Sunday, June 28, 2009

Science Diet

On-bike nutrition has become my new obsession. For the past 30 years of biking I have been a staunch advocate of "real" food on my rides--the idea of relying on nothing but energy bars, Ensure and salt pills was anathema. "Eschew the Goo!" has been my rallying cry. "Vive les pommes de terre! Vive le sandwich au beurre d'arachide!" My dismissal of Science Diet was also partially informed by the fact that my first experience in trying Clif Shots and Heed resulted in a scene familiar to anyone who has seen The Exorcist.

So while other riders packed Clif Shots and Hammer Gels, and downed gallons of Heed , Perpetuem, and Spizz, I packed my bags with boiled potatoes, baked tofu, PB & banana sandwiches, muffins, and trail mix (and, in the pre-vegan days, I also brought boiled eggs). I did make the exception for the occasional Clif Bar; at least those give a person something to CHEW. The closest I would get to Science Diet was Clif Shot Blox (aka Gummi Bears for cyclists).

Yes. Well. That was all well and good when the longest ride I did was less than 200 miles and when I was not racing a clock. The extra weight that "real" food added to the bike load did not concern me, and I always had time to unpack and repack complicated concoctions. And last year, when I did two 600-kilometer rides (approx. 375 miles), I continued to pack "real" food with no obvious detriment, but I did begin to question whether I could afford to be pushing the extra weight and taking the time to pack and unpack on the longer rides. It may have only slowed me down a little, but was it possible that without the extra weight I would have been the minimal increment faster that would allow me more than a couple hours of sleep on a 40-hour ride?

And then last month I rode the 600 XTR. In my front bag I had some tofu, some licorice, a few apricot bars, a few packs of Shot Blox, some trail mix and cashews. I decided not to bring potatoes and sandwiches, figuring I'd also be foraging along the way.
What I did not factor in was that the extreme heat on the ride would switch off my hunger switch. It was not so much that I could not eat what I had with me, it was more that it simply wasn't something I thought much about. As a result, I finished the ride with almost as much food in my bag as I started with; I hauled it for 376.1 miles and took it back home with me.  And since I was trying not to spend too much time at controls, I also was not purchasing mch food or taking time to eat it.  When I tallied up what I had eaten over the 38 and a half hours it took for me to complete the ride, I realized that I had taken in somewhere around 5,000 calories. I had probably expended twice that many. Not good.

Now I am preparing to ride twice that distance - something I have never done before - and the terrain and temperature will be equally unforgiving. So I have begun thinking about Science Diet again. Factoring into the consideration is that Hammer Nutrition is supplying the riders on the Gold Rush with gels, Perpetuem and Endurolytes, gratis. But I did not want to just show up in Davis and start ingesting any of those products without seeing if I could tolerate them. I did not want a repeat of the Heed/Clif Shots experience. Since I was signed up to lead a long, hilly climb for Portland Velo this past Saturday, and with the ride to the start and back would have almost a century in, I decided I would use that ride as my test run.

First I investigated the liquid supplements. I've had good luck with Cytomax, but it is not a complete supplement. Obviously, anything dairy-based was right out, so no Ensure, Boost, Spizz or Accelerade. That left Perpetuem. I picked up a pack of the Orange-Vanilla. I also collected a variety of gels - Hammer Chocolate, Apple Cinnamon and Rasperry; Gu Orange Roctane and Blueberry-Pomegranate. I also picked up a packet of the Gu gummies. 

Saturday morning I mixed up a bottle of Perpetuem and gave it a taste test. It tasted okay, but the texture was less than appealing. In fact it was downright nasty. Like drinking silty river water. Dreamsicle-flavored silty river water. Oh well, I thought, perhaps if I am thirsty enough and drink it quickly enough, it will be alright. NOT. On the one hand, it did not make me hurl. On the other hand, it made me want to hurl. So I am skipping the liquid nutrition concept and going with water and Endurolytes.

I had better luck with the gels. The Hammer Chocolate was like thin pudding or thick syrup, and the Raspberry was sweet but not too sweet. Lynne had not been very enthused about the Apple-Cinnamon, but it wasn't that bad. I don't think I'd want a steady diet of it, though. The hand-down winner, however, was the Gu Orange Roctane. It tasted good, and I could definitely feel a difference shortly after downing it. And none of them made me hurl. So I'll be packing some gel this time around, just in case.

I don't think I would try to do any ride on just gels and Endurolytes. I will still pack some light and calorie-dense foods (Trader Joe's flattened bananas, perhaps), and I'll throw some avocados in my drop bags. I've been in contact with the ride organizers and they are making an effort to ensure that there will be vegan-friendly items at the food-controls (I just hope the faster riders don't eat it all before I get there!). Now I just need to remember to eat.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I Am Not Dead, Therefore I Must Be Stronger

I never thought I'd be asking for rain on a randonnée. But there I was, riding up what seemed to be a vertical wall of asphalt, with a reflected heat index of 109℉, gazing with longing at storm clouds gathering to the southwest and willing them to come my way. I was 33-some hours and 336-some miles into the Oregon Randonneurs' Spring 600K, aka the 600 XTR, aka the "WTF Did I Get Myself Into This Time?," and nothing would have pleased me more than a cloudburst. Alas, of all the things that I experienced on last weekend's epic ride, a cooling rain was not among them. But for your reading entertainment, here are some things that DID happen.

109 Degrees

"XTR" stands, of course, for "extreme." As in extreme heat, extreme terrain, and extreme indifference to human life. The XTR course began and ended in The Dalles, Oregon. The Dalles is about 85 miles east of Portland and, because the ride started at 4:30 AM, I had reserved a hotel room and driven out the day before. Michael Wolfe needed a lift, so he rode shotgun and played DJ. Fortunately, our musical tastes are compatible. Michael is a much faster rider than I, so I had expressed some concern about what he would do at the end of the ride, waiting for me to finish. No worries, he said. His plan was to ride straight through, finish in 24 hours, and then ride his bike home. 

Did I mention that The Dalles was 85 miles from Portland? I know that Michael did not intend to make me feel inadequate . . .

On the drive out, Michael entertained me with a blow-by-blow (or climb-by-climb, to be more precise) description of the route, with which he was intimately familiar from his past participation in the Race Across Oregon. The phrases "non-trivial hill," "evil climb," and "screaming descent" were all in play. After each reference to a particularly tough section, he would stop to assure me that I would do just fine. Uh-huh.

We reached The Dalles by mid-afternoon. I checked in, watched some bad afternoon television, and the walked the 2 miles to the City Center to get something to eat for dinner. I'd brought a lunch with me (a BBQ seitan sandwich and creme-filled oatmeal cookie from Sweetpea Bakery), but needed to frontload many more calories for what promised to be a strenuous ride.

Fun Fact: The Dalles was the site of the first bioterrorism attack ever perpetrated in the United States, when followers of the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh dosed local salad bars with salmonella.

The town's dining options have not improved all that much since then, but I was able to locate a Taco del Mar, where I purchased an enormous vegan burrito. I figured I could eat half for dinner, and the other half for breakfast in the morning.

Yes, it Was as Big as a Car

I was in bed by 8:00, asleep by 8:30, awake at 3:30. I'd registered the night before, so all I really had to do was dress, eat my breakfast, put my non-essentials back in the car, and haul my bike down to the start line. At 4:30, it was already very warm, so I decided to forego leg and arm warmers, but brought the leg warmers along with me in case it was cooler in the hills overnight. They went into the bag along with everything else that I thought I might need for the ride.

Digression alert:

Before every ride, I spend many hours (and in this ride's case, days) stressing about what to pack on the bike. Invariably I get it wrong, bringing either too much dross or too little of an essential item. This time my error was packing far too many snacks. I have been trying very hard to adhere to a vegan diet (although I have been known to stray for the occasional sublime cinnamon roll) and I was not sure what I would be able to find in the way of acceptable snack food out in the hinterlands. Consequently, I must have had three pounds of food in my bags, most of which was still there at the end of the ride. Partly because there were more services on route than I had anticipated, and partly because I was so hot for most of the ride that I simply did not want to eat any of the food I'd brought. I also probably did not need to bring quite so many spare batteries.


We now return to our regular program:

We started by heading east on Interstate 84 for about 10 miles. At such an early hour, the only other vehicles on the road were semis hauling windmill parts, and there were not very many of them. The shoulders were very wide, and relatively clear, so it really was not that bad a stretch. We left the highway near Celilo and turned onto Fulton Canyon Road toward Biggs and Rufus. The first contrôle of the day was at the market in Rufus. The market was closed; I was glad I had thought to fill my third water bottle, because it was beginning to look like I might not be able to get any refills until Condon, which was another 50 miles away. I was riding with my friend Marcello at this point, and he only had two bottles. He was somewhat concerned, but thought he'd be okay.

From Rufus, we turned south on Scott Canyon Road toward Wasco. We were entering wind farm country, and everywhere I looked, I could see the giant windmills dotting the landscape. Not only that, but the road was busy with trucks hauling parts to construct even more windmills. Indeed, in Wasco we experienced a brief bicycle/windmill traffic jam as one truck carrying a blade had some difficulty making the turn onto Highway 206.

Tricky Corner

The climb from Rufus up through Wasco was long and steady. It was never very steep, but the morning heat made it seem more difficult than it was. I did not mind, though, because the scenery was worth the slow go.

Mark Thomas

And soon enough we got one of those screaming descents that Michael had mentioned. This particular one took us down to the John Day River, where I stopped at the Cottonwood Rest Area to apply some more sunscreen and have my soul saved in the bathroom.

The John Day River

That screaming descent was followed by one of the evil climbs that Michael had also mentioned. I will not lie: it hurt. There had not been any water at the rest area, and I was down to my last bottle. At 9:30 AM, the temperature was already over 90℉, and I was starting to bake. I passed Mark Thomas at Mile 52, and he mumbled something about "never shifting into survival mode this early in a ride." I thought that he was joking, but apparently not. I was accepting any excuse to stop and rest, so when I saw a butterfly dive-bombing something on the road ahead, I decided it was worth investigating. Lo, the butterfly had been harassing a baby rattlesnake. That did not seem to be such a wise move by the insect, but what do I know? My arrival scared off the butterfly, and sort of pissed off the snake, but I was out of striking distance--but not out of camera distance.

Stand back . . .

While I was playing Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with the snake (with me as Jim Fowler, of course), Peg and Lesli rode up. I had been wondering when I would see them; on the 400K a few weeks back I never saw them, but that was an aberration. Usually the three of us leapfrog each other on randonnées. I was happy to see that this ride would be more normal--in that sense, at least. We three continued up the hill together, discussing the heat and our collective need for water. Lesli and I were both testing out the De Soto arm coolers, which are advertised as "guaranteed" to keep you cooler than riding with no arm covering. We both agreed that they did not seem to be working (I went without them on Sunday and perceived no discernible difference. I guess that I will be testing out that guarantee . . .).

I had mentioned that it sure would have been nice to have a "secret" contrôle with water down by the river, and when we saw a sign for a scenic viewpoint 1/4 mile ahead, I commented that that would also be a great spot for a water contrôle. Lo, as the road turned, we could see that Eric Ahlvin's Honda Element was parked at the turn out. Ask, and ye shall receive . . . not only did he have water, but he had watermelon, V-8 juice, sodas, pretzels and Clif bars. It was almost like being on Cycle Oregon . . . almost.

Eric at the Secret Control

After a short rest, I started back up the road to the next contrôle in Condon, leaving Peg and Lesli chatting with Eric. They were having more trouble with the heat than I was at that point. I still had quite a bit of climbing to go before I reached Condon, but it went more quickly now that I had more water. Condon has a cute little main street, with a soda fountain and a general store. I decided it would be faster to go to the store than the soda fountain, and judging by the numerous water jugs left outside the store, I was not the only rider to make that choice.

Digression Alert #2: One cool thing about being one of the slower riders on a randonnée is that I rarely have to buy my own water. More often than not, the faster riders will have purchased a gallon jug, used what they needed, and left the the rest for the next riders. Sometimes they will also leave bags of chips or, as on one memorable occasion, a carton of chocolate milk. Lynne freaked out some passers-by in Gaston one day when she casually picked up the pint of chocolate milk that had been left on the sidewalk outside the store and chugged it. She knew it had been left by another rider, but the locals had to have thought she was doing the cycling equivalent of dumpster diving.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, Condon. When I arrived at the market, I saw Marcello standing outside. I had not seen him since the first contrôle in Rufus, about 5 hours earlier. He looked hot, but otherwise okay. He told me that he had wanted a maple bar from the market but that the only ones they had were frozen solid. They offered to heat it up for him, but he told him that frozen was fine. He stuck it in the back pocket of his jersey, where it was cooling him off while it thawed. I never learned whether he actually ate it.

I sucked down another V-8 and a Diet Coke, ate a banana, topped off my water bottles, and hit the road. Next stop, Fossil. To get there I first got to go downhill, and then had to slog uphill through Mayville before descending again. This would be the theme of the day; indeed, of the whole randonnée. As promised, there were very few sustained flat sections. I have a vague memory of seeing Eric Ahlvin near the top of the hill. Just like the mole in a Whack-a-Mole game, he kept popping up.

Fossil was not an official contrôle, but I wanted to check out its public landscaping, which had been designed by my friend Chard. Besides, I knew I would need water at that point, because the day just kept getting hotter and hotter. I was not terribly uncomfortable at this point, but the potential for sunstroke was always looming. To go into town required a short detour off route, but it was worth it. I found another strategically-placed water jug and got some photos of the adorable Wheeler County Courthouse before heading back out to the main road. Lesli and Peg were headed into town as I headed out. This would be our pattern for the rest of the ride.

It was about 35 miles from Fossil to the next contrôle in Spray. I was beginning to feel the heat. After climbing out of Fossil, I had stopped briefly in Service Creek, but probably should have rested there longer. My head was starting to ache, and I had lost my appetite. Given that I NEVER lose my appetite on a ride, that had me worried. I was riding along the John Day river at this point, and seriously considered going for a swim. But I know that wet bike shorts are--how should I put this?--less than comfortable, and I would not have time to let my chamois dry out. So I soldiered on into Spray, stopping at the very first market I saw. When I walked in, the woman at the counter took one look at me and said, "Oh, you don't look good." Then she said, "Oh, that's just sunscreen; I thought you were turning white." I headed back to the bathroom, where I ducked my head under the cold water tap for a few minutes. Aah, that felt better! Even though I was not hungry , I bought a big bag of potato chips, for their salt content, and another Diet Coke, for the caffeine, and plopped myself down on the bench outside.

Eric Ahlvin drove up at this point. He asked how I was doing and I told him that I was flirting with heat stroke and it was just about to give me its phone number. When he realized I was not joking, he said he'd stay with me a while. While we were chatting, Peg, Lesli and Bill Gobie rode up, all looking pretty toasted. I hung out with the gang in Spray for a good half of an hour before I felt like moving on. Amazingly enough, I was still adhering to my self-imposed overall speed of 11 mph at that point, but just barely. I had no illusions that I would be able to keep that up as the day wore on and I wore out.

From Spray, I continued along the John Day River to Kimberly, where I stopped for another brief rest in the shade and played with the timer on my camera.

Pondering My Sanity

The Kimberly market was closed, but there was a pop machine outside. I got a Diet Pepsi (No Coke, Pepsi!) and was pleased to discover that it was half-frozen. I poured some in my water bottle and stuck the icy bottle in my back jersey pocket, a la Marcello and his maple bar. Aah. That's the ticket. Then it was onward and upward toward the next water stop/information contrôle at the Cant Ranch and Condon Paleontology Center.

At the Cant Ranch, I once again encountered Whack-a-Mole Eric and the Amazing Sweep-Mobile. He instructed me in the fine art of water pump operation - "Watch out, it comes out fast!"--and told me about watching some honest-to-gosh cowpokes drive a herd of cattle into the holding pen next to the road. I went over to commune with a cute calf, and then crossed the road to the Paleontology Center to answer the question on my brevet card.

Calf at Cant Ranch

There was something else I wanted to accomplish at that point, and I was hoping I could do it at the Paleontology Center. The first time I rode a distance of further than 150 miles, I realized that I have yet to find a pair of women's bike shorts that would keep me comfortable for that distance. In other words, the shorts I was wearing had reached their sell-by date, and I really wanted to change into the spare pair that I was carrying in my saddle bag. The Center was closed, but I figured there was probably a sheltered area out of view of the road where I could accomplish a quick change. So I lifted my bike over the gate across the entrance road, and rode up to the parking lot. Sure enough, there was a wall by the public restrooms that I could hide behind and change. I don't THINK that was a surveillance camera on the roof facing me, but I guess it is quite possible that they now have some video of my rear end in their collection.

From the Paleontology Center I continued on through Picture Gorge (where I stopped to take some pictures and chat with a nice tourist couple about endurance cycling), and then turned west onto Highway 26 toward the overnight in Prineville, 80 miles away. But I had to get to Mitchell first, and that meant climbing up to Keys Creek Summit. It was the hottest part of the day, but I was actually feeling okay. I still wasn't hungry, and I had some serious acid reflux going from my flirtation with nausea between Service Creek and Spray, but my headache was gone. Compared to what I have been reading from other riders about their condition at this point, I was apparently the picture of health.

