Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Good Times 2010 Hoodoo 500 Rookie Race Report, or, the episode of “My meat turns rancid after nearly 39 hours in the hurt locker”

Moments before realizing a 25 gear on my way to Boulder was dumb...

The very slow ascent up Cedar Breaks, broken up by cattle guards...

Hey y'all - follow car in hot pursuit

Escalante bound

Just at the start of the race past Hurricane... many miles to go

The Good Times 2010 Hoodoo 500 Rookie Race Report, or, the episode of “My meat turns rancid after nearly 39 hours in the hurt locker”

My typical race reports of road races and criteriums discuss team tactics, weather, particular laps, my own thoughts about the race, mistakes made, opportunities, and results. This race report has to be different because of the many parts of the course, weather involved, crew tactics, etc. I’ll try and stick to the same format as best I can…

One caveat though, I write the following report as a thank you to those folks who wrote reports before and posted them for my benefit. If you continue to read it you accept that you might not like what you read because I lay it all open for those who are planning for their first endurance race.

What: A 517ish mile out and back race from St. George, UT. It meanders around southern Utah plus a bit of Arizona, basically to not make Arizona feel left out of such a great opportunity for cruel and unusual punishment. While some races avoid those big climbs, Hoodoo hit every single one. I credit the race organizers for getting all the necessary paperwork together to accomplish the amazing race.

Who: The race starts well before the actual start time, 18 signed up in the solo category but only 13 started. This was my first endurance race of any kind beyond 100 miles. Median age is 43. Note: I just returned from volunteering at a local charity ride rest stop where it was mentioned I had completed a 500 mile race and the general response was, “I’m glad he still has his youth to do something like that”. The two gentlemen who finished ahead of me were 58 and 59.

Weather: Ranged from low 40s to high 90s, no rain, but wind in the face for 50% of the course at up to 30 mph.

Why did I do it:
It has been over a year since my trip across the states and a lot has happened in my little cycling world. Part of the events I planned after my sojourn would be to try the RAAM in 2011. In planning for the RAAM I had to pick a qualifying race, so I naturally looked for a race nearby. Careful consideration however led me across the country to the Hoodoo 500 in Utah instead because of several reasons,
1. It is an out and back loop, no laps
2. Incredible scenery would be less of a sell to get a crew out to help and my mind from wandering
3. It would take me to parts of Utah I probably wouldn’t visit in other circumstances
4. It appears to be an extremely difficult course thus good training!
5. It requires a support crew, which I consider a large part of the race for RAAM
6. In reading the website and reports the organizers seemed to have all the good points I look for in a race, mainly a good attitude.
7. I haven’t ridden in Utah so I might as well knock out the entire southern part of Utah and a part of northern Arizona.

My goals for the race were tiered based on the possibility of each occurring,
1. Beat the course record, it is a young race so I think I can do it at about 18mph average
2. Win it
3. Qualify for RAAM (10% of first place finish time) …old rules as I later discovered
4. Just finish!

As I mentioned before, the race started well before the actual start. Careful preparation will determine the outcome of your 500 mile time trial. While talking with another rider on the neutral roll out we discussed our goals, he only wanted to finish in 40 hours. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might not finish. In preparing for the race I wanted to eliminate as many variables as I could that would prevent me from completing the race. So to me, failure was based on a function of time spent in training and preparation over the number of known variables with chance of failure such as mechanicals, physiology, follow vehicle failure, etc. I didn’t know anyone who had completed a race like the Hoodoo so I didn’t have anyone to talk to about preparation. Race reports from the Hoodoo website were helpful for crewing and vehicle setup. My longest ride was the 195 miles and 15 hours on the bike tour from Denver to Francis KS in 2009. I would push boundaries way beyond the solo trip across the states. After rereading my reports from my trip I learned that I spent most of my time dehydrated so I couldn’t repeat the same mistake on the Hoodoo. I considered hydration the biggest factor in my success of the Hoodoo.

Prior to the race I changed the stems on the road bikes to have a higher rise so I would sit more upright rather than racing a 500 mile crit…

The short list of items used for the race:

· Honda Element – Roof rack with two trays
· Wonderful wife and awesome friend for crew to drive the above
· 10 gallons of water
· Powdered Gatorade
· Hammer Perpetuem
· Box of mint Clif Bars (added caffeine)
· 2 lbs of grapes
· 2 lbs of carrots
· Dozen fig newton things from Whole Foods
· 1 lb of dark chocolate coffee beans
· 2007 Cannondale System Six, 53/39 crank, Mavic Elites with 28/11 cassette
· 2008 Giant TCR, 53/39 crank, Mavic SLs with 25/12 cassette
· 2009 Look 576, 53/39 crank, Mavic Carbones with 25/11 cassette
· A lot of lighting – tail lights, head lights, helmet lights, tikka lights, gorilla lights, etc. The most useful was the Blackburn w external battery – to see, not to be seen on the night descents.
· Arm warmers, leg warmers, knee warmers (2), 3 season gloves (2), rain jacket, 2 kits, white “cool” sleeves for warm weather, a few pairs of socks, 2 pairs of shoes
· Ziploc bags
· Cooler
· Various tools for roadside repairs, half a dozen tubes (I didn’t need a single one!)
· A dozen knee high panty hose
· Paper towels and one roll of toilet paper… very important as I found out later

My approach was to keep things simple in terms of nutrition but I think I fouled it up with items I hadn’t used before such as the coffee beans (same as coffee right…) which I thought would be a suitable substitute since most places along the route would be closed on Sunday.
In terms of training in miles for the race I could not get much more than a few centuries in during June. I had big plans to do back to back centuries, unfortunately conflicting goals of moving up to Category 2 in the USAC kept me from adequate training for the Hoodoo, I participated in nearly 40 races from April through August, mostly criteriums. Illustrating the conflict more my wife and I drove directly from the North Wilkesboro Speedway Exhale Criterium Races to go to Utah the previous Sunday of the race. Perhaps you could consider it a preparation mistake to have two conflicting goals of an endurance race versus strength, but I knew ahead of time what I was getting myself into on the strength side.

My wife and I arrived in Utah on Thursday via I-70 and decided to drive the course from Loa to Cedar City since I had never been on those roads. It would be nice to see the course during the day too. During the drive I rode a few miles between Loa and Koosharem to see the left turn on the descent. The wind was blowing up the valley at about 10-15mph but the TT bike was cutting the wind well. My typical speed in that kind of wind with my tour was 10mph but I was doing between 16 and 18, I was in good spirits. At that time I also wanted to get a camelbak to stay aero and hydrated. We drove through Panguitch and Cedar City at dusk and noted the many ramps I would be riding up, but it didn’t look too bad.

My approach to the race was to split it into four 120 mile parts since double metrics would be more conceivable for my mind to understand. At each section I could mentally put the previous part aside and start anew. My single biggest concern was staying hydrated and comfortable for as long as possible in the saddle. I hoped that a three bike variety and a whole lotta chamois cream would help. I would keep my heart rate around 130 – 140 which I thought to be manageable for a long period of time. I had no idea what my body would do after 24 hours of riding, but I thought the quicker I got it done the better.

