Oh, the Pain. Oh, the Embarrassment

02.27.2007 | 6:56 am

There’s something strange about being an Extremely Popular A-List Blogger like myself: you (by which I mean I) are constantly on the hunt for things to write about. Because every time you (by which I mean I) finish an entry, you suspect that you have, in fact, just written the very last words you will ever have to say on the subject of biking.  

In short, almost anytime anything — good or bad — happens to me on the bike, I sigh a little sigh of relief: I know I’ll be able to use this event either as my main point or to illustrate a point when I write the next day.

Notice how I said “almost anything” in that last paragraph? That’s because sometimes something happens that’s just too embarrassing or painful or both to talk about the next day.

Sometimes, I have to wait a couple days before I – yes, even I, the Extremely Popular A-List Blogger — can write about an event without dying a little Death by Humiliation

Or, as in this case, about ten days.

A Nice Day for a Ride
I’m confident I have not mentioned this before (and certainly have not mentioned it over and over, whining like a spoiled baby), but it’s been a cold Winter. So, a couple weekends ago when we had both warm weather (no jacket required!) and dry roads, Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) and I took the opportunity to get out on our road bikes for a couple hours.

Rick was in the mood to climb and I was curious to see whether I could hang with Rick, so we started by climbing up the South side Suncrest — four miles of uphill, with about 1300 feet of altitude gain.

It turns out I can hang with Rick…unless Rick feels like going faster than me. About 2/3 of the way up, Rick saw another couple of cyclists way up yonder. “Let’s catch them!” Rick shouted, and took off, as if he thought that we weren’t already going maximum speed.

Eventually, I would catch Rick, but only because he waited for me at the top.

This, by the way, is not the part that took me ten days to feel like I could write about it. And I apologize if it seems like I am writing a shaggy dog, here. It’s just that I’m still not entirely comfortable with writing the punchline to today’s post. Gotta work up to it, you see.

Anyway, Rick and I dropped down the North side of Suncrest, then spun along in Draper. It was here that I used what I consider the best possible technique for reeling in a formidable cycling opponent / riding buddy: The Halfwheel-Conversation Ploy. It’s easy, really: you halfwheel-draft the guy while asking short open-ended questions that require long answers, like “So tell me all about your Leadville 100 plan: training, equipment, your planned split times, everything.” Then you shut up and let the other guy talk (thereby using his wind for something other than flogging you mercilessly on the bike) while you draft.

This worked for a while, and then it was time to climb back up Suncrest, this time on the steeper North side.

Once again, I had no problem at all staying with Rick, except for when he felt like riding ahead of me.

By the time we got to the top of Suncrest, I was beat. Rick lives at Suncrest, so he turned off toward home and I rolled down the South side back toward my home, fried.

I can always tell I’m really tired when I start verbally coaxing myself. “OK, Fatty (yes, I now sometimes call myself “Fatty”), once you turn onto Westfield, you’re just two miles from home. Only three more Stop signs and you’re there. Just keep turning the cranks.”

On and on like that, just trying to keep the bike upright. Head down, staring at my knees.

And that’s when it happened.

Fatty, Say “Hi” to the Pavement
The thing about staring at your knees is you’re not looking at other things. Things, for example, like what’s in front of you.

Have I mentioned that it’s been a cold Winter? And you know what a cold Winter does to roads?

It makes potholes in them. Big ones, sometimes.

Without trying to avoid the pothole at all — without seeing it at all — I rode straight into it at about 15mph.

My hands, until a moment ago lightly resting on the bars, bounced off, my chest went into the stem, and I went down hard, landing atop my bike.

It hurt. A lot.

My shoulder dislocated, I was scraped up, and one of my fingers felt like it was broken (it isn’t).

But that wasn’t what really hurt.

What really hurt was the very clear image in my mind of what I must have looked like to the cars now passing me (none of them stopping to ask if I was OK, by the way): A guy on his bike, all dressed up like he’s some fancy pro rider, rides straight into a pothole big enough to be seen from space. Of course he crashed. He must have wanted to crash.

What really hurt was the fact that I had just turfed it good and hard and had nobody and nothing to blame but me (though you can bet that I tried to find something or someone to blame).

But nope, there was nothing else. I’m just a dork, plain and simple.

My wheels were so bent I had to release the brakes to ride home. And the bike wouldn’t shift. I was so afraid of what I might find that I didn’t expect the bike for damage myself, instead taking it to Racer’s Cycle Service, cooking up a plausible story for why I crashed my bike (I hit ice as I was coming around a corner).

Evidently, I had totaled a shifter/lever, but the bike was otherwise OK.

Please, please tell me I’m not the only one who’s had completely avoidable, totally self-inflicted wrecks, preferably with strangers present to look at you like you’re an escapee from the Arkham Asylum.

