Bike Bets (part 2)
Getting back to where we left off in my last blog entry. I have a BBQ at my house on Saturday and invite Dan over with the plan to eat and ride out to Red Rock afterwards. I still have the same road bike rental that I was going to use for the previous bet, and Dan brought his road bike. Dan comes over, and apparently has another plan on his mind, as he begins to instigate another bet with me. I had explained to Dan, because I gave him a piece of the bet, that I thought I had a much better chance than the buyout paid (the buyout paid 46% of what I could win on a bet that laid 10:1 odds), and Dan told me he thought I was crazy. He wanted to prove that the bike challenge was really difficult, by offering me a “chance to prove it”. He claimed that he was offering me "his bet", biking from the Las Vegas sign to his house in Beverly Hills. It would be under more or less the same rules as his bet with Bill, except I could only use a road bike (no recumbent!), there would be no drafting, and I would have to leave by midnight the following day (Sunday, April 23rd). This, of course, meant that I wouldn't have 5 weeks to train. I'd only have the training I did earlier that week (basically 2 days worth), which wasn't even 100% effective as the vast majority of it was done on a recumbent bike and not a road bike.
I was a bit nervous about this offer that Dan made because after the buyout we had released the entire team I would have had for the other bet (a bike coach, someone to fix the bikes, chef, masseuse, doctor). I was worried I wouldn't have any professional help. And while some of the team are useful but non-essential, I would 100% need someone to fix any mechanical issues on the bike - so at the very least I would need to find one guy within 24 hours.
I also knew that only using a road bike for 300 miles would be a lot more difficult on my body than being able to switch and use a recumbent. During that week, Dan and Nate had told me that the recumbent was much better for long distance riding due to the comfort and support of the seat. On a road bike, your ass skin can start chaffing to the point where it's raw and bleeding and hurts to the point where you can't ride if you aren't careful and plan for this problem. It's also much harder on your back than a recumbent. I knew that Dan was including this stipulation because I had no road bike experience, and it would be hard for me to ride a road bike for 2 days continuously. Additionally, going from Vegas to LA would be a more difficult course than the one I had initially bet on (down PCH1 in Cali). I would not have a tail wind the whole time, and in fact I would likely have a headwind. Additionally there would be more time spent climbing even though the net overall elevation is downhill, due to there being more elevation changes. And of course, I wouldn't be able to draft whereas Dan did for most of his ride that mattered.
(Here is Blitz above, drafting a car with a back-doors-open set-up that I would have liked on my ride during some of the stretches with serious wind!)
Part of me was a little irked because Dan was being inconsistent in all of this. This route is obviously different than the one I said I could do for the other bet. His route is harder for sure. One of the perks of the other bet was choosing the 280 mile route! Additionally, Dan got to train for over 5 weeks AND use a recumbent bike AND draft!!! So what I was doing now, wasn't the bet that I said I thought I could easily do (the 280 miles in CA with a tail wind and Dan's team!). But it wasn't Dan's bet either!! This was Dan's route, probably without a team, on a road bike only, at the mercy of the wind. With all these things being different, this won't necessarily prove if I was correct or not about my claims of being likely to complete the other bet. Additionally, my bet will be significantly harder than what Dan did (no recumbent bike, no drafting, no training, no team), so even though it's similar it has big enough differences to be it's own animal and not easy for direct comparison. I knew why he was doing this though - if I rid his route, with these important changes, and failed (which I'm sure he thought I would), than it would make his own accomplishment seem that much greater. Details are often times forgot by history (ones like no recumbent, no training, no team, no drafting). Dan wanted to shut "everybody" up about how easy it was. For now he was offering this bet to me AND to his brother Adam (who wasn't at my place but was in Las Vegas at the time). We both could have done this together.
