The 2015 Grand Slam…For Kenya!

07.2.2015 | 2:36 pm

A Note from Fatty: If you already know what’s going on here and are ready to donate, just click here. You’re awesome. Thanks!

This is the big one. The biggest fundraiser I’m going to do this year. 

No, not just big. “Big” is too small of a word. This is the grand one. 

This month — the whole month of July — we’re going to work together to get a thousand (at a bare minimum) bikes  over to the newest country supported by World Bicycle Relief: Kenya

We’re going to make it possible for 1000 children (70% of them girls) get to school faster, stay in school longer, and have better opportunities for work afterward.

And those thousand children are going to share their bicycles, education and opportunities, making the lives of their loved ones immeasurably better.

We are, together this month, going to suddenly, massively, and tangibly improve the lives of thousands and thousands of people.

And you know what? As you help, you’re going to have a remarkably good chance at winning one of half a dozen dream bikes, or a cycling trip to Italy.

Prizes

Let me tell you this: I’m going to be a little sneaky in this edition of The Grand Slam. Instead of revealing all the prizes you can win right up front, I’m going to tell you about them a little bit at a time.

You know, to keep you guessing. And also, so the sheer magnitude of the number and quality of prizes can really sink in.

But I will tell you this: As you donate, you get a chance at every single one of the prizes.

And I will also tell you this: I have never given away so many dream bicycles, from so many bicycle makers.

Every single one of these bicycles will be a top-of-the-line model, outfitted with the best components possible. 

There will be at least half a dozen bikes, and each is worth more than $5000. And some are worth more than $10,000. In fact, looking at the bike specs here, I’d say most of them are closer to a value of $10,000 than $5,000.

Since I’m dropping hints, I’ll let you know that some of the bikes come from loyal supporters of my WBR efforts, and some will be here for the first time.

Intrigued? 

Well, you might also be intrigued to know that we’ll also be giving away a cycling trip to Italy.

I’ll be revealing what the first prize is next week, once we’re all back from vacation.

How This Works 

For complete details on this contest — all the rules, legalese and whatnot — click here. Seriously, you should read this. It goes into detail about how winners will be notified, where the money’s going, the taxability of donations made in this contest, everything.

The short version, though, is that for every $10 you donate, you get one chance at winning a prize.

If you donate $147 (the cost of one bike), you get twenty chances, which includes five bonus chances. 

And of course, if you donate the value of multiple bikes, you get multiple bonuses.

Once July ends, we’ll draw chances randomly from all the donations made to my fundraising page. We’ll contact the first person drawn, and that person gets to choose from the complete pool of prizes. Then we contact the second person, who gets to choose from the remaining prizes in the pool. 

We continue this game of prize-giving musical chairs until all the prizes are selected. 

Matchy-Matchy

Giving because your money goes toward a bike that’s going to change someone’s life in a drastically positive way is enough reason to donate.

Giving because you also have a chance at winning an incredible bike or trip just adds to the goodness of the first reason.

But during this month, your donated money is being anonymously matched, dollar-for-dollar, by the Saks Kavanaugh Foundation.

And that makes for an absolute superstorm of great reasons to donate.

Yep, if you donate $147, another $147 gets donated. Your bike becomes two bikes.

And if we raise enough to buy 1000 bikes…well, that becomes two thousand bikes.

Which means a hugely beneficial change to even more thousands of people.

Why This Matters

Together with WBR, we’ve made a huge difference in Zambia. And now we’re going to help Kenya. 

Starting right now, World Bicycle Relief is starting work on changing the lives of 3,000 students from 20-30 schools throughout the rural regions of Nyanza and Western Province in Kenya.

Why? 

Because in rural areas in Africa, children travel huge distances to reach school, often having to leave home two hours before the start of school in order to arrive on time.

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That is, quite simply, ridiculous.

As you’d expect, this amount of commute — two hours, each way, each day — results in tardiness, absenteeism, and exhaustion. It’s no surprise that a lot of kids, particularly girls, give up.

You know how to immediately solve this problem? Make it so it doesn’t take two hours to get to school. In other words, give the kid a bike.

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Which is what WBR does. 

And it works. 

A two-year study in Zambia measured a 28% lift in attendance rates and a 59% improvement in academic performance among girls who received bicycles from WBR.

Seriously. 59% improvement in academic performance. Good luck getting that kind of boost in any other way.

Let’s Do This 

I’ll be back next week to reveal the first in the many prizes we’ll be offering. But let me encourage you to donate now, and you’ll be all set for the drawings for all the prizes that come out.

Not to mention you’ll be making a huge difference in someone’s life and future.

Not to mention your money will get doubled by the Saks Kavanaugh Foundation. Yow.

3000 bikes is a great goal. And I think that between us and the anonymous matching, we can be responsible for 2,000 of this 3,000 bikes.

We’ll let other folks take care of the remaining 1000.

Let’s get started. Click here to donate now.

 

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 9: Battles, Conclusions, and Questions

06.30.2015 | 12:25 pm

Previously in This, The Story That Would Not End: 

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury
  4. Part 2: A Day in the Life
  5. Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing
  6. Part 4: The Chase
  7. Part 5: Zombies
  8. Part 6: Stop Shouting at Me
  9. Part 7: Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
  10. Part 8: The Beginning of the End

I know too much. Way too much.

I have spent more time researching and analyzing this, the final leg in the race between Infinite Stamina and SBR-WBR, than I have ever studied anything

It’s not healthy.

As much as I know (way too much), however, I don’t know everything I want to know. I feel like I know who did what and when and where…but I still don’t always know why

I find myself second-guessing. And wondering what would have happened if my team would have done this. Or if their team would have done that.

Was this move smart? Was it the race-winning move, or was it the race-losing move? Would other cards — cards that were never played — have made a difference one way or another? Or would they have been countered and neutralized? 

So much happened in this last leg of the race — more than any leg between a couple of Coed teams should. It was intense, it was strategic, it was dramatic, it was fun, and it was…

Oh, let’s just get on with it, shall we?

And then, at the end, we’ll have an upbeat video recap of the race, featuring music by Duran Duran.

Yay!

Forensics and Who’s Who

What’s really bizarre is how little, as a racer, I knew about the race I was racing in…as I raced it. In a spread-out race — even when the gap between teams is just a few minutes — you rarely see your competition on the course. When you catch them, you don’t know why. When they catch you, you don’t know how. If they have a good strategy, you don’t know about it ’til after it’s too late.

What I’m trying to get at here is that a huge chunk of this story is stuff I learned afterward. Specifically, I learned it by watching Danny’s Strava Flyby from the final leg of the race.

Why Danny’s? Because this leg pivots around him, really (you’ll see why in a few minutes). And most (but not all) of the players in this leg do in fact show up in his Flyby. 

I’ll also be working from what I understand from conversations that happened after the race, as well as from comments in this blog.

