Desperate Measures

04.17.2008 | 11:57 pm

A week from today, I’m heading down to Moab for Kenny’s annual epic RAWROD event. You know what this means? I’ll tell you what it means:

  • Beer-boiled, grilled brats with mustard on Kenny’s homemade bread (yeah, Kenny makes his own bread, and it’s delicious).
  • Hanging out with 40 or so friends
  • An epic ride on sandstone for 100 miles
  • Bright sun and beautiful scenery

It’s really one of the best rides of the year…and this year I’m terrified to go.

Here’s why.

Let’s Begin With the Excuses
It has been an cold, windy, wet spring, which has followed on the heels of a cold, windy, snowy winter. And since I’ve decided this wasn’t going to be a big racing year for me, my motivation to get out and ride in bad weather has been…well, let’s say “weak.”

The degree to how far my fitness has collapsed (and to which my paunch has expanded) was brought home to me forcefully last Saturday and then again Monday. And then again today.

On Saturday, we had terrific weather, so a group of us set out on what was supposed to be a four-hour ride. Within an hour, I discovered that I am no longer one of the fast guys. I am also not one of the midpack guys. I am, however, one of the slow guys.

I will be more specific: I am the slowest guy.

Slow enough that people would ride for a while, then wait for me to catch up. And heavy enough that I noticed people were using the “Fatty” nickname without the irony I had become accustomed to. And — worst of all — weak enough that I made up an excuse to bail out of the ride early, so I wouldn’t have to climb Grove: “Sorry, I promised the kids I’d take them to the park.”

On Monday, I rode my bike to work: the 20 miles felt good. Riding home, however, was…problematic. Last year, I could do the 4-mile, 1500-foot climb in third gear, even carrying a fully loaded messenger bag.

Monday, I had to drop down to my granny gear for pretty much the whole thing. What’s worse, at one point I actually stalled out and unclipped, ready to stop and rest fro a moment. It was only at the last moment that I realized what an admission this would be — no longer able to complete a road climb I have done dozens of times before. I clipped back in and battled my way to the top.

Yesterday, I intentionally rode alone, because I couldn’t think of a single person who rides anywhere near as slowly as I do. And also because I didn’t want people to see how tightly my jerseys fit. I’m thinking of giving Twin Six a call and having them send me some bigger jerseys. You know, just ’til I lose a few pounds.

How I Will Get Into Extraordinary Shape In One Week
Am I the first person who has ever dawdled away the weeks and months when he should be training, only to find — with a week to go — that he is woefully unprepared for the event?


However, I have a plan that will help me still turn in a spectacular performance at the 2008 RAWOD. I will detail it here, so that you can adapt it for your own purposes.

  1. Train Like a Banshee. For the next week, I will train myself to and beyond my limits. I will ride hard every single day, and will do everything I can to get in at least five hours on the road each day. Some people might think that all I will accomplish by pushing this hard so close to a ride is ensuring my utter exhaustion before the ride even begins. To these people, I reply: “Pshaw.” Have they never heard the axiom “Better late than never?” And is it not indeed late? So is it not self-evident that it is better for me to train now than not at all? My logic is irrefutable, I think you will agree.
  2. Starve Myself. I have proven in times past that if I really set my mind to it, I can lose up to seven pounds in a week. In this case, I intend to lose weight by eating nothing but laxatives for the entire week. Thus will I arrive at the beginning of RAWROD hungry, weak, dehydrated, and probably quite light-headed. I would therefore like to ask my fellow riders, in advance, to please have the consideration to call Lifeflight when they see me passed out on the side of the trail, or — worse — gnawing on a cactus.
  3. Wear Tight Bib Shorts. I shall wear one of the most constricting pair of bib shorts I can find. This will serve two important purposes. First, it will hide — or at least reduce — my enormous stomach. Second, it will make it almost impossible for me to breathe. Hence, I again implore my fellow riders to take necessary action if they find me blue in the face, clawing feebly at my bibs…the instrument of my demise.
  4. Adjust Expectations. I plan to find ways to tell everyone I know my sad, sad story, hopefully conveying an impression of nobility and self-sacrifice, when the reality is that I am nothing but a lazy slob who’s been unwilling to ride except in perfect weather. With any luck, people will take pity on me and drop twenty minutes from my finish time.
  5. Cajole Myself. I have mastered a little-known technique in endurance cycling that always produces terrific results. I call it the “Internal monologue of disappointment.” Whenever I approach a difficult climb or feel tired, or otherwise fall short of the kind of cyclist I wish I were, I simply talk to myself. My favorite phrase is, “Please, just this once, can’t you be strong? Can’t you push yourself past your comfort level and give yourself something to be proud of?” I should probably point out that I do not like my interior voice very much.

