Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Good Life

"We believe in the necessity of a healthy body as one factor of a good life" - HealthSPORT corporate values.

Looking back over the last few blog posts, it was an amazing run...Crater Lake. Arcata. Ring of Fire. Tillamook Double. Tejas Time Trials. Furnace Creek. Double Trouble. Seven weeks of (almost) nonstop biking. When I wasn't biking, I was getting ready for biking, or crewing someone else who WAS biking. I set two course records. I traveled enough that my credit card got put on fraud alert (always a sign of a good time....).

I'll freely admit - I love road trips. If you're patient - if you shut up, turn off the gadgets, and just watch and listen - you'll see what America is really all about - good, bad, and ugly, but mainly good. I was incredibly lucky to get to just go, do, and experience. You haven't lived until you've had Sunday dinner at the Dinner Bell in Muleshoe, Texas. (Yes, in Texas, on Sunday, any meal that takes place after church lets out is "dinner".)

I wouldn't trade all of the experiences I had during that stretch for all the tea in China, or even - since I'm not much of a tea drinker - for the lost wages of not having a regular job during that time. It was just what the doctor ordered - a lot of riding, a lot of friends, a lot of variety. It kept me sane during what would've almost certainly been the Great Post RAAM Crash of 2010. And it lasted just long enough.

By the time I found myself at the Imperial River Company, taking in the post-ride festivities for the inaugural Double Trouble, dirty-dancing with a tipsy, cross-dressed clown wasn't even close to the weirdest experience I'd had recently - and although I had a great time, I knew that the party was over and that I was looking forward to....home.
disclaimer: I am not in this picture. 

So I packed up my last few things, put Cog in the passengers' seat, and headed to Arcata, CA.

Yep. I've moved to Arcata - aka the Team Raven Lunatic Asylum. Wanting to be here kinda crept up on me. The smaller town feel is great, and I really like the way that the university integrates with the town. The people I've met are warm, welcoming....The question I heard the most? "When are you coming back?"

When I visited in September, Mary left a stack of job announcements beside the bed in my guest room. I'm pretty decent at taking hints, so I started applying...and before you know it, I landed a part-time job at HealthSPORT in Eureka. Bill offered me a place to stay for the time being. Just like that - I'm moving to Arcata.

Everything happened so fast that the last couple of weeks of my whirlwind tour ended up doubling as the world's craziest moving party! Mark Biedrzycki offered the use of his oversized van for the bulk of the move. Getting that van ready to go was a multi-day affair. Typical of a Mark-induced adventure, it was rife with gallery openings, crazy amazing meals, cyclocross, and a trip to the Oregon Handmade Bike show - a quick overview of Portland culture - stuff I'll miss, for sure, but I know it's going to be there when I visit.

I'd figured that I'd be able to move the bulk of the stuff down on Monday, and have a few days to regroup before heading back for Double Trouble, but technical difficulties - a delaminated tire, a quick(?) trip to the DMV - meant that I spent a couple extra days in Portland. Finally, I got the van loaded with (most of) my stuff and headed south. I called Bill to let him know that I was en route, to which he replied, "the house is ready for you".

"The house is ready for you"...After all of my wandering, that just sounded amazing. I've tried to think of things that I've heard that were that good or better. So far, the best I've been able to come up with is, "ten fingers, ten toes, and perfectly healthy".

And the house was ready. The time and effort that Bill put into making room for another person - complete with a suite of bike paraphernalia that's unrivaled outside of a retail store - amazing. To say that I felt warmly welcomed doesn't do it justice.

Bill's doormat. When you're here, you are here.

Then - after an all-too-short day on Thursday emptying out the van and trying to put things where they weren't horribly in the way of a well-ordered existence - I headed back early Friday. Once more into the breach...dumped off Mark's van, picked up mine, and headed to Maupin for a bit of a bike ride...

ok, I AM in this picture. We're between Grass Valley and Moro.
I've been in Arcata for just over a week. I feel....lucky (surprise!). There's a rhythm to life here that seems to bring out the best in people. Maybe it's partly the "new place" effect, but everything feels close, simple, and - right. I already know more people here than I did in Eugene. Sure, I had a head start, but - I've been thrust into a real community for the first time since the Albany/Corvallis days. I'm looking forward to`a Good Life. 

Next projects: settling in, rebuilding top-end speed, and in general getting ready for my revenge on Sebring. I had a great race there last year, and I want to do better. 



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Team Raven Lunatics ROCKS the 508!!!

Team Photo - Finish Line. photo credit Chris Kostman



This has been a big year for me. I've gotten a lot done: a well-contested RAAM DNF and four new course records under my belt: three solo 24s and the very first mixed recupright team record in ultracycling history. I crewed a very successful RAO for my friend Joan, and I started a new era in Oregon double centuries by launching the Tillamook Double. It might've been enough, but I saved the best for last. Really.

I crewed Team Raven Lunatics to a record-setting 50+ recumbent record at Furnace Creek. OK. The super-cool part is that I did just a little bit more than crewing it. I MADE the team. From scratch. Decided that it should happen. Figured out who should be on the team, convinced them (OK, that part wasn't hard), and signed 'em up.

The heart and soul of this team is my friend David Bradley. David has worked tirelessly for the sport of ultracycling for years. There have been years when he's been racing strongly, and years when he's “only” been a supporter: the guy you can call 24/7 during RAAM for advice, who puts together route maps for all of the RAO races, who you can count on for van signage, team shirts, spare lights and GPS systems, whatever. The years he's not been racing bikes, he's been racing sarcoma. This year, he's been doing a little of each, but mainly bikes. It was time for a celebration ride. I thought of Furnace Creek because it's late in the season – giving us the most time to prepare - and David's always there one way or another.

So...who to put on the team with David? Bill, for sure: he's one of David's best cycling buddies. And Jim. And then....we need a fourth. So - why not go big? I wrote John, promised him I'd have all the team on Bacchettas, and that they'd definitely be setting a record, and that it would be great publicity for Bacchetta....Once I dropped David's name, I honestly don't think the rest of it really mattered: John was 110% in.

David was going to be finishing up his spring crop of treatment “just in time” to train adequately for the 508...if we were lucky. I promised his wife that I'd be available to step in as an alternate if he was really unable to do it: safety first. Having assembled the team and gotten Mary on board, I only had to...break the news to David! He was only a little miffed at being the last to know.

Once assembled, the team came together swiftly and surely. David trained to the very best of his ability – smart training that didn't wipe him out. Bill and I designed team hats. John came through with brand new carbon bikes (Bacchetta CA 2.0's) for the team to ride. Jim – one of the deans of recumbent racing - even trained a little extra, from the looks of things!

Bill, David and I left Arcata on Thursday, picked up Jim, and headed to Santa Clarita early Friday morning. David, being David, had already totally prepped the van for inspection: signage all around, lights installed, and safety triangle up (but covered, naturally!). His van is optimized for team racing: we can rack 5 bikes, have room for a bin for each racer, three ice chests. seating for 4, and a bunk that disassembles to create seating for 5. We were so well-prepared that we got done with our pre-race inspection before noon! Considering that inspections were scheduled to START at noon, I thought that was pretty good (kudos to Cindi and crew for being out early to make the inspection process efficient).

Racer photos, sign-in, hugs, dinner at the Olive Garden...in the middle of dinner we got a message from Mandy – she was coming down to the start line to visit. Our first groupie! Woo-hoo! MORE hugs. Off to the pre-race meeting, where we were solemnly warned against interacting with the desert tortoises. Apparently if they're frightened they reflexively empty their bladders, which leaves them vulnerable to death from dehydration. After the meeting – typically David – we headed to Costco for a reprint of another team's van signs: the first set that he made didn't pass muster so he redesigned and reprinted them from the start line hotel lobby. A quick grocery run, and early to bed.

The next morning, we got to the start line barely in time to see the solo racers off before taking advantage of the start line hotel breakfast (highly recommended). Before we knew it, it was time to be filling Bill's bottles and double-checking his bike...good thing we did, too: at the last minute we discovered that we'd taken off a strap that was holding down his gear bag...without the strap it was going to be in his back tire: strap located, installed, and the rest of the team leaves for the meetup point, 24 miles down course.

Besides having fun, kicking butt, and setting a record, one of the team's focal points became beating the Hammer Frogs: another strong 50+ team (all women!). Bill was a bit behind their racer at the first meetup point, and the pressure was on: none of these boys wanted to be “chicked”. I smile inwardly, let it go. There's some great downhill and flat/rolling terrain; Bill catches up: he's “un-chicked” himself. More cowbell!!!

Uh-oh. Windmills. Re-chicked. Downhill, into Cali City: un-chicked. So it went for much of the rest of the race.

