A New Hope: Rockwell Relay Race Report 2013, Part 8

06.27.2013 | 10:35 am

A Note from Fatty: I know, this is getting ridiculous. Still, this is part eight of my 2013 Rockwell Relay race report. If you’re not caught up, you should read parts onetwothreefourfivesix, and seven first.

I want to start this installment of my race report by talking a little bit about Team 91 — Lifetime’s Beauty and the Beasts.


For one thing, they were an incredibly strong team, one that never ever let us rest easy and say to ourselves, “Hey, all we have to do now is get to the finish line.” Thanks to them, Team Fatty was energized and focused, enjoying the most dramatic and hard-fought Rockwell Relay, ever.

Next, I want to say what those of you who read the comments have already noticed: they’re an incredibly friendly team. I got a chance to hang out with Tommy for a few minutes before stage 5 and again before stage 11 (I haven’t talked about that yet), and he’s been actively commenting (while being very cool about not spoiling anything) during the telling of this story. In every instance, he’s been a remarkably positive and friendly guy (who can also clean my clock on the bike). I haven’t really had as much of an interaction with the rest of Team 91, but you kind of get a sense from the comments they’ve left that all of them are fierce on the bike, and friendly off it. Which is just how I like it.

And finally, I want to point out that while all three of the men on Team 91 were obviously extremely strong and seasoned riders, the woman (whose name I’m afraid I don’t know), while clearly a fit athlete (a runner, I think), was actually very new to racing the bike. In fact, she had started riding and training only very shortly before the Rockwell Relay. So the fact that she finished — and in fact raced — all three of her stages is a major testament to her.

There’s something about doing a big full-day-plus race like this: you get to know a little bit about the character of the few teams you’re jockeying with. In every case, I found myself liking and respecting the racers in the vans and cars and trucks and RVs around me more and more as the day went by, even as I openly wanted to beat them on the road. 

It’s a pretty cool feeling to have.

OK, now back to the story.

Dark Passing

I can’t help myself: whenever I talk about Heather’s stages of the race, I get this urge to dial her up and apologize. Her first stage was the absolute hottest, windiest, most miserable ride it could possibly have been: a physical and psychological beatdown if there ever was one.

And now it was 3:12 in the morning, the absolutely most difficult hour there can be for someone to get on your bike and race. The hour when when it’s coldest and darkest and loneliest. And your body just wants to go to bed

And yet, Heather happily bundled up (but not heavily; it never got really cold this year), got on her bike, and set off racing the eighth stage of the race, which has an elevation profile that looks like this:


It’s not a super-long stage — 36 miles — but from mile four to fourteen, you’re doing nothing but climbing. 

Luckily for us, Heather is an awesome climber. And while I admire the woman from Team 91’s spirit, during the race I was really glad that Heather has a lot of endurance riding experience, including experience riding in the dead of night, with lights. 

Because Heather was having fun. With her bike working properly and much better weather conditions (no crazy wind, mildly cool temperatures), there was no comparison to her first stage.

It made a big difference.

Before long, Heather ate up the three-minute advantage Team 91 had, and — for the first time since my ill-advised solo breakaway in the first stage of the race — we were the lead coed team.


Kenny and I had a conference (The Hammer, meanwhile, absolutely cooked from her monster effort, half-slept in the back of the van).

“At this rate,” I said, “Heather’s going to finish this stage with a fifteen minute advantage on Team 91.”

“Yeah, but we don’t know if this is going to hold,” Kenny cautioned, but I knew he didn’t mean it. “The question is, will the other racers put enough time into us that they can erase Heather’s advantage?”

“Well, Tommy’s been faster than me by a few minutes in the first two stages,” I said. “He’ll be probably be faster than me in the last.” 

“The guy I’m racing against was a couple minutes faster than me in our first leg,” Kenny said, “but slower in the second. Let’s figure that he and I are a wash.”

“And the guy racing against Lisa put a ton of time (seventeen minutes) on her in their first leg, but hardly any time at all on her (one minute) on their second stage. So let’s figure he’s stronger in the flats. Their last stage is pretty flat, so he’s going to put time on her again.”

