2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 4: Familiarity

08.28.2016 | 8:39 pm

A Note About 2016 FatCyclist.com Gear: The 2016 Fat Cyclist gear is — without question — the best-looking, best-made, most-comfortable jersey and bibshorts I have ever had. I have dozens and dozens of jersey and bibs, but these are what I wear for about 80% of my rides. (I’d wear them all the time, but sometimes they’re still dirty.)

The Women’s design is essentially all sold out, but the Men’s design is still available. 

Front

I’ve talked with a lot of people who have bought these, and I’m pretty certain everyone has liked them. 

Back

And yet, they have not sold out. Honestly, I don’t understand. So I’m going to be a little bit more direct than usual: If you like this blog, please support me by buying a jersey and bibs. (And maybe some socks.)

Thanks!

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 4: Familiarity

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is such ridiculous saying. And also, not true unless you were headed in the direction of contempt anyway. In my experience, familiarity breeds confidence, and fondness, and comfort, and happiness. Maybe even a little bit of wisdom, if you pay attention.

I am very, very familiar with the Leadville 100 bike route. And I think I like it as much or more as I ever have. It challenges and exhausts and exhilirates me every year, for different reasons every time.

This is probably true for every beloved bike route in the world: Familiarity breeds friendship.

This is what I was thinking — though in much simpler, not-actually-constructing-sentences way — as The Hammer and I rolled through Carter Summit and onto the three-mile paved descent. 

“I really like racing with you,” I told The Hammer.

She smiled at me, got into a tuck, and dropped me like a rock. Except she was the one dropping like a rock. (I need a new metaphor.)

I got as low as I could, figuring I’d reel The Hammer in, but the gap between us just increased. I never lost site of her, but — yep — she was definitely pulling away.

The Hammer’s timidity in descending on mountain bikes does not apply to road riding. When on the road, well, she’s pretty much a steely-eyed missile woman.

Which was just fine with me. We had agreed that as soon as we got to the bottom of this three mile paved descent, we’d each get out the second GU Roctane gel of the day.

Which means, dear reader, that — yes — this fourth installment of the race report has only thus far brought us to one hour (and fourteen miles) into the race.

Known Chaser

As planned, I caught up with The Hammer as she ate a gel, then we rode alongside each other for a moment while I ate mine.

And then…we heard a yell from behind. Doppler effect made me certain: it was a yell that was rapidly approaching. (Of course I have Doppler hearing. Don’t you?) 

“Faaaaaaaattiiiiiiiies!”

And that quick, The Monster was ahead of us.

Yep, in the first hour, she had taken the minute lead we had built-in at the starting line (The Hammer and I crossed the starting line at 6:31:08, The Monster crossed at 6:32:09), and erased it.

There was a temptation, I admit, to jump. To attack and show that young whippersnapper that I am The Alpha Rider

But I didn’t. The Hammer and I just kept our pace. No attacks, no responses to attacks. Familiarity breeds wisdom, see?

And within a couple minutes on this mile (or so?) of paved climb, The Hammer and I had bridged back to The Monster, then pulled slightly ahead again.

From my peripheral vision, I saw The Monster stand and stomp on her pedals to try to catch us.

“Don’t you DARE burn matches this early in the race!” I scolded her. You could totally hear the italics, bold, and uppercase in my voice, too. 

And it’s been an hour, you better be getting a gel out right this second,” I continued. 

The Monster dropped back down to her all-day pace. She got out a gel. 

I would like to contend that — in addition to ability and hard work — the reason The Monster has been racing so well so quickly is she is an incredibly serious student. She is the rare 20-year-old who watches, studies, and listens. Sure, she makes her own decisions about everything, but she hears you out first. 

And by doing so, she has been able to skip the decade-plus of race nutrition trial-and-error The Hammer and I each went through before figuring out a simple, workable plan: a Roctane gel every half hour, supplemented with CR333 whenever you drink.

The Hammer and I pullled ahead, riding at our pace; The Monster dropped back, riding at hers.

