Monday, July 28, 2008

My GDR Ride Report

I rode to Eureka, Montana from my home in Spokane, Washington. It was a nice transition from frantic last minute preperation to the hours of enjoyable biking that I would be experiencing for the next two weeks. I spent a couple of days in Eureka hanging out with Rainer, Jenn, Simon, Geoff and Carl. I did not know then that these same people would be a big part of my race as well. The relaxed comraderie of this time disappeared at the start.
The start was not unlike the start of any other race; nervous and fidgity. After the start I kept telling myself to slow down. There were five single speeders and I did not want to jump to the front at the start and then get passed later on. By the time I started climbing Whitefish Divide I felt like I had gotten into my groove and enjoyed riding alone for the next couple of hours. I caught up to Simon right before the red meadow snow section and enjoyed talking with him before he took off on the descent into Whitefish.
I ran into Simon again outside of Whitefish. I stopped for food at a conveinance store and then ran into Geoff who had gone into Whitefish for burgers. I thought the route went through Whitefish so I was disappointed to hear that I missed my chance for hot food. Geoff dropped into his aero bars and sped off for Tom Arnone's place. When I stopped in Columbia Falls to make the call-in I missed in Whitefish, I ran into Andrew and we rode to Arnone's together as the sun was setting.
The Arnone's are great hosts and I drank some pepsi (bad mistake to have caffeine so late) and ate rhubarb pie. Everyone was still antsy so it was hard to get to sleep and it was made worse by the frequent arrivals of more riders. I think 10 out of 18 riders were sleeping at mile 121.
The Echo Valley cafe attracted the riders for a hot breakfast. I was still not feeling in the groove of the race and had not developed the ability to eat large amounts of food. I left a half eaten plate of pancakes and headed out knowing it was going to be a tough day if I was to get to Seeley Lake.
I was starting to realize that everyone had the same goals and we would be finding ourselves in the same towns at the end of the day. The first obstacle that would break up the field would be Richmond peak. Coming at the end of day two and covered in snow, there was a chance that some of the people would not make it over until the next day. A short stretch of fallen trees and some off-camber snow that caused me to fall down several times made it slow going over the top but a steady pace and limited off bike time through out the day got me into Seeley Lake at 8:30 pm. I was hungry and was feeling confidant. I ran into Geoff who was going to ride another 20 miles into Ovando but I wanted to make up for the bad night of sleep by getting a hotel room. Showering, washing my clothes and sleeping 7 solid hours had me feeling great by the next morning.
I left Seeley Lake and ran into Jenn who had gotten into Seeley Lake late at night and missed out on getting a room or hot food. In Ovando I caught up with Geoff, Simon, Carl, Fred, and Cullen. They were sitting in a cafe. They had been waiting so long for their food that Simon ate toast off of a plate after some customers left. I skipped the breakfast and had some coffee. The Ovando boys had a bad night of sleep due to some sprinklers going off and then morning rain showers. Geoff mentioned how wet his sleeping bag got just in the short time it took for him to get out of it and run under an awning. By the time we left Rainer and Jenn showed up and both decided to stay for breakfast.
