How to Behave When You Know You’re Going to Die

02.7.2007 | 6:51 am

A Prize-Announcing Special Note from Fatty: Congratulations to the winners of the first-ever Fat Cyclist Photo Contest. With 163 photos submitted, Kenny had a very tough time choosing a winner.

So he chose three.

The Grand Prize winner gets the $100 credit towards development on Kenny’s site as well as the mounted enlargement. First Prize winners get $25 toward development at Kenny’s site.

Congrats to the winners! Email me and I’ll hook you up with Kenny so you can collect your prize.

First Prize
LanterneRouge submitted this beautiful entry, “Montrose Harbor:”

LanterneRouge says about this one: “This is not part of the contest because it is heavily altered. I’m posting it anyway because I like it a lot. In the background is the Chicago skyline. Well, it would be if it wasn’t obscured by clouds.”

Sorry, LanterneRouge, but neither Kenny nor I care about whether you spent a bunch of time Photoshopping the image. The fact is it’s awesome, and we’re going to give you a prize whether you want it or not.

First Prize
JSnow contributed this beautiful image, “Winter eve ride #3:”

Jsnow didn’t do a caption for this image, but it doesn’t really need one. This is a great photo.

Grand Prize
The winning entry is by Vanetten, and is titled “Russian Bikers:”

The caption reads, “March 2006: “Opening Day of Bike Season” in Moscow. Several hundred bikers of all ages and capabilities show up for a rally point deep in a forest outside of Moscow. These gents had been there for a day already, camping out and keeping warm with liquid fuel…”

Again, congrats to the winners.

OK, now on with the regularly-scheduled program.

I Am Just Fine, Thanks
Before I get rolling today, I should make one thing very clear: I am not announcing that I have some kind of terminal sickness. I have not discovered that my Lipoma is actually malignant or something (click here if you’re wondering why I capitalized “Lipoma,” or if you’re wondering what I’m talking about at all).

I’m just fine.

There have been three times, however, when I was absolutely, positively certain that I was about to die.

And all three times have been while I was on a bike.

Certainty of Death #1: Run off the Road
There are a lot of long, twisty road climbs near where I live. I think my favorite stretch of road, though, is the climb up from Provo Canyon, up past Sundance Ski Resort, and to the top of the Alpine Loop.

I love the climb because the descent payoff is incredible. The curves come at you nonstop as you’re descending as fast as you dare to go, making bets with yourself as to what your tires’ limits of adhesion are. If you get into a descending groove, you stop feeling like your bike is something you’re riding. Instead, it’s something you are.

Except for a brief period in the Spring when the road is clear but still closed to auto traffic, though, this road has as much draw to car traffic as it does to bikes, and for a lot of the same reasons.

And that is why I found myself face-to-face with a car as I was barreling downhill, me on the inside corner of a right-turning hairpin. Him trimming the hairpin blind, on the wrong side of the road.

As many people know, the easiest way to imagine how much damage a cyclist will suffer if he has a head-on with a car is to take the sum of your speed and the car’s speed and then imagine you riding your bike at that speed into a wall.

In this instance, I would have been hitting that wall at about 65 miles per hour.

“Dammit,” I said. Yes, just “dammit.” And it wasn’t even an outraged “dammit.” More a “dammit” of resignation. This was going to be it. You know: it.

Out of instinct — certainly not out of any higher reasoning — I jerked the handlebar away from the car.

I turfed it into a ravine, taco-ing my front wheel and wearing completely through my bike gloves.

The guy driving the car pulled over, mortified and nauseous about what he had just nearly done. It was kind of weird, actually: we both got hit by the shakes and the nausea about at the same time. So we were both sitting on the side of the road, waiting to feel like we could stand, while his soon-to-be fiancee (he was driving her up to a picturesque spot to propose, he told me) sat in the car, looking at us and wondering what was going on.

Certainty of Death #2: High-Speed Catapult into a Tree
The second time I thought I was going to die, it was nobody’s fault but my own.

I was into the final 25 miles of the Leadville 100. I was feeling giddy because Dug and Bob and I had gathered at the final aid station, deciding to finish the race together. We had finished the final big climb and were flying down the St. Kevins doubletrack. Dug had shot on ahead, Bob was staying with me.

As I said, I was feeling giddy. I was with my friends, the ride was in the bag, I still felt good.

So I started goofing around a little bit. You know, doing little bunny hops. Popping wheelies. Using little woop-de-doos in the trail as jumps.

Note to self: You are not an especially good downhiller under any circumstance, and are especially not a good downhiller after you’ve been on your bike for ten hours. And you’re an especially really not-good downhiller when you’re feeling punch drunk and exhausted.

So I hit a little rise and used it as a jump.

Which went horribly wrong.

I shot off the side of the road, riding a what amounts to a fast downhill nose-wheelie.

I should mention, I think, that the side of the road was a downhill slope with lots of both standing and fallen trees.

