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.

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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!

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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!”

Wow.

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):

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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!

Confusion

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!”

CAFFEINE, CAFFEINE! I NEED CAFFEINE!” I shouted at Scott.

Of course I knew that I was referring to Excedrin (with caffeine) when I shouted that. My gut was too full to drink anything right then…but of course they didn’t know that.

So of course they did their best to read my mind and handed me both an open Red Bull and a Coke.

NO!” I screamed. “EXCEDRIN! AND I NEED GASX NOW!”

I think my eyes glowed red and my head spun around on my neck a few times at that point too. (Wouldn’t it be fun to crew for me?)

My poor sweet brother scrambled, finding a GasX pill and then — shaking because a crazy woman was three inches away and screaming at him at the top of her lungs —   tried to remove the pill from its blister pack.

I watched as his fingers fumbled with the wrapper tyring to get the last piece of tinfoil off. To me it seemed like he was moving in slow motion.

JUST GIVE IT TO ME AND I’LL EAT IT WITH THE FOIL STILL ON!” I shouted.

Scott got the pill out. Then he dropped it.

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.

Screenshot 2014 09 03 05 55 03
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!”

Screenshot 2014 09 03 05 55 56
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:

GET OFF THE FRONT!”

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.

Screenshot 2014 09 03 05 56 29
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.

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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.

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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!

Why?

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!

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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!

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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. 

Preparing

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!

Racing the LT100 with the Queen of Pain: Pipeline, St Kevens, and Setting Up Your Bike

08.27.2014 | 12:48 pm

The alarm went off early Monday morning and we headed back to Rebecca’s house–she couldn’t seem to get rid of us! She made coffee for us and we made her our scrambled eggs whites again. (Yes, that’s what we really eat for breakfast pretty much every day.)

Then we parted ways with Elden. He needed to go back to the hotel; he was on deadline for a report due at work.

The Power of the Pipeline

Rebecca and I headed to the site of the Pipeline aid station. This aid station is located about 25 miles into the race. When you get here the first time, you’ve survived the first couple of big climbs and the first big descent. Now the race turns into a relatively flat-rolling section of road for about 15 miles.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of this flat section to the race. You see, my climbing speed is pretty much set, my descending speed is pretty set too—though it may improve a little with Rebecca’s help–but my thought was that this “negative script” was pretty engrained in my thought process. I plan on changing this script to a positive one, but I think it may take longer than a few days with Rebecca.

With Rebecca’s help, this flat section is where I hoped to make big improvements — in fact, it was this part of the race I was thinking could potentially get me under nine hours. My plan was to get as much help from her as possible on this rolling section of road to draft off of her–potentially increasing my speed, and giving me a chance to rest. 

The number of riders in Rebecca’s Leadville Experience group continued to grow; today there were about 25 people. It was nice to see familiar faces. Everyone seemed to be feeling good and riding really strong. It’s nice to have support from other people that are going through the same things as you.

Rebecca started out the ride with more encouraging words of advice. She said that this was the part of the course where you could sit back and relax….or you can use it to bank time. She suggested riding just a little faster than you were comfortable with, but not enough to kill you.

What a hard balance.

We started out and Rebecca was out front riding and visiting with people around her. I was in the very back, also enjoying myself and talking with people. I realized that I probably should stop lollygagging and go up front.

Fluffy Socks at 20MPH

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As Rebecca and I rode, she commented we should be going close to 20 mph in this section and that I should focus on what she calls “fluffy socks.” This meant that I needed to be making circles with my pedal strokes and concentrate on my up stroke, thus giving my quads some time to relax/recover (and for the bottoms of my socks to remain “fluffy.”

I glanced down at my Garmin and saw we were going about 16mph — that’s a long ways away from 20mph! I would need to crank it up during the race. 

So I did what Rebecca said…and poured it on. I was flying and I felt good. Then I came to a fork and didn’t know which way to go, so I stopped. I was surprised at how far ahead I had gotten from the group.

