Friday, August 19, 2011

One Fine Day, Reprise - UMCA 12/24 Hour Road Record Attempt

The attempt was done on a course that had been set up and certified by Chris Ragsdale. He’d used it for a 1000-kilometer attempt last year. And - photo credits to Duncan Watson and David Bradley. 

We arrived in La Conner on Friday afternoon. We expected to have to do some digging to find the survey points, but everything was there and clearly marked, leaving nothing to do but sweep the course, and send me out on a test lap while the crew inspected the course for debris. 
Bill and John sweeping the course Friday afternoon

One unanticipated bonus feature on the course was a portable toilet that was (a) open, (b) freshly serviced, and (c) right on the course. Although it may have been faster to pee roadside, I decided that the available facility was a great compromise: it looked like what traffic was out there was going to be tourists, and I’m likely not the scenery they were looking for.
"my" Honey Bucket! 

We also checked in with the folks at the Queen of the Valley Inn – the bed and breakfast inn at the start/finish. Yep – this is a very civilized course! We had rooms there Saturday night, but for Friday we were fortunate to have a homestay with local ultracyclist Scott Youngren. After checking out the course, we got dinner, did some shopping, and turned in early. I slept about as well as I normally do the night before a big event.

Queen of the Valley Inn

We got underway at 6:40 AM. We’d been shooting for 6:30, but – a day’s a day, and that last trip to the porta-pot was worth every minute.  Early weather was cool (low 50’s), cloudy, and relatively calm. I knew I would have to make very good time in the early going, as we anticipated that the wind would increase during the afternoon.
John,  shortly before the start

My focus early on was steady effort and rock-solid cornering. The 10.8+ mile course has six corners plus a traffic roundabout. Over the course of 24 hours I would be doing a LOT of cornering, which means I had far too many opportunities to ride extra distance without credit. The traffic roundabout was a nice feature, actually, even though it slowed me down a few times. The survey map makes it look like you can pick a straight line through it, which you can’t, quite. Making a game out of seeing how fast I could exit that roundabout was a great motivational tool. On a course that was pretty static otherwise, it might have actually have been a benefit to have a challenging section like that. 

UMCA official Elise Ross notes my lap split

As I usually do, I got a cramp in my left adductor about 4 hours into the race. We spent a minute sorting that out. It just seems to happen with hard efforts, and this was a hard effort. By that point, the wind was definitely picking up, and I knew that I’d been smart to get well ahead of pace. Although the wind wasn’t raging as much as it can be through the valley, there was enough to make it a factor. The most annoying thing was that it was never consistent from lap to lap. Winds swirl through there quite a bit, affected by the Sound, the foothills, and thermal gradients. One lap I’d attack the northbound leg into a headwind, have a tailwind on the eastbound leg, a mild crosswind down the south leg, and a stiff headwind on the westbound…make the corner braced for more headwind, and find myself mysteriously riding along at 24 mph…Next lap, I’d do the same leg at 18 with a headwind (or, as I prefer to think of it, an “in-your-face tailwind”).

what goes around, comes around....same ol' thing

Shortly after the winds came out, the fans came out as well! I was amazed to see Mick and Martha Walsh, Tim Turner, and a bunch of other folks, including a lot of the Seattle International Randonneurs club. Guess what? Having people out there cheering really makes a difference.
Coming in toward the start/finish I could see that someone had chalked the pavement. From a recumbent viewpoint, that’s really hard to see on flat ground, so I had to piece it together just a little bit at the time. “We’re…something”. Crap. Missed it. Next lap, I'll try again! Seventeenth lap, I finally got it: We’re the luckiest people in the world. Thanks, Mick!!! I made it a point to go faster over that spot for the rest of the race.

Early in the second six hours, I got my only flat tire of the day. Despite all the work by the crew to get debris off the pavement, I’d picked up a wire fragment, probably from a car tire. We were on our way quickly, but I spent a couple of laps without the disk wheel while the problem got diagnosed and fixed. We changed back to it at my next pit stop. I'd been working a little harder to maintain the speed without the disk; it was nice to have it back. 

