Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 18

We pull in to the parking lot at Mt. Airy Bicycles, and I jump out to say hi to Larry and check out the store while we waited out our 15 minute penalty. At this point, we switched to a different mode - the RV was sent along to the finish line, and we put all the racers in both of the vans and rotated through a few pulls to get to the end (about 55 miles). Kent was up first, and since we were sharing a van, this was my first experience actually riding in the van behind one of us! All I can say is the man is nuts! He took off like a bat outta hell, and immediately started bombing down some hills like an insane person! It really was a bit frightening to watch...was I that crazy-looking bombing down out of the Rockies? I never did ask...I didn't really want to know... It was particularly scary because we saw quite a few deer on the side of the road. Bill would honk and flash his lights to scare them away... Kent rode for 10 miles and then Willie took over. I didn't get to see much of Willie as we needed to get 10 miles down the road to set me up. This was a very fast section, and we didn't want to blow an exchange.

While Kent and Willie got to ride through idyllic forests and quiet country roads, I got the Interstate...again... Leading up to Interstate 216, we hit a few roundabouts. At 1am, traffic was non-existent, so it was kinda fun bombing around them at full speed! Onto the Interstate and I was cruising in the slow lane - no need to ride on the shoulder as there was no traffic. I had a few turns through Maryland City, and then it was time for Willie to ride again (JV decided not to ride due to his back issues).

Willie took the 10 miles into Odenton, where we were surprised by his brother coming out to visit! His brother then accompanied us in his car as Kent took the last 10 miles into Annapolis. We called into the TS, and the RAAM crew scheduled to have an escort for us at the last TS in Annapolis, 3.5 miles from the finish line.

We met at a gas station in Annapolis to get all four of us on the road to ride in to the finish line. This was the first time all four of us had ridden together in 7 days, and we had a great time yakking, poking fun at each other and just enjoying the last couple miles of the race together. The streets were empty...we had the whole town to ourselves!

Finishing at the pier was fun, but there was no fanfare at 3am! JV's mother came out to see us, and Kent's daughters were there (he hadn't seen one of them in a year and a half!). Willie's brother, a few homeless people and our crew rounded out the audience as we got pictures taken, received our medals, etc. I know the MC asked some silly questions...can't really remember what our responses were...I think we were all ready for bed!

My last pull!

Riding into the finish line

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 17

JV and I were up pretty early for our last shift of the race. We were just outside of Hancock, MD. A quick check of the race results showed that we were now an hour and a half behind doc2doc. The likelihood of us catching them at this point was pretty slim, but we still put together our race plan for the shift. JV was having some real back issues from (a) trying to sleep on a trampoline and (b) lifting bikes on and off the roof of the van. He wasn't sure how he was going to do. On the other hand, I was feeling great! So, much to my surprise (and that of everyone who knows me), I became the designated climber! Now I'm not trying to belittle myself here, but you know things are bad when I become the designated climber...

First pull gets me across the state line into southern PA and I get to climb the infamous Orchard St. hill. We were warned about this hill by a friendly Bacchetta rider in PA, but despite his warnings, I didn't have to walk up the 17% grade 1/2 mile climb. As we approached the top, Bill and Lee were cheering me on and I noticed an officials vehicle right behind them. Guess I can't blow the stop sign at the top! Do you know how hard it is to do a track stance on a recumbent after climbing a 17% grade? Well, I pulled it off and continued along through the rolling countryside for another 3.5 miles.

My next pull continued through the rollers. I recall that official vehicle was still on the road and we were having a hard time finding a turnout that worked well for an exchange. We finally found something at the top of a small grade, JV and I crossed wheels and I was off. The rollers weren't tall, but they were steep. So steep that my average speed for 5.5 miles was only 14.5mph! We finally did a hand-off outside of a campground area. The campground was quite busy with kids playing in the river and families BBQing a variety of non-vegetarian stuff!

JV got the remainder of the climb up Hwy 456, and then down into Mercerburg. The small town was rather busy, which explained why it took him so long. We parked outside of a church where Lee and I chatted while Bill talked with one of the members and played with a dog. I finally hit the road, realizing that at this point, we were probably losing more time on doc2doc. In fact, about halfway through the 9.9 mile pull, I took the computer off the bike and stuck it in my back pocket, and just enjoyed a beautiful afternoon ride through the rolling PA countryside. I still managed an 18mph pace, and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I remember a sign off to the side of the road "A father is someone you look up to, no matter how old you are." Now it was right outside of a church, so the less-than-subtle religious overtones were not lost on me, but it got me thinking about my kids...always a good thing...

JV took over outside of Greencastle, and we drove forward to Waynesboro to wait for him. We arrived pretty quickly, and I spent about 10 minutes chatting with a family about the race, recumbents and all things cycling. They were very friendly and curious about what was going on, and were particularly intrigued by my recumbent and the fact that 6 days ago, I was in Oceanside, CA! As JV was pulling up, I told my crew to let JV know that I would take BOTH of the climbs that were coming up.

There were two climbs out of Waynesboro. The first was long and steep - about 2.3 miles and in the 6-10% range of grade. The road was cool and shady as we were just approaching sundown. Up over the top at 195w average was no problem. I cruised along the top and then bombed down the other side, hitting 50mph. By now, I was so used to riding this speed that I didn't even give it a second though. As you can see by the profile, the descent gradually flattens out, then hits a short, steep descent before immediately starting up the next grade.

As I start up the next grade, I fly by JV and his van, parked in a driveway to set up for an exchange. They were far enough off the road that I had no warning, and went blowing by them. No problem, I figure. If JV wants the climb, it's his and I can just use the next turnout. Well, there were a few problems here. First, there were no turnouts! The rules are very specific that you cannot stop in the middle of the road to load a bike, you cannot use turnouts on the left side, and you cannot ride backwards on the course. So, I was hammering away in my lowest gear and I had to keep climbing! The funny part was that JV was in the same predicament 50 feet behind me.

The absolute absurdity of this logistical blunder was not lost on me. I was laughing so hard that I could barely stay upright. On top of that, I was actually accelerating away from JV! We finally reached the top where my crew look at me like I am insane (I continued to laugh heartily for another 5 minutes), and JV continues on down the road (once he caught up). Yep, folks, I actually outclimbed JV!!!! I bet I will never get to say that again!

We pulled out to wait for JV just outside of Gettysburg. I've never been to Gettysburg, and was thoroughly enjoying the view from the plateau where we sat. I commented to Ron Bobb that I was disappointed that I never got to see a sunset during the race. Well, here I was at Gettysburg at sunset about to ride my last leg of the race (yes, I rode a little later on, but this was really the end, for all intents and purposes).

JV pulls in and off I go. The sun was setting off the back of my left shoulder, and I kept trying to ride while facing the other direction to watch the sun set. Naturally, I was all teary-eyed and happy...the roads were nice and monuments that I saw as we rode through the battlefields were intensely moving. I had just spent six days enjoying our beautiful country, and now I was riding through the battlefields of the most bloody war in the history of our country...a war that re-shaped the economic, social and political landscape of our country. It was truly moving and inspirational.

Of course, a last pull wouldn't be appropriate without some bonus miles...I rode an extra mile before my van pulled me over, we threw the bike onto the back and drove back to where we had missed our turn. As I continued on through the hills, I started noticing flashing lights out of the corners of my eyes. I thought I was having a stroke until I realized they were lightning bugs! I couldn't wait to call Shira, my daughter, and let her know I had found Leo! As I approached the RV, everyone was outside making a terrible noise...what was going on? Did I miss something? Apparently, this was standard procedure, but since I was never the last rider into the RV, I never got to experience this daily ritual...funny... I pulled over and Willie was off. There were hugs all around, and Travis Prebbles got it all on video.


Out of Hancock

Steep rollers

The pleasant hills of PA

Comical climbing


Race Across America 2010, Chapter 16

JV and I awoke early, and reviewed the maps to figure out our strategy. We had lost some ground on doc2doc, but we were unclear how much. We decided to move into a different mode - JV would take the climbs and I would do everything else. Time to get moving! We were about 5 miles past TS46 in Grafton, WV.

I took the first pull along the flats and halfway up the first climb. My wattage was actually pretty good for a first section at 183w, and I cruised through the first 5 miles at 13.8mph (keep in mind, after a couple miles, we were heading up a good climb).

We then continued on up the climb to the top to await JV. We did a hand off at the top, and JV actually followed me a ways down the climb until he reached a good turnoff (note, I never even knew he was there until I saw Bill Cook's video later). We had moved into a foggy area and the road was a touch wet, so I took the screaming descent carefully. But I covered the 8 mile pull at 22.8mph. JV took over right at the base of the climb and we shot to the top to wait for him. During our climb up, Ken explained the history and geography of the area, but I don't remember it! (something about a plateau).

My next pull began with a perfect 25mph rolling handoff, and I continued along the plateau for about 10 miles at 19.7mph. I was actually feeling really good now and was keeping my wattage on the climbs close to 200w! I had started a Coca Cola regimen, and it was definitely paying off! I was so amped up I remember calling out "Good morning Maryland" to some kids as we crossed the state line - they were a bit startled! The scenery was absolutely beautiful and I was really trying to enjoy my last day on the bike...I even got everyone in the van to sing John Denver (you can guess which song...it's pretty obvious)!

My last pull was 11.9 miles and involved some great 400ft climbs and some amazing 50mph descents. I knew it was my last pull, and decided to leave it all on the course. I was powering up the climbs trying to keep it at 225w and feeling great! Despite the climbing, this section moved along at 16.6mph.

JV got the screaming descent off of the plateau into Kaiser, and we met up with the RV at a pull off a few miles later. We enjoyed our usual shower outside in the warm sun, and retired into the RV for some sleep.

Climbing in West Virginia

Descending in West Virginia

The Great Plateau

Fantastic climbing!

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 15

I awoke as we were driving through Athens, looking for a Walmart parking lot. We arrived and started getting set up. According to the results board, we were still only 12 minutes behind doc2doc. In 24 hours, we hadn't gained or lost any time. Time to get warmed up...it was a bit cold and misty out.

We immediately got onto the Interstate, but there was absolutely no traffic. My 8 mile run was about as flat as you could get. I cruised along at 20.8mph until JV took over.

My next stretch started to include some 100 to 150 foot rollers along a 5.4 mile section. My power was 20w higher (this seemed to be pretty normal - first pull is low and second pull picked up a bit), and I cruised it at 18.1mph, despite the climbing. Soon we were seeing doc2doc vehicles on the road, so we knew we were close. We were trying to keep the pulls as close to 20 minutes as possible so we could run a bit more intense. We would also try to do the exchanges at the top of the rollers to lose as little time as possible.

The next pull took me about 6.5 miles through Parkersburg. We had just crossed the West Virginia state line and doc2doc riders were now in sight! Nothing like some real competition to get the wattage up another 20 watts! This was getting quite exciting and it was also fun racing on the freeway!

My next pull outside of Parkersburg took me over a series of three 400 foot climbs. These were starting to get tough, but my power was still up in the 192w range on the climbs...that's good for me this late in the race! 8.2 miles moved along at 17.4mph.

My final pull took me into the control at Greenwood...8.1 miles at 15.4 mph. I was spent and my wattage was dropping significantly into the 160w range. This last section had 3 more 200 foot climbs, and a couple smaller ones. It was also getting cold...I was definitely cooked, and we were loosing sight of doc2doc.

(Note, we found out later that they had put all four racers into rotation on the course to try to get away from us. We couldn't spend too much time worrying about it...we didn't think they could keep it up anyway. Also, members of both teams were quite friendly with each other. When their rider passed us we would clap and cheer, and visa versa. It was quite fun!)

Leaving Athens

On the Interstate

Entering West Virginia

Some fun racing going on!

More racing!

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 14

I awoke in a parking lot outside of Collinsville, IN...Team doc2doc pulled in beside us. We were staging racers from the same location! (it was a pretty big parking lot) We decided to do our exchange at the stop sign at the right turn onto Hwy 73/127. Stop signs are great places to do an exchange as you have to stop anyway. As we got bikes ready, we noticed that doc2doc was doing the same thing, but they were pointing their rider down the wrong road (there was a hard right and a soft right). Do you say something? We decided not to...each team has to ride their own race and it wasn't our responsibility to interfere.

Their rider showed up first, started down the wrong street and came back a couple minutes later. We had gained a few minutes on them. Willie showed up about 10 minutes later, and I continued on...down the correct road! The traffic was bad, but fortunately my van caught up with me quickly or I would have gone the wrong way! I continued on through the rolling hills into Trenton, which won the award for the worst roads I had experienced the entire race! Not only were the roads terrible, but it seemed to be taking forever for the exchange! 15.2 miles at 19.7 mph later, JV finally took over outside of town. It turns out that the bolts holding Willie's wheel cover had come off, and the cover was flapping in the wind on the roof of the van! While driving along, we brainstormed some solutions...this was one we definitely had NOT planned on. I had a few extra bolts, but not a whole set. Not sure what the outcome was...I was back on the bike in Lebanon.

Riding through a small town in the middle of rush hour was not fun. Lots of lights ensured that the follow vehicle could not keep up with me, and I really had no idea where I was going. I followed a vehicle belonging to another team until we got out of town. What came next was a bit surprising...

I had just turned onto a side road and passed a local rider on a beat up mountain bike. Bill P. got on the PA and announced that I should stay on the same road for the next 6 miles...they would be right back. They disappear. I kept riding, and 5 miles later, my van reappeared. We then proceeded to get lost along with 4 other teams!

The route book said we would come to a T, and I would make a left. So, I continued on and came to a T with a stop light, at the same time a solo rider was there. Suddenly, my van pulls up next to me and tells me we've gone the wrong way! Huh? I tell the solo rider, and follow my van around a corner to get the bike back on the van. The solo rider questioned me, but then followed. We drove by JV as his van was putting him on the road to carry on, but he was going the wrong way too! We found the correct turn (which was NOT a T), and I got on the road and carried on. As we were doing this, we saw other teams making the same mistake!

I continued along and got away from my van again. Bill started calling out directions over the PA from 200 yards back. At the same time, I caught up with the solo rider, who had a GPS. I had two people telling me which way to go...fortunately, they were giving me the same directions! The solo rider, Tony O'Keefe, and I chatted as we navigated through the town, and he continued on while I made another wrong turn! This was getting quite frustrating, but since everyone else was in the same boat, it was rather comical. Shortly, JV took over, and we carried on to Blanchester where Lee got directions for a detour and I chatted with Barbara Bautois.

JV rode through as Lee continued to get instructions on the detour, and we finally got on the road again. We caught up and did an exchange outside of Martinsville, and I rode another 8 miles at 19.2mph.

My final pull was short...only 3.2 miles. We needed to get JV back on the road to take the last pull to the RV, and we had no idea where the RV was! JV ended up getting a nice long pull to the RV, but at least it was twisty, windy, downhill and scenic! Bummer huh?

Chasing doc2doc!

Getting lost!

Back on track

A very short pull

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 13

I woke up and we were in the rolling hills of Indiana! doc2doc has just passed the RV as I got out, so I knew we were within about 15 minutes of them...Willie and Kent kept pace with them through the night! I started racing as Willie pulled in, and was quickly stopped at a construction zone for a couple minutes (FWIW, a couple minutes when you are racing feels like an eternity!). I continue to climb about 500 feet as the rollers stair-step up over the next 6.4 miles. My wattage is low, as it usually is on my first morning pull, but I know things will pick up.

I take over again in Solsberry, and my watts are back up to 200w on the first climb, and then about 175w for the rest of the 6.7 mile pull. With the rollers, I am only averaging 16.9mph, but I am enjoying the rural area.

The next stretch takes me 9 miles onto Hwy 46 into Bloomington at about 19mph. The road sucked and there was a lot of traffic due to some bottle-necking where the lanes merged down to only one each way. The control was at a shopping center where students from the local university were giving away water in glass bottles and t shirts to promote glass recycling. I asked who had my bottle before me...nobody laughed...I'm used to that...

I remember the next pull out on the highway...Bill Cook was interviewing me. We saw JV pulling in and I suggested he video a 30mph rolling exchange. I hope it makes it to the video he is putting together!

My final pull took me into the outskirts of Columbus, IN. Got stopped at another construction zone...frustrating. 9 miles at 19mph. After JV took over, my van crew needed to stop for a pit stop. Unfortunately, with all of the traffic through Columbus, we barely made it to the RV ahead of JV...another bumbled exchange...

Bloomfield, IN

More rollers through IN

Free T-Shirts in Bloomington!

More rollers

I didn't know there was a Nashville, IN!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 12

I didn't sleep very well...not sure why. I woke up as we were getting gas on the West side of the Mississippi River. It was dark out, the trucks at the gas station were incredibly loud, and if you looked up at the lights, hordes of bugs were swarming around each bulb. The good news? Real toilet...

Our shift started in Old Towneship, IL, about 10 miles west of Greenville. The bad news was that the tire on my tubular disk wheel was done. There were cords showing... Lonnie and I ripped it off and got another one on while the other crew swapped my rear wheel to an American Classic Carbon 58 (the AC version of the Zipp 404, sans dimples). The thing I noticed immediately was how quiet the bike became! When you get used to riding a disk wheel, you forget how noisy they are.... Too bad I didn't have the disk, though, as this was perfect aero wheel territory. Oh well, the glue would be dry for my next shift...

Off into the darkness. It's about 70 degrees and the humidity isn't too bad. As long as I am moving, it is quite comfortable and I am in shorts and short sleeves with arm coolers to help with the humidity. It's a pretty straight shot east on the 140 to Greenville. It's easy cruising at 21-22mph...no wind and gentle ups and downs. As I pass the 127, I see a van off the side of the road with a recumbent rider just getting on his Carbent... "Hi Tim!" (who else could it be?)

I continue on into Greenville, which has a steep little climb in the middle of town, and I signal Lee to pull up beside me. "Lee, get on the radio and ask JV if he doesn't mind taking a longer pull." Quizzical look from Lee. "I didn't come 2000 miles to blow past my friend with barely a hello. We are going back so I can ride with him for a bit." Lee gets on the radio and after a few minutes lets me know that JV is okay with the plan. So, a couple miles later JV and I do an exchange, we throw my bike onto the van and actually drive the WRONG direction!

A solo rider is allowed to ride with another rider for a maximum of 15 minutes per day. I intended to enjoy my 15 minute "prison" visit with a dear friend ("mellow out over there, big guy, this isn't a conjugal visit!"). Tim was moving pretty quick...we got me out on the road and pretty soon two friends were riding through an IL night, enjoying the cool air and each others' company.

Aside from general yakking (Tim was completely lucid at this point), I remember three things about our short ride. Remember, Tim is riding his Carbent with his Bent Up Cycles Aero bag on the seat (with bottle holders). He turns to me and asks, "Dana, want a beer?" "Huh?" "Seriously, do you want a beer?" He reaches into his bottle holder and starts handing me a beer bottle. It was O'Doul's, but I almost fell over laughing! I declined...I was riding and didn't want my BAC to get too high!

A couple minutes later, he asks me if I want to race....seriously.... I told him it wouldn't be fair as he had a disk wheel...

A couple minutes later, his crew called me back to the van to deliver some food. Apparently, the game was "guess what it is?" To this day, I still don't know what I gave him...he thought it was something with ham and cream cheese. When offered some, I declined...I'm a kosher vegetarian....

Too soon, my visit was over. We wished each other a safe race and my van shuttled me forward to meet up with JV. Thanks for you patience, JV, that visit meant quite a bit to me. Later, Lee pulled me over to tell me that I definitely did the right thing...I responded that it was the only thing to do...

Now back to racing...things slowed down a touch as we rode through Vandalia. There were a few turns, a few traffic lights, and we didn't want to get lost. Once we got on the open road again, though, it was back to a beautiful night! 11 miles later, outside of Brownstown, JV took over. I got back on outside of Altamont, and took it another 7.23 miles. JV then took it into the control.

This was a fun control. One of the media crew interviewed me, and I was having way too much fun! (see RAAM site for the video) As I was leaving, I asked the staff where Team doc2doc was. I was told that they had left 12 minutes earlier, and were looking quite wiped out! Woohoo! Now we are racing!

We get on the road, and 1/2 mile later, we make a wrong turn. Well, that was a waste of 4 minutes! Back on course...there's a rider ahead...let's pass them! Eventually, we pass and realize it is a solo rider. He works hard to keep up, but we hand off the baton in Deiterich, and JV is off!

I am on my way back to the RV, and a few minutes up the road we pass the doc2doc rider. He looks wiped, and we are feeling pretty good. Finally, some racing! JV and I meet at the RV, take an outdoor shower (yep, it's 4am), and try to get some sleep.

An IL night


A long, straight road

Out of Effingham

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 11

Our next stage at 4pm race time picked up in Mokane, MO, outside of Jefferson City, MO. My first pull was along the flat river terrain just north of the Missouri River. We discovered here that the state bird is, in fact, the mosquito. We learned very quickly to close the van door immediately after entering or exiting the van! I was feeling much better, but at this point the wattage was only up to about 170w or so.

I rode along for 8.6 miles at 22.1mph and then we set JV off into the first of the hills. As we started up the first climb, I groaned when I saw what JV was going to have to ride up...and it continued getting worse. These climbs weren't long, but they were steep! We finally found a pull-out at the top and waited.

As I started down from the top, I had my second "oh-sh't" moment of the race. I start bombing down this steep descent, and comment to myself that the turn at the bottom seems to be approaching awfully quick! I look down and see I am doing over 50mph! I can't grab too much brake, so I just hang on and hit the turn, grateful that it wasn't too sharp! Phewww... I continue on along the river at 23.2mph for about 8 miles, and note the Katy Trail off to my left.

The next pull begins outside of Hermann, and the first thing I notice is the road is VERY narrow and the hills are very short and steep! Up and down we continue on down the road towards another crossing of the Missouri River. Outside of New Haven, I see the most memorable water tower of the trip...it was amazingly tall and white with a bulbous head on the top. A bit more phallic looking than I would have expected out here in MO!

I take over outside of Washington, where I encounter the only real jack-ass driver that I can recall from the entire trip. I guess he wasn't used to cyclists taking their place in the left turn lane despite his giant truck. I was chatting with some college students at the red light, and I guess I didn't floor it fast enough when the light turned green. I nearly got run over! Oh well...one driver in 3000 miles wasn't bad...

Crossing the Missouri River from Washington was fun as the bridge was pretty cool. I was smiling the whole way across as my support van provided cover for me ("Cover me, Red Five, I'm going in!"), and I sailed across the plains on the other side. A final pull through the rollers as we headed NW, and I was finished. JV and I met back at the RV, enjoyed a shower in the sun behind the RV, and then tried to get some sleep!

More Missouri

Oh Sh-t moments!

More rollers!

Even more rollers

Over the bridge

Last pull in MO

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 10

Remember my comments before about contrasts? Well, here we go again! I spent the last 24 hours racing through corn fields and flat to descending, straight roads. When I woke up, I was on top of a hill in this lush, beautiful county somewhere in MO! The humidity had increased significantly since yesterday, but it was still relatively cool and comfortable (it is 8am race time, 7am local time).

JV and I continue moving down the road, but the 30mph rolling hand-offs are a bit more difficult in this rolling terrain. For the most part, the rollers are just steep and long enough that you can't just roll over them, again and again. This actually requires a bit of work to hoof it over the top of each roller, and then I keep pedaling over the top until I am spun out in the descent.

We passed through a variety of small communities, including El Dorado, Collins, Wheatland, Hermitage, and others. I recall stopping for gas, getting a donut at a mini-mart (that was a real treat!). I also remember some other radio users getting pretty upset at us using "their" radio frequency. Their choice of words were quite colorful!

I also recall one set of real "rollers" outside of Macks Creek that were a blast. These were just high enough that with some effort, I could roll over the top of each of them and then bomb down the other side! Weeee!

Finally, it was during this stage that we passed Amy Xu, women's solo racer. She ended up DNFing at the Mississippi.


More Missouri

Rollers through Missouri

More rollers

Macks Creek

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 9

10pm local time, midnight race time, JV and I are up again for another shift. We are STILL in KS!!! I really didn't realize how long KS was! We are parked in Towanda, KS, just leaving the Wichita area. As JV and I come out, a Bacchetta rider named Nic is outside waiting to talk to us. JV seemed to know him, but in my sleepy haze, I couldn't recognize him. However, I was quite impressed that he had followed us for 20 miles to catch up to us to chat. He and JV spoke for awhile, while I drank a Coke and tried to get the blood and head moving again!

In comes Willie, and I am off, heading east! The highlight of my night was around the corner as we turned right on W. Central Ave. I am speeding along at about 20 mph, it's about 70 degrees and the humidity is low, and I hear a "Go Dana" from off to my right in a shopping center parking lot. I see a flash of blonde hair, realize I only know one woman in the entire state of KS, and yell back "Hi SK (Sara Kay Carrell, Team Bacchetta racer)." That really brought a smile to my face, knowing the SK had come all the way out here to say hello! Thanks! I continued my race through El Dorado and JV took over after about 10 miles at 22.2mph.

I took four more pulls as I continued through east KS. The other highlight was having Lee Mitchell drive behind me for one pull. Bill had been doing all of the driving during my night shifts since AZ, and it was a nice change of pace to have Lee behind me. He definitely knows what he is doing, and of course, he was blasting Billy Idol over the PA! My power was sure feeling low tonight, but I kept going as best as I could. By my last pull, I was definitely spent, but we managed to cover over 80 relatively flat miles in our shift.

Towanda, KS

Leaving El Dorado

Heading through Eureka

More Eureka

Into Yates, KS

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 8

RAAM becomes a series of contrasts. You go to sleep in one place, and wake up someplace completely different. You frequently don't know what time it is, what time zone you are in...I didn't even know what day it was half the time! This contrast was most apparent when I awoke in the middle of a corn field. The previous night, I was admiring the dusk amidst the tall mountains and forests around me...today I am in a corn field and have NO IDEA which way is east or west! So began my trip across the Midwest....

My van pulls up to the RV and we start doing the recumbent bike shuffle. The first thing you always do is pull off the outgoing riders' primary bike. Why? Because when Willie comes screaming into the exchange point 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I can actually jump on my bike and ride, even if my follow vehicle isn't ready (this only applies during daytime transitions). I ask my crew if there are any turns coming up..."no." Good, I'm off with only a minute or two lost in the transition. Another team just passed our RV five minutes ago, and I really wanted to catch them. My van will catch me down the road...

I'm off...I cruise the slight rollers for 13 miles into Kim, CO, speeding along at 22.8mph. The 140 watts I'm putting out are a little low as it is early and I'm still tired (remember, we are still a mile high!). I also didn't know how long I would be out on the road solo, and didn't want to blow myself up. Once we leave Kim, it really starts the official "descent" for hundreds of miles.

On my next pull, it was time to pick things up a bit. Given the consistent terrain, we decide that 10 mile pulls would be about 20 minutes. JV and I were working to perfect our 25-30mph rolling exchanges. Let's see if I can describe it...

We can only pull over at a pull out that gets us 5 feet off the road. These aren't always easy to find. So, my hope as an outgoing rider was to ensure that the incoming rider can get off the road at the same pull out that we are using (to avoid having to ride further up the road). To do this, after getting the bike off the van, I would walk it back down the course about 100 yards (we can't ride backwards on the course, but we can walk). This would give me time to get up to speed right as we passed the turnout.

Here comes JV...he's moving at 25-30mph! It's hard to judge how soon to start pedaling, and I don't want to blow myself up doing it. Closer...closer...go! I hit it, get up to 25mph right as he is crossing my rear wheel. JV then reaches over as he passes, puts his hand on my seat and pushes. It's like having a turbo boost! Woo hoo! He then pulls off the road and walks back to the van, and I continue on at 30mph. (note, we saw many teams losing time because they weren't doing fast rolling exchanges, and losing 5 seconds per pull adds up to 30 minutes more time at the finish line!).

So, my second pull carries me 9.8 miles at 28mph with an average wattage of 188! We are cruising now and halfway through the pull I pass the Aussie team! JV takes a pull, I eat and try to post to FB...this is fun but there is no internet out here!!!!

Time to mellow out a bit...I went too hard on the last pull and we have a ways to go ahead of us. 10 miles go by at 27.1mph, and I've backed it off to 162w. The next pull carries me another 10 miles at 27.4mph and 150w. Definitely went out too hard... JV blows through Walsh, CO and proceeds to miss a train crossing. We are now even at one missed train each!

We continue to see the crew of the Aussie team, and we take turns cheering each other down the road. Right after I passed them, I remember seeing the entire crew from their team coming out of the RV to cheer me on. That was quite cool!

CO and KS are beautiful, in a different sort of way. Yes, it's a lot of corn, but it's not so tall that I can't see over the corn and look for miles in all directions. Corn, corn and more corn...but lot's of neat barns and wildlife too! I waved to all of the drivers and gave the universal signal to a train conductor to blow his horn (yep...I'm always looking for reasons to act like I'm 10 again)!

I cross the state line into KS and continue cruising at 26.8 miles for about 13 miles. That's my final pull, and I meet JV at the RV in Johnson City...er...JV rode by the RV at Johnson City because folks weren't ready for the exchange...again... JV continues a couple miles down the road until Kent's van can catch up with him and drop Kent on the course. JV's van then brings him back to the RV and then moves Willie further up the course.

Shower time...damn, out of water in the RV! Besides, it's 90 degrees out and standing in the shower doesn't sound like much fun. JV has a better idea...we grab 1 gallon bottles of water and shower in our cycling shorts with it behind the RV. This was SO refreshing that it became our standard routine for most of the rest of the race!

Our trip across KS continued four hours later...KS is quite long! We picked up somewhere around Ensign, KS. The scenery was the same, but at a certain point after Ford, we moved onto a busier highway. We rotated with Kent and Willie somewhere before Pratt, KS.

Racing across Colorado

More racing across Colorado

Even more racing across Colorado

More of Colorado

Riding into Kansas

Riding across Kansas in the next shift

Small town Kansas

More Kansas roads

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 7

I remember waking up, stepping outside of the RV and watching dusk roll into the valley below me. The mountains on each side glowed red, orange, magenta and all you could see were trees, mountains and sky. It was quite spectacular...where are we? Kent and Willie had ridden across the valley floor out of South Fork and we were parked at the top of the second climb in the Rockies, a 9400 ft. peak. We were waiting for Willie to finish up the climb, and I hung around outside for a bit enjoying the view of the Valley as night settled in. It was in the 40s and cold, so I loaded up with clothes knowing that about 1/4 mile up, I would begin a 13 miles, 2500 foot descent into the next valley.

Now, before some of you get too excited about a wild descent, remember it is cold up here! As I began the descent, I realized that 40mph was about tops...it was too cold to go any faster! As JV noted about Wolfe Creek, the descent was actually pretty boring...a basically straight road down into nothingness.

We had some tricky turns at the bottom - we needed to make a right turn onto a small road after crossing a bridge. To make things more difficult, it was quite hard to understand these directions over the PA at 40mph! Somehow, we managed to make the turn, which put us onto some fun, windy roads heading into the very small town of La Veta. Even though it was midnight and there wasn't a soul in sight, I stopped at all of the stop signs before beginning the climb up the final ascent of the Rockies.

Remember I mentioned that I had bulked up for the descent? This now cost me as we began to climb. I just kept unzipping and unzipping....I had been on the road for over 40 minutes now, and was really wondering when reinforcements were going to show up (I bet they missed the turn after the bridge, or something like that). We couldn't blast music over the PA because we were in a residential zone, so it was me and the road...up, up, up. The PT wasn't working for some reason, so I was going on feel...all I know is I rode 20 miles at 23.1mph, climbing a total of 934 feet.

For a minute, let me give you a glimpse of what the inside of the van looked like during this pull. I was getting so sweaty during each pull that I was basically stripping in the van, sitting in just my shorts for 10 minutes, and then putting on a new set of clothes for the next pull. I had my wet stuff spread all over the van in hopes that it would dry out quickly in the heated air! It actually worked and I had dry clothes for every pull, but it sure looked comical!

