The Tell

06.11.2009 | 11:32 am

I’ve always loved having visitors over, but now I love it for a completely different reason. Which is to say, when family comes over to stay for a few days, I now assume they are here to give me a break. To let me take a ride. To, in short, revert back to my natural ways of laxitude and irresponsibility.

And so it was that as soon as I found out my Ma-in-Law was going to be staying with us through the weekend that I IM’d Mark and said, “Hey, remember how you were talking about riding a Nebo loop (more about past Nebo rides here, here, and here) sometime? My Saturday just opened up.”

And within a couple hours, we had a ride plan established. Eventually, nine of us would start the ride: Me, Kenny, Jon, Jon’s brother Paul, Mark, Mark’s brother Steve, Chucky, Linde, and Vince (joining us at Payson Lake).

A Little About The Ride

You should know that the Nebo Loop is in contention for the coveted “Best Road Century in the Entire World” prize, having easily captured the local version of this prize (“Best Road Century in Utah”). It begins with a twenty-mile spin-up, giving you a chance to get warmed up and to chat with the group.

This is followed by a twenty-mile climb up an incredibly scenic, winding mountain road. About halfway up the climb there is a good spot to refill water bottles and regroup: Payson Lake.

The second half of the climb messes with your head, because there are at least six or seven places where you could swear you have reached the summit. But you haven’t. Mt. Nebo is the king of mindgame epics.

Once you (really, finally) summit and regroup, there’s the descent — which, just to show you who’s boss, still has three steep climbing pitches in it. Once the descent begins in earnest, it winds and turns at the top, then straightens out into a working descent. If you manage to form a group for this part of the ride, you can build a huge gap on those who find themselves soloing it.

Oh, by the way, right now there are several places in this descent where the pavement has been torn out. Just two feet long, but spanning the width of the road, presumably to put down cable or pipe.

Which means you get to decide whether you are confident doing a high-speed road bunnyhop over two feet of gravel.

It turns out that I am not.

Linde’s Tell

As proof that I am not fast, light, nor strong, I got shot right out the back of the group as soon as the road turned upward. For a while, Mark and Chucky rode with me as a shepherding move. Then, finding it difficult to ride so slowly, they went ahead.

I would be alone with my thoughts until we regrouped at Payson Lake, where Vince and Linde caught up with us.

For your information, by the way, my thoughts primarily took the form of, “Wow, I’m slow. And I hurt. And I’m fat. And I’m slow. It hurts to be this slow when you’re fat.” And so on.

Once we left for the second half of the climb, I was — again — shot out the back. Almost as if I were not as good a cyclist as the people I was riding with.

The difference, this time, was that Linde — resplendent in brilliant-white Assos clothing, head to knee — was in the back with me.

A side note: As much as possible, I avoided looking at Linde, because his clothing was so brilliantly white — or was it actually luminescent? — that I would see a Linde-shaped purple afterimage after looking at him.

From time to time, though, Linde would surge ahead, making me think that he was about to drop me. But then — every time — he would drop back and I would catch him, after which he would tuck in behind me.

Then it occurred to me: The Surge-Sag is Linde’s “Tell.” He was doing those mini-attacks to make me think he was strong, when in fact he was actually suffering. So of course I did the neighborly thing: the next time he did a mini-surge, I kicked up my speed just a hair. When Linde dropped back, he found that he couldn’t hold my wheel, and he was gone.

Mark’s Tell

I buried myself a little bit, wanting this attack — yes, I was attacking a friend on a friendly group ride — to stick. And there, up ahead, was Mark. I could see him.

And I could see that he was suffering. Because Mark had a Tell, too. Where he had been riding smoothly earlier in the day — his legs spinning, his shoulders flat and steady — he was now mashing, and his shoulders bobbed up and down as he pumped the bars.

I got the exact same feeling I get when I’m swimming in the deep ocean and smell blood.

I then exhibited one of cycling’s exceptions to the laws of physics: I gave 110% of my maximum energy output. Yes, I knew — even as it happened — that I would pay for it later, but at the time that seemed like a reasonable trade.

