A Note from Fatty: If you’ve ever wanted to race the Rockwell Relay: Moab to Saint George — or you are racing it and want to know what it’s going to be like . . . or if you have no intention of racing it but are curious what kind of idiots would race it, join me this Thursday at 12:00 (noon) Mountain Time (2pm ET / 11am PT) for a live Spreecast chat with the organizers and participants for the race. You’ll be able to find the event on my homepage, as well as on Spreecast itself.
We’ll be talking about what the race is like, strategy for who should ride which kinds of stages, what it’s like to share a van with three other stinky, sleepy racers for a full day (and longer) and more.
Join us. It should be great fun.
Half of an IronFatty is Still Fat: St. George Half Ironman Race Report Part the Second
When last I wrote, I had finished the swim part of the St. George Half Ironman, had successfully extricated myself from the wetsuit, had seen that The Hammer was minutes ahead of me, and had made it through transition, all apparently without incident.
And by apparently, I really mean apparently.
I jumped on my bike, clipped in, spun up to a good cadence, and then pressed the shifter button on my Ultegra Di2 to shift from the easyish gear I had selected before the race to a bigger gear, so I could begin ramping up the speed.
I pressed the button again.
Some more nothing.
I considered the strange possibility that the button itself wasn’t working and pressed the shifter button on the aero bar instead.
Yet even more nothing.
I wondered if perhaps my battery was dead, in spite of the fact that I had charged it less than a day earlier. I pressed the button to make my front derailleur shift.
That worked fine.
I pressed all kinds of buttons to shift my rear derailleur again.
Lots and lots of nothing.
Great, I thought. “The rear derailleur has gotten unplugged. I pulled over out of traffic (though I had not yet pulled out of the Sand Hollow Reservoir parking area) and checked where the wire plugs into the derailleur.
It was in place.
So I climbed back onto my bike and began pedaling again, considering my new reality: I was riding a two-speed bike. With the derailleur where it was — in about the third-easiest gear — I wouldn’t be in a good place for flying on the flats, nor for climbing the steep stuff.
I began trying to adapt to my new riding situation. “I am not going to be fast,” I thought to myself. “I’m going to be very spun out on flats and downhills, and I’m going to be overgeared on the climbs.”
The blinking red light on the Di2 junction box — mounted on the stem — caught my eye.
I pressed and held the button on the junction box, hoping that maybe — just maybe — it would reset the brains of the setup and I’d be able to shift again.
The light continued to blink.
“Forget it,” I thought, and began to pedal the fastest cadence I could. I began passing people. “This’ll be OK,” I thought. “I’ll have a story to tell. Not the story I wanted, but still: a story.”
Then, a minute or so later, I looked down. The LED was no longer blinking red. It was no longer blinking at all.
Without any real hope or expectation, I pressed the button to shift my rear derailleur.
I was back in business.
A surge of adrenaline hit me, I laughed out loud, shifted into a big gear, and dropped twenty people during the next minute. And by the minute after that, I had dropped so many people I decided I wasn’t going to bother counting any longer.
So, why had I not been able to shift at the beginning of the race, when during the past five years of use Di2 had never failed me, and had in fact been by far and away the most reliable drivetrain I have ever owned?
I have a theory.
When a Di2 rear derailleur gets whacked good and hard, it automatically disengages, so the motor doesn’t get busted. Kinda like the way if you drop your computer, your hard drive parks itself right away to avoid damage (this simile probably made more sense to some of my readers than to others).
I suspect that whoever had their bike next to mine in the bike rack before the race smacked my rear derailleur as he got his own bike off the rack. My derailleur protected itself. But I — having never bothered to read the manual — didn’t realize that’s what had happened. So all my button pressing did no good…until I stumbled on the idea of pressing the junction box button. That reset and re-engaged the derailleur and I was good to go. In fact, I could have shifted probably a couple minutes sooner than I did if I’d have just tried.
Full Speed Ahead
I had been looking forward to this moment — this 56 miles — for months. Quite literally. I had lost a bunch of weight. Gotten my legs as fit and fast as they’ve ever been. Learned to get good and low on a bike while still putting as much power as I possibly could into the pedals.
And with everything working right, I went out. Hard.
“On your left!” I called, loud. Over and over. Yelling it loudly to be heard, but meaning it politely so nobody would accidentally start drifting left as I passed them.
I passed people by the dozens. For reals.
I hit the first big hill and just stayed left because I was passing so often that there was never any time to get back on the right side of the road.
I’m tempted to make some kind of self-deprecating comment here. Deflate what’s obviously a pretty hefty string of boasts, but the truth is, I was a force of nature.
As I crested the first hill, I had caught and passed The Hammer. “Hey baby,” I said as I went by.
“Love you!” she yelled.
“You too!” I shouted over my shoulder.
And then I was gone.
After that, the stats for the bike leg tell the story pretty well.
As I rode, I truly never was not passing people. I went from 1248th place, overall, at the end of the swim, to 208th place by the end of the ride. Which means I passed right around 1040 people on the bike.
With 3400 feet of climbing in the 56 miles, I still averaged 22.45 miles per hour.
And since I’m boasting and getting all anal about stats, how about these:
- Out of all finishers (around 2000 of us, I’m guessing), I was the 77th fastest cyclist.
- Out of all non-pro men (which I think is the most reasonable way to measure myself), I was the 33rd fastest cyclist.
So, do I love my Specialized Shiv? You bet I do. Do I love my Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifting? Oh yeah. More than ever.
I loved being one of the fast guys.
And for that very reason, I was seriously disappointed as I rolled up to the transition area; it was immediately obvious that my moment in the sun was at an end.
I stepped off my pedals and walked painfully into the transition area, my back aching, as it often does after a long ride — having stiffened during the effort. I watched as others ran to where they’d dump their helmets and swap their shoes.
I, on the other hand, shuffled.
“This ain’t no time for jibber-jabber,” I muttered to myself, repeating a little joke The Hammer and I have between ourselves (she’s not one for stopping and chatting during bike rides). I pulled my shoes on and stutter-stumble-stepped into a phony jog.
I had been fast on the bike, but The Hammer had had a banner season so far, too. Would I be able to hold her off for the next thirteen miles in what is undisputably my absolute worst event?
That’s the question I had on my mind, and the question I’ll answer in the next post.
PS: For those of you who like Strava, here’s what it has to say about my ride.