“I reserve the right to call this off,” I told The Hammer. “And if I call it off, I want you to respect that I’m making the call in absolute, utter seriousness. I’m not calling it off because I’m looking for an argument, or to be convinced that we should not call it off. I’m calling it off because it needs to be called off.”
It was six in the morning, we were driving to Moab for our annual Ride Around White Rim in One Day (RAWROD) ride. And the wind was so strong I was literally having a difficult time keeping the truck in the correct lane.
So sure: I was being a little hyperbolic. But only a little.
Anticipating that the wind would be a part of this story, I sagely took a screen grab of the hourly weather forecast on my phone:
I just wish I had taken a screen grab of the more detailed forecast I had seen online the night before…the one that said we could expect gusts of up to 45mph.
And in short, I had concerns about riding in the desert, against harsh winds, unsupported, for 100 miles, in one day.
I know, I know: call me a pessimist.
Long Ride, Short Time
You’ve got to give us credit, though: we did show up. The Hammer and I got to where we traditionally begin the ride — at the end of Mineral Bottom road, the top of Horse Thief climb. We unpacked and were ready to roll by the 7am starting time.
But not a lot of other people were ready.
Now, I’m not saying that the people who were there weren’t ready. Because they were. What I’m saying is that there weren’t a lot of people there.
As it turns out, I was not the only person who had checked the weather and found it wanting. Others, however, had elected to do things with their weekends that did not involve harsh winds while mountain biking unsupported in a sandy desert all day.
However, Kenny and Heather were there, on their tandem. And Kenny’s and Heather’s friends, Kathleen and Lucas, were also there.
And Ryan Thompson, to whom the laws of physics don’t apply even a little bit. And Jaoaoaaooa. Whose name I am pretty sure I am misspelling, but I think it has pretty close to that many vowels.
And in short, I am not good with names.
We began on time, more or less. I was chatting with Kenny and Heather, while noticing that The Hammer was beginning to pull away.
Hey, she’s The Hammer. It’s what she does.
I stood up and chased, managing to catch her. I looked over to my right, and there was Ryan. Thanks to a nice tailwind, the elevenths miles of straight dirt road warmup climb went by fast, and The Hammer claimed the QOM of Mineral Bottom as her own — even with a pee stop.
I looked back. Kenny, Heather, and the rest of the gang were nowhere to be seen.
“Should we wait for them here?” I asked?
“No,” The Hammer answered. “They’re all much faster than we are when descending. They’ll catch and pass us by the time we get to the bottom of Schafer.
We turned right…and into a ferocious headwind.
The three of us took short turns pulling as we climbed and battled the wind. I thought to myself how incredibly unfair it is to be the largest person in a pace line.
I thought to myself how I didn’t want to spend a whole day fighting a hard wind like this.
I thought to myself how it would be really easy to turn left and ride the Mag 7 trail instead of riding the White Rim today.
“Hey,” I said, brightly, “What if we ride the Mag 7 trail today instead of White Rim?”
“That’s a good idea,” Ryan said.
“That’s not a good idea,” The Hammer said.
We kept going.
The wind got worse.
“I have nothing to prove,” I said to Ryan and The Hammer. “Let’s end this ride while we still can.”
“That sounds good,” said Ryan.
“We’re already out here; we may as well keep going and see if the weather improves,” said The Hammer.
We kept going. I thought about how cycling needs safewords: words that we use when we’re not joking around. When we seriously want to cut out this nonsense RIGHT THIS MOMENT.
We approached the toll booth, where we’d each need to pay $10 to continue on and do the ride.
“Oh, I’m afraid I forgot to bring any money,” said Ryan, cleverly.
“We only brought enough for us to get through,” I said, wishing I had also been smart enough to forget our money.
“It’s free pass day!” said the woman at the toll booth, helpfully.
Ryan said something, but it’s not the kind of word I generally allow in this blog.
