Saturday, July 5, 2008

Jumbled GDR Race Thoughts

This is as close as I'm going to come to a race report - a random collection of thoughts and photos:

First for those who didn't follow along I ended up dropping out of the race halfway between Steamboat Springs and Silverthorne... about 10 days and 1400 miles from the start.

Lack of sleep seemed to be my ultimate undoing. In the first 3 days I slept a total of 8.5 hours and in the first week a total of 33 hours. In the future I need to find something to help me sleep when I do multi-day races. I would lay down at night and just couldn't get my mind to stop carrying on.

I had a chance to meet almost all of the riders before the race started. I knew regardless of the outcome it was all worth it just to get to ride with so many great people.

Snow covered passes were the theme of the first few days but they were never as bad as everyone else wanted to make them out to be. I estimate that snow/mud at Red Meadow Lake set me back about 30 minutes; Richmond Peak about 50 minutes; the area before Flagg Ranch about 20 minutes; Togwatee Pass about 45 minutes; Union Pass about 5 minutes; and Watershed Divide about 10 minutes. In the grand scheme of things this was pretty much meaningless.

I rode with other riders a lot the first 3 days, especially David Blaine, Rainer Klaus, Simon Kennett, Carl Hutchings, and John Nobile. After Wise River though I never saw another rider until the day that I dropped out. That amounted to about 850 miles of alone time. This was a good thing in some ways but I sure did get sick of myself sometimes in that stretch.

I never once felt like I was riding in a race. I made no effort to rush when I made stops. I rode hard when I was riding but I pretty much stopped everytime there was anything worth stopping for, including sometimes 4 or 5 meals a day. As the race developed with John running about 3 hours ahead of me for several days I would always have people at stores and cafes telling me that he was in and out in a couple minutes and I should really get going if I was going to catch him. 30 minutes later I would finally stumble out the door and get back on the road. It's amazing to me that anyone could mentally ride this "race" in a racing mindset the whole time. I just couldn't see that as being fun at all. I guess maybe if, like John, I was going at it for my third time and was so focused on doing it as fast as he ultimately ended up doing it.

I ended up averaging 150 miles per day through Steamboat Springs. This was much faster than I had anticipated riding. I'm not exactly sure how I ended up riding at this pace. It just kind of happened and then it seemed like there was nothing I could do to make it stop... until finally my body just couldn't go anymore. And once my body shut down my mind shut down.

I rode until at least sunset every single night. The earliest I ever stopped was 9:30 and the night I got lost with David up on Lava Mountain I was out until 2:30 AM. The evening was by far my favorite time to ride each day. Most days I didn't even feel warmed up until about 3pm.

In some ways this ride was much easier than I expected it to be. Or at least more fun. I kind of thought that I would have several hours each day in which I was miserable but for almost all of the time in the first 7 days I was having fun... even when I was falling asleep on the bike around Helena and Butte I was still enjoying myself much more than I expected.

But then when my body gave out I became so miserable and uncomfortable that it almost felt like I wasn't even in the same race anymore. I have never been in any situation where my physical and mental well being changed so drastically in such a short period of time. When I rolled into Steamboat at 9:30pm on the 8th day of the race I was confident and having fun. 12 hours later I was in serious trouble and I knew it. 36 hours later I was only about 25 miles beyond Steamboat and was feeling even worse. By the end of that day my race was done and I began a stretch in which I slept at least 10 hours a night for 4 straight nights.

I'm not really sure yet if I'll ever ride this race again. On one hand I feel like I have some unfinished business out there, but on the other hand I just don't know if I will ever choose to put the time and money into it again.

If I do ever ride it again I will probably try to have more a plan than I did this time. In fact I had no plan this time. I just kind of went out and rode my bike and then when it got dark I slept and then I got up and rode my bike again. I guess this is really the only plan you need to have but certainly I would have benefited from stopping earlier some days and getting more sleep.

I was very pleased with my bike and gear. All told, including my ride up to the start from Utah I rode almost 2,500 miles and had no mechanical problems and all of my gear held up great and performed flawlessly. For anyone thinking about doing this race, or any other multi-day mountain bike riding I highly suggest getting in touch with Eric at EpicDesigns. His bags are the best.

As I already mentioned I think lack of sleep was my biggest problem in this race. I also struggled quite a bit at times with food. I had a good appetite the whole time and I think I actually gained a little weight during my 10 days out there, but I just never felt satisfied when I couldn't get at least a couple cooked meals a day. I had 2 long stretches (more than 24 hours) in which I had to fuel myself completely on food that I was carrying along with me and I definitely felt particularly weak at these times. I was always able to get enough calories in my body but granola bars, chips, cookies, twizzlers, donuts, peanuts, string cheese, and bananas just never seemed to give me the same boost that a double bacon burger and a triple order of fries did.

