The Things That Hurt: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part I

09.23.2013 | 9:43 am


It’s Monday morning. I’m home. I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I’m sitting in a comfortable chair. I feel like the time is right. I can begin to tell the story of racing Salt to Saint — 423.6 miles — in the solo category.

But first, I would like to enumerate the parts of me that hurt, in no particular order:

  • Eyes
  • Back of neck
  • Upper back
  • Lower back
  • Wrists
  • Achilles tendons
  • Knees
  • Quads
  • Nostrils
  • Throat
  • Lungs
  • A very particular area of my buttocks

Apart from that, I feel great.


This story is going to take a while to tell. For one thing, the race was pretty long. For another thing, the list of things I want to include in the story currently has 189 items in it. And that’s just the list. Which, by the way, keeps growing. 

Also, today’s post will only barely get to the point where we cross the starting line.

I say this not by way of apology, but simply so that you can set your expectations appropriately.

The Days Before The Race

I have never prepared so little for a race. Really, I was completely ridiculous about it. This 420 mile race was coming up, and I wasn’t doing anything to get ready for it. I wasn’t obsessing over previous race reports, I wasn’t researching segments on Strava, I wasn’t reading the race bible and strategizing. I just didn’t have the time. I was in an incredibly intense few weeks at work. 

The Hammer had to do all the prep. Which she did. Magnificently. 

In particular, she began baking. She had taken our copy of Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes and had begun making all kinds of on-the-go food. Pizza rolls. Sweet potato pies. Blueberry turnovers. Cinnamon rolls. And more. So much more. 

“For a ride like this,” she said, “We don’t want to go to chews and gels until we have to. 

The Hammer also arranged our crew for the race, which would be broken down into four waves:

  1. Jilene and my eldest son, Nigel, would get us to the starting line and then crew for us for the first 50 miles or so.
  2. The Hammer’s brothers would take over from there and crew for us ’til about 8 or 9pm
  3. The Hammer’s sons would take over from there and crew for us ’til about 5 or 6am
  4. Kenny and Heather would take over from there and crew for us ’til the finish line.

The Hammer arranged a complex system of cars and pick up / drop off points and times. The logistics were as impressive as they were confusing and I was glad to not need to be a part of it.

I did offer one suggestion. “We should use my BikeMobile as the crew vehicle,” I said. My beloved army-green Honda Ridgeline, to my way of thinking, was the perfect vehicle for everyone to use as the crew vehicle. We’d put our four-bike Raxter rack in the hitch receiver, bring two road bikes and our Shivs, load up the back seat area and the truck bed with all the food and clothes we owned. What could be better?

Blake, though, wanted to make his truck the crewing vehicle. He had reasons, none of which made any sense to me. As anyone who knows him knows, though, once Blake has made up his mind, argument is futile.

And besides, what did I care? I wasn’t going to be in the truck anyway. 

So, Thursday afternoon, around 5pm, I finished my last report for work and  turned it in. Now, with fifteen hours ’til the ride began, I could turn my attention to this race.

We packed all — and I mean that pretty darned close to literally — our stuff and got to bed, setting the alarm for 5am the next morning. 

The Morning Of

I’d like to take a brief moment to say what a wonderful luxury it is to have a big race start close to home. Instead of sleeping in a hotel the night before the race, to sleep in your own bed. To get up and have breakfast in your own kitchen. To be able to use your own shower, to use your own sink as you shave.

Yes, I like to shower and shave before races when I can. No, I don’t know why. (But it may have to do with this theory that my facial stubble creates a lot of aerodynamic drag.)

We loaded up the truck and by 6:00am were ready to go. Jilene — one of The Hammer’s best friends and a ridiculously strong rider in her own right — arrived at our house right on time. Nigel was up and ready to go.

Everything was going perfect. I love it when things go perfect.

We drove from Alpine to the “This is the Place” monument in Salt Lake City — a perfectly fitting place to start a race from Salt Lake to Saint George. I parked the truck, we unloaded the bikes (we planned to do the first 50 or so miles on road bikes, since we’d be doing a lot of start-and-stop city riding and a big climb and descent up and over Suncrest).

We picked up our race packets and The Hammer and I suited up in our brand-new kits. 


Once again, the guys at Twin Six have outdone themselves. This is fantastic-looking gear. 

Oh, and here’s a picture with Nigel in it too:

Photo 2

Yes, he is about six inches taller than I am.

Anyway, I went to pick up our SPOT trackers; they weren’t ready to go. Not a problem, we had an hour to go until the race started.

With nothing better to do, I would go back to check if the SPOTs were ready every five minutes until they had locked on to the satellite. 

Yes, race promoters, you know how there’s always one guy who won’t leave you alone and bugs you about something every five minutes? Well, I’m that guy. Sorry.

Houston, We Have a Problem. Like, a Really Big Problem

We had fifteen minutes ’til our 8am start, and nothing left to do. Jilene, The Hammer, and Nigel climbed back into the truck to warm up a little.

Except the truck wouldn’t start. Instead, it just blinked a message: SECURITY. 

Jilene called over to me, “The truck won’t start; I can’t turn the key!” I rolled my eyes, figuring she just needed to put some tension on the steering wheel and then it would work just fine.

No. Jilene was correct. The key would not turn. At all. We just got that blinking message: SECURITY.

As if the truck had decided that this race was not a good idea, and it was going to stop us from going. You know, for our own protection.

Jilene called Blake. “Try jiggling the steering wheel,” Blake said. 

“THAT DOESN’T WORK,” Jilene replied. 

Blake insisted, and Jilene — knowing how useful it is to argue with Blake — tried jiggling the steering wheel, along with a few other ideas Blake had.

None of that mattered. The truck would not start. 

Blake recommended Jilene call Zac (The Hammer’s eldest son), from whom he had bought the truck, and whom also is a mechanic.

“Try jiggling the steering wheel,” Zac recommended.

“Right,” said Jilene.

“We’ve got to line up, the race starts in about three minutes,” I told The Hammer. Then, to Jilene and Nigel, I said, “You’re both smart, competent people. We’re going to trust that you’ll find a way to catch up to us as soon as possible. And now we’ve got to race.”

“Take some extra food!” Jilene yelled, and quickly stuffed our jersey pockets.

The Hammer and I lined up. Almost instantly the race director yelled, “Go!” and we took off, beginning our 423-mile race.

Photo 3

Meanwhile, our crew was behind us, stranded in a parking lot.

“Well, this is a scary start to a long, long day,” I said to The Hammer.

Of course, I couldn’t know that things were about to get much, much worse. 


  1. Comment by Clydesdave | 09.23.2013 | 9:52 am

    now that’s a cliff hanger ending to the first segment!

  2. Comment by Maile in FL | 09.23.2013 | 9:58 am

    Actually, I can tell you why it’s a good idea to shower before a race. It’s the same reason they wanted us to shower before a flight in the Air Force. If you get in an accident, you’ll have fewer germs on your skin to cause infection and complications. Isn’t that a cheering thought ?

    Can’t wait to read more…

  3. Comment by Jim Tolar | 09.23.2013 | 10:09 am

    Damn it FatMan, in spite of your warning at the very beginning there I was at the end of the post, wanting and *expecting* it to continue further. Sigh.

    Congratulations on the epic rides (yours *and* The Hammer’s). I’m looking forward to an epic series of epic posts.


  4. Comment by Kelly | 09.23.2013 | 10:16 am

    I want to hear how the guy in the green did – riding with tennis shoes, regular shorts, and fenders on the bike. Rather an unusual kit for a 400 mile race. I hope he did well.

  5. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 09.23.2013 | 10:26 am

    Installment 1 of hwat appears to be an epic ride report, and you have us hooked already.

    Anyone interested in a pool on how many instalments this report is going to require?

  6. Comment by Wife#1 | 09.23.2013 | 10:32 am

    You both look fabulous!

  7. Comment by Kukui | 09.23.2013 | 10:35 am

    This is going to be an epic 30-part series of cliffhangers, I just know it!

    Congratulations on surviving the Salt-to-Saint, Fatty and The Hammer! =)

  8. Comment by yannb | 09.23.2013 | 10:44 am

    I’m already on the edge of my seat!!

  9. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 09.23.2013 | 10:46 am

    OK I have a question. That has been burning inside of me for a while. Why are the arms on the FC jersey’s so small (hole circumfrance wise)on the men’s jerseys? Lisa’s nice and comfy loose, Elden’s almost too tight. Mine are like that too….

    …..Oh yeah, great ominous start to the story.

  10. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 09.23.2013 | 10:48 am

    @Kelly. Good call out. I too want to hear about the man in green. I’m confident Fatty has that covered, my guess it’s bullet point 127 on his list.

    Wife#1 is correct (duh!) you guys do look fabulous!

    Now that we know the crew was Tour calibre scale, a big shout out for taking care of our Team! Oh, and your parents and friends as well.

  11. Comment by GregC | 09.23.2013 | 10:53 am

    As I recall from prior posts, Fatty typically shoots for up to a dozen points per post- so if you consider the entropy effect, the 189 will turn into about 240- my bet is for 20 days posts. I look forward to them all! I’m disapointed that I wont be able to join the fatty gathering this weekend to congratuate you both for a supurb effort.

  12. Comment by Laura S | 09.23.2013 | 10:57 am

    On the edge of my seat waiting for the next segment! These serial race reports have been great!

  13. Comment by bikemike | 09.23.2013 | 10:58 am

    It always gets worse just before it gets really awful.

  14. Comment by NYCCarlos | 09.23.2013 | 11:00 am

    Doug – Your pythons/cannons/biceps are just too big.

    Actually… jerseys are supposed to be snug on the arms (and everywhere else). If anything, I’d say Lisa’s jersey is a bit too big.

  15. Comment by andy@wdw | 09.23.2013 | 11:33 am

    I’m so excited to read about this epic race! I’m equally terrified at the thought of how long it will take. I’m going to be optimistic and say 12 installments.

    @Kelly I’m so glad I’m not the only one who scrolled back through the pictures to see if he really had fenders.

    Fatty and Hammer, I cannot begin to express just how impressed I am with the two of you! Anyone who attempts such a race deserves great respect, but to finish and place as well as you did, is simply super human.

  16. Comment by Brian in VA | 09.23.2013 | 12:08 pm

    The two of you just amaze me! I’m about to ride my fourth century ride next weekend. I can’t imagine doing all 4 in a row! You’re just incredible.

    Congrats on another epic ride for Team Fatty! Can’t wait to catch the rest of the ride report…I’m especially looking forward to that 3:00 – 4:00 am report when suffering hallucinations starts to play tricks on your mind. Muwahahahaha!

  17. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 09.23.2013 | 12:18 pm

    I’m not going to say anything about the guy in the green shirt, except to note that he is out there. My first serious rides were barely in bike shorts and with toe clips, and I held my own riding alongside guys who were much better equipped. Then I started learning from friends who gently coached me on some of the finer points.

    Better equipment might make it faster or easier, but the bottom line is that it’s all about being out there and getting it done.

  18. Comment by NoTrail | 09.23.2013 | 12:20 pm

    All these darn cliff hangers. For once, can’t we just read the first bit and have no desire to return and read any more?!? Is that asking so much?

  19. Comment by old guy who likes to ride | 09.23.2013 | 12:41 pm

    don’t like to dis a man’s wheels, but sounds like somebody’s truck went from hero to zero over recent rides.

  20. Comment by UpTheGrade SR CA | 09.23.2013 | 12:46 pm

    Great start to your epic tale. I only had the tracking tool to go by, but there seemed to be lots of gapping/catching up going on, can’t wait to hear what actually transpired.

    I’m curious about the total distance, you state 423.6 miles and with that accuracy I assume it came from some offical source, however the tracking tool says you all went 454.1 miles. Was there an unexpected 30.5 miles added on just for fun?

