Holding Fire

07.23.2012 | 10:30 am

I had an idea for a funny post.

Then I got a call that made the idea of writing something funny impossible.

So I wrote an angry post.

Then I talked with a person I trust at work who said maybe I should hold up on publishing that angry post, because gears are in motion and maybe my angry post would stop those gears.

So I’m holding fire, for now.

But there’s still no way I could write anything funny right now. It’s been years and years since I’ve been so angry.

I’ll write again when I can. Not sure when.

PS: For those of you who follow me on Twitter, yes, it’s about this and this.


Free Verse Friday: Ode to 17mph

07.20.2012 | 7:00 am

photo-2.JPGA Note from Fatty: Today’s Free Verse Friday poem was sent in by Tim Kalafut (pictured in the center of this picture with his family).

Like, he sent it back in May. As a testament to it’s memorableness, I remembered it all the way ’til now.

It isn’t just art. It’s truth. And it’s pretty funny (because it’s true), too.

Thus, I am pleased to present the first guest Free Verse Friday submission, which is aptly titled:

Ode to 17mph
An Epic Free Form Poem (Iambic Pentameter Is Way Too Hard)
by Tim Kalafut   

I have a nifty bike
With a computer that I like.
It tracks my average speed,
And lots more data than I need.

But it seems no matter what I do
I hate to say it, but it’s true –
When I ride, I average 17 miles per hour.
(Plus or minus 0.5)

I can ride for 15 miles in the evening after work.
Or, 105 miles in a day to Fight MS!
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can take “performance enhancing pharmaceuticals.”
Or, not.
(I would fail a pee test right now in the TdF
As my #1-guard-on-the-clipper haircut combined with
Too much time in the bike helmet has resulted in
“Folliculitis of the scalp” and my wife is repulsed
By the top of my head, so the doc gave me a
Corticosteroid shampoo.
She hasn’t noticed any performance benefits.
Nor has the bike computer.)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride on fancy wheels –
$1500 super light weight climbers,
$2500 borrowed fancy aero wheels.
Or, I can ride on the $100 flexible cast iron hoops the bike came with.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can “taper” my training to prepare my body
To be in perfect condition for a given ride.
Or, I can run in a 5K race in the morning
Wherein I pull a calf muscle and limp the last 2.5 miles
And then ride 54 miles later that day.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride solo, accompanied only by my thoughts.
Or, with studly fitness types that are 15 years younger than me.
(I’m talking about you, David and Phil and Mike)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride in the drops and use the big ring.
Or, I can sit up using the hoods
(Or even rest my hands the top of the handle bar!)
And pedal along all nice and relaxed in the small ring.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can consume exotic nutritional supplements –
Like “gels” and “gus” and “power bars” and “shot blocks.”
Or, I can ride fueled only by the fat stored in my spare tire.
(Be careful of Stinger Waffles. Bike food crack.)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can stand up and attack the hills.
Or, I can sit and spin my way up in an easy gear.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can use “chamois butter.”
Or, ride dry.
(Don’t ask for an explanation if you don’t know.)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

The temperature can be in the 40’s and I’m
Wearing two pairs of gloves, shoe covers, helmet liners, tights,
And three layers on my torso.
Or, it can be in the 90’s and I’m
Wearing the thinnest jersey I can find
And dumping water down it to stay cool.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride my normal rolling terrain.
Or, I can climb 1500 feet in 4 miles,
Followed by glorious 30+ mph
Screaming downhill descents without
A single pedal stroke for that same distance.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can be 170 pounds where you can see – Hey! –
I actually have muscles in my shoulders and veins in my arms!
Or, I can be 185 pounds and look as spongy as the Pillsbury Doughboy.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can take breaks every 15-20 miles,
And even stop for lunch.? Or, I can ride 40-50 miles straight
And never unclip to touch a toe to the ground a single time.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

