2014 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 5: Cornball at 10,000 Feet

08.20.2014 | 11:49 am

The Hammer is stopped on one side of the trail. I am stopped at another. We are both within ten feet of crossing the Pipeline aid station timing pad, 75 miles into a 103.5-mile race.

Maybe I’ve had a more surreal moment in my life, but none come to mind.

Why is she stopped here? When did she pass me? Where is Rebecca? Is something wrong? 

I wanted to ask all of those questions. But expressing complex thoughts is a genuine problem for me when I’m racing. And yes, “What are you stopped here?” qualifies as a complex thought.

So, for the second time that day, I went with this:

“Hey!”

The Hammer, however, was better-prepared to say what was on her mind:

“WHERE IS OUR CREW?!”

“Behind you, about fifty feet, on this side of the trail!” I said, relieved to find I  both knew the answer and was able to express it. Also, I was relieved that the problem was simple and solvable: she had ridden past the crew.

She took off, backtracking toward the crew.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I stood there, a new dilemma on my hands. We were now 75 miles into a race, with about 28 miles to go. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to ride together now?

Yes, the nice husband part of my brain said. It was meant to be.

No, my voice of reason told me. That is the dumbest thing you have ever said.

Why? my nice husband brain-part asked, a little taken aback that the voice of reason part was so impolite.

Because you’re going to be riding on the flats for the next five miles, and you have no chance whatsoever of hanging with her. If you wait for her for one minute now, she’ll feel obligated to wait for you for the next big chunk of road, and she’ll lose boatloads of time she’s going to need if she wants to finish in under nine hours.

So I did the nice thing. I took off without my wife.

Good Timing

As I rode along, I considered how many times The Hammer’s and my path had crossed so far.

  1. When she passed me on the pavement at the very beginning of the race
  2. When I passed her going up St. Kevens
  3. When we crossed paths at the top of Columbine
  4. Just now, stopped at the Pipeline aid station.

I knew that very shortly, we’d run into each other again, as she and Reba, working together, would sail by my singlespeeding self before we got to the base of the Powerline climb.

And after that, what? Would I catch and pass them again? Or would they stay ahead of me for the rest of the race? 

Either way, I knew we’d be looking at a difference of a minute or two either way.

And — unless something went horribly wrong — we’d all be finishing in under nine hours. I know the course and split times well enough that I was sure of it.

She is going to do it, I thought. Lisa is going to finish The Leadville 100 in under nine hours on her tenth year of doing this race. She may well even beat me when she does it.

And right then, rolling along on the pavement by myself, that thought just overwhelmed me and I started crying a little, I was so happy. 

Your emotions tend to run a little bit hot when when you’re at the edge of doing what you’re capable of for so many hours.

But then I stopped thinking about any of that, because my right quad seized up. The cramps were back, brought on by — I’m speculating of course — the unfamiliar and very strenuous high cadence I was turning.

I was suffering. Bad. 

And I was worrying, too. If I’m hurting this badly on the flats, what’s going to happen to me in a few minutes, when I start the hardest climb of the day?

And it was while I was wrapped up in my misery that — as I knew they would — The Queen and the Hammer pulled up alongside me, pulling a long train of riders, all of them men, and all of them larger than the two women pulling this train.

“How are you doing?” The Queen of Pain asked me.

“I’m riding through a pretty bad cramp right now,” I said. 

“Have you been taking electrolyte capsules?” Reba asked. 

“I’ve never used them. I worry about trying new stuff during races,” I said.

“Take some now,” Reba said, reached into her jersey pocket, and handed me a cylinder with a flip-top lid. 

“They really work,” The Hammer affirmed.

That was good enough for me. “How many should I take?”

“As many as you can fit in your mouth. Half a dozen or so,” Reba said.

I kind of doubted that was what the good folks at Gu would recommend, but  you know, I figured The Queen of Pain knew her stuff. So I shook a mouthful of pills into my mouth, chased them down with Carborocket, and hoped they’d do the trick.

Soon.

“OK, we’ve got to go,” said The Queen of Pain, and ramped the pace up again.

I watched The Hammer sail past, her face grim, her eyes down. I have never seen a person so obviously in the pain cave. Deep, deep in the pain cave.

I was so proud of her I almost started crying again.

A Coke and a Smile, Courtesy of Strava

I was still in pain, now compounded with the disappointment of being on my own again; it had been nice to have company for a minute. But within a few minutes, the cramp faded. So that’s a piece of good news.

And I knew I was heading toward another piece of good news: the Strava tent, a mile or so before the beginning of the Powerline climb.

Why is that good news? Because at the Strava tent are Strava-ites, standing on the side of the road, handing out little cans of ice-cold Coke to anyone who wants one. 