The Race:
Maybe it was my own reflection on the race but it felt like there was a healthy fear of the unknown at the start line. The air was crisp (and lovely with no humidity) as well as the quick roll call for the solo 7am start. I felt like I was forgetting something in preparing for the morning but everything was accounted for, double checking was enough. Off with a bang or rather a slow boil we went out the back of the hotel on our way out town.

To Time Station 1 – Kanab 83 miles in
The bikes were a wide variety of TT bikes and road bikes, I think I even saw a Y foil in the bunch during registration. I chose the Giant to start since the first 20 miles or so were neutral and the topo map showed a large climb out of Hurricane. A neutral rolling start led us out of town and up to highway 9 into Hurricane. I was in the back to watch the development of the race and to determine who the players were. I wasn’t sure what else to do other than have a few conversations with some other riders. If it were a crit field we looked like a bunch of category 5s and weekend warriors. The physical ability of some of the riders was highly questionable considering the appearance of diets heavy in items other than vegetables. A split formed immediately on the first downhill after the race turned live and I tagged onto it. I felt the split was going a tad slow so I pushed a little to the top to see who would chase, a couple folks did. Now that I was in the lead “the man without a plan” as I am referred to in the race fields thought I might as well keep it, so I pedaled on careful to manage the heartrate at around 150. The ride into Hurricane was nice, I was carried by the excitement of seeing all the support vehicles rallying to the first climb out of town. I took on a fresh water bottle before Hurricane and spun up the hill with one rider close on my heels. After the hardest inclines I was chased down and passed, he was on a TT bike so I followed suit after a nature break. I applied more pressure to the front thinking if I were to win the race I would have to make the old men suffer and make them work harder than they had planned.

We continued our gradual ascent into Arizona on a southerly direction, the winds blew across my shoulders but my legs were far too fresh to think they were a factor. It is possible the only reason we went to Arizona was to take advantage of the flats in the northern part up the state. The entire state of Utah is similar to western Colorado with its ups and downs, water can never rest in these states. By the time I made it to Fredonia AZ I had about 6 minutes on the next rider and 3 more water bottles behind me. The panty hose ice sausages I saw used in the TdF were deployed and they worked wonderfully to numb the traps and keep me cool. The wind was a little brisk but my time was good to the first time station – 4.75 hours across 83 miles. Usually at 80 miles I’m feeling very tired but having a support crew to keep me fueled was quite nice and invigorating. Everything felt good, big confidence boost. I was using much more chamois cream than I had anticipated, but no problems.

Kanab was having a western festival and parade which I made it through before the parade started. Based on the results it looked like one rider was caught in the festivities with a 2 minute time bonus. It is one more variable a rider can’t plan for during 500+ miles of racing.
It was clear the previous year’s winner Holt was going to keep my wheels in his crosshairs, the only support vehicle left to leapfrog through to keep my time was his support vehicle. North of Kanab was another decent climb and I thought I would make up some more time by pushing a little more, the HR hit 165 at one point. I thought it wouldn’t hurt. The legs felt good.

To Time Station 2 – Bryce Canyon 155 miles in
The winds were at my back for the northerly track to Bryce with small undulations but mostly consistent grades to keep a high speed. I continued my quest for my time until I made the turn on UT-12 which I met a strong wind in the face. I decided to cool it for a bit and pace through until I could turn out of the wind again. A voyager I had passed earlier caught back up and we rode a few miles together through the bike trail. Along the way he gave me a stern warning of Holt’s cycling prowess, “The man’s a beast, he’s so consistent.” My only thought would be to break the old man’s will by having him continue to chase me at a higher effort than perhaps he was used to riding. During the ride through the Bryce bike path I noticed the derailleur on the TT bike was hitting the spokes on the 25 gear… My heart rate was also diminished, I was managing 130 at my best, were my legs giving out? My legs felt fine, was my cardio just worn out? Through to the Bryce Chevron time station at 3.6 hours under the watchful eye of Holt’s crew, I punctuated their review of my progress by the comedic pause of each of the 2 stop signs along the bike path route in front of the gas station.

To Time Station 3 – Escalante 203 miles in
Still on the TT bike I continued to make good time by bombing the somewhat flats and slicing through the rolling hills. Some of the locals were nonplussed about my white line hogging presence and made a return visit to revocalize their disdain, the first of many taunts and jeers I’d receive along the way. My time was good, at least it felt good until I hit the major climb before the gradual descent into Escalante. The sounds of spokes hitting the derailleur were too much as I ground my knees into the pavement like coffee beans through burrs of the final 200 meters to the top. My crew had already went to the top and I had cried out for their return, they did quickly thinking something far worse had happened… fortunately it did not. As I made the bike change to the Giant I looked back and there was Holt menacing my departure from the roadside. Incredible! I made haste over the hill and didn’t look back. My ground up legs were tired though, especially by the catapulted effort of hurtling a hill on a TT 23 cog. Not good. I felt my focus waning, I wasn’t as careful on the nutrition but my hydration was still up to par. I forgot what I had taken in for food and my timing was off for just about everything. The day’s activities were starting to take its course. I asked my crew to start taking a log of my nutrition and wished I had already made a chart with times and suggested intake to accompany the time diary. I arrived in Escalante with a full bladder and the sound of screaming kids and music. Always good to have some fanfare. I stopped for nature’s call in the voyager’s room and made my way back onto the bike. I expressed my concern about the heart rate to a voyager and he said it was normal.

At the time I didn’t know it but Holt had passed me by and was moving through town. Holt’s crew had also determined my d-hanger was bent on the TT bike. There’s a certain camaraderie among the crews and riders which I appreciate, the course is the trial and we’re all in it together to the finish.

By now I was nearly 11 hours on the bike averaging better than 18mph, I was exactly where I wanted to be. I didn’t feel dehydrated, I wasn’t too tired, and was in general good spirits. My legs didn’t necessarily feel fatigued, but my heart rate could sustain only around 110-120.
It was good to see the voyagers, they’re a hardy crew. I saw most didn’t have a full rack on their bike or other touring accoutrement, they depended more on the drop bags between stops. I think if I were to do a voyager class I would camel bak it with the necessary tools to do roadside fixes, 2 bottles of Perpetuem, winter gear, and a little food would be all I would carry between stops.

To Time Station 4 – Loa 284 miles in
6pm out of Escalante promised I would get to see sunset in one of my favorite spots in Utah, UT-12 between Boulder and Escalante. Hell’s backbone is a razor thin strip of road with perilous drops on either side which affords fantastic views of all the desert’s exotic colors (to a southern country boy) inflamed by the sun’s setting gaze. There’s a certain peace before nightfall on the bike that gives a rider solace. The lull of the end of the day massages the mind as it does every day, but today I must have the vigilance to finish the other half of the race. It’s a little daunting to realize the race is not quite to the half way mark and it feels as though we have done enough for the day.

