6 Hours in Frog Hollow Race Report, Part 2: A Beautiful Lie

04.23.2014 | 7:34 pm

A Note from Fatty:  To read Part 1 of this race report, click here.

In the first installment of this story, I noted that I am a liar. But the truth is, everyone who races is a liar. We lie to ourselves. Whether you’re racing people in real time — like I was in the 6 Hours in Frog Hollow — or racing against other people’s best time-shifted efforts — like everyone does with Strava — you’re lying to yourself.

You’re lying to yourself that the race matters. You’re lying to yourself that the race is somehow an indicator of how fast you are. When, in truth, the race doesn’t matter, and your relative speed is only an indicator of how fast you are in comparison to other people who are also lying to themselves.

And you know what? Those lies facilitate an incredible, wonderful truth. By telling yourself (and believing) these lies, you put yourself in the position of going as hard as you honestly can. And the feeling you get when you do that is as perfect and genuine as any emotion there is.

Racing may in fact be the most beautiful lie we can tell ourselves.

Great Escape

I had lied (to myself) incredibly convincingly during the five mile climb. I believed myself when I told myself that I was having a banner day. And why shouldn’t I believe that? I was passing people. I felt good and strong. I looked back and saw that the people behind me were getting further behind.

And then I began the downhill. On my hardtail singlespeed (34 x 19, for the three of you who care about singlespeed gearing), with only the barest whisper of front-end suspension (a Rock Shox SID).

The thing about the Frog Hollow downhill is that it’s fun. Wildly fun. So wildly fun, in fact, that as you ride you are in real danger of forgetting that you’re racing at all, because the hard-baked desert singletrack is just so good and fast. And fun. 

But I did not forget I was racing. I pedaled until I was going so fast that pedaling didn’t make any difference (this happens at a lower speed on singlespeeds than on geared bikes, alas). I was setting up my turns so that I could keep as much speed as possible. 

I did the first big drop without slowing as much as I was comfortable with, went into the second drop with speed, and came to the bottom with just a little too much speed. I washed out into the sand at the outside of the turn, put a foot down, and kept going.

“I don’t think anyone could take this part of the trail any faster than I am,” I lied to myself, and then looked back to see if anyone was catching me.

I couldn’t see anyone. I was staying clear.

I got to the most technical section in the race: go over an iron arch, down a rocky ledge, execute a quick hairpin turn, more drops, another hairpin, and then go

I rode it — not fast, but I didn’t put a foot down. By doing this, I passed a person who had taken a more cautious approach to the ride.

Then, down through the dry river bottom, back up onto singletrack, and more go-as-fast-as-you-dare racing.

The Not-So-Great-Capture

I could say that I don’t see how anyone could catch me when I was going as fast as I could, but that would be a lie. The day before, as we practiced the loop, Heather routinely disappeared far in front of me.

“But that’s because she’s on a geared bike,” I had lied to myself that day. Which didn’t really explain anything, because Kenny was dropping me even faster, and he’s on a singlespeed geared almost identically to mine.

The truth is, they were faster than I am because I am slower than they are.

And as I hit the second section of the singletrack — the same kind of terrain, but not as smooth, thanks to traffic on the trail when it was muddy — I could hear two riders approach as they caught me.

At first, I said nothing. “If they want to get by, let them ask me to yield,” I thought. 

I kept going; they stayed behind me, saying nothing. “I guess they’re happy where they are,” I thought.

I got to a brief, rocky series of climbing ledges. It’s good stuff. Stuff I like. I weaved through some, wheelied over others, and just powered up some. 

I heard the riders (I could hear there were two) behind me. One had a drivetrain problem as he went up one of the rocks — sounded like his chain dropped off — and he stopped, forcing the person behind him to stop. 

I didn’t look back. I rode on, alone again, nobody on my tail. I was racing, and racing is very important.

And then they were with me again. Pfff. But still not asking to go by.

