The Great Fatsby: Pre-Order Starts Tomorrow

11.10.2014 | 12:51 pm

I’m super-duper excited to announce that I am hard at work on my new book: The Great Fatsby.

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I’ll be opening it up for pre-order tomorrow, and will have it in your hands by Christmastime.

This is, frankly, some of the funniest stuff I ever wrote. You know, from back when I was hungry and funny and hadn’t yet sold out. Or whatever.

You know me well enough by now to know that I can’t help myself: this book will benefit a good cause, and there will be an incredible grand prize I will be giving away to some lucky person.

I’m also excited to say that along with this book, there’ll be a t-shirt you can buy:

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Almost most of all, though, I’m almost insane with delight at this long-sleeved tech-merino wool jersey I’ll be making available, at an absurdly great price when you buy it with The Great FatsbyNewImage

You will never ever want to wear anything else, ever again. Well, at least not until next summer.

Details tomorrow! 

 

USTC Race Report, Part 3: Winners, Losers, and Losers Who Thought They Were Winners

11.6.2014 | 1:07 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is the third and final part of my report for the Utah State Triathlon Championships. You’ll find Part 1 here, and you’ll find Part 2 here.

The race, as far as I was concerned, was over. I had survived the swim and had raced the time trial. Later, I’d find I was the fifth-fastest person on the bike, overall. I was happy with how I had done.

But all of the urgency had gone out of me, along with any semblance of energy. I just had to survive this half marathon. Run it when I could, walk it when I had to.

Did this mean I wasn’t going to try? Heck no. When I race, I race for real. I was going to go as hard as I could. But I have to be honest with myself: I am not a good runner, and this would be the first time I’d run more than eight miles the whole year. And the first time I’d run on pavement in just as long.

So I sat down to put on my running shoes: the magnificent, ultra-cushy Altra Paradigms (Full Disclosure: I bought these myself at a regular ol’ store. I just happen to love Altras).

And I ate a packet of Honey Stinger Chews while I tied the laces. And then I drank a Red Bull. And then ate another packet of Honey Stinger Chews.

OK, now I was ready.

Help, I’m Lost

I am never anything but comical when I run. I have terrible form, and I am not fast at all

But when I’ve just gotten off a bike, I’m hilarious. My legs, completely exhausted and programmed to execute one particular motion, seem completely unable to comprehend this new motion.

And it feels like this—a peculiar, awkward, stumbling sensation—for about a third of a mile. Then, while I never become graceful, I at least start to find some kind of stride.

But about the time my legs started feeling…well, not good, but OK with the action of running, massive paranoia started creeping up on me.

There were people running in the opposite direction of me. That in itself was no big deal, because I knew that the Olympic-distance racers would be finishing their races well before I did.

But they were smiling at me. Like, every single one of them. And I wasn’t sure what those smiles meant. Were they smiling encouragement at me, because they thought they were a lot faster than I was, mistaking me for being one of the very last Olympic-distance racers to begin the run (as opposed to one of the very first Half-Iron distance racers to begin the run)?

Were they just being nice?

Or were they—and this was my fear—smiling at me because I had messed up, and was not on the course?

I thought back to when I had gotten off course at the Jordanelle Triathalong, and how as I came down the section of the road I shouldn’t have, it seemed a few people were smiling at me, in much the same way.

I looked forward, hoping to see a course marker, telling me I was doing OK.

Nothing as far as the eye could see.

I looked forward and backward, hoping to see another runner going in the same direction I was.

Nothing. Nobody. I was alone. Was this because I was way ahead of all but a few of the racers at this point? Maybe. 

Or maybe it was because I had missed a turn somewhere, and was now off-course.

The thought demolished me. 

I slowed to a walk. Then I stopped. Then I turned around and started running the other direction.

Then I started second-guessing my second guess. What was I doing? And why was this course so incredibly poorly marked that I even had to deal with this question?

I turned back around and started running again. A few weeks prior, The Hammer and I had come and pre-rode and pre-run parts of this course as it was described on the site. Of course, the course as described on the site wasn’t much like the cycling course I had just ridden, but I was going to trust that the running course hadn’t changed; big chunks of it were just unmarked. 

I followed the road as I understood the course should go, hoping that the people coming in the opposite direction were a good sign, and not a sign that I was salmoning this half marathon.

Finally, after about a mile, a sign. I had in fact run the course correctly to this point, and I knew how the rest went. 

What a relief.

Looking for The Hammer

The half marathon was an out-and-back thing, which I was really happy for: when you’re racing, out-and-back courses give you a great opportunity to see exactly where you stand in the race, as well as to encourage people going in the opposite direction.

At first, I ran along, wondering when I’d see the first person coming in the opposite direction. I was excited to see I had gone about four miles before he came by me. I gave him a shout, then kept on going. 

More people came by me, though not very many. I was doing OK in the race—I figured I was fifth or so overall.

And then runners started passing me. Now I was sixth. Now seventh. Now eighth.

That’s OK, I thought to myself. I knew this would happen.

I stopped wondering about my own place in the race—there was nothing I could do about the people who were flying past me—and began wondering when I would see The Hammer.

I was sure I’d get to the turnaround point before I saw her. And I had high hopes I’d get to her mile 5-mile mark before she caught and passed me.

My split times for the miles get slower and slower:

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By the time I had run seven miles (now at a ten-minute pace), I knew for absolutely certain that The Hammer would in fact catch me. That, as is increasingly common, she would be waiting for me at the finish line.

Sneaky

Then, shortly after I hit the turnaround spot, I saw her. I knew it was her before she was close enough for me to see her face clearly; I recognize her running style.

I briefly reflected on how cool it was that I can recognize my wife by the way she runs.

I had hoped to be able to yell out to her that she was winning the women’s division, because I had not yet seen another woman on the course.

But there was a complication: The Hammer was not running alone.

Right beside her—the two of them engaged in pleasant conversation—was another woman. 

“This ain’t no time for jibber-jabber,” I said to myself, echoing a phrase The Hammer often uses when we’re training. But when she runs, The Hammer loves to chat. In fact, I’d say when she runs is when she’s the chattiest. And—as an aside here—I think it disappoints her that I am completely unable to engage in conversation when I run with her. She’s feeling expansive and talkative; I’m just hanging on.

Anyway, as they got closer, I could tell that the woman The Hammer was running with was young. College-age, or maybe just out of college. 

This was not an insignificant fact. 

Why?

Remember way back in the first post, where I mentioned that the young racers—the ones in the white caps—started five minutes before us oldsters

Well, I remembered it. And I could tell that while they were physically side-by-side right now, the woman The Hammer was running with had a five-minute head start.

Which meant that, even as these women ran together, amicably chatting, The Hammer had a five minute lead. I knew that. I knew The Hammer knew that.

I did not know whether the woman she was running with knew that. And I sure wasn’t going to tell her.

I shouted a greeting, The Hammer ran ahead and gave me a kiss, and then the two of them continued on their way. 

Hi and Goodbye

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I haven’t run more than eight miles this year, nor have I run on the road at all. And it showed. As I hit mile nine, my pace slowed to 10:24. I ran the tenth mile in 10:47. And from there on out, I was either at or on the cusp of eleven-minute miles.

Like I said, I was just hanging on.

So around mile eight, the woman who had been running with The Hammer cruised by me—a little faster than The Hammer, she had pulled away.

Moments later, The Hammer caught up with me. 

“You know you’re actually five minutes ahead of that woman, right?” I said.

“Yeah. I don’t think she knows it, though. My mission is to just keep her in sight,” The Hammer replied. 

“Go go go!” I yelled. 

And The Hammer went. You may be entertained to see what her running splits looked like:

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Yeah, I’d say she’s a little faster than I am.

The Hammer disappeared, and I struggled on, proud of the fact that—while I was clearly going slow—I had not (nor would I ever during this race) go to a walk. Except when I was at the aid stations, getting a drink. That didn’t count.

Another Threat

As I hit about mile ten, another woman passed me. Just rocketed by.

I found myself posing a story problem to myself:

If one woman, running 8:30 miles passes a man who is running 11:00 miles eight miles into a 13.5 mile race, then another woman, running 8:00 (or possibly faster) miles passes that same man ten miles into that race, which woman will win the race?

The answer, strangely, would depend on a factor not included in the story problem: the age of the second woman.

Which I did not know, having only seen her backside (and I was unable or unwilling to judge based solely on her backside).

We’d find out the answer really soon.

Surprise Finish

There isn’t much to tell about the rest of my race. I survived to the finish without ever slowing to a walk. Although what the difference is between an eleven-minute-mile run and a walk may be a discussion worth having.

The Hammer was waiting for me at the finish line, as expected. 

“How’d you do?” I asked.

“Well, a woman caught me right as we got to the last mile, and we ran together for a second. I wasn’t sure, so I asked her, ‘What color of swim cap were you wearing in the swim?’”

“The woman answered me, ‘White. Everyone racing the half-iron distance was wearing white.’”

“So I said, “Sorry, honey, but there was a wave of us wearing yellow caps, five minutes behind you. You’d better hurry if you want to beat me.” 

“The woman didn’t say anything. She just looked at me like she didn’t understand what I was talking about, and then sped away.”

And in the end, The Hammer won. Not just her age group, she won the overall: all women. By more than five minutes.

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It’s interesting to note that while The hammer lost about ten minutes to each of these women in the swim, she absolutely dominated the bike, putting 17 – 20 minutes into the second and third place women, respectively. 

In fact, The Hammer was the ninth fastest person in the race (i.e., including men). (I was 15th).

The Hammer, my friends, is a force to be reckoned with.

Podium

Here’s the Hammer, with Jenessa and Sarah, the overall podium for the Utah State Half-Iron Triathlon Championships:

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And, as it turns out, I got on the podium, too, for the Men’s 45-49 age group:

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Of course, being the only one on a podium makes you feel just a little bit dorky. Everyone knows why nobody else is up there, right?

Which is why I look like this, holding up my “Congratulations on being the only one to race in your age group” plaque:

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But it’s a cool photo, because Chris Wright, a fast guy and Friend of Fatty, did a great job of casually photobombing the shot.

Oh, and afterward, I found out that there had been a couple more guys who had raced and finished in my age group.

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They just happened to still be on the course when the photo was taken. Accordingly, I have adjusted my podium photo to include them.

USTC triathlon podium
Sean Connery is playing the part of Matthew Harrison; David Hasselhoff is playing the part of Daryl Ballantyne.

Two triathalongs down. One to go. 

Utah State Triathlon Race Report, Part 2: The Good Part

11.5.2014 | 12:14 pm

A Note from Fatty: this is Part 2 of my USTC Race Report. You’ll find Part 1 here.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Just couldn’t believe it. There’s one single part of triathalong that I’m good at: the time trial. I can get low, spin up, and fly by practically everybody when I’m on my Specialized Shiv. 

I suck in the water; I suck in the run. But I am strong enough on my bike that I still wind up being one of the sorta-kinda fast guys overall.

Unless, of course, I can’t shift. Which I couldn’t.

My bad luck was driving me nuts. It’s not like the Shimano Di2 is flaky; it is absolutely positively the precise opposite of flaky. It’s more reliable than mechanical shifting, and has never failed me during training, and has given me trouble only twice, ever.

It’s just that both times, it was during a half iron-distance tri. 

The first time this happened, it just righted itself, and I held out hope that it would do the same thing this time.

But after five minutes of riding, as I dawdled along pressing buttons, re-seating the battery, and re-seating the cable that plugs into the rear derailleur, I lost hope in the possibility of a self-healing drivetrain.

I started passing people again. I got up to about 21mph. Not bad, but not what I wanted. “Lisa’s going to pass me soon, I’ll bet,” I thought to myself.

I tried to resolve myself to my fate. I tried to start rewriting this story in my mind (changing it from the “dominating on the bike” narrative to a “well, let’s try to have fun” narrative). I tried to focus on spinning fast instead of with a lot of power. I tried to be cheerful about my new reality for this day.

I tried to do all these things, and failed entirely.

I stopped and got off my bike. Pulled the cable that plugs into the rear derailleur out one more time (my third). Plugged it back in, putting a little bit of extra force. Twisted it a little bit. Felt a click I hadn’t felt the other two times. Like something had…connected.

I got back on my bike. Hopeful. Doubtful. I spun up to ten or fifteen miles per hour, and pressed the button to shift the rear derailleur.

Not expecting, but hoping.

“Bzt.” 

That’s the sound a Di2 rear derailleur makes when it shifts.

When it SHIFTS!

I started laughing. With joy. With relief. With a sense of purpose, regained.

My bike was shifting perfectly again. Would have been shifting perfectly all along, if I were better at diagnosing problems. 

But I was in no mood to beat myself up. I was in the mood to absolutely positively gut myself on this ride. 

Plan Into Effect

Weeks before this race began, I had come up with a plan. A plan I intended to execute at every triathalong I was going to race this year. I had explained it to The Hammer like this:

I can’t swim, and I can barely run. So why should I save myself for those events? I’m going to go slow on the swim so I can survive it, then try to knock the bike portion out of the ballpark, without worrying at all whether I’ll have anything left in the tank for the run. If I have to walk it, I’ll walk it. If I have to stop, I’ll stop. But for me, these races are going to be all about the bike.”

And now I was putting that plan into effect. I immediately started passing the people who had gone by me as I was struggling with the mechanical earlier. 

Then I came to a T in the road—the left turn headed toward a monastery, the right turn headed out toward the rest of the loop. My understanding was that we’d be going to the monastery, turning around there, and continuing on the loop. I wasn’t sure, though, because that morning the race director had announced that there were changes to the course; we’d be going around the reservoir three times instead of two, with another part of the course eliminated.

But he hadn’t said anything about eliminating the monastery spur.

On the other hand, there were no course markings showing that we should go one way or the other. And no course marshal giving any indication of which way to go, either.

Then a teenage boy came running up to the intersection—a course marshal delinquent in his duties, I guessed—and pointed toward the monastery. “Go that way!” he shouted, and I did. 

I hammered up the road toward the monastery parking lot. As I got close, I saw another rider coming toward me, shaking his head. “Nice course markings,” he said.

At the moment, I assumed he meant the absence of any indication which way to go at the T intersection. 

I was wrong. 

As i got to the parking lot, I looked for a cone, a course marshal, or something indicating where the turnaround point is.

Nope. Nothing.

So I turned around at what I judged would be a good spot for turning around—the midpoint of the parking lot—and headed back.

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The course comes from the red line at the top of the image; we rode to the monastery parking lot in the bottom right of the image, and then back and out the top left.

Halfway there, I saw The Hammer; she was only a half mile behind me! 

“Whooo!” I shouted.

“Whooo!” she shouted back.

I thought about saying something about the weird lack of marking at the monastery parking lot, but what was there to say that she wouldn’t find out herself in two minutes anyway?

I put my head down and charged ahead. 

Go, Go, Go!

Apart from the confusing intersection at the monastery, the bike course for this half-iron distance is wonderful. It’s really rare for me to get a chance to get to ride so far without hills. There was only 1535 feet of climbing in the entire race, with an elevation profile that looks essentially flat:

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It was nice to focus on just going all-out fast

We were going around the Pineview reservoir a total of three times, with an extra little loop out toward the monastery twice (on the third time around, we’d skip the loop out to the monastery).

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I’m pretty sure I was never not passing people. At first I was passing just people doing the half-iron distance. Then I caught and passed people doing the Olympic distance. 

Weirdly, on the second lap, I would then pass many of the Olympic-distance racers a second time, because they didn’t do the little side loop out toward the monastery.

Which gave me the singlularly-satisfying opportunity to say, “On your left again,” from time to time.

I was going at my absolute limit, just racing with all my might. and I was incredibly happy.

No, happy isn’t quite the right word. I was focused. Purposeful. I was doing something I love doing, and I was doing it really well.

Drinking a little, eating a Gu Roctane every twenty minutes, on the dot. Never ever running out of power, never getting a sick stomach.

I have figured out how to race, eat, and not get sick. I have figured out how much effort I can maintain without blowing up.

It’s a fantastic feeling.

The Second Lap

As I got to the turn to the monastery on the second lap, I was looking forward to—this time—not having to slow and make the decision which way to go. This time I’d come into the left turn with speed, fly to the parking lot, turn around in some arbitrarily-chosen spot, and then head out.

I wondered how far ahead of The Hammer I was. Would I see her on this out-and-back spur again? I didn’t think so. She and I are very similar when there’s a course with climbing, but in a flat raw-power course like this, I figured I’d be putting time on her in a big way.

I got close to the intersection, veered right and then cut left, not wasting effort with braking. Feeling great.

And then:

“NO!”

 I braked hard. Who shouted that? I pivoted my head around, and there was a woman, running to the intersection, and waving me back.

“You’re not supposed to go that way!”

I turned around, confused. Wary.

“The race doesn’t go that way!” she shouted, again.

“OK,” I said. “Maybe you should stand where racers can see you, blocking the wrong way and waving people in the correct direction.” 

Later, when I talked with The Hammer about the race, she told me that when she got there, the woman was in fact doing that.

Check me out: making the world a better place, even as I race.

Transition

There isn’t much more to say about the bike portion of this tri. I kept my head down, hardly seeing anything more than my front tire and the road. I stayed focused and rode with all the power I could muster. 

And in the end—even with the problems I had with my bike at the beginning of the race, I did a time trial I’m incredibly proud of:

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Strava shows that I was stopped for about a minute during the race; I’d say that’s a conservative measurement of how much time I lost due to my early goofiness. Between going slow and getting off three times, I’d say I probably was about three or four minutes slower than I would otherwise have been.

Even so, that’s 23.1mph, on average, for 61.2 miles. 

Which isn’t half bad. Although it is about five miles too long for a half-iron distance race. I’m not complaining, though. The more biking, the merrier.

I racked my bike—one of very few that had arrived so far for the half-iron distance race.

The only problem was, now I had a half marathon to run. And I was completely smoked. 

I knew that my moments of glory were behind me for this race; now I just needed to struggle on as best as I could.

Meanwhile, the real race—complete with a twist ending you are just going to love—was about to begin.

Which is where we’ll pick up in the final installment of this race report.

100MoN Race Report: Winner of the “It’s for a Good Cause Division”

11.4.2014 | 11:49 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere race report comes from Amy Thompson, who is one of the three nicest people in the whole world. 

100 Miles seemed an impossible distance to me. Until four years ago, I would not have even considered it. Four years ago, my husband Dave, signed us up for the ride explaining that we needed to push our son, Rob, to do longer rides. Rob sustained a brain injury six years ago when he was 19. Dave built a tandem three wheeled trike to help in Rob’s recovery. Dave sits in the back and Rob is in a recumbent position in the front.

Dave has been cycling seriously since high school. One hundred miles isn’t a big deal for him.

Rob loves to bike. When he began to speak after emerging from his coma, he regularly asked if he could bike. They were both eager to do a 100 mile ride.

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Suffering on a bike is not my idea of a fun time. But this was not about fun, this was about a cause; helping Rob walk again. So I reluctantly agreed.

Our first 100 Miles of Nowhere took more than a month. We would bike about twelve miles at a time. After which, Rob’s legs would tense and shake involuntarily from the workout. I was worried it was hurting Rob. Dave was worried he wasn’t tolerating longer distances. Like many parents, we had different ideas about what Rob needed.

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Rob and Dave continued to ride throughout the year. I continued to believe that Dave pushed Rob too hard. Often I chose not to ride with them because it was hard for me to watch. Rob’s legs would rub against the tires during a ride because he didn’t have enough muscle strength to keep his knees from splaying out during a ride. We didn’t realize how bad it was until we took his jeans off and saw the raw sores on the outside of his legs. Dave had to add bars coming up from the pedals to strap Rob’s legs in place so they wouldn’t rub against the tires.

In 2012 Dave signed us up again. Not only was he expecting us to ride, we were going to get up early and drive nearly two hours to ride with other people. I was furious. I thought Dave was setting us up for failure. What I didn’t expect was how nice and supportive the FOF’s were. We rode a 20 mile loop chatting with other riders. Rob was in heaven with all the attention. As we headed for home, Dave started planning the 2013 ride.

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Three years after Rob’s accident, we were riding the Livestrong Challenge in Davis and setting a new record, 43.6 miles. It took us longer to ride those 43 miles than it took Elden and Lisa to ride the 100 mile course. I remember saying to Elden after the ride, “I can’t imagine ever being able to ride 100 miles. How do you do it?”

“You just keep doing it and it gets easier and easier,” Elden said. “You could do it.”

I wanted to laugh. But Elden was sincere. I knew he believed that.

This year we rode 60 miles at Levi’s Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa. Well, honestly, Dave and Rob rode 60 miles. I hiked several of the hills and biked the rest. Several times during the day I recalled my conversation with Elden. I knew I could do 60 miles that day. At the end of the day, Rob was tired but his legs weren’t shaking. Dave and I were both amazed at Rob’s progress.

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A month later we hosted and rode laps from our house for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. Dave invited 20 people and I stocked up for 20ish hungry cyclists. We had to move the date at the last minute because of rain. Only one other rider showed up, Steve Banks.

