Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Race Across the West…Falling deeper into the abyss
by Mick Walsh

Since getting into ultra racing I’ve always wanted to go to the next level. Last year I did Race Across Oregon, so for this year the next level would be the Race Across the West. It’s the first 860 miles of RAAM from Oceanside, CA to Durango CO.

I put out the call for support crew early in the year, and was happy to have John-Henry Maurice, Elise Ross and Paul Renninger step up to help me get through this. I knew them all and knew they would be a great support team. I discussed with several people and decided that one vehicle and three crew would be sufficient for the race. John Henry also provided his trusty Astro van for the trip, which is well decked out for ultra crewing.

The only problem with the crew is that they are in the Salem, Oregon area, which is about 240 miles south of me. Planning was not as good as it could have been. They had several meetings but I couldn’t be there, and we couldn’t get out for a trial overnight ride to see how things might shake out.

The plan was for Martha and I to drive down to John Henry’s on the Friday before the race (start was on weds June 15th) then J-H, Elsie and I would drive down to Oceanside on Saturday-Sunday, and Paul fly down, as there was not room for us all in the van.

We had an uneventful trip to Oceanside, staying overnight in a small town somewhere well south of Sacramento on Saturday night, and arriving around noon on Sunday. From my experience last year, I figured we needed to be there then. We needed all that time to be ready for the race, as there were lots to be done to be compliant with rules, stock the van and make sure we knew the route out of town, which was different for Van and rider.

So, photo session, crew meeting, rider meeting race reconnaissance and many trips to the store, and many hours stocking the van later we were at weds morning and ready to race. I must say I did enjoy my ride on the first, unsupported part of the course with Donncha Cutriss on the Tuesday morning. What a nice guy. At this point he is looking good for a respectable finish in RAAM, the first Irish Solo entry in the race.

The race start was fun, on the waterfront and then along 8 miles of bike path. We would not see our support cars until mile 24, and we would only have direct follow by them at night. All other times would be leapfrog, meaning they pass pull over offer assistance as I pass, then repeat.

I made a stupid mistake at mile 8 by running a VERY yellow light, OK it was actually red, and there was an official car in the back up, so I was put down for a 15 min penalty to be served at the Durango Time Station (TS) 2 miles from the finish. I was so mad at myself, but just tried to put it out of my mind.

I tried to ride at a reasonable pace while the weather was cool, as I knew I would slow down when we hit the desert at Borrego Springs, and I was drinking either water or heed every chance I got, I was drinking at least two bottles an hour.

I was going well getting to Borrego, where RAAM leader Christophe Strasser came cruising by at about 27 mph. The temperature went above 100 degrees there and I was taking in plenty of fluids and calories. About 15 miles later, flat roads and strong tailwinds, Gerhard and Marco, 2nd and 3rd in RAAM blew by me like I was stopped. There is no point in racing those guys, they are in a different league altogether.

I made a quick stop at Time Station 2 to freshen up and cool off a bit, but It was too late. About 15 miles later at around 10pm, I had to stop and lay down. My 3rd place in RAW was gone for good. I had chills and was throwing up and it was 3 ½ hours before I could start riding again. The next twenty four hours would be the most painful experience I’ve ever had on a bike. I just wanted to be out of the heat, it was about 109 degrees during the day, and “cooled off” to the 90s at night.

Elise was doing a great job of getting foods that would be easy on my stomach, I had Greek yogurt and cold instant mashed potatoes (yummy eh!). In addition, Heed, sport beans and Vitamin Water also helped keep me going.

Finally, on day 2 when I thought I was not going to make it to Time Station 5 at Salome, Arizona, my crew came up with a game changing decision. They found a hotel out in the middle of nowhere and checked me into an air conditioned room to cool off, have a shower, eat some food and take a two hour nap. Well, this put me back at the very back of the field, and with some work to do to make the race time limit; a gamble, but otherwise I would have not been able to continue. Before this "rest", I was moving very slowly on the fastest part of the course, and my average speed was already down to 11.5 mph. And and the majors climbs were yet to come.

