Monday, June 1, 2009

Oregon 600K XTR - An Extra Special Ride

Now that was a ride!

The Oregon XTR was everything it was promised to be and more. Stunning scenery, grueling climbs, debilitating heat, fantastic support, and great riding companions. Who could ask for anything more?

More heat would definitely not be on anyone's request list. Certainly not mine. I am not a strong rider in the heat, and my lack of experience in the heat cost me. I took too many Endurolytes in the beginning, then too few. The too many caused stomach problems, which threw off my eating, the too few caused cramping. But I get ahead of myself.

The ride started at 4:30 AM. It was pleasant ... 60 or so. No need for arm/leg warmers or a jacket. The first 23 miles were essentially flat going along the Columbia river before beginning a long, gradual climb up Scott Canyon Road from Rufus. Wheat and wind farms greet us. Snakes are testament to the need for vigilance on the road ... and off. I pass over a small snake, perhaps a rattler, as it slithers towards the side.

By the time we reached Condon at mile 74 it was hot. We had enjoyed a brief secret control with Eric Ahlvin on the way... a cold V-8 hit the spot. Condon was not a destination spot ... we stopped at a run-down gas station with a small convenience section. Broken pop machine dispensed no ice or cold water for us. We made do with the meager selection and filled up our water bottles before heading to our next control at Spray ... fifty miles away with no services in between.

The ride to Spray was a lot of up and down - sustained climbing with nice descents, ending with a pleasant ride along a river valley. We reached Spray a bit after two. Vincent had a burger ... I didn't really have anything much to eat - some potato chips. Not a smart move, but my stomach was bothering me and I didn't want to risk losing it all. While the next section of the ride was a gradual uphill from here, it went downhill rapidly for me.

The 23 mile climb up to Keyes Creek Summit (4,369 feet) nearly did me in. The heat, the climb, the cramping, and lack of food led to major bonking ... I could go only a few miles at a time before I had to stop and recover. Finally, after laying down on the dirt and rocks on the side of the road, I forced down an Ensure. That turned the tide ... the temperature cooled down as the sun began to set, the grade lessened, and I felt better. Strong even.

My riding partner, Vincent, was a godsend. He patiently encouraged me to rest, to take my Endurolytes, and then, once I was recovering, to not overdo it. That was a challenge, as the sun was setting ... I wanted to get to the crest by sundown so we would have the twilight for the descent into Mitchell. We had been warned about deer crossing the road, so having some twilight was essential if we were going to descend with speed. We made it ... and it was gorgeous. The descent was a blast ... an effortless 30-35 mph that made one almost ... almost forget the pain of the climbing up.

David Rowe was manning the control at Mitchell ... and had food and drink that topped off my recovery. I was back. It was very pleasant sitting with my fellow randos in the park, talking of rides - past, present, and future. Ian Shopland, Rick Blacker, Erik Anderson, Mike Johnson, and Alex Kohan were among those there.

But the end was not getting any closer as we sat, so with three hours in the bank, we rigged for night riding and hit the road in what was now darkness. One more climb up to Ochoco Pass (4,731 feet), and then a long descent before we reached the overnight control at Prineville. David Rowe and Eric Ahlvin had put on wool and windbreakers for a cold descent a week earlier. That was overkill now. While I put on my sleeveless shell and a hat, I was comfortable without anything on my legs or arms. Maybe a bit cool, but that felt oh so nice after the heat of the day.

John Kramer and David Read were at the overnight control, serving up great pasta, garlic bread, beverages, and cheer. They got set us up in a room, offering a wake-up service! Wanting to take advantage of the coolness of the night, we stayed only a couple of hours - ate, showered, changed, and laid down for 45 minutes or so. No sleep, but definitely refreshed. We left at about 3:15 AM. 233 miles down, 143 miles to go!

A short overnight stop was definitely the right choice ... if anything we should have cut it shorter. Although Vincent was having stomach issues, we made good time from Prineville to Warm Springs. It being mostly downhill probably helped, but we felt good about our progress anyway.

We made it to Warm Springs while it was still cool, missed out on the ice though, but finished the long, slow climb before it turned hot. While we ate and rested at the Three Warriors Market, Peter Beeson, Bob Brudvik, Ole Mikkelsen, and Greg Courtney joined us. While we left before they did, they soon caught up and passed us. We rejoined them briefly in Maupin for drinks and ice cream at Graves Market.

It was now heating up and the last climb of the ride was ahead of us. A pleasant ride down the Deschutes River valley, with river rafters and steelhead fishermen along the way came first, then a brief (several miles) brutal climb up a baking, shadeless canyon.

No, that was not the end of the climb. Just an interlude through the Tygh valley. Still unbearably hot, so I knock on a farmhouse door to get permission to sit on the grass under a large tree. A short stop, but helpful. I would have asked for water as well, but the resident didn't seem receptive. So we stopped a few miles down the road ... no answer at the door there, but a sprinkler was going - standing in it felt great. Vincent filled up a water bottle to douse himself with later. It would soon come in handy!

A mile or so later the last climb really started - from my Garmin profile screen I could tell we had 6 or 7 miles of solid climbing ahead of us ... and Vincent's temperature gauge read 104. Besides being unbearably hot, I now had a nose bleed. I made it a couple of miles before I had to stop ... there were occasional trees off the side of the road ... with a little shade available before the sharp drop off the side. After climbing over the guardrail and checking for snakes, I sat down for a minute or two. Not a huge rest, but enough to let me catch my breath and calm down a bit. I repeated this a few times, with the distance between stops getting shorter and shorter. I could still see Vincent off in the distance ... now I couldn't handle riding as I was feeling a bit unsteady. So I decided I'd just walk the rest of the way up the hill - only two, three miles tops. It would be progress. After a mile or so, Scott Peterson drove up and stopped ... gave me a refreshing drink of ice cold water and filled up my water bottle with the cold water. That rejuvenated me enough that I was able to ride and walk the rest of the way to the top.

At the summit were a bunch of gallon jugs of water ... hot water, but water nonetheless. I refilled my containers and set off. Only 28 miles to go ... almost all downhill. No services along the way ... one small town with limited services a mile or so off course, but I did not want any extra miles at this point. Having ridden up the last stretch a couple of years ago on my first 1000K ride, I knew that it was a pleasant downhill, with shady spots and a stream. I had visions of cooling off my water bottle in the stream to chill the water for a cool drink. It didn't work, but the idea pulled me towards the end.

At five minutes to five, after 36 hours and 25 minutes, I reached the end. Over 20,00 feet of climbing and 23,000 calories burned. I was wiped. I briefly recovered in John's room - a beer and a slice of pizza, washed the blood, sweat, and grime off my face, and listened to the post ride chat for a bit. Then it was off to our room for a shower and sleep. I slept for about three hours before Vincent woke me for the four hour drive back home. Vincent filled me in on the ride results - 25 of the 27 riders finished.

What a great time!

The XTR was a special ride. The icing on the cake was the little things that John had done - a cut-down cardboard route sheet, double sided, color, and with various icons - a nifty brevet card that included a google map route overview and elevation profile - a personalized biker statuette - and a ride business card, complete with elevation profile. John and team - thanks for a great ride and a great memory!


tripieper said...

Yikes Geoff, sounds like it was a tough one! As usual though you pulled through the hard parts to make it a great experience. Well done! Amy

leaf slayer said...

Hey Geoff, I'm glad you made such a good recovery. I guess like Wiley you'd be in contention for the Beck Weathers award for this ride. Nice seeing you at controls. And nice write up.

I hope to make it up for a SIR ride one of these days.

Take care,