Guest Post by Larry Oslund - First 12 hour race
Above: Larry and Maria in "Cruzbike Alley"
I arrived promptly at 5:30am at the Washington High School after at least 5 hours of un-restful sleep! It was still dark, and for some strange reason, all of the parking lot lights went out 5 minutes before I arrived, which made it a little challenging to unpack and setup. It was a little more tricky for me, as I had to reassemble my Silvio since I packed it in my Honda Insight for the trip. I pulled up next to a wide sidewalk and started unloading my bike and gear from the car. It was a challenge to get it all in there (and out), believe me.
Above: Larry's Cruzbike Silvio deconstructed for transportation in his Honda Insight.
Someone in a truck pulled up in front of me, and I went over and introduced myself. The guy said he name was Thom Ollinger. Hum, I remember that name – must be Charlie Ollinger’s father, and yes, there is the proof: a bright yellow Vendetta was barely visible in the back of the truck. I introduced myself as a fellow Cruzbiker and we started setting up “Cruzbike Alley”. In the next few minutes there comes Jim and Maria Parker with their 2 Vendettas as well. Cruzbikes are taking over the event! It was a great showing and really cool that we were all setup in the same place. My black Silvio looked a little out of place amongst all the bright yellow Vendettas, but I reassured my poor Silvio that she would be fine! Felt a little like the “black sheep” of the family. Looks can be deceiving though: and I wasn’t treated as such!
As we set up, Jim and Maria decided they were going to ride the 100 mile (drafting allowed) race, and Charlie and I were set up to ride the 12 hour.
I was so busy getting my stuff out and set up that I almost missed the start, and of course any opportunity to stretch (mental note #1: don’t let that happen again!). Maria urged me over to the back of the starting line at 6:59am and took a photo of Charlie and I right before the start. It was slightly surreal! I trained and looked forward to an event, and then suddenly I was in it!
Above: Charlie Ollinger (left) and Larry Oslund (right) at the 12-hour event start
As I mentioned, we were in the back (of at least 100 other cyclists), and everyone took off at the same time. The 12 and 24 hour riders all took off together promptly at 7am. (The 100 mile racers started 30 minutes later so not to mix with the other riders too much) Over the next couple of miles Charlie and I worked our way through most of the field. I passed everyone but about a dozen or so people. Over the next 2 miles, Charlie I believe worked his way all the way to the front and I never saw him or his yellow Vendetta again! (Partly this is a good thing, because this means he did not lap me!)
The course was set up as a 26 mile loop with about 15 turns that crossed and even joined heavy trafficked roads at times. It was a mixture of good roads and rough roads. (mental note #2: Don’t ride at 120psi if you have rough roads, as fillings may fall out!) For each loop, each rider had to loop back through the high school parking lot to get their lap recorded. They had said the speed limit was 10mph through the check point. On my first 2 loops I slowed down to 10mph on the entire ¼ mile loop, but then later found out you only needed to go that slow as you passed the judging station to have your number counted.
I rode the first 4 loops (total 104 miles) in 4hr 50 minutes without stopping at all. I kept my pulse between 140-150 pretty much this entire time. (I thought that this was a range I could keep up for the entire race, but after this I held it to about 130) I was planning on being self-supported, and tried to carry enough food in a fanny pack (that I laid on my chest), and about 5 quarts of water and/or Gatorade in bottle holders and my newly made quiver.
The wind started pick up slightly after 9am. It hit you on the first 10 miles and was pretty much a straight headwind. Kind of like riding up a steady incline.
At the end of my 4th loop, I stopped to refill my food and drink. Jim had already finished his 100 mile race, and Maria just finished hers (They both had personal best times for a 100 mile race! Congrats to both of you). Maria asked me if I would like to ride her Vendetta for part of the race. I jumped at the chance. I thought what a great way to make a direct comparison of my Silvio and her Vendetta in pretty much the same conditions. I said: “here are some new STD pedals to fit my shoes”. She took her pedals off, and I put my new ones one. Then we switched out my computers, filled up a water bottle with Gatorade, added a couple of waters into her quiver.
