Before I get started on today’s final installment of RAWROD ‘05, I’d like to call attention to a couple of things:
- Parental Boast Alert: My 11-year-old son is showing some real promise in programming. He just finished writing a clever little game called “Cover Your Mouth.” Check it out, and if you think it’s cool, post a comment here. I’ll make sure he sees them. (I’m not giving out his email address or name because the Internet is a creep y place).
- The blog goes on: The end of this story does not equal the end of this blog. In fact, tomorrow I will be starting a weekly post that I’m frankly a little nervous about. I’ll say no more for now, except that you might want to stop by to check this blog out as I ratchet up the public self-humiliation a notch.
And now, back to the story.
Time for Fun
Due to Kenny’s craftiness — he wanted to take a group photo before we all took off riding again (I’m the one with man-boobs and a white helmet, seated in the lower left corner, trying to look casual while sucking in my gut and using my arm to shield the camera from the incontravertible evidence) — my plan to take off ahead of everyone was foiled. I was one of the first to head out, but a few other people took off ahead of me.
And, expectedly, many people who were behind me didn’t take long to pass. Knowing there wasn’t much I could do about it, though, I enjoyed the ride — at least, after the first 10 minutes while my butt got used to the saddle again.
In the direction we were riding the White Rim Trail, the first half of the day is pretty hard work. There are several hard climbs, quite a bit of sand (which posed no problem whatsoever this trip, thanks to the way it got packed down with the night’s rain), and very little downhill. That’s why I always look forward to the second part of the day.
You start off with a few climbs and have to navigate a little sand (once again, not a problem on this trip — I have never ever ever seen the White Rim in such rideable condition). And then, gradually, the trail straightens out and becomes gently banked and downhill for miles at a time. The wind is usually at your back, and you’ve got an opportunity to clock some wicked fast miles. Doesn’t even matter that you’re fat (maybe it helps!).
At this sheer-joy section of the trail, I was riding with Mark and Serena Warner (sidenote about the Mark/Serena dynamic: I learned this trip that it’s OK for Serena to ride as far ahead of Mark as she pleases; the reverse is absolutely forbidden), along with Jilene Mecham. Somehow I wound up riding behind Jilene (uh, maybe because she’s faster than I am) and came to an astounding realization, which I am going to put on a separate line and in italics to emphasize my point:
Jilene Mecham picks a beautiful line.
Yep, Jilene was absorbing the right bumps, dodging the ones she should, and just in general making it really easy for me to not make any decisions at all. So I settled in and just tracked her line, noting that the sun was coming out, my legs didn’t feel fried, and the temperature felt like it was in the high 60’s. I thought to myself, “Well, I’d rather be a fat cyclist than just fat.”
Eventually, the downhill ended, Mark flatted, and Jilene and I rode along together for a while — notable because:
- This would be the only time in the 100 miles I rode with someone
- Jilene and I had a fairly serious conversation about how major life crises can change your priorities for the good.
And then Jilene got bored of riding slow and left me in the dust.
More Treachery…and Terror
We were now getting close to the end of riding the White Rim Trail. And as we did, I got more and more nervous. The ride finishes with several switchbacks as you climb up a very tall, steep cliff called Shafer’s. And I just didn’t have much power left. I could easily see myself needing to walk part of that…but I absolutely didn’t want anyone to see me have to get off my bike and walk something I’ve ridden numerous times.
I am unbelievably vain.
So once again I resorted to treachery. I saw that everyone was gathering at Musselman’s Arch. And, once again, I put my head down and kept going. Once again, I was ahead of most everyone, and once again I knew it wouldn’t last.
Shafer’s Trail is always an impressive site — you round a corner and see a massive cliff, evidently unclimbable. As you get closer, you can see sections of a road, hairpinning up the side of this cliff. And then, as you get to the base of the thing, you try to stop looking at the road, because it’s just too damn demoralizing.
I shifted into my granny gear, put my head down and vowed not to get off my bike. As people came down the trail — in cars and on bikes — they gave me encouragement. I kept going, not wanting to let my fans down.
I looked back. People had left Musselman’s Arch and were starting to climb. Some were going to catch me, I was sure of it. All I could do now was try to stay on my bike, keep my dignity.
It didn’t happen.
On one of the switchbacks I just couldn’t turn the crank one more time. So I got off my bike and did the walk of shame. Just one switchback’s worth, then I was back on, but it was definitely a new low for me. It was during that walk that the idea for writing this very blog occurred to me. “SoI’m pathetic. Why not tell the world?” I thought. Well, why not indeed?
Once you’re to the top of Shafer’s you’re on pavement for a few miles, and then you’re done. During this pavement stretch, Serena and Jilene blew by me, evidently on a quest to emasculate me to whatever degree possible. Thanks, ladies!
