Team Turbo Dog will Compete in the Hoodoo 500

| July 10, 2012 10:36 pm

Team Turbo Dog, a 4 person mixed relay team will compete in this year’s Hoodoo 500, a 519 mile race that starts in St. George, Utah.  All riders and crew are members of the Almaden Cycle Tour Club, based in San Jose, CA.

Deb (rider) and David (rider) Hoag

Deb and David are veterans of the Hoodoo 500 (2010, 2011) where they competed on 2X teams and hold the records for 2X mixed team and 2X mixed tandem team. In 2011 they finished Race Across America, as part of a 8 tandem relay team, setting a record of less than 6 days. They are both finishers of the California Triple Crown stage race on their tandem, placing on the podium. They are California Triple Crown Winners for several years and have finished many double centuries, including the most difficult ones in California. For 2012 they will be racing on their single bikes as part of this 4X mixed team.

Lonni Goldman (rider)

This is is first time for Lonni to ride the Hoodoo 500. She has completed several double centuries and was one of only four female finishers of the 2012 Terrible Two which expeirenced a high DNF rate due to extreme heat. She is already a California Triple Crown Winner for 2012.

Franz Kelsch (rider)

Franz is a Furnace Creek 508 veteran after finishing on a 2X team (2007, 2008). He ia California Triple Crown Winner (2007 and 2008) and has completed other ultra distance events, including the Everest Challenge. He crewed for the Hoodoo 500 in 2009 and 2010. Franz has also run several marathons, including Chicago, Boston and St. George which runs down part of the final Hoodoo 500 route.

Guy Bautista (crew)

This is the first time crewing for Guy. He is planning on doing an ultra distance event like the Hoodoo 500 next year.

Furnace Creek 508-The Place I wanted to be.

| October 25, 2010 5:49 pm
Furnace Creek 508-The Place I wanted to be.

by Susan Forsman

The Furnace Creek 508 is the perfect experiment in how to discover oneself, especially when participating in the solo competition. I had crewed for Sam “Seal” Beal, Barley “Boar” Forsman and Bob “Bradan” Redmond, so I had some idea how tough the ride would be. I had also said that I wasn’t going to crew anymore unless I did it for myself. It occurred to me that I could do it on a fixed-gear bike if I trained hard enough for it. Easier said than done – riding a fixie is a whole different animal! I followed certain rules and took in advice from Barley, my husband, the fixie expert.

Once I decided I was going to do the 508 fixied, I started my own training program. I started on November 2009, and mapped out the year with rides and key targets by using a periodization method. I planned the workouts according to specific brevets to peak for the 508. As an exercise physiologist, I admire the body for its physical potential, but there is another potential: the power of the mind. Many people neglect this “X-factor” in their training. I practiced visualization exercises during my training: when it was windy, I imagined myself in the desert, when I was climbing, I imagined myself on Towne’s pass. During some training days, it was difficult to get out of bed early in the morning. However I have Barley, my biggest motivator.

I honed in my nutrition and experimented with various nutritional options while training. I created a plan that would be easy for my stomach to digest, easy for the crew to manage. I also prepared a variety of emergency foods in case things went wrong. Most of them were childhood treats that bring back good memories. Good food can help me overcome the inevitable bad times that occur during ultra-distance cycling.

Barley’s advice came in handy when going downhill; he explained that I would need to be able to stand as I pedaled 20+mph. He said “The long descents will generate pressure and heat while seated, it will be important alleviate that pressure by periodically un-weighting the saddle.” So I signed up for a brutal Santa Rosa Cycling Tour lead by Bill Oetinger. During the tour I measured my effort going down hills; however I ended up with a right arm injury and some nutritional deficiencies. All the work from the 410 miles and 40,000ft of climbing put a dent in my body. I had enough time to recover and I took it easy for 2 weeks to get my body back to “normal”. The tour was a good idea, but I overreached and had to pull back from training to avoid having a greater injury later in the season. I used a 43/17 gearing on my converted Breezer fixie and was able to climb and descend some of the toughest hills I had ever ridden, some with 18-20% grades!

I also utilized the very demanding Almaden Cycling Tour Club long distance training rides as motivation to go on 100+ mile rides over the weekends. I never went 100% during those rides, but I did have certain targets that I wanted to reach: intensity levels and heart rate zones. I also rode brevets for 2 purposes: prepare for Paris-Brest-Paris next year, and to get time in the saddle. I also enjoy the company of friends during brevets. The pace is calmer and even though there are time limits to complete, there is still time to sit and have an extended lunch. I completed a whole series: 200K, 300K, 400K and 600k, on the Fuji fixie with 42/17 gearing and other brevets on the Breezer with 43/16 gearing. During Furnace Creek I rode my red Sycip with 42/16 gearing. Actually, all my bikes are red, hence Scarlet Macaw as my totem.

The other important component for race preparation was getting the right crew for the job. I was flattered and lucky to have many offers: Barley Forsman, Robert Choi, David Hoag, Curt Simon, and Bill Ellis were all candidates for my roster, so I went with the obvious – whoever asked me first, I went with them! All very experienced cyclists (fast riders too) and 508 veterans, it was hard to turn down Curt and Bill. I kept thinking they were going to be bored during the race because my pace is nothing like theirs. In the end Barley became my crew chief and David the navigator and Robert the driver for most of the ride (as well as the mathematician). Curt was still my back-up in case someone had to bail.

I prepared for picking up the van, clothing and food. Barley got my bike and all essentials ready for the race. The crew did everything! I had prepared a schedule of my nutrition to be fed 250 calories or less every hour. Electrolytes and Heed depending on the weather, fruit in-between Hammer bottles, Tums, Ibuprophen and Alkazelser as needed. To avoid overheating, they were supposed to pour water on my back. All of these procedures were to be tallied every 20 minutes. It was a lot of work and my crew took on the task to perfection. All the planning had been done to beat the current women’s fixie record and to try to finish in 42 hours or less. In order to attain that record I needed to take short stops and keep a steady pace. After all, this was my first attempt at the FC508 ever!

The morning was beautiful, I chose to take it easy and enjoy the moment before the start. I talked to many of the racers and crew. Ken Emerson, a friend, was also racing solo. We took some pictures. I also met Chris and Adam, the other two fixie riders. Five fixies had originally signed up, but 2 dropped before the race. So it was just the three of us.

I really wanted to take in everything, the smells, the scenery, the happiness to feel the wind caressing my legs as I went downhill. I held back and the group rapidly split up. Some riders seemed to be working very hard. I stayed within my limits, or so I thought! A bit slow at the first check point from what I had estimated with my splits, but I soon realized that it was going to be difficult to keep that pace, so I slowed down a bit more. Long distance races are not won at the beginning. My exercise physiology background kept reminding me that muscles fatigue will be greater if I push too hard at the start, then the muscles will need more time to recover if I stop.

I saw Chris Kostman. He rolled some video and took pictures. It was exciting to be on the same roads as those I had crewed for in the past. I was reminded to stop at two stop signs- in my view I did stop, but I just wasn’t unclipping. Some people didn’t realize I was on a fixie. I kept seeing the same vans. Jeff (Landshark) who was crewing for another solo rider was very encouraging. I saw Paul Vlasved for a stretch of the road.

My first stop was at about mile 170, at least that’s what my crew told me. I stopped only to get set up with lights and pee. I really don’t know what my mileage was because I was only focusing on the average speed from my computer.

The crew bought a veggie burrito for me in Torona, I wanted to make sure I had something else to eat at night time. This idea was brilliant in my case. I was ready for Towne’s Pass. I had visualized this climb during my training, so I was ready to pace myself. In my mind the race started at Towne’s Pass. The downhill was brutal, a lot harder than I had visualized. A rider had fallen down in front of me in the middle of the road near the bottom of the descent. It took several seconds to register what was going on, but I never slowed down. How could I? It’s a race!

The hardest climbs for me were Jubilee and Salisbury. It was dark and I was tired! There is no recovery time between them so I just “sucked” it up. At some point I saw The Hub Cyclery van, Chaz and Claire were crewing for Debbie and Bill, it was fun to see them go by as I was trying to keep my momentum.

I was ready for windy conditions. My mantra was: “Is that all you got? I thought it was going to be WINDY!!” Of course, these were just mental games to keep me focused. During the windy sections, I kept hoping for a turn so that the wind would cease, but the wind just kept turning with me! It seemed that I had a head wind at every turn. My stops became a little bit longer. It became harder to keep them to 3-5 minutes. My third stop was 15 minutes: I sat and extended my legs, while Robert gave me a massage and everyone else filled my bottles, gave me food and told me how great I was doing. They told me my form was good and to keep up the pace, and that I was on task to break the record. The crew did everything possible to keep me going. We would plan what I needed before the stop to save precious time. My job was to keep pedaling. I changed clothes once. They got me sun block, at the hottest time. Once I sat in the van for 3 minutes with the air-conditioning on my face!

At times I was going only 4mph, and it was frustrating to be unable to pick up the pace. I kept telling myself: “I’m moving faster at 4mph than at 0mph if I stop”, so I just allowed myself to recover while I pedaled slowly. As time went by I needed to make more stops. I continually wanted to pee, so I had to stop and it was harder to squat, I had to have Barley help me.

I couldn’t clip in anymore, because the bottom of my foot and calf would cramp. Robert and David started putting me on the bike and clipping me in. By the last 100 miles, Robert was in charge of clipping me in and holding me until I was able to clip my other foot and get going again. The synergy of the crew was incredible – I would signal for them to come up and they would already be ready with different possibilities for drinks and food. They kept giving me updates of the climbs that were coming up, and estimated times I would reach the top. I had difficulties getting off the bike, someone would help me lift my leg over the bike, then someone would hold the bike while I would get food or take a pee break. Every time I got back on the bike I was fine, so I was purposefully trying not to stop to avoid cramping and stiffness. Little by little the power on my quads was diminishing, but I kept going.

At mile 410, I wondered, how Emily O’Brien (the previous fixie finisher) did it! This thing, the 508 on a fixie, it’s a crazy idea! I thought, “she is a tough one!” While I was descending, I wondered about Sam and Barley on the fixie. They were much faster than me, and I couldn’t imagine how fast they must have been going. Another brutal descent I was not prepared for was Sheephole! It was indescribably horrible! My seat felt crooked, and I felt like I was going downhill on a mountain bike course. I signaled to the van to stop and told my crew: “this saddle is crooked!”, both Robert and Barley checked the saddle and said that it wasn’t. So, I guess that means I’m crooked! I had gotten a saddle sore, but my body knew that if something was going to go wrong, it was going to be equipment and not the body, so I blamed the equipment! I realized that I had to ride crooked while descending to avoid vibrating the saddle sores. I was mentally prepared for sand storms, snow, rain, mechanical problems, and physical problems. I had a solution for every pain, every negative thought, anything that could, or would go wrong. I inadvertently ran over a mouse as it darted across the road and I thought: “I hope this doesn’t come back as bad karma later in the ride!” This is a race and I’m going to break the current women’s fixie record! I was avoiding sand on the road, potholes, looking for the smooth area of the road. There was none to be found! I tried staying on the painted white strip because it gave me a break from the vibration. My hands were feeling damaged. I remember Sam talking about his hands and blisters. I had already popped one small blister on my left hand, so I started holding the handle bar with my fingers. I stopped braking for a while. To keeping the bike at 17-20mph, I controlled the speed with my legs. On the downhill to stop #7, I was able to keep my speed near 22mph during most of the downhill. I was tired and I kept imagining that the van was going to run over me, so I slowed down and asked my crew to give me more distance. Barley was driving at that time, so he assured me that there was enough space between me and the van. I don’t see well at night so he was trying to give me as much light as possible, the fastest speed I reached during the race was 39 mph, but it was probably only for a few seconds.

Going up the last climb, the crew kept me motivated with updates of my splits and other riders. I kept saying, “it’s not over until is over!” As I climbed I estimated that if I kept a 5mph pace on the uphill, I could make up some of the time on the downhill. Again easier said than done! The downhill became even harder. I had damage the back of my right knee by pulling a tendon from standing and pedaling downhill. When you ride a fixie downhill, it is extremely difficult to give your butt a break, so there is A LOT of chaffing. I stopped one last time and put on another pair of short to double them and get extra padding. After 450 miles, every inch of my body was pleading for mercy, but I kept telling it, “this is a race! I can rest when it’s over!” Anyway, I had pulled a tendon, so I had to visualize the pain leaving the knee, so I would have enough strength to stand and pedal to give my butt a 2-3 second break. I would do this continually for the last 36 miles. I decided I was NOT going to stop again. I was going to finish the race – without getting passed by anybody else!

