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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2014 Trans Am Bike Race :: Race Report

“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

This post has been hanging over my head since I finished the race 8 months ago. I think about that month of pedaling often and what a wild ride it was. I've been collecting my thoughts, and it's hard to know where to start or stop in my writing, but I'll share what I learned from the race here and hopefully you find it valuable (if you plan to race in the future) or interesting (if you've been following along).

This is my contribution to the cycling community since so many have helped me along the way. This isn't my thesis so I apologize for lack of style, poor grammar, lack of flow, and poor formatting by Blogger. I just wanted to get my thoughts on paper. I realize I probably left out many things, and I also know my memory isn't entirely representative of what happened (i.e. I don't remember the Kansas winds being so bad, but apparently they were, since I wrote about it at the time). My opinion will differ from others. Find out what works for you.

Edit: I will make additional comments within this post as I remember particular experiences or as people ask me questions or give suggestions. They will begin with "Edit: " and have a light yellow highlight.

Contents:

1. How 15th place was won (and 14th lost)
2. How to do well in next year's race
3. Budget
4. Gear Review
5. Final Thoughts

1. How 15th place was won (and 14th lost)

Summary

Achiles Tendinitis and altitude sickness contributed to me falling behind in the early days of the race. Shoulder and ischial tuberosity pain slowed me a bit, but was remedied with a new bike fit in Lander, WY. 40 degree rain in Montana and Wyoming and hail in Colorado sealed my fate as a midpack finisher. The cracked rim in Pueblo didn't help. Remove any one of those situations and it may have been a different race (kind of a butterfly effect), but those were the cards I was dealt. In ideal conditions I believe I could have finished no better than 25 days, so I'm very satisfied with my result given that it was my first endurance race on a bike that I originally purchased for $300.

Facebook Posts

I've copied my Facebook posts here in red and will provide some commentary.

Day 1. I missed the start by 5 minutes. Got a bit confused going out of town, walked to the beach to take this photo, stopped for breakfast for 90 minutes and still somehow managed 170 miles - a personal best. Feeling good. I'm going to try to get a rhythm these first few days and not extend myself too much. Leaders are at mile 293. Unreal.

Carrying my bike across the beach (maybe 100+ yards) was one of the most physically exhausting moments of the race.

I was still making gear changes the morning of the race. I ended up adding my towel back into my seat bag. Coming to the race well-dialed in would serve those future participants well. Obvious statement, right? I placed $1150 worth of orders through Amazon during the month leading up to the day before the race. At a minimum I should have this finished at least a month in advance, but I was still on the fence about the race until I completed this ride on May 28 (the longest ride I had completed up until that point).

I don't regret stopping for breakfast that morning for so long. I got to meet Fran, Tobias, Angie and a couple other riders. I was hungry and didn't see food for quite some time (I got a lot better at using the maps a few days later). I'm torn about stopping at the local diners and cafes. On one hand, it seemed to help to stop for longer than a gas station stop and get some real food, but so often the service was slow.

At the end of the day, I was investigating the fair grounds for camping. I went back a mile down the road to get some food and I found Brian, Rich, Paul, and Steve. Paul and Steve decided to push on further. Brian, Rich, and I went a few miles further and got a hotel and some pizza. This is the first time I met Brian and Rich and they invited me to stay with them. I got a lot of advice from them and they really set me up for success for the entirety of the race.

Trail angels with water for all the racers.

Day 2. 156 miles. I've been riding a bit with a couple other riders who are going a similar pace. It's really helped with motivation. Late in the ride I started feeling pretty bad. My neck and shoulders hurt like I've never felt before and I felt pretty exhausted. I thought I wasn't getting enough food or electrolytes but it turns out it was just something I ate. I was trying hard to stay positive but I couldn't shake the negative thoughts. I even was talking to myself out loud. "Keep going!" "You can do it!" Finally I figured out it was my stomach, I stopped fighting it and threw up. I felt so much better. I was getting a lot of texts from friends and I also saw the camera crew at the top of the mountain. I'm not sure if they were filming me or just took my picture. I felt really positive at the end of the ride. Thank you all for the texts.

Pain was my worst enemy. When I wasn't feeling well, at best I wasn't having fun and at worst I wanted to give up. I thought it was the Coca-cola and chocolate milk in the same stop that did me in. I now just think it was altitude sickness.

After having some fun in front of those cameras, I often fooled myself during the remainder of the race that the camera crew was filming me from behind to provide extra motivation.

Riding with Rich and Brian on day three.
Day 3. 158 miles. Pain management: I've been doing some neck rolls and arm circles while riding and it has been helping with the shoulder pain. My Achilles' tendon is acting up quite a bit. I've taped it and tried adjusting my saddle position. Hopefully I can get it under control or it will end my ride. I've heard about a couple other riders dropping out due to saddle and Achilles' tendon issues. Day 4 spoilers: vom count +2.

I felt my Achilles beginning to tweak the day before. I should have listened to my body more carefully and taken it as a sign to make some adjustments.

Rich, Paul, Brian, and Steve on day three at McDonald's. First started taping my ankle here.
It was a particularly hot day. I asked Rich how he was doing on water when I passed him. He said he was fine with rationing his. This was the last time I saw him.

Day 4. 90ish miles. The Achilles' tendon pain got worse. I threw up three times - chocolate milk, subway spinach, and mcdonalds fries. My body isn't doing well with food. I felt so nauseated and my ankle hurt so much I decided to get a hotel in baker city. I worked on my saddle position throughout the day and finally at the end of the day I think I found the solution. I got a full nights sleep, ate the continental breakfast and went back to bed. I woke up and threw up again. I called home to see what I should do. I was nearly ready to withdraw from the race. I got back on the bike to try to see how I felt. I took some motion sickness pills recommended by a local pharmacist. Day 5 is going good so far. I haven't thrown up and my ankle is much better as long as I have good form. I've now made it to Idaho and I feel like I've sufficiently left my mark on Oregon. #transambikerace

I was this close -><- to withdrawing from the race. I felt so sick and the pain was unbearable in my Achilles. I didn't know if I could make it through some of the next sections of wilderness. After talking with others throughout the race about the nausea, we came to the conclusion that it was altitude sickness. I hadn't had that issue on my previous two trips across the US, but I was doing multiple mountain passes a day. I would feel sick when I would get in the valley of the next city. I talked with Heather from Newton Bike Shop and she said that it made sense. Gaining altitude slowly provided time to adjust, but descending quickly gave me no time to adjust. Later in the race I realized one of the side effects of the anti-nausea medicine was drowsiness. No wonder I was having a hard time staying awake.

I stopped at the bike shop in Baker City, but they were unable to perform any fittings. I found Paul there packing up his bike. I wish I hadn't seen him. Withdrawal from the race was contagious.

During one of the many stops I made to adjust my saddle, I met Judy Brown. I happened to stop in her and her husband's brewery parking lot. I was making adjustments and riding back and forth. She knew about the race and had been following it. I think she saw me riding from inside and came out to talk. I told her about the issues I was having and she immediately called her husband, Bill, who is an avid cyclist. Without hesitation he came from home and met with me. When I was talking with him, I was holding back tears. I was at a different kind of breaking point that I hadn't encountered before. He watched me ride in the parking lot and suggested moving my saddle quite a bit more forward. It seemed to help but it was difficult to tell since the damage was done. He told me to go to the pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist about my nausea. He gave me a card and wrote down his and Judy's phone numbers. He said if I got further down the road and needed to turn around, he would pick me up as far away as 50 miles. I thanked him and Judy profusely.

That evening I walked to Pizza Hut from my hotel. Minutes later Bob Hedrick walked in. I couldn't believe it. What were the chances? My bike wasn't even outside. We ate together, and I invited him back to my hotel so he could get a warm shower and a roof over his head.

The next day I called Judy as I was leaving town and told her that I was going to attempt to keep going. She told me Bill was on his way (on his bike). Bill and I rode to the top of the hill on the way out of town and we said our goodbyes. As I was riding with Bill one of my friends, Laini Cassis, called me and gave me a much needed pep talk. Laini did Bike & Build with me on my second trip.

Bill and I at the top of the hill. I owe my race to this gentleman.

The reason I hesitated to continue on - nothingness

(Day 5). I guess I didn't post on FB for day 5. I caught back up to Bob and camped in the city park together. He told me about a hotel that offered showers for cyclists. The next morning was the last time I saw Bob. We talked on the phone sometime later and he told me he dropped out in large part because of the traffic.

Bob Hedrick.  Bob and I met up in April before the race at Notre Dame, so it was great to see him on the road.

