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.
I should state up front that this post is really little more than an unashamed love letter to the crew that took care of The Hammer, Kenny, and me for the entirety of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow: Zach, Trisha, and Brooks.
Although, to tell the truth, they began taking care of us long before the ride began.
The Hammer and I got away from home in late afternoon, picking up our four singlespeeds from Racer, and were listening to The Cuckoo’s Calling in audio book format.
And then we passed an RV, pulling a trailer with “TOSH” (for The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, the place where Zach works, and which is also his cycling team) printed on it.
We honked and waved, excited that they had so much gear for crewing for us that it didn’t even all fit in an RV.
Our expectations soared.
But our expectations were about to be exceeded. Wildly.
The Hammer and I got to the venue about 5pm, with Zach, Brooks, and Trish just a few minutes behind. Kenny had taken the initiative of reserving the single nicest spot for crewing on “Solo Row,” which meant that there was room for our truck, Fred the RV, the trailer, tents, and Kenny’s Sprinter van right outside the exchange tent:
My truck is on the very far left of the photo. The exchange tents are on the very far right.
Yep, that’s all us. We had the biggest, nicest, prime piece of real estate in the Frog Hollow universe.
Here, let me show you around.
First of all, here’s Fred, now including the most awesome custom decal in the whole world:
Next, here’s The Hammer, relaxing on one of the couches our crew brought along, her feet resting on the carpet our crew brought along.
We were lucky to have Trisha — a professional photographer — take pictures throughout the event. Be sure to check out her photo site, crookedpinkie.com.
So yes, we had leather couches. And carpet.
All under a nice shady easy-up. Everything was so buttoned-down and nicely arranged that I had plenty of time to ogle my newly-built Specialized Stumpjumper Singlespeed HT:
Oh mercy, that is a nice bike.
And then there was the fire pit.
Brooks and Heather relaxing by the fire pit during some rare downtime.
I don’t even know how to describe how wonderful it is to finish a lap at three in the morning and be able to sit down for a minute by a fire while drinking warm soup. It just makes the whole experience better.
Plus, they brought strings of lights, which — aside from making it easy to see everything — just made the whole place incredibly cheerful and welcoming.
Every single rider had to go by our setup every single lap. I have no question that the envy levels were incredibly high.
They brought a microwave. They brought food. They brought tools. They brought a bike stand.
They even brought a suture kit, which came in handy when Zach took a nasty spill and cut his leg open.
Yep, he numbed and stitched himself up all by himself. Tell me you wouldn’t want this guy taking care of you.
Seriously, I do not believe they forgot a single thing.
Let The Race Begin
With such a competent, friendly, funny, easygoing crew taking care of things, the normal night-before-the-race jitters were much lower than usual. We all sat around the fire, eating brats, relaxing, talking, and just feeling happy.
Our bikes were ready. Our stuff was out. We had a group of three people with us who pretty much instantly had become good friends.
I know. I know. I’m gushing. Fine. So be it.
The crew gave The Hammer and me a bed in their RV, we ambiened out, and got a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, all we had to do was get our number plates on our bikes…
… and suit up…
And then get in line for the Lemans-style race start. We knew that Zach, Brooks, and Trish would take fantastic care of us.
All we had to do was pedal our bikes for the next 25 hours.
Things were not looking good for me. Not good at all.
I had the longest mountain bike race of my life — by more than double of any distance I had ever raced before — ahead of me the upcoming weekend, and I just didn’t feel ready. I hadn’t really trained for it. Hadn’t really studied the course or thought about what I would eat.
By itself, that would be OK. I could go to the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow — known as “The Longest 1-Day Race” because it always takes place over the time change — and just sorta kinda put a half effort into it.
Except I couldn’t.
I couldn’t because I know myself: when I get to the line I know that I am going to have the madness of racing take me.
I couldn’t because my volunteer crew — Zach Terry and his family — were giving up a weekend to take care of me.
And I couldn’t because I didn’t want to disappoint The Hammer, who was very excited about the race.
But I could worry out loud to her. I could tell her how unprepared I was, how my heart wasn’t in it, how I could already feel my pants and t-shirts getting tight as I begin to put on the first of many layers of winter blubber.
Until finally The Hammer told me to cut it out. I was sucking all the excitement for this race out of her.
I thought about it. She was right. I was being a complete and utter Eeyore about the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. Not because of the race, but because of my own burned-out-ed-ness. I needed to pull myself together.
So I did. I cheerfully participated in IM conversations with The Hammer throughout the day as she speculated on how many laps she needed to set as a goal:
So now you know what conversations between The Hammer and me are like. We speculate and speculate and speculate about race distances and time and effort and what reasonable objectives are.
Big Problem, Quickly Solved
Then, last Wednesday, I suddenly had a problem. Racer — of Racer’s Cycle Service — sent me a message: my beloved Specialized Stumpjumper Singlespeed (The SSSS) was in no condition to do a big race: the BB cup was loose in the frame — it looked like the carbon inside the shell had been damaged.
Needless to say — with fewer than two days ’til we headed out toward the race venue in Hurricane, Utah — I was a little bit freaked out. By which I mean I was a lot freaked out.
So I called Specialized, and they said, “Hey, you know that our shipping facility is in Salt Lake City, right?”
And I said, “Yeah.”
And they said, “Well, why don’t you come get a replacement frame right now?”
So I found the Specialized Warehouse / Shipping facility:
Where I picked up a brand-new Specialized Stumpjumper HT Singlespeed Frameset.
Yes, that’s right. From discovery of problem to having a new bike frame in hand: under two hours.
Yeah, I know that’s not typical (for one thing, I live remarkably close to the right place to pick up the frame; for another I happened to be in SLC that day anyway, so was even closer).
But I’m still going to give major props, kudos, and huzzahs in general for taking care of me like that.
So I took my new frame over to Art Dye Park, where — very conveniently for me, since this park is about three miles from my house — Racer was entered in a cyclocross race. I gave him the frame and he promised he’d build the bike up for me on Thursday, so I could pick it up on Friday on the way out of town.
And sure enough, the next day I got photos from Racer as he built up my bike:
I was back in business. In fact, I’d say it’s safe to say that bike-wise, I was even better off than I had been before.
Incomprehensibly huge thanks go out to Racer, for — once again — staying late at the shop and taking care of me. Racer’s been a great friend and mechanic for me for — I’m guessing here — about fifteen years. There’s a reason I happily travel more than twenty miles to go to his shop.
What to Eat?
You would think that, having recently done the Salt to Saint race, The Hammer and I would have the “What should we eat when we’re riding continuously for more than a full day?” question answered.
But you would be wrong.
In the absence of any food strategy whatsoever, we went to Costco, hungry, and asked ourselves the same question, over and over: “What would be really good to eat when we’re really tired and have been riding for, like, fifteen hours?”
Our answer was, pretty much, everything. Including, but not limited to:
- Barbecued Chicken
- Chicken soup
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Rice pudding
- A vast multitude and variety of pastry
- An inexhaustible supply of Red Bull
- Even more Coke than Red Bull
- Tortilla chips
- Two tubs full of Nutella, each of which is large enough to drown either a collie or your sorrows
- Bananas, basically acting as Nutella-delivery devices
- Dried mangos
- About a gallon of trail mix
Many, many of these things would be scorned during the race, which even now is unfathomable to me; how is it possible that I don’t want to eat when I’m racing? I love eating, and I love all these foods.
I can only conclude that when I am racing, madness takes me.
By Friday afternoon, we had purchased enough food to feed a family of four through the end of the decade, and we had four singlespeeds ready to go: Specialized Stumpy SS as our primary bikes, Superfly SS as our secondary bikes.
It was time to head to Frog Hollow and ride.
And ride and ride and ride and ride.
The 25 Hours in Frog Hollow is over. The last big race of a big year of racing, now behind us.
And —I mean this seriously and with no irony at all — there could not have been a more incredibly perfect way to conclude the season. It’s going to be a big story to tell, with a lot of participants. So starting tomorrow, I’ll be taking up my multi-part race report format again, and telling this in as much detail as I need.
Today I need to rest, catch up on some work, and get back home.
So for today’s entry, I’m just going to quickly jot down a bullet list of things I want to talk about in the coming days. That’s right, I’m about to give you the mother of all spoilers. Either read it and try to make sense of it, or ignore it and then come back in a couple weeks when I’ve finished the writeup.
- Trash talking with Greg
- Trash talking with Kenny
- Fear and trembling with The Hammer
- The Hammer tells me to quit being such a baby about the race
- The Hammer has predictions
- The fastest warranty in the world
- 24hr race philosophy
- Our HQ location: the best there could be
- Zach, Trish, Brooks: The best crew there could ever be
4 singlespeeds: 2 each
Start of the race – running with The Hammer. Surprise that Kenny was ahead of us
I try to be funny and probably ruin someone’s day
I talk with Jamon and do my best to get in his head
The woman who would not let me by
“See you in 6 hours” – the folly of The Hammer’s math
MST v Beijing time: Me and The Hammer’s course positions
The Hammer is a machine
Kenny takes the race very seriously.
A ride with Zach
A fateful decision: wait, or not?
The Hammer, a cheerfully bloody mess
More awesomeness from the crew
- A microwave
Occasionally I do something that is absolutely positively right.
18! No, 16! No, 17! Yes, definitely 17! Oh, sorry, didn’t I tell you about the 17?
Pride in cleaning something, and then pride in cleaning something well. And later not being able to get it at all
Changing expectations: Maintaining 10mph avg. to 9 to whatever.
Nearly killing Heather and asking her to please slow down
Pain and my hands
spaghetti is good
Hot chocolate is good
mac and cheese is good or it’s not
Wanting to cheat
Nice to ride together
Watching the sun go down, knowing you’ll be there when it comes back up
The trail changes at night
NiteRider is awesome
You really get to know the trail
Proud of my secret line
Boombotix pros and cons
The dread and hope tension: excited to hang with the crew, dreading having to make a choice among the huge cornucopia we had brought
Boasting about The Hammer after surreptitiously gathering competitive intel
The Hammer expresses regret
I have no response to the question, “How are you doing?”
The final lap: harder than all previous laps combined
Surprising race results
Nearly killing us by falling asleep at the wheel
- Fixing a wheel
- Changing cleats
- Keeping bikes running perfectly
- Dressing us
- Keeping us warm with a propane heater
There you go. Everything — but really nothing — about the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow.
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