Silver Rush 50 Race Report, Part 1: A Fool and His Tool

07.19.2018 | 10:01 am

I recently interviewed Kimo Seymour (SVP at Life Time over the Leadville race among many other things). At some point, we started talking about the Silver Rush 50, and he asked me what I think of the way it begins.

Not prepared to have the tables turned and be asked questions, I forgot to be diplomatic and was instead bluntly honest. “I think it’s stupid,” I said.

See, the Silver Rush 50 begins with a mass start, with everyone pushing or carrying their bikes up a steep sledding hill (watch this video someone made to get a sense of the start). Which is ridiculous. And that’s…well, stupid.

But I mean that in a nice way. Honest.

Proper Attitude

With the shotgun fired and the race started, my pre-race nerves magically evaporated, as they always do. It is so weird how that happens. Somehow the transition from future to present makes all the difference in my head.

The Hammer and I shouldered our full-suspension Specialized Epics and trudged up the hill, losing each other almost instantly. That was OK, though, it was never the plan that we’d start together — although we had a fallback plan that if I wasn’t having a banner day I’d let (ha!) The Hammer catch me and we’d do the race together.

The important things were, in this order: we’d stay upright and uninjured, have fun, ride hard, and finish well.

Most of these things, you’ll eventually see, would in fact happen.

Together Again

With hundreds of people marching dozens across up a hill, it should be no surprise that when you get to the top of the hill and it funnels into a downhill doubletrack (which narrows to singletrack!) back to the bottom of the hill, things really slow down.

Somehow, The Hammer and I wound up right in the same place in this funnel, and — as nice as could be — The Hammer let me go first. Which is good, because I was fully prepared to elbow her out of my way to get pole position, if necessary.

We got down the trail to the bike path — slower than walking speed — then went briefly along the bike path (at more or less walking speed) and then got onto dirt road.

And then the real race was on.

Sounds and Sensations

I felt good and wanted to see if I could (maybe?) finish this race close to five hours. Maybe even under five hours! So I passed often, moving forward in the field, until I finally found a group where passing would have meant going deeply into the crimson-red zone. I settled in and did my best to hang.

And then I felt a weird sensation — not new, and certainly not welcome.

A “squish.” A certain vagueness to my sense of the trail. I’ve felt it when I’ve ridden on loamy soil or pine needles. I’ve felt it when riding on sand or deep gravel.

And, of course, I’ve felt it when my rear tire has started going soft.

“Well, there is sand here, and the ground is soft, and there are pine trees,” I told myself, unconvincingly. “It could just be that.”

Then there was a new sensation, and honestly it’s not easy for me to say whether it’s a sound or a feeling transmitted through your sit bones, but it’s pretty clear what it is: the thunk feeling of when you go over a rock or root or anything hard and your tire bottoms out, so the rim hits the ground.

I pulled over to the side of the jeep road, put a foot down, pivoted around and pinched my tire.

Sofffft.

Dammit.

The Big Question(s)

Back in the old days, when you got a flat, your to-do list was simple and obvious. You get out your spare tube, find what had caused the flat, fixed the offending part of the tire, and replace the tube.

Nowadays, it’s a more complicated question. Or, really set of questions. Plural.

Where is the flat anyway? Is there a hole in my tire? Is it obvious? Or did I just burp my tire? Will sealant plug this if I just put some CO2 in? Did I bring enough CO2 that I can take that risk?

In the heat of the race, I didn’t even ask those questions, though. I just got off my bike, got out my multi-tool  (necessary since my axles need a 6mm hex wrench to be removed) and started removing the rear wheel axle.

And then the possibility that this might self-seal while rolling occurred to me.

“I’ll just leave the tool in the axle while I add some air to see if it holds,” I thought, very very sagely. “That way if it’s obviously leaking I’m all set to finish removing the wheel.”

The Hammer rolled by. Mel (my stepdaughter, not the middle aged character from the diner sitcom, and not the actor with anger management issues) rolled by. Neither acknowledged me (or — so they both claim — saw me).

I got out one of the three 20g CO2 cartridges I had loaded into my (wonderful!) Camelbak Chase vest and inflated the tire. It looked good. I didn’t see any sealant bubbling out of a hole anywhere on the tire.

So I got back on my bike and started riding. I was back in the race.

