Miss Me? And Also: Stuff That’s Coming Really Soon

09.29.2016 | 11:38 am

A Note from Fatty: If you came here hoping for The Monster’s LT100 Race Report, Part 2, well…you’re going to have to wait for a while. She’s a full-time college student and the soonest she’s going to be able to write part 2 will be during this weekend. I’m guessing part 3 (because I’m guessing this is at least a three-parter) might be yet another week away. 

I’m probably the only person in the world who gets outrageously busy, unexpectedly. Right? Oh, that happens to you too? Good. You understand why I’ve disappeared for the past several days. 

Let me assure you, though: the registration for the 100 Miles of Nowhere 2016 edition will be coming soon (I know, I thought it would be this week, but it’s going to have to open this Monday instead). 

Here, let me show you what the t-shirt will look like:

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And since that GPS is a little bit tiny, here’s a close-up of the fields:

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Between the old-time horror movie title treatment and the GPS fields, I feel like this is the most accurate 100 MoN t-shirt, ever.

But I haven’t shown you everything about it. Further, I am coyly happy to announce that the part I haven’t revealed is probably something you won’t have expected. And it’s not the back of the t-shirt, either.

I will tell you that this will be the least-expensive 100MoN ever. And that there won’t be much (OK, any) swag beyond the t-shirt. This year, it’s going to simply be about raising money for Camp Kesem. It won’t cost you much, you’ll get your t-shirt soon, and more of your money will go to Camp Kesem, instead of overhead.

So, watch for the registration to go up this Monday, and mark November 11 (the Saturday during the Camp Kesem Leadership Summit) for doing your ride (of course, you can do it later or sooner…that’s the beauty of the event).

NEW! Paceline Podcast

Of course you know that I participate in the Red Kite Prayer Paceline Podcast. And I love every single episode. But I especially love this one, because at the very end, you get to hear Duke go completely nuts when the doorbell rings.

And also you get to hear me contemplate how weird it is to find that I am now blocked by Lance Armstrong on Twitter.

Listen to The Paceline below:

You can also get more details at Red Kite Prayer, or subscribe on iTunes. Or both. Yes, now that I think about it, I definitely recommend both.

New Pinnacle Podcast

I’m also working with Yuri Hauswald on the GU Pinnacle Podcast — inspiration and information from athletes and experts at GU. In this episode, we talk with Magda Boulet, who has done a lot of inspiring things. Like, an insane number of insipiring things.

She’s represented in the Olympics — where she endured tragedy and came back stronger. She’s won the Western States 100. She’s been the NA Ultra Runner of the Year. 

And most recently, she’s clobbered the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), the toughest, most prestigious 100-mile trail race of them all. 

When she’s not destroying the field on the trail, Magda leads Innovation & Product Development at GU Energy Labs. Magda is an incredibly smart and inspiring athlete. You’re gonna love this episode of the GU Energy Pinnacle Podcast:

You can listen to it above, download it directly, or subscribe on iTunes.

What About the FattyCast?

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t released an episode of The FattyCast in a while. That’s because I just…don’t have time, what with a new job and working on three other podcasts.

Will there be a new episode of The FattyCast? Ever? Honestly, I don’t know. I really liked doing that podcast, but my life is pretty full right now.

What About Regular Posts?

I have stuff I want to write for this blog: a post about gloves I love (really!), a post about my new road bike (hint: it’s not new and it’s not a road bike), and a writeup about the Crusher in The Tushar (I’m guessing it’s about a five-episode story, and is hardly at all about me, and is therefore a lot more interesting).

And In Conclusion

Come back Monday morning, ready to register for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. It won’t cost an arm nor a leg. (In fact, it will cost $39.95 including shipping.) And it will do a lot of good — I’ve seen myself what an amazing charity Camp Kesem is — and you’ll get an awesome t-shirt. 

Huzzah!

 

Guest Post from The Monster: 2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 1

09.26.2016 | 7:07 am

A Note from Fatty: I asked The Monster to write up her Leadville experience. It’s a terrific recounting of her story, and has been a lot of fun to be reminded of what it’s like to be in Leadville preparing to do this race for the first time. Enjoy!