“And figure that Heather can beat their woman in the next stage, since Heather has the endurance edge.”

“So,” I figured, “If The Hammer and I can limit our combined losses to be less than Heather’s gain on this leg, we should start the final stage of this race either ahead of or only slightly behind Team 91 when Heather starts her final leg of the race. If we can do that, we’ve got it.” 

We were both seeing, for the first time in hours and hours, a path to a Team Fatty win.

“Hey Heather,” I called out the window, “No pressure, but the whole race is going to come down to you.”

“Doesn’t it always?” Heather replied. 


Bad Clams

With the excitement of this pass — and I think there might have been another one, but I’m not sure because, well, it was 4:00am and at this point I had been up and either riding my bike or crewing for others as they rode their bikes for 23 hours — we settled into our routine. 

Kenny was driving, I was crewing, The Hammer was temporarily incapacitated, lying in the back of the van, groaning softly.

We were playing the now-familiar game of leapfrog support, and most of it is a blur to me. 

But I do remember one handoff in particular.

Kenny had suggested that Heather, at some point, might like a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso. The combination of caffeine and calories in a non-sweet, easy-to-drink little can make it a popular alternative to yet-another energy bar (just so long as you don’t drink too many at once).

I offered her one. She turned it down, saying, “Maybe later.”

In a few minutes, Kenny said, “Offer her one again.”

This time, she accepted it. I popped the top and handed it to her. She took one sip, made a face, and handed it back. “It tastes weird.”

Thinking that her taste buds had just been overloaded on sweet gels, I took a sip.

And promptly spat it out. 

It didn’t taste “weird,” it was full-on curdled. As in, it would hardly pour out of the can.

I’m not sure how, but I really want to somehow pin this on Heather’s misuse of The Secret. I’ll get back to you once I figure out how.


Heather climbed through the night, her pace steady as a metronome. Meanwhile, I started eating again and changing into my riding gear — shorts, a long-sleeve jersey over a short-sleeve jersey, making it easy for me to peel and discard layers after the sun came up. I’d be starting in the dark, but would be riding during sunup and beyond.

And I started getting nervous. This would be my last stage of the race — a very climby one at that — and if I was not fast, I could put our team in a bad position. I could, in fact, guarantee a loss. 

I knew I’d lose some time to Tommy. But I just couldn’t let it be much. I needed this to be the fastest, strongest ride of my life. I needed to race like I was being chased. 

Which, in fact, I would be.

I needed to poop.

Luckily, I knew there was a bathroom in the school across the street from the exchange point, and that the school was kept unlocked for this purpose.

My thoughts increasingly turned to this school as we left Heather and drove to the exchange point.

Once we got there, I yelled to Kenny, “Get my bike out, OK?” and I rushed to the school.

Which…was locked.

I went to the guy at the Exchange point and he said, “They were supposed to unlock it… but they didn’t.”

“Kenny!” I yelled. For some reason, whenever there’s trouble, everyone on our team yelled at Kenny. ”Drive me to the nearest gas station, now!”

Luckily, that was just down the road, and Kenny needed to fill the tank of the van anyway.

I took care of my business as quickly as I could. Which was not quick enough for Kenny, who said, “We gotta hurry. I don’t want to have Heather pull into this exchange without any of us there, like we did in 2011.”

I agreed. 

We got back to the exchange point, I put on my helmet, reflector vest and blinky light (it would still be dark for another half hour or so, and — within moments of my being ready to go — Heather pulled up. 5:29 am, for a total time of 2:16. This was the fastest Heather had ever raced the leg, by eight minutes (she had done this leg in 2:24 in both 2011 and 2012).

I took off, racing at my limit. I didn’t know how much time I had in front of Tommy.

I just knew I was going to do my absolute best to not let him catch me.


  1. Comment by SteveB | 06.27.2013 | 10:49 am

    Ok, that wasn’t as bad of a poop story as I envisioned.
    Heather had an awesome leg, y’all are awesome.

    I’ll go back to hanging on my cliff now.

  2. Comment by Jeff Bike | 06.27.2013 | 10:56 am

    Wow, Pooped in time!
    Heather is a KILLER.

  3. Comment by Tom in Albany | 06.27.2013 | 10:59 am

    If you keep on your pace of one stage per part of this write up, I can’t wait to read part 13 – wherein Team Fatty Collapse in a heap in the back of the rig and sleep in St. George for three straight days…

    Honestly, every time I start writing, it’s with the plan (and outline!) to write about two stages. But by the time I’ve written one stage’s-worth, I feel like that’s enough for one installment — I want to keep the length to what people have time to read. Plus, really, what’s the hurry?

    That said, I currently have a very hard time imagining my next post NOT covering Kenny’s and my last stages. – FC

  4. Comment by Liz M. | 06.27.2013 | 11:16 am

    Thanks, Fatty, I’m enjoying these installments. I just have one question: you all seem pretty tired by this point; I’m sure it is true for all the teams. Do any of the teams use third party non-competitors to crew so they can all rest? Or is that against the rules? Thanks.

    Some do use a dedicated crew (not at all illegal), and having a non-racing driver (or better yet, drivers) is encouraged. But we’re old-skool. – Fc

  5. Comment by DavisJason | 06.27.2013 | 11:33 am

    Awesome write up, I’m loving how there’s so much competition and everyone’s still so friendly and supportive. Sounds like an amazing experience.

  6. Comment by zeeeter | 06.27.2013 | 11:53 am

    I’m using The Secret. I’m actually using it right now. I’m visualizing reading the next installment today, rather than waiting . . . Hmm. Odd. For some reason not working!

  7. Comment by Megan91 | 06.27.2013 | 12:27 pm

    Thanks for all the awesome comments! Tommy just forwarded me this link and reading about the race makes me anxious all over again. You are a great story teller, it’s fun to compare our simultaneous strategizing against each other throughout the race. We had a ton of fun competing against you guys, it definitely made for an extremely intense & exciting experience.

    I only started riding a couple months before Rockwell, so it’s good to know I’m not the only one who had a hell-ish experience on that 4th leg (also my first bike race ever – thanks a lot guys!). I think it was definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, I was convinced the universe did not want me to become a cyclist. Turns out I had severe heat exhaustion which took me almost a week and a half to recover from. Ridiculous. But… I’m hopeful I’ve righted my cycling karma and we can meet up again in the future, not giving up yet! :)

    Thanks for your awesome comment, Megan. And congrats on riding an outrageously difficult set of legs in this race. You did your team proud! -FC

  8. Comment by GenghisKhan | 06.27.2013 | 12:42 pm

    @zeeeter, forget “The Secret“. Everyone who’s in the know knows that the real power is in “The Sekret“.

    Go ahead, try it.

  9. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 06.27.2013 | 12:54 pm

    Excellent writeup as always Fatty…I’m with Zeeter…next/LAST installment TODAY…(also trying to help you figure out how it’s Heathers misuse that caused the curdling).

    For those who were in Davis (and also for those who weren’t or just left early, including Fatty n Lisa as you had to leave early), I video’d when the Family Houston (our own davidh, Wife#1 and their kids) crossed the finish line after they ALL did the century together…(note: their daughter Sage is 13, and their son Rune is 9, and their bikes weighed a TON! And Wife#1 rode a cyclocross bike with knobby tires, and davidh rode his tandem with NO stoker!) Took them around 11 hours by my rough calculations, they left around 5:40am per david).

    Here’s the link, make sure you turn up your audio so you can hear announcer-man:


    (and I humbly beg your forgiveness for the crappy video…it was taken w/ a pocket cam, and I’m cheering and such while filming so it’s kind of all over the place).

  10. Comment by old guy who likes to ride | 06.27.2013 | 1:03 pm

    Great job by all, wondering if megan91 worked the secret wearing FC colors?

