I am Clumsiness Personified: 2013 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 2

06.12.2013 | 9:00 am

A Note from Fatty: This is part 2 of my 2013 Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George race report. If you haven’t read part 1, you’ll find it by clicking here.

After spending the first ten miles — about half an hour — of a 54-mile leg of the race alone, I was grateful to be caught by a group of fast guys. I jumped onto the back of the peleton and did my best to recuperate; I knew that a series of hard climbs were coming up, and I didn’t want to be shot out the back when that happened. 

Within no more than a minute of sitting in the back, letting others pull me, I felt much better. Staying with the group was no problem. I felt like I was ready to hit the climbs hard. Maybe even split the group up a bit with an attack.

I watched the first really hard climb of the day approach. 200 yards. 100 yards. 50 yards. 


I jumped to the front. Most people bridged, but not everyone. I pulled to the top of the climb, bringing anyone who could hang. Did I have a strategy in doing this? Absolutely not. I was just reveling in the fact that, in the last few days of my 46th year, I am able — for the first time in my life — to jump to the front of a pack of fast guys and hurt them a little bit on a climb.

I wasn’t worried about smart. I was just having fun. 

Once we got to the top of the climb, I drifted back to the back of what was left of the bunch, thinking maybe I’d do it again in a little while.

Wait, Come Back

In truth, it really didn’t matter even a tiny bit that I had created this split in the field, because right after this pitch, we ran into construction traffic. The entire group rejoined as we slowed down and slalomed our way around cars and cones.

No matter. There was lots more climbing where that came from. Around 5000 feet of climbing in the 54 miles, according to my Strava of the ride. Here’s what the elevation profile looks like:


Yeah, it’s mostly just a lot of up. That said, there’s up, and then there’s up. And I wanted to make sure I didnt get dropped on the next hard pitch. So as it approached, I moved forward, and then — just like the last time — stood up and hammered away on the steep part. 

What was the advantage? None. As far as I knew, there was nobody from another coed team in this group of riders (as it turns out, I was wrong — more on that soon). Beating them here didn’t help my team at all. 

But I just wanted to. I was racing. Not racing smart, mind you, but definitely racing.

I succeeded. I split the group up. But I was beat. Time to move back to the smaller field I had created.

Except we were already at the base of another hard climb.

I tried to rally to the front, but this time the real racers — the guys from the teams that would win the overall race, eventually — hit the climb hard, and I couldn’t hold them. Not even close.

“That’s OK,” I thought to myself as I crested the climb with the smaller group I had managed to attach to. “We’re still doing very well.”

All Alone, Again

The group of three or four guys I had glommed onto worked together well, and we flew along, not worrying about catching guys we could never hold on to, but not being passed by anyone else, either.

And then, around mile 25 — halfway through my first leg — my team pulled alongside me in the van, ready to swap out bottles and give me any food I needed. 

I had kinda wondered where they had been all this time. As it turned out, that construction traffic that I had zipped through was a one-lane-only area. Right after my group had rolled through, the construction workers had stopped everyone — including a majority of the racers and many support vehicles — for twenty minutes or so.

I drifted back a little way from my group and switched out bottles, while the team took some pictures…

Image 4 
Oh, is that a new bike there? Hm. You can’t see it very well, can you? I guess we’ll learn more about that bike another time. 

…and cheered me on:

Image 6
The Hammer, with cowbell.

This is one of the most awesome parts of the Rockwell Relay: the near-constant cheering from your teammates. It gives you an indescribable boost, and makes you want to be the absolute fastest you can be.

In this case, though, I had made a mistake. I had drifted too far back to get a bottle, and by the time I was all taken care of, the group I was riding with was a considerable distance ahead of me.

I gave chase, but to no avail. I could see them, and could even keep them from gaining on me, but I could not catch them.

I was riding alone. Again.


And so, for the second half of the first leg of the race, I soloed it. Just rode my brains out, all by myself. The very personification of the opposite of the “don’t play harder, play smarter” axiom.

From time to time, my team in the van would give me reports: “You’re still one minute behind that group you can see up ahead!” Or, “There’s nobody behind you for miles.”

So I just kept pedaling. Going as fast as I could, on my own. What else could I do?

Every half hour, my GPS would chime, and I’d suck down a Honey Stinger gel (the Acai and Pomegranate flavor is my favorite). There’s nothing that works nearly as well as these for me when I’m racing. However, I did learn something important about handling them, which I will now share with you. As I ran out of the ones I had put in my jersey for the beginning of the ride, I yelled at my team for another as they went by me in the van. “And have it open for me already,” I said. 

Which they did.

As I pulled alongside them and took the gel, however, I grabbed a smidgen too eagerly, and…splut. 

Gel all over the left side of my body. Especially my left hand. What a mess. Which, naturally, transferred onto my bars, effectively gluing my hand there.