I should also mention that I was flying headfirst right toward a fallen tree.

I had a moment to think just before I hit the tree. Guess which of the three following thoughts occurred to me:

  1. “I had better protect my vital organs!”
  2. “I’m dead.”
  3. “Here comes my first DNF.”

If you guessed #2, you are correct. You are also correct if you guessed #3.

I hit the log good and hard, smashing my glasses and helmet, gashing my forehead and forearms, and knocking me goofy. Bob came crashing down through the trees, a benevolent chupacabra, checking to see if I was alive (and if not, whether my bike could be salvaged).

Again came the nausea. Again came the shakes. And then, a few minutes later, I was able to ride again.

We finished the race. With half an hour to spare.

Certainty of Death #3: Bike Failure at 50mph
I’ve talked about when my trusty 9-year-old road bike discombobulated at 50mph fairly recently, so won’t go into the whole story again right now. I will say this, though: Once again, the knowledge of immediate doom didn’t make me scream or cry or despair at the moment it was happening.

Once again, it was more of an “Oh, perfect” kind of reaction.

Hey, I’ve got an idea for a new tagline:

“Fat Cyclist: Facing Death with a Sardonic Smirk Since 1994″

What Have We Learned?
So here are the common elements I’m noticing about my brushes with doom.

  • I don’t fear death until I have time to. At the moment of emergency, I don’t recall ever being terrified. That comes later, when I have had time to think about how things could have turned out.
  • My life does not flash before my eyes. Does anyone really have their life flash before their eyes in moments of great crisis? It seems to me like that would be a pretty inconvenient time for a fast stroll through memory lane. In fact, I can’t think of a less convenient time to start having an introspective moment than when you’re trying to avoid death.
  • There’s no crazier mix of emotions than when you feel you just evaded death. You’re sitting there on the ground, alive. You should be dead, but you’re alive. So you’re elated and relieved. And then you realize that you should be dead or maimed, and you get freaked out and scared. If someone else was to blame, the rage and indignation kick in. If it was your own fault, the shame and humiliation have their say. And this whole emotional cocktail is amped up by more adrenaline than you usually have running through your veins in a month. No wonder you get the shakes and nausea.
  • Later that day: Providing I have a working bike, after a few minutes I’ve always been able to get back on and ride. It’s only a couple hours later that the full impact of what’s nearly happened hits me. And then the next time I ride — and the next time, and the next time, and the next time — I can’t get it out of my head. I’m a timid, nervous rider for weeks and weeks. Maybe the whole rest of the season.

I’m interested whether you’ve seen the same things in your scariest encounters.

Final Disclaimer
After writing all this, it occurs to me that I might not know what I’m talking about (wow, that would be really unusual). The fact is, in each of these circumstances I only thought I was going to die. Maybe when the big one comes, it’ll be completely different.

I’m not particularly anxious to find out.

PS: Twin Six — the designers  of the Fat Cyclist jersey — is having a $15 T-Shirt Sale starting Thursday. This is a good chance for you to pick up a very cool shirt (or three) at a very good price.

PPS: Today’s weight: 167.2

PPPS: I’ve worked out a great deal with the Fabulous Banjo Brothers: I’m going to be able to give EVERYONE who pre-orders a Fat Cyclist jersey a Special Fat Cyclist Edition Pocket Messenger Bag. You should note, however, that at this point well more than half of the 250 jerseys are now spoken for. And when we reach 250, we’re done (B7 contestants, don’t worry, I’m holding some in reserve for you, just in case you beat me). In other words, if you’re planning on getting a jersey, you should pre-order it. Thanks!


  1. Comment by UltraRob | 02.7.2007 | 11:21 am

    I have dozens of lipomas all over my body. I first started getting them as a teenager and like you I thought I had cancer. Whenever I go to a new massage therapist they freak out. A couple years ago, I had a huge one on my forearm that I was constantly scraping on things. It stuck out enough that when I was grilling I would burn it because the rest of my arm wasn’t close enough to the grill to realize I was getting too close. I had a second one removed last spring because it was right on the edge of my aero bar pad. If you want to know the details of having you removed you can read more at

  2. Comment by Mrs. Coach | 02.7.2007 | 11:26 am

    My mom has a fleshy lump on her shoulder, I don’t know what its actually called, she got it checked out and she just calls it a fleshy lump.

    If you ever meet my mom, don’t let her know I told you that. She’d kill me. I’d be scared of that.

  3. Comment by Mrs. Coach | 02.7.2007 | 11:26 am

    So did the guy go on with his girlfriend to propose, or did he at least give you a lift home?

  4. Comment by FliesOnly | 02.7.2007 | 11:27 am

    I can only recall once (while on a bike at least) ever feeling like it might be over for me. Two of us were “racing” during a descent that had a right turn at the bottom (well, technically you could go straight…but we were turning). I was in the lead and on the outside. My opponent was slightly behind but had the better line into and through the turn. As we started the turn I noticed that my line was covered in sand and rocks. Knowing that at my present speed I would never, in a million years, make the turn, I drifted slightly out and, therefore, into the oncoming traffic lane. Bad move. I looked up and noticed that a van was fast approaching. He (the driver) noticed me at about the same time. I locked up my brakes, as did he to his brakes.
    My saving grace was that this guy intentionally went off the road and part way into a ditch to avoid having me me splat like a bug on his front windshield. At about that moment, I released my brakes, leaned waaaaaaaay over, completed my “right” turn, ducking under (and therefore narrowly missing) his rear-view mirror with my head as I went by. We both kept going, but I can only imagine the vulgarities he was letting loose with in the van (and I deserved every word).

    Hey, how do we know if we were one of the first 40 to order our jerseys? I ordered mine Monday morning as soon as I saw the offer. I was only charged $55, so I assumed I was one of the lucky ones….true?

  5. Comment by Lurch | 02.7.2007 | 12:11 pm

    Ummm….You are one of the lucky ones, but it has nothing to do with getting a jersey for $55! Bet you went through that turn a little more cautiously the next time!

  6. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 02.7.2007 | 12:18 pm

    Fatty, the first time you told the “bike frame snapping like a chicken bone while descending Suncrest at top speed” story, it scared me so bad that I always thought of it anytime I went over 30 mph on my road bike. I eventually forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me.

    The worst I ever had it was on a motorcycle. I was on a two-lane road and decided that passing a big-rig on a blindish corner was a fantastic idea. Once I got alongside the semi, another one came around the corner the other way. We all 3 manged to fit through the corner but it was quite a rush. So much so that I quickly started becoming weaker and shakier. I got pulled over and had to sit down. I felt like I couldn’t even stand.

    I’ve had some bad mt bike wrecks, but none really stand out as far as scaring me. I did break a log with my head a couple years ago in park city up at shadow lake. That left quite an impression.

  7. Comment by FliesOnly | 02.7.2007 | 12:51 pm

    Hi Lurch:

    Yes, I did (and still do) go around the corner a bit more cautiously. However, being a guy (and therefore a producer of testosterone…a hormone that often makes one act like an idiot) I have, since that particular incident, done a few other “unintelligent” things on my bike. Thus far nothing bad has happened (so I can’t really count them as “near death” experiences) and therefore, rather than leaving me shaking like Oprah’s fanny in a thong, they left me with an adrenaline rush that makes me want to do them again. It’s sad really. :)

  8. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.7.2007 | 12:53 pm

    Mrs. Coach – I think that might be a fetus in fetu. Check to see if it has teeth. If it does… You have a new Auntie! Yahoo!

    As for my near death experiences… I’ve had a good few. On the bike, there are two highlights. I was descending a mountain last summer during a randonnee, which is French for “Stupeeed Long Hride.” At the very bottom of the hill, when I’m doing 60 or 65 after about a hundred miles or so (Yeah, UltraRob, I know, a spin around the block) and the road turned. Unfortunately, right as the turn started, there was a cattle grate, and the frickin’ grates ran north/south, with the direction of the road. There were gaps that looked about as wide as mountain bike tires – 2.0s. I seem to recall thinking “aaaaahhhh, f***.” That was resigned. Then I tried to say a quick prayer thinking it would be bad to come to on “the other side” as I’m dropping the F-bomb on St. Peter. Not that it’d be eternal damnation for sure, or anything, but it probably wouldn’t help my case any. Then I thought about how thirsty I was. Really. It was a hot day and I was wicked dehyrdated. And I sort of grumbled to myself that I still really had a long way to go. And I kind of held my breath and my feet hurt and… Kind of like this paragraph, the moment really went on too long, I got completely distracted by other things probably because I was so spent, and the next thing I knew, I’m on the bike cranked over in the corner like it was some deranged crit, and I’m flying through the turn quite comfortably with the cattle grate behind me. I coasted to a stop – it took a long time – and started shaking. It seems I got so distracted that I sort of missed the disaster of riding over the grate and just did it. Came through it without a scratch, when by all rights I should have face planted and probably died.

    I narrowly missed “crossing the T” (navy vets know what that means) with a Caddilac last fall under similar circumstances, coming down a long hill doing maybe 40 – 45. Caddy pulled out right in front of me at a four way (no stop sign) intersection. The driver saw me, and stopped. I turned hard, listened to the tires kind of whistling and shot through the turn, basically brushing the front end of the Caddy. I was kind of surprised I made it through the turn without mashing the Caddy or blowing out the wheels. After that I stopped and stood in the road screaming at the Caddy driver. Then I started shaking.

    I have had a few epic road race pileups, but what the hell, it’s not really an interesting near-death personal experience if you are slewing into the tarmac with 20 of your closest friends. Come to think of it, the start of any good bunch sprint is probably a near-death experience in a lot of races. Most of us just aren’t smart enough to realize it.

