Finally Finished Four Hundred – Bass Lake QUAD

| October 24, 2010 12:11 pm

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!

2010 Events

  • 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

Santa Cruz to Monterey

| October 5, 2010 8:20 pm

by Franz Kelsch, photos by Lane Parker

For the third time this year we joined a club ride, led by Lane Parker, that started in Santa Cruz and headed down to Monterey. Our last adventure was in July when we had a tire on our tandem fail. Unlike the prior two times we did this route, Anne wanted to ride her single bike. Since we bought her a new bike in February, we have not been using the tandem nearly as much. While we were in Utah, we didn’t even bring the tandem along. After returning to California, we did take the tandem out for one ride, but it seemed heavy and we were not use to the saddles. So we decided it would be best to ride what we are use to. This would therefore be Anne’s longest ride on a single bike.

Although it was now October, the weather was just as warm as in July. There was a large turnout, as in the prior two times, maybe about 20 riders.

The route started out along Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, right next to the ocean.

There were a few modifications to the route but it basically was the same. We took the roads that kept us close to the ocean where we had a great view.

After leaving Santa Cruz and making our way through Capitola, we started to head a bit inland, taking us through farm land near Salinas. This is our least favorite part of the ride because of the winds and all the farm vehicles on the road which is a bit covered with smashed down blobs of dirt.

From there we went through the Elkhorn Slough Preserve. At Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital”, we had a brief ride on the freeway until we were able to get on a bike trail. From there it was mostly on bike trails for the remaining 15 miles to Monterey. Most of the bike trail was right along the ocean.

As we were riding along the bike trail it was still overcast and you could even see the fog rolling along. We had a headwind and that section seemed to go on forever. We had removed our arm warmers early in the ride but the temperature was now cool, but we decided to keep riding and not bother to stop to add more clothes. Just before we reached Fisherman’s Wharf the sky was clearing and it was now sunny. At Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, we both enjoyed clam chowder in a bread bowl.

The route back was the same as we had just taken, until we got near Capitola, where we headed a bit more inland. In Santa Cruz we were suppose to take some bike trail, but we could not find it so we made our way back to Cliff Drive and then back to the car. We ended up with 108 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing.

Southern Utah Tour

| 7:57 pm

by Byan Shaner

As I lay there on the gravel, the last few minutes gradually came back to me. I had turned my bike into a parking area to take a picture of this beautiful mountain at Capitol Reef. The gravel was much deeper than I had expected. Rather than just stopping, I had tried to turn around and had hit my head pretty hard when I went down; and that mountain wasn’t quite as beautiful when viewed from this strange angle.  Then I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get up and do an inventory of the damage. I knew my head hurt on the left side where my helmet hit the ground; also my left hip was complaining a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any blood. My arm seemed OK, so I guess my head and my hip took most of the force.  And most importantly, the bike was fine. I had just started the bonus ride by myself down into Capitol Reef and really wanted to see the rest.  How bad was my head?  I suppose there could be some internal damage, but there was not a soul in sight and it was several miles uphill back to the motel.  So I decided to continue on and see how I felt.  After a few miles, my headache was practically forgotten as more and more beautiful vistas opened up.  Two years of cycling without a fall and now I’d met the pavement twice in the last two weeks.  Let’s hope these things don’t come in threes.

The good news is that this fairly minor fall was the only one any of the eight of us had on Planet Ultra’s Southern Utah Tour.  In fact our group only had one flat tire the entire 500+ miles, and that was during the last twenty miles of the last day, and it happened to our co-leader Brian.

Sunset at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef was absolutely spectacular but only the last 38 miles of an entire 99 mile 8000+’ day of beautiful sights.  This was the fourth day of our tour, and we had started in Escalante after recovering from a cold descent through the rain the previous day.  Some of us stopped at the Kiva Kafe for breakfast.  Besides great views, the Kiva Kafe has a small house on the edge of the canyon that you can rent:  worth looking into.  After breakfast we climbed up to the hogs back where you have great views in all directions.  Our other co-leader, Deb mentioned that this place can be a bit scary for the HooDoo 500 riders.  They get here in the dark and both sides of the road seem to fall away into nothingness (which they sort of do).  But for me, despite my carelessness at Capitol Reef, this fourth day was the peek experience of an entire week of beauty.