I think I felt fresher than the others and found myself riding off of the front over Huckleberry Pass. I felt really good and enjoyed the riding. Scenic climbs with some great descents. The climbing was perfect for my gearing. I could climb without getting out of the saddle and without doing any heavy breathing. I did not stop much becuase I never felt tired but I started getting a bad sound from my freewheel after riding through a stream. Some chain lube fixed it but I decided I should get a new freewheel sent to me. I decided Pinedale was my safest because out in these parts overnight shipping can take three days. Geoff and I met up again in Helena at 6:30 p.m. and decided that we would be foolish to stop so early in the day so after some Hardee's burgers we headed towards Basin. The foolish part was not knowing that the Lava Mountain Trail is one of the worst sections to night ride. During a thunder storm we found ourselves lost. We had been following John Nobile's tracks but discovered he had ridden every single trail at least twice. Later I he told me he was lost for 3 hours which did make me feel better. Geoff and I made it into basin at 2:30 a.m. and could not find a motel. Geoff's sleeping bag was still soaking wet from Ovando and we were both cold and wet. We found a cramped shower room at an RV park that was warm (but with a wet floor). We locked ourselves inside and tried to sleep. Geoff slept while I listened to him snore. At 5:00 a.m I got up and road into Butte.
During the ride into Butte I was angry with myself for not sticking to my game plan. The problem was that I could not stop thinking about the mistake. I tried to cheer myself up, I tried to meditate, I tried anything to get out of the feeling that I had just blown the whole race.
In Butte I got some Burger King breakfast and iced my knees as a precaution even though they still felt good. Geoff rolled into town just as I was heading out. On the way out I stopped at the bike shop to get some new gloves and ran into John Nobile. He was not in cycling clothes. He explained he was not feeling well and was taking a half day.
I left Butte feeling a lot better as I looked at the trail in front of me and realized there were no tracks to follow because I was in front. Despite knowing that this would not last it worked to get rid of the malaise that was pestering me.
Just before Fleecer Mountain, Geoff and John caught up to me. John was still struggling and Geoff and I road away from him up the long approach to the mountain. Geoff and John both continued on after Wise River but I decided to stay because I was determined to stick to my gameplan- no more improvisation.
Simon, Rainer, Carl and Jenn rolled into Wise River later that night and we all were on the road again before dawn. After getting a lot of sleep and eating several dinners, I was rolling along pretty good. I only stopped once during the 145 mile ride to Lima. I spent 20 minutes in a rare bit of shade and a typical lunch of pepsi, turkey sandwich and frito's chips. By this time I was realizing that you can't eat bars and candy day after day. I also realized that I did not like eating hourly like I normally do during long rides. I was content to eat 4-5 big meals. In the mornings I would drink 2 Starbuck's frappucino's, some orange juice and a Little Debbie coffee cake. If I was lucky I could get some hot breakfast several hours down the way. Lunch was usually something I had picked up the day before like a sandwich. I always had pepsi during the middle of the day. I was drinking 3 liters a day. I can't argue with what my body wants. Geoff turned me onto Frito's, they have a ridiculous amount of calories for the weight. By noon all I could think about was hamburgers or hot dogs. If no restaurants were available I would eat heavy food. Some food from the grocery store was too heavy to carry with me so I would only buy them if I could eat them right away. Cans of fruit and big tubs of rice pudding were my favorite heavy foods.

