100 Miles of Nowhere: Sixth Annual Dobson Ranch Edition

10.30.2015 | 10:56 am

A Halloween-Related Note from Fatty: Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you all plan to eat as many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as I do. Although, come to think of it, that may not actually be possible, since I plan to eat 50.1% of all Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that exist in the universe.

Those of you who have seen me in action know exactly how serious I am here.

Speaking of serious things and Halloween, I’d like to show you a couple of pictures of my twins, in the costumes they’re wearing to school today for Halloween. 

First, Katie. She is going as Dean Winchester, from Supernatural.

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I’ve never seen the show, but I’ve googled it, and she did a pretty darned good job. 

Meanwhile, Carrie is went with something a little more Halloween-traditional: a zombie.

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Killed it. (Literally?)

Big thanks to my eldest son’s girlfriend, who does stage makeup and got up at 5am today to set the twins up before school.

A Hundred Miles of Nowhere Note from Fatty: I’m really excited to start the tradition of weekly 100 Miles of Nowhere race reports. And while many of you will be doing the 100 MoN next weekend, Jim Tolar has already done his.

As a result, he wins the “First Report Completed” prize, and we all get to read about how he’s set up the 100MoN as an amazing friends-and-family tradition with a big extra helping of fundraising.


I completed my sixth 100MoN last Saturday, October 24th. It coincided with, as it does every year, our 100 Miles to Nowhere (Dobson Ranch Edition) bike ride, so I had plenty of company.

“Why is your event called 100MtN when the real event is 100MoN?” I can imagine you asking.

Good imaginary question.

Way back when Fatty started the 100MoN and I joined up, I thought it would be fun to get my family and friends to make a day of it and all ride bikes and eat brats and raise money. So, we did, and we had a blast. All the kids and grandkids had fun and it became clear it would be an annual event for us too.

And it has been.

“But what about the name?” I imagine you asking again.

Oh yeah, the name. Turns out, I made a mistake when I first organized the family event and called it “100 Miles to Nowhere (Dobson Ranch Edition)” instead of “100 Miles of Nowhere (Dobson Ranch Edition)”. All the kids and grandkids and friends learned it as 100MtN, so that has stuck. What are ya gonna do?

So, every year I sign up for the 100MoN and we put on the 100MtN. By signing up, I help raise money for Camp Kasem. The participants of the 100MtN then help raise money for our charity, the Cardon Children’s Medical Center Pediatric Oncology program.

We have historically held the 100MtN sometime in the late Spring because our Phoenix weather gets hot early and stays hot long. This year we switched things up and held it in October and it was fantastic. We’ll probably switch to the Fall for a while and see how it goes.

Our course is flat (7.5 feet of total elevation change) and fast (unless you’re slow, in which case it’s flat and slow).


We had around 40 participants this year, and raised around $3500 for the Pediatric Oncology progam!

There were many notable participants. First and foremost among them was my Mom, Jean Tolar, who has pretty much retired the age-group distance record for the 100MtN, completing 25 miles at 87 years young. She is also the 65+ distance record holder with 40+ miles (set last year). But next year I’ll take that record from her…


Out of the 40 or so riders, we had two 100MtN Centurians this year, both repeat Centurians and both completing their third 100MtN Century.

Three-time 100MtN Centurian, Russ Trotter:


Three-time 100MtN Centurian, Jim Tolar: 


Each year we solicit names for our Honor Board, a list of people for whom we ride in support of, or in memory of. Here is this year’s Honor Board.


You might imagine it takes a big support crew to run an event of this magnitude, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Here they are:


And finally, here is a collage showing many of the other participants that make our 100MtN (Dobson Ranch Edition) the success it always is:


You can see all the photos and reports from this year and previous years on our Facebook page.


How to be a Bug, Part 3: The Perils of a Racing Companion

10.29.2015 | 12:20 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is part 3 in my “Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug” series. Click here for part 1 or here for part 2

From time to time, I think about what I write for my blog, and how the posts you read can vary wildly depending on a lot of factors. What time during the day I wrote it, how the day’s been going, how well I slept the night before, things I’ve been thinking of, what I’ve been reading lately, and  a lot of things I’m not writing here (as well as some I probably haven’t even considered).

