The True Grit Epic: The Hammer’s Story

04.2.2015 | 7:41 am

A Note From Fatty:  You’ll want to be sure to come visit the site this upcoming Monday and Tuesday.

Monday, I’ll be posting about a new partner I have for my World Bicycle Relief fundraising. I think you’re going to be as excited about them as I am.

And then on Tuesday, I’m going to launch a contest for World Bicycle Relief. There’s going to be a few things you’d expect, and some you don’t. And I think you’re going to want to participate.

As a hint, you may want to score yourself some of the 2015 Fat Cyclist gear. Cuz if you do, you’ll already be entered for something I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to win.

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For each of the past sixteen years, I have committed myself to running the Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon. It was the first race I had ever competed in; it held a very special place in my heart. Over the years, many memories have been forged with my kids as they cheered me on at the race, then as we continued on for the weekend exploring Arches National Park.

This race has also motivated Blake, Melisa and Brice to enter and complete the accompanying five mile race.

This year, however, I was ready for a change.

I have several other running goals this spring, so repeating a race that I had done so many times seemed redundant. So what could I do instead on a beautiful weekend in the Spring? Something new and challenging on the mountain bike seemed like an excellent idea, especially since I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride the 6 hours of Frog Hollow race this year because I had decided to run the Boston Marathon with some friends.

So…how about The True Grit Epic?

Trepidation and Preparation

The True Grit had always seemed like a race that was “a little” (by which I mean, “a lot“) out of my league. After all, this race includes the dreaded “Zen” course.

Why do I say “dreaded?” Because I am not a real mountain biker. Sure, I can turn the pedals all day and climb whatever is ahead of me, but I am not technically savvy, nor am I  good at maneuvering over rock obstacles…especially down hairy descents!

The fact that the Zen trail is conveniently located in Heather and Kenny’s backyard, yet Elden had never suggested we ride it, says a lot. Specifically, it meant Elden was scared to take me out on the Zen trail. Why scared? Because he was worried I wouldn’t like it…and when I don’t like something, I tend to get grumpy…and nobody likes to be around me when I’m grumpy! (Believe it or not, I don’t always have a smile on my face.)

So on a beautiful weekend in January, Elden and I downloaded the GPX of Zen onto our Garmins and headed out. Elden and I are both horrible with directions, but we were surprised to find that we could easily follow the Garmin’s directions. We slowly rode Zen…and I was pleased to find it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was worried it would be. In fact, I rather enjoyed myself! (I didn’t get even the least bit grumpy.)

That said, I think it took us about 2.5 hours to do twelve miles. That was a cause for concern; since Zen is only a small part of True Grit, we were looking at having a very…long…day.

Kenny suggested we come back in February and ride the whole course during Lynda Wallenfel’s training camp. I liked that idea; there’s nothing like pre-riding a race course to boost your confidence.

The LW training camp turned out to be an excellent idea! I never saw Lynda,  but the True Grit race director, Cimarron Chacon, was at the starting line, giving out advice and directions.

Thanks to Kenny’s patience in waiting for me, I had an excellent day, learning  a lot about the course and how I was going to need to pace myself: the first half of the race was technical and slow moving, but the second half was fast…and fun!

I left the camp feeling confident. I knew I was going to be able to complete the race, as long as I stayed safe. Taking the technical moves of Zen too fast could result in my season coming to a quick, painful end…and I want none of that.

The Starting Line, The Early Miles

The race started on time with the pro men and women leaving at 0900. After rushing to find a parking place for the truck, Elden made it back in time for his 0907 departure. I felt bad for him; I could tell he was stressed. Not a great way to start a race!

As I waited for my wave to leave, I looked around, checking out my competition.

Heather was next to me, looking terrified. I’ve started races with her before — every year at the Rockwell Relay — she always looks this way at starting lines! I may get stressed, but Heather takes it to a new level.

Next, I assess Sally F: a woman with massive calves and biceps: she is a women to be taken seriously. 

Meanwhile, the woman next to me (I’ll call her “Poot,” even though it’s not her real name…but it is what she calls herself on Strava!) is chatting up a storm. She’s from Boulder she says, and hasn’t been on her mountain bike at all this year. She’s ridden Zen only once, and that was yesterday.

She continued talking, but I wasn’t hearing much. At starting lines, I don’t like to talk much; I actually have a hard time processing anything. Then the gun went off (Or was it Cimarron just saying “go?” I really don’t remember) and I started pedaling.