Something Is Amiss
Let me say this: The Hammer was not being silly when she said that we should keep going and let everyone catch us as they descend the Schafer road. It’s a long, twisty, scary descent, and The Hammer and I aren’t good at that kind of thing.
We figured that by pressing on and staying ahead now, we’d all be together and could ride the rest of the White Rim.
And that’s how it should have been.
But that’s not how it was.
Instead, we got to the bottom of Schafer…and it was still just the three of us.
But the wind was Blowing. So. Hard.
“I just don’t want to wait around,” I said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s just keep going to Musselman’s Arch. They’ll catch us there while we eat.”
And so we went, the three of us, fighting the wind. Heads down. All three of us wondering where everyone else was. And at least two of us wondering how we had gotten into this mess.
We got to Musselmans. We ate. We looked at the arch. We took pictures.
We even took time to take silly pictures.
But neither Kenny nor Lucas nor Heather nor Kathleen appeared.
And in fact, we would never see them again that day.
Which seems like a pretty good spot for us to pick up in the next installment of this story.
I have some news.
Some of it is unquestionably good, and some of it is tempting to call “bad,” though I think it’s more correct to call it “instructive” or “educational.”
Which should I talk about first? Hm.
Well, I know how I think: I’d want to know how bad the “bad” part is, and would skip past the “good” part if I had to.
So let’s do the bad/instructive/educational part first.
An Apology, What I’m Doing About It, and What I’ve Learned
On March 23, I asked my readers to carry me, in the form of pre-orders, as I looked for a job and wrote a book.
This was an error.
I mistook the generosity toward charitable causes my readers have shown throughout the years as a general willingness to open their wallets for anything I asked them to, including to support me.
To date, fewer than 100 jerseys and books have been ordered.
These numbers don’t get me to a break-even point (not even close), and right now I can’t risk additional debt.
So, over the next few days I’ll be sending out refunds for all orders and donations I’ve received associated with this book and associated gear.
I especially apologize to those of you who took a leap of faith in donating or in placing an order on the books. As a thank you for this, when this book is complete, I will send you e-book copies, no charge.
I still will write this book, but I’ll do it when I am under less pressure.
And I’ve learned a valuable lesson: I am not a charity, and I am not Kickstarter. If I have a product to sell (like jerseys) I need to give you a timeframe of when you’ll get it. If I have a book to sell, I need to have it written before I ask you to buy it. And I shouldn’t ask you to give me anything until and unless I’ve earned it. That won’t happen again.
The Good News
Back in March, I asked my readers to let me know if you were aware of a job that fits my talents, and I linked to my LinkedIn page and a copy of my resume.
I also, of course, began using traditional networking methods (friends, former co-workers, LinkedIn) to look for a job.
I was surprised — and incredibly happy — to find that all four of the best opportunities came to me via the nearly 1,000 times my resume was downloaded by Friends of Fatty (the fourth came from a friend who referred me to a very good local company).
In the end, it was in fact through a Friend of Fatty that I found Altify, where I started as a full-time employee yesterday, with responsibilities for community and social media.
It’s an awesome fit with a great company; I’m really excited to work here. New beginnings are intense, but this place has a great feel to it. (Plus they all treat me like the royalty I am.)
I can’t say how often I’m going to be able to post here for a while, but please definitely keep checking back. I’m not done with this blog yet.
I’m really pleased to announce this new episode of the FattyCast. In it, I talk with Betsy Andreu about pasta recipes, her hip replacement, the threshold of sincerity in apologies, how strange it is to juggle the responsibilities of being a mom and a whistleblower, why she hasn’t written a book, and yeah… a little bit about Lance Armstrong.
It’s a focused, intense, and fun conversation. You should definitely give it a listen. Which you can do by subscribing to the FattyCast on iTunes, on my FattyCast site, by downloading directly, or in the handy little player below:
Thoughts About the Show
From the outset, let me say this: I really enjoyed my conversation with Betsy. While she and I have exchanged email a few times, this was the first time I’ve ever actually talked with her. I hope to talk with her again.
Second, I think it’s really easy to get caught up with anger anytime anything Lance Armstrong-related comes up. For example, when this episode got automatically posted on Facebook over the weekend, one person expressed disappointment in me, saying “When you change sides, you really change sides.” Meaning, I suppose, that it was a betrayal of either Armstrong or LiveStrong for me to ever talk with Betsy.
Another person — someone who needled me pretty aggressively back before Armstrong admitted to cheating — made it very clear he still has a problem with me, writing, “Zzzzzz…you can’t force me to listen to that guy.”
And even Betsy, in sharing the podcast on Facebook, described me as a “former adversary.” Which made me a little sad; I had never thought of myself as her adversary. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned her in this blog.
I guess these are all legitimate perspectives. Talking with someone like Betsy might feel like betrayal to you if you feel like I owe Armstrong loyalty.
Giving Armstrong the benefit of the doubt back before he confessed might seem like absurd naïvete. I confess: I tend toward being naïve.
And while I never said anything against Betsy, I also never had her back; maybe that does make me a former adversary.
In any case, I believed and acted how I believed and acted, and I affected people how I affected them. I never meant (nor mean) to hurt anyone, but apologize to those I hurt without meaning to.
All that said, I reiterate: this is a really good episode, and you should listen to it.
A Note from Fatty: If you haven’t signed up for the Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Dura Ace Road Bike giveaway sponsored by my friends at The Feed, you need to. Now. It takes less than a minute to do, costs nothing, and someone’s going to win that bike. Why not give yourself a shot at it?
Race in the Basement
I had been dreading this moment. And yet, I had also been so excited for this moment. I had put off this moment, partly because of sickness, but mostly because I didn’t want to know.
And yet, I so wanted to know.
I am talking, of course, about the TrainerRoad 20 Minute Test, and — much more specifically — that as part of beginning the TrainerRoad Sustained Power Build training plan, I needed to do this 20 Minute Test…which, oddly enough, takes an hour.
Here’s what I posted on Twitter an hour or so before I went down into my basement to do the test
Why was I so nervous? Why was I so conflicted? Because this workout gives you a very accurate measurement of how strong you are. If you commit to going as hard as you can, it delivers an extraoridinary amount of pain, followed by an extremely honest, numerical assessment of how many watts, on average, you should be able to generate in an hour. Your “Functional Threshold Power (FTP) number.”
My most recent FTP test was a couple months ago, and resulted in a score of 269. Which is not bad. But I had been sick when it was time to do this test a month ago, and so I hadn’t.
And now, well I was curious: was I getting stronger? Weaker? Staying the same?
“Oh please,” I prayed to St. Merckx, the patron saint of quadriceps, “Don’t let me wind up with a result that’s weaker.”
I loaded the workout, fully aware of how odd it was to have a case of the butterflies in anticipation of doing a solo workout, in the basement, on my Wahoo Kickr trainer.
The screenshot of the profile tells you everything you need to know about what this workout does to you. A half-hour warmup slowly ramps up your effort, gives you a few short, hard efforts, a practice five minutes above your previous FTP effort.
And then, for twenty minutes, you go. Just as hard as you can.
Which is a very interesting thing to try to do.
Because going at your absolute limit for twenty minutes isn’t the same as going at your one-minute absolute limit. One minute means I’m going at a dead sprint and it’s the end of the world and I’m throwing up and oh mercy I’m starting to black out and how did a minute turn into three thousand years and oh I thought I was going to die and I guess I’m not but yes I guess I really did throw up on myself.
And it’s not like going at your nine-hour absolute limit, where basically you’re just riding just two notches into your discomfort level, and never letting yourself slip into the “one notch of discomfort” zone.
