We Coulda Been a Contender: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Part 4

02.25.2013 | 12:24 pm

NewImageA Gentle Reminder from Fatty: At the beginning of this month, I told you that if you sign up for the Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George during this month, you’d get a very cool combination FatCyclist / Rockwell Relay jersey. 

Well, that month is just about over.

It’s time for you to start putting your plans together for the season. And I can’t tell you any more strongly than I already have how much I love this race. 

So, if you are considering doing the Rockwell Relay, go get yourself signed up right now. You’ll be glad you did. 

And if you’re not considering doing the Rockwell Relay, well…maybe you should reconsider.

A Note About Today’s Post from Fatty: This is Part 4 of my race report on the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

After I got Stan out of bed and then climbed into my own sleeping bag, I fell asleep pretty much instantly, and I slept soundly — a rare and wonderful thing during a 24-hour race.

Because of this, I can’t exactly vouch for the accuracy of my recollection of what happened during the next five hours or so, nor for the motivations of those involved.

The Fog of Sleep

At some point — before the sun came up — Stan got back from doing his two back to back laps. And — as is Stan’s way — he had done them very fast indeed. Even taking into account the amount of time it took for me to get back to camp, wake Stan up, and for him to get ready and to the course, he did his first lap in 1:34.

That’s incredibly impressive.

Stan then ripped out a 1:14 for the second of his back-to-back laps. Which is even more impressive. Bob wasn’t at the exchange tent to take the baton when Stan finished his laps, though.

Evidently, our team needed to work on its nighttime lap communication skills (this is, in fact, probably the most common team mistake in 24 hour races). 

I’m not sure why, but Bob didn’t get rolling ’til about an hour after Stan finished. So between the Fatty-to-Stan miscue and the Stan-to-Bob miscue, we lost around 1:20 — almost exactly the amount of time our team took to do a lap. 

There went our chance at the podium.

Do I sound bitter? I’m trying to not sound bitter.

Anyway, as Bob got going, Stan let The Hammer and me know, and I re-set the alarm clock to be an hour later. Even in my sleepy state, I was able to do some quick math and knew that once Bob got back, everyone would be getting in one more lap each. 

I went back to sleep.

I Am Very Nearly Heroic

It’s interesting how quickly you can adapt to a new situation — how quickly something that had been scary and new only eighteen hours ago can become pretty much normal.

Where I was jumpy and antsy for the first of The Hammer’s laps, running around and making sure everything was not only ready but just right for her, I just did the basics this time: get the lights off her bike and helmet, make sure there’s some water in her bottle, give her a Honey Stinger gel to put in her jersey pocket, just in case. 

I didn’t bother with air in her tires or lubing her chain. I gave them each a quick look and figured they were fine.

That’s not foreshadowing, by the way — her bike actually  was fine, and didn’t give The Hammer a second’s worth of trouble on her last lap. Check her out:

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media

I know, it looks kind of weird to see someone dressed so warmly in the full sunlight, riding through the cactus. 

And it was.

See, The Hammer took off just as it was getting light. Within fifteen minutes, though, the day had fully warmed up and she was soaked in sweat for the rest of her lap.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, because I want to talk about how I very nearly saved Rebecca Rusch’s day.

See, after I handed The Hammer her bike and sent her off on her way to do her last lap, I went back to the camp to get myself ready for my lap. 

There, I saw Rebecca, looking over her bike and getting ready to do her flazillionth lap: 

IMG 6098

The tolerant smile she gave me as I took the picture notwithstanding, Rebecca wasn’t happy. She had just discovered a major problem with her cranks — they were very loose — and she didn’t have the time or tools to fix them.

“Take my Stumpjumper,” I said. “It’s ready to go.”

“Really?” asked Rebecca.

“Sure,” I said. “I have two more bikes I can choose from for my next lap.”

“That sounds good,” Rebeca said. And I started getting all excited because having Rebecca race on my Stumpjumper would be kind of like having Elvis drive my Cadillac (Note: I do not actually own a Cadillac).

But then an actual mechanic appeared out of nowhere, with an actual replacement bike ready for Rebecca. 

And thus ended my bike’s best chance at ever having a claim to fame.


I suited up for my last lap. With plenty of time ’til The Hammer was due back at the exchange tent, I wandered into camp, where Stan and Bob were resting.

“We need to figure out how we end this race,” Stan said. “After Lisa comes back, you go out, and I go out, there’s a good chance we’ll still have a few minutes before noon. So do we do another lap? Or do I just stay out ’til 12:01 on my last lap and we call it good?”

“Stay out ’til 12:01,” said Bob, whose turn it would be to go after Stan.

“No, we keep racing,” I said. “We do another lap.”

“I’m not doing another lap,” Bob said. “I’m cooked. Done.”

It was a fair point; Bob had done four laps. I had only done three (I was about to head out on my fourth).

“No,” I insisted. “It’s a race. We’re racing. We finish the race as a race.” It’s possible I used the word “race” too often there, but I was trying to make a point.

“I’ll do another lap,” I said. “I’ll go after Stan.”

“To be clear,” Bob said, “You’re going before Stan, and then going after him too?”

“Sure,” I said. “I won’t be fast, but once I’m done with this race, I’m going back home to 20″ of snow standing on the ground. I want to get in as much riding time as I can.”

So I went back to the tent, and ate another 6″ Subway sandwich — I was getting so sick of those things — and waited for The Hammer at the exchange tent. 

She came in, right on time: 1:17. As consistent as can be. I took off, riding with everything I had, not worrying in the slightest about the fact that I had just taken on another lap, so that — including the course pre-ride — I’d be doing the whole course six times: 96 miles (6 x 16 miles, for those of you who don’t like to do math). 

The thing is though, by now I had become acquainted with the course, and had transitioned from being OK with it to really liking it a lot

I loved the quick dips through ravines. I loved the stark beauty of it. I loved swerving between cacti at top speed:

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media

In fact, by the time I finished my lap — which I did in 1:09, my second fastest of the race — I was glad the race wasn’t over; I wanted another trip around this prickly roller coaster. In spite of the fact that I had a prickly pear cactus spine embedded 1/2″ into my braking finger (it took an industrial-strength pair of tweezers to pull it out).

As I handed the baton off to Stan, he asked, “You sure you want me to finish my lap before noon, so you have to go out again?”

“Oh yeah, I replied. “I’ve gotta have one more turn.”

Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow, for the conclusion (I promise!) to this series.


  1. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.25.2013 | 12:55 pm


    you know, 2 thumbs up

  2. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.25.2013 | 12:56 pm

    btw, Fatty, do you actually own any non-industrial-strength pliers??? Just askin’

  3. Comment by krd123 | 02.25.2013 | 1:06 pm

    I have been doing 24 hour races for 11 years now. We always use this simple technique. The person coming off the course wakes up the person who is “on deck” and lets them know when to expect the rider currently on course will be back. That gives the “on deck” rider enough time to get dressed, eat if they need to, and prep their bike. Then they head up to transition. It means that the next rider out is always up and waiting at transition.

  4. Comment by Jordan | 02.25.2013 | 1:29 pm

    Great write up! I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for the next segment every day! This really makes me want to do a 24 hour race now…

  5. Comment by Tom in Albany | 02.25.2013 | 1:31 pm

    Fatty. You’re killing me with the episodic nature of your race report. To pay you back, I am tempted to send you a 20oz box of See’s Peanut Brittle. NO ONE can resist See’s Peanut Brittle. It’s crackly, buttery goodness and general nuttiness are exceptional.

    And no, Adam Schwartz didn’t put me up to this. I’m really tempted!

  6. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.25.2013 | 2:02 pm

    Awesome pics, GREAT story Fatty! (and your bike was ALMOST raced by the Queen of Pain! You are ALMOST the man!)

