Favor for a Friend of a Friend of a Friend

05.31.2007 | 6:40 am

Chucky’s my friend. We don’t ride together much, because he’s right on the cusp of being a pro. I have enough trouble keeping Kenny in sight, thanks.

But still, a friend.

And Chucky’s got a friend: Shannon. Shannon (a dude) is an actual pro, so I’m sure we’d have a lot of fun riding together.

But still, a friend of a friend.

And of course, you’re my friend, which is why you’re reading this blog.

And so today, I’m asking you to do a favor for a friend (Shannon) of a friend (Chucky) of a friend (me).

Yes, I agree: it’s all very confusing. Still.

Team Shannifer
Shannon and his wife Jennifer want Race Face to sponsor them as they do the Trans Alp this year. To do this, they need our help. I.e., you’ve got to vote for them, based on their videos.

Basically, you’ve got to watch their video and the other Race Face sponsorship hopefuls’ videos, and then vote for the team you like the best.

This will not be easy, I’m afraid.

I can verify that I have, in fact, watched all the teams’ videos, and each and every one of them was embarassingly goofy, to the point where if I had a gong, I would have used it. A lot.

Maybe that was one of the stipulations Race Face made: “If you want to be a finalist, your video is going to have to be off-the-charts cornball. Don’t fight us on this; we’ve made up our minds.”

Is Team Shannifer’s video any goofier or any less goofy than the other videos? No, I don’t think so. But I’m not asking you to vote for them based on the merits of their video, I’m asking you to vote for them based on the following:

  • They’re an actual married couple who could do a good job on this race. I find that cool.
  • Their video — goofy as it is — was filmed on a trail I immediately recognized as one I ride. I do not recall, however, anyone throwing red balls at me when I rode it.
  • That whole friend of a friend of a friend thing. That’s the compelling part.

What to Do
Here are the simple (ha) steps for placing your vote:

  1. Go to the Race Face site and enter your email address and a password. You’ll get an email in a moment with a link. Click on the link, and then watch the videos.
  2. Yes, I agree: this is beginning to feel needlessly complex. Hey, don’t blame me.
  3. Once you’ve paid the ultimate price — i.e., watched the videos – go vote for Team Shannifer, which is what you would have done even if you hadn’t been subjected to all this nonsense.
  4. Celebrate. You have now done a favor for a friend of a friend of a friend, and can claim that you are in fact a ridiculously good person.
  5. Return to this site and give an honest assessment of the videos you have just been subjected to.

And of course, when Team Shannifer actually gets the sponsorship and wins the race, you can claim full credit and demand they repay the favor. I know I intend to.

When to Do It
You’ve got to do it today. Now, in fact. This is the last day you have to vote. And you wouldn’t want to disappoint your friend of a friend of a friend, would you?

PS: Today’s weight: 154.2.

PPS: B7 challengers, remember: weigh-in and TT this weekend!


How to Enjoy a Race

05.30.2007 | 8:31 am

I fully intended to race last Monday. The course is practically in my backyard and I know it well. It was low-stakes, so I wasn’t worried about having to do well — plus, with Kenny, Brad, and Dug racing in the same category (singlespeed), I didn’t need to worry about winning or anything.

And then, Saturday morning, on a group ride with friends, I noticed something weird.

As we did the downhill section of the Alpine Loop, I noticed that I was lightheaded. This is an unsettling sensation to come across at 40mph.

I dialed back my speed (a lot), and ended the ride early.

By late in the afternoon, it all made sense: I was coming down with a nasty cold.

Sunday, I felt lousy. And when Monday came around, I still felt lousy. No way was I going to race.

But I still wanted to go, to see how my friends did.

And I wanted to see how people looked in my sexy new Fat Cyclist jersey.

How Not to Take Pictures
Kenny, Brad, Dug, Rick S (not his real name), and Tasha (Brad’s wife) had all said they’d wear the Fat Cyclist jersey for this race.

The only problem was, I forgot my camera. Clever.

Luckily, Brad had a camera in his car, so I was able to borrow it and get some good shots. Let’s start with the pre-race parking lot shots.

I asked Rick S to pose for me as if he were an ad for a Performance Biking Catalog model:

I’d say he nailed it.