Even if it’s not true, please tell me.

PS: Today’s weight: 163.4


Not With a Bang

02.26.2007 | 5:46 am

According to Cyclingnews, Jan’s now officially retired:

At a press conference this morning in Hamburg, Germany, he said, “I could ride again immediately, I could get a license, I am fit, as fit as last year and could immediately have a team. I have seven offers, including ProTour teams.”

But, as he noted, he decided against it. “It has taken months until I was sure what I wanted, what would make me happy. Today, I want to officially announce that I will stay involved in cycling, but not as an active rider.”

Evidently, he’ll be working with Volksbank, an Austrian professional cycling team that I have heard of for both the first and last time as part of this announcement.

Bummed? Damn straight I’m bummed. He says he has seven offers to ride on the table. Shoulda taken one of them. This is no way to end a career.

Today’s Weight: 164.8

What Will Jan Say?

02.23.2007 | 10:52 am

Any cyclist who has ever followed pro cycling is guaranteed, at some point, to identify with a particular rider. Long ago, I identified myself with Jan Ullrich. Like him, I gain weight in the off-season. Like him, I don’t go in for the fast attacks, preferring to eat at rivals’ leads a little at a time. Like him, I have won the Tour de France, but only once.

One statement in the above paragraph may be an embellishment.

Anyway, you can imagine I became curious when earlier this week I read this in Cyclingnews:

The ‘Jan Ullrich Team’ announced the press conference on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the cyclist “will discuss the past and will give the good news about his professional future.”

Reporters shouldn’t expect too much, though: “Please be aware that Jan Ullrich will not answer any questions.”

“The good news about his professional future?” Well, that’s just begging for speculation, isn’t it?

So fine. I’ll speculate.

The Easy Guesses
There are two really obvious things Jan could be saying at this press conference. One of them would be interesting, and the other one would suck:

  • Interesting: Ullrich’s got himself a team, and he’s planning on winning every race on planet Earth this year.
  • Suck: Ullrich doesn’t have a team and has stopped trying to find one. He’s retiring from pro cycling so he can focus full time on modeling jackets that look like they came from the set of Michael Jackson’s Thriller:

(By the way, Jan: I’m only telling you this because I don’t want you to hear it from someone else, but…that jacket doesn’t have a particularly slimming effect on you.)

Bold Thoughts
It doesn’t take much in the way of deductive prowess to assert that in this press conference, Jan will either say he’s racing or he’s not. But certainly, that can’t be all there is to it, right? I mean, he’s already not racing; it doesn’t take much of a press conference to say that he’s going to continue to not race (although that does in fact give me a terrific idea for my next Fake News Service). If he’s racing, who with? If he’s not racing, what’s he doing instead?

Or maybe he’s going to surprise us with something completely out of left field.

These, as I see them, are the most awesome possible outcomes of Monday’s press conference:

  • New Career in Pro Cycling: This Monday, Jan will announce that he is launching his career as a professional endurance mountain biker, focusing on 24-Hour and 100-mile events. “It’s time someone brought some serious game to this sport,” Ullrich will be quoted as saying. “For my first races, I will be entering the 2007 Leadville 100 and the 24 Hours of Moab, Solo Class.” Elsewhere in the world, Tinker Juarez and Floyd Landis simultaneously and spontaneously self-combust.
  • Wants to Spend More Time With His Hair: In early 2006, Jan was clearly poised to take the world by storm, not just with his riding ability, but with a hairstyle unmatched by anyone in the post-Cipollini era. And then he was robbed. This Monday, Ullrich will announce that he has taken his hair to the next level. He will announce that his hair is race-ready and faster than ever before.
  • Exciting Announcement About the Jan Ullrich Bike Line: Oh, you didn’t know there’s such a thing as Jan Ullrich bikes? Well, there are. And, frankly, they’re pretty darned sexy-looking (except for the Olymp, which looks like a mountain bike). Anyway, on Monday, Jan will announce that Trek has acquired the Ullrich bike line. Elsewhere in the world, Lance Armstrong and Greg Lemond simultaneously and spontaneously self-combust.
  • Announces Intention to Become Full-Time Keirin Racer in Japan: Noting that he always has had trouble keeping the weight off during the off-season, Jan has decided he will no longer have an off-season, by becoming a professional Keirin racer in Japan, where he will race on a daily basis for the popular gambling-fueled Japanese racing industry, much as if he were a racehorse. Elsewhere in the world, every Keirin racer spontaneously self-combusts.
  • Challenges Lance Armstrong to a 1-on-1 Race Across America: “Lance, let’s find out once and for all who’s the strongest. Just you and me, from California to New York. No teams, no support. First one across the finish line wins.” Elsewhere in the world, a certain fat cyclist starts giggling uncontrollably.