We meet up with Bacchetta rider Greg Raven (really, that's his name!) in California City. Since he has been a Raven Lunatic from birth, we award him the coveted team cap. John snaps a few photos, and we're back at it. David is having great early run...for the first few miles there might have even been a sighting of the shy and elusive Tailwind. We're clipping right along until the climb to Randsburg. CRAP! It's been freshly chip-sealed. That sucks a bit of the energy out of David, and before you know it...yep. Chicked. Hi, Isabelle!

I'd set up our schedule assuming that we'd have the more typical tailwinds early in the race. Since we didn't, we had to change strategy a little bit: gas in Johannesburg rather than Trona, so that we didn't have to do the gas stop under night rules. This meant No Burritos For Us, which was sad, but we steeled our nerves and ventured out anyway. Now it was John's turn to put the hurt on this course.

When I'd assigned him the third leg, John made a feeble attempt to bow out and let Jim handle it instead. I reminded John that “all” he had to do was a 5.5 hour century – with 1800' of net elevation loss. He does that all the time in Florda....except that he doesn't get the elevation loss. So this should be even easier. Yeah, right.

What a performance. I was blown away: rock steady up Townes Pass, passing people left and right and sideways. One of them caught us at the Monday breakfast and said...”passed by a recumbent going up Townes...that was just wrong...” And she was lucky: she got passed going up. The folks that got passed going down...let's just say that if they'd been tortoises, several of them would be dead right now. His top speed was 62 mph. That's amazing enough – but he didn't just hit it and quit it – he stuck 60+ for miles on end. I was delighted beyond belief that I'd handed driving responsibilities over to David at the top of the pass: I'm sure that John's confidence in the driver behind him more than made up for the few seconds it took to make the switch, grab a jacket, and let everyone take a quick pee break.

I'd asked for a 5:30 split from John: he came through with 5:27. When he got in the van, he was grinning like a kid at Christmas. I think he was glad to have taken that pull after all! He handed the baton off to Jim, who was more than a little antsy to get his turn.

I slept through a good bit of Jim's pull. The great thing about this team is that not only is it stacked with top-notch racing talent, it's got just as much top-notch crewing talent. Every one of these guys is an experienced ultraracing crew member, and it was so much fun helping everyone work together. It was absolutely seamless: guys filling bottles for each other (usually with what the racer was asking for, though there was a bit of locker-room joking about that, as you'd expect), everyone hopping out of the van and taking care of business. We'd plan it out in advance: Sandy gets the racer, David gets the retiring bike, Bill unracks the new racer's bike, slaps fresh lights on the bike, John installs the bottles....and we're off. Everyone was focused, calm, efficient: just the way I like it.

Sometime in the middle of the pull, we ran into a team in distress. A solo team and crew had pulled over for a sleep break, and when they were ready to go again it turned out that their battery was dead. David – always prepared – brought out his starting battery setup and had them going in under 2 minutes. It cost us some time, but that doesn't matter: we don't leave people stranded. Period.

Bill takes off for his second pull out of Shoshone. Once again, we were looking forward to the more usual tailwinds through this section, and the goal split of 2:30 would've been easy for Bill to knock off under those conditions. He took off at about 30mph, got his bearings, headed over the first little incline, down the other side, and – wham. He was riding into a 15mph headwind. Not anything to cry about, but it was definitely going to slow us down. Rats.

6:59 AM...we spot a vault toilet just off the course. We restrain our glee until 7:00 – official end of direct follow – and inform Bill that we're off to see an Interesting Geologic Formation. He points at the vault toilet. He knows us too well! A few minutes later, we're all feeling refreshed, we've emptied the trash, and ready to head out to catch up with Bill. As we're turning the van toward the road, we see a white minivan with two recumbents traveling at freeway speed. We know what that means: Tim has abandoned. CRAP. We figure they'll stop and check in with us after they pass Bill.

But – they don't pass Bill. They catch up to him and...feed him! Woo-hoo! We'd just stocked him up before we'd undertaken the Geologic Reconnaissance Mission, but Dana didn't know that, so he did what any good crew chief would: offered food. Bill took on an extra Boost before he realized that it wasn't coming from...his...van. We razzed him pretty hard about taking candy from strangers!

Talked to Dana – Tim's stomach had quit on him. Not surprising given the weather and how hard he'd had to work to stay with Akita (Rick Ashabranner). They tried everything they could think of, but – no dice.

Bill finished his pull. Despite not reaching his time goal, he was pretty spent: it wasn't for lack of trying. By this time the team had put about 20 minutes on the Hammer Frogs. David was very concerned about being re-passed (or would that be “re-chicked”?) - so he was working to the very best of his ability. The climb up Kelbaker isn't that steep, but it's relentless, and there's no shade. Finally we got to the point where David could take John's advice to heart : “Just kick it up a gear and punch it over the top!”. I followed David down the hill as long as I could, then took John down to the time station for the exchange: he needed time to find a private bit of shrubbery before he took off for his leg.

The road down to Kelso has horrific pavement, so I headed back up the hill to make sure that David was okay – no mechanicals or flats. Just as I was leaving, I saw Lee's van heading down the hill to leave off his racer...I knew that David would've seen him, too, and wondered how much they'd made up on him on the Kelbaker climb.

I caught David just a couple of miles up, bombing down the hill for all he was worth. As he came past my van, he screamed, “NO......FROGS!!!!”. I didn't quite catch the word in the middle. It's probably not important.

John's second pull was uneventful: he got it over with in 2 hours flat – not shabby at all. We pulled in to TS 7, got lei'd, and waited for our exchange. A couple of minutes before John came in, we saw...Akita! Woo-hoo Rick! He powered through the time station, flashed his ear-to-ear megawatt smile, and was on his way.

We had arranged with Jim – our anchor – to have a little bit of downtime to cool John off and get assembled for the final assault. He was prepared for 40 minutes of solo riding. I expected to be to him in no more than 30...

Well...stuff happens, y'know? The team was pretty efficient at the time station, but we did spend a couple of minutes checking up on racer position. And of course, just as we were about to pull out, our stalking horse (BIKEVAN) showed up, announcing the imminent arrival of those danged Frogs.

So off we went. As we approached the gas station in Amboy, Ron Smith flagged us down: Rick was having a heat “moment”, so we stopped to give some encouragement. He normally feels the heat more than most folks. What was surprising to me was how happy and enthusiastic he'd looked just a few minutes before. As it turned out, a few minutes of cooling off and hard work at hydration and he was back to his hammerin' self.

And then we got stuck behind a train. So by the time we got to Jim it had been more like 42 minutes, but he wasn't complaining. Turns out he'd been stuck behind a train, too – and lost about 5 minutes. CRAP! He'd gotten this far with a 5-minute break?!?!?

There were huge washes of sand across the road. Any one of them had the potential to cause Jim trouble: blowing sand from oncoming or passing vehicles, or just finding a deeper pocket of it and going down. Fortunately we skated through there without incident. A couple of times I let him know that a truck was coming along, and to expect a “dusting”: he was able to hold his breath through those, or in a couple of places put the hammer down and get past the worst of the debris.

By the time he reached the base of the Sheephole climb, Jim had run the gamut of rabbits: he'd caught everyone we had a chance to catch, so it was a matter of time and motivation to keep him moving at his best. He did a great job of monitoring his effort and putting out his very best. We were trying to avoid getting to the finish after night rules were in effect: since the team had decided on a group finish, if we came in after 6PM we would have to directly follow Jim and make a full stop for a couple of minutes to unrack everyone's bikes.

Once again, the winds weren't cooperating: after we came off of Sheephole, Jim had a stiff crosswind to deal with. To his credit it didn't slow him much. It was amazingly close...but as we made the final turn I realized that it really didn't matter anyway: I was going to direct-follow Jim no matter what: the sun was directly in our eyes, which meant it was also in the eyes of passing traffic, which meant that we needed to protect our racer.

Ironically, we pulled into the group staging area at 6:00. Unrack the bikes, turn lights on, and GO!
Watching the team finish together – priceless.

By the end, we'd put a solid 30 minutes on the Hammer Frogs. Rick came in shortly thereafter. We racked up the bikes, checked into our hotel, went out for Chinese food, and came back to watch some more of the late action. It was clear that it hadn't been a “fast” year – everyone's time was slower than anticipated. In retrospect, the conditions were tough but not unbearably so. Times were slow because none of the tailwinds that we can usually count on ever materialized.

In closing, I'd like to thank Team Raven Lunatics for the privilege of being “out there” yet again. I don't think I'm overstepping by saying that every one of the team members is looking forward to next year – racing, crewing, doesn't really matter. The first weekend in October, I'm booked.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Messin' With Texas!


