A Note from Fatty: This is part 3 in my writeup of this year’s Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George, a 516-mile road bike relay race across the beautiful Southern Utah canyon lands and desert. Part 1 of the story is here. Part 2 of the story is here.
Before I continue with the telling of how our race went, I want to talk about a couple of things fundamental to any race: time and food.
The Oddness of Time
During this race, time seemed to progress so strangely. After each of my legs of the race, I always thought to myself, “Good, I have three legs of the race now — hours and hours — to recover.”
But then you’re busy crewing and spectating and cheering and in no time at all, it’s your turn again.
The second way time was odd had to do with how simultaneously short and long the race day was. We had been racing since 8:00 this morning, and had just finished going through one race rotation for our team. In a way, it still felt like it ought to be morning, like we had been racing for no time at all.
But it wasn’t morning; we were well into the afternoon. In fact, the sun would set and night would come on during Kenny’s next racing leg.
Simultaneously, as the race wore on, time seemed to stretch out. I’d lose track of how long we had been out there (is it Friday? Saturday? Something else?), as if we had never been doing anything but this race.
After a while, I got so I stopped even worrying about what day it was or what time it was. All that mattered was taking care of the person who was racing, and getting prepared for when it was my turn to race again.
It was both surreal and wonderful.
Food and Rest
In yesterday’s post’s comment section, Roan had a great question:
What do you guys do to recover a little on your idle legs? Sure I know you are crewing & driving too. But is there any slack time for the next rider? What diet? What are the fine points?
On our team, the person who just finished racing a leg was always given at least an hour or two without any race responsibilities. They just got to relax in the van, either sitting or climbing into the bed and sleeping.
And — more than anything else — getting caught up on eating and drinking. What we each ate and drank, though, really depended on the rider.
At about the halfway point for the current race leg, the person who would be racing next would trade places with the person who had just raced, and would have time to dress, eat, drink, and otherwise prepare for their next leg. (As I write this, it sounds like this was some kind of cleverly planned rotation strategy, but in reality it just naturally flowed and worked out this way.)
All of us, I know, would drink a ton of water after each of the day legs. There wasn’t any strategy behind this; it was just that our bodies craved it after being out there in the heat for so long (especially Lisa’s and Heather’s first laps, where they were riding 50+ miles in 100+-degree weather against a headwind).
Most (if not all) of us also loved having a Coke right after finishing a race leg. And salty food like chips.
For food, The Hammer and I had bought four footlong club sandwiches from a Subway sandwich store the night before the race began, having them hold the mayo and mustard (so the sandwiches wouldn’t get all soggy and salmonella-y). After each leg, I’d eat a third of one of these sandwiches.
Kenny and Heather had a similar strategy, except instead of Subway sandwiches, they had bought a couple of pizzas (from Paradox Pizza in Moab — great place to eat if you’re visiting Moab) the night before the race, and were eating that before and after their race legs.
During the race legs, all of us tended to drink a lot of water and sports drink, and eat Honey Stinger Waffles and Energy Chews. We’re all big fans of Honey Stinger (and in this case, we were eating ones I had purchased at REI just before the race, so it’s not like we like them just because I sometimes get them for free).
OK, let’s get back to the story.
I knew we’d be busy when we got to the Exchange after Heather’s first leg.
This Exchange point was at the Hollow Mountain gas station in Hanksville, and was important for several reasons:
- It was the last Exchange point we’d have in the light, so was a good time to set lights up on our bikes.
- It was a good place to buy ice and water, which was good because we were all out.
- There was a restaurant there, so we could buy a hot meal (to go, obviously).
As we waited for Heather to come in, I took care of setting up lights for The Hammer and me, while Kenny set up his bike and got ready to go.
The Hammer, meanwhile, went and bought ice and water to replenish our ice chests and water cooler, then went into the diner — Blondies — and ordered a burger and a chicken sandwich.
Then a few things happened all at once:
- Heather rolled in to the Exchange point, so it was time for Kenny to take off.
- Kenny discovered that he had forgotten to fill his bottles, so had nothing to drink — and it was still 90+ degrees outside.
- Lisa ran out of the diner, telling me I had to come inside; there were some people wanting to meet me.
I figured the people at the diner could wait; I needed to get Kenny a bottle. But Kenny took off, yelling over his shoulder, “Just bring me a bottle as soon as you can!”
