This year, the Crater Lake Century was held on August 17, 2019 in Fort Klamath in Oregon. The ride benefits the Klamath County food bank, the Klamath Trails Alliance and of course the Klamath County Museums.
Since we’d never been to Crater Lake (mostly because it’s an 8hr+ drive from home with no major airports close by), S found this ride so we could have an excuse to go. He signed up for the Century ride (100miles), and I for the Metric Century (62 miles a.k.a 100kilometers).
One of our friends from the Bay Area, RJ, a first-time Century rider, wanted to join us, and S’s training partner and one of our closest friend E, who moved to Boise last year was in as well. So we rented a house in Chiloquin, Oregon, which seemed overpriced at almost $300 a night for a 3Bed, 2Bath. Chiloquin is just a 10min drive to the ride start (and small town) otherwise you could stay in Klamath Falls (~45min to the start of the ride). The ride was on Saturday, August 17, 2019 so we drove up the day before to get rest and an early start. On our way up on Friday, we stopped in Klamath Falls to pick up our ride registration packet to save time the next morning. E was the first to arrive at the rental (almost 3hrs before us) which was reminiscent of something out of a podcast, small town murder, she listens to. Apparently there was also a sketchy looking red truck with a cracked windshield in the driveway so she opted to spend a little time in Chiloquin and went to Klamath Falls to get some food and pick up her registration packet until the rest of us arrived.
We woke up at 5AM on ride day so we could eat and leave by 5:45AM leaving enough time for parking and other last minute stuff. Although we got there at 6AM, I didn’t get to start until 7AM as they stagger the start allowing only 10 riders every 15min so I was standing there freezing for half an hour (S, E and RJ got to go 15min early as they had a full set).
5min into the start, I started having difficulty breathing. When I looked down on my gps, I was going at a little over 14mph. The ride organizers said it was flat for the first 8miles, so why was I going so slow?? Because Fort Klamath museum (where the ride starts) is at 4000ft elevation! I’ve not been one to complain about altitude with having gone to Machu Pichu and ridden the Death Ride in the California Alps, but most recently, I found it difficult to hike back up Haleakalā, although I was fine 3 months later hiking the Flattop Mountain in Alaska. Remembering the light-headedness I felt the evening before after we arrived at our rental, I knew my altitude sensitivity was acting up again and this ride for sure was going to be the death of me. Next thing I realized that I forgot to get my juice box on the ride which I brought with me in the car (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a Type 1 diabetic and always carry a juice box for emergencies after the Rome debacle).
I knew that the first test stop was at mile 15.1 so I just had to make it to there without any mishaps. Hoping my Basal IQ would work properly this time, off I went. Around mile 7, my Tandem pump started going off – losing Dexcom signal (although I planned carefully and wore both my pump and my sensor on the same side). This didn’t look good. Cussing at my pump, I took out my phone to make sure my blood glucose (BG) was okay and continued riding until the first rest stop at the Lodgepole turn out. As my BG was high (at 250) by then, I just refilled my bottle with water and grabbed a couple of bars for emergencies and set off to what seemed like an endless climb to the top.
At the park entrance (~mile 17.8), I stopped and asked the ranger if he needed to see my bib number to which he said the green wrist band was enough to let me pass thru. So I continued on. At about mile 21, the Metric Century splits off and goes right along Rim Drive East while the Century continues straight onto Rim Drive West. The next ~ 8.4 miles is mostly climbing with 12% grade in certain places.
Around mile 23.3, you catch a break and descend for about 1.3 miles. The next climb is about 2.3miles long until ~mile 27.2. The last 2.6miles is a downhill to the Phantom Ship overlook rest stop which is the turn-around point for the metric century.What should’ve been a 3hr ride to the half-way point ended up taking me 4.75hrs! Sure enough when I got to the Phantom Ship rest stop, my BG was reading 79! I gobbled up some watermelon and trail mix to bring my BG back up and started riding back. Before we started the ride, I told S that we’d most likely finish at the same time (yeah his 100mile pace is equivalent to my 62), but what I didn’t expect was to see him and E about 5miles on the return route from the Phantom Ship overlook! My neck and shoulders were killing me at this point (old bike injury that I never recovered from) and it was getting harder and harder to hold on to the handlebars plus I was getting saddle sore so it got increasingly difficult to keep riding. I was determined to finish without asking for help so I toughed it out and made it to the Lodgepole rest stop. My BG was reading high so obviously I couldn’t eat so I just filled up my bottle with water and continued on.
I was almost at the finish line when I screwed up because of poor signage. Instead of turning left from Dixon road onto Crate lake Hwy, I turned right (both the Century and Metric Century arrows were pointing right at that intersection) and ended up getting lost and doing another 5.7miles! When I was finally able to load google maps, I found my way back to Fort Klamath Museum and just as I was arriving, I saw S and E coming out to find me. A couple hours later, RJ almost went the same way I did in the end if it weren’t for a SAG vehicle that happened to pass by when he was at that intersection.
So after 7+hrs of riding with no electrolytes, burning more calories than I’d consumed that day (2600 calories burnt with 500 calorie intake), Insulin pump issues, an excruciating shoulder pain, I finally made it! After such a poor performance, I’m craving for a redemption ride. With all said, the route is gorgeous with beautiful weather (in the mid-70s), plants and wildflowers, and 360° views of the lake (if you do the full Century).