Smart.

Unknown Chaser

Here’s a weird but absolutely true fact: The Hammer and I did not discuss her competition — Christina Ross, the other woman singlespeeder — even once during the race. We never said, “I wonder if Christina is close, or if she’s about to catch and pass us,” or anything like that.

Not. Even. Once. Her name just never came up.

If we had known just how close Christina was to us at this point, we probably would have talked about her. Because Christina — who had started 26 seconds behind The Hammer and me — was now less than two minutes behind us. Which, in a 100+-mile MTB race, is nothing

The Hammer and I rode on, oblivious to the probability that the biggest threat to The Hammer’s objective — another SS win and new women’s SS record — could probably see us as we chatted about what a nice day it was and how awesome it was that we had seen The Monster and how well she was doing in the race.

No Help Wanted

After the paved section comes a sharp right turn onto a wide, washboarded dirt road: Hagerman Pass, I think it’s called. 

This was one of the segments I knew I could help The Hammer be fast on. “Let me know anytime I start to pull away from you,” I said. “Don’t just let me drop you, that doesn’t do either of us any good.”

And I commenced to mash. 

I continuously scanned ahead, looking for the next group to bridge to, looking for the least-washboarded line to ride. The Hammer stayed on my wheel beautifully, and we hopped from group to group. 

I had an epiphany about how it must be awesome to be a sled dog.

Then a guy surprised me from my reverie by pulling alongside me. “You know you’ve built a train of about twenty people, right? You want someone else to take a turn pulling?”

Huh. That actually made sense. While I had been thinking of The Hammer and me hopping from group to group, we had actually been bringing anyone who could hang with us along, building up an enormous train.

“No, not needed, thanks,” I replied. “I just want to hold this effort; but anyone who wants a ride is welcome.”

Sugarloaf Silliness

A sharp left turn took us off the relatively easy Hagerman onto Sugarloaf — my favorite climb of the day. There’s a beautiful view, the day was warming up, and the climb is just the perfect singlespeeding gradient: a good load, but not so hard that you feel like your kneecaps are going to burst.

Half the time The Hammer led, half the time I did. And the other half we rode side-by-side. No strategy to it, we were each just picking the pace and line we could on this climb.

Whenever I was out front, I’d call out every minute or so to be sure The Hammer was still with me. 

“You back there, Sugar Plum?” I yelled back.

“Sweetie Pie, are we still together?”

“Honey Pot? You with me?” I hollered.

I had resolved, for some reason, to make up and use as many ridiculous / embarrassing nicknames for The Hammer as I could during the day.

But I was running out (already I had noted a distinct tendency to use sweetener-based nicknames), and the day was still young.

Powerline to Pipeline

You cannot possibly have any idea how happy I am to be able to report that there is nothing worth writing about in our descent down Powerline: one of the parts of the race I enjoy not at all, ever. My dread of either of us crashing or flatting, however, came to naught (though I think I counted seven people working on flats as we rode down). 

I will note, however, mild astonishment that The Monster didn’t catch us going down Powerline. If I were to have placed a bet on one place in the race she’d fly by us, it would have been there, especially since we had seen her almost exactly an hour earlier.

Yes, that’s right: this installment of the race report is covering more than an hour. Dig it.

At the bottom — no flats, no crashes, no problems for either of us — we ate again (like clockwork) and I took my place in front of The Hammer for the next flattish few miles of paved and dirt road, out to the first aid station.

As we pedaled our singlespeeds along at our maximum all-day cadence, train after train of rider passed us. Many invited us to hop on. Some being funny, some genuinely not knowing why there was no chance at all we were going to be able to connect up with their train.

My race results show that we rolled into the Pipeline in two hours and nineteen minutes, but I really had no idea whether that was good or bad. All I knew was that this was the most fun I had ever had in the Leadville 100, and that I was becoming more and more impressed with The Hammer by the moment.

We rolled through the Pipeline aid station — signifying we were done with the first quarter of the race — and kept going: we didn’t plan to stop ’til the Twin Lakes aid station, forty miles into the race.

