The most reliable indicator of a successful blog post, as far as I’m concerned, is that upon reading it, you will admire me. You will find me insightful. Athletic. Witty. Strategic. Smart. Handsome, even.
This will not, as measured by any of the above metrics, be a successful blog post.
We got to the Cedar City exchange point with enough time for me to get changed, get my bike ready, and then stare over my shoulder, waiting for The Hammer.
It also gave me plenty of time to worry: This is a big descent, with a lot of wildlife. We left her out on her own for a long time. She could easily have hit a deer. Or a pothole. Or a patch of gravel.
And it was cold up there. She wasn’t wearing gear for what was bound to be a chilly descent. She had already been through one descent where she was violently shivering by the time she got to the bottom. Why hadn’t I had her wear more?
I waited. Probably for as long as five whole eternal minutes I waited.
It’s possible I fret too much, and too often. Over a woman who has never shown herself to be anything but incredibly strong and capable.
I’m her husband. It’s my job.
And then, there she was.
With a smile on her face.
My relief was intense. I put out my hand to take the baton as The Hammer slowed:
We had learned our lesson about rolling handoffs for this year; maybe we’ll try them again…some other time.
And then I was off.
My final chance for glory — my big opportunity to show exactly how strong of a cyclist I am — was upon me.
Hey, see if you can find the common theme in the following pictures from my final turn in the Rockwell Relay. Here’s one shot:
Oh, and here’s another.
And here’s me, again.
(I especially like this one because the angle of the shot makes it look like it’s a tiny, tiny bicycle I’m riding.)
OK, one more.
You could say that the common theme in all those shots is that I seem to be drawn to riding in places with scraggly bushes nearby. Or that I seem to be as drawn to looking at my stem as Chris Froome.
But of course, the real common thread is that in each of these photos, I’m standing. And it’s not like these are cherry-picked photos, either. These are all the photos that were taken of me during this leg of the race.
If there’s any kind of incline at all, I stand.
Parents, let this be a warning to you: don’t let your kids ride single speed mountain bikes, or they will become hopeless mashers, thinking that the way to go fast is to stand up, pick a big gear, and pedal big fat squares.
Idiot Race Tactics
But I wasn’t just standing and climbing. Nope. I was standing and chasing. On this long straight road, often at a mild incline, I could see riders ahead of me, even when they were far ahead of me.
And by “riders,” I of course mean “carrots.”
I chased one racer down, got behind his wheel for just a moment to catch my breath, and then passed him, signaling that he should hop on his wheel, that we should ride together.
But I didn’t mean it. I so didn’t mean it. As soon as he got on my wheel, I ramped up my speed to a level that I knew was unsustainable, testing the guy, seeing if he could hang.
He could not. Within a minute I was riding alone again.
That’s OK, though, I could see another guy up ahead. I chased him down, did the same thing: catch him, catch my breath, go ahead for a pull, and try to ride him off my wheel from the front.
But this guy was staying with me.
“OK,” I thought. “Here comes a steeper hill; let’s see if you can stay with me going up that.”
He couldn’t. I popped him off the back, and was alone again. Which, apparently, was the way I liked it.
I continued on, riding solo. Racing out of my head. Attacking, attacking, attacking.
Except there was nobody else to attack. For the rest of the leg, I was on my own, racing into what was at times a headwind, and at other times a crosswind.
I finished, feeling spent. Feeling proud. I had given it my all.
And then, less than one minute later, the two guys I had dropped came cruising in. Working together.
Which is where I had my monster epiphany: I am a cycling strategy idiot. In my first leg, I had gone out completely at top speed, on my own and in the wind, even though I knew there was a guy just a couple of minutes back who wanted to work with me. A guy who I knew was strong, and would have made us both faster.
And now I had done it again. If I’d gone smarter — not harder — I could’ve worked with these two guys, and all three of us would’ve finished faster.
But no. I had to beat them, even though I was competing in a different division than them. Somehow, at the moment, that had been more important to me than putting in a faster overall time.
I’m all legs and lungs, no brain at all.
With my final leg of the race over, I now had a delicious luxury ahead of me: no more preparing for the next leg. No more taking care of other racers (Kenny and The Hammer would be taking care of Heather during her final leg of the race). And no stress over our place in the coed category: barring a crazy circumstance, we knew our place as third coed team was pretty much sealed.
So I had a celebratory cold soda, generously provided by the exchange volunteers:
And then I had another:
It’s possible I had a third, as well. My mind’s a little hazy on the whole time period.
Then I had a Klondike ice cream bar, sitting and relaxing in the exquisitely air-conditioned van:
And then I laid down on the bench seat, intending to get out my iPad and see how other teams were doing.
I believe I lasted less than a second before falling asleep.
Yes, I’m cuddling my phone in one hand and an iPad in the other. My devices and I are very close.
How It Ends
As you probably expect, I have no recollection of Heather’s final leg of the race at all. I just remember waking up as the van pulled up to the park where the finish line was, with The Hammer telling me that the team had decided that nobody wanted to wake me up and so this year we wouldn’t ride across the line together; Heather would have that honor solo.
Which she did magnificently:
And I have to say, it was extra-awesome to cross the finish line this year, because Dave Towle — the biggest and best voice in cycling today, was announcing finishers.
We got the post-race team photo:
And then we went to Kenny and Heather’s house — just a couple miles away from the finish line — and went to sleep for a couple hours before the awards ceremony. As expected, we were third with our time of 29:32: almost an hour and a half slower than the first and second place coed teams.
Obviously, it wasn’t even close.
And I don’t care. We could’ve been last place and I would’ve enjoyed it just as much.
The Rockwell Relay continues to be the funnest, most intense, most beautiful, outright best race I’ve ever done.
And I can hardly wait ’til next year.