2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing

06.18.2015 | 12:10 pm

A Birthday Note from Fatty: Today’s my 49th birthday. Huzzah?

A Note for People who Bought the Wrong Size of Fatty Gear: If you bought 2015 FatCyclist gear and need to make an exchange based on size, please send an email to fatcyclist@dnacycling.cc. Be sure to include:

  • Your order number
  • What item and size you need to back
  • What size you want to exchange for
The good folks at DNA will get back with you promptly with your next steps.

Previously in this Story: Here are the parts that came before:

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury
  4. Part 2: A Day in the Life

As you settle into the fact that you are going to be racing for a day and a night and another day, the actual time of day can get away from you. You stop thinking in terms of “It’s 5:00pm, which is when I usually start wrapping things up at work,” and instead think in terms of “Racer four has started her leg, which means I’m up next in a couple hours.”

It felt a little strange, this relay. Hadn’t I just been riding? How was it possible that I was the guy who’d be racing next?

And even more strangely, how could it be possible that, as I stood under the hot desert sun while Cory loaded up his bike, that my current task was to start getting lights set up on The Hammer’s and my bikes and helmets?

We’d be needing lights the next time we rode? For reals? That made no sense at all.

But it was true. By my math, I’d be doing the last part of my next leg in dusk and dark. By then, I’d be going strictly uphill, so a helmet light would be sufficient.

The Hammer, in her next leg, would be riding entirely in dark, and would be doing a very fast and long descent. Bar and helmet lights set up for her.

I took care of all of this while standing, sweating, in blazing sunlight. It was my best opportunity to do this.

Luckily — so luckily — I had a snowcone to enjoy as I did this.

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Yep, the sponsor of this exchange point was giving out free snowcones. 

That is just awesome. It’s nice little things like that that make me love an event.

An Important Correction

In yesterday’s post, I — working from the memory of an increasingly aged man — said that Cory rolled across the timing mat about five minutes behind Troy and Big D. 

I need to correct that, now that I’m actually looking at the results. Cory crossed the timing mat, sending Lynette out, at 16:48:05. Troy and Big D had crossed it (sending out Danny and his domestique) at 16:39:32.

So, when Lynette set off — solo, without another rider to work with — Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques had about an eight-and-a-half minute lead on us. That’s considerably more than five.

On this, one of the flatter legs of the whole race, riding with another racer was a massive advantage for the Infinite teams, and I knew that this was leg where we’d see any realistic chance of us winning disappear.

I didn’t exactly resolve myself to our fate, but I started preparing myself to resolve myself to our fate, depending on how much time Lynette lost during this leg.  

Knowing You’ll Lose Doesn’t Equal Giving Up

Don’t imagine me being all hang-dog about the probability that we were going to lose. When I wrote my prediction, I had been jokey but at least mostly honest. 

Racing hard and getting on the podium at all is a big honor, and plenty of reason for us to keep racing our very fastest. 

When / if Team Infinite Stamina beat us, they’d be able to say they beat a team that gave it their absolute best, not one that made weak excuses.

And that would feel good to both teams.

Food is Fuel. And Sometimes More.

When I said, yesterday, that I’m no good at race strategy, I was telling a little bit of a lie. See, I’m not good at the strategy for the part of the race where you’re on a bike. But I am great at the rest of it: things like remembering all my gear (and making sure everyone else does too), ensuring all equipment is in good working order, having contingency plans for mechanical problems (since all four of us are within a couple inches of each other, height-wise, we had agreed that any mechanical would mean simply swapping bikes and possibly shoes, rather than trying to field-repair the bike while not in motion; we’d fix the bike on the fly).

More than all that, though, is one very critical thing: I am very good at eating during races.

This is a more useful — and hard-earned — skill than you might think.

See, after you finish a hard effort in the heat, you’re in no mood to eat. And since you immediately climb into a car and start driving, you’re likely to compound that stomach uneasiness into full-blown nausea.

Unless you nip that problem in the bud by forcing yourself to refuel. Pronto. And perpetually.

While on the bike, I fuel pretty much exlusively with Gu Energy Gel and Gu Roctane Energy Gel. I like all the flavors (Root Beer and Salted Watermelon were my two favorites on this trip), and by eating one every twenty minutes during race effort, my energy level hardly ever sags. (For what it’s worth, when training I generally have just one per hour, because I am not going as hard and can more easily draw from the energy stores in my body.)

I’m seriously a believer in this stuff. I train with it and race with it and it works.

Now, when I’m in between legs of this race, I’m just like The Hammer, who you can see is very happy to be eating this:

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A slice of cold pizza in one hand, a donut with sprinkles in the other. That’s racing, baby.

Meanwhile, Cory — acting like some kind of strange alien monk from a planet where they consume nothing but protein and fat — ate bratwurst and macademia nuts, along with foul-smelling beverages.

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Then, from time to time, he’d breathe into a portable breathalyzer.

No, I am totally not making this up at all.

Screenshot 2015 06 18 07 25 50

He’d then look at his reading, which said he was a little tipsy.

Screenshot 2015 06 18 07 26 58

What Cory said was that since he eats (more or less) exclusively fats, his breath had ketones in it. The breathalyzer pretty much recognizes that as alcohol, and thus let Cory know how his body is doing at processing fat as racing fuel.

I begged him to eat a donut. A sandwich. A Coke. Anything with carbohydrates.

Cory would not partake. This new food lifestyle has worked for him in dropping forty pounds since the beginning of the year; he’s sticking to it, even during races.

Good for him, I say. Way to stick to your guns. 

(One time, during the race, I poured a Coke Zero into a water bottle and handed it to him. He looked at it suspiciously, demanding I swear I wasn’t tricking him into drinking a regular Coke. I swore, but mentally wished I would have thought to try that trick and see what happened.)

With just an hour and change to go ‘till the next exchange, I was fueling hard, considering how strange it was that the one time I had permission to really make a pig of myself was also the one time I really had no desire to eat.

Oh, irony!

Back to the Race

You may have noticed that I haven’t said much (anything, really) about Lynette’s ride. That’s because Lynette’s ride was very drama-free. One second we’d see her as a speck on the pavement: 

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And then the next, she’d be right there, giving us a big smile as she rode by.

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Watching Lynette, I couldn’t help but be impressed with what a smooth, fast cadence she rides. Strong, consistent form, and she always looked like she was having a terrific time.

Screenshot 2015 06 18 07 34 35
“You can’t tell that my legs are cramping because I have a big smile on my face, but I’m actually in terrible agony! Can you get me some electrolyte tablets?”

We didn’t see Team Infinite Stamina the entirety of her leg, so assumed that due to the fact that they had two men working together on a flat course — while Lynette rode alone for the whole leg — they would naturally be adding to their lead.

My best estimate was that Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques would be about fifteen minutes ahead of us by the end of this leg. Not insurmountable, but closing in on it.

Me, Again

With about fifteen miles to go in her leg, we made sure Lynette had both her bottles full, had the food she needed, and said goodbye. 

We shot ahead to the next exchange, giving me time for something I was increasingly desperate to take care of (i.e., poop). I then suited up, feeling a little silly putting a reflector belt, blinky light, and helmet-mounted light on; it was still bright and light outside.

But it’d be dark before I finished the lap.

I started walking my bike toward the exchange point…and suddenly had a change of heart. I didn’t want this light on my head, yet. Not when it’s so light outside. 

So I quickly removed the light from the mount and handed it to The Hammer. “Let’s wait to put this on ’til it gets dark enough for me to need to switch out to clear glasses.” 

Then I went to the exchange point, where I watched Mary and her domestique fly through.

I looked at my watch and wondered how much time I’d have to contemplate whether the amount of time it takes to put a light on for the second part of a racing leg is worth the weight savings during the first part.

I was increasingly doubtful it was worth it. To the point, in fact, that I was about to call out to The Hammer to bring the light back; I was going to put it on.

And then I saw Lynette rolling towards us. The decision was now made; I’d put the light on later. It was time for me to go.

As Lynette rolled to a stop, I looked down at my timer. What was our new gap to Team Infinite Stamina?

Five and a half minutes.


Lynette, riding solo on a mostly-flat stage, had reduced the gap between our team and two men working together…by three minutes.

Holy cow. That…changes everything. We are not out of this race. Not by a long shot. 

While I reeled from this realization, Cory swapped over the timing chip. Then I pushed off hard, my adrenaline suddenly flooding my whole system.

Screenshot 2015 06 18 07 56 28

The course ahead climbed, but nearly imperceptibly most of the way: only 600 feet in the first thirty miles.

Screenshot 2015 06 18 12 04 27

Not my ideal kind of riding — I do better against other racers in steeper climbs.

Furthermore, I had nobody to work with, and two strong riders working together with a 5:30 lead on me.

I didn’t care. This was going to be a fun chase. Real fun.

I stood up and sprinted off the line like I was going a hundred yards, not 45 miles.

“I want time checks on Mary ASAP and often as possible!” I shouted to Cory over my shoulder.

And that’s where we’ll pick up on Monday.


  1. Comment by Patrick Dontigny | 06.18.2015 | 12:22 pm

    You are a great writter Elden! even if we all know the results it is pretty exciting!

    BTW, do you know when the Fatcyclist stuff was sent ? I have not received anything yet, ordered in March. Order still says processing. Just curious since a lot of people seems to already have received their stuff.


    Oh, I hope there’s someone out there who doesn’t know the results yet. And thanks for the kind words! – FC

  2. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 06.18.2015 | 12:25 pm

    Happy Birthday Baby!! I love you so much!

    Thanks Beautiful, I love you too! – FC

  3. Comment by Jim Tolar | 06.18.2015 | 12:26 pm

    MONDAY!?!?!? MONDAY??? WTH? I demand a recount.


  4. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 06.18.2015 | 12:27 pm

    So did they get flat out “chicked” by Lynette or was there some sort of issue or do we need to wait to find out the answer that that and other dramatic questions……

    I never saw their team during this leg, so don’t know if they had an issue. Maybe someone from one of the Infinite teams can let us know what the leg was like from their perspective. My current understanding is that Lynette straight-up solo TT’d the course 3 minutes faster than the two people in the Infinite teams as they were working together. – FC

  5. Comment by spaceyace | 06.18.2015 | 1:14 pm

    Yes, there’s still someone out there who doesn’t know the results yet. I have had to sit on hands at times to avoid looking them up. So, keep the cliffhangers coming.

    Good. You are the person I will imagine as I continue to write these posts. – FC

  6. Comment by Troy | 06.18.2015 | 1:30 pm

    We were not as strong in 4 as the other positions. I knew this was a risk but had figured they wouldn’t lose significant time and possibly add time. I was hoping Danny (Coed) would be strong enough and Mark (Mens) would just have to hold his wheel to not slow him down. Sometimes 3 mins matters, sometimes it is insignificant. In a close race seconds matter.

    I didn’t hear of any issues in Leg 4. Marci and Billy SAG’d, maybe Billy will post any details of importance. Dave and I were off getting Mary and Ryan ready and ourselves cleaned up to SAG for them while trying to eat. I had the exact same experience of thinking I need to get ready to ride again but just finished less than 2 hours ago. Usually on Rockwell I am thinking I have plenty of time. It was a very fast race this year. First year top teams under 24 hrs if I remember right, and they just barely got under 24 hrs.

  7. Comment by Kukui | 06.18.2015 | 1:31 pm

    I don’t know the results yet. It is so much fun getting it one cliffhanger at a time! =)

  8. Comment by rb | 06.18.2015 | 1:40 pm

    Happy Birthday Fatty! Next year I must start addressing you as “Mr. Fatty” given your advanced age.

    These race reports are great. Too great in fact. My wife has noticed that in addition to Leadville splits, I am now muttering about how I can trick, I mean convince, friends to do the Rockwell relay.

