Free Verse Friday: Reflections Upon a Nineteenth Race

08.5.2016 | 10:51 am

A Note from Fatty: Today is the last day you can vote in my NICA Fundraiser. And while the “What Should Fatty Focus on for His Leadville Race” contest is pretty much a settled thing (unless someone really wants to completely upend my world), the other question is still very much in play. 

Will The Hammer finish the Leadville 100 more than an hour faster than The Monster? Or will The Monster be less than an hour behind The Hammer? 

The Monster Vs The Hammer

For the first time since the beginning of this contest, The Hammer has pulled ahead. It’s a very close race now. 

So today is your last chance to vote — and literally any vote right tip the final result. So here you go. Move that needle. 

Is Hammer MORE or LESS than 1hr Faster than Monster?
How Many Votes Do You Want to Place?

And I’ll send email to winners this Saturday, from Leadville.

Free Verse Friday: Reflections Upon a Nineteenth Race

Wednesday I was in Killarney
Yesterday I was in Dublin
Today I am home
Tomorrow, in Leadville 
Such a traveler am I.

Such great distances
Thousands upon thousands of miles
Followed by hundreds and hundreds
And then finally, one hundred
And four. 

In times past 
I often drove to Leadville
Alone
One person, one bike, one goal
A goal which I never achieved
For more than a decade

And now things are different
One man
Four women
Five bikes
All bundled together 
Some racing, Some crewing
All awesome 

And goals have changed
As well
Now I have many finishes
Faster than I’d thought possible
8:12 baby
You can’t take that away from me
Don’t even try. 

And all of those fast finishes
Happened after I started training
With this woman, The Hammer
So It seems only fair
—not to mention fun—
To ride for her this once

But I wouldn’t have done it
Until now
Because that’s not my way
Or at least it wasn’t my way
But now it is

And I am pretty sure
This will be  

The.
Best.
Leadville.
Race.
Ever.

Thank you. 

 

An Evening With a King…Ted King, on The FattyCast

08.3.2016 | 11:19 pm

A “Last Chance to Donate” and Win Note from Fatty: This Friday I’ll be ending donations and doing the drawing for my NICA contest / fundraiser. (If you’re new to this fundraiser, click here for a description.) As a reminder, you can win any of these awesome prizes if you’re randomly drawn:

  • A Full-Blown Cycling Wardrobe from DNA Cycling. All the cycling clothes you need for your kind of riding in your area. The CEO of DNA, Joe Sepulveda, will personally see to it that you are the best-dressed cyclist in town.
  • A Year’s Worth of GU Energy Gel / Roctane Energy Gel: Twelve boxes of GU gels, in whatever flavor combination you like. That’s a double gross, and it’s enough for a year for just about anyone.
  • A $200 Certificate to The Feed. I love The Feed. So many options for so many kinds of energy foods and snacks. $200 will get you a lot of whatever you like…or you can try one of a lot of different things.
  • A Box of GU Stroopwafels: We’ll be giving away four of these boxes, one box each to four winners. Pretty dang cool if you ask me. And so delicious.

It’s a pretty amazing suite of prizes if I do say so myself. And the cause, well…creating a generation of inclusive, polite, trail-safe mountain bikers who love to race is pretty near and dear to my heart.

So: there are two contests going on for people to vote in. Let’s check in and see how they’re doing one last time.

In “The Monster Vs The Hammer” contest, where you vote whether you think The Hammer will be more than an hour faster than The Monster, or if the Monster will be less than an hour slower than The Hammer…well, that vote is tightening in the final stretch, with the two of them just a few percentage points away from each other.

It’s anyone’s guess who will finish when in the Leadville race itself, but one generous donation could make this either sway the other direction…or be a blowout.  

Lm

Now’s the time. Make your vote and donation count: 

Is Hammer MORE or LESS than 1hr Faster than Monster?
How Many Votes Do You Want to Place?

Meanwhile, there’s not a lot of motion on “What Should Fatty Ride” front. Which is not to say there haven’t been donations, because there have. It’s just that the donations have been remarkably consistent. 

