I love being able to push farther into a corner and have such a response coming out. This bike is amazing, it was so smooth… It is absolutely the best ride of any bike I’ve owned which includes my S-Works. Pictures don’t even give it justice as the craftsmanship of the frame is second to none.
The Volagi was amazing! I am completely convinced that this is the best possible bike ever made for endurance or more specifically ultra endurance racing. During the entire 3,000 mile and 10 day journey I don’t think I ever complained about the road surface or the bike being uncomfortable. Sure I had my issues but they were all related to heat or my joints. I really was able to focus on just the task of riding and let the bike disappear beneath me. That is incredible for a race of any length.
I took delivery of my liscio a month ago equipped with sram red. I’ve already ridden 1100 miles, 600 over 5 days between San Jose and San Diego. The ride was fantastic the brakes amazing. I felt better on day 5 than day 1. I also have a steel and a titanium bike neither is near as smooth over rough roads. I road my steel bike today and thought what a tank. I’m very happy with my bike, maybe the best riding bike made.
By: Sam Beal
I’ve done the Low Key Hillclimb series on and off for the last 16 years. It has progressively become more competitive with local, state or nationally ranked riders at the front. And the “back” has gotten more competitive as well. I did four climbs that counted and one that didn’t. I also volunteered one climb and due to a quirk in the rules, I bonused up to first 60+ finisher on points. Team Volagi finished 31st out of 80+ teams. Teams are loosely defined in the low key and I was the only rider on Team Volagi. I set a PR on Bohlman/NKQOB, but only because my one previous climb was a had-to-walk-a-bit disaster. Otherwise my times were >10% slower than previous bests or what I expected. I could blame age, but lack of anerobic and leg-strength training is the likely culprit.
My Liscio is setup with DuraAce 10speed (including upgraded crankset with Praxis outer bearing). The bike weighs a tad under 18lbs, with Shimano mechanical BR-CX75 brakes, EL wheels, Vittoria Open Corsa EVO SC tires, DuraAce carbon pedals, carbon cages, and a carbon rail Fizik saddle. I started the climbs weighting ~169 lbs, and with superlight Sidi3 Ergo shoes, the total “bike + rider” weight was 5lbs to 10lbs less than previous years.
The traditional first climb of the series is always a challenge. The last time I climbed it (on a practice ride October 2012) I crashed on the descent. Briefly unconscious, I have no recollection of how or why, although I suspect a pothole. If you hit the pavement at 30mph, and end up with little road rash, things break. I cracked my pelvis and a couple of ribs. And my sacroiliac had me limping through late December. It’s amazing how critical that part of your body is for movement.
This climb is the backside of the Bohlman climb. I descended it once in the 90s but had never climbed it. It gets progressively steeper , hitting 18% before a transition to dirt (with a step over log). My attempt to restart in the dirt was foiled by something in my left cleat. After almost falling, I walked 50 yards to a flatter spot to restart. I still couldn’t clip=in on the left so I rode on the top of the cleat – which was slow.
The woman behind me in this photo is 55+. I had passed her in the 13% section but she passed me back in the 16% section. She actually fell when restarting in the dirt, but got back up and left me in it. The last irony of this climb is the quickest way home is to descend next week’s climb – Bolhman – a road where disc brakes are worth their weight in Bitcoin.
Bolhman, Norton, Kidridge, Quickert, OnOrbit, Bohlman
In the 90s, the route was Bolhman-OnOrbit-Bolhman, steadily increasing grade from 8% to 22%. At the start I saw a guy in tennis shoes, which was weird. On the 22% of OnOrbit, that same guy was walking up the hill faster than I was pedaling. The new route uses sideroads that eliminate the downhill car traffic but put you on 113% – 18% grinders with no relief. OnOrbit actually feels like a relief because you are going at stair-climbing speed and it’s short. After the finish, low key bananas to restore potassium and another quick descent on Bohlman.
