Hey, just a short little post right now, to let you know how much time I have, where I am, where I’m going, what’s going on, t’d what’s coming up in the near future.
Where I Am and Where I’m Going
I’m on a plane, somewhere between SLC and NYC. From there, we’ll transfer to a plane to Boston. Once we’re in Boston, we’re going to meet up with some Team Fatty friends and go see historical stuff for a couple days.
Then, on Monday, we’re going to “run” the Boston Marathon.
To be honest, that’s the only part of this trip I’m not looking forward to. Because as someone who has never been a good runner, I think I can nevertheless claim that my running has become worse and worse lately. My right knee hurts when I run. So does my left hip. So does my right Achilles tendon. So does my back.
I feel very bad for The Hammer, who is in incredible shape — the best shape she’s ever been in — for this race. She could lap me. She really could. But she’s not going to. She’s going to do this thing with me.
And then in a couple weeks she’ll do a different marathon for speed.
How Much Time I Have
I don’t have much time to write this post. My computer battery was at 36% when I started writing; now it’s at 29%. I will update with current amounts of available current as events warrant.
What’s Going On
I spent the first 65% of my computer battery sending email to people. Admittedly, the battery in my computer is old, so 65% doesn’t actually represent that much time.
Still, I’ve been nailing down sponsors for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. And talking with Twin Six about the T-shirt design. And I can say this: it’s a great set of sponsors, donating a nice array of swag, for an excellent cause.
And the t-shirt design is wonderful. The best 100MoN design yet. I love it. You will love it too.
I will announce the sponsors and open registration next Wednesday. You’ll definitely want to register that day, because I’m pretty sure it will sell out before the day ends. And there will be no second wave. When it sells out, it’s gone.
Oh, by the way, my battery is now at 18%.
What About the Weight Challenge?
I will set up the area for final weigh-in posts tomorrow and post a link to it here. Be sure to post your final weigh-in by Monday morning, OK?
What’s Coming Up in the Near Future?
Well, if you’re a fan of BikeSnobNYC, you’ll want to check back here this Thursday; I’ll be posting a review of his new book that day.
Then, at 1PM ET that same day (i.e., Thursday, for those of you with very short attention spans), BSNYC’s going to join us for a live Q&A session. It’ll be fun, or immensely awkward, depending on what he thinks of my review.
I’m now at 11%, battery-wise.
While In Boston
There’s a good chance I’ll be posting little mini-updates here during my Boston trip. There’s an even better chance that I’ll post stuff on Twitter. So, if you haven’t yet, maybe you should follow me.
7% battery. Posting now, while I still can.
When I was in France last Summer, Andy Hampsten was going on and on and on about what a great book Slaying the Badger is, so I thought I’d get a copy and read it.
As it turns out, Andy was right. It was an awesome book, about an extraordinary race. And in a couple months — when VeloPress releases the book to the U.S., we’re going to do a book clubbish thing, where we all read it, and then have the author, Richard Moore, join us for a live discussion.
But that’s not the main topic for today’s post. No, that’s just the tangentially-related teaser. Because when I read Slaying the Badger, it occurred to me that I really had no knowledge whatsoever of the early days of cycling, much less the glory days of cycling.
In fact, I wasn’t even sure what the difference is.
I started feeling a little big guilty about the fact that — because it’s expected of me — whenever asked, I state with what I hope passes for conviction that Eddy Merckx is the greatest cyclist of all time, and that nobody has or even could ever surpass him, and that anyone who even tried should not even be allowed to call himself a “cyclist,” but would have to henceforth call himself a “bicycle rider.”
But even as I said these things, I knew in my heart that I really had no idea why Eddy Merckx was such a big deal.
So I decided it was time to educate myself in the matter.
And since I am a professional research analyst, my investigation into the life and time of Eddy Merckx was as thorough as it was exhaustive. After countless hours spent reading, collating, interpreting, interviewing, and — as a last resort — utilizing internet search engines.
And now I am happy to report that I am an Eddy Merckx expert. And as such, I have uncovered a number of truly astonishing facts and anecdotes about this man’s life and accomplishments.
And since it is possible that I am not the only cyclist who has lacked detailed knowledge of this great man’s life, I will now share my newfound knowledge with you.
Interesting Name Facts
Eddy Merckx’s full name is Edouard Lous Joseph, Baron Merckx. I am not sure what the comma is for, but it is widely known that while Eddy tolerates common misspellings of his name (“Eddie” or “Ed”), he becomes furious if the comma is neglected.
Less-well-known is the fact that Eddy’s last name was originally spelled “Mergckxstp.” Eddy had his surname shortened to make it easier to spell, and started going by “Eddy” because sports announcers frequently passsed out while trying to get Eddy’s full name out in a single breath.
Interesting Life Facts
Eddy grew up in Belgium, but cannot tolerate the taste of Belgian waffles. “I am sick and tired of people always serving waffles when they have me over for breakfast,” Merckx once said. “Could we please just have pancakes instead?”
Surprising First Bicycle Facts
Eddy had a pleasant childhood, growing up in a suburb near Brussels. In many ways, he had a typical childhood, with some notable exceptions. For example, many people know that Merckx got his first racing bike at the age of eight. What many people do not know, however, is that it was the age of eight months.
Further, Eddy paid for the this first bike with funds he had earned himself at his job as an ice crusher, where he would take 50-pound blocks of ice and squeeze them between his thighs.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, Eddy won his first bike race the first time he ever rode a bike, and won it by accident. Evidently, he climbed upon his bike at home, began riding it, wound up at a local race and decided to join in the fun.
He eventually bridged to a breakaway and won in a hard-fought sprint at the finish. Years later, the person who took second would claim he let Eddy win because he was only eight months old, but photographic evidence suggests otherwise.
Tragically, Eddy would not receive the trophy due to him, nor the cash prize, because he had poached the race. Disheartened, Merckx would not race again until later that afternoon.
Surprising Racing Career Facts
The racing exploits of Eddy Merckx are as legendary as they are fascinating. A few lesser-known facts about his racing career are as follows:
- Eddy is the only person to have ever the Tour de France twice in a single year.
- Merckx is fluent in 18 languages and has preternaturally sharp hearing. Combined, these two attributes ensured that Eddy always knew everything everyone was talking about in the peloton.
- The limiting factor in his speed on a bicycle was actually the strength of the chain. If Eddy actually exerted the full force of his legs at any given moment, the bike chain would invariably break.
- Merckx’s bike actually weighed over 250 pounds, a joke the team mechanic played on Eddy for the duration of his career. “We built his bike out of lead, just to see if it would slow him down,” said Frank Frorchxtcxts (also a Belgian). “It did not.”
- Eddy had 10,009 career wins. This is interesting because 10,009 is a prime number.
- If the bike chain had not been the limiting factor in Merckx’s bike speed, the tires would have been, because they start to melt at speeds greater than 212 mph.
- Merckx actually won his first Tour de France in 1960 under the pseudonym Gastone Nancini. Merckx raced under a pseudonym because he was 15 at the time.
- Also, Eddy raced — and, naturally won — the 1980 Tour de France as Joop Zoetemelk. He did this for no other reason than to break Hinault’s winning streak.
- When Eddy Merckx set the hour record in 1972, he wasn’t even trying. He was just out on a recovery ride.
- Eddy was known as “The Cannibal” during his racing career, but maintains he has never in actuality eaten human flesh.
After retiring for the pro peloton, Eddy Merckx formed a successful bike company.
He also embarked on a career of fighting crime, with an emphasis on catching criminals by, well, catching them. And also with a side-specialty of kicking doors in.
Or in the absence of doors, kicking down walls.
Eddy Merckx has earned seven doctoral degrees. His hobby is astronomy and he is currently building engaged in what will be the first lunar lander ever built, launched, landed on the moon, and returned to earth, by a single individual, using nothing but his own leg power.
Merckx says he started the project last week and expects to finish it by Saturday.
Belgium has recently honored Merckx by retiring the letter X from its alphabet; no words apart from “Merckx” shall use the letter from this point forward.
Notably, Eddy Merckx has never heard of Chuck Norris, but is widely reported to likely find such a poseur laughable.
An Update from Fatty: I’m no longer sitting in the airport, and this post is now done. If you’ve already read this post, though, be sure to go to the updated “Upgrade” section, which I’ve changed to include something ridiculously cool Timothy Hutton did for me that I didnt even know he had done (and, oafishly, therefore never even thanked him for).
I’m sitting in the PDX airport, which has — astonishingly to anyone who has visited a good number of airports — really fast, free wifi and cubicles with power. I’ve got two hours ’til my plane leaves. Let’s see if I can tell the story of my trip to Portland and my adventure in “acting” on Leverage during that time.
And just for the fun of it, I think I’ll continuously update as I write.
I got to Portland late Sunday afternoon. It was raining. No, just kidding. It was sunny and perfect outside. In fact, the weather was perfect. I tend to have that effect on places. Have me come by your hometown someday. I’ll bring good weather with me.
I had a couple hours before Paul Guyot (honcho at Leverage and guest blogger here) were to meet for dinner, so I took a walk, just to see Portland. The thing that struck me, in my 2-3 block radius walk, was the incredible number of parks and open space around, even though I was pretty close to the city center:
I didn’t photograph all the parks. That would have gotten repetitive. I did, however, get a picture of a statue walking home from work, with his silver laundry in tow:
After this, it was time for dinner with Paul.
We met at the hotel lobby, where he gave me a big ol’ hug, in spite of the fact that this was the first time we had met in person.
Paul, as it turns out, is just that kind of guy. As in, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, who still obviously manages to keep a big ol’ television crew humming along very smoothly.
We went to a great steak place, called Ringside. We got both onion rings and fries to go with our steaks.
Though I got a salad to offset the massive amount of food I ate. So I’d call it a calorie-neutral evening.
Since I needed to be in the hotel lobby at 6:15 the next morning and Paul had to be on the set even earlier, we did not party as if it were 1999. Even though we are both old enough to remember that song from when it came out.
I went back to my hotel room and practiced my acting. Since I was not slated to have a speaking part, I worked on conveying meaning and emotion merely using facial expressions.
Disgust! Bemusement! A call for help! I can do all these things with a raised eyebrow, a flared nostril, and compressed upper lip.
I’m that good.
The Big Day
I got a ride to the set — a pair of converted warehouses in an industrial area — with a couple guys who looked very familiar — I’ve seen them both before in TV and movies. I wondered to myself whether they were hoping I would speak to them so they could ask me for my autograph without it seeming awkward.
They did in fact begin talking, but apparently were too shy to ask for my autograph. I didn’t mind.
They started talking about Parkour. I listened for a bit and then got out my phone. “You like Parkour? You should watch a Danny Macaskill video,” I told them.
They finished the ride to the set, watching, in stunned silence.
Once we arrived, Paul found me and started showing me around. Starting, of course, with the food services tent, where we each had big ol batches of scrambled eggs with everything made for us.
Paul and I are a lot alike. Except I’m more beloved, I’m pretty sure.
Next, I got shown to my dressing room. Yes, I really had my own private dressing room, which was almost as big as half a standard prison cell.
Still, it’s more than I expected, and it’s nice to have a toilet you can call your own.
The costume director was called “Critter,” so I said, “Hi Critter, my name’s Fatty.” It was like we were secret agents with code names or something.
I showed her the suitcase full of Fat Cyclist gear I had brought along. She told me to put on the black Smartwool t-shirt, my Fat Cyclist hoodie and and cycling cap, the orange Jawbones, my Giro fingerless gloves, my MTB shoes (which would make a loud clacking sound on the concrete the whole day) and my awesome new Twin Six 3/4 pants (which I had Twin Six rush to me last week special for this part).
Then — finally! (at least I imagine you’re saying “Finally!”) we went on the stage.
And that’s a bizarre experience.
On the Set
When you enter the warehouse, it’s dark. Cold. And fog-generator foggy. Like you’re on the set of X-Files or something.
I had about four hours to wait before it was time for my scenes (I was to be in two), so I settled in and watched.
