Racing the LT100 with the Queen of Pain: The Finish, and After

09.5.2014 | 1:55 pm

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.

Love Connection

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.

Reset Button

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.

Hello Again

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.

Math Problems

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.


Directionally Challenged

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.

Looking Good

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.

Finish Line

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.

And Rebecca. 

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: 

Screenshot 2014 08 13 06 49 29


Racing the LT100 with The Queen of Pain: DEMON WOMAN

09.4.2014 | 10:11 am

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.

Screenshot 2014 09 04 07 40 45

I had more than made up for my slow descent with my fast ascent!

Stomach Problems

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.”

Oh crap.

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):

IMG 9696

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.

Demon Woman

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!”


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.


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.


Scott got the pill out. Then he dropped it.

Of course.

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!

The Catch

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!

Foolish Thought

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!

Racing the LT100 with The Queen of Pain: Forceful Encouragement

09.3.2014 | 9:39 am

A Note from Fatty: This is the latest installment of the Hammer’s telling of the 2014 Leadville 100, where she was mentored by top pro Rebecca Rusch. Click here to read yesterday’s installment

We were at Sugar Loaf now: my favorite climb of the race!

I set the pace on the climb again but as we neared the top and it became rollers, Rebecca pulled ahead to make sure I kept moving at my limit.

I took a moment to eat and look up from the road; I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I needed to enjoy it–even if it was only for a brief moment. I yelled out to Rebecca, “This is freaking beautiful!” She agreed; this is also her favorite part of the ride.

Descending the Powerline

My enjoyment of the moment was short-lived though. I knew what was coming: the Powerline descent!

As we approached it, Rebecca asked who was going to lead. I hesitated…not quite sure what I wanted. I’m a little indecisive at times, just ask Elden. I hemmed and hawed for a minute; I think Rebecca was growing a little impatient. She calmly told me I needed to decide…and decide now! 

OK, fine. I tossed a mental coin and decided that Rebecca would lead out this time and I would follow–that way I could follow her line and watch her technique.

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Photo by Linda Guerrette, and originally included in her blog post, “Delivering the Goods.” Used with permission.

The descent down the top part of Powerline seemed to go smoothly. I actually passed someone, which gave me a boost of confidence. We were part of a long line of people moving down the mountain — a train of riders. I could usually see the rider in front of me. They would be slowly pulling away from me, but as the trail would hit the few parts that turn up quickly at a sharp pitch, I would catch them again.

As we descended the last really steep pitch, the group of descending riders was becoming bottlenecked—I guess I’m not the only nervous descender! I was somewhere in the middle of a long line of people. No point in trying to pass here.

Then my front wheel got sucked into one of the many erosion-caused ruts in the trail — the ruts that make the Powerline trail famous for wrecks. Luckily, I stayed on my bike. 

The guy behind me, however, wasn’t so lucky.

Riding very close (too close?), when I got slowed by dropping into the rut, he didn’t react in time and his front wheel hit my back wheel. I heard a commotion and it sounded like he went down. I tried to turn around — a bad idea! — and then yelled to see if he was OK. There was no way I could stop, or I would have caused a huge pileup!

Someone yelled that the guy was OK. Whew! Still, the moment really unnerved me. And as I’m writing this, I’m re-living that few seconds…and feeling really bad. We weren’t going very fast and I hope he was OK!

No Brakes, NO Brakes!

As we came out of the technical descent into the straight, fast (and still very downhill) part of the Powerline, Rebecca yelled, “Let up on the brakes!…No brakes, NO BRAKES!”

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Photo by Linda Guerrette, and originally included in her blog post, “Delivering the Goods.” Used with permission.

I was still a little rattled from the wreck behind me though. I tried to let up…but my darned fingers kept betraying me and squeezing the brakes!

People came flying by me. I really don’t see how they can go that fast. I don’t think I’ll ever be that brave!

Still, My Strava shows that I had my all time fastest time down the Powerline.

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But even if I would have known, I wouldn’t have had time to congratulate myself –because we were off and rolling again!

Lessons from The Queen of Pain

As we pulled onto the pavement, I saw Rebecca sit up and eat something, so — trying to emulate her wherever and whenever I could — I quickly did the same.

