A Moment of Awkwardness: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part IX

10.7.2013 | 5:20 am

NewImageA Note from Fatty: My friends at Shimano are currently doing a sweepstakes, called “12 for 12.” It takes only a minute or two to answer the survey to enter, and you can win some really nice Shimano prizes — full-on group, wheels, or gift certificates. Allow me to recommend you click here to enter. And allow me to further recommend that maybe “other” is a good option for the “favorite online cycling site” question, and that perhaps you might want to write something in. What that something might be is of course entirely up to you.

A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 9 of my Salt to Saint writeup. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:

We’re on the Road to Nowhere

It’s a strange thing, to be around halfway through a 423-mile bike race, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, on a road that just…ends. No way forward. No idea how or where you missed a turn.

It makes you question the wisdom of recent decisions you’ve made. 

“So, where now?” I asked The Hammer. I was not being rhetorical.

“I don’t know,” she replied. She, too, was not being rhetorical.

The only option, it seemed, was for us to turn around and head back the way from which we had come.


We rode back, slowly, looking for a way to get back to the highway. And in less than a mile, we found a turn, apparently heading toward a cluster of cabins and houses. We assumed that there must be a road from the houses back to the highway. Which, now that I think back, was a terrible assumption. 

As it turns out, however, it was correct. We were back on the highway, and — we hoped — back on the course.

(Later we’d look back at the turn-by-turn directions for the race and discover that we should have stayed on the bike path for only 0.3 miles, as opposed to the five or so miles we rode. I’m not sure how we missed the course marking, though it’s likely because we just weren’t looking for a course marking directing us off the path so soon after we had gotten on.)

In any case, we were glad to be back on the highway. Now all we needed was to be reunited with our crew.


A Difficult Question to Answer

You know, I’m tempted to end right there for the day; leaving The Hammer and me in the middle of the night on a lonely highway with no idea of where our crew was would be a pretty dramatic conclusion to a chapter.

But it’d be a kinda short chapter. And besides, Zac and Blake found us within about two minutes of when we got onto the highway, as if we were carrying a homing beacon.

We were now beginning what we both knew was the real test of the race.

When it’s light out, the primary sense — and indeed, the primary pleasure — of cycling is a feeling of motion. You’re going somewhere. You can see it. Every minute you’re on a bike, you have something new to look at. Something you’re getting closer to. Something you’re passing.

When it’s dark, that all changes. You’re just riding, with your vision restricted to what your light reveals. And even when you’re using truly fantastic lights — and the NiteRider Race 1800s we were riding with were truly fantastic — you see at best the road ahead of you and perhaps a little bit off the shoulder.

Your universe gets pretty darned small.

And that was how it was going to be for the next long while. 

I stopped looking at my Garmin; the distance we had gone, the speed we were going, the time we had spent on our bikes — none of those held any meaning to me. The only metric that mattered was that, eventually, the sky would lighten. And when that happened, we’d be in a much different place. And that place would be pretty close to the finish line. Maybe we’d have only a hundred miles left to go.

Yeah. “Only” a hundred miles left to go.

Because my job had pretty much consumed my life for the past few weeks, I really had no idea of what we were in for during our night hours of this race. So I asked The Hammer.

“I think we’re climbing, gradually, for about twenty miles,” she said. “And then we have a big descent.” 

I told her she sounded unsure.

“I can’t remember for sure,” she said. “It’s all a jumble now.”

I knew what she meant. I was having a hard time putting sentences together, and often was slurring words. 

“Let’s ask Blake how far we have to ride ’til we’re at the summit,” The Hammer said, and waved the truck toward us (for the whole of the night, Blake and Zac essentially idled behind us, giving us a measure of protection from any vehicles that might be approaching from behind).

“Yeah?” asked Blake.

“We have about twenty miles ’til we reach the summit and have the big descent, right?” asked The Hammer.

“You have to climb as far as you have to climb,” Blake called back.

“How far is that?” asked The Hammer.

“It’s as far as it is!” Blake answered.

“Your son,” I muttered to The Hammer, “is an obstinate obstructionist. You’re asking for some simple information and instead he wants to play verbal volleyball.”

Then, louder, I yelled to Blake, “Just tell us how far we have ’til we hit the big descent!”

“About ninety miles,” Blake replied.

The next day, he’d tell us, “I just didn’t want to say it. Ninety miles of climbing. How do you tell your mom, in the middle of the night, that she’s at the beginning of a ninety-mile climb?”

A Plea For Help, Reluctantly Answered

I don’t want to make that ninety-mile climb sound more dramatic than it should, because while — sure — the next ninety miles ahead of us trended upward, they barely trended upward. So slight, in fact, that we opted to ride this big chunk of the race on our Shivs.

In fact, the slight uphill was welcome; the extra little bit of work helped us stay nice and warm.

