Quadzilla 2010: A Race Against Time (And Myself)

Me on Cayuga Heights Road, overlooking Ithaca, NY, near the very end of Quadzilla.

As my long-awaited event, the hilly, 400-mile Quadzilla, unfolded this past weekend, my body performed as requested, but my mind did not always follow. This is a bit ironic, because going into the ride I was questioning my physical state more than my mental state.  So it goes.  You can’t predict everything.

I arrived at the Wegmann’s Supermarket parking lot in Ithaca, NY on Saturday morning for the 5 a.m. start with a good case of the pre-ride jitters.  There were 23 Quadzilla entrants, including organizer Mark Frank, for the start.  It was still full dark when we rolled slowly onto Route 13 south and began a journey that we all hoped would finish successfully 40 hours later at the Meadow Court Inn across the street.  Little did we know how hard success would be.

Many long-distance brevet riders I respect have called Quadzilla the toughest ride they have attempted.   The ride has been held about 10 times since it was started by Mark Frank in the mid-1990s. At first, it was called the Finger Lakes 350.  Then he made the fateful decision to add another hilly 50 miles and call it Quadzilla.  A monstrous four century tour of 11 lakes and seemingly every  uphill road around them.  About half the field finishes in a typical year.

The course can perhaps best be summed up by this familiar children’s song that keeps repeating itself:  “The bear went over the mountain and what do you think he saw?  He saw another mountain,” etc.  Imagine being the bear in that song for two days.   If there was a fork in the road, you could assume the route headed the more upward pointing way.

The weather felt cool and comfortable at the start.  The two women in the field, female record holder Michelle D. from New York and Leslie H. from Colorado, set a comfortable pace for the pack over the first three miles to the first climb, up Route 327.  Three riders almost immediately went ahead and disappeared down the road.  I thought about joining them, but thought better of it.  Then a quick right and the climb was on, steep at first.

Later power meter readings would show that this climb continued on and off for the next 30 minutes or so.  The first five minutes I averaged 299 watts, a respectable number for me on a first climb, though nothing outrageous.  Eventually one of the three leading riders dropped back to our group of five, which seemed to be the second group on the road for many miles.  After a long downhill, the five of us stayed together more or less for a while, eventually thinning to three by the time we stopped for water at mile 38 in Watkins Glen.

The way I analyzed this ride, sleep would play a big role for me.  I do not function well mentally or physically if I go completely through the night without sleep.  At PBP in 2007, I couldn’t find my hotel in Loudeac and ended up skipping my sleep stop and riding 46 hours before sleeping.  I am now convinced that that was a major contributing factor to my DNF on that ride.  I was determined to get at least 3 hours of time for the sleep stop in Auburn, allowing me at least 90 minutes of sleep.

Unfortunately, Quadizlla is 25 miles longer than a standard 600k, with the same time limit of 40 hours and a course that has to be as hilly as any 600k anywhere.  That means the sleep stop at the Super 8 comes at mile 270.  To get there by 5 a.m., in order to depart at 8 a.m., would not be easy.  But I had no idea how much harder I would make it.

This was my first trip to the Finger Lakes and I very quickly began to appreciate the spectacular views from the many hills we were climbing.  Lakes and hills were everywhere.  Even I, cautious as ever on descents, was hitting the mid-40s on these downhills.  Physically, I felt good.  Mark the organizer was at the front a lot during this first section.  I remember thinking how strong he looked.

At Watkins Glen, Mark and another rider left before me, as I decided to spend a couple of extra minutes finishing my chocolate donuts (it works for me).  That left me alone for the first time and required me to start paying close attention to the cue sheet.  After all, I no longer was riding behind the organizer.  Going out of the parking lot, I made a right instead of a left.  Just like that, I wasted a mile going right and a mile retracing my steps when I realized my mistake.  Each mile represented about six minutes of lost time.  So I had gained 90 minutes to that point on the road, then gave 12 of them back.