She then looked back at me and did something she would do many, many, many (many many many) times throughout the day: She started smacking her own butt — like she was urging on a horse, or calling a dog to her.

It was obvious what this meant: I was supposed to do whatever it took to catch up, fall in line behind her.

This gesture was frequently — but not always — accompanied by her yelling, urgently, “PEDAL, PEDAL, PEDAL!” Rebecca would then make sure I could hold onto her wheel as we bridged from one train of bikers to the next.

We eventually caught a large group and began cycling through pulls. When I got to the front for my turn, I remembered Rebecca telling me earlier to take a quick pull and get off. I thought I was doing this, but then I heard her yelling from the back of the pack:


I quickly obeyed.

As we motored along, I felt really good. My legs were responding just like I wanted them too! My back felt good and strong and my energy levels were soaring. The Gu and the Roctane were fueling my engine!

The Difference in The Flats

As we rolled into the Pipeline aid station, Rebecca enthusiastically greeted her boyfriend Greg. I was a little jealous of the emotional support she was receiving; I would have loved to see Elden right then.

Greg was great. He gave me a bottle of Roctane and I was off — giving them a private moment.

I wondered when — or if — I would see Elden during this next section of the race. This section was relatively flat and I knew he’d be spun out on his singlespeed, so there was a possibility we could catch him before Twin Lakes. I was hopeful…but not really expecting it. People don’t expect it a lot of the time because of his “Fatty” nickname, but Elden is a fast climber, and I figured he had put some good time on us on the two earlier climbs.

I remember the section between Pipeline (mile 25) and Twin Lakes (mile 40) is a blur. We moved along, averaging about 16mph. The single track section went smoothly.

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Photo by Linda Guerrette, and originally included in her blog post, “Delivering the Goods.” Used with permission.

I was still feeling strong as we rolled into the Twin Lakes aid station. We had covered that section in less than 45 minutes [A Note from Fatty: I have never ridden that section of the race that fast].

I had been keeping my eye on my average speed; I knew I had to keep it at 11.6mph to finish (barely!) under nine hours. So far I was averaging about 16mph…which sounded good, but the biggest climbs of the day were still ahead of me. I knew I needed to bank a lot of time.

I met my crew first and Rebecca continued on to Greg. I could see him not far from where I was.

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My crew was amazing. I had written down instructions and they followed them to a tee. I had them put a new Camelbak on, empty the garbage out of my pocket, and restock my food pocket with Gu Roctane and a salted nut roll — already unwrapped for easy eating — in less than a minute.

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Kellene, Elden’s sister, informed me that Elden had rolled out exactly three minutes ahead of me — we were starting to catch my honey! Honestly, though, I knew that the gap would widen as we started climbing Columbine. Elden had bested my time by ten minutes on this climb. I was hoping to see him on the descent, though. 

Climbing to Columbine Mine

I was looking forward to the Columbine climb. This is the part of mountain biking that I’m actually really good at. As we hit one of the first steep pitches of the climb, I automatically went into my singlespeed climbing position: standing.

Rebecca instantly reprimanded me.

“I don’t want you doing any of that standing and climbing. It wastes too much energy.”

I obediently sat back down.

Rebecca said I should try and shift my weight forward and back and side to side on the seat to help relieve the pressure on my back — rather than just standing. (I did stand up and “row” on occasion when I thought she wasn’t looking!)

As always on this climb, I steadily passed people. It’s very encouraging to do this. In past races, I would encourage people that I passed with pleasantiries. This year I had nothing. I couldn’t say a thing to anyone; I was riding at my absolute limit. I didn’t even have the extra breath to give encouragement to other riders.

Meanwhile, Rebecca seemed to have plenty of breath, and was very encouraging to me on the climb. She told me to set the pace again and she would hang with me if she could. If she couldn’t she would catch me on the descent.

It was really nice to have Rebecca acknowledge something I was good at. It gave me a little moment of happiness to know that a really fast pro didn’t think she could hang with little ol’ me!

There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation between us as we climbed up Columbine. Occasionally a rider would talk to Rebecca, usually asking her if we were on pace for a sub-nine-hour time. Rebecca would always reply, “We are at the moment…but if you can go faster, you should go!”