"Don't Mess With Texas". Hm. I took that as a personal challenge. I'd raced the Tejas TT in 2008, with disastrous results. Actually, it was a springboard for a lot of good things:

  • I met a lot of instant friends - this race is hospitality defined!
  • I got introduced to recumbent racing (by puking on the Rans XStream prototype. This led amazingly directly to my being willing to be the Team RANS crew chief the following year.) 
  • I got to visit my daughter and my parents, and
  • I finally made myself understand what kind of fitness commitment it was going to take to be a strong racer again. 
So when Dex asked me in Annapolis this year if I was coming back to Tejas, I made the snap decision that I would. Other than the flaming disaster/heat exhaustion/cramping/puking parts, I LOVED this race and I was happy to think that I might do better this time around. 
Sports fans, let me tell you something important here: When you find a good race, you need to support it. And one of the very best ways a racer can support a race is to BRING A FRIEND. Thus was born the "Let's Mess With Texas Tour". I roped (get it?) three friends into coming: Chris, Mark, and Mark. As it turned out, both Marks had to bow out with health issues, but Chris and I mounted up Eggplant and struck out  southeasterly on Monday night, primed for action. The trip out was uneventful, unless you count finding stick-on chrome mudflap girls that would fit Chris' pink race bag perfectly. Or the Bird Incident. We hit a large and solid bird rocketing through west Kansas (or was it east Colorado?). It bent the van antenna and made me scream, much to Chris' amusement. 
We picked up my daughter - a most excellent crew person - in Norman, OK. While there, we double-checked our supplies, got a few last-minute things at Buchanan Bikes, sat in on a rehearsal of the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band, and had a most excellent dinner at Coach's.  
We arrived around 3PM, in plenty of time to register, put up the tent and the canopy, and get Chris ready to go. It was...hot. And humid. And - did I mention HOT? OK, low 90's isn't that bad of a draw for that time of year - but WOWSERS!
The race is at a new venue - Glen Rose rather than Cleburne - and I LOVE it. The start/finish is in a municipal park, right next to.. SONIC. For a couple of Oregon kids on pink recumbents, this is heaven: when the going gets tough, the tough get...corn dogs! There's also a "slushee happy hour" from 2-4 PM. Duly noted!

About the time I started filling Chris' bottles with the first few hours' race nutrition, Shellene showed up. She was not racing - she's still coming back after a foot injury - so she's there to provide race support. COOL! 
Chris is using the demo light that I'd gotten from TrailLED. Turns out that Grady is also a race sponsor, so he's going to be there to provide neutral light support. This turns out to be REALLY USEFUL as we've got two lights and two batteries to share between the two of us. 
A quick hug-and-hi for Sharon as folks are gathering for the start. And...they're off! Woo-hoo!!!!
Chris tore up the course for three laps. And at the same time, the course was tearing him up - let's just say he went out "at least as" fast as he should have. So we had some down time in the following laps to take care of some maintenance issues - tailbone pain, GI distress, hotfoot, a touch of overheating, and the like. But Chris was a trooper - never complained, just told us (sometimes emphatically) what was going on. Since this was his first qualifier, he didn't have any particular expectations. I'd put him on a schedule to finish in 32:39 (no particular magic to that number, it's just how it came out) and he was running ahead of that. 
After Nancy showed up (she'd stayed in Norman to put in one last practice session with her mellophone section Thursday afternoon) I was officially on sleep detail. By this time, Kent Polk was also in the house and in support. He'd brought his friend Paul to race the 24. It was Paul's first 24-hour race. Chris was in excellent hands. 
I got up in time to hand off a breakfast burrito to Chris. I got breakfast for myself, and spent some time just socializing and hanging loose. I was worried that I didn't sleep all that well, but I reminded myself of the advice that I give to my athletes: just pretending to sleep is almost as good as the real thing. 
Sometime late Friday morning or early Friday afternoon I heard the news: Jure was dead. It was so eerie being at a bike race at the time. I didn't want to talk about it with other racers: the folks who didn't know might be upset and have a bad race as a result. Everyone talks about RAAM being dangerous. Sure - but THE accident can come at any time. We all know that - and we all have to ride like we don't: ride and train and plan for the future, race with trust that we're going to avoid disaster. I didn't exactly "dedicate" the race to Jure, but I did think of him often. I was lucky to get to meet him at the RAAM start this year. 
It seemed like 6PM wasn't EVER going to get there. And then - there I was, at the start line. We're...racing! Woo-hoo! The course is a BLAST - continuous rollers with a couple of more sustained climbs. I am working pretty hard, and staying toward the front of the pack. Out the 2-mile section to the yield sign, across the bridge, a steady climb up to Nemo, a quick downhill, some upward-trending rollers, and then... 
I'd heard folks come in mentioning County Line Hill. Well, a hill it is: straight down, then straight up. I knew that the only way to survive that little monster was to hit it early with everything I had - so I spun up my biggest gear as I headed down. I had to downshift around the middle of the hill, and I ended up in my inner chainring - but it was still a LOT faster (and easier) to use physics to my advantage: every lap I managed to pass one or more folks who were treating the hill as good, honest work. I'll bet they all finish their vegetables before moving on to dessert, too. 
After County Line, there was a great section through the trees - weird pavement, so I was glad to have good light - but really fun. A bunch of upward-trending rollers with a significant climb around mile 15. Then rolling uphill to mile 22 or so, when we reach the high point of the loop and head back down to Glen Rose. Woo-hoo! 

The sheriff's department is staffing the main intersection in town, so we can get through the stop sign easily. We go past the courthouse. The clock there is going to be my only time check out on the course. It comes with about 5 minutes to go in the lap - just enough time for me to assess how I'm doing, figure out what I need to do on the next lap. Not bad. 
First lap - 1:22. Not shabby. Possibly a little too fast, but - felt pretty good.  I took on two bottles, a packet of Honey Stinger chews, and a protein bar. Off for the next lap. My pit crew was AMAZING. They always had what I needed, got it to me quickly, and made sure that I was in and out of the pits faster than anyone else. The only time I ever got off the bike was to pee. My pit stops were so efficient that when Pam wanted to interview me for a "tweet" on the event twitter page, she had to do that through the portapotty wall. Kudos to the crew! As it turned out, every minute counted in this one! 
And so it went, all night. Some laps there were lots of rabbits (meaning: people to chase), which made it fun. One lap, I was someone else's rabbit - also quite motivating. Some laps, it seemed like I was the only person out there. My crew told me that Chris had finished in "32 hours and something" which made me really jazzed: I'd called that one pretty well! 
In the middle of the night I saw a herd of headless white beasts running through a farm field. Although I knew it wasn't real, I also knew I wasn't hallucinating. I figured there must be a logical explanation, and hoped that I'd figure it out in the morning. As it turned out, it was a bunch of these goats: 
I'd not been able to see the brown heads in the dark. When I saw the herd the next morning, it all made sense. 
By the time daylight rolled around it was clear that the promised rain was coming. My crew asked me if I was ready for rain..."Does it matter?". Not much we were going to do about it. All of my Oregon raingear is oriented toward cold rain. If it rained, I was going to be...wet. And I was already wet - the humidity meant that I was riding in a self-created swamp of sweat. 
When the rain did come, it was almost pleasant for a few minutes - then it was absolutely torrential. OK, ride through it. I was worried about how I'd handle County Line Hill in the rain - I would be going into the wind, so the rain would be straight in my face. I can see Brian, my RAAM crew chief, cringing right now - but I handled this one like a champ, thank you very much! I pulled my Team Sandy cap low over my eyes, leaving just a slit to see out of above the handlebars. And I went for it, like a banshee. Swooosh! No worries. 
Still, aggressive cornering was out of the question, and I was slowing down a little. My goal of 14 completed laps was starting to slip out of reach. With three laps to go, I had about 5:25 left. Lap 12 came in at 1:55. AUGH! Off pace! Lap 13: 1:50...a little better, but.. I'd need more like 1:40 for the final lap.
I hedged my bets by informing the finish line folks that I was headed out for a "prorated" lap - if I didn't make it, the mileage that I did make before time expired would all count. I took very little nutrition with me, on the theory that I wasn't going to waste any time eating - I'd have to finish on what I already had in my system. 
Time for some major sucking-up. As I rolled through the neutral zone into lap 14, I gave myself The Talk: "You've had 13 whacks at this course, Sandy. You've got your head wrapped around how it feels to ride each section as fast as possible, and you know how it feels when you lose focus and just ride along. You have to FOCUS, and ride each part of this lap the best way...." Not to over-simplify, but - that's exactly what I did. I rode the heck out of that loop. When I started to feel myself losing focus, I reminded myself of Jure, that I had a chance to set a course record HERE AND NOW, and that I could have it if I chose it. A couple of sips of watery Coca-Cola before the big climbs, but other than that I just went for it. 
I passed easily half a dozen people that lap. And when a guy on a Cannondale caught me at around mile 22, I asked him what time it was. I HAD 20 MINUTES LEFT!!! Oh. My. Gosh. I was going to make it - the rest is all downhill. I sprinted for the finish - figuring that finishing sooner was better than finishing later, and that if, against all odds, I got a flat tire in the last mile of the race I *might* still have time to fix it and complete the lap. 
I came in, fighting back tears, at 23:52. Technically, I could've gone out and done a final pro-rated lap and added a couple of miles to my total, but practically, I was DONE. I figured I could've ridden as far as the porta-pot - if I had to. But I didn't. Brian grabbed my bike, I got hugged and kissed and hugged and stuffed into a lawn chair with a ginger ale...and - here's Paul! Now it's payback time for real: I get to extract my full measure of revenge on this race. Paul hands over the package. I open it. It looks daunting, but I know I can handle it: a full helping of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. 
"You ain't Dainty. That's why there's Dinty." (yes, that's really their slogan!)
In addition to setting a new course record for women (and recumbent women, for that matter) I was the first finisher OVERALL in the 24-hour race - quite an accomplishment as there were some very fast riders. The next-fastest racer finished his 14th lap after time expired: in 15:22 - half an hour slower. To put that in perspective, if I'd have spent one minute MORE per lap in the pits, and he'd have spent one minute LESS, he might have beaten me. Thanks again to my crew for keeping me going through a very tough race! 



