2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 4: The Chase

06.20.2015 | 6:20 pm

Previously in this 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

A couple of days ago, The Hammer and I talked about racing. Specifically, we were talking about how much we love to race. The conversation was humming along; I thought we were going to be agreeing with and emphasizing each other’s perspectives.

But we weren’t. Sure, we both love to race, but for almost entirely different reasons. The Hammer, well, she loves to race because it inspires her to push herself to do the best she possibly can. To find out what her limits really are.

I think that’s sweet, and I think probably a lot of people race for that reason. But that’s not why I race. 

I race because I love the chase. Doesn’t matter whether I’m the person chasing, or the person being chased. Either way, I get to indulge in a sense of intensity and ferocity that I don’t otherwise get a lot of.

Some of you don’t know what I’m talking about. Some of you, on the other hand, know exactly what I’m talking about.

And this — leg 5 of the Rockwell Relay, my second time out on the bike for the day — gave me everything I needed for a good chase.

The odds were against me: Mary’s a strong rider, had a strong rider (Ryan) working with her, and had a 5:33 head start on me. 

I, on the other hand, was riding alone, and the climbing — what I’m best at — didn’t really get going until thirty-seven or so miles into the forty-five mile course.

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So…what are we waiting for?


At the end of my previous installment, I wrote this:

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.

The part about sprinting off the line is true. The part about asking for time checks as I took off from the line…well, that’s not even remotely true. That was strictly me trying to draw you in with a dramatic ending to the installment, so you’d come back for today’s read.

For that, I apologize. Also: hey, it worked.

The reality is, I had a better idea of where Mary and Ryan were than my story let on. After all, after we left Lynette to go to the exchange point, we had passed the two Infinite guys, Danny and Mark (notice how I’m not calling them “domestiques” anymore? That’s because they don’t like it, and I have a generous heart). 

It was at that point that I realized my ride had the potential to change our standings. It was then that I demanded time checks as soon as possible and as often as possible.

There. Now you know the whole story. Because truth-telling is very, very important to me. 

Not Sociable, Nor a Pleasant Person

I buried myself, right off the line. I wasn’t lying about that. And — thanks to the work I did last winter / spring with TrainerRoad — I have both good power and a really good sense of what level of effort I can maintain for the long haul.

What TrainerRoad did not give me, however, is social skills while on the bike.

Which is to say that within fifteen minutes of starting my ride, I closed in on a largish group (between six and eight of them) of racers.

“Grab my wheel!” I didn’t say.

“How’s your race going? Having a good ride?” I also didn’t say.

Instead, I looked over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t going to get run over, then blasted by. I might have said, “Hey,” but I also might have just nodded. 

It’s also possible that I just went by. Riding at the level of effort that causes tunnel vision sometimes makes me…curt.

Before too long, my team pulled alongside me in the van. “Need anything?” The Hammer called.

“Time check! Stet!” I shouted back.

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Yes, I actually said, “stet.” I meant “stat” — a word from The Hammer’s world, but my addled race brain picked out “stet” (a word from my world) instead.

Making me both a dork and an idiot.

The Game of Leapfrog Begins

My crew obliged, surging forward and leaving me to wonder how I was doing at catching Mary and Ryan…if I was gaining on them at all.

Several minutes later, I saw my team on the side of the road, Cory with his phone out — obviously timing ’til I crossed his imaginary line.

I sprinted like it was a finish line. I know, I know: ridiculous. But I was caught up in the chase, and the smaller the number, the more fuel to my fire.

“3:38!” Cory yelled out.

Awesome. Just seven-ish miles in and I had already cut the gap between us down by almost two minutes

My team shot by me. “Need anything?”

“Time check!” I yelled back. These time checks were everything to me.

And so my team went ahead, finding and passing Mary and Ryan, pulling over, and timing the distance between us.

So many stops gave them plenty of time for photographs. Here’s Cory and Lynette, posing in front of what they hope will someday be their home:

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For about an hour, that gap kept dropping. In fact, it dropped very fast, to the point where there was just two minutes between me and the Infinite teams.

I could taste triumph. OK, actually I could taste blood in the back of my throat, but they’re very similar tastes.

Things Change

I remember the first time I got a time check that said I was less than two minutes behind Mary and Ryan. 

Specifically, I remember it because in the next time check, I was back above two minutes. 

And then that gap held. I went harder and harder — something I wouldn’t have even thought possible — but I couldn’t seem to close any more of the gap.

