Fed Ex just left nineteen boxes full of jerseys at my house. They (the jerseys, not the boxes) are beautiful. So of course I had to try one on and get some photos.
And here’s back:
And here’s me mugging it up (and showing off what an awesome view I have from my backyard).
Twin Six did an awesome job, no?
With the jerseys in, I expect some of you have some questions. I’ll try to answer the ones I can anticipate right now.
Q. How soon will you be shipping them?
A. I’m going to start tonight and hope to have shipped all of them by Tuesday (Monday’s a holiday).
Q. I’ve got a race / event this weekend and I’d like to wear my new jersey. Can you be sure mine is one of the first you ship?
A. Sure, I’ll try, but I can’t guarantee it’ll get to you in time for your race. If you email me with the reason yours should be one of the first few I ship out and promise you’ll email a pic of you wearing the jersey at your race / event, I’ll do my best to bump you up.
Q. What size are you wearing in that photo?
A. Medium. Yeah, I’m wearing Medium now. Check me out.
Q. So what’s with the shaved head?
A. Well, the little peninsula of hair I had up top was looking thinner and thinner. I figured it was time to either shave it or do a combover. I think I made the right call. Plus, I want to be just like Kenny when I grow up.
Q. I really want one in XL or XXL or XXXL. Do you have any?
A. I don’t, but Twin Six will have a few for sale once I send them their portion of the jerseys. I’ll of course post on my blog when they put those up for sale on their site. I’d recommend moving fast, because a lot more people have asked for that size of jersey than they’ll have available. If you don’t manage to scoop up one of those, you should be able to score one of the special pink “Fighting for Susan” edition jerseys, which I’ll have more info on soonish.
Q. Am I one of the people who gets a free box of Matisse and Jack’s Bake-at-Home Energy Bars?
A. If you were one of the people who bought a jersey the first day they were available and you live in the U.S., yes. Otherwise, no.
Q. Am I one of the people who gets a free Banjo Brothers Pocket Messenger Bag?
A. If you pre-ordered a jersey, yes. All 300 of you.
Q. I’m local. Can I just come pick mine up?
A. That would be awesome. If you don’t know my home address, email me and I’ll let you know.
OK, I’m off to the Post Office to figure out how to ship these without breaking the bank.
PS: I’ll post part III of the KTR race late tonight or tomorrow morning. Not being coy, I just haven’t written it yet.
A Note from Fatty: A couple notes before I get started on today’s installment of my KTR ride.
- Susan and I just got back from the oncologist’s, where we were planning out her chemo program. Susan starts her chemo program a week from today. From what I’ve heard, even though she’ll still be undergoing chemo this August, I’m very hopeful that she’ll still be able to come with me to the Leadville 100. And the Doctor said we should for sure plan ourselves a nice trip to Italy a little further down the road during one of the 2-3 month breaks between chemo programs. So that’s good.
- Kenny and I are quoted in this Denver Post article about the KTR. I have just one question: how did I wind up sounding like a new age goober?
- I just heard from the guys at Twin Six that the Fat Cyclist jerseys are now on the way to my house, and should be here by this Friday. Which means I have the three-day weekend to get them packaged and ready to ship by this Tuesday. I am incredibly excited to see these jerseys, to wear them, and to get them shipped to you.
You want to know the biggest reason I was glad for the sunrise while riding the Kokopelli Trail? I was tired of dodging those stupid kangaroo mice. As someone who doesn’t like to kill anything I don’t intend to eat (that came out more barbaric than I meant it), I spent hours in the evening avoiding kangaroo mice as they panicked in the sudden glare of my lights and jumped right toward my wheels.
I don’t think I hit many, but I’d be surprised if I didn’t get any.
Anyway, as the night turned to day, the guys I had bunched up with turned toward Westwater to fill up on water. I still had enough — by my projections — to keep going and thus avoid the four mile detour.
I crossed the road that led to Cisco, and then entered onto one of the sections of singletrack I had really been dreading. In my experience (I’ve ridden the Kokopelli Trail a number of times, just not in this direction or without support), it was one of the most painful, slow, agonizing, and interminable sections of the whole trail.
And so, naturally, this turned out to be one of the funnest, easiest sections of the whole day for me.
I don’t know why I suddenly had energy, but I had it. I don’t know why I suddenly loved riding my bike so much — even though I had already been on it for more than six hours — but I loved it. I was just happy to be there.
Even though my feet hurt so much.
I started wondering why I liked this section of trail so much today, when I had always hated it before. I could think of a few good reasons:
- Distribution of Vertical Gain: Even though the altitude at either end of this section of trail is about the same, the way I was going this time bunched up all the climbing at the beginning, giving me a mostly downhill ride for the rest of the section.
- Temperature: For the first time ever, I was riding this section of trail early in the morning instead of in the heat of the day. This made a huge difference in how the trail felt (I would observe this fact in reverse later in the day).
- Trail Flow: Some trails are just more fun in one direction than in the other. There may be no quantifiable reason for why, but you know it’s true.
Meet Your Fellow Racers
Now that it was light, it was more natural to talk with others who were doing this race. At least I thought so. The first rider I passed, I said, “Hey, awesome morning, isn’t it?” to. He didn’t answer. He had headphones on.
Okay. Here’s a rule. If you are on a crazy race where you are going to be spending hour upon hour alone, you are required to greet each and every other rider in the same circumstance. Take out the stupid headphones for a second. Say hello. Acknowledge that you’re both doing something pretty darned cool / stupid / unusual, and wish the other rider lots of luck. Could I get someone to second the motion on this?
To be fair, this was the only guy the whole day who was too preoccupied with himself and his music to say hi.
And in fact, shortly afterward, I came across another racer — this one very friendly — who was taking a short break, to have a smoke.
Let me repeat, in bold and italics so as to make my astonishment clear: A racer on the Kokopelli Trail was having a smoke.
Sadly, it wasn’t until a few minutes later that I thought to wonder: How many cigarettes does one ration out for the Kokopelli Trail Race? A pack? Two?
Here’s a simple way to tell if the day’s going to be warm: If it’s 8:00am and you’re switching to your sleeveless mesh jersey, it’s going to be warm.
As I crossed the road to get to yet another stretch of sandy, rocky singletrack, I jiggled my camelbak. Not much there. I sucked on it and got the dreaded “Shlurrrpp” sound that tells you you’ve finished it off.
You have no idea how pleased I was with myself: I was ten miles away from Dewey Bridge, the point I had chosen as my first place to replenish my water, and I had two bottles of water left.
It was on this section of trail that I came across my first ethical dilemma for the ride. The rules for the KTR say that everyone takes care of themselves — if you break your bike, you fix it yourself, with the stuff you brought. If you need food, you better have brought it yourself.
But see, this rule doesn’t work well with my own personal rule, which is: if you see a biker on the side of the trail, you ask if s/he needs help.
Anyway, I came across a rider pushing her bike. She said her rear derailleur was broken. That sounded familiar. So, even though it was against the rules, I asked if she wanted me to help change her bike into a singlespeed so she could continue. “No, I’m just going to hike to Dewey Bridge and call it a day,” she said.
But what if she had wanted help? Or what if any of the several riders I saw on the side of the trail that day had wanted help? I guess I would have been DQ’ing both them and me to help, in which case I think I’d rather be DQ’d than finish the race. If a rule precludes me being a decent person, it’s a stupid rule.
My feet were hurting something fierce as I saw the Colorado River down below me. The halfway point, in distance anyways.
Getting Ready For the Hard Part
I pulled into the Dewey Bridge campground area, then took my time (about 40 minutes) eating lunch, cleaning my glasses, lubing my bike chain, and filtering a gallon of water from the muddy Colorado river.
I was in no hurry to start, because I knew that the remaining part of the ride — about 65 miles, if I remembered correctly — was nothing but steep climbs and fast descents — no easy rolling for the rest of the day.
