Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sleepless in Hockinson at the Lewis and Clark 24 hour

As you all might have heard, I battled out 323 miles at the Lewis and Clark 24 hour. It's not usual though that I would show up so unprepared but without a doubt I must say that things just kinda work themselves out over the course of 24 hours. What a great ride this was with so many fast ultracycling crowd and great camaraderie! I knew it was going to be tough but this was a certain new kind of tough that this race had. Well, for one thing, only 10 miles into the race, climbing up the steep Livingston Mtn Road, my front derailleur broke! From then on I found myself getting off the bike several times on the bigger 140 mile loop, changing the chain with my bare hands from the high gear to low gear or visa verse. Well, after awhile I just kept it in the low gear with the exception of the long descent down from Old Mans Pass. The climb up to Old Mans Pass, along the Wind River valley was beautiful! Then the big long descent down into the Lewis River was also a nice treat with a great view St Helens. But once I got to Cougar I just left the gear in low in the front and just used my rear derailleur from then on. Getting back to the start/finish staging area was also no slouch with good steep climbs in and around Yacolt. But once I got to Hockinson (at the start/finish) the race was not even half over!

Sandy Earl came up to me to tell me that if I needed any crew assistance that Adrienne Johnson was there crewing her and could help me if needed. Adrienne has also crewed at RAAM several years and we all would be in good hands with her around. Well, I guess at this point in the race I was very in need of someone just going and buying me a few extra sandwiches or whatever else that I didn't have a crew to get for me. So Adrienne approached me immediately as I arrived at the Pit in Hockingson Middle School and I gave her some cash and she was willing to help me out and get me some food. She asked me how much solid food had I had eaten and I hadn't eaten as much, instead was fixed on this Spiz sports drink. But I had eaten some pb&J and some bars, but not really enough to keep going all night. So Adrienne saved me from stopping me from "Spizzing" out and said she'd have me some food for me after the first 9 mile loop.

It was relatively warm out by then and knew I needed to keep drinking a lot too by then. I wasn't worried at all who my competition was. I knew about Chris Ragsdale and Hugh Gapay being way out in front of me but just didn't worry about them or anyone else and focused on the goal of finishing at least 300 miles or better. Once finishing the 140 mile, 9.6 mile loop was what we would then do continuously for the remaining hours...for me just over 15 hours remaining! Actually in hind sight, looking at the results, I see that I was in 6th place when I finished the 140 mile loop...but didn't know that at all since there were so many teams and 12 hour racers out there as well and just blended right into the fun of continuing on into the night. I actually was 2 hours behind Chris and about an hour behind Hugh, but like I said before, didn't know and didn't care about these details at that moment.

The lovely 9.6 mile loop was filled with flats, steep hills and rolling sections. One hill had nearly 18% grade but it wasn't more than a couple hundred yards. But each 9.6 mile loop consisted of about 420 feet of climbing so after awhile you can see how this would start to wear on you.

As I got back to Hockinson, Adrienne was there ready for me and gave me a ham and cheese sandwich and some water. I was so happy and hungry! I ate the entire sandwich on the next loop. She gave me some chicken the next loop and I ate that too. I began to think strategy for this. Eat on the flat first 3 miles of the loop, before the steep climb and stay steady on the hills. My front derailleur was not an issue anymore since I was in high spinning mode on flats anyways and was more about just staying steady and not trying to go too hard. Trying not to think too far ahead I wanted to go, I thought about just getting 4 loops done at a time. I'd shoot for the first 4 loops before the 12 hour time period, and I did that with 19 minutes to spair, which gave me about a 300k in 12 hours. So by getting about 180 miles in the first half, I felt well, 360 is probably out of the question, but that gives me some wiggle room when I slow down later on...and yes I would slow down but not as bad as I thought I would.

