A What’s-Next-for-Fatty Note from Fatty: A week from Saturday, I’ll be racing in the singlespeed division in the Draper Fall Classic 50, a two-loop, all-singletrack fifty-mile mountain bike race in my favorite backyard trail network, Corner Canyon. You should come race it too. And if 50 miles doesn’t sound like your kind of distance, there’s a 25-mile, 1-loop option.
$5 of every entry goes to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, and all proceeds from the post-race raffle will go to the foundation as well. So this is a race with both its heart and its wallet in the right place. If you’re even reasonably local, you ought to come race it with me.
A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: This is part 3 in my telling of this year’s Park City Point 2 Point race, a (normally) 78-mile, 14K-of-climbing MTB race, almost entirely on singletrack. Click here to read part 1. And click here for part 2.
Before we get rolling with today’s story, I’d like to point out something that I’ve just noticed about myself that really bothers me:
When racing, I apparently never close my mouth. Not even for a second. Observe the following four photos, all taken by the good folks at Zazoosh:
You must believe that I am not cherry-picking here. And you must also believe that I find it a little bit disturbing that I am apparantly perpetually slack-jawed when I race.
I mean, just think about how much mud — and how many bugs — I must’ve swallowed during that race.
Thank you for your indulgence. Now on with the story of what happened after I crossed the finish line at the Park City Point 2 Point.
As soon as I finished the Park City Point 2 Point, I parked my bike in a convenient place, and then parked myself in a different convenient place: specifically, under the Vitamin Water canopy. Since it was raining at the moment, this solved one problem.
I then proceeded to make myself at home, drinking all their product and sitting in one of their chairs.
It didn’t even occur to me to ask if this was OK by them. I was thirsty, I needed a place to sit; here was a chair and stuff to drink.
And then it started to rain harder. And by “harder,” I mean “really really hard.”
Now, normally, this kind of intense rain, shortly after I finished the race, would have made me chortle with malicious glee, for there’s nothing I like more than other people’s suffering. It’s the main reason I race, really.
But in this case, in addition to all the people I was happy to have soaking and freezing and possibly electrocuted, The Hammer was out there.
I confess: I began to fret.
“My wife’s out there in that rain,” I said to one of the twenty-something-girls whose job it was to give out Vitamin Water to racers after they finish. I said this worriedly, but also to let her know that I’m taken, and that if she was looking to get her hands on a stinky, muddy, middle-aged, balding, paunchy cyclist, she should look elsewhere.
“Well what are you doing here?” She replied. “Go out and save her!”
Chastened, I left the tent. Not to save The Hammer — because there was no way I was getting back on my bike and heading up that mountain — but to go change into some dry clothes I had cleverly put in a drop bag and were thus now waiting for me at the finish line.
By the time I returned, the rain had stopped and it was sunny.
I Enjoy A Moment In the Sun
As a beloved and award-winning cycling celebrity, it’s pretty rare that I have nothing to do but stand around and do nothing. So the fact that I got to just lean against the fence at the finishers’ chute for a while, watching racers come in, was a real pleasure for me.
I paid attention to finishers’ faces, and the wide variety of expressions they showed as they approached and crossed the line. Exhaustion. Intensity. Relief. Happiness.
Hanging out at finish lines is awesome.
And then it got even awesomer, because one of the nicest people in the whole world — Kanyon Kris –showed up. “Were you racing or crewing for someone?” I asked.
“Nope, just here to watch the race, Kris said. And then he opened up his ice chest and gave me a cold Coke.
Have I ever mentioned that Kanyon Kris is one of the nicest people in the whole world?
So Kris and I stood there and talked, while watching racers finish. Meanwhile, Joaquim — the owner of Zazoosh — took photos of finishers. I asked him to capture me in a heroic pose. He obliged:
As you can see, I am looking fearlessly into the future. And enjoying a Coke.
Then, just when things couldn’t get any better, I saw someone carrying around what looked to be finishers’ stats. Curious as to what my actual finishing time was (remember, I had forgotten to start my GPS at the beginning of the race), I sashayed on over.
Yes, I sashayed; I’ve been developing this walking technique for quite some time. Next time you see me, ask to see it; it’s something to behold.
I asked to see the “midlife crisis” category, and there I was: third.
I had taken third.
I suppressed a whoop, but believe that I may have let a yip escape. This was not the right kind of behavior for someone who has recently sashayed, but I was giddy from excitement and quickly forgave myself.
Oh Good, a MEETING!
Before long, Kenny came down the chute. He hadn’t had a great day: three flats and a bonk. I expressed sympathy, while silently rejoicing over my very intelligent decision to not ride a singlespeed. I tell you, racing the PCP2P with gears is barely half as hard as doing it on a single.
Hence, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to never race the PCP2P on a singlespeed ever again.
Kris — who I would like to go on record as stating is one of the nicest people in the world — volunteered to drive Kenny to go get his van, which was parked ten miles or so away.
