Rockwell Race Report — Segments 9-12

A Rockwell race report is something like a bike fit — you have to spend time with it to make sure all of the pieces are in the right place. I know this write-up has been a long time coming, but in my defense I have been working, riding, and doing a little racing. All I can say is the weekly crits out at Rocky Mountain Raceway are hard on the legs. The good news is I feel like I am getting faster. If you really want to improve your speed on the flats, climbing, or anywhere else, get out a race a crit. You will be surprised how much stronger it makes you.

I also want to throw out a big thank you to the FatCyclist — Elden — because of a couple of links he threw up on his blog to this race report. The guy has done a ton of fundraising for various causes and has my respect for that. I actually think of his every time I climb AF Canyon and see the “Allez Susan” painted on the road near the summit. I am really happy that his life has taken such a positive direction. If you are here because of his links, know that even though I live about five miles away from him, I am not as funny, clever, or insightful as a writer as he is. I am even jealous of his weight loss this year as I struggle with the last 10 pounds to get down to my racing weight. That, in turn, also means I am insanely jealous of his climbing legs this year.

That being said, his team and Team 91 — Lifetime’s Beauty and the Beasts — were our carrots during the last six or seven legs of the race. We tried really, really hard to beat both teams and ended up beating only one of them. It is a funny thing during a relay race of this distance — most teams get fairly spaced out and you get used to seeing the same people time and again. While it would have been excellent to ride with someone during the final legs, the reality of the situation is that you spend most of your time alone. Couple that with sleep deprivation and your mind starts wandering in some strange directions. It is tough to stay focused on your riding.

Brent started leg 9 at 5:29 a.m., which was the same time that Team Fatty left. I am not sure if they left side by side, but it was really close at that point. Brent is by far probably the strongest rider on our team and is an amazing climber, which was a good thing. This leg is 36.4 miles long and has 3,792 ft. of climbing according to Strava. Check out Brent’s ride here. There is no segment on Strava for this leg, but I gotta say just eyeballing the results published by Rockwell, Brent killed it. He finished the leg in 2:18, which is amazing. The problem is that Fatty finished the leg in about 2:06 according to the Rockwell results sheet. Elden is riding like a man possessed this year and beat our best rider. I have to say Brent did his best, but Elden was just a little better that day. Team Lifetime was still seven minutes ahead of us at the end of this leg, which meant that Brent made up 13 minutes on them on this leg. A new team also entered our sights at this point — Brent made up some time on Team Flowmax on this leg too. When he finished, they only had five minutes on us.

Brandon started his leg at 7:49 and took off like a bullet. Leg 10 was the reward for Brandon for all the amazing climbing he had done. The leg was 30.8 miles long with about 1,500 feet of climbing in the first 15 miles. The rest of the ride was all downhill and the type of downhill that just makes you smile thinking about it. According to Strava, Brandon averaged 33.6 mph for the downhill section of this leg, which helped him claim 4th overall in the KoM for Strava. Brandon climbs like a goat and I have raced crits and road races with the guy and I have to say he is dang fast. I don’t think I have ever beaten him at anything. The best news is Brandon finished at 9:14. While Team Fatty came in 15 minutes sooner than we did, Brandon finished five minutes ahead of Team Flowmax, but six minutes behind Team Lifetime. Our strongest had gone up against the strongest riders of Team Fatty, Team Flowmax, and Team Lifetime. I still think we did an excellent job of not only catching our carrots, but keeping our position in the overall race too. After leg 10, the closest team to our group of four teams was about 40 minutes behind. That meant that we had a little cushion, but we needed to kill the last two legs to try and beat any of the teams in our group of four.

It was my turn to ride. My experience in the Rockwell Relay was that when I was off the bike, I felt tired and gassed. But feeling an obligation to your team is a big motivator and I found that once you started turning your cranks, all the fatigue and exhaustion melted away. Leg 11 started in Cedar City and I got on the bike at 9:14. Lisa from Team Fatty got on her bike at 8:59, Team Lifetime got on their bike at 9:08, and Team Flowmax got on their bike at 9:19. Before I started my leg, Brent decided to give me a motivational talk. If I recall correctly I think he said that if I didn’t catch the rider from Lifetime and hold off the rider from Flowmax that he would beat me into a pulp. I gotta say I was feeling some pressure to crush this ride. I knew that my chances of catching Lisa were slim if she was feeling strong but there was a chance I could make up time on the Lifetime rider and not let the rider from Flowmax pass me. But, like all best laid plans, there was a possible catch.

This leg is 42.1 miles long, features 1,224 feet of climbing, and moves from the mountains down into the valleys of southern Utah. In 2012 this segment took riders over three hours to complete because of huge headwinds that seemed to hit the racers in the face regardless of the direction they were headed. I knew I didn’t want a three hour throw down in the wind. While I am comfortable in the wind, the thought of a three hour effort did not make my heart jump for joy at this point. The thought of a three hour ride in the wind was about as appealing as running naked through a corridor of Africanized bees. The good news is a windy ride does favor a stronger rider.

I jumped on my bike and started turning the pedals and was surprised how good my legs felt. I am guessing the burrito I had at the end of my last leg did me good. Heat was not a factor in this leg as the average temperature was only 84°. The first nine miles of this leg are downhill, which had to help me get warmed-up and ready for the rest of the distance. Once I got about five miles down the road, my Garmin 510 malfunctioned and started to auto pause and restart randomly, even though I was moving. This same thing happened to me at the Bike4Kids road race a couple of weeks before. I am one of those people who get really, really frustrated when technology malfunctions. Like I wanted to throw my Garmin at an oncoming truck frustrated. I shut it off and restarted it a couple of times, but it kept malfunctioning. That meant I was riding blind for a while — no power, no speed, no heart rate, no idea.