10 minutes had gone by since I stopped. How the time flies when you are not riding! I grabbed my fanny pack and wheeled it out into the parking lot. I got down into the seat but could not clip my shoe into the pedal. Thom took my foot and very forcefully clipped it into the pedal for me (that was a sign, but I ignored it!) I took off, a little wobbly at first and then with much effort got my other pedal clipped in. I got out on the main road and noticed that the wind appeared to have picked up even more. I settled down into the seat and got to work. I found that I needed to scoot really far forward in the seat so my legs would not be over-extended. I think my crotch was against the boom! When I did that, unfortunately my head went down too far on the neck and head rest, which also forced my helmet to rotate towards the front of my face. To add to that, now that my angle was lower than my Silvio, I could not see out of my progressive glasses any longer. Still I think I was able to ride a little faster (I felt probably about 1mph), but because I was slightly tired already from the last 5 hours, I held my pulse down to around 130bpm. The Vendetta was also very squirrelly for me since I was not used to it. This caused me to slow down considerably wherever I needed to drink or eat. After 1 loop on the Vendetta, I did notice I had started to get a neck and headache with how I needed to hold my head. I decided to give it another lap though to see if I could settle in. I looped through the check-point, Jim jumped out to ask me if I needed anything, but not ever having someone support me, I had already taken enough supplies so I just waved and said, “I’m taking another lap”.
Back on the main road, the wind had picked up even more. I was barely able to keep 19-20 mph on that stretch. I still had to slow down to eat and drink, but was able to control the beast a little more the second time around. I came back around after my second lap on Maria’s Vendetta and decided that I wanted to switch back to my Silvio. Primarily because I just could not reach the pedals well and felt like I was over-extending.
As I rolled up on the sidewalk to dismount the Vendetta, I went to twist my feet out of the pedals like I usually do, but found I could not release my shoes from the clips at all. I tried and tried, but no go! I called to Maria: “You are going to have to catch me, my feet are stuck and I can’t’ release from the clips”. Like a trouper, Maria ran up and captured me and bike before we fell over. Then Jim ran over and tried to dislodge my shoes from the clips. He could not with reasonable force, and then resorted to take my shoes off my feet. The whole time, Maria was keeping me and the Vendetta from falling over. Once off the bike, I could not twist or yank my shoes from the clips either. Enter Thom O! He had to literally slug the shoes back and forth repeatedly until they came off. It actually ended up loosening and moving the cleats on the bottom of my shoes. He took them aside and moved them back into place and tightened them up. It must have looked comical! (Who knows, maybe a You-tube video out there already with someone laughing at me!) Later we figured out that since this was a new set of pedals, they should have been paired up with the new cleats and then tensioned correctly before use. (mental note #3: Don’t use new equipment for the first time in a race!). Later, I thanked the Lord that I did not have to stop at all during my 52 mile ride on the Maria’s V. If I had, I would have just toppled over, and would have probably had to have someone rescue me!
That emergency over, now I had to address my stomach distress. My stomach just felt full. I had been trying to eat something every 30 minutes. (I had a variety of bananas, apples, grapes, granola bars, M&M peanuts, trail mix) Nothing sounded or tasted good anymore and I just did not feel like eating. Maria encouraged me to eat some potato chips for the salt and re-hydrate. She also encouraged me to just take a banana and one other thing, and each loop to tell her what I would like and she would give it to me! She also told me to just go a little easier this loop to try and give my body a chance to digest everything I had eaten.
Another 10+ minute pit stop! It is amazing how the time flies!
