[UPDATED: The suite is now spoken for. Thanks for your interest!]
A “Get a Room” Note From Fatty : If you are going to Leadville for the Leadville 100 this weekend and need a room, well, maybe we can help each other out. I have a suite — bought and paid for — at the Delaware Hotel, that I no longer need. Just in case you don’t know, the Delaware is the hardest hotel to get a room at for the Leadville 100, because it’s across the street from the starting line. So you don’t have to worry about parking, or using porta-potties, or fighting through a giant crowd to get to the race. And after the race, you’re just a few feet from your bed. Which is unbelievably wonderful. This suite has one bathroom and two bedrooms: one with a King-sized bed, one with 2 Queen-sized beds. Check in this Thursday, check out Sunday. $650 total, for all three nights. If you’re want it, email me. Thanks!
The story I’m about to tell you has a lousy ending. There’s simply no other way to describe it. So if you don’t like stories with lousy endings, you should perhaps stop here and read something else. For example, you might want to look at Dug’s video of a recent ride he went on in American Fork Canyon. Sure, it’s nearly ten minutes long, but it’s a pleasure to watch (Dug is an exceptional road descender), and has a happy ending.
This story, on the other hand, has a lousy ending, even though you might be fooled — briefly — into thinking it has a happy ending.
OK, I think I’m done making disclaimers here. Here’s the story.
Two Minutes Too Soon
Every year, the tiny town I live in holds a mountain bike race as part of its summer festival: The Alpine Days Race. Until last year, I’d never 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 100.
And this year — last weekend, in fact — the Alpine Days race was the weekend before The Leadville 100.
But The Hammer and I were unsure whether we wanted to do it.
“Remember how you crashed last year,” The Hammer reminded me. “You don’t want to mess yourself up like that — or worse — again.”
She was right. The fact is, I had already crashed while mountain biking once that week. It amounted to nothing more than a scabby shin (I’ll spare you the photo), but still.
Then, literally at the last moment — for no good reason I can remember — we decided to do the race. I wanted to do the Expert division, because I really like the fourteen-mile course.
I promised, however, that while I would hit the climbs hard, I would just relax and enjoy the descents at a recreational pace. No reliving the injury of last year for me!
The Hammer, on the other hand, wanted no part of the Expert course. She opted for the relatively less-technical Sport course. She texted The IT Guy and asked if he’d like to race. “Sure,” he texted back.
Unfortunately, we made this decision to race during an early dinner on Friday, which meant we needed to rush back to the city hall to sign up if we were going to do this race; no race-day registration for this event (and no online registration, either).
We knew the city hall closed at 7:00pm. We got there at 7:05, right as they were — literally — locking up.
“You here for rodeo tickets?” The man asked.
“No, for the mountain bike race,” I replied.
Without even rolling his eyes, the man re-opened the door to the city hall and let us in, then took care of our registrations.
I don’t even know how many times since then I’ve thought to myself, “If only we had gotten to the city hall two minutes later. That guy would have been gone.”
The race started with Expert class — all ten or twelve of us — facing toward Hog Hollow, and Sport class facing the other direction, toward Lambert Park. My friend Rick Maddox was at my side, also wearing the Fat Cyclist kit, making a total of four of us flying the Team Fatty flag.
We sniffed each other’s bikes (him on a tricked-out Superfly, me on an S-Works StumpJumper), and then I told Ricky my plan: I was going to go as hard as I possibly could and see if I could be first to the top of the big climb — the top of Puke Hill. Then, once the descending started, I was going to treat the ride as recreational and drift back as far as I, well, drifted.
The race director yelled “Go,” and the Sport class took off.
Those of us in Expert looked at each other. Did that “Go” apply to us, as well? Hard to say. So we assumed it didn’t.
The race director yelled “Go” again, and this time we went. Immediately, one guy attacked. putting an end to the “neutral rollout ’til we hit the dirt” idea some of the riders had. I jumped after him, further putting an end to any thoughts of going out easy ’til we hit dirt.
Ricky was right on my tail, along with two other riders in UtahMountainBiking.com (UMB) kit. The four of us quickly dropped the original attacker.
Then Ricky fell back, leaving me with the UMB guys.