Bohlman (NKQOB) Strava
Alpine Hills Strava
This series of six short steep climbs is separated by 18 miles of transistion. LowKey only scored the climbs, so GPS was a requirement. I don’t ride with gadgets. An HR monitor is critical for riding at 95% of HRmax, but I don’t need a cyclometer to know how fast I’m going or how far I’ve gone. And I certainly don’t need a GPS to keep from getting lost. The only other rule that day was a maximum completion limit of 3 hours, i.e. you couldn’t take a nap between climbs. I chose to ride the event in “time trial” mode. I started at 11:25AM and didn’t stop for anything but the multiway stop signs, finishing at 12:51. Despite carrying only one water bottle on a day that peaked at 90 degrees, it was probably my best climbing day of the year. But it didn’t count. After Dan Connelly imported GPS readings from a variety of Garmins and Smartphones, each with calibration quirks, he ended up throwing out one of the nastier climbs (apparently the course recrossed a lat or lon reading too many times).
Mt. Hamilton Strava
With the highest elevation in the county, Mount Hamilton and the Lick Observatory is a Bay Area landmark. It’s an epic climb with three sections: 1000 feet 4%, short descent, 1000 feet 5% grade, short descent and 2000 feet of 5% increasing to 7% to the summit.
My heart monitor died a few minutes before the start. I tried to pace during the first section, dropping back a little from riders I recognized as similar ability. I know where the mid-climb peaks are and timed my move back into the group on the transitions. In the early part of the third section I overtook several riders and was feeling good about my speed. At the 5 miles to go sign I realized I was probably near max heart rate. I tried to back off but the parade of riders passing me increased. I lost maybe 25 positions and 10 minutes in the last 3 miles. After yelling out my number at the finish, I was literally read to throw up. A few minutes sitting, then after some Grape juice, a bananna and coffee, I layered up for the descent. I was in a daze the rest of the day. The minutes I lost in the bonk may have cost me a PR. In 1997 and 1998, I climbed Mt. Hamilton in 92:48 and 92:15 respectively.
But it was a thankful Thanksgiving. Climbing this mountain and getting back down safely is always thankful. And my wife had a special ddinner in preparation when I got home.
by Susan Scarlet Macaw
The Furnace Creek 508 is the perfect experiment in how to discover oneself, especially when participating in the solo competition. I had crewed for Sam “Seal” Beal, Barley “Boar” Forsman and Bob “Bradan” Redmond, so I had some idea how tough the ride would be. I had also said that I wasn’t going to crew anymore unless I did it for myself. It occurred to me that I could do it on a fixed-gear bike if I trained hard enough for it. Easier said than done – riding a fixie is a whole different animal! I followed certain rules and took in advice from Barley, my husband, the fixie expert.
Once I decided I was going to do the 508 fixied, I started my own training program. I started on November 2009, and mapped out the year with rides and key targets by using a periodization method. I planned the workouts according to specific brevets to peak for the 508. As an exercise physiologist, I admire the body for its physical potential, but there is another potential: the power of the mind. Many people neglect this “X-factor” in their training. I practiced visualization exercises during my training: when it was windy, I imagined myself in the desert, when I was climbing, I imagined myself on Towne’s pass. During some training days, it was difficult to get out of bed early in the morning. However I have Barley, my biggest motivator.
I honed in my nutrition and experimented with various nutritional options while training. I created a plan that would be easy for my stomach to digest, easy for the crew to manage. I also prepared a variety of emergency foods in case things went wrong. Most of them were childhood treats that bring back good memories. Good food can help me overcome the inevitable bad times that occur during ultra-distance cycling.
Barley’s advice came in handy when going downhill; he explained that I would need to be able to stand as I pedaled 20+mph. He said “The long descents will generate pressure and heat while seated, it will be important alleviate that pressure by periodically un-weighting the saddle.” So I signed up for a brutal Santa Rosa Cycling Tour lead by Bill Oetinger. During the tour I measured my effort going down hills; however I ended up with a right arm injury and some nutritional deficiencies. All the work from the 410 miles and 40,000ft of climbing put a dent in my body. I had enough time to recover and I took it easy for 2 weeks to get my body back to “normal”. The tour was a good idea, but I overreached and had to pull back from training to avoid having a greater injury later in the season. I used a 43/17 gearing on my converted Breezer fixie and was able to climb and descend some of the toughest hills I had ever ridden, some with 18-20% grades!