As a psychological aside: Between the time I had accepted the initial bet earlier in the week and the buyout a couple days before, I had really psyched myself in to doing it. I almost rejected the magnanimous buyout offer because of this, despite everyone telling me I should probably take it. Inside of me there is a sick competitor who when his buttons are pushed, will never give up. (Even in the boxing match vs. Sorel, where I admittedly got handled, I think Sorel was athletically superior to me in "short twitch" speed/strength, but that even within the short time we fought he was getting tired and winded more than I was. I also think I had slightly better technique fwiw. Despite being knocked down, none of the blows hurt me. I feel like if we just kept going I could of won in some kind of "fight till a knockout" endurance craziness. I would never have agreed to something like that because I wanted to avoid head trauma as much as possible which was why I insisted on head gear and despite sparring - I never went 100% in my spars which definitely contributed to the knockdowns as someone explained to me that when you get hit really hard for the first time it's different - and that it was)
I had already started pushing those buttons. But, more than that, I had reason to believe that I could do it if I gave my all, and I wanted to win the whole amount. So here we were with a very different and much more difficult bet. After learning what I did about biking that week, this was a bet I was not sure I could do. But I was also given heavy odds (6:1), and a chance to see if I could do this with serious money as a motivating factor.
That said, Dan had upped his offer all the way to 6:1 (whereas his bet with Bill was even money). I also had the knowledge that Dan crushed his bet in about 32 hours of riding. So, arguments aside, the man had laid an interesting offer on the table. More than that, Dan was repeatedly calling me out and had turned the BBQ in to a dick-measuring contest. It was an offer and a contest both that, with a few beers in me at the BBQ, I decided I couldn't refuse somewhere around 5PM that Saturday. We shook hands and the countdown began. I had to be on the road by midnight the very next day.
I had a lot of work to do. Forget biking, I just meant logistically to get everything ready to go to maximize my chances of winning. For the other bet Dan was organizing everything. All of that was canceled, and now I had to get it all ready.
Shortly after taking the bet I start trying to get a team together. I contacted Nate (Dan's main bike coach) who told me that he already had a commitment. He also looked at the windmap for the duration of the trip and told me he thought I had a ZERO percent chance of doing this. He felt bad, but told me to "give it a good old college try" (I never forgot those words! #motivation). Adam Bilzerian at this point was out too. He had seen the wind map and didn't even want to consider doing the bet anymore. I was on my own. I don't know if Dan knew the wind situation (he claims he didn't), but he did say I had to accept the bet without going to consult the computer when we were discussing the bet previously! So even if he didn't know the wind, he did know to not let me check on the wind before accepting the bet.
I was scared. 0%? Yikes! I tried to wash the bet, but by now Dan had talked to Nate as well and was liking his side. Moreover, Bill Perkins had taken half the bet and almost instantly booked a private jet (non-refundable) to come to Vegas the next day and an expensive high-class RV rental.
(Blitz & Perkins laughing about how they about to watch me suffer and take my money right before they jet over to Vegas... Ok not really, Blitz was in Vegas and Perkins flew here to meet up... it's just a pic of them I found on the internet!!)
So a couple hours later when I still had NO team and NO RV yet, and still had the 0% swimming around my head, I offered a small buy-out of 5k. Rejected. Fuck!! What did I get myself in to this time?? I was told my offer had to start with covering Bill's costs (which woulda been something like 40K). No deal. It was time to put childish things aside and steel myself for this challenge.
Eventually later that evening, I got a bike-man on my team. Bob McCall of Cycle Vegas. He's a long time cyclist who lives in Vegas, and I had done my two training rides with him earlier that week. That was a life-saver, as I needed someone to deal with mechanical issues for the bikes (I had 2 road bikes). I did end up getting 3 flats and having some other issues. Bob was crucial for helping with them. I also had no cycling gear, and Bob was my size, and it saved me from having to find cycling gear (it was getting very cold at night and warm during day, so needed a wide variety to keep biking at all hours). So getting Bob on the team was big.
My wife hopped on board and started helping me organizing. She was trying to take care of as much stuff as possible for me. Our family friend, Felipe Novak, was in also. They went to buy a bunch of food that night for the trip, and reserved an RV to pick up the next day. I was at home organizing things, talking to various people, and trying to plan the best route. I had planned to try to avoid being on the highway and going through the Mojave desert.
I was playing around with different sites to plan the route and also looking around until I found a site that had a wind map! This would obviously be useful for the little leeway I had for my timing (in terms of when I left Sunday night, and when I might plan a break). You can see here that when I left the wind was very favorable (it had been worse earlier in the afternoon).
