Rockwell Relay Race Report 2013, Part 7: In The Company of Strong Women

06.26.2013 | 10:06 am

A Note from Fatty: This is part seven of my 2013 Rockwell Relay race report. If you’re not caught up, you might want to read parts onetwothreefour, five and six first.

If you were able to eavesdrop on Kenny and me talking sometime, you’d find us adorable. See, he and I agree that our women have — for whatever reason — taken on the most difficult legs of the Rockwell Relay Race: The Hammer with the third leg, Heather with the fourth.

On paper they don’t look like they’re the hardest legs; they have less climbing than legs one and two. But how these legs appear on paper and how they work out in real life is vastly different. 

Here, let me show you what I mean with a handy informational table, wherein I describe nice ride attributes in green, and nasty ride attributes in red:


First ride

Second ride

Third ride

Racer 1

Cool, sunny, possibly windy

Dusk into night, warm to cool, possibly windy

Cool, sunny, calm

Racer 2

Warm, sunny, calm 

Night, warm to cool, calm

Sunny, cool, calm

Racer 3

Hot, windy

Dead of night, cold, windy

Sunny, hot, windy

Racer 4

Sunny, brutally hot, brutally windy

Dead of night, cold, windy

Sunny, brutally hot, windy

Now, for the first — and maybe even the second — time we did this race, I think this mistake is completely understandable. But we’re into our third riding of this race now, and Kenny and I — well, we both felt kinda bad about the fact that our respective partners still each had two hard rides to do, in the harshest conditions of the ride.

But you know, we had urged The Hammer and Heather to trade with us, to take the Racer 1 and Racer 2 positions. But they had refused; they wanted their traditional spots.

[Note: the conditions shown in the table above apply only to teams racing at the speed Team Fatty goes. A much faster or slower team would have a different chart.]

Women can be stubborn.

So anyway, The Hammer had taken off at midnight — exactly at midnight, oddly enough — with a mere two minute gap between her and the rider from Team 91. 

Of course, during his first turn, the rider from Team 91 had put seventeen minutes on Team Fatty. So our hope was that The Hammer would just limit her losses as best as she could.

But The Hammer did not know this, and was too busy to care. She had things to do, like putting on a clinic on how to climb blindingly fast, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, with a huge smile on her face.

Really, I wish I had a photo of it. Or of anything from this part of the race. Unfortunately, I am not a good photographer under any circumstance, and when I photograph someone — who is shining three bright lights at the camera and is wearing a reflective vest over her otherwise entirely black outfit — in the middle of the night, well, I’m just not going to even try.

The New Normal

The seventh leg of the Rockwell Relay starts with a big descent — which The Hammer completed before we caught up to her — and then has two big climbs before it rolls with a big working downhill to the next exchange point. Like this:


According to The Hammer’s Strava of this section, this is 56.7 miles of riding, with 3752 feet of climbing. Which means that, by the time she finished this stage, she’d have ridden 113 miles and climbed more than 6000 feet.

And she flew for the whole thing, saying afterward, “I felt like someone was pushing me the whole ride.”

In short, The Hammer had a fantastic ride, which made crewing for her a real pleasure. We kept up our leapfrogging pattern — pull alongside the rider and give her whatever she needed, drive to the next place we could find to pull over, then climb out of the van and cheer her on.

But doing this during the night was a little bit different than during the day.

For one thing, we were all getting pretty tired. So Kenny, who was driving, would cheer her on from the driver’s seat. Heather was getting some rest (and later getting dressed and prepared for her next ride) in the back of the van. So whenever I saw The Hammer’s lights appear, I’d jump out of the van and would start ringing the cowbell, always totally conscious of how odd it was to be out in the exact middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, ringing a cowbell.

Sometimes I’d look up while I waited, amazed at the stars on this cloudless night, away from all the lights. Just another reason to love this race.

The Hammer would then come by, usually giving me a “Woohoo!” as she went by. And sometimes a high-five. 

And then it was back into the car for me, to rotate through the process again.

The Secret of My Success

Between the brief moments where we’d be cheering The Hammer on, everyone had their things to do: Kenny was driving, Heather was resting and getting ready to do her next ride, and I was…eating.

