25 Hours in Frog Hollow, Part IX: Podiums and Ill-Timed Naps

11.21.2013 | 9:40 am

A Note from Fatty: Next week, November 25-26, I’ll be doing a special pre-order for the new Fat Cyclist long-sleeve t-shirt. Check it out:

BRATS, PIE, & HEAVYWEIGHT HORSEPOWER

I love this design. It’s both beautiful and an excellent mission statement. 

In addition to this new design, I’ll be bringing back the painted-look FatCyclist.com design, this time as a long-sleeve T. And the FatCyclist holiday sweater-ish long-sleeve T. 

So, look for the announcement and links to the Twin Six site this Monday, November 25. You’ll only have two days to pre-order, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. 

The t-shirts will ship 12/12 to 12/17, so if you’re in the US, they will be arrive by Christmas. 

And when you buy one, you’re going to be helping me make ends meet while I’m writing Fight Like Susan. Which is awfully cool of you.

25 Hours in Frog Hollow, Part IX: Podiums and Ill-Timed Naps

It is such a strange feeling to be done with a big race. Somehow, by riding my bike for just under 26 hours, racing around this loop had become my whole universe. Somehow, suddenly not having to race seemed strange. Foreign.

And incredibly luxurious.

I cleaned up, got into some jeans, a t-shirt, and a jacket — so exquisite to not be wearing a jersey and bike shorts with a damp chamois — and walked around (I had tried to help tear down camp, but Zach, Trisha, and Brooks laughed at my uselessness and told me to go relax).

There was a free lunch — loaded up tostadas from Costa Vida. The Hammer and I picked ours up, then sat down in the dirt to eat, killing time ’til the awards ceremony.

Within moments my head was nodding forward. My food mostly untouched. I have a singular ability to fall asleep instantly, and that ability was asserting itself, big time. 

Then I was startled awake by The Hammer, who was squealing, “That’s Jill Homer!” You see, The Hammer is Jill Homer’s biggest fan.

So we went and talked to Jill, finding that — like us — she and her boyfriend Beat had done the race solo and ridden it together. Unlike us, Jill had crashed out of the race, finishing ten laps. 

Meanwhile, The Hammer used all her willpower to not ask for an autograph.

Which makes me think: the coolest Spreecast I could ever do would be one where I just have The Hammer and Jill swap stories about what it’s like to be really nice, normal women who also happen to love doing monster endurance events.

Don’t you think?

On the Podium

It was time for awards to be handed out. Of course, it was no surprise at all that The Hammer won her Women’s Solo Singlespeed division: 

IMG 1086

What we didn’t know for sure — and which the announcer was very cool about announcing — was that The Hammer had also put in the fastest overall women’s solo time. Since she wasn’t registered in the geared solo division though, she wasn’t on that podium. So I have taken the liberty of slightly modifying the official results:

NewImage

And for the singlespeed men? Well, they called Jamon up for first place — no surprise.

Then they called Kenny up for second place — no surprise.

And then they called me up for third place. 

IMG 1083

Which was a surprise. 

I had — without knowing it — finished my 17th lap just five minutes ahead of El Freako:

NewImage

To be clear, El Freako’s (aka Jeff) lap times are consistently faster than mine. But sometime during the middle of the night, he did a 4:33 lap. Was he sleeping? Fixing a mechanical? Tending to an injury? I dunno. But this was definitely a tortoise-and-the-hair moment. 

And as a result, I got this very cool Lezyne Port-a-Shop toolkit as a prize. 

IMG 7719

With a retail value of $139, that’s by far the nicest third prize I’ve ever seen at a race. And now this lives in my truck, and I have pretty much every tool I could need to fix anything.

So now it’s especially sad that I’m such a miserable mechanic.

Inopportune Naptime

And then it was time to head home. Now, we were smart enough not to attempt the four-hour drive back to Alpine. No. We instead were just going to do the forty-minute drive back to Kenny and Heather’s house.

By the time we got on pavement, I was having a really hard time keeping my eyes trained. “I think I may need to pull over,” I told The Hammer. 

