Fatty VS The Hammer: A Story Problem

04.25.2012 | 5:37 am

Because I live an ordinary life, I sometimes have to do some pretty non-ordinary things. Which is my way of trying to say, in a clever way, that since I’ve got a job and wife and kids and house and responsibilities and stuff like that, and that my wife also has a job and responsibilities that don’t perfectly dovetail with my own, we have to sometimes work pretty hard if we’re going to train together.

And as of very recently, that’s gotten a little bit harder.

Specifically, now that the Boston Marathon is behind me, I don’t plan to do any more running for at least a few months. The riding season has begun, and that’s all I want to do.

The Hammer, on the other hand, is on a running hot streak and has a marathon planned for the weekend after this one (this weekend is reserved for the 2012 annual RAWROD). So she wants to keep running. And of course, I want to support her.

Plus, it’s not like our work schedules exactly match up or anything. She works at three different hospitals. I work either in an office complex or my basement, depending on whether I need to actually have human contact on the given day.

So for us to work out together last Monday, a little creativity was required.

The Plan

I was getting off work earlier than The Hammer and really wanted to spend some quality time with a mountain bike and Corner Canyon — just have a ride where I could really go at my absolute limit for about 90 minutes.

By the time I finished doing that, The Hammer would be home from her job and would be into the narrow window of time she had for the 13-mile run se wanted to do.

How could we make these two things work together? Pretty well, as it turns out.

The Hammer would run toward and up Hog Hollow as part of her run, which I should be coming down. When we ran into each other, I’d turn around and would ride alongside her, carrying water, Gatorade and food for her during her big trail run.

The Beginning of the Execution

Everything started off great. Since I was in riding alone and was in the mood to beat myself up a bit, I used my Arriva Leo bluetooth headphones (full disclosure: I got no special deal on these, I just bought them on the website like everyone else) playing music streamed from my phone (My Chemical Romance: Danger Days, in case you’re curious).

And I had an incredible ride. Up Hog. Up Jacob’s. Down Jacob’s. Down Ghost. Up Brocks.

And then, right about the time I was starting back down Hog Hollow, I get a call from The Hammer (a kind of nice thing about the Leos is that they have a mic, so you can take a call while riding / running without stopping and digging out your phone; just punch the “Answer” button on the headset).

She was just getting to the Hog Hollow trailhead. “Good timing,” I said. “I’ll just bomb down and meet you in a few minutes.”

Which I did.

The Beginning of the Problem

The Hammer had gotten maybe half a mile up the trail when I ran into her (not literally, because I’m an excellent cyclist). “I stashed some bottles of water and Gatorade under a bush right at the trailhead on my way home from work,” she told me.

“Perfect,” I said. “I’ll ride back and pick them up and then catch up with you.” And then, over my shoulder as we headed in opposite directions, I shouted, “See you in a couple minutes.”

You can see where this is going, right?

First Question

A quick downhill half mile or so brought me to where The Hammer had stashed the bottles. I had no idea how much she would want during her run, but figured it was better for me to carry too much than too little.

So I filled one of the bottles in my cage with Gatorade, filled the other with water, and then stuck a third bottle water in a jersey pocket. It was a hot day (close to 80 degrees). More is better.

Besides, the extra weight of all this fluid would turn this ride into more of a workout.

I didn’t hurry. I figured I’d be catching The Hammer in a couple minutes, and after that it would just be easy riding for me. A nice cool down after the intense solo ride I had just done on my own.

Then I turned around and started back up Hog Hollow. At first, I went easy. I kept expecting to see her every time I rounded a corner. Surely she couldn’t have gotten far, right?

Then I started thinking.

“Hey,” I said to myself. “It’s not like The Hammer stood still while I rode back to the trailhead and loaded up with supplies. She’s put some distance on me since then. I need to hurry if I’m going to catch her before she gets to the top.

How long had I spent filling bottles? Three minutes maybe? I wasn’t hurrying, so maybe even four minutes. During that time, The Hammer would be on a rolling-to-mostly-flat section of the trail; she could have put half a mile on me, in addition to whatever time she had put on me while I was riding away from her to get to the supplies.

So maybe by now she was a mile ahead of me.

I started riding hard.

Second Question

I could feel as I rode that I was already kind of cooked, but pushed hard anyway, wanting to catch The Hammer as soon as possible. After all, I had told her I’d be riding beside her — a rolling, always-available aid station ready to give her drinks at a second’s notice — not riding somewhere behind her, with all this food and drink doing her absolutely no good whatsoever.

And then I started wondering: How far is it from the Hog Hollow trailhead to the saddle, exactly? Two miles? Three? 3.5?

To my surprise, I really did not know. I’ve done this climb probably more than 100 times — maybe close to 200! — in my life, and did not know its distance.

Regardless, though, I figured she had a mile head start on me, and it’s not like she was standing still while I was riding. I started pushing harder (for what it’s worth, I just used this post to find that the Hog Hollow climb is just under three miles).

Third Question

I kept expecting to get The Hammer in my sights. I kept continuing to not see her. I kept riding harder and harder.