It can be breezy enough to turn every flag I pass into a windsock
Suitable for landing light aircraft.
Or, so hot and humid and still that my glasses fog up every time I stop.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can do “proper carb loading” a few days ahead of time,
Or, I can stuff myself with BBQ and beer the night before.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

My legs can be smoothly shaved, perfectly tanned,
And clad in the latest fashion cycling socks.
Or, my legs can be all hairy and wearing old running socks
With holes in the toes.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can pedal at a theoretically perfect 90 rpm for miles at a time
In the perfect gear for every situation.
Or, I can mash the pedals at 60 rpm in the big ring
With bursts to 110 rpm in small gears as I fade on the hills.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can set out to do a super intense,
Feel-the-burn, intervals-that-make-you-want-to-puke
Workout with a max heart rate
Fit only for an 18 year old middle distance track star.
Or, I can enjoy the scenery
And leave the heart rate strap at home,
Riding just to clear my head.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I don’t know if 17 mph is slow or fast.
Or, whether it’s good for first or last.
But if you’re out and about
And ever happen to see
Someone averaging 17 (±0.5)
Say “Hi” –
It’s probably me.

Crusher in the Tushar, Part 4: The Tale of The Hammer

07.19.2012 | 8:51 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve been showing video and writing (first this, then this) about my Crusher in the Tushar experience all week. But the thing is, from beginning of the race to the finish line, The Hammer and I never even saw each other; I honestly didn’t know what her day was like, so couldn’t really tell her part of the story. So now it’s time for her to tell what the race was like from her perspective.

In January of this year, Elden proposed we sign up for the Crusher in the Tushar.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Oh it’s just a race down in Beaver. It’s supposed to be a great Leadville prep ride. It has a lot of climbing in it.”

When I started asking more questions, I wasn’t too surprised to find that Elden didn’t know the answers. Elden does not pay very close attention to detail. This is something that I have found out the hard way over the past 2 years of marriage.

So I went to the web site and read up on the race. I found out that I could ride either a mountain bike or a cross bike, since the race would be half on pavement and half on dirt. That was an easy decision-I do not own a cross bike, so mountain bike it would be.

The race was 70 miles with about 10,000 ft of climbing. The elevation would come in two 4,500 ft climbs. The profile looked a lot like doing a double Mount Nebo loop (The Nebo Loop is a popular road bike ride in our area). The climb to the top of the loop is 24 miles with about 4,500ft of ascending. So it would be similar to climbing up one side, descending the other side and then re-climbing the side I had just descended.

Easy enough.

I put the race on our calendar to do this ride at the end of June. Since my son Blake was also training for Leadville, I went on the website and signed both of us. I then informed Blake that he had a nice prep ride/race to do a month before Leadville.

He wasn’t too enthusiastic when I told him about it. He just hasn’t been too excited about training for Leadville period. Last year he was motivated and excited to conquer Leadville. After the collarbone fiasco, he just kind of lost the excitement.

What I hadn’t realized when I signed Blake up, was that this would be Blake’s first official endurance bike race. Yes, he had done the Tour de Donut and the (deadly) Alpine City Days bike race, but nothing long and arduous like the Crusher was bound to be!

Double Nebo Ride

Double Nebo was scheduled on my calendar for June 30, but as we approached that day, the smoke in the valley was increasing — Utah has pretty much been on fire since the first of June.

On that particular morning, there was a fire burning on the South side of Nebo. We made an executive decision to ride the Cottonwood Canyons in SLC that day instead, and try and save our lungs from filling up with gunk. (the biking gods may have been warning us about Nebo ride).

The next Sunday was the perfect day for riding a double Nebo. Or at least, it was perfect for Elden and me, but Blake had been battling a horrible cold and opted to stay in bed.

The ride up the north side of Nebo was lovely, I even squeaked out one Queen of the Mountain segment for Strava. I definitely have some competition brewing on Strava lately. I think I am retiring the Strava Monster for a while because it’s messing with my brain, and making me really grumpy and exhausted . . . but that’s a different story for a different day.

The South side descent was nice and we arrived in Nephi around 8:30 in the morning. Too early for a burger and Frosty from Wendy’s, so we enjoyed a can of Coke and doughnut from the gas station and headed back up the south side of Nebo. As we were rolling along, enjoying the runup to the steep climb, there was a loud bang — as if someone was shooting at us!

I screamed and Elden came to a quick stop. His rear tire had blown. And much to our dismay, we had no tire lever to get the tire off the rim [Note from Fatty: Those of you who have tried to get a Hutchinson tubeless tire off a Shimano tubeless rim will sympathize].

So once I was able to find cell phone coverage, I called sick Blake to come rescue us. Elden and I learned a valuable lesson: to check seat packs on occasion to make sure they have the necessary materials for changing a tire.

Our south side ascent of Nebo turned into breakfast at Village Inn. My Crusher Training wasn’t going exactly how I had intended it to go!

Friday, July 13, 2012: The Day Before the Crusher

The three-hourish drive to Beaver was . . . interesting.

Two things stood out to me as we headed down I-15. The first was the weather. We had left Alpine and the weather was warm and overcast. As we headed South, the sky began to look black and ominous. Within an hour the sky opened up and the rain began to fall. It was not just a sprinkle either. The rain was pounding the windshield and the wipers could hardly keep up.

The truck kept hydroplaning over the freestanding water on the road. I was a little scared, to say the least and glad I wasn’t the one driving.

I could tell I was in trouble for the race tomorrow, too: I hadn’t really packed for a bike ride in hard rain. I had brought a rain jacket and that was all.

Thoughts of my 2000 Leadville experience kept coming back to mind.

The second thing that stood out was Blake’s anxiety level. Normally, Blake is a very mellow kid [Note from Fatty: I don't think "mellow" is the right description for blake. I'd go with "cheerfully acerbic"] that never gets his feathers ruffled.

Today he was a wreck.

He was clutching his pillow and rocking back and forth, moaning something unintelligible. I could pick out an occasional word like: “sick,” “runny nose,” “snot,” “tired,” “scared,” “race,” “rain….”

That is when I realized Blake had never participated in a big race before. My thoughts turned to my first Leadville, my first — and only — Ironman, and all the other significant races that I had done in the past. I had forgotten the utter terror that comes upon you as you approach a big race. It is further aggravated I’m sure by being sick and not putting in the training that is necessary.

I tried to make light of the situation. I told Blake to think of it as a training ride and to just have fun. I think this was (yet another) time in his life that Blake didn’t hear a word his mother was saying, or was just plain ignoring me.

The rocking back and forth and lack of something to say continued through the drive.

Saturday, July 14, 2012: The Crusher in the Tushar

We woke early and drove to McDonalds for breakfast. NOT exactly what I had in mind for a pre-race meal, but you do what you gotta do. I was hoping my egg McMuffin wouldn’t decide it was a bad idea an hour into my race!

The race was scheduled to begin at 8:00. We arrived around seven, just as the rain began to fall. I was hoping that we would make it half way up the first climb before it started raining. There is nothing worst than starting a race with a wet coat and wet shoes.

The Pro class left at 8:00, Blake left with the “barely old enough to do this race” manchild group at 8:01, Elden a few minutes later with his age group, Heather and Kenny a few minutes later in the SS division.

The ladies, of course, were slated for last.

Why do race organizers do that? Yes, we may be the slowest group, but let us go first! (Haven’t you heard of “Ladies first?”) The woman’s field consisted of only about 20 riders. It wouldn’t be hard for the men to pass us. Instead we start out at the back . . . and there we stay.

As we pulled out of town, I noticed most of the pro women had cross bikes. The first 11miles was gradual uphill on pavement. The pros led our small peloton of riders for about 7 miles. I was happy to stay at the very back of the pack and have a free ride.