I imagined that the last miles were just a short ride, nothing more than an easy morning loop. This loop went on forever! My crew kept me motivated by making sure I was eating and drinking. Gu with caffeine was my secret weapon to keep me alert and energized. I could no longer eat the fruit cups because it was slowing me down, so I decided to stay with Perpetuem and Gu. After I descended the last climb I thought I saw a turn coming up. In reality it was just another straight road ahead! I was getting upset at the road. I thought about the road engineers and wondered what were they thinking? Were they trying to save money by avoiding turns? Everything was dark, but I could see the lights of other finishers so that kept me going. If I could only catch one of them I could get in faster. My focus intensified at mile 495 – the lights of the city seemed so close. Of course, as I reached the school, I remembered that I still had 6-8 miles to go. The van pulled up and said,”you’re almost there, 6 more miles and you will be there”. Those were the longest miles of the ride! I saw another rider, at the top of a small crest. That crest felt harder than Towne’s Pass, and I began to wonder if I could catch him. I tried my best, and that became my focus for the last miles to the finish.

As I got to the finish, the first person I saw was Chris Kostman, I think he took a picture. Cindi Staiger, congratulated me and Matt from the Santa Rosa Cycling Club took a picture of my entry with the unofficial time of 12:37am Monday morning. Chris told me to wait, and that I was going to get my picture taken, I tried to get off my bike. Luckily my crew came to the rescue and helped me get off the bike and held the bike for me. I was so happy that I had done it!! I am part of a very small group of people who have attempted the feat on a fixie and an even a smaller group of women. I think I am the third woman to attempt the 508 fixed. When I got back to the hotel, I was looking forward to a cold shower to wash away all my pains and start recovering as soon as possible. It was hard to get in the tub, but it was even harder to get out, my quads had nothing left to give. I knew that my body had given me every single cell of strength and left it on the course! I am happy with my accomplishment and satisfied with all the decisions I made throughout the year in preparation for the race. The crew was excellent – they even continued getting things for me, and helping me to be as comfortable as possible the day after the race on our drive home!

One last note, Furnace Creek 508 in the solo category is most successful with the correct crew, without my crew I couldn’t have done as well. They were selfless and gave me four days of their lives so that I could give my best on the bike. Thank you!!

Susan Forsman


The Movie

We all can’t wait for the Movie.  For now you can watch the trailer.

Bucket List

| 7:10 am
Bucket List

by Marcia Morrison

In 2003, three avid cyclists, Paul Greene, Ray Low, and John Mazzella rode three double centuries to earn the Triple Crown Award. Ever since then I thought that someday I’d like to see if I could accomplish such a feat. Comments I heard were: “Double centuries really aren’t that much fun.” (That one kept from trying sooner).”You’d better do it soon, because it doesn’t get any easier.” At that time I was meeting other challenges, so it was put off but still in the back of my mind.

The year of 2009 started out great, but took a turn for the worse. Just four days after returning from the National Time Trials I was hit with a gut-wrenching stomach ache. I went to the emergency room 4 times, was misdiagnosed twice, hospitalized for 13 days, had 5 internal abscesses and almost every “itis” possible, lost 25 lbs., and had to wait 4 months for an operation to make sure all the inflammation was down.

Finally in November I started riding slowly on my own. I gradually picked up my mileage and started following a century training program. There aren’t many centuries in the winter, so even though I wasn’t up to 25 miles I found myself signing up for the Solvang Double Century. I followed a training program I found online and knew I had to follow it religiously. On the long rides I plodded along at a snail-like pace. I felt comfortable with that because the program said to ride the long rides slowly. The shorter rides were to be ridden faster, but that didn’t happen. I was still down 15 lbs., so I thought my hill climbing would be faster, but when you put a large pack on the back of your bike and fill it with V-8 juice, power bars, tools, etc. the weight loss advantage wasn’t that much.

With my tortoise pace I really wasn’t sure I’d make the 17 hour cut-off time. I figured I would either just make it or miss it. You can imagine my surprise when at the first rest stop my average speed was 3 mph faster than my training speed. I guess the adrenaline kicked in. I thought my average speed would drop, but it remained consistent throughout the ride. I even had several hours to spare before the cut-off time and finished just before it got dark. Life was good again!

Spring Solvang Double

  • Highlights-Foxen Canyon Rd. was the first big climb. Had lush, green hills, wildflowers, little traffic, great weather, enjoyed the small towns of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, perfect weather. Reststops were frequent with Subway sandwiches for lunch. Friendly riders througout the ride. Tailwind for much of the finish. Leapfroged with 2 guys and finished with them.
  • Lowlights-Rough roads, lost my taillight. A 1500 ft., 3 mile climb near the end of the ride with the descent having mega potholes and cracks.

Davis Double

  • Highlights-Temperature can be deadly, but wasn’t. Reststops were frequent, great food. Nice seeing vineyards, Lake Berryessa, Chiles and Pope Valley Rd. had rolling hills with little traffic.
  • Lowlights-Of course there were many friendly riders, but was it just my mood or were there too many rides with a sense of superiority? Most of the roads had too much traffic with trailers, boats, etc.

Knoxville Double

The Fall Solvang Double was going to be my 3rd double, but I signed up late for the Knoxville Double just in case I couldn’t make it to Solvang or some disaster happened during that ride. Originally, I was going to do this ride, but I didn’t like the Davis Double and the middle of this ride has a section of the Davis Double in reverse. Anyway, I’m not sure I want to start this challenge over again next year, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. Training wise I wasn’t ready, but I adjusted my training schedule and thought of this as a training ride.

  • Highlights-Friendly riders, beautiful ride up Howell Mtn, can see a view of all the hot air balloons. Howell turned into White Cottage Rd. and again continued for 4 miles, with a pretty descent into Pope Valley. Was complimented by a guy who told me I did a “hell” of a pull on Silverado Trail, thought for sure you’d pull off and tell us to go by. Six guys were drafting behind me?! Had the best volunteers, were plentiful and were always in sight and provided water stops between reststops.
  • Lowlights-Went to bed at 9:30 pm, arose at 1:30 am, left the house at 2:30 am, started riding at 4:30 am.
    Knoxville Rd. was a long climb in the heat. Had a flat just before the summit of Knoxville Rd. Climbing Loch Lomond Rd. after lunch in the heat was a challenge and 4 miles seemed like an eternity, heard it was 106 degrees. Could have BONKED, but took care of myself, stopped, rested, ate, and drank.

Fall Solvang Double

Instead of being my 3rd double it is now my 4th and a bonus ride. I came down with a cold the week before and it would have been easy to skip it. I had paid for it, had a reservation and since I liked the Spring Solvang Double I decided to ride it. Persistence has gotten me through many challenges, but it has also got me into trouble.

Everything was going great and was enjoying it as much as the spring double except the lush, green hills are now brown with no wildflowers. The signup was small and I heard the 20 riders DNS. The crowds were small at all the reststops. At the reststop before lunch we were told that there was a traffic fatality and they would reroute us, but the volunteer had no other information. I was 70 miles from that point with the next stop being lunch, so I figured the traffic accident would be cleared by the time I got there. At the lunch stop there were 3 volunteers and only a handful of riders. It would have been the perfect opportunity for them to tell us what was ahead of us. I even complimented a volunteer on how well marked the course was and she assured me that would continue. Off I went and finally when I got to the Pismo Beach area traffic was still backed up and I followed the yellow arrows onto 101. Here’s where my nightmare began. I thought I was on 101/1 and there were no arrows or direction as to when we got off, so I kept going and going. Needless to say, my life was at risk riding on 101 with merging and exiting traffic. Finally, I stopped under a sign and called the ride contact, and told him where I was. He told me to keep going and enjoy the ride, so on I went for another few miles. Then I saw another rider on the side of the road tallking to the ride contact. We were on 101, not 1 and had to cross both the south and north bound lanes, another dangerous incident. The contact told us to take an exit I saw going south, but unfortunately that exit didn’t exist going north, so we ended up at our original point onto 101. Now we’re told to go down to the beach and walk a 1/4 mile until we hit Hwy. 1 We didn’t want to do that so we ended up doing what we should have done the 1st time.

We finally got the the turn on Costa Mesa Rd. which I had been looking for far too long. The guy I was with said we’d probably not make the cut-off time of midnight, since we went approximately 24 extra miles and had wasted time trying to figure our way back on course. I didn’t care if we got sagged in since I had already earned the Triple Crown Award, but the poor guy I was with had more at stake as this was to be his 3rd double. I offered to ride with him and to give it a try, but he wasn’t up to it.

It was 8:00 pm when I got sagged in. It felt good to take a shower and have a nice hot dinner with Al and missing the ride in a night time drizzle.

I am lucky I didn’t “kick the bucket” on this ride because another scary incident was on our return on 101 I hit a rumble strip and had trouble getting out of it and veered out onto the freeway.

  • Highlights-Lots of the same scenery on the spring double, but is significantly more challenging with more climbing.
  • Lowlights-Didn’t finish which is still bugging me. Already mentioned my 101 adventure. Not enough volunteers or direction.

Final thoughts

I don’t dare say this is my last double century, because I said that 18 times about running marathons. My favorite double was the Spring Solvang Double Century. Now, I can check the Triple Crown Award off my bucket list.


Knoxville Double–Triple, September 24-25, 2010

| September 23, 2010 11:21 am
Knoxville Double–Triple, September 24-25, 2010

by Cristin Sohm

Part of the ride was a total suffer-fest (lots of hills with extreme heat and not being able to eat). Part of the ride I thought the world was conspiring against me (flat after flat after flat). Part of the ride was scary as could be (riding alone in the pitch dark with rattle snakes rattling at me and a bobcat running in front of me). Thankfully there were other parts of the ride that were truly amazing (friends on the ride and friends volunteering for the ride). Then there was the part of the ride that was simply magical (my daughter Mellissa there with me the whole time and encouraging my crazy idea to make the ride longer than a double).

I’ve always wanted to do a quad, especially after how good I felt doing the triple in June. I knew this was my last event of the year, so this was my last chance. I figured out all the logistics, trained hard, bought extra supplies and then stressed hugely over this crazy idea. Then Mellissa offered to be my support and I knew everything would fall into place and it was my chance and I decided to go for it.

Mellissa came to pick me up on Friday for the drive up to Vacaville. She laughed when she saw that I had packed enough supplies to last a couple weeks out on the road! Later we would realize that the tons of food was useless, but we sure were thankful for the tons of tubes, extra tire and floor pump that I had packed!

We arrived in Vacaville and drove straight to the start location at Pena Adobe Park. I changed into my cycling clothes, filled bottles, loaded up the bike with supplies, got some kisses from my wonderful daughter and started riding on Friday afternoon. My plan was to ride throughout the night to finish 200 miles in about 16 hours and meet Jon Kaplan & Art Cruz at 4am and start the next 200 miles then.

My heart was racing with how nervous I was, having little confidence in my ability to actually pull this off. I just reminded myself that Mellissa was there and that was hugely comforting. Lane Parker sent me the tcx file of the Knoxville Double course, so I felt secure with the directions and Mellissa honked the car horn when I went off course. As I was riding, I came across two guys and I caught up to them. They asked if I was doing a training ride and I told them of my crazy plan. We chatted for a bit and then they dropped off. One of them caught up later and said I was too fast. Ha!

At mile 22 it was 96 degrees and my average speed was 16.3. At mile 29 I sent my mom a text message saying that Mt. George was so easy-peasy that I thought Mellissa lied that we were at the top. Average speed 15.8. At mile 37, with an average speed of 16.1, I hit my first obstacle. I heard my back tire make a big swoosh sound. I got off the bike and thanked my lucky stars for the 3 hours of trying to learn how to change a flat the night before. Mellissa said that the first rest stop was just around the corner, so I decided instead of changing it in the blasting sun on the busy street, I would carry my bike to the rest stop. I changed my first official flat tire by myself and was beaming with pride. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I had realized what was in store the rest of the day!

At mile 58, I had just finished the 7 mile climb up Howell Mountain. It was blasting hot and I couldn’t eat because my mouth was too dry. I was feeling shaky from the lack of food and I was feeling a bit out of it. Mellissa offered lots of different types of food that I had packed, but I didn’t want anything. I choked down a Power Bar and I happened to feel my front tire and found that it was almost flat. Several of my cycling friends have crashed lately because of a front tire flat on a descent, so I’ve been trying to get in the habit of always checking my tires before descending a hill. I changed the front tire (flat #2) with no problems and started on my way again.