If only I could go a little faster! But I was really giving it all I had!

As we rounded the last switchback on the dirt road below the goat trail, I spied a girl ahead of us with some really cool socks on. I made her my carrot and soon caught her. I was surprised and shocked to see that it was Selene Yeager! It was amazing to me: I was riding at the front of the this race with some really fast chicks!

I did not ride the Goat Trail — the steep, rocky, technical final couple of miles at the top of the Columbine Mine climb, all above 11,500 feet — like I had a few days earlier. I mostly walked.

Selene passed me; I couldn’t do anything about it. I was feeling really pooped. I reached back into my food pocket and found that the only thing I had was a salted nut roll in my pocket!

A salted nut roll?!

What was I thinking? There was no way I could chew that thing right now! So I bummed a GU off Rebecca. Now, not only was she my “mentor”…she was also my Sherpa!

Hi There

As we approached the top, there began to be a constant stream of riders coming back down the trail. I was on the lookout for Elden. About a quarter mile from the top, I saw him descending fast towards me, his head down in concentration.

I quickly mustered up the air to yell, “Wahoo! I love you!” He quickly glanced up just in time to see me! I was so grateful that I hadn’t been looking down at my bike or I would have missed him altogether!

Turn Around and Back Down

As we hit the aid station — the turnaround point for the race — at the top of the Columbine climb, we had caught up with Selene again, so Rebecca, Selene and I were all riding together. One of the volunteers said, “There is a fierce competition in the women’s field today!”

It took me a moment to process what the volunteer was referring to. Then I got it: having  three women arrive at the turnaround aid station at once — in 4:23, on pace for a sub-nine-hour finish — would appear to the onlooker that we were all jockeying for position.

It’s funny: I hadn’t even thought about that I was one of the fast women; I was just feeling priviliged to be a part of this group of riders!

As  we were leaving the aid station, Selene flicked her hand indicating me to go around her and lead the descent! “NO WAY!” I told her. “You go!”

So Selene led out, and Rebecca yelled at me, “Follow Selene’s wheel — she is a fantastic descender!”

I tried my best, which lasted about two seconds. And then Selene was gone.

I can’t really explain what happened over the next 6.7 miles of descent down Columbine. All I can say was I was terrified.

I froze up. I was a mess.

Forceful Encouragement

Rebecca followed, coaching me down the mountain…like she was talking someone down off a bridge. She was yelling to me to, “Stay loose!” And to, “Ride through it!” And to, “Let up on the brakes!” And to, “Relax and take a deep breath!”

No matter what she did, though, I was terrified. The negative scripts had regained control of my thoughts. I heard people yelling words of encouragement to me as I descended down the trail. I had no idea who these kind bikers were. I was concentrating so hard on the trail that I couldn’t look up, let alone respond!

I felt bad. Coming down the Goat Trail is usually the time I yell words of encouragement to the racers who are hiking their bikes up the mountain. I know they like that encouragement, because I do too.

This time, though, it was the hikers’ words of encouragement trying to offset the yells of the “tyrant” on my wheel. Later, after the race, several people came up to me and told me they heard Rebecca yelling at me on the Columbine descent. They wanted to know if she yelled like that the whole race! I admitted that she gave me a lot of…forceful encouragement!

As we hit the final rocky section of the doubletrack — just before the trail smoothes out — I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was officially losing it! The mantra that I was reciting in my head was anything but positive: “Oh shit oh shit oh shit!” was what was going through my head. My stomach was so tense. I’m pretty sure I was hyperventilating.

We got through it. But we weren’t done descending. Not even close. Rebecca pulled around me on the dirt road and pointed — again — at her butt and told me to follow her.

I kept reassuring myself that I had made it down the scary part. Now it was smooth sailing, right? I slowly eased off the brakes and started to follow her. I was upset, and I’m sure it showed. My stomach was knotted up. I tried to take some deep breaths and calm myself, but I was pretty frazzled.

Then, as we rounded one of the switchbacks, I was startled to see…Selene just ahead of me!

What the …?

Rebecca passed her and motioned for me to do the same. What??? Pass Selene on a downhill? That’s not possible!

But I did.