Day 6. 156 miles. Been trying to take shorter stops to catch back up to Brian and the others. I think he had 100 miles on me but I've narrowed it to 24. I climb and descend faster than a lot of these guys but they've got experience and maybe I like sleep too much. The hills should serve me well over the next several days. At least that's what I tell myself when I go up them. Climbed a big pass at the end of today. Strong headwinds and steep grades made for a difficult climb. A thunderstorm rolled in when I was nearing the top. I got caught in it but I kept moving despite the risks. It was very cold so I was pedaling quickly to get to the next town and find some soup only to get my first flat of the race a couple miles from shelter. I really thank bike and build for preparing me mentally for most anything. I found a city park and I laid out my thermarest in the dugout of the baseball field. Day 7 is going alright. Now that I've adjusted my bike for my Achilles my knees are hurting. I really ought to find a shop that can do a quick fit. 100 miles so far.

I don't know that the lightning risks were worth it at the top of White Bird. It's just a race. Then again, many of the roads were quite dangerous in my opinion. More on that later.

Some people sitting outside a restaurant in Riggins, ID, clapped and cheered to me when I passed through town. Well, I think it was for me. That kept me going for a long, long time.

Stites Road, outside of Grangeville, was one of my favorite roads of the race. Freshly paved, no traffic, and beautiful scenery. Call me a dork, but "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire started playing on my phone. I jammed, and in that moment I "knew" I was going to finish the race having overcome (sort of) my achilles problems, my altitude sickness, and the thunderstorm a few miles before. Fortunately, I had no idea of the challenges ahead.


Stites Road. I think of this road every time I hear "Wake Up."

The fields to my right

Descending into Stites, Idaho. One of the steepest/sketchiest descents of the Trans Am, losing ~1300 feet in ~3 miles.

Day 7. 169 miles. Rode late until 11 to reach the next town. Hopefully I can get the knees going good by the end of today. I've had to stop and adjust the bike so many times - should be able to save a bit of time when I get it right. I plan to get to Yellowstone tomorrow.

Turns out that my average stopping time of day was 11:17 pm and starting time was 7:06 am. Not including my last ride of the race, my average stopping time was 10:22 pm.

Day 8. 142 miles. Starting to get most of the pain under control. Still some tweaks here and there. My shoulder pain has improved as well with the saddle adjustments. Go figure. I've really started enjoying the ride now that I'm feeling better. Managed to dodge the most of the rain today. Caught up with Brian Steele. We had been leap frogging each other while the other was stopped, but we finally got to talk and update each other on the race happenings and talk strategy. Now that most of the pain is going away I will be concentrating more on race tactics. This last week has been mostly about taking care of myself and riding my own race. It still is about that but better placement may be possible as long as I remain healthy. We'll see!

The shoulder pain makes sense. Sometimes it's hard for me to step outside myself during an event and perform an analysis. My saddle was probably tilted down slightly causing my to slowly slide forward on the saddle. The natural reaction is to put more pressure on the handlebars to keep from moving.

I think at this point I was sitting in 20th or so. My improvement to 15th place was due to dropouts mostly.

Day 10. 142 miles. Last night I had dinner at McDonald's again (yay calories and wifi) and Ricky randomly showed up. I love the random encounters with the other racers. We rode together a lot today. Some days I feel great but today was not one of them. My ischial tuberosity has never hurt so much. I stopped and adjusted my bike about a dozen times today. It was 38 degrees and raining at the end of the day. My seat post bolt came loose and I had to stop and adjust it again. After I got back on, it felt great. I am going to sleep in tomorrow and wait for the bike shops to open and see about a new seat post and help with fitting. I can't afford all this time lost but really the pain makes the ride no fun at all. I can tolerate the head winds, rain, heat, cold, bugs (all those things were today) but pain is a deal breaker.

My sit bones were in so much pain because of the slight tilt downward. The single bolt seat post didn't make for easy adjustment.

I was unable to find an open RV park or another suitable place to sleep. I was so cold so I checked into a hotel in West Yellowstone.

Ricky crushing the mountains

Day 10. 90 miles. Raining and cold, but morale is high. Others are not tolerating the weather, so I've been taking advantage of it and keep riding. I stopped at the bike shop in West Yellowstone in the morning after a visit to the post office and breakfast at McDonald's as per usual. They had no fitting services, but I had them rotate my tires and bought an extra tire and tube. I'm getting paranoid that I will blow my tire at some point. I called another shop in Lander and they said they would be able to help adjust my bike. As soon as I left the shop, it began raining. I ended early at Colter Bay in the Grand Teton National Park. I decided that continuing up Togwotee pass at night would be dangerous due to the temperature/rain/darkness. Steve saw me on the tracking web site and texted me to come stay with him. He happened to stop there as well.

There were tons of tourists in town. Even the McDonald's prices were inflated.

Looking back,  I believe the bike shop in West Yellowstone over torqued the seat post collar and was doomed for whenever it would be loosened again. The next time I adjusted my saddle height, the bolt was stripped. I suppose I could have fatigued it in some way. I ended up using most of my electrical tape to shim the seat post and keep it from sinking into the frame. It worked. I bought some pipe clamps at the shop in Colter Bay in case the tape failed.

I was nearly crying when I was on the phone with the shop in Lander. I was so desperate for help.

Steve already booked a tent/cabin shelter. I found him inside the restaurant. He bought me a couple hot chocolates. I went to shower while he got the fire started inside the shelter. The temperature dropped during the night and the fire eventually was extinguished. I slept wearing all my clothes.

Day 11. 141 miles. Steve and I got up and ate breakfast at the convenience store. We waited for the gift shop to open to buy more clothes - wool socks, wool gloves, a base layer, and rain pants. I put on all of my clothes. All of them. We took off for the mountain. When the sun was out, I was too hot, but with any cloud cover I was too cold. I've never had such a hard time regulating my body temperature over the last several days. On the climb, I got my second flat of the race. I don't mind too much - Ricky had 13 before Missoula. At 8000 feet, it began snowing until 8700 feet. I was not prepared for this weather at all. For much of the rest of the day it was in the upper 30s and raining. I keep using the phrase "I've never" but seriously, I've never been so cold and so wet for this many days. I feel like I'm going cyclists' trench foot. I was unable to reach the bike shop today, but I will go in the morning. Hopefully pain free riding is just ahead!

I wish I had footage of the climb in the snow. It was apocalyptic, but I couldn't be bothered to get my phone out in such miserable conditions.

I've never been so wet and so cold for a sustained period like this. Absolutely miserable conditions.

Day 12. 135 miles. I went to the bike shop this morning to work in my bike fit. The owner, Thomas, helped me work on my positioning and bike for several hours. I ended up with a new seat post, seat post collar (I stripped it the other day and used electrical tape to hold the seat post in place), wider handlebars, and some new cabling + housing. The bike felt much better today. Around mile 90 I felt some tweaks in my IT band so I raised my seat a couple millimeters and that seemed to do the trick. Even after leaving Lander after 1pm, Steve and I still managed pretty good mileage due to a good tail wind and a lack of climbs.

This was the last time I had to adjust my saddle position!

Thomas working on my bike

Day 13. 170 miles. Steve and I split a hotel last night since we were so cold. Brian caught up to us and stayed at the same one. When I woke up Steve and his bike were already gone. I got up in a hurry and hit the road after breakfast at no other than McDonald's. I caught up to Steve soon enough with the head winds. We kind of said our goodbyes and I hammered on. I've met many other cycling tourists in the road. I got a slow leak when I was talking with a group of them in the evening. I changed the flat, but the new tube had a hole in it - probably from my multitool. I won't be storing my tools and tubes together in the future. I also put a new tire on. The old one was pretty thin in some spots. I pressed on through the next climb. I didn't want to leave it for the morning. It was incredibly cold but I knew I would be able to put some distance between me and Steve. I checked in the morning and I got 50 miles on him. Brian apparently pushed further into the night and passed me and stayed in the next town. I found the city park and slept in the dugout.

This was my last flat of the race, a total of three. I had 37 flats on my first Bike & Build trip and 20 on my second. I think the wider tires (25 mm) helped. I think the low psi helped prevent punctures. Mostly, I think I just stayed out of the shoulder more.

Day 14. 180 miles. Slightly behind schedule in terms of mileage of my 28 day goal, but most (I hope) of the climbing is done and hopefully I'll get some high mileage in the next few days across Kansas. I think it may be possible to finish in 25 days. I'm chasing Billy Rice and Nathan Jones. Billy cracked his frame earlier in the race and was riding a mountain bike for a while. He is now on a new road bike so he may not be catchable. Nathan, the race organizer, is 400 miles ahead of me. If I do catch him it'll be near the end. But there is still a long way to go - anything can happen. Mostly now I'm just trying to hold off Brian. I'm halfway there!

