I must admit, that I write this account somewhat reluctantly. Overall, I feel like I am done with Trans Am Bike Race (TABR) for now and I would rather leave it “there”, but I have a part of me that feels obligated to write it down. If anything, so I can go back at a later date and try to convince myself not to do it again, but that thought should probably reside at the end of this account instead of here. I’ll get to that later. For now, lets just look at what happened. I’ll spare you too much introduction and explanation of my history with this route/race. If you want that you can read my previous accounts.
I came into the race this year better prepared and armed with my experience from DNF’ing last year. Of my goals I set for preparedness, I had accomplished most of them. I hadn’t done all the speed work that I wanted to and I was heavier (my body) than I wanted to be, but my overall kit was pared down and much lighter than before. I was also very familiar with said kit and had gotten out numerous times over the winter and spring to use it. I had researched things to absolute death and felt that I had the best setup I could amass without spending more than I was comfortable with. I had put in plenty of miles and had the success at Trans Iowa in April (a 340 mile gravel race) under my belt. I had a specific plan to ride roughly 250 miles a day and felt that I was capable of meeting it. I had done plenty of reading, meditating and affirmation exercises to mentally prepare. In short, there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish and finish well.
On June 4th at 8AM, after a few words of wisdom and some photos, 66 riders took off on an epic adventure, some of us in Astoria headed East and a few in Yorktown headed West. I believe there were 57 riders who departed from Astoria, myself being one of them. The same as the year before, it was a pretty chill roll out as we went out of town, crossed the bay and made our way toward Seaside. I remember trying to take it all in, knowing full well that I might never see most of the people I was riding with again. It makes for a very bitter sweet start.
A few miles down the road things started to sort out quickly and I made a point to stay focused on not going too fast. My opinion is that there isn’t a lot of point in getting all worked up on the first day of a 4200 mile race. Just do your own thing and it will work out in the end. In preparation for the race, I had marked out specific stops where I planned to get supplies so as to stay moving and keep the distractions at a minimum. What that meant was that I didn’t go too fast, but maintained momentum. At nearly every convenience store I would see bikes leaned up outside as I rolled through. I made my first planned stop in Garibaldi at 63 miles. I was quick and efficient, having planned what to get.
The rest of the day went much like that, making my planned stops, staying moving and hitting my timeline. In fact, I was quite pleased with myself as the day progressed for having prepared well and sticking mostly to the plan. It was empowering when things got off the rails a bit.
As I left Pacific City, just a bit over 100 miles into the day, an old Datsun pickup went by and threw something at me. Fortunately for me, I had a Gatorade bottle in my middle jersey pocket and whatever they threw hit the bottle, deflecting the blow. Later I would hear about Brian Steele being struck with a water bottle at the base of the neck, giving him a concussion and ending his race on the very first day. Despite being fortunate, I was very annoyed, not only with that driver, but with the level of traffic. The coast is usually busy, but this year it was even more so because of the later start. Being 3 hours later into the day meant we caught the full force of the weekend traffic, where as in 2015, many of us were down the coast and heading inland before things got heated up. Speaking of heat, much like 2015, the region was experiencing higher than normal temps and that added to the things to think about. Being on the west side of the Cascades meant that the first day wasn’t too bad, but it would certainly come into play over days two and three.
Coming over the coast range was easy and eliminating the possible stops was a big plus. I came down into the Willamette Valley and into Monmouth on task and on track. I carried on south and made Corvallis right after dark. My planned stop at the edge of town was closed so I went on into the city keeping an eye open for other options. I knew that the route went a couple blocks to the west of the main drag which meant I would miss most of my options unless I went off route. I didn’t want to do that, thinking that my best plan was to stay as close to the route for resupply as possible, so I went on and hit up a McDonald’s in the city center. They took forever to get me my food and I was a bit frustrated by the time I left. I probably would have just bailed, but I wanted the food for later in the night, knowing I would be going through a long stretch with no night time services. Once out of there, I was looking for a convenience store to grab some other things. Across the street was a gas station, but they didn’t have anything except gas. I got directions from a local and had to ride over a half mile off course to get to the nearest store. I would have been better off going the few blocks off route on my way into town. Oh well. Live and learn!
Back on course and out into the night, headed south down the valley, I was pleased to find John Williams and friends at their racer rest stop. It was great to see a familiar face. I didn’t stay long, just long enough to fill a bottle and hit the restroom, but it was very nice. Thanks John!
Back on the road, I continued south and rolled through Harrisburg and then on to Coburg, which was where I had camped on the first night in 2015. It felt great to get there around 1AM, a similar timeframe as the year before, but this year we started 3 hours later. I felt great and was ready to push on, besting myself from the year before and staying on plan.
Over the next hour and a half, the sleep monster came on and came on hard. My plan had been to push over McKenzie pass through the night and on into Central Oregon the next day before taking a break to sleep. That would put me in great position to stay toward the top of the race. I knew that I could do this having ridden through the night before several times. Unfortunately it seemed to be beyond my control. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Frustrated, I found a post office in Walterville and threw out my bivy for a nap at 2:30AM. I set my alarm for 2 hours and laid down. I had a mixed bag of emotions. I was stoked that everything had went according to plan. I was 250 miles in on my first day and I was in good position, right then, but I knew that people would pass me while I slept and this two hour nap wasn’t in the plan. Tomorrow would be another day and my first day off script. How would things go? Only time would tell.