Sunday, December 30, 2007

Years in Review and in the Future

Here's the annual summary updates for this year, both distance and exercise time. Cross-training added to the time, and probably supported an increase in distance over the past couple of years.

Here's the distance summary:

And here's a view of total exercise duration - mixing across cycling, hiking, weights and a few jogs:

This next year's objectives include completing another Brevet series, and accomplishing additional multi-day ride(s). Cross-training continues in the form of yoga-like activities and further investigating whether the body will support running.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Definitely on the Bench

Even the gradual running program on the treadmill and trails was a bit much for the joints, so I've backed off of it. I won't be running the 5km on Dec 22nd. It'll be broken running or a 1 mile walk. I've kept walking and riding though. I plan to reboot the running program back at the beginning, skip the treadmill altogether and keep it on the trails. Outside's nicer than the gym anyway.

Yesterday as a great hike after dark up Badger Mountain with Rocky a.k.a Barky, Barktholomew, Barkimus Maximus, Sir Barksalot etc.

It was below freezing, dark and late enough that we wouldn't run into people on the trail. Perfect given Rocky's friendly-but-aggressive-looking behavior. We headed up. The trail was snow covered. I had my headlamp and the fist-full of light; but, needed neither. Plenty of light from the city reflected by the snow. The trail was compact snow, so fairly slick. Rocky had no problems and neither did I, unless I looked far-field while trying to walk at the same time. We walked up through a small cloud - a typical winter day has the local hills each capped with a cloud, so no surprise with the cloud. The city lights were evident. The new shopping areas were totally lit up, neighborhoods less so. There was a dark patch which is an orchard, undeveloped so far.

I never saw a coyote or rabbit, although a few times Rocky stood at attention and looked in a fix direction in the distance. I never was able to see what captured his focused attention. He had a blast - running off the trail in all the interesting directions I don't walk, since the guidelines for humans are to stay on the trail. I'm thinking he covered about 4 times the distance I did. He's social and does a good job of staying in contact while running all over the hill. So, we crested the hill more or less together and then headed back down. No physical issues. A great walk in a winter night.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bench Racing

One of my friends calls the part of the ride that happens before or after the ride, when you talk about the ride - 'Bench Racing'. It's bench-racing season. It's pleasant to consider goals for the upcoming season, ponder equipment alterations and swear (for the n-th year in a row) that some mass will be lost before the next season begins. For goals: I'm liking the thought of doing a Brevet series, a Fleche, organizing a Brevet, and other TBD. Maybe that's enough goal; maybe not.

As for what's immediately next - I'm executing a combination of this running/jogging training activity, with some weight-like training. Exercise ball and balance stuff. So far it's well verified that I have no upper body or core strength. Plenty of room for improvement. Then, add a weekly spin class to remind the cardio system about what's what. Very different than previous fall/winter approaches in that cycling is not featured. But, the previous 5+ fall/winters I managed to put on a comfortable 10+ pounds. It's past time to try something different.

The interim goal is a 5k run: The Cable Bridge Run organized by the City of Pasco. It's been a really loonnngggg time since I've even contemplated such an event. The goal is to complete the distance without hurting myself while mostly jogging before they close the course. I've seen the t-shirt - it will look good on a bicyclist.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

That Was Fun - The Coffee Was Good - What Next?

My rando-season ended with a nice ride through and above the Columbia River - The Oregon Randonneur's Bingen Bikenfest. Lots of fun. Pictures and other stories are linked from the ORRando web site. I did the ride with Nat - his first 200km adventure and personal longest ride ever. We started out from Bingen with a nice end-of-the-year crowd. Great to see the folks and hear about the various adventures. The pack eventually left - and I stopped as soon as possible to get a cup of coffee - actually a water bottle full of coffee to compliment the other water bottle full of water. Accomplishing this (after less than a mile of riding) I headed out to catch up with the folks, and joined Nat, and played leap-frog with Lynne, up-river along the Columbia. Nat and I generally stopped for some of the historical markers, and lolligagged along at the back taking in the day.

Then we got to Hwy 97 and headed up to Goldendale. It was comically unfortunate: steep uphill and against a cold cold wind. I'm still laughing. We suffered uphill at our respective paces - still taking time to read historical markers - and eventually cleared the hill and found our way into Goldendale, and the control stop. There were a few rando's there - we chatted briefly and decided how we might proceed. And by 'proceed' I mean figured out what to eat. I went with the Hostess Fruit Pie (I want Hostess to sponser my mid-pack, mid-weight, rando riding. I'm thinking a jersey that features various of their fine products. Sure, I'm partial to the Fruit Pie's on these rides - but not averse to sporting a snowball or dingdong or frosted Donnette (I like the chocolate), tastefully arranged, on a bike jersey and/or shorts). And more coffee. We spent enough time their that I got to see Lynne's thermos for Tea. Chat briefly with Ricky. Interact briefly with a woman doing a marathon drive back to a town South of Eugene Oregon - she still had a long way to go - especially from the point of view of staying awake. And the proprietress in charge of the gas-station part of this set-up seemed intrigued by the thought of her contemporaries out on some marathon bicycle slog along the Columbia, across the Klickitat, and back. She seemed to actually want to grab a Rando-bike and go for it. Maybe she will. So, anyway, Nat and I sit down to eat. He's in for the Sandwich (it's a combo shop - gas station/mini-mart/subway/DQ). We pound down our respective food and food-like substances and get ready to hit the road.

We head out towards Glenwood. It's still against the wind but, we have almost an hour in the bank, and the gas-station proprietress pointed out that we'd lose the wind once we got to the trees. I wasn't worried about it - mostly hoping for no rain. Goldendale was a nice town to leisurely bike through. I particularly liked the house on the left/south of the main street with scenery painted on - the entire front of the house had an outdoor scene painted on, to protect the wood from the weather. The town didn't last long and then we're out on the high plane/plateau, in the wind and pushing towards the Klickitat River valley. We briefly were three - but, our third dropped us eventually. We wound around, found our right turn and then eventually found the start of the plunge into the valley. Nat stopped to reconfigure, and I did my best impression of a bowling ball being dropped from a tower. I fell as fast as the bike would roll. Slowing for sharp corners and pondering led me to stop for a few moments at a scenic turnout. No traffic at all. I continued on and eventually found the river. A couple of groups of folks there recreating in the river. Lounge chairs. Sounds of children playing. Then a yellow jacket down the road and our third person appeared. He continued on. And then another yellow jacket that was Nat.

We chatted - plotting tactics for this part of the ride up the hill to Glenwood. Tactics might be a bit strong - it boiled down to ride uphill, and then eventually I'd ride ahead to the Inn at Glenwood and order food, so that it'd be ready for Nat when he arrived. At one point I was about to head up and off - but, the altimeter showed it was an illusion - it looked downhill because it was less uphill. Sensing a game, I circled back to Nat and spent awhile playing 'are we going downhill yet?' Except for one brief moment, the answer was 'No' - all the way to Glenwood. Eventually I took off, and arrived at the Inn. I settled in at the counter and was the happy recipient of attention - primarily in the form of coffee(!) and some conversation. My favorite was when a local fellow obtained the phone number of the kind waitress. Here's his move (it was pretty good): "Do you have a cell phone?" "Yes, I have a cell phone." He pauses after her answer. Then he asks "Does your cell phone have a number?". This worked. She gave him the number. After he left her comment: "I've never been asked for my number that way before". Maybe I shouldn't be writing this down - I hope it's not some sort of super-secret move. Anyway, I had the cheeseburger and fries with the coffee (my all time favorite meal). And I ordered a batch of fries for Nat. He shows up shortly, and we annihilate our respective orders of French Fries. The burgers arrived and suffered a similar fate. Rando fuel. Good stuff. Eventually when we're done with this fine meal, and head out, we have ~25 minutes in the bank. I let Nat know that this means we've pretty much nailed this particular ride, barring interesting events (see below for a candidate example of a ride altering interesting event). It's mostly downhill from here and there are no more timed controls until the end of the ride at Bingen.

