The Final Five Miles

03.8.2012 | 11:51 am

Fuck-cancer-bike-1.jpgA Note from Fatty: My friend Dustin Brady is at it again, raising money for the YSC Tour de Pink with a contest to win a Pink Intense 951. Click here for details on this one-of-a-kind bike.

For every $5 you donate by April 1, you get a chance at this bike, along with other prizes.

And, more importantly, you’ll be fighting cancer alongside one of the greatest champions you could ever meet.

To enter this contest or for more details, just click here.

Recently, I asserted — using both convincing rhetoric and unassailable fact — that I am the best cyclist in the world. I stand by that claim.

And yet. And yet.

I — yes, even I! — have a chink in my cycling armor. And it is this: the final five miles of a ride.

Five Miles May or May Not Be Five Miles

By “the final five miles of a ride,” I don’t actually necessarily mean the exact final five miles of a ride. It could be the last two miles of a mountain bike ride. Or it could be the last ten miles of a 100-mile road ride.

The final five miles is really just my way of giving a number to the last part of a ride, where I’ve stopped thinking about — and enjoying — the ride itself and have begun thinking about getting off my bike and being done with it for the day.

Oh sure, every ride invariably starts out great. I begin with enthusiasm, thinking of getting away from the real world for a few minutes (hours, whatever). I then settle into the ride, happy as a clam (and make no mistake: clams are very happy indeed).

But then, around five miles before the end of the ride, something changes.

I no longer am thinking of the ride. I no longer am looking at the rocks and bugs and trees and the top tube and The Hammer’s butt and pavement and / or dirt and stuff.


Now I am thinking of getting off my bike.

What I am Thinking Of

So, if I’m not thinking of the ride, what am I now thinking of? Well, a variety of things:

  • Food: Really, this is the most obvious one. Generally, I will start with an inkling: “I would like some food.” I’ll then probe around that inkling, trying to figure out what kind of food sounds good. “Salty. Cheesy. Some kind of tomato sauce. Big.” I will then go through my mental database of foods that satisfy the criteria I have set: “Enchilada — no. Ravioli — no. Omelette — no. Spaghetti — no. Carne asada burrito — yes.
  • Getting out of bike clothes: For some reason, I seem to expand during bike rides. Seriously, I do. It’s measurable. I inflate by up to 10%. So by the time I near the finish of a ride, the jersey that barely fit me at the beginning of the ride is starting to cut off the circulation to my spare tire. Or, it’s also possible that I’ve reached the maximum amount of time I can hold my stomach in. Regardless, as I get into that final five miles, I’m starting to get really excited about getting out of my jersey and shorts. Not excited enough to start early, though. Fortunately for everyone.
  • A shower: By and large, I am a leave-it-as-is kind of person, plumbing and faucet-wise. However, I have installed a particular showerhead that magically gives my shower enough force to cut through aluminum and other soft metals. It is wonderful beyond belief. So while I definitely think about showering when I near the end of a ride, I should probably also confess that I think about showering during a lot of the rest of my life, too.

The Tragedy of The Final Five Miles

But you know, to be honest, it’s not so much that I’m thinking about something that I’ll do after the ride itself. I’m just thinking about the end of the ride.

Yes, I am, somehow, looking forward to the end of the thing that I have been looking forward to the beginning of for the whole rest of the day.

Yes, I astonish myself with my own foolishness.

Especially since, within a couple hours, I’ll be back to thinking about the next ride.


  1. Comment by Garcia | 03.8.2012 | 12:39 pm

    I feel exactly the same way. It gets much worse on out and back rides, around 5-10 miles from home. But, I agree 100%.

    Even stranger, I tend to start planning my next ride while I am in the “wanting to be done” phase. Nothing sounds better at that point than it being tomorrow, and a new ride. Weird.

  2. Comment by rjb | 03.8.2012 | 12:42 pm

    A corollary of this is the fact that you can have an absolutely spectacular ride for 50-100 miles. But if you bonk during the last five, all you will remember is the sheer misery of those last few miles.