While I was thus dawdling, a couple of riders rolled in and asked if I planned to go on. Both times I said yes, then asked if they were going to keep riding. Both times they said no. My theory is that from the looks of me, they figured I was done and would be a good person to commisserate with.
It was 9:40am when I got back on my bike, fully expecting the steepest, hottest, most painful, most difficult day of riding in my life.
It’s kinda cool to think in superlatives that way.
PS: If you’re a geek like me, you might want to check out what my GPS had to say about the trip so far. Click here to see the map, elevation, speed, distance, and other stats for the ride from Loma to Dewey Bridge.
PPS: If you want to cheat and see what my GPS data showed for the second half of the trip, click here.
The Kokopelli Trail Race this year was a remarkable event for me in many ways. It was the longest (in time) ride I’ve ever done. It was the first time I’ve done an unsupported endurance ride. It was the most scared I’ve ever been on a ride.
And, by far, it was the most epic ride I’ve ever been on.
By a lot.
In other words, I’ve got a lot of story to tell, and I hope you won’t mind if I take a few days to tell it.
Meet Your Friendly BLM Representatives
The ride started — or nearly failed to start — with a little bit of drama. At about 10:30pm Friday night, about 50 of us gathered at the Loma trailhead to participate in what could hardly be called an organized event.
And that’s when the BLM agents rolled up, asking for Adam Lisonbee, our ringleader.
Without a heartbeat’s hesitation, we gave him up.
For the next half hour, everyone in the group argued whether what we were doing required a permit. Our point was that there was no registration, no fee, no list of participants. We were just a rather large group ride, with some (but definitely not all) people hoping to go fast.
The BLM’s argument was that we were a little too big and a little too organized (there was a web page, an organizer, and a name for what we were doing) to be called a group ride.
The argument went in circles, with nobody conceding anything. I stood in the back of the group, torn between wanting to get riding and the weaselly hope that the whole thing would get canceled, because then I’d have an ironclad excuse for not following up on my boast that I would do this ride.
Fortunately / unfortunately, the BLM eventually got tired of arguing, wrote Adam a ticket (which we all chipped in to cover), and then skulked around the parking lot until midnight, which is when we all took off.
So, what do you carry if you’re planning to do a 142-mile mountain bike ride, completely self-sufficiently, through both the night and heat of day?
Well, I wore bib shorts, a sleeveless jersey, a short-sleeved jersey on top of it, arm warmers, and knee warmers. Here, you can see me guiltily suiting up, while Kenny looks on angrily, wondering why I’m wearing knee warmers after he’s heeded my advice to destroy his own.
For food, I packed 18 packets of Clif Shot Bloks, 6 Honey Stinger protein bars, and a gallon of water (100oz Camelbak bladder and 2 large water bottles mounted on the frame).
For light, I used a CygoLite Dualcross 200, rented from a local sports store, and a LED headlamp, which made wearing my helmet very uncomfortable.
I was keeping it simple.
Terror and Pain
Starting the Kokopelli Trail at midnight from the Loma end of the trail means that you are going to ride every bit of the technical part of the trail at the very darkest part of the night. Even so, it was a warm night, and I took off my knee warmers within fifteen minutes of starting the ride, never to put them back on again for the remainder of the race.
Anyway, the first section of the KTR is called Mary’s Loop. It’s not too bad, even in the dark. Still, I was spooked, thinking frequently that this was the trail from which my sister had taken an 18-foot drop while mountain biking in the daylight.
This trail leads to Troybilt, which is a terrific trail if you know it well, and if it’s daylight. I, alas, do not know the trail well, and there was only the tiniest sliver of moon, which supplemented the bike lights not even a tiny bit.
And that’s when the worst moment of my whole day happened.
About an hour into the ride, I was riding along Troybilt, finishing up a fast downhill section. It emptied into a dry riverbed, which sorta-kinda-but-not-really looked like it was the trail. I followed it for a moment, but didn’t see enough tire marks in the sand to convince me I was on the right track. I turned around and followed it in the other direction.
I couldn’t find a trail anywhere. I was lost.
