RiderX’s 100MoN: Winner of the “Disturbing Food Stop” Division

10.21.2014 | 9:11 am

A Note from Fatty: I’m very excited to kick off rider reports of the 2014 100 Miles of Nowhere with this writeup from my friend Eric Gunnerson aka RiderX. Eric and I used to work together at Microsoft, and I always enjoyed riding with him — not to mention his drily bizarre sense of humor. 

Hint: Pay special attention to everything at the food stop photos. It’s worth your time. 

Endurance bicycle riders are a strange breed.

A ride like RAMROD requires you to wake up at around 3AM, drive to the starting point, check in, get on your bike, ride a circle around Mt. Rainier, only to find yourself back where you started, tired, sweaty, and salt-encrusted. In return for this effort you receive… well, there has to be something that got me to pay good money to do it…

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Oh, yeah, you get a patch…that you will toss in a dresser drawer. So, the reward/effort for the ride seems to be a little low, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing it 4 times. So far.

If you need further evidence – and I’m confident that you don’t, but I have to do something to pad these ride reports out – in late summer, my riding group does a ride called “The Food Bank Challenge”, where we show up at our usual meeting place with backpacks full of food to donate, and then we carry the food with us on one of our usual rides, then we put the food in my car and we go out for burritos. As a participant’s wife noted, “Why don’t you just put the food in Eric’s car and then go on the ride?”

Indeed. As I said, a strange breed.

But… the patch you get for RAMROD and the knowledge that you helped out some hungry families were too much for one visionary. His vision – perhaps “delusion” is closer  – was to create a ride so pointless that even other cyclists would question why anybody would do it. For example, on organized rides you often get to:

  • Ride in picturesque scenery
  • Climb impressive hills
  • Socialize with other strange people

In OHMon, all of that is out. The whole point of the ride – its raisin of entry – is be pointless as possible. There is a charity involved, which means I fear that some good is destined to come out of the experience, but other than that, it’s pointless.

And it’s a special brand of pointless, because you design the ride yourself. You are responsible for all of it.

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That’s right, it’s the Fat Cyclist “One Hundred Miles of Nowhere” ride.

(I feel compelled to mention that while I really like the jersey design, the red indicator should be pointing to the left rather than the right.)

Though this is a do-it-yourself ride, you do get a box that has some things that are useful to set up the food stops.

The Course

Some of the participants in OHMoN eschew the whole concept of course entirely, riding the entire time on their rollers or trainer. I agree that that is pointless, but a) I can’t spend more than 20 minutes on a trainer without wanting to shoot myself, and b) it misses the chance for public ridicule. So, it would be outside.

I started with a very short course; my house is located in a small loop off of a main road. That would give me a course that is 0.3 miles long, and I’d have to do 334 laps of it. It has a 36’ climb each lap, so that means it would involve a total elevation gain of 334 * 36 = 12,024’.

Ouch. I like pointless things as much as the next cyclist, but I’ve been battling some back issues the past 6 months. Further, I fear that my neighbors would think of me as “that crazy guy who kept riding his bike around and around and around”, which would complete with my current label, “that crazy guy who puts up all of those holiday lights”.

So, I need something better, and for that, I cast my eyes to the east. I live at the top of a hill that rolls down towards Lake Sammamish. I am very well-acquainted with the roads, so there will be little joy in riding them. I map it out, and it comes in at 2.6 miles with 256’ of climbing. 39 laps @ 256’ of climbing = 9984’. Better, but still, ouch.

3.4 miles @ 312’ = 30 laps and 9360’, 4.6 miles @ 338’ = 7436’.

Damn. It’s pretty hilly to the east of my house.

I play around some more, extending the route to the west, and I finally end up with the following figure-8 route:

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It clocks in at 7.1 miles and 469’ of climbing = 14 laps = 6566’ in total. I’m going to call that the “base reference plan”, but I fully expect to modify it along the way.

The Plan

The official date of the ride is October 18th, but the weather in the Seattle area is notoriously fickle in October. At some point, a switch will be flipped to “rainy fall”, and it will be hard to find decent weather, so I chose “the first good weekend day in November”.  Luckily, the weather forecast for the weekend of the 4th is great, and I ease back on my ride intensity to give my legs and back a chance to rest and on Wednesday, I’m motivated to get up early Saturday and go nowhere.

