Race Report: Maria’s Solo Hoodoo 500

Early on Monday morning I completed the 520 mile Hoodoo 500 in southern Utah. This challenging and incredibly beautiful race had been attempted by recumbent riders but never finished before this year when 3 Cruzbike racers finished it. The race has more than 30,000 feet of climbing and most of it is above 6,000 feet with two points on the race near 10,000 feet. I’ve never felt so good about an event for which I fell so far short of my goals. The Hoodoo was another reminder that in an ultra race, anything can happen – finishing is not a given. It was also a reminder of how crucial a good crew is to have any possibility of success.

I actually pedaled the bike, but my crew, Lucia Parker, Gary Christopher and Michael DeMarco get credit for my finish. Somewhere about halfway through the race I was ready to give up and was pedaling so slowly and feeling so sick that it just didn’t seem like there was any way I could finish. I pulled my bike over to the side of the road and told my crew, “I think I’m finished.” I had been riding without being able to take in any food or water for the last 12 hours. I was severely dehydrated, dizzy and my stomach cramped so horribly that I was in tears.

My crew chief, Lucia, gave me two bottles of water with dextrose and electrolytes and told me to just sit in the back of the Suburban and drink them down. I protested. Each sip made my stomach roil and cramp. After just a tiny bit I belched and gagged, but she encouraged me to keep at it. She said, this is our “hail mary pass.”  We all knew if I couldn’t get something in me, there was no way I could complete the remaining 220 or more miles.  So we all sat on the road, and I kept sipping with the crew encouraging me. I was able to keep those bottles down and got back on the bike feeling slightly better.

Over the next 20 hours my crew cajoled and encouraged me. When I vomited they rubbed my back and wiped my mouth, when I stopped to rest they encouraged me to get back rolling and brought me whatever they thought I could hold down.  They talked me through the scary descents and yelled and clapped during the difficult ascents.  They made sure the bike was safe and well-lit when necessary and that the brakes and derailleurs were working. They made me laugh and forwent meals and sleep for 44 hours to see me safely over the finish-line. This  finish belongs as much to them as to me.

The morning of the race started just as planned. I took it easy during the first 100 miles and my nutrition was working. I started at the back of the solo riders and was slowly making my way up through the ranks.

The race began according to plan

The race started just as planned.

I was enjoying the climbing and getting more comfortable on the descents.

Bryce Canyon was beautiful and I loved riding along the quiet and beautiful route 12 into the sunset. Sometime after mile 200, we stopped to take a short break and change to night riding clothing and to put lights on the bike. I ate some reconstituted beef stroganoff which tasted delicious.

When I got back on the bike, I started doing some climbing and my stomach started to give me trouble. I finally stopped riding, threw-up the beef stroganoff and felt better for about 15 minutes, but soon my stomach was in a tight knot. It felt like it had shrivelled in on itself and shut the door tight. I was having trouble getting any food or liquids in. I stopped again and threw up again, ending in dry heaves.  I asked my crew if I could just lie down on the side of the road and rest.  They were worried about me. I had 9 miles of climbing to get to the 9,600 foot summit between Boulder and Torrey. They got me in the car for a short rest. The 9 miles to the top were some of the hardest I have ever done, and the following descent was not much easier. I was not drinking or eating anything, I couldn’t hold it down.  Despite the presence of a full moon, the course seemed really dark and scary. I began praying in earnest for the person I was riding for, a young mother in Virginia, recently diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and was able to keep pedaling until another break in Torrey, and more vomiting.  

Finally I got to the point where I didn’t think I could go on anymore, just past time station 4, about 300 miles into the race.  That’s where my will and desire to finish the race ended and my crew, especially my crew chief, stepped in and made it possible for me to finish.  

Getting back on the bike after the “Hail Mary Pass.”

After I was able to drink the two bottles, we continued. There was a relatively flat section and then the biggest climb, up to Cedar Breaks, still ahead, but we took frequent breaks and my crew just kept encouraging me to drink whatever I could. Eating was out of the question. I had one more episode of vomiting between Time station 5 at Panguitch and the top of Cedar Breaks, but overall the climb went well. I was short of breath and wheezing from the thin air, but reaching the summit, just at dusk was a huge success that I again owed to my wonderful crew.

Hoodoo 500 Race Report Cruzbike

Geared up for night riding and beginning the steep descent to Cedar City

The steep descent into Cedar City would have been more terrifying if I had been less tired, but I felt safe in the beams of the follow vehicle with my capable crew.  The last 100 miles seemed to take forever and even the long descents were no longer fun.  I again spent a lot of time praying for families impacted by brain cancer.

Finally we reached the top of Snow Canyon and I left my crew for the 14 mile solo section.  Riding through the deserted streets of St. George was eerily beautiful. I had been having hallucinations for the last 100 miles, but the street lights of the city made me feel safe and comfortable.

Crossing a finish line is always wonderful. I felt as though I’d won the race even though I had finished more than 7 hours later than I had hoped. I hugged my crew and thanked them.  I would not have finished without those particular three people.  

Hoodoo 500 Race Report

My crew at the finish line. Left to right: Gary Christopher, Michael DeMarco and Lucia Parker

It is also unlikely that I would have finished without the many others supporting me quietly in their thoughts and prayers (especially my Mom and Dad, who don’t get it, but pray for me anyway.) My wonderful husband bathed me and put me to bed for a few hours before the awards ceremony.

We woke just a few hours later for the awards ceremony and breakfast banquet with lots to celebrate – three of three Cruzbike racers finished the Hoodoo 500, setting the bar for recumbents in one of the toughest climbing races in ultra cycling. I’m grateful to Deb and Brian of Planet Ultra for welcoming us to this great event and to my fellow Cruzbikers Lief Zimmerman and Ben Tomblin. I am so lucky to work, ride and race alongside some of the best people in the world.

  1. Reply

    Great ride report. What you and your crew accomplished is amazing. I also liked the comment regarding ultra marathon cycling and not knowing what lies before you in the endurance races. You are simply an inspiration.

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:11 pm

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      Thanks Bob. I’ve been lucky and had good crew (and especially good equipment in the Cruzbike), but there is a lot of room for things to go wrong.

    • Rex Diamond on September 3, 2015 at 10:59 am

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    Maria,
    You are a true inspiration!

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:12 pm

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      Thanks Rex!

    • Vic DeKnight on September 3, 2015 at 11:18 am

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    Congratulations Maria, Leif and Ben! What a story, what a race! Maria, did you ever figure out why your stomach rebelled on you? Y’all are a great inspiration!

    1. Reply

      No, I have no idea. But it’s been a constant problem in my cycling. I’ve tried lots of different things and I’m not sure what it is. Thank you for your encouragement, Vic.

    • Tom Roberts on September 3, 2015 at 11:53 am

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    Glad you finished. Sorry you suffered more than you needed to. Leave the beef stroganoff at home. Great job to you and the crew!

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:13 pm

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      Thanks Tom. I thought of you as I always do during events like this.

    • Richard Ehrlich on September 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

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    Maria, great read and an astounding effort.
    I’ve been having the same problems on running ultramarathons in the last few years. I can go well for 5-10 hours then my stomach is just shutting down on me. Anything I try and eat or drink comes right back up. I’ve managed to get past it at times, other times it never gets better. Nobody has figured it out for me either.

    It gives me a far greater appreciation for what you managed to overcome here and in previous races!

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Reply

      Thanks Richard. It’s frustrating isn’t it? I was well prepared for this event, but I am not sure how to “train” my stomach.

    • Abbott Smith on September 3, 2015 at 2:59 pm

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    Maria,

    Amazing testament of endurance and the power of the Cruzbike family you have fostered. Of all the things that I expected when I first discovered Cruzbikes and bought my Vendetta V20, the caliber, quality and humanity of the Cruzbike Tribe is the thing I that blindsided me. Sigrditha is an incredible bike. But this Tribe is so much more than just the company and its enthusiasts. It is a reflection of you and your family. I cannot begin to express my gratitude or the honor I feel as a small part of the Tribe. Thank you.

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:17 pm

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      Abbot, it’s people like you that make this the most wonderful job/passion/past time in the world. Thanks for joining us and changing your bit of the world too.

    • Edna VanGundy on September 3, 2015 at 5:31 pm

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    Congratulations Maria, Leif and Ben! Nice ride report – great to hear all three of you finished. Not so good that you had stomach issues. I have always found I have no issues when riding my TiRush, but on my Volae Century or my Catrike Expedition, that laid back position makes my stomach upset. I’ve tried various things and mostly liquids is what works for me when riding those two — I hope you find what works best for you.

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Reply

      Thanks Edna. You should be hearing from Ben and Lief over the next few days. For me, I don’t think it’s the angle of the seat, I think it has more to do with my effort level. I can ride the V all day long with no problems as long as I am not going race pace. Thanks for your support.

    • Lanier Meeks on September 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm

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    Yet another amazing adventure! You are an amazing person and cyclist. Also, a special shout out to Ben and Lief for two more awesome displays of recumbent cycling. God bless and God speed!

      • Maria Parker on September 3, 2015 at 10:22 pm

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      Thanks for your kind words Lanier. We are proud of our riders and our bikes!

    • lorraine dean on September 4, 2015 at 8:55 am

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    what a huge accomplishment! you are full of moxie my friend! pretty soon you will not be able to top your last performance as you will have done it all but good on you! ride while and when you can. one never knows when their health may have them on the side lines though clearly it would have to be a heck of health issue to lay you low for long. Congratulations and well done! So proud of you as well as Leif and Ben and Cruz Bike!! big feather for Cruz bike!! Sounds like your crew deserves a medal of their own! It’s a big job and responsibility to be a part of such a crew, you were certainly most fortunate to have each of them able to be there for you. Your daughter sounds like a mini you!

    1. Reply

      You are so right Lorraine, one never knows what’s around the corner. I am grateful for my ability to ride. I’m also so proud of Ben and Lief and especially my crew – it looks like a solo event, but of course it’s not. Lucia is amazing, way more talented than I am and a terrific leader. (I’m so proud of her obviously)

    • Matěj Novotný on September 4, 2015 at 9:00 am

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    Great ride. Congratulations.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Matej!

    • Faye Caton on September 4, 2015 at 9:42 am

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    Maria,
    So proud of you- what an awesome accomplishment! Congratulations!

    1. Reply

      Thank you so much Faye, as always your kind words encourage me.

    • Tammy Funk on September 4, 2015 at 10:02 am

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    Maria, just wow! You continue to amaze me with your grit and determination! You are made of something that very few of us possess. Congratulations on finishing!!

    1. Reply

      Thank you Tammy. I may have grit, but I’m a chicken when it comes to descents – you have me there. Because of the many miles of running together and the years of friendship, I carry a little of you with me all the time.

    • Manfred on September 4, 2015 at 11:08 am

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    Maria,
    you are my “hero”!
    With the picture of you from RAAM (which I saw 2 month ago) my desire to owe and ride/race a Cruzbike started! In the meantime I made my order (thanks to Lucia 😉 )! Congrats for all you’ve accomplished, especially right now the Hoodoo! You are great and I’ll try to follow your path’s in some races in Europe!
    All the very best for (recorvering) and future adventures!
    Manfred

    1. Reply

      Thank you very much Manfred. I’ll look forward to seeing you race!

    • Jacquie Schlitter on September 4, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Reply

    Yet again you make us all so proud of you and your Herculean efforts. You are always an inspiration to me.

    1. Reply

      Likewise Jacquie! I think of you often when I ride – glad we’re in it together.

    • Wendy Harvath on September 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm

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    I am SOOO inspired by you once again Maria! What you’re doing out there on that Cruz bike is just remarkable! Thank you for all you do for those struggling with brain cancer! Way to go!!! 😀

    1. Reply

      Thank you very much Wendy. These hard rides are nothing compared to the ups and downs and suffering of a family going through brain cancer. I hope we can make a difference! I think a reasonable treatment is not far off if we can find the money to fund it.

    • James Webster on September 4, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Reply

    I get the distinct impression that a man having a baby is easier than Ultra riding

    1. Reply

      I can tell you that Ultra riding is a lot like labor. The most important point being that you forget the pain when it’s over.

    • Vincent Paparella on September 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

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    You are right, we don’t get it but we are impressed with you and the team and proud of you.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Dad. I think I get my bravery (and perhaps recklessness) from you.

    • Anne hasler on September 5, 2015 at 4:36 pm

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    Congratulations,Maria . i was very impressed by your achievement in the raam and now hats off to you again who with such humility makes us-particularly female riders -all the more proud to be a cruzbike rider
    And bravo as we say it here in France to the two other cruzbike riders

    • anne hasler on September 6, 2015 at 11:47 am

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    Hats off to you and the two other Cruzbike riders, Maria.I had already been impressed by your achievement in the RAAM and so am I again . What you do makes me all the more proud to be a Cruzbike rider too particularly as a female rider.
    Bravo ! as we would say it here in France.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Anne! I appreciate having another woman out there riding a V! Keep on keeping on.

    • Jan Whitaker on September 7, 2015 at 12:03 am

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    I am overwhelmed by the amazing daunting challenges you undertake. You are such an inspiration!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Jan!! That’s kind of you to say. If I knew what I was getting myself into, I probably wouldn’t undertake them.

    • Lonnie on September 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

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    Hi Maria,
    Through much trial and error with these races I have learned that I can’t digest protein. When my body is under great stress the blood goes to the legs and my digestive system just shuts down. That is why i start vomiting. The body can’t do anything with the food at that point. I have found if I stay with simple carbs and almost all liquids the stomach issues go away. I completed the 508 on Gatorade pretzels apples and fig newton’s. No stomach issues at all.
    Congrats on an amazing accomplishment just finishing that race will standout near the top of all that you accomplish on a bike. You and the other cruzbike riders have shown the rest of us the way. I’m very much encouraged to try these big races on my vendetta. I wasn’t convinced before that I could race that kind of race on this bike but you guys have shown the way.
    Best regards,
    Lonnie

    1. Reply

      Thanks Lonnie. That makes sense based on how I feel, like my stomach is just shutting down. I might try leaving off anything complex if and when I do another long race. Please do give these a try. The V is a great platform for any race, but especially ultra races.

    • Tim on September 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm

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    Maria, Thanks for the report. You are one tough gal. I am wondering if you were not suffering from altitude sickness?!?!

    1. Reply

      Thank you Tim. I think altitude definitely played a part. I do suffer from nausea during long races though, so it probably was a combination of things.

    • Bob on September 28, 2015 at 5:36 pm

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    I met you at the 2015 Recumbent Cycle-Con Trade Show & Convention , first time for me to try the Cruz ,WOW I say !! Found out about your records ,I am glad I saw you , lucky was for me , hope to see you and the Cruz group next year again !

    1. Reply

      Thank you Bob. It was good to meet you. Glad you were able to try the bikes. Perhaps there is one in your future?

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