Take yesterday’s post, for example. It was pretty serious, especially toward the end. I would imagine that a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m spending a lot of mental cycles on the short story I’m writing for Ride 3, and that story is both serious and difficult to write.

So: no big surprise that my blog post was a little more contemplative than it might otherwise have been, in spite of the fact that during the ride itself, I actually had a lot of fun. People were really great about accommodating me when I passed. A lot of people recognized and said “hi” to me. The trail was in great condition and was a lot of fun to ride.

Look, check me out in this photo The Hammer took as I finished the ride. 

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See, I’m happy. It’s a really rare ride when I’m not happy, due to the fact that I enjoy riding bicycles.

I know: weird.

Today’s post, in contrast, will still be somber in tone, with a tendency to lead toward the whiny. This, however, is not because I am still working on my short story (even though I am). 

It’s because I had miserable run.

No, Please, Let’s Continue Chatting

The range of emotions I feel when doing a Triathalong — any triathalong, whether an Xterra, a half-iron distance or that one ironman I did a long time ago —is pretty remarkable.

Before the swim, I feel pure dread, because pretty much the only two times in my life I’ve ever experienced pure panic are during Triathalong swims.

As I transition to the bike, I feel giddy with excitement: I’m about to do the one part of this race I’m good at! And that feeling is compounded by the fact that I know a lot of the people who are good swimmers (and therefore start the bike portion of the race well ahead of me) are as bad at riding as I am at swimming, which means I will shortly be startling a lot of people.

And then, as I transition to the run, I feel resignation. The good part of the race is now over, and now I have to plod along for what will seem like forever, moving in a vastly inferior way: running is a small fraction as fast as cycling, but hurts an order of magnitude more.

Now that I think about it, I really wish they’d change the order of events in Triathalongs, so that the final event is cycling. 

Anyways, as you might expect, I finished the ride with a heavy heart. I was slower than I had hoped to be, and now would be having to do the 10K run, which I had prepared for the whole summer by never running at all.

As I came into the corral, the announcer to the race — standing in the corral with a mic in his hand, saw me and recognized me.

“It’s Fatty, of fatcyclist.com! How are you enjoying the race, Fatty?” he called out.

I didn’t reply because I had a job to do, and I didn’t want to waste any time talking.

No, just kidding. I was absolutely happy to talk. I walked over and said, “I really love this course, and am just amazed at how well-run this event is.”

“Thanks Fatty!” he replied, then turned away and continued talking about something else, leaving me a little bit sad, because I had hoped the interview would go on for twenty minutes or so.

Hey, I’d have made the time.

How to Make Your Husband Feel Slow

I haven’t talked much about The Hammer in my writeup for this race, but she’s to thank for all the photos, as well as for setting my stuff up in the best possible place at the second transition.

Here I am in a photo she took, changing shoes. Sitting. Taking the time necessary to tie them really well.

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Yeah, I’m super fast in the transitions.

And here’s a photo she took as I was heading out of the transition area.

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I included that photo because it’s pretty much the only one she got of me actually running. Because pretty soon, I looked a lot more like this:

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La di da. No hurry.

But wait a second. How is it The Hammer got the photo above?

Or, for that matter, this one below (where I’m going downhill, so am actually running again), in a completely different place?

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In order for you to know this, you need to know a little about The Hammer’s day. 

See, after I took off on the bike portion of the race, The Hammer went on a nice little seven-mile trail run on trails by the reservoir. 

Then she drove up to the ski resort, where she took pictures of me as I finished the bike ride.

And then…she asked if I would like her to join me as I did my run.

You know, for company.

And of course I said yes.

Weirdly, she had a big bag along with her — containing clothes, sunscreen, water, camera, snacks, phone, a rubik’s cube, and other miscellaneous stuff she hadn’t had time to put in the car and so thought she would just bring along.


We began running and soon got to the really big climb that the 10K begins with. The Hammer slowed to a fast-paced march and said, “Don’t worry about me, you can keep running.”

