Hey, I’m taking the time I’d normally use to write this blog post to actually prepare for a live chat I’ll be doing about one of my very favorite annual events, The Rockwell Relay.
You should join us. Just click here to register, and then call in (if you’re just listening) or sign in (if you’re using a computer) at 12noon Mountain Time.
I’ll be deep-diving into
- Who should be riding which leg
- Stuff to bring
- How to stay cool
- How to keep warm
- What to eat
- How to handle team rotation
- Leapfrogging tactics
- Rules you should know
- How to make the race memorable and fun
I’ll be showing pictures and tables, providing lists, telling amusing anecdotes and otherwise going on and on and on.
It should be awesome. No, seriously. This should be a good opportunity for you to see what goes on my head when I get completely nuts about a race.
Please consider the following video as prerequisite homework:
Whether you’re going to be racing this year, next year, or are not sure what all the fuss is about, sign up and plan on joining me.
Hey, what else are you going to do with your lunch hour?
A “Join Me to Talk About the Rockwell Relay This Thursday at 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12noon MT / 11am PT” Note from Fatty: As anyone who follows this blog no doubt knows, The Rockwell Relay is one of my two favorite events to do every year. It’s an intense, funny, serious, silly, physically demanding, relaxing, and just plain memorable way to see, ride, and crew your way across some of the most beautiful desert you could ever imagine.
The race is getting close — it’s June 12-13 — so if you’re going to register, you’d better do it soon. Registration closes the 31st.
And whether you’re already registered, are considering registering, or are thinking you might want to start working on having this race as an objective for next year, you ought to attend a live webinar I’ll be hosting this Thursday at 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12noon MT / 11am PT. I’ll be talking about the race, with an emphasis on what you ought to bring, who you ought to plan on racing which leg of the race, and how to make it both a rewarding race and a fun vacation.
I’ll have a first-time Rockwell racer on the panel to ask first-timer questions. I’ll have another experienced Rockwell racer to ask and answer questions. I’ll have the race director here.
I’ll talk about how I’ll be preparing 600 bratwurst for grilling in the week leading up to the race. I’ll show pictures. I’ll answer any questions you have about the race. I’ll reveal what my team name is going to be this year, and what kit I’ll be wearing at the starting line (hint: it has to do with my having lost a bet).
So, be sure to register for and attend this chat. Whether you’re going to be racing at the Rockwell Relay or are just curious what’s going through my noggin as I prepare for a 500-mile race, it should be entertaining. And possibly even useful.
The Hammer’s 2015 St George Half Ironman Race Report, Part 2
5:30am. Race day. On the bus to Sand Hollow, where the race begins.
The mood is always a little somber on the bus. I didn’t feel the need to talk. After exiting the bus, I immediately lost my friends. I headed toward my bike and found a pump to use and inflated my tires. I was really glad I had — the pressure had dropped to 80psi overnight.
My body was marked and then I went to stand in line for the bathroom. By the time I finished, the pros were making their way down to the water. I found a nice place on the beach and watched them take off.
They make the swim look easy.
It was cool to see them move farther and farther away. The depression in the water and the wake they produce looks like a monster gliding along under the surface of the water.
The pros started at 6:50, and the age groupers started departing at 0700. I was in the yellow wave and would start at 7:21. Waves of swimmers would depart every 3 minutes with the last wave leaving at 08:00. I thought about the fact that I might be coming out of the water before the last person starts. This was different; I have never been in an early wave at a swim start. They usually start the “old ladies” last. I was a little apprehensive that people would be continually swimming over me. On the other hand, I was really excited that I would be finishing the race 45 minutes sooner than some. The day was supposed to get into the low 90s, so the sooner I was done the better!
As I moved down toward the lake, I saw Lynette and Jessica. They were starting in the 7:18 wave. I gave Lynette a huge hug and wished her luck. I reminded her I would be chasing her — and hopefully catching her by the end of the race!
Then it was my turn. They herded us into the water. There would be no time for warming up. The warmup would be swimming the 25 meters from the beach to the actual start line.
