The Course and Nothing But The Course

08.2.2018 | 5:17 am

A Note from Fatty: I know I’m not getting a lot of FatCyclist-exclusive posts up lately. Work + podcast commitments + prep for the Breck Epic / Leadville 100 race vacation has left me with little time for writing. I will have a lot of stories to tell when I come back, however, and I am looking forward to writing them!

Meanwhile, please do listen and subscribe to my podcast. Alongside this blog, it is my proudest cycling content accomplishment (and like this blog, it’s free).

New BONUS episode of the Leadville Podcast out today — a compilation of all of our segments on “The Course,” taking you from when you’re standing in the cold to powering across the finish line.

Of course (ha), twelve segments at around fifteen minutes each means this show clocks in at over three hours. Which means it’s just about right for your flight to Leadville. Or for a few hours of your long drive to Leadville. Or as you’re on your last ride of any significant length before racing in Leadville.

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

Guess My Time, Win a Prize
Our presenting sponsor for this episode, The Feed, is launching a contest for this episode. Be one of the 5 closest guesses to my finish time this year and win a Leadville Box from The Feed. Listen for details in the show, and go to http://bit.ly/fattyfinish to enter (you’ll be registered for The Feed newsletter, and no charge to enter).

PS: Episode 12 will come out this Monday instead of the regular Tuesday release, to give the many of you traveling this week another thing to listen to.

PPSMichael Hotten and I are planning to record a post-race episode 13 the evening after the race — it will be a different kind of show than we usually do: just a stream-of-conciousness recounting of how the day went.

PPPS: We are considering doing a show 14 and 15 for this season as well, where we interview other folks to get their amazing race stories. Message either Hottie or me and give us the short version of your story and we’ll be in touch.

 

OK, You’re in Leadville. Now What?

07.31.2018 | 8:45 am

We’re down to the second-to-last regular episode In season 1 of The Leadville Podcast, and I’m happy to say that in my opinion this is the most useful show we’ve recorded so far.

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

Be sure to listen as Rebecca Rusch — The Queen of Pain — talks about the advice she gave my wife a few years ago: just four words that Lisa says changed her from a nine-something racer into a sub-nine racer:

“Pedal! Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!”

There’s (obviously) more to it than that, so don’t miss the “Questions for the Queen” segment this time. You’ll find that while it’s too late to do much about your fitness, it’s not even close to too late to have a much faster finish time than you ever thought possible.

Of course, before you RACE in Leadville, you’ve got to GET to Leadville. Once there, what are you (and more importantly, your family and crew) going to do for fun? And where are you going to eat? Michael Hotten and I have a long list of great ideas for you.

And we get to the penultimate episode of our detailed description of The Course, talking about the rocky descent down Sugarloaf, the flight down Hagerman’s Pass (on which we now have a ruling from Cole Chlouber for correct pronunciation) and then the climb up Turquoise Lake Road, which you’ll either love or…not. Hottie and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

This is a packed and fun episode, with plenty of useful info for both you AND your family and friends. Enjoy!

PS: By popular request (seriously, the single most popular request we’ve received), we’ll be releasing a bonus episode that’s a compilation of all our “Course” segments this Thursday. Usually I put bonus shows up on Fridays, but you’ll need some extra time for this one. There’s a contest in this one where you can win one of 5 $50 boxes from The Feed, so don’t miss it (hint: winners will be the 5 people who guess closest to my LT100 finish time for this year. Get the jump on others by making your guess now.

PPS: A little pre-announcement here. We’ve already recorded episode 12 because I’m going to be racing Breck Epic starting this weekend and don’t expect to have time / energy to write and record a show (but we also don’t want to skip a week for this show). So i can already tell you that In that episode, we’ll be asking you to get in touch with us to tell us your amazing LT100 stories for the show. So start thinking about your story and get ready to share it!

Leadville Silver Rush Race Report, Part 2: More Idiocy from an Idiot

07.26.2018 | 10:07 am

I was stuck. I’d managed, through an extraordinary combination of bad luck and stupid errors, to get a flat, fix the flat, and yet be unable to go anywhere.

I had lost a tool, searched for a tool, borrowed a tool, found the borrowed tool didn’t have a big enough hex key, and was now evaluating my options, which included:

  • Hanging around
  • Nothing to do but frown (some kind of lonely clown)
  • Contemplating the fact that race days and flat tires always get me down

Once again, I walked up and down the stretch of trail where I must have lost that tool. Once again I did not find it. In my mind’s eye I pictured when The Hammer rode by — days ago, it seemed. I knew for a fact that she had a tool mounted below her bottle cage. If only I would have stopped her, I’d be on my way right now. In fact, it would have been the most natural thing in the world for us to have ridden the rest of the race together — something we had discussed before the race, and which I had rejected. Because — ha! — I wanted the freedom to go as fast as I could when doing this race.

And then a guy on a Specialized Epic stopped, asking if I needed any help.

Instantly, my eye was drawn to the place, right below his bottle cage, where — like The Hammer’s, like (until recently) mine — a multi-tool was mounted.

“Can I borrow your multitool for just a moment?” I asked.

And two minutes later, I was rolling. Axle tightened, drivetrain shifting. Hopeful that my race day troubles were behind me.

They were not behind me. Indeed, they had only just begun.

Which seems like a good place for us to pick up in the next…no, just kidding. I’m not done writing today’s story yet.

Ten Seconds Later

I had been riding for ten seconds — maybe twenty, maybe half a minute, you know how time distorts when you’re racing — when I realized something was wrong.