Tidbits from the rest of the Gang
S, E, and RJ did the Full Century and here’s what they have to say:
“We started the ride on a relative flat out and back and then turned around to climb towards crater lake. The climb was gradual with a few rollers and 2 longer sections of climb. Once we reached the rim we were greeted by a dazzling view of sparkling blue waters and an island. We stopped for a moment to take a few pictures and then continued our ride. The last twenty miles or so were flat and down hill and my training buddy was starting to fatigue so I told him to hop on my wheel and I’d pull him the rest of the way. I enjoy descents and pushing the pace at the end of a ride so picked it up a little too quickly and had to wait a few times but we still passed a number of people on the way back.
I didn’t partake of the BBQ because it didn’t seem all that appetizing to me. Overall it was a fun ride and a beautiful beautiful route, but the organization was a little lacking. In order to stay on route you needed to keep a close watch of the road markings which at times were difficult to pick out.”
“I was tired in the last 20 miles from diving into Crater lake to save a school bus full or children” (or was it Kittens asks E, and RJ can’t remember if the bus was on Fire).
“Crater lake century is a very challenging but rewarding ride. The lake is beautiful this time of year! The SAG stops are in pretty good spots and stocked with cookies, potatoes, water, powders, watermelon etc. which you will definitely need for the full century. The only downside to this ride is that there were a lot of cars on the roads that we were biking. They fly by pretty fast and force you to be on the barely-there shoulder. Try and stay focused and not veer into the path of tourists with their giant SUVs that look like they were mostly just driving place to place to take pictures of the lake. Other than that, the air was crisp and the temperature was great. I’ve never done a century before and actually needed some help from SAG wagon on the last 1100 ft climb because I was pretty exhausted after 60miles. Zach’s bikes had a van going around (SAG vehicle) looking for cyclists about to keel over. They quickly loaded my bike onto their trailer hitch and transported me over the hill the next stop… where there were no more hills and everything was piece of cake after that. I didn’t partake in the BBQ afterwards but it sounds like I didn’t miss much. I ate plenty at the SAG stops anyways. ‘Crater lake fun but hard. SUVs dumb’. “
If you’re thinking of doing this ride, a couple of things to note
1. Weather: It was quite chilly (~38F) when we started so its good to bring warm gear which can be dropped off at one of the rest stops later. Also make sure to wear full finger gloves if you don’t want your fingertips frozen for at least an hour!
2. Parking: There was plenty of parking in the mostly empty Fort Klamath Museum lot.
3. Emergency contact: I’ve done a few organized rides in my life and every one of they required me to put down an emergency contact. However, this ride did not require any of that – not even during packet pickup or during registration. We actually made sure our Medical IDs were up to date on our phones in case something happened (hoping the emergency responders would find that info without any problems).
4. Bib number: The registration/bib number was to be attached to the bicycle with pipe cleaners (which were provided) but were too short to go around big frames. Also, I didn’t know that’s what the pipe cleaners in the registration packet bag were for until I called Zach’s bikes (registration pickup location on the day before the ride) to ask about the missing pins. The bib number is to be attached to the bicycle so that’s it’s visible to the park ranger at the Crater a national Park entrance. This doesn’t work out too well as if you attach to the handlebar, it could cause shifting problems if the pipe cleaner wires are wound around the cables, if you attach it to the side on the top tube, it flaps around in the wind and also hits your knee (which it did to mine). So I pulled it out and stuffed the paper in my jersey pocket. You need the bib number only at the Start, Crater Lake National Park entrance, and the Finish (although no one checked it at the Park entrance or the Finish). So my plan was to just pull it out at the park entrance if needed. Also, the bib only has your number and nothing else, not even the ride name!
5. The registration packet comes with a green band that you need to wear around your wrist for entrance to the national park.
6. You get a meal ticket in your packet bag as well(which was loosely shoved in there between the route map, visitor guide, bib number, t-shirt and pipe cleaners). A lot of riders missed this as it probably fell out when they took their bib number and T-shirt’s out of the bag and didn’t know it existed. So when they finished their ride and went to grab lunch, they all looked confused when they were asked for their meal ticket. At least the event staff was nice enough to let them trade their green bands instead for food. None of us ate the BBQ lunch after the ride as the offerings didn’t look very appetizing.
7. There were no sponsors at the event which meant no energy gels. Just what they could get from what seemed like Costco.
8. There was no food or water setup at the ride start. We found some huge water bottles which we asked one of the volunteers if we could open and fill up our bottles (and we did). Lunch was pretty terrible also (from what S said). I didn’t eat anything after.
9. Rest stops didn’t have napkins or flatware. Riders just picked up food with their dirty hands which was gross (and made me avoid it). There were energy bars at one of the stops and electrolyte mix, water, fruit, trail mix, and cooked potatoes. Another had water, electrolyte mix, chocolate chip cookies, watermelon, trail mix, hummus, and tortillas.
10. The route signage was terrible. They used rectangle placard (with not very good design enough to differentiate between the two routes) standing on on stilts (2’ from the ground) instead of route arrows on the ground to mark the route. The signage for the return route was messed up which got me lost and made me do an additional ~6miles.
11. The road/route is not closed to vehicles unlike some other rides, so riders must be careful as the shoulder is non-existent and have to share the road with fast drivers.