LIVESTRONG-Davis Team Fatty Ride Report
Before I get into the actual ride report itself, let me offer a bit of backstory to provide some perspective. Also if you are getting this post via email, I recommend clicking through to read it online so you can see all the pictures too.
Last October I started a medical weight loss program with the goal of losing 160 pounds. I was 47 years old, had two youngish children and I felt awful. Truly terrible almost all the time. So I found a program that made sense to me, and went at it hard with every intention of making this time not only different, but rather a lifestyle change versus a diet. By March I had lost about 60 pounds and as part of the effort to be healthier overall, and as the wife of a man with more bikes than sense, I bought a fabulous bicycle for myself and started riding. During this same period, my husband David (the afore-mentioned bike geek), started looking at the summer event schedule for rides he wanted to do. LIVESTRONG Davis was high on that list. This was his third year, and he loves it. We also have had far too many friends and family affected by cancer and we know well the immediate and personal support LIVESTRONG offers.
Somehow it all got mashed together in my head and I got this crazy idea to do a 100 miles, 100 pounds, 100 supporters challenge. I would try to lose one hundred pounds by the ride and start training so I could ride one hundred miles. Let me say at that point the most I had ever ridden in my whole life was maybe as much as twenty miles, once, as a teen. And lastly, I would co-opt one hundred people to support both my weight loss effort and LIVESTRONG at the same time. 100|100|100 – it sounded really catchy and I was sure having people behind me, helping to make me feel accountable, would keep me motivated. This idea quickly turned into a family affair, and soon all four of, including our 9 y/o son and 12 y/o daughter, were signed up for Davis. The weight loss, the last 15 pounds or so especially, has been VERY hard, but I have kept at it. And while I have ridden a lot since March (about 1000 miles), nothing close to as many training rides as I had planned. For the supporters, well, let me say only that I am shameless when it comes to fundraising for an organization I believe in. When the final tally came in, I had 110 people donating to support me.
Which brings me to the ride report.
On Monday June 17, a week before the ride I got a call from Matt Florio of LIVESTRONG. With eighty-something donors at that time, I had won what they call the “Individual Messenger” award for the event, the person with the most donors. Fatty had taken the award (of course!) for the most money raised by one person, and Team Fatty, again, had scored the top team honor. Sweet sweep for Team Fatty! Not the first time either. Matt told me I would be attending the special awards dinner the night before the ride, could bring the whole family, and that I should be prepared to give a brief speech about how I had gotten so many donors. I had about 30 more than anyone else at that point and I was far from done soliciting. (You know what I mean, not that kind of soliciting!)
I can tell you in a very few words how I spent Tuesday through Friday – freaking out completely. There was no way in hell we would be able to finish 100 miles in the time allowed. We are slow and we stop a lot. Even leaving at the earliest it would be light (5 AM), to be off the course before it closed at 4 PM we would need to finish in 11 hours.
For some perspective, Rune and I did the 100 Miles of Nowhere as a training event on June 1. For that event, though we did finish, we started at 5:45 AM and finished at 9:15 PM. Yes, you read that right! By my Garmin, which obviously has an awesome battery life, we had about 10 hours of moving time and more than 5 hours of rest stops. This was not an isolated incident. We tried a metric century on May 3. We started that ride at 6:45 AM and sagged out, at mile 53 at 2:30 PM.
Finishing in less than 11 hours seemed impossible. Frankly it always had, but I had wanted to try anyway. But now I was going to be on a stage in front of a bunch of people telling my 100|100|100 story. How could we not finish after that?
Saturday happened despite my attempts to locate a TARDIS. I did get to meet Team Fatty people in person for the first time which was very exciting. Like so many others though, I had that initial pause when meeting Fatty himself, wondering to myself: do I hug him? I settled for a non-space invasive greeting.
The rest of the day was spent in a blur of fabulous company, and unless you are a member of the Team Fatty community, these names will make no sense whatsoever. Along with Fatty and Hammer we had MattC, GregC, Zeeter, the Thompson family, Jeremy, Yann, Steve Banks, Jason Burgess and family, Leigh Ann, and some others I never got their names or worse, am forgetting. Sadly even the great camaraderie did not diminish the pit in my stomach.
I had to give a speech, in front of people, about being a great fundraiser, in a room filled with fundraising rock stars! To say I was utterly dreading it would NOT be hyperbole. For a change.
The awards dinner came around after I decided not to call in a bomb scare at the 11th hour. Though I have barely had any alcohol for months, I downed 2+ glasses of red wine (2+ sounds so much better than 3). I immediately felt a warm, fuzzy glow and my nerves began to settle. Okay then. This was fine, this was good, no sweat. I could do this, I was… Oh no, I was buzzed! What had I done? I couldn’t go on stage and speak with a buzz on, especially since I didn’t have my speech anywhere close to memorized. I had been typing it up 20 minutes before we got to dinner after tossing an earlier version. Disaster! And I thought I had been nervous before. Oy!
Fortunately, the keynote speaker of the evening, Alex Velez, a two time cancer survivor who is the co-founder of Back to the Roots, went on forever. In fact it was long enough that I was actually contemplating freshening my wine glass at one point (I resisted). In all seriousness though, Alex gave such a great speech. He has embraced survival in astonishing ways and as part of it, invented a few products I cannot wait to buy, like this self-cleaning fish tank that grows herbs and a grow your own mushroom kit (not that kind of mushroom). Great stuff and I would love to see him speak again. In any case, it provided needed time to clear my head.
Next thing I remember I was up on stage speaking. I honestly cannot remember much of that portion of the event. I do recall that I was positive I was talking much too fast and mixing my words up (mainly because that’s how I normally talk), but I was assured afterward it had been fine if not downright swell. I tell you though, it’s hard to go wrong with a good weight loss story. Formerly fat stories are like crack for Americans. Speaking of which, if you are a fan of before and after photos (though with 60 pounds left to go, it’s more like before and during pictures).
Then the dinner was over, and the thing I was terrified about was at hand, the ride itself. I so wanted to finish the century course. How could I do 100 miles|100 pounds| 100+ supporters without finishing the 100 miles? How lame would that be?
Prepping for the Ride
So the first logistics problem of the ride happened the night before. The awards dinner was supposed to end at 9 but finished closer to 10. Now normally I’d blame it on Fatty being chatty on stage but he was actually the soul of brevity.
So already, we had an hour less sleep the kids would be getting – (more) tired is never good with kids. Still, we had laid out every single thing we would need, in perfect order, so all we would have to do in the morning was get up, get dressed, grab our bikes, and leave. Voila. I set the alarm for 4:30 AM, certain that 30 minutes would be plenty of time to get 2 kids and 2 adults out the door when we were that well organized.
Yes, I was stupid. And not that well organized as it turns out.
I won’t bore you with every detail; suffice to say there were in fact a few things we had forgotten about. The most important thing is that my marriage is still intact after David had to perform a major taming of the shrew as I was freaking out about us being behind schedule. Let me tell you, do not be fooled my easy charm. I am NOT fun when I’m tense. But finally everything that needed to be done was done and we were off!
Rolling at last. The fact that we were finally moving settled me down greatly, though I was furiously trying to calculate how much faster we would have to ride, or how many fewer stops we would need to make, to still make the 4 PM cut off time for the course. Still, we were moving and it was a truly glorious morning!
So there we were zooming along, no cars or bikes on the road. Gorgeous sunrise and surrounded by fields of sunflowers. The winds were quite light at that point, and (for us), we were making good time.
The first 10 miles we averaged 12.6 mph. We arrived at the first Power Stop – which we knew would NOT be open – but wanted to use the porta potties.
Just so you know, I am going to start every ride I ever do the whole rest of my life at least 2 hours before the ride is actually due to start. Just to be able to be the first one to use a brand-spanking clean porta potty. They had to cut the zip ties to let us in, that’s how pristine they were! I have never before in my life inhaled (on purpose) in a porta potty. Did you know they actually smell good when they haven’t been used yet!
And then there was plenty of toilet paper, no worries about putting stuff down on the surface next to you… I could wax poetic about the glory of an immaculate porta potty (I suppose I just did). I don’t want to say it was the high point of my day, but it was in the top 5.
As were the next two times it happened, at Power Stops 2 and 3! We were the first ones to all the Power Stops until number 4.
We did hit the first snag of the day between Power Stop 1 and 2 when Sage flatted. Fortunately, we had plenty of repair equipment and it was no coincidence that we had my very favorite bike mechanic riding with us. He’s cute too! Yes, once again I will confess on a bike forum that I have no idea how to change a flat tire. Settling down to work, David sent Rune and me ahead (we are the slower riders), and happily they caught up within about 5 miles or so, and that was the only mechanical issue of the day. Remember I said mechanical.
We were thinking the lead out riders would catch us at around 30 miles, and expected that the Team Fatty train would be in that group or close behind. We saw the Highway Patrol setting up to help manage traffic right outside Power Stop 3 at 32 miles, and knew they must be close. It was a couple of miles after that when we – the fake race leaders – got caught and passed (but don’t think I didn’t love being the fake leader to cross the first two race mats on the course). The real race leaders were two young-looking guys who must have weighed 150 pounds dripping wet between both of them, riding bikes that would probably cover the cost of a year of college tuition. Okay, in all fairness, they passed us so quickly, they could have been anyone. I’m just assuming they were young, skinny, and riding really pricey bikes.
The Team Fatty train, not too much after that, caught up to us at one of the prettiest parts of the ride, mile 37. We had fair warning they were coming when there was a swell of sound behind us, cheering for the Houston Family. My heart swelled, I got a little lump in my throat, and just as I was about to thank them all for the support, they shot past us and were gone. Fatty was pulling at that time. Need I say more?
It was about this time that we started into what Rune and I considered to be the climbing section of the event. Now, I know to most of you, the idea there was climbing in this event probably seems absurd. In fact I can hear you snorting as you read. But again, hello, I’m a fat chubby lady who really started riding in March and my son is 9. To us, if it’s not truly flat, it’s a climb. According to LIVESTRONG, the 100 mile course had 1289 feet of climbing, with a max grade of 6.7%. I know, I know, nothing for you, but for us, consider the source. The rollers and small hills started 40 miles into the ride, and lasted for 20 miles. For me and Rune, it was hard.
In fact, Rune is not too proud to let me share that there was some crying happening going up one of the longer hills. Him, not me. For a change. I tell you, it’s really hard to keep that kid fueled; he was drinking great but just did not want to eat anything. This is typical for him on long rides and this time, I was literally threatening him at every Power Stop (and in between) to eat. I’m surprised child protective services didn’t show up. But I know him and he bonks, and when he does, he bonks hard. But I also know that he has a fantastically speedy recovery time. So if we can get him to stop, get calories into him and give him 5-10 minutes, he’s fresh all over again.… for about 9 miles anyway. Then we rinse and repeat. That said, we got it done and at Power Stop 5, just before the final 10 miles of climbing at mile 50, we got to see Zeeter, MattC and Leigh Ann, which was an unexpected treat. Steve Banks had passed us about 8 miles before that, but unfortunately for MattC, we were seeing him because he had flatted-twice- early in the ride. Ugh!
Around mile 60, we had a long downhill. We knew the climbing was over and we started to get cocky. Well, I started to get cocky. Despite our “late” start, we were a bit ahead of schedule, were doing more than 11 MPH on average, and everyone’s legs still felt pretty good. In fact Sage was riding so well, she had been given the green light to ride out ahead of us from each rest stop from 4 and afterward. She was going much faster than we were. If I had not wanted to keep David with us, he and Sage probably could have finished fairly quickly.
Miles 60 to 70 passed quickly and we came down to the final leg of the event. Then the slog set in. Back to the flats, back to the farmland that had looked so beautiful in the morning. Now it all just kind of looked the same. Rune meanwhile, after the long downhill, was bonking a bit. I was surprised to spot Sage in the distance on a long straightaway. I started riding faster to catch her and see what was up, and David stayed with Rune. I finally caught her wheel to learn that her wrist was really bothering her. She was voicing the concern that maybe she could not finish. I encouraged her to try to sit up, ride slower and keep the weight off it as much as possible, and that we could assess if that was helping. Soon David and Rune caught us and in under an hour, we were at mile 80.
Now, it was at mile 80 that things started to go seriously awry for the first time of the day. Wherein I had been so cocky about our finish time (David had estimated 3:45, giving us 15 minutes to spare), I had started thinking we would be crossing the line at like 3:00 PM. We had this done, it was in the bag. Sure my neck was killing me (my core sucks), my arms and wrists hurt, and no amount of Hoo Ha Ride Glide was going to soothe my nether region, but hey, we had this! Just 16 miles to go (it’s a fake century, really just 96 miles, which was actually perfect because technically I had only lost 96 pounds). But then it happened.
We had been experiencing a moderate cross wind for about the last 5 miles. It was slowing us down a bit, but wasn’t too bad, more annoying than anything. But then it got worse, a lot worse, and soon the course put us directly into a seriously stiff headwind. If I may quote the oh-so-esteemed Noodle, it was a true Vehemence of Suckage headwind. It’s not like we could ride a pace line either. Plus the kids are both light. This was not good. Our speed screeched to a slow crawl. And when crawling became too hard, we inched forward. Then Sage cracked. Her wrist was hurting terribly, and emotionally/mentally, because it barely felt like we were getting anywhere (mainly because we were barely getting anywhere), she just lost it. She wanted to finish so badly but just did not see it happening. That brought on tears, and she’s 12, so it was a lot of tears. She rode crying to herself before we knew it was happening (the shriek of the wind and her sunglasses masked it for a bit). Then another female ride noticed and asked her what was wrong. Suddenly we were all stopped and my sweet daughter was sobbing her heart out with two strangers patting her back to try to console her.
