There are a few moments that, as they happen, you realize will always stick with you, for the rest of your life. No matter what.
I had one of those moments at the finish line of the True Grit Epic a couple of weeks ago. It was a conversation, held with a complete stranger — well, at least he was a stranger to me; he seemed to know who I am (this happens pretty often and I rarely know when it’s someone who recognizes me from the blog and we haven’t met, or someone who I ought to remember, and don’t because the part of my brain that ought to remember names and faces is completely missing).
He said, and I quote, “Hey Fatty, you were faster last year. How come you were so slow today?”
To which I replied, “Was I faster last year?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question. I just genuinely didn’t know; I hadn’t looked up my 2015 time before the 2016 race.
“Yeah, most people are finishing faster today than last year,” he affirmed. “The weather and course are great, but you’re slow.”
This got me to thinking. In fact, I thought two things:
First, it occurred to me that I didn’t much care for being told at the finish line of a race that I hadn’t done very well. I furthermore didn’t much care for being asked for an explanation of my subpar performance. (I’m sure that’s just me, though; most people are happy to have strangers demand an explanation for why they suck.)
Second, I realized it was probable that other people might have similar questions (though probably asked in less painful circumstances): why didn’t I race harder? Why wasn’t I faster?
To my great relief, I had no trouble formulating a cogent, perfectly reasonable, and persuasive explanation, which had the side benefit of also being true.
“I am slower,” I say to myself, “because my heart and head and legs and lungs are all part of one system. You can only train your hardest and race your fastest when you can apply not just your mind and your body to the effort, but your heart — your will, your passion — to it as well. What I need from the bike, right now, is a counterpoint to the intensity I am experiencing in the rest of my life. Right now, I need balance — peace — more than I need speed.”
It’s an honest self-assessment. Mature and self-aware. In truth, I should be proud of being able to see my needs and situation for what they are.
But the reality is, I hate it. Furthermore, I reject it.
Yeah, I’m stressed right now. Yeah, tired. Yeah, concerned about the future. Yeah, sick (haven’t talked about that…but I’ve been sick a lot lately).
All these things are real, and it would be foolish for me to not account for these things and adapt.
But I also know this: I have signed up for races. Races I care about. And I know that at six in the morning on August thirteenth, as I stand in the corral for the second-fastest group of racers in the Leadville 100 — a spot I earned last year with the fastest race in my life — I am not going to be thinking to myself, “Well, I’m grateful for the peace I’ve experienced on the bike in the past few months.”
I’ll either be thinking, “I am going to take all the fitness I’ve earned and I am going to be fast and strong and smart and tough today, and my work is going to pay off.”
…Or I will be thinking, “Why didn’t I work harder? Why did I think it would be OK for me to not train for this race? What am I in for now?”
I’ve thought each of those thoughts in that starting corral before. I know which I prefer.
Flip the Script
So my life is not stable right now. I’m doing two very difficult things at once: looking for work and writing a book about Susan’s fight with cancer.
Obviously, my training is going to have to adapt.
My mistake was in assuming that it would have to get shoved aside, get deprioritized, become a time for reflection and decompression, rather than a time for me to attack each ride with the joy and intensity I’ve been so proud of for the past five years.
I don’t want to let that go. I refuse to let that go. Here’s my new premise:
Instead of convincing myself why my situation requires me to de-prioritize things I love, I need to revise how I live in such a way that I can make the things I care about possible, in a new way.
Luckily, I already have the tools I need to make this happen. As anyone who follows me on Strava knows, I have become a huge fan of and believer in the structured training plan that is part of TrainerRoad. So far, I’ve thought of it as mostly a way to build early-season fitness and make winter trainer work more productive.
Now I’m going to use it as a way to trick my body and brain into being more fit and productive.
Which is to say, I’m going to go do the “Mid Volume” TrainerRoad workout plan each morning, after I send the various adults and kids to their various workplaces and schools, but before I begin the writing for the day.
I’m going to rely on the “no excuses” nature of the TrainerRoad workout, combined with the “no easy way out” nature of the Wahoo Kickr, to force some intensity out of me.
And — and this is the good part — I’m planning on this effort to get my mind working, so I don’t sit down at the computer groggy and grumpy. When I start writing, my body will be happy to stay put, my brain will be awake.
But here’s the real genius: I’ll then do a second ride when The Hammer gets home from work, going out with her. This will be our time together, and can be that time for balance and recharging that I do in fact believe I need.
