The Hammer’s Race Report: 2013 St. George Half-Ironman

05.13.2013 | 10:21 am

Bike snob abroad normA Note from Fatty: I’m almost embarrassingly pleased to announce that this Thursday, May 16, at 2pm ET / 11am PT, I’ll be doing a live Spreecast with Bike Snob NYC. He — quite naturally — is doing this to promote his new book: Bike Snob Abroad: Strange Customs, Incredible Fiets, and the Quest for Cycling Paradise.

I’m also pleased to announce that due to a bout of severe stammering, I will spend the first seven minutes of the interview simply saying the name of the book, with a possible four-minute overly-confrontational detour about whether the “fiets” pun was really necessary.

Then I will apologize profusely, in the hope I haven’t insulted him so badly that he is tempted to simply walk away from the interview.

After that we will talk about the book, and anything else that comes to mind, both trying like mad to avoid the awkward silence that we both know is never more than one sentence away.

I will sweat. And stammer. I will perhaps try to make a joke about how much I’m sweating. That joke will fail badly.

It’s entirely possible that I will begin some sentences without having any idea whatsoever how they will finish. It’s also possible that BSNYC will begin looking at his watch before I even finish introducing him.

Please feel free to watch as I badly bungle this interview and — for the love of all that’s good in the world — contribute questions of your own, so I won’t be reduced to asking things like, “So, what’s it like riding a bike in New York?” or “You don’t seem very snobby. Why do you call yourself ‘Bike Snob’?”

And also, so he won’t be forced to answer those selfsame questions.

By the way, those are the only two questions I have written down so far.

Once again, here’s the info:

Where: On SpreeCast, or right here at this website.
Date: Thursday, May 16
Time: 2:00pm ET / 11:00am PT

Oh, and if you can’t make it for the live version of the chat, a recording of it will be at the same place

The Hammer’s Race Report: 2013 St. George Half-Ironman

The Race is On…

…But not with who you think it would be with.

The truth is, I was never really racing with Elden. I pretty much predicted exactly how things would turn out with him: By the time we finished the swim and bike, he’d have gained twenty minutes on me, and there would be no way I could claw my way back to him in a thirteen-mile run. And I was perfectly OK with this; I wanted him to compete to the best of his ability and I also wanted to feel good about my race — so I wasn’t about to compare myself to Elden.

I had trained hard and I was hoping my training would pay off in terms of a fast time….and possible a fastER time than my dear friend, Lynette.

Lynette and me after the St. George Marathon in 2008.

Lynette and I have been friends for more than seventeen years and training partners for about 13. She started out running marathons, while I rode my mountain bike for obscene amounts of time. Our paths would cross whenever I decided to put on running shoes. My desire to run was always there, but the ability for my body to survive the pounding of running was not always there. My frequent running injuries were the cause of a lot of tears and missed running dates with Lynette.

I tried to get her to mountain bike with me, but it didn’t go over too well. On our very first (and last) ride, Lynette hit a rock and the bike bucked her off like a bronco. The usually mild-mannered Lynette — mumbling a list of words that don’t typically come from her mouth — picked up her bike and was about to throw it off the side of the mountain when I interceded.

I told her we could just stick to running; mountain biking did not bring out her best side.

Over the next several years, I dabbled in sprint-distance triathlon as well as XTERRA events. I had to teach myself to swim, and was never very good at XTERRA.

At the same time, Lynette decided to get a road/Tri bike. Her relationship with the tri bike was much better than with the mountain bike. She started out with small local triathlons, which she always did well in. Her love for Triathlon quickly progressed to the queen mother of Tri: Ironman. Her husband, Cory, was also excited about this new form of exercise.

Cory and Lynette, on the bus to the 2013 St. George Half-Ironman

Over the next several years, Lynette and Cory traveled all over the world — from New Zealand to Brazil to China — to participate in Ironman competitions. I’ve actually lost track of how many she has done, but haven’t forgotten the stories she would come back and tell me. I loved her adventures. I always dreamed of pushing myself to the limit and I loved hearing her stories of accomplishment.

