A Note from Fatty: If you already know what this is about and how it works and now just want the link to donate, just click here to go to the fundraising page.
Things were not looking good. Not good at all. But now they’re looking good. For me, and for the GranFondo. And — most especially — for you.
To catch you up, things started getting ugly early this week when I said that I won’t be able to go to Levi’s GranFondo this year. The BikeMonkey guys — in a typical mega-company aggressive move — reacted by telling me that if I’m not coming to their party, I needed to reimburse them for certain…former indiscretions.
The conversation continued in Twitter, where I tried to come to reasonable terms.
The Bike Monkey bureaucrats would not budge.
Always trying to collaborate and drive to consensus, I tried again:
They continued to not budge.
I admit, I became desperate and made a suggestion I am not proud of.
Even that would not sway them.
I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with Bike Monkey, nor was I likely to. So I sent a message to Levi Leipheimer, hoping he could make them see reason.
It took a little back and forth, but eventually he relented.
To which I replied:
Because I did, in fact, have a plan. A very good plan.
A plan I think you’re going to like.
A Conversation With Levi
I called Levi. (Yes, I have his phone number, which he is none too happy about. But that’s beside the point.) The conversation went like this.
Me: So the Bike Monkey guys are invoicing me for around $34,000.
Me: That’s a lot of money.
Me: You know that I don’t have that kind of money, right? Not even close?
Me: Those guys at Bike Monkey have hearts of stone.
Me: And I’m pretty sure you do, too.
Me: But your wife, Odessa, on the other hand, seems like a genuinely good person. Someone who volunteers a ton of her time for a really amazing charity: Forget Me Not Farm. Where they bring together both kids and animals that have been abused, and help them heal each other?
Me: That’s pretty incredible. In fact, that’s amazing. I’d love to be a part of a program like that.
Me: I can hear “Judge Judy” on in the background. You’re not even listening, are you?
Me: So I could pretty much propose anything and you’d agree to it right now, right?
Me: How about this, then. Instead of me paying back Bike Monkey, how about we do a fundraiser for Forget Me Not Farm, instead?
Me: I’m recording this you know; you won’t be able to get out of this once you commit. So you’re in?
Me: OK. So here’s what I’m thinking we do. We have people donate multiples of $5 to my GranFondo fundraising page, with each $5 getting them a chance at the prize. The more you donate, the better your chance at winning.
Me: The prize is going to need to be awesome, though. Something crazily cool. Something that knocks people off their feet. Something that ropes you and Bike Monkey into doing most of the work, leaving my readers and me to just donating some money and then winning a cool prize. One that Bike Monkey provides at their expense, not mine.
Me: Hey, it’s been great talking with you. I’m going to get off the phone now and tell my readers what the prize will be, OK?
And then we hung up. Or at least, I hung up.
Levi may still be on the phone.
Race, Ride and Road Trip With Fatty and Levi
Boggs is not just a bike race. It’s three bike races: A hill climb. An Eight-Hour Race. And a Super D. And it’s in a spectacular location.
I’ve wanted to do it ever since I’ve known it exists. And now I’m going to get to.
And so — if you win — are you.
But that leaves us with a problem: who will be the third member on our team when we do the eight-hour race?
Levi Leipheimer, that’s who.
That’s right. The winner of this contest will be flown to Oakland or San Francisco, California, where you’ll be driven to Santa Rosa. We’ll hang out. Then you, me, and Levi will load up into an RV, and we’ll go road-tripping to Boggs.
You’ll be entered in all three events, though the only one I care about is that you will race with Levi and me in the eight-hour event.
And here’s the cool thing: I guarantee that we will win our category…because we will be racing in our own category.
That’s right. I’m guaranteeing you a podium spot in an eight-hour relay race. No matter how fast you are. Or how slow. Honestly, neither Levi nor I really care. We’re just looking forward to having fun.
Let’s Get Specific
So, to be clear, here’s what the prize of the “Race with Levi and Fatty” contest looks like:
- Round-trip travel for one to and from SFO or OAK from any destination in the contiguous 48 states
- Transfers to and from SFO or OAK to Santa Rosa lodging
- RV rental, camp fees, and gas from Friday, May 1 to Sunday May 3
- Race entry to all three events (Hill Climb, 8-Hour Race, Super D)
- 8-Hour event on a team with Levi and Fatty
- Groceries at Boggs (3 days food and drink)
- Event t-shirt
- Medal, poster, rider meal
- Big delicious beers
- Bike Rental
- Pie — lots and lots of pie
Seriously, this might be the coolest — and is certainly the most unique — prize I have ever put together.
But What If You Don’t Mountain Bike AT ALL?
Like I said, neither Levi nor I are really out for blood (though I reserve the right to change my attitude when the heat of the battle is upon me) in this race. We don’t care if you’re a near-pro or a novice. We’re here for the fun of it.
But if you just don’t want to do an MTB event at all, you should still enter this contest. Because you can swap this prize out for a 2015 trip to Levi’s GranFondo, instead, with equivalent level of luxury. Like, they’ll fly you out, put you up in a hotel, set you up with the whole VIP experience.
So, roadies, you have no excuse. Whatever way you go, we’ve got you covered.
So. Go donate. You’ll be helping an amazing cause (the GranFondo supports a number of great causes, but in this case we’re specifically raisin money for Forget Me Not Farms).
And good luck. I’m looking forward to racing with you.
And Levi will look forward to it too I’m sure, as soon as he finds out that he is.
Wow. Just wow.
I genuinely and completely honestly had no idea what a Pandora’s box of worms yesterday’s post would open. I mean, I just — as pleasant as could be — announced that, as much as I would like to, I will not be able to attend Levi’s GranFondo this year.
You’d think they’d understand.
And you’d be wrong, apparently, to think that.
Almost instantly after I posted yesterday, I got the following message from the GranFondo:
Naturally, this put me on my guard, but — as a beloved and award-winning blogger — I chose to take the high road. I replied:
Almost as if they were lurking on Twitter, ready to pounce on my reply, they shot back:
and then even Levi, with whom I have in the past had a somewhat acrimonious relationship — but who I thought is now my friend — ominously chimed in:
Was I wigged out? You bet I was wigged out.
A Most Unwelcome Letter
And then the other shoe dropped. Late yesterday afternoon, a bike messenger came by FatCyclist.com worldwide HQ (i.e., my basement) and delivered the following, which I have scanned and reproduced so that you can tell it is absolutely real:
The text is kind of small — which is irritating, because the above is the actual size of the letter delivered to me — so here’s the text of the above letter, which I have painstakingly retyped for your convenience.
It has come to our attention that you will not be able to participate with us at Levi’s GranFondo on this, our sixth year. We are certainly disappointed that you will be breaking your admirable attendance record, but do understand that life is a complicated symphony with many constituent parts with which to contend and balance.
That said, it seems appropriate that we take this break in our association to balance our respective ledgers. We are always happy to host a cyclist of your repute, especially one engaged in the noble art of bloggery. However, as you will see in the enclosed invoice, hosting your particular personality does not come without its obligations. You are a colorful character, Mr. Nelson, in a world far too content to be pale and gray.
However, we cannot ignore the costs associated with such charisma, especially as we are a charity event and the indulgences enumerated here don’t quite jive with our efforts to support at-risk children, youth cycling, and community resources like schools and fire departments.
Please do remit payment upon receipt. We are a flexible bunch, but would like to settle this considerable matter with as much swiftness as is possible.
All our best,
Director of Communications
Chief Officer, Risk Management
This, of course, was accompanied by an invoice for things I evidently am responsible for:
Here is the text from that invoice, just in case you don’t have Super Magnification Vision:
- Two nights, Motel 6 ($39.95/night): 79.90
- Damage deposit, vending machine: $450
- In-and-Out Burger, multiple meals: $43.15
- Pie: $8.79
- Round trip bus fare, Greyhound, Salt Lake City to Santa Rosa: $85
- Three nights, Holiday Inn Santa Rosa ($149.95/night): $449.85
- Minibar, mostly Butterfingers and Bud Light: $156
- Movie rentals, restricted content: $32
- Lump sum, incl. pie: $200
- Airfare to/from SLC/SFO, unscheduled layover in Las Vegas: $500
- Bike rental, NorCal Bike Sport: $200
- Two second-row seats, Doobie Brothers Reunion, Luther Burbank Center: $225
- Two sleeveless concert t-shirts, “Reeling In The Years”: $70
- Auction losses due to Mr. Nelson standing in front of various silent auction items, intimidating prospective bidders, because “this one’s going home with me, lady.”: $1750
- Fry Sauce at Festa del Fondo fundraising dinner, half case: $72.50
- 3.2% beer at Festa del Fondo fundraising dinner, 1.5 cases ($12.25, plus $250 air freight from Utah): $262.25
- Three nights, Hyatt Vineyard Creek ($259.95/night): $779.85
- Lump sum, incl. pie: $800
- Airfare to/from SLC/SFO, upgraded cabin: $1600
- California Dept. of Agriculture quarantine violation, excessive snacks brought on board: $345
- Town car transfer to/from hotel, including in-vehicle amenities: $275
- Bike rental, NorCal Bike Sport: $200
- In-room mariachi band: $750
- Three hours, contract review, Fat Cyclist appearance agreement: $435
- Removal of all brown M&Ms from in-room gift bag by legal team: $775
- Restocking fees, multiple (sweaty) used returns of GranFondo merchandise: $40
- Staff losses due to prank calls from Mr. Nelson during key event planning meetings, i.e. the refrigerator does not need to be caught, Prince Albert is not actually in the can, no one named I.P. Freely works at Bike Monkey.: $145
- Four nights, Hyatt Vineyard Creek penthouse ($625/night): $2500
- Room service, off-menu orders: $324
- In-room massage, plus gratuity: $588
- Pool cleaning fee: $1250
- Damage deposit, plumbing: $742
- Lump sum, incl. lots of pie: $1200
- Private charter, Sunlight Transportation Services: $7129
- Rental car, Wine Country Dream Cars: $1200
- Damage deposit, stained upholstery: $325
- Excess luggage services: $110
- Ambulance: $800
- Emergency outpatient surgery: $2435
- Small claims representation, plea consultation, bond, etc.: $1485
- Public relations costs stemming from message control regarding the GranFondo and its invited guests while in the Sonoma County area: $1290
2014 (Preliminary Measures)
- Law Enforcement Notification: $176.42
- Insurance Services, including naming lodging partner as additional insured, expanded policy coverage: $556
- Deposit loss, private security: $850
- Deposit loss, skydiving instructor: $180
- Custom Fat Cyclist-branded ankle bracelet/tracker: $675
GRAND TOTAL, WITH 2014 COSTS: $34,344.71
Looking at this itemized list, I am — as you would expect — outraged.
I could say that this list is a crazy, drug-induced lie. In fact, I would say that…except the Bike Monkey people evidently have surprisingly comprehensive documentation of pretty much every line item in that that invoice.
Which means I’ve got a problem. A $34,000 problem.
And I’m not sure what to do about it.
This will be a short post today, and is in fact just a quick explanation I think I owe my readers.
Yesterday, one of the comments read (edited for topicality):
Yes, that’s right. For the first time in four years, I won’t be going to Levi’s GranFondo.
I know, I know. It’s crushing, horrible news. Especially for everyone who is going to the GranFondo. And for Bike Monkey, the organizers of the GranFondo.
And for Levi himself, I’m sure.
To each and every one of you whom I have disappointed by my not being able to attend, I apologize. I recognize that without me, the event simply won’t be the same. That there will be a certain listlessness to the ride. That — before, during and after the event — people may just feel lost without me there. That, above all, my lack of prose about the ride will leave people feeling completely unable to express (or even feel) joy on this day.
To all of you, I apologize. I wish I could be there to inspire you with my riding style, my dapper outfits, my disarming smile and my insightful remarks.
Truly, I do wish I could be there. Almost as much as you wish I could be there.
Please, do not be sad.
I choose, at this time, to not reveal why I won’t be attending. Let’s just say that my reasons are good and sufficient and legal, and leave it at that.
Meanwhile, if you can, please go to Levi’s GranFondo. Ride it. Enjoy the scenery (to the degree that’s possible considering I am not there). Enjoy each other’s company, trying to push out the thought of, “I wish it were Fatty talking with me right now instead of this other, less-beloved person.”
Enjoy the food, if food has any savor at all to you when I am not present.
I will be back next year, if…circumstances allow for it.
Until then, know that as much as you miss my presence there, I miss myself even more.
A Note from Fatty: So here we are: the final post in my admittedly over-the-top Leadville series. Don’t be sad, though: we won’t run out of stories to tell. Since the Leadville race, I’ve raced (and been disqualified from) the Jordanelle Triathlon, raced Rebecca’s Private Idaho, took the winner of The Hammer’s WBR fundraising contest to the Gooseberry Yurt, and am now getting ready to race a half-iron-distance Tri, as well as — the following week — an Xterra. And then there will be the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow.
And that doesn’t even touch some of the other stuff I have to talk about.
My point being, I’ll have stories to tell for a while.
OK. So that’s what’s coming up. Now, let’s get to the conclusion of The Hammer’s telling of her racing of the Leadville 100 with Rebecca Rusch.
If I was asked to sum up the Powerline climb in one word, I could do it. Easily.
This was my tenth racing of the Leadville 100. Which means it was my tenth time climbing Powerline during the race.
It has not gotten any easier.
In fact, I’m going to rank the difficulty of this racing of the Leadville 100 Powerline climb right up there with my first time climbing Powerline, back in 2000. My stomach was hurting so bad — it felt like it was bloated to the size of a basketball, and was pressing now on my diaphragm.
I could hardly breathe.
I was taking little tiny breaths, which I’m sure was making the problem worse.
I thought about how ridiculous it was that, just minutes ago, I had been looking forward to this part of the race. How had I thought pushing my bike would offer some relief? Of course it didn’t.
I could hardly walk and was stumbling and shuffling. Hardly moving at all. Meanwhile, Rebecca was taking huge steps, moving up the trail as fast as if she’d been riding.
Then I heard a man’s voice. A familiar man’s voice.
“Hey, can I get around you? That’s my wife up there two bikes ahead and I’d like to walk with her for a minute.”
I looked back in time to see a couple of racers step aside, probably grateful for the short break.
My sweet honey had caught back up to me.
Photo by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.
I think he began to profess his undying love for me, but honestly I was too far in the pain cave to hear or really appreciate it.
Rebecca was in no mood for his kind of talk, either. “This is no time for a love connection! Let’s get moving!”
Later Rebecca would explain her reaction: She didn’t want me getting emotional and weepy on the climb. And I have to agree: tears and racing do not go well together.
Elden stepped up his pace and quickly moved on by—He didn’t want to upset the Queen of Pain.
Friend of Fatty
Rebecca could tell I was struggling. She came back, held up my bike, and told me to take some nice big breaths and try to relax.
I ate a Gu, had a drink, and we continued up the hill. Elden was no longer in sight. I was glad he at least was doing well — those electrolyte capsules must have done their job!
As I crested the first false summit — and the end of the hike a bike section — a guy ran up to me. “Hey Hammer! You’re doing awesome! Fatty has just instructed me to pour this water over your head and give you a push!”
