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.

7 comments:

Jill said...

Awesome ride report, David. Thank you for sharing!

It's interesting how many seemingly water-borne bugs got to racers on the Divide this year. I guess when you get so much of your water from questionable sources, you're really playing the odds, and it's hard to be perfect every time.

Hank said...

My hat is off to you. Thanks for sharing your story.

What does it mean to "share a pilot car"?

David Blaine said...

A pilot car is used in construction zones to guide traffic through dangerous areas. Sometimes it is required that cyclists ride in the pilot car. Last year it was decided that it is not breaking the "forward progress" rule partly because it takes more time in the car than it would to bike it.

Josh said...

David, props to you. I read about your journey in the Inlander and found myself intrigued enough to keep tabs on a complete stranger throughout the race. Appreciate the story and look forward to hearing more about the Midnight Century.

Jimbo said...

Thanks for the write up very interesting. I was wondering about my filter verses a chemical tabs. Think I'll stick with the extra weight and be safe!

Glad you are ok and ready to do it again right?

sifter said...

Glad I finally bumped into this write up David! Nice to see some photos of Simon in there. You all had a large number of Kiwis hanging on any news day after day! Well done on your valiant attempt. Reading about it really doesn't convey how tough it actually is, while I leave Simon's slideshows absolutely astounded at what a huge challenge you guys set yourselves.

All the best
John

Wellington, New Zealand

Phredhe said...

Great interesting reading! Thanks!