Only to find on Thursday night that a rampaging rhinovirus has bludgeoned its way into my respiratory tract. Friday is not good, so it’s clear I can’t participate in the event. I instead compete in an alternate event of similar difficulty, called “Taking a Shower”. There were a few rough spots where I thought I might have to abandon, but I managed to push through to the finish.

The next weekend. Ah yes, the next weekend.

The next weekend coincided with “The October Switch”. Seattle has a reputation for being a rainy and gray place, but what we don’t like people to know – lest they move here – is that our summers are pretty nice, and that niceness generally extends through September and the first part of October. And then we reach a day where a switch gets flipped, and the weather pattern changes.

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We’ve had nice weather the first week of October,  but not the forecast is rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Luckily, this weekend also coincides with a trip out of town to visit the offspring at school, so I couldn’t ride anyway, but it does not bode well for future October weekends.

The next weekend – which is the official day for OHMoN – Saturday is rainy, but the forecast for Sunday looks much more promising:

The ride

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I get up at 6:45 AM, have some breakfast, get ready, and get all my stuff together. It’s 58 degrees so I put on arm and leg warmers, and spend 30 seconds to get to the starting point. I head out on the first loop on damp streets. I do the upper half, then head down the hill to the lower half. Off of W. Lake Sam, I do a couple of gratuitous climbs. They are steep steep and if I stand up, I spin up the back wheel, so I take it really slowly . I do a bunch of other neighborhood exploring along the way. On the way up Northup, I stop to take a picture of the nice weather:

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I climb up back to the house, and then do the loop in the opposite direction. This takes me up 24th street, a 20% gradient that is about as painful as I expect. Back to the top for a loop, and while climbing up a short hill I notice the front is a bit squishy. It’s down to something like 50lbs, but it’s enough to get to the first food stop, so I take it slowly and manage to make it there safely.

The mechanic is a bit surly, but he quickly finds a pinhole in the tube, and then locates the small piece of wire in the tube that caused it. While I wait, I take a trip to the food table:

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The Cheez-its are used to refill the bag in my pocket, and grab one of the brownie bites. I also get a refill of my water bottle with Skratch Labs raspberry. While I’m snacking, I do a bit of strategizing. For the first 25.1 miles, I climbed 1829’ and averaged 13.1 MPH. If we project out to the full ride and apply the usual Strava elevation conversion factor, that would put me over 8000’ of climbing and spend 8 hours on the bike. I don’t think I have 8000’ in my legs today, so I decide to spend my time on the less-hilly upper half of my route rather than the lower half.

The second 25 miles are pretty boring – leave the food stop location, climb up to the top, work my way back and forth a few times, descend back down. Repeat, repeat, then repeat some more. I’m starting to get tired, which does not bode well for the second half of the ride. I finish the section, and head to the second food stop:

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The food stop is now manned (perhaps that is not the right term…) by Stan, who is appropriately attired. He has a Coke Zero, a turkey wrap, and, most uniquely, a set of flip-flops so that I can pull off my bike shoes for a few minutes.

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The turkey wrap is exquisite, the Coke Zero is cold, and I eat a few chips and grapes (not pictured).  I also sit down and relax for 15 minutes or so, which does wonders for my back and neck.

Looking at my stats, I note that I only climbed about 800’ in that segment. I did want to reduce the climbing, but that’s a bit more than I wanted to reduce it, so maybe I’ll add a little back.

I feel *way* better than I did when I stopped for lunch, and surprisingly, my legs feel pretty good when I get back on the bike. Back out on the upper loops, though I start extending them to the north and the south to make them longer and start doubling and tripling the flatter sections. It takes forever to get to 60 miles, but the next 10 miles after that aren’t that bad.

During this section, I decide how great it would be to have a Coke Slurpee on my ride, so at around 70 miles I had off to the local 7-Eleven. Only to remember that Slurpees are sweetened with HFCS, which is a guaranteed to generate severe stomach cramps when I’m riding. I settle for buying some beef jerky, and on the way back from the 7-Eleven, I revel in its saltiness. It’s time to head to the third food stop:

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I spend a minute or so talking to Stan. He is volunteering in the hope that he can earn a bypass in next year’s ride. I wish him luck,  refill my water bottles, and head out for the last 25.

After 75 miles, I’ve climbed 3303’.

I feel decent – decent enough that I decide to head back down to the lower part of the course for one last time. It’s not as painful as I had feared, but it’s enough. Time passes slowly. I eat some more jerky, eat a few Cheez-its, drink some of my drink. Repeat, then repeat again. About this time, my Garmin says “Low Battery”.

I stop and find out that, for some reason, the backlight is on at 65% despite it being on auto day/night. I turn off the backlight and hope that the battery will last for an hour. I’ve done some measuring, and I now that my loop on the upper part is about 3 miles, and that it’s perhaps 2 miles back to the finish, so at 88 miles I put the plan into action. I start riding with a bit more effort – as much effort as I can generate after 90 miles on the bike – and the 3 loops go by quickly. I head down to the finish line, and find I’m at 98.3 miles. A quick out-and-back trip, an few loops around the neighborhood, and the GPS says:

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I get off the bike, take off my helmet, and head over to see what food is available.

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I grab a beer, and then a picture with Stan:

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I mix up some Endurox in one of my bottles, and after drinking it I head out to find some real food.

Thoughts

I expected a stupid ride, and I got it. I found it nice that I could modify the route, but when there are 30 miles left and you aren’t 30 miles from the end, it’s really tempting to just pack it in, so the mental part was pretty hard for me.

The chosen route as fine except that it was in the city. Looking at my data, I had to stop approximately 7000 times for stop lights, stop signs, pets, and children playing street hockey. That doesn’t do much for your average speed, and it made it really hard to get into a groove. Most sections are only 3 minutes or so in length.

Logistics

I appreciate getting some items for the food stop, but it seemed like a lot of them were just random. Perhaps molasses is a decent substitute for gel – and probably better tasting – but the salsa and mustard had me a bit confused. It would be nice to get better options here.

The jersey for the ride ran small, so I ordered a large. It’s quite a bit smaller than most of the mediums I have, so if anybody ordered a medium and it was too small, let me know.

Thanks to Elden for setting this up, and thanks to two of my riding buddies who kicked in some extra money for Camp Kesem, which I matched and which Microsoft will also match.

Strava ride

 

Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Part 3: Bolo Ties

10.20.2014 | 1:23 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is Part 3 of my 2014 Rebecca’s Private Idaho Race Report. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Another Note from Fatty: Your 100 Miles of Nowhere Race Reports will start getting published tomorrow. I’ve already seen a bunch of good ones, and am looking forward to seeing more. Be sure to check out my Friday post for details on how to send them to me. 

In the time it took me to use the restroom, The Hammer had disappeared off into the distance. As she did, the though occurred to me: I might not catch her.

You see, I am faster than The Hammer. But only ever so slightly. A couple minutes of a gap can mean a big distance — possibly enough distance that I wouldn’t be able to reel her in.

Plus, she and I have this little game we play. It’s called “Can’t Catch Me,” and the rules are simple:

  1. Whenever we ride, If I stop, she keeps going.
  2. It’s my job to catch her.
  3. It’s her job to light it up and do her utmost to not let me catch her.

Hey, I think I might have just inadvertently written the rules for how relationships work in general. But that’s not the point. The point is, The Hammer likes to make it challenging for me to catch up to her.

And while I had successfully completed my own business, I had not taken care of my most important responsibility.

Specifically, it was time for me to deploy The Secret Weapon

Deploying The Secret Weapon

I’m acutely aware that I’ve been building up the suspense around this “Secret Weapon.”

And I therefore realize that you might feel just a tad let down when I reveal that the secret weapon is…this:

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Yes, it’s a Boombot Rex: a Bluetooth speaker made to mount on mountain bikes. I’ve talked about it before, when I unsuccessfully used it for a night lap during last year’s 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. 

But this time, I wouldn’t be attaching the speaker to my handlebars. No. This time I’d be attaching this speaker to my seatpost. Pointing squarely at The Hammer. 

And playing from it would be The Hammer’s very own personally-selected RPI playlist, streamed with love from my phone. 

Yes, that’s right. 211 songs, including — but by no means limited to — music from: 

  • Sick Puppies
  • Skillet
  • Breaking Benjamin
  • Billy Idol 
  • Beastie Boys
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Three Days Grace
  • My Chemical Romance
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Yaz
  • Michael Jackson

You may or may not appreciate her musical taste. That doesn’t really matter; the Boombot wasn’t pointed at you. In fact, it wasn’t pointed at me, either (and in fact I could only rarely tell what was playing).