Oh, and one other thing: I will also eat lots of avocado sandwiches. Those things are delicious!


  1. Comment by dug | 04.18.2008 | 12:06 pm

    solidarity brother

  2. Comment by matt | 04.18.2008 | 12:07 pm

    hi i enjoyed the read

  3. Comment by Brian | 04.18.2008 | 12:08 pm

    2 words: bonk city. If you’re dead set on hyper training at least have the decency to rest the day before and carbo load like mad. Then let us know if it works, because I have a century ride coming up and I’ve been slacking on the training!!

  4. Comment by Amy | 04.18.2008 | 12:09 pm

    I can relate – I have my first 5K on Sunday and due to sinuses, bad weather and laziness I missed 3 of the last 4 weeks of running. My strategy is to lower my expectations :P

  5. Comment by mark | 04.18.2008 | 12:13 pm

    Fatty, count on me to join you at the back of the pack for RAWROD. I haven’t had time to get out on a ride over 40 miles this year, so I am really questioning whether my endurance will be there. Worst case scenario, you could just skip the bike and rent a jeep.

  6. Comment by nickc | 04.18.2008 | 12:18 pm

    Avocado sandwiches, drop in performance…co-incidence? I don’t think so

  7. Comment by Melvin | 04.18.2008 | 12:24 pm

    Before the ride, tell everyone that your gingivitis is acting up. Works every time. Bring an iPod, because you’ll be riding alone.

  8. Comment by judi | 04.18.2008 | 12:25 pm

    Oh just have a good time. So what if you are DFL.

  9. Comment by bikemike | 04.18.2008 | 12:30 pm

    I smiled, quietly. to myself.
    good to have you back.

  10. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.18.2008 | 12:34 pm

    Your self-deprecating humor is unmatched. But I sense a tinge of real panic. Don’t worry, I’m confident I haven’t gained enough fitness to be where you’re at now even though you’ve lost fitness. But, yes, it’s an ego bruiser to lose ground. I’m looking forward to a nice ride, and I’ll bet I never see you since I’ll be way behind. So relax, I’ve got the back of the pack covered. (But I am giving Murphy’s Hogback a serious run this year – I’m cleaning that puppy! Maybe Hardscrabble and the Mineral Bottoms climb too.)

  11. Comment by fatty | 04.18.2008 | 12:38 pm

    kris – we’re going the other direction this year.

    nickc – i don’t think it’s the avocado. i think it’s the mayonnaise. and maybe the marshmallows. and possibly the industrial-sized can of spam.

    judi – i know, and i agree. but i just…can’t…help…myself. the urge to race is strong. just not as strong as the urge to eat carne asada burritos.

    bikemike – you smiled quietly to yourself? dude, that just hurts my feelings.

    brian – i intend to bonk in a manner most spectacular. see, if you’re slow, people just say you’re slow. if you bonk so bad that you’re barfing and pale and hallucinating and talking to elvis in norwegian, people revere you. that’s what i’m shooting for.

  12. Comment by Hamish A | 04.18.2008 | 12:53 pm

    The only time I’ve ever ‘crammed’ training and weight loss for an event was an umittigated disaster.

    I overdosed on Creatine, drank nothing but strong coffee, ate nothing at ALL for the last 4 days and on my final training ride managed to blow up so convincingly I couldn’t finish the ride home and had to sit by the roadside waiting for mt riding buddy to get his truck and come rescue my sorry ass.

    The day of the race however, I felt good. I was strong. I was ready. My shorts & jersey fitted well, I had every confidence that I was going to storm the course and take 1st. From the start I did great. Blitzed everyone and took a good 80 yard lead into the singletrack. Where I proceeded to get dizzy and fall down the drop off breaking my wrist.

    Still had great fun and didn’t finish quite last. So the training obviously worked!

    As a Fellow Fatty (6′3″ 283lbs) You have my sympathy and understanding so if you’re ever out this way I know a place that does FANTASTIC Carne asada burritos and then I’ll ‘let’ you beat me on the climbs :o)

  13. Comment by Mocougfan | 04.18.2008 | 12:57 pm


    Will you take a bunch of pics for us saps that can’t go? Enjoy the ride.

  14. Comment by ming | 04.18.2008 | 1:02 pm

    heres a one-time sure fire way to lose weight…cut off some fingers and toes! you love riding a single speed right? why not extend that desire of simplicity to your phalanges? you only need a couple on the hands, and toes? screw them, you can loose up to like 4 pounds.

    think about it, i know you have thought about it, youve shaved your head.

    you can thank me later

  15. Comment by Alaskan Dave Down Under | 04.18.2008 | 1:12 pm

    Never do today that which you can put off till next month.

