How to Not Eat: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part X

10.7.2013 | 6:17 am

A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 10 of my Salt to Saint writeup, for crying out loud. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:

I want to tell an accurate, honest story here. I want to describe what it’s really like to ride your road bike for 423 miles, nonstop, with your wife. Paradoxically (I think), though, part of being honest and accurate with my storytelling means that I have to confess that there is no way I can be accurate about a big chunk of the nighttime hours of the race. They blend together, muddled up in my mind. I’ve lost track of what cities we went through, or in what order, or where the climbs and descents happened.

My clearest recollection is staring at the white line, aware that The Hammer is close enough behind that I can see the wash of her light directly ahead of me.

I remember being grateful for that fact, because my neck was too sore, too stiff, to turn around and check whether we were still together.

I remember losing all interest in speed, distance, and time. Those were all numbers that I figured would be relevant again when it got light.

I remember that we were almost always going uphill. Just barely uphill, but uphill.

I remember thinking about RAAM — the Race Across America. I thought about how the idea of it, once intriguing, was now completely abhorrent to me. Not because I thought I couldn’t do it. Just the opposite: I got a pretty good sense that maybe I have exactly the right gifts for this kind of race, both mental and physical. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t, in fact, picture how anyone would want to ride the RAAM. A week-plus of this? No thanks. 

Also, I spent several minutes considering what a stupid acronym “RAAM” is.

But more than anything else, I remember how I learned to hate food.

New Rule

When we were planning for this race, The Hammer and I had agreed: we’d never stop except to pee or change clothing. We’d do all our eating, all our drinking, while riding our bikes.

And to our credit, we had stuck with that plan for a big chunk of the race. At least half of it, I’d say. 

But as we crossed the line into Saturday, The Hammer suggested that it was too hard to eat every half hour now; we should try to eat every hour, instead. And also, we should stop while we ate, just for a few minutes.

That was fine with me. That was an easy decision, in fact. 

It was, however, much harder to decide what to eat.

What to Eat?

I love Honey Stinger energy chews. Love them. I could eat three packets of them, right this second. But I had been eating nothing but them for the past seven hours or so — meaning I had eaten around fourteen packets. 

I was ready for a change.

The problem was, nothing sounded good. Nothing at all. It wasn’t so much that everything sounded bad, either. It was just that my mind was so scrambled that I couldn’t do what I normally do when it’s time to eat. And what do I normally do when it’s time to eat? Why, I make a call to the special place in my brain where I can ask myself, “What sounds good to eat right now?” and expect an immediate list to come to mind, cross-tabbed by closeness-to-hand, ease of preparation, and best taste. A matrix of deliciousness, if you will.

Now, however, just when I needed it most, instead of a list of things I’d like to eat I was getting a 404 – Not Found message.

“How about a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich on a dinner roll?” Blake asked, digging through the ice chest.

Was he kidding? Was that really an option? I had no idea.

“That would be fine,” I said. “With plenty of extra mayo, please, because I’m pretty sure that I am currently not making any saliva at all.”

(This may have been due to the fact that I had secretly stopped drinking anything while riding about four hours ago, about the time it had gotten dark. Nobody could see my bottles, though, and I wasn’t volunteering the information, because I knew I’d be scolded. Besides, every hour or so I was drinking a Red Bull, and that was enough liquid when it was cold and I wasn’t sweating [much], right? Right?)

The Hammer wanted one, too, but without the obscene amount of mayo.

This Behavior Must Stop

Blake made his mom’s sandwich, then made mine. This was how things had gone, the whole day: take care of The Hammer, then take care of Fatty. Ladies first, you know. Plus, the crew had been stacked with The Hammer’s side of the family. And so I had gotten used to waiting, and I was fine with it.

Except for one small detail.

Once The Hammer had finished eating, she would go. Regardless of whether I was finished eating, or not. Without even checking, really. Two or three times during the day, in fact, I had just had my first bite of whatever I was eating when The Hammer started riding away.

“I guess I’m done,” I’d say, handing back whatever I was eating and burning a match to catch up with The Hammer.

By now, however, I was out of “catch up with The Hammer” matches. And I needed to fuel up. 

So, as I took my first bite of my sandwich and The Hammer started rolling away, I yelled, “Just STOP for a second, will you?! Can I please eat, too?” 

The Hammer looked startled, possibly due to the fact that I used more sarcasm than was necessary. It’s also possible that I yelled louder than was necessary.

“But I always do this,” she said. “I don’t want to hold you up.”