In other words, I’m not denying the value of the bike for getting some mental balance. I’ve just decided that I’m also not going to deny the value of using it to work out some physical aggression.
I’m going to have it both ways. (I talk more about this on this week’s Paceline Podcast — also available on iTunes)
So here’s what a typical day is going to look like for me:
5:30: Up and prepare breakfast and lunch for The Hammer
6:30: Hammer off to work, answer email, write notes for blog
7:00: Listen to audiobook with the twins (currently A Wizard of Earthsea)
8:30: Shower, dress, read news
9:00: Write book
12:00: Break for lunch, read email, read news, make calls
1:00: Job hunting
5:00: Done working for the day, off to ride with The Hammer
It’s a good plan. I plan to stick to it. And I would like your help.
Back to My Roots
Here’s where I’m asking you to help me, in a few ways: Help me stay accountable. Help me stay positive. Help me stay inspired.
I have something specific in mind for each of these things.
For the accountability bit, I’m going to go back to the roots of this blog: I’m going to begin reporting on my progress with each post. But where I used to report just on my weight, there are now three things I’m going to report with each post:
- Weight: I’m above what my weight should be. Starting Monday I’m going to report my weight each post and my progress toward my goal.
- Workout: I’m going to link to my most recent TrainerRoad workout and any other ride I’ve done, with notes on how they went — whether I phoned it in, felt strong, or anything else.
- Fight Like Susan Progress: During the next few months, count on hearing something in each post about how I’m doing on writing this book. Sometimes it’ll be an excerpt, sometimes it’ll be about something I’m struggling with, sometimes it’ll be…well, I don’t know, yet. But I’m committing to you: I will keep you posted. You will know how this book is progressing, as I write it.
Now, for your part — I’m asking for you to keep me accountable and to give me your support. I want you to check my weight and workouts, and to give me feedback on my progress. And on the book, let me know what you think.
Further, as you already know, I’m asking you to literally support me: to pre-order this book and the associated gear. (And I really appreciate those of you who have already done so.) Out of all the books I’ve written (and other ones I might write in the future), this is the one that matters. So, in advance: thank you.
Moving Forward Together
Some things have to be compromised, in certain situations. But I’m deciding today that this shouldn’t be my default tactic. Sometimes, it’s possible to do more than you thought you could.
That’s growing. And that’s what I aim to do.
I’m going to write my best work. I’m going to find a great job. And I’m going to be stronger than I’ve ever been, by training smarter than I ever have.
And now, I have one final ask: Join me. Find something you’re settling for, ask yourself whether that’s the best strategy for your life, or just one that seems convenient. If it’s convenient, maybe look at a different approach — a way you can make your life genuinely better.
Then say what it is. Here or somewhere else. And then track it (here or somewhere else).
Let’s adapt. Let’s grow.
Pre-Order Fight Like Susan
Combining the best posts from FatCyclist.com about Susan’s fight with a newly-written narrative of Susan and her family before and during her fight, Fight Like Susan will be an honest and thoughtful telling of Susan’s and Elden’s life together.
This fight defined, inspired, and changed me and what matters to me, and it might do the same for you.
You can order any of several different versions of this book:
- Paperback: $19.95
- Autographed Paperback: $22.95
- Kindle Version: $12.95
- Autographed Paperback + Kindle Version: $24.95
Fight Like Susan Relaxed-Fit Short-Sleeve Jersey
This is a comfortable, Italian-made, relaxed-fit jersey (see the Men’s and Women’s jersey sizing charts for sizing info). And it looks amazing:
It’s incredibly well-made by DNA Cycling; you’re going to want to wear this full-zip jersey Spring through Autumn.
- Fabric: Hydro Fit
- Respire Moisture Management
- Ergo Stretch Performance
- Front Comfort Banding
- Relaxed Fit
- Full Hidden Zip
- 3 Full Back Pockets
- Silicon Grippers for Men’s Jersey (ladies jersey does not include silicon gripper)
- Men’s and Ladies Cuts Available
- Audio Port
I’m pricing these at $74.95, which means they’re not just a good jersey, they’re also a really good deal. Click here to pre-order.
Fight Like Susan Bib Shorts
These bibs are made in Italy, they fit beautifully, and they feel like they cost about three times as much as they do. And let’s cap this whole thing off with this: both men’s and women’s sizing.
