A “Previously…” Note from Fatty: This is part 3 of my Crew Report for the 2015 Lotoja. Click here for Part 1, and click here for Part 2.
Carbonated water is a mysterious modern miracle. I don’t know how the carbon dioxide disappears or dissolves or whatever into water. I don’t know why the pressure of carbonated water increases when you shake it (or why that pressure eventually settles down).
I do know that the carbon dioxide stays in the water only if under pressure. Mostly. Because even if you let soda go completely flat and then shake it…well, it seems there’s still a little fizz in there.
And that fizz wants out.
I say all this as prelude to the fact that Lindsey had let the Dr Pepper in each of the two water bottles she wanted us to give her go — as far as she could tell — completely flat.
And also I say this as prelude to the fact that by the time Blake and I arrived in Montpelier, where we would facilitate our first fueling exchange for The Hammer and Lindsey after they had ridden 76 miles, about ninety percent of the Dr Pepper Lindsey had put in her bottles had migrated to pretty much everywhere that was not in her bottles.
Which is to say, Blake and I had a bit of mess on our hands, and Lindsey did not have Dr Pepper in her bottles.
It was a mess, but not really a problem. We had parked pretty far away from the actual exchange point, figuring that it would be easier to make a quick getaway if we weren’t near other cars. And coincidentally, that “far away from the exchange point” place was a quick walk away from a convenience store.
So while Blake set to rinsing the Dr Pepper off everything that was in the ice chest, I went to the convenience store to buy more Dr Pepper.
As I walked, I muttered to myself, “Pop tarts? Dr Pepper? I’ve got to talk to Lindsey about what she fuels with during these races.”
Ready for the Montpelier Exchange
Even with the Dr Pepper disaster, even with my nearly-ticketed moment, even with my getting The Hammer and Lindsey to the starting line with literally no time to spare, Blake and I still got to the Montpelier exchange with an absurd amount of time to spare.
According to the times The Hammer had written down (based on Lindsey’s Strava from the previous year), we had more than an hour and a half to wait at the exchange.
We knew we had found the right place when we saw Ben’s family, who patiently posed for a picture as they waited for Cory and Ben to come in:
So we set up camp and watched. Some racers blew through, grabbing a musette bag on the fly.
Others stopped, got off their bikes, browsed through their food and drink options, and had the race equivalent of a family reunion.
And it was a lot of fun to just stand in the background, watching people watch for their racers. Commenting, speculating, watching hoping. Then springing into action, some people obviously practiced and smooth and efficient. Some people overanxious and solicitous and concerned.
Which way was the right way? Well, whichever way felt right, of course. Different racers, different objectives.
More than anything else, though, it was fun to watch the immense amount of pride on all the faces and in all the actions of the people crewing.
It was an incredibly positive atmosphere.
The Montpelier Exchange
Blake and I would not be the kind of crew who stopped and asked our riders about their day so far. We knew Lindsey and Lisa were serious about the race and would want to get through the exchange as quickly as possible.
We also knew they would be coming in together; that was the whole plan: for The Hammer and Lindsey to work together and each do well in their respective categories.
So, knowing the women would be coming in together, Blake and I had arranged we’d each be in charge of one specific person. I’d take care of The Hammer; he’d take care of Lindsey.
It was a great plan, and it probably would have worked great…if our racers had come in together.
But they didn’t.
Instead, Lindsey came streaking in on her own, The Hammer nowhere in sight.
I was a little bewildered, but figured I’d learn the “why” of how they got separated later. Crewing ain’t no time for jibber-jabber.
Probably, I should have just stayed back and let Blake do his thing. He had everything under control. But I just couldn’t help myself, and jumped in, yanking Lindsey’s arm warmers off her arms. Shoving electrolytes into her mouth. Pulling bottles out of her cages.
Blake worked around me. Half as fast, twice as efficient. Within fifteen seconds, we were finished.
“Lisa’s 1:45 behind me,” Lindsey said, as she pushed off, joining the small-but-speedy group of women she had rolled in with.
“One minute, forty-five seconds?” Blake said to me after Lindsey left. “That’s strangely specific. How could she know how far back Lisa is?”
“I think a motorcycle relays the distance between lead and chase groups to each other,” I replied.
And then I voiced my concern: “Why were they separated at all? And do you think Lisa’s going to be mad?”
“She might be,” Blake mused. “My mom’s a little bit…intense about racing.”
“Yeah. A little bit, I guess,” I say. I don’t say, “And that’s one of the things I love about her. She’s just like me that way. She understands how I think when I’m racing; I understand how she thinks.”
Why don’t I say it? For one thing, because I know Blake would make a gag noise if I did.
More importantly, though, I don’t say anything else because The Hammer is pulling in. Once again I am jumping around and doing everything at once, trying to force electrolyte pills into The Hammer’s mouth and put a bottle of water in her hands to wash them down, even as she demands a cold Coke.
A cold Coke. I should have known. Luckily, Blake has one in-hand, pops the top, and gives it to her. We are the best crew there has ever been.
As we’re working, I notice there’s another woman, right by The Hammer, also having a crew quickly get her fuel swapped out. “You about ready to go, Ellie?” The Hammer asks. Good, I think to myself. She’s not just out there riding alone; she’s working with someone.
I double-check we’ve given The Hammer everything she wants: new bottles? Electrolytes? Gels? Anything else? yep, yep, yep, nope.
And she’s gone.
“Let’s get to the Afton exchange,” I say to Blake.
And that’s where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.
A Note about Post Length from Fatty: Today and tomorrow’s installments have to be short because I’ve got an extraordinarily workweek in front of me. I had to decide between short reports today and tomorrow, or no report today and a longer one tomorrow. I went with short reports. I hope that’s cool.
A “Previously…” Note from Fatty: This is part 2 of my Crew Report for the 2015 Lotoja. Click here for Part 1.
The evening before Lotoja, Lynne — Ben’s mom, who has crewed Lotoja often enough that any right-thinking person would take her advice very seriously — had warned us.
Warned us very clearly.
“You’ll be driving through a lot of small towns,” she had said. “And you’ll be in a hurry to get to the next aid station,” she had continued.
“But do not speed,” she had emphasized, with extra emphasis. “Because you will absolutely positively get pulled over and ticketed.”
“Drive slow, drive safe,” I echoed back. “Noted.”
Good Advice, Ignored
“I’m being pulled over,” I said to Blake (aka “The IT Guy,” but I’m sick of typing such a long name with so many capital letters so often).
We were going through some small town — I don’t even know which one — near Bear Lake. And, true to Lynne’s warning, I was about to get a ticket.
But I really hadn’t been driving that fast. Ask The Hammer, she’ll tell you: my fast-driving days are behind me. If anything, I tend to drive a little slower than most people would prefer. Yeah, I’m apparently the guy who builds up a line of annoyed cars behind him.
But when the speed limit drops from 55 to 25, well, it’s not always that easy to instantly recalibrate your sense of what the right speed for driving is.
At least, that’s the claim I’m going to stick to right now.
“Well, at least I can get this over with as quickly as possible,” I thought to myself. And out loud, I said to Blake, “Open the glove compartment; you’ll see an envelope in there labeled ‘Insurance and Registration.’” Meanwhile, I got my driver’s license out.
Now I had everything I needed, and was ready for the conversation I knew was coming.
“How are you doing today?” The officer asked.
“I’m fine, how are you?”
“I’m good. You were driving a little fast,” he said.
“May I see your insurance, license, and registration?”
They’re already in my hand, and I hand them to him. The officer seems a little startled. I’m guessing that usually people have to do a little digging to locate those three items (and in fact, it was after a long digging-for-insurance-and-registration expedition that I vowed to henceforth keep those two items in a clearly-labeled envelope).
He looks at them for a moment, and asks, “Are you here for the bike race?”
I cringe, thinking that if he knows I’m from way out of town, he might hit me with a bigger ticket, knowing I’m unlikely to contest it. Oh well. “Yes, we’re crewing for a couple racers.”
“Well,” he replies, “I’m going to let you off with a warning this time.”
I do my utmost to not let my head spin around. In my 49 years of life, this is the first time I have been pulled over and not given a ticket. The possibility that he’d just give me a warning simply had not occurred to me.
My impulse is to ask, “Why?”
My brain kicks in and suppresses the impulse. Thanking goodness for my impulse-suppressing brain, I instead say, “Thank you; I’ll be certain to be more cautious.”
As we pull back onto the road, I ask Blake, “Is there going to be any problem with our getting from checkpoint to checkpoint on time if I drive five miles under the speed limit for the rest of the day?”
“I’ll account for it,” Blake says.
We made it the rest of the way to Montpelier in decent time, found a parking place, and still had about 1.5 hours ’til we expected to see The Hammer and Lindsey roll in together.
And it’s a good thing we had all that time, because when we opened the ice chest, we discovered we had a Level One Hazmat Disaster on our hands.
Which seems like a good place to pick up for the next installment in this story.
For most of my life, I’ve been acutely aware of a fact you have no doubt also discovered at some point in your life. Specifically, that the universe revolves around me.
It’s a strange and wonderful thing, really, being the center of the universe — the person who is doing, at any given point in time, the most important thing that any person could be doing.
I’ve often suspected, though, that the reason whatever I’m doing at the moment is the most interesting and exciting thing happening anywhere is because the things I do are so dynamic and exciting.
I’m the guy racing. I’m the guy training. I’m the guy winning eating contests.
Which made me think, recently, “Am I the most important person in any given situation and at any given moment because I’m doing something glamorous and exciting, or are events glamourous and exciting because I am doing them?”
It’s an intriguing question. Which goes without saying, really: the fact that I had this question is enough to make it intriguing, right?
In any case, I decided recently that I would conduct an experiment: instead of being the guy who raced in a race (thus turning the race itself into a glorious, eventful event), I would be the guy crewing for a racer. Specifically, I — along with my intrepid sidekick, the IT Guy — would crew for The Hammer and my niece Lindsey as they raced the 2015 Lotoja, a popular 200+ mile road race from Logan, UT, to Jackson, WY (hence the name).
Would crewing for a race be as exciting as racing it, if I were the crew? Would it be filled with drama, close calls, tears and laughter and a feel-good conclusion?
Like you even need to ask.
The Day Before the Race
As an astute tactician, I planned thoroughly for every possible eventuality in the Lotoja race. By which I mean, I called The IT Guy and said, “Hey, I’m terrible at directions and finding my way around and stuff; why don’t you come help me crew for your mom and help me not get lost?”
The IT Guy replied, “I won’t commit to helping.”
I said, “So I should get someone else?”
The IT Guy said, “No, I’ll be there for sure. I just won’t commit to it.”
The IT Guy is a truly strange person, but he’s incredibly good at reading maps and understanding verbal directions. So I stopped worrying about whether we’d make it from checkpoint to checkpoint on time. It would not be a problem.
Then I said to The Hammer, “I’ve got tools, tubes, tires and lube all set for you. Do you want me to figure out your food, too?”
“No, I’ve got that covered,” The Hammer said, and handed me a legal pad containing a detailed list of what she would want at each stop, along with the approximate times she would be at each of these stops.
Which meant, essentially, that my whole job was to make sure there was gas in the truck and to show up on race day.
I felt I was up to that challenge.
The Night Before the Race
As an insightful man with a great deal of foresight, I had the wisdom this year to have my niece fall in love with and marry a man whose parents live about one mile from the starting line of the Lotoja race. I further had the idea to ensure that both he and his parents love cycling.
Which meant not only that The Hammer, The IT Guy and I had a free place to stay the night before Lotoja, but we also had access to Lynne (Ben’s mom), who has crewed for multiple racers seven times. Lynne knows all the tricks of where to go, where to park, where to set up, and how to make sure your riders find you.
I had her give us a mind-dump of all this information. My mind wandered as she told us everything we needed to know, but I did look over to the IT Guy from time to time and ask, “Are you getting all this?” He was.
“So what are you two wearing tomorrow?” Lynne asked.
“Uhhh,” The IT Guy and I replied. We hadn’t considered the fact that matching outfits would make us stand out to Lindsey an The Hammer.
Luckily, I generally pack about twenty t-shirts whenever I go anywhere. Including, this time, two bright blue t-shirts: a Racer’s Cycle Service shirt, and an XTerra shirt.
And then we bought a big bunch of helium balloons, which we affixed to a six-foot-long PVC pipe.
Here’s the IT Guy in his borrowed shirt. The balloons may look like a festive headdress, but this is merely an illusion.
Now all I needed to do was get Lindsey to give me instructions for what she wanted, crew-wise. She had wisely already put her food in separate bags, and now detailed her needs. They were simple enough, but contained what I considered a distressing amount of pop-tarts and Dr. Pepper.
I kept my mouth shut, however. This wasn’t the time to start second-guessing her food plan for the race.
OK, I might have said a few things. And also I might have lecutured her a little bit.
OK, I might actually have gone on at some length.
Too Close for Comfort
The Hammer and I went to bed early. I felt a strange unease as I waited to go to sleep. Something was wrong. Something was missing.
But what was it?
Oh yeah: Nervousness. The next day was a race, and I wasn’t racing. I wasn’t experiencing pre-race anxiety, while The Hammer definitely was.
It was a little strange, not feeling my usual jumpiness. But also: nice.
I woke up at 5:30, right when the alarm went off. While The Hammer went and got herself ready, I went and double-checked her bike, checking air pressure, lubing the chain, affixing the race number, putting on the Bento Box, snapping the Garmin onto the mount.
The IT Guy slept in. There was nothing for him to do, yet.
With my very few tasks complete, I lounged about, ’til at 6:55 (The Hammer and Lindsey’s start wave was at 7:12), I said, “Hey, shouldn’t we be going?”
This was kind of strange. If I had been racing, there is no way I would not have already have been waiting at the starting line by now.
The Hammer’s bike was already loaded onto the truck’s rack, so I started loading Lindsey’s. At which point I noticed that her wheels seemed…a little squishy.
Both of them.
“I’m going to check your air real quick,” I said.
The rear tire was seventyish PSI. “That’s not good,” I said, and inflated it to 110.
The rear tire was also seventyish.
“When’s the last time you pumped up these tires?” I asked Lindsey.
“Last night,” she replied. At which point my Spidey sese went just a little nuts. If both her tires were this low, Either Lindsey had a slow leak or the pump she had been using had a bad gauge. Since both her tires had the same low number, I was inclined to go with the “bad gauge” theory.
Regardless, all we had time for now was to put air in and hope. We were running so late I privately now took it as a fact that Lindsey and The Hammer were going to miss their wave start.
It’s possible, therefore, that as we drove toward the starting line we very nearly approached the speed limit.
Assuming that parking close to the starting line would be nearly impossible and would actually take more time than finding a place to park a couple of blocks away, we in fact did quickly find a place to park my truck, at which point we got The Hammer and Lindsey off. They sprinted the two blocks to the starting line and I looked at the time on my phone.
7:10. It was going to be close, one way or the other.
I ran toward the Starting line. 7:11. I kept running. Now I could see the arch.
7:12. I wondered if Lindsey and The Hammer had made it into the corral. I wondered if the corrals were leaving strictly on time.
And then I saw the women racers — I believe Cat 1, 2, 3, and 4 women racers all left at the same time — come through the arch and make the first left turn.
I stopped running and watched, hoping to see two Team Fatty kits round that corner together. But I didn’t see them.
And then I did.
At the very back of the pack, they rounded the corner. They had made the start.
Later in the day, after the race, I would ask The Hammer how much time they’d had to spare once they got in the corral.
“Exactly no time at all,” she replied. “The instant we rolled in, our wave rolled out. We could not have timed it one second slower.”
According to Lynne, I now had an exorbitant amount of time to prepare and get to the first aid station where we’d be meeting The Hammer and Lindsey, 76 miles into the race.
But this starting line close call had served as a wake-up call for me. There was no way I was going to cut things fine like this again. I was not going to be the crew that didn’t show up for his racers.
I filled my truck’s tank, got back to the house, and barged into The IT Guy’s room, where he was fast asleep.
“Get up now,” I bellowed. “We’ve got to get to the Montpelier aid station right away!”
The IT Guy yawned, pulled on a t-shirt, and said, “OK, let’s go.”
We took off, on a mission to get to the tiny little town of Montpelier as quickly as possible.
Very soon, alas, we would discover the paradox of how trying to get somewhere very quickly can in fact cause severe delays.
Which seems like a good place to pick up in the next installment of my crew report.
A Note from Fatty: Today’s guest post is by frequent favorite commenter and (man’s best) Friend of Fatty, leroy’s dog.
How Leroy Placed Second In The Leroy’s Dog 120 Mile Invitational While Everyone Else Was Racing At Leadville
By leroy’s dog
Leroy worried about turning 40 until he woke up on his 40th birthday feeling no different than the day before. After that, turning 50 was no big deal. But approaching his last birthday before 60, he felt as if he were about to be chewed up like truck stop beef jerky and spat out the back of the grupetto of old age and irrelevance.
Okay, I made up that part about the grupetto, but he was complaining that his age sounded old.
Fortunately, I know how to cheer leroy up. Leroy likes long solo rides, it gives him quiet time to gather his thoughts. So I planned a birthday ride of twice his age in miles. I added two miles to make it a round number.
I knew I had to go with him though. On a ride that long, he’d get lost in thought, run out of thoughts, and then just be lost.
Leroy’s birthday was the same day as the Leadville 100 Mile Race Across The Sky. So I called our ride the Leroy’s Dog 120 Mile Invitational. It didn’t seem like such a non-sequitur at the time.
And of course, I let him wear our Fat Cyclist World Bicycle Relief kit just like the cool kids at Leadville.
The Perfect Start
Leroy’s birthday also coincided with NYC’s Summer Streets Festival – the Saturdays in August when NYC gives a route to pedestrians and cyclists from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. At 7 AM it’s empty, no cars, no trucks, and only a handful of people.
We fell in with four Rapha-clad riders (each about half leroy’s age) and spun easily over the Brooklyn Bridge, past Union Square, up Park Avenue, past Grand Central, through Central Park, and over to the West Side Highway where we dropped back.
At the north end of the West Side Highway greenway, I took this photo of a rusty, once dignified, but now aging structure in need of repair:
You can also see the George Washington Bridge in the background.
Right after this photo, a group of three women (each half leroy’s age) asked how to get to the Bridge. That cheered leroy up. Getting old means folks assume you know stuff; getting really old means folks assume you’ve forgotten everything.
A Word About New Jersey
Just over the Bridge, New Jersey is surprisingly bike friendly. They even have special parking for cyclists.
I tried teaching leroy how to parallel park. No luck. There may be something to that “old dog/new trick” expression.
In order to get the mileage we needed, I combined some well-known rides. First stop after the GWB was Nyack, about 25 miles north and a popular cycling weekend watering hole.
Nyack on different day, but it always looks like this on the weekend.
Fuel stop : 1 Fruit Cup (large) $5.00; 1 PB&J sandwich (artisanal) $4.50(!).
After Nyack, we went north, climbing past the yeshiva on Christian Herald Road (because that always cracks leroy up), across DeForest Lake (a lovely downhill just before the lake lets you coast across at 25 mph), and then back up to South Mountain Road and Route 33 through High Tor State Park.
Leroy was laboring up the gap in High Tor Park as two young women (definitely one-third leroy’s age) were jogging down. They smiled as they passed and told us to have fun. I think that was when leroy realized we were nowhere near the top.
At the top of High Tor Park, we stopped for a bio break behind an appropriate tree:
(Because sometimes you just have to stick it to The Man.)
From High Tor Park we made our way through Stony Point and Tomkins Cove to the four mile climb at Bear Mountain.
Leroy seemed to struggle for the last two miles of the climb. I tried distracting him with a “The Bear Went Over The Mountain” sing-along.
No luck, but he swore a lot and chased me.
At the top, I took this photo of old growth forest on a promontory diminished, worn down, and eroded by time.
You can also see the view from Bear Mountain behind leroy.
Leroy complained I cut off his head. I say we’re still not even for having me fixed.
I got a better photo when leroy wasn’t in the way:
Fuel Stop: 1 can Coca Cola from vending machine at top of Bear Mountain – Free (someone left change in machine).
It was time to turn around and head home along the Hudson River.
We stopped at a deli in Tomkins Cove for a non-artisanal PB&J ($2.50).and again in Nyack for another large fruit cup (still $5.00) and a large Iced Tea ($2.50!).
Of course, this being a Fat Cyclist post, I should also disclose that leroy also went through six bottles of Nuun Energy drink (Wild Berry), a couple of bottles of water, a bag of Power Bar energy chews (cola) he got for free on a ride the week before, and some sort of waffle (flavor indeterminate) that he got at a gas station a month earlier. He forgot to stock up on Carbo Rocket. Seriously, that stuff is great.
This being a Fat Cyclist post, I should also provide a bathroom report.
The Village of Stony Point will be getting a strongly-worded letter from me.
About 95 miles into the ride, leroy began to smile uncontrollably. The day, which had been in the 90s and humid, was cooling down nicely. He was rolling down a road he’d ridden many times, there may have been a tailwind. What could be better?
What I’ve Been Trying To Tell leroy
Back in the City, we faced the most challenging part of the ride: navigating the Brooklyn Bridge on a weekend afternoon in good weather. The Bridge is packed with walkers, gawkers, hawkers, and folks wobbling on bikes they forgot how to ride.
Leroy likes to roll slowly behind photographers while making a goofy face to crack up the photographer’s subject. You’d be surprised how easy that is the older you are – especially if you’re wearing lycra.
As we headed down the Bridge, a young man (less than half leroy’s age) riding a Citibike in the other direction smacked leroy on the shoulder and shouted hello.
It was a drummer leroy knew, but hadn’t seen in months because he had been touring with his band. Many years ago, leroy was a musician. Nowadays, on those rare occasions when he plays, folks notice his guitars.
Those guitars are classics or vintage or some other compliment. But to leroy, they’re just what he’s worked with since he was a teenager. They were okay back then, but now, just by sticking around, folks think they’re special.
I’ve tried to tell leroy getting older is just like that. But he doesn’t believe half the stuff I say.
Post-Ride Product Endorsement
Leroy reports that the DNA Fat Cyclist WBR kit was stylish and comfortable all day long. It even holds salt nicely.
I may have to let him keep ours and get my own. I mean that’s just gross.
For his birthday, leroy got what he wanted: Phil Gaimon’s Pro Cycling On $10 A Day and four pairs of boxer shorts.
I also got him a Garmin 500 to replace the now-wonky cycling computer he’s used for the past 8 years.
I gave leroy the Garmin after our ride because I didn’t want him to know that, in addition to riding twice his age in miles, I was shooting for climbing around 12,000 feet (200 times his age).
As for leroy coming in second…. I wasn’t just going to let him win. But for his birthday, I didn’t open a gap.
After all, the whole idea was to remind leroy that, for the way he rides, there’s no such thing as a time penalty.
Looking for Other Installments in this Story? Here are links to all the parts published in this multi-part story:
Our little group — the same one that had left Twin lakes hours ago — were climbing at about the same pace. The jerseys around me all looked very familiar. I would pass a few; a few minutes later, some would pass me back.
I found myself riding with Mark G., who lives just a few miles from me. We had met at the expo the day before, where he introduced his very good-looking and nice mountain-biking son, who just happens to be the same age as my nineteen-year-old daughter, who loves mountain biking and would probably get along well with a good-looking, nice boy who mountain bikes, if he were to happen to call or message her or something.
Not that I’m trying to set them up or anything. Cough cough.
Anyway, this was Mark’s eleventh time racing Leadville; he was hoping this would be his year to finish in under nine hours. We would make small talk as we slowly climbed up the mountain.
I felt weird — like I was moving in slow motion. I normally climb all of Powerline, after the first steep half mile. This time, in contrast, I found myself getting off the bike and walking up steep pitches. I would even have to stop completely at times, lean over my bike and take a few deep breaths.
I was physically exhausted. But more importantly…..I was mentally exhausted. I had been falling off my time schedule since ten miles into the race. I had been berating myself constantly.
Sure, a little while earlier, I had thought that with Dave’s help I was back on track.
But who was I kidding?
I know how fast I can ride sections on this course. I had 20 miles to go and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. “I’m not gonna get sub-nine, and no one around me is either,” I told myself.
I think that is why I allowed myself to walk: I had given up.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally crested the top and headed down Sugarloaf. My brakes were still screaming at me, riders I had passed on Powerline climb were now leaving me in their dust.
One of them was my nephew-in-law, Ben.
We had passed each other a few times on Powerline. I figured this was the last time I would see him. He still had a prayer of a sub-nine time if he really poured it on.
As I turned onto Hagerman pass road, I caught up with two bikers, riding side by side. Their pace was not terribly fast. I wanted them to get out of my way so I yelled, “If you’re going to make it under nine, your gonna have to pick it up.”
I was beginning to sound like a broken record. I was also beginning to think my children might be right when they call me a “nagger.”
The riders moved aside and I sped past them. The paved descent felt wonderful. I was at mile 88. I had been riding for 7:51. I always do well on the paved climb. I told myself, “Just because I’m not going to make it under sub-nine, I’m not giving up.”
Then something terrible happened: my bunions started hurting.
Elden had gotten me a new pair of shoes a few weeks earlier. The shoes felt fine, but the placement of the new cleat made my feet turn slightly inward. It had felt weird at first, but Elden said it was the just the new cleat and that it would wear itself in.
It had never caused me any pain before, but now it was horrible. Every pedal stroke hurt. I tried to ignore it, pedaled on, and made a note to fire Elden and hire a better shoe fitter.
Up ahead I could see the familiar “Fatty” jersey. Ben was just ahead of me. I eventually caught him. As I pulled along side of him, he gasped, “Do we have a chance?”
It was a good question.
I knew I didn’t have a prayer, but Ben is an excellent descender. It was just possible that he might be able to finish this climb, get down St Kevin’s and up The Boulevard in sixty minutes.
“Sure you do,” I replied. “You are an awesome descender. You just need to hurry.”
And he was gone.
Carter to Finish
Cold Coke: the thought of one is what had kept me going for the last eleven miles. “Carter Summit always has cold Coke,” I had told myself, over and over and over.
“Coke! I need Coke!” I yelled urgently and hoarsely as I pulled into the aid station.
I must have flustered the poor volunteers, who scattered like startled sparrows. They quickly regrouped, however, now carrying Coke and a Dixie cup, which they filled for me.
I had them refill it six times. It was that good.
I looked down at my Garmin: I had been riding for 8:15, and was thirteen miles away from the finish.
No doubt about it: that sub-nine just wasn’t going to happen. The fastest I have ever gotten to the finish line from this point is fifty minutes. I rode out of the aid station with the true realization that it was hopeless.
I hoped Ben was speeding down St Kevin’s on his way to the finish. (What I hadn’t realized was Ben was at the aid station with me, and was current in a state of shock and horror at discovering that the madwoman who had been bellowing for Coke was…me). Still, Ben did make a valiant effort and finished in a painful 9 hours and 2 minutes. So close!
I hate to say it, but I walked some of the steep pitches. “Why kill myself?” I thought. When I finally hit the top of the final climb of St Kevin’s and started to descend, my spirits lifted. I was on the home stretch. The Boulevard doesn’t scare or intimidate me anymore. The top of St Kevin’s is my finish line.
Sub-nine was out of the question, but finishing strong with a smile on my face was not. Nine hours and 15 minutes would still be impressive. That would be faster than any of my other times, prior to riding with Reba.
Why was I letting a time determine how I was going to feel about myself and my race? Just over nine hours was still amazing — something that I never dreamed I could achieve even two years ago. Why was I letting myself be disappointed now over something I’d hae been elated over a couple years ago?
As I cruised up the Boulevard, I looked at my Garmin: nine hours came and went. My thoughts turned to Elden and his “million” attempts to break the sub-nine barrier. I felt his pain. How agonizing to see nine hours so close to the finish line. How agonizing for many riders who would see twelve hours so close to the finish today. I did take comfort in knowing that I already had a big buckle of my own hanging on the wall at home. I think that definitely takes the sting out of it.
As I approached the finish line, I saw my sweetheart on the sideline waiting for me. He ran alongside me with a giant smile on his face.
He was proud of me. I was proud of me.
I had ridden as hard as I could. I felt good. I had fought a good fight.
My time wasn’t going to define my happiness.
PS from Fatty: The Hammer has a lot to be proud of. Click here for the Strava of her ride, and here’s a screencap of her official splits:
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