Sunday, May 30, 2010

Remembering Jane

I feel a little sheepish about this post, because I wasn't close to because Jane, really. People have said a lot of things about Jane. Nice things. "Academically talented", "hard working", "upbeat", "athletic"...Bottom line for me was, Jane was flat-out smart: the cool kind of smart that makes other people smarter.We were in a couple of classes together at OSU.  She was also an Ironman triathlete - made it to Kona a couple of times, but was pretty low-key about it.

I was a lowly post-bacc...but I'd run out of normal classes to take, so Spring quarter saw me taking...weight training, performance cycling, first aid, performance swimming (I was trying to be a triathlete, see?), and - a graduate course in human micronutrient nutrition. We had to do presentations at the end of the term, and being the post-bacc, I got assigned the crappiest, most boring micronutrient on the planet: riboflavin. No one goes deficient, EVER, so there aren't any cool diseases to talk about. It's in a lot of foods, so there's not a particular group to study who might have nutritional issues surrounding it. It's not even very toxic. So - I decided to go deep and try for the Hail Mary...photochemistry. Riboflavin biodegrades in light - this is why vitamins all come in brown bottles (see! you LEARN STUFF reading my blog).

I hauled out my p-chem book and did my best..pored over a dozen papers, thought about sp3 orbitals for the first time in more than a decade...put the pieces together, looked at it all, and asked myself: when I get to the end of this presentation, WHAT SMART QUESTION WILL JANE HIGDON ASK? And - I figured it out. And I rehearsed the answer. And wouldn't you know it - I was right...and surprised the heck out of Dr. Leklem, and got an A in the course. So when I say that Jane made the people around her smarter, I'm speaking from personal experience.

Jane went on to get her PhD in human nutrition and run the micronutrient information center at the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU. Instead of a PhD, I got a divorce, a "real" job, and a move to Portland.

Jane died on May 31, 2006. She was riding her bike in a paceline on a routine training ride and was struck by a truck on a rural road in the valley. Four years ago Monday. She was 47 years old.

Every once in a while, people ask me why I'm not afraid to race RAAM, isn't it too dangerous, what about all the traffic....Here's the thing: cyclists are always vulnerable out on the road. Any time, any place, I could crash or be hit and be killed outright or catastrophically injured. So far, I've been lucky. If my luck ever does run out, I'm sure I'll have regrets for things left undone - but RAAM won't be one of them.

There's a foundation that's been set up to honor Jane's commitment to athletic mentoring, especially of young women and girls. You can read about it here:

I thought about Jane out of the blue when I set up the t-shirt contest on my blog: it hit me like a ton of bricks that Jane would've figured this one out right away. Started in the fall...250,000...ultraendurance cycling...she'd chide me for being a little short, probably, but she'd figure it out, and she'd be sure. Jane was like that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Win A Team Sandy Tee - Contest

Hi Gang -

If you've purchased, but not yet received, a hat, it is on its way to you right now. I have just a few leftover RAAM tees (and plenty of hats, though that may change after this weekend).   These are nice, wicking performance tees, fully sublimated to match my race jerseys.  I'll want to save a few tees for sponsors and such, but - I've decided to give one away to a lucky I'm holding a contest.

Contest Rules: Simple!

  1. Post your guess as a comment to this blog post. (If you have trouble doing this, email me at with your guess, but do try to post it  - because seeing all the guesses is half the fun!). 
  2. First correct guess wins - your choice of available sizes. 
  3. If you already OWN a Team Sandy tee, you can guess, but you're not eligible to win. You know who you are. 
  4. Multiple guesses are okay, but I'll only count your LAST one, so make it good. 
  5. I'll TRY TO post feedback on guesses (getting warmer...), but no guarantees on timeliness. 
  6. Contest entry period ends midnight 5/31/2010. 
  7. If no one guesses correctly, I will award the tee to the person with the Most Entertaining (But Still Logically Reasonable) guess.  
OK...drumroll....for your shot at fame, immortality, and a really hot tee shirt, answer me this: 

Sandy has had almost 250,000 (what!!!) since 11/1/2009?

