A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: This is part 4 (and, believe it or not, the final part) of my writeup of the 2012 Rockwell Relay. If you got to this part first for some reason, you might want to read part 1, part 2, and part 3 before continuing on.
I had finished my night leg; now it was The Hammer’s turn. But as I sent her off at the Exchange, I could see she had a problem:
She had dressed way too warmly. Unlike last year, when even the early night laps were very cold, it was still nice and warm as The Hammer took off.
I knew she’d be overheating, especially since this was yet another leg with a lot (3061 feet) of climbing.
And sure enough, the first time The Hammer pulled up alongside the van and I asked how she was doing, she replied, “Terrible. I’m burning up.”
So, like a NASCAR pit crew, we jumped out, got the reflective belt and the blinking red light off her, and stripped off the long sleeve jersey, leaving her in tights and a Smartwool baselayer t-shirt. Both black.
Then we got the reflective belt and the blinking light back on her and sent her off.
With the black helmet, black tights, black shirt, and the mostly-black bike, she looked like a ninja in the night.
Except for all the reflect-y and lit-up bits, I mean.
No Reason to Fear
The night legs of the Rockwell Relay are very surreal. It’s hard to see what’s coming up in the road ahead of you, and the bike lights don’t really illuminate that much to your side. As a result, you kind of feel not so much like you’re riding in place, but definitely not like you’re really going anywhere.
You’re not riding through (or to) anywhere. You’re just riding through time.
And meanwhile, the wind blew.
Each time I asked The Hammer how she was doing, I would ask it in fear. Worried she would say, “This sucks; I want to quit.”
But each time, she would instead answer, “I’m doing great,” or “I’m good,” or some variation on that.
Big smile. Strong legs. Incredible endurance.
Very proud husband.
A Terrifying Sound
The Hammer did not encounter a single rider as she rode this segment. Didn’t pass anyone, didn’t get passed by anyone.
But as she rode, she slowly reeled in a rider from another team (I don’t know which team), to the point that the other team and our van were pulling over in the same places.
I walked back toward the other team’s RV. The driver of the RV walked over toward me. And we just started talking.
And then the oddness of it — a couple of complete strangers, at around 2:00AM, chatting like old friends in the dead of night — struck me. “What a strange, interesting, amazing place to be right now,” I thought
And then, at that moment, from the other team’s RV, a horrible sound erupted. The loudest, wettest fart I have ever heard.
Audible, easily, from fifty feet away.
“Our next racer is suffering from a bit of a GI issue right now,” the other guy said, evenly.
Kenny Suffers, Suffers from Disbelief
The Hammer finished her night leg. Then Heather started her night leg, and got to enjoy the awesomeness of riding through the dawn of a desert sunrise. As we passed her, asking how things were going, she replied, “This is so beautiful.”
And she was right.
Then, finally, we were to our final legs of the race. Kenny’s — of course – was first, and it was pretty scary. 35.7 miles, with an astonishing 4160 feet of climbing.
Except those are the actual numbers, printed on the “Leg 9 – Alternate” page of the Race Bible (warning: large PDF). Kenny — bleary from lack of sleep — had instead previewed the original Leg 9 numbers, which were for a route we would not be riding.
And the numbers Kenny looked at made him think he’d be riding 29.4 miles, with 3530 feet of climbing.
To a guy who’s tired and is metering out his effort very carefully, that’s a big difference.
So when Kenny said, “Just a few miles left to climb!” and we corrected him, he looked at us in absolute and complete disbelief, waiting for us to say, “Just kidding!”
But we weren’t just kidding.
Kenny swore. Loud and long.
And then he resumed climbing. (But he didn’t stop swearing the whole rest of his ride.)
I didn’t mention it before, because I wanted to sound as awesome as possible, but one of the major reasons I raced so hard in my previous leg was because I knew that my final leg of the race was going to be kinda . . . puny.
Which is to say, It started with a big thirteen-mile descent, followed by twelve miles of unispired flat riding.
The descent was fun.
The flat was . . . not.
