I don’t get angry easily, and I never remain angry long. I assume good motives on everyone’s part, occasionally past the point that I should. When someone argues with me, I’d much rather try to understand their point of view than persuade them of mine. I go out of my way to turn confrontation into consensus.
I am, in short, an easygoing person with a personable demeanor and — let’s face it — a heart of gold.
But don’t you dare try to take my Wildcat KOM on Strava, or I will show you the meaning of wrath.
It’s entirely possible that you don’t know what I’m talking about in that last paragraph. In which case I recommend you read a post I wrote some time ago, called “I Have Created a Monster.” Just in case you can’t be bothered with that, though, here’s a quick description of Strava, which I have carefully and lovingly copied and pasted from my “Monster” post:
A few months ago, my friends started using Strava a lot for their rides. (Strava is an online social network of people who upload their bike ride information from their GPSs, giving them the ability to compare how they’re doing against themselves and each other, as well as to comment on their friends’ rides. For more info, click here.)
Why? To compete against their own previous best times, sure, but also to compete against each other.
One of the features of Strava is that anyone can define what is called a “segment,” which is an arbitrary stretch of road or trail somewhere. Basically, you’re setting a start line, a finish line, and a route, and then giving it a name. Then, whenever someone rides that segment and uploads their ride to Strava, they can see how they’ve done against their previous efforts, as well as see where they stand on the all-time leaderboard.
In my history of using Strava, I have created only one segment — a little stretch of singletrack in Lambert Park, about a mile from where I live: the Wildcat Climb.
It’s not a long climb: just 0.4 miles. The climbing profile looks like this:
That’s deceptively mild-looking, though, because the Wildcat Climb averages a 10.5% grade, and it never eases off.
In short, it’s 0.4 miles of challenging non-technical singletrack climbing, right at one of the entrances to Lambert Park.
Back in July of 2012, noticing that nobody else had defined a Strava segment for this trail, I went ahead and did it myself, simultaneously making myself king of my brand-new mountain, with a time of 2:43.
For many months, this KOM stood. And I was content.
The Wildcat Drama Begins
As you may have heard, I have been working just a little bit (ha) on losing weight and improving my speed this year. By the time the end of March rolled around I was down to 158 pounds, at least five pounds lighter than I was at the end of the racing season in 2012.
I thought it was time to see if I could improve on my Wildcat time.
Taking out my Specialized Stumpjumper Single Speed (the S4, as I like to call it), I knocked out a fantastic, focused climbing effort. I didn’t know by how many seconds, but I was confident I had set a new personal record.
When I uploaded my GPS record to Strava, I found out I was right. 2:34. I had bested myself by nine seconds.
I had also — without knowing it — triggered a drama that I suspect has yet to entirely unfold.
Ryan Gets an Email
When you supplant a current KOM (or QOM) on a Strava segment leaderboard, the former king of that mountain gets notified that he has been deposed. That usually takes the form of an email starting with the subject line “Uh-oh!”
Strava has a little bug, however. If the current KOM sets a new, faster time, the second-place person on the leaderboard gets one of those emails, telling them they have lost the KOM of a segment they never actually had.
Depending on your personality, it can be a relief to discover you haven’t actually lost anything at all, or it can be a gentle reminder that your second-place is now even more second-ier.
As it happens, Ryan B was the person who had been second on the Wildcat Climb leaderboard. And as it further happens, Ryan B works with The Hammer.
“So I was sitting in church yesterday and got an “Uh-oh” email on my phone,” he said, then went on to explain that he had seen my new-and-improved Wildcat Climb record.
The Hammer was not sympathetic.
“Sounds to me like the thing you should do is go and see if you can take it back for real,” she taunted poor Ryan. Which is one of the top reasons why I love that woman so much.
Fatty Gets an Email, Then Ryan Gets an Email
If there has ever been a motivation for someone to go try to capture a KOM, Ryan had it. On April 3, I received an “Uh-oh” email of my own. I was no longer the King of the Wildcat Climb. Ryan had bested me by two seconds (if I recall correctly — I can’t look that far back in other people’s records).
“This aggression will not stand, man,” I said, and — even though I had already been on a ride that day — I suited up and headed out, with one goal and one goal only:
To take back that which was mine.
As I rode toward the I was a little worried about whether I would be able to beat Ryan’s time, I relied on one important fact: the last time I had gotten this segment, I had done it at the end of a long ride. This time, I’d be attacking it from the get-go.
Adrenaline surging exactly as much as if I were in an actual race — as opposed to being all by myself, trying to beat a guy who had no idea what I was up to — I attacked the Wildcat Climb, going so hard that by the time I reached the top, my chest was constricting painfully.
