Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Connecting with the tribe

OK, let's face it. There's not much more that I can do to be ready for RAAM. I've ridden long, I've ridden hard, I've ridden long AND hard. I've got jerseys and team gear. I've got two GREAT bikes, complete with the worlds' pinkest, trickest, nicest idlers. I've got an amazing crew and my vans are secured. I've even got my crew organizing my vans. Last weekend Mandy's dad Chris put the first of the RAAM beds into Eggplant (my purple minivan; sorry Greg, but your white van has already been dubbed "Beluga"). Dang - that's some cabinetry!

So - although there are still about a million tiny details to work out, the hard logistics are done, and I can sit in just a bit. And after a lot of solo training, I've got an unspeakable urge to connect. It feels right - part of RAAM is "going home" in a very real way - and so I'm giving in to it.

Last weekend after a tough training week I kicked back a little bit - I was a clipboard holder/sign waver at the Deschutes River Valley TT Festival. Normally I'd be racing this event. It was cool to be watching, though, and I got to get some riding in as well as some social time with a bunch of local racers. After the last racer was off, I faced down Bakeoven Hill. It was hills like this - not just long, not just steep, but long and steep - that put me into the "recupright" division last year at RAO - I was too new to recumbent geometry and handling to be secure on the steep stuff. Sunday morning, I slithered right up. Doing it without a thought about "what if" was pretty cool. Once I was past the steep part of the climb, on the false flats, the "real" racers started pouring by, already heading back on the out-and-back course. I knew almost everyone by name - something that wouldn't have happened if I'd been racing - and I had a great time cheering. Pretty cool.

The trip down was a blast, too -I had the iPod going at full throttle. Here's what I got for the final descent:

which made me think that I should have a "designated descender" playlist! I'll take nominations for what (else) should be on it...

This weekend I'll get to do a 400k with the Oregon Randonneurs. Believe it or not this will be my first rando ride of the year! Wow. I've been busy doing other things. Randonneuring rides don't set any speed records, but that's okay. It will be good to hang out with that tribe, too, and enjoy the covered bridges of the Willamette Valley. I'll probably manage to sneak in a corn dog or two at the controls.

The following two weekends are going to be particularly special. First, I'm going to tackle the mother of all bike-commutes: I'm going to ride down to the Tour of the Unknown Coast. David Bradley is kindly hosting a double century option for this ride, which is enough of a beast in its own right (nearly 10k' of climbing in the century). The double century? Easy - just turn around and do it...again. Yikes.  I can't wait to connect with the Arcata folks again, and to be in the company of a bunch of happy riders and really big trees.

If a 500-mile training weekend is a good thing, the following weekend will only be half-good. We're going to ride the back half of the RAO course. Dennis Johnson - an amazing ultradistance 'bent rider from Texas - is spearheading this one, and I'm tagging along with a few friends. This will be our opportunity to troubleshoot, do a test run on the electronics, the comm system, etc. Rumor has it that George Thomas, RAO race director, and his RAW teammate Mick Walsh will be out there training on the course at the same time. I'm sure they'll rocket past us at a high rate of speed, just like they will as we're approaching Durango this June. Again, it'll be great seeing everyone, being part of something a little bigger than a solo ride, being immersed in the world of vans, coolers, and walkie-talkies, and growing all our stories just a little bit bigger with one more telling....

Times like this I'm reminded of my "parting gift" from Susan Notorangelo, after I DNF'd RAAM in 2002. She told me something that it took me a very long time to understand, and a bit longer still to get right - that I'd be ready for solo RAAM when I had the right people around me.

And here we go.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I am SO not wearing my RAO finisher's jersey on 4/26!

I don't feel like I have much to contribute to this effort, but - "all in" is "all in", after all.
The Shebeest halter is coming out of retirement....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hot Dog Heaven

Great training ride today! I was treated to a hillfest with Chris and Mark. Chris' stock training ride - which I last did to prep for Ring of Fire last fall - is a 1:10 scale RAO - 50 miles, 5000' of climbing. It was a good measure of progress for me - my low speed handling is definitely less panic-driven, and my climbing speed *might* be a little faster, especially on shallower grades.

We got most of the climbing out of the way in the first 30 miles or so, parting ways with Mark at the Helvetia Tavern - so that he could head off to the Portland Velo club ride(!). Mark is training for 2-man RAO and appears to be well on his way to a repeat performance. I was a little surprised to find that Chris had never been further west, so we decided to strike out for - get this - Kansas City. Yes! There's a Kansas City in Oregon.