  9. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 02.7.2007 | 1:01 pm

    Bringing to bear my vast background and experience in quantitative analysis, I performed mulit-way analysis of variance and a Wilcoxson’s ranked sum test, and finished up with the flux-capacitor and can state with certainty that corners are incredibly dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

  10. Comment by Tim K | 02.7.2007 | 1:39 pm

    Oh man, what a question. I work in IT at the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; I watched every episode of Six Feet Under; and I probably just think about how I am going to check out more than I need to.

    Probably the closest ever, was when I was a 15-16 year old boy (that’s a prime age for males to do stupid things). I was riding in the front of a flat-bottomed boat with an engine on the back strong enough to pull a 140 pound skier. For some reason I threw a foot over the front of the boat and let it skim across the surface. I thought, “hey, this must be what barefoot skiing feels like.” So, I decided to throw the other foot over. The boat was going all out mind you. When my second foot hit the water I got yanked off the front of the boat and immediately went under – under the front end of the boat. Somehow I managed to turn my body so that I could push off the bottom with my legs so that I would go as deep as possible – (I don’t remember thinking that this is what I need to do). I braced for impact with the propeller, but only felt the turbulence (no time to spalm my balls) as the prop went above my head. My friend Chris, who was in the back working the motor was expecting the worse. When I popped to the surface unharmed he let loose a string of expletives that I can still hear to this day.

    As for cycling, when I was riding to work in Spain, without a helmet (last time) I caught the edge of my tires on a sidewalk as I was coming back onto it after passing some folks walking towards the check point gate. There was a drop down that I just didn’t see and it was deep enough to get the tires and dump me sideways, head first onto the pavement in front of some cars entering the base. Fortunately they were going slow enough to stop. Someone helped me up, I never took my feet out of the pedal straps, and I was on my way. About halfway to the building where I worked I began to shake, my breathing went haywire and I started sobbing like a child. When I walked in I quickly told my friend what happened and he rushed me to the hospital.
    At the hospital I drew the attention of several navy doctors with pen lights who were commenting on how my pupil just was contracting. I told them that I was wearing contacts, so they had me take those out and then sent me off to a local hospital in Cadiz where they could do a TAC (that’s Spanish for CAT, not gato as I though) and keep me under 24 hour observation.
    The fall didn’t kill me, but what nearly did was being in a hospital in southern Spain, surrounded by beautiful nurses, but being blind as a bat because I didn’t have my contacts and not being able to see them. I called for so many glasses of water that night . . . .
    I didn’t learn how close I was to checking out until later when they told me all about the bleeding inside the skull and that made me want to puke.

    Hope that all of you have safe rides, and don’t leave the helmet at home – even if you are just going a short distance.

  11. Comment by obra369 | 02.7.2007 | 1:56 pm

    I, unfortunately, have had the experience of watching someone die on the bike. It was about a year and a half ago at a weekly circuit race. We were winding up for the final sprint when I looked ahead and saw a guy, head down, drifting too far off into the shoulder. I knew, in that instant, that he could only smash into a concrete abutment or, if he pulled it out at the last second, careen off into an aluminum grandstand. He did not pull it out. The noise was unlike anything I’ve ever heard in ten years of bike racing and I never want to hear it again. I was about three bike lengths behind him and I sort of saw his front wheel hit the wall and him fly up as I flew past at 37 miles per hour. I knew immediately that he was either dead or paralyzed. One of the local teams was comprised of firefighters and EMTs, and there were several doctors, including an ER doc, on the scene and the racer was attended to within seconds. I waited around after the race, knowing I couldn’t do anything but not ready to leave. As one of the emergency responders left, I asked about the racer. He had died immediately. I got into my car, drove to an nearby store, and threw up in the parking lot. It wasn’t my experience, but I had the nervous shakes that Fatty described. I thought of how many times I’d done that race and how easily it could have been me. The cycling community in the area really pulled together. We had a fundraiser and donated several thousand dollars to his family. And the next week, we had the race again, ’cause he would have wanted it that way. His family came out and we all rode a parade lap together in his honor. I still think about him every time I race, but I think in the end racing is a little like being in the Army: to do your job, you have to forget the fear.

  12. Comment by Dave | 02.7.2007 | 3:53 pm

    Well, my near death experience happened last November 30th. I was riding home from work and a guy took a left in front of me and hit me head on. It happened so fast all that went through my head was “Oh no, no..BAM” then I was flying over his car, I looked down and saw I was going to land on my feet thinking, “Hey, I’m going to land on my feet”, then I rolled to a stop in the middle of the intersection. Then I started taking inventory: Right leg hurts more than I have ever hurt before, (not broken) left shoulder, ribs, leg, hip, are killing me. The guy gets out and walks towards me, and says, don’t you even have a light on your bike? Uh, it’s a $400 Light & Motion HID, how did you NOT see me? Then he says, can you get out of the road, cars are coming, Me: “No, I’m going to sit here for a minute.”

