Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Part 3: Bolo Ties

10.20.2014 | 1:23 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is Part 3 of my 2014 Rebecca’s Private Idaho Race Report. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Another Note from Fatty: Your 100 Miles of Nowhere Race Reports will start getting published tomorrow. I’ve already seen a bunch of good ones, and am looking forward to seeing more. Be sure to check out my Friday post for details on how to send them to me. 

In the time it took me to use the restroom, The Hammer had disappeared off into the distance. As she did, the though occurred to me: I might not catch her.

You see, I am faster than The Hammer. But only ever so slightly. A couple minutes of a gap can mean a big distance — possibly enough distance that I wouldn’t be able to reel her in.

Plus, she and I have this little game we play. It’s called “Can’t Catch Me,” and the rules are simple:

  1. Whenever we ride, If I stop, she keeps going.
  2. It’s my job to catch her.
  3. It’s her job to light it up and do her utmost to not let me catch her.

Hey, I think I might have just inadvertently written the rules for how relationships work in general. But that’s not the point. The point is, The Hammer likes to make it challenging for me to catch up to her.

And while I had successfully completed my own business, I had not taken care of my most important responsibility.

Specifically, it was time for me to deploy The Secret Weapon

Deploying The Secret Weapon

I’m acutely aware that I’ve been building up the suspense around this “Secret Weapon.”

And I therefore realize that you might feel just a tad let down when I reveal that the secret weapon is…this:

IMG 0365

Yes, it’s a Boombot Rex: a Bluetooth speaker made to mount on mountain bikes. I’ve talked about it before, when I unsuccessfully used it for a night lap during last year’s 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. 

But this time, I wouldn’t be attaching the speaker to my handlebars. No. This time I’d be attaching this speaker to my seatpost. Pointing squarely at The Hammer. 

And playing from it would be The Hammer’s very own personally-selected RPI playlist, streamed with love from my phone. 

Yes, that’s right. 211 songs, including — but by no means limited to — music from: 

  • Sick Puppies
  • Skillet
  • Breaking Benjamin
  • Billy Idol 
  • Beastie Boys
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Three Days Grace
  • My Chemical Romance
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Yaz
  • Michael Jackson

You may or may not appreciate her musical taste. That doesn’t really matter; the Boombot wasn’t pointed at you. In fact, it wasn’t pointed at me, either (and in fact I could only rarely tell what was playing).

It was meant to be pointed at The Hammer, to keep her motivated for the second half of the race.

Assuming I could catch her.

Wish Granted

With the Boombot blasting out music to the empty space behind me, I stepped up my pace to absolute maximum. I figured that I had spent two — maybe three, tops — minutes taking care of myself and then getting the speaker turned on and my phone playing music to it.

How long could it take to make up that much time? I started doing the math. If she’s riding at 20mph (which seemed about right for this part of the course), then in three minutes she will have put a mile on me.

A whole mile? Wow.

I stepped up my pace. Even at my max, though, there was no way I was going to go more than two miles per hour faster than she was.

Which meant it would take about half an hour to make up that mile. 

[Note: This kind of math is very easy to figure out when you’re sitting down and comfortably typing along, your heart at its resting rate. It is much harder to do this kind of math when you’re riding so hard that your eyes keep popping out of their sockets.]

I reeled in and passed rider after rider — none of which were The Hammer. I kept re-checking my math. Was it really going to take half an hour for me to earn back that three minutes?

Yes. Yes it was, unless something incredibly lucky happened.

I wished for incredible luck.

And instantly, something incredibly lucky did happen.

I caught Dave Thompson.

I hope it won’t be considered too much of a spoiler for me to show a picture of him (far left) at the finish line, with Dave Towle, The Hammer and me:

IMG 9658

Dave had flatted, during which time The Hammer had caught and passed him, unbeknownst to either of them.

And now I had someone to work with.

“Let’s go catch The Hammer!” I shouted. And Dave did not need to be told twice. A couple of quick clicks brought him into his biggest gear and it was all I could do to tuck in and stay in his slipstream.

In a minute he started slowing a little; he dropped back and I took over. In a few seconds, it was his turn again, he and I rotating through and forming a fast-moving train that several people tried to catch onto…but nobody succeeded.

26mph. 28mph. On rocky doubletrack. A big grin covered my face and I would have laughed out loud for the sheer joy of flying along with Dave, if I’d had the breath to. 

Then I’d drop back and see he had a big smile too. We were both having a ball, knocking ourselves out like we were in the final mile of a race — as opposed to only being halfway through the 90+ mile course.

