Racing the LT100 with the Queen of Pain: Pipeline, St Kevens, and Setting Up Your Bike

08.27.2014 | 12:48 pm

The alarm went off early Monday morning and we headed back to Rebecca’s house–she couldn’t seem to get rid of us! She made coffee for us and we made her our scrambled eggs whites again. (Yes, that’s what we really eat for breakfast pretty much every day.)

Then we parted ways with Elden. He needed to go back to the hotel; he was on deadline for a report due at work.

The Power of the Pipeline

Rebecca and I headed to the site of the Pipeline aid station. This aid station is located about 25 miles into the race. When you get here the first time, you’ve survived the first couple of big climbs and the first big descent. Now the race turns into a relatively flat-rolling section of road for about 15 miles.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of this flat section to the race. You see, my climbing speed is pretty much set, my descending speed is pretty set too—though it may improve a little with Rebecca’s help–but my thought was that this “negative script” was pretty engrained in my thought process. I plan on changing this script to a positive one, but I think it may take longer than a few days with Rebecca.

With Rebecca’s help, this flat section is where I hoped to make big improvements — in fact, it was this part of the race I was thinking could potentially get me under nine hours. My plan was to get as much help from her as possible on this rolling section of road to draft off of her–potentially increasing my speed, and giving me a chance to rest. 

The number of riders in Rebecca’s Leadville Experience group continued to grow; today there were about 25 people. It was nice to see familiar faces. Everyone seemed to be feeling good and riding really strong. It’s nice to have support from other people that are going through the same things as you.

Rebecca started out the ride with more encouraging words of advice. She said that this was the part of the course where you could sit back and relax….or you can use it to bank time. She suggested riding just a little faster than you were comfortable with, but not enough to kill you.

What a hard balance.

We started out and Rebecca was out front riding and visiting with people around her. I was in the very back, also enjoying myself and talking with people. I realized that I probably should stop lollygagging and go up front.

Fluffy Socks at 20MPH


As Rebecca and I rode, she commented we should be going close to 20 mph in this section and that I should focus on what she calls “fluffy socks.” This meant that I needed to be making circles with my pedal strokes and concentrate on my up stroke, thus giving my quads some time to relax/recover (and for the bottoms of my socks to remain “fluffy.”

I glanced down at my Garmin and saw we were going about 16mph — that’s a long ways away from 20mph! I would need to crank it up during the race. 

So I did what Rebecca said…and poured it on. I was flying and I felt good. Then I came to a fork and didn’t know which way to go, so I stopped. I was surprised at how far ahead I had gotten from the group.

Eventually they arrived with Rebecca laughing at me for not knowing what way to go. “How many times have you done this race?!” she asked.

Hey, it’s something Elden and I have in common. Since we both get lost easily, neither of us is ever angry at the other for not knowing which way to go.

I stayed with the group as we entered the singletrack and then Rebecca called me out again and wanted me to lead out.

Screenshot 2014 08 27 06 59 20
Photo taken by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.

Her coaching from behind really helped, especially leading the turns with my “third eye”–the bike really does turn, almost by itself!

We all met up at the bottom of the single track and Rebecca gave us another pep talk. Some of the group continued on to twin lakes and the rest of us turned around and started up the singletrack. I was feeling really good and took off. There was a guy ahead of me and I made it my goal to catch him — and I succeeded…right at the top.

My Strava confirmed I was flying: I was ranked 2nd -behind Queen Rebecca by only a few seconds.

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Practice, Practice, Practice

At the top of the singletrack climb there is a section of exposed roots that takes over the trail. Last year when I hit the first root, my bike came to a stop and I was catapulted into my handle bars.

I didn’t want to make this mistake this year, so I picked what I thought was the “good” line and went for it! I was wrong and went pinballing off all the logs.

Obviously, I was going to have to do something different. So I got off my bike and started again. This time I went straight over the logs, lifting my front wheel over the roots.

Success! I had a line I could use on Saturday.

I then proceeded to the next climb: “Bitch Hill.” Again I followed Rebecca’s advice and took some speed from the downhill and started climbing. And — for the first time ever — I cleaned the climb! Granted, I wanted to vomit, but still: I did it.

