This Race Should Have Been Shorter

08.9.2010 | 1:05 am

A Note from Fatty: MikeRoadie — the Co-Captain for Team Fatty Austin, has a friend who is putting together a solo 660-mile ride through New England to raise money for childrens’ cancer hospitals. Please check out Nick’s Ride for Kids and donate. You may win one of 22 weekend getaways. Nice!

There are big mountain bike races. There are big, long mountain bike races. There are big, long, important mountain bike races.

And then there’s the (hushed silence, please) . . . Alpine Days Mountain Bike Race.

Using the mountain biking trails (Hogs’ Hollow, Lambert Park) in and around Alpine, UT, the Alpine Days Mountain bike race is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never have, because the race always seems to land on the same weekend as the Leadville 100.

This year, though, the Alpine Days race was a week earlier. That fact, combined with the fact that the race costs only $15 to enter, combined with the further fact that the starting line is three blocks, downhill, from my house, combined with the additional further fact that the $15 entry fee includes a t-shirt, combined with the final additional further fact that I had nothing else going on last Saturday at 7:00 AM, made this a must-attend race.

Late last week, The Runner and I went to the city hall to sign up. I signed up for the Men’s 40-49 Expert category, for three reasons:

  1. I am a man.
  2. I am 44, which falls neatly between 40 and 49.
  3. I am not an expert racer, but the Expert course covers Hog Hollow and the Chute to the sliding rock in addition to the Lambert Park loop. I like those trails, so expert it is. (was.)

The Runner chose the Women’s 40-49 Sport category, because she did not care about climbing Hog Hollow yet again for the third time that week.

And then she signed up her son, The IT Guy, to race against her, mostly to put him in his place. It’s not every mother who can throw down a mountain biking challenge to her 20-year-old son, but The Runner is not every mother. Obviously, I guess.

Before the Race

We showed up early, me on the FattyFly SS, rolling completely rigid; The Runner rode the SuperFly. The Runner found she had been placed in the Expert category by the wily race organizers. She corrected the mistake and went back to Sport, in spite of the fact that as the only woman in the Expert category for the race, she’d almost certainly take first.

I picked up my number and looked through the list of entries. Core Team Member Rick Maddox was there.

Awesome. Now I knew who to care about beating.

I walked around, looking for anyone else riding a singlespeed. And sure enough, I found one other guy: Corey. A new dad of twins, not to mention a cancer survivor. Riding a nice Niner, he looked like he would be kicking my butt for sure.

That’s OK, though. I wasn’t there to try to beat anyone. In fact, The Runner and I reminded each other, multiple times: With just one week to go ’til the Leadville 100, the dumbest thing either of us could do would be to wreck.

So — to anyone who asked, as well as to several who didn’t — I explained my race plan: hit the climbs as hard as I could, and then be very conservative on the descents, and don’t worry about who’s in front of me and who’s behind.

(Except, I noted to myself, I really really wanted to make sure I was faster than Ricky).

The Awesomeness of The Familiar

The starting line was hilarious, and I wish I would have had a picture. The Experts pointed one direction — toward Hog Hollow — and the Sports pointing in the opposite direction. Like we had had an argument and weren’t speaking to each other.

The gun went off (or it’s possible the race organizer said “Go!”), and we went; that’s all I’d see of The Runner ’til the race was over.

Since the first quarter mile or so of the race was on flat road, I figured my singlespeed and I would get dropped off the back right away. But I was lucky; everyone seemed to keep their speed dialed back. I sat behind the group, getting sucked along.

Then the road turned right and sharply uphill. As (just about) everyone else shifted down, I did the SS equivalent of shifting down: I stood up and kept pedaling, conserving as much momentum as I could.

And a weird thing happened: without meaning to be, I was at the front of the race. Oops.

Two guys quickly shot out of the pack and joined me: a guy on a Canondale and a guy on a Gary Fisher Sugar 1 (an old design, but still regarded by those of us who’ve had one as one of Fisher’s best). We stayed together until the paved road turned left onto Hog Hollow Road and became flat again, at which point they quickly dropped me and created a sizeable gap.