I was grateful the water was fairly warm and didn’t produce the same shock that cold water does. I put my head down and headed for the start buoy. I pulled down the goggles and turned on the Iolite. I could see the red turn buoy ahead, about a third of a mile away.
I started fretting as I contemplated where I should lock my GPS on. Should I head for the buoy or the outside kayaker? I didn’t really want to swim in the the mass of swimmers which I would do if I headed for the buoy. So I aimed between the two.
The gun went off and I did a few strokes with my head out of the water so the Iolite would lock on. I was surprised at the chaos of the water. So many people kicking – water and waves were being kicked up. I inhaled a mouth full of water and began choking and sputtering. I wasn’t panicked, but I certainly couldn’t breathe/swim with a mouth full of water!
Eventually I got my bearings, put my head in the water before I could be splashed again and started swimming. All the lights on the Iolite started blinking — that’s a good sign, meaning it’s locking onto a direction — and then I had a single green light: another good sign (that I was headed in the right direction). I peeked my head out…and yes! I was headed in the correct direction.
And that is how the swim went. All 1.2 miles of it: absolutely great. The Iolite guided me flawlessly, never letting me get far off course. I approached the first buoy wide — exactly what I had intended.
I then changed direction toward the next buoy. I, of course, got the red light telling me I was veering off course. I ignored it because I was now turning toward the next buoy. Pretty soon the red light turned to all blinking lights — the Iolite had figured out I wasn’t just drifting in the wrong direction, I had turned. So now it was figuring out my new direction.
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!
My green light came on and I continued to swim. Before I knew it I was rounding the second buoy and headed for the beach. I was feeling awesome.
Usually as I head toward the beach, my sense of distance and direction gets messed up, but not with the Iolite. I headed comfortably for the dock and my exit!
In addition to the Iolite, I was wearing the Garmin 920XT Elden had bought me for our anniversary. Which means two things. First, that I was actually wearing two GPSs during my swim, which proves I have married a nerd. Second, it means I got a Strava of my swim and can show a video of the the Flyby of it:
In this video, you can see another racer’s GPS track criscrossing my own. This person swims pretty much how I normally swim, drifting off course and having to make big course corrections all the time. She (or he) is faster than I am, but we wind up finishing about the same time because with the Iolite I swam an amazingly smooth path.
Disappointment in Transition 1
As I clumsily walked up the boat ramp, I excitedly looked down at my Garmin. I was certain I had just rocked my swim – killed it. Forty minutes, tops!
So I was very disappointed and confused when I saw it had taken me fifty minutes.
What in the world?
I had felt great; the swim went perfect!
Well, the Iolite had done its job: I swam straight and had felt — for the first time ever in the swim part of a tri — like I knew where I was going.
But the fact is, no gizmo in the world could make me a faster swimmer. My little skinny arms didn’t have it in them to pull any harder or faster. Not getting in the pool or swimming for more than seven months probably had something to do with it too! How could I expect to improve my swim time with no preparation? If I hadn’t gotten on a bike or run a step in seven months would I expect to improve my times on them? Heck no!
The fact that I was only 5 minutes slower than my best 1.2 mile swim , and that this little device had changed the swim part of a tri from something terrifying to something enjoyable should be celebrated.
But to tell the truth, I wasn’t thinking these thoughts as I hopped on my bike. I was just angry. Angry that I had allowed Lynette an even bigger head start.
“I’ll never catch Lynette now,” I thought. “She had a three minute head start to begin with, plus she probably did the swim fifteen minutes faster than I did. By now she’ll be twenty minutes ahead of me!”
I couldn’t possibly make that up.
But…I guess I could try.
I clipped into my bike and ate a delicious package of Gu’s new Watermelon Energy Chews (seriously, they’re really good), I thought I would give it my best.
The first significant climb on the bike hits about a mile into the ride. I had joked with Cory that I hoped to pass him during that climb. Since Cory’s swim wave was to start about 15 minutes behind me and I figured I’d be about fifteen minutes slower than him in the water, we’d be exiting the water about the same time.
