The Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part Five: All by Myselllllllfff

06.24.2013 | 7:25 am

A Note from Fatty: This is — incredibly — part five of my 2013 Rockwell Relay race report. In case you haven’t already read them, you might want to read parts one, two, three and four before reading this one.

And now that most of the 100 Miles of Nowhere reports have been posted (a few more have trickled in; I’ll try to get to them this weekend), I’ll be doing Rockwell installments through all this week ’til we’re done. Cool? Cool.

Heather handed me the baton and I stood up and sprinted up to speed, possessed with two notions. One of the notions was sensible; the other was utterly foolish.

  1. I wanted to catch the racer who had left moments before Heather had ridden in. From there, I would decide whether it would make better sense for me to ride with him, or to try to drop him. This was the sensible notion.
  2. I wanted to catch another team. In spite of the fact that — apart from the team that had just left, the nearest team to me was twenty-two minutes ahead. 

But I didn’t want to think about the math. I just needed a carrot.

I Have an Immensely Powerful Mind

I had inherited the miserable heat and brutal headwind Heather had been riding in for the past seven to ten days, give or take a week. And that terrible heat was truly oppressive. And the wind was awful.

…For about fifteen minutes, after which the temperature dropped to a comfortable level, and the wind disappeared entirely.

And that, my friends, is what happens when you use The Secret correctly. “Heather could teach a seminar on how to use The Secret wrong,” I thought to myself as I pedaled along in the newly-ideal cycling conditions.

First Catch

I didn’t have long to wait ’til I caught the racer that had taken off just a minute (or quite possibly less) ahead of me. “Our chances of catching the next group are probably better if we work together,” I thought, as I pulled by, yelling, “Hop on!”

He did, at which point I continued going at my “will probably need to throw up sometime soon” pace. After three or four minutes, I swung left, dropped back, and let him pull, which he did, gamely.

But after about a minute, I’d had enough. “I no longer feel like I’m going to throw up and my tunnel vision seems to have subsided, so I must not be going hard enough,” I thought to myself. And I surged ahead, taking another pull.

After five more minutes or so of riding, I swung left again, ready for him to take another turn. He was nowhere to be seen.

Some alliances are brief.

A Game

Now on my own, I played a new game, one which I think everyone on Team Fatty played on each of our legs: “How Far Can I Go Before the Van Catches Me?”

It’s a silly little game, and it goes like this: When it’s your turn to race, you go really hard and fast while you know the team is loading the bike up from the previous rider and getting moving again. As you ride, you think to yourself, “I bet they’re saying to themselves, ‘Has he really already gone this far?’”

I don’t know if the team ever actually said that to themselves as they chased me down. Somehow, I suspect not. Still, in the mind of an egomaniac, imagined adulation is almost as good of a motivator as actual adulation.

By the way, right now I am imagining you are simultaneously weeping and laughing, your hand over your heart, as you read this.

Another Game

Even as I nurtured the fantasy of being so fast that I would get to within five miles of the next exchange point before my team caught up with me…my team caught up with me.

IMG 6791
Sticking out your tongue makes you ride faster.

Did I need anything to drink? No. The day had cooled nicely. Did I need any food? No, I had enough Honey Stinger Acai & Pomegranate gels (my current favorite flavor) with me that I could take one every twenty minutes (which seems to be the right rate for me when I’m racing) for two hours.

Well then, did I need anything?

“Yes!” I shouted. “Go ahead ’til you come across another racer and then pull over and time my distance to him (I’m not being sexist by saying “him” here; there just weren’t any women ahead of me on the course at that time).”

IMG 6794

“I love you!” shouted The Hammer as they took off. And honestly, I think that encapsulates a big chunk of why our team has such a great time each year. It’s a rare thing, having a team consisting of two happy, in-love couples, all four of which are really good friends, and all four of which love to ride and race.

But that’s our team — and it’s one of the most important reasons I like doing this race so much.

Anyway, they raced ahead and I was alone again. No bikes visible in front of me, no bikes visible behind. It’s amazing how this race spreads out over the course of five stages.

I rode on for about fifteen minutes ’til I saw the van, pulled over on the side of the road.

Whenever we stopped at exchange points, other teams would come ogle Kenny’s sprinter van and the remarkable job he’s done in turning it into the ultimate bikemobile.

“There’s nobody even close to in range of being caught,” The Hammer shouted. “You’re riding this stage alone.”

Well, that figures. I just can’t seem to ever manage to find a group that is willing to ride with me during a race. I’m beginning to take it personally, if you want to know the truth.

I rode on, the knowledge that I wouldn’t catch anyone not making me slow down at all. I just had to shift my thinking to the long game: while I might not catch anyone myself, if I rode my brains out I might set Kenny up to make a catch on his leg. And that sounded pretty good to me.


When I’m racing, I usually see nothing beyond the pavement and the white line painted on it. This leg of the race was a little different, however. The sun was setting, and as I took off my sunglasses I noticed: the sunset was incredible. Just incredible.


And the light of the sunset — already red — reflected off the red rocks of the cliffs on both sides of me, and it was perfect; everything had an extraordinary red cast to it. I even looked down at the white line painted on the road and was astonished to see that it reflected a beautiful salmon color up at me.


I was still riding out of my mind, but not so out of my head that I didn’t have time to notice the beauty around me.

A Delightful Beverage

My team pulled up alongside me. This time The Hammer wasn’t asking whether I needed anything; she was instead telling me what I needed. “We’re going to pull over up ahead soon. When you get to us, you need to stop and unbuckle your helmet. Other than that, just stand there. We’ll put the helmet with the light on you and put the reflector belt with a blinky light attached. It should take less than ten seconds.”

“Wow,” I thought, “I love how my team works.”

But I was having a problem, and I wanted to address it before I put lights on, or a reflector vest. Or anything else.

“My legs are cramping,” I said, “bad.” 

And then I proposed what I hoped would be a solution. “Get me some pickle juice.”

See, The Hammer and I had recently heard that you can cure cramps by drinking a few swallows of pickle juice (the legends are unclear on what kind of pickles the juice should come from). So — expecting that someone during the race would cramp up — we had brought a jar of dill spears with us. Kosher, for extra luck.

Hence, The Hammer did not bat an eye when I made this request, but instead disappeared from the passenger window as the van dropped behind me for a couple minutes. She then reappeared, holding a water bottle. ”Here you go,” she said.

Ordinarily, I’d be loathe to drink pickle juice. But the intensity of my pain pushed qualms aside and I grabbed the bottle from her outstretched hand and squirted the brine into my mouth.

And then I nearly fell off my bike. 

See, I love a good dill pickle. But eating a pickle is a lot different from ingesting about twenty pickles-worth of pickle flavor and saltiness and — in short — pickle essence in three seconds.

My head spun on its axis. My eyes bugged out. I began speaking in tongues.

And when, a moment later, I pulled up alongside the van and my team began the night-light swap routine, I flung the bottle away from me.

“That was gross,” I commented, as The Hammer put a helmet with a light on it on my head.

“But did it help?” she asked, as I lifted my chin and she buckled the chin strap (yes, really).


“Um,” I replied. To be truthful, the virulence of my reaction to drinking this juice had dominated my thoughts. Now I thought about my legs.

They were fine. 

“Whaddayaknow?” I said, as I pedaled away. “We’d better plan of having our crew at The Leadville 100 stock pickle juice.”

Up to Kenny Now

It was a good thing I had gotten my lights on, because once the sun set, it got dark very quickly. Bugs — little gnat-sized bugs — zoomed at my light and struck me in the forehead nearly constantly. I imagined my forehead looking like a bug-spattered windshield. Later, a check in the mirror would show I was not far off.

I pedaled in the dark, the knowledge that I was going as I hard as I could at odds with the strange sense that I was not moving at all. 


Night riding on road bikes is just weird.

The next time the team caught up with me, I told them to go on ahead early so Kenny would have plenty of time to get ready. It was cool enough now that I wouldn’t need to drink more than the two bottles I had, and I had more than enough food to get me to the exchange point.

So they dashed ahead, and I was left to ride in the dark and silence, enjoying the odd-but-wonderful mix of silence, dark, and all-out effort.

I got to the exchange point and handed off the baton to Kenny — this time, much less clumsily than at the end of my first stage.

Here, I’m coasting to a stop after the handoff. Kenny is the other rider with a reflector belt, in the background, just starting up. Heather and The Hammer are at the far left of the shot.

I marveled at the weird sense of how my first turn at racing simultaneously seemed so recent, and yet also forever ago.

“Did I reel Team 91 in at all?” I asked The Hammer and Heather as I loaded my bike in the van.

“No, he put a few more minutes on you,” they said. And in fact, Tommy had put three minutes on me, improving their advantage to 27 minutes. I was disappointed, but not very, and not surprised. That Tommy was a nice guy, and a fast one. He had been faster than me his first stage; he’d probably be faster than me on his last stage too.

Still, I was proud of my effort: 45 miles in 2:28:22, with 3700 feet of climbing – climbing the whole way, really, alone, at an average of 18mph. The elevation profile looks like this:


And now Kenny was racing against a guy who had — on their respective first rides — been at least a little faster than Kenny (we didn’t know it at the time, but he had been two minutes faster than Kenny on that first leg).

Team Fatty’s chances of holding on to our coed division title of the Rockwell Relay looked pretty bleak.

On the other hand, we had only completed five of the twelve stages of the race. We weren’t even halfway done. 


  1. Comment by wharton_crew | 06.24.2013 | 8:17 am

    Pickle juice??? Pickle juice….huh…I gotta run to the store.

    By the way, I’m so used to seeing the Orbea (in Fatty colors) that seeing a silver S-Works is a bit alien to me. How’s the bike working for you? With the size of your stable, you really out to write the definitive comparison guide for the rest of us with only a single ride.


  2. Comment by Heidi | 06.24.2013 | 9:04 am

    I LOVE reading these installments! The sunset photos are spectacular. And pickle juice makes you speak in tongues – who knew?

    Yeah. And here’s what I said: “Hynuhuyuhyuh. Hock. PhreueeeeuwooOW!” – FC

  3. Comment by mtnbound | 06.24.2013 | 9:05 am

    Curse you, Fatty! :) Now I can’t get that song out of my head. I will be singing “All By Myself” the rest of the day and getting weird looks at work (well, that happens anyway so I can’t blame you for that).

    And, yeah, pickle juice? Blech! But now I must try it. BTW, great write up – you have all of your readers begging for more of this race. You have broken your record of longest write up of any event, and you aren’t even half-way thru the race!?!

  4. Comment by leroy | 06.24.2013 | 9:07 am

    Pickle juice?

    Sounds okay, but I wonder if it might be better if you cut the flavor with pureed hot dog, bun, mustard and ketchup.

    Just don’t know if you would serve it hot or cold.

    I picked up a leg cramp starting out on a longish ride this weekend. Treated it mid-ride with donuts, iced coffee and shooting the breeze with another rider. Worked like a charm.

    I highly recommend it if pickle juioe isn’t available.

    (On a serious note, the scenery in the Rockwell Relay is amazing. Enjoying the race reports.)

    Thanks Leroy! I’m interested in your dog’s take on the whole thing. – FC

  5. Comment by roan | 06.24.2013 | 9:25 am

    Ya know Fatty, I like this race better than the Tour de France, the installment plan will make it last just as long too!
    Pickle juice, the new Secret is out of the bag…er…jar.
    I’m surprised that you don’t wear glasses (clear lens). I’m ‘guessing’ that you are faster than me so how do you keep the blow-back (sand/water) off the front wheel from getting in your eyes ? I can only shutter at the thought of a bug (though that has happened even with glasses on). I’m always so glad I’m wearing them when a yellow jacket splats on a lens…I coulda be blinded !

  6. Comment by Tom in Albany | 06.24.2013 | 9:40 am

    Pickle juice spawned gatorade, from what I’ve heard…

  7. Comment by Drew | 06.24.2013 | 9:46 am

    I am thoroughly invested into this story. Holy smokes.

    The most interesting part is still to come. – FC

  8. Comment by Christina | 06.24.2013 | 10:14 am

    RAGBRAI has this guy who sets up a RV and calls himself the Medicine Man. He sells pain killers, sunscreen, bagels and…pickle juice. It truly is amazing on a hot day.

    I feel like the first parts of this story were like the first part of a race, where I’m really excited and I want to go fast and I want to finish, but now that we’re here in the middle I’m in my happy to cruise mode. I also like that the antagonist, Team 91, is not all evil. It makes for a nice story.

    And is it too early to start requesting The Hammer’s clif notes version of the race?

    There are no villains in this story; just competitors. I liked every single person I got to know during this race. And in fact, I’m kinda hoping I can get a chance sometime soon to just go out on a ride with Tommy (“go on a ride” = “ride our lungs out”). He was an incredibly friendly and positive person each time I got a chance to talk with him during the race. – FC

  9. Comment by Brian in VA | 06.24.2013 | 10:40 am

    Ugh, pickle juice.

    I’ve heard this works, too, but I refuse to believe it and, instead, use it as motivation for remaining perfectly hydrated and never going too hard.

    I think it works by distracting you completely.

    Love the story developing here!

  10. Comment by Sara | 06.24.2013 | 11:00 am

    Everyone, stop saying pickle juice! My mouth keeps watering uncontrollably – not because I want to drink pickle juice, but just thinking about it makes my cheeks decide they better get prepared!

    Pickle juice, pickle juice, pickle juice! (Waits for Michael Keaton to appear) – FC

  11. Comment by Stef | 06.24.2013 | 11:15 am

    When I played HS basketball, we used to have pickle-sicles before games. Basically pickle juice frozen in a dixie cup with a popsicle stick in it. Delightful!

  12. Comment by Andy@WDW | 06.24.2013 | 11:53 am

    First, I love, love, love this race report! I barely finished the 100MON, but you have me wanting to form a team for next year’s Rockwell Relay! You say the best part is yet to come? Can’t wait!!

    Second, thank you so much for the amazing flood of 100MON stories over the weekend! I read every one, some twice! There’s such and incredible diversity of riders, routes, and stories. Still hoping for mine to get posted, maybe I should resend it.