Then I fell back, and the UMB guys got to the Hog Hollow climb first, and started gapping me. It looked like my idea of getting to the top first wasn’t going to happen.
Then, about a quarter of the way up, I reeled in the first of the UMB guys. “I thought you might catch me,” he said.
Chewing on my tongue and seeing red, I simply marveled that the guy I was passing was able to speak.
Then I saw the leader. Probably one minute ahead of me. I resolved not to step up my pace; to just see whether he would drop back, or drop me.
Then I changed my mind and went full-bore at him, hoping that a fast pass would discourage him from trying to follow.
Amazingly, it seemed to work.
For the rest of the way up Hog Hollow, I did not look back. I just rode my heart out, figuring that if he could pass me when I was going this hard, it didn’t matter because I had nothing more to give.
But he didn’t pass me. I was pretty sure I could hear him behind me, but he didn’t pass me.
I hit the saddle of Hog Hollow, took a drink during the short relatively flat section before Puke Hill, and then got into a low gear for what I knew would be the hardest climb of the race.
Still, I did not look back.
I got up what we ordinarily think of as Puke Hill without much of a problem — it’s amazing how much easier climbing can be when you have a low gear. Then I saw the nasty little surprise the race director had for us.
Instead of having us turn right on the jeep road as we normally do, the course had us continue straight up the mountain.
Nobody takes that route. Nobody. Ever.
Except we had to.
I rode as much of it as I could, then got off the bike and started pushing. Which seemed to be a good moment to look back and see how close the other racers were.
To my surprise, they were just coming up onto the saddle. I had earned at least two minutes during the Hog Hollow climb.
I pushed on, got to the high point of the course, and looked back. Nobody in sight.
I had done it. Achieved my goal for the day. From here on out, the race was going to simply be a pleasure cruise, and I’d take whatever finishing place came to me.
I Keep My Word
And for the first time ever, I actually stuck to my plan.
I rode the downhill at a casual pace — not too slowly, because that’s even more dangerous than too fast — and had fun. When I hit climbs, I went at them hard, and then backed off again when I got to descents.
From time to time, I’d look back, certain I’d see somebody.
But I never did.
I dropped into Lambert Park, where the Expert class was to do what amounts to a loop and a third of the Sport course. And still, I stuck to my plan. Climb hard, descend easy.
Amazingly, nobody passed me. Still.
As I passed the start of the loop, I looked around, expecting to see The Hammer, The IT Guy, and one of the twins (the other twin slept in) cheering me on, having finished their race.
There was nobody there. Oh well.
I did the loop, looking back more and more frequently. Surely, I’d hear “On your left” soon.
I never heard it.
I finished the loop and crossed the finish line. First place. My first first-place finish, ever. Finally.
I stopped, turned around, and looked for The Hammer, The IT Guy, and The Twin. I was excited to share a moment-by-moment account of my victory.
I couldn’t see them.
And this is a good place to stop reading, if you’d like to pretend this story has a good ending.
Now The Story Turns Bad
The race director walked up to me and said, “I’ve got something for you.”
I assumed it was a prize of some sort, which would have been surprising, since the Alpine Days Race doesn’t have prizes, or even publish results.
The Race Director handed me my phone.
I was baffled. I was sure I had not brought my phone on this race. So I couldn’t have dropped it. But there it was, obviously my phone.
“Your wife gave this to me. She said you should call her as soon as you can. She’s on her way to the hospital.”
He continued, “The IT Guy crashed and broke his collarbone.”
Not a week before Leadville. Not a week before the race he’s spent the past ten months training for. Not during a silly, goof-off nothing of a race!
As a rule I don’t swear. It’s not my way. But this time I did.
At The Hospital
I called The Hammer; they were just walking into the emergency room. I told them I’d be over as soon as I could.
By the time I got there, they were already in a room — early Saturday morning is a good time to have an accident, apparently.
Mike Young — one of the fastest cyclists around, an incredibly nice guy, and an ER doctor to boot — was looking him over.
The IT Guy had had an X-Ray, which made the obvious even more obvious:
The IT Guy won’t be racing Leadville — or riding a bike, sleeping on his back, or putting shirts on by himself — for quite a while.
Sure, as far as accidents go, this is not as serious as many. A broken collarbone will heal, and if there’s got to be a surgery (unlikely), it’s one they know how to do.
