2015 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 6: New Objective

08.26.2015 | 12:07 pm

A “Quick Links to Previous Installments” Note from Fatty: Here’s where you’ll find the parts to this story:

There was a moment, during the three mile section between the bottom of the Columbine Mine descent and the Twin Lakes Aid Station, when I thought I had gotten off course and had become lost.

Not because I had made a turn that was questionable and was now second-guessing myself. Not because the trail looked unfamiliar.

It’s just that, somehow, in this race with more than 1600 racers in it, I was completely and entirely alone. I looked ahead. As far as I could see: nobody. I looked behind. Still nobody.

“Could it be that I am lost?” I asked myself.

“No. Ridiculous,” I replied.

“OK, then where is everyone?” I mused.

I came up with a theory: that I was currently in a very weird place for a Leadville cyclist to be. I had gone fast enough on the climbs that I had separated myself from anyone who is not an exceptional climber.

And then I had gone slow enough that I had been left behind by all the good climbers who are also good descenders.

Leaving me. 


“I need to take a skills camp or something,” I concluded.

“Yeah, you do,” I agreed.

Publicly-Stated Objective

I rode through the Twin Lakes aid station 4:40 into the race — about fifteen minutes slower than what I had noted on the poster Jeff D had created for our crews to track our projected times vs our actual times:


Note that the time written down by the crew, “11:15am,” is at odds with the Twin Lakes timing mat, which has me coming across at 11:10am (4:40 into the race). This is because our crew was stationed a few minutes further down the trail from the timing mat. And also, I’m pretty sure they rounded up. And in short, I’m going with the timing mat’s time.

This was, sadly, still about fifteen minutes slower than my projected time if I wanted to finish in under eight hours.

I had several things, however, that kept me from falling into despair:

First, my projected splits gave me a ten-minute cushion. They were, essentially, splits for a 7:50 finish. So while I was fifteen minutes in arrears for a 7:50 finish, I was only six minutes in arrears for a 7:59 finish. Six minutes can be recovered over forty miles.

Second, it’s not like getting to the sixty mile mark in 4:40 is bad. Most years I’ve done this race, I’d still be working on getting to the Columbine Mine summit at this point, not back down and getting ready for the flattish runup to the Powerline.

Third, I had a backup time objective for this race. One that had come to me very recently. One I had instantly recognized as one I liked.

And one I had — impulsively — gone rather public with.

Here’s the story.

The Thursday before the race, Rebecca Rusch and I had gotten on stage at the historic Tabor Opera House to give our ten best tips, read from our respective books, and talk about our first Leadville 100 race.

As homework, I went back to Reba’s book, Rusch to Glory (which I highly recommend, by the way), and read about her first win in the Leadville 100. And there, on page 196, was this:

Thumb IMG 3891 1024

Hm. Her first winning finish time in the Leadville 100 was 8:14. “Interesting,” was all I thought at the time.

And then, onstage, I introduced Reba as four-time Women’s Champion in the Leadville 100. She introduced me as a “not-so-fast guy.”

Which raised my hackles. Just a little bit.

Then, when I mentioned I am a one-time singlespeed champion (which I am pretty proud of), Reba countered with, “Yeah, but how many people were in your race category?” 

“There was a full podium, and I was on top of it,” is how I replied, because honestly, I didn’t know the answer. I just looked it up, though, and the answer is 34. Coincidentally, the number of finishing women in the 40-49 age group in 2009 — which is the category Reba raced and won — was also 34.  

Hackles: now at 100%.

I decided, at that moment, that I had a new race objective, which I announced when Reba asked what I hoped to accomplish during the race this year.

“This year, I’m going to finish with a time that’s faster than what you won with the first time you raced the LT100,” I said.

“How fast was that?” Reba asked.

“Come hell or high water, I’m going to finish faster than 8:14,” I said. 

“Hm,” Reba said. “Good luck with that.”

And — returning back to the present — I was on track for that (impulsive and hotheadedly-stated) goal. I was still on track to beat the 2009 version of Reba.