But that was all based on me being five minutes faster in the water than I had been.
Still — as you might imagine — I felt a huge surge of disappointment as I crested the top of the climb and saw no sign of Cory. This was going to be frustrating race; everyone was ahead of me.
The bike portion of triathlons is always incredibly entertaining (if “entertaining” is the right word): the majority of triathletes have no idea how to ride. There were slow people riding in the middle of the road, there were people drafting, there were crazy people zig zagging between riders. Nobody was calling out passing warnings. It was a giant accident waiting to happen. And…happen it does. It wasn’t long before I passed a poor rider, lying in the middle of the road, covered in blood, being assisted by medical.
Meanwhile, my legs felt fantastic, they responded when I pushed them, I felt like I was going to best my 2013 time by at least five minutes.
Then we started up Snow Canyon — dreaded by many, but not me! I love to climb and Snow canyon has that to give. I knew the race directors had thrown in a re-route somewhere in the canyon, but wasn’t sure what or when it would come. I had just ridden this part of the course and was feeling confident.
So I was quickly thrown off my game when the arrows redirected us on to a bike path. There were several bikers in a group as we entered the bike path. The narrowness of the path made it hard to pass or gain speed. We kind of moved along as a group. The path eventually intersected the main road where we were to descend down the road.
What? A descent in the middle of a four-mile climb? What a way to ruin your upward/climbing momentum!
We (the group of us) descended down the road for about a mile, when we hit the turn-around. As a group we had no warning and we almost had a pile up as we made an abrupt U-turn and headed back up the mile we had just descended and then on up to the top of snow canyon.
That little loss in momentum was going to cost me my PR.
I summited the canyon, I got down in my tuck and cruised down the freeway toward St George and T2. There was little if any wind, so I felt fantastic as I flew down the last few miles into town. AS we rode down Diagonal street, I could see runners heading out on the run. I frantically scanned the field for lynette all while trying to steer my bike through the group of riders around me.
This was probably not a very good idea — kind of reminded me of texting while driving! In any case, I didn’t see lynette in the flow of runners heading out. Maybe I wouldn’t be seeing Lynette until the finish line.
As I headed into T2, I headed to the general area where I knew my shoes would be. And I got lost! I couldn’t find my shoes!
And since the Garmin on my wrist keeps track of each event — including the transitions — of a triathlon, I can show you exactly what my shoe hunt looked like in Strava:
Someone should totally make a segment out of that.
I kept looking at the number on my arm and then the number on the bike racks. After circling around for what seemed forever-I found my shoes! I changed my shoes and my hat quickly, put my race belt on (didn’t want to forget that again) and headed for a quick bathroom break.
On the way out of transition a wonderful volunteer gave me an Otter Pop. It was icy and cold and tasted wonderful.
While riding the bike I hadn’t realized how hot it had become. As I started the run, I felt a bit overwhelmed. My leg muscles were desperately trying to decide what the heck they were supposed to do and my lungs were being seared by the heat radiating off the ashphalt.
How could I possibly run thirteen miles? Especially considering that the run course of this Half Ironman is brutal. Check out the elevation profile from my run:
As you can see, the first five miles are almost all uphill. This is made worse because the first three miles out of the aid station are a false flat. You feel like you should be moving a lot faster than you are. It’s a little demoralizing, and then the road turns straight up as you climb up Red Cliffs Drive.
Ugh. I had to walk. I hate having to walk.
And then she passed me. “She” being the sweet girl that had run with me at the Ogden Half Ironman back in October. I yelled out encouragement and reminded her who I was! She was cruising! I felt impressed with myself that I had been in her company back in October; she clearly is the real deal. She had started at least twenty minutes behind me today and was clearly flying on the run. Way to go! I love seeing people have banner days.
It was during these first few miles that I saw Cory. He was coming into T2 on his bike. Somehow I had gotten ahead of him on the bike. I wasn’t sure when. I yelled at him that he was looking strong and was only fifteen minutes behind me (which is how far he started after me!) He was doing fantastic!