The race starts with a mile of pavement, which then turns to dirt and quickly sends you uphill. Poot took off at a super fast pace. As we hit the dirt, I watched her disappear quickly from view. I thought to myself, “Poot is going to win this race. My only hope of seeing her again is if her endurance isn’t as good as mine.” I reminded myself: fifty miles is a long way, especially for an early season race.

I hit the first climb of the day, my legs heavy. Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to run nine miles two days earlier. “Ugh,” I thought, “This is going to be a long day.” I crested the first hill, maintaining my postion in the pack. That, however, fell apart as we started the first descent.

I really suck at descending.

We were descending on a wide dirt road, me trying to hug the right line, watching rider after rider pass me. I felt nervous and panicky. “How do these people go so fast?” I asked myself.

Then — like a streak of lightning — Heather passed me, with two girls hot on her tail. “There goes half  the women’s field, passing me within three miles of the start,” I thought.

I was a little demoralized.

Just Racing Along

I pedaled along, thought, I decided: I had nothing to be sad about! After all, it was a beautiful day with unbelievably nice weather for the early season…and I was out racing!

“I don’t have to be the fastest to have fun,” I thought to myself. “This course is not suited to my abilities. I just need to enjoy myself.”

It worked.

My confidence in descending started to improve, and there were more than a few little climbs to help me feel good about myself. My legs seem to be waking up, too.

I crested a hill and caught Heather and another woman rider — who had velcroed herself to Heather’s rear wheel. I “woo-hoo”-ed Heather and told her she was doing amazing. Heather looked flabbergasted at seeing me — where had I come from? She hadn’t realized she had passed me early on during a fast descent.

We chatted briefly, with me doing most of the talking. I told Heather that I must be doing extremely well to be up with her. My goal, I told her, was to keep her in sight  the entire day.

I knew that wouldn’t be easy; this is Heather’s backyard, and she is an amazingly fast and accomplished technical downhiller. I knew Heather would  drop me on each descent; if I could re-catch her on the climbs, I would be having an amazing race! And then Heather and her “attachment” were gone — and out of view — as we started the next descent.

For the next ten miles we played this game of leapfrog. And it was a really fun game! I loved seeing Heather and would yell words of encouragement to her whenever I saw her. I don’t know how much she loved seeing me…but it’s all about me, anyways.

Right?

Zen

There was a long fast descent into the Zen aid station, which we’d access twice: once when we started Zen, and again when we finished the loop.  Heather and her “attachment” had long since disappeared. I stopped and drank some Coke. My camelback still had water in it, so I quickly left; I knew I had a mile-long climb on singletrack to the overlook of Zen.

After the overlook, the technical stuff begins: hairy descents, followed by hairy climbs. Rinse and repeat!

I climbed for about a tenth of a mile by myself before I caught up with a string of slow-moving riders. It was a familiar pattern (i.e., it had been happening for ten-plus miles): I would get stuck behind a line of riders on climbs, but if I passed them, I knew they would be passing me again…as soon as the trail turned downhill.

It was frustrating, and I had a lot of pent up-energy that needed to be released.

I pulled up behind the last rider in the train, noticing “SBR” written across his shorts; I had caught up with one of the guys (Rich) that was staying at the same house I was. Cory and Lynette Borup are our good friends, as well as owners of the triathlon store SBR (swim, bike, run). They own a second house in St George  we frequently stay in during our winter weekend excursions to find warm weather. It’s nice having rich friends!

I sat back and listened to Rich talk…incessantly! I thought, “If he would turn off the motor running his mouth and use it to turn the pedals, he could win races.”

Finally, he took a break in his monologue and I jumped in with a friendly “Hello!” He had had no clue I was back there, much less that I had been back there for a few minutes.

I let him know it was “just Lisa,” and that I would love to pass whenever he had a chance. You see, I could see Heather and her “attachment” a few switchbacks ahead of me…and I really wanted to catch her before the descent.

Rich and his entourage — a group of three from SBR riding the race together — quickly complied, moving behind me. Which is where they stayed for the rest of the Zen trail, making the Zen loop really fun. They weren’t chomping at the bit to pass me on the descents, and kept a decent distance behind me. It was awesome, being literally surrounded by a group of friends as we traversed the difficult Zen trail!

Meanwhile, Heather and her “attachment” were ahead by a few riders, but I managed to keep them in sight. As we crested the top of the climb on a wide trail, we merged onto singletrack, where I knew the “real” descent was starting.

