12.5.2011 | 9:52 am

A Book-Related Note from Fatty: If you haven’t ordered your copy of Comedian Mastermind yet, there’s still time, and I’ve still got copies. Get the details here, and order below:

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Note Text ($39.95 Books)

Some things are important enough that you’re willing to make sacrifices. In fact, I’ll go a step further. Things become important as you make sacrifices for them.

Take, for example, doing a big endurance event, like a trail marathon out in the middle of nowhere. You know, like the Death Valley Trail Marathon.

You have to train for it for months. You have to clear a minimum of three days off your schedule: one to get there, one for the race, and one to get home. And in my case, I had to push my co-workers to finish a project half a day earlier than I usually would, so I could get out of the conference room we had lived in in Boston and take a late night flight home.

My co-workers were cool with it though; they knew this was important to me. They were happy to start working a little earlier each day and finishing a little later each day.

And my son was happy to come home from college and take care of his brother and sisters for the weekend. It was a good opportunity for him do something nice for The Hammer and me, even though he’s close to the end of the semester and busy with his school work.

With every sacrifice, the race became a little more important.

The Day Before

Some people hate traveling. I am not one of those people. For one thing, the BikeMobile is a great car even when it doesn’t have any bikes in it. Sure, it’s a truck, but on the freeway it may as well be an Accord.

More importantly, though, one of The Hammer’s super powers is in snack preparation for road trips. Bagels, trail mix, enough Diet Coke for a small army, or for the two of us.

The Hammer read Slaying the Badger aloud as I drove. We stopped in St. George, about the halfway point, and shipped a box with five copies of Comedian Mastermind to Johan Bruyneel, to get them signed by Team RadioShack at their Training Camp in Spain this week. $172 for shipping. For that much money, I would hope the books would get their own seat — albeit in economy class — on a plane, and get offered drinks and peanuts along the way.

The final couple hours of the drive are surreal. I’m just not used to such flat, straight stretches of road.


It’s like a Road Runner cartoon.

Once in Death Valley, we checked into our room and then went to what is pretty much the only restaurant around — as did every other racer. As The Hammer and I got up to go, we met another couple. The woman’s name is Lisa (@runlikeacoyote), and it turns out she’s the one who won the Madone I gave away in the fundraiser for my nephew Dallas a while back.


I don’t know if I ever mentioned this in the blog, but Lisa had — instead of keeping the bike for herself — given it to my sister Kellene. “I’m more of a mountain biker,” Lisa told me. She’s also kind of an insane athletic powerhouse; she and the guy she was with were planning on running the Death Valley Trail Marathon and then — the following day — running another marathon in Las Vegas.



The alarm on my phone went off at 5:30. We had 45 minutes to get ready, lounge around and — frankly — poop before going to pick up our race numbers. The Hammer got first dibs on the bathroom, so I sat in bed and looked at email.

“Oh no,” I shouted.

“What’s wrong?” The Hammer called out.

“The race has been canceled,” I said. “Due to wind.” At 4:30 in the morning, the race organizer had sent out an email, saying that dangerously high winds made the race impossible.

Because I had nothing better to do, though, at 6:15 I went over to the building where they otherwise would have given us our race packets.

The race director came out and said, “The winds make this race too dangerous. There are 70mph gusts at the top of the mountain, so we’ve had to cancel the race. We’ll be sending out an email giving you credit toward some future event.”

And just like that, there was no race.

We were told we could pick up our race numbers and shirts. I had sprung for both the t-shirts and tech-t’s for The Hammer and me, and so I collected four shirts for a race that wouldn’t happen.

And to add insult to injury, the shirts (both the regular shirts and the tech-t’s) were exactly the same as the ones we had gotten when we did the race two years ago. Not even a year change. Which, I suppose, is very efficient and easy for the race organizer, but kind of sucky for the racers who like to get a t-shirt as a wearable memento of a particular event.

Do It Anyway

As I walked back toward my hotel room, my initial reaction was to trust the race director. That would be a hard call to make, and he almost certainly had more information than I did. Right?

But by the time I got back to the room — about five minutes — I had changed my mind.

“I think the race director gave up too easily,” I told The Hammer. “I don’t think he does big endurance events himself. I don’t think he understands the sacrifice we’ve made to get here. I don’t think he considered that people who picked this particular event don’t just accept the risk of a hard race and bad weather, we see it as part of the adventure.”

The Hammer agreed. “Why cancel it? Why not make it a half marathon (which was one of the race options anyway), starting us at the end of the course, into Titus canyon, and then turning around? We’d be protected from the wind that way. That would be at least something.”

