2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 9: Time for a Surprise

09.19.2016 | 12:41 pm

In my mind, the race was already over.

Which was a stupid thing to think, because the race was far from over. We still had a big semi-technical descent to get to Hagermans, the big, wide, fast Hagermans dirt road descent, the three-mile paved climb up to the Carter’s Summit mini aid station, a little more dirt climbing, the descent down St. Kevins, the flattish dirt and paved couple miles to the Boulevard, the climb up the Boulevard and then — finally! — the finish.

That’s a lot of stuff in sixteen (or so) miles, and a lot of it is very memorable.

But for me, getting to the summit of the Powerline always feels like a finish line, of sorts. Because it’s the last really difficult challenge in this race of iconic challenges. After you’ve climbed the Powerline, you’re almost certainly going to finish the race. 

The big question is, when?

Confusing Enthusiasm

With my cramps subsiding (thanks, HotShot!), I rode the short flat section at top speed, managing to catch up with The Hammer near the beginning of the Sugarloaf descent. 

I thought The Hammer was following my line, but looked back after a few minutes to discover she wasn’t in sight. “I’ll just hold up at the turn on to Hagerman’s,” I thought. 

A minute later I caught up with a woman wearing a “25 Hours of Frog Hollow” kit. “I love that race!” I yelled at her as I went by. 

She looked back at me blankly, not replying. 

“How rude,” I thought.

Then, a moment later, it occurred to me. We were both in a race, and I had just yelled at her about how much I loved “that” race…without explaining I was talking about the race referenced on the jersey she was wearing.

“I’m such a dork,” I thought, laughing. It always cracks me up when I realize — once again — what a dork I am. 

A Farewell to The Hammer

I got down to the bottom of Sugarloaf, turned onto Hagerman’s Pass — a wide dirt road we’d be descending. I pulled over and waited for The Hammer for a moment, taking the opportunity to eat a gel and drink some CR333. “Only a couple more, tops,” I thought to myself. 

I count my endurance races in gels, and as I get close to the end, I count down to my last one. How weird, I thought to myself. 

The Hammer came zipping down, turned onto Hagerman’s and zoomed on ahead. I put my bottle back in its cage, clipped back in, and took off, sure I’d catch her in a moment.

But I was wrong.

She was gapping me. 

I ramped up my effort, going harder. Then, as hard as I could, completely spun out on the fast downhill. 

She kept increasing her lead.

I laughed out loud — My wife was flying. I just hope she remembers to slow down for that sharp left turn onto the pavement, I thought to myself. It’d be really easy to slide out or even high-side there.

I hadn’t needed to worry. As I got to the turn onto the pavement, I could see The Hammer down the road; she had made the turn safely.

But someone else hadn’t. 

There was a racer — I don’t know who — laying in the dirt at the turn, bloody and hurt. Race officials were attending to him. I don’t know if he eventually got up and finished, or if he was too hurt to go on. I sure hope he finished. 

A good reminder to be safe, I thought. You can crash out as easily at mile 95 as you can at mile 15

That said, I got into a tuck and bombed as fast as I could, on a mission to catch up to The Hammer.

The New New Math

In spite of my best efforts, though, I didn’t catch up to The Hammer ’til the road turned up for the three-mile paved climb up to Carter’s Summit. 

“You are just crushing it, I said, very impressed.

“You know,” she replied, “I think we’re going to hit that 9:30 finish time after all.”

Seriously?” I said, surprised. While I had been tracking our distance very carefully, I hadn’t been looking at our time. 

“Yeah,” she said. “I have never felt so strong coming out of the Pipeline aid station. And I still feel great.”

Somehow — in fifteen miles or so — we had gone from her wondering whether we’d even match her previous best on a singlespeed (9:50) to feeling like there was a good chance we were going to hit her best-case-scenario finish time.

“Well, Beautiful, if you’ve got matches to burn, this is a good place to burn them,” I said. And as it turns out, she did have matches to burn, and did in fact burn them. 

Which is to say, there are a lot of people who raced that day who should have a vague recollection of a husband-wife pair of riders — wearing matching kits and riding singlespeeds — riding past them up the paved uphill road.  

We got to the aid station. About 8:40 had gone by. “One hour to go, worst case scenario,” The Hammer said.

“We are not riding in a worst-case-scenario way,” I said. “We are going to break your old record. For sure.”

What I didn’t realize, though — what I could never have expected — was that we had one more surprise ahead of us. One that would drastically affect our finishing time.

And we’ll talk about that surprise in the next installment of this story.


  1. Comment by BostonCarlos | 09.19.2016 | 2:02 pm

    @JeffD & Tom In Albany (re: comments about RPI in the last post… uh oh, we’ve gone meta) – Yep, I went to RPI. A school/place I’ve never heard described as “cute” before. That’s like calling Detroit “cozy”. Or MIT “underrated”. Or Clarkson “an acceptable place to get an education” (sorry to rope you into this, Doug) It’s just not true. :-P

    @Fatty – Can you really call THIS post time for a surprise when the surprise doesn’t happen until the next post? Shouldn’t this be called “A prelude to the time for a surprise”?

  2. Comment by dug | 09.19.2016 | 2:06 pm

    “After you’ve climbed the Powerline, you’re almost certainly going to finish the race. ”

    Unless your name is Rocky and you bought your handlebars at Walmart.

