Starting Line Affective Disorder

03.11.2015 | 6:41 pm

A Note From Fatty: I know, I said I’d have the full reveal for the 2015 Fat Cyclist gear this week. As it turns out, however, having a full-time job sometimes takes all of my time. All designs are done; I just have to get the online catalog copy written up. Which I will do as I travel to the True Grit Epic (and back) this weekend. So check back first thing, Monday AM. Thanks!

To look at me, you would think I am the very picture of health. I appear robust, possibly excessively so. I am normally gregarious and communicative, happy to exchange pleasantries with friends, family, and strangers alike. More often than not, I sleep soundly and through the night, waking only between five and nineteen times to pee, a number well in line with well-hydrated athletes of a certain age.

I spend eight hours a day at my normal job, during which I put about 2.5 hours of work in, and 5.5 hours of aimless internet surfing. Which I think (based on the fact that you are almost certainly reading this during work hours) you will agree is pretty much normal.

Yes, to witness me on a normal day you would think I am an average man of near-average height and above-average appetite, performing normal activities in a normal way.

And you could not be more wrong. Because I live with and suffer from a dread disease: Starting Line Affective Disorder (SLAD), an ailment all too common amongst cyclists (and other athletes…but I don’t care about them).


The symptoms of SLAD are as terrible as they are pervasive and distressing.

They include:

  • Overactive Urinary Tract: In a typical day, the typical kidney filters approximately 120 – 150 quarts of blood, producing 1 to 2 quarts of urine. When a cyclist affected by SLAD approaches the starting line of a race (or even a non-racing cycling event), the kidneys will produce this same amount of urine per minute. This means you will begin to feel the need to go to the bathroom…before you finish going to the bathroom.
  • Disorientation: Do you belong at the front of the line of the racers, or more toward the back? Perhaps you should work your way toward the middle. Yes, you are a mid-pack racer. No, looking around, the people standing around you are clearly faster-looking than you are. Well, some of them are, anyway. Maybe you should move forward in the line. No, better move back. It’s not like this is going to make any difference in your finishing time in the race anyway. Or maybe it will. Why is everyone starting to look irritated at you?
  • Sudden Realization That One Has No Business Whatsoever Being Where One Is: You get the sense you’ve made a massive mistake coming here today. Look at everyone. They all look so calm, like they race every day of their lives. They’re talking about race strategy, about plans and tactics. Meanwhile all you have is a bottle full of Gatorade and a prayer that the course is well-marked, because you have no idea whatsoever where the turns are. 
  • Accelerated Bowel Activity: Exactly the same as “Overactive Urinary Tract,” except much poopier. And also, more urgent. And harder to conceal, should things go badly. Which they will, very soon, if whoever is currently in the porta-potty doesn’t get a move-on. (Illustration mercifully omitted.)
  • Tachycardia: Racing of the heart. You’re anxious, it’s perfectly normal to be anxious. When you’re anxious, your heart races. This is all perfectly normal. Everything’s going to be just fine. No really, it really is. Fine. Just FINE. Unless your heart jumps out of your chest. Which it seems totally hell-bent on doing, by the way. NO REALLY YOU’RE FINE. Are they ever going to start this stupid race? 
  • Tachy-Talky: The inability to stop talking about the race to anyone in the general vicinity. How much you’ve trained for it. What you’re worried about. What you’re excited about. What the seven different weather apps you just check say about the high temperature and strength / direction of prevailing winds. What your strategy is. How you’ve customized your bike for this race. Detailed descriptions of the insane customizations you’ve seen on others’ bikes. All at 480wpm.
  • Hypo-Talky: The near-complete inability to talk at all. If you open your mouth, you might throw up. What’s there to talk about anyway? You can’t pay attention to these chatterboxes; you’re too distracted. 
  • Sudden Memory Gain: Oh no. The CO2 canister you’re carrying is empty. And you left both your bottles back at the hotel. And you forgot to check your air pressure until right now. And you hate this jersey; the last time you wore it during a race it rubbed your nipples raw. How is it possible that you are remembering all of these things now that it’s too late to do anything about them?
  • Amplified Emotional Response: This is the single most beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” you have ever heard in your life. And these people: they’re all good people. They’re just like you: here because they want to give everything they’ve got. Hundreds of people, all gathered to do their best at something — that is so inspiring. Oh, and now you’re tearing up. 
  • Delusions of Speed: OK, you haven’t really trained as much as you ought to have, leading up to this race. But didn’t someone say that racing is 90% mental? Yeah, someone definitely said that. So if you really put your heart and mind into it, you can have a fast day. Maybe you’ll win, in fact. Why not? Just give everything, and then give a little bit more. And don’t give up. Why would you give up? You’re not a quitter. You’re the guy everyone looks at and says, “That guy is much faster than I expected him to be.” 
  • Regret: No, that’s not true. You’re not going to be miraculously fast. You’re not going to be fast at all. You’re going to be slow; you’re going to lose. You’re going to be DFL. And you know why you’re going to be DFL? Because you didn’t train hard enough. And because you ate too much. It’s not like you didn’t know this race was coming, either. You knew it was coming and you were a pig anyway. And now you’re about to pay the price, plus interest, in public humiliation. (See “Sudden Realization That One Has No Business Whatsoever Being Where One Is.”
  • Irritation: Oh, for pity’s sake. It’s now ten minutes after the hour. If I’d known you were going to start ten minutes late I would have gone to the porta-potty one more time. Just start the race, already.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may suffer from SLAD. In fact, you almost certainly do. Furthermore, if you don’t think you do, you’re either fooling yourself or just really irritating.

