Thursday, June 28, 2007
Lon and Susan each in their own right are considered legends in long-distance cycling. When I first arrived in San Diego I was somewhat awestruck to be in their presence. What I learned was just what down to earth, wonderful people they are. With their vast experience, they were always available for advice and were just extremely helpful as was the entire crew. The organization that must go in to helping 50 riders realize their goal of riding across the country in 17 days is mind boggling to me. But they have it down. I don't recall a single rider ever wanting for anything. As good as I heard PAC Tour was, it was even better. Hey, I'm not becoming a spokesman for their company, but anyone reading these blogs who might be considering a cross-country ride, I enthusiastically recommend PAC Tour.
Its hard for me to believe its over. I feel now like it flew by in an instant. Of course in the middle of the tour it felt like an eternity until we would reach the Atlantic, but I guess that's normal maybe under the circumstances. I'll always remember a lot of the riding, but it was the people that made this such a wonderful experience. I think I was able to take a picture of every single rider and crew member at the banquet. I just really don't want to ever forget these wonderful people. Of course there was a little competition during the riding to see who was riding hard or who would make it to the next motel first. But every day of this tour, there was such a supportive environment. The fastest guys encouraged the slowest guys and vice-versa, just as it should be. When we rode into Tybee Island all together the other day, I felt as if we were a team. Its amazing. You take 50 relative strangers and then 17 days later, you have some really wonderful friendships going on.
Eric Hallam from Colorado Springs, at 30 years old our youngest rider, would write daily messages on his right calf muscle. Like during some of those tough windy days in Oklahoma he wrote, "c'mon wind, is that all you got??" On the last day his message was, "that was fun, what's next?" That's a question I personally have no answer for at the moment. This Elite Tour was a qualifier to ride solo in the Race Across America or RAAM. You are not allowed ride solo RAAM without qualifying to do so. In riding every mile of this tour, I can now race solo in RAAM for the next three years. Maybe a few of the 21 guys will give it a shot. It would certainly be a logical next big challenge for them. We had a couple of guys on this tour who had previously raced solo RAAM and had success. I like to fantasize about solo RAAM but the truth is, I will not likely do it. For one thing, to do it right costs a fair amount of money and I don't have that kind of disposable income. But more importantly, the training required for RAAM would be considerably more time consuming than for this Elite Tour. I was just away from home too much during my training. That put extra stress on my wife and I just simply missed our usual family activities during all those long training rides. I feel I cheated them a bit. We are also going to China to adopt a baby girl sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2008. So I just don't see any RAAM in my immediate future.
I knew Charles Barr for what now seems like a very short time. But what I learned from him during that time will stay with me for the rest of my life. He was about being generous toward others with his time and incredible energy. In his personal and professional lives, he was always about improvement. This was not a young man who could ever be satisfied with mediocrity. He excelled at most everything he did. Although I was older than Charles, the examples he set in his life have been very inspiring to me. I have made it no secret that I originally decided to accept the challenge of the Elite Tour for personal goals. But since Charles' accident, Riding For Charles has consumed me physically, mentally and emotionally for the last 9 months. I always believed in what I was doing and in the character of the person I was doing it for. My goal was always to simply honor the memory of someone I found to be an extraordinary young man. Through the months of training and my efforts during the tour, I can only say with great humility, that I pray I have in my small way achieved this goal. My greatest memory of this bicycle ride will easily be when after spending 13.5 hours riding 206 miles into the wind, I rode up to our motel and saw Eric and Caty Barr. My heart nearly bust out of my chest. I am sincerely grateful for the support they have shown me every step of the way.
I just learned yesterday that through the Riding for Charles project, more than $43,000 has been contributed to the Cleveland Orchestra's endowment of the Charles Barr Memorial Chair so far. Since this project was of my own initiative, I would like to personally thank each and every contributor. As you know, a contribution to the Orchestra's endowment helps to ensure that future generations of music lovers will have the opportunity to hear our great orchestra both here in Cleveland and around the world. Thank you.
Finally, I absolutely cannot close this blog without publicly thanking my wife Rachel. She has been of amazing support. She was supportive during the training, and she dazzled me with her support during the ride. She sent faxes and notes every day of the tour. She sent pictures drawn by my 5 year old daughter. She sent the motel addresses to my family and friends and I received all these cards and letters of incredible encouragement. And she even typed this blog as I dictated my thoughts to her over the phone. (I actually typed this last post). I spoke to her every day and on those few days when I felt exhausted and in pretty severe pain, she only had reassuring, positive things to say. I don't think I could have gone through this whole experience without her love and support. I've been really tired all day and my body is going through some healing, but I feel like about the luckiest guy in the world right now to have a wife like I have.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Lunch was at mile 116 today, where we all sort of re-grouped. We then all rode to the coast together. Maybe it was something like what the Tour de France riders feel on their last day. We got to the hotel, which is right on the beach. Everyone walked their bike to the beach and dipped their front wheel into the Atlantic Ocean. A lot of family members were there, a lot of pictures were taken, and a lot of congratulations were said among the riders and crew. Everybody was really up! I think it was a combination of happiness and relief. I'm relieved myself that I don't have to get up at 5:00 tomorrow morning and I don't have to sit on a bicycle seat for awhile.
