Yesterday afternoon I got a highly-coveted email. It looks like this:
Yep, I’m in for my eighteenth Leadville. Nineteenth, if you count 2009, the year I crashed out of the race. By the way, you should not count that one. Nor should you count 2015, until late in the afternoon this August 15th, when—provided everything goes well that day—I’ll have actually finished my eighteenth Leadville 100.
In other words, while it’s really tempting for me to talk about this as my nineteenth Leadville Trail 100, the reality is I’ve finished it only seventeen times.
Still, that’s more finishes than most people. And it’s quite a few stories.
For those of you who want to start getting worked up about the Leadville 100 or are interested in what eighteen years of stories about the same race (yes, eighteen, because I definitely have a story for the year I didn’t complete), here’s a handy list: all of my Leadville 100 write-ups, linked from one place.
I hope you didn’t have any other plans for the weekend.
1997, 10:35:54 – Finish 1: My first racing of the Leadville 100 is worth reading primarily because it’s such a normal first-time story. If you’re planning on racing the Leadville 100 and are wondering if it’s weird that you’re already thinking about it all the time, read this.
Nowadays I read this installment both with fondness and with astonishment at how little I knew about racing.
1998, 11:27:05 – Finish 2: I like this story more because it’s a telling of how two of my best friends—Dug and Bob—and I did the race, from each of our points of view. It has a great ending.
1999, 9:13:09 – Finish 3: For a long time, my third attempt was my fastest. Just thirteen minutes shy of that big buckle. Far from it being an accomplishment of which I was proud, though, I remember getting away from the finish line as fast as I could, making my way to my car, and just sobbing for about five minutes. I had come so close to hitting my objective, which hurt a lot more than if I’d have missed it by an hour, somehow.
Unfortunately, I either did not write this story up, or can’t find it. Regardless, it’s gone now.
2000, 9:30:29 – Finish 4: I came to Leadville this year with the intention of getting that sub-9-hour finish, and then it rained. Hard. This is the year everyone talks about when they describe how difficult Leadville can be. I wrote my story for Active.com, so you’ll find it here.
As a bonus, this was the year The Hammer raced Leadville 100 for the first time. It just about killed her, and her story is definitely worth reading.
2001, 9:17:02 – Finish 5: This year starts establishing my pattern of not quite hitting my goal of finishing in under nine hours. This is back before I had a blog where I wrote everything that happens to me, and thus…I have no individual memory of this race.
2002, 10:20:37 – Finish 6: I learned the “non-contributing weight” axiom of the Leadville 100: Every non-contributing pound you carry costs you five minutes. I was riding a full suspension bike, had gained some weight, and had not trained like I should. I am going to cut my past self some slack, however, because I was the father of infant twins.
Oh, also, I took a 20 minute nap at the final aid station. Refreshing! (And no, I don’t have a story writeup for this year.)
2003, 9:20:04 – Finish 7: I learned that one can drink only so much Gatorade. About 3/4 of the way through the race I got nauseous and started barfing anytime I tried to eat or drink anything. I blame the Gatorade, probably without reason. If I hadn’t gotten sick toward the end of the race, this might’ve been the year I got that sub-9 I’d wanted so badly. No write-up on this year.
2004, 10:56:33 – Finish 8: I learned that just finishing can be a victory. This was while my life was pretty much completely insane and I had not trained at all. So I went to Leadville just to have fun and see my friends. And you know what? It was a great ride/race. I talked with a lot of people who — like me — just wanted to finish. The support and cameraderie at the back of the pack is much stronger than at the front. These racers are the heart of mountain biking.
2005, 9:41:20 – Finish 9: I had just begun doing some freelancing for Cyclingnews.com, so asked them if they’d be interested in a story where I interview folks as I rode alongside them on the course. This turned out to be a great idea; I had a terrific race. My story is here, and you can find the two-part story I wrote for CyclingNews here: Part 1, and Part 2.
2006, 10:06:45 – Finish 10: This was my tenth year racing the Leadville 100. I had a grand plan to finish it in under nine hours. Wouldn’t that be dramatic, to hit my goal the same year I got my coveted 1000-mile buckle?
Yes, it would have been dramatic. Unfortunately, I finished this race in over ten hours.