As I was a few riders back from Heather, I watched an interesting story unfold in front of me…and I couldn’t help but comment.

You see, I saw a male rider see Heather approaching the singletrack, then sprint to get ahead of her before she reached it. I couldn’t believe my eyes: so typical of a man, trying to get ahead of a woman so as not to be “stuck” behind her.

But he obviously had no clue whom he had pulled in front of, so I took it upon myself to inform him: “You better be fast if you cut in front of Heather! She is a dang fast descender!” I yelled.

“Are you fast?” Heather asked. He said he was.

Then, moments later, I heard her say, as as she was hugging his wheel on the descent, “Dude, I thought you said you were fast!”

It was poetic.

Needless to say, when we came to the next climb, I noticed Heather was now in front of the male rider.

Toward the end of the Zen loop, we passed my friend Lynette, who had come out to the trail to cheer us on. It’s always uplifting to see a friend.

I was still moving along well with SBR riders, but had long since lost Heather on the technical descent. I hoped I could catch her on the next long climb leading to Bearclaw.

I went around the next rock and…there was Heather! But things weren’t going well for her. In fact, she was at the side of the trail fixing a flat.

Bummer.

She had been riding exceptionally strong and I had been having a blast trying to keep up with her. I yelled that Lynette was right around the corner and could at least offer moral support. Heather said she was disappointed, but confident she had the situation under control. I thought about how amazing she is; if I had flatted, I’d be a basket case without Elden to take care of me.

Lisa Saves a Life

As I pulled into the Zen aid station, It was a reunion of sorts. I saw Kurt from my Plan7 bike class. He was riding strong, but looked a little tired. I also got to say thanks to my SBR buddies for making the Zen loop so fun. Finally, I was celebrating because I had not wrecked: I had made it through Zen without a mishap, and I even had fun!

I refilled my Camelbak and headed up the Bearclaw climb. “This is the stuff I shine on,” I thought to myself, as I started what I considered the second half of the race.

I felt amazing. My legs were alive, my energy levels were soaring. And I really need to thank GU for that! I cannot say enough about Roctane and GU packs! I love how they taste, and I love how they make me feel.

As I turned on the turbo blasters on this mile-long, non-technical climb, I came upon a guy barely staying atop his bike. He was barely turning the cranks. He looked miserable. As I slowed and pulled alongside him, I asked if he was OK.

He replied, emphatically, “No.” He was suffering from terrible leg cramps. I asked bluntly if he had taken any “pills.” (I didn’t say “electrolyte pills,” just “pills.”)

Again, he muttered, “no.”

“Well, you need some, and I have some,” I said. So I stopped pulled out my flip top canister of Roctane Electrolyte Capsules and filled his hand full of them. I simply said, “Swallow these and you will fill better in about ten minutes.”

And then I was gone.

As I was riding away, I thought of that weird conversation. Would I have swallowed a handful of pills if someone told me to? It is a thought to ponder!

Unlike Elden — who had a weirdly similar experience during the same race and wondered the same question afterward — I am unaware if I saved his life, or his race. For all I know, he called me crazy and threw down my pills as I rode away. But in my mind’s eye, I had just done a good deed; good karma would be shining on me.

Bearclaw / Poppy: Not Just Pastries

At the top of the climb, I saw Heather’s “attachment”…though she was no longer riding attached to Heather’s wheel. And I had almost caught her! She  started the descent down Bearclaw mere seconds before me. There were two men also starting the descent with me.

Bearclaw starts with the infamous “Three Finger Drop” — three very steep, sketchy lines, all of which look scary. I do not go over any of the 3 fingers, instead taking the long way around. Obviously this takes a little longer, but is much safer.

The two men, on the other hand, had taken the “Three Fingers” line, and had gotten ahead of me. As I caught up with them, they were very considerate and offered to let me pass them. I declined; I do much better if I have someone’s wheel to follow.

They were a little slow on the flat section after the Fingers, and I could see “the attachment” pulling away. I yelled to the two riders I was following that it was their job to “bridge” me to girl in front of them.

As we started the next flowing rollercoaster section of the trail, I knew I had made a good choice to stay behind these guys. They seemed to be moving slightly faster than I would by myself, and they seemed to know the right line down the descent!

I think Bearclaw / Poppy is the best, funnest descent in Utah; I had a blast! 