I slowed to a march.

“You can keep running!” she encouraged me. “You don’t have to slow down on my account.”

“I’m not slowing down on your account,” I said.

Complain, Complain

Eventually, I would start running again.

Then, within moments, I would stop running, and start walking.

Then I’d start running again, and then start walking.

The Hammer, to her credit, never gave me any grief for my inability to run for more than a quarter mile at a time, and was happy to chat with everyone who was passing me.

And there were a lot of people passing me.

I began to complain. Mostly about how stupid I felt, being so slow and having so many people pass me. And about how embarrassing it was, having to slow to a walk, when she could clearly have run the whole thing, even carryng the big grocery bag full of stuff. Even after having already run seven miles.

I complained that doing this race had been a bad idea, that I had no business doing this race this year. That I was an embarassment to myself.

And as I complained, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have had The Hammer come running with me. Not because of anything she was doing, but because with her there, I had an outlet for my frustrations — I had someone to listen to me grapple with my weakness.

And somehow, by saying the things I was thinking out loud, I had legitimized them. Made them more real, somehow. 

By saying, “I just can’t do this” out loud, to a sympathetic ear, I had convinced myself — nearly — that I couldn’t go on.

How to Make Your Husband Feel Really Slow

Which is not to say that I quit. Really, I’m not sure how I could have quit at that point. It’s not like a car was going to come pick me up, and walking down was pretty much what I was doing anyway.

So I trudged along, running from time to time just to see if I could.

And then The Hammer got a phone call.

“Oh, hi!” she said. “No, I’m not really doing much right now, just walking with my husband on the 10K of his Xterra. Sure I have time to talk!”

Picture, if you can, my extreme joy at doing this race alongside my wife as she carries a gargantuan grocery bag and talks away on the phone.

And I’m still barely able to keep up with her.

Big Finish

On a day when you are not at your finest, the Ogden Xterra has one really wonderful saving grace: it has a downhill finish.

It’s a race you can finish at a run, even if you haven’t been running. 

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Why am I sprinting here? Because I’ve just discovered a man is trying to pass me in the final stretch of the race, and for some reason I did not want someone to pass me at the finish line.

And when he saw I was sprinting, he took up the chase in earnest, even saying, “Oh no you don’t” as he drew close

I’m pleased to announce that when put to the test, I was able to deny Mr. Willis the satisfaction of being pretty much the ten zillionth person of the day to pass me:


I then got a photo of me with The Hammer:

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And we were outta there. I felt no particular urgency to wait around and find out if I’d made the podium (I hadn’t; I’d taken fifth in my age group…and would have taken fifth in the 50-54 age group, too).

“Promise me,” I said, on the way home, “That you will never let me do a race I am so unprepared for, ever again.”

And really, that was the big lesson of this race. Racing matters to me not so much because I love to be at races, but because I like to get ready for races: I love training with purpose.

In this case, I had instead just shown up at the race without having done the work to do well.

I’m serious about this never happening again. I either race prepared, or I don’t race at all.

Hint: I plan to come back to the 2016 Ogden Xterra. And I plan to be prepared.

How to be a Bug, Part 2: Hard Questions I Ask Myself

10.28.2015 | 11:45 am

A Note from Fatty: The 100 Miles of Nowhere kits are going to start shipping tomorrow; the final thing to arrive — t-shirts — should be arriving today!

I went to the DNA warehouse yesterday to drop product off and take a shot of all the gear (minus the t-shirts). 

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I’m very stoked with the great swag kit that’s going out to 100 Miles of Nowhere racers this year! 

Today I’m continuing with my “sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug” story from yesterday about racing the Ogden Utah Xterra. But first: I want to dwell for a moment on the huge advantages a poor swimmer can get from good equipment. Think about it: with literally no training whatsoever (and I mean the literal meaning of the word “literally” here), I had a 12% improvement over the first time I had done this swim.

Twelve freaking percent.

And I’d say that 100% of that 12% improvement is due to technology: a fantastic wetsuit (the BlueSeventy Reaction) and a GPS (the Iolite).