“I know,” I said. “But I am done with chasing. For the rest of this race, I am all about a consistent, slow pace. And I need to eat. So don’t leave anymore until we’re both ready to go.”

“Has this been bothering you for a while?” The Hammer asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “For around the past seven hours or so.”

“Well why did you wait seven hours to say something?” she asked.

It was a good question. And very soon, I expect to have a fantastic answer occur to me.

And Now for Some Electronic Geekery

“SR-14″ is not a particularly glorious-sounding name for an important milestone in the race. But it was, in fact, quite possibly the single most important milestone of the entire race, as far as The Hammer and I were concerned. Because that transition area marked the end of our giant, never-ending (like, ninety miles!) false flat of a climb. 

For the next 22 miles, it was going to be nothing but downhill. Free miles! It promised to be the easiest, fastest segment of the day, though we had been warned that all this descending from a mountain pass in the dead of night would be brutally cold.

So as we ate our sandwiches — another turkey and cheese for each of us — we dressed extra-warmly, adding a jacket and heavy gloves to the layers we already wore. 

We also took the opportunity to swap out some of our electronics.

First, we swapped batteries on our NiteRider 1800 Pro Races — the first set of batteries had lasted an astonishing 6.5 hours and were still going, but we didn’t want to have to change batteries during the descent. Also, we mounted the big guns, lightwise, onto our handlebars: NiteRider Pro 3600 DIYs. Which meant we each had a total of 5400 lumens of light available to us, so that when we rode beside each other heading downhill (we were very intentionally not getting on the side of the road; we were being as big and obvious as we could), we cast off considerably more light than a car does.

Is it obvious that I’m kind of in love with NiteRider?

Next, we swapped out our Garmins. We had gotten 17+ hours our of our 510s, but had gotten the “low battery” warning, so we switched over to our old 500’s.

My Garmin 500 would not, by the way, survive the descent. Somewhere along the way — the catch that attaches to the mount worn away from years of use — it popped out of the mount. I never noticed ’til the next transition, by which time my 510 was fully recharged anyway.

So if by chance you come across a Garmin 500 laying on the road somewhere between SR-14 and Kanab in Utah, uh, please feel free to keep it. Because it won’t stay on your mount anyway.


The Hammer and I started on our big, long-anticipated descent. The one we were so excited about. The one we had been talking about.

And it sucked.

I was hurting in a big way. Or should I say “ways.” Because there were three things simultaneously going on.

First, I had heartburn. Bad. Searing, painful heartburn. This would be my companion for about ten minutes every time I ate for the rest of the race. I suspect this was due to the enormous amount of Red Bull I had been drinking. Probably it is not advisable to drink sixteen Red Bulls over the course of a day. I expect that Red Bull would probably concur.

Second, I was getting verrrrrry drowsy. Something that hadn’t occurred to me during the constant climbing for the past several hours was that the effort of climbing kept my heart rate up, which in turn kept me awake.

Now I was coasting. Hardly moving at all, really. And I felt a deep and pressing need to fall asleep. But I didn’t, because of the third problem, which was…

Third, Hiccups. Hiccups became my bane. Yes, they kept me awake, but other than that they were driving me completely nuts. And it wasn’t just an isolated case of hiccups that went away after a few minutes. Starting around 3:00am and for the rest of the race, I would get hiccups every time I ate something

I was miserable. Much more miserable than this list would suggest.

And also, I needed to poop.


  1. Comment by J | 10.8.2013 | 9:05 am

    It’s good to know that you don’t compile this wonderful blog while on the toilet.

  2. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.8.2013 | 9:24 am

    This sounds completely miserable – especially when you describe how sore your neck got. I get sore after just a century ride!

    Glad you survived – and please don’t do RAAM, because it would require over a year of daily ride report installments, and I’m pretty sure we’d all die from the constant cliff hangers.

  3. Comment by Corrine | 10.8.2013 | 9:25 am

    Oh, oh. The suffering is really beginning. I used to think I was pretty tough and could suffer through but then I see the things you guys do and then I read Hell on Wheels about RAAM and I realize that on the ability to suffer scale, I’m at the low end. My friends still think I’m tough, but I know better. Please let us know at the end whether it was worth it and whether you would do it again or not, now that a few weeks have passed. Even after reading your story, I still wonder about doing a 400 mile race. I naively wonder if it would be different for me. It’s like having a baby. Everybody tells you you won’t get anything done after the baby is born but you secretly know that you will be different and you won’t be that way but then you have the baby and you don’t get anything done either. Denial is a great device to help you do things you wouldn’t/shouldn’t do!