  11. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 06.27.2013 | 1:23 pm

    @Zeeter @Tom in Albany Y’all have to admit this is by far the Best multi-partstory Fatty has ever crafted! Even those that know the outcome, are hanging on the cliff,at any moment expecting a deer to bound from the bushes and upset the apple cart. Flats, crashes, wrong turns,it’s all there! I’m confident that next year it will seem like a Team Fatty is EVERYWHERE at Rockwell. 1st, middle,and last (I’m claiming that position for myself).

    @MattC Thank you for the video link, I will send that on to my Father in Florida (2 time cancer fighter) Better than the link Livestrong has put up. My 12y.o daughter is so excited to be moved up a year, and I am already getting a glimpse of the future. (get ready Elden)

    Yes it was a long Day but the Rooster in me is still crowing about the individual efforts each one of my family made for this ride. My hardest part was trying to keep the paceline at 12mph!

  12. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.27.2013 | 1:27 pm

    @mattc – your video was actually better than the Livestrong one I think, though they were super kind to send it to me.

    For the record, Sage is actually 12, not 13, and yes, I think it makes it even more impressive that she finished. :-)

    I sent this to Fatty also, but if any of the Team Fatty folks from the ride want to check it out, here is my own ride report from Davis:


    Such an amazing weekend. You are all truly extraordinary people and I feel very lucky our family has become part of the extended Fatty family.

  13. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.27.2013 | 1:33 pm

    OH and @mattc… it was 3:35 when we crossed the line. I’m lame enough to have it matter. Our in motion time (though not sure you can call 3-4mph in that headwind motion?) was 08:27:53 and elapsed time was 09:53:49.

    The elapsed time for the 100 MoN for Rune and me was like 15 hours, so this was a nice improvement for us in 3 weeks. LOL!

  14. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.27.2013 | 1:48 pm

    You are getting clifhangerier and clifhangerier with every post, Fatty – well played.

  15. Comment by Scott | 06.27.2013 | 2:41 pm

    I think I speak for everyone when I say I am very glad there was no Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich affiliated with your poop story.

    Hear, hear! – FC

  16. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 06.27.2013 | 3:22 pm

    @Wife#1…I’ll be sure to update (ie: correct) my post…so very sorry…that’s what happens when you only have 2 functioning brain cells left…

    What was I talking about??

  17. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.27.2013 | 3:27 pm

    You have TWO?! I am so jealous! You’re 100% ahead of me!

    If people have not seen it yet, Matt’s blog post about Davis is awesome!


  18. Comment by GenghisKhan | 06.27.2013 | 3:38 pm

    Fatty, I think you might be interested in this article:

  19. Comment by Thad | 06.27.2013 | 5:21 pm

    Out of all the competitive teams, the Hammer got 24th on leg 7, and Heather got 19th on leg 8. I think a sponsorship is in order…

  20. Comment by Thad | 06.27.2013 | 5:23 pm

    Check that. 23rd and 17th. Sometimes I don’t count so good.

  21. Comment by Lisette Winner | 06.27.2013 | 5:36 pm

    Hey Fatty, I am absolutely loving this story! I just read part 1-8 in a matter of minutes! You’ve got me on the edge of my seat, that’s for sure! We’ve never met but I believe you’ve met/know my husband, Todd Winner. (I know he’s done some riding with Kenny and Heather, maybe you and The Hammer too?) Anyway, I love this because not only is it a great story so far, but because team91 consists of friends from my Lifetime cycle club. I was getting the updates about the relay, but little did I know they were neck and neck with people I “know of”! Makes it much more interesting, although your story telling keeps it entertaining as it is! Anyway, I just wanted to comment and say hi and that I am looking forward to part 9!

  22. Comment by Sophia | 06.27.2013 | 9:17 pm

    I love these write-ups. It’s all the fun and excitement of the race with none of the suffering. Looking forward to the next one!

  23. Comment by Alison | 06.28.2013 | 2:53 am

    I cheated and looked at the race results. Too much excitement. I also like to look up the endings to movies as my husband and I are watching them. He hates it.

  24. Comment by Jenni | 06.28.2013 | 8:01 am

    I am loving these.

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