The Million Mile Club

Two summers ago, nine of my closest cycling friends and I were heading out of town on a late afternoon training ride. More specifically, we were heading into the Boulevard/Yelm Hwy circle when it happened.

A renegade knucklehead rider who has since been kicked off the Olympia cycling island yelled at us to “bridge up” or something of the sort. The same guy I once saw nearly kill himself following a high speed, dumbshit, helmetless, curb jump into traffic.

I laughed to myself, going person-by-person in my head, totaling up the probable years and approximate miles represented. Conservatively, I knew each dude and I had at least 100k miles in our legs. A million between us. Pretty crazy, but not to Russ Mantle.

“The former carpenter and joiner has averaged a staggering 14,700 miles every year for the last 68 years, having first started cycling in 1951.”

Stupefying.

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[Thanks to a former cyclist of some renown for the tip.]

Cycling the Central Oregon High Desert

Apologies for not having any posts in the queue when I took off for Bend, Oregon last week for the annual Central Oregon 500, five days of consecutive 100 miles bicycle rides. I know it’s hard getting through the week without your normal filling of PressingPause.

I planned on riding days 1, 2, 3, and 5. My daily totals were 101, 103, 95, and 73, so the Central Oregon 372. When I left Sisters yesterday afternoon after the final ride, Rick Adams, a new 62 year old acquaintance from San Fransisco, was talking about riding back to Bend because he was sitting at 490. I tried to talk some sense into him, but there were lots of fit crazies.

I rode a lot with Ed from Seattle and Doug from Bend among many others. I was way more social than normal, meaning somewhat, drinking beer, hanging out, exaggerating our daily exploits after rides. I don’t do that enough. I show up five minutes before our local training rides leave and then peel off and head home near the end of them.

I don’t always like being social, but I can be. When I dropped my teammates off on Day Four I noticed there were a few more female riders than normal so that was a bad call. Speaking of which, Stephanie from Bend, born and raised in Olympia, just hammered despite not necessarily looking the part. Note to self, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Highlights included riding by what must have been the world’s largest Alpaca farm, hundreds and hundreds grazing on beautiful green fields, half of them shorn, half not. Is there a cuter, more uncoordinated looking animal? Yesterday’s exclamation point, McKenzie Pass. . . lava rock, snow covered peaks in immediate distance, snow on the side of the road at the top, descending into deep forest. Speaking of descending, new record on Day 1 with a tail wind down the Century Highway, 49.2.

Lowlight. Getting hit in the face by a large insect at high speed. Watching Nicole zig and a dog zag while climbing McKenzie. An unexpected but relatively tame crash on a closed course.

Rest easy dear reader. I am swapping seats, from the bike to the blog, stay tuned and thanks for reading as always.

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Ride Around Mount Rainier 2014

Start time, 5:45a, finish time 2:30p. 8:45 gross ride time, 8:01 net. 146.4 miles. 18.2 mph average. Max speed, 40.5. Elevation estimate (non barometric altimeter), 8,222. Calories, 8,337.

I had fun and rode well and think I’m continuing to improve as a cyclist even at my advanced age. I credit that to a deeper and deeper base and a continually improving feel for pacing and nutrition. The vast majority of RAMRODers ride way too hard in the a.m. and pay for it dearly in the p.m. I routinely let guys go in the morning who I pass mid-day.

I only had one “friend” win the lottery like me, but being a University of Washington Husky, he tucked his tail between his legs and bailed on me when he learned the route had to be altered due to road construction in the park. So this was my first time riding solo.

I met Dave from Maryland about one mile in and he was velcroed to my back wheel all morning on the way to Packwood. We sat in the back of “Cycle Tuesdays” a 15+ sized group from Seattle. They set a perfect, slightly downhill, first hour or two pace of 20-22mph. I probably drafted for 60 of the 78 miles on the way to Packwood. At that point I launched on my solo ascent of Cayuse, not stopping until the Crystal Mountain deli stop.

During that stretch, miles 78-105ish, I passed lots and lots of people, most of whom stopped at one or two food/water stops. Also, even though I was only going 7-8 mph up Cayuse, I leaped frogged people the whole way.

We enjoyed nearly perfect conditions. I was wishing I had worn gloves in the first hour when it was in the mid 50’s, but when the climbing began in earnest, around 10:30a, it was around 70. The only time I was hot all day was while standing in the sun at the Crystal deli stop. And surprisingly, the wind was a non-factor over the last 40 miles.