After I left the beach, I did break down for a moment. I've been focused on this ride for a long time, and now it's over. I thought of Charles and the RidingforCharles project and how that project has also come to an end. It's bitter-sweet. But the Charles Barr Memorial Chair will exist as long as the Cleveland Orchestra does, and through this ride I have come to know Eric and Cathy and am pleased to call them dear friends.
Tonight there is a banquet for all the riders and crew - it'll be a good chance to see everybody for the last time. A lot more congratulations and some goodbyes. I'm really looking forward to NOT riding my bike, but I'm going to miss the guys and the great friendships I've made.
Tomorrow I'll write one more post with sort of an overall inclusive view about my experience. Thanks again for the emails and the cards. The moral support was truly uplifting, and helped me get through some tough days.
Monday, June 25, 2007
When I began this ride, I had two major concerns - fitness was not one of them. I trained religiously but I was concerned about headwinds and saddle sores. I got through the worst of the headwinds with drafting help from my companions - as I helped them also, but I just never imagined the saddle sores would be this bad. So far on this blog I've tried to be careful with my choice of words. A lot of days I remember were very hard. Getting through the heat of the desert was hard; the 206 mile, 13 hour day into headwinds in Oklahoma was hard; the ridiculously steep 13 to 15 percent grades of the Talihina Parkway were hard; but yesterday was the first time I had to use the word "suffer". There was a period of time during the day where I really suffered because of the saddle sores. Rowing and cycling actually have something in common. In rowing you hope for smooth water, and in cycling you hope for smooth pavement. Lon had us on some back roads where the asphalt was topped with something called "chip seal". It's a very rough surface. I guess it helps roads last longer, but it's torture on a cyclist with sore body parts. While riding on this, if you sit it kills your bottom. If you stand to pedal, it beats up your feet. It's beating up your hands the whole time with constant vibration. It's very difficult to get into any kind of cycling rhythm. Most of the time we've had great roads, but we were on this chip seal for a lot of miles yesterday. I know Lon drives all these routes - his planning is incredible - but there were times yesterday, that I actually wondered if he was testing our resolve.
While miserable, the upside of the day was that Charles was on my mind almost all day. Of the many things I knew about him, he was always working hard to better himself. This ride is about honoring a really fine young man, and there was just absolutely no way I was going to quit. I've been preparing for this tour since last September, and for as much pain as I was in, I just felt that to stop riding would have been to quit on Charles, and there was absolutely no was it was going to happen. So, somehow, I just kept going and made it in. I don't mean to sound so negative, and I always try and make cycling as fun as I possibly can, but yesterday was purely about survival. When I first talked to Lon about this Elite Tour, he said it was about survival and indeed yesterday that's what it was all about.
Today (Day 16) we rode 160 from Eufaula, Alabama to Dublin, Georgia. What a different mindset I'm in right now. It's just incredible how on this tour you can feel completely different from one day to the next. Even before the saddle sores, some days you go out and ride really hard and feel great. Other days you try to ride really hard, but just can't really seem to get going and don't feel all that good. It's hard to explain why. I know my sores didn't really heal up last night, but for some reason, as I pulled out of the parking lot this morning and gently eased my weight down on the bike seat, it wasn't so bad.
In the morning, for the first 80 miles, the terrain was the same. Up and down long, steep, rolling hills. It was a tough morning. But in the afternoon, things flattened out quite a bit, and after lunch we breezed on into the motel. The pavement was very smooth today :), which you can imagine I was very thankful for. Toward the very end, however, there was a six mile section of chip seal pavement. It was majorly uncomfortable, but fortunately for not too long. The most frustrating thing that happened today was my flat tire just three miles from the hotel. It was my sixth flat of the entire tour, which is probably not too bad. I'm feeling pretty good right now - I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow's ride is (only) 142 miles and relatively flat - of course I'm hoping for smooth pavement(!)
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Since the terrain hasn't seemed to change much in my eyes, I thought I'd share some of the things that go through my mind on a daily basis during this tour. The alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning, and as I swing my legs out of bed and onto the floor to stand up, I think - "how on earth am I going to get on the bike". But as I put on my sunscreen and dress in my cycling clothes, I gradually begin to feel a little better. It's all about peer pressure - because I know every other guy is having the same thoughts. I take my bike to the parking lot where they have racks set up for us, I pump up my tires, and fill my bottles, and have breakfast. Every day on this tour we've had breakfast in the parking lot. And the menu is always the same. Orange juice, oatmeal, bananas, and bagels. I can't complain, however, because that's exactly what I'd be having for breakfast if I was riding at home. Susan and the crew do a great job having our breakfast ready that early in the morning. After loading my duffel bag on the truck, it's almost time to start the ride at 6:30. My saddle sores are so bad now that I'm not anxious about the ride itself- or the long day- I just fear how my bottom is going to feel the first time I sit on the seat. I usually pedal out of the parking lot of the hotel standing up and for the last three or four days, I sit on the seat for the first time and almost scream out loud (!) The pain is incredible. But each day - somehow - after pedaling a few strokes standing, and then pedaling a few strokes sitting, I just get used to it. By early afternoon it's not so bad. These last few days, if there was one thing I thought would keep me from completing the ride, it wouldn't be my leg muscles, or my knees, or my conditioning. It would be these darn saddle sores. I've tried all the recommended tricks - like alternating seats every other day, and alternating brand of cycling shorts every other day - but I guess I've just had some bad luck with them.