Eventually they arrived with Rebecca laughing at me for not knowing what way to go. “How many times have you done this race?!” she asked.

Hey, it’s something Elden and I have in common. Since we both get lost easily, neither of us is ever angry at the other for not knowing which way to go.

I stayed with the group as we entered the singletrack and then Rebecca called me out again and wanted me to lead out.

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Photo taken by Linda Guerrette. Used with permission.

Her coaching from behind really helped, especially leading the turns with my “third eye”–the bike really does turn, almost by itself!

We all met up at the bottom of the single track and Rebecca gave us another pep talk. Some of the group continued on to twin lakes and the rest of us turned around and started up the singletrack. I was feeling really good and took off. There was a guy ahead of me and I made it my goal to catch him — and I succeeded…right at the top.

My Strava confirmed I was flying: I was ranked 2nd -behind Queen Rebecca by only a few seconds.

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Practice, Practice, Practice

At the top of the singletrack climb there is a section of exposed roots that takes over the trail. Last year when I hit the first root, my bike came to a stop and I was catapulted into my handle bars.

I didn’t want to make this mistake this year, so I picked what I thought was the “good” line and went for it! I was wrong and went pinballing off all the logs.

Obviously, I was going to have to do something different. So I got off my bike and started again. This time I went straight over the logs, lifting my front wheel over the roots.

Success! I had a line I could use on Saturday.

I then proceeded to the next climb: “Bitch Hill.” Again I followed Rebecca’s advice and took some speed from the downhill and started climbing. And — for the first time ever — I cleaned the climb! Granted, I wanted to vomit, but still: I did it.

The group gathered again and we causally rode back to the car. I visited with other riders and enjoyed myself. I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I could do this!

R & R

When I got back to the Motel 8 where we were staying, poor Elden was still working. I made him some lunch and lay down on the bed. It wasn’t long before I was asleep. I think all of this riding at altitude might be exhausting me!

When I woke up, I continued reading Rebecca’s book. I cannot believe how many adventures this woman has had, nor how so many of her life lessons I could relate to — even though I hadn’t climbed huge mountain peaks or paddled into raging white waters.

I was getting restless, so I decided I needed to go for a walk. I talked to the girl who worked at the motel front desk and asked her where the bike path across the road went. She handed me a map of Leadville and said it was the Mineral Belt Trail: a 12-13 mile loop around the city. What a great place to take a walk.

As I started up the path, my thoughts returned my very first time racing Leadville, back in 2000. I had ridden on part of this same trail the day before the race. I remember how hard it was to breathe as I pedaled my bike on what I now could tell is a  relatively flat trail. Back in 2000, I wondered how in the world I was going to race and breathe at this altitude!

As I walked, I realized how well I was adjusting to the altitude this year. Being here early was really helping. I noticed now when I lay down, my heart wasn’t pounding in my ears and my breathing wasn’t quite so heavy as it was on the first day.

I walked for about an hour and wondered if I should turn around. A few cyclists had passed me earlier on, but now I was alone. I noticed some very dark rain clouds forming, and wondered if my walk was going to end wet and miserable.

At this point I really had no idea where I was–basically in the middle of nowhere. I sent Elden a text, saying I thought I might be lost. He was in a meeting, but texted me back the address of the hotel we’re at.

I replied that was nice, but not very helpful.

[A Note from Fatty: I had no idea she was on a bike path in the middle of nowhere; I assumed she was lost somewhere in Leadville itself. I figured by sending her our hotel address, she could use the directions feature on her phone to get from where she was back to the hotel. That’s “guy thinking” for you.]

At that moment, the bike path crossed a road and a truck was headed my way. I flagged him down and asked him how to get back to town. He said that the road he was on would drop me back into town, and offered to drive me down.

I thanked him, but refused — I’ve watched to many “true crime” shows on TV to accept a ride, in the middle of a forest with nobody around, from a stranger! I decided my best course of action would be to head down the road before the rain started.