Even so, however, it eventually got cold enough that it was time to put some extra clothes on. Here’s what we layered on top of the cycling clothes we had started the day in:

  • arm warmers
  • long sleeve jersey
  • wind front tights 
  • shoe covers
  • warmer gloves

I’d like to point out that while we had made a lot of mistakes — and had a lot of bad luck — in this race, our clothing was one thing we absolutely nailed. We started from the premise that the shorts and jerseys we started the race in would stay on, and we’d add and remove layers as necessary.

Neither of us were ever cold. Neither of us were ever uncomfortable. Well, except for the way my tights would bunch up in the crotchal region when I’d get low on the aero bars, which would pinch a bit. And I cannot believe I just typed that sentence.

That, however, was nowhere near as awkward as the incident during which The Hammer needed a little extra help as she got layered up into some warmer clothing.

It was dark. It was getting cold. It had been a while since The Hammer had peed. So, before she put on tights and a long-sleeve jersey, she grabbed a tube of DZ Bliss, went behind the car and took care of her bathroom business. 

Then she called out, “Zac, come back here and help me.”

I have never, ever, in the history of my life, seen such a look of panic in my life. Zac looked over to Blake, the question of “Should I make a run for it?” clearly on his face. 

Blake just shrugged.

Zac looked to me. I looked away.

“Hurry up!” shouted The Hammer.

Bracing himself, Zac walked back behind the truck, fully expecting to have to help his mom in a way he would never have expected to.

Imagine — if you can — Zac’s relief to discover that The Hammer merely wanted help getting her long-sleeve jersey on.


  1. Comment by J | 10.7.2013 | 5:52 am

    A comic relief of an ending. Not the hook I was expecting. Keep it up and please read your emails!

  2. Comment by Drew | 10.7.2013 | 6:17 am

    I keep saying it, but these multi-part reports are such a blast to read. Thanks for writing them!

  3. Comment by Paul W | 10.7.2013 | 7:00 am

    It’s so totally Not Fair – the 12-4-12 contest is “open to legal residents of the United States”. I’m not even an illegal resident!

    So, I’m afraid that any superstar, award-winning blog writers hoping for my support are in the wrong continent.

    Hoever, having just completed my first century, I can’t even imagine four in a row. I am filled with admiration for you both.


  4. Comment by Liz M. | 10.7.2013 | 8:06 am

    Fatty, do you carry your cell phone with you for these adventures? Because if so, you could use the “Find Friends” app to help your crew keep track of you and vice versa. It works pretty well — my husband uses it to figure out what time to start dinner when I’m riding home from work. Unless you like the mystery and drama.

  5. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 10.7.2013 | 8:09 am

    I’m sure you’re thankful that the bike trail ended where it did. Who knows how much further you might have gone.

  6. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.7.2013 | 8:43 am

    It’s good to know that you use chamois cream! I can’t imagine the chaffing that riding 400 miles would create…plus it made me think of your classic post about reviewing DZ Nuts. EVERYONE new to Fatty’s blog MUST read this one…

  7. Comment by AUChefDave | 10.7.2013 | 8:52 am

    Never mind the “Should I run away look”. How abut the steely resolve in Zac to walk back there not knowing what he was facing, that my friends is LOVE. Great job conveying and sharing the angst of that moment, this ride/story keeps getting better!

  8. Comment by Ted | 10.7.2013 | 9:08 am

    I needed a good laugh today and the ending of this article nailed it. Thank you.

  9. Comment by Brian in VA | 10.7.2013 | 9:18 am

    The people near me in the office were frightened by my howl of laughter at the ending. Thanks!

  10. Comment by bikemike | 10.7.2013 | 9:54 am

    I ain’t no writer or nuthin’ but i woulda let us hang on that last sentence for tomorrow. I’m kinda liking the way you torture us on the clifhangers.

    It’s like watching The Tour, you’re gonna have a hard time when it’s not on every day.

  11. Comment by UpTheGrade SR, CA | 10.7.2013 | 10:10 am

    “Only” a hundred miles left to go.

    After riding just 103 miles in Levi’s Gran Fondo, I was wiped out and only pie revived me. I just can’t imagine, let alone go, another 325 on top! No wonder you and the Hammer looked so fresh post ride on Sat.

    Loving the twists and wrong turns in your storytelling.

  12. Comment by Wife#.667 | 10.7.2013 | 10:59 am


    Poor Zac! Those few seconds of terrifying uncertainty probably scarred his psyche for life.

  13. Comment by centurion | 10.7.2013 | 11:01 am

    Fatty, Sir Fatty, Eldon, DUDE! I think it’s safe to say that EVERYBODY that has ever read you blog has had a pinch ‘down there’. I wouldn’t leave my drive way with a pinch in the crotchal region. That’s one part of the body that give a serious, meaningful, fix it NOW, warning that something is amiss. Nothing to be ashamed of. At least you spared details on how you un-pinched it.

  14. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 10.7.2013 | 11:07 am

    I simply cannot imagine riding all night after having already ridden 200 or so miles the day before. Your description of the narrow world view afforded by your lights tunneling through the dark leaves me almost crippled – I can be alone with my thoughts for only so long. At what point from here on, if at all, was the ride no longer a mental battle to keep going?