That pass gave me a new surge of adrenaline! Maybe I wasn’t descending as bad as I thought!  (I later found out Selene was having issues with her brakes.)

Multi-Purpose Encouragement

I think Rebecca realized I was losing it. She would drift back and tell me how good I was doing, yelling things like, “Looking good” and “You’re doing great!”

These words meant a lot to me; Rebecca knew I was struggling and needed some TLC. But her words of encouragement were not benefitting only me, but everyone that was climbing up Columbine heard her words, too…and thought Rebecca was talking to them! I would often hear, “Thanks!” from the someone in the train of riders battling their way up the hill!

It made me smile: Reba was not only encouraging me, but everyone else that could hear her words!

No Time to Rest

Sometimes you feel great when riding, sometimes you don’t. While I had had a great climb to the top of Columbine, I had a scary, terrible time coming down. In fact, compared against recent Leadville races, I was two minutes slower during this descent.

Ugh. I had officially caved under pressure.

But there was still more than forty miles to go. The race wasn’t over yet!

Racing the LT100 with The Queen of Pain: The Race Begins

09.2.2014 | 11:37 am

A Note from Fatty: You have no idea how excited I am to be presenting The Hammer’s telling of her Leadville 100 race this year. Unlike me — I post everything I write the same day I write it — The Hammer has written the story of her entire race. It’s complete. 

But I’m still going to publish it in installments. Big, meaty installments, because this is a big story about an amazing day. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. 

Fear of Failure

When I got home from the unveiling of Rebecca’s book, I was feeling a little bit stressed and overwhelmed. My thoughts kept returning to my race splits from previous years; I just couldn’t see how I would be able to cut any time off.

Those darned “negative scripts” started running through my head:

I pushed so hard in 2012. If I could have gone any faster I would have. 

Everyone has such high expectations of me; they’ll all be so disappointed in me if I fail.

Elden tried to break the nine hour mark 13 times before he finally did it, and he had to take only 15 minutes off his time! I have to take fifty minutes off my time from last year, or thirty minutes off my 2012 time.

It just wasn’t possible. Who was I trying to fool?

I was still bummed, worrying about the race and convincing myself I was going to fail when I read this in Rebecca’s book:

“It’s safe to say I have failed more times that I’ve succeeded. Of course victories are the marker of success when you are a professional athlete. Failure devalues your currency, threatens to make you irrelevant. But if you can sustain determination and passion, failure is a practice run for success.

“If there’s one thing that’s universal, it’s the fear of failure. EVERONE has it. It’s what you do with that fear that determines whether or not you will actually succeed. Some people choose not to try at all rather than fail. Others seem to be immune to the sting of failure. I fall somewhere in the middle…..

“By building experience and diligently preparing and by surrounding myself with the right teammates I was able to manage my fear of failure.”

Well, there was my answer.

Rebecca’s talking to me even when she isn’t here, I thought to myselfPretty weird. And pretty cool. 

The Pre-Race Meeting

Friday morning dawned and we headed to the pre-race meeting. I was amped. I wanted — needed — Ken’s famous pep talk. I wanted to shout his positive mantras along with the rest of the crowd!

We arrived early so we could get a seat. The gym was packed and it was warm inside.

It started late. Very late. And by the time it started, it was uncomfortably warm in the gym.

Finally, the meeting got going. And it dragged. On and on and on. I’m pretty sure every person involved in the Leadville City Council got up and talked. Then they brought up famous person after famous person, congratulating them on being…famous, I guess.

Meanwhile, the gym go hotter and hotter and hotter.

By the time Ken got up to give his motivational speech, I was thirsty, sweating, and had lost my patience and interest. The meeting had had very little actual information about the race in it; and now I just wanted to get the heck out of there and get a breath of fresh air!

Sorry, Life Time, but you need to reconsider who that meeting is for! It used to rev up and motivate the racers. It used to focus me and make me want to dig deep.

Now it’s nothing more than an incredibly long “who’s who in Leadville.”

Final Prep…and Panic!

When we got home, I laid out all my stuff on my bed: the food and clothes I might need. I made drop bags and instruction sheets for my crew. When I was finally done, I took a deep breath and let it out.

I was almost ready.

