Tuesday, July 14, 2009

R-12 #2 completed

Short version: Finished the Three Rivers Cruise Permanent in 10:46 to complete my second R-12. Au Revoir!

Long version, below:

I have been off to Europe for darn near three weeks, but I had some unfinished business over in Randonneuring land before I could leave: my July 200k ride. I started rather late (around 8.45 on a day that promised to be hot. (I should have left early and maximized my time in the cooler temperatures).

Start to Marblemount

- I stopped in Darrington for food and water, and met Andrew, a Coloradoan bicycle touring from Steamboat Springs, and spoke to him for 20+ minutes.

- Nice tailwind on Highway 530.

- Lots of traffic on Highway 20. Hhhmmn...

- I got to Marblemount in 5 hours. Maybe I can finish this ride in 10 hours or so?

Marblemount to Concrete

- Headwind: not bad. Heat: not so good.

- Crawled up the not-so-steep climb to Rockport State Park, and took refuge in the shade.

- Regrouped by getting more water at the State Park.

- Stopped at the convenience store in Concrete before the turn, and chatted with some teenagers on bikes. It's always great to stun the young crowd. (The bathroom was disgusting. Would not recommend this store).

- Chip-seal on South Skagit Highway as nasty as ever. The heat was bad. Traffic: low.

- Ran out of water just past the information control, and knocked on a house to get some water. A very helpful lady tied up her dog and gave me bottled water. Thanks very much!

- Rested in the shade a little bit and then took off for Clear Lake.

- Getting off the chip-seal was awesome...

- Stopped at the store in Clear Lake to get some more water, and some Ice Cream.

Clear Lake to Finish

- Had a bit of a cross-wind but felt good on the rollers of Highway 9.

- Stopped once at the bar near the roundabout to get some water and Ice Cream. Chatted with the locals drinking, who warned me that Highway 9 was a bad road for bicyclists. I headed out after thanking them for their warnings.

- Stopped again a little while later to use a porta-potty on a construction site, after getting permission.

- Finished in around 10:45.

- Yaaay! R-12 #2.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SIR Spring 600: Truth in advertising


Starting a 600 without first completing a 400 is something I have never done before. Endless promises of a flat 600 had me fantasizing about a strong finish, something very quickly dispelled by the organizer, Albert. "The course is not flat", he said while shuttling between the drop bag truck and the hotel lobby. A lot of new roads, and a lot of familiar roads awaited.

I met a lot of the usual suspects at the start. Michael Huber was there and confessed to being quite strong on the bike this year and was having grand ideas of riding straight through. I found myself on the opposite side of the spectrum. Having DNF'd the 400 in Ephrata (at about 300k), I was wondering how I would fare. My only goal was to finish, and I rode with precisely that aim in mind. I would keep my control stops short, and en route dalliances to a minimum. Three hours of sleep at the overnight would be nice, but not necessary.

Start to Ruston

I rolled out at the back of the pack, having stopped to use the restroom to apply bag balm. We stayed in a big bunch, aided by the red lights on 15th and the West Valley highway, though Bill Alsup, Duane Wright and I were already at the bottom end. I caught up to Rick Haight. Rick volunteered on the PBP qualifier of 2007, and I joked about how I begged for coffee on the road to Whitney, and Kent Peterson, mindful of not supporting outside the controls, offered a "You are only a few miles out of the control!"... He was just getting warmed up and separated himself on the initial incline of Military Road. When I crested that hill, all I could see was The Kramer on his 'bent and Rick pulling away. The pack was gone.

I somehow found myself alone on the turn onto S 360th, and thought Duane would have trouble with this turn, and as I stopped to fix my dropped chain, I saw Duane fly by the turn. I tried waiting for him at the SR 99 intersection, but he didn't show up quickly enough for me. I caught up with Bill and passed a crouched Dan Jensen, fixing a flat. Bill stopped to take a picture of the bridge and I kept riding (having left the camera at home as a time-saving measure). The trail along the water was full of runners and even some cyclists getting their bikes off their cars. I got through the tunnel, and crested the little hill to the first control at Ruston, where I was met by Robin and Amy Pieper, and Charlie White and his son.I had about an hour in the bank. This was unexpected good news.

Ruston to Waterman Point

Amy and Robin filled my water bottles, and after a brief discussion on who was behind me, I left for the next control. The left turn onto Pearl put me in the company of a few "normal" bike riders, and on a mostly shoulder-less road with cars trying to get to the start of a run. I was off the madness quickly though and onto the Tacoma Narrows bridge which shares quite a few similarities with Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge: Great views and Green in colour.

After a nice scenic stretch next to the water in a still sleepy Gig Harbour, I found myself on some of the roads that we rode on the Tahuya 200 last year, except in reverse. Orchard Road bit me a couple of times, the first bite forcing me to zig zag. The second bite was a bit less painful than the first, and reminded me of Port Gamble Road. After some more riding along the water, Dan Jensen caught up to me, and we rode maybe a mile together before we found ourselves face to face with Eric Vigoren, manning this control.

Waterman Point to Cosmopolis

After a few cookies, some nice catching up, and a visit to the porta-potty, I took off with Dan Jensen. He was clearly a faster ride than I was, and dropped me, but I passed him when he stopped to take a picture and then went to a bike shop. On Clifton Road we passed by Anderson Hill Road, and I could only think of thanking Albert for resisting the temptation to put us on that three-headed monster during daylight hours.

This section - Clifton Road - was a low point for me. There was a nagging uphill grade, a headwind and I found myself not going fast enough for my liking. However, Feigley Road changed all that. The descent was awesome but somewhat ruined by a pickup truck illegally backing uphill to make a left turn. I wasn't going down quite as fast as I usually go, and that saved me from just rear-ending the idiot.

The day was quite beautiful and a lot of cyclists were out riding their bikes. As I slowed down to make the left turn onto West Belfair, a couple of riders stopped on the road to ask me about the ride we were on. They knew we were together, and I did my best to give them a 2-minute summary of what we do. They were suitably impressed when I described the ride I was on. I gave them our website, but I think that a few little scraps of paper with our website written on it would be a brilliant idea. We parted with mutual wishes for a good ride.