There was a lot to be amazed by.
First, it was pretty amazing to step into one of the sets. Suddenly, instead of a dark warehouse, you’re in a nice brewpub.
Except, of course, the brewpub has a ceiling made of scaffolding and wires and whatnot.
And there are cameras everywhere. And people and monitors. And lights. Above all else, lights everywhere.
Next, it was
incredible how many people were there. I don’t have the foggiest idea what they were all doing, but they were all amazingly busy. But it wasn’t so much that there were a lot of people there, or that they were all busy.
What was amazing and fun to watch was how well everyone was working together. Perhaps some sets are full of freak-outs and high drama and emergencies, but — and of course I just had one perspective on one day — everyone at Leverage seemed happy and engaged in their jobs and amazingly friendly. From the actors to the sound guys to the props guys to “The Oracle” (the woman in the bottom left of the photo above, whose job it is to ensure shot continuity and to make sure all scenes are shot in all appropriate ways), everyone was great.
The next thing that caught me off-guard was how quietly all the actors spoke. For no good reason, I just assumed they would be projecting, like stage actors. But no. They use their indoor voices, talking totally normally. Maybe even more quietly than normal. From 15 feet away, watching from behind the cameras and monitors, you could not hear them at all unless you had a headset on.
Paul, transformed from goofball to grown-up producer-man.
After a couple scenes, it was almost time for my scenes. First, I got made up:
Obviously, she took the grey out of my beard. She also filled in my eyebrows (because I keep them trimmed extra short — otherwise they grow into crazy mad scientist eyebrows that get into my peripheral vision) and covered up the circles under my eyes, and de-shinified my face in general.
No eyeliner or anything though. And — sadly — no vampire teeth or gaping wounds. I would’ve loved to get a part that would give me a gaping wound.
My job was — as a bike messenger — to deliver a package. Check me out, getting all directed by the director and stuff:
And here’s how I looked on the monitor, looking over the cameraman’s shoulder:
Again and Again and Again
Here’s the part that stood out from the day above pretty much everything else: how many takes they do of every scene, and from how many angles.
For every one-minute scene (including mine), there would be rehearsals.
Then the crew would set up one big shot where they filmed everyone.
Then the crew would move things around and train the cameras on just one or two people. Then moe things around and do the same scene, trained on the other people. Then the same scenes, with cameras trained on just one person’s face.
It’s an incredibly labor-intensive process, and pretty eye-opening to observe how much work goes into the making of a TV show.
And in short, I delivered that package a lot of times.
Then they moved things around, I went and changed into a different jersey (because I was supposed to be delivering another package on a different day), and we did it all again, some more:
Nice gut, Fatty. I am going to be mad at myself forever for not having lost the weight I needed to before this show.
They sprayed non-glare stuff on my Oakleys before filming, rendering them both non-shiny and non-useful.
Interacting With the Actors
I am — as you know — quite beloved and famous in my own right. Still, I was curious what it would be like to be around other famous people.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to talk with Beth Riesgraf, the actor who plays Parker on the series. And my interaction with Gina Bellman was pretty much limited to terrifying her and making her look around for security when I came from nowhere and told her how awesome she was in Coupling.
But I did get to talk with Aldis Hodge (Hardison), Christian Kane (Eliot), and Timothy Hutton (Nathan).
Aldis is an amazingly funny person, and a remarkable improvisational actor. He’d deliver his lines perfectly each time, then go on to add some hilarious additional lines of his own. Funny and different, every single take. I looked forward to every take, just to hear what he would say.
Christian is an amazingly nice guy, and went out of his way to talk with me, offer helpful suggestions, and just chat. Then, when it was time to act, he’d suddenly turn on this pissed-off stare, and it’s like he’s a totally different person.
And Timothy Hutton, when I told him what a fan my sister Jodi is of his work, looked up her site, then let me get a photo of him holding up a photo of her.
Jodi said it was the best birthday present ever. And it certainly was the least expensive, so that’s doubly awesome.
And as it turns out, without my knowing it — because I was dealing with sensory overload at about twelve different levels — Timothy had given me a present, too.