I, for example, suffer from all of these symptoms, from time to time (and most of them every time I race).

But don’t despair. There is a cure.


Actually, I was just kidding. There isn’t a cure.

Well, I guess you could stop going to races. But that’s a stupid excuse for a cure and I choose to dismiss it with a roll of my eyes and a poorly-concealed smirk.

The outlook for a cure is bleak, to be honest. Some say that you can reduce the symptoms by racing more often. That you acclimatize to race starts and eventually build up antibodies that resist SLAD. 

As someone who races most every week of the summer and has raced most every week of the summer for several years, I am happy to say that this is complete nonsense. 

The only cure for SLAD is the starting gun firing, at which point most SLAD symptoms immediately vanish…to be immediately supplanted by another disease, commonly known as Racer’s Madness

What to Do If You Are Diagnosed With SLAD

If you suffer from the symptoms of SLAD, you should immediately contact a doctor. Or you could just go ahead and self-diagnose, the way most of us do for most things nowadays.

Once you know you have SLAD, acknowledge it. Embrace it, even. Stop hiding, shamefacedly, from your fellow racers. Stop  pretending you’re not freaked out and about to jump out of your skin. 

Only if we all learn to embrace our SLAD can we ever hope to move beyond it. 

Oh, and also, be sure to get to the venue in plenty of time to make three consecutive trips to the porta potties.


  1. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 03.11.2015 | 6:57 pm

    How true! It’s always the worst when the organizer didn’t order up enough porta potties, of course.

    An additional symptom I exhibit is uncontrollable shivering. Even when it’s not particularly cold. And that just amplifies any of the others happening at the time.

  2. Comment by Cyclingjimbo | 03.11.2015 | 10:03 pm

    Well put, Fatty

    I remember from my running days a particular race where one of the runners had his dog along for the day. She was more excited about the race than any of the runners, jumping and prancing around on her toe, just waiting for the gun to go off. She was a classic example of SLAD.

    I would say that Leroy can identify as well, but I have the sense that his dog is much more cerebral and above such paltry pursuits.

  3. Comment by Howard Mullins | 03.12.2015 | 4:00 am

    Thanks for the detailed article, I’m glad that I’m not experiencing any of the symptoms :D

  4. Comment by Tom in Albany | 03.12.2015 | 5:45 am

    How do I get me some racer’s madness? If that’s the cure, I want some!!

  5. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 03.12.2015 | 7:53 am

    This one belongs in the next “best of” book. Seriously good.

  6. Comment by Bee T | 03.12.2015 | 8:00 am

    This might be the best, most true thing any one had ever written in the history of teaching. In fact, I am experiencing all the symptoms of SLAD right now, which is really going to make this work meeting awkward.

  7. Comment by Scott | 03.12.2015 | 9:01 am

    Just reading about SLAD caused me to feel the symptoms of SLAD. My heart is racing, I’m talking too much and … I’ll be right back.

  8. Comment by Don | 03.12.2015 | 9:16 am

    ………poopier? Great stuff Elden!

  9. Comment by sdcadbiker | 03.12.2015 | 9:57 am

    “Sudden Memory Gain” LOL! I had forgotten about that because, of course, I’m not a race start line right this minute. It’s true though, it’s the worst symptom of SLAD.

  10. Comment by AKChick | 03.12.2015 | 10:10 am

    LOL! Sadly, I do not participate in races but long charity rides and I SLAD of the urinary tract (because I’m Alaskan, I’m well hydrated especially if I’m visiting a climate that is way hotter and more humid than home). I also suffer from Accelerated Bowel Syndrome, Tachy Talky, Amplified Emotional Response, Regret and Irritation. :)

  11. Comment by AKChick | 03.12.2015 | 10:15 am

    That should be I have SLAD. :)

  12. Comment by Chris | 03.12.2015 | 10:19 am

    You missed “Sudden Memory Loss”.

