Posts tagged ‘raam’
Left to right – me (3rd place), Brian Jastrebsky (1st place), and Ray Brown (2nd place) after the race.
I took these screenshots of my Garmin 1000 at the farthest out point on the course a couple minutes before the clocked tick back over to 7AM Sunday morning 24 hours after starting the race at 7AM on Saturday. It seemed fitting to stop early at exactly 444 miles – the length of the Natchez Trace parkway – after last year’s #epic444 which was not only an amazing time of camaraderie and support for Team Red White and Blue, but also a first experimental step towards ultracycling. It was also fitting to be on the farthest out point of the rural course away from everybody and everything. Ultra-endurance cycling is such an intriguing mix of both solo determination and team support. That makes Ray Brown’s 2nd place finish all the more impressive as he did the event completely unsupported! Brian Jastrebsky’s 1st place win is also phenomenal given that his longest ride prior to this 24 hour race was 150 miles.
I’m skipping ahead of myself, though. How did we get to this moment in time? It all started 24 hours earlier at Washington High School in rural, flat, coastal Washington, North Carolina. How flat is it? The climbing ratio for this ride was 54:1, which means that I had to ride 54 miles to climb 100 feet. To put that in perspective, in Birmingham I frequently climb 10,000 feet in that same distance … in other words, the course was 100 times flatter than my normal routes and over 10 times flatter than my previous flattest ride (Tour of Elk Grove in Chicago). A lot of times with this kind of flat coastal terrain, you get strong coastal winds. But the course and entire area was heavily forested and sheltered from the wind. As a storm rolled in later in the day, the winds picked up to maybe 5-10mph max.
It was an interesting mix of bikes at the start line — everything from time trial bikes with disc wheels to road bikes with clip-on TT bars and several recumbents. I think I may have been the only rider doing it Mercx style with no TT bars – but I did have my Martindale 6.0 wheels, which are some of the most aero and smoothest rolling wheels I’ve ever used.
The race started with a neutral roll-out, but then it became obvious (to me at least) that there is a problem in trying to separate everyone in a non-drafting race?? I was told by a few people that it would “take care of itself” within a few miles – but there was still basically an awkward group together near the end of the first 25 mile lap. I took off and passed everyone so that I could give Kristine something to cheer for and not get caught up waiting on others to queue up in the slow 10mph section through the start/finish. Going through the start/finish plus my acceleration split the group up. I led for the next half lap until someone on a recumbent very gradually reeled me in. I dropped back behind him to what I hope was a legal follow distance of something in the neighborhood of 75-100 feet and tried to match my pace to his. This lasted for most of that lap until in pretty close succession a second recumbent who had been gradually closing the gap finally caught up to me and then simultaneously another rider (full TT bike, aero helmet, and disc wheel) passed me.
This was towards the end of the second lap. For the third lap, one of the recumbents stopped for an extended period so it was just me, the first recumbent, and the TT rider who set out at nearly the same time. I was in third position keeping an eye on what the other two were doing up the road. It’s deceiving on such a flat course that it looks like they are drafting, but I realized eventually that what they were doing is exchanging positions every 10-15 minutes within what looked like all the acceptable parameters. This seemed like a good idea because you got a bit of a draft during the pass so I sped up to catch up to them and immediately passed both of them. Eventually the recumbent passed me and a few minutes later so did the TT rider. Both of these “passes” gave me a bit of a break as you got a bit of a draft when they pulled over in front of you. It’s only a few seconds worth of drafting, but it is within the rules and it gives you a good mental break.
In third position, I dropped off the pace a bit but after a few miles I started catching back up to them when I felt like they were slowing down. I moved to pass both of them again. I made it past the TT rider who was falling off the pace a bit with no problem, but when I started to pass the recumbent a few minutes later, he jacked his speed up to match mine as I went by him. I thought that was interesting so I pushed even harder and harder eventually topping out at close to 30 mph before I realized that he absolutely didn’t want me to pass him. This all took about a minute and then I said to myself “forget it, you can have it” and let him go up the road. This was all about a mile or two before the finish of the third lap.
The recumbent rider stopped for an extended period after this lap, and I kept going so that meant I led from that point about 75 miles into the race until about mile 200 when I made an extended stop to use the bathroom, change clothes, eat, and rest. Leading up to mile 200 I pushed it really hard because I thought I had a legitimate shot at breaking the 9 hour mark for 200 miles given that the first 100 miles was in less than 4.5 hours. Unfortunately, I missed the mark by about 20 minutes and paid dearly for my hard effort later when I got tired. During my extended stop after 8 laps, eventual winner Brian Jastrebsky caught and passed me. I would catch him a couple laps later, and we ended up riding side by side for a bit chatting about racing and our backgrounds. It was a huge mental break to have someone to talk to for a while. I’m not sure how long we were together (maybe 15-20 minutes), but eventually I got a phone call from my kids back home in Alabama before they were going to bed so I fell off the pace to chat with them. Definitely a highlight of the race for me.
I never caught back up to Brian because I think my earlier efforts during the first 200 miles really started to catch back up to me, and I couldn’t hold more than about 150-175 watts consistently any more. I knew when I was pushing the pace really hard earlier that it was a big “no-no”, but it is something I wanted to do because how often do you get a chance to set those kinds of speed records for that distance??? For the Race Across America, I’m going to have to be more disciplined and keep my pace and effort under control even when I get uber-excited about racing and riding.
“In case you’re wondering what @kartoone76 looks like 20 hours into a race… still managing a tired smile, munching on a homemade rice cake (thanks Feedzone cookbook! These were the go-to food when his stomach went downhill). #myhusbandisepic”
One of the things I struggled with after about 18 hours was queasiness. I’ve done several long extended 22+ hour rides, one 24 hour race, and a 32 hour race (516 miles) and never had stomach problems, but about 18 hours into this race I kept on feeling like I was going to throw up if I turned my head too often to see if any riders were catching up to me. Even during this time of nausea, I was able to chow down on the peanut butter and jelly rice cakes that Kristine made at the end of each lap. I also would get one bottle of coke and one bottle of water (I stopped drinking gatorade about 16 hours into the race) and two energy gels. This was my nutrition very consistently for the last 150 miles or so of the race.
The picture above is right about the time that eventual 2nd place finisher Ray Brown caught up to me in the rest area. I watched from a chair next to our car as he pulled in to refill his bottles and rest for a minute. I left shortly afterwards and about halfway through the lap, he came flying by me. He was so much fresher than I was nearly 21 hours into the race. In the ensuing 3 hours of the race, he would pull almost exactly half a lap ahead of me (13 miles) almost catching the first place winner in the process!
The beauty of starting a 24 hour race at 7AM is that you are basically racing to the sunrise the next day. If you start the race later at say 10 or 11AM, then just having the sun come up doesn’t mean you are almost done. But with this race, as the day started to get brighter you got physical confirmation every second that the race was almost over. This picture above was on the final half lap that I did. Another nice thing about the setup of this particular race is that you could ride all the way out to 24 hours and report your finishing location. I worked it out in my head with about 2 laps to go that I would probably finish somewhere at the farthest out point of the course — and that’s exactly what happened!
One final picture to include before all my data is one I snapped of the motocross race that happened late in the afternoon carrying on into one of the night laps of our race. Even on the first lap at 7 in the morning, there was some activity at the track. Each lap as we passed the course, there was more activity. Eventually racers started to show up, but they were still working on the track so they were riding their dirt bikes around in the parking lot. Late in the day, about the time the storm started to pass through the course, the race started and I came around one lap to see dirt bikes flying over the jumps. The next lap I was fortunate to see the checkered flag out for one of the races. There must have been more races, though, because they were still racing during the first night lap. It was all over by the second night lap, and people were leaving the course. A lap or two later, the last clean-up crew worker was leaving, and the lights at the track were turned off. It was very cool to see the evolution of a motocross event from start to finish while racing our own race right by the track!