We're actually making decent time from Glenwood - food can have this effect on a long-distance rider. We've got to wander up a little more to find the apex of this particular ride. We discover it, and then fall fast, losing ~200 meters of altitude in no time at all. We get to wander around a bit before heading up to Trout Lake. I'm concerned I've missed a turn, and stop to discuss with Nat. Eventually we decide that the turn about 10 feet behind and to the left is correct. We take it. It's correct. And then move on up towards Trout Lake. While not trying to set any sort of speed records, we remained in sufficient contact with other riders that we get to wave to them as the come down the hill fast. They're smiling. The uphill wasn't so bad, and we head up at our respective paces. I opt for the Coke Classic (no coffee in this store) and wait a few minutes for Nat. We put on our warmest and driest clothes for the downhill and head out.

Eventually, we get hailed by an oncoming motorist indicating one of our riders has a mechanical. I thank the motorist, and indicate to Nat that I'm heading down to mile marker 15 fast. It's Peg. Her bike doesn't work. The symptoms are that while pedaling forward, the rear cassette spins around; but, doesn't cause the rear wheel to rotate. The bike coasts in both directions - interesting, but useless for making forward progress (I can't find the web-reference; but, I think Paul Johnson's bike did something similar on a 1200km ride). Anyway, unless some sort of replacement rear wheel is found, Peg's ride is over. My cell phone gets reception (I'm surprised), and I call Johann. He arranges for a wheel. In the meantime, Nat arrives. We opt to hang out with Peg and chat. We do this for close to an hour, which is a good way to spend that hour; and then Cindy and Noel show up with a wheel. The replacement is quickly made and we're off. I plan to hang back with Nat while Peg rockets on - she's got a ton of miles this year and is a hard rider for me to keep up with uphill or down. She opts to hang back with, though, and we three roll on in. It's dark but the lights are working find. I really am pleased with the combo of a Cateye on the front fork, and a good headlamp (the Princeton Tech Eos) for dark downhills. Plenty of light for the speeds I seem to go. It's cold, and when we get lower it's warmer, and when we get to the few uphills it's welcome - the uphill exertion warms me up. And it's over. We finish in a group with ~25 minutes to spare. Another great day on the bike, and a great end to a great rando season.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Abandonded 1000km

I left the 1000km ride after failing to make time cut at The Dalles - the first control after the overnight at Carson. The time was close, and I was aware that making it to Kelso on time was the benchmark to hit; however, the brief, actually easy (~60km, fairly flat and with the wind), ride from Carson to The Dalles went slowly enough for me that I was dead certain of heading down from Govt Camp well after dark, in the rain etc. I'd enough of exploring my boundaries for the weekend already. I think I found some, and called it enough.

Some highlights from the ride include:
  • We were riding against traffic heading south out of Issaquah on Friday morning, and got to observe some Seattle metro-area traffic - I was glad to not be in one of the cars stuck in traffic heading North
  • Skate Creek Rd - I like it. Didn't like the rain so much. We all ended up very cold in Packwood after that, and lost a lot of time and body heat as a result. A rational man would have called it enough then - 4 of us continued on anyway.
  • Enjoyed the climb up the shoulder of Mt St Helens from Randle. The temperature never read below freezing; but, we got close, and spent some time above a recent frost line. The headlamp showed the frost on the trees.
  • Late nights (and pre-dawn mornings), being cold and on about hour 20-21 of a bike ride induces sleep. Sleep is dangerous when riding a bike. Falling asleep on the bike, Kramer crashed into a ditch - which is bad; but, the good part is that since he was asleep he was very relaxed when he landed, and perhaps that minimized the damage. We both had sleep issues after a point. I never hit the ground (neither did John after that one time); but I came close a few miles out of Carson. My near fall started with a sharp swerve to the right, which woke me up enough to recover before getting to the side of the road. I had taken to riding towards the middle of the road to enhance the chance of recovering from a sleep-fall. Stopping wasn't an option, as it was cold, wet and hypothermia is an equal danger to a bike crash. I'm still pondering how to plan around situations like this in the future; caffeine comes to mind, as does not attempting high-pass parts of rides after 2:00am in poor weather. On warmer rides, I handle this easily with a 15 minute nap. Hmmm.
  • The following joke tested very badly between Randle and Carson: "A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says: 'Why the long face?'".
  • This alleged joke didn't test much better: "A Hamburger walks into a bar, sits down and orders a drink. The bartender sez 'Sorry, we don't serve food here'".
  • Maybe it wasn't the jokes, maybe it was the delivery.
  • The aid received at the controls was very helpful and I very much appreciate it. Thanks.
  • The chemical footwarmers work. Offered and accepted at Northwood, and no cold-toe-numbness issues afterwards. I plan to start using those.
The season's almost over. One more Brevet attempt to go this next weekend, and then it's on to disorganized rides and organized off-season training.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tackweed Extravaganza!

Todays ride was all around town, including a stop at the Pasco Farmers Market. Met up with the family and had coffee and fried catfish! It was a 10+ tackweed day. The Armadillo tire's won today. The evil weed stuck into the tires, but, didn't get to the tubes.

Postscript: a short ride today, and Julie's tires took 3 tacks. Removed with no issue - continental gatorskins on her bike.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ride Report - Echo <-> Pendleton

I ended up riding most of the route (Richland ->Pendleton and back) described in the previous post. I bicycled to Hermiston to meet the three others, and we headed off together from Victory Square Park. The navigation was simple - get on 395 in Hermiston, head South, and more or less follow your nose from there. We found our way to the canyon connecting Echo - Rieth - Pendleton. And, wow. An outstanding place for a bike ride. Hardly any traffic. Great views. The canyon cliffs on the South Side and the Umatilla river and Agriculture on the North. We could chat easily and ride w/o much concern for traffic. The majority of the traffic, by vehicle type, was motorcycle (touring, like us - but farther and louder), then a close tie between car and bicycle. We found our way into Pendleton, looking for a late lunch. Found it at the The Hut, right across from the location of the Pendleton Roundup. Friendly place. The secret ingredient used at the Hut: Bacon! After a great lunch (if you're ever there, check out the padded walls and the journey to the restroom) we wandered back through the canyon to Hermiston. Another great day on the bike.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Saturday's Proposed Outing

View Larger Map

That's the map. The route from Hermiston to Pendleton is one my Dad and I scouted out by car a year or so ago. Looked interesting for biking. I'm joining a group of folks, meeting them at Hermiston, and biking out to Pendleton and back. I'll tack on the ride to Hermiston and back as well, to get a touch over 200km. Sort of an informal Brevet. Should be good.

I've prepped the bike to winter mode - fenders, rock-like tires (Armadillo's - near thorn proof), test-riding a Brooks Pro saddle (so far so good). Another sign of fall/winter is gradual weight gain. It's all coming together.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yakima Camp 400km - An Awesomely Stupid Ride

I signed up for this ride awhile back - more or less as something interesting to look forward to. On the "awesomely stupid" ride scale, this one had a lot going for it:
  • It had a night start of 10:00pm (similar to a start time for PBP, and perhaps great training for PBP. Of course, I'm not going to PBP, so that bit of training/prep is irrelevant)
  • The ride start was in Yakima - about an hour drive from where I live. I wouldn't have to get a hotel room, assuming I could find a driver (I did). Of course, Yakima and the surrounding area in July is HOT.
  • 400km - a challenging distance over any terrain (I've already done one of these this year - why do another? Or, why not do another)
  • Strong headwinds to start (similar to the camp of 2003 in Ellensburg over the 4th of July weekend - where Jeff Tilden and I did a 300km over some of these same roads, facing very similar weather conditions - hot and windy)
  • Half way point? The summit on Hwy 2 of Stevens pass. And to get there one has to negotiate Blewett Pass.
Yes indeed, this ride had plenty of potential intrigue. Eventually I also managed to shiver, burn, dehydrate and bonk. Well worth the $25 entry fee.

