2015 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 7: To the Finish Line and Beyond

08.27.2015 | 10:01 am

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

I’m down to the final installment of my race report. But before I begin, I want to show you a picture from earlier in the week:

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This is Dave and Me. Dave’s been on Team Fatty since waaaay back. That 2009 jersey is legit.

And I’d like to call your attention to Dave’s hair, and the length thereof. You see, a couple years ago, Dave told his wife he wanted to race the Leadville 100, and would need to invest the time and money into getting ready for it.

Negotiations began, with his wife starting from a position of “for every dollar you spend on cycling, I get to spend a dollar on a giant party.”

Eventually they both realized that this would be a very pricey party, and so she changed the deal: Dave would not have to honor the dollar-for-dollar arrangement if he did not cut his hair until after he completed the Leadville 100.

As you can see, a couple years have passed, Dave’s hair has reached Samson-like proportions, and as shown in this picture a couple days before the race, he is ready to go.

I will have more on his story in a bit.

Can You See Me Now?

Scott and his friend Kara are pretty amazing. I don’t even know how many years they’ve come out to Leadville to crew for us, for one thing.

For another, it’s bound to seem a little odd to them that they make this very long drive out to help us during the race, and then — due to The Hammer’s and my new focus on fast transitions — seeing us for no more than one minute during that race.

And last year, things had gone kinda badly for The Hammer in the Pipeline Aid Station: she had ridden right by it, then had to double back.

This year, Scott had gone to some length to ensure this did not happen again:

Big thanks to Alan Schenkel for taking this picture.

Scott had printed a giant — seriously, it’s way bigger than it appears in the above picture — banner, reading “The Hammer’s + Fatty’s Aid Station.” 

And sure enough, I did in fact see (and not ride by) this banner. Scott and Kara swapped me out with the most food and liquid I’d take on the whole day: two full bottles (one CR333, one water), six GU Roctane Gels, and another four GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules.

In seconds — i.e., less than a minute — I was off. 


It’s strange to consider which parts of the LT100 I really look forward to, and which I really dread. 

I truly, in all honesty, look forward to what I consider the real crucible of the race: the Powerline climb. I love how it’s so intense. How it demands you give it absolutely positively everything you’ve got. How, once you’ve summited it, you know that the rest is going to be (relatively) easy.

On the other hand, I dread the flat dirt road and pavement section between the Pipeline and the beginning of the Powerline climb. Because you’re guaranteed a headwind. And you’re guaranteed to feel slow. Beaten, even.

But this year, I was lucky on this flat section. I caught up with one rider, then another, and the three of us formed a train, taking turns and giving each other a moment’s rest from the wind.

Then I turned off the pavement (forgetting to check my GPS to see what my mileage is, thereby ensuring I would not know how much of the four-mile Powerline climb I had done) and began the climb.

A quick flat section leads to a moderate climb, leading to a quick hairpin…and then I was at the Powerline march:

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Earlier in the week, in one of Reba’s and my group rides, I had ridden this section without ever putting a foot down. In fact, it wasn’t even difficult.

Today, that was definitely not the case. Riding wasn’t even a consideration.

Halfway up, some of the good folks from Oakley (one of the event sponsors), were handing out little cans of Coke. The day had become hot and the prospect of a Coke was glorious.

I saw one of the Oakley guys dig into an ice chest and run up toward me with a cold Coke. “Thank you…” I began.

And then he ran by me, handing the Coke to someone else.

“…Or not,” I concluded, petulantly.

But then, he dashed back to his ice chest and dug out another Coke. “Keep going!” he yelled. “I’ll bring it to you!”

And he did.

I was so happy. And I wanted that Coke so bad. When the Oakley guy handed it to me, I — for the only time during this race — stopped dead, planted my feet, and slugged the Coke down. 

I knew time was elapsing; I knew my average was dropping. I knew that I was, perhaps, eliminating my chance at beating my sub-8 goal and my “Beat 2009 Reba” goal.

In that moment, I did not care. This Coke was my whole world.

I finished, tossed the can, and resumed my march.

Then, about fifty feet later, I saw CarboRocket’s Brad, who — as he had promised — was handing out Coke and Skittles.

I took a Coke from him, too.

And if there had been someone another fifty feet up the trail also giving out Coke, I would have taken a Coke from them, too.