Lunch Stop on the way to Bryce

My first day from St. George to Carmel Junction could have been better.  I wasn’t paying attention to the verbal instructions about our lunch stop and went roaring by it by three miles.  I was a bit perturbed because the route sheet seemed to have the mileage wrong, but when I finally found the lunch stop, my roommate, John said “Don’t complain to Deb or she’ll charge you extra for your bonus miles”.  Although probably meant as a joke, that was great advice, and I didn’t complain.

I had visited Zion with my wife, Ellen, three years ago on a car trip, but seeing it again from a bike was great.  After Zion we met for smoothies (an experience to be repeated many times during the week) and loaded the van with bikes and riders so that we could continue our ride on the other side of the non bikable tunnel.  My garmin (which I left on the bike) kept careful track of our 19 miles in the van, and with all the traffic, our average speed stayed about the same as it had been up to Zion.  Once we found a safe place on the other side of the tunnel, Carmel Junction was only 20 more miles.  There was very little enthusiasm for getting back on our bikes, but I was feeling pretty good and wanted the full experience, so I said I’d ride the last part if anyone else wanted to.  And gradually, just about everyone got back on their bikes.  All was going well until we got about five miles from our destination, and all of a sudden I started to feel weak and incredibly hungry.  I stopped and ate the two bars I still had with me and downed some Endurolyte capsules, and after a few minutes I started to feel better.  My roomie, John, after hearing my story, said that I had “bonked”.  I’m just glad I still had food with me.  So the end of the first day showed 87 miles although 19 of those my bike was without benefit of a rider.  So the first day totals were 68 miles with 3768’ of climbing.

Day two (60 miles, 3700’) was designed to give us time in the afternoon to go hiking in Bryce.  The first 24 miles were uphill with a headwind, but the grade was not bad and I drafted behind Deb most of the way.  I offered to pull, but she didn’t want me to get worn out with five more days of riding ahead of us.  So I arrived at our lunch stop (see picture above) in good shape.  After lunch we hopped on a spectacular bike trail that took us within a few miles of Bryce.

On the way, I saw the place Ellen and I had stayed two years before, and feeling nostalgic I stopped to take a picture.  I remembered that the place had an excellent restaurant, and that’s where our group ended up eating that night.  I absolutely stuffed myself and enjoyed every bite; especially the homemade pie.  (Riding is all about the food, right?)

Bryce Canyon Pines Motel and Restaurant

But before dinner, I had time to take the shuttle to Sunset Point at Bryce and hike the Navajo Loop trail.  I got some great shots and felt very high which could have been due to endorphins or the fact that we were above 8000’ or both.

Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon

Day three started out with a bike tour of Bryce.  I went to every view point and took tons of pictures:  so many that I didn’t have time to make it all the way to the end of the road at Rainbow Point.

My old reliable Sequoia at Bryce Canyon

We were scheduled to head towards Escalante at noon, and by then clouds were gathering.  I had heard a lot about the wonderful 20 mile descent down into Escalante, but it was raining pretty hard by the time I got to that point, so my experience fell a bit short of wonderful.  In fact, it took half an hour in a hot shower to get some feeling back into my fingers and toes once we arrived.

The only thing I didn’t mention about day four from Escalante to Capitol Reef, was the rain that caught our faster riders (Brian, Deb and Brook) just after lunch, but was already past by the time the rest of us slowpokes showed up. Maybe there is a cycling godJ.

Day five to Panguitch was supposed to be 106 miles with only 3400’ of climbing.  But none of us made it that far.  The more experienced riders knew better, and the rest of us found out what it was like to fight the almost constant 30-40 mph headwind.  Only two of us were still riding after 25 miles, and I decided that I was going to quit when I got to mile 65 where the van was supposed to be.  I was just worn out and wanted to save something for Cedar Breaks the next day.  My rommie, John was driving the van and must have known what I was going through, because he stopped at mile 60 rather than 65.  It was like getting a wonderful Christmas present not having to ride that extra five windblown miles.  It was that bad.  However, Christine Nguyen, with whom I’d driven with to the tour, had only completed two centuries in her cycling career and wanted to do her third that day, and she fought the wind all the way to mile 98 (close enough).  We were all very impressed.