?&%??!@*%^$!!@

When you have Shimano Di2 for your drivetrain, you shift very, very often. Because it’s super easy to do, and because your shifts always happen perfectly.

So of course within twenty or fifty feet or so, I shifted. I don’t remember whether it was up or down. But I do remember that it mis-shifted. Which just doesn’t happen on this bike.

Instantly, I knew what had happened. I had loosened my rear axle before deciding not to take the wheel off. And I hadn’t tightened it back in place.

Nor had I — I realized with a perfect blend of embarrassment and horror — put away my multi-tool. Which meant it would still be hanging from the axle.

Except, of course, it wasn’t. It had — sometime during the 50 feet or so that I had been riding — fallen out.

Without that tool, I couldn’t tighten my rear wheel axle. Without my rear wheel axle properly tightened, I couldn’t  ride.

So, I walked my bike back against the flow of cyclists, staring down intently, hoping I’d see that tool before I got to the spot where I’d taken it out.

I did not see that tool. So I laid the bike down and began walking up the trail again. Desperately looking for this tiny little tool without which I could not ride my bike.

“Are you OK? Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m fine,” I replied at first, when I was semi-confident I’d find the multi-tool. “Just dropped something.”

I did not find  the tool. I walked back toward the bike, slowly, scanning left and right. Mortified that I had maybe ended my race just a few miles in…because I had made a stupid STUPID STUPID absent-minded goof.

I’m very good at hating myself when I need to.

To The Rescue!

As I walked back and forth looking for this multi-tool, my friend Kevin Brooks rode by. “Are you OK? Do you need anything?” He asked.

My pride finally and utterly gone, I told him. “I was changing a tire and managed to lose my multi-tool and without it I can’t finish putting the wheel back on and get riding again,” I said.

Without hesitating, Kevin stopped and pulled out his own multi-tool and handed it to me. “Catch me and give it back,” he said. And rode on.

I was astonished by his generosity. Kevin’s wheel setup was like mine — through-axle wheels that requires a hex-wrench to loosen and tighten. He was giving up the ability to change his tire so I could change mine.

“Thank you,” I shouted, and ran back toward where my bike was.

I quickly found the largest hex wrench on the tool, opened it, and inserted it into my axle, ready to tighten this thing up and finally get back into the race.

It was too small.

I started laughing. Or maybe it was crying. Probably a mix. My fun with wheels wasn’t over. Indeed, it had only just begun.

Which seems like a perfectly miserable place for me to pick up in the next installment of this story.

 

Your Crew and You, Part 2

07.17.2018 | 9:30 am

Hottie and Fatty start this episode of the Leadville Podcast from higher than 10,000 feet…even though they’re nowhere near Leadville. In fact, they’re at the finish line of the Crusher in the Tushar, which might just be the most perfect Leadville 100 Tuneup a racer could pick. Listen now!

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

In addition to talking about their race day and what they learned, Hottie and Fatty dig into a very short — but deceptively difficult — section of The Course: the paved section between the Pipeline Aid Station and the Powerline climb. We don’t want to give everything away here, but there might be crying, barfing, and electrolyte capsules involved in this discussion.

Rebecca Rusch — The Queen of Pain — talks about the tools, tubes, and techniques you need to be carrying with you when you do an epic race like the Leadville 100, and Jonathan Lee of TrainerRoad helps you refine your training as you get close (just a few weeks now) to the Leadville Trail 100. 

As always, it’s a packed show, with info all Leadville 100 racers — as well endurance racers training for other events — can put to use right away. 

Enjoy!

Support My Sponsors

We went out of our way, for this podcast, to reach out exclusively to companies we actually love and buy stuff from ourselves. Which is to say, you won’t find ads here for life insurance companies or mattresses or cooking kits that come to you in a box. These are all companies I buy stuff from and use pretty much every damn ride. Please support them.

Shimano

XT Di2 is just perfect. I have it on both my hardtail (a Felt Doctrine) and my full-suspension mountain bike (a Specialized Epic S-Works). Shimano makes the best drivetrain and braking components there are, and XT is bombproof and affordable.

The Feed

Hottie and I have been using Maurten drink mix, and both of us are totally sold on it. No stomach issues, goes down easy, super easy to mix. 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 TheFeed.com/leadville 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. You can use the LEADVILLE15 code at checkout for any Maurten drink mix purchase.

