A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 10 of my Salt to Saint writeup, for crying out loud. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:
I want to tell an accurate, honest story here. I want to describe what it’s really like to ride your road bike for 423 miles, nonstop, with your wife. Paradoxically (I think), though, part of being honest and accurate with my storytelling means that I have to confess that there is no way I can be accurate about a big chunk of the nighttime hours of the race. They blend together, muddled up in my mind. I’ve lost track of what cities we went through, or in what order, or where the climbs and descents happened.
My clearest recollection is staring at the white line, aware that The Hammer is close enough behind that I can see the wash of her light directly ahead of me.
I remember being grateful for that fact, because my neck was too sore, too stiff, to turn around and check whether we were still together.
I remember losing all interest in speed, distance, and time. Those were all numbers that I figured would be relevant again when it got light.
I remember that we were almost always going uphill. Just barely uphill, but uphill.
I remember thinking about RAAM — the Race Across America. I thought about how the idea of it, once intriguing, was now completely abhorrent to me. Not because I thought I couldn’t do it. Just the opposite: I got a pretty good sense that maybe I have exactly the right gifts for this kind of race, both mental and physical. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t, in fact, picture how anyone would want to ride the RAAM. A week-plus of this? No thanks.
Also, I spent several minutes considering what a stupid acronym “RAAM” is.
But more than anything else, I remember how I learned to hate food.
When we were planning for this race, The Hammer and I had agreed: we’d never stop except to pee or change clothing. We’d do all our eating, all our drinking, while riding our bikes.
And to our credit, we had stuck with that plan for a big chunk of the race. At least half of it, I’d say.
But as we crossed the line into Saturday, The Hammer suggested that it was too hard to eat every half hour now; we should try to eat every hour, instead. And also, we should stop while we ate, just for a few minutes.
That was fine with me. That was an easy decision, in fact.
It was, however, much harder to decide what to eat.
What to Eat?
I love Honey Stinger energy chews. Love them. I could eat three packets of them, right this second. But I had been eating nothing but them for the past seven hours or so — meaning I had eaten around fourteen packets.
I was ready for a change.
The problem was, nothing sounded good. Nothing at all. It wasn’t so much that everything sounded bad, either. It was just that my mind was so scrambled that I couldn’t do what I normally do when it’s time to eat. And what do I normally do when it’s time to eat? Why, I make a call to the special place in my brain where I can ask myself, “What sounds good to eat right now?” and expect an immediate list to come to mind, cross-tabbed by closeness-to-hand, ease of preparation, and best taste. A matrix of deliciousness, if you will.
Now, however, just when I needed it most, instead of a list of things I’d like to eat I was getting a 404 – Not Found message.
“How about a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich on a dinner roll?” Blake asked, digging through the ice chest.
Was he kidding? Was that really an option? I had no idea.
“That would be fine,” I said. “With plenty of extra mayo, please, because I’m pretty sure that I am currently not making any saliva at all.”
(This may have been due to the fact that I had secretly stopped drinking anything while riding about four hours ago, about the time it had gotten dark. Nobody could see my bottles, though, and I wasn’t volunteering the information, because I knew I’d be scolded. Besides, every hour or so I was drinking a Red Bull, and that was enough liquid when it was cold and I wasn’t sweating [much], right? Right?)
The Hammer wanted one, too, but without the obscene amount of mayo.
This Behavior Must Stop
Blake made his mom’s sandwich, then made mine. This was how things had gone, the whole day: take care of The Hammer, then take care of Fatty. Ladies first, you know. Plus, the crew had been stacked with The Hammer’s side of the family. And so I had gotten used to waiting, and I was fine with it.
Except for one small detail.
Once The Hammer had finished eating, she would go. Regardless of whether I was finished eating, or not. Without even checking, really. Two or three times during the day, in fact, I had just had my first bite of whatever I was eating when The Hammer started riding away.
“I guess I’m done,” I’d say, handing back whatever I was eating and burning a match to catch up with The Hammer.
By now, however, I was out of “catch up with The Hammer” matches. And I needed to fuel up.