This section of W Belfair was new to me, as I had only ridden it in the opposite direction on last years Tahuya 200. More flat riding, and as I went by Bear Creek - Dewatto Road, I uttered another round of thanks to Albert. It certainly looked like he spared us some major heartburn. After a brief jaunt on the high-traffic SR3, we were led to the chip-seal hell that is SR 106. I arrived at the Union Country Store, filled my water bottles and took off again, while Dan Jensen waited to get a sandwich.

Oh, I forgot to mention this. Since my DNF because of running out of food, I kept a solid supply of food on board. This was perhaps overkill, but I figured I needed the practice. I have cycled many a time on SR 106, but never on Purdy Cutoff road. It was a lovely stretch of road, and I greatly enjoyed the shady respite it offered. My shorts were rubbing me raw, and I stopped to put on some bag balm, and traffic got backed up behind me (I thought it was a low traffic road!). Dan passed me here.

After a steady slog uphill, I made the turn onto Dayton Airport Road, but the stretch to Matlock was new terrain. Mostly flat but the wind wasn't cooperating. I made good progress and just as I got into the Matlock store, I saw Dan Jensen pulling out. I didn't see any other rider until the overnight in Centralia. I refueled at the Matlock store and stayed about 10 minutes. Gatorade, some salted peanuts and more PowerBars. When I left the store I was met with an immediate gust of wind that told me that the wind wouldn't be doling out any favours today. It was put-your-head-down-and-slog time. Some clear cuts, some forests and distant mountains. Oh, and some "transformation centers" (Euphemism for "Pray the Gay away" ?). I also spotted what looked like Nuclear Power plant cooling towers a little before Monte-Elma Road.

The wind was nothing compared to the 4 mile stretch of chip-seal hell called Monte-Elma Road. In previous years, we have ridden this entire stretch, but today was only 4.2 miles, but I was still glad to get off it. I didn't think to stop at the Bakery in Montesano this time around. Blue Slough Road was another lovely stretch, completely shaded and totally traffic free. Lovely, indeed. I arrived at Cosmopolis with plenty of time to spare. I was greatly disappointed to see that Dan Jensen had already left. I was hoping to coax him into riding a slower pace with me at night.

Cosmopolis to Westport

A lot of brevets go through towns and villages instead of cities, and you do meet a different kind of humanity here. The Cosmopolis Chevron had a nice owner who promised to keep his store open an hour later than normal and I made it a point to refuel all my food and hydration stores here to show a small measure of gratitude for such kindness. I also informed him about Bill and Duane being behind me, and that he probably wouldn't have to stay open until 10. I left fairly quickly as I wanted to get to Westport before dark.

A nice wind-aided stretch followed where the only source of trouble was the shoulder-less bridges. However, these were dispatched with aplomb, and I found myself at Westport fairly quickly.

Westport to Rainbow Falls State Park

I had promised myself a bit of a breather here, but considering the wind, I took off in about 10 minutes after filling up on water and food, and using the restroom. I knew that darkness would fall on this stretch, so I wore my reflective ankle bands, but left my jacket off. I had brought leg warmers, but it looked like that would be overkill. The shoulder was filled with debris and a few miles out of Westport I started to ride on the main road, and moved into the shoulder only when I spied a car in my helmet mirror.

To avoid psyching myself out over the distance to the overnight control, I folded the route sheet to the Raymond turn, and focused on getting my butt to Raymond. The Peninsula is a great place to ride. Mostly flat, little traffic and features the soft sounds of waves crashing on the beach. I made good time, but about two-thirds of the way to Raymond, I stopped to don my jacket and reflective vest. I also turned on my E-delux light, a birthday gift from my wife.

What a difference this light made!! It is a totally awesome light. The E6 has a yellowish light, but the E-delux throws a white light. I had it mounted on my front rack braze-on, and though there was some wheel shadow, the light was simply superb. Pricey, but good. It light up at far lower speeds than the E6 and features a standlight, which is a great addition.

I got to Raymond in good time, and since I was ok in terms of food and water, didn't bother to ride into town for either of those necessities. I had trouble getting the left turn light onto SR6 to trigger and used the pedestrian sign to get it to turn on. I was starting to feel a bit tired a few miles out of Raymond, but kept on, hoping I would see a grocery store where I could get some coffee. Having woken up at 4a to catch a ride with Duane, I was starting to feel a bit sleepy, and after about 15 miles, I saw a sign for a tavern in Lebam, and figuring I'd take a chance, I entered. A little apprehensively, I admit.

There were only two patrons (read: drunks) there, but the bartender was a friendly sort. They already knew about what we were doing, so I guessed that other riders must have stopped here for refreshments. They were full of conversation: "You have to ride to Centralia, huh? That's a far ways away", one quipped, while the other filled me up on the long and steep climb ahead of me in the next three to four miles. Not to be outdone, the first one made comments about bears, mountain lions and drunks ("like myself", he said). I never got the impression that they were trying to scare me, just filling me in on the road ahead. :)

I got Coffee with some milk and sugar and after making quick work of it, I got up to pay, but was told that the coffee was on the house. Awesome! I thanked the patrons, and the bartender and made my way out, refreshed. It was only a 10 minute stop, but it was a very welcome stop. Now fully awake (those months of drinking decaf now suddenly seeming worthwhile), I continued on. I half-hoped Bill or Duane would catch up to me, but that didn't happen. The roads were traffic free and I made excellent time, even climbing hard amid a very soft rain and enjoying the descent. I made the left turn onto Pe Ell, and only then did fold the route sheet all the way to the Centralia Control. When I got to Rainbow Falls state park, I saw a red blinky and turned left into the park looking for Paul.

I didn't find Paul. The time was now 2.05a. I had made good time, and with any luck I'd get my three hours of sleep tonight. I rode all over the park, but it looked purely residential. I started yelling "Paul, Paul", in the vain hopes that they might hear me. I met a trucker who told me that they were on a turn next to where the bridge was washed out. So, I made my way out of the park and onto a second road, where disaster struck.