No problem, I thought.  I just kept on alone.  I kept nearly catching up to Marcel M. from Quebec, who seemed to be having all sorts of problems with his cue sheet and his English.  But somehow he made up for it with sheer strength and determination.  I frequently saw him during the next 40 miles or so, as we rode through more persistent heat and humidity.  At mile 75 or so, we rolled through the town of Hammondsport, as usual along the lake.  All the towns seemed to be on the lakes, and at the bottom of the elevation scale.

Sure enough, the first really nasty grade of the ride, Greyton Taylor Mem. Blvd., greeted us on the outskirts of town.  This ride, exposed to the increasing heat, must have baked my brain, because about five miles later, my concentration failed me.  The cue sheet clearly said, “Mattoon Rd, R.”  But instead of turning right, I turned left.

It was only after six miles, when the road turned to dirt, that I realized my mistake.  I probably lost close to an hour.  It demoralized me at first.  Now with 80 miles in, I only had about an hour of time banked.  I needed at least three hours by the sleep stop at mile 270 in Auburn.  The climbing now felt relentless, capped by a vicious assent up Gannett Hill for the first checkpoint.  By now many riders had passed me and was nearer the back of the pack then the front.  But I started seeing fewer and fewer riders as I went on.

I opted for the full 400-mile option at the 132-mile checkpoint at Springwater, then pulled in right on my schedule about 7:40 p.m. at Letchworth State Park, where I answered the question about the plaque overlooking the waterfall.  A wedding party was being photographed, with a recording of Whitney Houston hits in the background (”IIIIIIIIIIIII, will alwaaaaaaaaaaays, love youuuuuuuuuuu).  Lauren, one of the volunteers at this stop, at about mile 167, commented that I looked good.  I started to believe I would be OK.  I now had two hours of time to spare.  I needed a third to sleep.  Without sleep, I didn’t think I would ride fast enough to make the time cut.

The next two stages were in darkness.  A cover band playing T-Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” lifted my spirits further.  I wasn’t exactly rocking along the highway, but I was getting there.  The second overnight stage, from the lakeshore town of Canandaiga to the Auburn sleep stop, was relatively flat and I was able to pick up  that coveted third hour.  I walked into the Super 8 at exactly 5 a.m.  Perfect.  Counting the 14 bonus miles, I had just gone 284 very hilly miles in 24 hours, the second furthest I have ever ridden in a day, behind the 324 on the very flat NJ 600k in 2007.  I am convinced this was the toughest 24 hours I’ve spent on a bicycle.  Because this ride had so many long uphills and downhills, average power was less reliable than on flatter rides.  Normalized power is a better metric.  My normalized power for the 24-hour period was 169 watts, the best ever for that amount of time.

Without even eating much, I showered, changed clothes and  fell asleep by 5:45.  Though I arranged a 7:30 wakeup call, I woke by myself at 7:15, getting 90 minutes of deep sleep.  It doesn’t sound like much and it wasn’t.  But it would have to do.  I rolled out again a few minutes before 8.  About 128 miles to cover in 13 hours, if I was to make the cutoff.

Some of the climbs on the second day were brutal, especially Hitchings Road, which the cue sheet labels “a real ass biter.”  It didn’t disappoint.  You could see the climb looming ahead, filling your heart with despair.  I slogged up it though, averaging a respectable 245 watts for the first five minutes, the steepest part.  Many thanks to my secret weapon, my granny gear of a 30-34.  It was put to good use.

I was starting to feel better about my chances of finishing when the rain began.  It came and went for hours, at times drenching me.  It slowed my descent to a crawl at times.  I began to worry again about time.  I had about 45 minutes in hand, enough for a small mechanical or two.  After a third route mistake, costing me an additional two miles, about 40 miles from the finish, I caught up with Craig M. and we rode together more or less for the last 3o miles or so back to the finish.  The rain stopped.  We picked up a little more time.  Craig and I had ridden together for parts of the Endless Mountains 1240k last fall and we had an eerily similar conversation about how few people were still on the course.  Last fall it was 22 of 48 starters who finished.  This time the percentage was even lower.

After Craig and I finished, Mark Frank said his preliminary figures were only seven Quadzilla finishers this year out of 23 starters.  As it turned out, there were a total of 9 riders making the 40-hour cutoff.   Allowing for age adjusted times, there were a total of 11 Quadzilla finishers and three finishers of the Finger Lakes 350.  I was thrilled to be one of them.  I had survived on just 90 minutes of sleep for nearly 40 hours through the hilliest course you can imagine. Whatever else happens the rest of this year, my goal is met.  My season is made.

Congratulations to Dennis DeLong and Henrik Olsen on setting a new Quadzilla course record at 29:54.


My goal event has gone successfully and now it’s a rest week.  I will decide this weekend whether I want to ride the PA 1000k.  I feel pretty beaten up right now.

14 comments to Quadzilla 2010: A Race Against Time (And Myself)

  1. Guy
    August 17th, 2010 at 8:24 pm


    Great ride, congratulations!!! Glad that your plan worked the way you had it laid out. I still put all climbing on brevets in the Quadzilla perspective. I remember riding a nice pace south along one of the lakes and then the cue says something like sharp left - lowest gear! (Maybe it was Church Road?) Anyway, 34-25 on my compact for what seemed like miles. Looked back and Ralph was walking almost as fast. Now the mind can debate - EM1240 or Quadzilla, which was tougher? Guy

  2. Roy
    August 17th, 2010 at 8:47 pm


    That’s a very interesting account that puts the feat of finishing in perspective.

    I’m surprised that your 30-34 gear was a secret weapon since it’s not a secret among randonneurs.

    Also, maybe you are ready for a garmin? The brainpower used to read a cue sheet does slow you down.

  3. Shane
    August 17th, 2010 at 9:10 pm


    Great job! You’ve been climbing really well, I would of been really surpised if you didn’t finish, guess all that hard work paid off.


  4. Doug
    August 17th, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Jud, congrats on making it! I was the third rider who jumped on the lead group out of the start. I had no idea where I belonged in this pack, so I figured I would start out in the front and work my way back. I had set a high power alarm on my Garmin 705 at my 20 min power of 300W, and my goal was to try to stay below that to make it through this ride. I was getting the raspberry just drafting behind these guys in the flat, so I knew I wasn’t going to hang with them long. So I decided to just suck wheel to the first climb, and use the head start to recover before the next pack caught me. You did the right thing by staying back.

    I joined your group of five for part of the first climb, and did my peak 5min power of 327W then (still getting the raspbery). Then I backed off and ended up with the one other rider behind.

    I had the course in my GPS, and wasn’t trying to read the cue in the dark. The other rider was reading the cue and called a right turn before my GPS showed it, so I assumed the GPS track I got didn’t reflect the latest cue, and I turned too. After the next turn, we re-joined the course on my GPS and began descending just as it got light. We passed one other rider going the other way, which was strange. A few miles later, we realized what happened. We got turned around after the wrong turn, and were now descending back down first climb heading back to the start!

    The whole group had passed us while we were looping around, and we just saw the one lone rider off the back. So now we were way behind the weakest link, with 10 bonus miles, and a bonus climb to boot. The other rider decided to jump on it to try to catch the group. I decided to stick to my power plan, and climb at a more sustainable rate for my 230lbs (the second time up the first climb I peaked 20 min at 265W). Now I was alone in the back, with the better part of an hour shot to hell.

    I brought a 34/28 compact, which had served me well up until this ride. But once the grade got over 12% on the climbs, my cadence dropped below 50, and I had to walk (and I wasn’t the only one). I did a lot of S-turns as well. It made me miss the granny gear on my touring bike. The organizer had told me that they climb at 4 and descend at 40 mph, and that’s a perfect description of the Finger Lakes topography on this ride.

    The one thing you forgot to mention was the wind. It had to be blowing 20 mph out of the SW all day and night. When the course turned south on 414 into Watkins Glen, I think I would have been going backwards if it wasn’t a downgrade. It also made my bike a little squirrely on the crosswind descents.

    I caught up to Leslie H at Lamoka Lake and rode ahead after the secret control. She was training for the UMCA Race Around Ireland in a month, and was just enjoying the ride. I ran into her again after climbing out of Hammondsport, and we rode together to the lunch stop, but then she left ahead of me. I didn’t see her again until the next stop at Springwater just before 6pm. Michelle D. was there also, but was ready to go sooner.

    As you said, Springwater is the decision point for the FL350 cutoff. Our pace to this point put us on the bubble for the 40 hour event time cutoff. I was trying to earn UMCA Ultracycling Cup points for the event, so taking the cutoff meant no points. I was inclined to press on because the FL350 was the same as a DNF, so I had nothing to lose. But with nightfall imminent, the three of us at the checkpoint decided to stick together for the night, and take the FL350 cutoff as Michelle D had done before us. Since she had done this ride many times, and done well, that was probably the wiser choice.

    We rode with Stan from Canada for a while, but after stopping a few times to wait for him, we decided to press on. The FL350 cutoff had one super nice long descent that I took at 25-30 mph tucked in the aerobars freewheeling for a long, long time. That run was worth the whole trip!

    Michelle left ahead of us again at the stop in Geneseo. Stan came in behind with another rider. Down the road, we found Michelle stopped nursing an aching back, so we took a break too, and left together. We passed through the Canandaigua rest stop together. The wind was blowing so hard there, you had to hold your plate down so your dinner didn’t blow away. My bike blew over twice!

    So I was riding with the ladies all the way to the sleep stop in Auburn. I picked up a pain on the outside of my left knee on the way out of the last stop. We also had to stop to fix a flat at one point, and we also took an extra break at a gas station. We got in to the Super-8 at 5:10, just 10 minutes after you.

    I had not booked a room, because I planned to blow through there with a shower and a nap a lot earlier. The bonus miles, the wind, and probably too many miles last weekend, had me well off my plan. My knees ached from all the low cadence climbing (with more to come), and the new pain was not going away. I still had enough time to finish before the cutoff, but my spousal unit was waiting back in Ithaca to drive my sorry ass home for work on Monday. A 9pm departure was not going to go over well. I was also concerned whether I could stay awake the whole 40 hours, after only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before.

    I decided to take a shower, a nap, and another double dose of Ibuprofen, and make a final decision at 6am. My knee was no better then, but not so bad that I couldn’t continue. My real worry was that continuing would screw up my training for the ADK-540, so I decided to pull the plug. This was a just for fun ride now that I was on the FL350, and it wasn’t going to be any fun for me or my wife. So I woke her up and told her to bring the sad sag wagon. I knew there were a lot of DNFs already and there would be a lot more based on the late arrivals, probably due to the wind. So I didn’t feel too bad about my first DNF. When it started raining, that eliminated any regrets.

    My power meter files off the 705 have to be broken up, and I have not found a way to combine them. The first 6-1/2 hours my average was 152 and xPower was 207W (basically the same as normalized power). The next 3 hours were 122/168, and the next 2 were 132/179. But the night ride from Geneseo to Auburn was only 77/138.

    This was the first time I rode 24 hours straight. I rode further and longer on the NJ600K this year, but I spent 7 hours at the sleep stop since I had time to burn, rather than burning up in the heat. This was a good warm-up for the ADK-540. I’m probably going to show up for that a little lighter and with longer cranks.

    I’m taken again by how similar our experiences were, as with the PA400K (except of course that you finished!).

  5. Jud
    August 18th, 2010 at 1:06 am


    Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t know how I could leave out the wind. We kept changing direction so you never knew where it was coming from. Thanks also for sharing your power numbers. Mine dropped off a lot into the ride as well. Good luck on the ADK 540. I’ve ridden the Lake Placid area many times and it’s very beautiful, challenging terrain.


  6. Jud
    August 18th, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Shane and Roy,

    Thanks for the kind words. This was the kind of ride that hurt a heck of a lot. It still hurts two and a half days later. Doug is right about the wind. It blew pretty much the whole time about 20-25 mph. We just kept changing direction so I guess I didn’t notice it as much.

    Shane, I think working on my climbing, and especially doing courses like Hillier that demanded repeated recovery, helped a lot.