Originally, I was slated for a non-speaking role. I delivered a package and left. Which is way cooler than any other acting experiences I’ve ever had (i.e., none) before, but still, you know, non-speaking.
But — due to a case of coolness I can’t even describe (and failed to thank him for because I wasn’t even aware he was the one who effected this change), Timothy Hutton made some calls and used his own real-world kind of leverage to get me upgraded to having a couple of lines in the show. Paul and Aldis then came up with a couple lines for me (one straight line, one funny line).
Having a speaking line meant I had to sign a bunch of places on a surprisingly thick contract. And it meant some new (kind of strange) guidelines.
Mainly, it meant that I could no longer stand on my “mark” (the place where I was to be filmed) while the camera and light crews set up the shot, but instead had to have a stand-in stand there for me.
Union rules or something.
But it’s not like I had anything better to do, so I just stood there right by my stand-in, talking to him.
And rehearsed, over in over, the four words I had to remember. And how I would say them.
Here’s how much of a wimp I am. I wasn’t able to make it through the whole day. At around 7:00pm — at which point I had been there for 12 hours — I told Paul that I had to get to the airport early, and I headed back to my hotel.
They were still working when I left, and probably would be for another couple hours.
What an amazing day.
PS: The show will air sometime in August, I believe.
PPS: Time to fly!
Hi there! I’m sitting in an airport right now, about to fly out to Portland. And it occurs to me that — fool that I am — I have not posted winners from week 2 of the challenge, nor reminded people that it’s time to do your week 3 weigh in.
I have reasons, and I’ll give you a hint of what they are:
- My day job
- My family
- My book projects (yes, plural)
- Spring weather that makes me want to ride instead of write or blog or otherwise be near a computer when I don’t absolutely have to be.
I suspect that most of you sympathize with the first four bullet points above, as well as secretly suspect that the final bullet point is the real reason.
And you’re probably right.
Anyway, those of you in the challenge who haven’t yet checked in with your weight, go to this page to do so.
Very Interesting Statistics
Here are some interesting things we’ve learned from last week’s weigh-in:
- Women continue to dominate the challenge! With an average weight loss of 0.99% (as opposed to the men’s average of 0.72%), women are demonstrating that the old adage that men lose weight more easily than women may be true, but that easy doesn’t matter over the long haul — being self-disciplined matters. And the women are beating the men handily in the self-discipline department. Nice work, ladies!
- Midwest is best: This week, the Midwest US jumped to the top of the leader board, with an average of 1.18% weight lost. Last week’s leader — outside the US — dropped to fourth place this week, at 0.75%.
- Why Tri: The bonus question this week was “What’s your favorite kind of riding,” and I’m horribly embarrassed to say that triathletes won, with 2.5% weight lost. And that’s all I have to say about that.
- Ku-Ku-Kukui: Monster congratulations to Kukui, who lost an astonishing 4.08% last week and is therefore the winner of the box o’ Honey Stingers!
- Tommysmo is luckily random: The random number I drew this week is 26, which is the number associated with Tommysmo (who lost a very respectable 2 pounds, by the way). Tommysmo will get a gift certificate to Twin Six — which will come in handy for maybe buying a t-shirt a size smaller than what you’re used to, eh Tommysmo?
Honestly, I have no idea what it’s going to be like to be on the set of Leverage. Maybe it’ll be totally cool for me to take and post pictures throughout the day, in which case that’s exactly what I’ll do. If not, expect a recap on Tuesday or so.
Honestly, I’m pretty nervous for tomorrow. Wish me gluck.
Yesterday was the kind of day I’ve been waiting for all Winter. Shorts and short sleeve weather. Warm, but not hot. Absolute, total weather perfection, on the heels of what’s been an amazingly dry couple of weeks.
It was time for me to head over for my first outing at Corner Canyon. Find out which trails are clear, and which aren’t.
It was time to go mountain biking.
There’s something special about having terrific mountain biking you can get to from your front door (just ask pretty much anyone who lives in the Suncrest neighborhood). And there’s something special about getting back on a trail — after a long absence — you’ve ridden hundreds of times.