I was met by three barking dogs, the smallest of which went straight for my ankle. It was too late when I realized what the stupid thing was about to do, but I had the presence of mind to kick out and off it went whining. I fought off the other two with my front wheel, and as the clearly inebriated owners fought to maintain control of their dogs, I fought with the dogs to stop them from mistaking me for food.

Finally order was restored, and I asked for help in the form of a phone call. One of the family members actually drove out to go see where the control was. (I didn't realize this). To say I was incensed at this point would be a severe understatement. My inability to find the control, the dogs, the wasted half hour all added up. I called Albert to ask about the control, but I used an F-word "adjective" to describe the control (I apologized to Albert at the finish). Albert didn't know where it was, and referred to Peter, who tried to calm me by telling me that getting mad wasn't productive. He asked me to continue on SR 6 and that I would find it. I thanked the couple and left, and a few hundred yards down the road, I was met by a girl who slowed down to tell me that "they" were setup a mile or two down the road. I thanked her and kept riding.

I got to the Rainbow Falls Control at 2.45a, about 35 minutes behind schedule.

Rainbow Falls Control to Centralia

I was met by a smiling Paul Johnson, Sheila Johnson and John Vincent. I was still seething from my lost time, and after a few minutes of ranting and raving, and poor Paul apologizing profusely, I sat down and was treated to a great array of Vegetarian food (excellent Szechuan Noodles). John took my bike, Sheila gave me food and drink, and Paul fought with Raccoons, that were trying to get their hands on some randonneur goodies.

After some pleasant conversation (I stopped being an a-hole), I left around 3a. I told them that Bill and Duane were behind me, and that I hadn't seen them for well over 200 miles. I didn't even know if they were still riding at this point. I was now feeling the effects of the 230-odd miles that I had ridden, but the last few miles went by without incident. I do remember riding by Curtis Hill Road and thanking Albert yet again.

I got to Centralia at 4.37a and was met by Peter Beeson, and some others getting ready to leave. Peter took my bike and escorted me to my room.

Day 2, 7:20a: Centralia to Morton

I told them I was good on food, and after asking for a 645a wake up call, I brushed my teeth, showered, and hit the sack at 4.45a. Yes, 8 minutes. The next instant Peter was waking me up. I brushed my teeth, changed into bike clothing and took off around 7.10am, but had to turn back when I got confused by the route sheet. Peter set me straight, and I rode on worried about the measly 2 hour buffer I had.

I had ridden Centralia-Alpha road in the other direction with Peg and Allison in 2007. It wasn't that terrible, but then I was in great shape that year. This year would be payback. I saw Matt Dalton and another rider fiddling with their bikes at the base of the initial climb, but they started back up, and disappeared around the turn, before I could get to them. I slowly climbed the initial leg, and as it flattened out, I saw Peg down the hill behind me.

She caught up to me on one of the steep sections, and when I hit the top. she was gone. I just slogged through this section. I knew I would be losing time, and I didn't care. I just wanted to make the Morton control on time and I would see what I could do after that. SR 508 was another hard stretch. I didn't have energy and I started stopping to eat my PowerBars. Apart from one nasty climb SR 508 was all right, but my legs weren't. It was just that the 250 miles I had ridden the previous day were getting to me. I took frequent breaks to adjust clothing and eat.

When I am tired, I try and ways to introduce some humour into my ride. One such instance was when I saw a mailbox with the name Studhalter on it. I don't know if you know my sense of humour but it leans towards the juvenile. My immediate reaction: that last name would be a death sentence to a woman. She might as well have been called Ugly. I know this is not funny now, but for some weird reason, it offered me comic relief for a few miles. Eventually SR 508 flattened out and I was riding next to a nice river, and arriving into Morton. I saw Peg leaving the control. She would be the last rider I saw on the ride. I wish I had ridden a bit fast and left with her, but it was too late.

Morton to Enumclaw

I had about 3 hours in the bank when I got into Morton. Feeling tired despite having taken many a breather everywhere I decided to stay about 15 minutes. I bought some Powerade, some salted Cashew nuts, Sprite, more PowerBars and some jojos. The jojos were very poorly made, but I still ate them knowing that there would be some more climbing. I used the restroom, chatted with the friendly clerk, and rested my head on the table.

I filled the Powerade in my water bottle and left Morton on SR7 with a nice crosswind. Shortly after the control, the road tilted up, and traffic was pretty high. The jojos I ate gave me horrible heartburn, and I didn't like this section as a result. The shoulder was inadequate, and I slowly made my way up the climb. I stopped a few times to "adore the scenery". I got to Summit Cr at 1700+ feet, and then had a nice descent into Elbe.
I tried to stop at the bar, but it was overrun by bikers (the motorized kind). One of them commented "So, you made it here all the way from Canada, eh?", looking at my BC Randonneurs jersey. I left the area before they started "joking" more. The wind was now in my face, but Alder Cutoff saved me from the wind, and threw me onto a hill, with cars buzzing by. There was a fantastic downhill on SR 161, and we turned onto Orville Road.
Now, I had great dreams for Orville Road. I was hoping it would be a quiet road with no traffic and lots of views of Lake Kapowsin and Lake Ohop. I stopped to eat off the side of the road, and was met by the rudest honk off a guy driving a huge pickup. He gave me the "get moving sign", but all he had to to was go around me. When I motioned for him to go around me, he threw up his arms in disgust. I wasn't very happy with this, and said "hey", and threw up my arms in disgust. He drove a few feet away and then stopped to backup, but there were other cars behind him, and he just took off. I kept a wary eye out for him.
Pickups, pickups, and more pickups. The surface was not the greatest either, and it had the kind of short choppy lumps that were pretty annoying. My heartburn showed no sign of abating, but my appetite was still there. The grades on some of the gravel roads that led off of Orville Road were unreal. I stopped to admire as an SUV drove down one of those inclines, and progress was slow. It seemed like some sleep would help, but there was nowhere I could stop and nap.
The right turn to stay on Orville Road helped the quality of the people on it. I stopped to admire another nice view before a descent (or I may be making this up). After a few miles I stumbled upon some grass by the side of the road (near an entrance to an RV Park), and napped for a good 20 minutes. My aim was twofold: to allow Bill Alsup to catchup, and get some rest. The constant steady stream of traffic was my way of making sure I didn't sleep for a few hours.
Of all the signs you want to see in this world, "Volcano Evacuation Route" is not what you want to see at the end of a 600k. But my sleep had refreshed me, and though I wouldn't say I powered up the hill, I got there in good time. My mother called to talk. Talking to her was refreshing, even if she didn't understand why I was doing it. I turned left on to familiar roads now, having done the Redmond - Carbon Glacier only last month. The small climb just past Buckley was a kicker, but I arrived at the Enumclaw Control with plenty of time to spare.

Enumclaw to the Finish

I bought some Sprite, some salted cashew nuts, and a couple of PowerBars, and I knew that I would finish in under 37 hours. That felt good. I helped a woman operate the gas pump (she didn't know how to get that thing started). I left after about 15 minutes. The next section was completely known, except the little stretch past Main Street in Auburn (Leschi - Auburn - Leschi permanent). As I rode up the last little incline, my bike suddently downshifted, and the chain fell off, but only after making an awful noise. I stopped to put the chain back on, but I found that the chain had wedged itself between the chainstay and the small chainring. This was not good. I knew there was a killer descent onto Green Valley Road, and I could basically walk my way to the finish in under the time limits.

I tried doing all kinds of things, jiggling it, trying brute-force, and finessing it. Nothing worked. I flipped my bike over and started to work on getting the chain off, when a car pulled over and asked me if I wanted a ride somewhere. He was a cyclist himself, and when I told him about the ride, he immediately parked his car, and came over to help. We discussed our options, and he said he didn't haveto tools to get the chain off. I replied that I did, and he offered to get the thing off. After what seemed like 10 minutes of jiggling, he finally pulled it off! He was my saviour! And, I didn't even get his name.

I thanked him profusely, and he didn't even complain about having to work on a dirty chain! I wasted about 30 minutes in the process. Oh well. I knew that the finish was less than an hours ride away. The descent to 212th and then onto Green Valley Road was awesome. Green Valley Road was uneventful, but this was the first time I rode in this direction. It felt completely different. I felt strong on the bike, and soon I was cruising past Main Street and onto heavily trafficked roads. I could finally relax. I was going to make it. It is possible to finish a 600 without a 400. I finished in 37:39.

Albert was there at the hotel lobby. The room had Beer, Pizza and snacks. I shoved my face with whatever I could get my hands on, and then called my wife to let her know that I finished. Albert told me that Duane had decide to end his ride someplace near Cosmopolis, and decided to get a room in Aberdeen. I met Karel from Montana. As I was getting ready to hit the showers, Bill finished. He was only 20 minutes behind me, but he had really hammered to the finish. He had a lot of off the bike time that really added up. Karel and I discussed some permanent options that he could do if he wanted to try for an R-12. The Colbert-Metaline falls permanent (seldom ridden) was something he expressed some interest in, but it isn't rideable in the winter. Talking to him made me realize how lucky we all are to have such a living thriving randonneuring community right at our doorstep. And our weather. I know we love to complain, but atleast we can do 200's in the winter. Montanans cannot.

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers on this ride. The Rainbow Falls control was excellent and so was the support at the overnight. It was a great 600. And it most certainly was NOT flat.


Duane had sent word that he would like me to call him, and when I did, he offered to come and get me. I thought his car was still in Auburn and so he was coming down with his friend to come and get his car. I showered and waited for Duane, and talked with Karel. When I left the hotel, I found out that Duane had driven down just to get me. It turns out that Duane had already retrived his car in the morning, and was just offering to come and pick me up. Duane's Nice!

Friday, May 22, 2009

SIR 400k Pre-ride: A rookie mistake.

I will update this post with photos once I have had a chance to upload them.. :(

Short version


Had the beginnings of a cold. Didn't bank much time at any of the controls. Had 26 minutes at Farmer, where I just stopped to take a picture of the hall. Had an hour and 8 minutes at Pateros. Lost time on the section to Twisp. Nice headwind and a crosswind. Rode strong over Loup Loup pass. Had about 40 minutes at the Omak Store. Made good time on Columbia River Road, but ran out of food about 5 miles from the turn onto 155. Called Shane and Chantel, who came and picked me up: he said I was slurring my words, which is not a good sign.

In hindsight, I should have just asked him to bring me some food and continued, but I didn't want to get support outside of the controls. I learnt that I needed to carry more food than necessary. This was particularly stupid, because I carried lots of food for the first 75 miles which lasted me almost till Omak. So, it is not as though I am stupid all the time, but, in this case, with no support until Electric City, my mistake got magnified.

Long Version


Duane and I drove together to the start, and had a nice dinner with the pre-riders at a restaurant in Ephrata. We Woke up early, and got dressed up for the early morning chill. It was cold at the start, maybe in the 40s. There were several of us: Geoff Swarts, Matt Dalton, Mark Thomas, Mike Norman, Thomas Martin, myself, Duane Wright, Tom Brett, and Bob Brudvik. This was an almost entirely new route to me. The only section that I was familar with was the section on 97 from the 97A intersection to Pateros, and the section from Pateros to Twisp, both of which I rode on the 2006 1000k. Not what I would call "hard".

Ephrata to Farmer

The first section was to go through the Sagebrush Flats, and the Moses Coulee. "A whole lot of nothing" quipped Mark Thomas. Kent Peterson that quotable ex-randonneur once said of the Sagebrush Flat "It gets the 'flat' part its name for the same reason that three-hundred pound tattooed Harley riders are sometimes named '"Tiny'. It is a description that stuck to me. Since there were no services for the first 75 miles, I was well stocked up with food and water: I had 3 Bananas, 3 PowerBars and 12 Pepperidge Farm cookies in my bag, and two water bottles. I stashed a 1-liter bottle of water in my Carradice.

