Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rockwell Relay Report: Day 1

"... a task, any task, undertaken in an adventurous spirit acquires the merit of romance." -Joseph Conrad

Team Sons of Perdition from left to right: the Legend of Ivan, (im)deebers, Swedish Matt and Rodzilla before the Rockwell Relay has had its way with them. still smiling, still Relay naive. Good luck boys, you'll need it.

I read that quote above and thought how applicable it was to, well most things re: cycling but especially this particular event. I tend to romanticize the beautiful, the inspiring, the enjoyable at the exclusion of the tedious, the painful, the awkward ... the smelly. For evidence look no further than the fact that I was already thinking of ways to improve next years experience, finish time and comfort level before the sweat had dried on my forehead as I dismounted near Cedar Breaks. Paradoxically, I've been guilty of negativism in this blog, mostly for the sake of comedy but unfortunately often at the expense of my comrades and riding partners. On this occasion however there will be none of that. You can't spend 72 hours with three other guys doing any activity at all and not come away with plenty of opportunities to be critical or take a cheap jab here or there but not this weekend. This was a weekend for heroes and heroism, selfless gestures, above average feats of strength and endurance, humbling acts of charity and sacrifice and fraternalism in its purist form. There's plenty of praise and love to go 'round, so pass me the latex gloves so I can start spreading it like chamois Butt'r ...

chamois butt'r anti chafe by paceline

Chamois BUTT'r is the number one choice for cyclists who use a skin lubricant and chamois cream to improve riding comfort. Chamois BUTT'r prevents the uncomfortable rubbing and chafing that most cyclists experience when sitting on their saddle. Why put up with discomfort? Use Chamois BUTT'r! Chamois BUTT'r is a non-greasy skin lubricant that improves riding comfort. It washes off your skin and out of your shorts easily with soap and water! It leaves your skin feeling better after you use it.

K, that analogy got away from me in a weird way. On with the blog ...

Day 1

West Jordan to Moab (the easy way).

We meet up at Matt's house Thursday at 3pm for a 3:30 departure. We want to be in Moab before they shut down the promised pulled pork BBQ at 8pm but Rodzilla and I get waylaid by Fat Cyclist's Suncrest Century blog entry:

We try to comprehend 100 miles of Suncrest on any bike, let alone a fixed gear and decide that either Fat Cyclist is lying or he's a freak of nature. He (and his best friend and their wives) are signed up for the relay. We're bound to see him there, maybe we'll call him on it. That is, I'll yell "Hey Fatty! You're a dirty liar!" then hide behind Rodzilla.
How to make your 58cm bike look like a toy: slip it under Rodzilla.

Rodzilla tests the tensile strength of the Carbon fiber tubulars on Saxo-bike, "just in case something happens and I have to ride it" (Something did happen as it turned out (foreshadowing alert) but Saxo-bike was not involved. But it was good to know he could handle the pressure if called to action). At this point Swedish Matt is probably wondering (and frankly so am I) why we made him get off work early if we're just going to read blogs and ride bikes on the sidewalk for an hour and a half.

We don't get to Swedish Matt's until about 4pm. We get the bikes loaded and say our last goodbyes to our wives; everyone that is except Rodzilla whose wife is still at work. He complains about the lack of pre-departure sugar directed his way pretty much until he sees Kerri/Red Rider at Panguitch Lake Saturday morning.

I don the reflective vest per Rodzilla's instructions. Apparently the race bible, as interpreted by our team captain requires wearing of said vest by riders for the duration of the relay. Since I'm up first, that means me. It seems unnecessary, since we'll be in the truck for the next four hours but rules are rules. I will say this, it's very effective. I have to admit I do feel much more safe and nobody runs into me while I'm wearing it.

The ride to Moab is uneventful, almost in an eerie way, in that we see no other vehicles that look even remotely like they are driving out to the race. There really aren't a lot of route options to get to Moab from the Wasatch front. We should be seeing bike racks and road bikes aplenty. We do see a husband wife cyclist duo, fighting a blistering headwind on their bikes (with a trailer loaded with gear behind the husband half of the duo) somewhere southeast of Castledale. We congratulate ourselves for not being them, poor saps that they are and then we settle into an uneasy silence as we realize there's potentially a big helping of that same foul pudding waiting for us out on the highways of Southeastern Utah, starting first thing the next morning.

We arrive in Moab around 7pm, check into the Bowen Motel (I'll give it 2 stars out of 4 mainly because as far as I can tell it wasn't infested with bedbugs, let's call that faint praise and leave it at that. It was a bed and I slept in it. It was far superior to anything I had the rest of the time we were on the road) and, after stowing our bikes, we head to the park to join the pre-race revelry, only someone forgot to invite the revelers. We're a bit crestfallen to learn that unlike the 200-250 teams and 800-1000 riders we envisioned, there will be about 1/5 that many: 44 teams including two full 8-person tandem teams (which, forget about the logistics of toting 8 tandem bikes to Moab, who in their right mind is going to pedal a tandem over 25,000 feet of mountain climb? They will be starting at 5am instead of the 8am start we have slated; a special torture for them, 4am wake up and guaranteed 36 hour [at least] ride time) So some of the gilding has come off the Lily that was going to be the Rockwell Relay is what I'm saying. Everyone we talked to was so excited about it. I heard friends and friends of friends were putting together teams (there were four Backcountry teams alone and that didn't include Swedish Matt and the legend of Ivan) but one by one the big plans unraveled and people backed out, or expressed interest initially and then life* happened. Also, the pulled pork BBQ got stuck in traffic (maybe that's what the husband cyclist out by Castledale was towing behind his bike? A smoker and half a hog? His trailer looked heavy enough. If he pedals hard he should arrive just in time for the pre-race pancake breakfast) so we have some pizzas and salad. We want to be disappointed and maybe we are a little, but the Rockwell people are just so darned nice and (we suspect but can't know for sure) this is about to be the coolest event we've ever participated in on a bike. So some slack is in order.

*I'm calling it now, we need two full teams (that's 8 riders) for Rockwell 2012. So if you're getting married, pregnant, starting a new job, getting fired from your job, getting your appendix out or losing your home in a fire/flood/tornado, plan it around the second weekend of June. Thanks in advance.

We pick up our packets, eat some pizza and then, because I am a Moab first timer, the boys take me to their old haunts:

Baby Lion Back? Is that right? A big slick rock that works well for bikes and ATVs but maybe not so much for 4 wheel drive trucks, but that doesn't stop Rodzilla

We survive the 4 wheeling, and head over to a bridge over the Green River which is swollen with snow run-off and ready to spill over its banks. Swedish Matt considers the free lunch challenge offered by Rodzilla: Walk on top of the railing to the end of the bridge and get a free Happy Meal (or equivalent)

Swedish Matt gives it some serious thought, thinks of his four children and lovely wife who depend on him for food and shelter, thinks about the Happy Meal some more, Kids & wife again, and finally opts out. But it gets me thinking again about this non-working theory I have, that's been sitting in the back of my mind and bugging me like a pebble in my shoe, that Rodzilla enjoyed being the Bull-moose on his training ride with the Ladies

so much that he's been trying to thin our the herd, namely the Swedish Matt and (im)deebers part of the herd. It would certainly explain the 4 wheeling on Lions Back and the Free lunch challenge. In fact this entire weekend may have been an elaborate ruse to eliminate us while no one was watching. If that's the case, that makes the legend of Ivan just collateral damage. That would be just one more in a long, long list of egregious abuses of the legend this weekend. More on that later but a word about Ivan. Actually I'm at a loss for words ... that is rare. But what do you say about a guy who brings nothing but good things to the table and when offered table scraps in return says "No thank you, but I've got more good stuff here, no don't get up, let me put it on the table for you!" Personal case in point (there will be many more 'Ivan is our hero and we don't deserve him' moments but this is mine). I spend three months questioning his very existence (in this blog and conversations with teammates) alluding to him as mythical, the Sasquatch, a leprechaun, a legend (the last one stuck, though I had no idea how apropos it would prove to be) etc. All of it was said in good fun, but maybe overkill (probably overkill) and in return, when we were making last minute preparations for our ride and I asked which would be the best flasher I should buy to supplement the one I have, this is what I get in return:

Hey Steve, I have a great flasher for you, so don’t buy one. I have gotten one for you and it is a good one.

What do you say to guy like that, a guy who is gracious, humble, optimistic, cheerful and not in any way that's insincere or annoying but genuinely reflects who he is as a person (besides thank you, which I'll say again here)? Nothing you don't say anything. You just hug him and tell yourself, "man, are we lucky* we invited this guy to be on our team and that he accepted our invitation to come along.

* More foreshadowing

While on the bridge, Rodzilla whips out his pistol* with the green laser site and proceeds to recreate Laser Floyd on the canyon walls. Swedish trumps his adolescent tech geek by whipping out his ipod with the star map app and points out the various constellations. He even found the sun for us (it was hiding on the other side of Australia but Swedish Matt assured us it would be back in a few hours, certainly in time for the race). Somebody, maybe a Green River pleasure cruiser, calls the local constabulary who arrives just as we leave the parking lot. He flips a U-turn and follows us all the way into town as Rodzilla tries to decide which is better, hide the (pellet) gun or leave it in plain site and explain it. We never get the flashing lights so the decision never gets fully made. Still wondering how we talk our way out of that roadside stop and back into the Rockwell Relay the next day.

*La Canadienne is bristling at the mention of handguns. She's Canadian (duh), they don't cotton to hand guns like we do in the US of A, mostly she's a pacifist but then so am I and that's probably one of the (many) reasons I love her, but on this occasion it's just a pellet gun, not that the Green River pleasure cruisers could tell the difference in the middle of the night.

We noticed a band playing in a bar downtown (before the shenanigans with the laser and the star app) so we go back there to take in the Moab nightlife.

a local barfly/Bed & Breakfast owner tells us that 90,000 cubic feet of water is passing under the bridge we were on every second. That's a lot, apparently. Like 160 Chevy suburbans passing by every second. Good thing Swedish Matt thought twice.

Eventually we got tired and went back to our Motel for what would prove to be a surprisingly restful sleep considering it was the night before a race and I was in a Motel, both of which generally mean no sleep for me.

Tomorrow: Race Day


  1. Awesome Rod, awesome!!

  2. So, I just compared your estimated splits with your actual splits. You actually were FASTER than your projected splits...for a while.

    Looking forward to reading the report of the actual race! Planning to link to it.