By this time in the ride the body is collecting some issues. I cut my finger trying to cut up a towel for cleaning my chain. My mouth was always dry forcing me to drink water everytime I needed to swallow a mouthful of Pay Day bar. The throat was sore from the dry air and dust so sucking on Ricolla cough drops was an all day activity. I developed a bit of a cough which I discovered was something everyone suffered with. And my back side was not without it's wear and tear but my dilegant cleaning with wet naps and nearly daily showering kept me saddle sore free. I also used a powder of goldenseal and myrhh which was a formula that succesfully took care of my daughter's diaper rash when she was a baby.
Bandanas have many uses during the GDR. Fighting the dust when cars pass on dirt roads being one of the most important.
Being an Idaho native, I was happy to spend a beautiful afternoon crossing this distant corner of the Gem State.
After the easy day into Lima, I was feeling good about doing the 165 miles into Flagg ranch. things went well despite a tunnel cave in that was a little sketchy to cross and the sandy 30 mile rail trail that was not as bad as I expected but definitely took it's toll.
By the time I got through the mosquitto-infested snow and mud section of Ashton-Flagg road I was tired not exhausted just tired. I slept in until 7:00 a.m (my latest start) and ran into Carl. We rode at different speeds but got breakfast together, and then shared a pilot car, enjoyed the brooks lake snow and had lunch later in the day on Union Pass.
The snow did slow things down but I feel like it did not make a big difference in the overall picture. The only time I curse the snow was when a great downhill was ruined with snow and mud. Brooks Lake had some extra sticky mud that I had to stop and peel away from my forks but overall the descent was good fun.
I was not as happy with the Union Pass descent. You go up 30 feet for every 40 feet you go down. It can't even be called a descent.
By the time I got over Union pass I was getting some unfamiliar knee pain. At the end of the day I was forced to pedal one legged because my right knee was so uncooperative.
With my knee pain and the freewheel package in town, I decided that I may want to take some time to get right in Pinedale. After I had breakfast with Carl. I went to the laundromat and did some maintenence on my bike while my clothes turned the washing machine water into mud. I ate two lunches and bought some ice cream and checked into a motel. After a shower and a two hour nap I was laying there watching Kindergarten Cop and eating Ben and Jerry's when I realized that I had to leave. It felt wrong to take a day off. Ten minutes later I was catching the tailwind into Boulder.
In Boulder I ran into Simon and Jenn. Both of them were easily able to diagnose my knee pain and offered some advice that turned out to be the magic bullet. The bike was tuned up and riding great and I was filled with hope that my knee pain was simple enough to take care. I had lots of energy (Ben and Jerry's?) and took off for Atlantic City. Simon and Jenn's day started at the base of Union Pass so they were not looking to go as far as I was so I rode off without them. I got as far as a rest stop on the highway before South Pass City. Jenn and Simon got an extra early start and caught up to me at the rest stop as I was getting ready to leave. We had breakfast in Atlantic City together. Simon was sick to his stomache so he stayed behind as Jenn and I headed out for Rawlings.
Jenn started her day earlier than I did and would have to do more mileage to get across the Great basin in one day but we were both motivated to get it over with. I took a break every couple of hours to stretch and was amazed at how well it took care of my knee pain.
By the time I got to Sooner Road I realized that there was a chance to get to Rawlings before 10:00 p.m. and I went into time trial mode.
The Great Basin isn't a difficult section of route to ride but it plays with your mind. Hour after hour without any sign of human life. The road is always disappearing into an endless horizon. There is no shade, no protection from the wind. Then you get to Rawlings and all of the services are off route and you don't realize this until you end up on the wrong side of town from the motels, restaurants and stores. Luckily there was a Domino's pizza about ready to close. I ate a 14 inch pizza and celebrated getting through a couple of rough days.
Leaving Rawlings I was happy that my energy level was high, my legs felt great and my bike was functioning perfect. Colorado was near and I was determined to get out of Wyoming. Just after getting into Colorado I stopped at the bottom of Slater Creek to get some water when I found myself running into the bushes. Something was wrong with my digestion but I asumed it was some bad food and the problem would pass quickly. During the long hot climb up Slater Creek I was getting more and more tired. Deep, all over fatigue. I was happy to come across the Henricksen family's sign welcoming all GDR/TD racers. I sat on the porch with them sipping on a pepsi and eating a banana. When I left I was wondering if I should have stayed longer because the day was getting hotter and I was getting slower.
This is how I looked as I walked along flat roads trying to sip gatorade.
By the time I got to the Hahn Mountain Road. My brain was in a deep fog and I was marching along with very little enthusiasm.
I made it down Sand Mountain despite struggling with low light, rocky terrain and snow/mud sections.
Once it got dark I stopped at a house and asked to sleep in their yard. They were very interested in the race and made me soup and a hot dog. This was just one of many examples of how nice people are along the route. It really has restored some of my faith in humans.
The next morning I rode/walked the 20 miles into Steamboat. I had hoped that some food and rest would put me back on track but when I started throwing up everything I ate I started losing hope. Things got worse through the night and by morning I had soaked the bed with sweat and I would start blacking out seconds after standing up.
Isabella from the Nordic Motel drove me to the hospital and stored my bike at the motel for me. After a few hours in the ER I was admitted to the hospital and spent the next three days on an I.V., getting anti-nausea drugs and a heavy duty antibiotic. Two days after getting out of the hospital I was back at home but I would be sick for the next week and a half. They weighed me when I got into the hospital and I had only lost 4 pounds since the start of the race but before it was all over I lost 18 pounds. Two rounds of tests were not able to pinpoint a specific bacteria or parasite despite showing a high White Blood Cell Count.

