A Note from Fatty: Looking for earlier installments to this series? Here you go:
- Part I: The Things that Hurt
- Part II: Meet Your Competitors
- Part III: Team Fatty Cannot Seem to Catch a Break
- Part IV: Support from a Unicorn
- Part V: Life as a Domestique
We had just finished the first hundred miles of a 423-mile ride. So, not quite a quarter of the way done. Still, I had decided that anytime I hit a hundred mile mark, I was going to celebrate.
“We’re 25% done!” I shouted to The Hammer. “We’ve got a good start!”
She agreed, nodding her head. I wondered if she was thinking about the strangeness of what I had just said in the same way I was: calling a 100-mile ride “a good start.”
But in our heads, that’s the way it was. Normally, by the time we reach the 100-mile mark, our bodies and minds are ready to get off the bike. But we had thought about the distance and the time for this race long enough, and had told ourselves that getting to Nephi — kind of our outer-limit-distance for training rides — was where the ride really began often enough, that I didn’t expect to feel tired at this point.
And, amazingly, I wasn’t tired. I was just fine. So much of endurance racing is a mental game.
Oh No, Not Again
Within five miles of swapping out to our road bikes in Nephi, I could tell something was wrong.
My bike felt squishy. Sloppy. It’s a very distinct feeling.
It felt…the way a bike feels when a tire is slowly going flat.
“Maybe it’s all in my head,” I said to myself, knowing that this is not something that is ever all in my head.
“Is my rear tire low?” I called back to The Hammer.
“I don’t know. Maybe?” she yelled up to me. Which was less than confidence-inspiring.
So I pulled over, twisted around, and pressed my thumb down on my rear tire.
Yup. Going flat.
At which point I began softly weeping.
A Quick Change
I barely had time to climb off my bike before Scott and Kerry pulled up behind us. “Well, at least I can use the floor pump to inflate the tire,” was pretty much all I thought.
The Hammer, though, had an idea that would get us on the road sooner. “Have them change the tire while you just switch over to your Shiv for the time being.”
“Hm,” I replied, looking for a way to put my objection delicately.
“What’s the problem?” The Hammer asked.
“I don’t think Scott or Kerry, you know, ride,” I said. “Do either of them know how to change a road tire?”
“Scott used to mountain bike; he knows how to change a tire,” The Hammer assured me.
“You’re OK to change a tire?” I asked Scott. “You’ll need to be sure to use one of the tubes with an 80mm stem, OK?”
“Sure,” Scott said.
“OK, let’s do it,” I said.
I told The Hammer to go on without me; I’d catch her as soon as my bike was unloaded. Within a couple minutes, I had the Shiv off the rack and was on my way.
A “Quick” Change
With The Hammer a couple minutes ahead of me, I was breaking one of the main rules we had set for ourselves at the beginning of this race: we stay together.
Now, in order to catch up with her, I broke another of our primary rules: stay out of the red zone. I stood up and went as hard as I could, figuring that once I caught up, I could back off for a few minutes and recover.
And that worked out just fine. Within ten minutes, I had caught up with The Hammer. “Let me draft behind you for a few minutes, OK?” I said.
Then, just about the time my breath was back to normal and I was ready to start taking turns at pulling again, Scott and Kerry drove past us, pulled off the side of the road, and unloaded my road bike.
“This will take less than a minute,” I said. “Just keep going and I’ll catch you after I hop off this bike and onto my road bike.”
So The Hammer kept going while I slowed down, dismounted, grabbed my road bike, shouted my thanks, and got riding again.
And then immediately stopped.
Something was seriously wrong with my bike. I could barely turn the cranks. I climbed off, lifted the rear wheel off the ground, and gave it a quick spin.
The wheel did not budge.
As I climbed off my bike, I noted that The Hammer was disappearing from sight; she didn’t realize I was having bike trouble.
Should I get back on my TT bike? Or fix my road bike? I decided to fix my road bike; this was a climbing section; I’d be standing often. I wanted my Tarmac.
So I looked down and noticed two problems I was going to need to address:
- One of the brake pads was halfway out of its track.
- The brake calipers were tweaked hard to port.
I couldn’t help but ask Scott and Kerry, “What happened here?”
“We had some trouble getting the wheel back in place once we changed the tire,” Kerry told me.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. Honestly, I just didn’t want to hear any more.
“So, could you go get my hex wrenches out of the blue bin in the back of my truck?”
I took the rear wheel off, got the brake pad back in place, and then re-centered and tightened the brake calipers. That pretty much takes me to the outer limits of my mechanic skills, so I was glad it wasn’t any trickier to fix than that.
“OK, I’m off again. See you soon!” I hollered.
I didn’t know how right I was.
I Love My Tarmac
Look. The Shiv is a fantastic bike. It’s amazing, frankly, at doing what it does best: go really fast on straight, flat roads. I mean, The Hammer and I had just knocked out seventy miles with hardly any effort at all on those bikes.
That said, I was so happy to be back on my Tarmac. I love that bike. When I’m on it, I just feel great. I can get in the drops and descend like a hawk. I can get on the hoods and ride forever. I can stand and climb forever.
It was the “stand and climb forever” part that came in handy now, cuz I figured The Hammer was at least eight or ten minutes ahead of me. “Miles,” I thought to myself. “I have miles to make up.”
And so I stood up and rode. Hard. Riding like I was going to be out for another hour or so, instead of for another twenty or so. Knowing that what I was doing was stupid strategy, but not really caring.
Because I love the way I can go on the Tarmac.
And sometimes love makes you do stupid things.
For twenty, I pushed myself. Just rode myself into a hole. And then I could see her. I had The Hammer in sight. “Another three minutes,” I thought to myself. “Three minutes and I’ve got her. And then I can draft off her for ten minutes or so, and everything will be great.”
And that’s when my bike started feeling squishy. You know, sloppy.
It’s a very distinct feeling.
I pulled over, watching The Hammer disappear again.
Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow.