Monday, December 24, 2007

Keith & Alex Kohan Ring of Fire 2007 Report

By Keith Kohan

Edited by Alex Kohan & Mary Ann Baclawski

Note: I started writing these ride reports because I so much enjoyed reading other people’s ride reports on the web. Then I discovered that re-reading my own old ride reports really helped in preparing for a ride and remembering details of good times that I had forgotten. So this ride report is written for two reasons. The first is entertainment for others. But the main reason for me is to create a reference for future use.

I love the sport of Ultra Cycling and, even more, the people who participate in the sport as competitors, organizers, or support crew. If anything in this report is offensive to you, or if anything I’ve written is incorrect or misrepresented please do not hesitate to contact me so I can correct it for my future reference and get the story straight for others. Sometimes I think my body sends more blood to my legs than my brain during these races so it can be hard to remember exactly what happened when and who said what. Any help getting the story straight would be appreciated. Thanks.

George Thomas and Terri Gooch put on two significant Ultra Cycling events in Oregon; the Race Across Oregon and the Ring of Fire 12 & 24 Hour Time Trial. The most notable feature of both of these events for me is the amount of climbing. Terri and George seem to have gone out of their way to accommodate riders who are interested in elevation gain.

The Ring of Fire is actually two races on the same day on pretty much the same course. The 12 hour race first covers a 113 mile “day” loop. From Maupin up to Mt. Hood and back to Maupin through Dufur. Once you’ve done that you ride a 26 mile “night” loop starting and ending at the Imperial Lodge in Maupin. If you still have time to kill within the 12 hours you repeat the night loop over and over again until the 12 hours is up. At that point you note your mile marker on the 26 mile loop as your finish spot.

The 24 hour race adds an out-and-back on the onerous Bake Oven Road climb out of Maupin to the 12 hour day loop making a 158 mile loop. Once the racers have done that they join the 12 hour racers in repeated night loops until the 24 hours is up. It’s not night when the 12 hour racers do the night loops, but they’re called the night loops because the 24 hour riders do them all night long.

I knew there was a lot of climbing on the Ring of Fire route, but I didn’t realize exactly how much it is until after the event. I loaded the route into Delorme Topo 4.0 and placed the information in the table below. I’ve found that Delorme Topo is pretty much the standard tool used by cyclists to determine elevation gain of a route. Its accuracy is also questioned by many of those same users.

I also went out on the web and added information about some other Ultra rides and RAAM qualifiers known for their climbing to the table just to see how they compare. Then I went and tossed in Salem Bicycle Club’s Watermelon Double Century just to see how a long local club ride compares.

Hopefully everybody doing these calculations used Topo. Then, theoretically, any inherent inaccuracies in the program will be in all the reported elevation gains for all the events. If you have better or more accurate measurements I’d love to have them.

Ring of fire 12 hour day loop
113 miles - 12,750' of climbing - 113' climbing/mile

Ring of fire 24 hour day loop
158 miles - 16,420' of climbing - 104' climbing/mile

Ring of fire night loop
26 miles - 2,200' of climbing - 85' climbing/mile

Race Across Oregon
538 miles - 40,000' of climbing - 74' climbing/mile

Furnace Creek 508

508 miles - 35,000' of climbing - 69' climbing/mile

Oregon Ultimate
215 miles - 13,270' of climbing - 62' climbing/mile

Adirondack 540
540 miles - 30,000' of climbing - 56' climbing/mile

Local Club Double Century

197 miles - 4,462' of climbing - 23' climbing/mile

All this climbing also takes the Ring of Fire out of the category that most people refer to as “recumbent friendly”. Way out!

I think my son Alex and I started seriously thinking about riding in the Ring of Fire after we completed the Oregon Ultimate in the beginning of July. That was a very tough ride. We both agreed that it was the toughest ride we’d done so far. Lots of climbing, hot weather, and time cut-offs for support. I think we both felt that if we could do the Oregon Ultimate we could do the Ring of Fire.

