Actions and Consequences, Part VI

09.16.2013 | 8:37 am

A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: This is the sixth part in my “Actions and Consequences” story: short installments about a 200-mile ride The Hammer and I embarked on to test ourselves for the upcoming Salt to Saint Race. If you haven’t read the earlier installments, you should read them before starting on this one. You’ll find handy links to them here:

“So The IT Guy’s coming out anyway?” I asked.

“Yeah,” The Hammer replied. “He’s in Spanish Fork right now, so he’ll get here in about an hour, I’d guess.”

“Well, it’s nice of him to come by and say hi, I guess,” I said. 

The rain picked up as we neared the gas station in Moroni — the one where I had gotten a not-so-great frozen yogurt cone just a little while ago. A thought occurred to me: “Maybe we should go in and wait this out.”


We kept going. By way of conversation, I told The Hammer that I had thought about hunkering down in there.

“That’s funny. I did too.” 

Five minutes later, the rain really began. And it brought a friend to the party: wind. A really strong wind, coming at us from our ten o’clock. 

And it was a nice gusty wind, too. The kind where it hits you all of a sudden and shifts you about eight inches to the right, pushing you smack onto the rumble strip and rattling your brain. The Shivs — broad as a barn — are fantastic in a headwind, tailwind and in no wind, but are absolutely horrible in a gusty crosswind like we were riding in. We had to lean hard left as the wind tried to push us right. Then the wind would briefly and abruptly let up, and we’d suddenly be veering left into the road.

Using the aero bars was out of the question. Our speed dropped down to about nine miles per hour. On a completely flat road. 

I tried to be a good husband and shelter The Hammer from the wind as well as I could by riding up front. It didn’t help at all, though; if The Hammer got close enough to me to get some protection from the wind, she’d also be getting a face full of water and grit from my back tire kicked up into her face.

Every minute, the rain fell faster. Every second, the wind blew worse. The sky overhead was so black with clouds overhead that it felt like night.

Cars zoomed past us, hurrying. Their lights on. I hoped they could see us — us, with no lights. Or reflective clothing. But we had to stay to the left of the white line; immediately to the right of that was the rumble strip, and it wasn’t the kind of rumble strip that’s inconvenient to ride on. It was the kind of rumble strip that made it impossible to see straight. The kind of rumble strip that hurts to ride over.

And to the right of the rumble strip — about a foot of shoulder, and then dirt. 

Every time a car went by, it would block the wind for just a second; I learned to anticipate it so I would stop leaning hard left  as the car passed.

I never learned, though, how to cope with the huge arc of water that would hit me right after the car went by.

Waiting for a moment when no cars were passing, I dropped back and rode alongside The Hammer. “How long ’til Blake gets here, do you think?”

“Maybe ten more minutes.”

“You know what? I’m really glad you got that flat!”  

It was true. If The Hammer hadn’t gotten that flat — or if I had had better luck and sense in repairing it the first time — we wouldn’t have called for help until about an hour later.

And that, as it turns out, would have been disastrous. 

Which is where I’ll pick up (and conclude, I’m pretty sure) tomorrow. 

PS: If you are in the mood for more stories about riding, Doug Bohl just posted a good one in the form of a letter to me.


Actions and Consequences, Part V

09.13.2013 | 7:56 am

A Note from Fatty: This is the fifth part in the “Actions and Consequences” story. But hey, at least the parts are of reasonable length. To go back and read this in sequence, here’s what’s led up to this installment:

“I don’t think your wheel’s going to hold for another hundred miles,” I told The Hammer. “And I don’t want to risk it blowing on you during a fast descent.”

I am so chivalrous.

Although I must admit that the more chivalrous action would have been to trade her front wheel for mine, which did not even occur to me until this very second.

Chivalry isn’t dead; it’s just not that bright.

The Hammer agreed (about the tire, I mean, not the chivalry). As unhappy as we were to admit it, this ride was going to need to be shortened.

OK, I’m going to be honest here: I was kind of torn between being sad about abandoning a ride…and being happy to suddenly discover my next six-plus hours no longer consisted exclusively of riding a time trial bike. 

But I did my best to appear straight-up sad, as a solidarity play.

“So who should we call?” I asked. Which led to some back-and-forth, because we were about to ask someone to drive around 160-200 miles for us as a favor. We quickly narrowed the options down to two:

  • The Hammer’s second-born son, The IT Guy, who lives in Orem, is in his early twenties, and knows his way around everywhere — including the backroads we were on — pretty well. There was a good chance, though, he’d be busy.
  • My second-born son, who lives in Alpine, which is around 20 miles further away from where we were than The IT Guy was. He’s seventeen years old and and is not super-familiar with the area, but pretty good with the “Find My Friends” feature and mapping software on iPhones. Very likely to be available.

