Friday, August 29, 2008

Election '08 Thoughts

* Obama's speech was wonderful in many ways. Most of all, it was genuinely inspiring. I respect this guy. And it was an effective rebuttal to the various McCain attacks. Obama was clearly not a Paris Hilton-type celebrity. He was unpatriotic only to the frightened wingnuts who forward all those ALL CAPS messages. His foreign policy ideas are a refreshing counterpoint to Bush's global failures.

* Anyone who watched that speech should have no fear that Obama would be a wise, forceful leader. He looked presidential. The more people see of Obama, the more impressed they should be.

* I wonder how many swing voters saw the speech itself, as opposed to taking in only the commentary. For those who actually saw the speech, Obama makes Democrats look like the party of strength. McCain makes Republicans look like the party of pettiness and fear. Or the party of garden gnomes.

* McCain still has a very good chance of winning the election. If Palin proves to be capable on the big stage, McCain's choice of veep will be an effective counter to Obama. And McCain doesn't need to prove that he'll be a good president. He just needs to make the election a referendum on Obama, and let the Republican smear machine take it from there.

* I'm going to enjoy the Republican convention to see how McCain balances supporting Bush and presenting himself as the candidate of change.

* I want to get back to the point of both Democrats and Republicans offering offsetting strengths and weaknesses. While the Democratic party has its problems, the Republican party brings nothing to the table. They've abandoned previous core principles like small government and fiscal responsibility. I want to see the Republicans smashed and humiliated so they can reinvent themselves into the party that I can at least partially support.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Luke Comes to Grips with Mortality

Luke's fish died.

Just before I was going to put the boys down for the evening, Wendy came upstairs and mentioned to me in a somber whisper, "Luke's fish died. Should we tell him now, or should we wait till the morning?"

I couldn't stand the idea of my son sleeping peacefully while his fish was belly up in the tank, so I said she better go tell him right away. Plus, I was indexing a user guide, and I needed the extra time.

A minute or so later, I heard loud crying. Weeping. Wailing.


I would have laughed, but the poor kid was genuinely distraught. Should I tell him about Fish Heaven? In Fish Heaven, the most obedient fish attain the highest kingdom. Should I tell him that a fish dies like any animal? When we die, our consciousness ceases, our body rots, and that's the end of the miracle we call life. I suppose I could always go the vague reincarnation route. When we die, we become something different, but no one knows what.

I didn't tell him anything, because anything I said would have meant nothing. Luke had his own cross to bear.

It was a sad day for him. I wasn't particularly fond of Karen. He was a violent fish who ate his own feces. But Luke loved him. Or he loved having him.

R.I.P. Karen

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Disappointment

I have Olympic fever. When the boys get settled, I turn on my laptop and the television, switching between the NBC channels and the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Channel).

I prefer the CBC for two reasons. First, NBC claims to broadcast some events "live," but they don't happen to mention that it's live only on the East coast. They still think they can get away with that when anyone can look up the "live" results three hours before they're broadcast by surfing the web or flipping channels. Second, I prefer Canada's coverage. High on sports, low on interviews and heart-warming bios of underdog Americans.

Wendy and I were holding hands on the couch when the following conversation took place:

Wendy: "Oh, you're turning the channel."

Me: "Yeah, I don't like watching women play basketball. The players look clumsy and frumpy."

Wendy: [Releases my hand and slides away from me.]

Me: "Did something I say upset you?"

Wendy: "Yes. Blah blah blah patriarchal society blah blah blah hegemony blah blah blah disenfranchisment blah blah blah marginalization of blah blah blah." (I'm paraphrasing here.)

Me: "For me it's a matter of preference. Men look good playing basketball or football or rugby. Women look good when doing gymnastics or diving or doing anything that brings our their grace. Both men and women look great playing volleyball. Neither look good playing field hockey. I don't want to see women play basketball, and I don't want to see men figure skating. But I'll watch anything if the USA has a chance at gold."

Wendy: "Blah blah blah sexist blah."

Me: "It's possible that I need to reevaluate my preferences and undo sexist programming. I'll work on that during football season, which is only three weeks away!"

Note: It's possible that I have not captured the nuanced nature of Wendy's arguments. And I may have embellished some of my own.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 Leadville Race Report

Disclaimer: My flight was delayed, so I have time to write. I'm going to ramble and babble.

