The DQ-ing of Fatty, Part I: Panic at the Reservoir

09.22.2014 | 9:14 am

I knew what I was about to do was dumb. Knew it. 

But I was going to do it anyways. Even though it was—as I knew—dumb.

Specifically, I was about to do the Jordanelle Triathalon–which kicks off with a mile-long swim—exactly one week after racing the Leadville 100.

The “doing a hard race just one week after doing the Leadville 100” part, oddly enough, wasn’t the dumb part.

No, the dumb part was that I was about to climb into the water, with the intention of swimming a mile. In spite of the fact that I had not gone swimming—at all—since the last time I had done a triathlon, about a year and a half ago. 

So what had possessed me? Why was I going to perform this act of sheer foolishness?

Why, I was supporting my wife, naturally.

Prelude to Panic

You see, months ago, back in the early months of the year—when snow was on the ground and it was ever so easy to say things like, “Sure, let’s do a triathlon.” After all, as one of the perks of being an Athlete Ambassador for World Bicycle Relief this year, BlueSeventy had given The Hammer an incredible new wetsuit.

It seemed only proper to go and use it. So she signed up for the Jordanelle Triathlon (and for the Ogden half-iron-distance triathlon. And for an Xterra triathlon…but those are stories for other days).

Being supportive (and dumb), I signed up as well.

And now the time has come. It was time for me to pay for my costly mistake. It was time for me to swim.

But first, we took pictures: The Hammer, happy and relaxed, and really loving how comfortable her wetsuit is. 

IMG 9565

And then me, with The Hammer. I said, “Let’s do a superhero pose.”

IMG 9566

Clearly, we have wildly different philosophies of what constitutes a superhero pose.

By the way, I briefly blacked out after sucking my gut in so far for this photo.

Swim Harder, Not Smarter (And Not Faster, Either)

The Hammer and I were standing, chest-deep, in the water. I wasn’t terribly cold. The distance to first buoy didn’t look ridiculously far. And I felt surprisingly good — the little warm-up swim we had done for a few minutes had gone well.

The race started and The Hammer and I — as is our way — stood there, letting the fast swimmers go, not wanting to get in their way (and not wanting to get crawled over). Then we wished each other good luck and began our swim.

And then race lust overtook me. Overtook me hard. Without even thinking about it, I ramped up my effort, right to my redline. Attacking the reservoir, I forgot something — something I had thought I would never forget. Something, in fact, I had written the last time I had done a longish swim:

As a terrible swimmer, I understand one very important thing: any extra effort I put into swimming results not in more speed, but merely more splashing and thrashing. So I swam at the pace I always swim.

But now, I was swimming above that pace. Way above it. In fact, I was swimming like a man possessed by a demon.

A very, very stupid demon.

And remarkably soon, I paid the price: my lungs couldn’t keep up with my effort, and I felt like I needed air. Now, when that happens on land, I know exactly what this means: it’s time to back off just a little bit. It’s time to breathe more.

But I wasn’t on land, and getting this feeling in the water made me think something new and different. This must be what drowning feels like, I thought to myself.

And, instantly, I was obsessed with that thought. In spite of the fact that I was wearing a very buoyant wetsuit. In spite of the fact that there were kayaks all over the place, looking around for anyone in trouble. In spite of the fact that I had lots and lots of options I could try before giving up and sinking to the bottom of the reservoir. I could sidestroke and keep my face out of the water full-time. I could flip over and backstroke, spending practically no effort at all. I could doggy-paddle, if it came right down to it.

None of those options made me feel any better about the fact that I was panicking in the water, in oxygen debt, and not even to the first turn of the triangle in a two-laps-around-the-triangle course.

There was no way I was going to finish this. No way. I didn’t even want to.

I saw a kayak up ahead, toward the buoy. I began sidestroking toward it, knowing that he or she could tow me back to the shore. To solid ground, a place where the simple act of not moving would not make you die.

The Hammer swam by me. Mentally, I wished her well. I’ll tell her the story of why I had to quit when she finishes the race, I thought to myself. I’ll tell her what a stupid idea it was for me to try to do a long swim when I hadn’t prepared for it at all.

And then I thought, Wait a second. I haven’t done a long swim today. I haven’t gone more than two pool lengths yet, in fact. At my worst, I can go ten pool lengths without a problem.

So why was I freaking out?

Because I was going too hard, that’s why. 

So slow down, you big dummy, I said to myself. Yes, using those exact words.

And I did. Still sidestroking, I slowed way down, intentionally hardly going at all. Just moving forward toward that buoy fast enough that careful observers wouldn’t think I was treading water.

My breath slowed down. My panic subsided. The buoy even looked a little bit closer. Maybe. A little bit.

