Guest Post from The Monster: 2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 1

09.26.2016 | 7:07 am

A Note from Fatty: I asked The Monster to write up her Leadville experience. It’s a terrific recounting of her story, and has been a lot of fun to be reminded of what it’s like to be in Leadville preparing to do this race for the first time. Enjoy!

I went into this race telling myself that I wasn’t going to let not finishing even cross my mind. Unfortunately though, as many of you I’m sure are aware, you have absolutely no control over what your mind is thinking during mile 90 of a 100+ mile race.

It was there, as I approached the final climb to Carter’s Summit, 90 miles in, that I was literally trying to breathe in between dry-heaves. “I’m gonna have to get off on walk” I thought to myself sullenly. And as though the heavens decided to sprinkle a bit of happiness down upon me, a voice exclaimed—“You’re the monster!!!!!” A sudden jolt of energy struck me back to life.

There’s no way I’m going to let anyone think that I’m suffering. I AM the monster, and monsters don’t suffer.

Now I’m not getting religious on you, I really did hear a voice reminding me of who I was. But I’ll get back to this in a moment.

The pregame of champions

We arrived in Leadville with the gloomy chance of rain every day.

Big surprise.

That didn’t stop the Fatty Family. Because Fatty and the Hammer have both raced this race over ten times (almost double that for Fatty), they realized how important it was to know the racecourse.

Also, we got there more than a week early—what else would crazy cyclists do other than go for a leisurely 40-mile ride?

We started our first day with Powerline climb. “You’ll be able to ride this today easily—that’s why we want to do this. Race day it wont be so easy. We want to give you some confidence and show you that you can do it.”

We started the steep Powerline climb.

Slow pedal. Slow pedal. Grunt. Stand. Slip. I fought but didn’t make it. I dismounted and hiked up the last three quarters of the way up the face.

What a GREAT way to start my first day of pre-riding.

I still made it to the top of the front face faster that Fatty and the Hammer—due to their ridiculous choices of bike; they of course have to walk more than I do with their single-speeds. We met at the top of the climb, and they pulled off, as they are much faster than I am on climbs that don’t require a granny gear.

About 2 miles into the remaining 3 miles of the Powerline climb, I looked up from my front wheel to see that the Hammer was RIGHT in front of me. And not just riding right in front of me, dismounted and walking up a technical section right in front of me.

“I can totally pass her,” I thought.

But, I wasn’t the only who noticed I had caught up to her. As I tried to swiftly move past, The Hammer glanced over and, with shock on her face, flew over her top tube faster than a cowboy could mount a beloved mustang. She put her head down and attacked.

I grabbed on, but I was suffering. I could tell she was suffering too.

We crested the top of the climb together—and this marked the first climb that we ever did at our hardest, finishing within seconds of each other. I have always been SIGNIFICANTLY slower. Maybe I really was ready for this race.

A First at 12.5

On day 2 in Leadville, we took on the Columbine Climb. Knowing that this is the dreaded crux of the Leadville 100 race, and after going hard the previous day, I had low expectations for the outcome of this ride. There was a bit of confidence still looming around from the tight finish between my mom and I on the Powerline climb, but I didn’t know how much I had in me.

Again they told me “we want you to experience what it is like to ride this whole thing, on race day it won’t be rideable.”

We approached the last quarter of the climb, where the trail gets stupid-steep.

Slow pedal. Slow pedal. Grunt. Stand. Slip. I didn’t make it. Again.

But this time, Fatty was there to comfort me. “If you look over there to that ridge [he pointed way out to the left] well, you really have to look. Like squint even—here I have some binoculars. You can see the top. Only a bit of climbing left.”

A Bit . Great.

I moved my eyes from the ridge back to the trail. My head craned upward toward the sky to meet the top of the steep trail. I let out a sigh, and started hiking.

About 84 hours later, we DID finally make it to the top. What a close ridge we were climbing to.

Being my first time at 12,500 feet, we took advantage of the wonderful photo-op, and had some lunch before heading back down.

I decided to take this descent into my own hands though: I wanted to see how fast I could get down it since I was disappointed with the ascent. I let Fatty and the Hammer leave first; I was struggling to put on my arm warmers. I also looked down to see that my shoe had come untied.

As they pulled off, I leaned over to tie my shoe—I have Giros with real laces—and after struggling for about 30 seconds, I realized I literally couldn’t remember how to tie it. I guess this is what it’s like to be at 12,500 feet.


I dismounted and sat down, eventually figuring out how wrap the lace around the bunny ears and pull it into a bow. Finally.

I hopped back on, and started ripping down the steep loose section. My favorite. I was flying, and in no time, I caught up to Fatty and the Hammer. I passed them, and the three of us passed someone hiking up the climb. Someone wrecked. I didn’t look back. I was on a mission.

Before I knew it, I was at the bottom. Based on strava, I really was flying.

Screen Shot 2016 09 21 at 9 31 47 AM

Let’s zoom in on this precious piece of art.

Screen Shot 2016 09 21 at 9 32 01 AM

That’s right. There’s me, on the same leaderboard as the 4x Leadville 100 winner, Rebecca Rusch, AND a 2016 olympian, Anika Langvad. I really WAS ready for this race.