We caught up with my friend Rohit, then with another singlespeeder (technically my competition, but I didn’t really care), and began a fun, lively conversation on this bright, beautiful day.

If we had known that Christina was still a scant two minutes behind us, we probably would have shut up and pedaled harder.

Which seems like an OK place for us to pick up in the next installment of this story.

 

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report Part 3: The Jerk

08.24.2016 | 7:19 am

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A Podcasty Note from Fatty: As I mentioned in part 0 of this story, I met Floyd Landis while I was in Leadville.

And then CyclingTips US Editor Neal Rogers and I got together with Floyd at Floyd’s of Leadville HQ for what turned out to be an incredibly thoughtful and interesting conversation. 

We talk about Floyd’s new venture: what it is, why, and where it’s going. We talk about apologies: both those given and received, and even talk a little bit about cycling…or more specifically, why Floyd doesn’t ride anymore. This is a can’t-miss conversation with a name every cyclist recognizes, but few cyclists know. 

You can get it from iTunes, download it directly, or just play it here: 

More details can be found in the Show Notes at CyclingTips.

Seriously, you do not want to miss this episode. 

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report Part 3: The Jerk

There’s something very important you need to know before you read today’s installment of my 2016 Leadville 100 race report: there is a jerk in this story. A real kneebiter.

And also: That jerk is me.

But also too: There’s a guy in this story who cheerfully puts up with something unfortunate that happens to him due to another racer’s mistake. He doesn’t get upset or freak out about losing time or anything. He’s a good guy, someone other racers should emulate.

Still also: That guy is me.

So be warned: cognitive dissonance ahead.

The Setup

The Hammer and I had made it to the base of St. Kevin’s, the first  climb of the Leadville 100. And we were scared, because—as I mentioned in my previous post—we had attacked this climb at full speed earlier in the week, and had found ourselves wanting. 

What if, now that we were in the race itself, we discovered that we just…well…sucked? If we found out that we just didn’t have what it takes to climb this one little one-mile climb, and that we had no business on this course? 

As it turns out, this would not be a problem. Which is not to say that we would not have a problem. Just that this wouldn’t be it.

Our problem, as it continues to have turned out, would be rather the opposite. 

See, back in the beginning of the race, we were slated to start in the green corral. But it was jam-packed when we got there, and so we had to stand outside the corral, hoping to filter in when the barriers went down.

But when the barriers went down, I was all alone with two bikes, and a lot of people flowed ahead of me, even as I slowly walked forward, scanning the crowd for The Hammer.

So that had moved us back a bit, relative to many riders.

And then, since we were on singlespeed and trying to stay together, we had been passed quite a few times (roughly ten thousand, I estimate) on the way down the pavement.

And in short, we were pretty far back in the field when we got to the base of the climb. And back there, the bottleneck effect was in full…effect.

Which is to say: our problem was not that we couldn’t keep up. It was more that on singlespeeds at this near-glacial pace, we were in danger of not being able to keep upright.

Which, during a bike race, is a problem.

The Jerk

I was in a conundrum. On one hand, I could see that no matter what I did, I was not going to exactly be rocketing forward for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, if I didn’t move faster than this, I was going to have to get off my bike and walk for this perfectly rideable stretch of the race. 

On the third hand, my whole purpose in being in this spot—just in front of my wife—in this race was to enable her to finish as fast as possible. In under 9:50 (her previous singlespeed finish time and women’s course record) if at all possible. And I had told her how good I am at moving through the field on this climb, and how if she stuck on my wheel we wouldn’t get jammed up.

Well, two out of three metaphorical hands seemed to indicate that I should try to find a way forward. And as I looked ahead, I sorta kinda saw a path we could squeeze through, as long as we didn’t mind riding through the rough stuff. And grazing our handlebars against some branches. And making some courteous requests of our fellow racers.

They’d understand. Of course they’d understand.

“Hey there, racer, How’s it going? I’m going to squeeze by on your right, K?”

