Return on Investment

09.8.2006 | 4:44 pm

On Wednesday I asserted that I would write on both Thursday and Friday. I had very specific topics in mind for those days. Here are the things I planned to talk about:

  • Thursday: A fun new contest. I expected more participation in this one than in any contest I have done to this point. Not so much because the prize was great (although the prize was in fact pretty great) but because I was pretty sure that the idea of this contest would catch everyone’s imagination. However, the contest required the participation of a certain outside party, whose partner did not give permission to go ahead with this contest. I am being vague about what the contest is, who the certain outside party is and why permission from a partner would need to be granted, because I hope that at some point in the future this contest will still happen, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Anyway, that’s why I didn’t write yesterday. Sorry.
  • Friday (Today): Today, I was going to write about my plan for riding in the Lotoja event, and about how it would be an interesting experience to go do a ride where I seriously had no finishing time goals or completion ambitions whatsoever. That is, I didn’t care how long it took to do the ride, or whether I even completed the ride; I was simply going for the sake of a roadtrip and a long ride with friends.

Then, Wednesday afternoon, I crunched some numbers and made a decision, which means that today’s topic changed, too.

Why Do I Race?
Until Wednesday, I had never considered the "why" in "Why Do I Race?" It didn’t seem a question worth exploring. The thing is, though, take a fast guy who races (Kenny) and a slow guy who races (me). Kenny’s reasons for racing are bound to be different than my reasons for racing, right? And my reasons for racing, while compelling for me, must not be very compelling to someone who chooses to not race at all.

So the question is: why do I race? What benefits do I get? In order of importance:

  • To spend time with friends: preparing for, talking about, and doing the race. Yeah, believe it or not, the road trip aspect of a race is my favorite thing about racing. I like the trip there, the trip back, and hanging out. This is perhaps one of the main reasons I look forward to the Leadville 100 each year: it’s a big trip where I get to hang out with my friends for four days. And because I’ve been doing this race for so long, I’ve made a lot of friends associated with that race, and make more every year. For me, going to Leadville is like going to Cheers.
  • To test myself. At some point in every race I’ve ever done, there comes a point where I am in pain. In short races, that pain is mostly in the legs and lungs, and is pretty intense. In long races, the pain can be everywhere and anywhere — including and especially in my head — and may even migrate around a bit. I like this pain, because I am pretty good at living with it, which to me feels like I’m pretty good at beating it. Even while I’m suffering, I get an enormous amount of satisfaction thinking, "This hurts, but it’s not stopping me."
  • To have an adventure / to have a story to tell. While I expect that most people have at least an aspect of the first two items I listed as motivation for racing, this one may be a little less common. The thing is, though, even as I ride, I’m usually composing pieces of the story in my head. I’m usually writing the conclusion to the story in my head, too. That conclusion changes several times during the race.
  • To win! No, just kidding. I know I’m not going to win.

So, there you have them: the benefits of racing, as I see them. Now let’s look at the flip side of this coin.

The Costs of Racing
If racing were nothing but upside, I’d be entering every race in the world, right? But there are a couple of things that keep me from doing that, once again in order of importance to me:

  • Time. Time away from the family and time off work (especially when you’re fairly new in a job and haven’t yet accumulated a lot of vacation time) are the biggest gating factors for a race (or for any event)
  • Money. Entry fees, gas money (or plane money), food, hotels: By the time I add it all up, most big races cost me between $500 and $1000, depending on how long I have to be gone, and how far I have to travel.

Return on Investment
So, when you think about it, for any given race, the benefits I’m going to gain have got to outweigh the costs: I’ve got to get good value for my time and money.

And so I’m not going to Lotoja. Here’s why:

  1. Costs were high. I would be away from my family for three full days to do a 12-hour race that is in actuality not a race at all. I would be spending upwards of $500 in hotel, gas, and food (I am ignoring the entry fee; that’s a sunk cost, spent before I had done a cost/benefit analysis).
  2. Benefits were low. The "test myself" aspect was never really a component of this ride; I already know I can do this kind of distance and difficulty, and wasn’t shooting for a fast time. The "spend time with friends" part was the main driver for me going on this trip, and it turns out that instead of a member of a road trip with the guys, I’d be an awkward third wheel (or, technically, a fifth wheel) on a romantic second honeymoon / double date (which just happens to have a big ride stuck in the middle). No thanks.

So, instead of Lotoja, tomorrow I’m going on an epic mountain bike ride with Kenny and Brad. I’ll be spending time with friends, definitely testing myself (Kenny and Brad are each roughly four times as strong as I am), and should have a great story to tell this Monday. Meanwhile, I’m earning massive brownie points with the wife by being gone only six hours instead of three days, and saving around $500, to boot.

Hey, run the numbers yourself; I think you’ll see the math checks out.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 09.8.2006 | 5:10 pm

    You have blown me away more times in the past month than in all of the rest of the years I have known you combined.  Plus, six hours on the mountain bike sounds like remarkably more fun than any time on the road bike.  Both (road and bike) are four letter words. 
    Another thought: Six hours of anything with Brad and Kenny and bikes sounds more like torture than fun.  Good luck with that.
    Good work, Fatty. 

  2. Comment by mtnbound | 09.8.2006 | 5:18 pm

    I am impressed!  Turning down a road race/ride this late in the game after already paying the entry takes guts.  Once I pay the entry fee, I feel committed no matter what (like Dug getting knocked down and still doing Lotoja).  Anyway, an epic mtn bike ride during this time of year is irresistible and saved up brownie points are worth their weight in gold.
    Mtnbike W

  3. Comment by Unknown | 09.8.2006 | 5:27 pm

    I dipped my toe back into racing this year after 12+ years away to see if i had "it". It, being any sort of prowess at something I was very good at in the past. Also, for health reasons, as it is a great motivator to train, instead of just pedal away. Now that I’m on a new wonder drug, the weight is coming off, power returning, and a renewed vigor for racing has shown up . Cool beans.

  4. Comment by STACEY | 09.8.2006 | 6:05 pm

    GAAA!  You can’t post that…Not today!  Not three hours before I drive to Logan! 
    Now, I’m going to spend the next three hours rationalizing to myself why this is a good idea, while the ugly reality check you posted rings in the back of my head.
    Of course, I’ve never done this kind of distance, so at least I have *that* going for me…

  5. Comment by craig | 09.8.2006 | 6:06 pm

    So, to summarize, you wimped out. 

  6. Comment by mhywan | 09.8.2006 | 7:09 pm

    ROI – SCHMROI.  Don’t they call this "rationalization" in psychology? :-)
    Mark W – who has been wanting to race but keep coming up with excuses not to…

  7. Comment by mhywan | 09.8.2006 | 7:10 pm

    argggh – i cannot post comments at all from Firefox!
    MarkW again

  8. Comment by Andrew | 09.8.2006 | 10:50 pm

    Whether you made the right choice on the ROI depends on the marginalization in regards to capital flow and expenditures. It also has something to do with incremental renumeration vis-s-vis liquidization, if done using the Walmart paradigm.
    I have no idea what that means, if anything, but it sounded nicer than calling you a bagger and a wuss.

  9. Comment by Jsun | 09.8.2006 | 11:06 pm

    far out man,  you are becoming a true soul rider,  Can’t you just feel the harmonization surrounding your biking chi?
    that said I have also been riding the soul searchers rig (29er rigid SS bike) and its not everything it was when I was 48inches high and riding a 20 inch ’rigid’ bmx,  I will give it a winter’s worth just to see    you were HC in LT

  10. Comment by barry1021 | 09.8.2006 | 11:24 pm

    No offense, but this finely written analysis was just a cover for the only reason you are not going–
    I’d be an awkward third wheel (or, technically, a fifth wheel) on a romantic second honeymoon / double date (which just happens to have a big ride stuck in the middle)
    And man, that is a VERY GOOD reason!!! Yuck!!!

  11. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 09.8.2006 | 11:27 pm

    B21: Bingo.

  12. Comment by UltraRob | 09.8.2006 | 11:49 pm

    I had similiar reasons for not doing the Durango MTB 100 this year except for the 5th wheel one.  After doing atempting RAAM, my bank account is not looking so good.  I just couldn’t justify the cost of doing it.  Then I figured out I didn’t have time to train because I had ignored so many other things while training so many hours for RAAM.

  13. Comment by Zed | 09.9.2006 | 2:58 am

    About your statement that Lotoja "is in actuality not a race at all": dead on. At least, for the majority of the 1,000 riders in it.
    P.S. Does this mean we’re not getting a review of the Ibis?
    P.P.S. If you’re interested in doing it as part of a relay team next year just let me know. I think I might know a way or two to reduce the ‘I’ in your ROI.

  14. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 09.9.2006 | 3:39 pm

    If there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s that I no longer enjoy the big monster ride just for the sake of the big monster ride. Oh sure, at first it’s fun, but eventually you’re just suffering. The other thing I’ve learned is that if you’re suffering with someone you know, it’s more fun than suffering alone.

  15. Comment by Unknown | 09.9.2006 | 4:30 pm

    Botched – suffuring alone off-the-back is the worst thing. Nothing sez loser or bad training than being one pedal stroke in front of the SAG wagon.

  16. Comment by Duane | 09.9.2006 | 10:24 pm

    So, how was the ride vs Lotoja? I think I spotted you coming down the Provo river trail around noon. (All I saw was a Reese’s jersey and a yellow bike)  I didn’t want to upset the momentum of the epic ride so I simply shouted ‘Fatty!’ as I was climbing up the canyon.

  17. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 09.11.2006 | 10:16 am

    Fantastic, I read this late Friday and then managed to stay off my bike for the entire weekend using varying combinations from your excuse mill.  Now I feel depressed at the realisation that my goal is 3 days closer, but at the same time, at least 3 days further away.

  18. Comment by Unknown | 09.11.2006 | 9:17 pm

    I think you need to buy a license from USAC (either Norba or Uscf) if you want to enter ‘races"…I mean…technically…the fun rides are often ridden like races, but, they really aren’t!

  19. Comment by Kevin | 09.11.2006 | 10:09 pm

    As long as folks are sharing their 9/11 stories. Not bike related, but Fatty thought I should share here. I was in an offsite with an exec and other senior "leaders" of my company. We are west coast, and it started early, so the planes had hit, and one tower had fallen. We were all sitting around some conference room with the TV on. The second tower falls. A little while later, the most senior exec gets up to talk to all of us who have, understandably, not started the meeting yet. He asks what we think we should do, vis a vis the ALL DAY offsite. He’s getting the "not really into this" vibe, pretty heavy from everyone. Then he lets it go. I shit you not, I heard this, in regard as to whether we  should have leadership building exercises and draw consensus-driven diagrams meant to imply strategy, while the NYC was still in chaos. Not two hours into the post 9/11 world, before I heard that my brother who works in downtown NY was safe, I heard this argument for the first time:"If we don’t have this meeting, the terrorists will have won."


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