My Compromise Is No Compromise

03.25.2016 | 6:48 am

There are a few moments that, as they happen, you realize will always stick with you, for the rest of your life. No matter what.

I had one of those moments at the finish line of the True Grit Epic a couple of weeks ago. It was a conversation, held with a complete stranger — well, at least he was a stranger to me; he seemed to know who I am (this happens pretty often and I rarely know when it’s someone who recognizes me from the blog and we haven’t met, or someone who I ought to remember, and don’t because the part of my brain that ought to remember names and faces is completely missing).

He said, and I quote, “Hey Fatty, you were faster last year. How come you were so slow today?”

To which I replied, “Was I faster last year?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question. I just genuinely didn’t know; I hadn’t looked up my 2015 time before the 2016 race.

“Yeah, most people are finishing faster today than last year,” he affirmed. “The weather and course are great, but you’re slow.”

This got me to thinking. In fact, I thought two things:

First, it occurred to me that I didn’t much care for being told at the finish line of a race that I hadn’t done very well. I furthermore didn’t much care for being asked for an explanation of my subpar performance. (I’m sure that’s just me, though; most people are happy to have strangers demand an explanation for why they suck.)

Second, I realized it was probable that other people might have similar questions (though probably asked in less painful circumstances): why didn’t I race harder? Why wasn’t I faster?

To my great relief, I had no trouble formulating a cogent, perfectly reasonable, and persuasive explanation, which had the side benefit of also being true. 

“I am slower,” I say to myself, “because my heart and head and legs and lungs are all part of one system. You can only train your hardest and race your fastest when you can apply not just your mind and your body to the effort, but your heart — your will, your passion — to it as well. What I need from the bike, right now, is a counterpoint to the intensity I am experiencing in the rest of my life. Right now, I need balance — peace — more than I need speed.”

It’s an honest self-assessment. Mature and self-aware. In truth, I should be proud of being able to see my needs and situation for what they are.

But the reality is, I hate it. Furthermore, I reject it. 

Yeah, I’m stressed right now. Yeah, tired. Yeah, concerned about the future. Yeah, sick (haven’t talked about that…but I’ve been sick a lot lately). 

All these things are real, and it would be foolish for me to not account for these things and adapt.

But I also know this: I have signed up for races. Races I care about. And I know that at six in the morning on August thirteenth, as I stand in the corral for the second-fastest group of racers in the Leadville 100 — a spot I earned last year with the fastest race in my life — I am not going to be thinking to myself, “Well, I’m grateful for the peace I’ve experienced on the bike in the past few months.”


I’ll either be thinking, “I am going to take all the fitness I’ve earned and I am going to be fast and strong and smart and tough today, and my work is going to pay off.”

Or I will be thinking, “Why didn’t I work harder? Why did I think it would be OK for me to not train for this race? What am I in for now?”

I’ve thought each of those thoughts in that starting corral before. I know which I prefer.

Flip the Script

So my life is not stable right now. I’m doing two very difficult things at once: looking for work and writing a book about Susan’s fight with cancer.

Obviously, my training is going to have to adapt. 

My mistake was in assuming that it would have to get shoved aside, get deprioritized, become a time for reflection and decompression, rather than a time for me to attack each ride with the joy and intensity I’ve been so proud of for the past five years. 

I don’t want to let that go. I refuse to let that go. Here’s my new premise:

Instead of convincing myself why my situation requires me to de-prioritize things I love, I need to revise how I live in such a way that I can make the things I care about possible, in a new way.

The Plan

Luckily, I already have the tools I need to make this happen. As anyone who follows me on Strava knows, I have become a huge fan of and believer in the structured training plan that is part of TrainerRoad. So far, I’ve thought of it as mostly a way to build early-season fitness and make winter trainer work more productive.

Now I’m going to use it as a way to trick my body and brain into being more fit and productive. 

