Friday, November 13, 2009

Racing Across Oregon

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Published June 10, 2005

More than 538 miles, nearly 40,000 feet of vertical gain, and one McNary High School graduate and cyclist who finished the non-stop trek in 35 hours, 23 minutes and 23 seconds.

Kenneth Philbrick, who now makes his home in Seattle, topped the ultra-distance Race Across Oregon last weekend, finishing the race at 4:23 a.m. Sunday after leaving Portland International Airport at 5 a.m. Saturday.

“It was like a double win because I not only won the solo format, I also finished first of all the rookies who competed in the race,” Philbrick said.

He also set a route record for the race, beating the previous best time by almost 2 minutes.

The Race Across Oregon is an annual cycling event that takes its participants on a tour from Western Oregon to Eastern Oregon, over the Cascades and beyond, and then back to the finish at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood – the highest point one can reach by road bike in Oregon.

“There’s a lot more ascents than descents, but the weirdest parts of the ride were going downhill at 45 mph during the night with my support crew right on my tail in the minivan,” Philbrick said.

Philbrick’s support crew included his mother and father, Cathey and David; uncle, Larry Philbrick; and college friend, Ben Larson.

Philbrick, a 26-year-old software programmer, finished more than three hours ahead of the second-place finisher. Of the 19 solo cyclists who entered the race, just seven completed the course.

“It was a huge surprise to come in first, but it was my fourth time on the route,” he said.

Philbrick participated in training camps three times prior in preparation for the race. During the camps, riders cycled the length of the race, but over three or four days.

By the time he decided to attempt the race, Philbrick had already been a long-time cyclist. His uncle was a big influence on his decision to attempt ultra-distance racing, but Philbrick was self-motivated as well.

“Cycling was one of the first merit badges I’d earned as a Boy Scout. I was also a member of the Salem Bike Club,” he said.

One of the first distance races he attempted was the Monster Cookie Metric Century, a 62-mile ride staged by the Salem club.

To pace himself during the Race Across Oregon, Philbrick monitored his heart rate using a wireless device that straps around his chest and sends the information to a watch mounted on his bike.

“I was trying to keep it right around 150 beats per minute, but I reached 182-183 bpm for some short stints,” he said.

To keep up his strength, Philbrick consumed Gatorade nutrition shakes at a rate of about one per hour along with some other products from the Hammer Nutrition Ltd.

“My big reward was supposed to be a peanut butter sandwich in Prineville but when I got there I could only get about half of it down. I could barely swallow,” he said.

More than 99 percent of his nutrition came in liquid form.

Philbrick’s support crew supplied him with all the necessary nutrition and healthy dose of encouragement.

Philbrick is still amazed at the huge amount of planning that went into competing in the race, but he already has his sights set on the Fireweed 400 in July.

In that race, he and Larson will compete as a two-man relay team on a course that pits them against high elevations in Alaska.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun, but I’m not planning on doing anything for about a week,” he said.

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