The road tilted up immediately, and Duane and I quickly dropped back, while the group took off ahead of us. Duane was riding his fixed-gear, an insane choice considering the length of some of the climbs and the descents. To top this off, he had just ran a marathon the previous weekend. Not my idea of a recovery ride. The terrain was mostly dry, not much vegetation except sagebrush. The first few miles were mostly up, and once we got to the "top" of the climb, we had a nice descent on which I lost Duane. I descend like a rock, and Duane was on fixed-gear. I didn't know this then, but this was the last I would see of Duane for a while.

After a couple of bone-jarring gravel stretches of just a few feet in length, I got to a T-junction. The route sheet said make a left turn onto Highway 2, and that didn't register until I started riding towards a sign that said Highway 2 West. This was a steady climb again, and I soft-pedaled several times to let Duane catch up. But he was nowhere in sight. I had a bit of a tailwind as I approached th Farmer Control. I took a few pictures and checked th clock, and sure enough, I only had about 26 minutes in the bank.

Farmer to Pateros

My mental strength on rides is directly proportional to how well I am riding. If I am too close to the cut-offs I am not at my happiest. I ate a couple of cookies and left immediately from Farmer, and was met with long rollers. Spectacular views of the mountains everywhere, but the immediate vicinity was mostly farms. The rollers on this stretch were vicious. The paucity of training miles showed. Every mile there would be a road cutting across, going to some farm, but apart from that there was precious little.

I turned onto McNeil Canyon Road and was met with more uphills, but a little while later, I stopped to see if Duane was behind me. I thought I saw his jacket, but I wasn't too sure. I kept on and after some climbing, I saw a sign that said "McNeil Pass Summit". I hadn't expected to be climbing a mountain pass, but this was another pass climbed. The next few miles were all downhill, and I lost altitude like I have never done before: I didn't touch the brakes once, but the winds were vicious. Tucking in helps lose in minutes what one spends hours to climb.

I thought about stopping at Beebe park for water, but I had a half a bottle. I thought about turning back, but decided to keep going to save time. The day was warming up and I stopped to take off some clothing, and who should swing by but Shane, who gave me a hearty hug. I hadn't met him since we rode the Three Rivers Cruise permanent right after PBP 2007. It was fun catching up with Shane and Chantel. I got some water from him and took off again, aided by a nice tailwind. Familiar roads again. I rode this stretch at night in 2006 and it was good to see the sights during the day. I got to Pateros a couple of minutes before noon, and had about an hour and 12 minutes in the bank.

Pateros to Twisp

Shane was here to sign my card, and I filled my water bottles again with the left over water from the previous riders. Apparently the other riders had left only 15 minutes earlier, but coupled with my 10 minute stay here, I was 25 minutes behind. I had no chance of catching up with anybody. I left without waiting for Duane, figuring that his superior speed would help him catch up. The road follows the Methow river, and the wind was picking up a little bit. I had a headwind for the most part, and it turned into a cross-wind after a few miles. I saw people on boats coming down the Methow, and stopped to take pictures of interesting road names, bridges and the river itself.

I was heading straight towards an area with dark clouds and about 10 miles, I was pelted by a brief shower of sorts which dried off almost immediately. I went by the store in Carlton not buying anything as I still had a PowerBar, a Banana and about 7 cookies. Just before the Highway 20 turn off, I knocked on a house for water, but nobody was around. I just filled up water from their hose. I now had about 50 minutes in the bank. Not very good with a mountain pass coming up.

Twisp to Omak

I decided to just follow the route sheet instead of the discussed Lower Beaver Creek Road. The road tilted up for a bit, but flattened out for pretty much the rest of the way. I first tried accelerating every few hundred meters and then slacking off, but that burned me too quickly, so I just started pedalling at a consistent rate. The shoulder was not that awesome, but the grade was quite gentle. I reached the summit of Loup Loup pass in about 2 hours and 18 minutes, which put my speed at just about 5-6 miles an hour. I took a few photographs, and then left.

The descent from Loup Loup for the next 7 miles was something else. Going West on this Pass would be a bit of a pain, but I was going down this time. I had a steep pitch after 7 miles and that got me crawling again, but it wasn't for very long. I really enjoyed that 7 mile stretch: it was my high-point of the ride. I stopped to eat the last of my cookies and got to Omak around 7.20, but not before I got confused about the Main Street turn (it was 2 miles further than advertised). I had 40 minutes in the bank. Not very much, but I still had a shot at finishing.

Omak to DNF

I always pictured Omak to be a cute little town, but sadly it wasn't. Oh well.

I bought and stashed three Bananas for the road ahead. I filled up my water bottles, and then sat down to eat the Cheese Burrito that I also bought. I thought for an instant if it was adequate food, and then I remembered thinking that Shane would be some 40 miles up the road in Nespelem. Figuring that I would last 40 miles on the food I had, I waited for Duane. A bunch of kids on bikes chatted with me as I waited. I told them that I was headed to Nespelem, and they said "Wow! That's far", almost in unison. I also dressed up for the night. I made two critical mistakes here: I forgot to buy a Starbucks DoubleShot and extra food. My plan was to restock with Shane and Chantel.

Around 7.40, I figured I had to get a move on. I left Omak and turned right on to Columbia River Road. I expected it to be a very quiet road, which it was. The road surface wasn't bad either. I thought the road would follow the river downstream, which meant a whole lotta downhills, but sadly that wasn't true. The road was rolling, and I ate the first of my Bananas a little too quickly for comfort. I was feeling strong however. The hills weren't that bad and the wind had completely died down. Darkness set in, and the only things I heard were the buzzing of my tyres, critters and barking dogs. After a brilliant Sunset, I saw the Columbia River flowing to my left, and the road tilted up again. I was treated to a most spectacular moonrise above some lake, which I enjoyed greatly.