Day six to Cedar City started at 9:30am after a leisurely breakfast.  I was riding with Julie having a good talk when I finally realized at mile 20 that I wasn’t feeling very good.  I slowed down and took some Endurolytes.  Soon I felt better but the elevation was a challenge.  The total mileage was 57 with 5300’ elevation gain.  But it was the 10,500’ altitude at Cedar Breaks that was the issue, plus it was cold up there.  I used the hand dryer in the restroom (I had to press the button eight times) to get some feeling back in my fingers.  The descent down into Cedar City was just plain fun.  There wasn’t much traffic and the 5-6% grade was perfect.

Lynn, John, Julie and Christine at 10,500’

Cedar Breaks

The last day back to St. George was fast.  I felt great and there was only 2500’ of climbing over 85 miles.  We took our time going through Snow Canyon (where Brian had our only collective flat tire), and we found our way back to our starting point.  I’d completed just over 500 miles with 30,000 of climbing.  It’s true that Russ Stevens did virtually the same route when he completed the HooDoo 500 a week earlier in less than two days, but I got way more pictures 🙂 .

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 – Team Turbo Dog (2 person mixed 50+)

| September 6, 2010 12:46 pm

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.

Hoodoo 500 – Russ Stevens

| 12:14 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!

Tierra Bella Workers Ride, Saturday, Sept 4th

| August 31, 2010 8:25 am

Rained out in April, the TB Workers Ride will now take place on Saturday, September 4, with a different start location. We will be riding out of Watsonville from Pajaro Valley High School. Lunch will be at Gizdich Ranch (famous for their fresh berry pies that are HUGE and delicious!).

Directions: Take Highway 1 South towards Watsonville/Monterey. Exit onto CA-152 E/Main St toward Watsonville/Gilroy, turn right at S. Green Valley Road, continue onto Harkins Slough Road to the high school at 500 Harkins Slough Road.

There are seven routes to choose from:

Route 1 – 113 miles with Billy Goats:  Aptos to Corralitos, Eureka Canyon, Hazel Dell
TB Route1_113m_AptosCorr.EurekaC.HDell

Route 2 – 102 miles with Billy Goats:  Aptos to Corralitos, Eureka Canyon
TB Route2_102m_AptosCorr.HDell

Route 3 – 66 miles with Billy Goats:  Hazel Dell
TB Route3_66m_HDell

Route 4 – 55 miles with No Billy Goats/Grizzly Bear Credit for TB Worker’s Ride
TB Route4_55m_nogoat

Route 5 – 37 miles with Billy Goats:  Aptos to Corralitos, Hazel Dell
TB Route5_37m_AptosCorr.HDell

Route 6 – 25 miles with Billy Goats:  Hazel Dell
TB Route6_25m_HDell

Route 7 – 19 miles with No Billy Goats/Grizzly Bear Credit for TB Worker’s Ride
TB Route7_19m_nogoat

For additional information contact Doug Gillison, 378-0224.

Hope to see you out there!

The Road Less Traveled – at least in June

| August 23, 2010 5:22 pm

By: Sheila Stevens

Russ and I did the Mt. Shasta Loop overnighter June 5-6, 2010.  In the end, we perfected our technique of pushing a tandem through snow and were introduced to the best unknown restaurant in Northern California.

The trip is becoming an annual event for the Shasta Wheelmen, led by our friend, John Crowe.  Our group of 5 (smaller than usual) departed the town of Mt. Shasta at 8:30am.  We started on Hwy 89 with a bit of climbing and a gorgeous downhill into McCloud (mile 15).  Volcanos make the absolute best downhills for a tandem.  We had our first and only view of Shasta for Day 1.  We topped off our water as there would be no services for the next 65 miles along the much less travelled and safer, forest service roads.

The next 20 miles were beautiful as we gradually climbed 2000 feet. We saw snow around 5000 feet and John commented that they had never seen snow in the previous four years of leading this trip.  There was talk of refreshing snow cones.