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tillamook Double Century!

We did it - a legitimate double century, right here in Oregon. I'll get more pictures up onto this post as soon as they become available, but I really wanted to get the story down before I head off for the Tejas Time Trials.


The inaugural Tillamook Double Century was lightly attended, but incredibly staffed: a 1:1 staff to rider ratio. Don't expect that next year, but - it was good to be able to keep tabs on all of our riders, and watching rider progress gave me a lot of feedback on how the event could be improved.

We rented a nice little house in Rockaway Beach. Elise drove up with me as the advance team. We got groceries in Tillamook, got dinner ready, and got the sag supplies more or less organized. John, Joanne, and Kevin arrived a little later. A few stories later, we had an early lights-out - start time was 5AM so we had a 4AM wakeup call. Since everyone who was riding was already in Rockaway, we decided to shift the route up the course, and just start there. There's one major drawback to this - a late finish on Hwy 101 - but overall it seemed like the sensible thing to do.

By the time we were putting the final preparations in place, Keith showed up. Keith and Kevin have committed to riding the whole distance, Elise is riding selected portions, and I'm on the fence. John and Joanne haven't brought bikes.

I sent the intrepid threesome out the door, not fully realizing quite how many times I'd hear the word "intrepid" over the next 14 hours: Kevin's phlog

After settling into a second cup of coffee with John and Joanne, I realized that it was going to be a lot more instructive for me to stay with the sag vehicle all day. That, and I suddenly realized that I still had the disk wheel on the Carbent after Ring of Fire.

So we all set out in John's support van, prepared to provide full concierge service to the gang. The route heads north for starters - up to Hwy 26, and then east to Necanicum Junction. There was a pretty bad wreck on the way north, and we were glad to be close enough to it to see that all of our riders had gotten through the area safely - but the support vehicle was detained for an extra 20 minutes while a downed power line was secured, temporarily putting a bakery stop in Cannon Beach in jeopardy.

We did have to head a few miles up Highway 53 to chase down Keith, who was making excellent time. We refilled his waterbottles, gave him a banana, and headed back to support Kevin and Elise.

So far, good weather - no rain, and blue sky peeking out here and there...Hwy 53 is amazing as ever. When we got to the turn at Mohler, we realized that it was a little ambiguous in the route instructions, so we hung around there to direct folks. We even found sidewalk chalk - on sale, no less! - at the local grocery, so we had great fun chalking the turn.

Miami-Foley Road is much the same, and all too soon you're at Hwy 101 - not the fun part of this route, for sure, but it's the only way through this particular bottleneck. We sagged Elise up ahead - she knew she didn't care to do the whole 200, so why in the heck would you do the least fun part?

At Beaver, we gassed the van. It was starting to rain pretty good. Elise was considering riding. We made sandwiches. We ate sandwiches. We thought about it while we waited for Kevin (Keith was already through).
I chalked the turn. The chalk disappeared...finally the rain started to lighten up and Elise was back out on the bike. After a few minutes, we found Kevin making a quick pit stop at the store, and sent him to chase Elise down.

Keith was so far ahead that we figured it didn't really matter when he missed a turn and got 22 bonus miles. We sent Kevin the right direction, put Elise back in the van, and followed Keith's route. When we found him he was back on the ride route, but he'd just blown a tire, badly. John located his spare, and we got him back on the road. With the "shortcut", Kevin was now a little bit ahead, but overall the two of them were much closer together. The slightly devilish side of me would consider this to be "good racer management", though Keith might disagree as his route had a 3-mile gravel portion...again, beautiful scenery along here. Not "beachy", but forested and with a babbling brook running along beside us.

By the time we got to Willamina it was really raining! Joanne showed me a really nice reroute that takes us off of Hwy 18 - we'll definitely be using that next year. We got the gang onto Hwy 22 and put Elise back out just before the turn onto the Little Nestucca River Road - another scenic beauty.

The Little Nestucca ends in Pacific City, ands it's back to 101 for a quick stretch before heading out on the Three Capes loop. The original route was a little over mileage - about 210 - and takes in all three capes. By now it was getting toward 6PM and we had screaming horizontal rain (but a very nice tailwind!), so the scenery, though spectacular, wasn't quite the attraction it should have been. We made a very judicious edit to the route - leaving off the third Cape - to bring the total down to 202 miles. That's probably what we'll do next year, too - Whiskey Creek Road brings us straight back into Tillamook for the finish.

The wind was howling so hard and fast that the guys were riding at a great pace despite the torrential rain. We didn't have great visibility, so we didn't have a lot of warning that they were coming - so we had to jump out and flag them down to explain the re-route as soon as we saw them. Two minutes out of the van and I was soaked! Usually September is still a fairly dry time at the coast - but not today.

Unfortunately, since we'd started the loop in Rockaway, the guys still had about 15 miles to go once we hit Tillamook. Next year, that won't be an issue since we'll start and end in Tillamook. We checked on them one last time, and took the van back to the beach house. I ordered up some great pizza from Upper Crust:
Three guesses what I ordered. The first two don't count. The crew got our showers while we were waiting for the pizza, got the house nice and warm, and put out dinner provisions.

John headed back out to make sure that Kevin and Keith got back safely. As it turned out, when he got back to them, both were down with flat tires! Between the dark and the rain and the highway conditions, and being within a couple of miles of home, and with pizza on the way and warm showers waiting, it seemed pretty silly to start repairing flats - so John stuffed 'em in the van and brought them home.

Showers, pizza, stories...lots of miles: sweet success. Technically, it was a 100% DNF rate with the two flats - but I'm sure not looking at it that way. A HUGE thank-you to everyone who participated! I'm really looking forward to producing this event next summer.

Next stop: Norman, OK!
My daughter Nancy - Tejas Crew


Tailwinds,
Sandy

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ring of Fire!

