A “I Have Women’s Gear Available and Didn’t Even Know It” Note from Fatty: In my most recent post, I pointed out that I have men’s Fat Cyclist gear — bibs and jerseys — available to be shipped immediately. And I still do. Let’s take another look at them:
Oh my. Those are nice.
However, I didn’t even mention the women’s gear. This was because I was mistaken, thinking I didn’t have much (if any) available. As it turns out, that was wrong. I have pretty much all sizes of women’s jerseys and shorts available and in stock, now, in all sizes.
The Hammer, The Monster, and Lindsey all wore this kit at the Crusher in the Tushar and agreed they’re comfortable enough for a full day in the saddle:
And The Monster wore hers at the Leadville 100, where she showed that badass is beautiful:
I don’t consider it a spoiler to show The Monster at the finish line, because I don’t think there was ever any doubt that she would finish. (That helmet angle though.)
So, yes. My point is the men’s and women’s FatCyclist gear this year is great. Not just great looking, but full-on great. So please: buy it.
Race Report, Interrupted (by a Different Race Report)
I should be writing part 5 of my LT100 race report right now. I know I should. But right now I really want to talk about the race I did last weekend — the Draper Fall Classic.
Why? Two reasons. First, because it’s fresh in my mind. Second, because I just can’t get all the “what if’s” out of my head.
Oh, and one more reason: because of the “why” I was out there racing at all.
I Don’t Feel Like Racing, So Let’s Solve That Problem by Entering a Race
After I raced the Leadville 100, I was tired. OK, that may well be the single most obvious thing I could ever have written, but the duration and depth of my tiredness caught me off guard.
Specifically, when I got back on my bike for the first time after the race — probably a few days after Leadville was over — I just had no oomph whatsoever. I went out with the intention of riding to the top of the Alpine Loop, but changed the ride to a slow spin to the Tibble Fork parking lot.
Riding didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t fun. And I had no power for climbing at all.
This oddness continued the next day. And the next. And so on and so forth. Usually I recover quickly. This time, I didn’t seem to be recovering at all.
And even weirder (for me), I just didn’t feel like riding. So of course I did the smart thing and listened to my body, giving myself a full week off the bike.
Ha ha, just kidding! I actually signed up for a really hairy, big-mile (45 miles), big-altitude (6300 feet of climbing), technical (almost all singletrack) mountain bike race: The Draper Fall Classic.
And I got The Hammer to sign up for it too. And I almost got The Monster to sign up, but she changed her mind at the last minute and didn’t register (even though, now that I think about it, she was the one who brought up doing this race in the first place).
It’s a local race: about a fifteen-minute drive from home, in Corner Canyon. It’s a very small race: there were only three people signed up in my category (expert men 50+), and only three women signed up in The Hammer’s category (expert women, all ages).
And since Doug Bohl was in the area, getting paid to release poisonous chemical gasses into the air (yes really), I convinced him to sign up too. We even loaned him The Hammer’s geared Stumpy S-Works.
I Think I’ll Give Something Away The Ending Right Here
I really believe that most of my race reports are about what happens during the race, not about how they end. So let me show you the podium for the men’s 50+ group:
That’s me. Third place of three 50+ racers. But the fact is, I actually finished second. And that was a bad thing.
And I very nearly finished first. And that would have been a worse thing.
And to be completely honest, I probably shouldn’t have been on that podium at all.
And that brings us to the story I actually want to tell.
Which seems like a good place to…no, just kidding. I’m going to tell that story right now.
I’m not going to say a terrible lot about most of the race, except that it’s really hard, no matter what. I will also say that it’s especially hard if you’re lacking motivation and power thanks to a very demanding race a couple weeks ago.
I will furthermore say Corner Canyon is very dusty and loose right now, due to the fact that it hasn’t rained in my part of Utah since 1972. Give or take a month.
And that’s the excuse I would like to give for why I crashed three times during the race.
After quickly scrambling up following the first crash (I slid out on a loose downhill turn), the guy you see on the top step of that podium passed me, remaining ahead of me for almost all of the rest of the race (more on that later).
The second crash was of no great importance. Honestly, I don’t even really remember it.
The third crash was face-first right into a very thorny bush, scratching my face up pretty thoroughly (but not at all seriously). Also, that crash somehow deposited a very long, painful thorn through my right shoe into my foot. Painful enough, in fact, that I was barely able to ride for another half mile or so before I just had to sit down (I chose to sit near a picturesque bridge across a cheerful water crossing), take off my right shoe and sock, and dig at the thorn with my fingernails ’til I successfully pulled it out.
