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East Slope Epic – Planning

By: Brian Ecker

The Background:

The East Slope Epic is a self-named ride I have wanted to do for just about 2 years.  It is a route established by the Backcountry Discovery Route motorcycle group whom puts together some crazy off road routes across AZ, OR, WA, and UT.  When I first came upon their site I thought, this is one cool route and wouldn’t it be an amazing bicycle ride!  The WA route travels the east slope of the Cascades over a mix of paved and gravel roads.  It travels from a south to north direction. Starting in Stevenson, WA and ending all the way up at the Canadian border. All in all, the WA route covers about 560mi and something along the lines of 65,000 ft of climbing.  The route conveniently stops through some towns with good services (stores, food, and lodging): Stevenson, Packwood, Ellensburg, Cashmere, and Chelan.

The Logistics and Route:

I plan to take about 5 days to cover the majority of the route with an additional 6th day thrown in for travel to the start.

  • Day 1 starts with a short ride from the house down to the Amtrak train station. A few hours later I jump off the train in Vancouver, WA and ride a nice route, about 50 miles, to Stevenson.  I’ll leave the house around 8am and be in Stevenson by 6pm. Not bad for a first day!
  • Day 2 is a big day of about 120 mi.  End point is a hotel in Packwood
  • Day 3 is slightly more manageable with a fair amount of paved roads and slightly fewer miles, ~100, ending in Ellensburg
  • Day 4 starts with a great climb up in the Johnson Ridge area. Day totals out to about 60 mi and a hotel in Cashmere
  • Day 5 looks to be a fairly remote day with lots of climbing. Mileage runs about 100 mi again and ends with a hotel in Chelan
  • Day 6 climbs out of Chelan and over the ridge, dropping into Carlton. From there it’s up to Loup Loup. From the top, for me this year, I’ll go off route and descend down through the Beaver Creek area for an ultimate finish in Winthrop. Hopefully in time for some East 20 Pizza!

Check out a detailed map of the route here.

The Gear and Set Up:

For those that know me, know that I like to roll the Redline Cross bike with full disc brakes and nice fast but wide tires.  No change for this ride just some added items to help with the length of the trip.  I’ll be running a Garmin Edge 500 which allows for the entire route to loaded in with turn by turn directions. My tire choice will be a 700×40 Kenda Happy Medium.  These are a tad wider than my beloved Tioga Bloodhounds and plenty fast.  I like the wider tire cause I can run a bit less pressure and not worry as much about pinch flats.  Rounding out the bike is a great frame bag that carry’s a lot of hard goods, ie tools, light & battery, steri pen (water purifier), small first aide kit, energy bars and gels.  Lastly, I modified a seatpost rack to help carry some extra clothes.  Everything will be inside a waterproof compression sack to keep it safe and dry. I have tied the rack into two additional mounting points, ie my canti bosses, for extra security. Bump terrain means a need for reinforcement. Overall it is more weight than I hoped, about 15lbs of gear. I know once I get rolling I won’t really notice it much BUT rolling light and fast is really the intent. I’ve repeatedly scoured through what I am bringing and not really coming up with anything that I am willing to do without.

Seatpost rack tied into the canti bosses for extra support

I, of course, will be running a SPOT beacon so feel free to follow along at this link. It should update every ten minutes or so while I am out on the route.

My depart date is Tuesday Sept 18th. I had hoped to team up with my great friend Roger Bown but an untimely (not that it ever is) break of his collarbone put an end to those plans.  It will be a bummer having to go solo but sometimes that is just the way it is. Look for a ride report write up a few weeks or so after the ride

Kenda’s Happy Medium (700X40)

My beloved SRAM 2X10 crank (42X29)

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Tour of Unknown Coast 2012

By: Brian Ecker

 The Tour of the Unknown Coast is a long standing event held annually in May down in Humboldt County California.  It’s dubbed as California’s toughest century and it lives up to it.  One hundred miles, 9,000ft of climbing, wind, rough roads, and technical descents make for one heck of a great day. It is a timed event with official results yet it is still a bit different than your typical century or race.  I had the pleasure of partaking last year and came away with top honors after 70+ miles of solo effort; definitely a great day at the office. From the moment I finished that year I already had my mind set on coming back!