“Well, I guess we could do that on our own,” I said.

“Let’s go,” said The Hammer.

The Run

We drove out to the Titus Canyon parking lot…and were surprised to see that there were dozens and dozens of cars there.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to decide that the weather didn’t warrant a cancellation of the event.

The two hundred yards or so we ran before getting into the incredibly steep, narrow Titus Canyon was indeed windy, though I wouldn’t have called it dangerously windy. More like “inconveniently” windy.

And then, once into the canyon, the wind died down, and the Hammer and I started enjoying a run in one of the most incredibly beautiful, stark, steep canyons you could ever imagine.


“Well, at least since this isn’t a race, there’s nothing to stop us from using iPods,” said The Hammer. And I couldn’t have agreed more. On a bike, I can take or leave music. When running, it’s downright critical.

Our plan was to run up — and I definitely want to underscore the “up” part of “up” here — for 6.5 miles, turn around, and run back to the BikeMobile.

Every couple of minutes, we’d encounter another group of runners, sometimes passing, sometimes coming the other direction. We’d smile and wave: Hey, nice job doing a run in this highly treacherous, dangerously windy canyon!

Discarded jackets lay everywhere (including mine). Too warm. We’d pick them up on the way back.

I was suffering, but in silence. I was telling myself, “OK, Fatty” (for sometimes I do call myself “Fatty”), “just keep it together ’til the turnaround, and then it’s all downhill. The Hammer doesn’t need to know that you’re having a bad day. You don’t need to tell her the excuses you’re cooking up in your head: not much time to train lately, no exercise at all this past week, seasonal weight gain making it hard to run uphill, etc., etc., etc.”

Which was when The Hammer turned toward me and said, brightly, “This is such a fun run! Let’s go further!”

I literally — not figuratively, but literally literally — stopped in my tracks.

Now, I don’t usually say words in anger, because I am not an angry person. I am, in fact, one of those people who just doesn’t get mad often. I’m not boasting when I say that I am a cheerful person. It’s just how I am.

But when The Hammer said this, I got mad.

“I’ve told you before how much I hate it when you change the running route in the middle of the run!” I said, in what passes for my angry voice. “You know how that messes with my mind!”

“Oh, don’t be such a grouch,” The Hammer replied. “This is a beautiful run, and I want to see more of this canyon.”

“We’ll see all of the good part of the canyon in the 6.5 miles we agreed to,” I said, with maximum surliness. “But I’ll agree to changing the turn around point to seven miles.”

“OK, seven miles,” said The Hammer. “Now, stop being a grump. This is a beautiful run.”


And she was right.

Or at least, she was right until we came out of the steepest part of the canyon about six miles into the run. The wind suddenly became fierce, and the road continued to be steeply uphill. It slowed me to a walk a couple of times.

I thought about how difficult it would have been for me to finish a complete marathon, though I don’t want you to mistake this for me being grateful the marathon had been canceled. If I’m weak, I want it exposed. If I’m going to suffer, I want to be able to tell the story of my suffering, not have that story taken away from me.

If it’s going to be windy, I want to deal with the wind or be turned around by it, not have that choice made for me by someone who doesn’t understand.

More than ever, I became convinced that the race organizer had just given up — taken an easy way out — rather than try to find a way to respect what racers bring to this kind of a race, and what we’ve sacrificed to be here.

And I made up an “If I Were King” rule:

Race Organizers Must Regularly Participate In The Kind of Race They Promote, Lest They Begin Just Phoning It In.

But enough soapboxing. For now.

The Hammer and I struggled for that mile. She got to the turnaround point about thirty seconds before I did, turned around and smiled at me as I very slowly ran to her. She hugged me and said, “Seven miles was plenty.”

We turned around and started running down, with a powerful tailwind combining with a steep downhill pushing us hard. At times, it felt like all my effort was going into braking.

I felt better, running downhill, which is probably the least surprising thing I have ever written. The miles flew by and I felt good enough to admire the incredible beauty of Titus Canyon.


Then the canyon abruptly ends — seriously, one moment you’re in it, with cliffs rising straight up on either side of you, the next moment you’re out — and we were back at The BikeMobile.

It was a good run. I was beat, and happily spent the rest of the day seeing some of the local sights, reading with The Hammer, and laying around.

But I can’t help but wish knowing how — or whether — I’d have finished a marathon that day.

PS: It looks like Lisa (aka @runlikeacoyote) went ahead and did the whole marathon, unsupported. Impressive! Read her report here.