At about mile 4, our group passed Heather, as she was spinning her little legs off. I am so impressed with her. She opted to ride her single speed on this course in preparation for riding it at Leadville this year. Her gearing makes it almost impossible to move at all on flat pavement! I would have been so demoralized as the women’s peloton passed. (Heather went on to do an amazing race. She finished in just over 8 hours. I thought of her frequently as I used my gears on the monstrous climbs of the day.)

At mile 7, the pro women (most on cross bikes) decided to turn on the gas. Their group left the mountain bikers like me as if we were standing still.

I had started the race with my rain jacket on. Within the first mile or so of the race, the rain stopped. That was fantastic, but it left me with a plastic bag-like jacket on while I was sweating buckets underneath it.

I eventually pulled over and took the jacket off. I also had to take the Camelbak off and put it back on, since I had made the mistake of putting the Camelbak on over the jacket. What a hassle!

In the process, I was passed by the group of mountain bikes I was riding with. But it sure felt good getting rid of the jacket and I caught all the women that had passed me by the time we left the pavement and started up the dirt.

The First Big Climb

As we started up the mud, I started chatting with a gal. She had a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve shirt on over it. I suggested she take off the long sleeve shirt and promised she would probably ride at least a mile an hour faster. She quickly refused, stating she didn’t want to lose her riding partner. “I’m afraid you’re losing your riding partner anyway,” I thought to myself, as I rode away.

I quickly came upon another woman and started visiting with her. She said she used to race, but hadn’t in a while. She said she had done Leadville twice. I asked her how fast she had done it. She said just shy of twelve hours. After I told her my time, she politely said goodbye to me, and I rode on ahead

It was during this conversation that I passed my son. He was pulled over, resting or something. He gave me a big smile and said something about it being about time that I passed him. I sure love that boy!

The next ten-plus miles just kept climbing and climbing. The road was really muddy; finding the right line kept me occupied. Around mile eighteen, I came upon a friend of mine, Conrad. He was a great “carrot.” Every time I would catch him, we would converse pleasantly and then he would pull ahead. Dang him! Eventually, he got sick of that game and let me pass. [Note from Fatty : “Let” had nothing to do with it; The Hammer finished around an hour ahead of Conrad.]

The Big Descent

After 24 miles of climbing the road started to turn down . . . and the rain started to fall. The rain was slow at first, then picked up steam as I descended.

The descent was way scary. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a horrible descender. Nervous Nelly always comes out when the road turns down! As I was gathering steam on the descent, my bike tire started fishtailing and bouncing. I was horrified that I had a flat tire. Memories of my flat tire from Leadville 2000 filled my head. I was freaking out over nothing though — my back tire was bouncing because the road was filled with washboards! There wasn’t a clean line anywhere.

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

Part of me was grateful for the jostling; it was keeping me warm. The rain was now coming down so hard I could hardly see. As I approached the pavement, I made the executive decision to put on my rain jacket. So I pulled over, took off my Camelbak, got my jacket out, put my Camelbak back on and the jacket over it.

Pounding the Pavement

As I descended the pavement, the Pro men were climbing back up the road. They looked miserable. There was a headwind blowing the hard rain into their faces. I didn’t feel too bad for them though–they were at least an hour ahead of me. Their torture would be over before mine was!

As I descended into the Junction aid station, the rain stopped and my jacket actually started drying off. Weird weather. I decided to stop at the aid station and refuel. I also needed to use the bathroom. When I asked where it was, they said they thought there might be one in the park 1/4mile back up the road, or there was one at the next aid station, seven miles away, in Circleville. “Great. I hope I can hold it,” I thought.

The volunteers were amazing. One gal anticipated and met every one of my needs. She even helped me get my Camelbak and jacket back on as she pushed me back out into the rain. Yes, the rain decided to let loose again while I was under the aid tent. It was comical how hard it was raining. I also know that those hard rains rarely last more than a few minutes, thank heavens.