Picture Gorge

My chipper attitude began to fade a bit as I slogged up to Keys Creek Summit, however. It was not a tough climb, but it was long. Very long. About 6 miles into the climb, not too far from the ridiculous "Shoe Tree," I came across Marcello, sitting on the side of the road. He had his shoes and socks off and did not look like he planned to be going anywhere anytime soon. When I reached him, I could tell he was worn out. He told me that he was packing it in. It had taken him two hours to ride those last 6 miles, and he simply did not have anything left. He knew that Eric would be along with the sweep car soon, and he was just going to catch a ride back to Prineville with him. I wished him well, and continued my slow ascent. As the man with the quizzical little horse once said, I had miles to go before my sleep. I was going faster than 3 mph, but not all that much. Not too long thereafter, Eric's car passed me, with Marcello's bike on the back and Marcello in the passenger seat, waving goodbye and encouragement to me out the window.

It was beginning to get dark, so I donned my reflective gear and switched on my headlights. I had reached the plateau at the top of the hill, and the extra drag from the headlights was not too bad. The plateau continued for much longer than I had anticipated, but perhaps I was just tired. I finally reached the top of the climb and began the descent into Mitchell. I was perhaps a wee bit irrationally exuberant on the descent--a wiser rider would have perhaps used her brakes, or at least stayed inside her headlights--but I felt the need for speed. Besides, it was really, really fun. The pavement got pretty rough near Mitchell, though, so I had to ease up a little. Rats.

The Mitchell contrôle was the psychological high point of my day. Perhaps it was the clapping and cheers from the other riders who were still there when I arrived (I have a vague idea that it was Wiley and Mike, but I could be making that up), or perhaps it was the cold Gatorade that uber-rider David Rowe slapped in my hand as he took my bike to valet parking. Perhaps it was seeing Marcello's smiling face and knowing that he was okay. Or maybe it was the made-to-order tofu sandwich. All I know is that I suddenly felt better than I had in hours. I still had heartburn, but my appetite was returning and I was feeling as strong as a sleep-deprived, exhausted, 48-year-old woman with another 45 miles to ride that night could feel.

While I was eating my tofu sandwich (not nearly as weird as it sounds, I promise), Peg, Lesli and Bill Gobie arrived. Bill went straight for the Fritos, pronouncing them the most delicious Fritos he'd ever had. They were particularly good Fritos, I must admit. The three of them were still settling in for a rest when I took off. I would not see them again until the next morning, as I was leaving Prineville.

From the Mitchell contrôle, the route continued downhill for a few more miles before taking a sharp uptick to the Ochoco Divide. I had been fairly confident that I was still on schedule for a 2:30 AM arrival in Prineville, the time I had originally set as my goal, but as I pedaled up the grade I became much less confident of my arrival time. I had suddenly run out of gas. In retrospect, I realize it was because in the last 10 hours I had burned close to 6000 calories, and ingested less than 2500, tops. Oops. I was getting pretty wobbly, and several times I had to get off the bike and walk. David had made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the road, and I gnawed on that for awhile. I kept my eyes peeled for a "Truck on a Triangle" sign, but for the longest time saw only signs like "Passing Lane Ahead," and "Slow Traffic Keep Right," neither of which offered any solace. Finally I reached the top. From there, it was a short, steep drop that I took more quickly than I probably should have, followed by a gentle 30-mile descent into Prineville and the overnight contrôle. The only incident of interest in those 30 miles was when my GPS unit decided to take a dive off my handlebars. The vibrations from the chipseal had loosened its mount and it simply let go. Fortunately, it survived the fall.

The Last Summit of Day One

By the time I reached the hotel in Prineville, I was wiped out and barely coherent. It was close to 3:00 AM, maybe a little later. I waved away offers of food, barking out "Drop Bag. Bed. Now." The contrôle workers backed away slowly, found my bag and led me to my room. I set my watch to wake me in 45 minutes, fell on the bed and fell asleep. I was up again at 4:15, a little groggy, but more receptive to the offers of food. I ate some strawberries, some more tofu and a piece of toast, chugged down some chocolate soy milk (Yummy!), and rolled out the door a little after 5 AM. I had less than 150 miles to go, and a little over 15 hours left on the ride clock. Piece of cake. Right.

The sun was just rising behind me as I pedaled toward Madras. I amused myself by trying to identify the various mountains on the horizon. Some were easier to identify than others.

Mtn. Identification 101

I stopped briefly in Madras to divest of my reflective gear and top off my water bottles. I chatted with the store clerk, and she told me about the spectacular rainstorm they had experienced the previous afternoon. It was at about that point that the fantasy of a refreshing rain established a toehold in my brain. From Madras, the course turned toward the Warm Springs Reservation, the approach to which involved a thrilling technical descent to the Deschutes River. I knew I would pay for that thrill ride later, when I would have to climb back up out of the canyon through the aptly-named "Hellgate," but it was fun while it lasted.

I reached the first contrôle of the day at the same time that Eric drove up in the sweep wagon. He offered me ice cream, which I declined, and water, which I accepted. Alex Kohan was with him, having DNF'd the day before. Alex would spend the day with Eric on sweep while Alex's dad, Keith, finished the course. While I was chatting with Eric and Alex, four more riders arrived: Wiley, Ian, Mike and Erik (I think - I don't know him and am going by other people's descriptions). We chatted a while about the upcoming climb, and then headed out to tackle it. Erik left a little ahead of us, and Wiley and Ian quickly disappeared up the hill as well. I was a bit ahead of Mike, but he was gaining on me until he got a flat.

It was about 9:30 and it was HOT. The reservation has an abundance of interesting rock formations, wild horses and scenic vistas. What is does NOT have in abundance is shade. The road out of the canyon is steep, exposed, and very long. Because it switches back and forth across the canyon face, you can look up from below and see the next road cut for which you are headed. It is not a comforting sight. I settled into spin mode and dawdled my way up, conserving my resources.

Basalt Formations on the Rez

I was about a third of the way up the hill, when Keith Kohan caught up to me. He had gotten a leisurely start and was also dawdling. Because Alex was helping in the sweep car and would not get back to The Dalles until the 8:30 PM close, Keith had no incentive to finish early. So he was happy to keep me company. We rode together to the top of the hill and gathered some speed on the flat approach to Simnasho. Keith got a flat, however, and I left him behind because I had developed a pressing need to offload some of the water that I had been drinking steadily all morning.

Keith K.

There were several other riders camped out at the Three Warriors Market when I arrived in Simnasho. I went into the market for yet another Diet Coke (yes, it's an addiction) and a couple of bananas to go with my bag of cashews. The cashier told me to be sure to get some of the ice that another rider had purchased and left in the freezer for later arrivals. I very much appreciated the gesture, both the rider's in purchasing the ice and the clerk's in telling me about it. I filled one of my water bottles with ice chips and stuck it in my back pocket. Ah. That felt good.

Mike arrived at the market shortly after I did, and left when I did so that we could ride the next stretch together. Wapanita Road takes an ugly pitch out of Simnasho, but then settles down into mild rollers. Mike and I kept up a pretty decent pace on this stretch. He had been stressing about finishing within the 40-hour time limit, but he soon realized that we had plenty of cushion and he relaxed a little. I could understand. As Lynne will tell you, when I think I am not going to make a contrôle closing time, I get a little, um, let's just say "not fun to be around." But I had figured out our schedule and knew that we would finish well before 8:00 PM.

We stopped for a few minutes at the market at the intersection of Wapanita Road and Highway 216. According to the wall thermometer (which was in the shade) it was 98℉. I believed it.

98 Degrees in the Shade

Not much later, we plunged down into Maupin, where we met up with Ian at the market. He would ride with us as far as Sherars Bridge. From Maupin to Sherars Bridge, we rode along the Deschutes River Access Road, past many fly fisherpersons and white-water rafters. The temptation to jump in the river again seized me, but I fought it off. This time not because I was worried about chafing in wet shorts, but because I knew that if I stopped to swim, I would want to spend the rest of the day basking on the stones like a salmon-stuffed sea lion.


My bike had been making a funny little rattling noise for a while, and as we rode along the river bank it suddenly made a BIG and not-so-funny rattling noise. I slammed on my brakes and jumped off, to see that my rear fender struts had worked their way out of their holders. Just like with my GPS the night before, all that rough chipseal on the reservation roads had loosened everything up. Fortunately, it was an easy thing to fix, and I was back on the bike in no time. We crossed over Sherar Bridge and began once again to climb up and out of the river canyon.