  21. Comment by J | 09.23.2013 | 1:06 pm

    Part I of MCCCXXXVII I predict?

  22. Comment by Trey Jackson | 09.23.2013 | 1:16 pm

    I’m surprised y’all were trying out new foods on your epic ride. My hunch is that the food will play a role in a couple of instalments of this adventure.

    And @UpTheGrade – what, no spoiler alert?!?!

  23. Comment by Barton | 09.23.2013 | 1:21 pm

    among the body parts listed that hurt, I was sad to not read “back of the eyeballs.” There is just something about that overall body fatigue and pain that always makes me feel that the back of my eyeballs hurt as well (like there are even any nerves back there….).

    Looking forward to installments 2 through infinity!

  24. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.23.2013 | 2:12 pm

    Great start. Here’s a song that ties in to your title:

  25. Comment by Chase | 09.23.2013 | 2:35 pm

    I think it’s going to be best if I wait to read these until all (or most?) are written. Daily cliffhangers for three weeks might not be great for me!

    I do look forward to reading the whole experience, though.

  26. Comment by wharton_crew | 09.23.2013 | 3:37 pm

    This is going to be worse than waiting for the new episodes of Breaking Bad each week….Fatty, you are the Heisenberg of endurance cycling!

  27. Comment by Cat_Rancher | 09.23.2013 | 3:58 pm

    Watch out, wharton_crew! You’ve heard what the success of the split season of Breaking Bad has caused… The final season of Mad Men will be split– half in 2014, half in 2015!!! Don’t give Fatty any ideas! LOL (I don’t watch either show, but immediate family members have expressed their EXTREME displeasure over this announcement)
    Many very entertaining stories begin with vehicle failure… Many horror film moments, too… Hmmmm…

  28. Comment by Foster Irwin | 09.23.2013 | 4:11 pm

    I biked Salt to Saint for the first time in a 4 man team. I can’t imagine riding solo. You are my heroes.

  29. Comment by Sunny | 09.23.2013 | 5:29 pm

    I feel like sitting in front of my computer for what sounds like the next two weeks waiting for each installment…tell them at work you’re busy. Glad you’re home and safe and now we want the whole story!

  30. Comment by roan | 09.23.2013 | 5:46 pm

    I’ve a feeling there will be more cycles to this race than the hours to complete.
    Fatty, ya know a episode, installment by The Hammer would be refreshing.
    Better yet with the awesome crew helping, a series from their view point would be great, esp. one about Fatty’s Greatest (or most interesting) Moments.
    Nice kits.

  31. Comment by Joel | 09.23.2013 | 7:53 pm

    Fantastic accomplishment, can’t wait to read about it. Want to do this with me next year?

  32. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.23.2013 | 9:28 pm

    jiggle the wheel AND juggle the key WHILE holding mouth just so..

  33. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.23.2013 | 9:36 pm

    Now that this little warm up is complete (save for the story) and after your recovery ride next week at Levis Gran Fondo you stick around and knock this off:

    maybe on a tandem?

  34. Comment by AKChick | 09.23.2013 | 11:06 pm

    I love it!!!! I’m so excited for this report to unfold. I don’t mind multiple installments. It gives me something to look forward to for the next couple weeks or so. Very exciting stuff. I think your life should be a reality TV series! Or you should start writing shows. So good! Congratulations to you and The Hammer on an amazing ride!

  35. Comment by AKChick | 09.23.2013 | 11:19 pm

    Also, DavidH – call me crazy but I’m tempted to try a longer event, but as part of a relay. I am tempted to try the Fireweed 200 (one way from Sheep Mountain to Valdez), but not the 400. At least not yet. This year’s Fireweed jersey is beautiful:

    Also, you can’t beat this description (cept I’d go one way):

    The Fireweed 400 will start on the Glenn Highway at Sheep Mountain Lodge, roughly 100 miles northeast of Anchorage, and run to Valdez and back a total distance of approximately 392 miles. The National Scenic Byway states “The Glenn Highway is a place where geology, culture, and scenery come together to create the majestic and rugged landscape that can only be seen in Alaska.” The Glenn Highway was completed in 1944 linking the Alaska-Canada Highway to Anchorage. Before its completion there was no road access to Anchorage from the Lower 48.