I also utilized the very demanding Almaden Cycling Tour Club long distance training rides as motivation to go on 100+ mile rides over the weekends. I never went 100% during those rides, but I did have certain targets that I wanted to reach: intensity levels and heart rate zones. I also rode brevets for 2 purposes: prepare for Paris-Brest-Paris next year, and to get time in the saddle. I also enjoy the company of friends during brevets. The pace is calmer and even though there are time limits to complete, there is still time to sit and have an extended lunch. I completed a whole series: 200K, 300K, 400K and 600k, on the Fuji fixie with 42/17 gearing and other brevets on the Breezer with 43/16 gearing. During Furnace Creek I rode my red Sycip with 42/16 gearing. Actually, all my bikes are red, hence Scarlet Macaw as my totem.
The other important component for race preparation was getting the right crew for the job. I was flattered and lucky to have many offers: Barley Forsman, Robert Choi, David Hoag, Curt Simon, and Bill Ellis were all candidates for my roster, so I went with the obvious – whoever asked me first, I went with them! All very experienced cyclists (fast riders too) and 508 veterans, it was hard to turn down Curt and Bill. I kept thinking they were going to be bored during the race because my pace is nothing like theirs. In the end Barley became my crew chief and David the navigator and Robert the driver for most of the ride (as well as the mathematician). Curt was still my back-up in case someone had to bail.
I prepared for picking up the van, clothing and food. Barley got my bike and all essentials ready for the race. The crew did everything! I had prepared a schedule of my nutrition to be fed 250 calories or less every hour. Electrolytes and Heed depending on the weather, fruit in-between Hammer bottles, Tums, Ibuprophen and Alkazelser as needed. To avoid overheating, they were supposed to pour water on my back. All of these procedures were to be tallied every 20 minutes. It was a lot of work and my crew took on the task to perfection. All the planning had been done to beat the current women’s fixie record and to try to finish in 42 hours or less. In order to attain that record I needed to take short stops and keep a steady pace. After all, this was my first attempt at the FC508 ever!
The morning was beautiful, I chose to take it easy and enjoy the moment before the start. I talked to many of the racers and crew. Ken Emerson, a friend, was also racing solo. We took some pictures. I also met Chris and Adam, the other two fixie riders. Five fixies had originally signed up, but 2 dropped before the race. So it was just the three of us.
I really wanted to take in everything, the smells, the scenery, the happiness to feel the wind caressing my legs as I went downhill. I held back and the group rapidly split up. Some riders seemed to be working very hard. I stayed within my limits, or so I thought! A bit slow at the first check point from what I had estimated with my splits, but I soon realized that it was going to be difficult to keep that pace, so I slowed down a bit more. Long distance races are not won at the beginning. My exercise physiology background kept reminding me that muscles fatigue will be greater if I push too hard at the start, then the muscles will need more time to recover if I stop.
I saw Chris Kostman. He rolled some video and took pictures. It was exciting to be on the same roads as those I had crewed for in the past. I was reminded to stop at two stop signs- in my view I did stop, but I just wasn’t unclipping. Some people didn’t realize I was on a fixie. I kept seeing the same vans. Jeff (Landshark) who was crewing for another solo rider was very encouraging. I saw Paul Vlasved for a stretch of the road.
My first stop was at about mile 170, at least that’s what my crew told me. I stopped only to get set up with lights and pee. I really don’t know what my mileage was because I was only focusing on the average speed from my computer.
The crew bought a veggie burrito for me in Torona, I wanted to make sure I had something else to eat at night time. This idea was brilliant in my case. I was ready for Towne’s Pass. I had visualized this climb during my training, so I was ready to pace myself. In my mind the race started at Towne’s Pass. The downhill was brutal, a lot harder than I had visualized. A rider had fallen down in front of me in the middle of the road near the bottom of the descent. It took several seconds to register what was going on, but I never slowed down. How could I? It’s a race!