LAP DATA Lap Speed HR Power Time 1 23.6 mi/h 148bpm 202W 1:04:02 2 22.5 mi/h 146bpm 223W 1:07:09 3 23.2 mi/h 151bpm 236W 1:05:04 4 22.7 mi/h 148bpm 227W 1:06:24 5 21.9 mi/h 148bpm 218W 1:08:46 6 21.7 mi/h 146bpm 209W 1:09:31 7 21.4 mi/h 143bpm 200W 1:10:36 8 21.2 mi/h 144bpm 201W 1:11:02 9 20.9 mi/h 137bpm 186W 1:12:15 10 20.3 mi/h 135bpm 185W 1:14:18 11 20.2 mi/h 133bpm 177W 1:14:43 12 20.0 mi/h 127bpm 176W 1:15:38 13 19.5 mi/h 122bpm 168W 1:17:33 14 18.2 mi/h 114bpm 143W 1:22:56 15 17.6 mi/h 110bpm 134W 1:25:55 16 17.3 mi/h 109bpm 132W 1:27:04 17 17.4 mi/h 110bpm 134W 1:26:52
RIDE AND SHIFTING STATISTISTICS http://di2stats.com/rides/view/211 # Total shifts 2694 # Front shifts 77 # Rear shifts 2617 Time b/t shifts 29.9 seconds Elapsed time 23:58:39 Moving time 22:22:46 Distance 444.41 mi. Ascent 820 ft Descent 866 ft Climbing ratio 54.18 (miles per 100 feet climbed) Climbing rate 37 ft/hour Avg/max speed 19.86 / 29.45 mph Avg/nrm/max pow 177 / 189 / 558 watts Avg/max HR 131 / 180 bpm Avg/max cadence 74 / 113 rpm
Everything was fitting together perfectly for me to attempt this epic ride from Nashville, TN back home to Birmingham, AL. Kristine and I had tickets to see Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb” Christmas concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. We had a fun date night together and with my cousins Richard and Christy who live in Franklin. After the concert we hung out with our friends who had also driven up from Birmingham from the concert. By the time Kristine and I had made it back to our hotel, and by the time I got everything ready for my early departure in the morning it was 12:30AM.
I toyed briefly with the idea of just starting my ride home right then rather than sleeping at all, but there were still a lot of cars on the road at midnight when we were driving to the hotel. I felt it was safer to let the streets clear out completely before departing so I ended up setting the alarm for 3:30AM to get exactly three hours of sleep. I was wide awake when the alarm went off, but despite having tried to get as much stuff together as possible before sleeping, it took me 30 minutes to get all my clothes on, eat, and get out the door at nearly exactly 4AM on what I was hoping would be a 14.5 hour, 250 mile ride home to Birmingham.
I knew it was going to be cold for an extended period of time, but I was imagining temps closer to 20 degF than 10 degF! Even with the crazy temps (see the temperature graphs above), I was doing just fine everywhere except for my feet. I had thick insulated neoprene booties on, but even with loose shoes and as much blood circulation as possible, my feet just couldn’t stay warm. I had meant to grab some of the chemical warming packs to throw in my shoes but I had forgotten them at home, and I figured most gas stations in Tennessee are not going to carry them. If I had been in Wisconsin, I could have stopped at the next gas station and bought a couple of the chemical warmers for a dollar or two and been on my merry way.
Instead, I tried every trick of the trade to keep my feet warm – including the following:
- Following the old standby rule – “if you are cold, just ride harder”.
- Riding hard while standing and focusing on pulling my feet up rather than pushing them down – forces more blood down into your feet, the more inefficient and erratic the movement the better.
- Riding downhill with the brakes on while still pedaling hard – anything to minimize windchill and maximize blood circulation.
- Adding in as many steep hills as I could find – benefit of reducing windchill and increasing heartrate.
Even with all of those tricks, I was seriously contemplating calling Kristine to meet me in Lewisburg and abandon the ride after only 70 miles or so. But not too long after the sunrise, temps started to rise pretty rapidly all the way to the 20s by Lewisburg. The best thing was stumbling upon the donut shop with a heater I stood in front of for nearly an hour while drinking coffee and trying to warm up.
I had ridden in Lewisburg earlier this year, so I left the donut shop warmed up and on familiar roads. I made some great time between here and Fayetteville with some good climbs, warming temps, and a stiff north wind (tailwind). It was funny to be so cold before the donut shop and then to be sweating on a lot of the steep hills just a couple hours later. The section of US-64 was nice, but stressful even with a huge clean shoulder to ride on. On top of being stressfull, it was rather boring with very few turns and lots of long gradual climbs and descents. I struggled with “sleepy fatigue” through here as I was also probably crashing a bit from the caffeine and sugar from the donut shop.