And I wanted one. Oh, how I wanted one.

“You want a Coke?” a girl shouted.

“Yes!” I called back, and she popped the top open. I slowed down enough to get the handup without fumbling it and said “Thanks” with more sincerity than you can possibly imagine.

Cornball at 10,000 Feet

I got to the end of the pavement and took the left turn onto the beginning of the Powerline climb.

I always feel a little dread when I take that turn. It’s a “deep breath” moment. You know, sort of like the deep breath you take before diving into a swimming pool full of battery acid.

The thing is, though, it’s only four miles long, from when you turn off the pavement, to when you get to the summit. And it takes less than an hour, if you push hard. And the first mile isn’t even very hard. 

So it’s really not a big deal, right?

Right?

Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. Because in that 3.2 miles of hard climbing, you go up about 1500 feet. And that’s not easy to do, when you’ve already got 81 miles of hard racing in your legs. 

For one part in particular, the smartest thing you can do — the only thing you can do, for all but the most elite of the elite — is get off and push.

Which I did. Early. Before I had to. Because I did not want to visit the Land o’ Cramps again if I could help it.

And then I could see The Hammer. And the Queen of Pain. They weren’t very far ahead of me. 

So I hiked a little faster. 

I got within a few feet of them. But there was a guy between The Hammer and me.

“Excuse me,” I called out. “That’s my wife right in front of you. Can you let me by?”

Of course he let me by. (You would too. You know you would.) 

Finally, we were together! Not actually riding together, because we were hiking our bikes at the moment, but still:

Eldenpowerlineup1
Reba in front, The Hammer (hidden behind my elbow) and me behind. Photo taken by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.

“We’re together!” I said, taking the opportunity to verbalize the obvious.

I continued, “We’re eighty miles into this race and we’re together! Isn’t that incredible? I am so proud of you!” 

The Hammer did not answer. I looked over at her. Pain cave. Deep.

The Queen of Pain, however, did answer. “I can’t believe you’re being mushy here, on the Powerline,” she said.

Come to think of it, I couldn’t either. 

Elden ibis1
Photo taken by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.

I felt like I could go faster, so I did. I didn’t say goodbye, though, because I knew we’d see each other soon.

Real soon.

The only question, really, was whether we’d see each other before the finish line.

Which you’ll find out in tomorrow’s installment of my part of the story.

PS: For those of you who are wondering whether The Hammer is going to write up her experience, let’s just say that as of yesterday evening, she has written eleven pages, and has a lot more to write. And it’s a compelling story.

24 Comments »

  1. Comment by CycleMedic26 | 08.20.2014 | 11:59 am

    First! Can’t wait to read the Hammer’s report! And glad you didn’t leave us on as steep of a cliff today.

  2. Comment by Andy@wdw | 08.20.2014 | 12:18 pm

    Fatty, I’m loving the write up as always! I know exactly what you mean about crying in a race. Last year’s 100MON was my first ever century. I may have cried the whole way through mile 95, just because I realized at that moment that I really was going to make I the whole way. The combo of stress, exhaustion, and endorphins is just killer.

  3. Comment by BoomJammer | 08.20.2014 | 12:22 pm

    So, I’m still confused! Where was Reba at the aid station? Did she have her own support crew? …or did she ride unsupported???

    Your confusion mirrors my confusion. I’m intentionally leaving stuff out when — at the time — I didn’t know the answer myself. When I got to that aid station, The Hammer was by herself. We had the exchange I just described and then I went on. Reba magically appeared back with Lisa when I next saw them and by then I didn’t think to ask. How they separated and rejoined is really more part of their story.

    But yes, Reba had her own crew. Specifically, her boyfriend Greg crews for her every year. You’d think as a pro Reba would have a big crew, but it’s always just Greg. Who, from what I understand, is about twice as effective as most crews. – FC

  4. Comment by MattC | 08.20.2014 | 12:25 pm

    Great continuing report Bud.

    And just a note: right below the 2nd to last picture (of Reba leading the group going up powerline) you started a new paragraph with “I took” and that’s it. I just don’t want us being short-changed of integral story parts…

  5. Comment by Kukui | 08.20.2014 | 12:28 pm

    Eleven pages! I can’t wait to read The Hammer’s race report, too! =)

  6. Comment by Eric L | 08.20.2014 | 12:45 pm

    I hadda go to GU’s website because I read that and thought: Fatty could not have just taken a whole mouthful of GU Brew tablets and not written about foaming at the mouth for the next ten miles.

    Now I know they also make electrolyte capsules. They’re what plants and Fat Cyclists crave!