My heart sank, because I knew that would be a while; I remembered from last year at this Exchange point that Blondies isn’t a place you go for fast service, and The Hammer had already ordered.
So — leaving Heather to fend for herself, post-race — I quickly finished setting up lights for The Hammer’s and my next race legs, loaded the bikes, and then went into the diner (the food had not yet arrived).
And met Barb — a longtime Friend of Fatty — and her entourage, all of whom were on a cool biking tour in Utah.
Once again, I am the shortest person in the photo.
As I enjoyed talking with these people, I was simultaneously wondering, “I wonder if Kenny’s died of thirst yet,” and “How long is this food going to take to arrive, anyway?”
Then — finally! — the food arrived, I said a quick “Gotta dash, we have a teammate who is probably dying on the side of the road of heat stroke right now,” and bolted out the door.
Joined at the Hip
Luckily for us, Kenny was still very much alive by the time we caught up to him, though he seemed exceptionally grateful to get a bottle of ice-cold water from us.
As it had turned out, it had actually been a fantastic race strategy for Heather to wait for Troy from Team Control4.com as she came in to the Exchange point (see the end of yesterday’s post if you don’t know what I’m talking about), because that meant Kenny — our fastest guy — and Team Control4.com’s fastest guy would start together and — just like in their first race leg — work together for the entire leg of the race.
And since this was a truly brutal leg with an extraordinarily harsh headwind, working together made them each much faster than if they had started out on their own.
Each time I got out of the van to cheer Kenny on, the wind would about knock me off my feet and I’d think to myself, “I am so glad I am not racing this leg.”
Then I thought ahead to my own race leg, coming up next, and wondered if — like the previous two legs of the race — I’d be trading pulls against a tough headwind with Team Control4.com.
It seemed probable.
My Second Leg
The sun set and the dark set in during Kenny’s second leg, which reminded us of how much the wind had affected our race this year; last year the sun hadn’t set until I was out on my second leg. We weren’t worrying about that, though; everyone else was being slowed by the wind, too.
We got to the Torrey Exchange, where I got out my bike, clipped a blinking red light to my jersey pocket, put on a reflective belt, and strapped on my helmet (with the battery in my jersey pocket), now sporting my beloved NiteRider Pro 1400 LED light setup.
The next rider from Control4.com and I stood at the Exchange point, waiting for our respective riders to come in. As we did, a local cyclist offered some valuable advice.
“You’re about to do the ride we all do as our big climbing ride,” he said. “The climbing goes up to mile marker 108.”
“Mile marker 108. Got it,” I said. “Thanks, that’s incredibly helpful information.”
Then Kenny came in and the racer from Team Control4.com (sorry I don’t know your name, other racer!) and I took off.
I figured I’d take the first pull and rode hard, trying to set a good fast tempo for us to do together, all the while keeping an eye out for the left turn I had blown by last year.
There were two markers for this turn this time (The day after the race, Dan — the race director — told me in fact that those were just for me), and I made the turn without trouble.
But I took the opportunity of this turn to look back, and the guy from Control4.com was nowhere to be found.
So I was on my own again.
How come nobody likes riding with me?
I am Very Snotty
I rode hard on this very climby section (39 miles, 3442 feet of climbing) of the race, and within a half hour or so of starting had caught and dropped another rider.
The night cooled down, and I pulled up my armwarmers.
I watched the mile markers as they went by, counting down toward 108. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “The climbing won’t last as long as I remember for this leg. I’ll be finished with the climbing by the time I’ve ridden sixteen miles.”
The climbing started in earnest. I stood up and started going as hard as I could up the mountain. It was cold out, but I was heating up.
Which caused a kind of interesting reaction.
Specifically, I was sweating hard, but my nose was running from the cold. This all mixed together to form what I like to call a “snotulum” — a dangling mucous rope — hanging from the tip of my nose.
Swinging, back and forth, in time to my pedal cadence. Growing longer and longer as I rode.
Six inches long! Now eight! When — if, indeed, ever — will it snap and fall to the ground?
When I could sit for a moment, I’d wipe the snotulum off onto my gloves. Until my gloves got soaked, at which point I’d wipe the snotulum off onto my armwarmers.
This fix, however, was the most temporary of all possible temporary fixes. A new snotulum would replace the wiped-off one within moments.
Passers-by stared, transfixed with horror.
