Paul Guyot’s Ride for the Roses Report

10.24.2011 | 7:32 am

A Note from Fatty: You may remember that Paul Guyot guest-posted for me while I was in France; you may also remember that mostly people were interested in having me take my time in getting back. Well, I’ve asked Paul back, to give me a report on his (and Team Fatty’s) Austin LiveStrong Challenge experience. Tomorrow, we get back to the “I’ve Never Suffered So Much” posts.

The weekend before last, my wife and I traveled to Austin, Texas for the 2011 LIVESTRONG Challenge event. I was to ride in the 90-mile ride Sunday and my wife – at the last minute – decided she would participate in Saturday’s 5K run/walk. It was the first Livestrong event for either of us.

While I had registered for this ride early in the spring, the event took on much greater significance this summer when we lost my wife’s mother to cancer. After being a caregiver to her husband who was diagnosed with liver cancer two years ago (and given 6 months to live), my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in April and by July she was gone. Meanwhile, my father-in-law’s cancer is in full remission.


On Saturday morning my wife was feeling a bit nervous since she had done zero training, and despite the fact it was only 5k, my wife hadn’t run any farther than across the kitchen floor after a toddler since high school. She was planning on walking the whole thing, which was fine, but when we got there and became part of this giant sea of people wearing yellow.

Photo by Tim Elliot

Over two thousand people were there, because they had either beaten cancer themselves or else had gone through exactly what we went through – it was emotionally overwhelming, and as the race was led out by pedicabs carrying children suffering with cancer my wife turned to me and said, “I’m going to run.”


And run she did.

A woman who is self-described as “not a fan of exercise” took off with 2200 participants and ran. Holding a necklace in her hand that her mother had given her, she ran the 5k in just over 30 minutes, finishing so fast that I wasn’t even at the line to get a shot of her… something I will regret until my dying day.

Afterward my wife was inspired and invigorated, saying she felt her mother with her the whole time. Again, we’re aware this was barely over 3 miles, but the significance of the accomplishment was huge on many levels. It was a fantastic way to start the weekend.

We celebrated with some Austin-based family friends by having a wonderful brunch where I decided to try Duck Gumbo. As in, classic cajun gumbo with seared duck in it among other things. I’ve rarely had duck in my life, and never had anything like duck gumbo.*

* = foreshadowing

We then traveled to Mellow Johnny’s and the Livestrong Village to spend money and see cool stuff. LIVESTRONG gave me a very cool swag bag because of the fundraising I had accomplished. Let me pause here to THANK ALL OF YOU who donated and supported me.

Then we met Levi Leipheimer. He signed a calendar to my son Bucky and he confirmed that he does read Fatty’s blog, and will work hard to try and get back to #1 on my son’s list of favorite cyclists. In trying to think how to describe Levi in the short time I spent with him, all I can do is quote my wife who simply said, “What a really great guy.”


Though, I did see him later putting the valet in a headlock when his car wasn’t brought around quick enough, but we all have our idiosyncrasies.

Saturday night we attended a dinner at the uber-cool LIVESTRONG HQ. We got to hear Lance and Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman talk about the amazing things Livestrong is doing. One of the best moments was when Doug announced that will not be public for a couple of weeks – but rest assured, it is VERY COOL and awesome for Livestrong.


With all this happening I was surprised that, despite the wonderful atmosphere and even despite the fact that David Blaine did some closeup magic for me (and signed the 7 of Hearts he pulled out of my…), I wasn’t feeling so good. I did not eat anything at the dinner because my stomach was starting to feel like an episode of DEADLIEST CATCH. As we drove back to our hotel I started to feel worse and worse.

Was it nerves? Did I have some sort of anxiety about my ride? I had recon’d part of the course during the day and was not pleased by what bad shape the roads were in and all the cattle guards, but come on, that couldn’t be it… what was it?

I discovered what it was over the next several hours – most of which were spent driving the porcelain bus… worshiping at the porcelain alter… bobbing for apples in the porcelain well.

