RAWROD Part 2: Treachery and the Hogback

There are a couple of strange things about being a fat cyclist:  

  1. You’re reminded with every turn of the crank that you are, in fact, fat. How? Because on the upstroke your quads squish up against your low-hanging stomach.
  2. If you used to be a fast / competitive cyclist, the instinct to win doesn’t go away when you become fat; it just festers.

I noticed strange thing #1 right away as I began riding around the White Rim. How could I not? But I didn’t really notice strange thing #2 until I started climbing Hardscrabble Hill, a sandy, steep set of pitches. As person after person after person passed me, I realized that I would shortly be sorted to the back, where I would remain through the day.

And then a third strange thing happened: everyone started gathering at the top of Hardscrabble hill, planning on picking up the food and water they needed to make it for the next section of the ride. OK, that’s not very strange. The strange thing is a thought occurred to me: I had no need to stop. It was a cool day, so I hadn’t used much water. I had enough food for the whole ride.

So I waved at everyone who had gathered, and I kept going. Abracadabra, I went from back of the pack to leader of the pack, knowing that since everyone was still waiting for the sag wagons to catch up, I had picked up a 15-minute lead.

Is this niggardly, anti-social riding behavior? Why, yes. Yes it is. Am I proud of myself for acting this way? No, no I am not. Did I realize that I had used a particularly lame form of treachery to claim a spot on the trail that did not rightfully belong to me? Yes, yes I did. Did I feel shame and remorse to the extent that I would never do it again? I guess we’ll see.

Not All About Me

For a little while — maybe half an hour — I mostly wondered how soon everyone would catch and pass me. Then I started noticing that White Rim was the most beautiful it’s ever been, and stopped thinking about other people, about me, about anything. I swear, I had one of Schopenhauer’s sublime moments, where I was simply immersed in the beauty of the profusion of wildflowers — white! red! yellow! purple! — and physics-defying sandstone structures. Cliffs towered above me beyond belief to my left, and to my right dropped away so far down that my stomach would knot up.

I was surprised that I was starting to get close to Murphy’s Hogback — a long, difficult climb, at the top of which we were going to gather and eat lunch — and nobody had passed me yet. Ha! Maybe I’m in better shape than I thought! Maybe I’ll be the first to the top of Murphy’s, from which I can taunt the slower riders with my magnificent belly!

And then my good friend Brad Keyes past me. On his singlespeed bike. While whistling an idle tune. Followed, within moments, by Mike Young — who is Steve Young’s more-athletic brother — who said, “Hey, you’re not doing so bad, you big fat tub of goo!” OK, Mike didn’t say that. But the fact that I had only been passed by two really fast guys made me feel much better about myself.

Oh wait, I see more coming up behind.

I dug in deep, doing what I could to prevent anyone else from passing me before I got to Murphy’s. And then the climb began, putting an end to any thoughts I had of finishing strong. I went into my granny gear and just slowly spun up, not worrying about speed, not caring if anyone passed me. I just didn’t want Mike, Brad, or anyone behind me to see me get off and push.

Amazingly, I did it. I rode up the entirety of the Hog. Third guy up. Yay. Cori Jones was just seconds behind and did the whole thing one handed just for the helluvit, but still.

On the Hogback

The great thing about being at the top of Murphy’s Hogback is you’ve got an incredible view of the trail you just climbed — and it’s very impressive. You get to watch everyone else ride in, cheer them on, and give them Very Helpful Advice as they get to the last 10 yards, which is extremely steep. Such as:

  • To Bill Freedman: “C’mon! Ride a wheelie up that hill, you pansy!” Of course, Bill (owner of a Ben and Jerry’s shop, so naturally a wonderful person) complied. Then, as he summited, he put a little too much juice into it and wheelied over onto his butt. It was a perfect moment.
  • To Serena Warner: “Need a push?” To which she nodded assent. I quickly skittered down the hill to give her that push, and up she went. I like to think that it’s because I expended so much energy giving her that push that Serena would offhandedly blow by me toward the end of the ride.
  • To Ryan Benson: “Ry-an! Ry-an! Ry-an!” Nobody expected Ryan to be able to clean that final pitch, but he did. Made it look easy. For that, Ryan would be awarded the “King of Shafer” trophy Kenny had made up, to be awarded to the male who suffered with the most class.

With everyone gathered, we all had lunch. And I fully intended, as soon as I was done, to hop on my bike and go before anyone else.

I had a non-race to win.

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