Summit of Slowness

Once I was past this hard 0.6 miles, I got back on my bike and promised myself I would not march again for the rest of the race.

It was a good promise to make to myself, and one I kept.

I began passing people, feeling like I was really moving fast.

I was, as it turns out, wrong. Without realizing it, I was putting in the slowest climb of the Powerline I had done in years. Check out how I did, compared to previous years: 

Screenshot 2015 08 27 07 00 10

It’s very interesting to me to note that two of the three of my fastest times were on singlespeeds, including my fastest time, back in 2013.

Why was I so much slower? One word: weight. While my power was great, the Powerline cares a lot more about your power-to-weight ratio. I was packing too much pudge up the mountain.

By the time I got to the summit of the Powerline climb, I was 6:49 into my race. To get a sub-8, I’d have to do the rest of the race — including a rocky descent, a three-mile paved climb, another descent, and a 2.2-mile climb to the finish line — in 1:10.

At that moment, I knew: my dream of finishing a sub-8-hour Leadville was going to have to be postponed to next year. If I want a sub-8, I’ve got to be this strong and at my lightest. It isn’t good enough to be one or the other.

“But,” I told myself, “If I give it everything I’ve got, I still have a shot at finishing under 8:14.”

I determined there and then that I would not let that goal get away from me.

To the Finish Line…

I’m proud of the entirety of my race, but I’m especially proud of how I raced the final portion of it: up three miles of pavement to the Carter Aid Station, down St. Kevins, to and up the Boulevard, I gave it everything I’ve got.

I did not leave anything on the course. Nothing at all.

While I wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever been up the pavement to the Carter Aid station (the power-to-weight thing again), from then on out, Strava shows nothing but personal bests. 

Screenshot 2015 08 27 10 07 51

I was going as hard as I could, and — if Strava is to believed — I had never gone this hard before.

Soon after I had begun the Boulevard climb — meaning I had about three miles left to go, 2.5 of which would be climbing, I heard my GPS chime.

Eight hours.

I had thirteen minutes to do 2.5 miles of climbing.

Could I do it? I didn’t know, wasn’t in any state to do the math, didn’t remember how long it usually took me to get from this point to the finish line.

I didn’t know if I could do it, but I knew I could give it my absolute best.

So I turned myself inside out. Just gutted myself. And I turned in the fastest Boulevard time I have ever turned in. Including the times when I just tore up the thing for fun, not on race day.

In fact, I was a half minute faster up the Boulevard than my second best time.

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Those of you who have done the race multiple times before know that turning in a PR like this, this far into the race, is not a small thing.

Here’s me crossing the finish line:

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I kind of love this picture. I look exactly how I remember feeling. 

8:12. At age forty-nine, I had just gone the fastest I have ever done this race (beating my personal best by six minutes), in nineteen starts and — now I can say it — eighteen finishes.

I owed Reba Rusch a huge thank you. Without realizing it, she — or her 2009 time — had pushed me to go harder and faster than I ever have before, right up to the finish line.

…And Beyond

There’s rarely anyone at the finish line waiting for me. I expect that. They’re still out on the course, cheering on others. That’s fine. 

But I am generally kind of messed up after a race, and it takes a force of will to take care of myself.

Which brings us back to Dave, with the Samson hair.

He hadn’t had a great day racing; he’d missed one of the cutoffs. So he and his wife met me at the finish line, and they took it upon themselves to take care of me. One of them went and got bottles of water (I kept sending them back for more, eventually slowing down after I drank four), while the other watched over me, while I watched down the road, hoping The Hammer would come in soon.

I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated help so much. I really really hope Dave hasn’t cut his hair yet, and that he grows it for another year and then comes and tears this course up. 

Friends and Family

Once I felt well enough to walk, Dave, his wife and I went down to join the spectators, watching for racers to come in, probably fifty yards from the finish line.

When I saw The Hammer (I’m not going to reveal her time, because I’ll be publishing her writeup soon), I broke into a run, hoping she’d catch me at the finish line.  

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As you can see, she caught and passed me before the finish line.

That’s The Hammer for you.

My friends — the folks staying at the house I had rented for the week — all had good races, too. Here’s DJ on The Powerline, from earlier in the week:

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DJ overcame a painful rib injury to finish in 11:26. 

