2016 Six Hours In Frog Hollow, Part 1: Near-Death Experiences and a Poop Story

04.21.2016 | 9:26 am

If you want a good race report about 6 Hours in Frog Hollow, you ought to read the one I wrote a couple years ago, back in 2014 (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). 

That was a good race report. With lots of action and excitement.

This race report, on the other hand, has distressing stories about  invisible barriers, resignation to inevitable (yet still tragically disappointing) realities, and a heartrending philosophical question that is far from hypothetical.

And with that incredible teaser, let’s get started with this year’s race report of the Six Hours in Frog Hollow.

With a poop story (of course).

And a near-death experience.

The Near-Death Experience

Of all the factors in the Six Hours in Frog Hollow race, I saw myself as the least interesting and important. Here is a small sample of the myriad more interesting things about this day:

  1. The Swimmer would be participating in her second  bike race. Like her first, it would be at least fifty miles and five hours long. This would be the race where we decided her great result at True Grit was a fluke.
  2. The Hammer would be racing single speed, racing against Heidi Volpe, a very strong racer from California.
  3. The wind. Oh, the wind. It was predicted to gust to forty miles per hour. The direction it was blowing didn’t really matter; since we were riding in a loop, it would be a headwind, crosswind, and tailwind at some point.

I was excited about items one and two. I was resolved to just cope with item three the best I could. 

But it was item three that just about killed me. Before the race even began.

Like many people do, I often improvise a “dressing room” out of my front and rear car doors, giving me at least three sides of privacy as I change into bibs and a jersey.

This went off without a hitch; I have years of practice (the trick is to already be wearing socks and point your toes as you put your feet through the legs). In under fifteen seconds I went from wearing jeans to being completely naked to wearing bibshorts.

I’m a public nudity ninja.

I then put my jersey on at a more leisurely pace, zipped it up, and then bent down to put my shoes on and lace them up.

And that’s when I was nearly killed. Or at least sent to the hospital with stitches.

Because that’s when an incredible gust of wind slammed the front door shut. 

The edge of the truck door missed my skull by…oh, let’s say half an inch.

The Hammer gasped, then screamed. 

I continued tying my shoes.

The Poop Story

You would not be out of line to wonder whether I intentionally seek out pre-race outhouse poop stories.

I swear to you: I do not seek them out. I would be so much happier to not have to begin my race reports with pre-race poop stories.

And yet, for whatever reason, they seem to factor into my race reports. 

Here, for visual purposes, is the very outhouse in which my poop story occurs:

IMG 0273 

I am happy to report that the tipping over of this outhouse is not part of the story I am about to tell. 

Nor is this one:

IMG 0277

Rather, these are all just to give you a sense of exactly how big a part the wind will come to play in upcoming installments of this race report.

For this part of the story, let’s just say that I went in to a portapotty and took care of my business.

And then discovered there was no toilet paper. None. Just two empty cardboard tubes.

Mocking me.

I reached for my phone, knowing that my truck has a roll of toilet paper stored in a storage compartment. 

But I didn’t have my phone; I was suited up to ride and my phone was stored in the same compartment as the toilet paper.

Ironically, I suppose.

So I looked around and assessed my options. 

There were my FatCyclist logo socks. I didn’t really want to lose them.

There was my Ironman beanie. I didn’t really want to lose that.

And there were two toilet paper wrappers lying on the floor. You know, that really hard, stiff, waxy stuff they package toilet paper in, as if to convey, “Hey, this is not the part you should be wiping your butt with.”

Unless, of course, your need is urgent. 

Which mine was.

The Beginning

With my near-death and near-gross experiences behind me, I finished getting my bike ready, set it down on the dirt road, and got to the starting line with one minute to spare.

I found The Hammer, The Swimmer, and Rabid Runner together — all three in FatCyclist kit, making them both easy to find and devastatingly attractive.

Of course they’re all devastatingly attractive regardless of whether they’re wearing FatCyclist kit. I mean devastatingly attractive-er.

Cimarron started the race at nine o’clock in the morning exactly (I love on-time starts!) and we all began the fifty-yard-ish run to our bikes.

The Hammer, Rabid, and the Swimmer all distanced me immediately. I was in last…and the race hadn’t even begun yet.

By the time I got to my bike, The Hammer and Rabid were gone…but The Swimmer was chasing her Garmin 500 around in the dirt. Evidently it had popped off her mount when she tried to press Start.

Normally I would have picked it up and handed it to her.

But this wasn’t normal. This was racing. And to be honest, I was just a smidgen nervous about her catching and beating me. (Yeah, she’s fast.)

So I yelled “Good luck!” and rode away from her. Saved from being last by a weakly-mounted GPS.

Now I just had to catch my wife. Hopefully.

I know, I know: story of my life.

And we’ll pick up with that story in the next installment of this race report.

 

Real Value: Why Real Salespeople Matter

04.18.2016 | 2:29 pm

If you ride bikes and you’re on Facebook, you’ve almost certainly seen this sponsored post (or one very much like it):

Speedx fb

The SpeedX Leopard is the most-funded bike campaign on Kickstarter, surpassing its goal of $50,000 within two hours of launching. With three days left in the campaign, this very affordable, nice-looking, carbon fiber road bike with a built in GPS and cadence sensor is a rounding error away from two million dollars in pledges.

It’s a huge success story…and it’s also a symptom of a big problem (and not just in the bike industry): circumventing the trusted, knowledgeable salesperson, in order to get a lower price. 

It’s not worth it. 

The Dangers of Bargain Hunting

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the pros and cons of the SpeedX Leopard here (although in the most recent episode of The Paceline  [Download or find on iTunes], we get into that a little bit).

The fact is, for certain people, the Leopard may in fact be a really good option. 

But there are a lot of people for whom this bike isn’t right, too. 

Which leads to the $1400 – $2500 question: which are you? 

A lot of people don’t know the answer to that question…and when knowledgeable people are left out of the purchase in the name of low price, buyers aren’t going to find out until too late whether they’ve made a bad call. 

Without a knowledgeable salesperson they trust, a lot of people won’t realize this cool-looking, high-tech bike they’re excited about is actually non-adjustable in some important ways, does not fit, handles poorly, is very heavy for a road bike, and has seriously suspect wheels.

They’re not going to find out, ’til too late, that for them this record-breaking Kickstarter-funded bike is not such a great deal after all.

Of Bikes and Enterprises

I’ve been reading a study published by Altify talking about the relationship between sellers and buyers, based on a survey it conducted with a combination of 1200+ people. The results are meant to be used at an enterprise level, but the truth is they actually provide some important insights for anyone, at any level — including people who are buying or selling bikes, online or in stores.

One thing that really caught my eye: buyers don’t think salespeople matter all that much. Fewer than half think salespeople are “very important” or “critical.”

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I can understand why, I suppose. We’ve gotten used to being self-service in a lot of our purchase decisions. And the Amazon.com-itization of the world is fine…up until you start making complex buying decisions. Like in a sophisticated software solution to be deployed across your enterprise.

Or for buying a bike.

Knowledge and Trust Matter

Once you get past the point of comfort with your own expertise, you need a trusted, knowledgeable person to guide you through complicated purchases. 

Both of those words — trusted and knowledgeable — are critical, no matter whether you’re talking about big business or buying from a bike shops. The Altify study emphasizes:

If there is one message that you take away from this study it should be that you have to take care of your customers.

An incredible 80% of customers say that previous history is the top factor in determining where they go to buy.

That, of course, is only true if that “previous history” is a good experience — where a salesperson doesn’t just relay information that could just as easily be found with a quick web search, but instead understands the customer well enough to not just make a goode-enough transaction, but to help the customer make a better purchase than they would have on their own.

This doesn’t happen as often as salespeople might think, unfortunately; about half think they almost always add value, while buyers are more likely to say “rarely” or “sometimes.” 

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Yes, I know: this study is focused on business sales, not bikes. But the critical point stands, regardless: people need help to make difficult purchases, but “help” needs to be more than just conveying information. 

It Goes Both Ways

Whether talking about bike shops or large enterprises, it’s pretty obvious that the seller needs the buyer. But I think it’s equally clear that buyers need good, real-world salespeople for complicated purchases.

We need people we can trust, people who know not just the facts, but what matters to us. People who are going to bring us back to the shop for service and for group rides…and for the next time we want a bike. People who know enough to say, “Sure, a built-in GPS and carbon wheels for a $2500 bike sounds good, but what if that GPS fails? And do you want to trust no-name rims to not delaminate at 40mph?”

So there’s a call to action on both sides of the fence for my readers. 

First, for my friends at bike shops: Center everything you do around your customers; earn repeat business from your customers by being trustworthy, knowledgeable, and rewarding your best salespeople for great work. Find out from your customers whether your salespeople are providing value. As the Altify study shows, this may not be  obvious to the salespeople themselves.

Second, for my friends who are bike shop customers: Reward shops with great salespeople with your repeat business. Recommend them to friends. And understand that a bike is not a simple online purchase, because you certainly can’t have it properly fit, serviced or upgraded online.

In short: remember: Good salespeople aren’t just a value-add; may be what stands between you and a disastrous decision.

New FattyCast: Erica Tingey

04.14.2016 | 2:01 pm

Screenshot 2016 04 14 07 00 19

Erica Tingey is probably the most human, normal person I’ve ever interviewed for the FattyCast.

Except she drinks bone broth.

And she rides no-handed on her rollers while doing the robot dance to entertain her son.

And she lays down a flat-out monstrous 293 watts of power in her most recent FTP test.

All in spite of the fact that she just took a year off her pro cycling career with Jamis, battling sickness and depression. 

A great conversation with a pro cyclist who’s both human and superhuman: yup, it must be Erica Tingey on the FattyCast.

Find it on ITunes, use the fattycast.com/RSS feed, download it directly, or listen here:

Show Links

How to Deny — But Not Defy — Physics

04.12.2016 | 2:45 pm

At this moment in time, I am very angry at physics.

Here’s why.

I have been having a remarkably difficult time sticking to good eating habits lately. This has to do with the perfect storm of me having more time to eat, and having the kitchen about six feet from where I write, and having the terrible habit of eating whenever I’m working on writing something difficult.

And pretty much every single paragraph of Fight Like Susan is difficult.

And in short, I haven’t weighed myself in several days because I am confident it will not be good news. And as someone who’s dealt with plenty of bad news lately, I’ve taken to avoiding bad news (e.g., the scale) whenever I can.

The Plan

Yesterday, The Hammer went on a pre-birthday run with her friend Lynette, and then to see her mom, and then to a work-related dinner.

Which meant I would be exercising by myself. A rare thing. But also an interesting opportunity, because I had this terrific plan I was excited to execute:

Find out how fast I am.

It was a good plan, because I hadn’t had time during the day to ride, and I was running out of daylight. With the short hour of time I had for exercise (Note to self: write a post about how cycling is the only sport where an hour is a short workout), I could attack a couple of climbs and figure out how I’m doing.

The Execution

So that’s what I did.

I suited up, got on the Felt FReD 9, and took off, with the intention of giving it all I’ve got in two climbs in Lambert Park: Spring, and then Up Rodeo to Middle Spring. See if I could really push myself. See if I could maybe set a new PR.

And I did push myself. I put in a truly big effort, went as hard as I could go. Suffered intensely and thoroughly.

After knocking myself out for two very intense — but let’s face it, short — climbs, I lazed about on trails for a few more minutes and then rode home, immediately uploading to Strava.