The last thing I needed to do was talk with Rebecca about our crews and their location at the aid stations—how her crew (Greg) and my  crew (my brother) would coordinate and meet meet each other at aid stations, and things like that. I wanted to get Rebecca’s opinion about whether I should be riding with a Camelbak or bottles for certain sections of the race.

When I we arrived at her house, I thought I was calm and relaxed.

Then I opened my mouth to talk — and I found I had been possessed by the spirit of some crazy woman. I was speaking very fast and loud…and not making any sense at all! I think Rebecca wanted to slap me across the face and tell me to get a grip…but instead she calmly asked me to slow down and take a deep breath.

I really don’t know what came over me–I really thought I was calm!

After taking a deep breath, my words slowed and I was able to communicate again. We worked out the aid stations and she answered all my questions.

Now I was ready.

Go Time

The alarm went off at 0400. I stumbled into the kitchen and got the coffee and eggs started, while Elden went outside to make sure the tires on our bikes hadn’t gone flat during the night.

Elden’s sister Kellene had volunteered to make breakfast for us…until she found out that we wanted to eat at 0430. See, Kellene was planning on making breakfast for Lindsey and Jed, and they were starting in the last corral and didn’t feel like they needed to get up early and fight for a place in the back of the pack.

We left for the starting line at about 0540 (the race was to start at 0630). The morning wasn’t real cold, but I was still wearing (over my bike clothes) a coat and thrift-store pants I could lose without grief. Even as we rode to the start I could tell I was overdressed; it was a mild, calm day.

When we got to the starting line area, I kissed Elden goodbye and headed to the red corral. Elden was starting ahead of me in the silver corral. I was pleasantly surpised to find the red corral not crowded at all yet. I found a place to stand and wait.

Then, right at 0600 — the time she said she’d arrive — Rebecca showed up. We took turns holding each others bikes while we used the restroom for the last time before the race. In fact, this would hopefully the last time until after the end of the race — I really didn’t want waste time using the bathroom, and Rebecca really didn’t want me to either. It takes way too much time to disrobe and use the bathroom while wearing bib shorts.

Time I didn’t have to waste.

Yes, on one of the practice rides I had actually practiced going pee while keeping my bib shorts on. Yes, it can be done for women, without making a mess. Use your imagination on that one folks! Still, I didn’t want to go unless I REALLY needed to!

With about ten minutes ’til the start, we removed our coats and sweatpants. I still felt warm and ditched my vest too. Colleen, Rebecca’s business manager, was close enough to us that we handed her our extra clothes.

We were ready to roll out.

Prior to the start, the officials warned us that there was a down tree or something on the road and that we would be directed to the left side of the road to go around it.

I didn’t realize how close to the starting line this diversion would be.

As soon as the start gun went off , we clipped in and started to pedal and found that a hundred people needed to merge in front of us now. There was an immediate locking of brakes, a guy went down a couple bikes in front of me, then the guy behind him front wheelied and barely missed him. Rebecca and I swerved safely around both of them — whew — what an adrenaline rush to start the race.

Down and Up

As we proceeded up the little incline right after the quick dip at the start line, I looked over and saw a sign with Rebecca’s name on it… and a huge cheer went up from the people holding it. Rebecca returned the yell and waved.


What I didn’t realize then (my brother sent me a picture of it later), was the sign was for both me and Rebecca! Way cool! Thanks so much for the support!

The descent down the pavement was great. I wasn’t even cold. Everyone was moving at a great pace, there was no one darting in and out, rallying for a better position. I think the faster group of riders generally rides at a calmer, smoother pace than the derby happening further back.

Sometime during that paved flat section I passed by my sweetheart. I yelled out, “I love you and see you soon!” I knew I would be seeing him within fifteen minutes, when he would pass me on St Kevens.

My Strava of the segment shows that I was off to a great start. I was faster down the road descent to the dirt than my previous best by a whole minute.

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I averaged 26.7mph (29mph on the descent). That is hauling for a mountain bike!

As we started up St Kevens, Rebecca dropped behind me, having me set the pace. Everyone was moving at a good speed. I really didn’t feel like I needed to pass and I wasn’t being passed.