Here's the highlights of the packing list:
- fluorescent yellow windbreaker
- headband (didn't think I'd need it - I did!)
- windstopper gloves (never deployed)
- about 10-12 packages of those Cliff gel cubes (used most of these)
- 4 energy bars (luna, balance, power bar, and a cliff 'sweet and salty' bar - a random grab from the bar-food area at Target; used all except the power bar)
- space blanket (it was cursed)
- Camelback, 2 water bottles. One of the bottles had gatorade. One of the water bottles had a small amount of duct tape wrapped around it. Just in case (actually used it this time. First time ever).
- repair kit (2 tubes, some adhesive patches, allen-wrenches, small adjustable crescent wrench, swiss army knife (the one with scissors, 2 blades, a pokey thing, corkscrew, can-openr, bottle-opener/screw-driver), assorted zip ties in different colors (no reason for the color; but, they look good), tire levers.
- Cateye LED head-light (the 530)
- back-up headlamp (Aurora)
- one of those Princeton tech EOS lights, deployed in headlamp mode. I also carried the bike mount. So, the redundancy was if the EOS failed, the Aurora was available. If the Head-Light failed, the EOS gets mounted on the bike, and the Aurora goes to the head. If any two of them fail, I soldier on. If all three of them fail, I hope for a hotel - or maybe even daylight. Everything worked fine.
- Two tailights - always on the bike.
- Back-up batteries (4 AA, 5 AAA). I'm that paranoid, even with just having put fresh batteries in most of the lights.
- Cell phone
- One of those flimsy plastic grocery bags. I've used it as a raincover for the handlbar bag. This time I used it as something to sit on - to keep me off the ground by a micrometer or so.
- Back-up pair of 'dime-store' reading glasses (the 40's have been brutal on the near-vision)

So, we leave the Tri-Cities at around 8:00pm (I rested up until around 7:00pm - and then finished packing). We get to Yakima, to the hotel, park and see a cyclist. I'm pre-registered. I ask the cyclist (Ken) 'Where's Mark' and he points to him, about 5 feet away (I'm off to a real good start here). I'm registered. Then eventually all 5 of us are there, and off we go.

Five riders - we start out together, and get a little off course before getting into Selah. We're a paceline for the first mile or so, then a hill sorts it out. I'm off the back before we're out of Selah.

Went through the Yakima Valley Canyon in the dark. The wind gets bad in places, and straight into my face. Gusts of dust. At some point, I seemed to hit a particularly strong 'edge' of wind, maybe a front. During this the wind strong enough to induce a minor dirt/rock slide. Dust was thrown periodically, and then a dust/plant bit combo. Then (after what I think was a front passed), it settled into mostly a headwind, depending on the angle of the road in the canyon. And it was colder. Saw the bats. Heard the birds. A few cows off to the side. Not a lot of traffic. There are a couple of major hills, but nothing too bad in terms of climbing.

And it took awhile to get through the canyon. But I'm at the Conoco truck stop at the South Side of Ellensburg. There's no sign of the fast boys - those are some skinny fit cyclists; I'm inspired, but, not my lot in life this year to keep up with them. Chuck rolls in a minute or so after me. The very kind person working the register knew about the game, so she signed the control card w/o any hesitation. I picked up some water and food items. I realized I was thirsty, and, assuming I show up in Leavenworth before 6:00am, no water for awhile. I go back in and get one more bottle, and place it in the rack trunk (this bottle comes up again, later in the saga).

Through town and out. The headwind is ferocious, as remembered from 2003. It's dark, sometime after midnight. I've turned on the audible alarm for the heart rate monitor, and am trying to keep the exertion so that the hear rate is under 135bpm. I can't see the monitor; but, I hear it when I'm working too hard. I am (hearing it, and so working too hard). I drop back. Chuck goes on ahead.

It's uphill and against the wind as I leave Ellensburg. I'm familiar enough with this, and know that once we crest this hill on 97 heading north, we get a fast downhill, and will spend a lot of time outside of the wind. So it's a simple, slow ride to the top. It gets steeper for the last few kilometers, and somewhere in there I'm riding with Chuck and then ride uphill a little faster, and I'm not with Chuck. It's good to get to the top, and start blasting down to the bottom. The wind's more noticeable than last time heading downhill - I'm holding on tight and ready to touch the brakes. And I'm shivering! Makes it really hard to hold on to the bars - but you pretty much have to, so you do. Then I'm at the bottom of it and ready to go up Blewett. I stop for a few minutes to reconfigure a little and eat etc. No sign of Chuck, so I head on up Blewett. I'm taking my time, and mental arithmetic suggests that I won't be in Leavenworth at 5:00am, more like sometime after 6:00am.

It's something over 20km from the bottom of the hill where I stopped, to the top of Blewett pass. It's the time of the year where it's mostly light - so I'm gauging the sky for light (I think it was almost always light on one side of the sky or the other - maybe really dark for an hour). Then there's the Big Dipper - and I check out my eyes looking for the faint star off the handle. I see it. First one eye then the other. I'm killing time, pedaling. It's starting to get light when I get to the top. Ray's there - I didn't actually expect a control - but, there it was. With water and other food. Ray and I chat for awhile. He's taking Saturday off, and will ride again on Sunday. I say thanks (at least, I hope I did - Thanks!) and head down towards Leavenworth.

I don't exactly get to Leavenworth straight-away. I stop for a nap. The 10pm start is a bit much, so I find a spot just off a road that's just off the highway. Leaning against a tree to sleep has worked well for me in the past. It's cold, so I break out the space blanket. These things are neat-to-amazing, and work well for maintaining warmth. When the work. This one doesn't. It doesn't unfold, so much as tear into bits, as it gets stuck to itself. Delimanited space blanket - the foil layer tears away from the mylar layer. That kind of reads like a swear word: "Delaminated" - in this context, it is a total, strong, evil and offensive word. Eventually, I get a little of it to drape over the left leg (why the left and not the right? No reason), and tear a square of it off to place against my chest (more windblock and warmth for when I resume). And a 15 minute nap makes all the difference. I'm awake, feeling much better, and resume.

Then there's Leavenworth. I like breakfast burritos, even from McDonalds. So I go in to have a couple, and some coffee. It turns out that these are the worst breakfast burritoes I've ever had. Hard to diagnose at that point, harder now. So, I just rode on out of town and begin the climb up to Stevens Pass. The Wenatchee river is nice to ride along. It's still early so there's no traffic to worry over or look at for. I see Chuck up ahead (he must have ridden by me while I napped). I catch up eventually, chat a bit, and then head onwards. There's a rest area on the way up - I plan to stop and have another nap. I do. This one is vagrant style, sleeping head-down on a picnic table. Again, about 10-15 minutes makes all the difference. I take the nap about 5 minutes at a time (sleep, wake, check the time, decide to sleep or get going, repeat). This works - I don't know why. Then it's on up again. I pass Chuck again - confessing to the nap. And then up up up. Some cyclists are coming the other way. Three of them are the faster of the folks I started with - the rest of them are on the Seattle to Spokane ride. Another 'interesting' ride - might have to do that one sometime. I keep wondering when I'll get to the top. It's fairly certain I'll make it within the time limit (by 11:50AM), but, with not a lot of time to spare. The climb gets steeper near the top - but, I get there eventually, sometime shortly after 11:00am.

So, it's time for another break. Steve, his wife and their pet doggie are there. This is great. We chat about rides and such. I speculate that Chuck'll be there by noon (I was way off!). I get a sandwich, and then another for the road. I dump the coffee out of the water bottle and put a Dr Pepper in its place. I'm sitting and chatting with Steve and Co, and next thing you know, there's Chuck! 11:30 - plenty of time to spare. He gets some food, we chat more. We use some of the duct tape from the water bottle to do some repair work on his mudflap, say our thanks and then head down Stevens Pass - back to Leavenworth. Chuck falls like a stone down the pass, and I lose site of him. I think my bike's slow on the downhill, and I'm not a lightweight. I could ponder this darkly for awhile (grumbling about throwing away free speed). Eventually, I come out of it and \ride easily into Leavenworth. More good scenery along the river! Hey, a restroom! Etc. And there's Chuck at the first convenience store on the right. I pull up and begin the ritual (get the Brevet card for signing, find the wallet, go into the store, get some food/drink, pay, get the card signed, exit). Chuck's ready to go well before I am - he goes on, and we agree that we'll likely meet next on Old Blewett Pass - our next uphill.

Now it's time for the next phase of the ride: Burning! From Leavenworth to the starting point of Old Blewett pass. The heat's bad - it stops me from eating as much. And the sleepiness hits again. I spot a shady spot by a creek across the road, and go there. Lay down for a nap in the shade by the river. This helps a lot. I get up and press on to the store at Ingles creek. Along the way, I douse myself with the water from the bottle I've been carrying since Ellensburg. This also helps a lot - and I get to the store, and there's Chuck. He's getting ice and liquids. I get some liquids (more for the road - it's hot). And we head up to Old Blewett Pass. It's uphil, so before we get there I've (temporarily) left Chuck behind.