The first hour of riding is always the toughest for me mentally. I look down at the odometer and know there's so far to go. But I try to break the day up into segments. The first rest stop is usually around 30 miles, the second around 60, and lunch is somewhere between 90 and 100. I'm constantly doing math in my head ("I'm a 10th of the way, I'm a quarter of the way, I'm a third of the way") and before I know it, I'm half way. I always know that if I can make it half way, I can make it the rest of the way. The last hour is always tough. I look down at the odometer and see that I've ridden (160, 170 or 180 miles), but I'm just so anxious to get off the bike, get into an air condiditoned room and take a shower, that sometimes those last 15 or 20 miles seem to drag by.
Down-time in the evening is precious because there's not much of it. After getting all my gear organized, getting cleaned up, and getting some dinner, it's nearly time to go to sleep. Just as I'm falling asleep, I'm having those same thoughts of "how am I going to get back on the bike in the morning". All too soon, the alarm goes off and it's another day.
I had been told by veteran riders that there are three big emotional stages during a tour like this. The first few days are the excitement of the beginning of the tour and meeting new people. Somewhere during the middle of the tour there's a real down time emotionally as the body is being broken down and feeling exhausted, and realizing how far there still is to go. The final emotional stage is where the spirits are back up again because you're getting close to the end. I certainly have experience all three of these stages. Right now I'm pretty happy that there are only three days left. I think I'll be happy when the tour is over just so I can rest and let my body heal. I know I'm going to miss the wonderful guys and the great comraderie, but I'm going to be thrilled to not have to sit on a bicycle seat for a while. Tomorrow we go right to the Alabama / Georgia border. I just changed bicycle seats, so I'm hoping for a little more comfort in the morning.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Today we rode from
Because I sort of used yesterday’s ride as a recovery day for my knees, I felt great today and pushed pretty hard. I averaged 18 miles an hour. I rode all day with a guy named Charlie Combs. He’s a CPA from
I don’t know how he does it, I guess from his years of experience, but Lon picks really great routes for us to ride on. A lot of the riding today was on some pretty rural roads. One of the things that I’ll always remember about riding through
I guess I can’t emphasize enough how a ride like this – riding hard every day without any rest days – wears down the body. I basically feel exhausted all the time. Even though I use the strongest sunscreen three times a day, I still manage to get sunburned. I use lipblock and my lips still have blisters. The sun is unforgiving to a fair complected person like me. My knees, my neck, my back, my hands, shoulders – always feel sore. Tonight I even notices that my big toenail is black and blue – I’ll probably lose it and I don’t even know how that happened. Yet still, I get up in the morning, have breakfast with this great group of guys, riders, and crew, and still somehow manage to have enjoyable days on the bike.
It’s been an incredible challenge. Probably even harder than I knew it would be. But with only four days to go, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel - and I really think I’m going to make it. There’s a Wendy’s next door to our motel, so now I’m going to go get a Frosty and then get some sleep for our 172 mile ride tomorrow.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
On day 9 we rode across OK into Ada. One thing we all noticed out on the road that day was that there were a lot of tarantulas, turtles and armadillos. I guess I never knew there were so many tarantulas in OK! I found the OK countryside very pretty. There's been a lot of rain there, and the rolling hills are very green. The best part of the day was when I was riding up to the motel, and Eric and Cathy Barr were standing out front waiting for me. What a wonderful lift that gave my spirit! They treated me to a wonderful dinner and Cathy even provided some snacks for the rest of the bike trip. They even got up early in the morning to see us all off. Getting the chance to see them and visit with them for a little while validated the reason for this trip.
On day 10 we rode from Ada, OK to Mena, AK. The most memorable part of the day was riding the Talahina Parkway. While the Parkway is absolutely beautiful, the riding was absolutely the hardest I've ever worked on a bicycle. There were hills that had grades of 13 to 15 percent and the road just kept going up and down, up and down... There was one hill that was 3.5 hours long, where I was working as hard as I could and riding the bike at 5 miles per hour. A couple of the guys actually got off their bikes to rest, but when my legs got tired I chose to zig-zag across the road a few times to give them a break. It was simply gruelling. One of the guys said that Lance Armstrong had done some training here. During all this climbing it was very hot and humid and I was thinking a little rain might not be bad to cool things down. But be careful what you wish for...