“I,” I thought to myself, “am perhaps the clumsiest dork who has ever lived.”

Introducing The Comedy Act of Kenny and Fatty

I pulled into the town of Monticello, looking for the City Park, where I’d hand off the slap bracelet — which acts as the relay baton — to Kenny.

Image 5

I stopped, then proceeded to remove the bracelet so I could hand it to him, allowing him to start his leg of the race:

Image 7

But there was a little problem. See, I was completely fried from my ride. My hands were shaking, and I had no coordination at all. So the transfer, uh, didn’t exactly go smoothly:

Image 3

Image 8

And in short, it took around forty-five minutes for us to make the transfer, with an ever-increasingly large crowd gathering around and laughing their heads off.

And then, finally (!!!), Kenny had the bracelet, and was gone. 

In spite of my (lack of) race tactics, I had ridden a good, fast race: 2:36 of riding by the race clock, which is 21mph on average, for 54.4 miles, which is not bad at all when you factor in that this 54.4 miles includes 5000 feet of climbing.

It was Team Fatty’s fastest time for leg 1 of this race ever, by 17 minutes. This was fast enough to put us in tenth place overall — out of 100 teams — at the end of the first leg of the race. I assumed — wrongly, as we’d learn soon enough – that this would easily put us in the lead for the coed division we were racing in.

I could rest now, til the evening, when it would be my turn to ride again.

Now it was Kenny’s turn to see what he could do. 

Which is where I’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.



  1. Comment by DrBryce | 06.12.2013 | 9:10 am

    Fastest by 17 minutes! Way to smash the team record!

    I should note that our previous best time for this leg (2011) was by Kenny ON A SINGLESPEED road bike. And that last year’s times were slow for pretty much every rider due to extraordinary wind. – FC

  2. Comment by Troy | 06.12.2013 | 9:24 am

    I think your whole team was the fastest this year they have ever been on this race. I know more potential coed teams are eyeing you guys for next year so the fun will continue. The weather conditions were also good for a fast race except Leg 4 but your team just seemed stronger all around than ever.

    Our plan for next year is to get the Rockwell guys to create a new category, where teams must:
    – have a combined age of > 180
    – have 2 men AND 2 women
    – be made of 2 couples
    By doing this, I think we’ll be OK. – FC

  3. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.12.2013 | 9:34 am

    Wait, 45 minutes to transfer the bracelet? 45 minutes? That can’t be right, unless there is more to that story that pictures failed to capture? Was there a porta potty involved?

    Great report and I am in awe of your increasing-with-age-and-svelteness cycling abilities. Has to feel pretty awesome to be at the top of your game (and improving) with age!

    I suppose it’s possible that I may have exaggerated with that “45 minute” bit. – FC

  4. Comment by Trevor | 06.12.2013 | 9:34 am

    Nice work. Excited to read the rest of your recap.

    This actually works out to be the most intriguing and interesting race I’ve ever done. It gets pretty crazy as the race progresses. I think you’re going to like it. I also think it’s going to take a LOT of installments for me to tell properly. – FC

  5. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 06.12.2013 | 9:54 am

    Strong ride! I always waste a few ounces of water rinsing my fingers off after messing with the gels. On the one or two relays I’ve done, the fresh guy did all the bracelet or time chip belt transfering, the toasted guy just stood there. There is an “art” to all of this, for sure.

    Well, when you put it that way…it makes perfect sense. Next year! (And I did hose off my gloves and clean up my bike after that leg of the race) – FC

  6. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 06.12.2013 | 10:08 am

    I was thinking the same thing (@ Mark)…let the fresh rider do the widget-transfer, so all the wasted rider has to do is stand there with their arm out (and not shaking too badly).

    I hate gels for the ever-spreading stickiness that ensues no matter HOW careful you are. And I HATE HATE HATE seeing them lying on the road, casually tossed by some uncaring (but obviously totally cool) rider who is above carrying his own trash.

    My strategy for gels is: full gels in left pocket, empties in right pocket. And I’m pretty good at folding the empties so I get no mess at all. I’ll show you how sometime. Or maybe I’ll do a video. – FC

  7. Comment by SteveB | 06.12.2013 | 10:14 am

    @mattc – gel packs and banana peels – I think that’s how an alpha cyclist marks his territory.

    @fatty – you are a beast.

  8. Comment by Jesse | 06.12.2013 | 10:24 am

    I left an open (but apparently not finished) honey stinger gel on the front seat of my car after a very grueling run, and forgot about it. A week or two later I went to get some mortgage papers from that seat only to find they were one solid concrete mass. Definitely prefer their taste but WOW are they sticky!

  9. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.12.2013 | 10:27 am

    Note the last photo: it appears Kenny and Fatty are now being covered by their own film crew! And how did Kenny feel about you smashing his previous Leg 1 times by 17minutes?

