By: Cristin Sohm (Pinkie)
I’ve had a burning desire to do a quadruple century ever since I completed the triple century at the Grand Tour in June. I tried for a quad at Knoxville 2 weeks ago, but it wasn’t my day. With 5 flat tires, temperatures in the triple digits, 21k feet of climbing, and rattle snakes freaking me out in the middle of the night, I abandoned with 300 miles.
So here we are two weeks later and my husband says I can go to one more cycling event. The wheels start turning “What if….”. My daughter, Mellissa, plans the whole thing before I can even say I’m going to Bass Lake. We left about 8am on Friday morning. We arrived in Clovis and had a leisure lunch at Togos, changed into my cycling clothes and headed to the Veterans Hall. After lots of hugs and kisses of support from my daughter, I rolled at noon. Mellissa sometimes drove behind me and sometimes drove ahead to the next turn and waited for me. It was incredible to have her support.
We had made a goal of trying to keep me on the bike as much as humanly possible to save time. We had never tried handing me food or bottles while on the bike and we were excited and nervous to give it a try. At mile 11 I needed a nature break. We were already out in the secluded areas and I didn’t want to waste time. I pulled over on the side of the road and squatted to pee. I’ve never done that before. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and like a pro cyclist 😉
At mile 35, I had an average speed of 18.4 and was feeling great. We had decided to change the course, not taking me up the hills at Powerhouse so that I wouldn’t be descending steep grades in the middle of the night all alone. At mile 52 I was already descending the steep Maxson hill that had 14% grade of climbing. There were tons of tarantulas on the roads. Mellissa even stopped to take some photos of them. For some reason there weren’t nearly as many of them the next day, maybe they enjoyed having one cyclist on the road vs tons of cyclists.
At mile 70 we found more 14% grade climbing at Nicholas hill. I had been doing really well with eating and drinking which can be difficult for me on the long rides. I was not using my Sustained Energy bottles and instead trying to get food in me since the heat wasn’t nearly as bad as Knoxville. Mellissa was in charge of handing me bottles and food while I kept rolling. We actually got really good at it. At one point I told her she didn’t have to smash the bottle into my hand quite as hard and she laughed and said that she just holds the bottle out, but the force of me riding by and grabbing it was smashing it into my hand. Mental note, slow down a bit while grabbing bottles 😉 I kept my bento box empty and the food she gave me I put either in the bento box or into my back pockets on my jersey and ate while I kept riding.
My toes were hurting by this point. I think that was the only part of me that hadn’t fully healed from Knoxville. I’ve never had this happen before, but in Knoxville, all my toes went completely numb and stayed that way for a week after the event. I think it was from all the vibration of the rough roads on the pressure points of the bottom of my feet. At one point while I was riding, I had to unclip my shoe from my pedal and rest my foot on the top tube of my bicycle while pedaling with the other foot just to give my foot a rest from the pedal.
At mile 87 we were out of the hills and on our way back to Clovis to the start. I needed to register/check-in, so we worked that into the route. At mile 93 we were back at the start and I had only been off the bike for a maximum of 2 minutes for a nature break at mile 11. All the rest of time, I had stayed on the bike. I was really proud of that. We decided to stop and register at the Veterans Hall. I walked in and someone said “are you the one they call Pinkie?” and it turned out to be Steve from mutual cycling friends on Facebook and Alfie & Lisa who volunteered at Knoxville. Alfie had remembered that I tried for the quad at Knoxville, so they wished me good luck at trying again.
After registering, Mellissa and I stopped and ate the other half of our sandwich we had earlier from Togos and chatted about the day. We had a very nice break and I read all the text messages that my friends and family had been sending me to support my crazy goal. Burcu sent messages often saying “you will complete the quad this time. I know it” and Cindi wrote “call if you need to, otherwise just ride that pink beast like the wind!” Mom said “please be safe”. Hubby said “good luck” and Nick said “way to go Mom!” Other messages of support from David, Leo, Mike & John too. I knew people were praying for me.
I put on my jacket, knee warmers, arm warmers, and all my lights and I was ready to roll again. At mile 125 I had an average speed of 15.7. I told Mellissa that I was thankful the only wildlife was frogs, crickets, snakes and tarantulas compared to all the critters at Knoxville. Unfortunately I spoke too soon and had a couple of dogs think that I was their dinner as they chased me down the road.
At mile 150 I was tired, sore and getting cranky. I wanted to be done with the night riding. I really have never cared for that part when I’m alone. I don’t seem to mind it quite as much when there are other cyclists on the road, but when their snuggled up in bed and I’m stupid enough to be out on the road, it gets old! I kept plugging along knowing that if I could keep my average speed up, I would likely get a little time for a nap before the official start of the 2nd half.
At mile 170 we finally got to start the 30 mile trek back into the city of Clovis. I was keeping a good pace, hoping for a nap if we could finish before 4am.
At mile 187 Mellissa leaned out the window and said “13 miles left to go, you’re doing great and we’re almost there!!!” I unclipped, pulled my tired leg over the bike and said, “that’s it, I’m done”. Mellissa’s little face looked worried as she said “that was supposed to motivate you” and I said “I really appreciate it, but I know there is no way I can stay awake for another 13 miles”. I was slurring my speech, freezing cold, and couldn’t even stand up without falling over. I was very literally about to fall asleep on my bike and I knew it. Mellissa knew me well enough to know that if I could have stayed awake the last 13 miles, I would have completed it then and there. It just wasn’t going to happen safely. Mellissa loaded up my bike and we started our way back to Clovis. I finished with an average speed of 15.8 and 11 hours 51 minutes moving time and just under 13 hours total time with the sandwich break and registering.
Along the drive, I called my ultra-distance cycling superstar friend, Cindi Staiger. I seemed to need approval for abandoning with only 13 miles left to go. Cindi agreed that it was the safe decision and boosted me up for what I had accomplished. Along the way, we found a stray dog with a collar that was lost. Mellissa being the ultimate animal rescuer that she is, insisted on stopping and coaxing the dog to her. I was beyond tired and not thinking clearly. The dog ended up jumping into the car with me and giving me kisses. Mellissa called the number on the dog’s collar and described to the lady where we were in the middle of the night and then we waited for the lady to come pick up her dog. Unfortunately this was eating away at the very limited amount of sleep time we had left, but it was the right thing to do.
When we got back to town, Mellissa took me somewhere to change my clothes. I can’t for the life of me remember where that was being as tired as I was, but I got out of my sweaty cycling clothes and into pajamas. Mellissa and I curled up in the car at about 1:45am and fell fast asleep.
At 3:30am my alarm went off for more cycling. I think that’s when I felt like the most stupid person in the world. Seriously, how insane in this! I wanted to just drive home and really had no desire to go and do it all again. My legs had tightened up during the 1 hour 45 minute nap and it was cold and dark and I didn’t want to do anymore. I went through the motions of getting ready in hopes that it would get better. Knowing that I would have the opportunity to ride with Patty & Clyde made it more appealing since I enjoy both of them very much and their very even style of cycling. I knew they would get me through it. I was in my pink pajamas camped outside the Veterans Hall. I grabbed my cycling clothes and toothbrush and headed inside the Veterans Hall. Amazingly I saw the same couple of people that I had seen the night before and they asked me how I did during the night. I told them that I only got in 187 miles, not the 200 I was hoping for. They seemed to think I’d be able to pull it off today. Why is it that others always have so much more faith in my ability than I do? I let it pump me up enough to at least get into my cycling clothes.
I was supposed to meet Patty & Clyde at 4:30 at the Veterans Hall, but I guess Clyde had two flat tires the night before and again this morning. Oh boy, that’s not a good sign! I tried to not let it worry me that it was a sign of what was to come. Clyde, Patty and her boyfriend, Richard, showed up just before 5am and checked in. Deborah & David Hoag were there too. I gave out a few tubes since they had so much trouble with flat tires that morning and I had extras in the car. Mellissa went to sleep and then enjoyed the day with her fiancé, Irik Edmonds, in Bass Lake where they will be getting married next summer. I thanked her for all her help the prior night and the group rolled at 5:08am for the 2nd half.
We missed at least one turn in the pitch dark morning. A SAG vehicle came up alongside us and told us we were going the wrong way. Somehow the group heard the SAG and I was up front and missed hearing it and they all turned around and I kept going an extra mile. Too tired to think clearly I guess. Thankfully they all waited for me as I figured out that there weren’t any lights behind me and turned around and prayed that I would find them again. Unfortunately this meant that our mileage was off from the route sheet the rest of the day, but it turned out that EVERYONE had missed turns and unmarked roads and difficulties with the route. While I’m sure it was frustrating for most, for me it just meant less mileage I would have to add on at the end of the ride! J
We were making good time as a group and it was really enjoyable to have extra cyclists out on the dark roads. At mile 70 (260 for me) at 10:12 am we started toward the hills. The beginning of the hills I had remembered from climbing them the night before. It was nice to be able to tell the group to gear down for the upcoming hill that it would hit 11% grade and then jump to 14% grade. At some point I got a bad cramp in my right calf. I ate part of a banana and took some endurolytes and it worked itself out. Patty chatted cheerfully during most of the ride. I was very thankful for her chatting. The night before riding alone felt very lonely. I had been thankful to have Mellissa with me, but having a cyclist next to you chatting makes a big difference.
At 1:33pm we hit the lunch stop at mile 110 (300 for me). I waited for quite a while for Clyde to make sure he didn’t miss the turn, but it turned out that he had gotten a flat. Since I’m usually longer at the stops, I went and ate a sandwich and chatted with other riders. Scott Halverson, the coordinator for the Knoxville ride, was there along with some of the volunteers I had met at Knoxville. Lunch was great. I had a very simple sandwich, but everything tasted delicious. Clyde came in and worked on his bike a bit more and ate lunch. Patty & Richard decided to start up the hills so they could take their time and I did some texting and rested while waiting for Clyde. Cindi sent me a text saying “very proud of you for getting back out there to do the 2nd double today! What great will and determination, and independence” there was more, but it was cut off from the limited text characters. We left the lunch stop about 2:10pm.
The Bass Lake course is back-end loaded which means that the first 70 miles were completely flat, followed by miles 70-160 of LOTS of climbing and then rollers and flat into the finish. When we left the lunch stop there was a long descent and then a whole bunch of climbing. The climb up Powerhouse was especially difficult. The grade was manageable, but it was long and tiring. The temperature hit 91 degrees and I saw several people sag on this climb. When it got really difficult or I was showing signs of frustration, Clyde quoted scripture for me. Inspirational stories from the bible. It was exactly what I needed to get me through. While we were climbing, we saw David Hoag coming the opposite way in a strong descent. He is fast and strong and was on course to finish in probably 12-13 hours total time. Oh and by the way, he was on a fixed gear bike!
Toward the top of the climb, I got stung by a bee inside my jersey. We saw Joan Grant Deitchman coming the opposite way (descending) about that time. She was riding really strong, especially considering she just finished Furnace Creek 508 solo a couple weeks ago!
We hit the 4th rest stop at mile 131 (321 for me) at 4:46pm. We hit the 6th rest stop at mile 185 (375 for me) at 9:14pm. Everything was aching at that point, but it felt really good to be almost done. About this time I started seeing things. My eye contacts were dry and the right one was very cloudy causing starbursts and other weird sights. Several times it looked like the plants and trees on the right hand side of the road were crouching down and then would spring up and start spinning around. I thought maybe I was having hallucinations like Ken Emerson did on the Furnace Creek 508, but I knew it was just that faulty contact… or did I? At one point I was convinced there was a large paper bag on Clyde’s foot. I had to really convince myself that it wasn’t real!
We finished the 2nd half of the ride (203 miles) about 10:15pm with Clyde, Patty, Richard and myself. David Hoag was there too, already out of cycling clothes and looking very fresh. I think he finished about 4 hours earlier! He certainly didn’t look like he had just ridden 200 miles, let alone on a fixed gear bike! I ran into the Veterans Hall to check in really quickly and then I left to go finish up the last 11 miles that I would need to complete the quad. I hoped Clyde & Patty would still be there when I finished. We finished with an average speed of 13.8. Cycling time 14:47, total time 17:12.
I think I cried the entire last 11 miles. I was so excited to know that I was about to conquer my goal! I knew it was a waste of energy to be crying, but I couldn’t help myself. Mellissa was laughing at me in the car. Those last 11 miles went really fast. When I rode back into the Veterans Hall, Patty and Clyde hugged me and a bunch of people asked me if I finished my goal. It was very exciting! We sat together and ate some dinner and chatted about the day and the obstacles of the course.
We left about midnight for the long drive home. Mellissa had slept during the early morning and another nap during the day, but being up all night Friday night wiped her out. She ended up waking me up on the way home to get me to talk to her to keep her awake while driving us home. I don’t remember a single thing we talked about. I’m sure I slurred my way through it. I was so beyond tired. She was such a superstar in coaxing me to try again at Bass Lake. I couldn’t have done it without her.
The pains that I felt the next day after the 401 miles were pretty intense. My quads were extremely tight and sore, even to the touch. My knees ached, my shoulders and neck were on fire from holding my head up for 30 hours on the bike. My toes are completely numb. My quadriceps muscles were so sore that I couldn’t use them to lower my body onto the toilet. I had to hold one hand on the counter and one hand on the bathtub to lower my body onto the toilet. Ouch! Advil was my new best friend. I took a lot of Advil on Sunday and a pretty good amount on Monday. By Tuesday I thought I was completely better and I scrubbed my whole house, vacuumed, cleaned, you name it, it got done. I then went to Yoga & Pilates class and I thought my teacher had a personal vendetta out to torture me. Have you ever tried balancing Yoga poses without any feeling in your toes?! I still had a lot more healing to do!
I’m blessed that I’ve been able to do a lot of different rides in my training. I ride about 3 times a week with the weekday group. They ride about 25-35 miles in the morning and they go out really strong, but then they also enjoy the socialization and the coffee break in between. Then I also ride 1 day on the weekend with the Long Distance Training Ride (LDTR) folks. I call them the Weekend Warriors. They ride hard and fast and are way out of my league. Everyone fends for themselves on those rides and you’re lucky if they stop to eat. I’ve also been blessed to always find someone willing to ride with me on the doubles. These rides are out of my league too, but my one saving grace is that I’m good at saving energy and feeling strong at the end of the long ride. Now I’ve done two rides that I rode alone the night before the event to add mileage in hopes of completing my personal goal. It’s not social like the weekday rides, it’s not a grind yourself into the ground ride like the LDTR’s and it’s not even like the regular double because it’s lonely and scary. I couldn’t have done it without Mellissa, there’s no doubt about that. I’m glad it’s done though and the burning desire for a quad is gone. Goal accomplished and it feels good!
- LiveStrong Challenge – 100 miles, raised $1,346.00 against the battle of Cancer
- Davis Double – 200 miles
- Grand Tour Triple – 300 miles
- Knoxville – 300 miles
- Bass Lake – 400 miles
- California Triple Crown Winner
What an amazing year! Thanks to all my friends and family for your incredible support!!!
Bass Lake Quad
- Miles: 401
- Climb: 16,010 feet
- Total moving time: 26:38
- Total rest stop time: 3:25
- Total sleep time: 1:45
- Average speed 14.8
- Max speed 40.1
- Average heart rate 132
- Max heart rate 164
- Max temperature 91 degrees