Captain’s log – 5AM
What the…? Ewww?! Kalamata olives?
Yes – each one has more sodium than a whole pickle.
Do you want cramps again?
But I don’t eat before I ride.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…