All poetry aside, my biggest rookie mistake was perpetuated again on the climb into Boulder, and would precipitate my coming failure to stay on the wheels of Holt’s train of ultra-distant tyranny. On any given race day, a 25 cog up a 6-7% climb would be fine… but not after 12 hours on the bike. I crushed the hill yes, but not after suffering in the knee pain department. I had already 1200mg of ibuprofen in me by then, and the pills had to start coming faster. My heart rate managed only 110bpm after the climb and I descended into Boulder knowing I had made a big mistake. I spent more time checking what was behind me than what was ahead. A solo support vehicle had passed by without a rider in tow so I assumed we had a DNF. I stopped in Boulder and prepared for the night ride and noted the elevation map to the next time station. I noticed the spike but in relation to Cedar Breaks I had not realized I would be climbing into the night for a long time. I changed bikes to the 28/11 Cannondale for the climb out of Boulder more out of the reminder I could not ride on a 25 anymore. I wouldn’t have made it to Loa or to St George without it. I was a fool to think a 25 would suffice for the entire ride and I had brought the 28 just in case something happened.

The mistakes didn’t stop though… In planning for the race my focus was on the last climb of the race, Cedar Breaks. I discounted all other climbs as diminutive to the 10.5k elevation and 30 miles of uphill before the descent into Cedar City. I had planned on being at the top of Cedar Breaks by 6am, but there was a huge climb I had just started out of Boulder I had simply not taken seriously.

Night settled in Boulder and I began the ascent a little after 8pm to the top of the 9,500’ summit. All I could muster was a good rhythm of around 10-12mph. The ramps were not what I had researched on mapmyride.com – the inclines staring back at me were easily 8%. The free range cows mooed at my ill prepared ride up their domain, and a certain wind was starting to pick up again. I finally made it over the top after a couple hours and I was convinced I wouldn’t see Holt again, but I passed him over the crest of the summit. Gilles came over the radio to say he asked his crew "Is that him?", which gave my legs new fire to bomb the mountain. The race is (back) on! I bunnyhopped many cattleguards at 40mph in the dead of night down the mountain, the “Icy Roads” signs be damned. The moon seemed to reflect my desire to leave Holt behind as it burned a solemn smoky orange far across the mountainous horizon, an early harbinger of the coming harvest moon. We were so high in the mountains that the moonrise was below us, further complicating my comprehension of spatial reality. The excitement of passing Holt continued to build as it felt the race was close after over 250 miles past us.

My pace slowed after the descent and my crew was concerned we missed a turn out of Torrey, noting a 3 mile discrepancy on the cue sheet. They raced ahead to see what was down the road and in the distance behind me I could hear what could only be the competitive follow vehicle that has harassed my getaway for so many hours. Holt was only a couple minutes off my tail and I sat idly awaiting my crew’s return. I was feeling quite regal though and enjoying my chocolate coffee beans as the night was otherwise quiet. Peace and quiet. It was nice to have nothing to do. My apathy continued to grow, Holt and I could trade places all night and day for all I cared, if I were to lose out to this man he obviously worked hard to achieve it.

My crew returned with news that our turn was just ahead, we rambled on and we stopped at the turn for a human chassis lube and map consultation. The stop allowed enough time for Holt to jet by on a TT bike I saw he had mounted as I passed him on top of the Boulder pass. He had a full face mask on and heavy winter gear covering his body – I still did not know who he was other than by name.

Oh well – ramble on. I’ll see him again I’m sure.

My legs were still feeling the prior diminutive mountain peaks which speared my knees with their rocky poison so I let the pace subside to a soft spin through the clean and brisk air to Loa. I could not see the Holt crew ahead despite the characterless landscape of softly undulating grass and sage. The voyager’s earlier warning in Bryce turned reality, I would not see Holt again due to his relentlessness. The relay team Red Rock passed me just before making it to Loa, they had started 4 hours later than the solos. I could no longer do the math to figure out what their rate of speed was, nor did I care to guess. I generally don’t like getting passed even if it’s irrelevant, I had to put the competitive urge aside. My mood wasn’t down, I was just growing numb.
Entering Loa was nothing short of a limbo between what was then and what I still had to do. My mental breakup of the race into four 120 mile parts was long gone. I didn’t know how far I had gone, I refused to look at what time it was. It was irrelevant, it was dark, and I was between point A and B. B was where I wanted to… be. I was just there, nothing started anew, and if there was anything new I knew about, it was a very queasy feeling in my stomach beginning to isolate my different organs. I could play the childhood game Operation to remind myself of their exact location. Small bits of plastic floating in an oversized body. I pondered if I should physically clear out the sensation in my bowels but I elected to push on to the next round. I wasn’t concerned of 3rd place, they were at least an hour and a half behind. It was getting colder… I estimated the 50s since the gloves weren’t doing their job. It had been a long time since I rode in the night, usually activity reserved for winter riding to work and back. I forgot there is no sun to warm me in the night despite the temperature. Oops.

To Time Station 5 – Panguitch 374 miles in
Now I was on familiar territory after driving the course from Loa to Cedar City. The climb out of Loa was a no-surprise-you-can-see-it-all-in-front-you-climb-to-put-your-mind-at-ease climb. The passing relay teams chasing Red Rock improved the visibility of the climb although the little blinking lights didn’t seem to suffer like my dimming legs did. They were steady up the hill while I suffered silently inside and out. I was careful to keep extra batteries for my lights but it did nothing to give a fresh jolt for my legs. Back in Escalante I had jokingly asked if EPO was available in the voyager bathrooms, I wished I had something to awaken my numbing body. The staff in Escalante had replied they had IPA available but I couldn’t have any – I really could have used a beer then. And a place to sit. Be careful what I wish for…

I made it to my original stop earlier in the week where I got out to ride a little before the descent into Koosharem. My stomach pains manifested a fully fledged gastrointestinal knot needing immediate full attention. I grabbed the toilet paper and ran out into the sagebrush… My body was at least tolerant of pulling off all the wiring I had attached to myself for radio communication and music. I felt embarrassed, sheepish, but more or less resigned to 2nd place at the time. I wouldn’t see Holt again. More relay teams passed as I sat on my deadwood throne. I returned to the calls of my crew who were concerned I was taken by the local residents of the pungent sage brush. I got on the bike and made a few strokes before my bowels filled again with urgency… I pressed on despite the physiological pressure. No more sitting…

Over the familiar darkened hills I pedaled and down off the ridge to the Brown Lane turn to Koosharem. The turn left in Koosharem to Panguitch came as quickly as the wind in the face which came stronger than days earlier. The turn was definitely something missable in the night had I not seen it in the day. 15-20mph winds slowed my pace to around 8mph, slower than my jogging pace in my college years. I could feel the temperature drop below the 50s as the arm and knee warmers could not ward off the cold. I couldn’t pedal enough to stay warm and my body couldn’t generate enough heat after pedaling over 18 hours. My crew and I assessed our inadequate equipment and after a few stops I had put on knee and leg warmers, arm warmers, the 3 season gloves, a second jersey, the race rules on 5 print pages, and the rain jacket. It wasn’t enough, but it was nearly all I had. I was considering putting on a second pair of gloves and adding paper towels where necessary.

I consider the inadequate equipment another rookie mistake because I did not account for the cold weather in addition to my body’s inability to generate enough heat.

