Say Hello to My Little Friend: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Part 2

02.20.2013 | 12:52 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is part 2 of my 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race report. Read Part 1 by clicking here.

With Austin out of the picture, our team had to scramble. Could we substitute in another racer (i.e., steal one from the eight-person IMBA corporate team)? No, as it turns out we could not. If we wanted to stay in the race, Austin had to get certification from the medical tent that he was injured, at which point we could stay in our existing category: Five-person Co-ed 200+ combined age.

So, we figured out a new plan. We’d continue doing one lap per person until we got into the late night, at which point we’d switch over to double laps — making it so everyone got a longer rest during the night.

Stan was our second racer (and with Austin’s exit, now our first and fastest), and turned in a blistering 1:06 lap — the fastest lap the team would turn in during the race.

IMG 6092

While Stan was out, Bob Winston — Chief Executive Honcho over the Board of Directors at IMBA (not his real title) as well as our team captain — warned us that he wasn’t a fast guy, and was just out here for fun, and that we shouldn’t expect too much.

Which just goes to show that Bob (who is 50+ years old and looks 38) is a total sandbagging anti-trash-talker. 

He turned in a freakishly fast time of 1:11. 

It was official: our team was here to race. Which is just the way I like it. Play when you’re off the bike, hit it hard when you’re on.

As it got to be close to the time Bob should be getting back in, The Hammer and I went to the baton exchange area. There, she stood with the rest of the racers waiting for their teammates to come in, waiting for their team number (ours was 409, which was super-easy to remember). The Hammer gave me a thumbs-up:

IMG 6096

She was ready to race. 

Her number was called, she ran to the table, signed in with the volunteer (major kudos to the volunteers for doing an incredible job in the exchange tent for the entire race), got our team baton from Bob, and she was gone. 

I walked back to our camp, changed into my riding gear and headed back to the exchange tent and started looking for The Hammer. My guess was that she would turn in a 1:15 riding time. 

I was wrong. 1:14. But as she came in, I could see she was very dirty and her chest was covered with little spiky quills. 

“I had a crash,” The Hammer simply said, then gave me a kiss, handed me the team baton, and wished me luck on my lap.

Which is when trouble began for me.

Wherein I (Once Again) Show What A Complete Dork I Am

I think I’ve mentioned before that when I’m racing, I am not the same person I normally am. Which is to say, the bloodlust overtakes me and I want nothing more than to completely ruin myself, while hopefully crushing all those in my line of sight.

I am not a strategic racer. I’m not even tactical. I’m pure, unadulterated, 100% attack dog, no longer even thinking in words, but rather simply in targets to aim for and obstacles to avoid.

This way of thinking — i.e., not thinking at all — became a problem for me before I even got on my bike. 

After getting the baton from The Hammer, I ran out of the tent to where, along with every other racer, I had set my bike in a bike stand.

Except I couldn’t remember where I had put my bike.

I ran back and forth, looking for my red-and-white S-Works Stumpjumper (I was racing a geared bike, though I had brought a singlespeed as a backup). 

I couldn’t find it.

Running back and forth, I scanned the rack again. Then ran and looked at the next rack, even though I was pretty sure I hadn’t put my bike that far away.

Still couldn’t find it. Had someone stolen it?

And then: there it was! A red and white Specialized S-Works! I grabbed it, threw a leg over, and then…realized it was a full-suspension bike and was therefore definitely not mine.

Well. Pffff.

And that’s when I realized that while I had been looking at bikes on the racks to the right of me, I had placed my bike on the rack to my left.


And with that little adrenaline rush out of the way, I jumped on my bike and took off, charging at maximum speed, hoping to catch all the people who had calmly gotten on their bikes and started the race while I ran back and forth like a headless chicken.

Say Hello to My Little Friend

The 16-mile course starts with some fun, twisty, flat singletrack to get you warmed up, after which you get to make a decision: 

Do you want to ride The Bitches?