Cory, shown here (Cory’s the one on the right) conversing with a Leadville local who wandered into the house we were renting, looking for whiskey, had a strong day on the course, proving you can do the race on nothing but cream cheese, pork rinds, and water.

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Bazu 6779177

11:32 for Cory. Nice!

My brother-in-law Rocky learned, once and for all, that this race is not for him, getting pulled at Pipeline on the way back.

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I admire the hell out of Rocky for trying so many times. The fact is, I don’t even dare try doing the kind of riding (very very very technical stuff) he’s good at.

The Hammer and I have been riding with my niece Lindsey and her husband Ben a lot this Summer. They’re a good match for us, and make us feel young.


Ben got a 9:03 (SO CLOSE to sub-9 on his first try!), Lindsey got a 9:51 (a big improvement over last year), and Ben’s dad Cory got an 11:10. Strong work by the whole family!

And then there were the Friends of Fatty, as I like to call them: 

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David Houston was the story of the day as far as I was concerned: he finished with a 12:51, meaning he earns the “never say die” award. I truly hope he writes his story up.

Jeff Dieffenbach, my Boggs teammate, got an extremely solid 11:30, riding a bike he had never been on before race week (my Scalpel 2).

Dave Thompson finished with a 9:28 — not as fast as he had hoped for, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, because it means there’s no way he’s not coming back next year. 

And I’ll be back, too. For number nineteen, at age 50. 

And this time, I’m gonna get that sub-8. 

Watch and see.

PS: Click here for my Strava of the race. A screencap of my official time and splits follows:

Screenshot 2015 09 08 18 05 04 


  1. Comment by Tom in Albany | 08.27.2015 | 11:09 am

    Congrats on beating the alternate goal, Fatty! Great write-up!

  2. Comment by Kristina | 08.27.2015 | 11:20 am

    Awesome write-up! Love that Reba’s first finish time pushed you to go so hard.

    OK, Jeff…. since I now know you did the race, too — where’s YOUR write-up? I need my next fix!

  3. Comment by berry | 08.27.2015 | 11:23 am

    Writeups like these are why I check this blog every day. Thanks, Fatty. You make people want to be you.

  4. Comment by Brian in VA | 08.27.2015 | 11:25 am

    Awesome ride, Fatty! Great ride report, too. I can’t read these without a stupid grin on my face. Thanks for putting it there!

  5. Comment by rb | 08.27.2015 | 11:26 am

    Congrats Fatty! Another great finish and another great writeup. Your impact on people’s lives (purposeful and passive) must be acknowledged. It is on deservedly proud display with all your friends here. Thank you for making a difference in the world.

    Race related comment: In addition the lack of traffic at the start, qualifying and being fast allows you to access “neutral” support. All those lovable souls handing out water and cokes…but really, they can only supply 200-300 riders. Even with that insane backpack Brad Keyes was carrying, he was out of juice by the time I got there. And no Oakley cokes for me either. At that point, I was likely #400-450. (I got slower in the next few miles). I did get a RadBrad smile…and that will make anyone’s day!

  6. Comment by MikeL | 08.27.2015 | 11:37 am

    Congratulations to all.

  7. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.27.2015 | 12:01 pm

    I want a buckle.

    I will write up a Lead(butt)ville Story, if you’ll have it.

    Just as soon as I finish fixing the sink drain.

    There, fixed that for you, and it isn’t even poster-sized. – FC

  8. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 08.27.2015 | 12:02 pm


  9. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 08.27.2015 | 12:33 pm

    Great write up Fatty!
    Loved my entire Leadville experience. The webinars that you and Reba did were a great help, as was the pre-ride of Columbine.
    Your happiness for the other riders you knew at the race results embodies the spirit I found from everyone around 6th and Harrison. No one really cared about anyone’s finish time, if they finished they deserved a smile and congratulations.
    Finish times were a matter of personal goals, the group goal was to cross that line.

    That’s a perfect way of putting it. – FC

  10. Comment by Louis | 08.27.2015 | 12:46 pm

    Awesome race report Fatty!

    Is there a chance you could do a more detailed write-up on Cory’s diet?

    Thanks in advance, and congrats on your 8:12! Gives me hope I can get my Arthritic knees in good enough shape to ride the Hotter Than Hell 100 (local ride here in Texas)

    I’ll ask Cory if he wants to write about how his diet works. If he does, I’ll be happy to guest-post it. – FC

  11. Comment by Eric | 08.27.2015 | 12:56 pm

    Great write-up Fatty, and way to push through the finish line!

    Thanks also for sticking around and cheering people o!. My friend got a photo of you cheering me on at the finish line (at 11:23 race time, over 3 hours after you finished) and I didn’t acknowledge you at all because I was so focused in on the finish line (plus I was completely exhausted). But I retroactively appreciate the cheering!

    @davidh, you definitely want a buckle. I was wearing mine again yesterday, and it makes me happy every time I put it on.

    The finish line is the highest-energy place in the world. I wouldn’t miss it. Congrats on your successful race! – FC

  12. Comment by walter | 08.27.2015 | 1:04 pm

    Way to go Fatty! Love that you get faster as you get older. Aging like cheese. Gives me hope.

    Great write up though this part cracked me up: “Cory, shown here (Cory’s the one on the right) conversing with a Leadville local who wandered into the house we were renting, looking for whiskey”. Now that is something that does not happen every day.

    The crazy thing is, I didn’t even know that cheese gets faster as it ages. – FC

  13. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.27.2015 | 1:38 pm

    Thanks Fatty.

    Eric, as old as I am my buckle chances are few. Someone pointed out to me there was an 80-120 age group for Leadville, so maybe there’s still hope.

    @Louis if Cory does write up his diet plan, all I can say is don’t eat before you read it.

    @Walter our ‘local’ in search of whiskey entertained Cory for some time. A guest post on that alone would be worth it. Apparently he confessed to some 30 ‘wives’ over the years, (though he confessed he failed to marry many of them).

    The house Fatty commanded for Leadville was fantastic, and for sale. I wonder if we could pull off a fundraiser for a ‘clubhouse’?

  14. Comment by leroy | 08.27.2015 | 1:40 pm

    Wait a minute.

    You get faster as you get older?

    Oh I am definitely pointing this out the next time my dog refers to me as old enough to remember when the Dead Sea was only sick.

  15. Comment by PNP | 08.27.2015 | 1:48 pm

    @davidh: now that Fatty’s mentioned it–Italy? I can’t possibly be the only one who’s wondered what it was like.

    Great write up, as always. Congrats to everyone who finished and to everyone who started. I can’t imagine being in good enough shape to even aspire to an event like this one, but I do love reading about it.

  16. Comment by MtlDan | 08.27.2015 | 1:55 pm

    Thanks for another great write-up.

    My fastest, most fit, and lightest ever year on the bike was a few years ago at age 50. You can still break 8 hours!

    I felt like I had two weak spots: my descending, and my weight. If I make even modest progress on both those fronts, I think I have a shot. I’m certainly going to try. Thanks for the encouragement. – FC

  17. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 08.27.2015 | 2:30 pm

    Mark me down for 2017. I’m so there for the 20th…..

    See you there! – FC

  18. Comment by Rocky | 08.27.2015 | 2:38 pm

    Damned cramps.

  19. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 08.27.2015 | 2:39 pm

    Fatty, the Dave-greeted-you-at-the-finish story is FANTASTIC. That’s Team Fatty Spirit in a nutshell I couldn’t write up in 10x or 100x the words.

    Kristina, since you asked for it …

    First, some context. Without Fatty, I wouldn’t have gotten to the starting line. Lots of people (perhaps most notably, Doug B) helped me immeasurably, and I was all-in on prep from soaking up all the info I could to planning drop bags to training hard to practicing my nutrition plan on a 110 mile MTB ride in the White Mountains.

    But it was from Fatty that I learned about Leadville.
    And it was from Fatty that Leadville got in my head.
    And it was from Fatty that I borrowed my bike!

    (As nutty as the idea of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB is, the idea of the Leadville Trail 100 RUN is Off. The. Charts. Insane. And without that Scalpel, I would have been “running!”)

    Now, read on to learn how my day went.

    Great writeup, Jeff. And riding / hanging out with you this year has been great. – FC

  20. Comment by Skye | 08.27.2015 | 4:19 pm


  21. Comment by Steve | 08.27.2015 | 5:02 pm


    (Nothing more to add)

    Thank you! (Nothing more to add) – FC

  22. Comment by Dave T | 08.27.2015 | 5:09 pm

    Even if I did make sub 9 this year I would be coming back. It could be the extreme beauty of the place and the incredible people that you meet. Or perhaps it’s the lack of real oxygen that generates a constant state of euphoria. I don’t really know but there is something special about this race.

