True Grit Epic Race Report, Part 3: Lifesaving Measures

03.25.2015 | 10:47 am

After the race, I met up with the man whose life I had saved just a few hours ago.

No, I didn’t come to visit him in the hospital, where he had just been released from the ICU. In fact, I met him while standing in line to get the post-race meal we got as part of the race.

He was there, as you might suspect, because I had saved his life so well that he had been able to finish the race.

He thanked me. Because I’m awesome at life-saving.

How to Save a Life, Part 1

The thing is, his wasn’t the only life I had saved during this race. Earlier, I had noticed a racer walking his bike down the trail. His rear tire was clearly flat.

Pulling to a stop, I said, “I have stuff to fix a flat. Want it?”

“No,” he replied. “I’ve had three flats today already. I’ve had enough. I’m done.”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “You don’t want to quit this race, right?”

“You might need that to fix a flat of your own,” he pointed out. 

“Yeah, but if that happens, I guarantee someone will help me out. People around here are like that,” I said. Which is totally true. I am 100% certain that anyone who needed help during this race would have gotten that help in short order (exactly this happened, in fact). Which is an awesome vibe to have during a race. 

“No, I’m going to take three flats as a sign that this just isn’t meant to be,” he said. “I’d probably crash and die on my next flat.”

I had volunteered my stuff (at least) three times, and he had turned it down each time, enough that I felt like he wasn’t being polite. He really had flipped the switch. He was done. 

So I left him without giving him what he needed to ride again, thus preventing him from almost certainly having a horrific, life-ending crash.

It felt good to have saved his life.

How to Save a Life, Part 2

I confess that this first saving of a life may not have been all that dramatic. I would now like to further warn you that you probably aren’t going to feel like all this buildup to the cliffhanger I set you up for yesterday isn’t going to be worth it, either.

In which case I would like to offer you a refund of your ten minutes.

As I concluded in yesterday’s post, I was riding strong. Feeling great. Happy to be outside and riding my heart out.

Then I saw a man, not on his bike. Walking up an incline — a steep incline, to be sure, but not unrideable. He was slowly pushing his bike, clearly in agony.

I recognized that agony. I’ve been there before, pushing my bike because I was in too much pain to ride. 

That’s how you keep moving forward when your quads and hamstrings are both locked up, fully cramped. 

The pain is incredibly intense. I swear, it feels like you are going to die

I slowed to his pace. Which, basically, means I was going just slightly faster than a trackstand. “Cramps, both legs?”

“Yes,” he grunted between clenched teeth. “It’s killing me.”

“I’m going to save your life,” I said. And — very dramatically, as is my way — I climbed off my bike and produced a fliptop tube of Gu Roctane Electrolyte Capsules

“Take a handful of these and you’ll be back on your bike in no time,” I said. He stuck out his hand and I shook half a dozen (maybe more) pills into his hand. 

“All of them, right now,” I emphasized. “They’ve brought me back from cramps just like yours. They’re a lifesaver.”

He nodded, popped them into his mouth, and washed them down.

“Good luck,” I said, and got back onto my bike. 

Clearly, I am a hero. A life-saving hero.

Still, as I rode off — my heart full and my chest puffed out — I couldn’t help but wonder: Under what circumstances would I accept and unquestioningly swallow a handful of pills (pills that had not been identified, no less) from a complete stranger?

While racing and cramping so bad I thought I might die, came back the obvious answer.

Which made me feel like even more of a hero. Because I am. 

How to Save a Life, Parts 3 and 4

I had been out Carborocket for about ten minutes, and already I was getting concerned. I drink quite a bit less than most people do during races, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to not have water available when I need it.

Fortunately, about fifty feet after I had saved this (second) man’s life, I arrived at a popup tent. Beneath, a man stood, fiercely guarding several containers of water.

OK, it’s possible he wasn’t guarding the water. In fact, it’s possible he offered it to me freely. 

You could even say he saved my life by refilling my Camelbak, though I might quibble with you on that score, due to my aversion to hyperbole.

Anyway, with my Camelbak replenished, I continued on, feeling like I probably would not need to stop again for water.

I was right, but I was also kind of wrong. Because not ninety minutes later, I came across the official aid station. Which means I had refilled my Camelbak with unofficial water!

I chose to press on. Indeed, thanks to the location of this unofficial aid station I had unwittingly used, I thought that I would not be using any official aid station for the entirety of the race.

And then, as I passed by, I stopped suddenly. For I had seen…a can of Coke.

A can of Coke, I tell you. 

“Can I have that Coke?” I asked the aid station person.

“Sure,” this Angel of Heaven replied, and commenced to pour it over a cup full of ice. 

I drank. It was glorious. I had not even realized that I had been dying, but this Coke was so wonderful that there is no possible other explanation of its perfection than that I needed it in order to survive. 

Thereby was my own life saved.

Next: A Flashback

I had one more loop — on a trail called “Barrel Ride” or “Barrel Roll” or “Big Barrel Full of Rolling Riders” or something like that. And then a mostly-downhill ride to the finish line.

So you’d think this story is mostly over. But you’d be wrong, because tomorrow I’m going to flash this story back to earlier in the race, when I was a terrible person to some of my very best friends.


  1. Comment by pbrmeasap | 03.25.2015 | 11:04 am

    Under what circumstances would I accept and unquestioningly swallow a handful of pills (pills that had not been identified, no less) from a complete stranger?

    MATRIX STYLE, I like it.

  2. Comment by Jacob | 03.25.2015 | 11:10 am

    You are definitely right about someone stopping to help. I rode a mountain bike race two weekends, ago on the course that the Thomson components maker maintains on their property. I was racing a friend’s bike because I wanted to see what it was like with rear suspension and because I hadn’t packed my own bike, I completely forgot to pack my normal repair kit. I get 1.75 laps into a 2-lap race and notice my rear wheel feels funny in the turns, look down and find that my tire is so flat that it’s coming off the rim. I stop and instantly realize that I don’t have anything to change or even reinflate the tire. Almost as soon as I stopped, a kid stops and without even prompting starts pulling out supplies. Hands me a tube, levers, his pump, even offers to help me change it. I turn down the latter, he’s still racing and I can change a tire, and he goes one. Then every other person still on the course behind me proceeds to stop, ask if I’m ok and offer help. After the race, I went to return the pump and levers to the kid (he was 3rd place in the 15-18 category) and had to force him to take money for the tube. It was amazing how helpful everyone out there was.

  3. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 03.25.2015 | 11:55 am

    How to turn a good (or not) day into a great one. Both giving and receiving.

    A little letdown in the suspense department, but an excellent reaffirmation of cycling’s great community. I liked the newspaper article.

  4. Comment by Eric L | 03.25.2015 | 12:13 pm

    Fatty you completed the perfect circle-of-karma with those electrolyte pills. As they were gifted to you when you were suffering, so you gifted them along to someone else who needed them.

    A sign that you’re not only a gentleman and a scholar, but also a real mensch.

  5. Comment by MattC | 03.25.2015 | 12:34 pm

    Wow Fatty…that first life you saved, you did it by NOT helping…that’s got to be a first!

    Good thing there were no robots present…their brain would have imploded with their 3 laws of robotics restrictions. Helping him would have killed him, but you’re required to help him. So by not helping him you saved him. Poof.

  6. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 03.25.2015 | 12:48 pm

    If a “cliffhanger” is backward looking (toward a flashback, as in Part 3), is it a valleyhanger? Or a valleyfloorer?

  7. Comment by J | 03.25.2015 | 7:15 pm

    So… you didn’t whip out the cape?

  8. Comment by rb | 03.25.2015 | 7:17 pm

    I once took a white powder from a guy passing it out the back of a vehicle after a race in Prescott, AZ. Dude told me to mix it in my water bottle and rocket on. That stuff is amazing. Now I’m willing to try pretty much anything that BRad says will make me faster, or hurt less.

  9. Comment by HyperSprite | 03.25.2015 | 10:51 pm

    “due to my aversion to hyperbole”

    I laughed for two minutes.
    Thanks, it was a rough day.

  10. Comment by Tom in Albany | 03.26.2015 | 5:45 am

    If you really were a Lifesaver, I’m thinking you’d be pineapple flavored…

  11. Comment by Tom in Albany | 03.26.2015 | 5:47 am

    @MattC – I will say that you’ve just provided the first Asimov reference in a bicycling related blog. Very cool!!! In this case, I think the laws of robotics would have had the robot carrying bike and rider out of the woods in order to protect both.

  12. Comment by wharton_crew | 03.26.2015 | 7:26 am

    Robots would never allow cycling to happen, due to the three laws being incompatible with “the pain cave” that is cycling. They’d be pulling riders off the track in every race.

  13. Comment by MattC | 03.26.2015 | 7:45 am

    @ Wharton_crew….ahhhh, but what if by pulling the riders off the track they WERE actually harming them?


  14. Comment by spaceyace | 03.26.2015 | 7:37 pm

    You may post my refund to General Delivery, Albuquerque, New Mexico. However, due to the lolz produced by “aversion to hyperbole,” I am only requesting a refund of five minutes.

  15. Comment by john | 03.30.2015 | 6:23 am

    How to save a life doesn’t depend on part 1 or part 2 studies. It depends on the situation happened at that moment.
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