I looked down at my bike computer. Had I beat Ryan’s time? I had no idea, because I had forgotten to look down at the computer at the beginning of the climb.
I did a quick downhill loop and uploaded my effort to Strava, naming the ride “Hi, Ryan!” — a juvenile taunt befitting the juvenile thing I had just done.
The Wildcat Climb was mine again. The crown was home, back where it belonged.
Fatty Gets Another Email, This One at an Unfortunate Moment
For a time, there was peace in the Kingdom of the Wildcat Climb.
That peace was (alas!) destroyed on the afternoon of April 12 this year — The Hammer’s birthday — as The Hammer and I were driving to St. George for a training weekend.
I got an email with a subject line of “Uh-Oh!” Someone with a ridiculous name — Stewdizzle Goodwizzle — had taken the KOM of my beloved Wildcat Climb.
No, wait. On further inspection, Goodwizzle had tied my best on the Wildcat Climb.
Share my kingdom? Share my kingdom?! Never.
I had a new nemesis.
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about his treachery. Not while I was hundreds of miles away for the weekend.
But Goodwizzle’s time would come. Oh yes, as soon as I was back and had rested from the weekend, I’d be reclaiming my throne.
The Final Attack
On April 17, I made my assault. As I rode toward Lambert Park, my stomach turned somersaults. 2:25 was a good time. A fast time. I was not sure I had a better time in me.
But I did have one hope. One reason I thought I might be able to improve on my previous best.
As I mentioned earlier, the last time I had attacked the Wildcat Climb, I had done it after having previously done a ride that day. My legs were already spent.
This time, however, I’d be doing it fresh — the first climb of the ride. After a rest day. After weighing in at a new record low.
By the time I hit the base of the climb, I was already at top speed. There would be no ramp-up this time.
By the time I got to the halfway point, my legs hurt. As did my lungs.
As did my soul.
And then my phone rang. It was The Hammer’s ringtone. She has an uncanny ability to sense when I am engaged in an all-out effort on my bike and call then.
This time, she would have to wait. I would call back.
I weakened toward the top, with the final fifty feet a struggle to even turn over the cranks.
I looked down at my computer. Had I done it? I thought so, but was not sure Strava is an enigmatic judge, sometimes giving gifts, and other times withholding them.
I forced myself to continue riding, as opposed to going straight home and seeing how I did.
And also, I returned The Hammer’s call. “Call me back when you’re not breathing so hard,” she said. So I went home and uploaded my GPS to Strava.
I had done the Wildcat Climb in 2:17, besting Stewdizzle’s — and my — best by eight seconds.
The Unbearable Temporariness of Kingliness
And so, again, I am King of the Wildcat Climb. I have been for nearly a month. Which I think may in fact be my crowning lifetime achievement.
Which is why I am terrified of posting this story.
I know — yes, know! — that because I have written this story that Stewdizzle will amass his considerable strength and make an all-out attempt to make Wildcat Climb his own.
Or, worse: one of the locals who is genuinely fast — like, pro-fast — will see or hear about this and go stomp out a sub-two-minute time on this climb, moving it out of my reach forever and ever, reducing me to the status of former-king-in-exile, telling stories of my glory days.
Until, of course, I find a new, even more obscure, climbing section to obsess over on Strava.
A Note from Fatty: I’m almost embarrassingly pleased to announce that this Thursday, May 16, at 2pm ET / 11am PT, I’ll be doing a live Spreecast with Bike Snob NYC. He — quite naturally — is doing this to promote his new book: Bike Snob Abroad: Strange Customs, Incredible Fiets, and the Quest for Cycling Paradise.
I’m also pleased to announce that due to a bout of severe stammering, I will spend the first seven minutes of the interview simply saying the name of the book, with a possible four-minute overly-confrontational detour about whether the “fiets” pun was really necessary.
Then I will apologize profusely, in the hope I haven’t insulted him so badly that he is tempted to simply walk away from the interview.
After that we will talk about the book, and anything else that comes to mind, both trying like mad to avoid the awkward silence that we both know is never more than one sentence away.
I will sweat. And stammer. I will perhaps try to make a joke about how much I’m sweating. That joke will fail badly.
It’s entirely possible that I will begin some sentences without having any idea whatsoever how they will finish. It’s also possible that BSNYC will begin looking at his watch before I even finish introducing him.
