15 September 2015 ~ 3 Comments

Saints to Sinners Race — My Longest Ever No-Sleep Ride

In 2014 I rode in my first-ever supported long-distance race, called Salt to Saint (Salt Lake City to Saint George). It was primarily a 420-mile relay race, but there were a handful of solo riders, like myself, that rode. It went OK and I finished well before the designated cut-off time. That ride had a lot less climbing and was shorter than this event, which goes from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.

Early in 2015 I started looking at the stats for the Saints to Sinners. Only one solo person, Mike Conti from Park City, had finished this ride. The allotted time was similar to Salt to Saint, but it had 100 more miles and lots more climbing. I knew I would be hard-pressed to finish in the normal 36-hour cut-off. Early in the year, while at an outdoor expo, I asked Steven Tew, the organizer, if he would be willing to extend the 36-hours for solo riders. He agreed and I later decided that I would start three hours earlier than the relay riders or solo riders. I extended an invite to several of the other solo guys to join me at 2:00 a.m. but they declined and wanted to start with everyone else at 5:00 a.m.

This race mandates a crew and I was lucky to have two friends help me: Jim Halay of Eden, Utah and Frits Tessers of Mount Pleasant (my home town). On the evening of July 30th my crew camped out in Jim’s RV at the start line. I had with me three carbon-fiber bicycles: a Cervélo P3C time trial bike with aerobars, a Trek Domane, also with aerobars, and a Rocky Mountain Prestige without aerobars. The idea was to use the TT bike on the rollers and less-steep terrain and then switch to the Rocky on the climbs. The Trek was a back up.

On Friday morning we got up at about 1:15 a.m. and were able to get me moving by 02:00. The first 214 miles to Panguitch are rollers with little climbing, so I started on the TT bike with the other two bikes stowed away inside or attached to the RV. It was a nice temperature of about 60F. Heading south out of the Salt Lake Valley there was little wind until I hit Saratoga Springs and along the shore of Utah Lake, at which point, I had a slight headwind. It was breezy all the way until the sun came up and then the wind tapered off. I was able to make it to Panguitch with an average moving speed of 17.45 MPH, which I was pretty happy for. I was deliberately keeping my heart rate low (70-75% of my max.), as with such a distance, I didn’t want to “burn up any matches.”

 

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GPS at Panguitch some 214 miles in.

 

 

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Jim and I at the Panguitch rest stop.

 

Upon arriving in Panguitch I slammed down some serious calories and switched bikes, as the biggest climbs of the trip were right ahead. Having a crew with an RV was wonderful as they could prepare food in advance and have it ready, so I can eat and run. Jim and Frits were most helpful throughout this event.

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Killer scenery, on the way out of Panguitch.

I started the climb out of Panguitch. At that point, with a three-hour head start, no one had passed me yet, but I knew, sooner or later, the fast relay guys and some of the solo guys would. About half way up the Cedar Breaks climb a relay cyclist finally passed me (like I was standing still!). This was the middle of the day and it was slightly overcast, which was wonderful as it was not too hot. I worked my up the first major climb, descended and then made the final ascent to the Cedar Breaks summit. It was well before dark. I took little time off the bike during this section. I just wanted to get it over with. It was nice to descend down into Cedar City in daylight. Upon arriving there I laid down in the grass next to the RV (with my feet up on a chair to get some of the blood to drain back down) and ate a bagel sandwich, macaroni salad etc. My crew in their RV would leap frog me constantly throughout the trip. It must have been fatiguing for them as they had to do a lot of waiting around.

It was just starting to get dark as I left Cedar City and many other cyclists were coming and going now. My crew switched my main light back to the TT bike and I headed out west toward Enterprise. I ended up riding this bike all the way into Moapa Nevada. In hindsight, I perhaps should have switched back to my “climbing” bike in Enterprise, but my pedaling cadence seemed OK with this bike, despite it having slightly higher gearing, so I just kept on it. Climbing on a bike is weird at night because most of the time (unless their is a full moon) you cannot see the hill or judge the grade. I had done this climb once before, but it had been a few years. I just turning the pedals and made a moderately fast descent down from Vejo into Santa Clara, near Saint George. From there it was a long and gradual climb up Utah Hill, which was the old highway to Las Vegas, before they put in the interstate. It seemed to never end. I saw were few other cyclists and I couldn’t see the summit as the road was curved. Along this section I finally gave it and consumed some caffeine gum to keep me alert as I rode through the night. Although I could have taken a power nap in the RV, I wanted to push on without one, to save time. The descent off Utah Hill is a very long and rather steep one, but since it was still slightly dark (dawn was breaking), I was fearful of “outrunning” my lights, so I kept my speed to under 35 MPH. A bit frustrating in a race!

 

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Jim’s RV: Our home for 3 days.

 

 

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Closer shot, showing my two primary bikes used on this event. Yes, 25mm-wide tires on both. A “plastic” Prologo saddle on the Rocky and a narrow Fizik TT saddle on the Cervelo.

 

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My crew didn’t shoot any photos until the very end, hence I was on the black Trek “back up bike.”

 

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Entering red rock country in Neveda.

 

 

Throughout the morning, I rode along a highway and side roads near I-15 until arriving in Moapa Nevada, where I switched back to my climbing bike. At this point, my maximum heart was topping out at only 65% of my maximum. I was moving pretty slow, but it was consistent. After a series of climbs I arrived to the entrance of Valley of Fire state park. My GPS indicated that I had traveled some 466.29 miles and I only had 50.28 miles left. That seemed OK, except that my GPS indicated that I had only climbed about 14,500 feet so far. The entire route, according to the online maps, indicated 22,000 feet total. Others that have ridden this route said that their GPS indicated it was closer to 20,000 feet, depending on your GPS model. Regardless, that meant that the last 50 miles had approximately 4,000 to 6,000 feet of climbing. I was NOT a happy camper! This last 50 miles is on a road that seems to go nowhere, except that it had repeated climbs and descents, with seemingly little purpose, as it worked it’s way southwest towards Las Vegas. It sits a few miles off from the shore of Lake Mead, but most of the time one cannot see the lake. It was a death march.

At one point, when I had just passed my support vehicle, my rear derailleur cable snapped. I waved down my crew and we made a quick switch to the back-up bike, which I used for last 35 miles. Fortunately, it had the same low gearing as my climbing bike (50-33 in front and 12-30 in the rear). I was worried about excessive heat here during the last 60 or 70 miles as one approaches Las Vegas in the middle of the day in August. But it turned out to be overcast with some light sprinkles no less. THANK GOODNESS.

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GPS at the entrance to Valley of Fire state park. 466 miles down and “only” 50.28 to go.

 

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Near Lake Mead

 

After hours of hill climbing and descending, I finally made it to the finish line. The awards ceremony had just finished and their were folks still there taking pictures in front of the finish-line banner. They informed that I was the only solo finisher and gave me two ribbons: one for finishing and one for taking first in my category. This was later proven wrong as there was one other solo rider, Russel Mason, who was still in transit. Some volunteer had received information that he had quit, but this turned out not to be the case. He left at 5:00 a.m. and later arrive at the finish line, with a faster time than I. As it turned out, Russel and I were the only solo riders to finish this year, making us two of only three to have finished this event as solo riders.

So would I do this event again? Personally, I would like to try a similar event as a “rando” self-supported style ride, but it would take me several more hours, so I am not sure that is feasible for my age (61) and fitness level. Also, the last 50 miles, with all the climbing, was just too much uphill packed into end of such a long event. The relay riders were more fresh, so for them, this last segment was not as brutal. After the event, I kept looking at the online maps, wondering how the organizer could change the route so it entered Las Vegas without taking on this last onerous climbing section — I couldn’t find anything, other than the interstate or a very busy trucking highway (with little shoulder).

Many thanks for Jim Halay for the use of his RV and for the ever encouraging words, help and advice of himself and Frits.

 

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Frits, myself, Jim and Steven, the organizer, at the finish line.

 

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Ribbons. The gold one was awarded by mistake.

Stats:

Ride with GPS Online Map (entire route)

Ride with GPS Online Map (last 50 miles only)

My Strava Upload (what my GPS recorded)

GPS recorded total mileage: 517.20 miles

GPS recorded total vertical gain: 20,687 feet

Total time: 37:51. Moving time was 33:58, which means I was off the bike 3:53…seems like a lot of time of the bike!.
That was 2nd place to Russell Mason, who had a time of 36:32.

3 Responses to “Saints to Sinners Race — My Longest Ever No-Sleep Ride”

  1. Bryce 9 November 2015 at 1:14 pm Permalink

    Nice work on this, I was wondering if you followed through on the plan to ride this solo. That is a lot of climbing.

  2. Rando Richard 9 November 2015 at 5:40 pm Permalink

    Do you mean solo, UNSUPPORTED? I just finished this event this year, solo with a support crew, so I have not had a chance to do it again. According to the organizers, they do NOT allow unsupported riders.

  3. Bryce 12 November 2015 at 3:12 pm Permalink

    Oh no, I didn’t mean unsupported. That would be even a little more crazy than what you already did. If I were an organizer I would also not allow solo unsupported. I would tell those people to go do brevets which have a longer time limit.