Fast and Steady Wins the Race

To finish off our pre-riding, we decided to make a loop out of St. Kevins and the boulevard.

To be honest, I was stoked for this ride.

I must be peaking.

This is every cyclists dream: peaking the week before a well-anticipated race. The fire beneath my feet had been re-ignited, and I was ready to spin some dirt.

We left the house and I was feeling great. Fatty, The Hammer, and I were forming a pace-line for the road to Kevin’s. Normally pacelines with these two are incredibly painful for me. While they are working at their comfortable level, I am always struggling and fighting to stay attached to their rear wheel. This time was different.

We turned off the pavement, and I spun around to see that the Fatty Family was not with me—they were about 50 feet back. I waited for them to catch up, and asked them what was up.

“Nothing is up with us” Elden preceded to tell me. “Something is up with you. You are riding like a speed demon”.

Elden then told me that he was going to give this climb everything he had, and I decided to tag along because I was feeling so great. Also, no one talks about St. Kevin’s… therefore it must not be that big of a deal.

We passed the indicative starting-line gate of the Kevin’s climb, and Fatty blasted off. I put my head down, and surged with what I could. Moments later, I looked up and Fatty was completely out of sight.

I surged on.

A Shift of Tides

It took him five seconds—FIVE SECONDS—to drop me.

I approached the steepest section of the climb—one I in fact did NOT anticipate. I thought this was the climb that no one talked about??

Slow pedal. Slow pedal. Grunt. Stand.

I crested the top of the climb, and made the sharp left that indicates the top of the steep stuff and where things will “even out,” as The Hammer puts it, on race day.


I looked up to find Fatty hunched over his bike—demoralized, but not in pain. “Are you alright?”

“Ride on,” he said steeply.

So I did—and this marked the first climb I finished faster than both the Hammer AND Fatty.

I was elated.

We finished the ride—or maybe we didn’t. I seriously can’t remember, because I was so happy.

But as we approached the house we were staying at, something didn’t feel right. My stomach did a front flip, and I dismounted my bike—and dove for the toilet.

I stayed like this for the next three days.

PS From Fatty: …and that’s where she’ll pick up in the next installment!


  1. Comment by wharton_crew | 09.26.2016 | 7:59 am

    Awesome write-up! And a budding cliff-hanger writer, to boot!

  2. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.26.2016 | 8:09 am

    Fatty? did you coach her on the cliffhanger?

  3. Comment by Jon | 09.26.2016 | 8:43 am

    This one has graphs too! Im a dork that likes data…

  4. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.26.2016 | 8:53 am

    Great write up! I like how she teases it in the first couple of paragraphs.

  5. Comment by Corrine | 09.26.2016 | 9:02 am

    Wow! Great story telling, Melisa. And I can’t believe you are using cliff hangers, too. You obviously know how much we love/hate them. Can’t wait to hear more of this story. Don’t make us wait too long for the next installment.

  6. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.26.2016 | 9:05 am

    I live in NY. I can’t imagine a downhill lasting 17 minutes!!! Is it reasonable to assume you use brakes on the Columbine descent??

  7. Comment by walter | 09.26.2016 | 10:08 am

    Great write up!!! Not only are you mastering the bike but also story telling, including using the famed Fatty cliff hangers. Keep it up and look forward to the next installment. BTW, very impressed with your descending skills! You are super fast!

  8. Comment by Ferdmeister | 09.26.2016 | 10:21 am


  9. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 09.26.2016 | 10:36 am

    I can’t speak for what you SHOULD do brake-wise going down Columbine, but I certainly used mine. I notched 23:22 to the Monster’s 17:11, so apparently it’s possible to use less braking than I applied!

  10. Comment by Tom Albrecht | 09.26.2016 | 11:42 am

    “he said steeply.” lol

  11. Comment by MattC | 09.26.2016 | 12:37 pm

    Holy CATS! Making it INSIDE the TOP TEN on the leaderboard for a 1st-time descent? WOW! You REALLY ARE a MONSTER!! Nicely done!!!

  12. Comment by MattC | 09.26.2016 | 12:40 pm

    Oh, and FANTASTIC WRITEUP btw Melissa…forgot to mention that! You’ve got me on the edge of my seat! And the race hasn’t even BEGUN!

  13. Comment by rb | 09.27.2016 | 9:26 am

    …”he said steeply” I think I have experienced this form of speech. nice writing!

  14. Comment by Don | 09.27.2016 | 11:44 am

    Great story telling Melisa. Your Columbine descent….#legendary.

  15. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 09.27.2016 | 4:31 pm

    Well, the apple does not fall far from the tree.
    Nice writeup Melisa. Not only are you already fast but you’re eloquent to boot. Can’t wait for the rest of this story.

  16. Comment by leroy | 09.28.2016 | 4:29 pm

    My dog has been poking me in the ribs all day, saying “go ahead ask Fatty, ask him, double dog dare you, do it.”

    He wants me to ask if the runs run in your family.

    I told him gastro-intestinal distress is no laughing matter.

    Unless, of course, I’m blaming him for something someone else — I’m not saying who — did.

    In that case, it’s a hoot.

  17. Comment by Brian in VA | 09.30.2016 | 1:14 pm

    “he said steeply.” Nice Tom Swifty, there!

    Great write up, Monster. Can’t wait for more from you!


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