There was some grumbling. We pushed through.

“I’m on your right, don’t worry about moving, just keep your line. Two of us,” I said. 

More grumbling. And then, “Dude, where you going to go? Look up the mountain, we’re all in this line.”

I was, clearly, the jerk. The guy who cut in line. And I realized it as soon as this racer voiced his frustration.

Sure, I had my reasons; I just listed them above, even. 

“We’re singlespeeding,” I thought. “If you had our setup, you’d understand why we have to weave through the crowd.”

“I’m working for one of the top women racers in the field,” I thought. “Every second we’re behind you is a second that hurts her chances at a new course record.”

“You guys didn’t seem to have a problem squeezing by me at the starting line,” I thought. “I’m just returning the favor.”

But I didn’t say any of these things. No point, and there was too little oxygen for an argument anyway.

So I just said, “Gotta go.” And I went.

What a jerk I was. For the first of at least a couple times during the race, I’m afraid.

The Nice Guy

In my defense, I wasn’t being a jerk consistently. At one point during this climb, for example, a racer spun out, stalled, and fell over to his left…which is where I happened to be. 

My bike handling skills, alas, are not good enough to allow me to stay upright when a full-grown man falls on top of me. (Imagine my self-disappointment. If you can.)

The racer scrambled up, apologizing and apologizing.

I laughed. Not with malice, nor in a menacing, villainous way. Imagine a  Snidely Whiplash laugh, but benign. That’s how my laugh sounded.

“Don’t worry about it, I said. “This isn’t going to affect either of our finish times.”

And then I started hiking up the hill, watching The Hammer ride away from me. There was no way I was going to be able to restart, not on a singlespeed. Not on this grade.

Math Problems

We hit the sharp left turn that signals the end of the hardest part of the St. Kevin’s climb. Right at the half-hour mark, which meant it was time for the first GU Roctane gel of the day. One down (Chocolate Coconut), eighteen (or so to go). 

I measure my races not in hours or miles, but in GU packets and bottles of CR333.

The Hammer and I rode along, for the first time not swamped by people. It’s always incredibly surprising how the race thins out so dramatically after that sharp left turn a mile into the climb.

I was riding hard, racing with and for this incredibly strong woman: my wife. I was the happiest domestique in the world. 

“This is going to be a great day,” I said.

“I think so too,” The Hammer said. 

“So how soon do you think The Monster will catch us?” I asked.

I wasn’t being pessimistic about our chances to stay ahead of The Monster. Both The Hammer and I basically regarded it as a certainty that The Monster would catch us sometime before we got to the first aid station. The climbs were short, and the Powerline descent definitely favored The Monster’s abilities.

“I’m surprised she hasn’t passed us already,” The Hammer said. “What if she catches us and stays ahead the whole rest of the day?”

That,” I said, “would be pretty impressive.”

Honestly, I figured we wouldn’t see The Monster for a while. She would, I assumed, pass us sometime on the Powerline descent. Then, I expected, she’d stay ahead of us ’til partway up the Columbine climb.

my prediction was, as it turns out, entirely wrong. Which I would find out sooner rather than later.

And that’s a good place for us to pick up in the next episode.

Free Verse Friday: Duke

08.19.2016 | 7:35 am

A Podcasty Note from Fatty: The current episode of the CyclingTips podcast — which I co-host along with bike tech hero James Huang— is a really important one for anyone who rides road bikes and would like to be both faster and more comfortable, without a lot of effort or expense.

It changed my thinking on how I’m going to set up the road bikes at my house, that’s for sure. 

It’s one hour long, and it’s a really great panel discussion with three guys who really know what they’re talking about…and me.

You can listen to it below:

You can also find it on iTunes or download it directly There are lots of other ways to get it, too, which you’ll find in the show notes on CyclingTips.

Free Verse Friday: Duke

I had never been
Much of a
Dog guy

But that might be
Because
I hadn’t had
A dog 

And six or so
Years ago
That changed 

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When we lost Kita 
I realized
I had become
A dog guy 

Everyone
Say hi
To Duke. 