  3. Comment by Shep | 03.8.2012 | 12:52 pm

    I’m with you Fatty, although I do have to interject that it isn’t on all rides. If I’m doing a 40-50 mile ride (I live in Florida so other than a lot of bridges, it’s really flat)I can enjoy the entire ride. However, my morning loop takes me a mere 21 miles but over two of the aforementioned bridges, and it’s just my luck that they are the two biggest bridges in the county. As I’m climbing those bridges, it occurs to me at times that I must be a masochist, who else would put themselves through this kind of physical torture? But as soon as the ride is over, all I can think about is how I’m going to beat my time from that day. I guess it’s kind of like golfing (used to play often, haven’t in years), you can go out and shoot a 96, but it’s the five or six really sweet shots you hit that day that you remember, not the 10 you posted on that dog-legged par four. So even as I sit here, quads still tingling from this morning’s loop, I can’t wait to get back on my Speedster and do it all over again…faster and harder. (which at 47 is about the only thing I’m doing faster and harder these days lol).

  4. Comment by Mark | 03.8.2012 | 1:02 pm

    The first (and last) five miles of most of my rides is over a moderate – on the way out – hill. It is a hellacious climb on the way back!

  5. Comment by NYCCarlos | 03.8.2012 | 1:13 pm

    The last five miles for me are my favorite. they’re usually the easiest to motivate myself to ride.

    Let’s do another contest on this site, eh? it’s been a while since we’ve crushed a goal.

    Sounds good. – FC

  6. Comment by Mike C | 03.8.2012 | 1:33 pm

    For some reason, no matter which way the wind is blowing throughout the ride, the last 5 miles to my house is ALWAYS a head wind.

  7. Comment by ProfessorOrange | 03.8.2012 | 1:35 pm

    I’m with you on the final five and the food, and I’ve solved the shrinking jersey problem by wearing slightly larger jerseys (comfort over aerodynamics), but methinks I need this “particular showerhead that magically gives [your] shower enough force to cut through aluminum and other soft metal.” My shower is warm and lovely, but I couldn’t use the showerhead as an industrial tool.

    What is this magic showerhead that drives you to distraction all day? If you say the name maybe they’ll send you another free for the guest bathroom.

  8. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 03.8.2012 | 1:48 pm

    My least favorite thing about the last 5 miles, is when the organizer has mile markers out to motivate you. BUT they are mislabeled, the wrong way. So the last 5 miles is really 7. Grrr!

  9. Comment by Cathy | 03.8.2012 | 1:58 pm

    I had a ride where I had TWO “last five miles”". I was doing a charity ride, the choices being 25 or 41 miles. I opted for 41, but somehow in my head I was thinking it was 35 (maybe I averaged the two? Who knows?). But that second last five miles was way unpleasant.

  10. Comment by Scott | 03.8.2012 | 2:38 pm

    One Word: Chipotle

  11. Comment by JR Z | 03.8.2012 | 2:49 pm

    It’s a Zen thing…o7o…

  12. Comment by Tara | 03.8.2012 | 3:47 pm

    But isn’t WONDERFUL how great the last 5 miles of a marathon are?!?!

  13. Comment by ClydeinKS | 03.8.2012 | 4:25 pm

    I get these same thoughts but they come BEFORE starting a run, very hard to motivate when the wheels aren’t invovled!

    Jeff D

  14. Comment by Bragger | 03.8.2012 | 7:22 pm

    It’s just like childbirth.

    In the middle of it, you’re thinking, “What in the HELL was I thinking?”

    As soon as it’s over you say, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad. I can’t wait to do it again.”

  15. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 03.8.2012 | 7:49 pm

    My worst “last 5 miles” covered a lot less than that. In 2008, I rode the Mount Evans Hill Climb. 28 miles from Idaho Springs at around 7,700 feet to the top of Mount Evans at about 14,200 feet.

    As I inched toward the 28 mile mark, lungs and legs totally spent, it dawned on me that the ride length was actually 28.4 miles, not 28 miles. Those last 24,000 or so inches were the worst 0.4 miles of my life.

  16. Comment by Ray Ogilvie | 03.8.2012 | 9:01 pm

    I used to have this problem until I started doing the last miles first. Kinda like the opposite of eating your pudding before you eat your meat.

  17. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.8.2012 | 9:55 pm

    So Mr. Best Cyclist in the world and owner of self described “Awesome Quads”.

    I realize you have little time to visit other sites, (why would you-if they were truly worthy they could/should come to you) but I did see this and thought someone of your stature might want to ‘Man Up’ and don the ’suit of honor’. Imagine your ‘quads’ popping out of this kit:


    Also Wife#1 says she’d kick in some money if you did.

  18. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.8.2012 | 9:56 pm

    I’m pretty sure they’d give you a bigger leaf too.

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.8.2012 | 10:24 pm

    Fatty – It is always good to not be so excited that you start early.

    Thanks for that.

  20. Comment by roan | 03.8.2012 | 10:59 pm

    “I believe I May Be The Best Cyclist In The World” post had me thinking…hummmm Inflated Ego. Then today you say it’s more…you are “really inflated”…a really “swell” all around guy.
    You need to figure out how to take that last 5 miles and slap a cork in it. I’ve found that on long rides…like 30 days or more, self supported there isn’t any last five miles. Also stealth camping is great and I’ve been known to backtrack miles for a site that “looked” awesome. Love the West, fear I would be out of my element in the East.

  21. Comment by AKChick55 | 03.8.2012 | 11:37 pm

    Oh Davidh-marin,ca, that photo is just all kinds of wrong!

    Mike – I hear you. Since I live south of work, I always have headwinds on the way home. Sometimes they are so strong, I love 5 or more mph. Headwinds are my nemesis. Can’t decide if I hate them or hills more.

    Fatty-you hit the nail on the head with the last 5 miles. The last 10 miles of the 110 miles of last year’s MS150 (I had planned on doing 75 but got talked into 110) was very, very hard. I was completely drained thanks to not enough warm clothes and a major headwind for the last 55 miles (I was riding with two other ladies, but one poor lady had problems with her bike and kept falling behind and I wasn’t quite as in good of shape as the other lady so had a hard time keeping up with her during the last 10 miles. I was cooked. The last 5 miles in Austin was exhausting because of the direct sun and heat – I was well hydrated, but the sheer intensity of the sun was unexpected. I spent a good 15-20 minutes at the last aid station in the shade. I think I’d rather have headwinds and hills than heat.

    Ever since I used to run/walk marathons, I’ve always had a thing for cheeseburgers after a long event. After the MS150 (well, day 1 110 mile ride), I had the biggest juiciest yummiest cheeseburger. it was AWESOME.

    I don’t like peeling metal showerheads, but I dont’ like the foo foo ones either – I like one in between. I think that I think more about cheeseburgers and chocolate cake. Or brownies. Or crunchy homemade oatmeal cookies. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or just chocolate. Mmmmmmm chocolate. :)

  22. Comment by Maggie | 03.9.2012 | 12:46 am

    On really long bike rides, I generally spend the last five miles fantasizing about arriving home and just turning around and doing the WHOLE ride over again, through the night and into the dawn. I love the insanity of thinking that one could collapse at the finish line of a nearly impossible distance, only to get up and do it again, only worse, and colder, and sleepier and hungrier. I’ve pushed myself hard, and done some crazy things, but never anything THAT crazy… but every ride has that potential to be the beginning of the craziest thing I’ve ever done.

    (This in addition to the normal fantasies of showers and cheesecake and endless cups of coffee …)

  23. Comment by Marcus | 03.9.2012 | 8:08 am

    “No matter what I do, I always feel better when I stop doing it.”

  24. Comment by Chuck Hagele | 03.9.2012 | 12:05 pm

    I had a gymnast friend who would be doing these amazing leaps and flips followed by horrifying crashes back to the mat. He would keep at it for hours and once I heard someone who was really concerned (unlike us friends who thought it was funny) why he kept at trying these amazing acrobatics.

    My friend said,”because it feels so good to quit”.

    I think ending a really rough ride or run is the only way to experience that great quitting feeling.

  25. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 03.9.2012 | 12:05 pm

    Dunno David, the 4th guy from the left kinda looks like Stanley Tucci…er I mean Fatty so he may already HAVE this suit! If so, we all wonder why he didn’t lay it out for us when he was cataloging all of his apparel in his driveway???

  26. Comment by Karen | 03.9.2012 | 1:51 pm

    Hahaha, I love this post. I have lived this post. I will be living it a lot more to come. This is officially the best line I’ve read all day:

    “Salty. Cheesy. Some kind of tomato sauce. Big.”

    And yes, the best time to start planning your next long ride is while you are still miserable trying to finish your current long ride. Potentially a wiring fail in our brains, but that’s the way it is.