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I was hoping to set a new record for myself, but it wasn’t my day. Dave and Rob, however, biked 65 miles, a metric 100mon. They biked as long as they could. For the first time since they have ridden together, they both hit the wall. Dave considered that a huge accomplishment.

I am so proud of both of them.

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I still think 100 miles is a crazy long ride. Now, I know some day the three of us will do it. All we have to do is keep riding until it gets easier and easier. After all, it’s for a good cause.

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A Half-Iron Triathalong is Twice Too Long: Utah State Triathlon Race Report, Part 1

11.3.2014 | 12:58 pm

A Note from Fatty: I’ve still got several really great 100 Miles of Nowhere stories I want to post, but I’ve also been missing writing stories of my own. So, for this next couple of weeks, I’m going to alternate days between posts of my own, and 100MoN stories.

This will give me time to move forward with the project I’m working on, which I plan to unveil a week from today. 

I blame the wetsuit.

Someone or something has to take responsibility for the fact that between August and September, The Hammer and I did three triathalongs: an Olympic-distance, a half-iron distance, and an XTerra. And since The Hammer had signed us up for all three of these triathalongs due to the fact that BlueSeventy had generously given her a top-of-the-line Helix wetsuit as one of the perks of being a World Bicycle Relief Ambassador

So there we were, in Huntsvile, Utah (a scenic little town, close to Ogden), about to begin a half-iron distance triathalong (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). Which I had not even come close to training for, at all. 

But we were there anyway, for The Hammer to crush the race, and for me to bluff my way through it. 

So here you go, BlueSeventy: a shot of The Hammer, in her wetsuit, right before the race. 

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Obviously, she’s in a good mood here: happy, having fun, looking forward to the events. 

I, on the other hand, was not happy, even before the race began.

And I was about to get a lot unhappier.

By way of explanation, I’m going to need to back up a little. Like, all the way to the beginning.

And, yes, I’m going to have to talk about toilets. Sorry, It’s unavoidable.

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Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Attending any triathalong is an intimidating experience. Signing up for one with as intimidating a name as “2014 Utah State Triathlon Championship” is flat-out terrifying. 

I had no business at such an official-sounding, championshipily-named race.

But then we got to the packet pickup, held at the Huntsville City Park (where the Bike to Run transition and Finish Line would also be), and my intimidation vanished. Because, in spite of the formidable-sounding name, there just weren’t a lot of us there. A few hundred, maybe. And of that few hundred, I’d say barely a hundred of us were doing the half-iron distance race (the rest were doing Olympic- and Sprint-distance races).

We went through the body-marking ritual, wherein we got our division and age Sharpied on our calves, then went to pick up our packets.

At which point, I asked where the porta-potties are. 

“Well, we don’t have any at this area,” the race director told me. “But the park has a restroom, over there.”

“Really?” I replied. “You have packet pickup, a transition, the finish, a post-race picnic, and awards here…but no porta-potties?”

“Yeah, but there are porta-potties at the starting line area.”

Having urgent business to conduct, The Hammer and I got in line at the park restroom—The Hammer’s was shorter, because there were fewer women racing—and waited for our turns. I brought several squares of paper towel with me, not trusting there would be toilet paper in this bathroom by the time I got there.

We waited for a long time. On the positive side, however, I did not have to wipe with paper towels.

Then, finally, business taken care of—for now—we got our stuff together and rode our bikes to the Swim-Bike transition. We racked our bikes, laid out our stuff, and then, while The Hammer started getting into her fancy new wetsuit, I went to one of the porta-potties.

I had more business to conduct.

Terror and Delight

“How odd,” I thought to myself, as I walked to the porta-potty. “There’s no line to any of the porta-potties.” I thought no more of this, however, as I had things to do.

Then, as I was doing the things I needed to do, I heard a voice from outside—or quite possibly, from inside a different porta-potty—call out, “Does anyone have some toilet paper they could lend me?

For the first time since sitting, I glanced to my left. 

Nothing. Not a spare to square.

“No, I’ve got nothing,” I called out…right about the same time a couple of other people called out the same thing from other porta-potties.

That’s right. This race had porta-potties…but no toilet paper.

My fury was matched only by my consternation and misery. What was I going to do?

And then, a moment of pure relief: I remembered that, stuffed into the zippered pocket of the hoodie I was wearing, were those several squares of paper towel I had earlier pocketed, just in case.