Thanks to Dave, we caught The Hammer in considerably less than half an hour.

“Thanks Dave!” I yelled over the headwind we had just turned into — the headwind which would be our constant companion for the rest of the race. “If you want to take off ahead of us now, go ahead!” 

“No, I’ll work with you two,” Dave said.

I tell you, I nearly cried when I heard him say that.

All Aboard

And with that, my favorite moment of the whole racing season began. Dave and I are almost exactly an exact match in terms of power on the bike, and we work together wonderfully. He’d pull for a minute or so and then drop back to the second spot while I pulled. The Hammer hammered, staying right with us as our protected GC rider.

We’d see people up ahead in the distance and we’d reel them in. Invariably. Inevitably. 

And just as invariably, just as inevitably, they’d grab onto our train and become a part of our massive momentum. 

Some stayed with us for a long time — all the way to the big climb almost at the end of the race, in fact. Some didn’t stay as long, hanging on for a few minutes and deciding our pace was a little too hot for them.

Sometimes, even, people took turns up front. Mostly, though, it was Dave and me: grinding away, both of us just loving that feeling of being on the ragged edge of what you’re capable of doing. Of hanging on the edge of a cliff, but not too worried about it, because you know you’ve got a friend who will haul you back onto the ledge before you drop off.

I tell you, swapping turns at the front of a peloton with a well-matched teammate is electrifying.

Perfect Timing

Of course, we had to stop once. Nature kept calling The Hammer, and you can only tell Nature to please leave a message so many times. So when she saw a sign (there were no trees and the bushes were remarkably small) that might give her at least some cover from the race direction, she took advantage. Dave and I stopped 20 feet down the road, giving her her privacy.

And so, of course, that’s when Rebecca herself appeared. 

“You’re wearing BIB SHORTS? During a race?!” The Queen of Pain exclaimed. “Haven’t you learned anything from me?” 

Yes, that’s right. The Queen of Pain and The Hammer had had discussions about appropriate pee tactics for women during races.

“You are losing time!” The Queen of Pain shouted at The Hammer. “You are in second place right now!” 

To her credit, The Hammer managed to finish doing what she was doing. I am 100% certain I would not have been able to.

The Queen of Pain then rode with us for a few minutes. laughing and having a great time. It was awesome to see her relishing the success of her event…even if she happened to catch The Hammer at the worst possible time.

Goodbye Everyone

We reached the final big climb of the course; after this, the race would be almost entirely downhill. It’s just a couple miles long, so I went to the front and began pulling.

The group — probably five or six of us — shattered within the first couple hundred yards; as it turns out, most people don’t climb the way The Hammer and I do.

To my dismay, however, Dave was one of the people who dropped off. Which left us with a dilemma: do we pull up and wait for Dave? Or do we keep going, expecting him to catch us on the big downhill that leads to the finish line?

Well, we knew that The Hammer was in second place, but we didn’t know how far away first was, and we didn’t know how far back third (or fourth, for that matter) was. 

So we kept going, hoping we’d see Dave catch us on the descent.

We hit the top and kept going, barreling down as fast as a couple of cautious descenders can. Then we hit the pavement, and I moved to the front again, pulling for the last mile or so, not knowing where we stood, but feeling pretty darned good about our effort.

And then there it was: the finish line, outside of town (a clever idea to keep the racers from barelling down the open streets of the city). We crossed together, in 5:25:07, meaning The Hammer had finished 1:29 behind Sarah Barber, the women’s winner.

It also meant we had done this ride an hour and twelve minutes faster than in 2013. 

Yeah, we kinda hauled.

Three minutes later, Dave pulled through, and we all got our official RPI bolo ties, showing that we were all in the top 50 finishers. 

IMG 0366

Were we excited to get these coveted prizes? You bet we were.

One Strange Moment

Then, a minute after Dave pulled in, the strangest event of the day occurred: a woman pulled in and began complaining — loudly, angrily, to everyone in the area and at some length — about how unfair it was that The Hammer had been drafting. That she had seen her drafting, throughout the day. That, meanwhile, this woman had been riding all by herself the whole day.

We looked at each other uncomfortably, not sure what to say. Should we explain to her that this is in fact a fundamental strategy of racing? That this was not a time trial? That if she rode by herself the whole day instead of with one of the innumerable pacelines that formed everywhere along the cours, it was a choice she made…and not something to complain about?

I looked around to see how others were reacting. They all seemed as perplexed as I.