But still. The Hammer and I had been talking about — more than our own races, our own hopes for our finish times — is how we thought The IT Guy would do. Where we’d set up to watch him finish.
And now Leadville won’t be quite as much fun.
Next year, IT Guy. Next year for sure.
The thing about crashes is, you usually never really learn how it happened or what they looked like. The person who actually has the crash mostly just remembers chaos and pain, and very likely has a confused recollection of what caused the wreck.
The best he could remember, The IT Guy was in second place for the Sport class, with a good likelihood of making a pass and finishing in first. Then he came to this little raised bridge going over a little creek:
Thanks to a lost contact lens early in the race and a badly-adjusted front brake, The IT Guy didn’t realize how much of a lift there was to get to the bridge, and then locked up the front brake once he was up on the bridge. He endoed down the other side, landing on his shoulder and then smacking his back into a rock embedded in the trail:
The Hammer, less than a minute behind The IT Guy, found him walking and immediately abandoned her race. They walked together for a minute, and then she took off to go home (less than a mile from the finish line) and get a car to bring him to the hospital.
Notice, though, that I say you usually don’t ever learn what happened in a crash. This time, though, we have a pretty good idea.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet.
While waiting in the hospital, I tweeted a photo of The IT Guy’s X-ray (this was, by the way, such a poorly-phrased tweet that everyone naturally thought it was my collarbone that had been broken).
Greg Schauerhamer, however, replied with this tweet:
Naturally, I replied, asking if he’d send me a description of the crash. Greg, however, did better than that. He wrote a complete story — and in fact, one of the most hilariously perfect race descriptions I’ve ever read.
Good enough, in fact, that I’m going to post the whole thing here.
I had the opportunity to be just a few feet behind the infamous IT Guy when he did a sweet endo over the handlebars and did substantial damage to his collarbone. But rather than go straight to the crash, I thought I would give a little background on what led up to said event.
Earlier that morning, just before the start of the small-town mountain bike race in Alpine, we were all standing around listening to our race official give us the rules, talk about the routes, etc. I had a hard time listening as I scanned what appeared to be a Fatty family reunion.
Daddy Fatty was there (straddling the Stumpjumper…poor sap still can’t make up his mind…although we all know he’s going to ride the Superfly), Mommy Fatty was there (aka The Runner), the little Fatties were there (aka The Twins and the IT Guy), and another guy who I will assume was Dug [Ed Note: This was actually Ricky, but I'm going to leave it as Dug for the rest of the story, because I'm too lazy to edit] was there in a FatCylist jersey (I think 50% of Dug’s body weight is in his legs…there is no tapering below the knee).
Anyway, I have to admit that this all felt really weird, considering that I knew so many members of the family but they had no idea who I was. Is this what a stalker feels like? Always looking in, but nobody looking out? Should I say hello? Should I say something snappy like, “Hey dude, got any waffles you wanna share?”
Or maybe I could take the “I’m cool too” approach and say “Hey Fatty, I have a nickname too, they call me “The Hammer” (this is a wordplay on my last name that is pronounced ‘hammer’ but spelled Hamer. And I know that recently Fatty gave that nickname to The Runner, but I had first dibs).
I opted to just act cool and pretend I didn’t know any them. After all, I don’t.
The race started up an asphalt hill that proved to be a great tool in sorting everyone out before we hit the single track. I decided to hang on the rear wheel of a friend that was also racing that day. As the climb progressed, I could see that The Runner & IT Guy were not going to be satisfied at the current pace and they began to pull away. So I pulled in behind The Runner and was content to hang out and draft.
When we hit the dirt The Runner continued pushing a fast pace and I continued to follow. We climbed for some time until we hit a top and prepared for some downhill. At that point, the Runner did the most selfless thing I have ever seen in a race. She simply pulled over and said “Go ahead.”
She must have seen the utter shock on my face because she quickly followed that up by saying “I’m slow on the downhills, just go ahead.” So like any self-serving male, I obliged and plunged ahead.
I lead the race for quite some time. This is a new thing for me. It’s really nice to not have anyone in front of you in a race on single track. It’s your pace. Your race. Your way.
