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  1. #1
    Senior Member NeoGeek's Avatar
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    STP Crash and Burn

    I might have suspected that my ride was to be ill-fated when I lost my gel-container within about the first ten miles and one of my water bottles popped out shortly thereafter. This was after getting to the starting line and realizing that I had left my seat pack, containing my wallet, cell phone, Co2 cartridges, spare tubes, and tire levers, at home and couldn’t get them before the start. That and the two and a half hours sleep I got the night before…

    The first hundred miles went by as smooth as you please, except for a near wipeout around mile 15 from having to mash my brakes because of the rider in front of me. My rear wheel was determined to take the lead but I was fortunate enough to pull out of a high speed, potentially ride ending, crash. The hill that my Tacoma coworkers kept going on about was a paper tiger.

    As I munched my peanut butter sandwich at the Centralia food stop, I felt pretty good about my prospects. I had begun my first STP with probably the least amount of training as anybody in the ride that day. I saw this as a way to convince one of my riding coworkers that I had some sort of freakish genetics that allowed me to get away with crazy feats of endurance without the appropriate training. It worked for the Flying Wheels Summer Century, so I figured I could just keep rolling the dice. Just in case you are curious, my training after the FWSC consisted of 45 minutes on my stationary bike, a 13 mile ride, and a 21 mile ride. Crazy, huh? Sure, I had meant to train better, but it is what it is.

    At mile 110 I began to notice that I was having problems keeping up with my four man pace line. We had been together since the beginning of the ride, my coworker, Chris, a husband and wife team, Brad and Jen, and I). By mile 114, I began having problems keeping up with my pace group. By mile 117, I could no longer keep up with my pace group and told them to go on without me. The cramping started soon after. It began in my left calf but soon encompassed the entirety of my lower extremities. More than once I had to get off my bike (sometimes almost crashing) as my legs would seize up with cramps. I also began to notice that my two 20oz. water bottles couldn’t get me the approximately 25 miles to the next rest stop. I realized something was wrong, but I hadn’t quite realized the seriousness of my predicament.

    Somehow, by mile 127, I had caught back up with my pace line (well, they were leaving and I was just arriving. After exchanging our happy surprise at meeting up again, Brad mentioned that there was a proper food stop about ten more miles down the road. The only reason I had planned to stop at that time was to fill my water bottles, and I knew that I couldn’t keep up with them (both Brad and my coworker are hella-strong), I opted to join them again. I mentioned to Chris that I really needed to get some water first and he didn’t hesitate to offer me one of his bottles. It was at this point that my front wheel collided with his rear wheel. What followed was a spectacular crash in which I emerged with some skin missing from my right knee, a bruised left palm, and various scrapes. Chris escaped with a blow that cracked the back of his helmet and a few scrapes of his own. We could easily continue (Chris more so than me); however, our bikes could not. My Scat 560 got off with only the front wheel out of true and the handlebar tape on the right drop shredded. Chris’ bike had a rear derailer that need much love. Luckily, this happened at a stop that also had repair support (thank you Pedro’s). Although the repairs ended up taking about an hour, Chris figured that if we averaged 17mph the rest of the way, we would arrive in Portland by 6:30pm. Of course, I knew I couldn’t average 17mph the rest of the way. While our bikes were being repaired I tried to drink some water and stay out of the sun, but I still didn’t feel right. I was even running my hand over my forehead and trying to lick the salt (Yes, I know that’s gross). Shortly after taking off from the rest stop the cramps began again, requiring me to get off my bike to stretch and massage the affected muscle (which tended to be the entirety of my left leg). Still, I was able to make it to the next rest stop while Chris was still there. We started off together once again, and soon thereafter the cramps returned. The deal was that we would regroup at the next rest stop if we became separated. We wouldn’t see each other for the rest of the ride.

    We joined a new pace line and Chris soon outdistanced me as I was unable to keep the pace. Yep, more cramps. I realized that I couldn’t catch any more pace lines as I had no gas left in the tank. Although I had averaged 17.7 mph prior to my troubles, I was resigned to finishing the final 60 miles of the STP, even if I did it solo the rest of the way at 10-12 mph. By this time, the rider was not important, only the completion of the ride. I distinctly remember as we crossed the bridge to Oregon… As I began the climb I began to cramp in both thighs. After dismounting and massaging my legs on the bridge’s very narrow shoulder, I continued my journey. There were no more style points left to be obtained. My pride had wilted under the Oregon heat, and my cries of “On your left” had long since been replaced with the same cry from countless others.

    My spirits lifted as I came to a downhill section of the course but I was still barely able to average 12mph. Then more cramps. My entire left leg seized up and I barely managed to keep from crashing. I got off my bike and stretched, drank some more fluids, and waited for my body to give me the okay, but no okay came. The shallow breathing came; the disorientation/confusion came; but the okay was nowhere to be found.

