Archive for the 'Hoodoo 500' category

Raced the Hoodoo 500

August 24, 2012 1:04 pm
Raced the Hoodoo 500

Assembling the Team

Team Turbo Dog already held course records for the Hoodoo 500, including two person mixed team and two tandem mixed, so it seemed like a great idea to try to set a course record in another category, the 4 person mixed team. David and Deb Hoag contacted me to see if I would join the team. With my age, we had a lot of flexibility on getting a second female on the team and still be in the 50+ category. Lonni Goldman has not competed in these type of events before but had recently completed some difficult double centuries very well. She was excited to join the team. The four of us met together and felt we would be able to break the existing 4 person 50+ mixed record, which was over 33 hours and maybe even the overall 4X mixed record, which exceeded 32 hours. David even was bold enough to suggest we could break 30 hours. Why not?

High Altitude Training

We asked Guy Batistia to crew for us and fortunately he accepted. Guy proved to not only be great at crewing but he is also a great photographer and took many of these photos. He, along with David and Deb were able to come up to our Utah home a week before the event. Anne was a tremendous help, not only hosting the team for several days, but riding with us and helping us work out our plans and get organized. We were also able to do some high altitude training. Our fist outing was up to Mirror Lake.

After reaching the summit at over 10,700 feet, David and I descended down part way on the other side to see the lake.

The next few days included some more riding and hiking. On Tuesday I took David over to join the Utah Velo club for their hill climb ride. When David saw everyone wearing the club jersey he decided to buy his own. Unlike some teams that go to great efforts to have some custom jersey made, we didn’t really have a common jersey, so why not just get a couple more of the Utah Velo jerseys.

On Thursday we drove from Orem Utah to St. George while our 4th team member, Lonni, flew to the St. George airport. Being a 4X team, we did not have to start the race until 9 am on Friday.

The Race is On

I took the first section, that included 9 miles of a neutralized start and another 8 miles of racing.

I was surprised that as soon as the racing started, I was quickly passed by everyone going up an incline. Figuring it was the excitement of the moment, I kept my pace and eventually passed all but the lead two riders and nearly caught the young rider from Team Chubby before the first rider switch. David then took the next segment because like the first, you could not have SAG support during part of it. It was then cat and mouse with Team Chubby, passing them, then getting passed, depending on who was riding from each team.

We then went into a four person rotation, with the plan of 30 minutes for each rider. Being the daytime the van would leap frog the rider, then wait for the rider to pass. When it approached the time for a rider swap, Guy would go ahead of the rider far enough to give the next rider time enough to get ready. The new rider would watch for the approaching rider and then try to come up to speed before they overlapped wheels. The 30 minutes were a bit more like 25 minutes, but even that seemed long enough.

The route took us down into Arizona, then back into Utah and through the town of Kanab for the first time station which we reached at 1:17 pm. It was then up Highway 89 with a right turn up SR-12 towards Bryce Canyon. There was a bike trail we needed to go on, and with the 3rd place where no SAG support would be available, David took this segment while the rest of us enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.

At the end of the bicycle trail, at time station #2, Deb took a turn at 5:12 pm. The route actually does not go to Bryce Canyon, but instead continues straight. Deb had the chance of making the first of the long descents toward Escalante. Next it was Lonni’s turn, passing through Escalante at 7:40 pm, where there was time station #3.

As we approached Boulder, it was starting to get dusk and we were headed into what seemed like a long period of darkness. We passed through Bolder at 10:50 pm, then there is a long sustained climb up to an elevation of over 9,500 feet. We reached the summit just before 11 pm, where David took the fast descent. It was past midnight when we finally reached time station #5 in Loa, where we had another climb. I took the rotation as we approached the summit since there was a turn at the bottom of a fast descent that I was familiar with. Plus I had this super bright light so I could go 40 mph without the need of the headlights from the van.

Riding in the darkness is kind of a daze. When you are off the bike you are trying to get some sleep but no one was able to really sleep. We gave Guy a break from driving and he went to the back to sleep, but he was so excited he kept talking! Later in the evening, he took a 2nd break and this time, he might have got some rest. I started to calculate how many more times he would need to take a rotation in the dark.

We were moving so fast that unlike prior years, we reached Hwy 89 in total darkness and it was dark the whole 30 miles to Panguitch for time station #5, which we reached at 6:10 pm. David took the first rotation out of there where we started the biggest sustained climb of the route, that would eventually take us to over 10,000 feet. We decided to reduce the rotations from 30 minutes to 20 minutes for this section. It was great to see the sun rise as we were climbing up SR-1478 toward Cedar Breaks. The temperatures at night had gone down to 45 degrees, but the sun was starting to warm the air as we were climbing higher.

David, being such a great descender, was elected to take the fast descent to Cedar City, while I took a rotation before reaching the town since I knew all the turns. It was a good thing because the street was blocked for a local celebration, but I knew Cedar City well enough to take a slight detour. Then I headed out SF-56 while the van arrived at time station #6 at 10:10 am. That was so much earlier than other times when it was usually afternoon and people in the van wanted to stop and get some lunch. This time the van continued on and we all felt like we were on a mission.

We continued in our normal rotation of 30 minutes each while I was calculating when we might be able to finish. At that point we had been averaging about 17.2 mph, which would put us into the finish slightly over 30 hours from the start. So our idea of coming under 30 hours started to become a reality.

The last segment, from the top of Snow Canyon, is about 14 miles to the finish and usually teams all ride in together. But we wanted to break 30 hours so we decided to have David do that section ahead of the rest of us. I took the final section before Snow Canyon, trying to give us as much cushion as I could, and everyone was surprised when he reached the last time station at 2:04 pm, just over 29 hours from the start. From there David took off by himself while myself, Deb and Lonni followed (I was still trying to catch my breath).

We knew Team Chubby was not too far ahead of us because their support van was pulling out of the parking lot at the top of Snow Canyon just as our van was arriving. David was able to catch them during this last segment and all decided to have a gentleman’s tie at the finish. Lonni, Deb and myself arrived at the finish line 7 minutes after that.

We finished the 517 mile race in the early afternoon of Saturday, with a total time of 29 hours and 35 minutes, setting a new course record for 50+ mixed, actually setting a record for a 4x mixed team of any age.

Time Station Splits


See all the photos here.

Training for Hoodoo 500

August 22, 2012 4:57 pm
Training for Hoodoo 500

Finally Finished Training

Things are quite different than they were just two years ago when I was training to race the Hoodoo 500 on 5/28/2010 as part of a two man team.  On 7/12/2010, due to a pain in my left shoulder and a very high blood pressure, I made a late night visit to the emergency room.   Although they did not find anything, I had subsequent doctor visits and tests, all resulting in me going on blood pressure medication, one being a beta blocker which really slowed me down.  Racing the Hoodoo 500 just did not make the sense it had before so I switched to crewing the event.  See the prior blog post for all the details.

With no issues now with my blood pressure, even without the medication, I have been able to do a lot more training than before.  The Hoags asked me join to race the Hoodoo 500 again, this time as part of a mixed 4 person team.  I figure I would be able to get ready for that and when I looked at my prior cycling, I was already will into training for that type of distance.

See our team website.

I have now finished my training and in less than 48 hours the race will start.  I was glad I was able to reach my training plan targets most of the weeks.

Hoodoo 500 Training

July 12, 2012 5:04 pm
Hoodoo 500 Training

Until a couple of weeks okay, I was not planning on doing the Hoodoo 500 bicycle race.  It was two years ago that I was planning doing this race as part of a two man relay team.  However, due to an uncertainty about my heart  condition I had to back out.  After a lot of testing it turned out that there was nothing wrong with my heart, only my blood pressure.  The initial medication was a beta blocker that really slowed me down.   You can see from these charts below where I stopped keeping track of my training during 2010 at Week 15.

A few weeks ago David and Deb suggested that I join them for a four person relay team.  They had originally signed up for doing the Hoodoo 500 as a solo tandem, but decided they wanted to switch to a four person team instead.  It took awhile to find a second female so we could enter as a mixed team.  Now it was time to get serious about training.  Fortunately I have been doing a lot of riding so ramping up things was not too difficult.  This week in Utah was my first chance, since Sierra to the Sea bicycle tour last month, when I was able to bike every day.  I also allowed some higher altitude training.   I completed the week with 406 miles and 32,467 feet of climbing. My original training plan was for a two person relay team, so it should be fully sufficient for a four person team, although  I will need to do more speed workouts.

Wednesday I did a solo ride aimed at a lot of climbing.  I climbed up to the summit of the Alpine Loop from 3 different roads, then added on Suncrest and Traverse Ridge to get in 8,800 feet of climbing for the day.  I was initially happy with my time up the Alpine Loop from the Provo side of 1:05, only about 5 minutes off my PR time.  But then my times later in the day started to fizzle and I felt very tired on the last climb.