  1. Comment by nh_joe | 12.5.2011 | 10:03 am

    Canceled due to wind!?!? That guy needs a serious head check! Someone needs to experience Tour of the Gila.

  2. Comment by roan | 12.5.2011 | 10:29 am

    This is what I like about reading !
    When things look tough, get fired up and do something.
    No need to be king, just be like Fatty, The Hammer or OMG(osh) the awesome Lisa runlikeacoyote.

  3. Comment by KM | 12.5.2011 | 11:32 am

    Considering I’d rather repeatedly strike my hand with a carpet stapler as opposed to run anywhere (unless chased by an angry swarm of bees, rabid grizzly bear or any other large omnivore wanting to put me in my food chain place) I’ll say good job Fatty and Hammer!!!! But I’m just perpetually confused by running for pleasure….ick.(IMHO)

    Now running apologists, please don’t get all pro-running on me and try to convince me I’m just not giving it a chance or I need to try trail running, a half-marathon or a running event. Every year I grudgingly add road and trail running to my off-season training and every winter/early spring I get up to 7-10 miles and I still pretty much despise every single foot fall. The only thing I like is running outside when it’s snowing and quiet, that’s pretty cool. But I agree with Fatty on one point, music is a must for running.

  4. Comment by Brian in VA | 12.5.2011 | 12:46 pm


    My favorite part of running, back when my knees allowed it, has always been stopping. We have nothing to apologize for because we say, “Your mileage may vary!”

    I love this blog and the people that read it!

    Brian in VA

  5. Comment by Mike Wilkins | 12.5.2011 | 1:11 pm

    Way to go Fatty! When my race got canceled 1 month ahead, all I did was whine! (The race organizers whined back) You ran!
    Mike in Toronto

  6. Comment by AK Chick | 12.5.2011 | 1:13 pm

    KM, I am SO with you on running. I USED to run, but since I discovered cycling, I rarely do it. I find that I can train pretty well for the one running event that I do every year, The Alaska Run for Women a 5 mile charity run that is for women only (and I think they allow male breast cancer survivors now). But running for fun? Never. No way. No thank you. I just don’t enjoy it like cycling. Even my worst day on a bike was funner than my best day running. I also agree, running with an music is a must. However, I also enjoy cycling with headphones (only in one ear and I don’t blast my music).

    So I’ll keep scratching my head at Fatty running all these events. They sure are fun to read about and see photos of though. Also, where can I order the Hammer’s body. I’d like to trade mine in for hers! Dayum! What a hottie!

  7. Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 12.5.2011 | 1:16 pm

    I can’t believe they cancelled it instead of running it on an alternate (more sheltered) route. You’re a better man than I am, as I would have probably have gone ballistic after running the route and seeing that there was nothing in it to worry about.

    Good on you guys for still getting out there and making the best of a bad situation…next time I suspect that race won’t be on your calendar.

    Mark (in Ottawa, Canada)

    Ps totally agree that the race director should participate in these kind of events as well to prevent just phoning it in.

  8. Comment by Liz | 12.5.2011 | 1:20 pm

    My son participated in a triathlon this summer where everything went wrong — course was mismeasured, no reliable overall times, no split times — but I felt for the race organizers anyway because it became clear they were getting beaten up pretty badly. Your feelings are completely justified, but I try to keep in mind that event organizers are just humans trying to do their best like the rest of us. Sometime succeeding brilliantly, other times, not so much.

    Terrific job making the most of a bad situation. Thanks for the photos.

  9. Comment by Christina | 12.5.2011 | 1:23 pm

    I blame lawyers.

    (Apologies to lawyers in the audience who don’t prey upon liability issues.)

  10. Comment by TK | 12.5.2011 | 1:33 pm

    I can understand canceling a race if the race director thought it was too dangerous (even though he or she was being overly cautious)…however, there is NO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSE for re-using the same shirt/design!

    There are few things more maddening than getting a totally lame t-shirt from an event.

    That gives me an idea… Fatty you should have readers send in pics of their t-shirts, socks, etc. so we can shame these events into stopping the practice of giving out lame stuff! Either reduce the entry fees (and don’t give me anything) or make the stuff worth it! This ain’t rocket surgery people!

  11. Comment by elizabeth | 12.5.2011 | 3:04 pm

    we did the road half marathon in death valley last year. it is a beautiful place and we were tempted to do the trail this year. glad we didn’t make all that effort. we’ll be there in feb for the road half again.