And then my head drooped forward. Followed by The Hammer screaming. 

Which woke me up pretty thoroughly. 

You know what would be a good idea at 24-hour races? Designated drivers for afterward.

Weeks Later

And now, for the first time since Spring, The Hammer and I have no races coming up. Nothing to train for. 

It feels wonderful.

The only problem is, I still can’t feel my index or middle fingers in my right hand.

 

Surprise Finish: 20123 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part XII

10.10.2013 | 11:09 am

A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is the final (!) part of my Salt to Saint race report. To read earlier installments, try the below links:

I was asleep, on my bike, flying downhill, with my hands on my aero bars, for two seconds. Maybe not even that long. Maybe only one second. Half a second. Long enough, though, for my head to fall down toward the bars, startling me back awake.

I realized what had just happened — that I could have easily crashed in that moment. Or drifted into oncoming traffic. Or veered into the guardrail and flipped over, down the steep mountainside.

I could have died in a number of ways.

A massive rush of adrenaline hit me as I started to understand my near miss, completely solving my drowsiness problem.

Good Change

We were getting close. Down to the last thirty miles or so, in fact. We now knew the road we were riding on: it was much the same one we had been on earlier this year when we did the Half Ironman on these same bikes — our Shivs.

But we weren’t getting much of an aero advantage from these bikes anymore. Our backs and necks were just too tired, too sore, too stiff for riding in an aero position.

“Let’s switch to the road bikes,” I said.

And we were so glad we did. Having been on our Shivs for most of the past 400 miles (it’d be interesting to know what the exact mileage breakdown is, but we didn’t keep track), I had just about forgotten how much more comfortable and forgiving a regular ol’ road bike is. 

The Hammer confirmed what I was thinking, saying, “Oh, this feels so good.”

Discussion on the Home Stretch

Even before the race began, we knew that the Salt to Saint Ends hard — with a longish climb, then a short-but-steep climb, and then with one last long climb.

We climbed slowly. We had no intense efforts left in us. 

As we climbed, I started thinking. An idea occurred to me. A really good one. I just needed to present it properly.

“Do you think Russell, Jason, or Jake have passed us?” I asked. Then I followed up with my real question. “Or is there a chance we’re somehow the lead solo riders?”

“I don’t even care,” The Hammer said. That wasn’t a snub, it was just honest exhaustion. 

“Still,” I said, “We have to consider there’s a possibility that we are the lead solo riders. What if,” I continued, now getting to my real idea, “you weren’t simply the first woman to finish this race solo this year — as well as the first woman ever — but were the first solo racer overall?”

“No,” The Hammer said. “You should go first. That way you win overall, and I’m still first woman.”

I knew she’d say that, so had my response ready. “You’ve got to do it. Doing this ride solo was your idea; my job has been to be domestique. And the domestique doesn’t finish ahead of the leader.”

“Besides,” I said, “You finishing first makes a better story in the blog.”

Yeah, that’s right. I used the blog card.

“Fine,” she said. 

And thus, for the first time ever, I triumphed in an argument with The Hammer. 

Surprise!

As we began the last climb — up REd Hills Parkway — I looked at my Garmin 510. It was 11:50am. We had been out for 27:50. Twenty seven hours and fifty minutes.

“I cannot believe how close you came to predicting our finishing time,” I said. “We’re going to finish within half an hour of your prediction, even with everything that’s gone wrong. That’s amazing.”

“I think we’ll finish at 12:15,” The Hammer said. 

We were climbing so slowly. Tired out. I was trying to get a sense of whether I felt elation or excitement. Nope. Just tired. Just ready to go to bed and take a nap.”

No, wait. There it was. Pride. I was proud of what we had done. My wife and I had ridden for twenty eight hours. 423 miles. Together (most of the time). How many couples can say that?

My introspection was broken by the Hammer saying, “Oh please oh please oh please give us a left turn.”

I didn’t understand. Sure, we were approaching a traffic signal, but I had just assumed we’d be going straight through and continuing our climb up and over Red Hills Parkway. We weren’t even halfway up it.

But there it was: a course marking, showing us to turn left. 

“I don’t get it,” I said.

The Hammer, who knows St. George better than I do, told me, “We’re done climbing. This drops us right into downtown, a couple blocks from the finish line.”

“We’re there,” she said.

And she was right. A quick curvy descent (and if you’re not careful, a very treacherous one: another team’s racer blew the curve, flipped over the barrier and landed twenty feet below, breaking all kinds of bones), put us on Diagonal Street. Kenny and Heather pulled alongside of us, gave us a final cheer, and then shot ahead to meet us at the finish line.

We turned one final time toward a park, and there it was. 

I feathered my brakes, slowing so The Hammer would cross first, and then rolled in behind her.

We had done it.

Our final times were 27:59:29 (for The Hammer) and 27:59:42 (for me)

We had beaten The Hammer’s predicted finish time…by just about half a minute.

Afterward

Zac and Blake were at the finish line, as were — of course — Kenny and Heather.

fatty, the hammer, and the crew

We were incredibly fortunate to have such patient family and friends take care of us.

We quickly found out that we were, in fact, the first solo finishers, making The Hammer the overall solo winner, and me the first man. Russell Mason would finish just under five hours later. Jake and Jason — the great guys we rode with at the beginning of the race — would not finish the race. I would love to know all three of their stories.

The race organizers interviewed The Hammer and me on-camera for a few minutes. Asked what I considered to be the most challenging aspect of the race, I answered, “Recurring hiccups.”

I am pretty sure they did not expect that answer.

We went to Heather and Kenny’s house, took the most welcome shower in the history of showers, then collapsed and slept on what I had always thought of as an OK bed…until that point. Now I knew that bed is magical.

We got up a couple hours later and went to the awards ceremony, held in the same park we had finished in. Our prizes? A decal we could put on our cars saying we had soloed the Salt to Saint, along with a set of new road tires for our bikes. And — you must believe I am not making this up — a case of Red Bull.

Which, I would like to add, remains unopened.

PS: For those of you who would like to see what a really long ride looks like on Strava, here you go.

PPS: I am actually writing and posting this while on a plane because I feel like I owe it to you to finish this story before disappearing. That said, I will be busy with some top-secret stuff as soon as I land, and won’t be posting tomorrow.

PPPS: I expect that some of you have questions. Ask in the comments and I’ll try to get to them tonight (Thursday) or on the flight home tomorrow (Friday).

G’night Everybody: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part XI

10.9.2013 | 8:44 am

A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 11 of my Salt to Saint race report. To read earlier installments, try the below links:

We had been going downhill for an hour, and now we had a thousand or so feet of climbing. People were passing us. Constantly.

“Just remember,” I said, “that none of these people have been riding as long as we have. They have all had six or more hours of rest since the last time they rode. And in an hour or two, they’re done.

“Plus,” The Hammer replied, “They’re still more or less in the same place as we are, this far into the race. We aren’t doing too bad.”

She was right. The Hammer had predicted that we’d do this race in 28 hours. So far, in spite of everything that had gone wrong, we were right on schedule. 

“I am beginning to believe that we are going to finish this thing,” I said.

“But I wish all these people who are passing us knew that we’re riding this thing solo,” The Hammer said.

I did too. So I started thinking about it. And then I came up with an ingenious plan, requiring nothing but a sharpie.

“We could have just written “SOLO” on our calves,” I said. Like this:

Solo
No, these are not my legs.

“And then,” I said, “As the night drags on and we’re feeling really bad, we could just add a letter.” Like this:

So low

“And finally, after we’ve been riding all night and we’re just crawling along…like we are right now…we can add one final letter.” Like this:

So slow

And then I took a moment to marvel at my ingenuity. 

So now you know what kinds of things I think about when I’ve been up and riding for a day and a night. Isn’t the inside of my head an interesting place? 

It isn’t?