As I was nearing the high point of the parkway, a huge storm came in. There were big gusts of wind, and driving rain and hail (!) We were later told the temperature dropped from 93 degrees to 63 degrees in a very short period of time. Some guys decided to call it a day and packed into the vans, but for those that wanted to continue, Lon made impromptu rain jackets out of garbage bags. I didn't take my rain jacket that day, thinking I would never need it, but the garbage bag really did the trick. It kept me warm for the remaining climb and descent into Mena.
On Day 11 we rode from Mena to Pine Bluff. There's really going to be one thing I remember about that day, unfortunately. My rear shifter broke very early in the morning - which essentially meant that my bike was turned into a 2 speed. There were some pretty tough climbs that day and I had no low gears:( So I just had to stand up on the pedals and mash as hard as I could. That's usually pretty good winter training, but not something very fun to do in the middle of a ride like this. My knees really took a beating, and by the time I got to Pine Bluff, I had to ice my knees. That's really the only day I haven't enjoyed something about the ride. Riding in just those two gears made the whole day pretty exhausting. It was one of those days when remembering who I was doing this ride for got me through it. Luckily, another rider - Stuart Levy - brought along a spare set of shifters and wheb I got in at the end of the day, Lon put it on for me.:) It was nice to be finished with that ride, because a lot of the guys knew I was struggling with the two gears. They gave me a little round of applause and now I have a nickname - "two gear Waugh". I was one of the last ones in that day, but I still made the time cut-off.
Today we rode from Pine Bluff to Bateseville, Mississippi. This is a day I really needed after the two previous exhausting days. The ride was only 158 miles and relatively flat. I guess everything's relative, isn't it? The 158 miles seemed easy and the flat terrain gave my knees a chance to recover. I feel so much better than I did 24 hours ago and the shifter worked perfectly all day. The big event today was crossing the Mississippi river. We are staying at a motel on the outskirts of town, but to get here we rode through downtown Batesvill, which was really charming. With only 5 days of riding left, I'm starting to feel like I'm over the hump. 10 riders have left the tour since it began, some due to unfortunate injury, and some due to exhaustion or lack of motivation (surprisingly). Yesterday I heard that there were only 18 riders left that had ridden every mile. I feel somewhat lucky to be one of them. Some have missed some of the miles because of illness or injury, but so far I've been fortunate to avoid both. When I first talked to Lon about this elite tour, he said one has to think about it in terms of survival. Now I know what he means. Because we don't take any days off, nagging injuries never have a chance to heal. My knees hurt and I have this nagging pain in my right lower leg that feels like a shin-splint, and I know I'll just have to deal with it until the end and hope it doesn't get worse. But in spite of my aches and pains, there is still so much I'm enjoying about the trip. Lon's route has us on some beautiful country roads and the company of the guys is fantastic - better and better each day.
I send my deepest gratitude and appreciation for all the cards and emails I've received. Although I can't answer them now, please know how much your words raise my spirits. In fact, I'm getting teased and have been nick-named the "king of mail".
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I rode with seven other guys almost the whole day. We were just rolling along, having a good time, getting to know each other. The wind did shift around to the SE in the afternoon, but we still managed to complete the ride in just under ten hours. Last night, as I was talking to Rachel and we were writing the blog, I was as physically tired as I've ever been in my whole life. It was a result of battling head winds for two straight days. I didn't mention it yesterday because I was afraid it might tarnish my "manly-man" image. The thought of getting on the bike this morning seemed impossibly difficult - but the body is an amazing thing. After a huge dinner and a good night's sleep, I actually felt good and ready to go this morning. This type of an event is a brand new experience for me. I now feel foolish for having said before that perhaps there were only a handfull of truly elite riders here. The truth is that every muscle in my body is sore, I have little pains that never materialized during training, and a saddle sore that is too gruesome to describe. I know all the other guys are dealing with the same sorts of things. It seems to me that riding these distances every day, with no days off, feeling exhausted at the end of each day, and having the courage to swing one's leg over the bike and start riding the next morning, makes everyone here an elite rider. Sure, there are some exeptional athletes here, but we are all dealing with the same issues no matter how fast or slow we ride.
Tomorrow's ride is our longest in terms of mileage, but waiting for me in Ada, Oklahoma will be Eric and Cathy Barr, Charles' parents. They are driving all the way up from Dallas to have dinner with me. I'm really looking forward to it.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
It was another tough day for me, as the winds were out of the east at 10 to 12 mph all day. But fortunately, I hooked up with a group of 8 riders early in the morning and we rode together in a pace line all day. I learned about loyalty today, as you really stick with the guys that are helping you make it through a tough ride. For example, when someone in our group got a flat tire, we all stopped and helped him fix it and then got rolling again. In fact, I got my first flat tire today and I'm sure glad the guys waited for me (!) because there's no way I could have fought that wind riding by myself.
One of the things that is so great about this tour are the other riders. Last night I had dinner with three other guys - Jim Clark, from Crystal Lake, Illinois (my roomate) is just salt of the earth. We have some great talks at the end of the day before turning in for the evening. Another fellow at the dinner table was Ed Pabst, from Terra Haute (sp?), Indiana. This guy is simply an amazing athlete. He's 57 years old, and finishes toward the front of the pack every day. In fact, he may be one of the best climbers here. Finally, there was Brad from Albuquerque, NM. As it turns out, I played Little League football with Brad's brother-in-law, Steve Rounds. Steve went on to become a star quarterback at my high school. Small world!