- Fabric: Performance Lycra / Shield
- 4 cm Elastic Compression Technology
- Smart Panel Design
- Suspension Braces
- Radio Pocket
These will cost $99.95, which is a crazy-good deal for excellent bib shorts. Click here to pre-order.
Fight Like Susan Cycling Socks
Show the world how you fight and what team you’re on. These socks have a double welt top for comfort and fit, a smooth toe seam, and flat-knit construction for an ultra-lightweight fit.
They’re just $12.95; click here to pre-order.
Fight Like Susan T-Shirt
I have a rule regarding selling t-shirts, which is to say: I won’t sell them if I don’t want to wear them. This is a good shirt, comfortable and just the right weight. 100% cotton. And it’s a good price at $19.95.
It comes in men’s and women’s sizing. Click here to order.
Fight Like Susan Hoodie
This is a 100% cotton, outrageously comfortable hoodie. Just the right weight, just the right fit. Show the world how you fight and what team you’re on.
This comes in Unisex sizing and is a bargain at $44.95. Click here to order.
Fight Like Susan Purist Hydroflo Bottle
I keep looking for a bottle I like better than this one. I do. But I’ve never found one. Not even close.
This is just the best water bottle there is, and this is a really awesome design for it. At a good price, too: just $12.95. That’s cheaper than you’ll get it for most places. Click here to order.
If you have questions about anything here, please ask in the comments; I’ll try to answer inline. For questions that crop up frequently, I’ll add them to this list.
- When will you get your gear? I’m going to send everything all at once, which means after I write and publish this book. Now, since this will in fact be the fourth book I’ve self-published, I’m pretty confident in my ability to hit my projected dates. So, unless things change drastically for me, you’ll have the book and gear in August.
- What if Fatty suddenly finds himself super busy? It’s possible I’ll get a new job before finishing this book, in which case I’ll ask you to be patient as I shift more toward writing during the weekends. I’m committed to finishing it no matter what, however.
- What are the shipping costs? Shipping to the US and Canada is free. Shipping elsewhere costs $25, no matter what. (This is a ridiculous amount to spend if you’re just going to get a book, but not at all bad if you order a jersey and shorts as well).
- Why no bundles? I considered doing bundles — buy one of everything, get it all for less — but then realized: it defeated the purpose of what I’m doing here: trying to make some money while I write. I’ve put the prices on each of these items so I have a little bit of profit. If I do bundles, my volume might go up…but the amount of money I make would go down.
- How long will this pre-order go on? The pre-order will go to the last day of April.
- Why aren’t you using a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter or FundRazr? I looked into these and was startled at how much money they keep for themselves — I’d be losing around 10% of each sale to the hosting site. That’s a reasonable cost of finding people to support you…but I already have an audience. You people know me. So I’m keeping this right here.
- How much money do I need? Well, that depends on how long it is ’til I have full-time work again. I can say that thanks to folks buying my 2015 gear, I was able to get rid of that debt, so I am OK through April. I’m hoping this will pre-order will set me up with enough money to cover my expenses (and cost of publishing and manufacturing) through June.
I’ve started work on writing Fight Like Susan, and have been making a lot of decisions: what will go in the book, and what won’t. How far back in time will I reach, and where is its finish line.
I’m happy to say that so far, the answers to these questions have been pretty clear to me. My vision for this book is very clear, maybe because I have been thinking about it for close to a decade.
It will be Susan’s and my story, and it will incorporate much of my best writing from this blog during her fight. This means that about half of the writing exists, and I’ll be writing the other half.
A story, interspersed with essays.
As I go back and read what I wrote during Susan’s fight, I’m struck by how my time for riding was so clearly a pressure release valve. I remember how my friends noted that when I rode with them, I would attack. Riding angry.
When I rode alone, I’d attack anyway. Or sometimes break down.
Then I’d come home and could be the stable presence again. For my kids. For my wife.
This time was the defining test of my life. I know, that sounds hyperbolic, but I think it’s true: it fixed the “me at my best” in my mind, and it is who I continue to try to be.
But without the balance the bike provided me — a time and a way to empty out all the frustration and rage and sense of unfairness I felt — I don’t know if I could have been the person I’m so glad I managed to be.
Now I’m dealing with some new stuff. This stuff is maybe more ordinary, less life-and-death; it’s just looking for work. But as I’m pouring myself into this task and into the work of writing a very emotional book, I find myself…mentally and emotionally cooked. Exhausted.