Try, Try Again

A big drop brought us to the Kanab transition, which was important for a few important reasons:

  1. We were now well into our final hundred miles. “Only” eighty or so miles to go.
  2. Daylight wasn’t far off. Within the next hour or so it would be light. Which was incredibly exciting for us.
  3. Kenny and Heather would be taking over crewing duties from Blake and Zac.

In my head, I was really glad to see Kenny and Heather. I really was. As I greeted them, though, the part of me that listens to what I’m saying and how I’m saying it observed, “They just traveled to Kanab, Utah to drive behind you and get you food and otherwise babysit you for the next several hours, and you sound completely disinterested. Like a zombie.”

So I said, again, how glad I was they were here and how much I appreciated them.

And then I think I said it again. At which point The Hammer observed, “You’re happy they’re here. I think they got it.”

I confess. Lucidity was a scarce resource.

Luckily for Kenny, Heather, and The Hammer, I didn’t try to — once again — convince them that despite my appearance and slurred, mumbling voice I was happy to see them. Because I had Other Business to attend to.

By which I mean, I needed to poop.

By the time I came out of the outhouse in the parking lot, everyone was ready to go.

I, however, had not had any luck. “Oh well,” I thought. “Next time.”

Except just as I threw a leg over my bike — I’d be riding the Shiv for the next sixty miles or so — I decided I needed to try again. 

“Sorry everyone,” I said, and headed back to the outhouse. 

A while later I re-emerged, my perspective on the day and the ride much, much improved.

It’s the little things in life that matter.

Deedle Deedle Dumpling

I found The Hammer sitting in the crew car, in the driver’s seat. Her head resting against the steering wheel. Quite possibly asleep.

I roused her with the question, “Did I, sometime during the past twenty-four hours, accidentally eat a cork?”

(OK, from here on out I’m done with the poop talk. Honest.)

The Hammer got her helmet and gloves on, got on her bike, and we got going on the next leg, with Kenny and Heather following close behind.

“I can’t clip in,” The Hammer said. 

“With either foot?”

“No, just my left foot.”

And that, right there, is the curse of the Speedplay road pedal: ridiculously finicky spring-loaded cleats. One little piece of gravel can lodge in and make it impossible to clip in.

The Hammer kept working at it, though and — sometime shortly after we crossed the Arizona state line — she clipped in.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the next transition area, she had forgotten about the difficulty getting her shoe clipped in, was unable to clip out, and fell over on her side, pinned under her bike.

Ordinarily, I would have been right there, helping her out of the pedal and making sure The Hammer was OK. I’d have been the ultimate solicitous husband.

This time, though, I just stood there, thinking to myself, “Why would she do that? What a stupid joke.”

We ate — one last turkey and swiss sandwich for me, after which I swore I would never eat turkey deli meat, swiss cheese, or bread ever again. Oddly, I held no grudge against the mayonnaise.

And then we were on the road again.

But this time, The Hammer could not clip in. No matter what. Just couldn’t.

So she rode that way — not clipped in on her left foot — for about 14 miles. After which she remembered: she had actually brought a second pair of road shoes. 

Like I said, lucidity was a scarce commodity.

The Hammer changed into a spare shoe — just the one, leaving her with a Specialized shoe on the right and a Shimano shoe on her left foot.

“Ebony, and Ivorreeeeeeee,” I sang, briefly breaking into “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” which — twenty four hours into this ride — was still on auto repeat in my brain.

I will never again be able to listen to that song without thinking of this race.

Shutting Down

Morning came, and our spirits soared. Partly this was because — even if you haven’t slept, the returning sun somehow rejuvenates you. But mostly it was because we knew that morning meant that we’d be finishing the race soon. And then we could lie down and take a nap before coming back for the awards ceremony.

“Do you have any idea whether the other solo riders passed us sometime during the night?” I asked The Hammer.

“No, there’s no way to tell,” she replied. “We’ve been stopping for around ten minutes every hour for the past eight hours or so, though. I’d be surprised if they haven’t caught and passed us at some point during the night.”

I agreed, and I didn’t care. We were doing this to complete, not compete.

“I’m really proud of you,” I told The Hammer. “You’re going to do this. You’re going to be the first woman to ever finish this course solo. And you’re doing it right on the pace you had predicted. I think we’re going to finish right around noon.”

“Yeah, or maybe a little later,” The Hammer responded. “But we’ll finish in under 29 hours, which is within an hour of my prediction. That’s pretty good.”

We went through the Cedar Point transition, which meant a big eighteen-mile descent. 

Free miles! 

This late in the race, it almost seemed like cheating, to suddenly be flying, low in the aero bars, just coasting.

I stared at the line.

My heart rate dropped.

I found it incredibly difficult to keep my eyes open.

I kept drifting onto the rumble strips, which would briefly make me jerk to alertness. But it wouldn’t last long, and I’d start fading.

And then, finally, ripping along downhill at thirty miles per hour, it happened.

I fell asleep.

How to Not Eat: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part X

10.7.2013 | 6:17 am

A Note from Fatty about today’s entry: This is part 10 of my Salt to Saint writeup, for crying out loud. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:

I want to tell an accurate, honest story here. I want to describe what it’s really like to ride your road bike for 423 miles, nonstop, with your wife. Paradoxically (I think), though, part of being honest and accurate with my storytelling means that I have to confess that there is no way I can be accurate about a big chunk of the nighttime hours of the race. They blend together, muddled up in my mind. I’ve lost track of what cities we went through, or in what order, or where the climbs and descents happened.

My clearest recollection is staring at the white line, aware that The Hammer is close enough behind that I can see the wash of her light directly ahead of me.

I remember being grateful for that fact, because my neck was too sore, too stiff, to turn around and check whether we were still together.

I remember losing all interest in speed, distance, and time. Those were all numbers that I figured would be relevant again when it got light.

I remember that we were almost always going uphill. Just barely uphill, but uphill.

I remember thinking about RAAM — the Race Across America. I thought about how the idea of it, once intriguing, was now completely abhorrent to me. Not because I thought I couldn’t do it. Just the opposite: I got a pretty good sense that maybe I have exactly the right gifts for this kind of race, both mental and physical. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t, in fact, picture how anyone would want to ride the RAAM. A week-plus of this? No thanks. 

Also, I spent several minutes considering what a stupid acronym “RAAM” is.

But more than anything else, I remember how I learned to hate food.

New Rule

When we were planning for this race, The Hammer and I had agreed: we’d never stop except to pee or change clothing. We’d do all our eating, all our drinking, while riding our bikes.

And to our credit, we had stuck with that plan for a big chunk of the race. At least half of it, I’d say. 

But as we crossed the line into Saturday, The Hammer suggested that it was too hard to eat every half hour now; we should try to eat every hour, instead. And also, we should stop while we ate, just for a few minutes.

That was fine with me. That was an easy decision, in fact. 

It was, however, much harder to decide what to eat.

What to Eat?

I love Honey Stinger energy chews. Love them. I could eat three packets of them, right this second. But I had been eating nothing but them for the past seven hours or so — meaning I had eaten around fourteen packets. 

I was ready for a change.

The problem was, nothing sounded good. Nothing at all. It wasn’t so much that everything sounded bad, either. It was just that my mind was so scrambled that I couldn’t do what I normally do when it’s time to eat. And what do I normally do when it’s time to eat? Why, I make a call to the special place in my brain where I can ask myself, “What sounds good to eat right now?” and expect an immediate list to come to mind, cross-tabbed by closeness-to-hand, ease of preparation, and best taste. A matrix of deliciousness, if you will.

Now, however, just when I needed it most, instead of a list of things I’d like to eat I was getting a 404 – Not Found message.

“How about a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich on a dinner roll?” Blake asked, digging through the ice chest.

Was he kidding? Was that really an option? I had no idea.

“That would be fine,” I said. “With plenty of extra mayo, please, because I’m pretty sure that I am currently not making any saliva at all.”

