I have had some interesting experiences, thanks to this blog. For example, I have been to France. And Africa. And even Oregon. I have ridden and raced in a surprising variety of places, and I have met some extraordinary people.
But if, a couple years ago, you had told me something like the following, I’d have thought you were absolutely nuts:
One day, Fatty, you will challenge Levi Leipheimer to a race. In order to even the odds at that race, you will demand that a donut-eating competition will be an integral part of that race. Levi will accept the challenge without even batting an eye, in spite of the fact that you are writing all the rules and stakes of the challenge, and are clearly slanting them so far in your own favor that he has little or no chance to win.
As the day of that race approaches, Fatty, more people will join the race. Rebecca Rusch, a cycling hero of both you and your wife, will join . . . once she realizes Patrick Dempsey is also on board (!!!). Tom Danielson will join, without even batting an eye. And then Kristin Armstrong — an Olympic champion! — will even sign on, once you have promised that she will have the option of eating a healthy alternative to donuts.
Reading this now, I am still astonished. No, I’m not astonished that I would ask Levi to engage in an eating contest with me, under the guise of it being a race.
No, I’m also not astonished that I would rig the rules so that my chances of losing were practically nil. Frankly, that’s all perfectly in-character for me. Indeed, it’s a little bit astonishing that I didn’t make this kind of challenge until now.
What’s amazing — no, what’s completely and utterly unbelievable — is that Levi accepted the challenge at all.
I mean, just look at the physics of the thing, for crying out loud. I made it perfectly clear that — should I choose — I could eat more than a dozen donuts in the heat of battle. And there is simply no way Levi could eat even half that many.
Just look at the difference between the two of us, for pity’s sake:
Levi never had a chance. There was. Just. No. Way.
And so, for the first time in my life, I slept well the night before a race (without using Ambien or Melatonin or anything). For the first time in my life, I began a race calmly, knowing the outcome with absolute certainty.
Knowing that, if I needed to, I could eat more donuts than everyone on the other team, combined.
But I’m getting ahead of myself now.
The Night Before The Race
As a beloved and multi-award-winning cycle-bloggging (I just added the third “g” because I feel like what I write deserves more than two “g’s”) celebrity, I was of course invited to the Festa Del Fondo — a dinner / fundraising auction to raise money for LiveStrong, VeloStreet, and Forget-Me-Not Farms — on Thursday night.
But I wasn’t there to bid on auctions. I was there to strategize with my teammates: Kristin Armstrong and Tom Danielson.
To my delight, They both seemed to have team strategy on their minds, too.
“You’re not that fat,” Tom said.
Why does everyone have to include “that” when they make that observation? I asked myself.
“How many donuts can you eat?” Tom asked me.
“Thirteen is my record,” I replied. “But I’m willing to push myself to fifteen. You?”
“I don’t know,” said Tom. I looked at him dubiously, making my own estimate. Four seemed like a good upper limit for him.
“How do we eat them fast?” Tom asked. I had to admit that I really didn’t have a good answer for that.
“Drink water to help wash them down,” I offered, both obviously and lamely.”
“We’ll experiment tomorrow,” Tom said.
“Don’t worry, we’re going to win,” I assured him.
“Don’t get cocky, kid,” Tom warned me. “Don’t go thinking the race is a sure thing.”
I apologized, realizing that Tom was pretending to take this as seriously as I was.
“And,” Tom said, with so much emphasis that I was taken aback, “There is no way Kristin Armstrong is eating any rice cakes in this race, OK? This is a donut race.”
“But she only agreed to participate in the race on the condition that she not have to eat any donuts,” I offered, lamely.
“No. Rice. Cakes,” Tom asserted, in tones that brooked no dissent.
Shortly later, I came across Kristin Armstrong. “Hey,” I said, “Tom says . . . “
“Thirty seconds per rice cake seems like a good time bonus,” Kristin said.
“Yeah, but . . .”
“I’m just glad I don’t have to eat any donuts,” Kristin finished.
I began to sense that my team captaincy was anything but effectual.