During the next three days, we're going to ride a lot of miles. Send us some vibes for wind out of the west for a change - I'd really appreciate it!
Friday, June 15, 2007
So today we rode from Socorro, NM to Roswell, NM. This was our second day of riding in New Mexico! Wow - it's a big state, but I guess I already knew that... On paper, this didn't look like it was going to be that difficult of a ride. There were a couple of climbs, but mostly the terrain was rolling hills. But as I mentioned on yesterday's post, how hard you work on a bicycle has a lot to do with the wind. Where yesterday the wind was at our backs and I felt at times like I was flying, today's ride was into strong headwinds ALL DAY. Maybe it's because of my height(as I sit higher up on the bike than most people), but riding in a head wind is absolutely the toughest thing for me. While I was able to manage an average speed of 17.3 mph, this was by far my hardest day. I tried not to go so hard as to suffer physically, but I did have to dip into the "mental toughness" bank once or twice. As much as I love being on a bicycle, riding into a head wind for 10.5 hours isn't that much fun... In spite of that, we were riding through the land where my heart is - the land where I grew up - and it's just so beautiful to me that I was able to keep a smile on my face.
Tomorrow we cross the border into Texas. It feels like the Elite Tour just started, and already we're one-third of the way across the country. I guess I'm just getting used to the routine. 5 am is wake-up, 5:30 is breakfast, and 6:00 we start riding. We ride all day, have dinner, and then go to bed. Pretty much the same thing every day, but I am really enjoying myself. Every one of the guys I've met on this ride is great. The atmosphere is very friendly and supportive.
Lily recently won an award for practicing the cello 75 days in a row (no small feat for me, the parent in charge of that goal...) and we put a sticker on her chart for each day finished. We decided that we should make a chart for Richard's ride also, to help him along. Lily has been choosing a sticker for each day accomplished, along with some words of encouragement, and we fax it to his destination each day. It's turned out to be something she looks forward to every day after breakfast, and seems to ease the fact that her dad is away for so long. While she is young, and doesn't really understand to the full extent what an incredible thing her daddy is doing, she is very proud of him and has been telling all her friends about his ride.
Richard and I would like to thank all of you who have been sending your own words of encouragement. I read them to Richard every night when we update the blog, and he is very touched that you have taken the time to reach him. It is something he looks forward to every day - and I believe- helps make his goal easier to achieve.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
In cycling, the speed that you generate has so much to do with the amount of climbing you do and the direction of the wind. As there was not an awful lot of climbing today, and a 10 mile an hour wind was at our backs much of the time, today could prove to be one of our easiest. In fact, I averaged 20.3 miles per hour today while on the bike.
Although I was the fourth rider to arrive in Socorro today, as this is of course not a competition, I don't believe it's important that I mention my place in the pecking order in future posts. My concern when I first arrived here was that I might be one of the weaker riders and wouldn't be able to keep up. But since I trained well, I feel that I'm going to be able to continue to ride strong. Besides, Marc Pattinson continues to ride every day by himself, out front - arriving anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes ahead of any other rider. He is still the only rider among us that I would label "Elite".
I don't know about other people, but when I'm physically tired I tend to be a little more emotional. As much as I like Cleveland, when I was riding down into Socorro, I felt like I was coming home. I was thinking about the fact that my mom and dad would be there waiting for me, and about Charles. My eyes watered up a bit, but I had to get it together pretty quick, since I was going down hill fast. I had a really nice dinner and visit with my parents.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The pay-off today was at the end of the ride, as there was an easy, 15 mile descent into Springerville at 7000 feet. Once again I was the 3rd rider in today - which I must admit I am very proud of because I've worked very hard at my climbing. Tomorrow morning, after about 15 miles, we cross into New Mexico and ride to Socorro. I'm looking forward to the end of the ride, as my mom and dad will be there to meet me for dinner.
Some unfortunate news to report. Fred Metheny and Ed Pavelka of Roadbikerider.com were riding together yesterday when Ed's front wheel touched Fred's rear wheel and Big Ed went down. It turns out he broke his hip and will need hip replacement surgery. I had dinner with Fred this evening and he said Ed is doing just fine - but terribly disappointed that he'll miss the rest of this tour and the cycling season. We heard the news at breakfast this morning and all the riders and crew here on the Elite tour are wishing Ed a speedy recovery.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it yet, but Lon and Susan, the tour directors – as well as the entire crew, are simply fantastic. Everything is so well organized and I feel well taken care of. Yesterday, Tom, one of the crew members who I has spoken to about why I was doing this ride, said to me – “Good job on the ride today Richard, your buddy would have been really proud of you.” I was very touched. Charles’ spirit is out here with me always.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
This morning I got up at 4:30 am. Breakfast was at 5:00 am and we all headed out together at 6:00 am. Leaving San Diego there was a long climb from sea level to Tecate Pass at 3800 feet. I was in my lowest gear a considerable amount of the time. Then there was a steep 10 mile descent down to the desert floor. The last 50 miles were relatively flat. I rode with a fellow named Mark from New York for quite a bit of the day. The route was fantastic – we rode most of the day on Old Route 80, which runs parallel to Interstate 8, much the same way Route 66 runs with Interstate 40. The shoulders were wide and the asphalt was smooth. We got into El Centro at about 2:00 pm. As it turns out, I was the 3rd rider to arrive. Weather-wise, it was an interesting day – when we left San Diego it was about 60 degrees and foggy and by the time we arrived in El Centro the temperature has risen 40 degrees!