I started a slow walking spiral, looking for something that might be a trail. And, in a few minutes, I found it — the reason I hadn’t seen the trail before was that it started up on a ledge about three feet above me. I had to lift my bike onto the trail to continue.
What a relief. I wasn’t going to DNF an hour into a race just because I couldn’t find the trail.
I hoisted my bike up onto the ledge, then held it in place with my left hand while I stepped up onto what would have to serve as a step.
And then the hard plastic cleats on my bike shoes — relatively new bike shoes, which I have been riding for only a month or so — slipped. I tumbled backward, scraping up my right knee. Twisting around to the right, I put out my right arm to protect myself.
You know, no matter how many times I dislocate my shoulder, it never gets old.
I stumbled around for a few minutes, angry, hurt, and feeling very alone. To make matters worse, my arm wouldn’t go back into the socket easily like it usually does. It took several tries, and hurt much worse than usual when it finally seated itself.
My shoulder would throb the rest of the day, making ugly, muffled popping sounds at strange, unexpected moments.
Once I had myself back together, I hoisted my bike — which had fallen to my side when I fell — back onto the trail, I didn’t even look at it to see if it was OK. I just got back on and started riding.
Or rather, I got back on and tried to start riding. Unfortunately, the chain immediately got sucked between the spokes and big cog. I got off, got the chain back in place, and started riding again.
Same result. OK, something’s definitely wrong.
Peering at the rear derailleur by the light of my headlamp, I could see: the derailleur was bent and cracked. I tried shifting it, but except for the fourth ring, it hopped all over the place.
My bike was now officially a three-speed. I was screwed.
“OK, fine,” I thought. “Now I’ve got three legitimate reason to quit the race: broken bike, cut up knee (I knew I could play it up to make it sound like it was more painful than it really was), and dislocated shoulder.”
But first, I needed to get to a place where I could bail out. I figured that Rabbit Valley, about twenty miles into the ride, would be a good place to quit — it was close to the freeway, and there was a good chance I’d get a phone signal.
Meanwhile, I may as well keep going.
After I finally picked my way down the canyon and up the other side to the big open frontage road that leads to Rabbit Valley, I started thinking about what it meant to quit. It would be the first time I had ever quit any race. I didn’t like the thought of that. More importantly, though, right now my wife is having to be tough every single day of her life. If I quit this race even though my bike was still rolling, even though my shoulder was back where it belonged, even though my knee injury was purely superficial, how tough would I look?
I decided to keep going until / unless my bike truly could not be ridden. And I looked at my new pink headset dozens of times throughout that day to remind me of that.
There was a time when I looked to Tyler Hamilton for an example of being strong through pain.
Now I just look to my wife.
Rabbit Valley is an ATV paradise, criscrossed with dirt trails. Some of them are marked. Other times, I had to use my very best Boy Scout skills and try to figure out which way the Kokopelli trail went. Mostly, I did this by getting low to the ground and shining my light at the trail. The shadows of all those bike tracks showed up more clearly that way.
And, to my credit, I never got lost for more than ten or twenty yards at a time on this ride.
At one of the moments where I needed to stop and assess which trail to take, I happened to look up.
I had never seen the stars so clearly. So I took a moment and enjoyed it. Then I rode for a few minutes and did the same thing. I don’t get to see the Milky Way so brightly very often, and it was definitely worth taking the time to look.
By 4:00am, I was marching my bike up a steep climb out of Rabbit Valley and to the plateau that drops to the next big section of the ride — Westwater to Cisco. While hiking, I noticed that what had started as faint discomfort from my shoes was rapidly blooming into full-blown pain. If you want to imagine how it felt, imagine taping a pencil right where your feet press against the cleat of your pedals. It wouldn’t hurt at first — you’d just say, “hey, there’s a pencil in my shoe.” After a while, though, it would hurt a lot.
As the day progressed, the pain in my feet (both feet, same place) would become the single most prevalent feature of the ride.
For right now, though, I was just marching my bike up. And then I slipped and fell, tumbling in a backwards somersault. I stood up, praying nobody saw. Nobody had (that I know of). So I put my Camelbak back on.
