I am Extraordinarily Persuasive

06.5.2006 | 10:36 pm

 If you ever met me in person, you would be struck by what a nice person I am. You would be flattered by the way I seem interested in the things you have to say. You would be amused by my interesting anecdotes. You would be impressed by the way I emphasize similarities between our points of view, while politely—yet openly and honestly—discussing our differences fairly and openly. You would tell your friends later what a thoughtful, friendly, intelligent (for I am very, very intelligent), and entertaining person I am. You would look forward to the next time we met.

And yet, I can get cranky.

If I don’t get out on a ride fairly often—three days off my bike is the outer limit—I stop being fun to be around. I stop chuckling at your stupid jokes, I no longer pretend that what you have to say is relevant, interesting, or important. I start saying the cutting things that occur to me. If you met me when I was cranky, you would think less of yourself by the end of our conversation. Much, much less.

By last Saturday, I had been off the bike for four days. Suffice it to say that I was no longer very nice. Further suffice it to say that I am capable of shooting flesh-burning laser beams out of my eyes, and was getting confused about whether it was really morally objectionable to use these lasers.

My wife (who has a permanent exemption from my crankiness, because I am [very, very] intelligent) understood what was going on, and made the following suggestion, in spite of the fact that we had both been working on unpacking boxes every waking moment since we have moved into our house:

“Why don’t you go on a little ride? It will help you get your balance back.”

In case I have not mentioned this before, my wife has a heart of gold.


One Hour

“Remember, though,” my wife caveated (yes, I just turned “caveat” into a verb). “There’s a neighborhood party at 6:00. It’s 5:30 now, so I don’t expect you to be there for the start. But I’ll have the kids with me and will need some help, so just go riding for an hour, OK?

“No problem,” I tell my wife as I suited up. “I’ll just ride up American Fork Canyon for 30 minutes, then turn around.”


Memory Does Not Serve

My house is a mildly rolling four miles from the mouth of American Fork Canyon, which is part of the Alpine Loop, my favorite road ride in the world. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to do the whole loop, because it’s been close to three years since I’ve done this ride. Still, I figured just riding up to Tibble Fork Reservoir would be a nice little ride.

The thing is, though, either I’m in much worse shape than when I last did this ride (probable) or I didn’t remember how much of a climb it is from the mouth of American Fork Canyon to Tibble Fork. Regardless, by the time 30 minutes had elapsed, I hadn’t reached the turnoff to Tibble. “That’s OK,” I told myself. “With this being all uphill, I’ll be able to blast home in twenty minutes or less.”

So then I got to the Tibble Fork turnoff. Time to turn around.

“I don’t feel like turning around,” I said, aloud, to the squirrel roadkill I was passing.

“So keep going,” the squirrel carcass said.

Who am I to argue with a talking dead squirrel? Besides, I’d just go until Pine Hollow, and then turn around. I’d be a little late, but I knew my wife would understand.


I am Not Afraid

Every time I climb the American Fork side of the Alpine Loop, I puzzle over the question: which way is more difficult to ride the Alpine Loop: climbing the American Fork side (which is a more gradual climb, but never lets up), or the Provo Canyon side (which is blood-spurting-out-of-your-ears-steep for the first 2.3 miles, and then has easy intervals in between each steep pitch)? It’s not an easy question, and is, I expect, subjective: do you prefer long, steady climbs or short, steep climbs? For myself, I think the American Fork side is more difficult. Which is not to say I prefer the Provo Canyon side, because I like difficult.

And then, before I knew it, I was at Pine Hollow. Time to turn around.

And that’s when a thought occurred to me: If I turned around now, would it be because I needed to get home, or because I didn’t have the strength to go on? Was I just making an excuse, when the reality was that I simply no longer had the cycling chops to keep climbing?

Defiantly, I kept going. I’d prove to all and sundry that I could keep going. I’d ride at full intensity to the turnoff where you go right to go to Timpooneke campground or go left to continue to the Alpine Loop summit.

After all, my wife knew better than to expect me home in just one hour. Or an hour and fifteen minutes, for that matter.


Scientific Inquiry

I shifted into third gear, stood up on my pedals, and rode as hard as I could to the Timpooneke turnoff. I was interested to discover, upon reaching that turnoff that:

  • There were patches of snow on the ground. I was only a few miles from the summit. I wondered if there would be a lot of snow up there, or if the Ridge Trail would be rideable. That would be very useful information for mountain biking next week.
  • I still had gas in the tank. In fact, I felt great. Really, it would be a crime to turn around and go downhill when I’m climbing so strong. And turning around when I was so close to the summit? That would just be weak.