This is a telling of how you can delude yourself into thinking you’re really fast…only to find out the reality at game time.
2007, 9:14:13 – Finish 11: I call this story, “Sort of Close, but No Cigar.” By the time I raced in 2007 I was doing almost everything right. But not quite everything. This year also marks the year I started getting really verbose with my race stories and writing them as multi-parters. So:
- Part 1: Close, But No Cigar
- Part 2: Fatty Has Fun, Works the Crowd, and Gets Cocky
- Part 3: Rise and Fall
- Part 4: I Can Do It! I Can Do It!…No, I Can’t.
- Part 5: Susan’s story of what it’s like to crew for me during a break from chemo.
2008, 10:06:42 (singlespeed) – Finish 12: 2008 was the first year I tried racing on a singlespeed. Since I knew I wasn’t going to finish in under nine hours on a single, I was released from the stress of a goal that seemed—at the time—unattainable, and was able to just enjoy the race.
This was also the year I nearly got crashed out of the race ten seconds into it.
- Part 1: The First 30 Seconds
- Part 2: Upon Further Reflection
- Part 2a: Equal Time for Louis
- Part 3: 7 Reasons I Loved Leadville This Year
- Part 4: The Actual Race Report
2009, DNF (singlespeed): Susan had died just before this race. My head wasn’t in the race. I was riding angry and stupid. The fast downhill pavement turned; I didn’t. Honestly, I do not understand how I managed to not be seriously injured.
2010, 9:17:27 (singlespeed) - Finish 13: With a 9:17 on a singlespeed, this was the year where it occurred to me that the sub-nine-hour finish might not be an impossible dream for me after all. This is the year I appeared (starred, really) in Race Across The Sky, by the way. I was brilliant, by all accounts.
- Part 1: Racing from the starting line to the bottom of Columbine
- Part 2: The joys of eating cantaloupe at 12,600 feet. And the horror of even consdering a hotdog at that selfsame altitude.
2011, 8:18:19 – Finish 14: To date, this is my high-water mark for racing the Leadville 100. This is the year I kind of figured everything out: the training, the right kind of bike, how much (and when) to eat, how long of breaks to take…everything. I finished well under my goal of nine hours, and Specialized rewarded me by letting me keep what had been, up to that point, a long-term test bike. Wow.
- Part 1: For the first time ever, I get to write a list of things I did right.
- Part 2: As it turns out, geared bikes are faster than singlespeeds. Shocker!
- Part 3: If you’re fast enough, you get to spend the day riding with people who are genuinely fast, but having a bad day. And they love telling you about it.
2012, 8:49:47 (singlespeed, first place) – Finish 15: If you train really hard and all the right people fail to show up, it’s possible to win the men’s singlespeed division at Leadville with a time of 8:49. The fact is, though, I’m really proud of this finish time, because following this race (literally the next day) I was racing The Breck Epic for six days.
- Part 1: Packing nightmare.
- Part 2: You want rules? I’ll give you rules.
- Part 3: Headwind from Hell.
- Part 4: Discombobulation
- Part 5: The Tragedy of the Empty Podium (ridiculous free verse)
2013, 8:23:54 (singlespeed) – Finish 16: I took a different tack in this report. Instead of talking about my race (my fastest singlespeed finish, but not fast enough to get me on the podium), I talked about why I love this race.
- Part 1: Preamble
- Part 2: The People
- Part 3: Some things are life-changing. Other things aren’t but are still pretty awesome.
2014, 8:39:38 (singlespeed) - Finish 17: My race report from last year is worth reading, but the real star of 2014 is The Hammer and her adventure racing with MTB Legend Rebecca Rusch. Here are the links to both stories.
- Part 1: Things are great until they’re not
- Part 2: Starts with pain, ends with beauty
- Part 3: I am the fast guy, I am the slow guy
- Part 4: I wait for no man, nor woman, neither
- Part 5: Cornball at 10,000 feet
- Part 6: Finish lines
The Hammer’s Story: Racing with The Queen of Pain
Now I guess we’ll see what 2015 brings!
PS: So this is a weird idea, but would it be interesting to have these stories available as a podcast series? Something to listen to as you’re driving to work or putting time in on the rollers?
I believe I have made mention, once or twice, that I intend to be fast in 2015. Faster than I have ever been before. No, even faster than that.