To make matters worse, my physiological pressure mounted to a volcanic event a few miles before the turn to state road 62 and I again ran off into the sagebrush, leaving my bike to fend for itself against gravity. More relay teams passed by as I sat idling amongst the brush, I was grateful for the night’s dark embrace of my degrading physical abilities. After another 20 minute session of “Am I done yet” I picked up my gravity defeated bike and pushed on to Panguitch.
Eventually I made it to US-89 where the wind grew stronger and the grades were steeper. My other self pedaled up the hill in a rattling and careless rage, I had sneaked a peek at the time… 3am and nowhere near my 6am plan to be at the top of Cedar Breaks. My plans were undone, I was coming undone, yet I had beat my knees into glue. My anger had no direction, it just radiated out. My crew tried to hand me water and I retorted with “I don’t need that sh!*!” without finishing the thought that I only needed the wind to stop blowing and the hills to flatten out. My crew left me alone to simmer.

I was 10 miles out of Panguitch before daybreak and I could finally see the time without artificial effort – I had ridden for 24 hours, another milestone, yet a mental break occurred when I could finally feel my eyes grow thick, my swollen face pinched my eyelids. I could feel the bowels bloat again and I was nervous to make a daylight pitstop on the side of the road.
However, I just needed to stop pedaling for a bit and sit in a car. My rage up the grades was spent and it was time to stop.

Among all the cursing directed at anything generally related to my situation and why anyone would want to attempt such a stupid activity I managed about 30 minutes of eyes closed before my wife jostled me from some worthless dream. It was something about running around a grassy field which I was in no condition to do. The jostle was perfect timing otherwise I would have been asleep. I’ll take a bit of good fortune any day! At the time though I could have just chewed the dashboard for adequate entertainment. It was the best 30 minutes of rest I had though, I felt I had restarted my day.

Back on the bike was tough – I took off the rain jacket but it left me sweat wet and cold. I shook and trembled in the wind like a loose spinnaker sail. My crew yelled for me to get off the road but I made more shouts and curses about needing to warm up and took off down the road… at 10mph into the wind. I forced the straightest line to Panguitch I could muster, cursing at the pavement I rode upon. The miles were getting longer, but there was only one climb left before the finish… again, the perpetuating rookie mistake thinking it was all downhill after Cedar Breaks, only 90 miles I thought!!!

The Panguitch time station showed a 2.5 hours gap between Holt and I, the difference I expect was my artistic sagebrush paintwork and demoralizing respite.

To Time Station 6 – Cedar City 433 miles in

I began the Cedar Breaks ascent with the knowledge that 3rd place was only 6 minutes behind me. 30mph winds down the mountain greeted me with a 9%+ ramp. I had never mustered a 3mph pace up a mountain before, but it was all I had. Only icing the roads could have made the situation worse. The sun was cold, the wind was cold, nothing around me resembled comfort. The dry grass scratched at the pavement beneath the surrounding white noise of rustling tree branches. My eyes burned, my pinkie and ring fingers were numb, my entire undercarriage had lost feeling back in Loa, and my traps were thawing out and thus screaming in agony. My will withered with the wind. Creaking cranks groaned on my incessant chain pulling, the cartoonish slow drag up the mountain resembled the looney toons coyote pushing his acme anvil up an incline in the hopes for a warm roadrunner dinner. This hill wouldn’t die.

The Cedar Breaks climb is ridiculous. Absurd. I drove it at night only a few days before, and I must have forgotten just about everything I passed. I remarked more about the igneous flows on each side of the road than the endless ramps stacked on top of each other like a dominoes beanstalk. Panguitch Lake came ever so slowly after the brutal welcome ramps at the foot of the mountain but apparently I could have just used an elevator from the lake. The crew felt my pain as each turn presented yet another mind numbing ascent to nowhere. The childhood song verse “over the river and through the woods” reverberated through my mind and I begged my crew to just give me the top of the mountain. No water or food for me, my stomach had enough of the essentials. Only the taste of mountaintops would satisfy me.

I made the turn south along the ridge of Cedar Breaks and cursed the additional 8 miles to my eventual descent into Cedar City. All I could think about was getting off the mountain, I had spent too much time on the mountain. 5 hours I think. I managed the 8 more miles bumbling up and down, cursing as I went. Daybreak had not come to my darkened mood yet. In fact, as I made the right obtuse turn up and over to the descent into Cedar Breaks I was blown off the road by the wind. I was in tears. I was in pain. My lips were peeling back from my teeth from a soulful sob, I drowned in my self pity. But, quickly realizing how stupid and fruitless my self inflicted situation was I slogged uphill to my awaiting crew to prepare for the descent.
I have never had such a dangerous descent as the one made off of Cedar Breaks. I’ve dropped out of the sky at 60mph and fishtailed through many a hairpin turn but this descent was different. The winds gave no warning as to their direction and I rode left of center lane to account for their unpredictable throws as I was blown around like a piece of paper dropped from a building. The wind kicked up sand into my eyes and threatened the intended direction of my wheels. I managed the speed limit most of the time but it lacked consistency just enough to irritate traffic, cars peeled by the double lines spewing exhaust and general cycling hating phrases as they passed. It was ugly, and I wouldn’t want to do it again. Cedar City didn’t come fast enough, and seeing the same cars that passed me at the bottom of the hill only exacerbated the problem.

To Time Station 7 – Snow Canyon 503 miles in
Home free right? I spent a long time on the road out of Cedar City to St. George. I’m not sure how to describe 30 mph wind directly across the port side of the bike, if there is such a nautical term applicable to cycling. But keeping with the theme, think of the bike as a sailboat with only two very small points of rubber anchoring it into the pavement. On an even keel it can travel quickly, but this top heavy vessel suffers greatly when 150 pounds are blown at 30mph off center. After 30 hours of riding, it was only 8mph of progress for me on a relatively flat road. For entertainment purposes I would stop on a trackstand and release the brakes attempting to go backwards on the course, a flagrant violation of the “circling” race policy.

Utah was not done with the hills though, it unleashed another unexpected 5 mile climb representing only a blip on the topo map on the internet. Mole hills were mountains in Utah, and there were a lot of mole hills.

The ride into Enterprise off the mole hill was fast and the last of the relay teams caught up with me. A voyager had passed, and finally 3rd place had caught up with me and passed through the wind and by me with ease. I would not chase, I was defeated. A podium finish was fine by me. Just finish. Goal #4.

Many times along the way from Cedar City I would think quitting was the best option, especially when I realized out of town I would spend more time in the night. A Cedar City revised 6pm finish in St. George was dashed by the winds by the time I reached Enterprise. Finishing in the dark was not what I had planned for when I took the lights off my bike in the morning back in Panguitch. Plans of inaction started to form. I had thought it reasonable to stop my race, go to Outback before it closed and get something warm to eat, enjoy time with my crew, then resume the race where I stopped. I had enough time, 48 hours was all I needed. I also thought that quitting 10 miles from the finish as a protest of the terrible descent I experienced was an acceptable rationalization. I told myself it didn't matter if I quit because I would never do this again anyways, so who cares. Results didn't matter, at least I tried. My mind tried every angle to rationalize an early closure to the ordeal. I discussed my lack of will to the passing voyager and his response was, "Don't quit, I did last year and I regretted it." I screamed I didn't care, but his response was enough to start the change in attitude. No pain was great enough to justify regret. I haven't lost a limb though... which I would probably regret that pain if I contributed to it...