So - what is it? Bugs on the windshield? Holes in her socks? What's the significance of 11/1? I'll warn you right away that this is obscure. Someone out there just might be able to put it together, though. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tapering: a different kind of hard

I'm doing a relatively long taper. I've had success with this before (Race Across Oregon 2009 springs to mind immediately). My sense is that by the time we reach this point as endurance athletes, there's nothing more to be gained by long, hard workouts. And I've had SO many friends comment to me on having a really great race experience that they just can't account for "...because I'd been basically off the bike for the past X weeks due to ". It happens often enough that it can't be coincidence. The benefits of rest and recovery outweigh any benefits of further training at this point. 

The problem is that training is fun, and tapering sucks! I feel like I've been sitting around a lot. Changing light bulbs (in the van lights) and buying supplies like sunscreen, horchata, and neosporin...little stuff that does move my RAAM forward, but just doesn't have the fun factor that goes along with riding. I mean - let's face it - this is what fun looks like:

not this:
No matter how hard you try to make it look good, you just know that there's not enough Valium in the world to put my stupid-happy bike grin on this woman's face.

Tapering comes with another set of challenges, apart from the boredom. My body is healing up very quickly, and part of the healing process is the "reveal" - all of the nagging aches and pains that are normally masked by the endorphin load of training are coming home to roost. And since I spend this time being very highly attuned to my body and its needs and demands, I feel every twinge. There are all sorts of "phantom" sensations that, in reality, mean nothing at all. But the first time - and the second, and the third - that you go through a taper cycle, you can't help but worry...because now that you've finally given the knee some rest, you notice this funny feeling...AUGH!

And then the doubt sets in: maybe a taper is the wrong idea in the first place? Maybe if I just keep riding hard all the way to the main event I'll not have to deal with this. Maybe NOT training so hard is making me literally fall apart. Maybe...This is not a good time for doubt. I'm lucky - I know this works. I expect it to be hard - just as hard as any other phase of the training, just a different kind of hard.

On the plus side, I get to do some pampering things that really fell by the wayside when I was training harder. Salads - amazing salads. I don't eat a lot of spinach salad during a 24-hour race - in addition to the obvious logistical problems that presents, I just can't always spare the room when trying to pack in an extra thousand calories a day. Fruits and veggies just sound good - I need to lighten up a little with the reduced training volume, and I'm enjoying the tastes, smells, and textures.

I'm still training, of course - just cutting it a little short, focusing on form, speedwork, and quitting as soon as I get the results I'm after. Nice ride today - but no need to thrash through a 200k.I know I can ride that far, no trick to it, nothing to prove, and - it won't get me to Annapolis.  I can do the intensity work inside (until next weekend, that is!) and just connect with the bike, make sure I'm happy with the equipment, and more or less relax and refresh.

So - nothing much of interest to report. All systems are "go". Eggplant (my RAAM van) is taking on a seriously badass appearance: she's sprouted FIVE speakers out the front (four for external music, one for voice/PA) and a couple of low fog lights to help light my way at night. The bed's installed. I've got a case of horchata in aseptic packaging: it's great alone, on ice, or mixed with orange drink (creamsicle) or instant coffee ("horchatte"). A lot of Honey Stinger product - bars, gels, and chews - and some other goodies are already stockpiled, too.

Alert readers will have noticed the new "twitter" badge on my blog. We've concluded that twitter will be a good way to get quick updates to those who are interested - it's very easy to send a text message from a cell phone - but most of you don't have twitter accounts. This badge will allow you to see updates live over the web whenever you want without having to log in, create a new account, or "follow" me.

Next week: OHPV Human Powered Challenge, Portland International Raceway. I'll be out there. Some speedwork, nothing too hard or too long, and good times with friends. I'll also swing by the Lewis and Clark Ultra - I'd love to race it, but...too close.

After that - Oceanside. And before I leave, I promise...I'll tell you WHY I'm the luckiest person in the world.

Monday, May 17, 2010

RAO Pre-Ride - Final shakedown

This weekend's ride went really, really well! We did a crew, van, and logistics shakedown by riding the back half of the Race Across Oregon route. Dennis Johnson, Team Bacchetta rider from Texas and really cool guy, was the instigator on this trip. I was just tagging along, but it was sure a great way to do it. Here's Dennis in action:

Those of you who are paying close attention to my blog will know that last weekend I rode my bike to Arcata, CA, rode the Tour of the Unknown Coast, and then flew home. So - where does that leave my bike? In Arcata! And who is coming up to Portland for Dennis' training ride? David Bradley and Bill Spaeth, 2/3 of Dennis' dream team RAO crew (third member is the inimitable "Lone Star Sharon" Stevens). And David and Bill are from...yep...Arcata. So they drove my bike back up for the weekend. How cool is that?


and Bill:

We started the weekend early with a mandatory trip to Clyde's. Clyde's is the mother of all meat joints - unbelievable atmosphere. Dimly lit, red velvet booths, shiny chandeliers of many colors, atrocious art, including a suit of armor in the get the drift. Really good red meat.

The boys' van (Dennis, David, Bill) headed off to Hood River to get an early jump on the driving, while the girls' van (Sandy, Elise, Mandy, and our honorary girl and Team Carbent member Chris Young) stayed in town and got up earlier. Drove out to Heppner, did some shopping, and got going around noon.

The scenery was still spring green, not the toasted brown that it will be in July, and really, really pretty. The first stretch - Hwy 74 - has some ups and downs, as one would expect on a course with >40k' of vertical.  I was wondering if David would recognize the scene of the crime - the much-storied September 2008 Theft Of Descent - and of course he did...I distinctly heard him holler "Descent Stealer!" over the PA as we summited. I giggled. What's a girl to do?

On to 395, where we turned south. Light tailwinds so far, so unlike 2009 as to be striking. Also, since we left Heppner at noon I'm getting to see everything that I rode in the dark in the light...I remember the climb to Battle Mountain as not being so terrible, and I'm glad to report that I'm not changing my story one bit. Middle ring, baby! Woo-hoo!

Just as I summited, a DF rider came shooting by...nice, but?? OH! Yeah! Bill brought his new Cervelo! Awesome...nice chase down the mountain....about the only thing that could have made that splendid descent just a little better was the added company. The descent down to Dale was amazing in the afternoon light, filtered through the trees, along the water's edge. Bullock's Oriole...first one of those I've seen in a while.

Chris and I had been looking at the clouds, wondering if there might be "weather" on the other side. We each got about...oh...4 raindrops on the way down. Not quite enough to count, just enough to make each of us wonder whether the other was messing with us. Flush toilets in Dale. Yay!

Eating well, drinking well, electrolytes on schedule. Yep, a sandwich sounds good...I was also eating an unsupportable number of Noreen's Latte Bars, but dang were they good!

Got to Long Creek long after the sidewalks were rolled up (though also long before dark...). On to Monument - a more difficult climb - Kimberly - Spray. I took out at Spray to practice a sleep break. It was a little early - I probably should've gone on to Fossil, but I wasn't in a 'pushing it' mood; the goal here is to perfect the crew communications, get some good data, ride strongly, and not work to the break point.

When we went down for a sleep break we lost contact with the boys' van briefly, backtracked to make sure we knew where they were (since we were out of cell range) and were very happy to make it to Shaniko, though somewhat before the gas station opened there. Yes, Shaniko is open for business again! I was proud of Mandy and Elise - we knew we were short on gas, and I let them figure out the plan to overcome that. Good job!

After getting gas we sagged forward to meet up with the boys, pausing in Maupin to get coffee for all. We were able to rejoin them for much of the FR44 climb, and the final descent into Hood River. The scenery along FR44 is gorgeous. Sadly we didn't make much time for photo opps, but the views of Mt. Hood were amazing, particularly set against the jewel-blue sky. If you really squint at the picture, you can see Elise at the summit, holding out the ultimate Sandy bribe...two electrolyte tablets discreetly mounted onto a York Peppermint Pattie! We ended our day at the last RAO time station - the Pine Grove Pit Stop - to save riding into Hood River in Sunday morning traffic.