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Thank you.

PS: I expect a few people might wonder, so: Duke is a 17-month-old English Mastiff and weighs 130 pounds, which makes him the lightest male in our family. We are his third home and everyone but the cat fell in love with him instantly. 

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2: Can’t Explain

08.18.2016 | 3:59 pm

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A Podcasty Note from Fatty: The latest episode of The Paceline is out, and — like all episodes of the Paceline — it’s fantastic. I should warn you, however, that I talk about the Leadville 100 a lot in it, and I give away all kinds of things. So you may want to hold on a little if you like your race reports spoiler-free.

If, on the other hand, you are more interested in hearing the short version of the story before reading the long version — and you’d like to hear how I sound when being interviewed moments after the race is over — head on over to Red Kite Prayer and give it a listen.

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2: Can’t Explain

First of all, let me apologize for calling my second part of my race report — which was in fact the second part of my report, but only the first part of the part about the race — “part 2.”

Hence, I am calling this part “Part 2.” The previous Part 2, which was originally called “Part 1” is now once again called “Part 1.” In spite of the fact that it was the second part.

I’m glad I could clear that up for you.

Now, on to (a very small piece of) the story.

Against Type

I had big plans for this day: I was going to keep The Hammer on my tail and pull her the entire day, keeping her safe right from the beginning of the race as the thousands of people tried to crowd around.

So of course, within a few seconds of the race beginning, I had ridden up through the field, juking my way past rider after rider, more or less completely losing my wife:

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Yep, over there on the left, that’s me. Meanwhile, waaaaaay back — like, ten racers back — The Hammer (on the far right, wearing a red vest) was dodging racers, doing her best to thread her way back to me.

In my defense, whenever we do a running race, The Hammer does the exact same thing to me.

Also in my defense, we had talked about the likelihood that this would happen, and might even happen often. I’m bigger than The Hammer, and therefore pick up speed more quickly on descents (I’m not sure if physics says this should or shouldn’t happen, but it does happen). I brake later and harder than she does, and am more willing to take risks.

For this race, we’d both learn to do some adapting and communicating so we could stay together.

For this first part — a very crowded and fast paved descent — we knew I wouldn’t want to turn around to look for her, so we agreed I’d feather my brakes from time to time, and we’d regroup when we got to the dirt if necessary.

As it turns out, it would not be at all necessary.

About three or five minutes into the race — after the first right turn on pavement, but before the second one — I sensed I had few enough people around me that I could risk looking back without veering into another rider. I touched my brakes, then looked over my left shoulder…just in time to see The Hammer fly by me in a deep, low tuck.

To be frank, I had no idea she could get into that tuck, much less bomb it during an early-morning race.

I laughed — this kind of aggressive riding on her part was a great sign — and revved up my cadence until I was crazy-legging fast enough to accelerate a little bit. It’s the absolutely most ridiculous way to make it clear to everyone around you that you are on a singlespeed.

Then I went into my own tuck, bringing my hands and nose in close to the stem. I was sure I’d catch her in a moment.

I did not catch her. In fact, I’m pretty sure her lead increased.

I laughed harder. The Hammer always climbs strong and aggressively; this kind of descending was new. Maybe she had been inspired by The Monster?

We hit the dirt. I caught up with The Hammer, moved up front, and began playing against type. By which I mean that both in size and inclination, I am not an imposing person. But today, I would be imposing. My job was to make a path for The Hammer, to be vocal and assertive, asking people to move aside so she could concentrate on riding.

Unfortunately for me, everyone was being so darned polite and accomodating that I didn’t need to sweep them aside with my booming, authoritative voice. A simple “Hey there, on your left” was pretty much all that was necessary.

Mountain Bikers are good people.

Approaching St. Kevin’s

We drew up to St Kevin’s: the first climb of the day. The first mile or so of it is steep, but people in general don’t think of it as one of the serious obstacles of the day.

