Saturday, July 19, 2008

Racing across Oregon!

Racing across Oregon!
(posted from Portland via cell phone)

The saga of one member of the "Old Goats 4 CycleOne" Over 50 Race Across Oregon 4 man relay team.
Well the day began early with a stop by the grocery store to pick up some last minute items. As I packed my supplies I realized that space was going to be at a premium. Two crew members would be at "home" in my pickup for the next 35 or so hours along with tools, 8 spare wheels, a spare bike, 11 gallons of water, 2 extra cans of gas, food, signage, cattle guard cover....the list seemed to go on forever. I had the first leg assignment so was already in my riding clothes. I looked at my bike bag and grabbed my helmet, arm warmers, and gloves then zipped it back up ready to throw in the motorhome.
I dropped the bag off as I went by where the motorhome was staged.....about 30 miles from the start of the race.

The last of the many prerace "issues" appeared when I was preparing to ride and realized I did not have my bike shoes. Since personal support was not allowed until 25 miles into the race the plan was to have the motorhome meet me at the end of leg 1, in Sandy. I made a quick few phone calls to find where my sister was. (the designated motorhome wrangler) She pulled out all stops and figured she could be at our start location by 7AM (instead of Sandy as originally planned) The race started at 7 so this was going to be close. Starting another team member in my place was not an option, the other bikes were already in Sandy. The first 11 miles of the race were billed as a "parade start" with a pace rider leading us out at about 15 mph. I figured I could ride with tennis shoes on my clipless pedals for 11 miles at 15mph. Not fun, but could be done. Fall back plan was to have my bike shoes show up near Troutdale where our "parade" would be ending and the racing begin.

I kept my eyes peeled, but as we took off from the start line I was still in street shoes. As luck would have it, before I could get out of the parking lot here runs my sister with my shoes in her hand! I have come to appreciate my sister more as I get older! I made a quick pit stop and got into bike shoes then pedaled like heck to catch back up with the parade. It was the first of several times our support crew would save our bacon.

One of our riders had developed a race leg schedule based on each individual rider's strengths and weaknesses. I am neither the strongest hill climber nor the fastest sprinter on my team, but I may have the most endurance. I was assigned the first 25 mile leg since the first 11 miles were not terribly fast, just miles. I can do just miles......after miles.....after miles. I did have a short section that would be our steepest ascent, but not a long sustained climb. I chose my higher geared rear wheel setup because it had my bullet proof Continental Gatorskin tires with the slimelite tubes. I didn't want to risk a flat tire with no support car behind me as I was not carrying the added weight of pump, tube, patch kit, and patches. I figured I could just power up the steep hill.

The plan worked well, one other rider had a flat in this section, but I just rolled along. The sky was covered with low overcast at this point.

I kept up pretty well with the adreneline pumped racers. I was in the pack, albiet the last part of the pack until we got divided at traffic controls. Those in the lead got through the intersection, those of us "stragglers" had to wait a bit. All in all, I hung with the fast boys better than expected.

I pulled into our Sandy exchange point not too far out of the main pack.

Leg 1, Holiday Inn to US26/Orient Drive (including 11 miles of "parade"

distance: 25.24 avg: 16 max: 40.6 time: 1:34:00 (predicted 1:35:00)

My next leg was Government Camp to Bennett Pass
The overcast had dropped a very few sprinkles on the motorhome's windshield as we made our way up the west slope of Mt Hood, but as we climbed higher we got out of the clouds and were in blue sky. The sun was shining, spirits were high, I let out a "Baaaaaaaaa" and at the exchange took off in a flash.
Leg 2, Government Camp to Bennett Pass
distance: 14.12 avg: 17.8 max: 42.6 time: 0:48:00 (predicted 0:44:30)

My next leg was on Tygh Ridge Rd.
Spirits still high for all the team, we'd let out a "baaaaaaa" and just pedal!
I rode from where we joined Tygh Ridge Road to the summit of the Tygh Valley climb at Juniper Flat road. I had ridden 3 of our teams 6 legs at this point, but the serious climbs were coming and it was about time for our climbing specialists to go to work. Bakeoven Road, a long tortuous grind awaited next.

