Back Up On The Horse

10.11.2011 | 8:38 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post seems like it’s about running. Trust me, though, it’s about biking. Eventually.

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the run The Hammer and I went on last Saturday. I believe I may have mentioned what a miserable experience that was for me.

Well, honestly, “miserable” isn’t the right word. “Horrible” might be a better word for how I felt (and ran). Or perhaps “catastrophically bad.” Or if I were to be completely candid, maybe I would not have described it as a fifteen-mile run at all, but instead called it a “halting fifteen mile shuffle-jog, interspersed with increasingly long walking breaks and no small amount of whining, permeated with an unprecedented amount of whining.”

Yes, that would about describe it.

I tried to see it as a wake up call of sorts: that I need to halt and reverse my annual slide into pudginess. But the truth is I saw it as more of a different kind of wake up call: that I had no business running and should just give up. Maybe try to persuade The Hammer that for both the Death Valley Marathon and the Boston Marathon, what she really needs is someone cheering for her at the finish line, not someone slowing her down during the run.

Seriously, it was that bad.

I had even started preparing my case on why I shouldn’t be running at all. My points included:

  • I haven’t been doing it anywhere near as long as her and just can’t keep up; I’m just slowing her down.
  • I’m a cyclist, pure and simple. And cyclists don’t like to run. For example, during Levi’s Granfondo, I asked Levi if he ever does Xterra or road Tri events. “No way,” replied Levi. “I hate running.” And as you can see by our builds, Levi and I are very similar indeed:
  • I just wasn’t having any fun. Truly, during that run, I did not have a single moment of happiness.

But I never got to make those arguments, because yesterday morning, The Hammer said, “Suit up; we’re going on a six-mile run.”

My speeches were not well-enough honed. I needed more time to craft them to perfection. So, just this one more time, I suited up. Knowing that the awfulness of the experience would add substance to my arguments.

And then I had the second best run of my life (the AF Canyon Half Marathon was the best). I felt like I had a deep well (as opposed to Saturday’s shallow puddle) of strength to draw from. I felt like I could power up hills. I felt like I could manage–and maybe even ignore–the pain of running on the flats.

And at the end of the run, The Hammer did something she has never done before: she gave me a high-five. “You just took four minutes off your previous fastest time for that run.”

My Point

That kind of experience isn’t actually all that new to me. Well, it’s new to me in running, but I’ve had a similar experience several times when biking.

It happens like this.

First, I do a ride, and it completely slaughters me. Leaves me destroyed. I hold up my friends and I don’t have any fun whatsoever. The ride goes so badly, in fact, that I question whether I should give up cycling altogether.

The example I remember most clearly is the first time I rode Amasa Back, in Moab. I simply could not keep up. I could barely turn the cranks. It wasn’t even so much that the intensity of the ride was too much, it was more like I was simply powerless. I for sure wasn’t having fun.

As near as I could tell, Amasa Back was the longest, most technical, most awful trail in the whole world.

Second, I fret. I wonder why I suck so bad, and whether I will ever be good enough to ride with my friends. I look for all kinds of possible reasons of what went wrong. Or more specifically, what’s wrong with me.

Third, I do it again. For whatever reason–usually through some prodding on someone else’s part–I find myself doing that ride again. And I realize that in fact the ride is much better, easier, and more fun than I remembered. A bad experience magnified the difficulty of the ride, and obscured the fun parts.

Which is exactly what I discovered the next time–and every other time–I’ve been on Amasa Back. The truth is, it’s one of the most fun trails there is in Moab. It’s technical, for sure, but it’s not the most technical. And it’s not a very long ride. And it’s got a view to die for. By the time I finished doing Amasa Back the second time, I wondered why I ever thought it was a hard trail.

So. Little by little, I’m beginning to realize how much of a part your head plays in whether a ride (or run) is difficult. Or brutal. Or flat-out miserable.

If a ride’s goes really bad, maybe I (and maybe you, too) need to consider the possibility that the road or trail or course itself isn’t bad. Maybe it’s that I was tired. Or getting sick (or getting over being sick).

Or maybe I was just having a bad day.

Whatever the reason, the misery of being completely beaten by a workout is nowhere near as bad as the elation of going back and discovering you’re not as much of a tub of goo as previously thought. Of finding redemption.

So, yeah. It’s worth it to get back up on the horse.


  1. Comment by The Flyin' Ute | 10.11.2011 | 9:04 am

    I love how your articulate the thoughts and experiences that we all have. (I’m guessing that we ALL have anyway.)

    I for sure can relate.

    Trail running is kinda fun. Running around your neighborhood is for sure lame. But then again, I ended my running career before I went back for more and had a good experience.

  2. Comment by Red UGG Boots | 10.11.2011 | 9:08 am

    You can also donate items to charity. In short, you can pare down the contents of the attic quickly.
    Thanks for all information. Very nice article.

  3. Comment by Tracy W | 10.11.2011 | 9:11 am

    Boy, I can sure relate. It seems like a bad running day gets blown way more out of proportion than a bad day on the bike for me. It just seems like you manage to suffer more per minute as you slog along.

    Although, I’ve gotta admit that I don’t really consider myself to be a runner in spite of running consistently!

  4. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.11.2011 | 9:36 am

    @Skippy re the +3 Network. Check out this post:

    Fatty had a former ‘technical writer’ show us all how to sign up. The tough thing is keeping up with it. After a while you get behind and the you realize you haven’t uploaded anything for a looong time….(Fatty are you listening?)

  5. Comment by Christina | 10.11.2011 | 9:57 am

    My run this morning was tough and the run yesterday was tough and I never feel like The Hammer and I’m never going to be that tough EVER, but I keep waking up and running because God gave me this machine to use and I’m not going to let it get rusty.

    That said, a bad day on the bike still includes a seat and coasting on downhills. Bad day on bike>>>bad day running.

  6. Comment by DavidH | 10.11.2011 | 10:02 am

    Fatty, you every read your email? I sent you several about my friend and not even a peep back. Guess as long as she wasn’t famous it didn’t matter.

    David, since you’ve called me out in public, I’ll reply in public.

    To answer your first question: No, I don’t read all my email. I get 100+ messages per day, including usually five or six from people wanting me to do their fundraising for them. I can’t answer or even open every email that comes my way because I have a full-time job, and three children at home who are in school right now, and one of the kids has a chronic illness I don’t talk about in this blog. Plus I do a lot of work behind the scenes in this blog, figuring out how I can best use the time I have to help the most people I can. Believe it or not, most of the fundraisers I do don’t land in my lap, fully-formed and ready to go.

    Plus, yeah, I have training. And the actual writing of this blog.

    More specific to you, it looks like you’ve written to me three times. The first time was when you broke your leg. I replied. The second time was when your leg was better. I replied. The third time was a monster-long email which you sent while I was en route to France and was out of email range for a good long time; more than a thousand email messages have piled up, unread. That aside, as you noted in your email your message was a rambling mess, but I’m pretty sure you were asking me to do your fundraising for you, though you didn’t really have a plan for how.

    David, the way you should honor your friend is by YOU fundraising for her, not emailing me with a quarter-formed idea, leaving it for me to figure out how to make sense of it and turn it into money.

    I don’t want to be mean (and I wouldn’t be at all inclined to be mean except you were pretty damned insulting with that “famous” remark) and I think it’s awesome that you want to honor your friends. But in the future, before you attack folks for not being responsive, first consider the possibility that they’ve got stuff going on in their lives, too. And second, if you’re going to approach someone who clearly has more causes than time, you should approach them with a fully-formed, ready-to-go, awesome plan. Not just something you cut-and-pasted from your Facebook page.

    - FC

  7. Comment by Wife# 1 | 10.11.2011 | 10:05 am

    It’s always worth getting back on the horse, especially if it’s an actual horse. :-) I think every hard activity has this same dynamic, and it’s critical to move past it, no matter what it is, to do the best you can. Great post to share this epiphany.

    However, must take some exception to this statement:

    “And as you can see by our builds, Levi and I are very similar indeed”

    Except you have the awesome quads and Levi has the stick legs. ;-)

  8. Comment by Meredith | 10.11.2011 | 10:05 am

    Thanks for the pep talk, Fatty! I can totally relate! I ran 2 half marathons earlier this year and in the last few months I’m hanging off the wagon with my feet dragging the ground. Only running 1-2x per week makes each run miserable. I’ll listen to you and get back on the horse!

  9. Comment by chtrich | 10.11.2011 | 10:15 am

    Giddy Up

  10. Comment by Doktor Paulie | 10.11.2011 | 10:25 am

    Excellent post! Applies to all sorts of horses.

  11. Comment by wishiwasmerckx | 10.11.2011 | 10:46 am

    Fatty, you should do a post about the opposite of this one. Perhaps 1/2 dozen times a year, something just clicks on the bike, and you can absolutely FLY with hardly any effort at all. Those days are magical, and every time I have one, I try, try, try to figure out the elusive combination of attitude, nutrition, sleep, stress level, weather, rest, etc. that accounts for it. Alas, I have never been able to find even a hint of a clue or a pattern.

    If I ever figure it out and can package it for sale, I will become a billionaire.

    I know what you’re talking about, and you’re right: that’s a good idea for a post. Thanks! – FC

  12. Comment by Jeff Bike | 10.11.2011 | 11:27 am

    I have ridden the same route repeatedly (and like you said) and have had terrible days then one day everything clicks. You are just zooming. Your average speed is 3 or 4 miles per hour faster than normal. You and the bike are one. The friends that normally have to wait for you are struggling to keep up. The feeling is of being able to go on forever. Then reality sets in. Slowly you realize you can’t do it again. For the first few days you excuse not repeating that performance. “Maybe that ride had taken too much out of you”. In the weeks to come and you still can’t repeat it. Then the thought creeps in that it was a fluke, perhaps the GPS and the speedometer and your buddy’s were all wrong. Might the guys you were riding with been sandbagging? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do it again? In short you begin to question everything, the training, the diet, the equipment, but most of all you start to question your ability. Then you have a great day! You pass everyone and nobody pass’ you. Your setting a fast time again. Now if I could figure out what it takes to make those days happen!

  13. Comment by Meghan | 10.11.2011 | 11:47 am

    Just wanted to comment because I’ve been going through the exact same thing. I do not consider myself to be a runner (I am a cyclist, hey-oh!), but lately my fiance and I have been running together. The last 4 or 5 times we started to train together have not ended well (I give up, make excuses, etc.). He is a long-distance runner that is willing to go at my slow-poke pace just to train with me, but I always felt bad for making him go slow.

    A few weeks ago we were out with our son on his bike, and my fiance looked over at me and said, “Today you are running a 5k distance. Let’s go.” I looked at him in amazement and disbelief, as I had not been running in MONTHS. Well, what do you know, I did it. I couldn’t hardly walk the day after, but that’s neither here nor there. ;)

    Since then, we’ve been running about every other day, and we run the same damn path. Some days it feels great, other days, I feel like I am a disappointment to all of humanity in the way that I will snivel and throw my body around and drag my feet. The very next time, though, I’ll have an amazing run and feel good the whole way through.

    Yesterday’s run was (in my head) very miserable, though I did not stop, cry, or otherwise throw a fit — but when it ended, he told me I had improved my time significantly!

    Running is SO weird. ;)

    I actually appreciate your running-from-a-cyclist’s-angle posts. Though I don’t run anywhere NEAR the distance of you and The Hammer, nor at your pace, it does remind me that it’s not always easy wherever you are at in your fitness/training level. Thanks!

