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).