A Note from Fatty: Confused by this post? That may be because this is Part 8 of my Salt to Saint writeup. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:
- Part I: The Things that Hurt
- Part II: Meet Your Competitors
- Part III: Team Fatty Cannot Seem to Catch a Break
- Part IV: Support from a Unicorn
- Part V: Life as a Domestique
- Part VI: Everything Falls Apart
- Part VII: Changing and Chasing
I probably owe you an apology. See, in yesterday’s post, I ended with this:
I was a third of the way into a 423-mile ride and had somehow managed to find myself alone, in a headwind, prone to flats, with no tubes, and no food.
And I just didn’t have it in me to chase anymore.
In fact, I didn’t feel like pedaling at all.
That’s pretty dramatic. It sounds, in fact, as if I were in really serious trouble. Like I was contemplating throwing in the towel. And at the moment, I really, truly, and for reals felt that way.
With that kind of build-up, you’d kind of expect that I was in for hours of lonely, bonked riding.
Hopefully, then, it won’t be too severe a letdown when I reveal that fifteen minutes after I fixed the flat and got riding, I saw Scott and Kerry, parked in a pull-out area on the side of the road.
And there, with them, was The Hammer.
“I was sick of riding in the wind alone,” she said. “And I was hungry. So I waited for you.”
“And,” she said, “I needed to pee.”
“I missed you too,” I replied. “And I am done with the whole ‘Go on ahead’ thing.”
We got back on our Shivs for this relatively flat section and began riding, together, again.
A New Food Plan
“I can’t eat the pizza rolls and cinnamon rolls and turnovers and stuff like that anymore,” I confessed over my shoulder. I felt bad saying it, because I knew The Hammer had put a ton of work into baking all of this as our main food source for the race.
“I can’t either,” said The Hammer. “A little while ago I spat one out.”
It was a beautiful moment of bonding.
But it was also a dilemma. I decided that I personally was just going to stick to my favorite go-to energy food in the world: Honey Stinger Organic Chews (The Caffeinated Cherry Cola flavor is currently my favorite).
“Every half hour,” she said, “We eat something. Together. At the same time. No matter what.”
And that was a moment of bonding, too. Although perhaps not as beautiful.
Honestly, at this very moment, I cannot remember what The Hammer was eating every half hour (and I can’t go ask her, because she’s still in bed). But I do remember that we made a pact that from that point on, we would eat together, every half hour.
And so — without fail — every half hour, when my Garmin 510 beeped (I always have it set to alert me every half hour to eat), I’d call out, “time to eat!” and we’d stuff something into our mouths, while making sure the other person did, too.
When neither of you want to do something, mutual accountability works great.
Until later, when it didn’t.
Bring on the Night
It was good to be riding together again, especially because we were on what I recall as the absolute worst section of the race: Ephraim to Manti.
No, it wasn’t that the road was bad: it was chipseal of varying quality, just like most of the rest of the race. And no, it wasn’t the headwind, though that was pretty punishing.
It was the traffic.
We hit that section of the race pretty much at the end of the workday on a Friday, and there was a truck pulling a motorhome or boat or trailer full of ATVs going by us pretty much every three seconds. All of them heading toward whatever they were doing for the weekend, and about half of them feeling like it was their responsibility to honk their annoyance at our existence.
Add to that one of the harshest, most unforgiving rumblestrips I’ve ever ridden on, and it was a miserable hour of riding.
But we got through. And once we were through Manti, the traffic — and our nerves — settled down.
We ticked off the hours and the miles, watching our shadows get longer, and the sun work its way down.
At 6:45 — the race rules specified we needed to have lights and reflective vests from 7pm to 7am — we pulled over to set up lights. We were using identical NiteRider light setups: the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race. These are my favorite lights ever. They mount onto your helmet easily, are light enough to wear all night without weighing your head down (very important!), and — even on the low setting — give off an incredibly bright and even wash of light. And on the low setting (which is what we used for the whole night), a battery charge gives you a full six hours of light…a fact we would be confirming that night.
For taillights, we were using the NiteRider Stinger taillights. Besides being super bright, they’re possibly the easiest taillights in the world to mount. You just stretch the band around the seat post and attach it to the peg on the other side.
And yes, that band stretches far enough to go around the Shiv’s aero seatpost.
Then we put Amphipod reflective vests over our jerseys, and we were ready to go.
Racers were required to stop at the Richfield transition station, partly to make sure our SPOTs were working, partly to make sure everyone had working lights, and partly to see if the racers themselves were OK.
The Richfield transition station was also important for another reason: it meant we had gone 200 miles. And it wasn’t even (completely) dark yet.
Oh, and we had one more reason: to find out where we stood. As casually as I could, I asked the race official, “So, um, how many other solo riders have come through?”
“You’re the first.”
“We’re the first?”
Well, that was cause for celebration. And a few extra minutes of rest.
“Could I get another Coke?” I asked Kerry, as we unapologetically loitered at the transition station for a few minutes.
“Uh, sorry. You’re out.”
“We’re out? Of Coke? Already?” I asked.
“You’ve kinda been drinking a lot of it,” Kerry said. And it was true. I hadn’t been keeping track; it just seemed like there was so much when we had loaded the truck that morning. I had sort of been drinking it as if there were no way we’d ever run out.
“So we still have lots of Red Bull, right?”
“Oh yeah, you’re fine for Red Bull.”
And with that, I commenced to set a new world record (unofficial) for most Red Bull consumed in a 28-hour period.
End of the Road. Trail. Whatever.
Night was coming on for real as we left Richfield, and by the time we got to the next transition — Sevier — it was completely dark. And with the dark came the sensation that we weren’t going anywhere. Sure, we were pedaling, and sure we could see the road going by, but we could no longer see big landmarks coming and going.
We weren’t riding to anywhere, anymore. We were just riding through the dark.
It was a nice night — we pulled on arm warmers, but didn’t need any other extra clothing for hours. We said goodbye to Scott and Kerry, who’d be trading the truck over to Blake and Zac for the next shift of crewing for us.
We, meanwhile, would be on our own for a little bit, since we were being directed on to a bike path. “Tell Zac and Blake to look for us once we get back on the road!” The Hammer called, and we set off.
Now, riding a time trial bike on a bike path, at night, is a weird experience. Unlike roads — which are generally designed to be as straight as possible — it seems to be a desirable feature of bike paths to have them wind and curve and undulate.
We tried riding for a mile or so in our aero bars, then gave up and sat up, riding side-by-side, very confident that no cyclists would be coming at us from the other direction.
To our right, we could see the highway. We wondered when we would be directed back on. We hoped that Blake and Zac wouldn’t be too far ahead of us — or too far behind. Either way could make it tricky for them to locate us again.
We kept riding for another couple miles, talking about how freaky of a section this was, and how slow riding a bike path was.
And then the bike path ended. Just stopped.
The Hammer and I looked at each other.
“So,” I said. “Where now?”
Which is where we’ll pick up on Monday.
PS: Yes, I said “Monday,” because The Hammer and I are headed out to Santa Rosa for Levi’s GranFondo tomorrow morning; I’ll be unlikely to be have time to write tomorrow and Friday.