I wasn’t eating because it was the nutritionally smart thing to do, or because I’d be riding again before too long, or for any other reason that I was hungry. Without fail, a couple hours after I finish a big ride, my appetite wakes up. And it does not go back to sleep easily. 

So, I was wolfing down slice after slice of pizza, along with probably half of a Subway sandwich. Just eating the food I like to eat. Drinking when I felt like I wanted a drink

I think this, along with the way that every fifteen minutes or so I was getting out of the van and thus keeping from ever really stiffening up, was a big part of why I never felt stiff or nauseous or otherwise discombobulated during the race. I stayed awake, stayed fueled, and stayed in motion. 

There’d be time for sleeping later.

The Catches

As we played our game of leapfrog with The Hammer, we were starting to see another rider. Was she gaining on him? At first it was hard to tell. And then it was clear: yes. The Hammer was closing the gap. 

Should we let her know? 

I decided against it, based on years of experience of riding with The Hammer. She rides at her pace, and is motivated by her motivation. When we’re going hard in our daily training, I used to give her pep talks and urge her on; I’ve since learned better. She likes me to be her riding partner, not her coach.

She’d see the guy when she saw him. She’d catch the guy when she caught him. 

Which she did. And as she passed, the racer on the other team stood up and did his best to grab her wheel. A futile effort. 

The next time we pulled alongside The Hammer, I said, “Roadkill count: one” — a reference to what racers in RAGNAR call people they pass.

And then, about ten minutes later, she passed another. Roadkill count: two.

Were either of these racers from Team 91? I’m afraid not. But one of them — I’m not sure which — was Mike from team Betsy Was Right, who has written a fantastic writeup of the race from his own perspective. I hope he doesn’t mind me excerpting his account of when The Hammer passed, because it’s really good stuff (and in fact, his whole account is really good. Be sure to read the whole thing: part 1, part 2 and part 3, and encourage him to finish his story): 

It was somewhere in this section that I could see headlights on the ground in front of me, which meant either my RV was coming up or someone was catching me. I was furious with myself. As the lights got closer, I could tell it wasn’t my RV. In the back of my mind I knew it was Lisa from Team Fatty, you know, The Hammer from the FatCyclist. I had headphones in so when she passed me I didn’t hear her encouraging words. I did pull them out because I hoped we could ride together a little but she had other plans at 2:30 a.m., like kicking my butt up the hill. Seriously. She rode away from me like I was the chupacabra looking for a midnight snack. I just remembered back to my dating life in college and her riding away seemed about right.

Where We Stand

When The Hammer had ten miles to go, we shot ahead to the Exchange point, to get Heather’s bike lights on and get Heather ready for her late night ride.

And then we waited to. But not for long. Team 91 — the Coed team we had been chasing — came flying in, sending their fourth rider — the woman on their team — out.

I started my stopwatch. In their first ride, the rider from Team 91 had put 17 minutes — a big gap — on The Hammer. How much time would he put on her this time?

I didn’t have much time to dwell on this thought, though. The Hammer came in three minutes later.

Team 91 had put one minute on us. Just one. 

The Hammer had just done this 56.7 mile ride, with 3752 feet of climbing, in 3:13. That is an average speed of 17.6 miles per hour.

QOM, baby. Q. O. M. By nearly an hour.

Sorry about the boasting, but it’s a husband’s right.

The Tide Turns

The Hammer’s effort had given Heather an extraordinary carrot. Two-thirds of the way through a 500+ mile race between two fast coed teams, the difference between them was three minutes. That is about as evenly-matched as you can get, and it made for an incredibly exciting race for us.

Heather took off, and we set about getting The Hammer’s bike loaded, after removing the light setup — after all, the next time she’d be riding it would be in the middle of the morning and in the upper-80’s.

And I had a breakfast burrito, which the guys at the exchange point were making for everyone and anyone who wanted one.

Okay, I had two. Yeah, I was still hungry.

Then we took off to catch up with Heather, hoping that her bike was working better than last time (Kenny had spent some time working on it after Heather’s disastrous first stage).