    Then a county sherriff drove up and the circus of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances came.

    I’m still in physical therapy with knee and shoulder problems, more than likely facing surgery. I did get a new bike two weeks ago, and I’m scared to death of riding in traffic. And up until that point I had ridden over 7000 miles commuting to and from work. Got me a little fear going for sure.

    The fear of how close I was to death is still with me. I am really thankful he drove an Accord and not a big truck. At that moment though, I remember thinking my ride is over, and I won’t be able to ride my “50 mile Friday” that I was planning. The death thoughts came later, I was mainly thinking my great ride I was planning wasn’t going to happen.

    I’ll have two HID’s for commuting in the future. The second on the helmet so I can “spot” drivers who look like they aren’t paying attention. Yes, I’ll probably make a lot of them mad, too bad, my life is more important than their inconvienience of waiting an extra 12 seconds for me to pass by.

  13. Comment by Lisa B | 02.7.2007 | 4:14 pm

    My (only, knock on wood) near-death experience was my first bike wreck in Seattle about eight years ago. Dark, rainy January morning, long downhill and a car pulled out in front of me. I remember that I grabbed the front brake (doh!) and as the front wheel started to go I thought, “crap, this is going to hurt.”

    Next thing I know, I’m strapped to a gurney with a crowd of people around me. Someone had found me on the ground – not, later to learn, the driver of the car that pulled out in front of me: that person never stopped – called an ambulance and called my husband.

    The concussion, soft tissue damage, stitches in my face, bleeding in the brain, all that was no fun. But from then on, I wore my contacts instead of my glasses when commuting. Coming to on the ground and not being able to see anything but a blurry crowd as awful. Of course, once the pain of the injuries kicked in, that was more than awful, but that’s what medication is for …

  14. Comment by KeepYerBag | 02.7.2007 | 6:04 pm

    Bike: When I was a kid, we lived on a farm that had a long dirt driveway. At the end of the driveway sat a workshop where the farm equipment was maintained. On this day, Dad was busy in the shop sharpening harrowing tines. He’d weld a bead on the leading edge of a tine and then grind it down so it was nice and sharp. The tines he had finished were in a heap outside the shop.

    I had just learned how to ride, and I was having a great time zipping up and down the driveway, going faster and faster with each pass as I gained confidence. My confidence surpassed my newbie technical ability, and soon I was going too fast for my own good. I don’t remember exactly what went wrong, but I remember the bike flying left and me flying right, landing square atop that stack of sharp steel tines.

    The impact knocked the wind out of me, and I opened my eyes to find the tip of one of those things two inches directly in front of my left eyeball. It was a miracle I wasn’t sliced into ribbons, but other than a couple of bruises I was fine. I about gave my dad a heart attack though; in fact, I never remember hearing him yell louder than he did that day–not at me but for my mother to call an ambulance.

    Car: I was riding shotgun in a van heading eastbound on Arapahoe Road in Denver, CO. We were behind a large cement mixer. For reasons unknown but for which I am still thankful, we changed lanes just two seconds before a large piece of the fold-up delivery chute detached and flew through the air for about 30 feet before hitting the road, screeching and sparking. Had we not changed lanes, I’m sure it would have crashed through our windshield and killed us both instantly. Did a lot of thinking about life and death that day.

  15. Comment by sans auto | 02.7.2007 | 6:15 pm

    It wasn’t near death, but it certainly gave me the shakes. A group of 3 or 4 were coming back from an afternoon ride, coming around the Northeast corner of East Bay in Provo when when we heard a gun shot and not too much later we were all peppered with bird shot. It didn’t break skin on any of us, but certainly scared us and left a bunch of welts on our backsides. We called the Provo police and said that we had been shot and they said to stay where we were and they would send someone out.

    After waiting for 5-10 minutes we decided to look for the police. We found a police car sitting in a parking lot a half mile away not doing anything. We told him that we were the guys who had been shot and he responded that we should return to where we were, he wasn’t the guy who had been dispatched.

    Another 10 minutes passed and the police officer who we had spoken to showed up and confirmed that based on the foot prints in the snow the guy was shooting at us and not at ducks. Then he left us to ride home in the dark.

  16. Comment by mark | 02.7.2007 | 6:25 pm

    I don’t want to rehash the uglies, but there have been a few, and I’ve always had a reaction similar Fatty’s…something along the lines of, “Aw, nuts.”

    What really spooks me is the thought that the one with my number on it is the one I won’t see coming.