    However, due to my nature (I can’t help but look at a situation and then ponder the payment for a mistake) I can’t help but cringe and think about how utterly HORRIBLE it would be to zing off-course out into the cacti…they look cool and beautiful, but defend themselves with a vengence…they are the EVIL porqupine’s of the plant world. Can you imagine doing a tumbleweed immitation thru them?? Gives me shivers!

  7. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.25.2013 | 2:11 pm

    In fact, here is what I think you’d look like:


  8. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.25.2013 | 2:14 pm

    Rats..that didn’t work…will have to figure out this ‘attaching pics’ deal. The one I TRIED to attach is one of the famous internet pics of a pit bull that attacked (and won) against a porquipine, though paid a HEFTY price for said victory. Google “Pit Bull attacks Porquipine” and you’ll get the picture.

  9. Comment by Dale H | 02.25.2013 | 2:18 pm

    I know what you mean about Subway subs. I coach basketball and we get Subway subs for every away game. I don’t want to see another sub until next winter.

  10. Comment by Brian in VA | 02.25.2013 | 2:55 pm

    I’m still coming to grips with the fact that you don’t actually own a Cadillac. All the stuff you own, gear, bike mobile, 100s of bikes, and you don’t have one of the premier luxury vehicles?

    Nice report, too.

  11. Comment by Heather | 02.25.2013 | 3:05 pm

    Who made your kits? I need to get some done for the Ogden High Mountain Bike team and their colors are orange and black(tigers).

  12. Comment by NYCCarlos | 02.25.2013 | 3:51 pm

    A full hour!? I’d have lost my $#%& about that.

    I was staying in Park City all last week though, and i have to say, your state, while archaic and stupid in terms of liquor laws, is flipping awesome in terms of scenery and terrain. We skied Parleys, Big Cottonwood, and Little Cottonwood canyons for 5 days. So much fun. Can’t wait to come back in the summer sometime and ride bikes there!

  13. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 02.25.2013 | 4:19 pm

    @nycCarlos. While Fatty lives in one of the best states for skiing, from previous comments we know that that experience is totally wasted on him. I think he’s afraid of looking like a character from South Park if he ever ventured out onto the slopes ins ski clothes.

    @Fatty. A girl can just jump on your bike and ride????? How tall does that make you feel?

    Unlike others I hope this story continues to go on. There’s still room for a post wrap story, as well as the drive home. I love this report and intend to work on the Marsupial and others to field a representative team of Fatty’s for next year’s ride. Of course we’ll have to feed Matt copious amounts of starch to make him a fatty.

  14. Comment by jon (a clyde from Chi-town) | 02.25.2013 | 4:23 pm


    Time to consider a name change… FatCyclist doesn’t really work for guys who weigh in sub-170. (I wrestled at 167 in high school – I see that weight again, it means I am dying).

    Also, with respect to the existential issue you had at year end: I so enjoy reading your race stories… Between you and another bloke, I have re-entered cycling as a hobby – also, because of the quality of your narratives, I have decided to enter a cross series this fall…

    You have a passion for your hobby and the ability to gracefully commit these experiences to words – I don’t wanna hear no junk about hanging up the keyboard ever again… GO TEAM FATTY!

  15. Comment by Yellow | 02.25.2013 | 4:59 pm

    Heh? When I raced 18 Hours of Fruita, “transition” meant going to your follow up rider’s tent, waking them up and helping them get ready. Pssssh. “Race.” LOL! Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of what that means.

  16. Comment by GregC | 02.25.2013 | 6:24 pm

    I’m lovin your episodes- at this rate we will be still reading about 24 hours of Old Pueblo when Rockwell Relay starts. BTW- how many Fatty teams have signed up so far? Team “Check for a Pulse” is coming ready to rock (but they have to bring me as I’m the captain!)

  17. Comment by Daddy style | 02.25.2013 | 8:47 pm

    Rookies and I mean that in a flattering way to go kind of way. Where’s the support team, food, mechanics, more food, soup, hot chocolate, and oh yeah, someone to wake you up, In fact WTF, sleep, it’s a 24 hour race, cat naps at most.

