Oh, So THAT’S Why It’s Called “Endurance” Racing

07.24.2011 | 9:36 pm

I’ve never liked the term “Endurance Race.” I mean, you endure lectures from your boss. You endure piano recitals. You endure watching flat stages on the Tour de France (though I sincerely appreciate ASO’s work at livening those stages up this year by placing invisible obstructions along the course, causing massive crashes to break up the otherwise unendurable monotony).

But long biking races? Well, sure, there are moments when I’m enduring, by which I mean “continuing as if I want to ride, even a big chunk of me would rather stop.”

But mostly, I don’t endure the Leadville 100, or I wouldn’t keep signing up for it (this year will be my 15th consecutive time). I wouldn’t have raced the Kokopelli. I wouldn’t do eight-hour training rides most weekends during the summer.

So here’s the problem: this term “endurance racing” takes an amazing, demanding, beautiful event…and then labels it with its least attractive attribute. I mean, using this technique, Soccer would be called, “Fans Murder Each Other-Ball.” Baseball would be called, “Hardly Anything Ever Happens-Ball.” Running Would be called “Ruining Your Joints.”

Why not call long-distance racing “Seeing a Big Chunk of the World Racing?” Or “Exhibiting Unusual Amounts of Stamina and Cheerful Determination Racing?” Because it’s not really just about enduring. (And don’t go trying to tell me that someone’s already solved this problem by inventing the word “randonneuring,” because that’s just a French word for “riding around with a lot of luggage and pretending you’re not lost.”)

Or at least, that was my perspective until last Saturday.

A Fateful Decision

The IT Guy — The Hammer’s 21-year-old son — has been riding with The Hammer and me a lot lately. That’s because he’s signed up to race the Leadville 100 this August. His first big endurance race.

Last week, for example, he rode Camel Pass. And here he is with The Hammer the weekend before last as we did a mini version of a local epic road ride affectionately known as The Gauntlet (The mini version has “only 78.6 miles / 10,800 feet of climbing; the ultimate version has 96.5 miles / 20,000 feet of climbing).


So, you know, he’s been doing a little bit of riding. We have high hopes for him finishing at Leadville.

And with just a few weeks ’til the Leadville 100, we decided it was time to take him out to do a mountain bike ride that really simulated what he’d be experiencing in Leadville: the Pole Line to Guardsman to Corner Canyon loop.

The Hammer and I had ridden it once before, on July 4. It’s a beautiful ride.

Yes, we have views like this from a lot of the rides that start and end at our house. Envy us.

Anyway, the ride’s physically demanding, but not technical. Like Leadville.

There’d be multiple sustained climbs — about 13,800′ worth of climbing throughout the day.


Not too different from Leadville.

And, importantly, there’s one particular beast of a climb — Guardsman Pass — that gets in your head the same way Leadville’s Columbine Mine climb does. Nearly 4000 feet of climbing in under nine miles will do that to you.

Especially that one little section that’s at a 23% grade.

Differences Make a Difference

But The Hammer and I didn’t bring The IT Guy on this ride to shake his confidence. The fact of the matter is, The IT Guy is riding strong; we figured he was ready for this challenge.

But some things had changed since the last time The Hammer and I had done this ride. First, it had gotten warm. Here’s a self-portrait near the summit of Guardsman Pass on July 4:


Now, I didn’t take any photos when we took The IT Guy on this ride just 20 days later, but you’ll have to take my word for it: there is no longer any snow. Because whereas the first time The Hammer and I did this ride the high temperature was 80.6(F), last Saturday it got a little bit warmer.

OK, it got to 109.4(F). But it was a dry heat, and it’s not like we were toiling up a 15% grade on mountain bikes at the time. OK, maybe it was a little like that.

A Quick Aside

Have you noticed that about 35% of all photos of people on the Internet are self portraits with one shoulder in the foreground as they try to point the camera at themselves? The thing about those photos is, they all look a lot alike. Specifically, a head and shoulders shot of a smiling person, getting in the way of the subject matter the smiling person wanted a photo of. For example, here’s a picture of me when I was visiting my sisters in Brooklyn:


And here’s a shot of me on a beach in Hawaii:


Oh, and me visiting the Late Cretaceous period:


And here’s me hanging out with NYC Carlos at the Davis LiveStrong Challenge a couple weeks ago:


I tell you what: I need to start varying my smile in these self-portraits a little bit. Also, I seem to have sprouted an extra ear in that last photo. I’ll have to see the doctor about that.