  12. Comment by Heber Chad | 12.5.2011 | 4:17 pm

    Good on ya Fatty, way to take the bull by the horns and make it happen.

    TK – Rocket Surgery…that made me snort in my office.

  13. Comment by Sylvia | 12.5.2011 | 4:50 pm

    Fatty, I’ve been to Death Valley many times, and although I don’t know what the marathon route is, it can be WORSE than MISERABLE when the winds are high. Although, I must say that’s usually in the afternoon. Maybe the big winds a couple of days earlier freaked them out. I would give them a pass this time…

  14. Comment by MattC | 12.5.2011 | 5:19 pm

    Wow Fatty…all the stuff you have planned (my brother does that too). Sheesh…I guess I’m a “seat of the pant’s type of guy” I guess. The ONLY thing I have planned fpr 2012 is LS Davis. I just like to ride my bike(s). I don’t have to PAY for that. I don’t WANT to pay for that (also I’m a cheapie I guess too).

    And as to running?? Ai-yi-yi…I DO NOT run. Well, MAYBE if the beer truck were driving away w/ a tap left on, I MIGHT consider running after it (if I happened to have a big empty cup already in my hand, and if the truck wasn’t too far away already, nor going too fast, and if it was all downhll, on a sunny day, between the temps of 65 and 73F)…OR possibly if a big scary dog was chasing me (have to be pretty n scary big tho). Running…jeez, that’s why they INVENTED wheels!

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.5.2011 | 6:11 pm

    at least the peanuts. (Books do not care for Diet Coke anyway.)

  16. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.5.2011 | 6:14 pm

    @MattC – sheesh, you wimp – I’d take up running after the beer truck with open tap in any weather…with or without cup! … as long as it was a Stout or a good dark Porter.

  17. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.5.2011 | 6:18 pm

    @KM – and you can totally skip running altogether by using XC skis when it is snowy & quiet out. It is WAY more like cycling than running is.

  18. Comment by choward | 12.5.2011 | 7:11 pm

    Hey…glad to see it happened regardless of the cancellation (using Fatty and Hammer rules…). We’re glad we could accommodate you, even though you missed a fantastic meal with Astrid and Jack ;-)

  19. Comment by AK_Chick | 12.5.2011 | 9:40 pm

    @Clydesteve I completely forgot about how much fun skiing is, especially skate skiing. It is most definitely more like riding a bike as you can get going pretty fast especially when the temps and trails cooperate. We lost a lot of our snow (had 40-50+ temps for a couple days in Alaska) and then it froze again so now the trails are a complete mess.

  20. Comment by Lisa | 12.5.2011 | 11:21 pm

    Thanks for the mention! It was fun meeting you in person. I thought they could have still held it too. My friend Josh and some of the other runners ran from the other end of the canyon and did a full 26.2 going from 200 elev to 5000 and back. I chose an easier route!

  21. Comment by A.m | 12.5.2011 | 11:57 pm

    Hey, just saw this. I was at the race too. Well “race”, glad you made the best of the situation. I’m still confused about everything that happened.

  22. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 12.6.2011 | 12:44 am

    Well Fatty, I mentioned there was wind in your future.

    I’ve camped several times in the Mojave, and the wind is one of it’s signature features. Along with the most amazing vistas, and stark landscapes one could imagine. And to think animals from lizards and tortoises to Big Horn Sheep call it home. Glad to know you had a chance to experience it, but believe me, sleeping outside under the stars beats any planetarium adventure.

    @MattC I’m thinking of getting my hands on a beer truck to bring to Davis. We’ll see how anti running you really are…..(HAH!)

    And, @Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 12.5.2011 | 1:16 pm
    an alternate, sheltered route is rather hard to find in ‘the valley’.

  23. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 12.6.2011 | 1:03 am

    I think I found a picture of Fatty’s route:

  24. Comment by KM | 12.6.2011 | 10:48 am

    Clydesteve, XC skiing!! I totally forgot about that! I absolutely love it, although I’ve only done it a few times in NM. Unfortunately, it’s been years since I’ve lived close to where it snows enough to justify purchasing the kit but who knows what the future holds??! Thanks for stoking some recessed memories of a lot of fun.

  25. Comment by Jenni | 12.6.2011 | 8:05 pm

    There are not nearly enough pictures in this post.

  26. Comment by fliesonly | 12.9.2011 | 2:11 pm

    Sounds like a great time…except for the running part.

    Hey, thanks so much for adding more books. I missed out on the first order and was very disappointed (in myself), but now am once again a happy individual.


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