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 Banjobrothers.com/fatty-favorites.

ENVE

I have ENVE wheels on my single speed setup. I have ENVE wheels on my hardtail setup. I have ENVE wheels on my full suspension setup. They are the very best wheels you can buy. They’re very expensive, but they last forever (or if they don’t, ENVE takes care of you pronto — they’re the Nordstrom of the bike wheel world). Spend the money on a great set of wheels and watch them outlast the rest of your bike by a factor of two. F’reals.

Silver Rush 50 Race Report, Part 0.3: Why We Wore the Floyd’s Jersey

07.16.2018 | 10:13 am

We were at the starting line, and I was excited to get started. I mean, just look at me:

Was I excited for this particular race? Sort of, I guess! But also, I was excited to just get the darned waiting over with and begin with the racing, already.

Because the time between when you wake up on the morning of a race and the actual beginning of that race is just horrible. If I could bottle up that feeling of anxiety and worry and dread and fear and then take a nice big whiff whenever it’s time to register for a race, that would absolutely stop me from every racing again.

All that said, I sorta kinda also knew that this wasn’t really a race with a lot of consequence for me. I couldn’t be upset by the fact that I’m slow this year, since I had no finish time to compare my current (fat and slow) self to. I wasn’t doing this race to move to a better placing in the LT100 starting line corral; the one I have is probably better than I need this year, since I’m (as I have mentioned) fat and slow.

As long as I stayed upright and didn’t have any mechanicals, there was no real downside to this race for me; it was just for fun.

By all means, please feel free to cue the “ominous foreshadowing” music here.

But First a Word of Explanation

Before I get to the start of the race, I want to show you something:

That’s me with Ken Chlouber, the founder of the Leadville Race Series. He spent the entire day ATV-ing from place to place on the course, cheering for racers. He was good enough to pose with me holding the shotgun he’d be firing to start the race.

The other thing I want to point out from this photo and the one before it, is that I’m wearing a Floyd’s of Leadville jersey at this race, and so is Lisa.

Here’s why.

My dad is getting on in years, and some of the changes that come with age and recent surgery have given him some pretty significant anxiety and trouble with sleeping.

Naturally, all of us who care about my dad wanted to help, but the VA — where he gets most of his medical care — wasn’t doing a lot to help him. And since my dad lives in Colorado, and knowing that marijuana can help people relax, and since I don’t know anything at all about marijuana (I have literally never smoked anything, ever, not even once), I texted Floyd to ask what marijuana products he’d recommend I get for my dad. (Or, more precisely, what my sister who lives in Colorado should get for our dad.)

Floyd and I exchanged a few text messages where he asked for (and I gave) more details, and then he said he’d have my dad try CBD oil as a first measure, which he thought my dad would appreciate because — like a lot of people from earlier generations — my dad attaches a negative connotation to marijuana.

I told him thanks and relayed the info to my sister, who planned to go to the Grand Junction dispensary to pick some CBD oil up.

But she wound up not needing to go, because the next day, Floyd had an employee — who happened to be going to Grand Junction for a race — drop some CBD oil off at her house.

It was a remarkable act of thoughtfulness.

I figured the least I could do in return would be to repay Floyd by showing up in Leadville and flying the Floyd’s flag.

PS: For people who might wonder how my dad is, I wish I could say the CBD oil solved all his problems. In the end, it helped some with sleep, but there’s more to do. We’ll get there. And meanwhile, that doesn’t change the thoughtfulness of the gesture.

Silver Rush 50 Race Report, Part 0.2: All Wet

07.12.2018 | 10:38 am

For more than twenty years, I’ve come to Leadville each summer. But this is the first time I’ve ever gone mostly as a vacation — as opposed to going to race the Leadville 100.

Oh sure, I was still in Leadville to race (the Leadville Silver Rush 50), but it wasn’t a race I was stressed about. It was more of an “as long as we’re in town” kind of race.

The Copper Triangle, Leadvillified

Not coincidentally, this was also the first time The Hammer and I had brought our road bikes with us. I thought it might be fun to ride them around town or something.

The Hammer had other plans. Specifically, she planned to have us ride the famous Copper Triangle route, although we’d be doing it ourselves instead as part of an event, and we’d be starting and ending at the Leadville point in the triangle.