I love and respect all of you too much to go into any detail rather than to just say there was duck gumbo involved and two exits with no waiting. When the carnage finally stopped around 2am, I crawled into bed thinking the last thing I want to do is ride my bike. Ever again.

But I awoke four hours later and while I could tell I was dehydrated, my stomach pain was mostly gone, my headache was mostly gone, and I knew I had to at least try. I drank two bottles of water and ate two Honey Stinger waffles and headed to the starting line.


Over 3300 riders were lined up with Lance, Chris Horner and Ben King leading the pack. The weather was perfect and we rolled off promptly at 8am. I had no idea how far I would go, but I wanted to at least do something. Even if I only rode the 45-mile ride, or managed the 65, it was better than not riding at all. I still had a headache and my stomach was sloshing back and forth from feeling okay to feeling completely nauseous. And I was sweating. A lot. But that’s good, right? Sweat it out and all that?


Um… I love Livestrong. I love Lance (I even have a rant about him and all the controversy/investigation, etc. that I’m happy to share with anyone over a beer, or if Twitter allowed 1400 characters). I love Doug Ulman. I love fighting cancer. I love charity rides.

But seriously, cattle guards? This ride not only included more chip seal than Erik Estrada’s tummy tuck, but we were forced to ride over cattle guards. Bottle-ejecting, cleat-unclipping, hand-numbing, teeth-jarring cattle guards. Like 15… or 50.


Thankfully, my Fat Cyclist water bottles by Specialized/Twin Six stayed secure, though I did have to pick a few teeth up along the way.


I have never ridden in a group ride with an iPod. I’ve only used one when riding alone on car-free dedicated bike trails. But I will tell you right now the best decision I made all weekend was putting my iPod in my jersey pocket. I love Twin Six, but guys, PLEASE add an iPod option on your next Fat Cyclist jersey!

Only eight or nine miles in I was in that “There’s way too many miles left — I can’t do it” mode, and I was blaming it all on my duck gumbo fiasco. Then I remembered my iPod was in my jersey. I plugged in one ear and turned it on. Isn’t music a great thing? Before long I was feeling so much better. I rolled past the next rest stop – excuse me, “Power Station” – and was starting to really enjoy myself. The weather was great, I was on my bike, I was with thousands of others riding for those that can’t, and I was not feeling nauseous… what’s not to feel good about?

I was cruising along, eating every half hour, drinking every 10-15 minutes, and I started passing people. Wow! I can do this! At least the 65-mile route for sure. Yes, I’m sweating like Michael jackson in a Toys-R-Us, but I’m happy. I rode on.


Then decision time came. I rolled up to the turn off for the 65. If I turned right I would do 65 miles – not bad considering the night I had, and better than I thought I’d be able to do. If I went straight I was committing to the full 90. And right then I had one of those threw-up-in-my-mouth-a-little-bit moments. My body obviously telling me which way it wanted to go.

And I have no idea why, but at that moment… I went straight.

Riders who’ve done this ride will tell you that one of the tougher stretches is between 40 and 55 miles – when you are way, way out from civilization, there’s no one cheering you on, and you’re riding mostly uphill. At one point I dropped my chain at the base of a climb. I got back on and was struggling up the hill when a rider came by and asked how I was doing.

Let me pause here to say that I love cyclists. You are all so kind and the community has such an all-for-one-one-for-all attitude.

I told the guy I was okay and he smiled and said, “This part’s tough, but once you make it to Blanco, you’re home free.”

Then he dropped me. I wondered what Blanco was as I watched him disappear over the horizon. I was suddenly very alone. No riders in front or behind me. Just me and The Goat and a lot of wide open spaces… and a stomach that every 10 minutes or so spoke to me like Linda Blair did to the priest in that one movie.


At 52 miles I stopped at a Power Station run by some folks in jerseys that said TEXAS 4000. I am officially declaring the Texas 4000 people as the nicest humans on the planet. And they make the greatest peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you will ever eat.