In 2010, Lynette and I were able to compete in the St George Ironman. It was a thing of beauty to watch her. When I crossed her during the run portion of the 2010 Ironman, she looked amazing. Running so strong. She finished more than an hour before Elden and me.

One day, I vowed, I wanted to be able to compete like Lynette.

Fast Forward to May 4, 2013

As I lined up with the other orange and pink swim caps (Lynette’s and my age groups were combined together for a the same start wave) at water’s edge, I took one deep breath after another. Most of the faces looked just as scared as I felt.

But not Lynette — she was off socializing with one of her many Tri friends she has acquired in her world travels! I was a little jealous — I wish I could be that calm before entering the water with a bunch of flailing arms and legs!

Still, I hadn’t come into this swim unprepared. I had been training hard for this! At the first of the year, I had started using the Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons DVD. I had done all the drills. I really like the philosophy behind the swim technique. I wasn’t necessarily swimming faster, but I was swimming more relaxed. I could bilaterally breathe when I wanted to, and my breathing was generally more relaxed. I could easily swim for an hour and not feel particularly tired.

Elden and I had actually swam in Sand Hollow about a month prior to the race. Once I was acclimated to the water, my swim went really well. I had never felt such confidence leading up to a triathlon before.

That all quickly changed the day before the race, when I had  the brilliant idea that I needed to go for a small swim.

Lynette and Elden both accompanied me on my little adventure. They immediately began swimming away from the shore, leaving me panting and gasping for air. I collected myself, calmed my breathing and took off after them.

Ten strokes later, I looked up.

To my dismay, I was swimming perpendicular to where I needed to be going. Lynette and Elden were swimming off in the distance. I laughed at my error, righted myself in the water and headed off in their direction. Ten strokes later, I looked up to find that I had somehow turned myself and was heading off course again!

This happened two more times.

It was so confusing. I would start out in one direction, then look up to find that I was going in a different direction. I eventually righted myself and made my way to the turn-around rock. Elden wanted to know why I was swimming so erratically. I informed him I just wanted to get in a little longer swim.

Now, on race morning, the announcer was on the countdown from ten. Treading water, I tried to make my way to the far right — I really didn’t want to start in the middle of the group. The horn blew and we were off. I could see a yellow buoy in the distance and I headed for it. I kept sighting and I kept seeing it, but it never seemed to be getting any closer! I could see the bulk of the swimmers to my left swimming very close to the buoys. I was making forward progress, but way out in right field.

As I neared the first red-turn buoy, a guy on a kayak started yelling at me. I didn’t know what he said, but I was the only person this far out, so I turned my body and headed directly for the buoy. I eventually came to the buoy and intersected the stream of swimmers, feeling like I was a salmon, swimming upstream.

I made the left turn and  thought I would have an easier time swimming straight now, because I had the sun shining in my face when I would breathe.

Earlier, when I commented that I could bilaterally breathe — well I guess I can bilaterally breathe … in a pool … under calm conditions. and at the moment I was anything but calm.

As I continued to swim, I continued to sight for the buoys and again they started to become farther and farther away. The boats and kayaks on the other hand were about six feet away from me on the right. They kept shouting at me and I would attempt to course correct and head for the buoys.

Here is a diagram of what I imagine my swim path — the red line — must have looked like:


Except maybe my swim path was even more jagged than that

I had no idea where I was in the pack. I could see multi-colored caps off in the distance, but I had no idea if they were in the waves that started before or after I did. I was virtually alone with the boaters. The one benefit to this was I wasn’t being kicked!

Finally, I arrived at the last red turn buoy. I tried again — really hard — to stay close to the buoys. I could see the shore and the dock with people on it in the distance. This time I was able to stay with a group of swimmers. I wasn’t completely alone. As I ran up the dock, I glanced at my watch.