When I had ridden this back on Tuesday, I felt like the climb was never-ending. Today I was pleasantly surprised to see the switchback that indicates the end of the climb come into view very quickly. Once we crested the rise on the other side, Rebecca yelled, “this is the time to pedal!”

And off we went.

During one of the uphill segments, I noticed a very attractive tattooed calf and yelled “Keep up the good work Tim!” I was having a ball, and we were flying!

As we rolled through the Carter Aid Station I tried to glance at my Garmin. Honestly, though, I was having a hard time looking at or concentrating on anything but pedaling and the trail ahead of me. I thought our time was good.

Later I’d find out that I had actually climbed this segment five minutes faster than my previous best. We were already banking time!

As we started the paved descent I tried to grab something to eat and drink. Bad idea. Rebecca had pulled away and was yelling for me to grab her wheel.


I ate and drank as fast as I could and started to pedal, but I didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with her. She would pull away and then realize I wasn’t behind her, at which point she would sit up and wait for me. But I just couldn’t go any faster!

As I descended, I reflected on this segment and how it had gone during past races. This descent holds some bad memories for both Elden and I. It was on one of these corners that Elden went flying off the road in 2009 and I had a flat tire in 2000.

But this wasn’t the past. I was creating new scripts, and new memories.

As we turned off the paved road on to the dirt toward Sugarloaf, I hugged Rebecca’s wheel tight; she was on the move! We would pull up behind a train of riders and if they weren’t moving at the right speed, she would pull ahead of them, with me right behind.

Eventually, we ended up behind a rider that was pretty adamant that he wanted to be the engine of this train, and did not want to be passed by a couple of girls. At one point he looked back and glared at Rebecca in indignation, as if she were somehow in his personal space.

Rebecca calmly said, “I’m not gonna wreck you, dude.” I laughed to myself; apparently he did not realize the woman on his tail was a three-time world champion mountain biker!

We “chicked” him and continued up the dirt road.

Up next was Sugar Loaf.

Racing the LT100 with the Queen of Pain: Race Nutrition Tips and Unveiling “Rusch to Glory”

08.28.2014 | 9:46 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post includes about an hour of video, which should give you plenty to digest over the long Labor Day weekend. After this post, we’ll resume The Hammer’s story  on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning was bright and sunny-not a cloud in the sky. The weather reflected my mood…which was fantastic!


That was the day Elden said he’d be finishing up his project at work –which would mean he could do a little more playing and relaxing. Also, this was the day we would be checking out of the Super 8 and checking in to our huge party house!

About ten months ago, Elden and I had rented this old bed and breakfast (no longer a B&B): It had nine rooms, ten bathrooms and plenty of room to just hang out in. We had invited all our friends to come stay with us and race.

Finally, this was the day we could check in…and our friends would start arriving as well!

While Elden finished his project, I packed up the truck. We were on the third floor and I think I went up and down the stairs ten times! Luckily, the altitude definitely did not bother me like it had in the past. Coming a week early was already paying some dividends!

A Ride on the Mineral Belt Trail

Elden and I decided we would ride our bikes on the same bike path that I had walked on earlier in the week. We started off from town riding the path counter-clockwise.

But first I wanted to take a detour. On one of the bike rides earlier in the week, I had noticed a small cemetery enclosed by a white picket fence. We went exploring and found a small Hebrew cemetery on one side of the road–and a huge Christian cemetery on the other.

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It was interesting to compare the two: both very beautiful and very different.

The bike ride was incredible. We took it at a very mellow pace–I really didn’t have much more left in my legs; it was time to relax!

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The thought crossed my mind that maybe I had done too much riding this week! My plan was to ride the boulevard with the group tomorrow and then take Friday completely off. But today I was enjoying myself. Elden and I stopped and took pictures along the way!

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It seems sad now: I’d been coming to Leadville for ten years, and I had never really experienced what Leadville has to offer. It was so nice to finally be correcting that!

Tips from the Race Day Nutrition Strategy Clinic

After our ride, it was still too early to check in to our rental house, so — temporarily homeless — we crashed  at Rebecca’s for a shower. [Note from Fatty: Also, I ate all her ice cream].  Then we headed to the Specialized Pop Up Store for Rebecca’s clinic on Race Day Nutrition.