So I made an appeal to authority. Specifically, I went to Fondo Honcho Greg Fisher. “Tom’s taking a hard line on donuts and says there’s no way Kristin is going to get to eat rice cakes,” I said. “And Kristin says she definitely is not eating donuts. What do I do?” I asked.
“All I know is that I’m not staying up making rice cakes tonight,” replied Greg, reasonably. “If there are going to be rice cakes, I don’t know where they’re coming from.”
And that, in the end, was the deciding factor. Problem solved, simply by not bringing stuff.
Just Before the Race
Friday morning arrived. And then Friday morning left, without anything of note occurring.
I offer the previous paragraph merely for the sake of completeness.
Around noon, I showed up at the race venue, which was . . . the corner of a parking lot. No, that’s not where the race began, that’s where the entire race would be held.
You see, you don’t need a huge race course when the bikes that everyone would be racing are the following:
Yep, 12″ toddler bikes. Which — as I seem to have accidentally neglected to tell any of my competition — was the plan all along.
Greg — the Fondo Honcho — and I tried riding the bikes seated:
They can, however, be ridden — sort of — if you stand up and pedal, as Levi figured out when he arrived and tried out a couple test laps:
Next, Tom Danielson arrived, ready to ride. He started doing a fast test lap, getting a feel for the tiny bikes.
As the father of young children, Tom exuded confidence in his tiny bike riding prowess and ripped around the course. I did my best to keep up.
And that’s when everything went sideways.
Flying up the straightaway, Tom rode up the short wooden ramp from the parking lot to the sidewalk. He hit the ramp fast, pedaling hard. Tom hit the top of the ramp at speed — and did an unintentional wheelie, which quickly turned into a hard fall right onto his tailbone.
Tom rolled around on the pavement, howling in unfeigned pain.
I am ashamed to admit it, but my first thought was, “Oh great. My joke race is going to send Tom Danielson to the hospital. Jonathan Vaughters is going to kill me.”
Yes, I started thinking about Tom Danielson’s career-affecting injury in terms of how it affected me that quickly. I apologize for being who I am.
Anyway, not wanting to kill, maim, or otherwise hurt the folks who had been generous enough to show up at this race, we made a quick course adjustment, eliminating the ramp altogether.
And there were sighs of relief all around.
Soon, the rest of the racers appeared. Rebecca Rusch showed up in a skinsuit and TT helmet, clearly looking for every advantage she could:
Next, Kristin Armstrong arrived and demonstrated how she intended to win the day by riding in an aero position:
To my relief, she did not even ask about rice cakes.
Finally — and let’s face it, what 89% of the ladies in the audience were waiting for — Patrick Dempsey appeared, ready to ride:
And, of course, there was me:
Yep, I was eating a donut during the team presentation.
I was that unconcerned.
As with any Very Important bike race, the GranDonut Race began with a press conference, where we answered very serious questions with very serious answers.
Mostly, I remember that it was my job to describe what the stakes of the race were during this press conference, and I — being feeble of mind — was entirely unable to remember anything other than the most important thing: If Levi’s team lost, he had to wear a propeller beanie for the rest of the weekend.
It didn’t matter though, because things got ugly very fast: a fistfight broke out between the two women competitors:
I don’t believe there’s a single person in the world who would not have put their money on Rebecca in this fight, but we’d never find out, because Rod Martin — the Race Director of the Utah Tour de Donut who had graciously come to the GranDonut relay to ensure that all protocol were correctly followed — pulled them apart before things could get too nasty.
Rod then gave the racers some last minute instructions:
These instructions were as follows:
- Any donuts spat out or otherwise not eaten do not count
- Each donut counts for a minute subtracted off race time
- One racer per team in the DOZONE (the donut-eating zone) or on the course at a time
There may have been other rules. Nobody really paid attention, honestly.
Then Dave Towle — famous and extremely cool bike race commentator and announcer — held the microphone while I sang the national anthem:
No, not really. It just kinda looks like that’s what I was doing.
But enough jibber-jabber. It was time to race.
And eat. Especially eat.
The race began with the pro women squaring off.