  17. Comment by Born4Lycra | 02.7.2007 | 6:27 pm

    The closest I came to a near death experience was after I had been run off the road by a following car while turning right (remember we are on the other side of the road down here) he actually overtook me without changing lanes and forced me into the traffic signals as he came up on the inside of my turn. Oblivious to what he had done he just drove on and turned into a carpark. I decided to bring him up to speed and rode after him. I pulled up alongside him and let loose with a barrage of expletives. He looked surprised and came back with “what else I was supposed to do” to which i replied with more expletives observe the road rules.
    Anyhow he gets out the car in the process blocking out the sun and filling most of my field of vision and it was at this point if my life was going to flash before my eyes it would have done. I was suddenly thinking what I would have done differently including not using the derogatory expletives and maybe just been a bit more polite when he began to apologise profusely and I knew my life was spared. Apparently as a ranting raving lunatic I can be quite intimidating also.

    Congrats FC and Kenny on choosing the photo winners not an easy job there was some excellent entries. Well done everyone.

  18. Comment by spin echo | 02.7.2007 | 6:52 pm

    mine: totally unrelated to cycling — getting stuck with a needle covered in HIV positve blood — 6 MONTHS before you know you are in the clear.

  19. Comment by alee | 02.7.2007 | 7:29 pm

    It’s always amazing how quickly our minds can come up with these thoughts in situations like those. On a bike I never have time for more than, “This is going to hurt!” My strangest and most prolonged mental dialog happened when I was rock climbing. I was about 12 feet above protection I didn’t trust with about 5 feet to go to the top anchors. While one part of my mind was freaking out, another part came up with my three options:
    1: Stay where I was, and eventually fall.
    2: Try to downclimb, and almost certainly fall.
    3: Go up, and probably fall.
    4: Start blubbering like a baby.
    Since #3 offered the best hope, I went up and made it to the top. Looking back it was exceedingly strange how my mind came up with and analyzed my options when what I really wanted to do was choose #4..

  20. Comment by T-Go | 02.7.2007 | 8:07 pm


    All I can say after 3 tours in Iraq and a fourth upcoming (hundreds of incidents in my line of work, I can honestly say that that feeling of shock numbs somewhat but never goes away. Whats particularly interesting is that when you experience it as a group people’s recount of the event varies widely to the point that you wonder if you were even at the same event.

    Most interesting (ruling out all evenets where somone was injured or killed) was having the vehicle in front of me broadsided by a truck carrying in excess of 800lbs of explosives. We were literally inside the explosion as shrapnel was bouncing of of us and then a few seconds later raining down on us. Thought they were goners as I ran up to the vehicle, but all of the sudden all of these heads started popping out coughing smoke. Even sitting there being shot at by positions on the roof-top I started laughing my ass off as all I could think of was the gopher at the end of “Caddyshack”…just no soundtrack.


  21. Comment by Jimmy | 02.7.2007 | 8:12 pm

    A kind of a lame rehash of your Certainty of Death #1, albeit with a mysterious twist – there was no car.

    I was coming down Mt Wellington in Tasmania about two weeks after buying my first grown-up bike. And for those of you who think Australia is flat, the southern island is, in fact, one large mountain. But I digress.

    I was heading down at about 80kmph behind a friend who, as well as being a much more experienced rider, is also a motorcyclist and knows what it means to travel at speed on two wheels. So I just kinda followed him. Kinda. I was taking a particularly nasty blind corner when I realised I had somehow drifted over to the wrong side of the road. There was no car.

    About four hours later I was sitting at home thinking about the mysterious non-car and the gravity of the situation hit me. Had the non car been an actual car I would have died. No question.

    I thought on this for a few more minutes and then I vomited.

  22. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.7.2007 | 8:53 pm

    God bless, T-Go. You make a man glad for having gone civilian.

    Do me a favor – hit Fatty up for my email and drop me a line. When you deploy, I’ll see if my co-bloggers (and maybe some of our readers) over on the poli-blog I write for are up for adopting a squad or platoon. We’re not a mil-blog, but a couple of us are vets, one’s a Coastie reservist, *many* of our readers are vets and active duty, and a lot of us have partied at the skinny end of the MSR before. There’s nothin’ like unsolicited comfort items showing up at random… It’d be payback for all those hot elementary school teachers and nurses who sent cookies and nude pictures to us every time we deployed.*

    * Okay, the picture thing only happened a couple times I’m aware of, and only once to me personally. Yeah, that was totally insane, and was cool, bordering on cruel. Either she was really hot, or six months in the sandbox with an all-male unit had recalibrated my gauges. But we did get *lots* of unsolicited cookies and stuff, so there’s a karmic debt I need to work off here and I suspect moral could use a little more boosting than usual.

  23. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 02.7.2007 | 10:31 pm

    I’m going to stop reading these comments while I can still muster the intestinal fortitude to go outside.

  24. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 02.7.2007 | 10:36 pm

    Are you all checking out the google ads that have been prompted by the topic of this post and the comments?

    The deathswitch one is awesome. I want to get it, but I want to be able to send out a personal message as well as the other stuff: “Hello, you may not know this, in fact I may not actually know either, but I’M DEAD!!!”

