2014 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 10: Over the Wall

07.14.2014 | 2:27 pm

A Note from Fatty: Enormous thanks to everyone who signed up for the 2014 100 Miles of Nowhere Thursday and Friday. The event is now sold out. Huzzah! And again: Huzzah!

A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: This is part 10 of my 2014 Rockwell Relay Race Report. As a refresher (or if you haven’t read it yet), part 9 is here. Or if you need to, you can go to back to the beginning

There are certain realities of endurance racing that you simply cannot avoid. One of them is that, at some point, it’s going to stop being fun. No, that doesn’t mean the fun won’t come back. But if it weren’t hard and painful and both mentally and physically brutalizing, it wouldn’t be cycling. It would be baseball.

Ha ha! Just kidding, baseball fans! Baseball is definitely an endurance sport, at least it sure feels like one whenever I try to watch it!

But back to the Rockwell Relay. 

IMG 1584

It’s Always Nearly the Darkest Just Before It’s Actually the Darkest

Every year, there comes a point where I stop thinking about how exciting it is and how much fun I’m having and how awesome my friends and wife are, and start thinking instead about how tired I am and how much I want this race to be over.

Without exception, that moment comes sometime during leg 8 — the fourth racer’s second turn. It starts during the coldest part of the night—three or four in the morning—so the racer heading out is starting right at the precise time she (it’s always been a “she” for our team) would never otherwise start a bike ride.

And in short, it just feels wrong to get on the bike then. And yet, Heather always takes the fourth racer place. Every single time (i.e., all four times we’ve done this race).

And somehow, she doesn’t just dial it in, either. The segment starts with a long climb, and Heather passes racer after racer. Like she’s fresh. Like she isn’t freezing. Like it isn’t four in the morning.

This Looks Like a Fine Pillow

As Heather started riding, I climbed into the back and changed into warm, comfortable clothes. Smartwool tights. Sweatpants. A nice stocking cap and a down coat. I have the wonderful just-raced endorphin buzz going on, supplemented by Red Bull and yet another slice of pizza.

As I eat, I look at the amount of pizza we have left. It’s a lot. Like, maybe three times as much as we need. “We need to bring a lot less food next year,” I think to myself. 

I think that thought every year.

Then The Hammer makes a request: even though it’s still my “recovery hour,” she needs me to help. She isn’t feeling well at all. And her eyes aren’t great for night driving anyway (something you might not know about The Hammer: minus her contacts, she’s darned close to blind).

That’s fine, I say, and it really is. My heart is still pumping fast after my leg of the race, so I’m plenty awake. I feel good. Further, I know The Hammer wouldn’t ask if she was OK.

So I take over driving, leapfrogging Heather every mile or so. Ringing the cowbell, yelling in the gloaming. It feels strange. Like we’re waking someone up.

Heather catches another female racer and they start working together. Strangely, the other woman is wearing shorts, and a lightweight long-sleeve jersey.


NewImageHeather, on the other hand, is wearing roughly twenty times that much clothing, and is still cold. “Why are you dressed so light?” Heather asks the other racer.

“It’s all I brought,” the woman replies. Which wins the “most outrageously crazy thing I heard the whole entire race” award. It gets cold in these mountains. Everyone knows that. The first year, it snowed in these mountains. How could she not have brought something warmer to wear?

I guess I’ll never know.

In between leapfrogs past Heather, I start to warm up. And my heart rate drops. I get sllleeeepy.

I lean my forehead against the steering wheel. Just for a moment, mind you. 

Then my next moment of consciousness is when Kenny is tapping me on the crown of my head. “Let’s go,” he says.

And that sets a pattern. I drive for a couple minutes, we cheer Heather on as we go by, I pull over, rest my head against the steering wheel, and instantly drop off until Kenny—who gets out of the van to cheer Heather on—climbs back in and wakes me.

These five-minute naps, done maybe three or four times, get me through the early hours. Give me enough rest to keep plugging away.

Welcome Back, Sun

And then, as Heather still rode, the sun comes. And when that happens, it’s magic. Somehow, even though you haven’t slept (we all know that nodding off with your head resting against a steering wheel doesn’t count), something happens to you. You wake back up. You get a renewed sense of hope. You feel a surge of energy.

You know that you’re going to cross the finish line before that sun goes down again. And that soon, it’s going to get warmer.

A lot warmer.

Maybe too much warmer.

But right at this moment, “warmer” sounds—and feels–really good.

Heather’s gotten us through the roughest leg of the race. Nobody has passed her. Kenny takes off in the early morning sunlight:

IMG 1590

The final set of four turns for our team has begun, and Heather has definitely earned what seems like, at the moment, the ultimate luxury:

IMG 1591

Two shirts, two jackets, a coat, and a blanket. With the van’s heater going full blast.

Hey, she’s earned it. 

And that’s where we’ll pick up in the next—quite likely penultimate—installment of this story.


  1. Comment by Jeff Bike | 07.14.2014 | 3:44 pm

    I get to be first comment.
    Oh the suffering of being so tired and so cold. I know the feeling and we sure feel for Heather.

  2. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 07.14.2014 | 6:02 pm

    “Baseball is definitely an endurance sport, at least it sure feels like one whenever I try to watch it!”
    Great line, even though I loved playing baseball watching it is without a doubt an endurance event.

  3. Comment by Andy@wdw | 07.14.2014 | 6:38 pm

    Bravo, Heather! What a trooper!

    Can’t wait for the next installment!

  4. Comment by Bee T | 07.14.2014 | 6:55 pm

    Oh, no! What was wrong with the Hammer?

  5. Comment by Tom in Albany | 07.15.2014 | 5:37 am

    Watching baseball works for my short attention span. You don’t have to focus on it and you rarely miss anything!

    Nice leg by Heather!!!

    I wouldn’t be much of an odds-maker. I set the over-under at 9. Should at least have done 9.5 so there were no draws. That said, it sounds like fatty just said it might be 12.

    I hope the vaca on the beach was all that and a bag of chips!

  6. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 07.15.2014 | 9:24 am

    Speaking of endurance sports: Although I love your race reports, following this one has become an endurance sport. To heck with penultimate — bring it home in the next one, please!

    That’s not the way I work. – FC

  7. Comment by Libby | 07.15.2014 | 10:10 am

    I wanna see photos of your NC rides! Saw on Strava that you did a couple of rides (or are they runs?)

    I’m enjoying this endurance event.

    Baseball is soooo hard to watch, I guess that is what wifi is for or a good book. Or take a nap then sue the team for putting you to sleep!

    We rented a couple of cruisers and rode around on bike paths…no hard riding on that trip. It was a vacation in a very real sense! – FC

  8. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 07.15.2014 | 11:15 am

    Did you and/or the Hammer ride the Crusher in the Tushar this year? If yes, is there going to be a thrilling multipart stage report?
    (Those of us who can, race, the rest experience it through your entertaining race reports.)

  9. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 07.15.2014 | 1:26 pm

    @UptheGrade FC was still on the beach, and missed it this year. The question is…. can we get him, Lisa and YOU out to Markleeville next July for some ‘hill work’. After your TerribleTwo, the Death Ride could count as ‘recovery’.

    FC get together in the ‘hills’. There would be PIE!


    I’d love to do the Death Ride. – FC

  10. Comment by SLL | 07.15.2014 | 2:28 pm

    I think you mean “mail it in” instead of “dial it in?” It sounds like she was quite dialed in?

    I meant “phone it in.” So I probably should have said “phone it in.” Luckily for me, neither my editor (i.e., me) nor my publisher (i.e., me) get angry at me when I make mistakes like this. – FC

  11. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 07.15.2014 | 2:34 pm

    Ha ha, Davidh. The Death Ride might be just as hard, or harder than the Terrible Two due to the higher elevation! Could be ‘fun’ if there was a FoF group, and PIE.
    BTW, when are we going to see your Trois Etapes Giro report?

  12. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 07.16.2014 | 8:05 am

    I hope you realize I was kidding. Would’t want your race reports any other way.

  13. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.18.2014 | 1:40 pm

    Catching up after overseas work. Fatty – it makes my heart sing when you make a joke about how scintillating baseball is AND shout into the gloaming In the same post. Thanks.


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