It’s almost like actual journalism

Note: All times used in this writeup are based on when Danny started his ride.

Guessing at Opposing Strategies

For the first time in the whole race, it was hot outside. That was weird, because usually during the Rockwell Relay, every daylight leg is punishingly hot.

This heat means that Danny and Mark — leaving at 00:00:00 — were in for a punishing first six miles of their ride. 800 feet of climbing in that first six miles. Climby, but not brutally hard. 

Screenshot 2015 06 29 19 16 49

After that, they had 32 miles of working downhill to look forward to, punctuated with a couple of short-but-steep climbs.

Also, they’d be riding with the knowledge that Team SBR-WBR was not far behind, and that instead of riding against just Lynette this time, they’d be riding against Lynette and me. 

Lynette and I had put time into the Infinite teams each of the five times we had ridden during this race. And we had no intention of making an exception on this leg, now that we were working together.

That said, Lynette and I were not as confident as I was trying to sound. For one thing, as we sat there in the van — watching Danny and Mark disappearing down the road — we didn’t know how much of a deficit we’d start this leg with.

Earlier during the race, Danny had said that he’d had to ride slower than he’d wanted in his first two legs (leg 4 and leg 8).  On his twelfth leg — this leg — he wasn’t going to be holding back. I believed Danny, and expected him to show us some new speed on the climbs.

But this strategy — dropping Mark so he could do the climb faster — was a two-edged sword. By dropping Mark, he’d be free to fly. But he’d also be abandoning a crucial strategic capability: the ability to bring anyone from the Men’s Team on to join in, mid-ride. You can have people from only your own team jump in and give you a pull.

Without Mark in his train, recruiting the men from Infinite Endurance would become off-limits. Danny wouldn’t be able to leverage Ryan or Billy’s considerable climbing prowess. And — more importantly, considering the enormous amount of working downhill in this leg — he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of Big D’s unmatched wattage.

But that didn’t mean Danny couldn’t call on Mary, Marci and Troy to help.

And judging from the way Mary and Marci were kitted up at the starting line for this last leg, looking ready to ride, it was clear Danny would be calling on at least these two teammates. And it was a fair bet to assume that Troy would be jumping in to help too, as soon as he recovered from riding his own leg.

I guessed Danny would be getting help from Marci — the climber — from the outset. While she wouldn’t provide a lot of protection from the wind, there was very little wind anyway, and she would be a killer pacer.

But I guessed wrong. 

Team SBR-WBR Strategy

I can be a lot more confident in describing the Team SBR-WBR strategy for this leg, since it’s a lot simpler (and I actually knew what it was). In fact, I described it as Lynette and I hefted our bikes and walked across the dirt parking lot toward the timing mat, where we expected (hoped for) Cory and The Hammer, any minute.

“I’m going to pull you as much as possible,” I told Lynette. “We’re going to kill ourselves on the climb, because that’s where we can pull back the most time in the shortest distance. Stay as close to my wheel as you can.”

“Yell at me to go faster when you can go faster. Yell at me to go slower if I start dropping you at all.”

There you go. Our whole strategy.

Well, except we had one more card we could play, if we needed to.

Go

As Lynette and I slowly walked toward the timing mat — me nervously jabbering away — we saw a couple of bikes racing toward us. 

The Hammer and Cory. Our racers. Sooner than expected.

We broke into a run…or what passes for a run when you’re in road cycling shoes, carrying your bike, on a gravelly dirt parking lot.

We got to the mat at about the same time as our racers — maybe just a few seconds behind them — then got the timing chip switched over to Lynette’s leg.

And we were off.

Unfortunately, we forgot to tell Cory and Lisa where we had put the key to the van.

They’d find it, though. Eventually.

Infinite Stamina had a 5:51 lead on us. That’s a lot to make up in a leg with only six miles of mild climbing, followed by 32 miles of descending.

But we were going to give it everything we had.

The Climb, and More Strategy

Danny’s Flyby shows that by the time Lynette and I had started riding, Danny had already dropped his Infinite Endurance teammate, Mark. They had stayed together, in fact, for less than four minutes of this leg of the ride. 

For this climb, then — for pretty much the first time in the race — the Infinite racers were riding alone.

Meanwhile, for only the second leg in the race, SBR-WBR racers were not riding without a teammate.

And, in my usual humble way, I’d like to say that Lynette and I were crushing it. I was going hard up the hill, and Lynette was doing a fantastic job staying right on my wheel. Letting me know when I could pick up the pace a little, letting me know when I needed to ease off a little.

From time to time, we could see up and around a couple bends in the road. We were gaining fast on Mark…and we were gaining on Danny, too.

By the time Danny crested the climb — at which point Mary and Marci joined in to work with Danny for the descent — Lynette and I had erased just about two minutes of Danny’s lead.

And we had one more card we could play, still: Cory.

Cory is an incredible descender; I simply cannot hang with him when the road turns downhill. Lynette, however, can. There’s a big trust benefit to having been married for decades; Lynette and Cory know each other. We could bring Cory out at the top of the Veyo climb and count on huge gains — I’d bet on two minutes — in the final big descent into town.

So: we’d bought two minutes on the climb. Cory could take back two more minutes in the home stretch. That meant Lynette and I needed to earn back at least another two minutes between the working descent and the mile-long Veyo climb at mile 21.

But two minutes is a lot.

Infinite Sightings

I fully expected that Mark would be the first Infinite rider Lynette and I would catch during this leg of the ride. I would have bet money on it.

But I was wrong.

At 29:02, right after cresting the climb, Lynette and I crossed paths with Marci

And she was going the wrong way.

My head spun around. There was no possible way she had gotten confused and was accidentally riding in the wrong direction, right? She had to be riding back to the vehicle that had dropped Mary and her off a few minutes earlier, right?

But why?

Well, exactly twenty seconds later, we’d find out why.

Because twenty seconds later, we’d see Danny and Mary, sitting on the side of the road. Their bikes twisted together.

Crashed. They must have crossed wheels and crashed, I thought, and slowed as I got to them. That’s why Marci’s heading back. To get help.

Then I saw: No, their bikes weren’t twisted together. They were just near each other.

“What happened?” I yelled.

“A flat,” Mary shouted back.

Confusion

My head spun around. Thrice. In my head, I began a shouted dialogue.

A flat? We caught you because you had a flat?

What?

This doesn’t make any sense, I yelled, inside my head. At least three people on your team (Mark, Mary, Marci) have been with you since you got a flat about six freaking minutes ago? (I wasn’t accounting for the two minutes we had made up on them since the beginning of the ride.)

There are four of you, you have one flat, and you’re still sitting here? 

OK. Deep breath. Here’s what was happening.

Marci was going to go get their sag vehicle, which at this moment was about half a minute away. Mary was with Danny. Mark had seen Danny’s flat, and had kept going. 

How is it possible you are still here? I mentally demanded. You’ve got teammates and crew swarming this mountain like ants. You shouldn’t have been stopped for more than one minute.

But Danny had in fact been stopped for four minutes by the time we got there. All their racing strategy had been completely upended by the fact that they apparently had no plan for what to do in the event of a flat.

The SBR-WBR Problem Plan

For what it’s worth: Lynette and I had discussed, before this leg started, what our plan was in the event of a mechanical. I.e.:

  • If she had a mechanical and the van was not in sight, she would take my shoes and bike and go.
  • If she had a mechanical and the van was in sight, she would take The Hammer’s shoes and bike.
  • If I had a mechanical, she would keep going, I’d fend for myself or get picked up by the van. 

Racing is more than riding. 

Glad they had not crashed after all — and completely astonished that with all their resources Danny was still not moving — I yelled “Good luck!” Then stood up and got back up to speed.

Danny would be back on his bike in a moment (I assumed), and then he’d be working with two very strong riders. And they were every bit as motivated as we were.

The lead had changed, but the race was far from over.

The Chase Begins

Even before we slowed, found out why Danny and Mary were sitting there (in my head I remember them sitting in the dirt, though it’s probable they were actually standing), and took off, Marci had reached the sag vehicle, told them what was going on, and was on her way back to Danny.

By the time Marci returned to Danny, he had been stopped 4:24. At that point I’m guessing she had the sag vehicle with her and they did a wheel exchange. 

Six minutes — to the second — after flatting, Danny Marci, and Mary were riding again. 

But by then, Lynette and I had taken the six minute lead Infinite Stamina had begun the leg with, and converted it into a 2:16 lead for Team SBR-WBR. 

The Train Grows

This lead would only stick if we made it stick. Our plan to make this happen was as brilliant as it was elegant:

I would pedal my brains out, while sitting up and making myself as big as possible, to give Lynette a good draft.

I’m currently about twelve pounds heavier than I ought to be, so the “making myself big” part was easily accomplished.

At 37:42, we caught another rider. A rider in green. Danny’s teammate, Mark. 

“Hop on,” I yelled. I knew he’d strictly be a passenger. I didn’t care. There’s room for everyone on the Fatty train.

The gap was now 2:24. We weren’t just holding the gap. We were increasing it.

We saw the van. (Oh good, Cory and Lisa had found the keys.) The Hammer came running out, dancing, screaming, and ringing a cowbell. 

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 05 02

“We’re going to win!” I yelled.

“Don’t get cocky!” Lynette yelled back. “It’s not over ’til it’s over.”

She was right. I knew she was right. This race had flipflopped too many times for me to not know she was right.

I committed myself to killing it, right to the finish line.

The Train Shrinks…And So Does the Gap

Mark held on to us for a good solid ten minutes, at which point we hit a little rise and dropped him at 47:46. By then, the time gap from us to Danny had grown to 2:48. 

We keep going. Lynette is doing a fantastic job of holding my wheel and yelling at me when to speed or slow.

As for me, I am feeling incredible. I am riding in “Happy Warrior” mode, which is what happens when you were in “Cold Fury” mode, but have since emerged from “underdog” to “contender” status.

56:46 into Danny’s ride, Marci peels off. She’s done. I don’t know whether Mary stays with him or ends her ride, too. (Mary didn’t upload to Strava for this ride). The time gap has grown to 3:04. 

And then Danny evidently goes into Beast Mode. 

Between 56:46 and 1:06:06, Danny cuts into our lead by twenty-four seconds, bringing it down to 2:40.

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 27 10
Sorry this is blurry. It’s a still from video, taken from a moving vehicle

If the Strava Flyby is any indication of who he was with at this point (i.e., nobody), Danny is a strong rider, bringing back that much time in such a short distance.

Reinforcements

Danny wouldn’t be riding alone for long, though. at 1:06:06, Troy — who had just finished his own race leg — hops on to give Danny a pull. 

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 27 29

Making it official: All four of Team Stamina had been on the course, working with Danny, for at least part of this leg. All their cards were now on the table.

Three minutes after joining Danny, the two of them (Mary is no longer in the group) sweep up Mark. Within one minute, Mark drops off. This happens during the false flat section twenty-three miles into the race. 

OK, I’m going to be honest and admit I have no idea why they didn’t keep Mark with them at this point. Not only would it have helped to have an extra person to take turns pulling, but it would open up the resources in Team Infinite Endurance — notably, Big D — to them for the bomber descent ahead of them.

But you know, it’s easy to armchair quarterback, right?

Finish Line

We never wound up playing that final card: Cory pulling Lynette on the big descent. By the time we got to that descent, Lynette and I were pretty clearly holding our lead. In fact, by the time we got onto the bike path section close to town, we had brought that gap back up to 2:48.

We held that gap on the bike path section, following the twists and turns, knowing that the race was close enough that any little mistake could — would — destroy our slim lead.

And then, at 1:40:18, we hit the crosswalk light. And we waited for an eternity for it to change.

OK, in reality, we just had to wait for twenty-four seconds. 

And then it was really lucky Lynette was there, because I just about blew a turn. Lynette saw the sign, though, called me back, and we continued on.

Lynette moved to the front. We’re in town now, and she knows St. George better than I do. 

It’s all I can do to stay on her wheel. She is not taking this finish for granted.

At 1:43:06, Danny and Troy hit the crosswalk light.

Forty seconds later, that light changes for them and they begin to cross.

At that same moment, Lynette and I cross the finish line.

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And there is a group hug.

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It’s the end of the closest, most exciting race I’ve ever been part of.

4:08 later, Danny and Troy crossed the finish line. (To me, though, it feels like the real gap between us was 2:48; the crosswalk business was outside of anyone’s control.)

Afterward

We got a team picture: 

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Then we sat down and talked for a bit while we ate the post-race picnic the organizers were putting on at the finish line.

Or I should say, some people were eating and talking. 

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I personally couldn’t do either. 

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Yeah, I was smoked.

Then we went back to Cory and Lynette’s house, where we got a shower, ate something, and fell asleep.

I awoke to a text coming from my friend Dave Thompson, who alerted me that we had slept right through the award ceremony.

We rushed back, where — luckily for us — at least some of the people from the other teams on the podium were still there. They were nice enough to pose on the podium for photos for us, in spite of our tardiness:

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Also, while we were napping, The Hammer won a paddleboard in a raffle. 

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Yeah, we know: that’s not how you use it.

Final Thoughts

I love racing. Love it. And this race was everything I love about racing. It was fun. It was intense. It was dramatic.

And it left questions.

If Danny hadn’t flatted, would Team SBR-WBR have won? I would argue that we would have. Good arguments can also be made for why Infinite Stamina would have won. But there’s no way to know for sure; it was too close. That’s part of what makes it a great story.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this question in the comments, though.