**On this site, you can even go find the historical data for the actual wind during my trip!**
I was quite anxious that night and only got about 6 hours of sleep, waking up early around 8AM. The most important change I made between now and when I left was that I ended up changing this route above. It turned out that the last part of the road through the Mojave looked to be gravel/dirt, and that would not be a good idea on the road bike. I had been hoping to avoid Mountain Pass on the 15 both because it would mean staying on the side of an interstate at night AND that would be the toughest climb of the trip. Going through the Mojave meant less elevation although more distance (20 miles). But to avoid the dirt road, I'd have to go down to the 40, which would add on 30 additional miles, and I'd still have to bike on an interstate for a while! So I decided to stay on the 15, which shaved off about 20 miles of overall biking from the planned route above. This ended up saving my trip as the wind picked up big time the next day (8/25) and had I been even 20 or 30 miles further out when the wind picked up, I might not have been able to make it!
I was mostly done with my preparations by the early afternoon around 3PM, but had decided the best time to leave would be later in the evening for the wind. I hadn't slept a lot, and wanted to get more sleep - but despite lying down for 30 minutes I couldn't sleep anymore. I was just too anxious. Dan and Bill had arrived at my house, and were ready to go. So we took the whole operation over to the Las Vegas sign. Dan and Bill had their RV + car. We had an RV that was rented and stocked. We had a Dodge support vehicle that would be behind me the entire trip. That ended up making it difficult for cars to pass too close to me, which made riding on the side of the highway a lot less dangerous and stressful than it would of been otherwise. We had my wife, Juliana, Felipe, my son Krishna, Bob McCall, and our friend Heitor. Felipe and Bob would be in the Dodge following me the entire time as my support car. They would make sure I ate snacks regularly (meals in the RV), was on the right path, fix any immediate problems, refill water, etc... And the rest would be in the RV which would go ahead and stop somewhere and wait for a while until I passed. During the confusion, I had forgotten my dad was coming to visit, and so we told him about it and he met us on the rode and drove along. And two other friends of ours, Crystal & LiLi, decided to leave Vegas and join us on the rode shortly after. That was the crew for the whole time. Heitor drove the RV which stayed with the two other cars. I would be biking with my support Dodge behind me with Felipe and Bob as my team.
Here's Juliana and Maya in the RV!
Before we left, I told Krishna that what it means to be a man in this situation is not in whether or not I would be able to complete the bike ride. It may or may not be possible. I could have an accident. Not everything would be in my control. But, that I would manage what I could the best that I could, and that I would give it all my effort and never, ever quit. That persevering even when I'm in pain and want to quit, those are the true tests of myself and this experience. I knew what I was doing, and it was more than just giving my son a life lesson. I was making this about more than the money. Maybe if it got painful enough, for only money I might quit... but with my family there, and now my message of perseverance to my son on the line... nothing short of total muscle failure would get me off the bike.
We left at 7:32PM from the Las Vegas sign that Sunday evening 8/24. I was jamming and making good time. It was a little chilly for sure, but I didn't care, and I was biking strong. There was little wind and I got to the border in about 2-3 hours. Next up was Mountain Pass, the most difficult climb of the ride. It was a serious gut-check moment. Dan was taunting me on the way, and it was hard. But I was fresh, and I had a game plan for the toughest climbs. I was allowed to walk with my bike. So, I would ride until my leg muscles started to get too sore, and not wanting to tear them too much this early in the trip, I would get off and walk the bike for a minute or two before riding again. That way I could give my leg muscles a break without completely stopping. Sure walking the bike is quite slow, but it's faster than nothing and kept the pace going. I got to the top of Mountain Pass before 1:30AM, which was a good 55 miles from Vegas. In under 6 hours I had gone over 1/6 of the total distance, done the most difficult climb, and was at the peak elevation for the trip. When I arrived at the RV for my break, I was so excited I was whooping and hollering. I knew there was going to be wind still, but I had made better time than I had anticipated at this point, so I thought I was in really great shape. I believed I was a favorite to win the bet.