I have explained that all of this is with the goal of having an incredibly fast (maybe, for me, unattainably fast) time when I race the Leadville Trail 100. I hope to complete this problem in under eight hours. So I’m doing some serious research on what bike to buy and build, I’m doing all this training, and I’m putting some serious mental energy into the universe to ensure good weather.
And if I get this thing done in under eight hours, here’s my solemn promise: I will tattoo this finish time on my left calf.
What I have not explained, however, is the extent to which I am planning my year. How incredibly careful I am being in selecting my races. Indeed, I have very specific reasons for choosing each of my races this year. In fact, I would go so far as to call my planning “sublime.”
You would do well to emulate my race selection strategy and reasons, which I shall now list.
True Grit Epic
My first big endurance race of the year is the True Grit Epic, which is March 14. Two short months away! There are two variations of this race: the fifty mile version, and the 100 mile version.
I have not yet decided which version I will race, though I am kind of leaning toward the 100 mile version, because I think it will suit my purpose for this race more effectively.
And my objective for this race? Simple: to humiliate me.
I know full well that this is an incredibly technical race, and I am not a good technical rider. Further, I know that I am about twenty pounds overweight at the moment, and I really doubt that I am going to get rid of more than ten of those pounds by mid-March. Finally, I am hardly going to be in race condition at that point, so the only thing that would kick my corn more thoroughly than a fifty mile race would be a 100 mile race.
Regardless, my corn will be kicked. Which is precisely what I want.
Why? Because nothing motivates me to start dieting better, training more faithfully, and otherwise getting ready for a race season than a really truly horrible result: watching my friends and would-be competitors—people I should be just as fast as, if not faster than—completely obliterate me.
I think the True Grit Epic will accomplish this objective very thoroughly. I can hardly wait.
[Bonus: The weather for the True Grit Epic has been completely awful for all but one of the years it’s been put on. This should augment my misery and self-loathing nicely.]
I am so excited for Boggs, and not just because I’ll get to race with BFF (Best Friend of Fatty) Jeff Dieffenbach and Levi Leipheimer in the eight-hour relay.
No, I’m also excited to be racing because by this time (first weekend of May), I expect to be at racing weight and in racing form, so plan to really give my all in the Hill Climb the day before the relay.
Specifically, my strategy is to feel really strong and fast as the days lead up to the race. Maybe I’ll even pick up a few of those newfangled annual KOMs on Strava (you know, the ones that are designed to help you feel better about the fact that you can’t get a real KOM on the same segment).
I plan to start secretly harboring plans of podiuming in my age group. Maybe even show folks in the next age group down a thing or two about a thing or two.
Then, on race day, I expect to discover how adorably slow I am, relative to all the hotshot racers in Northern California. You know, the people who have actual talent, and not the picayune substitute we have for talent in rural Utah.
This will be very helpful in helping me keep my expectations reasonable for other races during the year.
I’m not even going to pretend to be humble about this one. My primary objective for this race—this, the race I care more about than any other race—is to freak my teammates out. You see, The Hammer has gotten a couple of our friends to join and be our teammates, saying this “will just be for fun.”
It will be my objective, for months before this race even begins, to make sure they understand that this is not about having fun.
Indeed, I have already begun work on this objective in earnest. Last weekend, for example, the four of us went out to dinner. The other three of them kept wanting to talk about other things, but I would drag the conversation back to the topic of The Rockwell Relay, with the tenacity of a badger.
“Hey,” I said to Lynette, “I know that right now you’ve only got a Tri bike. You need to get yourself an honest-to-goodness road bike pronto, and get used to it.”
“Let’s talk about our racing rotation,” I said, later. “I know we’ve all picked our spots, but I think it might be an interesting exercise to model other scenarios. I’ve created a spreadsheet that will help.”
And I went on. And on. And I expect to continue to do so, to the point that everyone else will start losing sleep before we begin this race.
Why am I doing this? Honestly I have no idea. Certainly, it’s not productive, and it may well be counterproductive. I can’t seem to help myself, though. Not that I’ve tried.
Crusher in the Tushar
This is the last big race before the Leadville 100. My objectives for the Crusher in the Tushar are simple and twofold:
- To demonstrate to myself that I am fast, strong, and ready to race The Leadville 100, by beating my best time by half an hour.
