Saturday, June 23, 2007
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 deprivation...man 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
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
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.
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
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: http://newsminer.com/2007/06/18/7542
Sunday, June 17, 2007
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.
Jeff riding over the Mississippi River into Alton, IL
So I (Tim) was on the overnight van crew last night with Gail and Jeff was really moving. We did the entire 75 miles from TS 33 to TS 34 in the dark. It was an interesting ride. The road was completely flat for 55 of the 75 miles but had two 10 mile sections of 13% up for a mile and 13% down for a mile. Jeff was hammering up and flying down these crazy roads with lots of sharp curves. I was driving so I had to break out my race car driver skills in order to keep him in my headlights. We were both having fun.
When we got to TS # 34 it was 2 AM and Jeff was wide awake and feeling good. 2 cups of coffee and some pizza later he could not keep his eyes open. Gail and I made him get moving because we thought that the coffee would kick in but it didn't. We made it 8.9 miles out of TS # 34 in over an hour and Jeff was asleep for most of it. I kept having to yell at him to get on our side of the double yellow line. He kept saying he just wanted to see what it was like over there. Kind of funny now but Gail and I were pretty stressed out for that hour. Finally we stopped and put Jeff in the van. He kept asking what was wrong and if he crashed, then 2 seconds later he'd be snoring. We had called the RV up from TS # 34 and they caught us in about 10 minutes so we got Jeff showered and into his "real" bed. I was asleep when he started this morning at 6 AM so Heather will need to do an update on that.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
And one about Jure Robic, RAAMs current leader and multiple past winner by Daniel Coyle, author of Lance Armstrong's War (you have to register to read from NY Times):
Hot and humid in the Ozarks today, near 90F and humid. It's hard to believe many of us grew up here and never seemed to notice! After a slow start Jeff has been riding well and asking for ice cream sandwiches. The crew is trying to decide if a little more rest (3 hrs instead of 2 hrs at night) will do him any good or if after his longer rest he'll wake up just as groggy and struggle for the 1st hour on the bike anyway. We're attempting to balance our primary goal of finishing the race with our newfound position high in the pack; which means deciding whether to increase or cut sleep and whether to push Jeff beyond his self-percieved physical limits. I never anticipated a time would come that I would be asking him to go further than he thought possible, but rather assumed I would have to be the one holding him back for his own safety. We'll see how it plays out over the next 3 days.
Friday, June 15, 2007
This picture is Jeff leaving Manter, Kansas on 6/14/07 after eating dinner. He rode for another 7 hours and 100 miles after this picture was taken, all in the dark.
We just rolled into TS # 28. Actually it's El Dorado - Jeff thought El Camino sounded better. Jeff is eating some food - tortellini, a leftover 1/4 pounder with cheese (more on that later), and some other stuff. It is hot, about 87, and humid. Much different than yesterday when it was cool and cloudy all day. Jeff hasn't had much time off the bike today so he is resting with his feet up, ice on both knees, and clothes mostly off. He'll probably stay here for 30 to 45 minutes and then hit the road. We have switched to a 2 person van crew with 4 in the RV. The van duties are pretty light so 2 people can handle it and this allows the next van crew to get some real sleep before their next shift. The RV is leapfrogging past the van and rider going about 50 miles and then stopping for 2 to 3 hours at each time station. Sometimes the RV has groceries to get or other errands to do so it's not always a real "rest" stop but it seems to be working pretty well.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
He's made it into Kansas and his climbing days are over until we hit the Appalachians.
Three BIG climbs yesterday in Colorado--Wolf Creek Pass (10,800 ft), La Veta Pass (9,400 ft) and Cuchara Pass (9,980 ft). He rode until almost 4 in the morning to put them behind him. Today a gradual desent from the Rockies into west-central Kansas.
Each morning Jeff is having trouble eating right as soon as he gets up (after 2.5 hrs rest), but after an hour on the bike is spotting a diner or local eatery and asking for some breakfast foods. His appetite is improving and therefore is his caloric intake. We've been having mild weather (in the 60Fs all day today)and now without mountains to climb he is exerting himself less and can digest better. We hope his strength on the flats will bring him up in the standings. With much of the nice scenery behind us, Jeff won't have much to focus on other than riding.
Yesterday Tim Stern, a buddy from Colorado joined the crew as Rob Sampson left. Jeff's brother Mike came and rode with the crew for a few hours to do a newpaper story. Jeff seems very happy to have the distractions of visitors and new faces.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
As I said before, he called last night and he seemed fine....sounded great, but Heather said after that he wasn't feeling very well and had no appetite. They were waiting out a thunderstorm with seroiusly close lightening and 40 mph headwinds. After it passed, he pedaled on to TS 15 Durango, CO. The descent into Durango was long and with the temperature being only 42 degrees, he got pretty cold. In Durango he took about 4 hours off the bike to rest......3 hours of that was spent sleeping.
This morning Heather reports that he's feeling better and has his appetite back. She said as they rode by a restaurant, he called out to them that he bet they had some sort of breakfast sandwiches in there.
I also understand his brother, Mike, is going to meet him in Wolf Creek Pass (CO)
and is going to do a story about the race (and I assume his brother) for the Estes Park newspaper.
Well, I guess that's it for now. I'll let you know as soon as I hear more.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The main reason he called was to find out how he's doing. They have no way of knowing what's going on and who's where or in what position. He said there's so many cars out there and no way of knowing where the riders are. He wanted to know what his and some of the other riders stats were.
It sounded like they were going to check in at the TS, get something to eat, and hit the road again. So while we all sleep, I guess he'll be pedaling!!!
Jeff slept for 2 1/2 hours last night and it must have refreshed him because she reports that he's feeling good and riding well. He has a nice tail wind and the road is smooth. His stomach problems seem to be gone. They think he may have been putting too much food in his stomach at a time and are now spacing it out a little more.
The scenery has been great but they're not sure how much attention Jeff's paying to it. He's probably out there in his own little world right now. The crew has been taking pictures so they can show him what he missed.
Living in Alaska doesn't give you much of a chance to work on your tan, but Heather says he's got a good one now.
It pretty much looks like things are going well and let's hope it stays that way. Heather said she'd try to report back later today but that cell phone coverage has been spotty. When I some more news, I'll pass it along. Til then, have a great day!!
Monday, June 11, 2007
So far, he's had 3 flat tires. They were riding on the interstate and there's a lot of debris and junk along the shoulder of the highway. Yes, they've been out there, but Heather says the shoulder is wide and they ride along side of him for protection from cars, trucks, buses, etc. Right now they're on a pretty much abandoned 2 lane road. Sounds much safer than a interstate to me!
The weather isn't bad today......low 70's, cloudy & overcast but with some gusting winds.
Heather said they'd call later with more info so until then I guess that's all for now.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
They have passed TS 2 (Salton City, CA) and are on their way to Chiriaco Summit, CA.. The highest temp they have encountered was 98 degrees. It's now down to 94.
Jeff was running in 6th postion after TS2 and it appears that everythig is going well so far. I'll be in touch with them tomorrow and will fill you all in on everything that happens overnight.
The temperature in Oceanside was comfortable.....probably mid to high 70's, but they have since experienced some 90's. It is now 82 degrees. It will be interesting to see how our "Alaskan" handles the heat. When he hits those triple digit temps the thought of -40 may sound real good to him!
He's climbed grades of up to 8% to an elevation of 2760 ft above sea level. Heather said there hasn't been much traffic and no horn honkers to contend with. I suppose there will be a fair amount of that to come.
As I was talking to Ben, he opened the window to either spray Jeff with water or pass some to him and I heard Ben say, "Hey Jeff, want to talk to your mom?" From a distance, but clearly, I could hear a "Hi Mom". It was neat to think I'm in Florida and he's on a bike in CA and I could still talk to him. His voice sounded good and I imagine he's glad this thing is finally underway.
As I hear more, I'll pass it on......but so far so good!!!!!
Saturday, June 9, 2007
At the race meeting they called all the riders names and had us come up on stage. I sort of expected to have a revelation and all of a sudden realize how big of a race this is at some point tonight. It didn't happen. I think that's a good thing. I think it means that mentally I'm operating on the plane that I need to be. I know how big it is and I feel like I'm ready. We'll see over the next few days if I'm right or just naive.
This will be my last post for a while. During the first couple days of the race my mom will be posting info that she'll get from my crew. After that the crew will start posting directly from the vehicle. Before I start there are a slew of people that I would like to thank for their support, help, etc.
This is no particular order and I know I'm going to leave a lot of people out...sorry in advance. I'm pretty well stressed right now.
Peter Lekisch and George Stransky. They put on one of the best races I've ever done and their support and encouragement has been invaluable. I can't explain how much help they have been. The tip of the iceberg is that Peter changed his own travel plans to be able to stay with me while I used his house in Fredericksberg, TX as a training base in April.
My boss, Brett Nelson, was one of the first people to say "you've got to do this" when I first talked to him about it. I've missed a lot of work getting ready for this and him and the other NRCS engineers (Brant and Amiee mostly) have had to pick up my slack.
Morgan, who set this blog up because she knew I would talk about it and never do it.
Justin at Orbea Bicycles and Iron at Cytosport. They have both been awesome and made what is a financial disaster a little less so. I really appreciate what they've been able to do for me.
All of my friends and riding partners in Fairbanks and Colorado who've entertained me by pretending that they wanted to talk about this race because I was mostly incapable of talking about anything else...Kraig, Tim, Whitney, Ros, Tom in CO and Rocky, Luke, Julie, Norma and John, and a whole mess of other people in Alaska.
My parents for their support and for planning to meet me in Atlantic City in a race that statistically I've got a 50% chance of finishing. I appreciate their confidence.
There is no way I can adequately thank my crew. Larry and Noreen Best, my mother and father in-law, Gail Koepf our friend and next door neighbor, Rob Sampson, my former boss and friend from Boise, Idaho, Ben Couturier, the youngest RAAM finisher ever and future holder of Rob Kish's record for most completed RAAM races (kidding), Tim Stern, who has been a great friend and riding partner for a long time...and most of all, my wife Heather. She's been living with me, and therefore with this race, 24 hours a day for about 10 months.
The concept of RAAM as a 'solo' race is ridiculous. This group of people is taking time out of their lives so that we can try to accomplish something together. Something that is my idea, but that I can't accomplish without their help. They are going to suffer along with me on this. I hope they experience the highs too.
In general I'm not a hyper-competitive person, and winning races does not motivate me to train. I train because I love riding and I have fun. But early on in my training I knew this was different. I felt something like 'pressure' to make sure that if this group of people was willing to commit to doing this with me that the least I could do was make sure that I did everything I could to be prepared. Over time that feeling sort of changed from 'pressure' to more like inspiration, and has really been a source of strength for me.
Finally...I've had more fun with this blog than I thought I would. I don't have a clue who or how many people have looked at it, but thanks to you who do for taking the time. I'll probably do some post-race posting and then put this thing on the shelf.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Monday, June 4, 2007
The heaters would only get the shop to 95 degrees. At first I was disappointed because I thought I wanted it hotter than that. Within about 20 minutes I learned that was plenty hot. Initially it felt pretty good. My muscles just responded really well to the heat, and unlike most of my rides I felt strong right away instead of having to warm up for two hours before I started feeling good. I set the resistance at 4% and was cruising easily at 220W (these Watt numbers are from my trainer and may have no connection to reality). After about 20 minutes I was starting to feel the heat and having to cut my pace back. By 40 minutes I was trying to keep my power below 110W because (for those not familiar with power numbers that equates to roughly 10 mph on a 4% grade) if I stopped paying attention my power would increase and my heart rate would skyrocket and I'm pretty sure I'd be unable to thermo-regulate in about 10 minutes.
I had planned on riding for about an hour or hour and fifteen minutes. That's about all I can stand on the trainer in good conditions. Especially on a pretty nice day when Heather is out on a real bike ride.
At an hour I was out of water so I quickly re-filled my bottles and got back on the bike. Since this was mostly a psychological workout I decided I'd force myself to make it to 1:30. When I got to 1:30 I decided I'd go until I was out of water. When I ran out of water I tried to force myself to go for 10 more minutes. I haven't done a single ride this year where I felt like I couldn't go another hour (or more) beyond when I ran out of water. Yesterday I made it about 7 minutes after the water was gone.
I'd ridden a couple minutes short of two hours. But only 25 (trainer) miles. I'm hoping that 95 degrees in absolutely still air is worse than 105 in moving air. And I think it is. I hope it is. Because that really sucked a lot.
I'm going to do the same thing tonight. But I won't do it for that long because I've got to get to the airport.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Like all hill climbs, this one started hurting right off the bat and didn't let up until the finish line. Ester Dome is something like a 2000 foot climb in a bit over 4 miles, but the bulk of the climb is done in three very steep pitches.
By the halfway point Reese Henneman, a super strong 18 year old xc skier/triathlete and I were riding together a bit in front of Rocky and David Norris, another junior Nordic Skier with tons of strength. I kept telling Reese he needed to drop me, but he was pretty content to sit on my wheel. He's a lot stronger than he understands. He thinks he's going to go too hard and blow up and I (or somebody) will somehow catch him. When he figures out how to get past that he's going to be hell to race with. His potential is huge.
Anyhow...the climb almost tops out then descends a 1/4 mile, climbs back to the true summit, has a very short leg-breaking climb before kicking you onto the road for the final 0.3 mile descent and then short (momentum type) climb to the finish line. Reese gapped me on the final "leg-breaking" climb and then held on until the finish line, beating me by 2 seconds. I'll take 2nd place in a hill climb any day. I suck at climbing.
On Saturday morning I had thoughts about doing the rest of the Mtn Bike Stage Race. I was feeling very strong and really wanted to go hard. But several years ago, after training all summer for the Leadville 100, I broke my arm a week before Leadville doing something stupid in a mtn bike race that I had no chance of winning and no real reason to even do. I decided to do the Leadville race anyways, with a pretty big cast on my arm. I finished the race, but rode like crap, crashed a couple times and probably caused a few other crashes or near-crashes. It was a pretty damn excruciating 11 hours on a bike. I can be pretty hard-headed and have never really been known for learning lessons the easy way. But I remember after that race thinking, "Man, if I didn't learn something from this I'm just stoopid."
Well, I finally have proof that I'm not too stoopid...finally!!! I decided to skip the mtn bike race. I did a fast group road ride instead. It was basically like a race up every hill. I felt good and got to ride hard so it worked out well.