Hypothetically Speaking

08.1.2006 | 1:12 pm

I want to be perfectly clear: everything about this whole post is hypothetical. It is not based on any real person, and besides, that person wouldn’t want me to betray his or her trust by blogging about his or her dilemma in a public forum. If in fact that hypothetical person is not me.

If that person existed, I mean. Which he or she does not. Because this is a hypothetical situation.

Are we clear on that?


The (Hypothetical) Situation: Perspective 1

Suppose, for a moment, that you—though of course this is not about you, nor about anyone real, for this is a hypothetical situation—had signed up for a bike race. It’s a really difficult bike race, and as a realist, this hypothetical version of you knew that there’s a very good chance that you may not even start it, much less finish it.

So when you hypothetically signed up for it, you didn’t tell anybody, not even hypothetical people.

Now suppose that the race is getting close. Maybe it’s a few weeks away, maybe it’s a couple months away. You realize that you’re borderline: you might be able to finish it if you have a good day. Or you might completely implode and have to be carried off the course on a stretcher if you have a bad day.

What do you do?

  • Option 1: Do the Race. You could take a chance and do the race. For one thing, it would surprise everyone you know that you’re doing the race, since you’ve done a very good job of concealing the fact that you’ve signed up for it. The surprise alone is worth quite a bit. Even if you don’t finish the race, you’ll have some stories to tell.
  • Option 2: Don’t Do the Race. You didn’t tell anyone you signed up for this race for a very good reason: you didn’t want to embarrass yourself by bailing out. And now you can bail out, avoid suffering, and avoid the possibility of DNF-ing a race.
  • Option 3: Do Part of the Race. What if you went to the race and just did as much as you could do before you blew up? Of course, there’s the risk of getting caught up in the excitement and becoming unwilling to pull the plug even though it’s prudent.

Quite a conundrum. Now let’s look at it from another perspective.


The (Hypothetical) Situation: Perspective 2

Suppose you are no longer the hypothetical guy who has hypothetically signed up for a hypothetical race (actually, the race is for sure not hypothetical, but we won’t specify which race it is, just to be extra-vague). Now you are a hypothetical friend/acquaintance/spouse/sibling/whatever, who, for unstated (and quite possibly hypothetical) reasons, this potential racer has hypothetically confided to.

What do you do?

  • Option 1: Tell Her or Him Not to Race. Obviously, this person is conflicted about doing the race, and this race is not a trivial effort. If s/he’s not really into it, s/he probably shouldn’t do it. (You know, this “s/he” construction is fully lame. Did you know that Finnish doesn’t have gendered pronouns? All pronouns are gender-neutral, and nouns and stuff don’t get genderified, either. On the downside, the language does have 23 nominal declensions and genitive postpositions and other parts of speech that English speakers have never even considered.)
  • Option 2: Tell Her or Him to Race. How do you know whether you’re capable of completing the race if you don’t try? At least if you try and don’t finish, you’ll know where you stand. Or, more likely, you’ll know where you lay.
  • Option 3: List All the Options and Completely Avoid Offering Any Actual Practical Advice. Hm. This option appeals to me. Or at least it would if this situation weren’t hypothetical. Which it is.

Your advice? Your hypothetical advice, I mean.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 1:29 pm

    There are two things to consider here. The hypothetical Advisee has asked the hypothetical Advisor for advice, implying Advisee some respect for actions, style or possibly even character of Advisor. Advisor MUST suggest that Advisee at least start the race. To do otherwise implies Advisor doesn’t think Advisee is up to it, or worse, that Advisor is admitting the race is hypothetically too tough for them.

    This issue SEEMS complicated, but it is nearly the same situation as riding with a buddy, and needing to agree on the longer, more difficult route versus the shorter, easier route.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 1:32 pm

    i signed up for the chicago marathon and have no intention of actually doing it.  i did it because i wanted to impress my running friends that told me "you can do it.  there’s people way fatter than you running it."  however, i just did a tri-century last weekend with them and absolutely obliterated them.  now that they’re impressed, there’s no reason to jack myself up running a marathon.if hypothetical race is something the hypothetical person has always wanted to do and might be close to actually being in shape for, DO IT!  you can always go slow or have a pretend crash so you DNF and try again next year.