Either one, we reasoned, would be able to find us…but the IT Guy was twenty minutes closer, so we called him. Could he come pick us up?

Yes, he said, he could. 

Getting Philosophical

With the IT Guy on his 80-mile way to pick us up for our Ride of Shame, we had about an hour and a half of time to kill. 

“Let’s see how far we can get before the tire blows or he picks us up,” The Hammer suggested. Which sounded good to me. 

We talked as we rode about the decisions we had made, and how they had affected us. 

“If we had turned around when your computer said 100 instead of mine [Note from Fatty: My computer hitting 100 first was due at least partially to me doubling back to pick up the wrapper I had dropped], we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” The Hammer observed. 

That was true; we had hit the patch of glass almost immediately upon turning around. ”But it isn’t that simple,” I replied. “If we had stuck to the original riding plan and ridden out past Cedar Fort toward Toole and then doubled back before heading out this way, we would have turned around long before you hit this patch of glass.”

“So,” I said, “It’s every bit as much because of me as you that this happened.”

“And I guess something else could have happened on the way to Cedar Fort,” The Hammer mused. 

Reversing a Decision

It had started raining, but not really badly. And The Hammer’s tire seemed to be holding out fine. And the idea of ending a 200 mile ride at mile hundred-and-something seemed kind of like walking out of a movie partway through. 

“Why don’t you call The IT Guy back?” I asked. “Your tire seems to be holding up. I think we should keep going.”

Clearly, The Hammer had been thinking the same thing, because she didn’t even reply. She just hit the speed-dial button on her phone.

“We think we’re going to keep going,” she told him.

“Well, I’m already a good chunk of the way there,” the IT Guy said. “I’ll just come by anyway and bring you a drink or something.”

“No, really, you don’t need to come.”

“Well too bad. I’m coming.”

That kid’s so stubborn. 

Which, as it turns out, was very lucky for us.

And you’ll find out why when I pick this story up Monday.

PS: Really, it was unrealistic of me to think I’d finish this story today. Here’s why. Before beginning this story, I made a list of the important events that happened in it. Generally, I’m getting through 5-8 of those bullets per installment. At the beginning of today’s post, I still had 15. Now there are 8. So I’ll probably finish either Monday or Tuesday. 

PPS: Have a good weekend!

Actions and Consequences, Part IV

09.12.2013 | 7:13 am

A Note from Fatty: This is the fourth part of this story. You can find previous installments here:

The Hammer and I rolled to a stop. Her tire was absolutely, completely flat. Not the kind of flat where you’ve had a slow leak and your tire has gone kinda soft. No. It was the kind of flat where the explosive sound of the air nearly makes you fall off your bike.

“You jinxed my tire,” The Hammer said, as I pulled the tube out and started running my fingers along the inside of the tire, looking for whatever caused this.

“I absolutely did not,” I replied. I knew what she was referring to, and there was no way I was going to take the blame. “Now, if the weather suddenly were to go bad, then you might have a case,” I said, alluding to how I had ominously pointed at the sky a moment ago.

I was now on my third revolution around the inside of the tire, looking for the culprit. Usually I’m pretty good at finding them. But the tire looked good. The rim looked good. In spite of the very obvious fact that the tube had just exploded, everything looked fine.

“I think whatever gave you the flat didn’t stay in your tire,” I said, and The Hammer walked back to where she had gotten the flat.

There were several small pieces of glass there. Clear and hard to see in the flat light of the increasingly overcast sky.

So now, with a better idea of what to look for, I started searching the outside of the tire. And there it was: a small cut in the tire. No glass remained in it, and it didn’t look bad. So I put in a tube and inflated it with a 16g CO2 canister. This left it just a little soft, so I pulled out a second canister, and added some more CO2, figuring I’d use just a quarter to a third of it.

Which would have been a terrific plan, if the new tube hadn’t exploded.

“Oh. Excellent,” I said, even though I didn’t really feel like what had happened was very excellent at all. Sometimes, I must admit, during moments of extreme stress, I use sarcasm.

I pulled out the tube and looked at where the tire had been sliced by glass.

The hole was now noticeably larger. 

Tire Repair, Part 2

“Perfect,” I said. (Which was sarcasm, again. I’m sorry.)

[A Note from Fatty: I'm super excited for everyone who's really good at fixing stuff to leave me comments, telling me about how I should have known better and what I should have done in the first place. Please consider this thanks in advance for your really terrific advice.]

“Is there anything we can use to go between the tube and tire?” The Hammer asked.

We dug around in our jerseys. The best bet seemed to be a piece of the Martha Wrap — foil on one side, paper on the other: it was the stuff The Hammer had used to wrap the two-bite pies we had brought along on the ride. 