The Leadville 100 is an out-and-back race that starts at 10,200 feet, tops out at 12,600 feet at Columbine Mine, and returns to Leadville. It includes 14,000 feet of climbing, most of which takes place in five big climbs -- St. Kevin's in, Powerline in, Columbine Mine, Powerline out, and st. Kevin's out.

After finishing last year's race in 12:26, I signed up for Leadville, started training hard during the summer, stressed and obsessed, and reduced my pastry intake by 12%.

The Start

Organizers line up everyone according to projected finish. At the front of the pack were a dozen or so of the pro racers, including Lance Armstrong and Dave Wiens. Behind them were the top 100 returners from last year's race. They were given special wrist bands. You'll have to trust me when I tell you that Elden was thrilled to be in this special group, cordoned off from the rest of us chattel.

Behind them, riders were grouped in Sub-9, 9-10, 10-11, 11-12, and 12+ sections. I knew I belonged in the 11-12 group, but these categories are flawed. Some of the riders -- many of them roadies -- are fast cyclists with mediocre technical skills. When they get to the first climb at St. Kevin's, a lot of these strong endurance athletes flail and have to get off their bikes, jamming up traffic with their antics. Knowing I'd do fine on the first climb, I jumped in the back of the 9-10 group next to "Gary," who dressed just like Dug, complete with plaid shorts, knee socks, and a handlebar basket containing a stuffed monkey. In fact, I'll go ahead and just call him "Dug."

I thought I'd be more nervous. After last year's race, when I got down on myself, I wanted to avoid emotional highs and lows and just ride hard and steady. I didn't bring a watch and I wasn't going to ask anyone how I was doing.


When the gun goes off at Leadville, most riders have to wait anywhere between a few seconds and a few minutes to start riding. A police car and television crew (LANCE ARMSTRONG IS RACING!!!) set the pace going downhill out of town. During these few miles, riders aren't supposed to pass. Unfortunately, some goober refused to respect Elden's top 100 wristband and knocked him over while passing him.

Elden scrambled back on his bike undamaged and was noticeably upset when I went by him. I was too busy yelling to talk to him. Most of the riders have the sense to hold their lines and avoid overreacting, but it's the few spastics I want to frighten away. So I yelled things like "TURNING" or "SLOWING" or "CORNISH GAME HENS" -- whatever came to mind. Once we turned off on the dirt road, I clammed up and settled into a rhythm.

Over St. Kevin's and Sugarloaf

The ride up St. Kevin's is always interesting. There are the agro dudes who burn energy to pass in crazy places, gaining precious seconds. And there are people who just ride weird. One guy threw it in granny gear on a gradual climb and spun his legs three times as fast as anyone around him.

I borrowed a Superfly from Racer's wife, and I want to say right now that it's far and away the best racing bike I've ever ridden. At this same place the previous year, my legs felt dead and any serious effort made me dizzy. This year I felt solid. Dug and Elden passed me at some point, but I wasn't going to try to hang with anyone, especially singlespeed riders.

The descent down the paved road on St. Kevin's was a blast. No cars are allowed, so I put my belly on my seat and flew down in a tuck, yelling, "ON YOUR LEFT!!!"

The second climb of the day is up Haberman's pass to the top of Sugarloaf. You climb up a mile or so of paved road, and then you go up a long, gradual dirt road that wraps around Turquoise Lake. I was still feeling strong, but my legs were twitching now and then, as if they were going to start cramping. I tried to put it out of my mind.

The four-mile descent down Powerline on the other side of Sugarloaf is nerve-wracking. There are slow riders and fast riders and crazy riders. About every quarter mile, someone is changing a flat tire. My plan was to ride this stretch cautiously because I didn't want to wreck or flat. It turned out I didn't need to be cautious. The Superfly was steady. In biking terms, it "tracks well." It's the opposite of squirrelly.

I jumped behind a guy who was going fast and followed his line until he screwed up, and then I passed him. When I was near the bottom, where the course was lined with spectators to watch the carnage, I slowed down to ride behind a guy who was going a little too fast to pass easily. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy on the other side of the trail taking a random line. He made no effort to dodge rocks or trenches. In fact, it almost looked like he was going out of his way to hit obstacles.

He took a terrible line to pass the guy in front of me, and then he paid for it, tumbling over his handlebars right in front of the other guy. That guy slammed on his brakes and then tumbled exactly the same way. It was like an act out of circ de soleil. Synchronized endos.

