A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 11 of my Salt to Saint race report. To read earlier installments, try the below links:
- 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
- Part VIII: End of the Road
- Part IX: A Moment of Awkwardness
- Part X: How to Not Eat
We had been going downhill for an hour, and now we had a thousand or so feet of climbing. People were passing us. Constantly.
“Just remember,” I said, “that none of these people have been riding as long as we have. They have all had six or more hours of rest since the last time they rode. And in an hour or two, they’re done.“
“Plus,” The Hammer replied, “They’re still more or less in the same place as we are, this far into the race. We aren’t doing too bad.”
She was right. The Hammer had predicted that we’d do this race in 28 hours. So far, in spite of everything that had gone wrong, we were right on schedule.
“I am beginning to believe that we are going to finish this thing,” I said.
“But I wish all these people who are passing us knew that we’re riding this thing solo,” The Hammer said.
I did too. So I started thinking about it. And then I came up with an ingenious plan, requiring nothing but a sharpie.
“We could have just written “SOLO” on our calves,” I said. Like this:
No, these are not my legs.
“And then,” I said, “As the night drags on and we’re feeling really bad, we could just add a letter.” Like this:
“And finally, after we’ve been riding all night and we’re just crawling along…like we are right now…we can add one final letter.” Like this:
And then I took a moment to marvel at my ingenuity.
So now you know what kinds of things I think about when I’ve been up and riding for a day and a night. Isn’t the inside of my head an interesting place?
Try, Try Again
A big drop brought us to the Kanab transition, which was important for a few important reasons:
- We were now well into our final hundred miles. “Only” eighty or so miles to go.
- Daylight wasn’t far off. Within the next hour or so it would be light. Which was incredibly exciting for us.
- Kenny and Heather would be taking over crewing duties from Blake and Zac.
In my head, I was really glad to see Kenny and Heather. I really was. As I greeted them, though, the part of me that listens to what I’m saying and how I’m saying it observed, “They just traveled to Kanab, Utah to drive behind you and get you food and otherwise babysit you for the next several hours, and you sound completely disinterested. Like a zombie.”
So I said, again, how glad I was they were here and how much I appreciated them.
And then I think I said it again. At which point The Hammer observed, “You’re happy they’re here. I think they got it.”
I confess. Lucidity was a scarce resource.
Luckily for Kenny, Heather, and The Hammer, I didn’t try to — once again — convince them that despite my appearance and slurred, mumbling voice I was happy to see them. Because I had Other Business to attend to.
By which I mean, I needed to poop.
By the time I came out of the outhouse in the parking lot, everyone was ready to go.
I, however, had not had any luck. “Oh well,” I thought. “Next time.”
Except just as I threw a leg over my bike — I’d be riding the Shiv for the next sixty miles or so — I decided I needed to try again.
“Sorry everyone,” I said, and headed back to the outhouse.
A while later I re-emerged, my perspective on the day and the ride much, much improved.
It’s the little things in life that matter.
Deedle Deedle Dumpling
I found The Hammer sitting in the crew car, in the driver’s seat. Her head resting against the steering wheel. Quite possibly asleep.
I roused her with the question, “Did I, sometime during the past twenty-four hours, accidentally eat a cork?”
(OK, from here on out I’m done with the poop talk. Honest.)
The Hammer got her helmet and gloves on, got on her bike, and we got going on the next leg, with Kenny and Heather following close behind.
“I can’t clip in,” The Hammer said.
“With either foot?”
“No, just my left foot.”
And that, right there, is the curse of the Speedplay road pedal: ridiculously finicky spring-loaded cleats. One little piece of gravel can lodge in and make it impossible to clip in.
The Hammer kept working at it, though and — sometime shortly after we crossed the Arizona state line — she clipped in.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at the next transition area, she had forgotten about the difficulty getting her shoe clipped in, was unable to clip out, and fell over on her side, pinned under her bike.
Ordinarily, I would have been right there, helping her out of the pedal and making sure The Hammer was OK. I’d have been the ultimate solicitous husband.
This time, though, I just stood there, thinking to myself, “Why would she do that? What a stupid joke.”
We ate — one last turkey and swiss sandwich for me, after which I swore I would never eat turkey deli meat, swiss cheese, or bread ever again. Oddly, I held no grudge against the mayonnaise.
And then we were on the road again.
But this time, The Hammer could not clip in. No matter what. Just couldn’t.
So she rode that way — not clipped in on her left foot — for about 14 miles. After which she remembered: she had actually brought a second pair of road shoes.
Like I said, lucidity was a scarce commodity.
The Hammer changed into a spare shoe — just the one, leaving her with a Specialized shoe on the right and a Shimano shoe on her left foot.
“Ebony, and Ivorreeeeeeee,” I sang, briefly breaking into “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” which — twenty four hours into this ride — was still on auto repeat in my brain.
I will never again be able to listen to that song without thinking of this race.
Morning came, and our spirits soared. Partly this was because — even if you haven’t slept, the returning sun somehow rejuvenates you. But mostly it was because we knew that morning meant that we’d be finishing the race soon. And then we could lie down and take a nap before coming back for the awards ceremony.
“Do you have any idea whether the other solo riders passed us sometime during the night?” I asked The Hammer.
“No, there’s no way to tell,” she replied. “We’ve been stopping for around ten minutes every hour for the past eight hours or so, though. I’d be surprised if they haven’t caught and passed us at some point during the night.”
I agreed, and I didn’t care. We were doing this to complete, not compete.
“I’m really proud of you,” I told The Hammer. “You’re going to do this. You’re going to be the first woman to ever finish this course solo. And you’re doing it right on the pace you had predicted. I think we’re going to finish right around noon.”
“Yeah, or maybe a little later,” The Hammer responded. “But we’ll finish in under 29 hours, which is within an hour of my prediction. That’s pretty good.”
We went through the Cedar Point transition, which meant a big eighteen-mile descent.
This late in the race, it almost seemed like cheating, to suddenly be flying, low in the aero bars, just coasting.
I stared at the line.
My heart rate dropped.
I found it incredibly difficult to keep my eyes open.
I kept drifting onto the rumble strips, which would briefly make me jerk to alertness. But it wouldn’t last long, and I’d start fading.
And then, finally, ripping along downhill at thirty miles per hour, it happened.
I fell asleep.