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Juneau biker challenges second 500-mile race

Posted: August 1, 2012 - 12:04am
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Juneau resident Janice Sheufelt enjoys a moment across the Oregon landscape with Mt. Hood in the background during her win in the 500-plus-mile Race Across Oregon on July 21. The photo was taken by support team member, and father, Ted Heaton.  Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Juneau resident Janice Sheufelt enjoys a moment across the Oregon landscape with Mt. Hood in the background during her win in the 500-plus-mile Race Across Oregon on July 21. The photo was taken by support team member, and father, Ted Heaton.

Local Juneau biker Dr. Janice Sheufelt has now logged over 1000 bike miles in just two bike races.

Sheufelt recently completed the Race Across Oregon 500-mile ultra cycling contest on Sunday, July 15. The race starts and finishes in Hood River, Oregon.

“It is a big loop through Northeastern Oregon,” Sheufelt said. “Scenic for the most part.”

Sheufelt finished 38 hours and 21 minutes after the 5 a.m. Saturday start, first place for the women and third overall among the 12 entrants.

Most 500-mile races have smaller fields, but that is deceptive because the fields are all experienced ultra riders. This races harsh climbing element reduced the field to a number of experienced competitors. One of those, Seana Hogan, has several world records in cycling, including breaking the transcontinental cycling record twice.

“This race definitely had more climbing in it,” Sheufelt said, comparing the ride to her first ultra, the desert heavy Furnace Creek 508. “That made it harder.”

Another factor that weighed on Sheufelt was that a majority of the race riders were spread out, so that one would be a couple hours a head or a couple hours behind.

“My support crew is always there so that is really helpful,” Sheufelt said. “But you do feel alone at times.”

Sheufelt stayed in contact with her support crew of husband Jim, daughter Laurel and dad Ted, by using two-way radios.

“I am never really along, but it is always better to be cycling when you can see someone,” Sheufelt said. “I had no reason to push myself any harder if no one was going to pass me.”

“Luckily I have over 600 songs on my IPod,” Sheufelt said. “So I don’t just get stuck with one song in my head.”

The race started at 5 a.m. Saturday, with a seven-mile climb. At mile 17 Sheufelt passed Hogan on a descent and exchanged the lead again at mile 21.

The next portion was a gradual climb to mile 47 according to Sheufelt. Hogan powered away and Sheufelt concentrated on pacing.

She began riding with an Oregon Ducks fan, Bryant Howard, whom Jim would cheer on with his “Go Huskies” dig.

At mile 53 Sheufelt was just five minutes behind Hogan, and caught sight of her starting a four-mile climb at mile 62.

“I started to think this was the “Chase Seana around Oregon race,” Sheufelt said. “Not the Race Across Oregon. I tried to keep my own pace and not push to hard.”

At 118 miles racer Dan Bodden’s crew generously sprayed Sheufelt with water from their own support car, the first of many to aid her on a 9-mile climb.

Sheufelt passed Hogan, suffered a calf cramp, and watched Hogan go by again.

At 143 miles team Sheufelt arrived with their own sprayer and a strawberry milkshake.

“The best ever,” Sheufelt said.

At time station three at the 187-mile mark, Sheufelt had just two riders in front of her besides Hogan, Marko Baloh (would set the course record of 29:26) and Chris Ragsdale. Hogan would spend more time at the stop so now Sheufelt was being pursued and darkness upon them.

At 270 miles, Team 201, Native Planet, Team 401 and The Four Brodies came into the mix. At mile 290, loose gravel made for a slow and dangerous descent off Monument Pass.

That changed to a long climb at mile 350 toward Fossil.

“I just put my head down and focused on making it to the next reflector post on the side of the road,” Sheufelt said.

At mile 404 Sheufelt was at the town of Antelope. It was 8 a.m. Sunday and cell service was available. The team discovered Hogan had pulled out of the race.

On the climb out of Antelope, Team Sheufelt delivered their rider marionberry cobbler and a marionberry milkshake.

The time station in Maupin at mile 437 meant that just 78 miles remained.

“The last 80 miles were heavy head winds and cross winds,” Sheufelt said. “It was just slow going, that just made it a little bit harder.”

The slow crawl included a climb on US 197, another harsher 13-mile climb up Dufur Valley Road and an unrelenting wind the final 26 miles into Hood River.

Sheufelt finished at 7:21 p.m. Sunday. Team Native Planet won the overall two-person in 33:09 and Four Brodies win the four-person in 31:55.

“There were a few times that I hadn’t eaten enough,” Sheufelt commented. “I got a little low energy. I am going to make some minor adjustments, nothing major. I think the key in these ultra races is pacing and keeping hydrated and keeping enough calories in.”

Sheufelt is normally a sprint racer in the Juneau Freewheelers series’ and is planning to be in the Tour of Juneau (starts August 10) if she has recovered in time.

“It takes about four weeks to really recover,” Sheufelt said. “But I am feeling better than after the October race. So I think that is a good sign.”

Sheufelt has done other sprint races in Southeast and through Canada until taking her cycling to extreme distances in that October race called the Furnace Creek 508.

That 500-plus-mile race started outside Los Angeles, went through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert and finished near Joshua Tree National Park.

Sheufelt stated at that time, “I never expected to win.”

Sheufelt did win, covering the course in 35:14:51, and besting a field of 64 solo entrants and multiple duo and four-man teams.

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