I resumed my vigil at the finish line, getting more and more excited and anxious for The Hammer to cross the finish line. There had been word that there was bad weather — rain, hail, and lightning — up on the course, and they were pulling people off the course at the last aid station.
Did The Hammer get through the aid station? Was she out there in the hail and rain right now? Was she OK?
Then, over the PA, the race director said there was a racers’ meeting for the men who are desperately trying to hold on to their youth (i.e., 40-49).
Tired of sashaying, I simply walked over.
There, a person I had never met and who did not introduce himself — but looked like he was probably another one of the midlife crisis racers — told me that there was no way I was faster than him and that I therefore must have cut the course, and that he would like to validate his assertion by inspecting my GPS.
As you might expect, this did not immediately put me on the defensive at all.
I told him that my GPS wouldn’t be a great indicator of how far I went, since I had forgotten to turn it on ’til after the race had begun.
“Well, how far had you gone before you turned it on?” he asked, in what I would describe as a very friendly and non-lawyerly way. If it were opposite day, I mean.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have been guessing at how far I had to go to the next aid station the whole day,” I replied, in a way that I would describe as very non-petulant (still opposite day).
Another racer — Eric, his name was (and continues to be) — who finished first said that he was pretty sure he had in fact accidentally cut a section of the course. A few pros and other fast guys had accidentally cut this same section, too, after which someone had gone and bolstered the markings for the crucial turn (read more about that here).
I craned my neck, trying to get a look at the finish line. Shouldn’t The Hammer be getting in soon?
“I never felt like I was off course, even for a second, during the race,” I said.
My inquisitor went on to describe where he thought I might have cut the course, but my mind wandered. If this guy had known the extent of my lack of knowledge about the trail system here, he probably would have given up.
The conversation went around and around. I just wanted to get back to the finish line so I could be there when (if?)The Hammer crossed.
“Guys, I didn’t feel like I missed any markings or turns, but if it seems to you like I must have cut a section, go ahead and give me that penalty,” I finally said. “Now I want to go back to the finish line and watch for my wife to finish.”
And I did.
Wherein I Distractedly Mount the Podium
I stood at the finish line, looking up the mountain, hoping The Hammer was OK. Hoping I’d see her coming down that mountain. Hoping hoping hoping.
And then they started doing the awards ceremony. First the pros, then someone else — I can’t say I was paying attention — and then my age group.
I walked over, turning toward the finish line every couple of seconds.
“So what was the decision?” I asked Eric.
“The results stand,” Eric said. “I’m the only one who knows whether I cut the course or not, so we’re just leaving things the way they stand.”
“OK,” I said. And I got up on the podium and took my third-place customized PCP2P bottle opener, my jar of pickles, and my hydration pack.
The whole time I was up there, though, I was watching the finishers’ chute, hoping The Hammer would drop in. Although I didn’t consider what I would do if she did happen to finish while they were still giving out prizes and stuff. Probably go anyway, I think.
I climbed off the podium and started walking toward the finish line to wait for The Hammer again, when the guy who had originally declared I and others must have cut the course if we had beat him, came up to me and shook my hand.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You did a good race. If I hadn’t been up here pre-riding the course with a GPX I think I probably would have missed that section, too.”
I decided to ignore the backhanded nature of the congratulations.
“Are you sure you’re OK with the standings?” I asked. “Because if you’re certain I somehow leapfrogged you, I don’t want a bogus award.”
He assured me he was fine, which was a huge relief to me, and I told him so.
And I probably would have gotten all profuse about how cool he was being, but right then I saw The Hammer coming down the hill and crossing the finish line.
“My wife just finished, gotta go,” I said, and took off running toward The Hammer.
Sometimes You’re The Hammer, Sometimes You’re The Nail . . . Even When You’re The Hammer
By the time I got to her, The Hammer was off her bike, and looking around for me — not expecting me to come up from behind.
“You did it!” I shouted, grabbing her. Excited. Relieved. So happy that she was back and OK.
“Yeah. I did it,” The Hammer replied, faintly.
I have never heard her sound so exhausted.
I got her bike from her, got her camelbak off her. Got her something to drink. Sat her down in a dry place I found.
She sat there for a long time, not saying anything. In fact, she wouldn’t say much of anything the rest of the day. She was that cooked. She just sat there, with a blank look. Later, The Hammer told me that she put her sunglasses back on so she could cry without being seen.
Obviously, she had been through something big, and needed time to process it.
Wherein I Get My Answer
While we were sitting there — her in shock, me looking at my raffle ticket, willing the announcer (Jay Burke, the race director) to say my ticket number — I saw the racer-meeting-calling guy walking toward some people, who were coincidentally standing near where we were sitting.
“How’d you do?” one of those guys shouted out.
“I got f—cked!” racer-meeting-calling guy shouted back.
