6 Hours in Frog Hollow, Part 4: Shaking the Unshakeable

04.30.2014 | 6:16 am

A Note from Fatty: Today is the last day you can donate to win the dream Gooseberry Yurt weekend vacation. Read here for details, and click here to donate

And thank you to the many of you who have been so generous with your donations. It’s been a real pleasure to watch Friends of Fatty support The Hammer on this big endeavor, and a lot of fun to watch The Hammer be so excited about how incredibly awesome everyone’s been with their donations.

More often than not, I really enjoy being right practically all of the time. For example, it’s super useful for calling heads or tails on coin tosses (I can choose correctly with near-guaranteed certainty within two (or sometimes fewer!) guesses). It’s also awesome in arguments, in which I am always right. And there are other practical applications, too, such as in always knowing the correct lottery numbers (I just am not interested in winning).

But, occasionally, always being right is a burden. A tragic, heartbreaking burden. 

Lap 2, Part 2: My Domain

In the last installment of this story, I introduced myself to Mike from Boise, a singlespeeder on a nice, fully rigid Spot bike, and told him we were likely to see each other a lot that day (this is the part where always being correct is occasionally heartbreaking).

And then I attacked him.

Was it a nice move? Not exactly. Was it a mean move? No, of course not. We were racing. 

So what kind of move was it? Well, I’d call it a defensive move. Pre-emptively defensive to be sure, but pre-emptive nonetheless. Because I had spoken the truth to Mike, with no strategic subtlety whatsoever: I had to put enough time on him in the climbs that he could not make that time up on the descent.

And so I went hard, looking back every time there was a bend in the road, checking to see if Mike was visible behind me. At first he was, and then — after a mile or so of climbing — he wasn’t.

I kept the pressure on. I knew it would be close.

And as I pushed myself, I thought about the glorious nature of competition and what it can make us do. Here I was, going harder and faster and more intensely than I had any intention of going before this race began.

It wasn’t because I wanted a spot at the podium; I had no idea where Mike and I were in relation to other single speeders. 

It wasn’t even because I wanted to beat Mike. Sure, I wanted to beat him; that’s the nature of racing. But there were lots of other guys out there who I was ahead of, lots of guys out there I was behind. And I didn’t care about them at all.

I was suddenly deeply in love with this race, on this day, because I had chanced upon a guy who had an interesting combination of strengths and weaknesses that overlapped with mine in such a way that we were essentially perfect competitors for each other. 

Mike was going to make me push myself to be a faster descender, and I’ll wager that I pushed him to the limit of his climbing abilities.

Lap 2, Part 3: My Domain No More

By the time I got to the top of the five-mile climb, I could no longer see Mike. Maybe, I thought, I’ve done it. And I hit the downhill hard. Going a little faster than I usually would. Being a little more aggressive on the drops. Rolling over stuff I might usually go around. Using a little less brake on the corners. 

It was a little bit terrifying, but seemed to be working. Whenever I hit a part of the trail that lent itself to looking back, I couldn’t see Mike. 

I was holding him off. 

I was holding him off!

I got a surge of adrenaline, mentally picturing my ever-so-slight lead growing into a slight-but-still-safe lead as we racked up lap after lap.

And then, as I exited the first new section of soft singletrack and rode my way up  toward the next section—the section that would empty out into the straightaway leading to the timing tent and the beginning of the third lap, I heard a voice from right behind me.

“You’re not an easy guy to catch.”

Mike. Of course. Where had he come from? (That question is rhetorical.)

“You go on ahead,” I said as we approached the turn onto the next section of singletrack. “You’re clearly faster on the descents, and I don’t want to hold you back.”

He went, and I got to watch him build a second’s lead, which he built into a two-second lead…and then a three…and then a four….

Meanwhile, I did everything I could to keep him in sight. To at least not let him get away from me entirely.

And I did it. 

I kept Mike’s lead slim enough that during the last short climb to the timing tent I was able to struggle up to his back wheel, hold it for a few seconds while I caught my breath, and then pull up beside him.

We finished the second lap exactly together.

Yeah, we were kind of closely matched.

But the race was still young, and there were a lot of miles for us to battle through. 

And unlike the first two laps, I’d be starting the five-mile climb on the third lap right beside him — instead of with a deficit.