JV and crew finally caught up and we began working our way up the climb. I volunteered to give JV the next descent as it was dropping into the low 30's as we got closer to the 9900 foot summit, but he wasn't going for it! Actually, it was a good move...he's the stronger climber and there was a team coming up from behind. We rode back and forth, back and forth, to the top. 2.4 miles at 167w and 7.5mph, another pull of 1.5 miles at 166w and 6mph. The plan was for me to descent to the plateau about 7 miles down, JV would ride across the 7 mile plateau, and I would continue another 10 miles down the descent, with JV taking the last 10 miles into the RV (reportedly parked at mile 51 of the section).

This is bloody cold! I loaded up even more with thick tights, a long sleeve undershirt and a thick, long sleeve windproof jersey, a balaclava, wool socks and full fingered gloves. But it was so cold I could only do about 32mph! At one point, the road shot straight up for about 100 yards. I had to shift into my small chainring and dropped the chain. As I got off the bike, I realized that I could also grab another jacket from the van. After that, I was good to 50mph! Woo hoo! Bombing down the dark mountain, van can't keep up but I've got that Surefire light on high. That turn is coming up a bit quickly...but I don't dare grab too much brake...hope there is nobody coming up the other side as I am definitely using the whole road for this turn! Phewww....maybe I shouldn't be doing 50... Short climb up to the plateau and JV takes over.

We set up for my next pull at the end of the plateau. Note, because we are in the mountains, we have no radio reception with the RV or the other van. JV passes, and I take off on a beautiful trip down the canyon. The road isn't nearly as steep now after the first mile or so...I'm soft pedaling at about 35-40mph, hoping that no deer jump out into the road. The road is windy, so I keep the light on high and can see just fine. JV should be up ahead....there's his van, but no JV out front...keep pedaling...

It's quite pretty through here, so I am just enjoying the ride. JV's van passes again so I assume they are setting up ahead. There is the van and JV is scrambling to get to his bike as I zoom past again! This is getting kind of funny... Finally, a couple miles further, JV and I do a successful exchange and I hop back in the van. At this point, I hear that the RV is actually at mile 61, not 51, and I find out later that JV is pretty fried. After a couple miles we do an exchange and a couple things happen:

First, nobody is communicating to me what is actually going to happen. Also, my light seems to be dimming a bit...switch it to low to get a bit more life out of it, but it is not going to last long. After a few miserable miles (I'm tired too...it's 4am), my crew finally tell me what's going on and I slug it out to the RV. My light dies 100 yards from the RV and I literally roll to the RV in complete darkness. No crashing, just frustration...get some food, shower and go to sleep!

Bombing into La Veta

Climbing out of La Veta

More climbing

Bombing down towards Trinidad

More bombing

The home stretch!

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 6

Fitful sleep...the RV was driving through windy mountain roads and I was being launched around on the trampoline! I finally just got up and hung around for awhile waiting for Willie to finish his pull. We are outside of Pagosa Springs, and definitely in the mountains. My first pull is a short, 3.6 mile pull to get us to the main highway into Pagosa Springs. Remember, we are close to 8000 feet, and I busted it out at 172w and 15.2mph.

JV takes a short turn and then I am back on the road. We are now trying to predict pulls more accurately to stay in the 20 minute range. This means more pulls per shift, but a shorter duration. I get a pull into Pagosa Springs...20 miles to Wolfe Creek Pass. It is definitely getting dark and stormy out. Off to the left, I can see rain, lightning and snow in the mountains. JV's van ahead of us reports hail, but by the time I finish my 6.9 miles, it is just a light drizzle. I'm a bit cold and my power is down to about 165w.

I guess it's time to test out the rain gear! I'm just praying that we don't have to climb the Pass in the snow...not my idea of fun! I get another short, 6 mile pull, getting closer to the base of the pass. It's definitely getting colder...next pull I will whip out the heavy rain gear!

(my power data shows an extra pull in here that I don't remember...must have been having too much fun!).

JV gets on the road and we shuttle ahead to the sign that says "Summit - 8 miles". I get set up to go, and the rain has stopped completely! JV and I do an exchange and I start up the official Wolfe Creek Pass! I signal for music over the PA, and Bill fiddles for a few minutes until he settles on Bruce Springsteen. I'm rocking now...and I don't even like Springsteen, but the music fit the mood perfectly and I rock my way 2 miles up the Pass, enjoying the beauty! 171w never felt so good! Stan and PJ, our errand van crew, were waiting for me at the turnout, and both got big, tearful hugs as we stood there, overlooking the Valley below us, taking in the splendor.

(Side note - I think endorphins affect people differently. I get very happy and very emotional. Seems I was always getting tearful about something. What a wonderful way to spend time on the bike...except when you can't see!)

We decide to scale back the pulls to 1.5 miles. I have two more pulls to the summit, and JV will get the descent (which was fine with me...it sounded cold, but he would get his revenge later). Another 1.345 miles at 155w (remember, we are over 10,000 feet here!), and the final 1.25 miles at 152w and I'm feeling great (note, this was about red-lined for this elevation).

JV takes off down the descent...we have a hard time keeping up with him at 55+ mph, let alone passing him to get to the RV! We finally arrive in South Fork to Willie and Kent, eager to get on the bikes!

Pagosa Springs

Leaving Pagosa Springs

Closing on Wolfe Creek Pass

Up Wolfe Creek

Getting close to the top!


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 5

Man, I'm tired. At least I slept. We are about 20 miles out of Mexican Hat, UT. The weather is crisp and cool first thing in the morning, and I'm tired. Willie comes zooming in and off I go on a windy, cracked road through a deserted canyon. As I climb higher, I can start seeing mesas around me...we are definitely in Utah, but it looks like we missed seeing Monument Valley. My first pull was sluggish for 7.56 miles at 156w...17.6 miles an hour...I need some caffeine!

I slowly start waking up and enjoying the scenery around me. It's starting to warm up and the hills, canyons and mesas around us are quite spectacular. I get on the bike again and pick things up a bit averaging 173w over the next 5.6 miles, at 12.8mph. I didn't feel so bad given the 500 feet of climbing, some of it steep. The Perpetuem is kicking in!

Next section takes me across the plateau to the turn towards Cortez. My power is down a touch at about 165w as I cruise through Cortez, out the other side. My 7 mile pull averaged 16.3mph with about 400 feet of climbing. This is where I got a great picture of me and my crew on the side of the road...all smiles!

At this point, I get a note from David Bradley informing me about the crash of a team RV ahead in Durango. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, but the team was DNF (it was later noted that the driver had fallen asleep and run into the barrier on the side of the road, tipping the RV).