I went into this race telling myself that I wasn’t going to let not finishing even cross my mind. Unfortunately though, as many of you I’m sure are aware, you have absolutely no control over what your mind is thinking during mile 90 of a 100+ mile race.

It was there, as I approached the final climb to Carter’s Summit, 90 miles in, that I was literally trying to breathe in between dry-heaves. “I’m gonna have to get off on walk” I thought to myself sullenly. And as though the heavens decided to sprinkle a bit of happiness down upon me, a voice exclaimed—“You’re the monster!!!!!” A sudden jolt of energy struck me back to life.

There’s no way I’m going to let anyone think that I’m suffering. I AM the monster, and monsters don’t suffer.

Now I’m not getting religious on you, I really did hear a voice reminding me of who I was. But I’ll get back to this in a moment.

The pregame of champions

We arrived in Leadville with the gloomy chance of rain every day.

Big surprise.

That didn’t stop the Fatty Family. Because Fatty and the Hammer have both raced this race over ten times (almost double that for Fatty), they realized how important it was to know the racecourse.

Also, we got there more than a week early—what else would crazy cyclists do other than go for a leisurely 40-mile ride?

We started our first day with Powerline climb. “You’ll be able to ride this today easily—that’s why we want to do this. Race day it wont be so easy. We want to give you some confidence and show you that you can do it.”

We started the steep Powerline climb.

Slow pedal. Slow pedal. Grunt. Stand. Slip. I fought but didn’t make it. I dismounted and hiked up the last three quarters of the way up the face.

What a GREAT way to start my first day of pre-riding.

I still made it to the top of the front face faster that Fatty and the Hammer—due to their ridiculous choices of bike; they of course have to walk more than I do with their single-speeds. We met at the top of the climb, and they pulled off, as they are much faster than I am on climbs that don’t require a granny gear.

About 2 miles into the remaining 3 miles of the Powerline climb, I looked up from my front wheel to see that the Hammer was RIGHT in front of me. And not just riding right in front of me, dismounted and walking up a technical section right in front of me.

“I can totally pass her,” I thought.

But, I wasn’t the only who noticed I had caught up to her. As I tried to swiftly move past, The Hammer glanced over and, with shock on her face, flew over her top tube faster than a cowboy could mount a beloved mustang. She put her head down and attacked.

I grabbed on, but I was suffering. I could tell she was suffering too.

We crested the top of the climb together—and this marked the first climb that we ever did at our hardest, finishing within seconds of each other. I have always been SIGNIFICANTLY slower. Maybe I really was ready for this race.

A First at 12.5

On day 2 in Leadville, we took on the Columbine Climb. Knowing that this is the dreaded crux of the Leadville 100 race, and after going hard the previous day, I had low expectations for the outcome of this ride. There was a bit of confidence still looming around from the tight finish between my mom and I on the Powerline climb, but I didn’t know how much I had in me.

Again they told me “we want you to experience what it is like to ride this whole thing, on race day it won’t be rideable.”

We approached the last quarter of the climb, where the trail gets stupid-steep.

Slow pedal. Slow pedal. Grunt. Stand. Slip. I didn’t make it. Again.

But this time, Fatty was there to comfort me. “If you look over there to that ridge [he pointed way out to the left] well, you really have to look. Like squint even—here I have some binoculars. You can see the top. Only a bit of climbing left.”

A Bit . Great.

I moved my eyes from the ridge back to the trail. My head craned upward toward the sky to meet the top of the steep trail. I let out a sigh, and started hiking.

About 84 hours later, we DID finally make it to the top. What a close ridge we were climbing to.

Being my first time at 12,500 feet, we took advantage of the wonderful photo-op, and had some lunch before heading back down.

I decided to take this descent into my own hands though: I wanted to see how fast I could get down it since I was disappointed with the ascent. I let Fatty and the Hammer leave first; I was struggling to put on my arm warmers. I also looked down to see that my shoe had come untied.