So leaving Mountain Pass I was ready to jam down one of the overall biggest descents of the trip. I was slowed up some by the bike having a disc break problem that Felipe actually figured out and fixed, in his biggest step-up-to-the-plate moment of the trip. There was a repetitive clicking noise, and I felt like I was going a little slow. Felipe could tell I was going too slow also and checked the wheels and found a brake problem... he loosened the brakes and made the bike run better. There were a number of stops for this (and already at least 1 flat), which slowed down my time but wasn't anything too worrisome. Somewhere around Halloran Springs at around 4AM I decided to take a longer break and get some sleep. I was a little tired and I knew everyone else was really tired. It seemed like a good time to recharge. I was able to get around an hour of sleep. Between the wind-down, sleep, wake-up (this was an epically difficult wake-up, and in regular conditions I would of turned my alarm off for sure), and eating - the break was about 2.5-3 hours. In retrospect, the timing of this break was a big mistake because as of now there was still NO WIND. So I had slept through almost 3 hours of windless conditions.
So early morning we get back on the road and start crushing again.
Here I still had my night gear (jacket & arm/leg warmers) on, although the sun had just risen. I'm on my way in to Baker I believe in this photo.
The break did refresh me and I'm cruising. I jam through Baker and on towards Barstow (approximately 1/2way point). My goal was to get there and take a long break to wait out the winds some. I knew they would improve during the next night, as my time studying the wind map said it would dissipate around 10-11PM. Then, about 40 miles out from Barstow the headwind started picking up.
Going to the windmap of that time approximately on that day, I can see that it was more that I was starting to bike in to where the wind was stronger.
I started to slow down, taking more breaks, time is going by... the wind is stronger. It had once seemed inevitable that I would make it to Barstow easily, and now it was becoming a struggle. I was tucking to lower wind resistance and my upper back would start shooting pain. Despite padded bike shorts, my ass was killing me. These were the two worst pains. I was exhausted and battling this wind was hard. During one break I broke down crying super hard in the RV with my wife because I was being stretched to my limit. I didn't know if I could do this. My pace had gotten frightfully slow. If this wind kept up like this, I didn't think I'd be able to physically do it. I took solace in the fact that the wind was supposed to die during the night, and I could jam out the miles then.
In fact, I didn't make it those 40 miles in to the strong head wind. We stopped at a hotel about 10/12 miles out of Barstow right off the road at approximately 4PM. I hadn't made it halfway to Dan's yet (although was very close) and by the time this break would be over, time would be over halfway out. To make matters worse, when I looked at the windmap again during the break, it looked like it had changed and the wind was supposed to be worse... not dissipating as previously expected. This is really bad news.
I had given myself 3 hours in bed to sleep, but managed only 70 minutes of actual sleep. I spent the next hour and a half lying there and not sleeping. I figured even if I couldn't sleep I needed to be still and let my muscles recover as much as possible. I also decided to take some pain killers during the break (hydrocodone and ibuprofen). I was hoping they would help more with my back and ass pain than my quads/legs (where one might think I had more pain). I didn't want to have to take a break because of back or ass pain, only when my legs needed it. This break would be over 4 hours as we wouldn't leave until around 8:30PM. When I get back on the road, the wind was stronger than it had previously been.
You can see it's red - that means STRONG. It was gusting at 30+ mph at this point, as you can see here on the windmap, going directly against me heading in to and through Barstow!
Here's the route for the second half of the trip after Barstow
So I was back on the road, and not a happy camper. Things were grim, but I knew it, and there wasn't time to complain. I just had to fight through the headwind, and hope for the best. It would dissipate at some point, but how much? Would it be enough? I couldn't answer these questions, and really it didn't matter. I had less than 24 hours and over 150 miles and a headwind currently. I'm an overly analytical person, but the only answer now was blood, sweat, and tears.
Given the extreme severity of the winds I made decent time. The long break had helped, and I could feel my body was stronger. Once I passed through Barstow, we started to curl to the South, so the wind was a mix between headwind and crosswind (which is easier), and at this point more like 20mph. Slowly the wind kept dissipating more and more, and maybe 20 miles out of Barstow, around midnight the wind basically died. I now had about 19 hours left and about 130 miles to go. Between not sleeping much for the past 40 hours and it being nighttime, I was tired. I wanted something stronger than caffeine so I took an aderall. My support car said it was supposed to be this way until the morning. So now I needed to make it to Palmdale (where the route begins to turn south to go down to LA through Soledad Canyon) by morning to avoid the headwind. Maybe if I get there with enough time I can take another serious break, but I need to get there first. We're talking about 60-70 miles.