“Go for it!” I said. The water felt refreshing. He then did a wonderful thing. He had me climb on my bike, he balanced me while I clipped in (which I found very hard to do after walking uphill) and then gave me an incredible push! Wow! Just what I needed!
Later, after the race, as Elden and I were talking about the memorable moments of the day, Elden asked if a guy in a pizza costume had given me a push after the hike-a-bike section of the Powerline climb. “A pizza costume?” I replied.
“Yeah, a guy in a pair of shorts and a top that made him look like a slice of pepperoni pizza.”
I guess it shows how delirious I was that it didn’t even register in my mind that this Friend of Fatty was dressed as a slice of pizza!
(Or was it Elden who was delirious — imagining people in pizza costumes? I guess we’ll never know.)
The Benefits of Sheer Exhaustion
I headed into the first small descent — a quick, short, rocky dip. I was too exhausted to even touch the brakes and just numbly rolled over everything.
Then, when we started climbing again, Rebecca caught up with me and complimented me on my great descent.
“I’m too tired to be scared anymore,” I replied.
The Tipping Point
The climb continued, and I managed, somehow, to keep pedaling…s-l-o-w-l-y. I felt like I was moving through molassess. I have never felt so pooped.
Rebecca passed me.
“Goodbye Reba,” I thought, too tired to tell her to wait up. “And goodbye sub-nine. I’m falling apart. My stomach will explode soon. Maybe then I will feel better.”
And then I tipped over.
Just fell over.
I found myself laying on my side, in the bushes, with my feet still clipped into the pedals. It was nice to lie down.
A guy passed me. “Are you OK?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m OK.”
“Are you embarrassed?“
So I laid there and let a few more bikers pass. Then, slowly, I untangled myself from the bike and stood up.
I tried to remount my bike, but the pedals wouldn’t turn. I thought maybe my chain had fallen off. It hadn’t.
So I just stood and looked blankly at my bike…as if I had never seen a bike before. It’s funny how your brain can stop working when you’re completely beat.
Finally, I had a moment of clarity. I shifted the rear derailleur, the chain dropped onto a cog, and I was up and moving again.
I think that little wreck actually hit my reset button. I quickly passed the bikers that had passed while I was “resting.” I caught up with Rebecca, who had pulled over to wait. I explained that I had tipped over, but now I was up…and feeling much better.
I finished off the Powerline climb with newfound energy. I was going to make it, I realized. I was almost to the top of the Powerline climb and I was going to finish this thing. We rolled over the top of the climb and started flying down the other side.
I have never been so grateful for a descent in my life.
My body relaxed, my breathing calmed down. I ate a delicious Root Beer Float GU and giggled. I was on a descent…and enjoying it! Rebecca pulled up beside me—looking amazed at how fast I was going.
I followed her lead, tearing down the mountain and bunnyhopping over rocks. Who was this person who had temporarily taken over my body?
I think this was my first — and possibly only — true rest since the start of the race. I had killed myself on the climbs, turned myself inside out on the flats and had been scared shitless on the descents.
It was so good to just coast!
Eventually all good things come to end and so did the SugarLoaf descent. We now embarked on the fast smooth dirt road leading to the paved road. Rebecca must have sensed I was feeling better and yelled back to me while smacking her butt.
“Don’t relax now, You need to keep pedaling!”
I once again fell into my place behind her wheel, and we flew down the hill toward the pavement.
As we pulled onto the pavement, I was so happy to see that we had caught Elden again. I pulled alongside him and grabbed something to eat. I had just swallowed my GU and got my water bottle out for a fresh swig of water—I had hit my Roctane drink limit.
I was still holding on to the water bottle when Rebecca smacked her butt and began yelling at me again. “Pedal, pedal, pedal! I know you can pedal and eat at the same time!” she urged me on.
Well, maybe I could pedal and eat, but I didn’t think I could descend at 30mph and put a water bottle away! I was in a true dilemma: I knew Elden was right behind me, and I didn’t want to swerve into him or drop the bottle right into his path. So I clutched the bottle and my handlebar with my right hand and prayed I wouldn’t need to brake!
I hit the corner and the road turned sharply up. I slowed down and was able to safely put my bottle away. Phew!
Love Connection, Part 2
The paved road climb is a welcome change from the slow progression up the Powerline climb. Sure, you’re climbing about 1300 feet in four miles, but the road is smooth and when you pedal you actually feel like you’re going somewhere.
As we settled into the climb, my Honey came cruising by me. He passed me like I was standing still! We exchanged “I love you’s” and I watched him disappear up the road.
Then Greg — Reba’s boyfriend — appeared on his motorcycle. I heard Rebecca sigh. Rebecca told me that Greg usually finds her on this climb and she looks forward to it every year. I heard them giggle–they must have been making a “love connection.”
As the road continued to climb, a kind man appeared, handing out cold cans of Coke. Rebecca grabbed one, drank some and offered me the rest. My stomach was still feeling bad and I refused. She insisted, So I drank. My stomach gurgled…but within 5 minutes I started feeling the caffeine have its effect.
I love caffeine.