Next, I asked Kenny to show off the big guns:

As Kenny shows here, if you’re going to race single speed, you’ve got to have arms to go with the legs. A point of interest: note that Kenny is not sitting in the back of his beloved F’nJ Cruiser. That’s because he wrecked it last Friday. I feel responsible, for two reasons:

  1. He was on his way to ride with me when he wrecked it.
  2. He was looking down for a second, trying to deal with the melty chocolatey mess from a Honey Stinger Peanut Butta Protein Bar I had given him, when he got in the accident.

And here’s Dug, doing his pre-race calisthenics:

Dug loves his Diet Coke. Yeah, like I have room to talk in that regard. The only differences between Dug’s and my Diet Coke consumption are:

  • I am also perfectly happy to drink Diet Pepsi, which Dug hates.
  • From time to time, Dug tries to cut back or quit his Diet Coke habit. I embrace mine, and never look back.

And here’s Tasha, capably showing that a Fat Cyclist jersey looks great on women, too:

The Race Begins
Just before the race began, I headed up on the trail, found myself a good spot to stand, cheered people on as well as I could with my sore, froggy voice, and took some pictures. Look at Rick — dude’s totally got the eye of the tiger:

Kenny shows off that it’s possible — barely — to make an orange and black jersey go with blue shorts:

And Dug flouts convention by wearing wool messenger knickers the last weekend of May, in 312-degree (celsius) weather:

I’m going to give Dug an extra 55 style points, though, for wearing a leather belt during a race on a hot day. Plus an extra 23 style points for the socks.

How to Cheer People On
After everyone zoomed by my first spot, I relocated to a different part of the trail, where I could catch people right in the middle of the climb in the second lap — you know, where I figured everyone would be suffering the most.

And this is where I discovered something amazing.

I discovered that I really enjoy watching bike races. This is truly a startling discovery, because while I’ve been to dozens of races, it’s always been to race, never to watch.

Specifically, I really enjoyed cheering people on. Here are the things I yelled at people as they went by:

  • “Looking strong! Looking very strong!”
  • “You’re a monster climber, dude!”
  • Damn, you are fast! Keep it up!”
  • “Way to climb, man, way to climb!

To my delight, it seemed most people really seemed to appreciate my encouragement. This shouldn’t be a surprise, I guess. When I’m racing, my demons tend to talk to me nonstop, so any contrary voice telling me I’m doing OK is more than welcome.

I did notice, however, a certain amount of variance in the way people responded to my encouragement:

  • Habitual racers: Pros and experts mostly didn’t acknowledge me as I cheered them on (Chris Fox being the notable exception). My guess is because they’ve heard this kind of thing often enough that it no longer affects them.
  • Sport, novice, and masters racers: These are the people who responded best to encouragement. These are the people who are pushing themselves into new territory and just eat up any kind words that let them know they’re doing well. These are the people who usually smiled and said, “Thanks!”
  • “Cave of pain” racers: Sometimes I’d be cheering someone on and then — just as they passed me — I’d see their eyes, just for a moment. That’s all it takes, though. These racers are beyond encouragement. All they want to do is finish the race and be allowed to die quietly. I’ve been this kind of racer, and I remember thinking to myself when someone would cheer me on, “I wish that guy would just shut up.”

Big Finish
After all my friends passed me, I started working my way to the finish line. This was slow, because I had to walk on the singletrack, and there were still racers on the course. I’d walk five steps, step off the course, cheer on the guy going past, and then repeat.

I was having a great time.

By the time I got back to the Start / Finish, Brad and Kenny had finished the race — turns out they took second and third, respectively, in the SS class.

Two Fat Cyclist jerseys on the podium already. Nice!

Dug rolled across the finish line a short time later.

It turns out he did the whole race carrying a Diet Coke.

No, not really.

As for me, I left the race feeling like I had turned in an extremely strong performance. I think, in fact, I may have finally found what I’m best at.

I am an awesome spectator.

A Note from the Missus

05.28.2007 | 9:13 pm

Dear Fat Cyclist Readers,

Can I just say, “wow!” I know you all as readers – many as extremely funny, commenting readers – of my husband’s blog. And I lurk constantly on his site, never opening my mouth because I’m a little on the shy side. So most of you only know me through my husband’s sometimes funny, sometimes serious, often sillily (although not recently) exaggerated posts about me. So without really even knowing me, you all have blown me and my husband away with the vast amounts of sincere prayers and positive thoughts coming our way.