It was meant to be pointed at The Hammer, to keep her motivated for the second half of the race.

Assuming I could catch her.

Wish Granted

With the Boombot blasting out music to the empty space behind me, I stepped up my pace to absolute maximum. I figured that I had spent two — maybe three, tops — minutes taking care of myself and then getting the speaker turned on and my phone playing music to it.

How long could it take to make up that much time? I started doing the math. If she’s riding at 20mph (which seemed about right for this part of the course), then in three minutes she will have put a mile on me.

A whole mile? Wow.

I stepped up my pace. Even at my max, though, there was no way I was going to go more than two miles per hour faster than she was.

Which meant it would take about half an hour to make up that mile. 

[Note: This kind of math is very easy to figure out when you’re sitting down and comfortably typing along, your heart at its resting rate. It is much harder to do this kind of math when you’re riding so hard that your eyes keep popping out of their sockets.]

I reeled in and passed rider after rider — none of which were The Hammer. I kept re-checking my math. Was it really going to take half an hour for me to earn back that three minutes?

Yes. Yes it was, unless something incredibly lucky happened.

I wished for incredible luck.

And instantly, something incredibly lucky did happen.

I caught Dave Thompson.

I hope it won’t be considered too much of a spoiler for me to show a picture of him (far left) at the finish line, with Dave Towle, The Hammer and me:

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Dave had flatted, during which time The Hammer had caught and passed him, unbeknownst to either of them.

And now I had someone to work with.

“Let’s go catch The Hammer!” I shouted. And Dave did not need to be told twice. A couple of quick clicks brought him into his biggest gear and it was all I could do to tuck in and stay in his slipstream.

In a minute he started slowing a little; he dropped back and I took over. In a few seconds, it was his turn again, he and I rotating through and forming a fast-moving train that several people tried to catch onto…but nobody succeeded.

26mph. 28mph. On rocky doubletrack. A big grin covered my face and I would have laughed out loud for the sheer joy of flying along with Dave, if I’d had the breath to. 

Then I’d drop back and see he had a big smile too. We were both having a ball, knocking ourselves out like we were in the final mile of a race — as opposed to only being halfway through the 90+ mile course.

Thanks to Dave, we caught The Hammer in considerably less than half an hour.

“Thanks Dave!” I yelled over the headwind we had just turned into — the headwind which would be our constant companion for the rest of the race. “If you want to take off ahead of us now, go ahead!” 

“No, I’ll work with you two,” Dave said.

I tell you, I nearly cried when I heard him say that.

All Aboard

And with that, my favorite moment of the whole racing season began. Dave and I are almost exactly an exact match in terms of power on the bike, and we work together wonderfully. He’d pull for a minute or so and then drop back to the second spot while I pulled. The Hammer hammered, staying right with us as our protected GC rider.

We’d see people up ahead in the distance and we’d reel them in. Invariably. Inevitably. 

And just as invariably, just as inevitably, they’d grab onto our train and become a part of our massive momentum. 

Some stayed with us for a long time — all the way to the big climb almost at the end of the race, in fact. Some didn’t stay as long, hanging on for a few minutes and deciding our pace was a little too hot for them.

Sometimes, even, people took turns up front. Mostly, though, it was Dave and me: grinding away, both of us just loving that feeling of being on the ragged edge of what you’re capable of doing. Of hanging on the edge of a cliff, but not too worried about it, because you know you’ve got a friend who will haul you back onto the ledge before you drop off.

I tell you, swapping turns at the front of a peloton with a well-matched teammate is electrifying.

Perfect Timing

Of course, we had to stop once. Nature kept calling The Hammer, and you can only tell Nature to please leave a message so many times. So when she saw a sign (there were no trees and the bushes were remarkably small) that might give her at least some cover from the race direction, she took advantage. Dave and I stopped 20 feet down the road, giving her her privacy.

And so, of course, that’s when Rebecca herself appeared. 

“You’re wearing BIB SHORTS? During a race?!” The Queen of Pain exclaimed. “Haven’t you learned anything from me?” 

Yes, that’s right. The Queen of Pain and The Hammer had had discussions about appropriate pee tactics for women during races.

“You are losing time!” The Queen of Pain shouted at The Hammer. “You are in second place right now!” 