On the way home, an amazingly alert David noticed that one of the bike trays on our roof was coming loose, so we pulled over in Cascade Locks, which is home to...the best soft serve in the world, the East Wind Drivein.  I suggested that too much thinking was a problem, and that we have medium swirls and be done with it. No one protested. And I finally had an excuse to haul out the ice cream chimes playlist...

Summary - Mission: accomplished. Crew: amazing. Van: rocks. Company: amazing. Thanks so much to everyone involved, not least of all Robert and Adrienne, who managed to serve as the mission control center while in their 38th week of pregnancy.

Next up: tapir - it's not just a bizarre South American mammal....


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gone Raven!

I'm back from an amazing road trip.

I bike-commuted to the Tour of the Unknown Coast. It's about 325 miles to get there. It was an adventure.
Highlights, in no particular order:   Aerosmith, Crystal (my waitress at Denny's and I'm sure a guardian angel in disguise), Avenue of the Giants, good times with friends, macaroni and cheese, Trinidad, scones, hummingbirds, wildflowers, the Best Sign Ever, and tsunami warning zones.
I left bright and early on Thursday morning - about 6:30, well after light but before much traffic was out. I had done several slightly different Google map routes and finally decided on the frontal assault: straight west to Florence, then south on Highway 101. Just outside the hamlet of Walton, still on Highway 126 heading west - far enough in that I was looking for a bathroom, and feeling like a snack - I saw the Best Sign Ever. It simply stated:
1/2 Mile.
Best Sign Ever. Gets my vote! Morning Glory Farm was selling soaps, honey, and very nice looking greens, in addition to espresso. I had a large au lait and a go, of course. 

The trip west was a little windy and chilly. I was able to remind myself that I would have a tailwind as soon as I got to the next turn. In 47 miles. That's positive self-talk, RAAM-style. 

Once I got made the turn south, it was mainly sunny, and there actually WAS some tailwind. I stopped in Coos Bay for lunch (Wendy's, chicken sandwich, small fries, coke). I got to talk to some folks who were interested in the bike - is it easier to pedal? How do you balance? Why are your feet so high? When they heard I was racing it across the US, they were flabbergasted. 

Not far outside of Coos Bay I saw the first of many signs for the Trees Of Mystery scenic attraction: "Trees Of Mystery - 119 Miles Straight Ahead". Hmmmm. 200k....and it's still a ways from there to David's place in Arcata, which is where I'm spending Friday night. I'm not so sure I wanted to see THAT sign. 

I got to ride through Humbug Mountain State Park. I love that place! I used to do an annual trail run - the Bah! Humbug Killer race - on a regular basis, back in the running days. Beautiful spot. 

On along the coast. It seems like there are decent sized towns spaced out along the coast about every two cycling hours: Port Orford, Gold Beach, Brookings...I stopped for "dinner-ish" in Gold Beach - hit the supermarket, which has a deli. They had a lot of good-looking stuff there, but the treat for me was macaroni and cheese - the real, baked stuff. It went down very well. 

I came to despise the tsunami warning signs. Anyone who cycles in Oregon knows that "Right Lane Ends" is good news - the passing lane is going away  because you're at the top of the hill. Until I biked 101, I didn't realize that the opposite of "Right Lane Ends" is "Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone" other words, you're headed toward the high ground, which can only be reached by...yep. Climbing. 

Brookings - keep going...California Dreamin'...I was quite the sensation at the ag inspection station at the California border. 

I ended up staying for a while in Crescent City. I hit the Dennys and had a nice pulled chicken sandwich and a LOT of coffee. Crystal, my guardian angel waitress, suggested that I should stay off the roads for a while, until the drunks cleared out. Her dad was also riding the TUC. I hung out in Crescent City until 4:30, and headed UP and out of town. A tough climb, for sure. Glad to do it with such light traffic.

Klamath. Finally! Trees of Mystery! There's Babe and Paul.....not too far to go now.

