September 30, 2015/ Guest
In this guest post, Ben Tomblin shares his Race Report from the Solo Hoodoo 500 August 29-30, 2015. Ben is racing the Vendetta in the Natchez Trace 444 this weekend, October 2.
I had known about and wanted to do the Hoodoo 500 for many years, but had never been able to work out the logistics. I knew the course was beautiful, the climbing epic, and that no recumbent had ever finished the race before. Then several months ago I receive a call from Jim Parker letting me know that both Maria Parker and Lief Zimmerman had signed up, and better yet Maria was driving out to the race from North Carolina. Finally, the logistics problem had been solved! Within 30 minutes I signed up for the race, booked a flight to Las Vegas, and made plans to get my bike and gear up to NC. I called my parents up and coaxed them into crewing for me on the premise that they could go out a week early and spend some vacation time hiking and exploring that beautiful part of the Southwest.
Ben’s Mom and Dad supported him during the Solo Hoodoo 500
In the weeks that followed signing up for the race I tried to get in as much climbing as I could. I spent one weekend in North Georgia riding the 6-Gap course, another in Clermont, FL eeking out 10k feet ascent over 131 miles doing the same hills over & over again. I felt good about the climbing aspect, but the elevation (most of the race being above 6000 feet) and the desert heat (low humidity) were two things you just couldn’t train for in Florida.
I rolled through the starting line in St George, Utah at 7 a.m. on my Vendetta and 43 hours and 12 minutes later I crossed the finish line on Lief Zimmerman’s medium frame Vendetta.
Ben at the Solo Hoodoo 500 starting line.
Now a full 2 weeks post race I sit writing this, still mentally and physically exhausted, still with a garage full of unpacked gear. I had promised myself and others a full ride report a week earlier, but all I’ve done for the past two weeks is come home from work and sleep. Then this morning I finally awoke from the post Hoodoo fog and decided, I really want to go for a ride, I really want to get all my race gear put away, I really want to share with everyone this wonderful experience.
Most of the mile by mile details of the race have been captured far better in the write ups of Maria Parker and Steve Meichtry than I could ever express. Beautiful scenery, brutal heat, epic climbing, horrible headwinds the 2nd day, it was truly everything I thought it would be and more.
Racers and crew enjoyed a truly super Super Moon the first night of the race.
Ben’s dad does a bottle handoff amid roadside flowers and mountainous terrain.
The race was really 3 races mentally and physically: the first 200 miles, the next 282 miles, and the last 40 miles, so that’s how I’ll break it down in this race report.
Hoodoo 500 parade start.
First 200 Miles
The first 200 miles were wonderful, I felt great, nothing hurt, nothing bothered me, I could eat and drink anything I wanted.
Average HR: 145 bpm
Average Power: 144 watts Average Speed: 17.1 mph
Average Cadence: 81 rpm
Next 282 Miles
The next 282 miles were really trying, survival was the name of the game. Power output was down, heart rate was down, hotfoot was a real problem, the altitude above 8k feet was brutal.
Average HR: 132 bpm
Average Power: 94 watts Average Speed: 12.4 mph
Average Cadence: 70 rpm
At mile 309 I really thought my race was over, it was around 5 AM on the 2nd morning, I could barely stay awake, I had just descended almost 10 miles, the outside temperature dropping from 60 degrees at elevation to 45 degrees in the valley. I stopped briefly, put on 2 extra layers, got warmed back up and started riding again but within 2 minutes my entire body was shaking so badly I couldn’t keep the bike safely on the road. Stopping again to get in the support vehicle my entire body wouldn’t stop shaking for almost 30 minutes. I honestly thought my race was over and I was headed to the hospital. Jim Parker got me to take in 50 oz of water, and 500-600 calories. After another 30 minutes the shakes subsided, and another 30 minutes of shut eye and I was back on the bike feeling like nothing had happened.
At this point it’s morning on the 2nd day, 320 miles into the race and the winds ( a head/cross at 15-20 mph ) start to take their toll. I stop at day break in the infamous mosquito lagoon area to take off my heavy clothes and let the mosquito’s enjoy their breakfast.
Another 3 hours of fighting headwinds and the heat of the 2nd day and I bonk. It feels like someone turned off a light switch, another 15 minutes laying on the side of highway 89, fluids / calories and a gallon of water dumped on me and I was able to limp into the Panguitch time station. I’m told to put my sneakers on, we park the car, and walk over to the local diner, making the breakfast cutoff with 2 minutes to spare. At the time I didn’t want to stop, knowing I had 30 miles and 7k feet of ascent to make it up to Cedar Breaks NM at 10,600 feet, but my crew knew that without a break and a hot meal I wasn’t going to make the climb. Stopping for a hot meal did the trick, I made it to the top of the climb and enjoyed the 6k foot descent into Cedar City.
Now 420 miles into the race I had the confidence I needed to know I would make it. The last 100 miles descended 11k feet, but not without 4k feet of climbing to keep it interesting.
The last 40 Miles
Around 10 pm on the 2nd night, 482 miles into the race we (racer and crew) were in the home stretch, we were going to finish. I had 25 miles more of gently rolling direct follow, then 15 miles solo into St George. Everyone had been awake for going on 40 hours. Riding one of the last climbs on the race I sensed my follow vehicle coming up behind me presumably to say something or do a hand off. I naturally moved to the right to facilitate them coming around, but something was different, the headlights were too close, the engine was too loud. I felt the vehicle make contact with me and thought, “Oh so this is actually happening, I’m getting hit”. I am exceeding thankful I moved to the right. The vehicle ended up running the bike over with the front right tire and I ended up safely (but scraped up) on the ground to the right of the vehicle. After realizing that I was fine and the bike was a total loss my next thought was, “Oh thank goodness, I don’t have to finish the damn climb.”
The follow driver had dozed off for just a second and that’s all it took. We called headquarters, reported the accident and the intent to DNF when they suggested that if the racer was able to continue we could find another bike. Miraculously, Jim got a hold of Lief Zimmerman who had just finished the stage race earlier in the day and at 11 pm at night he agreed to jump in his car and drive his bike 40 miles to help out a fellow racer he had only met two days earlier for 5 minutes before the start of the stage race. Truly the best conclusion to a bad situation that could have happened.
Bike: Large frame V2.0 Vendetta (first 482 miles; medium frame V2.0 Vendetta last 40 miles)
Crankset: Compact 52/34 QRings, 172.5 mm cranks.
Wheelset: Rolf 58RSC laced to G3 PowerTab hub with 11×36 cassette, Zipp 404 non-drive wheel.
Tires: Vredestein Senso 700 x 28c
Hydration: Two water bottles mounted directly to the side of the seat.
Headlight: NightRider Lumina 750 & Serfas Thunderbolt
Taillight: (2) NightRider Solas 2W
Nutrition: Mostly Hammer Perpetium and Endurolytes, followed by a healthy helping of smoothies, dried fruits, cookies, tonic water, waffles, Starbucks Espresso, V8, Ibuprofen, pickle juice, potato chips, eggs and one McDonalds hamburger and small fry.
Average HR: 134 bpm
Average Power: 104 watts (134 watts NP)
Total Moving Time: 36h 53m
Total Race Time: 44h 12m (including a 1 hour time penalty for crew direct following during daylight hours on SR-143 up to Cedar Breaks)
The 2015 Hoodoo 500 marks exactly one year riding a Cruzbike Vendetta after 18 years of riding various rear wheel drive recumbents. I couldn’t have been any happier with how the bike performed, whether it was climbing 18% grades at 4 mph or going down the backside of the same ascent at 60 mph. I consistently average about 1 mph faster overall on the Vendetta over my Bacchetta CA/2 and no longer have any visibility issues seeing over the handlebars. Not having to buy chains by the case or buy tandem length derailleur cables is nice, too. I’ve commuted to work on the Vendetta for almost a year now and never had any problems with visibility or negotiating traffic. I consider it a great all around bike and have plans going forward for progressively longer events.
“The 2015 Hoodoo 500 marks exactly one year riding a Cruzbike Vendetta after 18 years of riding various rear wheel drive recumbents. I couldn’t have been any happier with how the bike performed, whether it was climbing 18% grades at 4 mph or going down the backside of the same ascent at 60 mph. ” – Ben Tomblin
What did I learn?
- Riding in the desert (hot like Florida without the humidity ) evaporative cooling is king. I would dump a water bottle of ice water over myself every 30 minutes to stay cool. Next time I’ll be sure to cover up head to toe in white clothing.
- Tonic water was wonderful all around, easily digested calories, carbonation to help with stomach upset, and quinine to fend off cramping.
- You simply cant take in enough fluids.
- I couldn’t have done it without my crew, my crew’s crew, and the entire Cruzbike team!
- This is addicting, next step post write up, sign up for Natchez Trace 444 October 2nd!
I look forward to seeing an even larger group of recumbents at the 2016 Hoodoo 500 and hope to be back next year to race in the voyager division.