I eat a lot when I climb a lot, and this meant that I was eating the second of my bananas even before I got to about the 20 mile point. I still felt good. After about 10 miles, I ate the last of my bananas and that was when I knew I was in trouble. I thought I still had 10 something miles to go before I could possibly get my hands on food, but I was wrong about that too.

Usually pretty good about just being in the present and not worrying about the road ahead, I started thinking about the 70 miles or so that I had to the finish. This was my first clue that I was "off". I stopped for about 5 minutes to try and gather my thoughts, and I started riding again. The road tilted severely up, and I found myself having no energy to turn the pedals. I was falling asleep on the bike, and zig-zagged up this climb, whose top I couldn't see. I was completely demoralized. I knew that there would be nothing open in Nespelem, and I knew that I didn't have the energy to get to wherever Shane was.

I thought I could stop somebody and get some food, started flagging down cars, but nobody stopped. It didn't look like I was going to make it to Nespelem. It is very hard to identify the exact process by which one says "I am going to DNF", but mine came half-way up the climb to Nespelem. I was tired, hungry, and demoralized. I started walking up the hill, thinking if I could only get to the top of this climb, I would be ok. After all, I had more than an hour in the bank. But even walking felt hard.

I called Shane to let him know that I was done. I was apparently slurring my words, and not really coherent. I sat down and a car pulled up. It was a driver asking if I needed help. I asked him to give me a ride to Nespelem where Shane would come and pick me up. Shane and Chantel showed up a little while later. I got something to eat, and we loaded up my bike in their car and went looking for Duane, who I had not seen since that climb to McNeil Pass. We couldn't locate him. We loaded up the car and headed back to Ephrata.

We were really worried about Duane, but he showed up around 9.30. He had ridden through the night after taking several catnaps. That was pretty good. We drove back on Sunday, stopping at Ellensburg for a nice lunch.

I rode Redmond-Carbon Glacier the following week in 10:43. My first sub-11 hour 200k in a while... That kept my R-12 streak going :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

SIR 300K: Well, I finished.


I haven't had the time to sit and and write a detailed report, and I forgot my camera. So, this is going to be just like all my previous reports: boring! Geoff gave me a ride to the start, and I found out something very interesting about him. Can't share, though. The ferry ride was fun: I sat near Jan Heine and had a nice little chat with him. My first memory of Jan is hearing him say that he wanted to finish the Tahuya 300 before dark (2006), and being in awe. I searched for Mike Huber, but I couldn't find him for some reason.

This is SIR's 15th year: it was great to meet John Wagner, one of the founders of SIR. Ron Himschoot introduced him, and John spoke a few words to us, before we set off. I had a few goals on this ride: 1) No candy bars (dentist's orders), 2) Finish, and 3) Get off Highway 9 before dark. I accomplished #1 and #2.

Start to Joseph Whidbey State Park

Very few sections of this route are new to me, so navigation wasn't going to be a problem. The first 20 miles were a touch cold, and I historically take a while to warm up. I rode with Rick Groth for long periods on this stretch. I also met his wife, Julie, who stopped at quite a few spots to take pictures of us.

There are two dogs about halfway into Highway 525 and they were in their usual spot, but they were too tired to give any chase. Greg Cox bounded by with a cheery hello: he had to drop Mary off at the airport, and had started late. The turn onto Libbey Road marked the first new section of the ride, but I loved it, as it took us off of Highway 20 traffic. We hugged the water, and arrived at the first control, where quite a few folks: Ole Mikkelsen, Ron Himschoot and Geoff Swarts were manning it.

Joseph Whidbey State Park to Bellingham

Ken Carter was indeed riding near me. Hhmmn. After mooching a banana off of Ron, I took off. I had been bonking a bit before the the Libbey turn, and it felt good to get something in the system. The water at the park had been shut off right after it opened, which was very weird, but there was a gas station not a mile away from the control, and I stopped there for food and water. The clerk there was very kind, and full of questions about our ride. She had moved up here from Oregon, and was enjoying it so far. I took this opportunity to take off my booties, but left the leg warmers and the skullcap on.

I spied Ken a little ahead of me, but instead of making the turn onto Golf Course Road, he kept going. He turned around after I called out to him a couple of times, muttering a "I wasn't paying attention" with his thanks. We rode a little while together sharing tales of not having enough miles in our legs. His superior climbing took him away, and I never saw him again. Or maybe I saw him near Mount Vernon. Don't remember.

I crossed Deception Pass during a nice long break in traffic, and found Rick again. We swooped down the descent on Deception Road together, and I passed another tandem on Satterlee Road. I saved Sylvia (new?) from a wrong turn (though she would have dead-ended pretty soon had she kept going), near Thompson Road. She wanted to wait up for her buddies, and I kept on. On the descent to the Farm to Market turn, the tandem went by. Instead of making the turn, we all pulled into the gas station together.

This wasn't a control, but should have been. It was fairly far to the next control with almost nothing in between until Bellingham, so it was a good stop. Several randonneurs and randonneuses had the same idea, but after food and water and more clothing adjustments, I set off again. Thai on fixed-gear, caught me near the Museum on Bayview-Edison Road, and disappeared. I found out that the nature foods store at the corner of Bowhill Road and SR 11 had closed. They had some good stuff and I have stopped there at least a couple of times.

I stunk pretty much all the way through Chuckanut drive, but since I didn't see anybody for a while, assumed that I was the last. Chuckanut was beautiful as always, and traffic was moderate. I made it through the core of Bellingham without getting lost (though I almost missed a left turn). Crossing I-5 was, well, fun.

Bellingham to Deming

I found a cheery Dan Turner manning the control with an assortment of goodies. He warned me that Deming was a better place to get food, and signed my card. The store had the most dour-faced convenience store clerk in the world (he even trumps the one I met in 2007 in Mount Vernon). He didn't want anything to do with me, except money of course. Dan gave me a brief run down of the next few miles, and renewing my promises to ride his 300k, I took off.