“Oh well, it was fun while it lasted,” I thought to myself, and took a quick drink, then a look behind me. Nobody was especially close. First place didn’t look good, but it looked like I had a crack at the podium.

I hit the dirt (not literally) and began climbing Hog Hollow. And that’s when I realized how helpful it is to race your hometown trails. I’ll bet that in the past four years or so, I have climbed Hog Hollow 100 times. Maybe 150. So I knew how hard I could go, and I knew how long the trail is. I knew the right lines.

So when I ratcheted up my effort to about the point where I thought I was going to puke, it wasn’t because I had racing fever. It was because I knew, from past experience, that the “threshold of puking” effort was pretty much sustainable for the duration of this climb.

And then I saw the Cannondale guy.

Which meant I was closing on him.

To be honest, this was a weird sensation. It’s pretty rare for me to pass anyone in a race. I tend to be the guy who gets passed a lot.

You know what? Closing a gap and passing someone feels pretty darned good.

Then, a few minutes later, I saw the Fisher Sugar guy. It took longer to close that gap, but I did.

And then, to my surprise — and delight, most definitely to my delight — I was winning the Expert category in a mountain bike race.

This Race Should Have Been Shorter

I pedaled as hard as I could, when I could. Though I am not ashamed (OK, a little bit ashamed) to admit that I walked the top half of “Puke Hill.” Sure, I coulda ridden it — do it all the time, really — but it would have cost more than it was worth.

And as I pushed up Puke Hill, I looked back.

There was Corey. The other Singlespeeder. Close behind and getting closer (though he was also walking the second half of Puke Hill).

I found a little extra power and poured it on. And I made it to the top of the climb, and even to the top of “The Chute” — a treacherous ravine that goes down to the Sliding Rock in Alpine.

And then Corey caught me, right as the downhill began.

So, you know, if this would have been strictly a climbing race, I think I might’ve won. (I could’ve been a contender, etc., etc.)

But I let Corey go without a fight, fully intending to honor my promise to take the descents nice and cautiously.

And so, of course, ten seconds after Corey passed me and I had gained a good head of steam following his line, I slid my front wheel into a narrow-but-deep erosion trench and flipped, heels-over-head, in a fast downhill endo.

Without thinking about it, I put out my arms.

Which was a bad idea.

I heard the “pop” sound my right shoulder makes whenever the many-times-separated thing is getting re-injured.

I’m pretty sure I was yelling at the top of my lungs before I even slid to a stop.

Corey, to his credit, immediately stopped and looked around to see if I needed help.

“I’m fine,” I yelled at him. “Go!”

“Are you sure?” he yelled back, probably because he had never heard anything quite like the sound I have just made (my “I’ve been hurt” scream is the stuff of local legend).

“I’m fine,” I yelled back. “Go!”

Even as I picked myself back up and sorted my bike out (everything was good, except the saddle now pointed slightly to the right — not enough to waste the time fixing it, though), I thought about how strange it was that I had just repeated myself to him, word for word. “I thought I was more original than that,” I thought to myself.

Yes, I really did think that.

Third Is OK. And Fourth Is Too, I Guess. Kind of.

It was no longer an effort of will to go slow down The Chute. My fall — which, in addition to my shoulder, had also banged up my left quad enough that it hurt to pedal — had put the fear of God into me, and I rode tentatively on every downhill for the rest of the race.

So it should be no surprise that halfway down The Chute, the guy on the Fisher Sugar 1 passed me, calling out “Hi Fatty!” as he did.

And then, as I got to the bottom of The Chute (having had no more wrecks, luckily), the guy on the Canondale passed me.

And just like that, I was off the podium. Strange how I could be bummed out to lose something I had not previously even considered as possible.

And while there was more climbing to do in the race, there was a lot more downhill than climbing left.

So while I occasionally caught glimpses of the Canondale rider out in front of me, I never got close enough to make a serious attempt at closing the gap.

And for whatever reason, it’s harder to turn yourself inside out to catch someone you can’t even see.

But still, as I finished the loop on Lambert Park singletrack — a loop very familiar to The Runner and me because it’s our favorite trail run — I pedaled as fast as I could.

Fourth was OK — it had to be — but I did not want to move down to fifth in the last moments of the race.