I rolled back onto my torso and began doing my horrible, formless, travesty of an American crawl again, and formed a new philosophy, one I swore I would never forget or abandon, should I ever foolishly consider doing a triathlon again (for example, two more times within the next month): “I am not racing a triathlon. I’m just going for an easy swim. Once I finish, then I get to race.

I Am AWESOME at Product Placement

And in short, I survived the swim. Once I got my self-induced panic under control, in fact, I very nearly did OK. If you consider 34:57 (79th place out of 125 participants in the Olympic-distance event) OK. 

Which I do.

I stumbled out of the water, weaving like a drunken man up the dock toward the transition area. Halfway there, I stopped and decided I’d work on taking off my wetsuit right then and there, since walking was a genuine problem right at the moment. (I’m not sure why, but my balance is always seriously off-kilter for about three minutes after doing a swim in a triathalon).

As I worked on this project—and believe me, it’s quite a project—The Hammer came running by me. We had done the swim in almost exactly the same time. 

“Good for her,” I thought, gathering up thirty pounds of soggy neoprene octopus (i.e., my wetsuit) and stumble-running up to where I had carefully laid all my stuff out.

I got to work. 

  1. Open and stuff a packet of Honey Stinger Chews into my mouth. I do this because I can then multitask — i.e., chew and swallow 160 calories — while I do all the other stuff to get ready for the bike.
  2. Sit down and pull on my Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Micro Socks. I like these because they are thin enough that they fit comfortably under my road shoes, yet still work great for running. And in fact, I wear this kind of socks pretty much all day, every day of the summer. I have twelve pair. Or at least, I had twelve pair at one point. I am not sure how many pair I have now, thanks to clothes-dryer-induced entropy, as well as my tendency to ruin socks quickly thanks to disproportionately large big toes.
  3. Put on my Specialized S-Works Road Shoes. I have had these shoes for about four years, and I love them. A couple of quick twists of the Boa fasteners and I’m ready to go.
  4. Put on my Specialized S-Works Evade helmet. Aero meets road. I’ll have more to say about this helmet a little later in this post. For now, let’s just say that no matter what you think of the aesthetic of the Evade, it doesn’t stick out as obviously as my old TT helmet.
  5. Stuff two GUs into the tiny little pockets of my Pearl Izumi one-piece Octane Tri Suit thingy: my “onesie,” as some people like to call it. Then one more GU under the leg band of each leg. I do not consider the fact that I have packed enough gel for about two hours-worth of riding, when the course is only 25 miles long. I do not have a Root Beer GU with me, because I gave my last one to an elite racer — her name is Amber — who was with our group driving up. Later, she would say that this Root Beer Gu was the best thing about her race. Which is pretty impressive, considering that she took second overall.
  6. Grab my bike—my beloved Specialized Shiv Expert, now outfitted with Shimano Di2 Ultegra and and Dura-Ace C50 wheels—and go

Maybe—just maybe—thirty seconds ahead of The Hammer. And I did not intend to let her catch me.

There. I said it.

And Now For The Fun Part

In spite of the fact that I am a well-known philanthropist and beloved, award-winning superstar blogger, in general, I look for opportunities to be self-deprecating. It’s one of the things that makes me so charming.

That said, I simply do not know how to honestly convey the truth about how the next part of this story unfolded without loudly thumping my chest and howling in triumph.

Because I am pretty darned fast on a TT bike.

I’ve got great power, I know where my limits are, and I know how to stay right at them.

And a week of resting after the Leadville 100 was plenty. Honestly, I don’t understand what people do with more recovery time than that.

All of which leads up to the fact that I didn’t just pass people on a more-or-less constant basis. I flew by them. I’d be yelling, “on your left” to people as I approached and be past them by the time the sound reached them. I’d see someone who was passing another person and would pass both of them at the same time. 

Within the first eight or so miles, I saw The Swimmer, who had put seven minutes into me on the swim. I waved as she shouted, “Go get Cori!”

Then I went by Lynette and Cori Borup—good friends and the owners of SBR, not to mention the people who had given us a ride to the race. No time to talk. 

I stayed low. Stayed in my aero bars. Let the wind go around and over me. “I love this Shiv,” I thought to myself. “I love this helmet.”

And in short, I got to the turnaround — twelve miles, with 1087 feet of climbing—in 37:06. That’s 19.5mph, on average, for the uphill part of the race. Against a headwind. My stated goal for the whole triathalon had been to do the 24-ish mile road course in under an hour. With the rest of the ride being downhill, with a tailwind, I had a shot at it.

I slowed for the turnaround cone, took a sip of water and sucked down a Gu. As I started to ramp my speed back up for the return trip, I saw The Hammer coming toward me — not quite to the turnaround cone, but getting close. I smiled and waved, glad that she was having a fast race too.