This year Dave Bishop and I were accompanied by 4 additional great friends: Rusty Dodge, Stewart Bowmer, Chad Clarke and Patrick Means. It was great to have some friendly faces knowing that I would be a marked man after last year. We pulled into Ferndale, CA with enough time for a gentle ride out to the coast.  Fortunately or unfortunately I suffered some serious mechanical issues about half way through the ride. My rear shifting was quickly becoming non functional and upon inspection back at the car it was pretty clear I needed some serious help.  A few quick calls to Adventures Edge (local shop that sponsors the event) and we were high tailing it to their shop hoping to get there before they close.  The folks at the shop we very welcoming and immediately threw my bike up in the stand.  The funny part is that they immediately recognized the bike and then me as “that out of towner” from last year.  A good 45 min of love by the mechanic got the frayed derailleur cable out of the lever, a new one in, with new housing.  They stayed way past close and totally saved my ass!  THANKS MAN!!

On with the ride!  It was up in the early morning cold to get ready for the 7am start. True to form, the ride started quick with the local team setting a nice tempo to discourage any forays off the front.  About mile 35 the route passes under Hwy 101 and into the dense redwood forest.  Below is a video shot from a remote control helicopter:

Here I gathered our forces and began throwing down a much higher tempo.  The road is narrow, bumpy and snakes through the forest.  My goal was to thin the group, stay out of trouble, and get this thing under way.  We reached the base of Panther Gap(7 mi and about 2,500 ft) with a relatively large group which thinned quickly once on the climb.  About 1/3rd of the way up the climb the group began to thin more. About 5 guys drifted ahead of me with Patrick Means hanging tough. Knowing that the climb is long but a bit easier towards the top I kept it steady and kept the group within site. The gap hovered between 15-30 seconds for the majority of the climb. I was confident that if I could keep it under 45 seconds I would bring them all back on the highly technical and fast decent.  Over the top I could still see the group and threw it in the big ring for the chase.

The down hills on the route are just as challenging as the up hills. Section of potholes, steep grades, numerous hairpins, and even short sections of gravel make for some exciting riding. Coming off of Panther Gap I closed the gap quickly. Luckily, Patrick sat up a bit to wait for me and we soon took turns railing the decent.  With over 9 hair raising switchback all with a grade of well over 18% we quickly made up time on the remaining two guys up front. By the bottom, Patrick and I were in the lead with one local Adventures Cycling guy in tow. If the decent doesn’t rattle you enough the bridge at the bottom surely will. It’s an old school bridge with wooden planks that have a varying amount of distance between the seams that run parallel to the path of travel.  Yikes, don’t want to get your wheel stuck in one of those slots!!

The three of us rolled together for short bit and decided it would be best to wait for the two chaser hovering 15 seconds behind us.  The infamous winds were blowing strong today which made a group of 5 a way better strategy than a group of 3.  We joined forces and set a reasonable tempo over the many rolling hills on our way to the coast.  A few sneaker descents to keep you on your toes and plenty of short steep walls to keep the quads awake.  We continued to keep a modest pace with everyone pitching in.

The edge of the Unknown Coast

We eventually descended down onto the Unknown Coast and were quickly met by the infamous head wind.  While it was strong this year our group seemed to make good work of this 10K flat section.  A few times we were blown to some pretty slow speeds but we kept at it and soon the infamous “Wall” was in our sites.  Everyone later talked about how bad the winds were and all I could think of was Furnace Creek back in 2009 which made 10K of beach breeze seem pretty darn nice.

The “Wall” is the only way out of the Coast and you must climb about 4K which has at least 2K of sustained grade well over 18%.  Throw in a stiff headwind and you’ve got some slow moving and suffering cyclists.  About 2K out from the wall our group slimmed down to 4 active members as one of the local guys complained of cramping.  Up onto the wall it soon became 3 with the intent of just getting through it. About ½ through this section, up came the guy with “cramps” whom instandly threw down an attack which gapped me off.  The head cross winds continued to be strong and I fought hard to claw my way back. Near the top the climb stair steps a bit with alternating flatter and steeper sections. I dug deep and pulled them back. Once in the draft I knew it would be much easier.  Again, the light weight local guy threw in a surge and once again I was off the back. I could quickly stabilize the gap and found that I could keep them within 10-15 seconds.  This gave me some confidence. Yes, I couldn’t handle the surge but my legs were letting me ride all out without blowing up.  That’s always a good sign for me;  I can dig way deep and yet continue on at a high pace. Just before the top I latched back on and quickly found the front so I could lead the decent.