That said, I had only done the “easy” sixtyish miles of the race. I still had the hard part ahead of me.

Quick Stop

I don’t think I can overemphasize how incredible my crew was. As I pulled into the Twin Lakes aid station, Scott and Kara quickly swapped out my empty GU packets for new ones. They swapped out my empty bottles for a full one. They handed me four GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules to swallow, to continue keeping cramps at bay. 

This left me free to notice some strange and awesome things. 

First, my friend Brad Keyes was there. In fact, he was giving me a quick neck rub. And while I’m not a fan of neck rubs in general, if I’m going to get a neck rub from a guy, I want it to be Brad.

“I’ll see you again on the Powerline,” Brad said. “I’ll have Coke and Skittles for you.”

“Uh, OK?” I replied. Coke sounded great, but there was no human way I’d be able to chew skittles while mouth-breathing my way up the Powerline.

Next, I noticed my nephew Dallas and my niece Jessica (and her whole family) were all there. Since I thought Dallas lived in Hawaii, I was especially surprised to see him, and even said, “What’s up, Dallas?”

“Just chilling,” Dallas replied.

Strangely, I did not notice Friend of Fatty Frank W, even though he is roughly twice my height and assures me he was standing right by me. I only became aware Frank was there when he let me know, afterward, on Facebook. Indeed I still cannot recall him being nearby. 

Race brain is a strange thing.

I noticed (and failed to notice) all of this in the ten or fifteen seconds I was there, and then I was gone again. 

So Very Alone

As soon as I was back on the course, I noticed that hardly anything had changed. Somehow, I was still — in this sea of racers — all by myself.

Which meant that I was going to have to deal with a pretty serious headwind — I think I’ve had a headwind on the Twin Lakes to Pipeline section sixteen of the eighteen times I’ve done this race — alone.

But first, there was the quick uphill pavement I needed to contend with. Which I did by pedaling.

And second, I needed to contend with one suddenly obvious problem. Namely, that it was 11:15 in the morning, the day had warmed up, and I was still wearing my arm warmers.

Luckily, that problem was easily solved, when a spectator on the side of the road hollered my name. I smiled, veered over as I stripped off my arm warmers, and tossed them to her.

“Here, free armwarmers for you,” I said, giving this poor woman what was most likely the most stinkified gift she had ever received. 

And then, unburdened, I continued up the road. Alone.

Oh, so very alone.

I was really trying to find someone to work with, but I never was able to find a group. I just couldn’t. There was one short train of two or three people, up in the distance, for most of this section, but I just…couldn’t…quite…bridge.

Even so, I got to the Pipeline aid station 5:39 into the race — my second fastest time for this segment of the race:

Screenshot 2015 08 26 11 45 03

At this point, I was about ten minutes ahead of my previous best, back in 2011, when I finished with a time of 8:18

But that year I had been a lot lighter. And there were three biggish climbs ahead of me in this final 28 miles.

My “Beat Reba’s 2009 Win” goal was looking good. My “Sub 8” goal…maybe wasn’t looking quite as good, but still not impossible. 

But neither goal was a sure thing.


  1. Comment by Don | 08.26.2015 | 12:38 pm

    If it was the pop-up awning on the LH side of the paved climb out of Twin Lakes, she got my 3rd water bottle as well your arm warmers. The bottle that I had just downed after leaving my crew at Twin Lakes. Dude, it was furnace!

  2. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 08.26.2015 | 1:04 pm

    Race brain makes the memory fuzzy. My wife’s recollections from the Twin lakes aid station is much more detailed than mine. She claims my first words to her on my 2nd visit to Twin lakes were “I am never doing this again!”
    That can’t be right, I am already planning how to do better. I wouldn’t have made such a rash deceleration, would I?

  3. Comment by Kristina | 08.26.2015 | 1:20 pm

    I both love and hate these race reports… I know full well, by now, that they’ll come in segments. And yet still I am always hoping that THIS segment will have all the answers I want.

