I Like to Watch

05.9.2006 | 3:58 pm

I should be excited about the Giro. I love the drama and (let’s face it) agony of all the climbing in the Giro d’Italia. I love the uncertain nature of who will win — this early in the season, nobody’s a sure thing. I love Gilberto Simoni’s heated claims, followed (usually) by agonized admissions and self-flagellation when he fails to make good.

On paper, the Giro d’Italia is my favorite grand tour.

And that’s the problem. I’m having a hard time drumming up any enthusiasm at all for this race because — here in America — It’s on paper. Or, technically, it’s on the computer screen, but the computer screen is like paper, but harder to fold into an airplane.


What I Need

To enjoy a cycling race, I have to choose someone I want to win. When I’m watching, that’s easy: I find a favorite racer or an unknown underdog showing some pluck, and I get emotionally invested in him. Nothing even needs to be happening in the race; I’m happy to just watch everyone trundle along, getting ready for the big sprint. I can content myself with watching them turn their freakishly high cadence. I’m happy to watch them watch each other. I can have fun just imagining what the next move is going to be, based on what I see right now.

But—as good as the live reports are on Cyclingnews—and they’re very good—it’s just not the same to read it. You know what just happened, but you don’t really know why. You get a sense for where the key players are, but not the guy whose name you don’t know but are rooting for anyway.

Really, it comes down to this: a race is a visceral experience. Reading a narrative just isn’t the same (said the blogger, fully aware that he has written several interminable writeups of his own races).

As a result, right now I’m kinda-sorta following the Giro. It looks to me like Paolo Savoldelli will repeat (I know it’s too early to make a prediction like that, but that’s my way), which I suppose would be cool. Though I’m actually rooting for Basso, because I love the idea of someone trying to win two grand tours in a year. I would be rooting for Ullrich, but he doesn’t seem to really have his heart in the race, though it’s hard to tell since I can’t actually see him.


A Plea

I have no trouble whatsoever finding videos of a 500-horsepower Neon online (not that I was looking, mind you), but I cannot find video—preferably with English narrative—of the Giro d’Italia. (except OLN, which has streaming video you can watch if you’re willing to pay $20 for it and will actually be in front of your computer during the two hours in the early morning during which they broadcast it, after which it’s gone and if you missed it, too bad. Guess what, OLN: that’s not a particularly compelling offering you’ve got there. Now, if my $20 meant that I could watch any stage at any time (or even during the next 24 hours), I’d have already signed up and would be blogging right now about how much I love you guys.) 

That just seems wrong.

Please, someone over there in Europe. I know you’ve got TV coverage of the Giro. I know you’ve got computers and Internet connections. So quit pretending you don’t, and start uploading the Giro for those of us starved for coverage here in the US. We won’t mind if it’s a day late. We just want to see it with our own eyes. Then either email me with where you’ve posted it, or comment here, and I’ll link to it daily on my blog.

You will have done the world (or at least the U.S., which is a notable subset of the world) a tremendous service.

Thank you.


PS: Today’s weight: 169.8. You know, this weight loss thing would go faster if I started losing some weight.


PPS: Yeah, I know I still need to talk about what kind of contest I’ll do around getting to the right weight for my big races this year. The thing is, I haven’t nailed down an incentive that really works for me yet. Tomorrow, I swear.


I Have Enemies

05.5.2006 | 4:53 pm

This was supposed to be the year I lost the weight. This was supposed to be the year I got back my fitness and fastness.

And yet, here I am, on the cusp of the riding season, neither fit nor fast. This, I assert, is not my fault.

Clearly, I have been sabotaged by my enemies. I will now name them, and list their nefarious deeds.


Working from Home

Working from home is my most formidable enemy. In fact, “working from home” isn’t so much an enemy as it is an entire army of enemies, all bent on keeping me fat and comfortable. Consider:

