So many months of training and preparation are finally coming to fruition. It's June 2nd in Astoria, Oregon: The start of the 2018 Trans American Bike Race.
The 4;30 alarm goes off but isn't necessary- I've been staring at the ceiling for the past hour. Everything is packed and ready to go; the days prior afforded time to organize, and probably too much time for last minute tinkering with gear. If you're interested, check out the gear that made the final cut here.
I enjoyed a final shower (who knew when the next would come?), downed a cold sub and iced coffee and geared up. It was time to roll down to the start line, about a half mile away. The morning certainly held a few jitters but knowing it was such a long race helped to keep things calm. Today was a small fraction of a large and trying endeavor.
The 5-mile neutral roll-out of Astoria began. It was brisk in the morning- likely in the low 60’s. I had all my gear on except the buff, reflective vest and one pair of gloves, which did concern me for the lower temps I would see in the coming days. The neutral roll out ended and the race was on! … It was astounding to see the pace at which some began to ride. Several riders pushed to the front at a considerable clip. It was difficult to settle into a rhythm during those first few hours- the energy and excitement had everyone jockeying for position. I tried to keep focus on power and heart rate and ride my own ride.
Only a few hours in I clipped the sidewall of my rear tire on a large branch in the shoulder. It created a small gash extremely close to the bead.I was slowing losing air and stopped a few times to pump the tire and hope sealant would eventually patch things up. It didn’t, and I was forced to tube the tire, a chore I was hoping wouldn't come for a while. I pulled over at a small café and decided to get some coffee and food at the same time. It seemed like an eternity and quite a few riders past me during this stop. I was worried about the side wall fully tearing and began to think about locations for full tire replacement (as well as additional tubes).
Once changed and back on the road, I tried to just focus on riding and worked my way back up through some riders and settled into a rhythm for the day. Riders were certainly starting to spread out as the day went on, but there was still some frequent leap frogging as riders took breaks in different towns. In hindsight, I certainly didn’t stop enough during the first half of the day and was a little too caught up in riding as much as possible. I didn’t check in on track leaders (and wouldn’t do so for the first few days), but I was having issues with forcing myself to stop- I was trying to make as much distance as possible. There was a strong tailwind for most of the day and I wanted to take full advantage.
I had a chance to have a quick bite of mexican with John Egbers and Fabian Lobera in Monmouth, OR mid afternoon. John and I shared a laugh over some language barriers while ordering- we figured our ability to communicate was only going to get worse as the days went on! Unfortunately John was struck by a vehicle later in the race, and passed away while working to recover. Rest in peace John.
The day light hours were ending as I came into Springfield, and at this point I hadn’t taken any time to think about stopping location or food availability. I just kept riding, telling myself I would find something a little down the road. I had plenty of water and about 1000 calories of snacks on board, enough to keep pushing on, right? My biggest mistake on Day 1! As I rolled closer to McKenzie Hwy in the dark. I could see the glow of red head lamps from several riders who were starting to set up camp on the sides of the roads. I had no intentions of going over McKenzie Pass tonight, so I decided to set up camp in the same area. I found a good ditch a bit off the road. Temps were cool and the bivy setup was comfortable- it was about 10pm. As I tried to get some sleep, a few more riders deciding to work into the night passed by.