  4. Comment by bikemike | 10.8.2013 | 9:26 am

    Bane was a good villain in Batman. Sounds like he came back to haunt you.

  5. Comment by MattC | 10.8.2013 | 9:26 am

    You have me chuckling at way too many places in your story to even mention (but the biggest guffaw was where you snapped at Hammer and then are still waiting for a good answer to her question).

    Keep it going Fatty…wonderful stuff!

  6. Comment by PNP | 10.8.2013 | 9:26 am

    Ah, the first poop episode! I wondered when it would…um…make an appearance. :-)

    Fantastic tale so far. I followed your progress during the race to the extent that I felt like a stalker, but it was amazing to see.

    You always make me wish I were younger and thinner, and that my bikes weren’t gathering dust in the garage. I think this is bad for me somehow.

  7. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 10.8.2013 | 9:28 am

    I watched the documentary about RAAM. I am definitely not interested in that race.

  8. Comment by Nathan Vandenbroek | 10.8.2013 | 9:39 am

    “And also,” #snort

  9. Comment by Welnic | 10.8.2013 | 9:43 am

    I’m sitting at work reading in my full brand new Fat Cyclist kit. This is a great story, thanks for telling it.

  10. Comment by Jacob | 10.8.2013 | 9:52 am

    My 6-year-old son reads these books about a wealthy, adventurous mouse. One of his more recent ones was about RAAM and he thought that I should go do that race (and the Iditarod, because it was mentioned in the books list of toughest races).

    Also, I love the fact that a book aimed at fairly young kids is talking about races like RAAM, but I agree with you. I don’t think I want to do it myself.

  11. Comment by Mark | 10.8.2013 | 10:06 am

    I am waiting for the part where your heart explodes from drinking 16 Red Bull over 24 hours. That is not good, at all, in anyway. Especially if it’s your only hydration source. Anyway, great story!

  12. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 10.8.2013 | 10:07 am

    I, like you (but from the comfort of my home), came to realize that “body management” issues are far more critical in a race of this length than fitness issues. I know two guys who raced RAAM – their first attempt almost ended in death for one. He didn’t drink and fuel up enough and wound up in the hospital in AZ with kidney failure. He recovered to race again this year and finished it!

  13. Comment by Jeff Bike | 10.8.2013 | 10:28 am

    I used to drive all night so I understand what it is like until the sun comes up, but to add the physical exhaustion, my hat is off to you!

  14. Comment by MtlDan | 10.8.2013 | 10:29 am

    Ut oh, now you’ve got me obsessed with finding a better acronym for “RAAM”. Of course, it should be “RAA” which sounds like encouragement but lacks a certain finality. 2 letters from each word would be “RAACAM” which sounds like the start of an 8 ball match. 3 letters would be “RACACCAME” but that sounds like someone gagging on an energy chew. “Cross America Race” might yield “CRAMER”… Race Across the U.S. could get us “RAtUS”…

  15. Comment by Wife#.667 | 10.8.2013 | 10:51 am

    No – not heartburn! Jeez how could you even ride? That is just the most debilitating pain while the worst of the attack is happening.

    And yes, definitely the caffeine in the Red Bull. I can’t even have 4 regular shots in my latte anymore, had to go to half-caf quad lattes or else I get horrible heartburn. I cannot even imagine consuming 16 Red Bulls of caffeine. My chest would have exploded in a fiery nova of torment!

    I’m thinking Red Bull may want to film you as a “don’t try this at home kids!” Public Service Announcement around drinking responsibly!

  16. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.8.2013 | 11:02 am

    Breaking News! Fatty gets ’short’ with Lisa!

    16 Red Bulls!?!?!?!? What’s next for you, a little ’souped up’ mini cooper turning doughnuts on the cul de sac? Uh, oh. Fatty, doughnuts, mini…’s a fait accompli

    Curious about the Garmin;
    Our local bike product designers; promote the idea that the construction of the K-swiss mount constantly ’shaves’ the tabs of the Garmin, and that their own design is more compassionate. Maybe you could run some testing and reviews for us. But please no more than three installments.

  17. Comment by chris | 10.8.2013 | 11:29 am

    I love it when normal people do outrageous stuff and can offer a normal person perspective. That you were suffering but also willing to admit to the pure suffering misery of it all is so refreshing compared to the folks who seem to be all elite and swear they like it that way. Hats off to the accomplishment, and the honesty.

  18. Comment by ClydeinKS | 10.8.2013 | 11:55 am

    @Jacob – Geronimo Stilton has been causing that push from my boys as well! I think Geronimo faired much better than I would though.
    Ah, the cliffhanger of poop. One doesn’t need to think too hard where that will lead and holding out for 10 “episodes” it must be epic.

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.8.2013 | 12:03 pm

    I couldn’t, in fact, picture how anyone would want to ride the RAAM.


    Bad. Searing, painful heartburn.

    I understand. In fact I take one of those all-day heartburn pill now prior to every big ride.

    And also, I needed to poop.

    Of course you did. And, I hope you did not put this off too long.

  20. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.8.2013 | 12:11 pm

    Levi’s GranFondo raw results are now up:

  21. Comment by Brian in VA | 10.8.2013 | 12:33 pm

    Another powerful lesson for you, and us, about proper inter-spousal communication. Imagine if you’d said, “Hammer, please let me finish this sandwich. You’re way too fast for to catch!” during the first food break, you could have suffered something else for 7 hours, the Hammer would have known how fast she is, and you’d have more energy. Everyone winning!

    So, when you two do the RAAM (or whatever appropriate acronym you create) you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

    You’re welcome!

    Awesome ride! I did the most difficult century I’ve done this past weekend and the suffering doesn’t begin to compare. Although, it did at the time.

    Dr. Phil

  22. Comment by TK | 10.8.2013 | 12:42 pm

    Would love to know how much you spent on supplies for this race. Also, have you ever calculated your household’s annual bike-related spend? The gear, supplies, entry fees, travel costs, etc. must be astronomical! Cost per mile/pedal stroke/calorie would be a cool stat to have.

  23. Comment by wishiwasmerckx | 10.8.2013 | 3:02 pm

    I do not know if you were exaggerating your Red Bull consumption for comedic effect, but drinking energy drinks in excessive amounts has frequently led to heart trouble and even death.

    Not to be a scold, but overconsumption can actually be fatal.

  24. Comment by Christina | 10.8.2013 | 4:09 pm

    I would crap my pants from that much Red Bull.

    There.. now we’ve both shared way too much.

    You left us at the point where I’m worried you’re going to die. This is the part in the movie where someone dies. I know you don’t die, but this has the set up of Very Bad Things.

  25. Comment by John (Arizona Guy) | 10.8.2013 | 4:11 pm

    Confessions from a RAAM Crew chief.

    Fatman – I’ve enjoyed your epic story here. Your night right is playing out many lessons learned while I was crew chief for a solo rider on RAAM last year. FWIW – he won his age group, so we didn’t total screw it up.

    Liquid Liquid Liquid : in ultra endurance, you should take 80% of your calories in liquid form. That incredible sleepiness you felt? That was the blood which had settled into a perfect balance to supply your muscles and brain suddenly rushing to your belly to digest the turkey.

    Power Naps: It is amazing how much you can recharge in 10 minutes. Chase the crew from the Van, kick the seats back and take a 10 minute power nap… crew is responsible for wakeup.

    Keep a log of food in the van: the crew should track what she and thee eat and drink. The Nutritionist expected an empty water (and calorie) bottle back at certain intervals and would play hardball with the rider until he got it.

    Len Forkas (the rider) is writing a book about the race and his Hopecam Charity that is almost done. We’ll keep you in the loop.

  26. Comment by AKChick | 10.8.2013 | 8:04 pm

    The nerd in me loves this:

    Why, I make a call to the special place in my brain where I can ask myself, “What sounds good to eat right now?” and expect an immediate list to come to mind, cross-tabbed by closeness-to-hand, ease of preparation, and best taste. A matrix of deliciousness, if you will.

    Now, however, just when I needed it most, instead of a list of things I’d like to eat I was getting a 404 – Not Found message.


    Probably it is not advisable to drink sixteen Red Bulls over the course of a day. I expect that Red Bull would probably concur.


    And also, I needed to poop.

    I’m so sorry to laugh at your discomfort, but ROFLMAO!

    I can’t wait for tomorrow! Glad I was too busy to read on Monday and had TWO posts to read today. EXCELLENT POSTS!! You’re writing is just top-notch! Thank you!!

    Also, @Jacob – There is a guy that is bringing back the Iditasport. He rode not only the entire Iditarod self-supported on a fat tire bike, he proceeded to ride from Nome to Fairbanks too! I met him and his wife at an expo last Saturday. The website is here Fatty/Hammer – are you interested? :) I’m seriously considering maybe someday doing the 100K event.