It wasn't supposed to be this way. But it worked. I was planning on crewing Ring of Fire for David and Bill, who were going to come out and absolutely SMASH the 2x 50+ mens' recumbent record. But they got busy (I have some complicity here; I distracted 'em with a Furnace Creek team bid), so I was on my own. So I planned to race 2x mixed recupright with Mark Newsome. He got sick on Wednesday (bad reaction to a tetanus booster). Within hours, Mark Biedryzcki called: he was making an emergency business trip to Germany (who but Mark would have to take an emergency trip to Germany during Oktoberfest?) and - could he borrow my Bike Friday? "Sure, Mark - but...what are you doing this weekend....?" was all it took - we were quite literally off to the races. I'd have to drop him directly off at the airport on the way home from Maupin, but what the heck. So long as he didn't forget his passport we were golden. We called ourselves Team Tailwinds, signed up as the first 2x mixed recupright team in Ring of Fire history. Possibly in ALL of history. I'll have to check on that.
There are a lot of charming things about Mark - encyclopedic knowledge of Portland eateries, enthusiasm, and great biking skills are among the first things that pop into my mind, but the one thing that I've just gotta love about the guy is that he makes me look prepared and organized.  Of course I didn't have to pack for a week of intercontinental business as part of my race prep, but...we were only a little late getting out the door. No worries.
Hugs all around at the racer meeting. And - HEY! Bill Phillips is racing! Woo-hoo! Big Bill makes a CA2 with 700c wheels look puny. He's a great tester for the platform.
We have a great dinner with Bill, Lonnie, Carly, and Chris. Off to the Oasis for some sleep. We've bagged the last room in the place. Dubbed "the bunkhouse" it's..just that. No bathroom. Bunk beds. I get the bottom bunk so Cog can sleep with me. Tesla (Mark's dog) gets the floor.
Mark figures that we can get up an hour before our start and have plenty of time. I don't think so....dogs to walk, breakfast to digest...we've got a solid hour and a half. I set the alarm for 5:15, and woke Mark at 5:45 after I was dressed and had breakfast.
We put the Europe-bound gear in the room, got Mark's bike out, and I headed out to the first exchange with the dogs. Yes, we had TWO crew dogs. Fortunately Cog is experienced crew, having done Ring of Fire under uber-crew-chief Robert last year. Tesla was coming up to speed quickly.
I hung out at the top of the first climb (OH. That's the strategy, in case I wasn't perfectly clear: Mark gets all the climbs - or at least all the steep ones - and I get everything else) and waited. Our start was at 6:55. The 6:57 start (Mick Walsh) rolled past and informed me that Mark had missed his start - but only by a minute - and he would be along shortly...which he was. It's okay - he's riding well. I figure that the fear and adrenaline have probably negated the minute already.
We settled into a rhythm...bike out, helmet on, RIDE LIKE CRAZY, make exchange, open rear door, remind dogs to STAY while we racked the bike (we bungied the off-duty bike to the inside of the van - faster than racking on top and almost as fast as racking on a SportRack), grab bottle, eat, drink, pet dogs, and drive up the course.
I didn't miss ALL the climbing but I think we did a fairly good job of breaking it up to make good forward progress. I got to climb Bennett Pass and then took the entire descent on Hwy 35. Mark took the steepest part of the FR44 climb. Since there are limited pullouts, I just went ahead to where I knew the portapotty was waiting, got out and let the dogs stretch their legs for a bit. When Mark got there, he asked me how much riding I wanted..."See you in Dufur" was NOT what he expected, but it was the right thing to do. I worked hard to get to the top, and harder to get to the bottom - just enough headbreeze that I was able to keep pedalling the 53/11 without spinning out too often. That stretch gave Mark enough of a rest to make the big climb up and over Tygh Ridge Summit a lot more comfortably.
I took the descent, and handed off to Mark at the turn onto 216. We needed gas BADLY! I got to Tygh Valley and filled up. Hey! Look at that bike jersey! It's Brian - Molly's husband, and the ring leader of the Grundel Bruisers RAO team. Cool! He was just passing through on a training ride with a buddy.
I tore back up 216 and was able to make an exchange with Mark at Sherar's Bridge. I'm not sure I was 100% compliant with posted speed limits. I didn't exactly have time to look at the speedometer. (Is that a valid excuse? "No, officer, I'm afraid I don't know how fast I was going; I didn't have time to look....") I was pretty motivated; if I didn't take a good pull here I was going to get stuck with the first part of the Bakeoven climb. That would be a serious lapse of recupright strategy. Mark is no slouch in the driving department, but he was impressed that I got a fully gassed up car to him that quickly.
He was ready for me at the start of the Bakeoven climb, and figured he was good for 6 -7 miles. I found a good pullout at 7.1 and took it. From there I did the middle, less-steep, 8 miles, and he pulled me off the bike when he figured he was recovered enough to storm the summit.
Bakeoven Summit was staffed by Rob and Susie Miles - owners of the Imperial - and their kids.  Susie needed a ride down to their house, partway down the hill, and I volunteered Mark to provide one....fortunately for us! On the way down, she was able to explain my strategy for our trip down Bakeoven - I'd take all of the (working) descent, until the last few miles where it's very steep and technical. Then Mark took the rest of it and went straight into our first night loop. It worked perfectly. I was able to work VERY hard on that section since I knew I would get almost 2 hours' rest, and he was a little loose and warmed up when he started the night loop (which starts out with about 1000' of climbing in the first few miles).
The night loop is, overall, pretty sweet for recumbents. It's 27 miles long, and my usual comment on it is that it's a 27 mile loop with 20 miles of headwinds and only 7 miles of climbing....The first three miles are very tough, but most of your climbing is really done then, all of the tough stuff anyway. Then it's a 4-mile cruise to the very sweet downhill, a slightly lumpy flat section, a hairpin turn at Sherar's Bridge, and an uphill river grade to the start/finish. Usually the river road has a headwind. Today it had a slight tailwind. NICE.
Competition was fierce but friendly in the 2x division - we had Mick and Brian who were clearly outclassing everyone, and Angela and Christina who were breathing down our necks most of the night. We all shared stuff and had a great time pushing each other!
The pit area at Ring of Fire is great. Since it's at the resort, most people can go into their rooms to change or rest between laps. There's a conference room that's opened up with a microwave and a place to charge batteries and generally get warm. And Rob snuck into the kitchen and came out with treats periodically. Faithful readers would know that I wasn't able to pass over the offer of a mini corn dog!
We finished 8 full laps. I pushed as hard as I could on my last one (#8) so that Mark could get as many miles as possible. As much as I kid Mark, he was a champ, and took the opportunity to do the "bonus" lap seriously. He got 20 miles, and would've gotten more if he'd not gotten a flat tire. He pinch flatted around mile 15, and limped along on partial air the rest of the way. Since I didn't know this, I assumed he'd be riding in...in fact, he should've only been 2 or 3 miles out when time expired. Finally, Chris and Carly took pity and brought him in.
Final tally - 393 miles - over 16 mph. Not shabby!
tapir - it's not just a Brazilian mammal...
Now it's taper time....legs feel amazing and strong, but tired. It bodes well for Tejas.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

FedEx Touring - There and Back Again (Reprise)

I biked to Arcata - and back again - from Florence. The last time I made this trek I did it from my doorstep in Eugene. This time I was riding home, so I fudged. I was pretty sure that I'd not be happy making the right turn up Hwy 126 - so I drove to Florence, neatly cutting 60 miles off of the trip. About 265 miles all told.

I rolled into Florence at about 7AM and hit the Safeway for coffee and a scone, then looked for a likely place to park my van. Where do you leave a van that's visible (so it won't be vandalized) but out of the way (so it won't be towed), for a week, in a town you know nothing about? I picked a spot adjacent to a vacant commercial building that was for sale. I figured it was a safe bet.I got out and started checking over the bike, making my last minute clothing adjustments, etc, when a guy walking his dog came by. He is a Gold Rush owner, had just been to the recumbent retreat. We talk a little about my bike, his bike, RAAM...cool ! He might actually keep an eye on the van while I'm gone.

I rolled out a little after 8. Since I'm too much of a bum for credit-card touring, I've invented....FedEx touring. I send the stuff I'd rather not carry down to David's house ahead of time. So I was traveling (relatively) lightly: a spare tire, three tubes, reasonably good tool kit, patch kit, two bottles, a bit of traveling food, and a lot of spare clothes. The race bag was still full to bursting, so I'd have to rely on food stops for the bulk of my nutrition. Not a problem as I'd scoped them out pretty well the last trip: Wendy's in Coos Bay, McVay's in Gold Beach (macaroni and cheese STILL rules!) Oh, yeah - ice cream in Langlois...the market advertises "free water for bikers", which I thought was a good enough reason to stop.

Weather was indifferent - sorta spitty mist - for the first 4 hours, then the promised sun and tailwind made an appearance around Bandon.

I had a headstart on last time, so I ended up crossing into California just at dusk. I pulled into the agricultural inspection station and turned on my lights...The inspector was a bit incredulous..."Awful late for a bike ride, miss". "Yes, sir". "Where are you going?" "Arcata, sir". "Do you KNOW how far that is????" "Yes, sir, I'm visiting friends. I've done this before." "Are you SURE?". "Yes, sir. I have NO FRUIT, sir..." Since he had nothing on me but potential insanity, he let me go.

Last time I'd (famously) stopped at the Crescent City Denny's for the ultimate in randonneuring "coffee stops" - a 4-hour stint where I "couldn't sleep, but"...courtesy of a very kind waitress. This time I made a very quick stop - it was only 9:30 and I didn't want to lose my momentum. I figured that if I made it through to Klamath well before midnight the road would be safest. As it turned out, I was right. The only close pass I got was courtesy of a Franz bread truck. I'd had a lot of trouble managing the bike (handling skills) on the slow-speed climbing on this hill in May. This time, no problem...just slow going.

Past Babe and his Blue Ox right around midnight (I think). By now the fog was starting to settle in and I was glad to have extra light. It was starting to get chilly so I stopped to add a layer. By now it was Really Foggy and I was not feeling confident descending. Plus there were rumble strips. Ask any member of my RAAM crew how I feel about rumble strips; they'll just roll their eyes.

Another good climb, more foggy descending, and I'm bearing down on Arcata. The AM traffic is barely starting to pick up. I didn't remember exactly how to get in to town off the freeway so I accumulated some bonus miles, backtracked, took the Janes Road exit (hey, I'd BEEN on Janes Road...), managed to fumble my way to Alliance and a minimart where I had my AM coffee and a treat, and got my bearings. I left there around 5:40 and figured I'd cruise David's house, see if anyone was up...not having much hope on that, but - HEY! His car is missing. At 6AM. He must be...at SPIN CLASS!