    If I haven’t posted it, you should re-send it. I thought I was all caught up. – FC

  13. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 06.24.2013 | 12:18 pm

    The last time I drank straight pickle juice, I was about 10 and it gave me a terrible bout of the runs. Could be I drank a little too much…
    I try to take in the beauty of where I’m riding, even if it is the training loop I’ve done too many times too hard. We are certainly privileged to be able to do this. Keep the installments coming as rapidly as possible! Please.

  14. Comment by tommy91 | 06.24.2013 | 12:19 pm

    That leg was purely epic in a classical sense…I pulled in the 3 minute gap to the Evolo guys to about 30 seconds. Then they added 2 riders and ..they were gone! I forgot I was racing as the sun was burning up the horizon. I wanted to take it in and enjoy the moment. Perfect weather, perfect road and a soul stirring sunset. The best part of the rest of the race was doing everything solo. No wheels to follow just open road and the sounds of the wilderness.

    I’m down to ride anytime.

    Seriously, you forgot you were racing? My legs and lungs never let me forget that for a second. But you’re right; that was an extraordinary stretch of road, and we were really lucky to be riding it when we were. – FC

  15. Comment by MtlDan | 06.24.2013 | 1:38 pm

    Must try pickle juice. I just had to DNF the 100/200 double century after 140 miles due to 70 miles of cramps. Calves, inner thigh, middle thigh, outer thigh, back of thigh, hands, all knotted up.

    Small world department…in a little B&B near the start of the 100/200 in North Troy, VT, met Jeff who hung out with you the night before the Boston Marathon.

  16. Comment by Jeff Bike | 06.24.2013 | 1:48 pm

    We in South Texas deal with a lot of heat while riding in the summer. I get cramps bad on longer rides. A couple of years ago on a ride for Tour De Cure (ADA) they had this sports drink called “Pickle Juice”
    This stuff really works if you can get it down. Yep it’s just like a swig out of the old pickle jar. I keep a few small bottles in the frig all the time now.

  17. Comment by Al Pastor | 06.24.2013 | 1:56 pm

    This is longer the Lord of the Rings trilogy!

  18. Comment by SteveB | 06.24.2013 | 2:27 pm

    12 legs, are we on track for 12 installments?

    Completely off topic – it was great to meet you and the rest of team Fatty. If anyone has a good team picture from Davis I’d love to add it to my ride report.

    I honestly don’t know how many installments there’ll be. I just write until I hit what feels like a good break point, then click the Publish button. I expect there will be at least a total of 8 installments. – FC

  19. Comment by Trevor | 06.24.2013 | 2:33 pm

    This leg was the best of the whole race! That sunset was something else.

    Heather did an amazing job of capturing that sunset, too, using nothing but the phone on her camera. – FC

  20. Comment by Lonster | 06.24.2013 | 3:12 pm

    One of our team members has relatives in Texas. He brought back pickle juice sports drink for all of us at our last century. Not bad at all.

  21. Comment by Dillon | 06.24.2013 | 4:47 pm

    Tomato juice is similarly effective. Definitely harder to drink for me though!

  22. Comment by SteveB | 06.24.2013 | 5:06 pm

    @dillon – plus it scares the hell out of people if you spill it all over yourself.

  23. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.24.2013 | 5:34 pm

    This will be the BEST 2 weeks of posts ever! Switching between Rockwell Racing and MoN we get everything that is the best of this blog. Community.

    Another Incredible weekend in Davis! It was so good to see you there based on what has transpired over the last year.. I hope we can all step back, take a breath, and realize all the good that comes of the Foundation. I hope both the Foundation, the Ride, and our Participation comes back stronger and more committed in the future. Thanks Elden!

    I wanted to send in the Livestrong Davis 100 Mile Report by a 9 year old:
    (per your suggestion I’m working on scale)

    He would have worn a fatty kit if there was one (hint, hint):

    Due to technical difficulties that report will be delayed:

  24. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.24.2013 | 5:40 pm

    Damn! No all I have to do is perfect copy and paste.

    Davis 100 Report by a 9 y.o.:

    Kit selection:

    Technical Difficulties; Please stand by:

  25. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.24.2013 | 5:44 pm

    I just used up my three comment quota>

  26. Comment by Matt made me do it! | 06.24.2013 | 5:52 pm

    <Davis 100 report
    Kit Selection
    Technical Difficulties

  27. Comment by SteveB | 06.24.2013 | 6:15 pm

    Anyone who provides pie deserves at least a temporary lifting of their posting limit.

  28. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » The Gecko and Fatty Symbiosis Begins: 2013 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 9 | 07.1.2013 | 5:52 pm

    [...] so myself (which I do). So you may want to catch up by reading parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight before reading this [...]


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