  3. Comment by Sue | 08.1.2006 | 1:46 pm

    For me, Saturday’s pre-ride of stage 6 of the tour of utah, provided a similar cunundrum. If I ride, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to finish it, and if I do finish it, I will have been suffering like a dog.
    Further, I have an IDENTICAL problem with the E100, which is in about 3 weeks. I did indeed suffer Saturday, near to my breaking point. Saturday was a cakewalk compared to the E100.
    To be honest, at this point, I don’t even want to ride the E100, but I aleady paid, so I’m obligated. I’ll ride, I’ll suffer, I’ll DNF, and it will bother me all year.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 2:20 pm

    I’d say, "Do the Race . . .In your mind".

  5. Comment by Geoff | 08.1.2006 | 2:24 pm

    When in doubt, RACE!  It will always been a learning experience and make you faster for the next one.  When giving advice, always tell them to RACE!  There’s no downside for you.  If they have a good experience, they will consider you a wise sage.  If not,  you get to offer up lame advice on how to get faster for their next race, while feeling vaguely superior.  Ummmmm to sum it up……  RACE! 

  6. Comment by craig | 08.1.2006 | 2:54 pm

    I have a solution.  Encourage your friend to do the race. Take your friend out cycling, share your special clif shot bloks I sent. Do not be selfish elden.  When your friend is feeling good and strong, just tell them they must have ‘ridden themselves into shape’.  Ha Ha.  That’s a good one.  Yes. That’s just what Ivan used to say. 

  7. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 3:31 pm

    when situations like this come about, always, ALWAYS, consult
    the magic 8-ball.

  8. Comment by quickKarl | 08.1.2006 | 3:44 pm

    Race.. I’ve DNF 3 races this year,(my 1st year Racing) but each one I’ve done better and learned more. My next will be finished..:)

  9. Comment by TIMOTHY | 08.1.2006 | 4:08 pm

    If a hypothetical racer signs up for a non-hypothetical race, is it possible to only hypothetically DNF?  If you can race for real and only hypothetically DNF, I would to that.  Otherwise, just go race, for tis’ better to have raced and lost than never to have raced at all.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 4:09 pm

    If it’s me in hypothetical 1, I race, because I’m not very smart and pain doesn’t really register very well in my lizzard brain.  If it’s there, you do it, or die trying.  Pretty simple.
    If it’s me in hypothetical 2, I tell the hypothetical advisee to quit being a pussy and race, because I don’t really care about his thoughts and feelings, as emotions don’t really register very well in my lizzard brain, except for hungry and angry.  The race is there, he should do it.  The only way to stop being pathetic, is to stop being pathetic.  Sitting at home pondering how it would have been so unpathetic to do that race you got registered for… well, that’s just pathetic. 
    And yes, hungry is an emotion.  Ask any lizzard.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 4:14 pm

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to give my advice (I’m assuming the hypothetical race involves bicycles):
    1) Beg a (real) friend to ride the race with the (hypothetical) person. They should commit to ride together and just try to finish the race.
    2) The hypothetical person should start the race riding as hard as they can and just see what happens. This has three benefits: 1) they can claim, "hey I was in 3rd place at first, but then I started having a bad day. . ." 2) It makes the race very good training. 3) This strategy will ensure that the race is relatively short for the hypothetical person, as they will probably completely blow up after about 2 hours.
    3) Just for fun, try to figure out some way of cheating like crazy. For example, I saw a guy at the 12 hour race I did pull a classic cheating strategy: He would complete a lap and ride through the start/finish area, and then after he rode a little way around the coruse, he would turn off and go back to his rest area. He would hang out at the rest area for the amount of time it would have taken him to ride the course, then he would go back out on the course ahead of the start/finish area. He would then ride through teh start/finish area and go actually ride the course. I saw him repeat this about 5 times over the 12 hours.
    He was being so casual about it I figured he was going to tell the race organizers to scratch his results, and he must have (or someone else busted him) because he race number didn’t appear in the results of the race.