Finally, I decided that they might just be being too polite to ask if they could go by, so I asked them myself. “Do you guys want to get by?”

“No,” one of them called out.

“Yes,” the other called out.

“I guess yes,” the first amended.

“I’ll pull over right, pass on my left…here!” I shouted, slowing and veering to the right side of the briefly-wider singletrack.

A guy on an orange bike — geared, so not someone I cared about — went by, saying “Thanks” as he went by.

And then, right on his tail — on what I now saw was a fully rigid singlespeed Spot — was Mike (whose name I did not yet know).

“Nice pass,” I said, respectfully. 

And — right then — I stopped caring about all the other singlespeeders in the race. It had narrowed down to just this guy on the Spot, and me. I was (for now) faster on the uphill, he was faster on the descent.

Were we fighting it out to decide who was in fifth place and who was in sixth? Or fourth and fifth? Maybe even second and third?

I didn’t know. And, really, I didn’t care.

But I did know other things: First, I knew I was in a battle. And second, I knew that this battle was important

Sure, I was telling myself a lie.

But it was as true a lie as I’ve ever told myself.

And that seems like a good place to leave off ’til tomorrow.


  1. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 04.23.2014 | 8:43 pm

    Ah, the lies we tell ourselves to get our bodies to do what our minds feel we should be able to. I find my body is very good at spotting my lies, such as when I’m climbing a steep hill and tell myself, “Your nearly at the top, keep going you won’t really pass out,” while my legs and lungs are saying “your full of it”.

    Then sometimes my legs don’t hurt so much at all and I post a PB and think my legs have been holding out all along with all that complaining, they really can do more when they want.

    But if we didn’t lie to ourselves, we would never tackle that scary big hill in the first place, and never experience the joy of summiting the monster!

  2. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 04.23.2014 | 9:04 pm

    A philosopher too? Another talent revealed. But, it’s true, as I think about my racing experiences. I’m never happy with my results, but given my lack of training (or some other excuse) I did pretty well! Lies! I’m liking your story… THAT is the truth!

  3. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 04.23.2014 | 11:10 pm

    Just when I thought you were in need of other ideas to write about you sneak in a new installment. I was expecting this one Friday. Oh well, now to read it.

    But when you ARE ready to write about something else follow up on AKChicks latest desire. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/barbell-apparel-denim-jeans-for-athletes_n_5192767.html?utm_hp_ref=tw


    A review from you could be the kick in the pants they need to really take off. Look what you did for Assos.

  4. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 04.23.2014 | 11:19 pm

    Oh! and they make a women’s version of these pants as well. I’ll let you find that picture.

  5. Comment by Jojo | 04.24.2014 | 5:29 am

    “The truth is, they were faster than I am because I am slower than they are.”

    The truth is always so simple.

  6. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 04.24.2014 | 5:35 am

    The truth? You can’t handle the truth!

  7. Comment by Jacob | 04.24.2014 | 6:29 am

    My most awesome races weren’t the ones where I actually won my age group but the ones where I found an evenly matched competitor during the race and found them personally to the end. In fact, my favorite ever race was a 7-mile run where I spent two miles reeling in a guy who turned out to be in my age group only to lose the finish-line sprint because I spent too much energy catching him and because I suck at sprinting. I’m more of a time trialist at heart (and legs).

  8. Comment by Jacob | 04.24.2014 | 6:40 am

    Also, if I could ever develop the skill for going downhill, I’d be amazing. I have a much more skilled and talented friend on the mountain bike. He climbs better because he’s fitter and lighter by at least 50 lbs (also about 4 inches shorter), but when we go down easy downhills, I’m riding my brakes behind him because my mass makes faster when we don’t have to pedal. Same thing happens on road bikes in groups on downhills.

    The problem is that as soon as the trail turns the slightest bit technical, my lack of skill lets him leave me in the dust, luckily more because I know my limits and hold back and not because I don’t know my limits and crash.

