Emotion: An Insight

03.26.2012 | 10:04 am

One of the reasons I love cycling is because it allows me to maintain the self-image I prefer, as opposed to the one I really ought to have.

Allow me to explain.

A Sock, And the Putting Thereof

Before The Hammer was The Hammer, she was The Runner. And yet, she was not just a runner. She was a cyclist, too. She started cycling long before she and I got together. Indeed, she was an accomplished cyclist, having completed Lotoja (a 200+ mile race) and The Leadville 100, multiple times.

But — and I say this with all the humility a beloved internet celebrity cycling superstar can say without seeming falsely humble or perhaps even condescending — I was a better cyclist than she was.

Yes, I was both faster and had more endurance. She and I both knew who the alpha rider was, and that was me.

[Side note: while I am most certainly thumping my chest right now, it is with a certain amount of charming irony and a smidgen of foreshadowing of a contrasting situation that will make you love me even more than you do already, if that's possible.]

So anyways, sometimes we’d go on rides together, and I’d push her a little bit, for a long time. Not in a huge way, mind you.

No, more in much subtler, insidious ways.

Like, when we were riding side by side, I would keep my front wheel about half a length ahead of hers. As if to say, “Hey, if you want to go just a little faster, I’m up for it.”

Or — much worse — I’d be relentlessly cheerful. No matter how long we had been out, I always had something nice to say about the ride. If a big climb was coming up, I’d talk about how much I like climbing. If we were in the flats, I’d go on about how there’s nothing for endurance and power like turning the cranks over and over in the flats.

If I was exhausted, it was a good exhaustion.

This kind of behavior, I am sure you will agree, is not annoying at all, to anyone. And so I was incredibly surprised when, at the top of a short-but-painful climb, I turned to tell her how amazingly cooked I was and how much I love cycling for the way it can leave you completely ruined, when she spoke first.

“Don’t start,” The Runner said. “Just put a sock in it.”

As a man who knows when a woman is not kidding around even a tiny little bit, I put a sock in it.

But honestly, I did not get it. I had not been anything but pleasant during the ride. She had no reason to suspect that I was going to say anything offensive or mean or anything. Hey, I’m Fatty, for crying out loud. I never say anything mean or offensive.

And as long as I was being honest, I didn’t understand how anyone could be angry while on a bike anyway. When I’m on a bike, I’m happy. It’s really as simple as that. I can be tired, hungry and hurting on a bike, but there’s still a chunk of my brain that says, “Yeah, but I’m tired, hungry and hurting on a bike, so it’s cool.”

So why was I riding with a metaphorical sock in my mouth? What had I done wrong?

The Gaining of Understanding

It’s no secret that, as a wonderful person who wants to be supportive of his wife, I have tried to take up running. I believe I have documented at least a little bit about how well that’s gone. For example, I’ve talked about how I totally crushed the Death Valley Marathon. And how I just flew when running the 2010 NYC Marathon. And then there was the Ogden Marathon, where I discovered that I’m more than half an hour faster if the course is downhill.

And now, in (much!) less than a month, we’re doing the Boston Marathon (The Hammer is doing it because she’s fast and qualified to run it, I’m doing it as part of Team LiveStrong).

So I’ve been running again. Training for another marathon.

The experience has been memorable. In particular, I remember the following:

I remember an exquisite sense of humiliation. A couple weeks ago, we were doing an 18-mile training run. Around mile 12, I started slowing, and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried speeding up, but simply could not.

In fact, at mile 13, The Hammer changed over to a walk. “Why are you walking?” I asked.

“Because you’re running slower than I walk,” she answered, without irony.

And it was true. I was taking run-like steps and making a run-like motion with my arms, but I was going at a pace so slow that any mallwalker would have gapped me.

“Just go on,” I said. And I really meant it. The Hammer is the fastest she’s ever been right now — she’s really stepped up her running game lately — and I didn’t want to hold her back.

“No, I’ll stay with you. We’ll walk a minute and then continue running, she said.”

I remember despair. We started running again, and — before another mile had gone by — the strangest sound came out of my mouth: something that sounded remarkably like a sob.

I was surprised by the sound. Not that a sob-like sound had come out of me, but that I had somehow let this sound — that so accurately represented how I felt — escape.

I stifled it before another could come out.

“What was that?” The Hammer asked.

“I don’t think I can go another four miles,” I told her. “I really don’t.”

