Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BWR 2011 - Denali, Part 7

We woke up at 7am, ready to go! Today was going to be a great day of cycling. Once we topped out on the Parks Highway a few miles after Cantwell, we would be descending or riding flat to rolling terrain the entire day. Add the short mileage, 125 miles, and the expected beautiful views of Denali and the Alaskan Range, and a perfect day was in order! As we left the hotel, I had to go back to the Chevron station for some food. They actually had fresh cinnamon rolls from a local bakery...excellent! I stowed one in my bag along with a couple more mundane bars, and off I went. Roland had continued on solo and I spent most of my day 20 minutes behind him.

It was a cold morning. It only got colder as I headed for the summit at about 2000 feet. It's amazing how much colder you feel when you are the time I reached the summit after 10 miles, I needed to add layers of clothing as I knew I would be heading downhill. It was damp, so I sat on my dry bag as I added a layer of clothing and munched on the cinnamon roll I got at the Chevron. Delicious!

By the way, the state of Alaska is very good at telling you when you've reached the top of something. They do it by calling it "summit" whatever. On day one, it was Summit it was Summit Airport. When you are starting to get a little brain-dead, obvious cues are very important! :)

Then, the descent began. It wasn't a steep descent, rather just miles of rolling terrain, moving in a downward direction, punctuated by some short, steep climbs. I soon reached the next control 37 miles out, Hurricane Gulch, right as Roland was leaving. Mike was there with his behemoth truck that I think could handle anything Mother Nature threw at it. Great guys with soup...soup IS good food! So far, the day had been views yet.

39 miles down the road, Mary's McKinley View Lodge was waiting. 39 miles of wonderful cycling! Again, the road headed down, no more than about 1%, but perfect for a relaxing day on the road. The sun came out periodically, there were still no views of Denali. The traffic was light and all was good except for my squeaky chain. I guess that's what happens when you don't lube your chain before the ride and then ride 600 miles on it. No problem...a squeak is just a squeak...

The McKinley View Lodge wasn't...that is, it wasn't a Lodge with a view of Denali. That's okay...they more than made up for it with the best cinnamon rolls of the trip. Sticky pecan rolls, actually. Warmed up with a cup of hot chocolate was wonderful (I was trying to stay off the caffeine today as it was a short day of riding in complete daylight). Just to give you an idea of how good these rolls were...I asked the nice young lady who was serving me if she had made them. "No." Good thing, because if she had, and I wasn't married, I would have proposed on the spot! JR, the volunteer who was signing brevet cards said she's used to getting several proposals a day! LOL!

While hanging out and chatting with JR, I learned that Ryan had DNF'd. This made me Lantern Rouge for the moment, but I had plenty of time so I wasn't worried about it. Shortly, I stripped down (it was definitely warming up) and hit the road for the last 50 miles of the day. It was only 3:30pm...plenty of time!

As if the cycling wasn't perfect already (except for the missing views of Denali), it just got better. I had finally dropped off of the descent and was not cruising along "real" rollers. You know the cruise down one side at 25-30mph and you have a enough momentum to just soft-pedal over the top of the next one. It was truly delightful and the miles just melted away. I passed Hiroshi and relegated my Lantern Rouge position to him.

Two highlights. Bob stopped at one point to make sure I was okay. He was out of wheat thins and chocolate chip cookies, but he had chain lube. Nothing like having a quiet bike again. Second, outrunning a thunder storm! One minutes it's fine, next minute it's raining. Quick, put on the rain jacket and take off. Five minutes later, it's sunny again!

A few minutes later, I crossed the Susitna River, and it was a quick, rolling 20 miles to Talkeetna. The organizers had arranged for rooms and food at the Swiss Alaska Inn...a nice indulgence on the last night. Unfortunately, Beef Strogonoff just didn't do it for me, so I settled for soup, garlic bread, rice and corn for dinner. One more day!

BWR 2011 - The crux move. Part 6

This was the day. Actually, THE should be capitalized. In all of my planning, I knew this day would be the hardest, the crux move, so to speak. I wasn't all that concerned about the first day...I've ridden....okay, maybe I haven't ridden 322 miles straight, but I was really confident that it wouldn't be a problem. I was right...32.5 hours on the road with no sleep breaks. Just good times both on and off the bike. But to wake up 4 hours later and ride another 200 miles? Can't say I've ever even contemplated that before. So, here we were...5:15am, on the road, with the goal of reaching Cantwell sometime that night. I knew that after completing today, the last two days would be easy in comparison (125 and 110 miles, respectively, on very easy terrain).

We had a nice 50 mile flat warm up to Fairbanks. The roads slowly transitioned from 2-lane highway to busier, 4-6 lane highway as we got closer to our destination. Roland noted a MacDonald's on our left about 35 miles into the ride, so we stopped for breakfast. We were definitely cutting it close to the control closing times, but didn't give it too much thought (after the 600k mark, the closing times start getting stretched out to eventually give the rider 10 additional hours). The sky was slightly overcast, the temperatures moderate, and there was absolutely nothing to look at other than the highway and suburban sprawl of North Pole and then Fairbanks.

We finally arrived at the Fairbanks control with a couple hours to spare. Saw a few other riders there; Hiroshi from Japan who had blown out two tires and was trying to get to the local bikes shop to buy new ones, Chris Hanson was taking a nap in one of the support vehicles before hitting the road again. It was too easy to get dragged into conversations and spend too much time at the control. But soon enough, we were on our way, ready to hit the two major climbs of the day.

The next two climbs caught me a bit by surprise. It's hard to look at a route profile that spans 750 miles across the width of your computer screen and know exactly how steep a climb is. Well, these were steeper than anticipated. Each climb was about 1000 feet over a couple miles...the first was the harder one, but the weather was clearing up. We finally reached the top and started down the rollercoaster descent on the other side. The views from the top were expansive, to say the least, and quite enjoyable.

Huh? Were's Roland? He had disappeared from my rear view mirror. Slow Roland. This area was much too remote to just leave, so I started riding back up the climb. There was Roland, fixing a flat...much better than the alternative. So officially, I rode one bonus mile, a bonus climb to boot! But you don't leave your partner...

At the bottom, we pulled over to have a snack. Imagine my suprise when Bob pulls up in his car and asks if we need anything. I look at my umpteenth bar, and ask "Got anything interesting to eat?" "I've got wheat thins...and chocolate chip cookies..." Sold...I stuffed my bar back into my bag and sat down to enjoy the gourmet dining.

"Wait, I can make you some coffee." This was getting better.

"I've got some peanut butter here, but no knife." No worries, we can dip. This was phenonemal! We all hung out, enjoying the cool morning air, good food and good company. We were delighted to hear that Bob was assigned to SAG duty for the back of the pack. He would be accompanying us for the rest of the ride! Awesome!

We started up the second climb, refreshed. The summit approached quickly, and then we bombed down the other side through the rolling countryside to Nenana, our next control.

In Nenana, we met up with several riders. Ryan was cruising along with his iPod blasting. Brennan was feeling pretty good, Hiroshi arrived in good time. Pretty soon, we all set off for the gentle climb up to Healy, the next overnight control.

We all leapfrogged each other for awhile. It was overcast and cool, perfect riding weather! As the climbing got a bit steeper, Brennan led the charge, Ryan and Roland carried on without me, and I headed up solo with Hiroshi close behind. A light rain started, so I stopped to put rain gear on in Bob's car, and enjoyed an apple (it's amazing how enjoyable the simple things in life can be on these advantures). Somewhere outside of Nenana, my Garmin 800 had stopped working, so I was left to navigating Healy with the cue sheet. I think it was around 9pm when I arrived...definitely later than anticipated.

The Healy control had pizza, another perfect randonneuring food! I dried off, exchanged stuff in my drop bag, and slowly got myself together to push on towards Cantwell. Roland and I left together, and swore loudly as we climbed the short but steep climb out of Healy!

Of all of the sections, this one was undoubtedly the most difficult. After the initial climb, the first 15 miles went by without issue. It was a long descent down a canyon, dropping down to the river below. It was a blast, my Surefire light lit the way, and I wished it was light out as it appeared to be gorgeous scenery.

Soon enough, though, I reached the entrance to Denali State Park, with its commercial "lodges" and tourist traps, and we began the long climb up to Cantwell. I had a few issues during this stretch. First, the 18-wheeler trucks were out in force, with their bright lights that pierced the gloom (I guess they really need to see when they are going to hit a moose). Most were going the other direction, but the oncoming truck lights were very bright and disruptive.

The other thing that I finally realized was that my own lights were mesmerizing me! I've never had that happen! The Supernova light was mounted above and behind the Surefire light, and it was reflecting off of the housing of the Surefire light. Also, the Surefire light was so bright, that the glare off the wet road was disturbing. I stopped many times to adjust the light angles and tried different combinations of running the lights. As we approached Cantwell, I finally figured it out and was able to ride the last seven miles in a straight line.

We stopped for my quickest control stop to date...five minutes! Get the card signed, get a cupcake and get to the hotel for a shower and a couple pieces of pizza (I stowed them in my back from Healy). It was 2:30am, we were about three hours later than expected, but the room was large, the showers hot, the beds comfortable. We set the alarm for 7am knowing that the next two days would be easy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BWR 2011 - It just keeps getting better. Part 5

We were thrilled to be leaving the Paxsom Lodge. We had one good climb to the top of the Richardson Highway, and then it would be basically 80 miles down the other side. Woohoo! As we climbed higher and higher, several things were apparent. First, a swarm of flies can keep up with a cyclist going 4.5 to 5mph! They weren't biting...just annoying! More annoying because they seemed more interested in me than Roland, who was 15 feet behind me!

Second, it was getting prettier and prettier. The hills on each side of the road were turning beautiful shades of orange and red, the sun was shining and all was good with the world. It truly was inspiring!

As we reached the top, we could see it was raining in the distance. We could see Summit Lake approaching on our left. This calm lake stretched for about 5-6 miles across the plateau at the top, with the beautiful red and orange hills on either side. The Alaskan Range had finally poked its head from out of the clouds in the distance, and the contrast of the colorful hills in front of the giant white mountains was stunning. To top it off, clouds were drizzling rain off at the far side of the lake and a beautiful rainbow had taken flight just beyond the hills in front of us. I have to say, this was the most spectacular view of the entire ride and nearly brought me to tears. We cruised alongside the lake, where it had obviously rained minutes before, but was now dry. (I was so entranced, I couldn't even remember where I was going!)

The descent down the other side was equally spectacular. As we pressed close to the base of the Alaskan Range, the colors and rock formations were breathtaking!

As we continued down the canyon, enjoying the rollercoaster ride alongside the river, we could admire the mountains on either side of us. All too soon, we had arrived at our next control, the Black Rapids Lodge.

We walked our bikes up the dirt driveway that lead around the lodge and to the front door. The view when we walked in was breathtaking (notice, I seem to be using that word a lot) was the picture-perfect spot to look at the mountains down a long canyon. Two lovely young ladies greeted us and asked us if we were hungry. The menu was soup...chicken noodle with homemade noodles and russet potatoes or Caribou beef, both made from scratch with homemade bread. It was tasty...really tasty...I had two bowls before getting the bill for $31! It was worth it. We filled our bottles, pet the dog, enjoyed the view one more time, and then headed back down to the highway.

The 38 miles to Delta Junction went by rather quickly. We left the lodge and hit two short climbs, followed by a long 4-5 mile one that brought us over the foothills into the next valley. From the top, it was all downhill as we raced the incoming storm to the control. We won, just barely.

At Delta Junction, we ate a bit, swapped out gear from our drop bags, and pressed on into the possibility of coming rain. It was 48 miles to the next control, and then seven to our hotel. The first 30 were rain free, but further along I could see the storm clouds brewing and lightning crossing the sky. It looked like I was going to get a chance to try out my rain gear.

When all was said and done, it was pretty mild rain. Descending some of the hills at 40mph could be a touch painful as the water stung our cheeks, but the roads were straight and smooth, and we could let the speed go. Roland, in particular, was quite fearless in the rain (he deals with it more than I do), and outran me on the descents a few times (few people can say that).

By about 10:30, we had arrived at the Midway was time to EAT and get dried off. The owner offered to throw our clothes in the dryer (very nice), and I enjoyed a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, followed by a grilled cheese sandwich. Although the owner smoked like a train, the company was pleasant and we were enjoying a nice meal together.

Once finished, we hopped on the bikes with dry clothes (the rain had stopped), and rode the quick 7 miles to our final destination, the Salchaket Roadhouse. They had agreed to leave the key under the mat of room 3 so we didn't have to disturb anyone when we arrived. The room was small but clean, with real, full sized towels. It was 12:30 (we were only a half hour later than planned) and we had been on the road for 32.5 hours, covering 322 miles. We set the alarm for 4:30am and were asleep the moment we hit the pillows!

Monday, August 29, 2011

BWR 2011 - Morning has broken. Part 4

We grudgingly packed up and headed out into the fog. Of course, as soon as we pulled out of the driveway, we began a three mile climb up into the darkness The fog had disappeared and we were all way over-dressed! Roland and I left together...Larry was still relaxing and trying to get himself together. Once to the top, we began riding a series of rollers as we slowly ascended to the Hub of Alaska, our next control at mile 119. I can't say there was a whole lot going on during this section. I had the pleasure of riding with Katie and Roland, but Katie left us when we stopped because you-know-who had to pee again.

We arrived at the Hub of Alaska around 3:30ish, tired and ready for some food. A Cup O Noodles and Coke were perfect for me! Before long, I was back to my perky self and ready for the 80 mile climb up to the summit of the Richardson Highway.

Sunrise emerged as we continued along. While some riders have a hard time riding through 3-5am, I seem to get really sleepy right as the sun is coming up. A stop for more food, though, and I was fine. Sometimes, you just need to get off the bike, walk around and eat something to get you back into the spirit of riding.

As we cruised up the road, I started looking for's a great way to keep your mind stimulated! Not five minutes later, I noticed what I thought were two horses in the road (we had just passed a sign that portrayed horses in the area). As we got closer, we discovered it was a female moose with its calf. They crossed the road and disappeared into the brush, and I cursed myself for not having my camera out. Roland may have gotten some good shots, and I wasn't going to let that happen again. We began our climb again, in search of more wildlife.

With our minds fully occupied, we quickly arrived at the Sourdough Roadhouse at mile 151. This was our first real road house experience, and it was quite worthwhile! Who could resist sourdough pancakes dating back to 1896? With a cup of coffee, they were delicious!

The road house was owned by Patty, an older woman who had been in Alaska forever. Her assistant, Shirla, had just arrived from Idaho yesterday and was beginning her Alaska experience firsthand! Finally, the local neighbor (can't remember his name) was hanging around, helping serve pancakes and tell us where to see the best moose, caribou and bears! It was quite the assortment of characters, and even included a genuine outhouse in the back! As far as I was concerned, this was classic Alaska.

After breakfast, we signed the guestbook and got a shuttle ride for 6.5 miles over some road construction. We were approaching the highlands, and the scenery was changing drastically as we got higher. The colors turned to reds and oranges, and the views were spectacular!

We were definitely in the interior of Alaska! We rode along Paxsom Lake to the far end for our 300k control at the Paxsom Lodge at mile 189.

Honestly, this Lodge was kind of a hole. While there, one of the staff complained about all the work we were putting him through (there were about a half dozen of us there at the time), and the food was expensive and not very good. They definitely did not win the best Lodge award!

Big Wild Ride 2011 - On the road! Part 3

Now I would like to give you a word of advice. If someone tells you that the local bakery made some "energy bars" for riders, I don't care how delicious they are, don't eat them. I woofed one down about a half hour before the start. They were so tasty, I stowed another two more in my bag.

We headed out right on time. Larry immediately jettisoned to the front, and I chased. Not to race, mind you...I wanted to make sure he didn't go out to hard! We cruised along the first 15 miles at about 125w, taking in the scenery as the sun vaguely started showing itself along the mountains. At mile 15, the course would climb gradually for five miles, and then the 10 mile climb up Thompson Pass would begin. This would definitely be our hardest climb of the ride, 10 miles at 5-6% sustained throughout.

As we rounded the turn at mile 15, we entered a beautiful canyon filled with waterfalls. It was absolutely gorgeous as we rode by Bridal Veil falls and began the ascent up to the summit of Thompson Pass. I stopped near the falls and ate another energy bar, and continued climbing in the company of Tom Parker. Before leaving, I admired the beauty of the area with Veronica, one of the volunteers. Her response..."welcome to my backyard!" And this was just the beginning...

Tom eventually left me as I caught up to Roland. We rode together and chatted for awhile. My goal was to keep the pace conversational...we still had over 700 miles to go! The climb continued further and further up into the mist, until we eventually crested the summit to an amazing view of our first glacier!

