Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part IX - THE FINALE!

Important note, you can start reading the story from Part 1 here, if you'd like.

LEG 11


Mike's leg would start in Cedar City and run west to Enterprise. It was Mike's shortest leg at just over 41 miles, and he would be doing it alone. I don't recall much happening during this part of the leg, but I did get a couple texts from Mark on our other team just as Mike was taking off.

"Status check...what's your progress?" Mark asked. 

I figured they were done at this point and wanted to know how far back we were. "Mike is in route," I replied.

"That climb never ends. So heinous."

I was sure to not share this with Mike during his ride.

(Long, fairly straight straight road the whole way.)
The road didn't actually have any one, super steep climb in its path. Instead it was rather long, and when you thought it might end, it might. But just for a minute. Then it was back up again for a bit.

Side note: It was also during Mike's leg that I came to the realization that Andrew had on his leg. See like Andrew, I also thought my last leg was 30 miles. Like Andrew, I was informed that it was actually over 37 miles. And like Andrew I was not happy about it. At all. But unlike Andrew, I had nothing to blame this on but myself. There had been no route changes on this leg of the race. I had simply remembered what I apparently wanted to remember. And I was wrong. On a good note, this sudden swing of events did brighten Andrew's spirits.

(The sun was back out, along with some wind. Mike was head down, pushing through it.)
About halfway through the ride the road flattened out and Mike kept his strong pace all the way into Enterprise.
(Mike, coming into Enterprise, happy to be done.)
Leg 12

Finally, the last leg was here. I congratulated Mike and took off. I knew I started with a climb and that it would be rolling hills after that into St. George. I also knew it was just after 4:15 pm and the awards ceremony was at 7:00, so I figured that getting there shouldn't be too big of a problem. Just get through the climb and get moving. However, I didn't know one thing...

(Just leaving Enterprise...can you spot the problem?)
I started the climb and knew that they would take a few minutes to let Mike relax before they climbed into the van and came to offer support. Like on the other legs, I am sure I thought to myself, "I wonder how far I can get before they catch up to me?" So, I grinded out the climb just outside of Enterprise and was almost proud they weren't there yet. The wind was still blowing from what felt like every direction but behind me, but at least I was going downhill in sections. And then, finally, I heard Andrew.

"Hey!"

I look over and see Andrew in a van, just not my van.

"Do you have the keys? We can't find them, we've looked everywhere."

"Ugh...let me check." And there in the back right pocket of my jersey were the van keys. Awesome. (In my defense, I did not plan on having the keys. See someone else (they shall remain nameless because it really doesn't matter Andrew) was driving when we got to Enterprise and didn't turn the van off but got out and went inside the store. After returning from the check-in tent and seeing my van, that had been driving for so long with little rest, sitting there in the parking lot of a convenience store empty but running, I decided to turn it off and give the keys to someone when I saw them. But not having any front pockets to put them in, they went into a jersey pocket to be forgotten about. It could happen to anyone, right?)

Anyways, with a quick hand-off of the keys Andrew headed back to get our team van. I, on the other hand, continued to make my way to St. George.

(Laughing as I was being teased about stealing the keys during a bottle exchange.)
A few things were again brought to my attention on these last few miles of road. First, I was reminded that in a wind all the fun of a down hill can be taken away. Second, smog checks need to be done on more trucks in southern Utah. At least for a few that hit the gas as they went around me on this stretch of road. Third, there are more rolling hills (meaning you still have some small climbs to do) between Enterprise and St. George. It's not all downhill, even if you want it to be that way. And fourth, just because it's your last leg, and the final leg of the race, and you are very excited about getting a real meal after the race is over, you HAVE to keep fueling yourself. While I wasn't to the point of bonking, I wished I had a little more in the tank to kill it on the final descent into St. George. I went fast, but I knew there was room for more.

(Crossing the line.)
We finished just after 6:30 pm. We had been going for just of 36 and a half hours. We were exhausted. But we LOVED it!


(Team pic with the medals.)
THE END!

Wait...I can't forget a pic of James (Andrew's dad). That came to help drive and took these amazing pics. THANKS JAMES!

(Andrew and James at the leg 2-3 transition point)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part VIII

Important note, you can start reading the story from Part 1 here, if you'd like.

Leg 9

I was in, and Andrew was out the gates ready for his last ride. There are so many alluring places that we ride through on this route, from dessert to tree filled mountains, but this may have been the most beautiful leg in all the race. 

(Not sure if this is considered 'working hard' or 'playing hard'.)
Andrew was doing good work of the course, and seemed to be enjoying the ride. The first couple miles were flat, but then he'd have 20 miles of gradual climbing. But then, Andrew got a bit bothered. See, originally this leg was only about 30 miles long, ending on Cedar Breaks mountain. However, as James and I were discussing I saw that he was reading from the old print out of the race and not the current Race Bible that came in our packet. Due to weather/road conditions in the past the course had been permanently changed so that Leg 9 would now end in Duck Creek. The good news was Andrew would get to descend for what would feel like the first time in all of his riding, and he would even save a couple hundred feet of climbing. The bad news was...he got 7 more miles of Rockwell than he thought he paid for.

We pulled along side him, and the conversation went something like this (I'm speeding it up in parts):

"Andrew! Great job, how ya doing buddy?"

"Good. I've got about 20 miles down, another 10 to go."

"Glad to hear! You're killing it. But yeah, you know they changed the route this year. You aren't going 30 miles."

"How much farther?"

"17 miles! But you got this! You have less climbing and a couple descents that look really fun!"

"What!?"

"Yeah, so there is another 7 miles, but those should be the new downhill part. It's like they're free miles!"

"..."(Nothing.)

"Did I mention that Bob will also have to do more climbing now?" (Trying to distract him.) "Ha, yeah, he's in for it. But you got this!"

"Whatever."

With that, I did about the best that I could, and we went back to our normal supporting Andrew on his ride.

(On the bright side of things, much of his leg had recently paved, very smooth roads. So there was that.)
(A nice scenic shot. The amount of water in the shot was James looking for fish. He and Andrew both longed to come back and drop a line next time they were through.)
After his extra 7 miles Andrew was ready to be done. (I must be honest, I really don't remember him coming in. I think this was when I was laying on the ground in the parking lot next to the van. Needing to puke, I couldn't. I had NO clue how I was going to get back on the bike. Being happy that I finished my first two legs, I started to think about how I could not do the climb that awaited me at the start of my final leg. I was coming to terms with having the guys drive me up the big climb and how I would roll into St. George for the finish.)

(Andrew, preparing for the hand off to Bob.)
Andrew completed his leg in a little under three hours. It was about three til noon and Bob was riding.

LEG 10

(Bob starting his climb out of Duck Creek)
As usual, Bob was pretty quiet but still ready to go. However, since his last ride I knew that Bob was at least enjoying his time. I knew this because Bob mentioned that we should all go do the Tour of Tucson later this year (and when you are suffering, like really suffering during an event you start to question why you are doing this ride and may even question why you ride these bigger events, as it only leads to the suffering that you are then encountering).  

But by now Bob was still at least tired enough that he was starting to crack. Even though it was the littlest of cracks. As Andrew was getting close to completing his leg Bob asked how far his ride was, and how much climbing he was going to do.

"Bob, I thought you NEVER wanted to know the distance you were riding, or how much climbing you had? Are you sure you want to know this?"

"Yes," he said smiling.


(Great shot as we awaited Bob at the summit before his drop into Cedar City.)
While we waited for Bob and my stomach was killing me, I turned back and saw Andrew taking a drink of chocolate milk. I love chocolate milk. 

"Better give me a small cup of that," I stated.

Mike and Andrew both looked a little shocked knowing the stomach issues I was experiencing.

"You sure?" Andrew asked.

"Yeah this will either help (very unlikely) or tip the scales for me needing to puke." And in less than two minutes I would excuse myself from the van and destroy a small part of the magnificent scenery atop the mountain. The good news was I was instantly feeling better, like a new man. I was ready to tackle my last ride, all of it! The bad news was I never made it off the concrete so there was spatter, and I needed to wipe off my toes and flip flops.


(Mike telling Bob it was all downhill, and we'd see him in Cedar. And probably offering to spray down these guys coming up from behind with his water bottles as to slow them down so Bob could maintain his lead on the descent.)
Luckily Bob had no issues coming down the mountain and we got in front of him enough to allow enough time for Mike to suit up. Just seconds before 2:00 pm Bob rolled into Cedar City, and we only had two legs left of Rockwell Relay...TO BE CONTINUED...

(Looking buff rolling into Cedar City. Is it a party foul of sorts to be wearing gear from a strictly running event as you are participating in a strictly cycling event? No, of course not! Besides, Bob just wanted to show everyone else his versatility!)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part VII

Important note, you can start reading the story from Part 1 here, if you'd like.

NOT SO FAST

So, it was morning and we were heading for Henrieville before Mike to came in so I could get ready to go. My stomach was not doing well, and I needed a bathroom...BAD. We arrived at the transition point and the school (or church, I have no idea...I couldn't focus I just needed the bathroom) one a bathroom around back so I bolted for it only to find a long, slow moving line. After a couple minutes of the line not moving I knew I was in trouble. As this was a #2 issue I thought it best to not run for a bush. And I also realized that trying to ride before things were taken care of was futile. I would not last two minutes on the bike in my present condition. Mike would come in, and I would still be in line...waiting...and waiting...Finally, I was able to get in take care of things, and get back on the bike.

LEG 8

It was chilly in the morning but my stomach took my mind off the temperature. I was happy to be on the bike, and enjoyed the short slightly downhill section of road. Then the wind started to really blow again and I was fighting just to keep going. With only a couple miles in I thought there was no way I was going to be able to tackle the 46 mile segment I was just starting to undertake. I knew that most of the climbing would be done in a singular climb, and though the actual amount of climbing wouldn't normally bother me, I had no idea if I was going to even make it there. This was the hardest part of the race, and probably the worst I felt ever riding. I had seen my wall in front of me before, and even had stomach problems once before, but not when I had 40+ miles still left in what would be only my 2nd of 3 segments that I would need to do for Rockwell Relay. It really did become be telling myself, "Just go another mile. You may not make it all the way to Panguitch but you can make it a little farther."

(Leaning into the wind in effort to stay upright.)
After about 7 miles of a gradual climb the road turned up a bit more. It would be a category 2 climb over almost 5 miles with an average gradient of 5%. It was here I had to stop. I needed a gel in my jersey to a little pick me up, but I was too tired to retrieve said gel, open it, consume it, and put it back in my jersey all while trying to climb. So I stopped and enjoyed my gel. And enjoyed the quick rest. I was back on the bike for about a minute when I stopped again. I decided I would not stop, but I would walk the bike. The road was not overly steep but I was tired. This lasted for a total of 3 to 4 steps when I became more frustrated with the idea of walking my bike in my road shoes up a hill, and I determined I would not let the climb get the better of me. Back in the saddle, the road turned up and I turned up the grit to get over the climb.

(Like my 1st leg, when I was at my worst my team was off enjoying the scenery. I imagine this worked out best for both of us.)
(Pretty country. I was glad that just as they were about to turn back from the lookout point to find me, I was almost to them.)
(Coming out of the climb.)
Right around mile 15 I was done with most of the climbing and onto a fairly flat section of road when I realized two things: 1) I had been thinking Leg 8 was a 46 mile leg, but upon seeing a mileage sign to Panguitch I put two and two together and came to the conclusion it was only a 36 mile leg, and with that good news, 2) I was gonna ride all the way to Panguitch!

Over the next 7 miles I would catch another rider and was happy to chat to get my mind off of my stomach. Julie, from Teton Lunachicks mentioned to me that this was their 2nd time doing Rockwell, and she was a bit shocked with our team's lack of experience that we would come out and try to tackle the Rockwell Relay. ("Brave" was the word she used, though "crazy" or "stupid" might have been what she was thinking.) I was also happy to report that I did the pulling for the few miles we rode together (I am a gentleman after all), but when the road pointed down she encouraged me to go ahead as she took things slow on the descents. (Also a breath of fresh air, her team - who were made up of some serious lady riders - were sure to honk and thank me for giving her the small pull. What a great time.)

The road went down and this became probably my favorite part of riding on the trip. The scenery was great, and you could fly. The grades in the road weren't enough that you could simply sit there and fly. Instead they were the encouraging type that invited you to pedal, and allowed you splendid speeds while giving it your all. The rider, not just gravity, made this part entertaining. And...it's not everyday your actually get to ride through stone arches that they paved a road through. (Wish I had some shots riding through those to share, but since I don't, let me again refer you to the stunning video that I mentioned in my last write-up to see what I'm talking about - starting at the 5:00 minute mark.)

The descent was followed by the final 6 miles of flat section into Panguitch. I was happy to have made it, but my stomach was not ready to give up fighting me.

(Coming into Panguitch...happy to have made it.)
With all my hold-ups (mainly an extended stay in the restroom), the ride had taken me 3 hours complete. It was 9:00 am, and Andrew was ready to take on his final leg....TO BE CONTINUED...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part VI

GOOD FOR BOB

Bob wasn't really saying as much as he was doing. When it was concluded that Andrew was done for this leg, Bob looked around, went back into the van and grabbed a few things and started unloading his bike.

"Bob, what are you doing?" I asked. (Yes, I did seem to do as much of the talking as anyone. This is not surprising to anyone that knows me.)

"Well, it's a relay. I'm up next, so I'll just start from here," he replied.

Bob figured there were no two ways about it, that we should just keep going. I was impressed with Bob for his attitude, but also worried about Bob at the same time. Bob had had a tough first leg between the heat, wind, and final climb. And after Bob's first half of his second leg, it seemed like most of his real work would be through as he would have a couple big descents that he could really fly on. But Bob had a BIG climb to tackle before he could enjoy all of this downhill. And to add this EXTRA climb to finish Andrew's leg right before he would attempt his own climb was not something I thought we needed to do. So far the race had proved to be more than what we had surmised based on the numbers in our Race Bible. This was something that the event promoters had warned about, and boy were they right. 

"Bob, it's okay. We are going to drive ahead to the transition point. You can start your leg as planned." The other team was far ahead of us, and we were already being passed by some of the 9:00 starters and even a few of the 12:00 starters (I think). We could save a little time, and still thoroughly enjoy what we came to do. Everyone agreed and we moved on Torrey.

LEG 6

It was now about 10:40 pm and Bob was on the road. It was at the transition that I would spot the Team Fatty van roll in, and I got excited. (When you've been up since 4:00 am and getting ready for the race/supporting the rider/actually riding for almost 19 hours, the little things can go a long ways.) Based on the timing of everything I knew it wouldn't be too long before they were passing us on the road. 

We caught up to Bob was he was doing well. He had about 5 miles before things would turn up. The wind seemed to be dying down (at least in the van), and the temperature was dropping. He would be climbing over 3,000 feet in about a 10 mile section. The further the road went up the steeper it seemed to get. Bob was able to pass 1 or 2 riders at the base of the climb, then it was all him for a while. Digging deep to continue climbing Bob would bury his head and do a quick look up every few seconds, making sure he was heading in the right direction.

As usual, we would get out and wait for our rider to come by and see if they needed anything. Though Bob did have headphones in, I think he liked just ignoring us or at least waiting until he was past us to ask for anything. And I'm sure this wasn't just because this was at night. He also did this on his other legs.

I told Bob that when he got to the summit he should plan on stopping so we could get some full finger gloves and a jacket of some sort on him so he didn't freeze in the wind on the way down. However, as it was getting pretty cold still on the way up, I remember at one point asking him if he needed a coat.

"Yeah."

I ran over to the van grabbed a jacket and gave it to Andrew to cross back over the street to give it to Bob so he could keep going and stay warm. Andrew jogged over and waited for Bob, and then came running back. But he still had the jacket.

"He said he wants a COKE, not a COAT!" We all laughed as Andrew was in a hurry to get Bob's request and catch up to him. (This may have been the steepest part of the climb, so he was still within reach on foot.)

Andrew came back from getting Bob his Coke, not coat, and was laughing. Bob was telling him he had to hurry as he didn't want to get passed by the guy behind him. We enjoyed seeing Bob's competitive nature still going strong in the middle of the night.

It was at this exchange we would see Team Fatty's van go driving by. I knew they were close, I just didn't realize how close. By the time we got to our next stop and were waiting for Bob to ride by I realized that Team Fatty was the only team around. That said, I knew that the person behind Bob must have been from their team. And I knew he stood no chance of not being passed on his climb. So when I saw the team member come flying by I realized he had in fact been passed. And, after reading Fatty's write-up of this leg, we know know Bob was actually 'chicked' by none other that the Hammer. He had no chance.

Once at the top, Bob switched out some gear and we were headed down. As we had read about, we took the strategy of driving in front of Bob, making sure he wouldn't be taking out any deer on the way down (or they wouldn't be taking him out). As luck would have it we did encounter deer on two separate occasions in the middle of the road on our way to Boulder. Once his leg was over he was sure to express his gratitude for us being in front of him. Though maybe we were a bit too far in front of him as he feared the deer would have time and jump back into the road before he passed them. (In my defense was trying to encourage him to lay off the brakes and let gravity pull him down the mountain.)

(As we missed getting any pics during the night, I've added another pic of Bob grinding up a climb during his first leg. Just imagine it is darker, and colder. This was Bob.)
It was just after 2:30 am when Bob finished. He had ridden hard and helped myself (and I think Mike) gain back our confidence that completing this race was something that we could and would do.

LEG 7

I WISH I had some pics of Mike's descent just after a short climb coming out of Boulder. It was a full moon, so we could see the drop off that would welcome him on both sides of the road for much of this part of his ride. It was incredible, unlike anything I had seen before. Instead, like Fatty, I will point you to an amazing video that another team took of the race. From 4:30 to the 5:00 minute mark you can get an understanding of this part of the leg. Mike did great on this section of road, though I was a bit nervous about not actually being behind the driver seat as we descended some treacherous switchbacks before the road turned up again.

Somewhere during this leg I thought I would try and get some sleep. My stomach was killing me, and I hoped the rest would help my body recover and be ready for my second leg that would be shortly awaiting me. And...with about 5 minutes of sleep I would wake up to Mike being lost. Apparently Mike had either gone by without our knowing, or something had gone wrong. We got back on the road and drove back to where we had last seen Mike. Nothing. At this point I took the wheel (I was wide awake again, and not wanting to puke sitting in back), and we headed back up the road to find our guy. After some time, and passing many a rider, we found Mike.

"Sorry Mike," Bob yelled out the window as we slowed to pass.

"That's okay. I was getting a little worried...Can I get some water," Mike replied (or something like that).

We exchanged bottles with Mike and I could tell he had been rationing. One bottle was empty and the other had only a small amount left. Talking with Mike after the race he pointed out that when he didn't see us for some time he asked another rider he would catch if they could work together. Doing so now left Mike not so alone, and was about to provide another water source as he was about to ask for some help in that regard just before we showed up.

But team and water or not, Mike was making great time. In fact, this would be our fastest leg of the race in terms of ranking. So maybe there was something to be said for making your guy sweat a little.

It was exactly 6:00 am when Mike rolled into Henrieville. We had been riding for 24 hours. The sun was just coming up over the mountain, Mike was happy to be done. There was only one problem...I was nowhere in sight...TO BE CONTINUED...

(The exchange point in Henrieville. I should have been waiting like these guys for their rider to come in. But I wasn't.)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part V

Important note, you can start reading the story from Part 1 here, if you'd like.

Leg 4

Alright, it was finally my turn on the bike. Mike was done, and I was off. Luckily for Mike he finished when he did. He missed one last final climb I would have loved to have not started my ride with. It was only about a mile and a half long, and Strava averages it at a 6% gradient (surely it had to go a ways beyond that at points). That said, getting on the bike with 104 degree heat and meeting this proverbial wall out the gates was not my idea of warming up to Rockwell Relay. 

What also made it more enjoyable was that at the steepest part the van drove by and the guys turned off to do some sightseeing. They didn't even bother to get a pic of me grueling my way up this section of road. Instead, they got to see this... 

(At least they were enjoying themselves...)

(...I will admit, they did earn a good break. I was just starting to earn one of mine.)
Surely, this was in fact the better option. I remember thinking on the climb: 1) I can't quit and walk this early into my first ride, my confidence will be utterly SHOT, and 2) oh good, if I do need to walk at least I won't be the only one. Why there's just a guy up there in front of me walking his bike on what looks to be the steepest section. So I've got to get at least as far as that guy. (And when I passed him) Well, you've gone this far, don't stop now!

Somehow I made it up and had a two mile descent (though I don't remember it) and then was back on to a 20 mile ride up a small incline that would follow with a 19 mile descent. Like the other riders before me, I knew the wind would be the focus of my riding. Sure it was hot, but while I noticed the heat and would occasionally pour some water on my head to be sure I wasn't overheating, it really wasn't much of my concern. (Maybe that growing up in the desert of Arizona was finally paying some dividends!) 

Andrew and Bob had done much of their riding south into the wind, and as my ride was north and a little to the west I had hope to have it at my back. Unfortunately, like Mike what I felt was more like I had the wind swirling around me. This of course would make sense while I was riding through the canyons, but it still seemed to follow suit even in the open areas of the ride. I would be going 18-19 miles per hour and the wind would change direction and in an instant be fighting for 12 mph.

(Grabbing some water on the gradual climb up to Hanksville.)
(Bob offering support. Both of us in our element...He, running...Me, um, well not running. Extra points for his wardrobe selection.)
The descent into Hanksville was great, especially at the beginning where the decline is the greatest. I was up over 46 mph and grinning ear-to-ear the whole time. It is funny how going fast makes you smile. Once you get to a point where you can't spin any faster and all you can do is tuck and enjoy the ride on a straight section of road, what a blast! This is what I came for! Before long I was into Hanksville and Andrew was headed west to Torrey.

(Towards the end of Leg 4...what a striking shot, breathtaking almost, of such an attractive rider. Maybe I'll send the pic in to Lazer, Oakley, and LG and let them decide on who wants to pay the most to have this be on their ads (and probably sign me to some ludicrous modeling contract). Let the bidding begin!)
Leg 5

It was just after 7:00 pm and the sun was still up but the temperature was at least starting to drop. Andrew's 2nd leg would be 45 miles with a pretty consistent climb the that really kicked into gear the last 10 miles. Based on the metrics this leg should be easier than the first (shorter and less climbing), however, this did not consider the fact that the rider already had to ride Leg 1 and on this day they would be going into a ferocious headwind.

By the time Andrew was back on the bike he was feeling much better than when he previously gotten off. The time to relax and eat anything he could find in the van had renewed his spirits. He was working his way up the mountain as the sun was working its way behind it.

(Even in the shade at after 7:00 pm it was still hot outside.)
With the sun going down Andrew pulled over and put on his vest as we switched out his bottles. It would be getting dark on his ride, and the temps would drop fairly quick.

(Really enjoying the wind at this point.)
Sometime along the ride Andrew met up with another rider, and they were able to take turns pulling to help stay out of the wind. However, at some point the race started to catch up to our best rider.

(Fighting the wind.)
With about 11 miles to go Andrew pulled over what I thought would be our second to last (maybe last) stop before heading on to the transition point and getting Bob ready. It was dark and we weren't getting to far ahead of our rider as the night came on. After a few minutes and rode up.

"How's it going? What do you need?" I asked.

"Nothing. I'm done."

"What?"

"Yeah man, I'm done. I need to stop now if I hope to have anything left in the tank for the third ride."

We talked for a couple minutes. I assured him that we were fine waiting if he needed to take a break, relax, eat something, whatever. But Andrew knew himself, and knew where his limit was. And he was there. I thought it was great that not only was he able to come to that conclusion on his own, but that he was sure enough about it that at that point he even point out that this wasn't something that he would later second guess himself on. He knew he needed to stop.

As a team we could care less. We knew we were out here to have fun, and we were. Standing there as a team back behind the van looked at each other, and considered out next move. Then, BAM, Bob had an idea...TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part IV

LEG 3

Bob was in and Mike was off and running for 56 miles of fun in the sun. His leg would start with a climb, and then be mostly a gradual descent until crossing over the Colorado River just before a quick climb at the end. With Mike's ride starting at 1:30 he took a good chunk of the heat of the day in this leg, though there was plenty of it to go around.

(Mike tackling the heat)
As mentioned before, Mike was probably the least experienced rider. Though he was the first person to jump on board with doing the race over a year ago, he was the last person to actually get a bike. Just three or four months (it felt like) before the race he was able to borrow his uncle's bike and could start getting some rides in. With that said, most of his training came from a spin class and running to just be in good overall shape. I'm pretty sure you could have counted the number of bike rides Mike had under his belt on his steed before the race on two hands. Again, knowing that Mike was a natural (it only took him flying past me up a good climb to keep up with Andrew for me to know he would be more able to do this race than I would) I coaxed him into taking the Rider 3 position and tackling 150 total miles. In my defense I left it up to him, but I'm sure he saw my riding and thought it best for the team as well.

To describe Mike's riding I would probably say this: it was quiet, consistent, and quick. I'm sure Mike was feeling the heat during the leg, but after his initial climb I think it helped having a slight downhill ride most of the way to help keep his speed (and at least some wind - though it was a hot wind) up. After a few miles of riding Mike was even gaining on the team in front of us. (Never mind that they were girls, most of the women out here could simply kill it on the bike. This point was clearly evident at the end of Leg 1 when all of the men stood in awe at the transition as they spoke of a woman rider that pulled a bigger group of men for the last 10+ miles including the vigorous climb in the wind at then end. Those that came to Rockwell came to play.)

(Mike in pursuit...I'm not sure who, or why, the road sign is calling people names.)
Before long Mike had caught and passed the one carrot he would have on this leg. Then it was back to more of the same.
(Scenic shot during the ride.)
With about 10 or so miles to go we left Mike and dropped me off at the transition point so I could get ready for my first ride and they could get back to get a few shots of Mike crossing the river. Bob was kind enough to stay back with me (he probably was afraid I might pass out being alone in the heat).

(Mike tucked and flying down to the river.)
(Crossing the mighty Colorado.)
After a nice climb to finish his leg Mike was to the transition point. It was now 4:30, and 104 degrees out. 10 and a half hours after starting the race (and being in and out of the van) I was finally able to become part of the race. If there ever was a time that I would need some adrenaline, it would be now. Cuz things got crazy, fast...TO BE CONTINUED...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part III

WHAT ABOUT BOB!?

Okay, so before I get into Bob's ride I must go into more about Bob. Why? Because Bob is blunt. Because Bob knows what he wants. Because Bob knows what he doesn't want. Because Bob was more ready in some ways for this than any of us (even though he only joined the team less than ). And because Bob wasn't as ready for Rockwell Relay as the rest of us (for the same reason). 

