HooDoo 500 2015 – Day 2

Captain’s log – 5AM

Eat these
What the…? Ewww?! Kalamata olives?
Yes – each one has more sodium than a whole pickle.
Do you want cramps again?
Then eat.
But I don’t eat before I ride.
Ok, ok.

It’s worth saying now that TheChief’s diligence with my sodium, other electrolytes, fluids, cooling, and overall nutritional intake meant I wouldn’t see cramps again for the REMAINDER of the ride.
Don’t argue with results, or your crew chief; especially when they are on the same side.
Hint: They usually are.

With 10 min to GO TIME I learned Rich was DNF.
His back was acting up, and he said later that he felt guilty for not continuing to fly the recumbent banner.
I was glad to enjoy his company and benefit from his expertise while I could. He provided more valuable knowledge as a parting shot,

After the big climb, you’ve got the descent and then at least 40 or more miles of flats, into a 15mph headwind. You should be able to make up time on the leaders there and, hell, a flat or two and you are right back in this.

With that news I was off on a 1% downgrade for the better part of 5 miles.

I started off at 150W and immediately had David and Shawn on my tail.
I felt amazingly good so I kept the power on up to an easy 160/170W and I was clipping along just shy of 30 mph.
The uprights didn’t stay on long. They sat up off my meager draft at mile 2 and were out of sight before the hills started.

I made my way to the top of the first significant climb of the morning and Shawn and David were just coming into my mirror.
I blew through some very steep descents that followed and put distance back on the leaders.

The steep short hills started and I went full granny (34/28) – [Blerp]…I dropped my chain.


Got it back on.
On the gas; [blerp] off again!
Back on…
…Back off.

Something is wrong.

I pulled over to fully inspect and the overall leaders climb past.
Their crews stop too and we commiserate.

I adjust my front derailer – doesn’t change much but it get’s me back on the ride, hands greasy as hell, and it seems fine – musta fixed it.
Another small descent and then back to granny low.

[Blerp] – arghhh!

This time I am alone and I somehow manage to channel a *real* bike mechanic mindset (aka common sense) and inspect the chain-line.
Bingo! One link is spread wide.
In retrospect, later than night, I realized THAT was probably the cause of my chain skipping, on the back, on day one. I forgot to look into it last night.

TheChief comes alongside and I get a chain break but when I start to take it apart the link seats again.
I call it good and ask that she stay close for a while.

Easily a full 10 minutes behind the leaders I settle into a game of What’s My Wattage!
The climb has begun in earnest and I’m shooting for maintaining constant, unrelenting, never-ending power – 150 would be nice.
My cassette, an 11-28 designed for flatter lands, means I frequently pushed north of 200 but, on average, I came pretty close to my target.

I slogged the hill, hardly stopping, mostly on target, expecting another upright rider to pass me. It never happened.
My legs felt good, my HR was fine, and I even managed a few scant looks at the view.

Bloody hell! This is high.

Staircase Escalante in the distance

During the last 10 miles of the climb (yes it is a 20+ mile climb) I split the chain again – I heard the ping on a nearly 400W hill-wobble.
I called ahead to support – glad to have cell service – and walked for about seven minutes.
This time I knew what to do. Reset the pin, don’t push over 350W (shouldn’t be an issue eh?), and keep the tools with me.

It wouldn’t split again that day and before much longer, I summited the climb.


The descents now are every bit as serious as the climbs. A casual conversation with Maria on Thursday served me well. In summary, on a long fast descent, to safely shed speed; pump the rear brake three times, pump the front three times, rinse and repeat.

When I had a good view, I let her run – 50-55mph was the norm.
Without good sightlines – I rinsed and repeated and STILL hit 58mph.
The roads were well maintained, not too many bumps.
The cattle guards were usually oddly placed, bit of a buzz to the head.
The cliffs? Very shear.

In the high mountains

Suddenly, a strange hissing noise greeted my right ear…nothing quite like the sound of depressurization, of any sort, on a very fast descent to make your heart rate climb.
Lucky for me it was just my ear canal.

Turning towards Loa; Oh look, A field full of beehives.
When have I seen…?…Oh $#!t!
There is something peculiarly unnerving about knowing you are about to enter a bee-freeway at high speeds; speeds bees don’t like.
I actually bared down on the bars, closed my mouth, and braced for impact;
4 honey bees met their Queen in the following 3 seconds.
Many hours later, TheChief plucked one out of my head-dress.

