Sunday, October 24, 2010

EOP Ride

Yesterday the San Tan team rode to the End of Pavement (EOP) east of Tortilla Flats. The weather was perfect and 6 of us made the round trip from the Paragon Bike shop in Mesa.

Its exactly 50 miles from my house to the EOP, and Paragon is right on the way, so I was able to get in a nice century ride by riding to and from the shop to join the ride.

It takes about an hour to ride to the shop, so I left the house with lights on at 6 am. The weather has finally turned cool, so I also added a few layers as well.

We pressed out of Paragon at 7. Route finding from there is easy. Take Brown to the Apache Trail, turn left and ride until the pavement turns to dirt. Turn around and return, three cue sheet entries for 70 miles of riding!
The Team at the End of Pavement
We rode in a paceline until we hit the hills then our little group split and regrouped several times (Canyon Lake, EOP, Marina for water refills).

Scott set a tremendous pace returning on the Apache Trail with us mere mortals hanging onto his wheel by a thread!

When we reached Brown on the return I bid the group farewell and enjoyed a more modest pace back home. I rolled into the garage at 1:15 pm. 

Great day on the bike!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whitney Classic 2010 Ride Report

Whitney Times September 26, 2010 Vol. XI

Solo: This was my 11th Whitney Classic and my 6th solo effort. Normally I would hoodwink some unsuspecting person or persons (ex. Mom, Dad, Wife, Sister, Friend, homeless guy on Mill Ave.) to accompany me to California, drive the support and gear vehicle (SAG), stay up all night, and share the experience that is the Whitney. This year, however, schedule conflicts of those that were willing to SAG and my desire to ride unsupported resulted in me heading out to California alone in Debby's Suburban.

Chiraco Summit, California
Chiraco Summit, California is about half-way between Tempe and Lone Pine. I discovered this fact courtesy of Debby's Garmin Nuvi GPS unit. I know this route by heart, but thought it would be helpful to have a little company on the road, so I plugged it in for the trip. Also for a change of pace, I reprogrammed the Nuvi so it had a female 'voice' with an Aussie accent. Whenever I got a little lonely on the road, I would exit and she would come on to tell me she was 'recalculating' and then would instruct me to get back on the road! As I passed Chiraco Summit she told me I was half-way to Lone Pine!

I arrived in Lone Pine about 8 hours after I left the office, checked in with the race officials, grabbed a Subway sandwich for dinner and made my way to the Lone Pine Park for the pre-ride worship service. It was great to see all my Summit friends, meet a few new ones, and enjoy a unique worship and gathering in the park.

My Trusty Steed, very reflective in the RV Parking Lot

The main reason I drove the Suburban to the Whitney instead of my uber efficient Mini Cooper is that the Dow Villa Motel (my favorite in town) was booked. The only room that was available in town was $130 per night! So I figured I would spend about $60 extra in gas, but save $260 in motel costs by sleeping in the Suburban! So after worship, I stopped at the Joseph's grocery to pick up a few items and returned to the parking area where all the Good Samaritan RV Volunteers were parked. I slipped in between two RVs and set about getting my bike ready for the ride. Finally ready to go, I laid out my sleeping bag and pad, put in my earplugs, and easily fell fast asleep in the back of the truck.

The first rays of daylight illuminate Mt. Whitney

I woke at dawn and headed into town for a light breakfast and returned to the Headquarters to take the bike out for a quick shake-down ride. Since I had no SAG, I put my bike in one of the Summit Staff trucks and caught a ride with Ginger to the starting line.

Returning to Lone Pine after checking out the bike

A new sponsor of the Whitney, the Panamint Springs Resort, offered to serve a pancake brunch in lieu of the normal rider breakfast at the VFW Hall in Lone Pine. So we left Lone Pine and headed toward Panamint springs resort. Panamint is about the half-way point of the ride in linear distance.

Spinner and Graham chilling under the tent at Panamint

The rider brunch (pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage) was finished by noon and soon we were wheeling out way to our next stop at Stovepipe wells. I joked that it was kinda chilly at 108 and Ginger suggested I put on her cap to to stay warm. We loitered about the store for a little while then were off to the Furnace Creek visitor center, for one last blast of air conditioning before the event.
I think the hat made some people angry!
Soon we were at the Badwater starting line. I grabbed my bike from the truck and finished putting on my gear. Ginger was ready to take my 'before' photo and I hopped on my bike to ride down to the restroom.

At the start

With the photo done, I mount up and ride down to the restroom. Ping ping ping! It sounded like I had a broken spoke! How could that be, with no SAG I figured I was toast! I checked each spoke, no, none were broken. I got back on the bike, Ping ping ping! I thought maybe the wheels were clicking from the heat, I checked the quick releases, and anyway the pinging lessened as I rode back to the start line.

I was checking over my bike and this couple drove up and started talking to me in German. Of course they assumed since I was wearing a replica of the Champion of Germany jersey they thought I was German! I explained it was a gift from my son who spent a year there. They asked about the race and I told them, 200 kilometers from here to Mt. Whitney. They looked at each other in disbelief, then back at me with both thumbs up!

We had a safety briefing, prayer, then we were off. Janet Nye, new board member and riding her first Whitney, told me that my rear light was rubbing my rear spokes, D'oh! That was the pinging sound! I stopped, adjusted the light, and was off into the heat.