At mile 70 my average speed had dropped down to 14.4 after the first 2 hills. After the Power Bar digested, I felt a lot better with some food in me on the hot ride. I stopped at the port-a-potty that would be rest stop #2 tomorrow and then I made my way to the long, long climb up Knoxville (about 31 miles).

It was now pitch dark and I was climbing Knoxville with all the wildlife. I counted no less than 8 rattle snakes, 1 bobcat and lots of other sounds that I didn’t know what they were. Knoxville in the night was like climbing on the moon with big craters. I felt fantastic the whole way during the climb now that I had the Power Bar in me. Unfortunately I hit one of those craters hard and my tube exploded on impact. I put the bike in front of the car with Mellissa’s bright lights on and I changed flat tire #3.

At one point, Mellissa asked if I minded if she stopped to get a drink out of the back of the car. I asked her if she minded if I kept going and we left each other. It seemed like forever until I saw her again. I was extremely spooked by the dark and all the wildlife sounds. My light worked great, but it was really scary knowing I was the only crazy cyclist out at night attempting to double the double century. When Mellissa finally caught up, she said she was really worried because she couldn’t find me and she worried if I went off some ditch or something. She said that she couldn’t believe how far I had gotten. I guess my fear had those pedals turning pretty quickly!

We came to the top of the long climb and saw all the signs saying Rough Road and I thought about all the emails that had gone out about water bottles flying out and water bottle cages coming loose and how really rough the descent was. I had thought I would be fine, but then I started having images of something going wrong and Mellissa having to figure out what to do in the pitch dark and in a city we didn’t know. I decided that it wasn’t worth my safety or leaving Mellissa feeling responsible and I made the difficult decision to abandon my effort for the night. It was pitch dark and I’ll tell you, I was pretty darn upset about climbing forever and ever and not getting the fun reward of the descent. It probably wouldn’t have been much fun at that time of night anyway though. I think I made the right decision.

I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have the quad that I really hoped for, but I changed 3 tires by myself, I rode in the pitch dark while everyone else was snug in bed in their hotel rooms and I ventured out far beyond what I thought I could do. I had ridden alone for an extra 101 miles the night before a double century and I was happy about that.

We drove back to Vacaville, found a last minute hotel (since I had planned on riding all night long, I had canceled my hotel) and got in bed at 1:30am. I tossed and turned going over the events and worrying about the next part of the ride and then the alarm went off at 3:30am to go meet Jon & Art.

After less than 2 hours of sleep and riding just over a hundred miles, I muddled through getting ready for the ride and filling my bottles and getting out the door. Mellissa and I arrived at the start location, but couldn’t find Jon & Art anywhere. I waited and tried calling him several times, but no luck. Thankfully I found Clyde Butt and he offered to ride with me. God sent an angel and I couldn’t have been more grateful. After one more call to Jon, we started rolling at 4:55.

Clyde and I picked up another cyclist named Laura who was doing her very first double. She was a sweetie and we enjoyed talking with her. Everything looked very familiar as I had just done the course hours earlier and I felt very comfortable with the directions – for once!

Deb & Dave Hoag came up and rode with me for a bit. They are so insanely fast and strong. Deb was the only person that I had told my full plans of what I was secretly trying for. I trusted her judgment and figured she would tell me honestly if it was out of my ability range or a crazy thing to attempt. She flew by me, but David slowed down to chat for a bit and I guess that Deb had told him what I was up to because he asked if my night worked out the way I hoped. I told him that I abandoned the ride at the top of Knoxville, but did the first 100 miles of the full course and felt proud of that. He was overly kind and supportive and he then gave me the best compliment of the day “If you do the 508 or HooDoo, I would crew for you”. Wow. You have to know Deb & Dave and their incredible ability to understand what that meant for me. I am a small peon in our cycling group and they are the stars along with Russ & Sheila Stevens, Barley & Susan Forsman, Ken Emerson and some others. To receive that kind of compliment from one of the super stars, was such a confidence boost!

At mile 121 (with the extra 100 for me) we hit the first climb of Mt. George. Thankfully, it was just as easy as the night before. We made it to the first rest stop at 7:25am, at mile 137 and I told Clyde that I was already feeling a bit tired and cold and if I didn’t keep up, to go ahead without me. He stuck with me anyway. It was weird that this part of the ride was so blasting hot the day before and now was cold. We also missed out on seeing a lot of the sights that I had seen the day before (day vs night).

At mile 150 we climbed Howell Mountain again. I had pretty much bonked on this hill the night before, but felt fine this time around. It was another easy climb. We descended into the 2nd rest stop where Jason Pierce had brought a big Sprite soda for me and it was delicious after losing so much sugar with the climbs. I thought that my front tire felt a bit odd toward the bottom of the descent and when I pulled into the rest stop, I noticed that it had gone flat. Mike Deitchman jumped in and changed flat #4 for me so that I could grab some grapes and cantaloupe from his wife, Joan Grant Deitchman and use the port-a-potty before heading out with Clyde & Laura again. I saw Steve Saeedi at this rest stop and he was the first person that I told what I had done the night before. It was pretty fun to see his smile at my crazy effort. He encouraged me and helped Mike with the flat and they got me on my way.

We headed out to climb Knoxville – again. This time at 10:41 am at mile 170 and I remembered how very long this climb was last night and worried that it was going to be difficult in the blazing heat. Steve had filled my bottles with ice water and they lasted me throughout the climb. There were some volunteers with water midway through the climb, but I was okay with water and didn’t want to get off the bike. Clyde & Laura were somewhere behind me so I rode at my own pace and enjoyed seeing what Knoxville looked like during the day – what a difference from the pitch dark and the sounds of the wildlife! I came along a guy and stayed with him for a bit and then went around. Much later in the day I found out that his name was Sean and he was riding a FIXED gear bike. Insanely strong guy to be out on those hills with a fixed gear bike! I hadn’t used any of my granny gears yet in the almost 200 miles, but I still had an awful lot more gearing than what he was pushing up those hills! I can’t even imagine. Toward the top of the climb, when I felt like my skin was going to melt right off my body, I looked at my Garmin to see the temperature. It was 107.4 degrees! Insanely hot. Painfully hot. Melting hot. We got to the top and I saw that Mellissa was there. My world brightened. She had been back at the hotel and slept the last however long that I rode 92 miles, so it was wonderful to see my angel back. She gave me a Sprite and the volunteers at the mini-stop sprayed us down with icy cold water that felt like heaven. Clyde & Laura came in just a short bit later and we filled our water bottles again and headed out for more torture in the hot sun.

We made it to the lunch stop at mile 207 somewhere around 2:30 and I still couldn’t get any food in me. Everything tasted like a fistful of sand. Mellissa made me a sandwich of a slice of cheese and lots of lettuce and insisted that I eat it. It took me a very long time to get it down. I felt so bad for Clyde putting up with me. Others were so excited to have food and I couldn’t choke down a bite. The volunteers crowded around me trying to get me to eat this or that and this one lady was very mom like and wouldn’t let up. It was very sweet and I really tried. Clyde got a massage from a volunteer and when he was ready to go, I told him that she is very pretty and he should just relax a bit longer 😉 I finally got ½ the sandwich down without it coming back up and I had a glorious ice sock around my neck and had taken some endurolytes and we were ready to roll. I got on my bike and realized the back tire was very low. I’m thinking God hates me at this point! I decided to try to just pump it up thinking that maybe it’s just from all the extreme heat. Mellissa heard the air coming out of the tire. One of the volunteers checked the tire closely and noticed that it had a pretty good rip in the tire. Darn. I had just put the new tire on a few weeks earlier specifically for Knoxville and a brand new one on the front a couple days ago. I thought that I had done a good job in putting on new tires for this event, but when I got home and checked my spreadsheet of when I had changed the tire, I realized that even though it was only 4 weeks old, there were 940 miles of riding in those 4 weeks. Not as new as I had thought. Thankfully I had brought a spare tire. Clyde, always the gentleman, jumped in and changed the tire and tube. Unfortunately Laura had already left since she expected to be slower on the climb and since we were stuck longer with the tire issue, we never caught up with her again. Yes, that was now flat tire #5! We left the lunch stop somewhere around 3:00ish.

After the lunch stop, we only had one major climb left. The whole day had LOTS of rollers, but pretty much 4 substantial climbs (Mt. George, Howell Mtn, Knoxville, Loch Lomond). Clyde said that we would do fine since we had time for our food to digest while changing the flat tire. Always the optimistic guy! At mile 209 we made our way to the rolling hill of Siegler Canyon before getting to the Loch Lomond hill at mile 213. Loch Lomond was really tiring. It was 14% grade for 3 straight miles and another mile of rollers. I know that I was really tired and worn out, but I have to tell you that when I saw all the SAG vehicles going by with tons of bikes on them and people waving to me as they abandoned the ride, I actually cried tears. It broke my heart that they got so far and then had to stop. I completely understood because the heat was such an energy zap, but it still was terribly sad to see. At 4:16 I finished Loch Lomond. Clyde was somewhere behind so Mellissa went into a little store and bought me a fresh, cold smoothie. It was heaven. We waited quite a while for Clyde and I was starting to get worried, so she went to make sure he was okay. She came back just a short bit later and Clyde arrived at 4:27. Unfortunately Clyde was having trouble with leg cramps due to the extreme temperatures. Like Jon Kaplan though, Clyde just kept on going. Never giving up. He was amazing.

I thought we were done with Loch Lomond at that point, but we actually had to cross the highway and continue for some more climbing, but not nearly as bad as Loch Lomond. Clyde thought he was feeling better, but his leg cramps were still bothering him and he told me he was going to walk up the hill. I continued on at my own pace. At one point I hit some gravel and came very close to losing control of my bike. There was no one else around and that scared me, but I was able to straighten out and get my bike back under control. I guess God didn’t hate me quite as much as I had thought with all those flat tires! I was now at about mile 229 and my cell phone battery was almost dead, so I stopped sending messages to my family. Thankfully Mellissa had been sending texts without me knowing so they weren’t as worried as I expected.

At rest stop #4 we were at mile 234 and Jason Pierce met me with another Sprite soda. Absolutely delicious. These sodas really saved the day for me! Everything got easier after the ½ sandwich at the lunch stop. We got to see Steve Saeedi at this stop too and Clyde and I sat down for a bit here. I was able to get down some corn chips for salt. We also met up with Sean on the fixie bike again.

We then rode out Butts Canyon and Pope Valley and we were riding faster to make the cut-off before rest stop #5 closed at 8:15. I was feeling fine and ready to go and finish up the day. We were at mile 260 and I could start to envision the finish line. Clyde stopped for some Cup of Noodle soup and I think the salt helped along with the setting sun and lower temperatures. I had a hot cocoa to help recover my muscles and prepare for the night riding.

With all the issues of the day, we had to watch our time because we were now barely making the cut-offs for the rest stop end times. We were now in the full dark as we made our way to the last rest stop at mile 287. Clyde and I got separated again and I descended a hill in the dark and came upon a gal named Denise that had gotten a flat tire in the pitch dark. It scared me to think of her out in the dark alone. I pulled over to help her and Mellissa was right behind me with her bright lights. Mellissa was able to help her with the flat tire and help to get her on her way.

We pulled into the last rest stop and had another hot cocoa. I think Clyde had another soup. Mellissa brought out the cookies I had made and gave them out to the all the volunteers and the cyclists. That was fun to be able to thank them for all they had done for us. We had 14 miles to go and it was in the pitch dark so we buddied up in a bigger group. We started out with 4 of us, me and Clyde, Sean (fixie) and a tall guy named Mike. Mike was trying to pull on his arm warmers and ended up crashing right in front of Mellissa. She handled it like a charm and poor Mike kept apologizing thinking he probably scared her. Everyone was fine and it wasn’t a problem. We seemed to take on more people in our group. I think at one point we had 9 of us together. Some were slower than others and Mellissa was struggling with figuring out who to shine lights for since we weren’t able to stay together as well as planned. I think she ended up going around the others that were dropping back and she stayed up front with me and Sean and Clyde & Mike. There were more rollers straight out of the rest stop, but nothing was hurting or tired at that point. I think we all just saw the finish line coming.

We ended very strong riding in at 18+ mph. I later found out that Mellissa sent a text to all my family saying that she couldn’t believe I was pulling all the guys in those last several miles at that speed. That felt good to know my daughter was proud. It was a rough day for sure, but it was great to finish it feeling great. 301 miles with 21,053 feet of climbing. I had hoped for 400 miles, but I’m proud of the way it worked out. I’m especially proud of Mellissa helping SO many people. She was there for me, but ended up touching so many other lives in the process. She was a super star for sure! Thanks to everyone that sent the text messages encouraging me during the long day and night. I loved the one from hubby saying “Are you really having any fun? Just come home!” J oh.

  • Miles – 301
  • Climb – 21,053 feet
  • Avg speed – 13.2
  • Time in saddle – 22 hours, 54 minutes
  • Max heart rate – 176
  • Max temperature – 109.4
  • Flat tires – FIVE flats and one wrecked new tire
  • I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness.

And by the way… I earned the California Triple Crown!

Hoodoo 500 – Russ Stevens

| September 6, 2010 12:48 pm
Hoodoo 500 - Russ Stevens

I think you learn less when you succeed than you fail. Thus, this ride report might not contain quite the wisdom of last year’s. However, I think I still have a good story to tell.

Was it worth it? I don’t know. I can say that having failed last year, it was definitely worth coming back and finishing. I simply had to overcome my prior failure. But was it worth trying it the first time? I am not sure. If I had known that this race would completely dominate two years of my life, cost me thousands of dollars, stress my marriage, jeopardize my health and bring almost unbearable levels of stress into my life, I would never have signed up in the first place.

That said, I am awfully proud of my accomplishment. I don’t know if I will lever try anything like this again, but I will certainly never forget finishing. It is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life. So, what can I say about the race?

First of all, I am very glad I did it Voyager (without a support vehicle or crew). That class definitely matches my style. Most people thought I was crazy to try the race without a support vehicle. However, not once during the ride did I feel lonely or wish I had people following or helping me. I really liked being in control of everything that affected me and not having to depend on anyone else. Plus, in my opinion nothing ruins a perfectly good bicycle ride like a vehicle.

I had the ride very well thought out. I was allowed to send 4 drop bags ahead to pick up along the course and I carefully planned everything I needed in those bags as well as everywhere else I could get supplies along the way. I never felt like I was missing anything I needed. I may have carried a few more things than I needed, but as one race official told me, “better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” If I ever do this ride again, I will certainly do it voyager again.

Second, this year’s race was blessed with nearly perfect conditions. It was sunny and warm during the day, but never hot. There was a monster tailwind from Kanab (mile 82) to Escalante (Mile 203) resulting in several periods when I was able to coast at 30+ mph on nearly flat roads for long periods of time. Despite 30-50% chance of thundershowers, it never rained on me. Despite some predictions of 30 degree temps at night and at the 10,500 ft peak of Cedar Breaks, I never experienced anything below 48 degrees. Despite reports of 25 mph headwinds in the canyons between Loa (mile 285) and Panguitch (mile 375), I saw no wind at all for 2/3 of that stretch and only a mild headwind after that. There was some pretty severe wind in the last stretch from Cedar City (mile 433) to St. George (mile 518), but it was offset by some climbs that offered protection from the wind and an otherwise mostly downhill profile. It may have just been because I was expecting the weather to be so much worse, but I was extremely happy with the conditions on this ride.

Third, just like last year, I still made mistakes and things still went wrong. I guess it is hard to do a ride of this magnitude without any problems (or at least without a lot more experience). In fact, my challenges were very similar to last year: altitude and nutrition. I tried so hard to solve my problems in these areas over the past 12 months. However, it is really hard to experiment with altitude when you live at sea level and it is really hard to solve nutrition problems that manifest themselves after 300 miles without actually riding more than 300 miles (several times). Dealing with altitude and nutrition on this ride really boiled down to my lessening their impact as much as possible and then just dealing with the remaining effects. The only real difference between last year and this year is that this year, I refused to give up. I worked through my problems on the road, before they became irreversible, and found a way to keep moving toward the finish.

Before I started the ride, I put four rules in place. These rules were based on what I learned last year and will sound familiar to anybody who read last year’s report:

  • Rule #1: Don’t try to win. Just focus on finishing. Trying to win on a ride of this magnitude before you have the sufficient experience just leads to bad decision making.
  • Rule #2: Don’t change your nutrition on the day of the big ride.
  • Rule #3: If you have a problem, stop and work it out. If you don’t know how to work it out, then try to get help. If no one can help, then just sit, listen and let your body solve the problem itself.
  • Rule #4: Finish no matter what. Do not leave the course for any reason unless you have reached the finish line, you have a life threatening injury or the time has expired.

5am Voyager start (Photo by Sheila Stevens) A very determined bunch - six of these seven would finish, with one stopping only after 433+ miles.


The ride started out really well. The first 250 miles were basically enjoyable. I employed rules #1 & #2, riding my own ride and regularly taking in calories and water. As a result, I never felt exhausted, sore or tired. I kept my heart rate around 125 and my power around 200 Watts. Two of the other voyager riders quickly went off the front, but I did not let that bother me. By the time I got to Escalante at mile 200, one of those riders was 1.5 hours ahead of me. However, the other rider was lying on the bed at the checkpoint hotel looking like he wasn’t getting up anytime soon. I never saw him again. He did cross the finish line, but only several hours after I did.

The highlight of my first day was climbing to the 9800 foot peak of Boulder Mountain. Last year, I did that climb entirely in the dark (having started as a solo rider 2 hours later than I did this year). I reached the top of that climb this year just in time to watch the sun set over the grand staircase – a truly magnificent sight.

Those of you who read my ride report last year know that as I was climbing Boulder Mountain in the dark in 2009, a mountain lion ran across the road in front of me. This year, just as I approached that exact same spot a bear ran across the road! Luckily, I was a little bit further away from the bear that I was the mountain lion, but it was still pretty exciting. At that point, I decided the bear was going to be my Hoodoo totem. Bears may not be the fastest animals, but they are not the slowest either. They are strong and unstoppable. I knew that no matter how slow I had to go, I was going to be as strong as a bear and finish this race.

Thank God I had at least gotten over Boulder Mountain before my first problem occurred. After descending the other side, I lost my appetite right on schedule at ~275 miles. I kept pedaling anyway and made my way into the Loa rest stop. Then I employed rule #3. I called people for help. I called my wife, Sheila, I called my coach, Susan Forsman and I called my good friend and someone who knows more about ultra cycling than anyone I know, Cindi Staiger. I waited an hour, but when my appetite still did not return, I decided to just keep moving, following Cindi’s advice to just plod along slowly eating small amounts of food. I also decided to take a NoDoz, hoping that the caffeine might wake up my metabolism and my stomach. Miraculously, this worked. Within about one hour, I felt much better and within two hours I felt almost normal. I called Sheila to tell her I was feeling better and that I was being a bear. I might not be moving quickly, but I was still strong and I was going to finish. Onward to Panguitch.

The 90 mile stretch from Loa to Panguitch was long and dark. However, there were several nice things about this section of the ride. First, it was mostly flat. Second, it wasn’t too cold. Third, there was almost no headwind until the last 20 miles (I was expecting 20+ mph headwinds through this whole section). Finally, the sky was clear and the stars were out, which was beautiful.

I arrived in Panguitch without incident at about 6:15 a.m., just as the sun was coming up. My original intention had been to sleep for a couple of hours in Panguitch to make sure I had enough energy to climb the 4000 feet necessary to get over the 10,500 foot peak of Cedar Breaks. However, I had already lost so much time trying to recover in Loa and on the road afterwards that I felt I could not afford to wait around in Panguitch. I was in a rush to keep moving forward, so I got back on my bike.

I sensed that I had made a mistake the moment I left town and started to climb. A nagging voice told me I did not have 4000 feet of climbing in my legs. But by then, it was too late. The rules specifically prohibit turning around on the course, so there was no going back to the Panguitch checkpoint. There was nothing to do but go forward.

The first 29 of the 32 miles to the summit went surprisingly well. I slowly climbed up to 9000 feet. The whole time, I kept passing and being passed by the sole 8 person 4x tandem team, including my friends Rick and Anna Stewart. They kept shouting encouragement and telling me I was doing great which kept me motivated.

I don’t understand what happened next, but I suddenly lost all my energy. Afraid of repeating the eating problems I had in Loa, I had stopped eating solid food and switched entirely to Spiz, a high calorie powdered drink. Perhaps drinking the Spiz in the slightly chilly conditions caused me to ingest too much fluid, diluting the salt in my bloodstream. Perhaps it was just the altitude. Perhaps it was the 30 mile an hour wind gusts I was fighting to climb up the final grades. Whatever the cause, I felt terrible. I was crawling up the hill, moving slower and slower. I desperately wanted to stop, lay down and recover, but I knew for certain that stopping in the cold above 9000 feet was a recipe for disaster. I felt I had no option but to get to the next checkpoint at the bottom of the hill.

What a relief to finally get to the visitor center at the 10,500 ft peak of Cedar Breaks! I escaped to the warmth of the restroom to refill my water bottles and add some layers for the descent. Despite how horrible and weak I felt, I really thought I had made at this point. I would recover on the downhill, and then it was only 90 mostly downhill miles to the finish.

I was so wrong. The descent was anything but recovery. For the first few miles, I had to pedal with all the strength I had left just to move downhill into the 30 mile an hour headwind. Then, despite my many layers, I started to get cold. Luckily, I was not too cold to control my bike. However, it just took a long time and a lot of energy to get down that hill.

Finally, as I got near Cedar city, the temperatures rose and I got more comfortable. I was dreaming of a chicken sandwich and some fries and decided to stop at the McDonald’s in town. Unfortunately, as soon as I walked into the restaurant, I knew things were about to get worse, not better. I felt a wave of nausea sweep over me. I ran to the restroom just in time. I felt sorry for the people who happened to be in there.

I thought that throwing up would make me feel better, but it really didn’t. I called Sheila. Thinking I might be dehydrated, she suggested I order a large sprite and just sip it, which I did. But that did not make me feel better either. After about one hour, I thought I would just keep moving despite how I felt. However, as soon as I got outside into the hot sun, I knew I could not yet continue.

I sat down on the grass outside McDonald’s just as David and Deb Hoag arrived (2x Team Turbodog). Although I was slightly disappointed they had caught me after starting four hours after me, it was very nice to see familiar faces. I chatted with them and with their crew, Franz Kelsch and Ken Holloway. I tried to pretend I was going to be OK, but I don’t think I fooled anyone. I’m pretty sure Franz was convinced I was going to quit once again. Franz was on my solo crew last year.

Rule #4 was ever present in my mind and I was absolutely determined not to quit. However, I knew I wasn’t going to solve my problem out in the heat in front of a fast food restaurant. I needed a place I could rest and regroup. Although the cheap side of me loudly protested, the practical side of me won out and I rented a room for $65 at the Motel 6 on the edge of town. I called race headquarters and told them I would be off the course for a little while. They asked me if I was abandoning and I told them a forceful, “No!” I said I was just resting and that I would let them know as soon as I started riding again.” I lay down on the bed, but was too uncomfortable and sick to really sleep or rest. I called Susan for help again. She suggested I just keep rolling, which seemed hard to imagine. I remember that when I was in Loa, Cindi had suggested I eat some saltines, which were unavailable in that little town at 11:00 p.m. But now, I knew I might be able to find some. I decided to walk to the nearest convenience store. It was a test. I figured if I could walk to the store and back and actually eat a few saltines, then I could do everything I needed to keep riding.

I passed the test. Not only did the convenience store have saltines, I was able to eat them and I was able to successfully walk a few blocks required to obtain them. If I could both eat and expend energy of the sun, then I could move forward. Four hours after arriving in Cedar City, I checked out of the hotel, called race headquarters and got back on the road.

I was immediately confronted with about the worst headwind I have ever experienced. The stretch of road leading out of Cedar City is flat and wide open with absolutely no protection. The wind was brutal and it was all I could do to move 10 mph. When the climbing started, I got even slower. I tried hard not to think about how many hours it would take to ride to the finish in St. George at this pace.

Then, my left knee started to hurt. I looked down and noticed that my legs were kind of puffy and bloated. Suddenly, I knew what was wrong. Thanks to all of my research on my problems from last year, I knew I was suffering from bloating hyponatremia. I had too little salt in my bloodstream and was retaining water as a result, causing my legs to swell and my knee to hurt. Even better, I knew how to fix it. I had to slowly ingest salt and stop drinking water.

To avoid water, I had to stop drinking Spiz, the high calorie drink I had been using as my primary source of fuel. I made a quick stop to look through my bags and take out all of the solid food I had left. I went for the salty stuff first: the bag of fritos I had been carrying for the past 100 miles. I ate a handful of those and a very interesting thing happened. I suddenly had to pee so badly I thought I would explode. I ran to the bushes. I felt better. I ate more Fritos. This continued for the next 6 hours and 90 miles. I peed about eight times while drinking almost nothing. Within 50 miles, my knee no longer hurt and my body was no longer puffy. The treatment had worked. I knew I had it made.

The only good thing about getting really sick and working through it is that it forces you to rest. By the time you recover, you usually feel pretty good. When I called race HQ and my wife from the top of Snow Canyon 15 miles from the finish, I felt positively stellar.

The sun was just setting and it was all downhill to the finish. I flew around the corners through Snow Canyon admiring the colored cliffs in the setting sun. I made my way through the streets of St. George and dreamed about the Dairy Queen blizzard I knew that Sheila was buying for me. I thought about the Hoodoo jersey I was finally going to wear.

I broke the finish line tape at 10:06 PM, just over 40 hours after I had left the same spot. I pedaled for 32:30 of those 40 hours while traveling 518 miles and climbing 28,000 feet. I saw temperatures between 46° and 83°. I burned 21,000 calories while eating 9500, meaning that I left over 12,000 calories or more than 3 pounds of myself somewhere on the road in Utah. Along the way, I saw some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. I ate my blizzard and marveled that after two long hard years, I had finally reached the finish line.

Russ being congratulated by fellow Voyager Jared Fisher (Photo by Deb Bowling)

A very reflective Russ at the finish line (Notice the Keen sandals and Arkel bag and rack) (Photo by Sheila Stevens)


Russ with a Dairy Queen blizzard at the finish line ~9:15pm Sunday. (Photo by Franz Kelsch)

I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me to finish this ride. Thanks again to al the people who made contributions to the American cancer society in memory of my father, Wayne, last year. Thanks to my fabulous 2009 crew, Paul Vlasveld, Franz Kelsch and my wife, Sheila, for all you did for me last year and for understanding my need to try it without you this year. Thank you to my coach, Susan Forsman. You taught me that no matter how tired I am I can always to choose to move forward (and thank you for making me practice that many times during my training, despite my complaining). Thanks to ultra cycling goddess, Cindi Staiger, who fielded my phone calls during the race and gave me advice that kept me going. Thank you to Keen for making the best sandals and most comfortable biking shoes ever. Thank you to Rick McCaw for loaning me his awesome Arkel rack and trunk. That may be the vest voyager/brevet bag system ever. Thank you to my new friend and second place voyager finisher, Jared Fisher, who played leap frog with me for 400 miles and eventually beat me by always pedaling slower (on platform pedals no less). You are a wise one, Mr. Tortoise. Thank you to all of my friends and family who sent such encouraging and uplifting emails and Facebook posts before, during and after the ride. I was truly touched by all of your prayers and support. Thank you to God for keeping me safe on the road and for indulging the crazy amount of preparation time required to get ready for this ride even when there were clearly better ways I could be serving you with that time. And most of all, thank you to my wife, Sheila, for supporting me in every way possible. I love you dearly, and I could not have done this without you (no matter how self sufficient I like to think I am).

I finished the Hoodoo 500! Finally!

Hoodoo 500 – Team Turbo Dog (2 person mixed 50+)

| 12:46 pm
Hoodoo 500 - Team Turbo Dog (2 person mixed 50+)

by Deborah Hoag

The Hoodoo 500 is an ultra-marathon bicycle race. The route passes through or around three National Parks, three National Monuments and several Utah State Parks. The scenery varies from majestic cliffs and striking red rock hoodoos to aspen and pine forests and high mountain meadows. The race follows a course starting in St. George, and traveling through Hurricane, Colorado City, Kanab, Carmel Junction, Bryce, Tropic, Escalante, Boulder, Torrey, Panguitch, Cedar City and back to St. George. It’s a loop course on wonderful, well-maintained, quiet roads with little traffic and breath-taking scenery. 519 miles with about 30,000 feet of climbing with a 48-hour time limit  Most of the race is above 6,000’ and reaches 10,000’. Solo, Tandem and Relay Team Divisions are offered. Crew control who is on the bike and for how long.

Franz, Ken and Deb before start

David at Start

This race was a team effort. We plan on finishing in 35 hours to 40 hours worst case. Our main goal was to have fun. And we had a blast together with our crew. David and I can never repeat the fun again. We rode the race and our crew Franz Kelsch and Ken Holloway kept us on track with food, the route, and pull times. We started off with 3 hour pulls, but right off the bat, Franz said we need to cut our pulls. So, David pulled for the first 2 ½ hours and I pulled for the next 2 hours.

David taking Deb's Photo

Deb

Deb headed toward Escalante

David late Saturday, now at altitude

Then we went to 1 ½ hour pulls and through the night, we went  to 1 hour pulls. Sunday morning we moved to 30 minute pulls. The worst part of ride was at mile 378 climbing Cedar Breaks (5,000’, 30 miles) with headwinds and climbing up to 10,000’ level. I had to stand on my granny gear to reach 3 MHP. And I was sick from the attitude.

Once we finished the climb at mile 408 and started the descend, my stomach was fine. I was putted back on the bike at mile 432, while the crew talked to Russ and ordered food at McDonalds. And I left on my bike. At mile 442, Ken, David and Franz caught up to me to do another change.  We realized that we could come under 35 hours. We did not know how the winds would be. However, this is where it became a real team effort. David rocked. We came to the conclusion that Franz was a major general in his past life.

Deb headed toward Snow Canyon

We needed to get mile 502 by 6:30, but we did better than that and reached it at 6:06. At mile 502 our crew had to leave us, David and I rode the last 15 miles together with our balls to walls, thinking of our crew and breaking 34 hours was on our minds. It was the most painful part for me. We averaged 20+MHP. Turbodog set the course record for 2 mixed, and beat the 2 man 50+ by 1:21 for a time of 33:50.

David and Deb at Finish

We also beat 40+ mixed team by 2 hours.. Going into a ride like this, either the riders and crew come out being better friends than ever or there are problems. David and I both came out having very fond memories of Franz and Ken. They were the best. Let us not forget Anne Kelsch who was supportive and Susan Forsman our coach.

2010 Mount Tam Double

| August 9, 2010 7:11 pm
2010 Mount Tam Double

by Dan Connelly

Without a hint yet of the coming dawn, the lead police car led the main pack out of the Vallecito Elementary School parking lot, and we were off. The pack was considerably smaller than the 300 rider limit, but given the 10:30 pm finish deadline and the desire to minimize time spent on Marshal-Petaluma road after sunset, a large number of riders had already left. This is a sanctioned option, with riders allowed to check out at any time from 4 am to 6 am, but those starting at 5 am have the advantage police control through the traffic signals early on, not to mention the draft advantage of the pack.

Soon enough we were on Lucas Valley Road, the first climb of the day. In 2005 I’d done this ride without a light, figuring I’d simply utilize the illumination of proximate riders. But that had been an uncomfortable experiment, one which led me to go out too hard on the opening climb as I put too much value staying with the lead group and the lights of the follow vehicle. This year I’d borrowed a friend’s NiteRider Newt dual-light system. The difference was amazing: I was able to ride my own pace on that climb. This still put me in sight of the leaders at the top, but only 5 miles into a nominal 200 mile ride, my goal was only to avoid a debt which would require high interest payments in the second half.

My Garmin 500 display wasn’t visible (in retrospect I should have hit the “light” button; I wasn’t thinking so well), so probably still rode a bit harder than I should have. But not too bad: I could still talk easily enough, a good indicator of being no worse than the low end of Z4.

I found some riders with which to share the pace over the southbound bumps of Nicasio Valley Road, the easy backside of Whites Grade, and then down into Fairfax. By now the day had reluctantly arrived through the low clouds: the first phase of the ride was done.

Usually Bolinas Road: the first climb to Pine Mountain, the rolling descent to the dam, and the climb to Ridgecrest seems like an endless grind. Today, it passed quickly, as I knew there was so much more yet to follow. Along the way, I stopped at the Pine Mountain rest stop, the first of the day, to pack my light into a paper bag for delivery back to the start. Then I hopped on to some passing riders and continued on.

Overcast clouds turned to fog as we hit Ridgecrest, the tree cover condensing the mist into a surprisingly steady rain. But by the second sister, the trees were behind me, and the rain stopped. The morning sun was shining brightly through the thin clouds, and by the intersection with Pan Toll road, I was riding in sunshine.

Here I was tempted to remove my vest, as I was warming quickly, but I was using the pockets, and it wasn’t pressing enough for the hassle of transferring everthing to the pockets in my jersey underneath. This would be the last time I’d be tempted to remove the vest in 100 miles. On my legs I had full-length compression tights and high-calf compression socks over my bib shorts and regular socks, while on my upper body I had a long-sleeve undershirt, jersey, and arm warmers (turned inside out to hide the “Alto Velo”: still waiting for that Voler order to come in!) in addition to the vest. Crazy amounts of clothing for August, but that’s how it goes in San Francisco-Marin.

Soon after the climb to the golf ball (west peak) began, I began to see descending riders, some looking fairly fit. I was worried some of these had been with my start group at 5 am: that was a considerable time gap. But then as I approached the golf ball I saw Bo, the winner of the Terrible Two this year, and I knew everyone ahead of him was likely an early starter. I was riding fairly well, hopefully within myself. In preparation for Terrible Two, Bo did a training ride which included climbing Mount Hamilton Road, descending and reclimbing San Antonio Valley Road (the steep “backside” of Hamilton) four times. That’s the sort of suffer-fest which allows a rider to hammer a double. Lacking that sort of disciplined preparation I had to be more careful, so I had no regrets about not matching Bo’s pace.

After passing the golf ball, I descended a bit then climbed to the east peak parking lot, where there was a checkpoint. I quickly topped off my bottles with water (one contained Accelerade, the other Spiz, which is a “liquid food”), then back down. It was 7:30 am: a wonderful time to be on the mountain.

Back down upper Ridgecrest, the turn onto Pan Toll was a remarkable transformation. Within a second, I went from uncomfortably warm to cold: the fog-chilled wind blowing up from the coast. I slowed a bit to take inventory, decided I’d be okay, then continued on carefully on the wet roads, the sun now hidden behind the mist.

I feared things would be even worse in Muir Woods, but actually it was slightly warmer there, the roads a bit drier, as I’d passed through the clouds. The second rest stop was here: I ate some fruit, filled my bottles again, and added orange Perpeteum to my remaining chocolate Spiz. This seemed a good idea at the time… but I realized I’d have been better off adding the unflavoured Sustained Energy instead.

I was 50 miles in. The first quarter of the ride was in the bag.

Northward

A brief hesitation as I wasn’t sure which way to go out of the rest stop (I am almost neurotically paranoid about wrong turns), but then I was soon to the Highway 1 intersection. I rode this north, mostly alone over the two significant climbs to Stinson Beach. After passing through that beach town I was overtaken by a group of three. We worked surprisingly well, picking up a few more along the way, and rolled into the rest stop at the Pt. Reyes Station public toilets together. I was much quicker here than the others, however, and (again after some seconds of confusion about which way to go) rolled out alone.

Back on Point Reyes – Petaluma Road (reverse Roasters), past Nicasio Valley Road I rejoined the Marin Century route. Marshall Wall was stacked with riders, mostly 50 k’ers, some walking their bikes. I have to admit this perked me up; what had felt like a slow pace now seemed not so slow.

That is, until I was passed by one guy from that group of three I’d left at the rest stop. Riding a relatively low-cost Performance bike, he motored up the wall. I simply had to let him go: I was keeping my power meter in the 200-230 watt range, a level of effort I thought I could hold on climbs through the day, and couldn’t be digging myself deeper than I already had so early in the ride. If he could hold that pace he was fitter than me, and there was nothing to be done about that.

I probably should have reviewed the route sheet ahead of time: I was surprised when we passed Hicks Road without turning. Other riders were returning from the same road. I later learned they had reversed the direction of this portion of the course. In 2005 we’d turned onto Hicks, headed out to Highway 1 on Marshal-Petaluma Road, and returned via Petaluma. This year was the opposite: probably an improvement as it allows a southern leg on Highway 1 along the coast.

Lunch this year was in Petaluma, at mile 93. I got through quickly, only stopping to fill my bottles, down three Endurolytes, and stuff my pockets with some fig bars, dates, and a half-bagel. As I left I found myself again next to Performance guy, but once again, his relentless pace left me behind. A good sign at lunch: the volunteers in the “double century section” (with its powders, potions, and pills) was surprised to see me. There obviously weren’t too many doublers ahead. I knew the Webcor pair of Bo H and Brian Buck were well ahead, but they make even quicker use of stops than I do, so were easily missed. But obviously I wasn’t too far down.

Mile 100, somewhere in Chileno Valley Road: I was halfway. Of course, I was tired already: I rarely ride 100 miles in a day. But mid-way through a double I just forget about the route and focus on turning the pedals. Turn them enough times, eat and drink, and the finish will arrive.

Performance, Rivendell, and Roubaix

Somewhere near here I was caught by a Davis Rider on a Specialized Roubaix and another guy on a Rivendell. They were clicking along at a nice pace, so I joined in. I’d say we worked well together, but I did less pulling than the other two, who were content to zip along. We joined up with first one, later another century rider, making a nice group. As we rode I asked Rivendell why he rode that bike: he seemed stronger than most riders of the brand. He said his wife got it for him and he liked it because with its condiderable mass it was a bit of an equalizer between the two. I told him I appreciated the equalization myself.

We arrived together at Valley Ford rest stop. I stopped here for a can of Coca Cola (part of which I drank, the rest of which I added to my bottles), as well as a few more Endurolytes, then left alone. The Coke worked so well for me at mile 184 of Terrible Two, I wanted to tap into it a bit earlier here.

I never did see the century riders again: the century split off again. But I would rejoin the other two soon enough.

It was after a busy stretch on Highway 1, soon after we turned onto Joy Road. Honestly I don’t remember Joy Road from 2005; it wasn’t on the route in 2004 (see Felix Wong’s route sheets). It gains 1047 feet climbing from Highway 1, much of it steep. The descent is also steep, with potholes overlapping other potholes, not the sort of thing you want to deal with 120 miles in. Actually, I was glad I’d installed latex tubes, which lose around 2 psi per hour: the lower pressure relative to the 105 psi I’d started with took off a bit of edge.

They descended ahead of me, but not too far, and I caught and passed them at the lowest slopes of Coleman Valley Road. Coleman Valley is nasty: sustained 12%+ (feeling steeper from 135 miles in the bank already) followed by a false summit and then two short climbs before the true descent. I just focused on spinning my 36/26, my lowest gear, which took me close to threshold in the 270 watt range. Truth be told I wanted to put up a good number for Strava on this section, a move which would end in tears. But that’s for later.

The climb took a bit out of my limited reserves, however, and I was passed by the Rivendell guy on the rolling summit. As he passed, we could see Performance up ahead. Rivendell caught and passed Performance, but I followed at my sustainable pace.

The descent was much nicer than that of Joy, and other than my usual nagging worry about missing a turn, I enjoyed the ride. I caught sight of Performance at a key moment which convinced me I was still on track.

At mile 142, the day had finally began to warm and so as I rode I transferred the odd bits of food I had in my vest pockets into my jersey pockets underneath. Then I removed my vest and stuffed it into my center jersey pocket. From there it was just eight miles or so back at Valley Ford.

I could have skipped this stop, but I wanted more Coke and to try some of the Tums they had at all the rest stops. I was getting some stitches in my chest, and wanted a blast of calcium to see if that would helped. I’m not sure if the Tums helped, but while the stitches continued to be an issue, they never got really bad. On the Coke end I went a bit overboard, putting it in both bottles. Coke should be diluted at least 1:1 with water, more if combined with food, and I was over that concentration. But despite eating a fig bar and dates on the road following Valley Ford, I handled the Coke okay.

150 miles done, 50 to go. We were in the final quarter, but 50 miles is 50 miles is still a long way, longer with tired legs than with fresh legs, no matter how small the fraction of the total.

End Game

I didn’t see any of my usual company as I left Valley Ford for this second time. Next was the long southern run down Highway 1, which in 2005 had been to the north. There’s usually a northern wind on the coast, but today held up to what I’d seen from weather data for the day prior: wind from the south. A block headwind isn’t what I really wanted to see at this point, but I just hunkered down and dealt the hand that was there. It was the same for everyone.

The route finally turned left off Highway 1 onto Marshal-Petaluma Road: a rather rude introduction as the grade went from zero to large within just a few pedal strokes. I had just overtaken two century riders at this point, so it was nice to have company for this. But I slogged along at my death-march pace and was on my own again.

At the Walker Creek rest stop I got some water to dilute my remaining Coke, and grabbed more dates. I asked when the next turn was and was told 18 miles. For some reason I found this discouraging; I prefer changing roads to mark progress than staying on the same road mile after mile. I was out quickly, though, putting it out of my head.

It turns out my question was misunderstood and the next turn, onto Hicks Road, wasn’t far at all. Hicks soon T’ed into Pt Reyes-Petaluma and I knew I was in the end game. The eastern side of Marshall was easy compared to the eastern “Wall”, then the descent and left turn onto Nicasio Valley Road. In 2005 I almost got taken out by an RV in this turn, but today no issue. I was getting really close.

PhotoCrazyOne last rest stop on Nicasio Valley Road. I wanted to blow past but decided to check to see if this was a mandatory checkpoint. Of course, had I checked the route sheet in my pocket I would have known this, but my brain really wasn’t working well at all by this point. I had trouble getting anyone’s attention, so spent more seconds here than I would have liked.

One more climb to go: Lucas Valley Road. I really wanted to blast this sucker: blitz it at or over threshold, but there simply wasn’t anything left. I couldn’t even hold 200 watts on the climb, a strong contrast to when I was strong on the final climb of Terrible Two, to Occidental. Instead I just focused on keeping the pedals going, knowing I was almost there.

Fire trucks were moving back and forth on the road near the summit, almost absurdly. One was approaching from behind, siren off, soon after another had descended the opposite direction (also siren off) and I disparately did not want it to pass me, as I knew I’d be much faster on the descent. At the summit, a volunteer pointing a flag at a “dangerous left turns! ride slowly!” sign, I thanked him and began my descent just ahead of the following truck.

The road was in excellent condition, making for solid cornering. I vividly remember getting passed on this descent in 2005 and I vowed to not let that happen again. Despite this, I showed more caution than required in the corners. It turns out there were approximately five crashes on this descent, several requiring medical treatment, despite warning signs at each of the tricky corners. But I didn’t have the slightest issue other than that I should have taken it a bit faster.

The last few miles went easily. I was tired, unable to sustain power above Z3, but I could at least get into Z3. I was calculating as I went my chances for a sub-12:30 and it looked good.

Done

I entered the school, crossed under the finishing banner, and with some bystanders cheering I gave a little fist-pump. I was glad to be done. But I wasn’t really done until I’d checked in, so after asking directions to check-in, I went up onto the sidewalk, through the expo, and to the check-in table. My watch said “5:26”, so 12:26 if we started on time.

“You’re #8” the volunteer said. “Eighth?” I responded. I couldn’t believe it: that was better than I’d thought. I was 17th finisher in 2005, so that’s a nice improvement.

Davis and Rivendell finished soon after. Each of them had clearly been stronger than me but chose to enjoy the day a bit more. Still, my goal going in had been top 10, for whatever that is or is not worth, and I’d hit that goal. So success.

After hanging out at the finish for a few hours, in part waiting for my carpool partner to finish his double (on his ‘cross bike!), it was time for the drive back to San Francisco.

I’d managed to do the entire ride without any wrong turns, always a major victory by my standards, but in an RTFM moment I shut down my Edge 500 without first hitting “stop” and “reset”. This apparently caused my ride data to get purged. Now I’ve gone through periods of data aversion where all I want to do is ride, echewing metrology. But this isn’t one of those periods: I’m riding well, I’d made a solid effort up Coleman I wanted to Strava-log, and I wanted to see how my power up the opening climbs compared to the power on the final climbs. Losing the data was such a disappointment I devoted an entire blog post to the subject.

Despite my dreadful lack of sleep the night before, I had trouble getting to sleep that night. Too much Coca-Cola, I suspect: a considerable caffeine dose in 20 ounces of the stuff. But part of it may have been the fitful mix of trauma and adrenalin from an extremely full day.

Race Across Oregon 2010

| August 2, 2010 2:27 pm
Race Across Oregon 2010

by Joan Grant Deitchman

After DNFing Race Across Oregon last year due to pretty miserable weather conditions both days plus some major lower back problems (which turned out to be due to a saddle height change that had happened in the lead up to the race without me knowing), I needed to go back and get that monkey off my back. RAO was by far the hardest thing I’d endured, and I’d made it 456 miles before throwing in the towel, but I needed to go back and finish it. Before I knew it, I had an all star crew lined up – Sandy Earl and Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell – wow, how’d I bag them???? Add to the crew Jason “Pudu” Pierce (a bad assed cyclist – for example he did Death Ride on his fixed gear bike this year – and bike mechanic who we’ve gotten to know on the California double century circuit) and my husband Mike, and I knew I was going to be in good hands. I was almost more intimidated by the awesomeness of my crew than by the badass-ness of the ride itself! Not to mention fear of tarnishing Sandy’s 100% finish rate in all her crewing efforts! I had my work cut out for me – I didn’t want to disappoint!

Race morning I got up a bit earlier than last year (3:30am) so that I’d have more time to digest my breakfast before hitting the course. Everyone gathered for the start just before 5am. It was perfect early morning conditions – not too cold, but nice and refreshing. The first 9 miles were the “parade route” where we were all supposed to stay together as a group – I was going into the race with a questionable knee after injuring it 3 weeks before RAO, so I wanted to take things super easy at the start until I got properly warmed up. I knew there was a short steep climb right near the start, and I didn’t want to aggravate my knee trying to power over it with the pack. So I comfortably dropped off the back, but never lost sight of the group.

Right before the end of the parade section there was a pee stop. It had been planned to be behind some trees, but of course by the time me and one of the other women (Karen Armstrong) got there, all the guys were at the trees, so we got to squat in the ditch facing a farm house – lovely!! Oh, but it gets better. I didn’t realize the foliage in the ditch was prickly and had thorns on it. First I got tangled up in one and got a scratch on my leg, then I realized I was getting brambles all over my chamois – great!!! This was my reward for hydrating enough in the morning to actually be able to pee this early on – I was now to be known as Bramble-Butt!! I quickly tried to de-bramble my chamois, but the group was ready to leave and head across the highway to start the real race, so I figured I’d continue with them and then once everyone took off up the climb I’d stop and continue the de-brambling. So I huddled behind Terri’s van trying to pick the remaining brambles out of my shorts while everyone else bolted up Mt. Hood. This was a little bit of extra stress, but I tried to just laugh it off and think of it as a good story to tell afterwards.

I was at the back of the pack, although it didn’t take me too long to catch up to a recumbent rider, Dennis Johnson, and pass him (climbing on a recumbent is much harder than climbing on an upright bike). I settled into my pace, and enjoyed the scenic views of Mt. Hood, knowing full well that within hours there would be much less scenery to look at. I started in on hydration/nutrition with a vengeance – I knew that I needed to eat/drink as much as I could while it was still cool out, because when it heats up it’s a lot harder to take in food, and so you want to go into the heat of the day with your tank topped off. I downed both my water bottles and 2 packets of Cliff Bocks in the next 15 miles. My crew gave me more Perpeteum and blocks, and I continued to try and down everything. The only downside of this was that I found myself having to stop and pee every hour or so! From the start to the top of Mt. Hood, which took just over 3 hours, I’d stopped and peed 3 times, and then I had to stop again within the next hour too, and the hour after that! I was starting to get concerned that I was going to be spending all my time watering the vegetation along the Oregon ditches rather than riding – I’ve never had to pee that frequently on a ride before! But of course as the heat of the day set in, while many of the other riders would be puking and suffering from dehydration, I would be in much better shape thanks to my due diligence in the hydration department.