And I looked down and away, because I didn’t want her to see that I was crying. That I was totally beaten.

We agreed she should go on ahead and finish the run, then come back and get me in a car; meanwhile I would try to get as far as I could.

When The Hammer picked me up, I was at mile 16.

I have never been so happy to give up in my entire life.


What is my point? An easy, simple, short one: I think running has made me a better cyclist. Which is to say, a more understanding cyclist. Before, I had been riding for so long that I had honestly forgotten how it feels to be completely, truly beaten by something. To be so tired and sore that you start taking it personally.

You don’t feel an interested, ironic amusement at your tiredness. You feal destroyed.

It’s good — once it’s over — to be reminded exactly how hard something can be.


  1. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 03.26.2012 | 10:26 am

    I think men everywhere need more training on when to “put a sock in it”! Which apparently means me.

    Great stuff Fatty!

  2. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.26.2012 | 10:54 am

    I had humorous comment that involved misconstruing the acutal meaning of the words in the last line.

    But this essay is pretty good, it hits close to home. I’ll just, you know, put a sock in it.

  3. Comment by Ripkenfna | 03.26.2012 | 11:32 am

    My wife really enjoyed seeing me suffer this fall during my first cyclocross season ever. Her words were akin to “You usually do everything good. I’m glad to see you having so much trouble.” I didn’t finsih higher than 4 from the bottom in my age group. Ain’t love grand.

  4. Comment by Cali_Lady | 03.26.2012 | 11:33 am

    Awesome epiphany Fatty!

  5. Comment by AKChick55 | 03.26.2012 | 11:50 am

    And that my dear, dear man (whom I’ve never met in person, but who I actually do love even more dearly after this blog in a truly platonic way), is WHY I don’t run anymore except for a 5 mile all women run that raises funds for breast cancer research, education, and support. A bad day on a bike trumps a good day running period.

  6. Comment by rich | 03.26.2012 | 11:54 am

    what a great post….and one we can all learn from…..good stuff Fatty!

  7. Comment by AKChick55 | 03.26.2012 | 11:55 am

    Um, that should have been “love even more dearly after READING this blog.”

  8. Comment by Mary Timberlake | 03.26.2012 | 12:00 pm

    Yep-Cali_Lady was right, awesome epiphany. My husband and I trade back and forth in the running/cycling thing. When in shape, he can kill me. He took the winter off. :) ….should be fun for maybe 2 weeks, until he passes me again. On a different note–even if you aren’t a Hunger Games fan you must see the movie. Your resemblance to Stanley Tucci is quite amazing!

  9. Comment by the swede | 03.26.2012 | 12:18 pm

    I hate running

  10. Comment by Steve | 03.26.2012 | 12:24 pm

    Fatty, in the words of the Two Johns, “Don’t be a half-wheeler”.

  11. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.26.2012 | 12:27 pm

    Oh, that’s right – Fatty, after seeing Stanley Tucci in The Hunger Games, I am sure you will be wanting a bright blue mall troll pony tail wig.


  12. Comment by centurion | 03.26.2012 | 12:40 pm

    “Put a sock in it”? You got off easy my friend. I passed my wife on a hill, and fiqured I’d offer some encouragement as I passed. Before I could say anything, she looked over at me and said “I f***ing hate you.” And that set the tone for the rest of the ride. Not fun at all.

  13. Comment by Matthew | 03.26.2012 | 1:25 pm

    “Fatty, in the words of the Two Johns, “Don’t be a half-wheeler”.”

    My reaction too – height of bad manners in cycling. I enjoyed this post though. :)

  14. Comment by Spiff | 03.26.2012 | 1:48 pm

    Fatty, have you and the Hammer ever considered a tandem? My wife and I are also at difficult levels of cycling fitness. We’ve ridden one together and it was a blast. If my we had a garage and the $$$, we’d love to get one.

    Also, I think it’d give you something write about, since you have such a hard time coming up with ideas… er, nevermind.

  15. Comment by George | 03.26.2012 | 1:50 pm


  16. Comment by RANTWICK | 03.26.2012 | 2:12 pm

    I ride alone. With nobody else. Sadly that isn’t my choice… it’s just that nobody likes me, plus I’m terrified of other humans. I wish I had a cycling companion to tell me to shut up. Keep rubbin’ it in, Fatty, keep rubbin’ it in.

    hehehe… nice post.

