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!
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