I laughed aloud. This kind of bathroom luck simply does not happen to me.

OK, maybe sometimes it does.

I finished what needed finishing, came out of the porta-potty, and then became the hero of the day to three or four people: I handed out my remaining paper towel squares.

A few minutes later, the fire department arrived (yes really, the fire department), bringing many rolls of Charmin. 

By then, however, I was suited up and taking photos of The Hammer on the beach. Like this one:

IMG 9920

I know, I’ve already shown you this photo. But this time, I want you to note that The Hammer is wearing a yellow swim cap. This meant that she—like I—would be starting in the second wave of swimmers, about five minutes after the younger wave (wearing white swim caps) left.

This fact will become significant, later.

With photos taken, we were ready to go.

Humming to Myself

The Hammer and I, along with the other hundred or so racers, waded into the water. It wasn’t cold, and there was no wind. I moved back to the very very back of the group of yellow caps. I had learned my lesson in the previous triathalong: I needed to start out very slow if I didn’t want to find myself panicked and out of breath.

“I’m not racing,” I told myself, repeatedly. “I’m doing this swim, and then my race begins. The race doesn’t include the swim. The swim is just the entry fee to the race.”

And it worked. Five or so minutes after the first wave of racers took off, we did too. I swam slow on purpose at first, humming the tune the soldiers sing in the wicked witch’s castle in The Wizard of Oz: “Oh-EE-oh (breathe in) ee-OH-um,” and repeat.

Forever.

Except it didn’t go so bad this time. I just crawled along for my 1.2 miles, not worrying about going fast.

I got out of the water, stripped the wetsuit off, put my shoes and helmet on as I ate a couple packets of Honey Stingers Energy Chews, then grabbed my Shiv off the rack and walked out of the transition area.

I would have run, but I’m always really unsteady on my feet after a long swim. Walking was the best I could do. 

Oh No, Not Again

I climbed onto my bike, then made the sharp right turn that put me on the road parallel to where the bikes were racked. I was looking for The Hammer as I went by where her bike should be racked, and—sure enough—there she was. Just a couple minutes behind me. She yelled for me, I yelled for her, and then I took off, hoping against hope that I would be able to use the bike portion of this race to increase the slim lead I had enough that she wouldn’t be able to catch me during the run.

Yeah, I’m a little bit competitive like that.

The road crested and turned slightly downhill, and my legs were feeling warmed up enough that I felt it was time to move to the big ring. 

Click

I just love how responsive Shimano Ultegra Di2 is. “Electronic shifting is so wonderful,” I thought to myself.

I picked up speed and went to shift to a taller gear, to start really flying. This would be where I’d start passing people.

I tapped the button at the end of my aero bar to shift.

Nothing happened.

I pressed the button harder.

Nothing.

I tried the other direction.

Nothing nothing nothing.

I tried shifting my front derailleur back to the small ring.

It worked fine. So it wasn’t the battery. I shifted back to the big ring.

I couldn’t believe it. In the entire history of my Shiv, in the entire history of my using electronic shifting, I have had problems with Di2 exactly twice. And the other time was also when I was racing a half Ironman

“Last time it just eventually got better by itself,” I thought, so waited for a minute and then tried shifting. 

Nothing.

“Maybe the battery isn’t seated correctly,” I thought (foolishly, since I had just finished proving to myself that the battery was working fine). I climbed off my bike, removed the battery, put it back in, and took off again.

Nothing. Nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I think I was definitely leaning more toward crying.

People passed me as I rode slowly, trying to figure what was going on. People passed me as I got off my bike, trying to reboot my bicycle.

“There was some combination of buttons I was supposed to press and hold down to reset this thing,” I thought. And I began pressing and holding and pressing and double-pressing every button in every possible way.

Nothing. Lots and lots of nothing.

People passed me.

A light went on in my head. “Maybe the cable that connects to the rear derailleur got unseated while we were driving here, or while the bike was racked.”

I pulled over again, climbed off, pulled the lead out, blew into it for luck, pushed it back in, and got in my bike.

Nothing. Still nothing.

I gave up. “So I guess I’m singlespeeding this race,” I thought, knowing that this easy gear wasn’t going to let me go any faster than 20mph for the entire course.

I exhaled, hard, as still more people passed me, and tried to get used to it.

But I couldn’t get used to it. I just couldn’t

Which is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.

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