- Be so far ahead of schedule that I have time to go recover some litter I left near the trail a couple of years ago. I will bring tongs and a ziploc bag for this purpose.
PS: I’m also considering racing the Park City Point to Point. My objective for this race is to convince The Hammer that it wasn’t so awful the first time and that really, she wants to come race it again.
You can tell when someone is in love. And I’m not talking about first-blush, first-kiss, first-sight love here. I’m talking about a long term relationship. One that has stood the test of time.
You can tell when someone has been in love long enough to have history, kids and grandkids, and a lot of stories.
You have to respect that kind of love.
And that is the kind of love that shines through in Charlie Kelly’s Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking.
This is the history of the first days of mountain biking, told by Charlie Kelly, one of the guys who was right there for it from day one.
And Fat Tire Flyer will be the first book we read and discuss in the new, monthly “Fatty’s Book Club.”
There’s no membership dues or anything like that. You just need to get, read, and talk about the cycling book I’m going to choose each month or so.
Getting the Book
This idea of an online cycling book club is something I’ve been tossing around for a long time. With the huge number of really great cycling books that have come out recently, I’ve decided to make it happen.
First of all, you’re going to need the book. I talked with VeloPress, the publisher of Fat Tire Flyer, and asked them to give us a deal on this book. They’ve generously offered to give you 25% off if you buy Fat Tire Flyer together with Rusch To Glory from the VeloPress site, using the REPACKFATTY discount code (this code good only from now ’til January 19).
[As an aside, I highly recommend Rusch to Glory, and have already done a chat with the author about it, which you can watch here.]
Reading the Book
Once you’ve got the book, you ought to read it. And maybe read it with an eye toward talking about it.
And plan on doing your reading at home (or wherever you keep books), because this is a hefty, hardbound book. It’s the size of a coffee-table book, really, and maybe even looks a little bit intimidating, with how big and heavy it is (3.6 pounds, according to my bathroom scale).
But don’t be intimidated by it. It’s got a lot of pictures—definitely one of the things I’m enjoying about it—and it reads very easily. Plus, about 20% of the book’s 260+ pages is appendix and index.
So you’ll get through it.
Talking About the Book
On Tuesday, February 10, at 11:00am PT / 2:00pm ET, we’re going to get together online and talk about this book, just like in a real-world book club.
And I’m really pleased to announce that the author, Charlie Kelly, will be joining us for this conversation. I’ll have questions for him, and I’ll hope you will too.
I’ll have details in the near-ish future about how to register and participate. I will be limiting the number of people who will be able to join in live, so you’ll definitely want to get on board early.
If, however, you’re unable to join the call, you won’t be out of luck. I’ll be recording a video of the conversation, which I’ll post on Vimeo. I’ll also be making an audio-only version available as a podcast.
I’m really looking forward to trying this cycling book club idea out. I hope you’ll help me make it a success.
PS: Bonus Homework: Watch Klunkerz, and read my review of it (along with Charlie’s rebuttal to my review) from back in 2009.
Hi There. I’m out of town doing work stuff for my day job; I haven’t had / won’t have time to do a lot of writing yesterday or today.
However, while held up at an airport yesterday, I did make some progress on getting the first book in the book club lined up—including a sizable discount on the book and an interview / book club chat with the author.
I love when things come together, and things have come together very nicely for this first installment of “Fatty’s Book Club.”
“Fatty’s Book Club” is a working title, by the way. If you’ve got a better name for it, I’d love to hear it.
So, quick version of how I imagine how the book club will work:
- At the beginning of the month (January in this case), I’ll announce a book and, ideally, a discounted way for Fatty’s Book Club members (aka anyone who wants to participate) to get it.
- You have about a month to purchase and read the book. During this time, I’ll also be reading the book and will probably post a few thoughts about it as I go.
- We’ll get together early in the next month (February in this case), hopefully with the author of the book, and chat about it. We’ll be using GotoWebinar; the tech is pretty solid. You’ll find that a surprisingly large number of people can have a reasonable conversation with this tool (managing large online meetings is kinda one of the things I do for my day job right now), whether you’re using a phone or computer.
- I’ll record the conversation and make it available as a Vimeo video and a podcast after the live version is over, for people who can’t join in live.