Other Possibilities
Of course, I’m just one guy, with one guy’s opinion. Of course, it’s an extremely well-formed and insightful opinion, but there is at least a tiny chance that I’m not spot-on.

So that’s where you come in.

Tell me what you think Ullrich will be announcing this Monday — either what you think he’ll really be saying, or what you wish he’d be saying.

I’ll hand out fatcyclist.com email accounts to five random people who get the answer right, and to another five people who get the answer wrong, but entertainingly so.

PS: Today’s weight: 164.0 (I skip the grapefruit for one night and gain half a pound?)


02.22.2007 | 7:52 am

Three weeks ago, I endured a massive amount of pain and humiliation. No, scratch that. Saying I “endured” it makes it sound like it was thrust upon me. Like I gallantly suffered, knowing I had no other choice.

What I should say is, “three weeks ago, I sought out, signed up, and went out of my way to enjoy an evening of pain and humiliation.”

In short, I had a body composition analysis performed (which is to say, I found out precisely how fat I am), along with a VO2 Max test (which is to say, I found out exactly how weak I am).

Today, I finally feel I have recovered enough to reveal the results of this ordeal.

But First, A Shameless Plug for Sans Auto
Sans Auto is one of the frequent commenters on this blog. What you may not know about him is that in real life he’s working on his doctorate in something impressive-sounding that has something to do with food and exercise.

Sans Auto is the one who volunteered to do these tests on me, and he’s also been giving me some great nutrition advice. He’s currently sharing that advice with others on his own blog. If you’re working on fitness and weight loss and are interested in hearing practical advice from someone who understands the science of nutrition, I’d highly recommend reading what he has to say. Check out these entries:

  • Bioenergetics: Here, Sans Auto describes the simple technique he explained to me — the technique that has helped me get halfway to my weight loss goal in eight weeks.
  • Carbohydrates and Hunger: As a cyclist, I’ve never bought into any low-carb diet — I know that if I don’t have carbs in my system, I can’t train for endurance cycling. What I didn’t know was how carbs work and what kinds to eat. Sans does a good job of explaining it. I had wondered why the brown rice and the rolled-oats muesli have been working so well for me. Now I know.

Sans Auto says he’s going to be doing more posts in his no-nonsense nutrition guide, mostly to help other people beat me in the B7 Challenge.


Back to the Evening of Suffering
Anyway, back in the end of January, Sans Auto said he’d help me measure my fat percentage and my VO2 Max. Having had my fat percentage measured with calipers before, I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of a fat percentage test. But it wasn’t like that at all.

You know what it was like? It was like sitting in the Egg Chair from Mork and Mindy. When it’s sealed.

After that, Sans Auto (his friends call him “Sans”), gave me the bad news: I weighed 169.6 pounds, of which 36 pounds was fat.

That’s a fat percent of 21.3%.


Sans tried to soften the blow. “That’s really not too bad,” he said. “Just think what it would have been if we had done this test at the beginning of the year!”

Yeah, thanks a lot, Sans Auto (notice how I didn’t call you just “Sans” there?).

By the way, assuming my lean weight hasn’t changed, my current fat percentage would now be 18.6%. And if I hit my goal weight (148 pounds), my fat percentage will be about 9.8%.

When I get down to that weight, Sans says he’ll test me again. I’m looking forward to the comparison.

VO2 Max Test
While the fat percentage test is only emotionally painful, the VO2 Max hurts in a seriously physical way.

I strapped on a heart rate monitor, got situated on a stationary bike, and then let Sans attach a medieval torture device to my head, nose and mouth, the purpose of which is to ensure it captures all the breath I exhale while riding.

The rules were simple, Sans explained. Every couple minutes he’d increase the resistance by forty watts, until we reached 210 watts. Then he’d increase the resistance by twenty watts every two minutes. When I blew up, we’d know what my VO2 Max is.

Oh, and also he’d be taking pictures (you can click on any of the below pictures to see a larger, sweatier view, if you want to see my suffering in greater detail).

At first, I had my game face on. I’m very focused. I see no reason why I should not max out at 800 watts. I tried to impress Sans by showing what a fast cadence I can spin.

I assert, however, that whoever invented this contraption had no sense of style at all. That nose-pinching thing totally doesn’t go with the rest of the getup. Seriously.

Ten minutes later, though, I’m no longer so composed. At this point I’ve just hit 210 watts and my lactate threshold. I’m sweating hard and — due to my inability to close my mouth — I cannot swallow at all. My throat is painfully dry — and in fact, all the next day my throat would be sore from maxing myself out for twenty minutes without swallowing once.