Did Danny’s flat cause the loss? I don’t know Danny, and don’t know what he’s like. I do know that if I’d had a flat in that stage where he did, then my team lost, I would have been miserable. I’d like to say — from my outsider perspective — that this flat tire was no more responsible for their team losing than anything else that might have cost a minute here, a minute there, during this race.

The temptation is to look at the final moments of a race and find reasons for a win or loss, but your time in a race is the composite of all your team’s actions. How and when you fueled. How your exchanges went. Whether you inspected your tires and lubed your chain between each leg. Whether you rode your hardest or sorta phoned it in for part of a leg (like I did in leg 9). How you trained in the months prior to a race.

Everything.

It’s really rare that a single event wins or loses a big race like this. I will say this: if Danny hadn’t flatted during this leg, I’d probably be kicking myself right now for not going harder during the first 2/3 of leg 9. If I had, Team SBR-WBR might have had enough of a gap that the race would never have been so close at the end.

What if. What if. What if.

Will there be a rematch? With this slim of a win, a rematch doesn’t just seem like a good idea, it seems necessary.

I don’t know whether the Infinite teams will be back, but The Hammer and I have put on hold our wacky plan for doing this race solo. After this experience, we’ve got to do it as a coed team again.

But we reserve the right to adopt some very intelligent strategy we learned this year from the Infinite teams.

I kinda like the sound of “Team Fatty” and “Team Fatty’s Domestiques.”

Is there a video recap of the experience, featuring a hit from the 80’s? Really, this is the most important question of all. And the answer, of course, is: 


2015 Rockwell Relay: Team SBR-WBR

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 8: The Beginning of the End

06.26.2015 | 11:40 am

Previously in this Monster of a Race Report: 

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury
  4. Part 2: A Day in the Life
  5. Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing
  6. Part 4: The Chase
  7. Part 5: Zombies
  8. Part 6: Stop Shouting at Me
  9. Part 7: Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

We’re down to the last two legs of the Rockwell Relay. My prediction — and I’m pretty good at predictions — is that today’s post will get us to the final exchange. Then there will be one more post to get us to the finish line, and then maybe a wrap-up and an explanation of why I have this picture:

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To be honest, though, there might be more story here than I can fit in a couple of blog posts. You see, I generally just kind of wing it with my storytelling structure. Write the next sentence that occurs to me. Break the paragraph every so often. 

With the final leg of this race, that will not be possible. Not remotely possible. 

In order to understand the final leg of this race, in fact, I had to reconstruct a timeline of events, going second-by-second, minute-by-minute, on a spreadsheet.

You think I’m kidding? I am so not kidding.

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Why am I saying this? Just so you’ll be prepared for kind of a monster-sized conclusion to this story coming down the pike. You may want to set aside some time to read it. Have some snacks prepared. Maybe the cold beverage or ice cream of your choice. Make it into an entertainment event

But we’re not there yet. Not quite. Today’s story doesn’t require a spreadsheet.

Today’s story is easy to follow. Relatively.

Catching Up With Cory

When The Hammer came in, having finished her last leg, I didn’t give her time to change clothes, telling her we needed to get to Cory, ASAP, to have new bottles stuffed with ice ready for him.

The day was heating up. 

The Hammer, to my surprise, was perfectly fine with that. “I’m going to wait to change for a little bit,” she said.

We zoomed through town, looking at each cyclist to see if it was Cory. 

Finally, we caught him, riding in a paceline with Big D and Troy. 

Awesome. Perfect even. Just hold that wheel, Cory, we all thought. And also we yelled it at him, out loud.

But Big D was up front, absolutely crushing the course. Eventually, Cory just couldn’t hold on and popped off the back.

New Plan

“He’ll never be able to catch up on this leg,” I said. “Those two guys are going to distance him in a huge way.”

“Drive forward and drop me off,” The Hammer said. “I’ll work with Cory on this leg.”

This, as it turns out, was allowed within the rules of the race. Indeed, the rules of the race explicitly state that it’s allowed: 

Screenshot 2015 06 25 18 54 50

In the five years I’ve done this race, though, we’ve never done this out-of-turn drafting trick. Because there’s never been a time when the difference between winning and losing might come down to working with another rider.

This time, it was definitely coming down to this. The Infinite teams had been working together for a full 24 hours now, while we had been riding — more or less — solo.

It was time to even the odds. It was time to double up.

The thing is, The Hammer had already kind of planned on this possibility. As she was descending into Cedar City, in fact, she had thought about how the leg she had ridden wasn’t very taxing: a medium-effort climb, followed by a big descent.

She had figured if she finished behind Marci and Billy, she’d just pick up Cory and keep on going, working with him to limit the damage as well as she could.

That hadn’t been necessary, at first.

But now it was time to start burning every match we had.

Whoops

We drove forward about a mile and started getting The Hammer’s bike out.

But before we had her ready to go, Cory had already come by.

So we shot forward a couple miles, and this time when Cory came by, he found he suddenly had a riding partner.

Screenshot 2015 06 25 18 45 41

Look how great they look in their new Fatcyclist.com jerseys.

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So PRO. I tell you.

Epiphany

With The Hammer and Cory working together, their average speed jumped; we had stopped the bleeding.

Even so, we weren’t catching Troy and Big D. We were even still losing a little more time to them. Big D is a locomotive, and if you’re not connected to that train…well, you’re gonna get left behind.

We were still going to lose.

Unless…unless we kept working together on the next leg, too.

I don’t know whether it was Lynette or me who first realized it, but it was obvious when we thought about it: With a short climb and then 32 miles of near-constant descending, a very light, slight woman riding alone doesn’t stand a chance against two men working together.

But…what if she wasn’t riding alone? What if the two of us were working together on Lynette’s leg — the last leg of the race?

“Hand me a couple slices of pizza,” I said to Lynette. “I think I need to start eating again.”

Get Ready, Get Set…

Lynette and I suddenly had a lot to do. On one hand, we didn’t want to stop supporting our team, so I kept driving for a while, leapfrogging Cory and The Hammer. Stuffing my face while we waited for them to come by, handing them water as they went by.

While I did this, Lynette got changed into her riding clothes. 

Once she was all set up, we swapped roles. And then once I was all dressed, I would spend our waiting time checking our bikes. Everything good? Yep. Everything good. 

Now, I’m tempted to act like I was all grim-faced and surly about “having” to go out and ride on this last leg. 

But the truth is, I was happy as could be. Excited. Elated. The Infinite teams had given us what amounted to a huge experiential gift: an exciting, dramatic race. One that could truly go either way. 

And I was stoked to — instead of watching this last act — be a part of it.

I had way more than 100 miles in my legs, and right around 10,000 feet of climbing. 

But I was as excited for this bonus leg as I had been for the first one.

No Secrets

Lynette and I made sure The Hammer and Cory had all the food they needed, along with two full bottles. It was time for us to tell Cory where he’d find the keys to the car, shoot ahead, park the car, get out our bikes, and…wait.

“See you soon!” I shouted to Cory and The Hammer. “Ride safe, and tear their legs off.