So hopefully I can be forgiven for jumping the curb and riding over my neighbor’s lawn in order to get to the trail two seconds faster than I otherwise would have.
I was riding alone, because The Hammer can’t go outside during the daytime for the next couple days for medical reasons (which I assure you is going to drive her crazy). Knowing she would want details on the trail condition, I paid attention.
The climb up Hogges’ Hollows was dry for almost the entire climb, though what little Spring runoff there’s been has cut a deep new trench down the center of the road; the old line is gone forever.
That’s OK, though. A new line is already forming. Obviously, I’m late to the party with this being my first climb of the year up the Hog.
I get to the Saddle, and am amazed. It’s not muddy at all. Every trail I see in every direction looks good. Instead of having to cobble together a ride by working around the routes closed due to mud, I can take my pick of rides.
So I start by heading down Ghost. It’s beautiful. Perfect. The trail is just barely tacky — just enough that my tires get perfect traction, without ever collecting anything at all in the tread.
I smile the whole way down. There’s no descent in the world more perfectly suited for a rigid singlespeed.
I see four or five other cyclists — some going down, some climbing up — as I descend. Everyone looks as happy as I feel. Someone asks me about how Ghost is; I tell him it’s perfect. I ask him about the condition of Clark’s; he says it’s clean.
Nothing but good news all around, so I drop all the way down Canyon Hollow, with the plan to climb Clarks.
I’ve talked about Clark’s trail before. It’s a hard climb, and it’s going to hurt, no matter how you ride it.
If you take it easy, it hurts a little for a long time. If you go hard, it hurts a lot for a slightly shorter amount of time.
On this day, I went for the “hurts a little for a long time” route. I wasn’t necessarily soft-pedaling. I was just enjoying the fact that I was on singletrack on a beautiful day.
This is me climbing Clark’s. But it’s not a recent photo. I just wanted to show this picture again, to remind myself of what what I look like when I’m not a big tub of goo.
Another rider, however, was very clearly not just out enjoying the ride. For whatever reason, he had apparently decided he needed to take this climb balls-out (not literally).
I could hear him coming up behind me, breathing hard.
In his mind, I’m sure he was Lance Armstrong. Making me Pantani. On mountain bikes for some reason.
The trail was wide enough that I could move over to one side and let him by. Which is what I did, and then — as he passed — I said, “How’s it going?”
He was panting too hard, though. Standing and rocking his bike while breathing fast and loud, he barely scraped out a “Hey.”
He was looking straight down at his front wheel. Giving it everything he had to give. Which, I suppose, is why he didn’t see the tree that had fallen across the trail.
The tree that was leaning just perfectly at his forehead height.
Yep, he rode — still at his passing speed, so giving it pretty much all he had — right into the tree. Smacked his head right into it.
Briefly, his bike continued on without him, then decided to wait up.
He, meanwhile, landed and then remained on his butt for a moment. His clock cleaned.
Then he spun around to face me and yelled, “What the hell was that for?!”
I was astonished into speechlessness. Somehow, he blamed this on me? Then in a split second, I understood it all. First, I was witnessing the “fight or flight” response to being attacked in action, and this guy had apparently gone for the “fight” option.
Second, he somehow had linked his accident with me. In his concussed mind, I had — immediately after being passed by him — taken out a brickbat and swung it with all my might at his noggin.
To clarify the situation, I (wordlessly, because I was still speechless) pointed at the tree he had just ridden into, full-tilt.
“Wow,” he said, understanding dawning in his eyes. He continued, “I didn’t even see that.”
Which is kind of a funny thing to say, because how bizarre would it have been if he had seen it, but had decided to ride into it anyway?
He then said, “That thing really cleaned my clock!” Which is what I was thinking, too.
Apparently no longer interested in seeking revenge against me for his hitting his head against a tree, he offered to let me go on ahead.
Hoping to see him crash into other stationary objects further up the trail, I declined.
PS: I should probably point out that in the “Furious Fred” section of today’s post, I am writing from the point of view of the other guy. Which is to say, it was actually me who clobbered the tree with his head. Otherwise, the story is accurate.
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