This heat thing is bicyclist death. I demo this nicely going up Old Blewett Pass. No energy - and no desire to eat (which would help with the energy thing, if one ate). I stop - I walk. I try to ride. A couple of the 300km folks pass me while I ride (Shane and Matt). We chat briefly and they wander on up and over. I'm walking when Dr K passes me, and then eventually Chuck. So I am the last man on the road, as far as I know. I'm thinking I'll never get up that hill. I'm still in possession of the delaminated space blanket. I don't have any matches despite my usual care in taking at least 6 of the 10 essentials out on any adventure. Muffed this one - no matches and inadequate clothing for warmth overnight. And I know it'll get cold. I don't want hypothermia. I don't want to coast back into Leavenworth (I think about it). I'm annoyed, maybe even pissed. I want to win this thing, playing against myself; I'm thinking Duncan would win; Nash would win. Why not me? So, I have a seat by the side of the road. I'm using a shard of that delaminated space blanket as a mat. I get to know a few ants, and flick them off, a few I let stay - I have other things to do. In particular, what I have to do is force down the Luna Bar that I had saved for such an emergency. 'Force' is the right word - I have to force it down past nausea. I look at my watch. I'll give myself 10 minutes to eat it, 5 minutes to digest, and then back on the bike. One bite at a time - and the 15 minutes are over. I'm back on the bike and moving now at a whopping 7km/hour, as opposed to a walking speed of 3-4km/hour. I start wandering up on the bike - for a moment I'm tempted and over-exert - but back off - don't want a repeat of the Luna Bar incident. I'm surprised to catch up to Chuck. More or less ride with him for awhile up the pass - then drop him and find myself at the summit. I stop and refill the camelback from the bottle of water in the back rack trunk. Chuck rolls up. Ever the ray of sunshine, I indicate that we're 10 minutes ahead of schedule - the peak is at 300km, and in 1o minutes we'll have been on the ride for 20 hours (the rando time limit for a 300km brevet). So, with our 10 minutes in the bank, we coast down. I take point, and appreciate the cue sheets instructions (4 switchbacks - be careful). We're careful and then back to Hwy 97. At this point, we have around 30 minutes in the bank - we're rolling in time. It's still more or less downhill-ish, and we get to that point where one has to go UP to get to Ellensburg (we have almost an hour in the bank - it really was downhill). We head up. I ride with Chuck - more or less trying to talk him up it. We chat about his bike. It's a nice one. Surly LHT frame built up to Chuck's (rando) specs. Every now and then he has to stop to barf - some pink drink that isn't digestable at this point. We get passed by some of our folks out on the 300km. One of them asks about Chuck (he happened to see one of the barf moments) and I indicate that I'll ride with him, so nobody's getting stuck out in the middle of anywhere. While wandering up this hill, I indicate to Chuck that if we get up there, and it's a headwind, I'm getting a room at the Comfort Inn in Ellensburg for the night. My ride would be done. He seems amused at the thought.

Then the Gods give us a sign: A leaf is blown straight up the road for about 50 yards, accompanying us. So, when we get to the top and start our wind-assisted descent into Ellensburg - we fly. It's like nothing I've ever had happen on a bike before. Monstrous tailwind (the same evil unprintably wrong headwind that we fought less than 24 hours earlier, and that Jeff and I worked through back in 2003). I'm coasting, coasting, at over 50kph, for miles. The bike has a whole different feel and sound at that speed when your not pedaling. I get to listen to the tires on the road. It's a solid and comforting sound. We were flying and we had earned it. And here's a technical puzzle: with the wind assist, I coasted faster than Chuck, while on every other downhill he dropped me by a huge margin. The usual explanation for the the downhill thing (big people coast downhill faster than smaller people) has to do with mass differences (and so more gravity force) and approximately the same wind resistance. For the wind-assist, how about the idea that a lighter rider and heavier rider get the same push; but, the lighter rider gets to go faster to equal out the applied force. Comments are welcome. Anyway, we're riding the big wind ship into town - I'm listening to the tires on the road, playing a game of 'dodge the pebble', looking at the scenery, looking at and around for funky gusts (none!), observing the plant-bits getting blown (as units) across or along the road etc. Eventually we get to town. Every turn we make realigns us with the wind (since we'd lose our alignment as the roads curve). That leaf being blown up the road was a good sign. And pow, we're at the Conoco on the Yakima side of Ellensburg. 3 bikes are parked outside, one for each of the 300km folks. I'd recommended the Alka Seltzer for the stomach - and it sounded so good I had some myself. Chocolate Milk. A Starbucks Shot. A large bottle of water. Chuck and I are doing that vagrant thing - sitting on the curb outside the store eating and drinking (he's not drinking though). He opted for Saltines and liquid. He allows as a DNF is possible. He hasn't kept any liquids down for awhile. Oh, I forgot to mention that we show up at the Conoco more than an hour before the control closes. We had a ton of time in the bank, given the tailwind that offered assistance through the Canyon. It's about 8:30pm, the last remaining control is 50km away, and closes at 1:00am. I head out; Chuck stays behind to recover and reflect some more.

I head out and into the canyon. A little into it I have most of the chocolate milk - it stays down, but I don't drink it all. I'm into the Canyon proper. Bugs in the canyon. Hitch-hikers. Sort of brown, half-inch long. If I'd been a car, I would have been covered in bug-goo; but, I'm a bicyclist, so I had passengers. Brushed them off. At the peak, it was a bug-hit or two every 5 seconds. Eventually I'm out of the bug-place/time.
There are almost as many people motor-cycling through the canyon as driving through it.
There's a giant Pac-Man on the rocks; this was an indication of this artistry on the web.

It was an epic ride, for me. I'm amazed and impressed with the trio that finished in front of me - probably not epic for them. And I'm very impressed that Chuck rode it on in, even though it was past the time limit - he must have found a way to get water in his body, and have it stay there.

So (almost done with the narrative now), I get through Selah, on this ride, that's about all that we learn of Selah. And onto the bike path. I'm done with the cue sheet, as I know this part of the path. I actually get chased by dogs through the hotel parking lot, I'd ride away from them but I think I see someone ahead, so, rather than take the dogs to whomever, I turn around to see what I might be dealing with. The dogs (just being territorial, so mostly harmless) turn around towards home. I check to see if Julie's in the parking lot. Not yet. It's about 11pm, which is the earliest I thought I might arrive, when I left Ellensburg ~2.5 hours earlier.

So I begin the Quest for Room 179. This takes awhile (I'm not sweating it, as I have about 2 hours till the control closes. Chances are excellent that I'll find the room before the control closes in two hours). I wheel the bike on in. I see a youngster who offers 'Nice bike' (the future of Randonneuring?? I should have given him some rando web sites. We all should carry $10 off on Brooks saddles (or some other rando-nerd paraphernalia) to hand out when appropriate. When is some one of us going to author a children's book titled "My First Carradice"?). So I ask him where room 179 might be. He offers some ideas where to look, and I thank him. I start towards looking some of those places, when I see a hotel employee who offers very specific and useful instructions. I head across the inner courtyard. More kids. Must be a reunion. I smile and wave to a couple of youngsters (probably about 8 and 10) seated by the door. They wave back, and when I start opening the door to wheel the bike on in, one of them holds it to help me. I say "Thanks" and head on in. There's kid #1 (the 'Nice Bike' kid) to point me right at the room. So I'm there. Dr K walks out as I'm walking in, indicating he doesn't know where anyone is. So I settle in. Paul Johnson walks in and signs the card. We discuss what the time should be - I'm happy, even ecstatic, with anything before 1:00am - so the current time it is. 11:15. I'm happy to be done. We chat - it's good. I get the 'PBP?' question. My answer is as usual (and this is the truth) that a good way to see France, at least from my perspective, involves a little more hedonism (good food! good wine!), museums, and less strenuous biking (there's nothing wrong with a nice string of 100km days, going from town to town. And regular sleep). But maybe some other year for PBP. Then Mark (ride organizer and keeper of all complete ride cards) shows up. We're chatting. I get a Sprite. Julie and Laura show up, and I get to introduce them to Paul J. And then we're out.