  • When you work at home, your bike commute is much shorter. In fact, one could argue that I don’t need to ride my bike from my bed to my home office at all; I could simply walk down the hall. But I am a committed bike commuter, and so have not yet ceded that battle.
  • My house and my fondness for snacking while thinking are an excellent combinationfor getting fat. My new job isn’t like my old job. In my old job, I ran around from conference room to conference room, having meetings. In my new job, I have very few meetings. Instead, I think a lot. Yes, I have a job that actually requires me to think about stuff. You know what’s great to eat while you’re thinking? M&Ms. Oh, and tortillas with some cheese melted on them and some slices of avocado, maybe with a dab of sour cream and then some of that Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce I like so much. That would help me think.
  • My house has conspired to have a kitchen. The kitchen, in its irksome way, has food in it, all of which is already paid for. And since I own it, I may as well eat it. Right now.
  • My kitchen is impossible to avoid. You can’t get to the garage without going through the kitchen. You can’t get into the family room without going through the kitchen. And the pantry is right where it’s easy to get to. Just open it up, and there’s a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips just staring at you. You know what would be good right now? Sprinkling some of those chocolate chips on an open-faced peanut butter sandwich. (Open-faced so that I only use one piece of bread—watching calories, you know.)
  • I like staying home. I set the alarm nice and early every night before going to bed. Arrogantly, the alarm then wakes me up at a ridiculous time the next morning. That’s when I realize: I could just as easily sleep a little longer and still get an early start on work, then go for a ride during lunch or after work. By lunch, I’m deep into work, though, and it’s not a good time to ride. And then the kids get home from school and I’m anxious to wrap up the day so I can spend some time with them. Abracadabra: the day has elapsed and I have never stepped out of the house, much less gone on a ride.

Working on the Road

When I’m not working at home, I’m traveling, visiting customers and visiting the company headquarters. I feel compelled to point out that the only thing worse for a diet than having a kitchen constantly near is being on the road, traveling with people who have very good taste in food.

Hence, the road is also my enemy. But only in a figurative way. Which is to say, the road as a metaphor for traveling is my enemy. The road as a physical object is actually a pretty good bike enabler. To summarize: Metaphorical road, bad. Actual road, good.

Let’s move on.


The Absence of a Handy Scale

I’ve noticed something about weight loss: when you start finding reasons to not weigh yourself, you’re probably not on track. Well, when we put our house up for sale, we hid the bathroom scale (along with about 70% of our other possessions) in the garage, giving our house a clean, big, open look it never has in real life.

As I may have mentioned, our house sold almost instantly—within one day.

And yet, until this morning, I did not have the scale back in the bathroom. “Just too hard to find,” I thought.

So it wasn’t a massive surprise to discover—when I finally dug out the scale, which took all of two minutes to locate—that I am back up to 169.6 pounds.

Calling the absence of a scale my enemy may sound like a stretch, but when you think about it, it’s actually quite terrifying: My enemies are so smart and subtle they are able to wage war against me with the absence of things.

Those bastards.


Open War

I absolutely must weigh 160 pounds or less when I do the Cascade Cream Puff on June 25. I am going to start weighing myself (and publishing my weight) again every day, and training for this race. Even though I’m moving later this month. And even though it’s hard to lose weight when working from home.

If I don’t make my goal weight, I will give away a big prize. I don’t know what it is yet, but it will be big, and it will hurt me to give away. Similarly, I will weight 150 pounds by the Leadville 100 in August, or will give away a big prize. Something non-trivial.

Because (cue inspiring, stirring music) while my enemies are strong, I am resolved to not lose this war.

Now I just need to think about what those prizes should be. And you know what would really help me think right now? A peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, that’s what.

Dug’s RAWROD ‘06: “Bike Riding Sucks”

05.2.2006 | 6:27 pm

A Note from Fatty: Dug sent his version of the RAWROD ‘06 to some friends; I think it’s good enough that everyone should read it.


I never want to ride my bike again. Turns out, after 2.5 hours of riding on White Rim, I realized I had already surpassed the length of my longest ride of the year (which couldn’t have totaled more than ten rides anyway), and even though I’d done White Rim many times in one day, and many more over three days, I guess I had forgotten—or blocked out—that each time it had hurt, a lot, and that each time I had barely completed it, and that I’d never done it on a singlespeed before. Is this how women have more than one child, by forgetting the pain?

Elden, Brad, and I started together a bit early, to avoid the crush of enthusiasm, and during the group rock throwing party at Hardscrabble, ditched early again to avoid litigation. With local tri guy Mark Warner, we rode together all the way from Hardscrabble to Murphy’s, which was very pleasant, and we kept a solid fast pace all the way to Murphy’s. I couldn’t ride all of Murphy’s, but it turns out that Brad was the only singlespeeder that could, and even most geared folks couldn’t.