The descent down the other side was amazing, and I approached the first control at mile 39 pretty quickly. My goal had been to ascend Thompson Pass by 9pm - I arrived 15 minutes early! I reached the first control at about 9:20...plenty of daylight still left to continue on this beautiful ride through the Chugash Mountains along the Tsaina River. I got deeper and deeper into the mountains as nightfall descended upon me. The massive mountains arising on either side of me were spectacular, until they finally disappeared as dusk ended.

Remember my advice about "energy bars"? I was now starting to feel my mistake. I spend the next couple hours on the verge of vomiting. I didn't want to throw up as that could lead to dehydration, so I basically dealt with it, scaled back the eating and drank only water. By about mile 80, my stomach had returned and I felt incredibly lucky that this incident had not derailed my ride.

So let's talk about riding on a deserted highway at night in Alaska. As night descended, I started thinking of all of the warnings I had heard...bears, bad roads, moose...and quickly put that all out of my head. I was having too much fun! I wasn't carrying any dead salmon on me, so I wasn't worried about any bears jumping out at me, and I wasn't going fast enough to be worried about hitting any moose. The roads were good, there were cyclists in front of me and behind me, and I insisted on enjoying the night!

At mile 75, I finally caught up with the group in front of me. I could see their lights in the distance, but it seemed like every time I would get close to catching up, I would have to pee. As the road started dropping away towards our second control, we were enveloped in a dense fog and it definitely got cold! We cruised down the road until we saw a car parked in a driveway that started flashing its lights...we made it to mile 83! We rode 100 yards down a dirt road, and were welcomed into our first Alaskan lodge experience, the Tonsina Lodge!

Anna had set up quite a spread for us, and it was easy to sit back, enjoy some wonderful soup, mild pasta and rice, with a cup of coffee, and get warmed back up! The owner was like my grandmother...she kept pushing us to eat, eat, eat! Given the state of my stomach, I took it real easy and didn't sample all of the eastern European delights she had spread on the table. It was hard to leave, but we finally did!

BWR 2011 - Getting there is half the fun! Part 2

They say that getting there is half the fun. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it was enjoyable. I met Andy Sorenson at the Gold Rush Randonee in 2009. He lives in Anchorage and was off to do PBP while we would be in Alaska. So, he offered us the use of his house as a home base! How cool was that! So, Larry and his wife, Christine, flew into Anchorage on Wednesday, while Roland and I flew in on Thursday (separately). Thursday was a busy day as we wanted to get our bikes assembled. Larry and I had a great time getting to know each other as we assembled bikes in the driveway. He was riding his Bacchetta Giro 26 ATT while I was riding a Carbent HPV Raven.

Some of you may have looked at the picture of my bike as I posted it about a week before the ride. Well, it got a little portlier over the week as the forecast became a bit more ominous. I added full rain gear, including pants, jacket, booties (thanks Andy!) and rain gloves. By the time we were ready to leave, the bike was bulging with supplies!

On Friday morning, Larry and I took a nice spin around Anchorage, got lost, found ourselves again, visited Speedway Cycles and headed back home in the drizzle. The weather was not looking cooperative... Later, all of us went to the meet-and-greet at Speedway, and then had dinner at the Organic Oasis. Delicious!

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early to hop on the train to Whittier. From Whittier, we would take the ferry to Valdez. The train ride was fun and a great opportunity to meet other riders. Kevin, the RBA, whipped out a giant map of Alaska and we explored the route together. The views of the bay were amazing, and we got our first glimpse of glaciers. I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time...I did!

In Whittier, Roland and I headed for the Orca Cafe for lunch. The salmon sandwich was delicious. It seems that every menu item in Alaska involves salmon, and I quickly discovered that Copper River salmon was quite good! We then stood in line in the drizzle while waiting for the ferry to dock. Again, more good times meeting riders and swapping stories.

During the ferry ride, the weather was once again ominous...glad I brought the rain gear! Roland and I discovered an unfinished 1000 piece puzzle and proceeded to finish it between naps. The goal here was to relax and rest. I knew from past experience that the more rested I was, the more successful I would be on the ride.

Once in Valdez, we headed for the Mountain Sky hotel, got settled and went out to dinner! 10 randonneurs took over the Totem Inn and enjoyed an evening of good food and company!

Sunday morning, Larry and I took a 10 mile spin up the beginning of the course to check it out and make sure that the bikes worked perfectly! The clouds had broken and it was turning into a beautiful day! Perhaps the weather gods would be friendly? One last nap before we start...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Big Wild Ride - A 750 mile adventure to discover Alaska's best roadhouses, lodges and cinnamon rolls! Part 1

"Why are you doing that?" I think that is the most common question we randonneurs get from both friends and strangers. Good question. Why would anyone endeavor to ride 750 miles in 90 hours or less? As I recently put it to one friend, I'm going to ride almost four double centuries in four days, with four hours of sleep between each. I think the response I got was along the lines of "you are crazy!"

Last Fall, a good friend of mine, Tim Woudenberg, convinced me that we should do Paris-Brest-Paris together. PBP is the granddaddy of all 1200k annual pilgrimage is made by thousands of cyclists every four years to ride in PBP. He promised me wonderful scenery, great food, and the option of sleeping in a French barn! Although I didn't care much for French food and wasn't all that excited about flying halfway around the world to ride with 5000 of my closest friends, I grudgingly agreed. After all, when was the last time Tim wasn't spot on about a ride?

Well, in January, another friend of mine, Bruce, brought the Big Wild Ride to my attention. He was excited about it as there would be minimal riding in the dark. I was excited about it because I have always wanted to go to Alaska! Since reading Jack London and Walter Morey as a kid, Alaska had always been a destination I wanted to explore. Besides, it was closer, better food (in my mind), and was a ride across a vast wonderland with only 40 riders! I cancelled my date with Tim and signed up for BWR 2011!

Bruce and I began our preparations by completing a (relatively) local brevet series. These rides are 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k, and completion is required to be qualified to ride a 1200k. At the 400k, Bruce made the decision to pull out for a variety of reasons, and I was left to finish the qualifications solo. I ran into one of our customers, Roland Bevan, at the 400k, and we eventually decided to ride together on the BWR. Also, a 2012 RAAM teammate, Larry Graham, was coming along as well. The three of us would conquer the Alaskan landscape!

Here is the route in a nutshell:

To talk about preparations briefly is impossible. The logistics of doing a ride like this can be mind-numbing. I had several goals for this ride:

1. Complete the course in 90 hours or less, enjoying the scenery and the Alaskan culture.
2. As much as possible, ride during the day and sleep at night.
3. Sleep in real beds with real showers (no community sleeping arrangements).
4. Have fun!

Roland was in agreement on these goals, and so I set out an ambitious plan to meet them. Remember, our goal was to finish in about 90 hours...we were not interested in racing the course to see how fast we could do it. To meet these goals, we would need to alter the standard course plan slightly to access hotels on the route. We also had to extend our first day about 60 miles to get on a daytime riding schedule. So, here was the plan:

1. Ride starts at 6pm on Sunday. We would arrive at the first overnight control (mile 265) around 4-6pm on Monday, and keep riding to Salchaket Roadhouse approximately 60 miles further, arriving between 10-12pm. Get 4-6 hours of sleep and continue.
2. Day two would take us to the Healy sleep control 150 miles down the road, and then an additional 38 miles to Cantwell where the Backwoods Lodge would have a room waiting for us. Again, arrival was about 10-12pm. Get 4-6 hours of sleep and continue.
3. Easy 200k day to Talkeetna to the overnight control there. They had a hotel with beds and showers for all riders.
4. Up at midnight to finish the last 110 miles to Anchorage before noon on Thursday.

I knew #1 was doable...I've done it before. My bigger concern was #2. Completing 530k and then getting up a couple hours later to ride another 200 miles was unfamiliar territory for me. I knew that once I got past day 2, the last two days would be easy as they were on relatively recumbent-friendly terrain (read flat to rolling) and significantly shorter.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Optima High Baron Is Here!

...and the color is really nice too. For you Baron enthusiasts, check out the new QR skewers to make seat angle adjustments wrench-less. Nice improvement! The fork is 640g with the alloy steerer tube, so a Bacchetta Full Carbon Johnson would save about 220g.

We'll be building it up tomorrow with our signature ZR package: SRAM 10s!

This brings dual 700c speed and choice to those who prefer a lower seat height.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Anticipating the Big Wild Ride!