The group gathered again and we causally rode back to the car. I visited with other riders and enjoyed myself. I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I could do this!

R & R

When I got back to the Motel 8 where we were staying, poor Elden was still working. I made him some lunch and lay down on the bed. It wasn’t long before I was asleep. I think all of this riding at altitude might be exhausting me!

When I woke up, I continued reading Rebecca’s book. I cannot believe how many adventures this woman has had, nor how so many of her life lessons I could relate to — even though I hadn’t climbed huge mountain peaks or paddled into raging white waters.

I was getting restless, so I decided I needed to go for a walk. I talked to the girl who worked at the motel front desk and asked her where the bike path across the road went. She handed me a map of Leadville and said it was the Mineral Belt Trail: a 12-13 mile loop around the city. What a great place to take a walk.

As I started up the path, my thoughts returned my very first time racing Leadville, back in 2000. I had ridden on part of this same trail the day before the race. I remember how hard it was to breathe as I pedaled my bike on what I now could tell is a  relatively flat trail. Back in 2000, I wondered how in the world I was going to race and breathe at this altitude!

As I walked, I realized how well I was adjusting to the altitude this year. Being here early was really helping. I noticed now when I lay down, my heart wasn’t pounding in my ears and my breathing wasn’t quite so heavy as it was on the first day.

I walked for about an hour and wondered if I should turn around. A few cyclists had passed me earlier on, but now I was alone. I noticed some very dark rain clouds forming, and wondered if my walk was going to end wet and miserable.

At this point I really had no idea where I was–basically in the middle of nowhere. I sent Elden a text, saying I thought I might be lost. He was in a meeting, but texted me back the address of the hotel we’re at.

I replied that was nice, but not very helpful.

[A Note from Fatty: I had no idea she was on a bike path in the middle of nowhere; I assumed she was lost somewhere in Leadville itself. I figured by sending her our hotel address, she could use the directions feature on her phone to get from where she was back to the hotel. That’s “guy thinking” for you.]

At that moment, the bike path crossed a road and a truck was headed my way. I flagged him down and asked him how to get back to town. He said that the road he was on would drop me back into town, and offered to drive me down.

I thanked him, but refused — I’ve watched to many “true crime” shows on TV to accept a ride, in the middle of a forest with nobody around, from a stranger! I decided my best course of action would be to head down the road before the rain started.

My phone rang; it was Rebecca. She was in town getting her wheel fixed. I told her I was walking on the Mineral Belt Trail and I might need her to rescue me if it started raining, because Elden was in a meeting…and I had the keys to the truck anyway. She said she would be happy to. What a great person! Willing to go out of her way to help me, even when we weren’t racing.

The road was steep and dropped me back onto the main road about half a mile from the Super 8. The storm clouds were heavy and black above me, but I had outwalked the rain!

Fatty Works Too Much

When I got back to the room, Elden was still working. My legs were pretty tired, so I decided to put them up and continue reading Rebecca’s book.

Of course, this is what I read:

“…The wind was howling, spraying freezing rain in our faces and nearly pushing us back up stream. Having spent hours leaning into the storm, expending a ton of energy and making little progress, we elected to get off the water and wait it out while we tried to get some much-needed sleep. We huddled under a rock, wrapped in our tiny space blankets and every stitch of clothing we had with us. We took turns being on the exposed side in an attempt to get an equal shred of warmth from each other.”

(From Rebecca’s experience in the 1999 Eco-challenge Argentina, pg 91)

I could not believe that I just asked this woman for a ride home because I might get sprinkled on! I’m so lame! She must think I’m the biggest pansy! I shot her a text, apologizing. She replied, “you’re funny!!! I’ve asked for rides too.”

I highly doubt that!

St. Keven’s

Thursday morning, Elden got up early to work…and I slept in. I could get used to this whole vacation thing!

Then, around 10:30am we decided to head out. We called Rebecca and invited her to come along. I was surprised and excited to find that she could! We also invited Yuri Hauswald (pro cyclist for Marin bikes, Elden’s friend, and — very importantly — marketing honcho for GU) and Colleen — Rebecca’s business manager.