Today I rode steadily, stayed within myself, and am looking forward to tomorrow’s 190 mile ride to Gila Bend, Arizona. The forecast is for 10 to 12 mile per hour tail winds… Oh Joy!
Friday, June 8, 2007
In 1989, my climbing partner was making plans to go to Alaska and climb Denali. Although he had much more experience than I did in the mountains, I begged him to let me go with him and he finally agreed. He took me under his wing. He had me read several books about how to safely climb the massive peak and come home alive and well. Although I was much younger and I thought much stronger than him at the time, he was genuinely concerned for my safety and well being on the mountain.
On the route we took, the climb goes from base camp at about 7000 feet, to the 20,320 ft. summit. It took us a few days to get to our camp at 11,000 ft. We had to wait out some bad weather. There were other climbers on the mountain with us. I specifically recall a group of six Italian climbers at the 11,000 foot camp. They were obviously sponsored, as they all had matching climbing suits and gear with the sponsor's various logos sewn all over their suits. They too were considerably younger than my climbing partner. The weather broke and we began our big haul up to the 14,000 ft. camp. The group of Italians had left before us, headed to the same place. They were pretty far ahead of us up the mountain. My climbing partner must have been feeling pretty strong that day. We caught and passed the Italian group before we were even half way to the next camp. My partner was leading on the rope all that day. It was everything I could do to keep up with him. My ego never allowed me to ask him to slow his pace a bit and by the time we reached 14,000 feet, I was completely exhausted; totally spent.
A few days later we were at 17,000 feet on the mountain when a huge storm came in. It was so bad we didn't even bother with our tent and dug a large snow cave instead. We waited three days and nights in the cave for the weather to break. We had conversations like we'd never had before while in that cave and the experience brought us closer than we'd ever been. When the weather finally broke, we went to the summit in the most calm, beautiful weather that was experienced on Denali all that climbing season. My partner had to work incredibly hard that day and I know there were times when he suffered physically. But his mental toughness was something like I'd never seen before in another human being and we both made it back to our cave at 17,000 feet, safe and sound.
A few days later we were off the mountain enjoying a steak dinner at our motel in Talkeetna, Alaska. Because of my partner's meticulous preparation, attention to all the details, and incredible toughness, we had climbed the tallest mountain in North America and had done it smartly and safely. My climbing partner for that Denali climb was none other than my father, Hank Waugh. He was 63 years old at the time. The Denali park rangers told us that at that time, he was the oldest to climb the mountain without the assistance of professional guides. Before that climb, I'd been through Infantry school, Airborne school and Ranger school while I was in the Army. I'd been through the toughest imaginable basketball practices at the University of New Mexico. But it wasn't until I observed my father, my hero on Denali that I truly understood the concept of mental toughness.
My father learned of adventure and love of the outdoors from his father and wanted to pass it down to his children. In the outdoors, my mother and dad gave my sister, two brothers and I the best childhood imaginable. In the summer we were backpacking and climbing mountains in New Mexico and Colorado, and in the winter we were skiing in those same mountains. My mom and dad will both be 81 years of age on their next birthdays. They are healthy and well, living south of Albuquerque on a pretty little piece of land, with three horses. My dad still gets to the outdoors, only with his artificial knee and bum hip, its usually by horseback these days. He is a member of a group called Back Ccountry Horsemen. They sometimes go on rides just for fun, but are more often out doing maintenance work on trials in the National Forest. Its hard work, and the younger members are still amazed when they ask my hero's age and he tells them. They are completely amazed by what a tough sun-of-a gun he is. But I've known it all my life.
Now why would I shave my legs for crying out loud?! Do I think it makes me go faster? Of course not. I bet over the course of a 200 mile ride it wouldn't even affect my time by a second. I do it for two reasons. The first is that supposedly, if you crash and get road rash all over your arms and legs, you heal much quicker without all the hair. Knock on wood, I haven't crashed since I began shaving so I wouldn't know about this for sure. But for me, reason number two is hugely important. I'm blond and very fair complected. I can't be in the sun without globs of sunscreen on any exposed skin. Obviously on the bike, most of the exposed skin is arms and legs. Now I'm a pretty hairy guy. When I apply the sunscreen to all that hair--yech, what a mess! When I'm shaved and apply the sunscreen to nice smooth skin, it soaks right in and I'm on my way out the door for another good time out on the bike.
Silly I know, but for whatever that might be worth.........