  16. Comment by bikemike | 04.18.2008 | 1:16 pm

    also, last week we did about a 50 mile ride and one of the guys had only ridden about twice in three months. he goes to the front and tries to match all of the pulls the strong ones are doing into the wind. with about 12 miles left, he blew up like the 4th of July. at the end he couldn’t have gone any slower if he was riding uphill into the wind with no chain and his saddle on backwards. classic. something to look forward to.

  17. Comment by ridethewomble | 04.18.2008 | 1:18 pm

    Syllamo’s Revenge in two weeks. I went on a 15 mile group dirt ride last night, and I was gasping like a carp left on the bank of a river to die.

    50 miles of technical singletrack, with significant climbing. Help me, Mommy.

  18. Comment by Duane | 04.18.2008 | 2:52 pm

    Don’t wear a watch – leave all speed devices @ home. You’ll enjoy the ride more.

    Last year I ran my first marathon – which I was way under prepared for. I fractured my foot @ mile 4 – I didn’t know it at the time – my foot just hurt. I wanted to quit – but I kept thinking about my 2 year old… how would I look at him if I tapped out?

    I finished in 6hrs. I was one of those people that have to finish on the side walk. That sucked so bad. My 2 year old gave me a huge hug when I finished. That felt so awesome.

    You didn’t train? So what – just finish.

  19. Comment by Devin | 04.18.2008 | 6:29 pm

    First time commentor/long time reader.

    I feel for ya. Last year I did my first tri after not sitting on a saddle, swimming in a pool, or running more than 10 feet for the five weeks immediately prior to the race. The problem was a bad extended illness and the Oregon Bar Exam. It was probably stress that kept the illness around as long as it did. Anyway, that was one of my most miserable experiences and the longest run of my life from a pain perspective. My average HR was 185 for the 2hrs and 50 minutes it took me to finish the olympic distance tri. Fish beat me by like 25 minutes or more. Yeah, I am lucky I didn’t have a heart attack.

    Good luck dude. Hope your experience is better than mine. Now I got suckered into doing a 70.3 tri the beginning of June. I am praying that I can be less miserable this time.

    BTW, I think if you can down a half an avocado sandwich every 10 miles you should be fine on RAWROD.

  20. Comment by axel | 04.18.2008 | 6:31 pm

    i envy you – rawrod sounds great no matter what shape you are in. but your training program is all messed up:
    train like a banshee – but only this weekend, after that recover.
    eat well – you need the energy. feed the laxatives to one fellow rider who you want to finish behind you.
    wear a hawaiian shirt instead of tight bib shorts – much better for good attitude
    4 and 5 you have right…

  21. Comment by Tia | 04.18.2008 | 7:35 pm

    Dear Fatty,
    DON’T STARVE. Go on my “crash diet. Make sure that one meal a day is fish…even a can of tuna will work.(But not breaded or deep fried!) It would also help if you ate veggies with your fish and eggs for breakfast. I really think one can get rid of more poundage this way than starving.
    I wanted to write something about your entry on the 15th, but I was dripping from my eyes. It was most touching.
    I do pray constantly for you all. I would do more if you need me.
    Love, Tia
    P.S. I laughed so hard when you did your “glasses” blog. Your readers also left some wonderful comments.

  22. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 04.19.2008 | 12:38 am

    You can send my $5 to the same PO box as my jerseys. A while back I patented the rest/taper/eat-like-a-bandit-for-8-weeks-coming-up-to-anything-significant trick.

    To that end, since my 4th at the state championships early March I’ve ridden 220 miles in 6 weeks. Along with the stiff joints I’ve also gained 16 pounds. That should put me in a strong position for the first open road race of the season tomorrow.

  23. Comment by Tim D | 04.19.2008 | 1:57 am

    Contrary to what Duane says, do what I have done. My speedo says MPH but is actually measuring KPH. I am flying!

  24. Comment by mary | 04.19.2008 | 3:35 am

    find something different and put in your jersey pocket(s) every 10 miles–

    change the “goal” of the race into something else so you could say at the finished line “Yeah you might have finished in 1/3 the time it took me BUT LOOK what I FOUND- what did you find?

  25. Comment by Triflefat | 04.19.2008 | 3:52 am

    Ah Fatman!
    Over-weight, under-trained, where is the problem here?
    You are not the world-renowned blogger FAT CYCLIST for nothing. If you were not fat, hell, you would just be CYCLIST. Now really!