After Loa, I turned into the wind, I didn’t recognize it as “the flats” until I came upon Angle Lake.
I should have recognized it though, by the wind.
While ferocious, it was not completely debilitating as I still managed between 16-18mph most of the way.
The next morning, awaiting the start of day 3, the leaders Shawn and David told me they were experiencing the wind in a much different way.

David: Very tough and long.
Shawn: MY GOD! That was Soul crushing!
David: How did you manage? Any troubles with that rear disc?
Lief: Not really, I mean yeah I noticed the wind for sure, head on like that, it certainly put me down a few pegs; between 16 and 18mph.
Shawn: Oh MY GOD…I was doing like 12! I was just angry!

So, comparitively, I made good time on the windy flats.
Oddly enough, probably my favorite section of the entire ride was this little 10 mile dogleg, with the wind!, on what felt like the smoothest, flattest, looping-est section of road all week – right in the middle of this windy ass slog – it really broke up the hard ride nicely, and ended too soon.

The only other bits to say about The Windy Flats into Panguitch were;

One – Mosquitoes
If not for TheChief I wouldn’t have known it, but the far end of Angle Lake had an insane concentration of mosquitoes.
When I stopped to request a bottle TheChief, for once and for only, lost her cool.
She couldn’t get to the tailgate without the escort of a full mosquito battalion.
She swatted and waved and kept right on moving for my sake and hers and although we were only on site for a minute while she got my fuel, she spent the next hour bringing the battalion to it’s knees in the cabin of the follow vehicle. She had more than a few bites to show for it and there were still remnants on the dash when we dropped off the rental a week later.

Two – my low point.
It was earlier in day 2 when I had finally stopped my 100% liquid (while riding) diet. I was rewarding myself with some small bites of candy and I’d tried a swig or two of different “energy” drinks – as much for the flavor and variety as anything. But sometime after the lovely dogleg, there was an ascent. Being pretty low, the sun was hot and I was at the crap-end of two days of hard riding – my most ever.
I stopped unexpectedly.

What do you need?”
I don’t know.”
uhhhh, ok – whaddya mean?”
I don’t know.”
ok?? So…yer good on water, you need some more pills, let’s change your food since you’ve stopped. Ok – so…um…Yer doing great honey!
I don’t know.
You don’t know what?
I don’t know…what to do.
How’s your wattage.
I don’t know.
Ok, I think you just need to keep on riding; Yer doing REALLY good!

I didn’t feel ‘bad’ per se, I certainly didn’t feel good. I’ve felt worse in my life but I just didn’t…really…care.

I have tons of respect, reflecting on a moment like this, when I consider the depths plumbed by the solo riders; Ben, Maria, and the others, getting through the doldrums of a 45 hour ride. Wow.

MUCH respect.

Solo Mio!

I probably took a shot of pickle juice, TheChief smartly withheld the coffee+milk energy drink, maybe I hadda couple peanut M&M’s and I got back on the horse and just kept swimming into the wind.
I came out of my funk a few miles later and finished the last 10 miles pretty strong – I cared again.

In that last 70-80 miles, I probably gained some 40 minutes on the leaders and finished, again 3rd, 20 min behind second place.
Without my problem chain earlier in the day – it might have been closer to 10, perhaps damn-near squared-up for 2nd place. That’s good.

So, that night I had a second-rate club sandwich, another flagon of 3rd rate lemonade, a dollop of social media, and a twenty minute communal between my chain and my glutes – you know it took damn near as long to squat down on the floor as it did to break the chain and install a master-link!

I also managed a pretty terrible nights sleep – the air conditioner was SOOPER loud, I had to turn it off.
The room then got too warm, and after struggling to nod off at about 11PM I woke without an alarm at 4:30.

My strava page for stage 2

To be continued…

Total Lunar Eclipse 2015

A few of us went out to an easterly facing hill this evening to see a “blood moonrise”.
There was a good looking haze on the horizon – it might be good.

Then the keenest observer among us said

I see something

And sure enough – this is what she saw.

(full disclosure: this is 4 layers of the same image stacked and multiplied to get proper saturation)
BopOp, this is the best I had with “trees in the foreground”. :)

Most of my other pictures came out pretty meh…

This one, about 40 minutes later turned out pretty good.
Another 2 image stack, multiplied, to take out the hazy/noisy background.
Pretty Red
Click on the images to see bigger versions.

HooDoo 500 2015 – Prologue and Day 1

Before I get going – and this sucker is kinda long (sigh) – I’d like to start with some thanks.