Tracked him down at HealthSPORT. I did a slow lap of the parking lot, trying to figure out if this was the sort of place where they'd give me grief for breaking into David's van and taking a nap in it. I guess I hoped that it was, but...OK. The spin studio is on the front of the building, so I can roll up and bug him. Before I know it, David has my bike, I'm being ushered in, and I'm on..a spin bike??!! To make matters (worse?), Bill is teaching - it's not his usual day, so I guess I got lucky? - and it's a hard class with a lot of hills.
Sports fans, I'm here to tell ya' that it makes good sense to be warmed up adequately for one of Bill's classes, but I may have overshot slightly. That spin class made me a little sore the next day.

Fortunately, Friday was a day of rest, unless you count a particularly gluttonous trip to Costco, where David and I picked up supplies for the weekend bike camping trip. Just after noon on Friday is definitely the time to hit Costco, sample-wise. We stopped by the ribeye station so many times they had to switch to New York steaks just to give us some excuse to come back. I also cleaned my bike, and inspected the tires and brakes - very necessary for the upcoming couple of days' riding.

We were shopping for David's version of the 2-day TUC - a camping weekend punctuated by sporadic biking, epic firebuilding, really good food, and a lot of good storytelling - some of it truthful. The ride goes Saturday and Sunday, over some pretty gnarly territory. I wanted my bike to be in good shape mechanically.
Saturday AM, I rode the 30-something bonus miles to the ride start - a good warmup as it was mostly flat. I left well after Phil - but got there sooner. He was riding 35 very hilly bonus miles, starting from the campground where we'd all spend Saturday night. A good reminder that Sunday's ride was not going to be trivial...

The ride starts tame enough - some warmup miles with a couple of hills, and a great run through the redwoods. I find myself riding with none other than Phil Plath. I entertain myself by convincing him that I've not seen a movie since Blazing Saddles. This is not quite true; anyone who knows me at all knows that I've seen Apollo 13 numerous times. For unexplained (inconceivable?) reasons, Adrienne and Mandy forced me to sit through The Princess Bride. And I guess for the sake of full disclosure I'll admit that I will never make it through Shrek (I) with dry eyes. But I digress...


An excellently staffed lunch stop at the Immortal Tree (thanks, Mary!!!) and off we go. A well-fed assault on Panther Gap means that I'm toting a few more M&M's than was strictly necessary, but - there you go. Up, over, turn at Honeydew, and I rolled into camp. Jim and Phil are already there, Michelle is on the way, Robin has been hanging out in camp, and Mary has gotten there a few minutes ahead of Jim and Phil. We have fudge, but critical errors have been made: the beer is in David's van, which is supporting the second wave of riders. We make do with wine until he gets there, but there's nearly an insurrection.

A quick dunk in the creek is at least as good as a shower - and maybe better. The sun is shining, it's warm, and not too breezy - much nicer than the weekend before. More arrivals - Steve and Noreen - then Tim, Genevieve, and Wendy. Dinner, epic campfire (I'd been a bit taken aback at the quantity of wood David hauled up there, but we managed to do in most of it), stories...Jim brought out the guitar and some more good times ensued. No one knows the words, but we're making an honest effort.

Sleeping under the stars - amazing. I'm looking up at them, just can't imagine how I'll ever fall asleep with so many stars to look at...oh - it's morning!

Great breakfast, and off again...into Petrolia, around  the corner, up the beach (HEADWIND!) and...naw, I'm going to hike The Wall. I've got 400k ahead of me and I don't need to blow anything up. I did ride it out as far as the end of the Tsunami Hazard Zone - it's good to know that you've got what it takes to be safe, just in case. Michelle passed me along this stretch, and Jim caught me and hung around to make sure I was okay, which I was. Downhill all too quickly, then back up. Endless Hill is a little easier going, but the wind is fierce. I let the faster climbers go and took a pee break. A few switchbacks later I found myself in a bit of a jam...stuck in a switchback with a quick grade change, a wind gust, a horse trailer, and...a barbed wire fence. The fence won my business. Fortunately the race bag made first contact; I just sorta "stuck" there and had to slowly undo myself. No damage. I thought I'd snagged the shoulder on my jersey, but even that was unscathed. Lucky!

The herd of Aerosmith-hating cows were out, along the way to the top. I considered humming a few bars to see if they remembered, but I couldn't think of anything appropriate so I let the moment pass. Not far from the top...recumbent...yellow jersey...Bill! Woo-Hoo! Let's ride...over the top, and down we go. Bounced along the road to the fairgrounds. Somewhere in there Bill ejected a water bottle - I never saw it leave, so I'm not sure where. It's probably not the only water bottle on that stretch of road.

Bill had ridden to the fairgrounds, so I went back with him. Because I need the bonus miles - NOT! Great ride, good to have an escort through Eureka. I'd done it early Saturday morning on the trip out but I wasn't 100% certain about the turns on the way back. FUN! The wind played some tricks on us - a soda can was rolling at us at a pretty good clip on the bridge across the bay, making some really impressive noise in the process.

Sunday evening we hung out, regrouped, and made plans for Monday's bike ride. I was heading out, and David and Bill decided to escort me partway. We took the scenic route - very nice: bike path, Clam Beach, Trinidad, Patricks' Point.
Bill (L), and me (R) at Patrick's Point. Sunny Labor Day!


















The guys turned around at Big Lagoon, and after just a little bit of stalling, I headed north. The headwind was starting to pick up (nice tailwind for those south-bound). Traffic was pretty heavy - a lot heavier than I've experienced before on 101 - and the northbound lanes didn't seem to have as much of a shoulder. The road in to Crescent City was pretty tough. I "de-biked" a few times to  make sure that cars, trucks, and RV's could get past safely. I pressed through Crescent City with just a convenience store sandwich, and pressed on. By the time I got to Brookings it was after 7PM - still quite light - but when you simply, physically CAN NOT ride past a Dairy Queen it's time to concede the inevitable, grab something to eat, and settle down for the night.

I found a room on the far side of town. The Blue Coast Inn is inexpensive, has clean rooms with space for bike parking, and paper-thin walls. The guy next door snored. But it didn't matter for more than a minute or two...after I parked the bike and grabbed a shower I headed to Rays Food Center a few blocks up the street to pick up breakfast, since I was planning on leaving before breakfast hours the following morning.
Well...that was the plan. I did get out a little after 6 - later than I expected. I was treated to a brilliant blue and pink sunrise moment as I cruised through Boardman State Park. The colors looked oddly familiar - OH! Robin's Fire and Ice fudge! Shortly after, it starts to rain. Just a little...

Breakfast, Part II, in Gold Beach. Double D Cafe. NICE big plate of food, really fast service. I'm there just long enough to get warm-ish and dry-ish. On the road again.

MORE rain, and more, and more. Before I hit Bandon, it's raining hard enough that it really doesn't matter if  it could rain harder - it can't get me wet any faster than it's doing. But it rains harder anyway, pretty much all the way to Reedsport. It's slow going in the rain. Traffic is heavy, and they don't seem to be anticipating northbound bikes. I do see a LOT of bike travelers - fully-loaded touring - heading south, and I got to spend some time chatting with folks. There was a good sized group heading to San Fransisco, and one heading to LA.
The conditions were so sloppy and crappy that I decided to walk the bridges at North Bend and Reedsport. Between the rain, the traffic, and the lack of shoulder, I was at the limit for feeling safe. Shortly after Reedsport, the rain slowed and ultimately stopped, so I was actually starting to dry out when I got back to the van. I crawled into the dry clothes I'd left there, slammed a Boost, and turned on the heat.

The long drive home validated my choice to drive to Florence; if I'd have had to ride back, I'd probably have spent another night. Sure, it's only 60 miles, but - given the conditions, I was glad to be done.

Weekend damages: just over 700 miles. And I'm happy to report that I've gone well over 1200 miles since my last flat tire. Knock on carbon....Next stop: Ring Of Fire.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Crater Lake - there and back again

I biked to Crater Lake. From Corvallis. In one day, with some great company: ChrisY, Chris, and Carly.
Due to a series of coincidences, we ended up starting at Mark Newsome's house (he was going to come, and it's a good starting point, but his work schedule got too busy).
The stated start time was 6AM. Actual was more like 7 by the time we were rolling. On the plus side, it was plenty light, but it was fully 4 hours later than I'd typically started this ride, when my legs were 8-10 years younger. And – oh, now I remember – I used to start from Albany, and the ride to Brownsville from Albany is a lot shorter. Crap. Well, hopefully we'll get in by dark....
I'm wearing clothes that are okay for the bulk of the riding: short gloves, shorts, and two layers of wool (3 counting the wool bra). I can peel off a layer when it gets hot. I'm pretty chilly at the start, but Chris takes off at a good clip, so I warm up fast. Chris and Carly are doing a ride-and-tie, so Carly has driven off to Brownsville and started riding from there. When we got to Brownsville, Chris got in the truck, drove past Carly to Marcola, and started riding there. With two people on the course most of the time, they were making great progress – so great that I never saw my warm clothes again. Bad planning, Earl! By the time I realized that we weren't going to catch up to my “warm” layers again, I was also realizing that we weren't going to get to camp any before sundown – i.e. it was going to start getting cold by the time we were heading down 138 – the last few miles of descent into camp. Ohhhh.
We'll do the best we can.
Brisk pace into Brownsville, and then off to Brush Creek – one of my favorite climbs. Fueled by delusions of keeping up with Chris, I kept it in the middle ring. Nice descent to Marcola, where we stopped for sandwiches and to refill Chris' fluids (he had 2 bottles, I had a bottle and a 3-liter bladder).
Lots of construction between Marcola and Springfield. We got stopped by a construction flagger and I swear it was mainly because she needed someone to talk to. For, like, 15 minutes. OK.
I love the section of the ride along the Willamette, between Springfield and Lowell. Very nice. We cross onto 58 at Lowell. There is a lot more traffic on 58 in the early afternoon than the mid-morning. It's not my favorite part of the ride.
Hope (Chris' wife) and kids (Henry, Nash) come by not long before we summit Willamette Pass. Chris gets to punch the button for the tunnel. He likes punching buttons; I'll roll with it.