    In the first 15 miles of the route, racers will find a couple of steep climbs. The first 6 miles has a 1000 foot elevation rise. At approximately 15 miles from the start, riders will reach Eureka Summit (3,322), the highest point of the Glenn Highway. In the next sixty miles to Glennallen, the route descends gradually to an elevation of approximately 1000 feet.

    Traveling east to Glennallen, bikers will have views of Mount Sanford (elev. 16,237 feet), Mount Drum (elev. 12,010 feet), Mount Wrangell (elev. 14,163 feet), and Mount Blackburn(elev. 16,390 feet). These Wrangell Mountains, along with St. Elias Mountains contain the most spectacular array of glaciers and ice fields outside the polar regions. The Wrangell Mountains are part of the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, the nation’s largest national park. Together with the adjacent Kluane National Park of Canada, the park has been designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations. In addition to the Wrangells, the riders will be surrounded for most of the race on the Glenn and Richardson highways by the Talkeetna Range and the Chugach Mountains.

    Wildflowers growing along the roadside in July include fireweed, sweet pea, lupine, cinquefoil, Jacob’s ladder, and milk-vetch.

    And this:

    Mile 75.5 of the race route, just beyond Glennallen, riders will turn right onto the Richardson Highway. The trip from Glennallen down and into Valdez is one of the most beautiful highways in Alaska. With its alpine tundra filled with miniature flowers and fireweed it has long been called the Switzerland of Alaska. Before the riders descend to sea level at Valdez, they will need to climb a series of rolling hills that take them to the top of Thompson Pass, an elevation of 3000 feet. The climb, however, will seem gradual compared to the “Prime Climb” out of Valdez to the top of Thompson Pass on the way back to Sheep Mountain Lodge.

    You could see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline:
    Trans-Alaska Pipeline – The pipeline parallels the highway in numerous spots.

    And ride to a glacier: The Worthington Glacier – This is the closest one can get by road to a glacier in the state.

    Maybe it will snow on you?
    Thompson Pass – Record snow falls are recorded here – over 200 FEET. It can snow any day of the year.

    One of the prettiest waterfalls in the US:
    Keystone Canyon – The route winds along the Lowe River in the canyon. The canyon walls contain countless waterfalls and interesting rock formations, including the 360′ Bride Vail Falls and Horsetail Falls.

    Any Fattys tempted? :)

  36. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.24.2013 | 12:07 am

    @AK CHICK You are a very bad, bad, bad Fatty. Of course I’m interested(don’t tell Allison).

    I’ve stayed at the Sheep Mountain Lodge in the 80’s (has it improved any, or is the sauna still wood fired?) and I’ve driven over the Thompson Pass in a snowstorm at night.(you failed to mention the snow poles along the side of the road are like 20ft tall-at least they were back then). If we can get Gregg and Matt C’s, or YannB and SteveB, it could be a blast! Since Matt and Gregg work with rockets and satellites all we have to do is convince them it ties into their work…somehow.

    There’s also Corrine from Fairbanks(?) and I believe you have another Fatty there in Anchorage.

    OK, mums the word.

  37. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 09.24.2013 | 4:10 am

    Can you manage expectations a bit here? Will this be over by October?

  38. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 09.24.2013 | 4:12 am

    Or November?

  39. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 09.24.2013 | 5:30 am

    @David and AK CHICK I definitely think we need to get a team together for SOMETHING. It’s a matter of timing, but maybe with some planning…….

  40. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 09.24.2013 | 7:22 am

    I continue to be amazed – first that you finished this grueling ride solo, and second that the two of you did so well against many teams with multiple riders.

    You both rock.

    Amazing. Simply amazing.


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