As I scooted around them, asked if they were OK. One of the guys said, "It's too early to tell." Take your time! I think he ended up breaking his collarbone. That's what the nurse in the emergency room told me.

At the bottom of the downhill, there's a fun little stream crossing where you can go left to ride over a 12-foot plank to keep from getting your feet wet. After riding a few miles in pace lines on paved and dirt roads, the tents from the first aid station appear. I didn't know how fast I was going, but I looked it up later:

2007 Bob - 2:41
2008 Bob - 2:32

To Twin Lakes Dam

I stopped at the 26-mile aid station to grab something quick to eat and fill up my bottle with a sports drink. I knew I was going to feel lousy later in the race, but I had a plan. I was going to take a cocktail of ibuprofen and Tums. The race organizers warned everyone about the dangers (KIDNEY FAILURE!!!) of taking ibuprofen at altitude when you're dehydrated, so my plan was to stay good and hydrated. I drank constantly from my Camelbak.

We had a nice tailwind that carried us down the flattish road. After a few dips into a little valley, we headed over a ridge and dropped down the road that crosses the dam. That road is lined for miles with cars and support tents.

Because I was slow guy in the group, I didn't ask anyone to crew for me. Instead, I left drop bags and depended on the volunteers. The volunteers were fantastic as usual. One person grabbed my Camelback while another person brought me my drop bag. I ate a couple of banana slices to stave off cramps, restocked my jersey pockets with sugary food, drank a pop-top can of soup, and took off for the big climb.

2007 Bob - 3:37
2008 Bob - 3:26


Before you get to Columbine, there's a ridge with a sketchy uphill portion. I rode up it while others walked it. I got to thinking -- would a no-dab Leadville be possible? Up to this point, I'd taken my foot out of the pedals twice, each time at aid stations. If I were in better shape, I think I'd try it.

We rode through a valley before taking a sharp right turn that marks the beginning of the 9-mile climb. I remembered this turn well because it was there where Floyd Landis and Dave Wiens passed me the year before. So this year, assuming that the leaders were going roughly the same speed, I figured that each minute I climbed from there put me a minute ahead of last year's pace. I climbed for a good ten or fifteen minutes before I felt the buzz up ahead.


Lance Armstrong was flashing down the mountain with Dave Wiens ridely calmly off his back wheel. I know Lance retired from the sport years ago and is a shell of his former cycling self, but it was thrilling to see him coming down the mountain like that. Those guys were pedaling fast down a section where I would have been feathering my brakes.

The climb up Columbine consists of two parts -- the long road climb and the steep, rocky double-track where most riders walk. Last year, the altitude got to me on the road climb, and I had to shift down to granny gear and eventually walk my bike where I should have been riding. This year, I rode up the whole way in the middle ring, eating a Powergel every twenty minutes or so.

The only drawback was that my legs were twitching and cramping, which worried me more than anything. When we got to the hike-a-bike section, I jumped in line and hiked with everyone else.

One misleading thing about a race report like this is that it's difficult to convey a sense of time. I suppose I could say I pushed my bike up the mountain for 45 minutes, feeling weak and sick from the altitude, but that doesn't get at the feeling of hopelessness as you see a line of hike-a-bikers way up the mountain, tiny ant figures all the way up, and each step is painful. Whenever I got on or off my bike, various legs muscles cramped up. I figured it was only a matter of time before they locked up and I wouldn't be able to use my legs.

Eventually, I made it to the top of the climb and rode down into a knoll where the aid station was. I stopped, jammed a whole banana in my mouth, and hurried to drop out of that altitude as fast as I could.

2007 Bob - 6:10
2008 Bob - 5:42

Down, Down, Down

Have I mentioned that the Superfly tracks well? It does. I rode down the mountain and back into the Twin Lakes aid station, where the volunteers once again swarmed to my aid as if I were the John Belushi character in 1941.

I downed a can of soup, jammed another banana in my mouth, and set off again. By the way, I'm enjoying this comparison of my current self to my former self, also known as The Bad Guy. Failure can be a beautiful thing when there's hope of redemption.

2007 Bob - 6:59
2008 Bob - 6:25

Across the Flats

Next, the 14-mile "flat" section to the next aid station. All four times I've done Leadville, this section is where I started to fall apart. There are two nasty hike-a-bikes up small but steep hills, and the miles have gotten to me at this point. It's also signifantly more uphill going back than coming out. My legs were wobbly, my stomach was churning, I wanted to quit the race.

I tried not to think about anything. Just stay on the bike and take the pain. In the back of my mind, I hoped that the magic cocktail would work when it was time to take it. Otherwise, I'd be in serious trouble. The aid station appeared more quickly than I expected.

2007 Bob - 8:33
2008 Bob - 7:46

The Final Climbs

I didn't know how well I was doing and I didn't want to ask. As I said, I wanted to turn my brain off to avoid emotion, which is always excessive when you're worn down like that. The volunteers grabbed my drop bag. I drank another can of soup, ate more banana pieces, and then braced myself. I took a Red Bull out of the drop bag and used it to gulp down my cocktail. I wanted to rest longer in the aid station, but I forced myself back on the bike. If the cocktail didn't work, I wanted to still have a chance at a sub-12.

The cocktail worked. And how.

Along the few miles of road before the nastiest climb, I started feeling better. No headaches, no leg cramps, no nausea. After crossing the stream and starting the climb, I toyed with the idea of riding of the first steep pitch. Instead, I pushed up it quickly, passing several people along the way.

The Powerline is infamous for its false summits. After hiking about a mile up to what appears to be the top, you're really only about a third of the way up. After the first pitch, there's a little flat section, and then it goes up again. Unlike last year, when I walked up the whole thing and sat down to rest several times, I rode.

And I kept riding. After the initial pitch, I didn't get off my bike once. Emboldened by ibuprofen and taurine, I chatted with a few people who wanted to talk about the Fat Cyclist and zipped up Powerline as if it were a training ride. The rain sizzled on the wires above us.

When I got to the rolling section at the top, I allowed myself to think for the first time that I might actually make it. Naturally, my reaction to this thought was to get all choked up. I didn't want to cry, so I ended up making strange noises that probably sounded like "guh" or "gollem."

During the descent, I kept trying to get power gels or shot blocks or anything from my pocket, but I kept dropping my food because my hands were shaky. So I just gave up and waited for the St. Kevin's climb to eat.

St. Kevin's is a fairly steep 4-mile climb, but it's on pavement. That means it actually feels good after getting bounced around all day. The only problem was that I ran out of water right at the start of the climb. A guy who works in Racer's shop (Arthur?) was kind enough to give me a sip of water about halfway up.

I pulled into the last aid station, refilled my Camelbak, and drank more soup. Someone mentioned that we were not only on track for sub-12, but we had 15 minutes to spare. I thought I was further ahead than that (I was). I hopped on my bike and pedaled hard.

The Final Stretch

My legs were strong but I felt dizzy. Then I started having blurred vision. I'm not sure what was going on. Part of me felt strong enough to sprint while another part of me was sick and exhausted.

I was more careful than usual during the downhill stretches because I didn't think I had the mental agility to change a flat in my condition. When we came out of the woods into the outskirts of Leadville, I started making my guh and gollem sounds again.

As I crossed the dirt road where I'd taken the Superfly on its maiden voyage two days before, people were ringing cowbells and shouting encouragement. One guy looked just like Lance Armstrong, but I figured my blurred vision was playing tricks on me.

After I turned up what's known as the Boulevard, which is the final climb into town, another rider asked me if I'd seen Lance. Lance who? "Yeah," the guy said. "Lance Armstrong was back there drinking beer and telling us to keep going."

Then the final right turn onto 6th street.

Guh. Gollem.

As I rode toward the finish line, people were cheering and clapping and ringing cowbells, and I wasn't in any kind of condition to reject their endorsement of my magnificence.

Thank you. Thank you.

2007 Bob - 12:26:12
2008 Bob - 11:22:44

At the finish line, someone put a medal around my neck, and I looked around for my friends. No one was there. Even though 11:22:44 is a great number that's nearly Fibonacciesque, my friends were all finishing their showers and expecting me to arrive a little before (or after) 12 hours.

Finally, Nick and Sarah came over and helped me find a place to sit in dizzy stupor. I would write about feeling so nauseous and dizzy that I asked Elden to take me to the emergency room, but I don't want to.

I finished Leadville. I am now a triathlete.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Quick Leadville Results

I'll go into more details later, but here's what happened:

Dave Wiens vs. Lance Armstrong

Dave won his sixth straight Leadville title, breaking the record by 13 minutes. Lance dropped away with 10 miles left to go and finished two minutes behind. For you Lance Armstrong fans out there, take pleasure in the fact that Lance won the 30-39 age group. Dave Wiens is 43.


I finished in 11:22:44. Besides being a Fibonacci sequence, this number is significant because it's less than 12 hours. I won a silver belt buckle. I also ended up going to the emergency room afterwards. According to the doctor, I actually drank too much water and flushed all the electrolytes out of my system, which made me so dizzy and sick I felt drunk.

Key differences between this year and last year:

* I was in better shape.

* The bike I borrowed was fantastic. I love the Superfly.

* I made better decisions during the race.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

2008 Leadville Predictions

We're leaving for Leadville early tomorrow morning. Gulp. I know this sounds goofy, but I'm already having a difficult time sleeping. It's possible that I'm too fired up for this race. Here's how everyone I know is going to do:

Kenny - Kenny is recovering from a broken hip and a broken collarbone that required surgery. Last year he finished in second place in the singlespeed category, and I think he's headed for a similar result. 8:42, 3rd in singlespeed.

Actual finish: 8:31:31, 2nd place singlespeed

Brad - Brad is in excellent shape yet again, but he won't beat Kenny. 8:50, 5th in singlespeed.

Actual finish: 9:21:11, bad day for him

Racer - Racer usually drops out of this race, but I think this is his year. 8:28, 32nd place overall.

He dropped out again, bless his heart

Gary - Gary is riding so strong he's faster than Dug was last year at this time. He'll be riding a singlespeed. I think he'll do something Dug has never done -- finish Leadville with only one gear. 11:11.

Actual finish: 10:53:06, a very Dug-like performance, only faster

Rick S. - Rick is looking strong climbing, but he's sketchy on the downhills. 9:04.

Actual finish: 9:21:11, broken chain

Chucky - I haven't ridden with Chucky this year, but I hear he's strong. 7:35, 8th place overall.

Actual finish: 7:44:31, 12th place

Nick - Nick did a grueling 5-day mountain bike race in Canada a month ago, and he looks fit and skinny. He lives in Seattle, so there's always the possibility that the altitude can mess him up. I don't think so. 9:14.

Actual finish: 10:59:34, pale face

Elden - Elden says he hasn't been training, but that just means he isn't being coached like last year. He's still a much stronger rider than I am, singlespeed or no. 11:11.

Actual finish: 10:06:42, wow

Me - I'm feeling more fit than I was last year, and I'll be riding a faster bike. Elden's Superfly broke, but Racer's wife Marin was kind enough to loan me hers. Can you believe she'd loan a $4,000 bike to someone she's never met? Since it's a loaner, I'll probably take extra risks because I don't care if I break someone else's bike, so I'll end up crashing. DNF.

Actual finish: 11:22:44, no crashes, no near crashes

Dave Wiens - I don't know him. He's won this race the last five years, he owns the course record, and he beat Floyd Landis last year. But he's 43 years old. 7:17, 3rd place.

Actual finish: 6:45:45, 1st place overall

Lance - I think there's going to be too much of a gap between what he used to do on a bike and what he does now. His muscle memory will lead him astray. DNF.

Actual finish: 6:47:41, 2nd place overall

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Lance Dance

The cycling community is abuzz because Lance Armstrong will be racing the Leadville 100 this year. I'm going to complain about some of the hero worship that's going on, but first, I want to go on record saying that I think Lance is heroic. He battled back from cancer to win seven (7) Tour de France races. During one race in which he overheated and became dehydrated, he battled his pain and climbed the mountain ferociously, losing only a few minutes where he could easily have lost twenty. Granted, Lance was most likely taking performance-enhancing drugs, and we know that a bunch of his competitors were doing the same thing. Maybe Lance's drugs were better than his competitors and he had an edge. Whatever. Some of his Tour de France rides were spectacular.

Even more heroic is the Lance Armstrong Foundation. For a celebrity charity, his organization is shockingly helpful.

That said, let's get on with the nonsense. Here's what one writer had to say about Lance's resolve:

This year the race gets continued attention in that Lance Armstrong has signed up once more. The race is scheduled for August 9th so I think at this point there is a good chance Lance will show. As we all know Lance is no slouch. He has raced mtb, including at this years Miles of DisComfort 52 miler in Comfort, TX this January. Lance ended up DNF at mile 41 as a result of leg cramps. From what I’ve read, he lost his water bottles and may have dehydrated some. I don’t figure this will be a problem at Leadville. As with anything Lance attempts, he will come prepared.

Ooh, question! If Lance comes prepared with anything he attempts, why did he get dehydrated and DNF (Did Not Finish) at mile 41 of a 52-mile race?

Here's the thing. The guy retired from serious professional competition, but he can't give up competing. Deep down, he's a gym rat. He's run a marathon in under 3 hours. But he's still a retired athlete who spends most of his time running his charity and balling needy singers and actresses.

The thing I love about Leadville is that it's a race for the cycling gym rats of the world. It's a place where amateurs like me and Dug and Elden can test ourselves. For a few years, Elden was Ahab, and the 9-hour mark was his ubiquitous white whale. Dug has ridden Leadville successfully several times, but never on a rigid singlespeed. I want to get back into good enough shape to finish in under 12 hours and get my sweatshirt and belt buckle.

Before the Leadville race was around in the early 90s, Dug and I got ourselves into great shape, but we didn't have an epic way to test ourselves. So we decided to do the White Rim Trail on summer solstice in 120-degree heat, and almost got ourselves killed. Leadville changed that. Now, when we start feeling cocky about what great shape we're in, we can just do Leadville. And so can Lance.

I'm glad Lance is racing -- seeing him bomb down Columbine will be a magic moment -- but he's not racing as a professional cyclist. He's a retired cyclist. There's a good chance he won't finish.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Riding in the Beehive State

I flew out to Utah ten days before the Leadville race so that I could acclimate to the altitude. Even though I like to blame my poor showing last year on Dug, who certainly deserves censure, I think my most serious obstacle was the altitude. I felt dizzy from the start. When we climbed up to Columbine at 12,600', I was sick and wobbly. That feeling stayed with me for several hours. By the time I recovered enough to ride hard again, I'd lost too much time to beat 12 hours. So I came out to Utah early so that I can ride in the early morning and then work remotely the rest of the day.

Now that I've been here in Utah for the last five days, I feel torn. On the one hand, I am getting used to the altitude. After the first couple rides, I returned to my parents' condo in Provo and dealt with the fallout -- fatigue, chills, sweats, headaches. By the time Leadville rolls around, I hope to be better adjusted. Plus, it's great to be able to do a ride every day with my buddies. Feels like old times.

On the other hand, I miss my family. It's nice to get a break for a day or two, but this is too long. If I don't beat 12 hours, I'll feel foolish and bitter. If I do beat 12 hours, goodbye Leadville, hello triathlons!

Hogg's Hollow - On Wednesday morning, Elden and I met at his house at 5:50am and we rode our singlespeeds up to the saddle at the top of the ridge that divides Utah County from the Salt Lake region. There we met up with Dug, Rick S., and a guy named Sam, who is also training for Leadville. We rode a beautiful local trail that winds over ridges and through groves of trees and shrubs. I would love to be able to leave my garage like that to ride a network of trails. In Seattle, I have to drive at least 30 minutes to ride trails.

Susan's Ramp - On Thursday morning, we skipped a ride to build Susan's scooter ramp. Susan looks great, by the way.

The Alpine Loop - On Friday morning, Elden and I started from his house at 6:30 and met up with Dug's group for a road ride. As we headed up the canyon, we formed a pace line. When it was my turn to lead, it suddenly got steeper. I didn't want to appear weak, so I tried to keep the same pace. After I flicked my elbow and fell out, I noticed there were only three riders behind me. The other five had fallen off. It was ridiculous for me to break up the group like that since I was the weakest rider.

The fast group rode ahead of us while the slow group chatted until we were more than halfway up. Then Dug and Elden broke away from me and another guy whose name I forgot. He and I formed the gruppetto. Even though we were talking the whole way up, I rode hard, and I got an altitude headache as we neared the summit at 8,000'. It was somewhere between a 10- and 16-mile climb, depending on where you think the climb starts.

Tibble Fork - In the right condition, Tibble Fork is one of my top 5 favorite rides. On Saturday morning, Tibble wasn't in good shape -- motorcycles and dry weather turned the steep parts of the trail into dust -- but it's still a top 10 ride. For one thing, the scenery is stunning, what with the summer wildflowers and the Sound of Music meadows. I suppose I could impress people by mentioning the deer that stood in the trail 20 feet in front of me before it saw me and bounded off, but I think deer are trash animals.

I rode the bike that I'll be taking on Leadville while everyone else rode singlespeeds. I was definitely slow guy. That said, I'm definitely in better shape than I was in last year. I'll write another Leadville Training post later this week with updated estimates.