Brooke Stehley of Rolf Prima recaps the Oregon Outback 360 -
This was my second round of the Oregon Outback 360 and after last years’ three day adventure to finish the 360+ miles we said, “we’d never do it again”… and yet here I found myself on the train to Klamath Falls with a few more friends this time than last year, heading off for another three days of crazy, long riding to complete the 360 miles of the route. I must have gone mad…
I guess I forgot how much it hurt and how hard it was to complete that kind of millage in such a short amount of time. Though as we rolled out and began our trek down the OC&E trail it all started to seem very familiar and I began to remember just how hard and long these days were going to be. Yep, I had gone mad to be out here again doing it in only three days…
Day one, started with grey skies and a slight mist that pretty much held up till about mile 70. It was the type of dampness that never quite got you all that wet, but the trail had obviously seen much harder rains earlier as the amount of mud and slop we were already treading through was slowing us down. At about mile 80, we got our first real downpour, and it was the kind that has you soaked to the bone within seconds. The skies cleared and we had a break of sun and for a short bit we all thought we’d have that to our finishing location, but it was only followed by many more soaking rains till we hit our final destination on day one of 120miles in Silver Lake. We made it into town before the general store closed and quickly found hot food of hotdogs and items that could go in the microwave. After some warm salty food, we rolled the few blocks over to the city part to set up camp for the night and shovel more food in our mouths.
Day two we all woke to rain falling and it seemed no-one wanted to get out of their tents to assess how bad the day was going to be. Clothing items were still wet from the day before, we all now had wet, soggy tents to pack away and anything that was dry was about to get wet in another day of riding in the rain. We had a pretty quiet roll-out that morning as none of us liked our options of starting in the cold, wet rain. It was hours in before my fingers were no longer numb and it seemed forever before I could feel my toes again, but as the day went on the rain let up and it seemed like maybe things would dry out for us by day’s end. We rolled into Prineville much later than we hoped, which put us behind where we wanted to end for day two. Our plan was to get up and over the climb in the Ochoco National Forest which would have put us at about mile 255ish, but at about 9:30p and some 13+ hrs on the bike for the day, we called it quits at mile 240 and found a flat spot to pitch our wet tents.
Day three was an earlier start, we rolled out at 6am as with a little over 120 miles left to finish, we knew from doing this ride the year before the final 120 miles are the hardest and longest of them all. This is when my adventure went from bad to really bad. I had been experiencing some pretty bad ankle, Achilles pain starting mid-way through day two and as I tried to make the climb out of the forest on day three, I could barely turn the cranks to ever so slowly slog my way up to the top. My husband and I made it to the top, where the rest of the group was waiting. We told them today was not going to be a good day for me and we were unsure if I’d be able to finish it out. I’d come this far, to now be handicapped by a joint that I’ve never had issues with on the bike – and this was a ride I’d accomplished before, I knew it was doable, why did the body not want to…. You don’t know how much you need your ankles to turn the cranks, until they just don’t want to do the work anymore.
We rolled out ahead of the rest of our group and told them once they pass us to not wait. We’d see how the day went and might only make it half way for the day and try and finish it up on day four. I started to have a bit of a pity party on the bike by myself for the next few miles, hating every mile and wondering if I’d even make it to the half way point for the day. Maybe it was the Aleve I had a couple of hours prior or maybe things were just taking their time to loosen up, but as the hours went by it seemed the pain was becoming more of a pain I could push through vs. something so painful it had me in tears. Maybe it was the gorgeous views – day three really is the prettiest of all the areas you ride through and has some of my favorite parts, but by mile 300 I was determined to finish and kill the ride for the day.
I found pedaling downhill caused the most pain and the roughness of the road jarred things in a painful way, but I pushed on… telling myself it was one day, I could make it through one day and this would all be over soon. I had made it through two days and now I just needed to finish out one day and be done. This is when you start relying on your mental abilities over your physical abilities. I had to take a fair amount of short stops along the way to just stand and give the ankles a few seconds of no movement to keep going. The pain got worse in the last 60 miles as all we had was non-stop rollers in the gravel and mean, mean head winds that seemed far worse than what we experienced last year… but again I just needed to make it through one day and I’d be done. We finished about 15mins behind our group, a time I could not be more proud of, considering my day started by wondering how on earth I’d make it to the finish.
We said a few times through that day “we’d never do something like this again”. We meant it and we still mean it. Never again, that kind of millage in only three days – next time more time, more time to see and stop and enjoy vs. slogging out the miles to get to your end point.
The Oregon Outback 360 is an awesome event that I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for this type of adventure. But as we found over the two years we’ve now done it (read my recap from last year)... the weather is unpredictable, the conditions can be even more brutal if Oregon has thrown out some of its famous rains and sometimes no matter how much you prepare, the body will throw you curve balls. Yes, I had fun, Yes I will do something like this again, but for now.. the body needs some down time.
Some of the nuts and bolts: (pretty much the same setup as last year)
Bike choice: Rocky Mountain Vertex 29” hardtail
Wheel choice: Rolf Prima Ralos 29”
Tire choice: Clement LXV 29x2.1”, Tubeless (no flats)
Bags: Revelate Designs Viscacha seat pack, dry bag strapped to the bars, top tube lunch box and handle bar feedbag.
Hydration: Two bottles and a Camelback. Because the weather was much wetter and colder this year, we didn't seem to drink as much and did not have to filter water once. We refilled at general stores and pumps along the way.
Food: Just like last year I pre-made a lot of my food. Making my own energy bars and rice bars that included things like black beans, sweet potatoes, bacon and cooked egg. We also packed lots of nuts, dried fruit, hard salami and string cheese.