Now I needed to find his wife!
My goal with each step was to make it to the next aid station. The temperatures continued to climb. The aid stations and volunteers were great. There was plenty of ice and cold water and coke as well as Otter Pops and popsicles being handed out by spectators.
[Ed Note: I do not think it is possible to overstate The Hammer’s love of Otter Pops. During the Summer she buys them in bulk...and eats them in bulk, too.]
Toward the halfway mark on the run, the route becomes convoluted. You run a loop and an out-and-back section. Where there had been aid stations every mile, now they’re stretched out to every two miles.
I was quickly becoming very demoralized, hot and thirsty.
And then I heard my name: It was Lynette! I had almost caught her. She had just left the halfway / turn-around point. She was headed up the same hill I was heading down!
She was just half a mile ahead of me. Within reach, if I pushed.
I yelled, celebrating in my head, and sped up. I grabbed some ice-cold water and Coke, then had another GU. In the past couple years, I’ve learned to love GU; it’s my secret weapon (even though I don’t keep it very secret). By fueling early and often (every thirty to forty-five minutes in a race, and don’t stop fueling just because you’re getting close to the finish line), I can race my best, staying strong in the second half of the race…when most people start fading.
Okay, back to the story.
I turned it on and within ten minutes had caught and passed Lynette. I really thought we could run together for a while, but I was feeling great and just motored past her. I patted her on the back and wished her well as I ran by.
It’s funny how catching up with someone who is five years older than I am can make me happy. I know that Lynette is an incredible athlete and it makes me proud that I can compete with her!
The last few miles were hot; my feet were burning up. I wasn’t used to the heat and it was really affecting me.
The last few miles I ran pretty consistently with a few ladies. They would surge forward and I would reel them in, then they would catch and pass me again.
I have no idea if they knew I was even there. It was a game I was probably playing by myself. I doubted I was competing against them, so it really didn’t matter.
As we rounded the last corner — there was only about one mile left in the race — I made a stupid decision. I decided to stop and have a drink. Sometimes this can be the right decision…but not today.
As I stopped, I was passed by probably five women and ten men I had never seen before. The few ladies I had been running with disappeared up ahead! I tried to pick up the pace, but I was cooked. The stop had messed with my mojo and now I was sagging. Funny how that can happen.
Still, I did cross the finish line feeling less thirsty then the fifteen that had not stopped with five minutes to go in the race!
I ended up being seven minutes slower than my 2013 time. My bike was at least a minute slower and my run was two minutes slower.
Am I disappointed? Maybe a little.
I have put a considerable amount of training into running and biking this year and was hoping for a faster time as a result. It didn’t happen.
Maybe I need to consider that possibly I’m a little overtrained and tired? I guess I can’t expect to improve my times every race.
But: I did have fun!
I love doing races with friends. The finish line was full of stories and adventure as we recounted our adventures to each other!
And now: on to training for the Squaw Peak 50 Mile Trail Run!
A Note from Fatty: While I was racing Boggs (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6), The Hammer was — as you might expect — also racing. But she was doing the St. George Half Ironman.
Does she have a story about her race? You bet she does.
It was April 15. I had just over two weeks before the St George Half Ironman…and I hadn’t even thought about swimming. At all. Even once.
And things weren’t looking good for finding time to swim between now and the race, either.
For example, I would be getting on a plane for Boston to run the marathon that week. So I wouldn’t be swimming then.
Then I was off to Moab to ride the White Rim the following weekend. And while I could theoretically have done a post-ride swim in the Colorado River…well, that just wasn’t going to happen.
So when was I ever going to find time to swim?
I figured that day was as good as any and — not very enthusiastically — headed to the rec center pool. I figured I would swim a mile and see how it went.
How’d it go? Well, let’s just say that when I got out of the pool, my neck was killing me from turning to breathe and I had a sharp pain in my right knee.
How does someone hurt their leg while swimming?