Which is to say, I’m going to go do the “Mid Volume” TrainerRoad workout plan each morning, after I send the various adults and kids to their various workplaces and schools, but before I begin the writing for the day. 

I’m going to rely on the “no excuses” nature of the TrainerRoad workout, combined with the “no easy way out” nature of the Wahoo Kickr, to force some intensity out of me. 

And — and this is the good part — I’m planning on this effort to get my mind working, so I don’t sit down at the computer groggy and grumpy. When I start writing, my body will be happy to stay put, my brain will be awake.

But here’s the real genius: I’ll then do a second ride when The Hammer gets home from work, going out with her. This will be our time together, and can be that time for balance and recharging that I do in fact believe I need.

In other words, I’m not denying the value of the bike for getting some mental balance. I’ve just decided that I’m also not going to deny the value of using it to work out some physical aggression. 

I’m going to have it both ways. (I talk more about this on this week’s Paceline Podcast — also available on iTunes)

So here’s what a typical day is going to look like for me:

5:30: Up and prepare breakfast and lunch for The Hammer 

6:30: Hammer off to work, answer email, write notes for blog

7:00: Listen to audiobook with the twins (currently A Wizard of Earthsea)

7:30: TrainerRoad

8:30: Shower, dress, read news

9:00: Write book

12:00: Break for lunch, read email, read news, make calls

1:00: Job hunting

3:00: Blogging

5:00: Done working for the day, off to ride with The Hammer

It’s a good plan. I plan to stick to it. And I would like your help.

Back to My Roots

Here’s where I’m asking you to help me, in a few ways: Help me stay accountable. Help me stay positive. Help me stay inspired. 

I have something specific in mind for each of these things.

For the accountability bit, I’m going to go back to the roots of this blog: I’m going to begin reporting on my progress with each post. But where I used to report just on my weight, there are now three things I’m going to report with each post:

  1. Weight: I’m above what my weight should be. Starting Monday I’m going to report my weight each post and my progress toward my goal.
  2. Workout: I’m going to link to my most recent TrainerRoad workout and any other ride I’ve done, with notes on how they went — whether I phoned it in, felt strong, or anything else.
  3. Fight Like Susan Progress: During the next few months, count on hearing something in each post about how I’m doing on writing this book. Sometimes it’ll be an excerpt, sometimes it’ll be about something I’m struggling with, sometimes it’ll be…well, I don’t know, yet. But I’m committing to you: I will keep you posted. You will know how this book is progressing, as I write it.

Now, for your part — I’m asking for you to keep me accountable and to give me your support. I want you to check my weight and workouts, and to give me feedback on my progress. And on the book, let me know what you think.

Further, as you already know, I’m asking you to literally support me: to pre-order this book and the associated gear. (And I really appreciate those of you who have already done so.) Out of all the books I’ve written (and other ones I might write in the future), this is the one that matters. So, in advance: thank you.

Moving Forward Together

Some things have to be compromised, in certain situations. But I’m deciding today that this shouldn’t be my default tactic. Sometimes, it’s possible to do more than you thought you could.

That’s growing. And that’s what I aim to do.

I’m going to write my best work. I’m going to find a great job. And I’m going to be stronger than I’ve ever been, by training smarter than I ever have. 

Starting now.

And now, I have one final ask: Join me. Find something you’re settling for, ask yourself whether that’s the best strategy for your life, or just one that seems convenient. If it’s convenient, maybe look at a different approach — a way you can make your life genuinely better.

Then say what it is. Here or somewhere else. And then track it (here or somewhere else).

Let’s adapt. Let’s grow. 


  1. Comment by Chris Driggers | 03.25.2016 | 8:18 am

    Want some help getting the word out about your job hunt? I’m sure we can assist, if you want.

