Continuing this summer’s theme of record-breaking attempts by Seattleites, next in the queue is ultra specialist Chris Ragsdale. Last year he was part of a 4-man team that won the Race Across Oregon, and we interviewed him after he won the 2009 Furnace Creek 508.
This year, Chris has a very ambitious event calendar that most notably includes an attempt at breaking the 24 hour road cycling world record, and while he’s at it, the 1000 km record. After 24 hours on the bike, what’s another five? Chris’ goal is to ride 541 miles in 24 hours (an average of about 22.54 mph) and 1000 km in under 29 hours.
Chris’ accomplishments and goals are particularly remarkable because in the summer of 2004, while training for his first Furnace Creek 508 he was hit by a car, knocked unconscious, and broke 6 vertebrae. Treatment included a large skin graft to close the wounds, and during recovery he suffered life-threatening blood clots in both legs.
The accident happened during a post bike maintenance ride around his neighborhood to check shifting and to make sure the bike was correctly adjusted. Chris woke up in an ambulance covered in blood.
The recovery was long, had many phases, and months of preparation were required before they could do the surgery to cover the major flesh wounds with skin grafts.
Despite his serious condition, Chris was motivated to regain his health and spent July of that year spinning on a trainer wearing a halo as he watched Le Tour.
Chris, you have an ambitious event calendar this year. Tell us what you have planned and what your objectives are for each.
This season’s calendar includes the National 24 Hour Challenge, the Cascade 1000 km, the 24 hour & 1000k world record attempts, the 12 hour Ring of Fire Time Trial, and the Furnace Creek 508.
My objectives are always to get stronger, win the race and try and find out what I’m capable of. The Cascade 1000 km was an exception in that I treated it more like a training camp.
You recently finished first in a very competitive National 24 Hour Challenge. Talk us through how that race went.
The National 24 hr was a lot of fun this year. I went into it a bit nervous because I was intentionally a little under-trained because the world record attempt is my “A” goal for the year and I plan to peak for that. The National 24 hr and the Cascade 1000 km were big back to back rides that would overload the body, and then I would have time to recover and be ready for the record attempt.
When I got to the race I found out that the competition was going to be tough. The other racers included a past winner and multiple solo RAAM finishers including domestic pro Christopher Gottwald. The start list certainly had my attention, and I questioned whether my winning streak was over.
To make the super long story short, it was an aggressive race. Gottwald attacked early and often and eventually the race was narrowed to just the two of us. In the heat of the afternoon I sensed weakness and made a run for it. The move stuck and after a few hours I lapped him. We spent the majority of the night riding together, but he never gave up and continued to attack, and fortunately I was able to cover each of his attacks. Late in the night he got a flat and I got another lap up on him. Which is how the race ended. I finished with 494 miles total, which was my second best mileage in 5 wins there.
Tell us about how you came up with the idea for the 24 hour record attempt.
I’ll blame it on my wife Lara. When I start talking about what this season was going to look like she asked me crazy questions like: “What’s going to challenge you?”, and “What really inspires you and makes you want to get better?”
Tell us about how you have been training for the 24 hour record attempt.
It’s really about coming to believe in myself. Not just thinking I can, or wanting to, or hoping it will work out. I need to really believe I can do it.
What that means for my training is that I need to create opportunities that enable me to believe that I am stronger than I ever have been. I think the momentum I am building on since the last year’s Furnace Creek 508 into this year’s National 24 hr (which wasn’t my biggest mileage, but was my strongest race there) and then feeling as good as I did at the Cascade 1000 km.
It’s all led me to this belief that now is the time to give this a shot. I hope that answers your question. How have I been training for it? It’s probably more mental than anything for me at this point.
The head’s gotta lead, right? The legs will follow.
How will you take care of your personal hygiene (pooping & peeing) needs during the attempt?
Well, we are just biking, and I plan to keep it civilized. When I need to pee, I’ll stop. Poopin’ is rarely an issue on long events like this. The body consumes everything you put in it.
How do you plan to deal with the potential headwinds on the Skagit flats?
The winds are a concern. It was the best course I could find and the world isn’t ideal for this sort of thing. Hopefully the winds will be mild. I’ve talked with experienced friends about it quite a bit and a small wind might actually break up the monotony of the course. I will use the wind like hills and make it mentally part of the cycle. If the winds are bad, well then I assure you I will be that much more prepared next try.
Tell us about your nutrition and hydration plan; in the past you’ve said that you prefer to eat real food–what about this time? What are you going to eat to keep your energy level up?
Yes, I think my nutrition plan would scare most people. It’s usually everything from various products from the Hammer Nutrition line to most anything from AM/PM: Candy bars, pudding, Coke, cookies.
Tell us about the rules for the record-breaking attempt.
The rules, well there are quite a few, mostly the same as any other non-drafting ultra race. I will have to have 3 officials there to count laps and make sure I don’t pull a giant sail out of my seat mast. Hopefully they will have one of those nifty new wands for checking for motors in the bottom bracket.
Tell us about the bike and gear you plan to use:
I will be riding a Litespeed C3; Syntace clip on Areo bars; Giro aero helmet. I’ll have a lot of wheels on hand: Zipp disc, Zipp 1080, 404’s.
View Chris Ragsdale’s WR Attempt in a larger map
Watch Chris attempt to break the 24 hour and 1000 km world records the weekend of July 31-August 1. The staging area is at the Queen of the Valley Inn.
What is the best way for folks to watch or support your effort?
Support and sponsors are critical to the success for a record-setting attempt like this. I feel fortunate to have so many people willing to take time out of their lives to come out and support me. This event will require about a dozen people helping in some way. Their effort and time is incredible and I am so grateful to them.
Anyone can come up and not only watch but take a turn in the follow car and hand off a bottle. Just show up to the staging location and the crew will get you involved.
Speaking of sponsors, tell us about your sponsorship support.
Sammamish Valley Cycle: Discounted equipment, incredible service, and help with connecting me to manufacturers like Cervelo and Litespeed.
Cervelo: Sponsorship deals on bikes
Litespeed: Sponsorship deals on bikes
McHale Performance: Event support and logistics
Revolution: My employer, flexible schedule for racing, equipment shipping, and website support
Seattle Performance Medicine: Performance testing