The Slow Guy

12.3.2008 | 1:07 pm

A Note from Fatty:Team Fatty now has 277 registered team members, and has raised $11,801.00. That is, quite frankly, awesomelicious. If you haven’t joined yet, read Monday’s post for information on how you can. Or, if you’d prefer just to enter the raffle to win any Dura-Ace Wheelset you want, just head on over to my donation page and make a donation. Every $5.00 you contribute on my LiveStrong Challenge page earns you a raffle ticket toward the drawing for the wheels. The Drawing’s Friday, December 12.

I haven’t been on my bike much, lately. And by “much,” I of course mean “hardly at all.” And by “hardly at all,” I actually mean “twice this month.”

Of course, this is partially due to the fact that I spend a lot of time taking care of Susan. But I have other reasons, too. Good reasons. Convincing reasons. Reasons so excellent-sounding that you will want to use them yourself the next time you find yourself with no will to ride. In fact, my reasons are so good that they are very nearly true.

I will detail these reasons at a later date, and will license their use for a reasonable fee.

Right now, though, I don’t want to talk about the fact that I have not been riding much (at all). I want to talk about what has happened on the couple of times I have been riding recently.

Oh, and also I want to take a little walk down memory lane. Let’s start with the memory lane.

How I Decided I Wanted to Be a Fast Guy

As Dug has mentioned on this blog recently, he was the person most responsible for getting me into mountain biking. He was, so to speak, my shepherd.

In those days, though, Dug was a different kind of shepherd. At the time, he was into racing, and so would — along with his fast friends — regularly drop me, making me the guy everyone had to wait for at the top of the climb. And the bottom of the descent. And at major junctions.

And so I had to put up with the reality of riding up to the group at these regroup points and seeing them in various stages of relaxation: some straddling their bikes, some sitting on their top tubes, some laying on the ground, feigning sleep.

At least, I hope they were feigning. I never asked.

As I rode up during one of these regroups, Dug once derisively said (and I remember this clearly, because it scarred me for life), “Did you have a flat back there or something?”

At that moment I decided that I would become a faster rider than Dug.

And I did, too. It took about three years, but I’m really, really good at holding a grudge. Oh, and also by then Dug had stopped caring about racing. Coincidentally.

So anyway, that’s how I decided to become a fast guy: spite.

It occurs to me that I need to come up with a better “origin” story for myself. Something noble, with a really cool training montage. And maybe a car chase.

It Doesn’t Take Long to Become the Slow Guy

It took about three years for me to go from being the slowest guy in the group to being one of the fastest (I never got even close to being as fast as Brad and Kenny, but I never expected to, either).

It seems singularly unfair, then, that it took me only two months to become — once again — the slow guy.

“Oh, Fatty,” I hear you saying. “You’re exaggerating; you haven’t really become the slow guy in just a couple months. Have you?”

Yes, I have. And I don’t mean that I am one of the slow guys. I mean that I am verifiably, literally, the slowest guy in the group. And I don’t mean that I’m just riding at the back of the pack. No. I mean that I am off the back, and out of sight. The slow group tries to ride extra slow to let me stay with them, but they can’t go that slow.

In truth, people marvel that — so slow is my speed — I am able to remain upright.

Ruminations of the Slow Guy

Here is the example that is seared in my mind. I was riding with a large group — about fifteen of us — at Draper’s magnificent Corner Canyon last weekend. The plan was for us to ride up Clarks, then down the brand-spanking-new downhill-specific trail that had just been completed.

(I’ll have more to say about that new trail in a future post. For now, let me just say this: awesome.)

As we began the climb, a couple of people were behind me. And by “behind me,” I mean right behind me, and fighting the impulse to yell “onyerleff!” and ride by. So I did the right thing: I pulled over, mumbling something about needing to adjust my derailleur and catching up in a few minutes.

And then I was alone.

Utterly alone.

As I slowly (oh so slowly) rode up Clarks — turning the granny gear on a climb I have done countless times on my singlespeed — I contemplated the fact that I am, indisputably, the slow guy in the group again. I asked myself deep, meaningful questions about being slow. Obligingly, I also answered these questions. Here’s how the interview went.

