Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DRR 400km - A Ride

Everything happens in 400km, and it takes a day. So it's my favorite distance of all the standard brevets. This one saw 10 of us at the start of the ride - the first ever 400km brevet hosted at the Tri-Cities. I'd hoped for five riders and was pleasantly surprised by this turnout.

The ride took us out to Ellensburg and back, with a slight deviation in Yakima just to get the distance up to 400. We started at 6am from Nat's. I spoke briefly with Ken Bonner at the beginning of the event, and as we wound our way out to the main road. Then he and a few others were gone. In short order, John Kramer decided he'd head up the road as well. We eventually split into ~3 groups. I was part of a good group of five riders. We tended to ride together, as it turned out it was a very windy day.

The weather forecast leading up to the ride had a humorous quality: Friday - a great day. Sunday - a great day. Saturday - lotsa wind. The forecast was correct - but it started out as 'ordinary' wind before graduating to '*$&@#!' wind. As part of the pre-ride briefing - I'd told folks that there were two good indicators to stop riding in the wind: 1) a lot of dust in the atmosphere (who wants that in their lungs) and 2) inability to hold a straight line on the bike (who wants to be blown off the road or into traffic). I'd suggested that it's OK to not worry over intermediate control times - thinking that it'd be in our face all the way out to Ellensburg. And that it'd blow us back to Richland. That was half right.

I was riding with Peg W and Norm Carr to Prosser - closely followed by Roger and Ali Holt. For Norm and I - the first leg was a standard ride at this point: the same as the 200km we did earlier in the year. The Prosser control was welcome, and we showed up with something over 30 minutes 'in the bank'. Neither bad nor good for 50km into the event. Some food and liquids and then we headed out. I like the first part of the next leg - it's a nice road along the Yakima River. Then we turn out onto Hwy 22 and it gets less interesting - except for the clean and near uninterrupted exposure to the wind. We caught up with Roger and Ali and spent a good amount of this distance riding in groups of 2 or 3 or 5 together.

This photo shows three of is in echelon:

Shadow Echelon

This photo shows Peg pulling - for awhile we fell into a decent paceline - effective even at slow speeds due to the headwind.

Burning rubber

The wind bunched us up. Roger and I got into Toppenish first - then Norm. Peg and Ali accrued some bonus distance and then we were all at the Safeway - taking in a meal and the morning. Norm, sensibly, left us at this point. Another rider, Sam, had calculated and decided that the wind was going to cause the ride to take too much time. The rest of us would finish the ride. At the Toppenish Safeway: Coffee and a sandwich after a good chunk of a bike ride. Can't beat it.

Rando Chow Peg in the Toppenish Safeway Roger and Ali in Toppenish

So four of us head out from Toppenish towards Yakima. There is some wind-shielding on Track road that wasn't available on the Highway. And somewhat less traffic. It went well - but we ran out of road a little earlier than planned - arriving at some track-related road deconstruction. The gravel was rideable but this wasn't:


So, we rejoined the main road and headed into Yakima. The wind was diverted, briefly, by the hillside. We made up a little time.

Heading towards Union Gap

The route took a cloverleaf to get us into the city of Union Gap. We negotiated that fine, and ended up riding through the town. And then took the left towards Wiley City. The road surface and traffic varied - but it was a nice enough route. A very steady and gradual uphill.

We get to Wiley City - fuel etc. And head out. Ali had mentioned a hill that we might have to climb. I was having nothing to do with that at this point - must have needed more fuel/food. She was correct. We climbed it. Short and steep. Then zigzagged up, down, generally down into Yakima. A pit stop at a local McDonalds and then we found the bike path from Yakima to Selah. Then the canyon. We separated into pairs in the canyon. Peg and I riding slightly ahead. Two main climbs in the canyon and Peg easily outclimbed me. I caught her on the first downhill - and then again on the second (since she'd stopped). It was heading towards sundown and the temperature was dropping. But a nice evening. We'd seen Ken Bonner shortly after we entered the canyon - then we saw the other three riders as we left the canyon heading into Ellensburg (somewhere around here John Kramer texted a concise ride report: "Uffdah"). Another town another Safeway. But its inner-starbucks had already closed for the evening. We got some food. And agreed w/ Ali and Roger (just a few minutes behind) that we could meet at a stand-alone Starbucks on the way out of town. Did so. I ate my safeway sandwich, drank half a latte. Then Peg urged us all outside before we "got too comfortable". We booked it out of town. Slightly gapped Roger and Ali and played control-tag with them all the way back to Richland. We approximately had the wind for this leg: Ellensburg to Yakima. It was a nice ride back through the canyon. Crossing back over into Yakima - we entered town at night (must have been pusing 11pm). No traffic issues. A nice ride on 1st street, then a left on Nob Hill and we found the 76. The person behind the desk knew the card-signing routine and we happy to sign ours - the folks preceding us (Ken, John, Mike and Karel) must have made a great impression with her, and all of the other folks at the service stations and stores. They were always smiling when they saw us. All of this despite Peg and I starting to go into full-on Rando-vagrant mode.