We decided to head up St Keven’s, then to the top of Sugarloaf and then retrace our steps back home. We would “soft pedal” today–take it easy.

As we headed out, the first raindrops started to fall. By the time we reached the base of St Keven’s, it was raining pretty hard. Rain doesn’t bother me much while im climbing, but I hate to descend when I’m wet.

As we climbed, several cyclist came by in the other direction, going down. One gal actually told us to turn around–that it was really cold on top. But we just kept climbing.

I was really feeling the climb today. I think my legs were pretty tired. I was surprised at how steep St Keven’s is! I had never really realized it during race days, when I’m all loaded up with adrenaline and concentrating on picking out a good line.

When we finally reached the top, it had stopped raining. Rebecca and Yuri decided to go home on the paved road, and Colleen had turned around earlier. After a very short discussion, Elden and I decided that we didn’t want to do any more climbing; we had done enough riding before the race.

I actually had fun coming down St. Keven’s. I used my new downhill skills and really enjoyed myself. I don’t know if I was any faster, but I felt more secure and safe on the descent.

Once we got to the bottom we took a selfie: 

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And then I tried one of the new Root Beer GUs Yuri had just given us. I think we were one of the very first people to actually get to try them!

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Wow. New favorite flavor!

When we hit the pavement, we decided to go back to town via the Boulevard. The rain had started up again lightly and we were surprised to find the lower part of the Boulevard had turned into a flowing stream. It’s amazing how quickly the rain can mess up the trail and create new ruts in the sandy soil around Leadville.

Setting Up Your Bike

Later in the afternoon, we returned to town to attend Rebecca’s class on “Bike Set Up.” 

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She also included information on clothing and bike accessories that can make your race experience nicer. 

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It was full of a lot of great information.

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Elden attempted to record/video the clinic — but now says he can’t find it anywhere. I told him to look and see if it fell between the cushions on the couch. He thought that was a very hilarious suggestion.

I was a little surprised at some of the questions that were asked — one person didn’t realize that wearing cotton socks during an endurance race was a bad idea!

[A Note from Fatty: I video’d the whole thing. I swear. I sat in the front row and for an entire hour trained the camera on Reba as she dished out tons and tons of fantastic information. 

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By the end of the hour, my phone was down to about 15% battery, so I know I was recording. And yet, I do not have the video. I don’t know what happened to it. But when I discovered this morning that my video was nonexistent, I texted Rebecca, asking her to summarize her top bike-preparation tips. Such is my superpower — the ability to ask people to do stuff for me — that she said yes. Here it is.]

Rebecca’s Race-Ready Bike Checklist

The Bike Itself

  • Make sure your skewers/bolts are tight. I also like to check the bolts in the cleats of my shoes.
  • Select a fast rolling tire, but one with at least some traction. There are plenty of high-speed descents with loose corners. I do not run the lightest, thinnest sidewall available. I like a bit of insurance out there. A tire that’s 20 grams lighter but more prone to flatting, could save you a little weight…but cost you a lot of time if you flat. I run Specialized Fast Trak Control 2.0.
  • Don’t pump your tires up too hard. It’s an old-school mentality that harder tires are faster-rolling.  I’ve done tire testing with Specialized with all brands at different pressures. The fact is, tires are meant to be run at their suggested PSI. (Check the side of the tire for that.) The new engineering and tubeless rims allows you to run tires at much lower pressure.  They are not slower at lower pressures, and you get way better traction — which means faster descending.  I run my tires at 21 lbs in the rear and 20 in the front. Pressure is weight and ride-style dependent, but no one should be pumping their tires up to 40 PSI for Leadville.  It’s a mistake.  Practice adjusting tire pressure at home on your familiar trails.
  • Suspension (front fork and rear shock):  Suspension — along with your tire pressure and tread — is among the most important things that improve or deteriorate the quality of your ride.  Your suspension air pressure should be checked almost every ride, and certainly before every race.  Find what suspension pressure is right for your weight and riding style, then memorize it. it and check it often.
  • Check your touch points: Grips, Saddle, shoes/insoles.  I use Specialized BG grips, along with Specialized XC Lite gloves with smooth palm.  I like to have my grip be the right shape instead of wearing super padded gloves.  I feel the same way about a saddle / shorts combo.  The saddle is of utmost importance and for me the Specialized Oura saddle works great.  It looks thin and hard, but the saddle itself flexes with your body.  Get measured for a saddle if you haven’t ever done this. They are as different and have almost as many offerings as a pair of jeans. For shoes,  I wear Specialized women’s S-works MTB shoes with a Sole footbed that’s pretty beefy.