I bailed on the suggested out-and back for additional mileage and elevation. I figured riding all the way from Packwood to the finish solo was sufficient. Also, I didn’t have any homies to question my manhood. With just a little peer pressure I probably would’ve turned right off of Hwy 410 at the 123 mile mark.

Because I went “short”, I was one of the first few people to finish. After showering, downing a Diet Coke, and eating an ice cream bar, I felt considerably better than I did post Grand Canyon hike, post Bachelor/Lake Paulina ride, post Sunriver-Bend trail run. I was the first car out of the parking lot and on the road at 3p.

Pre-ride, Lally gave me specific instructions to stick it to any Team Fishcer Plumbing guys after their Central Oregon antics of non-stop surging and erratically going off the front. On the way to Ashford, about five FPs passed me, too strongly for me to hook on. Different guys, but I knew Lally would say they were guilty by association. So sorry Mark for not doing shit for payback.

In related news, a guy passed me at mile 131-132. Cervelo, aero bars, probably one of those narcissistic triathletes. Quickly, he just flat out disappeared up the road. That helping of humble pie was well-timed.

Other observations from the day.

• No CAMROD sighting. Disconcerting.

• Some people, who aren’t too concerned with weight or aerodynamics, are riding with their Garmins AND gigantic smart phones attached to their headsets and bars. Then again, I’ve never known the joy of streaming Netflix while climbing Cayuse. One rider was in line for the prestigious Dennis Peck Tech Geek award (a TomTom nav device). He was wearing Peck’s Google jersey with his TABLET attached to his headset.

• Despite the recent lotteries being plagued with glitches, the Redmond Cycling Club does an amazing job putting on this event. Tons of exceedingly friendly and helpful volunteers at the start/finish and all over the course. The course was marked extremely well (there’s some serious pot holes on the Skate Creek descent and the bottom of Mud Mountain Dam Rd). Police escorts through the four or five primary intersections. Very easy to read course arrows at every turn. Every other event similar to this, take note, state of the art.

• I overheard the race photog say to a volunteer, “These are people who spend $5k on their bikes, they can afford to pay $12 for a picture.” Can’t speak for any of the other riders, but Rider #327 carefully shopped his steed—heavily discounted frame from the U.K. and components from Australia. Consider this Mr. Photog, the only way most people can drop 5 large on a bike is by being value shoppers! Digital images are ubiquitous these days (Maryland Dave has one of me on his iPhone). Your pictures are overpriced. Thank you, but I will pass.

 

 

Ironperson Canada 2012—Almost “Go Time”

As ready as I guess I’ll ever be to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112, and run 26.2 on Sunday, August 26th in Penticton, British Columbia.

I’m assigning myself an “A-” for my prep. I’m most proud of the fact that without being accountable to a coach, or anyone, I put the work in. I’m fit. There have been times in the last five to ten years that I’ve been faster in the water, faster on my bike, and I’ve ran faster, but I’ve never been as strong in all three disciplines. I am trained for a steady and solid all day effort. I’ve gone from doubting whether it’s possible to run a marathon off a long swim and bike, to dialing in the salt supplements, and thinking I can. When I get in trouble during the day, I’m confident I can pullback, regroup, and continue on. The half grade deduction is due to the record amounts of sugar I’ve consumed over the last few months. I’ve blown through pack after pack of Costco cookies and thoroughly tested a wide range of Dreyer’s ice-cream flavors. Someone asked Charles Barkley what he thought of my nutrition and his answer is below.

The four consecutive recent Tampa, FL runs were more important than meets the eye. It took me 15 of the 30 miles to learn to slow down and sustain anything through the heat and humidity. Mid-day Friday in Olympia I ran for an hour steadily and fairly hard in a long sleeve winter shirt. I couldn’t have done that before FL. I feel fairly acclimated to heat, an achilles heel of mine. Then again, it was 94 in Penticton yesterday. If it’s that warm on race day, all bets are off.

Recently, I met two people who couldn’t understand why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to such extreme physical activity. I’ve wondered the same thing for years, but have made peace with my motivation which I’d describe as one part peer pressure and two parts the lure of trying to pace such an event correctly.

I am an ordinary age group athlete, but I am above average at pacing events correctly. I love the challenge of spreading out my effort as evenly and efficiently as possible. That’s part of my competitive advantage. I first learned to pace a 10k well, then a half marathon, then marathons, then half irons, then rides around Mount Rainier. This event intrigues me because it will be the ultimate test of that skill. The line between my “all day” pace and “too fast” is razor thin especially on the run. Even 10-15 seconds a mile too fast in the opening miles could very well cause me to blow up in the middle or late stages of the run.