KC Holley, the leading elite women’s racer, passed me as I put my sock back on. “What are you doing, Elden?” she asked.
I considered how I must look: in the middle of the race, shoe and sock off, by a little stream. I bet she thinks I’m going wading, I thought. And that’s not such a bad idea, really.
But I didn’t go wading. I finished putting my sock and shoe on and battled my way up Clark’s.
That, at least, led me to Rush, one of the very most fun parts of Corner Canyon. Here’s a video of the entirety of that descent (it’s a downhill-only trail), filmed a few years ago, but still mostly accurate:
If you happen to watch this video, pay special attention to the trail between 2:12 and 2:15.
I sure wish I would have.
It’s Only Quitting If You Actually Quit
The Draper Fall Classic is a two-lap race, which means you’re only done when you’ve ridden two laps.
Except I was pretty sure I was done after just the first lap. I was just beaten. Exhausted. Weak.
So I developed a plan.
I would stop at the ice chest The Hammer and I had set at the beginning of the course to swap our bottles from, where I would wait for her, and then we would ride the rest of the race together. I’d be her domestique again. It would give me purpose.
So I stopped, drank a Coke, and waited for The Hammer.
And I thought.
And while I thought, it occurred to me that The Hammer hadn’t asked for a domestique. Nor would a domestique help in a race like this. There’s literally no place to draft.
Also, I had signed up to race, to get my mojo back. Changing my purpose mid-game wasn’t a strategic move, it was a cop-out.
I put down the Coke, got back on my bike, and began the second lap.
I had wasted time, but had recovered some self-respect.
The Trees of the Damned
The second lap was harder than the first lap, for some reason, making the Consuming of the Final Gel (when I am pretty darned certain that I am less than half an hour away from finishing the race) an especially glorious occasion.
I finished climbing Clark’s and began, once again, descending Rush. Which meant that all the meaningful climbing was behind me. Yay!
And then, a couple of minutes into the descent, I noticed something. Something I had not noticed during the first lap.
An arrow. Pointing right. diverting me off “Rush,” and onto “The Trees.”
Damn it. Damn it.
It’s not that I don’t like “The Trees.” It’s a fine trail, although I rarely (ok, never) take it. I’m generally just too into the Rush descent, loving the flow of it, to even consider this longer trail diversion.
I turned right and finished rode onto “The Trees,” no wind in my sails. I had missed this turn the first time down, not even looking for places where I might turn. Riding by muscle memory.
I considered: back when I had stopped and drank a Coke at the end of the first lap, I should have taken my time and finished it. My race was already over; I just didn’t know it. That traditiional Rush descent had shortened my lap by three minutes or more.
I finished the race casually and without pushing myself:
I rode at the pace of the DQ’d.
Close But Not Close
As I got near the finish line, I saw something peculiar: the fast 50+ guy. The guy who I hadn’t seen since he dropped me halfway through the first lap.
I had closed in on him, somehow. Interesting.
He finished half a minute or so in front of me. He was still breathing hard, resting on his top tube as I crossed the line.
“You almost got me,” he said.
“I’m glad I was able to motivate you,” I replied. “But I’m afraid it wasn’t as close of a race as it looked.”
Then I walked over to the race director and explained why I had to be DQ’d from the race. He understood and said he appreciated me coming forward.
Then Doug walked over. Changed and clean. “Did you switch to the one-lap race?” I asked. It wouldn’t have been a bad call for a guy who lives at sea level.
“No, I missed a turn early,” Doug said. “Never found my way back onto the course.”
I took a moment to consider the strangeness of our circumstances: He had DQ’d because he didn’t know Corner Canyon at all, I had DQ’d because I know Corner Canyon too well.
Coulda Shoulda Woulda
I sat down in the shade, drinking can after can of Coke, watching for The Hammer to finish. As I relaxed, a question occurred to me:
What if I wouldn’t have seen The Trees turn in the second lap either?
The answer was easy.
The three (or so) minutes taking Rush down would have shortcutted me would have definitely put me in front of the fast guy who in the end finished a half minute or so in front of me.
Without him (or me) understanding how, I would have magically teleported ahead of him, and would have been sitting there at the finish line when he finished.
