True Grit Epic Race Report, Part 2

03.24.2015 | 11:46 am

A Note from Fatty: If you’re catching up with this story, you should read the prologue first, then part 1, then this. Otherwise, you’re going to miss out on…well, not much, really. But still: please read them. Or I’ll be all sullen for the rest of the day.

Things have changed.

As a darned-near-49-year-old-man, it’s rare that I get to say this, but as I hit the first climb of the day, it was immediately apparent. For one thing, I stayed seated for about 3/4 of the climb; a winter of TrainerRoad has changed my riding behavior. Instead of hitting everything like a singlespeeder (whether I’m on a singlespeed or not), I was shifting to a lower gear and spinning.

Oh, and instead of a fully rigid singlespeed, I was on a technological marvel of a bike: a full-suspension Cannondale Scalpel Carbon Team, complete with a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, a fork that…doesn’t fork, and high-zoot ENVE XC wheels. 

Sadly, I was killling myself a little too hard to take a selfie, but here I am with this beauty of a bike on the exact same course, wearing the exact same thing as I did during the race, but a few weeks earlier:

IMG 1425

So really, you just need to imagine a lot of people around me. And also, I’m about four pounds lighter now than I was back then.

Anyway, while I am probably a hardtail guy at heart, this Scalpel was beginning to change my mind about full suspension.


After the first big climb — a great chance for me to move forward a few places in the group — the True Grit Epic puts you on rolling dirt roads for a few miles, punctuated with short stretches of singletrack.

I got into a nice uncomfortable riding groove, repeatedly telling me several important facts about this race:

  • I would not place well. As a 48-year-old man, I was in the largest age group division: 40-49. There were 99 of us, and I recognized more than ten names of people who are much faster than I am. I would not get on the podium. I would not even get close.
  • I had no objective. With a course that was changed from previous years, and with weather that was better than in any previous years, previous finish times of my competitors meant nothing. I wasn’t racing against anyone, and I wasn’t even racing against a clock. I was just racing. Going hard as practice for going hard.
  • I could get injured. This course is no joke. It’s mostly extremely technical singletrack. To ride all of it would require mountain biking skills beyond what I’ve got. All the fancy suspension and geometry in the world won’t prevent me from panic-braking and going over my handlebars. The season hasn’t even begun, really. I would err on the side of caution.

During this few miles, I slowly reeled in a guy on a very nice Ibis Ripley. As I finally caught him, I said, “Hey, that is a really nice bike.”

He did not reply. 

“Super nice Ripley,” I said, again.

No reply.

That’s when I saw the earbuds in his ears. Both ears.

I’d see this guy probably a dozen more times during the day, but I never tried talking with him again. When I passed him, I didn’t bother calling it out. And I noticed other people frustrated with getting no response from as they called out they were coming by on one side or the other, too.

I’m not one to preach about listening to music while on your bike. Not even during races. Do what you want to do. But how about this: During a race, don’t listen to your music to the extent that you are unaware of your fellow racers. It’s dangerous, and it’s rude.

A Really Nice Surprise

I promise, that was the absolutely last grumpy thing I’m going to say about this day, in large part because it’s the only even slightly bothersome experience I had from the day. 

It was mid-March and sunny, with temperatures staying in the 70s. The wind was never stronger than a couple miles per hour: just enough to be pleasant.

People were courteous. Those of us who were tentative on some of the really technical stuff were doing our best to get out of the way of those who are technical superstars.

And the course was marked beautifully

I can’t emphasize what a wonderful relief that was. 

As a person who is…um…challenged with directions and course markings in general, I had been really nervous about the True Grit Epic, especially after pre-riding the course a few weeks earlier with Kenny. Both The Hammer and I had agreed that we would never have succeeded in making the correct turns in this labyrinth of trails; we were sure to get lost or misread the course.

But I didn’t. Ever. Not one single problem with seeing the course, not one blown turn, not one question in my mind about whether I was currently going on an unmarked adventure.

Every single turn was indicated, and most places where you shouldn’t turn were taped off or marked with a “Wrong Way” sign. 

I don’t think I ever went more than fifty feet without seeing a course marking, making it so I could spend all my time concentrating on riding well and trying to be fast.

GRO Productions deserves kudos galore for their extraordinary work in making this one of the easiest-to-follow courses I’ve ever been on, especially in light of how it could have easily been one of the most confusing.

Looking for The Hammer

Before long, I encountered a racer buddy / friend: Mark Nelson. He and I aren’t related (as far as I know) but we seem to have similar power, similar speed. I’ve ridden a big chunk of the 6 Hours of Frog Hollow with him. I’ve ridden a smaller chunk of the Rockwell Relay with him.

And here at the True Grit Epic, for the next two hours or so, we’d be playing a game of leapfrog. I passed him on every climb. He passed me on every descent.

I tried to get him to talk during the climbs; he tried to get me to follow his line over more technical terrain than I should have during descents.

All the while, however, I kept looking back over my shoulder. Because I was looking for my real competition: The Hammer.

Yes, I viewed my wife as the most important competition I had in this race.

Yes, also I realize that’s kind of messed up.

But here’s the thing. When The Hammer and I pre-rode the True Grit course a few weeks ago, she killed me. She was faster on the climbs. She was nearly as fast on the descents. 

And — very importantly — she got stronger and faster as the day went on…while I started sagging.

The below photo, for example, shows her easily riding behind me as I do my level best to not let her hang:

IMG 1445

This had caused me some concern for the race day. Because, you see, if The Hammer caught me, it didn’t mean we were racing together, it meant that she had made up the five minutes between our starting waves.

And I…just…didn’t…want…that.

That said, before the race I had admitted the possibility that this might happen, and had given The Hammer strict instructions on how to interact with me as she passed.

“Don’t make fun of me or yell at me to get out of your way,” I said. “That’s humiliating.”

“OK, no making fun. No humiliating,” she said.

“And don’t tell me I’m doing good as you ride by. That’s condescending and embarrassing and I won’t believe you.”

“Fine. I won’t tell you you’re doing bad, but I won’t tell you you’re doing good, either.”

“Maybe you should just pretend you don’t know it’s me as you go by,” I concluded.


I kept looking over my shoulder, wondering if I’d see her. Whether I’d see her. Whether she’d actually not say anything when she rode by

But she didn’t pass me. I was, I had to admit, riding really strong.

Strong enough, in fact, that I caught up with and passed several racers.

Including a racer who was no longer on his bike.

At which point I got off…and commenced to save his life.

Which seems like a good place to pick up tomorrow.


  1. Comment by ScottR | 03.24.2015 | 11:52 am

    There is the classic race cliffhanger we’ve been waiting for!

  2. Comment by J | 03.24.2015 | 12:00 pm

    I pictured Fatty wearing a cape on that Life Saving experiance…

  3. Comment by MattC | 03.24.2015 | 12:02 pm

    OMG, you saved somebody’s life? That’s HUGE!(was he hit by a cow by chance?)

  4. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 03.24.2015 | 12:03 pm

    Saving a life often requires a superpower.
    And Fatty’s superpower is asking people for things.
    I wonder what Fatty asked him for?

  5. Comment by CVR | 03.24.2015 | 12:14 pm

    that escalated quickly..

  6. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 03.24.2015 | 12:23 pm

    Did long dormant Eagle Scout skills help you save a life? If so you could send a write up over to “Boy’s Life”, that is still a magazine right?

  7. Comment by Lauri | 03.24.2015 | 12:59 pm

    This race would be even more awesome if their results page worked…

  8. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 03.24.2015 | 1:59 pm

    I LOL’d at MattC’s comment. If you don’t get it, you need to check out his blog.

  9. Comment by Kate | 03.24.2015 | 2:14 pm

    You write the best cliffhangers ever.

  10. Comment by Welnic | 03.24.2015 | 2:28 pm

    This could literally be a cliffhanger.

  11. Comment by CVR | 03.24.2015 | 3:31 pm

    your going to lose your SS swagger if you keep this full squish stuff up.

  12. Comment by zeeeter | 03.24.2015 | 3:56 pm

    Now that’s a cliffhanger, right there!

  13. Comment by Anon | 03.24.2015 | 4:00 pm

    Yep. That’s the definition of a cliff-hanger!

    And you had to do that!

  14. Comment by spaceyace | 03.24.2015 | 9:19 pm

    Best cliffhanger you’ve ever written. And that’s saying something.

  15. Comment by Tom in Albany | 03.25.2015 | 5:16 am

    wwwwooooooaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Help!! I’m hangin’ over here! Someone give me a hand!!!!


    Nice job, Fatty.

  16. Comment by Mefly | 03.25.2015 | 8:23 am

    Did the sit and spin up the hill help or do you feel like you lost some top end power training that way?

  17. Comment by Steven Nichols | 03.25.2015 | 8:57 am

    That is quite the cliffhanger Fatty…. I need to stop refreshing my browser and be patient.

  18. Comment by Jeremy | 03.25.2015 | 10:00 am

    We’re wAITiiinnnggg…. (arms crossed, stern look)
    …Taps foot vigorously

    Great cliffhanger Fatty! ;)

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.25.2015 | 11:07 am

    “Let me have your wrist – I need to check your pulse.” Did you use your superpower to ask him.her for that, Fatty?

  20. Comment by Fat Bike Racer | 03.25.2015 | 2:14 pm

    Great writing. Earbuds are bad, bluetooth speakers blasting are worse.


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