The Hammer’s LT100, Part 5: A Good Fight

09.7.2015 | 3:57 pm

Looking for Other Installments in this Story? Here are links to all the parts published in this multi-part story:

Our little group — the same one that had left Twin lakes hours ago — were climbing at about the same pace. The jerseys around me all looked very familiar. I would pass a few; a few minutes later, some would pass me back.

I found myself riding with Mark G., who lives just a few miles from me. We had met at the expo the day before, where he introduced his very good-looking and nice mountain-biking son, who just happens to be the same age as my nineteen-year-old daughter, who loves mountain biking and would probably get along well with a good-looking, nice boy who mountain bikes, if he were to happen to call or message her or something. 

Not that I’m trying to set them up or anything. Cough cough.


Dark Place

Anyway, this was Mark’s eleventh time racing Leadville;  he was hoping this would be his year to finish in under nine hours. We would make small talk as we slowly climbed up the mountain.

I felt weird — like I was moving in slow motion. I normally climb all of Powerline, after the first steep half mile. This time, in contrast, I found myself getting off the bike and walking up steep pitches. I would even have to stop completely at times, lean over my bike and take a few deep breaths.

I was physically exhausted. But more importantly…..I was mentally exhausted. I had been falling off my time schedule since ten miles into the race. I had been berating myself constantly.

Sure, a little while earlier, I had thought that with Dave’s help I was back on track.

But who was I kidding?  

I know how fast I can ride sections on this course. I had 20 miles to go and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. “I’m not gonna get sub-nine, and no one around me is either,” I told myself.

I think that is why I allowed myself to walk: I had given up. 

Home Stretch

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally crested the top and headed down Sugarloaf. My brakes were still screaming at me, riders I had passed on Powerline climb were now leaving me in their dust.

One of them was my nephew-in-law, Ben.

We had passed each other a few times on Powerline. I figured this was the last time I would see him. He still had a prayer of a sub-nine time if he really poured it on.

As I turned onto Hagerman pass road, I caught up with two bikers, riding side by side. Their pace was not terribly fast. I wanted them to get out of my way so I yelled, “If you’re going to make it under nine, your gonna have to pick it up.”

I was beginning to sound like a broken record. I was also beginning to think my children might be right when they call me a “nagger.”

The riders moved aside and I sped past them. The paved descent felt wonderful. I was at mile 88. I had been riding for 7:51. I always do well on the paved climb. I told myself, “Just because I’m not going to make it under sub-nine, I’m not giving up.”

Something New

Then something terrible happened: my bunions started hurting.

Elden had gotten me a new pair of shoes a few weeks earlier. The shoes felt fine, but the placement of the new cleat made my feet turn slightly inward. It had felt weird at first, but Elden said it was the just the new cleat and that it would wear itself in.

It had never caused me any pain before, but now it was horrible. Every pedal stroke hurt. I tried to ignore it, pedaled on, and made a note to fire Elden and hire a better shoe fitter.

Up ahead I could see the familiar “Fatty” jersey. Ben was just ahead of me. I eventually caught him. As I pulled along side of him, he gasped, “Do we have a chance?”

It was a good question.

I knew I didn’t have a prayer, but Ben is an excellent descender. It was just possible that he might be able to finish this climb, get down St Kevin’s and up The Boulevard in sixty minutes.

“Sure you do,” I replied. “You are an awesome descender. You just need to hurry.”

And he was gone.

Carter to Finish

Cold Coke: the thought of one is what had kept me going for the last eleven miles. “Carter Summit always has cold Coke,” I had told myself, over and over and over.

“Coke! I need Coke!” I yelled urgently and hoarsely as I pulled into the aid station.

I must have flustered the poor volunteers, who scattered like startled sparrows. They quickly regrouped, however, now carrying Coke and a Dixie cup, which they filled for me.

I had them refill it six times. It was that good.

I looked down at my Garmin: I had been riding for 8:15, and  was thirteen miles away from the finish.

No doubt about it: that sub-nine just wasn’t going to happen. The fastest I have ever gotten to the finish line from this point is fifty minutes. I rode out of the aid station with the true realization that it was hopeless.

I hoped Ben was speeding down St Kevin’s on his way to the finish. (What I hadn’t realized was Ben was at the aid station with me, and was current in a state of shock and horror at discovering that the madwoman who had been bellowing for Coke was…me). Still, Ben did make a valiant effort and finished in a painful 9 hours and 2 minutes. So close!

I hate to say it, but I walked some of the steep pitches. “Why kill myself?” I thought. When I finally hit the top of the final climb of St Kevin’s and started to descend, my spirits lifted. I was on the home stretch. The Boulevard doesn’t scare or intimidate me anymore. The top of St Kevin’s is my finish line.

Not Defeated

Sub-nine was out of the question, but finishing strong with a smile on my face was not. Nine hours and 15 minutes would still be impressive. That would be faster than any of my other times, prior to riding with Reba.

Why was I letting a time determine how I was going to feel about myself and my race? Just over nine hours was still amazing — something that I never dreamed I could achieve even two years ago. Why was I letting myself be disappointed now over something I’d hae been elated over a couple years ago?

As I cruised up the Boulevard, I looked at my Garmin: nine hours came and went. My thoughts turned to Elden and his “million” attempts to break the sub-nine barrier. I felt his pain. How agonizing to see nine hours so close to the finish line. How agonizing for many riders who would see twelve hours so close to the finish today. I did take comfort in knowing that I already had a big buckle of my own hanging on the wall at home. I think that definitely takes the sting out of it.

As I approached the finish line, I saw my sweetheart on the sideline waiting for me. He ran alongside me with a giant smile on his face.


He was proud of me. I was proud of me.

WBR LT100MTB2015 10

I had ridden as hard as I could. I felt good. I had fought a good fight.

My time wasn’t going to define my happiness.

PS from Fatty: The Hammer has a lot to be proud of. Click here for the Strava of her ride, and here’s a screencap of her official splits:  

Screenshot 2015 09 08 18 09 12


  1. Comment by Brian in VA | 09.9.2015 | 7:09 am

    Well done, Lisa! That’s a great ride no matter how you slice it! Sometimes the fight, instead of the result, is the teacher.

  2. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.9.2015 | 7:34 am

    Great ride, Lisa!!! And thanks for the write-up.

  3. Comment by Kristina | 09.9.2015 | 9:03 am

    I absolutely love that you ‘fired’ Elden. Hilarious!

  4. Comment by leroy | 09.9.2015 | 9:17 am

    Somewhere in Utah, a nineteen year old daughter is rolling her eyes and going “Ma-ahm! I can’t believe you wrote that!”

    And in Utah, a parent is explaining “Of course I embarrassed you, I’m a parent, it’s what we do.”

    Congratulations on a great ride!

  5. Comment by Joe | 09.9.2015 | 9:20 am

    Don’t leave us hanging… what was wrong with the brakes?

  6. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 09.9.2015 | 9:51 am

    Read this and just feel sad for Elden, he made an error and you make him out to be incompetent…..

    You let a man make a shoe choice for you. Sometimes you reap what you sow….

  7. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 09.9.2015 | 9:56 am


    Those of us who are tentative descenders, or elderly and outsized like myself, will ‘glaze’ the pads from overheating/overuse. Subsequent rides will result in a braking sound guaranteed to let everyone know where you are. Sandpaper before the ride

  8. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 09.9.2015 | 12:18 pm

    Great ride, Lisa. Nothing to regret at all. You left everything on the course and finished strong. Great write up as well; thanks for sharing your impressions of the day and your experiences with us. Most of us will never ride Leadville, so it is great to have you and Fatty’s accounts of what it is like.


  9. Comment by Eric | 09.9.2015 | 12:25 pm

    Lisa, thanks for a great writeup. And you had an awesome race – so impressive! Getting your second-best time ever (by a significant margin) is a great achievement!

    And I definitely think that the mental burden is exhausting when you aren’t hitting your goals, even if self-imposed. After I got a flat early in the race, I was trying to make up time the rest of the day and it definitely wore me out more quickly, and left me less energy for riding – by the last paved climb, I was so worn out that I was crawling even though paved climbs are normally something I look forward to. If I keep up with racing, I will need to improve my mental game and letting things go.

  10. Comment by Joe | 09.9.2015 | 12:29 pm

    davidh – Sweet, thanks for the explanation! I knew she finished in awesome time before reading the report but every mention of the loud brakes kept building suspense in expectation of something bad happening. Glad it’s mostly just annoyance factor.

  11. Comment by Flying Ute | 09.9.2015 | 1:42 pm


    You are fast!!!! Great job racing! Loved to hear the report. I am going to make sure Mark reads this. Ha ha

    Also, I’m sure you would have hammered a sub 9 if you hadn’t ridden Columbine and Powerline the week of the race….Let alone the 5 times or whatever nutty combined number you did.

    Awesome Job!

    While walking the dog last night, Lisa and I were talking about how much riding we did in the 6 days we were in Leadville prior to the race. So I came home and did the math on Strava.

    I was a little shocked.

    The climbing total came out — between 8/8 and 8/13 (the race was 8/15) — to 13,648′. And 110 miles.

    We then took one day off riding before doing the race.

    That was just stupid, to be honest. – FC

  12. Comment by rb | 09.9.2015 | 3:03 pm

    Great job Lisa! I had the privilege of riding near you until the bottom of the Turquoise Lake road descent. For all the beating yourself up, you were the picture of effortless power. (perception/reality/truth…)

    Fantastic to find the smile and cross the line with it. If you’re not smiling, then why the heck are you doing this anyway?!

    Finally, Fatty is clearly fired from shoe shopping and tapper planning.

  13. Comment by Jesse | 09.9.2015 | 4:17 pm

    Just wanted to comment…you weren’t joking about hot. I wasn’t in Leadville (I was suffering on another mountain instead) but I was dreaming about Coke for about 4 hours myself. The weather was absolutely ridiculous that day.

  14. Comment by VA Biker | 09.9.2015 | 7:47 pm

    Another great write-up! Those of us who don’t race do love reading these. Always.

    Unless I’m reading the race report times wrong, you did capture the negative split you were after…

  15. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 09.9.2015 | 11:37 pm

    @VA Biker
    Yes she did! 10 minutes faster back than out. She IS The Hammer.

  16. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 09.10.2015 | 7:37 am

    I took part in riding Fatty and Reba’s Leadville Experience:
    - Mon Aug 10 – Columbine: 15.4 mi, 3,300′
    - Tue Aug 11 – Powerline: 19.1 mi, 2,220′
    - Wed Aug 12 – Pipeline-Twin Lakes: 14.2 mi, 1,010′
    - Thu Aug 13 – Start/finish: 10.0 mi, 590′

    I added the Mineral Belt Trail Thu afternoon for another 13.0 mi and 790′. My total for the week was 71.7 mi and 7,910′. I know that Fatty and Lisa did Columbine a day or two before the Leadville Experience, and apparently some other riding as well.

    My riding that week was decidedly NOT stupid … at least, not for me. Wed and Thu were pretty moderate, so it wasn’t like I was hurting my legs then. And Mon (Columbine) and Tue (Powerline) were WAY more valuable from a course intel/don’t-freak-out-on-the-descents perspective than any damage they might have done to my legs.

    GREAT Leadville Experience week, Fatty and Reba!

    The “stupid” part was that Lisa and I rode Columbine and Start – St Kevins – Carter and back in the 2 days BEFORE the LT100 group rides. And I tended to be the guy leading the group rides out so was going harder than I should have been (so as to not hold anyone up). – FC

  17. Comment by owen | 09.10.2015 | 8:00 am

    riding bikes in CO is never stupid.

    That is an excellent point. – FC

  18. Comment by MarkM | 09.11.2015 | 4:29 am

    Great write up and great ride. Fatty’s advice of a secondary goal really helped me. This was my first Leadville and my first ride ever at elevation. My goal was sub 12, which I knew was gone at the columbine turn around. My second goal was to be an official finisher, which I got at 12:51. Knowing that was still out there till the end really kept me going.

  19. Comment by Chilly Willy | 09.11.2015 | 9:45 am

    “My time wasn’t going to define my happiness.”

    Awesome! That is inspirational.


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