On the bright side, I had successfully completed the mile swim. So I figured I could probably — hopefully — drag my body another .2 miles on race day.
What had I gotten myself into?
Reality Sets In
The following weekend — the Boston Marathon — was a blast. My knee pain disappeared, and my friends and I had a fantastic weekend in Boston culminating in the iconic run on Monday (in the rain, of course, just to make it a fine adventure).
When I returned home, my attention turned again to the Half Ironman. I had a day off work and thought I would head to the pool and put one more effort toward the swim. This time I completed the whole 1.2 miles.
I felt pretty good, but was horrified to see that it had taken me over fifty five minutes to swim it!
How long would it take me to do this swim in a lake, when I would have to sight for the buoy every ten (or fewer, if I’m being honest) strokes?
The swim was looking more dismal by the moment.
A Possible Solution?
I got home and started whining to Elden. Elden always has helpful suggestions. The first one being that I would be fine…because I would be swimming in a wetsuit. For some reason, The wetsuit is the cure-all for Elden’s swim woes: it makes him buoyant and fast.
For me, the wetsuit just makes me feel like a suffocated sausage.
Then Elden came up with a brilliant suggestion. And this time, it really was brilliant. He had heard of a GPS device that connected to your swim goggles that was supposed to help you swim in a straight line…with minimal need of sighting!
I wanted to know more, because I had suffered from a terrible swim in the 2013 Half Ironman-I zigzagged all over that darn lake.
So Elden, being the well-connected man that he is, made a few phone calls and was soon talking to the creator of the “Iolite”-Steve H.
Steve said he would be happy to set me up with an Iolite to use in St George. He was even going to be at the Half Ironman Expo and said I could pick it up from him prior to the race!
Things were starting to look up….So I instantly forgot about the swim and went to Moab to ride the White Rim…which ended up getting rained out and Elden and I returned home and rode the trainer for 3 hours instead.
The following Tuesday as I was packing to leave for St George and the race, my thoughts turned toward the dreaded swim. I figured I should probably get online and find out some information about the Iolite. I went to the web site. It had a brief description about the lights that would attach to my goggles. It was pretty straightforward. The yellow light would come on when you were drifting “slightly” off course, a red light would illuminate if you were “way” off course. The green light would be lit if you were swimming straight toward your target.
It seemed easy enough, but the direction you were drifting off of center and the lights that illuminated seemed to me to be backwards — I was soo confused. Plus I was worried that all I would be seeing was a bunch of bright lights shining into my eyes! Ugh, that would only make me feel more confused and claustrophobic.
I thought again: what was I getting myself into? I definitely needed to use this in a lake on a trial swim before the race! I hoped I would be able to fit that in!
I was actually really looking forward to the up coming race weekend. Elden was going to California to race, the kids were safe at home under the watchful eye of Nigel, and I would be going down to St George with my really good friends, the Borups.
My work had given me an additional day off, so we were going down on Wednesday and would be staying until Sunday. I would have no one to have to take care of or entertain. The Borups are like family.
On the way down, we stopped at Sand Hollow reservoir for a swim. I hadn’t gotten my Iolite yet, so this would be a good chance to see how I’d do in the reservoir without it.
It…went as expected. I started out heading for the big rock island in the middle of the reservoir. I looked up after 10 strokes…and was no longer headed for the rock, but for open water.
How did I get so far off, so fast? I put my head down and started to swim. Ten strokes later…I was way off course again. The third time was the charm and I was finally swimming straight, more or less.
We ended up swimming for about half a mile. I felt fine. I didn’t panic, the water was a perfect temperature…I was just slow and zigzagged everywhere.
Prepping on the Bike
Thursday morning I got up and rode Snow Canyon (the biggest climb on the course) and the last twenty miles of the bike course. No one wanted to go with me. They said they needed to rest.
Rest? Pfff. What is that?
Later that afternoon we ended up at the Expo. I found Brad at the CarboRocket Booth. It’s always nice to see Brad.
Although I am terrified of his mustache.
Next, I found Steve at the Iolite booth.