Eating at the 76 on Nob Hill in Yakima Paul's Yakima Chow

The 76 chow was cup-of-soups, ingested in the store while sitting on cases of motor oil. Zillah - there was one table in the Chevron. Prosser - we used the Shell truck-stop. Plenty of tables and local color. Benton City - who can ever forget the outside pond with the adjoining BBQ?

Anyway - there we are at the Yakima Nob Hill 76. Me, Peg and the proprietress. She's deeply amused and trusting us (no reason not to, as it turns out). Steps outside for smoke while Peg and I are swilling down a cup-o-noodles each. It's good but time is pressing. We head it towards Moxie. I've never been. And I guess I still haven't. The road skirts the town and then pushes us south towards Zillah. It's all getting bleary but we're biking on. We spend a lot of time on 'Konnowac Pass Rd'. I'm starting to put it together - the name, the curve of the road on the map. Means one thing: we have a climb somewhere in this. It's true. We climbed. But - the best part is that some of the local artists had adjusted the reflectivity of the road signs. So that some of the letters in the words 'Konnowac Pass Rd' are not visible. Taking out the 'P' was obvious - but the adjustments on 'Konnowac' took some thought. Anyway - we're climbing up. The road surface has some fractal dimension close to 2. Then we get to descend to the Yakima Valley Hwy. I'm feeling pretty good at this point, since this puts us a little over 100km away from the finish (doable) on roads I've bicycled before (very doable). Too bad the wind had died down - and was slightly in our face. We get to Zillah.

Roger and Ali pull in shortly after us. They're making the time limits, as are we - with never more than an hour to spare. Sometimes with just minutes. But we're slogging it through. Peg and I head out from the Chevron through the sleeping town of Zillah. She's not impressed by the teapot. It takes us forever to get to Sunnyside. We try the bike path briefly on the other side of Sunnyside - to stay out of traffic. At this point I'm having some issues staying awake while riding. Nothing unmanageable so much as annoying - sleepiness messing with my enjoyment of the moments. We look for caffeine tablets in Grandview. We strike out. But we get to Prosser. The truck stop. Food, tea (easier on the stomach than coffee) and vivarin. I haven't used this particular form of substance since undergraduate school. I still remember trying to write a paper, due the next day. That caffeine pill kept me up, but so wired and shaky that I couldn't start writing till 5am or so. But, I'm game to try one of these again - three+ decades later. Peg is kind enough to spot me a vivarin. I read the label. I accidently start reading the inert-ingredients. This is kind of a long list. I remember reading the titanium compound on the list - then realizing that 1) I am reading the inert ingredient list 2) titanium is very appropriate for a rando event (although I'm using the steel) and 3) the orange color it induced is hilarious as it is not a very food-like color. I eat it and hope for the best.

For actual food: I'd chosen the item with the most calories that I thought I could eat (and then retain while riding). We'd shown up at Prosser at a reasonable hour - some of the local folks were awake and having their morning coffee. They greeted Peg and I with a comment (I'm paraphrasing): "I see you're with your daughter: your youngest daughter". I thought this was a good shot/comment, but wasn't in good enough shape to visibly appreciate it. So they repeated it a few times:). Nice guys. One of them was the ex police-chief of Prosser. Peg chatted with them briefly. Peg and I took a 'head-down' brief nap. Somewhere along the way I started having issues with the functioning of my left knee. It hurt when I bent it. Not so good when one is trying to pedal. It hurt a lot when I pedaled standing-up - so I didn't do a lot of that. Ibuprofen helped somewhat. It hurt less as the day started warming up. Anyway, the food, vivarin, tea etc all helped. We headed out of Prosser, on fire, relatively speaking. I see on the speedometer, somewhat consistently, 13-14 mph.

An hour later - it's daylight (has been since Prosser) and we're a couple of short climbs from Benton City. But I'm starting to fade - limited power on the bike - can't get the heart-rate over 110 (a solid sign I'm out of fuel). I make some comment, Peg agrees: "yep, you're running on fumes again". We stop in Benton City. Can you believe they don't have donuts on Sunday's at the gas station? Donut-free - just on Sundays. I choke down a hostess cupcake (dryer than a fresh donut), another vivarin, half a cup of coffee (just to make sure I've had enough caffeine) and we're off. Peg had stayed outside so she wouldn't get "too comfortable". I'm starting to sense a pattern.

We're pretty much done. Just pedal. These are extremely familiar roads - I probably ride them in my sleep. We crest the hill outside of Benton City, coast down to Bombing range, some road-ridng, a bike path, up to the elementary school and just about coast down to Nat's.

Nat's there. Sally. Two cats. He signs cards. He's been up all night reading my gripping facebook posts (ok, probably not). Nat takes our picture. I've called Julie asking for a lift home. Sure - we can ride 250 miles. But not 252.

We'd timed our departure from Prosser so that we'd finish the ride w/ 30 minutes to spare - enough time in the bank to handle one mechanical incident. We finish w/ 30 minutes to spare. Roger and Ali show up right after us. Ali enjoys the cats. We all chat briefly. I hope to see them on a ride in Canada in 2012, and before. This was a great weekend.

400km Stare

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