Please feel free to watch as I badly bungle this interview and — for the love of all that’s good in the world — contribute questions of your own, so I won’t be reduced to asking things like, “So, what’s it like riding a bike in New York?” or “You don’t seem very snobby. Why do you call yourself ‘Bike Snob’?”
And also, so he won’t be forced to answer those selfsame questions.
By the way, those are the only two questions I have written down so far.
Once again, here’s the info:
Where: On SpreeCast, or right here at this website.
Date: Thursday, May 16
Time: 2:00pm ET / 11:00am PT
Oh, and if you can’t make it for the live version of the chat, a recording of it will be at the same place.
The Hammer’s Race Report: 2013 St. George Half-Ironman
The Race is On…
…But not with who you think it would be with.
The truth is, I was never really racing with Elden. I pretty much predicted exactly how things would turn out with him: By the time we finished the swim and bike, he’d have gained twenty minutes on me, and there would be no way I could claw my way back to him in a thirteen-mile run. And I was perfectly OK with this; I wanted him to compete to the best of his ability and I also wanted to feel good about my race — so I wasn’t about to compare myself to Elden.
I had trained hard and I was hoping my training would pay off in terms of a fast time….and possible a fastER time than my dear friend, Lynette.
Lynette and me after the St. George Marathon in 2008.
Lynette and I have been friends for more than seventeen years and training partners for about 13. She started out running marathons, while I rode my mountain bike for obscene amounts of time. Our paths would cross whenever I decided to put on running shoes. My desire to run was always there, but the ability for my body to survive the pounding of running was not always there. My frequent running injuries were the cause of a lot of tears and missed running dates with Lynette.
I tried to get her to mountain bike with me, but it didn’t go over too well. On our very first (and last) ride, Lynette hit a rock and the bike bucked her off like a bronco. The usually mild-mannered Lynette — mumbling a list of words that don’t typically come from her mouth — picked up her bike and was about to throw it off the side of the mountain when I interceded.
I told her we could just stick to running; mountain biking did not bring out her best side.
Over the next several years, I dabbled in sprint-distance triathlon as well as XTERRA events. I had to teach myself to swim, and was never very good at XTERRA.
At the same time, Lynette decided to get a road/Tri bike. Her relationship with the tri bike was much better than with the mountain bike. She started out with small local triathlons, which she always did well in. Her love for Triathlon quickly progressed to the queen mother of Tri: Ironman. Her husband, Cory, was also excited about this new form of exercise.
Cory and Lynette, on the bus to the 2013 St. George Half-Ironman
Over the next several years, Lynette and Cory traveled all over the world — from New Zealand to Brazil to China — to participate in Ironman competitions. I’ve actually lost track of how many she has done, but haven’t forgotten the stories she would come back and tell me. I loved her adventures. I always dreamed of pushing myself to the limit and I loved hearing her stories of accomplishment.
In 2010, Lynette and I were able to compete in the St George Ironman. It was a thing of beauty to watch her. When I crossed her during the run portion of the 2010 Ironman, she looked amazing. Running so strong. She finished more than an hour before Elden and me.
One day, I vowed, I wanted to be able to compete like Lynette.
Fast Forward to May 4, 2013
As I lined up with the other orange and pink swim caps (Lynette’s and my age groups were combined together for a the same start wave) at water’s edge, I took one deep breath after another. Most of the faces looked just as scared as I felt.
But not Lynette — she was off socializing with one of her many Tri friends she has acquired in her world travels! I was a little jealous — I wish I could be that calm before entering the water with a bunch of flailing arms and legs!
Still, I hadn’t come into this swim unprepared. I had been training hard for this! At the first of the year, I had started using the Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons DVD. I had done all the drills. I really like the philosophy behind the swim technique. I wasn’t necessarily swimming faster, but I was swimming more relaxed. I could bilaterally breathe when I wanted to, and my breathing was generally more relaxed. I could easily swim for an hour and not feel particularly tired.
Elden and I had actually swam in Sand Hollow about a month prior to the race. Once I was acclimated to the water, my swim went really well. I had never felt such confidence leading up to a triathlon before.
That all quickly changed the day before the race, when I had the brilliant idea that I needed to go for a small swim.
Lynette and Elden both accompanied me on my little adventure. They immediately began swimming away from the shore, leaving me panting and gasping for air. I collected myself, calmed my breathing and took off after them.
Ten strokes later, I looked up.
To my dismay, I was swimming perpendicular to where I needed to be going. Lynette and Elden were swimming off in the distance. I laughed at my error, righted myself in the water and headed off in their direction. Ten strokes later, I looked up to find that I had somehow turned myself and was heading off course again!
This happened two more times.
