Randonneurs  USA

Colorado Last Chance 1200km Randonnťe
"Venture to Kansas"
Rocky Mountain Cycling Club
Randonneurs USA & Randonneurs Mondiaux

Rocky Mountain Cycling Club

Last Chance 2009 Report, Photos, and Stories
Updated 15-Oct-2009

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"Welcome to Colorful Colorado" - JLE photo, © 2009

Last Chance 2009 Report

The nicest weather of any Last Chance so far, except perhaps 2005: moderate winds most of the way, including tailwinds from the Kensington turnaround; mild temps - highs in Kansas in the 80s - which really helped hydration management; dry the first three days. Challenges included heavy fog from Atwood to Phillipsburg the morning of day 2; strong winds day 3 as a front moved through.

StartersFinishersLocal RidersRAAM AspirantsRAAM Qualified
20093733 (89%)13 (35%)10 (27%)6 (60%)
20083633 (92%)8 (22%)10 (28%)8 (80%)
20063428 (82%)11 (32%)6 (18%)3 (50%)
20053229 (91%)6 (19%)6 (19%)3 (50%)
20041411 (79%)3 (21%)2 (14%)2 (100%)
2002128 (67%)2 (17%)n/an/a
200143 (75%)2 (50%)n/an/a

Last Chance veterans (9) included: Ken Bonner, Henk Bouhuyzen, John Lee Ellis, Ron Himschoot, Chris Kaiser, Beth Myers, Brent Myers, Robert Pogorelz, and Vernon Smith. Riding their first 1200k (10) included: Nathan Dick, Wendy Gardiner, Rick Isham, John Jost, Todd LeBlanc, Andrea Koenig, David Nixon, Ron Selby, Leslie Sutton, and Stephen Whiteman.

Thanks to our Volunteers! - A special thanks to our much-lauded field staff: Charlie Henderson (bagdrop mgmt., Atwood, and trail boss), Jim Kraychy (Atwood), Eric Simmons and Bobbe Foliart (Byers chefs-de-contrŰle), Patricia Heller (finish line) ... and at HQ: Tim Feldman (rider progress, blog, and finish line), Tom Foss (registration), John Klever (treasurer), Will deRosset (jersey mailing), Dan Shields (food acquisition), and Stephen Whiteman (inspection).

Thanks to every rider for joining us, and congratulations to you all for your efforts!

-john lee ellis

Sleeping rough on the Last Chance
by John Flanigan

Having finished more than a few overnight rides and riding in my fourth 1200K, I did something I have never had to do before during the Last Chance - try to sleep outside in the middle of the night. Vernon Smith and I were on our way from Anton to Byers on Thursday night when the wind started howling and gusting 90 degrees to our path. It wasn't so much the strength of the wind that became a problem as it was the gusts. We were both tired, having made it this far on only about an hour and a half of sleep in Atwood and our reaction times to the gusting crosswinds were not what they needed to be to guarantee staying upright so we decided to look for a place to wait it out.

The town of Lindon had a Post Office and we decided to wait there and maybe catch a few winks. I have always packed one of those emergency space blankets for just such an occasion but, until now, have never used it. In a stiff wind they are a real pain to unravel. They also make a a bunch of noise while you're trying to rest, constantly flapping and snapping in the wind. Vernon didn't say anything but I'm sure it kept him awake too. Additionally, the ground and the Post Office wall were not terribly comfortable so sleeping was difficult. After a couple of hours of this kind of "rest", we were both shivering from the cold and the exertion and decided we needed to keep moving as well as eat something to get the internal heat going again. We made it the rest of the way to Byers without incident. I may not have slept much but just getting off the bike for a bit helped to recharge the brain so I could focus better on staying upright so it was well worth it .

Lesson learned, sleeping outside is not easy nor pleasant but sometimes you have to do it so you best be prepared.

Alone At Last
by Ron Himschoot

Upon my arrival at his house in Louisville, John Lee Ellis informed me that I now hold the record for the greatest number of last place finishes on this ride. In other words, Iím the first person to finish last twice. I was the first person to finish last in the first Last Chance (2001). And now Iím the latest person to finish last in the latest Last Chance. Confused yet? Well, I am. I still donít know how I did it. I didnít even realize a record was within my grasp until John told me I had it.

Iíd like to take credit for clawing my way to back and fighting off all the challengers, but I canít even do that. I had help. Everyone behind me quit. When I finally passed somebody, he quit. When I left Byers I had a last place finish all locked up, but it was due more to attrition than intent.

Being the last finisher on a 1200 K is a little bit like being the poorest billionaire, or like having bad sex. Even bad sex is pretty good. And even a last place finish is still a finish. What do you call the last person to finish a 1200 K? ďFinisherĒ Ė the same as the first. Iíve finished a dozen 1200Ks plus one 2000K and each ride was challenging and each finish was satisfying. But it isnít easy being last. Slow and easy are two different things.

Normally I find my conversations with super-volunteer and rider-wrangler Charlie Henderson to be inspirational and informative. But when we talked as I checked out of the control I knew I was last, again. The checkout sheet was full and all the beds were empty. When he passed me on the road out of Atwood, with his big Dodge filled with drop bags, I knew I was not only last, I was alone at last. If I ran into trouble nobody was going to come along and rescue me. Nobody was even going to notice.

