A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is the final (!) part 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
- Part XI: G’night Everybody
I was asleep, on my bike, flying downhill, with my hands on my aero bars, for two seconds. Maybe not even that long. Maybe only one second. Half a second. Long enough, though, for my head to fall down toward the bars, startling me back awake.
I realized what had just happened — that I could have easily crashed in that moment. Or drifted into oncoming traffic. Or veered into the guardrail and flipped over, down the steep mountainside.
I could have died in a number of ways.
A massive rush of adrenaline hit me as I started to understand my near miss, completely solving my drowsiness problem.
We were getting close. Down to the last thirty miles or so, in fact. We now knew the road we were riding on: it was much the same one we had been on earlier this year when we did the Half Ironman on these same bikes — our Shivs.
But we weren’t getting much of an aero advantage from these bikes anymore. Our backs and necks were just too tired, too sore, too stiff for riding in an aero position.
“Let’s switch to the road bikes,” I said.
And we were so glad we did. Having been on our Shivs for most of the past 400 miles (it’d be interesting to know what the exact mileage breakdown is, but we didn’t keep track), I had just about forgotten how much more comfortable and forgiving a regular ol’ road bike is.
The Hammer confirmed what I was thinking, saying, “Oh, this feels so good.”
Discussion on the Home Stretch
Even before the race began, we knew that the Salt to Saint Ends hard — with a longish climb, then a short-but-steep climb, and then with one last long climb.
We climbed slowly. We had no intense efforts left in us.
As we climbed, I started thinking. An idea occurred to me. A really good one. I just needed to present it properly.
“Do you think Russell, Jason, or Jake have passed us?” I asked. Then I followed up with my real question. “Or is there a chance we’re somehow the lead solo riders?”
“I don’t even care,” The Hammer said. That wasn’t a snub, it was just honest exhaustion.
“Still,” I said, “We have to consider there’s a possibility that we are the lead solo riders. What if,” I continued, now getting to my real idea, “you weren’t simply the first woman to finish this race solo this year — as well as the first woman ever — but were the first solo racer overall?”
“No,” The Hammer said. “You should go first. That way you win overall, and I’m still first woman.”
I knew she’d say that, so had my response ready. “You’ve got to do it. Doing this ride solo was your idea; my job has been to be domestique. And the domestique doesn’t finish ahead of the leader.”
“Besides,” I said, “You finishing first makes a better story in the blog.”
Yeah, that’s right. I used the blog card.
“Fine,” she said.
And thus, for the first time ever, I triumphed in an argument with The Hammer.
As we began the last climb — up REd Hills Parkway — I looked at my Garmin 510. It was 11:50am. We had been out for 27:50. Twenty seven hours and fifty minutes.
“I cannot believe how close you came to predicting our finishing time,” I said. “We’re going to finish within half an hour of your prediction, even with everything that’s gone wrong. That’s amazing.”
“I think we’ll finish at 12:15,” The Hammer said.
We were climbing so slowly. Tired out. I was trying to get a sense of whether I felt elation or excitement. Nope. Just tired. Just ready to go to bed and take a nap.”
No, wait. There it was. Pride. I was proud of what we had done. My wife and I had ridden for twenty eight hours. 423 miles. Together (most of the time). How many couples can say that?
My introspection was broken by the Hammer saying, “Oh please oh please oh please give us a left turn.”
I didn’t understand. Sure, we were approaching a traffic signal, but I had just assumed we’d be going straight through and continuing our climb up and over Red Hills Parkway. We weren’t even halfway up it.
But there it was: a course marking, showing us to turn left.
“I don’t get it,” I said.
The Hammer, who knows St. George better than I do, told me, “We’re done climbing. This drops us right into downtown, a couple blocks from the finish line.”
“We’re there,” she said.
And she was right. A quick curvy descent (and if you’re not careful, a very treacherous one: another team’s racer blew the curve, flipped over the barrier and landed twenty feet below, breaking all kinds of bones), put us on Diagonal Street. Kenny and Heather pulled alongside of us, gave us a final cheer, and then shot ahead to meet us at the finish line.
We turned one final time toward a park, and there it was.
I feathered my brakes, slowing so The Hammer would cross first, and then rolled in behind her.
We had done it.
We had beaten The Hammer’s predicted finish time…by just about half a minute.
Zac and Blake were at the finish line, as were — of course — Kenny and Heather.
We were incredibly fortunate to have such patient family and friends take care of us.
We quickly found out that we were, in fact, the first solo finishers, making The Hammer the overall solo winner, and me the first man. Russell Mason would finish just under five hours later. Jake and Jason — the great guys we rode with at the beginning of the race — would not finish the race. I would love to know all three of their stories.
The race organizers interviewed The Hammer and me on-camera for a few minutes. Asked what I considered to be the most challenging aspect of the race, I answered, “Recurring hiccups.”
I am pretty sure they did not expect that answer.
We went to Heather and Kenny’s house, took the most welcome shower in the history of showers, then collapsed and slept on what I had always thought of as an OK bed…until that point. Now I knew that bed is magical.
We got up a couple hours later and went to the awards ceremony, held in the same park we had finished in. Our prizes? A decal we could put on our cars saying we had soloed the Salt to Saint, along with a set of new road tires for our bikes. And — you must believe I am not making this up — a case of Red Bull.
Which, I would like to add, remains unopened.
PS: For those of you who would like to see what a really long ride looks like on Strava, here you go.
PPS: I am actually writing and posting this while on a plane because I feel like I owe it to you to finish this story before disappearing. That said, I will be busy with some top-secret stuff as soon as I land, and won’t be posting tomorrow.
PPPS: I expect that some of you have questions. Ask in the comments and I’ll try to get to them tonight (Thursday) or on the flight home tomorrow (Friday).