And then I quickly took it back off.
Evidently, my roll in the grass had left the mesh back of my Camelbak full of goatheads.
With nothing else to do, I spent ten minutes picking them out as best as I could. But I’m sure I’ll never get all of them out.
By the time I got to the plateau that leads to Westwater (now approximately 35 miles into the race, I think), I had made a judgment call on lights. First, the Cygolite DualCross rocks, and I want one. It provided useful light throughout the entire night and beyond.
Second, the headlamp sucked. I no longer wanted any part of it. So I took it off — the batteries still good, the headlamp in perfect working condition — and hung it on the branch of a tree sticking out into the trail. The next person who comes along that trail gets a free light. Lucky her / him!
I rolled to the point where I needed to either head to Westwater and fill up with water or continue on to Dewey Bridge. I had plenty of water, as far as I knew, so I parted company with a couple of guys I rode and talked with for about an hour — guys who I could not now pick out of a lineup, because all I saw of their faces was bright headlamps.
It was starting to turn light, which somehow made me more comfortable about getting out the iPod (riding in the dark with one would have eliminated one too many senses). I left the lights on, curious to see how long they’d burn and figuring that number would be useful to mention in this blog when I strongly recommended the CygoLites for endurance nightriding (about nine hours, with the final two hours at full power).
I ratcheted up to the big ring and started pedaling along the fast, rolling, sandy singletrack, singing along with Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Forty miles down, 100 to go.
I’ve got quite a story to tell about doing the KTR yesterday, but am not yet exactly lucid. So, I’ll start writing the story tomorrow and post it in installments over the week. For right now, here are a few miscellaneous numbers that should give you an idea of what the day was like.
- Distance of the Kokopelli Trail: 142 miles
- Amount the BLM Fined Adam Lisonbee for “Organizing” an Event Without a Permit: $275
- Amount Racers Immediately Reimbursed Adam: $253. (My guess is that since some racers didn’t have money on hand and promised to send money to him as soon as they got home, Adam will eventually be reimbursed the full amount of the ticket. )
- Number of Participants in the 2007 KTR: Around 60 (exact number not known; nobody keeps track)
- Number of People who Completed the 2007 KTR: Around 30.
- Winning Time for the 2007 KTR: 12 hours and change, by Dave Wiens — the guy who has won the Leadville Trail 100 every year for as long as anyone can remember
- Kenny’s Time for the 2007 KTR: 15 hours and change. On a rigid singlespeed, with a blown-out shoe for more than a quarter of the race.
- Fatty’s Time for the 2007 KTR: 20:20. Yes, I did in fact finish the race.
- Number of Shot Bloks Fatty Consumed During the KTR: 90 (3000 calories)
- Number of Honey Stinger Peanut Butta Protein Bars Fatty Consumed During the KTR: 5 (1750 calories)
- Other Food Items Fatty Consumed During the KTR: None
- Estimated Number of Calories Fatty Expended During KTR: 16,000
- Quantity of Water Fatty Filtered from Available Water Sources (Colorado River, trailside creeks) During KTR: 2.5 gallons
- Number of Working Gears That Fatty Had Access to After Falling Less Than an Hour into the Race, Disclocating his Shoulder and Gashing His Knee: 3
- Fatty’s Pride at Finishing the Most Hardcore Event He’s Ever Participated In: Not measurable with conventional mathematics
In 12 hours (i.e., midnight tonight), the Kokopelli Trail Ride begins. Here are the things that I am thinking about.
Is It OK for a Man to Cry at a Bike Shop?
Yesterday afternoon, I went to Racer’s Cycle Service to pick up The Weapon of Choice (currently outfitted with a suspension fork, by the way — I’m not ready to do this race on a fully rigid bike).
Racer wheeled out the bike, and I immediately noticed something different: a pink Chris King Pretty and Strong headset. Evidently, Fish (we call him Fish because his real name is practically impossible to pronounce) — a guy who worked his way through law school at bike shops — put this on for me as a surprise gift.