We chose to not say anything. She’d learn how races work soon enough (and she didn’t look like she was in the mood to have things explained to her right then). 

Still, even now I think back to how peculiar that moment (as well as others like it — we heard this woman complaining to numerous other people about the same thing) was: that a woman could be so strong — just five minutes behind us — and yet still so evidently new to competition that she equated fundamental racing tactics with not playing fair.


One of the things I love about Rebecca’s Private Idaho is that after the official timed finish line, you have a mile or so of lallygagging to the actual finish line festival. It’s a great opportunity to wind down and talk about the day — and it was in fact a really great day. 

The Hammer got a pic with a very happy-looking Reba (I believe that Reba was either about to get, or had just gotten, engaged):

IMG 9666

I love the way it looks like they each have one rabbit ear.

And with superstar announcer Dave Towle, here admiring The Hammer’s bolo:

IMG 9654

And I got a shot with Kathryn Bertine, author of the extremely readable As Good as Gold.

IMG 9656

If you look down in the lower left corner of the photo, you’ll see the Boombotix aka secret weapon.

And I also took a picture of what kept me fueled for 5:25 of hard racing:

IMG 9668

One Gu, every half hour = power all day. It works, people.

And let’s have another shot with Dave, because as far as I’m concerned, that guy is the hero of the day:

IMG 9658

And then, once again, The Hammer on the podium:

IMG 9684

You’d think she’d be getting tired of the podium, but — as upcoming posts about races will show — that is far from true.


  1. Comment by Fellowfattychris | 10.20.2014 | 1:50 pm

    Congrats Hammer (and Fatty) on the great result!

    I’d guess the lady complaining about drafting was probably a tri-geek like me. I can’t think of any other way she could be that fast and think that bike races are not draft legal. I’d like to apologize on behalf of all tri-geeks for her ignorance in this matter.

  2. Comment by Scott Gilbert | 10.20.2014 | 1:58 pm

    Ok Fatty I just bought a Boombox Rex on your recommendation!

  3. Comment by Heidi | 10.20.2014 | 2:00 pm

    Ha – I figured the woman would complain about the boombotix audio assault! Sounds like everyone else had a grand time.

  4. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 10.20.2014 | 2:26 pm

    who complains about not winning a fun ride/race??

  5. Comment by Bill Hart-Davidson | 10.20.2014 | 2:42 pm


    I’d vehemently dispute this, but since I did 3 tris this past summer, I have to admit, to my shame that…it…it…it’s true.

    Oh wait. You meant that the person unhappy about drafting was the tri-dork? Ha.

    Still, with the three tris I did this summer, I can hardly point fingers.

    - FC

  6. Comment by leroy | 10.20.2014 | 3:50 pm

    My dog insists I state the obvious: three tris? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do if at first you don’t succeed?

    Don’t look at me. My dog insisted.

  7. Comment by UT Kenneth | 10.20.2014 | 5:52 pm

    Congratulations Hammer; you’re more amazing every year! The woman who finished roughly a minute behind Dave had a time of 5:29:56. The heat of competition really does strange things to some people.

  8. Comment by Bodhi | 10.20.2014 | 6:16 pm

    Classic Leroys dog…

  9. Comment by NZ Ev | 10.20.2014 | 6:22 pm

    Another awesome post!!! Congratulations!!!!

  10. Comment by DaveT | 10.20.2014 | 6:42 pm

    One of my favorite rides of the year. I assumed at the first climb you guys would take off and I wouldn’t see you again. I was blown away that Lisa and I arrived at the same time and met you at the top. I was obviously riding out of my head that day. We made a great team. I’m really looking forward to next year. We need a train of Fattys out there.

  11. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.20.2014 | 9:36 pm

    @DaveT I assume you and Rob are going to go for gold next year, and I agree, we need a team to take on Robbie Ventura’s contingent.

    FUNDRAISER CONTEST. Maybe a pie eating contest between Robbie and Fatty. (I’m just getting started)

    Definitely a great ride. We’ll be back to defend our tandem title. Next year, less pictures, wider tires, shorter breaks. Not Fatty speed, but fast for two old fat guys!

  12. Comment by Bee | 10.21.2014 | 6:03 am

    Just getting curious… With all the races where you guys are tearing things up (which is super fun and I highly support going fast and kicking butt), do you guys ever have time to just noodle along and have a mellow ride, or to explore new trails or old faves just for the heck of it? Is there any such thing as a casual ride anymore for y’all?

    I should do a post about how The Hammer and I train. We don’t do intervals, we don’t wear heart rate monitors, we don’t have target speed or pace. We just ride together several days a week. We rarely go slow, but we also rarely go all-out. I have fun every ride; it never feels like a chore.

    All that said, with the season more or less behind us, I’m definitely feeling more inclined to slow down, stop more often, and take it easy, and I don’t feel as compelled to get out every day. – FC

  13. Comment by MattC | 10.21.2014 | 10:38 am

    Great report Fatty…and well done to ALL Fatties who again represented our rather diverse family so well! I’m still chuckling at Reba berating Hammer for wearing bibs…makes good sense, but I still figured most pro women would still wear bibs, because, well…they’re bibs (and they’re cooler than shorts). Nice to know that common sense/race-tactics over-ride the cool factor for Reba.

  14. Comment by Carl | 10.21.2014 | 8:54 pm

    The Hammer is amazing!

    I know what you mean Fatty about the season winding down. But now that you and a lot of us don’t feel as compelled to get out every day, probably means that you should line up Beeminder again for us!

  15. Comment by owen | 10.22.2014 | 10:11 am

    you have to love competition – it brings out the best and worst in people sometimes. Great report and result!! I am liking that secret weapon idea.

  16. Comment by Noodle | 10.22.2014 | 10:25 am

    We saw each other multiple times over the weekend, yet did not get a photo taken together. Was it because I didn’t wear my fat cyclist kit? Am I off the team?

    (I’ve tried three times to submit this comment so all three may appear at once or maybe just this one. If it’s the three times, just read it with an echo echo echo)

    Rescued from my overflowing spam folder!

    I didn’t get any pictures of you because now you’re too famous and I was afraid to approach you and ask for an autograph / photo / lock of hair. – FC

  17. Comment by HyperSprite | 10.22.2014 | 9:35 pm

    DaveT and DaveH,
    I am on board to take my share of pulls at the front of the train next year.

  18. Comment by Amy T. | 10.22.2014 | 11:33 pm

    Fatty, thanks a lot for sucking my husband into yet another, “Must Ride” for the biking season. I would be really furious except that he so obviously loves it and it is so good for him. I’m glad you all had such a great time.

  19. Comment by Tazzie C. | 10.26.2014 | 10:51 pm

    There may be no rules against but I think there’s a clear ethical difference between:

    a) having someone enter an amateur individual race with the specific purpose of being your domestique
    b) entering and riding the race solo – taking drafting opportunities as they arise along the way

    Sure it’s within the rules, but I wouldn’t want my husband/boyfiend/partner/ whoever, towing me from start to finish when other girls (and my competitors) were out there doing it predominately on their own as they didn’t have such a convenient arrangement for themselves.

    I know you didn’t do anything wrong and you were upset/confused by the (3rd?) place female’s loud complaints, however I can understand her point of view.

    I wasn’t upset, nor was I confused. I understood her POV, but it was a ridiculous, mean, unsportswomanlike POV.

    The way The Hammer and I raced wasn’t just not “doing anything wrong,” we were doing the race RIGHT.

    This competitor had no ethical high ground, as you imply. She was complaining loudly about someone beating her using the same race strategy many other people were using. That might be understandable if she were not a cycling coach. She knows (or should know) how this sport works. If she chooses to TT the race, that’s fine. But she doesn’t get to complain about racers who use the strategic options available to them. Just as The Hammer and I could not complain about other racers using CX bikes while we had only MTBs. Just as I cannot complain when people ride geared bikes and pass me as I’m riding my single speed. We all know what our options are; we all make our decisions how we’re going to race. We don’t get to criticize those who don’t choose to restrict themselves — by equipment or team choice — to a slower race.

    Furthermore, she was here last year and knew it’s a windy course. She knew what it was like and that it would be smarter to ride it with a group. And she was there with a group. In fact, she belongs to an organization that had a lot of people racing that day. If she didn’t have a group to ride with, that was either her choice (she wanted to ride alone) or a strategic error (she dropped the group, never organized her group into an effective paceline, or was otherwise separated from her group).

    Finally, she essentially accused my wife of cheating. That’s poor sportswomanship, it’s petty, and it is not to be defended.

    - FC

  20. Comment by Franky | 10.27.2014 | 11:49 am

    Maybe the Hammer should consider wearing this instead. It will make it much easier to take care of “business”.

  21. Comment by Tes | 11.15.2014 | 12:02 am

    Yaz! Love! Would love to see the whole playlist- always looking for new compilations for riding.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.