Our decision was confirmed when we finished a 600k Brevet in Washington State two weeks before the Ring of Fire. That 600k marked our completion of our Super Randonneur series for 2007. Alex, at 16 years of age, was now the youngest Super Randonneur, perhaps the youngest Super Randonneur ever!, and anxious to move on to another challenge.

I had had a nasty crash about 80 miles into the 600k Brevet. We completed the ride, but extensive road rash, swelling, and a major laceration to my left hand were keeping me awake at night. I really didn’t know if I could go for 24 hours with the injuries and lack of sleep I’d been getting so I decided to sign up for the 12 hour race.

Alex felt he was ready. He also said he really wanted to see what it would be like to ride for 24 hours straight. He told me he planned to do the best he could, it is a race after all, not a brevet.

I was trying to adopt Alex’s mature attitude that I’d do the best I could and be happy with that. On the other hand, most of me was saying “it’s a race, not a ride.”
The Race

On Thursday my wife, Mary Ann, capitulated to our requests to come along and serve as our support crew. So Friday morning we loaded my Calfee Stiletto with lexan fairing and body sock and Alex’s dual 700c Reynolds T-Bone on the trailer and took off for Maupin. We had ample time to drive the course before the 7 PM rider meeting. Driving the course the day before really helped me during the race.

Friday night we stayed at the Imperial Lodge. I had a great nights sleep so come Saturday morning I was ready to go. Being a time trial the riders start at one minute intervals. No drafting, no groups, just individual effort. The first 24 hour rider started at 6:30. Alex was in the middle of the group, starting at 6:38. I had a chance to see him off and time to think about my own start at 7:07. That put me as the sixth out of 9 starters in the 12 hour race.

I should mention here that I just don’t like time trials. My main problem is that it’s really hard to tell your position in the race. Unless you’re the last to start, and I never have been, and you pass everybody, I’ve never done that either, then you can never be quite sure if there isn’t somebody that started 6 minutes behind you who is now 2 minutes behind you. Or if the guy that started 6 minutes in front of you isn’t now 10 minutes in front of you. So you pretty much have to go at the max for the whole race just in case.

The race starts with a good climb through Maupin North on 197. It’s a rather long, about 3.9 miles, but not too steep climb. Certainly enough to warm you up on this 40+ degree morning.

I was quite surprised to pass a number of riders on that first climb. I didn’t think I was working too hard. I was also surprised when Ben Larson shot by me followed soon by Kenneth Philbrick. Ben started 2 minutes behind me and Kenneth started 4 minutes behind me. These guys were passing me and we hadn’t even finished climbing the first hill! Well, I guess I was passing people too, but this is different!

Admittedly, these two were in my mind, and the minds of many others, the favorites in the race along with Chip Keyes who started one minute before me. But if they’re going to pass me on the first hill then it’s going to be a long day.

In the 2006 12 Hour Ring of Fire Kenneth came in second and Chip came in third and Ben didn’t race.

At the crest of the hill out of Maupin Kenneth made a lightning quick stop to change bikes. To be honest, I had never even considered using more than one bike in the race but it makes a whole lot of sense. To maximize speed you need something geared low enough for the climbs, and something geared high enough to be able to pedal on the descents. There really isn’t much flat riding. It’s mostly either up or down.

Like I said, his bike change was quick and I think I remember him and Ben pulling away from me on the moderate down hill section leading up to the big descent into Tygh Valley. I didn’t gain much of anything on Kenneth on at steep and long descent so I guess he had that bike geared really high. I did notice that my fingers were cold.

If my fingers were cold with a fairing and body sock then the other riders are most certainly colder or wearing extra clothes they need to stop or at least slow down and shed somewhere along the way. A small advantage to me, but I’ll gladly take anything I can get. Just for the record, I was wearing bib shorts and a sleeveless jersey throughout the race.

In the rollout through Tygh Valley I very briefly passed Kenneth but he passed me back quickly and rode off with Ben towards the climb out of Tygh Valley.