To her credit, The Hammer managed to finish doing what she was doing. I am 100% certain I would not have been able to.

The Queen of Pain then rode with us for a few minutes. laughing and having a great time. It was awesome to see her relishing the success of her event…even if she happened to catch The Hammer at the worst possible time.

Goodbye Everyone

We reached the final big climb of the course; after this, the race would be almost entirely downhill. It’s just a couple miles long, so I went to the front and began pulling.

The group — probably five or six of us — shattered within the first couple hundred yards; as it turns out, most people don’t climb the way The Hammer and I do.

To my dismay, however, Dave was one of the people who dropped off. Which left us with a dilemma: do we pull up and wait for Dave? Or do we keep going, expecting him to catch us on the big downhill that leads to the finish line?

Well, we knew that The Hammer was in second place, but we didn’t know how far away first was, and we didn’t know how far back third (or fourth, for that matter) was. 

So we kept going, hoping we’d see Dave catch us on the descent.

We hit the top and kept going, barreling down as fast as a couple of cautious descenders can. Then we hit the pavement, and I moved to the front again, pulling for the last mile or so, not knowing where we stood, but feeling pretty darned good about our effort.

And then there it was: the finish line, outside of town (a clever idea to keep the racers from barelling down the open streets of the city). We crossed together, in 5:25:07, meaning The Hammer had finished 1:29 behind Sarah Barber, the women’s winner.

It also meant we had done this ride an hour and twelve minutes faster than in 2013. 

Yeah, we kinda hauled.

Three minutes later, Dave pulled through, and we all got our official RPI bolo ties, showing that we were all in the top 50 finishers. 

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Were we excited to get these coveted prizes? You bet we were.

One Strange Moment

Then, a minute after Dave pulled in, the strangest event of the day occurred: a woman pulled in and began complaining — loudly, angrily, to everyone in the area and at some length — about how unfair it was that The Hammer had been drafting. That she had seen her drafting, throughout the day. That, meanwhile, this woman had been riding all by herself the whole day.

We looked at each other uncomfortably, not sure what to say. Should we explain to her that this is in fact a fundamental strategy of racing? That this was not a time trial? That if she rode by herself the whole day instead of with one of the innumerable pacelines that formed everywhere along the cours, it was a choice she made…and not something to complain about?

I looked around to see how others were reacting. They all seemed as perplexed as I.

We chose to not say anything. She’d learn how races work soon enough (and she didn’t look like she was in the mood to have things explained to her right then). 

Still, even now I think back to how peculiar that moment (as well as others like it — we heard this woman complaining to numerous other people about the same thing) was: that a woman could be so strong — just five minutes behind us — and yet still so evidently new to competition that she equated fundamental racing tactics with not playing fair.

Afterward

One of the things I love about Rebecca’s Private Idaho is that after the official timed finish line, you have a mile or so of lallygagging to the actual finish line festival. It’s a great opportunity to wind down and talk about the day — and it was in fact a really great day. 

The Hammer got a pic with a very happy-looking Reba (I believe that Reba was either about to get, or had just gotten, engaged):

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I love the way it looks like they each have one rabbit ear.

And with superstar announcer Dave Towle, here admiring The Hammer’s bolo:

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And I got a shot with Kathryn Bertine, author of the extremely readable As Good as Gold.

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If you look down in the lower left corner of the photo, you’ll see the Boombotix aka secret weapon.

And I also took a picture of what kept me fueled for 5:25 of hard racing:

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One Gu, every half hour = power all day. It works, people.

And let’s have another shot with Dave, because as far as I’m concerned, that guy is the hero of the day:

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And then, once again, The Hammer on the podium:

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You’d think she’d be getting tired of the podium, but — as upcoming posts about races will show — that is far from true.

Tips and Advice for Your 100MoN this Weekend

10.17.2014 | 9:47 am

I’m feeling a little bit under the weather, so just a quick note  today. 

This weekend, approximately 500 of you will be racing your 100 Miles of Nowhere. I want to wish you good luck, and to give you some valuable advice.