Not the Top
I continued to count off the miles, pleased that within a few more minutes I’d be reaching the 108 mile marker, and therefore the summit.
And then the team rolled up alongside me for the first time since I had begun this leg (I had told them before to take their time loading the van at the Exchange; I wouldn’t need support for a while).
“I only have a few more miles to climb!” I shouted, ebulliently.
The Hammer, who was leaning out the passenger window, looked doubtful, but handed me a new bottle and some Energy Chews.
She probably also stared in revulsion at my snotulum. As would anyone.
A few moments later, they pulled alongside again. “You have eleven more miles of climbing!” The Hammer called.
“No, just three!” I called back. “The local guy I talked with said mile marker 108 is the summit!”
“He’s wrong,” The Hammer called back. “You don’t hit the summit ’til you’ve been riding 24 miles.”
Who should I trust in this situation: the local who gave me a very specific mile marker? Or my wife.
“OK, eleven miles of climbing,” I called back, glad I had found this out and had a chance to mentally recalibrate before I hit mile marker 108.
And of course, The Hammer was right. Mile marker 108 actually was a place where a false summit happens. Maybe the local really thought that’s the summit and does turn around.
Or maybe he was having a little joke at my expense.
Either way, I now knew I’d be climbing ’til the true summit at mile marker 100.
Carrots and More Carrots
The next time the van pulled alongside me, I asked them to go on up ahead ’til they came across the next rider, then time how long it was ’til I got to that point. I wanted to know whether I had a shot at catching anyone else during this leg of the race.
Several minutes later, I saw them parked at the side of the road.
“You’re just two minutes behind the next racer,” The Hammer called, “and three minutes behind the one after that!”
Which was everything I needed to know.
It’s weird how you can be absolutely certain that you are going your very hardest, but then upon discovering there’s a chance you’ll catch another racer, find it within yourself to go much harder.
I don’t know how long it took me to catch my two-minute guy, but I did catch him. By which time I could see the red blinking light of my three-minute guy (a member of Ryan’s Life Time Fitness team), and I somehow found it within myself to catch him, too.
“Want to work together?” he asked.
“Just try to hang on,” I replied. Which probably sounds kind of arrogant, but I didn’t mean it that way.
OK, maybe I meant it that way a little. But I was feeling incredible pride. In spite of the fact that I’m riding heavy this year (still in the 170s for crying out loud), I passed four people on this leg of the race, putting more than half an hour into our frenemy team, Control4.com.
Oh Yes Indeed It’s Fun Time (Fun Time, Fun Time)
At mile 100 — just as The Hammer had said would happen — I hit the real summit of Boulder pass. My team quickly got me into a windbreaker for the fast descent ahead of me and I got rolling again.
The whole way down, I could not stop laughing. It was such a fun, fast, open descent. Big wide turns you don’t have to brake for. Nice road. The oddness of doing this in the dead of night. It was just a pleasure.
My NiteRider light setup was so powerful I had no trouble seeing everything around me, plus I had our team van ahead of me, just to make sure there weren’t any deer that might want to jump right in front of me at the last moment.
And a good thing, too, because they had to stop, honk and yell at one deer that looked like it was ready to make a kamikaze jump right into me.
The only downside to this technique was that I pulled into the Exchange only seconds after the rest of the Team did, so The Hammer had to unload her bike before she could take off. Since, however, she was otherwise dressed and ready to go, this was not exactly a big loss — a couple minutes, tops.
Once again, The Hammer had a huge ride ahead of her: 56.6 miles, and 3061 feet of climbing. Into a headwind that continued to grow worse and worse, through the very darkest part of night.
Which is where I’ll pick up (and maybe I’ll even finish?) the story tomorrow.
PS: Notice how the number of photos dropped off pretty drastically when the night legs began?
A Note from Fatty: NYCCarlos — one of the premier Friends of Fatty — is a finalist in the “Get the Sun Valley Remedy” contest, where he made a video and now needs a lot of people to watch it and tweet it and mention it on FaceBook and stuff. If he wins, he gets a mountain biking trip and a canoe-ful of gear.
I think we should help. So here’s whatcha gotta do:
- Go watch the video. And maybe leave a comment too. Can’t hurt, right? And besides, it’s entertaining.
- Retweet my Tweet about the video. All you have to do to do this — provided you’re on Twitter and stuff — is click here to go to the tweet I posted about Carlos’ video and retweet it. Social media at its finest here, folks.