Things were going well, and I was back to making pretty good time. I took the "El Mirage" over, which luckily was around 4-5AM and low traffic time as there was no paved shoulder to the road, so I had to bike on the 1-lane each way highway! That was pretty sketchy. After dawn, I'm making my way towards Palmdale, getting pretty close, but my knee was starting to have very severe pain. I told Bob about it, and he said it looked like during the night my bike seat had drifted too far down and made the length too short. My knee was killing me and I couldn't bike fast anymore. The pace slowed again. I was now worried this knee issue was going to mess this up. Bob raised the seat and I had to bike another 15-20 miles in to Palmdale with this problem, where the RV was waiting at a gas station to troubleshoot my knee situation.
On the painkillers now and my back and ass weren't hurting so bad, but this knee pain was severe. So at Palmdale we had my Dad go to a drugstore and get compression knee braces for both knees, and I called Antonio (who unbeknownst to me was in Peru), and had bet heaps on me, to get a doctor to meet me on the road for a Cort-Aid shot (type of cortisone for join/muscle pain), which happened a little later on the way through Soledad Canyon.
I was worried about time though, so after eating and completing my break, but while all this was still in the works, I left with no knee braces to get back on the road knowing my dad would meet me soon enough. I started up the hills towards Soledad Canyon and banged out one of the hills to enter the canyon before my Dad stopped me to give me the braces and some Beta-Alanine (which my friend Lee Merschon suggested I buy). The knee braces were H-U-G-E. Then I start jamming through Soledad Canyon, and everything started clicking. I was getting kind of close to Dan's and started doing my beasty-est biking of the trip. I was flying down hills at max speed in the highest gear, and really biking like I had been doing this on road bikes for a long time. Bob had given me some biking tips throughout the trip, and I had been applying those as well.
This is a fun ride-by video by Bob McCall from this section
With the knee braces, the pain was gone enough that I felt I was going to make it and my confidence was back. The doctor Antonio sent (who was a biker himself interestingly enough), gave me a shot in the ass on the side of the road in the Canyon, and I was back on the saddle again. I made it down to LA by about noon, and thought I had this so I was taking it a little easy. My support car told me around 1PM I still had 40 miles to go and there were some very steep hills right by Dan's house (not long but big grade like 9-10%) as Dan lives back in Beverly Hills.
You can see I'm using two knee braces in this photo!
So I started pushing it a little faster through LA, but the temperature was high and taking it's toll along with everything else. I had slept for only 2 hours in the last 50 hours, biked 280 miles, was on Hydrocodone, Ibuprofen, Adderall, Cort-Aid, Beta-Alanine, a lot of caffeine. About 20 miles away from Dan's house at around 3PM (so with 4.5 hours to go), I started to feel incredibly hot and exhausted. So I pulled over to the side of the road feeling very out of it, and I could feel my fingers tingling along with feeling super hot - and I started thinking I was having a heart attack. This caused me to have a panic attack. I was freaking out. After a bit, Lee called me and told me this was the Beta-Alanine, and I wasn't having a heart attack. But I was still with anxiety through the roof and I needed Juliana, who has had experience with these before, to come calm me down. She told me this is my brain, talked me back on my bike, and told me I was close and it was time to ignore everything my body was telling me and get to Dan's house.
At this point I was still having other issues. I biked 10 more miles, and I started overheating again so I took another short break. I'm not having a panic attack and I'm definitely in control, but my body has had too much. I can tell that it doesn't have much left in the way of output. I keep on biking, and make it to the Hills which is about 3 miles away from Dan's house, and I have about 3 hours left to go. My body is fried and mentally I'm very out of it. Now the insane hills start, and I just can't push myself enough at this point to bike up them. So I walk up one insane hill which takes like 45 minutes. From the top I bike most of the way to the last hill that leads up to Dan's house. I have about an hour and 45 minutes left (it's about 5:45PM). Dan meets me at the bottom and wants to know how much he can save if I'm willing to stop now to save the pain of the last part. The answer is 0$, though I could barely process what Dan's saying or speak myself. I was so mentally fixated on reaching my goal that tunnel vision had caused my brain to stop functioning normally. I have to do a lot of bike-walking on this last hill to Dan's house, but make it to the door with an hour and fifteen minutes left.