After several miles an oncoming pickup slowed and called out to us.  Russ thought he was telling us to get off the road, but I said, “No, he just said there is still a bunch of snow up there.”

Lesson Learned #1: If someone mentions snow and you are on a bicycle wearing sandals, stop and ask for more specifics.

We continued to climb through national forest.  We started to see more snow, including drifts that covered part of the road, but nothing we couldn’t roll around.  Charlie thought the top of the climb was at ~5200’ so we weren’t too concerned.  The temperature was very comfortable – I was wearing arm warmers, but Russ didn’t even wear socks.

At 5500’ we had to get off the bike. We continued for a couple of miles on and off (mostly off) the bike, certain the top was just ahead.  Russ eventually added socks and plastic bags over his sandals.  I wore my leg warmers over my feet.  Our only alternative would be to backtrack 47 miles to the cars, always an option if the conditions got too bad.

Lesson Learned #2:  If you are going to hike in plastic bags and biking sandals, put the bags between your socks and sandals, not over the top.  You will shred them within about a half a mile.

At 6000’, after 3 miles of doing the “hike a bike” thing, no pavement could be seen.   We were all amazed at how hard it was to push, pull or drag a bike (much less a tandem with panniers) through 6 inches of snow. We started to feel sprinkles.  We reassessed the situation and agreed that the top MUST be close. We had enough food, water, layers and daylight to continue.

Lesson Learned #3:  Always have some sort of knowledge of where the summit is on remote roads. Also, bouncing a bike is a good way to get packed snow out from under the fender, out of the cassette, etc..  Several repetitions may be required.

At 6400’, we were walking on top of 3 feet of snow.  Suddenly, pushing started to get easier and the sun was out.  After 4 miles of up, the road was going down. Then, after two more miles, the road was suddenly clear!  We hopped on the bikes and started rolling again.  After a couple of miles, all snow disappeared and we knew we were in the clear.  We pulled into a rest area/warming hut parking lot that had restrooms to eat and relax a bit.  We lost about 3 hours hiking and still had 40 miles to go, but plenty of daylight remained.

Russ and I naturally pulled way ahead on the downhill. We fought a stiff headwind for the next 20 miles, but considering we were safe with all of our toes, we didn’t mind too much. The last 10 miles flew by as we turned out of the wind with flat road.

Our destination was the HOSPITALity INN; a hospital until the 1950’s converted into a B&B.  Russ and I didn’t mind getting to be first to the shower, with the rest of the group arriving about 40 minutes later.

Lesson Learned #4: Always carry tire boots on remote roads.  John blew three tubes due to a tire defect finally remedied with a boot.

The B&B had a deal where a couple could get a room, dinner and breakfast for $99.  It sounded like a good deal, but after dinner, we realized it was an AMAZING deal.

The meal we had was one of the best ever. You could choose anything off the menu. (If you chose the 28oz steak, they charged an extra $5) Russ had potato crusted salmon and I had the Triple Decker Ribeye, followed by the best key lime pie ever. The flavors and presentation of the meals were spectacular.  How can this type of restaurant survive in little Dorris, CA?

Lesson Learned #5: If you are ever within 50-100 miles of Lassen, Lava Beds, or Crater Lake, YOU MUST EAT HERE!!!!  The main chef is Jeff, a former forestry guy who has always loved to cook.

We were all too tired after dinner to enjoy the garden hot tub and just went to bed. The next morning the restaurant opened early just for us. Breakfast was again anything off the menu; everything was spectacular.

We finally rolled our distended bellies down the road at 9:30am.  There were great views of Mt. Shasta that the overcast skies had obscured the day before. We would be on Hwy 97 for 50 miles.  Everyone seemed to have some sort of ailment related to our previous day’s adventure, mostly dead legs and sore arms.

The first climb (Mt. Hebron) maxed out at ~5200 ft.  Charlie realized this was the source of his prediction for the summit the day before!  We regrouped at the Grass Lake rest area after ~35 miles. It is the site of a former resort and an unfortunate dynamite incident which blew a hole in the bottom of the lake, allowing all the water to drain. The area is now a marsh, or grassy lake.  Next, there was a spectacular vista point of Mt. Shasta, followed by some much appreciated downhill.

