Meet Tim W

05.4.2015 | 11:59 am

I got back from California about one o’clock this morning; I spent last Friday – Sunday in a mountain bike racing paradise.

I do not ask for your pity, but I do ask for your understanding as today I do one very important thing, which I shall conveniently list for you:

  1. Introduce you to the winner of the World Bicycle Relief fundraising contest, with the Specialized S-Works bike of your choice, outfitted with ENVE components.

Now that we have a plan, let’s get started, shall we?

Meet Tim W

I got up early on Friday, excited to build the spreadsheet for the drawing. I take this job seriously…and with no small amount of pleasure. I know that a lot of you would participate in these fundraisers even if there weren’t prizes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fun to give out.

Then, when I got to Boggs forest and met Dave Thompson — my co-ambassador for WBR — I had him use random.org to pick a random number based on the rows in the spreadsheet.

Here’s that moment, captured forever (courtesy of Dave H):

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The number? 2940. 

And that number corresponded to Tim W, who has been contributing to fundraisers I’ve been doing for years. Here he is, with his lovely wife Deedee:

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I called Tim (many of the entries had corresponding phone numbers) and left a voicemail:

“Hi Tim. This is Fatty. If you like really nice bikes and vacations, you should give me a call back.”

And then I sent him an email saying essentially the same thing.

Then I went racing.

Later that evening, Tim called me. “Is this a prank? Is this real or are you punking me?” he asked.

“It’s real,” I said. “What bike are you going to pick?”

“I don’t know yet,” Tim said. “I need to do some serious thinking.”

However, since Tim does live in Northern California and loves visiting Utah (once, during a vacation they were taking to Zions National Park, Tim and Deedee came and watched The Hammer and me race a couple laps of 24 Hours of Frog Hollow), he does plan to visit Utah. 

So that much is certain. One tough decision down, one extremely tough decision to go!

I asked Tim to send me an email telling me a little bit about himself: 

I could not believe the message that I received Friday night. I returned what I thought was a prank call, to get Fatty on the other end. He informed me of the fantastic luck I had. I was the winner of his latest fundraiser for WBR. My name is Tim. I live in Livermore, CA. and have been following The Fat Cyclist for years as well as participating in his fundraisers, never expecting to win, just knowing they were always for a great cause.

I do not race but ride quite a bit recreationally. The bike will be way beyond my abilities, whatever I get. Now I have some decisions to make.

Thank You Fatty for the entertaining blog posts that you do, keep up the good work, as well as Thanks to WBR, Specialized, ENVE and SRAM. 

I think that’s really well put.

Now, for all of you who are not Tim W, please take a moment to leave a note of congratulations to him, as well as bike / component mix you think he should get (i.e., what you would have gotten).

And don’t worry, folks. You may not have won this time, but the Grand Slam is coming. And the quantity and quality of prizes is going to be outrageous.

 

A Post-Contest Note

05.1.2015 | 9:36 am

I don’t have a ton of time to write today; I’m headed out to race Boggs with Jeff D and Levi Leipheimer.

Believe me, there is nothing in the world that makes you quite as self-conscious as grocery shopping with Levi Leipheimer.

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Anyway, the contest is over, and I’m working on the spreadsheet right now. You’ll be excited — as I am — to know that we raised $25,168 with this contest!

I’m taking care of making final adjustments to the spreadsheet, and then, as seems only proper, I’ll ask my fellow WBR Ambassador and co-owner of this contest Dave Thompson to pick a random number (using random.org) corresponding to the numbers I’ve assigned everyone in the prize spreadsheet.

And then, this evening, once the day’s racing is done, we’ll send out an email to the winner.

So, start watching your email tonight, OK? 

Of course, I have no idea whether I’ll get Internet, so if you don’t hear from us, that doesn’t mean all is lost.

Let me conclude with a big giant Thank you. Your generosity in this contest will put bikes under 171 students. With an average of three people being affected by each bike, that’s 513 lives you’ve just made better. In a measurable, meaningful, practical way.

So: on behalf of the 513 people who are going to have chances they never would otherwise had, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Once again, I am pretty much overwhelmed by the fact that I have the nicest, most generous friends a person could ever ask to have.

Want to Go Riding in Santa Cruz?

04.30.2015 | 7:06 am

A Note from Fatty: Today is your last day to enter the “Buy Gear, Make a Donation, Win the Ultimate Dream Bike and Vacation” contest. If you buy some Fat Cyclist gear, or make a donation to WBR, you could be the one to any Specialized S-Works bike you want, outfitted with top-of-the-line ENVE and SRAM components.

And you won’t just win a bike, either. You also will win a trip to — your choice — Utah or California, where you’ll receive your built-up bike, get custom-fitted for it, and then spend a weekend riding with my fellow WBR Ambassador Dave Thompson and me.

For this last day, I brought out the big guns. Specifically, Dave is going to describe if you choose to have your biking weekend in his neighborhood, Santa Cruz.

If You’re a Mountain Biker…

The Santa Cruz area offers a wide choice of rides, from beginner to the “sick edit” category.  

On the beginner side I would recommend Wilder Ranch: it offers some very nice trails through open meadows and trees that range from easy to moderate difficulty with nice views of the Ocean as you climb from the sea up into the mountains.  

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Moving up the scale Demo Forest, located high up in the Santa Cruz mountains, offers moderately difficult climbs and a variety of singletrack decent options. One of the new trails, the Flow Trail, which is more than half complete, has a nice smooth descent through the redwoods with high banked turns, gentle rise and falls with no drops or big surprises.  

The Braille trail has loads of steep sections complete with jumps and teeter totters.  The nice thing about Demo is all the single track options start at the same place on the top and end at the same fire road on the bottom so you can easily ride back up and ride as many of them as you’d like. 

The most challenging is a short drive away and one of my favorite spots, Henry Coe Park.  The only problem with Coe is the climbing is a bit steep.  I took Carlos there a few weeks ago and we did a 32 mile ride with a bit over 6k feet of climbing. Carlos said it was the hardest thing he has ever done.  There is no real easy way to ride in Coe so I would only recommend this for the advanced rider or the young (like Carlos).  Coe is 87,000 acres so rides range from a short 10 miles to as far as you want to go. A nice collection of single track descents through forests of oak and Manzanita followed by brutal fire road climbs but with nice scenic views well worth the suffering.  

If You’d Rather Ride Road

In and around the Santa Cruz area there are many road rides to choose from.  One of my favorite easy rides is a bike/walking trail that winds along the bluffs of Santa Cruz with spectacular views of the ocean.  The trail starts in Santa Cruz, by the Boardwalk and takes you up to Wilder Ranch about a 12 mile ride round trip and almost dead flat. You are almost guaranteed to see surfers and sea lions as you pass the lighthouse.

For more difficult and longer rides all you need to do is head east up any of a number of great roads that climb up through the redwood forests in the Santa Cruz mountains.  

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One of my favorites is Eureka Canyon, a small less traveled road that climbs gently up through the forest to Summit Road. From there you can take the optional additional climb up to Loma Prieta avenue were you are rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean, see pic “Loma Pieta”.  

From there you can head north along the top of the Santa Cruz mountain range and descend back down into Santa Cruz by a couple of options, depending on how long you want your ride to be.  There are so many great roads to choice from a day in the Santa Cruz mountains can be as long and hard as you want.  

Then there is also the beach. I’m sure we could get our hands on a few fat tire bikes; that would make for some fun.  

Something for Everyone

As for non biking, all these areas are also great for hiking and also range in difficulty accordingly.  There are also several good wineries in the area and the Monterey Bay aquarium is only a short drive away.   

As for the beach house we have rented this place — The Black Pearl — for the past several years:

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Who doesn’t want to stay in a place with a pirate name?

It is walking distance to the harbor, several good restaurants and the house is overlooking the ocean. 

A Final Word From Fatty

No matter what bike you choose, or which components, or which place to go riding, this is a ridiculous prize, and having Dave along guarantees it’s going to be a great time. Dave — along with the whole Thompson family — is one of the nicest, best people you will ever meet.

Whoever wins this prize — which ends today — is going to be incredibly lucky. 

But you can’t win if you don’t enter. And how do you enter? Well, buy some Fat Cyclist gear, or make a donation to WBR. It’s that easy. You’ll be doing some good for the most practical, effective, instantly-life-changing charity in the world. You’ll be getting the best gear I’ve ever offered (if you’re buying gear, that is). 

And you just might win an incredible bike and vacation.

Good luck!

PS: I’m flying to San Francisco in 20 minutes, to meet up with Jeff D, who won another of my contests. I think it might be only fitting to have him do the drawing for this winner tomorrow.

The Precipitation Negotiations

04.29.2015 | 7:55 am

A “Time’s Almost Up” Note from Fatty: You’re almost out of time. This Thursday is the last day of the “Buy Gear, Make a Donation, Win the Ultimate Dream Bike and Vacation” contest. 

It’s not too late. Buy some Fat Cyclist gear, or make a donation to WBR, and you could well be the one who wins any Specialized S-Works bike you want, outfitted with top-of-the-line ENVE and SRAM components. And you’ll be making a significant, immediate impact in someone’s life.

We are currently just over $18,000 raised with this incredible bike / vacation combo. I would love to hit $20,000.

RAWROD: Ride Around White Rim in One Day. It’s the event that actually inspired me to start this blog (see part 3 of my RAWROD ’05 writeup [also worth checking out: part 1 and part 2]), almost exactly ten years ago. (So yes, I’ve been doing multi-part ride reports literally from the very beginning of this blog.)

And the 2015 edition of this annual group ride was last weekend. 

But it was a year embroiled in controversy, uncertainty, intense debate, and — eventually — a resolution that is hotly contested, to this day.

I will explain.

Very, Very Important

My dad will be turning 80 this year. Or actually, he has already turned 80 this year, but we’re pretending like he hasn’t, because while all his kids are getting together in Grand Junction, CO to celebrate his birthday, we’re doing it kind of late.

Because of me. 

Or more to the point, because I couldn’t let this family shindig get in the way of RAWROD. It’s that important. So I asked my family to rearrange their schedules, moving this birthday party to a couple of weeks later.

Including, I should mention, my sister who lives in Germany.

Secret, Interrupted

I have noticed that the likelihood of at least the threat of bad weather is exactly proportionate to the importance of whatever it is you’re looking forward to.

Which, generally speaking, are bike rides.

Fortunately, I’m very good at using The Secret, so I’m generally pretty good at staving off bad weather.

I do this, mostly, by just not thinking about weather very much. For example, did you know I’ll be going to California for three days of racing this weekend, with Levi Leipheimer as my actual teammate?

It’s true. I am.

But I haven’t checked the weather even once, instead confidently believing that the weather will be fine. I imagine myself on a bike, in a race, comfortable and dry, the tailwind blowing through my hair. Or where the hair would be, had I hair.

But here’s the problem for : I am not the only one going to Moab for RAWROD. My friend Dug is going, too.

And Dug…well, Dug is interested in weather. And by “interested,” I of course mean “concerned.”

And by “concerned,” I mean “dangerously obsessed.”

At first, his text messages are benign, asking how much water and food I plan to carry, whether I ran out last year, how it’s possible that I can be so remarkably handsome. Normal stuff.

And then, this: 

What does the forecast need to get to for you to not go?

The answer of course being, “I hadn’t even considered bad weather as a possibility.

But I was now. 

Dug’s text messages began to be increasingly informative. And ominous:

right now it says 10 – 20 % chance of some rain in moab. you’ve ridden white rim in iffy conditions, just wondering what you thought

and

chance of rain in moab saturday goes up about 10% a day

and finally:

SHOWERS INCREASE FRIDAY THROUGH SUNDAY ACROSS EASTERN UTAH ANDWESTERN COLORADO A PROLONGED PERIOD OF WET WEATHER TO THE REGION WILL BEGIN ON FRIDAY. THE FIRST WEATHER DISTURBANCE WAS OVER SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ON THURSDAY AND WILL SLOWLY TRACK THROUGH THE DESERT SOUTHWEST THROUGH FRIDAY. THIS SYSTEM WILL BRING INCREASING SHOWERS ON FRIDAY. THEN A STRONGER AREA OF LOW PRESSURE WILL DIG IN FROM THE NORTHWEST ON SATURDAY AND PASS ON SUNDAY. THE ASSOCIATED COLD FRONT WILL MOVE THROUGH THE REGION SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY BRINGING WIDESPREAD SHOWERS SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS AND COOLER TEMPERATURES. SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ARE EXPECTED IN THE HIGHER TERRAIN WITH THE SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS FAVORED TO RECEIVE SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATIONS. EARLY INDICATIONS SHOW 6 INCHES OF SNOW WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE. VALLEY RAIN AND MOUNTAIN SNOW SHOWERS ARE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE INTO MONDAY MORNING. THERE IS STILL MUCH UNCERTAINTY ON THE TRACK OF THE UPPER LOW WHERE THE HEAVIEST SHOWERS WILL OCCUR AND SNOW LEVELS AND ACCUMULATIONS. STAY TUNED TO THE LATEST INFORMATION AND FORECASTS ON THIS DEVELOPING STORM.

Yes, he really sent me that. As a text message. To which I finally replied, “You are making it really hard for me to use The Secret.”

He answered:

“Is Ahab [a newish and really terrific trail off Amasa Back] rideable in the wet?

At which point, I had no choice but to block him.

Commencing Conversations

The Hammer and I planned to stay in Green River Friday evening (Moab hotels are just too expensive, and we don’t like camping), then drive out to the White Rim trailhead early Saturday.

It began raining just as we left home. Within twenty minutes, however, we had left the rain behind us.

But only literally.

Figuratively, the rain was still very much with us. Moreso than ever, in fact.

“I don’t want to ride all day in the rain,” The Hammer said, reasonably.

“Me either,” I replied, savvily. 

“So is it going to rain on us?”

“I think it could,” I said. (The only way I could have made that statement more wishy-washy is if I had thrown the word “probably” in there somewhere.)

“Why don’t you ask Dug about the weather?” The Hammer asked. “See whether he’s going to ride.”

I checked. Dug was already 80% of the way to Moab. Which is a much stronger statement than anything he could have actually said.

But we still both had concerns. 

We talked on the way to Moab, trying to decide what the threshold was for abandoning the ride.

Would it be if clouds were threatening? (But clouds can clear, and had done so before!)

Would it be if it were raining? (But rain can dissipate and had done so before!)

How about if it were really bad wind? (Ditto!)

In the end, we decided to…not decide until the next day.

The Next Day

We woke to rain. A vigorous, “no-plans-to-quit-just-getting-started” kind of rain. 

We loaded our bikes and gear, undeterred. The rain might stop as we got closer to Moab.

It did not stop.

“Are we in for this ride, no matter what?” The Hammer asked. 

It was a good question. No, make that an excellent question, thanks to the fact that it was a tricky question. In fact, it may well have been a trick question, designed to lure me into making a unilateral decision that applied to both of us. 

Thanks to many years of being a man in a committed relationship, I knew exactly how to answer.

“I don’t know. What do you think?” 

The Hammer was prepared for this deflection.

“I’m good either way.” But we both knew this wasn’t true. Any more than it was true when I said that “I don’t know.” Of course I knew what I wanted to do. This is due to the fact that, like many people, I am capable of reading my own mind.

And so, for the next half hour, as we drove toward Mineral Basin Road, we continued our precipitation negotiations, accompanied by the soundtrack of rain.

A rain which, I feel compelled to mention — did nothing whatsoever to help make the decision obvious. Instead, it carefully straddled the line between drizzle and downpour. Diminishing this moment, gathering force the next.

Stupid rain.

Anyway, the conversation went like this:

Me: I don’t want to spend ten hours in the rain.

The Hammer: I don’t either.

Me: But the weather forecast shows the rain either stopping or slowing for at least four hours. The rain should stop just about when the ride should begin.

The Hammer: So we could have a nice first half of a day of riding. But then the rain could pick up, leaving us right about at the halfway point of the ride in a downpour that doesn’t let up for the rest of the day.

Me: And if that happens, it’s not like we can cower in a convenience store until the storm passes. Out on the White Rim, there’s literally nowhere for us to hide.

The Hammer: It’s not like we’ve never done this ride before, either. 

Me: But we do look forward to it every year. And we always have fun. And we did drive out here for about four hours.

The Hammer: So what are we going to do?

Me: Well, if we go ahead and do the ride, we might really regret it. And if we bail, we will almost for sure really regret it, because then we won’t know how bad it might have been if we had gone.

The Hammer: You decide what we’re going to do then.

Me: I have decided…to be happy with whatever you think is best.

Decision Made

And thus the dance continued, until we reached Mineral Basin Road.  When dry, this ten-or-so-mile road is wide, smooth, and about as fast as pavement.

It was not dry. No, not dry at all. The baked red clay had de-baked, turning into a clumping sandstone mucilage. 

By the time we got to where the trailhead — and all our friends — were, the truck had gone sideways twice, I had kept the windshield wipers on nonstop, and we had made a decision. 

There was no way we were going to do White Rim. If Mineral Basin Road was precarious, how would Shafer be? How would Dead Horse be?

We pulled into the parking lot to go see everyone, but it was strictly a courtesy call.

Decision Really Made

Before we had a chance to step outside, I saw Dug, walking up to the truck. He was not dressed for cycling.

But he was laughing.

“Have you seen what your bike looks like?” He asked.

As a matter of fact, I had not. So I stepped out of the truck, nearly slid out onto my butt, and then walked around to the back of the truck, where my bike was attached to the receiver-mounted rack:

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And this:

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Truthfully, these pictures (which I didn’t think to take until much later, at a gas station, on the way home), don’t show the depth of crud that had been sprayed onto and into my bike. 

We stayed a while and talked, then dispersed. Some of us talked about going down to Moab and riding Amasa Back, or maybe the Slickrock trail. 

The Hammer and I were in. Any ride is better than no ride. I’d power wash my bike as well as I could (The Hammer’s was still relatively clean, having made the trip in the truck bed).

But when The Hammer and I got back on Mineral Basin road, it had become even more slippery and gunky than it had earlier been. If that’s even possible.

And so the ride / no ride negotiations resumed. 

“I don’t want to ride in this,” I said, now emboldened, the “never say no to a ride” taboo now gone. “This is going to be a terrible day to ride. Let’s go home.”

I was newly confident. Assertive. Outspoken even.

“OK,” said The Hammer, clearly respecting my confident point of view.

Which, as it turns out, was dead wrong, as I would find out soon enough, when the Instagram photos of the day came in. Like this one:

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And this one:

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I have learned my lesson: Waffle and deflect as much as necessary, because you do not want to be the guy who makes the “no go” call on what will eventually turn out to be a demonstrably awesome day.

A Ride Around the Lake

04.23.2015 | 12:52 pm

I was all alone. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and I was all alone

Why was I alone? Because The Hammer was in Boston, getting to run some marathon or another with her friends, in the pouring rain.

They ran the whole thing together (3:54:44), by the way, thereby earning finishing medals and space ponchos:

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But enough about them. This story is about me. And I was alone. And I needed a big ride, because I have some racing to do this summer.

So I called The Hammer. 

“Hey,” I said, “You know how I promised I wouldn’t go out on any road rides by myself?” (A lot of us around here are on edge about road cycling because a local woman was recently killed while on a ride.)

“Yes,” The Hammer replied.

“Well, it rained here yesterday and so there’s no way I can go on a long mountain bike ride today.”

“And?” The Hammer replied, though she knew perfectly well where I was headed.

“And so I’m going to go ride around Utah Lake right now, and I don’t have anyone to go with me.”

“Well,” she said, “Dress brightly.”

I said I would, and suited up in the new Adobe kit, which I consider to be very bright.

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Though now that I look at it in a picture, it occurs to me that it’s actually mostly black, with some bright accents.

By the way, I don’t work for Adobe, but a lot of my riding buddies do, and I like to blend in. Plus, buying the Adobe kit gave me a chance to try out a lot of the DNA-made gear, to see how it fits and feels.

Which is one of the reasons why I strongly recommend you load up on the 2015 Fat Cyclist gear. This is the best-made, most comfortable line I have ever had.

In particular, the bibs are a steal at $124.95, the long sleeve jersey is the best I’ve ever owned, and — I know this is a little weird, but believe me, it’s true — the socks are fantastic

And of course, the race-fit short sleeve jersey (fits a little close, size up if your jerseys are usually right on the border of too small) is amazing for warm weather riding, and will be one of the lightest, coolest jerseys you’ve ever owned. 

OK, end of advertisement. Back to the ride.

Audiobook Fatty Loves

I used to ride alone all the time. Since The Hammer and I got together, however, it’s a very rare ride that I’m alone. And a five-plus hour ride alone…well, it’s been a really long time since I’ve done that.

But I had an idea. Well, a couple ideas, actually.

First, I decided I was going to go hard on this ride. I was going to, in fact, do this entire ride in under five hours. Now, I knew from experience that from door to door, riding around Utah Lake is almost exactly one hundred miles. It just works out that way. That meant I was going to try to average — without drafting and including any stops (for water, to pee, for stoplights) — 20mph for five hours.

Not impossible, but definitely no slouching allowed.

Second, I decided I’d listen to an audiobook during the ride. Maybe it’s a sure sign of advanced aging, but I get tired of listening to music pretty quickly. 

But I didn’t have an audiobook I was really excited about, so I turned to Twitter, asking for recommendations. The first reply I got was this:

Shelly should write elevator pitches for a living, because that grabbed me. I downloaded the book to my phone while I checked the pressure in my tires (I love how it’s that easy), put my Jaybird Bluebuds X on, and was ready to go.

For food? Well, that was easy. Six Gu gels and two packets of chomps, each packet representing about 100 calories.

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I then filled all three bottles with Carborocket 333 (my current favorite flavor is grape). And yes, I mean three bottles: I used the BackBottle as my third.

With all this on board, I figured I had a good chance of not needing to make more than a single stop (refill water and pee, probably) during the whole hundred mile ride.

I started my audiobook, started my Garmin, and started riding.

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And immediately got sucked into The Martian

Great premise. Great story. Great characters. Great reading by the narrator. Just…great. 

It was exactly what I needed, because riding around Utah Lake — while fantastic exercise — is not especially scenic. Usually, in fact, I can hardly wait for this ride to end.

Not this time, though. This time the energy of the book translated to energy in my legs and I happily hammered away. My body on a bike on the shoulder of the road, my mind with Mark Watney, stranded and trying to survive on an impossibly hostile planet.

The miles and hours flew by. I rarely checked my GPS (I’m back to a Forerunner 500; the 510 died) to see how long I’d been out or how far I’d come.

Every half hour my GPS beeped, reminding me to eat. I grabbed a packet at random, knowing that I’d included only things I like. 

Whether I’m reading a good book or watching a good movie, I get completely absorbed. My sense of time compresses. 

Without me really noticing it, fifty miles flew by.

Riding With Racer

I saw a cyclist coming toward me, wearing the Racer’s Cycle Service kit.

It was Racer.

I waved as we crossed, then looked over my shoulder to see if he was stopping. He was, so I turned around too, figuring we’d talk for a moment and then continue on our respective rides.

Instead, he said he’d turn around and join me on my ride for a bit.

Which I don’t think has ever happened before; most of us cyclists kind of have our rides set in stone.

For your convenience — and because I understand that kids these days are all about the multimedia blog experience — I have re-created and narrated our encounter using the Strava Flyby tool.

Feel free to watch that as often as you like.

We rode along together, shouting above the strongish wind. In the twenty or so years that Racer has worked on my bikes, we’ve actually ridden together maybe half a dozen times, so I was really glad he was willing to change his plan to suit my ride.

In fact, I was so happy I didn’t even mind pausing The Martian. At least, not very much.

Then a gold Lexus buzzed by us on the deserted road, his rearview mirror barely missing us, not moving over even an inch (and certainly not giving us the three feet required by law.)

After passing, the driver stuck his arm out of his window, held his hand up high, and flipped us off.

My blood began boiling, instantly, angry for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • That my wife almost got to give me an “I told you so” about riding my road bike alone (though I was no longer alone)
  • That anyone on a deserted straight road would endanger two strangers’ lives.
  • That anyone would even own a gold Lexus. 
Then Racer laughed and waved at the guy in the car. “No point in being angry,” Racer said. 

Headwind of Doom

With sixty miles behind me, I still had two bottles full of Carborocket. I considered just skipping past the park where I had planned on refilling my bottle.

But the day was warming up. I’d be drinking more. So we pulled over, I made it clear to Racer that this needed to be a quick stop, and I filled a bottle. 

We kept riding to about my seventy-mile mark, at which point Racer peeled off and I was on my own again. I put the headphones on again and started my book, eager to see how Mark Watney was managing (surprisingly well, except when he wasn’t).

And then, for the final twenty miles of the ride, I battled a headwind. A brutal, relentless headwind, against which I had no chance of maintaining a speed of 20mph.

In fact, 18mph was not easy.

Nor was 17mph, now that I think about it.

I brooded, considering how unfair mathematics could be to me. I had been riding 20mph or faster for hours. And now, with just a fifth of the ride to go, a headwind was going to take that coveted sub-five-hour century away from me. 

Unless I can really pour it on, I thought. And I poured it on. Which had two noticeable effects:

  • I sped up to 19mph. Which you may have noticed is still not quite 20mph. 
  • I exploded into a thousand pieces.

I dropped back to a more reasonable speed, suffering as best as I could. And I can suffer well. Magnificently well, in fact.

Oh, how I suffered.

The Natural

I started watching my GPS, making more and more refined estimates as to what my total distance would be when I arrived home, as well as my final time.

And I started getting excited.

No, not because it looked like I was going to finish my ride in under five hours. I could tell I was going to miss that mark by about ten minutes or so. The stoplights in Provo combined with the headwind I was suffering from now really had done a number on my average speed.

However, it did look like I was about to do something I have often thought about, but never actually witnessed:

A Natural Century.

Now, let me tell you what I mean by “A Natural Century,” because I really don’t know if anyone else thinks about this. As cyclists, we like to do rides that end in round numbers, and the century — 100 miles — is one we wind up doing a lot. 

But those centuries never wind up being exactly 100 miles, do they? They’re a little under, or a little over, even if you ride out exactly fifty miles, then turn around and retrace your route.

And if you do a circuit, getting exactly 100 miles becomes even less likely, unless you add spurs and subloops and a ride around the block at the end to make your ride total the magically round 100-mile number.

So I’ve often wondered: Is there such a thing as a Natural Century, where all of the following are true:

  • You start and finish at the same place, preferably home
  • You go in a single, sensible loop, preferably around a mountain or a lake. Not an arbitrary set of roads, but a ride that that can be said to be around something or somewhere
    Screenshot 2015 04 23 12 35 05 
  • You don’t add spurs or other gimmicks to massage the total distance
  • The ride comes out to be 100.0 miles. Not 99.9, not 100.1. 

I didn’t really think there was such a loop…but Racer had guided me on a slightly different set of roads than I usually take for part of the ride, saying they are less-trafficked, though not making the ride any longer. And now, as I got to the roundabout that meant I was entering Alpine, Utah, it looked like…well, it looked like I was going to pull into my driveway within a tenth of a mile of a Natural Century. 

I watched the distance on my GPS count up. This was going to be close.

So close.

I pulled into my driveway and:

Thumb IMG 1894 1024 

99.9 miles. Oh, so close.

But wait

I plugged my GPS into my computer, it uploaded to Strava, and:

Screenshot 2015 04 23 12 56 57

100.0 miles.

According to Strava, I had in fact just ridden the mythical, impossible, perfect Natural Century. And with an uncanny darned-near-perfect moving time of 5:00:33. Though I don’t take much stock in that; it’s not a sub-5 century unless the total time, not moving time, is sub-5.

Which left me with a question, as yet unanswered: which number should I believe?

Though to be honest, at the moment I didn’t care all that much. I just wanted to get back to my book.

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