I’ve decided to appropriately write this post I must be comfortably sitting outside in the dark of the night under the moon. That helps bring back all those memories of last weekend and riding 430+ miles across the State of Utah with a group of 6 AWESOME friends.
A few months back my good friend Paul offered me a spot on the STG News Bike Relay team. The event date was after World Championships and I knew I would need something fun to look forward to after a very hard season. I was in! Our team was slated to be an 8 man (and lady) team who would ride from Salt Lake City to St. George in just over 24 hours. The team was filled with other athletes who I had the pleasure of getting to know over the last few years and was SUPER excited.
I’ve always been a bit hesitant when it came to 24 hour relays. I REALLY LIKE MY SLEEP! It has been ages since I have stayed up all night long and my recollection is still very clear as to how crappy I felt afterwards. I actually believe I swore never to do it again! I figured it was my time to be baptized into the relay and what a better opportunity.
Preparation for this kind of adventure is a bit insane. Running relays are one thing. Biking is an entirely different ball game. We had to find a way to transport not only 7 of us across the State, but all our bike gear and the gear to fix our bike gear in case it broke. That is really no easy task. Since we have a small box trailer at home, I offered that up. UltrAspire (the makers of AMAZING hydration gear) came through for us letting us use their Excursion. We were set………..hardly…..
The night before our trek North to the start we realized the trailer wasn’t quite as large as it has seemed sitting in the driveway. It was going to be quite a squeeze fitting 7 bikes inside. We did it with Paul’s poor brand new Blue triathlon bike dangling from the ceiling with the rest of the front wheels. Luckily we made it sort of unscathed.
We met as a group at the finish line in St. George to load up and head out on Thursday. We were slatted to start at the state capitol in Salt Lake City at 10:00 a.m. the next morning. We drove to our teammate Taylor’s house in Springville where we would stay the night. It was clear in this 4 hour trip that we were in for the time of our lives. Lyle had a story for EVERY topic under the sun. The man has more life experiences in his little finger than I do in my entire body. Not only does he have stories, but he tells them in such a way that I actually believe my abs were sore from laughing so hard. Anji and Ryan are married and both have laid back personalities with plenty of stories of their own. Let’s just put it this way…….Anji can neuter small dogs with her bike and Ryan may have some dark secrets. Paul is one of my very good friends and knows how to keep the party rolling, he wasn’t feeling on the top of his game, but my abs hurt enough from laughing……had he been “on”…….I would have been in trouble! Cherie is the master of the one liner. She can place those one liners so appropriately that you almost miss them if you don’t pay attention. She was our driver extraordinaire since she works for UltrAspire and we were in their vehicle 🙂 Let me just tell you…..She’s got mad trailer driving skills 🙂 By the time we picked up Taylor, I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to hold his own in this group. Alas, he rose to the occasion and was the Taylor we all know and love who doesn’t pass up an opportunity for comedy. As you can see………There was nothing but fun to be had!
Since we knew we weren’t going to be the fastest team out on the road we decided to be the most…….colorful 😉 We themed ourselves around “The Zoo” and animal print designs. I’m just going to let the pictures tell the stories on this one. Really, what can be said when you see three men walking around in animal print leotards, vests and arm sleeves. Priceless I tell ya…..just priceless. The ladies went for a more colorful, edgy approach with strategically placed lingerie over bike shorts and torn fluorescent tights. We were a ZOO and we were a sight to behold. I used my crafting skills (or lack thereof) to create animal print cat ears and Zebra tails for each team member. The pieces coordinated so well with the rest of our attire. The best part about our outfits………WE WERE THE ONLY TEAM WHO DRESSED UP! Yup! Apparently bike relays are NOT like running relays. People don’t dress up. They wear team jerseys and traditional gear. Ha! I’m just so glad we know how to lighten up a stuffy group 🙂
The relay itself is comprised of 26 legs of distances ranging from 13-23 miles. We would each rotate through the legs, sometimes riding with a partner, sometimes riding solo. The later in the night it became, the more solo riding occurred.
I rode 5 legs of the course (I think….).