- We announce the next book, and the process repeats.
This is something I’m really excited about. Check back tomorrow for an announcement of the first meeting of Fatty’s Book Club!
I want to tell you about the “ride” I had on New Year’s Day, and about an idea I had during that “ride.” Cuz I think it’s a good idea, but it’s only a good idea if enough of you also think it’s a good idea. So I need to know whether you think the idea I think is a good idea is a good idea.
I apologize for the previous sentence, by the way.
New Year’s Ride
My friend Jared Eborn puts together an annual event called the “New Year’s Revolution Run & Ride.” The idea of it is pretty ridiculous: he reserves the Utah Olympic Oval, gives people timing chips, and lets them essentially do a Marathon of Nowhere (95.5 laps to do a marathon) from 8am to 1pm on New Year’s Day.
Off in the corner, he also allows cyclists to come join in the “fun” by riding their trainers or rollers for five hours. The Hammer and I chose this option, mostly because I have been promising Jared I’d come do one of his events for the past five years or so.
So: we set up—The Hammer on her old trainer, me on my rollers (we didn’t want to disassemble our Wahoo Kickr setups we have so nicely arranged in the basement), and we began our five-hour-long ride.
The Hammer is on the far left in this photo. My rollers are to her left.
I expected it to drag on and on and on. To be a brutal test of my mental endurance. I was therefore astonished to have the time just fly by.
Because I was completely absorbed by what I was listening to: The Serial Podcast: twelve well-written and narrated episodes of a journalist’s struggle to find the truth about the guilt or innocence of a man convicted for murder back in 1999.
I know it’s an incredibly popular show and I know that I’m probably the last person in America to have listened to it, but we have not finished it yet (I’m on episode 9, The Hammer is on episode 5), so: no spoilers please.
And this got me thinking about why I enjoyed this podcast so much. Part of it had to do with the mystery, part of it had to do with how it happened in the real world, part of it had to do with the narrator’s fantastic voice.
And a lot of it had to do with the feeling that I was part of a fantastic conversation. Yes, I know: a one-sided conversation (usually). But still, the narrator’s gift is in sounding like she’s chatting with you.
And the thing is, this isn’t the only podcast I’ve been enjoying lately. I really like Open Mic with Mike Creed, too. His style is different than mine (i.e., he doesn’t shy away from four-letter language at all), but he asks his guests fantastic, disarming questions that are at times hilarious, at other times provocative. Mike has a gift for pulling stories out of people.
So, as I rode (in place), I started thinking, “I need to start a FatCyclist podcast.” By which I do not mean that I should start doing an audio version of my blog.
No, I mean I want to hear people’s cycling stories. I want to talk about interesting books and movies. And I want, in every instance, for you—my readers—to be a part of it.
For example, let me know what you think of:
- Book Club: There are a lot of books about cycling coming out nowadays. What if we had a “book of the month” I assigned out to read at the beginning of each month. At the end of the month, we get together online in a big web-style video conference call, and talk about the book—maybe sometimes even with the author. For example, I’d like to talk with Charlie Kelly about Fat Tire Flyer. I’d like to talk with Patrick Brady about Why We Ride. I’d like to talk with Jill Homer about pretty much anything she’s written. I’d like to talk with Kathryn Bertine or Rebecca Rusch about their books. So, is this something you’d participate in?
- Interviews: I’ve done a number of interviews before, but I feel like the technology for them to happen live and online is just now starting to be reliable enough for me to do without worrying we’re going to lose signal more often than we’re going to have it. Further, I don’t want to just interview pro cyclists. I want to interview bike shop owners. And race promoters. And people who have done interesting and unusual things on their bikes. And just normal people. And for people who join in live, I’d definitely want to give you an opportunity to ask questions.
So, a few final questions:
- Do you listen to podcasts? I don’t want to make something that nobody’s going to care about.
- Would you participate in live events? And if so, what day / time combo works well for you?
- How often is good? If I did a monthly book club and one or two interviews per month, would that be about right? Or is that more listening than you have time for?
- How long is good? Is an hour-long show about right? Half an hour? Fifteen minutes? What’s your threshold for too much?
- What else would you want to talk about? Who else would you want to talk to?
PS: I still don’t want to do any more 5-hour roller rides for a while.
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