If something could have made me feel like a worse mother at that time, I cannot imagine what it would have been. Once again, I was waiting for someone to call Child Protective Services. Soon a SAG wagon pulled over, and while the wind was blasting grit at us, David and I were asking Sage to SAG out, or at least SAG to the final rest stop. We were told we had a couple of miles of headwinds left. She wouldn’t do it, but she’s also telling us she can’t ride any further. The clock was ticking on the course closure, and the world’s meanest mom (that would be me) was thinking (and finally saying), “you have to do one or the other, honey. You can’t just stay here. It’s not an option. It’s fine to SAG, you have been amazing, but you have to either SAG out or ride.”
A few minutes later, as we kept repeating those two choices over her tears and denial of doing either, and making her drink (she’s the opposite of Rune, eats plenty but does not hydrate), just as I was about to make her get in the damn van, not caring how much she flipped out in front of strangers, she took off riding again.
David went ahead to stay with her and I made Rune take some food and water before we started back into the evil headwind. Ten minutes later, he’s crying too, though he’s still riding while he does. I ask if he wants to SAG out, tell him I’ll even do it with him if he wants, he shakes his head NO vehemently. I stopped to look at the map, thinking “screw the 96 miles, is there a shortcut we can take to get us back to the line without the headwinds?” 90 miles would have been good enough, but he wouldn’t do that either.
The next couple of years passed slowly. Years, miles, it was all the same at that point, and when we had to go up over a freeway, with the winds blasting even harder into us, while trying to avoid the speeding-like-crazy-cars getting on and off the freeway when we were only going like 3 miles an hour and all I can imagine is one of them hitting one of the kids… well let me just say, I am reasonably certain I left my heart back on the ground there.
But then there it was, the final rest stop. We had been told by the SAG wagon driver, if we could make it that far, the rest would be all favorable cross and tailwinds that would get us home quickly. We had made it! We all ate and drank, took a minute to visit the seriously used porta potties (boy was that was a huge let down) and then we literally turned the corner on the ride. NO MORE HEADWINDS FROM HELL and only 9 miles left to the finish!
All of a sudden we were sailing along at 14-16 miles an hour with little effort. All of a sudden my kids were smiling again. Next thing I knew David and Sage were racing each other over a small overpass (and it appears Sage is winning), next thing I was looking at the time and realizing we are going to finish and with a little time to spare even. Next thing Rune was asking me if we can go even faster so we would not be the last, he doesn’t want to finish last!
Next thing I know the four of us, side by side, are crossing the finish line, and Team Fatty, who had been tracking us on the LIVESTRONG mobile app, is at the gates, cheering us on like crazy. More cowbell indeed! The LIVESTRONG staff is announcing the arrival of the Houston Family, and for the first time that day, tears are streaming down my face. The good kind.
Next is this:
And then angels appear before us! It’s the Chapek brothers, with beer in hand. We stumble to the Team Fatty tent to join the rest of the group. Not shockingly there is still pie leftover (because David always buys way, way too many pies – even for voracious pie-hounds like Team Fatty), so Pumpkin, Pecan, Coconut Cream, Chocolate Cream, Apple, Cherry and Banana Cream await. And guacamole made by Jason’s awesome wife Amanda!
Sadly we missed Fatty and his wife’s departure (she’s known as the Hammer just to give you an idea about this woman’s level of fitness. Like triathlete Natascha Badmann, she has this wonderful, kind, cheery face as she zooms past you, kicking your butt riding or running! Much to our delight, the remaining gang is up for an evening of Team Fatty merriment. First MattC and I go to the beer tent for reinforcements. They are starting to close up but I pull out the sob story about just riding a century with a 9 and 12 year old. The beer tent lady is kind-hearted enough to not only buy it, but to give us 4 beers instead of 2 in commiseration. She must have kids.
Amanda and Jason, who live locally, recommend a restaurant for dinner. We all dash to shower off the salt and grime and by 5:45, we’re back together having one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve barely eaten food since October! Really, next time you’re in Davis, try Paesanos. And ask for Ross to be your waiter. He has a good enough sense of humor to keep up with Team Fatty people.
The perfect ending to a perfect day. We can’t wait until next year!
PS: Driving home from Davis today, Rune asked if would buy him a car when he was 16 if he did the Triple Crown. I’m telling you, Child Protective Services, it’s just a matter of time!