2012 Rockwell Relay Moab – St. George Race Report, Part 1

06.11.2012 | 4:03 pm

Here’s a question to ponder instead of doing whatever it is that you ought to be doing right now:

Why race?

There have to be reasons, right? Because you’re paying to do it. I don’t know what your reasons are (though you should feel free to tell me in the comments section), but I race to see if I can make myself go faster than I normally would. Or even could.

I race to see if I’m faster (or, often, slower) than I was the last time I did an identical race.

I race, every once in a while, to win — or at least try to get on a podium.

I race to be with other people who like the energy of a race.

But all that’s pretty general. For a specific race, there needs to be something specific that draws you to it. And the Moab to St. George Rockwell Relay — which Lisa, Heather, Kenny and I raced as a team for the first time last year — has some things about it that really draw me in. That make me not just enjoy the race, but love the whole experience.

So, fair warning: I love this race, and I loved this edition of this race. My storytelling may gush a bit. Feel free to roll your eyes as often as necessary.

The Night Before

It may surprise you to find that I like bratwurst. But only if you’ve never really read my blog before.

It may also come as a surprise to you (if you’ve never met me before or have never read my blog) to find that I like to talk and exchange ideas. If someone asks me for ideas, I’ll usually give them ideas.

It may further surprise you to find that I’m a cheerful, enthusiastic person who likes to jump in and do stuff.

As a result, when — probably as a courtesy — Tyler S with the Rockwell Relay called, asking for ideas on how to improve the race, I said, “Everyone else does pasta feeds before big races. You should do something unique: serve brats. I’ll even be in charge of grilling them.”

“Where would we get the brats?” asked Tyler.

“I’ve got a connection for that,” I replied, remembering that I had exchanged email once or twice with guys from Colosimo’s about two years ago.

So I introduced the guys from the Rockwell Relay to the guys at Colosimo’s Sausage, and within a few hours I was all signed up to work the grill during the pre-race dinner / packet pickup.

And I have to say: I loved it.

For one thing, it put me in exactly the right kind of place for me at a party or picnic: staying busy. I am not great at just standing around. I need something to keep me occupied.

Here I am, for example, with both hands occupied:


It also put The Hammer and me in an easy spot to talk with people as they picked up their packets. For people who had done the race before, we could talk about last year’s event. For the large number of people who were new to the race (registration for the 2012 event grew by more than 50%), I could give them all kinds of valuable advice on how to race.


Here I am with one of the teams that raced in 2011 and came back in 2012 for more:


You know how many times I’ve been asked whether I’ve reserved the domain ShortCyclist.com? Plentysix times, that’s how many.

At The Starting Line

About an hour and a half after when we said we were going to close the grill and packet pickup, we actually did, then headed to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning at the starting line, I discovered — to both my amazement and delight — that one of my nieces was also doing the race — and that she had taken on the hardest race position (racer 1). The moment called for a cameraphone portrait, to text to my sister / her mom:

Since she was on a coed team and I was on a coed team, we were theoretically racing against each other. Neither of us seemed particularly concerned by this.

With just five minutes ’til the race began, we got someone to snap the obligatory Team Fatty pre-race photo, which captured the last time we would look well-rested and lucid and stuff for what seems like several days:

Fatty, The Hammer, Kenny, and Heather

Just in case you were wondering why I’m dressed like it’s cold outside while everyone else is dressed like it’s summer and already hot outside, I have a very reasonable explanation:

It’s because I’m dumb.

We didn’t plan which of the FatCyclist jerseys to wear on which laps, the result being that we all always looked like a rolling museum of FatCyclist.com wear.

Oh, and if you look closely, you can see an important equipment difference between this year and last year: Kenny was riding a road bike with gears.

Hey, we had a “Coed team champ” title to defend, and we were taking it waaay more seriously than we would have liked to admit.

Kenny Goes First: The Race Begins

Everyone was really happy with the legs of the course they raced last year, so we all kept the same legs. Which meant Kenny first, me second, The Hammer third, and Heather fourth.

The race started, and Kenny took off like . . . Kenny. Which is to say, he took off very, very fast, while the rest of us were happy to ride the couple of “parade” miles at a dawdler’s pace. Hey, we had our own hard riding to do soon enough; we weren’t about to bust a move when it didn’t count.

Then, with Kenny gone, we rode our bikes into town, picked up our race vehicle, went to the grocery store to pick up half a dozen bags of ice to go in various ice chests, and then out toward Monticello to start support.