    This is not a low point in your “career”. If anything, I suspect a triumphant outcome is in the wings.
    You have lulled your group into a false sense of confidence on the road. Now destroy that pretty boy Kenny who received rather more than his fair share of talent when that was being given out. (And you say he bakes bread as well? Tut, tut)
    Do it for us Fatty, above all do it for yourself.
    And if it all turns out as badly as you reckon, just blame it on the avocado or the laxatives (aren’t they the same thing?)

  26. Comment by jennhollo | 04.19.2008 | 5:25 am

    There’s nothing wrong with being in the back of the pack! Well, I say that as someone who took their first group ride a few weeks ago and was dropped by the C group. They formed a C- group for me and I was dropped by them at the end, too. How much humilation can one person take?
    Everyone says it will come. We’ll see.

    Good luck on your ride. Your training plan sounds like a death wish.

  27. Comment by Bonzai Buckaroo | 04.19.2008 | 9:08 am

    Too many cliches so little time. Carpe Diem.

  28. Comment by PeterUK | 04.19.2008 | 9:10 am

    Rather than “Better late than never” I prefer “It’s too late now” this way I dont have to do any training or dieting before a big important ride.
    The most important thing is that I remember to clip out when I come to a complete standstill on a big climb.

    I rode a Century with 6000 ft of climbing with the Flu in march..we still talk about that one at the Coffee shop..that was a Steller bonk, I’m really proud of that one in fact, on the way down one descent I seriously considered crashing..the thoughts of laying in a nice warm Ambulance followed by a Hospital Bed were overwhelming!

    Have another Avo Sarnie Fatty!

  29. Comment by Mike Roadie | 04.19.2008 | 9:46 am

    Toast. You are. I know this because I am toast, too. Tomorrow I am driving 1 1/2 hours to ride with a dozen friends of mine; only to find out that I am the only one from here going… I get to ride with “intense fast guy”!

    I am toast.

  30. Comment by El Animal | 04.19.2008 | 11:00 am

    Welcome to my world dear fatty.

  31. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.19.2008 | 11:42 am

    Elden – I thought from talking to Kenny we’d be going clockwise (down Shaffer), but we’re going the other way? Either way it should be fun.

  32. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 04.19.2008 | 12:44 pm

    Hey, I too have been riding alone becasue I didn’t think anyone else was slow enough to ride with me.

    I started to try a similar binge training regime last week, but what I found out is that after about 1.5 hours, I’m totally shot. I’m up to about 2.5 hours of very slow riding now…

    Will you return my calls so I can get those new shoes from you?–or are you witholding the shoes until the day before RAWROD as a strategy to ensure that someone else suffers worse than you?

  33. Comment by Emily | 04.19.2008 | 5:39 pm

    I highly suspect you of sandbagging on this one. It’s obviously an elaborate ruse and I see your friends are all falling for it. You’ll have quite a laugh on the podium.

  34. Comment by utracerdad | 04.19.2008 | 6:08 pm

    I so wanted to go this year, seems that someone in my family (17 yr hold female :) ) decided that Prom was more important than this ride, go figure, she really needs to get those priorities down. I will be there next year, and Elden if you that slow we need to ride, than at least I might be able to see your tracks as I bring up the rear, no one rides as slow as I do :).

  35. Comment by Kathy | 04.19.2008 | 7:45 pm

    I’m going to make my husband read this blog. He’s been nagging me to start training for a ride we’re doing together … in July! Well, it is a week long ride, but that’s beside the point.

  36. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.19.2008 | 11:04 pm

    godd plan, Elden. should work.

  37. Comment by Big Boned | 04.20.2008 | 4:40 am

    I grew up in Michigan in the 70’s/80’s, so Ted “The Motorcity Madman” Nugent was one of the early shaping influences on my life – it explains a lot…
    Anyway, as I read your pitiful little story, lyrics from one of Ol’ Uncle Ted’s songs kept tickling my brain. Something like “the crows be picking at your flesh and you got no control of the situation….hahahaha!”
    Disturbing I suppose.
    Have a good time!

  38. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.20.2008 | 6:24 am

    In terms of ‘cram’ training, you can only add about 10% of training volume – that’s roughly (Duration x Intensity) per week, without running a risk of serious injury. And then, you need rest to recover and recoup from the effort, to let your muscles rebuild and take advantage of the increased form.

    Since exercising this sort of patience and intelligence is clearly beyond your grasp, I have a couple recommendations that are more your speed.