It was demoralizing to ride out of Atwood with the knowledge that the fast riders were finishing. I was struggling to wake up: they were going to sleep. I was facing another 24 hours in the saddle: they could spend the next 24 hours in a Barcalounger. All I had to eat was six Power Bars and two three-day-old peanut butter sandwiches: they could have a hearty breakfast at their choice of nearby cafes. Ken Bonner assures me that the fast riders suffer as much as the slow ones. That may be true, but they sure donít do it for as long.

Donít get me wrong: my ride in from Atwood didnít involve any real suffering. In fact, it was quite pleasurable at times. One reason I was at the back of the pack is because Iím a slow rider and I refuse to add interval training to my workouts. Another reason I was at the back is because I was taking my time at each stop. I decided a long time ago that I would rather have a GOOD time than have a good TIME. While the fast riders were discussing their ride over breakfast in Louisville I was listening to the locals discuss farming practices and economic conditions in Bird City. I was listening to farmers discuss crop prices and the features of the new John Deere tractor models in Idalia. By the way, the Prairie Vista Cafť in Idalia has terrific home made pie.

Actually, there are advantages to being DFL. I never had to look over my shoulder to see if anyone was gaining on me. I got to ride at my own pace: fast when I felt good, slow when I didnít. I got to look around instead of watching the wheel in front of me. When I got to a staffed control I had the undivided attention of the volunteers. Oh, that reminds me, Iíd like to publicly thank Eric for buying me some chocolate milk in Byers. One disadvantage of being DFL is that the faster riders get all the chocolate milk at the convenience stores. I know the rule: food for the fast, none for the last.

One thing I donít get a chance to do at the back of the pack is set course records. So ignoble as it may seem to hold the unofficial record for the greatest number of last place finishes on the Last Chance 1200, Iíll take it. Thanks, John.

by Vickie Tyer

I know you have heard of PBP, there is no need to wait for 2011, ride a 1200km now and you wonít ever forget it. And you will be more than ready for PBP.

Iím still pretty much a newbie, so I wonít think for a minute I am knowledgeable enough to give you any advice, but Iím telling you, its time to make plans.

If you can ride a 600km, then its just one more day to ride a 1000km and then one more day to ride a 1200km. There are 5 to 7 1200km brevets in the US and Canada each year, there are links on the RUSA site, the lists fill up quickly.

I guess no one ever encouraged me to try a 1200km and I naturally assumed I wasnít strong enough. But I didnít care what people thought, I decided I was going to ride one and Shenandoah was the only one left with open spots so I signed up. It bothered me that the reports said 40,000 feet of climbing but I was determined I was going to ride and it turned out to be over 50,000 feet of climbing. Sharon and I had a wonderful time, we took it easy and finished in 87 hours and there was never a minute that we thought we might not make it.

We had so much fun, on the way home we began to plan the next one, Last Chance, we got on the wait list and got in. On this one we wanted to push ourselves to see how fast we could do it, just to see what we were made of. We knew it would take riding straight thru as much as possible, riding into the night, thru the night and the days and nights to follow. You are never so alive as you are at 2:00 am of your second and third morning totally alone, in the middle of absolute no where, just you and your bike and the stars and the roadway ahead. And then you start to find out just what you are made of and when you come thru to the ďother sideĒ, its wonderful.

Our journey took us out of Boulder Co east to Atwood Ks for a bag drop, then on to the turn around in Kensington Ks and back to Atwood for another bag drop. Then back thru Byers Co for a third bad drop and finally back to Boulder. Our goal was the same, do it as fast as we could, and hope that meant an RQ. We didnít ride against anyone, we rode for ourselves, for each other, and against the clock.

I slept one time for three hours at the bag drop motel at Atwood at mile 480. I tried to sleep three other times for a short power nap, once in a Loves at the table, once on the side of the road in Kansas and once in a post office in Idalia. Sleep would not come to me so each time I pulled myself together and pushed on.

I rode about a third to half the ride alone, rode mostly with new friends on day one, then half the night and all the second day alone. I was surprised to see I was rider #6 at the turnaround, I guess a lot of people slept. Then when I slept people caught up. I would finish tied as rider #9/10. I left Atwood on the return with Dennis from St. Louis. We set out for 100 miles with no services about midnight, and by this time I thought I was superman so 100 miles was fine. And it was, I carried a Camel Bak (uugghh) and bottles and I found water in a park and I made it on what I carried. I lost Dennis about 25 miles into it, and continued till dawn in Idalia when I found friends, Wendy and David at the post office and I rode with them most of the way to Byers. I left Byers charging into the headwind at 16 mph, big highs can be followed by big lows, about 65 miles to go and I was sinking fast. I stopped at a store and there was my friend Dennis, I was so glad to see him and he was as glad to see me. We struggled the last leg into the finish and it was a slow struggle. But we never thought for a minute we would not make it. And the terrific thing is that both of us needed the 75 hour finish to RAAM qualify and we knew we could make it and we were the last RQers. Navigation became a real challenge here, well everything became a challenge at this point, we just kept plugging away and we hit everyone of the many turns, darn no bonus miles. We finished at 72 hours, exactly three days and three nights later than when we started.

So donít let anybody tell you, youíre not strong enough or you canít do it. Its just riding one more day, its just riding from one control to the next till you finish.

After the last PBP they tried to statistically figure out what made the difference between those who finished and those who didnít. There was no relationship to the numbers, and thatís because its not in the numbers, its in your heart and no one can measure how big your heart is. So ride tall with a big heart, pick out a 1200km for next year. Letís get riding!