A Quick Aside About The Race Routine

With the experience of last year’s race under our belts, we settled into our race routine quickly. One person would drive. The person in the passenger seat was in charge of preparing and handing off drinks, as well as being the main cheerleader for the current racer.

And the third person — usually the person who had just finished a leg, but in this case the person (me) who would be racing the next leg.

We’d leapfrog the racer, pull off the side of the road, climb out, and cheer. Once the racer went by, we’d pile back into the van, ask the racer what s/he wanted as we drew alongside, then dropped back to grab the requested stuff: usually a drink (water or sports drink) and / or food. We’d then catch up, gather any spent bottles or wrappers, and then hand off the new supplies.

No seconds wasted.

Which leads to one of the things everyone on the team loved about this race: you’re engaged in what’s happening all the time. You’re either racing, driving, supporting, recovering, or suiting up for your next leg.

And almost always, we were talking about how the race was going.

I don’t think I was bored during this race, ever.

Back to Kenny

Kenny’s first leg told us some very important things about the race. First of all, it told us that of the 25 or so new teams in the race, at least 15 of them were very serious about racing it fast. Whereas last year when we raced we were never in worse than fifteenth place (overall), this year Kenny quickly found there were some really fast guys racing the first leg.

Which meant that, overall, we were in about 25th place.

“Well, we don’t really know which — if any — of these racers are in the coed division,” we observed, since there were no women racing leg 1 that were ahead of Kenny.

So how were we doing? We just didn’t know.

But we’d figure it out soon enough. Or at least we’d think we had it figured out.

Meet the Ultimate Bikemobile

OK, now for another quick aside. I’d like to present Kenny and Heather’s Dodge Sprinter van, customized to be the ultimate bikemobile: easy bike storage for four bikes, a bed over the bike storage area, a bench seat in back, and still plenty of floor space for ice chests, bags of bike clothes, and bins of food.

From the outside, it looks like your run-of-the-mill van, the kind you’d expect to see hauling dry cleaning around, or parked across the street from a suspected mob lair:


But check out how deluxe-ly roomy our ride was, especially compared to the minivan we drove (my 2001 Honda Odyssey) last year:


Here, Heather’s showing she has room for full leg extension. Behind her, you can see all our bikes, some mounted on fork mounts, some hanging from hooks. All easy to get to. Above that is the bed, which meant we all got to get in an hour or two of sleep during the race — an incredible luxury.

The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Wheel Change

There was a paceline of twelve up front, a lone rider in-between, a group of eleven next, and then Kenny’s paceline of three. Riding 54 miles, with around 4100 feet of climbing.

Against a fierce headwind.

And then Kenny’s rear tire started going soft. Soon it would be flat.

“Get ready to swap out Heather’s rear wheel for mine!” Kenny yelled as we went by. So we drove forward a quarter mile, stopped, and I got out Heather’s bike and had the wheel off by the time Kenny pulled up.

Quickly — but shaking with adrenaline — Kenny got the old wheel off, and I put the new one on.

But the cranks wouldn’t turn when Kenny got back on.

So he got back off and took another look.

Oh, that’s the problem — the chain wasn’t threading properly through the rear derailleur. A quick tug fixed that problem and he was gone.

In only about 10X the amount of time a pro would do it, we had Kenny off and riding again.

Kenny’s First Finish

About ten miles before a racer on our team will arrive at their designated exchange point, our team waves goodbye and drives on up ahead, so the next racer can get their bike out, get dressed, use the bathroom, and so forth.

We got to the Exchange point in Monticello without trouble — having already done this race made finding Exchange points so much easier — and I got all suited up. I wanted to ride at my absolute limit — or maybe just a hair past that limit — for this leg, hoping to keep the placing Kenny had earned for us, or maybe even earn a couple places further up the field.

So I put in my Arriva Leo Bluetooth Headphones (Full Disclosure: I bought these online and got no special deal), planning to play music loud, nonstop, for my entire race leg.

This was time for rocking out and riding out of my skull. It weren’t no time for jibber-jabber.

I love the way that the curve of the wheel on truck behind me makes it look like I have an even more enormous gut than I actually do.

And then the waiting began. Here, I’m looking up the road, expecting Kenny any moment.


Then Kenny came by, handed me the baton — a slap bracelet — and just about collapsed on the ground. He had really pushed himself hard.


Kenny had raced as strong as ever, but even so, he was considerably slower than he had been last year.

Stupid wind.

My First Turn

Kenny had ridden in with one other racer, and so it made perfect sense — especially considering the headwind — for me to stay with the counterpart to the competing racer that started the leg at the same time I did.