Imagine my surprise when Elden brought home a huge bag full of notes, cards, and gifts, mailed from all over the world (Thanks Botched, for orchestrating it). The “Cancer Sucks” hat made me laugh, as did the Biohazard socks (I’m sure I’m still glowing after three weeks of radiation). The “Believe” sign will go over my desk, and the custom-made “Girl Power” CD is going into my car.

It’s hard to believe so many people would go to the time to write and mail a card. All of your personalized notes were very touching. In fact, I had to read them a few at a time, because I started tearing up. One card had all the signatures from the kids in a middle-school band class. Another had hand-drawn pictures from their kids. Several cards looked homemade, and the words and thoughts on every card felt like they came from close friends, even though I’ve never met most of you.

Also, I feel a huge wave of support from all the comments and suggestions you have left us in this blog and in your email. It is more than I ever imagined, and it helps me and Elden and our children more than you could know.

I have finished radiation: fifteen sessions to help shrink the tumor in my hip. (Doc was worried I’d fracture the weakened bone.) So, one step down. Tuesday morning, I start chemo. And next week, more chemo, and so on and so on. Who knows if I will be up for Leadville this year like was planned. But I am trying to tell my body that it has to be up for this one adventure this summer. I really want to be there when Elden finally spanks the sub-nine. So, if I can request more positive vibes, that is one of my goals this year. It would be fun to be able to meet some of you who have been so wonderfully supportive to us during this quite frustrating turn of events.

Again thank you for everything. I am still stunned by your incredible generosity, kindness, thoughtful words. And, well, you’re all just dang (my kids read this blog) cool. Elden has the best readers anywhere. You guys rock!


PS from Fatty: People who say the Internet is an ugly place have been hanging around the wrong parts of the Internet. You guys are the best. Thank you.

Why I Am Not Writing A Fake News Piece About Doping Today

05.25.2007 | 8:20 am

I have this fake news piece bouncing around in my head right now. It’s just busting to come out, really. It would write itself, if I chose to let it.

But I’m not going to.

What the Fake News Piece Would Be About
If I were going to write a fake news piece today, it would be about how scientists discovered a parallel universe today that is identical to ours in every single way except that in this parallel universe, Lance Armstrong was a doper, just like — as it increasingly seems, with the admission of Bjarne Riis today — all the other top cyclists in recent memory.

In this parallel universe, Lance Armstrong — because he doped, unlike in this universe — dominated all the other cyclists even more, winning every stage of the tour, and then lapping the field in the final stage.

The implication, of course, is that it seems really strange that the top cyclists in the world, even doping, could not beat a guy who was racing clean.

But, as I mentioned, I’m not going to write it.

Why I’m Not Writing It
Here’s the thing. A couple of weeks ago, I went over to the LiveStrong site. In the Cancer Support section, I filled out a form detailing what’s up with Susan and the kind of help we would like.

I expected maybe a form letter back in a couple weeks, maybe a list of local resources I could contact on my own.

Instead, the next day, I got a call from a lady who stayed on the phone with me for 90 minutes, heaping practical help. She set us up with ways we could save money on prescriptions. She conference-called in research foundations, hooking us up with clinical trials we might participate in. And while she was the model of efficiency, she was also incredibly caring and personal. She gave me her direct number and told me to call her when I was ready to take next steps.

She was like Nordstrom on steroids.

So now I’m a big fan of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. How could I not be? It turns out all those yellow wristbands we’ve all worn (note to self: buy more wristbands) fund a foundation that is really making a difference in peoples’ lives. In my life.

So Lance gets a pass from me.


PS: Today’s weight: 156.2

The ‘07 Kokopelli Trail Race, Part III: I Take Leave of My Senses

05.24.2007 | 7:22 am

Before I even started the KTR, I knew there would be three sections that would test my limits: the climb from Dewey Bridge to 5 Mile Mesa (or is it 7 Mile Mesa? I can never remember), the climb from Fisher Valley to North Beaver Mesa, and the climb up to the La Sal mountain.

The thing is, those climbs come one after another, with descents that either are so technical or are over so fast that you don’t have any time to recover.

Consider it: 11,647 feet of climbing, over 64 miles. The below profile chart gives you a pretty decent idea of what the trip is like. (You can see the route and all the stats for this part of the ride by clicking here.)