OK. Where was I? Oh yeah. The IT Guy. Differences. Impending doom.

The Other Differences

So it was hot. Fine. The other thing that had changed quite a bit in the past few weeks is that the mosquitoes are hungry now. And so are the deer flies, which are just as annoying as mosquitoes. On the bright side, though, a deer fly bite hurts only 280% as much as a mosquito bite.

They’d leave you alone, mostly, as long as you kept riding. Stop for even a second, though, and they would commence to seeing how much of you they could eat before you swatted at them.

Finally, I’m pretty sure this might have been — by a fair margin — objectively the hardest, climbiest ride the IT Guy had ever been on.

The IT Guy Puts the Endure in Endurance

The IT Guy had not had a great day to start with. For one thing, he’s not an early riser type, and we had set a start time of 5:45am, in order to beat the heat as much as possible. Next, a deer had committed suicide by jumping into The IT Guy’s truck’s grill as he drove to The Hammer’s and my house.

Then, just a couple hours into the ride, a squirrel had tried to cut off its own tail by jumping into The IT Guy’s spinning spokes.

He (The IT Guy, not the squirrel) was exhausted. His feet hurt. It was outrageously hot, even high up in the mountains. He had run out of water (and was too proud to ask for some, in spite of the fact that I still had half a camelbak of water, a full bottle of CarboRocket, and a full bottle of Mountain Dew with me).

But really, it was the insects that pushed him over the edge.

“This is the stupidest, worst, $%&^!ing ride in the whole world!” said The IT Guy. “I don’t want to $%^%#@@ing ride this @#$^#%$ing bike any more!”

I looked at The Hammer. Was The IT Guy kidding around? I hadn’t ever seen this side of him. The fact is, The IT Guy could just as easily have the nickname, “The Guy Who Is Always Nice to Everyone and Is Constantly Doing Everything for Everyone.”

But that would be kind of a long nickname.

The Hammer shook her head. The IT Guy was not kidding around.

He wanted to bail out. He wanted to quit.

A Mother’s Love

As a guy, I tend to not get involved in other guys’ decisions. It’s the guys’ way: Hey, I’m out here having fun; if you’re not having fun, go somewhere that’s more fun for you.

The Hammer, on the other hand, is The IT Guy’s mother. “You are not going home,” she said. “You are finishing this ride.”

The IT Guy did not want to finish the ride.

“You are finishing the ride,” said The Hammer, with the full force of a woman whose nickname is “The Hammer.”

I stood by, enjoying watching one incredibly strong, willful person contending with her incredibly strong, willful progeny.

Eventually, he conceded to the following extent. “I’ll keep going, but not if you keep waiting for me.”

“Deal,” I said, before The Hammer could say anything.

As we rode ahead, The Hammer looked at me and I said, “Don’t worry, we aren’t going to leave him.”

Sometimes Endurance Riding is Enduring the Ride

The IT Guy finished the ride. He didn’t enjoy it. He didn’t go fast. Sometimes he walked. But he finished it.

Which was a good reminder to me.

The fact is, I have been riding a long time (since before The IT Guy was old enough to ride a bike), and right now I’m in maybe the best biking shape I have ever been in. 100 mile rides — road or mountain bike — are currently not a big deal. So it’s been a while since we’ve experienced what The IT Guy experienced last Saturday.

I had forgotten that there’s something incredibly satisfying in hitting a wall, then hauling yourself over it. Pretty, no. Satisfying, yes.

It was nice to be reminded that “endurance” rides can — and maybe even should — be about enduring.


  1. Comment by Chris | 07.25.2011 | 6:00 am

    First ??

  2. Comment by Chris | 07.25.2011 | 6:02 am

    Once his legs stop burning please remind IT guy that even if it didn’t feel good he just accomplished something that many many people would have walked away from. So as much it sucked he should be proud of what he did.

