Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Rockwell Relay Ladies Pamperfest* Chapter One: Snow Basin to Huntsville

*I feel like after what I witnessed last weekend I can't in good conscience call this a 'pamperfest' without providing an '*' and a footnote explanation. So to avoid repeatedly doing that, let's just call it the Rockwell Relay Ladies Ride RRLR. Agreed?

Not much sleep the night before. La Canadienne was up until past midnight packing, re-packing, listing, crossing off lists, re-listing. That plus all the late nights sitting up in bed with the laptop, reading about the different legs, the terrain, the climbs, the descents etc. etc. and it's a wonder she's awake at all at this point. I know I feel kind of beat up just remembering and writing about it. That's the mental preparation. The physical preparation for this first ever road bike race for both La Canadienne and Red Rider started way back in the winter with pre-dawn spin cycling classes at the Rec. center and continued through a cold, wet spring with Saturday morning group rides, and early summer hill climb challenges. After many hours and many, many more miles we finally arrive at:

Saturday July 9th, 2011.
Race Day
5:15 am MDT

A note before we get started with the media portion of the blog. This event was thoroughly documented through multiple camera lenses, both video and still life, by several persons with varied interests and skill sets. To give you an idea. My 'Cycling with Rodzilla' Picasa Web album went from 298 items on July 8th to 676 items on July 10th. There may be more video footage and photographs of this event than there was of President Obama's inauguration in January of 2009. Frankly it's a bit daunting. What to include, what to leave out. Lots of great photos and video, most tell the story more poignantly than I ever could. So, with that, I will try to keep the commentary to a minimum, or at least keep it on point and let the art tell the story. And the story is a good one. You'll see.

Team What the Hill and 1/2 of team Over the Hill

We stop by the Swedes house and pick up Swedish Liz and are joined by Melissa ... she has no blog/nick name I just realized. I'm thinking ... Podium Melissa?(She took first place in her first triathlon ever and knowing her she's been on or near the podium in every race she's been in since then). Ironwoman perhaps? Melissa the Pocket Rocket? Certainly she's the most compact athlete in our quartet. We'll call the issue of Melissa's blog name a work in progress for now.

Team What the Hill and their one man support crew (and a party crasher). Swedish Matt has the Back Country Yard sale. He'll join us later, bearing Back Country gifts for all his friends. For now it's just Chad.

No Red Rider in sight. I've been to those early AM cycling classes with Kerri/Red Rider. Mornings aren't her time to shine. She's nowhere near as bad as La Canadienne, but once bitten twice shy. I've managed to get La Canadienne out the door with my skin intact, I'm not going to push my luck. Red Rider will show up at some point and if she needs to be goaded? Well that's a job for Rodzilla.

Some insight into Melissa's (she of the podium) success. La Canadienne and Swedish Liz brought Peanut butter M&Ms for snacks. Melissa brought grapes.

Red Rider is awake (has been for hours as it turns out; race jitters) and smiling. It's a good sign.

We head to the only gas station open at this hour for ice and fuel

We actually run into another truck, similarly adorned with Rockwell/Bike Race decals and loaded with bikes and anxious female riders. This race is shaping up to be what we thought our version of the relay would be, grand in scale and scope with a full compliment of riders/teams. I feel a mixture of envy and excitement for the two Hill teams.

Some last minute organizing and we're off. It's just before 6am. Race starts at 8. Snow basin (according to Rodzilla's GPS which is currently being voiced by Homer Simpson) is 1hr 9 minutes away.

As we make the final drive to Snow Basin ski resort we get a look at some of the terrain that until now has only been known to us by the cheerful rainbow coloured elevation map:

Elevation Overview

In person, as we've come to know firsthand, the roads are much less inviting. There's a big climb up to Snow basin, then a dramatic drop to the resort parking lot. It's that drop that Red Rider will have to contend with, pretty much right out of the gate. I start to feel that same gut-punch feeling I had for members of Team Sons of Perdition when I got a look at the hills they had on their plate. It's been just under a month and the memory of sweat, pain, tears, more sweat, more pain, is still fresh in my mind. My feelings of envy turn to those of sympathy for what's about to happen.

Still time to joke about pampering and primrose paths, facials and pedicures. All of that will change and soon. Oh, and add fresh dance moves to Rodzilla's resume. You don't see that often in a big man. Call him Mr Versatility.

Ever wonder how we get these helicopter view photos?

Here's your answer:


Who needs a crane or a camera boom when you have Rodzilla (Mr versatility, remember?)

7:30 am. Pre race instruction:

Last chance to relax. In 20 minutes they will be on the clock for 10-11 hours and on the hook for 169 miles.

With 5 minutes to the start of the race Rodzilla pulls a page from the Rockwell Relay Moab to St George book. We've been sitting around for about an hour and now he decides to check the air in Red Rider's tires:

That sudden burst of air you can hear at about the 16 second mark is Rodzilla unwittingly removing the valve stem from the tube. It fortunately shoots into the palm of his hand and not under the truck. Red Rider is blissfully ignorant of what just happened. La Canadienne sees and hears it but keeps that nugget of information to herself.

Leg one: Snow Basin to Huntsville

Leg Notes
After a nice tour around the Snowbasin Resort parking lot you will descend down the windy Old Snowbasin Road. You’ll encounter the one and only climb on this leg half way down the descent; it is steep but short. At the bottom of Old Snowbasin Road go left at Pineview Reservoir, the first of six reservoirs and lakes your team will pass today. Circle the reservoir, crossing the dam and around to Eden, and eventually back around to Huntsville and the 1st Exchange as you loop this beautiful valley. What a great start to a fantastic ride!

Elevation Map – Leg 1

Neutral start (guided by motorcycle escort) twice around the parking lot to spread everyone out and a good thing, it turns out there are 69 teams and some 265 cyclists; about a hundred more participants than the Moab to St George version of the Rockwell Relay.

And as they come to the line, it's team Over the Hill beating team What the Hill by a wheel length in a photo finish. What an exciting race that was. Let's go get our victory burger and fries. Losing team pays?

After the double parking lot circuit there's a brief descent then a significant hill. It's short but steep. This will be the story of Cyclist #1's duties for the day. No huge mountain climbs just one slap in the face hill after another.

Swedish Liz does what she always does to hill climbs, locks the hubs on her all wheel drive, puts the transmission in low and powers through it like she's commuting to work. No sweat, no drama. It's early though, and this is just the first of many such hill climbs. Enjoy that grinning face and willing attitude while it lasts.

Red Rider does pretty much the same thing with her first hill climb. We're all excited, somewhat surprised and not a little bit relieved to see her perform so well on the hill. Red Rider, as it turns out, is the sand-bagger of our crew. If this were billiards instead of cycling and there was money on the line we would call her a hustler and at some point the disgruntled locals (it would have to be several of them) would take Rodzilla out into the alley and beat him stupid for taking their money under false pretenses. Let's just say it now and be done with it for the remainder of all entries on this blog; Red Rider can climb hills. Stop doubting her, stop betting against her, stop being surprised at her. That goes doubly for Red Rider herself, the jig is up, the cat is out of the bag. If what you accomplished last Saturday doesn't give you the trump card in any future mind games you play with yourself then nothing else will. It was a bravura performance and worthy of all the praise that's coming your way on this blog. Accept it and let's move on.

Red Rider drops these lady cyclists faster than my cell phone drops 'out of service-area' calls.

After the hill the riders are rewarded with a six mile 7% negative grade descent. In the truck we pass cyclists after cyclist sitting up in the saddle, tentatively tapping their brakes and generally looking terrified. La Canadienne about bursts a vein in her temple watching this unfold. This is her kind of hill, the kind she would cannonball at 50mph and that would land her in the lead peleton at the bottom. She gets so worked up that Rodzilla actually crouches down in his seat in a futile attempt to protect his cranium if this verbal outburst becomes physical and La Canadienne starts punching things or people.

We circle PineView reservoir with the cyclists and it is as advertised, a beautiful start to the race.

Red Rider polishes off the 21 miles in a buck-ten at a 19 mph average. I'm sure it's with a mixture of pride and chagrin that Rodzilla admits to himelf that this pretty much matches his personal best average speed for the 20 mile ride he does to work everyday. We'll chalk it up to race legs.

She gives up the Baton for the first (of many) times today

and gets a much deserved 'well done' from her coach/support crew.

Next up: Legs 2 & 3 Huntsville to Henefer (rhymes with La Canadienne)


  1. This is me trying to comment. Lets see if it will let me.

  2. This is Swedish Liz. I guess I have to comment anonymously since it won't let me post any other way. It is a very picky site. Thanks for the post. Kerri did so good. Now I know not to believe her when she says she can't do something. Jen and Kerri are amazing cyclists. It was amazing to see all those "little" cyclists that they beat. And they certainly not OVER the HILL. I saw some pretty old ones.