Racing the LT100 with The Queen of Pain: The Race Begins

09.2.2014 | 11:37 am

A Note from Fatty: You have no idea how excited I am to be presenting The Hammer’s telling of her Leadville 100 race this year. Unlike me — I post everything I write the same day I write it — The Hammer has written the story of her entire race. It’s complete. 

But I’m still going to publish it in installments. Big, meaty installments, because this is a big story about an amazing day. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. 

Fear of Failure

When I got home from the unveiling of Rebecca’s book, I was feeling a little bit stressed and overwhelmed. My thoughts kept returning to my race splits from previous years; I just couldn’t see how I would be able to cut any time off.

Those darned “negative scripts” started running through my head:

I pushed so hard in 2012. If I could have gone any faster I would have. 

Everyone has such high expectations of me; they’ll all be so disappointed in me if I fail.

Elden tried to break the nine hour mark 13 times before he finally did it, and he had to take only 15 minutes off his time! I have to take fifty minutes off my time from last year, or thirty minutes off my 2012 time.

It just wasn’t possible. Who was I trying to fool?

I was still bummed, worrying about the race and convincing myself I was going to fail when I read this in Rebecca’s book:

“It’s safe to say I have failed more times that I’ve succeeded. Of course victories are the marker of success when you are a professional athlete. Failure devalues your currency, threatens to make you irrelevant. But if you can sustain determination and passion, failure is a practice run for success.

“If there’s one thing that’s universal, it’s the fear of failure. EVERONE has it. It’s what you do with that fear that determines whether or not you will actually succeed. Some people choose not to try at all rather than fail. Others seem to be immune to the sting of failure. I fall somewhere in the middle…..

“By building experience and diligently preparing and by surrounding myself with the right teammates I was able to manage my fear of failure.”

Well, there was my answer.

Rebecca’s talking to me even when she isn’t here, I thought to myselfPretty weird. And pretty cool. 

The Pre-Race Meeting

Friday morning dawned and we headed to the pre-race meeting. I was amped. I wanted — needed — Ken’s famous pep talk. I wanted to shout his positive mantras along with the rest of the crowd!

We arrived early so we could get a seat. The gym was packed and it was warm inside.

It started late. Very late. And by the time it started, it was uncomfortably warm in the gym.

Finally, the meeting got going. And it dragged. On and on and on. I’m pretty sure every person involved in the Leadville City Council got up and talked. Then they brought up famous person after famous person, congratulating them on being…famous, I guess.

Meanwhile, the gym go hotter and hotter and hotter.

By the time Ken got up to give his motivational speech, I was thirsty, sweating, and had lost my patience and interest. The meeting had had very little actual information about the race in it; and now I just wanted to get the heck out of there and get a breath of fresh air!

Sorry, Life Time, but you need to reconsider who that meeting is for! It used to rev up and motivate the racers. It used to focus me and make me want to dig deep.

Now it’s nothing more than an incredibly long “who’s who in Leadville.”

Final Prep…and Panic!

When we got home, I laid out all my stuff on my bed: the food and clothes I might need. I made drop bags and instruction sheets for my crew. When I was finally done, I took a deep breath and let it out.

I was almost ready.

The last thing I needed to do was talk with Rebecca about our crews and their location at the aid stations—how her crew (Greg) and my  crew (my brother) would coordinate and meet meet each other at aid stations, and things like that. I wanted to get Rebecca’s opinion about whether I should be riding with a Camelbak or bottles for certain sections of the race.

When I we arrived at her house, I thought I was calm and relaxed.

Then I opened my mouth to talk — and I found I had been possessed by the spirit of some crazy woman. I was speaking very fast and loud…and not making any sense at all! I think Rebecca wanted to slap me across the face and tell me to get a grip…but instead she calmly asked me to slow down and take a deep breath.

I really don’t know what came over me–I really thought I was calm!

After taking a deep breath, my words slowed and I was able to communicate again. We worked out the aid stations and she answered all my questions.

Now I was ready.

Go Time

The alarm went off at 0400. I stumbled into the kitchen and got the coffee and eggs started, while Elden went outside to make sure the tires on our bikes hadn’t gone flat during the night.

Elden’s sister Kellene had volunteered to make breakfast for us…until she found out that we wanted to eat at 0430. See, Kellene was planning on making breakfast for Lindsey and Jed, and they were starting in the last corral and didn’t feel like they needed to get up early and fight for a place in the back of the pack.