    I don’t remember if I….
    …checked tire pressures!
    …locked the car!
    …put my numbers on!
    …closed the garage door!
    …grabbed my car keys when I locked the car!

  13. Comment by Bee T | 03.12.2015 | 10:27 am

    Dammit. I even got autocorrected. Racing, not teaching. I don’t teach!

  14. Comment by bikemike | 03.12.2015 | 10:38 am

    Never enter a race that starts at or near a waterfall or a broken fire hydrant.

  15. Comment by MattC | 03.12.2015 | 12:56 pm

    I can’t seem to remember if I have SLAD…but I’m afraid I DO have SAD (Slowly Acquired Dementia). This is where I can’t seem to remember much of ANYTHING.

    For example: just this last Tuesday I was prepping for a mt bike ride after work. Rolled out of work right on time to meet Mike for our ride…half way there I suddenly had a nano-moment of SMG (Sudden Memory Gain) and realized that I had forgotten my water bottle (full of Gatorade and pre-chilled).

    Turned around, back to work…can’t find it ANYWHERE! (I had it in my hand MOMENTS before I left btw). Grabbed a backup bottle and quickly filled it with PLAIN WATER (ACK!) and zoomed to the meet point, now late.

    Next day, can’t find that stupid missing bottle ANYWHERE. FINALLY found it TODAY (Thursday). I was really worried too, cuz it was my LAST surviving Specialized Hydroflo Fatty bottle…in pink even.

    But at least I didn’t lock my keys in the car at the ride (been-there, done that, while on a business trip with a rental car, roughly 300 miles from the rental agency and the spare key).

  16. Comment by ac | 03.12.2015 | 4:28 pm

    Obviously part of the treatment plan includes acquiring your own toilet facilities, such as a camping potty and privacy tent (or maybe just huddle under a tarp in the back of your truck). Or buy/rent/borrow/steal a camper van with toilet facilities.

    However a catheter and urinary bag is a solution too far and will only cause additional problems of its own, as I’m sure you can imagine.

    How about adult diapers? That you dump (eww!) just before the gun, like a jacket at Leadville. Now that might be worth thinking about ….

    Thismessagedoesnotconstituteorsubstituteforprofessionaladvice.Personschoosingtofollowanypart/softhismessagedosoattheirownrisk.Noliabilityacceptedorimplied.IANAL YMMV FYI DNF COD TLA

  17. Comment by Nicholas | 03.12.2015 | 4:56 pm

    How do we get Disney to make a Goofy cartoon about SLAD? Just like the this football cartoon:

    I can see Goofy now. Lining up to the start line with his bike and the old school narrator telling his emotions.

  18. Comment by BamaJim | 03.12.2015 | 7:13 pm

    My name is Jim, and I have SLAD

    Hi Jim. – FC

  19. Comment by Cyclingjimbo | 03.13.2015 | 9:33 am

    @MattC, in our backpacking days we used to call your SAD (Suddenly Acquired Dementia) CRS (as in Can’t Remember S%#¥). SLAD results in Premature Onset CRS.

  20. Comment by spaceyace | 03.13.2015 | 4:33 pm

    I spend eight hours a day at my normal job, during which I put about 2.5 hours of work in, and 5.5 hours of aimless internet surfing. Which I think (based on the fact that you are almost certainly reading this during work hours) you will agree is pretty much normal.
    Yeah that would be nice, except I have to account for every 15 minutes of my time. So now I have to stay late or figure out who doesn’t mind paying extra for 0.25 hours of aimless internet surfing. Should I put that as a line item on the invoice?

    (Disclaimer in case my boss, who actually has a great sense of humor, is reading this. I always choose staying late. But you knew that when I said goodnight on my way out yesterday at 11pm.)

    So all that to say I suffer from SLAD *and* WLDDTS (working like a dog during tax season). I win.

  21. Comment by spaceyace | 03.13.2015 | 4:34 pm

    What? I thought I closed my italics tag properly :(

  22. Comment by MikeL | 03.16.2015 | 9:15 am

    A symptom you forgot is the aimless wandering around trying to remember what you are supposed to be doing or the focus on minuate that suddenly seems important.

  23. Comment by SS Kate | 03.17.2015 | 3:59 pm

    Fatty, I didn’t get the chance to read this before true grit, but I’m glad you understand why I was talking a mile-a-minute while shivering at the start and (luckily only figuratively) crapping my pants. You truly are a good sport for pretending to know me after I shouted at you. I should have known from your disbelieving grin after checking out my bike that I was in for some trouble. Congrats to you and (really, more seriously) the hammer. You guys are super lucky to ride that all the time!!

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    Wow Fatty! I’m cracking up over this article. SLAD is real, and I’m sure that someday there will be a study done at a college about it. A lot of this can also apply to other sports/hobbies, such as fishing on a lake.

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