Kristin, obviously, was super-excited to be in a donut-eating contest.
Still, when the gun went off, the competitive instincts took over, and both of them crammed donuts into their mouths with reckless abandon:
To my surprise, neither of them ate more than one or two donuts before taking off. Clearly, I was going to show these people how it was done.
Kristin came in from her first lap at top speed, wiping out as she tagged Tom Danielson. But it was obvious that any abrasions she had suffered were of merely secondary importance to her.
She was fighting hard to keep that one donut down.
Rebecca was feeling it, too:
Meanwhile, Patrick and Tom were now digging in.
That’s why he’s called “McDreamy,” kiddos.
Tom Danielson set a record for how many donuts he could stuff into his mouth, figuring he could take care of the chewing and swallowing part at his leisure, after he rode his lap:
I’m pretty sure that’s three donuts right there.
But as Tom rode, there was drama in the pit area.
Levi was sufferening PTDCD (Post Traumatic Donut Consumption Disorder). Fortunately, Levi had a teammate who plays a doctor on TV:
“Give us a sign,” he plead. “Please, Levi, give us a sign you’re OK!”
A thumbs-up. What a relief.
Thanks to Patrick’s quick thinking, I believe that Levi will make a full recovery.
Wherein I Make the Obvious Become Startlingly Obvious
Tom came in from his first lap, at which point, thanks to Tom’s ability to unhinge his jaw and stuff a remarkable number of donuts in — we had a substantial (but not insurmountable) lead.
I aimed to change that.
I walked slowly to the table, planted my feet squarely on the ground, took four donuts in hand, and accordioned them together into a single non-airy mass.
I took a bite, took a swig of water. Chewed. Swallowed.
Before long, I had dispatched my first four donuts.
Everyone expected me to go out and ride. I did not ride.
I remained where I was and ate another two donuts.
Six donuts. And I knew I could do more. I was prepared to do more.
“OK, Fatty, that’s enough,” Rod said. “Nobody’s going to touch that. Head on out on your lap.”
And I was off on my first lap, riding with the same intensity I had brought to my eating:
I was awe-inspiring. It’s as simple as that.
By the time we finished the race, the words “blowout” would come to mind. The scorekeepers’ records tell the tale:
Team Fatty won by nearly seven minutes / donuts.
But really, Levi was the real winner here, because he got to wear an awesome new hat:
See how happy he is to be wearing that?
Just like in the special olympics, though, nobody went home without a prize, thanks to Rod, who had participant plaques made for everyone.
Here’s post-race pose one:
And here’s pose #2, where I show the stomach of victory:
Click on that image above (if you dare) to see the look of horror on everyone’s faces.
Tom, at least, was not afraid to give me the respect I deserve:
As was stipulated in the rules of the challenge, Levi did indeed wear the propeller beanie at the start of the Gran Fondo the next day. However, it “accidentally” fell off within about ten feet of the beginning of the ride.
Luckily for him, Angie G — an Absolute Best Friend of Fatty Forever and Ever — was volunteering at the event and rescued it, so that as Levi and I were sitting on stage together after the ride, presenting awards to people who had gone above and beyond in their fundraiser efforts, I was able to return his hat back to him.
Naturally, Levi was very pleased to be able to wear it again.
What We Did
Was this a ridiculous event? Of course. Was it entirely staged from the beginning? Perhaps. Did it put amazing people in embarrassing and maybe even undignified situations?
But we also raised north of $12,000, to be split among Forget-Me-Not Farms, LiveStrong, and VeloStreet.
So in the end, here’s the tally:
One silly race, thirty four donuts, twelve thousand dollars, three great causes, and hundreds of people donating mostly because it’s the nice thing to do (and a little bit because you might win something; I’ll announce winners soon!).
Not to mention one huge debt of gratitude to four top pro cyclists and one top pro actor, each gracious enough to play along with a ridiculous joke.
I like those numbers.
PS: Many people have asked me if there will be a video. And the answer is yes. But I’m not the one making it. I will, however, post either the video itself or a link to it as soon as it’s available.
PPS: Here’s the video: