2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report Part 6: Stop Shouting at Me

06.24.2015 | 8:02 pm

Previously in this Outrageously Long Shaggy Dog of a Story: 

  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
  5. Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing
  6. Part 4: The Chase
  7. Part 5: Zombies

People were shouting at me.

Shouting at me like something was important. Like it was urgent.

Like it was information I should understand. Like it was information I would really want to have, and that I would act upon it.

But what did it mean? I didn’t know. I really wanted to know, but I couldn’t ask. I couldn’t talk right now. Literally couldn’t talk.

But the people kept shouting at me, over and over. But none of it made any sense, and all I wanted was for these people — not just any people, either, this was my team — to stop shouting, so I could go back to thinking about my fantasy: one where I was not riding uphill, uphill, uphill. Uphill forever.

My fantasy, where I would stop riding soon, and I wouldn’t have to ride anymore. 

My fantasy, where I would get off my bike, and not start stuffing my face with food immediately, because it wouldn’t matter if my stomach was empty and I could just let it be peacefully empty. Not gurgly and gross as I forced it to endlessly fuel for going uphill some more.

But there they were again. These people. My team. Shouting at me.

Were those numbers they were shouting? I think they’re shouting numbers.

Why would my team be shouting numbers? Was this a bad dream? Hallucinations? Maybe. I’d been up a long time. Sleep deprivation-induced hallucinations were a real possibility.

But it felt a little too real for that.

“Do the numbers make any sense?” I asked myself. 

“No, they’re just numbers,” I replied to myself. “Just nod and smile and keep pedaling, and maybe they’ll stop shouting at you.”

That, my friends, is exactly and honestly what I was thinking about two-thirds of the way up leg nine of The Rockwell Relay: the “Duck Creek” section, 37.2 miles long, with 3780 feet of climbing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Almost nine hours ahead of myself, in fact.

I’d better catch you up. Then, together, maybe we can figure out why my team felt like they should shout at me.

Busy, Happy

In the last installment of this story, Cory had just taken off on what is, without question, the single most surreal leg of the race: Boulder to Henrieville (not to be confused with Hanksville, which is another exchange in the race…the two of which I confused probably twenty times during the race). Most teams start it in the dead of night. It’s long (56.6 miles), it’s very dark, it goes up and down and up and down.

And for the first forty-five minutes or so, Cory was strictly left to his own devices. Because I had just discovered that Lynette didn’t have her lights set up for her next leg, and she had a squishy tire.

In previous posts — too many to link to — I have given Danny no small amount of grief for having taken Lynette’s lights. 

So I should — now that we’re actually at the moment of needing to talk about her lights and the fact that soon our numero-uno competitor would shortly be riding with those lights on his bike — come clean about the lights.

We didn’t need those lights. Didn’t need them at all. It was perfectly fine for Cory to loan Danny’s dad the lights. I have enough lights and backup batteries that I could have fueled a team of domestiques. If such a thing existed.

Which of course it does not.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t give Lynette a little grief. “Well, where are your lights? What are you going to do for lights?” I asked. “You do know that within a few hours you’re going to be riding in the dead of night, right?”

And then I hauled out a NiteRider Pro 1800 Race and a NiteRider Pro 3600 DIY, and mounted them on her helmet and handlebar, respectively.

And in short, Lynette now had the capability to blast out up to 5400 lumens of power at will. That, for what it’s worth, is approximately twice as bright as a set of your average car headlights.

Next up, I took a look at Lynette’s bike, which she had noticed had a slightly soft rear tire.

I checked it: 40psi. Yeah, that’s soft.

“Well, it’s had quite a while to get that soft,” Lynette reasoned. “It will probably be fine for my next leg if we just pump it up.”

“For a regular ride, I would probably agree,” I said. “But not when you’re racing, and definitely not when you have as much descending as you’ve got coming up.”

I noticed a nick in the tire casing. “We’re going to replace the tube and the tire,” I said.