  2. Comment by Wife#1 | 03.25.2016 | 8:20 am

    Love it! Now go forth and execute that plan or we’re all coming after you. I would say good luck, but you don’t need luck. You need talent and determination…and you have those in spades. So just get it done, and add caffeine as needed. :-)

  3. Comment by Andy@WDW | 03.25.2016 | 8:25 am

    Thank you, Fatty. This is a great post. I love your attitude, and I love your plan.

    I’ve never been ambitious with my career. I’ve always taken what’s convenient. I absolutely love what I do, I’m a tour guide for a huge entertainment company. The benefits are great, my team is awesome, I bicycle commute year round… but the pay is barely above the poverty line. I need to reach out and find something better, either within this giant organization, or without. But that’s scary. That puts me way outside my comfort zone. That’s not at all convenient.

    I guess that’s exactly why I need to do it.

    Thank you, and good luck. We’ll keep after you on your quest, I promise.

  4. Comment by berry | 03.25.2016 | 8:29 am

    Thanks for the challenge. I accept.

  5. Comment by rich | 03.25.2016 | 8:52 am

    LOVE this post and am happy to try to help hold you accountable.
    I too have a goal this summer in the form of my first real endurance race (tahoe 100). I’ve been busy, life is crazy and there are tons of reasons I haven’t been training the way I should….I’m using your post as a kickstart to change that.
    I had already in my mind created a fallback plan in that if I wasn’t ready for the 100k I’d just do the 50k but you’ve motivated me to not use that as a possibility.
    Thank you and let’s get to it!

  6. Comment by Don | 03.25.2016 | 8:52 am


    Great post. 100% affirmation here.
    My goal, be just a little further up Columbine before you fly by. Challenge accepted.

  7. Comment by GenghisKhan | 03.25.2016 | 8:57 am

    Great plan – what happens when you land a new job?! Show us the alternative plan that helps meet your goal so we can help you stick to it when that big life change comes your way!

    That’s a great question. Since I don’t know what the parameters of the new job will be (how soon? how different? will I have to relocate?) it’s hard to put that plan together. When I know what (in general terms) my new normal will be, I will definitely let you know too. – FC

  8. Comment by Omar | 03.25.2016 | 9:13 am

    I want to say that I somehow correlate to you. A few months ago I quit my job for personals reasons and in pursue of starting my own. As of now I still don’t have any business, my savings pretty much have disappeared and on top of that I hurt my leg and broke my hand last week riding my mtb bike. I’m literally building my business as in building the infrastructure by myself so having a broken hand will put me off at least a month.

    Having said all that, wise people say only about 10% out of the 100% of stuff that happens in your life is in your control and that you can do something about it. Well, somehow I made that 10% be valuable, right now I could be complaining at life, getting slower by the lack of aggressive training as you put it and blaming my super nice old bike for my injury.

    Strangely enough though, I have found deep peace in times of chaos, I’ve learned every day being out of my comfort zone and that injury didn’t even ding my determination, despite its impact in my life. You could say I’m happy where I am, what matters is the journey not the ending.

    Keep up your good attitude, that is all that matters, roads will reveal upon you and if not just go look for them, it has work for me and I’m sure it works on everyone else’s. Find your success.

  9. Comment by Maciek | 03.25.2016 | 9:28 am

    I am in!

    Weight loss for me, please. I am writing my plan over Easter and I am joining you.

    My probl… er.. excuse so far was that I am working 4 days a week away from homw, living in a hotel and “can’t possibly go for a run in the evening because I am so knackered”. This ends now. Strava will be my witness.

    30 pounds less will be my target!!!

    There. I said it…

  10. Comment by ScottyCycles | 03.25.2016 | 9:30 am

    Great post Fatty! Way to go! I won’t cite a certain Rule here since I know how you feel about that;)

    My goal is to add more relationships to my life to further my new career and get to a point financially where I can consider making something/someone permanent in my life.