What an awesome guy! He not only set me up with the Iolite, but he put it on a nice pair of goggles for me.
He then had me put the goggles on. We pretended that I was in the water and he walked me through using them. First off, you need to pinpoint your destination. Then you head straight for it. In the water, it would be the turn buoy (in the park it was a flag). You then must head directly for the target for about ten meters, so the GPS can lock onto it.
This was the part I was worried about. What if I couldn’t swim straight for ten meters? Would the Iolite would grab on to the wrong point and steer me off course? Steve suggested I swim with my head out of the water for a few strokes and that should solve my problem.
I then proceeded to walk around the park with my new goggles. I would purposely get off-course to see the lights come on. Steve explained that if I was drifting, I was to swim “toward the light.” That would be the direction that would correct my drifting. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the lights sat just below my level of vision, so as not to block it. I still had full vision and did not feel at all claustrophobic. Things were starting to look up; I was actually excited to go swimming!
Trying Out the Iolite
After taking Borups’ dog on a three-mile walk (that’s my idea of a rest), we headed out to Sand Hollow to drop off our bikes at Transition 1…and to try out my new gadget!
Mckenzie (the Borups’ daughter, who would also be racing) also had a new Iolite. Mckenzie and I share similar stories when it comes to Ironman competitions. We are both strong cyclists and runners, but suffer in the swim. Neither of us like to spend much time in the pool.
Our swim times are similar, and she was also hoping to improve her swim time with the Iolite. Much like me, Mckenzie had not been in the pool this year either. I think I actually had swam more than her (pathetic).
Needless to say, we were hoping for really BIG things with the Iolite!
As I emerged from the lake with my new Iolite I couldn’t help giggling. The Iolite had worked! I swam straight! The Iolite also kept my mind off the tedium of swimming. Instead, I was fixated on my light. I celebrated whenever the green light stayed on for ten seconds. I giggled because I wasn’t having to look up every third stroke to make sure I was headed in the right direction. I did “sight” a few times, just to make sure I wasn’t heading off in the wrong direction…but I never was!
As I came out of the reservoir, I couldn’t help but laugh; I’ve never had such an easy time swimming in a straight line. I looked at Mckenzie; she was beaming and laughing, too! She enthusiastically told me she had not sighted even once. Wow!
I was so excited, I dove back in and swam another little loop. This was going to be awesome. I had no idea how fast or slow I was—but I was positive that my comfort level in the water had skyrocketed!
I didn’t know if I’d be fast in the water…but thanks to the Iolite, I definitely felt like I at least wouldn’t embarrass myself!
And in the next installment of my report…I’ll show you how I did!
When I last posted, I had just finished my second lap in near-record time (where “near-record” is defined as “less than a 50% variance”). I had ridden into the transition area, looking for Jeff, who now needed to do his second lap.
But there was no Jeff to be found.
“He was around earlier,” Levi said. “He went to use the bathroom or something, and now he’s disappeared.”
“Perhaps his attention drifted, he wandered into the woods, and he is now lost,” I postulated. “That’s happened to me before.”
“Or maybe he got hungry, distracting him from the race, and he went to make a sandwich,” I said. “That’s happened to me before too.”
“I don’t think Jeff’s very much like you,” said Levi, by way of both defending and complimenting Jeff.
“Maybe he’s having a serious bathroom crisis,” I suggested. “That’s happened to me…”
“Please stop talking,” Levi interrupted.
So we went to find Jeff. Specifically, we went to the RV to see if he was somehow in there. He was not.
“Maybe he took off when he saw you come in,” Levi now guessed. “And we just didn’t see him go.”
Which was not in fact what happened. But it was close.
Well There’s Your Problem
The reason we couldn’t find Jeff was in fact this:
No, not that Dave Thompson and I had been taking selfies together.
It was that Dave Thompson came in just a few minutes before I did, and — since Dave and I are both tall and thin and handsome and were both wearing the WBR kit — Jeff mistook Dave for me.
