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Transplant Athlete
Thursday, June 29, 2006
  RAAM Part IV

So you thought the saga was over...As I hit the gravel, I thought I was in trouble, but I was still confident that the shoulder would return. I held the bike upright for 30 or 40 feet and was starting to get less confident that I would be able to get back on to the shoulder. When I finally came to rest, tangled up in the bike, wind knocked out of me. I took a second or two to myself to get back to reality. Mike parked the truck right there on the highway and jumped out. He was completely wigged out. He was scrambling for a cell phone, which I had taken out to call my wife in Flagstaff and hadn't put back(my mistake). He then tried to flag down some passing motorists to borrow a cell phone. Meanwhile, Scooter came over and gently untangled me from the bike. I think my first words to him were, "please tell me you got that on tape, because I am not doing that again." Alas, he hadn't, but I think he got some good footage of the aftermath.

Mike wanted to call 911, but I told him to call the RV instead, I wasn't seriously injured and Jason and Dave would figure out what to do next. He got intermittent contact with the RV and gave them what they felt were random directions and it took them about an hour to get back to us. Eventually, I was back on my feet, pulling thorns out of my body and trying to get the dirt off of me. My softride might be seriously damaged and the presecription insert for my Rudy Project Sunglasses had gone AWOL, but I briefly entertained the thought of heroically jumping on my litespeed and pushing on to the next time station, but the RV was on its way back.

Dave got Mike to pull the truck off the road as they formulated a plan for what to do next. They decided to take me back to Flagstaff for X-Rays and if I was toast, getting a hotel there for the night. We figured our chances of decent hospitals and lodging would be better in Flagstaff. We spent hours in the ER, but Dave sprung me, and we got a hotel for the night. In the morning, I spent over an hour changing crew flights to get them home earlier. We decided to follow the RAAM route east through CO (the scenic part) and then going straight to St. Louis for their flights. We had a hell of a time getting there, there were high crosswinds that threw the RV around like it was a toy. Luckily, that was AHEAD of the severe weather front, I can't imagine what it would have been like if we actually got caught in the severe weather. We had to drive nearly around the clock to get to St. Louis on time for the flights and I was seriously concerned for their safety in the RV. Dave was in serious need of sleep, but we got to the hotel safely and he and Jason got some sleep and caught their flights on time. Mike, Scooter and I then had about 12 hours of driving to get to Frederick, MD. We stopped for a sleep break in Ohio and then showed up early at my In-Laws and flooded their house with my equipment and supplies. Scooter and Mike got some more sleep, and I had time with the kids, the wife, and the In-Laws. My mother-in-law has been super nice to me since I started training for RAAM and she generously took care of us.

Early the next morning, we left for Philly so Mike and Scooter could catch their flights home. As we were circling the airport looking for Mike's airline, he disappeared. He had used the Head in the RV. Would you use a skanky toilet in a small closet or wait until you got to the nice clean spacious stalls at the airport? At any rate, I expected that which is why I waited to dump the tanks. I spent the next week at my parent's house enjoying my percocet and sleeping as often as I could.

I drove in to AC for the final banquet and Tony O'Keefe was on his way in, so I showed up at the finish line to cheer him on. That was real depressing for me. I then walked to the banquet which I thought was supposed to be 2 blocks from the finish, but according to Rebecca Haldeman was nearly 2 miles...Again, it was depressing me to be there, so I talked to Jim Pitre (I'd like to help out with next year's race) and then left.

 
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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
  RAAM Part III

I can only guess how long we were at the hotel. I think we slept for 4 hours, but maybe spent another hour catching showers, eating, and then restarting. My average speed for this section from Congress to Prescott was 4.27 mph. The climb to Prescott was spectacular and I felt right at home on the climb. I loved the descents. Incidentally, Prescott is the city where I got left behind at the McDonalds in last year's team RAAM. For old times sake, I had Mike run in and buy me some egg and cheese biscuits.