I wouldn’t have known what the problem was, and neither would he. But knowing myself, I would guess I wouldn’t have just handed over my winning spot.
Suddenly, I was so glad I had seen that turn the second time. It made things easy and clear.
(Also, I’m glad I had to stop and take off my shoe and sock and fix my foot, because that also ensured I didn’t wind up with an illegitamite win.)
The Hammer rolled in a few minutes later. First place in women’s expert division, riding her singlespeed. She had missed a turn too (that’s three of three of us), right at the beginning. She didn’t need to DQ herself, though because all three of them had missed the turn and worked themselves back onto the course together.
So The Hammer, at least, was where she belonged:
Third place hadn’t crossed the line by podium time.
When it came time to call podiums, they had me come up anyway, in third place, even though I had DQ’d myself. Hey, nobody else was going to stand there.
And I was perfectly happy to. Because, hey, it’s not often you get to stand on a podium at all, much less because you very nearly stood on all three of the steps.
And besides, I was very stoked to show off my new podium socks.
A Note About 2016 FatCyclist.com Gear: The 2016 Fat Cyclist gear is — without question — the best-looking, best-made, most-comfortable jersey and bibshorts I have ever had. I have dozens and dozens of jersey and bibs, but these are what I wear for about 80% of my rides. (I’d wear them all the time, but sometimes they’re still dirty.)
The Women’s design is essentially all sold out, but the Men’s design is still available.
I’ve talked with a lot of people who have bought these, and I’m pretty certain everyone has liked them.
And yet, they have not sold out. Honestly, I don’t understand. So I’m going to be a little bit more direct than usual: If you like this blog, please support me by buying a jersey and bibs. (And maybe some socks.)
2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 4: Familiarity
“Familiarity breeds contempt” is such ridiculous saying. And also, not true unless you were headed in the direction of contempt anyway. In my experience, familiarity breeds confidence, and fondness, and comfort, and happiness. Maybe even a little bit of wisdom, if you pay attention.
I am very, very familiar with the Leadville 100 bike route. And I think I like it as much or more as I ever have. It challenges and exhausts and exhilirates me every year, for different reasons every time.
This is probably true for every beloved bike route in the world: Familiarity breeds friendship.
This is what I was thinking — though in much simpler, not-actually-constructing-sentences way — as The Hammer and I rolled through Carter Summit and onto the three-mile paved descent.
“I really like racing with you,” I told The Hammer.
She smiled at me, got into a tuck, and dropped me like a rock. Except she was the one dropping like a rock. (I need a new metaphor.)
I got as low as I could, figuring I’d reel The Hammer in, but the gap between us just increased. I never lost site of her, but — yep — she was definitely pulling away.
The Hammer’s timidity in descending on mountain bikes does not apply to road riding. When on the road, well, she’s pretty much a steely-eyed missile woman.
Which was just fine with me. We had agreed that as soon as we got to the bottom of this three mile paved descent, we’d each get out the second GU Roctane gel of the day.
Which means, dear reader, that — yes — this fourth installment of the race report has only thus far brought us to one hour (and fourteen miles) into the race.
As planned, I caught up with The Hammer as she ate a gel, then we rode alongside each other for a moment while I ate mine.
And then…we heard a yell from behind. Doppler effect made me certain: it was a yell that was rapidly approaching. (Of course I have Doppler hearing. Don’t you?)
And that quick, The Monster was ahead of us.
Yep, in the first hour, she had taken the minute lead we had built-in at the starting line (The Hammer and I crossed the starting line at 6:31:08, The Monster crossed at 6:32:09), and erased it.
There was a temptation, I admit, to jump. To attack and show that young whippersnapper that I am The Alpha Rider.
But I didn’t. The Hammer and I just kept our pace. No attacks, no responses to attacks. Familiarity breeds wisdom, see?
And within a couple minutes on this mile (or so?) of paved climb, The Hammer and I had bridged back to The Monster, then pulled slightly ahead again.
From my peripheral vision, I saw The Monster stand and stomp on her pedals to try to catch us.
“Don’t you DARE burn matches this early in the race!” I scolded her. You could totally hear the italics, bold, and uppercase in my voice, too.
“And it’s been an hour, you better be getting a gel out right this second,” I continued.
The Monster dropped back down to her all-day pace. She got out a gel.
I would like to contend that — in addition to ability and hard work — the reason The Monster has been racing so well so quickly is she is an incredibly serious student. She is the rare 20-year-old who watches, studies, and listens. Sure, she makes her own decisions about everything, but she hears you out first.
