The Early Miles
The Tropic Canyon Wobble!
After exiting the bike path and passing just north of Bryce, the route hits the first major descent into Tropic Canyon. The Tropic Canyon descent is not especially a technical descent, but the upper part of the canyon is steep at 7-8%. I've had front wheel wobble issues before at Hoodoo, and they returned with a vengeance on the upper part of the descent. At one point, the front wheel was oscillating back and forth several inches and I was resigned to getting of much speed off as I could before going down. I managed to get the bike stopped at a pullout and almost instantly FOLLOW arrived. The Tropic Canyon Wobble would recur throughout the remaining miles, and I learned to manage it with a combination of staying on the aerobars, a very loose handgrip, and rear-only braking.
In a separate project, I'm working on my ultrabike for RAAM 2021, and testing a new cockpit for the Serotta, which will include a new Enve fork and Chris King headset (to chase the wobble away), and a conservative bullhorn aero basebar. Since 95% of my time in ultras in on the aerobars, and the rest of on the hoods stretching or climbing, I'm going to leave the drops behind, have a more aero setup. Enve is one of the few aftermarket 1 1/8" straight steer tube forks available anymore. Sort of ironic since the t-shirt I won at the Hoodoo raffle was an "Enve Composites". I'm hoping to bring a local shop to work with me on the final setup. Look for some Blog posts in the coming months as I build up Eric's Ultrasteed.
Down to the River and Back Up Again
Each segment of the climb was exceedingly difficult, yet rewarded by an equally astonishing view. I felt so alive.
The Summit at Windy Ridge
The Colossal Kingston Slowdown
One truth about ultracycling: Things can go really really well--right up until they don't.
Goblins in the Dark
The Final Run From Enterprise
After surviving the imaginary gremlins along Bench Road, I was really beginning to feel back in the groove I was in for the first 300 miles. My crew told me the Ron Iseri was 7 miles up the road. I last saw Ron in Cedar City at the time station eating a popsicle, then he quickly left while I enjoyed my own big gulp and continued to recover, The chance at recovering 2nd place in the 50+ inspired me and I began to chase, hammering up the climb out of Enterprise. "Hammering" is a relative term 450 miles into an ultra--I was putting out 150-160 W at most. After miles of chasing I was about to shut the chase down. I had not seen another rider since leaving Cedar City. Finally, at the top of the climb out of Veyo I spotted Ron's follow vehicle, and we passed just before the turn into Snow Canyon. The crew had already given me my cell phone back and my wrist strap (in the unlikely event the guard at the Snow Canyon gate was there charging admission at 1 am), and I made the turn and went right down into the Canyon without stopping.
The support rules are such that the final miles at Hoodoo are alone. The solitary run through Snow Canyon and St. George takes about 40 minutes, and gives you time to reflect on the ride, and on the journey that brought you to a level of fitness, courage, and character that you are completing a 300 or 500 mile solo bike ride across awesomely beautiful and difficult terrain. And most of all, time to reflect and be thankful for those that helped you along the way.
Tonight I end this blog with a new byline... the thought of continuing to pursue the dream of racing 3000 miles across this country is humbling. The idea of being qualified to proceed is exciting and stirs emotions that I cannot describe and don't fully understand. However, being qualified for RAAM, and being ready to line up in Oceanside for 12 days and 3000 miles are two different things. The real work towards being ready to credibly roll down The Strand and make that right turn onto Surfrider Way towards Annapolis Maryland is still ahead. I invite you to follow along.
Being qualified for RAAM, and being ready to line up in Oceanside for 12 days and 3000 miles are two different things. The real work towards being ready to credibly roll down The Strand and make that right turn onto Surfrider Way towards Annapolis Maryland is still ahead.
My RAAM Story, Day 1, about 652 days to RAAM 2021.
It's been two weeks since RAW 2019, and I am still sorting it all out in my head. After 16 days of ruminating experiences, the epic moments, disappointments, and lessons are being to organize themselves in my head. RAW (and I imagine one day the RAAM), is an adventure like no other. The race is colossally difficult and epic in proportions--full of extremes and beyond superlatives. It has left me full of complex and ambiguous feelings. I felt incredibly empowered, rolling across vast distances in the darkness, guided by the lights of my support vehicle and following the white line and flashing amber lights of other racers ahead. I rode through the night and had blissful descent down the moonlit Palo Verde Valley into Blythe CA. I ate the best ice cream cone ever sitting under a scrawny tree in Parker AZ. l felt totally defeated in the searing 115 degree desert heat like a withered houseplant someone forgot to water. Riding 341 miles across the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, more or less non-stop, most of it in 100+ degree heat feels like a grand accomplishment and a disappointing defeat at the same time.
Experience was gained and lessons learned both about the challenge of RAW and about myself. I am impressed and humbled by the other athletes, those that finished, and those that did not. I am in awe of the dedicated crew members that followed their riders, watching over them, lighting their way, motivating them when they were down, and taking them home. I feel compelled to return to Oceanside in 2020.
This recap of my second ultracycling race, the Hoodoo 300 in August 2018, was originally posted on the Tucson Masters Cycling website shortly after the event. Its been expanded a bit here and some additional photos and retrospective observations added. Hoodoo was a great event and experience, and was the catalyst for re-energizing my dream of attempting RAAM someday.
Leaving Panguitch (156 miles), there is a tough little climb as you gain 2000′ up into the mountains heading toward Duck Creek. Bill Packard (Phoenix) and I must have passed each other 6 or 8 times through here as we both suffered a bit and had to stop for food. Bill had been hovering 3 minutes up on me most of the last 160 miles
Turning left towards Mammoth Creek, we joined the Tour of Utah Stage 2 route. I picked up a baggie of potato chips from my crew, and started down the Black Rock Canyon descent, named for the young lava flow defining the left side of the road. I was in a rush by this point, hoping to summit the top of Cedar Canyon so I could descend into Cedar City before dark. Descending Black Rock Canyon at 35-40 mph, eating potato chips, I looked to the left and there was the cliffs in Bryce Canyon, brightly lit with the red sunset across a huge meadow with a herd of antelope! Epic… 180 miles, 11 hours on the bike, descending into the evening, 57 years old, still moving well and feeling good, wildlife, awesome scenery. That made the top ten list.
The crew finally arrived, more bottles, more snacks, and I headed out solo, while they crew got gas, and had the most delightful time blasting down the gentle descent toward Newcastle. This was the first moment where I was really certain I had this-I would finish. Soon, the radio announced the crew had rejoined, and they took up follow, with twin orange lights on the roof, and the slow moving triangle. Oddly, Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” popped into my head. It would become a bit of a touchstone keeping me rolling through the night, over the final two climbs, and back into St. George. It’s a great little tune.
Looking back, Hoodoo was a great confidence builder. Finishing my first 300+ mile seemed to most be to an audacious goal. I remember telling a racing friend of mine who said it "seemed like too much", that if it did not seem like too much, it would not be what it is". Planning, preparation, and execution led to a successful ride. My original plan to do Hoodoo 500 in 2019, RAW in 2020, and RAAM in 2021 was accelerated as a result. Now the goal is RAW 2019.
My RAW Story, Day 47. 165 days, 17 hours to RAW 2019.
My interest in ultracycling dates back when I first started seriously riding a bike in college in the early 1980s. This is my RAAM story preparing to compete in the Race Across the West in 2020 and RAAM 2021.