The hardest climbs for me were Jubilee and Salisbury. It was dark and I was tired! There is no recovery time between them so I just “sucked” it up. At some point I saw The Hub Cyclery van, Chaz and Claire were crewing for Debbie and Bill, it was fun to see them go by as I was trying to keep my momentum.
I was ready for windy conditions. My mantra was: “Is that all you got? I thought it was going to be WINDY!!” Of course, these were just mental games to keep me focused. During the windy sections, I kept hoping for a turn so that the wind would cease, but the wind just kept turning with me! It seemed that I had a head wind at every turn. My stops became a little bit longer. It became harder to keep them to 3-5 minutes. My third stop was 15 minutes: I sat and extended my legs, while Robert gave me a massage and everyone else filled my bottles, gave me food and told me how great I was doing. They told me my form was good and to keep up the pace, and that I was on task to break the record. The crew did everything possible to keep me going. We would plan what I needed before the stop to save precious time. My job was to keep pedaling. I changed clothes once. They got me sun block, at the hottest time. Once I sat in the van for 3 minutes with the air-conditioning on my face!
At times I was going only 4mph, and it was frustrating to be unable to pick up the pace. I kept telling myself: “I’m moving faster at 4mph than at 0mph if I stop”, so I just allowed myself to recover while I pedaled slowly. As time went by I needed to make more stops. I continually wanted to pee, so I had to stop and it was harder to squat, I had to have Barley help me.
I couldn’t clip in anymore, because the bottom of my foot and calf would cramp. Robert and David started putting me on the bike and clipping me in. By the last 100 miles, Robert was in charge of clipping me in and holding me until I was able to clip my other foot and get going again. The synergy of the crew was incredible – I would signal for them to come up and they would already be ready with different possibilities for drinks and food. They kept giving me updates of the climbs that were coming up, and estimated times I would reach the top. I had difficulties getting off the bike, someone would help me lift my leg over the bike, then someone would hold the bike while I would get food or take a pee break. Every time I got back on the bike I was fine, so I was purposefully trying not to stop to avoid cramping and stiffness. Little by little the power on my quads was diminishing, but I kept going.
At mile 410, I wondered, how Emily O’Brien (the previous fixie finisher) did it! This thing, the 508 on a fixie, it’s a crazy idea! I thought, “she is a tough one!” While I was descending, I wondered about Sam and Barley on the fixie. They were much faster than me, and I couldn’t imagine how fast they must have been going. Another brutal descent I was not prepared for was Sheephole! It was indescribably horrible! My seat felt crooked, and I felt like I was going downhill on a mountain bike course. I signaled to the van to stop and told my crew: “this saddle is crooked!”, both Robert and Barley checked the saddle and said that it wasn’t. So, I guess that means I’m crooked! I had gotten a saddle sore, but my body knew that if something was going to go wrong, it was going to be equipment and not the body, so I blamed the equipment! I realized that I had to ride crooked while descending to avoid vibrating the saddle sores. I was mentally prepared for sand storms, snow, rain, mechanical problems, and physical problems. I had a solution for every pain, every negative thought, anything that could, or would go wrong. I inadvertently ran over a mouse as it darted across the road and I thought: “I hope this doesn’t come back as bad karma later in the ride!” This is a race and I’m going to break the current women’s fixie record! I was avoiding sand on the road, potholes, looking for the smooth area of the road. There was none to be found! I tried staying on the painted white strip because it gave me a break from the vibration. My hands were feeling damaged. I remember Sam talking about his hands and blisters. I had already popped one small blister on my left hand, so I started holding the handle bar with my fingers. I stopped braking for a while. To keeping the bike at 17-20mph, I controlled the speed with my legs. On the downhill to stop #7, I was able to keep my speed near 22mph during most of the downhill. I was tired and I kept imagining that the van was going to run over me, so I slowed down and asked my crew to give me more distance. Barley was driving at that time, so he assured me that there was enough space between me and the van. I don’t see well at night so he was trying to give me as much light as possible, the fastest speed I reached during the race was 39 mph, but it was probably only for a few seconds.