The headwind was brutal, but the scenery was magnificent.  We entered the town of Weed, and Russ wondered if you could trust the brownies in a town called Weed. While in the bakery, a patron recognized our Sierra to Sea jerseys as ACTC.  Turns out, he was also a member just passing through the area (by car).

We then linked up to Old Stage Road, which took us back to Mt. Shasta. We rounded the ride out with a stop at the Mexican Restaurant where we parked the cars.

We all agreed we were no worse for wear and ended up with one heck of story for the weekend.

Stage Race on the Tandem

| July 22, 2010 11:41 am

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!!!!

Grand Tour Triple Century June 26, 2010

| June 29, 2010 8:51 pm

by Cristin Sohm (Pinkie)

I didn’t tell anyone about my hopes of completing the Grand Tour Triple Century. No one. It was a very private goal that held incredible meaning for me. Whenever anyone talked about the triple that I did 3 years ago in my first year of cycling, I always said that it was a lifetime ago and it literally was. After my father died from Cancer, it felt like there was a big seam down the middle of my life of “before dad died” and “after dad died”. For me, I knew what it was going to take to change that. At the Grand Tour, riding 300 miles, I could feel that seam fading away. I cried several times on the ride just knowing what this event meant for me.

I chose a few very close family and friends and added them to my text message group. At every rest stop, I texted what mileage I was at and how I was feeling. Everyone replied asking me where I was and what I was doing. I didn’t answer. I just kept those messages going for 23+ hours. It felt amazing. I felt like I was changing something big within me and keeping it very personal. When my closest friends received the text message at the 210-mile rest stop, most realized what I was going for. The messages I received after that were amazingly supportive and fun and made it easy to keep the pedals going around.

Jon Kaplan invited me to join him for the Grand Tour several months ago. I didn’t commit to it then, but I’ve worked really hard in training for the event so that if I participated, I wouldn’t let him down. In 2007 Jon courageously signed up for the Grand Tour Triple and invited a few of us to join him. He encouraged us and made us feel like we could actually pass this huge test of character, strength and endurance. We had an awesome team of 4 that year: Jon Kaplan, Art Cruz, Patty Dougherty and myself. We finished the triple and we felt fantastic. It was an amazing year. Patty & Art went on to do Paris Brest Paris after that. Just 3 months later my dad was diagnosed with Cancer and I took time off from cycling and karate to care for my dad. By the time the Grand Tour rolled around again in 2008, I had just lost my father to Cancer and my world had broken apart. In 2009 Jon went out to do the triple again. Unfortunately I was at home in a bright pink cast after a bad break and hand surgery. Patrice Carney, Art Cruz & Jeff Urnes joined Jon for the adventure last year. It turned out that the wind and weather conditions were not favorable and since they were behind on the timeline, they decided to make it a double century instead of the triple. Along comes 2010 and Jon decides he wants to go for the triple again. He said he wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

I woke up at 2:30am to prepare for the ride after a difficult evening of trying to sleep with nervousness of the adventure ahead. We started the ride at 4:15am. They give you this sticker that you put on your helmet and they scan it and you HAVE to get back before that same time the next day or you DNF (did not finish). So we had 24 hours to complete 300 miles. It doesn’t sound all that bad right? Well then you factor in wind, heat, rest stops, lunch break, potty stops, filling water bottles, mechanical issues, slowing from incredibly sore bum, oh and don’t forget the 12,654 feet of climbing hills. It makes for quite an adventure and strictly watching the timeline.

We secured all our lights, front light, headlight, blinky light in the back of the bike, red blinky on the back of helmet, and every reflective sticker we could find. It’s pretty dark at 4:15 in the morning. We rode out along the coast of Malibu. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the ocean in the dark, but we could hear it and smell it. It was very invigorating. We pulled over at 4:22am for Jon to take his arm warmers off and I decided to take off my vest. I lugged that vest around the rest of the long day, but I was thankful to have it in the evening. At 6:31am we arrived at our 1st checkpoint of the day at mile 34. We had an average speed of 16.7 and it was already humid.