And I got to work, in the back seat area of the van, while Lynette drove to catch us up with Cory.

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Maybe not the best picture ever taken (The Hammer’s flash must’ve reflected off something), but it illustrates a few things:

  1. I have new glasses. Don’t I look studious and intelligent with them?
  2. I have a headlamp on. I didn’t take it off for the duration of the night. If you’re going to be finding and working on stuff through the night, having a headlamp on is so handy.
  3. I’m happy. I know, it kinda looks like I’m making a goofy face, but that’s just because I always look like I’m making a goofy face. The truth is, staying busy and crewing for my team is every bit as much of an awesome part of the Rockwell Relay as the biking itself.

It took us a long time to catch Cory, which we saw as a good sign. He was riding really strong. We finally caught up with him, though, passed him, and waited for him in the utter dark, which gave us the perfect opportunity for a 2:00am team selfie:

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If you ask me, we all look pretty darned good, considering the time of night and what we’d been doing for the past sixteen hours or so.

Cory Makes Another Friend

So, now that I’ve admitted that it really was perfectly fine for Cory to loan Danny a light setup, I’ve got to find something new to tease him about. 

Here, this will work:

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That is two racers. Cory in front, some unidentified rider in his draft.

This was the single most-common thing we saw for the duration of Cory’s second leg. This rider, drafting behind Cory. 

Cory (mildly) suggested she should take a pull, once, but not with real conviction. So she rode behind him for almost the entire leg.

That’s just how Cory is. He’s a helpful guy. Which — and here’s some serious foreshadowing — would have posed a real problem later for our team, if we had let Cory have his way.

That said, after finishing this leg — this monster of a ride beginning at twenty minutes past midnight and riding his bike ’til almost four in the freaking morning — together, that rider and everyone else in her (all-women) team came up to Cory and gave him a giant hug.

So, you know, maybe Cory is on to something.

What We Did Not See

One thing we did not see during Cory’s leg was anyone from the Infinite teams. We knew what this meant: they had gapped us enough that we were no longer leapfrogging. 

Troy and Big D had taken the lead Marci and Ryan had built together, and extended it to the point that we were no longer  in the same general area as the Infinite teams.

When we pulled into the exchange, we still didn’t see anyone from the Infinite teams. Which meant they had pulled out before we even pulled in.

That did it. They had reached escape velocity. They had beaten us.

We now had a new objective: keep our second-place spot on the podium respectable. Keep the race close.

Oh, and also, we had the objective of maintaining good personal hygiene, even in the face of overwhelming odds:

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Yep, I’ve hammered my brains out twice in the last seventeen hours and my solution to the odor problem was to brush my teeth.

Actually, doing something ordinary —brushing your teeth — during an otherwise very weird day can go a long way toward restoring your sense of normalcy. 

Plus, it does a fantastic job of getting the “fifth slice of cold pizza” taste out of your mouth.

Also, while we were waiting for Cory to come in, I ate the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had.

See, Bountiful Bicycle was sponsoring this exchange, and Taylor Felt — a great friend and amazing shop manager — was helming the grill.

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There were a lot of really great exchange stations this year, but this one was my very very very favorite: hot, freshly cooked food was just what I needed to help me stay awake, and to fuel for my next leg of the race.

Man, I could not believe that it was about to be my turn to race again.

Lynette’s Turn

There’s nothing good about doing anything at four in the morning, but starting a race right then has got to be the worst.

But Lynette didn’t complain. Not a tiny bit. She smiled big and took off from the exchange like it mattered. 

And she rode this leg like a champ: a self-contained powerhouse climbing-and-descending fifty-three-year-old champ. She quickly caught a strong rider from a women’s team, organized a rotation, and they worked together for the whole ride. Just killing it.

In fact, Lynette did this 36-mile leg in 2:05:20, the fastest — by a large margin — any team I have ever been on has done this ride.

The Hammer and Lynette have been good friends and training buddies for a couple decades; ’til this race I didn’t really know her. Now I have huge respect for Lynette as an incredible competitor, as well as a remarkably cheerful person during an intense day (The Hammer and I can get pretty focused when we race).

My Last Turn

One of the most awesome things about being in slot 1 in the Rockwell Relay is that you’re finished racing before anyone else on the team. You finish your last leg, and then you get to relax and enjoy the last three legs of the race, stress-free.

I was thinking this thought at the Panguitch exchange point as I waited for Lynette to zoom in.

The Hammer and Cory weren’t around when she arrived — much earlier than expected — so we fumbled our way through moving the timing anklet over to my leg without help.

I am not a very bendy person, so this was not easy to do.

We hadn’t seen the Infinite teams in six hours or so. At some point, the “out of sight, out of mind” principle had kicked in. So now, I was racing simply to honor the spirit of our race. We had gone hard the whole day; it would be sad to just phone in our last rotation.

The sun was coming up, my spirits were lifting. I was having fun. 

“I’m going to be sad when this race is over,” I said to myself.

Then I replied, “I can hardly wait ’til this race is over.”

If you’ve ever done the Rockwell Relay, you’ve almost certainly had this exact conversation.

I Can’t Make Friends

So I’m racing hard. Not my very hardest, because I have no rabbit to chase, no wolf nipping at my heels. But still racing plenty hard. 

I catch a guy. Swing around him. Start pulling.

Screenshot 2015 06 24 19 23 01

I can see his shadow start to drop back. I’m dropping him. 

I do something new. Unique for me. I hold back for a second. What if I tried working with someone instead of ripping their legs off?

“Grab back on,” I urge. He does. Hangs with me. Happily, I pull. He’ll take a turn when he’s caught his breath.

He drops back again. This time I keep going. Step it up a little, in fact.

Hey, I tried.

Stop Shouting at Me

For what feels like forever, I ride. Up. Up. Up. Happy, but exhausted. Riding hard, but without real purpose.

I go to my happy place. Disconnect my mind from my body. I don’t do this on purpose. It just happens.

And then my team starts shouting at me every time they see me. Numbers. Always numbers. Why are you shouting numbers at me? I’d ask, if I had any energy for talking.

I am not exaggerating here. When the van goes by me and they ring the cowbell, I don’t turn my head left and smile. I’m too tired for that. Literally, I am too tired to do anything but what I have to do: ride my bike up this mountain. Fast, if I can.

The Hammer yells, “We’ve got to go to the next exchange and get ready!”

I understand that. That’s fine. I have enough GU to last a month. I might need it all.

As they drive past me this one last time, The Hammer yells one final number. “Two-oh-eight!”

Alone with no more numbers being shouted at me, I try to make sense of this final number. I try. I mull it over. Puzzle over it. Say it to myself several times. 

“Two oh eight. Two oh eight.” It becomes my mantra. It’s easy to turn a cadence to, if nothing else.

And then I get it. Two hours, eight minutes. Of course. 2:08 was the time it took me to do this leg of the race back in 2013! “How sweet of The Hammer to remember,” I say to myself.

Ten minutes later, I’d find out I was completely wrong about that guess.

And that is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.


  1. Comment by Corrine | 06.24.2015 | 8:43 pm

    Two minutes 8 seconds behind the Infinite teams? Could it be? Can’t wait for the next installation.

  2. Comment by yannb | 06.24.2015 | 10:27 pm

    you’re killing me. What is two oh eight????
    Having been rider 1 for the last 3 years, I can relate to being happy I am done and get to enjoy watching the rest of the team finish up the race.

    I already miss this race. Can’t wait for next year. Have I said that yet?

  3. Comment by Dave (a.k.a. "Big D") | 06.24.2015 | 11:03 pm

    This is the third year in a row that I have done the surreal Boulder to Henrieville leg in the dark. I learned the first year that you can actually fall asleep while pedaling a bicycle. The second year, I learned that it can get miserably cold when you are Screaming down the final 11 mile descent after hours of sweating. This year, I learned that a Red Bull in the back pocket and a windbreaking vest can make all of the difference..

    Unfortunately we didn’t learn as a team last year that the transition comes at you quickly in this leg. Riding at about 20 lbs heavier than usual for this time of year and full 53/11 gearing, and getting a bit of help from another strong rider, we pulled a Strava top 10 overall on the descent. Just like last year, we rolled in to find our riders unprepared, and I had to ditch my bike at the side of the road and search for one of our riders. Almost 5 minutes later, I finally tracked him down in the bathroom and managed to get him on the bike. You would think we would learn. In this race, mental acuity is every bit as important as the ability to ride consistently. Fortunately, we had extended the lead by nearly 20 minutes prior to this mishap…

  4. Comment by Dave (a.k.a. "Big D") | 06.24.2015 | 11:07 pm

    Another quick note: Taylor from Bountiful Bike is my hero!!! He personally drove to the specialized warehouse on Wednesday afternoon to pick up my new crash replacement frame and make sure it was ready for me prior to the race with no one to spare. On top of that, nothing tastes better than a hot breakfast burritos do a Coke at the end of a cold hard descent.

  5. Comment by Felipe P. | 06.24.2015 | 11:53 pm

    +1 for the awesomeness of the Bountiful Bikes breakfast burritos at that exchange. I think that made this exchange my favorite of the race! Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that this was the point where, after we sent off our rider #4 Rena on Stage 8, we saw our competitors for 3rd place Coed still waiting for their rider to come in, and realized that “Oh My Gawd, we’re actually still in this thing with a shot at the podium?!?!?!” After an already intense race so far to this point, this was the point at which things went absolutely off the hook for us. Yeah, maybe that had something to do with making this exchange memorable. :-) Thank you Fatty and the Hammer for inspiring us to do Rockwell, and thank you for the excellent (as usual) 2015 write-up.

  6. Comment by Tom in Albany | 06.25.2015 | 5:07 am

    208? 2:08? 2:08:00

    Fatty? Could you possibly post early today?!?

    You are a master of the cliff-hanger!

  7. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 06.25.2015 | 5:14 am

    At some point we are definitely going to need Team Infinite’s version of this black hole in the time/space continuum.

    I’m very hopeful that they’ll tell their story here in the comments. My only request (and it’s an important one) is that they do not overlap or even get close to me in my story timeline. I.e., no comments (yet) about anything in the Duck Creek ride or after. – FC

  8. Comment by MattC | 06.25.2015 | 7:41 am

    I think 2:08 is when Fatty will post the next installment. Or, 208 was the number of zombies on the side of the road…which is a lot.

  9. Comment by Will Benton | 06.25.2015 | 7:45 am

    Best blog ever!


  10. Comment by Brian in VA | 06.25.2015 | 7:58 am

    I really dig these race reports! Thanks Fatty for inspiring us!

    Thanks Brian. I’m having a lot of fun writing them. – FC

  11. Comment by Troy | 06.25.2015 | 9:11 am

    First time for #3 but I had ridden these roads a few times always in broad daylight. It’s too bad this section is always in the dark because the views are incredible. It is worth the drive to go see all these roads. You go up, down crazy fast (and off a cliff if not careful) then up again where you can see riders and cars working their way up the switch backs. Then down into Escalante which makes you feel like a hero because the road is just enough down to be flying but not so much that you can tell you’re going down a hill. After Escalante the hardest part of this ride is that long, gradual up hill climb. It seems to go forever. Pedal, pedal, pedal, must have covered nearly a mile by now. . . nope 0.1 miles. Dang! I struggled to stay awake a few miles out from the summit (Last year on S2St I fell asleep several times on the bike. I finally stopped to ‘nap’ when I hit a construction cone that startled me awake). Big Dave and I rode together taking turns, passed a few riders then we caught one just before Escalante that we knew. It was Daniel from Leg 3. He was the big South American (Peru I think) that was part of our group of 7 before the Fishbowl guys surged and reduced the group to 5. I never heard if he had hung on Cory. I think he was glad for the company and so were we. Unfortunately he seemed much happier on our wheels than in front so the two of us did the majority of the work. We had no idea where SBR-WBR were. Were we putting time on them or losing time? When we finally reached the summit it was like a new life. We passed the Fishbowl guys on the side, not sure what they were doing. Getting warm gear on? Both Dave and I had dressed right. I was really hot on the climbs but just right after Escalnate and I did this on purpose. The descent was a blast, so fast (48mph top speed) and then one little bump before the rollers into Henrieville. We had a rider catch us on the descent, no idea what happened to Daniel, maybe stopped before descent? Maybe he didn’t want to take corners like we were in the dark? Good friendly guy Daniel is so I hoped he was doing just fine. The rider that caught us was fast. I almost dropped off his wheel at one point when he was pushing over 31mph. But Big D can hammer these sections. He came around me and we got back on. The 3 of us continued to rotate and caught another rider. That made 4 in the dark averaging just under 30mph from the summit down. 4th rider fell off soon after. The 3 of us continued to push for all we had, legs crying for mercy (at least mine were). I kept thinking I know it comes fast, suffer it out then I can go to sleep. Finally the Henrieville sign and into the exchange coming in hot. To our great disappointment our guys were not ready. Nothing more frustrating to give it your all to try and make up a few seconds to lose much more than that because the riders are not ready. Last year between the 4 missed exchanges (Yes 4!) and the crash we lost a good 40 mins. This was only a few but still frustrating. Between tired and not eating a meal since lunch on Friday (I don’t know how Fatty eats so much) I kept getting dizzy and had to hang onto my bike or squat down to keep from falling over. A breakfast burrito helped but now the cold really kicked in and my hands shook so hard I made a bit of a mess. I waiting until we could see SBR-WBR guys come in. It appeared we had extended the lead to about 26 mins but lost 3 or more in the exchange. Dave and I got in the RV, I only took off my shoes and helmet and crashed. 1.5 hours of broken sleep later we were up getting ready to SAG Mary and Ryan. This is a good time in the race, just before sunrise which brings new life, cold but feels good, beautiful climb coming up. Both Dave and I were so tired we’d drive ahead of Mary and Ryan, wait until they came pass, then I’d set my timer to 5 mins and go to sleep. I was afraid if I didn’t set a timer I/we may sleep for a couple of hours.

    Danny and Mark did their best but slower than I expect/hoped. I kept thinking surely we didn’t lose much time on that leg. I rode it solo in under 2 hours in 2012. I did not think Lynette would be able to solo under 2 hrs but maybe close, we couldn’t lose much of our 20+ min lead. Lynette had an amazing time. Lynette was riding very strong in #4 and putting the hurt on our two guys.

  12. Comment by Troy | 06.25.2015 | 9:17 am

    I forgot, we did have one rider pass us. In that slow climb after Escalante when we were doing maybe 12mph and rider just flew around the 3 of us like we were standing still. Dave and I looked at each other and said, must be an 11am start guy. Maybe he wasn’t real but we both saw him. He disappeared quickly ahead.

  13. Comment by Kerri | 06.25.2015 | 10:07 am

    This! This is why I read your blog. I love hearing about this race. My husband – Rodzilla – has done this race the last few years but wasn’t able to get a team together for this year’s race so I’m getting my fix vicariously through you. I ride but am not quite to the level of “riding at night without sleep.” I read about your team’s adventure and secretly aspire to one day participate. Thanks for sharing and motivating!

  14. Comment by Dave (a.k.a. "Big D") | 06.25.2015 | 12:34 pm

    Daniel actually came off the back on the final climb over the summit before the descent. It was a pleasure riding with him, if for no other reason than to have an extra person to help keep us awake!

    There were multiple groups stopped at the top, and the guy we worked with jumped onto the descent right as we came over the top, but it took him a while to catch your wheel. He was definitely a strong cyclist and gave me a few needed breaks on the hard descent. I wish I could have stopped to shake his hand after the ride, but I was too busy running around desperately trying to find our next rider!

  15. Comment by Paula | 06.25.2015 | 12:41 pm

    Can we talk about what is really important for a moment? That hoody you’re wearing? WANT!

    Well, you’re in luck. It’s in-stock in most sizes and available to order now. – FC

  16. Comment by Bykjunkie | 06.25.2015 | 1:11 pm

    love the Hoodie! Mine came in the mail today!!
    And these reports! Can’t wait for the next one!

  17. Comment by Eric | 06.25.2015 | 1:22 pm

    I tried to make myself wait until today to read this installment, of course I had to read it last night. The O.C.F.B. wins again, the doctors claim there is no cure.

    The Hammer’s music taste is very much like my own, for really hard efforts, I like Disturbed’s Asylum album. Especially “animal”, great climbing/chasing track.

  18. Comment by Kristina | 06.25.2015 | 1:57 pm













    But no hurry. Honest. No rush at all.


    To be honest, the next installment is finished now (2pm MT) and ready to post. I’m just reluctant to post a story when the current one hasn’t been up for a full day. Should I make an exception? – FC

  19. Comment by Kristina | 06.25.2015 | 2:11 pm

    It depends… do you pay attention to the hit-count on your blog? And if so, does that counter track one hit for each time a single person refreshes a website, or is it just one per unique visitor per day?

    If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then it’s in your best interests to hold it, and I’ll continue to single-handedly up your page-views! But if the answer to either is no than YOU SHOULD POST IT IMMEDIATELY. And you should also post it if you just want to be a nice guy who shows that even an award-winning, famous, beloved bicycle blogger can understand the trials of the regular reader.

    Plus my employer might appreciate it if I actually get some work done today. Just sayin’.

    As you wish. – FC

  20. Comment by Kristina | 06.25.2015 | 2:37 pm

    I believe that as long as the average time between any two installments is 24 hours you may post the next one. (Note: As I recall there were at least two weekend days between a couple of posts, so if you have a couple in the bag …. well you know how averages work, right?)

    No matter what though, this has been an awesome series of blogs/comments. Thanks to all who have participated.

    OK. Posted. – FC

  21. Comment by Kristina | 06.25.2015 | 2:51 pm

    I fully expected the link to take me to the next installment. Imagine my delight when instead it took me to the beginning of a movie I absolutely love.

    Made my day!

  22. Comment by Danny | 06.25.2015 | 4:12 pm

    Alas, the slowed down transition does haunt me. Several of us were in the RV warming up and talking when one of the sag drivers knocked on the door and said the riders would arrive in about ten minutes. It couldn’t have been more than two minutes later that an urgent knock came on the RV door. I rushed out and got my bike ready to go, but had no partner. So we lost several minutes as team members tracked him down.

    My ride up this leg had a single focus. I wanted to find the fastest pace that Mark could hold my wheel on, and try to push him just a notch harder. To Mark’s credit, he really killed himself off to hold my wheel, though I still found myself letting up frequently on the climb. My ride time was 2:14, so yeah we lost about six minutes there.

    So that bad transition was a frustration, and we lost some time, but the good news was that I was still (relatively) fresh. As fresh as you can be with little sleep, and 70 miles under your legs. Mark was blown up, but I was chompin at the bit to finally try to kill myself off and hopefully make a difference in this race.

  23. Comment by Danny | 06.25.2015 | 4:13 pm

    Oh and I too LOVED those fresh breakfast burritos!

  24. Comment by Kristina | 06.25.2015 | 5:10 pm

    Who is this Mr. Inane Asylum posting with my name?!


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