The local guy and I forged a small gap but all came together a bit at the base of the “endless hills” climb. Patrick was 10-15 seconds back. I remembered the endless hills well from last year.  I had been solo for 60 mi when I got to the base. The climb is quite steep for the first 3.5 mi and I had suffered tremendously.  This year, I was with a group but the suffering would end up being just as much.  Soon into the climb, the local guy threw down another surge and quickly gained 10 seconds on me. It slowly inched out to 20. Patrick came up and through me with a steady intent to make contact with the two leaders.  I could not match Patrick’s pace but was heartened that the gap had stabilized.  I put in a few surges of my own but could not cut the gap down to less than 10 seconds. With the harsh winds, I knew if I could just latch on I would have a chance of staying with them. (A great shot of me clawing my way back)

About 2 mi in I had made some additional progress and the gap was just 7-10 seconds. I made a resolve that it had to be now or never and surged hard to make it successfully across. I wasn’t there more than 200m when the local guy looked back and saw me there. He promptly put in another surge and I was right back to where I had been.  This time the gap stayed steady right away, about 15 sec. I slowly clawed it back and once the grade lessened I surged hard and was again in contact. From here I knew there was still plenty of climbing but the majority was a much lesser grade and came in doable chunks.  With the strong winds, I was able to get significant draft and the featherweight climber seemed to lose his advantage.

Now, with all of us on a more even playing field we all took turns lighting some fireworks. Each of us made bold moves but nothing would stick. Back and forth we went and the closer we got to the finish the stronger my resolve was to not let anything get away. I knew the finish would come quick as the decent into town is long, technical and very steep.  There are a few sneaker up hills within it where the local guy threw down a few more surges. Once on the decent proper he, being a local boy, threw down hard. Again, my resolve had become stronger than ever that either Patrick or myself needed to finish this off. Local guy led the way, bombing close to 50mph down a narrow hairpin decent.  Several times, he overcooked it a bit and I thought for sure he was going over the edge. Each time he brought it back and we continued down at break neck speed. At times I could smell the odor of overheating brake pads on carbon. (His not mine)

Once at the bottom, he had a 2-3 bike link gap. We went through a quick right and then a quick left. He threw down a hard charge for the finish which is now about 1k out. I matched him and soon was able to tuck in behind him. We sat up and played a bit of cat and mouse while Patrick and the other ride were charging hard.  Local guy, hit it hard with 400m to go which I was able to match, wait briefly and then put him away.

Two for Two at the Tour of the Unkown Coast! 5hr 11min.

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2011 Year End Stats

 By:Brian Ecker

The year 2011 marks the probably the first year I have ever downloaded every workout for an entire year.  With the close of the year it seemed like a fun idea to do a year in review.  As is probably true with just about every endurance athlete, I wish I had more time to train but life (family, work, etc) are pretty darn important too!  For this year I am pretty happy with the balance I achieved and the results I brought back.  All in all, a pretty solid year!

 

Total Miles: 10,152

Total Hours (training): 612

Total Calories burned (cycling only): 441,252

Number of rides over 100mi: 25

Total number of pedal revolutions: more than 3.2 million!!

 

Best to all in 2012!

Brian

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HCCS is now a sponsor of the Fanatik Cycling Team

We are proud to announce that in the 2011 season we will be working with several athletes from the Fanatik Bike Co Racing Team, a USAC Cycling Team based of Bellingham, WA operated under Shuskan Velo Club.    We look forward to helping their riders progress as the team grows in both depth and caliber.

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Tour of Utah: Part 2

The third day of the race was a long flat run in to one of the longest climbs I have ever done, ending at ~9,300 ft Mt. Nebo is long, steep, and exposed.  I think most everyone who started the race had one of two goals.  Option one, sit in and hide from the wind as much as possible to try and be fresh for the climb or, option two, get into an early break and hope to make it partially up the climb before getting caught.  After the early break went it was time to hide, eat, and conserve energy to try and be ready for the latter part of the race where things were guaranteed to come apart.  This was an easy task for the first 15 or so miles until it became obvious that the same headwind that had made riding in the pack relatively easy was going to turn into a devastating cross wind as we wound our way around Utah Lake.  I decided it was time to take a piss before stuff hit the fan and as I was drifting back and about to start pedaling again I saw Paddy Bevin from Bissel headed to the front of the peloton with purpose.  Knowing all too well he probably just talked to his DS who told him that the wheels were going to come off in the next couple of miles in the cross wind, I jumped on his wheel and got towed to front of the already strung out peloton.