  27. Comment by AKChick | 10.8.2013 | 8:05 pm

    Argh. Spellcheck. That should be “Your” not “You’re.”

  28. Comment by jarral | 10.8.2013 | 8:08 pm

    sounds like your ready for the Tour Divide!

  29. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 10.8.2013 | 8:53 pm

    You get an entire 48hrs for this:

    The Chapeks are in! ssshhhh, it’s a secret.

    Let me know whay you’ll need in the crew van.

  30. Comment by AKChick | 10.8.2013 | 9:00 pm

    John (Arizona Guy) Thanks for the advice! I doubt I’ll ever be crazy enough to do a 400 miler, but I am very seriously considering a 200 miler and a 100K winter ride (where the advice is to stay hydrated to help fend off cold weather related issues). I love that there was someone to record the riders food/drink and make sure they kept it up. Tired brain means fuzzy brain which can lead to bad mistakes.

    I’ll keep repeating it until Fatty (or someone else) tells me to shut up. I can’t recommend Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem as a long distance ride supplement. It contains protein and electrolytes and doesn’t upset your tummy, is gluten free and vegan friendly, and comes in three flavors Caffe Latte, Orange-Vanilla and Strawberry-Vanilla. Orange-Vanilla is my favorite. Anyone that is interested can find out more here: FYI – in my humble opinion, the solids are GROSS.

  31. Comment by Wife#.667 | 10.8.2013 | 9:44 pm

    @akchick is super excited because our boys Sam & Dean are back tonight. I got her back though – I believe she meant to say she could not recommend the Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem enough, in other words, she thinks it’s da’ bomb.

  32. Comment by Phil | 10.9.2013 | 1:48 am

    It is actually dangerous to drink so much red bull. The absolute maximum stated on the redbull website is 5 in one day (400mg) caffeine.

    Someone at school needed to go to hospital when he drank too much. Not a good idea

  33. Comment by Daddy style | 10.9.2013 | 7:30 am

    sufferfests build mental toughness, soon the lite will shine and a new day will dawn. All will be right with the world…. and then you get to stop, even better.

  34. Comment by GregC | 10.9.2013 | 7:57 am

    Furnace Creek 508- something I’ve thought of and talked about, but haven’t quite risen (or lowered?) to the point to commit to this much insanity (yet anyway)

  35. Comment by Joel | 10.9.2013 | 8:35 am

    Next time you do a race like this, get a case or two of ensure and work that into your food rotation. A great way to get 300 calories quickly (without going all out on the full liquid diet).

  36. Comment by MattC | 10.9.2013 | 8:45 am

    For riding calories all I have to say is CarboRocket 333 (Half Evil)…333 calories per water-bottle (if you mix full strength). Tastes GREAT (Rasberry flavor…MMMMMMMMMMM!). Sadly it’s just a bit pricey tho for me these days…I can go thru a 1 kilo can pretty quick! If you’re on a budget you can get straight maltodextrin powder and mix that into your water, getting you roughly the same calories…you just need to put in your own flavoring (I use cytomax, that way I get all the electrolytes/etc along w/ my calories). No need to eat anything at all, other than mentally feeling like you should.

  37. Comment by John (Arizona Guy) | 10.9.2013 | 9:38 am

    Hey AKChick -

    glad the advice helps – I love your blog also!

    We mixed up the liquid calories primarly using Infinit Nutrition who mix up batches to specification for about the same price as the others (Hammer, Gu, PowerBar…)
    We used three mixes of Infinit – One lemon/lime with protein, one Orange with no protein, and another (fruit punch?) with protein and caffeine for night legs. We also had two flavors of Skratch that we used primarily for electrolyte replacement on hot days – Skratch doesn’t have many calories (about 1/2 what other drinks do)

    We aimed for 400 calories /hour with no more than 50 solid food calories being part of that. A handful of nuts, eaten one at a time over 15 minutes, a few slices of an apple with peanut butter, 1/2 of a bar or 1/2 pack of shot blocks. We made a big fruit smoothie for immediately when he got off the bike at night, then a plate of food (fish, veggies & rice usually) after the shower and before bed – maybe 1000 calories total.

  38. Comment by JD | 10.9.2013 | 3:52 pm

    Hi Eldon – LOVE the report! Completed my first metric century last week so am amazed at the 400+ mile distance.

    You see the jersey the guy is wearing in this Performance Bike Trainer video?? Kewl!



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