Again, my time got called in at Prescott as I was leaving, making it a bit slower, while calling in my time, the officials asked to speak with Jason and I guess they told him to light a fire under me. I was back on the softride for this section and made pretty good time in the beginning and then switched to the Litespeed about 20 or 30 miles in. The SLR saddle that cut into my sciatic nerve every time I used it on my softride was now the most comfortable saddle in the world on my Litespeed. I can't explain it, the shape just seemed to fit right. Although, the saddle sores were starting to make me a bit uncomfortable. I spent a bunch of miles moving around the saddle, until I found a patch of skin that didn't have sores on it. About 20 miles before the TS in Williams, before we got on to I-40, Dave showed up with more McDonalds. That was a long twenty miles uphill to Williams and I pushed myself a little into dehydration and underfueling territory to make it there faster. Dumb Move. I spent about an hour in Williams recovering and then pushed off to Flagstaff.

In Flagstaff, I found Guy Wells was sleeping and getting an IV, in fact his crew had put a port in his arm to facilitate future IVs. His crew offered to hook me up, but I was a bit scared. I probably should have. I spent a bit more time than I would have liked here in Flagstaff and when we finally got going, my cousin Mike was behind the wheel of the follow vehicle with Scooter the Cameraman.

We had a difficult time negotiating how they would communicate turns to me. At first, Mike said "let's use the walkie-talkies." I agreed. For some reason I can't remember, there was more discussion and I found myself showing him the proper way to signal turns. (Arm out window and up for right turn, Arm straight out window for left). By mile 3.5 I knew we were in trouble. There was a RAAM Arrow on the pavement, but Mike signaled me to stop. We went over the cue sheet together. At mile 4.1, I had a great tailwind and blew through an intersection and Mike started frantically beeping at me. I think he was signalling me to turn, but his arms were inside the car and I couldn't see which way he was pointing until I came back. The same thing happened at Mile 4.5. So I pulled over and told him to hand over the cue sheet to Scooter the Cameraman. Its hard enough to drive in an area like that without having to decipher a cue sheet at the same time. There was some attitude in my voice and Mike called me on it. I heard him say, "I haven't screwed up once. Do you want me to leave? Because I will."

Anyone who saw the 2004 RAAM Broadcast may remember Russ Goodwin. The majority of his crew were family members and late one night, they accidentally hit him with the follow vehicle. He allegedly threw a tantrum and they left him on the side of the road. The announcer ominously warned that since he was "OK", it might have been better to forgive and forget. So, there were three thoughts running through my head at this point. 1) If he takes off, he's taking my wife's car and I may never see it again. 2) I can't ask Jason and Dave (my last two drivers) to go the rest of the way by themselves. That's just too much to ask. 3) Russ Goodwin and the announcer's warning of Forgiving and forgetting.

I spent the next 10 miles thinking about the amount of money I'd asked my wife to commit to this endeavour. The thousands of miles and training time I've put in to get to the start line. The deadline in Durango which I was not going to make. I was crying. It was all over.

Then I got a killer view from the top of the Coconino National Forest. Below me the road was arrow straight for maybe 30 miles and there would be about 2000 feet of elevation lost during that time. A steady tailwind was also at my back. They clocked me at 50 mph on the steep part and they said I was holding pretty steady between 30 and 40 mph after the road leveled out. I was in my aerobars and just cruising along, I thought I saw Guy's support vehicle lights in the distance so I poured on the gas. I had to eventually stop to get my clear lenses for the sunglasses and put my lights on, that's when Mike and I apologized to each other. Ten minutes later with the sun just below the horizon and with visibility just starting to get difficult, I had my crash.

 
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  RAAM 2006 Part II

In Salton City, Jason started putting in to words, what I wanted to say, "I needed food and water. Constantly.".Jason switched out my pedals on the Softride to "Look" brand and that allowed me to switch shoes. The shoes with the Orb cleats were tight all around, the shoes with the look cleats were seriously loose and my foot would slide forward, but by alternating shoes, I was alternating where the pain was. I forgot to mention that when I switched to the Softride in Lake Henshaw. The different position of the Softride meant that different muscle groups were being used and I was feeling like I had just started the race.

We (Dave and Jason were now in the follow vehicle) had a flat ride with a slight tailwind for the first 25 miles after Salton City. I got my first flat early after leaving the Time Station. Mentally, I had my game face on and was enjoying the scenery. The lake was on my right shoulder. That all changed when we got to Box Canyon Road. The road wasn't steep. It gained less than 1600 feet over 20 miles. Skyline drive in Front Royal, VA has around the same climbing in 4 or 5 miles. It was the road itself, intimidating me, taunting me. We were entering what I'm assuming was a box canyon (hence the name), which for me meant that the road looked like it headed straight for a dead end with rock on both shoulders. Eventually, it would bend right and again it would look like I was headed for a dead end, then bend left, ad nauseum. When we could finally see Rte 10 in the distance, we had maybe a dozen miles or so to go, but it seemed to take forever. I stopped a couple of times here, including a long stop where I attempted to refuel, rehydrate, and catch 15 minutes off the bike prone on the ground. Jason and Dave decided that I needed a longer break in Chiriaco Summit, so I took a shower, got about 90 minutes of sleep (I think) and then continued on to Blythe. I was under the mistaken impression that it was downhill to Blythe, so I'm glad they made me stop. When we got to Blythe, Mike and Pat had dumped the RV holding tanks, but they didn't put the chemicals in the empty tanks. Mike also told me that they left the valve open on the grey water tank so that they wouldn't have to waste time dumping that. I told him we could get fined for that. I think my crew called in my time for the Blythe station when I was leaving, so my average speed to this station was abnormally low.

Mike and Pat were in the follow vehicle for this section with Scooter the Cameraman. About 5 or 10 miles outside of the time station in Hope, Arizona, Mike asked if they could go ahead to the time station and I said "No." I was having a slow leak in my rear wheel and I didn't want a repeat of the Anza Borrego desert of not having enough water. It was then that Mike told me that the heat was getting to Pat, he was feeling dehydrated and dizzy. Pat has a pre-existing condition that makes this much more serious than it may sound. When we got close enough, I sent them ahead. I got there before they could return for me. Guy Wells' support vehicles were all at the time station, he was racing Enduro, but I figured we'd be bumping into each other across the country. I sat around a bit trying to refuel and rehydrate and decide what to do about Pat. I wasn't thinking clearly and I think I suggested that he get shuttled up to a hotel in Prescott where he'd have a chance to recuperate a bit. He had talked with his nurse back home and he/she had said he should go directly home, do not pass Go...It was around this time that I noticed the handlebars on my Litespeed were askew. This lead to a close up inspection and the realization that the roof rack was barely hanging on the vehicle. Mike had pulled under a tree for shade and had ripped the roof rack off. Hey, it happens. Luckily, the hardware to the roof rack was still under the tree, so I reattached the rack a bit further back. The factory rails are toast and I won't be able to trust them until I get them replaced. The Yakima "feet" might be ok. I'll have to inspect them to determine if I can trust them. They snapped apart at the interface to the part that attaches to the factory rails. Jason was on his way to Congress, AZ in the RV, so I put the roof rack back together. I think I lost about an hour here, maybe an hour and a half. In the end, I loaded up with CO2 for my slow leak, my phone, three water bottles, and a sandwich and headed off alone to Congress. I didn't know how long I would be unsupported. Jason and Dave returned in the RV and intercepted me about 6 miles out. They checked to see if I needed anything and may have given me a wheel. Dave took the lead with Pat and decided the best thing to do would be to get him to Pheonix where he could catch a flight home. Jason, Mike, and Scooter caught up with me a couple miles down the road. Then the RV caught up with us and Pat transfered his things to the RV and the guys transfered stuff out of the RV, we weren't quite sure how long Dave would be gone.

The rest of the way to Congress was maddening, maybe I was dehydrated, maybe there was a wrong road sign, but I thought that Congress was just past Rte 93, not 6 miles from 93. Congress is a small town, the only hotel had 4 rooms and they were all sold out. The guys were really beat and needed sleep. Dave was still a few hours out, so we decided to get a hotel room in Yarnell. I must have been getting rehydrated here, because I remembered that there was a list of hotels in the back of the route book. Jason called ahead and made a reservation. I wanted to get the climb done before going down for a sleep break instead of getting shuttled ahead and then getting shuttled back down the mountain. If I was really rehydrated, I would have sent them ahead to get one of them and Scooter in the room to sleep, while I did the climb. Daylight was fading fast and the rules say that the follow vehicle must be behind me at all times. I was feeling like a champ on the climb and at the beginning, I could see the lights for 3 support vehicles in the distance. I felt great that I was within sight of at least three competitors. Jason had rotated the handlebars back into place and did a quick check ride. I was feeling more at home on the Litespeed now and danced up the climb. Well, it felt like dancing to me. Jason and I were even joking around about it. I was trying my best to sound like Phil Ligget.