  25. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.8.2007 | 12:41 am

    > You should note, however, that at this point well more than
    > half of the 250 jerseys are now spoken for. And when we reach
    > 250, we’re done

    Fantastic news. Looking forward to the 2nd Edition…

  26. Comment by Lins | 02.8.2007 | 3:11 am

    Re the FatCyclist jerseys. I’m wondering if Dr Lammler knows that he has virtually become a cult figure? Or should that be a “virtual” cult figure?

    If I remember correctly his letter mentioned that he had shown the website to a number of people. Surely not all of them are Lammler clones and made a pact to avoid the FatCyclist website. Hopefully one of them lurks and reports back to Lammler. Although he would bravey brush it off as more FatCyclist drivel how irritated he must be which would make for some new fascinating quotes in whatever language he wrote in: Euro-something-or-other?

    FC – Seeing as it’s been about a year since the rise of Dr Lammler it might be worth celebrating that anniversary by making one of your posts a call to Lammler for further comment. After all next year’s jersey will require another original quote. Failing catching Lammler one of his associates might like to enter the fray. Who knows: he might even like a jersey?

  27. Comment by bikemike | 02.8.2007 | 9:04 am

    I have no brain and therefore don’t recall any near death incidents. Maybe i’m already dead. Nope, just smashed my finger with a hammer, i’m good.

  28. Comment by FriendOfLammler | 02.8.2007 | 9:16 am

    Please to quit picking on my freunde. You are being bunch of assos.

  29. Comment by SyracuseStu | 02.8.2007 | 9:22 am

    I can’t say I have ever thought I would die, per se. However, the common thread I note here seems to be that in that instant when you realize that something completely unexpected and sucky is about to happen, your mind seems to think of something other than exactly what you need to do to save yourself. Your mind just bails, wanders off mumbling to itself, while your body just does whatever the heck it can to save itself.

    One day (long ago when I could actually ride a mountain bike at it’s limit and have enough in reserve to save my own butt) I was decending some typical east coast singletrack – wooded, twisty, exposed roots, “moist” track – and had a nice flow going. I rounded a twist and noticed a rather large tree had decided to take a nap across the trail. It was then that my Mind started down the following path:

    1) Hmmm, this tree is in my way and that seems to be an issue,
    2) I’ll just bunny-hop it,
    3) Hmmm, seems to be much too tall to bunny-hop,
    4) I better stop then,
    5) Hmmm, The trail is much too slick to stop in time,
    6) Oh…look at this, Body seems to have decided to jump off the bike…it’s laying down behind me…that was probably a good idea,
    7) Wow…Body has now firmly planted my feet on the ground in a kinda surfer stance and I’m now sliding down the slick trail, that’s good because I was moving WAY to fast to run this one out…
    8) OK, I better decide to keep standing like this because sliding seems to be preventing me from completely stuffing my face into the trail,
    9) Thanks Body, I’ve caught up now, I’ll take it from here…

  30. Comment by barry1021 | 02.8.2007 | 9:41 am

    Great posts. T-Go, I stand and salute you, God Bless. If there is anything that the posters here can do to make your 4th tour better let us know. I would be careful with that offer from Al tho–might not be long before you are getting nudie pictures of HIM, LOL….


  31. Comment by Lissee | 02.8.2007 | 9:54 am

    To echo b21, Yeah, we can send you pic’s of the latest trails we have gone on, (not that I have been on any lately…) and other bike paraphernalia.

  32. Comment by Lissee | 02.8.2007 | 10:00 am

    WOW Fatty!

    I just saw the ad for *hopefully* your newest partner in crime, Ergon! Wish I could have found them 3 years ago… If they are a new partner, I can’t wait for their ads for schwag contest.


  33. Comment by CyclingBoard | 02.8.2007 | 10:27 am

    Bikemike: having no brains and smashing your fingers with a hammer and being ok ?
    I don’t believe you are good :P

  34. Comment by Chris | 02.8.2007 | 10:55 am

    My most recent memory is from last year. I rode the Triple Bypass in Colorado. Rained the whole time. Wet, wet, wet, and a little cold thrown in. I was coming down Loveland Pass around 40 mph, having a great time, when suddenly the bike began shaking back and forth. “Brakes” I thought, but then that turned into a bad idea as the bike shook more and more. I could literally see the front tire going back and forth from left to right. I considered laying the bike on it’s side thinking this might be a more favorable way to crash, but I still held on the best I could. I honestly have no idea how I pulled out of it, but suddenly there I was stopped on the side of the road. The shakes and emotions hit immediately. I was semi shocked to be standing there. Another cyclist rode up and asked if I was OK, and said “I didn’t think you were going to make it”. Needless to say I think the fastest I went downhill on the rest of that ride was 20 m.p.h.

  35. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.8.2007 | 11:07 am

    might not be long before you are getting nudie pictures of HIM, LOL….