Saturday we started on the Tandem on the Utah Velo ride.  It was fast paced, as expected for 55 miles.  My brother Mike joined us.  I guess I was pushing too hard on the tandem trying to keep up, especially the climb up Hobble Creek.  After returning home and switching to my single bike my brother and I went to climb Squaw Peak.  I was SO SLOW going up that hill and felt totally exhausted at the summit.  So although my total miles and feet of climbing for the week looks great, my endurance and speed has a ways to go yet.

Beta Blocker Blues

September 28, 2010 1:20 pm
Beta Blocker Blues

I knew something was not quite right with my body from early this year. Although I was still climbing relatively fast for a 62 year old, my times were not at last year’s level. Could it be that age is finally knocking at the door? Or am I just not training hard enough?

I was on track with my training for the Hoodoo 500 bicycle race, a 519 mile race I am doing at the end of August as part of a two man relay team. I had just finished the 12th week of my 19 week training program, with 384 miles that week on the bike, 6 miles running and over 25,000 feet of climbing.  I was finally feeling prepared with the distance but my speed was still not quite what I was expecting.

Beta Blocker Blues

It is now over two months later.  After many medical tests, I finally have the green light to push hard again but  I am now taking a beta blocker to reduce high blood pressure that is triggered by exercise.  It has the effect of lowering my heart rate and makes cycling and running harder than before.  Today I did my intervals on a bike that include 7 minutes very hard, followed by 3-4 minutes recovery, repeated 4 times.  I have done this same course over the past two years and have several data points.  Today’s results were the slowest of any, averaging only 19.8 mph, and my average heart rate during the interval sections was only 132 bpm, showing the effect of the beta blocker.  Before my average speed ranged from 20.5 to 22.5 mph with an average heart rate in the 155-165 bpm range.

If you want more background on the events that have lead up to today, you can read the details below.

Initial Problem

We were in Utah and Anne was up for a climb up the Alpine Loop on July 12th, 2010. After making our way up the Provo Canyon trail, then up to the highway to the intersection for the Alpine Loop, I told Anne to go ahead and I would wait 5 minutes, then push hard up the first section to Sundance. My best prior time this year on this 2.3 mile segment with a 900 foot climb was 15:32. I had not been able to do better than that since May. But today I pushed hard and climbed it in 14:34 but that required an average heart rate of 164, maximum of 172. As you can see from the graph below my heart rate was in the “Anerobic Zone” (152-165 bpm) for the first half of the climb and in the “Red Line Zone” (165-178 bmp) for the later half of the climb, typical for when I am trying to set a new PR on this length of climb. For more information see my article on heart rate zones.

I then rode the rest of Alpine Loop with Anne and then back down to our Utah home. That was now 38 miles of biking but I felt I needed more, so I decided to ride on my own and do Squaw Peak and South Fork. It was now getting warm and my plan of doing Squaw Peak was a good one, but the decision to push the pace and try to see how fast I could do the climb may have been too much. I was taking my heart rate up high, especially near the top of this 4.3 mile climb with 1,700 feet of elevation gain. Later I could see I had an average heart rate of 167 for the climb, with a maximum of 174. You can see from the graph below that I was spending most all of the time in the red line heart rate zone. The poor visibility on my Garmin Edge 500 makes it hard for me to read my heart rate so I did not realize at the time I had my heart rate so high.

Near the top I felt this pain in my left shoulder, but otherwise I felt okay. After descending back down to the Provo Canyon trail, I got some water and rested for while. The pain was still there but I didn’t seem to have any other issue so I finished my intended ride. As the day wore on, I was surprised the pain in my shoulder did not go away, even after several hours. I checked my pulse rate and that seemed normal. Later that night I thought maybe I should check my blood pressure. However the only device we had at the condo was a simple blood pressure monitor that goes on your wrist. I was alarmed when I got a reading over 180, especially since I usually have normal blood pressure.

Visit to Emergency Room

We called our neighbor and borrowed their blood pressure monitor and I took it again. It was 184/110. Now I was really alarmed, enough to decide we needed to get some medical attention. At 11 pm, that meant a trip to the emergency room.

The doctor said they needed to run some tests, so they took a blood sample and then did an EKG.  Both were negative so they did a chest xray then a CT scan with some type of fluid injected into my blood stream. Awhile later the doctor came in to say that the  test was also negative. Now it was about 3 am, and there was no reason to stay at the ER, so we returned home. The doctor suggested I contact my personal physician and schedule a stress test since the testing they did was all without being under stress.

After returning to California, I paid a visit to our personal physician.  After showing him my blood pressure readings, he prescribed a low dose Ace Inhibitor medication and refereed me to a Cardiologist for a stress test.  I started to take the blood pressure medication on the next evening, July 27th . Although the information with the prescription said it takes 2 to 4 weeks to take affect, it had an immediate impact and starting the next morning, almost all blood pressure readings have been in the normal range, even on the low side.