  • First and foremost, have fun during your ride. This is a silly, ridiculous and downright weird thing you’re doing. Don’t make a grind out of it.
  • Take time to take pictures, take a break, and look around. I kind of resisted when The Hammer suggested we stop at the park and try out those giant balls — I was in the “let’s put in the miles” mode. But because we did stop to take pictures, have ice cream, and play at the park, we had what I would call our best 100MoN event ever.
  • Make a video. I recommend Hyperlapse. If you’ve got an iPhone, download this awesome (and free) app, which makes it super simple to make a sped-up video of your course. Then upload it to Vimeo or YouTube so it can be embedded in my blog. (iPhones also have built-in time-lapse video available; I haven’t played with it yet, so don’t know much about it.)
  • Send your writeup to fatty@fatcyclist.com. Make sure the subject line has 100MoN or 100 Miles of Nowhere in it, and also what makes your ride interesting or special.
  • Write your writeup in Word. Or just plain text in your email body.
  • Include lots of photos and links to your video, if you have one. Send photos to me as attachments, or embedded where they belong in the story in Word, or give me a link to the folder containing your photos in Dropbox or something like that.
  • Don’t send hi-res photos. Your photos are going to be no more than 495 pixels wide in my blog post.
  • Keep your writeup length reasonable. Under 1200 words. I’m not going to make a multi-parter out of your story. Only I get to do multi-parters.
  • Short paragraphs are your friend. Have you noticed that I use paragraph breaks a lot more than most people do? Have you noticed that it’s also reasonably easy to scan and read my blog? Coincidence? No.
  • If you’ve got a Strava of the ride, send me a link to it. And screenshots of interesting things like elevation profiles, the track of the ride, stuff like that.
  • If you’ve already sent me your writeup, you need to send it again. I’m starting to collect and flag writeups NOW, and stuff you sent three weeks ago is buried under ten miles of inbox clutter.
  • If I don’t publish your writeup, don’t get mad at me. I publish quite a few writeups every year, but not all of them. It doesn’t mean that your writeup is bad. It just means that I ran out of time or energy or something. It’s not you. It’s me.

And — once again — be sure to have fun. We made a bunch of money for Camp Kesem. You got an awesome jersey and a bunch of cool swag.

Now get out there and enjoy yourself…on a very small course…for 100 miles!

2014 Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Part 2: Secret Weapons

10.16.2014 | 3:34 pm

Here’s are two very practical aphorisms you can share with people when you want to startle them with your deep insight into the underlying truths behind athletic efforts:

  • Every race you’re in is exactly as important and exciting as you think it is.
  • Any ride can be a race. 

You know what? Those aren’t just aphorisms. Those are axioms. I should just end this blog post right here; I’ve already given you about ten times more value than you’ll get from the average award-winning cycling lifestyle blog written by a beloved A-list celebrity superstar blogger.

But I’m not done. In fact, I’m not even close to done. In fact, I haven’t even exactly gotten started. 

My point — and yes, I do have one — is that The Hammer and I had been to Rebecca’s Private Idaho once to ride.

This time, we were there to race. Furthermore, we decided that we were going to treat it as an important race. And that we were going to race it as a two-person team. 

And that I would do everything I could to be a good domestique. Not the best possible domestique, certainly. But still, pretty good. 

Plus, I had a secret weapon. Or, as I’d later find out, two secret weapons.

I’m Doing Everything Wrong, Apparently

On the morning of the race I was standing around nervously. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. 

And also, I was being indecisive. I couldn’t make up my mind on one particular thing. So I worked through it by chattering a stream of consciousness to The Hammer:

“So I’m going to ride in front of you the whole day, OK? I don’t want you pulling at all unless I completely self-destruct. And if I do self-destruct, you just keep going, OK? I’ll finish when I finish. But if I start gapping you, you let me know anytime I’m more than five feet ahead of you, OK? We both know there’s a lot of wind out there. But the one thing I’m wondering about is whether we ought to stay together during the first KOM climb. I kinda want to just hit that as hard as I can and see whether I can beat my time from last year, OK? But maybe that’s dumb because pulling you at race pace is going to take everything I’ve got and maybe more, right? So we should just stay together, including on that first big climb, OK?”

And so on. For absolutely completely reals.

The Hammer is used to it, she says.

And then, as I was standing and rambling, my good friend Robbie Ventura came over and looked at me. And my bike. 

“Why are your handlebars so wide?” he asked. “Seems like they wouldn’t be very aero.”

“No, they’re probably not,” I agreed. “But they’re the handlebars I happen to own for this bike, and they’re really good for standing and climbing when I have it set up as a singlespeed.”