When we got to the hotel, it was apparent that the guys needed sleep for all our safety. Dave had gotten Pat safely on his way home and was now bearing Quarter Pounders and Cheeseburgers making him my new best friend. Fat, Protein, Carbs, and Salt what more do you need 350 miles into a transcontinental ride? He had been driving for 7 or 8 hours straight at this point and definitely deserved a break.

 
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  RAAM 2006 Part I

I've spent a long time thinking about how to write about my experiences in RAAM 2006. Many of the issues that I need to cover stem from problems I generated. Mostly, they were poor planning decisions, poor training of the crew, and poor communication on my part. I assumed I would be easy to support. Wrong. I assumed I would be able to communicate coherently to my crew. Wrong. I assumed I would be able to give directions on the road in lieu of training. Wrong.

I spent my time in San Diego adding signage to the vehicles, getting the bikes ready, and stressing over the little details(like paperwork, inspections, getting the RV and getting to rider meeting in time). Obviously, I needed to fly the crew in a bit earlier to help out. I spent too much time at the start line banquet. I did the food shopping right after the banquet at the worst food store I could find (not intentionally mind you). The morning of the race I spent my time rearranging the follow vehicle so that stuff would be more accessible. I should have worked with my crew on this a day or so ahead of time. I had some seriously jangled nerves lining up on the pier. An official came up to me and asked if I had gotten my missing paperwork in...I freaked. Jason took control and told me to relax.

I had been ready for the race to start for the past two days, so when everything was taken care of and we were ready to go, I was actually calming down a bit. Once we started, I was feeling pretty alone. It seemed like the other riders were pairing up and talking. I eventually struck up a conversation with Rob Lucas and Jim Kern. It was actually quite funny rolling along, people were pulling over here and there to relieve themselves. Then when we hit the bridge on Old Highway 76 for the actual race start it seemed like everybody was relieving themselves. Then when the race restarted, people were leaving like it was the start of a 40k. They were strictly enforcing the 100 meter rule(if passed, either pass the passer or drop back 100 meters), so I chose to drop back whenever passed, no sense in sprinting so early in the race. I was having some fit issues with my Litespeed, so I switched to my Softride at the first time station. Basically, I had only put on 130 miles on it since I rebuilt it from what is now known as Miss Fortunes 100 miles on January 1. I had zero miles on my Orb Pedals in the past 3 months or so(both were stupid mistakes).

My cousin Mike and his friend Pat were in the follow vehicle for the first two time stations and they did a great job with the leapfrog support. When we hit the Borrego desert, they handed me a commercial waterbottle (think aquafina or dasani) and then pulled over at a convenience store. The temperature was a bit over 100 degrees and it was DRY. I passed David Caples (my other crew member) in the center of town. The terrain was pretty flat ground, so I was humming along. About a mile outside of town the bottle of water bounced out of my cage(it was too small). It didn't have a top on it, so the contents went everywhere. I continued on thinking my crew would be behind me shortly. Roughly 6 miles past where I last saw my crew(I'm guessing around 20 - 30 minutes), I was getting pretty desperate for water. Luckily, Jean Marc Velez's crew happened by in their RV and kindly stopped to offer aid. They gave me a bottle of water and asked if I needed anything else. My crew caught back up to me about a mile later, but the damage was done. About 7 miles outside of Salton City, I stopped to pee, then sat down because I was dizzy, then threw up. I was getting sick of perpetuem and switched to plain water with endurolytes. This would rehydrate me, but would pose a fueling problem (no calories). I had brought a dozen 24 oz. Specialized waterbottles(for my money the best on the planet), but somehow I kept getting these short(16 oz) no-name water bottles that kept cutting into my lip(I have no clue where they came from). As I mentioned earlier I had assumed I would be able to communicate my wishes(specialized water bottles with ice cold water) and advice (close support in hot desert areas) during the race, but I was dehydrated and unable to think clearly, obviously better training of the crew by me beforehand would have avoided this.

At 8 hours and 33 minutes race time, I had arrived in Salton City, CA (113.6 miles). That was a respectable 13.29 mph average so far, despite the dehydration and fueling issues and considering I was trying to stay in my aerobic zone.

 
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Saturday, June 17, 2006
  Crash

Just a quick note to let everyone know what happened. I was on Rte 89 North of Flagstaff enjoying a tail wind and a wide smooth shoulder on a long straight road. I was in serious danger of being pulled from the official race due to a slow speed (more about that later), so I was exceeding 30mph and on a slight decline when I came upon the border of the Navajo Indian Reservation. The wide smooth shoulder I had been using disappeared into a small shoulder with rumble strips down the middle. I popped out of the aero bars and onto the brakes, but was unable to slow myself or turn before I hit the gravel part of the shoulder. I've managed to keep the bike upright in several training rides in similar situations, but my speed was to high and the gravel shoulder sloped into ditch. The skid mark was surprisingly long and that was my impression (at the time) that I was doing well to keep the bike upright, but gravity took over, I descended into the ditch and much rougher terrain. My front Zipp 202 dug into a bush, collapsed, and I vaulted over the handlebars. I hit my head as I tumbled down the road. and eventually came to rest on my back, tangled up in the bike.

After meeting up with my RV and crew chiefs (plural), they decided to take me back to Flagstaff for X-rays and medical evaluation where it was determined that I had broken a rib. It was a difficult personal decision to DNF.

 
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Saturday, June 10, 2006
  Eve Of...

I am sitting here, finally calming down. I'm thinking about the well wishes from Ed and Mary, Chuck and Crista, George Winkert, Jeff Magnuson, Chris Mento, Rudy Hewitt and some of the other DC Randonneurs. I'm going to keep them in my mind as I ride, without them, this wouldn't be possible. They are more than my training companions, Crista puts together some of the best routes I've ever ridden (with convenience stores marked) and none of them has ever said anything about my wheel sucking. I had a great adventure with Ed and Mary on last year's 400k brevet and it is moments like that that stick with me. When I think I can't go any further, I think of that night. I'd like to do well as much for them as for me.

Susan told me today that I have to beat her first transcon time of 11 days and 6 hours. I'm getting all sentimental now and might at any minute start babbling about how they feel like family to me...My next post will be from the road. Good Night.

 
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  Phew

I can finally relax a bit. Bike and vehicle inspection went well. I still have to bring the RV to be inspected, but I just need to slap some signage on it before I do that. I rebuilt my ORB pedals, which was a bit harder than I planned, but its now done. I still have to glue my tires and slap a computer on Luci.

I ran into Rebecca Haldeman at the registration area last night. She's looking good(taller if you can believe it - maybe I'm shrinking) but she didn't recognize me. Susan said she was going to splash some blue paint on me at the Blythe control to remedy the problem. Nine months after my transplant I showed up to Lon and Susan's Northern Transcon with my hair dyed blue. She said she still refers to me as "Blue Lou". It was good to see them.

Later I bumped in to Perry Stone in the parking lot and we had a good chat. He'll be blogging for Shanna during the trip. He's looking much better than he did in the 2004 race broadcast, he's feeling better too. He introduced me to Guus Moonen and Shanna Armstrong. Earlier in the day I had met Shanna's teammate from last year's RAAM, Guy Wells. One thing that struck Scooter (My cameraman) was how friendly everyone is. I think that's a cycling thing in general and further amplified in the Ultra community. In recreational cycling, people will often volunteer a tube if you've got a flat, but in Ultra-cycling, I think because the distances are greater, we're that much more likely to help out and be friendly towards other cyclists.

A group of grade school girls invaded the hotel last night, so it was tough sleeping and today is a big day. The restof my crew is flying in today and we have to pick up the RV,get it inspected, then the rider/crew meeting, the banquet, somewhere in there we need to do some shopping, and then stock both the RV and the Escape. I'm really itching to get on the bike.

 
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Friday, June 09, 2006
  Goin' down San Diego way

I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to drive my car across country to the start of RAAM. Reasons? I wanted to take some time to clear my head, I needed to get the car across the country, and I wanted to use the time to get “heat acclimated”.


I wanted to take some time to myself to get my mind right. Its been said that ultra-cycling is 90% mental and only 10% physical. I thought about the distances and the climbing and how I’ve done equally difficult rides, albeit not packed together so tightly…I thought about the terrain as I was driving and I saw myself riding it. Finally, I told myself I could do it, over and over again.


It took me three long days behind the wheel to get the car across the country. By packing everything inside the car, I was able to cross the country in just 8 tanks of gas. I had one tank last 395 miles and the next one lasted 404 miles. If I had had the bikes on the roof, I would have been lucky to get 275 miles to a tank. By using my truck instead of renting a van, I saved around $1100. It’s something I’m glad I did this time, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.


According to a magazine article, Mike Trevino drives around with the heat cranked in his car to get heat acclimated, and I thought I’d try it. Because of my low hematocrit, I know I’m going to be behind, so I’m hoping that by being heat acclimated, I can stay with riders who are stronger but less acclimated. Did you know that when a Ford Escape gets too hot, the factory CD player shuts down and there is an actual “CD HOT” error message that comes up? I would generally shut the heat off when the steering wheel got to hot to touch.


My plan for the drive went well. I drove about 700 miles, then pulled into a rest stop, moved the bikes to the front seat, and slept in the back. Did you ever notice how some people at rest stops don’t pull into slots, they pull in parallel to the curb, so they can just pull out? They take up a ton of slots, but hey, it’s easier for them. Well, throughout the night, there were at least two, but maybe three diesel pick-up trucks that pulled in like that with their engines idling right near my truck/me sleeping.


I woke up the next morning a bit sore, I have a sore glute (see previous blog entries) that is acting up, and being stuck in a seated position made it worse. Any pain was quickly washed away with the golden rays of the sun that burned off the early morning mist. It was a good day to drive. Passing through St. Louis, I got to see the arch and a Billboard with a picture of a kid holding a teddy bear and it said something like “Jackson needs a kidney transplant”. I hit rush hour traffic in Oklahoma and that was around the time that I really wasn’t happy about finishing the drive, but I used the same tactics I would for cycling, just make it to the next...(Gas stop, state border, etc).


I slept in the truck again, this time in New Mexico. This time I parked where it would be hard for any other vehicles to get near mine. I am deathly afraid of snakes and stepping out of the truck and walking towards the bathrooms in the dark, I noticed a sign that said “Watch Out For Snakes”. That made me remember that the last time I was in Arizona, Joe Friel told me about the snakes and the scorpions. I had nightmares all night that I was getting stung and bitten. It was another great morning, I did some stretching to loosen up the sore glute and I realized I have really stinky feet.


Coming over the mountains near San Bernadino on 15, I was greeted by Smog. Welcome to California.

In and Out Burger. YUM.

 
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Thursday, June 01, 2006
  Crash McGee

I finally convinced my wife that she should ride her bike the 7 miles to work instead of taking the 20 mpg Escape. She's done it a couple of times including on Bike To Work day. Yesterday she was apparently riding fast to try to get by security before they came out and stopped her, but they came out of their booth and they waved her to stop. She must have hit the front break pretty hard because she went over the handlebars. The security people were scrambling around saying, "Employee down... We have an employee down, call 911!" I'm guessing it was like something out of RENO 911. There was a half dozen calls on our machine from her and various other people trying to reach me to let me know. Panic much?

When I finally got to the Hospital...One of our neighbors was already there. After we left, one of her co-workers showed up looking to take her home. She needed 6 stitches in her chin, she's got a cut below her right eye and some road rash on her knee. She also sprained her wrists a bit.

It kind of defeats the purpose of riding to work if you are going to go for a joyride in an ambulance. Her co-workers want to put training wheels on her chair. I think they should get the security camera footage, I think that would be funny to watch.

 
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  Mountains Of Misery 2006

I finally got my litespeed back together, new chain, new rear derailleur, compact cranks, and Selle Italia SLR saddle. Its lighter and has better gearing for climbing. I took it out for the one of Crista's rides on Saturday and realized right from the get-go that the saddle was too low. I got about 7.5 miles before I got off the bike and tried to adjust the saddle. Of course, the seat post was frozen in the frame, so I turned around and went home. If I had kept going, I was afraid I would have damaged my knees.

It took me HOURS to get the seat post free. When I put the bike together, I was told not to lube the carbon fiber seatpost, but I've had it with the seatpost seizing in the frame and I slathered on the the grease.

The bike was ready for Mountains of Misery. This was my second year going down there and I was anxious to best my time from last year (10 hours 50 minutes - 11.5 mph avg).

I woke up at 1am and left by 2am. Drove down to Blacksburg and stopped at a Waffle House along the way. Bruce and his friend Matt showed up around 6:30am. We were all off by 7am. I was able to stick with the lead group for a good long time, longer than last year. But, I did get dropped and rode with the second group for awhile, eventually, my group caught up to Bruce and Matt and their group. A short time later, the 100 milers came blowing by and I lost Bruce, but I knew he wasn't far ahead. I passed him when he pulled into the second rest stop. I pushed on. His group caught me as I was pulling out of the rest stop at the base of Potts Mountain. Bruce and I rode together up Potts Mountain. Every once in awhile a couple riders would pass us. I like the view from that climb. There are long stretches where you can see out over the valley. Bruce says I dropped him on the climb, but he caught back up at the top. We both stopped at the third rest stop, I mixed up some Perpetuem while Bruce got in and out quickly. Matt got in and out quickly, but missed a turn and we were soon riding together.

The next 10 miles or so was slightly downhill, and I felt the presence of a small group forming behind me. A triathlete attacked, but it wasn't definitive, and I was soon on his wheel. He made a comment about the others not having good manners because they were drafting us. I was actually happy to do the pulling, because its usually me doing the wheel sucking. I pulled for about 8 miles and then dropped back, but we hit a couple of small rollers and I got stuck behind some slower riders and lost contact with the group.

I arrived at rest stop at the base of the second climb and Bruce was pumping up his tire. I had covered 66 miles in a little over 4 hours.

The second climb was my least favorite climb, its short and steep and very little scenery. An amazing thing happened on the climb though. A rider came up from behind and said, "Hi Lou." (Our first names were printed on our numbers). He then said, "You wouldn't happen to be Lou Lamoureux would you?" When I replied in the affirmative, he said he was hoping to meet me on the ride. I was pretty perplexed at this point and not because my brain wasn't getting any oxygen. He then told me his name, the company he used to work for and reminded me that I had demonstrated SolidWorks to him. THAT WAS NEARLY 10 YEARS AGO...Damn, he's got a good memory. I was impressed. We rode together up the climb, down the other side, and through the next two rest stops. Talking with Brian really made the miles fly by. My best wishes to Brian Nutter and his Wife, they are expecting a baby in about 7 weeks.

I had lost track of Brian briefly until I overcooked a tight right hander and ended up pretty darn close to the gravel on the far side of the road, and when I looked up, Brian was 30 or 40 feet ahead, I learned later, he had gone a little wide on the turn as well.

I suffered up the third climb, but it felt better than last year. Then it was mostly downhill to the Newport Rec Center. I detoured through the parking lot to pick up some more endurolytes. I was out of perpetuem at this point, so I was grabbing PB&J's and bananas from the rest stops. Once at the Newport Rec Center though, it was easy to just tick away the miles. 18 miles...11 miles...Then 2 miles to the next rest stop. 4 miles. Then the climbing started. I remember last year drafting a tandem in this section. About 2.5 miles from the top. Some volunteers were passing out water, and I stopped to catch my breath, already, people were walking the climb. Then I pushed on to the final rest stop about 2 miles from the summit. They had PowerGel there and I was in desperate need of fuel, but I knew it was going to be tough digesting the calories while climbing. Some were abandoning, which I couldn't understand. Two miles from the finish. After 123 miles and around 13,000 feet of climbing, to abandon so close to the finish line...About a mile from the finish, I caught up to a small group of walkers who stopped briefly and were blocking the road with two bikes in a police roadblock formation. I had to swing wide left to get around them and all I could manage was a grunt to alert them that they were blocking me. I just kept thinking, I'm on a lighter bike, I've lost nearly ten pounds since last year, I have easier gearing, why is this climb so hard? I could only manage grunts to the volunteers lining the road in the final 300 meters. I picked up the pace and sprinted for the line. Its important to always finish strong. I could only grunt responses to the volunteers as they took my bike to the van for transport down the mountain. Bruce had finished about 15 minutes before me and Matt finished about 15 minutes after me, I had passed him on the climb as he was walking. Once again, we had to wait for a van off the mountain and ride down was harrowing.

Did I mention that on the ride up, I had seen a brake pad from a car lying on the road? I doubt some local mechanic was out there doing repairs...Oh yeah, I brought a camera, but I was pushing so hard to beat last years time that I didn't take any pictures. Sorry. In the end, I was just 18 minutes faster than last year. That's only about a 3% improvement. On the excuse side, I don't think my body was used to the bike, both my position and the new gearing were awkward.

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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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Warning Signs for Kidney Disease:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Burning or Difficulty when Urinating
  • Frequent Urination at Night
  • Blood in your urine
  • Cola or tea colored urine
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