I had it in my brain that the Carter Summit aid station was located at mile ninety. In fact, I actually shared this nugget of information with my niece Lindsey, so she would know what to expect.
So as you’d expect, I was happy to see my Garmin reaching the ninety mile mark — signifiying the top of the climb.
But something horrible happened: the road kept climbing. ninety miles came and went.
Then ninety-one came and went, too.
I was getting angry. In addition to wanting this stupid climb to end, I was feeling bad because I had told Lindsey wrong. She would be experiencing these same feelings in the very near future.
Finally, at mile 91.5, (making for the longest 1.5 miles of the race), we came to the Carter aid station. Reba said she was going to stop for a minute. I continued on, since I had been told that I can eat and pedal at the same time.
I thought about that I would probably only have to eat one more GU before I was finished.
When Rebecca caught me, she reminded me that I still needed to pedal on the flats! That was okay with me; I was feeling good. Knowing that the end was near gave me new strength.
As I hit the last steep climb, I reflected on how I felt on the same climb last year on my singlespeed…and I was again grateful for my gears as I cleaned the last real steep climb of the race.
Before I knew it, we were bombing down the back side of St Kevens. I was feeling great and actually leading out Rebecca. I came to a fork in the road, bore right, and heard Rebecca yell, “NOOOOOO!”
I slammed on my brakes and made a quick U-turn. How embarrassing! Even more embarrassingly, I have to admit I’ve made that same mistake before.
I think it shows my level of concentration and focus on the task at hand. Yeah, let’s go with that.
As the St Kevens road leveled off, Rebecca pulled up alongside me and said, “If we can maintain six miles per hour, we will make it,” she said.
I couldn’t believe it: Rebecca had finally admitted that we might just make our sub-nine goal.
“But that doesn’t mean you can stop pedaling,” she reminded me, and then pulled ahead of me and started smacking her butt.
The Selene Train
As we pulled onto the pavement, I ate the last GU in my pocket and took a big drink of water. My stomach was still terribly bloated, but I didn’t want to run out of energy on “The Boulevard” — the dirt road climb that seems like it was put in the race to break new racers’ hearts and spirits.
The Pain/Hammer train eventually caught the Selene Train. Selene was cruising along, pulling her all-male caboose. So typical.I remembered last year, on my singlespeed, pulling two guys along this strip of road — who then promptly used their conserved energy to blow past me at the end of the Boulevard climb.
Selene’s train combined with ours and we motored on. It wasn’t too much longer until our train blew by my Elden, spun out on the flat road, unable to keep up with or latch onto any of the trains of racers going by.
“You’re gonna do it Honey!” he shouted at me.
“Wahoo!” I yelled. “I love you! See you soon!”
Now Elden thought I could do this too, so it must be true! I was feeling great. No, I was unstoppable.
I hadn’t even entertained the thought that I might beat Elden!
Blowup on the Boulevard
As we turned the corner and started up the rocky section of the Boulevard, Selene and Rebecca pulled ahead. My huge surge of energy from a moment ago was completely gone now. My legs suddenly didn’t want to turn the pedals at all.
I was just so tired. My stomach was really hurting. Everyone seemed pretty confident that I was going to make sub-nine. Maybe I could back off just a little?
I needed to keep moving.
I didn’t think Rebecca had noticed I was falling off the back, so I stood up and started climbing. That didn’t last long, so I sat and turned the cranks.
After that initial steep pitch, the Boulevard does level off and I caught back up to them. I had only two miles left. I needed to hold it together just a little longer. So I put my head down and pedaled.
“Just a little bit longer, just a little bit longer,” I kept repeating to myself.
I wasn’t having very much fun.
One Last Love Connection
At last I could see where the dirt meets pavement…and that’s when I heard a familiar voice. It was my sweetheart — he had finally caught up to us. I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see him.
I was feeling so terrible and I needed to unload on someone — someone who cared. And I knew Elden would be sympathetic, so I started to whine. “My stomach hurts so bad! I’m so tired!”
I knew my pace was slowing, but I didn’t really care. Elden was here and he would take care of me. I started to “paper boy” (swerve from side to side) as we started up the last paved climb, by the high school.
But instead of giving me sympathy…he turned into another slave driver!
“Don’t slow down now, Honey!” he urged me. “If we hurry we can cross the finish line in 8:39! Then you have bragging rights to an “eight-thirthish” Leadville! That sounds better than eight-forty!”
That actually made sense to me. Damnit! I had worked so hard today, I deserved an “eight-thirtyish” finish.
So I straightened out the bike, put my head down and pedaled.
I glanced up momentarily to see the “Slow” sign at the top of the hill. I had made it. The finish was in sight. I would have cried if I hadn’t been so tired. I started to pedal down the hill — Rebecca didn’t have to remind me to pedal this time!
Rebecca dropped back, pulling beside me. My head was still down as we approached the finish line. I was in a daze. I didn’t know where Elden was; I didn’t know where Rebecca was.
Then I felt someone grasp my hand and raise it high in the sky: my teammate Rebecca.
Photo by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.
A smile spread across my face. My teammate was at my side celebrating our victory.
We had done it.