My Leg #1:
My first leg I rode with Lyle and it took us out of Salt Lake County and into Utah County. It happened to be the 2nd leg of the course. In order to get over the “Point of the Mountain” to Utah County we would have to climb Traverse Mountain to Suncrest (anyone from Utah or Salt Lake County know what I’m talking about). I have heard about this climb millions of times. I knew it was steep, but had never seen it for myself. I volunteered for the climb since no one else other than Lyle was jumping out of their chairs for the opportunity. Lyle and I took off under the Fall Colors blanketing the Wasatch Range and began to climb. Oh did we climb! When I turned the corner and looked up and saw the Traverse climb I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were motorhomes barely moving towards the summit. Holy Cow! This was a big one.
I had decided to ride my triathlon bike for the weekend because I knew most of the course was not steep and I would benefit from my tri bike position and comfort……..except for one this climb. IT WAS SO STEEP! I cursed my gears and wished for just a few more to help lighten the load. I had to just put my head down into the downhill wind and climb. The climb is roughly 3 miles long and it is probably one of the steepest climbs I’ve done (for sure on my tri bike). I was so glad to get to the top and start to descend that I didn’t even think to take a picture of the BEAUTIFUL fall leaves!!!!! They were absolutely gorgeous up there, but you will just have to take my word for it.
When I finished this 17 mile leg, I felt great! I hadn’t worn my Garmin. I hadn’t worried about my climb. I was just out there riding my bike and loving every minute of it. It was then that I settled into my off-season 🙂 At the end of that leg, I realized that I really did love to ride. I loved going up…..I still didn’t particularly love going down……but I loved being on my bike! It’s been a long time since I felt that way and I have my awesome team and this great adventure to thank for it. What was even better, is that there was more great riding to come.
My 2nd Leg:
I got to ride my second leg from Elberts to Nephi with Ryan. This was a road and area I was completely unfamiliar with. It wound up out of Goshen into a canyon that made me feel like I was back in St. George on the early parts of the Veyo loop. I LOVED it! Ryan and I worked together on the rolling hills until finally hitting the flats and a good stiff headwind for the final miles into Nephi.
While fighting the wind I saw another rider who I had seen on my previous leg. How strange that we are on the same leg again? Not really……I found out he was a solo rider. Out there covering the entire 430+ miles course ALL BY HIMSELF. He was from Germany and was in the States for a vacation. I want THAT kind of vacation. I had a bit of a hard time understanding his broken English so we didn’t talk, we just worked together. He was a great guy and such a GREAT rider. I was glad to have him out there not only to work the headwind, but also to inspire me! VERY COOL!
My 3rd Leg:
By my third leg, night had fallen. This would be my first time ever riding in the complete darkness. Taylor and I were on for the ride from Salina to Richfield…….about 20 miles. I didn’t really know much about the course and didn’t really care. I was just excited to be on the bike again. This would turn out to be one SWEET ride!
Taylor is such a strong rider and I was excited to be able to ride together. We suited up with all our reflective gear and lighting and were off into the darkness. As my eyes adjusted I got more comfortable. I had been worried about animals and such jumping out in front of us, but it just seemed to be us and the white line. There was a bit of traffic still out since it was fairly early in the night and that seemed to make it harder to see. The more light that hit my eyes, the more blind I became. Note to drivers……please dim your lights when you see cyclists……if you don’t, you might as well just blind fold them 🙂
I settled into this leg well and felt strong. I was hesitant to be in my aero bars because of the dark, but finally warmed up to the idea as I got more comfortable. Taylor and I were cruising. I still don’t know what the profile of the ride looked like, I just know we rode well. I would shift when I felt like I needed to shift, I wouldn’t when I didn’t need to. Taken the sense of sight essential out of the equation made the riding very intuitive. I had to trust what my legs were telling me……not what the road ahead seemed to be dictating. It was VERY cool! I seemed to let go of everything in my head. For the first time in a VERY long time…..I was just riding…..I WAS LOVING IT!
My 4th Leg:
The fourth leg I rode will be a lasting memory for many reasons. I got to ride with Paul on this leg. We were to ride a double (two legs at once) from Circleville to Panguitch…..approximately 34 miles. Paul and I rarely get to ride together and I had made him promise me that we would have at least one leg on this adventure together. This would be it. It was about 3:00 a.m. and pitch black. There was little if any traffic……mostly just other race vehicles. It was getting cooler so we suited up and lit up. We were off and rolling into the darkness.