What I learned and other stuff:
- OK, a lot has been written about numbness induced by bike rides; so I won't. Instead, I'd like to bust open one of long distance cycling's dirtiest secrets. Post ride zits. Come on, it can't just be me. Think about it: you're out there riding for 10+ hours straight, with all kinds of substances being blown against the face. It takes me about a week for this to clear up. I still don't know what to do about this. Sure, I splash water on my face periodically along the ride; but, I still get the week-long reprise of adolescent skin. This doesn't happen to anyone else? Is there a proven solution?
- Does anyone take a toothbrush or mouthwash along on these? I was getting pretty tired of Starbucks Doubleshots and Cliff Gel Cubes. And all of that sugar-stuff over time does something funny to the chemistry/fauna in the mouth. I'm thinking a personal-sized Listerine would be a good addition for uber/stupid-long distance rides
- Delamination of space blankets. I always carry a space blanket, ever since one of them saved my bacon on the Lebowski ride (used it as insulation underneath the windbreaker). There I am, getting ready to take a 10-20 nap on the Leavenworth side of Blewett pass. I break out the Space Blanket - ready to get warm. But, the darn thing is all stuck to itself, and pieces of the shiny are sticking to other parts, and the whole thing ends up being a ripped mess. I gather part of it over me (and put on the headband). Oh, right, what I learned, this is the part of the blog where ideas are summarized, lessons learned and other bits of wisdom (like that zit thing) are reported. Here it is, the take home message: It's wise to unfold a space blanket before taking them out for an adventure. - just to make sure it really will deploy properly when called upon. I've read this somewhere before, and I should have done it. Such a device is my ace-in-the-hole against hypthermia. I didn't follow the advice, and was lucky that a blown nap is the only consequence. So, one more time:
It's wise to unfold a space blanket before taking them out for an adventure. - just to make sure it really will deploy properly when called upon.
- I can't leave numbness thing alone, unaddressed. I ended up with some numbness in 2 of 3 bike/body interface regions. My hands are fine.

Here are the ride stats, with a little annotation:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Course Preview - Mountain Biking the Yakima River Delta

Dave's part of a team that's going to do the 'Righteous Richland Sprint Triathlon' - he's the biker - it's a mostly non-technical mountain bike course. The ride's in a week so we take the mountain bikes down to Howard Amon park, to pre-ride the course. Neither of us has been offroad in awhile (Dave starts the morning swapping the slicks for the knobbies on his bike). The course starts along bike paths, and then hits the gravel and fist-to-show size smooth river rocks (surrounded by dust/dirt) of the delta where the Yakima river empties into the Columbia river. It's fun - a great complement to road riding. We stop to adjust seat heights - determine which bike he's best off using (full gear, w/ suspension; or single speed, w/o suspension. No contest - gears and suspension). We're looking for good lines among the rocks and noting the branches and trees that lean into the course. Then you hit the new bike path tunnel underneath the highway, on the road by the gravel pit, and into the Chamna preserve - which has some nice paths used by hikers, dog walkers, horse riders and cyclists. We make our best guess of the path, find the turnaround and head back. Should be a good event.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Next next next?

It's been a couple of weeks since the Last Big Ride, and so it's time to do another. The calendar doesn't lie - not enough riding. Shows plenty of recovery time, though - maybe even over-recovered. Maybe it's time for a treatise on being over-recovered? Plenty of writing and research on being over-trained - it's been done to death - any researchers out there interested in a new topic? Over-recovery! It's a ripe topic. Anyway - I'm looking forward to the SIR 400km that's part of the Yakima bike camp - Yakima to Stevens Pass and back. Maybe grab a burger at Miners afterwards. Should be a great day on the bike.

Friday, June 15, 2007

600km Monkey

The bike is good. But, that's not enough to explain why one sets out on a 600km Brevet. It's a different distance than the precursor 200, 300 and 400km - it's typically done in two days. I'd attempted this distance twice before and failed. Each of those are some of my favorite rides.

The first attempt was back in '04. My oldest child graduates from High School, we go to the ceremony, and then I'm up at 1 or 2 in the morning, out the door and driving over to Arlington for the start of that ride. I'd worked out by trial and error a dosage rate of chocolate covered coffee beans - enough to stay awake and alert. Showed up and set off with the group. The ride start is fine, the morning is cool, a little damp. We traverse some nice country roads, heading over towards Stevens Pass. And, my ride is effectively over while climbing Stevens Pass. I get frustrated at the slow speed, stand up to STOMP to a faster speed and tear a back-of-the-leg muscle (I didn't know that then - learned it later when I managed to get a look at the extensive and interestingly structured bruising on the back of the leg). Sure, I could turn around; but, I'm interested in testing the leg, and work my way carefully over the Pass and down to Leavenworth. By then I've almost figured it out - that this ride is over. No actual power - and day two of this particular event features Washington and Rainey Passes. So, I go into total tourist mode. Can you believe that the manager of the Leavenworth McDonalds has a business card? And gave one to a hobbled Randonneur? I take it and, still in denial, head to Cashmere. Tooled into town. And by now I know it's over. Can't find a hotel. I do wind through some neighborhoods, and see the nice park from which the rafts are launched. I'm enjoying the day. Then towards Wenatchee - another great town. Before I get there Dennis S catches up to me - he'd gotten a late start. We chat briefly and he heads on to Winthrop. I wind into Wenatchee and find a hotel. I've called home and the cavalry agrees to rescue me. A good day on the bike, but a DNF for the 600km.

My next attempt was last year's Big Lebowski. Enough to say that this ride was too much for me, and it was over even before I was almost falling asleep on the bike while coasting down the hill into Fossil on day 2. I did get 400 of the 600km, a nice bowling trophy and some good memories, though. Amazing scenery. A space blanket saved me. Got to chat with Kent for awhile. Saw signs of Vigoren on the road (<- barf humor). The Dude Abides and I want a rematch with this route. Anyway...

So, it's close to now, and I've worked through a couple of 200's, a 300, a PR on a very nicely executed and organized 400km. It's time to finish the deal. I forego SIR's 600km of the previous week, as the day before was another of my children's HS graduation night (see the above stories); and I wanted to be very well rested (see the above stories). I take the Friday off, and drive to Newberg. Find the hotel, settle into a room and get to sleep at a decent hour. Up the next morning and ready to ride. My plan is to take it easy - and it starts like that. I get to meet Bill Bryant, and chat with him along the way. Got to meet some other fine folks from CA as well the night before at the hotel. Witnessed the Vanilla bike (the reports are correct - it's art). Met Clyde - with the Scott handlebars. Anyway, it's a Saturday morning, and we're on bikes heading out into the country. Taking it easy, and at some point I'm riding with Rickey Smith, and we end up working through this ride together. For him , it's the gateway to Paris. For me, well, I'm in it for the ambiance; at least that's how I'm articulating that it's a personal cycling objective.

And it is a beautiful, albeit rainy, day. The Detroit Lake area is astonishing. Nice lake, created by damming a narrow river valley. Folks are fishing; for some reason I resist the temptation to wander over and ask any of them if they've caught anything, and what. We get to do some more climbing. I kind of like climbing, at least at my rate. Exceptionally nice forest in the area. We coast down, and back to the store at Lyons. Standing there, one couldn't say it was sprinkling. Nor misting. Nor dripping. Not spitting. It was a hard, good, steady rain. I looked at that awhile and reflected. Pondered whether to add the rainpants to the body; but didn't. We get to chatting with a local gentleman, who was kind enough to appear be impressed with our foolishness of this day. Then we head towards the next uphill excursion. This is the one with the nice stretch of gravel. We got to that. Walked some of it, rode the rest, and wound our way up to the next control. There's a golf course off to the side partway up - Rickey had played it before. Then we're heading down - walked the gravel partially again. The walk felt good. Nothing too notable towards the end - we picked up a couple of more riders - Marcello and Nate. I flatted out, got it changed, reflatted (I am now the Mr Magoo of Randonneuring - I can't see a thing; especially a small piece of glass or gravel embedded in the outer side of a tire, in the night, even with porch light), changed it; and we're into the hotel at a decent hour - 11:15 or so. An opportunity for 4-5 hours of sleep before day 2's excursion to the coast. About 360km down. I'm drenched enough. There's standing water in my handlebar bag; and tomorrow's going to be rainy again. I'm thinking about this and stuff a plastic grocery bag into one of the side pockets.

I'm bleary enough; Michael Wolfe's there serving chow. I have the tortellinis with red sauce (decline the salad). Should have had about 4 times as much of the little pastas. At some point I'm sitting there (not eating) and Susan suggests sleep. Good idea. I go up to the room, and to sleep. The morning plan is to leave at first light and finish the ride - 240km to go by 10:00pm Sunday night. We do that.