I was quite optimistic, but I would never catch Billy and Nathan. They had great moving/stopped ratios.

As seen on day four

Day 15. 90 miles. I biked 40 miles to pueblo, co this morning and stopped at the bike stop to change out my cassette and chain. I left while they worked and found a Wendy's for lunch. After I came back I bought some other supplies and began to air up my tires (I've been cheating by airing my tires only at shops) when I noticed two cracks in my rear rim. The shop told me I wouldn't get very far with it so I bought a new wheel. The roads we are taking are terrible. There are large cracks about 5-20 yards apart - off and on since Montana. They suspected the cracks were the cause. I'm grateful that I didn't have a problem in the middle of nowhere or on a descent where I could have broken it completely and crashed. After a while longer of chasing down an 11 speed wheel in town, they were able to swap it out while I took my first nap of the trip. I got back on the road and it was so hot out compared to just a day or two ago. The swing in temperature after exiting the Rockies must have been at least 50 degrees. I stopped at a gas station for some coke and ice cream and I broke my permanent retainer on the ice cream. Storms were rolling in quickly at the end of the day so the cloud cover provided much needed relief from the sun. I found a hotel that offers cyclists showers for $10. I felt so awful with all the bugs. There were clouds of them when I was riding. Rain started pouring so I planned to camp in the city park. I stopped at the grocery store where the employees were kind enough to let me use their microwave for my dinner. I haven't had a hot meal in a while. The chicken pot pie and the hungry man dinner was excellent (I finally got a few veggies!). Brian texted me while it was raining and we decided to split a hotel. We are planning to ride big tomorrow.

Cracks in the road. :(
I think I found a total of three cracks like this. Edit: I had 32 spokes on each wheel and had already completed one trip across the U.S. on them


I picked up the cassette and chain in Cañon City at Red Canyon Cycles the night before. Shout out to Emily Palmer for giving me the recommendation. She's working for USA Cycling now, but I met Emily four years ago in my first year of collegiate racing. At the conclusion of a race at Purdue I was cramping up and she gave me some food without hesitation having never met me before. A second shout out to Scott of the shop. I was hoping to arrive in time to have the parts installed, but I didn't get in town until late. He hid the parts outside, so I could pick them up whenever I arrived.

I only had Wendy's twice during the race, but it didn't sit as well as McDonald's for whatever reason.

Maybe it was the Frostys

I took my first nap of the race at the Great Divide Bike shop while they worked on my bike. I was impressed with the shop and Janet's (the mechanic) knowledge and experience. She was so nice. Top notch operation.

I was incredibly lazy about airing up my tires. I can't believe I never got a pinch flat. I was riding as low as 70-80 psi.

Retainer placed in actual offender for reenactment photo.

Day 16. 81 minus 20 miles. Slept in until 6 with plans for a bigger day, but got caught in a thunderstorm. Ricky caught up to us and Steve was a little behind. He decided to get a hotel in town due to the forecast. We thought we were ahead of it. Nope. All at once the storm caught us and blew us off the road in less than a second. Brian and I took cover behind his bike. Ricky was a bit ahead and made it to a porch in the next town, population 26. A car passed us and came to a stop a quarter mile down the road. She put it in reverse and backed up to us in a hurry. She let us in to take cover. After a while the storm let up enough for Brian and I to meet up with Ricky. He had contacted Steve and the hotel manager was on his way with his truck to pick us up. Backward travel by car is allowed but never forward. We have to bike those miles tomorrow, but there comes a point where safety takes priority over the race. Video contains profanity. #transambikerace

I've uploaded the full length video to YouTube.

Trying to outrun the storm. Edit: Brian suggested that we take cover under a bridge, but I didn't give too much thought to it. I fancy myself a good reader of current conditions and have dodged/outrun many storms in the past. Not so much here. On a safety note for future racers, what would have happened if there was a tornado in this scenario?
We're fixin' to get slammed

Day 17. 160 miles. With the storms bringing the four of us back together, we may be riding much of the remainder of the race together. Billy and Nathan are pretty much uncatchable at this point and the riders behind us probably won't catch us. We are almost touring at this point now with much of the race strategy concerning other riders is out the window. We will just try to get to Yorktown as fast as possible and hopefully get some experience with a couple long rides to gain confidence for possible future events.

This was a great time getting to know Steve, Brian, and Ricky a bit more. I think we avoided much of the heat the leaders faced in Kansas. Afternoon showers brought relief several days.

At some point in Kansas I dealt with hemorrhoids for a few days. I couldn't find a pharmacy, so Orajel and Wet Ones it was. That's all I'm going to say about that. Edit: A couple people have asked me about this, so I will give a few more comments. One mentioned that having a bowel movement after a shower would produce hemorrhoids in them and once read that in countries where bidets are common, hemorrhoids aren't. Another asked, "Do you think it was a problem of not having a good place to go (holding it too much), poor diet or just a coincidence that you had them then?"

To save you from the photos, I have copied the text from Wikipedia:

"The exact cause of symptomatic hemorrhoids is unknown.[10] A number of factors are believed to play a role, including: irregular bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea), lack of exercise, nutritional factors (low-fiber diets), increased intra-abdominal pressure (prolonged straining, ascites, an intra-abdominal mass, or pregnancy), genetics, an absence of valves within the hemorrhoidal veins, and aging.[4][6] Other factors believed to increase risk include obesity, prolonged sitting,[2] a chronic cough, and pelvic floor dysfunction.[5] Evidence for these associations, however, is poor."


I had the worst diet, but I believe mine were due to strain (not from constipation). My suggestion for others is to keep the race to the road and out of the restroom. I was probably with Brian, Ricky, and Steve, so I rushed to keep them from waiting. I was worried about having a place to go later in the day and so I forced something that never should be. I got over that fear after being forced to grab onto a guard rail and squat - an unused tip I learned from Jack Gross, a leader on my first Bike & Build trip. It was late one evening and there was no where to go. I found some sort of campground, but I couldn't find the facilities. The time came, and I was glad I had Wet Ones and ziplock bags for disposal. After that, I had no problem doing it again on the last day using a tree - a tip I learned from Ben Handy, one of my Purdue teammates. Probably saved a bit of time.

As far as prevention goes (for the little reading I've done on the subject), I would say use Wet Ones every time and if possible, take care of business before a shower.





Oops!



Day 18. 172 miles. I should've taken some notes since I don't remember much. But our goal for the day was Newton, Kansas. There is a bike shop/hostel there that is available to all tourists on the trans am route. They really took care of us. Pizza and chocolate milk was ready when we arrived. The shop community donated the chocolate milk, water, breakfast biscuits and I'm sure a lot more. They were really kind to us. The shop owners took us to their house for laundry and showers. There are two bunk beds at the shop. We went to bed and they worked on our bikes through the night. I almost forgot - a sports massage therapist came to the shop. I got worked on for a while - not sure how long - I fell asleep. My shoulder had still been bothering me. In the morning we took a few pictures and I signed the wall where dozens of other tourists had. I forgot to sign an old bikecentennial sign for all the racers. I guess I'll have to go back.

I left a few items including my foam roller with James and Heather (the owners), and they mailed it home for me free of charge. They are incredibly hospitable. I had James put on my spare tire and I bought another. I forgot to add the fee from the therapist (Eddie Ulloa) in my expenses graph at the end of this post. He was only charging $10, but I gave him $40. It was great that he came out so late to help us.


Day 19. 135 miles. Kansas is dragging on and I'm ready for Missouri. It's been pretty warm and usually I would be fine, but riding in the cold of Wyoming and Colorado has made me I'll prepared for the heat. It's been slow going in the afternoons and I feel my best as the sun sets. As I rode into the night I saw snakes, spiders, toads, raccoons, opossums, and other unidentified creatures. Ricky and Steve got a hotel and invited me over. They got ahead of me when I took a nap on the side of the road. I could barely keep my eyes open when I was riding. Brian kept going into the night. He and I have discussed splitting up again. When we are together, it hasn't felt like a race or self-supported. There aren't any surprises of finding each other along the way. There's not battling for position. It just feels like a high mileage tour, and that's not what we signed up for. We are kind of okay with it for now since Kansas has been so long, hot, and not so interesting.


Day 20. 174 miles. Brian kept chugging along last night so the group is now separated a bit and feels like a race again, which makes this much less mind numbing for me. I saw the MS across the US cycling group cross into Kansas. I wanted to stop and say hello but this race is dictating that I can't say hi to everyone. I've been stopping for those who are cheering us on as we go. That has been so much fun. Some have clapped as we go by or have big posters. I'm so glad I'm in Missouri. The headwinds and straight roads were killing me. Missouri has been pretty hilly so far and I feel right at home. It's been much more fitting to my style of riding. I tend to look at the furthest point I can see and set that as my short term destination to break up the ride in short segments. In Kansas that would be miles and miles. Here it's just the next hill or bend in the road. I caught up to Brian last night and stayed in the RV park. Steve and Ricky stayed in the town before.