    She blames you, fully.

  9. Comment by Steve | 06.18.2015 | 1:40 pm

    Ugh! You would think I would be used to the cliffhangers after all these years, but I’m not! I hate to spoil the fun by looking at the results so I guess I have to wait until next week to find out. Or the week after.

    A week from this Saturday, I will be doing a race I expect to want to do a report on. So I’m kinda hoping to get this story wrapped up by a week from tomorrow. Once I start getting multiple race reports in arrears I start getting details muddied in my mind. – FC

  10. Comment by Brad | 06.18.2015 | 2:05 pm

    Snowcones? How did I miss the snowcones and why didn’t my team tell me about them when I staggered off of my bike? As a first year rider, I was nauseous pretty much from the end of leg 3 until the finish of the race, except I felt great while riding. Can you explain that?

    Great race report – it’s fascinating reading your perspective.

    Thanks! And I simply cannot believe that your team didn’t have a snowcone waiting for you when you finished that leg. -FC

  11. Comment by leroy | 06.18.2015 | 2:06 pm

    Good lord there is some beautiful scenery on that route.

    What’s the road surface like? Chip seal? Smooth?

    The closest I’ll get to riding the range this evening will be whistling “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” down Second Avenue on the commute home.

    But hey, the East Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the Manhattan Bridge are not wholly bereft of charm and scenery.

    Or so I keep telling myself.

    (And Happy Birthday!)

    The surface varies from place to place. It averages out to chipseal, but is almost all in very good condition. I recommend 24-25mm tires, to allow for lower pressure and less road vibration. – FC

  12. Comment by Brian in VA | 06.18.2015 | 2:48 pm

    Happy Birthday, Elden! Enjoy that fiftieth trip around the sun!

  13. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 06.18.2015 | 2:53 pm

    I never stop shaking my head at what and how much you eat. If I ate like that, I’d be wasting time on the side of the road barfing or looking for a porta-potty. One Gu, a bottle of water, and a bottle of electrolytes (Gatorade is fine, and cheap) is good for me for about 3 hours.

    I agree on the beautiful scenery.

    Happy B-day, youngster!

  14. Comment by Danny | 06.18.2015 | 3:08 pm

    As much as the blog talks up the benefits that we (yes I am rider #4 on the Infinite coed team) had with two riders, for our #4 group, it was a liability. My “domestique” could not hold my wheel, and I repeatedly had to let up to get him back. It made no sense for me to drop him though and thus break up the partnerships that were well matched up. For the legs 8 and 12, the role of domestique was reversed, and my goal was solely to find the best possible pace that wouldn’t drop my partner. I probably pulled in front for 98% of the time during legs 8 and 12. Honestly, I am surprised we only lost 3 minutes.

  15. Comment by Anon | 06.18.2015 | 3:27 pm

    Awesome write up as usual.

    There is someone out there who doesn’t know the results!

    Me! (do I get a treat for not knowing?!??!) Coke?!?!? Pleaseeeeee, I love them!

    Anyway, happy birthday! Hope it’s an awesome day!

  16. Comment by MikeL | 06.18.2015 | 3:53 pm

    Congratulations youngster.

  17. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.18.2015 | 4:07 pm

    If you’re in a giving mood I bet Elden would like a bike for his birthday. You know what kind: http://teamwbr.worldbicyclerelief.org/fat-cyclist

    Edited for new fundraising page…but otherwise heck yeah! (and also, this is a good way to get a sneak preview at the early draft of my next contest!) – FC

  18. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 06.18.2015 | 5:14 pm

    Well…..I think Lynette did awesome! I don’t really care about the excuses from the other team-CONGRATS LYNETTE on an amazing ride. You are FAST, You are STRONG and you are BEAUTIFUL! Not to mention KIND and I’m glad you are my friend!

  19. Comment by Skye | 06.18.2015 | 5:21 pm

    For your birthday, I send you the present of my being yet another person who doesn’t know the results!