I got to time station #1 in Tygh Valley 73.4 miles into the course at 10:08am – 10min slower than last year, but with 3 additional pee stops, time lost waiting at a traffic light on Highway 35 due to road construction, and a slight mis-navigation regarding the turn from Highway 35 to Forest Road 48 (the crew said they’d be at the turn, and when I got there they weren’t, so I was confused about what to do since I could have sworn that was the turn – I nearly missed it last year so was on the lookout for it this year – but pretty quickly the BikeVan reappeared and all was well – with all the construction cones in the pullout they’d not seen that it was the road and had kept on going). From Tygh Valley we continued on towards time station #2 in Moro. It started to heat up in this section, and near the bottom of the Grass Valley climb my stomach started to feel not so good. Perpeteum was no longer palatable, and I was feeling the beginnings of a bit of nauseousness. I switched to more plain water, some Doritos and other saltier foods, and V8. We passed the road sign “Payne Loop” just after the climb – Mike had seen the sign last year and taken a picture, but I’d not noticed it – this year I did though, and it seemed to fit my mood right then! The next section of rollers was much better than last year, as there wasn’t anywhere near the head winds that we’d had a year ago, so it seemed to go by a lot quicker. I got to time station #2 in Moro 121.4 miles into the race at 1:33pm, 6min faster than my time last year – guess I’m consistent if nothing else! 😉 Since I was 10min behind my pace at TS1 though, it means I’d made up 16min on this stage compared to last year.

I knew the next section was going to be the hardest part of Saturday – it would be the hottest part of the day, and there was a tough 9 mile climb coming up from the John Day River where it was over 100deg last year. First though there were a few shorter climbs and a longish descent before getting there. Along here I traded spots a couple of times with Alex Kohan on his recumbent – I’d pass him on the uphill, and then he’d pass me on the downhill. Tim Woudenberg was on his crew, so it was great to see a friendly face. Alex, like me, had DNFd last year, so I was hoping that we could both have a great race and finish. Dropping down to the John Day River I felt the blasts of hot air, but this year I was expecting it. On the way down I saw a sign for “Starvation Lane” – I thought of Jason’s experience crewing for Bruce last year when I saw that sign – Bruce had been having stomach problems the entire race last year and couldn’t keep any food down – in fact it kept coming back up repeatedly! I made a mental note to tell Jason about the sign when I got the chance. At the bottom I started up the climb. I’d been holding off on taking an ice-sock (a tube sock filled with ice that you wrap around your neck to help keep you cool in the heat), as I knew it would get my shorts wet, and bring on chaffing earlier. I knew this would be where I’d want it for sure though. The temperature this year on the climb was only 96deg – a little bit cooler than last year’s 100+deg, but still hot. The climb flattens out in the middle, and then pitches up again the last mile or so. At the top I stopped to do my first shorts change – we were about 150 miles in, and I was starting to feel a bit of discomfort. We continued on towards Condon. I was still feeling a bit nauseous, probably because my electrolyte intake had dipped after switching to mainly plain water and V8 during the heat of the day. I also was feeling a need to make some room in my lower digestive tract and was feeling a bit of pressure in that area, so I decided I would make a beeline for hopefully a flush toilet at the gas station in Condon. I felt much better after that stop! Onwards and upwards after that – there were a couple more climbs to knock out before time station #3 in Heppner. On the first big climb after Condon I was passed by Paul Vlasveld’s 2 person team vehicle with Paul Duren and Louise McCracken in it – again, it was great to see some friendly faces out there! Just before the last climb before Heppner we reached 7:30pm and so the BikeVan had to start direct follow. This is when the van drives immediately behind the rider any time the rider is riding. The BikeVan is equipped with an external PA system and speakers, so this meant they could talk to me and play music for me over the speakers – really cool!!! I made my way up the last climb before Heppner climbing to the tunes of the Arrogant Worms, a Canadian group that does parody kinds of songs similar to what Weird Al does. I made a special request for the “Last Saskatchewan Pirate” since we’d been riding past a lot of wheat fields during the day! (Lyrics here) Race Director George Thomas also pulled up next to me on this climb and asked how I was doing – he said I was looking much better than I had at this point last year – and I knew I felt much better too! Woohoo! 🙂

We finally arrived in Heppner at time stations #3, 207.5 miles into the ride, at 8:36pm, 8min faster than my time last year, but the difference was that instead of taking a 45min break because I’d felt awful at this point last year, I felt relatively good and kept on going. We did stop so that I could change into a dry shirt and eat some cup-o-noodle soup though, then it was back on our way. Last year I’d started to get really sleepy along this section, but this year I wasn’t having much trouble staying awake. The music really helped a lot. When we hit the steeper climb though, my knee started to bother me a bit….ugghhhh….!!! I guess I was lucky that it had held out this long, but it would have been nice if it had stayed cooperative the whole ride. Oh well, I’d have to deal with it. We stopped for more cup-o-noodle soup at the top of the steeper climb before dropping down to the longer more gradual climb up Battle Mountain. Going up Battle Mountain I started getting the first real signs of sleepiness. I asked that we try playing an audio-book over the PA system, hoping it might engage me. I’ve never tried doing this before, but Michele Santilhano, who’d done RAAM this year, suggested it when I’d seen her the week before RAO. So I’d downloaded “The Life Of Pi” at Mike’s recommendation. This did work in terms of keeping me awake and alert for a while, but I don’t think I was far enough into the book for it to be captivating enough yet, so after several chapters I asked that we switch back to music. At least it did work for a while though. Nearer the top of the climb I really started struggling to stay awake more, so I asked for some music by Aqua – I knew it had a techno/dance kind of rhythm to it that really seems to help keep me awake. So we started in on what Sandy called “All Aqua All The Time”! This totally woke me up for the rest of the climb, and the first half of the descent. But then with about 10 miles to go before Dale I just started losing the battle. I hate that feeling of losing control when you’re trying to stay awake and your body just won’t listen – you feel so powerless!

We finally pulled into Dale at 3:57am, 285.6 miles into the race, elapsed time now just under 23hrs. I was 59min ahead of my pace from last year, but I wasn’t in very good spirits – in fact I was downright negative. Even though we were over half way, I was doing the mental math wrong, and thought it was less over the half-way mark than what it was (267.5 miles was the half way mark, so we were already almost 20 miles past the half way mark – I thought it was less than that though). And even though I knew we were almost an hour ahead of pace from last year, I knew that last year I ran out of time, and that there was still a lot of hard riding to come, so I didn’t think I’d built up enough of a time cushion to be able to finish. This is a good example of why when you’re doing these things you should NOT start trying to do mental math and analyze what remains in front of you – that’s for the crew to do. Doing so just makes things seem insurmountable, and makes you feel negative. Anyway….we kept going out of Dale even though I could hardly stay awake. I was zig-zagging all over the road, and couldn’t for the life of me keep my eyes open. Finally my crew decided it was time to take a nap. I got off the bike, laid down on the ground on a thermarest, and before they’d even finished covering me up with some blankets I was out cold. Next thing I know they were waking me up to get back on the bike 20min later. The nap helped, but the next several hours were still a struggle. It wasn’t until a couple hours later that I finally felt like I was awake. This next section was where I’d had the worst of my back pain last year – several sections where I was literally riding and crying at the same time, and where I’d ended up sitting in a ditch thinking my race was over, before somehow continuing on for another 150 miles. Without the back pain, this section passed remarkably faster than last year. We dropped down into the one flattish section of the race – the section leading up to and after Spray. The temperature here was only apparently in the 70s or low 80s at this point, but it already felt like the 90s to me. I needed to get out of my warmer night jersey and into something cooler.

We pulled into Spray at ten-something in the morning (last year this was a time station, but not this year, so I don’t know exactly when we arrived). Last year I hadn’t got to Spray until 12:38pm, so I’d gained another hour or so on my cushion. I was feeling pretty overheated at this point, so we went into the mini-mart to change clothes and use the bathroom. Even though I was trying to hurry, I felt like I was barely moving, so the pit-stop was probably much longer than it should have been. But there were some good things that came out of this stop – Dill Pickle Potato Chips, and Freezie Pops – oh, and a mouthful of Pudu’s soft serve ice cream! Having fresh clothes on, and an ice sock around my neck, I headed out from Spray. Sandy also had me put a knee brace on my sore knee (the kind that is a narrow band that sits under the knee cap at the base of the knee and helps it track better) to see if that would help with the pain. It did seem to help a bit, so I left it on the rest of the race.

After another flat section along the river, there was another 10 mile climb. Along the flat section Dennis Johnson passed me on his recumbent – it was so awesome to see another rider – I hadn’t seen anyone since before Heppner the evening before! As we started up the climb though, I passed him and we didn’t see him again until the finish (he came in just after me). Last year this climb cooled off as we got up higher because of the storm system that was moving in. Thankfully there was no storm system this year, but it did mean that it stayed hot all the way up. My crew gave me another freezie pop on the way up which was a little taste of heaven! The climb also pitches up in steepness the last mile or two. It was apparently about 98deg when we got to the top. I opted not to get another ice sock on the way down, thinking I’d save it for the next climb – after all, a descent should be somewhat cooling right? WRONG! Not when it’s 98deg it isn’t! This descent wasn’t super long though, so we passed through Fossil and I pulled off on the side of the road in some shade to down a V8, Mountain Dew, and get a fresh ice sock before tackling the next climb. I felt pretty hot on this climb, but kept grinding away.

Then came a looong descent down to the John Day Fossil Beds area and Clarno. This descent was where it rained/hailed on me last year – this year it felt like I was in a convection oven instead!! The descent was about 13 miles, and I felt like I was baking as I passed through the 100+deg heat at speeds of over 30mph. I decided that at the bottom I was going to ask if we could stop briefly so that I could get in the van and cool down quickly before tackling the next climb – another 9 mile climb with some steeper gradients – I knew this was going to be the toughest climb of the day thanks to the heat. Getting out of the heat for a few minutes in Spray earlier in the day had made a big difference, and I was hoping a quick break here would too. It helped, but not as much as I’d hoped. I got back on the bike and started climbing and felt like the sun was baking down on me. This was my “mental low point” for the day on Sunday. The temperature was apparently 102deg – and my crew took a picture of the reading in the van to prove it! At one point the sun went behind some clouds, and even though the temperature only dropped a degree or two, it FELT like a huge difference not having the sun beating down viciously on me. During this section Sandy was playing some kind of old time styled music with off the wall lyrics over the PA that at least helped keep my mind somewhat off the suffering. It also helped to see Adrienne go by in her van a few times and cheer me on – seeing anyone out there in the middle of nowhere lifts ones spirits! Finally the top came though, and then the descent into Antelope.

At this point I was in need of another flush toilet, and was hoping desperately that there would be one in Antelope, even though I know there’s hardly anything in Antelope. We were almost through town and I thought we were going to be out of luck, but then, like when you see an oasis in the desert, I saw a sign for a Cafe that said “Open”, and a placard out front that said “Marionberry Cobbler” – SCORE!!! We truly had reached a little oasis in the middle of the Oregon desert!! Here the crew was also able to get cheese fries, mierpoix beef soup, and coffee in addition to the cobbler, and I got to use a real toilet! I started up the next climb. I think my crew was trying to mess with me on this climb though, because they kept playing the same song over and over and over – all I remember about it was that the lyrics kept saying “what goes around comes around” – I was about ready to go stark raving mad after about what I thought was the 3rd time through! Near the top Pudu chimed in with a comment about how it looked like a nice descent looking back where we came from – I offered to ride back down to find out if he’d ride back up to the top! I was in pretty good spirits at this point, knowing that I was in much better shape than I had been at this stage of the race last year. The sweet moment was when we crested the hill and I could tell that the wind wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it had been last year – this was the section last year that was the nail in the coffin for me – the wind had been so strong that I could barely make forward progress going downhill. It was around this time that Pudu played the song “The Climb” over the PA. Don’t laugh – it’s a Hannah Montana song, but I heard it on the radio shortly after RAO last year, and the lyrics seemed really appropriate, so I’d downloaded it from iTunes. (Lyrics here) Pudu also offered me leftover cheese fries out of the van window along this section – and pickles!! And Mike gave me some dill pickle potato chips – yum! We passed through time station #5 in Shaniko at 6:12pm, 431.4 miles into the race.