I went way too hard in Missouri. I was all but sprinting down hills to have my momentum carry me up the rollers. I was sore for a few days, which was not particularly helpful in the Ozarks.


Day 21. 135 miles. The Ozark mountains have proved difficult, but they've allowed me to distance myself from the rest of the gang by 48 miles in 24 hours. I'm not sure that my original goal of finishing on July 4 will be met if these hills continue. My math isn't working even trying a couple strategies. Oh well. 30 days would still be good.

So... I'm not out here suffering for no reason. I haven't really mentioned it before since 1) I wasn't sure I was even doing the race and 2) I thought I wouldn't survive this far. But it looks like I'm here to finish. Here's the deal: I'm riding for Purdue Habitat for Humanity. Here is information about the specifics and there is a donation link on my blog. A stranger in Mcdonalds donated $20 yesterday: http://milestoridebeforesleep.blogspot.com/?m=1

This was the most physically challenging section of the race in my opinion. Perhaps I'm biased because I was sore.


Day 23. 110 miles. I stopped for breakfast at a local cafe. I thought I better get a real meal instead of gas station food due to all the hills. It was the first day I was sore during race. I had to stand for many of the hills in Missouri. My quads and glutes are shredded. I've been trying to take it a bit easier on the less intense sections to not render my legs completely useless. I arrived in Farmington where I was greeted by a local cyclist. We went to the bike shop and I bought some new cleats and had them clean my drivetrain. I talked with a guy about the race and next year's race for quite a while, which was fun. I decided to ship my sleeping bag home. I hope I don't regret that one. After talking with other tourists, they said they didn't use it in Kentucky or Virginia. I got into Illinois last night and found a cyclists only lodging in Chester, the home of Popeye. It had several bunks and there were many other cyclists there. I decided to stop for a few reasons. 1) A local at mcdonalds warned me of the traffic on the road ahead and possible drunk drivers. 2) There are a few steep descents ahead and I don't like taking those at night. 3) as I was leaving mcdonalds a storm was rolling in.

The lodging was so cold with the ac window unit. I put on my rain jacket and leg warmers but it wasn't quite enough. I should have set up my tent outside. Oh well.

Construction in Illinois
The mud would cake on. Luckily I found a dog kennel on the other side and they let me use their hose to wash my bike and shoes. Shout out to Indian Creek Kennel.

Day 24. 150 miles. Made it into Kentucky last night about 10pm. There is a ferry to cross the Ohio river and I caught the last one. I looked at my map and the time around 6:30 and decided to make a run for it. I've been averaging about 10 mph with stops which sounds slow but it's all my legs can do for this distance. I gave all I had for the next 3 hours to catch the ferry. I made it with 15 minutes to spare. I really wanted to make it because Steve could have made a push and caught up to me. Last night when I checked my phone, it turned out that he did and was at the ferry when I woke up.

"All I had" was an average of 14.6 mph. These distances really destroyed my legs. If I really wanted to gap Steve, I should have waken up early or at my normal time instead of sleeping in.


Day 25. 125 miles. I'm becoming less disciplined in getting out of bed in the mornings. I woke up and checked my phone to see where Steve was. He was crossing into Kentucky so I went back to sleep. I finally got out of town when he was two miles behind me. I ate breakfast in the next town and he got within three miles of me. Part of me was trying to mess with his head. At lunch Brian and Michael from Cover Indiana came down from Evansville to eat with me. Steve caught me there and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch. In the evening Steve's lights stopped working so he turned around. I kept going with plans for another 50 miles but a truck got within inches of me and I decided it wasn't worth riding anymore. It happened right in front of a church so I pulled in the parking lot and found a spot behind a storage shed where I would be out of sight. I really haven't enjoyed this route. There is a lot of traffic compared to my trips on Bike and Build. This route may have been good in 1976 but it is my opinion Adventure Cycling should make some major adjustments or scrap it altogether. I'll talk more about this in a blog after I finish.

I think Brian and Michael would be the last people to cheer me on. I really appreciate everyone who supported me during the race. Those are some of the best memories.


Day 26. Is that right? I can't seem to count it up. 135 miles. Hot and humid day. I found myself stopping at every convenience store I passed for ice cream or something cold to drink. My Achilles has been bothering me on and off again and it was starting to get worse. I found a Walgreens off route in Bardstown and bought an ankle support. I don't know why I didn't buy one 3000 miles ago. It has really helped in the little time I've worn it. I checked the radar while in town and saw the storms coming but the locals said it would miss us. Most of it did but later in the evening it was raining enough for me to throw on my rain jacket. Brian and Ricky are a little bit behind us and they had it much worse from what I hear. Brian slept in his bivy in a muddy ditch. Lightning was everywhere so I stopped in Harrodsberg where Steve already got a hotel room. I hadn't had a shower or washed my clothes since Ellington, Missouri. Someone do the math and let me know the mileage. I heard Ed Pickup did Idaho to Newton, Kansas without a shower. The picture is a hammer pin that I got from the Habitat for Humanity guys in Colorado Springs. We build with them for a week and it reminds me why I'm riding every day.

I suppose my Achilles never had a chance to heal. It still tweaked walking up and down stairs and was painful on the bike for a few months after the race.


Day 26. 140 miles. Dogs dogs dogs. There must be more dogs than people in eastern Kentucky. Most aren't on a leash or behind a fence and all but a couple want to eat me. Dozens chased me throughout the day. A group of four surrounded me and one got a good scratch on my left calf. I used pepper spray on some but with little effect. I prefer to squirt water at them with my bottles but I don't always know when I can refill them. Some owners just watch their dog(s) chase me and don't even bother calling them. When they do call them, it's obvious they are poorly trained and refuse to listen to their owner. Maybe some of the dogs are just looking for someone to play with and just want to run but I am not good at telling the difference when they run at me at (literally) 25 mph. I've become quite angry at the dogs and their owners. I don't hate them at all off the bike but they are jeopardizing my safety while riding. We all probably know someone who has broken a collar bone or hip because a dog has gotten in front of someone's wheel. I really want to start carrying m&ms with me to exact my revenge on them and the owners. I won't. But this is where my mind has gone and how frustrated I am. I haven't enjoyed this about Kentucky. Nor the number of smokers (especially inside businesses. I didn't know this was still possible). Nor the number of flies inside gas stations and restaurants. I'm sorry Josh Travis, but I'm not left with a good impression. I'll try other parts again one day. Charlie Myer, author of Backroads of Indiana, has some routes in Kentucky.
http://backroadsofindiana.blogspot.com/

In other news I fell over in a gas station parking lot. Super embarrassing. My saddle bag caught the tailgate of a truck and down I went. I did everything in my power to save my derailleur and I landed on my right knee. Hurts a little, but still very rideable.

I camped behind an abandoned church.

I was so so angry and stressed for this portion of the race. I heard from other racers that they had no issues with dogs. I guess it's a toss up.

Edit: People who know me know I choose not to use swear words. I was strongly cursing under my breath for many of the encounters.

Day 27. 130 miles. Killer hills. I've done over 10,000 feet of climbing for the past two days and I'm feeling it. Still a bit more to go. I'm about ready to finish this race. Ready for a shower, sleep, home cooking, vegetables, a movie and something to sit on wider than 135 mm. Soon enough. Weather is turning cooler. Hopefully will get a good pace in the coming afternoons. Camped behind another church. Didn't sleep the best. I wasn't smart and set my tent up on an incline so I slid over throughout the night. It got pretty cool but I used my emergency blanket for warmth. Still not regretting sending my sleeping bag home. Should have done so in pueblo, co.


Day 28. 121 miles. Virginia is beautiful. Traffic is on par for the course. One more mountain to go. I stopped a little early to get a hotel to get ready for the final push. Tomorrow's ride inspired by Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop."

I'm in over my head.

I was considering continuing from this day to Yorktown without stopping. I'm glad I didn't, but I was trying to figure out if I could ride the backside of the tropical storm all the way to the coast. After the race I heard Juliana did the last 500 to Yorktown in one go. Amazing.

Day 29. 220 miles and counting. Got lemonade from a kid's stand. Climbed a mountain. Hallucinations are coming on. Over the last several days my mind has misinterpreted many objects but around 5 this morning it completely fabricated one. So weird. 167 to go.

