Today, I have a story to tell about riding the White Rim last weekend. It is quite a story, featuring a mylar balloon, a brutal serial killer, explosive diarrhea, and a whimsical plush novelty daisy toy affixed to my handlebars.
It’s a good story. All of the above elements feature fairly prominently into that story. And the story is true. To entice you into reading the story, I offer the following photograph of the aforementioned daisy, attached to my aforementioned handlebars:
However, you probably noticed that “explosive diarrhea” is one of the elements in this story, and I assure you it is not a trivial element.
So, consider this fair warning. If you do not want to read a story featuring — in frank and somewhat repulsive detail — explosive diarrhea, you should skip today’s post and perhaps instead watch a video I made last year while riding the White Rim Trail. It’s a good video, and does not mention explosive diarrhea, nor any other biological disasters.
But it also does not contain a whimsical plush novelty daisy toy.
So you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons yourself, then make up your own mind. I’m not going to do your thinking for you.
And now: on with the story.
Kenny’s RAWROD ride has grown to be something larger than a group ride. It’s an important annual event, and a lot of people show up. Enough, in fact, that it’s difficult to tell, when regrouping, when the entire group has gotten back together.
To solve this problem, Kenny had an ingenious idea: a snail necklace. Whoever was the last person in the group would have to wear a specially-constructed necklace, featuring a snail shell. If (and when) that person passed another person, s/he would hand the necklace off to the new slowest person.
Thus, when the person with the snail shell arrived at a regroup spot, we’d all know that the entire group was back together.
It’s a clever idea.
Friday afternoon, I got a phone call from Kenny, as he was driving toward Moab. “I forgot to bring the Snail Shell Necklace,” Kenny said. “Can you put something together?”
“Sure,” I said, though I was not sure at all. “As long as nobody minds that the “last rider” totem will no longer be a snail shell necklace, but will instead be something I purchase at a grocery store on the way out of town.”
Kenny agreed to this.
So, as The Runner and I bought groceries for the next day’s ride, we bought a mylar balloon, filled with helium. We figured that this, fastened to a seatpost, would be an excellent way to indicate last placemanship.
A Cry for Help
The Runner and I arrived at the campground, ate lots of brats, sat around the campfire, and generally enjoyed the RAWROD-eve atmosphere. As the night darkened and people started heading off toward their tents — what with a 6:30am start and all — The Runner and I headed to The Bikemobile; we were going back into town to stay in a hotel.
Why a hotel instead of camping? For the following excellent reasons:
- I don’t like camping.
We started driving down the dark, quiet dirt road back toward Moab. The cloudy sky obscured the half moon, making it so we could see little or nothing except what was lit by the headlights.
Then, suddenly, The Runner screamed in terror, jumping and grabbing my arm.
I looked ahead, then to the sides for her source of fright.
Then I checked the rear view mirror . . . and there was a head, rising slowly and ominously from the backseat, in exactly the way Jason would, if Jason decided to move to Moab and start mountain biking between killing sprees.
I jumped, intaking a (very manly) yelp.
Turns out it was the balloon.
It would be a while before our heart rates returned to normal.
A Farewell to a Serial Killer Balloon
We continued our drive toward Moab. As would not be unexpected from a couple of people who had just eaten their respective weight in bratwurst and spicy brown mustard, we had the occasional need to fart.
Excuse me, that came out wrong. I meant to say that I (and I alone) had the occasional need to fart.
As a courteous and loving husband, I would roll down the windows whenever this important biological function made itself known to me.
At one such time, as I rolled down the windows, the balloon started getting sucked outside. The Runner made a truly heroic grab and actually snagged the ribbon tied to the balloon.
The balloon, however, would not be denied. Snapping the ribbon, it shot outside.
Presumably, it is still at large, sneaking up and terrifying innocent people.
Meanwhile, we now needed to get a new “Last Rider in the Group” talisman. At 10:30 on a Friday night. Luckily, the daisy you see in the photo at the beginning of this story happened to be the first thing The Runner saw as we entered the City Market in Moab.
A Brush With Fame
The conditions for RAWROD were really about as perfect as they could be. By 8:00am, it was pleasantly warm — but not hot — and would stay that way for the rest of the day.
The Runner’s son, IT Guy, drove the first 30 miles in his truck, toting everyone’s water and food. Then he wanted a turn on his bike, so the Runner and I took a turn driving; this worked out perfect; since the Runner and I would be doing the Ironman one week from that day, we weren’t interested in biking the full 100 miles.
The Runner drove, I relaxed, amazed at how much easier it is to do the White Rim when you’re not pedaling.