Anyhow, when it was all said and done I had a great time out there. I learned so many things about myself and my biking abilities (that is I learned that I actually have abilities on a bike, or at least much more than I previously thought). The scenery was amazing and the people I got to meet along the way were even more amazing. And the other riders I got to race with were the greatest people I have ever competed with. As I write this there are still 7 riders out there pushing on toward the finish and I'll be so stoked if they are all able to make it.

Well, that's all about that. Now it's back to the familiar territory of running for at least the next couple months as I prepare for the Wasatch 100 on September 6th.


Anonymous said...

Geoff, thanks for the ride report. I followed you and David pretty religiously via your Spot trackers while you were both in the race and I was in awe of the pace you guys were riding at. You were so far ahead of pace when you started having fatigue problems that it occurred to me that you could easily afford to take a few days off to recover (and I was hoping you would), but I can totally understand your decision. Since you guys dropped out the race just hasn't held quite the same interest to me. Good luck in your next racing endeavor- I might even tune in if you've got your Spot going again.

Vito said...

Geoff, great narrative & photos. Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us. It sounds like you really liked the bags you used from Epic Designs. It would be great if you could give a run down of your equipment in a future posting. Also, was your handlebar bag also from Epic? I'm looking for one with a map case and I'm not sure what to get. Any suggestions? Best of luck with the rest of your summer. I'll be looking forward to reading about it. Splendid effort in an enormously challenging race.

keith said...

Damn, dude. I've been kind of lurking on your blog, marvelling at the stuff you're doing. You make nice race reports, too. Great photos.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye towards your Wasatch adventure. I think the rest of the field had better watch out!

FixieDave said...

Nice write up....

careful this race has a way of festering in your head :)

Glad I ran into you in whitfish!

Matt Hart said...

good to read you are safe and seemingly have a great perspective on your race.

wasatch won't know what hit it! any idea if kyle is running again?

Unknown said...

A handy thing for turning the brain off at night is Valerian root tea. Sleepytime Extra is a brand that is relatively easy to find, and I have heard it can be infused cold. It is mild (not like a sleeping pill) and doesn't leave you feeling any different in the morning, like Benadryl can.

You learned something out there about yourself, which seems like it's much of the point of pushing oneself in endurance races.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations for riding as well as you did and as far! Doing multi-day races are so different than a really long race that might even last 30-40 hours.

Most people told me before I attempted RAAM that I didn't need to worry about sleeping. They said I would fall asleep as soon as I got off the bike. I planned to sleep 3 hours a night. Even when I was falling asleep on the bike, I'd still have trouble falling asleep when I stopped and would wake up a few time during the 3 hours.

Dave said...

Nice one. Very nice. I guess ya gotta figure that stuff out somehow...

I can't even fathom how hard that must've been. You're a burly mofo.

Good luck in September.

Fonk said...

For a first attempt, I'd say you put forth an outstanding effort. That was a blistering pace you were riding! Great report (and pictures), too.

On the sleeping thing, another thing I've found that really helps is melatonin supplements. I have trouble sleeping when camping and during the nights before big races. I've found that taking 1mg of melatonin helps me fall asleep quicker/easier, and I actually stay asleep until my alarm goes off. You can get higher doses, too, but I've found the 1mg is plenty. I don't want to get completely knocked out, just a little help falling/staying asleep.

mindful mule said...

Nice photos… What an amazing place to have ridden a bike!

~ Sheepheads said...

Enjoyed that report and the photos are excellent! Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Good luck @ Wasatch 100.

Dave Harris said...

Gutsy ride Geoff. There's no book of training on GDR just have to go out and see how your body (and mind) responds. For some reason I thought you were a runner, not a cyclist. For a runner to animate the toughest MTB race on the planet, well that's burly. It looks like your strongest point is the fun filter, it's creates quite a healthy outlook!

Anyway, awesome ride, pics and writeup and thanks for being so open about it all.

David Blaine said...

Lava Mountain Trail was the real adventure of my GDR, I wouldn't trade that memory for a little more sleep. Send me an email Geoff so we can get caught up. chefdavidbaline(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Great effort Geoff! It was fun to follow along on the GDR page and SPOT. Glad all is well. What was that talk about double bacon cheeseburgers?? Take care and best wishes.


Micah said...

Anna told me a few days ago that you had been through Heber and we just kept saying, "That's so sad!" I totally know what it feels like to drop out of a race that you have put so much time into. When I dropped out of LoToJa I had to ride this school bus down to where everyone was waiting for us. I saw my parents from one of the windows before they saw me and when they did see me on the bus they both looked at me and sort of just deflated, like, "Oh no, she's on the bus. She dropped out." I started crying all over again.

Anonymous said...

Geoff , Very nice write up and great pics . It was a pleasure to meet you in Whitefish and thanks for letting us crowd into your room for the night . I hope my coughing didn't keep everybody awake . Like Dave says this has a way of making you think about it till next year .

Andy B.

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