Let’s just say that in the absence of some truly big-dollar donations in the other direction, I’ll be riding a single speed as The Hammer’s domestique on August 13.

En

Which is not me saying I don’t want you to vote in this contest. Because I do. At this point I’m fully in the mindspace of riding with and for The Hammer, but I will do whatever the final vote dictates. Both my single speed and my geared bike are Leadville-ready. 

So you decide:

What Should Fatty Focus on at Leadville?
How Many Votes Do You Want to Place?

New FattyCast: An Evening With Ted King

Once in a while, you get lucky with your timing. That’s what happened a couple weeks ago when I sent semi-retired pro cyclist Ted King a DM over Twitter: “Hey, I’d love to get you on the FattyCast. Think you can find an hour for me sometime soon?”

But that’s not where the good timing came into play. The good timing came into play when Ted said that, sure, he’d be happy to be on The FattyCast, but he was unavailable because he was going to be in Ogden for a Cannonade event during the week, and then in Park City for the weekend.

“Well, as it so happens, I live about one hour from Park City,” I replied. “How about we get together there, I’ll bring my gear, and we can record it in person instead of over the Internet.”

Ted was cool with that.

Pre-Podcast

Of course, my one true superpower is to ask for things, and to keep on asking even after people say yes.

So I said, “Hey, your girlfriend’s coming along, right?

Ted was put on guard by this question, but allowed that it was true.

“Well how about we get together for sushi with some friends before the podcast?”

Ted was cool with that. In fact, it turns out that Ted is just plain cool. He’s not only a very relaxed and nice guy, he’s smart. And funny. And totally has his act together in such a way that I started feeling a little bit bad about my own non-togetherness.

This was not Ted’s fault.

So, after a lot of Sushi, for which I did not pay, I brought in a crate of recording gear and computers and set up so we were all ready to talk. Or possibly play Strategy, judging by appearances: 

Thumb IMG 0598 1024

Ted spoke with clarity, and gesticulated as if he were on TV. (Also, you can see here that when I point out that he’s on his fourth beer and is eating a plate of cheese while recording this podcast, I am not even a little bit joking.)

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Ted is, as you can see, is tall, thin, young and good-looking. I, as you can see, am none of those things:

Thumb IMG 0597 1024

Oh, also I am somewhere between balding and bald.

And Now for the Actual Podcast Part

After recording this episode, I found myself wishing all my podcasts could be in-person. They’re just awesome that way. Like a real life conversation, except you have a couple of big ol’ microphones between you. Which isn’t weird at all.

In addition to wishing all my podcasts could be in-person, I also found myself wishing all my podcasts could be with Ted King. Because he’s interesting and nice and all of those other things I said about him.

Although it might get kind of weird if I never did anything on my podcast but interview Ted King over and over.

But for this once, at least, it was super duper. But don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself, either by picking it up on iTunes, downloading it directly, Stitcher-ing it, getting my RSS feed, or just pressing the play button below:

Links

Of course, after listening to this podcast, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with every single thing Ted King does. Here’s how you can:

And you should know: Ted’s raising money for World Bicycle Relief at Leadville. Click here to check out this awesome video, win prizes, and donate.

PS: On Friday, I will have a special “Heading to Leadville” edition of Free Verse Friday. Because I KNOW you’ve missed Free Verse Friday.

PPS: I’m going to have new podcast news in the near future. I am very excited.

2016 Rockwell Relay, Part 16 : Denouement

08.3.2016 | 12:52 am

We had done it. We had won the Rockwell Relay, again. And by “we,” I mean of course “my team, in spite of me.” This year, I had been — by far — the weakest link: much slower than I had been the previous year, as well as the one responsible for pretty much all of our tactical errors.

I didn’t care, though. We had won. Beaten the trio of Z5R teams by more than forty minutes, and the Beauties and the Beast team by two hours.

And as we stood there on the podium, ready to accept our awards, I was just so amazed at my good fortune. This is such a good event. The competition is so strong — and, when we needed it, helpful. My team is so amazing. 