So off we go - Team Pink - two recumbents on a mission to ride from Portland to Kansas City -and back - in a day. Along the way I showed Chris a few roads that are great fun - Pumpkin Ridge, Dairy Creek...We made a quick, but respectful, stop at the cemetery in Roy.

We rolled through Kansas City. I think. It's one of those places where you can't blink. And sometimes even if you don't, you're not quite sure...was

Rolling along toward Forest Grove, we decided to make a stop for refueling. Since I'd bragged on my corndog eating abilities last week, Chris was expecting great things. At first, I was thinking that we'd hit Maggie's Buns - probably not a corndog to be had, but still quite a nice place, with brownies that absolutely can't be beat....but I missed the turn. And we had this really nice tailwind, and I really didn't want to turn around, and...a Plaid Pantry was just around the corner. Saved! Surely they would have corndogs!

But - no. It was a dry hole. Not a corn dog to be had. Sadly, we started back toward our bikes. That's when we noticed Can Am Coffee - a small trailer-restaurant in the corner of the parking lot, nearly swallowed by an immense cedar. And - in smallish print, near the bottom of the menu - HOT DOGS. We're stoked!

Wayne, the proprietor, is stoked, too, especially when he sees my Race Across Oregon Finisher jersey (which, ironically, I had forgotten I was wearing). "Hey - I was just talking about Race Across Oregon this morning...and Race Across America, too!" OK, I thought, THIS is really strange...but Wayne goes on to say that Mike Olson had come over for coffee - so it makes perfect sense. I let slip that Mike had this crazy friend who's doing Race Across America, solo...Here's a photo of Wayne in his native environment:

And - the hot dogs were amazing. We went big - sprung for the Polish dogs, with (almost) everything. I skipped on the mayo, Chris on the kraut (but he got it anyway, and a good thing, too - we all need to eat our veggies!). Fully loaded with freshly minced onion, relish, Tillamook cheese, mustard, catsup, jalapenos (you KNEW I'd have the jalapenos this time!) and the requisite kraut, the dog was easily a 3/4 pound EXPERIENCE, heaped up on top with ingredients, and excess dog peeking out both ends of the bun. The cafe Americano was also above par, and Wayne was the consummate host - table service out to the picnic table under the cedar. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

As we sat down, I (finally) realized that the reason Mike Olson had been over for coffee was that.. Olsons' Bicycles was literally right across the street! I'm embarrassed to say that I'd never been in. So of course we had to stop in and say hi. It was great to see Mike, catch up a bit.

After that, a tailwind ride home, only slightly marred by traffic through the Hillsboro/Beaverton corridor. One road-rager, more amusing than menacing. We beat the rain home, and lived to ride again tomorrow.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cycle and Style magazine - Racing in the World's Toughest Race

I don't get media requests terribly often. Let's face it - RAAM isn't picked up on very many channels. So when it  does happen - that odd email or phone call: "Hi - I hear you are doing the world's toughest race? That's so cool!  Can we write about it?" I'm happy to help out. I'm not terribly shy, and I'd like to think that I give a reasonably good interview - enough "meat" to write an interesting article, without bogging down in too many details.

Last week I was interviewed by Tara McKee of Cycle and Style magazine - an online cycling magazine for women. I thought this was really cool - a great opportunity to bring the wild, wacky world of RAAM to an audience who may never heard of such insanity before.

Here's a link to the article. Feel free to spend some time browsing around the rest of the magazine. You'll find product reviews, informative articles, the occasional recipe (I was salivating over the pumpkin bars!) and lots of warm, cool, entertaining content.

That's it for today, sports fans!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Sense of Scale

 SCALE (N): 

  • a proportion between two sets of dimensions (as between those of a drawing and its original) 
  • a distinctive relative size, extent, or degree 
  • a graded series of tests or of performances used in rating individual intelligence or achievement

I've scaled up. I think it happened at Davis, or possibly on the long drive home. Time was, a 24-hour race was a Major Event - I'd spend the week - sometimes longer - afterward being sore, famished, legarthic, and generally not able to do much. 

I've gotten past that. True - I didn't race Davis as hard as I normally race a 24, but it was still a 24, and I did put in a series of hard laps. After a nap at Lee's Bike Hostel, we got home around midnight Sunday night/Monday AM. I took Monday off, but I felt pretty danged good. Legs felt good-heavy, like I'd done a long run, but not painful.  I did some light spinning at the gym on Tuesday, and - since we got a rare weather break - a hilly century on Wednesday. Back to the gym to spin on Thursday, 60 miles on Friday, and a really wonderful 150-mile training ride today. 