As the trail flattened out toward the end of this section of the trail, I could see the “attachment” again. I yelled to the two riders that they were not doing a good job bridging the gap…and could I please pass? They laughed and quickly pulled over.

Catch and Pass

I really don’t remember very well what happened next. I do remember that I knew if I was to have any chance of getting in front of this girl, it had to be now on the Stucki Springs climb.

Stucki Springs is a five-mile-long, gradual climb. Nothing technical…just very long. That made it different than every other climb to this point; they had all been relatively short.

We were twenty-six miles into the race, and I was hoping “The Attachment” (as I still called her in my head) was tired.

TrainerRoad and Plan7, the two training programs I have been following all winter, have taught me to spin faster, at a lighter gearing. It is supposed to use more of my lungs and save my leg strength. It took a while to retrain myself to spin fast. I was using this new technique and it seemed to be working. My legs and my lungs felt great and I was flying!

I kept turning the cranks fast, feeling fast. Feeling invincible. The longer the race, the better I do.

I passed “The Attachment” and told her I’d see her on the next descent (but was secretly hoping I wouldn’t see her until the finish line). I whizzed on.

The racers had spread out; we were no longer riding in trains. I would see a single rider, catch him, then pass him. I played that game for all five miles of the climb. Then as I approached mile 30 of the race, I could see a rider in orange.

Could that be Poot, from the starting line?

I dug deep and caught her. Sure enough it was Poot. I said something about how happy I was to finally catch her, even if it had taken me thirty miles to do it.

In response, she made a noise.

The trail had turned into a short descent, and she motioned for me to pass. I declined, saying she probably had far superior descending skills than mine.

As we slowly descended the trail I knew something wasn’t going too well for Poot. She looked a little….ill. I passed her and wished her well. She didn’t have much to say in return. Not every race goes the way you want: Heather with a flat tire, Poot feeling ill.

But sometimes you do have good luck, and I was relishing the fact that I was having a banner ride. I hoped that my luck would continue. I reached the top of the Stucki Springs climb. I rolled over the top and started the descent behind a fellow rider.

During my pre-ride of this section back in February, Kenny, Brad and Elden started in front of me and within literally seconds they were gone…completely gone. I couldn’t even see them in the distance. It had been a little disheartening. I know I am slower on descents when I’m by myself. I spend too much time worrying about the line I should be following. If I could hang with this guy in front of me and watch his back wheel and not the trail, I might do better. I had to do better…..Poot and “The Attachment” were just minutes — maybe seconds — behind me!

To my relief, I was able to hang with this rider and I had a ball! We were flying, and I wasn’t even scared. I was feeling relaxed and enjoying myself. At the finish line, I found out that the rider was Larry Tucker, a friend of Fatty. I hate to say it, but all cyclists look the same to me from behind. Sorry for not recognizing you Larry, but thanks for the awesome pull down the road!

Rim Runner / Barrel Roll

After the descent we headed out on the Rim Runner loop: a fun switchbacked climb, followed by a fun, flowing descent. The loop is fairly short; I think it took about ten or fifteen minutes to do. As I exited the loop, I was able to look up at the switchback climb and could see “The Attachment” making her way up the trail. “Phew,” I thought, “I have about a ten-minute lead on her as I go into the last section of the race (Barrel Roll)…but I have no idea where Poot is.”

I couldn’t let up now. I still needed to ride as fast as I could.

The Barrel Roll aid station was like the Zen aid station in that we would go through it twice: once on the way into the loop, and again when we exited.

I decided to take a Coke break, but made the executive decision to not fill my Camelbak. I was sure I had enough water in it. The problem with Camelbaks, though, is that you never know you’re out ’til nothing comes out. So at the last second, I grabbed a water bottle and stuck it in my bike frame.

While I was taking care of this, Kenny came barreling through the Barrel aid station. He was flying! “Wow!” I thought, “He is almost done racing!” Kenny just had a 3-4 mile descent down to the finish line. I have to admit I was a little jealous. 

I wasn’t sure how long the Barrel Roll loop was going to take me. Forty-five minutes? Sixty? I was still feeling good, and was hoping that trend would continue.

I caught up with a rider who was going at a really good pace. He might have been a little slower than I would have gone, but it would keep me in check; I settled in and followed.

I often wonder if this pisses people off.

He eventually asked if I wanted to pass; I declined. I knew he would leave on the descent…and he did.

Snake!

You know you’re tired and low on blood sugar when you look down and see…a big fat snake curled up at the side of the trail! You gasp! Your adrenaline surges, you brake hard!

Then you realize the snake is not a snake…just a big rock. This happened twice to me on the pre-ride back in February, and now it was happening again.

“So weird,” I thought. “I honestly thought it was a snake!”

Eventually I came to what I thought (and hoped) was the top of the Barrel Roll loop. All I needed to do now was hang on for a pretty technical descent.

But I was wrong.

For some reason the trail would descend…then climb again. This viscious cycle repeated many times. The day was definitely warming up. I was really glad I had grabbed the extra water bottle at the aid station, because I found out pretty quickly that the Camelbak was empty.

Eventually, the aid station came into view. I decided I didn’t need to stop, because — as I had learned during the pre-ride earlier this year — it really was all downhill to the finish. I gritted my teeth and descended as fast as I possibly could.

I really had no idea what place I was in, but I didn’t want whatever it was stolen from me now.

My day and my ride had been perfect. I had a blast and had not injured myself.  I crossed the finish line and was greeted with a huge sweaty hug from Elden.

Kenny and Heather were also there. Which made me confused — I had passed her, shouldn’t she still be out on the course?

No, unfortunately she had ripped the sidewall on a tire; her race had come to a quick end. Such a bummer. 

But for me: what a fantastic and fun ride. As I rehydrated myself, Elden could hardly wait to tell me the story about how he had save a guy’s life! I laughed and said I had saved a guy’s life too!

Podium Interruptus

I ended up winning the sport women division (which is all the women except the pros). I was really proud of my accomplishment…but embarrassed by the way the podium was announced.

You see, somehow they forgot about me.

After the race, Elden had gone up to the timers, and they assured him they had me listed with a finishing time. But somehow that wasn’t passed onto the race director. Cimarron called out the podium and I watched as all the women I had passed during the race climbed up onto the podium.

So I had to walk up — in front of everyone, including the poor girls who were standing on the podium, getting photographed and holding trophies— and tell her that her podium was wrong and that I had won!

I was mortified, both for myself and especially for the girl who had been on the third-place spot and would now be moved off the podium! (That cute girl was Sally F.; I actually saw her at Corner Canyon a few days after the race and  apologized profusely. She was very kind and a good sport!)

Second place went to Poot, and third to the woman I had been calling “The Attachment,” who of course actually has a name: Jeanette!

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Congrats to all the riders that day. True Grit is a great race and a really fun ride! And kudos to Cimarron, the race director, for beautiful trail markings and a great post-race feast!

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Announcement: FatCyclist is Moving to a New Home

04.1.2015 | 10:02 am

UPDATE 2: I really wish my transcriptionist and accountant would talk more frequently. As it turns out, neither The Outer Line nor The Inner Ring have purchased my site. Instead, my accountant mistakenly thought that a recent sale of a used chainring I made on ebay was in fact the sale of my site. 

This, of course, was completely incorrect. As anyone should be able to guess, my site is easily worth at least twice as much as a used chainring.

I’m happy to reveal that in reality I have actually sold my site to Red Kite Prayer. An updated version of the announcement follows.

Dear Readers,

Ten years ago today, I launched this blog. In that ten years, I have learned to yodel, been given (but have not learned to ride) a unicycle, and have glowered menacingly at any number of household pets.

That seems like enough.

I’m very pleased to announce that general-purpose cycling commentary site Red Kite Prayer has purchased this domain. In the next couple of weeks, I will be transitioning all Fat Cyclist archives to Red Kite Prayer.

Or at least the ones they want. OK, to be honest, they’re making it pretty clear that they are happy to let me take my time and that maybe they don’t want any of the stuff I’ve written after all.

As part of the terms of this arrangement, I will be writing for Red Kite Prayer on an ongoing basis. Specifically, I’ll be writing extensive comments in reaction to other posts. By which I mean I’ll be commenting in the comment section.

It should be awesome.

Thank you for reading FatCyclist.com for all these years. You should be re-directed to Red Kite Prayer automatically, but if you aren’t, please click here to go to Red Kite Prayer now to read the press release. 

Best Regards,

Signature new

UPDATE 1 

Due to an unfortunate error by a transcription service, it has come to my attention that FatCyclist has not been purchased by The Inner Ring. 

FatCyclist has actually been purchased by The Outer Line

An updated version of the announcement follows.

Dear Readers,

Ten years ago today, I launched this blog. In that ten years, I have written hundreds of stories, eaten millions of calories, made many cookies, and publicly eaten a non-finite number of avocados. 

That seems like enough.

I’m very pleased to announce that pro cycling commentary site The Outer Line has purchased this domain. In the next couple of weeks, I will be transitioning all Fat Cyclist archives to The Outer Line. 

You’ll be pleased (I hope) to note that as part of the terms of this arrangement, I will be writing for The Outer Line on an ongoing basis. Mostly, these will be posts where I wring my hands over the state of pro cycling and completely forget that what I like about cycling is riding my bike. It should be awesome.

Thank you for reading FatCyclist.com for all these years. You should be re-directed to The Outer Line automatically, but if you aren’t, please click here to go to The Outer Line

Best Regards,

Signature new

Uncorrected Original Post

Dear Readers,

Ten years ago today, I launched this blog. In that ten years, I have written thousands of stories, raised millions of dollars for good causes, made hundreds of great friends, and seven enemies. 

That seems like enough.

I’m very pleased to announce that pro cycling commentary site The Inner Ring has purchased this domain. In the next couple of weeks, I will be transitioning all Fat Cyclist archives to The Inner Ring. 

You’ll be pleased (I hope) to note that as part of the terms of this arrangement, I will be writing for The Inner Ring on an ongoing basis. Mostly, these will be posts where I explain the extent of confusion I am experiencing when reading the rest of the site. It should be awesome.

Thank you for reading FatCyclist.com for all these years. You should be re-directed to The Inner Ring automatically, but if you aren’t, please click here to go to INRNG.com

Best Regards,

Signature new

True Grit Epic Race Report, Part Last: A Chicken Does Math

03.31.2015 | 2:38 pm

A Note from Fatty: The 2015 Fat Cyclist Gear Pre-Order is in full swing! Read here for details about the gear, and order here.

Oh, and allow me to drop a nice fat little hint. There’s going to be a contest with a seriously cool prize very soon — and your Fat Cyclist gear purchase is your ticket to win. (And yes, those of you who have already bought your gear will be retro-entered automatically.)

Long ago, I noted the extraordinary difference that a wetsuit can make to a bad swimmer. Essentially, a good wetsuit made for swimming goes a long way toward leveling the playing field in a triathalong. Without one, I could never have completed the swim in an Ironman, and even a half-Iron distance swim would have been an unimaginable stretch.

I’d estimate that, for a non-skilled, inexperienced, untalented swimmer like myself, the wetsuit is doing more than half the work. That the gear contributes more to the effort than the “athlete.” (And yes, I put considerable thought into the sarcastiquotes around “athlete” in reference to considering myself a swimming athlete.)

I’ve often wondered how cycling might be affected by a bike that helps the rider as much as a wetsuit helps a swimmer.

And with the Cannondale Scalpel Carbon Team, I think I have the answer. Consider: it has full suspension (which can be turned on and off at the press of a button). It is incredibly light. It has big wheels that roll over everything. It shifts perfectly and flawlessly. 

With it, I was climbing as well as I ever do, but descending everything —  technical and non-technical parts of the course — much, much better than I am actually capable of. 

The Scalpel was taking this incredibly rough, technical course and smoothing it out beyond belief. In short, on this bike, I am a better rider than I deserve to be.

Chicken

That said, it doesn’t matter how good a bike is if you simply don’t have the will to take the risk and try

And that was my problem. Over and over. I’d roll up to a drop, get reallllly close, say “you can do it” to myself…and then choke. I’d just hard brake to a stop, put a foot down, then quickly get out of the line and out of the way. Because invariably, as soon as I chickened out, there’d be someone right behind me who didn’t.

And I’d realize — at least some of the time — that if I’d just have the courage to let the bike keep rolling, things would have been just fine.

Which is a very easy assessment to make here, many days later, while sitting in a comfortable chair.

But when I’m rolling up to what looks like a cliff and I can’t see the bottom and have no idea how or whether this particular line rolls out nicely or just drops…well, I’m grabbing the brakes and climbing off. And at this point, I just don’t see that aspect of me changing, bike fantasticness notwithstanding.

Go ahead. Call me a chicken. I can take it.

Small Finish

Eventually, the True Grit winds down. You do a fun loop here, a fast descent there (with a nasty surprise two hundred feet of climbing right when you’re certain you’re completely done with climbing), and you can tell you’re getting close to the pavement, where you’ll finish the race with the exact opposite of what you’ve been riding for the past several hours: a couple miles of flat pavement.

And you cross the finish line. And if you’re me (which I am), you finish in 4:21:06. Which is a good midpack finish, and better than you deserved, really.

And you’re thirsty. Oh so thirsty, because about ten minutes ago you got that telltale schlluurrkkk sound from your camelbak, and you are out of water.

But there’s nothing to drink at the finish line or elsewhere in the finish area. Which seems to be a strange oversight to have made for a race that happens in the desert.

But no matter. There’s Kenny’s van, and it’s open, and Kenny’s lying on the bench back seat. Moaning. Whimpering, perhaps. He got in there before you (for some reason, I can’t seem to help but refer to myself in the second person right now).

How much before? Four minutes.

What? Just four minutes?

And so you let the What Ifs begin. What if you wouldn’t have stopped to see if that guy needed a tube? What if you wouldn’t have stopped to save a guy’s life? What if you wouldn’t have been such a chicken on all those technical moves, and had ridden them instead of walking them?

Would you have caught Kenny? Maybe — considering the flatness of the finish and the fact that you have gears while he was on a singlespeed —you would have even beat him in a sprint finish.

Maybe. Maybe maybe maybe. But probably not. 

And so you ask if you can finish the Coke he has been drinking. Kenny, being Kenny, gives it to you. He’d rather drink beer anyway.

Waiting for the Hammer

And now the wait begins. This is the most anxiety-ridden part of any race for me, on the occasions when I actually do race faster than The Hammer. When I’m actually racing, I don’t worry about her at all. But once the race is done, every minute seems like ten, and I become more and more convinced with each moment that she is hurt. That she is laying on the trail, and she is seriously injured

Oh, wait. There she is. And she has a big smile. And a very dirty face. And she would like a drink. Sorry, Sweetheart.  I finished the Coke ten minutes ago.

Oh, and there’s more about The Hammer. Much more. A whole story more.

Which I will post very soon. But first, I’ve got a little (OK, not very little) surprise tomorrow.

A Few Short Things, Cuz Monday is Swamped-Day

03.30.2015 | 12:02 pm

Hey there. I had hoped to finish my race report today. I really really did. No really, I did.

But I haven’t, because I just discovered that I have a day job and it pays the bills and right now I’m doing a few things I need to in order to keep my life from descending into utter chaos, until such time when this blog makes me rich beyond my wildest dreams (should be any day now).

So, here’s what’s going to happen right now in this very short blog post:

  1. I’m going to write an introduction explaining why I’m not writing the conclusion to my race.
  2. I’m going to begin a numbered list.
  3. I’m going to create an extraordinarily self-referential third item in aforementioned list.
  4. I’m going to remind you to go buy a 2015 Fat Cyclist jersey before the pre-order ends.
  5. I’m going to tell you about something really great that happened last weekend.

I think this is a good plan…possibly one that I can succesfully execute during my lunch break

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Hey, Buy a Jersey Already

The 2015 Fat Cyclist gear is available for pre-order now. It will be — and this is not hyperbole — the best-made, most-comfortable gear I have ever made available. I recommend getting the Race Fit jersey if you want the best warm-weather jersey you’ve ever owned. Buy it a size up if you don’t want it to be skin-tight.

Also, for the love of all that’s good in the world, get yourself a pair of the bib shorts. See, up until recently I have been wearing Rapha bibs because they’re so great. Now I’m wearing these, because they’re every bit as comfortable, with just as good a chamois, but cost half as much.

Finally, if you should get yourself the long-sleeve jersey. Why? Because this is an incredibly nice jersey at a crazy-good price. I have this jersey, and it is the best long sleeved jersey I have ever owned. If you ride in cool weather, you should get it.

There. Three things you should get. Not just because the design this year is great (it is). Not just because the proceeds are going to World Bicycle Relief. But because I am giving you a screaming deal on top-quality gear.

Shop for all my stuff here: http://www.dnacycling.biz/fatcyclist/

Coolest Thing That Has Ever Happened On A Ride

Last Saturday, The Hammer and I went  on a long training ride with my niece Lindsey and her boyfriend, Ben.

About a third of the way through the ride, he proposed to her.

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She said yes. 

True Grit Epic Race Report, Part 4: Foul Language

03.27.2015 | 8:58 am

A Note from Fatty: Before reading this part of my race report, be sure to check out the previous installments: Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Today you should note that I will be including some foul language. Or at least, I will be discussing the fact that I used foul language, for comedic effect.

Also, you should be aware that my intended comedic effect wasn’t particularly funny.

Staying Behind My Friends

Brad Keyes is the inventor / owner of CarboRocket, which is my go-to energy drink for endurance events. 

He is also a member of the Core Team — one of the guys I’ve been riding with ever since I’ve been riding.

He’s also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

Finally, he is both fast and technical. Much stronger and faster than I ever have been, or ever will be.

Sadly, he has a pornstache, making him terrifying to women and small children. And men. Perhaps especially men.

Here he is, kissing Kenny, as I smile benignly at the camera:

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Just in case that isn’t creepy enough for you, here he and I are right before the race:

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OK, it may not be entirely clear which of the two of us is creepier in this photo.

Oh, and one more photo, just because it’s nice to know what folks who are going to appear in the story later look like:

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From right to left, that’s Cori, Kenny, Brad, Brad’s tongue, and me. But enough terrifying photography already. Let’s get back to the story.

Brad, Kenny, and Cori were all racing on singlespeeds, while I was racing a geared bike in my age division (40-49). Which meant that we were all starting in the same combined wave. However, with my start waaaay in the back, I knew all three were ahead of me.

Or at least I thought they were. 

Somewhere along the technical section of the Zen trail, Cori caught and passed me. The only thing that surprised me about this fact was that I thought he was already ahead of me.

“So I just went from being sure I was behind all my friends to being really sure I’m behind all my friends,” I thought to myself. But hey, I was OK with that.

No, I’m just kidding. I wasn’t OK with that at all.

But — apparently — my friends didn’t care about my feelings, and continued to stay ahead of me.

Jerks. 

Catching Brad

And then something happened. 

I was bombing down what is arguably (i.e., I would happily make this argument) the single most fun part of the race: the Bear Claw / Poppy trail (linked video is not mine, but gives a great sense of the trail).

The Scalpel was in its element; I was flying down this trail faster and more confidently than I ever have before. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised (but I was anyway) when, looking very far ahead off into the distance, I saw Brad.

And then I saw him far off ahead in the distance, but not quite as far as before.

And then he was not that far away. Indeed, he was somewhat close.

And then I was right on his tail. At which point it struck me that this would be an awesome time to make a hilarious joke.

Oh, and also I knew exactly what that hilarious joke ought to be: I would let loose with a massive string of angry profanity at the top of my lungs, demanding he immediately get out of the way!

Is it any wonder that I am a beloved internet cycling blog comedy superstar?

Is it?

I let loose. You wouldn’t believe how loose I let. I was shocked by my loosity. 

Brad merely moved right, yielding the left line to me. 

At which point I stopped understanding how my prank was funny. Eventually I’m sure it will come back to me.

“Hey Brad,” I said as I pulled alongside. 

“Hey Fatty, have a good race!” he replied. “And if you go hard, Cori’s just a couple minutes ahead.”

I resolved to remove “pretend outrage” from my joke quiver. Although now that I think about it, this is not the first time that I’ve made such a resolution.

The Hardest Climb IN THE WORLD

With Brad behind me, the biggest climb of the day was ahead: Stucki Springs. And this climb is huge. Monumental, maybe. Soul-crushing, really. In fact, I don’t think it would be out of line for me to suggest that this climb is the most difficult mountain biking climb in the entire world.

I base this, of course, upon my experience from a few weeks ago, when Kenny and Brad vanished off in the distance during this climb, and The Hammer had to hold back in order not to leave me toiling solo in the wind.

It was in fact this climb that had been my big bugaboo for this race. My memory of it was that of pure exhaustion and misery.

So it was a little bit of a shock to find that this time, it was no big deal. I climbed it fast, frequently passing people, without difficulty or incident.

It is so weird how, in cycling, a climb can be so difficult on one ride that you are utterly convinced that it is — objectively — an impossible task. And then the next time you just…ride it.

Hitting the summit, I asked myself, “So, is this actually a hard climb, or an easy one? Which time was I correct?

So much of cycling happens inside your head. 

So much.

PS: No cliffhanger today. I’ll post the final installment of this race report on Monday, with The Hammer’s report on Tuesday. And then some new awesomeness I’m not going to tell you about ’til Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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