A Note from Fatty: I’ll be doing a spreecast tomorrow. More details in tomorrow’s post, but allow me to recommend you clear your calendar tomorrow at 7pm ET / 4pm PT.
Until last weekend, the greatest distance I had ever ridden my bike at a stretch was in the Seattle to Portland ride, which is right around 200 miles, is at sea level, and has virtually no climbing.
The Hammer’s previous longest ride was a popular regional race called “Logan to Jackson,” better known as “LoToJa.” It’s 206 miles.
Neither of us had ever ridden the Salt to Saint route, and neither of us had experience with the kind of distance we were trying out: 423 miles.
We didn’t know how we’d do with this kind of distance as far as food. Or hydration. Or exhaustion. Or clothing.
On top of this, I had had so little time to prepare for this race.
And so far, things were going so badly. We didn’t have a crew. We seemed to be prone to missing turns. We’d had one slight-yet-ominous mechanical.
So I thought I’d try using The Secret in conjunction with other superstitions to make things better.
“These kinds of things happen in threes,” I said. “And three bad things have happened. So now everything’s going to go smoothly.”
I did not, however, say this out loud, because it’s patently ridiculous.
Jake and Jason, Part II
As The Hammer and I reached the end of Wasatch Boulevard, we caught back up with Jake and Jason, two of the three solo racers who weren’t The Hammer and me (that was clear, right?). We struck up an easy conversation about how none of us had any idea of what we were in for, and that a nice easy pace was the order of the day. And hey, maybe we’d ride a bunch of it together, cuz here we were, riding at the same nice pace as each other, right?
Then we hit the end of Wasatch Boulevard. Which is worth mentioning for two reasons. First, the awesome thing about riding south on Wasatch Boulevard is how it ends: with a rocket-fast and arrow-straight descent. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I got my highest speed of the day coming down it. But Jake — who looked like a very fit six-foot-and-a-lot-of-change — flew right by me. Then Jason did too.
We regrouped at the bottom of the hill and started riding together again.
Which is when The Hammer’s bike started ticking.
“My bike just started making a ticking sound,” The Hammer said. I could hear it.
“Stop pedaling for a second,” I said, wanting to see if the rhythmic clicking came from the drivetrain or the wheels.
She stopped pedaling. The clicking continued.
“It’s a wheel,” I said. “Maybe it’s something in your spokes or….” I trailed off, not wanting to even mention the possibility of a broken spoke.
“No, I see it now,” The Hammer said. “There’s something stuck in my front tire.”
We slowed and stopped, waving Jake and Jason on. It seemed that there was some astral force that was absolutely positively against us riding with these really nice solo riders, and was going to do whatever it had to in order to keep us away from them.
I looked down and could immediately see what was sticking in the tire.
A goathead. Perfect.
“Maybe it didn’t go into the tube,” I said, hopefully, and pulled it out.
The rush of air out of the tire let me know that I was wrong.
The Hammer began apologizing. In a very formal voice, I accepted her apology (“I accept your apology; let us never again speak of this harm you did to me”), because I find that accepting peoples’ apologies when they don’t actually have anything to apologize for is strangely satisfying.
The nice thing about pulling out a goathead was, at least I knew exactly the cause of the flat, which meant I didn’t have to play detective, inspecting every square millimeter of the tire for the source of the flat.
I just took off the wheel, zipped the bead off the rim, pulled out the tube, put a new tube in — I was very glad I had taken the effort the night before to ensure that our saddle bags each had a tube and two CO2 cartridges — and inflate it.
But something went wrong with the first CO2 cartridge. The tire didn’t inflate. “Oh well, good thing I brought extras,” I said, then screwed in another cartridge and tried again.
This time I was watching more closely and saw: the CO2 cartridge worked fine. The new tube was at fault.
The tube was defective.
“This is not good, I said, because I had only one more tube with me: a road tube with an 80mm stem, for my deep-rimmed ENVE wheels. I wasn’t excited about using it on The Hammer’s wheel, cuz I didn’t have a huge number of these long-stemmed tubes.
I mean, I wouldn’t have many of them if our crewing vehicle were with us. As things stood, this was the only tube I had left to use.
So in it went. As I worked, I did the best I could to ignore the riders and crews zooming by as we dropped down to either last place, or something like it.
“You know,” I thought to myself as I finished up, “An 80mm stem poking out of a traditional box-type rim looks downright comical — as if a stem looked around and decided it wanted to grow up to be a spoke someday.”
The Crowd Goes Wild
Finally, we were at the base of Suncrest — the four-mile, 1300-foot climb that is, indisputably, the toughest pitch of the race.
Except the other side of it is about two miles from our house, so we’d been up this climb scores of times. In fact, since we went up it nice and gentle — honoring our promise to each other to never go into the red zone on this ride — this was the easiest climb up North Suncrest I’d ever had.
And so it felt very strange — although also really generous and nice — to have crews and family from other teams cheering for us and giving us encouragement.
“I don’t feel like I’m earning these cheers,” I told The Hammer. “Should I stand up and race hard up this hill?”
The Hammer just shook her head. That poor woman puts up with a lot.
The Person I Blame For This
As we rode up Suncrest, a guy pulled up alongside us on his motorcycle and matched speed with us. It took a moment for me to place him, because I’d only seen him on bicycles before.
As in, “Troy, The Hammer’s friend who planted the idea of us doing this solo in The Hammer’s head.”
I knew that, twenty-four (or quite possibly fewer) hours from then, I’d resent Troy pretty strongly. But for now, it was great to see him and — since he had himself done the race solo in 2012 — pick his brain.
His strongest piece of advice: “Make sure you get plenty of warm clothes on for the big night descent.”
“I hope we have a crew by then,” I joked. At which point he volunteered his wife to be our temporary crew.
“Nah, our crew’s bound to catch up to us soon,” we said, hoping that our crew would catch up to us soon.
We reached the top of Suncrest. Now all we had to do was bomb down the 1200-foot, four-mile descent, ride a couple of easy miles to the aid station, and swap out to our Specialized Shivs, which we’d be riding for the next 70-ish flat miles, all the way into Nephi.
Except, of course, we had no idea whether our crew would be there.
And also, we had no idea that, three minutes into the descent, The Hammer would find out that her streak of bad luck was not over.
And this time, the bad luck was going to hurt.