The race director started handing out awards and announcing third place (one of the Z5R teams) and second place (another one of the Z5R teams).

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Then he handed us our trophies…at which point there was the sound of a crash and breaking glass off to our left, in the swag tent.

Everything stopped. Someone caught a photo of our team looking off to our left toward the sound:

Thumb IMG 0028 1024

Someone was having a seizure. 

The race director ran toward the commotion and started helping. Everyone else gathered around, either wanting to help or watch. Probably ten people called 911, and the ambulance arrived quickly.

“You’re a nurse, do you want to go help?” I asked The Hammer.

“That poor woman is getting WAY more help than she wants,” The Hammer replied.

So we waited, and eventually things returned to normal. But some members of the Z5R teams — having received their plaques — had lost interest in the ceremony and had left.

So we never got the coveted hands-in-the-air podium picture with everyone from all of the teams. But we did get this one, which is a good substitute:

Thumb IMG 0031 1024

The Phone Call

I get the same sensation every time: it’s so weird for that race to be over. It completely consumes me as I’m in it, to the extent that everything else in the world becomes very faded and indistinct. It’s just me, a few friends (or family members this time) and the intensity of the moment.

And then it’s done and you’re back in the world, exhausted, with a lot of very bad-smelling laundry.

And in my case, there was a chore I had to take care of. A phone call I needed to make to Cory, who had loaned me his van.

We got to the house we were staying at in St George, then I found a quiet room, sat on a bed and called Cory. 

Of course, he immediately wanted details on the race itself, and I gave him a brief accounting of how we had done. 

Then, deep breath.

“Cory, I need to tell you about an accident I had with the van.”

I told him the whole thing, doing my best to not trivialize it, but also trying not to draw the whole thing out so he could yell at me.

“But it continued to work all day?” He asked, after I finished.

“Yeah,” I said. “Except for the scratches in the wrap on the bottom right front, it doesn’t seem to have taken any damage at all.”

“Don’t worry about it, then.”

I am lucky to have such good friends, such a great family, and…an event I love enough to write a sixteen-part story about.

Next

On the drive home, we started planning out our race for next year. We’ll make a few changes, but I’ll leave it to our competition to guess what those changes are.

But I will tell you this: We’ll be back. 

Obviously.

— The End —

2016 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 15: To the Finish Line, But Not the End

08.1.2016 | 12:52 am

A Note from Fatty: A NEW PRIZE In the “Choose What Fatty Rides at Leadville” Contest: You already know about some of the awesome prizes offered in my NICA fundraiser: 

  • An Incredible Fully Loaded DNA Cycling Wardrobe
  • A Year’s-Worth of GU Energy
  • New GU Stroopwafels

Today, though, I’m excited to announce that I’m adding another prize: a $200 Gift Certificate to TheFeed.com. This is basically the cyclist’s equivalent of a kid being given the keys to a candy store. $200 will buy you a lot of whatever kind of gel (such as GU Roctane) or energy food (such as GU Stroopwafels) you like. 

As you know (or should know), TheFeed.com sponsors this blog and the FattyCast, and has been very generous with other fundraising efforts (such as the 100 Miles of Nowhere) I’ve done. So I’m super-stoked to have them on board with this one, as well.

And consider: your odds of winning just went up if you’ve already donated. And if you haven’t donated, now is a great time to do so. Just go to the “Choose What Fatty Rides at Leadville” Contest page and vote with your dollars. You’re going to be doing NICA — one of my favorite practical organizations — a lot of good.

Annnnnnd, speaking of the contest. here’s where things stand as of right now. 

En 
Not a lot of movement in this one. To be perfectly frank, it would take a donation of more than $1000 to move the needle here. I’ve had Racer change my single speed’s gearing and put on the racing tires; I’m very confident (and excited!) I’ll be racing with The Hammer as her domestique this year.

Lm 
There’s a real narrowing here. While The Monster is staying in the lead so far, one or two really robust donations could either reverse that lead or ensure it, just depending on which way the voting goes. If you want to throw your weight around, here’s where you could do it. 

To the Finish Line (But Not the End)

Things change so fast in the Rockwell Relay.

Just before I finished my final leg of the race and sent Lindsey off on hers, she and Ben had taken this picture at the Cedar Breaks exchange:

Thumb IMG 0054 1024

By the time Lindsey got down to the next exchange, a mere eighty-seven minutes later, the cold early-morning temperatures would be gone. Which is to say, it would be hot outside.

Why the change? Well, after fourteen miles of climbing, Lindsey would be bombing downhill for seventeen miles, descending nearly 4,000 feet in about seventeen miles. 

It would still be fairly early in the morning, but in the Southern Utah desert, it doesn’t take long to heat up.

And also: it would be windy. 

The Worst Two Hours

Ben wasn’t all that excited for this, his final leg of the race. And you couldn’t really blame him. It’s by far the least scenic of every leg of the race. The flats are straight and with frequent traffic. The climbs are not particularly inspiring.

And there’s about a 70% chance you’ll have a headwind.

Last year, we had sent The Hammer out to help Cory with the headwind in this leg of the race. And it might have made some sense for Lindsey to go out and help Ben…except Lindsey is a fun-size person, which means she’d be of very little help at all in giving Ben a break from the brutal headwind.

And we no longer had the Mike Nosco Memorial team to work with; Jack had broken away from Lindsey and his teammate was working with the front men’s competitive team up the field.

Which meant, alas, Ben was on his own. And he was suffering. It was like he was riding into the devil’s own blowdryer. Later, after the race, Ben would say, entirely earnestly, “That was the worst two hours of my life.”

More because we couldn’t stand the sight of all the suffering than because we needed to, we left Ben and went to the next — the final! — race exchange.

The Hammer suited up and — taking pity on Ben — she rode back to him, so she could help him get to the exchange as quickly as possible. Getting to Ben, she later noted, was the easiest thing in the world. Even though the road was flat, she didn’t have to pedal at all. The wind just blew her right to him.

Of course, you can see how that powerful of a hot wind is not going to be as fun or easy on the return trip.

Change of Plans

As The Hammer was suiting up, I had asked her if she’d like me to work with her on her final leg, like I had with Lynette the year before. With the harsh wind, it might be useful to have someone to ride with.

“No, I’ll be fine,” she said.

But then, as she left, riding toward Ben to pull him the final miles toward the exchange, a couple of cars pulled into the exchange parking lot.

Z5R racers. All suited up and ready to roll.

Naturally, I freaked out.

Could it be, I thought, that with their three teams working together, they have closed the gap between them and us? The wind was truly horrific; I could imagine that a group of three would make huge inroads on a single racer.

And also, they’d continue to have three — or more! — racers on the road on this last very windy leg. They could, in fact, put as many as nine racers on the road…against one woman. Into a headwind.

We could lose the whole thing in these last two legs, I thought. And there was no way I was going to let The Hammer fight off between three and nine racers by herself. No way

I ran to the van and started suiting up. 

The Cavalry Rides Over the Hilltop

In hindsight, I wasn’t being perfectly honest with myself here. Sure, I was genuinely concerned that ZR5 would execute a perfectly-timed reversal of the last-minute victory we managed last year. That would be poetic, I have to admit. But while I can appreciate this kind of poetry abstractly, I was not remotely interested in being the butt of this kind of sweet revenge.

But the real reason I wanted to suit up was a little more personal, and smarmier, to boot: 

I wanted to impress a girl

Specifically, I wanted to impress my wife. Even more specifically, I had this vision in my head of me, riding strong in the blasting heat, heroically pulling my admiring little dove through the fiercest of summer heat.

I pictured me as saving our team, somehow finding victory where there should have been no possibility but defeat.

And in short, I felt like out of everyone in our team, I had been the weakest link and was hoping I could maybe redeem myself a little bit.

Hero

The Hammer was a little bit surprised to see me as she and Ben crossed the line and we switched the timing chip over to her ankle. A little surprised, but not really. She knows I’m a bit of a glory hog.