Forty-six minutes!

I was ecstatic. I was hoping for sub 50; I had crushed my goal. I had just swam farther than anyone else and still made my time goal!

I knew then that this wasn’t going to be a bad day at all.

The Bike

As I was putting on my bike shoes (the only way I can describe the transition phase is to say that you feel like you are in “La-La Land”–I felt like I am going in slow motion and everyone else was on fast forward speed), Elden came running in shouting encouragement and “I love you’s.” I was so out of it, I don’t even think I responded. I was just happy that I had made it out of the water before him…and that we had both made it out alive!

As I got on my bike and sped out of Sand Hollow Park, I passed Val, one of Lynette’s training partners. Like me, she is a slow swimmer, and I was happy to see that she had survived. I yelled encouragement and pedaled on.

I felt fantastic. Taking a few days off to rest had seemed to do me good.

I flew up the first hill by the reservoir, but as I crested the summit, Elden passed me. He was flying! He yelled encouragement as he streaked by me like a bolt of lightning. No one, the entire day, passed me with the same intensity as Elden. It was amazing.

The bike ride went fantastic. I felt strong. I fueled myself with GU Chomps. I had put the amount of Chomps in my Bentos box that I would require for the ride and ate them when I could. My stomach felt great and my energy levels never waned.

My stats say I passed about 1000 people on the bike (going from 1646th place overall to 700th place overall), but the one important person I really wanted to pass I never saw. Lynette eluded me. Had I passed her while swimming? There was just about no chance of  that — she was hoping for around a thirty-minute swim.

But where was she?

Twice the bike ride took us on an out-and-back section so  there would be returning riders crossing paths with you while you were going out, and vice-versa. Since I’m normally just a little faster than Lynette on the bike, I was constantly scanning for her, wondering when — or whether — I’d catch her. In fact, I had to remind myself to be careful or I was going to wreck in my quest to find Lynette!

“Lynette must be having a banner day — good for her!” I thought.

The last climb — up Snow Canyon — was invigorating. I felt great. I passed people who were walking their bikes; I passed people who were gasping for air. Triathletes may be fast on the flats, but — in general — they suck at climbing. It was nice to be powered by mountain biking legs!

According to Strava, I bested my snow canyon climb by 1:15 — not bad for having just swam 1.2 miles and ridden 45 miles.

As I descended in to town, I was grateful that I wasn’t one of the people I saw on their bikes still heading out for Snow Canyon. I was also still on the alert for Elden (who I thought I might see running toward me) and Lynette (who I hoped to catch while still riding) as I watched the steady mass of runners leaving town.

I arrived in the transition area seeing neither one of them.

The Run

As I moved in slow motion through the bike to run transition, I snarfed down two Honey Stinger waffles and used the port-a-potty. If I’m ever going to win a triathlon, I need to learn to speed up this process! As I looked down at my Garmin 10 to start its timer, I noticed that it hadn’t locked on to the satellites yet. “That’s OK,” I thought, “I’ll just use my Timex ironman watch.” Then, to my dismay, I saw it blinking in some mode I’ve never seen before — it was also unresponsive.

So I was wearing two high-tech watches, both made for running, and neither of which would record my run.

I was pissed. Would I run this whole half marathon not knowing how fast I was going? How primitive. I didn’t know if I would survive!

Eventually the Garmin locked on — and eventually I found my running legs.

Strava shows that my first two miles were between an 8:15 and 8:30 pace — not bad. The runner in me was coming out! I have been training for the Ogden marathon (May 18 — this upcoming Saturday) and the thought of running only a half marathon was downright pleasant!

I slowed my pace as I encountered the first climb. I was surprised at how many people were walking. As the pitch leveled off, my pace increased. Soon I was cruising along in a Zen state. I had all but forgotten to look for Lynette and Elden, when I suddenly heard someone shout, “Lisa?!“ 

Was someone talking to me?

