How Not to Get Invited on the Next Group Ride

09.26.2005 | 3:17 pm

Want to be “accidentally” left off the email list the next time a ride is organized? Of course you do! Here’s how you can ensure that—no matter your riding skill—other cyclists avoid you like the plague:

  • Pull “The Elden Move.” OK, let’s get this one out of the way first, since it’s apparently been named after me (in some circles). For some reason—which I cannot fathom—some riders don’t like to have the first guy to the top of the climb turn around, come down to where they’re climbing, and climb up with them. Well, humph. To those people, I defend myself by saying that I’m not doing this to show that I’m a superior climber, I’m doing it because I just don’t like hanging around forever and ever at the top of the climb, and figure I’d rather come back down part way and keep riding, even if it is at your snail-like pace. Oh, wait. Now I think I see your point.
  • Surge and Fade in a Paceline. . Some people don’t have the knack of riding at the speed of the group. They drop back a little—maybe fifteen feet—and then surge forward to catch up. If you are the person who is lucky enough to be behind the surge-and-fade rider, you know that it completely kills any drafting effect you get from riding in a paceline. The best thing you can hope for is an opportunity to switch the riding order up. I have ridden behind a surge-and-fader for more than an hour once. It was the most draining hour of my life.
  • Be the Tipster. If you’ve been riding for a while—or perhaps you’ve read a bunch of cycling magazines and books—you no doubt have valuable advice to offer those you’re riding with. And no doubt they’ll want to hear it. All of it. To the exclusion of any other possible conversation. I remember vividly when I was new to mountain biking, there was a particular person who gave me tip after tip after tip on riding, every time we rode together. Finally, I shouted, “No more tips!” Here’s a tip for those who love to give tips: No more than three tips per ride no matter what, and a maximum average of two per ride.
  • Be the Gearmeister: Almost all serious cyclists—road or mountain—have a certain amount of gear geek in them. But some people want to debate the virtues of Shimano v. Campy, or Ti v. carbon, or tube v. clincher endlessly. This is not just annoying, it’s dangerous: This kind of talk can hypnotize other riders, causing terrible accidents. Here’s a good rule of thumb, then, to help you recognize whether your chatter about gear is boring: If you’re chattering about gear, it’s boring.
  • Be Consistently Late: This one probably applies mostly to riding groups of middle-aged people with jobs, kids, and lots of responsibilities: If you’re late to every group ride, it’s not funny or endearing. It’s indicative that you need some time management training, or that you’re living in Quad 4 or something like that.
  • Harp at Others for Being a Little Late: Same thing applies in reverse: if you’re riding with a group of people who have jobs, kids and responsibilities, you’ve got to accept that everyone has 3-minute emergencies from time to time, and you’re just ruining the ride for yourself and others if you get in a twist about it.
  • Be Stupidly Cheerful: If I’m bonked, or I think the weather’s bad, or I don’t like the ride, I expect everyone else to have the same reasonable outlook I have: that everything in the world sucks. If I’m not having fun, there’s no fun to be had. If we can agree on that, we can all get along.
  • Be a Crybaby: If I’m having a great time—feeling strong, enjoying the weather, liking the course—then clearly everyone else must be having a good time. Please don’t pretend like you’re tired or hot or hungry or bonked.
  • Stick to Your Training Regimen, No Matter What: I know people who only rarely ride with the group, because Chris Carmichael has given them explicit instructions on how and when they ought to ride, and those instructions don’t make provisions for actually enjoying yourself. After a while, you stop inviting those guys, because what’s the point? By the way, I have noticed, in race situations, that I pass guys in CTS jerseys much more frequently than I am passed by those guys. I’m just saying.
  • Make Excuses, Before, During and After the Ride: If you’re not feeling well or you’ve had an injury, it’s OK to mention this before the ride. Once. You do not get to repeat it for the benefit of those who didn’t hear the first time, and you do not get to elaborate for those who did not really understand just how bad your case of consumption really is. Everyone has a bad riding day sometimes. We understand that. Let’s move on.
  • Wear Your Badge of Honor Too Proudly: If you’ve chosen to ride a singlespeed mountain bike or fixed-gear road bike, that’s super. However, you do not get to point it out, and you do not get to use it as an excuse for doing badly on any part of the road. If someone points it out, you may acknowledge it and—if so prompted—even elaborate. But you do not get to call out your absence of derailleurs any more than someone gets to call out that they do have derailleurs. You’ve made your choice; don’t treat it like it was forced upon you.
  • Be Relentlessly Apologetic: I’m guilty of this one, big time. If I’m slower than the people around me, I apologize over and over for slowing them down. I have been told to shut up. To those to whom I have apologized too often for not being able to keep up, I apologize.
  • Gloat About Trivial Wins in the Distant Past: Remember that time you rode up that impossibly steep pitch in the “Toilet Bowl” move at Gooseberry Mesa, and nobody else was able to clean it? Well, the rest of us don’t, and yet we press on.


