A Note from Fatty: For the next several days, I’ll be alternating posts from the 100 Miles of Nowhere with installments from the Rockwell Relay race I did over the weekend. Just to draw things out and mess with you a little bit.
I love bikes. I love bike races. I love the kind of people who do bike races. I love the people who spend their time and energy putting on bike races.
And above all, I love standing behind a grill, serving really good bratwurst (Colosimo’s) to racers and talking with them about all of the above, the night before a bike race.
Here I am, last Thursday afternoon, right before the crowds showed up.
Those two big ice chests behind me are holding 400 brats, which The Hammer had boiled in PBR and onions the day before, since I was kind of out of my head with work deadlines.
Which made the hours of 6pm ’til around 8:30pm — when The Hammer and I grilled and served around 300 of those 400 brats (the rest would be grilled and served at the finish line Saturday) to racers and their families (and to the occasional random park-goer who was drawn in by the incredible smell) of the Rockwell Relay: Moab to Saint George.
We told favorite stories. We shared race tactics (i.e., bring an ice chest completely full of ice to keep drinks cold), and we talked about what a strange and fun experience this race was every year, and the fact that every single team would come away with an amazing story to tell.
I also signed a couple books, which served my vanity very well.
Most importantly, we listened very carefully whenever someone else mentioned that they were part of a coed team, asking — very casually, mind you — whether they were there to race, or just to ride.
Hey, as two-time winners of the coed division of the Rockwell Relay, we had a dynasty to defend; we needed all the beta we could gather.
Then, around 8:00pm, The Hammer and I made our first critical strategic race move: we called Paradox Pizza in Moab, and ordered five 14″ pizzas (a Supremo, a Greek, a Caprese, a Hawaiian Italian, and a Margherita).
Once those arrived, we let them cool down, folded them so the crust side was facing out, and then put them in ziploc bags.
Our team’s primary race food source was taken care of.
The Race Begins
The Rockwell Relay starts at 8:00am, so Team Fatty got breakfast at Denny’s together to make final plans. We agreed that – for the first time — I would take the Racer 1 position. Kenny had raced it our previous two times, and we were both interested in trading to see what other legs were like. This meant Kenny would take leg 2, while The Hammer would take leg 3, and Heather would take leg 4 (as they both had the previous two times we’ve done this race).
During this breakfast, Heather — who has been plagued with flat tires this year — observed, “Finally, I’ve had three consecutive rides without a flat!”
I turned on her, with fury in my eyes.
“You’re using The Secret wrong,” I said. “You’re jinxing us for sure, and guaranteeing a flat.”
Heather apologized, but I knew we were now doomed to have at least one flat during the race, since the process for reversing misuse of The Secret is lengthy and complicated, and we had no time.
But this was no time to dwell on what could not be fixed. So we finished our respective Grand Slams, then grabbed a quick team photo:
Left to right: Fatty, The Hammer, Kenny, and Heather
And then I shouldered my way into the very front of the line.
Did I belong there? Probably not. But I have been riding hard. And I am — I’m pretty sure — the fastest I have ever been. Maybe by a lot. So I wanted at least a chance to hang with the fast guys.
The race began, at which point very strange things started happening.
First, three of us shot out front: me, a guy in blue, and a guy in red (that’s honestly all the detail I remember of them; they probably remember me as “guy in pink.”) We rode together for the first couple blocks, and then the guy in blue stood up and took off.
I looked over to my left at the guy in red. Was he going to chase? No. He was not. “Let’s just work together,” I said, and kicked it up half a notch so he could settle in behind me while I did the first pull.
Then the guy in blue — who was, by now, fifty feet ahead of us — suddenly pulled over to the side of the road, and stopped.
I figured he must have flatted or had a chain drop, or something like that. Regardless, the fact that we had gone less than half a mile meant that the rest of his team (everyone on all the teams rides the first mile or so of the race, with three out of four of the racers just rolling along in parade mode) would see him in a minute and could help him out.
So I kept on going, thinking, “How weird that I am currently the lead racer.”
After a couple minutes, I waggled my left elbow, signaling the racer in red to come up and take a turn pulling.
I waggled my right elbow.
I looked over my shoulder.
Nothing. And nobody.
Unintentionally, I had managed to launch a solo breakaway from the entire field, about half a mile from the beginning of the race, with 54 miles and 4100 feet of climbing to go.
“So,” I thought to myself, “Now what?”
I considered my options. “I can either keep going and try to stay out front, seeing if I’m the rare breakaway that succeeds,” I thought, “Or I can drift back to the group.”
“Or,” I thought, “I can keep going hard, but knowing full well that I’ll eventually be caught, at which point I can try to just hang with the lead group, instead of getting dropped by them.”
That sounded like a pretty good idea, and I figured that I’d be swept up within a few miles. “I’ll go hard, but not so hard that when they catch me I can’t join them,” I told myself, over and over.
But then a few miles went by, and I was still in front, all alone.
And then it was five miles.
The photographer and videographer caught up with me, taking pictures and video of me, riding. Alone.
Seven miles. Still alone.
I began to fantasize. “What if they don’t catch me?” I thought to myself. “What if I somehow, during the night, magically became the fastest person here? Faster than the Cat 1 racers who are here? Faster than Brute Force, which has won this race every year?”
“Well, why not?” I thought, and went harder.
I looked down at my Garmin Edge 510. Ten miles into this race, and I was still leading.
And that’s when two people rocketed by me as if I were standing still.
“OK, I knew that would happen,” I said.
And then, seconds later, a group of twenty racers surged by me.
My solo moment of glory was over, and the race — the real race — was on.
Which is where I’ll pick up next time.