Where to begin. In the 15 months since I finished RAAM, a lot has happened, and in a way that likely only other RAAM riders can understand, I’ve struggled with “what’s next”. RAAM was an incredible journey – incredibly difficult, somewhat less “satisfying” than I’d expected in some regards, but so incredibly special and unforgettable in other ways that I hadn’t expected either. I just have to think back to some of the many incredible experiences such as meeting 11 year old Lauryn in Camdenton, Missouri to make me want to leap off my chair and go sign up again. But there are other times that I’m tempted to steer clear of RAAM like it was the plague when I remember the incredible physical pain and suffering that I endured, the nightmarish hell of losing my mental faculties and struggling to stay awake, and the act of slowly being mentally and emotionally torn down, layer by layer, until all that was left was an animal, fighting for survival, lashing out at those around me. I saw parts of myself that frankly scared me. I came face to face with my own weaknesses and inner demons in a way that I’d never experienced before. And therein lies the dilemma – I do feel that I learned so much from RAAM that I should be able to go back and do much better (in fact I feel that I owe it to myself and my crew to do so – to redeem myself), but I also feel that having already finished it once, I may not have that undying motivation to tough it out again – I might succumb to my own weakness, especially now that I’m more familiar with it and have come face to face with it. Also, I tend to have difficultly going back and doing the same events over and over again – for me part of the draw of an event is conquering something new.
Then there’s been the uncertainty about whether physically I could even do it again – I’ve struggled since RAAM to find my endurance again – I think that I crossed that line into overtraining after RAAM, and continued to dig myself into a deeper and deeper hole. I was no longer enjoying riding – I’d go out and almost immediately feel fatigued and weary – I’d lost my spark, my motivation – riding was becoming a chore rather than a passion. I decided to start focusing on some other activities – take a down year from cycling. I started hiking more, and playing volleyball again for the first time in 10 years. Mike and I were planning some big mountaineering trips – Mt Shasta, Mt Whitney, Mont Blanc. Then in February I tore my calf muscle while playing volleyball and all that came to a crashing halt. I was on crutches for a couple weeks, and could barely walk for over a month. The irony in it all was that the one activity that I could do without aggravating the injury too much was cycling… So my year of focusing on stuff other than the bike suddenly changed back to a year of focusing on cycling.
One of my RAAM crew members, Alan, loaned me a book (and a power meter) just before I got injured. The book was “Base Building for Cyclists” by Thomas Chapple. I read it cover to cover while I was laid up unable to walk due to my injury. Then I found out that Thomas was local, and he coached cyclists, and a cycling acquaintance put me in touch with him. He said he was interested in coaching a RAAM athlete, and I got a good sense about his coaching philosophy and strategy from reading his book, so I decided to give it a whirl and see if he could get me back on track and out of the funk that I was in. Looking at the calendar I earmarked Hoodoo 500 in September as a litmus test to evaluate whether I was out of the funk and whether I did in fact want to go back to RAAM.
In the months that followed, I drastically changed the way that I rode. I learned to ride with a power meter and try to ride at a consistent power output rather than varying widely based on terrain. I learned how to hold back on the hills and not overextend myself, and how to push a little harder on the flats and downhills rather than just coast along. I also dramatically changed my pedaling style by increasing my cadence quite significantly, because riding at a higher cadence allows you to generate more power with less force, which is key for endurance events where you want to recruit slow twitch muscles rather than fast twitch muscles (which yes, sounds a bit confusing when you realize that a faster cadence uses more slow twitch muscles and a slower cadence uses more fast twitch muscles if you’re generating the same power). Anyway, I basically started from scratch all over again, easing into the riding again, only doing shorter rides without too much intensity so as to rebuild that base and not plunge myself back into overtraining syndrome.
In February I only rode 174 miles total due to the injury. In March I only rode 247 miles, April we bumped it up to 517 miles, May was up to 709 miles, June was 875 miles – but still my longest ride was only about 80 miles. Knowing that Hoodoo was only 2.5 months out, of course there was a voice in the back of my head wondering if I was going to be ready, but I trusted my coach.
In July Mike and I took a whirlwind trip to the east coast and then to Europe. We did the Newton’s Revenge bike race up Mt Washington in New Hampshire – rated as the most difficult climb by bike in the USA (and it didn’t disappoint – climbing over 4600 feet in a little over 7 miles, with 60mph wind gusts and heavy fog/mist at the top!).