I may have mentioned this before, but Bob was sure to point out that he was the oldest person there. That this was a young person's race, and he wasn't so young. (Now, I am sure that there were people there Bob's age - or close to it, but Bob was focusing on the masses.) Bob was also sure to point out during Andrew's ride what he wanted as he rode. It was this: Gatorade. He didn't want water, he really didn't want any other liquid. (The rest of us were drinking Scratch Labs mixes. He didn't seem excited about that.) He didn't want any of the gels or chews I brought, or the homemade rice cakes Andrew made, in case people needed something on the bike that was easy. He'd done 24 races before, so he knew what he needed. Gatorade!

And then there was someone that Bob didn't need. In fact, he insisted that you not tell him, or talk about it where he could hear you. See Bob had not looked AT ALL into what his legs were like. He had no idea about how far the legs were, how much climbing he would have to do, when or how the climbing would come, he didn't even know where he'd be riding. In fact, he didn't even know where the race ended!

After looking at a simple overview of the entire course during Andrew's ride (though it may have actually been later in the race) he said, "Oh, we finish in St. George?"

"Yeah Bob, where did you think we finished?"

"Oh, I just figured we did a big loop...Good thing I didn't book a flight home from Moab."

We all smiled, Bob was ready for anything.

"Bob," I asked, "what do you do when you are running? You don't want to know how far you've gone? What about mile markers along the road?"

"No, I don't want to know. I just want to tell my body to keep going. I try to ignore things like mile markers or posted race signs."

Pretty much, just let Bob ride and get out of his way. And with Andrew finished with Leg 1, Bob was off and riding Leg 2.

LEG 2

Bob left right at 10:00 am and was doing well as the day started to heat up. His ride would have some rolling hills (into the wind) with an overall descent until the final few miles of his ride. After Andrew got changed and relaxed a bit we caught up and drove past Bob to allow for us to get out, get a new cold bottle Gatorade ("Just keep giving me Gatorade!"), and be ready for an exchange if he needed.

"Bob! How ya doing!?" I asked.

"ONLY WATER! JUST GIVE ME WATER! NO GATORADE!"

(Bob, waiving off his Gatorade)
Apparently the Gatorade was too much sugar considering how much liquid he needed on this hot day. While we were not surprised by this, we did die laughing about how his demands changed so quickly once he was on the bike, considering how sure he was before his ride. And again, this was Bob we're talking about.

And here is was the other thing that we laughed about Bob's riding (though I am pretty sure he still has no idea this was going on in the van). Early in the ride Bob was riding 'around' a couple of women riders. Also, let me remind the reader (all one of me) that Bob is very serious. Filling time in the heat of the day with not much to do, I made up the conversation between Bob and the first rider he caught up to (who just happened to be a woman - and I am sure is very nice, and was doing a great job on the ride - so no offense to her here).

The woman: "Hey how's it going? Getting pretty warm out here." (All said in a friendly, but not overly friendly, voice.)

Bob: "Careful, I have 11 kids. Don't get too close, you might get pregnant." (Said in Bob's normal, very serious tone. He does in fact have 11 btw.)

Being a bunch of guys...a bunch of bored buys...we thought this was hilarious. In fact, as another woman rider passed him shortly thereafter (she was killing it), the joke became from then on whenever we were bored and Bob was riding with, passing, or getting passed, male of female. "Boom! Pregnant."

Quite a high level sense of humor we have, I know.

Anyways, before long Bob and the team decided that watering down the Gatorade ending up being the best solution for Bob. He was making good time, and we were just happy to have him.

(Bob's on-lookers)
Towards the end of the ride, we came through a cut in the mountain and saw a fun descent that Bob would have, only to be followed by a fun climb he would have to tackle before the finish.
(The last part of Leg 2)
(Bob riding through the cut in the mountain, almost blown over by a strong, sudden gust of wind)
Bob's last 5+ miles would start with a good 4 miles or riding at or around a 5% grade, then a small let off, and then more climbing to the end. He'd finish around 1:30, middle of the day, hot, exhausted, and happy for a rest.

(Me giving Bob some expert advise, probably something like "uh, go that way!")
(Good summary of Bob after Leg 2)
TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rockwell Relay, Part II

IT'S GO TIME & INTRO

It's 4:00 am, we're up and getting ready to go. Not knowing what we were up against weather wise (wind, heat, cold, you name it) we elected the 6:00 am start time. Andrew rides over to the park to help warm up, and the rest of us load up and make it over. 