And it’s good we left when we did, because if we had dilly-dallied at the exchange point for another two minutes, we would have missed the moment Heather passed Team 91. 

Which is where we’ll pick the story up tomorrow.


  1. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 06.26.2013 | 10:22 am

    Bravo! Bravo! Still edge of the seat time for all of us. Thanks, I think, for the links to more stories. I’m not sure if I need these additional distractions for my comments, or if you are just trying to push me off on someone else.

    And with all that food intake, are we going to get another output story as well?

  2. Comment by Tom in Albany | 06.26.2013 | 10:25 am

    All right!!!! I officially protest to the extended nature of this race report! I’ve got small children at home and it takes me weeks to read a 300 page book with the single hour I get to myself in the evenings. Fatty, I insist you finish the write up in only two more reports!!!! Unless you feel that, maybe, I’ve overstepped my bounds as a reader, that is. However, I’m headed camping on Sunday and won’t have internet access until July 7th. I’d really like the Fatty-approved version of the ending rather than looking it up elsewhere.

    By the way, if you plan to keep the story just as riveting, I appove 7 more parts!

  3. Comment by Wharton_Crew | 06.26.2013 | 11:06 am

    “the moment Heather passed Team 91″

    I just about cheered at my desk! Seriously, I’m going to get fired because my mornings are spent refreshing your website in anticipation.

    I can sooooooo relate to Mike from Team Betsy, because I’ll be riding what I consider a fast pace (and passing people, to prove my studliness), and then I’ll get dusted LIKE I’M STANDING STILL by someone who inevitably looks much better in lycra than I do. It’s the most frustrating part of riding – knowing that I’m not even close to being the fastest on the road.

    Can I get an AMEN!!

  4. Comment by Christina | 06.26.2013 | 11:12 am

    I did a 95-mile ride on Saturday and coming back up out of the town we had ridden to my chain started acting funny. First thought? Heather’s leg of Rockwell. I got off, fixed it, and got on my way, thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t racing nor was I replacing a flat.

    I’m so glad she’s the one that passes Team 91! It’s like the underdog is taking the lead. She is only the underdog because of bike issues. Your entire team is like a stable of thoroughbreds. Um, slim and trim ones.

  5. Comment by tommy91 | 06.26.2013 | 11:26 am

    “I used to give her pep talks and urge her on; I’ve since learned better. She likes me to be her riding partner, not her coach.” TRUTH

    Every time she came us she would be whooping it up like a possessed banshee cheerleader. It was so freaking cool.

    In my opinion, her ride was on this leg was hands down the single best performance of the event across all racers. Unfathomable that Phil James only put 6.5 minutes on her. Honestly, I expected 20 or more. The Hammer is super legit and really fun to watch work. It’s down right inspiring. Riding bikes is supposed to be fun and often racing gets to serious for my taste. Watching her “hammer” by with that kind of unbridled joy and raw enthusiasm is so refreshing. I couldn’t wait to get back out and feel like that.

    Favorite comment of the month. Tommy (and all of Team 91) is a total class act. Plus he kicked my butt in every single leg of the race (which is a little bit of a spoiler, but not one that affects the story line). – FC

  6. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 06.26.2013 | 11:58 am

    @Tommy: I love you! Enough said.

  7. Comment by barton | 06.26.2013 | 11:58 am

    Great write up (as expected). A killer ride by a killer rider! Way to hammer it, Hammer!

  8. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 06.26.2013 | 12:08 pm

    @ Fatty: But I love you MUCH more!

  9. Comment by SteveB | 06.26.2013 | 12:27 pm

    After seeing Lisa in action in Davis, this doesn’t surprise me one bit.

    @Wharton_Crew – Amen.

    @Davidh – re: output, I sincerely hope not.

    @Fatty – you’re on a roll, keep ‘em coming.

  10. Comment by rich | 06.26.2013 | 12:40 pm

    keep it coming!!! Loving this race report….what an incredible team you guys have got…

  11. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 06.26.2013 | 12:45 pm

    Really nice write-ups, Fatty, though not particularly conducive to getting my day job done while I keep checking for the next installment.