I tried reasoning with the wind, groveling, begging, then grew angry again, and repeated. Then I reached Enterprise, a reasonable waypoint to a near finish. I could finally say I would not quit the effort and complete what I came for.

My vision of having a nice dinner among friends and warm toasts to a strong finish against all odds dimmed with the setting sun, now we had to settle with what stayed open late or supplied an adequate to go menu. No pleasant vision in my mind involved Styrofoam and plastic cutlery. I wanted nothing resembling the cooked, frozen, thawed, convection oven blown meat attached to my bones. Just comfort food. And 800mg of ibuprofen.

I relented, mainly because the thought of quitting no matter what the reason after making the trip out and not finishing what I started, was even more stupid than the actual act of pedaling over 500 miles in a single concerted effort. Additionally, quitting after all the efforts my crew had put in to my success was reproachable.

So despite bitching about all the “damn heels” my country-fried legs crawled over the last few hills and I made it to the Snow Canyon turn just at dusk. I might say I was in a good mood, especially after successfully planning for a warm dinner. It was almost over.

To the Finish Line - 500 and some I don't care how many miles I just did in
I didn’t think things could get worse, as it technically was all downhill from the top of Snow Canyon. But the laws of our common man Murphy were strong and my defiant descent into the canyon released a new reality on my mind. I was terribly cold again in the dark, and alone. Some cyclists passed by with their cold headlights piercing the enveloping night. They were ghosts, I could not hear what they said as I passed. I could no longer sit on the saddle much less comfortably pedal. I massaged my hamstrings on the saddle and rolled down the canyon. My sightlines grew fuzzy and my periphery wavered under the blue hues of the night sky. I saw snakes lean into the road to bite at my feet, cougars lazily reached out for my wheels, and then a stegosaurus… huh?

A brontosaurus joined in the fray and then some chickens. A Snow Canyon exotic petting zoo erupted from the inanimate brush and reached out to steal my descent into town. I rode down the center line to the canyon’s exit. The urbanization of St. George introduced what I perceived as homeless people climbing over walls out of the amber city lights. I became more disoriented but very thankful I prerode the route from Snow Canyon. I could not see any of the markings the race organizers put out for our direction. I was unsure I was going in the right direction, I was unfamiliar with the lay of the land. I remembered I had to circle the airport which blinked lazily to my left. I continued on course and came to the final traffic entanglement to the finish. I would not run the light that refused to trip at my presence. I walked the crosswalk to cross the road and then rode to the finish line. I had imagined earlier in the day I would elect to drag my bike across the finish line as a humorous end to my ordeal, but I was too much in the moment of forward motion to consider alternative transportation modes. I rolled in to the embrace of my wife and congratulations to people I had met briefly before but considered warm friends. It took me an hour to move the final 14 miles downhill. I’m not sure I could have gone further.

They say you’re supposed to leave everything you have on the course for a time trial. Conserve a little energy and you didn’t put in enough, do too much and you’ll blow up. I was completely spent at the finish line. I had nothing left to give.

It was over, and I was the third to finish that year. I would later learn only 5 finished. I learned a lot of things about the race strategy along the way as pieces of wisdom were passed along from the various support crews through my wife and friend. I learned I was just as discounted to finish from the veterans of the road as I had discounted the many mountains aside from Cedar Breaks. I was the unlikely rookie.

What separates the folks who finish and those who don’t? Like most sports if not all, it’s a healthy respect for the task at hand. Disrespecting the Hoodoo’s hills with a 25 gear almost cost me my finish as well as many other mistakes, I hope a similar mistake doesn’t happen to you. Apply the ego against 500 miles and there’s many an opportunity for the miles to respond in prejudice.

I'll read this post again in a year and remark how many other mistakes I had made with another year of experience behind me just as I did with my cross country tour.

I had many firsts, my first 24 hour ride without stopping, my first double century, my first double double, and first finish on an ultra distance race. Initially I was not satisfied with 3rd place but as time (a week) has passed I’ve mellowed my countenance and again have great admiration for those who can accomplish (and more so regularly) these types of races. When I was in the postrace banquet (a must) the next day I recall looking at each of the participants and thinking I was company among the toughest of men and women. It was a privilege to share a table with so few who would endeavor a course such as Hoodoo. Their clothing hinted of past adventures in RAAM, Furnace Creek, and other distances farther than I wanted to travel.
I’m glad to have been a part of the race.

I consumed 22 water bottles (5gal) of fluids (includes 7 servings of perpetuem), 4 clif bars, 2 bananas, 2 sandwich bags of banana chips, 1 bag of grapes, 1 bag of carros, 4 granola bars, 1 pb&j, 4 fig newton things, 1 bag of coffee beans.

The race awards uncovered my gross limp when I waddled up to the front of the room for pictures. You’ll see the solo finishers picture of me in the center with my weight on one leg since the other was burning and cramping at the same time. The feeling of finish was still fresh though with the smile that pulled it from ear to ear. My quads occasionally failed to support my weight, the Operation game had moved to version 2 to my muscles instead of my thoracic organs. I was depleted, although I had no scale with me the shape of my body was something I had never seen before. My small size shirts were loose. My wife and I went back to the hotel and ordered another day in St. George to simmer under ice bags and to degas, driving in my condition would have been a bad idea. No one else was really limping of any sort, so I imagine they all know something about ultradistance that I don’t.

The drive home was indirect with a stop in Denver for a couple days to celebrate an accepted offer for a friend’s home and then an unplanned cross country wine tour starting in Nebraska and along the various wine trails all the way back to North Carolina. The Element carried all 3 bikes, 6 cases of wine, 2 bodies, a cooler, and all cargo inside. Consider it your next vehicle.

The legs still burn a little but I’ve been off the bike for a solid week now. I’ve never had the muscles report like they have in these past few days. The skin and scabs on the bum continues to peel off. The numbness in the undercarriage is now a soft pain. The knees don’t hurt anymore and the wine tours seem to have helped. No particular vintage helped more than others, but generous helpings do taste and respond better.

In sum, here’s what I have from my experience.

Mistakes (or could have done it differently):

TT clip on bars on the road bike is a must – a TT bike with a wide side profile like my Look wouldn’t do well in this type of wind. This equipment alone probably was the difference between my 2nd and 3rd place. Dave Elsberry, 2nd place solo, made the comment several times I would have done better in the wind.

Have 3 or more crew – my mind went at around 12 hours into the race. Other crews had asked where my 3rd person was and were surprised to see only 2 people. We needed more people to keep us organized after the honeymoon period of 12 hours.

Cold weather gear- I should have read between the lines with weather reports, 45 degrees with 15 – 30 mph wind would be very cold. My slow speeds debilitated my body and could not produce adequate warmth. This mistake cost me a lot of time in the night.

No caffeine products – and no more diarrhea. I thought I would need caffeine to get through the night. I don’t think it was necessary and it just upset my stomach when eating coffee beans and caffeine laced clif bars. It may be different for other people.

I was too focused on Cedar Breaks when there was the Boulder climb to also worry about. But, preriding a 500 miles course was impractical. I would recommend doing the Hoodoo training ride in June prior to the race. I might do it next year for fun anyways.
Many ask if I would do it again, my response is “Relay”. But retrying the race with the knowledge I have now is very tempting. My wife and Gilles thought two weeks would be enough to forget the negative part of my ordeal...