  3. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 09.19.2016 | 2:20 pm

    Fatty your comment about crashing out at mile 95 is sure accurate.
    Last year was my first LT100 and I was cruising down St. Kevins, knowing that I was going to buckle and thinking that all my problems were past. For some reason best known to a race addled brain I decided to look behind me to see if anyone was coming. When I turned back to look at what could actually effect me I realized that I had drifted into the right hand gutter and was in fact about to hit a large rock. Over the handlebars and onto my back I went.
    I got up, dusted my self off, which literally turned into first aid by rubbing some dirt into a wound, and climbed back on my bike.
    I finished a little bloody, a little embarrassed (the first passing rider was the only other rider from my county in Michigan) and with a cracked helmet. Evidently I hit harder than I thought.
    This year I kept my eyes on where I was going, and consequently the only red I saw this year was on the carpet on 6th street.

  4. Comment by Jim B | 09.19.2016 | 2:51 pm

    You tease!

  5. Comment by Corrine | 09.19.2016 | 2:56 pm

    Nooo! More surprises still to come? When will it stop?!

  6. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 09.19.2016 | 3:17 pm

    Is it fair to call this a summit-hanger?

  7. Comment by Grego | 09.20.2016 | 12:14 am

    Fatty, you began posting this ride report on August 15. Splitting up the story over more than a month is a bit much, no? How many cliffhangers can we have before the story goes Wile E. splat? I’ve had to look back just to refresh my memory on what’s going on when you pick it up again!

    That complaint aside, thank you for sharing your stories with us.

    The next installment will get us to the finish line, I promise! – FC

  8. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.20.2016 | 5:23 am

    @BostonCarlos – I grew up outside of Troy and know RPI well. I went to Clarkson instead. ;-p

    @Fatty – I’m thinking two more posts!

    @Dug – I just finished reading The Great Fatsby last night and got to read the section on “Rocky the Hardluck Mtn Biker”

  9. Comment by Peter Cacchioli | 09.20.2016 | 6:09 am

    This is becoming a bit much. I used to enjoy reading these race reports but now it has become a chore. Good luck in your future endeavors.

    Luckily, the internet is a big thing and I’m sure you have no trouble finding other things to read and enjoy. Have a great day. – FC

  10. Comment by MikeL | 09.20.2016 | 8:06 am

    No. We need at least three more Leadville race reports so I don’t lose back the $10 I made on the Rockwell relays. Keep them coming.

    Well, tomorrow’s the final installment, but I am going to also put up a guest post about the race from a different perspective on Thursday. – FC

  11. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 09.20.2016 | 9:47 am

    Adding my vote to the “not remotely a chore” column. If anything, the problem isn’t too much Fatty, it’s not enough Fatty!

  12. Comment by Tammy | 09.20.2016 | 10:29 am

    Hi Fatty – love your stories and you should make them as long as you want to with as many cliff hangers as you like!

    Thank you! The funny thing is, the final installment comes out tomorrow. – FC

  13. Comment by Jon | 09.20.2016 | 11:16 am

    The question is, will the next installment get us TO the finish line or PAST the finish line?

    *don Don DON!*

    Tomorrow’s installment ends the LT100 story. Believe it or not! – FC

  14. Comment by Rodney in CA | 09.20.2016 | 12:09 pm

    Agree these race reports have become ridiculously long, almost like click bait.

    I’m very sorry. – FC

  15. Comment by PNP | 09.20.2016 | 1:30 pm

    No way are the race reports too long! I can’t race, unless there’s one for very slooooowwwww people, so I really enjoy these reports. And I love the cliff hangers, even if I do moan about it now and then, which actually part of the fun.

    So (with the help of Google translate) just let me say this:

    Ne sussurrone carborundum. Don’t let the complainers grind you down.

    Not that you would!

  16. Comment by Scott Stokes | 09.20.2016 | 2:17 pm

    I give up, I’m going to check the results

    Here’s where you can find them (or you can wait ’til tomorrow’s post, which is in fact the final installment of this series). – FC

  17. Comment by Jon | 09.20.2016 | 3:51 pm

    Looking back, my comment could be viewed towards the “too many reports” camp. I enjoy getting to know the little details and hidden things that take place in a race like this. With FC’s statement above I’m half expecting some event to take place AT the finish line. Keep them coming FC!

    Thank you! Tomorrow’s post does in fact end my story — it’s phrased as “to the finish line” because we spent a lot of time there after crossing the line. It’s a big race; I tell the story at the pace I want to. – FC

  18. Comment by mccarthi | 09.20.2016 | 11:57 pm

    I think FC has been following the Dickens style of episodic writing with numerous cliff hangers. Alongside the shouts of “is little Nell dead” will now sit “did the Hammer break 9 hours 30 minutes”

  19. Comment by Grego | 09.21.2016 | 12:27 am

    “is little Nell dead”, hahaha! Best comment. :)

  20. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.21.2016 | 5:03 am

    Fatty, I’m not sure why people are complaining above. CLEARLY they come back for more and are simply frustrated.
    It looks like you enjoyed Sandusky, OH, though. Great pics on FB, Twitter, etc.

    @ Others above: While Fatty doesn’t need me to defend him, folks should realize that this is Fatty’s ‘THIRD’ job! His day job keeps him fed, clothed, sheltered,insured and all that. His second job is to be a great dad to seven kids AND be a good husband. This is his third job and, I hope he doesn’t tire of it because I enjoy it so.

    So, Fatty, bring it how and when you want to bring it.

    I just finished The Great Fatsby. Great read! It takes me up to just about when I began reading your blog.

    What’s the next race report, after the upcoming guest post tomorrow?

  21. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 09.21.2016 | 1:17 pm

    @Tom in Albany, I bet that Fatty might even re-order jobs 1 and 2! [grin] And, let me insert a 3a in front of 3–doing a heroic amount of work raising funds for great causes.

    There are people on this planet who’ve better navigated the fight with cancer only because of Fatty. There are people on this planet able to get to work in rural Africa only because of Fatty. And while this third one pales in comparison to the first two, there are people on this planet who have found out that they are better than they think they are and can do more than they think they can only because of Fatty.


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