Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pactour Elite Southern Transcontinental: Epilogue

The view from the day after.

Overall, it was 2800 miles and 80,000ft of climbing. But summary statistics don't necessarily give a good view of the day-to-day battle. So, I decided to do a little calculating.

Chris Block told me Lon has a simple formula for computing the overall difficulty of each day.

It's the mileage + (amount of climbing)/100. So, for example, if you ride 150 miles and do 5000ft of climbing, that's basically equivalent to a flat 200 miler.

Applying the formula to the 17 days, you get the following graph:

Of course, this doesn't take in account other environmental factors: e.g. an all-day headwind or a 100F+ day. But you can see which days are the most critical ones.

Here's another graph showing my day-to-day average speed on the bike each day, the number of hours spent in total (including water stops), and the amount of work (kJ) I did pushing the pedals:

  1. Average on-the-bike speed overall was 17.3mph.
  2. Total time spent out there, i.e. from motel to motel, was 184 hours or 7 days and 16 hours.
  3. I should explain the kJ figures a bit as well.

    This is actual effort (in kJ) as recorded by the strain gauges in the SRM powermeter crank. Now, kJ can be basically converted into Calories assuming standard body efficiency ratings. Roughly speaking, a 4000kJ day would mean I spent 4000 kcal or 4000 Calories just pushing the pedals.

    Energy consumption-wise, add 1500-2000 Calories to that daily figure to factor in for the basic metabolic rate.
Enough about the stats. The awards banquet last night was nice. Susan had good words to say about everyone. Out of 50, 39 riders showed up on the last day. 11 riders went home for a variety of reasons: mostly medical.

A couple of pictures. First, the 19 RAAM-qualified finishers (you had to not sag or be forced to sag due to the time cuts, and you had to be a member of the UMCA - and I believe you have be a little bit crazy):

[From left to right. Back row: Jeff Linder, Scott Luikart, George Metzler, Richard Waugh, Wayne Riley, Vernon Smith, Charles Breer, Andrew Puddy, Byron Rieper, Mark Pattinson, Rieks Koning, and Scott McIntosh.
Front row: Jeff Weible, Ed Pabst, Dan Fuoco, Sandiway Fong, Eric Hallam, Chris Block, and Peter Beeson.]
Then the 11 crew + Lon and Susan:

Some last words?
Well, I can say the Elite Southern Transcontinental is not recommended if:
  1. you can't recover from an effective 200+ miile day in 99F heat in under 12 hours.
  2. you can't get up at 5:30am 17 days in a row.
  3. you have any nagging injuries, latent or on-going.
  4. you could do with the extra training miles
  5. you want a nice, scenic route.
  6. you want to see America.
But it is for you if:
  1. you thrive on the challenge.
  2. you can out-stubborn an all-day headwind,
  3. you can beat the desert heat.
  4. you can beat the southern heat and humidity.
  5. your feet and hands can handle the beating of the roughest chip seal and horribly broken tarmac.
  6. you want your perspective on what a 170 miler means to be completely changed forever.
  7. you're looking to accomplish what must be a true highlight for any cyclist: a transcontinental in style. To cross any faster, you'd have to do RAAM.

  • I bought a copy of the Savannah Morning News before I left this morning.

    It had almost a page dedicated to pictures and an article on the Elite Southern Transcontinental.

    There's even a picture of Charlie Combs in conversation with two bikini-clad girls.

    The last remark comes from Andrew Puddy (Australia):
    When asked why he had undertaken the ride, Puddy smiled broadly.
    "Because," he said, "I liked the T-shirt."

    {See electronic edition of the article here. Don't know how long it'll be up.]

  • Finally, a rather personal note: As for the secret I mentioned on Day 6 between me and the Purple Pig?

    Well, simply I only managed 6 rides before embarking on the Elite Southern Transcontinental. My father passed away early in the year and I had almost no time to ride my bike. (He was someone who thought bicycle riding was something for kids, something you grow out of. Bet he regretted buying me that first bike. I guess I am still a kid at heart.)

    In fact, I had an embarassingly pitiful 600 miles for the year, which I tried to keep a secret. (I tried to maintain some fitness when I was traveling, a bit of running or swimming here and there, but it doesn't quite translate into Elite Tour readiness.)

    More importantly, I didn't dare mention this to Susan or Lon beforehand, because I was afraid they'd take my slot away and give it to a more deserving rider. After all, there was a big waiting list.

    As a result, I really suffered in the first week before getting it together. I was rather borderline. Miracles do happen, and I rode myself into shape by the end. But this was certainly not the best nor easiest way to do it. I feel very lucky.


  1. Great write up of the tour, I've been following it every day. I was totally amazed at the ability of you guys to do one huge ride after another, really incredible. And, if I'm reading this right, on 600 training miles? Totally unbelievable! Way to go!

    Joe Frost

  2. awesome writeup... in addition to kj, have you looked @ TSS, TSS/day and CTL?

    And curious what the VI is for each day.


  3. Not yet... I also want to look at the actual climbing done