Q: How do I know I am slow?
A: Well, my perceived exertion is just as great — maybe greater — than ever. I don’t feel like I am moving a lot slower. And yet, people I have always been faster than are now way ahead of me, and they aren’t working hard. So — unless everyone is pulling an elaborate hoax on me by having trained incredibly hard and taking EPO for the past couple months without telling me, which would be a pretty darned good joke — then I am definitely slow.

Q: Is it bad to be slow?
A: No, of course it isn’t. The only speed that is bad on a bicycle is the speed at which you are not enjoying yourself. If you enjoy riding your bicycle slow, then it’s good to be slow.

Q: Do I enjoy being slow?
A: No. Decidedly not.

Q: How is it possible I got so slow so fast?
A: We’ll go into that later.

Q: OK. But it hardly seems fair that it takes so much work for so long to get fast, and it takes no work whatsoever for a remarkably short period of time to get slow.
A: Tell me about it.

The Dreaded Regroup

As (ever so eventually) I approached the top of Clarks, I had to consider the probability that everyone would be waiting for me there. They would be in various states of repose: some snacking, some chatting, some napping.

No doubt they would expect me to explain myself when I reached them.

I considered several things I could say:

  • “It’s opposite day! I win.”
  • “When I write about this in my blog, I’m going to leave this part out, OK? I’ve got $5.00 for everyone who promises not to leave a correcting comment.”
  • “I’d have gotten here sooner, but I had to swap out my bottom bracket about halfway up the trail. Oh, and I discovered a hiker in shock with a broken leg; it was a compound fracture. It took a few minutes for me to set the leg correctly and form a good hard cast using nothing but the materials around me.”
  • “I hate all of you.” Sometimes the best offense is to be really offensive.

In the end, though, I chose none of these. Instead, when I rolled up to the group I said, “Man, I am so fast!

Stunned by my audacity and confounded by the contradiction of my assertion to their direct observations, they said nothing.


  1. Comment by Jamieson | 12.3.2008 | 1:22 pm

    Congrats on the quick turn out.

    Hope to raise enough to win something by Friday.

  2. Comment by mikeb | 12.3.2008 | 1:36 pm

    I have with the same fast/slow problem. But it is the struggle to get faster and then achieve it (somewhat) that makes cycling great. Plus, I have to train hard since I signed up for Austin!!

  3. Comment by Brandon S. | 12.3.2008 | 1:39 pm

    Your ascending speed is not what counts. It is how much fun we had that day. I saw the smile on your face after the downhill.

  4. Comment by Jeff | 12.3.2008 | 1:39 pm

    I feel your pain.

    On my first group ride I actually had one of the fast guys pushing me up the last hill. Literally, with his hand on my back, pushing me up the hill while I pedaled just below the threshold that triggers painful cramps in the quads.

    What’s worse is that I’m pretty sure I’m even slower than that now…and I’ve never been even close to “the fast guy.”

    Unless I ride with my wife.

  5. Comment by jsv | 12.3.2008 | 1:50 pm

    The only time I am the fast guy is at dinner time…I dream of being the fast guy. The guy with the perfect power to weight ratio. The guy who has time to fix a flat, change his riding kit and eat lunch while waiting for the re-group. I think the spite angle is a strong possibility here. If I can get one of the group to provide a good reason to hold a grudge I should be able to become the fast guy out of spite. This will now be my off season goal….

  6. Comment by Lerjoy | 12.3.2008 | 1:51 pm

    mikeb, I’ll see you in ATX (austin). Get there early and stay late if you can. It’s a fun, fun city.

  7. Comment by Scott McQ | 12.3.2008 | 1:52 pm

    I find riding with my 6 year old daughter to be very fulfilling in regard to being the fastest…

  8. Comment by Weiland | 12.3.2008 | 1:59 pm

    Other excuses:
    “I ran out of gel and I had to eat 12 bowls of grape nuts to equal the nutritional value.”

    Oh there you guys are, I must have passed you on the other trail.

    Yeah I did get a flat and I’m out of CO2, that’s why I’m out of breath.

    Worked called, the servers down again.

  9. Comment by deprogram | 12.3.2008 | 1:59 pm

    Classic Fatty! Glad to see you’re back in the (self-deprecating) saddle, at least momentarily.