The next section on Bakeoven Road I’d done in the dark last year, and I remembered seeing all the weird desert vegetation on the side of the road blowing violently in the wind like ghoulish creatures beckoning me to hell! This year I was able to see what the vegetation looked like in the daylight – much less scary and animated! We kept going and arrived in Maupin just before 8pm – last year I’d pulled in to Maupin at 11:25pm, and had dropped out here because there wasn’t enough time to finish under the cutoff. What a difference to get here 3.5hrs earlier still in the daylight! I knew there was still a tough section with a lot more climbing still to come though, but at least I’d made it further than last year. I quickly did a clothing change here before we hit the road again to try and get as much done in the daylight before it got dark. We completed the climb out of Maupin and the descent towards Tygh Valley. Just at dusk we stopped for soup and cobbler (that the crew had bought in Antelope), then I tackled the next climb. This climb seemed harder to me than the climb out of Maupin – my knee was starting to get sorer, and I was also feeling hungry and a bit out of energy. Finally the top came though, and we descended towards Dufur. Then came a little bit of flat/rolling terrain before the last big climb up Mt. Hood. This climb is about 15 miles or so, and almost 500 miles into the ride the legs are a wee bit tired! 😉 I felt relatively chipper though. We stopped for more cup-o-noodle soup at the base of the climb. It was nice knowing there was essentially just one climb left, even if it was a long one. The climb took about 2hrs 15min to get to the top, and near the top it was hard to tell whether we’d even reached the top, as there were several false summits. For one of them you came over a little crest, and there was the peak of Mt. Hood bathed in the moonlight – I figured that HAD to be the top since it seemed so poetically perfect, but no, it wasn’t…. About 1:45am or thereabouts we reached the summit – woohoo!!! I stopped to put on my knee warmers, arm warmers, vest, and down a 5hr energy to try and help me power through the last 30+ miles. Part of the descent was on Forest Road 44, which I wasn’t quite as comfortable descending on as I was once we hit Highway 35, a major highway which had a good road surface and wide sweeping turns. From the turn onto 35 it was about 25 miles to the finish, with just one slight rise on the way down. I bombed down 35 – it was awesome having essentially no traffic on the road, and getting the whole road to myself. I felt like I was flying, and I hit my max speed of 45mph on this section. I felt fairly alert, but I did ask the van to use the PA system to talk to me on the way down just to help keep my mind engaged so that I didn’t fall into a trance and get sleepy. That did the trick.

My crew and I at the finish line in Hood River after 46 hrs 28min on the course

I pulled into Hood River and the finish line at 3:28am, clocking a total time of 46hrs 28min for 535 miles with over 40,000 feet of climbing and top temperatures near or above 100deg both days. I was 3rd female (out of 3 – 100% finish rate for the women – woohoo!) and 8th overall (out of 9 finishers – 16 solo riders started the race). Even though I was the only one on the bike, I don’t consider this a solo effort – this was a 5 person team – I couldn’t have done it without my amazing crew! Any crew going forward is going to have very large shoes to fill – and I’m not just talking about Pudu’s clown shoes! 😉 In all seriousness though, having such an experienced and entertaining crew was the best and most memorable part of this event. Everyone on the crew brought something different to the table, and at least from where I sat, everything went smoothly throughout. Anyone who’s fortunate enough to have Sandy crew chief for them is in for a treat – she’s the best at what she does, and I couldn’t have done it without her guidance and encouragement! She’s been an inspiration in my ultra-cycling career, and I certainly hope I’m lucky enough to have her crew for me again in the future! As for Fuzzy, he and his BikeVan are legendary in ultra-cycling and need no description – it was an honor and a privilege to have Lee on my crew, and to get to lead the BikeVan into Hood River and that finish line! Pudu got things done out there, and was a jack of all trades – when he wasn’t snoring and eating/buying gummy bears that is – I’ll never look at another gummy bear and not smile and think of RAO! And Mike, well he’s my soulmate, and I’m so glad he was able to be there and help me make it through this year. It’s in tough times that you catch a glimpse of someone’s heart and soul, and last year at RAO I saw to the depths of his and it solidified the notion that he was “the one”. Thank you to everyone on my crew – you’re all rock stars and I’m forever indebted to you! To steal Sandy’s quote – “I’m the luckiest person in the world”!!!

Click Here for More Pictures from RAO 2010

Stage Race on the Tandem

| July 21, 2010 11:13 am
Stage Race on the Tandem

by Deborah Hoag

This is how the Stage Race works: Riders have to complete three of the most difficult doubles in the California Triple Crown. This year it was Mulholland, Devil Mountain, and the Terrible Two. The Total Elapsed Time from each of these grueling Doubles is then added together and the rider with the fastest overall time for all Three Doubles wins the Stage Race.

I have no idea why we decided to do the Stage Race on the tandem. We would joke that when we completed the Stage Race on our singles, we would do it on the tandem. Well, I finished the Stage Race in 2009 and David finished in 2007. After I finished, David reminded me about the Stage Race on the tandem. So, we bought a new tandem in Sept of 2009 and started training. We did not know which of 200 milers would be in the Stage Race for 2010; however, we had agreed we would do the race. In Feb, we found out it be the 3 hardest out of 5 -200 milers, Mulholland, Devil Mountain, and Terrible Two. During the training, we realized this was going to be the hardest thing we had ever done on a bike. We thought about not doing it, because the training was so hard. We worked on interval training, core exercises, eating right, preventing lows, riding together effectively, mechanical issues with the new tandem, and communicating. A week before the first 200 miler, Mulholland, we took the tandem to Bicycle Outfitters for a quick over look, and found out the rear rim was destroyed. It had less than 2000 miles on it.

The night before Mulholland, I felt we were going to have a great ride. There was one other tandem at the start, Karen and Mike, who had taken the Stage Race in 2004 and 2008. They started off fast and pulling the mast start of riders; however, when we hit the first climb, we past them and never saw them again.

There were two tough climbing areas, one had 24% grade and another 25% grade. We finished 2 hours before the time we thought we would, and earned a T-Shirt for under 16 hours. We had beaten the other tandem by 58 minutes. We now had two weeks before Devil Mountain Double. My favorite ride and David’s most hated ride.

The second leg of the Stage Race was Devil Mountain Double. The route starts in San Ramon and heads up Mt Diablo North, up Mt Diablo Summit and then descends down Mt Diablo South to Morgan Territory. From there the route heads up Patterson Pass, up Mines Rd, up the Back of Mt Hamilton, down Mt Hamilton, up Sierra Rd, up Calaveras, up Palomares and finally up Norris Canyon for 18,500 of climbing and 206 miles. We rolled at 5A with about 225 riders and no other tandems. We had done all the climbs during our training, so we knew what to expect. However, with the first climb being Mt Diablo the last 100 feet seemed easy compared to the training rides we had done. Then came Morgan Territory and Patterson Pass, we had no problems. After that it was Mines Road, where we realized this is hard and it hurts, and we had two more hard nasty climbs, the backside of Mt Hamilton and Sierra Road. We struggled up the backside, however, on the Mt Hamilton descend we had recovered and we felt ready for Sierra. Sierra Rd comes at mile 160, we started the climb and it was tough. I had told David, we may need to stop part way up. We reached the trees and David asked me if I needed to stop and I said no, that the climb is most completed. I guess it is a good thing I cannot remember, because we were only half way up to top of Sierra! Somehow we managed to make it up, and it was off to Sunol via Calaveras.  It was great to see Sheila Stevens there (freshly back from a long business trip)!  She told me we were head of her and Russ’s time by 40 minutes – another great modivator. We then headed down Niles Canyon, the hard climbs were over, but we two more climbs to finish Palomares and Norris Canyon. By the time we hit the Palomares descend, what Sheila had said about our time hit me. I had thought we were shooting for under 18 hours for a completion time, but we were looking for under 17 hours. We came in screaming to the finish with a 16:21 time. We were saying yes, one more:  The Terrible Two.

Terrible Two is known for its nasty hot weather (over 100 degrees), but this year the average temperature was 78 degrees. The seven week break between Devil Mountain and Terrible Two created difficultly in our training. We both had a hard time peaking again. At the start of the ride, we could feel the intensity in the air with the other 227 riders. This is a race. Riders were warned about very bad roads and the technical descends on the course. We installed torn resisted tubes in the back and front (thanks to Russ and Sheila). On part of course there is gravel, and we wanted to avoid flats. Also a few years back Jennie Phipps and Craig Robinson had had a front blow out descending and crashed. They were in first place in the Stage Race, so, we backed off on the descents and took to heart Bill’s warnings. As it turned out one of the big stories of the day were crashes and we were not one of them. To finish first, first you must finish. The Organizer, Bill Octinger was there to shake our hands when we rolled in. I could hardly stand at the finish. And most important thing, I earned a “I Did It” T-Shirt (I wore it continuously for 4 days after the ride). We were done with the Stage Race and we had no food problems, no lows, no mechanicals, no drama, no events, and no problems on all three rides. We were prepared. Then we loaded the tandem into the back of the truck and saw the brand new rear tire that we had installed before ride with white treads showing and the side bead popping out.

Going into the Terrible Two, there were 47 riders that completed the first two legs of the Stage Race, after Terrible Two there were only 32 (4 women 27 men) that completed all three legs of the Stage Race. We were the only tandem.

Our finished times:

  • Mulholland           15:21 60 minutes off the bike
  • Devil Mountain      16:17 with 75 minutes off the bike
  • Terrible Two           15:08 with less than 45 minutes off the bike
  • Total of time of 46:45, 614 miles, 55,915′ of climbing.

Each of 3-200 milers was different as far as the ride; however, the weather was great for all three rides. Reflecting back on it, would we do it again? Perhaps!!!!

MagicShine LED Light

| 9:39 am
MagicShine LED Light

by Franz Kelsch

There has been a tremendous change in the technology for cycling lights. My first light was big and bulky and the battery was the size of a water bottle and very heavy.  It was difficult to ride on a very dark road. H.I.D. lights were much brighter but were very expensive and somewhat fragile. What changed everything for the cyclists riding at night was the high powered LEDs.

My first LED light was produced by BR Lights, C2-H model, which I wrote about it in a prior entry. That light has served me well through two Furnace Creek 508 rides and a couple of Devil Mountain Double rides. I have used it also on several night rides, both road and mountain bike. The BR light is all in one package, both battery and light. That means it can only be mounted on the handlebar. When mountain biking at night, I wanted a helmet mounted light.  With the Hoodoo 500 coming up, I needed a second light since you need two independent lights to be able to ride at night without the van following you.

You can pay a lot of money for a LED light but there is no need to now days.  I had heard a lot about the MagicShine light, so I decided to order one from GeoManGear.com.  I bought their Racer’s special which came with a 2nd battery, helmet mount and cord extension, all for a price of $129.99.

I was impressed with GeoManGear’s service because the light arrive in just a couple of days to our Utah home.  That night I mounted the light on my helmet and went out for a test ride.  The MagicShine has a nice mounting system, using a single o-ring.  It comes with two o-rings, one for a standard size handlebar  and a larger one for an oversized handlebar.

The helmet mount attached to my helmet using Velcro straps. I then used the smaller o-ring to mount the light to the helmet mount.  I used the extension cord so I could put the battery in my rear pocket.

The light has 3 levels, along with some strobe effects.  This photo shows how much the trail was lit up using the three different settings.

Doing some tests while riding near, I felt comfortable riding at 25 mph using the brightest setting, about 16 mph using the middle setting and about 12 mph using the lowest setting.  I wish the lower setting was dimmer so I would have an option with battery saving for climbing, where I do not need as much light.

The light and battery were less than a pound, but still a bit heavier than my BR light.

They claim the MagicShine is 900 lumens but I highly doubt that figure since they lights from Hong Kong are almost always have over inflated ratings. I did a test comparing each light at their highest setting, middle setting and lowest setting.  At the highest setting, the BR light which is rated at 325 lumens, seemed about the same as the MagicShine.

At the other settings the MagicShine was brighter but that also means it does not have a setting that would allow to ride all night on a single battery.  With the BR light, I can ride all night since the middle setting will give me 9.5 hours and I would use the high setting (3.5 hours) only for descent and the lower setting (20 hours) for the climbs.  But at one third the price, the MagicShine is still a good deal.

What do I like about the MagicShine?

  • Price
  • Mounting is very easy using one of the two supplied o-rings
  • Can be helmet mounted
  • Spare battery at a reasonable price

What do I  not like about the MagicShine?

  • You need to cycle through all the settings in order.  If you are riding and wish to switch from the middle setting to the high setting, you have go switch to low, then to strobe,  another strobe setting, then off.  That is not very appealing while riding if that is your only light since it goes to no light before you can turn it on high.  If you just want to turn the light off, hold down the button for 2 seconds.
  • There is a single indicator of a low battery.  The BR light has 6 stage of colors to let you know where you stand.

I have not done any extensive testing yet of the MagicShine light.  I am interested in how long it will last on one battery on the various settings.  But those tests need to be done while riding because the light depends on that air flow for cooling.