Double-E Half Hour of Pain Ride Report

09.25.2005 | 2:32 am

This morning, I made cake. Lots and lots of cake. I made it good and early, just in case I messed up. After all, I had promised The Best Cake in the World to those who made it to the top of The Double-E Half Hour of Pain, and I did not want to disappoint.
Even more remarkably, I cleaned my bike. In principle, I am opposed to cleaning bikes — if you start cleaning them, they come to expect it and develop a diva complex — but I wanted to impress.
When the time came, I put the cake in the car and drove to the top of the climb, then descended to the base of the climb, where we’d be starting. All the people I had marked as my nemeses were there: Eric, the boss’s boss, and Raymond Chen.  I joked to the riders — there were about ten of us, all told — that I had already biked to the top of this nasty 2.5 mile climb a couple times that day, just for practice.
And with that, we took off.
Are You Just Toying With Me?
Most of the people on this ride were there just to get to the top, but as anyone who read yesterday’s post knows, I had trash-talked myself into a corner. I was going to have to do my utmost to win. (Meanwhile, I should point out, Eric the Evil had secretly offered a $20 premium to anyone who could beat me to the top. But that’s his story to tell.)
I went out hard, hoping that if I just flew off the front initially, I could quickly convince everyone that I am not to be trifled with. The Boss’s Boss (herein known simply by his name, John), matched. In fact, he matched easily. Two other guys matched, too, Nathan and a guy who shot off the front so fast and far that I never caught his name.
From there, Nathan, John and I took turns leading our chase group. Neither of them seemed particularly challenged by my pace, but I was right on the edge. I asked John, "Are you just toying with me?" He did not answer.
As we got close to the summit, I was right on the edge of cracking; I knew I would not win a sprint if it came down to that. So, after "resting" in the back of our group of 3 for a minute, I stood up and attacked, figuring I’d either drop these two guys, or I’d explode spectacularly and fall of the back. Nathan matched, and then as I faded, he bridged up to the leader.
Still, the gamble hadn’t been a complete failure. I was blown, but John was too. And I had 50 feet on him. All I needed to do now was keep looking back and make sure he didn’t recover any faster than I did.
I made the final (and only) turn, and churned up the final third of a mile, finishing a few seconds ahead of John. Of course, next time we do this climb, he’ll be familiar with it (I’ve ridden up the Zoo Climb several times, this was his first), and so I’m guessing a rematch could have drastically different results.
With the race portion of the ride out of the way, I immediately went back into what I like to call my "Spastic Mr. Rork" mode. That is, I started thinking that it was my duty to ride back down and then ride sweep at the back of the group, making sure we all got to the top. And then we’d have cake.
And that’s where things went horribly, horribly wrong.
I had made the fatal mistake of believing Raymond Chen – who I had made a special point of inviting on this ride — when he said he was a slow climber. So I didn’t even look for him as I blasted down the first half mile of the climb. [Update: Turns out I didn't just not see him. We missed each other wacky-sitcom-style. Raymond explains here.]
Sometime during that half mile, we crossed paths. I would continue down looking for him, blithely unaware. And I would continue descending, thinking at each corner, "I’ll see him around the next corner."
Eventually, I got to the bottom third of the climb, came to the conclusion that Mr. Chen had turned around and gone home, and I — slowly, slowly — began the climb again.
Meanwhile, I assume, he — along with everyone else — was at the top of the climb, increasingly angry that I had failed to deliver on my promise of the Best Cake in the World (which was safely locked in my car, mere yards away).
I Have My Cake and Eat (Lots of) it, Too
By the time I got back to the top, most everyone had gotten bored of waiting for this flibbertigibbet of a Fat Cyclist and gone down the other side, cakeless.
Eric (who’s really not so evil, once you get to know him) and Simeon were still waiting, so I opened up the car: between the three of us, we had two cakes to eat.
The thing about the Best Cake in the World is that it is remarkably dense — scientists have shown that it subtly alters nearby gravitational fields), and none of us were able to eat more than a couple pieces, leaving me with a 1.5 cake surplus.
Hey, Who Wants Some Cake?
So now I am sitting at home and, five pieces of cake later, no longer believe this is the Best Cake in the World. Somewhere around the fourth piece I hit a point of diminishing returns. I also do not believe that — having done the Zoo climb twice in one day — I could even climb a set of stairs should the need arise (luckily, my house is entirely stairless).
And finally, I believe that I shall not step on a scale for a day or two; after this much cake, I don’t want to know what it has to say.
I’ll be freezing the rest of the cake (oh, there’s still plenty; don’t you worry about that) and bringing it to work Monday. Anyone who braved the climb and then got stiffed, cakewise, please accept the humble apologies of the Fat/Dorky Cyclist, and come by and have some of this cake.
Otherwise, it will go to waste. I can no longer stand the sight of it.

How I Will Win the The Double-E Half-Hour of Pain

09.23.2005 | 7:42 pm

It started as a friendly-enough idea. What if a couple of guys who blog — one writes about heady programming topics, one writes about being fat — and ride bikes got together and co-announced they’d be doing a ride that Saturday? Well, why not?

But then I told Raymond Chen – who rides during the moments he’s not busy being a beloved programming guru — about the ride. He’s in.

And then I told my boss’s boss about the idea, and he’s in.

This has stopped being about being a fun Saturday ride. This is now about me showing that there’s more to me than being a fat jokey dork with an IQ about the square root of any of these other guys’. This is about me showing, in fact, that I am a fat jokey dork with an IQ about the square root of these guys’ who can climb.

I hereby proclaim: I am going to try to be the first to the top. I will go at 100%, full-tilt, in the red, up the Zoo climb. If you want to say you beat the Fat Cyclist, you will have to earn it.

And then we’ll eat some cake and do some more sociable-like riding for another couple hours.



Here is how I will win the climb tomorrow:

  • I will trash talk. I will use psychological warfare to demoralize my opponents. I will use unfair comparisons. I will criticize their choice of equipment. I will use ad-hominem attacks. I will use sarcasm, if I deem it necessary. Except for my boss’s boss, whom I will shamelessly brown-nose.
  • I will use diversionary tactics. I intend to get Eric and Raymond engaged in a very demanding, intellectual conversation. I will do this by posing an intriguing programming dilemma. (Please, somebody, feed me an intriguing programming dilemma, ASAP.) While they are huffing and puffing and trying to solve this gordian knot, I shall quietly ride on ahead.
  • I will pay other people to interfere with my boss’s boss. I know I can’t directly interfere with him, and I furthermore know that he’s a competitive cyclist with some serious climbing cred, so I will ask (bribe) Mo Lettvin to feign a seizure or other emergency. While my boss’s boss is attending, I will ride quietly on ahead. (UPDATE: Mo’s begged out of the ride. Maybe I can get my riding buddy Nick to cover body-checking duties.)

When That Fails…

Chances are, even with this clever multi-pronged approach to winning, I will lose. In that case, I will casually suggest to anyone who beats me up the hill that it would be very embarassing to boast about beating someone who calls himself "The Fat Cyclist" up a long climb. "Who would be impressed with such a claim?" I will ask, using the "voice of reason" I perfected years ago — my primary asset, really, in the absence of any genuine skills.

And if that doesn’t work, I will tell them that if they reveal I lost to anyone, they can’t have a piece of the Best Cake in the World. And if that fails, I’ll just lie and tell whatever story I want in this blog anyway, just like I always do.

I’ve got this thing sewn up, I tell you.


Come Join the Fun

(or what passes for fun in these parts)

If you’re in the Seattle-ish area and have a bike, why don’t you join us? I’ll tell you why you won’t. It’s because you’re chicken. There, now I’m using peer pressure on you. You’ll find a map of how to get there here. 2:30PM, tomorrow, September 24, 2005.

