* Finished in 10:55:37
* This year’s supposed “kinder & gentler” Puff course still had 15,330’ of climbing and was almost exactly 100 miles
* Temps in the high 80s punished those of us who didn’t hydrate well
* Every time the Alpine Trail pointed down, I forgot about how much pain I was in
* If I had to grade my race, I would give myself an A- for “physical effort” and a C- for “execution”
Since race execution is normally one of my strengths, this year’s Cream Puff is going to bug me for a long time…364 days to be exact. I had no expectations for a finishing time since we were on a new course but I did expect to execute a perfect race, maintain a consistent pace, and finish strong.
The 5:05am start is rude but my pre-race morning went well and as we were rolling along the opening few miles of pavement during the neutral start I felt calm and ready race hard for as many hours as it took. The heavy and warm air of Oakridge Oregon messes with my ability to wear sunglasses and they were already tucked in my helmet vents for the climb. Between fogging on the climbs and the ever changing light in the forests, I find it impossible to wear sunglasses during this race.
Speaking of vision, I knew something wasn’t quite right with my vision as I tried to focus on the riders ahead of me on the opening climb. I could see them but I couldn’t read their jerseys at a distance. Since I wear contacts, I simply thought they were gooey or that I had sweat in my eyes but no amount of blinking or rubbing seemed to help. Alternately closing one eye and then the other revealed that my left eye was blurry but I wouldn’t find out until after the race that a missing a contact lens was the cause. Focusing on the trail ahead would be an issue for me all day.
Lesson #1 of the 2010 Cream Puff: Keep a spare contact lens kit in a drop bag
Did I mention there is a lot of climbing in the Cream Puff? I was in my groove, climbing along at a comfortable pre-determined pace, and it took a lot of self-control to watch a few of my homies ride away from me up the climb. Physically, I could have gone with them but I was gambling on the big picture so I watched them go and then wondered if I would see them again. Climbing, eating, drinking, watching my heart rate, chatting with my new buddy Danielle from Michigan…things were going nicely. And then I see “Low Battery” on my Garmin 705. WTF? I just charged this thing. No big deal right? I mean it’s not as if the Garmin 705 pedals for me or anything. I wasn’t even using it for navigation because the Cream Puff has the best course markings of any race I have attended. But I do use its timer function religiously for eating and drinking as well as the HR monitor for pacing. At the 3:17:00 mark it died and I cussed at it a bit. I would just have to drink frequently and hope it was enough.
Lesson #2 of the 2010 Cream Puff: Have a backup watch/timer
When I passed through Aid #3 for the second time I grabbed two full flasks of EFS Gel and two new bottles of Carbo Rocket. I was carrying the gel flasks in my Mountain Feedbag which works really well…when you remember to pull the little cinch cord to close the top. Somewhere within five minutes of leaving Aid #3 I unknowingly launched 800 calories worth of EFS Gel out of my Mountain Feedbag and rode the next two hours on about 200 calories of Carbo Rocket which is well below my planned calorie intake. The situation was not ideal but I wasn’t going to die either. The next time through I simply slugged down some de-fizzed Pepsi, a few Pringles, took extra gel, and kept it rolling.
My descent from Aid #2 down the Alpine Trail to the end of our first lap at Aid #1 was pure greatness. I was, as they say on ESPN, “En Fuego”. I grabbed two bottles, gel, and lubed the chain at Aid #1 and was off to face the climb up 1910 for the second time today. Mentally, this is where I had envisioned my personal race beginning and I was looking forward to the sun-baked climb in a sick way. I paid attention to my gearing up this climb in the morning so that I would know how I was doing the second time up 1910 later in the day. For the most part, I was able to push the same gear and felt solid. There were twinges from the inner thigh muscle that sent flashbacks of debilitating cramping to my brain but was I was able to pedal through them and they never became an issue. Ira Ryan rode past me and gave me friendly fist bump and I complimented his smooth power. Later in the climb I passed Jason Hill sporting the friendly colors of Speedway Cycles in Anchorage and we chatted about Ti Fatbacks briefly. Things were still going well and I was scanning the horizon for someone to chase but before I knew it I was at Aid #2. I was making such a conscious effort to stay positive and consistent that I probably didn’t realize I was slowing down already and I was rushing through aid stations when I really should have taken the extra time to drink and eat.
Lesson #3 of the 2010 Cream Puff: Stop and make yourself drink extra fluids + calories before leaving the aid stations because it is far easier to eat & drink standing still
At about mile 77 I was officially in a dark and lonely place and I was 7 miles from the nearest aid station. I had ridden this section in my middle ring earlier but now I was crawling in the 22Fx32R and barely moving while my breathing was still labored. I needed a substantial calorie hit but I was out of gel. Since I had been “flying without instruments” for the past several hours I had no idea how frequently I was eating or drinking and it caught up with me. All I could do was focus on the loamy dirt in front of my Maxxis Ignitor and pedal at my pathetic pace until I got to the next aid station. It is a strange sensation when your mind wants to mash the pedals but your body simply won’t.
The ice-cold black goodness (defizzed Pepsi) I had stashed in my Aid #3 drop cooler probably saved my race from being a total disaster. I slugged down 24oz of Pepsi, two gels, and a giant stack of Pringles in about 30 seconds and loaded two bottles and more calories for the 16-mile home stretch. I was still moving slowly when I left Aid #3 but I was gradually coming out of my dehydration/bonk-induced funk as I reached Aid #2 for the final 10-mile section. I emptied the tank on the final leg and I got faster as the calories & caffeine kicked in. Trying to make up for 90 minutes of “bonk” time during a 20 minute descent is dumb but I tried anyway. When I crossed the line my hands and triceps were absolutely worthless from the 20+ minutes of "on-edge" descending and I was already thinking about the rematch next year.
More thoughts on this year's Puff later and possibly a guest Blog from the other Byers to finish the Puff this year.