And also, if you ask me, it doesn’t even look like a triangle anyway.

It looks more like the mirror image of California. Which, granted, would be a less-awesome name for the route.

Anyway, on day 2 of our Leadville vacation, The Hammer and I rode this triangle, once I had moved my mountain bike pedals onto my road bike (I forgot to bring my road shoes on this trip, because I am feeble-minded).

It was a gorgeous ride. Perfect weather, perfect temperatures, not much traffic, a good solid workout (we were totally ignoring the notion of tapering for races since we didn’t really care how we did at this race).

And a great opportunity for high mountain selfies:

All told, this is about an eighty-mile ride, with about 6000 feet of climbing. The website for the Copper Triangle calls this “three challenging climbs that exemplify cycling in the Colorado Rockies.” In Utah, we call it a “cute little ride.”

Sincerely, though, it was a beautiful, fun, relaxing and just nice day on the bike. Except for the final two miles, when we suddenly got hit by torrential rain and nickel-sized balls of hail. And even that was just amusement-level drenching (though it wouldn’t have been if we’d had to endure it for half the day instead of for ten minutes).

Fish Story

On day 3, The Hammer and I took Blake (aka The IT Guy) on a ride up St. Kevens. He’s recently had a foot injury, so the fact that he was able to ride to the top of the St. Kevens climb was a big deal. We’re hoping he continues to heal fast so he can still do the LT100 in a month. (Yikes! A month!)

Then we took the twins on one of our favorite hikes: a nature trail starting and ending at the Leadville Fish Hatchery.

It’s fun the way some things — like this hike — start becoming traditions. And then, after the hike, the tradition continues because we always buy some fish food and toss it to the trout being raised in the Fish Hatchery troughs (pretty sure that’s the wrong word so hope you’ll take the time to google it for me and give me the correct term in the comments).

While we were doing this, The Hammer had an idea. “Why don’t you stick your finger into the water?” she said. “See if the fish think it’s food.”

I confess: I found the idea both repulsive (fish are gross) and intriguing. Would fish that are used to food landing in the water constantly think a finger is food, or would they scatter? (I strongly sided on the “scatter” possibility.) And if they did try to bite my finger, would having a tiny (about 5-6″) trout bite my finger hurt even a little bit? (I figured not.)

So I knelt down and tentatively poked the tip of my right index finger into the water.

The fish rushed my finger and at least one nibbled at it.

It did not hurt even a little bit.

It did, however, make me reflexively jerk my hand back out of the water.

Which was too bad for The Hammer because she was close by at my right, filming the whole thing with her phone.

You know what’s coming, right?

As I jerked back, I knocked the phone out of The Hammer’s hand…and into the water. Which is about five feet deep, and full of fish.

Rescue Attempt

It took a few seconds for everything to sink in, at least for me. And then we had things to consider: was it worth even going after the phone? It wasn’t just wet; it was submerged, five feet deep, and was going to be that way for a while.

“Well, the iPhone 8 is supposed to be water resistant,” I said.

So I went in search of someone who works at the Fish Hatchery to help us get the thing out. Dead or alive.

I couldn’t find anyone.

Meanwhile, The Hammer found a toolshed on the premises and got out a flat-headed shovel, which she used to get the phone up against the edge of the square-edged concrete trough, but couldn’t get the phone up the wall.

I then went back to the shed, where I found…a hoe.

A hoe! In my mind’s eye, I realized it may well be the most perfect retrieve-a-phone-from-the-floor-of-a-flat-five-foot-trough tool ever. I brought it over, and between The Hammer operating the flat-head shovel to position the phone at the wall and tip it over on to the hoe, and then me lifting it up, we felt pretty darned smart. Especially when we didn’t think about the fact that it was pretty silly that the phone was at the bottom of a trough like that in the first place.

To our amazement, the phone — having been underwater for about fifteen minutes — was still on. (I’m not sure why it hadn’t locked while underwater for that long, but it hadn’t.)

And furthermore, it had taken a couple of pictures sometime during its underwater adventure (maybe when The Hammer was prodding the phone with the shovel?), including this one:

That’s just an awesome shot, even moreso since the phone continues to be just fine.

And in short, the iPhone 8: highly recommended for people who take photos near water and clumsy husbands.

Next up: the actual race.