And then I was at the campsite. I had made it. The fat cyclist had completed RAWROD ‘05.
Consume Mass Quantities
If you’ve never done an endurance event, you’ve never had a truly overwhelming appetite. The thing is, though, I love the massive hunger that overtakes me about two hours after riding 100 miles on a mountain bike. A bunch of us went to Pasta Jays, where I ordered way more food than I could ordinarily eat (big salad, gnocchi with a spicy red cream sauce) and finished it off no problem…then started looking hungrily at the fettucini alfredo the person sitting next to me had not finished.
The next day, on the way home, I would continue to eat constantly. By the time I got home and checked my weight, I had gained 5 pounds over the weekend.
So now, RAWROD’05 is behind me. I’m glad I did it — even as a fat cyclist — but when the Leadville 100 happens this August, I’d just as soon be a tad thinner.
There are a couple of strange things about being a fat cyclist:Â
- You’re reminded with every turn of the crank that you are, in fact, fat. How? Because on the upstroke your quads squish up against your low-hanging stomach.
- If you used to be a fast /Â competitive cyclist, the instinct to win doesn’t go away when you become fat; it just festers.
I noticed strange thing #1 right away as I began riding around the White Rim. How could I not? But I didn’t really notice strange thing #2 until I started climbing Hardscrabble Hill, a sandy, steep set of pitches. As person after person after person passed me, I realized that I would shortly be sorted to the back, where I would remain through the day.
And then a third strange thing happened: everyone started gathering at the top of Hardscrabble hill, planning on picking up the food and water they needed to make it for the next section of the ride. OK, that’s not very strange. The strange thing is a thought occurred to me: I had no need to stop. It was a cool day, so I hadn’t used much water. I had enough food for the whole ride.
So I waved at everyone who had gathered, andÂ I kept going. Abracadabra, I went from back of the pack to leader of the pack, knowing that since everyone was still waiting for the sag wagons to catch up, I had picked up a 15-minute lead.
Is this niggardly, anti-social riding behavior? Why, yes. Yes it is. Am I proud of myself for acting this way? No, no I am not. Did I realize that I had used a particularly lame form ofÂ treachery to claim a spot on the trail that did not rightfully belong to me? Yes, yes I did. Did I feel shame and remorse to the extent that I would never do it again? I guess we’ll see.
Not All About Me
For a little while — maybe half an hour — I mostly wondered how soon everyone would catch and pass me. Then I started noticing that White Rim was the most beautiful it’s ever been, and stopped thinking about other people, about me, about anything. I swear, I had one of Schopenhauer’s sublime moments, where I was simply immersed in the beauty of the profusion of wildflowers — white! red! yellow! purple! — and physics-defyingÂ sandstone structures. Cliffs towered above me beyond belief to my left, and to my right dropped away so far down that my stomach would knot up.
I was surprised that I was starting to get close to Murphy’s Hogback — a long, difficult climb, at the top of which we were going to gather and eat lunch — and nobody had passed me yet. Ha! Maybe I’m in better shape than I thought! Maybe I’ll be the first to the top of Murphy’s, from which I can taunt the slower riders with my magnificent belly!
And then my good friend Brad Keyes past me. On his singlespeed bike. While whistling an idle tune. Followed, within moments, by Mike Young — who is Steve Young’s more-athletic brother — who said, “Hey, you’re not doing so bad, youÂ big fat tub of goo!” OK, Mike didn’t say that. But the fact that I had only been passed by two really fast guys made me feel much better about myself.
Oh wait, I see more coming up behind.
I dug in deep, doing what I could to prevent anyone else from passing me before I got to Murphy’s. And then the climb began, putting an end to any thoughts I had of finishing strong. I went into my granny gear and just slowly spun up, not worrying about speed, not caring if anyone passed me. I just didn’t want Mike, Brad, or anyone behind me to see me get off and push.
Amazingly, I did it. I rode up the entirety of the Hog. Third guy up. Yay. Cori Jones was just seconds behind and did the whole thing one handed just for the helluvit, but still.
On the Hogback
The great thing about being at the top of Murphy’s Hogback is you’ve got an incredible view of the trail you just climbed — and it’s very impressive. You get to watch everyone else ride in, cheer them on, and give them Very Helpful Advice as they get to the last 10 yards, which is extremely steep. Such as:
- To Bill Freedman: “C’mon! Ride a wheelie up that hill, you pansy!” Of course, Bill (owner of a Ben and Jerry’s shop, so naturally a wonderful person) complied. Then, as he summited, he put a little too much juice into it and wheelied over onto his butt. It was a perfect moment.