  10. Comment by Aaron | 12.3.2008 | 2:17 pm

    Yeah, it’s totally unfair. Right after Leadville, I was climb any mountain Monty! And then only a month later, I was mid-pack Marvin. Now, I’m last place Larry. Soon, I will be couch potato Cary. And so it goes….

  11. Comment by dug | 12.3.2008 | 2:20 pm

    so seriously, did you get a flat?

  12. Comment by blinddrew | 12.3.2008 | 2:31 pm

    man i will sooooo remember to say that next time!

  13. Comment by Eber | 12.3.2008 | 2:33 pm

    you must have been stoked to run into our group at Deer Ridge. Then I took on the slow guy mantle. More demoralizing than Dug asking if you had a flat is him asking “are we all here?” with a courtesy nod in my direction. Invite me along more often Fatty – I’ll make you feel like rhe Flash.

  14. Comment by dug | 12.3.2008 | 2:43 pm

    asking if you had a flat or if “we’re all here” is the pickup basketball game equivalent of, after you’ve won several games in a row, saying “wanna mix em up?”

  15. Comment by JT | 12.3.2008 | 2:50 pm

    I’ve never been the fast guy!

  16. Comment by Rick S. | 12.3.2008 | 2:54 pm

    There is no glory in beating THE fatcyclist to the top of a climb. In fact, had you tried to come around me, I would have kicked you and then stabbed you.

  17. Comment by The D | 12.3.2008 | 2:58 pm

    When I finally get to the rest stop at the tail of a long lap, I like to say, “good job guys… and hey, heads up: the wind seemed to pick up on that second lap.”

  18. Comment by Cliff | 12.3.2008 | 3:03 pm

    Thanks for the update re: Team Fatty! With 277 team members, doesn’t this mean that we already beat the record for largest LIVEStrong Challenge team ever? And that’s only after 2 1/2 days! I have no doubt that we’ll shatter those records, like you predicted.

    Here’s what you need to do on your next ride though. Find something yummy that the group likes to eat and bring it with you. Brownies? Homemade energy bars? Something.

    Then when you pull up to the dreaded regroup, you can say, (preferably in a Bruce Campbell/Ash snarky sort of voice), “Fast, slow, I’m the guy with the gun, I mean, brownies.” Take that!

  19. Comment by getinlost | 12.3.2008 | 3:11 pm


    “Comment by Scott McQ

    I find riding with my 6 year old daughter to be very fulfilling in regard to being the fastest…”

    Don’t get used to this. It doesn’t last long.

  20. Comment by KanyonKris | 12.3.2008 | 3:13 pm

    Saw a bike in your truck last week as Jolene and I headed to Lambert for her birthday ride. It made me feel a little happy that you were able to get out for a ride. Then this post filled in the gory details.

    If it’s any consolation, I was the slow guy at one of the night rides and I’ll bet money you can still out ride me, even in your de-trained state.

    I once heard 6 months of training can be erased in 6 weeks of no training. Sadly, this sounds about right, at least to this 40-something.

  21. Comment by mark | 12.3.2008 | 3:20 pm

    Fatty, you’re too hard on yourself. If you’ll recall, you were the slow guy to the top of Clark’s, at which point I was completely blown from trying to stay ahead of you and was no longer able to keep your pace after that.

    Of course I was fighting a cold and not 100%. Or something like that.

    In my defense, I haven’t shaved my legs in over a month, so you don’t get any points for passing me.

  22. Comment by Don | 12.3.2008 | 3:21 pm

    I hadn’t been out, I mean really out, on the bike in three weeks. After the three weeks it felt as thought I had NEVER rode a bike before… It sucks.

    Sorry to hear you’re so slow, but you’re still faster than me!

    Awesome to see Team Fatty is first in EVERY city!

  23. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.3.2008 | 3:28 pm

    “I left my ipod at the bottom and had to go back & get it.”

  24. Comment by Jeff L. | 12.3.2008 | 3:33 pm

    I was at the top of Suncrest after climbing 8 miles when your group started up, had 2 flats, ran out of CO2 and time, hitched a ride down and missed the downhill reward. I would rather have been slow.

  25. Comment by Di | 12.3.2008 | 6:02 pm

    I got so burned out from a long race season and many fast-paced group rides that I started doing mandatory slow rides. ;-) I went mountain biking with the simple purpose of going at a relaxing pace and just having fun – which is really the point and what got me into it in the first place.