This mistake would eventually make an enormous difference in our standings in the “retired pro cyclist, contest winner, and fat middle-aged blogger” team category, moving us from being the first team in our category to still being the first (and only) team in our category.
When he came back in and Levi took off, I applauded Jeff for his ingenuity. Indeed, I was all for adopting this technique — each person starting his lap approximately four minutes before the prior racer finished his — as a new team strategy.
“We’ll demolish all the other teams in the “retired pro / contest winner / beloved blogging icon” team category!” I enthused.
But Jeff couldn’t hear me; he was sprinting toward the timing tent to have the results corrected. Something about “ethics” and “doing the right thing.”
All I know is that until Jeff had the extra four minutes added to our time (the time between when Dave finished his lap and I finished mine), we were a lock to win our race division.
Now, thanks to Jeff, I had my work cut out for me.
My Final Lap
Levi somehow did his final, third lap in 44:23, setting the fastest time for the day. Which meant that I was free to go do another lap but —unless I was just a little bit faster than Levi — Jeff was done for the day.
I was not, to my shame, faster than Levi.
However, I did manage to have a lot of fun, connecting early in the lap with a guy on an Ibis Tranny, set up as a single speed. We talked for a bit about what a great bike the Tranny is, and I casually mentioned that I too have a Tranny set up as a single speed and had ridden it in the Leadville 100 last year.
I’m sure he was very impressed.
Then he rode away from me.
But then I caught back up with him.
Just before he rode away from me again.
This continued for pretty much the entire lap, until the final big downhill, where he got in front of me for good, which turned out to be a Very Good Thing; following this guy’s line helped me have my fastest, most confident descent of the day.
As I crossed the line, I was pretty proud of the fact that I had hung with this guy for the entire lap. Later, I would find that his name is Steven Mills, and that he had just done his eighth lap of the day, winning the Pro SS division.
At which point I became unsure whether I should be more proud (I had hung with a pro for a whole lap) or less (but only because he had done 2.5 the distance I had).
Cycling can be so emotionally complicated.
In any case, we had won our category, somehow fending off other retired pro / contest winner / balding blogger teams, each of which was equally imaginary. Here we are on our rightful place on the podium:
I take full credit for this achievement, as I believe is proper.
The next morning, some of us would do the Super-D. Jeff should probably get a trophy for best-planned flat in the history of the world: he basically flatted and DNF’d within spitting distance of our RV.
Dave Thompson and I would both finish the Super-D, though our times would cause any reasonable person to say we had raced a Mediocre-D.
In the process, we had an incredible weekend at this race. At times intense, at times relaxing, always fun.
I’m coming back next year.
You know what’s really great about racing in a relay? The part where you’re not racing. The part when you can — for a little while — put aside the fact that soon you’re going to be gutting it out, giving your all, and just…relax. Chill out. Be one of the guys, rooting for other guys.
So right after my first lap in Boggs, I went back to the trailer, cleaned the dust off my face (without getting too religious about it, since I’d be heading out again in less than two hours), and then hung around with Levi for a few minutes, ’til it was his turn to race again.
After which, of course, it would be my turn to race again.
And that’s the problem with three-person relays on a one-hour-long course: your break from racing just doesn’t last very long.
Still, it’s nice while it lasts.
I Will Probably Not Be Hired as a Broadcast Professional
I walked down to the start / finish line with Levi, to cheer Jeff as he came in, as well as to cheer Levi as he took off (and also to set a 45-minute timer once Levi left, so I’d know when I needed to be back, ready to go again).
Jeff had told us he’d be a little slower. Which meant this would be a good time for me to pull out my phone and — thanks to the remarkably strong 3-bar LTE mobile phone connectivity I had — start a Periscope session (Periscope is a Twitter-owned live video streaming service. If you have an iPhone, I recommend you get it).
Which I cleverly also saved and now present to you in full. I recommend watching it; it actually gives you a pretty good sense of what it’s like to hang out at the exchange point.