I turned around and there she was: Lynette! I had been looking for her the last three hours . . . and then ran right by her without seeing her.

We talked for a minute. She said she had a fast swim — thirty-five minutes — and a great bike leg. I told her I had been looking for her forever, and then just about missed her altogether. She wished me luck as I continued on. I was so happy. Happy that I had finally caught Lynette, happy for her that she was feeling good and having a good race.

Now I just needed to find Elden.

Just as I had predicted, I came across Elden at Pioneer Park. He was happy to see me and raised his hand to high-five me. The problem was, I didn’t have an unoccupied hand — you see, I was carrying ice cubes to help keep my body temperature down. So instead of high-fiving him, I threw ice cubes at him and told him, “I told you we would pass each other here.” And then he was gone. I felt bad. I had thrown ice at him and hadn’t told him I loved him. Shame on me!

I did, however, calculate that he was two miles — roughly 18-20 minutes — ahead of me. I was never gonna catch him. I was happy he was looking good and moving so well.

As I approached the mile 9 – 10 aid station, my stomach did a flip-flop and started gurgling. The pictures of runners with diarrhea running down their legs passed quickly through my mind. Oh please let my stomach settle down! I thought.

I stopped and walked through the aid station and had a drink of cola and water. My stomach seemed to settle down a little and I pressed on.

The road at this point turned downhill — I was on the home stretch. As I turned on to Diagonal street, I caught up with a man and we started chatting. We were obviously motivating each other as we ran the last 2 miles together. We were cruising. Strava says I was running a 7:30-8:00 minute pace. Not bad for the end of a half-Ironman!

As we came to the roundabout and could almost see the finish line, I asked him if he had any kick left in him. He said he’d see and we both took off. He jumped ahead of me and crossed the finish line first. I was a little scared that I had jumped the gun with this sprint and that I might poop my pants and barf at the same time! I reeled it back in and was surprised and happy to see Heather cheering for me as I crossed the finish line.

And guess who else was there waiting for me? Elden! What a great surprise! As I was ramping up my run, he was slowly fading. I had cut his twenty-minute lead down to about ten with my fast sprint at the end. Still, we had both finished, and finished well! I was so proud of him!

Lynette came in a few minutes after I did. She was happy and felt good about her performance. I was super proud of her — and proud of me, for beating her! In retrospect, I figured out there were two reasons why I had beat Lynette:

  1. Cory, Lynette’s husband, is the owner of SBR Sports in Orem, Utah and did a custom bike fit on my Shiv. He promised me it would be one mile per hour faster. I think he may have been right. 
  2. I wore a dorky, pointy time trial helmet…..something Lynette said she will never do! 

Too bad for her — I think it goes great with my outfit:

IMG 6401

Lynette’s daughter, Mckenzie, also beat her mom and was thoroughly overjoyed! I don’t think Lynette even new she could bring so much happiness to everyone. Lynette is an extremely good sport and ended up talking eighth in her age group.

I was overjoyed to find out that even with a horrible swim I placed fourth in my age group. Not bad for my first half-Ironman. Elden was super excited for me-I think he was even more excited than I was!


As I was standing on the podium, I had a chance to talk with the lady who took 5th place.


I had beaten her by a mere twenty-two seconds. If I hadn’t ramped up the run at the end, I would have taken fifth instead of fourth.

IMG 6370

Getting on the podium at all was awesome. I was so happy!


Free Verse Friday: The Post-Crash Lament

05.10.2013 | 8:52 am

IMG 6379

Here I sit
Alone, in pain
Not yelling, for I am alone
As previously stated

A minute ago
– a mere moment! – 
I was riding
I was in the moment
I was focused
I was happy
I did not know
What my near future
Held in store

I crashed!
I was riding
And then I was sliding
On my knees
Catching much of my weight
On my right hand
The hand I always put out
And hence injure
With increasing ease

I jumped up! 
Adrenaline surging
Anger rushing out
Alas I had no target
At which to direct my ire
My considerable ire
Or, in the common tongue,

Stupid music!
Since I was riding alone
I had been listening to music
On my headphones as I rode
(Specifically, the “Elden’s Climbing Music” playlist)
And now it plays on
Mocking me

I tore the headphones out
A strange first order of business
To be sure 

My bike sat in the dried-mud trail
As did my phone
As did my water bottle
As did my bike
A yard sale of clumsiness
With the sole proprietor being

Then the adrenaline faded
And I needed to sit down
For a while
And let the pain wash over me
And hopefully

I was thirsty
But my bottle still lay in the dust
Fifteen feet up the trail
Too far, by far
I continued to sit

I wanted to call The Hammer
“Come get me,” I’d say
But she was at a school function
And so, sitting in the weeds,
I send a tweet out to the universe.
“Crashing sucks.”

Thank you.

Join Me NOON TODAY In a Chat About The Rockwell Relay: Moab to Saint George

05.9.2013 | 8:03 am

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan and supporter of Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George. It’s just got everything I love about a race, all rolled up into one crazy event [Full Disclosure: Rockwell Relay waives my team's entry fee]. You’re racing. You’re spectating. You’re supporting. You’re strategizing. You’re seeing a big ol’ chunk of beautiful country.

Which is why I’ve written big ol’ sloppy-kiss race reports after both of the years I’ve participated (click here for the 2011 report, click here for the 2012 report).

Today at noon MT (2pm ET / 11am PT), I’ll be doing a live chat with some of the organizers and participants for this event. If you’ve ever wondered about this event, why someone might do it, what it’s like from the front or the back, or just want to see a bunch of guys who all love this really strange race talk for half an hour or so, please join us. 

You can watch it below on this site, or you can go over to Spreecast itself to watch it, to make it easier for you to ask questions, participate in the viewer chat, and so forth (click here to go to the Spreecast page for this show). 

See you at noon!

Wherein I Run Like the Wind on a Windless Day (I am [Half] IronFatty, Part 3)

05.8.2013 | 12:58 pm

I knew the moment would come, eventually. The moment when I would have to get off my bike and go run a half marathon.

No, wait. I meant to put run in sarcasm quotes in that last sentence.

By the time I finished walking (as everyone around me ran) to where my stuff was in the transition area, my back felt OK again. I sucked down my seventh Gu Roctane gel of the day (one every half hour for the whole race — I never felt empty or sick the whole day) as I put on my fancy new 3-Sum Altras, but with socks. because I like to live dangerously . . . but not too dangerously.

And then I began to “run” (There, I got the air quotes right that time). Which means that I moved at what was essentially a walking pace, but swinging my arms as if I were running. Allow me to show you what I mean:

0365 18407

Please do not mistake my facial expression for a smile. Thank you.

This Course Is Just Mean

The thing is, I was as prepared for this run as I have ever been for any run. Running this season in Altras certainly was part of it — the zero-drop thing has really worked for me. Being lighter has helped, too. And starting with low mileage and working s-l-o-w-ly up has made a difference. 

But none of that mattered, because the running course for the St. George Half-Ironman is just brutal. This is the run profile, according to the race website:


But my Strava of the run — which, by the way, did not capture the first 0.8 miles of the run because my stupid Garmin 10 wouldn’t acquire a signal — tells a different story: 1241 feet of climbing.

Yeah, 1241 feet of climbing in a half marathon. At the end of a half Ironman. 

And I’m inclined to believe the Strava record of the event. See, the out-and-back course was always either going up or down. I don’t believe there was a single piece of the run that was level.

Looking For The Hammer

But I made it a point of pride to never stop and walk. Even if I was going nearly as slow as if I were walking, I was going to keep “running.” 