You see, in this context, “The Bitches” are a set of seven (I think) short but steep hills, one after another. Hitting them at race pace takes a lot out of you. And so you have the option: go around The Bitches. But you should know: it’s a longer trail to go around.

And so — not wanting to be the only guy on the team to skip The Bitches, I went after them…and was glad I did. Because, at least on this first lap, I had plenty of energy to just rocket right up them, staying in my big ring, in fact.

A quick flat section then brought me to where the singletrack began. And where vigilance became absolutely necessary. You see, on the singletrack portion of this trail, there is always a cactus on one side of you or another. If you crash, you’re going to be a pincushion. If you drift off the course a tiny bit: pincushion.

If you try to pass where you shouldn’t: pincushion.

Luckily, the singletrack had lots of good places to pass. Very regularly, the trail would diverge for 20 feet or so, then reconverge. And — absolutely completely without exception in my experience — racers were astonishingly courteous about letting other racers by. 

It made me happy to be among these people.

However, I was still wanted to pass often, and pass fast. And so, at one point, thinking I had room to pass, I shot around another racer, only to find — too late! — that I in fact did not have room to pass. I tucked in front of the racer I was passing, grazing some plant.

My right shin suddenly felt like it had been cut wide open.

I looked down, and there, embedded deep in my shin, was a golfball-sized, football-shaped little cactus ball. 

I got queazy just from the sight of it.

Before the race, though, Kenny had told me, “If you pick up a cactus, just finish your lap with it, because there’s no way you’re getting it out without a comb.”

So I kept going. In fact, the pain focused me, and I went harder, looking forward to when I could get that stupid little hitchhiker out of my shin.

I noticed that it would hurt worse in certain situations. Like when I stood to climb. Or when I bottomed out in a gully. Or when a gust of wind caught the thing and tried to blow it around. 

It kept me from enjoying the trail like I think I otherwise would have. I just wanted to get to the end and get that little intruder out.

So I rode harder. Standing for the climbs, even though that hurt, because it was faster. 

A Whiskey Tree Miracle

As I rode, I wondered, “Do we even have a comb back at camp?” I don’t have any hair, and The hammer uses a brush.

How was I going to get this stupid thing out?

And then I remembered: The Whiskey Tree. During the pre-ride, we’d seen that there were lots of hair picks (combs) dangling from that tree. I started planning: I’d stop at that tree, grab one of those picks, and go. It would be worth the time lost.

If there were still any of those combs left. 

Great luck: there were. I stopped, saw that one pick was at just the right height for me to grab. I saw that it was attached with nothing but a twisty, and so just gave it a hard tug to break it off, jammed the comb into my jersey pocket, and took off again, excited for the moment when I’d get to use that comb to get rid of that thing.

Another half hour of hard riding went by as I fantasized about no longer having a cactus stuck in my leg.

Sweet Relief

And there it was — finally — the exchange tent. I rolled to a stop, dismounted, and walked to the table where we made our exchanges. I handed the baton to Stan, who took off on his second lap.

1:08. Not too bad for a guy who lost his bike, picked up a cactus, and stopped to grab a comb off a tree.

But now it was time for me to see if I could get that stupid cactus out. 

Which is when The Hammer walked up to me. 

“You did great!” she said.

“Look at my leg,” I replied.

“Ooh. How are we going to get that out?” she asked.

I handed The Hammer the comb and — being a battle-hardened nurse of around 13 years, she didn’t say a word but just stooped, slipped the comb between me and the cactus, and popped it out. 

She then set about pulling out the individual quills that remained in my legs. “This would be a lot easier if you’d go back to shaving your legs,” she muttered.

“I will as soon as I weigh 165 pounds,” I replied. “I don’t deserve shaved legs yet.”

Soon, my leg was a little bit bloody, but entirely free of cactus parts.

And I was left with a fine little souvenir:

IMG 6101

Oh, what the heck. Let’s see that up close:

IMG 6101  Version 2
You can see blood on the spines.

One rotation down, four to go. It was time to set our bikes up for the night laps. 

Which is where I’ll pick the story up in my next post.


  1. Comment by Ellen | 02.20.2013 | 1:21 pm

    I love your race reports <3.

  2. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.20.2013 | 1:31 pm

    One thing I can say about you Fatty: you are VERY VERY good at leaving us hanging and wanting for more…(you should be working in TV writing…Paul??)

    Is everybody running tubeless w/ sealant? I’d think there’d be a zillion cactus-flats for anybody still riding w/tubes…

    Thanks for the reminder — I’ll have to talk about the profusion of riders with flats I saw out on the trail. – FC

  3. Comment by Tom in Albany | 02.20.2013 | 1:52 pm

    OUCH! That’s one mean looking cactus!

    I love the cliff-hanger style you use for your race reports! Have you considered writing a TV show?

    I haven’t looked up the race results but, it sounds like you were on a pretty balanced team!

    And, you never did elucidate upon Hammer’s cactus wounds!

  4. Comment by David | 02.20.2013 | 1:55 pm

    Aww, come on man, you’re killing me (again) here with the multi-part reports. Janeen (sometimes) writes 8000 word posts and you know what the world needs from her? MORE 8000 word posts. Same with you. Let me quote Steven Brust, “Have you considered what would happen if everyone behaved the way you are? I would have to learn deferred gratification. And, as you know, deferred gratification is a slippery slope that can lead to me not getting everything I want.” And no one wants that.

  5. Comment by rob w | 02.20.2013 | 2:37 pm


  6. Comment by EdwinH | 02.20.2013 | 2:39 pm

    At least with TV shows I know how many episodes will follow. Is this Part 2 of 3? 4? 5? Stay tuned for the next episode of … FC!

  7. Comment by 10 penny | 02.20.2013 | 2:48 pm

    and you didn’t get a picture of the cactus while it was embedded in your leg?!? C’mon, your sensationalist style is slipping…I expected more.

  8. Comment by GenghisKhan | 02.20.2013 | 3:00 pm

    Great update and way to muscle your way through a prickly situation!

  9. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.20.2013 | 3:02 pm

    I think you should save it as a plexi-glas encased mantle curiosity. With the blood, of course!

  10. Comment by Guest | 02.20.2013 | 3:20 pm

    You know, if you just took a bike, any bike, from the rack, that owner of that bike would have just taken any other bike. And so on, and so on,… It would have all worked out just fine in the end, as long as they all made it back to the starting point.

    I think I see a brand new event format here,…

  11. Comment by ClancyO | 02.20.2013 | 3:29 pm

    Love the shaved leg comment!! My wife was originally appalled, then strangely fascinated, and finally just totally turned-on by my freshly shorn legs. I let them grow in over the winter and when I still hadn’t shaved them by the next spring she asked what was taking so long. I explained that my legs needed a certain amount of firepower before they could be silky smooth again..

  12. Comment by Austin McInerny | 02.20.2013 | 3:34 pm

    Great reporting! Between wrong shoes and bikes, our team had its challenges!

  13. Comment by wharton_crew | 02.20.2013 | 3:44 pm

    @ ClancyO, are you saying that shaved legs are an aphrodisiac? Excuse me, while I head to Walgreens for some fresh razors…

  14. Comment by wharton_crew | 02.20.2013 | 3:46 pm

    but this also leads to a very critical follow-on question…where do I stop shaving? There is no natural hair break-line on my unfortunate body….if not properly done, I can imagine that this would actually be an anti-aphrodisiac…

  15. Comment by George | 02.20.2013 | 3:57 pm

    To paraphrase Phil Liggett – “tis but a patch of bad luck, but he will live to write another day.”

  16. Comment by slowRider | 02.20.2013 | 4:00 pm


    Russell Peters recommends a body fade. Go from baby-butt to wookie gradually for parts of your leg that are covered by shorts.

    In my experience, though, chicks dig dudes with bald heads and could care less about your legs. Keep it shaved and shined and you’ll dazzle the ladies.

  17. Comment by Kukui | 02.20.2013 | 4:21 pm

    OWWW!!! That’s not the happy, idyllic cactus that they show in the movies… that thing looks brutal!

    I can’t imagine an entire unforgiving course filled with those things. I can’t wait to find out what it was like at night!

  18. Comment by John H. | 02.20.2013 | 4:23 pm

    OUCH!!!! Well it could have been worse…..

  19. Comment by Gummee! | 02.20.2013 | 4:33 pm

    IME if you stay on the well-traveled trail, thorns and such aren’t too bad. Once you get off-line, problems begin.

    Cholla are MEAN SOBs. DAMHIK

  20. Comment by Jeff Bike | 02.20.2013 | 4:34 pm

    Welcome to the desert southwest the land of thorns and spines! I hope you disinfected that injury well. You can get a nasty infection from things like that.

  21. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 02.20.2013 | 4:36 pm

    @10penny. Fatty had to suspend his sensationalist journalism after the guest post from Chuck Ibis and the “flapper” (search for the story in Fatty’s blogs, since my powers with this iPad are inadequate to copy). That will probably fulfill all your demands for ‘true grime’ photos.

    Fatty, friends of mine in the mojave refer to your ‘little friend’ as the jumping cactus, or the teddy bear cactus. I figure you now understand why.

    Anxiously awaiting parts 2,3,4,5……….
    And what book, if any, graced the drive?

  22. Comment by Jeff Bike | 02.20.2013 | 4:37 pm

    Did you put the comb back on the Whiskey tree for someone else to use?

    No, there were lots of those combs — I assume (rightly I hope) they were to taken, not borrowed. – FC

  23. Comment by IsleofAran | 02.20.2013 | 5:25 pm

    You are Very Lucky it was that kind and not a Cholla or a Prickly Pear. That kind looks like a piece of cake to pick out!!

  24. Comment by TourGuide | 02.20.2013 | 6:06 pm

    Looking at the pictue of your little passenger, it was definitely one of the many species of Cholla (choy-ya)or jumping cactus. After many years of desert riding I can tell you that I’d rather brush up against any other Cacti than a Cholla. Where the thorns of most cactus puncture you and pull out, our little cholla friends have tiny hooked barbs on the end of their thorns. They go in and stay there. You go to pull it out and its on your hand or fingers. Little balls of fruit covered in desert velcro. Thats why you need the comb for proper extraction. Prickly Pear, HedgeHog, Barrel… Throw anything at me but Cholla. By the way, where the cholla went in, you will find little annoying bumps in your skin for the next 6 months. Oh yeah…the 24. Enjoy.

  25. Comment by Vince | 02.20.2013 | 7:11 pm

    ouch…nice work. At least the cactus here in Central Texas have something in them that makes it numb. Sometimes you go for miles before realizing you have a clingon

  26. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 02.20.2013 | 7:16 pm

    This race looks like fun?

  27. Comment by ClancyO | 02.20.2013 | 7:46 pm

    @wharton_crew – for my wife, absolutely! YMMV

  28. Comment by Bob Winston | 02.20.2013 | 9:01 pm

    Reading this race report is almost as much fun as it was to live it! I had a blast with Fatty, The Hammer, Stan, Austin and the rest of the IMBA team.

  29. Comment by rich | 02.21.2013 | 9:30 am

    holy prickly pincushion batman! That thing looks seriously painful…
    Staying tuned for the next episode…

  30. Comment by Heidi | 02.21.2013 | 12:14 pm


    You saved a splinter from a prior mishap, didn’t you? Now you have another souvenir. You can display them in a shadow box… (Collect ‘em all!)

  31. Comment by Jenni | 02.21.2013 | 12:34 pm

    I was fine until you pointed out the blood on the cactus and then I wanted to puke.

  32. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Seriously, This is The Last Installment: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Part 5 | 02.26.2013 | 9:58 am

    [...] Part 5 of my race report on the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here,  Part 3 here, and Part 4 [...]


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