Plus you’ll see a woman finish a lap while wearing a wedding dress, a man in a tux, and me being recognized as the famous and beloved person I am, making for an excellent live selfie opportunity.
And also, I ask Levi a few stupid questions.
Moments after I finished this extraordinary piece of live, man-on-the-ground journalism, Jeff finished his lap and Levi took off.
Jeff, astonishingly, looked perfectly clean after his first lap. I’m still wondering how he managed to keep all the dust off him.
Frankly, I find myself wondering whether he took a much cleaner, less-dusty shortcut or something.
Also, I find myself wondering both about the aesthetics and comfort of his sunglasses placement.
Levi was away, so my prep-for-race fuse was lit; I now had 45 minutes ’til I needed to be watching for Levi. But my jitters were gone. For some reason, getting ready to start the second lap of a relay race doesn’t load my body and mind with the same anxiety.
Instead, I calmly suited up and got my tube, lever, CO2, and gels in place. Jeff captured this photo as I prepared:
That photo, as you no doubt are aware, is not staged. Nor am I sucking in my gut.
I just tend to maintain a heroic pose at all times. Because I am heroic.
I Am An Awesome Singer
I arrived at the start/finish checkpoint early, because I am very punctual.
I began my vigil for Levi, who would be arriving in a few minutes, when I saw Friend of Fatty David Houston, taking a rest between laps. He was soloing this race, using it as training as he prepares to race the Leadville 100 for the first time this year.
And, as I’ve noted before, it also happened to be his sixty-first birthday.
I recalled how I had been beating myself up for forgetting to sing a line of the Happy Birthday song when I had seen Dave during my first lap, and decided that I would not let such an opportunity go by again.
I walked up to him, stood on my tiptoes so I could put an arm around his shoulders (I am 5’7”, he is 6’9”), revved up my lungs, and yelled for everyone to please join me in singing happy birthday to Dave.
I think a few people might have joined in on the singing, but I couldn’t tell for sure, because I was singing as loudly and as badly as I could. This is in accordance with a family tradition: to always sing the birthday song as intentionally loudly, off-key, and out-of-time as possible.
I take this tradition very seriously.
Dave was so moved by my singing that he decided he had had enough of a rest after all and that maybe it was time for him to get back to riding.
So, note to people who might notice Dave lallygagging on the course at Leadville this year: sing the birthday song to him. Loud, and off-key.
He’ll thank you later.
Levi came in, taking forty-nine minutes to complete the course. In doing so, he would be the first person the entire day to complete a lap in under fifty minutes. (Also, he was the only person the entire day to complete a lap in under fifty minutes.)
This after complaining in the above video that his legs felt like concrete. Pfff.
I went out. Riding like a well-oiled clock. Because — take note, clock owners — it’s vital to regularly oil all your timepieces.
Although, if I am to be completely honest, I was a moderately slower clock this time: 1:02:27. About 1.5 minutes slower than my first lap.
Oh, who am I kidding? I’m incredibly proud that I was so consistent.
The Curious Incident of the Disappearing Jeff in the Day-Time
I approached the start / finish warily this time, not wanting to repeat my crowd-pleasing performance as an endo savant. Happily, I did not.
“Jeff, go!” I yelled as I crossed the finish line.
But I didn’t see him go. In fact, I didn’t see Jeff at all.
“Go, Jeff, go!” I yelled, instantly aware of how that sounded. Scanning the crowd, looking for Jeff.
I saw Levi, but not Jeff.
“Where’s Jeff?” I yelled. “It’s time for him to go!” I am capable, when necessary, of stating the exquisitely obvious.
“Jeff isn’t here!” Levi yelled back.
“Where is he?” I yelled, although by now I was no more than a yard away from Levi.
“I don’t know!” Levi yelled, because we seemed to have established yelling as the way we would convey our messages.
“Let’s go find him!” I yelled.
But we would not find him. We could not find him.
Had he been kidnapped? Possibly! Was he jeopardizing our team race standing? Definitely!
Which seems like a good place to pick up in the next (and probably final) installment of my Boggs writeup.
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