It was an AMAZINGLY beautiful night. It was a Lake Powell kind of night. If you’ve never been to Lake Powell on a summer’s night……let me explain. It was one of those cloudless nights when you look up and the ENTIRE sky is filled with more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life up to that point. You actually didn’t know the sky could look like that. The constellations you are use to finding are impossible to find because there are so many other stars covering their outline. The milky way is so close…..you realize why it is actually called the milky way as it streams across the sky. There was not a light for miles that would obscure our view of this sky. It was breathtaking………….I was experiencing a little piece of heaven.
Sadly, Paul was just getting over a cold and had not been feeling in tip top shape. He was such a trooper to be out there in the first place. It was kind of a blessing though because we got to just ride nice and easy and enjoy that night.
As the first part of the leg climbed out of Circleville it started to really cool down. We stopped for a quick snack and upon starting again it was DOWN RIGHT COLD………FREEZING! I couldn’t feel my hands, my feet, nor my chin. My teeth were chattering and the wind from our speed just made it worse. I can honestly say that as we approached the half-way point of our 34 mile ride, I was colder than I have ever been on my bike. Temperatures could not have been above 40 degrees and it was pitch black……there was no sun to warm us up. I wasn’t dressed appropriately and if I was going to continue I was going to need a few more layers……PRONTO!
We figured that our vehicle would stop at the next leg exchange just to check on us. We forgot that they needed gas and had to get to the next town (the end of the 2nd leg) in order to make that happen. Paul and I rolled into the exchange point and stopped. We couldn’t continue. We were just too cold. I was shaking so bad I didn’t think I could keep my bike upright. When we realized our vehicle wasn’t there we didn’t have another choice other than to just wait. We were lucky to get a call through to the vehicle and they were about 20 min. away from us.
Paul suggested we find another team and ask them to sit in their vehicle just to warm up for a minute. What a great idea? Thanks to the kindness of a team from Ogden we warmed up for a few minutes. Unfortunately, we had to kick two of their team members out of the car just to sit down. We stayed for about 10 minutes and then let them on their way. It seemed like forever before I vehicle got back to us. We walked up the road, jogged in place…….did anything we could to just stay a little bit warm. I have never shivered so bad as at that moment. Grateful our team was quick to find us and once again we were warming up inside.
There was no way Paul and I could continue the second of our 2 legs without more clothes and a few minutes to stave off the hypothermia that I’m sure was setting in. Taylor suited up and took off instead. He should be sainted for his actions. Not only did he have to ride in those freezing temps, but his light stopped working and he was in the dark for the majority of the way.
Note to self: When riding at night………carry extra clothing!
My 5th Leg:
The last leg I got to ride will go down as some of my favorite miles EVER! The sun was just barely starting to break the horizon when I took off up the hill out of Carmel Junction for Kanab. I had a long 2 mile climb ahead of me and then a descent into town. The hill was just about perfect (I LOVE TO CLIMB!) other than the fact that I was WAY over dressed due to Leg 4’s experiences and had to shed more than half my clothes just 10 minutes into the climb.
As I crested to the 6000 foot summit the sun had broken the horizon and I didn’t need my light anymore. I clicked it off and started down this AMAZING descent. If you know me at all, you know that I would much rather go up than down on my bike. Down is scary. I feel very out of control and don’t trust my handling skills. Fortunately, this hill was made for me. No sharp turns. A wide shoulder. No traffic. No crazy pitches to the road. I was FLYING! Literally……I felt like I was flying. It was some of the smoothest riding I’ve experienced. This leg sealed the deal………I LOVED BIKING ONCE AGAIN!
I sailed into Kanab with a smile on my face. Not only was I done with all my legs for the relay, but I just reignited the spark in my head. My body felt so good. For once, NOTHING hurt. Nothing was hard. I was just doing what I loved.
It is hard to recall the entire experience of this relay because it just went on and on and on. Let’s just say there were a lot of laughs, no sleep, amazing riding, and GREAT FRIENDS! You learn a lot about yourself and the people you are with when you are in a car laying all over each other for 24+ hours. It’s a GREAT thing. As I sit here with all these memories fresh in my head I’m sad that they are now memories. I want to go again! Right now. Strap on the lights. Let’s go ride!
Huge shout out to the sponsors of our team: STG News, UltrAspire, and HK Cycling. You guys made the ride that much more AWESOME!
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