I rather enjoyed this next climb more than I thought I would when we drove the course. Starting at mile 11 in the race, it’s a long sweeping right turn up the side of a mountain. Or maybe to the top of a plateau. You can see most of the climb ahead and turn around and see most of the climb behind no matter where you are on the climb.

As we started the ascent I was already quite a bit behind Kenneth and Ben and they kept pulling away throughout the climb. About a third of the way up they caught another rider who I later found out was Chip Keyes. The three of them then seemed to accelerate a bit, but I don’t think Chip was able to hang with them to the top.

By the time I got to the top I could see just one rider far ahead. I decided that he would be my rabbit. I’d measure the time between us as we passed landmarks along the road and see if I could close some distance on him.

This worked pretty well. I finally caught up with him around the first cattle guard past the very small town of Wamic. About 19.8 miles into the race. It was Chip Keyes.

This section of the route is primarily uphill, but there are a bunch of small short descents and one very long fast descent mixed in. Chip would be ahead sometimes, and I would be ahead sometimes. It was a classic case of him climbing a little bit faster than me and then the aerodynamic advantages of the recumbent helping me to pass him on the descents. Much of the time I was the rabbit Chip could chase on the climbs.

Things were going rather well other than I figured I was miles behind Ben and Kenneth. I couldn’t seem to shake Chip, and I was concerned that I had no idea where John Schlitter was. He’s the other recumbent rider in the race, and a very fast one at that, but he started 6 minutes behind me and I hadn’t seen him since the start. This year he’d won the two person recumbent team RAAM and the 24 hour North American Time Trial Championship in Saratoga, New York among other race victories! Was he farther behind me or catching up with me? I had no idea. I fully expected to see him pass me at any moment. Did I mention I don’t like time trials?

But like I started to say, things were going well. I had two bottles of SPIZ, a couple of energy bars, and some GU with me at the start. When one bottle of SPIZ was finished I managed to toss it to Mary Ann for a refill. She did a great moving handoff giving me the refilled bottle further up FR48 (Forest Road 48) on an uphill section. Things were working, support was doing a good job, and Mary Ann told me Alex was doing great.

Chip passed me again before we hit SR35 (State Road 35). There was construction on SR35 and a flagger stopped us briefly. This is the first time I put a foot down and stopped since the start of the race. This gave me a chance to catch up with Chip and a 24 hour rider.

The descent on SR35 is abruptly and rather steeply terminated when the course turns right onto FR44 at mile 53.9 in the race. I had figured the climb on FR44 would be the hardest of the day loop. It’s far enough into the ride that fatigue would be a factor. It’s also long and quite steep in spots.

What I hadn’t figured on was the cramps. Actually, I should say CRAMPS! The long high speed descent on SR35 was followed by an immediate climb after a sharp turn onto FR44. As soon as I started pedaling up the hill my left thigh started to cramp. It got extremely painful very quickly and just as quickly spread to my right thigh. I very seriously considered stopping but eased off and rode through it until the cramps were gone.

This was not good. In fact this was awful. I figured the problems were not enough fluids, not enough electrolytes, and not pedaling on the downhill. I had a 54 tooth chainring on the bike, but that’s not enough to pedal with any force at the 48 to 50 mph speeds I was hitting on the big descents like SR35.

So now I was dreading the climbs for the effort and dreading the next descent for the cramps. Sure enough, throughout the rest of the race no matter what I did I got at least some cramping after every long descent. The long descent back in to Tygh Valley, almost every descent on the night loop out of Maupin in to Tygh Valley, and some of the technical descents to Deschutes on the night loop. I tried pedaling on some descents, but that just seemed to cause cramping then and there instead of after the descent. I think I really needed to pedal with some force at some point during the descent to prevent the cramps, but I was going way too fast to do that.

Anyway, back on FR44 I ate a Cliff bar and a shot of GU to try to get the electrolytes up during the climb. In the mean time Chip had caught and passed me. We diced it up some more on the FR44 climb and at one point when I passed him he said “you’re going to be gone on the big downhill coming up and I’ll never see you again”. (or something to that effect). Honestly I wasn’t so sure because we still had a whole lot of climbing to do including that big climb out of Maupin on each of the night loops and I told him so. I made a point of NOT telling him about the cramps. No sense in giving him too much encouragement.