I laughed to myself — just in my head, because I was breathing too hard to laugh in real life, plus I hear it kind of looks crazy when a guy by himself starts laughing aloud for no apparent reason, not that I have any experience with that sort of thing.

Somehow, the image I had in my head of me tooling along on my bike while The Hammer killed herself running had turned into a ride where I was on the threshold of finding out what Honey Stinger barf tastes like.

And then a question occurred to me: was it possible that The Hammer was currently working toward the exact opposite goal of what I was working toward? Which is to say, was it possible she was trying her damnedest to keep me from catching her?

As soon as that question occurred to me, I knew the answer: Definitely.

I rode harder. No, just kidding. I was already going full tilt.

One More Question

I rode with everything I had, knowing that I had somehow been fooled into a bike-vs-foot race with The Hammer, and that she was winning.

I passed the halfway point. She was not in sight.

I passed the 3/4 mark. She was not in sight.

I began to wonder if it was possible that The Hammer had made a wrong turn. Or had been kidnapped. Or had fallen into a ravine.

Seriously, I briefly considered each of those possibilities. But never seriously. Because I knew the truth of the matter.

And the truth of the matter was simple: She was busy kicking my butt.

Which gave rise to a serious question, which I began to ponder the rest of the climb up Hog Hollow, even as I strained my eyes hopefully, looking for a neon-yellow pair of shorts that simply refused to appear:

How much — if any! — faster is a mountain bike than a runner, when climbing a steep trail?

The Answer

I got to the top of Hog Hollow. Beaten, in more ways than one. But I had not caught her yet, so I kept riding, hard.

I pounded away to the top of Clark’s trail, where three different trails converge, all headed down from there. I looked down each, trying to see her.

And there, running down Brock’s, was The Hammer. Finally. Maybe 200 feet ahead. And since it was downhill, it took just a few seconds to make up that distance.

“You caught me!” said The Hammer.

“You,” I replied, “are a badass.”


  1. Comment by Ashley | 04.25.2012 | 6:12 am

    You’re both badasses! The Hammer just happened to be slightly more badass on the given day.

    On a more serious note, just wanted to post that today is 1 year since we lost Ryan Suenaga to a hiking accident in Hawaii :(

  2. Comment by Mary Timberlake | 04.25.2012 | 6:14 am

    Calling her a badass was probably the best compliment you could have given her at that moment. Great choice of words!

  3. Comment by Chris Engle | 04.25.2012 | 6:20 am

    Come on Fatty, Its always a race.

  4. Comment by roan | 04.25.2012 | 6:33 am


  5. Comment by Tracy W | 04.25.2012 | 7:15 am

    I had a similar experience with my wife…but on foot. I thought I would have no problem catching her, but darn near killed myself all the while she was enjoying a nice easy jog. I found her sitting on the hood of the car waiting for me.

    Never again!

  6. Comment by Jenn | 04.25.2012 | 7:29 am

    Awesome story, Fatty, and well-told! I admire (and share) her competitive spirit!

  7. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 04.25.2012 | 7:38 am

    That is some serious awesome. I love it!

  8. Comment by Christina | 04.25.2012 | 7:48 am


  9. Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 04.25.2012 | 7:52 am

    Oh Man, you too seem like you are having so much fun! That is pure awesome! I’m so glad you guys are finding fun and creative ways to make the most of your time together!

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Mark (in Ottawa, Canada)

  10. Comment by Miles Archer | 04.25.2012 | 7:55 am

    There are some crazy people who run up Mt Diablo. They are often faster going up than I am on my road bike. (yes, i suck at climbing)

    But boy, I’m glad i’m on a bike for the trip down.

  11. Comment by Neil | 04.25.2012 | 8:07 am

    Too funny and good job capturing the thoughts one has when trying to do story problems in their head while pedaling near their lactate threshold.

  12. Comment by TK | 04.25.2012 | 8:20 am

    Fabulous post. I wish we were neighbors because my wife would love a hardcore running partner like the Hammer. Oh, and I’d like to borrow the occasional bike…

  13. Comment by centurion | 04.25.2012 | 9:17 am

    After Boston, it’s good to get some recovery miles in.

  14. Comment by blair | 04.25.2012 | 9:38 am

    next time, she glues the lids down

  15. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 04.25.2012 | 9:51 am

    So she dropped the Hammer on you eh? Now you know better!

  16. Comment by Josh | 04.25.2012 | 10:18 am

    My experience with the last question is the runner is faster than the mountain biker if the trail is steep (assuming equal relative fitness)… this comes from having been both the rider and the runner.

    As Mr. Armstrong would say, sometimes you’re the Hammer and sometimes you’re the Nail… sorta takes on a whole new meaning when you’re married to the Hammer, huh?

  17. Comment by Iain | 04.25.2012 | 10:57 am

    Similar story with my wife and I. She has recently taken up cycling and I was riding with her but wanted to take in a hard hill which involved a 1 mile loop. After doing the hill I expected to catch her up in 10 minutes or so. After about 20 minutes i found her waiting at the rest stop. Never underestimate the strength or speed of a woman teaching you a lesson :)

  18. Comment by Erik S | 04.25.2012 | 11:01 am

    Good story – some nice fun competition. And I can’t imagine the jeering you’d have faced if you didn’t catch her.