My phone rang; it was Rebecca. She was in town getting her wheel fixed. I told her I was walking on the Mineral Belt Trail and I might need her to rescue me if it started raining, because Elden was in a meeting…and I had the keys to the truck anyway. She said she would be happy to. What a great person! Willing to go out of her way to help me, even when we weren’t racing.

The road was steep and dropped me back onto the main road about half a mile from the Super 8. The storm clouds were heavy and black above me, but I had outwalked the rain!

Fatty Works Too Much

When I got back to the room, Elden was still working. My legs were pretty tired, so I decided to put them up and continue reading Rebecca’s book.

Of course, this is what I read:

“…The wind was howling, spraying freezing rain in our faces and nearly pushing us back up stream. Having spent hours leaning into the storm, expending a ton of energy and making little progress, we elected to get off the water and wait it out while we tried to get some much-needed sleep. We huddled under a rock, wrapped in our tiny space blankets and every stitch of clothing we had with us. We took turns being on the exposed side in an attempt to get an equal shred of warmth from each other.”

(From Rebecca’s experience in the 1999 Eco-challenge Argentina, pg 91)

I could not believe that I just asked this woman for a ride home because I might get sprinkled on! I’m so lame! She must think I’m the biggest pansy! I shot her a text, apologizing. She replied, “you’re funny!!! I’ve asked for rides too.”

I highly doubt that!

St. Keven’s

Thursday morning, Elden got up early to work…and I slept in. I could get used to this whole vacation thing!

Then, around 10:30am we decided to head out. We called Rebecca and invited her to come along. I was surprised and excited to find that she could! We also invited Yuri Hauswald (pro cyclist for Marin bikes, Elden’s friend, and — very importantly — marketing honcho for GU) and Colleen — Rebecca’s business manager.

We decided to head up St Keven’s, then to the top of Sugarloaf and then retrace our steps back home. We would “soft pedal” today–take it easy.

As we headed out, the first raindrops started to fall. By the time we reached the base of St Keven’s, it was raining pretty hard. Rain doesn’t bother me much while im climbing, but I hate to descend when I’m wet.

As we climbed, several cyclist came by in the other direction, going down. One gal actually told us to turn around–that it was really cold on top. But we just kept climbing.

I was really feeling the climb today. I think my legs were pretty tired. I was surprised at how steep St Keven’s is! I had never really realized it during race days, when I’m all loaded up with adrenaline and concentrating on picking out a good line.

When we finally reached the top, it had stopped raining. Rebecca and Yuri decided to go home on the paved road, and Colleen had turned around earlier. After a very short discussion, Elden and I decided that we didn’t want to do any more climbing; we had done enough riding before the race.

I actually had fun coming down St. Keven’s. I used my new downhill skills and really enjoyed myself. I don’t know if I was any faster, but I felt more secure and safe on the descent.

Once we got to the bottom we took a selfie: 

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And then I tried one of the new Root Beer GUs Yuri had just given us. I think we were one of the very first people to actually get to try them!

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Wow. New favorite flavor!

When we hit the pavement, we decided to go back to town via the Boulevard. The rain had started up again lightly and we were surprised to find the lower part of the Boulevard had turned into a flowing stream. It’s amazing how quickly the rain can mess up the trail and create new ruts in the sandy soil around Leadville.

Setting Up Your Bike

Later in the afternoon, we returned to town to attend Rebecca’s class on “Bike Set Up.” 

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She also included information on clothing and bike accessories that can make your race experience nicer. 

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It was full of a lot of great information.

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Elden attempted to record/video the clinic — but now says he can’t find it anywhere. I told him to look and see if it fell between the cushions on the couch. He thought that was a very hilarious suggestion.

I was a little surprised at some of the questions that were asked — one person didn’t realize that wearing cotton socks during an endurance race was a bad idea!