This was the class I had been waiting for! How does Rebecca fuel herself for these epic adventures and races she does? We had talked briefly about it earlier in the week but I was ready for the complete rundown! 

It was jam-packed with information. I came away with answers to many of my nutrition questions. 

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1. What is her secret for race day nutrition?

Rebecca consumes most of her calories in liquid form: Roctane Endurance Drink. She supplements it with GU Energy Gel and Roctane Endurance Gel.

2. Is GU enough nutrition to last me during my Leadville race?

Yes! I need to consume about 200 calories an hour. I decided I would eat approximately one Gu every 30 minutes. (You may need more or fewer calories, depending on how big you are, and what your metabolism is like — you’ve got to experiment during training to find your perfect calories/hr number.) I would also have my camelback full of Roctane drink to supplement my eating. I would carry a bottle of water to drink if I got sick of sweet stuff.

3. How do you carry all your food?

Rebecca suggested carrying a GU packet under each leg opening on yours shorts. This gives you easy access and it warms the GU–making it a more palatable consistency. (Elden and I have been using this method for awhile.) Rebecca also suggested using your right jersey pocket to carry unopened GU packets and your left jersey pocket to stash your trash. That way you never search through the sticky gross empty packages looking for a new Gu. Absolutely brilliant!

[A Note from Fatty: Oh sure, when Rebecca suggests this technique it’s brilliant. But when I described how I use this technique, step-by-step, back in June? She doesn’t even remember it.]

4. How do you combat leg cramps?

In all her racing adventures, Rebecca said that Leadville is the only race in which she experiences leg cramps. Which is interesting because Leadville is the only time I have ever experienced leg cramps!

To prevent cramps, Rebecca puts Gu Electrolyte Capsules (with Ginger) into a flip-top Gu Brew canister, which she carries in her middle jersey pocket. When she starts feeling an inkling of a cramp, she pops the lid and swallows a mouthful of tablets! I had never used electrolyte tablets, but it sounded like a great idea. She said the added ginger can help an upset stomach too.

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5. Should I try and eat normal food when racing?

Rebecca said that I should really try and avoid my “picnic” technique of eating. Foods like chicken and stars soup are good but there are better choices when fueling quickly.

6. How should I use my crew at the aid stations? Should I have them hand me a musette bag and just keep going without stopping at the aid station at all?

Rebecca laughed at this question! Yes, she admitted to using a musette bag, but only during this race. Further, she and Greg (her boyfriend) actually have to practice this technique prior to the race. Getting that strap over your helmet while riding through a sea of people is harder than it looks— and I think it looks very hard!

Rebecca said to try and minimize your stop time during your pit stop. After looking at my Strava time for my race in 2012, I realized my actual moving time was thirteen minutes less than my over all race time!


I had stopped for a total of thirteen minutes! That is a huge chunk of change when shooting for a sub-nine time. This was one place where I could easily improve my finishing time!

7. What do you eat the morning of the race?

Eating a normal breakfast–whatever you are used to–is best (so Elden and I would be having…you guessed it, scrambled eggs. But we planned to leave the yolks in on race day). Rebecca suggests you stop taking in fluid at least thirty minutes before the race, so your need to pee during the race (or at the starting line!) is minimized.

After the clinic I gathered up the courage to introduce my self to Selene Yeager–The Fit Chick! I have been reading her articles in Bicycling for years and knew she had done a fantastic job collaborating with Rebecca on her book. Selene is also a fantastic, tough athlete and was super nice in person too.

I couldn’t believe I was meeting all these amazing people!

Home Sweet Home

Next we headed to the B&B and finally moved in. The Thompsons (Very Good Friends of Fatty), long-time blog followers and fantastic people, were also there!

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We took the opportunity to pick out the best bedrooms and then headed out for Pizza.

That evening, Rebecca’s shipment of books arrived and she was kind enough to come over and autograph the copies that we had purchased for the WBR fundraiser! Thanks to everyone that donated, we’ve now raised close to $23,000!


We had quite the assembly line going.

As we climbed into bed, Elden said he had been talking to Kenny about my race. Kenny had predicted I would finish the race in 8:40! “Really?” I said, shocked. “Kenny thinks I can do it that fast?”