We start my last pull at the base of a climb up to the off-ramp for some National Park. John T. says "have fun, that climb will take you about 20 minutes!" Yeah right...five and a half minutes later I am heading down the other side, 44mph with full aero wheels! This was a bit exhilarating as it was my first real high speed descent of the race. I was a bit surprised I let it go that fast as I tend to get a bit shakey on the aero wheels at high speeds - it's amazing what you will do in a race. Stay loose and enjoy the ride...weeeeeeee! I did the climb at 185w (remember, we are at almost 7000 feet), and the second, longer climb at 167w. Not my best numbers of the race, but it was daylight and I was excited to be entering the Rockies!

Outside of Montezuma Creek

Checking out the mesas

Heading through Cortez

Up into the Rockies!

And even further up!

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 4

First, a quick note....you will notice my power was down around 150w in Flagstaff. We were reducing our power based on elevation, so you would expect it to be lower. At 7K feet, we were knocking at least 10% off, so my red line went from 210 to 190w. 150w was still low, but not as low as it might appear... Now, back to our adventure...

I slept...I actually slept. I am pretty sure this was the first time I actually slept more than 30 minutes the entire trip! When I awoke, I was dreadfully tired, and it was really dark and cold, wherever the heck we were! On a positive note, the stars were beautiful (we were actually about 30 miles out of Tuba City). Did I mention it was cold? Off I go...my first pull was a gradual climb from 5900 to 6200 feet over 32 minutes, 9 miles, 156w, 160w normalized. JV took over while I tried to warm up in the van.

The next pull took me over the 6700 foot summit. While waiting outside the van for JV to pull up, a team passed the vehicle. I could see the summit up ahead and was eager to get going. Up about 100 feet over the next 2.5 miles, and then the fun begins! I start bombing down the other side, just within sight of the other team. I can't wait to go bombing by this other team! This is my first real descent at night and these Surefire lights are absolutely amazing! The road is lit up like a high beam on a car...the follow vehicles' lights are completely unnecessary (note-remember to point the light slightly higher after this shift!) Willie has now won the MVP award twice, as far as I am concerned...first for that crazy 2-hour pull outside of Prescott and now for making these amazing lights! Woo hoo! Let 'er rip! What's this? 30s prior to passing, JV's van decides to make an exchange! All momentum is lost and I get in the van to have a little talk about appropriate locations for exchanges...

(remember, at night we cannot do rolling exchanges, so doing one on a descent means you lose ALL of your speed because you have to come to a complete stop just in front of the outgoing rider).

JV continues bombing down the descent and continues into some rollers for a bit. We do another exchange, and I get the final 5ish miles into Kayenta (FWIW, we did pass the other team). Bill, Lee and Jon T. decide to gas up in Kayenta as JV takes the last pull to the RV, about 8 miles out of Kayenta. I remember a trucker at the gas station telling us that we were absolutely insane to be out here riding on these roads at 4am...what does he know?

Climbing out of Tuba City

Over the top!

Bombing down into Kayenta

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 3

Off the bike and time for a shower in Congress, AZ! Kat, one of the crew in charge of the RV, takes my lunch order while I hop into the shower that measures about 1.5 feet deep by 2.5 feet wide. It's not really a shower...to conserve water as much as possible, we get wet quickly, turn off the water, soap up before the water evaporates and then rinse as quickly as possible. This becomes even more challenging if the RV is actually moving (most of the time Rich, our driver, checked to make sure that we were finished. But a couple times he forgot...). Then, time to try to sleep.

Sleep isn't happening for either of us. Bounce, bounce, bounce...did I just get airborne? Sleeping in a moving RV is not easy, especially when you are hyped up on adrenaline! After a few hours of restless sleep, we start realizing that something is wrong. Apparently, we forgot about an area where the RV could not go, and we ended up missing our riders. Quick, back up the road a different way, one of the vans comes out to meet the RV about 15 miles off the course to shuttle us back and forth, and the reinforcements (us) are sent out to rescue poor Willie who has been out on the road for two hours!

We intercepted Willie about 9 miles outside of Cottonwood...boy, was he happy to see us! We do an exchange and I start up a gentle climb towards Sedona.

I've never been to Sedona. I now want to go back to Sedona. I recall cresting that first rise and being absolutely blown away by the red canyons, mesas and rock formations that surrounded me! To say it was beautiful was the understatement of the race! I rolled over a few small hills before cruising down into Sedona proper where we did an exchange. It was a short 20 minute pull of 4.3 miles at 12.6 mph, 172w, 179 normalized power.

JV rode through the tourist area and started up the climb to Flagstaff. We started doing exchanges up in the canyon. I must say, it was quite hard to focus on climbing when it was so beautiful, but I stayed as focused as possible and tried to keep the three teams behind us at bay as we climbed and climbed and climbed 3000 feet over 20 miles up to Flagstaff. The climbing was gentle, for the most part, but got rather steep in the last couple miles. During this section, we operated out of one van instead of two to minimize the amount of shuttling that needed to be done and to give the RV as much time as possible to get to Flagstaff.

The last pull was weak. We had reached the top of the climb and I knew we were coming up on Flagstaff. I crested a few rollers, trying to keep another rider at bay (unsuccessfully), and started riding into the outskirts of Flagstaff. The problem was (a) I had already been out for about 25 minutes and (b) I had no idea where my support vehicle was! I was weak and starting to get a bit pissy...I didn't want to make a wrong turn and get lost and I had no idea where to go. Fortunately, there were still enough RAAM vehicles around that I could follow them.

A couple miles later, Lee and the crew show up just before a turn and start directing me through town. After one turn, they tell me to stay on this road and they will see me at the RV at the TS a couple miles up the road. No problem...one mile, two miles, three miles...where exactly is the TS and why I am missing every single light? I finally notice the control up ahead (I can see some RVs), and I expect to see JV or someone waiting out there to rescue me from a shift that has gone from amazing to crappy over the last hour of riding. Nope...nobody there...I keep riding...a few miles later as I start bombing down a hill, they decide to do an exchange while I am doing close to 40mph. To be honest, I almost kept going just out of spite! I was hungry, tired and quite grumpy, to say the least! The last pull was 17.42 miles over 57m of riding time, 18mph average, 150w, 160w normalized. I actually think this was when I decided to add the Perpetuem to my routine as I was wiped!

Heading into Sedona

Out the back of Sedona and up the climb

Climbing up the canyon

Hellish ride into Flagstaff

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 2

"Good morning from Salome, AZ!" That was my Facebook post after my first pull of the morning. And a glorious morning it was! It was the only sunrise I got to see as I stumbled out of the RV trying to figure out (a) where are we? (b) which way are we supposed to point our bikes? and (c) where are we? It was a cool morning, but not too cold. Race time was 8am (eastern time), but it was really 5am and felt like it. The upcoming stretch was going to be slightly uphill...not too difficult, so I ran my full aero wheelset again. I also realized that setting up the power meter was going to be difficult as I was too close to other bikes running power meters, and my Edge 705 couldn't decide which one to read! Oh well, the first five minutes were by feel until the other power meters on the roof of the van turned off!