  9. Comment by Colin | 04.24.2014 | 7:16 am

    First time on the blog and reminds me of our 130 miles over the Snowdonia Mountains in Wales UK. The lie was to think we were timing ourselves – pretty irrelevant when you weigh in at 270 pounds. Will be reading more of this. For cyclists aspiring to the title of this blog try out http://www.meccanicacycles.com – they go up to 4XL and ship DHL globally. Read more on http://www.thewashingmachinepost.net/meccanica/review.html


  10. Comment by Ann | 04.24.2014 | 7:36 am

    So I was at the “race” this weekend too. Me and my friends thinking this would be a fun way to celebrate my friend’s birthday. I loved the course but did not foresee all of the people like you who were there to WIN. We rode fast and hard – and like you I can climb like a rockstar but never seem to go very fast downhill no matter how fast I think I am going. Anyway – we had fun but I kind of wish everyone else was taking it slightly less seriously. The stakes were just not that high after all.

    If this had been an event — as opposed to a race — I’d be with you 100%. But the thing is, this wasn’t a race-in-sarcasm-quotes. It was a race. You shouldn’t be surprised or upset to find that some people come to a race with the intention of going at their absolute limit. Especially if you don’t bring enough birthday cake for all of us. – FC

  11. Comment by Jim Tolar | 04.24.2014 | 8:41 am

    “Nice pass, I said respectfully”

    But the voice in your head, that’s not what *it* said, is it? TVIMH is never respectful and has a vocabulary consisting mostly of four-letter words that start with ‘F’ and rhyme with luck. Thankfully, TVIMH is almost only speaking aloud to me only.


  12. Comment by owen | 04.24.2014 | 9:00 am

    another great report Fatty can’t wait for more!! The picture with the Spot SS racer and you smiling tells the story – whatever it may end up being. I have been thinking about going to a 34t chain ring from my 32t as I think it would give me more gearing options do you find any other advantages?

  13. Comment by Christina | 04.24.2014 | 10:31 am

    How do you stop from screaming when you’re going really fast downhill?

  14. Comment by KevinM_Indiana(soon to be Virginia) | 04.24.2014 | 11:18 am

    “The truth is, they were faster than I am because I am slower than they are.”

    Well said Fatty and if we were all that honest at times but …. like you said we lie to ourselves …

    Looking forward to the continued story! Race/Ride/Event reports are some of my favs.

  15. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 04.24.2014 | 11:58 am

    Just read about a man for the rest of us:

    I nominate him as an honorary Fatty!

  16. Comment by Barefoot Rose | 04.24.2014 | 1:13 pm

    Thank goodness you didn’t give up blogging. EDGE OF MY SEAT and I inwardly cringe and shout with glee to know it’s a drip by drip report. 360 parts for a 6 hour race?

  17. Comment by The Cyclist | 04.24.2014 | 3:39 pm

    Yo, Fatty. I’m one of the minus 3 who actually cares about your gearing. 34 x 19 seems very low for going well on any descent. Especially if you’re on 26ers. What size of hoops are you packing?

    I ride a (Specialized Stumpy Carbon SS) 29er. I sometimes did wish for a taller gear during this race…but sometimes I also wished for a lighter gear. – FC

  18. Comment by gingyh | 04.25.2014 | 8:34 am

    @Jim Tolar, TVIMH is a foul-mouthed harlot and is always followed by the voice of my long-deceased grandmother and what she always said when she caught me saying something vulgar…”Such ugly language from such a pretty girl.”

  19. Comment by owen | 04.25.2014 | 9:30 am

    I think I might of tried to follow him for the rest of that lap to see what lines etc he was taking on the downhills and then stand and deliver the next time you got to the big hill climb – sounds good anyways as I sit here in my cubicle…

  20. Comment by Ellen | 04.27.2014 | 3:05 am

    “There’s a word for that kind of lie. Hope.”
    ? Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War


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