And once again, the bike is there to give me balance. But this time in a different way. I find that I look forward to my time on the bike not as an outlet for excess energy and emotion, but as a time to recharge, to relax.
I’m not riding with the intensity I’ve felt in recent years, not even when I race. After I finished the True Grit Epic a couple weekends ago, I was incredibly happy for how fast The Hammer and Swimmer had gone…and felt like I had raced a good race too, in spite of the fact that I had gone slower than the previous year.
Why? Because I had enjoyed myself, and had ridden and talked with other guys who were also enjoying themselves. I had gotten a much-needed break from the things that were weighing me down.
I’ve been riding, as often as I can, for at least twenty years now. And once in a while, this simple act can still surprise me with how much it affects me and means to me.
Somehow, no matter what I’m going through, the bike gives me balance.
A “Something to Listen To During the Weekend” Note from Fatty: The new episode of the Paceline is out! Find and subscribe on iTunes, or listen to it here:
We talk about How to Ride the Correct Speed, about a cyclist who got bullied by a cop, stayed cool, and won in the end, fought the law and oh-so-much more. It’s a fun episode. More details at Red Kite Prayer.
A Note About Today’s Guest 100 Miles of Nowhere Post: This fantastic story of someone who took the idea of 100 Miles of Nowhere and made it into a fantastic, fun, fundraising group ride comes to you courtesy of Lorie of the Care Free blog, where this was originally published. It’s awesome. Enjoy!
When I signed up this year, I never intended to ride. I’ve only been riding for 3 years. I can’t ride a century or even half a century. I just thought Camp Kesem was a fun cause to support.
But I started thinking that I could ride part of it, or maybe I could get a couple of friends to ride 33.3 miles so our combined miles would total the 100 mile. But if I could do that, maybe I could be brave enough to ask the bike club I ride with to join me. So 33 miles of nowhere event was born…
To my amazement when I posted the event, people actually signed up. Even more surprising, people showed up. and then rode. Up and down, then up and down a path for a great cause. It seems cyclist are by nature really attracted to free stuff and great causes.
We chose a really intense route. Okay, maybe more casual – ride north then south, then north again then little a south to the end.
The city of Peoria has been kind enough to build a great canal bike path. Almost 20 miles of cement trail without a single car. The only problem is that it does not actually go anywhere. The northern end just drops into the desert and southern end turns into gravel – maybe not the most impressive route but perfect for what we needed.
The riders did amazing, working their way through the route’s challenges. long bridges, sharp hairpin turns…
…and those steep climbs were no match for our cyclists.
Our expert cyclist took advantage of the long stretches to show off their mad drafting skills
While others just needed a few moment to figure out life. How many cyclist does it take to … sort of thing
North End of Nowhere
These fierce ladies did amazing reaching their personal goals for the day. Neither had ridden 33 miles before the event. I hear one celebrated her birthday by exceeding the required 33 miles and actually rode 50! Woot Woot!
To add a little fun to the day . We created a very high tech 100 MON raffle – come back with pictures of local celebrities to receive a chance at winning cool 100 MON stuff…. Not very fancy but it worked.
Our celebrity sightings included Swiss royalty, she came in her finest attire to cheer on the riders!
Lots of riders enjoyed getting a pic with the less famous but notorious Flat Al and our great sponsors!
At the south end of the route the riders were treated to a day at Al’s Flat tire and bike shop. Where anyone could learn to change a tire, ask questions about their bike, or get a chance to ride a fat bike…. Good times good times, Although I think there may have been a few donations made to the homeless guy…..
The words of wisdom and encouragement left along the way…
… was just what we needed to finish the day!!
West Valley Casual Bike Group is just a Meetup group. But it has provided lots of people with a shame free way to start cycling, heaps of rides that challenge and increase skills. And has produced a community for people who just like to ride bikes.
I am so proud of our event results: 500+ miles were ridden, 2 very large boxes of pastries were consumed, 15 item including 100MON items were raffled off, and many cyclist donated directly to Camp Kesem!!! Great job!!!
33.3 miles to Nowhere 2015!!!!
A Fair Warning From Fatty: This post is going to be really dry for most of you, though hopefully pretty interesting for a few of you. It’s going to seriously blur my blog life and my career life. There will be links to my résumé (and to my LinkedIn page), and there will be pie charts illustrating my analysis of the Fight Like Susan crowdfunding survey I conducted a few days ago.
What’s Going On And How You Can Maybe Help
I’ve been working at a startup company for the past two-plus years. Unfortunately, they’ve had to cut me back to very part-time hours and pay. Without getting too deep into it, I’ll now be making 15% of what my salary was.
We can’t live on that. Not even close.
I need to find a job, and if you have connections to a company that could use a very experienced Storyteller (sometimes called a “content marketer”), or very experienced Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager, or just a remarkably disciplined and creative — yet almost ridiculously technically-gifted — content guy in general, please: introduce us.
If you have something you think I’d be interested in, don’t be shy. You can use email (I’m firstname.lastname@example.org, as you probably know), text messaging (my phone number is in the PDF of my résumé), or LinkedIn messaging.
How I’m Using My Time Right Now
Meanwhile, I have time, and I intend to use it fully. Starting next week, I’m going to launch a friends-of-fatty crowdfund / pre-order of the book I’ve intended to write for several years: Fight Like Susan.
I will give you more details about the content of the book next week, but for now, here’s what I’ve learned from you about how this pre-order ought to work.
First, it looks like a large enough percentage of you want to buy a copy that this is not a completely insane idea.
Between last Friday and Monday (a four-day period), 420 of you answered my survey. The first question was the most critical: how likely are you to buy a copy?
Your response was overwhelmingly encouraging:
74% of the survey respondents said they definitely plan to, with another 14% at least willing to consider it. Now, I understand that this group is self-selecting, but I choose to still see it as a really hopeful sign.
Second, you told me how I ought to price the book.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to get such clear direction on what the price ought to be for the book, but you were very helpful:
$19.95 is the most popular option, but $14.95 and $12.95 were up there, too. As of this moment, I plan to make $14.95 the default price. If you want a signed version, that will cost $19.95 (58% of you indicated you’d be willing to pay $5 – $10 extra for the signed version, so this works out nicely for you).
And if you are in a tough financial spot (which I completely understand) but want to read or gift it to someone, then you can pay $12.95…and if the math works out, I may also include a $9.95 version.
Third, I need to have a Kindle plan.
I guess I shouldn’t be at all surprised by this next chart, since I do about 90% of my own reading on the Kindle app for iOS devices. Still, I admit it, this does surprise me:
Yep, more of you want this book in Kindle format than you do in paperback. We live in the future, folks.
How much will I charge for the Kindle version? $9.95, I believe.
Fourth, I need to rethink my “Podcast and Letter” incentive.
One idea I had as an upsell incentive was to provide an exclusive ongoing podcast and newsletter for people who pay a certain amount. Here’s what you all thought of that idea, in terms of how much you’d pay:
Just about a quarter of you were interested in paying for this, which isn’t bad. If 2000 of you buy a book and a quarter of you paid $10 for a weekly podcast / letter from me saying how the is going, that’s $5000, which is a good amount of money.
But one person left a comment saying:
I don’t think i’d pay more for the podcast, etc on the book process. But I think it’s a good idea to do that anyway…blog the entire thing, basically give it away for free. This will bring in more people who are willing to buy it when it’s done.
When I read that, I realized it made so much sense. So that’s what I’m going to do: have Fight Like Susan Progress episodes on the FattyCast, and talk about (and excerpt parts of it) as I write.
Fifth, you have several good ideas for me.
I was really glad I left a place in the survey for comments; many of you left some really thoughtful, useful insights I’m considering making part of this project:
- Kindle + Paperback Option: Several people noted they’d like to have both Kindle and paperback versions of the book. I think that makes perfect sense and plan to have a bundle with both at a good price.
- T-Shirt, Jersey, Socks, Bottles: This was the single most frequently-made comment: where are the incentive levels for these items? I’m working on design now and will have them as part of this project.
- Audio Option: I was surprised how many of you want an audiobook option for this book. It’s a daunting idea, but I’m intrigued by it. I think I might make it a “stretch goal” target. I’ll have to figure out how that might work (and I’m open to suggestions).
- A “Just Donate” Option: A number of very generous folks said they’d like to just be able to kick in some money, either as thanks for a lot of years of bloggage, or because they’re just really nice.
- An Outrageous Option: I’m not sure what this should be, but I’m certainly open to suggestions.
I’ll be launching this pre-order next week, and I’ll begin writing the book itself next week. Be on the lookout for that.
this is a weird, scary, intense, very educational time for me right now. Whether you help by pre-ordering a book or by pointing my résumé out to someone who might have work for me, I appreciate it.
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