Then we rode in Acadia National Park in Maine, and in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in Canada.
Then it was over the pond to the famous European climbs, where we banged out climbs like the Hautacam and Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees; Mont Ventoux (x2); Alpe d’Huez, Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier in the French Alps; Passo di Stelvio and Passo Gavia in the Italian Alps; and Tre Chime and Passo di Giau in the Dolomites. We were in awe of the beautiful scenery, and thoroughly enjoyed getting away and getting to ride in some new, inspiring places with such a rich and vibrant cycling history.
We even got to pop into Slovenia for a day and ride with Marko Baloh and his wife Irma – Marko is one of the best ultra cyclists in the world, but is also one of the humblest and nicest people that you’ll meet – on or off the bike.
We got back from Europe at the end of July, and the focus for August became ramping up the mileage – and that we did! In the month of August I banged out 1757 miles – my highest volume training month ever outside of doing RAAM itself. My longest weekend was 400 miles – 220 miles on Saturday and 180 miles on Sunday. I once again did battle with my dreaded foe called sleepiness (and had to take a nap outside of Roberts Market in Woodside on one occasion). As I struggled to deal with some cysts I battled another familiar foe called butt pain. I did however get a lift in my motivation when Bicycle Brustop came on board as a sponsor and I got a new bike – a Giant Avail Advanced SL 1 – complete with Di2 electronic shifting (which lead to the name “Wall-E” because the noise that the electronic shifting makes reminded me of a robot).
I immediately noticed a difference in the responsiveness and handling of the bike, as well as the compliance on rougher road surfaces. I was in new bike heaven! As August came to a close we headed to the Eastern Sierras over the Labor Day long weekend so that I could do some riding at altitude. I did climbs up Horseshoe Meadows, Whitney Portal, South Lake, Lake Sabrina, Sherwin Summit, and Dead Man’s Pass. This was 2 weeks before Hoodoo, and I was definitely feeling the fatigue in my legs.
The big question now was whether or not I’d be recovered in time for the race. I knew that we’d gambled a bit in this regard since this was my coach’s first time preparing me for a race like this, and so we didn’t really know for certain how I’d respond. With endurance events it’s a delicate balance of recovering but also not loosing too much fitness in the process. In hind sight, we probably crossed that line slightly too aggressively and perhaps I needed a bit more recovery, but doing so provided some good data to go off of in the future.
The week leading up to the race was not without stress – in fact it had more than its fair share of it, and it was impacting my sleep and I was experiencing headaches, very unusual for me. Suffice it to say that all of this unnecessary stress was not beneficial, but at least I knew that I had a rock star crew ready to help me get through the race! Because I was using Hoodoo as a bit of a litmus test to decide about RAAM 2014, we were trying to use it as an opportunity to work with some potential crew members, as well as train some rookie crew members. So rather than just use 1 vehicle with 3 crew, we were going to use 2 vehicles with 6 crew. Unfortunately one crew member had to pull out at the last minute due to a family emergency, so that put us down to 5 crew, only one of whom was a rookie. Brooke was the rookie, and she was flying in from Richmond, Virginia. She’s a massage therapist, and had heard about RAAM from one of her massage instructors who’s crewed several RAAMs. She was really enthusiastic and excited about trying her hand at crewing, and was a great addition to the crew! I’d never had the luxury of having a massage therapist or PT along on any of my previous races except for RAAM, and there were definitely a couple of times when it was really nice to be able to have Brooke help me out by working on my neck, shoulders, and low back when they were giving me problems. The other 4 crew members were all seasoned veterans – Bill & Kathryn have crewed several RAAMs and countless Furnace Creek 508s, Jackson has crewed 2 RAAMs, and Mike has crewed all but one of my ultra races. With the depth of experience on my crew, I knew that I was in good hands!
Pre-race activities went off fairly smoothly, and before I knew it race morning arrived. The race started with a neutral start where all riders were supposed to stay together. Unfortunately the race starts climbing immediately, and trying to stay with the group as they charged up the hills in St George forced me outside of my game plan in terms of what power I was going to ride at. Only a couple of the riders were capable of sustaining that kind of power for the duration of the race (many riders, especially rookies, tend to make the mistake of going out too hard in ultras), so it was a bit frustrating having to get sucked into riding their pace rather than my own. I was very happy when we got to the end of the neutral start and I was able to let everyone else drop me so that I could settle into my own race. The goal was to keep my power between 100 and 150 watts for the first 8-12 hours. This is the low/mid range of my zone 2 (which is 100-175 watts). Of course this felt pretty easy at the start – especially when climbing since my legs were fresh so it was easy to creep up into upper zone 2 and low zone 3, but I tried to really stick to the game plan.
At about the 19 mile mark of the race I reconnected with my crew (there was no support allowed until this point). I was using a new crew/rider communication system – Cardo BK-1, which is a bluetooth communication and entertainment system for cyclists. The speakers and microphone attach to your helmet and do not go into your ears directly, so it’s much nicer than having something stuck in your ear that obscures other sounds that you should hear for situational awareness. The unit provides intercom communication between units, as well as bluetooth connectivity to mobile phones and music players, so it’s a very versatile system! Given that Hoodoo doesn’t allow for any external PAs or sound amplification, having the Cardo BK-1 units made communicating with my crew much easier. As I came within sight of them, either of us could open a channel and then I could let them know what I needed so that they could get it ready for me, and likewise they could pass information on to me as well.
After the climb out of Hurricane there’s a flatter more rolling section, and I got comfortable in the aerobars and just focused on trying to relax, breathe, and eat/drink. There was a bit of a headwind, but nothing too bad. I didn’t expect to see any other riders for a very long time, but by the time we got to the Arizona border around mile 50 I had riders in my sight. I still just kept to my game plan cruising along at about 130-140 watts. The first rider I caught up to was Karen Dee Williams, one of the 2 other women in the race. She seemed to be just taking it super easy when I passed her and we exchanged encouragement. She looked like a strong rider, so I knew I hadn’t seen the last of her (in fact I was surprised to see her again so early in the race).
A while later I caught up to the other woman in the race – Jessica Walker. I’d noticed right from the start that she was grinding a huge gear at a really low cadence, and was wondering how sustainable that would be. By this point she appeared to be struggling a bit – weaving a bit, head/body bobbing around. Apparently passing her gave her a bit of motivation and shortly after passing her she passed me back. I wasn’t about to get sucked into someone else’s race, and happily dropped back sticking to my game plan, keeping my power output steady. It was a couple more miles before I passed her again on a downhill, and I didn’t see her again after that (unfortunately she DNFd after the 2nd time station, which was a shame, as I was hoping we might have 3 women finishers – as it was, this was the first year that there were 2 women finishers I believe).
A little while later I passed Steve Teal, another solo rider, who was pulled over on the side of the road for something, and a while after that I passed Tom Jones who was also stopped for something. Just before Fredonia there was a traffic light for some construction, and unfortunately I had to wait a few minutes. Then after Fredonia on the way into Kanab there was a flagger stopping traffic due to road construction. I waited several minutes, and then when it was time for the traffic to go, he made me wait until all the other traffic had gone, which was a couple more minutes. This was frustrating since 3 riders caught back up to me while I was stopped waiting (although the final 2 may have had to stop and wait for the next passage – I’m not sure since they were just approaching as I was finally allowed to proceed – Steve and I got through at the same time though). In Kanab I got off the bike for the first time – a quick bathroom break at a gas station, and then I was on the road again. I passed the first time station at 12:38pm, 8min slower than what I did in 2009, but between the little bit of headwind, the 2 delays due to road construction, and the fact that I was purposefully holding back and keeping my power in a certain range, I wasn’t too concerned.
Leaving Kanab you pretty much climb for about 15 miles, with it getting a bit steeper towards the end of the climb. I was starting to feel fatigued near the top of the climb, which was a bit frustrating since I wasn’t even 100 miles into the race yet, and thought I’d been doing a good job of sticking to my game plan (eating, drinking, keeping my power steady).
There’s a quick/fast descent and then another 25 miles or so of climbing. Along this section Karen passed me, as did Tom (Steve passed me earlier on the climb out of Kanab). Along here the weather started turning too, and soon enough we were riding through the rain. The temperature also fell quickly, so eventually I stopped to put my rain jacket on. Finally we finished the climb and then it was a fast gradual downhill towards the turnoff to Red Canyon.
Along here the “BikeVan” passed me, and I felt the spirit of Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell. Lee was a legend in the ultra-cycling community for volunteering to drive SAG at every ride under the sun, and for crewing at pretty much every RAAM, Furnace Creek 508, and other ultra-cycling race out there (he even crewed at the Badwater ultra-marathon running race a few years ago). He was known for his red minivan with license plate “BIKEVAN” blaring rock & roll music from the speakers as he drove SAG. Whenever you heard the BikeVan coming, it would lift your spirits. Lee’s the only person to receive an honorary Furnace Creek 508 totem (Maggot), and is in the RAAM Hall of Fame and California Triple Crown Hall of Fame. I had the honor of having Lee and his BikeVan crew for me at Race Across Oregon in 2010. Lee passed away after a battle with cancer 2 weeks before Hoodoo, which was a huge loss to the ultra-cycling community. He was such a giving and selfless spirit, and he will be deeply missed. Lee was also known for his appearance – he was the Santa Claus of ultra-cycling with his bushy white beard, his red socks, and his red shirt. Our crew wore red socks to the pre-race to honor him. Anyway, his BikeVan was being used as a crew vehicle by 2x team “Sierra Mountain Goats” Jeanine Spence and Steven Decker. I know Jeanine, so it was great to see her out there crushing the course!
On this stretch of road Dave Elsberry also passed me – I’d not realized that we’d passed him earlier when he was stopped on the side of the road. Dave was one of the riders during RAAM which I went back and forth with quite a bit between Wolf Creek Pass and Indiana. Dave rides to raise money for MS.
The rain had stopped on the downhill, so I was hoping that maybe we’d paid our dues, but boy oh boy was I wrong. At mile 145 we turned towards Red Canyon, and shortly thereafter the rain began again. This was also the beginning of another climb of about 5 miles where you climb up to close to 8,000 feet elevation, the highest point thus far in the race. As I entered the bike path at the entrance to Red Canyon (bikes are not allowed on the road and instead have to ride on a bike path that parallels the road), the rain began coming down even heavier. I literally felt like I was riding through sheets of rain and sleet – the drops were bouncing a good half foot or more up into the air off the pavement! Then there was the thunder and lightening – one was a bit too close for comfort – I saw the flash of lightening and a half second later there was a tremendously loud booming clap of thunder that echoed through the canyon!! I was busy wondering if I’d become the first ultra-cyclist struck by lightening, and was wondering if my skinny road bike tires would provide any kind of insulation! Fortunately that was the only close call – the rest of the lightening strikes were followed by thunder 3-9 seconds later. The bad weather though had left the bike path littered with debris – I was able to ride through the first couple of patches, but the sandy/muddy red dirt streaking across the path was becoming less and less navigable, and on one section I almost slid out. This began the “cyclocross” section of the race – there were several sections that I had to get off my bike and walk through. One section of the path literally had a rock/gravel slide across it! So I did my hike-a-bike in the ongoing thunderstorm.
When I reached the Chevron station, time station 2, at mile 156 at 5:50pm (8min faster than in 2009), I debated continuing on without stopping since it was still raining, but I kind of needed to go to the bathroom, and figured maybe it would be good to get into more rain gear at this point while we had some facilities. I was dripping wet like I’d just gotten out of a swimming pool or something. And of course as soon as I stopped riding, I started to get cold. It wasn’t long before I was shivering. I ate some hot lasagna (a backpacker meal), and then began the task of completely changing clothes and trying to get dry clothes on. While I was doing this, the rain got pretty heavy again, so I prepared for the worse and donned my rain pants, rain jacket, helmet cover, shoe covers, long fingered gloves, and headband. This stop was much longer than I’d have liked it to be, but it did recharge me a bit.
Of course Murphy’s Law – by the time I was ready to ride again the rain had stopped…. I felt like the Michelin man with all my layers of rain gear on! It was a quick descent down through Tropic, Cannonville, and Henrieville before another 1800ft climb. In the rain I’d been feeling fatigued and my power seemed to be dropping, so I was mentally struggling with where I was at. Already in my head I was toying with the idea of quitting – not because I didn’t think I could finish, but because I felt like I’d made my decision that I wouldn’t return to RAAM, and thus had got what I came to get, so I was struggling to find any motivation to continue. I’d never faced this kind of motivational struggle so early in a race before. Part of me wanted to DNF so that I wouldn’t forget how I’d felt and what was going through my head – because when you finish a race it’s so easy to forget all the negatives. Anyway, I decided to at least see how I felt, and when I started climbing again out of Henrieville I was pleasantly surprised that I was feeling much better and my power was back into the range that it was supposed to be. I’d stopped to take my rain gear off given that it looked like it was going to stay dry for a while, and at that point I took the opportunity to take a dose of Sprayable Energy – a new product that I’m trying that delivers caffeine by absorption through the skin. This delivery mechanism yields the increased alertness that caffeine is known for, but without the side effects of feeling jittery. I’d used the product a couple of times in training and it showed promise, so I was looking forward to testing it out more at Hoodoo. I felt re-motivated, and continued on as the sun set. The last part of this climb gets pretty steep – some 12% gradient sections, but I felt pretty strong and then began the long descent into Escalante, the next time station at mile 204.
I arrived in Escalante at 9:28pm, 30min slower than in 2009, but given how long we’d stopped at time station 2 (about 35min), I’d likely ridden this section as fast or faster than in 2009. In Escalante the 4 woman team “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” caught up to me. I know most of the women on this team, and they’re great folks, so it was great to see them and hear their encouragement. I was stopped for about 15min here as I finished off my lasagna that I’d started at the previous time station, I got my more powerful MagicShine light mounted, and also got my iPod. I headed out a bit in front of my crew (you’re allowed to do so at Hoodoo at night as long as you have 2 front and 2 rear lights).
There’s a bit of a false flat gradual climb for a while out of Escalante, then a quick descent before you climb the Hogsback – a road that has been rated one of the top 10 most scenic highways in the world. Such a shame that we were there in the dark and didn’t get to see it in all it’s glory – even in the dark though you get a sense from the canyon walls and what not that you’re passing through something that’s pretty amazing! The climb up the Hogsback is deceptive because when you look at it on the map it doesn’t look all that bad, but it’s a series of relentless steep pitches followed by little flat sections or downhills. The steep pitches are routinely 10% gradients or steeper, so being over 200 miles into the race they start to wear on you. Through this section I could see another rider off in the distance not that much farther in front of me – it was one of the voyager racers – they do the race self supported, which I think is insane!! I eventually passed him when he stopped on the side of the road briefly. I think this was Raphael, who would abandon later on Boulder Mountain, and whom our crew gave a ride to Loa.
After the Hogsback you go through Boulder at mile 231, and then it’s about a 12 mile climb up Boulder Mountain which tops out at 9600ft elevation. The temperature was dropping, and I was really struggling to stay awake at this point. I stopped briefly on the outskirts of Boulder to rest my eyes for a couple minutes to see if it would wake me up. I didn’t sleep, but just lay down and closed my eyes for 10min or so. Altogether I was stopped about 15min. At this point I was really struggling with motivation, and was really thinking that I didn’t want to finish. But I knew that I didn’t want to DNF on Boulder Mountain – I wanted to at least get up and over the mountain, down to lower elevation, take a sleep break, and then re-evaluate at that point. So I headed back out onto the road, and began the painfully slow ascent up Boulder Mountain. I was still half asleep, my power was in the toilet, and my speed almost wasn’t even registering on the Garmin I was going so slow, and I was weaving all over the road. I was also starting to feel some nausea – possibly from the altitude. Additionally, the temperature dropped down into the mid 30s according to my Garmin. Near the top, Bill & Kathryn who were in the secondary crew vehicle started entertaining me from the side of the road – at one point Bill donned a pink tutu and was seen clinging to a signpost – perhaps pole dancing? I stopped near the top and downed some hot chocolate and put on more warm clothes in preparation for the descent. On the descent I was still sleepy, but I tried yelling out loud at myself in order to help stay awake. I did pull over at one point though for a couple minutes because I was nodding off.
I pulled into Torrey at about 4:45am where I stopped and took a sleep break. I was so cold that I was shivering uncontrollably, and my teeth were chattering. I remember thinking I’d never fall asleep in this state, and then the next thing I knew Bill was waking me up! I’d slept about 30min, and then I ate some macaroni and cheese and changed into dry clothes. At about 6:30am I finally hit the road again, so I was stopped for 1hr 45min. At this point I was back to being in last place, and my motivation was still pretty low, but I wanted to at least give it a shot and see how I felt. I knew that there was one moderate climb out of Loa, then flats/rollers until Panguitch, and that the climb up Cedar Breaks was the “big climb” remaining, so if I could get up and over Cedar Breaks then it shouldn’t be too difficult to finish. I downed a cup of coffee as well as another dose of Sprayable Energy before hitting the road. As I started up again I felt more awake and better than I had the night before – I was still tired, but my power was back up in the lower end of the range that I was aiming for, so I decided at that point that I was going to give it my best to finish. I got to Loa, the next time station at 7:55am, over 2.5hrs slower than in 2009. It was in Loa that I learned that Janet Christiansen had DNFd – she was racing in the voyager division self supported, and had succumbed to the cold on Boulder Mountain. I was really disappointed to hear that, as I know that Janet is a very strong and experienced rider with multiple RAAM finishes to her credit. It just goes to show how difficult the voyager division is – I can’t imagine riding 518 miles self supported like that! Even with a crew it’s no easy task!
The climb out of Loa was longer than I remembered it being, and it seemed to drag on and on, but finally I reached the summit and got a welcome descent. Just before the summit Mike appeared dressed up as the likeness of Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell, which brought a smile to my face.
There wasn’t as much headwind on the long gradual downhill from Koosharem to the turn onto Highway 89 as there was in 2009, so I made much faster progress along here. At one point I had to stop to go to the bathroom and take some layers off since it was getting quite warm. I’d also started to get a bit sleepy again, so I took another dose of Sprayable Energy along with downing an iced coffee.
After turning onto Highway 89 it was 31 miles to Panguitch on a gradual uphill. Unfortunately the wind began to pick up more, so it slowed my progress and made this section a bit of a slog. I did however catch up to several riders on this stretch – Vito Rubino, Dave Elsberry, and Brian Martin. This was the first I’d seen of Brian since the start of the race where I’d chatted with him during the neutral start. He’d done Race Across Oregon the first year I attempted it (when I DNFd), and he’d unofficially finished that year. When I passed him he was stopped on the side of the road bent over looking like he might have been vomiting – not fun!
I was glad to finally reach Panguitch at 2:23pm, only about 35min slower than in 2009, so I’d made up almost 2hrs since Loa. I took a bit of a break here to recharge before the big climb up Cedar Breaks. I changed shorts and had a bit of massage work done by Brooke before heading out again, so I was stopped for about 25min total. The climb out of Panguitch starts out with a couple of steeper pitches before settling into more rolling terrain for a while. The bottom part went better than I expected, but sure enough the upper part turned into a bit of a struggle – the climb goes up to 10,200ft elevation, and finishes over 400 miles into the race.
Finally I got to the top though, and was rewarded with the screaming fast and fun descent into Cedar City. I hit my max speed on the descent – over 46mph – and even managed to drop my follow vehicle! Towards the bottom in the dusk light I thought the road was perhaps a bit wet, and was covered in a thin film of red silt, so I started holding back a bit on the speed since I was concerned about losing traction and didn’t want to crash at over 40mph!
I got into Cedar City at 8:02pm, 18min faster than in 2009. I stopped for about 20min for one last shorts change and downed a package of backpacking mashed potatoes and an iced coffee, as well as another dose of Sprayable Energy before hitting the road again for the final 80 miles. I was feeling pretty good, and cruised up the climb just outside of Cedar City. After that climb I was treated to some KFC drumsticks – and let me tell you they tasted as good then as they did countless times on RAAM! Things were uneventful until the last 20 miles or so before reaching Snow Canyon – I started to get really sleepy again, and nothing I did seemed to help. I’d passed Vito and Steve near the base of one of the last climbs when they were stopped, but in my sleepy section Vito passed me back when I stopped to put on a vest because I was getting cold. The final few miles before Snow Canyon I caught a glimpse of tail lights in front of me, and that helped to wake me up – there were 2 sets of tail lights, and I didn’t know who the one in the lead was. It turned out it was Jon Shellenbarger who had developed a knee injury and Bill & Kathryn had seen him go through Cedar City before I got there. I worked to bridge the gap up to Vito, knowing full well that he wouldn’t want me to pass him (earlier in the stage I’d passed him when he was going slower and he almost immediately sped up and passed me back). My strategy though was to not stop at the top of Snow Canyon and go right down (this final 14 miles you have to ride alone without your support crew, which means navigating yourself). I’d pre-ridden the final part of the course on Friday, so knew by heart all the turns.
We got to the top of Snow Canyon and I was surprised to see Jon stopped there. He and Vito both stopped, but I proceeded directly down without stopping. After I got down the steeper part of the descent and into the lights of St George I pushed quite hard, constantly looking over my shoulder expecting to see Jon and Vito bearing down on me. It turned out that I needn’t worry as they’d both stopped at the top for several minutes, and didn’t get to the finish until about half an hour after me.
I finally rolled across the finish line at 2:11am in a time of 43 hours, 11 minutes, good enough for 4th overall and 2nd place woman (Karen was the 1st place woman and 3rd overall finishing almost an hour and a half in front of me, most of which she made up after Panguitch since I saw her there when I was there, and she headed out only a few minutes in front of me). Full results can be viewed here. My time though was 1 hr 47min faster than my time in 2009, and was a course record in the Athena division (women over 160lbs). I didn’t meet my goal of finishing in under 40hrs, but given the challenging conditions on day 1, the fatigue I felt early on, all the stress I had going into the race, and my motivational struggles, I’m happy with my performance. No 500 mile race is “easy” or “a given”, so just finishing is always the first goal. Breaking my time from 2009 and setting an Athena course record were icing on the cake. My ride time was 38hrs 47min (moving average speed of 13.4mph compared to overall average speed of 12.0mph), which means my off the bike time was 4hrs 24min – not horrible, but not great either (I’d been hoping to keep off the bike time between 2 and 3 hours).
As for other stats, my average power for the entire duration was 102 watts with 14,906 kJ of work done (I’m not sure what the normalized power was). Weighted average power according to Strava was 118 watts, average heart rate was 126bpm. Minimum temperature was 34deg, maximum temperature was 99deg (although that was recorded when my bike was sitting in the sun in Panguitch while I wasn’t riding it). Much of the course is at altitude, reflected in the fact that the average elevation was 6476ft. The entire race can be viewed on Strava here. I consumed 11,815 calories, so about 273cal/hr. I consumed about 739oz of fluid (about 31 large water bottles total). I consumed over 14,000mg of sodium during the race (or about 333mg/hr). I had 5 ibuprofen during the race – 2 on Boulder Mountain to try and help combat nausea from the altitude, and 3 in Cedar City to help take the edge off a bit of butt pain before the final homestretch of the race.
I can’t thank my crew enough – they were wonderful out there, and worked exceedingly hard to look after me and keep me moving down the road safely. So thank you Bill, Kathryn, Mike, Jackson, and Brooke! Thanks to my coach, Thomas Chapple, for helping to change the way that I ride, and getting me back on track on the bike this year – and for putting up with all my verbose training notes! Thanks to Bicycle Brustop in Novato for their support and for hooking me up with my awesome new bike, Wall-E! If you’re anywhere near Novato, definitely check them out! Thanks to David Ledesma for the continued support – I see David on a regular basis for deep tissue sports massage, and can’t recommend his services enough. Thanks to Revolutions in Fitness for the continued support with regard to bike fitting – such a crucial part of being able to ride long is having a good bike fit. Thanks to Al Painter of Integrate Performance Fitness for teaching me the correct way to do strength training and undo some of the damage that the repetitive stress of cycling puts on my body. Thanks to Cardo Systems for providing me with the BK-1 bluetooth communication and entertainment systems – these systems are a must for ultra-cyclists and are so much better than the walkie talkies I used during RAAM for crew/rider communication. Thanks to Sprayable Energy for providing me with samples of their product in advance of the more general release – this is an innovative product that I think has great potential for ultra-cycling given how easy it is to carry with you when riding. Thanks also to Vanderkitten for supporting and promoting women’s cycling.
So, back to the question I posed early in this story – if Hoodoo was the litmus test for deciding about RAAM, what’s the result? Let’s just say that I’m trying not to make a rash decision either way. Hoodoo was a valuable learning experience in that we got a lot of concrete data out of it. It was also a good gut check to see where I’m at mentally with ultra-cycling right now. Next up I have the Furnace Creek 508 in a couple of weeks where I’ll be racing on a 2 woman team with one of my RAAM crew members, Tracey (our totem is “Pygmy Jerboa”). After that I want to take a few weeks or maybe even a month to “decompress” from everything that’s happened this year, and will then try to make a decision about what’s next. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who supports and encourages me – I truly do appreciate it!