Breakfast in Orick. Really good ham and eggs and pancakes. I knew I was coming in quite a bit earlier than David expected, so I grabbed a map from their brochure collection. There's his street. Should be easy enough....Hammond Trail, took the Mad River bridge and got to his house at 11:30. I headed to Adventure's Edge for some tubes (I'd had two flats along the way) and general reinforcements. Since that's close to David's work, he met me for lunch, then took me to his house so I could wash up and get some real sleep. 

About the time I got out of the shower, the UPS delivery showed up - the box of clothes that I had sent down. Good timing! I hit the sheets for a few hours, then TUC registration.

EARLY start on Saturday, but not as early as Jim, who'd driven straight through the night from the Bay area and would be riding recupright (David had Jim's nice shiny new Khalsa on the roof of the support vehicle). A small but hardy group took off at 5AM. 200 yards in, my headlight blew off the mount, which put me off the back. Oh, well.

The TUC route is beautiful. I caught myself sightseeing quite a bit, but who can blame me?

First BIG climb - Panther Gap. Wow. Just as I'd knocked off the hardest part, here comes David, complete with bagpipe music to buoy me up to the top. The trip down wasn't as rewarding as I'd hoped - a LOT of 10 mph switchbacks. I figure that they MEAN 10 mph if they take the trouble to park an EMT there, complete with stretcher/backboard. Then on to lunch! Soup and sandwiches - by then the soup was sounding fantastic, and I knew that I'd want to be well-fueled for the next couple of climbs. This stretch is where I saw a summer tanager - I've only seen two, ever.

A bit of climbing out of the lunch stop, then down to the beach. By this time I was groovin' pretty well, and I was able to fend off a pretty enthused and organized pack of riders behind me. Coke at the base of The Wall! I downed one and took one along for the ride....which was partially a walk. I *may* have been able to get the Raven up that grade (17-20% for the first bit, with some ugly pitches and then a 6-8% finish) but I decided it just wasn't worth the risk, especially considering that walking was danged near as fast from what I could tell. And after The Wall comes the Endless Hill - aptly named - which I thoroughly enjoyed. I figured if I shot my wad on The Wall I'd regret it and I'm probably right. Lots of hummingbird sightings on Endless Hill. There weren't so many birds out when I was riding upright....oh...maybe I'm just looking around more?

Down to the bottom, giant burrito, and I'm done for the day. I'd had visions of doing another lap - or a partial lap - but the lead guy was well over 2 hours ahead of me, and David needed to support everyone on the 200-miler, which just wasn't going to happen if I stayed in the game. And there are more miles that can be ridden tomorrow. I felt really happy, my legs were feeling good/strong.

I spent the rest of the day helping David and Bill support the three hardy souls who were still out there: Jim R (who needed no support, which was good because it took us forever and a day to get to him because he was so FAST!), Jim K, and Dave L. Dave was about 1/2 hour behind Jim K, and we treated him to RAAM-style support on the way in. By the time we got to the descent back into Ferndale, it was dark enough that it was good to light up the road. And having music helps, though it turns out that the local cows don't particularly like Aerosmith. Dave is danged good at air guitar, when viewed from behind.

Sunday, we hit the Latte Warriors ride. OK, for the most part, we WERE the Latte Warriors ride: Hammond Trail to Clam Beach, then along mainly side roads to Trinidad, where we stopped for coffee and treats. Chocolate chip cherry scone? Don't bother to read the rest of the menu.

Here I am at a scenic viewpoint in Trinidad...that's me on the right. I don't know the guy on the left.

As I was later to find out, the reason the Latte Warriors weren't out in force was that they were all madly cooking incredible treats for their annual post-TUC potluck, which I got invited to as a tagalong friend of David's. Nice folks, great cooks, lots of stories and fun....then I was off to the airport for my 7:44 flight.

Sort of. Bad weather in SFO delayed my flight, so that my connection would've been missed. I was re-routed onto a flight the following morning. So I was forced to go back to David's, where I could drink scotch, hang out in a hot tub, and hit Bill's 6AM spin class on the way out of town.

I just felt incredibly lucky - again - to have had a gang of people supporting this effort, and to be able to make it work to my advantage. Compliant weather, good company, good experiences, and a lot of confidence gained.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Edens' Gate/Covered Bridges 400k

Another one in the bag - a 400k with the Oregon Randonneurs. Nice ride, good people, great route. Cold and headwind-y. Again. I could get a complex over this.

I left the house at 2:45 AM. This is going to be a marathon day - drive almost 100 miles to the start, ride the ride, and turn around and drive straight home. (Hey, my dog needs me!)

All I had for directionals when I headed out the door was "La Quinta, exit 286". I assumed that was enough to navigate to the start. It was. John Henry Maurice was there taking registrations. I tried to make a best guess at the way. Just bring it all...VERY glad that Robert had rigged up a "double century" sidecar bag for me. I had a spare tire, three tubes, a pump, tools, a Boost, a giant chocolate-covered macaroon, a fistful of string cheese and Honey Stinger gels, wallet, keys, cell phone...I brought the iPod along - just in case things got dreadful and I needed something to help keep me safe and awake - but since this is a rando ride I felt a little sheepish about using it, so I didn't. I also brought a jar of powdered espresso as insurance against bad times. I also brought a spare light and batteries, a pair of tights, extra socks, a jacket, and warm gloves. And believe it or not I had some room left over - but not a lot.

I'm really liking the new light mount - it seems to totally prevent the "foot flash" that I was getting before. For those who haven't thought about this, being foot-forward on a bike means that the light illuminates your bike shoes at every pedal stroke, so that you get this really annoying strobe effect. TerraCycle makes a recumbent-specific accessory mount that moves the light forward far enough that this isn't a problem. Pat modified their stock one on the fly to work on the Carbent - it has a bigger front derailleur post than some other bikes. When he heard that I was gearing up for this ride, and an even longer one next week, he pretty much dropped what he was doing and got me set up. Thanks, Pat!

At the start, I ran into a bunch of people I know just a little, like John Vincent, and a few old friends like Greg "Oregon Sasquatch" Olson. And I saw a Team Sandy RAAM hat, out in the wild, perched under Scott Peterson's helmet. Woo-hoo!!! I'm told there was also a hat sighting or two at Calvin's Challenge, which was going at about the same time, in similar (though wetter) conditions back in Ohio. That's a race that I've got to get back to, sometime soon...just ran out of time to handle the logistics this year. 

0500 and we're off - a large pack of riders, heading off into a cold, dark wind. We weren't going overfast, which was fine, and we were mainly staying together. Things didn't split up too much until we hit the bigger climbs heading toward Silverton and Stayton. That's when I figured out that I couldn't get the bike to shift into the smallest chainring. Cripes. I spent a couple of minutes fussing with it but I was too hung up on some vague notions of "cable stretch" or "slipped out of adjustment, somehow" that I failed to notice the obvious - that the derailleur stopped moving long before the shifter did. Oh, well, the worst of the hills are over, sort of. We'll get on down the road and fix it in slightly better light. 

First bridge...what year was it built? 1906 (don't take the time to write it down, just remember and do it at the control...otherwise you're going to totally lose contact with this group....). Through Stayton and into Linn County. I always consider it a good ride when I've been in four or more counties in a day. Linn is #4 and I've gotten that done before 9AM, which is when my usual group rides start. Cool. 

Up and over the Cole School Road rollers. I had SO been looking forward to this, and now I was all nervous because of the front derailleur issue. There are two giant rollers on Cole School Road. Perfectly parabolic, or close. When I worked for Linn County, we used them as a gauge of how well the county rigs were doing, and how badass we were feeling: could we bottom out the suspension at the bottom of the roller? I managed the first one fairly easily, but nerved out about a hundred yards short of the top on the second, which is taller and  steeper. I just figured I didn't need to pop a tendon or blow a spleen, so a short walk was in order. As soon as I got off the bike and looked at it from a new angle, it was clear what the problem was - the clamp on the light mount was in contact with the front derailleur spring, so it was stopped short. I figured I knew how to fix it if I needed to, but since I'd almost made Cole School without it, I might as well go on a bit and see if I really "needed" it, or not.  