Riding a frontage road parallel to the freeway, I was hardly moving at all. The headwind rose to an incredible level.
I was giving it everything I’ve got, but still could just barely go twelve miles per hour.
It was like riding through sand, while submerged in molasses. Upstream and uphill.
It took me a full hour to ride that scant 12 miles.
The Hammer’s final leg was more of the same. Flat riding, some climbing. Lots of headwind. Lots of crosswind. The difference was, her leg went on for 47.4 miles.
And Heather’s was more of the same.
It was enough to make you want to quit. Except neither of the women ever even mentioned the possibility (by contrast, at least four other teams did quit during these two incredibly brutal legs).
They just pushed on, keeping us — as near as we could tell — in the lead for the Co-Ed division, and not ceding many (if any) places to any all-men division, either.
Meanwhile, Kenny noted that I was sleeping on the job (which was to hand bottles off to Heather whenever we pulled alongside her), and posted proof on his Facebook page:
What can I say? I was tired.
As Heather finished her final leg (and the last leg of the race), the rest of us got ready to celebrate by stopping at the famous Veyo Pie Shop, which was conveniently located along the race route, just a dozen or so miles from the finish line. We got a cheesecake with carmel topping, in case you were curious. And I know that you were.
Then we went and got changed back into riding jerseys, got on our bikes, and headed over to the road where we were to meet Heather, parading to the finish line as the two-time victors in the Co-ed division.
We were surprised, however, to find that Heather was not riding alone.
Far from it.
Instead, there were the riders from Team Control4.com. And riders from Team Haiti Sak Plen. They were clearly going to duke it out in a sprint for the finish line (and would in fact finish with identical times of 32:23:12).
But those were not the teams we were surprised by. Nosirree.
The team we were surprised by — indeed, the team that had our eyes popping out of our freaking skulls — was that there was yet another team headed for the finish line.
And there was a woman riding in that team.
We couldn’t believe it: A co-ed team was about to beat us, by a matter of seconds, right at the finish line.
Kenny and I stepped up the pace a bit, but didn’t exactly sprint for the finish. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; Heather’s time across the line was the one that mattered.
Then we crossed the line. First, somehow. Wondering why, exactly, this other team had held back. Wondering how we had never seen this team during the race.
Later, we’d find out. This team — like a lot of teams — had gotten to the point where they just didn’t have it in them to finish all the legs of the race anymore, so had moved over from “race” mode to “really incredibly exhausting bike tour mode,” and were now cherry-picking which legs of the race they were going to do. Just riding for fun, they still wanted to have the experience of riding into town and crossing the finish line.
So — in spite of our moment of panic — we had done it. Team Fatty is the two-time Rockwell Relay, Moab – St. George, with a time of 32:24:00. Here we are, very nearly looking like we’re not going to fall asleep on the spot, at our finish line photo pop:
One of the things I really like about the Rockwell Relay is the prizes for the finishers. Instead of a medal you will never wear, you get a cool Finisher’s Ring:
The inside of the ring is inscribed with the race name and year. It’s awesome.
And, as winners of the Co-ed division, we got awesome Rockwell Iron Rider Watches, which do pretty much everything (Altimeter, Compass, Barometer, Thermometer, Alarm, Data Tracking, Light, movable compass dial and Stop Watch):
Best of all, we got to go back to Kenny and Heather’s house and eat cheesecake. Which we did, straight from the pie tin. Because getting out plates for everyone would have required that someone stand up and walk to a cupboard.
And that seemed like an unreasonably difficult task at the moment.
As a testament to exactly how amazing the women of Team Fatty are, we were one of only two co-ed teams — out of the ten that signed up — that actually finished the race as a race (i.e., didn’t skip legs or otherwise shortcut the race rules).
And to boot, we finished in the top third of all the teams, placing 20th overall. Sure, that’s about 4.5 hours slower than Brute Force, the three-time overall champion team of the race.
But we’ll take it.
And we’ll be back next year, defending our
PPS: If you’re into stats, here are the race results (PDF format), along with Exchange point check-in times and whatnot.