- To Serena Warner: “Need a push?” To which she nodded assent. I quickly skittered down the hill to give her that push, and up she went. I like to think that it’s because I expended so much energy giving her that push that Serena would offhandedly blow by me toward the end of the ride.
- To Ryan Benson: “Ry-an! Ry-an! Ry-an!” Nobody expected Ryan to be able to clean that final pitch, but he did. Made it look easy. For that, Ryan would be awarded the “King of Shafer” trophy Kenny had made up, to be awarded to the male who suffered with the most class.
With everyone gathered, we all had lunch. And I fully intended, as soon as I was done, to hop on my bike and go before anyone else.
I had a non-race to win.
Next up: Whupass Jam, or the Lack Thereof
Yesterday’s weight: 184.6
Today’s weight: 182.8
The Day Before the Ride
I admit, I very nearly bailed out of riding the RAWROD ‘05. The embarassment was almost too much to take. Consider: when I moved away from Utah 1.3 years ago, I weighted 158lbs. Now I’m 30lbs. heavier. When I left, I was one of the fast guys; now it would be questionable whether I’d even be capable of finishing the ride/race (technically, it was just a friendly ride. In reality, any time you have more than a few people in a riding group, at least some of them think it’s a race).Â Â
And I was fairly confident at least a few of my old biking friends would try to jiggle my belly.
Still, I had bought the plane tickets, arranged for Rick Maddox to loan me a bike, had reserved a hotel room, and had professed enthusiasm for the ride. No backing out now.
Well, actually, I guess I could have bailed out. After all, Doug bailed out. Rick bailed out. Chucky bailed out. And none of them had better reasons than I. Maybe they’ve become fat, too.
Kenny Jones — who put this massive group ride-cum-massive event together, picked me up at the airport; he looks like he does nothing but ride his bike and shave his head. We made our way to Moab. It was rainy, windy, and cold. Moab’s not usually like that. I began to wish I had stayed home.
I’m one of very few people who had planned to stay in a hotel room. I was ridiculed and scoffed at for not camping, but I smirked (choking back the tears), noting that it was — as just noted — rainy, cold, and windy. I went to my hotel room, got all my junk ready, and played Ridge Racer on my PSP for a couple hours. If someone had taken my picture for the newspaper at that moment, the caption would have been, “Fat loser nerd, alone in hotel room. Self-perception as endurance cyclist very questionable.”
Beginning The Ride
During the night, the wind died down, so it was no longer windy when we started the ride. Still plenty rainy and cold, though. The plan was to get going at 6:30AM. Around 7:00AM, we started going. Not bad for such a big group. Thinking how long it would take for this crew to regroup and get going at various stopping points, I loaded myself with enough food and water that I figured I could do the whole day with one stop, max.
I should note that while I was clearly having serious doubts internally about this ride, I wasn’t saying anything bad about it. Kenny looked too excited; I didn’t want to bring him down. One guy, though, who did look a little nervous about this ride was Ryan Benson. He’s proud to be “America’s Biggest Loser” — in other words, he won a reality show series for losing more weight than anyone else. Still, losing weight is one thing. A ten-hour mountain bike ride is something else altogether. “I’m giving you a ‘good-time guarantee,’” I said, having no idea whether he’d actually have a good time or not.
We started down Horse Thief at the beginning of the ride, which meant several miles of well-graded rolling dirt road, averaging slightly downhill. By the time we got to the bottom of Horse Thief, the rain had stopped. And, finally, I had stopped thinking about how far I’ve sunk and started noticing that I do, in fact, love to ride my bike. I mean, I really, really, really love it. So I’m slow. So what.
I picked aÂ flower, put it in my shoulder strapÂ – closest thing I had to a lapel –Â andÂ decided that I was going to have a good day.
Next Up: Treachery +Â Murphy’s Hogback
Today’s Weight: 186.0lbs.Â
Hi. I’m Elden, and I’m a fat cyclist. That is, I am a fat person who rides a bicycle.
But I have not always been fat, nor have I always been a cyclist. I have, however, always been a rambling blowhard. It’s a curse.
In the days ahead, I will talk about some of the following:
- Why I am fat
- Why I love to ride my bike
- Why it’s crucial that I lose 30 pounds in the next three months
- My craziest year ever (see “Why I am fat”)
First, though, I will tell you about what I did last weekend: Ride Around White Rim in One Day (affectionately known as RAWROD ‘05) — a 100 mile mountain bike ride in Canyonlands Nat’l Park, UT, over the course of about ten hours. Because while I am unquestionably fat, I have been doing endurance rides for around nine years now, which means I am perhaps not without hope.
Today’s weight: 188.6lbs. On a 5′8″ guy, that’s fat.