Road to Tempe 2016: Ragen’s Big Fat Bike Wreck

In exactly 252 days, Ragen Chastain plans to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a full marathon, all in under 17 hours at IRONMAN Arizona in Tempe, AZ on November 20, 2016.

In a recent IronFat post, we were treated to a report of Ragen’s “first big bike wreck”, a typically harrowing tale where events conspired against her to produce a major obstacle, followed by shaming from a random stranger and yet another stranger recognizing her brilliance and defending her. In the end she overcame her obstacle and learned a thing or two about shifting gears.

The way Ragen tells it, after a long bike ride, with a tailwind behind her and heading up a steep hill, she had a leg cramp and lost control of her bike and had to drop it. After extricating herself from the wreck, as she lay injured and bleeding, a group of men rode past, and one of them yelled at her to move to the other side of the path. Another man immediately told off his friend and stopped to help. Finally, Ragen had to pick herself up and ride “almost 3 miles” back to her car, then go home and debride all the asphalt from her wounds. Ragen has since written about the same bike path in the “peloton of pricks” story, where a large group of men tried to force her off the path as they passed, yelling at her to “move”.

The path Ragen is talking about is the San Gabriel River Bike Trail, a paved urban multi-use trail that runs along the bank of the San Gabriel River. The “steep” downhills and uphills are shallow underpasses where the trail crosses roads. It is actually possible to identify exactly where Ragen wrecked her bike, because she got so excited about bragging about her injuries that she forgot to do her usual metadata sanitization. The underpass that tripped her up is a 2.5m drop and rise over almost 250m of trail. In typical Ragen fashion she also couldn’t resist lying about the distance back to the parking lot, which was only half of the “almost 3 miles” she claimed.


This trail is fairly narrow and has a shoulder on one side and a steep drop on the other for much of its length. There is no room for five people to ride side by side as Ragen claims in the “peloton of pricks” story, which brings up questions about whether this is another Ragenesque exaggeration of a group yelling “on your left”.


So what actually happened in the bike wreck story? After a leisurely ride up and down a paved urban path, Ragen had a leg cramp as she rode through an underpass, and fell off her bike because she is still unable to stop it properly (she cannot straddle the main bar due to her size). Instead of pulling over to the wide shoulder on the left, she stopped in the path to take photos of the minor road rash for her blog. A group of bicyclists exiting the underpass came upon a large woman blocking half the path to take selfies, and one of them suggested she move over to the shoulder. When they realized she was hurt, they stopped to help. Finally, she biked about 1.5 miles to the parking lot, but couldn’t resist exaggerating when she wrote up the post later.

Observant readers may be wondering how well Ragen’s current training will prepare her for the bike course at Tempe in just over 8 months. Mapping out an estimate of her training route during the bike wreck story shows a gentle elevation change with a number of small dips for underpasses. This is actually a quite a bit more “challenging” than the completely flat beachfront boardwalk where she did all the training for her IRONMAN 70.3 last year. By comparison, the bike course in Tempe has 125m of elevation range, and about 480m of elevation increase spread over its three loops. It is fairly obvious someone who describes a 2.5m underpass as “steep” is totally unprepared for this course.

Ragen’s training ride
IRONMAN Arizona bike course (triple loop)

5 thoughts on “Road to Tempe 2016: Ragen’s Big Fat Bike Wreck

  1. Also, she is planing on running a 5K in Oakland on March 20th. This is part of the Oakland Running Festival including a full and half marathon. A 5K should be like a daly run, a warm up for Ironman training. Yet she is traveling from LA to the Bay Area to run 3.1 miles. Does that seem strange? (Travil time by jet is about an hour, but still that is a long way to go for a short run.) Why not run the marathon? Or at least the half? All the trouble and expense of traveling for a short run, I don’t understand.

    • She has several 5k-10ks in her area this month (one recent one was at the trail she does her speedwalkruns at). Surely she could be participating in a 10k for one of her “long runs” at this point. Curious to see if she can actually finish a 5k in under 40 minutes.

  2. You totally rock!! Those photos really put things into perspective. As always, thank you for being on top of this and providing the data.

  3. Wait, if she can’t straddle the bike to ride properly… how does she pedal? Does she… I mean, does she ride in some sort of sidesaddle method that is previously unknown to mankind for bike riding?

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