How to Ride the Oregon Gran Fondo Reprise
Each year that I continue to sign up for this event, I also feel the need to write about my past experience, which amounts to all five previous Oregon Gran Fondos, and while I have no experience of what it will be like at the front (if you are looking for this experience the Oregon Triple Crown website has a short article by last year's winner, Billy Truelove), I feel qualified to talk about how to finish.
As far as the route goes, it is not terribly difficult, unless it is hot. It is 116 miles with anywhere from 5500 to 7000 feet of climbing. It is three fairly easy climbs in the first 30 some miles, followed by 37 miles of descending terrain, though it will not seem that way as it rolls further and further into the Oxbow "wilderness' on very rough roads that gradually narrow to one lane. Through this area you will not be able to make the speed that you expect. The climbing begins again as you leave this area with three more significant climbs. It is here that the "race" begins for the frontrunners, and gets hard for the rest of us. There is virtually nothing flat from here to the finish, and it is along this part of the route, the Siuslaw River Road, that I inevitably find someone walking who has gone too hard, and is pretty well blown. Which leads to my first suggestion if you are at all concerned about finishing. Pace. Pace yourself. Avoid the tendency to go with a group that may well be faster than you can maintain without going into the red zone. Ego is the enemy at this time. The one and only thing that you can control is how you respond to circumstances, including the circumstance that you have bonked, and you are not going to make it. I have seen responses to this "disaster" from despondency to railing at one's shortcomings. Rarely do I see acceptance, learning from the experience, and moving on with determination to be better next time.
So you are in control of your response to circumstances. Imagine that you start off strong, and feel good. You make it over the first two hills, and second fast downhill, and your average speed is climbing only to struggle up the third climb. You stop at the first rest area knowing that you have a long downhill before the climbing starts again. What is your reality at this point? Do you feel cooked? Are you questioning your fitness? Has it occurred to you that you might not make it?Regardless, you still have the choice of how you respond. Either give into the doubt, or accept your reality, even if it is the worst. If not the worst, gather your resources, and pace yourself through the next 37 miles. You are going to go as fast through here as you expect anyway, so relax.
My second suggestion, consider skipping the first rest area, if you are feeling good, and you have enough food and drink. This is the top of the KOM, the main stop, the primo rest area with lots of riders, Rolf Prima truck and staff-it looks like a party. However, it is only about 30 miles in, and there is another stop 20 miles down the road that is not such an attraction. I could add limit your time off the bike but we all have heard this.
The third suggestion is to save something for the final climbs. The last two years it has been hot coming out of the woods, early season heat which has made these climbs all the more difficult. I will not tell you how to eat and drink. The tendency in recent years has been to advise eating and drinking from the beginning. When it is hot, and yes I know the effects of dehydration and bonking, which tends instead to encourage riders who are not so experienced to eat and drink too much. If you are thirsty drink, if you are hungry eat. Remember that your most abundant fuel is fat, burn it, and yes, fat burns in a carbohydrate fire. Unfortunately the knowledge of how your body reacts to long events and heat is personal experience, and trial and error.
Last year I saw this sign climbing out of the Oxbow area. I thought it was funny, and reminded me to celebrate. I was not done yet, in fact still had close to 40 miles, but I had made it this far, and considering it a success simply getting to the start line-Celebrate. Enjoy what you are doing.
A final thought. Life is about experiencing the twists and turns of cause and effect. There is nothing more to it. The only creativity that we possess, is the ability to transform your response to these experiences. YOU have the choice. If all goes sideways roll with it. All experience is equal, it is only our mental designations that asign value. Your life does not depend on success, this is only one perception.
Oh, the finish.