What to Carry on The Bike

  • Food carrying system: Use your pockets or handlebar pouch or something else — just make sure it stays on the bike and is easily accessible, so that you will be able to eat without much trouble.
  • Water Carrying system: Same as above.  If you are using water bottles, be sure to mount enough cages.  I use a rear seat post mount with a Specialized side bottle Z cage to have more capacity.
  • Tools on bike: I carry 
    1. two tubes
    2. CO2 canister pump attached to the bike
    3. CO2 head
    4. Mini pump–in case CO02 doesn’t work
    5. 1 tire lever
    6. multi tool with chain breaker
    7. Tire boot (can just be a GU wrapper) for torn sidewall.
    8. SRAM quick link (be sure it’s the right one for an 11 speed or 10 speed chain, whichever you have).  I like to tape it with electrical tape to my brake cable so I can easily find it if needed.  Be sure you practice fixing a chain at home.  It’s super easy and can be as fast as a tire change.  There’s no reason to end your race with a broken chain.

Tools for the Aid Station

  • Extra seat post (since I ride carbon): I’ve never broken one, but it could be a deal breaker for the race.
  • Extra wheels
  • Extra tubes
  • CO2, tool, etc. in case I use or drop any of these things.

Rebecca’s clinic was great; I love gathering as much information as I can, so I don’t start a race unprepared.

But I still need to learn how to fix a broken chain!


  1. Comment by PNP | 08.27.2014 | 1:54 pm

    Okay, since my longest ride to date has been about 35 miles on a road bike, I’ll bite: why is it bad to wear cotton socks on an endurance ride? I don’t wear cotton socks….or maybe I do….I’ll have to check. Hm. But now I need to know the answer!

  2. Comment by FatBikeRacer | 08.27.2014 | 2:09 pm

    Booll weevils!

  3. Comment by MSJ in Fremont CA | 08.27.2014 | 2:29 pm

    They don’t wick the moisture away. Soggy foot+ endurance ride=misery

  4. Comment by Jeff Bike | 08.27.2014 | 2:34 pm

    Cotton Socks hold moisture, keeping your feet wet, leads to all sorts of nasty.

  5. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 08.27.2014 | 3:15 pm

    What great coaching and training! Maybe I missed it (or lost it in the cushions of my couch), but was Rebecca’s Leadville Experience a one-time event around her book launching? I’d show up next year just for this, without even entering the race! It obviously was beneficial. I’m totally into your story!

  6. Comment by Skye | 08.27.2014 | 3:17 pm

    As a good Alaskan, I know that cotton socks lead to (damp) cold feet, but it never occurred to me there were other reasons not to wear them!

    I’m getting smarter every day!

  7. Comment by PNP | 08.27.2014 | 3:30 pm

    Thanks! I suspected as much, but I figure that it never hurts to ask!

  8. Comment by Andrew | 08.28.2014 | 6:09 am

    Wow!!! Elden, Lisa is raising the bar, the story, the writing, anecdotes, the quotes everything is tremendous!!! Really.. Now I have to site and hit refresh for the next 24 hours!

  9. Comment by MikeL | 08.28.2014 | 7:53 am

    The Leadville Mineral Belt trail is a really fun loop to ride or walk. It was incorporated into the Buena Vista Cycling Festival route and was the best part of the whole ride in my and my wife’s opinion. I would go back to Leadville just to ride that and explore.
    I do have to ask from the first post if Lisa was channeling Selene Yeager with the happy socks she was wearing?

  10. Comment by Mefly | 08.28.2014 | 3:10 pm

    Excellent reports, I really look forward to reading the next installment. Can you mix the morning meal up for a change? Stay with the picnic nutrition strategy. It’s worked for you for 10 years so why change it?


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