  11. Comment by AKChick | 03.25.2016 | 10:10 am

    I’m in to be part of your support network. :)

    I’ve had quite a bit happen over the past 8 months. I signed up for a charity ride, but I’m not feeling it – the fundraising, the training, etc. I’ve decided that this year is about riding my bike for the enjoyment and not because I’m having to put in a 25 or 50 mile training ride. So I plan on doing one competitive event (our annual Bike for Women that I FINALLY got into – it sells out very quickly every year) and the rest of the year will be about exploring and riding for fun.

    I’ll leave the hardcore riding and training up to you. :)

  12. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 03.25.2016 | 10:32 am

    First, Do. Not. Overtrain.

    Second, your “don’t settle” exhortation caught me a bit by surprise. See, that’s been EXACTLY my plan this year.

    Last year, my riding was all about prepping for Leadville. From a structured winter workout to Battenkill to Boggs to Wilmington Whiteface to hill repeats, I had a plan and a reason to stick to the plan. And it worked.

    So this year, I’ve been looking forward to just riding. I’m a couple weeks behind on my winter training, oddly enough because of how much time I’ve been out fat biking.

    I’ve got some biggish rides on my calendar through the summer, but none that I’ll be truly racing, even the races. And I’m (still) good with that.

    But here’s where you’ve kicked my butt into gear. In the past, my prep for CX season has been to do my spring and summer road riding. The result has been my starting CX without real CX fitness (and, coincidentally, at too high a weight).

    So I’ll take the Fatty challenge. Here’s my plan (and promise): I’ll do my regular summer rides, but I’ll also do CX-specific training in July and August. And I’ll embrace healthier eating.

    On that last point, maybe starting in April.

    Or May.

  13. Comment by leroy | 03.25.2016 | 10:57 am

    My dog offered me good odds on a $5 bet that what you’ll really be thinking in the starting corral at 6 in the morning on August 13 is “I think I have to pee again.”

    Well of course I didn’t take the bet. That is his area of expertise.

    The main thing is that you’ll be in the corral and will go full out no matter what full out is.

    I have a similar goal this season. Count me in. I’m bringing the dog.

  14. Comment by Bryant Likes | 03.25.2016 | 10:59 am

    Sounds like a great plan. Seems like the only thing missing is riding with other fast riders. You should give Zwift a try ( since it sounds like you have all the equipment you need and that would give you an opportunity to ride with other riders virtually. Your competitive nature would most certainly kick in and help you get that training boost it sounds like you need. :)

  15. Comment by Dave harman | 03.25.2016 | 12:51 pm

    Good on you to look inside and figure out what’s really going on. I am in a similar situation, but not quite as complex as yours. I was laid off from the energy industry 4 weeks ago. I first used riding as an escape. I’d get sick of selling myself for hours on end online and on the phone, and hit the bike just to get away. But those rides were very unfocused, and I was hitting the beer too hard for them to help spring weight loss goals.

    The last two weeks though, I figured out how to use rides, how to harness them as more than an escape pod. Now I’m using tight, focused ride goals to help my self esteem (hit those numbers, no excuses because I have the time to ride every day) and to help me keep the positive attitude and focus needed to stay sharp on the job hunt and in the interviewing process.

    I don’t know how it all turns out, but in the meantime, I’m going to make the most of the opportunity to ride a lot more than I have ever been able, and view the situation as an opportunity instead of a problem in need of fixing.

  16. Comment by Emil Gercke | 03.25.2016 | 1:50 pm

    Yes! It seems like you have a very sound plan for body and mind. Stay balanced and I will look forward to your progress.

  17. Comment by rb | 03.25.2016 | 10:07 pm

    Ok Fatty. Once again, I’m in.

    I have entered a new, exciting phase of life and I will need to do a lot of things 100% to keep up.

    Starting tomorrow morning, I’m following my Training Peaks plan every day. No reason I can’t. Even if I’m on a spin bike alone in a room with a countdown timer and my music turned to 11…I can train. And
    Since I’m on the road a lot, no reason I can’t train 2x / day.