I rode by The Runner and The IT Guy, both of whom had long since finished their race and were now hanging around to cheer me on.

I crossed the finish line. Fourth. Hey, that’s pretty good, and pretty good is often good enough.

The Runner’s Tale

After the race, I asked The Runner how she had done. “I took second,” she said.

“Not bad,” I thought to myself, though quite frankly there weren’t many women who had shown up to the race at all.

But it turns out I had misunderstood. The Runner had take second in Sport overall.

Essentially, during the mile-long paved run-up to the dirt loop at Lambert Park, The Runner shifted up into a tall gear and just rode away from the field. Once she hit the dirt, one man was able to catch and stay away from her.

Another tried to pass, but since The Runner is a nurse, she knows exactly where a human’s nerve clusters are located. A quick jab in the right spot temporarily paralyzed that rider’s left side, leaving him to thrash around, describing counterclockwise circles in the dirt.

Sometimes, I fear The Runner.

OK, actually that part didn’t happen. Just one guy passed her, and she rode a smart, fast race. And she didn’t fall down, unlike me.

“I expect there were quite a few surprised and angry men behind me,” speculated The Runner as we lounged after the race.

Yes, I expect that’s probably true.

PS: I finished seven minutes ahead of Ricky. Not that I was counting, or that it was important, or anything like that.

PPS: The IT Guy did great in the race, too. He finished about three minutes after The Runner. Now, most 20-year-old men wouldn’t find it something to be proud of to finish three minutes behind their mothers, but The Runner is not an ordinary mother. Obviously.

PPPS: My right shoulder hurt pretty badly the rest of the day — it was painful to do even ordinary tasks like shift gears in the car. It hurt less yesterday (Sunday) though, and seems to be getting better quickly. I think I’ll need to be careful at Leadville, and I expect my shoulder will ache badly by the end of the race, but I don’t think my shoulder will stop me from racing.


  1. Comment by SkiMoab | 08.9.2010 | 1:35 am

    Saw the course arrows on Lambert last night and followed them around most of the time, it was a fun loop. Too bad I didn’t know there was an actual race there Saturday morning, sounds like a lot of fun for those not riding Leadville next week.

  2. Comment by Patrick | 08.9.2010 | 2:44 am

    Good work Fatty and Runner, how did IT guy get on? Are you still OK for Leadville?

  3. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 08.9.2010 | 5:19 am

    Patrick my thoughts exactly nice story as always but one character missing – the IT guy. So how did he go?

  4. Comment by cece | 08.9.2010 | 5:39 am

    Yeah! What about the IT guy? Congrats to the Runner! How is your shoulder? Questions, questions!

  5. Comment by Cardiac Kid | 08.9.2010 | 5:56 am

    Well Done Fatty,
    To dump your bike, get up and still finish fourth isn’t bad. Did you get a picture of the look on the Runners face when she saw that you banged up your shoulder and quad? I imagine it would be very similar to the look my wife gives me when I do things like that.

  6. Comment by Jim | 08.9.2010 | 6:25 am

    >>>I am not an expert racer

    Hah. And you’re not a front-of-the-sport-pack sandbagger either, right?

    FWIW, you probably need to work on descending a little more recklessly. (And wrecklessly). I crash like a crash monkey at a crashing demonstration at a crashing convention if I ride cautiously / tentatively on technical descents. If I drill it and ride barely in control, and just focus on picking lines, I frequently close up gaps that the confessed experts I ride with open up on me on the uphills. I’ve found that when it’s properly set up, a mountain bike is actually designed to do squirrelly things like sliding the rear end around turns, and for the front wheel to pick its own line (rather than the one I would prefer) through a rock field. Just keep pedaling, keep the head up and pointing to the place you want to go, and it’s fine.

    Until an actual crash comes in which case it’s a frickin’ doozy.

  7. Comment by Jenn | 08.9.2010 | 7:36 am

    “Sometimes, I fear The Runner.” This caused me to laugh my Dr. Evil laugh.