“Wow,” I thought. “So I guess he wasn’t totally good with the standings after all.”
I was caught between not wanting to eavesdrop and very much wanting to eavesdrop to find out what this guy’s totally unfiltered opinion was.
But then fate intervened: my raffle number was called.
You Sure About This?
I walked up to Jay and collected the helmet I had just won. Check it out:
Anyway, I took the opportunity to be talking with Jay to say, “Are you sure you want to go with these results? That one guy who wanted to have the racer meeting seems pretty angry.”
“No, he just told me he was good with it,” Jay said.
“Oh, well I just heard him tell some people he feels like he got f—ed,” I replied.
“He doesn’t know who — if anyone — cut the course, and we don’t either,” Jay said. “Don’t lose sleep over it.”
Right then, I both admired anyone who would ever take on the task of promoting a race, and promised myself that I would never take on that responsibility myself.
The Morning After, Part 1: Bummed-Outedness Begins
The Hammer and I drove home and went right to bed, both of us so exhausted that we didn’t even unpack the truck.
The next morning, we got up, and — with some trepidation — I uploaded our race data from our Garmins to Strava.
We looked at The Hammer’s first. As usual, she had all kinds of QOMs and top-tens and stuff.
Then we looked at mine.
“Oh no,” I said.
It didn’t take long for me to see that I hadn’t taken long to turn my GPS on after the race began. And it also didn’t take long for me to see that my distance was short.
Too short. I had missed a section, which some judgmental soul labeled as “Where the real men of the P2P rode (aka, the real course, not the cheater course).” The section I (and at least six other people, all at different times) missed before the course got re-marked connected up to the rest of the trail like this:
That blue Christmas tree-looking section is what I missed. About 2.6 miles, with 400 feet of descending and a corresponding 400 feet of climbing.
So I sent Jay an email, telling him it looked like I had missed a turn and had wound up right back on the course . . . without ever knowing I had been off. I let him know that he should probably add time to my finish and give the third place to someone else.
A few minutes later, Jay emailed back: “Don’t worry about it yet.”
The Morning After, Part 2: Awesomeness Begins
One thing neither The Hammer nor I had looked into while still at the race was how she had done. She was so cooked at the finish she just didn’t care; she just wanted to get home.
So now would be the first time we’d see how The Hammer did at the race.
Second. The Hammer didn’t even know she had gotten on the podium, and she had taken second. And in fact had only missed first by a minute and change.
So just for fun, I looked at the 35 and under division. The Hammer had beaten all of them. So she hadn’t just placed second in her age group, she had placed second of all the age groupers.
Not half bad.
So I emailed Jay again, this time telling him, “Hey, if you want, I can just give the prizes I got yesterday to my wife, who did do the whole course and kind of kicked butt at it without even realizing it.”
The Morning After, Part 3: I Become a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel
Shortly after the results came out, the PCP2P Facebook page started getting some outraged comments:
I suspected this was the meeting-calling-guy who had shaken my hand and congratulated me, but wasn’t sure. So I did a Google search on his name (which I’m hiding because I feel like it right now).
I couldn’t tell for sure from the results, so switched over to image results.
And immediately regretted that choice. And by “regretted,” I of course mean, “wished I had stabbed my eyes out before seeing what can never now be unseen.”
You see, it turns out that the Facebook commenter shares a name with a gay porn star. And that gay porn star has some pretty explicit images that are the top results for an image search on that name.
Although if they’re the same person, that whole “I got f—ed!” comment I had heard the day before would take on a whole new meaning, and would cause me to be really impressed that he still got such a fast finishing time.
(By the way, don’t bother doing an image search on me. The only other Elden Nelson on the web is an Presbyterian minister.)
Anyway, before long, the meeting-calling guy found a sympathetic commenter:
(Unrelated question: why do angry people have such a hard time with spelling and punctuation?)
Encouraged, the meeting-caller said:
[Note to self: the next time a stranger approaches and says that he thinks I missed a section, with his belief that he is faster than me as his justification for that assertion, simply "man up" (i.e., roll over). Also, don't take congratulations from that person particularly literally.]
I decided not to get involved in the Facebook thread, because I figured that their fondest wish was about to get granted. This was confirmed when Shannon Boffell, one of the race organizers, emailed Eric and me:
After riding the section of climb that some people missed it was determined that the trail took about 20 minutes to ride. Therefore, we are going to assess a 20 minute time addition to your times. You will see this adjustment to your time in the final results.
And thus was I moved from third to where I actually belong:
Soon, I’ll be mailing the awesome bottle opener and hydration pack to David Stockham. It won’t be easy, mainly because I don’t know his mailing address.
But I’ll do it anyway, because while I’m clearly a scheming cheater who will resort to nefarious means in order to win (or take third) at all costs, I’m trying to be better. Trying real hard.
But I’m keeping the jar of pickles, David. You can’t take those away from me.
Mostly because I’ve already eaten more than half of them.