  7. Comment by owen | 08.20.2014 | 12:57 pm

    I am miffed on how you’ve gone this far in cycling without a tub of endurolytes (or the like) always on hand. Having done the race on a SS once at about 46 gear inches I feel your pain on the flats. The only good thing is it prevents you from pushing to hard and blowing up on the flats as you just can’t. Another great report!!

  8. Comment by JH | 08.20.2014 | 1:16 pm

    Your calf in that last pic looks like you were definitely in your own pain cave.

    I had been, but I wasn’t anymore. Walking — even up a very steep incline — was comparatively easy. – FC

  9. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 08.20.2014 | 1:54 pm

    I cannot tell you how many times today I have checked for this installment.

    I think this is the first report I have read when The Hammer did not have a smile on her face. It sounds like she was digging really deep and giving this race everything she had. Kudos to both of you for the performance.

    We’ll be anxiously awaiting The Hammer’s report. At 11 pages and still a work in progress, it sounds like we can look forward to multiple episodes from her as well – will the cliffhanger endings between installments keep us on the edges of our seats?

    Onward, onward

    It’s incredibly flattering that you’re enjoying this report so much. Thank you! – FC

  10. Comment by MatteoMaximus | 08.20.2014 | 2:16 pm

    Awesome report dude! Really great reading. I feel like I’m on the bike with you!

    Thanks! – FC

  11. Comment by wharton_crew | 08.20.2014 | 3:00 pm

    Fatty, what is wrong with your CALF in that last pic? Was that a cramp? Normal muscle flexing?

    That looked so painful that I got a calf cramp just looking at it.

    No, I never had calf cramps during this race. At the time this photo was taken, I was just pushing my bike up a very steep hill; I was really using my calves (and everything else) to get up that mountain. – FC

  12. Comment by Heidi | 08.20.2014 | 3:19 pm

    Linda Guerette’s photography is excellent. Did she she travel to the photo op locations on the route by bike?

    I’m really interested in knowing the answer to that question myself. She took photos at an ASTONISHING number of places during that race. I really don’t know how she got to all of them. – FC

  13. Comment by rohit | 08.20.2014 | 3:45 pm

    Your gastrocnemius is…huge and defined. I stand impressed. And just a little bit scared.

    I saw the “gastro” part of that word and assumed you were talking about my gut. Then I looked gastrocnemius up and now I know the right word for a part I had always just called “part of my calf.” Thanks! – FC

  14. Comment by Adam | 08.20.2014 | 3:54 pm

    Great read so far!

  15. Comment by Carl | 08.20.2014 | 4:05 pm

    Great posts Fatty. I can’t wait to read The Hammer’s account of the race!

    Me either! Which is to say, the 11 pages I referenced earlier today gets us to about the day before the race. The Hammer had a pretty awesome pre-race week. – FC

  16. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 08.20.2014 | 4:19 pm

    Not being able to find my crew was something that freaked me out. It seams simple until you get into the throng of the aid stations. Then its not quite as easy as you think it would be.

    My cramp magic are Jelly Belly Sport Beans. They work great for me.

    The reason The Hammer missed the crew should become clear when she tells her part of the story. – FC

  17. Comment by James | 08.20.2014 | 8:27 pm

    Thanks for the great report Fatty! I didn’t make the lottery this year, but I really enjoy your posts (and the Hammer’s); I am sure they will help my prepare for when I am able to ride Leadville.

  18. Comment by Phil E | 08.21.2014 | 2:16 am

    What a great report.Once again, thanks for sharing, and I hope to one day be able to ride what seems like an amazing ride.

  19. Comment by Will Benton | 08.21.2014 | 8:47 am

    As usual Fatty great read!!

    Will

  20. Comment by Doug C | 08.21.2014 | 9:03 am

    Great write-ups! As someone who was also lucky enough to be in the race (I got timed out helping an injured rider coming down Columbine), it is very interesting, and a little exciting, to read your account of the race. I can’t wait to hear The Hammer’s account as well. Great job to both of you!

  21. Comment by Mefly | 08.21.2014 | 9:07 am

    Very exciting race report. Keep it up!

  22. Comment by ClancyO | 08.21.2014 | 11:29 am

    I admire your restraint on the mushyness.. If my wife was doing what the Hammer does, I’d be so proud that I’d just POP!

  23. Comment by Susie H | 08.21.2014 | 3:49 pm

    I like to follow calves like yours…they are very motivating. ;-)

  24. Comment by KevinM_VA | 08.22.2014 | 9:06 am

    Congrats to you, The Hammer, and The Queen of Pain … Awesome story and I cannot wait for the Hammer’s story …. You really should go w/gears and see how low you can go next year!!!!

 

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