I was good to Murphy’s. Really good, actually, and even pretty strong all the way to Gooseberry (about 75 miles in). I was riding along with Lee Johnson (yes, the Lee Johnson who was the punter for the Bengals and calls everybody “bro”) for a while on that east side. Elden had already completely self destructed behind me (though, due to his urgency to find a usable restroom, he rode through Mussleman Arch, and got to camp before me), and Mike Young (yes, Steve Young’s brother, who may be a better athlete than Steve Young) was way way off the front, and Brad was somewhere up there with him, having his best day ever.

Anyway, that east side is the roughest of the whole trail, just brutally rocky, with mile-long patches of washboard slickrock, and as I was riding along with Lee, I just imploded, and had to soft pedal all the way to Mussleman Arch, where we waited for the trucks to fill water bottles for the finish. I had a Diet Coke in the cooler in Kenny’s jeep and I wanted it more than anything else in the world. I laid under a juniper bush for 30 minutes recovering and waiting for my Diet Coke, fully expecting to walk from the Shafer outhouse to the top.

The jeeps arrived, and I started digging through the cooler, looking for my long-fantasized-about Diet Coke.

Somebody had taken it.

I will find that someone someday, just like OJ is hunting the real killers. And I will kill that somebody. This I swear to you.

Kenny was like Fantasy Island’s Mr. Roarke: the ultimate host. He rode a little with everyone, and whenever he wanted, passed whomever he wanted. But you probably already figured that.

I actually rode the first mile of Shafer, but I walked the middle mile of switchbacks before getting back on (the upper switchbacks were more singlespeed friendly).

But you know what I hated more than anything all day? Not the washboard slickrock, not the sun on my neck, not the sores on my butt. Nope. The worst part of the day was the pavement back to camp. You think it’s rolling? No no no. All uphill except for a few tiny downhills.

I had blackness in my heart and bile in my gut for the entire eight miles. At one point, Lee Johnson and a couple of his peeps came by in a small train. I jumped on, but couldn’t hold it for more than a hundred yards, and I dropped off, then pulled over to throw up. At least I had less bile in my gut after that.

I got to camp and said some very mean, very vulgar things before I came out of my dark, dark place. Then, of course, we drove home.

You have six contact points on a bike (two hands, two feet, and two butt cheeks) and all of mine are shot. If Brad hadn’t put my bike on the rack, I would have left it in Moab.

I still might send it back there.

RAWROD ’06: Oh, So THAT’S Why They Call it “Endurance” Cycling

05.1.2006 | 6:15 pm

Before I start my story of Ride Around White Rim in One Day (RAWROD) ‘06, I feel compelled to set your expectations appropriately, so you don’t feel let down at the end.

  • There is no twist ending at the conclusion to this story. The arc progresses to its natural conclusion.
  • I do not emerge triumphant. There is no cheering crowd at the finish line.
  • I do not win a moral victory, nor do I have any startling epiphanies.

OK, let’s proceed.


The Night Before

It seems that every time I go on an epic ride, someone suggests that we camp the night before. “That way,” they always say, as if there’s some sort of script these people share with one another, “we can just wake up and take off!” Brightly, they continue, “And we’ll save money on hotel rooms!” Then, triumphantly, they conclude: “It’ll be fun!”

In the past, I have always argued that we should stay at a hotel instead. I like sleeping in a bed the night before a long ride. I like coming back to a room with a shower and a bed after a long ride. I like the way the temperature in the room can be controlled. And—without going into detail—I like having a toilet available both before and after a long ride.

This time, though, I didn’t argue. Since I was coming from out of town, I didn’t have my own vehicle, so I didn’t have any leverage, anyway. “Fine, let’s camp,” I said, agreeably.

Next time I go on a long ride, I will know better.

Don’t get me wrong. Right up until the point where you actually go to bed, the camping was great. Kenny had thoughtfully brought along enough bratwurst for all 60 people (!!!) who were doing this ride. I had two, with horseradish on the delicious homemade bread Kenny had baked and brought.

Eventually, though, I had to go to bed. Dug had arranged for a really nice cot for me. He had also arranged for a sleeping bag, though I could see there would be problems when he handed the bag, still in its teeny-tiny stuff sack, to me. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Thanks. Is this the pillow?”

Dug: “No, it’s your sleeping bag.”

Me: “The stuff sack is approximately the size of a sock.”

Dug: “Whatever.”

