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Reposting Hoodoo 500 Solo Bike Race - Tips and Tricks thread

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Reposting Hoodoo 500 Solo Bike Race - Tips and Tricks thread

Postby steve-born » Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:33 pm

on 4/28/2010 splitboard wrote:

I have been tasked with being crew chief for my brother-in-law's ride in this years Hoodoo 500. A 500 mile solo bike race through southern Utah in late August of this year

I am looking for some advice from both riders and those who have run support crews for this or similar races.

Let me give you some background so you know his and my experience. In 2007 he rode and successfully completed the Fireweed 400 in Alaska and I crewed for him there. This was an eye opening experience for all of us. None of us at the time had any idea about endurance nutrition and how to fuel for an event like this. And he paid the price for it. He finished and it was spectacular to see him complete the 400+ miles, but it wasn't pretty.

Very soon thereafter, he discovered Hammer. He went to Hammer Highline that summer and became a big fan. I'm using Hammer products now and we both are very familiar with the fueling and nutrition strategies of what I'll call the Hammer system. So our plan is definitely to follow the hammer plan for fueling for this race. He has ridden three 206 mile one day races but nothing longer since Fireweed.

What I'm looking for is information from people that have ridden or crewed races like this. What worked, what didn't, what kept the rider going in his toughest times, must have equipment, number of crew members (right now we have a minimum of 3 we may enlist more), etc., etc., etc,? I'm not looking for training tips (if he wants those he can post to the group). Just looking for help from a crew perspective.

Thanks for your help.

Ben Jacobsen

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On the same day, Steve Born replied with the following:

Hello Ben -

From 1987 to 2008 I have been involved in a number of ultra marathon cycling races, both as competitor and crew member/crew chief, so I've got a fair amount of experience. And while an entire book could be written about how best to crew for an ultra cyclist, here are a few tips that I've learned over the years:

1) I believe that you really only need a three-person crew, but if you wanted to have more available that would be fine. If so, I would suggest that you rent another vehicle (a compact car will do) so that the 4th or 5th crew member can do errands such as getting water, ice, etc, while the other three remain in the support van (and I definitely recommend using a minivan).

2) With a three-person crew you have three responsibilities, all of which can be traded off: You have a driver, you have a navigator (the person in the passenger's seat who reads the route book and communicates with the rider and the driver about upcoming turns, etc), and you have what I call a "provisioner." The provisioner is the person who sits in the back of the van and is responsible for keeping the rider fed, hydrated, and helping with clothing changes. The provisioner writes down all food/fuel/electrolyte/fluid intake in a notebook so that you can keep track of the rider's intake, ensuring that they're getting sufficient amounts of all of the things. We have found that the bike mechanic, because he/she has easiest access to spare parts (thus saving time), is the best person to occupy the provisioner's spot

3) Take all the seats out of the van so that you'll have more room to maneuver. When I did RAAM or the Furnace Creek 508, or whenever I crewed for others, we used my 1994 Dodge Caravan and took out all the bench seats, basically leaving the entire area behind the driver/passenger seats clear. We used a beach chair or something similar for the provisioner to sit on. Nowadays, some vans - like the one we used when crewing for Bill Nicolai's amazing Race Across Oregon effort - have a bench seat in the back and two "regular" seats in the middle. I forget what make of van this was but it worked out great because you could take out the bench seat and one of the "regular" seats, leaving the other one in for the provisioner to sit on.

4) Behind the driver's seat we placed a hard plastic milk crate on the floor and, using bungee cords, secured it to the floor. On top of that we had a 5-gallon cooler (secured to the crate with bungee cords) that we filled with ice and water. Basically we had a water tower, which could be used to make bottles of fuel quickly and easily, or to refill water bottles, and with minimal handling involved (which meant it was more sanitary).

5) Behind the passengers seat we placed a large, rectangular ice chest, one that you could fit a ton of food in as well as a few pre-mixed bottles of fuel, jugs of Hammer Gel, etc.

6) Near the back of the van we placed a set of plastic storage drawers to store extra clothing, supplements, tubes, tires, medical supplies, and miscellaneous stuff in. Something like these - http://www.stacksandstacks.com/images/p ... -10890.jpg or http://www.taylorsgardenbuildings.co.uk ... _15484.jpg - would work fine. To keep the drawers from sliding open, drill a small hole on the top of the drawer. Then use a small bungee cord, inserting one end into the top hole and stretching it out so that the other end hooks under the bottom of the stack of drawers.

7) The area in the back of the van, and behind the stack of drawers, is a good place to store extra containers of Perpetuem, Hammer Gel, HEED, etc, as well as a bike pump and perhaps a few extra wheels (assuming you don't have enough wheel forks on the rack).

The inside of the van is now "race ready."