Then a cyclist rode by, going fast. “How’s it going?” he said, as he went by.
Strangely, I knew the voice, and the face.
“I’m pretty sure that Tyson from Survivor just went by,” I told The Runner. Later, others would confirm it. So there you have it: Tyson is polite to strangers and is fast on his bike.
Foreshadowing at Hardscrabble
After The IT Guy took back his truck, The Runner and I got back to riding. We both marveled at the perfection of the day, how good the trail conditions were, and how much better one feels on the final third of a mountain biking century if one skips the middle third of it.
I felt strong enough, in fact, that when we got to Hardscrabble hill — one of the iconic climbs of the course — I rode nearly the entire thing, only needing to put my foot down at one point. Of course, this left me very hot and thirsty, so I refueled with an unwise number of caffeinated beverages.
“This,” I thought to myself, as I polished off my third caffeinated drink, “is unwise.”
But my tolerance for caffeine is high, and I was thirsty; I wasn’t really concerned.
I should have been concerned.
Urgency Becomes Emergency
The Runner and I pedaled along at an easy pace; our objective wasn’t to finish this 100-mile ride fast, it was to finish it comfortably and not tired. Thus, we were riding toward the back of the group, though not usually at the very back.
But I was starting to feel a little bit upset in my stomach.
We stopped to pee at one of the trailside latrines. I considered taking a little bit of extra time and pooping, but it’s just such a hassle when biking with bibshorts on.
So we kept going.
I was starting to not feel so great at all.
We rode through one of the very few (this year) sections of deep sand. I lost power and fell over. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. In fact, falling in deep soft sand is kind of awesome, because it just doesn’t hurt at all.
But as I lifted my bike back to upright, I felt something shift, and I knew that I was a bomb.
And the fuse was lit.
At an optimistic guess, I would say it was a seven-minute fuse.
“Do you remember,” I asked The Runner, casually, “whether there are any outhouses coming up?”
“No, we’ve gone by the last one,” she said.
I tried to picture a reality in which I would not be pooping within the next three minutes. But I couldn’t imagine such a reality. As it turns out, it’s much harder to use The Secret when you have an urgent need to take a crap.
So I began to try to think of what materials I had on hand and look around for a place where I could take care of the business that an excess of caffeine had made into urgent business.
But I could tell that what I needed to do would require toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper.
“Do you have lots and lots of toilet paper?” I asked The Runner.
“No, but I do have one Action Wipe,” said The Runner, helpfully.
I squirmed. This next fifteen minutes or so, I could see, was going to be a remarkably nasty episode in my life.
I looked around, more desperately, for a place to conceal myself and dig a whole. A large hole.
And then we turned a corner.
There was an outhouse. The most beautifully well-located outhouse in the entire universe.
“I’ll see you in a while,” I said to The Runner, as I broke into a sprint.
A Little Time Alone
By now you have of course figured out that I was the lucky owner of the explosive diarrhea mentioned at the beginning of this story. Which means I don’t need to go into a lot of detail except to say that if the outhouse had been another fifty feet away, this story might have had a rather horrible section where I tried to cleverly describe how I managed to clean my shorts well enough to put back on.
Instead, I get to say that I have never been so grateful for a stinky, hot, tiny room with a seat that leads to a hole in the ground.
Sadly, my business was such that it did not end quickly. Also, thanks to the vents in the outhouse, I could hear The Runner as she talked to people as they rode by:
“Go on ahead, we’re going to be here for a while.”
“Fatty’s got diarrhea, don’t wait for us.”
“Yeah, too much caffeine, he just barely made it here.”
As she talked, I stood up at least three times, thinking I was done.
And, at least three times, I quickly sat back down again. I was not done.
“Hey, are you really the last rider?” I finally heard her say. “You’d better give me that daisy.”
She continued, “No, not for me. For the guy inside.”
I began to contemplate: how would I know, for sure, when I could leave this toilet? It seemed like it would be never.
Finally, eventually, shakily, I stood up and felt like this time I really could step outside.
Kindly, The Runner had already affixed the daisy to my handlebar for me.
As we rode, the daisy looked up at me. Smilingly, encouragingly. And I, considering the disaster that could have been, smiled back. I climbed Horsethief, feeling light as a feather, and twice as relieved. (How relieved is a feather, you ask? Easy: half as relieved as I was.)
I guarantee you, had my stomach begun rumbling, I was ready to turn around and head back to that outhouse. But I made it to the finish line without needing to stop again. Last, but with my shorts unsoiled. The daisy proudly displayed.
Victory is sometimes measured in curious ways.