I got all choked up. In fact, I’m getting all choked up again right now. I tell you what: I’ve got the best friends there have ever been, in the history of ever. Fish, thanks very much.
Whenever I’m about to start a race, I find myself thinking about what I’ll be doing exactly one day from that moment. One day from this moment, for example, I will probably be starting the climb up to Beaver Mesa. It’s about a nine-mile climb, if I remember correctly. I’ll be very hot and tired, and will be sick of eating Shot Bloks. I’ll probably be questioning, out loud, why I thought it was a good idea to do this race.
I will also be listening to War and Peace on my iPod. Really. An epic ride deserves an epic story.
A few weeks ago, I was staggered at how many of my friends were going to be doing this race with me. Here is the race status of these friends at this moment:
- Rick Sunderlage (not his real name): After cramping up on the White Rim, Rick began to question whether he should do the KTR. Eventually, he came to the conclusion he shouldn’t. I maintain that he should. I grade his bailout with a D+.
- Dug: Dug was never really in, so I can’t say he dropped out. He was, however, briefly hopeful he could make it work. Turns out he needs to watch his kids play soccer that morning. Bailout grade: C.
- Brad: Brad was in until yesterday morning, when he said he had to choose between either doing this race or the Cascade Creampuff. Since he did the Creampuff last year while he’s never tried anything of the magnitude of the KTR, I assert he made the wrong choice: it’s like choosing to see a movie you’ve already seen over a new, more exciting movie, just because you’ve already paid for the tickets to see that movie you’ve seen once before. Bailout grade: B-
- BotchedExperiment: A few days ago, Botched broke out into a painful rash wherever he had applied sunscreen during the White Rim ride. He says it feels just like poison ivy, and he is on all kinds of drugs to reduce swelling and fight pain. Providing this is true, I consider this a valid excuse. Plus, he’s still coming on the trip and acting as the guy who brings the car from the starting point to the finish line. Bailout grade: A
- Kenny: Kenny’s in. Of course Kenny’s in. I will see him at the starting line and at the finish line. That’s pretty much the way it is when you have a fast guy for a friend.
So I’ll be riding this 142-mile MTB race in the middle of nowhere by myself. And you know what? I’m very excited to be riding it that way. I’ve been needing some time to myself to think, and this ride will give that to me in spades.
Oh, and also — when I am not listening to War and Peace — I will use some of my Solitude time to listen to lots of Cake.
One thing about a race: I always get nervous. Always. Even when it’s a race where my sole objective is to complete (I honestly have no goal for a finishing time), I still get very nervous. I’m nervous right now.
And when I’m very nervous, I go to the bathroom a lot. Which, it turns out, is a very useful reaction. Cuz once you’ve started a race, it’s nice to um, have already gotten everything out of your system.
My Panic List
Long (weeks, usually) before I do any race, I start thinking about the stuff I ought to have with me at the race. Realizing my brain is middle-aged, I no longer try to keep that list of stuff in my head. Instead, I just keep a running list, which I check off as I pack.
I call this my “Panic List.”
Here is what is on my list for this trip. The “to get” list is stuff that I still need to buy. The “to bring” list is stuff I need to pack:
TO GET: Water, Money, Duct tape, Batteries
TO BRING: Shot bloks, Jacket, Honey Stinger Bars, Camelbak bladders (2), Filter, Lights, Extra batteries for lights, multitool, shorts, jersey, arm warmers, knee warmers. helmet, socks, shoes, gloves, glasses, lube, tubes, air cartridges, iPods, GPS, bottles (2), Camelbak, duct tape on seat tube, sunscreen, money, phone
Yeah, knee warmers is on the list. What’s it to ya?
What Did I Forget?
So, here’s a question: What should I have brought that I didn’t? If you list it and it turns out I wish I had it, I’ll acknowledge it in my race report.
OK, it’s 12:08 — just after noon — now. Twelve hours from now I’ll be eight minutes into the race.
Twenty four hours from now, I’ll still be climbing up toward Beaver Mesa, probably staring at that awesome pink headset.
PS: Today’s weight: 157.0
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