The next few minutes were a blur of pictures, hugs, dirty faces and flowers.
Photo by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.
And then I looked over and saw my brother. The last time I had seen him I had been a monster!
I ran over to him and the tears burst out of me. “I’m so sorry, Scott! I can’t believe how mean I was! I was out of my mind. Will you forgive me?”
Scott laughed and said, “It’s no big deal, Lisa! I know how you get when you race!” (Scott has trained with me and crewed for me in the past and been my brother for 46 years!)
“I love you Scott! Thank you for putting up with me!”
There’s a great quote in Reba’s book:
There’s a Moroccan proverb that advises you to “choose your companion before your road.” It’s something adventure racing hammers home. Being bone tired, hungry, scared, and potentially lost magnifies every aspect of your personality. Your true self is stripped bare, like the landscape here. This is why even in light of the physical nature of the event and the danger it presents, it’s team dynamics that truly make or break the experience. You may like someone personally, but are they the right companion for the arduous journey? On the flip side, you might find someone with all the skills for the excursion, but can they operate and collaborate in a group setting? The whole must be stronger than the parts. You need to function as a single unit out there, so it’s paramount that each member be on the same page. (page 67-68)
I had all the right teammates for my 2014 Leadville experience. It started with my loving husband and lifelong teammate Elden. We had trained hard every day leading up to the event. He knows me inside and out. He loves me no matter what.
I had my fantastic crew, made up of great friends and family. Even when I was freaked out and losing time, Scott and his group remained calm and did what they were supposed to. Scott knows that I only become possessed by evil demons on rare occasions.
Well, a week before this event she didn’t even know me. During the week leading up to the race, she had taken the opportunity to evaluate me. She assessed my strengths and my weaknesses.
Then, on race day, she figured out exactly how far she could push me. She can read a person’s physical and emotional cues perfectly. She told me after the race that she fine-tuned that skill while adventure racing: push a teammate to the limit when you can, but know when to back off when they are struggling.
I hadn’t realized it during the race, but as I’m writing this down, I realize that is exactly what she did. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate to push me to my limit.
Elden couldn’t have — he would have backed off when he knew I was hurting.
I couldn’t have pushed myself that hard. I would have rationalized a reason to have to slow down.
Rebecca pushed me to my limit…and beyond…but pulled me back when she could see I was cracking!
For this I will be forever grateful.
PS from Fatty: Here are a few things to put The Hammer’s race in context. First, here’s a list of women winners at the Leadville 100 over the years, and their finishing times. The highlighted ones are the times that are slower than The Hammer’s time this year:
It’s pretty clear that since 2009 the women’s race has really gotten faster; what would have gotten The Hammer the win all but three times ’til 2009 now no longer gets her on her age group podium.
That said, The Hammer was — as far as I can tell — the single fastest non-pro (i.e., is not and has never been a pro) woman in the race, and the only non-pro woman this year to finish in under nine hours.
Finally, for those of you who — like me — enjoy poring over numbers, here’s The Hammer’s race splits:
A Note from Fatty: The Hammer’s telling of her a 2014 Leadville 100 continues today. Yesterday’s installment is here.
Columbine was behind us. Finally.
The road flattened out and we came back — to cheering crowds. Yes, really, cheering crowds: Rebecca’s fan club! Whenever we passed large groups of people, there were always loud cheers for Rebecca. It was really fun riding with someone who is so well-known and loved. I imagined the cheers were for me because I had just made it down the Columbine descent in one piece!
I opened my mouth to comment to Rebecca about her fans…and was surprised to find nothing but a croak come out of my mouth; somewhere on Columbine I had lost my voice…probably from all the heavy breathing I had been doing. My vocal cords had dried out!
Pedal Pedal Pedal…Cramp!
Rebecca and I regrouped on the rolling road back to Twin Lakes. She reminded me of the importance of pedaling hard–even on the descents. That way my momentum would carry me up the next climb. As the words left her mouth she was gone–pedaling down the next hill.
I did my best to follow her example…but was suddenly seized by a horrible quad and hamstring cramp, both at the same time! I couldn’t pedal at all, and I actually screamed out in pain!
I coasted, trying to stretch out the cramp. Rebecca slowed and drifted back to me, I’m sure wondering what the heck happened to me. She asked if I had taken any GU Electrolyte Capsules yet. I answered that I hadn’t — up until this point I really hadn’t felt any inklings of a cramp. But when they hit, they hit hard! She told me to swallow a mouthful, and I did as I was instructed.
We rolled into Twin Lakes aid station around 1130. I had been riding for just over 5hours. I unknowingly had cut eleven minutes off my fastest climb and descent of Columbine.
I had more than made up for my slow descent with my fast ascent!
My fantastic crew was ready for me as I came in. This time I got rid of my Camelbak and grabbed a bottle of Roctane.
“Get that stupid salted nut roll out of my pocket,” I told them, “and I don’t want any Honey Stinger Waffles! If I have to chew it, I DON’T want it!”
I surprised myself at my gruffness with my crew. I didn’t want to sound mean and ungrateful. I was just a little stressed. GU was going to have to be my only fuel source, and I was a little worried. My stomach was starting to feel a little bloated, like a giant gas bubble was growing inside. Building pressure. Like a geyser.