  14. Comment by Liz | 10.11.2011 | 12:03 pm

    Running? What’s running?

    It’s like biking, but slower. And more painful. – FC

  15. Comment by skippy | 10.11.2011 | 1:15 pm

    Hey Fatty if i had someone to follow like the Hammer i wouldn’t be worrying about how well i run !

    Most people have a Competitative streak so they worry about ” What are they thinking about what i am doing?” !

    YOU are running/cycling for YOU and if the people you are out with have problems with that , TOO BAD !

    I am the best i can be at ALL Times and no longer wear a watch or heart monitor so don’t spend ALL my time looking at those gadgets to see if i am performing to a schedule . Have you noticed how runners spend more time looking at theirv watch than where they are going ?

    @davidh-marin,ca i was at the Tour de Suisse when that post went thru , appreciate your thoughtful help, thanks ! Now all i need is to find the time to convert memory to paper and find someone to upload ! Winter has come and gone once again , and as today’s PM was summery once again , a second cycling jaunt took care of the day .

  16. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 10.11.2011 | 1:19 pm

    So true! That’s what I love about building fitness. No matter how weak I feel in any given workout I know that next time (or the time after that) I will be stronger. So addictive.

  17. Comment by Scott McQ | 10.11.2011 | 1:38 pm

    My worst day was a ride to work. I pushed and struggeled all the way but was 4-5 miles below my average speed. No matter what I did I couldn’t push it up. I felt lathargic, beat, weak. It was awful.
    Then we I got to work and put my bike up I noticed that the brake was rubbing hard on one side of the wheel.
    The ride home was much better…

    Great post – thanks.

  18. Comment by Wife# 1 | 10.11.2011 | 1:50 pm

    Hey Team Fatty – only $135 to make Dustin’s goal of $20k! And I think the raffle is tomorrow? Or tomorrow is the last day day. Anyhoo…. need 27 people to donate $5 each!

    Oh and just want to make sure everyone knows that DavidH-Marin is not DavidH, who rightly got called out by Fatty for unncessary snarkiness on this otherwise fine day.

    *says the unnecessarily overprotective pitbull of a wife*

    Tomorrow’s the last day of the contest, and I’ll be announcing and talking a little bit about the person who’ll be representing Team Fatty for the ride. As well as posting Dustin’s race write-up. A good conclusion to a really awesome contest. – FC

  19. Comment by Dave T | 10.11.2011 | 2:06 pm

    @Wife# 1 Done

  20. Comment by Wife# 1 | 10.11.2011 | 2:20 pm

    And Dave T takes us over the line! And the crowd goes wild.

    Woohoo Team Fatty & Dustin!

  21. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 10.11.2011 | 2:40 pm

    The discipline to invest your time and work through the days when the run / ride / whatever is tough and unenjoyable is the price you pay for those magic moements when everything seems to click. You usually don’t know when they’re coming, and if you bail out because it might be another tough one, chances are you’ll miss out on some great opportunities. It really is spectacular when everything falls into place – you often wind up feeling more energized than tired by the experience.

    I used to run; now I ride. I had more of those moments when I was running than in riding. Don’t know why – don’t really care – just want them to keep coming.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  22. Comment by Jeff Bike | 10.11.2011 | 3:14 pm

    Fatty knocks out DavidH with a quick combination of sharp jabs and solid body blows.
    We all thought he was just a mild-mannered blogger, he is the super hero cyclist, runner and fund raiser. “You don’t tug on superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off of the old lone ranger and you don’t mess around with Fatty”

  23. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.11.2011 | 6:11 pm

    I have to say I feel bad. I fear I may have pushed our fearless leader over the edge. My comment about the +3 Network wasn’t meant to call Fatty “out in public” rather a gentle reminder to us all to keep up the effort for WBR with SRAM and +3. I may be required to pass future comments past the “pitbull” before submitting them. If my actions caused someone else to be blamed, please accept my Mea Culpa.

    Looking forward to Dustin’s write up, and word on our representative at the ride. I’m going to mark it on my calender for next year, I’d love to field a group of us.

    DavidH (not that one)

  24. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.11.2011 | 7:01 pm

    Saturday to Monday – just about enough recovery time from a hard effort to gain the fitness you earned with the poopy 15-mile run. So you run fast.

    Fatty – this is not that complicated – you gain fitness during recovery hard efforts like your 15-mile run tear you down.

    Intensity followed by rest – a proven formula, just ask Chris Carmichael.

    Now I shall go rest from an intense period of eating Southern fried delicacies in Louisiana on business. I hope this works out for me….

  25. Comment by AK_Chick | 10.11.2011 | 8:09 pm

    Liz: Running? What’s running?

    It’s like biking, but slower. And more painful. – FC

    Amen! That’s why I don’t run. Or at least not very often. Thanks for another awesome post! I’d have to say even a bad day riding, I love it. I do struggle with being slow and getting really frustrated. I want to be faster! I’m kind of accepting I have a diesel engine and it’s a small diesel, so that while I can do big events, I’m probably never going to be fast. But reading your posts and your words of encouragement really help give me hope.

    Also, DavidH can’t possibly be a long-time reader if he would have the gall to write that about you. Oh my goodness. You have helped so many who aren’t famous. I don’t believe Dustin is famous, but a kind-hearted and generous individual who happens to work for a great company. Your true fans and readers know that what he wrote isn’t true. You are one of the most generous and kind-hearted people out there. You literally have to be forced to keep your gifts. Thank you for everything you do!

    PS I’m not trying to suck up after my Shimano/SRAM foot in mouth experience, I swear I’m not. I’m just telling the truth.

  26. Comment by Jenni | 10.11.2011 | 9:19 pm

    Fatty, the snarkiness obliterator. GO GO FATTY!!

    If sucky could fly, running would be an airport.

  27. Comment by gregc | 10.11.2011 | 11:04 pm

    Donation made, and as wife#1 says, the team pulled together and pushed it over the goal line.

    I need to get one of those snarkiness (snarkyness?) detectors for my office too, I’ve been known to occasionally fire off a mostly well intentioned message that was less than well considered and worded. I thought your reply was spot on and actually nicer than I would have been.

  28. Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 10.12.2011 | 5:44 am

    I know exactly what you mean. Some days are just “off” without a good explanation…and some days are just “on” which is equally unexplainable. I try to keep cycling and running fun, so when I’m having a really “off” day, I try to have some fun or I cut the ride/run short. When I’m on though….BEST DAY EVER!!!!

    Glad you were able to follow up a tough run with a great one. The Hammer…she is wise!

    Mark (in Ottawa, Canada)

  29. Comment by MattC | 10.12.2011 | 7:50 am

    I know I’m late to the party but JUST finally donated to Dustin’s page…better late than never! Been away on business travel for a momth and I’m still getting my life back in order. sheesh…so much to do, so little time. I don’t know how you do it Fatty…(I thought your reply was pretty great actually btw).

  30. Comment by MattC | 10.12.2011 | 7:56 am

    About that strange running thing everybody’s talking about… Seems I’ve heard of it…maybe seen pictures or something. Looks horrid! I think I’d rather hit myself in the thumb with a hammer (repeatedly)..much like running, it feels so good when you stop. Thank you, may I have another? But for those who do choose to partake in this strange cult sport, good on ya’! Leaves more room on the trails for me (cuz it’s all about ME!) Unless you’re running ON said trails…then not so much.

  31. Comment by The Hamer | 10.13.2011 | 4:39 pm

    Hey there Mr. Fatty, I believe you just opened your “suitcase of courage” and it all worked out.


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