It was so confusing. I would start out in one direction, then look up to find that I was going in a different direction. I eventually righted myself and made my way to the turn-around rock. Elden wanted to know why I was swimming so erratically. I informed him I just wanted to get in a little longer swim.
Now, on race morning, the announcer was on the countdown from ten. Treading water, I tried to make my way to the far right — I really didn’t want to start in the middle of the group. The horn blew and we were off. I could see a yellow buoy in the distance and I headed for it. I kept sighting and I kept seeing it, but it never seemed to be getting any closer! I could see the bulk of the swimmers to my left swimming very close to the buoys. I was making forward progress, but way out in right field.
As I neared the first red-turn buoy, a guy on a kayak started yelling at me. I didn’t know what he said, but I was the only person this far out, so I turned my body and headed directly for the buoy. I eventually came to the buoy and intersected the stream of swimmers, feeling like I was a salmon, swimming upstream.
I made the left turn and thought I would have an easier time swimming straight now, because I had the sun shining in my face when I would breathe.
Earlier, when I commented that I could bilaterally breathe — well I guess I can bilaterally breathe … in a pool … under calm conditions. and at the moment I was anything but calm.
As I continued to swim, I continued to sight for the buoys and again they started to become farther and farther away. The boats and kayaks on the other hand were about six feet away from me on the right. They kept shouting at me and I would attempt to course correct and head for the buoys.
Here is a diagram of what I imagine my swim path — the red line — must have looked like:
Except maybe my swim path was even more jagged than that.
I had no idea where I was in the pack. I could see multi-colored caps off in the distance, but I had no idea if they were in the waves that started before or after I did. I was virtually alone with the boaters. The one benefit to this was I wasn’t being kicked!
Finally, I arrived at the last red turn buoy. I tried again — really hard — to stay close to the buoys. I could see the shore and the dock with people on it in the distance. This time I was able to stay with a group of swimmers. I wasn’t completely alone. As I ran up the dock, I glanced at my watch.
I was ecstatic. I was hoping for sub 50; I had crushed my goal. I had just swam farther than anyone else and still made my time goal!
I knew then that this wasn’t going to be a bad day at all.
As I was putting on my bike shoes (the only way I can describe the transition phase is to say that you feel like you are in “La-La Land”–I felt like I am going in slow motion and everyone else was on fast forward speed), Elden came running in shouting encouragement and “I love you’s.” I was so out of it, I don’t even think I responded. I was just happy that I had made it out of the water before him…and that we had both made it out alive!
As I got on my bike and sped out of Sand Hollow Park, I passed Val, one of Lynette’s training partners. Like me, she is a slow swimmer, and I was happy to see that she had survived. I yelled encouragement and pedaled on.
I felt fantastic. Taking a few days off to rest had seemed to do me good.
I flew up the first hill by the reservoir, but as I crested the summit, Elden passed me. He was flying! He yelled encouragement as he streaked by me like a bolt of lightning. No one, the entire day, passed me with the same intensity as Elden. It was amazing.
The bike ride went fantastic. I felt strong. I fueled myself with GU Chomps. I had put the amount of Chomps in my Bentos box that I would require for the ride and ate them when I could. My stomach felt great and my energy levels never waned.
My stats say I passed about 1000 people on the bike (going from 1646th place overall to 700th place overall), but the one important person I really wanted to pass I never saw. Lynette eluded me. Had I passed her while swimming? There was just about no chance of that — she was hoping for around a thirty-minute swim.
But where was she?
Twice the bike ride took us on an out-and-back section so there would be returning riders crossing paths with you while you were going out, and vice-versa. Since I’m normally just a little faster than Lynette on the bike, I was constantly scanning for her, wondering when — or whether — I’d catch her. In fact, I had to remind myself to be careful or I was going to wreck in my quest to find Lynette!
“Lynette must be having a banner day — good for her!” I thought.
The last climb — up Snow Canyon — was invigorating. I felt great. I passed people who were walking their bikes; I passed people who were gasping for air. Triathletes may be fast on the flats, but — in general — they suck at climbing. It was nice to be powered by mountain biking legs!
According to Strava, I bested my snow canyon climb by 1:15 — not bad for having just swam 1.2 miles and ridden 45 miles.
As I descended in to town, I was grateful that I wasn’t one of the people I saw on their bikes still heading out for Snow Canyon. I was also still on the alert for Elden (who I thought I might see running toward me) and Lynette (who I hoped to catch while still riding) as I watched the steady mass of runners leaving town.
I arrived in the transition area seeing neither one of them.