    Kudos to the two of you for your strength of will and your staying power. Must have made the pie that much better at the GranFondo.

  15. Comment by Christina | 10.7.2013 | 11:47 am



    My son froze himself to the bumper last year ice fishing. I was worried that The Hammer’s injury affected her lady snipe.

  16. Comment by Steven Nichols | 10.7.2013 | 12:41 pm

    How do I explain the raucous laughter to my office mate..

    Seriously, Crotchal? Should I make a run for it?

    Comic genius.

  17. Comment by GenghisKhan | 10.7.2013 | 12:52 pm

    For the cliffhanger, you should have left off that last paragraph! :o)

  18. Comment by eclecticdeb | 10.7.2013 | 3:16 pm

    How do you remember everything in such incredible detail? I have trouble remembering what happened between rest stops on the Gran Fondo, much less a loooong ride. Funny how I remember the food though.

    That’s a great question.

    First, I make a bullet list ASAP after the event; it contains short (2-3 word) descriptions of everything I can remember that I found interesting, funny, hard, sad, whatever. I don’t worry about chronology when I make this list. Chronology is easy to sort whenever. I find that as I make this list, I’m reminded of things that surprise me.

    Second, I structure the list into a two-level outline: Big events and details within those events.

    Third, I write, using the list as a reference. As I write, I often remember things that aren’t even in the list. I think most people find that if they take the time to write down a story, the amount of detail that’s there for the recalling is really quite amazing. – FC

  19. Comment by Heidi | 10.7.2013 | 3:32 pm

    @Christina – Hahahaha!

  20. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.7.2013 | 5:24 pm

    My Zac(h) would NOT have come back to help. He would, however, have been stricken by a look of panic!

    Sorry I missed the pie tent, but nice to see Lisa and you on the course, Fatty.

    And, BTW, after doing 400+ miles at Salt-to-Saint, I would not have thought less of you had you stuck to your original plan and done the Medio at LGF. After doing the 103.5 miles of the Granfondo, I am even more amazed and impressed.

  21. Comment by aussie kev | 10.7.2013 | 5:37 pm

    “crotchal region”

    i expect that to be inside the pocket on the next fat cyclist jersey !!!

  22. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.7.2013 | 11:37 pm

    12 for 12 only ‘road option’ allows you to enter name of website under ‘other’. That’s kinda of a bummer since i would love some new xtr.

    nice to see the fof’s at levi’s. apologies to those that didn’t get some pie, but i promise next time we’ll organize earlier and better. (at least i hope to have a fatty graphics tent by then).

    @dougb since i am reduced to typing w/ left hand only lengthy comments are on a ‘break’.

    hold the applause

  23. Comment by Andrew | 10.8.2013 | 1:12 am

    @wharton_crew thanks for the link to the DZ nuts review, it allowed me to continue my groupie tendency to following Fatty’s cliffhanging posts…

    Still waiting for my new kit… Really Australia isn’t that far away..

  24. Comment by Andrew | 10.8.2013 | 6:00 am

    Murphy’s law, or is it Fatty’s law?

    Post my post above, I arrived home to find my New Jersey. It’s great in every way. Here significantly quicker than I expected, it looks great, fits well etc… And considering my previous jersey still look like new after a few years of use I can’t wait to debut the jersey on a ride soon.

    Thanks to,fatty and the twin six team.

    Now it’s 11 PM here in oz, where.s the next post Elden?

  25. Comment by Anonymous | 10.8.2013 | 7:46 pm

    OMW OMW OMW!!! That ending was THE BEST! I love it!!!

    I have to say that ladies aren’t immune to that pinched feeling in the crotchal area. As a cycling newbie, I couldn’t bring myself to wear cycling shorts commando during my first 100 miler. BIG MISTAKE. I have a spot to this day give me trouble on longer rides thanks to that newbie move. I have also gravitated from thickly padded shorts to ones with less padding. In Hawaii, I wear tri shorts (heat + thick Alaska blood = cycling in as little as possible). I have come to prefer the Twin Six Fatcylist bibs chamois. It’s perfect and rarely gives my tender spot issues. They are my favs for riding. I use a different chamois cream (I did try the Bliss, it just didn’t work as well for me). But, I digress.

    DavidH – what happened to your arm? Also, why the choice of pink? Is that for breast cancer awareness month?

  26. Comment by AKChick | 10.8.2013 | 7:48 pm

    Oops! I forgot to enter my info so the Anonymous post is from me.

    I forgot to thank Fatty for taking the time to write another award winning post and to say that I may have selected “Other” and might have typed in the URL for an award-winning, massive quad wielding, humorous and handsome cycling blogger who has the prettiest, sweetest, most amazing wife ever. :)

  27. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.8.2013 | 10:44 pm


    Rather mundane. Mother on her way to p/u kiddie at preschool decided to execute a ‘right hook’. 3700 miles ytd has been interrupted, and I missed the Fondo…at least the riding part.

    As for pink, I thought it would get a reaction with the kids. I didn’t make the connection for breast cancer awareness month until I got compliments at work. Then I thought, ‘how cool is that’.


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