A “Today Or Too Late” Note from Fatty : Today is the last day you can pre-order the 2013 FatCyclist gear. Then we tally up how many of each size of everything’s been ordered, and the good folks at Twin Six make the order.
And then you can’t buy it anymore.
Now, every single year, someone emails me the day after this eight-day-long pre-order event ends and says, “I meant to order during the pre-order, but I forgot / put it off,” and then they ask me to make an exception for them.
And I can’t. Making an exception for the procrastinator means I delay making the order, which means all the people who didn’t procrastinate wind up getting penalized so I can help the guy who did procrastinate. Which is not only unfair, it’s also uncool.
And it’s very important for me to be cool.
And if you’ve already picked something up, thanks tons!
Race Report: Crusher in the Tushar
There’s a secret strategy to doing big, difficult races like The Crusher in the Tushar. It’s a strategy I’ve mastered pretty well, and now I’m going to share it with you.
The secret strategy is: don’t do your homework.
This strategy first came in handy when it was time to register. See, if I’d have done my homework and realized that this race isn’t just an unusual mix of road and dirt riding with a lot of climbing mixed in but is in fact the following:
- A giant climb
- A giant, brutalizing descent
- A giant climb
- The end
I might have at least evaluated whether I should be racing on that course. I mean, look at the profile:
But I didn’t do any homework. I just took my friends’ word for it that “The Crusher” (as everyone calls it) is an awesome race, and that I should try it.
Also, if I had been more interested in doing my homework, I would have taken the extremely awesome Specialized TriCross Elite Disc Apex Compact I had recently gotten, and become good at riding it.
Considering the amount of climbing involved in this race, it probably would have been an especially good idea for me to have gotten really good at climbing on it.
And finally, I would have asked Racer to build me up the Stan’s NoTubes wheels sooner, rather than — quite literally — picking the bike and the new (never ridden ever even once) wheelset up on the way out of town.
But I did not. Because I had an inkling that if I had known exactly what was ahead of me, it would have caused some gastrointestinal distress.
Quite a lot of it, actually.
The Day Before the Race
It rained most of the way on our drive to Beaver, Utah. I drove, The Hammer read (she’s deeply into the fourth Game of Thrones book right now), and The IT Guy hugged his pillow and fretted.
This was going to be his first big endurance race, ever, and he was anxious.
We picked up our packets, at which point I discovered that I had somehow registered as a professional cyclist, and hence had race plate #2.
It seemed likely to me that I had been miscategorized. But still, it’s kind of awesome to have that race plate.
We ran into Kenny and Heather, who had driven up from St. George for this race. Kenny was one of nine or so men riding singlespeed. Heather was the only woman riding singlespeed, and thus felt she pretty much had a lock on the podium.
An important butt-sniffing ritual singlespeeders have is to ask each other what gear ratio they’ll be riding, so I of course asked Kenny.
“33 by 16,” he replied.
My head spun around. Thrice.
“Wha?” I replied, which was actually a really apt thing to say. For those of you who aren’t really familiar with bike gear ratios, imagine Kenny had just told me he was going to be riding in his big ring, on the cog about halfway down the cassette.
“Really?” I said. “Are you sure about that?”
“I’m trying to be,” said Kenny. “I left all my other gears at home so I wouldn’t spend the night second-guessing myself.”
“Oh, OK,” I said. “Good luck.”
“By the way,” I added, “I just happen to have a 17-tooth cog with me, just in case you change your mind.”
Kenny laughed. But then, later that night, I got a text from him:
I called him back. “Sorry, I was just kidding. You’re riding the 16 tomorrow.”
I went back to setting up my bike. I had to admit, the TriCross looked awesome.
Panic at the Start
We woke to rain. I thought about the prospect of riding in the rain all day, and then considered just not starting. I looked around to see if either The Hammer or The IT Guy were showing signs of not wanting to do this race.
No luck. They were busily talking about what jacket to wear, what to stow.
I went with my tried-and-true “Fickle Summer Weather” option: shorts, short sleeves, arm warmers, and my Fat Cyclist Windshell jacket. The armwarmers and jacket can be stowed in the jersey pockets — and pulled back out again — at will.