- Visit Sun Valley’s Facebook page and leave a comment. Like, say, “I found Carlos’s video to be truly sublime.” But in your own words.
There. It’s that easy. Do Carlos this favor, because you know he’d sure as heck do it for you.
Another Note from Fatty: Part 1 of the ongoing story of this year’s Rockwell Relay can be found here.
After kenny and I finished our first legs of the race, it was time to start crewing for the women of Team Fatty. Both of us had concerns about this, due to the fact that the day was getting hot, and the headwinds just kept getting worse.
We didn’t care — seriously, we didn’t — about whether we would lose what was apparently a rapidly solidifying repeat of our Coed team division victory (when I came in from my first leg, no other Coed teams even seemed to be on the radar). We just didn’t want to watch our women suffer.
I tell you this, of course, so you’ll think I’m a wonderful, caring person.
However, I am evidently not so caring (nor wonderful) that I threw in the towel. Instead, I handed off the bracelet to The Hammer (she races third) and wished her good luck.
The Hammer Makes a Friend
Within a few miles, The Hammer could see another racer up ahead — the third racer from Team Life Time Fitness. “There’s my carrot!” The Hammer shouted.
And sure enough, she caught — and dropped — him on the next climb.
But then, impressively, this rider from Team LifeTime Fitness rode up and latched on. Then he rode forward and took a good long pull.
The Hammer gives a thumbs-up for drafting.
And suddenly, an alliance was born.
We learned from the rider’s crew — who we had plenty of time to get to know as we took turns supporting each other’s riders — that Ryan (the rider working with The Hammer) is a programmer at Adobe. That he’s been training since December, during which time he’s lost 60 pounds. And that putting a LifeTime Fitness team together for this race had been his idea.
Seriously, how could you not be a big fan of Ryan?
The Hammer and Ryan worked together for nearly the entire leg of this race, each making the other faster. Taking fair, consistent turns at pulling — Ryan suggested forty crank rotations per pull, according to The Hammer, which worked out great for both of them.
Though I suspect, based on looking at their photos, that The Hammer might have gotten slightly more draft benefit than Ryan did.
The Hammer’s leg of the race was a long one: 56.4 miles. And sometimes it gave the distinct impression that we were trapped in a Road Runner cartoon:
The Hammer is somewhere just beyond the horizon.
Even so, though, she smiled the whole way. Not ceding any places to any racers, working with the other rider to make good time on her leg of the course. Loving the ride, loving the view, loving having made a friend, loving the experience of this race.
We were all digging it.
Eventually, of course, it had to come to an end. The last five miles of this leg of the race are steeply uphill. Ryan simply could not hang with The Hammer, and she finished a few minutes ahead of him, passing the baton/slap bracelet off to Heather for her turn climbing in the heat and wind.
But The Hammer insisted the rest of us (Kenny and me) wait to take off ’til Ryan got to the Exchange point, where she cheered for him louder than anyone, then rushed up and gave him a huge hug, and we got this photo:
The leg these two worked together on show exactly why I love this race.
And then we were ready to pile back into the van. The Hammer looked pretty cooked (not to mention salt-encrusted):
She had a right to be. She had just raced more than a half-century, in the heat, against a hairy headwind, against a field entirely of men (as near as we could tell). And she had not only not given up a single place in the race, she had moved us up a notch.
I was incredibly proud of her.
Team Control4.com’s (formerly Team Lobotomy) Fascination With Heather Continues
Last year, The Hammer’s son — AKA “The IT Guy” — was on Team Lobotomy and rode his first leg with Heather, providing good and valuable services along the way.
This year, unfortunately, he wasn’t on the team.
So it seemed pretty shocking that Team Control4.com (no longer called Team Lobotomy) was right there, riding with Heather, for almost the whole leg this year, too. Just with a different rider (Troy) this time.
It wasn’t planned this way. In fact, we have it on good authority that Team Control4.com had made it a primary objective to beat us this year (which was OK with us, since they were an all-male team).
But still, within a couple miles of this windy, hot, climbing-centric lap, they were working together. And a good thing, too, because this leg is brutal enough without having to push through the wind on your own.
Here they are together, as Heather gets ready to drop off a bottle:
And here’s Heather, getting a bottle hand-up from Kenny:
And here’s Heather, taking a drink:
In fact, now that I look through my photos, I’m not sure there are any pictures I have of Heather in this leg where she isn’t getting a drink. The day was that hot.
