Irishman Mick Walsh has to be one of the toughest and most versatile cyclists in the Seattle area. This year he’s attempting an intimidating double—a solo Race Across the West (RAW) starting on June 15, followed by a solo Race Across Oregon (RAO) on July 22. Wrap your mind around what he is attempting (and keep in mind these are races): RAW is the first 860 miles of the RAAM route from Oceanside, CA, to Durango, CO. RAO is a 520 mile loop into the hinterlands of Oregon starting and finishing in Hood River. The mileage Mick will cover in these two long weekends amounts to what most of us might do in an ambitious month of cycling during the height of our seasons.
For those of you who don’t know about Mick, he started cycling in 1976, racing in 1977 (at age 15), and in the US since 1995 he has raced for Thomas Kemper, Mongoose, Saturn of Seattle, First Rate Mortgage, Echelon/Zteam and is currently with Kestrel/Imperial River Racing. Some highlights from Mick’s cycling resume, which spans over 2 decades, include:
-1983 Ironman Hawaii (12hrs 22mins)
-1989 2nd place Irish senior men’s Road Race Championships
-1999 WA senior men’s road Race Champion and Best All Around Racer
-2009 Race Across Oregon 1st place as part of a 4-man team with Ian Luttrell, Brian Ohlemeier, and Chris Ragsdale
-2010 Race Across the West 2nd place on a 2-man team with George Thomas
-2010 Race Across Oregon 1st place solo man
For example, during the weekend of May 14 he did the: “…SIR 400k.…that’s 250 miles!! I’m riding 200k to get to it, leaving after work on Friday evening! But first there’s Seward Park (weekly race) on Thursday night!”
He forgot to mention that his bike commute, which is about 20 miles one-way, factored into his weekend of fun as well.
Mick, your cycling calendar includes an interesting combination of conventional road races and endurance events. How do the two kinds of racing fit into your overall training plan?
I think it is important to incorporate speed work into any training plan, and I enjoy racing more than interval training, so I just pick the races that fit my schedule and do them. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how that has been going. I was 6th at a Cat1/2 race in Oregon in March and 5th in a really hilly final stage of the Cherry Blossom Stage Race in The Dalles, in the master’s category.
You follow up RAW with RAO. In terms of training and fitness (both physical and mental) what is the relationship between the two events for you?
I believe it will be tough to recover from RAW in time for RAO, and some say it can’t be done, but there’s 5 weeks in-between, and I think it would be a great accomplishment to complete both events with good results. I may not ever have the resources to compete in RAAM, so I think this is the next best thing.
Last year you raced RAW on a two-man team with George Thomas. You (both) experienced health issues during the event, as well as in some other events. Remind us about what happened last year.
An upset stomach is my biggest weakness and has plagued my ultra racing events, especially in hot weather. I was quite sick at both RAW and RAO last year, but I am amazed at how you can recover from a bad situation!
(Note: George suffered heart palpitations and stopped racing for a couple hours while he sought medical attention.)
Have you been able to figure out how to deal with that issue? What are you changing?
I plan on reducing my calorie intake, especially in the heat of the day, with some advice from Steve Born at Hammer Nutrition. I also bought an ice vest to help keep me cool.Compared to 2010, have you made any equipment changes for the endurance events? What bike(s) and other equipment will you be using.
I hope to be riding a Kestrel RT 1000 frame this year; they have sponsored Chris Ragsdale and me, along with Imperial River Co. in Maupin and Olson’s Bicycles in Forest Grove, OR. We’re both riding for Kestrel/Imperial River Racing.
Last year RAW didn’t turn out as expected because of the health issues you experienced. How do you define success in 2011?
I always consider finishing an ultra race a success, and with 2-time RAAM champion Dani Wyss in the RAW field this year, winning will be even more difficult. I will give it my best shot and see how things shake out.
I really believe ultra racing is more about focusing on doing the best you can do and see where you end up. If someone can go faster, or requires less sleep, I just tip my hat to them. We’re all just out to do our best.
A great crew is essential for success in this kind of endurance event. Tell us about your crew for RAW 2011:
I have a great crew for RAW, with a ton of ultra racing experience, so much so that we’re going with just one vehicle (to save expense too!)
John-Henry Maurice: Is my crew chief and was on my crew for RAO last year, and has crewed and raced both RAO and Furnace Creek several times.
Elise Ross: Crewed for Sandy Earl at RAAM last year, and at Furnace Creek for Joan Grant Dietchman.
Paul Renninger: Has the least crewing experience, but has raced 12hr races, plus road and mountain bikes, so I think he will bring a “racing” attitude to the team
This year, RAW competitors are supposed to be equipped with GPS chips, and interested readers should be able to follow Mick’s progress at the RAW web site starting June 15.
Live reports from Mick’s crew will be posted here.