Think about that for a second: this gear made it possible for a swimmer with very poor form and no training to turn in a pretty reasonable time. 

Bike and clothing manufacturers: please make me a bike that makes me 12% faster. 

Oh wait, I guess you already have:


But that’s not exactly what I meant.

The Ride

The first thing I did after finishing the swim was make a huge mistake: I took my time getting ready for the ride.

Now, I wasn’t thinking in terms of “I think I’ll take my time.” I was thinking in terms of “Be calm and deliberate and efficient.”

But the effect was that I was slow and wasted a ton of time. Which The Hammer was gracious enough to record for all posterity. 

Here I am, slowly walking to the bike corral:

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And here I am, leisurely getting out bike clothes:

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And then getting a nice long drink of water:

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I remember I took especially long to get my socks and gloves on, because my feet and hands were still wet.

Now, there was never any chance of me getting on a podium — I knew that — and so I wasn’t really concerning myself with trying for a fast transition.

If I’d thought about it, though, I’d have hurried. A lot.

Because as I was taking my time getting myself together, a lot of racers who were doing the short version of the race were finishing their swim and starting their ride.

And in short, I was in there a full five minutes, on the dot. About twice as long as most people.

Which means that I was behind a lot of people, right from the beginning of the bike race:


This meant that, right from the beginning, I had a lot of passing to do:


But really, I didnt’ mind. I was on the only part of the race I am good at: the ride.

And I did…OK. Of all the people doing the race, I was the fourth fastest on the bike, and of the men in my age group, I was easily the fastest on the bike (and of the men in the age group I’ll be in next year, I was the fastest by about 13 minutes). 

But as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t competing with those people. I was competing with my own times, from previous years (2011 and 2014).

And against my previous-years’ self, I was a full seven minutes slower than my best. 

And I knew I was slower.

I knew it before I finished the ride, as I looked down at my GPS and saw how far off my hoped-for pace I was. I knew it when — for pretty much the first time ever on this course — a person passed me on the bike.

I knew it, to be honest, when I put on the one-piece Triathalong outfit the day before the race, and was able to squeeze into it only through a force of will. I knew that my extra pudge was going to be a problem when I did this 17-mile, 3300 feet of climbing mountain bike ride.

The fact is, this part of the race is all about power-to-weight ratio, and I’m not doing so great in the “weight” part of that equation this year. 

Which is to say, by the time I finished this ride, my lack of form had been pretty forcefully driven home:

Fancy gear had made me five minutes faster on the swim, but my big ol’ paunch had made me seven minutes slower on the bike.

Hard Questions

And that’s when I started learning the first big lesson of the day: When your self-image depends on you always getting faster, you will eventually be disappointed.

Some day you’ll be older. Or heavier. Or — in my case — both. Some day, you’ll slow down. At that point, you’d better have a new motivation already set up, or you’re going to have a rough time.

Though, to be honest, I didn’t really start processing the lesson until sometime after the race. During the race, I just looked at my Garmin in despair and disbelief. 

And even now, I’m having a difficult time dealing with the inevitability that there’s going to be a tapering down of what I’m capable of. I look at my results from this race and don’t see a good, fast time. I look at them and see a seven minute problem. 

I don’t look at photos of me from this race and see a guy who is not half-bad for being eight months away from 50 years old. I see a ten pound problem.

And I’m not sure where my problem is: do I need to get in better shape, or do I need to be happy with the shape I have? Do I need to be ashamed at how chubby and slow I have become, or be grateful that I can go as fast as I do?

Should I be upset at having slowed down, or proud that I have enough general fitness that with no training in two of three sports, I can complete an Xterra at all?

These are questions I’m asking myself for real, and while I kind of feel like I know what my answers should be, what I feel is completely different.

And this was only the first of the big lessons this race had to teach me.

The lesson I’d learn in the run would be much more painful.

Which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

How to be a Bug, Part 1

10.27.2015 | 12:38 pm

As my good friend Mark Knopfler says, “Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.” I like to write stories in this blog about races where I’m the windshield. 