As I moved in slow motion through the bike to run transition, I snarfed down two Honey Stinger waffles and used the port-a-potty. If I’m ever going to win a triathlon, I need to learn to speed up this process! As I looked down at my Garmin 10 to start its timer, I noticed that it hadn’t locked on to the satellites yet. “That’s OK,” I thought, “I’ll just use my Timex ironman watch.” Then, to my dismay, I saw it blinking in some mode I’ve never seen before — it was also unresponsive.
So I was wearing two high-tech watches, both made for running, and neither of which would record my run.
I was pissed. Would I run this whole half marathon not knowing how fast I was going? How primitive. I didn’t know if I would survive!
Eventually the Garmin locked on — and eventually I found my running legs.
Strava shows that my first two miles were between an 8:15 and 8:30 pace — not bad. The runner in me was coming out! I have been training for the Ogden marathon (May 18 — this upcoming Saturday) and the thought of running only a half marathon was downright pleasant!
I slowed my pace as I encountered the first climb. I was surprised at how many people were walking. As the pitch leveled off, my pace increased. Soon I was cruising along in a Zen state. I had all but forgotten to look for Lynette and Elden, when I suddenly heard someone shout, “Lisa?!“
Was someone talking to me?
I turned around and there she was: Lynette! I had been looking for her the last three hours . . . and then ran right by her without seeing her.
We talked for a minute. She said she had a fast swim — thirty-five minutes — and a great bike leg. I told her I had been looking for her forever, and then just about missed her altogether. She wished me luck as I continued on. I was so happy. Happy that I had finally caught Lynette, happy for her that she was feeling good and having a good race.
Now I just needed to find Elden.
Just as I had predicted, I came across Elden at Pioneer Park. He was happy to see me and raised his hand to high-five me. The problem was, I didn’t have an unoccupied hand — you see, I was carrying ice cubes to help keep my body temperature down. So instead of high-fiving him, I threw ice cubes at him and told him, “I told you we would pass each other here.” And then he was gone. I felt bad. I had thrown ice at him and hadn’t told him I loved him. Shame on me!
I did, however, calculate that he was two miles — roughly 18-20 minutes — ahead of me. I was never gonna catch him. I was happy he was looking good and moving so well.
As I approached the mile 9 – 10 aid station, my stomach did a flip-flop and started gurgling. The pictures of runners with diarrhea running down their legs passed quickly through my mind. Oh please let my stomach settle down! I thought.
I stopped and walked through the aid station and had a drink of cola and water. My stomach seemed to settle down a little and I pressed on.
The road at this point turned downhill — I was on the home stretch. As I turned on to Diagonal street, I caught up with a man and we started chatting. We were obviously motivating each other as we ran the last 2 miles together. We were cruising. Strava says I was running a 7:30-8:00 minute pace. Not bad for the end of a half-Ironman!
As we came to the roundabout and could almost see the finish line, I asked him if he had any kick left in him. He said he’d see and we both took off. He jumped ahead of me and crossed the finish line first. I was a little scared that I had jumped the gun with this sprint and that I might poop my pants and barf at the same time! I reeled it back in and was surprised and happy to see Heather cheering for me as I crossed the finish line.
And guess who else was there waiting for me? Elden! What a great surprise! As I was ramping up my run, he was slowly fading. I had cut his twenty-minute lead down to about ten with my fast sprint at the end. Still, we had both finished, and finished well! I was so proud of him!
Lynette came in a few minutes after I did. She was happy and felt good about her performance. I was super proud of her — and proud of me, for beating her! In retrospect, I figured out there were two reasons why I had beat Lynette:
- Cory, Lynette’s husband, is the owner of SBR Sports in Orem, Utah and did a custom bike fit on my Shiv. He promised me it would be one mile per hour faster. I think he may have been right.
- I wore a dorky, pointy time trial helmet…..something Lynette said she will never do!
Too bad for her — I think it goes great with my outfit:
Lynette’s daughter, Mckenzie, also beat her mom and was thoroughly overjoyed! I don’t think Lynette even new she could bring so much happiness to everyone. Lynette is an extremely good sport and ended up talking eighth in her age group.
I was overjoyed to find out that even with a horrible swim I placed fourth in my age group. Not bad for my first half-Ironman. Elden was super excited for me-I think he was even more excited than I was!
As I was standing on the podium, I had a chance to talk with the lady who took 5th place.
I had beaten her by a mere twenty-two seconds. If I hadn’t ramped up the run at the end, I would have taken fifth instead of fourth.
Getting on the podium at all was awesome. I was so happy!