    Can we get a Kenny, The Dr., or Hammer, report about their segments?

    I’m happy to have any of the team write their own reports, but meanwhile will continue on with my own. – FC

  10. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.12.2013 | 10:43 am

    A Fattie has previously petitioned Fatty to come to Kansas for ‘Gravel Racing’. Check out today’s NYTimes (no you don’t have to read it, just watch the video):

    Grinding on the Gravel:

    Can I tease some other Fatties for a trip next June?

  11. Comment by ClydeinKS | 06.12.2013 | 10:43 am

    Did the 17 minute best include the bracelet transfer or did the clock stop upon arrival, effectively hurting the 2nd leg time?
    Pulling the solo like the great Jensie, although unfortunate to actually see the rabbit ahead.
    Great job on leg one!!

    The clock is rounded to to the minute, so it shouldn’t have made too big of a difference either way (I was exaggerating about how long it took; probably actually took only 10 seconds or so). As you’ll see in my next report, Kenny’s time didn’t seem to suffer much. – FC

  12. Comment by EpicBiker | 06.12.2013 | 10:57 am

    On my tombstone:
    I wasn’t worried about smart. I was just having fun.

  13. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.12.2013 | 12:39 pm

    Haven’t like a thousand of us told you a million times not to exaggerate? ;-)

    Glad it was that and not a porta potty incident. :-)

  14. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.12.2013 | 12:41 pm

    Yeah! The opportunity for LOTS of installments to tell it properly. We like properly told stories. Gramatikal and everything!

  15. Comment by DNF | 06.12.2013 | 1:02 pm

    It would be nice to see larger images. Presently, we can’t click on the images if we want to see them larger.

    We want to see the suffering,the elation, and the bikes!

    I agree. I’m really happy with my current blog editing software — MarsEdit — except for this one thing: It uploads photos at a single size, instead of letting you click to enlarge. That was the one thing Ecto did that was better than MarsEdit, and I still don’t have a good solution. Does anyone have a good solution? – FC

  16. Comment by mrkp | 06.12.2013 | 1:07 pm

    Is that a Tarmac?

    Yep. Details soon. – FC

  17. Comment by Rod | 06.12.2013 | 1:47 pm

    What was the weather like? Winds and heat again?

    Weather wasn’t a problem on this leg of the race – it was still early, and the wind seemed to most often be a mild crosswind. Might’ve been some tailwind, even. Of course, we covered a lot of time and distance, and the weather definitely changes over the course of the day. – FC

  18. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 06.12.2013 | 2:25 pm

    In the past, these installment race reports rankled, but now I realize we would not get that delicious detail, those confessions of temporary failure of judgement if you squeezed it all into one post.

    Perhaps we would not know about the dorkitude involved in the gel extrusion incident. And certainly there’d be no point in all that foreshadowing or teasing us about the mystery bike.

    Thank you for another highly entertaining post and thank-you for riding so doggonned fast! You make me believe I could ride fast one day too.

    Thank you! Doing writeups serially really does feel like the best way to tell the story. I won’t dedicate two installments to every single leg (that would make for 24 installments), but it was a big ride and feels like a big story. – FC

  19. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.12.2013 | 2:52 pm

    @FC If you wrote it as an eBook (24 chapters) I’d buy two.

    I believe this now completes/exceeds my comment quotient for the day. Back to laundry.

  20. Comment by ClydeinKS | 06.12.2013 | 3:21 pm

    From your comment back to me earlier, as we’ve come to know Kenny not so sure anything could affect his time negatively!
    No doubt on your software for the pics and not enlarging – you’ve gotta check out that homemade race plate my son had, sponsors (if I remember right) were Specialized, honey stinger, Twin Six, and Hotwheels! Just had to throw in one of his own – but really uses the others himself as well. Wasn’t a bad Fatty stallion either :)

  21. Comment by Dave T | 06.12.2013 | 3:29 pm

    Nice write up fatty. It is great to hear what was going on at the other end of the race. It was a bit more subdued on our end more of an exercise in survival, but a heck of a lot of fun. And the scenery is spectacular I’m thinking we need more fatties for next year’s race.

  22. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 06.12.2013 | 3:39 pm

    Never tried the HS gels, but here’s my best suggestion for not getting sticky while handling any I’ve had the misfortune to taste.

    1. Pick up gel packet
    2. Throw it in the trash
    3. Better yet, don’t pick it up at all

    ’s all I got, serves me well though.

  23. Comment by Dan J | 06.13.2013 | 2:29 pm

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! Did you get a new helmet?

  24. Comment by JessDowns | 06.13.2013 | 8:55 pm

    So fast! Can’t wait to read the rest.

  25. Comment by Jacob | 06.14.2013 | 10:22 am

    Ha! I could have beaten you, if we were racing with me on a typical flat course in South Georgia while you continued to climb 5,000 feet. Good ride.

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