Going up the last climb, the crew kept me motivated with updates of my splits and other riders. I kept saying, “it’s not over until is over!” As I climbed I estimated that if I kept a 5mph pace on the uphill, I could make up some of the time on the downhill. Again easier said than done! The downhill became even harder. I had damage the back of my right knee by pulling a tendon from standing and pedaling downhill. When you ride a fixie downhill, it is extremely difficult to give your butt a break, so there is A LOT of chaffing. I stopped one last time and put on another pair of short to double them and get extra padding. After 450 miles, every inch of my body was pleading for mercy, but I kept telling it, “this is a race! I can rest when it’s over!” Anyway, I had pulled a tendon, so I had to visualize the pain leaving the knee, so I would have enough strength to stand and pedal to give my butt a 2-3 second break. I would do this continually for the last 36 miles. I decided I was NOT going to stop again. I was going to finish the race – without getting passed by anybody else!
I imagined that the last miles were just a short ride, nothing more than an easy morning loop. This loop went on forever! My crew kept me motivated by making sure I was eating and drinking. Gu with caffeine was my secret weapon to keep me alert and energized. I could no longer eat the fruit cups because it was slowing me down, so I decided to stay with Perpetuem and Gu. After I descended the last climb I thought I saw a turn coming up. In reality it was just another straight road ahead! I was getting upset at the road. I thought about the road engineers and wondered what were they thinking? Were they trying to save money by avoiding turns? Everything was dark, but I could see the lights of other finishers so that kept me going. If I could only catch one of them I could get in faster. My focus intensified at mile 495 – the lights of the city seemed so close. Of course, as I reached the school, I remembered that I still had 6-8 miles to go. The van pulled up and said,”you’re almost there, 6 more miles and you will be there”. Those were the longest miles of the ride! I saw another rider, at the top of a small crest. That crest felt harder than Towne’s Pass, and I began to wonder if I could catch him. I tried my best, and that became my focus for the last miles to the finish.
As I got to the finish, the first person I saw was Chris Kostman, I think he took a picture. Cindi Staiger, congratulated me and Matt from the Santa Rosa Cycling Club took a picture of my entry with the unofficial time of 12:37am Monday morning. Chris told me to wait, and that I was going to get my picture taken, I tried to get off my bike. Luckily my crew came to the rescue and helped me get off the bike and held the bike for me. I was so happy that I had done it!! I am part of a very small group of people who have attempted the feat on a fixie and an even a smaller group of women. I think I am the third woman to attempt the 508 fixed. When I got back to the hotel, I was looking forward to a cold shower to wash away all my pains and start recovering as soon as possible. It was hard to get in the tub, but it was even harder to get out, my quads had nothing left to give. I knew that my body had given me every single cell of strength and left it on the course! I am happy with my accomplishment and satisfied with all the decisions I made throughout the year in preparation for the race. The crew was excellent – they even continued getting things for me, and helping me to be as comfortable as possible the day after the race on our drive home!
One last note, Furnace Creek 508 in the solo category is most successful with the correct crew, without my crew I couldn’t have done as well. They were selfless and gave me four days of their lives so that I could give my best on the bike. Thank you!!
By: Susan Scarlet Macaw
It has been a hard year for me but sports have always helped me get a more clear perspective when having downs, at least that’s what I like to believe. [It probably has to do with the chemicals that are released by the pituitary gland, endorphins that release feelings of euphoria. Of course it takes a while for these chemicals to kick in, given the intensity of DMD, I was hoping it would make me feel better, at about mile 110 it did the trick] The super-mega ride, Devil Mountain Double, was this weekend. I drove down to San Ramon with Robert Choi and Omar Sison. Omar was only going to ride part of the course, but we went over the whole route and elevation on Friday night to mentally prepare for the ups and downs. Friday night I got my own vest from Jack Holmgren with the specially sawn Volagi logo. I thought about wearing it, but I wanted to finish in day light so I opted for not bringing it. 5 am start, lots of friends and nerves (my nerves), off we went after Scott Halversen’s cue to go. As I was going on a pace line, I went over a manhole cover and I lost both of my water bottles. F***, I just lost my bottles! Here is my thinking process at that moment:
- Option 1: stop to pick up bottles and possibly cause an accident;
- Option 2: stop let go of the awesome pace-line and work my butt off;
- Option 3 get to the top of Mt. Diablo and ask for a couple of water bottles. I opted for #3.