I rewarded myself for my discovery by eating the macaroon, since I knew we'd be at the control soon and I could resupply. Getting that monster in was probably a 600-calorie event, but I needed it. The cold headwind was sucking energy like nobody's business. 

Second bridge - Shimanek. I'm off the back of the fasty-fast group, but that's okay. It's gonna be a long day. On to Scio - our first non-info control point. Everyone seems to be congregating at the grocery. I hit the restroom, grabbed a bar and a can of tea - the big cans of sweetened iced tea are just about one water bottle full - and had the cashier sign me in.

From Scio, out past the Gilkey Bridge, then took a quick loop through Crabtree, out to the Larwood Bridge, back through Lacomb and in to Sweet Home. There were a couple of riders there, a couple had already left, and a bunch arrived while I was in eyeing the hot case. I got another iced tea - really good, not too sweet, and enough caffeine to do the trick, and three chicken strips, which sounded pretty good about then. 

I dumped the tea into my water bottle, and took off...realizing that I still had the hot chicken strips in hand. Not wanting to admit that I hadn' do that, I did what any sensible recumbent rando would do - I stuffed 'em down the front of my jersey.  And that, sports fans, is how Sandy invented the edible heating pad. The air temps were hovering just around 50, so the extra warmth was welcome...and since chicken strips are relatively dense (protein is dense stuff) and insulated in a nice layer of fat, they were holding the heat rather well. I managed to get almost all the way to Crawfordsville before they were all gone. At times it was a tough decision - heat or eat? - but I'll definitely keep that trick in my arsenal for next week! 

From Crawfordsville we headed up one of my favorite climbs - Brush Creek, which goes over Marcola Road. I was a little surprised that the large group that I knew was behind me hadn't caught me, yet. Of course, I hadn't given myself the option of the small chainring. If I had, I'd likely have climbed more slowly and been caught. 

Hit the next bridge, on to Mohawk, which is a regular on the circuit. There are a bunch of guys parked there, sucking down sandwiches. I took one look at that crowd and I didn't even have to consider; I knew that the meatloaf sandwiches were all out already. Bummer. But - corn dogs! And the ever-present iced tea. Bingle is taking off, solo. This is Sandy-land; I ride down here all the time, and it's going to be almost dead flat for the next, oh, 60 miles. I took off after him. I make a habit of "efficient" controls, but I still figure I outdid myself on this one. I left with a corndog literally hanging out of my mouth, lollypop-wise. 

Once I got onto Coburg Road, I kinda put the hammer down - though gently. I wasn't out to break any speed records, but this is, after all, my "bike commute" route to the MVBC weekly rides, and I'm used to going through here fairly efficiently. Not much to report. The sun actually shone through most of this part, but the wind had mysteriously shifted to give us a sharply crossing headwind. In a fair world, since we've turned the corner and are heading home, we should be enjoying a strong tailwind. Ah, well. Lots of raptors in the air, enjoying(?) the breeze while on the make for a meal. 

I got to Harrisburg at 3:45, making the turn off of LaSalle just in time to see three riders leave the DariMart. I'd really intended to find a bathroom in Mohawk, but got sidetracked, and I really, really wanted to head up to the bathroom in the park in Harrisburg, but on the other hand I was morbidly curious to see who I was apparently catching up I grabbed the first comestible I could find, which was a 5 Hour Energy, had the clerk sign my card, and off we go up Peoria Road. 

I am quite plainly living on borrowed time, but I'm really enjoying the ride. I had idly considered hitting the Lake Creek Bakery, since I was fortunate enough to be going past it during its very limited operating hours, but that gave in to the thrill of the chase. Sour cream twists will have to wait for another day. There are three dots out there that don't have names, and I'm going to figure it out...I can't swear to it, but the "dots" may have known I was there, because they picked up the pace a bit...I upped the ante and was slowly reeling them in. It took probably 10 miles to gain 2-3 minutes, which was a little frustrating. By that time, the pace had blown Greg back a bit, and he encouraged me to "go find Del" (Scharffenberg, who was WAY off the front with Kole). It took me several more minutes to catch the other two riders - Vince and Dave - and we were all at it rather hard the rest of the way in to Albany. 

