The hardest race in America: Outside has a great story and interview up with the founders of the Barkley Marathons, a 100 mile race in the mountains of Tennessee that requires racers to be completely self supported, traverse over 60,000 vertical feet and finish in under 60 hours. The race started in 1986. To date, only 14 people have finished. By comparison, 12 people have walked on the moon. Which makes the Barkley Marathons a slightly easier endeavor than traveling through space to the Earth’s nearest celestial body, taking a small landing module down to the surface, walking around some, and then returning to Earth via a slingshot effect utilizing the moon’s gravitational pull. The interview with the founders of the race is both entertaining and a nice little look into the sadism that is required to create something like Barkley. My favorite quote from the piece, from Gary “Laz” Cantrell, one of the founders: “We play “Taps” on the bugle for each loser as they come in. It’s the final indignity: In the middle of the night people can come up to see who’s bit the dirt. People really hate to have taps played for them, but they all seem to want you to enthusiastically play it for the others.” Sounds like a bucket list race right? Right.
Performance enhancement through evolutionary override: The Sweat Science author, Alex Hutchinson, has a great piece up in The Globe and Mail looking at some new studies that used electricity to essentially trick athlete’s brains into overriding fatigue. Essentially, physical fatigue results from both physiological and psychological causes. Studies have show that immediately before an athlete reaches their perceived exhaustion threshold, signals in the brain increase, specifically in the regions that control movement and receive signals from the body. Which indicates that exhaustion, and the desire to stop doing something strenuous seems to be an evolutionary adaptation; we don’t want our bodies to keep going to the point of a complete shutdown. So, naturally, scientists are looking at ways to override this handy little mechanism, by essentially using electrical impulses to stop the signals in the brain that occur when the body is near exhaustion. Hutchinson points out that these electrical overrides have the same effect on the athlete’s performance as doping. The sport of cycling: eliminating evolutionary limits for the pursuit of athletic glory.
Mt. Hood, by bike: Men’s Journal has a cool trip idea for the Mt. Hood wilderness outside of Portland, OR which involves a mountain bike, some hut visits, and lots of great singletrack and wilderness exploring. When you are done make sure to explore Hood River a bit, maybe check out some kite surfing, and definitely eat at Double Mountain.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge Route: We are pretty late on this, but the USA Pro Cycling Challenge route has been released and features a couple of new stages including a 21.6 mile per lap circuit in the Aspen/Snowmass area and the combination of Independence Pass and Hoosier Pass in a single stage. The event is sadly skipping Colorado Springs and Boulder, but as usual with finish in downtown Denver. Perhaps this year’s race will see the advent of electrical stimulation helmets.
Riding your bike on the road should terrify you: The Adventure Journal has a post up (with a handy graph) talking about the results from a recent British study that seems to demonstrate that more than 20 percent of cyclists are not seen by drivers. Which is relatively terrifying. The results may have a large margin of error (only 100 drivers were studied), but if true presents a much scarier proposition when deciding to take your bike out for a spin. I recommend more bright colored lycra.