Yesterday, I was running without music...we couldn't have a follow vehicle on the first stage and the second stage was too exciting and we forgot... This morning, I showed my van crew, Bill Cook, Ken Z., and Ron Bobb, how my iphone worked, and they cranked it up for me during my pulls. Nothing like classic 80's rock to keep you going!

This road was straight...I mean really straight. RAAM teams had received a notice from AZ police that they were enforcing strict pullouts completely off the road as some drivers had complained that the racers were blocking the road. Whatever...I was too high on endorphins to really care. I enjoyed the sunrise as we headed east 60 miles towards Congress, AZ. Our course would take us from 1600 feet to a bit over 3000 feet - a gradual, consistent grade up. I can't say the scenery was all that spectacular...flat prairie with hills in the distance...rather dull. But still, we were racing RAAM, and the excitement was high!

Sunrise outside of Salome

Moving on down the desert road

More desert road

Monday, September 06, 2010

Race Across America 2010, Chapter 1

RAAM is huge. The logistical preparations begin almost a year in advance - this preparation is a complete story by itself! This narration is going to focus on the race itself, walking through different sections of the race. I'm also going to be pretty honest, without getting personal, about the highlights and low moments of the race. I hope you find it worthwhile!

To start, I think I ran the most conservative race of the team members. While we all trained hard and came into the race well prepared, I definitely felt a bit like the slow guy, and wanted to make sure that I had the energy to get through the race successfully without any issues. There were too many other issues to deal with, nutrition, lights, unfamiliar roads, 3000 MILES!!!, I didn't want bonking to be one of them.

I took the first pull of the race out of Oceanside. This first 20 miles is completely unsupported, so you bring everything you need for an hour of riding and tools for an emergency. They launched us at one-minute intervals, and this time would then be subtracted from our final total. The only rule was that on the first 7 miles on the bike path, you were not allowed to pass anyone. Given this, I was hoping to be the last person out...instead I was about the sixth. Needless to say, we bottle-necked on the bike path and I lost a fair amount of time there (hey 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there starts to add up).

Once we got out onto the open road, I could finally open it up to 190w and cruise through the flat to slightly rolling terrain. I started passing other teams, all the while staying well within my limits, but then would get caught at another traffic light! Yep, the race was starting a bit on the frustrating side for me! After the 20 miles, I had effectively increased my lead by one spot, and the climbing was about to begin!

JV got the first real climb, and we continued taking 20-30 minute pulls up the first half of the climb to Mt. Palomar. We were passed by many teams...they all seemed to be in a rush to get to the top and were working quite hard to get there. JV and I just stuck to our game plan, keeping it smooth and consistent, regardless of the grade (this was a basic theme with us throughout the whole race - stick to the plan...). Racing across the plateau after Lake Henshaw was breath-taking, and I ended my shift just prior to the descent down the glass elevator (a steep, very technical, windy descent from 4K ft. to sea level). We re-grouped with the RV at Christmas Circle and Willie and Kent were off to race! At the top of the plateau it was about 75 degrees, in the valley it was close to 100!

On a side note...I've heard from numerous sources that the first night of team RAAM is rather...uh...challenging. The teams are very close to each other so there is a lot of excitement. That, coupled with the fact that crew are still getting the hang of exchanges and other things, can make it a bit...uh...challenging. Knowing this, I really tried to keep my cool and be mellow. No point in getting upset about anything this early in the game.

For some reason, Willie and Kent were pulled from their shift a bit early. We were about 30 miles outside of TS2. I remember this pull out because it was dark and we were parked about 100 yards from a RR crossing. Of course, as soon as I took off, I had to stop for a train! Okay...patience Grasshopper...back on the road, it's nighttime, it's warm, the road is smooth and traffic-free and there are a number of teams ahead of us! If you look at the profile, you can see that my pull started with the climb up 900 feet over the first 10 miles. JV got the rollers at the top, and then most of the descent down the other side. That's a long pull, you might think...we had a very difficult time catching JV, who was passing teams left and right! We finally made an exchange and then I got an extra long pull into TS3 in Blythe. I found out later that our radios weren't working...thus the extra long pull... Remember the word challenging? You will notice that by TS2, we were up to 15th place amongst all of the teams (as opposed to 2nd to last at Lake Henshaw). By TS3, we were in 7th place.

Another note about the first night... I've been quite spoiled over the years by the likes of Robert Johnson of Terracycle who is an amazing night driver. He understands that he needs to be 20 feet behind me, regardless of the speed, so that I have lights for the road. It's imperative that the driver not rely on "brights" as a rider can go from light to darkness very quickly if the driver has to dim the brights for an oncoming car. We had fantastic lights from Surefire that had a remote handlebar switch, so we could instantly fire up the uber-bright lights, as needed. However, knowing that we were going to be in the Rockies at night, I needed to be completely confident in my driver's ability to stay with me.

The biggest concern that new drivers have is "well, if you go down, I will run you over." Nonsense. If I am traveling at 40mph and go down, I will continue sliding on the road for quite a distance before coming to a stop...you will have plenty of time to stop. The bigger concern is if the rider does something unexpected, like hard braking, then the rider could be hit. We riders know this (or should know this) and try to ride as consistently as possible while in front of a car.

So, after my first night shift, I requested a new driver. Nothing personal...but I needed to be confident. My crew chief obliged and I didn't have any more issues with this the entire race.

First pull out of Oceanside

Climbing up to Lake Henshaw

More Climbing

Racing Across the Plateau

First Night Shift!

First Really Long Shift - No Radios!

Touring the Alps

We recently heard back from a customer who purchased Ti Virginia bikes for him and his wife. They recently completed a tour of the Alps, and this is what they had to say:

We finished our tour of the alps (Grand Route de Alps) http://www.grande-traversee-alpes.com/en/my-journey/by-road/the-great-alps-trail.html back in July. The trip was amazing and so were the bikes. We flew into Geneva, loaded the bikes with two panniers each and our seat bag containing water. It was incredible that two fully loaded panniers had no noticeable impact to the handling of the bike, they were rock solid and nimble. We probably had about 30-40 pounds of gear each in the bags.

We cycled 850 km and climbed 15-16 passes including the highest pass in Europe (50 km up) and several passes over 2000m. It was an unbelievable adventure and are already planning next years mountain trip (the Dolomites in italy). Have enclosed a few pictures:

Thanks for all the help, was a pleasure dealing with you.