    1) The body often is strangely game for all-out efforts the day after an all-out effort. I don’t know why this is, I think the body just enjoys the debilitation that your mind and soul suffer through the week after such a back-to-back effort. Anyhow, it sometimes works, so here’s the thing, pre-ride RAWROD the day before the event. Just to be sure you’re adequately in the tank, do 10 VO2Max intervals on decreasing recovery = 5 minutes, 4:30, and so forth. This should wipe you out badly enough that your body will be up for the challenge the next day. Make sure you eat a Gu Packet or two after your pre-ride, to get your fuel stores topped up for the challenge.

    2) Lighten your bike as much as possible. In your case, since you ride a Ti singlespeed, there’s only one way to do this – remove the heavy steel chainring and cog, and substitute out the 8 Speed SRAM for a 10 speed ultralite Wipperman, the one with the hollow pins. Sure, some people would question the durability of such a setup, and the 10 speed / 8 speed compatibility, but I’m not one of them. If you need to lose additional weight off the bike, you can remove the brakes, handlebar (unless it’s carbon, which weighs nothing) and the seat. Your friends will marvel at how light your bike is. This should help you get to the end of your ride much faster.

    3) You are going to eat only laxatives? That’s an amateurish, half-baked way to go about binge starvation for a race. The way the PROs do it, is to combine them with purgatives. Providing you have a sink adjacent to the toilet, and not one of those luxury bathrooms where you keep a BikeFriday in the room to transit between the crapper and the sink, you can do this. Just wait until you need to sit on the Mighty Throne and do your bit, and toss back a couple shooters of Syrup of Ipecac, coupled with a half cup of vinegar. This will have you spraying uneeded weight from both ends, in no time flat.

    Of course we both know that there is only one way out of this terrible predicament. You go to the ride, start it with your friends, and then mechanical out. You can’t do something small, like flatting, since some fool will have a tube. You don’t want to ghost ride the bike off a 200 foot cliff either, that would probably wreck the frame. No, what you need, is a busted up front wheel. Just find a handy stick, get rolling down a hill, and shove the stick into the spokes. The resulting damage should pretty much end your ride, so you can get back to focusing on the bratwurst.

    Just remember two things. First, you want to do this around mile 2. A 50 mile hike-a-bike would pretty much negate the rationale for using this tactic. Second, be careful to not break your wrist. It would be really hard to shove food into your mouth two-handed style, with a broken wrist.

  39. Comment by kenny | 04.20.2008 | 7:15 am

    I think Al is on to something and it just so happens that Brad and I are going to preride on Friday the entire loop. If you rode it “Bry Style” and took no food or water, I’m sure on Saturday you would be about 10 pounds lighter.

  40. Comment by Jared | 04.20.2008 | 10:00 am

    Show up, offer to ride sweep.

    You get the bonuses of the ride (Brats, Carne Asada) plus you get to be a hero to pretty much everyone. Your buddies are stoked because they don’t have to worry about it, and the slow dudes get free lessons from one of the fast guys. Just play bored of the whole ‘racing’ thing (which is exactly what you’ve been doing with your blog so far this year) and you’re set.

  41. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.20.2008 | 3:58 pm

    Dang Elden. I think Jared just called you the third finest mailman in the world, behind Karl Malone and Kevin Costner. Or maybe the fourth if you roll Marlon Brando in there.

  42. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.20.2008 | 8:21 pm

    Al, you don’t understand the depth of deviousness of Elden’s “friends”. There will be at least 2 support vehicles crammed with every conceivable bicycle part and medical supply. There will be no simple mechanical or minor medical way out. Is Elden up to the challenge of finding an acceptable way to bow out should he not be able to keep pace?

    I’m glad I have it easy – nothing to prove. I’m pretty sure I can finish, but that’s where my expectations end. I’d like to make it up some of the climbs I didn’t make it up last time, but I’m playing it by ear.

  43. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.21.2008 | 9:08 am

    Elden, I thought your plan was a good one, but that was before Al and Jared weighed in. Al’s plan is much better. And Jared’s suggestion of just mailing in your effort is very good too. Both offer a higher bratwurst-to-ride-suffering ratio.

    Which is, I think what you are after?


  44. Comment by XCTiger | 04.21.2008 | 9:41 am


    I think todays blog effort is a perfect warm up for your RAWROD day, because I believe the commenters here totally kicked your butt. I’d write more, but I’m kind of tied up cleaning the coffee I blew all over my monitor while reading Al’s entry.

  45. Comment by Garrett | 04.22.2008 | 7:00 am

    No offense Fatty, but it amazes me at how easily you can gain weight. I always thought it was easier to stay in shape than get back into shape, apparently you like to challenge yourself? I can’t blame you though with your appetite and Susan’s situation, but every day is a new day!

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