By the time we crossed into Benton County (sixth county of the day!!) I really had nothing else on my mind but "blue room-blue room-blue room". Found one at the school. Yay! By this time Dave and Vince were a distant memory, several minutes in front, and as I'd gotten my speedwork out of the way I decided to relax and enjoy the ride through Buena Vista and up to Independence. Polk County - #7. 

What the...? The soda fountain in Independence is closed. Crap. Next idea on where to control??? OK, the Mexican restaurant next door looks a little underutilized. Maybe they're new? They had guava nectar to go.  I took stock: One Ensure, three gels, three string cheeses, and two full bottles - and all I had to get through was 48 more miles. No worries. The cashier asked about my shoes..."that other guy" had had some, too. Do you really NEED those for biking? I explained as best I could, told her they are like ski bindings. 

I left Independence at 6:45, pretty happy with myself. Not a great double-century time, but given the conditions not a really bad one, either, and I was feeling really good, AND I was going to get through Salem before it got dark. I don't know the route past Salem, so since I was riding alone it was going to be a long night full of stopping and looking at the cue sheet in the headlights once night fell.

Across the bridge, up River Road, and into Salem. River Road was a bit nerve-wracking. Apparently it was prom night, and there were two types of teenagers on the road; happy little snots in limos, and surly, undateable ones in pickup trucks. Neither sort seemed to have a "share the road" mentality. But I know the road well enough, and I managed. 

Through Salem. The route through town is easy to follow, minimal turns. Thanks! The sun is getting pretty low, and the food establishments on River Road are looking good...nah, let's get this one in the books. I had hopes of getting done before 10:30, which would be a reasonable days' work. River Road...Keene...I'm trying to stay a few road names ahead on the cue sheet, so that I don't miss anything. I don't have an odometer, so I'm going on dead reckoning. Rando rides are about the only time I miss not having a cyclometer; the rest of the time the extra information is just distraction. 

Somewhere after Keene Road it was starting to get cold enough that I wanted my jacket, and my warmer gloves, so I pulled over. OK, jacket. Now gloves...where are they? Did they fall out of the sidecar bag? Crap! No - wait - I put 'em in the jacket pocket, figured that I'd want both at the same
I had an inelegant moment where I realized that I'd left the last string cheese up my sleeve, and now that I was wearing the jacket it was going to be difficult to of course I was fishing around down the front of my own shirt when Vince came rocketing past again. He slowed down enough to make sure that I was okay. I'm sure I looked like I was having a heart attack or had stepped in a fire ant nest or something with all the squirming and contorting. I take solace in the knowledge that it was dark. 

The extra layer really did feel good. I'm glad I saved it for the end.  After that I just worked my way back in, catching street names as best I could and guessing when I had to, mainly correctly. I rolled into the parking lot, dumped my bike in the van, grabbed my sensible shoes, and struck out in search of the final control, which was being staffed by Lynn and Susan and Marcello. Armed with a truckload of Bell'Agio pizza, they were impeccable hosts/hostesses. I got my card signed at 10:22, which is a little better than I'd hoped for early in the day. Vince was hanging out, and Geoff, David, and Greg showed up a few minutes later. Kole and Dell had gotten in shortly after 9, which was the only "action" Lynn had had on her volunteer shift. She'd been waiting, with bells on, from 7PM on; on a better weather year she'd have had plenty of company at that hour. 

A couple of slices, a fair bit of water, and a long drive back around 1AM.

So - in some ways it was "one RAAM day" - 250 miles, up for 22.5 hours, about 10k' of climb. And it felt pretty danged good. I could live without the 50 degrees and windy crap for RAAM, but I know that I'll take what I get. 

I fixed the front derailleur issue, everything is just fine. Sometimes you just hafta laugh. 

Next week - since it's National Bike Month I'm going to a double century in California. This will be the peak training week mileage-wise. I'll continue to ride and do intensity work but there's not much further gain in stacking on the heavy miles.