Thanks again to the Hoodoo race staff for their untold efforts of putting on such an uncomfortable race in a very comfortable world. The Hoodoo 500 is a race for titans, my human strength barely made it through.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 22 Harriman, TN to Asheville, NC 155.1 miles

It was another beautiful day to behold as I worked my way through TVA and Knoxville area, and the French Broad River basin. By now I’m just grinning from ear to ear knowing I’ll be in NC by nightfall with my wife and within a day’s ride to home. I chuckled often to myself because I really had no concept of how far 150 miles was. When I saw while mapping out my route for the final day that Asheville was only 120 miles from Davidson I realized I had been putting some good distance down each day. Asheville, once a faraway distant and unreachable place by bicycle a few months earlier was now considered a short day for me. That’s a different perspective.
I stopped to take a picture of the TVA area and a motorist stopped to talk about my miles and to express his own desire to go cross country but unfortunately couldn’t afford the time. Life will get away from you if you let it.
I thought it had been a while since I took a headshot so I did my worst while pedaling up one of the mountains. My hair is getting wily. The Appalachians are quite beautiful and left me thinking why I hadn’t spent more time riding through the area. I plan to fix the problem soon. The roads through the mountains (US-25/US-70) are gorgeous and the weather was perfect, I slowed my pace a bit to enjoy the afternoon. The road into Asheville however was treacherous, jarring, and becoming an interstate. I’m not real sure why rumble strips are required to run all the down exit ramps but it wasn’t fun to negotiate the strips while dodging traffic on broken up shoulders. I made it in one piece though with the help of some drivers who allowed me to cross lanes in order to get into Asheville. I believe Merrimon Ave should be used coming from the north.
I arrived in Asheville around 6 and was more than excited to have dinner with Stephanie at the Laughing Seed. Unfortunately it is closed on Tuesdays. We did the next best thing and had dinner at the brewery below. We enjoyed the corn chowder especially. We’ll have to make a return visit for the Laughing Seed soon. We stayed at the Renaissance which was quite different from the one in Charlotte in terms of fancy. I probably stunk up the place being on the road for so long. I still have a hard time believing Asheville is only around 120 miles to Davidson.

Day 22 Clarksville TN, to Harriman, TN 191.2 miles

Wow, what a day. Knowing I had a long day ahead of me, I made sure I wore my haulin’ ass socks to keep me going. This day is the kind of day cyclists dream of and hope every day will be. What makes this day even far more exceptional is I had 13 hours of the best ride. After 5 weeks of riding I finally felt like there was no hill big enough to tire my legs, I felt like I was in shape at last. Every cyclist knows the feeling, sometime in the middle of the summer each year the legs become strong and impenetrable. These Rockies seasoned legs finally got the feeling. There were a couple climbs today, one 5 mile climb had a local ask me if I’d like a ride to the top. He was surprised to hear I came from Seattle. Each of the climbs were flattened by my gears, I cruised up and down the hills with ease.
I made it to Crossville and caught a flat from a heavy staple. Fortunately I was forced to stop in front of the fire chief Mike Turner’s house where his daughter called him and he was there in 30 seconds to help. A fellow cyclist, we shared stories of adventures and he also told me about how he was riding along on the same road and some kids had shot him in the back with a pellet gun. I am glad I still don’t have any stories like that to share. Big thanks to Mike and his daughter for their help with the flat.
Also along the way I saw the typical bicycle route sign but this one had another sign below it indicating a campground 3 miles ahead. I think this is a perfect way to give cyclists a heads up on what’s ahead by posting signs with the bike route sign. The advertising funding similar to what we see near interstate exits could help pay for the proper signage for cyclists finding their way around the state.
I had high hopes I would make it to Knoxville or Maryville by the end of the day but Harriman was the furthest the light would take me. I decided I wouldn’t do anymore night riding in the interest of preserving my life for natural causes of death. I’m sure the life insurance company also appreciated my consideration too.
I went to a Mexican restaurant this evening, they brought out three plates of food which I didn’t intend to eat so much but I did anyways. The expediter was a little confused who he should deliver 3 plates of food since it was just me and one other person in the restaurant. I had 3 tamales, a plate of rice and beans, a burrito, a basket of chips, and 32 oz of beer for around $15. Not bad at all. Other calories included a bowl of cheerios, 2 muffins, a banana, 1.75 gallons of Gatorade, and 1 M&M pack.
Tomorrow I will meet my wife in Asheville 155 miles away over the Appalachians. I expect it to be a tough day since it should be all uphill. My wife and I love the restaurant Laughing Seed so we’re looking forward to a good dinner tomorrow!

Day 21 Cape Girardeau, MO to Clarksville, TN 164.7 miles

Hampton Inn had a great breakfast, I had 2 danishes, a bowl of cheerios, a giant blueberry muffin, a yogurt, and washed it down with a couple glasses of orange juice. I had the spread out before me at the table and felt like eyes were on me judging how much I was consuming. I was in the 24 Hours of Booty kit so I was a sight regardless.
I was on the road by 7:30 confident I would make some good miles since a cold front had pushed through overnight and the high today would be 90. The winds are picking up in my favor according to the weather channel, but we’ll see if they’re right.
As the trees became a part of the landscape I was more aware of being in the south. There were no more casinos and gambling halls. Churches replaced liquor stores on the street corners. Kudzu was rampant. In Missouri there were oak trees everywhere, I began to recognize the foliage. Aspen trees, to me, are exotic. I entered Illinois with much internal fanfare after crossing the Mississippi. I was officially in the east and the wind started to pick up in my favor as predicted. Illinois had beautiful roads and good asphalt. There wasn’t a lot of people around as I thought there would be, the land was kind of swampy from the river. I rode into Cairo to a shocking scene. It was as though the town stopped its clock in 1950. There were blocks and blocks of buildings with “Speakeasy” signs and other notes of an earlier time. There were no gas stations, no chain restaurants, only rundown buildings, homes, and broken windows. The city’s residents were destroying their own town. I later looked up the town on Wikipedia and it confirmed my thoughts, it was a town built for 20,000 but only had 3,000 people living in it. The remaining residents looked like zombies milling around town, it was a sad sight to see. If Hollywood wanted to do a post apocalyptic movie this town would fit the bill. I did not take any pictures, no one frame would do the town any justice. Apparently there are many towns along the Mississippi where dependency on the river trade made them obsolete after the 40s and 50s. There is a lot of heritage in the towns and I think I would like to tour the old river road someday in the future before it is gone. I left Cairo over the Ohio River and into Kentucky with some trepidation as I hear the locals are less than friendly with cyclists as well as their dogs.
I had nothing to fear in Kentucky, it was a nice leisurely ride in the 80s with the wind at my back. The motorists gave me plenty of room on my way through Mayfield and Murray. An odd feature of Kentucky roads was the rumble strips which seemed to be an afterthought of state legislation to mandate rumble strips on all state roads. The rumble strips looked like they were formed by a tractor rolling a tank tread over the outer edge of the road where most of the strip was about 3 to 6 inches wide. I’d be in the ditch before I would wake up from those road strips. These road features just meant I had to ride to the left of the white line which I wasn’t excited about. KY-121 was a great road though with good asphalt, I entered Tennessee welcomed by a confederate flag at the border, I consider it the unofficial entrance to the south.
I was happy to be in Tennessee, it was adjacent to North Carolina and would be a reasonable drive for my wife should she have to come pick me up for some reason. I was in Clarksville by 7:30 but I thought it was 8:30 because of eastern time. I was wrong though, and I would never find out where the change in time was. I stayed at a sad Quality Inn that was a former Holiday Inn setup with the indoor pool and gaming area surrounded by the guest rooms. It was a large compound for so few guests. I think 4 rooms were occupied that evening. The pushboard letter sign noted Quality Inn but the years of dust still hinted the welcome to Holiday Inn. It appeared the enclosed bar overlooking the pool was now a storage area. Everything looked tired like me. My dinner options were Hooters or Shoney’s. I walked over to Shoney’s to friendly service, lasagna, a nacho appetizer mess, sweet tea, and a sundae. All for $15. Nicely done. I normally don’t drink caffeinated drinks at night but going to sleep was easy these days and the novelty of ordering “tea” without attaching “sweet” in front of it to get sweet tea attracted me to order it. That’s the 2nd sign you’re in the south, no tea comes without a pound of sugar in it.
The weather channel indicated westerly winds at 10-20mph for the day tomorrow so I have high hopes of doing another 200 mile day like the one out of Colorado. I was planning a rest day in Nashville because I am extremely tired after the past week but I can’t pass up good tailwinds and a mid 80s day. It’s a gift I won’t turn away. We’ll see what happens.
Calories were the Hampton breakfast, Shoney’s dinner, 2 gallons of Gatorade, 1 M&M pack, and it was nice to ride a dry bike with dry handlebars without all the heat.