Twenty minutes later — I’m lucky it’s a very long climb — I caught Mark.

Apologetically, he stepped up the pace, at which point I begged him to back off, because I had just given everything I had to catch him and needed a few moments to revel.

Jon’s Tell

As Mark and I rode, we could see Jon, tantalizingly close — maybe just 100 yards or so. And you know what? Jon was showing off his Tell, too. Evidently, when Jon’s tired, he locks his elbows, rests his hands flat on the bars, and lets his head slump forward.

You know the look.

And Mark knew it too. He pulled away from me, hoping to bridge to Jon. After all, we were getting near the summit, and Mark surely did not want to finish the climb with the slow guy.

Hey, if I could have finished with someone besides myself, I would have.

Fortunately for Jon, this was not a concern for him. Tell or no Tell, I was not up to another push.

My Tell

As I finished the climb, I asked myself: “So, what is my Tell? How does my riding change when I’m cooked?”

All I needed to do was look down to get the answer. I was on the double yellow line. You see, my Tell is not only the most obvious one in the world, it’s actually deadly. Which is to say, my Tell is: I drift left.

I don’t know why I drift left when I’m tired, but I do. Reliably and predictably. And I’m generally not aware of it until a car honks at me or I cross the divider line.

Note to everyone who ever rides with me: try not to be on my left once I’ve bonked.


Wherein I Vanquish The Terror What Lurked On the Trail

06.10.2009 | 8:45 am

A Note from Fatty: Thanks to everyone who yesterday left comments of support; I appreciate them. Susan’s doing considerably better now.

Last week, Dug, Karl and I headed out to ride some of the Corner Canyon trail we usually ignore — trail that’s good, but since it’s lower, we don’t use much once the higher stuff is available.

I led out for the first climb, because I’m the strongest and most handsome rider of the three of us and have undisputed claim to the alpha male role. It wasn’t even a question, really. I just took my position at the front and began the climb, the other two falling obediently into line.

This means, of course, that I was the first to see the skunk. Standing in the trail. Facing us, tail raised, eyes defiant.

Challenging my authority.

Taking control of the situation, I calmly locked both my front and back brakes, stopping a mere 20 feet away from the skunk. Close enough that it knew I had no fear of it, and would not be deterred.

Never one to back down, I said to the others, “Let’s turn around. There are other trails.”

Dug, however, wanted to press forward. I allowed him to, delegating to him the lead position.

Dug shooed away the skunk by tossing small branches in its vicinity. Immediately, I could see the cleverness of my plan of delegating the “shoo-ing” task to Dug, for the skunk walked off the trail.

And then it re-appeared back on the trail, approximately six feet further up ahead. And commenced to wander idly up that trail, at a pace which can accurately and eloquently described as “slow.”

After quickly assessing, evaluating, stack-ranking and otherwise considering all possible options, I proposed a bold course of action: “Let’s turn around. This trail belongs to the skunk now.”

By this, I of course meant that I chose to let the skunk use the trail of which I was in command.

Dug, however, did not want to leave. As wise as Solomon, I therefore told him, “Well then, getting the skunk off the trail is your problem.”

Dug walked after the skunk, tossing very small rocks and branches — hopefully enough to startle without actually seeming to threaten the skunk — to the side of the animal.

Slowly, the skunk disappeared around a bend. In slow-motion pursuit, dug…um…pursued.

For minutes, I took command of the situation by remaining where I was. Karl stayed in position, ready to do as he was told.

Then Dug reappeared.

I do not consider it a repudiation of my bravery to say that I was tentative in breathing when Dug first came back.

“The skunk went off the trail, finally,” said Dug, when I asked him to report. “I think it’s OK to go on ahead.”

We rode on. I rode in third position, since a leader must sometimes lead by pushing, not pulling, his troops along.

Also, I kept my fingers on my brakes and my eyes peeled, ready to execute a quick 180 should I smell even the most trivially skunklike odor.

