Free Verse Friday: Cacophony

08.10.2012 | 7:35 am

201208100733.jpgA Note from Fatty: The important part of today’s poem is that I will be on Leverage this Sunday. By all means, please check your listings to see what time, and then do your best to open read along as I liveblog seeing it at 8:00pm ET / 6:00pm MT this Sunday.

My head will not quiet
My thoughts are
Too many
Too much
Is it any wonder
I did not sleep?

Tomorrow I race
A race I have done
fifteen times before
Or perhaps 14.2
Would be
More accurate
In any case
A lot

So why am I anxious?
Why does my head churn?
Why do I find myself
betimes bolting    
For the nearest bathroom?
It’s a stupid question
(For really, the above are all the same question,
Differently phrased.)

Because I don’t know
How fit I am
How fast I am
How prepared I am
Or what I have forgotten
Which is completely
And that’s just for starters

I am in pain
And not just the anxious
Hand-wringing kind
My pain isn’t just metaphorical
To wit
Several days ago
My right calf became majorly bruised
And it still hurts
And yesterday
When innocently lifting a suitcase
Something went “spung” in my back
This has not happened before!
And now my back hurts
A lot
Which could be a problem
When riding my singlespeed
And standing
And climbing
And basically using my back
To race one hundred miles
My brain roils
My stomach queases
(For now, let us treat “quease” as the verbal form of “queasy.”)

And then!
After this race
I start another race
The Breck Epic
Which goes for six days
That is
By my count
Seven straight days
Of mountain biking
Which is quite a bit
My stomach churns  

And is that all?
No it is not all
For Sunday
This very Sunday
I will be on television
I will be playing a (very) bit role
In the hit television series
So check your listings
And if you’re watching it
when it plays 6pm Mountain Time
Which is 8pm Eastern Time
Maybe read my blog
While you watch this show
For I intend to Liveblog it

And now I must dash
For the restroom
Yet again

Thank you.


In the Back

08.8.2012 | 10:10 am

A Note from Fatty: I wanted to update you on where things stand with Cigna and my son. A couple weeks ago, I wrote that they had declined coverage on the program he’s attending to help him overcome the debilitating depression he’s been fighting ever since Susan’s cancer came back.

Well, we escalated it through all the appeal levels there are available. Cigna said “no.” Each time.

So last week, my HR Representative at work asked for an independent review. Those take a little while, during which I continued to send my son to this program. I figured I’d pay for this, somehow. He’s improving; the program’s worth it.

On Friday, I was actually visiting with a counsellor at this program when the finance guy burst in.

“I have ridiculously good news,” he said. “The independent review sided with us. Cigna has to pay for the treatment, up to today. And that decision is final and binding.”

I was so relieved. But of course, that meant that the battle was just going to start again, starting the next workday.

And then, yesterday, I heard that Cigna had approved — this time without the reviews and appeals — another week of this program.

I’m sure that at some point — sooner than later, I’d guess — I’ll have to ramp up the battle again. And no matter what, this is going to be expensive for me; even with Cigna covering, my portion of the program still comes out to be about the same as an extra house payment each month.

But it’s still true: for now, we’re covered. Which is really great news.

So I’d like to give a big shout-out to someone I’m almost certain doesn’t read my blog: Keisha S, the incredible HR Rep at Gartner, where I work. She doesn’t know me (or didn’t ’til now), but took on my problem as if I were her brother.

I tell you. So many people have gone out of their way to do good things for me. I am a fortunate person.

Today, I am packing.

I am piling up pretty much every cycling-related item I own, and putting it in a truck. Tomorrow I’m driving to Leadville, getting ready for my sixteenth annual racing of the Leadville Trail 100 (Here’s last year’s race report, in case you’ve somehow missed my 1.5-decade-long obsession with this race).

I love this race. I dread this race. The course. The effort. The tradition. The annual wrestling match with my demons. The people.

More than anything, the people.

It’s the people who make any cycling event good. And somehow, it seems like big races and events bring out the best in everyone. As if during the course of the ride, by pushing all your anger and aggression into your pedals, you end the ride with nothing but the good parts.

Facing the Unknown

As the race gets closer, I’ll be nervous. I’ll lose sleep. I’ll fret and second-guess myself. I’ll ask myself, a thousand times, whether I’m in good enough shape to finish the Leadville 100 on a singlespeed in under nine hours.

But I’m not worried about whether I’ll finish. Sure, something could happen: I could crash out (it’s happened). I could have a catastrophic mechanical (it’s nearly happened). But I know my fitness and the course well enough that I am pretty sure I’ll get across the finish line before the twelve-hour gun goes off.

