Monday, April 23, 2007

2007 Flèche Northwest: Success for Flèche Gordon's Space Cadets

Pictures are here:

The Team of Allison Bailey, Paul Johnson, Narayan Krishnamoorthy, Brian List, and Chuck Pailthorp successfully completed the 2007 edition of Flèche Northwest, with a strong ride througout. The ride was scheduled to begin at 3p from Brian List's house. Allison and I took the bus from Downtown Seattle, and reached Olympia at 2.30p.

We headed south to Castle Rock, where we planned to have dinner. Castle Rock had one Chinese restaurant, and we ate there. I got something vegetarian, but my friends were all carnivores, and so had to suffer even more. The food was truly awful. A definite thumbs down.

Brian List had pointed out to me that my rear blinkie (in solid mode, RUSA regulation) was not very visible from afar. I was bummed about this, but Paul Johnson came through with batteries for my taillight. I offered to return new batteries to him, but he refused, saying I had to owe him that forever. Some debts are not repaid easily, if at all.

We stopped near Vader (near Mrs. Beesleys, highly recommend their Milkshakes) and I had a Starbucks DoubleShot and so did Allison. I was feeling sleepy at this point and the drink gave me a nice lift. Paul warned that Allison would take off, and sure enough she and Brian List took off like bats out of Heck on Jackson Highway. Paul and I plodded behind, and saw their taillights vanish off into the distance. We regrouped at a light, and got stopped by Toledo Police, and Brian explained what we were up to. The Sheriff wished us a safe ride and took off. It was either Centralia or Chehalis, where we saw Dave Read's team flying low, all lit up like UFOs.

We headed back to Olympia for a snooze in the pre-dawn hours (4:15a). Chuck made us all great breakfast which featured a great Banana-Grape smoothie and we left together around 6.15a. The hills quickly broke us up, but we reached Hoodsport around 9.30a. Paul was there first, and was at the Hoodsport Coffee Company (which is his favourite stop).

Time was conspiring against us at this point, and when my ride mates stopped at Eldon, I rode on. I was well and truly gassed when I got to the Chevron station at Brinnon, and sat down to eat a Bean Burrito with a Starbucks Latte (coffee avoidance be darned). I thought I had put some distance between us, but my team mates scurried ahead of me a little later. They let me catch them, we reached the summit almost together and this was our 22hr point. Not feeling that great, I took off again for Quilcene. When I met my team, I told them that Center road owned me and took off. Felt a little bad about taking off, but not being a great climber, I had little choice. Center Road after 350+ km was a way easier beast to deal with than Center Road after 550+ km (referring to last years 600, which finished in Kingston).

I waited at the 20km point (from Quilcene), which at 370k, put us well over the 360K point (according to Brian's calculations). I sat down on the grass, and Brian and Chuck rode up. We decided to finish at the 2mile signpost on Center Road (in keeping with SIR tradition, it was atop a hill). We finished at 3p, but still had to ride our designed distance to the hotel, which put the total ride at just under 400k.

It was an interesting ride. Conditions ranged from nice and sunny, to overcast, to rainy, to cold and wet to glorious sunshine again. My riding companions were nice and easy to ride with, and we had fun. On a personal note, successful completion of the Flèche means that I only have PBP to complete to earn my first Randonneur 5000 medal, the grand mama of all randonneuring awards (in my eyes).

We suffered no flats, except Brian lost his E6 lens to vandals in Castle Rock (somebody unscrewed the lens and the shiny body off, and left the bulb near the restaurant). We spent some time looking around for the lens, but to no avail. Brian was more patient with this than I would have been in a similar situation.

The banquet was great fun, with many a funny story shared and even more plates of food consumed. We parted company, promising to ride again next year.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Psyched about the Flèche

I begin my quest for my first Flèche this Friday. The ride starts at 3p at Olympia, and I am taking the bus down with Allison Bailey, who is on my team, along with Paul Johnson, Charles Pailthorp and Brian List. All of them are stronger riders than myself, and I shall try my best to not slow any of them down.

The Flèche has the most number of rules per kilometer of riding, and it shall be an interesting experience trying to ride to fill time, as opposed to trying to ride within the time limit.

Route Details:

Start: Olympia, 3p on April 20th, 2007
Control 1: Rochester
Control 2: Winlock
Control 3: Castle Rock (Dinner)
Control 4: Back to Rochester (do we stop at Winlock?)
Control 5: Olympia (Sleep for a couple of hours)
Control 6: Hoodsport
Control 7: Quilcene
22 hour point: Somewhere on Center Road (which owns me)
Control 9: Port Townsend (243.7mi)

This means that we get to navigate some new roads (Olympia to Castle Rock and back) and also some familiar roads (Hood Canal, Mount Walker, Quilcene, Center Road etc). We are going to be doing the minimum distance required, which is 360km. Works for me!

Thanks to Paul Johnson, Brian List and Charles Pailthorp for all the route planning and help and for letting me be on the team.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

PBP Step#2: SIR 300K: C'est Fini

New PR for this TOUGH course. 17 hours and 2o minutes. I rode with Paul Whitney for much of the ride, and with David Carey from near Potlatch. Both were great ride companions, and helped me fix flats, which I suffered solely because I was running old tires. Had rain on and off, and it completely stopped near Belfair. Rain through Tahuya would not have been pretty.

I found out that the last 200K of the first 600K of the year will feature these same hills. Whoa Mamma! I better train for hills.

Used Sustained Energy and felt good. Didn't walk any of the hills.

Ride report is here