This stretch was extremely pretty, as I was able to see the snow covered peaks in close proximity, and the wind seemed like it would be favourable the moment we turned south. The fluttering flags were a great comfort. I was sad to leave Highway 542, but we shall see more of it, and at a slower pace to boot, courtesy of Dan (he promises a climb up to Artist's point). The moment I turned onto Highway 9, I felt the tailwind. I met Peg at the control together, eating an Ice Cream, and I resolved to get some for myself.

Deming to Arlington

Wanting to get off Highway 9 before dark, Peg and I left the control together, and rode in a pace line for a while, but the conversation was too good to ride like zombies. So, we pulled next to each other, started yakking it up, and the next few miles just blew by. Peg has an excellent sense of humour, and we tease each other almost constantly on one thing or the other, but all in good fun. For a while there we were doing good time, but eventually I tired and Peg slowly pulled away. She wasn't very far away, and I could still see her. We regrouped near Sedro-Woolley, where she ate something and I made a phone call to the Home Department. When she stopped to put on her night-gear, I caught up to her yet again, and were joined by a smiling Jim Jensen, who apparently rode 20+ bonus miles, having missed the SR-9 turn. Jim usually rides a tandem and was clearly missing his navigator, Ann. Instead of being 2 hours ahead of us, he was near the back of the pack.

We all dressed up, and figuring the temperatures would drop, I wore my skullcap, and was really warm for the next few miles. We stayed mostly together till Arlington, but I think Jim and Peg got there a few minutes before me. The Tandem (the Sneed's), and two other women also pulled in shortly after. Another rando reunion at the Arlington Haggen's.

Arlington to the Finish

I spent about 25 minutes here, and I don't know why. A combination of poor planning and general tiredness. I need to get back to my in-and-out-of-controls-quickly mindset again. However, sometimes you need to rest a while to recuperate, and I took off first, knowing that Jim and Peg would catch up to me. I almost missed the turn onto the Centennial Trail, but made a U-turn and got on where I was joined by the two.

The gentle uphill grade of the trail gets me each time. I soon dropped off the back, and while I could stay near them, the gap wouldn't close . The downhill bits on the trail had me catching up to them though, and we rode through Machias to the information control. Ron, with the thoughtfulness of a very experienced randonneur, had included the Info Control question on the route sheet, so there was no need to whip out the card. I made a mental note of the answer, and set off again. We rode together tight and fast on Lowell-Snohomish road, but my riding companions pulled away near the climb.

The climb: Luckily for me there were no witnesses. The two red-blinkies were gone by the time I got to the left turn on 41st avenue. I spent some time there recuperating from the climb, but it wasn't over yet. I knew I would finish, and typically near the end of rides, I lose all motivation to get there as fast as I can: the road curved left and then right, and with that the steep climbing would be over. Mukilteo Boulevard is a never-ending series of rollers, but the last few hundred yards are all downhill.

Ron Himschoot and Mark Roberts were at the finish with pizza, and Peg was just about to hit the showers. I ate the last two slices of veggie pizza (colossal mistake), and the Sneed's, Sylvia and another woman whose name I didn't catch, all finished. Sylvia wanted veggie pizza, and there was none left. Very sorry about that, Sylvia. I showered, and after a bit of a nap, got a ride home from Mark Roberts. What a fun way to celebrate SIR's 15'th year!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

ORR Birkie 200: A thorough soaking


Happy birthday to my dear Father-in-law.

What is the definition of a rainy ride? According to David Huelsbeck, it is any ride where one needs to stop and wring the water out of ones socks. By that definition, the 2009 Birkie wasn't a rainy ride. But by most peoples' definition, this one was a soaker.

Having missed the Chili Feed 200k for the first time in 3 years, the Birkenfield 200k in Oregon beckoned. After months of Permanents, it felt great to start with a new group of people, renew old acquaintances, and ogle new bikes. Despite the weather forecast calling for some rain, there were more than a few of us. This is a brevet of great vibes for me as my brevet personal record was set here in 2007. Of course, I had a whole lot more miles in my legs then than I do now. Today, completion was the goal.

I had two layers on top: a synthetic inner layer and a wool jersey on top, topped off by my Showers Pass jacket. I wore Pearl Izumi shorts and Ibex Leg warmers, with my prized Chili socks, with booties on top. I neglected to wear my rain pants and my helmet cover, and would pay dearly for this.

Start to Vernonia

There was a slight drizzle, but the dark skies tempered any enthusiasm. After a few words, the group took off, and the lights of Forest Grove even at that early hour, broke up the pack quite quickly. And of course, my pace didn't help matters either. I was by myself before long, and tooling along, when Joe Platzner came riding by, and we chatted for a few minutes before his natural pace took him gently away from me. Gales Creek Road meandering along the eponymous creek has some nice vistas of the mountains, and the rain made the greens pop out.

The climb up to Timber was much easier last time around. It was raining heavily by the time I reached the clear cut top, and plunged down the other side. We wouldn't climb for a while. My gloves were soaked through, but I was warm everyplace else. I should have found an awning and stopped to put the last remaining stuff on, but I was too dumb. The Vernonia control is always well-stocked: in 2007 it saved me from the cold. I kept turning the pedals thinking of the well-stocked Vernonia control. Hot Coffee or hot Chocolate was sure to be served, along with muffins, nuts, donuts and cookies. Just as I was entering the control I saw Cecil leaving on her beautiful Sweet Pea. She looked cheery despite the conditions. She almost always is. We shouted out our hello's and she went on by.

Vernonia to Birkenfeld

The control didn't disappoint. There was a huge group still there, and Peg was there as usual to give me grief. I had Del retrieve and sign my card: I was too far wet to consider touching my card. I had two cups of excellent (french press) coffee, by far the best I have had at a control. I stuffed my face with Cookies and nuts, and spent about 10-15 minutes at this control, just recovering in general. Paul Johnson was also there, and we caught up some. I took off, but not before I heard Peg share "too much information". :)

It was still raining, and as I took off for the info control, I didn't even realize that I had forgotten to put on my rain pants and my helmet cover. I pulled over at the school and saw Paul Johnson go on by as I covered the last of my exposed areas. My face was the only area left uncovered. I would have made the Taliban proud!

