It’s Monday morning. I’m home. I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I’m sitting in a comfortable chair. I feel like the time is right. I can begin to tell the story of racing Salt to Saint — 423.6 miles — in the solo category.
But first, I would like to enumerate the parts of me that hurt, in no particular order:
- Back of neck
- Upper back
- Lower back
- Achilles tendons
- A very particular area of my buttocks
Apart from that, I feel great.
This story is going to take a while to tell. For one thing, the race was pretty long. For another thing, the list of things I want to include in the story currently has 189 items in it. And that’s just the list. Which, by the way, keeps growing.
Also, today’s post will only barely get to the point where we cross the starting line.
I say this not by way of apology, but simply so that you can set your expectations appropriately.
The Days Before The Race
I have never prepared so little for a race. Really, I was completely ridiculous about it. This 420 mile race was coming up, and I wasn’t doing anything to get ready for it. I wasn’t obsessing over previous race reports, I wasn’t researching segments on Strava, I wasn’t reading the race bible and strategizing. I just didn’t have the time. I was in an incredibly intense few weeks at work.
The Hammer had to do all the prep. Which she did. Magnificently.
In particular, she began baking. She had taken our copy of Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes and had begun making all kinds of on-the-go food. Pizza rolls. Sweet potato pies. Blueberry turnovers. Cinnamon rolls. And more. So much more.
“For a ride like this,” she said, “We don’t want to go to chews and gels until we have to.
The Hammer also arranged our crew for the race, which would be broken down into four waves:
- Jilene and my eldest son, Nigel, would get us to the starting line and then crew for us for the first 50 miles or so.
- The Hammer’s brothers would take over from there and crew for us ’til about 8 or 9pm
- The Hammer’s sons would take over from there and crew for us ’til about 5 or 6am
- Kenny and Heather would take over from there and crew for us ’til the finish line.
The Hammer arranged a complex system of cars and pick up / drop off points and times. The logistics were as impressive as they were confusing and I was glad to not need to be a part of it.
I did offer one suggestion. “We should use my BikeMobile as the crew vehicle,” I said. My beloved army-green Honda Ridgeline, to my way of thinking, was the perfect vehicle for everyone to use as the crew vehicle. We’d put our four-bike Raxter rack in the hitch receiver, bring two road bikes and our Shivs, load up the back seat area and the truck bed with all the food and clothes we owned. What could be better?
Blake, though, wanted to make his truck the crewing vehicle. He had reasons, none of which made any sense to me. As anyone who knows him knows, though, once Blake has made up his mind, argument is futile.
And besides, what did I care? I wasn’t going to be in the truck anyway.
So, Thursday afternoon, around 5pm, I finished my last report for work and turned it in. Now, with fifteen hours ’til the ride began, I could turn my attention to this race.
We packed all — and I mean that pretty darned close to literally — our stuff and got to bed, setting the alarm for 5am the next morning.
The Morning Of
I’d like to take a brief moment to say what a wonderful luxury it is to have a big race start close to home. Instead of sleeping in a hotel the night before the race, to sleep in your own bed. To get up and have breakfast in your own kitchen. To be able to use your own shower, to use your own sink as you shave.
Yes, I like to shower and shave before races when I can. No, I don’t know why. (But it may have to do with this theory that my facial stubble creates a lot of aerodynamic drag.)
We loaded up the truck and by 6:00am were ready to go. Jilene — one of The Hammer’s best friends and a ridiculously strong rider in her own right — arrived at our house right on time. Nigel was up and ready to go.
Everything was going perfect. I love it when things go perfect.
We drove from Alpine to the “This is the Place” monument in Salt Lake City — a perfectly fitting place to start a race from Salt Lake to Saint George. I parked the truck, we unloaded the bikes (we planned to do the first 50 or so miles on road bikes, since we’d be doing a lot of start-and-stop city riding and a big climb and descent up and over Suncrest).
We picked up our race packets and The Hammer and I suited up in our brand-new FatCyclist.com kits.
Once again, the guys at Twin Six have outdone themselves. This is fantastic-looking gear.
Oh, and here’s a picture with Nigel in it too:
Yes, he is about six inches taller than I am.
Anyway, I went to pick up our SPOT trackers; they weren’t ready to go. Not a problem, we had an hour to go until the race started.
With nothing better to do, I would go back to check if the SPOTs were ready every five minutes until they had locked on to the satellite.
Yes, race promoters, you know how there’s always one guy who won’t leave you alone and bugs you about something every five minutes? Well, I’m that guy. Sorry.
Houston, We Have a Problem. Like, a Really Big Problem
We had fifteen minutes ’til our 8am start, and nothing left to do. Jilene, The Hammer, and Nigel climbed back into the truck to warm up a little.
Except the truck wouldn’t start. Instead, it just blinked a message: SECURITY.
Jilene called over to me, “The truck won’t start; I can’t turn the key!” I rolled my eyes, figuring she just needed to put some tension on the steering wheel and then it would work just fine.
No. Jilene was correct. The key would not turn. At all. We just got that blinking message: SECURITY.
As if the truck had decided that this race was not a good idea, and it was going to stop us from going. You know, for our own protection.
Jilene called Blake. “Try jiggling the steering wheel,” Blake said.
“THAT DOESN’T WORK,” Jilene replied.
Blake insisted, and Jilene — knowing how useful it is to argue with Blake — tried jiggling the steering wheel, along with a few other ideas Blake had.
None of that mattered. The truck would not start.
Blake recommended Jilene call Zac (The Hammer’s eldest son), from whom he had bought the truck, and whom also is a mechanic.
“Try jiggling the steering wheel,” Zac recommended.
“Right,” said Jilene.
“We’ve got to line up, the race starts in about three minutes,” I told The Hammer. Then, to Jilene and Nigel, I said, “You’re both smart, competent people. We’re going to trust that you’ll find a way to catch up to us as soon as possible. And now we’ve got to race.”
“Take some extra food!” Jilene yelled, and quickly stuffed our jersey pockets.
The Hammer and I lined up. Almost instantly the race director yelled, “Go!” and we took off, beginning our 423-mile race.
Meanwhile, our crew was behind us, stranded in a parking lot.
“Well, this is a scary start to a long, long day,” I said to The Hammer.
Of course, I couldn’t know that things were about to get much, much worse.