I didn’t like the idea of me as Old Faithful; I hoped my stomach would settle down.
I took more electrolyte capsules; my cramps started going away. I was happy — and amazed — that those capsules could work so quickly! I thanked my crew, then was ejected back onto the course with one of John’s patented supersonic pushes.
As we left the aid station and began up the short-but-steep paved climb that begins this sort-of-but-not-really flat section of the course, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs had some energy in them.
Make Us or Break Us
Rebecca caught me on the climb and asked me, point-blank, a very interesting question: “How are you going to ride this section?”
“Ummmm.” Was this a trick question? I didn’t know what the right answer was. “Stay behind you and draft, pedal when I can…” I trailed off. Was that the answer she wanted?
No. No it was not.
Rebecca looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re going to ride so hard you’re uncomfortable. We are barely on track. This is the segment that will make us…or break us.”
My stomach hurt, and I was already riding “uncomfortably” hard!
But I had said I wouldn’t quit. I had said I would give this race everything I had to give. So I said, “Okay.” And I managed to say it enthusiastically, with a smile on my face.
Rebecca smacked her butt, and I followed her lead.
Don’t Let Me Drop You
We turned onto the dirt road, pointing our bikes toward the Pipeline aid station, fifteen or so miles away.
Then the headwind hit.
I stayed close on Rebecca’s wheel and within a minute or two, we picked up several passengers on our little train. Rebecca would yell at them to take a pull — but nobody would respond. I could tell she was getting really frustrated.
I sympathized with Rebecca — having to do all the work — but I also sympathized with the passengers on the Queen of Pain Train. I figured they were just like me—at their limit and barely hanging on. They didn’t have anything to give.
Finally, one rider did decide to come up front, at which point he fired up the turbo jets and rode away from us.
Not very beneficial. I think that a lot of mountain bikers just don’t know how to work together in pacelines.
As hard as I tried to stay on Rebecca’s wheel, there were a few times that she would pull away from me. When that happened, she would reprimand me, instructing me NOT to let her pull away. “Don’t let me drop you!” she said. “I’m working really hard to pull you and if I pull away, it’s all in vain!”
It was a good point. I never let her drop me again after that. Whenever she got more than a few inches ahead of me, I would somehow muster up the air to let her know I was with her…or that she was pulling away!
Shift Gears and Get Rolling
Just before the short section of singletrack, we caught Selene again. She fell in line in our little train.
then, right as we started up the singletrack, a few riders surged in front of us…and then promptly slowed down.
I guess they didn’t want to get behind the train of women riders. Little did they know who was the leading the train: The Hammer, followed by Queen of Pain herself, and then the Fit Chick!
Photo by Linda Guerrette, and originally included in her blog post, “Delivering the Goods.” Used with permission.
Yeah. You know. Just a few girls.
“Shift gears and get rolling! It’s flat here!” yelled Reba to the guy in the front of our slow moving train.
Humbled, he yielded, but two slow riders remained. Still, I had to laugh.
I Don’t Have It
I would have laughed harder, but my stomach was killing me! My stomach was slowly expanding with gas! I took a moment while riding at a slower pace to try and relax my gut. “Breathe in, Breathe out,” I told myself. I was at my limit. Hurting. Stressed. And worried about the next 40 miles.
I took comfort in the fact that my brother Scott would be waiting for me at the Pipeline Aid station with some GasX. I had had a similar gas problem back in 2010 while doing the St George Ironman, and taking some GasX and Tums had been was a life-saver!
Reba, Selene and I hit the top of the climb at the end of the singletrack and Rebecca must have sensed I was struggling. She said, “If you have it in you to pass them, pass!” She had left the decision up to me.
I felt horrible when I had to reply, “I don’t have it!” I felt like I was failing her.
I tried to drink. I ate another Gu Roctane. I knew I needed the energy. When the food hit my stomach it hurt, but within just a few minutes, my energy levels perked up! I tell you: Roctane is magic.
This is Your Race, Right Here
Rebecca pulled alongside of me again. “Lisa,” she said, “This is the make-it-or-break-it section! You’re going to determine whether we’re going to beat nine hours. We need to bring our average miles-per-hour up during this section.”
“This is your race, right here,” she finished. “Don’t start caving now!”
How was I going to respond to that? I was going to pedal like crazy, that’s how!
I dug deep. I practiced my “fluffy feet,” technique. I did my best to ignore my expanding belly and we started moving.
And miraculously, the average miles-per-hour indicator on my Garmin actually increased by 0.1!
Disaster at the Pipeline Aid Station
I knew my brother Scott would be at the far end of the aid station. He had brought a really cute weathervane bike wind ornament he said he’d be holding up to help me seek him out in the sea of people (the ornament is now in our front yard):
I rode through the corridor of people at the aid station, not seeing Scott anywhere. I was mad at myself for not remembering what color of shirt Scott had on.
Rebecca saw Greg and stopped to refuel. I kept rolling on … looking for my brother, my anxiety level going through the roof.
I came to the end of the aid station area. I hadn’t seen Scott anywhere.
Where was he?