As they pulled off, I leaned over to tie my shoe—I have Giros with real laces—and after struggling for about 30 seconds, I realized I literally couldn’t remember how to tie it. I guess this is what it’s like to be at 12,500 feet.

 

I dismounted and sat down, eventually figuring out how wrap the lace around the bunny ears and pull it into a bow. Finally.

I hopped back on, and started ripping down the steep loose section. My favorite. I was flying, and in no time, I caught up to Fatty and the Hammer. I passed them, and the three of us passed someone hiking up the climb. Someone wrecked. I didn’t look back. I was on a mission.

Before I knew it, I was at the bottom. Based on strava, I really was flying.

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Let’s zoom in on this precious piece of art.

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That’s right. There’s me, on the same leaderboard as the 4x Leadville 100 winner, Rebecca Rusch, AND a 2016 olympian, Anika Langvad. I really WAS ready for this race.

Fast and Steady Wins the Race

To finish off our pre-riding, we decided to make a loop out of St. Kevins and the boulevard.

To be honest, I was stoked for this ride.

I must be peaking.

This is every cyclists dream: peaking the week before a well-anticipated race. The fire beneath my feet had been re-ignited, and I was ready to spin some dirt.

We left the house and I was feeling great. Fatty, The Hammer, and I were forming a pace-line for the road to Kevin’s. Normally pacelines with these two are incredibly painful for me. While they are working at their comfortable level, I am always struggling and fighting to stay attached to their rear wheel. This time was different.

We turned off the pavement, and I spun around to see that the Fatty Family was not with me—they were about 50 feet back. I waited for them to catch up, and asked them what was up.

“Nothing is up with us” Elden preceded to tell me. “Something is up with you. You are riding like a speed demon”.

Elden then told me that he was going to give this climb everything he had, and I decided to tag along because I was feeling so great. Also, no one talks about St. Kevin’s… therefore it must not be that big of a deal.

We passed the indicative starting-line gate of the Kevin’s climb, and Fatty blasted off. I put my head down, and surged with what I could. Moments later, I looked up and Fatty was completely out of sight.

I surged on.

A Shift of Tides

It took him five seconds—FIVE SECONDS—to drop me.

I approached the steepest section of the climb—one I in fact did NOT anticipate. I thought this was the climb that no one talked about??

Slow pedal. Slow pedal. Grunt. Stand.

I crested the top of the climb, and made the sharp left that indicates the top of the steep stuff and where things will “even out,” as The Hammer puts it, on race day.

Fatty???

I looked up to find Fatty hunched over his bike—demoralized, but not in pain. “Are you alright?”

“Ride on,” he said steeply.

So I did—and this marked the first climb I finished faster than both the Hammer AND Fatty.

I was elated.

We finished the ride—or maybe we didn’t. I seriously can’t remember, because I was so happy.

But as we approached the house we were staying at, something didn’t feel right. My stomach did a front flip, and I dismounted my bike—and dove for the toilet.

I stayed like this for the next three days.

PS From Fatty: …and that’s where she’ll pick up in the next installment!

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 10: The Wind and The End

09.20.2016 | 5:18 pm

Suppose, if you will, that I were going to, for some reason or other, start a circus. I would not call that circus a zoo, because it’s not a zoo. If I were to call my circus a zoo, well…that would be misleading and would probably really disappoint the people who were hoping to see a real live woolly mammoth at a zoo.

Sure, they’d be disappointed even if I had started a zoo and called it a zoo, because my zoo wouldn’t have the woolly mammoth they were hoping for. I don’t think you could reasonably call their disappointment my fault, though. Unless I happened to name my Zoo the “Actual Live Woolly Mammoth on Premises Zoo.” Which is something I probably would be prone to do, if I’m being honest with myself. So I guess it’s a good thing I have no plans to open a zoo. Nor a circus.

Also, I no longer have any idea what my original point was when I started this argument. 

No, wait. Now I remember. You shouldn’t give something a name that leads people to believe it’s something it’s not.

Which is a real shaggy dog approach (within this shaggy dog of a race report) to me saying that The Hammer and I reached the Carter’s Summit mini-aid station, and then kept on climbing.