I put my head down and went to my biggest gear. Downhill isn’t for resting; downhill is for flying

I gave it everything I got, passing anyone I saw, increasing the gap between me and everyone behind me.

I was, I was pretty sure, the fastest person on the bike in that race on that day. 

But I was also rushing toward the moment that would, in short order, disqualify me from the race altogether.

Which seems like a good place for us to pick up in tomorrow’s post.


  1. Comment by J | 09.22.2014 | 9:39 am

    Loving the pose, but can’t wait to hear how you DQ’d. Was it your speed? Your product placement? Or your shrunken sailor balance? We will neve*r know….

    Until tomorrow that is.

  2. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 09.22.2014 | 9:44 am

    Great way to start Monday morning!

  3. Comment by MattC | 09.22.2014 | 9:56 am

    What a cliffhanger…how on earth do you get DQ’d on the bike leg of a Tri? Some major breach of Tri-etiquette? Did you go by somebody REALLY important SO FAST that you scared them into crashing? Did you ride off course and take a bunch of other people with you? (what kind of idiot would do THAT?) Did you get caught using Fabian’s electric motor in your Shiv? Did you pass and then drop Jens on the breakaway (which is a violation of at least 12 international laws)?

    You’ve really got me Fatty…can’t fathom how you were able to pull that off. Until tomorrow…

  4. Comment by wharton_crew | 09.22.2014 | 10:20 am

    Well, you didn’t mention putting on actual clothes during your transition phase, so I was betting that you were riding with just a helmet and shoes – but then you ruined that thought by describing where you put your GU. Oh well, I guess it’s good to not be disqualified for riding naked…although THAT would be an awesome blog post!!! Food for thought for future races, Fatty (no pics, please).

    Oh, I didn’t need to put on any clothes; the “onesie” was underneath the wetsuit. Once I peeled the wetsuit off, I was dressed for the ride and run (except for incidental things like socks, shoes, helmet, glasses). – FC

  5. Comment by Fat Cathy | 09.22.2014 | 10:46 am

    The one and only time I’ve done a triathlon, I was literally the next to the last person out of the water. And I really trained for that race. So relative that that result, I’d say upper 2/3’s of the field for the swim was pretty good.

    I was in fact very proud to look back and see there were people (with the same colored caps I had) still in the water as I came out. And I was extremely proud to move from the back third of the field in the first half of the ride up to the front third, with every expectation of moving to the top 10% by the time I finished the ride.

    Alas, it was not to be. – FC

  6. Comment by MikeL | 09.22.2014 | 11:43 am

    I am betting that you drafted someone in the eyes of the judge or violated a yellow line rule.

    Those are both good guesses, but are both wrong. – FC

  7. Comment by ClydeinKS | 09.22.2014 | 11:54 am

    The swim portion of a tri is a brutal ego crusher. I remember my first tri and hearing stories of needing to remember the path to and the exact location where your bike is racked. So I was in the water surviving and having way too long a time to be thinking “where is my bike, where is my bike, where is my bike” right up until I exited the water and gazed upon the field where 3,000 bikes had been resting when I left. Due to the time I allowed during my survival there was absolutely zero question as I exclaimed “THERE’S my bike!!” within that field of 2-3 bikes remaining. I still claim I was only planting rabbits for the bike portion.
    Mid(ish) in the pack is great and still able to be called swimming. Now you do have me wondering on the specifics of the DQ – passing at the rate of sound doesn’t seem to bring in any thought of drafting. Gu pack slipped out and DQ for littering despite likely seeing MUCH worse from other racers?

    Nope, didn’t lose any trash. – FC

  8. Comment by bikemike | 09.22.2014 | 12:13 pm

    I love to stop at Dairy Queen during in the middle of a race for snacky time.

    Favoritest. Comment. Ever. – FC

  9. Comment by bykjunkie | 09.22.2014 | 12:16 pm

    Was it a left or right that knocked you out?

  10. Comment by Been there Seen it happen | 09.22.2014 | 12:44 pm

    Your new spiffy helmet was cracked and deemed unsafe for racing. This actually happened to a friend of mine when the pointy part of their aero helmet had a small split.

  11. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.22.2014 | 12:45 pm

    You had the motor from Fabian Cancellara’s bike in your downtube, didn’t you.

  12. Comment by TimD | 09.22.2014 | 1:02 pm

    I’ve got three guesses as to why you were DQ’d:
    1) You showed your winkie while changing (least likely for a family man such as you)
    2) Changing outside of transition (Definitely a no no on local triathlons)
    3) And most likely I think, exceeding the speed limit! This is a big problem for the local tri’s I marshal, as Lancashire County has put 20mph speed limits on nearly all urban and sub-urban roads

  13. Comment by MattC | 09.22.2014 | 1:13 pm

    @TimD….there’s a speed limit in a RACE?


    That seems rather odd…like telling race-car-drivers they can’t take their Formula 1’s over 150mph in one-half of the oval.

    How is it still a ‘race’ if you limit speed, penalizing faster people?

  14. Comment by Fellowfattychris | 09.22.2014 | 1:38 pm

    For once I don’t have to live in suspense for a day waiting for your next post because I know exactly why you DQ’d. Don’t worry, I won’t post it here and ruin the surprise for anyone else. Even though I know what happened I’m still really looking forward to your reading part 2. I love hearing your comments about the swim. I remember used to having similar thoughts before I became a tri-geek. However, over time I’ve learned to love the swim leg, and now actually look forward to the adrenaline rush of being in the open water and in the middle of a pack of swimmers kicking and clawing at each other while they fight for position.

    PS, I don’t mean to brag, or maybe I do, but look who is in the top 10 of the first 2 segments of your ride! To be fair we had the wind at our back during the climb at the Rockcliff Tri earlier this year on what is basically the same bike course, which I proudly took honors of having fastest bike split on the day.

  15. Comment by TimD | 09.22.2014 | 2:00 pm

    Mattc, bizarre as it sounds, yes this is a real problem over here. Local tri’s are mostly run on open roads and therefore racers have to obey the speed limits. Not usually a problem but a lot of councils are introducing 20mph limits on local roads. Great for me as a commuter cyclist, not so great for racers.

  16. Comment by Jeff Bike | 09.22.2014 | 2:01 pm

    Hammers pose is “superhero” and if she had put both hands up together she would have flown away. Fatty is in the “hero” pose. This is to distinguish someone who has earned the right to be smug but isn’t.

  17. Comment by Kate | 09.22.2014 | 2:25 pm

    I hear you on the big toe/sock thing. A friend calls the condition Ginsu toenails.

    And you write the best cliffhangers ever.

  18. Comment by Christina | 09.22.2014 | 3:01 pm

    Fatty got busted for speeding?

    Now I need a Blizzard, with all this talk of DQ.

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.22.2014 | 4:24 pm

    That said, I simply do not know how to honestly convey the truth about how the next part of this story unfolded without loudly thumping my chest and howling in triumph.

    and ->

    I was, I was pretty sure, the fastest person on the bike in that race on that day.

    You pretty much nailed the humility thing, Fatty!

    Nailed it upside-down and spread-eagled to a cross of barbed thorns.


  20. Comment by spaceyace | 09.22.2014 | 5:04 pm

    I too made the Dairy Queen connection upon reading the title. For a split second, I thought “wow, not only does Fatty enter cool donut eating races, now he’s found an ice cream race.” Then I thought “oh yeah. DQ = disqualified. maybe this fat cyclist should enter more events and eat fewer Blizzards.”

  21. Comment by EricGu | 09.22.2014 | 6:56 pm

    I used to get dizzy on triathlon swims, and then one of my friends suggested earplugs. I haven’t gotten dizzy in any triathlon swims since then, though perhaps that may be due to the fact that I haven’t done any triathlons.

  22. Comment by Jacob | 09.22.2014 | 7:16 pm

    If it makes you feel better, I raced an Olympic-distance race this spring that took me over an hour to finish the swim and the fastest guys out of the water put up your time in this race for the same distance. I’ve raced this race before and it had never been that bad but there was a weird current that we had to swim into the entire race. I was so spent from the hour in choppy water that I ended up pulling out after the first lap of the bike course.

  23. Comment by hannah | 09.22.2014 | 8:02 pm

    I totally read the title of this post as “The Dairy Queening of Fatty” and am now trying to figure out what exactly “Dairy Queening” would mean and how I can use this phrase as much as possible.

  24. Comment by Edwin | 09.22.2014 | 8:06 pm

    After this blazing bike leg Fatty cracked during the run: Article VI, Rule 6.1: A participant who gains forward progress by crawling [...] shall be disqualified.

  25. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate) | 09.23.2014 | 5:43 am

    Fatty, you do seam to have a knack for the DQ thing. :)

  26. Comment by Jenni | 09.23.2014 | 7:10 am

    Fatt and The Hammer need superhero names- Cap’n Unitard and Smiley Sunshine. To the rescue!

  27. Comment by Bee T | 09.23.2014 | 1:06 pm

    I too used to get really dizzy in the water which lead to disorientation and one little freakout. Then I learned about silicone ear plugs. No problems since. Turns out I’m just sensitive to the water on my ear drums.

    I was going to guess you tried to dismount inside transition. All the DQ comments just make me cry and wish that they had a vegan option for the lactose intolerant.


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