So, as I took my first bite of my sandwich and The Hammer started rolling away, I yelled, “Just STOP for a second, will you?! Can I please eat, too?”
The Hammer looked startled, possibly due to the fact that I used more sarcasm than was necessary. It’s also possible that I yelled louder than was necessary.
“But I always do this,” she said. “I don’t want to hold you up.”
“I know,” I said. “But I am done with chasing. For the rest of this race, I am all about a consistent, slow pace. And I need to eat. So don’t leave anymore until we’re both ready to go.”
“Has this been bothering you for a while?” The Hammer asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “For around the past seven hours or so.”
“Well why did you wait seven hours to say something?” she asked.
It was a good question. And very soon, I expect to have a fantastic answer occur to me.
And Now for Some Electronic Geekery
“SR-14″ is not a particularly glorious-sounding name for an important milestone in the race. But it was, in fact, quite possibly the single most important milestone of the entire race, as far as The Hammer and I were concerned. Because that transition area marked the end of our giant, never-ending (like, ninety miles!) false flat of a climb.
For the next 22 miles, it was going to be nothing but downhill. Free miles! It promised to be the easiest, fastest segment of the day, though we had been warned that all this descending from a mountain pass in the dead of night would be brutally cold.
So as we ate our sandwiches — another turkey and cheese for each of us — we dressed extra-warmly, adding a jacket and heavy gloves to the layers we already wore.
We also took the opportunity to swap out some of our electronics.
First, we swapped batteries on our NiteRider 1800 Pro Races — the first set of batteries had lasted an astonishing 6.5 hours and were still going, but we didn’t want to have to change batteries during the descent. Also, we mounted the big guns, lightwise, onto our handlebars: NiteRider Pro 3600 DIYs. Which meant we each had a total of 5400 lumens of light available to us, so that when we rode beside each other heading downhill (we were very intentionally not getting on the side of the road; we were being as big and obvious as we could), we cast off considerably more light than a car does.
Is it obvious that I’m kind of in love with NiteRider?
Next, we swapped out our Garmins. We had gotten 17+ hours our of our 510s, but had gotten the “low battery” warning, so we switched over to our old 500’s.
My Garmin 500 would not, by the way, survive the descent. Somewhere along the way — the catch that attaches to the mount worn away from years of use — it popped out of the mount. I never noticed ’til the next transition, by which time my 510 was fully recharged anyway.
So if by chance you come across a Garmin 500 laying on the road somewhere between SR-14 and Kanab in Utah, uh, please feel free to keep it. Because it won’t stay on your mount anyway.
The Hammer and I started on our big, long-anticipated descent. The one we were so excited about. The one we had been talking about.
And it sucked.
I was hurting in a big way. Or should I say “ways.” Because there were three things simultaneously going on.
First, I had heartburn. Bad. Searing, painful heartburn. This would be my companion for about ten minutes every time I ate for the rest of the race. I suspect this was due to the enormous amount of Red Bull I had been drinking. Probably it is not advisable to drink sixteen Red Bulls over the course of a day. I expect that Red Bull would probably concur.
Second, I was getting verrrrrry drowsy. Something that hadn’t occurred to me during the constant climbing for the past several hours was that the effort of climbing kept my heart rate up, which in turn kept me awake.
Now I was coasting. Hardly moving at all, really. And I felt a deep and pressing need to fall asleep. But I didn’t, because of the third problem, which was…
Third, Hiccups. Hiccups became my bane. Yes, they kept me awake, but other than that they were driving me completely nuts. And it wasn’t just an isolated case of hiccups that went away after a few minutes. Starting around 3:00am and for the rest of the race, I would get hiccups every time I ate something.
I was miserable. Much more miserable than this list would suggest.
And also, I needed to poop.
A Note from Fatty: My friends at Shimano are currently doing a sweepstakes, called “12 for 12.” It takes only a minute or two to answer the survey to enter, and you can win some really nice Shimano prizes — full-on group, wheels, or gift certificates. Allow me to recommend you click here to enter. And allow me to further recommend that maybe “other” is a good option for the “favorite online cycling site” question, and that perhaps you might want to write something in. What that something might be is of course entirely up to you.
A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 9 of my Salt to Saint writeup. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:
We’re on the Road to Nowhere
It’s a strange thing, to be around halfway through a 423-mile bike race, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, on a road that just…ends. No way forward. No idea how or where you missed a turn.
It makes you question the wisdom of recent decisions you’ve made.
“So, where now?” I asked The Hammer. I was not being rhetorical.
“I don’t know,” she replied. She, too, was not being rhetorical.
The only option, it seemed, was for us to turn around and head back the way from which we had come.
We rode back, slowly, looking for a way to get back to the highway. And in less than a mile, we found a turn, apparently heading toward a cluster of cabins and houses. We assumed that there must be a road from the houses back to the highway. Which, now that I think back, was a terrible assumption.
As it turns out, however, it was correct. We were back on the highway, and — we hoped — back on the course.
(Later we’d look back at the turn-by-turn directions for the race and discover that we should have stayed on the bike path for only 0.3 miles, as opposed to the five or so miles we rode. I’m not sure how we missed the course marking, though it’s likely because we just weren’t looking for a course marking directing us off the path so soon after we had gotten on.)
In any case, we were glad to be back on the highway. Now all we needed was to be reunited with our crew.
A Difficult Question to Answer
You know, I’m tempted to end right there for the day; leaving The Hammer and me in the middle of the night on a lonely highway with no idea of where our crew was would be a pretty dramatic conclusion to a chapter.
But it’d be a kinda short chapter. And besides, Zac and Blake found us within about two minutes of when we got onto the highway, as if we were carrying a homing beacon.
We were now beginning what we both knew was the real test of the race.
When it’s light out, the primary sense — and indeed, the primary pleasure — of cycling is a feeling of motion. You’re going somewhere. You can see it. Every minute you’re on a bike, you have something new to look at. Something you’re getting closer to. Something you’re passing.
When it’s dark, that all changes. You’re just riding, with your vision restricted to what your light reveals. And even when you’re using truly fantastic lights — and the NiteRider Race 1800s we were riding with were truly fantastic — you see at best the road ahead of you and perhaps a little bit off the shoulder.
Your universe gets pretty darned small.
And that was how it was going to be for the next long while.
I stopped looking at my Garmin; the distance we had gone, the speed we were going, the time we had spent on our bikes — none of those held any meaning to me. The only metric that mattered was that, eventually, the sky would lighten. And when that happened, we’d be in a much different place. And that place would be pretty close to the finish line. Maybe we’d have only a hundred miles left to go.
Yeah. “Only” a hundred miles left to go.
Because my job had pretty much consumed my life for the past few weeks, I really had no idea of what we were in for during our night hours of this race. So I asked The Hammer.
“I think we’re climbing, gradually, for about twenty miles,” she said. “And then we have a big descent.”
I told her she sounded unsure.
“I can’t remember for sure,” she said. “It’s all a jumble now.”
I knew what she meant. I was having a hard time putting sentences together, and often was slurring words.
“Let’s ask Blake how far we have to ride ’til we’re at the summit,” The Hammer said, and waved the truck toward us (for the whole of the night, Blake and Zac essentially idled behind us, giving us a measure of protection from any vehicles that might be approaching from behind).
“Yeah?” asked Blake.
“We have about twenty miles ’til we reach the summit and have the big descent, right?” asked The Hammer.
“You have to climb as far as you have to climb,” Blake called back.
“How far is that?” asked The Hammer.
“It’s as far as it is!” Blake answered.
“Your son,” I muttered to The Hammer, “is an obstinate obstructionist. You’re asking for some simple information and instead he wants to play verbal volleyball.”
Then, louder, I yelled to Blake, “Just tell us how far we have ’til we hit the big descent!”
“About ninety miles,” Blake replied.
The next day, he’d tell us, “I just didn’t want to say it. Ninety miles of climbing. How do you tell your mom, in the middle of the night, that she’s at the beginning of a ninety-mile climb?”
A Plea For Help, Reluctantly Answered
I don’t want to make that ninety-mile climb sound more dramatic than it should, because while — sure — the next ninety miles ahead of us trended upward, they barely trended upward. So slight, in fact, that we opted to ride this big chunk of the race on our Shivs.
In fact, the slight uphill was welcome; the extra little bit of work helped us stay nice and warm.
Even so, however, it eventually got cold enough that it was time to put some extra clothes on. Here’s what we layered on top of the cycling clothes we had started the day in:
- arm warmers
- long sleeve jersey
- wind front tights
- shoe covers
- warmer gloves
I’d like to point out that while we had made a lot of mistakes — and had a lot of bad luck — in this race, our clothing was one thing we absolutely nailed. We started from the premise that the shorts and jerseys we started the race in would stay on, and we’d add and remove layers as necessary.
Neither of us were ever cold. Neither of us were ever uncomfortable. Well, except for the way my tights would bunch up in the crotchal region when I’d get low on the aero bars, which would pinch a bit. And I cannot believe I just typed that sentence.
That, however, was nowhere near as awkward as the incident during which The Hammer needed a little extra help as she got layered up into some warmer clothing.
It was dark. It was getting cold. It had been a while since The Hammer had peed. So, before she put on tights and a long-sleeve jersey, she grabbed a tube of DZ Bliss, went behind the car and took care of her bathroom business.
Then she called out, “Zac, come back here and help me.”
I have never, ever, in the history of my life, seen such a look of panic in my life. Zac looked over to Blake, the question of “Should I make a run for it?” clearly on his face.
Blake just shrugged.
Zac looked to me. I looked away.
“Hurry up!” shouted The Hammer.
Bracing himself, Zac walked back behind the truck, fully expecting to have to help his mom in a way he would never have expected to.
Imagine — if you can — Zac’s relief to discover that The Hammer merely wanted help getting her long-sleeve jersey on.
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:
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.
A Note from Fatty: This is Part 7 of my Salt to Saint writeup. Earlier
I was on the side of the road with another flat.
I was no more than 130 miles into this 423-mile monster and had another flat. How many tubes had I gone through now? Four? Yeah, I think four. Which meant that I had only two more tubes with 80mm stems left. At the rate we were burning through tubes, that wouldn’t be enough.
Never, in my twenty-ish years of riding, have I gotten flats so often.
I had recently moved away from tubeless road tires — too hard to fix in the field. Now I was regretting that change.
At least this time I was pretty sure I knew why I had gotten the flat. When I had given this bike to Scott an hour ago (or was it more? Or was it less? Time had become slippery), I hadn’t told him to look for the cause of the flat.
“Well,” I thought to myself, “I guess I’d better find it now.”
I moved off the road as best as I could — there was very little shoulder, and I didn’t want to put my bike in the weeds, risking picking up the cause of what would undoubtedly be my next flat. I took the rear wheel off, popped the bead off the rim, and pulled out the tube.
Now the treasure hunt could begin.
I took the glove off my right and and felt all along the inside of the tire, feeling for a snag, hoping it wasn’t something worse. You know, like an especially sharp piece of glass.
(I’m not the only one who fears that someday, while checking the inside of a tire, he’s going to g slice a finger wide open on a piece of glass, right? I am? Oh.)
Anyways. I don’t feel anything on the first go ’round. Nor the second. The tire feels fine. I go around a third time. A fourth. I decide I’m going to go around verrrrry carefully, one more time, and if I don’t find it, I’ll give up, put another tube in, and hope for the best.
And there it is. So barely there it’s hardly even there. But it’s there. A teeny tiny sliver of a thorn. Somehow it worked its way through the tire and now just the barest tip of it was poking through. It’d take a while to go through a tube, but — evidently — it would eventually get through.
I try to use my fingernails to tweeze it. I wished for longer fingernails. “Why do I keep my fingernails so short?” I wondered to myself. “They’re an incredibly useful tool and I just cut them off. Stupid.”
I try my teeth. The taste is…unpleasant. I go back to my fingernails, this time pushing the thorn back out through the outside of the tire.
Annnnnnnd…there’s enough there to grab. I pinch it, pull it out, and exult. I have demonstrated my superiority and resilience. I shall not be halted — at least, not more than twice, for what was now probably a cumulative twenty minutes — by something as piddling as a thorn.
I Must Speak Up
As I put the tube in, Kerry and Scott drove up to me. They were coming back from crewing for The Hammer for a bit. Telling her that I was really close and would catch up to her shortly.
“You’ve got another flat?” Scott asked.
“Yeah,” I said, fully intending to not be petulant or accusatory by asking whether he had checked for what had caused my previous flat.
“Scott, did you find out what caused the previous flat?” I asked. So much for the non-petulant, non-accusatory resolution.
“No, I didn’t even check. Sorry!” Scott said.
“Kerry, could you run and get my floor pump and another 80mm-stemmed tube?” I asked.
Kerry returned with the pump, and some news. “I don’t think there are any more 80mm-stemmed tubes.”
“Oh.” I knew I had brought six. We hadn’t gone through more than four tubes, one of which wasn’t even a long-stemmed one. But maybe my math was wrong. Or maybe when I had bought all those tubes, I hadn’t checked carefully enough to ensure the stems were the right length.
“Call Blake when you get back in the car, OK? And tell him to be sure to buy some more 80mm-stemmed tubes on his way over here to crew for us tonight,” I said. “And meanwhile, we’ll hope for no more flats for a while.”
As I got the new — and, evidently, final — tube into place and the bead back on the rim, Kerry took my bike and flipped it over, upside down, onto its handlebar and seat.
I am pretty sure I gasped, but managed to not say anything.
Scott then took the tire from me and put it into place on the bike. Except he did it in such a way that the chain didn’t actually go around the cassette. Which I suppose would be OK, if I didn’t need to pedal.
“Guys, I’ll take it from here, OK?” I said, as I turned the bike right-side up (the bar and saddle were scuffed but otherwise fine) and threaded the wheel into the frame correctly.
I pumped the tire up to 100psi, gave them back the frame pump, and told them to go on ahead and catch The Hammer. “Tell her I’ll catch her as soon as I can,” I said.
Against The Wind
With this latest (very slow) repair, combined with the distance she already had on me, I figured The Hammer must be fifteen minutes ahead of me.
That’s a lot of catching up to do.
“Time to chase,” I thought, and started going at my absolute limit again.
But the headwind had picked up. It was strong now. “The Hammer will be hating riding through this alone,” I thought.
And I had been riding for 130 miles, the most recent twenty of which I had already been going hard.
And in short, I didn’t have a ton of chasing left in me. I knew, in fact, that if I wanted to be able to keep riding through the rest of the day, all through the night, and into the next day, I couldn’t just keep burning matches like this.
But I needed to catch The Hammer. So I kept going, harder than I knew was wise. Harder than I knew I’d be able to sustain.
“If this race continues this way,” I thought to myself, “there is no way I am going to be able to finish it.”
A Farewell to Pizza Rolls
When you’re riding really hard — not just riding, but racing – you need to fuel your body constantly. And so — of course — your body decides at that time that food just sounds awful, and that it is going to trigger your gag reflex if you do so much as think about food.
It’s a delightful little cycling paradox, really.
Still, up to this point I had been pretty darned good about eating. I had been unwrapping one of the things The Hammer had made during the days before the race and eaten, about every half hour or so.
At the beginning of the day, they had been fantastic. I had loved the taste and variety of what we had available.
But now, around 140 miles into the ride, well, my body was rebelling a little bit. I was having a tough time getting enthused about putting anything into my mouth. I knew I had to eat. With around 300 miles to go, not eating was not an option.
But I wasn’t enjoying it.
Exercising self-discipline, I unwrapped one of the foil wrappers and — without checking what it was — stuffed it into my mouth. It was one of the pizza rolls. My favorite.
Except right now.
I started gagging, the reflex gaining steam and promising to escalate soon into full-on retching.
I spat it out. And I knew that I had eaten my last pizza roll, blueberry turnover, and every other baked good for the trip.
Which was too bad, because that was all I had in my jersey pocket. And the crew was up ahead with The Hammer.
Wherever she was.
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.
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