The Aftermath

I was not happy with what Strava had to say to me. On Spring, the 0.7-mile, 309’ climb, I was hoping for a PR trophy. Or at least a 2nd-best or (worst-case scenario) a 3rd-best ribbon.

Nope. Nothing. 

Here is, in fact, where yesterday’s full-blown Spring climb effort lies in terms of my attempts:

Screenshot 2016 04 12 14 10 35

Well, for one thing it’s interesting to note that I’ve gone up this climb 54 times since I’ve started using Strava. But I haven’t tried to go my fastest up this climb many times at all.

Yesterday, I got up there in my fourth-best time. Fourth. Which wouldn’t bother me so much if that weren’t almost forty seconds slower than my fastest time. 

Forty seconds slower than my best, in a five-minute climb. 

Sheesh.

Next, I checked my time up Rodeo Up – Middle Spring. Now, I didn’t really expect a new PR on this climb, because for some reason I actually own the KOM for this climb, nailing this twisty one-mile, 293’ climb in a miraculous 6:11 I never expect to replicate.

Screenshot 2016 04 12 14 19 12 

However, I did hope to get close. You know, some time in the sixes.

Nope

Screenshot 2016 04 12 14 20 44

8:14 was my time yesterday. More than two minutes slower than my best. I added a full third to my best time.

I stared at the screen, Surprised and saddened. Dumbfounded and dismayed. Ambivalent and alliterative, apparently.

How? How could this be happening? How is it I did my best, but managed to be slower?

Then The Hammer got home and asked if I had succeeded in my mission to be King of Lambert Park, giving me cause to sulk even more.

Reality

Of course, the truly amazing thing is not that I’m slower on climbs. No indeed. What in fact is truly amazing is that I somehow thought that I would magically be faster on these climbs, simply by applying grit and a winning attitude.

As it turns out, physics are a real thing. Which means that even though my power is up, my weight is up too. Disproportionately so.

In short, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, but I’ve got more pudge to carry up the mountains. 

Which, to my astonishing astonishment (by which I mean it’s astonishing that I was astonished), is not exactly a formula for KOM success.

Which further means that I need, beginning right this second, to prepare myself for the absolute certainty that I am going to suck when I race at the 6 Hours in Frog Hollow this weekend.

Or, to elaborate further for the sake of clarity: I am going to suck, and suck bad

Because there’s a lot of climbing. And I’m ten pounds heavier than the last time I did this race. For climber types like me, power is nice, but power-to-weight is much more important. And I’ve got some work to do, weight-wise.

Wake Up Call

I have three races coming up that matter to me. Rockwell Relay. Crusher in the Tushars. Leadville MTB 100. All three of these races are custom-made for climbers.

But even more importantly, I’m going to be going somewhere as a guest of my friends at DNA Cycling, one month from yesterday. Somewhere where it would be really good for me to be really strong and light. Because there are mountains in this some place. And I’m going to be photographed.

Yikes.

So. Ten pounds. in one month. It’s going to happen.

Because I don’t exactly want to be fat when I tackle the mountains of Italy.

New Can’t-Fail Diet Plan

04.11.2016 | 2:36 pm

A Note From Fatty About a Friend’s Kickstarter: Jonny Hintze is the design guru over at ENVE, the designer of my 2015 FatCyclist kit, and is launching his own cool line of cycling accessories, under the SN?K brand. He’s launching a Kickstarter for the first couple of items he’s selling: a very nice under-saddle Cycling Vital Case:

Snek18516 Front Back 1

And an ingenious all-in-one tire lever, which in addition to being good at being a tire lever, is also good for removing valve cores and opening bottles:

NewImage

I’d like to see Jonny’s project succeed, and Jonny would like to give Friends of Fatty a little extra incentive to back his project. So: if you back him with a pledge of $90 or more and let him know I sent you, Jonny’s going to hook you up with with a cold-weather cycling cap Jonny designed (and sells for $62), free. 

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Here’s what you need to do: 

1. Make your pledge. 
2. After pledging, click the “Contact me” link:

ContactMe

3. Send a message saying “Fatty sent me.” So you can redeem your cap.

Easy! 

New Can’t-Fail Diet Plan

It is a well-known fact that most diets fail for one simple — but incredibly difficult to surmount — reason: 

They make you eat food you don’t like.

No, now that I think about it, there’s another reason diets fail:

They don’t let you eat enough food, so you’re always hungry and grumpy.

OK, I guess there’s actually a third reason: 

They make you take forever to prepare your food.

And in short, diets make you take forever to prepare a tiny and unsatisfying portion of food you don’t even enjoy. Gee I wonder why they fail.

Fortunately for both you and me, I have a solution to this terrible problem, which I call:

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The All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Cereal Diet

It’s a little-known fact that breakfast cereal is really crunchy and delicious. 

No, wait. Everyone knows that. Let me try again.

It’s a little-known fact that breakfast cereal comes in a wide variety of flavors, has an entire aisle dedicated to it in every grocery store in America, and is not very expensive.

I’m not doing very well at revealing little-known facts here, am I? Let me try once more.

It’s a little-known fact that I can stand around in the kitchen, trying to think of what my next paragraph should be, as I absently eat handful upon handful of breakfast cereal (generally, Oatmeal Squares or Honey Nut Cheerios), only realizing the trauma I have caused to my diet when I discover I am as full as after Thanksgiving dinner.

There, you didn’t know that, did you? (Though you probably could have guessed.)

But here’s my point: I really, really like breakfast cereal. Like, practically all breakfast cereal. But when I eat it, I always used to feel guilty, because I’d just sabotaged my diet.

That all changed, however, when I came up with The All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Cereal Diet.

Here’s how it works: Whenever you want to eat something, have a bowl of cereal.

With milk, of course, because otherwise you’re obviously doing it wrong.

And here’s the cool thing: if you want to have a second bowl, do. And a third. Just keep on plowing through that cereal

And here’s the good news: no matter how much you eat, you’re just not going to crush your calorie limit for the day:

IMG 0035  1

See, a bowl of cereal with milk is just 250 calories. Which means that if you have a 2000 calorie per day diet, you can eat eight bowls of cereal per day.

And it’s not like I picked some gross low-calorie cereal here, either. This is Oatmeal Squares, which are widely regarded (at my house) as the best cereal currently on the planet. (Except of course for granola, which — no doubt about it — is totally going to make you fat.)

The fact is, if you burn spend a couple hours on the bike, thereby burning around 750 calories — and then eat eight bowls of cereal throughout the day, you’ll basically be so busy riding your bike and eating delicious cereal that you won’t have time to cheat on your diet. And meanwhile you’ll be netting around 1250 calories for the day.

Which means you’re going to lose weight. You just are. Even if you change from skim milk (which is only barely ok) to whole milk (which turns your breakfast cereal into the single best-tasting thing in the whole world, times ten).

Sure, I know: a few people are going to say that eight bowls of cereal per day is not enough. To you, I say: I totally agree, and think we should probably round up to ten, just because it’s an easier number to remember.

And there will be doubters who talk about gluten and sugar and carbohydrates and heart attacks.

To you I say nothing, because you obviously disagree with me, so why should I even pay attention to what you’re saying?

And of course, there will be the literalists among you who will say, “Have you ever actually tried pouring yourself a bowl of cereal that just had a cup of cereal in it, with half a cup of milk? It’s both tiny and has a completely weird cereal-milk imbalance.”

To you, I say: “Yeah, I know, but I’m trying to overlook that because it doesn’t serve my argument very well.”

Finally, most of you are going to say, “Yes, this is clearly a genius idea and quite likely the first diet I’ve ever heard of that I think I can actually get behind.”

To those of you who say this, I reply: “Let’s eat. We’ve got breakfast cereal — and lots of it — to consume.”

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