(This may have been due to the fact that I had secretly stopped drinking anything while riding about four hours ago, about the time it had gotten dark. Nobody could see my bottles, though, and I wasn’t volunteering the information, because I knew I’d be scolded. Besides, every hour or so I was drinking a Red Bull, and that was enough liquid when it was cold and I wasn’t sweating [much], right? Right?)

The Hammer wanted one, too, but without the obscene amount of mayo.

This Behavior Must Stop

Blake made his mom’s sandwich, then made mine. This was how things had gone, the whole day: take care of The Hammer, then take care of Fatty. Ladies first, you know. Plus, the crew had been stacked with The Hammer’s side of the family. And so I had gotten used to waiting, and I was fine with it.

Except for one small detail.

Once The Hammer had finished eating, she would go. Regardless of whether I was finished eating, or not. Without even checking, really. Two or three times during the day, in fact, I had just had my first bite of whatever I was eating when The Hammer started riding away.

“I guess I’m done,” I’d say, handing back whatever I was eating and burning a match to catch up with The Hammer.

By now, however, I was out of “catch up with The Hammer” matches. And I needed to fuel up. 

So, as I took my first bite of my sandwich and The Hammer started rolling away, I yelled, “Just STOP for a second, will you?! Can I please eat, too?” 

The Hammer looked startled, possibly due to the fact that I used more sarcasm than was necessary. It’s also possible that I yelled louder than was necessary.

“But I always do this,” she said. “I don’t want to hold you up.”

“I know,” I said. “But I am done with chasing. For the rest of this race, I am all about a consistent, slow pace. And I need to eat. So don’t leave anymore until we’re both ready to go.”

“Has this been bothering you for a while?” The Hammer asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “For around the past seven hours or so.”

“Well why did you wait seven hours to say something?” she asked.

It was a good question. And very soon, I expect to have a fantastic answer occur to me.

And Now for Some Electronic Geekery

“SR-14″ is not a particularly glorious-sounding name for an important milestone in the race. But it was, in fact, quite possibly the single most important milestone of the entire race, as far as The Hammer and I were concerned. Because that transition area marked the end of our giant, never-ending (like, ninety miles!) false flat of a climb. 

For the next 22 miles, it was going to be nothing but downhill. Free miles! It promised to be the easiest, fastest segment of the day, though we had been warned that all this descending from a mountain pass in the dead of night would be brutally cold.

So as we ate our sandwiches — another turkey and cheese for each of us — we dressed extra-warmly, adding a jacket and heavy gloves to the layers we already wore. 

We also took the opportunity to swap out some of our electronics.

First, we swapped batteries on our NiteRider 1800 Pro Races — the first set of batteries had lasted an astonishing 6.5 hours and were still going, but we didn’t want to have to change batteries during the descent. Also, we mounted the big guns, lightwise, onto our handlebars: NiteRider Pro 3600 DIYs. Which meant we each had a total of 5400 lumens of light available to us, so that when we rode beside each other heading downhill (we were very intentionally not getting on the side of the road; we were being as big and obvious as we could), we cast off considerably more light than a car does.

Is it obvious that I’m kind of in love with NiteRider?

Next, we swapped out our Garmins. We had gotten 17+ hours our of our 510s, but had gotten the “low battery” warning, so we switched over to our old 500’s.

My Garmin 500 would not, by the way, survive the descent. Somewhere along the way — the catch that attaches to the mount worn away from years of use — it popped out of the mount. I never noticed ’til the next transition, by which time my 510 was fully recharged anyway.

So if by chance you come across a Garmin 500 laying on the road somewhere between SR-14 and Kanab in Utah, uh, please feel free to keep it. Because it won’t stay on your mount anyway.

Maladies

The Hammer and I started on our big, long-anticipated descent. The one we were so excited about. The one we had been talking about.

And it sucked.

I was hurting in a big way. Or should I say “ways.” Because there were three things simultaneously going on.

First, I had heartburn. Bad. Searing, painful heartburn. This would be my companion for about ten minutes every time I ate for the rest of the race. I suspect this was due to the enormous amount of Red Bull I had been drinking. Probably it is not advisable to drink sixteen Red Bulls over the course of a day. I expect that Red Bull would probably concur.

Second, I was getting verrrrrry drowsy. Something that hadn’t occurred to me during the constant climbing for the past several hours was that the effort of climbing kept my heart rate up, which in turn kept me awake.

Now I was coasting. Hardly moving at all, really. And I felt a deep and pressing need to fall asleep. But I didn’t, because of the third problem, which was…

Third, Hiccups. Hiccups became my bane. Yes, they kept me awake, but other than that they were driving me completely nuts. And it wasn’t just an isolated case of hiccups that went away after a few minutes. Starting around 3:00am and for the rest of the race, I would get hiccups every time I ate something

I was miserable. Much more miserable than this list would suggest.

And also, I needed to poop.

End of the Road: 2013 Salt to Saint Race Report, Part VIII

10.2.2013 | 8:34 am

A Note from Fatty: Confused by this post? That may be because this is Part 8 of my Salt to Saint writeup. It’ll make more sense if you read the earlier installments first:

I probably owe you an apology. See, in yesterday’s post, I ended with this:

I was a third of the way into a 423-mile ride and had somehow managed to find myself alone, in a headwind, prone to flats, with no tubes, and no food. 

And I just didn’t have it in me to chase anymore.

In fact, I didn’t feel like pedaling at all.

That’s pretty dramatic. It sounds, in fact, as if I were in really serious trouble. Like I was contemplating throwing in the towel. And at the moment, I really, truly, and for reals felt that way. 

With that kind of build-up, you’d kind of expect that I was in for hours of lonely, bonked riding. 

Hopefully, then, it won’t be too severe a letdown when I reveal that fifteen minutes after I fixed the flat and got riding, I saw Scott and Kerry, parked in a pull-out area on the side of the road. 

And there, with them, was The Hammer. 

“I was sick of riding in the wind alone,” she said. “And I was hungry. So I waited for you.”

“And,” she said, “I needed to pee.”

“I missed you too,” I replied. “And I am done with the whole ‘Go on ahead’ thing.”

We got back on our Shivs for this relatively flat section and began riding, together, again.

A New Food Plan

“I can’t eat the pizza rolls and cinnamon rolls and turnovers and stuff like that anymore,” I confessed over my shoulder. I felt bad saying it, because I knew The Hammer had put a ton of work into baking all of this as our main food source for the race. 

“I can’t either,” said The Hammer. “A little while ago I spat one out.”

“Me too!”

It was a beautiful moment of bonding.

But it was also a dilemma. I decided that I personally was just going to stick to my favorite go-to energy food in the world: Honey Stinger Organic Chews (The Caffeinated Cherry Cola flavor is currently my favorite). 

“Every half hour,” she said, “We eat something. Together. At the same time. No matter what.”

And that was a moment of bonding, too. Although perhaps not as beautiful.

Honestly, at this very moment, I cannot remember what The Hammer was eating every half hour (and I can’t go ask her, because she’s still in bed). But I do remember that we made a pact that from that point on, we would eat together, every half hour. 

And so — without fail — every half hour, when my Garmin 510 beeped (I always have it set to alert me every half hour to eat), I’d call out, “time to eat!” and we’d stuff something into our mouths, while making sure the other person did, too. 

When neither of you want to do something, mutual accountability works great.

Until later, when it didn’t.

Bring on the Night

It was good to be riding together again, especially because we were on what I recall as the absolute worst section of the race: Ephraim to Manti.

No, it wasn’t that the road was bad: it was chipseal of varying quality, just like most of the rest of the race. And no, it wasn’t the headwind, though that was pretty punishing.

It was the traffic. 

We hit that section of the race pretty much at the end of the workday on a Friday, and there was a truck pulling a motorhome or boat or trailer full of ATVs going by us pretty much every three seconds. All of them heading toward whatever they were doing for the weekend, and about half of them feeling like it was their responsibility to honk their annoyance at our existence.

Add to that one of the harshest, most unforgiving rumblestrips I’ve ever ridden on, and it was a miserable hour of riding.

But we got through. And once we were through Manti, the traffic — and our nerves — settled down. 

We ticked off the hours and the miles, watching our shadows get longer, and the sun work its way down.

At 6:45 — the race rules specified we needed to have lights and reflective vests from 7pm to 7am — we pulled over to set up lights. We were using identical NiteRider light setups: the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race. These are my favorite lights ever. They mount onto your helmet easily, are light enough to wear all night without weighing your head down (very important!), and — even on the low setting — give off an incredibly bright and even wash of light. And on the low setting (which is what we used for the whole night), a battery charge gives you a full six hours of light…a fact we would be confirming that night.

NewImage

For taillights, we were using the NiteRider Stinger taillights. Besides being super bright, they’re possibly the easiest taillights in the world to mount. You just stretch the band around the seat post and attach it to the peg on the other side. 

And yes, that band stretches far enough to go around the Shiv’s aero seatpost.

Then we put Amphipod reflective vests over our jerseys, and we were ready to go.

Status Update

Racers were required to stop at the Richfield transition station, partly to make sure our SPOTs were working, partly to make sure everyone had working lights, and partly to see if the racers themselves were OK.

The Richfield transition station was also important for another reason: it meant we had gone 200 miles. And it wasn’t even (completely) dark yet.

Oh, and we had one more reason: to find out where we stood. As casually as I could, I asked the race official, “So, um, how many other solo riders have come through?”

“You’re the first.”

“We’re the first?”

“Yep.”

Well, that was cause for celebration. And a few extra minutes of rest.

“Could I get another Coke?” I asked Kerry, as we unapologetically loitered at the transition station for a few minutes.

“Uh, sorry. You’re out.”

“We’re out? Of Coke? Already?” I asked.

“You’ve kinda been drinking a lot of it,” Kerry said. And it was true. I hadn’t been keeping track; it just seemed like there was so much when we had loaded the truck that morning. I had sort of been drinking it as if there were no way we’d ever run out.

“So we still have lots of Red Bull, right?”

“Oh yeah, you’re fine for Red Bull.”

And with that, I commenced to set a new world record (unofficial) for most Red Bull consumed in a 28-hour period. 

End of the Road. Trail. Whatever.

Night was coming on for real as we left Richfield, and by the time we got to the next transition — Sevier — it was completely dark. And with the dark came the sensation that we weren’t going anywhere. Sure, we were pedaling, and sure we could see the road going by, but we could no longer see big landmarks coming and going. 

We weren’t riding to anywhere, anymore. We were just riding through the dark.

It was a nice night — we pulled on arm warmers, but didn’t need any other extra clothing for hours. We said goodbye to Scott and Kerry, who’d be trading the truck over to Blake and Zac for the next shift of crewing for us.

We, meanwhile, would be on our own for a little bit, since we were being directed on to a bike path. “Tell Zac and Blake to look for us once we get back on the road!” The Hammer called, and we set off.

Now, riding a time trial bike on a bike path, at night, is a weird experience. Unlike roads — which are generally designed to be as straight as possible — it seems to be a desirable feature of bike paths to have them wind and curve and undulate.

We tried riding for a mile or so in our aero bars, then gave up and sat up, riding side-by-side, very confident that no cyclists would be coming at us from the other direction.

To our right, we could see the highway. We wondered when we would be directed back on. We hoped that Blake and Zac wouldn’t be too far ahead of us — or too far behind. Either way could make it tricky for them to locate us again.

We kept riding for another couple miles, talking about how freaky of a section this was, and how slow riding a bike path was. 

And then the bike path ended. Just stopped. 

The Hammer and I looked at each other.

“So,” I said. “Where now?”

Which is where we’ll pick up on Monday. 

PS: Yes, I said “Monday,” because The Hammer and I are headed out to Santa Rosa for Levi’s GranFondo tomorrow morning; I’ll be unlikely to be have time to write tomorrow and Friday. 

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