This was the first of the last two major climbs of the day. It was tough, but I knew that it was not nearly as tough as the one yet to come: the much-reviled slog from Tygh Valley up to Tygh Ridge Summit. Ian sped on ahead while Mike and I crawled to the top. It was somewhere on this stretch that the heat index hit 109℉ and I began to long for the thunderclouds to come my way. We reached the top, enjoyed a short and slight descent and turned onto US-197 for the climb up from Tygh Valley. We'd already been climbing for about a mile when we saw a sign that announced "Slow Trucks Next 5 Miles," which gave us some indication of how long we could expect to be toiling up the hill. I think that it actually turned out to be closer to 6 or 7 miles, though . . .

We had seen Eric in Maupin and he had told us that there would be water jugs waiting for us at the top of the hill, so we kept looking for those jugs. We were both very tired, and the only way we could keep going was by stopping to rest every few minutes. I managed the last mile or so without stopping, but Mike had to stop a couple more times. At one point Mike looked back and saw that Peg and Lesli were coming up behind us. We had seen them briefly in Simnasho, and they were gaining on us now. Shortly thereafter, I saw Eric's car parked in a turnout; we had reached the top!

The Top of Tygh Ridge

The pay-off for the climb to Tygh Ridge Summit is an astonishingly straight and steep drop to Dufur. No brakes required! Sadly, the pavement left much to be desired, so my maximum speed was well under what it would have been on a smooth road. The "ka-thunk" each time I hit an expansion crack was really quite disconcerting. There was a break in traffic at the time I was descending, however, and so I was able to take the lane for most of the descent, which made it a little smoother. The road pitched sharply up at Dufur, but not for very long, and then it was downhill to the intersection with Eight Mile Road.

At Eight Mile Road, I met up with Rick B. He was convinced that the cue sheet had the turn marked wrong, and was about to go in the opposite direction. I pulled out my GPS and showed him that, nope, the cue sheet was correct. We rode together for a few hundred feet, until I stopped to offload some more water.

Eight Mile Road is a lovely, winding road that drops gently toward the Columbia River. It was late in the day, and the setting sun created some lovely shade. For the first time in two days there was also a headwind. The shade and the wind combined to cool me down, and feeling cooler I was able to put a little more effort into my pedaling. Which in turn made me warmer, which in turn slowed me down. Sigh. But I was now less than 6 miles from the end, and the horse had smelled the barn. I summoned up all my remaining energy and sprinted for the finish. If you can call 15 mph a sprint. I don't think Robbie McEwen is any danger from me.

I pulled into the final contrôle just after 7:00 PM. I was hot, and I was tired, but most of all I was happy. I had just completed the most difficult ride I had ever done, and I had done it in fairly good form. Apart from the incipient sunstroke in Spray, and a couple of nasty bruises on certain contact points, my physical condition was good, even if I was exhausted. I found the room where John was camped out and gave him my card. He offered me pizza, and his crestfallen look when I said I could not eat it because it had cheese on it made me feel so guilty that I took a piece anyway. And though I know PETA would disagree, I will admit that it tasted great! John then presented me with my trophy, which I had not expected and which I thought was an extremely nice touch, and then gave me the key to the "nap room," because I clearly needed nap. I went up to the room, showered, changed into street clothes, set my watch to wake me in three hours, and promptly fell asleep. I vaguely remember having a conversation with Peg and Lesli (who had arrived about 20 minutes after me) as I was falling asleep, but I am not sure what it was about.

I woke up at about 10:30, slightly disoriented. Once I figured out who I was and where I was, I packed up my car and started for home. I was hungry, so I drove into The Dalles one more time in search of a Burgerville (I like the vegan version of their Anasazi Burger) but I could not find the one that was supposed to be somewhere on 3rd Street. So I just got on the freeway and drove back to Portland. Back home, I was so tired that I could barely get my bike off the rack. I left everything else in the car to be dealt with in the morning, and went to bed.

The next day I filled out my application for the Gold Rush.

Some Statistics:

Miles: 376 (605 km)
Total Elapsed Time: 38:33
Saddle Time: 29:41
Amount of Sleep: 45 minutes
Elevation Gain: 21594'
Live Rattlesnakes: One
Dead Rattlesnakes: Too Many to Count

The rest of my pictures are here


Rando Trophy
Originally uploaded by cecilanne

Eventually I will post a ride report for last weekend's epic 600K, but until then readers must settle for this picture of my trophy.