Silver Rush 50 Race Report, Part 0.1: Pre-riding the Course

07.11.2018 | 9:31 am

I need to spend less time racing and more time vacationing. I just do.

“Why?” you ask, belligerently (because at least in my mind, the fact that you would challenge any opinion I ever have clearly makes you belligerent).

“Because,” I explain, patiently (in my mind, I am patient and respectful even though you don’t deserve such niceties), “it turns out it’s a lot of fun to ride for fun and hike for fun and hang out and have fun.”

“To my surprise,” I conclude, ironically, because as you know I am not actually even a little bit surprised, “racing is not the only way to have fun riding a bike!”

In my mind, your mouth is now agape, and I’m just a little bit upset because I am not certain whether your astonishment is real or feigned.

Maybe you shouldn’t be so sarcastic (in my mind), you know?

Wherein Melisa Says She Doesn’t Want to Ride With Us, But Then Takes Pity On Us And Rides With Us After All

The Hammer, The Twins, and I arrived in Leadville, where we had it on good authority that Melisa (aka The Monster aka The Swimmer) was going to show The Hammer and me the first half of the Silver Rush course. Melisa had changed her mind by the time we got there, though, electing instead to pointedly ignore us and stare at her phone instead.

So I found the course on Strava. Except not the correct course. I found the old course. And then I somehow managed to put it on my GPS. And sort of figure out where the race starts. It had been, sadly, at least nine months since I had tried doing something like this, so I had to completely relearn how this is done.

And by the time I had it figured out (maybe, sort of), Melisa had re-chosen to ride with us, which is good because it was really nice to ride with her, and also we’d probably be lost and starving or dead if we’d had to rely on me and a GPS for course directions.

Actually Riding, But First Something Really Stupid

You know what’s ridiculous? The way the Silver Rush 50 starts. It has you push or carry your bike up a steep hill strewn with loose rocks.

Of course, being rule keeper types and also because we wanted to see what this would actually be like, we did this in our pre-ride.

To our delight, it was every bit as much fun as you’d be thinking it would be to carry your bike up a steep hill an hour after you’ve arrived at a city that has a low point of 10K feet.

And in short, I was somewhat winded before I even got on the bike.

How winded? So winded that it didn’t even occur to me to look over at my wife and say, “Honey, that bike is riding you.” Which is an opportunity for hilarity lost (but now recaptured, which is pretty much the whole reason I write this blog).

Then we rode our bikes on a little singletrack section RIGHT BACK TO WHERE WE STARTED. At which point I was pretty upset at Melisa until she explained that this was the way the course actually worked. After which I was still pretty upset — possibly eve more so, since I no longer had anyone toward whom I could direct my pique.

Directionless pique sucks.

And then we rode. Basically uphill for about ten miles. And you know what? It was fantastic. I mean, it’s nice doubletrack. And it was a cool, clear day. And I didn’t feel at all smoked, in spite of the fact that I was approaching 11K feet.

And there were wildflowers and water crossings and beautiful vistas and old mining sites. And basically, the high mountains of Colorado are wonderful.

Another rider — let’s call him Mark, since his name is in fact Mark — doing the race later that week caught up to us and asked if he could join us for the ride.

Well of course he could.

And as it turns out, Mark was just a great guy. The kind of guy you’d want to hang out with and ride with. While he had (obviously) caught us, he wasn’t pushing us to go faster, and he was happy to let us plan out what we’d do next after Melisa left.

Oh I forgot to mention: partway through the ride, Melisa had had enough and left. She had a very good reason which was actually part of the original ride plan though, so my pique level didn’t go up. (The single most certain way to get me piqued is to upend my understanding of what the day’s ride will be.)

Assessment

By the time we got to the turnaround point of the race — about 25 miles in this out-and-back course — I was cooked. But I was also excited and impressed. The fact is, The Silver Rush course is interesting and intriguing and pretty historic, with trailside photo opps like this:

Basically, I’d had fun. And so had The Hammer. Which is good, because later that afternoon when we played Baldur’s Gate, she wouldn’t be quite as excited:

That is quite a yawn. Which may not be the most exciting cliffhanger I’ve ever ended with, but it’s still where we’re going to stop for now. In the next installment, I promise there will be hail the size of nickels as we ride, and I may even get us to the starting line of the actual race.

Though I also may not, because that race was a pretty humiliating experience for me.

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