I was devastated. I needed Scott. Sure, I could get food from the volunteers at the aid station, but I needed my brother. And I needed GasX!
I stopped, stressed out of my mind, yelling to volunteers at the aid station that I couldn’t find my crew! They looked at me, helplessly. Of course they had no way of knowing where my crew was either.
I turned to look back toward the aid station–and there, coming toward me, was Elden!
I was so confused. Why was Elden here in the road, behind me, and where was my brother?
I yelled to Elden, asking him where Scott was. He stopped, looking as confused as I felt, and said I had just passed him. Scott was 50 feet back, on the left-hand side of the road.
Dazed and confused, I headed back toward the aid station — like a salmon swimming upstream — and there, finally, was Scott! His back was toward me, looking up the road, for me, no doubt.
I rushed over to Scott, startling him from behind and yelling like a madwoman! The only thought going through my mind was, “The 0.1mph buffer I’ve worked so hard for is slipping away!”
“CAFFEINE, CAFFEINE! I NEED CAFFEINE!” I shouted at Scott.
Of course I knew that I was referring to Excedrin (with caffeine) when I shouted that. My gut was too full to drink anything right then…but of course they didn’t know that.
So of course they did their best to read my mind and handed me both an open Red Bull and a Coke.
“NO!” I screamed. “EXCEDRIN! AND I NEED GASX NOW!”
I think my eyes glowed red and my head spun around on my neck a few times at that point too. (Wouldn’t it be fun to crew for me?)
My poor sweet brother scrambled, finding a GasX pill and then — shaking because a crazy woman was three inches away and screaming at him at the top of her lungs — tried to remove the pill from its blister pack.
I watched as his fingers fumbled with the wrapper tyring to get the last piece of tinfoil off. To me it seemed like he was moving in slow motion.
“JUST GIVE IT TO ME AND I’LL EAT IT WITH THE FOIL STILL ON!” I shouted.
Scott got the pill out. Then he dropped it.
I picked up the pill and ate it, dirt and all. Meanwhile, my crew had successfully put a new Camelbak on me and replaced the water bottles on my bike. I was about ready to leave, when I went to grab a GU from my pocket, planning to eat it as I left the aid station area.
My pocket was empty. They hadn’t restocked by food pocket.
I yelled like some kind of demon, “WHERE’S MY FOOD?!“
They found it, restocked my pocket and I was off.
I don’t even know if I said thank you. I’m such a horrible person!
Give Me Five Minutes
I found Rebecca waiting for me right outside the aid station. I started profusely apologizing for the long wait and explaining the fiasco I had just been through.
She said, calmly, “It’s no big deal, you were only at the aid station for sixty seconds.”
Really? I swear, it had seemed like everyone was moving in slow motion but me!
Oh well. it was time to pedal again.
We got back on the pavement, and the headwind returned. I sought shelter on Rebecca’s wheel. I knew she had to be stuggling; I could hardly hear myself think, the wind was blowing so hard. We were alone on the road.
Then a little miracle happened: a tandem appeared and pulled ahead of us!
Rebecca let out a yell of delight. There is nothing in the world like tandem to draft behind. I knew how important it would be to hang with them. Even so, I wondered how much longer I would be able to hold on to their intensely fast pace.
I was losing it.
So I said the words I didn’t want to ever say to Rebecca: “Reba, I can’t hold this pace!”
Her reply was simple and direct: “Give me five more minutes. Just. Five. More. Minutes. Let them pull us to the big left-hand turn!”
How could I say “no?”
So I dug a little deeper, I continued to turn the cranks.
Then something beautiful happened.
The tandem eased up.
This wonderful, beautiful, generous tandem team must have heard my cry for help, and they eased up. Their pace lessened ever so slightly…but it was enough for me to hold on!
We finally made it to the turn. The wind direction had changed and the road turned up slightly. I think at that point we passed the tandem…and then we saw him.
A little dark figure in front of us, spinning his legs as fast as they would go.
We had caught Elden!
“My Honey is up there!” I told Rebecca, and I pedaled a little bit faster.
When we caught him I could tell Elden was suffering. He explained that he was suffering from horrible leg cramps. Rebecca asked if he had taken any electrolyte capsules.
Elden answered, “No.”
Rebecca was probably thinking, “Did you two not listen to one thing I taught you this week?” Still, she quickly pulled out her canister of capsules and told him to swallow a mouthful. He obediently followed her instructions, gave Rebecca back her now-almost-empty cylinder, and then we were gone.
I had just pulled ahead of my husband at the Leadville100. Unbelievable!
Soon we went by the fish hatchery, then the Strava tent. For the past few years, the Strava tent has been one of my favorite places during the race. I look forward to them passing a cold little can of Coke to me.
This year, though, I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking. Especially something with bubbles. The GasX had helped a little, but I was still very uncomfortable. We zipped right by it. I was a little sad and hoped I wasn’t making a bad decision.
Soon we turned off the pavement and back onto the dirt. We were headed to the Powerline climb. Amazingly, I was actually looking forward to it, because I knew Rebecca would let me pick the pace–and I was hoping I would be able to recuperate a little.
What a foolish thing to think as you start the hardest climb of the day!
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