Which means Carter’s Summit is no summit at all. So it should be called Carter’s “Hey You’re Pretty Close to the Summit” aid station. Or something like that, but maybe a little more concise and catchy.

Just a thought.

Big Pitch, Last Descent

I think both The Hammer and I were feeling elated at this point. Energized and excited about the fact that somehow, she had turned it around. Somehow, she had gone from maybe not even finishing as fast as her previous SS best to likely being twenty minutes faster.

The Hammer rides a strong second half. 

A little more climbing, a quick descent, a sharp turn, and one grunt of a steep pitch — one that most people, exhausted by what this race has done to them — walk.

We both rode it. Cleaned it. Crushed it.

We took our time descending St. Kevins. Not lollygagging. No. But not pushing it, either. In the nineteen times I’ve done this race, I’ve seen well over a dozen people flatted or crashed out on this “easy” descent. 

I got to the bottom a little before The Hammer, made the right turn onto the dirt road that leads to the pavement connecting to the last climb of the day, The Boulevard.

Everyone Knows It’s…

I coasted, waiting for The Hammer to catch me. Then I stopped and put a foot down, wondering why she hadn’t caught me yet. 

The Hammer flew by, yelling, “Can you feel this incredible tailwind?” 

I hadn’t thought about it. But she was right. When we had turned onto the dirt road, this ordinarily flat part of the trail had felt distinctly…downhill. 

Now that I thought about it, this wasn’t just a tailwind, it was a strong tailwind. A perfect tailwind. At the perfect place in the race.

I sat up straight and flung my arms out, making myself into as big of a sail as possible. No need to pedal, this wind was more powerful than we could spin a singlespeed gear.

“What if,” The Hammer said, “we had a wind like this, but in our faces?”

It was a sobering thought. 

“I think,” I replied, “that we’d have to say goodbye to that record you’ve been chasing.”

We had been so lucky during this race. It had never really gotten hot during the day, and wind hadn’t been a real factor — until now, when it was suddenly going to be a huge factor in our favor.

I thought another moment, then said, “The way things are, though, I think it might be time for us to start thinking about a new best-case finish time.”

Our Finish

Somehow, the tailwind stayed a tailwind, even as we made the final few turns. Like it was intent on fiercely blowing us into town. Along the dirt, up the pavement, and even up the Boulevard.

Side by side. up the road, cresting it…and there it was: the red carpet. 

My nineteenth finish, but the first time I’d ridden this race with someone. My best finish. My most meaningful finish.

“I am so incredibly proud of you,” I said. “I love you so much.”

Out of the crowd, Couch and Car joined us, running behind us as The Hammer and I crossed the line, hands clasped.

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We each kept a hand on a grip, because neither of us are dared ride no-handed that close to another rider.

My only regret for the entirety of this race is that the twins jumped in after we had ridden by them; we never knew they were with us ’til we had crossed the line. Honest, girls, we would have slowed up for you.

9:26:19. A new women’s singlespeed record (by almost exactly twenty-five minutes)…which had been, of course, also set by the current women’s singlespeed record holder. 

Hugs and photos and laughing. Usually This had been the best finish in the best race I had ever done. Having my twins and wife with me here: incredible.

But there was one family member missing from this group: The Monster.

Now our wait for her would begin.

Return of The Monster

As The Hammer and I cooled down, David Houston came up to us. I was happy to see him — David is one of those genuinely nice people who loves to do things for others — but also sad: the last time we had seen him, he was riding up Columbine. This meant he hadn’t finished. Next time. 

Meanwhile, in spite of the fact that he had ridden sixty miles with around 6000 feet of climbing and therefore had the right to feel plenty tired himself, David bustled around, taking our bikes from us so we didn’t have to worry about them. Taking photos. Giving me the hat off his head I wouldn’t burn.

Then The Hammer and I went back into the finishers’ area and began staring down the finishing stretch. Watching for The Monster’s blue bike, blue kit and blue shoes, and her very distinctive riding style. 

Twenty minutes goes by — the amount of time we had heard The Monster was behind us at Twin Lakes.