I will be the one wearing the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup jersey, and acting like a fun little group ride is actually a Very Important Race.


Today’s weight: 161.6

As a Cancer Patient, I Would Have Been an Inspiring Example of Courage, with an Endearing Sense of Humor that Belied My Dire Circumstances

09.22.2005 | 9:52 pm

As my stomach slowly recedes, I’m starting to see other things where my stomach used to bulge out. My ribs, for example. I haven’t seen those in some time. Or ab muscles: those are still buried pretty deep, but I can at least tell they’re there. And what’s this? I do believe I have pecs! Waddaya know.

About a month ago, I noticed one other thing: a lump in my chest. On the left side, just below my rib cage. And as I lost weight, it became more noticeable. And it wasn’t going away.


I Do Not Panic

There’s been enough cancer in my family (my wife, my sister Kellene, my stepmother, my stepfather, my paternal grandmother) that I was pretty sure I had cancer. I did not tell anybody. I also didn’t call a doctor for a good long time. After all, what if it was just one of those really-deeply-buried zits that take forever to go away?

But it continued to not go away.


I am Twisted

Finally, I decided I’d better go learn the inevitable, so I could begin my treatment. On Tuesday, I made a doctor appointment for the following afternoon (Wednesday, for those of you who have trouble with math).

Once I had made the appointment, my mind kicked into overdrive. I started thinking about the implications of having cancer. Here are the predominant themes of my thinking:

  • I felt bad for my wife having to take on the extra burden of watching the kids while I’m sick
  • I decided that I would try to continue to ride my bike during treatment, even if just around the neighborhood
  • I thought about what great stories I’d be able to make from this experience. I would be courageous, good-humored, and encouraging to my fellow cancer-havers. I would be the model cancer patient. People would be so inspired by me that they would buy yellow wristbands, cross out the "Strong" in "LiveStrong" and change it to "LiveFat."

I should point out that if you’re a little bit bothered by the fact that part of me was looking forward to cancer treatment — even after I had seen the hell it put my wife through — you are not alone.

Strangely, I did not worry about whether the cancer would kill me. In fact, that thought did not even occur to me until after my doctor visit.


I am Fine

Of course, you can tell from the title of this post that I do not have cancer, or the title of this post would have been, "I HAVE CANCER!!!!" The doctor checked out the lump and said, "You have a Lipoma."

A Lipoma, which I am capitalizing in a desperate attempt to salvage some seriousness out of a very trivial thing, is a benign tumor, made up of fatty tissue.

It is, in short, a lump of fat. In other words, my tumor is a metaphor for me: An initially alarming — but ultimately harmless — lump of fat.



Today’s weight: 162.0 lbs. Which means I have hit my target weight for the week a day early. Just think how light I’d be without that lipoma!


Late-Night Update: I’ve decided to run this topic into the ground with a little context. Basically, I’ve talked with a few people, read a few comments, and have decided I have some explaining to do.

First off, you’ll note that I never explored the comic possibilities of this lump until I knew it was safe. That’s because I didn’t see any comic possibilities in it until I knew it was safe. Only then was I able to cast the silver lining I had created for myself — "Well, at least I’ll have some good stories to tell when this is over" — into a wacky boast: "Hey, wouldn’t cancer be a great conversation piece?" Which is to say: no, I wasn’t really looking forward to chemo. I’ve seen it up close, and it’s not something I liked to think about at all. Which is why I waited a couple months after I discovered the lump to consult a doctor. Those of you who have been reading the blog long enough that you remember the story of how I waited several hours after suffering partial paralysis to consult a doctor will recognize this as in-character behavior.

The second point is one my wife made, and which I ought to have considered: not everyone comes away from that doctor appointment with the sense of relief that I did. Some people come away knowing that they’ve got a whole bunch of hell in front of them. To those people, this isn’t a very funny story. And to those people, I apologize.

How to Eat Like a Fat Cyclist

09.21.2005 | 8:18 pm

I ride my bike a lot. I ride about 250 miles per week, in fact. That’s enough that I should not have to worry about weight at all. And if I ate like a normal person, I probably wouldn’t.

But I don’t eat like a normal person. My appetite is enormous, and my taste in food is lowbrow, as well as occasionally bizarre. Which means I like cheap, bad food, I like lots of it, and I like some odd combinations.

