Saturday, 8 September
Tandems aren't everyone's idea of fun, and most people would probably see 12 hours on one as punishment for some horrible crime and not fun at all.
But the only way I could think of to improve upon the fun I had at the 12-hour Ring of Fire TT in 2006 was to do it this year on the tandem. O.A.D. was agreeable, although I think he secretly wanted (note past tense) to do the 24-hour version instead.
The course was just about the same as 2006 (they replaced the awful highway climb with a back road through farms--with the same elevation gain), and the weather was better (clear but cooler). Our goal was to beat my single-bike distance of 183 miles, and 200 miles seemed like a nice round number. The specific goals you set in bike racing never happen exactly as you plan, but we did end up riding 200 miles. 16.67 mph for 12 hours. Slow, you say? Factor in 13,500 feet of climbing on the tandem, short stops for various reasons, and you'd better think 16.67 mph over 12 hours is cruising.
Last year I had no issues with saddle, feet, or stomach, but my back was shooting pains down by legs by the last 50 miles. This year was just about the exact opposite. My back got tired but didn't rebel (thanks, Erik Moen!), my feet got hot spots, and I had stomach cramps for a couple of hours. The biggest drawback to riding tandem is the lack of choice in how you sit on the saddle. You can't fidget or get off the saddle for even half a pedal stroke. And eventually you pay the price. But I daresay that nobody's "private parts" would be "issue"-free after 12 hours on any saddle.
Proof of the "be careful what you wish for adage": one of my hopes for this weekend was to get to captain our tandem. When we hit mile 200, O.A.D. had to get off the bike and just about passed out right there on the side of the road. Amazingly, Mike R, the other Seattle rider in the 12-hour race, rolled up in his car. (His race ended after 114 miles because of flu symptoms.) He gave my captain a ride back to the finish (7 miles), leaving me and the bike out there at twilight in the middle of irrigated fields with voracious mosquitoes. Rather than stand there and hope somebody would pick me up before the bugs sucked me dry, I climbed on the bike and rode it in. Remember that (1) I'd just ridden 200 miles without steering and (2) a tandem is a big, awkward bike to drive. The first 1/4 mile was wobbly but after that it went well. The saddle was only about a centimeter too high, but the bars (especially the drops) were out in the next county, so riding in the drops down the 4-mile descent was, um, interesting. But I got to captain a (stokerless) tandem.
Postrace fun: You've got to read some of the live updates on the ROF website. Promoters Terri and George sit at the start/finish line in front of the Imperial Lodge and add running commentary between riders coming by to check in. George got night duty this year and was having a great time doing "interviews" with riders--and deleting much of what he wrote before it got posted. Terri and George put on amazing races here in Oregon, and they have such great one-on-one rapport with their riders that we didn't even have to wear numbers. Come race with them sometime!!
Shameless product promos: Somewhere around mile 120, we were up on top of the plateau out here in eastern Oregon, and the white Cytomax van came flying down the road in the opposite direction. Figuring it had to be Kenji and Tina, we both waved. The van did a U-turn, and they came back to chat. Everybody always asks what O.A.D. and I talked about for 12 hours, and this conversation was by far the longest we had all day. It was great to see familiar faces out there! And of course I have to mention the Axley Stungunners again. These are ultra eyewear. I put 'em on in the morning and never thought about them again. My eyes never got watery, even on the 15-mile descent. In spite of sunscreen and sweat, they didn't slip and I never had to push 'em back up my nose. They didn't rub the tops of my ears, and they didn't interrupt my vision. They were perfect. What else can I say? Thanks, PruDog!
Boring ol' pictures to follow. And probably Garmin data too. We're off to raft the Deschutes today!