By the time I had gone fifteen minutes, I was hurting for real. My legs hurt, my lungs hurt, and — as you can see from the way I’ve got a death-grip on the bars here — my arms hurt. This, evidently, is what 250 watts feels like.

I should note that by this time I no longer appreciated being photographed. In fact, I had gone to my wilfully-angry place, where I resent everyone and everything. 

In this final photograph, I am mere seconds away from shutting down. I no longer even realize that I am being photographed. I have shut my eyes as part of a clever scheme to block out all sensory input and just concentrate on turning circles.

There is nothing but the circle. Turn the circle. Turn nice, round circles. Turn the cir…oh mother, please! Stop the pain! Stop the pain! Please, just turn off the machine that makes the pain!

In the End
When all is said and done, I evidently have a VO2 max of 51.5. ”51.5 of what?” you ask?

To which I answer, “51.5 units of pure pain.”

This number, of course, meant absolutely nothing to me. Trying to get a sense of how I did, I asked Sans, “So, how’s 51.5?”

“Not bad at all, for someone your age,” said Sans Auto.

“So, what’s your VO2 Max?” I asked.

“Around 60.”


Anyway, at my max, I was turning out 310 watts. My heartrate hit 195 — two beats per minute more than I previously thought I could hit.

Oh, and also I showed Sans Auto what I thought of his torture device by punching him right in the solar plexus.

No, that’s not true. Actually, I asked him to run the tests on me again in April, and then one last time again in July, to see what kind of progress I’m making.

You know, because I had so much fun.

PS: Today’s weight: 163.4

PPS: As of this morning, another frequent commenter on this blog, BotchedExperiment, will have turned in his doctoral dissertation. Except for the formality of defending this dissertation next week, he’s done. Please join me in congratulating his eminent doctrines, Doctor BotchedExperiment.

Exclusive! Tyler Hamilton Furious, Plans to Dispute Amgen Stage 1

02.20.2007 | 10:24 pm

SANTA ROSA, CA (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – In a stunning announcement made today, Tyler Hamilton has given notice that he is suing the Tour of Amgen. Having successfully obtained an emergency injunction against the race, forcing it to halt until further notice, Hamilton is now seeking to be inserted into the race, with the final objective being a do-over of the first stage.

Said Tinkoff Credit Systems team manager Omar Piscina, “Quite clearly, Tyler Hamilton should have been in Stage 1 of this tour. Have you seen that pileup?”

Continued the distraught Piscina, “How would you, if you were Clint Eastwood, feel if you went to a viewing of Fistful of Dollars, only to find that somehow you were no longer in the movie? It is just the same for Tyler Hamilton and massive, high-drama, late-in-stage crashes.”

Concluded Piscina, “If there has ever been a crash that Tyler should be involved in, this crash was it.”

Tyler Hamilton“Really, all I want is a shot at the thing,” added the usually deferential Hamilton, a hard edge in his voice and a hungry look in his eye. “I just want to be allowed to race right in the middle of that pack when it rounds the corner.”

“If nobody else is willing to crab a pedal or touch wheels this time, I’ll do it myself,” said the newly-returned racer. “All I really need is to get a nice painful roadrash. Maybe a broken collarbone wouldn’t be too much to ask. Or a concussion and a broken ankle, if I get to pick.”

“This is my trademark, and I intend to defend it, come hell or high water,” finished the Man from Marblehead.

Race Leader Reacts
Told of Hamilton’s intention to use any avenues necessary to revisit the first stage of the Amgen Tour — and in particular, the huge peloton demoliton derby toward the end –  race leader Levi Leipheimer looked thoughtful.

“I admit,” said Leipheimer, after a moment, “even as I hit the pavement I thought to myself, ‘Tyler Hamilton must be somewhere nearby.’ To have this kind of wreck without him even in the same state just doesn’t feel right.”

“So yeah,” shrugged Leipheimer, “it’s like, if you go to an Elvis concert, you expect to see the King. Same thing with Hamilton and crashes. I guess I’m OK for a do-over.”

Legal Precedent
While this legal action is generally considered unusual, it is by no means unique, as Tinkoff Legal Counsel M. Fetyukovitch explained. “Many people do not realize, but each stage of the 2003-2005 Tours de France was shot with multiple takes, with racers forced to do the race over and over until OLN had an outcome it was happy with.”

“All we ask is that Mr. Hamilton be allowed to practice his unique and highly-refined skill. To do what he does best, if you will.”

Concluded Mr. Fetyukovitch, “It’s been two years, people. He doesn’t have many racing years left in him. For the love of all that’s good in the world, please let Tyler Hamilton be a part of the Amgen Stage 1 crash.”

PS: Today’s weight: 164.2

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