I stopped at our tent, grabbed a new bottle of Carborocket 333 and a quick sandwich to go (the first mile of the climb is gentle, a good place to fuel up), and went out fast. 

I looked over to my left. There was Mike at his tent, putting a few strokes of air into his tire. 

This, I thought, is my big chance. If I’m going to beat Mike, I’ve got to do it now.

Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow. 

PS: I’d like to point out that even as I make poor Mike the unwitting villain in my story, he’s donated enough to buy a bike in The Hammer’s WBR fundraiser. Which sort of undercuts my whole effort to paint him as the bad guy. (Thanks tons, Mike!)


  1. Comment by Kristina | 04.30.2014 | 8:44 am

    One bicycle officially donated!

    I decided the day this was announced that I would contribute the cost of a bike. So why did I wait until the last possible day to actually DO it?

    These are the unanswerable questions I ask myself.

  2. Comment by Jim Tolar | 04.30.2014 | 8:56 am

    Dear The Hammer,
    One bike.

  3. Comment by Jacob | 04.30.2014 | 9:13 am

    I don’t see Mike as the bad guy. I’m perfectly cool if you don’t win. I’m rooting more for an interesting race.

  4. Comment by Anonymous | 04.30.2014 | 9:29 am

    Since you are not really interested in winning the lottery, but know the numbers, how about sending them my way?

    Sure. 55-58-67-53-09. – FC

  5. Comment by Sean Borland | 04.30.2014 | 9:31 am


    I really enjoy your writing and your storytelling. However, after a few torturous multi-part posts it becomes too much to bear!!! I had to know the final results, at least. Now, I can relax and enjoy your journey, again, and learn how you got there.

    That’s just fine. – FC

  6. Comment by Eric Finn | 04.30.2014 | 9:44 am

    Can I donate and not be part of the contest? I’d never be able to take advantage of winning that trip and I’d honestly prefer to get the tax write off.

  7. Comment by Bob B. | 04.30.2014 | 9:45 am

    Oh, Mike is definitely the bad guy. Attack!

  8. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 04.30.2014 | 9:59 am

    Love the sense of spirited competition and mutual respect. For most of us the races are more against our inner selves and our prior performances than against real opponents – podium positions are out of reach and we have to look elsewhere for what drives us to do our best.

    I am looking forward to the rest of the installments to see how this unfolds. I am resisting the urge to look up the final results, and am going to rely on your excellent story telling, so please, please, please keep the reports coming at regular frequency.


    For me too, the race is usually against the clock or some other abstract objective. Having a person I could genuinely battle it out with made this an unusually fun race for me. – FC

  9. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 04.30.2014 | 10:08 am

    Just wondering what happens when you fight with yourself about something. I mean you are right and you are wrong at the same time.

    And if you can answer that, then what came first the chicken or the egg? Since you are right all the time and all!

    I never argue with myself. – FC

    Yes you do. – FC

  10. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 04.30.2014 | 12:28 pm

    Everyone knows that to win a drawing you need to be the last contributor. (nice guys/gals finish last)

    There’s still time for you to get another contribution in before the deadline. I need to be ready to pip them at the line.

    What time is that Fatty?

  11. Comment by MicroTim (in IN) | 04.30.2014 | 12:32 pm

    Thanks for the entertaining race-writeups! I am particularly enjoying the dynamic between you and this ‘Mike’ character, though I suspect you are in danger of becoming the villain in this story… at least you offered to let him pass on the downhill! In the past write-ups you somehow manage to be both the protagonist and antagonist (since you are racing against yourself).

  12. Comment by Bykjunkie | 04.30.2014 | 1:28 pm

    In keeping with the liar post, I had to lie about my address to donate. It would not accept an FPO AE address. Well worth it!

  13. Comment by rich | 04.30.2014 | 2:22 pm

    Keep the writeups coming! Love these stories…
    oooh he’s villian, no he’s a good guy, wait maybe he’s a villian….the drama…

  14. Comment by Min | 04.30.2014 | 4:00 pm

    Putting time into him while he pumps his tire? That’s the sort of move that fills a man’s stomach with anger.

  15. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 04.30.2014 | 9:41 pm

    Ambassador Lisa only needs $2300 more to make 20K Anybody win the lottery tonight with Fatty’s numbers?

  16. Comment by dalemmby.soup.io | 04.30.2014 | 9:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I will be waiting for your further write ups thank you once again.


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