At the summit, I put on the wool shirt that I'd taken off for the climb; my one and only gear change. It was (just) enough.
By the time we got to Chemult, it was just after 7. Time for a couple of corndogs. I was starting to fall into ultrabrain – a little zoned, a little sleepy, not riding fast because I was forgetting to. A Starbucks doubleshot and some Jolt gum helped quite a bit with that. We called in to Hope and told her that our updated arrival time was 9:30. I was feeling pretty good about having a strong light...I knew it was going to be cold, and I was worried. I picked up a pair of cotton gloves. Best $2 I've ever spent. Having ONE part of my body just a little too warm totally fooled my system into thinking I wasn't actually freezing.
Chris took off out of Chemult at a blistering pace, and by really, really focusing, and drafting as much as possible, I was able to keep up. We made the turn onto 138. It doesn't look SO bad in the dark! I've always said that's the most demoralizing piece of pavement on the planet, but it was kind of cool to watch the headlights come in and out of the false summits. I was making really good time for the first 9 or 10 miles, and then fell off a little bit for the last couple of miles getting toward the summit. By the time we got to the top, Chris was more than happy to wait for me: I had 500 lumens of really good LIGHT, and it was pitch black. He had a cateye and he really couldn't see the fog line.
We missed the turn to the south shore of the lake. Crap. Figured it out at the point where it didn't matter, so we might as well take the north shore and do a lap of the lake. Bonus miles at 9:30 at night. Awesome. It took a while to find our way to the group site. The signage at Broken Arrow isn't 100% clear. We knew that we were heading to “J” loop, for instance – but the right way to go was marked “F,G”. Let's just call that “Not Intuitive”. We roll into camp, triumphant, not quite exhausted, and really cold (me).
Hope offers her down coat, and has a hot dinner ready for us in nothing flat. I am dimly aware that pinot noir is not the rehydration beverage of choice, but the jerked beer can chicken, beans and rice is really, really good! Off to collect my clothes up at the Chris/Carly camp. They've already pitched my tent! Cool! I haul myself in there and try to get warm enough to sleep.
When I wake up, I am warm, so it must've worked. Breakfast time. One of the bennies of being itinerant at the Diamond Lake ride is that EVERYONE brings too much food. I have a great breakfast with Carly and Chris, take some clothes down to the bathroom to change, and swing by Chris and Hope's camp to see how things are going there. The boys are hovering, eating their "just for camping" sugar cereal and dressed like Eskimos. I have breakfast with Chris and Hope: Eggs and miniature andouille sausages. And really good coffee. We sit there, pondering the ride organizers' advice – given last night at the mandatory rider meeting that we missed (but Hope stood in for us): please leave as late as possible due to the possibility of freezing roads overnight. Well, it didn't freeze overnight – but it's getting colder and windier by the minute, now...
I go back to my tent to grab my riding shoes, to discover that I have been pillaged by chipmunks. The only disadvantage to biking up to the lake is that I didn't put all of my stuff in rodent-proof bins (too bulky). My peanuts are just in a bag, and it's just too tempting. I left the door open, and mayhem ensued. As if that wasn't bad enough – I'm a slow learner. I closed up the bag, put it back in the tent, and zipped up the door “so they couldn't get back in”. Hah. Show a squirrel a peanut, and he'll figure out how to get it...
The perp!

We rolled out at 9:30 or so, for the long climb to the top. Chris waited for me as long as he could, then took off. It's getting colder. It's getting foggy. I got to the rim road and pulled into the parking lot...made the decision. I didn't know what the weather was going to do, but if it deteriorated the way I thought it could, I'd have to be sagged down. I had good gear on today – but there's no staying warm when it's wet and 36 degrees and you're descending. So I waited for Hope. She was bringing the boys up to see the lake. Considering that I was at the rim, looking down, and couldn't see the lake, I kinda figured it was going to be a disappointment, but I was sure looking forward to seeing them.
Just at the point where I decided there was a reasonable chance that they'd seen the writing on the wall and stayed in camp, they appeared. I got in the truck, and we went off to find Chris. We found him just before the serious rain started, and proceeded on around the rim – there were places where the kids could see the lake, and Crater Lake is kinda cool even in poor weather.
At some point after the snow started, Henry pointed out that “this is the craziest summer vacation EVER”...we were passing some very cold cyclists in shorts and jerseys (as well as some very cold cyclists who were dressed for the weather). We stopped in at the lunch stop, let them know that we could help sag riders down.
We found Chris and Carly not too far from the Visitor's Center, and they were very happy to take on some rain pants for Chris and to wait at the Visitors' Center until we could dump off our bikes, Hope and the kids, and get back to pick them up.
By the time we got there, the Visitor's Center looked like a bike base camp – everyone with sense stopped there. We picked up an extra person, made sure that everyone there had a known ride down, and headed back.
I came back to find a nice, squirrel-sized hole in my tent, and evidence of a HUGE peanut party on the part of an unknown number of chipmunks and ground squirrels. Like I said – slow learner. When you live in the tough section of town, you don't lock your car EVER – if you do, the thieves have to break your window to get your stuff...
note hole (small discolored area of mesh, suspiciously close to peanuts).

By 4PM the weather was clearing. I'd had a shower, and I was almost warm. The Sunday weather forecast wasn't too bad, so Chris and I decided to go for the planned ride home. Dinner was potluck – an extended hors d'oevres hour, followed by quinoa stew over at Carly and Chris's, and then – chicken, rice, and grilled veggies put out by Hope and Elise. A good fire, at least two dinners, early to bed....
Sunday dawned nice and sunny. I'd been faked out in the middle of the night by the moonlight – it was so intense that I thought it might be pre-dawn. And then I heard Chris go off in the middle of the night- he was doing some photography up on the rim.
I got up, threw on my bike clothes, and packed things up, leaving the tent to attend to last. Then I headed out for breakfasts (yes, plural..) I took some muffins down to Hope and Chris's and had muffins, yogurt, granola, and really good coffee...headed back up to Carly and Chris' and had trail mix and a V8. “Oh – I scared a ground squirrel out of your tent”, Carly put in, helpfully. “I think he was looking for peanuts”. Um....no doubt.
And – they're off. Down, down, down....a fast descent to the 1500' level on 138. Then the right turn onto Canton Creek. Chris has ONE annoying habit as a riding partner...not that I'm complaining – one is a very small number, and I'm sure that I have annoying habits. But – I tend to give people the “turn coming up” headsup about 2 miles from the next turn. And – somehow, psychically, he manages to totally take off about 4 miles from the next turn, so I have to chase like crazy to prevent him blowing a turn. I'm PRETTY sure that he knows to turn at Steamboat – I mentioned it often last night – but I'm not certain. So I haul ass and get close enough to let him know.
After the we get onto Canton Creek road, we stopped to peel a layer off. The road is beautiful, almost no traffic, and very scenic. It's also pretty danged steep near the top. I was whining audibly – but I made it. An even steeper descent, and then a long, slow drop down to Sharps' Creek, Row River, Dorena Lake. We're making really good time, rolling along in the sunshine. Great day to be on the bike.
Just about the point where Chris asks whether there might be corn dogs anywhere in Cottage Grove, we came across a local mercantile. They were obviously serving the lake community – locals and campers alike – with the main trade being firewood, cigarettes, and beer. The corn dogs weren't exactly the best I've had, but they were a little bettter than the “chicken cheese rollup thing” that we got as an experiment. Where's Wayne when you need him?
Despite the less that perfect food, I was pretty happy, and thinking that the ONLY thing that might make our day better was if Elise came through just then. She was the camp hostess for the ride, and the last to leave camp. She'd volunteered to sweep our route home, and although I felt perfectly capable of riding the next 65 miles, I really didn't need to.
She actually showed up about a mile later....I loaded up and we did leapfrog support for Chris the rest of the way – which was good, because I was going to make up the rest of the route through Eugene as we went along, which wasn't going to work at Chris speed – and if we were going to get him home by dark, it needed to be at Chris speed. Here's the route coming back. It was amazing, and is highly recommended.
We had one small issue – needed to stop to replace a tire that Chris sliced, but fortunately I had a spare wheelset ready with tires mounted. Other than that, smooth sailing home.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Alpine Century - Your Next "Bucket List" Ride

How would you like to do a fully-supported century ride with:

  • zero stoplights
  • two stop SIGNS (both in the first 20 miles)
  • great scenery
  • little to no traffic
  • all the hazelnuts you can reasonably eat, and 
  • a swimming hole that appears JUST when you think it's getting a bit warm-ish?
Look no further. The Alpine Century is all that. I ran into a bunch of Corvallis friends on the ride (Mark, Tim, Joe, Kate....Joanne from Salem...) .but I mainly rode with Carbent Bro' Chris.