And that was my intent. Really it was.

But I tend to ride a little bit out of my head when I’m racing. Meaning I honestly do not exactly understand words anymore, and don’t think about anything except the question, “Can I push harder?”

So while I rode with the other racer for a mile or two, taking turns pulling, when we got to the first major climb I just stood up and attacked from the front, not thinking about strategy, not thinking about tactics, not thinking about cooperation.

Just thinking that the answer to my question was, “Yes. A lot harder.”

And that was the end of our cooperation.

Before long, I caught another guy, and dropped him similarly. Then I caught and dropped two guys who were working together.

I’m pretty sure they said something about working together, but I wasn’t listening to anything but My Chemical Romance and the question / answer session going on in my head. “Yep, you can still go harder,” was the answer.

If it weren’t a race, I guarantee you the answer would have been much different.

Although, come to think of it, it’s possible that they were just asking each other whether it was really possible they had just been passed by a guy who looks like this:

I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m Fit-Fat.

The team caught up with me. I assumed they were asking if I needed anything, although I couldn’t tell for sure, due to the wind noise, the music playing, and my inability to make sense of words when I am riding my hardest.

As it turns out, they were asking something completely different, so the vague “thumbs-up” gesture I hoped answered their question didn’t really give them the info they needed.

Sorry, team!

They went on ahead, so The Hammer could prepare for her first leg of the race, which was totally fine — I was doing great and wouldn’t need any more food or drink for the rest of the leg of my race.

And that’s when my calves both started cramping up. Hard.

So hard, in fact, that I became fascinated with the new shapes they were taking on. How is it my calves had become concave? Was it really possible they were going to split right down the middle?

Could they hurt any worse? I didn’t think so, and decided I’d better stop pedaling and stretch. But as I coasted to a stop, my calves proved to me that they could hurt very much more indeed.

So I switched to a new plan: don’t stop pedaling. Try to stretch while pedaling.

I slowed, drastically, but the pain eased off. And none of the people I had passed earlier ever came into sight.

With the pain fading away, I picked up speed again, now wishing I had had the presence of mind to take a photo of the truly freakish shapes my calves had twisted into. Next time, maybe.

Finally, toward the end of the leg, I dropped two more racers who were working together. And then one more guy on the last big climb.

All told, I caught and dropped seven people by the time I handed The Hammer the slap bracelet at the end of my leg. And none had passed me.

Sometimes, riding stupid and hard works out OK. Which is good for me, cuz sometimes that’s all I’ve got.



  1. Comment by Clydesdave | 06.11.2012 | 4:34 pm

    I love the write-up. wish I had one to do but we had to drop out midway thru leg 5…health issues with two of our team members caused us to not make it thru the race – lame. it was a pleasure meeting you again on Thurs – and the brats, absolutely loved them!

  2. Comment by The Hamer | 06.11.2012 | 4:41 pm

    Fit fat rules! I’ve been rocking it for more years than I can count. The van is cool. I like it better than that thing you call a truck (Honda’s version of the El Camino). Pass the brats…and a Coke.

  3. Comment by Jenni | 06.11.2012 | 4:43 pm

    Thou shalt never put the words “Kenny” and “slow” in the same sentence ever again, regardless of comparative speed.

  4. Comment by TK | 06.11.2012 | 4:52 pm


  5. Comment by Carl | 06.11.2012 | 4:56 pm

    Wow… can’t wait for part 2!

  6. Comment by leroy | 06.11.2012 | 5:04 pm

    I think I’m more likely to ride away from folks when I’m carrying a few extra pounds.

    I don’t want people to see my knees hitting my stomach.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

  7. Comment by MattC | 06.11.2012 | 6:09 pm

    What I’m thinking here is the extra ballast HELPS you into the wind…(seriously…mass maintaining momentum w/ minimal energy, stuff like that). Not so much on the climbs tho…good on ya’ all Team Fatty…can’t wait for part II!

  8. Comment by JIm B | 06.11.2012 | 6:22 pm

    Wow, Fatty must have really been trying to put the hurt on, because in the next to last picture, he is in the drops, going uphill no less.

    Ha! That does look uphill, doesn’t it? – FC

  9. Comment by AKChick55 | 06.11.2012 | 6:46 pm

    @MattC – I disagree about the mass maintaining momentum thing – this does me no good. If I were a skinny chick, I could slice right through the ever present headwinds on the way home. I have a fast and nimble bike. Then again, I’m usually hauling a backpack full of clothes and glassware (cause I’m not a fan of plasticware), spare tubes, tire tools, small first aid kit, etc. All it does is slow me from 14-15mph to 9mph and makes me cranky. :)

    I have never been part of a race. I have only ever done 100 mile charity rides or the one race I was in I didn’t register for the race division. I’m competitive, but don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I need to actually train through the winter (and can now that I have a really nice spin bike). Maybe next year….