Thirty minutes goes by. The Hammer begins to get nervous. “I hope she’s OK.”

Thirty five minutes goes by. I’m also beginning to get nervous. People I know are crossing the finish line, and I’m giving them only perfunctory congratulations. I hope they understand. 

Christina Ross — The Hammer’s competition on the singlespeed — comes in with a finish time of 10:00:01. How awesome, to have a palindrome for a finish time. (Better than a palindrome, really, because you could turn it upside down or look at it in a mirror and it would still be the same.)

“I should go congratulate Christina,” The Hammer says. But she can’t tear her eyes away from the finish line. And to be honest, I can’t either. (And for what it’s worth, Christina has about thirty people crowd around her when she finishes anyway.)

Forty minutes goes by. I’m worried now. I know that The Monster tends to just let the downhills fly, and that she crashes a lot. And there are a couple of big descents in the final twenty miles of the race.

Without saying anything to The Hammer — saying the opposite, in fact — I am becoming certain that The Monster has crashed, or at least flatted and was at that moment learning how to change a flat tire.

Then, at 10:12 — fourteen minutes less than an hour after The Hammer finished, for those of you keeping track of their contest — The Monster rolled in (alongside DB, another great Friend of Fatty).

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The Hammer grabbed her in a great big hug, and The Monster began to cry.

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And cry and cry and cry and cry. Big huge sobs. Not because of pain, but just because. This race does that to a lot of people.

“I can’t lift my legs over my bike,” The Monster said. 

“Give me the handlebars and I’m going to lay the bike down,” I replied, and The Monster stepped over. I couldn’t help but laugh: I had done the exact same thing for her mother the first time she had finished the Leadville 100, sixteen years earlier.

I looked over at The Hammer. She had noticed.

Awards

The next morning, we went to the awards ceremony. The Hammer, of course, had won the women’s SS division:

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The Monster took second in her age group:

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And they both were (and are) just straight-up amazing competitors — both as proud of each other as I am of both of them.

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And I’m pretty sure that’s about as happily-ever-after of a finish as a race report could ever be.

PS: I haven’t included much of The Monster’s story, because it’s hers to tell. 

PPS: Many of you have wondered about the 2016 100 Miles of Nowhere. Details will be coming for it next week.

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 9: Time for a Surprise

09.19.2016 | 12:41 pm

In my mind, the race was already over.

Which was a stupid thing to think, because the race was far from over. We still had a big semi-technical descent to get to Hagermans, the big, wide, fast Hagermans dirt road descent, the three-mile paved climb up to the Carter’s Summit mini aid station, a little more dirt climbing, the descent down St. Kevins, the flattish dirt and paved couple miles to the Boulevard, the climb up the Boulevard and then — finally! — the finish.

That’s a lot of stuff in sixteen (or so) miles, and a lot of it is very memorable.

But for me, getting to the summit of the Powerline always feels like a finish line, of sorts. Because it’s the last really difficult challenge in this race of iconic challenges. After you’ve climbed the Powerline, you’re almost certainly going to finish the race. 

The big question is, when?

Confusing Enthusiasm

With my cramps subsiding (thanks, HotShot!), I rode the short flat section at top speed, managing to catch up with The Hammer near the beginning of the Sugarloaf descent. 

I thought The Hammer was following my line, but looked back after a few minutes to discover she wasn’t in sight. “I’ll just hold up at the turn on to Hagerman’s,” I thought. 

A minute later I caught up with a woman wearing a “25 Hours of Frog Hollow” kit. “I love that race!” I yelled at her as I went by. 

She looked back at me blankly, not replying. 

“How rude,” I thought.

Then, a moment later, it occurred to me. We were both in a race, and I had just yelled at her about how much I loved “that” race…without explaining I was talking about the race referenced on the jersey she was wearing.

“I’m such a dork,” I thought, laughing. It always cracks me up when I realize — once again — what a dork I am. 

A Farewell to The Hammer

I got down to the bottom of Sugarloaf, turned onto Hagerman’s Pass — a wide dirt road we’d be descending. I pulled over and waited for The Hammer for a moment, taking the opportunity to eat a gel and drink some CR333. “Only a couple more, tops,” I thought to myself. 

I count my endurance races in gels, and as I get close to the end, I count down to my last one. How weird, I thought to myself. 

The Hammer came zipping down, turned onto Hagerman’s and zoomed on ahead. I put my bottle back in its cage, clipped back in, and took off, sure I’d catch her in a moment.

But I was wrong.

She was gapping me. 

I ramped up my effort, going harder. Then, as hard as I could, completely spun out on the fast downhill. 

She kept increasing her lead.

I laughed out loud — My wife was flying. I just hope she remembers to slow down for that sharp left turn onto the pavement, I thought to myself. It’d be really easy to slide out or even high-side there.

I hadn’t needed to worry. As I got to the turn onto the pavement, I could see The Hammer down the road; she had made the turn safely.

But someone else hadn’t. 

There was a racer — I don’t know who — laying in the dirt at the turn, bloody and hurt. Race officials were attending to him. I don’t know if he eventually got up and finished, or if he was too hurt to go on. I sure hope he finished. 

A good reminder to be safe, I thought. You can crash out as easily at mile 95 as you can at mile 15

That said, I got into a tuck and bombed as fast as I could, on a mission to catch up to The Hammer.

The New New Math

In spite of my best efforts, though, I didn’t catch up to The Hammer ’til the road turned up for the three-mile paved climb up to Carter’s Summit. 

“You are just crushing it, I said, very impressed.

“You know,” she replied, “I think we’re going to hit that 9:30 finish time after all.”

Seriously?” I said, surprised. While I had been tracking our distance very carefully, I hadn’t been looking at our time. 

“Yeah,” she said. “I have never felt so strong coming out of the Pipeline aid station. And I still feel great.”

Somehow — in fifteen miles or so — we had gone from her wondering whether we’d even match her previous best on a singlespeed (9:50) to feeling like there was a good chance we were going to hit her best-case-scenario finish time.

“Well, Beautiful, if you’ve got matches to burn, this is a good place to burn them,” I said. And as it turns out, she did have matches to burn, and did in fact burn them. 

Which is to say, there are a lot of people who raced that day who should have a vague recollection of a husband-wife pair of riders — wearing matching kits and riding singlespeeds — riding past them up the paved uphill road.  

We got to the aid station. About 8:40 had gone by. “One hour to go, worst case scenario,” The Hammer said.

“We are not riding in a worst-case-scenario way,” I said. “We are going to break your old record. For sure.”

What I didn’t realize, though — what I could never have expected — was that we had one more surprise ahead of us. One that would drastically affect our finishing time.

And we’ll talk about that surprise in the next installment of this story.

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 8: The Crux

09.14.2016 | 7:31 am

We were eighty miles into this 104-mile race. I had truly, absolutely been giving it my all, working harder for The Hammer than I have ever worked for myself.

But I had paid a price. I had been riding into a headwind since we exited the Pipeline aid station, and I was cooked. I flicked my elbow, pro peloton-style. Nothing. 

This is most likely because that’s not how The Hammer and I generally signal to each other that it’s time to come around and take a turn. Generally, in fact, we just have a pre-arranged agreement: we swap at the mile marker signs on the road.

It had been more than a mile, and I was tired. 

No, “tired” doesn’t really get to the heart of what I felt. I wasn’t just tired. I was smoked. Cooked. Destroyed. Done. Over. Finished. Beaten. Demolished. Fried. Bonked.

Bonked?” Was that the word I was looking for? Yeah, maybe it was. But I hoped it wasn’t.

I waved my left hand in an exaggerated motion, like I was bowling. Sweeping The Hammer forward.

The Hammer rode forward, easily. “Oh, are you finally going to let me have a turn?” she joked.

“Please,” I replied. “I am toast. And I can feel that my legs are on the verge of cramping.”

Which they were. It seems to happen at this point of the race every year. On the one truly flat section of the course.

I had just taken four electrolyte capsules — as I had done at each aid station in the race, washing them down with a small can of Coke — but I could tell: the cramps were coming anyway.

Respite

The thing is, I had two HotShots (formerly #ItsTheNerve) in my jersey pockets…but I couldn’t get to them very easily, because they were buried, quite literally, under around twenty gels.

Such is the racer’s brain that I would rather put up with the discomfort of pre-cramps than unload or dig around in my jersey pockets.

In any case, the pain subsided almost instantly as The Hammer began pulling. My level of effort dropped just enough that my legs recovered, my lungs caught up, and the threat of cramps receded.

For five minutes or so, The Hammer was my domestique. And that was just what I needed. I ate a couple of gels, drank a third of a bottle of CR333. I wasn’t bonked; I had just needed a respite. 

I was ready to push it again. Which was a good thing, because we were at the hardest part of the Leadville 100: The Powerline Climb.

Up We Go

The Powerline Climb is the actual crux of the Leadville 100: four miles of incredibly hard climbing, eighty miles into what has already been a high-altitude climbfest.

If you don’t know how to work this climb, it can break you. I’ve seen people stopped — just standing there, hands on knees — on this trail. People who have been racing hard and with purpose the whole day. Stopped. Beaten (usually temporarily) by this blindside of a climb.

But The Hammer and I had raced the Leadville a combined thirty times. There would be no blindsiding us. 

“Check your GPS,” I said as we turned off the pavement onto the beginning of the Powerline. “The summit is exactly four miles from here.”

When we got to the part of the climb that most everyone has to walk, we didn’t crush ourselves, trying to ride up as far as we could. No, we just got off at the base and began marching. No point in burning matches here. We’d need those later.

No Coke for You

One of my very favorite things about this part of the race is that there are always people on the hike-a-bike section, handing up paper cups full of Coke. I love getting a little hit of sugar and caffeine right there.

But this year — at least when we were there — nobody was handing out Coke. We did get some water (which was almost as good), but nobody had a Coke to hand out.

I pouted, but just for a moment, because really there was no time for pouting. I needed to put all my energy into just trying to keep up with The Hammer.

Because, my friends, The Hammer was on fire. Just flying. Once we were past the obligatory marching section, she just sat on her single speed — yes, she was riding her SS seated, which left me gobsmacked every time I thought about it — and churned her way up pitches that many people were hiking. 

And let me be clear: I include myself in this “many people.”

“I have never felt this good riding the Powerline!” The Hammer exclaimed. “Never!” 

And it showed. She was just killing it. It was all I could do to hold on to her wheel.

And the cramps were catching up to me. I could feel them closing in. 

The question was, could I outrun them?

Thank You Ma’am, May I Have Another?

As I felt both my left and right calves tightening up, I knew it was only a matter of time before they locked up and shut me down.

So I stretched my calves at the bottom of each pedal stroke, willing them to not cramp up until I reached the summit of The Powerline. If I could make it that far, I knew, I could get some help.

Because I remembered from earlier in the day: Hotshot had set up a “Cramp Aid Station” at the Powerline summit, handing out Hotshots. And I know from experience that these work for me, stopping cramps — at least for a while — in their tracks.

And sure enough, there it was. A woman at a card table, with a whole raft of the little black Hotshot bottles. 

Clouds parted. Angels sang.

I told The Hammer to continue on without me — I would catch her during the semi-technical Sugarloaf descent. Then I put a foot down and the woman ran up to me, handing me a Hotshot.

I slugged it down and my mouth caught fire. In a good way. I like spicy.

“Can I have another one?” I asked. 

“Really, you want another one?” the woman asked. “I don’t get that question often,”

“I really like these,” I said. “They work for me, and the flavor’s a nice change. I really like the way these taste.”

So she handed me another one, which I also slugged down. For the rest of the race, I would be burping a weird Christmas candle flavor (The Hammer correctly says Hotshots taste like Christmas candles smell), but that’s a small price to pay for having your cramps disappear. 

Which mine had.

We had one more big climb, one small climb, and two descents ahead of us. 

The race was almost over. Only sixteen miles to go. Even so, I still had two big surprises ahead of me.

Which is what I’ll get to in the next installment of this story.

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