Saturday, 9 September
Calories consumed: 2340
Elevation gain: 15,000+ feet
Back in July, Martin and I won an entry for the Ring of Fire time trial in Maupin, Oregon. I suppose I could've gotten the most out of my free entry (Martin bailed on me the minute we won this "prize") by signing up for the 24-hour version, but since I've never done anything longer than STP and RAMROD, I decided to settle for the lesser prize of just 12 hours on the bike.
A few years ago, my husband started me in this habit of trying something new and completely different at the end of a racing season. The first year it was an "endurance duathlon" where I did a 61-mile time trial and then ran a half marathon. Never again. The next year he told me I should race tandem at masters nationals when a friend issued the invitation. I thought that idea was even more whacko, but it turned out to be the happiest move in my cycling "career." So a 12-hour time trial was just this year's crazy way to finish the season.
This was the second year of Ring of Fire, brought to us by George and Terri, the amazing duo who put on Race Across Oregon, the Deschutes TT stage race, and other challenging events. This was the race's first year in Maupin, and I think it has found a happy home.
We started out by doing a 111-mile loop, then did "laps" on a 26-mile loop until our 12 hours were up. There were mile markers on the little loop, so when your 12 hours were up, you just noted the last one you'd passed and reported that number when you got back to the finish. (Note that this means I really rode 190.2 miles; I had to ride 7 (thankfully flat) miles to get to the finish after my time was up.) The first 80 miles were so much fun and so beautiful that I figure the last 100 were just the price you had to pay for the privilege of racing the first section.
You started climbing from the line. Out of the hotel parking lot, over the bridge over the Deschutes River (even the bridge was uphill), and then 3.5 miles through the town of Maupin and all the way to the top of the ridge. There were a couple of rolling miles on the top, then down a 2-mile descent to the Tygh Valley. After that, it seems like we climbed until we got to mile 60 or 62. Not quite, because there were some shortish descents, but it was mostly climbing on beautiful, empty forest service and BLM roads. Some had no centerline. The views of Mt. Hood were incredible all day.
Around mile 62, you started descending. And descending. And descending some more. 20 miles down to the valley that Dufur is in, then flat tailwind for another 8 miles or so into Dufur. Then we hit the section that just about broke me. We got on Highway 197, which is a big ugly road with some traffic (it doesn't seem like much when you're driving on it). There was climb of at least 3 miles [I measured on the way home: it's SEVEN POINT TWO MILES!!] and you could see the whole thing in a straight line ahead of you. The heat and light combined for a mirage effect at the top, so you couldn't really see where the top of the climb was. Finally, there was a long windy (as in gusty, not twisty) descent, you were back in the Tygh Valley, and turned onto a rolling road, down a fun descent, across a bridge over the Deschutes, and then it was flat for 9 miles along the river into Maupin.
The short loop then repeated the beginning of the long loop to Tygh Valley and then turned onto the finishing section of the long loop. That meant a 3.5-mile climb at the beginning of each short loop. And the short loop was beautiful too. The Tygh Valley is irrigated, so the valley floor is green, against the backdrop of the golden brown hills of eastern Oregon. The descent to the Deschutes was through a tiny little canyon, and the gorge the Deschutes is in is pretty spectacular. There were rafters and fishermen on the river all day, so you had something to watch as you powered along the 9-mile flat (eventually) tailwind stretch to the finish. This loop was a stage in the TT stage race, and they were happy to tell us that Kenny and Dave Z. did it in 59 minutes. My times were 1:42 and 1:43--but I had no aero bars or aero wheels, and had ridden 111 miles before I started.
There were 3 sag stops out on the long loop, and I had sent a package of food and drink mix to myself at each one. And I left my cooler at the finish line, which I passed at the end of each lap. So access to enough food and water was never a problem, and the folks at the aid stations were so helpful that I don't think I was ever stopped for more than 60 seconds. One thing the race does not provide is "facilities," but there are miles of lonely roads in the big loop and plenty of pit toilets along the Deschutes on the short loop.
The biggest mechanical problem I had was that my computer died at mile 88. Maybe it was just as well not to know how slowly I was creeping up that hill out of Maupin on my short loops. About 7 hours into it, I started down the path to becoming mentally unhinged. I couldn't focus, it took me whole seconds to remember where I was (in big terms, like eastern Oregon), and I just wanted to take a nap. But the rest of me was working fine. I eventually snapped out of that like someone had flipped a switch, but then my back started to hurt every time the road went uphill. By the last lap, the muscles in my back tightened the muscles in one leg, which in turn tightened everything around my left knee, and I could not get out of the saddle. I have never ridden so much in my 34x23.
Yes, it was a race. We started at one-minute intervals, and I even got a holder for my start (it's a TT, after all, right?). The other two women started ahead of me, and I passed them both on the first climb out of Maupin. One of them passed me back while I was stopped at the first sag (she didn't stop), but I passed her right away on a short downhill section and never saw her again. The 24-hour riders had started before us, with a 15-minute gap between them and us. But I caught the first one of them at mile 20. Just after I first saw him and started to reel him in, one of the 12-hour men came flying by me. Eventually, I think, 3 more 12-hour men passed me. The first guy to pass me passed again on my last trip around the short loop!
My biggest physical fear going into the race was that my stomach would get tied in knots. This happened to me once at Columbia Plateau, and I was so uncomfortable that I could hardly pedal. But I had no "issues" with my stomach in this race. Sure, nothing sounded very good after a while, but I tried to drink a lot (9 bottles--including 1 coke--in 12 hours isn't a lot, I suppose) and ate fig bars when nothing else was palatable. I had some trouble with sunscreen in my eyes at one stage, and I almost had to stop. Those three tubes I packed around all day were just extra deadweight on the climbs. My feet were uncomfortable by the end of the day, and I can tell exactly where the stitching was on the edge of my chamois.
The plan for Sunday? Eat, read, sleep. Repeat.