    I will start telling stories about my adventures again. It’s been nearly 4 months since my last blog entry. Once a week. Type something. I can do it.

    I will be myself. My old job demanded a type and a quiet reservation to everything I did. No showing excitement, or you’re labeled a hot head. Not anymore. They get me. Full tilt. It’s just more fun that way.

    I will make sure I know what my kids did in school, and in their lives every week. I’m gone a lot now, and that effort is 100% worth it.

    What gets dropped? Feeling tired, bored, and lazy. All out the door. Time to make it happen. Leadville is 5 months away. Time to sharpen the sword.

  18. Comment by AngieG | 03.26.2016 | 12:43 am

    Oh FC, change is scary. I know, a little more than 2 years ago I moved from my country home of 32 years to the Bay Area. My marriage had imploded and I needed a change. I was blessed to meet the most amazing man. We were happy with with each other, and settled for the fast paced life that comes with the Bay Area. Then one day, July 4th actually, the doctors office called and told me they needed me to come in for a second mammogram. They thought they saw something they said. So that next Monday I was back in and sure enough there it was, a blob. The ultrasound immediately followed in which I got an up close view of my tumor. I named it The Chunk, because if it had a name I could deal with it better for some reason. The biopsy was done that day, then came the wait. We waited for 3 days for the results. During that time we were blessed with the opportunity to recalibrate our life together. We discovered we were really unhappy in the city. I invested too much of myself in work and we let too many outside influences dictate our happiness. We made a decision to move back to the country and he had to quit his job to do that. Thankfully The Chunk was benign and we have learned a new appreciation of the subtle gifts we get each day.
    I know things are a bit rough right now. I’m sure writing the book is cathartic and difficult at the same time. LIke your other friends, I will be here with what ever support you need. For me, I need to lose weight. I’ve gained a ton and have decided it time to get serious.You can help keep me honest. Love to you and the Hammer. Miss you both

  19. Comment by cuda | 03.26.2016 | 10:49 am

    Dear Fatty,

    As I read your blog the other day I was shocked. I am that random guy behind your post. Talk about one of those spit out gum insert foot moments. Especially because a friend recently told me (as I’m covered in sweat from a workout) “your too skinny and your body won’t ever build muscle. So why do try so hard?” My reaction to that question was your a fat bitch and I hate you. You’re obviously much nicer than I am. Still it is a comment I’ll never forget and will drive me to prove them wrong. First, I would like to say that I’m sorry. I had no intentions of hurting your feelings or trying to make you feel bad. Second, you are the one I am constantly comparing my times to. We live fairly close to each other and ride the same routes and I am always trying to beat your times. Hence the reason I knew your time from last years True Grit. You are my carrot. And the Hammer is too. You could say I’m a little competitive.

    Last September, while racing Lotoja, I was in an accident that ended my race and broke my hip. It was pretty frustrating and I feel that I have a lot to prove this year. I’m feeling extra intensity for the sport. I don’t want to be the “guy” with a fake hip and I definitely don’t want it to affect my racing. I have completely fallen in love with this sport and I have you to thank for a lot of that.

    Reading your blog got me to sign up for Rockwell Relay for the first time, a race I now obsess and strategize about for months. It also introduced me to True Grit. I had a blast riding last year and unfortunately did not finish this year due to a really bad flat and sliced tire. So even though your time was worse this year, at least it was better than mine. You finished.

    I have you and your blog to thank for some of my favorite memories on a bicycle . My whole family reads it and we are all really big fans. It helps us all to see how well you handle the challenges in your life not just the ones on a bike. Even though you don’t know me or my family we feel like we are a part of your biking family. We love to read your race reports and laugh with you and the Hammer as we relate with all the emotions and crazy things that happen (like a random guy asking a lame question) throughout the races. Thank you for keeping me very motivated. Keep riding hard and I will keep trying to catch you. And I promise I won’t make any more comments like this last one.