And, my coxcombery notwithstanding, I was actually helpful. I did most of the pulling, stoically refusing her offers to take a turn. (Later, after the race, she would note that we probably would have finished a lot sooner if I’d rotate through. I acknowledge this to be fact.)

The heat was intense; the wind was brutal. But they were nothing compared to the awful traffic, which seemed to take great offense at the fact that we had the gall to be on the road. When we reached Veyo (home of the famous Veyo pies), I was just so grateful to be turning off the main road, and I know The Hammer was too.

So far, we hadn’t seen any of the Z5R team vehicles start leapfrogging us: a big relief, since I really don’t know whether we would have been able to counter an attack from a three-person paceline. We were just smoked. Hot wind in our faces, sand blowing past our glasses and into our eyes.

Every time Ben and Lindsey came by in the van, asking if we wanted something, our answer was the same: “swap for cold water!” Truly, it’s amazing how fast a bottle of ice water can turn into a bottle of hot water.

We rode what is known as the “Gunlock loop” in St. George — a route we had become very familiar with back when we were training for the St. George Ironman so many years ago. The Hammer has gotten so much faster since then, I thought to myself.

We made the final turn, neared the finish line, with nobody passing us.

And then, there was the finish line. We had done it. 

28:02. Third team overall, and the fastest coed team by about 45 minutes. First Coed team. Our dynasty intact. 

But more importantly, there were a pair of banners at the finish line. As it turned out, The Hammer had a little surprise waiting for me there:

Thumb IMG 0036 1024

Pictures from my life — from when I was a baby, a kid, a teenager, a young father, and now. 

It was awesome. Touching. Just…perfect. The Hammer is so much more than just someone who hammers. I’m incredibly lucky to be married to her.

Ben and Lindsey arrived in a moment or two, and we got a group finish line photo:

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Then we found some shade and ate popsicles and pie while we waited for other teams to come in, at which point we’d do the podium ceremony.

Could there have been a more fitting fiftieth birthday for me? I don’t think so. 

Well, I guess it could have been more perfect in a couple of ways:

First, it would have been better if I hadn’t needed to make a phone call, to tell Cory about what I had done to his van.

And second, it would have been better if the podium ceremony would have actually happened. Because it didn’t happen. More to the point, right as it was going to happen, there was a crash, the sound of broken glass, and bloodcurdling screams.

Which seems — for the last time in this series — like a good place to pick up in the next episode of this story. 

2016 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 14: Birthday Present

07.28.2016 | 1:09 pm

If you ever get the chance to race the Rockwell Relay, you should. And if you get the chance to be the one to choose who rides which legs, you should choose to be racer number 1. 

There are a couple of good reasons for this. 

First, because you race the first leg, you are also the person to race your final leg first. Which means you get to laze about after you’re done, smugly thinking to yourself, “I am so glad I don’t have to go out again anymore,” as the other racers suit up and wade out into million-degree heat.

Second — and more importantly — by being racer 1, you get to be the one to race leg 9 (Panguitch to Cedar Breaks), which is inarguably the best leg of the entire race. You start in the desert, and race into the high mountains, going from one kind of beauty to a completely different kind of beauty. 

It’s a lot of climbing, but so worth it: it’s just inspiringly beautiful. 

First Place

So I was really excited to be showing off this leg to my new friend Tom from the Mike Nosco Memorial team. I knew that he’d love this challenging, gorgeous climb.

But there was a problem: I just couldn’t hang with him.

Second Place

You know how when you’re at your absolute outer limit of what you’re capable? You’re just riding yourself into this incredibly deep hole, and you have no idea how or whether you’ll ever get out? When you’re riding at top speed toward The Cliff of Bonkitude, and keeping your hands off the brakes?

It was like that for me.

Meanwhile, Tom chatted conversationally, joking about how now that I was 50, I could apply to be on his team next year.

“Tom,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“I…can’t…keep…this…pace.” Every word on the exhale, because I was breathing as fast as I possibly could. 