I turned in Fayetteville and headed due south on a section of US-231 that was terrible with a very narrow shoulder and a lot of traffic. Fortunately, I turned off of it after a few miles and found some more beautiful backroads that gradually flattened until they were basically pancake flat by the time I hit the Alabama border. I had also ridden some of these roads once before so it was encouraging to be making great time and to be on somewhat familiar roads.
Unfortunately, my math brain was doing a lot of calculating through here and I had worked out a 10:30PM arrival in Birmingham at my current pace. This was somewhat discouraging as that was FOUR HOURS longer than I had planned. Kristine wanted to pick me up in Cullman, but I convinced her to let me ride to Cahaba Cycles Trussville, which would knock an hour and a half off the ride all the way back to our house in Hoover. That was the plan when I stopped at a waffle house off of US-72. Rejuvenated, I blazed through Huntsville at a decent clip but managed to hit a lot of school traffic and then by the time I made it all the way down to the Tennessee River bridge, I was picking up some early rush hour traffic. The road was really dangerous with stretches of nice shoulder followed inexplicably by long quarter mile sections of road with ZERO shoulder. The white line was right up against the grass. I spent a few miles trying to time the packs of cars coming up behind me (based on the traffic light before the bridge) perfectly with the shoulder. No close calls but I did bail off the road into the grass a couple of times when I didn’t get my timing right. I just did not trust the eighteen wheelers and the people driving 65+ mph. Definitely the most dangerous stretch of road for the trip and probably one of the top dangerous roads in Alabama in my opinion. (And I have ridden a LOT of roads in Alabama).
The climb itself was a good one with a nice fairly clean shoulder somewhat akin to the US-280 climb from Lee Branch heading east towards Chelsea for those of you in Birmingham who may have done that climb – except the US-231 climb is a bit steeper climbing an extra 150 feet compared to the US-280 climb. I turned at the top onto Apple Grove road and followed this forever … eventually hitting this year’s Alabama state road race course overlapping with it from the four way stop at the church all the way down past the steep descent. Instead of following the race course, I continued on through the descent and up the next hill continuing on this road for quite a while. There was one super steep cat 4 climb http://app.strava.com/activities/99939588#2138520004 that I was really thankful for after a stretch of flat roads. It had a section that was 0.3 miles long at 13% – I hit this at about 175 miles into my ride after sunset but before it got too dark to see without my light. At the top of this section, I decided to call Kristine and move up the “pick-up” spot from Cahaba Cycles Trussville to the bottom of Skyball. I was getting cold, the dogs were getting bad, and my recalculations had me arriving in Trussville closer to midnight as my pace started to slow.
This was the worst stretch of road as far as dogs went. It was one dog or group of dogs chasing me at what seemed like every house / trailer along the next set of county roads. I knew there would be some small roads and lots of potential dog problems along the entire route, but it really was just the county roads in southern Morgan County and Cullman County that were full of unchained, unfenced dogs. I tried being friendly with the dogs and most of them were fine, but then it started to get annoying. Fortunately, it was dark by this point and I kept my light on high-beam to blind the dogs. This was pretty effective as shining my light in the dogs’ eyes would without fail stop the dog dead in its track. My only guess is that the light is bright enough to temporarily blind/hurt/scare the dogs.
Passing east of Cullman I bee-lined it for the Tour de Cullman route arriving at this familiar bridge. I climbed sky ball at a snail’s pace, but I knew Kristine was waiting for me at the other side of the hill. Even though I was really disappointed not to make it all the way home, I was very happy to have climbed sky ball. At the top as I was taking pictures, my light died! Fortunately, there was a full moon so I’m 45% sure I could have ridden the rest of the way home in the dark as I ended up descending Skyball with no light at close to 30mph. That’s how bright the moon was! Still, I’m thankful that the light died as it gave me another great excuse to hop right in the car when I found Kristine at the blinky light intersection where I had directed her to meet me.
What an adventure! Next time I’m going to make it!!
Here’s all the pictures that I took during the ride.