I tore a piece off, folded it once, put it in the tire and put a new tube in — our last — and inflated the tire, holding my breath and waiting for the explosion. I used just one CO2 can, figuring it was better to run a little soft than it was to risk pushing the tube through the slice in the tire again.

No explosion. The fix held. But I could see the silver of the foil through the tire, which was not reassuring.

“I don’t think it’s going to hold for a hundred miles; I don’t think we’re going to make it back,” I said. And then I instantly felt terrible, because The Hammer got her “disappointed” face.

“I wish we would have turned around when you said it was 100 miles,” she said. “Then I wouldn’t have gone through the glass and gotten this flat.”

And it’s true. If we had turned around when I said to, we never would have been on the stretch of road where that patch of glass was. She wouldn’t have had that flat. 

But within half an hour, we would both be incredibly grateful that she had gone through that glass. That she had gotten that flat. That we had ruined our first of two tubes. 

Because otherwise, things would have worked out differently for us than they did. And we really don’t know what would have happened to us.

Which seems like a good place to pick up tomorrow. 

PS: It’s even possible that I’ll conclude this story tomorrow. It’s hard to say, though. I kinda thought I was going to conclude today, but my half hour of writing time’s up (and in fact I cheated today; this took 45 minutes to write).

Actions and Consequences, Part III

09.11.2013 | 7:20 am

A Note from Fatty: This is the third part in this story. If you haven’t read the first couple parts before reading this part, you probably should. But hey, it’s your life; make your own decisions. Maybe this story would be better if you read the parts out of order. What do I know? Just in case you decide you do want to read the parts of this story in order, though, Part 1 is here. And Part 2 is here.

The Hammer and I were fifty miles into our two-hundred mile ride. Next up was Goshen Canyon. The first few miles of this road roll and twist; it isn’t really the best for getting low on the aero bars. We decided to sit up, ride side-by-side, and talk. 

It was all about Salt to Saint, the 420-mile race (relay format, but we’re each soloing it, with the intent to ride together the whole way) we’ve got coming up on September 20. How we’d take turns pulling. How we’re going to be careful to never to go into the red zone…or anywhere near it. Which sections we’d ride our road bikes on, and which sections we’d ride our TT bikes on. What we’d eat, and how often. How far ahead we’d send our crew each time we see them. What we’d wear to keep the adding and removing layers process easy. How we’d manage lights.

We can both obsess over stuff like this for hours. And, in fact, we did.

A Century, Measured in Convenience Stores

We got to Nephi, stopped at a gas station to refill with water, and took off again. We were seventy miles into our ride and maintaining — even with our stops — an 18mph average. Things were going awesome.

The next section was a climb, and the elevation profile for the race makes it look like it’s pretty steep — a section we’ll want to do on our road bikes, not our TT bikes.

But really, it was no big deal. A little climbing, a little descending. In fifteen miles we were in Fountain Green, then Moroni, where we stopped at a gas station so I could get myself a sugar cookie with pink frosting to eat while riding, along a frozen yogurt cone.

Let me just say: It was not the best frozen yogurt cone I have ever had. I’ll leave it at that.

Now we had just ten miles of riding out toward Manti to get to our 100-mile turnaround point, then we could head home.

With nothing but one hand and my teeth (no-handed riding on a Shiv is terrifying; trust me on this) I had some trouble getting the wrapper off the sugar cookie. Finally, I managed, then got into the aero bars and started riding and eating.

Riding with aero bars and eating is a wonderful experience. It’s like they’re made for each other.

But then the wind grabbed the wrapper out of my hand, blowing it onto the road. “Go on, just kinda slowly for a minute,” I called to The Hammer. “I’ll catch up in a minute.”

I slowed, turned around, and rode back the couple hundred yards to go get the wrapper. 

No, I’m not saying this to make myself look good. It factors into the story. Maybe.

The Turnaround Point…No, Make that Turnaround Points

I caught up and we rode along, our eyes fixed on our Garmins. “Aaaaaaaannnnnd, that’s a hundred miles,” I called, as my GPS clicked over.

“Mine hasn’t yet,” said The Hammer, which made sense, since I had just added a quarter mile to my ride that she hadn’t. “Plus, we should go a little farther, since our first hundred miles included the double-back to fix my saddle at the beginning of the day. We won’t repeat that distance.”

Yes, she is really that meticulous about her distance.

So we continued on ’til, at — according to my GPS — we were at 101.5 miles — a few miles away from the town of Ephraim — at which point The Hammer announced, finally, that we could turn around.

Yes, I am fully aware that this little anecdote makes it pretty clear who wears the pants in our marriage.