And by doing so, she has been able to skip the decade-plus of race nutrition trial-and-error The Hammer and I each went through before figuring out a simple, workable plan: a Roctane gel every half hour, supplemented with CR333 whenever you drink.
The Hammer and I pullled ahead, riding at our pace; The Monster dropped back, riding at hers.
Here’s a weird but absolutely true fact: The Hammer and I did not discuss her competition — Christina Ross, the other woman singlespeeder — even once during the race. We never said, “I wonder if Christina is close, or if she’s about to catch and pass us,” or anything like that.
Not. Even. Once. Her name just never came up.
If we had known just how close Christina was to us at this point, we probably would have talked about her. Because Christina — who had started 26 seconds behind The Hammer and me — was now less than two minutes behind us. Which, in a 100+-mile MTB race, is nothing.
The Hammer and I rode on, oblivious to the probability that the biggest threat to The Hammer’s objective — another SS win and new women’s SS record — could probably see us as we chatted about what a nice day it was and how awesome it was that we had seen The Monster and how well she was doing in the race.
No Help Wanted
After the paved section comes a sharp right turn onto a wide, washboarded dirt road: Hagerman Pass, I think it’s called.
This was one of the segments I knew I could help The Hammer be fast on. “Let me know anytime I start to pull away from you,” I said. “Don’t just let me drop you, that doesn’t do either of us any good.”
And I commenced to mash.
I continuously scanned ahead, looking for the next group to bridge to, looking for the least-washboarded line to ride. The Hammer stayed on my wheel beautifully, and we hopped from group to group.
I had an epiphany about how it must be awesome to be a sled dog.
Then a guy surprised me from my reverie by pulling alongside me. “You know you’ve built a train of about twenty people, right? You want someone else to take a turn pulling?”
Huh. That actually made sense. While I had been thinking of The Hammer and me hopping from group to group, we had actually been bringing anyone who could hang with us along, building up an enormous train.
“No, not needed, thanks,” I replied. “I just want to hold this effort; but anyone who wants a ride is welcome.”
A sharp left turn took us off the relatively easy Hagerman onto Sugarloaf — my favorite climb of the day. There’s a beautiful view, the day was warming up, and the climb is just the perfect singlespeeding gradient: a good load, but not so hard that you feel like your kneecaps are going to burst.
Half the time The Hammer led, half the time I did. And the other half we rode side-by-side. No strategy to it, we were each just picking the pace and line we could on this climb.
Whenever I was out front, I’d call out every minute or so to be sure The Hammer was still with me.
“You back there, Sugar Plum?” I yelled back.
“Sweetie Pie, are we still together?”
“Honey Pot? You with me?” I hollered.
I had resolved, for some reason, to make up and use as many ridiculous / embarrassing nicknames for The Hammer as I could during the day.
But I was running out (already I had noted a distinct tendency to use sweetener-based nicknames), and the day was still young.
Powerline to Pipeline
You cannot possibly have any idea how happy I am to be able to report that there is nothing worth writing about in our descent down Powerline: one of the parts of the race I enjoy not at all, ever. My dread of either of us crashing or flatting, however, came to naught (though I think I counted seven people working on flats as we rode down).
I will note, however, mild astonishment that The Monster didn’t catch us going down Powerline. If I were to have placed a bet on one place in the race she’d fly by us, it would have been there, especially since we had seen her almost exactly an hour earlier.
Yes, that’s right: this installment of the race report is covering more than an hour. Dig it.
At the bottom — no flats, no crashes, no problems for either of us — we ate again (like clockwork) and I took my place in front of The Hammer for the next flattish few miles of paved and dirt road, out to the first aid station.
As we pedaled our singlespeeds along at our maximum all-day cadence, train after train of rider passed us. Many invited us to hop on. Some being funny, some genuinely not knowing why there was no chance at all we were going to be able to connect up with their train.
My race results show that we rolled into the Pipeline in two hours and nineteen minutes, but I really had no idea whether that was good or bad. All I knew was that this was the most fun I had ever had in the Leadville 100, and that I was becoming more and more impressed with The Hammer by the moment.
We rolled through the Pipeline aid station — signifying we were done with the first quarter of the race — and kept going: we didn’t plan to stop ’til the Twin Lakes aid station, forty miles into the race.
We caught up with my friend Rohit, then with another singlespeeder (technically my competition, but I didn’t really care), and began a fun, lively conversation on this bright, beautiful day.
If we had known that Christina was still a scant two minutes behind us, we probably would have shut up and pedaled harder.
Which seems like an OK place for us to pick up in the next installment of this story.
A Podcasty Note from Fatty: As I mentioned in part 0 of this story, I met Floyd Landis while I was in Leadville.
And then CyclingTips US Editor Neal Rogers and I got together with Floyd at Floyd’s of Leadville HQ for what turned out to be an incredibly thoughtful and interesting conversation.
We talk about Floyd’s new venture: what it is, why, and where it’s going. We talk about apologies: both those given and received, and even talk a little bit about cycling…or more specifically, why Floyd doesn’t ride anymore. This is a can’t-miss conversation with a name every cyclist recognizes, but few cyclists know.
You can get it from iTunes, download it directly, or just play it here:
More details can be found in the Show Notes at CyclingTips.
Seriously, you do not want to miss this episode.
2016 Leadville 100 Race Report Part 3: The Jerk
There’s something very important you need to know before you read today’s installment of my 2016 Leadville 100 race report: there is a jerk in this story. A real kneebiter.
And also: That jerk is me.
But also too: There’s a guy in this story who cheerfully puts up with something unfortunate that happens to him due to another racer’s mistake. He doesn’t get upset or freak out about losing time or anything. He’s a good guy, someone other racers should emulate.
Still also: That guy is me.
So be warned: cognitive dissonance ahead.
The Hammer and I had made it to the base of St. Kevin’s, the first climb of the Leadville 100. And we were scared, because—as I mentioned in my previous post—we had attacked this climb at full speed earlier in the week, and had found ourselves wanting.
What if, now that we were in the race itself, we discovered that we just…well…sucked? If we found out that we just didn’t have what it takes to climb this one little one-mile climb, and that we had no business on this course?
As it turns out, this would not be a problem. Which is not to say that we would not have a problem. Just that this wouldn’t be it.
Our problem, as it continues to have turned out, would be rather the opposite.
See, back in the beginning of the race, we were slated to start in the green corral. But it was jam-packed when we got there, and so we had to stand outside the corral, hoping to filter in when the barriers went down.
But when the barriers went down, I was all alone with two bikes, and a lot of people flowed ahead of me, even as I slowly walked forward, scanning the crowd for The Hammer.
So that had moved us back a bit, relative to many riders.
And then, since we were on singlespeed and trying to stay together, we had been passed quite a few times (roughly ten thousand, I estimate) on the way down the pavement.
And in short, we were pretty far back in the field when we got to the base of the climb. And back there, the bottleneck effect was in full…effect.
Which is to say: our problem was not that we couldn’t keep up. It was more that on singlespeeds at this near-glacial pace, we were in danger of not being able to keep upright.
Which, during a bike race, is a problem.
I was in a conundrum. On one hand, I could see that no matter what I did, I was not going to exactly be rocketing forward for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, if I didn’t move faster than this, I was going to have to get off my bike and walk for this perfectly rideable stretch of the race.
On the third hand, my whole purpose in being in this spot—just in front of my wife—in this race was to enable her to finish as fast as possible. In under 9:50 (her previous singlespeed finish time and women’s course record) if at all possible. And I had told her how good I am at moving through the field on this climb, and how if she stuck on my wheel we wouldn’t get jammed up.
Well, two out of three metaphorical hands seemed to indicate that I should try to find a way forward. And as I looked ahead, I sorta kinda saw a path we could squeeze through, as long as we didn’t mind riding through the rough stuff. And grazing our handlebars against some branches. And making some courteous requests of our fellow racers.
They’d understand. Of course they’d understand.
“Hey there, racer, How’s it going? I’m going to squeeze by on your right, K?”
There was some grumbling. We pushed through.
“I’m on your right, don’t worry about moving, just keep your line. Two of us,” I said.
More grumbling. And then, “Dude, where you going to go? Look up the mountain, we’re all in this line.”
I was, clearly, the jerk. The guy who cut in line. And I realized it as soon as this racer voiced his frustration.
Sure, I had my reasons; I just listed them above, even.
“We’re singlespeeding,” I thought. “If you had our setup, you’d understand why we have to weave through the crowd.”
“I’m working for one of the top women racers in the field,” I thought. “Every second we’re behind you is a second that hurts her chances at a new course record.”
“You guys didn’t seem to have a problem squeezing by me at the starting line,” I thought. “I’m just returning the favor.”
But I didn’t say any of these things. No point, and there was too little oxygen for an argument anyway.
So I just said, “Gotta go.” And I went.
What a jerk I was. For the first of at least a couple times during the race, I’m afraid.
The Nice Guy
In my defense, I wasn’t being a jerk consistently. At one point during this climb, for example, a racer spun out, stalled, and fell over to his left…which is where I happened to be.
My bike handling skills, alas, are not good enough to allow me to stay upright when a full-grown man falls on top of me. (Imagine my self-disappointment. If you can.)
The racer scrambled up, apologizing and apologizing.
I laughed. Not with malice, nor in a menacing, villainous way. Imagine a Snidely Whiplash laugh, but benign. That’s how my laugh sounded.
“Don’t worry about it, I said. “This isn’t going to affect either of our finish times.”
And then I started hiking up the hill, watching The Hammer ride away from me. There was no way I was going to be able to restart, not on a singlespeed. Not on this grade.
We hit the sharp left turn that signals the end of the hardest part of the St. Kevin’s climb. Right at the half-hour mark, which meant it was time for the first GU Roctane gel of the day. One down (Chocolate Coconut), eighteen (or so to go).
I measure my races not in hours or miles, but in GU packets and bottles of CR333.
The Hammer and I rode along, for the first time not swamped by people. It’s always incredibly surprising how the race thins out so dramatically after that sharp left turn a mile into the climb.
I was riding hard, racing with and for this incredibly strong woman: my wife. I was the happiest domestique in the world.
“This is going to be a great day,” I said.
“I think so too,” The Hammer said.
“So how soon do you think The Monster will catch us?” I asked.
I wasn’t being pessimistic about our chances to stay ahead of The Monster. Both The Hammer and I basically regarded it as a certainty that The Monster would catch us sometime before we got to the first aid station. The climbs were short, and the Powerline descent definitely favored The Monster’s abilities.
“I’m surprised she hasn’t passed us already,” The Hammer said. “What if she catches us and stays ahead the whole rest of the day?”
“That,” I said, “would be pretty impressive.”
Honestly, I figured we wouldn’t see The Monster for a while. She would, I assumed, pass us sometime on the Powerline descent. Then, I expected, she’d stay ahead of us ’til partway up the Columbine climb.
my prediction was, as it turns out, entirely wrong. Which I would find out sooner rather than later.
And that’s a good place for us to pick up in the next episode.
A Podcasty Note from Fatty: The current episode of the CyclingTips podcast — which I co-host along with bike tech hero James Huang— is a really important one for anyone who rides road bikes and would like to be both faster and more comfortable, without a lot of effort or expense.
It changed my thinking on how I’m going to set up the road bikes at my house, that’s for sure.
It’s one hour long, and it’s a really great panel discussion with three guys who really know what they’re talking about…and me.
You can listen to it below:
You can also find it on iTunes or download it directly There are lots of other ways to get it, too, which you’ll find in the show notes on CyclingTips.
Free Verse Friday: Duke
I had never been
Much of a
But that might be
I hadn’t had
And six or so
When we lost Kita
I had become
A dog guy
PS: I expect a few people might wonder, so: Duke is a 17-month-old English Mastiff and weighs 130 pounds, which makes him the lightest male in our family. We are his third home and everyone but the cat fell in love with him instantly.
A Podcasty Note from Fatty: The latest episode of The Paceline is out, and — like all episodes of the Paceline — it’s fantastic. I should warn you, however, that I talk about the Leadville 100 a lot in it, and I give away all kinds of things. So you may want to hold on a little if you like your race reports spoiler-free.
If, on the other hand, you are more interested in hearing the short version of the story before reading the long version — and you’d like to hear how I sound when being interviewed moments after the race is over — head on over to Red Kite Prayer and give it a listen.
2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2: Can’t Explain
First of all, let me apologize for calling my second part of my race report — which was in fact the second part of my report, but only the first part of the part about the race — “part 2.”
Hence, I am calling this part “Part 2.” The previous Part 2, which was originally called “Part 1” is now once again called “Part 1.” In spite of the fact that it was the second part.
I’m glad I could clear that up for you.
Now, on to (a very small piece of) the story.
I had big plans for this day: I was going to keep The Hammer on my tail and pull her the entire day, keeping her safe right from the beginning of the race as the thousands of people tried to crowd around.