If you were me, then, here would be your favorite foods.

  • Cold cereal. I am entirely serious when I say that I could happily live on nothing but cold cereal and milk. Honey Bunches of Oats. Cap’n Crunch, in all its incarnations. Honey Nut Cheerios. Count Chocula. Reeses Puffs. Fiber One (yes, really). Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
  • Tortillas. As you will see below, tortillas play a prominent role in many of my other favorite foods. However, let it be said: I like tortillas just plain, too. Warm in the microwave for 20 seconds and serve with Cholula hot sauce. Yum.
  • Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches. I have thought — more than once — to myself, that if I had to eat just one thing for every meal for the rest of my life, it would be peanut butter and honey sandwiches. But that’s only true if the bread is from Great Harvest. The white bread, I mean. Don’t pollute my bread with whole grains or sunflower seeds.
  • Burritos: From El Azteca in Provo, UT. Specifically, the Chicken Chipotle burrito. You know, it’s very difficult to have one of your favorite foods be location-based.
  • Peanut Butter, Banana, and Mayonnaise Sandwiches: Everyone wrinkles their noses at this one, and I don’t try to convince anyone to try it. My mom made these for me when I was a kid; I liked them then, I like them now. I can’t get my own kids to try them, though. I think, though, my mom used Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise. My tastes have since matured and I am confident in asserting that Miracle Whip would more appropriately be named Abomination Whip. This is good with a tortilla instead of bread, too.
  • Spaghetti: I eat spaghetti at least three times per week. I make it in enormous batches. For a long time, angel hair was my favorite pasta, but I’ve been favoring bowtie pasta lately. Served with a big spoonful of cottage cheese on top, and more black pepper shaken on it than you would think healthy.
  • Spaghetti Sauce Burrito: Take a tortilla, spread some spaghetti sauce on it, add several dollops of cottage cheese, microwave for 25 seconds, wrap, and try to eat without it spilling all over yourself. Really, is there anything that isn’t good with a tortilla?
  • Bananas. Bananas are the fast food of the fruit and vegetable world. While most fruits have skins, bananas have packaging. They have no hard hidden objects inside you can bite into. And while they don’t have an expiration date per se printed on them, a quick glance tells you when a banana is not yet ripe, when it’s too ripe, and when it’s perfect. Bananas have a mild flavor and soft texture that make them perfect for toddlers, octogenarians, and triathletes. Bananas are good alone, good on cereal, good with ice cream, good in pie. When they get old, they’re good as a baking ingredient. Really, the only thing a banana needs to be perfect is a creamy filling. Bonus banana fact: Most people peel bananas the wrong way, starting at the stem and peeling down.  If you try peeling from the other end, you’ll find two things. First, you can now use the stem as a handle. Second, it’s easier to start peeling at this end. I promise you, your life will be 3% easier if you use this technique.
  • Golden Delicious Apples: Most people think of apples in a very general sense. This is wrongheaded thinking, and must stop immediately. Granny Smith apples are so hard and tart they are generally only eaten on a bet (good in apple cobbler, though). Fuji apples are nice and crisp, but have no more flavor than paper. Golden Delicious apples, however, are both golden and delicious. And while bananas have their own removable packaging, Golden Delicious apples let you eat the packaging. Just polish the apple on the leg of your pants — this is a very effective way of ridding the apple of any germs and pesticides — and enjoy.
  • Scrambled Egg Burrito: I’m proud of the technique I’ve developed in making this. Spray Pam into a cereal bowl, crack a couple eggs into the bowl, pour in a tiny bit of milk, sprinkle salt and pepper in, whip with a fork, and microwave for 2 minutes (1 minute per egg). Flop onto a tortilla (of course) with a little cheese sprinkled on top, microwave for another 10 seconds, add lots of Cholula, wrap and enjoy. My 11-year-old believes this is the best food in the world.
  • Mayonnaise: I may as well admit it: I love mayonnaise. It’s good on everything, and not half bad by itself. I apologize to everyone I just creeped out.

Special Instructions on Eating Like the Fat Cyclist After a Really Big Ride

Eat everything, in any combination. Do not worry about taste. Just fill the void.


Today’s weight: 162.4 lbs. I have been showing remarkable restraint this week.

« Previous Page« Previous Entries     Next Entries »Next Page »