The third week of May I got a bacterial infection in my stomach. I didn't know it right away. I thought my diahreah and incredibly painful abdominal cramps would just go away. Finally, when I was curled up in a ball on the floor moaning in pain, my wife suggested I get to the doctor. When I saw the doctor, he shipped me off to the Energency Room where I took three full bags if IV fluids. Guess I was a little dehydrated, he, he. My wife told me to think about what a better story it would be to know that less than three weeks before the start of the Elite Tour I was lying in the ER with an IV needle in my arm. Anyway, I was finally treated with antibiotics and got better.
Unfortunately, the 1000 miles I had planned for weeks 3 and 4 of May turned into only 403. You know, I had ridden so many miles prior to getting sick that in the big picture, I hope it won't matter too terribly much. I try not to sweat those things which I have no control over. The 5th week of May which went into the beginning of June saw me out for 449 miles. This last week I have been tapering, which is to say that I've backed way off the miles. I've still sprinted up a few hills to keep the legs sharp, but I've had a lot of good sleep with the idea being to start the big ride feeling fresh and well rested.
Since March 1st, I have merely been following the training suggestions from PAC Tour. I calculated that I would probably want to ride about 4000 miles during that time. As it turns out, my bike odometer reads 3824 miles. Had I not gotten sick, I obviously would have reached my mileage goal. I have ridden mostly long, steady distance miles by myself. But I've thrown in some fast group rides as well as interval work on some of the local hills. When the weather was foul in March and April I spent productive time on the dreaded trainer in the basement. I've lifted weights and worked hard on my core strength. I feel like I've done my homework. I feel fit and strong. I have had not even a hint of injuries. My knees feel better than ever. I'm ready to go.
As I have indicated on my website, I originally decided I'd do this ride before Charles Barr's tragic accident. People mostly do rides like these as a test of self. As in, can I do it? That is certainly a big part of my motivation too. But I want to ride strong and do well on this ride for reasons far beyond myself. I want to ride strong for Charles. His spirit is certainly always with me when I am out on the bike. As he never did anything half-way, I want to ride this ride as I know he would have. I want to do well on this ride for all the musicians and staff of the Cleveland Orchestra. They have all been so supportive of the Riding For Charles project. I want to ride strong for all the donors to the Charles Barr Memorial Chair. I want mostly to ride well for Eric, Cathy, and Loren Barr. If you are the prayerful type, I would ask that you ask God to continue to bring peace to their hearts for their tragic loss.
Friday, May 18, 2007
I had hoped to do this three days of riding closer to the end of May right before starting to taper for the Elite Tour, but because of work/family obligations, the only three free days I had in a row were May 13, 14, and 15. I felt I just had to do this ride to help with my confidence going into the Elite Tour.
The first day of the three, May 13, I rode 215 miles. I didn't taper for this ride at all but the previous day was a rest day. I did try and push just a little to see where my conditioning really was. I rode the first 200 miles in 11:35. (Eleven hours and 35 minutes). This included 4 convenience store bottle refilling/potty breaks. My speed on the bike was 18.2 mph for the whole 215 miles. (Now folks, this ain't bragging. There are plenty of Elite Tour riders who can ride considerably faster). But for where I am in my long-distance cycling right now, I was very pleased with this ride.
The next two days were 152 and 150 miles respectively for a total of 517 miles over the three day period. I did reduce my speed just a tad the second day just to feel like I'd have something left for the third day. The second and third day were ridden at 17.5 and 17.4 mph respectively.
Overall I'd have to say the three day ride was a good experience and a success. While there were some long stretches into head winds that made for tough riding, I can say that at no time did I feel anything close to suffering. I felt strong over the three day period and maintained a respectable speed with consistent, steady riding. Most importantly, I think the three days of riding did a lot for me mentally. The Elite Tour is not a race. But there is a minimum speed you must maintain or risk having to be shuttled ahead in one of the vans to keep up with the group. I do have a goal to to ride every single mile of the Elite Tour. This three days of riding I just did gave me the idea that I just might be able to do it. 17 days in a row is obviously a whole world away from three, but I can knock my speed down a couple of notches from what I've just done and still maintain a high enough average to acheive my goal for the Elite Tour.
Although the suggestion for this 500+ mile ride is to do it away from home, I figure I've spent enough time away from home as it is with all this training, so I did all the miles close to home and slept at home. Heck, during these three days of riding I even mowed the grass, took out the trash and cooked dinner for the family one of the evenings. Not bad, eh?
Oh, and by the way, I'm still going to sing the praises of my Brooks Team Pro leather saddle. The 3 day/517 mile ride left me a little sore down there, but no saddle sores whatsoever.
As I reported earlier, the last two weeks of April I got in 442 and 457 miles respectively. Well I may have overdone it a little. That was a pretty big jump up in mileage from the first part of April when the weather had been so poor. The first week of May I got a pretty bad cold. My wife and daughter had colds and by golly I got one too. So I had to take it a little easier. I did however ride 363 miles for the week with back to back rides of 150 and 109 miles.