    Of course, now that race season is over with and winter is here, I’m into cross training that will help make me much faster come spring. It’s an endless cycle. ;-)

  26. Comment by 29er | 12.3.2008 | 6:14 pm

    You have to admit, your friends are faster than most people’s friends.
    “Slow riding is better than no riding.” I’m going to be chanting that from now until probably May.

  27. Comment by Rightbehindu | 12.3.2008 | 6:17 pm

    Mandatory slow rides, this is great, something I can tell Clydesteve about my last ride.

  28. Comment by Charisa | 12.3.2008 | 6:57 pm

    At least your group is nice enough to wait! I have ridden w/ some guys that never “regroup” :)

  29. Comment by Joe P | 12.3.2008 | 7:19 pm

    And this is why you will someday embrace your inner randonneur and get a blue wool jersey.

  30. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 12.3.2008 | 7:20 pm

    How about:
    The best rider is always the one having the most fun. You probably won that award.
    My comeback to question on why it took so long is always “So!”. It gets a lot of strange stares but there’s just no comeback to that one.


  31. Comment by Bjorn 4Lycra | 12.3.2008 | 8:21 pm

    Slow is when your daughter points it out to everyone. My group were recently featured in a magazine article here and it included a photo of us spread single file along a winding road. A friend asked which one was me and my daughter Dana responded he is not in the picture. Well where was I then and Dana said keeping it to scale and laying the picture flat on the floor he is in the middle of next doors lounge room. So in relation to Scott McQ’s comment and getinlost’s reponse it is true beating the daughter does not last long and then she soon start’s telling everybody about it.

  32. Comment by Kathleen | 12.3.2008 | 8:23 pm

    Go Team Fatty! My husband joined too. We’re gonna train like the dickens and rock San Jose.

    Thanks for the giggles Fatty – I stay away from group rides for this very reason.

  33. Comment by VH1 | 12.3.2008 | 8:36 pm

    At least Dug didn’t leave you to die alone in the desert! I heard a rumor he has done that in the past.

  34. Comment by Tony P | 12.3.2008 | 10:11 pm

    You’ve got other pressing matters right now Elden. There’s a time and season for everything. It was good to ride with you however.

  35. Comment by Jared | 12.4.2008 | 12:05 am

    Hey, twice in three days isn’t bad. (:

  36. Comment by Jill | 12.4.2008 | 2:47 am

    You know no one can blame you for being the “slow guy.” (Although I highly doubt you are really all that “slow.”) :-)

  37. Comment by Karen | 12.4.2008 | 4:41 am

    I hear ya. I am frequently the slowest…the slowest girl. Sigh. Ugh, not who I want to be, frankly. I worked with a bike coach for two years. I’ve ridden 4 charity centuries, and thankfully those are so big that usually I’m not the very, very, last. but it’s been close on a few legs. I am just slow. That’s all. At least you know you can work to be fast!

  38. Comment by Mike Roadie | 12.4.2008 | 5:49 am

    “I accidentally picked up Clydesteve’s iPod at the bottom of the hill and had to turn around to put it back. I may be last, but I did 2.5 extra miles”!!!

    When I am slow, I ride in with someone who is also slow. Then I can say that I didn’t want them to ride alone!

    Go Team Fatty!!! Remember, there are individual team competitions for each city, so we need to keep growing! Come join me in Austin!!!!


  39. Comment by AndrewClyde | 12.4.2008 | 8:45 am

    How slow is slow? I never do group rides so I’m always competing against my self.

    I imagine that I’m crazy slow, but people don’t often post, “I averaged 5.2 mph on such-and-such trail.” So it’s really hard to know how slow is slow? I’m training (mostly in my mind) to do a 50 miler this summer and can’t figure out a good time to shoot for.

  40. Comment by kenny | 12.4.2008 | 8:49 am

    That’s funny, when I talked to Ricky on Monday about the ride, all he said was that he was surprised at how fast you were on the down hill.

    I just rode the new Corner Canyon DH yesterday. “Awesome” might actually be an understatement.

  41. Comment by MOCougFan | 12.4.2008 | 8:50 am

    Sucks to be slow.