Day 20 Saint James, MO to Cape Girardeau, MO 152.6 miles

I was on the road by 6am to escape the crazy motel room with the living TV. After that experience I used my USACycling license benefits to get 10% off a hotel reservation at the Hampton Inn in Cape Girardeau. I was committed to getting there by then end of the day.
My bike did not dry off from the prior day, it was extremely humid. I greeted a beautiful morning and rode for hours through the calm country. I would occasionally get a jolt of reality when a dog would chase me. I learned shepherds were the fastest dogs and I would have to get over 25 mph to outrun them. Pitbulls, while particularly aggressive looking, would receive my taunting because they could barely run 15 mph. I had at first lodged my bike pump through the front of my bibs in case I was caught on a hill but later found I could just put the pump under the bungee cords for a quick samurai slap across the ridge of the dog’s nose. I would prefer to outrun the dog though since I would likely have to outrun an angry dog owner in a truck if they saw a man in tights knock his dog out with a stick. My approach to dogs is to make sure I don’t allow them to flank my front wheel so even if I end up turning in the other direction the dog won’t get across my front wheel.
There hasn’t been any wind in the past couple days, and it would be the same today. Temperatures would be just as extreme as the other days… I would be dependent on my own devices without the help of a tailwind and I would have to fight the heat yet again, hopefully there would be no mechanical failures today.
The trip proved to be a fast one, US-67 had a wide open shoulder on great asphalt and MO-72 is getting a facelift with fresh asphalt. While extremely hot, my overall average today was 16.5 mph. MO-72 would have been a treacherous route, the unmaintained pocked bridges between the fresh asphalt hinted at how my ride would have been.
I stopped at a gas station in Farmington where a cub scout group was offering car washes. Some street bikers were surprised to see me there, saying they had passed me back at Park Hills about 10 miles away. I had cruised through at about 23 mph on US-67 so I had made good time to the MO-72 turnoff. A scout had stopped to ask me about my bike and what I was doing. I explained I had nearly 3,000 miles behind me from Seattle and I was headed home to Charlotte. It took a moment to process in the child’s head and he began scratching it to speed up the process. After a bit more time he summarized his confusion to, “Do you have a car?” I said yes, in fact I have two. This perplexed him more, he wanted to discuss the mode of transportation more but his mother called from around the building to attend to his carwashing duties.
I think part of the difficulty of cycling as a sport and transportation in the US is adults see transportation as an evolution. First, you learn to walk, then you learn to ride a bicycle, and then you learn to drive. You don’t go backwards in this evolution. Once you have achieved driving Shangri-La, you must park as close as possible to any door you wish to pass such as the Walmart parking lot. The requirement for close parking proximity means you will have to wait a few minutes for someone to pack their car and leave. Anything to prevent you from additional primitive walking from a further parking space. Some brazen transportationists think fire lanes and handicap parking also help minimize the walking one would have to do. I applaud their ingenuity, may their blood pressure always be the highest in the land.
I skipped lunch today, and I think I will continue to do so since my knees feel better just trudging through the day with minimal breaks. At 40 miles left in the day I felt alive, the Mississippi River was one of the few mental barriers left to cross before I would be home. As I was riding I started to notice the large swaths of trees knocked over, at first I thought it was logging but a lot of the trees were snapped halfway up the trunk. I figured a tornado had carved out some destruction along the road. It went for miles, and I saw some unfortunate birdhouses that were twisted up in the wake of the tornado too.
I was also a couple hours ahead of schedule because of making a good average for the day. I arrived at Cyclewerx at 4:30, and was delighted to see such a good group of people working in a relaxed shop. They trued the wheel and fixed me up with some supplies. I decided to buy a floor pump since I was tired of fighting for 90 psi. I felt the extra weight would be worth getting 110 psi every day. The shop owner went the extra mile and searched in his inventory to try to find a smaller pump. He also offered a smaller portion of chamois butt’r when he didn’t have the singles. He also pulled up a map and suggested I take a different route which would take me on a ferry ride across the Mississippi. Perhaps another time. I talked with one of the employees about the racing scene in Missouri as well as the state tour. There seems to be an active cycling community in the state and I think the community as a whole is very gracious to folks pedaling on the road. They have a good thing going! Thanks to the Cyclewerx shop – visit them if you’re in town.
I was at the hotel by 6 and was reluctant to go to the Outback, it was the only thing nearby. There's nothing wrong with the food, I just don't agree with the concept. Heath at the Hampton was helpful and told me to go to the Drury Inn next door for laundry. I found a sullen female sitting on a luggage cart guarding the laundry door at the Drury. She introduced herself by saying she was handicapped. I offered my help if I could. She said she was fine. I tried to see if the washer was full but couldn’t get around her, she said it was taken. I said I would wait until she was finished with her laundry as I pulled out my laptop and commenced to work on the floor. She said she was going to be a while, I replied all I had was time and didn’t have a lot of choice in the laundry matter. After 10 minutes she mumbled something, stood up, walked into the laundry room and pulled out her clothes in the washer and put them in the dryer. She walked out of the room and as she passed she said the washer was open. I never saw her again. I stepped over the luggage cart and got started on the laundry. I thought it a little strange.
Calories today weren’t much as compared to other days. 2.5 gallons of Gatorade, a clif bar, 2 packs of M&Ms (my rolling lunch it seems), a 9oz tenderloin steak with scallops, crab stuffed shrimp app, stuffed potato, 2 loaves of bread, salad, and key lime pie.
Tomorrow I plan to head deep into Tennessee through Illinois and Kentucky. Not sure which town yet but probably Clarksville at 160 miles.