As we rounded the lake the long cross wind section started and instantly the field was guttered single file try to suck a non existent draft out of the 2 inches of road between the wheel of the rider in front of them.

Eventually the field split into several echelons and hiding was not an option.  I  ended up burning alot of matches in this sections but made it into what I think was the second group on the road.  A left turn ahead looked like it might put an end to the cross wind sections but unfortunately it made it worse as what had been a cross-head wind turned into a cross tail wind and separated the groups even more.    Most of the echelons ended up regrouping as we road through a canyon where George Hincapie decided to meet the pavement directly in front of me.  I am not really sure how it happened as it looked like he just road right off the road into the soft shoulder and instantly hit the ground.

I went back to the car to get some bottles before the final climb as we turned onto Mt. Nebo.  The lower sections are relatively mellow in terms of grade but a strong tailwind meant we were climbing at 24-25 mph and although I was hanging in there I was definitely hurting.  We took one more turn onto a much steeper section and I immediately came off and road the rest of the amazingly hard climb with a pretty big gruppetto.  Luckily we were in no danger of the time cut unlike some of the groups on the road which from what I heard, ended up getting dragged up the climb hanging onto cars.

More to come soon…

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HCC Athlete Feature: Connie Clement

We have another update from Connie as she preps for the Danskin Triathlon.  Check it out!

1)      Almost 5 weeks of focused training under your belt now. How are you feeling?

I’m definitely feeling stronger and more capable.  I enjoy the process more now than I did at first.  Getting through the workouts at the beginning has been the hardest part.

2)      Has staying on track with your training program been harder or easier than you thought it was going to be? How about the ability to actually complete the workouts – too challenging?

Staying on track has been do-able so far.  A couple times I varied the schedule, i.e. I rode with friends rather than the prescribed ride, or I swam in the pool rather than open water, but I’ve stayed on track for the most part.  Another area of deviation has been in the details of the interval training for the runs. I simplify things a lot rather than time myself to the second.  For instance, for the run with pickups I’ll do a slow lap and a faster lap repeatedly, but I don’t check my watch during the process. It’s just by feel.

3)      Looking back, before you signed up for the Danskin Tri you must have had some trepidation and/or some second thoughts on whether or not this is really something you wanted to jump into with both feet.  Is that accurate? Now, after 5 weeks of training, what kind of thoughts are running through your head?

You’re right, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it at first, but I’m committed now!  There are no more (or rarely) thoughts of backing out. I’ve invested enough time and effort to see it through. Plus, I have more confidence about the event.

4)      Have you achieved any personal goals already?

Yeah. As silly as it may sound, I completed a goal last week of riding with the donut ride. I’d tried hanging with the donut about a decade ago when I was riding a lot. I was never able to hang on.  Last week I rode with the group and was able to keep up. Granted, I stayed at the back and only went the short loop, but it was an accomplishment nonetheless.

5)      What do you think the biggest difference is (positive or negative) between having a structured program and coach to just doing it on your own?

Accountability is big for me.  Without it, I would have bailed on the idea months ago.

Having a recipe for workouts is also very helpful, although sometimes I did deviate from it. Having a coach who has the knowledge to create a successful workout plan has helped me get from Point A to Point B. I would not have known how to do that on my own. Plus, it would have been easier to slack.

6)      Any funny training stories, embarrassing moments, and/or insights that you’ve had along the way?

Well, I overestimated my physical condition for running, biking and swimming at first. I began the training program in good condition and felt fairly invincible.  I forgot how various sports use muscle in such different ways. Time spent running, riding and swimming has reminded me that I really needed to train for these specific sports. I’m so glad I didn’t try to wing it!

As far as funny/embarrassing moments, there is the story about falling off my commuter bike in downtown Bellingham at 4:30 in the afternoon.  The resulting 5 stitches in my thumb have interrupted my swimming training, but it seems to be healing nicely. P.S. Bellingham has really nice fire fighters and paramedics.

7)      What you would say to someone who is contemplating those decisions you were trying to make 6-7 weeks ago, ie prior to signing up for the race and with HighCadence Coaching Systems?

Right now, at 44 years old, I feel more comfortable in my body than ever.  That’s a really good feeling.  Someone recently said to me, “You’re one of those people who ages really well.”  Staying physically active is the key, and having goals is part of that active lifestyle.  So, what’s on your bucket list?  What’s keeping you from trying those things?  People like HighCadence can help you get there, so why not?

8)      What’s your prediction for race day?

I’ll stay to the outside for the swim and take it slow and easy.  On the bike, I’ll pick up spots, on the run I’ll hold steady and try to use up every ounce of energy reserves for the finish.  My finish will be mid-pack, and that will be just fine. The beer afterwards will be the best ever.

9)      Any other thoughts?

Training for the Danskin has been a great goal this summer, so I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m looking forward to the race. My husband and daughter are going to Seattle with me, and we’re going to make a fun weekend out of it. I’m happy to be setting this example for my daughter, and I’m glad she will see this event.  Maybe it will inspire her to continue to be healthy and active as she becomes a pre-teen and beyond.

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What happens when one takes a step back from racing and training?

By Brian Ecker:

Over each of the past several years, in addition to participating in a lot of USCF bike races, I have selected some key events to really focus and dedicate my training to.  Several years ago this brought me back to back solo division victories at the Bellingham Traverse and then a solo victory in Mountains to Sound race as well.  The past two years I stepped away from the multisport arena a bit and honed in on the ultra-endurance end of the bike racing spectrum.  This included Race Across Oregon in 2008 and then the Furnace Creek 508 in 2009. In each of these events the training and preparation are just about all consuming. As many have heard me mention before, the training piece is only the half of it and the other half is all of the logistical planning.  I am a firm believer that I NEVER want to lose or fail in a race because I didn’t plan well enough.

After an epic battle in the winds of the 2009 Furnace Creek race I found myself really in need of a break.  Not just a few days, weeks, or months off but really a break from the demands of racing and dedicated training. More or less I had been racing and training hard, every year, for the past 8-9 years.  Just prior to that, I had taken a 4-5 year break. It was a break from which I made the transition from elite amateur level bicycle racer of 7+ years to someone that does it as more of a hobby. Still dedicated and focused but now with the reality that it is just always going to be about fun and a lot less obsession with trying to get to the “next” level. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a whole lot of obsessing in each and every goal and event I set my sights upon however the subtle difference is that the end goal has become the event itself. It is no longer a focus on what next step the event itself is getting me ready for. Yes, I still jump in with both feet each and every time otherwise it really wouldn’t be any fun would it!

So, the question I pose is: What happens when there is no longer a race to focus on?  For me and my life this summer that is the case. This summer find myself jumping in with both feet however I am now focused on some key things that time didn’t allow for when I was racing.  This summer I have 4 major events planned: the annual summer family bike trip, off road touring a portion of the Great Divide route, running the Wonderland Trail and circumnavigating Lummi Island in a surf ski.

Just a few weeks ago we finished an epic 250 mile family journey along the Oregon Coast.  For those that love riding and have never toured I would highly recommend it.  For those that think starting or having a family prevents such things I would just encourage you to start with small trips and build from there.  Anything is possible and quite frankly the past two summers touring with the entire family is by far the best vacations we have ever had.  Yes, it’s a lot of work and yes it is totally worth it!

Ecker and The Wreckers go on tour

Backroads of the Oregon coastal range

Next week I fly to Calgary to ride from Banff, AB to Grant, MT along the continental divide.  From Grant I am going to ride west and meet the family in McCall, ID.  All in all it will be 7-8 days of riding and 1100 miles.  The vast majority will be traveling off road through spectacular scenery.  You can follow the trip (starts on 7/30) via my SPOT (GPS tracking) page: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0GRcYXPfqd3Zxo3G7l9hn5y9WdLSHRFM8

While I haven’t decided 100% on whether or not I will enter the race in June 2011 this trip can be considered a recon mission for the Tour Divide race. Honestly, I think I would rather tour the Divide route than race it but, as many others conclude, getting enough time off of work to ride the entire trail at touring pace is really probably not realistic.

Look for my ride report here upon my return!

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