Thursday, July 30, 2009

Race Across Oregon--A Bonk For A Better Brain

The good far outweighed the ugly in RAO, a fact that does not probably seem apparent from my first two race posts.

Shortly after the first checkpoint, when I felt like a roasting slug, I came upon Mr. Bonk, the guy with the "best name in cycling!" as race director George Thomas said at the pre-race meeting.

A skinny guy whose face I never really saw, Mr. Bonk decided at the last minute to do RAO, as evidenced by the handwritten name on his crew's van. (The rest of us got sleek, printed numbers with our names on them. I felt like a pro.) He was wearing what looked like either a homemade aero helmet, or the very first one ever created.

I rode up along side him for a few seconds--very important, sacred seconds--during which he said something to the effect of, "Those guys went out way too fast. I'll bet they all drop out. We'll see who's still around at 3pm tomorrow!"

"YEAH! YEAH!" I said. They went out way too fast. I'm pacing myself just perfectly. As long as I stick to my race strategy to not really stop ever, I'll be toasting my own victory by sundown tomorrow.

I was renewed.

I rode on for 200 glorious, happy, thrilling miles, through the 98-degree heat. Up countless climbs. Into headwinds. I was slightly irked to see a windfarm--obviously, this route was always windy. And somehow, it managed to always be windy in my face, with one notable exception: a 4-ish mile steeper climb. The wind was at my back, but I wished it was in my face, because it was hot!

I began to see other competitors. I rode up along side a very young man and we chatted for a minute.

"Is this your first time?" I asked.
"Yeah. My dad's doing it, too."
"Who's your dad?"
"He's riding a recumbent."
"Bananaman is your dad!" I blurted out.
Youngin' seemed confused.
But he won style points for having a Prius as a SAG vehicle.

I rode almost the entire day hopping around Mr. Bonk, and Doc Martin, known to my crew as "Beefcake". I choose "Doc Martin" because his van said "Martin" on it. They choose "beefcake" because his son, who was crewing for him, was huge, in an I-can-bench-press-half-of-these-skinny-cyclists kind of way.

The race was practically on the longest day of the year, and after 15 hours of riding, I was excited for nighttime. It would be cooler, and there would be less to focus on. Not that there was much in eastern Oregon to look at anyway.

We pulled into the check point around mile 206, which also happened to be one of the few places with a gas station along the route. It seemed like everyone in the entire race was there, filling up their cars and stomachs. I changed shorts, shoved enough potato chips into my mouth that my crew decided they should buy more, believing I'd finish off a bag right then. My "salty" stash of food had been raided. The "sweet" box had not even been looked at.

I was trying to stay on a mostly liquid diet, particularly because it was hot. And to my astonishment, I never once cramped, and I had to pee regularly--and at this point, I was in front of Mr. Pee-Bag! Every time I had to pee, someone had to hold up a towel so I wouldn't moon my competitors. All that time I spent squatting hadn't taken away from my race.

I felt rad. No pee-tube needed.

I hopped right back onto the Bullet, smoking competitors out of the gas station, and rode into the night.

There were several climbs, but they were peaceful, and the sight of the flickering orange lights of other peoples' support vehicles in the distance was encouraging; I was not alone.

A few teams passed me at some point.

My crew had to stare at my ass for 11 hours straight. (Mandatory riding within headlights from 7pm-6am.)

I was rocking it.

At some point, the scenery must've changed, because we were back into wooded mountains. It cooled off to a pleasant temperature, and we started to see deer everywhere! I was paranoid that I'd whack one on the very long descent before the next checkpoint.

Coming into Dale at mile 286, I was starting to get tired. My shoulders hurt like a biotch, which confused and surprised me. Shouldn't my legs hurt more than my shoulders? I had blisters on my palms.

I took a 15 minute pee/stuff-my-face break, and while I was stopped, Doc Martin blew through. That was it. I was going with him. I hadn't seen anyone for hours, and I enjoyed simply being within eyesight of anyone.

We zigzagged up mountains and into the morning.

I had planned on having a 300-mile party. It would be my first big stop. However, I'd already used my big stop in Dale, and 100 meters out of the 300-mile mark, a ridiculous storm blew--IN MY FACE! It started to rain, and the wind made it take an eternity to get to the 300 mark, where my crew threw a rain jacket on me, and took off--mandatory ass-staring was no longer enforced at that time.

I was ready to cry. The morning was beautiful--wherever I had ridden to was far more scenic than almost all of the first day's ride, but I was ready to fall asleep, the wind was trying to knock me over, and I had what the crew called "rollers" but were really mini-mountains for several more miles before I got the mental break of a right turn.

Just before the turn, I took my first nap by the river.

And that leaves us where I started the last post.

RAO was an epic adventure. I got to meet most of the people with whom I had been riding at the banquet on the 13th, and find out that Mr. Bonk made it 20 minutes before the cut-off. So did Sandy Earl. Doc Martin decided he'd finish no matter how long it took. It took him 54 hours.

And that's when I realized this: You're out there. Your crew is out there. You might as well finish, even if it's not official. Over 2 straight days of crispy-fry temperatures, cruel headwinds, and zero flat-recovery miles. Doc Martin turned out to be the most inspirational character of the whole pack. He credited his son, Beefcake, for getting him to the finish.

I told him I'd have to get one, then maybe I'd finish next time. ;)


  1. Looks like it's true - depressing posts get all the comments!! So thought I better comment so that this one got at least ONE comment! ;) Love the nicknames that you came up with! I saw Mr. Pee-Bag in action - I really could have done without that!!! Anyway, congrats again on an amazing effort - I know you'll finish RAO one of these days!

  2. Erin never ever be disappointed with what you accomplished!RAO is a huge undertaking at the best of times and very few people would ever dream of doing it solo.376 miles continuos is still an amazing feat!All we can do is take what we learned and build on that.And thanks for the kind words of acknowledgement-Doc Martin

  3. I'm so happy you found this! You're a real rock star!