    Cuda, you’re an incredible gentleman for writing this. Thank you. And let me say this: while I was irritated at the moment, the fact is I was slower this year (eleven minutes), and would have figured it out eventually. And in the end, I needed a few kicks in the seat in order to get motivated…and to even realize that I WANT to be motivated. You were a part of this.

    You mention you live close. Let’s get together and ride sometime soon. – FC

  20. Comment by BostonCarlos | 03.26.2016 | 3:21 pm

    ^^^ I love this blog and its readers.

  21. Comment by Sunny | 03.27.2016 | 5:53 pm

    You owe nothing – not an explanation or accountability to anyone. You have given so much of your life for the good of others. Do those things that give you joy. You deserve it. Good things will come.

  22. Comment by leroy | 03.27.2016 | 8:05 pm

    When you think of all the meanness floating around the internet, the corner of civility Fatty has created is pretty amazing.

  23. Comment by Brian in VA | 03.28.2016 | 7:00 am

    Just an awesome post, Fatty.

    Okay, I’m losing 20 pounds over the next 90 days and will do it through riding and eating intelligently. Both of these have been lax in my life over the past 6 months.

    Let’s do this!

    Brian in VA

    PS. Cuda and Fatty may be the two most reasonable people on the internet today. Thanks guys for reminding me that good people exist.

  24. Comment by 331miles | 03.28.2016 | 7:51 am

    Great post. I was mentally composing an attack comment against the random post-race commenter, which would not have helped anyone, but then I read Cuda’s comment. Made my day. Book and shirt pre-ordered, and will show up daily to hold you accountable to your plan!

  25. Comment by Tom in Albany | 03.28.2016 | 11:13 am

    Wow, Cuda. Way to be The Motivator! And, Fatty, I had an idea that you’d be grateful for the kick in the pants.

    This is a great community.

    So, what am I committing to? I’m going to commit to finally calling for a Dr appointment and finding out what is wrong with my back instead of using it as an excuse for reduced training. I’m just afraid of the answer so, I haven’t gone to get it. (The next thing I’ll need to work on is Daddy Guilt as an excuse for not riding more than I do. Fatty? Have you ever written a post about managing ‘Daddy Guilt’ or ‘Husband Guilt’? If so, I’d love a link.

  26. Comment by Ellie | 03.28.2016 | 4:50 pm

    This is the first post of yours that I have read, it popped up on my Facebook feed while I was being an insomniac! Good timing.
    Two things particularly resonated for me: The first was that all races involve your heart & head & legs & lungs- as a runner & occasional triathlete myself I know this is totally true! The second was the need to be held accountable when you have an ambition or a target that requires training. It helps to motivate you to go-the-extra-mile and with all the wil in the world you just can’t get there on your own.
    I need to find that source of accountability again in my training…
    Cheers for the reminder!
    Good luck… Ellie

  27. Comment by Betsy is an awesome name! | 04.10.2016 | 12:57 am

    Weird that I’m reading this post among a few others since I hadn’t read your blog for a while.

    I literally downloaded a random app just because I was so annoyed at myself for not being consistent in my habits, and so downloaded the first app that I came across (not kidding) called Momentum Habit Tracker. Maybe it might help you too? Though you seem to be pretty self-disciplined! =)

    Hoping that this app will help me with several of my habits that I need to implement on a daily basis.

    Sincere wishes on your journey, writing the book and job-hunting.

    ps. I promise this is not an ad for the app. I’m honestly a real person who just happened to do what I said in terms of downloading the app, and deciding to read your blog on a whim.

  28. Comment by Brad | 04.14.2016 | 10:17 pm

    This is FC at your best. When you tell us about your emotions and thoughts, things we rarely hear or read, we feel connected to you, empathetic and motivated. I drifted away with all of the guest posts, but now you are back and in amazing writing form. I look forward to reading about you gaining back your racing form as well. Good luck and thank you.


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