“Oh, I can back it off a little bit,” Tom said.

“No, you…should go…on,” I said. “I’m…going to…need to…spend some…time alone in…the pain…cave.

“You sure?” he asked.

“You know how it is,” I said.

Yeah, I think we all know how it is. Pain cave time sometimes needs to be alone time.

Tom rode on ahead, and I entered the peculiar state of suffering. “This is how I’m spending my fiftieth birthday,” I though to myself. “Fastest coed team by far, and ahead of every men’s competitive team in the race. Only guy ahead of me is another guy in his fifties.”

“I’m not doing half-bad,” I concluded.

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At the moment, I was thinking about the race, but I think it was true about my life in general.

Third Place

The Hammer, Ben and Lindsey caught up with me, ringing cowbells and shouting — still engaged in and excited about the race into the second morning of this event. Incredible. 

“I’m so lucky,” I thought, and I meant it.

I rode. Time passed. I kept going. My team cheered for me. It got light outside.

“Hey,” said a voice behind me. “How far ahead are the leaders?” 

A rider, from nowhere, bridging from so far back I didn’t know he even existed. I looked back: it was the guy Nathan (of BatB) had joined forces with in the first leg to blow the rest of us out of the water. 

Somehow, I had linked him and Nathan together in my mind, and looked to see if he was there. No. A relief.

But still, this guy had asked about “the leaders,” plural. It didn’t make sense to me. There was just one leader up ahead. Tom. 

“They’re not far,” I said, adopting plural just because this other guy had. It wasn’t a lie, but it also wasn’t entirely honest. I had no idea how far ahead of me Tom had gotten in the time since he had dropped me. Further, I had no idea how long it had been since he had dropped me, nor how far I had ridden.

I was riding hard, but I wasn’t lucid, precisely.

“OK, thanks,” the guy said, and shot forward as if to show his contempt for gravity.

I, on the other hand, had a very healthy respect for gravity.

Second Place

More time passed, I guess. It usually does. I turned off my light; I wouldn’t need it anymore.

There was something way up ahead. A rider? Yes, a rider. The guy who just passed me a few minutes or hours ago? No. Slighter than that.

Tom. 

“Huh,” I thought. “That’s a surprise.” 

I discovered at that moment that I had not previously been going as hard as I could, because I started going faster.

And I caught Tom.

Thumb IMG 0052 1024

“There’s no air here,” Tom said.

“Welcome to 7500 feet,” I said. Where I live, there aren’t many rides that don’t touch that altitude.

Tour Guide

And then a weird thing happened: I turned into Tom’s tour guide. He hadn’t asked for a tour guide, but I couldn’t help myself for some reason.

I pointed out the amazingly beautiful volcanic rock formations. I pointed out the gorgeous fields. I told him about how many climbs we had left and which ones were excruciatingly hard.

Tom endured it all.

“It’s really cool up here,” he said at one point.

“I know,” I enthused. “It’s just so great.”

“No, I meant that I’m literally cold,” he clarified.

“Huh,” I replied. “But it’s also really cool in the other way too, right?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Cool in both ways.”

Finish Line

The climb to Cedar Breaks is relentlessly brutal, but only for a while. Then you get some milder climbs, and even some incredibly fun descents.

So I guess it’s not relentlessly brutal after all.

As we got closer, Tom and I emptied ourselves out. We both knew this was our final effort of the race, that there was no reason to be conservative.

But you know, we also hung together. Tom and I had ridden about 2/3 of this race together, I don’t think either of us were now looking for a sprint to victory.

We crossed the line side-by-side, put feet down to have the timing chips moved from our ankles to our teammates’.

I had just ridden my heart out in a beautiful place with a guy who somehow was pretty much exactly my racing match, and we were winning our respective divisions handily. It was over, basically; it was now just a formality to get across the finish line.

Yeah, it was turning out to be a really nice fiftieth birthday.

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But I was wrong about the race being over.

Which is where we’ll pick up in Monday’s installment of this race report.

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