    Dear God, Barry. Even I’m repulsed by that. As my mirror said when I stood in front of it naked the other day, “stop, please, you’re killing me.”

  36. Comment by fatty | 02.8.2007 | 11:39 am

    lissee – you’ve got a sharp eye. they’re sending me a pair of grips to try out to start with, and i’m talking with jeff kerkove about setting them up in the ads-for-schwag program. looks like it could happen!

  37. Comment by JB | 02.8.2007 | 2:34 pm

    Wow, I have been moved reading all of these fantastic stories……T-GO, I echo all that has been said…God Bless, be safe,and THANK YOU!
    I have no story to contribute, have not led a sheltered life, just lucky I guess to never have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have had my share of spectacular wrecks, especially involving skis and trees but nothing that would be a life ending experience. Fatty, what a great post to get everybody to work their minds!

  38. Comment by Rob | 02.8.2007 | 2:35 pm

    I know a guy that was almost eaten by a mountain goat on his ride up a canyon in the Wasatch Mountains…

  39. Comment by LMouse | 02.8.2007 | 4:13 pm

    I’d rather not comment about crashing because I’d rather not think about crashing. But in the spirit of crash prevention, I’d like to put out a call to anyone living along the California coast. The Tour of California host cities are still recruiting volunteers. Mainly course marshalls, mainly in the north bay area. As you know, the Course Marshalls help ensure the safety of the riders. It’s so important. It’s not too late to help. Sign up at the Amgen Tour of California website. (Hope it was ok to do this, fatty. Thanks)

  40. Pingback by Run, Run, Run, Run, Run, Cycle, Cycle Too » So, why aren’t you reading Fat Cyclist’s Blog? | 02.8.2007 | 6:17 pm

    [...] Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » How to Behave When You Know You’re Going to Die [...]

  41. Pingback by Zen and the Art of Speedskating » Something you are | 02.8.2007 | 6:40 pm

    [...] A wonderfully written and fascinating blog, Fat Cyclist, had this quote about riding recently. I love the climb because the descent payoff is incredible. The curves come at you nonstop as you’re descending as fast as you dare to go, making bets with yourself as to what your tires’ limits of adhesion are. If you get into a descending groove, you stop feeling like your bike is something you’re riding. Instead, it’s something you are. [...]

  42. Comment by KatieA | 02.8.2007 | 6:45 pm

    I’ve got a non-cycling one for you – First birthday that I spent with the Boyfriend (I’d known him about two months – pilot by hobby, not by job), he flew me to the wine region about 2-3 hours drive from Sydney. So, we get in plane, get up there – door doesn’t open. Boyfriend slides out the back baggage hatch and opens the door from outside – this should have been the first sign.

    After lunch, back to plane, back to Sydney. Should mention at this point that being a completely new thing for me, I was watching everything he did in the plane, switches, lights, etc – plus wearing the headphones, so I could hear anyone he communicated with (half of which I didn’t understand because it’s nerdy pilot talk…).

    Almost at the airport, he flicks the switch for the landing gear (told you I was watching).
    No light.
    Flicks it some more.
    No light.
    “Um, isn’t that the landing gear light?”
    Nothing from the Boyfriend.
    “You’re going to kill me on my birthday, aren’t you?”
    “I’m going to have my birthday and death on the same day, aren’t I?”

    At this point, he calls the tower to tell them we have no landing gear (me – silently saying my prayers whilst rocking back and forth), and they said “do a fly by and we’ll check” – we do, no gear.

    Boyfriend is utterly calm, says to tower “will head out and manually release, will come past for check.” Me – slightly more relieved that I won’t be on the news belly-sliding along the runway (as Mum & Dad didn’t quite know what we were doing…)

    Boyfriend lifts panel in between seats and says “hold that, facing this way.”
    “It has the procedures on the bottom.”
    “How many times have you done this?”
    “Heaps of times in practice, don’t worry.”
    Still worrying regardless – thinking of funeral plans I didn’t get to make.

    Boyfriend gets out huge wrench, puts down gear, we fly past tower:
    “Gear is down. Clear to land. Do you want emergency services on standby?”
    Luckily my headphone mic wasn’t on.
    “No, we’re fine.”

    All the way down (until we stopped and I got out and kissed the ground) I was praying to every God I could think of, and some I’m sure I made up, to please, please, please let us land safely. As you can tell (cause I’m writing this post), we did.

    On the ground:
    “So, how many times have you done that?”
    “But, you said…”
    “Yeah, in theory, the exams tell you what to do.”

  43. Comment by the weak link | 02.10.2007 | 9:12 pm

    I once had to go to a Barry Manilow concert. That was scarier than 1) running off the road on my motorcycle because I was stupid, and 2) running off the road in my brother’s car because I was really stupid. I was pretty young then, so if my life flashed before my eyes there wasn’t much to cover.

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