I Did Not Jinx This

As we started our long ride back toward Alpine, The Hammer said to me, “Isn’t it funny how much of a head game endurance cycling is? When the objective is to ride 100 miles, by the time I get to 100, I’m beat. Since I knew 100 was just the turnaround point today, though, I’m fine.”

And she was right. Because I had made up my mind about it, reaching 100 miles on this ride felt about the way reaching 50 usually feels on a 100-mile ride. Or the way 25 feels on a 50-mile ride. 

I looked up to my right. Big dark clouds were all along the mountainous skyline. The wind had picked up a little — a cross-headwind, of course. The worst kind of wind there is — especially if you’re on a bike that has a profile the size of a barn.

Without saying a word, I lifted my hand and pointed at the clouds.

“Don’t jinx us!” The Hammer yelled.

“I didn’t say any…” I began, but never finished the sentence.

Because right then The Hammer’s front tire exploded.

Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow. 

Actions and Consequences, Part II

09.10.2013 | 6:44 am

A Note From Fatty: This is part 2 in “Actions and Consequences,” my story about the final big ride The Hammer and I took in preparation for racing the Salt to Saint. You’ll find Part I here.

We were going…finally. Since we didn’t get out the door (the second time) ’til nearly 8:00am, it was plenty warm; I didn’t bring armwarmers, though The Hammer did. Neither of us brought jackets. Why should we? The weather forecast had us down for 0% chance of rain ’til 1pm, and after that we just had 30% chance of thundershowers for the rest of the day.

Our plan, as we had agreed the night before, was to ride ten miles out beyond Cedar Fort — one of our most frequently-ridden TT routes — then come back to Redwood Road and take it to Goshen. From there, we’d take Goshen Canyon to Nephi, then keep going until we figured turning around and heading back toward home would give us 200 miles.

But during the first few miles of the ride, I had an idea for a simpler, more elegant, revised route. “Let’s skip the Cedar Fort nonsense,” I said. “Let’s instead just hang a left on Redwood Road and then follow the Salt to Saint race route until we’ve gone a hundred miles. That’ll put us somewhere between Fountain Green and Manti. Then let’s just turn around and retrace our route back to home. That way, we’ll see more of the course we’ll be riding in a couple weeks and have a better idea of what doing this race will be like.”

The Hammer looked at me, startled. Why was she so startled? Because I usually don’t have ideas like that — ideas that simplify, are elegant, and demonstrate an understanding of distances between towns and where roads lead.

It was almost as if I had been looking at maps or something.

She agreed, and by so doing, made the third alteration of where we were headed, and what time we’d be at any given point. 

We wouldn’t consider any of this at all, however, until much later in the day.

First Stop

The Hammer and I rode along, taking turns pulling, marveling at how little effort it took us to go pretty darned fast when we work together, down low on our Shivs. On a flat road with no wind, we can sustain 21 – 25mph with very little work at all. 

Of course, the road isn’t always flat, and the wind is sometimes in your face. And — for about a ten mile section of pavement — there is the absolutely worst chip seal I have ever ridden on. Within five miles, your feet, hands and…other soft tissue…go completely numb. “I’m not going to be happy about being back on this part of the road when we hit mile 160,” The Hammer said, and I agreed.

But even with all this, we  kept up the kind of pace we wanted to maintain in this thirty-hour race — a pace where our legs never feel like they’re anywhere near the red zone, but by no means lollygagging. 

By the time we got to our first planned pit stop — the gas station and convenience store in Goshen, we had been out just under 2.5 hours, and had gone 50 miles. We were cruising, on average, around 20mph. Not bad at all.

I refilled our bottles; The Hammer bought us cheese danishes and a Mountain Dew to share.

As we got ready to leave, I excused myself to use the restroom in the gas station. As I stood facing the toilet, I could not help (without closing my eyes anyway) but look at this incredible work of art, mounted at eye level on the wall behind the toilet:

IMG 7293

Any road rider who has ever ridden around Utah Lake will confirm: this adorable painting has been on the wall since…well…ever.

“We should take up a collection to get new bathroom art at that place,” I commented to The Hammer. 

“What art?” The Hammer asked.

And that, my friends, is the difference between boys and girls.

A Beautiful Day

As we left the convenience store, the lady working there asked where we were from and where we were going (considering that this is the only place to refuel for many miles around, she probably gets to ask this question to a lot of cyclists). 

“We’re from Alpine, and we’re headed out toward Manti, and then back home,” The Hammer replied.

“Well, you sure picked a perfect day for such a long ride,” the lady behind the counter said.

And she was right. The weather was warm — but not hot — and there was no wind to speak of. A perfect day.

And it would remain perfect for another couple hours, at which point it would become something else altogether. Something amazing and powerful and as scary as hell.

Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow.

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