As I left the aid station, I caught up with a guy and suggested we work together on this flat paved section to Circleville. He gladly accepted and we started motoring down the road. I pulled first, then when it was his turn to pull I relaxed and took a nice break, but I could tell our pace was different.

As he pulled over from his pull, he apologized and said he was probably slowing me down. I disagreed — I was grateful for the pull and the company. Eventually we did catch up to another set of riders who were a little faster…or they became a little faster when a girl jumped to the front of their train and started pulling them!

They responded nicely and we flew into Circleville. They didn’t stop at the aid station and I wasn’t about to lose my train, so the bathroom would have to wait.

Not far from Circleville, the pavement turned to mud/dirt and our train disintegrated. I found myself riding by myself, occasionally passing someone. I even thought I saw Elden in front of me, but it was a mirage — just a guy who was standing and climbing like Elden does. That’s when I realized that Elden must be hating his bike and this race! There is no way he could stand and climb on that cross bike and those skinny tires! I was hoping that wasn’t the case and that he was having a banner day.

The dirt turned to pavement and I started up the back side of the climb that I had recently descended. It was cool, I could see some distance in front of me and I could see a steady line of riders on the road. I made it my goal to catch each of the riders ahead of me. It was a very fun game!

The KOM Climb

As I started the KOM ascent (a five-mile segment of the race they distinguish as the KOM because its wicked-steep, washboardy and miserable), I passed Ryan, one of Elden’s biking friends. Ryan was the only biker thus far who had passed me this day while I was riding, and that was on the descent about an hour earlier. (Plenty of people passed me while I was taking off my jacket/putting my jacket on, or at aid stations–that is the benefit of starting in the last group.) So there was a little moment of pleasure as we exchanged greetings.

The KOM climb was miserable. I was amazed at how many people were walking! That gave me all the more motivation not to get off my bike! As I took the last swig of water from my Camelbak, I rounded the corner and I was at the top of the climb! Hallelujah! A volunteer helped fill my Camelbak with yummy cold spring water and I was off and rolling again.

[A Note from Fatty: The Hammer doesn't adequately describe how she really killed this section and in fact currently holds the QOM on Strava for it. She did this part of the race five full minutes faster than I did.]

Finish Line!

The last 10-15miles were horrible for me. I was exhausted and couldn’t see how I was going to make it another ten miles.

I rode along with a guy for a while who was an amazing complainer. I think he and Blake could be in competition for the world’s biggest complainer. His complaining made me feel better about my situation because I don’t think I was feeling as bad as he was. He eventually pulled ahead of me, and I started complaining to myself about letting someone pass me!

Eventually I arrived at the top of the dirt climb and I roared down the paved descent. I knew the joy wouldn’t last long because the pavement made an abrupt turn and started ascending again.

The brutal last one mile had 450 ft of climbing. I was pooped. I didn’t have the strength to stand and ride and my legs were too tired to sit and turn. So I made the decision and switched to my small ring. I had almost completed the race without using my granny gear!

Crossing the finish line was magnificent.

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

The feeling of accomplishment was huge! Too bad Elden was off in the restroom changing and didn’t get to experience it with me.

The Wait

Two long hours passed before we saw the orange jersey of Team Fatty coming up the road.


I was overjoyed to see Blake!


Blake had finished the race with 20 minutes to spare. He was very muddy:


More importantly, he had a huge smile on his face and a story of his own to tell. (which included a funny yellow rain poncho!)


Congrats, Blake, on finishing your first endurance event! Your mom is very proud of you!

Crusher in the Tushar, Part 3

07.18.2012 | 6:46 am

A “This Post Makes More Sense in Context” Note from Fatty: If you haven’t been to this site this week, you may want to back up a little bit. I’m right in the middle of my writeup of the race I did last weekend, The Crusher in The Tushar. Part 1 has my video recap. Part 2 is my writeup of the first 23 or so miles of the race.

The enormity and freakishness of the descent down into Piute Valley — 4000 feet of elevation loss in eight miles — didn’t hit me all at once, because it doesn’t start by dumping you over the side of a cliff.

No. That comes later.

Instead, the descent starts easy. And fun. and smooth. And straight.

It’s only after it’s lulled you into a false sense of well-being and descending accomplishment that it starts hucking ridiculous hairpins riddled with gravel and boulderettes (i.e., very small boulders) at you, with a side of terminal exposure. Just for fun.

But none of that matters. All of that stuff is normal. What really gets you — especially if you’re riding a bike with hard, skinny tires and an aluminum fork — are the washboards.

Miles and miles of washboards.

And miles.

I would wander from side to side of the road, looking for any line I could that didn’t have washboards, or at least not as extreme of washboards.

I tried descending faster, thinking that eventually I’d start skimming along the top of the washboards and things would smooth out. And this was maybe even theoretically possible, but it must happen at a speed greater than I was ever willing to go.

That’s my problem: I’m not willing to commit to suicidal speeds.

But you know, it could have been worse. It could have been raining hard as I descended (it wasnt raining at all when I descended), and I could have been wearing a bright yellow trash bag balloon / parachute.

Like the IT Guy was:

00628-01-1875 - Version 2.jpg
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

By the way, everyone who ever sees this photo: is this not the best, most awesome photo that has ever been taken in the history of the universe?

I submit that it is.

Eventually, I found someone whose line I could follow, and I just settled in behind her: Tammy Jacques, who races for Honey Stinger and would eventually finish second in Women’s Pro.

Even more eventually, I got to pavement. Never ever ever in my life have I been so glad to be done with a descent.

I considered that really, almost all of the rest of the day would be climbing, and how peculiar it was that I was grateful for that prospect.

Which means, obviously, that I need to get better at riding this bike before next year.

A Train, Derailed

I rolled through the next aid station, now 31 miles into this race, and having not yet needed to stop for anything. As I did, I looked back and made what I consider to be the very first smart strategic move I have ever made in a race.

Specifically, I saw a guy about 50 feet behind me, and I slowed to let him catch me.

Yes, believe it or not, in spite of all my instincts, I slowed down and let a guy catch me.

We then commenced to take turns pulling. And as luck turned out, I had joined forces with a guy who was a fantastic rider to work with. We began picking up more and more riders, ’til our train was six (or more) people strong. Hammering along the pavement at a fast-feeling 20-22mph.

We flew by Kenny, who, no matter his biggish singlespeed gear, was never going to be able to hang with us. “Aren’t you Kenny, that guy from the FatCyclist.com blog?” I asked as I went by.

And then, during one of my turns pulling, I noticed that my speed was dropping. Was it because we were climbing?


Was I tiring?

No. I felt fine.

And then I felt the rear of my bike, sloppily moving side to side with each push of my pedals.

My stomach sank, knowing what this sensation meant, but I looked down to confirm right as someone from me called out:

“Guy in front, you’ve gone flat. It’s been coming on for a while.”

I pulled over and hopped off my bike. The tire wasn’t completely flat — just mostly. I assumed — rightly, I think — that the seal I had been worrying about before the start of the race had slowly leaked.

But it had taken literally half the distance of the race — right around 35 miles — for it to happen.

Maybe — just maybe — I thought, I could just put some CO2 into the tire and I’d be OK for the second 35 miles, long enough to get me across the finish line. Or even if I had to stop one more time, that would be OK, too.

Suddenly, I was really glad I had brought along a total of five CO2 cartridges.

I dug out a cartridge, then dug out the threaded adapter. As I did, Kenny rode by. “You OK?” he asked.

“Yep, just working on a flat,” I called back.

I Stop Racing Before The Race Ends

A few minutes and one spent cartridge later, I was back in business. But this time, I was on my own.