With so much climbing I have to admit I got sort of used to it after a while. Lots of rides I’ve done have one or two really big climbs that you think about during the ride. The Oregon Ultimate was like that. But the Ring of Fire has so much climbing that it simply becomes the norm. It just sort of seemed like I was climbing all the time. The descents were there, and they were fast and great, but they always seemed to be followed immediately by a climb. I was expecting this FR44 climb to be the worst but it just seemed to be another climb, just normal, going up just got to be business as usual.

I was riding with a computer on the bike, but I had it displaying elapsed time rather than distance or average speed. I don’t know why I didn’t look at the other functions, but I didn’t. I just focused on keeping the current speed as high as I could during the climbs and calculating in my mind how much longer I had to ride.

That was an odd thing too. I’ve never done such a long ride that had no set end to it. No fixed destination. You just keep riding as fast as you can until you get to 12 hours, note the spot, and probably pass out. I distinctly recall thinking at one point “I’ve done this for 3 hours, I’m dying, and yet I have to keep it up for another 9 hours. How the hell am I going to do that?”

I recall cresting the summit of FR44 pretty close behind Chip. I passed him pretty quickly on this very long descent to Dufur.

At this point FR44 is being re-paved. Unfortunately they’re doing one side at a time and they’d only paved the up hill lane on the steepest part of this descent. No matter, I wasn’t slowing down for anything. I felt I needed to take as much advantage of this kind of terrain as I could if I wanted to stay ahead of Chip.

The road starts to level off a bit a few miles out of Dufur. Again I had been coasting down much of the hill so again I had some cramping when I started pedaling again. Thankfully not quite as painful this time.

There was a strong headwind on this section so I pedaled hard knowing my aerodynamic advantages would allow me to make up some time here if I pushed it. Pedaling hard also helped get rid of the cramps faster. The winds slowed me to 22 mph at one point during a very small climb just before the turn at Dufur, but I figured that’s probably still faster than the uprights were managing.

Just short of Dufur, 80.2 miles into the race, the route turns right at a yield sign and after a short climb and descent joins 197. 197 brings back some particularly bad memories for me. I rode this section in Race Across Oregon in 2005 and 2006 as part of the RAO Speedwagon 4 person team. There’s a long straight section of 197 that seems like an endless climb. It’s open here with no trees and in both 2005 and 2006 it was very hot as well.

I’ll be forever thankful to Martha Walsh for suggesting this year’s course change, Dufur Gap Road that bypasses that endless straight climb! Elevation gain is about the same, but that endless, hopeless, emotionally draining straight climb to nowhere is gone.

The third SAG stop was set up at the corner of 197 and the start of Dufur Gap Road and that’s where I met Alex. He was stopped there with Mary Ann getting his Gatorade and SPIZ replenished. The stop was at the top of a hill so it was a good place to get a water bottle hand off. But Mary Ann wasn’t quite ready so I stopped for a very few seconds.

Alex took off from the SAG stop soon after I passed and was able to catch me. He looked absolutely remarkably fresh and said he was doing fine. I could only hope I looked as good! I certainly didn’t feel that good.

More or less all of Dufur Gap Road is a climb. No drafting is allowed in a time trial, so once Alex passed me we climbed apart. I overtook him near the top where the course re-joins 197 for the very long descent back to Tygh Valley. This is a very fast section of road. The maximum speed I saw on the course was on this descent. My computer hit 51 and stayed there for a rather long time but it just didn’t seem to want to go any higher. I think I need to go talk to Lonnie Morse and see what he thinks about maximizing the aerodynamics of the fairing and sock because 51 seems rather slow to me for this descent. Scary enough, but still slower than I expected.