I took off again; a little more dismayed to find the wind fiercer than ever. I was also amazed at how far up I was now sitting on my Silvio as compared to the Vendetta! I know it is only 8 degrees difference, but it sure felt like I was sitting straight upright now! This was my 7th lap now, and probably the low point of the race for me. I was also wondering: Why in the heck am I doing this, etc, etc.” I tried to keep my heart rate at about 125-130 bpm for this loop and my average mph for this lap was down around 18.7. I was feeling a little bit better by the end of my 7th loop though. As I entered the high school parking lot, Maria saw me, ran across to the far side of the parking lot loop and asked me what I wanted. I said an apple is all I need. By the time I had went through the checkpoint she had ran back to the other side and had an apple ready to hand to me as I rode past. She was amazing support! Of course not having ever been handed anything while I was riding by (and not stopping) through off my balance a little bit, and as embarrassing as it was, I just about crashed just trying to get that darn apple! I did regain my balance after a sloppy figure eight through the parking lot, and I was off again. I headed off into the headwind again. It seemed like each lap it was blowing harder. At least 10mph constant now. The flags you could see were blowing pretty hard and straight out from the pole! I sped up ever so slightly on this loop, and managed an average speed of 19.
It is terrible what your brain does to you when under duress. I found myself wondering if I could manage 2 more loops in the next 3 hours and 15 minutes. As each mile passed I would re-calculate what my average mph would need to be so I could finish as least 9 laps! Pretty bad, I know, but something to occupy the mind helps. I also listed to some music on my phone.
I came through my 8th loop, and asked for a banana, a Gatorade, and a water. Little did I know I would not use any of them. I felt a little better now – Jim, Maria, and Thom all encouraged me to ride hard and finish strong. Also that I had more than enough time for one loop plus some extra! So I took off again – yes into the headwind – It had to be blowing at least 30 mph now! I know it wasn’t, just felt like it! I prayed for the wind to stop, but the big man upstairs had another plan: Rain! A pelting rain straight at me for the next 10 miles. Thank goodness for my visor, and having training in several heavy downpour conditions back in Asheville! It slowed me down a little, but I did not stop! After about 30 minutes the rain did however, but not the wind!
The most challenging difficulty for me was just ahead, although at the time of course I did not know it. I was slowly catching the guy in front of me (Actually the only person that passed me the entire race – Other than the 5-man (100 mile) drafting train that Jim was part of.
I remember this episode vividly however: I had just passed the 13 mile marker and was to make a 90 degree turn on to a rough road. I started my turn, and my wheels started slipping and sliding all over the place due to the rain and pine needles all over road from the storm. I somehow managed to right the bike, but this sent me straight through the turn I was turning into, down about a 3 foot ditch and back up the other side. Finally coming to a stop and unclipping my feet (thinking what would have happened if I have been on the Vendetta not able to clip out!) As I was contemplating this and giving thanks that I was not laying in the road or the ditch, and of course straddling the bike seat as I waddled towards the road: you guessed it - a large black dog came running at me. I swear he might as well been a big black bear! I am sure it was not very graceful at all, and that I certainly exceeded my maximum heart rate for the day without even pedaling, but I somehow managed to get to the road before the dog took a chunk out of me. I am also extremely thankful that he was trained to stay in the yard! Well, so much for catching the guy in front of me! Anyway, 13 more miles to the High School and end of lap 9. I thought I could easily make it now and with the extra “run-through-the-ditch / chased-by-the-dog” adrenaline that I had now. I hammered away, but very carefully slowed down for the rest of the turns I needed to make on the course!
I made it to the school and finished my 9th lap with 8 minutes left of my 12 hours. I managed to eech out another 2.5 miles into the dreaded headwind. They told to stop when I knew it was 7pm, and then call the event organizer, tell her my number and what mile marker yI has last passed. I did that, and then she told me I was free to ride back the school. It was at that point I felt slightly glad that I was not out there at mile marker 13!
I returned to the High School to the cheers and encouragement of Jim and Maria. Thom had driven out to pick up Charlie, who had made it all the way to mile marker 17. He did an incredible 251 miles! My official total was 237 miles. Not too bad for an old man on a black bike! Maybe next year I will have a “yellow” one!