A Ride Around the Lake

04.23.2015 | 12:52 pm

I was all alone. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and I was all alone

Why was I alone? Because The Hammer was in Boston, getting to run some marathon or another with her friends, in the pouring rain.

They ran the whole thing together (3:54:44), by the way, thereby earning finishing medals and space ponchos:

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But enough about them. This story is about me. And I was alone. And I needed a big ride, because I have some racing to do this summer.

So I called The Hammer. 

“Hey,” I said, “You know how I promised I wouldn’t go out on any road rides by myself?” (A lot of us around here are on edge about road cycling because a local woman was recently killed while on a ride.)

“Yes,” The Hammer replied.

“Well, it rained here yesterday and so there’s no way I can go on a long mountain bike ride today.”

“And?” The Hammer replied, though she knew perfectly well where I was headed.

“And so I’m going to go ride around Utah Lake right now, and I don’t have anyone to go with me.”

“Well,” she said, “Dress brightly.”

I said I would, and suited up in the new Adobe kit, which I consider to be very bright.

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Though now that I look at it in a picture, it occurs to me that it’s actually mostly black, with some bright accents.

By the way, I don’t work for Adobe, but a lot of my riding buddies do, and I like to blend in. Plus, buying the Adobe kit gave me a chance to try out a lot of the DNA-made gear, to see how it fits and feels.

Which is one of the reasons why I strongly recommend you load up on the 2015 Fat Cyclist gear. This is the best-made, most comfortable line I have ever had.

In particular, the bibs are a steal at $124.95, the long sleeve jersey is the best I’ve ever owned, and — I know this is a little weird, but believe me, it’s true — the socks are fantastic

And of course, the race-fit short sleeve jersey (fits a little close, size up if your jerseys are usually right on the border of too small) is amazing for warm weather riding, and will be one of the lightest, coolest jerseys you’ve ever owned. 

OK, end of advertisement. Back to the ride.

Audiobook Fatty Loves

I used to ride alone all the time. Since The Hammer and I got together, however, it’s a very rare ride that I’m alone. And a five-plus hour ride alone…well, it’s been a really long time since I’ve done that.

But I had an idea. Well, a couple ideas, actually.

First, I decided I was going to go hard on this ride. I was going to, in fact, do this entire ride in under five hours. Now, I knew from experience that from door to door, riding around Utah Lake is almost exactly one hundred miles. It just works out that way. That meant I was going to try to average — without drafting and including any stops (for water, to pee, for stoplights) — 20mph for five hours.

Not impossible, but definitely no slouching allowed.

Second, I decided I’d listen to an audiobook during the ride. Maybe it’s a sure sign of advanced aging, but I get tired of listening to music pretty quickly. 

But I didn’t have an audiobook I was really excited about, so I turned to Twitter, asking for recommendations. The first reply I got was this:

Shelly should write elevator pitches for a living, because that grabbed me. I downloaded the book to my phone while I checked the pressure in my tires (I love how it’s that easy), put my Jaybird Bluebuds X on, and was ready to go.

For food? Well, that was easy. Six Gu gels and two packets of chomps, each packet representing about 100 calories.

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I then filled all three bottles with Carborocket 333 (my current favorite flavor is grape). And yes, I mean three bottles: I used the BackBottle as my third.

With all this on board, I figured I had a good chance of not needing to make more than a single stop (refill water and pee, probably) during the whole hundred mile ride.

I started my audiobook, started my Garmin, and started riding.


And immediately got sucked into The Martian

Great premise. Great story. Great characters. Great reading by the narrator. Just…great. 

It was exactly what I needed, because riding around Utah Lake — while fantastic exercise — is not especially scenic. Usually, in fact, I can hardly wait for this ride to end.

Not this time, though. This time the energy of the book translated to energy in my legs and I happily hammered away. My body on a bike on the shoulder of the road, my mind with Mark Watney, stranded and trying to survive on an impossibly hostile planet.

The miles and hours flew by. I rarely checked my GPS (I’m back to a Forerunner 500; the 510 died) to see how long I’d been out or how far I’d come.