The Hammer and I, however, were afraid of it. And I don’t mean we were afraid to begin the ride in earnest, or that we were afraid of what the day might bring.

We were very specifically afraid of the St. Kevin’s climb, and we were afraid of it because we’d learned to be afraid of it a few days earlier.

Let me flash back for a moment to explain.

The Bugaboo

Back on Monday, not quite a week ago, The Hammer and I were doing our final pre-ride of any substance. We were taking The Monster out to ride up St. Kevin’s.

“I’m going to hit it with everything I’ve got,” I had told them. “I’ll meet you at the hard left turn a mile into the climb.”

And I had taken off, just attacking St. Kevin’s like I could sprint it.

As it turns out, I could not sprint it. Not even close. In fact, by the time I got two-thirds up this steep mile, I was utterly smoked. Just destroyed.

As I hit one of the steeper pitches, I cracked. And when you crack on a climb on a singlespeed…you’re off your bike. Walking. 

Which is what I did. I got off and walked a big chunk of the final quarter of that first mile of St. Kevin’s. I then stopped and looked back…to discover that The Hammer was learning the same lesson I had just picked up:

Don’t you dare disprespect the St. Kevin’s climb. It may be the first climb; it may be the shortest. But it is steep and it is all above 10,000 feet.

“I can’t believe I had to walk that,” I said. 

“I’ve never had to walk that before,” The Hammer replied. 

“Is something wrong with us? Are we weaker than we used to be?” I asked, absolutely serious.

“I was wondering that exact same thing,” The Hammer said.

“We should come back and ride this climb more sensibly before this race,” I mused. “Get this bugaboo out of our heads.”

“OK, good idea; let’s do,” The Hammer agreed.

But we hadn’t. And the St. Kevin’s Bugaboo was now fresh in our minds as we reached the base of it.

Which seems like a good part to continue in the next installment of this story, this Monday.

2016 LT100MTB Race Report, Part 1: Panic at the Get-Go

08.16.2016 | 9:51 am

If this race report is going to be fewer than fifty installments, I have to leave some things out. I just have to. And that’s too bad, because this morning I got an email from my friend Rohit, where he listed some of his favorite moments from before the race:

  • The Ted King vs Fatty “buckle off”
  • Witnessing a pro cyclist in remission (Ted again) eat four brats (no buns, though) and drink five beers, two days before the race
  • Getting into a doping debate with Fatty and Hottie on the front lawn of the house
  • Hearing Fatty’s imitation of Floyd Landis scolding a hobo
  • Learning a little about how Katie Bolling turned a passion into a career
  • Watching how much Chris and Shon can eat and still look like they have 2% body fat
  • Witnessing the pre-race Fatty and Hammer stress-out
  • Having a mere three-minute walk to the starting line

Rohit is right. I could — and who know, very well may — write a blog post about every single one of the moments Rohit bulleted out here. Every one of them could make a great stand-alone story. 

But right now, I want to talk about the race itself. Or at least, the starting line.

Wrong Side of the Tracks

In the Leadville 100 race, color matters. A lot. Specifically, the color of the number on your race plate — earned either by your finish time a previous year or your finish time at a qualifying race — specifies where in the starting line (which is multiple city blocks long) you get to start your race.

My 8:12 finish in Leadville last year qualified me to be in the “silver” starting corral, right behind the pros and rocket-fast guys in the gold corral.

But that would have separated me by dozens of yards from The Hammer right from the beginning of the race (her 9:08 finish last year put her in the green corral, two corrals back from silver), and one of my critical jobs — as her domestique — was to give her a clear path right from the line.

So, when we had done packet pickup two days earlier, I had asked the race organizers to make two changes to my status:

  1. Change my registration to singlespeed
  2. Put me in the green corral

They were happy to do both those things (though they gave me a categorical “no” when I first asked them to instead move The Hammer up to the silver corral with me). 

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That little green sticker on my race plate became my passport to ride with my wife right from the gun. 

As we arrived at the starting line area, however, we had a couple of surprises waiting for us. First, the green corral was further back than we had expected, across the street from the starting line arch.