“Why are you riding a mountain bike anyway? Wouldn’t it be faster to race on a carbon cross bike?”

“It might be, but I don’t have one.”

“How come you have gels tucked under the legs on your shorts? You know that’s weight you’re unnecessarily lifting with each stroke of your pedals.”

“I had never thought of that.”

And then he looked at my secret weapon. 

“What is that?” he asked.

I told him.

“Are you serious?”

“Completely serious. It’s my secret weapon. It’s going to make all the difference in the world today. It’s going to get The Hammer on the podium. Guaranteed.”

“If you say so,” he said, his tone implying the exact opposite.

And, having me doubt everything about everything I thought I knew, Robbie walked away.

We got in line, near the front, now quiet; I was no longer in a mood to jabber. Instead, I was pondering how much extra effort those gels under my shorts were costing me.

A lot, I’ll bet. A whole lot.

Subject to Revision

The race began, and The Hammer and I stayed together, keeping near the front. Shouting “HOLD YOUR LINE” at anyone who got within a couple yards of us. Which was, basically, everyone.

The first few miles were on the road. Folks were riding along at a relaxed, chatty pace. The first — and really, the only — big climb of the day approached.

I felt like my heart might explode. I wanted to go.

“Honey, I think I’m going to have to attack on the climb. I don’t think I can help it.”

“Have fun,” The Hammer said. “I’ll see you at the top.”

I saw the timing mat, saw a line, and I went. I shifted to a big gear and stood up, turning hard, slow circles.

Yes, that’s how I climb, even when I have gears. It’s been a while since I’ve done it any other way. I’m pretty sure Robbie Ventura would not approve.

Except, as he rode by me, showing no sign of effort — he said, “nice work, Fatty.”

And then, as I neared the top — fewer and fewer people around me — I saw Kathryn Bertine, the pro behind the Half the Road documentary, as well as As Good as Gold, which (I would find out later) turns out to be a hilarious and inspiring book.

“Hey Kathryn,” I said.

“Hey Fatty,” she said.

That was about as much conversation as I had in me at the time.

I got to the top, gassed and not even in the top ten finishers (last year I was second). Later I would find out I was twenty seconds slower than last year. Not bad. Not bad.

All Aboard the Dave Train

I got to the top, waited for a minute or so for The Hammer — who was one of the first three women to the top — and then we got rolling.

At which point we were caught by Dave Thompson. Here’s a picture of him (with The Hammer and Dave’s wife, Amy…I’ll let you figure out who is whom) back in Leadville a couple months ago. 

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Dave, like The Hammer and I and basically nobody else, was on a mountain bike.

Dave jumped in front as we rode along the moderate downhill, and pulled like he had been a locomotive engine in a previous life.

Which may in fact be the case. I’m not all that sure about the specifics of how reincarnation works.

The thing is, though, Dave was too strong for us. He kept riding us off his rear wheel. He’d pull away, gap us, look back, and then coast ’til we caught him.

Meanwhile, train after train of cyclocross bikes were zooming by. Hauling like this race was going to be over in an hour. There was a time when I would have tried to catch and ride with people like that. Those days are past.

Dave, however, had a sense of longing in the way he pedaled; you could see he wanted to go with one of those flying groups.

“Go,” I said. “We’ll catch you if we catch you.”

And like that, Dave was gone. 

Now it was just The Hammer and me — cruising at an excellent race pace. 

And still, groups of racers on cyclocross bikes kept flying by.

“Don’t worry about them,” I told The Hammer.

“Oh, I’m not,” she replied, casually. “If they were really that much faster than us, they would have gotten ahead of us during the climb.”

I Have The Power

And The Hammer was right. The course leveled out, we cruised past the second aid station, the course started climbing just a little bit…and there were those groups that were going so fast.

I pulled The Hammer up to them, rode behind them for a moment. 

Then pulled to the front and began pulling a group. Before long, only a couple would be hanging on, and then they’d fall off too.

Without meaning to, we’d have just exploded a functioning peloton.

So we’d ride up to the next one and do it again.

I didn’t ask anyone to pull, I didn’t want anyone to pull. I had one task: to keep a speed just below what would put The Hammer into the red. Which, as it turns out, was just fast enough to blow up groups of guys on cyclocross bikes.