Our first big climb of the day was Potrero at mile 44. There are different route opportunities at the Grand Tour. Some chose the Lowland route which keeps them out of the hills and instead puts them in the urban area with all the traffic lights. We chose the Highland route because it’s much more scenic and we prefer hills rather than dealing with stop lights and car congestion all day. Out of 442 registered participants at the Grand Tour this year, only 17 of us were registered for the Highland Triple. Potrero hill was exactly as they described it. It was incredibly steep and very difficult, but short. I used every gear I had, unlike the big boys using fixed gear bikes that are simply insane. My Garmin said 12-14% grade at the bottom and steadily climbed. It stuck at 17% for most of the last mile. Everyone else said they were registering 19%, but I must have blacked out at that point 😉 Thankfully it was a short climb and knowing that we had already conquered the steepest hill of the day felt really good. We arrived at the 2nd checkpoint at 7:43am with 52 miles and 2 hills done and an average speed of 15.2. Several people took pictures of my pretty pink bike at the rest stop and cheered us on.

We hit a few more hills and came around the side of a mountain into a massive gush of wind that stuck with us for a bit. I couldn’t believe how strong it was. While descending we were only going about 12-16 mph because of that wind pushing us back. Thankfully I got into a little tuck on my aerobars and soon the wind decided to go pick on some other people and thankfully, we still had energy to spare. As Jon and I started another climb, I told him that Mylie Cyrus was singing on my iPod “it’s not about how fast I get there, it’s not about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s The Climb”. It really is all about the adventure right? When we crested the summit of the hill, my iPod starting playing “We Are The Champions”. Perfect timing. I really felt like God was watching over us and answering my prayers for strength. At 10:02am we hit mile 78 at the 3rd checkpoint with an average speed of 15.2. We had finished climbing 6 of the hills and after the wind, I started to be concerned with our timeline to get to the finish without a DNF.

At 11:35am we hit mile 97 and were about to climb our 9th hill of the day on Ojai. It was 8 miles long, but a moderate climb. I really enjoyed this one. I had been doing good with drinking my Sustained Energy bottles (basically protein powder) since my stomach usually gives me trouble eating on long rides. Before the long climb, we stopped at a store so I could refill my water. As I pulled up, a group offered me their water. Jon chatted with a cyclist for a bit and I ate a power bar faster than I’ve ever eaten anything before. I don’t generally like to eat before a climb because then your muscles are working on digestion instead of climbing, but I was really hungry after dealing with the wind. We then started off for the long climb.

I think there was magic in that water they gave me because I felt incredible. I passed every cyclist I came upon and flew up the hill. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. When I got to the top, I stopped for a moment to ask some people at the Summit Restaurant if they knew if this was the top of the climb. They didn’t know, so I continued on. By then many of the guys that I had passed on the climb, had caught up. I was scared of missing a turn and getting lost, so I tried to follow two guys that were far ahead of me. The guys behind me grabbed onto my wheel and I pulled at 23mph trying to catch up to the two guys that seemed to know where they were going. Unfortunately I never did catch up to them and the guys on the back kept dropping off. Two of the guys held on and when I caught them up to their group, they dropped off to be with their group and I continued to try to chase the lead. It was 10 miles at that speed with me trying to keep them in sight to get to the lunch stop. Fear of getting lost is a big one for me, so I gave it everything I had. When I got to the lunch stop around 12:55pm, at mile 115, the two guys out front said something about me flying, but I was on empty at that point. I have hypoglycemia and the 23mph pushing it as hard as I did, left my blood glucose levels far too low. My whole body started shaking. I know the next step is passing out, so I quickly got a 7-up soda and the sugar did the trick. Jon arrived and he ate lunch and chatted with some cyclists. I ate a few bites of cantaloupe, few bites of watermelon, 1 ½ sodas and filled my water bottle with Sustained Energy and used the restroom.

