Changing and Chasing: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part VII

10.1.2013 | 7:21 am

A Note from Fatty: This is Part 7 of my Salt to Saint writeup. Earlier

I was on the side of the road with another flat.

I was no more than 130 miles into this 423-mile monster and had another flat. How many tubes had I gone through now? Four? Yeah, I think four. Which meant that I had only two more tubes with 80mm stems left. At the rate we were burning through tubes, that wouldn’t be enough. 

Never, in my twenty-ish years of riding, have I gotten flats so often. 

I had recently moved away from tubeless road tires — too hard to fix in the field. Now I was regretting that change.

At least this time I was pretty sure I knew why I had gotten the flat. When I had given this bike to Scott an hour ago (or was it more? Or was it less? Time had become slippery), I hadn’t told him to look for the cause of the flat. 

“Well,” I thought to myself, “I guess I’d better find it now.”

I moved off the road as best as I could — there was very little shoulder, and I didn’t want to put my bike in the weeds, risking picking up the cause of what would undoubtedly be my next flat. I took the rear wheel off, popped the bead off the rim, and pulled out the tube.

Now the treasure hunt could begin.

I took the glove off my right and and felt all along the inside of the tire, feeling for a snag, hoping it wasn’t something worse. You know, like an especially sharp piece of glass.

(I’m not the only one who fears that someday, while checking the inside of a tire, he’s going to g slice a finger wide open on a piece of glass, right? I am? Oh.)

Anyways. I don’t feel anything on the first go ’round. Nor the second. The tire feels fine. I go around a third time. A fourth. I decide I’m going to go around verrrrry carefully, one more time, and if I don’t find it, I’ll give up, put another tube in, and hope for the best.

And there it is. So barely there it’s hardly even there. But it’s there. A teeny tiny sliver of a thorn. Somehow it worked its way through the tire and now just the barest tip of it was poking through. It’d take a while to go through a tube, but — evidently — it would eventually get through.

I try to use my fingernails to tweeze it. I wished for longer fingernails. “Why do I keep my fingernails so short?” I wondered to myself. “They’re an incredibly useful tool and I just cut them off. Stupid.”

I try my teeth. The taste is…unpleasant. I go back to my fingernails, this time pushing the thorn back out through the outside of the tire. 

Annnnnnnd…there’s enough there to grab. I pinch it, pull it out, and exult. I have demonstrated my superiority and resilience. I shall not be halted — at least, not more than twice, for what was now probably a cumulative twenty minutes — by something as piddling as a thorn.

I Must Speak Up

As I put the tube in, Kerry and Scott drove up to me. They were coming back from crewing for The Hammer for a bit. Telling her that I was really close and would catch up to her shortly.


“You’ve got another flat?” Scott asked.

“Yeah,” I said, fully intending to not be petulant or accusatory by asking whether he had checked for what had caused my previous flat.

“Scott, did you find out what caused the previous flat?” I asked. So much for the non-petulant, non-accusatory resolution.

“No, I didn’t even check. Sorry!” Scott said.

“Kerry, could you run and get my floor pump and another 80mm-stemmed tube?” I asked. 

Kerry returned with the pump, and some news. “I don’t think there are any more 80mm-stemmed tubes.”

“Oh.” I knew I had brought six. We hadn’t gone through more than four tubes, one of which wasn’t even a long-stemmed one. But maybe my math was wrong. Or maybe when I had bought all those tubes, I hadn’t checked carefully enough to ensure the stems were the right length.

“Call Blake when you get back in the car, OK? And tell him to be sure to buy some more 80mm-stemmed tubes on his way over here to crew for us tonight,” I said. “And meanwhile, we’ll hope for no more flats for a while.”

As I got the new — and, evidently, final — tube into place and the bead back on the rim, Kerry took my bike and flipped it over, upside down, onto its handlebar and seat.

I am pretty sure I gasped, but managed to not say anything. 

Scott then took the tire from me and put it into place on the bike. Except he did it in such a way that the chain didn’t actually go around the cassette. Which I suppose would be OK, if I didn’t need to pedal.