I almost felt a little guilty as I rode whatever line I wanted and thought about everyone behind me still jockeying for position. I must have let this newfound euphoria get to my head though, because just as we approached the top of the hill, I noticed that two racers had caught me. Bummer.
Should I just hog the very middle of the single track so they can’t pass? How could I be so selfish after The Runner was so unselfish? So, in the spirit of love and harmony for cyclists everywhere, I pulled to one side and let the two riders by. The first one was the IT Guy and he was cruising. It looked like his pre-ride caffeine had kicked in. The second rider I did not know, and he too passed quickly.
Less than a minute later we were on the downhill portion of the course and the home stretch of the race. Towards the bottom of the trail Rodeo (on the bermed section in the gully for all you locals) I caught the other two racers. The unknown racer had at some point passed the IT Guy.
As we came out of the berm section, the unknown racer disappeared and I didn’t see him again until after the race. At this point, I just stuck behind the IT Guy. He was going pretty fast, but not fast enough to lose me…after all, I am the Hamer.
We finished Rodeo and turned on to the River trail. The trail snaked through the trees, over a dirt road, and then over a small wooden bridge.
As the IT Guy hit the bridge, something happened. He may have had too much speed as he hit the bump up onto the bridge. I watched in shock as his rear wheel became airborn and his arms outstretched towards the ground. In a fraction of a second he did a somersault right over the handlebars and into the dirt.
It is my opinion that if I had filmed the crash and could have played it back in slow motion, we would have seen something similar to the old cartoon “Speedy Gonzales.” In regular time, we would have just seen a crash.
But in slow motion, we would have seen something very different.
The slow motion view of this crash would show a very confident IT Guy feeling awesome that he was in front of me (The Hamer). He was so confident that he was going to ditch me, that he decided to pull his signature move…and moon me. He reached back, pulled his shorts down, exposed bare skin.
And that’s where things went wrong.
He pulled his shorts too far down and they snagged on the back of his saddle. When he leaned forward to put his hand back on the handlebars, his snagged shorts pulled the saddle and rear wheel off the ground and began the somersault from which he could not recover. I think I can prove that this is what happened. Just ask him if he had dirt down his pants when he finally got to take a shower. If he did, he’s guilty….
His bike landed right on top of him and they both skidded and rolled to a stop. There was a cloud of dust that exploded up and out and everywhere else.
I couldn’t believe what I just saw.
I pulled up to the now very dirty, completely shocked, IT Guy. He hopped up very quickly and smiled. I could see dirt on his teeth.
I said: “Whoa, are you ok? That was a heck of crash.”
He kept smiling and said he was ok as he pulled his iPhone out of his jersey pocket.
I thought “Hmm, more concerned with his iPhone than his own body. He must no be too hurt.”
So what’s a guy to do? Stay and comfort the crashed and shocked, or ditch him and finish the race? So once again, like any other self-serving male, I just said, “Okay, well, see ya.” And took off to finish the race.
I hung around the finish line for awhile, catching my breath and waiting for IT Guy to come down. He didn’t come and didn’t come. The next racer to finish was The Runner. She rode right past the ambulance and me and yelled out, “I think he broke his collarbone.”
I wasn’t sure where she was going, but I assumed she was going to get her car (the race ended at a different place than it started). I rode over to the EMT guys and told them what happened. A very gracious race volunteer put me and my bike in his truck and we drove back up the course to find our injured racer.
We found him in no time, walking down the dirt road. He was stooped over, holding his arm bent and cradled into his chest. Ahh, the classic symptom of a broken collarbone. I should know, since I shattered my right collarbone several years ago. We got him in the truck and off the hill. I did not get confirmation of the break until Fatty sent out a tweet showing the x-ray of the broken collarbone. What a bummer.
Here’s to quick healing for the IT Guy. I’m here to tell you, very few things are as painful as a broken collarbone…especially when you get a clean break and have floating bone. I think that if you wiggle your little toe, it is somehow connected to your collarbone and will make it hurt. Looks like cycling for 2011 is over for the IT Guy. Maybe now that he has tons of free time, he could come to my house and fix my home network. I still can’t get the upstairs computer to print to the downstairs printer.
Maybe one day I’ll formally meet the Fatty family. But for now, I guess I’ll just keep following the blog and practicing this legal form of stalking.
aka The Hamer (don’t forget I had first dibs on the name)