    I have beaten my good friend Chris exactly ONE time in the last 16 years we have ridden together. Usually he hits the top, turns around to come back down to get me, then harasses me the rest of the way up.

    Sucks to be slow.

  42. Comment by Matt | 12.4.2008 | 9:09 am

    “I haven’t been on my bike much, lately. And by “much,” I of course mean “hardly at all.” And by “hardly at all,” I actually mean “twice this month.”

    Wow Fatty…thats pretty good! It’s only the 3rd of the month…you have me beat hands down…I’ve been on the bike exaxtly ZERO times so far this month.

    Unless by “this month” you actually mean ‘the last 30 days’. And by ‘the last 30 days’ you actually mean ‘the last 3 years’.

    Just kidding…you should write a book though. Seriously. Just the 2 cents worth from a longtime lurker. Hang in there!

  43. Comment by Deb | 12.4.2008 | 9:31 am

    Frankly, I totally resent being the “slow” wife of a “fast” husband.

    I think we’d have a better marriage if he ocassionally cranked it up to the big ring and let me get to the top first! What’s up with you guys, always having to win?

    Shy of that, “I’ve got shorter legs and smaller lungs…” usually makes me feel better.

  44. Comment by bikemike | 12.4.2008 | 9:33 am

    when i use the phrase “i hate all of you”, i always follow that with “and i don’t mean that in a good way either”. . . that just drives the nail home.

  45. Comment by ann | 12.4.2008 | 9:35 am

    The metaphor – I didn’t get it until the 2nd read through. Beautiful and poignant writing.

  46. Comment by victoria | 12.4.2008 | 10:00 am

    Yeah. Since I got back running after the broken foot in September, I am, um, slower than a slug. And that feels like a lot of effort, slug-pace. Oh the joy of realizing how fast the fitness fades…

  47. Comment by jcm | 12.4.2008 | 10:02 am

    To Deb – there’s hope. You just need to find the correct distance in which to ride your man off your wheel. I’m slow but can climb all day. Thus my two Leadville finishes – ahead of my husband. At 40 miles he leads. After 50 miles he chases. Slowly.

  48. Comment by singletrackgirl | 12.4.2008 | 10:21 am

    you are so awesome. how do you make me laugh
    thinking of your family…

  49. Comment by Mike | 12.4.2008 | 10:39 am

    Fatty, I’ve been there.

    Come to think of it, I might be there right now. Maybe I should come to Utah and make you feel better about your out-of-shapeness by riding with you.

  50. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.4.2008 | 10:42 am

    You know, Mike Roadie is right! Let me be even more emphatic. Because I am not as polite as Mike Roadie. Every person that reads this blog needs to be (at least)one one of the four city Team Fattys.

    You say you don’t ride bikes? Run the 5K (Just 3.1 miles, and you can walk it if you like) Caren, who just finished a 60-mile 3-day breast cancer walk with her husband Bryan, can give you pointers about how to get in walking shape.

    Just can’t get to Philly, San Jose, Austin or Seattle at the time the events are held? Sign up as a ‘virtual’ team member. In Seattle, of course. ‘Virtual team member’ means you are supporting the Event, and supporting Team Fatty, but do not plan to attend. Your membership and your funds raised count just the same as the rider/runner/walker team members!

    I would really like to see you there, but if it just is not possible, I understand. We still covet your support. Just sign up (for Seattle) and raise $250, $1000, or more in support of Team Fatty.

    Or, click on my penname link in this comment and donate to my Team Fatty LiveStrong fund. That helps too!


  51. Comment by Philly Jen | 12.4.2008 | 3:19 pm

    I think we need to have an honorary designation for the last Team Fatty rider to finish in each city. And prizes — food prizes. Team Fatty needs to have a Lanterne Fudge!

    Come on over and join the gang in Philly. If you are coming from far away, we’ll help you figure out how to best get your wheels here, work with you to set up your accommodations, and help you explore around town.

    And we will have cake.

  52. Comment by Penny | 12.7.2008 | 1:20 pm

    It’s all about perspective. Think about all the people that didn’t even GET ON THEIR BIKES… beat ‘em all by a long shot!

    Just simply doing something is a win. You’re definitely a winner every day. :)


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