    It’s like reading a chapter of a book which ends in suspense, and you look at the clock and realize it’s 1 a.m. and you think “just one more chapter so I know what happens.” And then suddenly it’s 4 a.m., you have to be to work in three hours, you’ve read eight additional chapters, and they have ALL ended with suspense.

    Except that here there AREN’T any more chapters to read. Which is excellent for my work productivity, but not so spectacular for my blood pressure.

    Considering I rarely ride a bike, don’t compete in races of any type, and have never met Fatty… I sure get awfully invested in these things.

    Thanks tons for the kind words. For more stories while you wait for tomorrow’s post, here is a more-or-less complete LT100 story compilation. – FC

  4. Comment by Tom in Albany | 08.26.2015 | 1:20 pm

    Enjoying the story, Fatty! Still waiting for my call from WBR though…

  5. Comment by Corrine | 08.26.2015 | 1:59 pm

    @Kristina, I totally agree with you. I want another installment. . . NOW! I looked at the results so I know the end of the story but I still want all the details.

  6. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 08.26.2015 | 2:18 pm

    @Kristina and @Corrine, I can’t help you with 2015 Part 7, but I CAN serve up 2010 Part 1. Note that this is back when … gasp … Leadville race reports could apparently be done in two parts.


    Obviously, as I get older, I become more and more self-indulgent in my storytelling. – FC

  7. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 08.26.2015 | 3:06 pm

    Actually, Fatty, it’s simply the 4th Law of Thermodynamics: net conservation of time. As the race gets shorter, the ride report gets longer.

  8. Comment by NZ Michelle | 08.26.2015 | 3:33 pm

    Great story. I’m loving it and keep repeatedly checking for the next installment. I’m hooked! Just wondering though, is the 5:39 just above your timing table supposed to be 57:39?

  9. Comment by Kristina | 08.26.2015 | 7:12 pm

    Yay, more material for my strange addiction to reading about something I will never do!! I think I’ve actually probably read them all before (I’ve been reading here regularly since… 2008, maybe?). But it will have been long enough that re-reading will be almost like reading from the first time. And they’re all so nicely organized! Far be it from me to resist.

    Thanks, Fatty and Jeff :)

  10. Comment by Brian | 08.26.2015 | 10:01 pm

    @corrine. I cheated too and looked at the results. I just couldnt take it. I had to know and I regret nothing. I still love it. And yes I started reading some more of the old race reports again. I hate that I didn’t get into Leadville this year but had a blast last year. Fatty keep up the awesome stories and big love from Memphis.

  11. Comment by NZ Michelle | 08.26.2015 | 10:28 pm

    Ah…Disregard my comment above. A coincidence that you were 5 hours 39 into the race and had a time on that segment of 57:39. Keep up the race reports, they are great.

  12. Comment by Alan | 08.26.2015 | 10:56 pm

    Still pretty psyched to have given you a monster running start at Powlerline…

  13. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 08.27.2015 | 7:25 am

    Fatty, once you scythe your way through the backlog of race reports and other ideas in your queue, you should think about a post on navigation.

    The fact that on your 19th Leadville start, you thought that you might be lost is unfathomable to me.

    You see, where you were gifted with climbing skills, I was gifted with map skills. I can still replay the full course of every cyclocross race that I’ve done in my mind. And I could certainly ride the Leadville course, even unmarked, without error. (It probably doesn’t hurt that I’m riding these courses at sufficiently slower speed such that my mind has more time to take them in.)

    Since you’re the award-winning blogger, I’ll leave it to you to flesh out the angle for this post, but perhaps it’s a neuroscience-level examination of brain structure differences in the navigationally-gifted versus the navigationally-challenged. Alternately, maybe it’s just something you make up in fake-news style so that it’s actually entertaining.

  14. Comment by Frank W | 08.27.2015 | 7:58 am

    In your defense I was dressed all in black and was riding a black bike. Maybe it was the helmet….

    Awesomeest Photoshop ever. – FC

  15. Comment by Frank W | 08.27.2015 | 8:01 am

    …that made me blend into the background?


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