I can't recommend anyone ever try 400 miles at once. It was probably the dumbest decision I've ever made. I chose to do it for three reasons. 1) I wanted to see if I could do it. 2) I wanted to pass Steve. 3) I got a voice mail on July 3 to set up an interview and would need to finish soon. During the night I remember just trying to make it to the morning. I thought the sun would wake me up because it had that effect during college when I would pull all nighters. The sunrise shone in my eyes and made me really sleepy. Maybe it was just because I was squinting and my eyes just wanted to shut the rest of the way. I pulled over soon to change music. I may or may not have fallen asleep standing up. That's when I had the hallucination. I saw a large banner stretching above the road held up by the trees on either side. It disappeared within a few seconds. Maybe it was just a residual dream. Is that a thing? Much of the next hundred miles I don't remember. I would black out for some amount of time. How much, I don't know. I would become alert every once in a while and would still be pedaling on the right side of the road. Finally, I willed myself to stay alert. I don't know how I didn't veer off into oncoming traffic much less stay on route. Was it some form of horrible Highway Hypnosis or was it Automaticity that kept me alive? In the least, it was a small miracle. I know many people were praying for me.

At some point I got a nose bleed. I didn't really clean myself up. I didn't care anymore.

In the afternoon I thought to myself "Oh good. Only 60 miles to go!" I didn't really put together this would take me another six hours. Those last 100 miles really dragged on and on. The traffic didn't help. There was some construction of a bike path along a large stretch. I would get on it, but then it would suddenly not be paved. After a couple instances I just stuck to the road. The last 12 miles or so was on the Colonial Parkway, the worst road in all of the United States. I'm assuming it was some sort of chip seal. It was 10 pm by this point, so I couldn't see it. Gravel and dirt roads are more comfortable than that road. Texas chip seal is more comfortable than that road. Michigan is more comfortable. I should have stopped and let some air out of my tires to cushion the ride, but as I mentioned earlier, I often find it difficult to analyze my situation as I am riding. I rode as fast as I could. Steve was catching me and I couldn't stand the road anymore. I averaged 13.8 mph for that 12 mile section. People on the Facebook group were commenting as I was finishing that I was sprinting. I nearly was, but I find it interesting that I could not get my legs to go any faster. The amount of mileage had taken it's toll.

From far away I would always think these kind of signs were cyclists. One time I thought I saw a man walking along a bridge with a white shirt and blue hat. I didn't see him as I came upon the bridge, and I thought he jumped. It turned out to be a small 8" x 12" American flag.
The finish was difficult to find. I was really hoping there would be some locals that would cheer me on, but Steve's mother was the only person there. We had some conversation, but I mostly sat and thought about what had just happened while waiting for Steve. Steve arrived and we both took pictures. We found a piece of the ocean (York River as it turns out) to dip our front tires in. We looked for something to eat, but there wasn't anything open. We said our goodbyes and I rode 8 miles to a Holiday Inn. This put me over 400 for the ride. Holiday Inn was really much of my motivation during the final push (Looking back, I relied heavily on external motivation). I kept telling myself that I could sleep later and that I would find a Holiday Inn and eat their delicious cinnamon rolls. I did on my second day there. I slept right through breakfast on the first morning. I had stopped at a 7-Eleven next door the night before and stocked up on food. I would wake only to eat and to call back the company for the interview. That day and a half was the best sleep of my life.

29 days, 14 hours, 24 minutes. Good for 15th place. 394 miles in the last 40 hours (also my first double century). More details, thoughts, and analysis to come later. Time for rest. Actually, going to go ride another 6 miles to round it out to 400. It's still not too late to donate. Read about the cause on my blog.http://milestoridebeforesleep.blogspot.com/

Good night and thanks for all the support. I wouldn't have made it without you all.

In the days following the race I was in total disbelief of what I did over the previous month. Will I ever do it again? The months that followed I was a definite no. There was too much traffic. I was completely stressed out. But now, as the difficult times fade from memory, the road is inviting.



2. How to do well in next year's race


I didn't get every finisher on these tables since I didn't get to the data on Trackleaders in time or some other reason, so I made some assumptions for a couple people. 1) Giorgio Murari and Paolo Laureti had the same data. 2) I made an educated guess about some of Ricky's data. I've tried to fix my tables since the official results were released, they aren't completely accurate, but you'll get the idea. All the data was taken from Trackleaders.com, and may not be reflect the actual due to low sampling of the SPOT tracker. For example, my average speed according to Trackleaders was 11.8. Calculations from my Garmin on Strava reveal an average of 13.1. I would guess the better the ratio, the more accurate the average speed on Trackleaders.

These tables show that the moving:stopped ratio trumps average speed. Even though Juliana's average speed was 14th, her ratio led to a fourth place finish. From looking at the data, my guess is that a racer's finishing time is around 25-33% due to their speed. The other 67-75% is due to their moving/stopped ratio. I don't have the math to support this. I also believe this is why speeding in your car doesn't really help unless you're traveling long distances.

Tables 5, 6, and 7 may help future racers set their targets for speed, ratio, and finish time.

Figure 1, 2, 3, and 4 show moving time is the best indicator for daily distance. Elevation and average speed have little to no effect.

Table 1: Results by Time

Total Time
First Name
Last Name
Age
Moving Time
Stopped Time
Avg Speed
Ratio
17.69306
Mike
Hall
33
13:18:39
3:21:59
13.3
3.518177
18.52361
Jason
Lane
32
13:03:11
5:09:23
14
2.436043
19.63611
Ed
Pickup
23
14:02:30
5:12:46
13
2.549586
21.01944
Juliana
Buhring
32
16:05:35
4:18:53
11.3
3.391121
21.0375
Adam
Guske
31
13:18:31
7:06:23
13.3
1.895346
21.04514
Jesse
Stauffer
26
14:22:49
6:02:16
12.3
2.453168
21.16597
Paolo
Laureti
37
15:03:55
6:00:04
12.1
2.52603
22.47431
Tom
Knoblauch
56
14:12:16
7:23:07
12.7
1.822273
22.49097
Patrick
Dowd
25
14:15:05
7:20:42
12.6
1.860537
22.70069
David
Goldberg
53
14:23:58
7:16:51
12.2
1.947345
24.45764
Danny
Kaukola
40
15:06:56
9:04:03
12
1.6675
25.27917
Nathan
Jones
32
15:18:07
9:12:35
11.7
1.654174
25.28819
Billy
Rice
35
16:18:10
8:12:45
11
1.964184
29.63819
Marcus
Thompson
25
15:14:45
14:00:34
11.8
1.11345
29.64653
Steven
Martine
45
17:01:01
12:14:30
10.8
1.352121
31.40902
Brian
Steele
50
17:19:38
13:16:52
10.3
1.300324
31.41667
Ricky
Ng
26
16:22:03
14:11:27
10.8
1.168657
23.81895 (average)








Table 2: Results by Moving:Stopped Ratio

Ratio
First Name
Last Name
3.518177
Mike
Hall
3.391121
Juliana
Buhring
2.549586
Ed
Pickup
2.52603
Paolo
Laureti
2.453168
Jesse
Stauffer
2.436043
Jason
Lane
1.964184
Billy
Rice
1.947345
David
Goldberg
1.895346
Adam
Guske
1.860537
Patrick
Dowd
1.822273
Tom
Knoblauch
1.6675
Danny
Kaukola
1.654174
Nathan
Jones
1.352121
Steven
Martine
1.300324
Brian
Steele
1.168657
Ricky
Ng
1.11345
Marcus
Thompson
2.036473
(average)



Table 3: Results by Average Speed

Avg Speed
First Name
Last Name
14
Jason
Lane
13.3
Mike
Hall
13.3
Adam
Guske
13
Ed
Pickup
12.7
Tom
Knoblauch
12.6
Patrick
Dowd
12.3
Jesse
Stauffer
12.2
David
Goldberg
12.1
Paolo
Laureti
12
Danny
Kaukola
11.8
Marcus
Thompson
11.7
Nathan
Jones
11.3
Juliana
Buhring
11
Billy
Rice
10.8
Steven
Martine
10.8
Ricky
Ng
10.3
Brian
Steele
12.07059 (average)



Table 4: Comparison

Place
Time
Ratio
Speed
1
Mike
Mike
Jason
2
Jason
Juliana
Mike
3
Ed
Ed
Adam
4
Juliana
Paolo
Ed
5
Adam
Jesse
Tom
6
Jesse
Jason
Patrick
7
Paolo
Billy
Jesse
9
Tom
David
David
10
Patrick
Adam
Paolo
11
David
Patrick
Danny
12
Danny
Tom
Marcus
13
Nathan
Danny
Nathan
14
Billy
Nathan
Juliana
15
Marcus
Steven
Billy
16
Steven
Brian
Steven
17
Brian
Ricky
Ricky
18
Ricky
Marcus
Brian


Table 5: Total Time (Days) to Complete Race by Ratio and MPH

Table 6: Total Stopped Time (Days) by Ratio and MPH

 Table 7: Hours Required Per Ratio
Ratio
Stopped Time
Moving Time
1
12
12
1.1
11.42857143
12.57143
1.2
10.90909091
13.09091
1.3
10.43478261
13.56522
1.4
10
14
1.5
9.6
14.4
1.6
9.230769231
14.76923
1.7
8.888888889
15.11111
1.8
8.571428571
15.42857
1.9
8.275862069
15.72414
2
8
16
2.1
7.741935484
16.25806
2.2
7.5
16.5
2.3
7.272727273
16.72727
2.4
7.058823529
16.94118
2.5
6.857142857
17.14286
2.6
6.666666667
17.33333
2.7
6.486486486
17.51351
2.8
6.315789474
17.68421
2.9
6.153846154
17.84615
3
6
18
3.1
5.853658537
18.14634
3.2
5.714285714
18.28571
3.3
5.581395349
18.4186
3.4
5.454545455
18.54545
3.5
5.333333333
18.66667
3.6
5.217391304
18.78261
3.7
5.106382979
18.89362
3.8
5
19
3.9
4.897959184
19.10204
4
4.8
19.2

My Data


Figure 1: Daily Elevation Gain vs. Average Speed. Little correlation with an r-value of -0.19


Figure 2: Daily Distance vs. Average Speed. No correlation with an r-value of -0.01. My average speed was 13.75 during the first 14 days and 12.59 during the remaining 15 days according to Strava.

Figure 3: Distance vs. Elevation. An r-value of 0.72, which makes sense: the farther you ride, the more climbing you're going to do.

Figure 4: Time vs. Distance. The closer the "total time" and "moving time" lines, the better the ratio. My average start time was 7:06 am and my average stop time was 11:17 pm. Remove the outlier that was my last day's finish time and the average becomes 10:22 pm. The stopping average for my first 14 days was 9:30 pm and 11:22 pm during the remainder sans final ride. Starting average - 7:10 am first 14 days, 7:03 am the remainder.

Personal Observations

I was not great at finding places to sleep at night after it got dark. I preferred cycling late because it would be so cold in the mornings. Also, I actually felt safer on most roads at night. Cars seemed to give me more space because they didn't want to hit me. In the day they could judge how close they could get without killing me. An observation: the bigger the truck, the more likely they were to be a jerk.

I think a bivy would be a superior choice over my tent due to the footprint. I feel like I could set up a bivy anywhere and remain hidden. 

If you sleep at the designated campsites/lodging on the Adventure Cycling Maps, I feel you will be brought back together with other racers. If you're willing to stealth/guerrilla/whatever camp anywhere, then you can slowly get ahead of others. Like discrete intervals vs. continuous.

Baseball dugouts and behind churches were my locations of choice.

A tip I got from Brian Steele was if you must withdraw, sleep on the decision and do it in the morning.

Once I fought through all my problems, I thought I would be able to get some high mileage once I got to Pueblo. Kansas was too windy. It wasn't horrible, but enough to notice. Maybe I should have tried some night riding. I was worried about how that would affect my sleep schedule, so I avoided it until the last day. Missouri and onward was just too hilly for me to get good distances. I think the higher mileage needs to come in the beginning (without destroying yourself).

Saddle bag = everything for the evenings. I wasted time getting gloves among other things out of here mid-ride.
Frame bag = accessible warm clothes

Comfort > weight > aerodynamics

Bag selection

I was surprised at how big a role good timing (with weather) had with the race.

Redundant systems. I'm glad I had a watch with an alarm because so my times my phone would die at night. I recommend taking pictures of all the maps in case you lose one.

I really don't think much is needed for route preparation. I was worried about this, but most everything can be done on the fly. Maybe just prepare a good set of .gpx files. Edit: My day never went as expected. Usually, I would get fewer miles than anticipated. One day of headwinds will get you fewer miles and have a domino effect on each subsequent day. It would be silly to plan where you will stay each night.

I think much more time should be spent on a good playlist. I didn't do this, and listened to a lot of the same music or was constantly fast forwarding through the slow/quiet songs of the Star Wars soundtrack. Edit: Before the race I downloaded some of the music from The Sufferfest. I was missing other staples like "What Does the Fox Say?",  "Party in the USA", and "Gangnam Style."  Some of my favorites from The Sufferfest:
- Jucy Lucy - Leg-No, Look Like
- Can't Wait - Phrenik
- Too Hot - Thyron!x
- Edge of Mirror - Tony Palmer
- Glide Pasticcio - Rubber Headz

Edit: When I met up with Ricky the first time, he really hammered home the idea of efficiency. We were eating at McDonald's when he said we should go back to the hotel and do laundry while eating. Some of my routine when I arrived at gas stations was to grab all my trash (I'm surprised how much I generated) and my water bottles, so I didn't have to make multiple trips back and forth. 

The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling makes some recommendations for high-carb, low fat snacks from convenience stores: fat-free pretzels, fig bars, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, Twinkies, Toaster pastries, low-fat yogurt, and fresh fruit. I was on the Pop Tarts, gummy bears, and Swedish Fish train.

I ate zero fruit and nearly no veggies for a month. Veggies being hard to find and fruit doesn't agree with my stomach while riding. I will throw it up every time with the exception of bananas, strawberry Pop Tarts, fruit snacks and blueberry crisp Clif Bars. If there are any nutritionists out there, get in touch. I don't know what's wrong with me.


This was the only time I had the yogurt pretzels. I recommend the Haribo gummy bears over the Trolli. Jelly Belly's just made me thirsty, which might not be a bad thing to force me to drink more. 
McDonald's was my restaurant of choice. Low cost, high calories, fast and predictable, Wi-Fi, and clean bathrooms. I did not "share the glory."
How do I assess my ability to complete a race like this? This was a question I posted on the Facebook page months before the race. I got a reply, but maybe I can help anyone else answer that question.

Try riding three days, 150 miles/day. Any bike fit issues should reveal themselves from that.

I think most of the training needed is mental and is gained from experience and not necessarily miles. I thought the Trans Am was the easiest most doable ride across the U.S. I've done just because I was mentally prepared for anything.

Have you changed a flat in cold rain?
Have you run out of tubes with no cell reception?
Have you cried while riding due to pain?
Have you thrown up while riding?
Have you ridden while snowing? In 120F heat? 70 miles into a headwind?
Have you ridden while sick?
Have you wanted to give up during a ride?
How well do you adapt to weather and mechanical problems?
Are you willing to ride when others aren't?
Are you willing to suffer?
What is your level of commitment, improvisation, perseverance, and determination?

And maybe you've gotten the mental training off the bike from other life circumstances. My physical training was not a huge amount.


January through March training and racing
April through May training and racing
Training hours. I used The Sufferfest and some weight training. I don't think an exorbitant amount of physical training is necessary. Maybe no training at all - Steve had zero.

This puts the mileage of the race in perspective

3. Budget

I managed to ring up a bill of $3020.41 over 29 days. I was not expecting such a large portion to be related to cycling gear and mechanicals. $301.30 was for a fit, seat post, handlebars, bar tape, etc in Lander, Wyoming. $184.73 was for a new cassette and chain in Cañon City. Much of that preventable if I caught the chain wear sooner, but a bike shop checked it in Montana and said I was good for a while. The shop in Lander said it was toast. They (in Montana) checked it using a ruler, which seems to be less reliable. $249 for a new rear wheel in Pueblo. I paid for lodging on seven occasions. With the exception of a stay in an RV park and the preparation for the last 2 days, all of those stays were related to weather or injury. I visited McDonald's 22 times across 16 days for an average of $11.33. I spent an average of $44.56 per day on food, which comes to be about 30 cents per mile. All in all much cheaper than what I've heard about RAAM.


I'm not convinced. (Threadless)

Figure 5: Trip Expenses = $3040.21 or about 69 cents per mile
Figure 6: Total (pre-trip and during) = $7394.60. Add another $275 if you include the broken dental retainer I replaced after the race.
Figure 7: Food Expenses vs. Daily Achieved Distance. Some correlation with an r-value of 0.62. 

4. Gear

Quick review of all my gear from the start:

A. Favorite items:

Banana Boat Cool Zone Sunscreen
Walgreens didn't have my usual sunblock, so I picked this up randomly. This is now my favorite. Doesn't smell like sunblock, goes on thin, and gives a cooling feeling.

Found the Banana Boat sunblock after a stint on the worst gas station sun block on the earth. Super chalky as seen here.


Orajel
numbs saddle sores. Picked this up at a Walgreens after a tip from Brian Steele.

Caffeine pills
I was so sleepy in the afternoons. I felt my best in the evenings.

Gum
to help stay awake. I soon learned the necessity of purchasing the plastic packaging to be water proof. Also, I think this and drinking so much water helped prevent cavities. I never brushed my teeth in the mornings, and only occasionally at night (gross, I know). A trip to the dentist after the race revealed no cavities or other problems. Though, maybe some of it was genetics as well.

Edit: This may be an alternative, but it's expensive and some reviewers say the taste is terrible.

Dynamo Hub
I'm so glad I got this. I was contemplating a solar panel and an Anker portable charger, which would not have done me a whole lot of good with as much riding in the rain and dark as I did.

Swisstop GHP2 Flash Pads, for SRAM/Shimano Road Brakes
Favorite pads now. The stock Force22 pads weren't so great in the rain when I was loaded.

DZ Nuts High Viscosity Chamois Cream
So good. I never used chamois cream before this race, but got this since it's anti-bacterial/anti-fungal,  and I knew I wouldn't get a shower every day. Applied at night before bed works wonders.

Edit: This stuff smells like wet dog after a couple days. It is rancid.

Wet Ones
Every gas station has these. Great way to clean up at the end of the day without a shower.

Saltstick Electrolyte Capsules
The bees knees. Totally helped me feel better in the second half of rides.

Edit: Question from a friend: I noticed you said you used salt tablets for electrolytes.  Have you ever used something like Gatorade?

I used Gatorade on Bike & Build and a couple years of racing. I used to cramp up during races, so I started using Gatorade. When I upgraded categories where the mileage was above 50, the Gatorade didn't sit so great. On Bike & Build, my bottles of Gatorade would get hot, so I didn't use them a lot of the time. I've tried Skratch as well, but that is flavored with fruit and doesn't settle.

During the Trans Am I also drank a lot of Yoo-hoo chocolate drink. It has a ton of potassium and sodium and a minimal amount of fat. Steve swore by the coconut water. I always forgot to try it.


B. Would use again:


Adventure Cycling Maps
worked great. Should have gotten the clips to secure them. I started putting them in my rear jersey pockets. Sweat from the humidity in Kentucky made the green bleed onto my jersey. Should have made notes on them with a sharpie. Also, it took me a while to figure out how to use them to their fullest.

Edit: I remember complaining during the race that the elevation profile was on the reverse side of the map and not on each individual map panel. And the elevation profile didn't have the mileage on it. There is room for improvement. 

Edit: I nearly lost a map in Wyoming with the cross winds. I did lose one once briefly in Colorado along with my phone. There is a winding bike path to the top of a hill leaving Silverthorne. There is a McDonald's there, but I couldn't figure out how to get to it, so I rode down the hill off road to get to it. After I finished eating, it was my routine to take a look at the map for a couple minutes. I couldn't find it. I realized I lost it during the jarring cyclocross episode. I retraced my steps and found it. I went back to McDonald's to study the map. I realized I also didn't have my phone. Back to the hill. Found it. Phew. I don't know what I would have done having lost the map or my phone. That's why I made the suggestion earlier of having pictures of every map on your phone.


Surely I could have gotten to McDonald's a different way.


SPOT Tracker Rental
no issues. I left it on at all times fearing I would forget to turn it back on. I changed batteries two or three times.

Continental Grand Prix 4 Season Road Tire
great tires, but had to replace them sooner than anticipated. I would put too much force on the rear brake with all the extra weight of the gear and skid. 

Velocity Rim Plug for 8mm Holes
eliminated my problem of flats due to shifted rim tape.

Luxos U
When climbing I couldn't charge my phone, but otherwise a great unit (though I have nothing to compare it to).

Specialized Zee Cage
no complaints

Leatherman Wave
The only time I used this was in Wyoming when I was having so much trouble with my saddle. I carved some grooves in my seatpost to give myself reference points for adjustments.

Pedro tire levers
great tire levers for stubborn tires/rims

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
More difficult to inflate/deflate than the Trail Lite. Of course, much less weight and more packable.

Western Mountaineering Summerlite
Just warm enough. Could've shipped this home in Pueblo.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack
worked great

Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
no complaints

Showers Pass Lapeleau Hydration Backpack
This was a retraction device like for ID cards but for my hydration hose. Kept it secure.

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
Glad I had this. Kept it on the hydration bladder hose hose the whole time, but was great when I filled up from a river in Idaho.

Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket
Couldn't believe I had to get this out on the first day. Worked great, but I've never owned another rain jacket.

Garmin 810
No problems during the race, though I've had my fair share in the past. I was super nervous it would crash at the end of my 400 mile ride. I just used the .gpx file provided. I would make my own set of files if I did it again. I guess the Garmin has a maximum number of waypoints (40000?), so I didn't get turn-by-turn with that file. The maps were just fine, but hard to read at night, which is why I would be interested in a helmet mounted light.

K-Edge Bar Mount
I had to reversed the pieces of the mount to get it to fit above my aero bars.

C. Would consider changing/needs refinement:


ISM Adamo Breakaway Saddle
My relationship with this saddle had its ups and downs. Took some getting used to in the first 500 miles. Lots of problems with it in Montana and Wyoming. After leveling it out in Lander, it was great. I've never been able to ride in the drops in aero bars before the use of this saddle. It eliminated all perineal pressure. When I tried to get back on the bike after the race, I couldn't ride it anymore. The nose is too wide for me. The search continues.

SRAM PG1170 11-Speed Cassette, 11-32
great range, but unnecessary. There is no need to go fast on the downhills. This is explained in "The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling." Or just read here. The spacing between gears made it difficult for me to find a comfortable gear when cruising, which led me to choosing the lower of two gears (slowing me down).

SRAM Force 22 groupset
No problems, but I have switched to Di2 in order to have shifting in the aerobars. Super annoying to move off of them in order to shift, putting pressure on my left shoulder. Perhaps this was exacerbated by the gear ratio spacing in the cassette. I felt I was shifting so much more than usual.

Giro SuperNatural Footbed X-Static Kit - Men's
This may have helped, but what I think I really need are some cleat wedges.

Edit: I exhibit all three signs that someone needs wedges. I think this is also why I continued to have ankle (both) problems at the end of the race. My fit issues may be deeper. I recently did a SpinScan at my bike shop. I was at about 60% efficient and my left leg provided 57% of the power (I'm right-footed). I have some serious issues. If I save up some money, I would like to visit Cyclologic

Spare Tubes
used three. Carried 4 with me at all times. I plan to use tubeless in the future, while still carrying one or two tubes.

Revelate Viscacha
swung back and forth on my frame. So much so that it put a hole in my aluminum frame. I now have a smaller frame (exposing more seat post), which should remedy most of this.

I sent a couple photos to Cannondale. They said not to ride it anymore.

Revelate Feed Bag
I was unable to open and close the feed bags with one hand. Maybe they aren't designed for that, but that's what I need.

Revelate Tangle
Most every review I saw of this bag said they had no problems with leg rub. I am not one of those people. I haven't tried it on my new bike yet.

Black Diamond Equipment Storm Headlamp
Great item to have. But I can be convinced to have a helmet mounted light to read maps at night which would replace this.

Terra Nova Solar Photon 2
great tent. I'll probably switch to a bivy in the future for strategy reasons
-Gear Aid SilNet Silicone Seam Sealer Tube
no leaks in tent.
-MSR Carbon Core Stakes 4 PK
easy to pull out
-Easton Mountain Products Nano Ultra-Light Aluminum Tent Stake-Pack of 4
no complaints
-Easton Mountain Products Full Metal Jacket Tent Stakes (Pack of 4), 6-Inch
easiest to push in the ground

I'm happy that I went with a green tent.

LUNATEC® Self-cleaning Travel Washcloth
Started using this in gas stations to get the bugs/sunblock off my arms and face. Nice refresher if you like the feeling of sandpaper on your skin. Maybe Sea to Summit would be better.

So gross.

Platypus Hoser Hydration System
I like how simple this is, but most of the time the area near the mouth of the bladder would collapse and form a vacuum. I ended up having to stop and just dump water into my bottles most of the time. Really, I didn't need this. I think 3 bottles will get most people through most sections. Buying a water at a gas station for a jersey pocket for the long sections should take care of the rest.

Pro-Tec Athletics IT Band Compression Wrap
Used for the entirety of the race. Not sure I needed it.

Centrum Multi vitamin
Took them nightly. Not sure if they helped or not.

Headphones
Stock ones from Apple. Not too many problems. They would fall out sometimes. I might try to find something better, but I still want to control my music with them. Maybe a Fitbit instead? I used only one ear bud while riding and I don't listen to music during any other riding. I found out about the Mono Audio setting on the iPhone recently. Settings > General > Accessibility > Mono Audio. Now you aren't stuck with only half of the mix.

iPhone 5
Music would drain the batter over the course of the day. Maybe should have used a separate device like a Nano.

Credit card, cash, insurance card, identification
Should have kept a spare credit card or cash hidden somewhere on my bike in case I lost my wallet. Never did but did lose my phone for a few minutes.

Profile Design ZBS Stryke Aero bars
low to the handlebars. I've switched now to The T1+ carbon thanks to Aaron and Profile Design for providing these to me. The spacers get me much higher and more comfortable.

Shimano 105 pedals
I've switched to Speedplay from a recommendation from Old Town Bicycle shop in Tacoma, WA. I had them adjust my cleats to address my IT band problems prior to the start. I had no issues during the race. Shout out to them! They said the wider stance of the Speedplays would help.

D. Unsatisfactory items:

Leatherman 931014 40-Bit Assortment for Leatherman Bit Drivers
No bueno. I got these shipped to Astoria the day before the race. I tried them at my hotel on my bike, but the bits were fabricated too small. If I tried putting any torque into a bolt, it would slip.

Gas Tank
I didn't like the two zipper design of the gas tank - lack of ease of use and when it's open it's like a small drag chute. 

KT TAPE Original Cotton Elastic Kinesiology Theraeputic Tape - 20 Foot Uncut Roll
Didn't seem to have the durability of regular athletic tape. When I taped my ankle, it would just stretch and tear after a day. Perhaps not it's intended use and more for muscles?

SABRE RED Pepper Spray
Mom made me carry this for the crazies. No effect on dogs.

E. Unused items:

FiberFix Emergency Spoke Replacement Kit
Gorilla Glue
Safety pins
Paper clips
Zip ties
Spoke wrench
Accessory Cord
Lighter
Replacement wire for dynamo
Off wipes. I need to stop carrying these. Pretty sure I've carried them on all three cross-country trips without using them.
Neosporin
Cough drops
Bandaids

F. Ditched items:

T-shirt 
sent home in Newton

Water key, iodine tablets
plenty of places to refill. Sent home in Newton.

Spork
used once in Ordway,CO, at a grocery store, but they probably had plastic spoons if I asked.

Topeak Super Bicycle Chain Tool
Part of the idea behind the bit drivers was to shed weight by replacing my Crankbrothers multitool. Since the bit drivers didn't work, I ditched this before the race even started.

Cable lock
thrown away on day 2. Got wet on day 1 and washed off the combination on the back, revealing an incorrect combo. Wouldn't bring one again. Most of the time I could park my bike near a window, so I could always see it. There was one gas station that had a sign that said no bike parking against the building, so I leaned it against their trash can.

Blubandoo
Used it some at the beginning, but the way I would tie it, it would always shift on my neck as seen here. Sent home in Newton.

My Blubandoo would rotate around my neck providing no cooling.

Pro-Tec Athletics Foam Roller 4 X 12
cheap insurance for my IT band. Sent it home in Newton

Nuun Active Hydration, Tropical
most got wet. Thrown away in Farmington. I got these in addition to the Saltstick pills to give my water some flavor. On my previous two trips across the U.S. I would get tired of drinking water the last few weeks. I think I varied my fluids quite a bit during the race where I didn't have this issue this go around.

G. Added items:

Clear lenses 
from a gas station. Too many bugs got caught in my eyes at night. I would bring photochromic lenses next time.

Ankle brace 
from Walgreens. Should have gotten it much sooner, but it kept my issues in check allowing me to finish.

Lockring tool
in Pueblo- the shop in Lander didn't tighten my lockring properly. Ten miles out of town I heard some clanging coming from my rear wheel. After further investigation I found the problem. I debated turning around and losing an hour each way. I decided to improvise with an allen wrench from my multitool. I placed it in the teeth of the lockring and pushed tangentially as hard as I could to tighten it. It worked, but I was paranoid. But I think I actually purchased the wrong one.

H. Lost items:

Camp Suds
left in the shower on day 5

Flip flops
One lost on a mountain somewhere. Threw the other away. Didn't replace them.

I. Wish List:

Compact crankset. 50/34. Regrettably, I've always been on a 53/39. Really, I think I'd prefer something like 46/30 with an 11-23 cassette. Haven't found a way to do that yet.

Edit: I plan to use a 50/34 with the 14-28 Ultegra cassette to keep the gear ratio tight between gears.

Verizon. I had Sprint. So much of the west has terrible coverage. It was enough to load the "Mobile View" of the Trackleaders site most of the time.

I've already mentioned, I would like to be tubeless and have photochromic lenses. I've already upgraded to Di2.

More warm/wet gear. I recently bought some rain pants from Bontrager.

Edit: Wired tail light. Maybe the Secula Plus. I would often forget to charge my tail light during the day. Out of sight, out of mind. So, it would have little or have power at night. This probably contributed to my near miss on day 25. Luckily, I had the reflective triangle on the back of my saddle bag.

Edit: BioShift. I think automatic shifting would really help with pacing.

5. Final Thoughts

As a first-time bikepacker, I was hoping for rule explanations and bikepacking etiquette and expectations. So, now there is more information from the Transcontinental Race here and here. I feel like I probably broke some of these, as I talked to Laini a few times about the weather conditions.

Meeting at the column to pick up SPOT trackers


"Everyone look this way. Smile!"

Warning: rant ahead

I can't recommend the route to anyone. I thought there was way too much traffic considering how established the Adventure Cycling Association is. Maybe my expectations were too high. All I heard about was how great the route was and how friendly the people were. This was not my experience. I felt duped. Maybe it was because I was on the road all day potentially experiencing two rush hours. I know it's hard to become unstressed when you become stressed while cycling, so perhaps I am very biased. When I got home, I looked at some of the maps and compared it to the Strava Heat Map. There was no reason to go through some of the high traffic towns like Mechanicsville, VA. On every ACA map, there is a sentence or two warning cyclists about high traffic areas. If you know you have a problem, fix it. Some of these can be remedied, and I don't believe it would be hard to do. Take a summer and have a few experienced ACA people ride some alternate routes. Figure out the best ones. Take another year to redo the maps. Forget tradition of the route if that's what it is. Make it safer.

I felt safest in Illinois. Rough roads, but no traffic.

There were pockets of very nice people, but the theme when I walked into a convenience store was just a bunch of stares. Surely I'm not the first cyclist you've seen. Once I even said hello and no one answered me. They just ignored me. I described earlier about owners allowing their dogs to chase me...

Why would you put a motor vehicle on the front of your map? Thanks for the warning, I guess.

End Rant


Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful route.

I don't find fulfillment in finishing this race. I didn't do it to find meaning. Maybe it was a personal challenge or just something fun to do (Edit: I first found out about the race on Facebook, and thought "That looks like fun."), but the relationships and experiences mean a whole lot more than my finish time. I didn't get the blues after finishing this trip like I had before. I was disappointed when Steve and I didn't make it onto the Inspired to Ride fan page when we finished like every other finisher before us. I felt left out, but my accomplishment wasn't defined by whether or not Inspired to Ride posted about it. It was shaped by the people I met along the way:

Old Town Bicycle in Tacoma, WA - adjusting my cleats right before the race
Brian and Rich - showing my the ropes the first few days
Ricky - great competitor and great sportsman
Steve - providing the fiercest friendly competition
Thomas of Lander - lots of attention to detail refitting my bike
Scott of Red Canyon Cycles in Cañon City - hiding parts outside for me
Janet of Pueblo - providing excellent service to my bicycle. Also, she gave me a pack of gum.
James and Heather of Newton - Unmatched hospitality
Eddie Ulloa - massage therapist in Newton
Brian and Michael of Evansville - friends from Cover Indiana who came for a visit
The friendly people of Farmington
All others who cheered me on in person, by phone, or on the web.

Thank you.

Edit: I've been working at a bike shop since the completion of the race. One of the criticisms I received from my boss is that I should have written more about what I would do next time. I'll either add some more updates soon or make another post entirely.

7 comments:

  1. It was great to meet you in Farmington and I really appreciate you taking the time to compile this post. You were very thorough and the info is a great help as I prepare for racing TABR15. 100 days to the start!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great recap, Marcus. Thanks for recording all of this. It was interesting following your progress on Strava and the race tracker, but I really didn't understand the difficulties you faced until I read this post. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brian, It was great talking to you in Farmington. Good luck in the race this year!

    Julian, glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for all the support, man. I really appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
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