Monday, June 04, 2007

The Fat Cyclist phenomenon

(and other reasons why I love blogging)

Date: June 3
Mileage: 28.8
June mileage: 50.2
Temperature upon departure: 65

Yesterday my new Fat Cyclist jersey showed up in the mail. Then today, like a stroke of good luck, the sky opened into some oh-so-rare short-sleeves weather. So I donned my stylish new jersey - for good luck - then proceeded to run over a chunk of glass the size of a molar, break one of my brake arms while changing the flat, and forget to release my foot from my clipless pedals at the Glacier Visitor Center - slamming my knee (my bad knee) into the pavement in front of God and a whole lot of tourists. Yes, I did Team Fatty proud.

How this jersey found its way to my doorstep is an interesting story - at least, it’s interesting to me. When I started keeping a blog in November 2005, I was not really a cyclist. I was an occasional recreational rider with a few touring miles behind me, but I was not a cyclist in the pure sense of the word. But as a new resident of Alaska, I had some growing interest in a strange thing called snow biking. Snow biking events don’t start small in Alaska. The entry-level event crosses into a realm most would consider endurance - 100 miles. And I was a lot of things in November 2005, but I was not an enduro-nut.

It was around that time that I first came across Fatty’s blog. His self-depreciating humor and amusingly spot-on dieting misadventures snagged me. Pretty soon I was reading all about his one-day trips around the White Rim and Leadville 100 races. And I got to thinking ... here is a self-proclaimed fat guy who scarfs pounds of mashed potatoes and spends his time writing open letters to the Internet, and he can handle these long rides. Why not me?

Of course it’s not as simple as that. But there are so many ways in which random intersections across the paths of strangers can change our own course. The way my entry into endurance cycling parallels my change in Internet habits is not a coincidence. I didn’t see these possibilities in myself until I watched others stretch their wings.

Now I'm one of hundreds of anonymous cyclists pedaling the world's roads and trails in an orange and black jersey, connected only by one man's blog. It may seem like an arbitrary connection, but if I ever saw another one of those shirts making its way up the road, you can bet I'd stop the person it's attached to. We're on the same team after all.

Fatty has since moved the focus of his blog from cycling/diet guru to avenger of cancer. After his wife, Susan, was diagnosed a couple of months ago, Team Fatty reached out in inspiring ways. Cards, letters and tokens of appreciation rolled in from all over the world, and now Fatty is rolling out a new jersey - pink, to fight Susan's breast cancer. And we who accidentally stumbled across Fatty's small corner of the Internet - the wannabe endurance riders, the mashed-potato lovers, the fat cyclists - have united in support of a stranger.

"People who say the Internet is an ugly place have been hanging around the wrong parts of the Internet," he wrote.

I completely agree.