They gave me a cold wet towel, they told me I was doing great and actually sounded like they meant it. They told me the hard part was over (okay, they lied about that) and they were just so positive and supportive I didn’t want to leave their station. Thank you Texas 4000 Power Station!


I’ve heard it called The Black Hole… heard it called The Wall and Death Valley… what do you call it? You know what I’m talking about – that point in a ride where you think you’ve given all you’ve got. You’ve done your suffering, and now you just want to go home and sleep, but you still a lot of riding left.

Around the 70-mile mark I entered the black hole. Weakened from my duck gumbo fiasco I was barely hanging on, my average speed was down and I was being passed by all those riders I had passed earlier.

I was being passed by everyone. Like, everyone. Riders from next year’s 2012 LIVESTRONG Challenge were passing me. I would see these SAG wagons go by and they all looked so comfy and air-conditioned. One of them could just pick me up and take me back. No shame in that. I rode over 70 miles. I was sick the night before. I did my fundraising. Time to go have my family say “Good try, Daddy. You did your best.”

Then I thought about Ken Chlouber and his incredibly inspiring words to the Leadville participants each year:

You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.

I can’t do Leadville. Not yet. But I knew right then and there that I damn well was going to finish this Livestrong ride, sick or not. People fighting cancer don’t have the option of a SAG wagon. They have to keep going. No matter how bad the pain is.

I kept pedaling. And after a bit that most glorious of cycling phenomenons happened – the suffering began to feel good. It feels good because you know the reason you are suffering is because you are not quitting. Suffering = not quitting.

The more I rode, the harder I pushed. The harder I pushed the more I hurt, but I began to get faster.

I got to the final power station and refilled my bottles and asked the woman there how much farther, figuring it had to be between 10 and 12 miles.

“Six miles,” she said. Six miles? Can’t be. “Yes, six miles.”

She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my entire life.

I did the math and realized we weren’t going to be riding 90 miles. It was going to be more like 83 or so. But it didn’t matter if it was 83 or 153. I had six miles to go. I was doing it. I jumped back on The Goat and rode those last six miles as fast and as hard as I’ve ever ridden anything.

I came up over that last hill and saw the giant LIVESTRONG Finish line and all these people cheering. I raised my hands in the air, blew a kiss to my mother-in-law and grabbed a yellow rose as I crossed the line!

Only then did I realize I had ridden across the “Survivor” side of the finish line and taken an unearned rose.

Um… oops.

But I finished. And it felt great. I felt great. My stomach and head felt great.

My wife and I honored the memory of her mother and joined with thousands of others who refuse to give in to this horrid disease. We will all continue to Fight Like Susan – for her and for my mother-in-law Joan and for Dustin’s wife Michelle, and for all the others we’ve lost and all those that we are going to SAVE.

We are all better than we think we are. We can all do more than we think we can.

Never quit. Never give up the fight.

Thank you to Fatty and Team Fatty for leading the charge, and I can’t wait to see you all next year at Davis or Philly or Austin or wherever we all decide to fight.

PS from Fatty: If you’ve enjoyed reading Paul’s guest posts (and I know you have), you’ll be interested to know that Paul’s got a selection of short stories for sale over at, in Kindle format. I bought them, and planned to read one story a day over the course of four days. Instead, I wound up reading all four stories in one sitting. His stories kinda grab you like that. So, check them out here. (They’re also available for the Nook.)


  1. Comment by Chris | 10.24.2011 | 8:25 am

    Nice write up, Paul. I’ll never be able to eat duck gumbo now. Hmm… usually on rides around central Texas, they throw plywood over the cattle guards to smooth it out a bit.

  2. Comment by Jeff Bike | 10.24.2011 | 9:06 am

    Welcome to South Texas! The land of chip seal everywhere and the occasional cattle guard. We also add thorns on everything to help the tire and tube manufactures keep in business. The weather was very pleasant for the Livestrong ride. It could have been over 110 in the shade! So you must have really been sick looking for the cold towel and sag wagon air conditioning in our mild autumn weather.

