June 11, 2003
Serving Western Deschutes County
Sisters, Oregon

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Sisters cyclist sets high standard
By Kathryn Godsiff

Gregg Geser digs in on a climb. Photo by Anne Geser
Gregg Geser secured his place in the elite world of ultra-cycling when he won the Race Across Oregon during the weekend of May 31-June 1.

As he was the first winner on a new, 538.5 mile course, his time of 35 hours and 25 minutes will be the mark future racers strive to beat.

The course is 11 miles longer and has many more feet of vertical climb than the previous one, yet Geser beat last year's winning time by nearly an hour.

The race began in Portland and headed east, forming a scenic loop which included Maupin, the John Day River, Prineville and Madras, finishing at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.

"The course was very pleasing to the eye," said Geser.

This compensated in a very small way for the physical agonies of pedaling a bike virtually non-stop for nearly a day and a half, and making a total elevation climb of over 40,000 feet.

"I began to wonder where all the flat ground had gone," he said.

When Geser fronted up to the start line for the Race Across Oregon, he wondered if his previous race success had been a fluke. He had come in fifth at Furnace Creek, a big race held in the fall across the California desert.

His Oregon victory proved otherwise.

While obviously delighted to have proved a thing or two to himself, he is quick to give credit to his support team of wife Anne, trainer Rich Hummel from Sisters Athletic Club, and brother Gary.

"We learned a lot from the experience at Furnace Creek, which helped this race," said Anne.

"We were more organized in the support van and we each found our niche in which to help Greg."

The support crew members had to have their own brand of mental toughness in order to stay upbeat and alert for Geser while coping with sleep deprivation.

Dishing out bottles of liquid food every hour and keeping a chart of everything done for Geser were part of the support team's tasks.

Geser learned that sticking to a liquid diet during the race worked best.

"I craved solids and tried some watermelon and yogurt, but my stomach reacted and it just wasn't worth it," he said.

"The rest stops for Greg were very brief, about five minutes each," said Anne.

During the stops, Hummel would massage Geser's legs and ice his feet, which had become very painful with the pressure of pedaling, especially during the uphill phases.

Geser learned from this race, and from Furnace Creek, that the body will perform amazing things when it has had proper training and conditioning.

"It is the mind which can stop things," said Geser.

"For instance, I thought I was the only one having to battle with little demons on my shoulder telling me it was too hard and who did I think I was trying this. I found out that that is perfectly normal, and you just learn to talk back to them, then push them off into the ditch."

He will be working on the mental-toughness thing while preparing for this year's Furnace Creek race.

Geser acknowledged that ultra-cycling is a strange kind of sport.

It isn't very spectator friendly, and one can seem rather self-absorbed while training as well as during a race.

He is slowly coming to realize that the accomplishments of ultra-athletes are far reaching.

"Some friends came out to Terrebonne to cheer; they saw me for about 20 seconds, but it was a tremendous boost at that stage of the race," he said.

" I found out later that one of them went home to do his usual run and when he finished he went out and did it again, thinking that if I could go all that way on a bike, he could manage a few more miles on his run."

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