Last week I headed to the desert with my husband for one of our favorite rides. It’s not my typical style. If I had to pick any type of ride as my all-time favorite, it would definitely be high alpine flowy singletrack. But this one’s different. It’s a double track…flowy a times, sandy at times, and bumpy-enough-to-make-you-cuss at times.
What makes great? The scenery. Canyons below you. Canyons above you. It’s the White Rim Trail, located in an area called “Island in the Sky” (you can’t lose with a name like that!). It’s in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah.
This would be the third time I’d ridden it. And while many folks choose to make it a mult-day tour, we’ve always gone for WRIAD (White Rim in a Day). It’s just over 100 miles from campsite back to campsite (a loop), about 6000 total feet elevation gain (with a huge heap of that right at the end), and it’s sure to please any type of cyclist – mountain, cross, or road.
This week, I’ll list my fueling goals, my fueling plan, and my ride report. I hope you enjoy the scenery. And better yet, if you’ve never been, I hope you consider your own trip out and around the White Rim.
Recipe of the week: WRIAD Nutrition Goals & Fuel
- Pre-ride Smoothie with ~80 gm carbs, beetroot powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and 5 grams l-glutamine
- 1 Powerbar Strawberry Banana Gel
- 16 oz. water
- 1 (200 mg) No-Doze Caffeine Pills
- 8 PowerBar Strawberry Banana Gels
- 1 LARA Bar
- 3 Sourdough Bacon Swiss Mini Sandwiches
- 1 cup Candied Ginger Pieces
- 100 oz. Homebrew with 60 grams carbs and 450 mg sodium per 8 ounces
- 20 oz.water
- 6 (100 mg) 1/2 No-Doze pills
- 1 Red Bull
- ~100 grams carbs, 400-600 mg sodium, and 16 ounces fluid in pre-training
- During the ride I aim for: 60-90 grams carbs per hour, 12-18 oz.. fluid per hour*, 550-700 mg sodium per hour, 75-100 mg caffeine per hour
- Every 2.5-3 hours, or when/if I’m sensing a “hollow” queasy stomach, a solid real food option that’s enjoyable to eat .
- Make your pre-ride smoothie ahead of time and keep it in a cooler. About 60 minutes before starting, drink pre-ride smoothie. 10-15 minutes before starting, eat gel & caffeine pill. Sip water until you start, but do not distend your belly with it.
- Every hour: Drink ~12 oz. homebrew (~40 gm carbs, 270 mg sodium), eat 1 gel (25 mg carbs, 200 mg sodium, 25 mg sodium).
- Every 1-2 hours: Add few ginger chews and 100 mg caffeine. Drink water when needed (in addition to homebrew).
- Every 3-ish hours or just when you need ot stop and get something in your stomach: Eat a mini bacon sourdough sandwich.
*This is less fluid that I normally recommend per hour (generally, minimum of 18 oz./hour). However, there is room for flexibility. The low temps, early morning start, and fast-and-light style of this ride allowed me to reduce this goal.
My husband and I were stoked for the opportunity to go ride this together – my parents had come up to our home to stay with our four kids. We headed out on Friday afternoon, and it was rainy and stormy for the entire 5 hour trip out towards Moab. We set up camp, cooked a quick dinner, and tried to get some sleep not knowing for sure if it would be dry enough to ride the next.
We woke to cold temperatures and began drinking our smoothies to prepare for the ride. We started pedaling and decided we’d make a final decision to continue or not after seeing the condition of the dirt and sand (it had been raining for several days).
We rode quickly (mostly to warm up) along Mineral Bottom Road to the entrance of the canyon. Conditions seemed prime. After the flat road traverse, you descend down almost a thousand feet. You can choose to ride the loop counter-clockwise or clockwise (we’ve always ridden it counter clockwise). Once you descend, you have a lot of pedaling in front of you, and 3 major climbs looming. For the time being though, you get beautiful views and smooth riding along the Green River.
Throughout the ride, I drank my homebrew from a camelbak and ate a gel and caffeine just about every hour. When we stopped for pictures or for our planned fueling stops, I added candied ginger pieces, water from a bottle on my bike, and small bacon sandwiches.
From the flat river section, there are two climbs, Hardscrabble and Murphy’s Hogback, about ~450- and 600-foot climbs, respectively. Both are somewhat technical and challenging. But, they are nothing compared to the last climb out.
We continued to push our pace, climbing and spinning. We stopped for our first “real food” break around the 3 hour mark, and hit the 50 mile mark at about 4:15:00 (this is right at the top of Murphy Hogback). After a quick descent, it was more spinning to get to the bottom point (Whitecrack) at which you begin your 180 degree turn to head back up towards the Shafer Switchbacks and out of the canyon.
At the ~6 hour, and 70 mile mark, we stopped for more real food. This was also a bit of a wall for me, the point at which one by one I feel every different part of my body aching. My knee, then my quad, then my shoulder (dang that pack!), everything. Along with the real food, we both took caffeine. After this ride, I am even more of a believer in caffeine, not only does it pep you up and improve mental focus, it literally reduces your sensation of pain and fatigue. Within 10 minutes, we were rolling strong again, mostly pain free.
The next section of the ride, while still beautiful, requires some mental toughness. You must pedal up and down washes, and over bumpy sections of rock. It can feel like it goes on F-O-R-E-V-E-R. And while there’s a bit of dread in the pit of my stomach realizing that I still must climb out of there, I cannot wait to actually see Shafer Switchbacks. The irony.
And then you see it. I ate my 3rd real food sandwich. We drank our traditional Red Bulls and stared down the opponent. It was time to finish this thing.
There’s nothing technical about Shafer Switchbacks. It’s just spinning and maintaining a steady, slow heartbeat and breathing while your legs feel like they are about to seize up at any minute. It’s just spinning after spinning for 90 miles, you know. I was dripping sweat and hurting but just kept spinning (I had only ridden up to 39 miles at a time in 2015, and took a full 5 month break off the bike from Nov 2014 through March 2015 – yes, my legs were burning). Switchback by switchback you climb, and before you know it you’ve gained significant elevation. And then, it levels out, and you must keep spinning along the rim until you’re finally done. Sort of.
After just a few more miles of rolling hills on pavement, I spotted our camp. Yes! If you’d like to view the ride via Strava, you can find it here. For some reason, the total miles, and therefore mph were incorrect (by about 200 miles!), but all segments and times as verified with a secondary device are correct.
Times: We had planned for 10 hours…this is what most of my fueling was based off of. We had preciously ridden it in 10-11 hours at a leisurely pace, and we were hoping for a time between 9 and 10. As a dreamer, I hoped for a sub-9 hour White Rim ride (from the Mineral Bottom Road entrance to the pavement afterwards), but really thought that was a long shot, especially in the Spring after not riding all Winter (I ski in the Winter).
Actual times: We arrived back at camp at 9:38:00, and the White Rim portion turned out to be 8:59:46 – I made it by the skin of my teeth! Yeehaw!
That’s about it. My ride, my time and fueling goals, and my fueling plan. After worrying about the conditions, it turned out to be absolutely perfect. Sand was packed down but never muddy or sticky. The temps maxed out in the low 60s. We had a great time. I hope you enjoyed the ride…I sure did!
If you’d like to plan your own ride, the White Rim is a bucket-list sort of ride in my opinion. Many riders ride it in a day, while others keep it leisurely or family-friendly in 3-4 days. If you want more info on this trip, you can start with http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/whiterimroad.htm.
And lastly, if you’d like help with planning your own fuel for this or any other century, race, or ride, I can help! Along with my Instant Download plans and full Custom Nutrition Plans, I now offer a One-Time Race/Adventure Fuel Plan consultation. Check it out here!
Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.
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