But not everyone knows that about themselves.

There are people who, right now, know the cutoff times are at the various aid stations, and are worrying about those times much, much more than I’m worrying about that magical nine hour mark.

There are people who are thinking about the twelve-hour official finishing time. There are people who are thinking about the thirteen-hour semi-official finishing time, after which officials begin sweeping the course.

Those people are a lot more stressed about this race than I am.

But they’re still showing up. And they’re contesting this race. Even though they don’t know whether they can finish it, they are still going to give it everything they have, in a bid to stretch themselves and find out what they can do.

There’s a remarkable, admirable courage in that.


In any big race, everyone suffers. And there’s a certain temptation to see egalitarianism in the suffering: everyone’s suffering over the same distance.

But that’s deceptive.

You don’t suffer over distance. You suffer over time, multiplied by effort. And everyone’s trying hard.

So by my math, the folks in the back are suffering more. Way more.

But they’re doing it. They’re accepting that they have to work harder and pay a greater price to get across the finish line. And they do.

As far as I’m concerned: the greater the battle, the more heroic the return. I love watching racers come in across the finish line — totally ruined, but simultaneously totally triumphant.

The Nature of the Course

Leadville is an out-and-back course. You ride out 51 miles, and then ride back 52. Or something like that.

What this means is that as you get near the turnaround point — which is also the highest point in the course (12,600 feet) — you get to see the people ahead of you coming back down the trail.

When I first started racing the Leadville 100 — back when just a few hundred raced it — there was an awesome tradition in place. Those returning from the turnaround would cheer for those still marching up to the turnaround.

As the race has gotten bigger, not as many people do it anymore. That’s too bad. If I can — if I have the lungs and am not in mortal peril because I’m going faster than I should — I’m going to yell for the folks marching up as I come down.

Because they deserve it, for one thing. And because I love it whenever I get a cheer from a stranger. It makes a difference.


I’m pointing all this out not just because I want to give kudos to the guys in the back — although that’s part of it. I’m also writing this to myself.

Because the day after I completely give everything I’ve got trying to get under nine hours in Leadville, The Hammer and I will be starting the Breck Epic — six days of mountain bike racing.

And honestly, it’s going to be a stretch to get across the finish line in time.

I’m going to be one of the guys at the back. I’m going to be one of the guys who’s suffering more than the people who finished hours earlier. I’m going to be one of the guys who is going to be happy just to get across the finish line.

And I have a suspicion that if I can do it, I’m going to be incredibly proud to be one of those guys.

Absolute Beginner

08.7.2012 | 12:24 pm

I am not a very competitive person. Not really. Oh, sure, I like to participate in the occasional race. And when I do, I can’t sleep for about three weeks before that race. And I tend to get obsessed with that race.

And then I look for every possible advantage I can get in the race.

And on race day, I pretty much kill myself trying to attack and destroy every person I can in the race.

But other than that, I’m not really a very competitive person.

Which leads us to the Life Time Fitness Leadman Tri I’ll be racing in as part of a relay this September. Yeah, that’s the one where I have an open bet with anyone who thinks they can beat my time on the bike section of the race (click here for more details on how you can enter). And if you do, you get this t-shirt:


Sure, in a way that’s like getting a t-shirt that says “Taller than HervĂ© Villechaize,” but still: they’re cool-looking t-shirts.

And I really don’t want very many people to own them.

So I contacted Chris at Specialized, and told him all about the poem I wrote about my Stumpy SS, and how I love that bike so much, and how I was going to be doing the bike part of this triathlon soon and that the only non-mountain bike I have is a straight-up regular road bike, and how I really didn’t want to give away a whole bunch of t-shirts.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Chris said.

And so yesterday, I got this box:


And inside that box was this bike:

(Tomatoes and zucchini not included)

Yes, I am now in possession of one Specialized Shiv Expert, a Tri-specific (as in, it totally gives the bird to the UCI and its rules) aerodynamic freak of engineering.

How excited am I? Oh, I’d rate it up there in the “stratospherically ridiculously excited” zone, I think.

So excited, in fact, that I ignored the fact that I have a ton of things I need to do right now and built up the bike (that makes it sound like I actually assembled the bike, but really all I had to do was put the wheels on, attach the bars, put some pedals on and plug in the seatpost). Then I ignored that I’m supposed to be tapering right now and got on the bike, riding thirty hard miles.

On a type of bike I’ve never ridden before, in a brand-new position.

Hey, it’s a new bike. You would have done the exact same thing.