    So I got back on my bike. I mean, what choice did I have? I had forgotten my seat pack, so I had no cell phone and no money. My only option was to continue… Mile 160 came soon thereafter and although I was still on the downhill slope, my pace had not quickened. I pulled off at a place where a “Group Health Team in Training” vehicle was as that was the only decent off-road spot I had seen since entering Oregon. I thought that I would just drink some more fluids (although I had almost emptied my last water bottle) and rest a bit, but I couldn’t sit without my legs cramping.

    I knew that I couldn’t continue and I guess it must have been fairly clear as the Team in Training peeps came over with some ice in a bag to try and cool me down and flagged down the STP support staff. And that is how I ended up fifteen miles down the road at the aid stationed, on a cot surrounded by ice bags, waiting for my wife to come pick me and my bike up.

    I didn’t see Chris again; although, I was supposed to see him the next morning. I spoke with him that night to tell him what had happened and got the distinct impression that he thought I had faked my heat exhaustion. Perhaps I’m just being hypersensitive. Still, with 43 miles left to finish the STP, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had trained. The slight from Chris, perceived or otherwise, had quickly taken me from the point of not wanted to see my bike again to planning for next years STP. I will have my revenge, over the heat and over my condescending coworker!

    -Neo
    PS. I didn't proofread this so I apologize for any typos.
    PPS. I reserve the right to be totally wrong.

  2. #2
    fishologist cohophysh's Avatar
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    Sounds like a tough second half of the ride...it was dang hot yesterday, that's for sure, Hope your recovery is going well
    We cannot solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them. A.E.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member Mash Master's Avatar
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    Don't feel bad, you'll do it next year!
    - Dave

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  4. #4
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    Thanks for sharing that story. I think that's how we all imagine it would go if we didn't train. Some character of you to be able to share that with other people (I know I wouldn't want to be telling everyone about it). On the bright side, you did ride 160 miles, that is a lot.

  5. #5
    Lanky Lass East Hill's Avatar
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    Considering what you went through, I think you did a lot better than I would have!

    Congratulations on doing the 160 miles .

    East Hill
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    TRY EMPATHY & HAVE LOVE IN YOUR HEART, PERHAPS I'LL SEE YOU ON THE ROAD...

  6. #6
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    Well on my way to work biking at 5:15 am Saturday morning I fell into place with the STP bikers in Renton. Got me to thinking about trying it in the next year or two myself.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Oroluk Lagoon's Avatar
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    Well, Neo, I think it took as much courage to tell your story here as it did to attempt the ride the way you did in the first place.

    To answer your question about how you would had you trained, I can only say that from my experience of being 61 and having ridden 100 miles or so a week for the past year, it would have been a piece of cake for you. I did it two days but I arrived in Vader at 1:30pm on Saturday and could have easily made it to Portland by 6:30 or 7PM at 15MPH, which was 2+ MPH less than I had averaged to that point.

    It sounds like you were drinking a lot, but two questions: 1) what were you drinking; i.e. did it have any electrolyes in it? 2) How much did you eat? It sounds to me like the cramps might have been due in part to an electrolyte imbalance. I've gotten leg cramps from running for that reason. In addition to the food at the free rest stops, I had 3-hour (six scoop) bottle of Perpetuem on the bike (about 800 calories + electrolytes). It's harder for the body to absorb water with no electrolytes in it (according to what I've read), so sports drinks like Gatorade or G2 will be more effective.

    If you want a couple of tune-ups for next year that are harder than the Flying Wheels Summer Century, try the Peninsula Metric and the Tour de Blast. Both of these are very hilly, 7,000+ feet of elevation gain each. Makes the STP feel flat as a pancake.

    Thanks for telling your story. I'm sure it will help others who, like me, use Bike Forums to find out as much as they can about STP before they ride it for the first time.
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  8. #8
    Slave of the road nuovorecord's Avatar
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    Good effort, dude. I can feel your pain, as I had to pack it in a few years back on STP around the Trojan plant. An apt location, 'cause I was totally nuked!

    You'll get it next year. (But do try to get some more training in beforehand!)
    "Ride lots." - E. Merckx

  9. #9
    keep it simple. tamaso206's Avatar
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    thanks for your post, sounds like a variety of poor circumstances. the heat was killer both days, I had to pace water consumption much more than I would have ideally. one of my riding partners also fell pray to sudden breaking without signal in a paceline and crashed in the first 30 miles or so, but jersey torn and scraped she pounded out the rest of the ride, I was very impressed.

    Best of luck next time, it sounds like with a bit more preparation (and better luck) you'll complete it easily.

    Cheers.

  10. #10
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    I finished the one-day ride. I felt the pain of leg cramping the last 100 miles. I could deal with the quad and groin cramping because it seemed to go away until I hit a hill then I would cramp again. However, my right hamstring started cramping the last 3 miles. I had to stop 3 times for 10-15 minutes each time during the last three miles. The last stop was only 2 blocks from the finish.

    I think I handled the nutrition and hydration correctly. I'm sure my cramping was due to not training enough miles. I commute daily but thats only 15 miles round trip. The longest ride of the year prior to the STP was 60 miles and I dealt with muscle cramps on that ride also. I got some good advice on nutrition and hydration from the long distance forums and from friends that do endurance type of events. My friends all swear by "Perpetuem." I drank 8 bottles during the day. Several bottles of water and gatorade. I also swallowed about 20 pills of sportlegs (electrolyte capsules) throughout the day, chewed on beef jerky (protein and salt) throughout the day, and swallowed 2 caplets of quinine (supposed to help prevent/treat cramping) every few hours. I ate very little of the food at the rest stops (a few grapes, half of a banana, and half of a potato.)

    The ride was a success... I reached my goal, but not without some severe pains. I know I need to build a better distance base and I think I won't have to deal with severe muscle cramping. If the event had been one block longer, I don't think I could have finished.

    Better luck to the OP next year. I've learned that nutrition and hydration are just as important (maybe more important) than fitness.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Daveyboy's Avatar
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    NeoGeek, with your ambition and determination, you probably would have smoked this one day ride if you put in a normal amount of training. Considering your circumstances you had quite a ride.

  12. #12
    . Luwin1026's Avatar
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    Great, honest write-up. And I thought I had it bad at last year's STP (my first). Even getting to Seattle (from Los Angeles) was an adventure - ended up driving from one airport (Burbank) to LAX in rush hour traffic, hopped on a plane, landed around 11pm. Lo and behold, no bike.

    Got 1.5 hours of sleep before heading out to Seatac again, both fingers crossed hoping that my bike was there. When I saw the case, I swear I was ready to hug and kiss it like a long lost love. Got to U of W, and as everyone was putting their gear on the trucks, getting ready, I was still reassembling my bike in the parking lot. It was a combination of luck, lots of fluids, and sheer willpower that I finished (my longest ride prior to STP was 70-ish miles), and under 12 hours ride time at that.

    From reading accounts of this year's ride, it was ridiculously hot, especially for a 200-mile bike ride. Props to you for finishing what you did finish, and recognizing when to throw in the towel for not only your own safety but others' as well. There's always next year . . .

  13. #13
    Senior Member NeoGeek's Avatar
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    Oroluk, I started out with two 20oz. bottles with PowerBar Endurance mix in them, and after that I just used what was provided at the rest stops. I think the main problem (besides my lack of actual training) was that I didn't hydrate properly early enough. I didn't finish my two original bottles until Centralia. After that, I don't think it was going to matter how much, or what, I drank.

    Thanks for the input/ideas everybody. And a special thanks to those of you that shared your difficulties during your STP rides. Not that misery loves company or anything like that, but it's nice to know that things like this happen to others and that it wasn't some sort of divine conspiracy against me.

    On a brighter note, I am sooooo! focused with smoking next year's STP (among other cycling goals) that I've already begun training in earnest. Even Seattle's crappy 10 month winters won't slow me this time. Plus, I didn't get sunburned during the STP like I did during the Flying Wheels Summer Century, and I think I will be able to turn this whole misadventure into a new bike with just a little work on the wife

    -Neo

  14. #14
    stringbreaker stringbreaker's Avatar
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    The wife and I are going to do the STP. Hopefully next year but we are going to do it in two days. I want to enjoy the ride. I mean its supposed to be fun isn't it? Now don't get me wrong my hat is off to anyone that can do over 200 miles in one day that is AWESOME and I have a neighbor that has done the STP something like 10 times and he is an animal but thats him and I work with a guy that is a freak of nature he will go out and run 5 miles at lunch then ride 40 or 50 miles after work. I am not jealous of him at all I'm happy for him to be able to do that.I know my wifes and my limitations. We will do the training but we really do want to have fun and still say we did back to back centuries which ain't bad at all.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Oroluk Lagoon's Avatar
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    I mean its supposed to be fun isn't it?
    That was my thought. Wherever you stop, can really be an enjoyable part of the ride. Just relaxing, having a good meal, meeting other riders, getting a good night's sleep, etc.

    Then the second day should be more pleasurable (at least physically) than if you did it all in one day.

    That said, I'm not saying I won't do it in one day next time just to torture myself.

    On "warm" days I drink about one 20oz bottle every half hour. BTW, somewhere in another post, it was mentioned that the Ultra sports drink that was provided at the free rest stops, didn't contain all that it should for this type of endurance ride. Best to have some Endurolyte capsules or similar product to augment what they give you.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    I was really suffering as I got in to Portland. (2 day ride) I couldn't do 4 x 9. I knew I used to know the answer so I figured I must be getting close to heat stroke or exhaustion.

    I onlhy ran low on water or gatorade a coupld of times. I had a camel back and 2 bottles. I kept gatorade in the bottles and water in the camelback.

    The water stops seemed to get a little stingy on the oregon side. And no kids spraying garden hoses.

    The stop at St. Helens was giving out some kind of sport drink. but I didn't like it. And they actually had ice.

    Too bad you didn't finish, I can tell you are more determined for next year.
    I ride to lose weight - I lose weight to ride

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