I hoped that no one would run over the bottles and then started thinking; maybe I could ask another cyclist for one of their water bottles, as I was thinking that plan Becky Berka caught me and I saw she had a Camelbak and 2 water-bottles and I asked her for one. Lucky me, without hesitation she gave me her Gatorade filled bottle. Great, I did a little calculation and thought maybe it has 200-250 calories, enough to get me to the top of Mt Diablo. Got to the top, saw Rob Hawks and told him my number “49” and continued to the rest stop to refuel. I was in a down mood and asked Ken Emerson for a hug, he was so kind and said “we all have ups and downs, continue your ride and you will feel better” he said other nice things that gave me encouragement to continue. As I was coming down, I knew I was going to have fun. I love descending and I have a bike with disc brakes. I saw the fast group on my way down and told myself, I’m not going to let them catch me until I get to mile 65. I got to the second rest stop and asked for a second water bottle, a nice woman volunteering at the rest stop went to her car and gave me her own water bottle. What a relief, now I could carry at least 800 calories of food in liquid form. I stayed away from the fast group until they caught me at Patterson Pass. I worked my butt off trying to stay with a pace line with Tim and others, I pulled for them only twice to conserve energy and not be to fried by the time I would get to Patterson Pass top. Made it to the mini-stop at mile 79.7 and just said hi and continued on. Somewhere around mile 110, I got caught by Ann Trason, what an honor to ride with her. Ann Trason is a legend in the ultra-distance running. She has won Western States 10 times, yes, 10 times. She has so many world records in running that she has been called one of the premier runners of the century. So, I did what every other competitor would do, I hooked on to her pace-line and had her pulled me to the Lunch rest stop, 115 miles. I fuelled up and got out of the rest stop in 5 minutes. The goal was to not get got by Ann again. Darn it! I got caught by Ann at Mt. Hamilton. She is such a strong ascender, I could just see her disappearing in the distance. I would look at my time and do calculations how slow I was climbing. My last check she was 90 seconds ahead of me. Just as I got to the top, I started descending as if I had nothSing to lose. The bike just went with me, I pointed it and it went. Voila, there she was, I caught her midway down the hill. I caught others and started thinking what I needed from the rest stop so that I could get in and out. I got to Crothers, like always the volunteers raced to get my water bottles and I got my magical combination water and Perpetum. Ate strawberries and bananas, talked a little bit with one of the SAG volunteers about my bike, 10 minutes later, I realized I got to go! Sierra road is only 6 miles away, Oh Boy!! Plan of attack: climb at my own pace. I had just the necessary food to get to the top, I looked at my watch and prepare myself to stop and walk if necessary. Although, I now ride with a 28cog in the rear, I thought I should be able to power up the hill; 4 miles of uphill, similar distance as Mt. Hamilton. I had all the little voices talking into my head, fat Susan said: it’s ok to stop, fit Susan said: you can do it Tati (Tati is my “I can do anything” girl power voice). I was going so slow at one point that my Garmin GPS said “Activity stopped” What in the world? I’m moving, just because the speed is only 2.5 doesn’t mean I’m not moving. I look down and had no more gears, I wondered if I should have a 32 in the back? Oh well, better stand up and power this thing, 2 more miles and I should be at the top. Someone passed me, I tried to memorize his name, but I have forgotten already. I tried to stay with him but too fast for me, someone else passed me, I think his name is Victor. Then I told Tati, no one else can pass you again. Get going!
Made it to “Pet-the-Goat” I had a coke. Ann and her husband caught me at the top and I commented to Ann, that I was working very hard to stay away from her. I really wanted to win Devil Mountain Double, I don’t think I had ever needed a cycling race win before. The beauty about riding for endless minutes is that you get to do a lot of reflection and sometimes even not thinking helps. Riding for hours at high intensity really raises my endorphins given clarity to the issues at hand in an unconscious way.