The thing is, though, in spite of heat, wind, and derailleur problems that kept making her chain drop, Heather never stopped smiling. Big happy grin the whole leg.
And she rode incredibly strong.
The cool thing is, in the same way that we got to really know the LifeTime Fitness guys in the previous leg, we got to know Troy’s wife, who was crewing for Team Control4.com, on this leg (and, as it would turn out, on pretty much every leg — we were neck and neck with Team Control4.com for the whole race). Here she is, cheering Heather and Troy on:
I saw her and her red truck just about as often (maybe more often) than my own team during this race. And the awesome thing is, she cheered Team Fatty on just as (or maybe “almost as”) enthusiastically as she did her own team.
When you’re doing something wacky like this race, the competition between teams kind of fades into the background; you start thinking more about how much you have in common with anyone who has chosen to spend their weekend out in the Utah desert, riding, racing and crewing nonstop, for around thirty hours.
Which explains why, when she got toward the end of her leg and noticed Troy was fading, Heather waited up for him.
“We’ve ridden this whole leg together,” she said. “Let’s finish it together!”
Maybe not the awesome-est race tactics in the whole world, but in an event like The Rockwell Relay, racing is only a small part of the experience, and — honestly — probably not the most important part.
And besides, we were now a full rotation through the race and had not seen or heard of another Coed team anywhere in sight.
Our Coed Team victory — and a reasonable claim of a dynasty — looked pretty much like it was in the bag.
Here’s a question to ponder instead of doing whatever it is that you ought to be doing right now:
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.
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.
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.
A few months ago, I decided to register for the 2012 100 Miles of Nowhere because it is good to occasionally do tough things, which may not make a whole lot of sense, just to test one’s mettle. It was also great that the proceeds would be going to a good cause. As I started putting a plan together, I came up with some criteria that I wanted to try to stick with:
- No sharp corners (so I would not have to slow down on the turns)
- No stop signs (so I would not have to run them)
- No elevation gain (so I would not have to suffer more than necessary)
- Good places for spectators to hang out (so family cheer squad would not be bored)
- Smooth pavement (just because)
After a bit of searching on Google Maps, I found a route in Daybreak (a master-planned community in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake valley) that seemed to meet all of the criteria. The route was a 1.15 mile banana-shaped loop on one-way, bike-friendly streets with roundabouts located on each end.
The route was also about as flat as one can possibly find in the great state of Utah and has fantastically smooth pavement. Perfect.
Now I just needed to find someone to do the ride with me. Luckily for me, I have a cycling buddy that is always up for an adventure. We shall call him Biker Ben, because his name is Ben…and, you guessed it, he has been known to ride bikes.
In fact, if you want to have fun on a bike ride, all you need to do is invite Biker Ben. Regardless of the route, weather conditions, or circumstances you may find yourself in, you will have more fun during the ride and better stories to tell afterwards if Biker Ben is there. Also, he will tell the stories much more enthusiastically than you would ever be able to, so that is an added bonus.
Biker Ben and I have spent a good chunk of the past decade riding mountain bikes together.
And when I say “together” I really mean that we usually stick together on the climbing portion of the rides. Then we get to the top of said climbs and Biker Ben disappears, in part, because he has more downhill biking ability than I do, but primarily because he lacks that rational, little voice in his head which tells him to slow down in an attempt to avoid certain death.
A few years ago, I got the itch to buy a fancy new road bike. Biker Ben also found a nice used touring bike online. The bike is too small for him and weighs about two tons, but it seems to “fit” him perfectly.
Due to scheduling conflicts, we decided the best time to do our 100 Miles of Nowhere would be on Memorial Day, May 28th. Since Biker Ben had never actually ridden a century ride, we decided to sign up for the Salt Lake Century on May 19th just to see how things would go.
May 19th happened to be the best weather conditions for a century ride in the history of Salt Lake City, with mild temps and no wind. We rode hard with a good group and hit the 100-mile mark in 4:47. Things seemed to be looking good for our 100 Miles of Nowhere on the 28th.
We decided to start our 100 MoN in Daybreak prior to dawn, ensuring us a victory in the 100 MoN Daybreak pre-daybreak Division. We rolled out onto the streetlight- and headlamp-lit course at 4:24 am.