    Jeff Bike
    San Antonio TX

  3. Comment by TimRides | 10.24.2011 | 9:16 am

    Great writeup, Paul! You captured the spririt of the weekend very well. You guys didn’t tell me you had a Super Secret Livestrong Secret from Saturday night!

  4. Comment by Steph Bachman | 10.24.2011 | 9:53 am

    Awesome write-up Paul. And way to go to Mrs. Paul for running the whole 5K. Very inspiring all around, even with the Duck Gumbo fiasco.

    We call it the Valley of Darkness at my house. Cheetos seem to help, and ginger snaps.

  5. Comment by AKChick | 10.24.2011 | 9:58 am

    Um, Jeff Bike, pleasant weather? This Alaska girl would disagree! :) I am not ashamed to admit that I was praying for rain on ride day! :)

    I have to agree with Paul about those damn cattle guards – they suck. Badly. I didn’t lose any water bottles though either, but saw TONS and also CO2 cartridges everywhere. Very tempting to stop and get some. Those are expensive! When approaching the cattle guards, I rode them like I was on a mountain bike, got up out of my seat and stuck my butt back. That seemed to help with the jarring, though some of them nothing helped. Having a carbon rental bike helped dampen the road.

    I also agree about the chip seal. I was very, very tired of chipseal. I thought the roads were bad in Alaska until I rode those. Nope, I was daydreaming about Alaska roads after riding on chipseal for not sure how many miles. I was pleasantly surprised that the hills weren’t bad at all. Short and steep, but nothing super bad.

    Unfortunately, the rest of Team Fatty didn’t get to meet Paul thanks to the unfortunate Duck Gumbo incident (damn ducks). We do have some team photos of most of the team. I don’t have them at work but will have to post one later unless Tim or Capt. Steve gets to it before I do.

    I loved all the Power Stations and the folks that sat out in the heat (I think that must be what Hell feels like). For me, the ride wasn’t difficult, it was the heat that just about did me in. I was well hydrated – too well hydrated necessitating stops at each power station to empty the load.

    I also agree about how friendly the cyclists were and polite. I got a flat (was wishing I had my cross bike with my tough Continental Gator Skin tires – they are awesome!)and a super nice guy stopped and asked if I needed help. Since the rental bike came with a CO2 kit which I don’t know how to use (I use the old fashioned human power pump at home, but I RARELY get flats thanks to the Gator Skins) I was very happy to accept his help. Turns out he was a race/course marshall and originally from Canada (some of the friendliest people on earth!). He got my tire changed, but used his human power pump so I wouldn’t have to use my CO2 cartridge. Everyone that passed asked if we were okay and if we needed help. Awesome! Made it to the 90 cutoff 30 minutes too late to go that route so went 65 instead. Got a spare tube from the super nice SRAM guy so I didn’t have to pay for using the tube from the rental kit. After I filled my water bottle and mixed up some Perpetueum, had a girl that looked embarrassed thank me for pulling her up a hill awhile back. I laughed and told her no problem. I had done a Bike MS back in Sept and had latched onto this big guys wheel for 16 miles of hills so I figured I owed the cycling universe a pull. Also chuckled to myself and thought, these people have no idea what a real hill is! :)

    Coming into the chute was the sweetest feeling ever! And the cooling mist station with the cute little girls with cold wet towels? Best. Damn. Thing. Ever. Yes!

    As a side note, thanks to Lance Armstrong for hosting the Friday night dinner at his house. It was awesome and amazing. Got to meet Chris Horner (Best. Pro Cyclist. Ever. Sorry Levi!). Awesome guy spent 45 mins. chatting with us. I’m happy to report that what you see is what you get. He’s super nice. Got to meet Ethan Supplee and tried to entice him to come to Alaska to ride. We have GREAT riding up here. I love Team Fatty. Not sure if I’ll try for Austin next year or hook up on one of the other Fatty rides. It was one of the most awesome events I’ve had the pleasure to participate in! Sorry for taking up so much space!

