The (Lack of) Air Up There

06.12.2018 | 9:03 am

Let’s conduct a little thought experiment: suppose 25 years ago you picked up the Leadville 100 race course, and set it down in California. Would it have become the iconic endurance race it is today?

I suggest it wouldn’t have.

The altitude is what makes this race special. It turns what would otherwise be a hard race and turns it into a mystical, confounding, and — for some people — darn near impossible race.

So a couple weeks ago, I met with and interviewed Dr. Colin Grissom. Dr. Grissom is the co-medical director of the Shock/Trauma ICU at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, but he’s also a well-known pulmonologist, mountain biker and high altitude climber, including mountain climbing in the Himalayas, and has done altitude research on Mt McKinley.

I was SO EXCITED after talking with him that I couldn’t wait — I made a rough audio mix (i.e., I just merged the two audio channels from our mics, didn’t worry about levels or anything else) for The Hammer (who had helped me find and arrange a meeting with Dr Grissom) to listen to that evening.

She listened, and then looked at me and said, “That is the single most valuable interview anyone who is ever going to race Leadville could ever listen to.”

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We’ve each listened to it a couple more times, taking notes.

So. While I truly believe all my Leadville podcasts are must-hear, let me say this: if you think you might ever race Leadville, or crew for someone at Leadville, or may just go vacationing at altitude, you don’t want to miss this episode. You just don’t.

But that’s not all there is in this episode. In Our Questions for the Queen segment, Rebecca Rusch gets gross, talking about how to keep going when you have GI issues.

In our segment on The Course, we talk about road tactics on Hagerman, as what is often acknowledged as the best part of the race: Sugarloaf.

And finally, Jonathan Lee’s training advice will — finally — cut you a little slack.

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Please support them or I will cry.


The Hammer and I are both terrible mechanics. I mean, truly awful. So we’re hedging our gear bets for when we race seven days straight (Breck Epic and Leadville) this year.

First, we’re each bringing three bikes: our Specialized Epic full suspension bikes, which we have at this point planned to race all 7 days on if at all possible. As backup, we each have geared hardtails. And as final secret bonus backup we each have our trusty singlespeeds. (If you see either of us on a singlespeed any of the seven days, you know things have gone seriously wrong.)

But I’m thinking / hoping that our Epics are going to be fine for the whole seven days, and a lot of that has to do with my experience so far. Specifically, Specialized Di2 just feels bombproof. Neither of us have needed any service to our drivetrains since we got these bikes back in April. Same thing goes for our XT cranks, brakes, and pedals.

Now, both the Hammer and I are kind of cautious and are easier on our gear than some, but I’ve been riding with other companies’ MTB drivetrains for a couple years leading up to this last Spring, and I never had as reliable of an experience as we’ve had this year. I’m super glad we’re riding and racing Shimano this year.

The Feed:

Last weekend, Hottie and I each used a variation of Maurtens drink mix on our big rides. And both of us are totally sold on it. No stomach issues, goes down easy, super easy to mix. Hottie’s super anal about stuff like this, so he loved the package precision; they tell you exactly how much water to use, no guessing with scoops and different sized bottles.

My overarching impression is that it’s a ridiculously non-intrusive way to get down a lot of calories. One bottle, 320 calories — it’s a little sweet, it’s a little thick, but there’s no aftertaste and I felt great — my stomach was fine, I didn’t feel that weird energy spike you get with some energy drinks. It tastes smooth, and it burns smooth. I am a fan.

And our podcast listeners can get a great price on a training and racing packs custom curated for Leadville racers. Go to for the race pack, and there’s a link on that page to go to the training pack. And be sure to use the code LEADVILLE15 for a 15% discount on either of those boxes.

Banjo Brothers

At Leadville, and at any race, you will see riders with all sorts of crazy ways to carry their bike repair essentials. People tape or velcro stuff to top tubes, stems, seatposts and seat tubes. We say do yourself a favor, use our sponsor, Banjo Brothers, to get your flat fixing goodies strapped properly  to your bike.

And not just your race bike, but your commuting bike and your bikepacking bike…and they’ve even got great backpacks and messenger bags for when you’ve got to carry bigger stuff.

I’ve got a Banjo Brothers Bag  on every bike I have, and have been for a dozen years. They’re simple and they’re bombproof. They just work.

To get 15% off your order, go to


I know we’re not talking about the Powerline descent ‘til next episode, but I want to preview an interesting fact about this descent. In my twenty finishes of this race, I bet I’ve passed more than 200 people on this section of the race, all of whom are faster than I am. Because they’re all stopped on the side of the road, coping with pinch flats.

But neither The Hammer nor I have pinch flatted even once since we’ve been riding with ENVE M525 wheels. It’s the wide hookless bead that really does the trick here. ENVE has a really wide leading edge for the hookless bead, and this broad surface creates a more forgiving platform on which the tire can bottom out, and proves extremely effective in reducing the likelihood of “pinch” flats. And with a lower risk , you can ride with lower pressures, which gives you better traction and rolling resistance.

For example, I’m currently 167 pounds and running 19lbs in front and 20 in the back. The Hammer is running 18 in front, 19 in back.

I mean, wow.


  1. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 06.12.2018 | 9:34 am

    I am loving the Leadville100 Podcasts. They treat my Leadville fix, at least temporarily and my fix is certainly larger this year. My race is in serious jeopardy after I lost a fight with a lawnmower blade, no it wasn’t running but a socket slipping off a nut at the wrong moment caused my arm to hit the still, but sharp blade hard.
    Hopefully my right arm and the tendons that allow me to shift my gears will heal in time for the race. Realistically I am looking at a medical deferral, but I can’t bring myself to pull the plug just yet.
    I was planning on buckle number 4, now I hope to be able to buckle my own belt by the 4th of July.

    HOLY COW, Bart. That sucks. Heal fast and well, and may I recommend you look into Di2 shifting? You could easily set it up to shift from the left hand, and could even set it up syncro style so one shifter handles both derailleurs (if you have 2 derailleurs). Obviously Shimano is a sponsor, but in your case I’d say they’re also a pretty fantastic and easy-to-set-up solution for your dilemma.

    Regardless, get better soon! – FC

  2. Comment by Derek | 06.12.2018 | 6:37 pm

    Fatty is right – you should look at Di2 as a possible solution. You can set it up anyway you like with a laptop and it’s very reliable.

  3. Comment by Anonymouse | 06.13.2018 | 8:01 am

    I am pretty sure that Shimano would rather that you not call their gear “Specialized Di2!” ;)

    ACK! Fixing now. Thanks! – FC

  4. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 06.14.2018 | 1:03 pm

    Thank you for the suggestion of checking into Di2. My hand physical therapy starts first week of July and depending on how it goes bike alterations and upgrades may follow.
    Luckily I am blessed with a great wife who, when told about the cost that Di2 would be replied “That’s not bad at all, if it will allow you to race.” Not the response I expected, especially after I just bought a new Canndondale Scalpel Si. I am truly blessed.


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