This is the second in a two-part post about the experiences of Mick Walsh, Chris Ragsdale, and Bob Brudvik at this year’s Silver State 508.
I was following Mick’s progress at the event’s web site, and late in the day Mick’s results looked a bit off to me, so I called Chris to see what was going on. The conversation opened with Chris reassuring me that Mick was doing ok…but with a little prodding he revealed the actual situation: “…oh my gosh, David, I have never seen Mick this bad…one minute he was ok, the next minute he was folded over in a chair and shivering uncontrollably. We had to get him to a motel.”
In any other kind of bicycle race it would be perfectly reasonable to think “game over for Mick.” But, in ultra racing it’s not all that uncommon to watch an athlete go through what looks like a race-ending bad patch, recover, and come back stronger in the second part of the race. Which was exactly what Mick was able to do this time.
Ultra veteran Chris Ragsdale gives us his perspective on crewing for Mick:
For readers unfamiliar with ultra racing, tell us about the importance of crew in ultra events.
Well first off, the rules state the racer has to have at least 2 crew people in a van. So that’s why we were there. If Mick had his choice I’m pretty sure he would have done it alone. But the crew is pretty handy for carrying extra clothes and saving time on filling up bottles and handing off food. And occasionally when things don’t go according to plan they are right with you for support.
You and Bob both knew about Mick’s history with belly problems. What was the pre-race plan?
We had both talked with Mick about it quite a bit in the months before the race. Mick had been trying some new stuff. Like more chocolate milk and Ensure. We had talked a bit about why he tends to not have issues on rando (randonneuring) rides but does have belly issues on ultra races. We came up with the conclusion that we should only feed Mick things available at a 7-11 (joking.) No, we actually thought that he is likely eating and drinking less on the rando rides than on the ultras so the plan was to try and simulate that a bit and be concious not to overly push food and bottles during the race. More like letting him ask for it and trying to keep it on the less is more plan.
Knowing that things can go sideways quickly in an ultra race, how did you support Mick when he got sick?
Well I had heard a lot of stories from Mick and others about how things get for him but I had not really seen it myself. I have ridden a lot of miles with Mick and have seen him get sick multiple times but maybe only on one occasion to the point where we had to stop riding. So when Mick had issues this time it was a bit strange for me to see. In a very short period of time (maybe an hour) he went from riding along really strong to folded over in a chair and almost unconscious. He could hardly sit upright in a chair. Bob and I realized this was not good to have him like this in the chair it was not helping him. I walked Mick over to the van and sat him in the reclined seat. He was now shaking and mumbling and not looking good at all. At this point we realized that this was more then a 30 minute food and rest stop. He needed some serious down time or potentially some medical attention. So quickly I ran up the street to see if any of the motels in town had a vacancy. I found one that did and very quickly from the time he had stopped he was actually laying in a bed and now shaking uncontrolably. So we covered him in multiple blankets and let him sleep a while. Bob and I need to come up with a game plan.
What were your thoughts at that point?
I really wasn’t thinking at all about the race being over. It was really just about coming up with the best plan for getting him back out on the road. How much time in bed was going to provide the best pay off? Do we let him sleep without interuption or wake him for food and drink occasionally? We let him sleep for an hour and then woke him for some Pedialite, let him sleep for another hour and then woke him for a bit of hot cocoa, let him sleep for another hour and then woke him for some chicken noodle soup. We had decided at each of the other times we woke him he seemed progressively better and when we sat him up after 3 hours of mostly sleep and he was eating the soup that it was time to make it happen. We would quickly let him take a hot shower to warm him more, then a fresh kit and we would be off.
How did it feel to watch Mick rebound?
When we first left the hotel I think we were all a bit curious about what was going to happen. I know we held onto the key to the room just in case. Right out of the hotel there was a steep climb, and he rode with some of the riders that were coming through in the back of the pack. Mick was chatting with them as he climbed the steep pitch. He very quickly started riding past a few riders and seemed to be feeling alright. I think the stimulation of having so many rabbits to catch was good for him mentally. We were still being very cautious about how much food we gave him. He continued to gain strength and before we knew it he was moving right along and catching a lot of racers. It was great motivation and very reassuring to be where we were on course given how much time we had spent stopped.
What were the highlights of the race from the crew perspective?
I think the highlight was watching Mick power through the final climb of the race and in the last few miles of it catching the leader of the 50+ field who was stopped in a parking lot as we leap frogged past Mick. We told Mick over the radio and he was riding so well that it was just an incredible feeling. Mick just rode so well on that last climb, and the last 20 hours for that matter. It was an awesome thing to have a reward like this for all the hard effort he had put in. We cheered and yelled, and it was just such a cool thing to witness first hand. The turn-around he accomplished during this race was absolutely incredible.
Chris, what is in your event calendar for 2015?
Oh…more bad ideas, I am likely going to do Iditasport 225 up in Alaska. Probably a bunch more road and track racing. I’m easily persuaded into dumb ideas so I anticipate I will get roped into a few epic adventures.