    @tommy91, what a wonderful comment to contribute to this string. It is really refreshing to read this series and all the great comments; it puts s mile on my face long after the reading is complete.

    There is a really strong sense that something special is going on here, more than just really good friends out doing what they love to do and doing it really well – the shared support and mutual admiration between teams adds a really special touch to this series.

    Thanks, Fatty, for letting the rest of us participate vicraiously.

  12. Comment by Jorden | 06.26.2013 | 12:53 pm

    Wow!!! I knew the pass was coming! I am not kidding….your write up of this race has been so awesome to read. I can’t stop reading!

  13. Comment by Brian in VA | 06.26.2013 | 1:48 pm

    I really enjoy reading this blog, looking at it everyday in anticipation of something new and wonderful. It is Team Fatty’s approach to racing that I love and make me want to try it, at some point.

    Congrats Hammer, on an amazing ride!

    @Wharton_Crew Amen!

    Until I can stop some of that, though, I’ll just ride for the sheer joy.


  14. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 06.26.2013 | 1:56 pm

    Lucky that I’m self-employed, but doing the refresh thing like everyone else is keeping me from riding my own bike! Stating the obvious here; you have a real talent for story telling, and racing your bike to create the story. Awesome.

  15. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 06.26.2013 | 2:01 pm

    P.S. My wife is a strong rider, but doesn’t have that gunslinger-with-joy demeanor of The Hammer. Fantastic ride!

  16. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.26.2013 | 2:36 pm

    More, more, keep ‘em coming! Still laughing at Lisa’s “I love you / I love you MORE” comments. Hahahaha!

  17. Comment by Felipe P. | 06.26.2013 | 3:01 pm

    Fabulous, Fatty, Hammer & team! Fatty, you’re KILLING US with these cliffhangers… On the one hand I want to reach through my computer screen and grab you by the collar to DEMAND that you give us the rest of the story all at once. On the other, I want the story to just keep going and going and going.

    Excellent stuff! Oh, and you’re also tempting me to try to get a team together for the Rockwell Relay. This race sounds like one incredible adventure.

  18. Comment by alan | 06.26.2013 | 3:14 pm

    dont leave me hanging…………

  19. Comment by Connie | 06.26.2013 | 3:32 pm

    Argh! Dying here!

  20. Comment by Trevor | 06.26.2013 | 3:51 pm

    Oh the suspense is killing me! So many reports, so many cliff hangers! Really though I enjoy having these recaps to look forward to.

  21. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 06.26.2013 | 4:21 pm

    Best “episode” of this race report yet.

  22. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 06.26.2013 | 5:51 pm

    Comment allocation #2

    Great save Lisa/Hammer!

    C’mon SteveB it’s totally time for an output story. It can’t just happen ‘pre-race’, can it?


    Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
    Keep on pushin’ now
    Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
    Hallelujah now
    Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

    There, that should do it.

    In fact, “output” does happen to be part of tomorrow’s installment. Sorry. – FC

  23. Comment by DavisJason | 06.26.2013 | 8:35 pm

    Awesome write up. I love the race reports and find myself entertaining thoughts of competing with someone other than just my previous self.

  24. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 06.26.2013 | 8:40 pm

    Comment allocation #3 (pacing myself)

    Curse you Strava!

  25. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.26.2013 | 9:55 pm

    Fatty, I swear I offered to re-size the image for him.

  26. Comment by Jeff Bike | 06.27.2013 | 8:46 am

    These race reports give me motivation to ride just a little harder.
    Curse you! I rode harder yesterday and had cramps come on at 1:47 am this morning.
    “I’m on my second cup of coffee and still can’t face the day.”

  27. Comment by Heidi | 06.27.2013 | 9:38 am

    @Jeff Bike – drink yer pickle juice!

  28. Comment by Phil James | 06.27.2013 | 4:36 pm

    haha – loving it. This was en epic part of the ride – Lisa was amazing. We were both eyeballing each other on Strava. Im very impressed with her.

    Team 91 :)

  29. Comment by my latest blog post | 08.1.2013 | 5:51 pm

    I want to to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I’ve got you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…


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