I pulled up next to Paul, and we shared memories of wonderful rides (that dry and hot 1000k in 2006), to make us forget the current drudgery. Ron Himschoot, that fount of wisdom, calls randonneurs "too dumb to quit". Having signed up for this ride despite knowing the weather forecast, I could find very little to change his opinion. Peg, Lesli and Sara were pulled over fixing a flat, and I just assumed that they were heading back to Stoney Point Road: they hadn't yet.

Everybody stopped at the info control, but I knew the question, and the answer, and just made a U-turn and headed back. Stoney Point Road climbs gently, and offers more of a chance to admire the scenery. I half-expected Paul to catch up to me again, but somehow that didn't happen. It was raining in earnest now, and I stopped every 5 miles or so to wring out the water from my gloves. I would squeeze my fingers together in a fist and more water would come out.

I have always cruised on this stretch: I do not know why. We had a monster headwind in 2007, but I still made good time. This time, it felt like there was a tailwind, and I cruised by. I should have noticed that the water was flowing in my direction. I was headed generally downhill. Quite a few riders were headed back to Vernonia, and I calculated - correctly - that most of them were hours ahead of me. I passed a pensive Bill Alsup, and reached the Birkenfeld control. There was a small group there trying to warm up, and stay next to the heater.

Birkenfeld to Vernonia

I bought some food and huddled up, and warmed myself. I ordered the biggest Hot Chocolate they sold, and drank it down. It was pretty demoralizing to have to go out in the rain again, but I took off again after about 15 minutes, warmed up considerably. The ride back to Vernonia was mostly a very gentle uphill, but the winds were generally co-operative. I made it to the Coffee shop with grand plans of another excellent Hot Chocolate.

Vernonia to Glenwood

I have long wondered why some coffee shop workers have lousy reputations. They supposedly ignore people and do not have the right attitude. I had never been exposed to this kind of behaviour before, but I guess there is always a first time. I am being generous when I say I got my "Hot Chocolate": it was neither. I ate my cookie, told Peg (and Lesli and Sara) about the general standard of the refreshments, and took off, confident that they would catch me before the Timber climb.

Rain, rain and more rain later, I climbed the Timber incline. My rear-view mirror showed three hard-charging randonneuses, who I tried to beat out for "person of the mountain" points, but Peg cheated and beat me (she stood on the pedals) :) I am the heaviest of the lot but somehow they bombed ahead of me, leaving me quite shocked. I finally caught up with John, who has a very interesting name, and pulled into the Glenwood control.

Glenwood to Finish

There were quite a few bikes at this control, and we made quick work of this control. None of us argued when the clerk commented that she hadn't seen rain like this for a very long time. John and I left together, but not before the trio of Lesli, Peg and Sara. Just before the tavern on Gales Greek Road, they pulled into the covered area, and I thought they were pulling over for clothing adjustments. It turns out that they had another flat. We were rewarded by a nice tailwind. This has always been a great benefit of this ride. A nice 10 mile jaunt to the finish, but I somehow got separated from John.

About 3 miles from the finish, a stranger made his (?) appearance: the Sun. We had about 15 minutes of dry weather on this ride. John and I pulled in together to the control, where our cards were signed by a smiling Sam Huffman. We were done! I chatted with Susan and Sam for a little while, and then took off for Beaverton.

I am wondering if I can get David to change the definition of a rainy ride to gloves and/or socks!?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Work is a four-letter word...


Work pressures have dominated my riding, and I have been able to duck out just enough to continue my R-12 going. I met up with John Vincent and Peg and rode Leschi-Auburn-Leschi on February 21st. It was a fun-day and we stuck mostly together. Traffic was light, and my right leg didn't complain much, except that little stretch past Auburn. Peg has an amazing sense of humour, and teased me all day. Our back-and-forth kept John entertained, I bet. I don't remember how long we took, but it certainly was a great day to ride our bikes, even it was a tad cold.


I pre-rode the 100k, and rode most of the day with Ralph and Carol Nussbaum. Walked up that brutal hill again, but didn't walk up any of the other ones. We had some snow, sleet, hail, rain, and icy rain for parts of the ride, but never to give one much trouble. Near the finish, on Lake Washington Blvd, the tandem turned on the jets, and I got dropped for good.

I think I finished in 6 hours and change, and right after I finished we had sustained pea-sized hail for about 20 minutes, and I was glad to be sitting in the comfort of the pub, sipping on a nice beer and eating nachos instead of slogging through it.

I was supposed to volunteer at the Golden Gardens control, but the ride got postponed, and since my nephews were coming over the next week, I couldn't make the new date. One of my spring traditions has been broken (volunteering at the Spring 100k).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Last Chance 200.


I am the past-master of postponing things until the last moment. I have pulled off several last day of the month rides to extend my R-12. There is a certain pleasure - maybe it is relief - at continuing your streak under dire circumstances. After successfully hurting my left knee and some tendons/ligaments/whatever on the outside of the right knee and not very sure about completing a 200k, I joined Albert Meerscheidt and rode the Snoqualmie Valley and Falls permanent. Again. This time, for January.

- Met Don Boothby near Snohomish.
- Broken Chain just after we said bye-bye to Don. Albert fixed it in a matter of minutes, and we were off. This is the second time in January that Albert has saved my ride.
- A huge group of people caught us on Highway 9 (they had left an hour behind us), and we rode together to the control in Lake Stevens.
- Chatting with Albert was great. He kept my mind off of my leg.
- Uneventful ride to Sultan, and a nice heavy Sandwich.
- Ben Howard wasn't bad. I started slowing down with some pain near West Snoqualmie Road, and realizing that my knee was opening up more, I closed it (keeping it in line with the red tape on my handlebar).
- 20 miles later, pain gone. I limped into North Bend.
- We dorked up, and left North Bend to light tailwinds. The descent down the mountain was awesome.
- Saw a nasty accident near Tolt Hill Road. 4 cars, not good. Walked around, and had no cars for a few miles, save for those who were making U-turns on 202.

Finished in around 12 hours and change.

R-12 streak extended!