A couple of times I was called upon to prove that I am, indeed, faster than farm equipment. I would like to think that I rose to that challenge, though I am told that I scared the bejeebers out of my crew with one pass.
hang on to your bejeebers, lads - she's gonna pass this behemoth!

The crew was excellent at keeping me on track for nutrition. We went 24 hours without a single missed (or even poor) handoff, which is a testament to how invested everyone was. Race fuel was my usual mish-mash: York Peppermint patties, Boost, Los Bagels fare, stroopwafels, pizza, mashed potatoes, soup, and one stray corn dog. Food logs show that I averaged 250 kcal and 12 oz of fluid per hour. The fluid value is low, but the weather was very moderate and nearly all overcast. Ibuprofen was doing its job keeping my hotfoot in the manageable range. I kept the left shoe loose, and I seldom felt that I was throttling back the effort to manage my foot. The shoe was so loose that I had trouble clipping out – the shoe would eject my foot before the cleat disengaged – but that was far better than letting a tight shoe force me into soft-pedaling. 

I was closing in on the 12-hour record when I got a second leg cramp. This time, my right sartorius seized up. Big cramp – end-to-end of the muscle. I really didn’t have the time or inclination to stop, so I continued on. A few minutes of very stern concentration later, I had successfully banished the cramp. This was the first time I’d been successful at riding through a significant cramp on a recumbent; it's extremely difficult to find positions that stretch a cramping thigh muscle. I guess that’s an accomplishment, though one I’d rather have saved for a training ride.

At the 12-hour mark, David, the head official, counted me down. Our arrangement was that I would squirt water from my water bottle straight down at his command; this would be the location that he would mark for the record distance. It might be conservative by a foot or two, but I was fine with that. Except that my water bottle was full of Coke: somewhere in La Conner, Washington, an ant is smiling right now. I sped up a little bit for the countdown, but I didn’t knock myself out – still 12 hours to go. 
Early in the 2nd 12 hours

As we got closer to nightfall, the winds did die down a bit, which was much appreciated.
Laps kept coming around. I’m told that the innkeeper shuttled cookies out to the officials and crew. I saw one deer cross my path. I had an iPod loaded with some pretty good riding music.
I was riding steady at night – but overall a little slower than during the day. I was fine with this. I’ve never been a negative split rider under the best of circumstances, and having put the pressure on to hit both the 12 and 24-hour marks had meant that I probably did more work early than I normally would. My “A” goal of 462 miles was clearly out the window, but my “B” goal of 440 was solid. Just stay on the bike.


More time. More laps. Caffeine gum to keep me alert.  We’ve got two flavors of military-spec caffeinated gum; both taste awful, but that’s okay because they’re doing the job. I’ve affectionately named them “Bitter Red Hot” (cinnamon) and “Disappoint Mint” (mint).
Although I couldn’t see my speedometer well at night, I could tell when I was slowing down: “Time for your caffeine treats!” as Mark’s disembodied hand reached out the window.

About twenty-two hours in, the unthinkable: I accidentally swallowed a good-sized bolus of air along with some killer-good mashed potatoes. I could actually feel the air bubble travel down the pipes and – I swear – bounce. I could tell right away that it wasn’t a happy event. Mind races:“OK, it feels gross. But it may go away. Keep pedaling. OK, it won’t go away. But you still may not have to puke. OK, pull over….” A couple of moments lost to the heaves, then back on my way, now packing a water bottle full of ginger ale.

At this point, I’m a little bummed. I know from experience that it usually takes a couple of hours of hard work at slow pedaling to bring a stomach around – and that’s all the time I’ve got. So the best case is probably that I can keep it moving forward slowly, and hopefully I can speed up toward the end. I don’t need a permanent fix for the stomach – just a truce that we can both live with until 6:40 AM.

Riding along. Sipping ginger ale, which I’m carefully swishing around in my mouth to destroy any and all traces of bubbliness. Every so often I tested the system, bring the speed up above 15 mph – nope, not yet, keep that up and you’ll heave again. Drat. We came in to the start-finish at just around 6AM, and as I rolled through I informed the officials that I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t quite complete the next lap, as much as I wanted to. They were prepared either way.

It feels like I’m CRAWLING the last lap. But we’re making distance, and distance is what we need. I figured that I need around 7 miles to go over the 440 mile mark, and I know that double-digit speed is pretty much all that’s required. Ride steady. Sip ginger ale. Don’t push. Don’t barf.
With 10 minutes to go, I was pretty sure that I’d made it. The rest was gravy. I nudged the speed up a bit. When David started counting down the minutes at 5, I sped up more.

On his count, I squirted the pavement again to mark my finishing spot and coasted ahead to the nearest safe pullout, just around the corner. I came closer than I figured I would to finishing the last lap – less than 2 miles out.
I. Am. Toast. 

I was sufficiently spent that it took some time and tactics to remove me from the bike. Once extracted, I spent the next few minutes decorating the hood of the follow vehicle with ginger ale.
After the officials marked the finishing spot, we all piled into vehicles and drove back to the inn. After a very short catnap, I eased myself into, and eventually out of, a sunken Jacuzzi tub - no mean feat - and headed into the gathering room. The innkeepers put together an amazing farm breakfast for us; it was so nice to not have to go anywhere, or for that matter even think about what we’d do for breakfast.
The team waits for me to come around at the B&B. 

As ever, there’s a very long list of folks who contributed to this effort. I owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude. In addition to a lot of well-wishers and cheerers…
  • My crew chief and biggest fan, Bill Spaeth
  • John Vincent, who agreed to come crew on very short notice
  • Scott Youngren (and son John), who came on for the night shift and gave us a warm welcome on Friday
  • Mark Biedrzycki – workin’ on the night crew
  • David Bradley – head official
  • Elise Ross and Duncan Watson – officials
  • Queen of the Valley Inn – hospitality above and beyond
  • Los Bagels – amazing bagels, spreads, and cookies
  • Bent Up Cycles – makers of the Carbent Raven
Equipment used: 
  • Carbent Raven
  • Wheelbuilder wheel covers (rear) 
  • Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL (front)
  • Michelin Pro 3 Race tires (pink!)
  • Nutrition - mixed sources, 6400 kcal
  • Hydration - mixed sources - 278 fl. oz.
Hasta la proxima!!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

24 Hours of La Conner - the waiting is the hardest part

We're making final preparations. Bikes - check. Spare wheels - check. Shoes, helmet (yay! New pink helmet!), food, drink, stopwatches. A UMCA record is a serious undertaking, and we're taking it serious to the max. David is verifying the calibration of my Oregon Scientific clock. In theory it can't be off, but the rules require that an official verify the timepiece, so that's what we're doing.
I'm nervous - a little - and part of me wishes that we were at it, already, so that I can get past the waiting.
I'm supposed to be tapering. I'll not count the spin class that I taught last night...surprise! Well, if the regular instructor's sick, someone needs to fill in, and I've called in my fair share of favors. Now I'll just do a couple of test rides from here out. My legs will hate me for that, but it's what I've gotta do.
Watch David's twitter feed for course updates: @drbradley.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's Not About the Pony - Race Across Oregon 2011

We had a fantastic race – reasonable weather, fantastic crew, good racing, and a nail-biter finish. And yet, as we were mugging for pictures, wearing big grins and finishers' medals, David couldn't help but put in, “now when you write this up, please remember something else besides the pony”....

So I'll put it out there, right now: This Was Not A Race About A Pony. The pony was strictly not necessary to our success. It was found quite by accident, in a parking lot near where we were to pick up David from the parade start. Both racers were supposed to ride the parade together; I gave David my slot since I'd already seen this stretch – and it's so awesome that I wanted to be sure that he got a chance, too.

Still, you don't just leave a pony lying around. And he fit rather nicely on the roof rack: one front hoof hooked over the front wheel tray, and one rear fetlock clasped by the rear wheel strap. We collected David, helped him find his shoes (-:, and spent a couple of minutes finishing the pony installation with zip ties. That couple of minutes meant that we were the last team in the parking lot when it became clear that Cheney – the poor, long-suffering bastard who'd driven late into the night to get here due to a car breakdown – had not been picked up by his crew. We ended up driving him to The Dalles to meet up with his crew, who were a little surprised to find him missing. I don't know where they expected him to be...
the team pony - name TBA

We'd previewed the first 20 miles of the race yesterday, so we knew (A) that Bill wouldn't get lost, and (B) Bill had a heck of a warmup hill in his first pull. After picking up Cheney, we made a quick stop at the Fred Meyers (just north of the meetup point, on Cherry Heights) to pick up the few supplies we'd missed getting yesterday. We did a good job of using available time: by the time we got parked, I had just enough time to check over my bike and take one last pee (memo to self: peeing in the bushes + fluorescent helmet = not so stealthy), the first racers were appearing. Moments later, here's Bill! He did a great job of putting us right in the thick of things. I gave us a 2-second advantage on the rest of the crowd by being the first rocket scientist to figure out that the best place to make our exchange might be AT the stop sign, instead of 20 yards past it.

Off I went, through the heart of The Dalles. Lots of stop signs, so I was on the DF (easier to get it up to speed quickly). Before you know it, I made a couple of turns and headed up 197 toward Dufur. The sun was shining, and I was feeling pretty good. And just like that, it was Bill's turn to race again.

Ian and David racked my bike, and I hopped into the van to recharge. Job #1 is to leave a message for Bill. When David and Bill did RAO together (2008), Bill's one comment was that he'd been a little hesitant to go all-out because he didn't know how David was feeling. We decided that we'd use a white board to leave each other updates on how things were going. My first update was pretty businesslike:
Intensity 8.5. Feels good. Watch heat: I think it's gonna get warmer than we think it's gonna get”.
Then – hydrate-hydrate-hydrate, grab something to eat (I thought I'd had a good breakfast, but I'd clearly run right through), and get ready...

'Cause here I go again. On into Dufur and a bit past before Bill took over. I got into the van. “Intensity is GOOD. Did you sunscreen? XOX”. Bill was doing well! As a matter of fact, I did sunscreen – but I'm glad he asked; I'm a lot more likely to forget than he is. “Yep – sunscreen. Horchata + Power Recovery = awesome. You look great out there!”

Bill relaxing(?) in the van.

Bill rounded the turn onto Dufur Gap. I got a good chunk of this part, then Bill punches it over the top and onto 197. We race down the hill in the van and barely get set up in time for me to take over at the turn onto 216. “Woo-hoo! Awesome riding!”. I'm flying along 216 – I've ridden this stretch a BUNCH of times for Ring of Fire and I know every little bump. I got enough steam going to roll “12 Mile Bump” (because it comes at mile 12 of the Ring of Fire loop) very nicely. I slowed down just a touch for 15 Mile Bump and headed down to the river with as much speed as I could handle. Somewhere in the turn at the bridge, it occurred to me that I wasn't 100% certain that I'd seen the van go past...and I hadn't. They'd underestimated my speed and were behind me; as I pulled over at our designated meetup point (hey, it's a porta-potty and I was NOT going to be denied) I could just make out the van in my rear view mirror. That was a nice pull!

Back in the van. Now it was Bill's turn, up a steep hill without any pullouts, so he was on his own. He's taken water and food. We would be able to support him in about a half an hour's riding, so we spent a few minutes reapplying sunscreen, washing up a bit, and making sandwiches. I got into the van. By now, the first thing I wanted to do when I got off the bike is to get my hands on that white board! “Worked pretty hard that last pull. Legs a little twitchy.” Bill HAS been working hard. I was glad that I pushed hard on the last pull; it made me feel more like I'm being the teammate he deserves. “Feeling good, last pull 9.0 and lovin' it. Keep drinking! XOXOX – PS Can I keep the pony???”
exchange between Tygh Valley and Grass Valley

David dumped me out at the top of the steep section. A little more flattish climbing on the 'bent and then it's going to be rollers for a while. I took off, working hard. Half an hour (or so) later, back in the van: “Of course you can keep the pony! What's its name? Maybe we can stable it at Rick and Wendy's?” OK, now we're starting to get silly. But I LIKE silly.

Moving right along...Moro (time station #2). Here's Dierdre! Woo-hoo!!!! Bill made the right-hand turn. We kept going. More racing. More passing notes on the white board. “Flat tire was a piece of tire wire – be careful out there!” Sometimes I'd get in the van and just start cracking up. “Anything you'd care to share?” asked David, expectantly. Sometimes yes, sometimes...nah. I considered taking photos of the white board comments, just for the record. Then I decided that what made them cool was that there were temporary. David started referring to them as our “analog Twitter feed”.

Gassed up in Condon. I headed through town and off toward Heppner while the van re-fueled. They brought me ice cream. I was happy: the sun was shining, we were racing, and I had ice cream AND a pony. Can't hardly get any better than that.
David gets his photo in the blog because he got me ice cream - twice.

Up and over the next big hill. We took turns as best we could. Bill was riding a lot faster uphill than me – but we expected that. Approaching the top, we made one more swap: I'm going to take the DF up the last bit and then down a ways. Just before the summit, my right pedal felt weird. Really, really weird. Then it felt even weirder when the pedal body ejected off of the spindle. That necessitated a quick bike/rider swap while we sorted out our options. Fortunately David and I wear the same size shoes, and even more fortunately, he'd brought shoes and pedals along just in case he'd been able to squeeze a ride in while we were traveling. I was a little grumpy that the pedal had decided to give up more or less at the top of a hill.“Sure, you get a great descent, and all I get is a busted pedal”. “STOP BREAKING THINGS!!! xoxox”

Between flat tires, pedal shenanigans, and our general pace of operation, we were going to be a few minutes shy of getting to Heppner by 7PM – the start of mandatory night follow - so David took the van ahead to refill gas while I plugged along. Since we'd just gassed in Condon, it was a quick and easy trip. Final descent into Heppner. Lights on – check! Music – check! I thought it was amusing when we played “Horse Power”...”The pony's talking to you! GO BILL!! WOO-HOO!!!”

At dusk, the owls came. I have seen owls out on the course before – but I've never seen them be so numerous, so concentrated, or so determined. There was at least one family of parent and owlets, teaching the young ones to hunt. I guess that something big and slow, like a cyclist with a fluorescent pink helmet, makes a good training target: I was dive-bombed at fairly close range. “Maybe I shouldn't have polished your helmet with mouse-scented Pledge...” I heard that other racers were being menaced by cougars; I had my hands full with the owls...We keyed them out afterward as being (most likely) short-eared owls. This photo essay makes me very glad to not be a mouse!

Battle Mountain – businesslike. We got it done. At the top, Bill is going to get the long pull down into Dale. This seems sort of backwards to me, but – hey, we're a team. I rolled up onto the bunk and pretended to sleep. “Sweet Dreams, Overlord!” (this is a reference to my RAW crew shirt, which lists my team role as “Overlord” - I did not complain at the time, and “sweet dreams, Overlord” does have a rather nice ring to it).
Bill flies toward Dale, OR!

Bill actually rolled a bit past Dale, almost to the top of the next steep pitch, before I took over. Lots of climbing. It's the middle of the night. I was doing my best but I didn't feel quite right. Breathing wasn't where I expect it to be. But this was Bill's only chance to sleep, and he's one racer who does MUCH better if he gets sleep – so I'm going to suck it up. “Be the teammate he deserves” was my mantra for this stretch. I got us to Long Creek, then made the turn toward Monument. By now the breathing was really bothering me. I considered cutting it short, but I didn't. I wasn't going to be able to completely polish off the Monument climb; I left some of it for Bill. Despite our pact to be honest with each other about how we're doing, I made sure to get him on his way for this pull without letting him know that I was having problems.

He knocked off the rest of the Monument climb and we had some relatively easy miles (in theory) racing in to Spray. My breathing, which had been crappy on the upright, was atrocious on the recumbent: gravity is working against solid chest expansion. I had to force myself to remember good breathing technique – expand from the diaphragm first, forcefully, every breath – just to stay in the game. I gave what I could for a pull and got back into the van. Reluctantly, I grabbed the white board...”Some trouble breathing, working through it, mainly okay...”

Turns out, Bill was having some of the same issues – fortunately not quite as bad as I was. We're pretty certain that pollen was to blame. Spring had come late and there was a lot of blooming going on. I remember how lovely the sage smelled....

Just short of Spray my digestive system woke up and decided that it was time to get to its daily work. I really didn't want to force another stop during night follow hours.... We were very lucky to find a restroom at...7:01(???) - Muleshoe Recreation Area. Good vault toilet, will be in the route book next year! This is the second race in a row where Bill has been abandoned right at 7AM to expedite a restroom mission.

By the time we got to Service Creek, it was clear that it was going to be warm. “Glad we'll be done with Clarno before it gets TOO hot!” Up and over Butte Creek, then Bill headed down the other side. I took off out of Fossil. We ran into some touring cyclists on the Fossil climb. They'd been out on tour for about a month. We did some shorter pulls to get over that summit, sent Bill down the other side, and headed back up again.
they've been touring for 30 days now!

We settled into a rhythm of shorter pulls on the climbs. It seemed to speed things up a little bit – if nothing else it made the time go faster since we got to send notes to each other more often. My breathing was still a little weird, but becoming tolerable. I learned to concentrate on deep belly breathing, and to forcefully exhale through pursed lips.“Make sure David gets ice cream in Shaniko!”.

Onward – and upward. Over Clarno. I actually got to take the descent down to Antelope. I made the turn in Antelope and handed off to Bill.

Bill took a pull and the plan was to relieve him quickly and have me take the last bit into Shaniko. Then Bill would get on the course at the turn and head toward Bakeoven. The road did not cooperate; we had about 2 miles of no pullouts whatsoever. Finally we found one and I'm off. I polished off the last 2 or 3 miles as best I could. When we got to the gas station, we discovered that there was no gas – the place turns over often, and the current management must feel that they're doing just fine selling smokes, cokes, and beer.

We've got plenty of gas, so this wasn't a problem – just means one more thing for the crew to do in Maupin. We were hoping to lighten the crew's load a little bit there so that they could enjoy some of the Imperial's fine hospitality. Instead, we had to settle for “just” ice cream in Shaniko. Strawberry for Bill (no surprise there) but I had to pick...drawing a blank...too many choices....OK - mint chocolate chip!!! I can't remember what David and Ian had, but it looked good. For some unfathomable reason the clerk thought to mention that perhaps she should include a pickle with Bill's ice cream. We thought otherwise.

We caught up to Bill just short of the Bakeoven Summit, and let him go a little bit past until we found a reasonable turnout. The first miles out of the summit are flat-to-rolling – so finding a turnout where he'd be losing speed was not that difficult. Then I was off to the races for a fairly long pull, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There were some headwinds, but they were fairly light. In 2009, the wind had been so fierce that I'd crawled down this slope at about 12 mph.

David pulled me in to get a short rest. The guys must've mentioned the pickle incident: “Glad there's no pickle in the ice cream!” (Well, me too!) I would take the last 9 miles down to the Maupin. David would leave Bill and his DF there, go into town to get gas and ice, and return to pick me up. They hoped to get back before I did. I hoped they wouldn't – because that would mean I was going faster!

I pushed as best I could heading down the hill. I always fight to not be too conservative on the switchbacks leading into town – imagine Wile E Coyote going over a cliff and you'll have a pretty good idea of the consequences of a mistake in this section. I didn't exactly air it out, but I did have more fun than I've had before.

Bill was waiting for me when I got there – big smoochy sendoff, and he was out on the next climb. I had a second to grab (but not eat) a sandwich, and say “hi” to Rob and Deirdre before David and Ian came rolling in for me. We racked the Carbent and headed up the hill after Bill.

The plan was for Bill to take the steep part of the hill, for me to take the flat part, and for Bill to finish and take the downhill to Tygh Valley. By this time he was almost feeling sheepish about getting yet another downhill – if one were keeping strict score, he was significantly ahead in the downhill miles department – but I held firm on this one: it's very sweet and I've done it a bunch of times, so it was a good one for him to get to try. “Woo-hoo! Enjoy this descent!!”

Sadly, what goes down must...come up. The climb to Tygh Ridge Summit was a bear: hot, exposed, headwinds. I did my part, but Bill did more. When we got to the top, David was going to let Bill take the descent, but Bill was having none of it: “Sandy's fresher – send her”. This was smart racing all around – Bill needed to get back into the van for some cooling – because the descent was quite a bit harder than it looked. Despite the great gravity assist, I could only manage 25 mph. There was a lot of headwind slowing me down, but every once in a while it would become a nasty crosswind, or mysteriously disappear altogether. With the swirling wind, it was difficult to predict where the bike would go if I put serious power down. A couple of times I ran afoul of the gust gods, and the bike lurched into a sudden lack-of-crosswind, so I did my best to concentrate on smooth riding and keeping the pedals moving.