A twenty minute effort leaves room for uncertainty: Could I possibly go just a little harder right this second? And of course the answer is “Yes, but if I do I may completely collapse and be unable to continue for another seventeen minutes.“
And on any given day, you can go to the TrainerRoad 20 Minute Test page and see how that test has defeated people. Some go too hard at the beginning, and melt down as they get to the real part of the test:
Some bonk, recover as best as they can, and struggle on valiantly:
And some people…well, some people do it more or less perfectly, keeping their effort smooth and consistent through the whole thing:
As for me, well…I was somewhere in between. Here’s my whole thing:
And here’s the closeup of the real star of the test: the twenty minute block:
That jagged yellow line represents my mental state incredibly well. I began overconfident, thinking I could keep my power at or above 350 for the whole time.
This was as stupid as it was wrong.
Before long, I revised my estimate to thinking I could keep my wattage above 320. And then 300.
To my credit, I never revised my intent below 300. But sometimes, if I let my attention stray even briefly, my power would dip down, and I’d have to wind myself back up again.
Each time it hurt. And you can see from the jagged yellow line that it was a constant battle.
But — and I’m proud of this — I did not give up.
“Go. come on. Go. You’re dropping again. GO! OK, you’re back up to where you should…no, you’ve dropped again. GO!”
Like that. For twenty minutes.
Furthermore, I even managed to, for the last few minutes, give it everything I’ve got to climb up to the 320 zone.
The moment that twenty-minute test ended and the ten minutes of cool down began, I felt a gratitude and exhaustion I have experienced only at race finish lines, and even then only rarely.
But even as I cooled down, I wondered how I had done.
Was I proud? Well, of course I was proud. Still am. So proud I’m writing this incredibly vain post about it.
Proud enough that I texted the above screengrab to my wife, to friends, tweeted it to the universe, and even sent it to Jonathan at TrainerRoad.
He said it was a solid effort, but that if I don’t go so hard at the beginning, instead keeping my effort smooth throughout, I might be able to average a better overall number.
He texted me this helpful graphic to demonstrate:
So I still have room for improvement. Still, I did manage new personal bests with this workout, shown with the cute little ribbon icons:
Although, the assertion that I went through 753 calories is suspect:
To be fair to TrainerRoad, this is not their fault. They can’t possibly know that my metabolism defies physics and that I actually gained weight as I did the test.
So: 289 FTP for Fatty. The highest I’ve ever measured it. Not bad for a guy who turns fifty next month.
I’m beginning to believe there may be something to this whole “structured workout” thing. Weird.
A “Hey Join Me for this Last-Minute Conversation About the Rockwell Relay” Note From Fatty: I’m a huge fan of the Rockwell Relay. Huge. And on Wednesday, May 4, at 12pm (noon) MDT I’m going to get together with Tyler Servoss on a Google Hangout to talk about this year’s Rockwell Relay: what’s different, what’s the same, new prizes, new sponsor, changes to the route, and more. Be sure to come join us. We’re going to keep it short and to the point: half an hour of presentation, and then time for Q&A.
Eben Weiss is the author of the popular bike blog, Bike Snob NYC. Here we are together, in a very recently-taken photograph (six years ago):
I show this photograph, of course, to demonstrate what it would look like if Stanley Tucci and Hugh Jackman were bike bloggers who hung around together in bars when given the opportunity.
Also, I am pleased to announce that Eben has just published The Ultimate Bicycle Owner’s Manual: The Universal Guide to Bikes, Riding, and Everything for Beginner and Seasoned Cyclists.
He and I recently spent ninety-five glorious minutes on the FattyCast talking about this book, as well as about how we both regret the names we gave our blogs.
And whether Stan’s Notubes are revolutionary, or merely nifty.
And the fact that we both agree that The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the most important book ever written.
Here’s the thing: his book is useful, and not just for people who have already bought into cycling as a way of life. No. It’s for those people (i.e., us people) and it’s for normal people too — people who are new to biking, or just interested in starting, and have a lot of questions.
Eben highly recommends, therefore, that you get a copy for yourself, and one each for all the friends you have who won’t leave you alone with their bike questions.
I agree completely.
And meanwhile, you should also listen to our conversation. It’s a good one. You can find it on iTunes, on FattyCast.com, you can download it directly, you can get the RSS feed, and you can listen to it right here:
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