  8. Comment by Adventure Monkey | 08.9.2010 | 7:57 am

    Wow, the runner is a total stud. You, Fatty my internet friend, make me laugh, hard. So you two together have made this my favorite reading material while I should be working…

  9. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 08.9.2010 | 8:10 am

    Runner, way to ride like a girl. And by that I mean, way to ride smart and strong. Fatty, I hope the shoulder heals for Leadville.

  10. Comment by Barb | 08.9.2010 | 9:09 am

    Way to go Runner!! Congrats on beating the “surprised and angry men”

  11. Comment by Loco88 | 08.9.2010 | 10:43 am

    Superfly SS for you. Superfly for the Runner. Just how many bikes are in your stable anyway?

  12. Comment by Fat Cathy | 08.9.2010 | 11:36 am

    Congrats to both of you! Particularly to the Runner – you go girl!

  13. Comment by AngieG | 08.9.2010 | 12:43 pm

    You clearly forgot to use the “Secret”. Hopefully its more superficial than anything.
    I am sure it’s handy that The Runner is a nurse, but that would mean you would have to listen to her.

    Congrats to The Runner. I love the fact you left suprised and angry men in your wake!!!

    Good luck to you both in Leadville. :-)

  14. Comment by evil3 | 08.9.2010 | 1:15 pm

    Nice job Fatty on your 4th place finish, although I bet if you weren’t worried about crashing and rode the trails the way you normally ride them you might have been on the podium (after all you should know your own trails better then the back of your hand).

    Also congrats to the Runner for finishing 2nd and the IT guy for being close to the Runner at the end of the race (3 mins isn’t back isn’t bad, although it is quite a gap).

    BTW what was the finishing order of the expert men’s 40-49 class (I know you had 4th but who was 1st, 2nd, and 3rd)?

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.9.2010 | 2:55 pm

    Way to go, elden! Beat Levi next week! (Hopefully Levi will be pulling for Lance until he is fried, and you can catch him after he slows down!!!

  16. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 08.9.2010 | 4:04 pm

    Wow that was some race! Glad you’re healing and congrats on holding onto 4th! Big congrats to the Runner too – she’s awesome.

  17. Comment by Steve | 08.9.2010 | 5:24 pm

    Good job Fatty. I’m glad you enjoyed passing me (the old Gary Fisher) on the climb up Hog Hollow. I had the same satisfaction passing you on the downhill, until I found out later that you had crashed, I thought it was my superior downhill skills (or you were just slow) that got me back in front of you.

  18. Comment by bubbaseadog | 08.9.2010 | 5:24 pm

    be sure and get some action shots of lance next weekas he passes you remember he won leadville last year …try to stay on the road this yr dont end up in a sag ambulance

  19. Comment by dr. brett | 08.9.2010 | 8:06 pm

    Congrats on your fourth place finish! If they only had a “clydesdale single speed” class I would rule. I am a member of Team CarboRocket and am looking for some advice re: fundraising for my team purpose. If you click on my name above it will take you to the team website and then click my name and look in the comments section. Thanks so much for your support! (I tried to post this once and it disappeared)–perhaps it is going to your spam folder. Thanks!

  20. Comment by Zed | 08.9.2010 | 8:14 pm

    Congrats on the 4th; bummer on the wreck. Hope your shoulder isn’t too sore this weekend. There has to be some kind of resistance training routine you can do to strengthen up the musculature around that shoulder so it stops doing that.

    Good luck at Leadville. Your Leadville race reports are some of my favorite of your posts. Can’t wait to read race report 2010.

  21. Comment by Russell | 08.9.2010 | 10:40 pm

    Dag, you sure do wipe out a lot. What’s up with that?

  22. Comment by Erik | 08.10.2010 | 6:04 am

    At least you got all your crashing out of the way.

    Will there be a Team Fatty meet-up in Leadville?

  23. Comment by Weaky6 | 08.10.2010 | 7:45 am

    You are right, you knew the trail. It had nothing to do with your hard work, dedication, and focus put forth. Don’t give yourself any kind of credit. I mean, really.

  24. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » If Only… | 08.8.2011 | 10:27 am

    [...] done the race, because it falls on the same weekend as The Leadville 100. Last year, though, the Alpine Days Race was the weekend before the Leadville [...]


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