I rode up to Alpine from Eugene. It's about 50k. See? I'm bilingual! I rode 50k to do a 100 mile ride! This is what I get for hanging out with the rando crowd. The plan was to meet Chris at 7, and plan to be riding by 8. I figured that since I'd be all warmed up and ready it was okay to be a few minutes late, so I didn't leave until 5:45...I was only a few minutes out the door when I realized that I'd calculated my time/distance to Monroe, not Alpine - I was 5 miles short, so I'd better haul a$$. Which I did.

I got to Alpine with a full head of steam, rolled in to the parking lot and asked the lady at the registration table if "my riding partner had shown up, yet"...she gave me a blank look. I'll take that as a "no" -  even for a 'bent guy, Chris cuts a distinctive figure; if he were there, she'd know who I was talking about. By the time I'd filled out registration paperwork it was 7:20. A quick tour of the parking lot - nope - but just as I was heading back up to the breakfast table, here he comes....Miyata, top down, bike in the back...Mr. Cool.

We did make it out of the parking lot by 8:00, but barely. No worries...up and over Bellfountain. Chris is SURE there's something wrong with my front wheel; it's making a lot of noise. Now, sports fans, I'm auditioning a new front wheel - a Cosmic Carbone SL, with (yep!) a carbon fairing bonded on to an aluminum rim. Although this wheel has a reputation for being bombproof, my recent history with carbon/aluminum bonding is pathetic, so we stop and check. Everything. Nothing apparently wrong...

Over Bellfountain, made the turn onto Decker. This is a very easy course to navigate, and I've been on all the roads before, so I don't really have to think too much. Down the other side, on to Hwy 34. One guy catches me just before the Marys Peak access road and congratulates me (on being almost as fast as him??? Hmmmm).

Turns out that he and Chris are both waiting at the top, and pull out right behind me as I head down. This is some of the best pavement on the planet. Seriously. On club rides, even on my upright, I've been known to make grown men cry. And today I've got the Raven. I had some initial speed on Chris, so it took him a couple of miles to catch back up to me. We don't see the other guy until the rest stop at Alsea.

Rest stop at the Alsea grange hall. Hazelnuts, M&M's, and Gorge Delights fruit bars. Oh, and Gu and Gatorade and stuff like that. But - Hazelnuts and M&M's. I think I could do a century on just that.
Lobster Valley Road - nice. Quiet. Up. Back to 34. Up a little, then back down to Alsea again. MAN, that was a quick 50 miles! And a good thing...it's getting hot, and Chris is almost out of water (we skipped a rest station).

Load up, and on the home stretch. It's pushing 100 degrees in the sun (oof!) but we're going to be in shade for most of the rest of the ride. There's a rest stop right at the trailhead down to the falls. We're on it. We tell the volunteers there that we're going in. They offered to watch our bikes.

COLD THERAPY!!!! OOOOOOOH!!!!! Chris got a young couple to snap a cellphone pic of us in the falls, and he managed to navigate clear across the river and back without dropping the thing. Not bad.


A few more miles of easy climbing, and then DOWN! to Alpine...a nice lunch. I was a little behind on fluids so I refilled water bottles and had a soda. The local businesses put up a lot of raffle prizes; since I'd done day of ride registration I wasn't in the drawing but several friends won bottles of wine, etc. Something to remember for next year!

Chris dropped me off in Corvallis, and I changed into "party" clothes at Peak Sports. I had a few minutes to kill before heading to a party, so I stopped in to a gelato shop (shoppe?). I had a small dish of chocolate-orange and cherry. Could easily have had all chocolate-orange...and an iced espresso. Nice!
Drank probably half a gallon of water at the party, ate everything salty I could find, and stayed WAY too long, but had a very nice time - a good mixture of "bike" and "non-bike" people. (Meaning - mainly bike people, but we were finding other things to talk about.) People were a little surprised that I was heading out at dark to ride the final 40 miles...but hey - I've got a great light. Might as well use it, and it was cooling down nicely.

On the way home I stopped in Monroe for QUITE a while - still feeling a little thirsty, so I sucked down a large iced tea and refilled yet again while I watched the moon set and a little bit of heat lightning dance to the south...the latter brought a bit of headwind; I allowed that to slow me down a bit, and got home around 11:30.

Long, good day. You know you've done a good one when you have to think about whether it's worth it to grab a shower, or just crawl into bed filthy.

Consider the Alpine Century! They do a great job and they deserve more turnout than they get.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whack!

Sometimes you just have to be hit over the head with it.

On my way out of REI today - killing a little time before hitting the gym - I got whacked in the head by a falling catalpa pod. And it hit me (duh...): I want a catalpa tree. It's time. 






Now, as urges go, this is a strange one. A catalpa tree is an extremely impractical tree that only a medium-sized child, or a true sentimental sap, could love. Thing is, it's really not much of a coincidence that I got hit by catalpa tree debris: dropping things is what catalpas do best. Sort of like my dog, Cog, they shed three seasons out of the year. In the spring, they drop giant white flowers which look like a cross between a snapdragon and a rhododendron. The flowers are tough (which means that you can string them into really cool necklaces) and don't degrade readily in spring rain (which means that you have to pick them up). In the summer, the fruit starts coming down: long, bean-like skewers that could put a kid's eye out if you weren't careful. However, they are just long enough for swordplay. Then, like the flowers, they have to be picked up. In the fall, predictably, the leaves: large (huge, really), heart-shaped, and tough. So big that they clog the rake. But they make great piles which can be jumped in, and then (back in the day) the leaves could be burned - a kind of pleasant smell that came with the pumpkins and time to pick out Halloween costumes.

Few readers will be surprised at this point to learn that I grew up in the shade of a catalpa tree. For several years, my horse lived in the shade of our catalpa tree, too. Yes - I was a one-time horse owner, from the age of six (or so...) to nine (or so...). Timmy was made of wood, probably painfully, by my dad. I don't know if he had a pattern or plans, or if he freehanded the whole thing, though I suspect the latter.

Timmy was amazing and magical, and I knew that this was so because Daddy made him Just For Me. He was white, when he was any color at all, and he was suspended from the biggest branch of the catalpa tree that didn't hang out over the driveway or the street. (Did I mention that catalpas have a spreading habit? - something else to dismay the horticulturists among us...) I spent a lot of time riding Timmy - possibly where I got my first taste for the rhythmic motion of cycling (or more cynically, the origin of my depressingly slow cadence!).

I have no idea how Timmy got his name. At that age, things just get named, and you go with it. But I had a lot of fun out there, riding my horse, playing with swords, peeling the bark off of the catalpa tree (oh, yeah, they've got crumbly bark...) and watching the ants march up and down the trunk (...and the loose bark makes great habitat for carpenter ants.)

Somewhere, in the shady recesses of my brain, that tree took root. It's a metaphor for the quiet, peaceful, happy times that I remember from the last of my "make believe" years - especially the summers. So when that pod fell on me today, it was a wakeup call: It's time. Find your spot. Grow some roots. Twenty years - or twenty-five - or sometime - you'll be wanting to put up a swing in your catalpa tree. You'll want to plant it rather soon. 


Right now I've got...I don't know  - runners? Like a strawberry plant, I'm a bit of a biennial. I've got satellites all over the place - people I know/love/connect with who are widely flung. That's great. None of them are in Eugene. That's not so great. 

Clearly I don't have all the answers yet - but I'm getting closer, and I'm feeling some urgency to make some changes by the time fall rolls around. In the meantime, blueberries and blackberries are coming on hot and heavy, the best of Oregon weather is upon us, and the riding is danged good.

And I'm going to share an unexpected musical treat. This is a portion of my daughter Nancy's (first) trumpet concerto. It's an electronic rendering; the world premiere is as yet unscheduled, but - watch this space. I think it's pretty nice.