I’m a cyclist. I ride my bike. On the road or on the dirt, it’s what I do; it’s who I am. It’s about 80% of my identity (the other 20% is the making and consumption of guacamole).
Oh sure. I’ve tried other sports. Like, racquetball. Or roller blading. Or pole vaulting. Or competitive eating. (Yes, really, for three out of four of these.)
Or, when absolutely necessary, I’ve run. And by “necessary,” I mean “when training for a triathlon I’ve somehow been hoodwinked into registering for” or “when trying to impress a girl.”
Well, The Hammer knows me too well (now) to be impressed by my efforts at keeping up, so I must be training for a triathlon. Or two. Or possibly three. (I blame The Hammer for this; she’s taking the “Athlete Ambassador for WBR” thing pretty darned seriously.)
And so I’ve been trying to run. And expecting to — as usual — deeply resent every moment of it.
But a weird thing has happened. I’m…enjoying running. On trails, at least.
And I think I know why.
Meet the Altra Olympus
I’ve been a fan of Altra footwear for a couple years. Their big wide toe box and zero-drop foot profile just feels right on my feet in a way that no other shoe ever has.
And so I’ve collected a few pair:
From top left: Altra Three-Sum, Altra Instinct, Altra Olympus, Altra Lone Peak, Altra Instinct Everyday
But while these shoes fit great, they haven’t really changed my life or anything…well, except maybe the Everydays — which are my absolute favorite shoes for whenever I’m forced to wear pants.
But then, Heath Thurston — one of the guys at Altra — set me up with a pair of the Altra Olympus trail running shoes. Like all Altras, they have the whimsical footprint highlighted in the sole:
But what makes them really different is the massive amount of cushioning the shoe has, while still being really light.
Now, I like these plenty just for the fact that they make me about 1.5” taller — when you’re 5’7”, that makes an important difference.
But all that cushioning serves an incredible purpose — it softens the pounding I take when running. And not by just a little bit, either. Running on these is like running with a pair of pillows strapped to your feet (but much less awkward).
In practical terms, the first time I ran with these, I noticed that when I hit the three-mile mark in the trail run — which is where I usually start hurting and just wish I could quit — I still felt fine. And so I told The Hammer that I’d stay with her for another mile or so.
I wound up running on trail six miles that day. And, extremely importantly, the next day I wasn’t completely disabled. My ankles were OK. My knees were OK. My hips were OK.
A few days later, we went running again. It was raining out, so we went on the road this time. My plan was to stay with The Hammer for the first four miles of the run, then head home while she did another four.
Instead, I ran with her for the whole eight miles. And again, was OK the next day.
Since then, I’ve gone out running with The Hammer a couple times a week — mostly trail, because I don’t think I’ll ever really enjoy running on the road — and I’m fine.
In fact, I’m better than fine. I’m great. As it turns out, I like trail running. It’s like mountain biking for when you don’t have enough time for a ride (an hour of mountain biking is hardly enough time to get warmed up; an hour of trail running is a good solid workout).
And I have to give most of the credit to the Altra Olympus. It’s been like going from a fully-rigid mountain bike to full suspension. For me, it’s made all the difference in the world; for the first time since we met, I’m able to go out with The Hammer and enjoy participating in one of the sports she loves.
I kid you not: I love these shoes. Love love love them.
So a couple of days ago, I went out running with Heath Thurston of Altra, and asked him about these magical, magical shoes. Watch this very professionally-made video yourself, then gather your family around and watch it again.
That was a masterpiece, as I think you’ll agree.
A Foolish Plan
As I ran with The Hammer, successfully — and even happily — completing trail runs of eight or more miles, I began to wonder: what if I signed up for a race? Not a marathon. Nooooo. And not even a regular half-marathon. But how about a trail half-marathon?
As it turns out, there’s one coming up, and it’s close to where I live:
Even better, the trails are familiar to me — they’re the same trails I learned to mountain bike on twentyish years ago.
I started researching the race and found that the course record is held by Vic Johnson (1:39:37.7), who was my relay teammate in the Utah Half last year:
Vic’s the one in the middle.
Obviously, I wouldn’t be going after that time. I’d be looking more to complete than compete. Still, I liked the idea. Which felt weird: me, liking the idea of doing a running race.
I brought the idea up to The Hammer. “You want to run a half-marathon?” she asked, not even bothering to try to conceal her incredulity.
“Well, I’m liking the whole trail running thing,” I said, also not bothering to conceal the incredulity in my voice.
“It is a week after the Ogden Marathon,” The Hammer mused, “So I’ll be in as good of running shape as I’m going to be for the season.”
And the very next day, she went and pre-ran the course, just to see what it was like.
The race course starts at the green dot and then goes around in a counterclockwise figure 8.
“I love it,” The Hammer said. And so the next day, she took me out to pre-run the course with her, during which each of the following happened, in this order:
- We stopped and talked with Survivor champion Tyson Apostol.
- I punched a mountain biker in the kidneys as he went by. He stopped and turned around — really mad — and then recognized that I’m a famous and beloved blogger, at which point he had to pretend my prank was funny.
- We saw two bighorn sheep, just twenty feet or so from the trail:
And, more importantly than any of this: I survived. In fact, we did it in 2:36:45. Which may not sound too impressive, until you take the elevation profile into account:
That’s 2223 feet of climbing.
Oh, Let’s Do That Again
So I started talking with The Swimmer about this race, trying to persuade her that she should try doing it too. And so last Saturday, while The Hammer was out running the Ogden Marathon, The Swimmer and I went and pre-ran the Timp Trail half marathon course together.
Here’s a selfie of us at mile 10. We’re smiling because we know it’s pretty much all downhill from where we were:
And here’s The Swimmer at the iconic “Pile of Rocks” in the meadow on the Frank trail network. From there, it’s just two miles to go.
We finished just about the same time The Hammer finished her marathon in Ogden, where she took third in her age group with a 3:30:
So yeah. Next week, the three of us are going to do a trail half marathon together.
Well, maybe not together. Because The Hammer’s still trying to decide whether to do the full marathon or the half. And I expect to go out hard and then bonk and have everyone laugh at me as they run by.
But here’s the thing: until I got these shoes — the Altra Olympus — I would never ever have considered doing this kind of event, much less been the instigator.
I’m still a cyclist. That’s my thing, and it always will be.
These shoes have, no joke, completely changed my outlook on trail running. And it’s nice to have a second sport. Especially one I can do when I don’t have a lot of time (which happens a lot right now), the gear for which fits into a carry-on bag.
A Note from Fatty: Allison and Dave seem to have serious intentions on taking over my blog. Here’s their awesome ride report from last weekend, hanging out with WBR superstar Katie Bolling, along with Ted King and Joao Correia.
Even before the Trois Etapes Giro invitation happened, World Bicycle Relief had planned a fundraising ride with Joao Correia in Mill Valley, California, a few towns over from us. David had registered to ride and I had offered to help as a volunteer. Katie Bolling would be there in person, as would Jennifer Schofield of World Bicycle Relief, who is coordinating details for the Trois Etapes Giro.
We arranged to meet up Katie and Jennifer the day before the ride for coffee and some Trois Etapes chitchat.
Katie, Jennifer, Allison, and David. Note to self: never be photographed next to women who cycle a lot. It’s not slimming.
We talked about how great it would be to do a Team Fatty – World Bicycle Relief event in the future (would love to hear everyone’s ideas on that) and then confessed that we had not realized this was a race until after the plane ticket was booked. David shared his apprehension about what appeared to be a highly competitive event. Riding those stages is one thing, racing them is quite another. He naturally has the same worry that many of us would have… it’s a team competition and you don’t want to let your team down.
Jennifer and Katie did their best to assuage his concerns. Not sure it worked.
The next day we had perfect weather for the WBR ride. The amazing Dave Thompson and his son Rob drove up to ride as well. I feel the need to mention the fact that Mr. T. has gotten seriously fit (and svelte). There is no stomach sucking in required these days. His sweet son Rob continues to light up a room with his smile, and since I saw him last year, seems to be making great progress. We had fun conversing in Spanish, and I must say, he is quite the ladies’ man.
All the other women were getting their hands kissed by Rob except for me. Feeling left out, I commented that “I was married, not dead.” That netted me a few kisses at last.
YannB, with his fiancé Karen and daughter Isabella, joined us to see the riders off. Yann snapped this photo after Ted King came over to talk with us…or was it after we went over to
corner talk to him? He was in town for the Amgen Tour of California and graciously came out to support World Bicycle Relief the day before. How awesome is that?
I was so excited excited to get the photo with Ted and the rest of our gang shown above, at least until the time came that I shared it on Facebook and several people made comments assuming he was my son. You know who you are. Really, my son? Ted King is 31. Rune is 10. Thanks for making me feel really old.
I cannot tell you how nice Ted King is. He seems to be an amazingly grounded and cool guy, and of course I would be proud to be his mother… except for the fact that I am far too young.
He shared with me that in addition to World Bicycle Relief, he focuses much of his own philanthropic efforts on organizations like the Krempels Center that are dedicated to helping with life after brain trauma. His dad had a stroke, so this is a personal area of passion for him. As you might imagine, he was very impressed with Dave and Rob. Then again, who isn’t?
As for the WBR event itself, it was a 25-mile ride with about 3,300 feet of climbing, some of it right along the California coastline. David joked that he got dropped by Joao and Ted at the first stoplight. I think he was joking (?). He did at least get to do part of the ride with Katie.
David trying to make Katie feel taller above Stinson Beach.
The ride also included a fabulous post-event pizza lunch, with ice cream, beer and other goodies. I had to leave before most of the riders (and the food) arrived, but from this online photo album I saw afterward, clearly a great time was had by all!
Katie, David, Rob, Dave and the Buffalo Bike
Katie and Joao.
So this was an inaugural WBR event for Northern California. David and I would love to see it become annual, or some variation of it. Who’s in for next year?
Otherwise, think good thoughts for David as he trains hard these next few weeks. You’ll be hearing his first-hand account of the Trois Etapes Giro experience upon his return sometime in mid-to-late June.
Assuming of course, he survives.
A Note from Fatty: Suppose — just suppose — you were sitting around, minding your own business, when you got an email with an incredible offer. The opportunity, perhaps, of a lifetime.
You probably wouldn’t believe it was real. But what if it were?
Today’s guest post comes from two of the very friendliest, most-generous Friends of Fatty you could ever meet.
Read. And envy.
May 5, 9:34 a.m.
I was in a virtual meeting, multi-tasking away since no one had turned on their webcams. I had just finished a Facebook post and was checking my personal email when a new message from Katie Bolling of World Bicycle Relief caught my attention:
World Bicycle Relief invitation (out of the blue) for a ride in Italy.
Invitation….Ride….Italy? Even if this had come from a Nigerian Prince and was spelled “ride,” you’d have to open it!
I immediately clicked to read it, thus completely losing the small amount of focus I had been giving to what was being said on my conference call.
Dear Allison and David,
This email may catch you out of the blue but I hope you give it some strong consideration.
World Bicycle Relief is associated with a series of events called the Trois Etapes. We have one spot left on the WBR team for the Trois Etapes Giro ride that is coming up in June (June 6-9). Since we already paid for the spot, we thought the next best thing would be to give it to one of our VIP supporters who have helped great things happen for World Bicycle Relief, and naturally we thought of Fatty.
I’ll be honest and say that we offered the spot to either Lisa or Elden in gratitude for all that the Fat Cyclist has done for World Bicycle Relief over the years but they are unable to make it work due to job commitments and the close timing.
When I heard this “no” from Elden, I thought the next best thing would be to offer it to a Fatty supporter who has been very kind and generous towards World Bicycle Relief through all of his efforts and, naturally, you two were at the top of that list and hence my note to you. I would love to give this spot to one of you two. For one of you to have the opportunity to go ride the Trois Etapes Giro on the World Bicycle Relief team as a way to say a HUGE thank you to the entire Fat Cyclist community and to hopefully also give you the chance to share this experience in Fatty’s community in the hopes WBR can potentially field a full Fat Cyclist/WBR Trois Etapes team sometime in the next few years.
I want to be clear that we would love to give this to you. Your only expense would be getting to Venice, and back for the event.
There was more – but that’s the main of it. And yeah, WOW is right!
Later the important question occurred to us. If Fatty says “no,” should you immediately say “yes?” I’m guessing Fatty read the details first.
[No, I didn’t ever get as far as the details. The timing just wasn’t possible for me, so I had to pass. - FC]
Now I do need to confess, all I really saw were:
- World Bicycle Relief
- Bike ride
- 4 days
- Fatcyclist community event
- World Bicycle Relief
- most expenses paid except airfare
You get the gist.
What an incredible opportunity! Especially for David, knowing him like I do. How could David not go? We are certainly financially comfortable, but something like this would be a pretty big stretch, and not one we would easily make with two kids headed for college.
So this was a dream come true for someone who absolutely loves to ride (David), has a real explorer’s and traveler’s heart (David), and is truly passionate about the work WBR does (David). And yes, I realize these also describe nearly every Fatcyclist reader (not to mention Elden and Lisa)!
Lastly, David had just celebrated another decade a few days earlier with only a small cake and no candles. [California drought, fire hazard. - David]
So at the time, this all seemed like a dream meant to be.
Scant minutes after reading Katie’s email invitation, I made a quick excuse on my conference call: “So sorry, I have to drop off – *mumble, mumble, family emergency* – I’ll follow back up with you all later today.”
Can you believe anyone employs me?
I phoned David at work. “Are you sitting down?” I asked. “I mean that literally. You need to be sitting for this!”
I read him the email….
May 5, 9:39 a.m.
It’s rarely a good sign when the phone rings in retail a ½ hour before opening, exceptions can occur.
“Are you sitting down?” she asked. “I mean that literally. You need to be sitting down for this!”
I put down my Diet Coke and my perfectly fresh jelly doughnut and said, “Yes.”
Several thoughts went through my head simultaneously. “Sure” came first. Next came “Exactly how much have we been giving?” (Note to self: check college accounts)
Yes, it would be a dream to ride in Italy. But the idea of being invited to join such a ride is humbling in the extreme (and I’m all about humble). I told Wife#1 a quavering “yes,” and proceeded to request the time off.
Later I looked at the Trois Etapes website and watched the Promotional video:
Leaving David to recover from the shock, I emailed Katie and WBR back, thanking them profusely and letting them that know David was in! I added that we both hoped to participate together in the future
if when there was a whole Team Fatty event.
(How awesome would a Team Fatty/WBR event like this be? Hard to imagine having much more fun than doing a multi-day ride in some fabulous location with a bunch of Fatty peeps.)
I also assured Katie and Jennifer Schofield (you’ll meet her later), that I would get going on all his logistics immediately.
At this point I still had not read the details. It was “ride in Italy” and I wasn’t doing it, David was.
What else could possibly matter?
David’s passport was current. Yay!
Then…I started shopping around for airfare. Yikes!
Then I discovered all the various rules and fees associated with bringing a bicycle. Double yikes!
And not just any bicycle, either. David is a tall guy and rides a 63cm frame. Those don’t even fit in most bike travel cases.
Oy, this was going to be a pain.
Still… once in a lifetime opportunity, a ride in Italy with World Bicycle Relief! We simply had to make this happen, whatever it took, and honestly, I was (and still am) just as excited for David as if I was going myself.
It was the next day that I finally visited theTrois Etapes website myself and even more horrifyingly, watched the video. I suppose the Troise Etapes logo itself should have been the first clue that this was a bit more than a “ride in Italy”.
Oh, I get it now. Those aren’t just squiggly lines in the logo…they represent mountain passes, getting progressively harder.
Ride? No. It’s a race. And kind of a real one at that. Yes I knew the ride would be in the Italian Dolomites, so all three days will be in the mountains, but this is a multi-day pro-am race in the Italian Dolomites.
[Do you have any idea how much it kills me to not be doing this? - FC]
The second clue I should have cottoned on to is that Trois Etapes means three stages. Rides don’t have stages; races have stages.
So in summary, Trois Etapes has multiple teams, each representing a different charitable organization, competing to win. The entire event is staged to allow the riders the closest experience they can get to what a professional race would be like.
Each team has seven amateur riders (imagine me doing finger quotes over the word amateur) and one professional rider. For the WBR Team, Songezo Jim from Team MTN Qhubeka is the pro that will be riding with them, which is awesome.
Let me add to that there will also apparently be race radios, team support cars and masseurs; the stages are timed, with various classification points and actual benefits for the winning team.
People, this is a race.
And if you don’t believe me, let me point you back to the beginning of this post. All the riders have to get a racing license.
Yes, David had to get an International Racing License.
*Cue laugh track*
Should you feel the need to have one of these bad boys for yourself, Molly at USA Cycling could not be more helpful. And should this particular time in your own life put you in the position of also being in the “Masters Category”, well hey, then it’s only $175 rather than $200.
Apparently AARP negotiated a discount.
Just remember that you will also have to get a note from your doctor that you are fit enough to participate. In fact, David will be meeting his primary care physician for the first time because of this event.
It’s been one week…
“Stunned” is an understatement.
Honored doesn’t begin to cover it.
And, after reading the information, watching the video, and checking the profile, the only words that come to mind are…”I’m screwed!”
I Love to Ride, I tolerate climbing, I LOVE the Fat Cyclist Community, and I admire Elden and Lisa, and their family. Being invited to participate in such an event, on behalf of that community is a responsibility that weighs heavily on me. I’ll go, I’ll ride hard all day, but I’m bringing my light (it will definitely be a Lanterne Rouge).
We had the opportunity to meet with Katie and Jennifer from WBR last weekend at a local innaugural WBR event. Jennifer of WBR said, “you’ll be fine,” but she’s a smiling, young, idealistic thing, that hasn’t yet imagined the horrors of someone my age.
I’m as old as Godzilla and I have an International Racing License (ironic), not sure even Elden has one of those [I don’t have any racing licenses at all - FC]. Though if they make me pee in a cup all bets are off!
I have a note from my Australian bike-riding Doctor that says I’m fit to ride (I shopped around).
WBR has my measurements for my team kit (3 sets), though I suspect they may be sewing ‘panels’ into them as I write this.
Yesterday I did 55 miles, 4500 ft climbing in 95 degree heat, so that’s a start. (When do I go? June third? Yikes!)
It will be an adventure. I would not be able to do it without the support of Wife#1, my children, Katie and Jennifer of WBR, and my friends in the Fat Cyclist Community.
PS: It’s been seven days since my last doughnut.
I love doing posts like this. Posts where I get to introduce you to contest winners. Because, for some reason, pretty much every Fat Cyclist contest winner winds up being an awesome human being.
Maybe it’s cuz the kind of person who is willing to donate money to a great cause is just unlikely to not be a great person.
Hey, I’m not going to overanalyze it. I’m just going to be grateful.
And I’m going to introduce you to Heidi from Montana, the winner of The Hammer’s Weekend at the Gooseberry Yurt fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief.
Heidi with her niece, on top of Mount Sentinel.
I’m really excited for Heidi to be the winner of this contest, for a bunch of reasons, including (but not limited to):
- She’s donated in every single WBR fundraiser I’ve done. It’s really fun to be able to reward that kind of consistency, generosity, and kindness.
- She’s a hiker. Heidi doesn’t ride — doesn’t even have a bike. She loves hiking. And — in a stroke of pure luck — she’s won the first contest we’ve ever done that doesn’t have a bike as a prize, or a trip to a bike-style event…but instead has a trip to a place that’s every bit as perfect for someone who loves hiking as biking. Even more perfectly, both The Hammer and I love hiking too, and are absolutely positively stoked to show off some of the amazing hiking trails at Zion National Park, as well as around Gooseberry Mesa.
- She’s super-duper nice. I haven’t met Heidi in real life, but I’ve been watching over The Hammer’s shoulder as the two of them have traded email. I’m going to use some of that email exchange to introduce you to Heidi, but basically: she’s a kind, easygoing, and interesting person.
So here’s a little bit about Heidi, in her own words:
Okay, now that I’ve recovered somewhat from the lovely surprise, I should thank you profusely and introduce myself.
I’m Heidi, a yarn dyer living in Missoula Montana. I first became acquainted with Elden’s blog quite some time back when one of his posts was listed as a favorite on Schmutzie’s Five Star Fridays, where readers could post outstanding blog entries they’d read that week. Elden was caring for Susan, and his writing was so very eloquent.
I’ve been a fan ever since, even though–dare I admit it?–I don’t even own a bike. There, I said it.
I do hike, though! I logged 118 hikes last year. The photo above was taken a few weeks ago when my “Montana Niece” took me to the top of Mount Sentinel. (The area I usually hike is in the middle left expanse.) Yes, I definitely felt my thighs the next day.
WBR is one of my favorite groups to donate to. This is a program that brings such obvious, positive change to people’s lives, and my hat goes off to the people who have worked so hard to make it happen. Writing a check to a big organization is one thing, but seeing the photos of people with their new bikes, well, that makes it real. I’m in! And hey, just think–because of it I get to meet Fatty and the Hammer! Life just gets better and better.
For our part, The Hammer and I are both really excited to show Heidi views like this:
A big thanks goes out to everyone who donated in The Hammer’s first big fundraiser — thanks to you, she raised enough to buy 132 bikes for kids and caregivers in Zambia!
A Note from Fatty: Last weekend, friends and I went and did our annual RAWROD — Ride Around White Rim in One Day — trip. I planned to write it up, but then my friend Bob, who is a much better writer than I am, wrote a much better story than I would have and let me steal it from his blog. You’re welcome.
When adventure writers tell their stories, they start with the dramatic ending.
May 3, 8:30 PM – After riding the White Rim Trail in one day, Paul decides he’s done riding for the weekend and starts the drive home to St. George. He pulls over and dry heaves.
May 3, 9:00 PM – After riding the White Rim Trail in one day, Dug and his son Holden drive into the parking lot of Moab Brewery. Holden tells Dug to stop the car, now. He opens the door in front of the overflow crowd waiting to get a table at the restaurant, and vomits. The crowd looks on in horror.
May 3, 11:15 PM - Dug and Holden return to camp and climb in their sleeping bags, waking me up from a happy slumber. Dug warns me that Holden has been sick. He tells Holden to use a bag of donut gems in case he needs to vomit. Holden uses it. He continues to wake up and vomit into different containers over the course of the night.
May 3, 11:30 PM – The last pair of cyclists complete their ride in the dark with little fanfare. Everyone else is asleep or dealing with sickness.
May 4, 3:00 AM – 30 miles away from the White Rim Trail, Lisa vomits in her hotel room.
May 4, 4:00 AM – Unable to deal with the peer pressure, I crawl out of the tent and vomit in the sand.
Adventure writers also shift dramatically from present tense to past tense.
After having done a 4-hour, 20-mile mountain bike ride on Friday—my longest mountain bike ride of the year—we drove to the top of Horsethief Trail and set up camp at the parking lot.
Kenny has been hosting this event for years, but this year was special—his 50th birthday. He was also doing something different this year. No sag wagon, and no group really. The only plan was to meet at Musselman Arch for photos, and then everyone was on their own, or hopefully in pairs.
We knew the next day was going to be a hot one, so we loaded up as much water as we could carry. My backpack had two one-liter bladders and a few gels and nut rolls, and my bike carried two bottles. I stuffed other food packets in my jersey pockets.
The goal was to leave at 7:00 AM. I wanted to take off a little earlier than everyone else because I’m one of the slower riders, but that was ruined when I woke up sluggish and wandered around like the camp idiot.
I was glad to hear that Paul decided to make a go of it. After the previous day’s ride, he had lost some of his confidence and wasn’t sure he wanted to try it.
On the ride from the Horsethief parking lot back out to Highway 313, I felt weak and uncomfortable under my heavy pack, but happy to be with friends and doing a ride I hadn’t done in almost two decades.*
* In truth, I’ve never actually done the full 100-mile ride before. We always skipped the 13-mile stretch of dirt road.
When the 13-mile stretch of rolling dirt road ended, we gulped down cached drinks and headed up the 8-mile paved road towards the National Park camp entrance.
It was at the camp entrance where I had perhaps my finest moment of the day. My performance in the outhouse was nothing short of spectacular. The golf equivalent would be to bend a 3-iron from the deep rough around a tree and to within 10 feet of the pin. As I emerged from the outhouse, happy and light, I raised my hand in a polite yes-I-acknowledge-your-applause-and-I’m-secretly-thrilled-but-want-to-act-cool wave to my imaginary audience, who really had no business being there, imaginary or no.
Because of my majestic delay, we were now behind the other riders by several minutes. Entering Shafer Trail reminded me of how beautiful this area was.
As I started the Shafer descent, I noticed that my front brake wasn’t working. Elden had loaned me his rigid single-speed bike for the trip, which is kind of him, but the bike wasn’t in great shape. One of the bottle cages was broken, the rear tire was bald, and the power brake was out. I normally wouldn’t say bad things about Elden’s loaner bike—mouth, meet gift horse—but Elden frequently disguises his generous heart with vile meanness. For example, after the ride, here’s what he texted me:
“it was great to see you — bummed i didn’t ride a ton with you, but i am far too strong to hold back at your pace”
Not wanting to fly off any of the switchbacks, I did a slow descent, skidding wildly around corners with only a rear brake and bald tires.
Paul and I met up at the bottom and rode hurriedly at a leisurely pace, if that makes any sense. We arrived at Musselman Arch to see other riders hanging out. Someone in our group took this picture.
A Note From Fatty: Here’s another shot at Musselman’s Arch, this one of (left to right), me, Lisa, Bob, Dug, and Holden]
After a couple of group photos and general milling around, we got back on our bikes. That was the last I saw of the Kenny, Heather, Elden, Lisa, and the rest of the fast riders.
The ride from Musselman to White Crack, which is roughly the half-way point, consists of a series of bends that wind around canyons. You descend slightly as you ride away from the rim and then ascend slightly as you ride back towards the rim. Rinse and repeat.
The flowers and cactuses were blooming. At around 10:30 AM, it was already hot. Here, I turned around for the camera to capture the purple flowers, which unfortunately got washed out in this picture.
[A Note from Fatty: I didnt’ have a lot better luck getting pictures of the expanse of purple flowers, but I got a pretty good close-up of one of them, below]
[Another Note from Fatty: There were incredible yellow flowers on some of the bushes, too — all in all, I’ve never seen the desert look so beautiful.]
Once we finally got around that last mesa that we had been looking at in the distance for hours, we biked through a wide open desert. As we made the turn and headed northwest, I noticed a nice breeze coming from the south.
People accuse the White Rim Trail of having a constant headwind regardless of the direction you’re going. For the record, on May 3, 2014, I do hereby proclaim that we had no wind during the first half of the ride and a mild tail wind during the second half of the ride.
In my memory, the major checkpoints—Shafer, Musselman, Vertigo Void, Murphy’s Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and Horsethief—were spread out fairly evenly. In reality, Shafer and Musselman are close to each other, Vertigo and Murphy’s are only a mile or two apart, and there’s a huge distance between Musselman and Vertigo.
The tentative plan was to eat lunch at Vertigo Void, but several of us weren’t riding fast enough for it to make sense to wait that long. Paul and I ate our lunch in the slim shade of a juniper bush, and pressed on.
By the time Paul and I reached Vertigo Void, the other riders were gone. Here’s what they had been up to:
Paul wanted to keep pushing on, knowing that we had three difficult climbs in front of us, including Murphy’s Hogback in a short while.
The ride up Murphy’s is steep and loose. Paul and I didn’t even try to ride up the steep pitches. When I last did the White Rim Trail back when Bill Clinton was POTUS, Dug and I took pride in being able to clean all the moves. Now, I thought, How did I ever ride up that? In retrospect, I am in awe of my 32-year-old self. In fairness, my 32-year-old self was riding a geared bike with suspension, not a rigid single-speed. So I’m proud of my 51-year-old self as well. Good job, mes present and past.
After pushing our bikes to the top, Paul and I ate a snack and watched a few other riders do the long climb. Cori, who was hanging back with his girlfriend Emily, cleaned it. So did Jolene, who was hanging back to help out a struggling rider.
Cori then proposed to Emily at the top of Murphy’s Hogback. She accepted.
I thought that group of people represented the last of the pack (the gruppetto for you Tour de France fans), but it turns out that a couple of riders were even further back.
There was a nice long drop down the other side of Murphy’s Hogback, and then there was, for me, the most difficult part of the ride. It was hot, 90-degree weather. We had been on our bikes all day long. Eating was hard, and Paul stopped trying to eat altogether, relying on CarboRocket for his energy. CarboRocket, where energy meets experience. CarboRocket, a boost of freedom. CarboRocket, for her pleasure.
The heat was getting to me. I was weary, colicky, and dragging behind Paul, Cori, and Emily. I talked Paul into stopping so that I could transfer water from one bladder to the other and down some ibuprofen, and Cori and Emily pulled ahead for good.
For the next stretch of trail, I don’t remember much. For me, every endurance ride has the same characteristics:
- Pre-ride excitement
- The this-is-never-going-to-end section
- The problem (neck pain, hot spots, sunburn, not enough water, can’t eat, can’t poop, stomach, mechanical)
- Crux fatigue (or worse, bonk)
- Resignation to suffering
- Energizing homestretch
- Emotional finish
Riding near Candlestick, I was dealing with the crux fatigue, which Dug calls the “cave of pain.” I didn’t bonk, but I was miserable. I was saddle-sore, my feet hurt, my neck hurt, my legs were cramping.
Jolene’s group of riders caught up to us at the start of Hardscrabble Hill. Paul and I again walked our bikes up, relieved to be off the saddles.
Bry also caught up with us and told me he was running low on water because he was giving it all away to an embattled friend. I told him I had plenty of extra water, so I filled one of his bottles with CarboRocket.
Once we got to the top of Hardscrabble Hill, where you can look down at the trail as it runs along the Green River, everything turned around for me. The ibuprofen had finally kicked in, so my neck pain was mostly gone, and I had adjusted to the suffering. All I needed to do was keep riding another 11 or so miles along the Green River before the big finish up Horsethief.
Here’s a picture that Paul took of me with my camera. I rode down a bit and then rode back up to face the camera:
This was a beautiful section of trail. We got a nice cloud cover, a tail wind, and cooler temperatures as it approached evening.
Paul had a GPS on his bike, so we knew exactly how far we had to ride before the start of Horsethief. That helped us avoid wondering if the turn-off was right after this next bend, or maybe the next one. We knew we still had 7 miles to go, or 4 miles to go, or 2 miles to go. Horsethief is at mile 99, period, end of story. And then it’s 1.5 miles of climbing.
Here’s a picture of Horsethief that Todd Winner took.
After Elden and Lisa finished their ride, they jumped in their car and drove down to the bottom of Horsethief to help struggling riders. They asked Paul and me if we needed extra water, or if they could take our camelbaks, but we both declined stubbornly. We did agree to gulp down an ice-cold Coke that Lisa fished out of a cooler.
Here’s a picture of Dug’s son Holden, also getting a Coke from Elden and Lisa at the bottom of Horesthief:
At the top of Horsethief, the riders who had finished sat in chairs at the top of the hill, watching, cheering, cajoling.
I decided that I wanted to try to ride up Horsethief. I let some air out of the bald rear tire so that I wouldn’t have to stay seated to avoid skidding out and hammered up the first long stretched before it turned into switchbacks. Sadly, I had to push my bike up a couple of stretches. I like to think that I would have made it had Elden loaned me a better bike.
Then I rode up the last few switchbacks, doing everything in my power—including what Dug called the “paper boy”—to stay on my bike. Dug took this picture of me. I think that’s Paul a little further down the hill.
“Go Bobby!” “Don’t fall!” “Paul is catching you!” “Stay on your bike!”
Here’s Paul riding up Horsethief:
Here’s Paul finishing:
And here’s me the morning after the ride:
Special thanks to Kenny, Heather, Dug, Elden, Lisa, and Paul for all your help.
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