There was no traffic or wind, so we breezed through the first 20 miles in just under an hour. A flat tire at mile 25 was no problem since we were never more than approximately .2875 miles from our car which was parked in the middle of our 1.15 mile loop. It also meant that we never had to carry any extra food or drink because the car was close by whenever we needed it. We started to think that riding a century ride like this was the best idea ever.
Miles 21-40 came and went just as easily as the first 20. Our lap times stayed remarkably consistent at 3 minutes, 22 seconds (plus or minus a few seconds). We remarked that someone needed to organize a crit race on this very route because it was absolutely perfect.
The wind started to kick up a little around mile 52, but we were still able to finish up the first 60 miles in just under 3 hours of riding time. Which was precisely when our awesome group of spouses, kids, sisters, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews started to show up.
Then wind shifted and started to get stronger. I would like to say the sky darkened and the earth opened up in an attempt to swallow us whole, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate since it was only chilly and annoyingly windy. We rode each lap from that point on being cheered by our families. They rang cow bells, clapped, and hollered words of encouragement each time we rode by for the last 40 miles of the ride. They even seemed to be enjoying themselves while they watched us ride around, and around, and around.
They cheered and rang bells for other people who happened to ride by, which probably made each of their respective rides a little more awesome too. We have good peeps in our families; they do good things to make random passersby feel happy.
Miles 61-90ish were a bit rough. Our pace was slowed by the wind and our lap times sometimes stretched to just under 4 minutes. Biker Ben started to realize that maybe he had not fully recovered from his first century ride just 9 days earlier.
My sister pulled out a giant 800mg ibuprofen tablet while we were stopped at mile 72, which he impressively swallowed without the assistance of liquid. We pressed on.
Around mile 80, we were passed by a rider on a Specialized S-Works Tarmac. He had fancy schmancy carbon aero wheels and was decked out in full team kit, cycling cap included. We reeled him in a lap or two later and asked what he was doing. He said he was on a “recon ride” for the crit race on Friday, June 1 st. We then told him we were about 83 miles into a 100 Miles of Nowhere ride and we had been riding laps on the crit race course since about 4:30 am. I couldn’t see his eyes behind his Oakley Jawbone sunglasses, but he appeared to look at us like we were crazy. Then he replied, “Wow…seriously?! Let me give you a pull for a few laps then.” It is odd how a complete stranger, who seems to think you are nuts, can totally make your day. He kindly gave us a pull until we stopped for our last rest stop at mile 85.
Miles 85-100 continued to be a bit of a sufferfest, but at least we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I took turns pulling double laps as Ben waited for the 800mg of ibuprofen to kick in.
Finally, at 99.9 miles, we both got out of the saddle and sprinted to the imaginary finish line, to the roaring cheers of our loyal family members.
I stopped the GPS at 100.17 miles and 5:13 of riding time.
We finished strong, but were so mentally and physically drained that the idea for a victory lap on cruiser bikes was immediately abandoned.
Instead, we climbed into our cars and headed directly to my sister’s house less than a mile away to celebrate our podium finish in the 100 MoN Daybreak pre-daybreak pre-crit Division.
It was an awesome ride. We had a fabulous cheer squad supporting us. And Biker Ben and I made a great team. Biker Ben and I now know what it must feel like to be a racecar driver who knows every inch of his favorite racetrack…and we may just show up a little early to the crit race on June 1st to offer some helpful tips to the other racers.
Originally there were big plans for a peleton of cyclists on trainers at Portland Head Light, but as the day loomed near, fewer and fewer people shared my deranged enthusiasm for riding a 100 miles to Nowhere. The coming monsoon was the coup de grâce. I was suddenly alone and looking at 100 miles in the pouring rain. My friend is the proprietor of a favorite coffee shop of mine, and graciously offered a spot under his roof and the promise of free caffienation. Not quite as picturesque, but certainly drier with quick access to a paninni and gelato, if needed.
The public space gave me an opportunity to while away the miles talking to people about Camp Kesem, Livestrong, TwinSix and Fatcyclist.com.
I found myself wishing I could have a small table when riding on the road. Far more convenient than stuffing everything in my jersey pockets.
Coming in for the 75-mile rest stop.
I take my division by half a wheel. Epic.
The final tally, plus cool-down.
Well that’s it from here. Thanks for the inspired lunacy!
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