Me: “So, is there a special ripcord or something I pull to make it suddenly inflate, at which point it will have magically have some high-tech insulating properties?”

Dug: “Whatever.”

Me: “Or maybe you have special information about the weather and how while the temperature seems to be plummeting right now, it will shortly rise back to about 50 degrees and stay there?”

Dug: (Walks away, no longer interested in this conversation.)

So, I did not get much sleep. And the sleep I got was poor. And I was cold. And the wind made the tent flap. And there was very little indoor plumbing the morning before the ride (which is a really really really good time to have indoor plumbing).

Next time I go on a big ride, I’m not going to argue about whether we should camp before. I’m staying at a hotel.

OK, I’m done whining.

No, wait. That’s not true. I’m done whining about camping. I haven’t even started whining about the ride itself, though.


Big Wheels

With 60 people starting this ride, there was no way in the world we’d actually get started by the stated start time of 6:30. Brad, Dug and I were the first to roll out at 7:10AM. We rolled down the nicely graded and groomed Horsethief trail, getting passed by Mike Young—who would ride pretty much the whole day by himself, a victim of his own superiority. In fact, the only time anyone would see Mike that day would be at the designated group photo spots.

Here’s Mike, posing heroically.

At first, a lot of people were riding together—after all, there were 60 of us (!!!). And as we rode through several patches of deep sand, I noticed something: Those of us on 29” wheels rode through, no problem. Those on 26” wheels got off and walked. It was pretty much that cut and dried.

After the first group photo at the bottom of Horse Thief, Brad, Dug, Mark Warner and I hooked up and rode together for the first 50 miles, ‘til we got to the top of Murphy’s Hogback, the designated lunch spot.

The weather was warm—not yet hot—and mild, we were chatting, and I felt strong. I was having a great ride. As we got to Murphy’s Hogback—the second longest sustained climb of the day, my knees were starting to hurt, but not bad. I cleaned the climb without particular difficulty, then sat down with Brad and Dug in the only shady area for miles around, and started heckling others as they finished the climb. Most people ignored us, a few people laughed along with us, and a few (foolishly) even followed our advice, a sampling of which follows:

  • No, that’s not how you do it! Stand up!
  • No, that’s not how you do it! Sit down!
  • No, don’t ride to the right! Ride straight up the center! The center is the only way!
  • Oh, you were so close! Go try it again; I’m sure you’ll make it next time.
  • What, you’re not going to try it again? You know, your wife cleaned it her first try.


Misery Hates Company

We had a delicious lunch—chicken and stars soup and clif bars for me—followed by cake and singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Racer, who had unfortunately chosen not to come. Oh, and let’s not forget the group photo:

Then it was time to ride again. This time, Kenny hooked up with Dug, Brad and me and we rode together for almost five minutes before Brad discovered he has the strength and endurance of ten men and shot off the front. Dug, feeling good, followed close behind.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t feeling so hot. My knees were hurting worse, and I just couldn’t work up any energy. Kenny, who is one of the nicest and most decent people I have ever met, stayed with me for at least 15 minutes as person after person passed us. Eventually, though, it became too much and he shot on ahead, playing gracious host to others in the massive party he had coordinated.

The truth is, though, I no longer really wanted any company. I was descending into the eleventh circle of hell (yep, there are eleven now), and was building a list of things I didn’t like at all. The list was extensive and I’m afraid I can’t remember everything in it, but here are the parts that I recall:

  • I didn’t like people who rode by without saying anything: Look, we may not know each other because this is such an enormous group ride (60 people!!!), but we’re still riding the White Rim, in the same direction, on the same day. Would it hurt to say “Hi” as you went by?
  • I didn’t like people who said encouraging things as they rode by: Don’t tell me I’m looking good. If I were looking good, you wouldn’t be able to pass me. When I’m looking good, I can clean your clock. And don’t tell me it’s a beautiful day for a ride. It’s a beautiful day for not riding, that’s what it’s a beautiful day for.
  • I didn’t like people who asked me how I’m doing: I’m going four miles per hour on an easy flat stretch. Isn’t it pretty clear how I’m doing?
  • I didn’t like how I was feeling: I was beginning to suffer some distress that only a latrine would cure. And there wasn’t a latrine for miles and miles and miles yet.
  • I didn’t like my bike: I thought I had set my bike up to have the saddle like on my other bikes, but I guess I didn’t get it right, because my knees were hurting like crazy. Both of them, right along the top. The main thought in my brain for about five hours was, “Does this pain mean my saddle is too high, too low, too far forward, or too far back?” The accompanying thought was, “And does it really matter, since I plan to never ride a bike again as soon as I finish this thing?”
  • I didn’t like the terrain: From mile 65 – 85, you’re riding on a choppy, rocky surface that just batters you constantly. It’s like riding on cobblestones, except the cobblestones are made out of sandstone. And there are giant potholes everywhere. And the cracks between cobblestones are about eight inches wide. And every alteranate cobblestone sticks up about four inches higher than its adjoining cobblestone.
  • I didn’t like being called “Fatty. At all.