“Guys, I’ll take it from here, OK?” I said, as I turned the bike right-side up (the bar and saddle were scuffed but otherwise fine) and threaded the wheel into the frame correctly. 

I pumped the tire up to 100psi, gave them back the frame pump, and told them to go on ahead and catch The Hammer. “Tell her I’ll catch her as soon as I can,” I said.

Against The Wind

With this latest (very slow) repair, combined with the distance she already had on me, I figured The Hammer must be fifteen minutes ahead of me. 

That’s a lot of catching up to do. 

“Time to chase,” I thought, and started going at my absolute limit again.

But the headwind had picked up. It was strong now. “The Hammer will be hating riding through this alone,” I thought.

And I had been riding for 130 miles, the most recent twenty of which I had already been going hard.

And in short, I didn’t have a ton of chasing left in me. I knew, in fact, that if I wanted to be able to keep riding through the rest of the day, all through the night, and into the next day, I couldn’t just keep burning matches like this.

But I needed to catch The Hammer. So I kept going, harder than I knew was wise. Harder than I knew I’d be able to sustain.

“If this race continues this way,” I thought to myself, “there is no way I am going to be able to finish it.”

A Farewell to Pizza Rolls

When you’re riding really hard — not just riding, but racing – you need to fuel your body constantly. And so — of course — your body decides at that time that food just sounds awful, and that it is going to trigger your gag reflex if you do so much as think about food. 

It’s a delightful little cycling paradox, really.

Still, up to this point I had been pretty darned good about eating. I had been unwrapping one of the things The Hammer had made during the days before the race and eaten, about every half hour or so.

At the beginning of the day, they had been fantastic. I had loved the taste and variety of what we had available. 

But now, around 140 miles into the ride, well, my body was rebelling a little bit. I was having a tough time getting enthused about putting anything into my mouth. I knew I had to eat. With around 300 miles to go, not eating was not an option. 

But I wasn’t enjoying it.

Exercising self-discipline, I unwrapped one of the foil wrappers and — without checking what it was — stuffed it into my mouth. It was one of the pizza rolls. My favorite.

Except right now. 

I started gagging, the reflex gaining steam and promising to escalate soon into full-on retching. 

I spat it out. And I knew that I had eaten my last pizza roll, blueberry turnover, and every other baked good for the trip.

Which was too bad, because that was all I had in my jersey pocket. And the crew was up ahead with The Hammer.

Wherever she was. 

I was a third of the way into a 423-mile ride and had somehow managed to find myself alone, in a headwind, prone to flats, with no tubes, and no food. 

And I just didn’t have it in me to chase anymore.

In fact, I didn’t feel like pedaling at all.


  1. Comment by Clancy | 10.1.2013 | 7:39 am

    Fatty – I KNOW you know this already, but perhaps for the other readers reading this who have only just recently gone to deep profile wheels I have a single word of advice. Valve Extenders. Get at least 2 and keep them with you spare tubes/levers/co2. I will admit, using them is not ideal – I would not begin a ride with valve extenders installed (unless there are the thread in type, which require the removable core type tubes, which you can’t always depend on). But if you’re on a ride and you’ve gone thru your last long stem tube, they can be a life saver when all you riding buddies have is little short stemmed tubes..

    I did in fact have valve extenders with me, so I had that option available for the many short-stemmed tubes we hadn’t gone through yet. I was hoping, though, to not have to monkey around with them. And I did not have one with me while I was out on my own on this section. – FC

  2. Comment by Clancy | 10.1.2013 | 7:41 am

    Opps – it’s only a ’single’ word of advice if you write it this way: Valve-Extenders. yeah. maybe not. whataver… :)

  3. Comment by Tom in Albany | 10.1.2013 | 7:49 am

    You call THAT a cliff-hanger?

  4. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.1.2013 | 7:59 am

    Fatty, thank you for FINALLY showing us your human side – you know, the side that can’t ride Leadville, then the Breck Epic, then an Ironman, and who sometimes cracks and admits that pedaling can sometimes be less-than-fun!

