Friday, May 8, 2009

Dear Randobiker,

Any pointers in strategy that you may recommend for somebody embarking upon their first 600K? Send ahead clothes or nutrition to a halfway? Just get on the bike and keep it rolling forward? Plan a stop halfway for a good meal and change of clothes or a maybe a few hours downtime? I would be interested in any thoughts you have as I move into uncharted distance territory.

Sincerely yours,
Ready2Roll

Dear Ready2Roll,

Regarding the Oregon 600k XTR, they don't call it XTR for nothing. It's got extra challenge, extra adventure, it is extra hard, extra hilly and extra windy. All the prime ingredients for a true Oregon Extra.

I will check with the support crew; the idea of having a bag or gear drop at Mitchell at the 300k control. This would allow people some strategy as far as nutrition, supplying warm clothing or dropping extra gear. We would transport the drop bags to the overnight control and then back to The Dalles. I think it is a good idea, I just want to make sure the support team agrees with the idea.

Fueling is very important for these long rides. I train with the same fuel that I ride distance with because I want my body to be able to use it and not react badly to it. The Ultra Marathon Cycling Association web site has a section on fueling. You can find some free knowledge at Hammer Nutrition. You might also be able to find others who are interested in sharing an economical purchase of maltodextrin directly from a bulk supplier. You will loose lots of time if you run out of energy and hit the wall. Back when I used to eat solid foods, I found that on long rides I needed to stop and eat and take care of business every 100k. Everyone is different, ask around. Look for a strategy that keeps the calories coming, in the right amounts and times to keep you on the road cranking 200+ watts.

The ride starts at sun up going east. That means you'll be looking into the sun. People who ride with caps that have visors will do alright. Otherwise, it might be a good time to bring a visor. The turn onto US-26 runs west into the setting sun so that is another time for a visor.

It will probably be cold on the down side of the hills on US-26 at night. Something to think about. Maybe keep a set of arm, toe, leg warmers and light gloves. The brochures at the Fossil Beds warn of Black Bear, Cougar, Rattle Snakes and various other critters and insects. Avoid hitting them or perturbing them. Bikers might be pretty tasty especially after they have fermented all day in the sun.

Highway 26 does not have much of a shoulder and east of Prineville and it does not have a heavy loading of traffic. However the traffic picks up between Prineville and Warm Springs. This is a good stretch of road to get out of the way early Sunday morning. Some people recommend learning to ride 600k straight through which means stopping at the overnight, getting fuel, taking care of business, resupply, catching a 90 minute sleep cycle and continuing on. Practically speaking, for slower riders, this is what they are going to do anyway. But a 90 minute sleep cycle should be sleep, not fussing around in the fog and confusion. Take a short cut through the fog, find a bed and get horizontal for 90 minutes.

I very seldom ride straight through and prefer to take a 3 hour break which includes a shower, food, sleep cycle and business. A three hour break is no nonsense and no wasted time. The overnight control will provide a place to sleep, some nutrition and recovery. You can pack a drop bag for the overnight control. Good things to include are a change of bike cloths and space to unload your unwanted gear. You probably also want to include some spare tubes and CO2 cartridges, energy bars, boost, ensure, gels, etc. Your drop bag should be small, about 12x20-inches.

So to beat the traffic on 26, either start early in the morning and get to Warm Springs before the drivers come out, or mosey through the overnight control. I think a lot of it depends on the scheme and expectations that people develop in their minds before or during the ride. It is better to be flexible and roll with the flow than to be fixed and make a bad tactical decision. For example, if you get to the overnight control at 2:00 pm, it will be too early to sleep and a bad time to plan on a nap since your body clock will work against you. Just an example, and not to say anyone is going to get anywhere close to the overnight by 2:00 pm!

The other thing to consider is the wind. Central Oregon has wind, lots of it coming out of the west, northwest or southwest. The wind usually dies down at night so if wind is a factor, riding through the night is often the better choice. If you do plan on riding through the night, try to look for and plan on places where you can roll up in a space blanket or post office or park on a picnic table. The area has critters you don't want in your space blanket.

This country is bone dry and if it is hot, hydration will be difficult. If you are strong enough to carry a camel pack, it might be a real good idea especially if the weather is hot. Otherwise probably 3 water bottles. Keep an eye on the weather at Prineville or Madras and compare to where you live. Look at the humidity, there could be a big desiccation factor in Central Oregon.

It isn't over until it's over. Day 2 might only have 7000 feet elevation gain but it will also have wind, some coarse pavement, 20 miles of frost cracks past Tygh Ridge and several epic hills. They should have called Tygh Ridge, Heart Break Hill. Save some for Tygh Ridge.

Finally, the most dangerous part of these rides is trying to drive home after the ride. Get some rest before you drive. Don't drive when you are tired. Hate nags but falling asleep at the wheel only takes an instant, it isn't a choice and it can kill you or someone else and it could be negligent homicide. Ride then rest. Don't drive tired.

Yours truly,
Randobiker