  17. Comment by laura | 03.26.2012 | 2:21 pm

    I’m sorry but I don’t get how anything that makes you cry can be construed as a “good” thing. Good cause or not.
    Life’s too short to engage in things that make you cry…what will you do next? Watch a chick flick on the Hallmark channel? Good grief!!

    Surely I am kidding. ;-) What an insightful and honest post. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Comment by Bragger | 03.26.2012 | 5:03 pm

    On a similar (but maybe not THAT similar note)…

    I have ridden in BRAG for 20 consecutive years, and I could never understand why people didn’t LOVE it as much as I did. They would say it “just wasn’t for me,” and I would smile politely and then call them wusses behind their backs. Maybe.

    Then I signed up to do Paddle Georgia last year. It’s designed around the same concept, only kayaking instead of biking.

    I hated it. Paddled through brown water and green trees for two days, then called my husband to come get me.

    The similarity? It gave me a better perspective. Please tell me that has something to do with what you wrote.

  19. Comment by Darren | 03.26.2012 | 7:07 pm

    Kind of how a new assignment at work has made me have a new perspective for what I had.

  20. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 03.26.2012 | 10:35 pm

    The foreshawdowing in this story came earlier than the ’side note’:

    “….Yes, I was both faster and had more endurance. She and I both knew who the alpha rider was, and that was me…”

    Did we all notice the use of the ‘past tense’;
    was, and had. How’s that going now?

    And @spiff A tandem, really? Don’t you know the old maxim? “A tandem is the LAST bike a married couple will ever get”

  21. Comment by Jenn | 03.26.2012 | 11:31 pm

    @Centurion…that made me belly laugh. A good, hearty belly laugh at 0730 in the morning!! Thank you!!! I would never say “I hate you,” but my beloved and freakishly strong husband has heard “f**k you” on more than one ride.

    Running is for life and death situations only.

  22. Comment by The Bikinator | 03.27.2012 | 7:09 am

    I had those moments of utter devastation when I moved up to the elite women’s mountain biking class. I went from winning to “back of the pack”. What a blow to my ego.

  23. Comment by daddystle | 03.27.2012 | 7:13 am

    a little humility makes us better people, The odd mistake helps too. Good stuff, thx Fatty

  24. Comment by Rob L | 03.27.2012 | 7:20 am

    Wow! I’m inspired Fatty. I wish I could learn life lessons through listening/reading, but alas I’m condemned to only learning thru experience. Oh well.

    Tandem’s – Just say no. Also to duo kayak’s and canoeing.

  25. Comment by Mellabella | 03.27.2012 | 7:46 am

    I read this to my husband because I thought it was sooo funny. He just looked at me and cocked his eyebrow….apparently I need to “put a sock in it” as well.

  26. Comment by Shep | 03.27.2012 | 8:54 am

    Great blog Fatty. I have friends who come to me and want to start riding a bike again. I tell them that we can start off easy, maybe a slow-paced 20 miler. For me, it’s a warm-up ride. To them, it’s like asking them to climb Mt. Everest. I remember my ex brother-in-law, and how although he wasn’t book smart, he could tear down an engine and rebuild every bit of it in his sleep. When it came to mechanics, I was the one in the dark. Yet he always felt like I was so much smarter than he was because I had an education. I never tried to make him feel that way, and always told him “it all depends what you’re talking about as to how smart someone is”. The same applies to athleticism. I may be getting pretty good on a bike, but when it comes to other forms of cardio, I’m a newbie. Humility is a great thing, it reminds us to treat everyone with respect, or at least it should. Because we never know when we’re going to be the one who is crushed, totally defeated by the task at hand, and when that happens, hopefully the person/people with us will be understanding and encouraging.

  27. Comment by @terrysrunning | 03.27.2012 | 10:04 am

    Great post, as usual. I loved how you described feeling better on a bike, even if it’s a crappy day. I’m the same way; I’m always happy to be on a bike. I also run, and I’m not always happy to be running, unless it’s on trails. I’m always happy just to be on a trail. So, try more trail running, maybe it’ll help. Then, if you have to walk, it’s not “walking”, it’s “hiking”, so it’s still fun :-)

  28. Comment by Stan | 03.28.2012 | 2:10 pm

    I know what you mean. I took up competitive stair climbing, and it’s made me a better bike rider. Not because it made me stronger or anything like that. Just because it’s easily the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done. So now when I’m riding up a big hill, I’ll just think, “Wow, this doesn’t hurt anything close to stair climbing. I can go faster.”


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