    I have to admit that this race makes me want to do it if it weren’t so expensive to get from Alaska to there and if I had a team. If I were a millionaire. :) However, I don’t think I could do brats for dinner the night before. I have the worlds most ssnsitive stomach so that would probably be a very bad combination for me. However, I’d hang out and eat peanut butter and jelly buns sans brats. :) Or maybe eat pie. Or more likely, chocolate cake.

  10. Comment by AKChick55 | 06.11.2012 | 6:48 pm

    Ahem, that should be sensitive. Can’t type.

  11. Comment by Rumpled/Jim | 06.11.2012 | 7:27 pm

    Wouldn’t that be a Mercedes or Dodge Sprinter?
    I do think they are great bike vehicles, a few friends have them,set up from bare bones to deluxe.
    Looking forward to the rest of the report.

    It’s a Dodge. – FC

  12. Comment by roan | 06.11.2012 | 7:55 pm

    Great Part I, luv the team photo, have van. You guys are awesome even if I don’t know yet the standings, could look them up but would rather hear from Fatty.
    Kenny hinted that the women really pulled through.
    @JIm B, after starring on Leverage, Fatty is using every leverage possible even uphill.
    Also Fatty, we need a team name for the GIANTS. To be honest they don’t ‘look’ like fast cyclists.
    AND could the increase in the number of teams be due to your blog ? Heck if’n I was a spring chicken…er rooster like you guys I would want a team there. Are there other relay races like this ?

    Part 2 will be all about the women — they’re riders 3 and 4, and this first part just got through the first leg of rider 2 (me). – FC

  13. Comment by Dennis | 06.11.2012 | 8:04 pm

    This was my first year doing the race. I was invited by a good friend and read your last years report. I was committed.

    After doing it this year, I should be committed to a asylum. Man, that was rough with the wind.

    But I had a great time and loved it. I was cyclist #3. On the earlier legs I loved catching the rabbits in front of me and passing them. On the last leg, I found two guys and we worked together into Enterprise. We had the pain of suffering through that and the joy of working together. I know each one of us appreciated the other regardless of the race. Needless to say we were all racing just to finish!

    Thanks for your blog. It certainly helped me prepare and enjoy the race.

    Congrats on doing this race! Glad you were able to find someone for the ride into Enterprise. That wind was SO brutal. – FC

  14. Comment by Glen | 06.11.2012 | 8:10 pm

    Can I ask for a shout-out to Blanding (if there’s anything to say)? I hope no one missed the turn at the stop sign in town.

    It was just after that stop sign that I caught and worked with a couple of guys for a few minutes ’til the next bad headwind, at which point they fell off the back. Go Blanding! – FC

  15. Comment by Kathleen Burke Jensen | 06.11.2012 | 9:15 pm

    Sounds like an incredible amount of fun!

  16. Comment by Ripkenfan | 06.11.2012 | 9:34 pm

    Reading the race report makes me want to do one similar. I race cyclocross, you should seriously try it Fatty, for the fun and intense effort it requires. I’m only a Cat. 4 kinda guy, but I still love it.

    I will definitely try cyclocross this year. – FC

  17. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 06.11.2012 | 9:36 pm

    MattC- I’m still interested in fielding a team: Old Slow Fat Guys If you’re willing to put on a few pounds- double digits minimum for you- I’d like you on my team!

    Fatty_ for Davis I’ll do the Brats- Friday night- at the Hall of Fame. I’ll try to find your brand, but if not I’ll come up with a local Northern California Free Range Version for you to try.

    As for the gut: I think it’s the jerseys. My gut looks enormous every time I’m photographed in it!

    Awesome; thank you! For sure get in contact with Angie; she’s boss of the Hall of Fame evening. And email me too, so I can be sure to tell folks about what’s going on. – FC

  18. Comment by Jeremy | 06.11.2012 | 10:55 pm

    Not even a whisper about the ladies’ legs? Of course, the post would have been much, much longer and my adult ADHD can’t handle that.

    The fact is, the ladies’ first legs were the most interesting of the race and so I wanted to start a post with them, not have them buried at the bottom of an already-long post. – FC

  19. Comment by Thad | 06.11.2012 | 11:43 pm

    The team name for the “GIANTS” is Chain Whipped. We are waiting for a Clydesdale division.