What It’s Like to Ride the Shiv

I admit, I was afraid to ride this bike for the first time. You see, I love watch how incredibly fast an accomplished cyclist can be on a purpose-built machine like this. Love it.

And I knew, deep within my heart — and head — that I would not look or ride like one of those fast guys. Not on my first ride.

I knew, basically, that I was deeply unworthy of this bike. It is built for the expert- and pro-level rider who’s needing to eek out a couple of extra seconds to get on the podium. Whereas I am a complete and utter novice with no form and no idea what I’m doing.

But that certainly wasn’t going to stop me from trying.

The first thing I noticed when riding the Shiv is that nothing is where I expected it to be, and how disconcerting that can be at first. I really hadn’t considered how reflexive the motions to shift and brake are. Or how my hands want to go to the — now nonexistent — hoods.

I’ll learn all of that again. Eventually.

The next thing that I noticed was that as I dropped into the TT position, how awesome it immediately felt.

Honestly, I was sure it was going to feel swervy and out of control and ridiculous. But it wasn’t like that. Instead, I found that when I got into that tuck (not as low as I wanted; I’ll be tweaking the bar height down quite a bit), I just wanted to go.

When I needed to shift, I just flipped the index shifters.

When I needed a drink, I just grabbed the tube (which is otherwise connected to my bar extensions with a magnet) that goes into the drinking system that’s actually integrated into the down tube.


For those of you who geek out the way I do over stuff like this, here’s the bladder that gets stuffed into the down tube:


It’s called the “Fuelselage” system. Clever.

And in general, I’m just hauling, and feeling really fast, knowing that I shouldn’t be going this hard so soon before a race, but you know that this isn’t a bike for dawdling. And so I keep hammering away, my back as low and flat as I can make it be without my knees crushing into my stomach.

In my mind, I am a bolt of lightning.

And since I had the foresight to not bring a bike computer, there’s no way this sense can be disproved. Yet.

This feeling of unstoppable speed continued . . . ’til I needed to slow down.

And that’s when I had my moment of terror. I needed to slow down! Now! But there were no brakes! WHY DOESN’T THIS BIKE HAVE ANY BRAKES?

Oh. There they are. Everything’s OK now. But how do I shift?

Clearly, I still have some acclimating to do.

Which, unfortunately, is going to have to wait ’til I get back from the Leadville 100 and Breck Epic. Which I should probably start packing for, since I’m leaving tomorrow.

But first I think I’ll go take the Shiv out for one more ride.

PS: There were actually two boxes that arrived yesterday. This is what came in the other one:


I think I’ll wear it during the Leadville 100. It’ll go awesome with my skinsuit.

Off to Camp Kesem!

08.6.2012 | 5:40 am

IMG_5348.JPGI have just a few minutes to post, because I’ve got to get the twins in the car and get on the road. We’ve got a four-hour drive ahead of us. They don’t mind, though; the day they’ve been marking on the calendar for about three months is finally here: they’re off to Camp Kesem.

If you don’t know — or don’t remember — what Camp Kesem is, it’s an awesome organization that puts on camps across the U.S., for kids who have parents who’ve had (or currently have) cancer. These kids generally have missed out on some of the fun things other kids get to do, because cancer has a way of pushing everything else off center stage.

Camp Kesem evens the score a bit.

And I’m really, really proud that, through LiveStrong, the 100 Miles of Nowhere this year raised $34,000 for Camp Kesem. That money helped launch the Southern Utah Camp Kesem — which is where the twins are heading to, and it will help pay for many, many more kids across the US as they get a chance to have a fantastic weekend.

I’ll be excited to have them guest-post their experiences when they get back.

In Other News, I am Aging Very Rapidly

A couple of years ago, I did a post called, “I Consider Myself to be Very Young Looking,” in which I reported on the fact that I had been to an amusement park and paid $3.00 to have a teenager in a booth guess my age.

At the time, I was 44. She guessed 45, which was just a year off, so I got no prize.

Well, I’m pleased to report that — as a scientist with insatiable curiosity — I did a follow-up on this experiment yesterday, when I happened to be with the family at the same amusement park and went to the same booth, and paid a teenager (a different one, I think) to guess my age.

she guessed 54.

But at least I got to pick out a prize this time.


(The prize was the hat.)

Oooooh, a Guessing Game

Today, a large box should be arriving in the mail. The box likely has a large red “S” on it, and has something to do with this post.

Anyone want to guess what it is?


08.2.2012 | 12:18 pm

In just over a week, The Hammer and I will start seven consecutive days of racing: On Saturday we’ll race the Leadville 100, and then on Sunday – Friday, we’ll be racing the Breck Epic.

There are going to be lots of stories to tell. And, with any luck, there will be lots of video to share.

Because I am all equipped to do some serious videographing (“videographing” is a technical term that means “using a videograph”).

And right now I’m starting to learn how to use all this gear and set it up properly and stuff. I’m going to go into all that in just a minute, but in the interest of not burying the headline too deeply, I’ve created a video using footage from the ride The Hammer, The IT Guy, and I went on last Saturday, and I’m going to show it to you in just a second.

As you watch, note the main thing that’s different from other videos I’ve made: I now am set up to film both what’s in front of me, and what’s behind me.

Also, as you watch, allow me to recommend you expand the video to fill your whole screen by clicking that Expandifying gadget in the video (it’s between the “HD” and “Vimeo”). It looks better big, and the text isn’t quite so microscopic. Or just go to the Vimeo page for this video, which shows the video nice and big.

OK, here’s the video, finally.

So, before I say anything else, I probably ought to apologize or something for using My Chemical Romance in two consecutive videos I’ve created. I can’t help myself; I love that wacky band. Plus, this is an awesome climbing song. And not half bad for dancing (I am an excellent dancer, by the way).

And now I want to show you what I’m using to do my videos.


First of all, I’m using the GoPro HD Hero2 I talked about first when I was racing the Crusher in the Tushar. Instead of mounting it below the handlebars this time, though, I’ve got it facing backward, showing what’s happening behind me. The camera’s mounted right under the saddle, like this:


The good folks at K-Edge were kind enough to provide me with this saddle-rail mount, which went on really easily (loosen, then tighten, two bolts) and then held the camera in a rock-steady position for the entire ride.

As before, I set up the GoPro so that it’s filming upside-down (since the camera is hanging upside-down with this kind of mount), and have it set for one-button filming, so that when I press the plunger on the front of the camera, it both turns the camera on and begins filming. Pressing and holding it down again stops filming and turns the camera off.

I really liked the camera set up this way. I had no problem reaching around back and starting / stopping the camera, though the beeps — which let you know the camera’s starting up or shutting down — are quiet enough that I often couldn’t hear them when I was rolling.

That may just be a “deaf old man” problem, though.

The other thing I liked about this setup is how good the video came out. Really smooth and interesting to watch. And now that I’m confident I won’t fill up the memory card before the battery runs out I’ve swapped the camera to its highest resolution, resulting in better-looking video in general.

I’m becoming a big fan of the GoPro camera, not to mention the K-Edge mounts.

Replay 1080XD

After carrying the original VIO POV camera mounted to my head (a lipstick lens attached to a heavy semi-flexible cable that goes to a big ol’ brick of a recording unit that goes in your jersey pocket or Camelbak), I knew that the next helmetcam to go on my . . . um . . . helmet would have to be very light, or I just wouldn’t use it. A heavy helmet makes for an unhappy head.

And that’s where the Replay XD1080 comes in. Check it out:


yup, that’s the whole thing. The lens, battery, memory card, buttons, everything, fit into this little tube. Mounted on a helmet, it’s about the least obtrusive camera you could have.

And you still get high-def video out of it.

It’s a relatively-easy two-step process to start filming: Press the power button (the red one at the front) to turn it on, then press the record button (the red one at the back) to start recording. The ReplayXD uses a buzzer to give you feedback, which is awesome, because you can feel it right through your helmet regardless of the noise level around you — much more noticeable than beeps.

The Replay XD1080 does have a couple of shortcomings I’ve noticed. First, the battery doesn’t last very long. Even though I was conscientious about powering down when not recording, the camera still didn’t make it through the ride (meanwhile the GoPro kept recording). And — judge for yourself here — the video quality (ReplayXD is pointing forward; GoPro is pointing backward) doesn’t seem as clear, even though both were set to record at the same resolution (1080 lines, 30 frames per second).

And I’ve still got some work to do to get the mounting position right; I’m often capturing a lot of sky when filming. That’ll come with a little bit of tweaking.

When Will I Film?

Am I going to use both cameras at Leadville and the Breck Epic? Well, probably not for Leadville. I’ve got a serious plan to race like a serious person and see if I can get myself across the finish line on a singlespeed in under nine hours. So I probably won’t be wanting the extra weight (yes, I’m that much of a weight weenie when I race!), and won’t be in the mindset of recording video anyway.

But for the Breck Epic, well, yeah. The Hammer and I just want to get ourselves across the finish line for that race, and it’s an unknown quantity anyway. We’re going there to have an adventure and bring back stories.

And, I guarantee, no small amount of video.

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