I always put a lot of faith in what Kenny predicts–I think he has accurately predicted my time–give or take five minutes–for the last 6 years! My confidence was soaring!

Later, I’d find out Elden lied to me:

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Kenny had actually predicted an 8:57. Elden knew I put a lot of stock in Kenny’s predictions…so he fudged the number to one I’d like more!

Thursday morning, everyone in the house joined us for Rebecca’s group ride up The Boulevard — a tradition for many racers.

After the easy climb — which wouldn’t seem nearly so easy the next time we’d ride it — We stopped at the top of the paved road before the descent to the finish line.

There is a “SLOW” sign posted at the top. The sign has significance to Rebecca. I have also noticed that sign and laughed to myself. “I’m never riding slow here on race day!” said Rebecca. 

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The week before the race had been amazing. I’d been educated and inspired. I’d met incredible people.

Further, the whole summer of riding has also been amazing. Elden and I were able to take Lindsey (Elden’s niece) and Jedd, Lindsey’s friend, on several long rides and share our love of riding with them. We’ve pushed our old bodies to the limit; it’s remarkable to see them respond. We had made a lot of good memories!

“What will be on Saturday will be,” I thought, “but the journey to this race has been unforgettable.”

As we rode the last ¼ mile, Rebecca had us visualize our finish on Saturday. I wondered if it would be a sprint to the finish or a jubiliant procession with one hand held high (I can’t ride no-handed!).

Would I be happy with my result or would I be exhausted and depressed? I didn’t know. I couldn’t know.

But I did know today was going to be positive! I poured it on, imagining I would have a burst of energy as I flew toward the finish line. And then I was there, crossing under the imaginery finish line — and Rebecca was right beside me! She grabbed my hand and we raised them in triumph!

That was exactly how I wanted the race to end. 


Thursday afternoon was filled and busy.

First, we delivered all of the pre-ordered books to the post office, then headed to packet pick up! I was excited to find that Rebecca and I would be starting in the “red” corral–just 3 corrals back from the start.

Rebecca had actually contacted the race and they changed her official race corral to red, so she could be with me. Of course, she could have started on the front row with the other pros, but she conceded that, so she could start with me. The gesture meant a lot to me.

Elden then prepared our bikes, cleaning them and putting our race numbers on.

Meanwhile, I practiced changing a back tire. Yes, I practiced changing a back tire! I didn’t want to act like a total idiot if I had a flat. I just prayed my chain wouldn’t break–i only can be so mechanically inclined.

My friend Jilene had arrived in Leadville and was also preparing her bike. It’s Jilene’s tenth time doing Leadville too. Instead of racing hard, she decided she would “parade her tenth and— she says — final Leadville. She had also convinced her riding partner Bry to do the same.

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I cant believe Jilene talked Bry into parading Leadville. Jilene is a nut!

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Unveiling Rusch to Glory

Rebecca was launching her book, Rusch to Glory, on Thursday night and had asked Elden to lead a Q&A with her. It was to be a big deal held at the Tabor Opera House

Elden was really nervous; when he wasn’t working hard on his job, his was freaking out about being on stage and leading the interview. I don’t really understand why. He always appears so calm and collected when he talks in public.

At 5:00 we headed for the Opera House. Elden and Rebecca wanted to make sure they were prepared for the evening. Elden had his list of questions ready to go. The night went off without a hitch, and we got video of most all of it. 

And here it is!

First, Rebecca welcomed everyone and had Ken and Merilee, the founders of the Leadville 100, come on stage to talk a little bit about the race and how Rebecca embodies the spirit of Leadville — both the place and the race!

Next came the part Elden had been wigging out about all week: the Q&A about the book.

Be sure to watch this when you have plenty of time — it’s 35 minutes long!

I don’t think Elden had anything to worry about; both Elden and Rebecca were relaxed and funny.

After the Q&A, Reba did a reading from a couple of different chapters from her book. I have to warn you, you might want to have a tissue handy!

Rebecca finished the evening with a list of twelve “rules” for racing Leadville…and for living life:

The party afterward was a great success. The line for the book signing was long, the burritos were delicious and the Raffle had fantastic prizes!

When we got home, though, I started stressing out. Only one more day until the race!

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