Second, the green corral was jam-packed, and there was no way we could get in. In fact, it was overflowing, with people lined up outside the corral — just hoping to wiggle our way into the corral once they dropped the barriers and more of us could flow in as we filled up the space in the street kept free of racers until the last few minutes before the race.

The Hammer’s Turn

We got into a place outside the corral, figuring that one way or another, we’d get across the starting line once the race began. Our friend Al Iverson — a honcho with Life Time who was starting for his tenth race — was doing the same thing, so we figured this was the best option any of us had.

“I need to go use the bathroom one last time before the race begins,” The Hammer told me.

This, of course, was part of the plan, and one of the really nice things about starting together. I’d watch her bike and hold her place while she found a porta-potty, and then she’d do the same for me.

She took off to take care of her business, and I stood there, holding up two bikes and talking with Al. Happy to have a friend to chat with.

Separation Anxiety

And then the barriers dropped, and everyone surged forward. Including me and the two bikes I was walking. Swept up with the tide.

Somewhere, a couple of blocks away, I thought, The Hammer is in a porta-potty, and when she comes back, she isn’t going to know where I am…or where her bike is, for that matter

“Five minutes ’til start!” the announcer boomed.

I worked my way over to the left side of the corral as best as I could, figuring The Hammer would be coming back on that side. 

Be cool, Fatty, I told myself. Worst-case scenario, she’ll find you after the gun goes off and sees you all alone in the corral, holding a couple of bikes.

If I hadn’t been so cold — it was thirty-six degrees out, the coldest start in years — I might have laughed. I actually have a recurring dream not too dissimilar from what was happening right at that moment.

Reunited

In the end, it was the cold that helped The Hammer find me. You see, for the past few years I’ve worn a thrift-store faux-fleece coat to the starting line, as shown in this photo from last year’s report:

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Thanks to this coat, The Hammer was able to spot and rejoin me.

What a relief.

“Do you need to go use the restroom?” The Hammer asked.

“No time, the race starts in just a few minutes,” I said. And also, I didn’t really need to go anymore. Really, that “pee before racing” thing is 97% nerves.

I then broke open and ate a Bonk Breaker Almond Butter and Honey bar — my current favorite pre-race thing to eat: they’re delicious, moist (so they’re easy to get down even when you have pre-race cottonmouth), quite small, and have 200+ calories, helping you stay on top of your calorie count right from the gun.

And also, I’d be eating nothing but GU Roctane gels (and drinking 2/3-strength CR333, swapping between Grape and Lemonade flavors) for the next 103.5 miles, so it was nice to actually eat something I could chew.

I looked around, didn’t see anyone else eating. Too bad for them, it’s a valuable, practical, and easy way to push off the inevitable calorie deficit this kind of race brings.

I took off my faux-fleece coat and threw it over the corral fence. (Yes, it found its way back to me after the race.)

Then thought about it and decided to get rid of the vest, too. I knew I’d be cold for the upcoming few minutes of pavement, but I also knew I’d warm right up as we hit the St. Kevin’s climb.

St. Kevin’s, which both The Hammer and I had cause to fear. (I’ll explain why in the next installment of this story.)

It was getting light.

A photographer captured a shot of The Hammer, staring at the race clock, behind these two guys who had moved in front of me when I slow-walked our bikes in the corral and searched frantically for The Hammer:

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I love this picture particularly because The Hammer’s expression looks exactly like everyone feels. Look:

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It doesn’t matter how many times you do this race. On the starting line, the anxiety is intense

The Hammer finally tossed away the thrift-store sweatshirt she was wearing, though she kept the vest on. It made sense for her to keep an extra layer; she doesn’t have the subcutaneous layer of insulating blubber I have. 

The national anthem. The countdown. The shotgun blast. My twentieth start in the Leadville 100.

I have so much experience with this race. But I’ve never partnered with another racer before, and I was about to find out: I still have a lot to learn.

Which seems like a good place to pick up in the next installment.

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