Riding without a computer during a ride is one thing, but riding without one while you are trying to pace yourself through a race is another thing all together. I started the 10 mile climb at mile 10 of the leg without any idea of what was going on. The road was still fairly straight at this point, and I could see the rider from Team Lifetime. I was so glad I could see the rider because I was going to pace myself off of him. But seeing him made me want to pass him, so I started to hammer and push my pace up the hill. I rode up next to him about a mile into the climb and then really put the hammer down. I really didn’t want to pull him over the hill nor did I want to work with him at this point. My instructions from Brent were clear.

I was about two miles from the top of the climb when my RV finally decided to catch up with me. I guess they needed McDonald’s in Cedar City and there was some sort of incident with our driver while they were there. While I won’t go into the details, I will say the lack of sleep was starting to get to everyone and tempers started getting shorter. It can be expected at one point or another during a race of this length and time.

When the RV pulled up beside me, Brent yelled at me through the window, asking if I needed anything. I think they were really surprised when I said “…a new computer.” It was important for me to have one so I could pace myself right and know when I was taking it easy or pushing it just enough. I really think if my computer would have worked, I would have cut five minutes off my time because I could have pushed it harder than I did. I was still afraid of coming over the pass and hitting those massive winds. I ride enough to know that just because there are no headwinds on this side of a pass, it doesn’t mean there aren’t on the other side. The thing about Brent is he is an excellent motivator. When he was handing me the new bike computer, he told me I had put a couple of minutes on the rider from Team Lifetime. I think the job of a leader is to know the hot buttons of their team members and use those when the time is right. As tired as I was getting, this information really got me going. I was excited. I was contributing to the team in a positive way. I had lost places for the team in other legs, but in this one I was actually gaining one.

As I came off the summit, I knew I had to hammer it home if I wanted to make up any time on Team Fatty and Team Flowmax. I couldn’t sit back and celebrate my success just yet. The remaining 24 miles are a net downhill and the best thing about it was I felt no headwind. As a matter of fact, once I turned off the highway I had a decent tailwind. I pushed hard because this would be the last hour of my race and I did not want to let my team down. This section features rollers through a rural part of the county so it was sort of tough to get into a rhythm, but I was able to pound out the miles. I knew as short as this leg was that if I slacked off I would get caught and there was no way I wanted to experience the shaming that would be put on me by my teammates if I lost us another place. Riding without a computer is really tough if you are accustomed to doing it and I was really nervous. But as I rolled into the last exchange, Brent told me I was under two hours, and looking at the Rockwell Relay Results sheet, my time was a 1:59. I averaged just over 21 mph which I will take, especially with the climbing featured on the leg.

Dan had a tough task ahead of him for Leg 12. This leg is 39.6 miles long, has just over 1,000 feet of climbing, but has a crazy 3,600 foot descent to the finish line. He pounded out the miles and finished the leg in 1:42 for an average of 23.1 mph. You can check out his effort here on Strava. His effort was in the top 10 for the 2013 results for this leg. We met Dan just outside of St. George to ride to the finish with him and I gotta admit, the last thing I wanted was to get back on the bike at that point. The temps were north of 105° in St. George then, and it felt like you were putting your head into a microwave. But, we only rode three miles or so with Dan to the finish. The funny thing is the race organization sort of missed our finish line photo.

Team Betsy was Right at Rockwell Relay

We might be the best looking team on the course -- l-r Brandon, Brent, me, and Dan.

But the important thing is we ended up finishing in 28:56:09, which was faster than what we had projected by an hour. Our team came in 14th place out of 63 competitive teams, 12th of 47 men’s competitive teams, and 14th out of 100 registered teams. While it was not the top five placement we wanted, we felt that with the increase in the number of teams, it was a fantastic showing. We were also the first team across the finish line that was made up of mostly Infinite Cycles Racing team members. Team Fatty had beat us by about fifteen minutes, but we had beat Team Flowmax and Team Lifetime by thirteen and sixteen minutes.

Post event I have been asked several times by people on my team and other cyclists if I would do the event again. I think our team had a great plan going into the event. I thought logistically we were well prepared as well. Overall, the team did very well. I would have liked to improve my time on leg 3, but you work with the hand you are dealt. So much of racing is knowing how to react to conditions and to other racers on the road. I think I failed at both on leg 3, but raced the other two legs well. I think I would do the race again, but there are a couple of things I would change. I would be more strict about sticking to my off the bike nutrition plan. I would take in more bottles during the heat and hot try to power through the heat. That’s a game you won’t win. I would also make sure I got more sleep. I seem to function well on naps of an hour or two, so I would try and make sure I got some cat naps in between each leg. I did change kits between legs, and clean clothes really made a positive impact on how I felt. Because so many of my miles during my second and third efforts were alone, I would make sure I improved my playlist. Sounds silly, but riding through the dark alone for a couple of hours is no fun.

The race director and the administration run a great race. If you want to improve your form in early June, you really should consider doing this race. My recovery the week after was minimal and it did not put a huge dent in my training rides. Then there is the scenery. If you want to get to know some of the more rural sections of southern Utah, sign up for the Rockwell Relay and enjoy. Related Topics: Cycling Training Tips Cycling Product Reviews Cycling Race Reports

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...