Oops. We forgot to tell Cory where the keys were. Oh well. Not the end of the world. With any luck.

We drove on toward the next exchange point. Before too long (or was it?), we came across Big D and Troy. I held a piece of pizza out the window.

“I think that would slow us down for me to eat that right now,” Dave shouted.

“That’s the whole idea!” I replied.

Troy looked at me. “You’re kitted up to ride,” he observed. 

I was amazed. I would never have noticed something like that when racing. Troy was apparently able to race and make important strategic observations at the same time.

I just nodded. Yeah, I’m riding again. No more two-against-one in this game.

Your Move. No, Wait. I Guess It’s Our Move.

The day was was hot, and still heating up, by the time Lynette and I arrived at the exchange point. We parked, but stayed in the van. There was no shade, and we didn’t want to heat up by venturing out.

Which means that we didn’t find out that this exchange point featured free Otter Pops

Man, I am still mad that I didn’t get myself an Otter Pop. Because, for one thing, Otter Pops at an exchange point had been my suggestion to the Rockwell Relay guys. And for another thing, I just really love Otter Pops.

Instead, Lynette and I just stayed in the van, keeping as cool as we could…and watching the Infinite vehicles. 

There was Danny, all kitted up to ride.

And there was Mary…all kitted up to ride.

And there was Marci…all kitted up to ride.

So if we bring two people to a leg, you’re going to bring four (Danny, Mark, Marci, Mary), huh?

I wasn’t mad. Far from it. It was a brilliant move. You’re at the end of a race, you’ve still got matches to burn…it would be stupid to not burn them.

And besides, I had a huge amount of confidence in Lynette. This weekend had been a revelation, as far as my understanding of Lynette’s racing abilities are concerned. She could take them. “They’re giving it everything they’ve got. We’re giving it everything we’ve got,” she said. “However this turns out, it’s been an amazing race.” I agreed with her. Winning mattered, trying to win mattered more. And both teams were trying very, very hard to win. 

As for myself…well, I was being a jackass. I said, “Just get in as close as you can stand and hang on. I don’t like to boast, but I’m guaranteeing you that I can outpull all four of them put together.”  

Somebody punch me in the face. Please.

Grand Finale Starts…Soon.

We watched from the van, looking for the Big D / Troy train to come racing in. And we weren’t disappointed: Big D was preceded by the compression wave he had created, setting off all car alarms in the general vicinity.

Troy was no longer riding a bike, having abandoned the pretext of needing one. He was now wearing a swimsuit and riding a wakeboard, happily skimming along on a cushion of air, a tow rope attached to Big D’s seatpost.

I looked down at my watch, noted the time. “We can wait a few minutes, I think, ’til we head out to the exchange point,” I said.

Three minutes elapsed. Then four.

An unknown rider from another team walked by, carrying his bike. “Don’t roll your bikes in this parking lot,” he said. “It’s full of goatheads.”

“That’s good beta,” I said. “Thanks.”

“Let’s walk out to the timing mat,” Lynette said. 

“Sounds good,” I said, and we began carrying our bikes to the exchange point.

Five minutes had elapsed since the Infinite teams had come in. 

We hoped our team would be arriving soon.

And that seems like a pretty good place for us to pick up in the next episode.

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 7: Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

06.25.2015 | 12:26 pm

Previously in this Unbelievably Long Story: 

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury
  4. Part 2: A Day in the Life
  5. Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing
  6. Part 4: The Chase
  7. Part 5: Zombies
  8. Part 6: Stop Shouting at Me

Two oh eight. Two oh eight. Two oh eight.

I was running the number through my head. I didn’t know what the number meant, but I knew I’d find out soon. After all, I wasn’t that far from the finish of this, leg 9 of the Rockwell Relay. I’d be seeing my team and then I could ask them. If I didn’t figure out what the number meant myself.

Two oh eight. Two oh eight. Two oh two oh eight oh eight. Two oh eight eight oh two oh.

I was making a chant out of it, breathing it in and out with my cadence.

The climb was getting steeper. Really steep, in some places. I was no longer alone, like I had been earlier in the day. I was passing people now. Passing people often. Getting close, going harder.

Smelling the barn. I was about done with this 37-mile, 4000’-of-climbing monster. And then I was going to rest. I was going to drink some plain ol’ water, and I was not going to eat anything until I felt like it

Because my part of the race was going to be done. Done yes done! No more cold pizza, and I was going to throw any remaining parts of the Subway Clubs I had bought back in Moab in the trash.

There was a farmer, had a dog, and two oh eight oh two oh.

Hey, wait a second. Is that? Yeah, it is. I’m pretty sure it is. Not positive, but pretty sure.

Mary. And…that guy from that other team she rides with. I can’t remember Ryan’s name at the moment. Which is no disrespect to Ryan. My brain wasn’t working at 100% right now.

After all, I hadn’t been able to figure out that my team had been shouting my gap times at me for twenty minutes, before they had to shoot forward to get ready for the exchange.

Even though I had started seeing Troy’s truck pulled over on the side of the road from time to time, which had made me start wondering whether I was closing the distance between our teams.

Even though, in my previous leg, I had expressly asked to have numbers like this shouted at me as often as possible.

And in fact, even now, as I saw Mary, I didn’t make sense of the numbers. Wouldn’t, in fact, understand them until after the race and after a nap, when I asked The Hammer, “What did those numbers you were shouting at me mean?”

“They were your gap. To Mary. Of course.”

“Ohhh.” I consider for a moment. “Well, that makes sense now.”

Back In It

But the numbers were gone from my head now, anyway, because my whole world had just turned upside down.

I was closing in on the Infinite Teams. We were not in a distant-second position. We were in a within-seconds-of-catching-them position.

We were, in fact, very much in the race.

And suddenly I went from feeling tired and loopy, to feeling nothing but joy and power and ferocity and the love of the chase.

Big ring, second gear. My “bleeding out the ears while standing and climbing” gear. 

I can hold this gear, standing, at tempo, for twenty minutes on a 6% grade, thanks to years and years of single-speeding.

It’s my favorite gear.

It’s my secret weapon.

How to Talk to Cyclists

When I pull alongside Mary this time, I don’t have a clever strategy in mind. We aren’t going fast enough for wind resistance to make much of a difference. Either I’ll be able to ride away from Mary and Ryan…or I won’t. Regardless, I am at my limit now. 

“Hey Mary,” I say.

I would have said “Hey Ryan” too, but I still cannot remember his name.

“There he is,” Mary says. And at that moment I think Mary is absolutely awesome. She’s been expecting me. It’s a gracious acknowledgment. 

I keep pressing, but don’t look back. Not for a minute anyway. And when I do look back, they’re not there.

We’re back. Team SBR-WBR is back in the lead.

And with that realization, I discover that big ring, third gear is a surprisingly good climbing gear, too.

Big Push

Somehow, this mountain had brought a lot of riders together. I had not seen any racers for hours and hours, and now I was passing racers constantly.

Most, I would simply ride by and say “Hi, nice work, keep it up, we’re almost there” or something like that. Usually, to be honest, some small portion of that. 

But one guy…well, it took me a long time to catch him, and for a while I didn’t think I was going to catch him at all. Once I did, I sat on his wheel for a few seconds to compose myself, then pulled ahead. “Let’s work together,” I said. He grunted affirmatively.

I pulled for thirty seconds or so, then swung back. He moved to the front, but said as he did, “I can’t hold this.”

“Please,” I said. I’m pretty sure he could hear the desperation there. “My team is fighting tooth-and-nail for the Coed lead. I just got it back and need to build on it.”

“I’ll pull you to the bottom of that next big pitch,” he said.

And pull me he did. He ramped it up so hard. Completely demolished himself pulling me, giving me the first rest I’d had this leg…and the first pull I’d had since about two-thirds of the way through my first leg.

It was heroic, what this guy — a complete stranger — did. 

Then, as I swung around to take my turn, he put his hand on my back, giving me a free ride for three hard pedal strokes, and then a massive push forward.

Having someone work for me, even for one minute, was awesome. It made a huge difference.

The Race is On

I pulled into the exchange area one second before 8:15 in the morning. I was looking for The Hammer, of course, but I also took a moment to look for members of the Infinite teams, wanting to see their expression when they saw they were chasing us again. 

Surprise! 

Or maybe it wasn’t a surprise to them. Maybe me stumbling into the lead was only a surprise to me.

In any case, I sent The Hammer off with our traditional “I love you,” and then immediately started watching for Mary.

I didn’t have to wait long. Less than three minutes later, Mary and Ryan crossed the exchange and Marci and Billy took off, in the now-familiar role of working together to chase down The Hammer.

I didn’t grasp, however, how this had happened. How had we been out of the running, and then suddenly gotten back into it?

Well, I still don’t know the particulars of how the Infinite teams’ night went, but I can now at least look up the splits (something I couldn’t do during the race, due to lack of any kind of data connection). Basically, Marci and Billy had built a nine minute lead during the Boulder leg, which Troy and Big D had extended to a 27-minute lead by the end of the Henrieville leg.

That had been enough that we had stopped worrying about whether it was possible for us to regain our lead.

Our mistake was in forgetting that anything can happen in a race.

Because Lynette had chopped that gap in half, launching me to a place where I could bridge that other chunk of time. 

We were in the game, and didn’t even know it. If I had realized we were just fourteen minutes behind the Infinite teams when I started, I’m pretty sure I could have found it within me to come close to matching my best time on this leg. Which is…wait for it…2:08. 

Had I done that, the outcome of the following legs…and the whole race…would surely have changed.

Wishes, fishes.

I drank some water. I ate nothing. I was so happy. Happy with what I had accomplished, and even happier that my part in this race was over.

But our team’s race…wellllll, that was back on.

Ebullience

We loaded up the van as quickly as possible and got on the road. Not because we needed to support The Hammer (it was a cool part of the day and she had everything she’d need for the whole ride already on board). 

We just wanted to see how this race developed. Because here we were, in the tenth of twelve legs of the race, with less than three minutes separating our team from our rivals.

We couldn’t have devised a closer, more evenly-matched race.

We caught up to The Hammer, who had been having a wonderful time. See, for the time being, we were on the same route as a Ragnar-style running race, which meant The Hammer got to cheer them on, even as they cheered back at her. The positive energy fed back in a great cycle. For the entire leg of this race, The Hammer never stopped smiling and laughing. 

As we drove by, she gave us the #1 sign:

Screenshot 2015 06 25 10 08 08

But something was off. Because she had someone on her wheel:

Screenshot 2015 06 25 10 07 24

Yep, Billy — the Infinite racer who’d been riding with Marci — was drafting The Hammer.

And yes, both were laughing.

Marci was on up ahead, but not far, and before too long, The Hammer and Billy had caught up. 

“I’ve brought your domestique up to you; my job is done,” The Hammer said, earning several thousand irony points.

Screenshot 2015 06 25 10 03 25
Lynette cheers on The Hammer, Marci, and Billy. In the background is Marci’s car, including the crunched front-left fender.

And then she started laughing. And laughing and laughing and laughing. A haven’t-slept-for-even-a-second-in-26-hours kind of laughing.

With the majority of the climbing in this leg behind them, attacks didn’t make sense. The three of them stayed together until just before the 18-mile descent into Cedar City.

Screenshot 2015 06 25 10 35 52

“You’ve worked so hard to catch me, and now you’re just going to kill me on the descent. I’m no good at descending,” The Hammer said.

It was Marci’s turn to laugh. “No, I’m terrible at descending too!”

The Hammer’s teammates wouldn’t get to find out how or whether that all worked out yet, though, because we had to shoot forward and get Cory ready for his final race leg. 

Return of the Son of Comfy Slippers

There wouldn’t be much time for us to get Cory ready for his leg; The Hammer would be coming down the mountain almost as fast as we were.

The exchange point wasn’t where we expected it; it had been moved from previous years. So we followed the marked turns — including crossing past a closed road where a parade would shortly be passing through. “I wonder how riders who come through during the parade will handle this,” I thought, idly.

We squint at signs guiding us to the exchange point; I am very glad I just got new glasses. That I, in fact, made a point of getting new glasses with an updated prescription specifically before this race.

Yes, really.

We park and Cory gets out and gets his bike out. He’s already dressed, so we make our way to the exchange point.

Then Cory needs to pee. Sure, there’s time for that. He takes care of that, then comes back.

And discovers he has forgotten to bring water bottles. He goes back to the van and gets some.

Then he discovers he has forgotten his helmet. He goes back to the van and gets it, then returns to the timing mat.

“I guess I’d better change into my bike shoes,” Cory says.

I look down. It’s true: Cory is wearing his comfy slippers, not his bike shoes. 

And as Cory takes off the first slipper…you guessed it, The Hammer rounds the corner. She’s ten seconds from the exchange point

“Change your shoes fast, she’s here!” I’m laughing at the absurdity that both our exchange delays included comfy slippers as a factor.

Close Call

The exchange point itself is in a parking lot, not in the road, and it had occurred to me that it wouldn’t be particularly obvious to a racer where the timing mat is.

So when I see The Hammer, I begin yelling her name and waving my arms.

And in a way, that’s a good thing, because I catch The Hammer’s eye and she makes a right turn into the parking lot.

But in a way, it’s a bad thing, because The Hammer didn’t realize that Marci was less than a bike length behind her, on her right, and hadn’t yet noticed that she’d need to turn right to get to the timing mat.

Which is to say, The Hammer turned right, right in front of Marci.

I gasped. Cory gasped. Probably everyone in the parking lot gasped.

Marci grabbed her brakes, corrected, and didn’t go down

Marci, The Hammer, and Billy all crossed the finish line within a couple seconds of each other. At which point Marci and The Hammer both started apologizing profusely to each other. The Hammer apologizing for not knowing Marci was right there and turning in front of her. Marci apologizing for not knowing she needed to turn right and going straight.

Both of them being very cool about it, and everyone being glad that nobody had hit the deck.

I got a picture of the three of them, all happy, all having raced their hearts out.

Thumb IMG 3019 1024

What Happened

We were 435 miles into this 520-mile race…and the two leading Coed teams were exactly tied as Cory finished putting on his shoes and chasing Troy and Big D down.

Lynette and I wanted to know what happened after we had left The Hammer. Had the three of them stayed together?

“No,” The Hammer said. “I faded in one of the last climbs before the big descent, and I descended the first part on my own. But now that I’ve had my Roubaix for a year, I feel a lot more confident on it than I did last year, and I was descending really well.”

“With about five miles left in the descent,” she continued, “I caught Marci. Billy had gone down on his own. I tried to get past her, but she’d just get into my slipstream, so she and I descended together and Billy rejoined us at the bottom.”

“Then, once we got into town, I told Marci to go up front, because with my terrible eyesight, I was having a hard time reading the Rockwell signs until I was right on them. And Marci said she has really bad eyes too!”

It makes sense, really: two of the strongest women on the course, winding up at the exact same point at the exact same time during the race…and both of them needing guide dogs to get them there. 

Not Over. Not Remotely.

One little detail here. As The Hammer told Lynette and me her story, she giggled and laughed the entire time. She didn’t know what was funny; she was just happy. Exhilerated. And, I might add, seriously giddy from sleep deprivation.

“Congratulations!” I told her. “Your part of the race is over now, too! From here, it’s all up to Cory and Lynette.”

Two legs left. Both of them mostly flat or downhill — terrain that definitely favors pairs of riders, not soloists. And this current leg was a particular problem: mostly flat with short punchy climbs.  

A powerful rider like Big D would have a huge advantage in this segment; Troy would just get sucked along in his wake, mostly coasting and feathering his brakes while he made a sandwich and enjoyed the sites.

But we had learned our lesson: we weren’t counting the race over until it was over

We hopped in the van to see how Cory was doing so far in the race. Which is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story. 

PS: I’ll try to write the next installment Friday afternoon as The Hammer drives us to The Cedar City Fire Road 100. Which means I may put up a post Friday evening if I finish as we drive out, or Saturday evening, if I finish as we drive back.

PPS: Regardless of when I finish and post my next installment, the one after that will likely not come out ’til Tuesday, cuz it’s going to require some work and I have other stuff piling up.

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report Part 6: Stop Shouting at Me

06.24.2015 | 8:02 pm

Previously in this Outrageously Long Shaggy Dog of a Story: 

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury
  4. Part 2: A Day in the Life
  5. Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing
  6. Part 4: The Chase
  7. Part 5: Zombies

People were shouting at me.

Shouting at me like something was important. Like it was urgent.

Like it was information I should understand. Like it was information I would really want to have, and that I would act upon it.

But what did it mean? I didn’t know. I really wanted to know, but I couldn’t ask. I couldn’t talk right now. Literally couldn’t talk.

But the people kept shouting at me, over and over. But none of it made any sense, and all I wanted was for these people — not just any people, either, this was my team — to stop shouting, so I could go back to thinking about my fantasy: one where I was not riding uphill, uphill, uphill. Uphill forever.

My fantasy, where I would stop riding soon, and I wouldn’t have to ride anymore. 

My fantasy, where I would get off my bike, and not start stuffing my face with food immediately, because it wouldn’t matter if my stomach was empty and I could just let it be peacefully empty. Not gurgly and gross as I forced it to endlessly fuel for going uphill some more.

But there they were again. These people. My team. Shouting at me.

Were those numbers they were shouting? I think they’re shouting numbers.

Why would my team be shouting numbers? Was this a bad dream? Hallucinations? Maybe. I’d been up a long time. Sleep deprivation-induced hallucinations were a real possibility.

But it felt a little too real for that.

“Do the numbers make any sense?” I asked myself. 

“No, they’re just numbers,” I replied to myself. “Just nod and smile and keep pedaling, and maybe they’ll stop shouting at you.”

That, my friends, is exactly and honestly what I was thinking about two-thirds of the way up leg nine of The Rockwell Relay: the “Duck Creek” section, 37.2 miles long, with 3780 feet of climbing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Almost nine hours ahead of myself, in fact.

I’d better catch you up. Then, together, maybe we can figure out why my team felt like they should shout at me.

Busy, Happy

In the last installment of this story, Cory had just taken off on what is, without question, the single most surreal leg of the race: Boulder to Henrieville (not to be confused with Hanksville, which is another exchange in the race…the two of which I confused probably twenty times during the race). Most teams start it in the dead of night. It’s long (56.6 miles), it’s very dark, it goes up and down and up and down.

And for the first forty-five minutes or so, Cory was strictly left to his own devices. Because I had just discovered that Lynette didn’t have her lights set up for her next leg, and she had a squishy tire.

In previous posts — too many to link to — I have given Danny no small amount of grief for having taken Lynette’s lights. 

So I should — now that we’re actually at the moment of needing to talk about her lights and the fact that soon our numero-uno competitor would shortly be riding with those lights on his bike — come clean about the lights.

We didn’t need those lights. Didn’t need them at all. It was perfectly fine for Cory to loan Danny’s dad the lights. I have enough lights and backup batteries that I could have fueled a team of domestiques. If such a thing existed.

Which of course it does not.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t give Lynette a little grief. “Well, where are your lights? What are you going to do for lights?” I asked. “You do know that within a few hours you’re going to be riding in the dead of night, right?”

And then I hauled out a NiteRider Pro 1800 Race and a NiteRider Pro 3600 DIY, and mounted them on her helmet and handlebar, respectively.

And in short, Lynette now had the capability to blast out up to 5400 lumens of power at will. That, for what it’s worth, is approximately twice as bright as a set of your average car headlights.

Next up, I took a look at Lynette’s bike, which she had noticed had a slightly soft rear tire.

I checked it: 40psi. Yeah, that’s soft.

“Well, it’s had quite a while to get that soft,” Lynette reasoned. “It will probably be fine for my next leg if we just pump it up.”

“For a regular ride, I would probably agree,” I said. “But not when you’re racing, and definitely not when you have as much descending as you’ve got coming up.”

I noticed a nick in the tire casing. “We’re going to replace the tube and the tire,” I said.

And I got to work, in the back seat area of the van, while Lynette drove to catch us up with Cory.