Because I suspected that if I slowed to a walk, The Hammer would smack me on the butt as she ran by. 

I made it to the six-point-something mile turnaround, and began keeping a sharp eye out for The Hammer. I knew I’d see her soon; the only question was when. I figured if I got to mile seven — which would be her mile 5 — I’d have a good chance of holding her off ’til the end. 

I reached mile seven. No sign of The Hammer yet.

A chunk of mile seven (also mile 5) is in a little detour the half-marathon takes your through the hilly (because the course isn’t already difficult enough, apparently) Pioneer Park. Before the race, this is where The Hammer said we’d see each other.

She was right.

“Lisa!” I yelled, and held out a hand for her to give me five as we crossed paths. 

Instead, she laughed and threw a piece of ice at me. I didn’t mind. I had two miles on her, and fewer than six left to go before I reached the finish line.

Slowdown + Gratitude + Pain

Encouraged, I kept running. But — even more than before, somehow — my running felt less like running. It was a trudging jog, at best. And — except for steep downhills, which weren’t super-pleasant either — it was always uphill.

People passed me in droves. “It isn’t the course that’s the problem,” I realized. “It’s me.” I began to suspect that my lead over The Hammer was far from safe.

I told my legs to go faster. My legs failed to comply.

I made it to the bottom of the last big descent — just a couple miles to go. Then I got diverted (along with everyone else) onto a little side street, where we had a short run up (and I mean “up” in the most vertical sense of the word) to the local Elks lodge and then back.

I knew that if I saw The Hammer coming into this out-and-back section while I was still on it, she’d catch me. If I didn’t see her, I was — more than likely — safe.

As I ran I watched every runner, knowing that long before I could recognize any features I’d recognize her smooth running style. 

I made it onto Bluff Street without seeing her. I knew I’d finish first. And with this knowledge came a sudden lack of urgency, and I slowed down further, so that my forward progress could be measured only by sophisticated scientific instruments.

I turned onto Diagonal Street: a — finally! — gently downhill grade leading to the final turn and the home stretch. There, a large man was standing in the street, holding out popsicles for anyone who wanted them. 

I took one, briefly considering that in this era, taking food from a stranger in an event like this might not be wise. “I’m not going to live like that,” I thought to myself, “and besides, a popsicle sounds great right now.”

And it was great. Truly cold and sweet and wet and delicious. Just what I needed and wanted right then.

And then I got a monster of a brain freeze. Which at least kept me occupied for a minute or so and distracted me from the fact that everyone in the world was passing me at the moment.

Big Finish

I made the final turn. Now all I had to do was make it down the big downhill stretch to the finish. I heard someone call my name out, and turned around — it was Kenny and Heather. “Hey,” I said, happy to see they had come to see me.

The finishing line crowd was huge, and cheering for everyone. Dozens of people put out their hands for runners to give them five. I complied as best as I could:


Hey, let’s get a closeup of my legs in that shot:


I confess to having mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think my legs are looking pretty darned good. On the other hand, there’s some very clear old-man-legs wrinkleage going on up there on my left quad. Ew.

As I approached the finish line, I thought to myself, “I need a finish line celebration.” Raised arms wouldn’t be appropriate — I knew I for sure hadn’t won anything. 

But how about a heel-click? Yes, a heel click would be perfect. Which just goes to show exactly how addled my mind was at the time. Still, here’s the launch:

0365 21404

And here I am on my way toward the click:


And for those of you who — like me — have been waiting your whole life for a good shot of me doing a heel-click while wearing a super-form-fitting outfit as I cross the finish line of a half-Ironman, here’s the zoomed-in version of the shot:


Unfortunately, I haven’t been exactly training to do heel clicks when I’m completely and utterly exhausted, and I very nearly went down when I landed:


But I pulled it out and recovered my balance. 

Meeting The Hammer

Now all I needed to do was wait for The Hammer to cross. And I didn’t have to wait long. In fact, I only needed to wait six minutes, during which I drank three bottles of water (no exaggeration). Kenny caught a photo of us moments after she crossed the line:


Yes, I was as salt-encrusted as I appear in that photo.

We sat down and recovered.

IMG 6372

Yes, I really was that salt-encrusted.

Heather wanted a photo of The Hammer and me together, but neither of us was willing to get out of our seats. This was our compromise:

IMG 6373

We were not actually anywhere near as sunburned as the above photo would suggest.

The Hammer Hammered

After a few minutes or possibly half an hour, we went to check and see what our various splits and times and whatnot were. You can look us up at the results page for the race (I’m racer 2261, The Hammer is 2076) but I’ll be more than glad to give you a quick snapshot for your consideration.

Here’s me:


And here’s The Hammer:


You see what’s important there? Yep, The Hammer podiumed.

That’s right, The Hammer took fourth in her age group. And in fact had the fastest bike time in her age group.

That rules.

So here she is on stage, getting her trophy:


And here’s the trophy itself:

IMG 6370

I’m so proud of her. 

And also, I’m so happy that I don’t have to run again for a long, long time.

Half of an IronFatty is Still Fat: St. George Half Ironman Race Report Part the Second

05.7.2013 | 9:01 am

NewImageA Note from Fatty: If you’ve ever wanted to race the Rockwell Relay: Moab to Saint George — or you are racing it and want to know what it’s going to be like . . . or if you have no intention of racing it but are curious what kind of idiots would race it, join me this Thursday at 12:00 (noon) Mountain Time (2pm ET / 11am PT) for a live Spreecast chat with the organizers and participants for the race. You’ll be able to find the event on my homepage, as well as on Spreecast itself.

We’ll be talking about what the race is like, strategy for who should ride which kinds of stages, what it’s like to share a van with three other stinky, sleepy racers for a full day (and longer) and more. 

Join us. It should be great fun. 

Half of an IronFatty is Still Fat: St. George Half Ironman Race Report Part the Second

When last I wrote, I had finished the swim part of the St. George Half Ironman, had successfully extricated myself from the wetsuit, had seen that The Hammer was minutes ahead of me, and had made it through transition, all apparently without incident.

And by apparently, I really mean apparently.

I jumped on my bike, clipped in, spun up to a good cadence, and then pressed the shifter button on my Ultegra Di2 to shift from the easyish gear I had selected before the race to a bigger gear, so I could begin ramping up the speed.


I pressed the button again.

Some more nothing.

I considered the strange possibility that the button itself wasn’t working and pressed the shifter button on the aero bar instead.

Yet even more nothing.

I wondered if perhaps my battery was dead, in spite of the fact that I had charged it less than a day earlier. I pressed the button to make my front derailleur shift.

That worked fine.

I pressed all kinds of buttons to shift my rear derailleur again.

Lots and lots of nothing.

Great, I thought. “The rear derailleur has gotten unplugged. I pulled over out of traffic (though I had not yet pulled out of the Sand Hollow Reservoir parking area) and checked where the wire plugs into the derailleur. 

It was in place.

So I climbed back onto my bike and began pedaling again, considering my new reality: I was riding a two-speed bike. With the derailleur where it was — in about the third-easiest gear — I wouldn’t be in a good place for flying on the flats, nor for climbing the steep stuff.

I began trying to adapt to my new riding situation. “I am not going to be fast,” I thought to myself. “I’m going to be very spun out on flats and downhills, and I’m going to be overgeared on the climbs.”

The blinking red light on the Di2 junction box — mounted on the stem — caught my eye.

I pressed and held the button on the junction box, hoping that maybe — just maybe — it would reset the brains of the setup and I’d be able to shift again.

The light continued to blink.

“Forget it,” I thought, and began to pedal the fastest cadence I could. I began passing people. “This’ll be OK,” I thought. “I’ll have a story to tell. Not the story I wanted, but still: a story.”

Then, a minute or so later, I looked down. The LED was no longer blinking red. It was no longer blinking at all.

Without any real hope or expectation, I pressed the button to shift my rear derailleur.

It worked.

It worked

I was back in business.

A surge of adrenaline hit me, I laughed out loud, shifted into a big gear, and dropped twenty people during the next minute. And by the minute after that, I had dropped so many people I decided I wasn’t going to bother counting any longer.

What Happened?

So, why had I not been able to shift at the beginning of the race, when during the past five years of use Di2 had never failed me, and had in fact been by far and away the most reliable drivetrain I have ever owned?

I have a theory.

When a Di2 rear derailleur gets whacked good and hard, it automatically disengages, so the motor doesn’t get busted. Kinda like the way if you drop your computer, your hard drive parks itself right away to avoid damage (this simile probably made more sense to some of my readers than to others). 

I suspect that whoever had their bike next to mine in the bike rack before the race smacked my rear derailleur as he got his own bike off the rack. My derailleur protected itself. But I — having never bothered to read the manual — didn’t realize that’s what had happened. So all my button pressing did no good…until I stumbled on the idea of pressing the junction box button. That reset and re-engaged the derailleur and I was good to go. In fact, I could have shifted probably a couple minutes sooner than I did if I’d have just tried.

Full Speed Ahead

I had been looking forward to this moment — this 56 miles — for months. Quite literally. I had lost a bunch of weight. Gotten my legs as fit and fast as they’ve ever been. Learned to get good and low on a bike while still putting as much power as I possibly could into the pedals.

And with everything working right, I went out. Hard.

On your left!” I called, loud. Over and over. Yelling it loudly to be heard, but meaning it politely so nobody would accidentally start drifting left as I passed them. 

I passed people by the dozens. For reals.

I hit the first big hill and just stayed left because I was passing so often that there was never any time to get back on the right side of the road.

I’m tempted to make some kind of self-deprecating comment here. Deflate what’s obviously a pretty hefty string of boasts, but the truth is, I was a force of nature. 

As I crested the first hill, I had caught and passed The Hammer. “Hey baby,” I said as I went by. 

“Love you!” she yelled.

“You too!” I shouted over my shoulder.

And then I was gone.

After that, the stats for the bike leg tell the story pretty well. 


As I rode, I truly never was not passing people. I went from 1248th place, overall, at the end of the swim, to 208th place by the end of the ride. Which means I passed right around 1040 people on the bike.

With 3400 feet of climbing in the 56 miles, I still averaged 22.45 miles per hour.

And since I’m boasting and getting all anal about stats, how about these:

  • Out of all finishers (around 2000 of us, I’m guessing), I was the 77th fastest cyclist.
  • Out of all non-pro men (which I think is the most reasonable way to measure myself), I was the 33rd fastest cyclist.

So, do I love my Specialized Shiv? You bet I do. Do I love my Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifting? Oh yeah. More than ever.

I loved being one of the fast guys. 

And for that very reason, I was seriously disappointed as I rolled up to the transition area; it was immediately obvious that my moment in the sun was at an end.

I stepped off my pedals and walked painfully into the transition area, my back aching, as it often does after a long ride — having stiffened during the effort. I watched as others ran to where they’d dump their helmets and swap their shoes. 

I, on the other hand, shuffled. 

“This ain’t no time for jibber-jabber,” I muttered to myself, repeating a little joke The Hammer and I have between ourselves (she’s not one for stopping and chatting during bike rides). I pulled my shoes on and stutter-stumble-stepped into a phony jog. 

I had been fast on the bike, but The Hammer had had a banner season so far, too. Would I be able to hold her off for the next thirteen miles in what is undisputably my absolute worst event?

That’s the question I had on my mind, and the question I’ll answer in the next post.

PS: For those of you who like Strava, here’s what it has to say about my ride.

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