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.