Bike across Washington: Part I – An unreasonable thing.

I recently found a map I had saved of a bicycle route across Washington from Canada, in the north to the south Washington border with Oregon. That map was saved in Nov 2010 and coincides closely with my purchase of a Cruzbike Silvio 1.0. TheRoute
This was a route across Washington, a record established and tracked by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association (UMCA) and I thought to myself ‘with this bike I could just about pull that off.’ But I never mentioned my fantasy of actually riding this route, let alone getting it officially recorded, to anyone. At least not seriously.

It’s a crazy and, for many people, unreasonable thing. Why would someone ride their bike for 12 hours, alone, as hard as they can, over there? But the fantasy persisted below the surface. ‘Ya know,’ I said to myself on many a morning commute, ‘there isn’t even a recumbent record established.’ – so what did I have to lose really?

Still it was too out there.

Then I took trusteeship of a Cruzbike Vendetta 2.0 and felt serious power and speed – whoa. Yeah…that unreasonable thing? It bubbled right up to the surface and boiled hard.

While my “base” of riding has been established over many years of commuting, I’ve done a handful of centuries and a couple of STP’s but only in the past 4-5 months have I learned well enough and trained hard enough to make this unreasonable thing actually happen.

And this isn’t a “simple ride report” because it was a team effort on a scale and scope that none of us had previously undertaken. And – as a point of interest – when you see these marksºº in the following text, recognize that as something I’ve only recently learned. This illustrates either a contribution made by friends and riders from all over the world (not joking) OR what comes from a focused dedication and commitment to an effort; it wasn’t much more than the time needed for experimentation, an open mind, and oh, an unreasonable thing on a rolling boil.

So, I coordinated a three man crewºº.

My cousin was The Official. He and I agreed to trade services; this July I’ll be his wingman on his first ever Seattle To Portland challenge. He told me about one week before my ride,

I’m not pulling any punches you know; I want to see you do well of course but I represent the UMCA and I will act accordingly. I’m taking this serious.

That gave me an adrenaline hit (and goosebumps as I write it) – perfect.

My Dad was The Crew Chief and navigation – he has an insanely good sense of direction, good mechanical awareness of my bikes, nearly as many years commuting by bike as I do, and (at the time I recruited him) a relatively open schedule. Lucky for me his new gig was flexible enough to allow him the day off. He and I learned a lot on a dry-run century a couple weeks earlierºº.
Oh yeah, and he’s pretty protective too.

My Brother’s role was a more nebulous, ‘rider support’. I thought of it as primarily nutrition and psychology. Despite the fact that our paths cross infrequently these days I don’t know that there is anyone who might understand and complement the layers and folds of my motivation better than him. Why I might care, when I don’t care, what might make me try harder, and what doesn’t work.

For Motivation
Several weeks before the ride I did the math on just the driving portion and came to about 26 hours in the car spread out over three days – I told them all they could bail now if they want, this was going to be an overlarge investment in time and tediousness. My brother replied with one sentence:

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Annnnnd that was an adrenaline hit; two months early.

For Psychology
When we were very young I urged him to dare me to swat a honeybee because I just knew I was faster than that bee. (another unreasonable thing?) He wouldn’t cave and I swatted anyway – I got stung. I think I’ve learned to listen to his reasoning better in the past 30 years but, I thought, it’s ok – this isn’t a huge deal mentally, it’s only like 13 hours on the bike, how much psychological help could I possibly need?

Skipping forward to the Thursday night before the race on Saturday – I had weeks of planning and preparation already in hand. So much in fact that on that night I had ‘free’ time riding on top of a mild foreboding.