Which is to say, the second half of the KTR is brutal. And there are none of the easy bailout options that present themselves during the first part of the race.

But at least it’s a downhill finish, right?

Greg, Part 1
For the entire race, I was too cautious about water. My basic rule was that any time I got down to two full bottles, I would take the next opportunity to find and filter water, completely loading up, just in case it took me a long time to get to the next water crossing — or just in case the next water crossing, wasn’t.

Following this rule, I began the first big climb to 5-Mile Mesa (look at mile 0-10 in the profile chart) completely loaded up with water. Within a few miles, I felt like a fool — there was a stream: a much clearer, cooler, more convenient water crossing than the muddy Colorado River I had just filled up at. I hadn’t needed to pack that heavy (and believe me, it felt very heavy gallon of water all this way). Oh well.

Incidentally, there was a cyclist laying down in the stream.

I stopped, pulled my earphones out, and said hi. Greg — for Greg was his name — sat up, said hi, then ducked his head in the water one last time and got ready to roll.

Here’s a biking axiom: a funny, nice riding buddy can reduce the pain quotient of a climb by 35%. And, thanks to my Twin Six Deluxe socks, it didn’t take long for Greg to put the pieces together and we talked about the upcoming special pink edition of the jersey, how it’s possible that the Twin Six guys seem to know every cyclist in the universe, and the fact that Greg’s a Twin Six rider. Love his team bio.

Unfortunately — for me — eventually I just couldn’t keep up with Greg. He tried to slow down for me, but the reality is, when you’re deep into an endurance ride it’s almost impossible to speed up or slow down your pace. The speed you’re going is the speed you’re capable of going.

That’s why, no matter how many times I’ve planned epic rides with friends, once we get on the trail, everyone eventually winds up riding big pieces of the course alone.

It’s as it should be.

Heat of the Day
So I continued on alone as the day started getting hot. Really hot. I wished, over and over, two things:

  • For a lower gear
  • For my feet to stop hurting so bad

With regards to the latter problem, I finally had a knuckle-headed epiphany. Why, it turns out I was packing a full bottle of ibuprofen! Duh. Four capsules sounded like a good number, and half an hour later I was able to beat the pain in my feet into the background of my thoughts.

It was during this climb that the only Bananarama song I have on my iPod — “Cruel Summer” — got randomly shuffled into play. I actually laughed out loud.

I remembered Al Maviva quoting Eric Rasmuson as saying that climbing isn’t as hard if you just look at your front wheel. So I just stared at my front wheel.

It was no easier.

I passed two cyclists, neither of which was moving. No, they weren’t dead, they were just resting under available shade. At least I hoped they were just resting.

Then between eight and ten Land Rovers passed me, each with a male driver and a female passenger. Weird. Do Land Rover clubs have a men-with-female-companions-only membership rule?

And no, I wasn’t hallucinating.

That came later.

Greg, Part 2
As I neared the summit of 5 Mile Mesa (or is it 7 Mile Pass? I must find out someday), I finished off the last of the water in my Camelbak. By my rule, that meant I needed to stop at the next water crossing and fill up.

I was hot. I was tired. I was a little bit thick-tongued and mentally addled. More than usual, I mean.

Then I saw another rider trying to get some shade under a bush. He stood up as I approached. It was Greg.

“How’s it going?” I asked, slurrily.

“Oh, I’m just looking forward to getting some water,” he said.

“Tell me about it,” I replied, and kept going, figuring he’d be riding with me.

But when I looked back a few minutes later, he wasn’t there.

And then, half an hour later, it occurred to me: he may well have been asking if I had any water to spare, without wanting to come right out and ask.

Like I said, I was thick tongued and addle-brained.

Greg, if you’re still alive and you read this, please accept my apologies. I didn’t get the clue, or I wouldn’t have left you to die, under a bush, at the top of 5 Mile Mesa (7 Mile Pass, whatever). I still had two bottles, and if you would have asked, you could’ve had one.

An interminable hike-a-bike down a boulder ravine (interminable because the hike was long, the day was hot, my feet were in pain, and I was beginning to feel really exhausted) brought me into Fisher Valley. I was now down to one bottle of water, and was beginning to worry. Would I run out of water before the next water crossing? I thought there was one just a few miles away, but couldn’t be sure.