We left for the starting line at about 0540 (the race was to start at 0630). The morning wasn’t real cold, but I was still wearing (over my bike clothes) a coat and thrift-store pants I could lose without grief. Even as we rode to the start I could tell I was overdressed; it was a mild, calm day.

When we got to the starting line area, I kissed Elden goodbye and headed to the red corral. Elden was starting ahead of me in the silver corral. I was pleasantly surpised to find the red corral not crowded at all yet. I found a place to stand and wait.

Then, right at 0600 — the time she said she’d arrive — Rebecca showed up. We took turns holding each others bikes while we used the restroom for the last time before the race. In fact, this would hopefully the last time until after the end of the race — I really didn’t want waste time using the bathroom, and Rebecca really didn’t want me to either. It takes way too much time to disrobe and use the bathroom while wearing bib shorts.

Time I didn’t have to waste.

Yes, on one of the practice rides I had actually practiced going pee while keeping my bib shorts on. Yes, it can be done for women, without making a mess. Use your imagination on that one folks! Still, I didn’t want to go unless I REALLY needed to!

With about ten minutes ’til the start, we removed our coats and sweatpants. I still felt warm and ditched my vest too. Colleen, Rebecca’s business manager, was close enough to us that we handed her our extra clothes.

We were ready to roll out.

Prior to the start, the officials warned us that there was a down tree or something on the road and that we would be directed to the left side of the road to go around it.

I didn’t realize how close to the starting line this diversion would be.

As soon as the start gun went off , we clipped in and started to pedal and found that a hundred people needed to merge in front of us now. There was an immediate locking of brakes, a guy went down a couple bikes in front of me, then the guy behind him front wheelied and barely missed him. Rebecca and I swerved safely around both of them — whew — what an adrenaline rush to start the race.

Down and Up

As we proceeded up the little incline right after the quick dip at the start line, I looked over and saw a sign with Rebecca’s name on it… and a huge cheer went up from the people holding it. Rebecca returned the yell and waved.


What I didn’t realize then (my brother sent me a picture of it later), was the sign was for both me and Rebecca! Way cool! Thanks so much for the support!

The descent down the pavement was great. I wasn’t even cold. Everyone was moving at a great pace, there was no one darting in and out, rallying for a better position. I think the faster group of riders generally rides at a calmer, smoother pace than the derby happening further back.

Sometime during that paved flat section I passed by my sweetheart. I yelled out, “I love you and see you soon!” I knew I would be seeing him within fifteen minutes, when he would pass me on St Kevens.

My Strava of the segment shows that I was off to a great start. I was faster down the road descent to the dirt than my previous best by a whole minute.

Screenshot 2014 09 02 10 27 13

I averaged 26.7mph (29mph on the descent). That is hauling for a mountain bike!

As we started up St Kevens, Rebecca dropped behind me, having me set the pace. Everyone was moving at a good speed. I really didn’t feel like I needed to pass and I wasn’t being passed.

When I had ridden this back on Tuesday, I felt like the climb was never-ending. Today I was pleasantly surprised to see the switchback that indicates the end of the climb come into view very quickly. Once we crested the rise on the other side, Rebecca yelled, “this is the time to pedal!”

And off we went.

During one of the uphill segments, I noticed a very attractive tattooed calf and yelled “Keep up the good work Tim!” I was having a ball, and we were flying!

As we rolled through the Carter Aid Station I tried to glance at my Garmin. Honestly, though, I was having a hard time looking at or concentrating on anything but pedaling and the trail ahead of me. I thought our time was good.

Later I’d find out that I had actually climbed this segment five minutes faster than my previous best. We were already banking time!

As we started the paved descent I tried to grab something to eat and drink. Bad idea. Rebecca had pulled away and was yelling for me to grab her wheel.


I ate and drank as fast as I could and started to pedal, but I didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with her. She would pull away and then realize I wasn’t behind her, at which point she would sit up and wait for me. But I just couldn’t go any faster!

As I descended, I reflected on this segment and how it had gone during past races. This descent holds some bad memories for both Elden and I. It was on one of these corners that Elden went flying off the road in 2009 and I had a flat tire in 2000.

But this wasn’t the past. I was creating new scripts, and new memories.

As we turned off the paved road on to the dirt toward Sugarloaf, I hugged Rebecca’s wheel tight; she was on the move! We would pull up behind a train of riders and if they weren’t moving at the right speed, she would pull ahead of them, with me right behind.