A bagel and coffee and banana for breakfast (not enough, in retrospect). And we head out. Rickey, Marcello and I. I'm dragging. The body doesn't want to do this game this morning. Nausea. Headache - which always gives me something to think about: Caffeine withdrawl? Not enough blood sugar? Not enough salt? etc. I'm pondering this and taking in the day. Somewhere in here I pull the plastic grocery bag over the handlebar bag. Rain cover (works good). Eventually we stop for a break - Marcello finds some sort of biscuit sandwich thing in the store. He's onto something! I pound one down and am on the road to feeling pretty good (BTW: it's raining lightly at this point). The answer was blood sugar. Needed more food. I vowed to eat more greasy, salty food that day - and start looking for likely places to purchase potatoe wedges. Over to Grande Ronde. I can't look at casino's; so I don't. Then a right turn and we're working our way upwards. I'm resisting the urge to inquire if this might be the Coastal range pass. Also - today I'm last man up this hill instead of first in this micro-group. It's all about the (lack of) fuel. And then we're up. It was in fact the climb up the coastal range. Ricky and Marcello are kindly waiting and then we're heading down the other side. This side is shorter, steeper, and wetter. There's a moment where we're drenched. A nice sequence of one lane bridges (plenty for a bicyclist). We see the first group of fast folks heading back, once we're down. And, there is one steep pitch upwards! It's a noticeable ouch. We get it back with some downhill. Into Pacific City - the folks know a good place to stop. We do. I get a double order of fries; one for then, one for the road. We have to head out a few miles to the last checkpoint before heading back to Newberg. We turn around.

The way back promises to be pretty fast, once we've cleared the top of the coastal range. We'll have the wind. It's tending to be downhill. At some point, Marcello asks if there were any more checkpoints. We answer 'No' and he's off like a shot! Impossible to catch, at least for me. I discover an interesting collection of knee pains that are related to the muscles right around the joint. Limited power, and standing to peddle is a challenge in pain management. On the up side, at an easy, do-able pace, I'm moving at 20-23kph, plenty fast enough. Ricky's back is acting up. I'm speed limited. We get passed a lot. Nate. RB. Noel. I see Scott in the distance; we never catch him. At some point we see a cyclist waving people around a pothole. It's Marcello - he seems to have it in hand (we later learn that he did have it in hand; but he was wrestling with a big one. Bigger than a flat. Bigger than two flats. He'd nailed the pothole fast enough to take out the tires, and deform a wheel. He gets in an hour later than I do. Impressive finish on his part). Eventually we stop at a park; Rickey works on his back. I work on my knees. I think we're both better for the hiatus. And, we wrestle it on into the finish.

The post-ride was as nice as the ride. Folks are there and more come in. Scott and I get to exchange congrats on finishing the ride (we'd both DNF'd the Lebowski). We all do some post-ride 'bench racing'. Joel gives details on Marcello's bike situation (and then Marcello comes in). Susan encourages riders to take a shower (this is even funnier in retrospect). I ask Ron how many series he's up to now, it's 19 series accomplished now; I allow that I'm at 1, and that it'll take a dedicated youngster to break or equal his moving mark. It sure won't be me. (Is there a rando-statistician who knows what the extreme is for this? Ron's mark has gotta be close, if not the extreme). I get to enjoy Joel's humorous description of pain management at PBP - pains in motion (first this knee, then the other, wait, now it's the ankle and the knees feel fine...). And the remaining riders come in - looking good, strong and satisfied with their rides and weekend.

Lessons learned? 600km is a long way; I'll attempt it again, and maybe even worse (looking to do a 1000km ride this year, so maybe I didn't learn my lesson yet...). Multi-day rando rides are different than 1 day rando rides - they're a lot harder. The plastic grocery bag is a fine addition for the handlebar bag (and cheaper than a fancy new waterproof bag). Potatoes rule, as rando fuel. The bike, as is, functions good - I had no serious bike/body interface issues. Riding with people is good. I don't mind walking some during a ride. I should stop more - at 37hours finish time (amazingly enough, my target time going into this event), I had time to stop, take pictures etc.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Flat, Dry and Cool 400km

A good route and great conditions. The day would start and end in Arlington, WA. Even though I had a room at the hotel, I managed to get going a few minutes late. So, I started out chasing taillights. Caught up with Narayan and chatted briefly. Then I pressed on and found a group. The riding was fast and easy (tailwind, flat). Hard to believe I've never been to Marblemount; now I have. Another nice looking town in Washington. Let's see: chatted briefly with Dan at the control before then. Played some with the camera (not much good to show for it; the 'best of' as available here). Observed Jon take down burrito in mid-ride. Eventually (ok, this stop wasn't long at all) I left Marblemount, heading West, and confirming that the wind was in fact from the West. Rode. Looked. Looked. Rode. Chatted. Rode. Rode. Looked. Looked. Chatted. Ate. Drank. Then we're at Sedro-Woolley. Refuel. Call home. Head out North. Eventually I'm porposing behind a tandem or two. This is fun; too bad the pictures didn't turn out (here are the ones that did). We hang together for awhile, and then ambiguity as we lose a rider. I stay back briefly on Chuckanut, and then rejoin the train. Big mistake. Too much energy expended and while I hold on to the group until Whitney, I'm near-bonked and rest there awhile to refuel and recover. I press on the last leg, riding with Allison. Gastronomical highlights are beef jerky and chocolate milk on top of a queasy stomach. Oddly enough, this works. Half way through the last bit on the Pioneer highway, I'm fine, energy-wise. My pace is picking back and the headlamp becomes a great toy. The thing is bright. We have a third rider and then we're done. Another great day on the bike. Personal fastest time at that distance, which seems to be a recurring theme among the riders.

Bike notes:
Lighter tires are good.
The Feed Bag (handlebar bag) is good. No rain, so no problem.
Something was squeaking in the drivetrain.
Should have taken the salt-tablets with, good thing it wasn't any warmer. Fritos and jerky were the back-up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SIR 300km - Tahuya Hills

Last year this was the ride that did in the knee, essentially derailing my season. So, the goal this year was to finish, having a good time all the while. I'd also made a commitment to not attempt to set a PR on this ride. In honor of the knee, I'd made some changes since last year. Shorter cranks. Pedals with more float. No stuff in the way of the knees (moved the map case from the rider side of the handlebars to the other side). Spent more time sitting while climbing, as opposed to standing. So, with those changes (who knows if they were effective), and a couple of 200km rides recently accomplished, the 300km Re-Knee-Match was on.

Spent the night before in the Motel 6 at Issaquah. Close enough to get downtown in 20 minutes, when driving in the middle of the night. Got there, parked on Alaska near the dock. Saw some folks I know. And, then we're on the ferry crossing over. It's a nice ride. A lot of folks are at the start for this ride. The most I've ever seen on a 300km. I let most of them head off first, as I don't like riding in a crowd. And, eventually I'm riding with Narayan. We end up riding most of the way together. This turned out to be a good, easy enough, speed for me for the distance. And he's a great riding companion.

The first leg was pleasant. Good. Up and down. Nice views of water and mossy forests. Ended up seeing a fair number of folks at the first stop, many of which I never saw again on the ride (they ended up way ahead or somewhat behind). It was raining for the third Brevet in a row. The climb up Walker pass was quickly over, and then downhill to coffee. We were trying to be efficient at controls, so I ended up tucking most of the coffee into one of the water bottles. Coffee to go.

The next phase was flat and fairly ugly, road-wise. Lots of bumps along the road. For a brief while, Narayan and I were with the 3 legged tandem, then they dropped us like a brown banana peel. Somewhere along here I paid the price for discussing my flat resistant tires. Stopped and fixed the flat. I asked Narayan and David to press on, I'd catch up after I dealt with the tire. My thinking here was that would give me a chance to work at a higher heart rate for awhile. Wrestled the tire into submission eventually (small embedded rock flake; good thing I had the swiss army knife with to dig out the flat inducing flake) and caught up just as Narayan was done fixing his flat. So, we continued on to Kays corner. Sometime together and sometime not. We ended up there more or less at the same time. I had the cup'o soup.