Stress Test

On Monday, August 2nd, I was glad that I would finally get a stress test. Although I have continued to bike, I have tried to keep my heart rate below 140 as a safety precaution. They hooked me up to something like a EKG machine and then the doctor came in. I explained much of the above history to her. I showed her the details of my blood pressure readings that I had kept for the past 10 days.

It was easy for me to walk, then run on the treadmill. As my pulse rate increased, she would periodically take my blood pressure. I noted that my blood pressure was starting to go up rather high. When I reached a pulse rate over 150 bpm, she asked how I felt and I said I was fine and could keep this up for hours. When my pulse rate reached 163, my blood pressure went to 230 so she decided to end the test.  That was alarming when I realized that I routinely gone higher than a heart rate of 163 when I push hard on a hill climb.

There was an indication on the EKG that my heart muscle had been thickened. Several years ago I had visited the same cardiologist when something in an EKG had indicated something and she had done an echo-cardiogram back then and found it was borderline. She said the primary cause of this heart thickening is high blood pressure and believes I may have had the issue for some time and I became tolerant to the high blood pressure while exercising hard.

I called David, my Hoodoo 500 partner, to give him the whole story. I said I was fine if he decides to do it solo, or do it with a different partner and if he decides either of those, I will crew for him. I received a call back a day later and David said he would do the Hoodoo 500 with his wife, Deb, as the partner. Although I was disappointed that I could not put all my training to use, it did give me some sense of relief to cut back on my training until this medical problem could be resolved.

Echo Cardiogram Results

On Thursday, August 5th, I went in for an echo-cardiogram. This is essentially a sonogram of the heart.  When I visited with the doctor on August 10th, she told me the echo exam showed no enlarged heart but there had been some further thickening of the heart wall, which is usually caused by high blood pressure.  She prescribed a new medication, a beta blocker and to stop taking the ace inhibitor.  It seems that the beta blocker is more effective at keeping your blood pressure down while your heart rate goes up.

Nuclear Stress Test

On September 16th, I went to the doctor’s office to have the nuclear stress test. It took about 3 hours total time. First they connected an IV to me so they could inject the nuclear isotope. After making the first injection, they had me wait for over 20 minutes, then I was placed on a bed that had some type of camera system rotate around me. I asked how it worked, and I guess it takes about 60 pictures, that can be used to form some type of 3D image.

After that I went to the treadmill and had a similar stress test conducted by the cardiologist. Once again she was measuring my blood pressure during the test and she commented it was not going abnormally like before. I went about one minute further into the test than last time and they then injected more isotopes into the IV, then stopped the treadmill. This time my blood pressure had only risen to 200, a more normal value than then 230 last time. So this was the effect of the beta blocker.

During a follow-up visit with the doctor on September 21st, she showed me the images from the nuclear test and said things looked fine, no blockage of the arteries. My next visit is in 6 months. She said I can go ahead and push hard again on the bike. I am just not sure how fast I can go considering being on the beta blocker.

After having so many tests, I need not worry about my heart. That is the good news.  I am very fortunate that I found out about this issue because many people whose blood pressure only goes up during exercise never know about their condition since blood pressure is always taken while resting.  For now I need to stay on the beta blocker so I don’t expect to set any new KOM times on my hill climbs, but at least I can now push hard again and not worry.

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July 30, 2010 6:11 am
What's Going On With My Body?

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New Bike Rack

July 14, 2010 3:13 pm

Seems I might have finally found the (near) perfect bike rack for the car. For the Furnace Creek 508, we used my two bike hitch mounted Yakima bike rack. This is the type where the bikes hang suspended by the top tube. The front fork was free to rotate so we had to secure the wheel after mounting the bikes. With the new carbon bike frames becoming increasingly thin to get the weight down, I have grown concerned about hanging the bike from the top tube.

While in Montana recently (no sales tax) we went to REI where they had their Yakima bike racks on sale. We picked up the Yakima Hold-Up rack, the same my son John had purchased earlier. I got the model for the 2 in. receiver since I want to use on our van for future use and plan to use on the Hoodoo 500 this August.

With this new rack the bike is supported from the wheels and a single arm that clamps down on the front tire.  Nothing touches the frame.  It is very easy and quick to make a bike change.  When not in use, the rack folds up, out of the way.  Anne is also pleased that the color matches the color of our van!

With this model you can buy an extension that holds an additional two bikes.  That would allow you to haul four bikes on the back.  I have another so called four bike Yakima rack that hangs the bikes from the top tube but I never could get four bikes on it.  Also the new rack works great with mountain bikes, which have a sloping top tube and wider tires.

Good Week of Training

July 11, 2010 8:58 pm

I had a good week of training for the Mt. Tam Double and the Hoodoo 500.  On Wednesday I did a 138 mile ride, my longest ride of the year, and climbed 9,000 feet that day.

It was the most miles biked in a week so far this year and the most feet climbed.

Also looking at the accumulated training on week 12 of my 19 week program, I am ahead of plan and ahead of what I did for training for the Furnace Creek 508.

This coming week will be less since I will be traveling and also want to get some recovery days in.

Hoodoo 500 Training Plan

May 30, 2010 5:10 pm
Hoodoo 500 Training Plan

Unlike the prior few years, I decided to take a longer break from the ultra distance events over the winter. No Death Valley Double, no Solvang Double,  not even a Davis Double. I had already decided no more Devil Mountain Doubles. Although an extended period of lower activity can help prevent burnout, starting in May, I realized I needed to increase my training for the Hoodoo 500 event that is scheduled at the end of August.

Need for a Training Program

Training plans for these type of events are not easily found. In 2007 I attempted to do the Devil Mountain Double for the first time, but that was right after running the Boston Marathon. Although I finished, I realized I needed a cycling specific training plan, so I developed one for the Furnace Creek 508 in 2007 and refined for subsequent major challenges. The older I become, the more I need to have a good training program and need to track my progress against my plan.  It not only helps me to properly prepare but also gives me the confidence to finish and so far I have been able avoid the dreaded DNF (did not finish).

Avoid Junk Miles

I learned from running marathons that you can not just go out and run a bunch of miles and expect to do well.  Although total mileage may be one factor, it is not the only factor and not even the most important factor.  When I studied marathon training I realized that there is something called junk miles, those are the miles that you run just to get your total mileage up.    When training to run a marathon with the hopes of qualifying to run the Boston Marathon, I actually reduced my weekly mileage.  Instead I added in speed work and also the long weekly runs at a faster pace.

Speed Work

Many might think that speed work is of little value when it comes to endurance events but that is due to a lack of understand.  I see many endurance cyclists that ride about the same pace on all their rides and just focus on riding a bunch of miles.  Chris Carmichael wrote in the June 2010 edition of Bicycling Magazine “When you’re an endurance athlete, one key adaptation you want is an increase in the size and number of mitochondria in your muscle cells.  These cellular power plants process fat and carbs into energy, and as their density increase so does the amount of aerobic energy you can send to working muscles … Research shows that spending more than about 60 minutes at at time at a constant intensity doesn’t have much impact on mitrochondrial density.  But the evidence is clear that shorter, harder workouts do have that effect – and hence improve endurance performance – for athletes at all fitness levels.”

This week I did two speed workouts.  On Tuesday I did my standard interval workout, with 7 minutes of riding hard, trying to get my heart rate into the red zone, followed by 3.5 to 4 minutes of easy recovery.  I repeat that 4 or 5 times.

Since this is a circular course it somewhat eliminates the affect of wind on the totals.  This table shows a summary of how I did compared with prior times.  On Tuesday I had rode 84 miles the prior day and ran 6 miles that morning before the interval workout and it shows.

Cycling Interval Training

Flat Loop Hecker Pass, Watsonville Road, Santa Terres.
7 minute fast, then 3.5 minutes easy
Max HR
Avg HR

Today I did a very fast paced ride of moderate distance.     After doing a couple mile warmup, I ride a 38 miles course with a combination of flats, hills and rollers, with a total climb of 1500 feet.   I vary my effort along the course, attacking the hills and rollers.   I was able to get my average speed up to 17.5 mph, about as fast as I have ever done this course in a time trail fashion.

The third type of speed workout I will be adding in is hill repeats.  I have a hill that takes about 7 minutes to climb and about half that long to descend.  I do 4 to 5 repeats, climbing as fast as I can, then recover on the descent.  The goal of these type of speed workouts is to increase your lactate threshold so you can go faster in an endurance event.  If you can finish faster, with the same level of effort, it is much easier on your body.

Weekly and Accumulated Training

I plot out my training program, showing my actual values against my plan and also compared with training for some similar events.  I track the longest weekly ride, weekly climbing, weekly total miles, accumulate miles and accumulated climbing over the training program.  These are some of the charts.  After 6 weeks into the training plan I am on track but the tough training is yet ahead.