That — at least to me — was not awesome. But I expect that to Mary and Ryan, it was awesome indeed. And I knew that Mary and Ryan knew what the gap was between us as well as I knew.

Why? Because the Infinite teams were getting time checks from Troy and Big D. 

And thus began my favorite part of the whole race. I’d go by my team…and then past Troy and Big D. Then Troy and Big D — in Troy’s red truck — would shoot ahead of me to do the next time check, followed shortly by my team.

At first, Troy and Big D would stop at different places from my team. After a few rotations, though, the pretense was abandoned; both teams would park in the same place. Both teams would have their phones out, timing and shouting out the gap. 

And before long, Troy and Big D were ringing their cowbell as they drove past to do the next time check, bringing (almost) as big a smile to my face as when my own team did.

The sun started getting low. Golden hour. 

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When I needed to get rid of my sunglasses, I handed them off to Big D. I knew he’d get them to my team.

A Possible Reason

Warm fuzziness between teams notwithstanding, I was still flummoxed by my inability to close the gap any further. It was stuck at two minutes.

“Maybe I’ve gone too hard, too soon. They’ve meted out their energy better than I have.”

Which might in fact be the case. But — and I didn’t realize this until I checked the Flyby of the leg — it’s also possible that it’s because right about an hour into this leg of the race, Mary and Ryan had swept up another racer from another team: Brad.

I’m going to guess that once Brad had gotten a decent pull, he became a contributing member to the train, neutralizing me.

Hey, I’d rather believe that than…that I just slowed down.

Regardless, as I failed to eat into the gap, I became demoralized. I had tried so hard to catch Mary. And I was failing.

Night Rider

It seemed so weird that it was now dusk and getting dark. Hadn’t we just started this day? Wasn’t it still morning? Nope. The sun was down, and it was getting dark quickly. My team told me to be ready to put my light on the next time I pulled over.

As instructed, I came to a stop the next time I saw the van pulled over, hating every second, knowing Mary and Ryan (and, I guess, Brad) were increasing that infernal two-minute gap they had on me.

My fingers shook, I fumbled the light, forced myself to calm down, discovered that I had failed in trying to force myself to calm down.

Finally, after about four tries, I successfully slid the light onto my mount. The whole process probably took half a minute, but might have taken a month.

Now I See You

My team went on ahead. I needed to finish this leg on my own, so they could get The Hammer out and ready for her next ride.

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I continued on, alone. And then a Very Good thing happened. 

I discovered I could see red blinking lights off in the distance. Those had to be Mary, Ryan, and Brad’s lights, right?

Had to be

I went from feeling like I had lost…to feeling like I was back in the hunt. 

And then a second Very Good Thing happened: I could see that those blinking lights were going up

As it turns out, I’m pretty good at going up. 

I charged forward, at first trying to tell whether I was getting any closer to those blinking lights. Then wondering if those blinking lights were for a stationary object: the Rockwell guys always put lots of warning blinking lights before cattle guards.

And then I was sure: three sets of red blinking lights. All getting closer. 

Minutes later, I had joined the train. 

“Hey Mary,” I said (I didn’t know Ryan or Brad’s name at the time).

“What took you so long?” Mary replied.

One Try

Mary was joking (I think), but the fact is: she and Ryan had held me off until the last couple miles of this leg. I had to decide now whether we were going to finish this leg together, or if I should try to drop these three and give The Hammer as much of a lead as possible at the beginning of her next leg.

No, I’m just kidding. There was never any decision. I knew I was going to attack before I even got close.

So I rested for a moment, then rode up to the front and stepped up the tempo. Enough so that it hurt.

Mary hung with me. The other two could not. 

I slowed, and Mary moved up front, holding my pace. Maybe even stepping it up just a little. Seeing if she could make me fall off.

Which I did. I slid back. Her gap increased to ten, then fifteen feet. And she knew it, too — seeing the wash of my headlight fade.

And then I stood up and attacked with everything I had. Rode at a stupid pace, using the metric that if I didn’t throw up at the exchange I hadn’t gone hard enough.

I went a full minute like this before I dared to look back. 

I had done it: exploded the group. All three of them were riding alone, now. Maybe they’d reconnect and finish together, maybe they’d finish individually. That didn’t matter to me, because it was happening behind me. All that mattered to me was what was ahead.

The finish line. That was what was ahead.

I kept going, just as hard. I had put Team SBR-WBR back in the lead. Now I was going to do everything I could to make that lead as big as I could.

I saw the lights at the gas station ahead, where I knew the exchange would be. I gave everything I had left to give, crossed the timing mat, stopped by Cory so he could move the timing chip over to The Hammer’s leg.

I gasped “I love you too” to The Hammer, even though she hadn’t said “I love you” yet. Then I bent over…but didn’t throw up.

So I guess I should have gone harder.

1:11 later, Mary came in (I don’t recall whether Ryan was with her), and Marci (either with — or soon to be followed by — Billy) took off, chasing The Hammer again.

Which is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story, which features the single weirdest, most eerie thing I have ever witnessed in any race. Ever. 


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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 2: A Day in the Life

06.17.2015 | 12:47 pm

Previously in This Series: This story makes more sense in context than out of context. So if you haven’t read these yet, you should. In order and stuff.

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury

I am not the guy you’d want to be your team strategist. Really, I’m absolutely terrible at team tactics and strategy. 

Allow me to present an example.

In the first leg of the race, once I had been dropped, I could have sat up and pedaled easily for a minute or two while the chase group caught up with me, thus saving energy and ensuring that The Hammer, when she started her leg, would have a group of people to ride and work with.

Instead, I redoubled my efforts, giving my absolute all to get to the exchange point as quickly as possible.

This had the effect of getting me there in record time — yay, me — as well as leaving The Hammer in a true no-rider zone for the beginning of her leg.

She took off anyway, solo, knowing that our primary competition (Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques) would be sending Marci out next.

And we were afraid of what Marci was going to do to our team.


If you ever see Marci ride, you’ll understand our fear. Marci is a tiny little person who has, over the course of the past year or so, completely demolished The Hammer’s Strava QOM list.  

Marci was going to be faster than The Hammer. There was no question about it, especially considering the race The Hammer had run the previous Saturday.

The only question was, how much time Marci would put on The Hammer, and whether our team would still be in the lead by the end of this leg.

As I changed and Cory loaded my bike into the van, we all watched the exchange, wondering how many minutes I had earned the team.

Twelve. The answer was twelve minutes.

“Marci will beat me on this leg by ten minutes,” The Hammer had said before she started.

Now we’d find out how accurate her prediction would be.

Settling In

By the time we caught up to The Hammer, the weather looked ominous. 

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Was this going to be the year we got rained on? I asked myself 

As if in response, I felt the first rain drop.

But I never felt a second. 

Instead, these clouds provided fantastic shade and cool temperatures, not to mention a favorable wind.

Perfect racing weather. Perfect.

While it would no doubt have been faster to race in a group, The Hammer at least didn’t have to battle a headwind by herself. 

We pulled over whenever we could find a place, ringing cowbells and cheering for her and everyone else.

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But we were small potatoes, nutty-racer-support-wise. Heath Thurston and his team were pulling their shirts up and sprinting down the road, cheering for everyone.  

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That guy is the coolest kind of weird.

Next Up

The Hammer more or less time-trialed the course, solo pretty much all of the time. She was relaxed, had fun, and gave a big thumbs-up as she got near the exchange:

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Amazingly, she finished this 44.7mi course (with 3058 feet of climbing) in 2:19 — twenty-nine minutes faster than she had in 2014.

So that big run six days ago didn’t seem to be hurting her riding too much after all. (And a favorable wind helps, too.)

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Hanging Out With The Frenemy

Cory was off next, and I looked down at my watch to see how much of a lead against Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques we still had.

Three minutes later, Marci came in; The Hammer’s prediction had been close to spot on. 

We hustled into the van and caught up with Cory, who had managed to keep in front of Troy and Dave (known to our team as “Big D,” because “D” conveniently stands for both “Dave” and “Domestique”) on the first big climb.

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The power of a big strong rider like Big D can’t be denied on a mostly-downhill leg of the race, though (net elevation loss of 2400 feet). Before long, Troy and Big D had swept up Cory.

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And then something weird happened. Really weird. As in, “I still have no explanation that makes sense” weird.

Troy stopped, in the middle of the leg, and had his race number affixed to his bike.

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That’s Mary, Racer 1 for Team Infinite Stamina, on the left. I’m not sure who the guy in the shorts is; I’m guessing he’s one of the Domestiques. Maybe Mary’s?

Why hadn’t Troy put this number on earlier? Why stop and do it now?

And then things got weirder. Troy had Mary spray some kind of aerosol adhesive in a can onto the back of his race number affixed to his jersey.

Which prompts the question: How does a group of people forget to bring enough lights for everyone on the team, but remember to bring a can of aerosol adhesive?

“Smile for the camera, cuz this is so going in the blog,” I said.  

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Can’t say I didn’t warn you, Troy.

This is How The Race Goes

As you might have noticed, the whole “Cold Fury” thing had kind of worn off (though I reserved the right to reignite it at need). The fact is, Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques and Team SBR-WBR were pretty evenly-matched, and we were all having fun hanging out together and cheering for each other, as well as racing against and teasing each other. 

“Look, Troy’s actually pulling!” The Hammer yelled out the window.

“Quick, get a picture as proof!” Troy yelled back.

Which I did.

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Cory hung with the group, which was joined up with three riders from the Fishbowl team:

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Between the favorable wind, a big group, and a generally downhill section of the race, these guys flew along, leaving me with little to do but eat the delicious banana-nutella burrito The Hammer had made for me.

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The trick to racing hard leg after leg, kids, is to never stop fueling. 

At least, that’s what I like to tell myself.

Also, I got a picture of Mary and me. 

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Hey, we’d be trying to clobber each other again on the bike soon enough, but for right now: BFFs. 

Exchange Rate

Troy and Big D eventually managed to get a gap on Cory, and Cory rolled in about five minutes behind them.

As close-fought as this race was, we weren’t concerned at being a few minutes back.

No, that’s a lie. We were concerned. Possibly a little freaked out, even.

But we had a lot of confidence in our Racer 4: Lynette. She has a ton of experience with endurance racing and would no doubt do us proud.

So as Cory rolled in, I sighted the timing chip wrapped around his ankle, reaching for it before he even had come to a complete stop. 

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I pull off the chip as Cory wishes his wife good luck…

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…then pivot around and wrap the anklet on Lynette:

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Then I send her off with a good hard push: 

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This whole process (including the push), I’m pleased to say, took less than eight seconds (I know because the above are actually stills from a video The Hammer took).

Racing. Cheering. Helping. Relaxing. Laughing. Eating.

This is what The Rockwell Relay is.

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 1: Cold Fury

06.16.2015 | 10:19 am

A Note from Fatty: If you’re catching up with this story, you should probably first read:

  1. my race prediction
  2. part 0

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


I made a conscious decision when I was 20 years old. One that has probably affected who I am more than any other decision before or since.

See, up to then, I had prided myself on my ability to debate any point, to find weakness in others’ arguments, to “win” every conversation. In my mind, I was smart and logical and practicing to be a lawyer (I had always wanted to be a lawyer). But in reality I was just a contentious, pretentious, know-it-all jerk.

But I had a friend — his name is Shawn Udy — who was smarter than I am, better at persuading people than I was. And more importantly, he was nicer than I was. He was just kind and thoughtful.

I envied that.

“How is it that you’re so nice?” I asked him.

“You just decide to be,” he answered.

So I did. Right then, I decided that I was going to be nice. 

And, more or less, I stuck to it. Eventually it became easy, then natural, then at some point it became who I am. I am, by choice, a nice guy.

Except — and this is key — when I’m racing.

Because I think I still need a release valve for that part of me that wants to crush people.

The Cultivation of Indignation

I was at the starting line, nursing my righteous indignation. Trying to see if I could build it up into a full-blown cold fury.

Because when you’re racing, there’s nothing better than a nice slow-burning cold fury to keep you fast and focused.

I was doing pretty good so far. Here’s what I had as fuel for my fire:

We were outgunned, 2-to-1. When I wrote my “We Will Lose” prediction, I was unaware of the most important reason we would lose: Team Infinite Stamina actually had an entire second team whose entire purpose was to act as domestiques to Team Infinite Stamina.

So while Team SBR-WBR would be trying to find other racers to work with as best as we could, Team Infinite Stamina would always have another racer to work with them. This was an enormous advantage (and entirely within the rules).

This team of domestiques had a name, but we never bothered learning it (and I still haven’t). We just called them “Team Domestique.” And that’s what I’ll be calling them throughout this story. 

The domestique team was all male. While Team Infinite Stamina was made up of two women (Mary and Marci) and two men (Troy and Danny), Team Domestique was registered as a competitive men’s team, and in fact was made up of four competitive men. 

This was entirely within the rules.

Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques actually brought a racing crew. When anyone on Team SBR-WBR wasn’t racing, we were driving, crewing, or prepping for our next ride. 

When anyone on Team Infinite Stamina wasn’t racing, they were relaxing.

This, I should point out, was entirely within the rules.

Everything, in fact, that Team Infinite Stamina did…was entirely within the rules. And that’s what really made my blood boil: that basically they had out-strategized and out-resourced us. They had built a completely legal non-level playing ground. They weren’t just trying to beat us. They were out there to humiliate us. 

Cold fury threshold achieved. Let’s race.


I attacked from the gun, grabbing one other guy’s wheel who also seemed to want to do a breakaway. “Are you going for real?” I asked.

“If I can find someone to work with me, yes,” he replied. 

“Let’s do this,” I said. 

And then I came to my senses. A two-person breakaway wasn’t going to survive. The cold fury approach would be to instead let the lead group catch us and then work to make that lead group go as fast as I could. Work with a big group. Go fast and push them. Negate any advantage Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques has.

At first, Mary and her domestique hung with the lead group.

And so whenever there was a climb, I jumped ahead of the lead group — significantly — to give them a sense of urgency. Better go hard, or I’ll get away from you.

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Yes, that’s me. And behind me, that’s the lead group, chasing me down.

This worked. Really well. I split up the lead group, whittling it down into a much smaller group. One which consisted pretty much entirely of racers from Hyperthreads Teams 1, 2, 3, and 4, and a couple of other strong climbers.

And me.

And not anyone from Infinite Stamina + Domestiques.

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I started talking with Spencer, who is — in addition to being the owner of Hyperthreads — a fast, strong racer who knows a lot of the local talent.

“My coed team needs help,” I told him. “Our main competition has   Mary and Marci.”

“Those two are fast,” Spencer agreed.

“And they have a men’s team acting as domestiques. I need to build a serious gap in this leg or we won’t have a prayer.”

“Yeah,” agreed Spencer.

“So can you push your guys? Work with me to earn as much time as possible this leg? It’s the only leg I’ll be able to work with anyone this whole race. I need to make this count.”

And Spencer worked with me. He and his other Hyperthreads racers rode a smart, fast pace, keeping me with them on the flats and staying with me on the climbs.

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At times, I was impatient, and I would find myself in front and alone at the top of climbs. When you’re racing under the influence of cold fury, you tend to go faster than you otherwise might. 

This, I should note, cannot last forever.

Pain and Loss

According to Strava, the first leg of the Rockwell Relay is 54.4 miles long, with 4976 feet of climbing. As the elevation profile shows, you’re almost always climbing during this leg of the race:

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Most of that climbing is gradual, spread out, punctuated with occasional steep-but-short grunts. But at around mile 44, there’s a two-point-something-mile long pitch that is just plain mean

It was during this climb that — and I honestly don’t know which is the case — either the Hyperthreads guys started ramping up their pace, or I fell apart. 

My calves cramped. Hard. Both of them, at the same time.

I’d stretch out one calf at the bottom of the stroke, get a thousandth of a second of relief, only to have it fully seized up by the time it got back to the top of the stroke.

I wanted to stop. I did not stop.

But I did watch the lead group gap me. 

By the time this climb leveled off, the lead group was well beyond my reach. The next group was not even close to reaching me. I’d be finishing the final seven miles of this leg by myself. 

I went as hard as I could, doing my best to ignore my calves, which were still cramping (the day after the race, the soreness in my calves would be enough to make it difficult to walk).

I got into the town of Monticello, went as hard as I could, seeking the familiar site of the city park, where I knew the transfer happens. 

There it is. Left turn at speed and I see Cory, waving his arms. The Hammer is right in front of him, ready to go: 

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I roll across the timing mat, Cory takes the timing chip anklet off my left leg, wraps it around The Hammer’s ankle, and sends her off.

I look down at my bike computer. I’ve just beaten my personal best on this course by a full minute.

Cold fury, baby. Cold fury.

And now the wait would begin to see how much time I had managed to put into Team Infinite Stamina + Domestiques. I knew it would need to be a lot; their next racer would be Marci: a tiny wisp of a woman…who also happens to be a monster on the bike.

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 0

06.15.2015 | 5:53 am

This was the fifth year I’ve raced in the Rockwell Relllzzzzzzzzz 

Oh I’m sorry, I seem to have fallen asleep. Let me try that again.

Once you’ve done an event five timezzzzzzzzzzzzz

Hmmm. I’m having a rough time staying awake for some reason. Almost as if I’ve been knocking myself out doing a 525 mile / 27,600’ climbing relay race and am still a little bit sleep deprizzzzzzzz

Hm? Grmph. Sorry about that. I’m just going to go and take a quick nap, then I’ll start again. I’m sure I’ll be more lucid thzzzzzzzzzzz

(Twelve hours elapses.)

OK, I feel better now. I’m ready to tell this story. And let me tell you something, by way of hooking you in for what is sure to be a monster multi-parter: I was 100% correct in identifying Team Infinite Stamina as our chief coed competition. 

I’m going to tell you a story with a ton of drama, fierce competition, cramped calves, surprising twists, and a nail-biter of a conclusion. It’s the story of what was quite possibly the most intense and hard-fought race I’ve ever taken part in. And this story I’m going to tell, well, all of it will be true — at least to the best of my memory (and that’s an important caveat when you are racing without sleep for more than a 24-hour period). 

But that’s not the story I will tell today. That starts tomorrow.

Today, I’m going to tell you about bratwurst. And generosity.

The Best Part of the Rockwell Relay

The best part about The Rockwell Relay happens before the gun goes off. Before you get in line, with your heart ramping up, with tight clothes on your body, and with a million questions in your mind.

The best part of The Rockwell happens the day before the race, during packet pickup. 

Because that’s when I set up a tent and grill 500 beer-boiled bratwurst (generously donated by Colosimo’s) for racers. They in turn toss a couple of bucks into a box (100% of that money goes to World Bicycle Relief) and I talk with them about the race.

I answer questions. I talk about my love for bratwurst. I get to hang out with other people who love bikes and racing and…bratwurst.

This year, I had more fun doing this than ever before, because I didn’t do any of the actual work

Instead, I had my teammates — The Hammer, Cory, and Lynette — do all the prep, while Friend of Fatty team “What Were We Thinking, Part Trois” built the grills. Here’s Yann and Chris (with help from one of the Rockwell guy’s kids) competing to see who finishes first:

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Then it was time to start grilling…except I had forgotten to bring matches. And as it turns out, you can have 150 cyclists in a park, and not have a single one of them be a smoker. 

We sent someone off on an emergency errand to buy a lighter, and asked everyone to be patient. Which they were. 

Once the fire was ignited and the charcoal had turned white, Dave settled in and began grilling on one of the grills:  

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The Hammer and Cory worked another:

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And I just stood around and talked with people. Chatting with them about what they could expect the next day, thanking them for their donations, telling them about WBR.  

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On request, The Hammer would sometimes join me. Because I’m pretty sure most people were a lot more interested in talking with her than with me.

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Word got out that we were giving away bratwurst (and taking donations), and before long about 70% of the people in line were either just in the area or found out about us while they were at the nearby farmers’ market.

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We didn’t mind. We had plenty of bratwurst and people were donating generously.

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All told, we raised around $400 for World Bicycle Relief:

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People were streaming by more or less continuously, but we kept up…and had time to have a bratwurst or two or three ourselves.

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And we had plenty of time to talk with — and get photos with — other teams, including Team TRG – Texas, which had made a pretty long journey to do this race:

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Obviously, we were in a very serious mood. 

Facing the Competition

Troy — yes, the Troy from the Infinite Stamina team I had identified as our primary competition — came by. “Have you read my blog today?” I asked Troy.

“No,” he replied.

“Oh, I think you’ll enjoy it,” I said. Then I continued, “Have some bratwurst.” 

Troy looked at me warily.

“Is this a trick to give me food poisoning?” he asked.

“No, it’s delicious bratwurst, made, boiled, and grilled locally and lovingly by bratwurst artisans,” I explained. “I’ve had two so far, and everyone on my team has had at least one. Cory has had seven.”

(It’s possible I made up the bit about Cory having eaten seven, but Cory does in fact lead a carb-free existence, so maybe he had eaten seven.)

“I think I’ll pass,” Troy said.

“Oh, come on,” I persisted. “We’re going to try to demolish your team tomorrow, but not by sabotage.”

“Thanks anyway,” Troy replied.

“Fine, eat this plain bun then,” I said.

Which, to my amazement, Troy ate.

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Now that the race is behind us, I just want to assure Troy: there really was nothing wrong with the bratwurst; they were in fact double-cooked (boiled in beer for forty minutes, then grilled over charcoal) to make absolutely sure they were both safe and delicious.

The buns on the other hand, had been injected with flesh-eating bacteria.

Just kidding! (Or am I?) 

The Best Part After the Best Part

While I strongly encourage everyone to enjoy a brat or two before the race, I hope nobody actually thinks that this should be their evening meal. It’s a treat. Protein and fat-loading.

Every year, we buy our actual dinner at Paradox Pizza, having a margarita pizza and caprese pizza delivered to the park, with the plan to eat some that night, then store the rest for eating cold on the road the next day.

But we got kind of busy about the time the pizza arrived and the pizza got cold. Luckily, reheating later was no problem at all:

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In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that heating pizza over a charcoal grill makes it better than it was in the first place.  

Lynette and The Hammer seemed to agree. 

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By the time we were finished, we — my team (SBR-WBR) and Team What What Were We Thinking Part Trois (aka Team Friends of Fatty) — had worked for about 3.5 hours. The day before a race. A race which would go on, non-stop, for way more than a day.

Everyone had worked hard, and worked happy. 

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I love these guys. Love ‘em to death. 

The Best Part Right Before The Best Part

We stopped by the Subway Sandwich place to have 3 foot-longs made, went to the hotel, and were in bed and asleep by 9pm. It was important to get a lot of sleep that night; it’d be a while before we slept again. 

The next morning, we had our traditional pre-race breakfast — scrambled eggs and pancakes at Denny’s — and then met at the starting line.

I was to be riding the first leg, so was the only one in the team kitted up. I was wearing — for the first time, by anyone as far as I know — the 2015 Fat Cyclist Kit:

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Actually, that’s a Root Beer Gu under my pant leg, but I’m also happy to see you.

Naturally, we also got a team jump-shot photo:

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That’s as high off the ground Lynette ever got. Which I’m not even sure is off the ground at all. She’s going to need to work on that.

And then, as I was walking my bike to the starting corral, The Hammer said to me, “Did Cory tell you he gave away his lights to Team Infinite Stamina?”

My head spun around. Twice.

What?” I said. “He gave away his lights to our arch-rival team?”

“Yeah,” The Hammer said. “One of the racers in the Infinite Stamina team apparently forgot to bring lights.” 

“Doesn’t Cory know that part of winning a race is being prepared for the race?” I said. My personality at race time is way different from my personality at pretty much any other time.

“Tell me about it,” The Hammer said.

“And it’s not like we have more support than they do,” I continued. “They have eight racers, four of which have the sole responsibility of acting as domestiques to the coed team, to make it easier to beat us! And they have drivers and help! All we have is…us. 

“Cory’s lights were our only backup lights setup. Now if one of our lights fail, what do we do?” I fumed.

I was, at this moment, engaging in just a little bit of hyperbole, and a whole lot of drama…without any particular real concern. Cory’s lights were in fact one of my backup light systems. With Cory’s setup, we had brought enough lights and batteries to power a team of eight. Now, instead of being able to cope with four light/battery failures without problem, we could cope with three before I had to get creative.

For events like this, I’m kind of a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy. 

“Well, at least now when they beat us, we’ll be able to claim that they couldn’t have done it without us,” The Hammer said. 

I liked that thought. Liked it a lot. Made a note to myself that I’d remember to include it in my race report. Which I now have.

“You know,” I told The Hammer, “We should try to win.”

“You’d better go fast, then,” The Hammer replied, not unreasonably. 

So I got in line — self-seeding myself into the second row — and began my pre-gun ritual: I began stuffing my face. 

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There’s actually a lot of wisdom in eating at a starting line. You’re not going to get such an easy opportunity to get calories into your system again until you cross the finish line. And especially right at the beginning of the race, you’re probably not going to get the opportunity to eat at all. The race is too nervous.

“Remember,” The Hammer told me, “Don’t go attacking off the gun like you did in 2013.”

“I promise,” I said.

The race director counted down from ten — all of us counting along. The cop car escorting us out of town fired up his siren. The race began. 

I soft-pedaled for a moment ’til I was clipped in.

Then, unable to contain myself, I stood up and attacked.

And that seems like a good place to pick up in the next installment.

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