A Note from Fatty: Free-verse Friday is back! At least for today it is, anyway. Because I’m feeling extraordinarily poetic for some reason.
In Hodgkins, Illinois
There is a truck
Or a plane
The vehicle type is not the point
What is on that vehicle
This UPS-owned vehicle
That my friend
Is the point
At three this morning
By the way,
Feels not at all morning-like)
I got a text message
From the Oracle of Cannondale
(AKA Matt Ohran)
I would be receiving
IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE
An F-Si Carbon Black Inc
I knew at once
That for the next two hours
I would lay awake
To the reality
That soon I will be riding
That dream bikes
So now I sit
This rainy day
Refreshing the UPS tracking page
As if that will somehow speed things
And otherwise move things along
For Monday afternoon
Cannot come soon enough
Sure, it’s a test
And I will be honest in my review
But I am not VeloNews
Nor am I Bicycling Magazine
Nor CyclingNews nor BikeRadar neither
My point being
That nobody really expects me
To talk about torsional stiffness
Or vertical compliance
Instead, I plan to talk about what it’s like
To ride the bicycle equivalent
Of an Acura NSX
For a season
(I sort of suspect it will be fun)
PS: I will be tweeting and quite possibly live broadcasting (using Periscope) the unboxing and build of this bike this Monday afternoon, or Tuesday morning…depending on when the bike arrives. You should probably follow me on Twitter for updates.
Today, I will write about what I had for breakfast on the morning of the Boggs Funduro eight-hour relay. I shall go into excruciating detail. I shall provide photographs. I shall provide lengthy asides that meander here and there, without even a tangential connection to the race at hand.
OK, OK. How about if I start talking about the race itself instead?
I thought you might say that.
How It Works
I’m not one to get too caught up in details, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to give a quick description of the Boggs Eight-Hour race format. To wit, your team tries to do as many laps before the eight hour cutoff as possible.
A team can be one, two, or three people, with categories for pretty much every possible combination of age range, gender, skill level, bike type, and number of racers.
Jeff, Levi, and I would be racing in the “Pro, lucky random winner guy, and paunchy aging bike blogger” category.
We liked our chances of getting on the podium.
Levi would race first, I would go second, Jeff would go third. As many times as possible. And since this course is about eleven miles long with about 1650 feet of climbing, we figured we’d be able to do either eight or — if things went perfectly — nine laps.
Levi’s First Lap
The first lap, it should be noted, is different than the other laps, in that it has a little bonus loop up a wide dirt road climb and then down singletrack, before beginning the regular lap. This loop, sensibly, is designed to thin out the crowd, which would otherwise be impossibly funneled into singletrack right from the beginning.
Carlos Perez, race director, stood atop a truck bed, heroically gazing into the future:
Also, he told us about the race course and rules and stuff.
Meanwhile, Levi meditated, putting on his game face and focusing on the race and how important it was to him.
Or, it’s possible that he just did his best to wake up.
Oh, and also he stared down a very small dog.
Who won the staring contest? Pfff, like you even need to ask.
The race began, and Levi was off, giving me the instruction that he would be back “in about an hour.”
I went back to the RV and suited up, wearing — for the first time ever — my WBR kit. Naturally, I took a selfie:
I’m so good at selfies.
I returned to the exchange point with about half an hour to spare. You know, just in case Levi turned out to be fast or something.
All By Myyy-seh-eh-ellffff
As it turns out, it wasn’t a half-bad idea for me to get to the exchange point nice and early. Levi finished his first lap (including the bonus loop at the beginning of the race) in almost exactly an hour (1:01:09, according to the official results).
I watched closely, and as soon as Levi crossed the timing mat, I was off, racing as if it mattered.
Which, to be clear, it did. Racing always matters to me during the race. If I’m not out there to be my fastest, hardest-working, absolute best version of me, why did I bother to make the trip?
So — as usual — I went out at full tilt, one simple question dominating my thoughts:
Can I go harder?
And if the answer is yes, well…do.
All of that is normal. All of that is how I always race. But there was something very, very different about this race, during this lap, at this moment.
I was entirely and utterly alone on the course.
Levi had gapped the entire field to such an extraordinary extent that not only was nobody in front of me, but when I looked over my shoulder, there was also nobody even remotely behind me.
This course belonged to me, and to me alone.
But I knew this would change. Furthermore, I knew it would change sooner than later if I didn’t give this lap everything I had to give.
So I had an unusual objective: stay alone, for as long as possible. Which is an anti-social objective for a pretty social guy.