The Crusher starts right in the heart of Beaver, Utah. We got to the starting line good and early, with more than half an hour to spare. I unloaded The Hammer’s bike, lubed the chain and felt the tires. Good and hard. No need to do anything with those. Then I unpacked my bike.
The rear wheel had gone soft. (That’s not a good sign.)
So I pumped it back up, to about 50psi.
All around the rim, bubbles began foaming out.
No. No no no no no.
I called Racer. “Should I put a tube in?” I asked.
“It’s a brand new setup,” Racer answered. “As you ride, the sealant is going to seal everything up. You should be fine.”
“OK,” I said, but grabbed three extra CO2 cartridges and stuffed them into my jersey anyway.
You know. Just in case.
In spite of the fact that I am now a (very fast and accomplished and slim) professional cyclist, I lined up with my age group – the 40-something riders. At the gun, we took off as a group, riding in the light rain.
And to my relief, the guys up front went at a nice, easy-to-follow pace. At least for the first five or six miles. Pretty much the entire age group stayed together, with me nestled comfortably and effortlessly somewhere in the middle.
The rain eased off, so I stripped my jacket and put it in my jersey. Luckily for them, the people riding all around me did not know this was the first time I had ever done that while riding in a tight pack of people.
Then the road turned up, and the guys up front started going harder. The paceline stretched out and snapped.
I was on the wrong side of where it snapped.
Still under some kind of strange early-race delusion that it mattered where in the pack I was, I stood up and chased, grabbing onto the fast group before it was too late.
Then the road turned right and sharply uphill. Moments later, the pavement ended, and we were on mud.
And for the rest of the race, I’d be riding more or less on my own.
The First Big Climb
I knew that over the course of twenty miles or so I’d be climbing more than 4000 feet. But I wasn’t really intimidated by that, believe it or not. The trick with doing a big climb or distance is to have something to compare it to.
“This is just like climbing up Pole Line from Tibble,” I told myself. “Maybe easier.”
Meanwhile, I hunted for an elusive — perhaps nonexistent? — thing: a clean, good line. It’s not like the rain had made the mud impossible to ride through. During the whole day my drivetrain never got jammed up. It was just alternately slick and sticky.
I wandered from left side of the road to the right, looking for that one perfect line.
And then I got surprised. And surprised again. And again. All by the same thing: spectators. Cheering.
Yes, on a rainy, muddy mountain road for a race with only a few hundred people, there were clumps of people on the road. Some with cowbells. Some with pots and pans. A Boy Scout troop of ten or fifteen boys, all of them cheering for every single racer that came by. As I rode by them, I put out a palm and got ten or fifteen high-fives.
It was fantastic. There’s nothing in the world quite so amazingly energizing as being cheered during a race.
I went through the first aid station. Thanks to the cool, wet morning, I still had 1.5 bottles full. No point in stopping. I rolled through
Then, as I hit mile nineteen, someone said, “Fat Cyclist? You don’t look fat.”
I got ready to give one of my standard responses, which are:
- “Wait ’til Winter.”
- “I’m fat inside.”
- “That’s because this jersey is quite slimming, ironically.”
And then I realized it was Kenny. He had started a couple minutes behind me in the single speed group, but had caught me on the climb — riding his 33 x 16 gear.
That Kenny. He’s a pretty strong cyclist.
Shortly after that, I came across Slyfox Moonwillow, an entrepeneur, good guy, and fixture of the Utah cycling scene. He had — as he often does — come to the race in his ghillie suit to hand out money to the racers.
Photo taken by Jason Sager
“Come get paid, Fatty!” Sly yelled, and I grabbed a dollar. First time I’ve ever gotten money in a race. I’ll keep that dollar forever.
I still felt great when I hit mile 23, which — as best as I could remember — was where the dirt road turns down, dropping 4000 feet into Piute Valley, over the course of eight miles or so.
The thing is, that was a wet, loose, gravelly, switchbacky descent, and I was on a bike I had not developed any descending skill on.
This was the part of the race I was scared of. And it’s where I’ll pick the story up tomorrow.