But the fact is, in a couple recent races, I’ve definitely been the bug. And I’m glad. Being squashed during a race teaches you a lot more — about your technique and about yourself — than a good day on the course ever could.

So over the next few days, I’m going to tell the tale of how my 2015 Xterra Utah went, as well as my racing of the Snowbird Hillclimb Ultra.

Spoiler alert: I am not the metaphorical windshield in either of these.

Getting Ready

Let’s begin with a couple of axiomatic assertions, shall we?

  1. Things don’t have to start badly for them to end badly.
  2. The best way to exceed expectations is to start with very low expectations. 

The 2015 Xterra Utah Long Course race started out very weirdly for me, because The Hammer was not racing alongside me.

No, she didn’t have another race that day. No, she didn’t skip the race because her race plan prohibited it. She just…didn’t race. I had crewed for her at Lotoja, now she was going to crew for me when I did the Xterra.

Which means I started a little off-balance. I’m used to both of us being nervous. I’m used to taking care of both our bikes. I’m used to being the one with the camera, so I don’t have to be in the photos.

This time, though, she was relaxed, I had only my gear to concern myself with, and she had the camera.

Which means that we have photos of things we usually don’t have. Like me setting up my gear at transition 1:

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And we have photos of me in my brand-new BlueSeventy Reaction wetsuit:

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I anticipate you have questions about this photograph. Here are my answers:

  1. Yes, I am sucking in my gut.
  2. No, I didn’t know I was standing in front of a sign that says, “Wipe Down,” or I would have posed elsewhere.
  3. Yes, I am eating in this picture.

Here I am in a more heroic pose, though I still have a mouthful of food:

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I’ll get to my reaction to this wetsuit — this would be the first time I’d ever worn it while actually swimming — in just a moment, but first I want to show you one more photo, which The Hammer took right after I took a test swim, to warm up:

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I wanted to show you this partly because it may be the best, most expressive photo ever taken of me. But also, because I am wearing the Iolite Swim GPS on my goggles. The idea behind the Iolite is pretty amazing: a GPS strapped to your goggles on the back of your head hooks up to a little row of LEDs stuck to your goggles in your peripheral vision, and help you swim in a straight line without having to sight constantly.

I had never used this thing, either. So obviously, I was really well-prepared for a fantastic swim.

I Never Expected To Say This

The fact that I had never tried out any of my swimming gear before the Xterra should give you an idea of how serious I take swimming. 

But that’s only part of it, really. 

Also, I had prepared for this Xterra by literally not having swam even once in almost exactly a year. In fact, the last time I had been in the water to swim had been in this same reservoir (but for a different kind of tri), a year ago.

Here I am at the start of my wave of the race:

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I’m the one in the white swim cap. 

Now, as you know, I’m a rider, not a swimmer. Nor a runner for that matter. Doing a triathalong makes no sense at all for me.

So you’ll have to forgive my sense of astonishment that the swim went great

Really for reals, it did. The Reaction wetsuit was incredibly comfortable and buoyant and non-restrictive, instantly turning me into a much better swimmer than I have any right to expect.

And the Iolite…well, it is an absolute game-changer for me, long-distance open water swimwise. When the LED in my peripheral vision was green, I was doing good. When it showed yellow, I’d glance down to see which way the indicator showed, then course-correct. When it showed red (not often, because I’d usually take care of the course correction as soon as I saw yellow), I’d course-correct sharper.

So even though I was swimming directly into the sunlight, even though I had dozens of swimmers ahead of me, even though I generally can’t swim straight for three seconds, this time I swam more and sighted less, swimming with confidence for pretty much the first time ever.

And it’s so simple to use I was able to work with it easily and flawlessly the very first time I wore it.

I tell you, I love what the Iolite did for me. And believe me, the difference it made for me was huge. The last time I did this course, I very nearly quit during the swim due to confusion and exhaustion, veered all over the place, and took 41:59 to complete it (this is no exaggeration; read my report from the day).

This time — with no swim training whatsoever in a full year — I finished the swim in 36:57. More than five minutes faster, and coming out of the water in much better spirits. 