Now, as read about in previous years' rides, both of our teams suit up to ride the first mile or so with the starters, but it felt like the only team to do it. Needless to say, it still felt good to have eight guys all suited up with our Cyclng Nation team kits on, looking like we were going to take care of business. (If you can't be the part, at least look the part.) Speaking of not being the part. Let me do a quick introduction to the team...

Rider 1 - Andrew: 30ish, he is our strongest rider. Longest ride just over 80 miles. While he's never done a century ride before, he actually did compete in a road race held by a local cycling club, Cat 5 category. From what one guy said, it was a pretty grueling race to have your first time out.

Rider 2 - Bob: 58ish, he is our wisest, most experienced rider. Really though, the guy has run farther than any of us had ridden before. He even rode the 113 miles that is the Tour de Tucson, so he even had that under his belt. "When?" you might ask. 1994. As discussed in the last entry, he was our last minute fill-in.

Rider 3 - Mike: 30ish, he was probably the least experienced rider. Having spent the least time riding, his longest ride being about 60 miles. Of course we would have him riding the farthest distance (150 miles), it just made sense. Actually Mike is pretty athletic and was much more prepared than at least our last rider.

Rider 4 - Me: 34, ridden in a couple small local events, but yet to even complete a century. I actually wanted to take the Rider 2 position, but thought I would take one for the team and ride when we anticipated would be the hottest/windiest parts of the day and what could be the coldest parts of the night.

'Nuff of that, let's talk ridin!

(Puttin' out the vibe, staring down anyone that would dare look our way!)
LEG 1

Andrew, Duncan (from our Team 2), and the rest of us were off with the group. The air was cool, and our legs were fresh. The pace was quick, but not fast, as to be expected at the start of the race and our escort out of town. After what seemed longer than a mile it didn't feel like anyone had peeled off so I took the lead for our team, grabbing Mike and Bob and headed back to the van. Jared, Mark, and Tyler followed suit shortly thereafter. Things were underway, and everyone's spirits were high. And they stayed high, even though Bob took a wrong turn and we all followed giving us an extended tour of the outskirts of Moab. A few minutes later we made our way back to the van, grabbed some breakfast in town, and were off to find our guy.
(Amazing arch along the route)
And there he was...

(Flying out the gates!)
According to Andrew the group stayed together pretty well coming out of Moab, but after hitting the towns limits things started to break apart. Realizing that he would likely blow up if he kept at the packs pace Andrew (and the rest of those not wanting to try and ride with the lead group) began to peal off and form smaller groups of riders. When we caught up to Andrew the dispersion was in effect. He and another rider from the team 848 or Bust were working together to fight the wind, the constant traffic, and rolling hills as they climbs from Moab to Monticello.

Andrew was making good time, and from what we saw through the middle of the leg was this he and this new companion would ride together taking turns pulling. On the hills Andrew would seem to create a little distance (many times, climbs have to be done at your own speed - slowing down or trying to take it easy doesn't always work the same as when descending or even on the flats), and then Andrew would easy up as the other guy linked back up so they could work together.

I must point out, because it became hilarious almost to the point of absurdity, that Bob (who usually drinks very little when he does his big runs) had apparently way too much liquid in preparing for his upcoming leg. At every stop we would make supporting Andrew he would have to pee. Every stop. And we made several stops. I am sure one or two of those (or probably more) were the result of the anxiety he must have been feeling now that we were actually into the race and he would be up next. It was, I believe, at the stop pictured below where Bob would in fact use the restroom not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES while we waited for Andrew to ride past and change out bottles.

(Great scenery - site of the triple pee)
After a few stops and check-ins with Andrew we headed up the hill (a good sized hill mind you) into Monticello and got Bob ready for the exchange.

Not too long after getting to Monticello Duncan came riding in with a couple guys for our Team 2. He was able to stay in a bigger group and rode strong on Leg 1.
(Caleb on the left coming in, half of Jared on the right putting on the band before heading out)
After a few minutes the guy Andrew had been riding with came in and said Andrew was just a couple minutes behind him. This extra time also gave Bob a couple more opportunities to use the restroom and be ready for when Andrew came in.

(Andrew coming into the Leg 1-2 transition) 
(Just after the hand-off, Bob taking off)
Andrew had ridden hard and was exhausted. The wind (and probably elevation change) had taken its toll. I forget whether he said that he was mad at me for getting him to come do this, or if he was almost mad at me. Either way, he was happy to be off the bike and was ready to relax.

For Bob, the fun was just starting...TO BE CONTINUED