Was I missing something big?
Perhaps I should have had that full overhaul?
What if I had a cable failure?
If I DID have to use my spare 10sp wheel, would it work well enough with that 11sp chain?
I tried it once but…I could have done more testing.
I’ve only ridden briefly in this past week; was that too much rest?ºº

I’m not much of a worrier and I pushed it all aside reminding myself that my list was complete and well consideredºº and besides, changing anything at this late hourºº was not a good idea. So, per advice from the indomitable Maria Parker, I made time for a good night’s sleep that night, expecting not to have much, or any, on RaceDay eve.ºº

The next morning, Friday, I reviewed all of our in-vehicle arrangements with my Crew Chief. We hugged my Mermaids good-bye and in a way I was bummed that they wouldn’t be able to share this with me. We concluded pretty early on that a long boring drive, with two kids, a dog, all that sweaty stank, and no “facilities” isn’t exactly their cup of tea. I couldn’t blame them – I tended to bail on Dance Conventions and epic feats of ‘playing house’ myself – this just isn’t their thing.

So, the Crew Chief and I drove over, picked up The Official, and arrived at the train station 10 min early to receive The Nutritionist. By noon – we were on our way.


(to be continued)

A record attempt

I can’t explain why I have resisted writing this down.
I love telling stories – but it’s a hard fantasy to share.

It’s the fantasy you invent when you’re 10, on the lower lawn, of a late summer evening, just before school starts. The sun’s almost down but you’ve got the ball and you can almost SEE yourself scoring that game winner.

I didn’t know then that the ball was a bike.

Let’s review
I’m committed.
…I’ve submitted the paperwork.
…paid the dues.
…and said it out loud (to a few).

I’m a decent event organizer.
…I’ve got a functioning list and a committed crew.
…but have I missed anything?
…we’ve never done this before.

I’ve got sufficient abilities
…I’ve spent good time training.
…but I might have done more? We can always do more.

But there are faster riders out there and I’m not even an “ultra-guy”?!
…I guess they aren’t here now.

And I’m not superstitious.
And I don’t dally with fate.
And I’m always telling my Mermaids some version of

You won’t know unless you try.

And I’m not even afraid, in the proper sense, for my safety or emotional health.
I don’t consider myself overly mindful of what others might say.

I am putting all ^that^ out there…right on the line.
Perhaps I’m afraid of results? No – I’ve never liked that phrase anyway.

The best I can figure is that NOT writing this down is a manifestation of the, often unspoken, reaction to the unknown.
It’s what happens to anyone and everyone before an event.
We tend to hear the stories related afterwards – rarely beforehand.
So I’ll take this long-winded, last-minute opportunity to buck that trend, to share, and to make things known.

Saturday, May 16th, I’m riding for a bonafide record.
The Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) record for cycling across the state of Washington, from North to South (roughly 255 miles), in as little time as possible.

Once I start, the clock doesn’t stop.

One ace in the hole is that no one has ever officially attempted this on a recumbent with the UMCA – so when I finish, whatever my time, I’ll establish the record for recumbents. Naturally I want to set the bar high – so I’m using the 10 year old record, set in 2006, by the 2003 Race Across America (RAAM) winner, Allen Larson, as my carrot.
He did it in under 12 hours – holy WOW.

I’ve been rehearsing my latest version of that late summer evening fantasy for many years while riding my commute; racing that bus, perfecting a corner, and hammering a straightaway.
Now, it’s gonna be real.

This became ‘real’ for me about a year ago with a humdinger story that I have yet to publish – just wait for the prequel. 😉

But the reality truly hardened out of loads of support provided by
– friendly competition with local riders (some I know, some I don’t)
– an international group of experts on Facebook who invited me in and shared their hard-won knowledge
– the community at Cruzbike whom I’ve leaned on for years
– and critically my family, at home and in my crew – no WAY I do this without you.

Thank you – this is going to be so cool!

Many of us never get (or take) the opportunity to fulfill those fantasies from a late summer evening
…because we “grow up”.
…or life takes over.
…or we simply don’t try when we are afraid.

Six days away and I’m waking up with butterflies.
I suppose that’s afraid, but I’m not that fragile, and afraid’s not the opposite of trying.