It was still 108 degrees when I got back on the bike, but at least I was able to ride faster than 12 mph for a while, I just had to make it to darkness and Time Station 6 in Congress Arizona at mile 395, then the climbs would start and it would be cooler at night, at least.

I started to feel better as it got dark and had a rider in front of me to chase, so that kept me going.

There was a lot of climbing from Congress to Prescott, but it was night time and cool and I felt OK most of the time. I did have one bad patch and had to stop for 15-20 minutes and I was sick there too.

I was able to maintain a better speed when we got to Arizona, it was slightly cooler and some climbs helped too, but I still was not really moving very fast. I did manage to maintain the average speed I had at the start of the climbs at Congress, all the way to the finish in Durango, despite a missed turn that added 7 miles of riding, slowly wondering if I had in fact taken a wrong turn. That was after Mexican Hat, TS 13, and cost me probably another hour or so.

I also got by on less down time later in the race. I probably slept 2 hours a day in the last 48 hrs.

The crew were great, Paul, John Henry and Elise never mentioned that I should consider quitting, even when it was obvious I was in serious difficulty with almost 600 miles to go!! Yikes. I clearly remember them cheering loudly for me when I was riding about 12 mph and feeling and looking like crap.

I eventually arrived in Durango on Saturday afternoon for a total time of 3 days 4 hrs and 24 minutes which seemed like an eternity. And like all ultra race finishes, maybe even more so, wondered why I ever thought THAT would be a fun thing to do!

But now, two weeks later, I’m starting to get excited about the upcoming Race Across Oregon and how I can better survive the heat of the day to have a good race.

Thanks again to my support crew for getting me through this, and my long suffering wife, Martha who puts up with my crazy Ultraness!

Be safe out there, but live life for today.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yarnell Grade

11:20 PM Pacific Daylight Time update:

Crew chief John Henry Maurice reports that Mick is climbing Yarnell Grade at 7 mph at a 60% effort. The cooler evening air must be to Mick's liking! Yarnell Grade climbs 1800 ft in 7 miles.

improving weather

After a day of withering heat Mick and his crew should look forward to tomorrow's forecast. The high in Cottonwood AZ (TS 8) is predicted to be 92, and in Flagstaff AZ (TS 9)it is predicted to be 76. Neither location is expecting any wind over 5 mph. Tuba City AZ (TS 10) is expecting a high of 85. That's warm enough, but a whole lot better than the triple digits of today!

I talked with Mick's crew chief again this evening. Most of what we talked about has already been posted here but he did mention that the air was very dry. Humidity was 11% today. I guess that's why they call it "the desert Southwest". ;-)

Keep those pedals spinning Mick. The words that Eric "Thrasher" Troili said to me as I trained for the Furnace Creek 508 will serve you as well. "Focus on finishing, nothing else matters".


Mick's first rest after three continious hours on the bike in 100+ degree heat.  He feels much better than yesterday at this time.

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 70th phonecast


Mick is riding well even though it is hot!

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 69th phonecast

Mick's location@1:22pm,6/16

Mick's location@1:22pm,6/16
Parker, AZ

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 68th phonecast

Mick's location@11:31am,6/16

Mick's location@11:31am,6/16
Parker, AZ

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 67th phonecast

6AM update

Mick has passed through Time Station 3, Blythe California. He took a sleep break and dropped to 5th position in his division. He is now on his way to Time Station 4, Parker Arizona. It is predicted to be 105 degrees in Parker this afternoon. The crew will be doing their best to keep Mick cool and hydrated. The winds are predicted to be out of the south at 15 mph with gusts to 25. That direction should be generally a favorable wind for him. It's going to be hot, but he's riding through some beautiful country.

Cyclist Time Mile Arrival Race Average
Station Thus Far Time Time Speed

WYSS Daniel 5 342.60 7:29 16 h 19 m 21
Peter Oyler 5 342.60 8:39 17 h 28 m 19.61
GREGORY S ROBINSON 3 235.30 5:06 13 h 45 m 17.11
Tim Richardson 3 235.30 5:14 14 h 0 m 16.81
Mick Walsh 3 235.30 6:55 15 h 37 m 15.07

Mick's location@5:46am,6/16

Mixk' location@5:46am,6/16


Taking care of business.

Mick's location@4:51am,6/16

Mick's location@4:51am,6/16
Blythe, CA

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 66th phonecast

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mick's location@10:26pm,6/15

Mick is taking a rest @10:26pm,6/15

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 65th phonecast

6/15/11 5:45PM PDLT update


The home based blog assistant here.

At 5:45PM this evening I received a phone call from Mick's crew chief. John Henry Maurice was in good spirits and reported that the crew was having a good time. Mick is doing well, currently in 3rd place as he passed through Time Station 1, Lake Henshaw California, 57 miles into the race.

The weather is hot but Mick is enjoying a brisk tailwind estimated to be in the 25-30mph range. At the top of the hill leading into Borrego Springs it was 84 degrees but as Mick made his way down the 3000 vertical foot descent it reached 102 as he entered Borrego Springs. On the descent he had a front flat. By the time the crew made their way to him Mick had already removed the front tire. The crew vehicle will direct follow at night but during the day only leap frog support is allowed.

Mick started just after noon today, and by 5:45 PM had only been off the bike twice, once to deal with that flat, and the other time to put an ice vest on to help keep him cool.

Mick has had no stomach issues to this point, and the crew reports that he is in good spirits.

As I am typing this entry (at 8PM Pacific Daylight Time) I notice from the RAW Race Leader Board that Mick has passed through Time Station 2, Brawley, California, mile 147. He is 35 minutes behind 1st place rider Daniel Wyss, but only 1 minute behind the second place rider Peter Oyler.

Quite a race!

Stay tuned for updates as we vicariously follow Mick and his crew from Oceanside to Durango.


Very hot!

John Henry Maurice's location@5:34pm,6/15

Mick's location@5:34pm,6/15
Borrego Springs, CA, Borrego Springs, CA

Flat tire on the descent.  102 degrees.

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 64th phonecast

Another Voice Post Long Distance Ramblings - 63rd phonecast

Pre-race team photo. Ready to race!

Ready to race!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Schedule for Wednesday

I thought I would share the schedule for Race Day.

We will wake up early and start a load of laundry. Mick and the crew will need all of the clothes clean for the race. It is a long race - 860 miles in one pair of socks is something that should not happen to anyone.

Once the laundry is done, we will leave our home here at Motel 6 and have a good breakfast, perhaps a Denny's (?). We plan of arriving at the starting line at the Oceanside Pier at 10:30. This will give us an hour and one half to socialize before Mick's starting time of 12:17 pm. You can watch a live, streaming feed of the start at the Race Across America web site -

Once the race starts, Mick will ride 24 miles without a support van (us!). We join him at mile 24 and will be very close to him for the rest of the race. At night, we will be in "direct follow" mode, right behind him with our light a flashing. During the day, we will be in leap frog mode which is close but not following. We will leap ahead of Mick, pull over and wait for him to ride by and then watch him as he rides away from us. When we can not see him anymore, we leap ahead and repeat the process until 8:00 pm each day.

Mick is ready. The crew is ready. Let the racing begin!

Ready to Race

The van, the bikes and the rest have now passed inspection. All paperwork has been completed and the only thing left is the final shopping. Mick begins racing tomorrow at noon. Mick pre-rode the first 24 miles of the course this morning and called it "Instructive".

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Sunset south of Los Banks. Getting ready to find a place to spend the night.

The Adventure Begins

The adventure begins.

Saturday Schedule

Today, Mick and the team will leave on the journey Oceanside, the starting location for Race Across the West. We will travel in the Team Walsh Van and stay overnight somewhere in Central California. We plan on arriving in Oceanside Sunday Afternoon.

On Monday, Mick has a RAW/RAAM photograph appointment in the morning. Tuesday will be a busy day with Van inspection and crew and racer meetings. Racing will start at noon PST on Wednesday.

This is the 39th anniversary of RAAM, and many of the original RAAM racers will lead out this years race. Mick and the team are excited to be involved. Here is a link to a USA Today story about the beginnings of RAAM: The ride stuff: Race Across America marks 30 years