Whenever I did ultras I brought three bikes (one that was set up solely for climbing), four to six sets of wheels, a bunch of extra tubes and tires, and lots of clothing. There's a saying in the ultra cycling world - "better to be looking at it than looking for it" - which means that you may never need all the equipment and clothing and accessories that you brought but you'll feel a whole lot better knowing it's in the van and within reach, rather than it being left at home. Case in point: My dad used to tease me about bringing rain gear whenever I did the Furnace Creek 508 (which, as you probably know, goes through Death Valley where it rarely rains). My response was always, "Dad, the one time I don't bring it is the one time that freak thunderstorm blows through here." Again, better to be looking at it than looking for it. Don't go overboard in what you pack, you'll want to have space to move around, but definitely bring extras of everything... just in case.

As far as tips for helping the rider, experience is the best teacher... as ultra cycling legend Lon Haldeman once said, "you need to know when the rider needs a kick in the butt or a pat on the back." Discerning when the "tough love" approach is the right choice or when the "it's OK if you chill for a short while" approach is the right choice can understandably be difficult. The way I've always treated it when I've crewed for others is to say something to the effect of, "You knew this was going to be hard when you signed up for it and there's nothing out here that is that difficult that you haven't already done something similar many times in training. Yes, I know the wind is blowing hard and I know it's cold and I know it's tired... but this is the real deal, it's not the dress rehearsal. Plus, sooner or later this wind will die down, sooner or later the summit of this climb will be reached, and sooner or later the night will end and the sun will come up. And guess what? You're going to feel a whole lot better working through this difficulty and being several miles down the road, rather than taking a break here, losing ground, and still having to ride those miles. In other words, you'll feel a lot better once you get these miles underneath your wheels and you're further up the road."

Of course, if the rider is physically hurting and/or is falling asleep, you need to get him/her off the bike for a short rest. Believe it or not, a 15-minute catnap will do wonders for revitalizing you. When my wife, Cassie Lowe, won the women's division both of her Races Across America (while beating most of the men as well), we adopted a strategy that she not take a full-fledged for the last "X" number of miles. Instead of doing that, which would take up substantially more time, we opted to do 15-minute catnaps whenever we felt her pace was too slow as compared to the effort involved. It worked like a charm.

In essence, the crew has to be able to allow the rider to go through every permutation of every feeling imaginable, but without it affecting them. In other words, don't take anything personally. Remember, you're there for the rider and you need to leave all your personal needs and problems at the starting line... you won't have the time nor the energy to deal with your personal issues until after the race. Remember, the rider is counting on you to do everything except ride the bike; that's his job and the rest is up to you. There's a saying that's been used heavily over the years in ultra cycling: "The crew can't win the race for the rider but they can lose it for the rider." So when you crew for a rider you have to be somewhat of a psychologist, which is to say that you always have the mind frame of "What's in the best interest of my rider?"

Also, it's important for the crew to get along, which can be difficult when you're stuck in a van for 500 miles. Whenever I raced or crewed we had an agreement that everyone had their own responsibilities and that they could take care of them without criticism from another crew member. And, if a mistake has been made, you have to put the past in the past and move forward. Bottom line is that the rider is counting on you and if he/she sees ANY kind of negativity amongst the crew, for whatever reason, it's going to negatively affect their race.

In my column in Endurance News #59, I wrote a little piece on motivational tips that I acquired over the years. I've taken the liberty of cutting and pasting it here for you, in the hopes that it will help both the crew and the rider. I wrote:

As most everyone knows, my chosen sport was ultra marathon cycling. From 1987 until I retired from active competition in late 2002 (after completing history's only Double Furnace Creek 508), I learned an awful lot about supplementation and fueling, which is information I am always eager to share with endurance athletes. The overwhelming majority of what I learned came via "the school of hard knocks," which is to say that I wasted more than my share of money on supplements and fuels that over-promised and under-delivered, and made more than my share of mistakes regarding fueling and supplementations. Some of those mistakes were really disastrous, with a couple of them nearly costing me my life. That's why I am so passionate about sharing my experiences with other athletes, so that they don't have to go down the exact same road I did and perhaps not spend nearly as much time, money, and energy as I did learning what I now know (which again, came the hard way).

And while I certainly don't consider myself to be a motivational speaker or anything like that, I have learned some motivation-specific things over the course of many years in the world of ultra marathon cycling. I wanted to share some of these with you and even though the details are based on ultra marathon events, I believe that the specifics are definitely applicable to anyone doing an endurance event. And yes, while some of these things may sound a bit esoteric, I still think they're of value and worth considering...

1. When you're in a race, don't let what anyone else is doing affect or influence what you're doing. My father, who was on all my RAAM crews, used to remind me that I had no control over what any of the riders were doing and, as a result, I shouldn't waste any precious energy worrying about what they were doing. What was under my control was knowing what was right for me in terms of pacing, sleep break strategies, etc., and that's what I needed to focus my energy on. Speaking purely in RAAM terms, when you reach day five, day one is going to seem like it was a month ago so you don't want to go out too hard at the start, which is a common mistake that so many riders make. The way I see it, if someone goes out harder than I know I can or should, and is able to maintain that pace throughout the race, they're going to beat me anyway. Bottom line is to not let what any other competitor may be doing influence how you do your race.

2. Make every minute count. Don't stop unless it's necessary, and if you do, make it profitable. When you do the math it really adds up over the course of a long distance race. Referring again to RAAM, if I were to ride an average of 20 hours a day and take a mere 5 minutes off every other hour (which doesn't sound too unreasonable, given the nature of RAAM), that's a total of 50 minutes for every 24 hour period where no forward progress has been made. Over the course of 10 days that's over 8 hours where no progress was made. That's huge! In all honesty, a good reason why I was successful in most of my races wasn't because I was terribly fast or anything like that, but rather because my crew and I were very good about not wasting time with unnecessary stops and/or overly long sleep breaks; we treated all stops like mini "Indy 500 pit stops," knowing that every minute counted. Efficiency is key -- you don't want to rush through things haphazardly, but you don't want to be lethargic either. Be efficient and it'll definitely give you an advantage, and you'll be rewarded by the time the race is completed.

3. Everything gets better. I realize it sounds a bit esoteric but (again, speaking in RAAM terms) the long, dark night will eventually change to sunrise; the long and seemingly endless climb will eventually have a summit; the wind will sooner or later stop, and you'll feel a whole lot better staying on the bike and working through it and making progress (slow as it may sometimes seem) than you will by getting off the bike and complaining about it.

4. Everyone is hurting out there so don't feel as though you're alone in what you may be feeling. It doesn't matter if you're in first place or last place; everyone is going through the same things mentally, emotionally, and physically. Also, no matter what you may think at times, you are not the slowest person out there. Bottom line is that it's really easy to psych yourself out, especially the longer into the race you get, so you simply have to remember that you're not alone in feeling what you may feel (and you will probably go through every permutation of emotional feeling there is)... trust me, everyone is feeling the same darn thing.

5. An inch is a cinch and a yard is hard. Endurance races are too long to think of them in their entirety, especially when you're already hurting and/ or tired. In RAAM terms, you can't think about Kansas when you're still in Arizona (or, if you're doing an iron-distance triathlon, you can't think about mile 13 on the run when you're one-third the way through the bike portion). Why? Because it's simply too much for the mind to comprehend and it can really psych you out. Instead, break the race down into lots and lots of little pieces, meaning have lots of milestones to reach along the way. When you get to one destination/milestone you've accomplished a goal; now it's time to get to the next one and accomplish another goal. Breaking up the race into much smaller segments (an inch is a cinch) is a much better way to approach it than thinking of it as a whole (a yard is hard).

6. Past doesn't necessarily mean prologue. Even if you're currently feeling kind of lousy, it doesn't mean you can't and won't feel better later on. A former RAAM winner once told me that doing RAAM (and I'd imagine this would be true for any endurance/ultra endurance race) is basically problem solving on an ongoing basis. To me, this simply means that things may not always go according to plan, the original "game plan" may not always go the way you want it to, so you have to be flexible and work through the current situation/ problem, knowing that it can (and usually does) get resolved.

7. Take the race element out of it. Forget about it being a race and just do what you love doing, which is riding a bike, swimming, running... whatever it is that you do. Getting too hung up on the fact that you are in a race can drain your energy and negatively affect your performance, while also taking a lot of the fun out of doing it in the first place. That kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think? I've personally found that when I don't focus so intently on the race I end up doing better anyway.

8. Success doesn't necessarily mean winning all the time. Former RAAM winner and one of the greatest endurance athletes I've ever known, Michael Secrest, said that many years ago and I've never forgotten it. In fact, the full quote became my "mantra" of sorts and it's how I approached all my races: "Success doesn't necessarily mean winning all the time. Success is having the courage to face your fears while still having the guts to go on." That's an attitude worth adopting, wouldn't you agree?

--- END ---

I hope you will find this info to be helpful, Ben.

Sincerely -

Steve

************************
Steve Born
Fueling Expert
Event Sponsorship Coordinator
http://www.hammernutrition.com
800.336.1977
************************

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Later that day, Fred Goss wrote:

Steve -

That was an excellent article which will go in my archives! While reading
it, I was thinking just how much does an adventure like this set you back? I
know everyone volunteers, but there are hard costs for food, wheels, fees,
etc. Can you give any estimates?

Fred

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I'm just now able to answer your question, Fred, but I'm afraid I can't give you a very precise dollar figure, simply because the cost of doing the Race Across America depends on how "deluxe" you want to make it. On average, though, I estimate that it costs about $15,000.00 to do the race. That figure could be higher if you're unable to get product sponsorship or discounts on products (bikes, wheels, fuel & supplements, etc).

Sincerely -

Steve

************************
Steve Born
Fueling Expert
Event Sponsorship Coordinator
http://www.hammernutrition.com
800.336.1977
************************
************************
Steve Born
Fueling Expert
Event Sponsorship Coordinator
www.hammernutrition.com
800.336.1977
************************
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