On the other hand, I could see that the ranch in this valley was currently watering its alfalfa fields, mocking me.

I decided to take a side trip toward the ranch and pick up some water there, rather than trust there’d be a water crossing on the trail.

The thing is, the longer I rode toward the ranch, the further it seemed to get away from me. And the hoped-for irrigation ditch never materialized.

So, after ten minutes (or fifteen or twenty — hard to say) I gave up and headed back onto the trail, figuring I’d trust to finding water where everyone else did.

Nothing like putting in a few extra miles on a 140 mile bike ride.

Time for the Big Climb
Sure enough, after a quick climb (well, “quick” may not be the correct adjective) and descent, I came across the water crossing, just where I remembered it. So the detour really was a waste.

And there were two riders, sitting at the stream. We talked a bit while I filtered. One of them was named Jesper, and he was currently lamenting that he had picked too steep a gear for his singlespeed.

“Oh, and the fun’s just beginning,” I said.

“Have you ridden this trail before?” he asked.

“Not in this direction, but the uphill we’re about to do takes about 45 minutes when you go downhill.”

“How long of a climb is it?” Jesper asked, visibly worried. And rightly so.

“It’ll be nine miles before we get any kind of break at all.”

As it turns out, you’re climbing pretty much nonstop for about fifteen miles (check out mile 22-37 on the elevation profile).

Better get started.

I Do Not Think I See What I Think I See
It was during this climb up to North Beaver Mesa that I began to hallucinate.

Yes, really.

I started seeing things on the side of the road that would turn out — as I got closer — to be nothing more than rocks, logs and flowers.

The following day, as we drove home and I relayed this to my friends, Adam Lisonbee chimed in, “I was hallucinating on that stretch, too!”

We compared hallucinations:

“I saw a lawnchair,” said Adam. “I was so disappointed when it turned out to be nothing but some wildflowers.”

“I saw an ice chest,” I said. “I had no problem with raiding it either. I was really ticked off that it was just a stump.”

“I saw a real estate sign,” Adam said. “I was thinking, ‘How come North Beaver Mesa is for sale?’”

“I saw people sitting on the side of the road. They always turned out to be trees. And I saw an armadillo. And a hedgehog.”

When it comes down to it, I think I may have hallucinated more than Adam.

Amazingly, the climb to North Beaver Mesa eventually ended. At the top, there was Adam, sitting in a stream (since he confirmed he was really there, I believe I can confidently say this was not a hallucination). Adam saluted, I asked for a bullet to kill myself with, and Adam replied he had already used the only one he had.

We were very funny.

A five mile descent on pavement (mile 37-42, if you’re looking at the elevation profile) brought me to the final big climb of the day, up to the La Sal mountains. This climb was on pavement, has multiple switchbacks, and was just incredibly boring.

You know what the problem with “boring” is when it’s Saturday afternoon, you haven’t slept since Thursday, and you’ve been on your bike for eighteen hours?

You get sleepy. Verrrrry sleeeepy.

I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was turning the pedals, but my head kept snapping forward, and my bike was veering all over the road.

The hallucinations were getting more common, too. I saw a train of 8-10 Miatas coming down the road. Once again, each car had a male driver and a female passenger (usually looking bored).

Or were those real? Hard to say.

Somewhere along the way up, it occurred to me: maybe the music was making me sleepy. I pulled out the iPod headphones, and that did seem to help.

A little bit.

When I finally got to the top of that road, knowing that it was all downhill from there (seriously, check out the profile from mile 50 to the end of the race), I laughed aloud.

I knew I’d make it.

Fast Finish
After a hard day of climbing, ten miles of fast, easy downhill feels so good. I didn’t pedal at all. Just coasted. It was time for gravity to pay me back.

And it was still light — barely — which was good, because I had used up all my batteries earlier in the day, back when I thought I’d do this race in 18 hours. Oh, the naivete of youth!

And then I was in the parking lot. Botched Experiment found me a chair. Mark Albrecht brought me some ice cream sandwiches (the best food I have ever had in my life). Kenny looked relieved and said my wife and sister Kellene had been calling, wondering if they ought to send out Search and Rescue.

I finished 25th (or so) out of 60 (or so) starters and 35 (or so) finishers. Mid-pack at best.

And, without question, this was my proudest mountain biking moment, ever.

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