  6. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 10.24.2011 | 10:00 am

    Rock on Paul! Hope you are not ruined on gumbo forever, that would be a shame. Just skip the duck next time :)

    We met the Texas 4000 group at LS Davis. They are a great bunch.

  7. Comment by AKChick | 10.24.2011 | 10:06 am

    Forgot to mention that I somehow missed that Fatty wouldn’t be in Austin so was super disappointed that I didn’t get to meet our fearless leader and the Hammer. Although, since my little snafu with Dustin, Fatty might have put me in a headlock. So maybe I’m lucky he wasn’t there. :)

  8. Comment by Dana | 10.24.2011 | 10:07 am

    I love the Fat Cyclist community. I love the Livetrong community. I love how survivors and those of us riding on behalf of others, or ourselves, come together.

    I love this write-up.

  9. Comment by AKChick | 10.24.2011 | 10:08 am

    Oh dang – forgot to mention that the Texas 4000 group are awesome! I was super sad I didn’t make the 90 cutoff so I could go to their rest stop. Met some of the 2012 riders at the LIVESTRONG finish area (they had a booth). I was fortunate enough to get to ride in with them in Alaska for their final 26 or so miles. Super awesome folks and fun! Can’t wait to see them next year. Sorry for hijacking the comments section! It’s unintentional!

  10. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.24.2011 | 10:23 am

    You can always count on Paul for the great lines:

    *sweating like….in a Toys R Us Store
    *passed by the 2012 Livestrong riders (priceless)

    Paul, you should have stuck with the TexMex Menu, the Bob Armstrong Queso Dip, and some Lammie’s. Now that’s riding food!

    And AK Chick, Wife#1 loves her socks, soon as I have them framed we’ll post a picture hanging next to Levi’s National Champion Jersey and Andy’s TDF Jersey. Also good to know you hydrated, to the max. Didn’t want another Team Fatty member being rolled off the ’stage’. (not good for the brand)


  11. Comment by MikeL | 10.24.2011 | 10:59 am

    Umm. You all might not ever want to ride in Wyoming. Our smoothest roads are typically chip seal with multiple cattle guards. Actually cattle guards are ok if you go across them perpendicular to the bars and avoid the holes from the overweight bubba traucks.

  12. Comment by Liz | 10.24.2011 | 11:41 am

    Congrats to Paul and wife! Way to tough it out. Sounds like a good time, otherwise.

  13. Comment by roan | 10.24.2011 | 11:47 am

    AH, yes, cattle guards…the trick is to have enough speed to bunny hop the entire guard. Downhill is easy, most of the time the flats section can be done, uphill uck ! Or uphill on a curve or for that matter downhill on a curve really grate me. Chip seal makes for impressive road rash.

  14. Comment by jacked | 10.24.2011 | 12:10 pm

    “Only then did I realize I had ridden across the “Survivor” side of the finish line and taken an unearned rose.

    Um… oops.”

    Flashback to 3 years ago when I did that, slightly delusional, totally spent, and with way too much speed to be riding through that group of girls handing out roses. Thank the lord they were de-thorned ’cause I was slapped with more than one rose.
    Sorry girls.

  15. Comment by Tracy W | 10.24.2011 | 12:28 pm

    I don’t think anyone ever managed to get a picture of the entire team together in the same place. I’ve got the pre-ride group shot over at:

    On behalf of Team Wilkins, thanks to Sasha, Steve, and Rick for making Austin so welcoming. We had a great time.

  16. Comment by skippy | 10.24.2011 | 12:37 pm

    @roan can’t imagine a successful bunnyhop of a cattle grid but did see Freire do one over a pavement as he rode to victory in the Tour de Suisse at Lugano some years back ! Uphill on a grid is just a pain !

    Paul an impressive report and recalling Ken C.’s words is like me when i think about those from WWPinc and Help4heroes which motivates me to get over the wish to call an early end to a ride . With an Indian Summer once again , i am back to looking for excuses to keep going when i near home . Back in TDF mode today whilst all others were in longs and ear covers , can’t tell you their reactions here !