  • Thank you to Maria and Jim Parker for trusting me, in May of 2014, with a special, game-changing, treat.
  • Thank you to my brother, my cousin, and my dad – as my first ‘crew’ they saw me through my first ultra-event and from that (and discussion afterward) I learned a bunch of things I applied to my training and directly to the HooDoo 500 – my longest event evahhhh!.
  • Thank you to my mom, her sisters, and several other friends and family members who worry. They make me remember to be cautious and safe.
  • Thank you to my many online (and a few local) biking friends, the Cruzbike Tribe, and IRTG – your advice and expertise pointed me towards so many solutions to problems I did (or would) have – I can’t even count them all.
  • Thank you to my in-laws, whose home base in St. George was an absolute oasis for my family during a somewhat chaotic and anxious time (for me anyway).
  • Thank you to my daughters – for putting up with my absence on many a weekend day spent riding or recovering – we watched a lot of movies. :)


  • Thank you to my wife – for almost all of the above PLUS being my very own uber-attentive, self-sacrificing, and endlessly positive Crew Chief for 520 miles over three days.

Wow – you guys are awesome.
But…this isn’t an Academy Award fer cryin’ out loud so, without further ado…

The Bike

Vendetta 2.0
11 speed (11-28) cassette
Compact double Q-rings (50/34) – which I’m told is like a 52/36 during power
SRAM Rival 165mm cranks
Schwalbe ONE clinchers (latex tubes) – 110PSI each morning
Rear disc (homemade covers)
Scabinetguy special headrest cage mount (AWESOME!)
Tube, minimal tools, phone, etc in a large topeak bag
Straight drop bars
Dry weight ~25+ lbs

Rider weight 12 hrs before the race – 168lbs
Rider weight 24 hrs after the race – 173lbs

The Prologue

It may not sound like much, if you’ve not done it, but shipping a bike and the necessary supplies, with redundancy, shipped separately,
for racing over three days,
in another state…
…is a lot of effort.

I did it willingly, and I wouldn’t have missed it but, be ready – it’s work.

Lucky for me, having family only 2 miles from the start/finish line meant I had the time and a place (air conditioned auto shop) to get set up and do a couple test rides. They were my first rides in about a week.

Stage 1

At the starting line I found my way next to Rich Putich on his Bachetta CA2 and, after a grand send-off, we started on the 10 mile lead-out through town.
HooDoo Start
We hung back and started talking respective strategies in hesitant, competitive terms. I was not confident in my abilities over a course of this magnitude; I mostly wanted to make a good showing and not bonk or be pitiful in any way. Recumbents can climb.
Rich had pre-driven the course and had well-thought-out plans in place to change his wheels quickly to suit the terrain – namely aero (disc) wheels for the flats and descents and lighter wheels for the climbs. It’s probably a good idea to pre-drive a course if it’s new to you – his knowledge of what was coming was a boon.

My general idea was to maintain an average of 150-160 watts and stop less frequently. I thought reducing my total stoppage time and lowering my typical “training” wattage output my overall time would be better over the course of three days.

When the 10 mile lead-out was over, the “race” began, Rich surged with two strong looking upright riders, Shawn and David, and made his way to the front. I latched on and settled into 4th place. After trading pulls with Rich, at the first real hill I was in front. Shawn told David, “go ahead and pass them now – I think we can climb faster”.

I’m not gonna lie – he was right – and it was exactly what I didn’t want to happen.

As Shawn and David slowly pulled away from us I resolved to maintain my wattage and endurance targets. I fully expected the remainder of the field to catch up.
Just then Rich spoke my thoughts out loud “We’ll catch them on the 40 miles of flats to come.”

I felt reassured until, moments later, I realized I didn’t have any electrolytes – I suddenly didn’t feel reassured.
I’d have to get some from TheChief at the 90 minute mark.

Rich and I tried settling into a pattern of 3 min pulls and I considered modifying my bottle exchanges to every hour to match his. I thought if our stop times were synchronized it would increase our ability to work together and decrease stops, but I maintained 2 hour slots as good enough.

TheChief and I muffed our first-ever handoff. Note: practicing hand-offs was on the list but was never done. Racing/crewing rookies should always practice this skill ahead of time. Probably take about 5-10 min to get good enough. During the race, it took probably 5 or 6 attempts (that’s about 7-8 hours of a race day) to get good enough – by day three though…we were machines.

A slow-ish handoffs and a hill – Rich pulled ahead.
A change to his aero-wheels – I pulled ahead.
Second verse, same as the first.
We merged up again just as Shawn and David appeared on the horizon.