Then the road turned right and we were back on dirt. And then it began to rain.

I pedaled on, doing my best to make up for the time I had lost putting air in a tire.

The road turned uphill — one of those tricky uphills where it doesn’t look very uphill so you’re wondering why you’re going so slow — and loose.

A woman racer caught me and said, as she latched onto my wheel, “Wow. You are so fat.”

“I know,” I said, sadly. “But I’m trying to get better.”

Then, a minute later, I felt a now-familiar squashy feeling coming from the rear of my bike. “Is my rear tire flat?” I asked the racer behind me, not wanting to look down and confirm what I feared.

“I’m afraid so,” she said.

Clearly, my tire wasn’t going to just go and politely hold air for me for another 33 miles. Wonderful.

It was time to put a tube in.

Time stretches on in a strange way when you’re fixing a flat during a race. People ride by constantly, asking — politely and sincerely — whether you need any help. As you reply in the negative, you’re thinking — each and every time — “There goes another person ahead of me. And another. And another.”

Meanwhile, for the same reason it’s hard to type when someone’s looking over your shoulder, you find you are doubleplus clumsy. Instead of the change taking five or seven minutes, it takes thirty.

OK, maybe it only feels like thirty minutes.

In any case, I made mistakes — like threading the adapter onto a CO2 cartridge that was already spent. And taking forever to get the tire bead seated on the rim, chasing it round and round the wheel five or six times.

The Benny Hill theme played in my head.

Finally — finally — I got the tube in, the tire on, the air in, and the wheel seated. I swung a leg over the bike and got to riding again.

But I found that I was no longer racing.

Oh sure, I was still racing in the abstract. I was even riding hard, but not at my “I’m incoherent and just barely not barfing” limit. Since my goal to finish as fast as my legs would take me was no longer possible, I was going to have to settle with just . . . finishing.

But in a race like The Crusher, that’s still no small thing.

Hard Climb, Made Harder

I stopped at an aid station to refill my bottles, and was served by a kid who made it his personal mission to get me everything I needed, in record time. I just handed him my bottles and he ran — literally ran — to fill them up, while I stood at the food table and ate approximately half a watermelon.

Then I got back on my bike and began the second — and last — climb of the day.

A climb that would go on for pretty much ever. Or at least enough that the climbing total for the day would be right around 10,000 feet.

For me, though, the problem wasn’t really the amount of climbing. I had that in me; I’ve done that amount of climbing lots of times. It wasn’t even the steepness of the climb. OK, that’s a lie. The steepness of the climb forced many riders I could see off their bikes, and the only reason I stayed on was sheer stubbornness.

And riding was faster than walking up that steep mountain. I’d pass people walking. Eventually. And slowly.

But the real problem for me was that with the skinny tires and loose road surface, I just couldn’t stand to climb. And lately — thanks to a ton of singlespeed mountain biking — I have become a real standing climber.

So I’d stand to power up a steep section. Then I’d spin out and sit down. Then I’d pedal. Then I’d reflexively stand to power up the next steep section.

This went on endlessly. So endlessly, in fact, that it’s still going on. I’m actually still out there, repeating this stand-spin-sit cycle right this very second.

Please rescue me.

A Better Choice

Once I hit the KOM mark — which meant very little to me, since I was nowhere even near the zip code of winning the KOM at this race — I figured the climbing would settle down a little. And to my immense relief, it did. There would be sections of hard climbing, followed by sections of easy climbing. And even — huzzah! — the occasional burst of downhill.

Oh, and there was one last aid station. I rolled through, accepting a water bottle. But then, as I continued on, I saw my error: I could have taken a full can of Coke instead.

I dropped the water bottle as if it were full of a lukewarm sports drink I didn’t care for much in the first place and had come to actively dislike during the course of the day. Which is an amazingly accurate metaphor, by the way. And may even be a demonstration of the reflexive property, although my recollection of college logic classes is pretty hazy at this point.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Dropping the bottle.