After all, I am a great and inspiring leader, but I am also no fool.

Good Catch

06.9.2009 | 10:03 am

Around 3am this morning, Susan woke me and told me to get her a bowl — her stomach felt weird.

Around 4, she started throwing up. By 4:15 I had changed the bowl three times.

I have a few observations to make after this event:

  • Evidently the new medication Susan started last night has some unfortunate side effects. The truth is, with the volume and variety of medication Susan is on right now, it’s amazing that she hasn’t mutated into a lizard-person.
  • I would really like whoever is in charge of everything to note that Susan has put up with enough for a while, and she could really stand to be given a break.
  • I could use a break, too. I am a whole new kind of exhausted.
  • Even bedridden, even with a broken collarbone, even sick as can be, Susan was still apologizing to me the whole time this was going on. That’s who she is.
  • Susan was an excellent shot and I hardly had to do any cleanup at all. I’m really glad of that; I have no idea of how I would have cleaned her up in her current state. Yeah, I know: necessity is the mother of invention. But at 4am, it’s also the mother of breakdowns.

Fight Cancer, Win Windows 7 Ultimate

06.8.2009 | 9:08 am

200906080830.jpgA Note From Fatty: A huge thanks to everyone who stepped up their LiveStrong / Team Fatty fundraising game last week, and especially monstrously huge kudos to Team Fatty-Seattle. Here are a few interesting factoids from last week:

  • The combined Teams Fatty raised $27,582. That is an incredible effort. Of that amount, Team Fatty-Seattle raised $15,247 — more than the other three teams, combined. I guess the incentive of a Revolution Wheelworks Road Wheelset, combined with the impending event deadline, did a good job of motivating Team Fatty-Seattle.
  • Team Fatty-Seattle currently has raised $99,939 $101,219. That makes it the TOP team right now — finally passed Team Fatty-Austin, which has 21 more members — and within $61 of being the first team to have raised HAS PASSED $100,000. That’s seriously impressive.
  • 13 people in Team Fatty-Seattle raised their first money for Team Fatty-Seattle last week.
  • 19 people in Team Fatty-Seattle crossed the $250 fundraising threshold, making them eligible to participate in the event.
  • Congratulations to the Revolution Wheelworks Road Wheelset Winner: Shaun Darragh joined Team Fatty-Seattle last week, and has already raised $2,775. That netted him 555 chances at the Revolution Wheelworks Road Wheelset. Of course, he got a bonus 10 chances for starting from $0 and for crossing the $250 mark. So with 565 chances of winning those wheels, it’s no surprise that he did. And I should note that his fundraising page is one of the most powerful tributes to a mother there could ever be. Read it. This is clearly a man doing the right things for the right reasons. I’m very, very glad he won this wheelset.

A Congratulatory Note from Fatty: Many of you will remember that we raised more than $30,000 with the Kona Cadabra contest. A few of you have probably also noticed that I have not mentioned the winner…until now. That’s because until late last night, my congratulatory notes sat unread in an email box while the winner was busy moving. But now I am happy to announce that the winner — MV C — is (sort of moved in) and is very excited about getting this bike. Here’s what he has to say:

I started raising money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training a few years ago when my girlfriend Jen’s uncle was fighting Lymphoma. Jen decided she wanted to do something to help and got me to do it too. We have done quite a few Century (road) rides with TNT. We ended up getting a tandem road bike so we could stay together on the rides (Jen refuses to go fast unless she is on the back of a tandem.)

We estimate we have raised around $25,000 or so in the past few years. This year, Jen decided we should do the Livestrong ride instead, because her Aunt just finished treatment for colon cancer. (Jen says since this was her idea, she should get the bike. Hmmm….) We gathered a group of friends from Michigan to all go down to Austin together for the ride. I think we have 10 people so far. Can’t wait for the ride!

I love hearing all the stories and reasons people people have for joining in this fight. There are a lot of people to admire in Team Fatty.

Congrats, MV!