I was living with all this, though, because of a memory: there’s a ten-mile rolling section that always has a tailwind. You can cruise that section at 25-30mph. It’s wonderful.

This time, though, there was a headwind.

Yes, a headwind. I’m still outraged at this audacious betrayal.

I rode it at about 10mph.

Sometimes, 5mph.

And internally, things were not getting better.

I arrived at Musselman Arch—the last place everyone was supposed to gather for water before finishing the ride—completely blown. However, I did still have plenty of water—my camelback felt like it was a third full, and I had a full bottle besides. And I really needed to get to a toilet.

So I rolled in—by my estimation, I was one of the last ten people to arrive—and saw Brad, Dug, and Bry taking shelter in what shade they could find.

Dug did not look good.

I’ll let Dug tell his story tomorrow.

Bry and Brad, on the other hand, seemed happy as could be. “Hey, Fatty, where’s your big smile?” Bry—who is, I should point out, an incredibly nice guy who has never said anything mean to me, even when I stupidly caused him to crash a few years ago—asked.

I flipped him off.

To get a sense of how I felt at the time, consider: this is the first time I’ve flipped anyone off in my adult life.

I headed back onto the trail. I knew there was a toilet no more than five miles away.


Last Climb

I will not go into the details of my time at the latrine at the bottom of the Shafer climb, but I will say this: I would previously not have expected it to be possible to be overwhelmed with joy at the sight of a toilet.

Then it was time to do the big climb up Shafer.

The best way to not get demoralized by Shafer is this: Never, ever, ever take a good look at it. It’s just a cliff—a big cliff that switches back and forth for pretty much ever. It’s steep; it’s loose. It’s evil.

It’s the only way out.

I knew I wouldn’t be climbing fast, so I intentionally started the climb in my granny gear, and just stayed there. This was not a bad strategy; I managed to ride practically the whole thing. I just ignored the people passing me. Pretended they weren’t there at all.

And then Bill—the only person in the world who may be a nicer, more decent guy than Kenny—caught me.

“Man, I am so slow!” he said, as he easily passed.

I will not repeat what I said to Bill, but you can safely assume that it was out of character, and was very likely nastier than events warranted.

Eventually—oh, so eventually—I got to the top of Shafer. All that was left to do was ride the nice, rolling pavement for about seven miles back to the tent , where—instead of taking a nice shower and laying down on a bed, like I would if we had a hotel room—I’d need to break camp. Grrrr.

Here’s the thing, though: That pavement was endless. And it didn’t roll, either. It just climbed and climbed and climbed. It was the most dispiriting part of the whole ride.

And then, from out of nowhere, Kenny pulled up ahead of me. “Let me pull you for a while,” he said. I got in as close as I could, hunkered down, and drafted my little heart out. I noticed Kenny was frequently looking off to the right where he could see our shadows, then feathering his brakes whenever he saw I was starting to drop back more than a foot or so.

I tell you, Kenny is the nicest, most decent guy in the world.


PS: The King and Queen of Shafer

Kenny asked me to choose a King and Queen of Shafer for this edition of RAWROD. I figure I’d still be out on that road if it weren’t for him, so here are my picks.

  • The King of Shafer: Linde Smith picked RAWROD 2006 as his first 100-mile MTB ride. And he did it on a singlespeed. And he has MS. Personally, I think it’s a little bit of overkill to contract MS to get the title “King of Shafer,” but that’s just me.
  • The Queen of Shafer: Serina Warner did the whole ride on a singlespeed. And she’s really nice. And she did the ride with a big ol’ swollen arm, due to the bee sting she had got the day before. And she didn’t sing opera at all during the whole ride. Which counts for a lot.

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