Next week, I head to Alaska to complete the Big Wild Ride, a 1200K Randonee from Valdez to Fairbanks and back to Anchorage. 1200 kilometers equates to 750 miles, and it is ridden in a period of 90 hours or less. Basically, it is like doing double centuries every day for four days, but without a good night's sleep between each ride. In fact, I think the mental aspects of completing this ride are more difficult to grasp than the physical. Let's face it...after two or three hundred miles, your body is done. It really takes an act of will power to finish the remaining ride. So, how do you do that?

Aside from the nitty-gritty details that I have been reviewing over the last couple weeks, I have spent a lot of time doing some visualization. I spend time envisioning the first, 9-mile climb (the hardest climb of the ride), that takes us to about 2700 feet. I imagine doing it slowly, keeping my power down so I don't burn out, without fretting too much about how long it is taking me.

I have spent a lot of time visualizing the finish. The sense of accomplishment of completing my first 1200K. I DNF'd my first 1200K a couple years ago...I didn't understand the rules and that cost me the event. I'm not making that mistake again.

I visualize all of the problems I may have on the road...flat tires, broken cables and chain, the pure exhaustion of riding, and solve those problems in my head repeatedly.

I've been doing this long enough that I have a good idea of how I handle sleep deprivation, and what my mind will start doing. I imagine wanting to quit, and talking my way out of it. I imagine wanting to stop at controls and hang out, and then imagine kicking myself to get up and get on the bike. I think about all of the mental games I will play with myself over 90 hours, and how I will overcome each one. Trust me, I will feel like quitting...the key is to move past that and keep going. Set short-term goals, promise myself an ice cream cone at the next town...whatever it takes to keep moving forward.

The logistics of this are quite daunting. I need to think ahead and pack three bags of supplies to send up the road. In this planning, I need to account for they varying weather conditions of the area, the time of day I anticipate riding, and everything else that may just come up! Long lists are involved...

I plan to ride with a friend, Roland, who I've ridden a few times with in the past. We ride about the same speed and he is great company. I enjoyed building his Bacchetta CA2.0 for him last January, and he is putting it to good use.

We decided to forego the pre-established "sleep controls" for a variety of reasons. The first is at mile 265. Well, we will probably be there at 4-6pm, which is prime time for riding! I want to see Alaska, not ride through every night, so we decided to push on to mile 322 and get a hotel room where we can have a real bed (no sleeping bags) and hopefully get some good sleep for about six hours.

The next stop is at mile 475. Again, we will probably arrive there late afternoon, and decided to press on to mile 514 and get another hotel room. Same plan...sleep through the night and head out around 4am when it is getting light out.

Our last sleep stop will be at the last "sleep control." at mile 640. The ride up to this stop is through Denali National Park, and I really wanted to see this during the day. I hope we are on schedule so we can enjoy this beautiful scenery! After getting our last nap, we head off for the last 115 miles to Anchorage!

It will be quite an adventure, and I look forward to posting more afterwards!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Photo Credit: John Foote,

Sandy Earl to Attempt 24-Hour Unfaired Recumbent Bicycle Record August 13-14

Arcata, CA – How far can she go? We'll find out sometime in the wee hours of August 14, when Sandy Earl finishes her 24 hour attempt in La Conner, Washington. Using the same course that Chris Ragsdale used last year to set the UCI 1000-km record, Sandy will pedal her Carbent Raven around the clock to accumulate as many miles as possible.

UMCA records may only be set on certified courses. Three officials will ensure that the attempt is carried out fairly and safely, and two crew members will be present to keep Sandy moving forward. The racer, officials, and crew will be fueled in part by Los Bagels, an Arcata mainstay.

Regardless of the final mileage, and pending certification by the UMCA, Earl will establish a 24-hour UMCA record for recumbents – no one has attempted this feat on a recumbent bicycle before. Other notable mileage numbers that are in her sights:

12-hour womens' recumbent record: 241.008 (also 12-hour womens' overall record)

12-hour recumbent overall record: 241.473

24-hour womens' overall UMCA record: 439.65

24-hour womens' UCI record: 461.45

Earl's best 24-hour result to date has been 442.6 – at the Sebring 24-hour race this past February. Live course updates will be posted as possible at

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

New Blog -

We have started a new blog documenting the odyssey towards RAAM 2012. Check it out...we hope you enjoy it!