Every half hour my GPS beeped, reminding me to eat. I grabbed a packet at random, knowing that I’d included only things I like. 

Whether I’m reading a good book or watching a good movie, I get completely absorbed. My sense of time compresses. 

Without me really noticing it, fifty miles flew by.

Riding With Racer

I saw a cyclist coming toward me, wearing the Racer’s Cycle Service kit.

It was Racer.

I waved as we crossed, then looked over my shoulder to see if he was stopping. He was, so I turned around too, figuring we’d talk for a moment and then continue on our respective rides.

Instead, he said he’d turn around and join me on my ride for a bit.

Which I don’t think has ever happened before; most of us cyclists kind of have our rides set in stone.

For your convenience — and because I understand that kids these days are all about the multimedia blog experience — I have re-created and narrated our encounter using the Strava Flyby tool.

Feel free to watch that as often as you like.

We rode along together, shouting above the strongish wind. In the twenty or so years that Racer has worked on my bikes, we’ve actually ridden together maybe half a dozen times, so I was really glad he was willing to change his plan to suit my ride.

In fact, I was so happy I didn’t even mind pausing The Martian. At least, not very much.

Then a gold Lexus buzzed by us on the deserted road, his rearview mirror barely missing us, not moving over even an inch (and certainly not giving us the three feet required by law.)

After passing, the driver stuck his arm out of his window, held his hand up high, and flipped us off.

My blood began boiling, instantly, angry for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • That my wife almost got to give me an “I told you so” about riding my road bike alone (though I was no longer alone)
  • That anyone on a deserted straight road would endanger two strangers’ lives.
  • That anyone would even own a gold Lexus. 
Then Racer laughed and waved at the guy in the car. “No point in being angry,” Racer said. 

Headwind of Doom

With sixty miles behind me, I still had two bottles full of Carborocket. I considered just skipping past the park where I had planned on refilling my bottle.

But the day was warming up. I’d be drinking more. So we pulled over, I made it clear to Racer that this needed to be a quick stop, and I filled a bottle. 

We kept riding to about my seventy-mile mark, at which point Racer peeled off and I was on my own again. I put the headphones on again and started my book, eager to see how Mark Watney was managing (surprisingly well, except when he wasn’t).

And then, for the final twenty miles of the ride, I battled a headwind. A brutal, relentless headwind, against which I had no chance of maintaining a speed of 20mph.

In fact, 18mph was not easy.

Nor was 17mph, now that I think about it.

I brooded, considering how unfair mathematics could be to me. I had been riding 20mph or faster for hours. And now, with just a fifth of the ride to go, a headwind was going to take that coveted sub-five-hour century away from me. 

Unless I can really pour it on, I thought. And I poured it on. Which had two noticeable effects:

  • I sped up to 19mph. Which you may have noticed is still not quite 20mph. 
  • I exploded into a thousand pieces.

I dropped back to a more reasonable speed, suffering as best as I could. And I can suffer well. Magnificently well, in fact.

Oh, how I suffered.

The Natural

I started watching my GPS, making more and more refined estimates as to what my total distance would be when I arrived home, as well as my final time.

And I started getting excited.

No, not because it looked like I was going to finish my ride in under five hours. I could tell I was going to miss that mark by about ten minutes or so. The stoplights in Provo combined with the headwind I was suffering from now really had done a number on my average speed.

However, it did look like I was about to do something I have often thought about, but never actually witnessed:

A Natural Century.

Now, let me tell you what I mean by “A Natural Century,” because I really don’t know if anyone else thinks about this. As cyclists, we like to do rides that end in round numbers, and the century — 100 miles — is one we wind up doing a lot. 

But those centuries never wind up being exactly 100 miles, do they? They’re a little under, or a little over, even if you ride out exactly fifty miles, then turn around and retrace your route.

And if you do a circuit, getting exactly 100 miles becomes even less likely, unless you add spurs and subloops and a ride around the block at the end to make your ride total the magically round 100-mile number.