    Welcome back to the human ranks…we’re here for you.

  5. Comment by ColoradoXJ13 | 10.1.2013 | 8:04 am

    I too have a healthy fear of tearing open a finger with whatever gave me a flat, you are not alone fatty. See you in Santa Rosa this weekend!

  6. Comment by Christina | 10.1.2013 | 8:17 am

    This is why people think bikers are weird. “Look, honey. That man is making out with that bicycle tire.”

    Of course, you gotta do what you gotta do.

    How do you keep going when things get that hard? I have to say, “Just keep spinning, just keep spinning” in my head, but I’m never doing anything nearly as hard as you do.

    And CarboRocket is my new savior. I keep forgetting to buy it via the sidebar ad, but I’m hooked. It answers to my “but I don’t wanna eat anything” mode with calories and hydration. It also mixes well with any food I do eat, which I cannot say of other drinks.

  7. Comment by Libby | 10.1.2013 | 8:18 am

    thankfully I haven’t needed to change a flat since 1978ish (I’ve just jinxed myself now) but sliding a finger along anything that could slide & dice my fingers isn’t something I long for.

    Reading your last paragraph brought back exhausting memory of my last big ride…80something into a 125km ride I finally said it was time to quit beating this dead horse and stopped. I have this habit of stopping before I fall over while pedalling. You, on the other hand, I so sincerely believe (only because I checked out the stats after your ride was done) that you will find the power within to continue to the 400mile mark.

    Go! Fatty Go!

  8. Comment by Brian in VA | 10.1.2013 | 8:34 am

    Having actually sliced a finger open doing just that, I can assure you that you are not alone in that fear. Mine was a piece of staple and I couldn’t find it until I went in the opposite direction around the inside of the tire where it was lying in wait for my unsuspecting digit.

    Reading about you trying to use your teeth sounded, briefly, like Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.

    Now go eat something!

  9. Comment by JRGdeCT | 10.1.2013 | 8:34 am

    Uh oh.. you met the man with the hammer. We’ve all been there and done that, but it makes you stronger in the end. Can’t wait to see how you battle out of this. Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. Comment by Papa Bear | 10.1.2013 | 8:39 am

    One word… Duuuuuuude.

  11. Comment by rob W | 10.1.2013 | 9:13 am

    what a ride so far! GReat write up! Hoping to run into you in Santa Rosa this weekend!

  12. Comment by Corrine | 10.1.2013 | 9:27 am

    Been there with not being able to eat. It usually hits me also at about 140 miles on a 200 mile bike race. Can’t wait to hear how you get through it. Usually I feel better after hurling! I’m sure you must improve to be able to finish but can’t wait to hear how!

  13. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.1.2013 | 9:35 am

    L i i i i i s s s s s a a a a !!!!!!!!


    Great writing Fatty! Can’t wait for intermission, I need to use the facilities. 100 miles in and quitting is not an option.
    Spoiler Guess?

  14. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.1.2013 | 9:36 am

    (darn! hitting submit comments is not the same as ‘clicking here’)

    Spoiler guess?

    Jason and Jacob?

    Sorry, man. That image had to go. – FC

  15. Comment by LidsB2 | 10.1.2013 | 9:39 am

    The logical side of me says “why wouldn’t he just hop in the truck to catch up?” Then I realize, “Oh yeah…this is a ruthless race for the insane — it just wouldn’t be right.” I love it!

  16. Comment by bikemike | 10.1.2013 | 9:46 am

    “Wherein, i give up cycling”. I know i read that between the lines somewhere.

  17. Comment by Wife#1 | 10.1.2013 | 9:47 am

    Okay this is the first time I have felt sorry for you Fatty. Ever. Because you know, you’re pretty awesome.

    Was I the only one that wished I had been there to give Fatty a hug?

    Side note: David had allegedly tested the image size above and swears it was not the gigantasaurus it is now. Feel free (says he) to strip or reduce it.