    Also: Damn it Fatty! I’ve been looking for some headphones…You’ve cost me $80 that I’ll have to explain to the wife.

    At some point I’ll probably do a review of the Leos. Not yet, because the jury’s still out on whether I like them enough to recommend them. Which is to say, because I’ve had durability issues with Arrivas in the past (the headphones that docked into an iPod Shuffle at the base of your skull), I’m not going to recommend these until I know for sure that they hold up long term. For now, though, I am finding that I really like them as combo bluetooth headphones / mic for rocking while riding.

    Since you went ahead and ordered yourself a pair, let me know what you think once you get them. – FC

  19. Comment by Jeff Bike | 04.25.2012 | 12:57 pm

    Similar story, wife and I are on the Leon Creek Green Belt pathway (San Antonio TX). She was on her mountain bike and I on my road bike. I was chatting with friends. She said she was going on, I said I would catch up. We finished our conversation and I headed out after her. The short story is it took eight miles to catch her. When I figured out her average speed was just over 20mph on a mountain bike I knew I had been had!

  20. Comment by Charlie | 04.25.2012 | 2:23 pm

    I agree with Josh. At some point our friend gravity overcomes our mechanical advantage of having wheels. At that point, the additional 25 – 30 pounds of bicycle is no longer an advantage, so unless your power to weight ratio for the bike and rider is greater than the power to weight ratio for runner only, you’re losing!

    At least that’s what I tell myself because I’m always getting passed by strong trail runners on steep trails – on the way up at least!

  21. Comment by The Hamer | 04.25.2012 | 3:11 pm

    Nice story. I regret to inform you that I have been passed by runners while climbing Hogs. It really scared me to suddenly have someone beside me. I just smiled and said “see you on the way down”.

  22. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 04.25.2012 | 4:15 pm

    I think you owe the Hammer another big THANK YOU for Boston. Sounds like the Kenyans owe her a Thank You as well.

  23. Comment by Rich | 04.25.2012 | 4:43 pm

    Awesome story Fatty and you’re right….definitely a bad-ass!

    Reminds me of a similar event…I was riding with a buddy (he happens to be 68 years young) and I told him I was stopping to take off my leg warmers. He replied, well, I’ll just soft pedal till you catch back up….as soon as I pulled over he hit the gas…I didn’t see him for another 5+ miles…..he still tells that story

  24. Comment by Susie H | 04.25.2012 | 4:59 pm

    Someday, I too, will be a Hammer!

  25. Comment by Anonymous | 04.25.2012 | 5:40 pm

    you should open a strava account and upload your rides there.

  26. Comment by Kukui | 04.25.2012 | 6:04 pm

    YES! The Hammer rocks and is, by all counts, a BADASS! X)

  27. Comment by Ian C | 04.25.2012 | 6:10 pm

    Trail running is faster up hills, at least for me. And the more technical the hill, the more time the runner gains!

  28. Comment by marishka | 04.25.2012 | 8:02 pm

    I think I love this story more than anything else I have ever read on here.

  29. Comment by S.A.Nick | 04.25.2012 | 8:19 pm

    Great story, Fatty! A little friendly rivalry, some reverse psychology, and maybe some competitive paranoia—the perfect combination for pushing anybody up some killer climbs!

  30. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 04.25.2012 | 9:07 pm

    I can just picture the Hammer chuckling to herself as you went to get the bottles “Sucker – Hah!” Great stuff Fatty!

  31. Comment by Trey | 04.26.2012 | 6:19 am

    Oh, I am so married to a badass (22yrs+) and she always lets me catch her at the finish line!

  32. Comment by mtnbikechk@hotmail.com | 04.26.2012 | 7:09 am

    Hahahaha, chicked, “Hammered” and Honey Stinger barf, omg I’m tearing up I’m laughing so hard..GO Family Fatty….

  33. Comment by @terrysrunning | 04.26.2012 | 7:16 am

    When I run the steep technical trails here in Colorado, if there’s a mountain biker, it’s ALWAYS a race, whether I know the person or not. And the steeper the trail, the more likely that I’ll win. When I run with a big group(shout out to Denver Trail Runners!) we often get confused looks from mountain bikers as they’re passed by 20-30 runners. So, don’t feel bad. We runners school people all the time, it’s nothing personal :-)

  34. Comment by cece | 04.26.2012 | 8:17 am

    I bow to the Hammer! What a woman! Jerking your chain without your previous knowledge! You Rock Lisa!

  35. Comment by Jeremy | 04.26.2012 | 10:43 am

    My wife and I can’t work out together. We are both too competitive. We ran together once. It was enough. We can ride together on family rides, but even that is pushing it a little.

  36. Comment by skippy | 04.29.2012 | 5:28 am

    Enjoyed the read but wonder what would have happened if she made it to her stash point before you caught up ?


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