25 Hours in Frog Hollow, Part VII: Tortoise

11.19.2013 | 12:48 pm

It was two in the morning. Or maybe it was three. Really, I don’t know. I was just grinding along, riding with The Hammer. And we were having a conversation about how many laps we would end up riding during this race.

“At the rate we’re going, I think we’re going to do about eighteen laps,” she said.

Which sounded really good to me. Eighteen laps would be a huge number.

Then, a couple hours later, The Hammer gave me a revised prediction. “I think we’re going to ride sixteen laps.”

Which sounded really good to me. And I was happy to have her make predictions, though I was long past having any idea of how many laps we had ridden, nor how many we would end up riding.

My goal was much simpler, and I stated it for The Hammer: “I think we should just keep riding nice, steady laps, taking reasonable eating breaks in between.”

The Hammer agreed. But you know, it’s still fun to predict. It gives you something to think about. A way to —sort of — start counting down the laps, instead of just counting up. You know, like, “Just four more laps to go!” 

Then, at four in the morning — or maybe it was three, I really don’t know — we came into the pit, and found out that Kenny had blown up. He was wiped out, suffering, and needed a rest. 

“Awesome,” I said, very charitably. And The Hammer and I kept going. 


And on that lap, we saw nobody. Really: nobody. As it turns out, most people like the idea of riding their bikes through the night more than they like the reality of riding their bikes through the night.

But we kept plugging away. Not fast, but not really slowing down much, either. I was enjoying — and slightly awed by — the way I no longer needed to hold back for The Hammer at all (well, except for the switchback drop-in, where you go over a grate, then a couple of tight switchbacks on a technical downhill). We were just riding together, with me pulling ahead a little in one or two places, and her pulling ahead wherever there was a rocky descent, due to the fact that my wrists were killing me.

Then we’d regroup and keep riding. Just ticking away the hours and laps together. Even though The Hammer didn’t need to ride any more at all to win her division, and even though I had no chance at all in podiuming in my division. 

We were just living our shared philosophy: if you’re going to do a 24 (or 25) hour race and you can keep pedaling, you should keep pedaling.

Here Comes the Sun

If you ride in the dark, you learn to either love or hate your lighting system. And I can say now, without reservation, I love NiteRider. The Hammer and I were each equipped with Pro 1800 Race lights on our helmets and Pro 3600 DIY lights on our bars. (Full disclosure: While I bought our light systems at a regular retailer, NiteRider set us up with extra batteries for for our use at both this race and the Salt to Saint race.)

We never ever ever ever had too little light; even on the low setting our lights were more than sufficient for riding on both climbing and the technical, rocky descents. And the batteries lasted for hours and hours. We each only had to swap batteries once during the whole set of night laps, in fact. 

And in short, I strongly recommend NiteRider lights to anyone who’s going to get into night riding (although if I were to make my purchases again, I’d probably go with Pro 1800 Races for both bar and helmet; the 3600 is overkill).

But no matter how good your lights are, when you’ve been riding in the dark for twelve solid hours, your world starts feeling really closed-in. Small. Time elongates. You have a hard time remembering what the terrain looks like in the light.

So when the sun comes up, it is wonderful. Somehow, in spite of the fact that you haven’t gotten any sleep, you suddenly feel renewed. Like you’ve somehow punched a reset button.

Plus, I knew that we only had a few more hours to go. 

Sixteen Plus One

And then, as we got close to the pit—where we’d be taking our traditional eating break—The Hammer told me, “We need to start taking shorter breaks.” 

That didn’t sound all that great to me.

Here is a picture of The Hammer, telling me it’s time to go, even as I am clearly in the middle of eating a muffin and drinking a Redbull. 

TT FatCyclist 145

“Why do we need to hurry?” I asked. “We’re going to have no problem getting sixteen laps in.”

“Oh, I changed my mind. We’re back to seventeen,” she said. “I don’t want to just win the women’s solo singlespeed division, I want to win the women’s solo division outright.”

That woman can be a pretty darned tough taskmaster.

But I still finished my muffin before I got back on the bike.

Which is where we’ll pick up (and possibly conclude) tomorrow.

PS Bonus Picture: Here’s Kenny, starting his morning lap, dressed as if it were freezing cold out. Note that at this point, The Hammer and I were down to shorts and short sleeve jerseys with arm warmers.

TT FatCyclist 108





  1. Comment by Kukui | 11.19.2013 | 1:02 pm

    “I don’t want to just win the women’s solo singlespeed division, I want to win the women’s solo division outright.”

    The Hammer is amazing! =)

  2. Comment by centurion | 11.19.2013 | 1:11 pm

    Don’t you just love it your woman kicks your a… er…um…ah, set a goal, then reaches and exceeds it!

  3. Comment by Rob L | 11.19.2013 | 1:21 pm

    The carrot and then the stick approach???

  4. Comment by UpTheGrade SR, CA | 11.19.2013 | 1:23 pm

    Pretty soon, The Hammer is going to have to slow down or she’ll be dropping you FC! Great to hear how you’re working together to break records, awesome.

    I had a great MTB ride on Monday morning up Canyon Trail (Annadel, not Utah), then surgery in the afternoon which will keep me off my bike for a few weeks – I’m already going stir-crazy, but as a consolation, I get to read your entertaining posts, and its raining here in northern CA for the first time in months, so that’s something ;-)

    Now to get back to writing my novel. (I may have to ask you about how to publish if/when I finish it).

  5. Comment by bikemike | 11.19.2013 | 1:24 pm

    I read that quote as, “I don’t want to just kill these women, i want to crush them like so many teensie, tiny, little ants that are trying to ruin my picnic. Now,drop that muffin, swallow that Red Bull, put your man bibs on and get on your bike and ride”. That’s how i read it.

  6. Comment by owen | 11.19.2013 | 1:27 pm

    those are great pics – sleep deprivation does funny things. Are you allowed to change SS gearing at all during the race?

    It depends on the race, I think. In a 24-hour race you can, but I never have. – FC

  7. Comment by Jacob | 11.19.2013 | 1:29 pm

    So, would racing a geared bike have made the Hammer unbeatable among solo women or is the difference more subtle than that?

    It would depend on the course. For this course, gears are a distinct but not overwhelming advantage. With gears, The Hammer could likely have ridden 18 laps, maybe 19. – FC

  8. Comment by iRide | 11.19.2013 | 1:58 pm

    I just purchased a NiteRider Pro 1500. It’s crazy bright. I used it for getting to my elk hunting area on the Oregon coast. It was almost embarrassing how bright it was and it worked well in our NW rain storms. You also motivated me to mount my GoPro. I couldn’t get $50 for my bike but I’ve got well over $1000 in gear on it!

  9. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.19.2013 | 2:00 pm

    @Up the Grade, sorry to hear about no riding. After 5 weeks in ‘Pinkie’ I opted to ‘cast’ the wrist till 12.4 in lieu of ’splint’ that could be removed. I was confident that I would do too much, too soon, and with The Appetite Seminar Ride http://vimeo.com/8025966 coming felt I would have no self control.

    Missing Annadel, but this dampening is just the ticket to clean up the trails.

    @FC good to hear no fires were started this time from those 3600’s and you are rethinking their use.

    Also please keep this story gooooooiiiiinnnnnggggg. And give us a quiz too!

  10. Comment by Heidi | 11.19.2013 | 2:13 pm

    The Hammer is *remarkable.* That is all.

  11. Comment by Al | 11.19.2013 | 2:58 pm

    Great stuff Elden – but I’m worried about your wrists….

  12. Comment by Sophia | 11.19.2013 | 3:08 pm

    The hammer is so inspiring. I love the story. I love the pics.

  13. Comment by SteveB | 11.19.2013 | 3:13 pm

    Great story, I just have one question: who killed Kenny?

  14. Comment by rich | 11.19.2013 | 3:28 pm

    Wow….your wife is a stud and I mean that in the best possible sense. You’re both amazing and I can’t imagine riding for 24 hrs….that’s just plain crazy talk right there.

  15. Comment by J | 11.19.2013 | 4:33 pm

    Thanks for the NiteRider specs FC. While I have an older Pro600, I do love their stuff.

  16. Comment by Kate | 11.19.2013 | 4:46 pm

    I love your wife. You’re pretty cool too.

  17. Comment by Carl | 11.19.2013 | 7:28 pm

    Here is a 24 hour time trial in Michigan that is in it’s 31st year. I did it once in the 90’s and can relate to what you are saying about riding at night, but it would be even worse off road I think. If you haven’t heard of it and want to try a road time trial one, here is the link: http://www.n24hc.org/

  18. Comment by Troy | 11.19.2013 | 10:44 pm

    Have you heard of WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation)?

    They run a 24hr Solo race each year, and have a SS category. Last one was just held in Canberra, Australia. 2014 is at Fort William in Scotland, with 2015 scheduled to be in your neck of the woods… Weaverville, CA.

    If you aren’t upto it, I’m sure the Hammer is.

  19. Comment by JRay | 11.20.2013 | 8:10 am

    So… When is Zach going to give us his version of the story?

  20. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, Part VIII: The Big Finish is Not the Finish | 11.20.2013 | 9:12 am

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