And after all, my wife and I have been married for almost eighteen years now. She knows me well enough that she’d understand that I couldn’t turn around, not now. Not this close to the top.


Big Finish

There’s a steep hairpin turn that signals you’re one mile from the summit of the Alpine loop. I always take that final mile at sprint speed, giving it all I’ve got. Through the pain of that effort, I kept thinking one simple thought: “It’s good to be home.” I circled once in the summit parking lot and then rode back home as fast as I dared. And while it had taken me an hour and a half to make it to the top of the Alpine Loop, it took only half an hour to get home.

I showered at top speed and hustled over to the party…where my wife was just leaving—the twins had been a pain, and my wife had had enough.

I was preparing to explain myself, how I just wanted to keep riding so bad, and that I need to train for my upcoming races, and how I’ve been doing nothing but working (knowing full well that my excuses were pretty lame), when my wife asked, “So, good ride?”


“Cool. Tell me about it later. Right now, though, let’s get the kids home.”

In case I have not mentioned this before, my wife has a heart of gold.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 06.5.2006 | 10:44 pm

    two things.
    first, a question: did you ever get above 30 mph on the descent? how’s that shimmy?
    second, i remember a time when you had ridden a lot. a whole lot (which is more than just a lot). we were in moab, we were eating at the fat something bbq place, and you were sitting next to brent hulme, the gary fisher/lemond/trek sales rep. you said something witty, and brent didn’t follow you.
    were you understanding and kind and gentle, since you had just spent the day riding your bike in moab with friends? um, no.
    you said "brent, seriously, try to keep up. someone please trade places with brent."
    i love that about you.

  2. Comment by Kenny | 06.6.2006 | 12:46 am

    you neglected to mention if there was still snow on the ridge. How about tibble to joy some time this week?

  3. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 1:25 am

    I’m pretty sure when my wife gives me the hall pass for a one hour ride, she is really expecting me back in 2 hours.  I’m surprised you didn’t drop Cascade Springs and add another climb to your ride.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 1:26 am

    Amazing.  Had I done what you pulled off, all I could have heard for the whole ride would have been "bang bang bang bang bang.  Bang bang bang.  Reeesh, reeesh, reeeeesh.  Bang bang bang bang."  What is that, you ask?  Why the sound of a gallows being constructed by a mightily pissed off woman.  I was an hour late getting home on Saturday from a 3 hour training ride (that I started at 5:30 AM, so as to not disturb the day too badly).  The thunderstorm was hellacious, and the headwind knocked probably 7 or 8 MPH off our speed on the return trip, over the course of something like an hour and a half.  The stop en route so one guy who was freezing could slam a coffee real quick took a few minutes too.  I totally blew out my training plan, pulling the bejeezus out of the paceline with another guy, similarly situated.  My punishment, as it were, wound up being a *much* longer list of yard and garden chores that took about 20 hours of work to complete.  I passed out at 8:00 PM last night, in my clothes on the bed. 
    Damn, what I give up for this stupid sport. 
    Maybe that’s why I’m a freakin’ prick, completely the opposite of you, Fatty.  Though it’s entirely possible I was a prick before starting. 

  5. Comment by sans auto | 06.6.2006 | 4:35 am

    I thought I was the only one with a wife that great.  She lets me read FC when I should be packing, I get to ride or run semi-frequently and she’s even encouraging me to ride my bike to UT instead of driving.
    Today an old married couple took us kayaking on the Columbia river.  They put my wife and I in the two man kayak and they each had a single.  After an hour in the boat I had only splashed her once, in response to her criticizing my stearing.  The old married couple concluded that our 4 years is just a beginning and we should make it for the long haul.  The next big test will have to be a tandem.
    So Fatty, sure your wife is forgiving, but can you two get along for 2 hours on a tandem pulling the twins in a trailer?

  6. Comment by Andrew | 06.6.2006 | 10:17 am

    She’s too good for you.

  7. Comment by Susie | 06.6.2006 | 1:16 pm

    You don’t deserve her.  You better reward her somehow and I don’t mean with sex!!!

  8. Comment by Jose | 06.6.2006 | 1:24 pm

    "Behind every great cyclist, there is a great woman." There are many types of them (women). I have being studying my friend’s women and they definitively influence the kind of riders they are. I don’t complaint about mine! (Just in case she reads this). It’s a strage influence; it is not a direct relationship. I mean, insecure women don’t make insecure riders, but they are generally “out of shape riders”. Overprotective women, yes, they make insecure riders, and so on. You should write about it. What kind of riders we are in relationship to our women?

  9. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 1:39 pm

    I was going out the door for a quick ride last night, when my wife said she would like to come with. Fine, let’s go. Now that she has stepped up from a walmart special to a real Specialized, she thinks she’s Jan Ullrich. Kinda rides like him too, slow RPM put tons of torque. Cool to have a live in riding partner that’s not afraid to climb.
    Al – BTW, you need to give the Mrs. some rope for to hang herself with. I just got a free pass due to the Mrs. coming home several hours late from volleyball. Due home at 9:00, actual time 2:00 am. Money in the bank for my next brain fart.

  10. Comment by jim | 06.6.2006 | 2:23 pm

    Maybe after 18 years I will have that kind of reaction from my lovely wife.  But being only 4 years in with twins myself, methinks I would have been skinned alive.

  11. Comment by barry1021 | 06.6.2006 | 2:49 pm

    Sorry to throw cold water on the "what a great woman" routine, but Mrs. FC is an enabler. By not holding FC to his promise, she is allowing him to remain in his child-like state in which he eschews responsibility, and puts himself above all others. She will have to learn to say no to him and hold him to his word or he will never grow up and take responsibility, and possibly go on a post office shooting spree or run for President of the United States, or both. I know this because I took Psych 101 once. Al may indeed be a prick, but at least he is a responsible prick. And thanks for the story Dug, I guess we won’t be seeing any Fisher/Lemond/Trek ads here anytime soon.
    On the other hand Mrs. FC may have no choice. It could be that FC has actually understated his crankiness:
    I am capable of shooting flesh-burning laser beams out of my eyes, and was getting confused about whether it was really morally objectionable to use these lasers.
     If we take FC literally here, and I see no reason why we should not, FC has reached husband nirvana, when the mate is forced to free up the partner from all responsibility because she can’t stand to be around him. This is an inherently unstable state, which can lead to husband purgatory, in which basic necessities like a cooked dinner and sex are withheld, but it appears that FC may have just found the delicate balance that let’s him have his proverbial cake and eat it too, whatever the hell that means.

  12. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 3:18 pm

    Barry, who needs sex or dinner?  I need to improve my lactate threshold, and I could use a bit of help with my finishing sprint. 
    And as for you, Boz, well, I’ve tried that approach.  The problem is, now that she has her own nice bike, (1) She wants to ride more.  A lot more; and, (2) she doesn’t view it as a 1:1 arrangement on time.  Her little 6 hour group touring ride, complete with restaurant stops and her chatty girlfriends last weekend, in her mind, is the same as me leaving the house in abject darkness, to bust my hump on a brutal training ride and get back home 20 minutes after she and the lad wake up.  You see?  She got her ride in, I got my ride in, now we’re even.  This is really messed up.  It’s going to end up with me sneaking out in the middle of the night, putting the lights on my bike and doing a hard 50 in pitch black before daybreak.  I’m sure there’s some way I’ll figure out how to turn that into a deficit… I’m guessing it’ll all end when she decides I’m probably cheating and she shoots me when I’m walking back into the house with the bike.  Man, there’s just no winning sometimes. 

  13. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 3:43 pm

    1 hour obviously means, ‘1 hour give or take contingencies’.  And with so many potential contingencies to take into account (head wind, catching a couple of flats [number of spare tubes + 1], passing a particularly interesting looking hill, getting into a ‘non-race’ with someone going up that hill, catching a peleton, joining the peleton for their full ride to avoid looking soft, finding out that you no longer know which city you are in) that really means _at least_ two hours (give or take a couple more hours).  Who could expect you to go to the bother of putting on your cycling gear and getting on the bike if you are going to be getting changed again in an hour?
    Barry says:
    > when the mate is forced to free up the partner from
    > all responsibility because she can’t stand to be around
    > him.
    And then be the perfect partner once you get your own way.  Unfortunately it works.  I am (subconsiously of course) also guilty of this.  Catbert (or was it Dogbert?) has put together a thesis on this in one of the Dilbert books.  I recommend it to those who have partners who actually expect them back in an hour when they say they are going for a one hour cycle.

  14. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 4:24 pm

    men are such selfish loathing bastards.
    welcome to the club.

  15. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 06.6.2006 | 4:46 pm

    I was kind of hoping the comments would center around the squirrel carcass.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 5:15 pm

    dug, I just had a convulsive fit of laughter that took me by surprise and made me spit on my laptop screen.
    Fatty, it must have been about a week without riding when I met you, huh?
    Example of Fatty being ‘open, polite, and entertaining’:
    Botched: I’m thinking about going to law school.
    Fatty: What’s wrong with you?  How old are you? What are you thinking? Do you have any tortillas in your camel back?
    P.S. Nevermind that e-mail I sent you last week.

  17. Comment by Unknown | 06.6.2006 | 6:07 pm

    Sorry, we just thought you ate the squirrel – wrapped in a tortilla you borrowed from Botched.

  18. Comment by barry1021 | 06.6.2006 | 6:25 pm

    Al said:
    Barry, who needs sex or dinner?  I need to improve my lactate threshold, and I could use a bit of help with my finishing sprint
    Well that goes a long way to explaining your temperament, Al.
    FC said:
    I was kind of hoping the comments would center around the squirrel carcass
    Pah! After Dug’s vision in the mountains and the fact that many of us grew up with Rocky and Bullwinkle, a talking squirrel, whether the flying type or roadkill, doesn’t merit a comment.

  19. Comment by Zed | 06.7.2006 | 1:58 am

    Al, if you’re still reading these comments, I just want you to know that I may have to do a similar arrangment with the middle-of-the-night ride. So if you happen to move to Idaho, let me know when you’re going. I’ll even wear the dorky reflective vest and draft behind you so the cars see us.

  20. Comment by Unknown | 06.7.2006 | 2:00 am

    men are such selfish loathing bastards.
    What the frick does that mean?  If it means we’re self-loathing, no, we’re not.  Those of us who are honest with ourselves realize we’re pigs.  Or dogs.  Or in the German, Schweinehunden.  Pigdogs.  It may sound like I’m downing myself, but I’m not.  I’m just being honest.  If you could imagine a labrador retriever capable of doing engineering or legal work, or carpentry, and less picky about food, you’d pretty much have imagined yourself a new race of men.  Of course if "selfish loathing" means that we’re selfish (true, again) and loathe others, again, I think it’s a mistaken conclusion.  It may sound like we loath a lot of stuff and people, but often, we’re just being honest about things and people that suck, kind of like how a pig comes by rolling in manure pretty honestly.  You could call pigs filthy, but to a pig, a certain level of sheer disgusting odium is quite pleasant.  Honesty often sounds like hate.  Usually it isn’t, we’re just used to other people lying to us about how much we each deserve to be loathed.  A certain type of gay guys seem to have a lot of loathing, but then they also tend to have a lot of admiration for fabulous and super things, two adjectives (and three emotions ) that are pretty much beyond my ability to comprehend.  
    Women, I find, are just as loathesome; but they hide it much better and sometimes make a lot of efforts to avoid being loathesome.  I could see living with a woman for 50 or 60 years before finding out she’s loathesome.   Most guys, they’ll let you know within 5 minutes they’re a degenerate.  Which is why, except for certain degenerate biker chicks I’m friends with, I prefer to ride with my male buddies.  
    And Barry, the thing about the temperament… well yeah.  If I had a better sprint and a higher lactate threshold, I’d definitely be a lot cooler with life and everything.  I’d probably get more sex and dinner too, though probably not in that order or on a 1:1 ratio.  So what I really need to do is to get more riding in and work on that sprint.  That’ll fix things, I’m sure of it.  That, or a new PowerTap.  Hey look!  Shiny things!

  21. Comment by barry1021 | 06.7.2006 | 2:45 am

    Hey Al
    I tried to read your new post below, but halfway through the stuff about pigs and loathsomeness, my head exploded. Sorry. Thought you’d want to know.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 06.8.2006 | 12:50 am


    I have been reading this blog for awhile and most of the time I find your remarks amusing. However, I think that your comments here, both regarding women and your wife, are obnoxious and not something to be proud of.

    Maybe you need to readjust your priorities — wife, family, friends FIRST.


  23. Comment by brendan | 06.8.2006 | 7:35 am

    FC – you are lucky.  I assumed this story would end with a certain amount of grovelling.  (well I feel a bit disappointed that it didn’t really).    But seriously, who would say they are just going to ride for 1 hour?  It’s never worth riding for that short a time IMHO – 90 minutes is the minimum.  On top of that, add 15-30 minutes contigency to set expectations right (can you tell I’m a consultant?).Oh and Al, take it easy mate.  Sounds like you need to go out for a ride about now…

  24. Comment by Unknown | 06.8.2006 | 3:21 pm

    Irritated, I’m sure when Al reads your comments he thinks "mission accomplished".

  25. Comment by barry1021 | 06.8.2006 | 8:55 pm

    Nor repeat after me, to the tune of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she repeats There’s no Place like home:


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