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. 

Screenshot 2015 10 29 06 28 42

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! 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.

Screenshot 2015 10 29 06 32 08

Yeah, I’m super fast in the transitions.

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

Screenshot 2015 10 29 06 34 29

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:

Thumb IMG 3845 1024

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.


  1. Comment by Danny J | 10.29.2015 | 12:30 pm

    “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.”

    I really do enjoy your writing very much.

    Thanks much Danny! – FC

  2. Comment by ScottR | 10.29.2015 | 12:37 pm

    This feels very similar to my feelings during tris.

    I’m planning on doing fewer of them next year, and more running events… and, you know, really learning to run.

  3. Comment by | 10.29.2015 | 12:41 pm

    I enjoy your race reports very much, and reading them reminds me that enjoyment of results is very much a matter of expectations.
    I finished 5th at a recent Mountain bike race and was quite pleased with the result, (and if I take 5th at the race I am in next week I will be ecstatic.)
    Looking forward to next year’s Extera you can rest easy knowing your swim, and run prep time will not to increase much to beat this year.

  4. Comment by Fat Cathy | 10.29.2015 | 12:46 pm

    I agree with @Danny J, that comment made me LOL for real. Good to see that this post was less whiney than yesterdays. I mean really – you go do a difficult event that you haven’t even prepared for a little bit and you are whining that your bike split was slow (but still the 4th fastest in the race)? Do you think that might have something to do with just putting in a major effort on another leg that you are doing on general fitness alone? Jeesh. Makes me want to fly to Utah for the express purpose of slapping you upside the head (hopefully the Hammer has already taken care of that). Ok, and I’m a little jealous that you have the level of fitness that you can just pull this effort out of your proverbial nether regions and do this well.

    Anyway, in spite of the whining, I’m impressed with your performance and hope you arrive at the event next year better prepared.

  5. Comment by | 10.29.2015 | 12:48 pm

    Happiness with a result is directly related to perception of how fast an individual thinks they should be. Your past speed means anything less than a podium is a disappointment.
    To guard against this I have always maintained a slow pace in previous races, that way a 5th place finish for me is a good day.
    Yeah that’s why I’m slow, choice man, choice.

  6. Comment by Anne | 10.29.2015 | 12:49 pm

    Maybe a new camera for The Hammer at Christmas. Maybe wi hinder water capabilities so she can capture the swim!

  7. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 10.29.2015 | 1:46 pm

    @DannyJ and @FatCathy, funny, I picked up on the sentence immediately prior:

    “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!

    [emphasis added]

    Fatty, I too really do enjoy your writing very much!

    Thank you! – FC

  8. Comment by leroy | 10.29.2015 | 1:47 pm

    Having a negative voice in your head is a lot like having a talking dog.

    It’s not crazy to hear him. It’s only crazy to listen to him.

    And when all is said and done, every race, every ride, you smile about later is a good one.

  9. Comment by Conrad | 10.29.2015 | 1:59 pm

    A Rubik’s Cube?


    What’s her best time solving one?

    I may not be able to beat her on a bike, but …

    It’s possible I was making up the bit about the Rubik’s Cube. – FC

  10. Comment by owen | 10.29.2015 | 2:10 pm

    start racing the single speed again it will cure you of this funk you are in.

    OK. – FC

  11. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 10.29.2015 | 2:41 pm

    I’m trying to imagine how a single speed triathlon would work …

  12. Comment by Drew | 10.29.2015 | 3:30 pm

    If it’s triathalong shouldn’t it be Irongman? Or Ironmang?

    The “g” isn’t there just because I like the letter. It’s because Triathalongs (all of them, including ironpersons) just feel long. – FC

  13. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 10.29.2015 | 3:56 pm

    Lesson learned. I’ve opted out of races for the same not-in-shape reasons.

    My wife (who could also outrun me, carrying the kitchen sink) “participates”. I can’t get my mind around going to a race and not racing. Or not preparing for it, either.

    I guess every race or event has a lesson, one way or the other.

  14. Comment by Kate | 10.29.2015 | 5:04 pm

    I never skip races I’m unprepared for, but maybe if I started doing that I’d stop showing up unprepared for them. I had a mountain bike race this past weekend that was a lot like your run sounded, and a riding companion who was every bit as awesome as The Hammer. I kept most of the complaints on the inside, but I did cry twice, so I’m not sure that’s any better.

  15. Comment by EricGu | 10.29.2015 | 9:16 pm

    I feel like this all the time on big rides; it’s a rare long ride that I don’t feel like this.

    You do know about HTFU, right?

    You do know that Rule #5 is stupid, right? – FC

  16. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 10.31.2015 | 7:45 am

    So that only leaves the following aspects to work on:

    Mtb descending
    Running (apart from downhill)
    Meeting deadlines for submissions of fiction

    And then you will be perfect.

  17. Comment by sr | 11.10.2015 | 12:50 am

    My employer blocked all sports websites (ESPN, the NYT Sports page- but not NYT, Outside Online … and the Fat Cyclist!). Major bummer. I’m catching up on a week’s worth of Fatty now, and yep,

    “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.”

    made me snort. Thanks Fatty.


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