By the exchange, the crew must've known that I was at my limit; they were cheering and whooping and hollering up a storm. Ian even did some kilt-twirling! At registration, Deirdre asked him what he was wearing under his kilt, to which he replied, "shoes". He was right.
Sorry, sports fans - what happens at RAO, stays at RAO.

Once we moved off of the highway, Bill took over again. We were on the final assault now – heading toward FR44 and ultimately the downhill finish. The 3000' of climbing between here and there – well, we'll get it done somehow. Smallish detail.

Once the climb began in earnest, we did shorter and shorter pulls until we got to the top. I was really feeling the climbing and the heat. At one point, all I could think of to write was, “I AM (picture of a slice of TOAST)”. Bill started working harder to get us to the top. “Can you smell the barn?”, he wrote. “I'm pretty sure the barn can smell ME!”, I answered....
Bill is riding great!!!

As we got close to the top, it was clear that the last 4-person team, Team AARP Approved, was catching up with us. I figured that was okay – at this point we knew we were going to come in at a decent hour, not totally kill ourselves, and meet our goals. But getting passed so late in a race kind of hurts, you know? They did pass us just before the final summit, and made their escape toward Hood River.

I. Am. Toast.

After my “toast” comment, Bill was figuring that he might have to finish the race on his own. I knew that once we got off the climb, things would get better. How much better, I could not have guessed....

We put Bill out on the recumbent for the first descent – down FR44 to Hwy 35. We lost a minute or so here because when the guys pulled it off the rack, it had a flat tire. Augh. It was faster to change his wheel than to haul me out of the van. Finally, he was off and we flew ahead to the next turn, to set me up.

A nice, non-technical descent – definitely my terrain. I spun up the Carbent as quickly as I could, settled in, and enjoyed the ride. David tells me it was mainly at 50+ mph and I don't doubt that for a minute – I was working hard at maximizing speed by applying force where it would be helpful, and by being as aero as possible when further application of force wasn't productive. After several miles, I thought I saw a bike ahead. And then I was SURE I saw a bike ahead. And then it dawned on me – AARP! I was going to catch them. There was no holding me back at that point. What breathing problems? Hell, you hardly need to breathe to pilot a recumbent rocket down a mountain...when I was sure I was going to pass, I sent the team van around to set up an exchange, put the hammer the rest of the way down, and hung on until I got some relief. It took a LONG time to get to the exchange – but David had had to go a long way down the mountain to get to a point where he knew he was far enough ahead to make the exchange without losing time.

Bill took the small grade reversal on his Cervelo at about 6:55 PM. David decided that the thing for us to do was to get him to the top of that hill, where he'd arrive at almost exactly 7:00, and the two of us would ride the rest of the way down, together, on our recumbents. Since night rules were coming back around, this was the only way to get both of us out on the course to finish together without a full stop. And – we're racing!

From the top of FR44, the view is amazing!
We managed both exchanges without catching sight of AARP. Now Bill and I were careening down the boulder-sealed highway toward Hood River and the finish line. Bill dropped his chain and for a moment I forgot about the night follow rules, and headed on without him. Fortunately I figured it out and slowed, so that when he got his chain back on, he didn't have to sprint too far to bring us back together (OK, he may think it was 'too far'!).

Down, down, down...pushing each other, having a blast. Eventually David lets us know that there's no further threat from the rear, and we can take it down to a reasonable pace for the last couple of miles, and so we do. We rolled across the finish, photos, medals, smiles...woo-hoo!!!
Oh, yeah. And a pony.
Thanks again and again to David and Ian for amazing crewing, to Bill for being the best teammate EVER, and to everyone involved with RAO. We had a blast and I'm already looking forward to next year. 

We've got one T-shirt left from the party. They're very cool. (See David's photo above). It could be yours!!! Best pony name wins the shirt! Enter by email or by comment on this blog.