Looking back on the race I wouldn't change my game plan or equipment choices with one exception. I was using a liquid water treatment because it was lighter than a filter. the problem is that I had to dip my bottle and hands into the streams to fill them up. It would have been easier and cleaner to use a filter. Hygiene is difficult during this type of event and I think that a filter could have helped.

The Midnight Century 2008

As soon as I do my pathetic litle GDR write-up I will be abandoning this site and unveiling something new. I haven't tied up the loose strings here because I have been getting the route ready for the fifth annual Midnight Century. This ride assumes each rider has a working understanding of The Centennial Trail between Spokane and the state line as well as The Fish Lake trail between Cheney and Spokane.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vacation Slideshow Time

The full story is still pending but I do have a vacation slide show that tells the story as well as my babbling could. Check out the whole thing at my GDR Flickr page. Click on the picture after the slideshow starts to get the captions. Above is a picture that Simon Kennet of New Zealand took of me as we pushed through the snow at Red Meadow Lake on the first day of the race.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The End

A full write-up on my experiences will be coming, but for now I would like to give some details about my departure.
Despite having some knee problems in Wyoming I had high hopes and lots of energy heading into Colorado. Once in Colorado, I realized I wasn't digesting my food right and my energy disappeared. By the time I crawled into Steamboat I knew I had more than a sour stomach. I got a motel room and hoped to take a day to recover.
By morning, I was in a terrible state. I was no longer thinking about the race I was just hoping to get myself to a hospital. I was extremely fortunate that I was in a town with medical service when this happened. Isabella from the Nordic Motel took me to the Emergency Room and within a minute I was getting hooked up to an I.V.
My fever was 104 degrees when I was in the ER and remained above 100 for more than 24 hours. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days and was given an antibiotic that has wiped me out more than any day on the Great Divide.
The initial test for Giardia was negative but all other possible bacteria are still pending. At this point it is just as likely that it is Salmonella or E. Coli as a waterborne illness.
It is sad to think about not finishing the race but I really did have a good time while I was in it. The biggest surprise was the camaraderie that I experienced during the ride. The times that I shared with Geoff, Simon, Carl and Jenn will always be my favorites.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Where's David?

Note: The race begins June 20th at noon.
As a nice little surprise before my departure. Dave and Heather sprung for a Spot Satellite Tracking device. This is a first generation unit which makes it both heavy and impressive. You can go to my SpotCasting page and see a Google map of my progress. If you right click (control-click on mac) the latest spot message it will give you a menu that includes elevation profile; which should explain why I am moving so slow. The terrain feature is a really nice way to look at the map but the satellite will show the beautiful scenery I am enjoying.
I have been playing around with this unit for a couple of days and it is really simple to use. I just turn it on every day and it begins transmitting every ten minutes. Not every message goes through due to clouds, trees, canyons, etc. but from the bike riders I have seen using the system it does a very good job.
The unit and service are quite expensive so If you are around the Bistro drop a few bucks in the bucket to help with the cost.
P.S. I just noticed the Google Quote of the day.

"The best way out is always through." Robert Frost

Phot0: Ben Tobin

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Verbal High Fives

Time for me to get this bike ride under way. To follow along, check the Great Divide Race and MTBCast websites. There are 24 call-in points along the route so there is regular updating of the racers positions. Also check out the Endurance Forum because there is always some good info about the race including the occasional spreadsheet analyzing the race.
Be aware that this year there are two races. The Tour Divide starts a week earlier and adds the Canadian extension from Banff. I am not in the Tour Divide I am in the Great Divide Race. Got it?
Now it is time for me to insert the "thank you to all those that have helped" though these words hardly cover the debt I owe. It is humbling to realize just how many people make some kind of effort to get me to the start of this event.
Erica and Lydia...I have tried to write this sentence so many times that the delete button may be getting worn out. There is nothing that I can say that matches the feeling I have for the support they provide. My only goal is to make them proud.
My parents and siblings have allowed me to hijack holiday dinners with monologues about Wyoming weather patterns, down versus synthetic and bike frame engineering. Next year we can go back to talking about other subjects not related to the GDR.
Dave and Heather Dupree (my bosses) didn't even blink when I told them I was going to go M.I.A. during the busiest time of the year. I have the best job in better still be there when I get back.
Brian from Mountain Gear who keeps me in line with his admonishing about my lack of bicycle maintenance as well as keeping me warm and dry with the best outdoor gear and clothing.
Dave Nelson who gives me free bike parts and if that wasn't enough also maintains the local trails so that I can ride those components into the ground.
Simon from Wheelsport
Tom McFadden (the best mechanic in town)
Jeff Boatman from Carousel Design Works
Ben Tobin the only training partner I have ever had. There were a lot of rides and a lot of laughs together in the last year and a half. Now this is over no more long road rides on mountain bikes. Dirt! Dirt! Dirt!
In about two minutes I will think of a dozen more people like BumbleBar and Cateye who have helped me and the numerous people I have met through this project. It really is a bike community. Verbal High Five to Everyone.

Monday, June 9, 2008

GDR 08 Gear List

For those interested in this sort of thing, here is my gear list for the GDR:

Independant Fabrications Steel Deluxe 29er with Rock Shox Reba Race
Phil Wood hubs/ DT Swiss tk7.1 rims, WTB Nanoraptor tires
Race Face SS Crank with Surly Chainring and Wipperman Chain; ACS Freewheel
Time ATAC pedals Sidi Dominator Shoes
Surly Torsion Bar with Ergon Grips
Thompson Stem and Seatpost with an old WTB Laser V Saddle
Avid BB7 Front Brake, Paul Comp Brakes Rear, Paul Comp Love Levers

Carousel Design Works Seatbag, Handlebar Bag, Frame Bag and Map Case
Wingnut Adventure Backpack
Three Water Bottle Cages and Three Platypus Hydration Bags
Klearwater Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment
Two Cat Eye Enduro Computers
Princton Tec EOS Headlamp and NIte Rider LED Handlebar Light
4 tubes, 6 patch kits, chain lube
Black Diamond Lightsabre Bivy
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45 Sleeping Bag
Thermarest prolite 3 Short pad
Two pairs of shorts
1 full zip jersey with base layer
two pairs of smartwool socks
showers pass rain pants
O2 rain jacket
lightweight smartwool longsleeve shirt and pants
Neoprene Booties
arm and leg warmers
warm gloves, fingerless gloves
sunglasses with tinted and clear lenses
multi tool, leatherman, nail clippers and zip ties, duct tape
sunscreen, toliet paper, benedryl, toothbrush, tooth powder, Dr. Bronner's Soap, Bag Balm
bike hat, warm hat
small notebook, pen, calling card
credit card and money.

As for the weight, I do not know. I have made decisions independent of total weight. I did not ignore the weight issue when choosing products but I never got carried away with it. Everything I am using is an old familiar favorite. Whereas my GDR run may be a one time event I do look forward to continuing my love of bike touring. This bike and this equipment will see many miles beyond the end of the race so durability is key.
Some last minute reconsideration is taking place with the weather looking so wet and so cold. I have already added the neoprene booties and may add a midweight smartwool shirt and trade out the O2 rain jacket for my Arc Teryx with a hood that fits over my helmet.