A Plug for My Sister Jodi’s Contests

My sister Jodi just started raising money for her LiveStrong challenge, and has got some incredible prizes lined up: tickets to a mega-concert, tickets to see the Colbert Report (theoretically free but impossible to obtain through 2010), tickets to a movie premier, and more. Head on over to her site and see everything you can win — again, all to help raise money to fight cancer with the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Fight Cancer, Win Windows 7

Nick Abbott and I have been friends ever since I started work at Microsoft. And the fact is, everyone who meets Nick is immediately his friend. He’s that kind of guy.

Here’s us shortly after we met and rode our first big ride together (The 11 Hills of Kirkland) in May of 2005:


Just for your information, I weighed 181 pounds back then (and yeah, that’s about where I am again now). Nick was a few pounds heavier then, too.

Check us out: all muddy and happy after racing the Leadville 100 together last year.


Nick’s also about as hardcore of a cyclist as you can get. Check out his awesome report of the BC Bike Race he posted for me last year.

Of course, I’ve moved back to Utah, but Nick still works at Microsoft and is riding the Seattle LiveStrong ride. And as a ‘Softie — yes, they really call themselves that — Nick has access to the hotly-anticipated Windows 7 coming out sometime this year.

And if you donate to Nick’s LiveStrong Challenge page — you can win one of two copies of the top-end version of this new version of Windows. Just go to his page and donate; for every five dollars you donate, you will get a ticket in the raffle.

This is huge – pricing for Windows has not been announced (you can bet it will be more than 5 dollars) – and Nick will give you the full retail product once it is available in stores (of course you can’t resell it – that wouldn’t be right). If for some reason you are a Mac user – Nick can substitute Windows 7 with a copy of Office for the Mac.

Oh, and one other reason to donate at Nick’s page, besides the fact that you’re fighting cancer and besides the fact that he’s a great guy and besides the fact that you might win a copy of the top-end version of some seriously expensive software: If you donate at Nick’s page, you’re donating to a Microsoft employee with the chance of getting a Microsoft product while helping Team Fatty defeat Team Microsoft. Using their own products and employees to defeat them. Ha!

It’s like Judo!

I Live In An Exotic Locale

06.4.2009 | 11:16 am

Yesterday afternoon, I seriously needed to get out on a ride. So I IM’d Ricky M — Senior Member of the Core Team — and asked him if he could get out.

“Grove Parking Lot. 15 Minutes,” replied Ricky. I have no idea why he initial-caps every word like that.

Now, I’ve been wanting to re-film the Grove Canyon ride ever since Kenny and I rode it earlier this season and my batteries died, just as we began the downhill.

So I made sure to grab a fresh pack of batteries and got out the door.

And this is what we did:

Following this ride, I have the following observations to make:

  • Grove is the hardest-working climb I know of. 1800 feet of climbing, in 2.6 miles. And you feel every foot of it.
  • Grove is much, much more fun on a geared bike. I love singlespeeds, but — unless you’re Brad or Kenny — there are times when it’s really great to be able to shift to the granny gear. When I did this ride on my singlespeed earlier this year, I suffered so much I didn’t want to come back. Riding this on my geared bike yesterday, the trail was difficult, but still enjoyable.
  • When I’m riding the downhill on Grove (or anywhere), I look at the trail to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. As a result, I have never before noticed exactly how freaky and scary the stuff off to my left is. Now that I’ve seen the video, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do this downhill with confidence ever again.
  • Somehow, even when I’m as scared / worried / angry as I am right now, mountain biking helps. It’s really great to take a two-hour vacation from your troubles like that.
  • Ricky is incredibly fast on this downhill. I had thought I’ve become a fast descender, but I lost count of how many times Ricky dropped me on this descent. And this after he had said, “I’m feeling kind of tentative; I plan to take this descent slow and careful today.”
  • Dramatic canyons. Gorgeous waterfalls (not well-captured in the video — I have no zoom with the helmetcam). Cliffside trails. All within a ten-minute drive of my house. There’s simply no getting around it: I live in an exotic locale.

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