    You know, a Clydesdale division makes total sense. Hopefully there’ll soon be enough racers at this event for it to make sense to break out into more fine-grained categories. – FC

  20. Comment by TNRob | 06.12.2012 | 2:29 am

    Back when I was actively racing, I came up with the idea that the pros train to race and I race to train. As a lowly Cat 6 (or perhaps 7), knowing I was heading to the start line almost twice a month during the summer (so many good races in the DC area), got me out on my bike even when I was too busy or too tired or the weather was bad, all year round. Having a goal to work toward (the race) makes training easier.

  21. Comment by Tommysmo | 06.12.2012 | 5:32 am

    awaiting part deux with baited breath!!!

  22. Comment by Rodzilla | 06.12.2012 | 9:26 am

    Fatty: Team Chain Whipped here, aka “The Giants”

    @Thad, we talked about Clydesdale not really representing our team, we need a super Clydesdale “Rodzilla” category. Pound for pound we had to have been the “biggest team” in this years race.

    Fatty, thanks for the delicious Bratwurst, however those just merely aroused our appetites not enough to bed them down. We continued on to have second dinner that night.

    DUDE Rider 3 Leg 11 into Enterprise might not have been hell, but I am pretty sure you could have seen it from there.

    Fatty did you get caught in the “regroup” at the construction delay?

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    Just a few more quotations, wasn’t sure I had enough :)

  23. Comment by Red Rider | 06.12.2012 | 9:33 am

    I’m married to one of those “giants” (aka Rodzilla)and had to laugh at the perspective. It all makes sense now at how you are able to zoom up those hills! I’ve been thinking about doing this race for a while but am a little intimidated. I’d be interested to hear how the Hammer and Heather fared.

  24. Comment by Steve Larsen | 06.12.2012 | 11:43 am

    3rd member of Team Chain whipped (cyclist one which means I’m the ’skinny’ clydesdale). I remember seeing the Team Fatty support van roadside just before that big climb at mile 40. I was patting myself on the back for even being in the same zip code as Kenny at that point in the race. Major mechanical malfunction, makes perfect sense now … sssssssss! (sound of my ego deflating).

  25. Comment by keg | 06.12.2012 | 12:39 pm

    Great write up. This had me LOLing

    “So hard, in fact, that I became fascinated with the new shapes they were taking on. How is it my calves had become concave? Was it really possible they were going to split right down the middle?”

  26. Comment by Kolin | 06.12.2012 | 1:28 pm

    Thanks for convincing them on the Bratwurst! I love those things. I was also a bit star struck when I saw you (I thought you’d be a bit taller), my buddies here at work still don’t believe I actually met you (should have taken a picture). Good job on the race, the wind was truly the suck this year. Our team finished under 30hrs, which we thought was a major accomplishment, I fought a broken chain for 45 miles on leg 6 (I was the 3rd guy) which dashed our hopes of seeing the podium. Looking forward to Part II…

  27. Comment by GregC | 06.12.2012 | 1:44 pm

    Loved the story- I really wanted to do this race but as it turns out I couldn’t find a team that would commit and ended up being hurt anyway. Does this mean that Davis is going to be a fast sprint again- I”m ready to be a domestic for the team!

  28. Comment by fat dadoo | 06.12.2012 | 2:05 pm

    @ GregC, according to this http://www.livestrong.org/pdfs/2-2/Davis-2012/Davis-All-Courses-Map
    The Davis Century route is changed & elevation is substantially reduced from last year. I’m pretty confident you and MattC can hone your domestique skill for Elden & Lisa. I’ll be waaay back.

    Elden, were you able to somehow convince the Rockwell organizers to not post the results?

  29. Comment by TK | 06.12.2012 | 3:16 pm

    Please wait a long time to post Part II. We can wait to hear how awesome The Hammer did.

    Kindest regards,
    No one ever

  30. Comment by GregC | 06.12.2012 | 4:32 pm

    bummer on the new course- the century route has less than 1000 feet of climbing. I really enjoyed last years route!

  31. Comment by Kukui | 06.12.2012 | 4:46 pm

    Love the write-up! The Rockwell Relay sounds like so much fun – add one to my bucket list! =)

  32. Comment by Dan in Sac | 06.12.2012 | 4:56 pm

    The bike-mobile is suh-wheat! Hoping to join you all out there some day.

  33. Comment by Robert | 06.12.2012 | 11:45 pm

    Wow that one picture with the car really makes you look like your namesake!


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