    And, I LOVE the cliff hangers for multiple reasons. : )

  20. Comment by Danny | 06.18.2015 | 6:09 pm

    I agree Lisa, Lynette did do a great job. I apologize if I gave anything but that impression. That was a fun couple of days competing with you guys.

    Likewise, Danny. You’re a fierce/nice competitor. I need to explain that Fast/Strong/Beautiful/Kind thing in an upcoming post. It was The Hammer and Lynette’s non-stop in-joke during the race. – FC

  21. Comment by Lynette | 06.18.2015 | 8:39 pm

    It was such a fun and incredible race and the competition between teams made it extremely thrilling. Cory and I both feel lucky to have been able to experience this race and ride with Fatty and Lisa. This year’s Rockwell could just very well be my favorite race ever! And now that I, too, know about the snow cones, I’m waiting for mine.

  22. Comment by Scott | 06.18.2015 | 8:40 pm

    I do not know the results! Happy birthday Elden!

  23. Comment by Troy | 06.18.2015 | 10:02 pm

    What excuses? Did I miss something?

  24. Comment by Kristina | 06.19.2015 | 7:45 am

    I have refused to look up the results because I prefer to have the ending be a surprise! So, yes, you have at least one person who does not already know :) I’ve also been skipping over the comments on each post, just in case there are unintentional spoilers. I’m not a big fan of knowing the ending before I get there!

    And also…

    Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to YOU, Happy Birthday dear Fatttttyyyyyy…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUUUU!!

  25. Comment by Troy | 06.19.2015 | 10:03 am

    Lisa are these the excuses you’re referring to? ;-)


  26. Comment by Zannderson | 06.19.2015 | 10:28 am

    I too am in the “waiting to find out the results” group. The suspense is part of the fun. Keep ‘em coming.

    For your birthday I think I’ll go find a local Strava segment that you don’t have a great time on (presumably because it’s on some boring stretch of road that you rode once on your way to a real ride or something) and then beat your time and mock you. Of course, this is only because I’d not have a prayer of beating you on a segment you were trying on (well, except maybe a technical downhill trail run segment, but you get a break there – after all, you’re not the Fat Runner). Either way, prepare to be mercilessly teased by somebody you don’t even know. You’re welcome.

  27. Comment by Will Benton | 06.19.2015 | 12:17 pm

    Happy birthday Eldon. Great report can’t wait until Monday!


  28. Comment by Shuffle McGraw | 06.19.2015 | 2:35 pm

    Belated birthday greetings from Mallorca. Famous for its cycling but I’m on a yoga holiday with intermittent internet connection. Hope you have a fantastic year – but you always do. The reward for being a nice guy. Best wishes.

  29. Comment by MukRider | 06.19.2015 | 3:03 pm

    Hope you had a great birthday Sir Fatty! Turns out you share a birthday with my wife (although she seems to be staying a full year older than you).


  30. Comment by Dave (a.k.a. "Big D") | 06.19.2015 | 10:45 pm

    I didn’t see any excuses there either – just Danny pointing out that Lynette really did put that much time into our 4th leg riders. Give her the credit for riding strong and consistent!

  31. Comment by MattC | 06.20.2015 | 5:16 pm

    I’ve been away on travel the last month…just catching up (I had completely forgotten about the race)…so ad me to your tiny list of people who don’t know the results yet…great report Fatty (as always)! And a belated happy B-day too!

  32. Comment by Triflefat | 06.21.2015 | 9:14 pm

    A pedantic continuity person would point out that, at the time Lynette handed over to you, you would have believed she had lost 30 seconds to Team Infinity Stamina rather than gained 3 minutes. I don’t think that would have changed your resolve as that is clearly a motivated push off you’re executing.

    Also, happy belated birthday.

  33. Comment by Rob W | 06.23.2015 | 11:48 am

    Awesome story so far; I am loving it!!

    I am interested in Cory’s ‘unconventional’ diet. I guess I hear about the ‘mostly protein’ diets, but not too much on the ‘eat more fats’ diet. Any chance you could convince Cory to do write up on his 40-lbs weight loss??


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