Posted by: fizzhogg | October 5, 2010

Death Race 2010

Okay. So… since my 43 and a half mile “I’m starting training!” ride, I have ridden less than 15 miles. It rained, I got sick, blah, blah, blah.

I knew if I didn’t get back on the Unfat Machine soon, this entire year and project would be worthless. So last night I decided I would ride this morning no matter what. No matter the weather, no matter how I felt, how much sleep I had, I would ride. I checked NOAA and saw it was to be a nice, crisp 35 degrees by 7am. So I started digging out my cold weather gear.

I laid out my Under Armor – is it a compression shirt or a what? – and my Under Armor tights/leggings/whatever the heck. After forty minutes of searching I found my North Face gloves. I pulled out my long-sleeve CTS jersey, and tried to find my high-tech Gu thermal beanie thing. But alas, I could not locate it, and instead pulled out my low-tech Full Tilt Poker beanie.

Morning arrived and I was off. And three and a half minutes into the ride, I wanted to go home. My face felt like it was stuck in a freezer, with some little ice creature shooting needles at it. My hands were warm, my legs and torso were doing okay, but my face. Add to that my Specialized sunglasses continued to fog up.

I was heading out on the Road Formerly Known as The Pyrenees. Heading west, away from the rising sun. << that’s foreshadowing, folks.

I was so cold and unhappy that I decided to alter my route. Instead of riding out to the TdC hill and over it (part of my original 40-mile plan), I would ride to the halfway point of the RFKATP, turn and head for the levee trails. But then I noticed something. Whenever I would hit a patch of sunlight I got warmer. Only there weren’t that many. At least not yet, because the sun wasn’t quite high enough to clear all the surrounding trees.

But it inspired me. I wanted to get to the sun. I knew if I kept riding eventually everything would be in the sun. So I blew past the halfway point, feeling good, my face less pained with every crank. I completed the RFKATP and cruised on the back roads toward the TdC hill. But I forgot how that part of the ride is through thick tree cover. The temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees, but I was okay. Except for my feet. Specifically, my toes.

I have no wool socks, no shoe booties, none of that stuff. My feet were my Achilles heel. The more I rode the colder they got. To the point they were hurting. I kept moving them around inside my shoes, but nothing was helping. I decided I needed to get back to the sunlight. So I turned around.

Meanwhile……. did I mention that there was quite a bit of traffic on this Tuesday morning? And I was on a smallish two-lane road sans bike lane. That didn’t help the situation. I got to the “end” of the trees – a fork in the road where turning left leads to corn fields and golf courses and eventually to chubby bike lanes and levee trails and all things good and plenty. The drawback? The road, while not twisty at all, is a tad narrower than the previous two-lane I was just on, with even less of a space for cyclists.

But it was okay. I’d ridden the road many times and knew the worst part – the bike lane-free part – is only about a mile long, so no big deal. Cold or not, it would be no problem for me and the UM.

Except for the fog.

As I unclipped at the stop sign and stared down the road toward sun and warm toes, I realized I could not see the road. Oh, yeah. My sunglasses. Uh, nope, I had already taken them off. What I was looking at was for-real fog. So thick that I could not see more than 50 meters down the road. My razor-sharp mind quickly deduced that if I could not see the cars on the road, there was no way they would be able to see me.

I could not go back the way I came because of my Popsicle Toes. So what was left? Turning right. No problem. I looked at the street sign, and knew that this particular road eventually connected with the RFKATP. Great! I would ride back to the RFKATP and then ride through what would surely be brilliant sunlight by then, and all would be good.

Except I’d never ridden this road before. Oh, wait. Yes I had.

Long ago, I rode the other way on this road. I rode down it. The road described in this post – when my life almost ended.

So, dear reader, let me pause here to set the scene for you. It’s 38 degrees out, my toes are frozen, and I am riding UP the meanest, nastiest, makes-Mt. Lemmon-look-like-Nebraska little two-lane country road… during rush hour. I know it’s rush hour because apparently EVERY FREAKING DRIVER IN ST. LOUIS COUNTY is going up this little road to get to the RFKATP which leads to the highway.

Remember this dude?

That’s about as much room as the Unfat Machine and I had struggling up this thing. With cars idling behind me, then roaring by when there was a break the other way, honking, missing me by inches, and being generally annoyed, I climbed. As you can imagine my speed was about the same as a three-toed sloth. A dead three-toed sloth. Eventually, I gave up. I stopped. Maybe it was the climb, maybe it was the traffic and the cold.

Okay, it was the climb. But I have to say, as scared as I was descending this thing back in April, I was more scared today. I dismounted, moved off the road, and did the walk of shame, through rocks and tree limbs and stuff that made me so glad I still ride with old mountain bike shoes.

I was never more happy to see the RFKATP. I Gu’d up, drank, and set off on what now felt like an old friend. I knew this road. Heck, I own this road. This road and its chubby bike lanes are as comforting and familiar as Gramma’s feather bed.

One thing I had neglected… I was now heading east. The same east with the rising sun, which was now high enough to clear the trees, and thus, completely blind me.

Honestly, I could not see. I had to look about a foot in front of my tire the entire time, with the occasional quick glance up to make sure no cars were going to t-bone me coming out of their subdivisions. I remember at one point thinking, “Could this ride get any worse?”


At the halfway point of the RFKATP, where one can turn off and head to the sanctuary of the levee trails, I did just that. Turning north – where the was no sun in my eyes. And HAZZAAH! I could see! Yahoo! I had made it. My toes were warm, I was on a chubby bike lane heading to the levee trails, I was still going to salvage a strong 40-mile ride out of today.

Then the railroad crossing appeared. No problem, I had been over this particular crossing several times. Just take it easy and meet it straight on. It was right around this time that my sunglasses decided to fog up again. Not so much that I needed to remove them, but just enough to hide the pothole I was heading for at the railroad tracks.

No, I misspoke. Pothole is not accurate. It was more like this:

When I saw it through my foggy shades I was too close to avoid it, and so I resorted once again to my razor-sharp mind. I quickly channeled my ten-year-old self that once rode a BMX Mongoose with Redline fork and Oakley grips. I would bunny hop the crater. I did it all the time on the Mongoose to great success.

I lifted my front tire and just as I was engaging my tuckus muscles to squeeze, then raise the rear of the UM… impact. My rear wheel slammed into the edge of the cavern with enough force that BOTH my water bottles were ejected from their cages. Note – I don’t have those silly TT cages behind my seat. I mean real cages down on the frame. Both bottles rocketed out like they had NASA printed on them.

My shoes came unclipped, and as I listened to the sounds on my water bottles bounding across the road, I fought to keep the Unfat Machine upright. I did, and quickly parked it, and turned in time to see my water bottles rolling across the road, being just missed by one car, then another, then another.

It was about this time I decided it might be a good idea to go home.

I scooped up my bottles, checked the UM for damage – the rear wheel seems to have lost its “true” – and slowly pedaled home.

In the end I rode 21.2 miles. Just about an hour and a half. It was the longest ride of my career.

Funny thing – it wasn’t long ago that staying out on the Unfat Machine for an hour and a half was a victory. Now, stopping after 90 minutes feels like I captained the SS Failure straight into an iceberg. That reminds me, I need to buy wool socks.

Eat better.

Ride your bike.

Get wool socks.

Fair winds and following seas, Willy


  1. You must have done something really, really bad in a previous life.

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