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I know, I don’t look like I’m happy, but I am. It’s just that I have my game face on.

I gingerly tiptoed the 100 feet or so to the swim-bike transition, which took me roughly five minutes. Probably thirty people passed me as I did this, and I wished I would have brought shoes or something for getting from the boat ramp to the bike corral. The fact is, I have the tenderest, most sensitive feet you could ever imagine; I never go anywhere (including inside my house) without shoes on.

Now I was ready to begin the only part of a triathalong I’m good at: the bike. And this should be an extra-good course for me, being almost entirely uphill.

I wouldn’t have believed anyone if I’d been told that I had just finished my best leg in this race. Wouldn’t have imagined it as a remote possibility.

But it was true. Things were about to get bad for me. Real bad.

Which seems like a good place to pick up in tomorrow’s post.

Writing Fiction is Hard

10.26.2015 | 9:19 am

I like to write. Like to do it every day. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing this blog for more than ten years now. 

What’s been kind of interesting to see during this ten years is what kind of things I’ve been focusing on writing. At first it was jokey fake news more often than not. Then a phase where there it was all about pro cycling. Lately, I really enjoy writing long-form multi-part stories about my adventures (races, more often than not). 

And for the past week, I’ve been trying to write fiction for Ride 3

And that has been the most difficult kind of writing I have ever taken on. 

Maybe for that reason, I’ve found it really rewarding (and painful). 

To be honest, I haven’t finished the story (which means I’ve lost a bet). And to also be honest, it’s gone in a completely different direction than I originally intended.

But I think that it’ll be done by tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Keith (the editor and publisher of the Ride anthology series) thinks.

Meanwhile, here’s a little excerpt (for kicks, compare it to where it started). I’d love to know what you think too. 

Kokopelli (Excerpt)
by Elden Nelson

By the time Daniel had gotten to Dewey Bridge, he had drifted back far enough that the other three were nowhere in sight. Well, they either filtered water really fast and continued on, or they…just went on, Daniel thought.

He had warned them this was the last place they’d be able to get water ‘til the Westwater Ranger Station, but the day wasn’t hot yet, so Daniel could imagine these guys might have gambled that what they had left would be enough to get them to the Station.

It would not be enough, Daniel knew. “Not my problem,” Daniel said, even though he knew that, when it came right down to it, it would be his problem.

Daniel took one last tug of water from his Camelbak, clipped back in, and began riding. He crossed the river road (Highway 128) onto the desert doubletrack, got into the flow of the ride, and felt clear and strong. Not hungry. Not thirsty. Not tired. Not anything.

To achieve this state: this was why Daniel rode. He stood and and rowed his bike up a short, steep climb. Sat and got low for a short rocky descent. Climbs, descents, flat: Daniel loved it all.

Then as Daniel rode around a blind, banked downhill corner, he saw something in the trail. A big something.

With no time to ride around it — with a rock wall on the left and exposure on the right there was nowhere to go anyway — Daniel grabbed two big handfuls of brake.

People like to talk about time slowing down and everything happening in slow motion when you crash, but that is not what usually happens. Usually, you’re riding and then you’re sliding, with very little time to think in between.

That said, Daniel did have time for two distinct observations either right before or during his endo.

First, he noticed that the rider didn’t move, either before or as Daniel’s front wheel plowed into his torso.

Second — and Daniel was pretty certain this was something he realized as he was in the air, ass over teakettle — he noticed that the rider he had plowed into was Eric.

Daniel rode a lot, but he didn’t fall a lot, so he wasn’t very good at it. Which is to say, he stuck his hands out as he went over, taking his landing on the left hand.

Amazingly, he did not break his collarbone. He didn’t even break his wrist. His left pinky was probably broken, which is about the best possible bone break you can have when you’re mountain biking.

Daniel wasn’t aware of any of these minor injuries in the moments after he crashed, however. He jumped up, the adrenaline hitting him hard and fast. He was in full-on fight or flight mode.

What happened?” Daniel yelled, realizing as he said it what a strange and vague question it was.

Eric didn’t say anything, but someone did.

“I think he’s dead.”

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