So I’ve often wondered: Is there such a thing as a Natural Century, where all of the following are true:

  • You start and finish at the same place, preferably home
  • You go in a single, sensible loop, preferably around a mountain or a lake. Not an arbitrary set of roads, but a ride that that can be said to be around something or somewhere
    Screenshot 2015 04 23 12 35 05 
  • You don’t add spurs or other gimmicks to massage the total distance
  • The ride comes out to be 100.0 miles. Not 99.9, not 100.1. 

I didn’t really think there was such a loop…but Racer had guided me on a slightly different set of roads than I usually take for part of the ride, saying they are less-trafficked, though not making the ride any longer. And now, as I got to the roundabout that meant I was entering Alpine, Utah, it looked like…well, it looked like I was going to pull into my driveway within a tenth of a mile of a Natural Century. 

I watched the distance on my GPS count up. This was going to be close.

So close.

I pulled into my driveway and:

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99.9 miles. Oh, so close.

But wait

I plugged my GPS into my computer, it uploaded to Strava, and:

Screenshot 2015 04 23 12 56 57

100.0 miles.

According to Strava, I had in fact just ridden the mythical, impossible, perfect Natural Century. And with an uncanny darned-near-perfect moving time of 5:00:33. Though I don’t take much stock in that; it’s not a sub-5 century unless the total time, not moving time, is sub-5.

Which left me with a question, as yet unanswered: which number should I believe?

Though to be honest, at the moment I didn’t care all that much. I just wanted to get back to my book.


  1. Comment by Don | 04.23.2015 | 1:11 pm

    That re-creation, it was, well, dramatic.
    I was on pins and needles, more pins than needles.
    Well done.

  2. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 04.23.2015 | 1:13 pm

    We have all heard ‘Strava, or it didn’t happen’ so by the laws that I remember from proofs in Geometry Strava and it did happen. A natural century obtained, congratulations!

  3. Comment by Scott | 04.23.2015 | 1:30 pm

    If the audiobook cuts anything out, it’s worth reading. It’s worth reading more than once.
    Also, heck of ride/pace especially with the wind.

    The audiobook version is unabridged, and the guy who does it does what I consider to be a fantastic job. – FC

    UPDATE: On Twitter, someone I trust just said that there’s a bit at the end of the book (an epilogue?) that isn’t in the audiobook. So I’ll probably pick up the print version. – FC

  4. Comment by berry | 04.23.2015 | 1:35 pm

    I read that book in one night, and then read it again 2 weeks later. I’m looking forward to the movie, too.

    Seems like re-readability of this book would be high. – FC

  5. Comment by Grandpa 11x | 04.23.2015 | 1:48 pm

    I can’t believe you were able to stop listening to that book. My wife and daughters all read it and convinced me to, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Just so well written.

    I’m finished with it now! – FC

  6. Comment by GregC | 04.23.2015 | 1:51 pm

    Totally agree on the Martian, this book could have been called “MacGyver goes to Mars”. One of the most entertaining and engaging books I’ve read in a long time. I’m totally into an audio book called SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper right now. A facinating look into a world totally foreign to me.

    Yeah, as I was listening to it, I thought to myself, “This is Maguyver on Mars,” except it feels a lot more realistic than Maguyver ever seemed. – FC

  7. Comment by UtahTom | 04.23.2015 | 2:00 pm

    I just finished listening to “Ready Player One” It was awesome! Especially for anyone that grew up during the 80’s and played video games.

  8. Comment by dicky | 04.23.2015 | 2:56 pm

    Grape 333 tastes like Vacation Bible School and everybody likes Vacation Bible School.

  9. Comment by leroy | 04.23.2015 | 3:18 pm

    Dear Mr. Fat Cyclist,

    I understand that for your recent long ride my dog tweeted his recommendation of the audio book version of “Where’s Waldo.”

    I have explained to him that there is no audiobook version of “Where’s Waldo” and, even if there were, his recommendation was inappropriate and irresponsible.

    He promises that he will apologize to you eventually.