Thumb IMG 3398 1024

Maybe not the best picture ever taken (The Hammer’s flash must’ve reflected off something), but it illustrates a few things:

  1. I have new glasses. Don’t I look studious and intelligent with them?
  2. I have a headlamp on. I didn’t take it off for the duration of the night. If you’re going to be finding and working on stuff through the night, having a headlamp on is so handy.
  3. I’m happy. I know, it kinda looks like I’m making a goofy face, but that’s just because I always look like I’m making a goofy face. The truth is, staying busy and crewing for my team is every bit as much of an awesome part of the Rockwell Relay as the biking itself.

It took us a long time to catch Cory, which we saw as a good sign. He was riding really strong. We finally caught up with him, though, passed him, and waited for him in the utter dark, which gave us the perfect opportunity for a 2:00am team selfie:

Thumb IMG 3015 1024

If you ask me, we all look pretty darned good, considering the time of night and what we’d been doing for the past sixteen hours or so.

Cory Makes Another Friend

So, now that I’ve admitted that it really was perfectly fine for Cory to loan Danny a light setup, I’ve got to find something new to tease him about. 

Here, this will work:

Thumb IMG 3402 1024

That is two racers. Cory in front, some unidentified rider in his draft.

This was the single most-common thing we saw for the duration of Cory’s second leg. This rider, drafting behind Cory. 

Cory (mildly) suggested she should take a pull, once, but not with real conviction. So she rode behind him for almost the entire leg.

That’s just how Cory is. He’s a helpful guy. Which — and here’s some serious foreshadowing — would have posed a real problem later for our team, if we had let Cory have his way.

That said, after finishing this leg — this monster of a ride beginning at twenty minutes past midnight and riding his bike ’til almost four in the freaking morning — together, that rider and everyone else in her (all-women) team came up to Cory and gave him a giant hug.

So, you know, maybe Cory is on to something.

What We Did Not See

One thing we did not see during Cory’s leg was anyone from the Infinite teams. We knew what this meant: they had gapped us enough that we were no longer leapfrogging. 

Troy and Big D had taken the lead Marci and Ryan had built together, and extended it to the point that we were no longer  in the same general area as the Infinite teams.

When we pulled into the exchange, we still didn’t see anyone from the Infinite teams. Which meant they had pulled out before we even pulled in.

That did it. They had reached escape velocity. They had beaten us.

We now had a new objective: keep our second-place spot on the podium respectable. Keep the race close.

Oh, and also, we had the objective of maintaining good personal hygiene, even in the face of overwhelming odds:

Thumb IMG 3409 1024

Yep, I’ve hammered my brains out twice in the last seventeen hours and my solution to the odor problem was to brush my teeth.

Actually, doing something ordinary —brushing your teeth — during an otherwise very weird day can go a long way toward restoring your sense of normalcy. 

Plus, it does a fantastic job of getting the “fifth slice of cold pizza” taste out of your mouth.

Also, while we were waiting for Cory to come in, I ate the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had.

See, Bountiful Bicycle was sponsoring this exchange, and Taylor Felt — a great friend and amazing shop manager — was helming the grill.

Thumb IMG 3411 1024

There were a lot of really great exchange stations this year, but this one was my very very very favorite: hot, freshly cooked food was just what I needed to help me stay awake, and to fuel for my next leg of the race.

Man, I could not believe that it was about to be my turn to race again.

Lynette’s Turn

There’s nothing good about doing anything at four in the morning, but starting a race right then has got to be the worst.

But Lynette didn’t complain. Not a tiny bit. She smiled big and took off from the exchange like it mattered. 

And she rode this leg like a champ: a self-contained powerhouse climbing-and-descending fifty-three-year-old champ. She quickly caught a strong rider from a women’s team, organized a rotation, and they worked together for the whole ride. Just killing it.

In fact, Lynette did this 36-mile leg in 2:05:20, the fastest — by a large margin — any team I have ever been on has done this ride.

The Hammer and Lynette have been good friends and training buddies for a couple decades; ’til this race I didn’t really know her. Now I have huge respect for Lynette as an incredible competitor, as well as a remarkably cheerful person during an intense day (The Hammer and I can get pretty focused when we race).

My Last Turn

One of the most awesome things about being in slot 1 in the Rockwell Relay is that you’re finished racing before anyone else on the team. You finish your last leg, and then you get to relax and enjoy the last three legs of the race, stress-free.

I was thinking this thought at the Panguitch exchange point as I waited for Lynette to zoom in.

The Hammer and Cory weren’t around when she arrived — much earlier than expected — so we fumbled our way through moving the timing anklet over to my leg without help.

I am not a very bendy person, so this was not easy to do.

We hadn’t seen the Infinite teams in six hours or so. At some point, the “out of sight, out of mind” principle had kicked in. So now, I was racing simply to honor the spirit of our race. We had gone hard the whole day; it would be sad to just phone in our last rotation.

The sun was coming up, my spirits were lifting. I was having fun. 

“I’m going to be sad when this race is over,” I said to myself.

Then I replied, “I can hardly wait ’til this race is over.”

If you’ve ever done the Rockwell Relay, you’ve almost certainly had this exact conversation.

I Can’t Make Friends

So I’m racing hard. Not my very hardest, because I have no rabbit to chase, no wolf nipping at my heels. But still racing plenty hard. 

I catch a guy. Swing around him. Start pulling.

Screenshot 2015 06 24 19 23 01

I can see his shadow start to drop back. I’m dropping him. 

I do something new. Unique for me. I hold back for a second. What if I tried working with someone instead of ripping their legs off?

“Grab back on,” I urge. He does. Hangs with me. Happily, I pull. He’ll take a turn when he’s caught his breath.

He drops back again. This time I keep going. Step it up a little, in fact.

Hey, I tried.

Stop Shouting at Me

For what feels like forever, I ride. Up. Up. Up. Happy, but exhausted. Riding hard, but without real purpose.

I go to my happy place. Disconnect my mind from my body. I don’t do this on purpose. It just happens.

And then my team starts shouting at me every time they see me. Numbers. Always numbers. Why are you shouting numbers at me? I’d ask, if I had any energy for talking.

I am not exaggerating here. When the van goes by me and they ring the cowbell, I don’t turn my head left and smile. I’m too tired for that. Literally, I am too tired to do anything but what I have to do: ride my bike up this mountain. Fast, if I can.

The Hammer yells, “We’ve got to go to the next exchange and get ready!”

I understand that. That’s fine. I have enough GU to last a month. I might need it all.

As they drive past me this one last time, The Hammer yells one final number. “Two-oh-eight!”

Alone with no more numbers being shouted at me, I try to make sense of this final number. I try. I mull it over. Puzzle over it. Say it to myself several times. 

“Two oh eight. Two oh eight.” It becomes my mantra. It’s easy to turn a cadence to, if nothing else.

And then I get it. Two hours, eight minutes. Of course. 2:08 was the time it took me to do this leg of the race back in 2013! “How sweet of The Hammer to remember,” I say to myself.

Ten minutes later, I’d find out I was completely wrong about that guess.

And that is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.

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