So of course, within a few seconds of the race beginning, I had ridden up through the field, juking my way past rider after rider, more or less completely losing my wife:
Yep, over there on the left, that’s me. Meanwhile, waaaaaay back — like, ten racers back — The Hammer (on the far right, wearing a red vest) was dodging racers, doing her best to thread her way back to me.
In my defense, whenever we do a running race, The Hammer does the exact same thing to me.
Also in my defense, we had talked about the likelihood that this would happen, and might even happen often. I’m bigger than The Hammer, and therefore pick up speed more quickly on descents (I’m not sure if physics says this should or shouldn’t happen, but it does happen). I brake later and harder than she does, and am more willing to take risks.
For this race, we’d both learn to do some adapting and communicating so we could stay together.
For this first part — a very crowded and fast paved descent — we knew I wouldn’t want to turn around to look for her, so we agreed I’d feather my brakes from time to time, and we’d regroup when we got to the dirt if necessary.
As it turns out, it would not be at all necessary.
About three or five minutes into the race — after the first right turn on pavement, but before the second one — I sensed I had few enough people around me that I could risk looking back without veering into another rider. I touched my brakes, then looked over my left shoulder…just in time to see The Hammer fly by me in a deep, low tuck.
To be frank, I had no idea she could get into that tuck, much less bomb it during an early-morning race.
I laughed — this kind of aggressive riding on her part was a great sign — and revved up my cadence until I was crazy-legging fast enough to accelerate a little bit. It’s the absolutely most ridiculous way to make it clear to everyone around you that you are on a singlespeed.
Then I went into my own tuck, bringing my hands and nose in close to the stem. I was sure I’d catch her in a moment.
I did not catch her. In fact, I’m pretty sure her lead increased.
I laughed harder. The Hammer always climbs strong and aggressively; this kind of descending was new. Maybe she had been inspired by The Monster?
We hit the dirt. I caught up with The Hammer, moved up front, and began playing against type. By which I mean that both in size and inclination, I am not an imposing person. But today, I would be imposing. My job was to make a path for The Hammer, to be vocal and assertive, asking people to move aside so she could concentrate on riding.
Unfortunately for me, everyone was being so darned polite and accomodating that I didn’t need to sweep them aside with my booming, authoritative voice. A simple “Hey there, on your left” was pretty much all that was necessary.
Mountain Bikers are good people.
Approaching St. Kevin’s
We drew up to St Kevin’s: the first climb of the day. The first mile or so of it is steep, but people in general don’t think of it as one of the serious obstacles of the day.
The Hammer and I, however, were afraid of it. And I don’t mean we were afraid to begin the ride in earnest, or that we were afraid of what the day might bring.
We were very specifically afraid of the St. Kevin’s climb, and we were afraid of it because we’d learned to be afraid of it a few days earlier.
Let me flash back for a moment to explain.
Back on Monday, not quite a week ago, The Hammer and I were doing our final pre-ride of any substance. We were taking The Monster out to ride up St. Kevin’s.
“I’m going to hit it with everything I’ve got,” I had told them. “I’ll meet you at the hard left turn a mile into the climb.”
And I had taken off, just attacking St. Kevin’s like I could sprint it.
As it turns out, I could not sprint it. Not even close. In fact, by the time I got two-thirds up this steep mile, I was utterly smoked. Just destroyed.
As I hit one of the steeper pitches, I cracked. And when you crack on a climb on a singlespeed…you’re off your bike. Walking.
Which is what I did. I got off and walked a big chunk of the final quarter of that first mile of St. Kevin’s. I then stopped and looked back…to discover that The Hammer was learning the same lesson I had just picked up:
Don’t you dare disprespect the St. Kevin’s climb. It may be the first climb; it may be the shortest. But it is steep and it is all above 10,000 feet.
“I can’t believe I had to walk that,” I said.
“I’ve never had to walk that before,” The Hammer replied.
“Is something wrong with us? Are we weaker than we used to be?” I asked, absolutely serious.
“I was wondering that exact same thing,” The Hammer said.
“We should come back and ride this climb more sensibly before this race,” I mused. “Get this bugaboo out of our heads.”
“OK, good idea; let’s do,” The Hammer agreed.
But we hadn’t. And the St. Kevin’s Bugaboo was now fresh in our minds as we reached the base of it.
Which seems like a good part to continue in the next installment of this story, this Monday.
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