  12. Comment by jim | 08.1.2006 | 4:30 pm

    My ESP has this to say…(hypothetically):
    Tell Dug to go ahead and race the Tour of Utah.  Stories of failure are often more interesting than success anyway.  Besides, can you imagine the bragging rights if he does finish.
    P.S.  Hypothetical ESP is very unreliable.

  13. Comment by barry1021 | 08.1.2006 | 5:09 pm

    Senor Fuentes, those special Clif Bloks that you sent FC wouldn’t happen to be the type you put on your scrotum instead of in your mouth would they? Just askin’.
    Excellent post FC. I always have something to ponder or add to my knowledge base. I never knew that about Finnish.

  14. Comment by Mark | 08.1.2006 | 5:20 pm

    Just do it.
    Some of us live vicariusly through the hypothetical person and will never have the courage to try racing.
    Others of us, just like to read the hypothetical person’s blog for the descriptions of pain/suffering but in the end triumphs.  Take for example if a hypothetical person was riding down the side of a mountain and their top tube broke.  Most "normal" people would not have finished the ride and would have called in their support staff to pick them up.  But not the hypothetical person, he/she soldiered on and finished the ride to work.
    Others of us are considering racing bet fear failure.  This hypothetica person could be a role model for those.  Either the hypothetical person finishes or DNFs.  But when blogging about the experience could tell the story of self doubt but overcoming the self doubt and finishing, or the story of giving it their best effort but still DNFing, but how they gave it their best effort and what they learned from the experience and it made them a better person.
    Now if the hypothetical person doesn’t blog and isn’t the Fat Cyclist, I don’t give a crap whether the hypothetical person races or races not!

  15. Comment by david | 08.1.2006 | 5:27 pm

    "declensions and genitive postpositions and other parts"
    Please try to watch your language, I like to read your Blog at work. You need to be more sensitive, and keep these posts work friendly.

  16. Comment by Lofgrans | 08.1.2006 | 5:37 pm

    I have a rule with my husband. Since we’re broke and scraping every penny to pay for races, if you’ve registered you ride. Don’t waste money. I also make him finish the race (unless caked in blood or something is poking out in an unnatural way, I’m not that mean) largely again because of the money, but I also don’t want to hear him complain and hypothesis "if" this and "if" that when he doesn’t finish. So race, suffer, finish, conquer.

  17. Comment by Olivia | 08.1.2006 | 6:56 pm

    The hypothetical man who says "I can," and the hypothetical man who says "I can’t," are both right.

  18. Comment by jim | 08.1.2006 | 7:28 pm

    On a philosopical note:
    If a hypothetical man rides a race…does he feel pain?

  19. Comment by Baby Blue in Texas | 08.1.2006 | 7:37 pm

    What if a hypothetical person is stupid as a box of rocks when it comes to racing but loves coming to a site to read about it and doesn’t know what DNF stands for?  Does that hypothetical person get trashed by the hypothetical person that’s not sure if they should race?
    I, being a real person, think the hypothetical person (that’s a pain to type so much in a comment section- we’ll shorten to hypo) should race.  Of course, I agree with Botched’s No. 3.  The hypo person would just need to be smart enough to hide from site.  But just imagine if the hypo person finishes and has a better hypo time than he would ever imagine.  Of course the hypo person could blow up at the starting line, nothing is a given.  Still, the blog stories would make some great reading.
    Trust in your abilities,

  20. Comment by craig | 08.1.2006 | 7:44 pm

    B21 - maybe they are the same.  Or maybe they are gelatinous cubes of Jan’s ‘uber’ blood.  Hypothetically

  21. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.1.2006 | 7:47 pm

    rene – "DNF" stands for "Did Not Finish," and is the acronym put in race results for people who did not finish. Similarly, DNS stands for "Did Not Start." "DFL" stands for something else altogether, though.