  7. Tom Rosenbauer
    August 18th, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Congratulations … that is a fantastic accomplishment, and one I’m sure that will put every other difficult ride from now on, into a different perspective.

    Thanks for great job in representing our local NJ/PA region by being one of the few riders able to finish an especially tough edition of QuadZilla!

    Best Regards,

    -Tom Rosenbauer
    Eastern PA RBA

  8. Henrik Olsen
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Great ride report Jud and congratulations on finishing a very grueling course! The steepness of the hills certainly made this a more challenging race than I had envisioned. I was riding with a compact crank and a 12-27 cassette, and I was barely able to turn over the cranks on some of the steeper sections. A 30-34 setup would have been ideal and saved my knees from a lot of pain. This ride certainly ranks up there with EM1240 in difficulty. I was riding at the front with Dennis DeLong (RAAM 1990-1993), who was setting a ferocious pace from the beginning, and I’m glad I left my power meter at home, because if I had been able to see my power output on the first hill, I’m sure I would have dropped back too.

    I was also considering the PA1000k, but I don’t think I will have recovered in time, so I’ll likely ride the ADK540 instead. Henrik

  9. Dov K.
    August 18th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Congratulations !!!! thanks for sharing this great story . Dov K.

  10. Nigel.
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Great ride report. And congrats on an extremely impressive accomplishment.

  11. Jon Levitt
    August 20th, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Congratulations Jud!
    Fantastic accomplishment. Your fellow NY, NJ and PA randonneurs
    are very proud. Well done!

  12. George S
    August 21st, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Hey Jud! Congratulations on a fine accomplishment. I’ve enjoyed reading about your training and am so glad to hear that you succeeded on this mighty challenge. I’m jealous that I was unable to ride it as well, which is easy to say in the comfort of my home. Hope to see you on the EM 1000K if you recover. All the best!

  13. Renato Alessandrini
    August 23rd, 2010 at 3:42 pm


    congrats on your finish. i was one of the five in the second pack early on day 1. i waited for my friend brian who later had stomach problems at letchworth park control and had to call it quits. i waited about 2 hours before deciding to leave him with lauren at the control. he recovered and did a strong second leg from auburn. i barely made it to auburn about 14 minutes before the control closed at 0800. i slept only two minutes and left there just before 0900.

    i thought i could ride the second day 130 mile leg easily in 12 hours. i was riding comfortably with mark sheehan when he stopped and told me it doesn’t look good. he said he could not increase his speed to ride last 52 miles in 4 hours. i wished him well and i raced down mitchell rd in the rain then hammered up to arnold rd and rockefeller rd along owasco lake. from there, rollers and downhill to locke was fast. i was hammering mostly tucked down on the handlebars for speed. i think my previous racing ironman days came in handy. i thought i to myself i didn’t come here to be a DNF! going up the west hill rd was painful and slow. my legs were sore and arms very tired from all the hill climbing. i did not walk any part of the course but snaked up the very steep hills in my 39:28 gear ratio. hwy 90 was a pleasure as was coming down salmon creek rd into ludlowville. Coming up brickyard road with very little time left and a head wind i thought i was not going to make it. i put my head down yet again and turned it on heading towards ithaca on hwy 34. Once in ithaca i got lost near cayuga st. Luckily after asking several people one man pointed me in the right direction with less than 5 minutes left. I arrived elated at 8:59 however i was not thinking straight and went into the adjacent thai restaurant parking lot by mistake. realizing this frightening mistake after some strange looks from the people dining there i turned back and went into the meadow court inn parking lot where everyone was excited to see me! I slowing pulled myself off the bike and immediately eased myself on the ground. i laid there for about 20 minutes before i could stand. there was no way i could drive so i booked a room at meadow court inn.

    this ride is very hard to finish in time if there is any adversity. hopefully there will be another quadzilla next year. congrats to you again and all who participated.

  14. jud
    August 23rd, 2010 at 4:27 pm


    That was some job you did finishing literally at the last minute. It was a very tough ride. It wasn’t until the last hour or so that I felt sure I was out of the woods.


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