  18. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 10.1.2013 | 9:48 am

    This does seem like a good time for Jason and Jake to show up and help pull Fatty back into contact with The Hammer.

    @Davidh – lovin’ the illustrations. Today’s helps get yesterday’s out of my mind. Oh wait, there it is again. Brunhilda rides! Shucks – need to go back and look at today’s pic once again.

    And you are dead on – quitting is not an option. It wil be interesting to se ehow Fatty gets himself out of the hole he is in.

    Allez! Allez! Keep turning the crank.

  19. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 10.1.2013 | 9:54 am

    You get flat tires more often than I ride my bike. That’s crazy pants.

  20. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 10.1.2013 | 9:56 am

    also, my new fatty kit arrived and it is far and away my favorite kit ever. Holy crap is it awesome looking.

  21. Comment by Papa Bear | 10.1.2013 | 10:22 am

    FC and Hammer, you guys amaze me! My wife and I have been riding together for a couple of years now, and it’s so much fun. She’s had to start riding without me while I’m dealing with injuries, and I think I’m seeing the Hammer-Part-Deux in the works, Right LeAnn?

    Keep up the awesome writing, and I would be happy to crew for you sometime. I live in West Valley, so I’m not that far from you.

  22. Comment by Dave T | 10.1.2013 | 10:28 am

    Two of us on a recent group ride had 3 flat tires in the first 7 miles. It’s flat tire season on the trails near my house it’s a friggin goathead parade. Thank fully it should be over in a month or so. I started to cringe when I read you were checking the inside of your tire with your fingers.

  23. Comment by sharon | 10.1.2013 | 10:33 am

    Did you ever use “Tuffy tracks” the inside liner for your tires? They work so well, that the glass and thorns can not go through the liner and puncture your tubes. They stay in place when you are changing a tube and are not expensive.

  24. Comment by J | 10.1.2013 | 10:57 am

    “he’s going to g slice a finger wide open on a piece of glass”

    Those g-slices are the worst

  25. Comment by Christina | 10.1.2013 | 10:59 am

    ^you forgot a letter. It’s those GD slices are the worst.

  26. Comment by Steve | 10.1.2013 | 11:15 am

    A couple of years ago I bought a pair of tweezers at the drug store after getting three flats in 10 miles due to a tiny piece of wire. They slide into the seat bag, and weigh almost nothing.

    Now if I could just remember the reading glasses so I could see the slivers of glass and wire.

  27. Comment by Fat Cathy | 10.1.2013 | 11:29 am

    “I’m not the only one who fears that someday, while checking the inside of a tire, he’s going to g slice a finger wide open on a piece of glass, right?”

    Thanks, Fatty. Now I have a whole new phobia to deal with.

    BTW, I’m awed by your self control when your support crew flipped your bike upside down and put the wheel in wrong. I would have screamed like a little girl.

  28. Comment by AUChefDave | 10.1.2013 | 11:52 am

    Thank you for not giving up this blog a while back. We would have missed all of this. You and the Hammer are just “FREAKS”!! I’m still trying to get my first century in and you guys are doing 423 solo! I love this stuff!!

  29. Comment by Steve | 10.1.2013 | 12:53 pm

    I had someone flip my bike onto the seat and handlebars on a ride once while I was fixing a flat. Never rode with him again.

  30. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.1.2013 | 2:01 pm

    Confession: I have flipped my bike over to remove the rear tire, and I would probably do it again. Isn’t the alternative to rest the bike on the more-expensive frame/fork?

    Am I alone in this, or are there other ‘flippers’ out there? For the non-flippers, where do you rest the bike when you’re working on the wheel?

    Davidh-marin,ca, I assume you’ll be submitting a very large photo to show me a close-up of how it should be done. ;-)

  31. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 10.1.2013 | 2:06 pm

    Here I was just thinking how great it was to have been out of town for work and unable to read until there was a nice big chunk of race reports to enjoy all at the same time. And still, I’ve run into a cliff hanger. I need more! Can’t wait for the next installment.

  32. Comment by MattC | 10.1.2013 | 2:14 pm

    @ Cycling Missy…a “nice big chunk” it is…and that’s just David’s picture!! Great googly-moogly David…my screen almost blew up when I got to that! And uhm, er..well..all I see is a horses A#%! What’s up with that??

  33. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.1.2013 | 2:20 pm

    @Wharton-crew I am suspending any more photos until the finale of this story, and then only after vetting any image size w/ Wife#1.

    also, like you, I’m in the flipper camp. But then all my things fall out of the open seat bag, so there you go.

    BTW there’s only one true ‘Flipper’.flipper090720_250.jpg

  34. Comment by Doug Bostrom | 10.1.2013 | 2:32 pm

    Not a racer so perhaps this is a stupid question, but what about patches for tubes? It’s true that traditional patches take a couple of minutes to set up but surely that’s better than running out of tubes? Or maybe have the crew patching the tube rotation, given that finding the hole in the tube sometimes takes a little soap and water.

    I’ve been experimenting (on my son’s bike, :-) ) with some glueless patches that actually seem to work pretty well. So far the guinea pig has had no problems.

  35. Comment by Russel Haynes | 10.1.2013 | 2:34 pm

    Is patching the tube not an option? It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a road bike but I thought you could do that. Really enjoying the story, Fatty, thanks!

  36. Comment by SteveB | 10.1.2013 | 2:46 pm

    I’ve been known to both flip and patch… The key here is that
    if you’re racing, you don’t want to be patching – takes too much time ya know? The alternative to flipping that I’ve used successfully is to hang the bike from a convenient tree branch. That works even better.

  37. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.1.2013 | 3:16 pm

    Yes, Fatty, I always worry about that. In fact, my first sharpie search is always with gloves, so I hopefully snag the gloves instead of my finger. Never had it work, though. But searching both directions is surprisingly sometimes needed.

    The alternative to flipping is either hang by the bars over a guardrail or tree branch, lay on (non-derailleur side, balance just right by sticking your crank on the curb and rubber banding the non-affected wheel brake. Once I saw a guy who could balance on front wheel plus kickstand & pedal of his commuter bike. for front wheel, I just stick the forks in the dirt, but you could protect the end of the fork dropouts with your glove.

    But not flipping – it always scratches the shifter tops and the saddle.

  38. Comment by UpTheGrade SR, CA | 10.1.2013 | 3:52 pm

    FC, I’m not saying you’re a jinx or have somehow misused the Secret or anything, but I just got my 3rd flat in two days after going about 6 months without one. I may have to stop reading this saga till after the Fondo for fear my bike “The Knight” has any more sympathetic punctures. Feel free to leave your flat-tire-luck in Utah when you come to sunny Sonoma County.

  39. Comment by Jim | 10.1.2013 | 3:59 pm

    Can’t you switch the good wheel on the other bike for the flat? Always switch to the little gear in the back when you remove the wheel. In a race? Switch the tire too. Figure it out later.

    Wouldn’t have worked great in this case. The Tarmac has an 11-speed cassette; the Shiv has a 10-speed cassette. And (very foolishly) I didn’t bring spare wheels for this race. Honestly, that was my single biggest mistake of the race. I’m cutting myself some slack, though, because I was not able to prepare for this race like I normally would have, as you can read in part 1 of this series. – FC

  40. Comment by MikeL | 10.1.2013 | 5:31 pm

    My worst experience was a 10 mile ride in Albuquerque a couple years back. 5 flats, 4 tubes (2 borrowed from strangers), 5 CO2 cartridges ( 2 borrowed from strangers). After the 5th flat I was out of supplies and strangers. 5 miles back walking and riding the rim. Darn goatshead.
    My first wife’s record was 4 flats on the bike leg of a tri. Turned out to be a burr on the stem hole of the rim. The bike was a total lemon. It has been parted out.

  41. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.1.2013 | 5:37 pm

    Dear Fatty,

    After believing I had mastered the art of ‘photo size’ I drop a Big One! Literally. The image was fine, the size was a mess, and I still can’t figure it out.(?) Thank you for taking it out and saving me further humiliation.

    Please accept my apology……humbly:

  42. Comment by slo joe | 10.1.2013 | 5:53 pm

    A couple others posted the same thought:PATCH? Is that word not in your vocab to the crew. Don’t say you toss a tube with a hole, please. At least 3 patches to a tube. Yah.

    checking tip. Put a small piece of silk, cloth, etc. or a napkin in your kit and rub that around on the inner side. The silk etc will snag on even the smallest piece.

  43. Comment by leroy | 10.1.2013 | 7:59 pm

    I have no science to back this up, but it’s usually easier to push a foreign object out of the tire via the way it came in. In other words, push the object out from inside the tire instead of trying to pull it through the tire from the inside.

    Of course, I usually forget this every flat.

    My dog wants me to pitch an article to Bicycling Magazine about fixing flats. He claims it hasn’t been done before. At least not from his perspective (no opposable thumbs).

  44. Comment by AKChick | 10.1.2013 | 8:45 pm

    Not sure if you’ll check the comments or not again, but I have the worlds most delicate digestive system. It was worse when I used to run (thank goodness I came to my senses and found cycling).

    In any case, I love longer rides but my stomach can only tolerate things like plain bagels and some Luna Moons (which I can’t find in Alaska anymore – big sad face) or Sport Beans. Sports drinks make me nauseous so they are out. I do drink FRS throughout a longer ride if my husband is crewing for me and I tolerate that very well.

    After a lot of experimenting, I finally found a solution and it might be an option for you when you can no longer tolerate solid food – Hammer’s Perpeteum. I swear by it. It has a mild flavor (orange vanilla is my tried and true fav and it isn’t overpowering).

    I don’t usually eat during 100 mile rides – I sip a more concentrated version of Perpeteum and supplement with water. I drink about every 15 minutes and my goal is to consume about 1 Fatcyclist 100 MoN bottle every 1.5 to 2 hours. When I get towards the end of the ride and start getting hungry, I’ll supplement with plain bagels or the aforementioned sport beans.

    It might be worth a try for you to get you over the hump when your body can’t handle solid food. I’ve tested it in the heat and colder temps and it works great in either. It contains easily digested protein (they have a no upset stomach guarantee) and electrolyte replacements. I also use Endurolytes when it’s really hot too as added protection since I’m not used to riding in temps over 70-75 deg normally.

  45. Comment by bob | 10.1.2013 | 9:17 pm

    So has no one else here heard of using tire sealer? A 2 ounce bottle of Stan’s or a few ounces of TrueGoo would have stopped all the flats listed in all the posts above! Seriously, it works!

  46. Comment by GregC | 10.1.2013 | 10:17 pm

    all very interesting as usual, Davids photos always brighten my day. Patching- I’ve had terrible luck with roadside patches and gave up carrying them a long tgime ago (but I will glue- patch in the comfort of my garage, but not on the roadside). And flipping the bike- arguh!!!! you had great control not to lash out at your volunteers that had done three race deterring feats in the last hour or two. And eatting- I know exactly where your coming from, sometimes you reach a point that you know you need food, but your mind/ body just isn’t going to let it happen easily. Go Fatty!

  47. Comment by Andrew | 10.2.2013 | 2:06 am

    Seriously? Why if I have already today’s post do income back here on a wish and prayer to see if fatty has posted again.

    Why o’ why?

  48. Comment by Andrew | 10.2.2013 | 2:21 am

    For the comments…. That’s why…

  49. Comment by KC | 10.2.2013 | 10:04 am

    My record for checking on what’s caused a flat before I found it is 3 – on a morning ride when we were at the point of “needing to call home if this happens again” and after almost wiping out as the tire went flat on a 90 degree left turn. The puncture was in the exact same place as the 2nd one, but it wasn’t until I basically turned the tire inside out and pushed it from the outside in, when the tiny piece of glass that had been hiding in the tube revealed itself through the underside.


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