[A Note from Fatty: I video’d the whole thing. I swear. I sat in the front row and for an entire hour trained the camera on Reba as she dished out tons and tons of fantastic information. 

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See?

By the end of the hour, my phone was down to about 15% battery, so I know I was recording. And yet, I do not have the video. I don’t know what happened to it. But when I discovered this morning that my video was nonexistent, I texted Rebecca, asking her to summarize her top bike-preparation tips. Such is my superpower — the ability to ask people to do stuff for me — that she said yes. Here it is.]

Rebecca’s Race-Ready Bike Checklist

The Bike Itself

  • Make sure your skewers/bolts are tight. I also like to check the bolts in the cleats of my shoes.
  • Select a fast rolling tire, but one with at least some traction. There are plenty of high-speed descents with loose corners. I do not run the lightest, thinnest sidewall available. I like a bit of insurance out there. A tire that’s 20 grams lighter but more prone to flatting, could save you a little weight…but cost you a lot of time if you flat. I run Specialized Fast Trak Control 2.0.
  • Don’t pump your tires up too hard. It’s an old-school mentality that harder tires are faster-rolling.  I’ve done tire testing with Specialized with all brands at different pressures. The fact is, tires are meant to be run at their suggested PSI. (Check the side of the tire for that.) The new engineering and tubeless rims allows you to run tires at much lower pressure.  They are not slower at lower pressures, and you get way better traction — which means faster descending.  I run my tires at 21 lbs in the rear and 20 in the front. Pressure is weight and ride-style dependent, but no one should be pumping their tires up to 40 PSI for Leadville.  It’s a mistake.  Practice adjusting tire pressure at home on your familiar trails.
  • Suspension (front fork and rear shock):  Suspension — along with your tire pressure and tread — is among the most important things that improve or deteriorate the quality of your ride.  Your suspension air pressure should be checked almost every ride, and certainly before every race.  Find what suspension pressure is right for your weight and riding style, then memorize it. it and check it often.
  • Check your touch points: Grips, Saddle, shoes/insoles.  I use Specialized BG grips, along with Specialized XC Lite gloves with smooth palm.  I like to have my grip be the right shape instead of wearing super padded gloves.  I feel the same way about a saddle / shorts combo.  The saddle is of utmost importance and for me the Specialized Oura saddle works great.  It looks thin and hard, but the saddle itself flexes with your body.  Get measured for a saddle if you haven’t ever done this. They are as different and have almost as many offerings as a pair of jeans. For shoes,  I wear Specialized women’s S-works MTB shoes with a Sole footbed that’s pretty beefy.

What to Carry on The Bike

  • Food carrying system: Use your pockets or handlebar pouch or something else — just make sure it stays on the bike and is easily accessible, so that you will be able to eat without much trouble.
  • Water Carrying system: Same as above.  If you are using water bottles, be sure to mount enough cages.  I use a rear seat post mount with a Specialized side bottle Z cage to have more capacity.
  • Tools on bike: I carry 
    1. two tubes
    2. CO2 canister pump attached to the bike
    3. CO2 head
    4. Mini pump–in case CO02 doesn’t work
    5. 1 tire lever
    6. multi tool with chain breaker
    7. Tire boot (can just be a GU wrapper) for torn sidewall.
    8. SRAM quick link (be sure it’s the right one for an 11 speed or 10 speed chain, whichever you have).  I like to tape it with electrical tape to my brake cable so I can easily find it if needed.  Be sure you practice fixing a chain at home.  It’s super easy and can be as fast as a tire change.  There’s no reason to end your race with a broken chain.

Tools for the Aid Station

  • Extra seat post (since I ride carbon): I’ve never broken one, but it could be a deal breaker for the race.
  • Extra wheels
  • Extra tubes
  • CO2, tool, etc. in case I use or drop any of these things.

Rebecca’s clinic was great; I love gathering as much information as I can, so I don’t start a race unprepared.

But I still need to learn how to fix a broken chain!

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