | 4:41 pm

    Fatty, best not to try the mustard pack anticramp solution (MPAS) until the next time you lock up climbing Columbine. (Oh, and probably better still to slather that mustard on a Fatty-curated brat.) All great cyclists are well aware that the only time to new food, drink, clothing, or gear is when the stakes are highest.

  17. Comment by Lab | 08.18.2014 | 6:16 pm

    You drank enough water. Science guy will tell you Muscles turn energy into motion. Muscle need energy to contract and relax. So in extreme exercise the energy is depleted at the cellular level and the muscle can no longer relax properly – then you get a cramp. Simply put muscles burn ATP. Glucose, glycogen, fats and amino acids are broken down to produce the fuel ATP…. MORE carbs = more fuel for the muscle to burn = less cramps. Atleast that is the thought.

  18. Comment by Bo | 08.18.2014 | 6:58 pm

    Can’t wait to keep reading, but I couldn’t resist and went and read spoilers (race results)…You and the hammer rock.

  19. Comment by EricGu | 08.18.2014 | 7:30 pm

    Pedantic physics guy says,

    You don’t need a lot of power to push a big gear on a climb; you are pushing the same amount of power at a given speed on a climb whether you are spinning at 110 RPM or 40 RPM.

    You *do* need a lot of strength to push a big gear up a climb.

    That’s a really good way of putting that, Eric. I wish Mr. Costello (my HS physics teacher) had explained the difference so succinctly. Or it’s entirely possible that he did explain it so succinctly but I wasn’t paying attention. –
    FC

  20. Comment by AKChick55 | 08.18.2014 | 7:43 pm

    Cramps are most def not caused by dehydration. :) When I rode in Austin at 90+ degrees for Livestrong back in 2011, I used a combo of items since food, regular sports drinks, etc. make my stomach upset. When others were cramping, I, the Alaska Girl who sweats at 75 was fine. For all long distance riding, I use Perpeteum (protein and electrolyte replacement) and when it’s hotter than what I’m used to, I use Endurolytes tablets by the same manufacturer. They aren’t as fun as mustard, but they are small and very easy to carry and very effective. I’d be curious to see what you think about them.

    Also, loved the post! I love your honesty. I also love that all you could muster was “hey.” The Hammer knows what you were thinking. :)

  21. Comment by BriansS | 08.18.2014 | 8:09 pm

    I love the details. I just finished my first leadville and am starting to dream about sub nine. In a few years maybe. Thanks for the recommendation on Rebecca’s book. Got her to sign a copy and just finished it. Great reading.

    Can’t make her race this year, but working to get a group next year. Have a big time and keep writing/riding

  22. Comment by CycleMedic26 | 08.18.2014 | 9:10 pm

    X2 on the mustard packets. Coach used to keep a ziplock bag full of them. It works.

  23. Comment by owen | 08.19.2014 | 6:31 am

    pop endurolyte caps like everybody else. I just keep mine in a old tic tac container and shake them out whenever cramps are coming on. Skratch Labs drink also.

  24. Comment by MattC | 08.19.2014 | 7:42 am

    Fatty has a DRINKING PROBLEM??? I never knew…wow.

    And mustard packs…free if you go to the right establishments, vs endurolyte caps…which are NOT free…unless you leech them off your rich friends…of which I apparently don’t have any (rich ones that is). I’ll have to try that, as carrying pickle juice isn’t really a great option.

    I agree that you can hydrate till you’re leaking water out your ears, and have all the electrolytes/potassium you can get, but a huge effort can still cause cramps.

    I’m also thinking mustard smeared on road rash must help somehow…and maybe even on bee stings? (I like to multi-purpose all the stuff I carry).

  25. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 08.19.2014 | 9:20 am

    Mustard! How appropriate is that for a ‘Hot Dog’ like Fatty! (He’s definitely no ‘brat’)

  26. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.19.2014 | 9:47 am

    Gotta be electrolytes – mustard packets and pickle juice (expecially the pickle juice) contain salt and that is mostl ikly whyt they work. A good electropyte replacement would probably work even better since you would be getting the potassium, magnesium and other salts that your body needs as well.

    Riding at high elevation like Leadville can be really deceiving. The air is so dry that yoour sweat evaporates very quickyl and you often aren’t even aware of how rapidly your body is depleting itself of water and electrolytes. You can’t wait until you are thirsty to tank up, and you may have to increase the frequency of drinking a bit more than you might at lower elevations.

    As for the physics thing, don’t confuse force/power and work. You do the same amount of work when you climb a grade (assuming the same speed), no matter what gear you are in or what rpm you are spinning. At higher rpm you are exerting less force per stroke (more strokes per minute, same work), and the perceived effort can be less than at lower rpm – to a point.

  27. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.19.2014 | 9:48 am

    Good engineer – lousy typist Apologies for all the typos.

  28. Comment by owen | 08.19.2014 | 9:57 am

    Tums work well also for calcium and cramping and might help your stomach after you force down mustard on a ride…

  29. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.19.2014 | 10:39 am

    Correction on the force/power/work physics thingy: at the same speed up a grade the amount of work done and power output (work per unit time) are the same for any gear ratio used. The force required to keep the pedals turning is lower at higher rpm (lower gear ratio) – constant work, higher rpm equals reduced force per pedal stroke. At hiigher gear ratios and lowe rpm, doing the same amount of work requires more force per pedal stroke.

    Whew.

    In any case, Fatty, you are the man for driving your single speed Tranny up the grade.

  30. Pingback by 2014 Leadville one hundred Race Report, Half three: I’m the Quick Man, I’m the Sluggish Man | Posts | 08.19.2014 | 11:34 am

    [...] Fat Cyclist 2014 fast. Leadville Part Race Report Slow 2014-08-19 admin [...]

  31. Comment by MattC | 08.19.2014 | 12:31 pm

    I just got an online ad from Cambria Bicycle Outfitters (CBO)that they have the NEW Ibis Tranny twenty-niner for sale! I’m thinking to myself, it’s not new…there was this guy named “Buddy” who raced one at Leadville recently…

  32. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.19.2014 | 1:01 pm

    @MattC It’s time Matt! It’s calling your name. No more ‘poor, poor, pitiful, me’ get the bike! Couple years of overtime and it’s paid for.

  33. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.19.2014 | 1:07 pm

    So a small FoF contingent from NorCal is forming Jeffrey and I with the tandem, looks like DaveT and ChrisD also.(as of last email). Noodle and her posse from Santa Cruz(the place not the bike)/Specialized (we’ll all get ‘chicked’)

    LauraS, AngieG, LeighAnne can we coax you to go? Jeremy It’s a ’straight shot East from you! MattC and GregC it’s just a bit farther than Davis.

    Would anyone like some Pie?

 

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