Conquering Oregon, again
August 3, 2006
A month after cycling 771 miles in her first attempt at Race Across America (RAAM), Patty Jo Struve put in another 535 miles to complete the eighth annual Race Across Oregon within the 48-hour cutoff time.
In doing so, the 50-year-old North Tahoe Middle School music teacher again qualified for RAAM.
“That wasn’t my intention, but I did qualify,” said Struve, who crossed the finish line in 47 hours and 40 minutes, leaving just 20 minutes to spare. “I may (enter RAAM again) within the four-year time. I’ve got some people who’ve got all this faith in me.
“But my job is my priority right now. And it’s kind of fun having a social life.”
In her first shot at RAAM ” which she qualified for in 2003 through the Race Across Oregon and spent countless hours training for before the June 11 race ” Struve was forced to drop out in Cortez, Colo., due to “saddle issues” 72 hours into the coast-to-coast bicycle ultramarathon.
While disappointed about the early exit in the race she prepared so adamantly for, Struve was not discouraged.
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And with her second conquering of Race Across Oregon, Struve said she is eying the Fireweed 400 in Alaska next summer. After that she has three years of eligibility to give RAAM another try.
For now, though, “I’m trying to give it a rest,” Struve said, adding that she’ll take it easy for a while by competing in triathlons this fall, then snowshoeing come winter.
Beginning at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn on July 22, 16 solo riders ” 14 men and two women ” set out at 5 a.m. on a 535-mile mountainous loop culminating at Timberline Lodge at the base of Mt. Hood.
The only other woman in the solo division, Jodi Annette Ashley, of Bremerton, Wash., dropped out shortly into the race.
After 14 uphill stretches and 529 miles, the nine soloists who remained faced a grueling six-mile stretch to the finish line, which marked a total of 40,000 feet in elevation climbed.
Knowing she had little time before the 48-hour cutoff, Struve gave it her all on the final portion.
“The race director ran alongside me cheering and kind of inspiring me. I was just amped. I was riding really hard because I wanted to be done and I felt really strong,” she said, comparing the pitch of the slope to that of Highway 267 on the Northstar side of Brockway Summit.
Struve didn’t feel that strong the entire 535 miles, though.
For one, temperatures remained in triple digits for much of the race, with high humidity, Struve said.
“The wind was so hot it made me nauseous. It was so hot it was gross,” she said. “I got really, really sleepy because it was so hot.”
Secondly, the climbs were relentless and exhausting.
At one point in the middle of the first day, on the only uphill section that rivaled the final stretch, Struve said, she completely ran out of gas.
Good thing there are energy drinks.
“I bonked really hard. My crew gave me a Red Bull. It got me up (to the top of the hill) and then I was fine,” Struve said.
Like during RAAM, Struve also had to battle her subconscious as she grew tired running on only one hour of sleep.
Traveling through a narrow, mountainous section of road one night, Struve said she began hallucinating ” something she experienced during her first Race Across Oregon in 2003 as well as during RAAM.
“It was real dark and tree laden, like a tunnel,” Struve said. “The foliage along the road, I envisioned it to be marble rock with lots of beautiful gardens. It was way cool. Last time (in 2003) I saw big cats jumping out of the trees.”
Struve was not bothered by the mind tricks, though.
And while she entered the race with a goal of finishing in 42 hours, she is content with her time of 47:40.
“I was just glad to finish,” she said. “The heat was debilitating.”
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