Day 19 Warsaw, MO to Saint James, MO 136.1 miles

The Ozarks are an amazing feature of Missouri, it feels like I ride along a ridge in the mountains with views over undulating treetops as far as the eye can see. I haven’t seen so many trees in weeks. In prior states like Montana, one could see more than 20 miles away to know when I would arrive at an approaching town. In Missouri, I would have to spot the town water tower, but sometimes it would not appear until the last 3 miles of the ride.
My plan for the day is to get to Meramec Spring Park southeast of Saint James, about 150 miles. It shouldn’t be as hot as in the prior week and I’d like to spend some time out of the hotels.
Highway 7 east of Warsaw is a narrow winding road and I was particularly wary of the traffic but they were very gracious and gave me a wide avenue to ride. I arrived in Osage Beach surprised to see it is such a tourist attraction. I was unaware it was so popular, I should have put the pieces together when I saw most of the vehicles on 7 had more than one passenger. The lake is gorgeous and looks like it has 20 years to grow before getting overcrowded like my native Lake Norman. Old time stores selling crafts and ramshackle bars still adorn the roadsides and RV parks have lakeside access, something our Charlotte area lakes are losing. I stopped at a diner for a burger and shake and the owner and I talked about the area and my route. He was impressed with my daily miles and lamented he wanted to attempt the same feat but life would always get in the way of his desires. I like diners and will choose to stop at a diner over other venues typically because I find they have a unique menu. I unfortunately don’t understand the nostalgia since I am only 28, however I like the concept.
I was wrong about the heat, it was in the upper 90s again by midday, and another 2.5 gallons of Gatorade met its demise this day. I sweat profusely and it soaks my bike, I almost slipped off my bars one time causing the bike to jerk into traffic. Fortunately this time there weren’t any sideview mirrors to catch my error.
About 80 miles into the ride my typical difficulty in changing gears finally came full circle and I could no longer change gears at all. The rear derailleur was also stuck in the hardest gear. I wasn’t upset this time, I was still rolling and it was just another part of the ride. The mole hills in Missouri did become mountains though, and grinding over some of them forced me to the roadside to figure out what was wrong. I couldn’t see anything obvious on the back and decided to screw down the upper limits on the derailleur so I could at least get the gear a little easier to pedal. There was no cell service where I was west of Vienna and I could not find any shade either. I had to get somewhere to call in for remote mechanic service from the Spirited Cyclist! I finally made it to a gas station in Vienna and was grateful for the buy one get one free offer for 32 oz Frost Gatorade. I bought 6 of them.
I called the Spirited Cyclist for help, I was convinced my shifter was dead since it seemed the gearing had walked all the way off of the cassette. They were quick to correct my thinking when they suggested I check the tension on the cable. It was loose and I then checked the cable housing attached to the shifter, it fell off… Well, I was glad to have an extra cable but I felt the immediate need for a 2nd cable in case I screwed up installing the new one. Picture an accountant crowding a little piece of shade on the side of a gas station building, bent over his bike laid on its side baking in the midday sun. The asphalt was becoming wet with sweat dripping from the body, a futile attempt to cool off in the oppressive heat. I had observed Brian back in Denver attempting to adjust my gearing so I tried to mimic the same movements by running the cable through the shifter and down and out the back to the rear derailleur. It did not shift very well based on this approach after trying to adjust the gearing. I had made a stand on the rear pannier and by propping my tent under the front fork to make the adjustments easier. Another call to The Spirited Cyclist made me quickly realize the need to push the shifter on the outermost gear for the cassette. I could have broke my only cable if I had continued my previous path of installation. I had also discovered frayed head of the previous cable was lodged in the shifter and I fished it out with needle nose pliers. I was finally fixed up and ready to go. During this time a couple passersby offered their help. David Anderson was a local and told me about how the RAAM had just recently passed through the same road I was on which prompted him to stop and check on me. He was curious because he thought RAAM participants were supported (they are) and wondered why I was carrying so much gear. We shared a laugh about it and I told him about another motorist who profusely congratulating me for my “coast to coast” tour and how he heard about it on the radio. I guess some of the locals around here thought I was just another loser days behind on the RAAM course.
I had to make a decision between changing course to get to Rolla or continue to Saint James. Rolla had a bike shop but was further west than I wanted to go. I had no additional shifter cables and I was still a little concerned about getting my rear wheel trued. I decided to make for the Cape Girardeau shop at the Illinois border via Saint James.
I had a mental break on US-64 north of Vichy when I saw a rather long climb in front of me. I screamed and yelled at the pavement, there should be no climbs in Missouri. It was 3 miles of uphill with a scenic view at the top. I cursed the scenery and wanted to be home…
I made it to Saint James as the sun was starting to go down, I would not be able to camp this evening because I lost an hour due to the broken shift cable. I crossed I-44 and stopped at Finn’s motel. This motel would be the last time I would stay at a mom and pop place. I think the south has a different style as opposed to the places I have stayed in the West and Midwest. I had to argue with the lady to get a nonsmoking ground floor room, I think innkeepers don’t want to get double rooms to a single person. She pretended not to understand my English and was insistent I could just leave my bike outside next to the office while I stayed in a room upstairs. I told her I would stay elsewhere and suddenly my lucid language cleared the musty office air. My room was nothing special as expected, however I had to unplug the TV because it turned itself on, the toilet ran which I was able to fix, the toilet seat was broken, the lampshades had a peculiar bleached design splashed over the top of the shade, and all the appliances were run off a single extension cord. My neighbor was toothless and also had an RV she lived in parked in the lot. I could not understand her English and it seemed she talked in my general direction but it could have been for own amusement to have a conversation with herself.
I decided Pizza Hut would be dinner for the evening, a place where I have not been for more than 20 years and I did not know what to expect. When I was in elementary school in Lexington NC they ran a promotion if you read 100 books you would get a free personal pizza. I remember getting a few of those pizzas. Tonight would be a medium supreme pizza with root beer. Nice folks in Saint James, a host town for the Tour of Missouri which would start on Labor Day.
I noticed an additional tan line this evening, I was getting a tan through my jersey which stopped at the ridges of the bibs so it looks like I have a white Y down my back.
Tomorrow is 160 miles to the Illinois border where I’ll stop at Cyclewerx in Cape Girardeau for repairs. I have to get there before the 6pm close so I have to leave early.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home safe

Hey folks - wanted to let you know I arrived home yesterday safe and sound, Highway 73 is not the best road to ride during rush hour though! It usually takes me a couple hours to create and edit a post so I could not update as quickly as I would have liked these few days. The 100+ degree heat consumed my energy and there were a couple nights I would lay on the bed to stretch and go right to sleep. I will post the remaining days over the weekend.
Wishing everyone a happy and safe 4th with family and friends. If you're in the area, stop by the house, we'll pick you up dockside.
Just as a reminder, I created these posts as a reference for folks who are considering touring and wonder what it would take to complete their own journey. I used other blogs and journals as my own reference and I am now returning the favor. I encourage you to do the same and would like to hear about your adventures too.