I let the fast movers go and settled into a steady pace into the hot headwind that would be present for most of the event.
Rolling out of the first SAG at Furnace Creek

I reached the first SAG in about an hour and had drained both water bottles. I used Hammer Sustained Energy in the first bottle and plain water in the second. By the time I got to the bottom half of the second bottle the water was HOT. When I reached the second SAG at 5:25; Dan Harbuck was there with the Enterprise truck. He was the broom wagon sweeping up the SAG gear as the last riders cleared each SAG stop. There was one team behind me, and as they cleared each SAG Dan would load up and press ahead. He would always pull over and check if I needed anything. I took several bottles of water in between SAGs in Death Valley and still became quite dehydrated!

The Dunes between Scotty's Castle turnoff and Stovepipe Wells

I had noticed at the start that my headlight was not working. Luckily, I put a spare in my handlebar bag at the start. When I arrived at Stovepipe at 6 pm, I was hot, dizzy, and in need of 4 AA batteries for my light. I bought the batteries, checked into the SAG, grabbed a Coke and tried to revive my headlight. Putting new batteries in did not help, so I gave the light to Dan, and put on my spare, and tucked the new batteries in my jersey pocket in case I needed them later. I was hot, dehydrated, and knew if I sat around I would stiffen up. So I reloaded my water, drank most of the coke and pushed out of the SAG at 6:06. I found a steady pace and made my way up the hill to the Wild Rose SAG. I arrived at wild rose at 7:40, grabbed a Mountain Dew and an extra water bottle and was on my way to Townes Pass. I reached Townes at 9:27, reloaded and was again out just a few minutes later.

It was chilly at the top of Townes, but I didn't want to put on a jacket. I knew it would be hot again in the bottom of Panamint Valley, so I rode the brakes for the first 1500 feet of descent to keep my speed down and reduce the wind chill. Once the air warmed, I was off the brakes and freewheeling down the hill at about 50 mph. Again the wind was in my face and that held me up somewhat. I bottomed out in the heat of Panamint Valley and was in and out the Panamint control in 4 minutes at about 10:10.

Normally the ride up to Fr. Crowley and Hillcrest is quite enjoyable. While the moon was out and the landscape fully illuminated, the headwind was annoying and slowed my progress considerably. Soon however, I was rolling into the fully paved and upgraded Fr. Crowley turnout just before midnight. I asked about the weather at Hillcrest, and the Sammers thought it would be about the same as Crowley.

I reached the Hammer radio relay station at Hillcrest and noted the cold headwind and decided to stop and layer up; wool socks, full leg warmers, long sleeve polypro base layer, skull cap, and long gloves. A few meters later I descended into the 'ice box' a depression in the topography that is always 10-15 degrees colder. It was and I powered through, now the headwind was actually a help as my body temp increased because of working into the wind.

Once I reached the top, the winds subsided and I flashed through the Keeler and Darwin Sag stops spending 5-8 minutes at each one to check in and reload my bottles. I reached the Lone Pine HQ Sag at 3 am and rolled over to the Suburban to drop some gear and grab a few gels. I checked out and was back on the road in 10 minutes.

Lone Pine is a pretty quiet place at 3 am, and I rolled through town and turned left up the Portal road. Soon I realized my gearing on my race bike was a little too strong and I spent much of the climb out of the saddle fighting the gears up the very steep sections to the last SAG stop just below the switchbacks. I pulled in and had a hot chocolate before I made the final push up the road.

Clearing the last switchback just before dawn

Ginger had driven down from the finish to chronicle my progress over the last few miles and shout out some welcome encouragement. I cleared the last hairpin climb/turn under the Premier Buttress and rolled into the finish line at 6:30 am!

Rolling into the finish at 6:30 am!

Very happy to have this one in the Bag!

Speaking of bags, Ginger 'bagged' me as I enjoyed a hot chocolate at the very chilly finish line Sunday morning.

Your humble correspondent, 'in the bag!'

I lingered for a few minutes then said, "I think I need to get off this mountain!" I put my bike in a Summit truck and rode down to the HQ with Kelly in one of the staff cars. Kelly offered me the shower in one of the staff rooms at the hotel, I showered, put on my compression gear, and crawled into the Suburban for a nap. I woke a few hours later, retrieved my bike and headed back to the Lone Pine Park for the pizza party and post-ride awards.

Collecting my awards for top individual fund raiser!

I am happy to report that after 11 years I finally finished first! I was the fastest solo rider (OK I was the only solo rider) and the top individual fund raiser.

Thank you! As of this writing we are over my goal of raising $10,000 for Summit. With a matching donation from the Dell Foundation (Thanks Mary!) that will arrive later I think we have a shot of exceeding $12,000! Summit really needs a strong Whitney to supplement the cash flow in the winter, and many of you on my support team have been loyal supporters year after year. Thank you!!!

If you have not made that donation yet, there is still time, click here, and indicate Atkins WC in the purpose box.

Last thoughts: I have ridden many events that are longer than the Whitney, but few match the challenge of riding through the heat, night, and hills, of the Whitney. The uphill finish and cold at the top really add an exclamation point to the ride. But the support, encouragement, and connection with a ministry that I love draws me back to Lone Pine year after year. Yes, I am already making plans for next year....

Park Tool Pizza Cutter was one prizes I received at this year's Whitney!

Steve Atkins
Phil 4:13 "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me."