On with the next 4 loops (9-12) still eating strong I still felt good, but this time it was getting dark and the hours grew on me and the loops and scenery became more and more grim. But I still looked forward to the dreadful steep hill, believe it or not. I figured if I could keep at the pace like I did in the 1st 4 loops, I could definitely get in well over my 300 mile goal. I average about 45 min per loop and about 3 hours per 4 loops. Somewhere along this part I asked Adrienne if 320 miles was a realistic finishing goal. She said yes you did 180 miles in the 1st half, and so yes 320 is very realistic. So I then continued on and reached my 217 mile mark at just shy of 15 hours.

At this point I was still eating and feeling good. But the monotonous looping made me very overwhelming when trying to do simple math in my head. I had only done 8 friggin loops and I got how many more to go to get 300 miles? Yep, still 9 more loops to go to reach over 300 miles and 11 more loops to reach the 320 mile goal...ughhh!! Stop thinking long term...back to the 4 loop strategy me! So where was I, oh yeah, onto the next 4 loops (13-16) to hit 256 miles at the 18 faster, no slower, just right on 18 hours. And that's what I did, hit 18 hours right on at about 45 min per loop.

Somewhere in here is where I started to see more and more people hanging out in the Pit. Stopping to sit and eat, trying to get warm. But I did my best to not get sucked into the Pit and keep riding. Adrienne was very good about getting me back onto the bike within a matter of minutes. I admit there were a couple times I needed go to my car for a few things (warmer jacket) or go take a dump in the gym etc...but for the most part, no rest for the weary for me!

So 6 more hours of this, I know I can do this. I've done it before at RAO, just need to see what I can do without blowing up completely. But this next 4 loops (13-16) was tough since it was starting to really get cold. I new I had to keep eating to stay warm. Warm soup, warmed up frappacinos, and buttered graham crackers would do me just right. However, even though I was eating and drinking, my pace slowed up substantially to 53 minutes per loop. I was on survival mode just trying to keep alive and not even think of how tired I really was. So this 4 loops I was definitely slower by about 20 minutes but I just kept going and didn't care. I'd done 16 loops already and needed just 3 loops to do in 2 hrs and 40 mins to go. So I kept at the pace I had been going. However, after leaving the 304 mile mark, just couldn't really eat any more and almost puked, but luckily held it in and said ok, this is my last loop...I don't care. I just want to get through this without blowing up. I don't care what they say, I'm not going on.

Well, I got back in just in time for the RD Glenn and Adrienne to say, you can do this, you've got 40 minutes to go. Adrienne knew I just needed to go 7 more miles to get 320 miles. I wolfed a banana down and off I went. Glenn said I'll have Adrienne come out and pick you up so I didn't have to come backwards on the loop. I was so frickin cold and didn't want to do that godawful flat cold 3 mile stretch again. But I pushed through it and got to the steep hill. I got to the top of the hill and realized, well, you know I think I might be able to get to 7 miles after all. I pushed up the second hill and was like wow, I think I can do this. But then feeling even more excited I reached the 7 mile mark with 7 and a half minutes to go on the clock. Shoot, I might get this loop done within the time after all. I pushed onto 8 and then screamed down to the 9 mile mark. I coasted into the Pit just right under the 24 hour mark...getting me 323.1 miles with NO time to spare! And I never did lay down or sit down once! Somehow, I managed to slip in 2nd place, and so glad I was encouraged to continue on that last lap after all...Thanks Glenn, I needed that kick in the ass!

That is my fastest effort on a bike in that distance by a long shot! Thank you Adrienne for crewing me completely last minute. And to Sandy and everyone else out there for all the support. Thanks Glenn for putting on a fabulous race. And thanks to all the volunteers who stuck it out throughout the night! What a great trainer this was for RAO!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Covered Bridge 400K
This past weekend was just awesome! 400k in 18 hours 50 minutes and was all in the beautiful sunny day. It was nice to have so many people to ride with and meet up new rando's from Oregon. It was nice to noodling all over areas that I had once explored during my grad school days, but it was a very twisty course that made you feel you were in a maze...but in a good way. We saw 5 or more covered bridges and the climbs just south of Sweet Home were a treat as well. We rode River Rd straight into Salem about 10-11pm . There's a bike lane, on this road, but unfortunately a guy riding his bike without a light towards us, came only centimetes from hitting me and my fellow rando riders behind me. Luckily I moved out of the way just in time. That expereience and riding all the way through Salem stopping at almost all the lights, made it less appealing but we got through it and finished off to Newberg without any problems.