  3. Comment by Fat Cathy | 07.25.2011 | 6:43 am

    Poor IT guy. You guys took him on a death march.

  4. Comment by daddystyle | 07.25.2011 | 6:50 am

    It is important to suffer,builds character and when your done it feels so good to stop. Congrats to the IT GUY, Suffer on.

  5. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 07.25.2011 | 8:00 am

    Way to go IT Guy! It’s a new day when one’s ‘Truck Driver’ side, manifests itself in front (in back?) of your Mom.

    So Fatty, when are you going to trick your child onto a ride like this? I realize it will be while, they know you too well.

  6. Comment by MellowJonny | 07.25.2011 | 8:11 am

    Too funny! I feel bad for the IT Guy, but if he want’s to be riding the Leadville 100, he’s gonna have to ride a 75 mile course for preparation. He should be very proud though.


  7. Comment by Jenni | 07.25.2011 | 8:18 am


  8. Comment by Mike@Squirrelhead | 07.25.2011 | 8:26 am

    Man those are some serious rides you get to do out there. I need to find some crazy trails like that out here so that I can actually make a run at Leadville one of these years.

  9. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 07.25.2011 | 8:43 am

    Great job, IT Guy!

  10. Comment by Maggi | 07.25.2011 | 8:44 am

    Way to go, IT Guy! Sometimes, the hardest thing you can do is to keep going after you’ve hit the “I don’t want to $%&^!ing do this $%&^!ing thing anymore!” breaking point. Congrats on all your hard work!

  11. Comment by NYCCarlos | 07.25.2011 | 8:53 am

    Nice work IT Guy – I’ll be on the trail at Leadville cheering for you (and all of the other fatties, particularly NHJoe).

    Fatty – no “note from fatty” about the WBR fundraiser?

  12. Comment by Bike Nazi | 07.25.2011 | 8:57 am

    Yeah, some bike rides can suck. Sometimes, you’re just getting it done, just so that you know it didn’t break you. Well, IT Guy proved to himself that he was stronger than that ride. What a great thing he did… to rise above his urge to quit and to accomplish something he no longer wanted to do. Imagine how well he’ll do on the next ride, when he keeps his focus and believes he will do it! Great rides ahead!


  13. Comment by rich | 07.25.2011 | 8:59 am

    Wow, Good Job IT Guy!! Yes, enduring and along with it, suffering, is all part of the process. He has now done something not many people have or can do.
    Riding a mt Bike that far is no easy task….

  14. Comment by PeckishCyclist | 07.25.2011 | 9:03 am

    Congrats, IT Guy!
    And, Fatty, “late Cretaceous period”? Looks fun. I think my kids would like it more than the Universal Studios visit I’d planned. I’ll take a self-portrait if we go.

  15. Comment by rabidrunner | 07.25.2011 | 9:13 am

    That’s a great story. The IT guy is pretty dang lucky to have the masters show ‘em how to train for Leadville, yes? I’ve been there a few times. Once, after too many hours and not enough fuel, I picked up my bike and threw it at my spouse. It can be extra especially tough when you’re surrounded by epic cyclists who know what they are doing–somehow the suffering is magnified exponentially by the perceived ease at which others are able to be awesome.

  16. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 07.25.2011 | 9:14 am

    Good post. I needed an encouraging “keep on keeping on” message. Thanks, Fatty.

  17. Comment by HeidiR | 07.25.2011 | 9:15 am

    Way to go, IT guy!

  18. Comment by Dave T | 07.25.2011 | 9:23 am

    One persons endurance ride is another persons death march. Nice job IT guy!

  19. Comment by roan | 07.25.2011 | 9:23 am

    IT Guy, you did great. Next time ask Fatty if you can borrow his SS for that ride.
    The pic with NYC Carlos, your mutant ear and a claw left over from the Cretaceous Period ? Tell me how big were the flies back then ? Even the surface of The Gauntlet looks like it was left over from the Crustaceous Period. What a life, I need to visit for for weekend ride, pick a weekend and ALL of us will visit.

  20. Comment by Brandy | 07.25.2011 | 9:41 am

    Great Job IT Guy.

  21. Comment by Mike C | 07.25.2011 | 9:45 am

    From one IT Guy to another… Great Job!

  22. Comment by Dan in Sac | 07.25.2011 | 9:56 am

    Way to keep at it IT guy. Good luck to you at Leadville. A little known fact: dropping the “F-bomb” increases wattage bye 7.25%.

  23. Comment by George | 07.25.2011 | 10:07 am

    I think we have all heard the little voice in our head say, “You are not going home, You are finishing this ride.”…
    …and it means it when you are sure that it was spoken out loud, “You are finishing the ride!”
    Way to go IT Guy!

  24. Comment by Roger Whitney | 07.25.2011 | 10:17 am

    I guess the Hammer was right, he is paying a bit for all those croissants in europe. Great job sticking it out IT guy. When Leadville comes, enjoy more then endure!!!!

  25. Comment by Jacob | 07.25.2011 | 10:28 am

    First, that map. Did you have to ride over a really tall wall or tree to start climbing that first hill or was the climb just really happy to see you?

    I do realize that the elevation profile is not to scale. It’s funnier if I pretend that I don’t. Still, that’s freaking steep.

    I think we have a difference understanding of the word to endure. To me, it’s simply to keep going, especially in difficult circumstances. I don’t see it as the same as suffering.

    I used to be the IT guy and was shocked the first time I went out on a bike with a much fitter friend that I’ve always had trouble keeping up with in any sort of distance activity and I ended up turning around and realizing he hadn’t been able to keep up my pace. He was way behind me. Sure, he was on a mountain bike and I was on a road bike, but I wasn’t the slob anymore.

    That being said, I live something like 90 miles from the nearest categorized climb so I would have been hanging back with the IT guy probably. Probably more likely than probably. I make Thor Hushovd look petite.

  26. Comment by Liz | 07.25.2011 | 10:36 am

    Nice work, IT Guy. I think it was punishingly hot all over the weather map this weekend; I know it was here. Hanging in there is half the battle. Best wishes with your preparations for Leadville.

  27. Comment by Mary | 07.25.2011 | 10:50 am

    Good job IT guy. And to The Hammer–sometimes it is our job as parents to make sure they know the satisfaction of finishing something that is so hard! I’m pretty slow and know well the feeling of screaming and sometimes even cursing my bike but I’m glad (when it’s over) that my husband made me finish!

  28. Comment by Nurse Betsy | 07.25.2011 | 11:09 am

    Good Job IT Guy! You finished and challenged yourself. Keep up the good work.

  29. Comment by Jim | 07.25.2011 | 11:15 am

    >>>100 mile rides — road or mountain bike — are currently not a big deal.

    Hmm. You currently aren’t on some rooty, slimy, claustrophobic east coast dirt 100, I’m guessing.

    Hang in there, IT Guy. It comes around if you just keep on keepin’ on. The right attitude was shown by a friend of mine: “I’m going to ride until I can’t do it or they make me stop.” I’ve gotten 70/100 on dirt so far… My day is coming. Yours too.

  30. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 07.25.2011 | 12:22 pm

    I missed it somehow. When did the Runner become the Hammer? Point me to the post??? thx

  31. Comment by NYCCarlos | 07.25.2011 | 12:29 pm

    @Cyclin’ Missy – http://www.fatcyclist.com/2011/06/13/moab-to-st-george-rockwell-relay-part-i/

  32. Comment by Jenn | 07.25.2011 | 12:34 pm

    This has become one of my favorite quotes ever – “I had forgotten that there’s something incredibly satisfying in hitting a wall, then hauling yourself over it. Pretty, no. Satisfying, yes.”

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s that fantastic drive in us to never quit, no matter how much we want to, or how much our bodies are telling us we should.

    Be careful in that heat, down here in Houston we touch our bikes very little during these awful summer months. To the air conditioned gym we go…booo, but necessary.

  33. Comment by nosferaustin | 07.25.2011 | 1:23 pm

    “I had forgotten that there’s something incredibly satisfying in hitting a wall, then hauling yourself over it. Pretty, no. Satisfying, yes.” I’m going to have to tape this to my bars if I decide to sign up last minute again for the 200 mile Desperado Dual next month…I really should learn to plan ahead.

  34. Comment by AngieG | 07.25.2011 | 1:30 pm

    AWESOME JOB IT Guy!!! You know Nietzche was right, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.

    And as for the “F bombing”, @Dan in Sac is right that it increases your wattage. In fact I have been told I have strung words together that would make a trucker blush. That’s some serious F Bombing. :-) Hey but it gets me up the climbs.

    Good Luck in Leadville, Team Fatty is behind you all the way!!

    PS- Hammer- way to be an awesome MOM! It hurts to watch our kids struggle, but it brings tears to your eyes when they battle it out and succeed!

  35. Comment by The Flyin' Ute | 07.25.2011 | 1:31 pm

    That ride is one of the best Leadville prep rides around. Hot. dusty. long steep climbs. It’s 85 miles round trip from my house. That final climb over Traverse mountain late in the day always makes me want to stop riding my bike for the rest of my life. But oh, how beautiful when you get to the top and it’s home free.

    Perfect endurance ride.

    He will be glad he did it once he get’s to Leadville.

  36. Comment by Trailer Park Cyclist | 07.25.2011 | 1:36 pm

    So after the ride did you guys go home and feast on some venison? Probably raw. You guys are animals.

  37. Comment by Hammer/mom | 07.25.2011 | 2:02 pm

    Way to go Blake! You are gonna do awesome in Leadville! I’m super proud of you for finishing that $&@*ing hard ride! Love you!

  38. Comment by cece at work | 07.25.2011 | 2:52 pm

    I say ,”IT GUY! YOU ROCK!” You did something incredible facing yourself, the bike and the road and your persevered through the questions and turmoils that the mind throws at you when you are in pain and having a bad day on the bike. You will look back on this day and feel proud that you accomplished what you were not certain that you could accomplish! Allez!

  39. Comment by Jason | 07.25.2011 | 4:20 pm

    First off, way to go IT guy. That ride sounds like a B&^#$! I live in Michigan so I never get to see anything like that, the closest we come to big climbs is a strong headwind.

    Second, after reading this I want to read about some of Fatty’s first experiences riding from back in the stone age. What kinds of walls did you hit and overcome? I know as someone who has only been riding for about 4 months that it would make for some great reading.

  40. Comment by Jeremy | 07.25.2011 | 5:50 pm

    Well done, IT Guy. That profile is pretty scary to those of us who have to carry an extra bit over the climbs.

  41. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 07.25.2011 | 6:51 pm

    Lisa you rock. My son Bailey can certainly tell you about a mom tough love story. Never would have thought that would come out of my nice social worker wife. But he is better for it. Good luck at Leadville IT Guy!

  42. Comment by Matthew | 07.25.2011 | 8:58 pm

    Props to you IT Guy. Can’t wait to see you on the finishers list for Leadville!

    Fatty: can we get you to record The Hammer saying “YOU ARE NOT GOING HOME!” ? I’m riding RAMROD this Thursday… could use a little positive reinforcement come Cayuse Pass or so. Put that thing on my mp3 player on repeat, it’ll be the fastest 10,000 ft of climbing in my life, if only to get it to stop so I can sulk back home and eat bon-bons.

  43. Comment by Rowan | 07.25.2011 | 10:35 pm

    Saw your crew bombing down Big C Saturday morn. IT guy looked to be all smiles on the way down. Way to gut it out man.

  44. Comment by Alan | 07.26.2011 | 12:59 am

    What’s with all the crazy death-wishing wildlife? I never had a squirrel try to cram itself thru my spokes before, that’s got to be unnerving. Though I did center punch an indecisive squirrel once, go right, no, go left, no, right, left, right, ugh, splat.

  45. Comment by Patrick #4091 | 07.26.2011 | 1:34 am

    Props to IT for finishing, it’ll give him strength for the next ride.

  46. Comment by Russ | 07.26.2011 | 4:13 am

    as someone who is new to riding long distance I could easily be the IT guy. Glad he stuck it out, the feeling when you endure makes it all worthwhile; it just doesn’t seem like it at the time!

  47. Comment by Bantam Paul | 07.26.2011 | 6:10 am

    Fatty, as a British reader and follower of your Blog I thought you might be interested to read of a fellow Brit who is an ENDURANCE ATHLETE PAR EXCELLANCE. He is currently running across your country 3100 miles in 100 days. Could you publish his BLOG as he is raising money for two local charities here in the UK. His web address is http://www.rungeordierun.com I am sure he will appreciate any help you can give. All the Best Bantam Paul

  48. Comment by Tonya | 07.26.2011 | 8:04 am

    Major, major props to The IT Guy. I’m still a newbie when it comes to riding, so I haven’t approached mileage that he is doing(and that you guys do regularly), but I know what’s like to hit my own wall. There is a lot of profanity and, yes, even tears, but when I finish… I feel better than I’ve ever felt. My poor partner, however, bears the brunt of my ire and angst. She is a saint.

  49. Comment by gregc | 07.26.2011 | 8:24 am

    Great post- I can definitely relate to the intense internal conversation (arguement?) and bargaining one does when “enduring” (as opposed to enjoying or reveling) a ride or run that is way beyond what you think you can do. Every time I ran marathons I hit the wall- but still pushed through. Sometimes a strong willed friend (or mother) is the extra push we need to get beyond our rational self imposed limits. What a cool thing for you guys to do- the Hammers tough love was spot on! I love the ride profile. I used to think that a “squared” ride was the goal (at least 100 feet of climbing per mile average for a loop) for a road ride. I need to find bigger mountains to train in. And by the way, I don’t recall NYC Carlos looking quite so pale in Davis- maybe it was too much pie.

    One other thing- how about a Team Fatty World Bike Relief total counter on the side of your blog- I would enjoy watching our progress against Johannes audacious goal.

  50. Comment by Jenny @ Fondant is Gross | 07.26.2011 | 8:45 am

    Way to go IT guy! I am training for my first century and our first longer ride two weeks ago was no where near as steep. Major props! I currently use a Saucony commercial I saw during Le Tour as my motivation “Strength is what you have left when you’ve used up all your weak.” And all you have left is strength. Great job!

    @Jason I’m from MI too, go up 75 and along 68 and 31, there are ridiculous hills to climb there. Especially heading toward Cheboygan from Rogers City.

    Good luck at Leadville IT Guy!

  51. Comment by Haven-KT | 07.26.2011 | 10:16 am

    Great job, IT Guy! Sometimes you just gotta gut it out. Mostly so when it’s done, it’s done and you can say that you did the whole thing.

  52. Comment by Joey Hinckley | 07.26.2011 | 10:27 am

    Sweet ride! I may want to do a similar ride some time. If you don’t mind could you explain what road or trail you turn on when coming into Midway off of Guardsman pass that allows you to climb up to Pole Line? By the way thanks beforehand. I love reading your ride reports.

  53. Comment by Heather G | 07.26.2011 | 10:46 am

    Sorry I wasn’t there to moon you…

  54. Comment by Dan O | 07.26.2011 | 10:47 am

    Kudos to IT Guy. We’ve all been there to some extent.

    Hopefully, IT Guy will look back and think it was worth the effort and feel great about pushing through it all.

    Good luck with Leadville 100. Fantastic goal.

  55. Comment by John Juge | 07.27.2011 | 11:04 am

    hey there Fatty, super inspired by that post. so much so in fact, I stole the last line about climbing over the wall and used it as my Facebook status. (gave you full credit for the quote).

    my only question was, I saw that the IT guy and The Hammer were wearing some sort of wrap on their wrists? is that for hand numbness? I only ask because it is a real problem for me, and if that is a treatment I want to look into it!

    hey, down to 225 now! should hit my goal weight of 190 by December! Not bad for starting at 310 in September of 2010!

  56. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 08.1.2011 | 12:13 am

    I think Heather is on to something. Bring her to Leadville and she can ‘moon’ Blake and the entire team, or all the riders. I’m sure that will set some new fastest times.
    Way to go Blake!


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