    In the meantime, he tells me that for your next ride he can offer you an attractive discount on some lovely pop-up books.

    Yours apologetically,


  10. Comment by Nic Grillo | 04.23.2015 | 3:20 pm

    Wait… MacGyver wasn’t a real dude??

  11. Comment by MattC | 04.23.2015 | 3:38 pm

    I loved The Martian! And not to boast, but there’s not much I can’t fabricate (w/ hand tools) or jury-rig…that scene from the Apollo 13 movie where they dump a load of stuff onto a table that the astronauts have to work with and tell the engineers to figure out a fix for the filters? I would totally rock on a job like that! (and many times in my life I’ve been called “Mattguyver”)

    Super ride Fatty…I’d go w/ Strava too…I’m pretty sure it’s not only acceptable but considered irrefutable proof in a court of law in at least 48 states.

    (and it’s good to know I’m not the ONLY one a bit freaked on the road-riding…I’m mt biking a LOT right now since my last near death experience back in Jan. Cars just AREN’T paying attention!)

  12. Comment by ac | 04.23.2015 | 3:47 pm

    Racer is right, when you get buzzed you HAVE TO just let it go. If you fume, stew and over-analyze it the only person “suffering” from the incident is you.
    Riding a bike is a great opportunity to learn to deal effectively with your internal emotion/frustration responses.

  13. Comment by Charlie | 04.23.2015 | 4:33 pm

    Yeah…let the gold Lexus guy go. He’s the one who has to live with his lack of manhood. Stilll…makes you wish you had a shaken up can of soda you could have dropped in his lap…

  14. Comment by MattC | 04.23.2015 | 5:37 pm

    When I create my aimable portable EMP device (small enough to carry with you on a bike) I’ll be able to zap the rude offenders so their car electronics are “fried”…I won’t tell them I did it as I ride by, just smile at them and let them think it’s a message from God (I’ll share my new invention with ALL of my Fatty Friends too…but you’ll have to PROMISE to keep it a strict secret!)

    And it will also be pretty darn handy for those super obnoxious BOOM BOOM BOOM 12,000 gigawat stero cars that are 5 cars behind you at a stoplight and you STILL can’t hear your own radio (w/ your windows UP).

    I’d never use it irresponsibly tho…but let’s just say that it’s likely that new car sales would blossom in my area (GRIN!)

  15. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 04.23.2015 | 5:48 pm

    I ride a lot of back roads with very little traffic, so audiobooks would be logical. Except for the fact that I have a hearing loss and couldn’t make out most of it, especially with the wind noise. Oh well, it forces insightful thinking and, hopefully, more attention to the occasional gold Lexus types (or more likely; beat up 65 Ford pickup types).

    I will pick up the book, however. (For reading at my desk, not on a ride).

  16. Comment by Miles Archer | 04.23.2015 | 6:08 pm

    Just finished The Martian last night. Enjoyed it.

  17. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 04.23.2015 | 6:33 pm

    Another vote for The Martian. It a fantastic book. Just plausible enough to make it feel like it could actually happen.

  18. Comment by Will Benton | 04.24.2015 | 6:51 am

    If I see a gold Lexus here in Kansas I already know I’m going to get buzzed. People in black Kia’s are just as bad.


  19. Comment by murf524 | 04.24.2015 | 7:48 am

    I agree with Racer about the gold Lexus guy. I usually wave and tell them to have a great day. I figure that I’m out on my bike and enjoying life. The offensive driver obviously has huge issues since slowing down for even 5 seconds incites such rage. I pity these individuals.

    P.S. The computer looks like an Edge 500 and not a Forerunner.:P

  20. Comment by Tom in Albany | 04.24.2015 | 8:51 am

    Nice one! I can remember driving home from a friends house and noticing that my odometer read exactly 100,000 miles when I parked at my place!

    Major victory!!!