Leg 3, Tygh Ridge Rd to Juniper Flat

distance: 13.4 avg: 17.3 max: 46.0 time: 0:46:28 (predicted 0:46:00)

My next leg took me from what we called Pre Antelope Summit to Pre Clarno Summit, race miles 156-166.
A few more miles of climbing slowed my pace but spirits were still very high.
The weather was warming up, I dipped my jersey into a bucket of water before riding to provide cooling. There were some hairpin turns on steep descents in this section. We had scouted this route in May and found a lot of gravel debris on the pavement in the corners, caution was the key here.
Leg 4, Pre Antelope Summit to Pre Clarno Summit
distance 10.08 avg: 13.5 max: 41.0 time: 44:47 (predicted 0:49:00)

This was my last leg before dark, but as I prepared to take my turn I realized that though the sun was still pretty high in the sky, RAO official darkness would begin at 7PM and I would have to have lights. At the last minute I had my crew hand me my little LED front light. I didn't have time to mount it, just held it in my hand. As I rode along I'd switch it back an forth between hands depending on which shifter I was using. I eventually got it attached to my aero bar, not tight, but at least if I had to I could let it go and it would swing around but not hit the ground. least I hoped so!

This leg ran from Spray to Kimberly, about 13 miles.
Our crew lucked out because of our quicker than expected pace and were able to fill gas tanks in Spray (station closed at 6PM) Our motorhome had a very limited range and we had to stay on top of this or we'd be SOL on the side of the road!

Leg 5, Spray to Kimberly

distance 12.85 avg: 19.3 max: 28.6 time: 39.56 (predicted 0:48:30)

We were playing leapfrog with our primary competition, the current course record holders and last year's winning 4 man team, the Master Blasters. One of our riders had made a wrong turn earlier in the day which by the time caught had cost us perhaps 15-20 minutes. The Master Blaster crew had helped set us straight. We were competitors, but a friendly competition. We worked over the next few hours to get back into the thick of competition with them. At the end of my leg in Kimberly we were putting my bike back in the rack as our rider rocketed away when around the corner comes a Master Blaster in full aero attire and tri-spoke wheels just moving like a bat out of ..... well you know! I figured we were in for a duel! Despite when "official dark" is for RAO, it was getting "real" dark or at least dusk at this point. The lights were on and we were ready to ride through the night. Baaaaaaaaaaa!

Leg 6
I began my last leg of "today" at race mile 259.9, from what we called "first summit" to the top of the descent into Long Creek. It was my first leg with the pace pickup providing the light. We had set up the pace rig with an auxiliary driving light that illuminated in a diagonal pattern from the far driver's side and angled across the riders position continuing on off the ride side of the roadway. It worked very well, much better than I anticipated. I had an HID light on my helmet but never turned it on. A combination of stock headlights and our auxiliary driving lights eliminated the shadows and our support drivers did a good job of keeping us in the lights' "sweet spot" even around turns and over hilly sections. A very large full moon rose over the hilltops as I rode this section, and even though it was a race, I did take a glance or two as I ground up the hill to look down into the Monument valley to admire the view.

Day one ended as I rode this leg and day two began. We were bettering our predicted pace and all riders were feeling well. Food and hydration were very easy to maintain because of our time off the bike as a teammate rode. Unlike a ride like STP where it's somewhat of a struggle to eat and drink enough, this was very easy. I'd take a squeeze of Gu from my flask on some of the longer climbs followed by a swig or two of water from the bottle, but other than that didn't drink much while on the bike. I would rehydrate and eat a bit when in the motorhome. Instant breakfast, an oatmeal cookie, and a banana were my standard! All in all, the day had gone well.

Leg 6, mile 259.9 to 267.6, top of Long Creek descent
distance 7.63 avg: 12.6 max: 41.0 time: 36:20 (predicted 0:35:00)

click HERE for day two

...............Road Bike.....LifeCycle.....Total Miles
Jan total.......98.....+........402....=..........500
Feb total.....385.....+.......220....=...........605
Mar total.....659.....+........41.....=...........700
April total...629.....+........57.....=...........676


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