Now with a free hand, I took the Coke and sucked it down with such alacrity that the aluminum can crumpled even as I drank it.

What is it about Coke that makes it such a magnificent drink during a massive ride? I mean, apart from the fact that it’s cold, wet, sugary, caffeinated and delicious?

Drama at the End of the Dirt Road

Just as I got near the end of the last dirt section (which leads to the final four miles of the race: climbing on pavement), I was very nearly taken out. By a bottle. Somehow it knew where I was and rolled toward me at exactly the perfect pace to come under my front wheel (you can see it happen beginning at 3:14 in my video recap).

In my mind’s eye, I could picture what was going to happen: I’d hit the bottle. It would roll under my front wheel and make it slide out to the right. And I’d go down at 30mph (my estimated current speed).

I hit the bottle. The lid popped off and the battle squashed beneath me. I continued on without further incident.

So I guess I just put that in this story for a little extra bogus drama or something. Sorry.

At the Finish Line

The final mile of the race is a brute. 450 feet of climbing in a mile. That’s steep. Especially when you consider that I was already quite tired from my day of racing / riding.

I could see four or five people ahead of me. Thinking that maybe I could try to finish with a bit of panache (because I am all about panache), I stood up and started passing them.

And then the announcer started shouting to all the other racers that there was a guy passing them at the finish line, and were they going to let them do that?

Well I kind of hoped they were.

But one guy — the last guy I had to pass (you can see this happening on my video recap beginning at 3:22) stood up and denied me my final pass.

Which left me disappointed for almost another whole second.

And then I asked the volunteer whose job it was to make sure I didn’t keel over if I could possibly have a Coke.

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

Best moment of the day, right there.

My finish time: 6:28

After my Race

I went and found my drop bag and got changed, moving as quickly as I could, because I didn’t want to miss The Hammer’s finish, and I had no idea how soon that would be. Based on previous races we’ve both done, I figured I had at least half an hour, though.

But that was before The Hammer well and truly became The Hammer.

She finished nine minutes after me. Nine. That’s it.

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

But that’s her story to tell (which, by the way, she will do tomorrow).

We then hung around for Heather’s finish, as the first and only woman single speeder:


Behind her, you can see Kenny trying to run alongside her, and I would like to point out that watching Kenny try to run is perhaps exactly at the opposite end of the spectrum of awesomeness that seeing him ride is on.

Here he is after she dropped him and he gave up running:


Then we waited for Blake to finish, but I’m going to leave that part alone for now, because The Hammer tells that part of the story much better than I do.

Even More After The Race

The Crusher in the Tushar provides dinner a short (and, mercifully, exclusively downhill) bike ride away, at the Eagle Point ski resort lodge. I believe I ate enough to completely negate my calorie expenditure for the day.

And then there’s the shuttle ride, taking you back from the resort to resort to the starting line. Unfortunately, the shuttle runs on a 90 minute schedule, which meant a pretty long wait, by the end of which I was hungry again.

Oh, and there’s no separate space on the shuttle for bikes, so the dozen or so of us on the shuttle had to stand our bikes up, hug ‘em tight, and hope like mad that we didn’t wreck:


The whole way down, everyone joked, told stories, and laughed about the day. It was the best shuttle ride ever.

Way Before The Race

After every race, there’s a question, one you aren’t sure you should be answering yet, but can’t help asking:

Will I do this race again next year?

The answer, for me, is pretty easy in this case: Yes.

But better.

2012 Crusher in the Tushar, Part 2

07.17.2012 | 10:32 am

2012_T6_FatCyclistv8_B.jpgA “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.

So don’t be that guy. Instead, check out what I’ve got for sale, and then make your order today. OK?

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:

  1. A giant climb
  2. A giant, brutalizing descent
  3. A giant climb
  4. 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:

IMG_5283 - Version 2.PNG

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.

Rolling Along

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.

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