We left the lunch stop around 1:33pm and we finished up the last 2 big hills of the day for a total of 11 with an average speed of 14.9. All that was left would be more mileage, the freeway extra loop and lots of rolling hills in the dark. I felt fantastic, but was starting to panic about the deadline. At 3:10pm, I hit mile 136 at our 5th checkpoint at Rincon. This is where the double and triple cyclists say goodbye. The triples pick up another route sheet and continue on for an extra 100 mile loop. The doubles all start their way back to the finish. Jon came into the checkpoint a short bit later and had a plan ready. He said that if I can pull through the wind, that we could increase our speed and after the extra loop, he would get me to the Pacific Coast Highway and I should take off to meet the deadline. I appreciated that Jon gave me the opportunity to pull him since he had done so much in encouraging me to do this event and was a complete angel in handling all the directions and navigation. I know it had been a frustrating process for him. From the very start of the ride, his bike computer was not showing the mileage to be able to know where to make the next turn. He asked me to tell him about the mileage, but it was very hard for me to hear him with the wind in my ears and the traffic around us, so I felt bad that he had to waste energy re-saying everything constantly.

We started off from Rincon with another guy (wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey) that was going for the triple, but he quickly dropped us. At about mile 149, we got lost and couldn’t figure out what the route sheet was describing. We back-tracked and finally worked it out. At 5:37pm we made it to the 6th checkpoint out in Goleta at mile 164. My blood glucose had dropped again, so I had another soda and tried to tell myself to be better about drinking my Sustained Energy. My bum was horribly sore and I was hating all the stop lights and getting on and off the saddle. I felt ok as long as I stayed where I was, but lifting and sitting back down was really painful. Jon’s cleat had broken so while we were at the rest stop, he had a very nice guy fix his cleat and he had some soup. The text message that I sent at this rest stop said that my bum was on fire, but will be better.

This is where we get onto Hwy 101 for the extra loop. I remembered that I absolutely hated this part 3 years ago as it was very scary. The cars and huge trucks are going by so fast and there are big divets in the road to help keep the drivers awake in case they get off course. This part didn’t bother me this year. I felt very purposeful in pulling Jon to the turn around spot. It was much easier to have one person pulling since there isn’t enough room to pull off in a paceline. The only part that I didn’t like is that it was facing straight into the low setting sun which was directly in my eyes the whole way. My face got burned and my eyes with contacts were drying out quickly and my right contact got cloudy. When I saw the freeway sign that said Gaviota was coming up in 7 miles, I was excited that we were almost there and I pointed out the sign. Jon very calmly replied with “yes”.

We arrived at Gaviota at mile 190 and they took down our names and rider number. They said that I was the first woman to check in for the triple turn-around spot. How exciting is that! They didn’t have any Sustained Energy, so I was very thankful that I had brought a bag of my own from home just in case and had kept it in one of my pockets. I used it to fill up my bottle and we chatted with the volunteers (Steve who was SAG and guided us 3 years ago and I think Sarah?) for a short bit and headed back out for Highway 101 again.

At 8:20pm we were at mile 201. The sun was almost gone. We arrived back at the Goleta checkpoint again at mile 209 and I had a Coke. I was curious how my body would react since I never have caffeine. I went to the porta-potty and it felt like someone poured acid on me. My female parts were raw and bleeding from sitting on the saddle for so long. I couldn’t believe how incredibly painful this very sensitive area was. Wow. I would break my hand any day over feeling that kind of pain. I talked to the volunteer there, Saralie, and she gave me her own supply of Lantiseptic cream that she said will hold me straight to my chamois rather than it moving around. Jon also gave me Cortizone cream. I honestly thought of getting a SAG (support & gear) vehicle and calling it a day. I had plenty of energy to spare still and my legs felt great, but not in my bike shorts. I decided not to go to the restroom anymore the rest of the ride to not feel that acid pain again. Jon had some soup and refilled his Camelbak and we were off again praying that the cream from Angel Saralie would offer some relief.

Jon navigated us through the dark town. At 9:17pm we hit mile 210 with an average speed of 15.2. My mom sent me a text message saying that 210 was a good round number and it was okay to call it a day, plus it’s dark outside. Burcu sent me a message saying not to think about my bum and to just keep pedaling and that she didn’t know the ride was more than 200 miles and she was proud of me. At mile 222 Jon pulled over to ask for directions. He found a driver that provided detailed information on where we were supposed to be going. I sent Jon’s wife a text message saying that he was an angel with directions and holding in strong.

We arrived at the Rincon checkpoint again at 11:21pm with 235 miles completed. It was pitch dark outside, my bum hurt and we still had all the rollers to do. Jon had done a phenomenal job in navigating us back to Rincon in the pitch dark through the many traffic lights. With the timelines we both had created, it definitely seemed to me that we would DNF, not making the time cut-off. My heart sank, but it had been a great day.

At 1:19am we hit the last checkpoint at 260 miles with an average speed of 14.9. I didn’t need to go in, so I waited on the bike and sent my daughter, Mellissa, a text message that said “I want to go home. I hate the dark”.

We had 40 miles to go and still had the rolling hills to go along the Pacific Coast Highway. I remembered them being steep and tiring from 3 years ago and lasting many, many miles. That wasn’t the case at all this year. If you asked me to describe the rollers now, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember them being bad at all. That was a nice surprise. Jon had suggested that I ride the last 40 miles along the PCH at my own pace to try to get to the finish line before our deadline. He was very sweet and said that he knew I could do it and there were no turns to worry about and to just ride. I thanked him and decided to try to get there in time.

I took off and climbed the rollers at a good pace. I came upon two guys on one of the hills and as I passed them, I said hi. One of them caught up to me and I realized it was the guy in the Furnace Creek 508 jersey that had started the extra 300 loop with us and had dropped us. He asked me where Jon was and I told him that Jon suggested that I try to make it before the time cut-off. What happened next was amazing. The two guys that I had just passed on the hill both got directly in front of me and you could right away see their intention. They set out to pull me to the finish line. It was so touching. Unfortunately it only lasted a few minutes as one of the guys seemed to be struggling and they dropped way back and I continued on, but it was so very kind.

For 280 miles I felt strong, capable and no pain except in the shorts area. Unfortunately the last 20 miles the Sustained Energy caught up with me or maybe it was the fear of using the restroom the last 90 miles. In the last 20 miles, I got a gas bubble in my stomach that was really painful with each pedal stroke. So I muddled through the last 20 miles quite slow. In the last 5 miles, I prayed for a hill because my eyes were getting so sleepy and I needed something to wake me up. I finally made my way to what I thought was the finish location. Unfortunately one of the Grand Tour guys was kind enough to email me the route sheet and it turned out that it was from a previous year and the ending location had changed! Ugh. I went to Pepperdine University climbed the little hill to get there and everything was pitch dark. Since Jon had done all the navigating and I have no sense of direction, I was out of my element with trying to find my way, especially at 3:30 in the morning after 290ish miles. I finally headed for the start location and as I was coming back from the opposite way, I saw the two guys that had tried to pull me as they were nearing the finish. I went for it and rushed ahead before they arrived, ran in and got my helmet scanned. When Frank Neal (keeper of the California Triple Crown stats) told me that I had arrived in time (3:55am), I about lost it. It took everything in me to not break down. I was so excited to not have a DNF on my record. The other very cool thing is that Jon arrived just a few minutes later and also successfully completed the triple century within the timeline! I was so excited to see him.

It was an amazing experience. Yes, we rode a whole bunch of miles and that is awesome, but for me, this event was SOOOO much more. The seam of “before dad”/“after dad” is gone. I know he was watching over me and proud. I had INCREDIBLE support to accomplish this goal. I lost 2008 & 2009 to my dad’s death and my hand surgery, but in 3 1/2 years of cyling, I’ve now completed 3 doubles and 2 triples. On a side note, out of 442 registered participants for the Grand Tour, there were only 2 women registered for the Triple Century this year. The other woman had a crash about a week before the event and ended up volunteering instead of riding. She has completed the Furnace Creek 508 and other huge events way over my ability. So I think that means that I may have been the only woman to complete the Triple Century this year! I am so blessed. What an amazing experience. Thank you everyone for your support and prayers!

Miles – 297
Climb – 12,654
Average Speed – 15.0
Max Speed – 43.9
Time in Saddle – 19 hours, 38 minutes
Average Heart Rate – 123
Max Heart Rate – 181
Elapsed Time – 23 hours, 40 min with going to wrong finish location
When you pray for Courage, God gives you an opportunity to become Courageous