    Excellent. Bring Amy next time. We missed having her there this year. – FC

  23. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.27.2015 | 5:32 pm

    Next year let’s work together. Team 11.59! Applications now being taken.

    I can think of several people to form a ‘core team’.

  24. Comment by Luis A | 08.27.2015 | 9:42 pm

    Great ride up as always. Reading your blog was what got me into doing the race. Next year I’m going back to get the under 9 buckle.

    That’s awesome. Good luck, and keep me posted on how your training is going. – FC

  25. Comment by AKChick | 08.27.2015 | 9:50 pm

    LOVE! It almost makes me want to train and ride Leadville. Almost. I’m crazy, but not that crazy! :) Thanks for the awesome write-up! And photos! Love the Hammer’s smile!

    You’ll be happy to know that next week I’ll be posting her story. – FC

  26. Comment by Corrine | 08.27.2015 | 10:37 pm

    @davidh- I would love to be part of the 11:59 club. I finished at around 12:40 2 years ago after getting pulled the year before for time at Twin Lakes on the way back. I was very happy to have finished but there is a part of me that would like to get a belt buckle. . .

  27. Comment by Alan | 08.27.2015 | 11:00 pm

    See, these always make me think I should do this race. But then, I’m not sure I can do it fast enough to not get snagged by the time cut. I’m pretty sure I could make it most of the way but I’m on the border. And $350, training time, hotel, etc is a big risk….

  28. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 08.28.2015 | 4:15 am

    Great result (and pretty prompt write up by your standards). Was Reba delighted that you had beaten her time?
    It looks as though you could make up time on the downhill if you only knew how to do it. I’m afraid I’m the world’s worst descender so I can’t offer any advice but maybe worth investing in?

    I’m working on a plan. And it may be something Friends of Fatty might be interested in joining. – FC

  29. Comment by Don | 08.28.2015 | 8:20 am

    2013- The STRAVA van was handing out baby cokes before the powerline climb. I remember becoming one with the cold little aluminum vessel. Downing its contents, and shaking every last drop out. BEST. COKE. EVER.

    Fatty, superlative Leadville recap. HUGE congrats to you and all of the friends of Fatty. It was nice seeing so many FC kits in the thick of it. Find that gravel frame yet?? :-)

  30. Comment by owen | 08.28.2015 | 9:24 am

    sounds like a full suspension single speed bike is your ticket to being fast uphill and downhill..ha

  31. Comment by Kristina | 08.28.2015 | 7:37 pm

    pre-script… sorry for the hijack, Fatty!

    Jeff, I cannot post comments on your write-up, but I read all of it (over the course of two days, proving I am capable of at least a TINY bit of restraint) and greatly enjoyed! Even teared up slightly at the end.

    Incredible job straight from fighting to get into the race in the first place, all the way through to finishing it. Congrats on completing the race across the sky! Almost makes me wish I could do it. ;)

    post-script… Is it permissible to come to Leadville just to hang out? I can volunteer with the actual course folks, crew for somebody, just ring cowbells and cheer, and/or hand out Otter Pops! May consider it, as I’d love to see first-hand!

  32. Comment by Nick - Sydney | 08.30.2015 | 7:45 pm

    Fatty – great job. Hope to ride this again with you some day.

    @Rocky – sorry it didn’t work out – i was hoping you would get there finally.

  33. Comment by Enemy of Average | 08.31.2015 | 12:34 am

    Nice (and dirty!) work!!

  34. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 09.1.2015 | 4:50 am

    Your time would have been good enough for 4th in the 50-59 age group (but you knew that). If you break 8 hours next year you could be on the podium.

  35. Comment by Jesse King | 09.7.2015 | 6:56 am

    Thank you. Congrats on your PR, this is awesome!! I spent much of the week leading up to my first Leadville 100 with you and Reba at the rides, clinics, and reading. It was amazing. Your words stuck with me throughout the race and I know helped me finish sub 12, just as I had hoped. Thank you for everything you did and allowing me to be part of your journey. This was amazing and I’ll see you next year!

  36. Comment by John H. | 09.18.2015 | 8:10 am

    The strava flyby of your race is pretty cool. Selecting all only gets the first 50 or so, but still cool



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