    Talking to Chris H. anywhere is a treat and you can be sure he is rarely without a smile or comment that keeps your attention . Looking forward to another couple of seasons of bumping into him ! Glad to see “wife #1 ” got the ” Horny socks “!

    @akchick link to the item in your blog about the “2012 Livestrong ” riders please .

  17. Comment by Dave T | 10.24.2011 | 2:02 pm

    Great report Paul. Sorry that you had to go through duck gumbo hell the night before the ride. Way to push through the pain and do the whole ride!

  18. Comment by AngieG | 10.24.2011 | 3:00 pm

    OMG Paul!!! Between the tears you throw in classics like, “…there was duck gumbo involved and two exits with no waiting.” You did this without any warning!! Do you know what ceasar salad dressing feels like when shot out your nose? Well, let me enlighten you…much like snorting drain cleaner!

    Great ride report. I was fortunate enough to ride in Livestrong Austin with Team Fatty 2 years ago. What a great experience. Austin is a beautiful town!!

    Congratulations to your wife also! Her story was wonderful and very inspiring.

  19. Comment by eclecticdeb | 10.24.2011 | 3:24 pm

    Oh great…TWO POSTS IN ROW where I was tearing up. Congratulations on EVERYTHING. You and your wife are amazing.

  20. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 10.24.2011 | 4:13 pm

    GREAT ride report, Paul! I was laughing and inspired at the same time. :-)

  21. Comment by ScottR | 10.24.2011 | 4:44 pm

    Excellent Levi headlock shout out!

  22. Comment by MattC | 10.24.2011 | 7:48 pm

    Another banner day here at Fatty’s…great ride report Paul! Hope to see you in Davis next year (and AKChick…IMO, Davis should be on your must-do ride list…hope to see you there also!) I’m jealous ya’ll got to see Levi AND Chris….they weren’t there 2 years ago.

  23. Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 10.25.2011 | 8:01 am

    Great race report! Thanks for this! I loved the humour in what was obviously a very hard ride for you.

    Also, cattle grates? Serious! Gah!

    Thanks for sharing – it’s a funny sport we love, isn’t it?

    Mark (in Ottawa, Canada)

  24. Comment by Rob W | 10.25.2011 | 8:16 am

    Thanks for the writeup!! Awesome !

  25. Comment by Morgan | 10.25.2011 | 12:44 pm

    Great writeup! Looking forward to more “Adventures of Bucky” too!

  26. Comment by Josh | 10.25.2011 | 2:30 pm

    Has anyone seen something better than cattleguards, but still provide an open road? I am designing a bike path that MUST keep deer out of an area. I got the message: no cattle guards, but what is another solution?

    have you ever seen a mechanical gate for pedestrians?
    Another solution that is biker friendly, but keeps animals out?

  27. Comment by Steve | 10.25.2011 | 9:46 pm

    AK Chick, and the remainder of Team Fatty, I finished up my blog posts, start here:

    Subtitle could be “We survived Levi’s wrath” :-)

  28. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 10.26.2011 | 8:56 am

    Awesome ride report. Well written.

    Chipseal brings back fond memories of a MS150 ride some years back – heading out of Fort Collins we found ourselves on fresh chipseal, with chips flying up off tires and into faces and jerseys of following riders. Not fun, and suddenly there was little interest in riding on anyone’s wheel. When I got home I found several chips still clinging to my bike, and tar spots as reminders of where we had been.

  29. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.26.2011 | 9:32 pm

    @Comment by Steve | 10.25.2011 | 9:46 pm

    Great summary of your ride, and where did you get those ’shiny’ tires?

    For all those Fatty’s out there Steve’s Austin report is great with good pictures of all our friends. He also spotted an anonymous Fatty. Would you like to step forward and identify yourself?

    You might also read his ‘crash’ report. I think he gives Mr Chuck Ibis a run for his money on the “How Tough I Am” scale.

  30. Comment by Heidi | 10.29.2011 | 6:36 am

    Way to stick with it! I’m inspired.


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