Monday, July 16, 2007


Yeah, so I'm getting pretty lazy about putting anything on this blog. Oh well...if I were posting anything it would just say stuff like "laid on the couch all day with ice and hot packs on my head trying to make this god-forsaken pounding go away" or "had a coughing fit that I'm pretty sure resulted in three broken ribs today..."

Its been a pretty miserable week. Six days after getting back to Alaska after RAAM, and just over two weeks after finishing RAAM I was on the start line for the Fireweed 200. I know it wasn't a smart thing to do, and I knew I was going to pay for it, but I didn't think it would be quite this bad. I really like the Fireweed. I like the course, I like the atmosphere, I like the fact that it gets over 700 Alaskans out for a cycling event, I REALLY liked the cookout in was just something I didn't want to miss.

And it didn't disappoint. There was a little bit of everything...big tailwinds, rain, sun, huge headwinds, lots of friendly folks, a little smooth asphalt, a little rough chip seal.

Rocky won the 400 by quite a bit, and after they had taken more than 2 weeks off the bike to crew for me during RAAM Heather and Gail surprised themselves winning the 2-woman 200. I think they really had a great time doing it too, because they were already talking about what they were going to do next year.

In the week before the Fireweed I felt like I was in a funk all the time. Lethargic, unmotivated, not-quite healthy but not-quite sick either...I actually generally felt better the couple of times that I got on my bike than I did the rest of the time walking around. So I made a deal with myself for the Fireweed that I'd ride hard for 3 hours and then decide whether to continue or not. It wasn't my legs I was worried about, but my motivation. I tried to tell myself that I was motivated to ride hard, but I'm not sure I really believed it, and motivation is something that comes from pretty deep inside and you just can't fake. So I figured I'd know well before 3 hours how things were gonna shake out.

In long races, rather than trying to control my heart rate or power or perceived exertion (or anything for that matter) at the start I'll generally let myself go as hard as whatever adrenaline I have will take me for about two hours and then start trying to settle into the pace I think I need. I know that this is pretty much the opposite from how a lot of people will approach ultra racing, but it works okay for me. Right from the start of the 200 I was going as hard as I could. My heart rate was holding at about 182-185 on all of the climbs in the first 50 miles and was staying above 170 on all the flats and descents. It felt like I was flying...and it was fun.

Pretty quickly my thinking changed from a 3-hour test to a sub-9 hour ride. In the 400 last year I was at about 9:11 when I turned around in Valdez. Judging by the way I felt for the first two hours of the 200 I was pretty sure an 8:45 or so was possible in the 200. At Glenallen I was averaging 26 mph...albeit with a wicked tailwind pushing me along. By the time I hit the 100 mile mark I was at 4 hrs and 6 minutes, but the wind had moved to the south and I knew that it would stay there until Valdez.

I can't remember what my time was at Teikal River, but the wind had gotten progressively worse and I remember thinking that a sub-9 was going to be pretty tough. Plus I was getting a little fatigued from trying push into the wind. Somewhere in there I came upon a 2-man team from Ohio and a 4- person mixed team from Anchorage. They were pushing pretty hard and it helped me to just be riding near some people; plus whenever one of us would pass the other we'd try to shout some encouragement. They'd change out riders and drop me and I'd slowly close the gap and overtake them and then they'd change out and blow by me again. On the final two pitches up Thompson Pass they both rode away from me. I was pretty cooked at this point.

The wind on the south side was worse and I knew sub-9 hrs wasn't going to happen. I tried to coast down the first grade to recover a little from the climb, but the wind was so crazy that pedaling made it easier to hold a decent line. So I did that for a couple minutes and then put my head down and tried to hammer out the rest of the race. I caught both of the teams I'd been leapfrogging and eventually got to Valdez in 9hrs 9 mins.

I was fairly happy with my time in those conditions. It wasn't easy to push that hard, especially the last 5 hours into the wind. The cookout in Valdez was great. I got to see and talk to some friends and some bike people that I sort of know, or know of.

But I knew at the finish line I was going to be sick for a while. The ride was just a bit more than my body was ready for.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I'm back doing my own posts now. This one will probably be a little short, but I just wanted to get a few thoughts posted as quickly as possible. It may be a week or so before I get a more complete write-up posted.

It sounded like a lot of people used this blog to follow the race. I hope it helped everybody that was interested feel like they were able to follow along and stay in tune with what was going on. My mom certainly posted as much information as she could get from the crew early on, but cell service is pretty sporadic in the early parts of the course. Heather would occasionally check the blog and tell me who had left comments and I'd really like to thank all of you that did. I appreciate the encouragement. Sometimes the messages would find me at just the right moment to give me a badly needed lift. Ultra-distance-anything is really a psychological battle and its sometimes hard to believe how easy it is to turn a low into a high...unfortunately the reverse is true too.

First, what a crazy, crazy thing that was...It was difficult, and strange, and surreal, and sometimes scary and disturbing...but it was also mostly really fun.

The crew was unbelievable!!! In the last post I wrote (prior to the race start) I mentioned that it was total chaos packing the vehicles and getting ready for the start. I wasn't 'afraid' of how things were going to unfold, but I was sure expecting it to be interesting. By day two of the race they were functioning like seasoned veterans. It was a really cool thing for me to see and one of the highlights of the race. My perspective on it, which is certainly limited and not necessarily accurate, was that they all had a sort of generic role that they filled, and then they sort of rotated into other roles as necessary.

As for the ride, I had stated a long time ago that I expected it to be a very difficult race physically but probably not as hard as the Iditarod Trail Invitational mentally...I was way off base. For about the first five days this was probably true but around that time my body adapted to the long, relatively high intensity days of riding, and I started getting stronger and stronger. Along with this I was experiencing some of the weirdest most twisted things my mind has ever done. Two mornings in a row while Heather and Co., were trying to get me dressed and on the bike I had no comprehension at all of what was going on. They told me I was in a race and I didn't believe them. I had no memory of being in a race, no interest in being in a race, nothing. Than after about a half hour of riding at 6 mph things started to come back to me and I realized I really was in a race.

A lot of this probably comes down to luck as much as anything, but the most serious physical problem I encountered the entire race (once I got my dietary issues resolved) was a slight saddle sore problem for the last two days that occurred after riding all night in the rain through West Virginia. I had some knee pain, but nothing I wouldn't consider normal for this type of race. I had no upper body pains at all. Physically I felt like I could have kept on riding at the end of the race, so that was a good thing.

Mentally I was pretty fried. I found it so hard to motivate myself to keep pushing on days 5, 6, 7, when the excitement of the start was long gone and the energy of the finish line was still half a world away. At this point RAAM really became more of a "crews" race than a "riders" race. And my crew did a great job of just taking over and putting me on my bike and yelling at me to ride. Ben and Heather especially seemed to relish this role. At times I felt a bit like a wind-up toy that was there for their entertainment, but that's the way it needed to be and they got as much out of me as I think they could.

Sleep this is a whole different ballgame in the heat and high intensity of RAAM than in is in the Iditarod Trail race. I had planned on two hours a night and thought that that would be plenty, that I might even cut back to 1.5 hours. Within a couple days I realized I was going to struggle with 2 hours, on a couple days I (my crew really) pushed it to 2.5 hours and I think 3 hours one day. Even at that it was a conscious struggle to stay awake on the bike and I found myself dozing off a lot more than I as comfortable with. Somehow this never led to a crash. I don't really understand how.

I'm sleeping a lot right now. All night long and about every two hours during the day. It's that time again. More Later.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


After a final sleepy day through WV, PA, MD, PA, MD, PA, DE (and many more state line crossings that I have no room to type) Jeff pushed himself until 4am to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge into NJ before sleeping until daylight for the final 64 miles into Atlantic City. He arrived around 10:30am with a police escort for the final 5 miles and down about 300 yards of the boardwalk. Not too many people were on the boardwalk that time of morning, but those around gathered for the spectacle of interviewing a severely sleep deprived cyclist.
We then went to lunch were Jeff fell asleep reading the menu and intermittently throughout the meal (and entire day really). While waiting on the boardwalk for another cyclist (Oyler) to come in, Jeff took another nap and blended quite well with some of the local bums doing the same. Here's a photo of him at the finish. I hope he's awake enough to share some of his own reflections tomorrow.

An article on Jeff by VeloNews that appeared on the RAAM website:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dozing Through WV

Jeff has had a tough day leaving Ohio and covering ground in West Virginia. He was slow to get going after almost 3hrs of sleep (the most consecutive hours yet!) and then a 1hr nap around 3pm failed to revive him. Lots of ridge crossings today and apparently the downhills are too long and he's been dozing off on many of the descents--no crashes though yet thanks to a vigilant follow crew and the ubiquitous rumble strips.

After claiming caffeine was no longer having an effect on his wakefulness, Jeff downed a Cinnabon Latte and an iced coffee Gail whipped up for him and is now wired--just in time for nightfall. He hopes to pick up his pace which severely lags during his sleepy periods (coasting at 5mph seems to suit him fine).

Tom Jarding, a fellow Ultrasport competitor, made a surprise appearance on the course today to say "hi" to Jeff after tracking him on the web and making the trip down from his home in Pennsylvania 75 miles from Clarksburg, WV. They got to visit for about 15 minutes as a thunderstorm forced Jeff off the bike and into the van. Thanks for the great surprise, Tom, and see you on the trail next year.

The aforementioned thunderstorm abated the 90+F heat at about 6pm and the now 70F temperatures are perfect for riding as soon as the roads dry out. Jeff just came though Grafton and wants to bag two more time stations (90 miles) tonight before sleeping.


This is somewhere in Ohio I think. It's all starting to blur together. Jeff was getting handed a popsicle from the RV so Ben hopped out and took this picture. Popsicles last about 30 seconds when it's 96F and humid. Jeff has to hold them off to his side and upside down or else they melt all over his arms and legs. Jeff says this is much worse than the desert weather. We have been spraying him off with water - especially his feet - just to try to keep cool but it's a loosing battle.

Last night at about 1am we blew the fuse in the van that runs the roof top radio and rear flashers - flashers are required when it's dark - and Ben had to do some on the road repairs while I drove. I won't get into the details here, but it was impressive. Of course we were only going 15mph.

It's now 10:45am and the RV just pulled into Parkersburg, WV. This morning seemed to go pretty well but I was asleep in the RV so I don't really know. TS 46 has WiFi so we just checked the standings and it looks pretty much the same as it did yesterday with Kaldy and Vollebregt sitting about 150 miles ahead of us and Oyler about 100 miles back. 100 miles doesn't sound like much but at 11mph it's 9 hours on the bike so he's not too close. Jeff is riding at about the same pace as a 2 man team and a 4 man team right now, but they don't sleep and they switch off to eat so we'll loose them next time Jeff stops. They look as tired as Jeff.

Check the RAAM website for the profile of WV and you will se what Jeff's day is going to be like. I hope we can get 120 miles in before dark but we'll see.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hurricane Force Tailwinds in Ohio

Physically Jeff had a better morning today. I was worried about him because we couldn't get him through Indianapolis last night and knew we were going to have to be dealing with commuter traffic in the morning. I woke up to trucks screaming by at 5am and the traffic was only increasing on what had been a nearly abandoned US 40 in the wee hours. I was nervous about putting Jeff on a bike considering his previous mornings' performances. Tim & Gail had the 1st shift in the follow van and I asked them to pin him to the shoulder so if he swerved he would hit our van instead of passing traffic. This ended up being unnecessary as he was physically fully awake very fast this morning.

Mentally however he was struggling and couldn't seem to understand why we were pushing him to ride his bike and kept stopping to ask why we were doing this. Everytime we reminded him that he was in a bike race he would nod and say something like, "Yeah, that sounds familiar, you need to keep reminding me about that so I don't get confused." That happened about 10 times this morning.

We crossed the state line into Ohio a little after lunch time today and mostly tail/slight cross winds have been picking up all day long and are now bending trees and destroying the time station volunteer tents. Great for Jeff as long as it keeps up in the current direction. We're 185 miles from West Virginia and hope to make it there tonight if the tailwind keeps up as Jeff has already covered 153 miles since 6am.

A link to today's News-Miner article by Matias:

Jeff being interviewed by RAAM media in Marshall, IL last night around 9pm

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Day in Illinois

Jeff had another rough morning, thankfully most of the crew was awake to help me deal with him this time. We videotaped this episode. It starts with Jeff being mad at whomever wakes him (me) and continually throwing the covers back over him when I take them off. Once we start dressing him, he keeps nodding off and refusing to eat. Usually he'll accept some coffee filled with sugar and 1/2 & 1/2. When we finally sit him on the bike he rides at about 7 mph for at least 1/2 and hour and has trouble keeping his eyes open and stops for every little excuse he can conjure (more clothes, less clothes, different bike), an uncomfortable time for the crew in the follow van. Gradually the speed increases and his form starts looking smooth and he rides well for the remainder of the day and well into the night.

Jeff powdering up for the ride.

Today's ride across Illinois has been full of friendly drivers and even some people cheering from the roadside. The temperatures have been high (94F, but only 80F at 8am) with the percieved temperature being the highest of the trip so far. Jeff is riding & eating well and talking about the chances of him catching up with the Aussie in 6th.