Namely, that everything seemed super bright. And kind of blurry.

Which made sense, because I was no longer wearing my glasses.

Now, such is my race-induced insanity that I very nearly said, “Screw it,” and kept going. But then I reconsidered. These weren’t just sunglasses. They were very expensive prescription Oakley Flak Jackets. Riding away from them would be very much like riding away from $500. And also I would be having a very soft-focused race, which sounds kind of pleasant except for the way I’d only know how big obstacles were by how much they hurt when I hit them.

So I stopped, turned around, and rode back to where I had set them down to fix my tire — a place where I had now spent enough time that I could actually declare it as my place of legal residence.

You’d think that I’d have trouble riding against race traffic by doing this, and you’d be wrong. Why? because I had now spent so much time on this debacle that I was very nearly at the back of the race. Only occasional riders went by now, giving me curious looks, probably wondering what had happened that I had given up on this thing so early.

I found my glasses, got back on my bike, and resumed the race. Curious how far behind The Hammer I now was.

Unaware that however far behind her I was at that moment, I was about to become much further behind her.

Which seems like a good place…no, I’m kidding again. We’re going to get through this in-progress disaster today.

Let’s Go

The nice thing about having been stopped for twentyish minutes (I’m guessing; it may have been much less time, but it may also have been more — like I said, time really distorts when you’re racing) so early in the race is that when you re-start, you’re among people who are friendly and happy to talk, instead of hell-bent on some arbitrary race objective (i.e., people like me). I got lots of “hellos” and “good jobs” and “have a great race,” wishes. It raised my spirits immeasurably, and I resolved to go hard but also be nice and have fun.

This mood did not last long. Probably about ten minutes (final race time distortion disclaimer here, by now you know not to take my time estimates literally in these stories) later, I felt the same squishy tire sensation that I’d had in the first place.

Let’s Stop Again

Yep, the tire was going flat. The CO2 I had used the first time had leaked out.

Which left me with a conundrum, again.

“The bike just sat there for a long time after the first flat I had,” I thought to myself. “It’s entirely possible that the sealant didn’t plug whereever the hole is (I couldn’t find a hole) because the tire wasn’t rotating, so the centrifugal effect couldn’t get the sealant where it needed to be.”

“Or,” I countered to myself, “maybe I need to put in a tube.”

But here’s the problem. I didn’t have a way to put a tube in. Because of course I didn’t have a tool to take my wheel off my bike.

So my choice was actually to either wait ’til I could flag someone down who would loan me a tool, or to use my second (of three) CO2 cartridges to get myself riding again instantly.

I put some CO2 in, and this time saw where the problem with the rear wheel was: a knob had ripped off the tire and sealant was quickly bubbling through it.

I didn’t even start riding. I knew that tire wouldn’t last long. Instead, I began answering as people rode by asking if I need help, “Yeah I need a hex wrench.”

“What size?”

“A big one.”

Most people would — confounded by the weird combination of specificity and vagueness of my need — shake their heads and continue.

Let’s Go One Last Time

And then a guy — once again on a Specialized with the very conveniently-mounted (unless of course you lose it) tool rode up, and I waved frantically. “Can I have your multi-tool? I need it to get the wheel off my bike so I can change it,” I said.

The man stopped and began to oblige, but I continued, because I had a horrible caveat I needed to share. “The thing is, I need it both to at the beginning and end of the tire change,” I said. “To get the wheel off and then back on the bike. And I don’t want to make you wait or leave you stranded without a tool if you need it.”

“I know who you are, Fatty,” he said. “I’ll leave you this tool, and you need to make a fast change and then ride like hell to catch me and get this tool back to me before this race is over.”

A challenge. I like challenges.

“I’ll do my best,” I said.

And I got to work while this man — the second man to do so in this race — left me with his multi-tool, trusting his luck wouldn’t be as bad on this course as mine had been.

And I’m happy to say that the removal of the wheel, the booting of the tire, the adding and inflation of the tube, and replacement of the wheel all went without incident.

It did, however, mean that I had now burned through all three of my CO2 cartridges in the first eight or so miles of the race. I still had another tube, but no way to inflate it.

Hopefully that wouldn’t be an issue.

I got on my bike and rode with a brand new kind of intensity, because I now had a whole raft of race objectives: catch this man and return his multi-tool. Catch and return my friend Kevin’s multi-tool. And — finally, hopefully — catch The Hammer and ride the rest of the race with her.

And that — for reals this time — is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.

Obsessing Over The Powerline Climb

07.24.2018 | 12:51 pm

Everything you’ve done to prepare for this race leads to this moment. Every pedal stroke of the race itself leads to this climb. How you do in this four miles can be the difference between hitting or missing your  Leadville 100 objective,  whether it be to finish under twelve hours, under nine hours, or whatever your objective is.

In this episode of the Leadville Podcast, we obsess over mile 79 – 83, AKA (cue ominous music) The Powerline climb.

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

It’s just four miles. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Trust us: The Powerline is a Big Deal.

We’re also pleased to bring Racer Gibson of Racer’s Cycle Service to talk about final bike prep. Rebecca Rusch talks about descending techniques for those of us not-so-gifted at downhilling, and Jonathan Lee shares some hot (haha) new research on simulating high altitude training.

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/leadvillefor 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% discounton either of those boxes. You can use the LEADVILLE15 code at checkout for anyMaurten 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 20% 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 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.

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