Finally, got to Sunol Train Station, Tina Forsman was volunteering. I knew she was going to be there, at times during my ride I would think when I get to Sunol, I’m going to get a hug from Tina. Just thinking about it made me ride faster. Sometimes these rides allow you to go beyond… At the rest stop, I told Jason Pierce that I was trying to win the race so he paired me up with Bryan Kilgore. He had started at 6am with the fast group. I thought what’s the worst that could happen? I get dropped. Bryan was a sweet heart, he waited for me on the up-hills when I would ride 5.5 mph; he made sure that I didn’t get dropped even when we were going 24mph on the flats. Ouch! The only thought in my brain was “I have to win” I was focused and set on his wheel. Robert Choi has been giving me pointers on staying on people’s wheels. I know that if I can just break the threshold of pain, my muscle cells will adapt and get enough oxygen to tap into the deepest strength of the mitochondria (power house of the cell) I always talk to myself so that I can put things into perspective and do whatever I put my mind into. Few miles from the finish Bryan gets a flat, Oh no!! Choices: leave him or wait. He says go ahead, you don’t have to wait. Tati said “just go”, I thought he’s faster he’ll catch me.(sorry Bryan) I rode as hard as I could, I lost my route sheet so I had to pay close attention to the markings on the road (Great job by Quack cyclists on the markings) Finally, I turned on Bishop Drive and look desperately for the finish. I entered the parking lot and went beyond the entry but finally made it. Robert Choi and Omar Sison were waiting for me. Both impressed that I came in earlier than what I had predicted. I thought I was going to finish at 9pm, but something happened during my ride that I knew I could come in at 8:30pm. When I looked at my watch it was 8:20pm. The moral of the story, I’m glad I decided to finish the ride instead of stopping when I was having down times. There were lots of those during the ride… but there were lots of up-times too and it wasn’t just the up-hills. Thanks for reading.
By: Barley Forsman
It’s true, in 12 years of riding/racing centuries, doubles, brevets, and other long events, I had my first ever DNF. I couldn’t articulate the situation as it was happening, but after-the-fact I determined that I probably experienced my worst ever Asthma attack, probably brought on by the exceptionally high pollen count (late rains coupled with the high heat created the perfect storm of debilitating allergies).
It was my first double attempt of the year – I know, I’m a slacker! I had planned to ride with the local speed demon, usually referred to simply as “Susan”, or the “Honduran Rocket”, or as she calls herself: “Tati”. So, my arrogance got the best of me as I decided to push the pace at the front with the “big boys” for the first 35+ miles, believing (for some reason) that the rest of my ride might be “easy”. In reality, the only “easy” part of the ride was soft-pedalling for a couple of miles until Susan caught up to me at mile 44, just as we make the right turn onto highway 1. But, she wasn’t alone – she had about 3 guys with her. We all fell into line and hammered most of that coastal section, picking up several other cyclists along the way – for the record, Susan did her fair share of pulling.
Having been at the front, I knew that Susan was the lead female rider and we were going to do our best to keep it that way. We turned onto Nacimento and kept the pressure on. At that point we had skipped two stops and only stopped once (for less than 5 minutes). It was during this climb that I realized that my “easy” ride wasn’t going to be so “easy”! I certainly wasn’t trying to drop Susan, but I decided that I would try to maintain a good tempo up the climb: go hard, but a sustainable hard (7 miles of hard). Every time I would look back, Susan was right on my wheel, or only a few feet back – wow, she is in great shape! So, I try to pick it up a little, still with me! Now I’m starting to think that I could be in trouble as the ride progresses – I’m not going to be much help if I have to hang onto her wheel! Let me tell you, she has definitely earned her doubles this year!!
We pull into lunch (116 miles) and decide to rest a bit (although, probably no longer than 15 minutes – which is looooong for Susan). After lunch we grind away into the wind and the heat – sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both. After about 150 miles, I’m guessing we are easily in the top 20 or so of the riders – we’re making good time and we aren’t getting passed (or so we think…) At the lunch We were about 20+ minutes above schedule (for a 13 hour finish).
After about 160+ miles is when I start to develop problems.
1st problem: my stomach is not doing well and I’m starting to feel bloated (usually a good sign that you are not processing valuable calories!) In my experience, this is usually caused by 1 of 3 things – too many calories, not enough salt (excess water retention), or the wrong mix of foods. What was concerning was that I didn’t really think it was any of these problems.
2nd problem: I was starting to loose power in my legs. To be clear, I wasn’t getting slower, I was simply trying to survive – Susan was starting to pull away from me and I had to give it all I could to spin in my lowest gear up even the most tame of rollers. I could easily dismiss this as a lack of training, but even this seemed unusual.
3rd problem: and my most obvious concern – I seemed to be having trouble breathing. My chest became so constricted that I had to start breathing with my diaphragm. My mouth was wide open and I felt (and probably looked) like a fish out of water. I started to wheeze with fast, short breaths – I can only assume this was hyperventilation.
We made it over the second to last real climb of the day, skipped the water stop at the top and proceeded to roll over the other side. Ok, perfect chance to catch my breath and recover… Hmmm, not so much. At the bottom I still had very heavy, labored breathing and it seemed to be getting worse. I couldn’t stay with Susan and she started to pull away from me on the flats. Every time she would look back I would try to wave her on: “just go! I can’t keep up.” She was so far down the road, that she couldn’t see me. Then the world started to close in on me and the tunnel vision took away my ability to focus. My hands and feet started to tingle. Susan pulled off the road and just as i caught up to her I started to feel the tunnel close – I got off my bike as quickly as I could and laid down. Everything was starting to spin and i couldn’t stop hyperventilating. Susan told me later that my face was very pale and my neck had started to turn blue – not a pretty picture. Luckily the park police rolled up and hooked me up to some oxygen. It took about 5 minutes but i started to feel better – although, I still couldn’t take a deep breath. He wanted to call the ambulance, but I didn’t think it was necessary so they made me sign a form saying that I was refusing medical treatment. I promised that I wouldn’t finish the ride if he didn’t call the ambulance – I’m not sure what my rationale was at this point, but I know that an ambulance is VERY expensive!! Funny, the things we think…
At that point Susan had given up her ride – she had decided that I was more important than finishing the ride. I cannot begin to express to you how this made me feel. In spite of all of my medical problems, I felt great comfort in knowing that she was there for me – I’m pretty sure that contributed to my feeling better (well, I know my heart felt better!). I was confident that if I didn’t continue riding that I would be ok, so with much convincing and a large stick, I convinced her to ride on: “ride like the wind!”, I told her!
At the next rest stop (Bradley) she told the workers about me. Apparently there was some mis-communication, so it took about an hour before anyone showed up, but I did get picked up and driven to the finish – and I was grateful for it!
So, back to the ride…
What we didn’t know is that Jeanine Spence had rolled through lunch and passed us – we never saw her. Unfortunately, when I had my melt-down Susan had to finish solo into the wind for the last 40 miles – she couldn’t find any help. I don’t know if Jeanine had help for the entire ride, but I do know she finished with help. I estimate that Jeanine finished about 15 minutes before Susan (although I don’t have official times), Susan waited with me for over 15 minutes, maybe 20, and there was a headwind the last stretch. So even if I couldn’t have helped Susan the last 40 miles, I think she could have caught her near (or before) the finish if it weren’t for my problems. Not that it really matters too much in the end, but Susan is riding incredibly well this year and I really wish I could have helped her win it. I’ll have to wait until next year!
In retrospect, I believe that an allergic reaction to the allergies caused the asthma attack, and the lack of oxygen cause the stomach problems as well as the lack-of-power problems. I guess you never fully appreciate oxygen until you don’t have it.
I’m a little disappointed in the official “DNF”, but I am slowly coming to terms with it being a necessity. As soon as I get an inhaler, I’ll be back!