Avg Speed: 16.7 mph
Avg Heart Rate: 128 bpm
Climbing: 5,000 ft
Calories Burned: 5,221
One of the longest days of the trip ... serious climbing ... more amazing descents ... speed
The day started early with breakfast at 5:30. I was feeling really crappy and was nursing a queasy stomach and just felt lethargic. Not a good way to begin a 117 mile bike ride with two major mountainous climbs. I quickly established an excellent rhythm and started to feel much better. My energy level would increase steadily throughout the day and I had lots left in the tank when I was done almost 7 hours of riding time later. While I have ridden numerous centuries (100 miles), I have only pushed past 110 a couple times. The "Thoroughbreds" headed out around 6:20. That is what some of the other members of our group have started calling me, Dave, Jeff, Joe, and Mark.
Several folks opted to take a lift from the SAG van up to the summit of the first climb. We climbed almost 2,000 feet over 30 miles to Ochoco Pass (4722'). The grades were not that bad and enabled a pretty steady pace that included some helpful pace lines. At one point we had a train of almost 10 riders. Each person took a spot up front (called a "pull"). My best pull prize goes to 18 year old Allison. She set a great pace for two miles. It was her first century as well as Katie's. I detached a little from the other Thoroughbreds and just steadily finished the climb on my own, arriving just a few minutes after them. From there we had a glorious twelve mile descent. I powered down at speeds that again broke 40 mph. The roads were is great condition and the scenery was out of an old Gunsmoke show ... rocky gorges, treeless mesas and mountains, and cliffs. It was exhilarating! I now understand why our mileage for some days varies so much ... there is nothing out here. At the end of the descent an oasis appeared in the town of Mitchell ... the Bridge Creek Cafe. It was a good spot for a cold cranberry juice and some oatmeal cookies.
From Mitchell the real fun started ... another 2,000+ foot, 6 mile climb. This one was much steeper, with an average grade of around 7 percent. It kicked up to 9-10 in a few spots. I again detached slightly from my crew, but found a great pace and met them at the Keyes Creek Summit (4372'). My training and hill work has definitely paid huge dividends. Most significantly, my heart rate is rarely exceeding 85% of maximum, which indicates a more controlled and efficient pace. My average for the whole day was only 128 beats per minute (barely 70% of my max) ... of course, the huge descents help lower it too.
The descent was much longer and more gradual and gave us a good chance to chat and enjoy the scenery, including the John Day Fossil Beds. Our pace was very high and got even higher when Jay from Arkansas flew by us. Mark, Joe, and I latched on. Jay is a state champion in his age group and completed the America By Bicycle Fast America Ride earlier this year. He is with us for the first 20 days (to Jackson Hole). The man is a machine and quickly had us speeding along at 25+ mph. I held the pace for about 5 miles. Mark held on another five before he was dropped, and Joe stayed with him all the way into the 3rd SAG stop in the town of Dayville. The SAG was in front of the Dayville Mercantile, a 110 year old general store that is run by an avid cyclist, Steve Cookinham. He used to work for MCI in his previous life.
After a nice break, we headed for John Day along a steady but gentle 30 mile route through more mesas and cliffs. Small farms appeared as we got closer to the town. Our speed was huge during this segment and averaged 18.5 mph. It would have been higher, but Jeff got a nasty blow out that required us to "boot" the tire (we inserted a heavy piece of rubberized burlap that I carry between his tire and tube). It held, but the tire was shot and slowly deteriorated. We took it easy until Barbara caught up with us in the truck about 6 miles from town. A new tire and we were back to the races. We covered the last few miles at blistering 25+ mph. Our rooms were not quite ready, so we headed to the DQ for blizzards. I spent some time talking with a father and daughter from Denton, Maryland who were riding self supported from Astoria to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We had passed them earlier. He is a minister and his daughter was carrying a guitar among the 50 pounds she was toting ... her dad was carrying a whopping 80 pounds. I gave them my card/email and hope to hear more about there adventure over the summer. Dinner was at the Outpost Restaurant.
What started as bad day ended up being one the best cycling days I have experienced. Besides my own grit and determination, I had others pushing me on. Karen sent me a text in the morning that summed it well ... "If you believe in yourself, you can do anything. Good luck on your long day. Dad is with you. What is the alternative ... work?" It may sound corny, but during those few times when I was alone and grinding it up the last steep grades, I looked for inspiration from Leo, my grandmother Celia, my great aunt Fran, and the numerous folks I have met who are/were impacted by lung disease. Together we did it!
Almost 5,000 more feet of climbing awaits us tomorrow as we ride 81 miles to Baker City, Oregon.
Good night moon ... good night Thoroughbreds ... good night Leo ... good night Dad ... good night cliffs ... good night friends, family, and supporters.