Dave was still ahead of us, though. Which wasn’t surprising, but it was too bad, because I had really been hoping to ride with him during today’s race.

Secret Weapon

Rebecca’s Private Idaho is a lollipop-style out and back, almost entirely on dirt roads. The loop at the top of the lollipop is where most of the climbing, the scenery, and anything remotely technical happen.

In other words, it’s the best part of the course.

Last year we just tooled along, shifting into low gears for this part of the ride.

This time, we kind of attacked it. And we kind of killed it. Passing people left and right on rocky descents, this is one part of the race where mountain bikes have the edge.

About the time we hit the halfway point — the top of the lollipop — I told The Hammer, “You go on for a minute without me. I need to use the bathroom…and to deploy The Secret Weapon.”

Which seems like a good place to pick up on Monday.

I Am A Clown: 2014 Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Part 1

10.15.2014 | 7:03 am

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A Note from Fatty to Locals Who Don’t Want to Lose Their Fitness and Get Fat Over The Winter This Year: Every year, I work so hard to get in shape during the Spring and Summer. And every year, I completely lose it during the Autumn and Winter.

I’m sick of this, and plan to do something about it this year. 

Specifically, among other things (which I’m going to be talking about in this blog), I’ve joined Plan 7 House of Watts. Starting in November, The Hammer and I are going to be going to the Orem SBR on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the 5:30pm training sessions. Our intention is to come out of this Winter faster and fitter than we’ve ever been, and Coach Dave Harward says he’s going to make that happen.

You should join us. Seriously, you should. 

On August 9, The Hammer and I raced the Leadville 100 (we’ve written a little bit about that event).

The following Saturday (August 16), we raced the Jordanelle Triathlon

Then we had a week off. Because, you know: recovery.

Then — on August 31 — it was time for Rebecca’s Private Idaho — Rebecca Rusch’s eponymous 90+ mile gravel grinder.

Because, evidently, The Hammer and I had not had enough racing yet.

And yes, I want to emphasize this point: we did in fact plan to race this thing. You see, unlike in 2013 — where I was careful to call my writeup (part 1, part 2, part 3) a ride report — The Hammer and I had an objective: to get her on the podium. And to do the race considerably faster than in the 6:37 we had done it in 2013. 

But first, we had some business to attend to. 

Clown business.

The Power of a Wig

Rebecca’s Private Idaho is timed to coincide with a big western celebration — called “Wagon Days” in Sun Valley, Idaho. The centerpiece of this a parade, described as the largest non-motorized parade in the country.

I have not verified whether this is accurate. Let’s just trust them on it.

There are lots of entries that look like this:

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Like last year, Rebecca’s Private Idaho was invited to be a part of the parade, making it the first bicycle-powered entry ever in the parade. And like last year, Rebecca used her entry to publicize World Bicycle Relief.

Why? Because Rebecca is awesome. And so is WBR.

Robbie Ventura — shown below here on the right — was there in support of Reba, her parade, and all that’s good in the world:

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Also like last year, The Hammer and I were invited to come be a part of the parade. The Hammer dressed the part, wearing her WBR jersey:

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Having learned my lesson from the previous year (when I did not bring any costume elements at all), this time I came prepared. 

Specifically, I wore bright orange compression socks and bright orange Altra Paradigms:

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Even more importantly, however, I brought this wig:

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Yeah yeah. I know, it’s hard to recognize me, what with me having hair and all. And I’m doing my best to make a wry face and all.

But here’s the thing: That wig gave me superpowers. Clown superpowers.

As soon as the parade started, I was running up and down the street, laughing and shouting. Jumping and clicking my heels.

Dancing. Yes dancing in the street to the tunes the marching band in front of us played.

I had a giant stack of World Bicycle Relief stickers in hand, and anytime I saw a child I would run over and make sure she or he had one. “Stick this on your bike!” I’d yell. “Or your parents’ bumper! Or their fridge! Or their windshield!” I’d say.

I was laughing and clapping. I was honking the plastic horn someone had given me. I was staring and pointing in mock horror whenever the camels (in the group behind us) got too close. 

I was not trying to be this way. I was simply being this way. Everyone in our group looked at me in wonder. This is not who I am. Sure, it’s how I write, but in real life I’m pretty low key.

But not during the parade.

Some people need a drink to loosen up and become silly.

Evidently, I just need a wig.

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