The training schedule calls for riding 350-550 mile per week for the month of May. So I was glad I at least got in a few miles over the minimum suggestion and as a bonus for cutting back a little, I got over my cold pretty quickly too. The last thing I wanted to do was keep going too hard and carry that cold with me to the start of the Tour in San Diego.
Last fall I read an article in Bicycling Magazine about the benefits of core strenght training for cyclists. It specifically mentioned how this type of training could eliminate lower back pain and gave instruction along with drawings for how to do 8 very simple exercises. That grabbed my attention as I occaisionally suffered lower back pain on long rides and long climbs. Its funny, I could usually count on the lower back pain coming on somehwere between the 80-90 mile mark on a long training ride. It was like clockwork. It wasn't terrible, but it was uncomfortable and annoying.
I thought I'd give the core strength training a try. Of the 8 exercises, two require the use of an exercise ball and the other six are done on the floor. I got an exercise ball at Target for cheap and its still holding up perfectly well. I did these exercises 2-3 times a week all winter and am still doing them twice a week now. The difference it has made in my cycling has been incredible. I have no idea whatsoever if it has made me faster in any way or a stronger climber, but I can say with great relief that these exercises have completely eliminated my lower back pain. And hey, for that small vain streak in me, I'm a little more than a month away from turning 47 and my abs have never looked better. I'm still lifting the free weights, but I now always begin a strenght training day with the core exercises first.
Just passing this experience along in case core strengthening might be of some benifit to others........
Monday, May 14, 2007
As hard as I know the Elite Tour will be, one of my greatest concerns is saddle comfort. I take training as seriously as anyone, so I know I'll be as physically prepared as possible. But my real worry has been what happens if I develop nasty saddle sores and still have to keep climbing on the bike day after day in spite of them. Sounds fun huh?
I'd read over the past couple of years how a lot of the elite ultra-distance riders ride on Brooks saddles. (I think Brooks is the only company left still making leather saddles). In fact our Elite Tour director and two-time RAAM champion Lon Haldeman rides a Brooks model B-17. But I resisted trying one for some reason. They look as uncomfortable as hell and they're heavy. And besides they're like from the 1970's aren't they? I rode a Specialized Body Geometry saddle from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. Sure I got saddle sores, but I got used to them. Ha-ha.
This spring I bought 2 Brooks saddles; the models B-17 and Team Professional. I love them both. Sure they required a little break in time but not as bad as people say. In fact the second ride I took on the Team Professional was 180 miles and I was comfortable. They say that a leather saddle is sort of like a baseball glove. After a while the leather conforms to your personal anatomy. I'm a convert I tell you. I've never been so comfortable on a bike. Sure they're a little heavier, but who wouldn't sacrifine a couple of hundred grams for all that comfort. And lets face it, people get so uptight about the weight of their bike. Who couldn't lose a little weight aroung the old beltline anyway? I'm not saying its like sitting on the sofa. I went out for a 215 mile ride yesterday and I'm a tad tender down there in my privates. But not bad at all.
I'm not going to knock any of these ultra light modern racing saddles. Hey maybe they work for some. If you never ride your bike more than 50 miles at a time, leather probably isn't for you anyway. But for the kind of training I'm doing for the the Elite tour and for the Tour itself, it is sure the answer for me.
For what its worth..................
Monday, April 9, 2007
Last night Rachel and I had the distinct pleasure of having Charles Barr's parents over to our home for dinner. They were in Cleveland over the Easter week-end. Prior to last night, I had really only known them through many exhanges of e-mail messages. What a gift it was for me to visit them in person and share some wonderful memories of Charles. They have been very supportive of my bike ride for Charles and having the opportunity to get to know them better leaves me feeling very up.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Today is April 1st. I now have 10 weeks until the start of the Elite Tour. PAC Tour owner and director Lon Haldeman has written that it takes a rider 10 weeks to go from pretty good shape to great shape with proper training. Well I do feel like I'm in pretty good shape and have a solid aerobic base. The training suggestion for April is 200-300 miles per week with 1 to 2 rides each week over 100 miles. I have no plans other than to follow the suggested training. I will get in my long rides and throw in some fast group rides to work on my speed as well as some hill repeat rides to work on my climbing. Not exactly rocket science. The trick sometimes is finding the time to train while balancing work and family responsibilities.
Usually here in Cleveland the month of March is wet and cold. I normally don't think about getting out on the road much before April 1st. But this year of course I couldn't afford to think that way and get prepared for the Elite Tour. Thankfully, due to getting to spend a week in Miami and some decent weather here, I'm way ahead of where I have been in past years at this point in the riding season. The start of the Elite Tour feels right around the corner and the thought of it still feels incredibly intimidating. But I feel very positive about my training and my fitness and I will just continue to build on it. In my next post, I'll report on my April training.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Since returning home from Miami, Cleveland has had a ton of snow and temperatures in the single digits much of the time. So its been back to the trainer and the weights, with a dose of skate skiing at Chapin Forest thrown in for variety. I was originally hoping to be off the trainer for good and out on the road by March 1. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.