    After a few you will start toying with the idea of doing it solo, they trying to talk your buddies into it, then apologising to your better half for training so much, then you will ask your better half to remind you of the pain and never let you do it again but then…. well you know how that story goes.

    Ride on,

  18. Comment by roan | 02.25.2013 | 9:48 pm

    Elvis would have loaned you his cadillac, I’m sure for reasons too numerious to list all here. First of which is your Star status. Second is getting a race double for the Hammer, that pic of ‘her’ is actually a stand-in…someone not over the age of 27!
    I just can’t figure out the near match times of ‘their’ laps.

  19. Comment by bob | 02.25.2013 | 10:57 pm

    Shouldn’t that be “we coulda been a contenduh”?

  20. Comment by AKChick55 | 02.26.2013 | 12:43 am

    Another spectacular race report! Also, you are crazy! :)

    I had a similar reaction when we were on vacation recently on the Big Island. We were leaving on a Thursday to head back home and it takes a solid 2-3 hours to pack the bike box (we borrowed a friends’ 2 bike tri case). It fits a couple road bikes just fine, but fitting my husband’s full suspension mountain bike and my cross into the box takes some delicate maneuvering! Anyway, the plan was to pack the bikes on Tuesday, but I had such a great ride on Tuesday I wanted to ride from Kona to Waikaloa on Wednesday because I was having so much fun on my cross on the Queen K (what a fun place to ride! And surreal!). I knew I was coming back to our crazy weather (it’s single digits and below zero one week, then above 30 the next, snow, rain, freeze, rinse, repeat). So I could REALLY relate to your train of thought on doing one more lap. Only two more months of snow/rain/weird weather until spring. Sigh.

  21. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.26.2013 | 1:05 am

    Just want to make a shout out for Zazoosh. We’ve seen their work at Breckenridge, Park City(?). and Tucson, and everytime the pictures have been FANTASTIC!!!!! If we haven’t already, we need to make Zazoosh the official Team Fatty Photographer. Any chance we can get them out to Davis?

    Again, great job Zazoosh making pictures that inspire all us Fattys!

  22. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.26.2013 | 8:52 am

    Ahhhhh davidh…you think you can make me a TRUE Fatty? Game ON! (there have been many before you my friend…and all have failed!)

    GregC…AWESOME team name! I applaud you for actually putting it together this year and making it happen (tho not to be disrespectful, but I’ll believe it when you and ALL your team shows up).

    AKChick55…SUPER cool vacation (I mean TOASTY vacation!)…AK to HI! LONG LONG ago as a young lad I was transferred from AK to HI…vividly remember stepping off the plane around midnight into the open air gate in Honoluluu, taking a deep breath and thinking to myself “I’m HOME!” But the Big Island is still my FAV! (I hope to retire there someday). I want to ride Saddle Rd someday from Kona to Hilo…and BACK again (the next day I mean). THAT would be a beastly 2-days…and also to climb the Haleakala on Maui (been down it on a cruiser).

    We need to organize a Team Fatty rendevous in HI sometime (davidh…I nominate you for this job)…I can be tour guide…(lived there for 10 yrs)…mt biking, rd biking, surfing, diving/snorkeling…I’ll hook ya’ll up. Just a warning tho…jungle mt biking there involves wet n muddy ROOTS FROM HELL most everywhere. But it’s a BLAST!

  23. Comment by rebecca rusch | 02.26.2013 | 9:49 am

    Hey Fatty- being willing to give up your steed is heroic enough! Yes, it woulda fit perfectly and been a blast. Although having Spider Monkey (pro Specialized team mechanic) dis-assemble, fix and re-assemble my whole BB/crank in less than 5 minutes like a NASCAR pit team was pretty damn impressive. All that, and we only lost 5 minutes on our transition time. I feel guilty for not coaching team IMBA on the fine specifics of waking each other up in a 24 hr race. I thought between the 5 of you, there was enough brain power there to handle that math. Great work anyway.

  24. Comment by AdRock | 03.13.2013 | 1:43 pm

    Note: Elvis is actually dead.


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