I collapsed at his door, broke down crying with my wife at the door.
After accomplishing my goal for which I had suffered so much, I had an amazing emotional and psychological release at the door. Afterwards, although I was tired, I was able to have a conversation again and talk pretty normally. The tension, anxiety, panic all unwound. The tunnel vision went away.
During the course of accepting and doing the bet, my level of mental commitment to this goal got to the point where I would have risked my life - something that prior to making the bet I never would have done. But it's interesting how the human brain can work, and during the actual performance of an event, the emotional state of being there can change you. It's kind of the same idea as why things always seem more clear when looking from the outside.
This was something so amazing that I will have for the rest of my life. I wanted to show my son what it means to commit to something and follow it through, no matter how difficult the challenges along the way - and I dedicated the ride to him. "I am dedicating that ride to my son, Krishna Borges, in order to teach him an important lesson about being a man and human being. Fundamentally those things did not rest on whether or not I won the bet, although winning was important. It's possible to have very favorable or impossible situations. In life when you commit to do something, you need to commit completely. No matter how difficult it gets you need to see things through and never quit. You will be surprised at the strength that exists inside you when your mind commits to the task at hand wholeheartedly." (Facebook 4/28)
I wanted to do this for my wife whom I love and supported me the whole time. I wanted to do this for my dad, Felipe, Lili, Crystal, Bob, and Heitor who were there with me supporting me the whole way. I wanted to do this for Antonio, Tom, Phil, Lee, Jeff, Silverman, and all my other friends who bet on me. And most of all, I wanted to do this for myself. Life is so relatively comfortable in these modern times compared to the ancient past. Things aren't "do or die" nor matters of survival. We rarely have to truly physically push ourselves to our limits. But this was a moment for me to truly see what I was made out of. A professional bike coach had given me a 0% chance of doing this, and Dan Bilzerian wouldn't let me buy out either.
But none of that mattered. They were wrong and I did it.
I knew it was going to be extremely difficult, and it was without a doubt the single hardest thing I've ever done. But the mental reward for having accomplished this is something that I will have for the rest of my life. Words do a poor job of expressing the pride and satisfaction I have with pushing myself, never quitting, and ultimately winning this bike bet. It's an extra special feeling to come through on a challenge which pushes you to your limit. I had mentally and physically not just gone to the edge, but hung off the damn thing for as long as I could before scraping my way back.
Phil took this picture of me at Dan's house. It was his vision, not mine, but I think it does an exceptional job of capturing the moment.
Below is the crew that went, from left to right: Juliana, me, Krishna, Heitor, Felipe, Lili. This is the next day getting lunch at Sugarfish in Santa Monica. It's missing my Dad and Crystal (who took the picture). What a crew! Thank you guys again!
It was an amazing experience that's also given me a new hobby. It was a crash course in cycling, and now I feel very comfortable on a road bike. I actually bought the bike I completed the challenge in because it's a great bike and has a lot of significance to me after this bet.
In terms of the physical toll the bet took on me. My left knee hurt for about a month to the point where I couldn't do exercise. It gradually healed, but was definitely the worst of my injuries. My upper back would have shooting pain if I raised my arms to shoulder level or above for about 2 weeks, and had some serious knots for months. My leg muscles (mostly quads) were very sore of course, but they were mostly better after a week and totally better by 2 weeks.
You can see a lot of cool videos my wife did cataloguing the trip ranging from before we left our house in Vegas with Dan, the moment I started pedaling with Perkins, and videos of me throughout the trip. They are on her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/julianakarla.carlos
Just go to April of 2016, and the videos and posts are all at the end of the month when I did the bet.
Here's a pretty good, in depth, audio interview I did about this on the 2+2 pokercast right after I completed this:
I come on about 1:00:30 and the interview goes for about an hour.
This is a video/picture compilation put together by Bob McCall: