Once in a while, I do something that is absolutely, completely, positively right. I’ll get to what that was in just a moment.
First, though, you need to understand how the first eight or so hours of the race went.
By the time I had finished the first two laps of the race, I had absolutely no idea where I stood in terms of ranking for the solo singlespeed men, but I was pretty sure that I was in fifth or sixth place. Far enough back that I was not a factor in the race, and unlikely to see the podium.
Meanwhile, however, Kenny was having a banner day; he and Jamon were neck and neck, duking it out. Every time I pulled in to our pit, I asked Zach and Brooks how Kenny was doing. “He is going so hard,” they’d say. “He’s in, he grabs something to eat, and he’s gone.”
“And how is The Hammer doing?” I wanted to know. “Is she happy and having fun, or is she silent and riding with her game face on?”
“She’s having a blast,” they’d reply. “Chatting and laughing every time she pulls in.”
“Am I putting time on her, or is she catching up with me?” I wondered, as I pulled in after the third lap.
“Neither, really,” they replied. “Your times are all over the place, while she’s clocking a very consistent 1:10 lap. She’s about half a lap behind you.”
As I went around the fourth lap, I started picturing The Hammer and me, doing the same race, but on opposite sides of the course. If the course were a clock face, I’d be at 12, and she’d be at 6. I’d be at 3, she’d be at 9.
I was on Denver time; she was on Beijing. (No, I didn’t [and still don’t] know whether Beijing time is really 12 hours different than Denver time. It was [and still is] a metaphor, OK?)
“This is stupid,” I thought, and resolved to speed up and catch her, then ride the rest of the race with her.
So I started riding harder. And on the climbs, that worked. I’ve got good legs and enough power to motor up any climb the course can present.
But on the descents, my good intentions fell apart. My wrists have become increasingly sore lately. Even on short mountain bike rides they hurt. So with each lap on this rocky, technical descent, my wrists hurt more.
My arms would ache, my hands would go numb. I couldn’t help it; I was slowing down on the descents. Whenever I noticed someone approaching, I wouldn’t even wait for them to ask for a yield; I’d just pull over and put a foot down for a second.
Still, though, I tried. And occasionally, I’d catch someone. And—similar to me—they’d almost always move over without even being asked. The politeness was beautiful.
I had caught a racer on the smooth desert portion of the descent (it wasn’t all rocks and ledges). She didn’t yield—“She probably doesn’t know I’m here,” I thought—so I settled in behind her and waited for a good spot to ask her to move over.
As we got close to a spot where I knew the singletrack crossed a dirt road, I called out, “Please let me by when we get to the intersection.” She nodded that she heard me, and we kept going.
Then we got to the intersection and–instead of slowing, pulling over and letting me by—she just flew through and kept going. Without her cooperation, there was no way I could pass in that space…not if I didn’t want to force her off the trail.
She called over her shoulder, “Well, I’m not going to slow for you!”
I thought about what she had said for a second; rolled it over in my mind to see if there was any way I could have misunderstood her. Nope.
So I called back, “I’ve slowed for you for the last three minutes.”
At which point, she moved over and let me by, as I marveled at how grumpy I can be sometimes.
Beijing and Denver, Still
I got through the next lap and asked how The Hammer was doing. “Awesome!” Zach and Brooks called out. “Riding like clockwork.”
And was I any closer to catching her? “No, doesn’t look like it.”
And that’s how it went, lap after lap, ’til, as I did my dusk lap, I started thinking. “What if The Hammer were to wait for me at the pit, for me to lap her and then we could continue riding together.”
No, that wouldn’t work. Because if I were to lap The Hammer, she’d be thinking that I was in full-on race mode, contending with Kenny. It wouldn’t make sense for her to wait for me to come around when I’d just be riding away from her.
But what if, when I finished this next lap, I waited for her? Then she would know I wanted to ride with her, and we wouldn’t have this stupid situation where we were half a lap apart for the entirety of a 25 hour race.
So when I pulled into the pit after my eighth lap, I had a nice little rest, and set up my bike with a surprise: a Boombotix Bluetooth speaker.
We’d have some rock and roll on our night laps.
Oh The Blood
The half hour went quick. I sat by the fire, greeting Kenny as he pulled in, having officially lapped me. He was suffering; going so hard makes it hard to eat. He didn’t know if he could keep this pace up.
I had Zach tape up my wrists, hoping that the support would make riding a little less painful.
And I had a big plate of spaghetti.
I tell you, there is nothing in the world quite so luxurious and indolent-feeling as sitting around and eating when you know you should be out on your bike, racing.
And then, in came The Hammer.
She didn’t see me for a minute, which was cool, because I got to see how she acts when she isn’t around me.
With a big smile on her face, she said, “I just had a great lap!” And then she held out her hand, showing that there was blood running all the way down her arm.
“Also, I crashed, and I think I tore off the tip of a finger.”
You know, sometimes it’s especially wonderful to have a hand doctor as your crew chief.
As Zach cleaned and bandaged The Hammer up, she noticed me. “Hi honey!” she called out, happily. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to ride with you,” I said. “But are you OK?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” said The Hammer, so chirpily that I thought she must still be in shock. “You really waited for me so we could ride together? I was worried we weren’t ever going to see each other or ride together the whole race. You are the sweetest husband who has ever lived.”
Like I said, once in a while, I do something that is absolutely, completely, positively right.
And even more occasionally, I do two things that are absolutely completely positively right, because the next thing I said was, “And I’ve got my bike set up with a Boombot Rex speaker, too. I’ll let you pick the artist for the first lap.”
Which doesn’t sound all that smart until you consider that I had just mentally rejected saying, “You know, you wouldn’t have gotten your finger torn up like that if you’d have been wearing full-fingered gloves.”
See what I mean? Brilliant.
A Note from Fatty: My writeup of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow is taking a break today, because this story matters more.
If you’ve ever been riding your bike and found yourself thinking, “I hope I’m still doing this when I’m in my seventies,” you have—maybe without meaning to—actually been thinking to yourself, “I want to be like Marge.”
Now, I don’t really know Marge well myself. But she’s read the blog pretty much since I’ve had it, and has proudly ridden wearing the Fat Cyclist jersey, both on road and dirt.
And she is she is a crucial part of my sister Kellene’s core riding group.
Read more here (an article in Women’s Adventure Magazine, by Kristen Lummis) to learn about Marge’s amazing adventures and attitude.
I guarantee, you’ll want to be like Marge.
But right now, Marge could use some cheering up. My sister Kellene is going to explain, below. Read what she says (and check out the pics), and then take a minute or two to leave a comment for Marge. Trust me; she’ll get and appreciate what you have to say.
My Friend Marge Gunderson….
She is a friend to all. When you call her up she always answers: ”Hi my friend!”
There is nothing she won’t try! She loves mountain biking, road biking, dirt biking, trips to Lake Powell, skiing, hiking, 4-wheeling. These photos are just from the last few years!
She has ridden so many Colorado Passes, events and trails all over the age of 70!
For her birthday each year we ride how ever old she is in miles! This year it was 72!
She had a terrible mountain bike accident in September. A spinal cord injury on C4,5,and 6. It has left her mostly paralyzed. She’s not giving up!
She is at Craig Hospital in Denver for a 3 month rehabilitation . She remains positive and is working each day with therapists to regain her independence!
Never was there a more kind, giving, friendly, adventurous woman!
PS from Fatty: We’re thinking of and rooting for you, Marge!
PPS from Fatty: If you want to follow and stay in touch with Marge, you can do so over at her CaringBridge page.
The night before the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, I met the guy we were all pretty much certain would win the men’s solo singlespeed division in the race: Jamon. After all, he had won the previous year, with 20 laps (second and third place had each done 14 laps)
Kenny and Heather had told me about Jamon. Kenny said, “He doesn’t start fast, but he never slows down, either. He knows his pace, stays with it, stops to eat every lap, and just keeps going like a machine. He just rides his ride. Nothing fazes him.”
Heather added, “And he’s just always so happy as he rides along for hour upon hour. It’ll be three in the morning and he’ll ride alongside you telling you how happy he is and what fun it is to be doing this ride, and how great he feels.”
“He sounds horrible,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” Heather agreed.
But as our group — Heather, Kenny, Zach, Brooks, Trisha, The Hammer and I — were sitting around the fire, eating grilled brats the night before the race, Jamon pulled up a chair and joined us, eating the salad he had brought along with him.
And as it turned out, he’s an extremely nice guy. Sure, all those things Heather mentioned are true, but Jamon pulls it off.
“Have a brat,” I said. “Better yet, have two.”
“I’ve got my dinner, but thanks for offering,” Jamon said, (politely) declining.
“You sure about that? My brats are kinda famous, and they’re really good,” I urged.
“I’m fine,” Jamon replied.
I shrugged. We went back to eating.
But then, after finishing his salad, Jamon took a brat. The following day, he told me, “Even while I was eating that, I was wondering if you had somehow sabotaged me with that brat.”
Sheesh. As if I — I, of all people! — would resort to shenanigans.
Just a Random, Rambling Conversation
So now let’s flash forward to the second lap of the race. I rode the first half mile or so of that lap with a woman who was riding solo, though with a geared bike. I asked her if she had done the race before, and she said she had, and — when pressed — even admitted she had been on the podium.
And then I put it all together. “Wait a minute,” I said. You’re Bec. You haven’t just been on the podium. You’ve won this thing before.”
“I suppose so,” she said. I tell you, some people are so modest. I tell you, I still look for opportunities to mention to anyone who will listen that I won the singlespeed division of the Leadville 100 once upon a time (For example, I found such an opportunity just this moment), and I certainly don’t let people know that I won it because hardly anyone else raced that category that year.
“Bec’s a badass,” said a voice to my left.
We then popped onto the beginning of singletrack, with four or so miles of climbing ahead of us ’til the big descent. Jamon intentionally got behind me, and I took it as a sign that he was in no particular hurry and was in the mood to chat.
And I discovered that what everyone says about Jamon is true. He was so happy to be on his bike and was just loving the day. Which suited me fine, because that was how I felt, too. It was sunny, warm enough to ride in shorts and short sleeves. And the vibe on the course was so excellent; it was rare that I ever had to ask anyone to yield — they just would move aside. Which made me want to do the same thing. Good behavior is contagious.
So Jamon and I were having this great, friendly conversation.
And then he brought up Kenny.
“I think Kenny’s going too hard,” Jamon said.
And then I understood: Jamon was worried about whether Kenny was a threat and was looking for information or reassurance. Which was an awesome opportunity for me to mess with him.
“I don’t know about that,” I replied. “I was trying to hang with Kenny during the first lap and he dropped me hard,” I said. “I was going into the red zone, and he was still riding easy, chatting with me like you and I are now.”
“Yeah,” I said. “And the thing about Kenny is, he’s got both speed and endurance like no one else I know.
“You think he’s letting his inner animal out?” Jamon asked.
“Oh for sure. And I think he knows exactly how much inner animal he’s got, too,” I answered. “Which, to be clear, is a lot.”
“Excuse me,” said Jamon, “But could I get by?”
And off he went, chasing Kenny. And within a lap or two, he caught Kenny and they duked it out for hours and hours. Beating each other up over first and second place. While I got to sit back and watch the battle.
Can I claim credit for this? Well, honestly, I’d like to. But I can’t. Because I would never resort to that kind of shenanigans.
A Note About World Bicycle Relief: Someone noted in the comments yesterday that World Bicycle Relief is currently doing dollar-for-dollar matching, through the end of the year. I wanted to point out that there will in fact be a “Grand Slam 3” fundraiser for WBR that will run from the beginning through the end of December, and that this fundraiser will be taking advantage of the dollar-for-dollar matching. And — as always — the scope of prizes is going to be just unbelievable. I don’t want to give away too much, but just let me say that if you like bikes — any kind of bikes — you’re going to want to be ready to donate.
A Note About Yesterday’s Post: You might have wondered what my cryptic post yesterday was about. Well, I was wrestling with pulling the trigger on an important decision: to leave my day job. I’m going to focus like a madman for the next month and finish writing Fight Like Susan, so count on shortish posts as I get that done. (Will it be available before the end of the year? I hope so, at least the e-book version).
After that, there are two other Best of FatCyclist.com books I’d like to compile, edit, and annotate: a second volume of my best funny stuff (Comedian Mastermind 2?), and a book containing the best of my “big ride” stories.
And then there’s Caregiver’s Companion. That book never leaves my mind.
Finally, my original career trajectory was in editorial (I’m not an editor—at least, not a really good one—but I am not half-bad at content strategy and planning), and while I enjoyed my seven-year detour into being a product manager and analyst, I feel like I have unfinished business elsewhere.
So. Yesterday I told my employer I’m leaving.
And now it’s time to start writing.
25 Hours in Frog Hollow, Part III: I Just Shouldn’t Say Anything at All. Ever.
I both love and hate the morning before a race begins. I love the excitement of the unknown—the fact that this race, this thing I’ve been obsessing over endlessly for days or weeks or sometimes even months, is about to move from the “will happen” column into the “happening now” column.
I love the energy. I love the focus—that for the immediate future, all I have is one thing to do or think about, and that’s racing. I don’t get many moments in my day-to-day life with that kind of simplicity or clarity.
But I hate the anxiety. And the way my stomach feels, which comes from the anxiety. And the pressure I put on myself, which I think may in fact be just a rephrasing of “anxiety.”
But based on the way everyone else in the camp was looking, I was the only one who was even a little bit freaked out.
Brooks and Zach, resplendent in their puffy jackets, looked like they didn’t have a care in the world.
Trisha took most of the pictures in today’s post. Be sure to check out her photo site, crookedpinkie.com.
Kenny and The Hammer looked relaxed.
Trisha was ready, giant camera in hand.
Even this passing dog looked casual.
But I was a bundle of nerves. I had never ridden a mountain bike this far, nor for this long. I hadn’t been training. I didn’t know if I had brought the right kind of food. I didn’t have a good riding strategy. In fact, I didn’t have a riding strategy at all.
My head just kept on going through the list. Blah blah blah blah blah.
But eventually, we were at the line. Just standing there, because of the Le Mans-style start. With five minutes to go, The Hammer and I were scoping out her competition. We didn’t have to scope mine out, because Kenny was standing right beside us. Plus, he looked about as fit and fast as I’ve ever seen him. I was no threat.
The air horn went off and we began running the short distance (maybe a quarter mile?) to our bikes. The Hammer and I went at a slow jog, hanging toward the back. We were in no hurry.
Kenny, on the other hand, was flying. Yes, Kenny was running like a bat out of hell. (Except bats don’t run. But you know what I mean, right?) Kenny distanced us—The Hammer and I stared and laughed at the sight of Kenny running at all—then did a running mount onto his bike and was gone.
The Hammer got to her bike, and I got to mine, climbed aboard, and rode together for a minute, then I began to pull away, inevitably succumbing to race mode. “I’ll see you in about eight hours,” The Hammer called after me.
“How’s that?” I called back.
“That’s when you should lap me for the first time.”
Lap her. Yeah, I guess that was a possibility. Weird.
The Frog Hollow loop starts with a five mile climb, then a five mile descent, then a short climb, then a short descent, like this:
The first mile or so of this climb is on a wide dirt road, which gave everyone a chance to talk. Looking around, I was amazed at how many riders were racing solo—as indicated by the bright ribbon tied to the saddle. I was even more amazed at how many of us would be racing solo singlespeed.
One racer pulled up beside me and made it clear he was an old pro at this kind of thing. “Yeah, here we go again. I sometimes wonder why I keep doing these races solo.” I let him know this was my first time racing solo like this. Immediately taking the mentor role upon himself, he gave me some good advice on how to ride steady, stay strong, and keep going.
(Before the sun went down, I began noticing that this guy’s bike was—more often than not—sitting in his crew area. Which gave me a peculiar sense of pleasure, for some reason.)
We turned onto the first section of singletrack—still climbing—and I closed in on Kenny; there was one bike between us. I was happy to stay right there in that position and just hung out.
Our little train reeled in a slower rider, we fell into formation behind him, waiting for a place where we could pass. No rush.
Then Kenny saw a spot where the trail widened and he made his move…but while he was right beside this rider, the trail closed up again, forcing Kenny and this rider together.
I’m pretty sure I saw Kenny’s elbow go into the other guy’s ribs, though I would not swear to it. In any case, Kenny went ahead, and the other guy put a foot down and let the other two of us by.
“Thanks,” I said, as rode past him.
Then, teasing Kenny about his aggressive pass, I yelled, “Sheesh, what a jerk!”
Except I used a different word than “jerk.”
The problem was, the guy I had just ridden by thought I talking about him, and yelled out “What?!” in protest and confusion. What had he done to earn such a rebuke?
The answer is, of course, nothing. And once again I learned that things I think are funny on the bike are likely to not be funny at all.
I need to remember to keep my mouth shut.
Meanwhile, Kenny accelerated, and built a gap.
I knew I would never catch him, not with him riding strong like that. So I resolved—there and then—that I would be Kenny’s biggest fan during the race. I would, in fact, do my best to help him, if I could.
And in the next lap, I would get exactly that opportunity.
Which is where we’ll pick up Monday.
Hi there. I’ve been up since 5:00am, writing installment #3 of my 25 Hours in Frog Hollow race report.
Except it would be a lot more accurate for me to say, “I’ve been trying to write installment #3 of my 25 Hours in Frog Hollow race report.” Because in reality, I’ve gotten maybe five sentences out.
See, I’ve got other stuff on my mind. Big stuff. Life-affecting stuff. And I can’t write right now. So please accept this apology as a poor excuse for a post today.
By tomorrow, I think I’ll be able to write again. And possibly even start describing what I’m being so mysterious about.
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