  27. Comment by Meh | 03.9.2012 | 5:20 pm

    Hey look, the is back. Meh.

  28. Comment by Megan | 03.9.2012 | 6:24 pm

    I understand so much. I went for the first run of the year a couple days ago and 2/3 of the way in I was done. First 1/3 I was super excited, then I was just running. Last part I’m just miserable.

  29. Comment by Wife#1 | 03.10.2012 | 12:19 am


    Wife#1 would pay good money to never have to look at anyone in that kit ever again.


  30. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.10.2012 | 2:47 am

    @Wife#1 Good Money, Huh?

    You know how we both like Titanium….for Birthday’s, Anniversaries, Tax Refunds….


    To quote our daughter…”just sayin’”

  31. Comment by MattC | 03.10.2012 | 2:53 pm

    Holy crapsickles David…that pic is almost life-size!

    Fatty…I’ve found I can actually SMELL food (that most likely doesn’t exist where I’m at) nearing the end of a ride…which really gets me thinking about being done.

    Specifically, I’ve smelled french fries, cheeseburgers, and oddly enough, cupcakes on various rides. The cupcakes were the strangest…my riding buddies thought I was nuts..but I could most assuredly smell them! Maybe it’s just mind over matter…I’m thinking about food so start to imagine I smell it?

    Or maybe some dude was actually eating a cupcake somewhere upwind and my tapeworm got a whiff…I’m pretty sure ol’ tapey can outsniff a shark when it comes to food.

  32. Comment by KM | 03.10.2012 | 6:04 pm

    Just so you know Fatty, I don’t think about the runner’s butt the last five miles either……

  33. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.10.2012 | 11:16 pm

    Sorry MattC. What I was trying to say to Wife#1 is:

    “…nothing says I love you like Titanium.”

    As for cup cakes, you’ve got me thinking about Davis. Cupcakes and pie?…and Beer.

    Personally I would have thought Beer was what you smelled near the end of your ride. Here in Marin we have a local Brew Pub that is often mixing up a batch, or bottling a new release on the sidewalk out front. I have to ride right past it to get to my house. And almost every ride I take makes my ride past it….poor me. And they have great Burgers too.

  34. Comment by MattC | 03.11.2012 | 3:31 am

    Yo David…oohhh….burgers AND beer….mmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMM! (cupcakes are good too!)

    Had TWO very tasty local brews after yesterdays ride (thru Yorhshire Dales Natnl park)…a Batemans XXXB and a Theakstons Old peculiar. BOTH spectacular ales that fit the bill perfectly to rejuvenate my tired body after 31 miles of 22-25kph winds (the last 9 miles were downhill WITH the wind, helping to ease the pain of those first miles). Also found they have insane grades here…the biggest hill the sign said 24%, my Garmin said 28. No matter…I can’t really pedal either turns out…not for long anyway. I was delivering papers all the way up! but I made it! Sheesh…they need to discover SWITCHBACKS!

  35. Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 03.11.2012 | 3:06 pm

    I’m so with you on this…I don’t know what it is, but I spend the whole day, work-week, whatever, dreaming about the ride, and then the last few kilometers, I’m so ready to be done and in the shower! Literally an hour after I’m done, I’m itching to get out there again…I think as cyclist, we’re pathologically nuts.

    Good luck enjoying the weather as I’m still under 10 inches of snow.

    Mark (in Ottawa, Canada)

  36. Comment by bcb | 03.11.2012 | 9:01 pm

    I have a litany of folk songs that go through my head at the end of the ride. Namely:
    15 Miles on the Erie Canal
    9 Miles from Gundagai
    8 More Miles to Louisville
    5 Miles from Town

    Whether or not they pass from brain to lips depends on how hard I’m panting.

  37. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.11.2012 | 10:59 pm

    Shout out to the Team Fatty Kit rider I passed this morning on my way to work. Downtown San Anselmo heading west. Look forward to seeing you again in Davis.

    Hope he didn’t mind me shouting “GO FATTY!!!!”

  38. Comment by Doug | 03.14.2012 | 2:43 pm

    …or the last 500 metres of a climb. I also suffer from this affliction. For some reason as soon as the end is close enough that I can start to taste it, the psychological toll gets the better of me and I slow down, stand up, and pretty much spit it back out!


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