  21. Comment by bacmapei | 04.24.2015 | 12:25 pm

    Point of clarification for the peanut gallery at the back of the peloton. You switched to a Forerunner (a Garmin watch?) but the photo to support your 99.9 miles looks like a bike computer. Minor model mix-up or another Fatty Fake News story? Awesome post – was fortunate to be able to pre-order and I’m hoping to add and item or two before the deadline (if I get my wish after blowing out my birthday candles!)

  22. Comment by Jim B | 04.24.2015 | 1:19 pm

    I too read The Martian and enjoyed it, and I rarely read science fiction. However, there were a few laughably bad solutions that took me right out of the story. For instance (upside down, although it really isn’t a spoiler):

    ?s,????? ?o ???? %1 u??? ss?? s? ????dso??? ??? ????? s??? u? ??q?ssod ?ou pu? ‘????dso??? ????? ??? u? p??? ?? p?no? ???? ?s???? 59 ?????u ???d?ss?p o? p??u p?no? ?o?s?s?? ????????? ??? ?nq ?s?o?s?s?? bu?pp? ?o ???qo?d ??d??s ? s? ?? s??s ?? :??n???? ?01/?93 ? o? ????p ???od ?6/?8?82 ??? ???uuo? o? s?? ?? ????? ???d ???

    Anyway, in your shoes, I’d worry more that Strava granted me 0.1 extra miles at the cost of cutting my climbing number by more than half.

  23. Comment by Jim B | 04.24.2015 | 1:19 pm

    Huh, I guess that upside down text trick doesn’t work here.

  24. Comment by Dave T | 04.25.2015 | 10:36 am

    That is awesome. While doing a MTB ride with Carborocket in my bottles I stumbled upon what I’m calling the half evil ride early this year, https://www.strava.com/activities/245586452 seems fitting. Not quite the perfect half evil ride but close. I kind of eager to perfect this one I might have a bit of OCD in me.

  25. Comment by Clancy | 04.27.2015 | 3:02 am

    Epic book. Epilogue actually disappointed, so you aren’t missing anything. (just interaction between old Mark and young kid about going back..)

    Oh, and nice ride, btw!

  26. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 04.27.2015 | 9:37 am

    just downloaded the book for free using Audible’s 1-month free trial!

  27. Comment by Joe | 04.27.2015 | 12:10 pm

    I’ve had a bit of an addiction to the Kindle Daily Deal where I’ll buy anything that looks exceptionally good hoping I’ll get around to reading it some day.

    Then I read a book recommendation like this and think “Oh, this sound right up my alley, I’ll go check it out on Amazon.” And then I go pull up the page for that book on Amazon and see:

    “Instant Order Update for Joe. You purchased this item on December 28, 2014.”

    This is happening more and more frequently to me. I really need to read more of what I already have.

  28. Comment by sem rgpv results | 04.27.2015 | 8:49 pm

    Great Adobe suite kit.

  29. Comment by BK | 04.27.2015 | 9:24 pm

    Elden, I love you. That is all. Oh, wait, miss you too!

  30. Comment by Lin | 04.28.2015 | 11:18 am

    Gold Lexus broke the law. You should’ve called him in. I agree that you can’t stew about this, or it’ll seriously harsh your mellow. But that guy is endangering everyone you care about and getting away with it. :(

  31. Comment by Jeff Helm | 04.28.2015 | 6:28 pm

    This is off subject, but something I think would be very useful. There is a petition where a fellow cyclist is trying to get AAA to offer roadside service to cyclist. Here is the link please share


  32. Comment by MattC | 04.28.2015 | 9:03 pm

    DaveT…that’s an awesome looking ride…might have to go on that w/you one afternoon when I’m up there again (supposedly I head up on the 15th of May for a month). Just .3 mi from the PERFECT half-evil (and…that’s a pretty rare ride…almost NO flat…either up or down, w/ nothing in-between).

  33. Comment by Adam | 05.26.2015 | 9:09 am

    I just went to download this book in iBooks, and it’s currently trending. Looking forward to my trainer road ride tonight!

    Great read, and great ride!

  34. Comment by Tes | 05.26.2015 | 9:41 am

    I LOVE Adobe!


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