And I did pretty well at staying alone. For the first 25 minutes, in fact, I managed to stay ahead of the entire field of racers.
This was awesome. Mostly. Except for one time, during a climb. There was a sign, pointing left. Except there was no left turn to make.
So I kept going. For about twenty feet. “Did I somehow just miss a turn?” I thought, my second-guessing superpower taking control. “I bet I did. I bet there is a left turn, and I somehow just missed it.”
I slowed. I stopped. I turned around and rode back to the sign. Sure enough, the sign pointed left toward no road or trail.
“I wish there was someone around here,” I thought.
Then a guy just blew by me: foooooosssh. I swear, a little swirl of dust and leaves followed in his wake and there was a noticeable doppler effect.
“So it begins,” I thought, expecting more very fast guys to come flying by me any moment.
But they did not.
In fact, the next pass I was involved in was when I passed a person, about five minutes later.
And then I passed another and another.
I was confused. Who was I passing? How did these people get ahead of me while going so much slower than me?
It just didn’t make sense, which just goes to show how my brain doesn’t work at all when I’m racing. It wasn’t until after I passed ten or fifteen people that it finally occurred to me: thanks to Levi’s crazily fast first lap, we were already lapping people…before they finished their first lap.
And in fact, I passed Friend of Fatty Dave Houston, who was celebrating his 61st birthday by racing this event solo.
“Hi Dave!” I yelled, as he let me by. Then, five minutes later, I thought, “I cannot believe I neglected to sing Happy Birthday to him.”
I resolved to rectify that problem, should I see him again during the race.
Up and Over
I feel like I need to emphasize, perhaps with bold, italics, all-caps, and underscore: THIS IS A REALLY GREAT COURSE. Seriously, it is. (I don’t use this combination of emphasis tactics lightly.) It’s more singletrack than not, it’s forested and beautiful. The light stipples through the trees, and whatnot.
And, very importantly, no climb lasts for very long without giving you at least a few seconds of recovery:
You see that? Even the really big climb, from mile 6.3 – 8.5, has lots of little breaks in it.
At first, in each climb I’d lock out the fork and rear suspension of my bike, but I was swapping so often I tired of it. By the time I was 2/3 of the way through my lap I decided I’d just do all my riding seated for the rest of the race.
The course finishes with a big, fun, curvy, singletrack descent, opening out into the transition area.
I saw it and opened up, wanting to finish strong, proud of the fact that only one person had passed me during my lap.
Then I it a rise right before the arch and timing mat. Without seeing it, without expecting it.
And in short, I flipped, ass over teakettle, right in front of everyone.
I stood up, not yet feeling any pain, looking at my bike to see if it’s got any obvious damage. It does not, but everything that was in my jersey pockets is laying scattered on the ground. Yard sale.
I grab my phone and other stuff and run my bike the ten feet to the mat. Jeff takes off. It’s his turn.
I’ve done a pretty respectable 1:00:54, finish line crash and all. At which point, it’s time to take a selfie.
Don’t you love the way Dave Thompson is laughing in the background? That dude is cold.
In addition to the elbow, I scraped up my left knee pretty well.
Embarrassment at my crash notwithstanding, I was proud of my effort.
Now I had two hours — more or less — ’til it was my turn to do it again.
Which is where we’ll pick up in my next post.
The day started well, and it would end well. And more often than not, it would just be a great day.
But there would be some in-between stuff that I could have happily done without.
Jeff started the day by surprising me with an outrageously cool, autographed poster of Jens Voigt:
So now I have no choice but to lose this 15 pounds of winter blubber I’m still carrying around and get into race shape.
[Note to self: Write a post sometime soon about how lack of self-discipline in dieting can make for slow weight loss. Said post will undoubtedly be groundbreaking.]
Then, after purchasing Mountain Dew and lots of cookies, we were off toward Boggs Mountain State Forest, where we’d be staying and racing for the next three days. Friday: a short-but-steep hill climb. Saturday: an eight-hour relay. Sunday: a Super D (which I had no intention whatsoever of participating in).
And this is where the problem began. You see, here is a representative section of the road from Santa Rosa to Boggs:
What this bird’s-eye view doesn’t show is that this is also seriously uphill, except when it’s seriously downhill. Otherwise all those switchbacks would make a lot less sense, I guess.
Anyway, here’s what I’d be driving to Boggs:
Much smaller than actual size.
Probably, there are a lot of people who are comfortable driving big vehicles. Maybe you, for example, are perfectly comfortable driving a 24-foot RV. But until this day, I had never driven such a vehicle. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m not all that big on driving at all. The main reason I bought the Honda Ridgeline (and have now been happily driving it for eight trouble-free years), as long as I’m being candid, is because it is a truck that drives pretty much like a Honda Civic (which I consider the most-perfect-handling vehicle of all time).
And in short, driving big things is not really my thing.
Hence, I was, more or less, terrified of driving it over three mountain passes and into a forest as my baptismal effort in such a vehicle.
And was even more afraid that I was going to make Jeff—who had been lucky enough to “win” the experience of being my passenger—so utterly terrified that he’d require medical attention. Or psychological attention.
And yet, we survived. And I’ll always be grateful to Jeff for the fact that he managed to maintain casual conversation for the duration of the trip, and didn’t even laugh when I pulled over every three miles to let by the most recent line of thirty cars that had built up behind me. Meanwhile, he navigated and guided and gave helpful advice like “turn a liiiiiittle wider or you’re going to hit that telephone pole.”
I tell you, that guy should talk people off ledges for a living.
There’s something just a little bit magnificent about arriving to any event and finding that among general seating, your spot is reserved.
Which is my way of saying that a space for our RV had been roped off, nice and close to the start/finish line for the eight-hour race that would be happening the next day.
I put the RV in Park, absolutely positively certain that I had just completed my most difficult task of the weekend. After this, it would just be riding my bike and hanging out with friends.
Which, in fact, was absolutely correct.
Team WBR —which I will henceforth refer to as “Team Fatty 2” — had already arrived, but since we had a better parking place, they moved their RV over to ours.
We were set for the weekend. Better take a selfie.
Left to right: me, Jeff, Doug (with his head cocked coquettishly to one side), Chris, Dave Thompson. Dave Houston wouldn’t arrive ’til later.
It was only noonish, and the race for the day wasn’t ’til 5pm, giving us plenty of time for a pre-ride of the loop we’d be riding during the relay the next day.
And I’ve got to say: it was a fantastic course. Mostly buffed-out singletrack in cool, shaded pine forest, with several climbing sections on dirt road. The climbs were steep, but were never seriously long. The descents were fast and fun.
I reiterate: a fantastic course.
Just look at those smiles. Those are not posed-for-the-camera smiles. No, those are “This is a really fun trail” smiles.
How long were we out there? A couple hours. We weren’t going hard; we were just having fun.
Although I would like to point out that, right at the beginning of the course, there is a steep little grunt of a hill strewn with embedded rocks at inconvenient locations.
None of us made it up that grunt the first time, so I suggested we all try it again to get the feel of it and figure out the line.
The second time, both Jeff and I cleaned the move…while nobody on Team Fatty 2 got it.
“I’m going to go ahead and call the move-cleaning ratios by the two teams represented here portentous.”
Nobody disagreed, possibly because nobody expected me to use the word “portentous” in that context.
You can relive this lap, including our numerous regroupings, in this Strava Flyby.
The afternoon wore on and it got close to being time for the hill climb race, which I have no Strava record of, alas.
No, I’m just kidding about the “alas” bit, because I was on the sad side of pathetic in the hill climb. It was short — less than two miles — and I managed to barely make the back part of the midpack. Or maybe the front part of the back of the pack.
Either way, for a guy who prides himself on his climbing, that’s not awesome.
Here’s a picture of me nearing the finish line, as a guy in baggy shorts riding a CX bike is passing me.
Have I mentioned that I need to lose some weight?
I tried to put it behind me, though. So I’m heavy right now. But my legs, lungs and endurance are all good. And bike racing is about more than climbing, right?
And, more to the point, it’s not like I’d have been a significantly more asset-y asset to the team even if I were fifteen pounds lighter right now.
I knew that, as a teammate to Levi, the odds of me bringing up the average were pretty darned slim.
Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow.
We were sitting at the beautiful Riviera Ristorante: Greg, Jeff, Levi, me. Each of us had ordered something from the specials the waiter had mentioned; they sounded that good.
Now we waited.
Now we strategized.
“What order should we ride in?” I asked. Then, partially answering my own question, I said, “Levi should obviously go first.”
“Then you,” said Jeff. “I go third.”
“That sounds good,” said Levi.
“OK, what next?” I asked. “What’s our next tactic in our team strategy?”
“Uh, go really fast?” Levi offered.
“And don’t fall down or get lost?” Jeff added.
“Is that all we’ve got?” I asked. “That’s the entirety of our strategy?”
“Hey, is that the new Apple Watch you’re wearing” Levi replied. OK, so it wasn’t really a reply. It was more just the next thing he said.
“Yes it is,” I said. “Here, try it on and let’s get your heart rate.”
So here, for the record, is Levi’s heart rate while waiting for dinner, immediately after an intense race strategy planning session:
“My resting heart rate has never been very low,” explained Levi.
For comparison, here’s Greg’s heart rate, taken six minutes later:
Oh, and because I know you’re curious, here’s mine, right now:
Evidently, I’m feeling pretty mellow as I type this (even mellower than I was feeling nine minutes ago, apparently).
Also, because I know you’re interested in every little detail in my life, I had the ravioli.
All that was really left to do before heading off toward Boggs (I don’t know why this forest is called “Boggs,” but it really is; it’s not just a silly nickname because of someone hilariously misspelled a forest that happened to contain a number of bogs) the next day was to go grocery shopping.
We just needed to decide whether to do that shopping the following morning, or take care of it that evening, after dinner.
For reasons that I shall never even attempt to understand, this was the most hotly-debated topic of the evening. Here, allow me to show you, via a pie chart:
After considerable and intense discussion (which I stopped following after the first couple minutes, due to being happy to do whatever, whenever), we agreed that we would get together the following morning to do the grocery shopping.
At which point we parted ways, Greg giving Jeff and me a ride back to our hotel, Levi headed elsewhere.
Two minutes after we began driving, Levi had caught us at a red light. “Let’s do the shopping tonight,” he shouted.
So we headed to a grocery store. One of those grocery stores that specializes in products that are similar to products you might find at a regular grocery store, except they’re marginally better for you and three times more expensive.
Guys Should Not Shop
The three of us (Greg, sensibly, wanted no part of this) got a grocery cart. We began walking up and down aisles, everyone too polite to actually put something in the cart, for fear it would meet the others’ disapproval.
Ten minutes in, we had put in bananas. And nothing else.
It began to look like this could take a while.
Finally, I said it. “I’m afraid to shop with you, Levi. I’m afraid that the overlap between what I consider food and what you consider food is an empty set.”
(No, I didn’t actually use those words. Figuring out how to phrase it this way took me twenty minutes.)
“Get whatever you want. I’m going to get whatever I want,” Levi replied. “One of the reasons I still ride every day is so I can eat how I like.”
Relieved, I grabbed a jar of Creamy Jif peanut butter.
Levi recoiled. “You’re not seriously going to get that, are you?”
I allowed that until now, I had in fact intended to get it.
Levi warily regards a pasta salad.
“It’s full of corn syrup!” Levi assured me, and we swapped the Jif out for a natural peanut butter, which remained unopened for the weekend.
Eventually, we bought chicken meatloaf (which was really good), enough water that we could each drink a gallon per hour for the entire eight-hour race, ten pounds of sliced turkey, five pounds of provolone, and some white bread.
I consider the white bread my greatest victory.
Oh, and I snuck in a jar of Nutella toward the end, too.
The Next Morning
“Jeff,” I said, as we ate breakfast the next morning, “Now that Dad’s not here, we need to re-grocerize.”
“Yeah,” said Jeff.
Which is how we finally came to be in possession of a large bag of chocolate chip cookies, a twelve-pack of Coke Zero, another twelve-pack of Coke, and a four-pack of Starbucks Doubleshots.
Now we were ready to make the trek to Boggs.
Except I was far from ready. So far. So very very far.
And in the next installment of this story, I’ll explain why.
Every once in a while, I take a few minutes to reflect on how incredibly good I am at certain things. For example, I am good at napping. I am excellent at listening to the radio. I am practically phenomenal at making eye contact and apparently paying attention while actually not paying any attention whatsoever.
Above all, however, I am good at choosing winners at random. Crazily good at it. Honestly, I’d say I’m one of the top ten random winner choosers in the world. I’m like the Martin Riggs of random drawings.
Last weekend’s trip to Northern California proved this, in an enormous way. Specifically, I showed astonishing brilliance in managing to randomly choose Jeff D as the winner in last September’s fundraising contest to benefit Forget-Me-Not Farm.
Jeff, as it turns out, is within a year of my age. He’s a strong cyclist, with no ego about it whatsoever. He’s incredibly smart, thoughtful, and interesting…again with no ego about it. He’s a great conversationalist, but doesn’t feel the need to fill every single moment with chatter. And he’s a great photographer.
All of these things would matter a lot to me personally, since Jeff and I would be together, more or less nonstop, for the next 72 hours or so.
During which time, we would do all of the following, all together:
- Text each other, from three feet away, about the creepy bus driver
- Pick up an RV and then live through the terror of me driving any largeish vehicle, ever, for the first time in my life. And then take it up and over three large mountain passes (and then back over those same passes two days later)
- Eat at an 80’s-themed British pub
- Hang out with llamas and goats
- Plan race strategy with Levi Leipheimer
- Go grocery shopping with Levi Leipheimer
- Go grocery shopping again, but without Levi Leipheimer
- Race our brains out
- Clean my wounds
- Hang out with numerous Friends of Fatty
- Race our brains out some more
- Agree that we would not use the bathroom in our RV for pooping unless absolutely necessary
- Race our brains out a third time
- Eat scrambled eggs and avocados
- Discover a fatal flaw in our plan to return our RV
And, due to the fact that he is — as I’ve mentioned — a great photographer, the telling of all these parts of this race writeup will be well-pictured.
At some point during the weekend, I confessed to Jeff: “You have no idea how relieved I am that you won this contest. What if it had been a woman? Or someone who couldn’t go with the flow? Or someone half my age?”
My point was, out of the universe of potential contest winners, Jeff was pretty much the ideal person to win this one.
As one of the best winner selectors in the world, I take full credit for all of this.
Now, let’s begin the story.
Thursday: The Day Before The Race
Jeff and I meet at SFO, arranging the where as soon as he lands. We hop aboard a shuttle to Santa Rosa, where we’ll be meeting our driver and chaperone for the day, Greg Fisher.
“Have you met Greg?” I ask Jeff.
“Just in email and on the phone,” Jeff replies.
“Then you’d better watch him in Mementum,” I said. And Jeff did. Which probably, now that I think about it, prepared Jeff for Greg to be something completely different than what Greg actually is. (What Greg actually is: smart, hilarious, well-organized co-honcho of BikeMonkey)
Meanwhile, the bus driver enchanted all of us passengers with his Krusty the Klown impersonation, which is why I drove a knitting needle through both my eardrums.
Greg picked us up in a friend’s jeep, explaining that his Subaru was broken. I asked Greg if, like me, he found it impossible to hear the word ‘Subaru’ without getting the lyrics to Blondie’s “Rapture” stuck in his head.
Greg avowed that he did not have that problem, and so I helped him out by reciting the relevant portion of the song, and then — because I have two terabytes of eighties music stuck in my head — kept going.
I’m very fun to be with.
Oh Look, They Have Themselves an RV
After a quick stop by the hotel, we headed over to the RV rental place, where Jeff and I posed by the RV we’d be calling home for the next couple days:
Greg and Jeff inspected the interior:
Everything looked good. There was, in fact, just one tiny problem. Someone was going to have to drive this thing. And — for a reason I to this day cannot grasp nor fathom — I was that person.
Now, I realize that for many of you, this would not be a big deal. This RV was not the longest vehicle in the world. Not even close. And it was set up to be driven just like a regular (albeit very long and wide) car.
And yet, truly, I have never been so petrified. Just look at my face in that photo. It’s like I’ve aged twenty years in five minutes.
But it is my name on the insurance for the RV, which BikeMonkey (wisely) bought.
Next up, we went to The Bike Peddler — sister shop to the legendary NorCal BikeSport — where Jeff and I were set up with matching Marin Rift Zones:
Full suspension, plus dropper posts. We were ready for anything.
Forget Me Not Farm
The whole reason we were here, of course, was because we had been raising money for Forget Me Not Farm. The idea of this place is beautiful: take children and animals that have been abused, and help both by putting them together.
It works. And a big reason it continues to work is because Levi’s GranFondo (and people like the Friends of Fatty) put the money together to help it keep working.
Carol, the founder of Forget Me Not Farm, took us on a tour of the place, showing us a number of the animals the kids help take care of and the crops they raise.
Jeff (right) with a llama (left)
Probably I should know what these are
We were now at dinnertime, and would be meeting Levi at Riviera Ristorante to eat and strategize. Then we’d be going grocery shopping. Which…well, it would be weird.
And those two things together…well, they probably deserve their own post.
So I think I will.
PS: Jeff is writing his own report of this weekend, and is further along than I am. Read his part 1 here, and his part 2 here.
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