Anyways, this weekend will be a another test, riding a 400k on Saturday and then a 200K on Sunday (w/ minimal sleep inbetween). I've updated my events on the right column for those interested. If you are interested in riding with me on the Race Across Oregon course, I plan to go pre-ride the RAO course the first 3 weekends in June!
Let me know if you want to go on any of these and I'll send you the course's a pdf so I can't post it on this blog, or I don't think I can.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fleche 24 hour - the start of a new training regime!

Well, 10 Wheels North did it! We finished the Fleche 24 hour journey from Corvallis to Olympia right on target. Fleche meaning in french "arrow" was actually for 10 Wheels North more defined as "straight as an arrow" where we rode the most direct route ending in Olympia than all other 10 teams that started at a different location, that also ended up in Olympia. We were the closest to 360k than all other teams (I got about 388K...aka 238 miles). And we met all the target times including the 360k requirment in 24 hours, actually way under. Our total time was about 23:30 or something like that...but really who cares about time, what a great ride it was!! And we picked the best time to do it, where all other teams that rode it in the rain the day before! See the Fleche website for more details, since I might not make complete sense since I'm not all rando literate quite yet. This ride traced back good old times, since it was retracing my journey from Corvallis to Olympia back in 2000 that I took when I migrated after finishing graduate school at OSU and started working for the State of WA. It's been 9 years since I came to Olympia and so much has happened in my life since that time. But doing all these miles kinda helped reflect on all those years, especially the physical part of it all:) And the 10 Wheels North team that included Ian Shopland, Corey Thompson, Josh Morse, Alan Woods and myself all helped me have a great time in the process. It was fun to ride with 4 other great people, riding all night and all day long!
It was great of Alan to let us use his house as our 2 hour layover in Portland as well as his house in Corvallis as our starting point. My team and me included are in debted to my Dad for driving me and all the bikes down to Corvallis while everyone else commuted by train to Corvallis. Thank you Dad for all the help!
It was truely an learning experience in riding throughout the night and feeling like I should be rushed but really we made all of our targeted points along the way...right on, or even several minutes to spare. Nothing like eating McDonalds drivethrough at 3am or a nice French bakery in downtown Portland to recharge the batteries to head north towards Oly! I could go on about the trip blow by blow, but that would just be silly! More importantly, this experience was REAL as it has helped me gain a lot of strength and training in the upcoming Race Across Oregon.

I got NO miles in the following week after the Fleche due to some serious prep work for Capitol Peak 50! However, I did get some long rides in this past weekend. I rode up to the Lena Lake trail head, meeting up with Heidi who was running up the trail. It was raining most the way there up along Hood Canal, and had a good time finding all these side roads that avoided Hwy 101 and then finally getting up to Hoodsport and the Hamma Hamma and confronting some good hill climbage (>12% grade). That was a good way to end a 7 hour ride, despite some faulty rear derailleurs starting off on the ride. But at least the derailleur worked for most the way.
Anyways, here's what's next coming 4 weekends look like:
May 9 - Oregon Covered Bridges 400K (Tour of Central Willamette Valley)
May 16 - Seattle 600K (Ephrata-Twisp-Okanogan and East central Washington)
May 23-24- Lewis and Clark 24 hour bike race
May 30-31 Oregon XTR 600K (eastern Oregon)

Yes, May is a serious training month, more than ever!

Stay tuned for updates about each ride!