In other words, business as usual. Except that the different part is, it doesn't seem long - or hard - any more. It just IS. Today, I rode up to the Mid Valley Bicycle Club ride in Corvallis. It's 42 miles to get there. If you remember some of my earlier posts, it used to be a struggle to get up early and ride all the way there. I didn't even really have to think about it this morning. I did hit the snooze button a couple of times, and I ended up leaving about a half an hour later than I had wanted to - but it never crossed my mind that I should drive partway, or that it was too far, or...that it was 32 degrees outside, with a nasty headwind which hadn't been figured into my speed calculations when I hit the second time, much less the third...Cripes!

OK. Just keep on top of the time, and keep pedalling. From the turn onto Coburg Road - a mile from my house - to the intersection of Hwy 34 and Peoria Road - about 38 miles total - I didn't put a foot down. I stopped pedalling and coasted precisely once - making a turn in Harrisburg. Other than that - crank city. I also spent much of the ride working on one-handed steering; I was needing to keep one hand in an armpit to stay warm. 

I got to the ride at 9:05. This is a 9AM ride with a 9:15 "procrastination special" start, so in reality I'm nowhere near late. I have time to hit the Beanery for two(!) seven layer bars, which I'm pretty sure will come in handy. They look like the most, um, energy-dense offering, and my legs are telling me that, even though they're good to ride, the previous weeks' activities have left them without much in the bank. (Good. Good RAAM simulation...add "Seven Layer Bars" to the food arsenal). Torched one of them immediately, stuffed the other in the race bag for later. 

The ride is one of my favorites - Alsea Falls. I had a pretty good run of early on, then hung back to ride with  Joe and Tim and Steve a bit. Tim and Steve talk beer. Tim rides faster when Tim and Steve talk beer, a fact I file away with some amusement. It's great to see Lindy, and also great to grab a fig bar or two for the journey ahead. 

We all reconvened at the Marys Peak Road turnoff; it's rolling downhill to the hamlet of Alsea. I started near the back of the pack. This meant that by the time I worked my way to the front, Steve had some warning. He wasn't able to catch my wheel, but was clearly ramping up. I had a nice game of cat-and-mouse the rest of the way in to town. He'd enlisted one helper and they were clearly riding like men possessed - tongues out, hammer and tongs. I'd pick up the pace when I could pick out two helmets by color in my rear view mirror, otherwise I was loafin' - the bike LOVES that kind of terrain. The guys were exhausted, but happy with their effort, when we got to Alsea. Reminded me of a couple of dogs chasing chance to catch one, just love having an excuse to run fast and pretend. 

Corn dog at the Alsea store. Stick Food ROCKS!! The lady asked me whether I wanted "regular or jalapeno". I figured that this was akin to asking me whether I was just plain crazy, or crazy with a side order of stupid. Went for the regular. "They're not that bad. Really", she replied...maybe next time. 

Slowed down a bit after that - did the climb to the Alsea summit in "tourist" mode, just barely aerobic. Still avoided visiting Granny, except for a couple of steep pitches. Pretty similar pace to my Davis 24 effort - kicked back and loving life. No snow on top; we thought there might be a bit, but - nope. 

After the descent into Alpine, we climbed back up Bellfountain Road to the Midge Cramer Coastdown site. With the still-stiff headwinds, it was clear that we weren't going to be setting any outright records, but relative fame and glory was there to be had. The Carbent carried the day, coasting past  the marks set by  faired recumbents and a tandem, in addition to the usual array of DFs. Considering that I'd never done a true coast-down test before, not a bad outing. At the very least, I was dressed for it: my Castelli jacket is extremely aero - nothing flapping. I could've battened down the front vents for another foot or two, I suppose. 

Rolled in, chatting a bit, then off toward Eugene. This time with a tailwind, at least most of the way. Another 42 miles just clicked away. In a way it was effortless, just keeping pedalling, doing what I love and loving what I do. Somewhere past Monroe it came to me that things have taken a turn - that I'm racking up big miles (good) without much effort (better) and that it's not mentally difficult and I'm recovering quickly (best). 

RAAM is a huge undertaking. It was time to scale up. I'm feeling good. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Davis 24 Race Report

I went into Davis without a whole lot of preconceived notions or expectations. I'd had two weeks on Rosemary, one of which was spent with a sinus infection, antibiotics, an insane week at work, and - no riding. Does this sound familiar? Yep - A little like my runup to Race Across Oregon.
Well, sometimes getting there is half the battle. This was one of those times. Fortunately Elise and I got an early start as there was a snowstorm in the Siskiyous. We got to visit a Les Schwab for tire chains:

As a public service announcement, here's how to put them on!

Between the detour to get chains, the LONG inspection line - mandatory chain-up, and putting the chains on (OK, we wussed out on that part, got some help), we were about three hours later than we expected to be - but still in plenty of time for racer checkin at Winters. I can't verify this 100%  but I believe I collected a hug from everyone who was at registration (though a gingerly one from Patsy as her arm was in a sling). It's that kind of a race.

We stayed with Lee Mitchell - an annual tradition that just keeps getting better - lots of friends, lasagne, and laughing off what might have been pre-race jitters. We were rockin' the Team Sandy kit, which had arrived the past week from Champion Systems - thanks, guys! - and I'd like to report that I got ZERO lasagna on my tee, even though it was very tasty. Here's Lee in action:

Oh, yeah - the race. We took off at 6:30 into the barely-light. Up, down, flat, rolling along. Weather was cool - I conceded knickers to the weather gods and I think it was a good thing. I was on a mission to NOT push any climbs, just experience them at RAAM pace. I think I succeeded - at least judging from the number of people I passed on every downhill, and then saw again later. Elise was a champ feeder. We'd made sandwiches the night before - a medley of ham, cheese, cream cheese, cherry jam, and Nutella - and she'd pull random ones out to surprise me. They were ALL good, so it was a lot of fun. We'd also gotten a half flat of strawberries from a street vendor in Williams on the way down - you could SMELL them from the road. And they were HUGE. And TASTY. Oh - the first time she handed off a hand-sized strawberry to me halfway up a climb, it was heavenly. They were so good, and there were so many of them, that she started handing them off to all of the racers around us - Max,  Mike, and Joan I know for sure mentioned getting treats.

Mike Wilson and I got off-course in Lower Lake, missed the turn onto 175. No excuses, but I was following him - got mesmerized by the lycra, dunno? - and we both lost 5 minutes or so before we got turned around. I knew that we'd missed the turn fairly quickly, so it wasn't that big a deal - and the extra adrenaline surge might've come in handy on Cobb Mountain - so it might have been a net zero - can't say.

I "turtled" on one stupid little bit of Cobb Mtn. Just too much going on, riders coming around, traffic heading both directions, and me pushing dynamically unstable - so I decided to put a foot down. Couldn't hold the position - the bike slid back - and over we went. Rats. The bike landed fully on top of me. I was giggling and I swear she was, too. We dusted ourselves off and restarted. No harm, no foul - just amused Mike and Joan.

After that, I continued on at a good clip - over Resurrection, which is actually one of my favorite climbs - mainly shallow, you know where you're going, and you can push it a little. Down and into the wind...should have switched to the motorcycle goggles right away but we waited until night loops for that.
The motorcycle goggles completely solved the night blindness problem that I'd had at Sebring. For those who don't know, the padding blocks air entry, which I guess is important if you're whizzing around on a hawg at supersonic speeds. Here's a picture:

Not fashion forward, my friends - not at all. But they work, and for $15 you can get 'em in colors. You can see the foam padding behind the frame.

I got a couple of pretty fast night loops in before I settled into a night rhythm. I knew I was falling short of 400 miles - my original goal - but I also knew that I could easily go over 355, which was the womens' course record (upright bike, set in 2008 by...I'll let you look it up...). I felt a little sleepy right as the sun went down, and fought that for some time. Red Bull helped with that, as did tunes. I'd had to abandon the earbuds for my ipod - I'm pretty sure they were contributing to my earache/sinus problems, especially considering the way I abuse them at the gym - so I had to get creative. I rigged a very high-powered headphone speaker to my helmet, and it works great. I don't get true stereo, but it was more than adequate. Definitely rockin' the house.

I decided to let go with a little more juice on the last full lap. I finally lapped Michele S, who I'd been surfing a comfortable hour ahead of most of the night. I figured that my 1:04 final lap was a pretty emphatic finale, but she apparently begged to differ, logging an amazing self-reported 13 miles in her subsequent 27-minute partial lap.

Breakfast at the Putah Creek Cafe is a given after this event. I went for the biscuits and gravy, though their scrambles are also quite good.

Shower and a nap at Lee's, then a long drive home. After a really ragged trip over the Shasta summit, the Siskiyous were clear. We celebrated with dinner at a Thai restaurant in Ashland which is definitely worth a repeat.

Aftermath -  I was impressed with the speedy (almost immediate) recovery after this race. Possibly has to do with the slightly more relaxed pace, but also experience and training seem to be coming along quite nicely.