At the bottom of the hill the course turns left joining the night loop heading in to Maupin. I seem to recall passing a couple of 24 hour riders. I was rather pleasantly surprised when I came upon and passed Michael Wolfe on his Bacchetta near Maupin. He was doing the 24 hour race and I think we talked for a moment about his upcoming climb up Bake Oven Road. I distinctly recall being very thankful that the 12 hour day loop did not include that hot, steep climb up Bake Oven Road and that my concerns would be restricted to the night loop from now on.

The pre-race instructions were that each rider had to stop and put a foot down and make sure their presence was recorded on each night loop lap past the Imperial Lodge. The word was that there would also be water, Perpetuum, Heed, Hammer Jell, etc. available at the Imperial Lodge as well.

Unfortunately my finish of the 113 mile day loop was too fast for them to be ready. In fact, the only thing at the Imperial Lodge was George recording my passing.

At the time I had about a half bottle of Gatorade and two-thirds of a bottle of SPIZ so rather than stop and waste a lot of time topping the bottles off myself I decided to pedal on and start my first night loop lap. After all, Chip Keyes and John Schlitter were probably right on my tail. No time to waste.

The climb through and out of Maupin starts right there at the front door of the Imperial Lodge. Frankly, it seemed a lot easier on this first night loop than it did first thing this morning! I was rather surprised at this, but chalked it up to the fact that I’d done so much climbing today that by comparison this climb seemed easy.

As I crested the last of the climb and started the very gradual descent I saw a lone figure dressed all in red in the far distance. Maybe 400 or 500 meters down the road. Ben Larson was dressed in red with a white time trial helmet when he passed me on this same road very early this morning. My first thought was that it could not be him. That it had to be some local cyclist out for a ride. But as I got closer I became more and more certain that it really was Ben. So I did something pretty nasty.

In my defense I reasoned that this was a race after all. Every man for himself. Winning is the goal. That sort of thing. It’s not a nice thing to do, especially so far in to a long and very hard day, but as I got closer I poured on the acceleration and passed him doing 23 to 24 mph. He was doing probably 18 mph or so at the time. I then kept up the speed with the goal in mind of completely destroying his confidence so he wouldn’t even think of trying to catch me. Like I said, not very nice. But fun.

This part of 197 is slightly downhill. Sort of in steps. And on this day there was a headwind making it even more likely Ben would not be able to catch me. A clear advantage to a faired and socked Stiletto.

At the end of this slightly downhill section was the fast steep descent into Tygh Valley so I continued to pour on the speed and kept up the 23 to 24 mph pace to the top of that steep descent. The steep part was of course much faster. I topped out at 48 to 50 on that descent each time I did it.

At the bottom of the descent is a longish rollout, slightly uphill, then a sharp right turn off 197 on to a country road. After the right turn the road bends back towards Maupin and starts a climb up a short but quite steep hill. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t one of the steepest parts of the course. It certainly seemed like it on the many night loops. I remember seeing 6 mph at the top of this climb more than once during the race.

At this point you can look back at 197 on that rollout through Tygh Valley. I looked for Ben, but I couldn’t see him. Great! But then, maybe I just missed seeing him. Gotta keep up the pace.

There’s a nice little descent here and some rollers, then a short and not very steep climb, then a steep windy technical descent to the Deschutes River. Then it’s 7 miles back to Maupin along the Deschutes on what has to be the flattest stretch of the whole race.

At this point the road didn’t matter much. I had passed Ben! I might actually be in second place in this race!! Unbelievable. I just need to keep the speed up because John Schlitter has to be right behind me.

The flat 7 mile stretch along the Deschutes starts when the road doubles back on itself after crossing Shearer’s Bridge in a beautiful gorge. This is another place that allows you to see if anybody is coming up behind you. On this first night lap I saw nobody. I had built a bit of a buffer, but Ben started some 4 minutes behind me so I needed to build a bigger buffer.

This 7 mile long flat section, while traveling upstream along the Deschutes toward Maupin, must actually be a bit down hill or there was a strong tailwind. In any event, it was fast for me. I could cruise at 23 mph most of the time and on most of the night loops through here. The speed limit for part of the way along here is 20 mph. A goal of mine was to break the speed limit on every lap.

This time when I stopped to check in at the Imperial Lodge the scene had completely changed. Terri Gooch and Chip’s wife were seated at a table by the hotel entrance. Next to them were a canopy and another table covered with food and supplies.

When I rolled to a stop Chip’s wife immediately asked me what I needed and handed me a bottle of SPIZ that Mary Ann had left for me when she came through supporting Alex. Alex would be somewhere up on Bake Oven Road right now dealing with the demons that climb undoubtedly presented.

I asked Chip’s wife to fill my other bottle with water which she very rapidly did. Then she handed me 2 or three Hammer Jells. Terrific, quick support!

While this was going on Terri said “you’re doing great” to which I responded “yes, I think I’m in second place”. Terri looked at her computer and a sheet she had in front of her and replied with something like “no, looks like 4th.” Then after a bit she said “Wait, did you pass Ben?” I said yep. She said something like “wait a minute, wait a minute, 4th place, 3rd place, holy sh…..!” But I can’t be sure of exactly what she was saying then because I had started to pedal off.

Back up the climb through Maupin again. Then on to the descent into Tygh Valley and on up that short but step climb, etc. This was definitely going to get harder and harder to do as time goes on.

I think it was on this second lap that I started to make the calculations. How many more times did I have to make that climb out of Maupin before the 12 hours were up? Dang. At this point it looks like at least three full laps with a part of a lap up the hill and hopefully cash in on the climbing effort with the fast descent into Tygh Valley before time runs out.

So I tried to focus on the present and dismiss those unpleasant thoughts. As I started the climb before that technical descent down to the Deschutes I saw a recumbent very near the top of the hill. Pressing on I caught him as we made the sharp hairpin turn just past the bridge over the Deschutes. It was John Schlitter. I remember thinking “if I’m passing him and I haven’t seen him before then I must be a lap up on him in this night loop business. That means I must be an hour and a half ahead of him.” Looking back on this I remember worrying for a bit that he could make up this one lap, 26 mile, deficit. I now think my mind must have been gone.

The required check in stops at the Imperial Lodge for the remaining laps were very short. Just Chip’s wife refilling my water bottles and handing me Hammer Jell. I started to think of her as my angel of mercy.

My focus was on the overall pain, managing the cramps, keeping up the speed, and dealing with the sweat.

The Stiletto has Dura-Ace derailleurs and SRAM Rocket grip shifters. As the afternoon wore on and the temperatures rose to a reported 96 degrees in Maupin, my hands became too sweaty to shift on the climb through Maupin. They just slipped on the shifters. At one point I discovered I could shift into a higher gear. But that was a regrettable discovery given I was climbing out of Maupin at the time. I eventually discovered that if I let my hand hang down below the body sock for a few minutes my palm would dry out enough to let me shift a gear or two. Such were the things that occupied me on these night loops.

Another thing that kept my mind going was the calculations of where I’d be when the end came. And what an end it would be. My mind was building what seemed beautiful plan. On that last lap wherever I was when 7:07 PM came I’d stop. Get off the bike. And just sit or lie down until I was rested. It would be so lovely. Like a dream…

I got to the Imperial Lodge real close to 6:00 PM to start that last lap. A bit over an hour to go. I was surprised to see Mary Ann was there. Then I figured out that that meant Alex had finished the 24 hour day loop and was out on the night loop someplace.

Again the stop was very short. Once the water bottles were filled Terri said get going. I voiced my plan to do another 10 or 11 miles and left. The miles were marked on the road with chalk numbers. Your mileage on the loop is then the last chalk number you pass before the time expires. Mile 10 was on the rollout after the steep descent into Tygh valley. I wanted to make it that far so I could cash in on the effort of doing that slow climb through Maupin.

I had been climbing the hill out of Maupin in about 23 minutes or so. This lap went a bit faster. I passed mile 10 with plenty of time to spare so I increased my effort and pushed on. Over the short steep hill in good time. Pedal hard through the valley and up the next hill. 15 minutes left. 10 minutes left. Moving fast, feeling good! Focused on the time and maximizing the effort. Down the technical descent to the river. Sprinting now past mile 17 then mile 18. Up on the 7 mile return section around the hairpin turn I saw Alex so I pushed harder. I almost made it to mile 20, but 7:07 came just before I got there so officially I made it past mile 19! A great effort, a whole lot more than I expected and I felt good. I won’t say great.

“Forget about the beautiful plan of stopping by the side of the road” I thought. “Go catch up with Alex.” So I did.

Actually it wasn’t all that easy to catch him. It took a lot longer than I thought. When I finally caught him I was surprised to find him doing 21 mph in this flat section. Even more surprising was that he looked pretty darn good!

I told him about my second place finish and about my fast last lap. I think he said something simple like “I knew you could do it”. We sped on in to Maupin with him in front so he wouldn’t be drafting. Ha ha ha. I can draft now because I’m done! Amusement seemed to come easily at this point for some reason.

We stopped at the Imperial Lodge of course. Somebody helped me off the bike. I was frankly surprised that I couldn’t do it myself, but it was the first time I had gotten off in 12 hours. In fact, later calculations showed that I was probably stopped for only 4 or 5 minutes total during the entire race.

The excitement of finishing second place, and the idea that I now needed to focus on supporting Alex helped me recover relatively quickly. I helped Alex get his lights mounted and get started on his next lap.

After Alex was gone Mary Ann asked me what I needed. For some reason I had a craving for a Coke so Mary Ann went off to a convenience store to buy one. When she came back I downed it rather quickly. That seemed like a long time, but time was passing in a very strange way at this point.

The next time Alex came in he didn’t look so good. We had a cup of soup ready for him. But it was dark now and rapidly getting colder and that was taking its toll. It was a long stop.

George Thomas was great here. He did a great job of talking Alex through his troubles and helping him to focus. He and Alex went on to set a goal for the night, 300 miles. I could see that this whole exchange with George was a huge help to Alex and he started the next lap with visibly renewed confidence.

While Alex was out on each lap Mary Ann and I went back up to the room to get some rest. We’d set the alarm for about an hour and a half in the future. The first time I didn’t sleep. On the next lap I did.

When Alex finished his fourth lap at 3:00 or so he said he simply could not go out again. He was freezing. In fact he said he had never been this cold in his life. We just hadn’t brought enough warm clothes for 40 degrees. I had thought it would get to 49 or 47 and I simply had not accounted for the conditions. I hadn’t accounted for the body’s inability to generate adequate heat after riding over 200 miles.

My only concern was that Alex would regret the decision later so I talked him into coming inside and having some soup and food before he announced his decision. But he remained adamant that he had to stop. At 3:42 he officially told George he was too cold to go out again. The thermometer at the start/finish line read 41.7 degrees.

On reflection I think he showed terrific maturity in his decision to give up on his goal to do 300 miles. I know he really wanted it. I didn’t know just how much until a couple of days later when he said to me that he wanted the 300 miles because that would put him over my single longest day of 295 miles. I hadn’t even thought of that.

You have no choice but to sweat a lot on the climb through Maupin. Then there’s that long gradual down hill stretch so you can cool off and start to chill. That’s followed by the steep long downhill into Tygh Valley. Imagine hypothermia setting in and starting to shake and shiver on a 40 to 50 mph descent in the pitch black new moon night! Yep, Alex made the right decision. I think one of the first things he told me is we have to prepare for it for next year.

Alex ended up with an absolutely outstanding 265 miles. That makes this race his fourth double century of the year. Another outstanding accomplishment for somebody his age.

My 212 miles was 8 miles behind Kenneth Philbrick’s 220 mile first place. I finished 15 miles ahead of Ben Larson, 20 miles ahead of Chip Keyes and 46 miles ahead of John Schlitter. If I may say so, not so bad for somebody my age (53).

To say I was happy is an understatement. Not quite as ecstatic as when our 4 person team first won Race Across Oregon in that class in 2005, but pretty close. I never thought we’d actually win that event. I felt we’d be doing well to finish. Very similar to how I felt before the Ring of Fire. By the way, Kenneth Philbrick won Race Across Oregon in 2005 in the singles division. It was a good year for a lot of us.

I think we all slept well for the short remainder of that night. Sunday morning at 7:00 or so was the awards banquet. I sat next to Kenneth and across from Ben. I apologized to Ben for the way I passed him.

I was awarded a pair of really nice Race Across Oregon shorts and a pair of socks. Alex got a copy of George’s book (an award Alex very much appreciated) and a pair of arm warmers.
Questions with no answers

Since the race plenty of people have asked me questions like “How did you pull that one out of your hat?” or “I knew you were pretty fast, but wow!” or “Where did that come from?”

To be honest, I’ve wondered that myself. To try to get a quantifiable answer I started to look at the elements of the race and my equipment. That’s when I did the elevation gain calculations at the start of this report. They only show that a recumbent rider should not have done well. The common belief is that you simply cannot make up for climbing with fast descents. Could the fairing and body sock make enough of a difference?

A couple of days after the race Alex and I weighed the bikes set up as they were for the race but without any food or water. Weight will make a big difference in a race with a lot of climbing.

Alex’s T-Bone weighed in at 25.5 pounds. The Stiletto was 30 pounds. We did this using our bathroom scale and a number of measurements. That scale only shows weight in .5 pound increments.

Both 25.5 and 30 pounds are not light at all for a racing bike. In fact it’s darn heavy! The bike store down town has a Trek hanging from a scale on display and I think it weighs 16 pounds. (I think the lexan fairing and the body sock frame adds a lot. Alex has been telling me we need a carbon fiber fairing.)

Physically I was in pretty bad shape before the race. Mostly from lack of sleep. Normally I average 30 to 40 miles a day commuting on the bike. I didn’t bother to taper my riding in preparation for the race. Just a shorter, slower 28 mile commute on Thursday and no riding on Friday when we drove to Maupin. So I would not say I was up for it.

One thing I can think of that I had going for me was psychological. I hadn’t planned on doing well so when I got passed early on it didn’t bother me as much as it normally would. I just kept riding at the best pace I could. That’s the way Alex seems to approach all of these events. I wish I had his level of maturity.

It also helped a lot that I was dicing it up back and forth with Chip Keyes in the first 75 miles or so of the race. I have a great deal of respect for his abilities so being able to hang with him was a real boost to me psychologically.

Maybe my unexpected success has something to do with the fact I stayed on the bike and kept going. I don’t know how much time other people spent off the bike or stopped, but I know that I have never ridden that far or for that long with so little time spent not in motion.

The Stiletto helped here. It is extremely comfortable over the long haul. The long wheel base helps smooth things out and the carbon fiber frame dampens road shocks easing the strain on the body. The body sock and fairing temper the environmental effects on the body as well. I never have had a need to use sun screen with the sock.

So anyway, I don’t have an answer. Not a quantifiable one anyway.
Highpoints of the race

* Surviving till the end
* Not catching Alex until mile 82.5
* That super fast last lap that I didn’t think I had in me
* Passing Ben

I didn’t ride at all on Sunday after the race. We drove back home to Salem after the awards breakfast and Alex and I just crashed.

On Monday I woke up very tired but managed to drag myself out of bed and on to my bike for the commute to work. To my surprise it felt great. I was very slow, I only averaged 17.8 mph that day, but my legs felt better than when I was off the bike. Recovery was slow. Much slower than after the Oregon Ultimate or the 600k or the Three Capes Brevet that turned into my 295 mile day. I didn’t really feel “recovered” until late Thursday or Friday. I guess I put more in to this one than I thought.

I remember thinking on that Monday ride to work that the next big ride coming up is the Peach of a Century. A major Salem Bicycle Club Ride. My main thought was that it will be so nice to do a short relaxing ride like a simple club century. I remember a time not so long ago that that century would be a major event to plan for.

Ultra Cycling racing is different. Be careful. It’s addictive and it changes everything.

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