The question is do I have sufficient self-understanding and body awareness? No power meter or heart rate meter for me, just g.p.s. and intense attention to my “perceived rate of exertion”. Put differently, for eleven hours I’ll be closely assessing whether I’m breathing too hard. I have a hard time living in the present for 11 minutes, here’s hoping I can do it for 11 hours.

My physical ordinariness is evident in the fact that true fish make me look silly in the water; I can’t hang with Cat 1, 2, and 3 cyclists; and the fifty year-old down the street would have to spot me at least 30 minutes in a marathon. But 90% of triathletes have a weakness. In contrast, I’m decent across the board. That’s another advantage. Being 50.5 in the 50-54 year old division is yet another.

Given my successful training and those advantages, what are some realistic goals? I’m conflicted. Half of me feels conventional, I want to start the run right around the seven hour mark and finish 10th in my age group (last year there were 245 in my 50-54 age group). The other half wants to have a spiritual experience and learn more about myself and life independent of the race clock. That’s vague because it’s not a goal as much as a tough to articulate feeling.

Recently, a friend and fellow long distance athlete had an epiphany. He realized that racing is about learning to set goals and persevere in attaining them and then applying those skills and discipline to his non-athletic life. For me, that’s too linear, or for lack of a better term, too Western. I want to experience something of the divine. Is that asking too much?

Post race I’ll share my more specific pre-race goals and my unconventional mental prep. Ultimately, finishing 10th in my age group will come down to one thing, being able to run steadily for the whole marathon leg. In training, salt tabs have been a godsend, keeping my chronic cramps at bay. I expect them to work on race day too. So then, only two things will determine my relative success, smart pacing, and mental toughness, or guts.

Do I have sufficient guts? I think so.

p.s. Noticed the dearth of pics lately? I gave my camera to 19 for her 20th b-day. I will buy a new one soon and jazz the place up. In the meantime, I will deputize 17 and 20 as race photogs.

Killer Climbs—Day 4

Plan was to meet at 7:30a, drive 15 miles south to Big Pine, and then climb up to Glacier “Lodge”. A ten mile climb, how hard could that be?

Getting to the start was half the battle. I walked out to the hotel parking lot at 7:30:30 a.m. glistening from sunscreen with my gear bag on my shoulder only to see the van leaving. Okay, vehicle two, the rental SUV. Also gone. Okay, Alex’s car, there she goes heading south on 395. Bus left plain and simple. And it’s not like we’re always hyper-prompt. I felt like a Facebook investor, but knew what happened. Each driver just assumed I was in one of the other cars.

I knew exactly what would happen, and it did in fact go down exactly this way. They’d drive south (20 minutes), unload the bikes, see mine still in its stall, and then someone would say, “Where’s Ron?” At which point, they’d all have a good laugh at my expense. Fortunately, Double B returned for me about fifteen minutes before I told myself I would have to go for a run instead. Peterson said, “I asked if anyone wasn’t here and you didn’t say anything.” Now we’re overcompensating by doing double and triple head counts.

Another damn tough climb, 3,900′ in 10.5 miles. Official deets of the day—37 miles, 2:36 ride time, 14.2 mph average, 48 mph max again, and 4,298′ of total elevation. I rode from the start/finish, Big Pine, back into Bishop after we descended together. They thought I was crazy for doing that and I may be since I had a black jersey on and it was pushing 90. Hwy 395 has a great shoulder—wide, clean, and smooth—and the wind was helping so I made very good time. Picture the main character in Breaking Away sitting behind semis as the drivers signal 30, 40, 50. Well maybe I wasn’t going quite that fast.

Given the discombobulated start, I left my camera in the car at the start. That was a crying shame because the mountains, lake, stream, and trees at the top made for the most beautiful scene of the week. Alas, I leave you with another pic from earlier in the week.

Killer Climbs—Day 3

The numbers don’t do today’s ride justice—47.4 miles in 3:54 for a 12.1mph average. 6,726′ of elevation gained.

High desert, totally exposed, steep early and brutally so late. Toughest climb of my life and I was the first one up in our little posse which makes since sense I’m the youngest and thinest. I was delivering the mail during several stretches—swerving from one shoulder to the other as if putting mail in boxes on both sides of the street. Very lightly traveled road that dead ends at 10,000′ at the Ancient Bristle Pine Cone Forest—home of 7,000 year old trees, the oldest living ones in the world. At times, despite the very light traffic, I thought a car could come around the bend and pick me off while delivering mail on their rightful side of the road. Which prompted this dialogue:

Self1: You know, a car could be coming at any second and pick you off clean and simple.

Self2: If I’d die at impact, it might not be the worse outcome because I have no effin idea how far I am from the effin top. Anyways, the will is up to date. Betrothed is still a looker. She’ll be fine. (and with that assertion, my debt for a week away is paid)

Self1: Yeah, but what if the impact doesn’t kill you and you don’t die until being dragged several hundred yards down the mountain under the car’s front bumper.

Self2: That may be slightly less fun than continuing this god forsaken climb.

Mom, I apologize for using several words you wouldn’t have been proud of today. Fortunately though, no one was around to hear them. In fact, it was so quiet, I was taking my heart rate without leaving the handlebars. I was working so hard I could feel my pulsating head, and with the bike computer clock. . . 15 in 5 seconds, meaning 30 in 10, meaning 180. That was before I lost my ability to do basic math.

I’m eating like crazy and am still probably down a few lbs.

Tomorrow is an “easy” day. A 13-14 mile climb from Big Pine up to Glacier Lodge. Rumor has it somewhere between 3-4k of elevation. It’s supposed to be 95, but we’re starting early to avoid the worst of the heat.  Stay tuned, I will let you know how it goes.

 

Killer Climbs—Day Two

Subtitle—Voices.

Laying in bed last night, the voice was one of my internal ones, “You really should run before riding, just like yesterday. Don’t be a loser, get up and put one foot in front of the other.” To which another of my internal ones countered, “Yeah, but what about my trip motto, ‘train, don’t strain’?”

Whenever I go to bed unsure of whether to get up and run at 5:45 a.m., I sleep a little late, lay in bed, and kick myself throughout the day for what coulda and shoulda been. Those are the days everyone is out running just to remind me that I’m a lowlife. In short, I have to totally commit and visualize it before knocking off. Go to bed all Mitt Romney flip-floppy-like and forget about it.

The ride was straightforward, climb a highway for 25 miles to South Lake. Total elevation, 5,800′. Then descend eight miles to a fork and climb for five or six more miles to Lake Sabrina. Why? Because it’s there and we drove for 20 hours to get here.

There I was 16 miles in, working my ass off, when I shifted a couple gears before standing and relieving my back. The small-ring shifter cable snapped and I was stuck in one gear. Done for the day. Since the big-ring shifter still worked fine, I had two gears, neither which I could even remotely climb in. I descended back into town and found Aerohead, an amazing hole in the wall bike shop, where Brian was waiting to repair my injured steed.

Most amazing shop experience evah. Brian had to work really hard to get the cable out and said I was almost “Completely f-ed.” Then he heard the deep squeaking noise my headset/bars have been making and said “That’s heinous.” Is that brilliant or what? Line of the day. He broke everything down, headset, fork, bars, pulled the steerer tube out and inspected it for cracks, cleaned and lubed everything and put it all back together. A craftsman. Total cost of everything, $17.69. Un-f-ing believable.

Returned to the hotel where the bed whispered, “Just lay down. Enjoy the piece and quiet of an empty room. Kick on the tube, watch some basketball, some golf, chilax.” The shower shouted, “Just hop in! Let me wash away your sunscreen, dust, dirt, salt, and fatigue. It will feel really good, promise.” I thought to myself, “Dammit, shut up! I should ride another two hours or maybe I should run.” Then the shower and bed teamed up. “Just hop in and then lay down.”

Character building run—totally exposed to the sun, warm, at elevation, partly uphill. Felt decent through 10 and like complete shit at 11. The days deets—30 mile ride in 2:04 for a 14.7mph average. 3,146′ of elevation, and a measly max of 42. 13.1 mile run in 1:47. 691′ of elevation, 8:08 pace, but don’t be fooled, I completely unraveled and entered “stick a fork in me” territory at 12. Stomach cramps prompted walking breaks.

A final voice. Again one of my own internal ones. “Who are you trying to fool? Can’t even ride for two hours and run for two, what makes you think you can ride for six and run for four? Why did you even sign up to go long? Moron. Poser. Sorry excuse of a triathlete.”

Too bad it’s not, swim, cycle, self flagellate.