Eventually, we ended up behind a rider that was pretty adamant that he wanted to be the engine of this train, and did not want to be passed by a couple of girls. At one point he looked back and glared at Rebecca in indignation, as if she were somehow in his personal space.

Rebecca calmly said, “I’m not gonna wreck you, dude.” I laughed to myself; apparently he did not realize the woman on his tail was a three-time world champion mountain biker!

We “chicked” him and continued up the dirt road.

Up next was Sugar Loaf.


  1. Comment by Don Mueller | 09.2.2014 | 12:12 pm

    “Chicked him.” Love it.

    Reminds me of a time in a running relay race when one of my female friends was about to pass a male Marine. He looked around at her coming, his eyes bugged out and he took off at a sprint to avoid it happening to him. I’m sure he would’ve taken a bayonet to the gut before letting her pass him. She methodically ran him down.

  2. Comment by wharton_crew | 09.2.2014 | 12:26 pm

    Great start to the story! I’m happy for installments, although I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that I would have found a way to read the whole report – even at work.

    Allez Hammer!

  3. Comment by Brian in VA | 09.2.2014 | 1:03 pm

    Love this!

  4. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.2.2014 | 1:05 pm

    Boo yeah!!! Tomorrow can’t come fast enough to get to read the Hammer’s next installment of – “As The Hammer Hammers!”

  5. Comment by Jeff Bike | 09.2.2014 | 1:26 pm

    I admit it I’ve been “chicked”. No guy likes it, it hurts our male ego.
    But I would be proud to be “ckicked” by team Rusch/Hammer.

  6. Comment by Dave T | 09.2.2014 | 2:21 pm

    So awesome you can start to write your new scripts and conquer your fear of descending. That is something I continue to work on myself, not easy. I love the “chicked” comment. I’m thinking that would make a great tee shirt.

  7. Comment by Corrine | 09.2.2014 | 3:07 pm

    Love the story. Was gone and away from internet all of last week so just got a chance to get caught up. Can’t wait for the next installment. Way to go team Rusch/Hammer. Also came home to my Rusch to Glory book and just started it last night. Can’t wait to get home and read more.

  8. Comment by Christina | 09.2.2014 | 3:27 pm


    I prefer Team HammerRusch. It sounds like generic Mountain Dew, but tougher. “Catch the HammerRusch!”

  9. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 09.2.2014 | 3:51 pm

    Hammer, you are an excellent story teller; I am enthralled by this “Hammerusch” of Leadville.

    It is thrilling to get this inside perspective from an almost-pro cyclist and all the things you went through to get so good on a bike. It inspires me to push for my next level, and all the expert tips are invaluable.

  10. Comment by Gumby | 09.2.2014 | 6:31 pm

    Hey will we get to read Rebecca’s perspective as a guest post? That would be amazing!

    I’ve considered doing an online screen chat between Reba and Lisa, maybe with me moderating. – FC

  11. Comment by Kristina | 09.2.2014 | 11:39 pm

    If we try hard enough, I bet we can come up with enough Leadville-post variants to last until Leadville 2015!

  12. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 09.3.2014 | 7:16 am

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    That passage rings more and more true the older (sigh) I get.

  13. Comment by Marcel Beaudoin | 09.3.2014 | 7:25 am

    I am really liking this part. For whatever reason, reading Fatty’s installments and him discussing his fears and worries seems less..real??…than to The Hammer’s. I am really enjoying reading her point of view.

  14. Comment by owen | 09.3.2014 | 9:01 am

    great point on the pre-race meeting Hammer – thanks for that!! I’ve only been to 1 and it was a couple years ago but its just too long to have the day before the race. Lance even showed up that year and people were still wilting in the heat all cramped up in that gym. Doctor’s comments, Ken speech a few quick call outs and be done with it.

  15. Comment by Anon | 09.3.2014 | 9:32 am

    As a spectator/crew member for this race, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was feeling that the pre-ride meeting was excessively long and not really necessary for the riders. Since it was my first time, I had no idea what to expect, and as lovely as Ken’s thoughts were, I was ready to get out of there by the time anything remotely motivating was said.

    Thank you for sharing this story with us – of your self-doubt and concerns for improvement. For those of us who are nowhere near as good a rider as Rebecca or you, it’s nice to know that we all go through the same kinds of thoughts and we all have to work through our own demons (or negative life scripts, as you/Rebecca have put it).

    I look forward to reading the rest of your journey!

  16. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Racing the LT100 with The Queen of Pain: Forceful Encouragement | 09.3.2014 | 9:39 am

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