Narayan hit the hills first, then David and then me (I was working on the soup thing, and maybe too comfortable in the lawn chair). The 3-legged-tandem left about the same time. I'll admit I kind of like these hills and this stretch of road. Not so much for the hills but for the lack of traffic and lots of trees. So, we're climbing. Narayan has one flat too many for his mental comfort (raises the ever-popular question: what's stuck in my tire, still?). He gets a tire from our tandem companions, and we get it changed in a good impromptu tag-team (he, David and I). Then we head out. The tire looks good on his bike, and I make a mental note to get something like that next time. David has kindly taken on the old tire to be delivered to Narayan at the end of the ride. And, to my surprise, we eventually reconnect with the tandem folks. Which is great for us. We get to chat more. Eventually we lose the tandem awhile. And get to the river valley part of the hills. Very very nice, my very favorite piece of non-Hood-canal-scenery in the ride. More hills. Reconnection with the tandem. Darkness: so... Time to dork up! Reflective vests. Reflective ankle bands. Lights on. Then on to Seabeck. There's a really steep part of the hill that I ponder as we approach it. I might have set some kind of record for going up it slowly. Took my time. I'm liking the new headlight (the EL-530 - replacing the EL-500 that I accidentally (no, really) dropped on the concrete garage floor). Lots of light. In retrospect, a lot of interesting parts of the ride from Kays corner to Seabeck.

So, there we are at Seabeck. I planned to not be there too long, and still had a dream of making the 12:10AM ferry (second to last ferry of the night back across to Seattle). So, I accept the half tuna sandwich and pick up a couple of liquid items. The proprietress was pushing the sandwiches; she was right, they were good. The sandwich disappears fast enough (even though it was tuna, figured it was just a half and would burn fast enough in the stomach), and I'm off before Narayan or Dave or the 3-legged-tandem.

I'd never ridden this part of the Brevet before. At this point last year, my ride was over, I'm in a pick-up truck admiring the reflective tape on the back of some of the riders' bikes. So, when I get to Anderson hill. I take quick look up, and start walking. It was a good call, this walking concept. I get to repeat this twice. Even with that, I'm right on the edge of time for the ferry. I saw no lights behind me. And so I wander in. The cue sheet is accurate, and I have a compass in a pinch. And then it's over. I've missed the ferry (it's 12:00, not 12:10 for the ferry; and my official finish time is 12:01). This turns out to be great. I have a beer, a couple of pieces of pizza, and get to chat with folks over the next hour as they come in and with Mark as he signs cards and passes out pizza, drinks and information. Narayan, David and the 3-leggers come in. As do others. It's a fine end to a great ride.

Next up: the May 12th 400km. Can't wait.

Equipment and food notes:
- The handlebar bag (purchased back around 1992-3) saw its last Brevet. Not being water resistant is too much to deal with.
- Wool socks are good
- The new headlight was fine for fast descents in the dark (fast means about 20-25 mph in this case. Dark is really dark)
- The sack of French rolls, crammed into the previously mentioned handlebar bag, made for a nice food variation during the day. Mixed nicely with the Luna bars and Clif Gel Cubes.
- Should have used the camel-back; needed to be drinking more.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

SIR 200k March 2007

The Seattle International Randonneur’s March 200km is typically the first organized ride of any type that I get to do in year. This year is no different. I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of months. This ride has already been multiply documented. Here's some verse, pictures and prose.

I drive to the Seattle and Oregon rides from the East side of the state. I either stay with someone or get a cheap hotel – this time it’s the Motel 6 on Military road near SeaTac. I’d never tried to get there before, but, I find it alright. It’s UP a steep hill as one comes from the East. It’s a nice Motel 6. $3 WiFi! 24 hour Coffee Stand! I can finish my evening’s work w/o having to track down a WiFi sight or suffer through a phone connection. I do the work and am in bed by 10:10. Five minutes later I get a call from my daughter and her husband; they’re stuck at the airport (all kinds of flight challenges around the country that day), and calling me. I get another room, and then go get them. The airport’s nearby, and I get to see my daughter and son-in-law. They look tired but rested, the sign of a good vacation. They figure out how to get back to their home fine; they’re heading back across the state East the next day. I’m in bed and asleep by midnight. Plenty good enough rest for a 200km ride.

Up the next day. Gas up the car, visit the mini-mart for breakfast (cinnamon role and coffee - the breakfast of mid-pack riders). I have a heck of a time finding the starting location; I’ve been there before, but, manage to get spun around good in Kent. Eventually the strategy is: Leave Kent. That works. I get oriented and to the ride start. There are a ton of vehicles parked with bikes and bicyclists putting them together. It’s dark. Chat with some folks I know while waiting for the 7:00am start, and then we’re off.

The bunch starts; a large number of riders. I almost hit a guy while heading down the big hill into Kent; he’d stopped to pick something up. It would have been very nasty. Good weather to start with (but a dark start, due to the vagaries of daylight savings time).

So I end up climbing up the same hill I drove up and down. Haven’t yet estimated how close I came to the Motel 6 where my daughter and her husband were staying (now I have: 3 miles). It’s still steep going up there; so of course we go up.

I was having some trouble remembering the ride details from last year (I must have been lost in discussion last year while riding this part, yeah, that's it) – even though it’s the exact same route as last year. Eventually it clicked in. There are some good downhills to go with that uphill; then we’re at the first control. I had the Starbucks coffee/sugar/fat in a bottle (this can be chugged, and is a good food mix for me on a long ride). The card is signed by the proprietor and then I’m off. There’s more hill-work, then down into the valley.

Managed to do some major wheel sucking through the green river valley; thanks to Don and Elaine on the tandem (I owe them for that and a couple of other times; what’s the proper response: Flowers? Chain lube? Some Ripping Yarns?). Then there’s my favorite ‘bridge to nowhere’ off to the side of the intersection of the Green River Valley Rd and 218th Ave SE. We get a good view of the river and then it’s up a hill.

I’m with John Kramer and RB for most of the way to Hwy 410. Talking as best we can given the vagaries of traffic, shoulder width etc. I like the rear-view mirror a lot for seeing what’s coming up from behind.

During the rider a popular discussion topic is goals for the year. It’s a PBP year, so a lot of folks have that as a target. The other popular target seems to be the ORRando 1000km from Portland to Glacier Natl Park (my personal long-ride goal for the year).

Next up is 410 to Greenwater. I get dropped by John and a few others. It’s uphill. It happens. I keep going, and get there to see those who dropped me idling pleasantly outside a convenience store. Head inside for my Fritos and other items (Gatorade, water). And then back on the bike and down – this was a quick control for me, so I dropped my droppers by being quick in and out at this control. Oh yeah, I also put on the windbreaker here for the downhill. I’ve frozen before down a hill and prefer not to again. I’m toodling down the hill, taking it easy and munching Fritos. I figure that the folks will catch me from behind soon enough. It turns out they don’t; but, I jump for awhile into another group, until even drafting they’re going faster than I want to. I let them go. It’s starting to rain pretty good.

There are a lot of folks at the Circle K; the last stop before the end of the ride. I’m not efficient at this control, but, there’s no hurry. Call home and put on a bit more garb against the rain. I end up riding with John Muellner and John Kramer the rest of the way in. We’re more or less taking it easy and chatting. I regale them with stories of the first time I did this ride, and managed to get lost w/o ever actually getting off course. Clearly I need better stories… Anyway, it’s wetter and wetter; but, an easy and good finish for a good ride.

Ride stats are below; my total elapsed time of 9:51 turns out to be a PR for that distance. A lot of that is related to efficient behavior at controls.

What I learned about the rain:

  • Wind jacket and wind pants aren’t enough, not even close, in the rain; I should have taken the actual rain garb.
  • Some other kind of gloves are necessary (wool?)
  • My glasses aren’t rain worthy – I was riding blind with them, and w/o them I couldn’t go very fast
  • A pretty good case can be made for Mudflaps, especially for people following me in the rain (apologies to Muellner and Kramer); not to mention the bike. See the picture at the end.
  • I might look into different brake pads – stopping power was dicey down the steeper hills in the rain
  • My current front bag isn’t even close to water resistant

Here's the bike the next day; took an hour or so to clean it up:

And here are the ride stats:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SIR 400k 2004 - Another from the vault

The SIR 400km ride looped from North Bend over Snoqualmie, Old Blewett and Stevens passes. The brown curve shows the altitude. I cleared the passes within 12 hours, and spent the next 11+ hours crawling in. It worked. This is one of my favorite rides to remember.

The night before, after checking into the hotel, I drove the back part of the route – kind of a combo time killer and mind soother. Not to mention good preparation. The most complicated navigating will come at the end of the ride. Essentially, we have 180 miles of highway riding, and then 70 miles of twisting and turning. This last bit will all be in the dark for me, in a part of the state I don’t know, when I’m tired, hungry and not at my swiftest. So, a little scouting can’t hurt. And the route is very nice. It goes by the Snoqualmie Falls area. I learn that Nestles has some land and buildings tucked back in there. Nice narrow roads through some agricultural land – it looks like parts of the areas they race through in Europe. And bonus: they also have a statue of a cow.

The summary stats are below. The ride line is the heart rate. Brown’s altitude. The passes are, in order, Snoqualmie, Old Blewett, and Stevens. This was my first trip ever (any mode of transportation) over Stevens Pass.

Started the morning with a flat. Pumping up the tires before heading outside the hotel. One of them deflated; the stem pulled away from the surrounding tube. I had two spare tubes. One new. I put the new one in, and started the ride with one spare tube. I also had a spare tire (no jokes, please) with me. My front tire had a small slit in it, and carrying a spare seemed prudent.

Started riding strong, feeling good, and in a group going up the first pass. I was following, led by a rider who never came off the front. He dropped a rear light. I fell back to pick it up and then rejoined. The effort coming back to the group felt good; got the engine turning. I ended up finishing at the top ahead of the group. There were cloud shards hanging across the mountain. No wind. Light sun. A great start to the day.

Then I got passed by the riders while going downhill and on the flats by lots of guys with aero bars. I found this very annoying and puzzling. OK, mostly annoying.

Stopped for coffee in Cle Elum at a local Espresso shop (I’ve stopped there a few times since). A couple of youngsters comment on the camelback. I work hard not to say things like “Borg” and “Feeding Tubes”. Managed to contain myself and engage in pleasant conversation. They must be all of 6 years old and are busily talking with me, and ordering coffee for one of their Moms and a Bagel for themselves. Good kids. Mention that they saw me from their car as they entered town. They sell me on the bagel; I also get a skinny latte with some sugary syrup. It’s quite good. I see some cyclists out the window go by. I know that they have the wind; I’ll have it too when I leave. I eat, drink and then leave.

Had an explosive flat outside of Cle Elum. Turns out that the tire had a sidewall hole and a corresponding blow-out for the tube; the hole may have been made by a stray piece of the wiry tire debris that was all over the road during the first 70 miles of the ride. I debated using the spare tire; instead I patched the sidewall with some adhesive patches… This holds up fine all the way to the end.

We went up Old Blewett pass. It was a nice climb. There was a control at the top, more or less a nice place to have some water and food. Then carefully down the other side, taking care for the washouts. There’s a group at a Convenience store in Leavenworth. Don’s bailing. Knee. I head out and up.

Sugar cycling up Stevens pass. Almost dead asleep, Gu, wake up, dead asleep. The cycle took 15 minutes. Eventually I bail on the Gu; stop for coffee as well. Then I find myself in a group of 4, heading the rest of the way up the pass. We chat. The air feels good; crisp mountain air. Then we’re at the top. It’s raining. Some of the folks put on additional clothing. I should have gotten a clue then. Down the other side – they all drop me. I fall, pedaling, for miles, until I see the Chevron and head straight for it. I’m very cold; shivering hard. At the Chevron, I put on the rest of my clothes. I’m feeling it in the knees at the end; also sore in the crotch. Get some food. Still shivering. And head out. Still cold and shivering. Eventually I dope it out: pedal hard holding the brakes. The big muscles generate the heat and I’m fine.

Did I mention this is one of my favorite rides to reflect on? Still is. It’s getting dark. I’m not cold so long as I ride. We head up a steep steep hill. One of the folks walks his bike up it. I ride at approximately the same speed. His knee was on the fritz, and he bails when we get to the next control. This leaves me with no riding companion, and I preferred to have one or two at this point. Anyway, I eat, grab a banana for the road. During this time a couple of folks have showed up, and I look them over to see if they’d ride with. One’s on a smoke break (I’m not kidding, and he doesn’t look to be in a hurry. This guy is one of my heroes now; but, not a riding companion. He’ll be there awhile with the Cigs. I’m getting colder). The other’s a real big guy. And he’s started eating and looks like he’ll be at it awhile. I head out and on.

The cycle odometer dies. Rain. I start guestimating distances based on time and assumed average speeds. This actually works (good thing, it’s the middle of the night and I don’t actually know where I am). And eventually I get to the part of the route that I’d driven the night before the start of the ride. I’m heading in fine.

The last two miles seem to take forever. In retrospect, I probably bonked. The inky hallucinations are a dead giveaway. Definitely bonked. But, the hallucinations are entertaining. One was a dog in the middle of the road. The other a human form. Silhouette. I’d been getting by on coffee and Gatorade; with a ration of corn nuts and a payday bar in the mix. Should have stuck with the coffee and Gatorade. I tried eating peanut M&M’s; just didn’t work at all in this setting as an energy source. I get in fine enough, get the card signed and go to sleep.

I mentioned this: the computer/odometer died. Wait, it turns out the display died and not the computer. Here are its last words: Ride time: 19:23, Distance: 245.8, Ave: 12.6 mph. It resumed functioning once I got it home. I’ll retire it to a desert bike.

Lessons learn:
• Rain gear – get some.
• A larger gear carrying device is in order.
• Need to get the front-end fixed on the new bike; no reason not to coast downhill at 40mph instead of a measly, lousy stinking, slow, energy wasting 30mph..
• Need to figure out how to eat/drink. While I have the theory in mind (the theory is 300 cal per hour of energy food. And about 16-32 oz of water) it does not work for me. Interestingly, the times I had “real” food (bananas, ordinary sandwiches) I felt fine. I’m going to run an experiment on the 600km (kids, don’t try this at home…) involving salt tablets and an energy drink with some protein added. Not to mention plenty of real food and dogging it. Will see how it goes.
• The LED light is an absolute champ. It works great. I might get another; for luck.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ice Ride

The schedule called for a 100km ride. Out to Prosser and back would work fine. Hadn't done that yet this year. The forecast suggested that it would get warmer around 1:00pm, but, with sunset around 4:45, leaving around 11:30 seemed right. I did. I'd multi-layered the shoes (wool socks, shoes, then wind cover, then thicker cover). I had some food, water, a few spare pieces of clothing: head band, 'ninja mask', fleece gloves, and, held in reserve in case it got bad, a space blanket. After a kilometer or so I decide to wear the the head band. After about 10 kilometers or so, I put on the fleece gloves over the bike gloves. I take them back off after 5 or so. I get to Benton City in a reasonable amount of time, feeling good. Get some food and head right out. Then a little sleet hits. It stops.

By the time I get to Prosser it's raining; a good steady drizzle. Eat and drink and I turn around. My light tail wind has turned into a head wind. Then there's some ice on the handlebar bag. I try to wipe the rain drops off my glasses; but, they're solid. Ice drops. There's also a nice crinkly sound when I raise the arms to wipe the glasses. I've iced up. The thermometer on the Heart Rate Monitor has it at -1degree Celsius. So, when the bike overshoes are all nice and shiny looking, I don't have to touch them to know it's ice. Some of the gears aren't available. The small chainring has enough ice on it that even when shifted to, the chain has no traction on the ring. Good spinning. A few miles out from Benton City I stop and make the call. So when I get to the Conoco in Benton City there's the van waiting. I admire the ice on the bike, try to shake some of it off (no doing though, it's too cold). Load the bike in the van and get home. Lots of ice on the bike. The fenders are holding a fair amount of ice. The bottom bracket is crusted over. I bounce the bike outside to shake most of it off.

Ended up with 80 km on the day. Data shown below. Out was much easier than back.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Garage Sessions

It's cold outside, and dark more than light. So, I've taken to intervals in the
garage. Thankfully there's a TV out there, or I couldn't even last the 30 minutes I've been spending on each session. Last week, it was a simple set of cadence intervals. Warm up, spin fast-ish for 4 minutes, rest 2, spin 3, rest 2 etc. The picture below shows the data from one of the sessions. The green line is the cadence; it's a steady block down, up, down, etc. The red line is heart rate (HR). The HR climbs through this short simple session. I'm taking that as an indication of the potential for a training effect. I did this 3 days in a row; the image is from the 3rd of these sessions. Then I took a couple of days off.

I'll try another couple of weeks with these intervals in the garage. Hopefully the weather improves enough that in mid-to-late Feb I'll get to move most of the riding outside.