  22. Comment by Baby Blue in Texas | 08.1.2006 | 7:58 pm

    Fat Cyclist:
    The hypothetical person says:   THANKS!

  23. Comment by Unknown | 08.1.2006 | 8:14 pm

    After a long and tiring tax season in which I begrudgingly ignored FC, I have finally caught up reading every post and comment (yes I have FCS) and can now rejoin the current ranks. 
    If I were a hypothetical person, it would bother me if I signed up and didn’t at least attempt the ride.  I would much rather have a DNF than a DNS and always wonder what would have hypothetically happened.  If I bonked or otherwise had a bad ride, when anyone asks about the hypothetical race, I would just give them a querious look and pretend I have no idea what they are talking about.
    P.S.  That bike rack is a work of art FC!

  24. Comment by Stephanie | 08.1.2006 | 9:36 pm

    Here’s the determining factor.
    If the hypothetical person didn’t race… is there any possibility that they’d be kicking them self the day of the race for bailing at the last minute?  I’d rather at least try and get wasted, then pull out and regret it for a very long time.  (i’m still not over a race i didn’t enter back in  May.)

  25. Comment by Zed | 08.1.2006 | 9:50 pm

    Unless the race poses some sort of high injury or death risk, why not do it? Is DNF’ing really so bad?
    If that hypothetical person were to hypothetically bonk or have a miserable race (note the subjunctive mood), it would provide the rest of us with an obviously fictional  but great story. It would be a nonexistant adventure, if it hypothetically happened.
    But I do agree with Botched, you ought to volunteer to do it with him or her, whomever it isn’t.

  26. Comment by T | 08.1.2006 | 9:53 pm

    Double guilt s/he in doing the race.  Remind s/he of the entry fee s/he paid to get into Leadville and go on to remind s/he that someone that wanted to do the race will not be able to because s/he made it in.

  27. Comment by Bill | 08.2.2006 | 5:43 am

    Just do the hypothetical Leadville 100 race. You will be glad you did and you can use it as training for other hypothetical races.

  28. Comment by Unknown | 08.2.2006 | 12:35 pm

    Go ahead Fatty and ride. You may not win Leadville but you gotta ride. Watch out for the "Drunk Cyclist", I’ve got money on him and I hear he’s in really good shape this year. Good Luck.

  29. Comment by Unknown | 08.2.2006 | 3:17 pm

    You can find your answer here.

  30. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 08.2.2006 | 7:05 pm

    If you’re the advisee… Do the race you sissy!
    If you’re the advisor… Don’t listen to Elden, he’ll get you maimed.

  31. Comment by STACEY | 08.2.2006 | 7:29 pm

    It largely depends.  In addition to the consideration that must be given to the (hypothetical)potential of injury (might you get really hurt due to lack of training?), you should also consider the poor schmucks who (hypothetically) wanted to do the race, but couldn’t because the field is already filled (I’m going to suppose that the hypothetical race is a long-ass road race in northern UT/WY rather than Leadville). 
    I found myself in the same position just before taking the Bar exam (re: a decidedly non-hypothetical entry into lotoja – one which I lucked into because someone dropped out, letting me in from the waitlist), but decided that there were a lot of people who really wanted to ride it, and that it would be unfair for me to drop out. 
    Plus, I didn’t want to be a pansy.

  32. Comment by Unknown | 08.2.2006 | 7:44 pm

    What kind of an IDIOT/WEENIE would enter a race and not race it–even if s/he had not a snowball’s chance in hell of completing the race?  Geez, this cleverly disguised "hypothetical" situation sounds a little like your sissified brother-in-law, what with his major bonks and remarkable failures (yes–I’ve been reading your blog for some time, now)  to adequately prepare him/herself for h/is/er race because s/he has a family and works way too much, and owns large amount of Hostess Snack Cakes stock and does his utmost to positively influence that bottom line with h/is/er personal consumptive power.  Oh, wait, I guess s/he’s a he, not a s/he.  Or his s/he?  Afterall, DNS or DNF.  Which is worse?


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