A couple of harder pulls (210W in front, 170W in back) brought us up to 300 yards and Rich went to the front so we’d intentionally blow past them at 260W/220W at ~30mph. We agreed they shouldn’t be able to latch on.
Leaving them behind with about 20 miles of flats to go I noticed that that my cassette was erratically skipping, half-shifting. Enough to be bothersome – but not problematic.
I’d check it out that night.

HooDoo Rolling in the Deep

Near mile 60 I started feeling twinges and cramps – Not a good sign.
Rich was riding strong but I had to back off and do some cramp management; soft-pedaling.

Based on a tip from the day before TheChief had stocked a jar of pickles and a visine-sized dropper of sea water. By the time I hit mile 80 I felt pretty bad. Rich had taken a sizeable lead and I was getting overheated. My legs were cramping in front and also in my hamstrings. TheChief insisted that I increase my salt intake by 2-3 times. I stretched a bit and after only a 5 min break Shawn and David passed me by.

I viewed that as the beginning of the end of being competitive.

10 miles later I’d again bridged up to Rich and we reeled Shawn and David right back in – at the start of the major climb of the day. Shawn and David took a wrong turn so Rich and I took the lead up the hill – for about 20 minutes. Rich pulled away from me and when Shawn and David passed me they looked like a million bucks. I felt like a mangy dog but amazingly my cramps were beginning to flat-line.

I rode patiently and waited for the inevitable DF riders from behind to catch me on this long, uphill slog.
To maintain any speed I was pushing ~180W and I was sure I wouldn’t last.
I backed off a bit further.

My memory is hazy in here but I remember catching up to Rich again, my cramps nearly resolved, somewhere between 130 and 160.
I noticed on some descents that I thought I might be rolling faster than him but couldn’t be sure.

Rich said the most brutal climb of day one was pending and he thought we wouldn’t catch the leaders that day.
His crew chief confirmed; we were an astounding 13-17 miles behind the leaders – wow.
Further, we were perhaps that far in front of the next racer – WOW!

We rode the Bryce Canyon uphill rollers together and kibitzed (between gasps) about recumbents and the view. Rich pulled ahead at the end of the Bryce Canyon trail and it took an effort to retrieve him.

Nearing mile 180 we agreed to finish together, neither of us felt like “racing” the other one up the hill.

We rode together until I couldn’t maintain his spinning pace with my 11-28 cassette.
Rich had, early that morning, graciously offered his spare 11-36 cassette to me but it wasn’t plausible at this point because that alteration would require more chain, a longer derailer, and a 10sp shifter.

I’d resolved to suffer the steeps my way.

In the last 5 miles of the climb I put a bit of distance on Rich – I was still pushing about 170W to maintain 6 mph and, thanks to Seargent Sodium (Chemical element NaZi), my cramps were gone.
My quads were straining and when I came to the final grade, between 10% and 14% (depending on your source) I was needing 300W at 60RPM for 5mph.

I figured burning that match now wouldn’t help the next two days so I walked the last half mile at 2.8mph. Heart rate, 150bpm.
When I crested, Rich’s chief told me he was walking with his girlfriend about 1/2 mile back and I said I would wait for him.

You don’t have to do that.
It’s ok – we made an agreement.
Really?! – Oh kay?

I waited about 10 minutes and when Rich crested the top we rolled out together.
He said,

I thought you’d give up on me?
It’s ok. I try to do what I say. Besides – some things are bigger than one stage of one race.
Well, I’ll hang back at the end and give you the stage as a gesture.
Cool! Thanks.

We proceeded to coast down the remaining 17 miles into Escalante enjoying the view, hardly pedaling and easily maintaining speeds in the mid thirties.

HooDoo No Passing Zone

I was rolling faster and further than Rich (just a touch more aero) and with a couple miles to go I engaged the pedals briefly only to find that my legs felt like they’d been hammered flat – to the bone. They only felt good now when they were moving so I soft pedaled at 100W-120W and put a minute or so on Rich, I rolled in about 19:30, 20 min behind second place David and 40 min behind the leader Shawn.

All day I ran a 95% liquid diet of Perpetuem at 270 calories per hour. But NOW I was off the bike so…
I enjoyed an excellent turkey club, a whole pitcher of lemonade, some potassium fries, a few posts to social media, some deep stretching, and BINGO! I was asleep hard by 10:30, hoping I’d be ok for day two.

My strava page for (most of) Stage 1

My strava page for (the rest of) Stage 1

To be continued…