Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bainbridge - Sequim - Bainbridge

The hottest day in Seattle history! Not a good day for a ride? Well, perhaps not ideal, but if I'm going to be able to ride in the heat I need practice ... and what better day than a day like this. Not being totally foolish, a ride west towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the water is a much better choice than the ride we had originally planned, u Mt St Helens.

We took the first ferry in order to start as early as possible...6:05 am. The ride to the Hood Canal Bridge and Quilcene was pleasant, but nothing unusual. At Quilcene we turned west instead of our usual south run down 101. And then a turn off 101 up to Bon Jon Pass. While not a high pass at 3,000 feet, the climb is tiring, on dirt roads and usually at a 6-7 % grade. Fortunately it was still in the morning and only warm ... not unbearrably hot yet. As tiring as the climb was, it was more enjoyable than the descent ... I don't particularly like descending on dirt roads. Between the potholes and the gravel, it doesn't feel safe to go very fast and is disappointing to not zip down the hill. At least it was cooler and still faster than the climb.

We made it to Sequim and then rode along the waterfront ... it was a pleasant temperature. Back to Sequim and a late lunch at Arby's. Time to stock up with ice & water and head back. It was not going to be easy. With all the rollers there was more climbing than our ride up Mt St Helens a couple of weeks earlier ... and it was hot. Vincent recorded 109 degrees on the way back. We stopped a couple of times to fill up with ice & water ... made it bearable, but barely. Taking Electrolytes at regular intervals was critical to making it through the day.

We made it, and in pretty good condition. The beer on the ferry sure hit the spot!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I was pleased when my daughter Tanya said she wanted to ride the 200K brevet I was going to do in a couple of weeks. Surprised, but pleased. We had ridden the Oregon coast a few years earlier and while it had been a positive experience, there had been no further interest in riding. True, she had been riding her bike out to UW periodically, but that is a far cry from a 125 mile ride. Last week we rode a 100K Permanent as a warm-up ... and she did great on that. But this was twice the distance and much hillier.

I suspect one of the bigger hurdles was the idea of leaving the house before 5:30 AM ... Tanya is not a morning person. But we hit the road about 5:20, driving to the Mukilteo ferry. We caught the 6:30 ferry and made it to the start point for the 7:00 AM start.

Now I don't think of myself as a talkative person, but I was pretty amazed at all the advice I had dispensed over the previous week about seat position, eating, hydration, elctrolytes, chamois butter, and so forth. Hopefully it wasn't too much.

Being properly prepared is pretty important on randoneuring rides. After all, it is unsupported ln distance riding. I should have paid more attention to my own advice. Since we were riding together on the tandem, that meant I wasn't riding my regular setup ... and I didn't have my regular tools & spares. I had put in the basic tools and spare tubes ... and the thought of some of the other spares/tools had crossed my mind. I was going to get to those later, and later never came. Oops.

So we were some 30 miles into the ride, heading up a good sized hill, when SNAP! We came to an abrupt stop as the chain broke. We had bent, and broken, the steel as we tried to power up the hill in the wrong gear. Now I normally carry a chain tool and a spare master link to reconnect a broken chain ... but those were items that I had thought about and then forgotten. Since we were miles from anywhere, my heart sank. I imagined DNFing ... and on Tanya's first brevet. What a bummer!

But no. SIR randos to the rescue. We were riding with Dave Harper, Eric Vigoren, Jason Duhl, and Chuck. Out came the necessary tools and even a master link. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A few minutes and some greasy hands later, we were back on our way. In Coupeville, some ten miles later, I was able to get most (well some) of the grease off.

Riding on the Tandem together worked pretty well ... at least from my perspective (mechanical issues aside). The logistics worked very smoothly. Tanya was able to pull out the control card & read the information control questions ... and then write the answers ... while we were riding. It was nice to have an extra set of hands to take pictures, open breakfast bar wrappers & Ensure bottle, etc. I suppose I had a slightly better view ...

But if we do another ride on the Tandem I'll have to get the bike regeared ... the front shifter didn't work well ... there is too large a range between the small and large front chain ring. The derailleur has to be adjusted just right ... and my mechanical abilities aren't good enough. So we only used the small ring once or twice ... but could have used it many more times.

This was a hilly ride. Advertised at a "mere 6,200 feet", my Garmin ended up with about 8,500 feet of climbing. An average 200K may have 4-5,000 feet of climbing ... so this was a challenging ride from that perspective.

I tend to be in & out at controls, spending as little time as possible there. Before the control at Deception Pass I had run through what needed to be done at the control - get the brevet card signed, go to the bathroom, apply chamois butter if needed, refill water bottles, eat, and then rest as needed. It seemed to go pretty well ... and I don't think I was too pushy ... and we were out in about 20 minutes.

My approach seems to have rubbed off. At the last regular control, as I was reaching for my umpteenth handful of chips, Tanya said ... we should get going!

Tanya did say that the seat was rubbing her the wrong way ...

It was supposed to be a hot day ... hitting close to 80 on the island ... but I only felt "hot" a couple of times ... and even briefly (very briefly) felt chilled and thought about putting a jacket on during the afternoon. In other words the weather was pretty much ideal.

We ended the ride with a bang. Really. After reaching the final control at Clinton, we rode down to the ferry dock. As we stopped to get off the bike ... BANG ! The front tire blew out. Now a blowout is never good, but if you are going to have one, what better time than the end of the ride ? Certainly a much better time than when you're goin 35 mph down a hill. I guess I should have paid more attention to that little thump, thump, thump with each turn of the wheel.

We averaged 13 mph while on the bike and burned 8500 calories (or thereabouts).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Elbe - Bear Meadows - Elbe

Vincent & I rode the inaugural ride of the Elbe – Bear Meadows – Elbe permanent on Wednesday, July 15th . It was going to be a hot day … perhaps the low 90’s, so we decided to ride it counterclockwise, getting the big climb up Mt.St. Helens done in the morning before it got too hot. It was a good choice.

We started in Elbe at 7:30 and quickly made it to Morton with the little climb up 7 as a good warm-up for what was ahead. A short stop at Randle to get a receipt, a snack, and top off with water. There were no sure water stops until we got back down.

The climb up NF-26 is one of my favorite climbs. We only saw one car and one pair of motorcycles on the way up. Much of the ride on 26 is on a narrow, basically one lane road, with plenty of shade …. at least in the morning. Towards the top, in the blast zone, it is much different. No shade. I’m always amazed by the desolation & destruction still evident. The road up was open to cars this year, the washout repaired and “tank traps” (to keep motorcycles out) removed. It was awfully hot as we neared the top …climbing it a few hours later would have been painful.

What took almost three hours to climb was over less than an hour as we descended back to Randle and then up to Packwood before the last climb up. We took our time in Packwood. A good lunch at the Sub shop at the Shell station, rehydrated, and loaded up the water bottles with ice & water. Then up Skate Creek. A pleasant climb, virtually all in the shade from Packwood at about 1,000 feet to the crest at 2,500 feet.

We finished about 6:10, after 8,300 feet of climbing

Monday, July 13, 2009

Three Highest Passes of the Cascades

Not quite sure how the Permanent got this name, since Washington Pass at 5,477 feet is higher than the three passes on this ride - Chinook (5,430), White (4,500), and Cayuse (4,675). So, for truth in advertising purposes, consider this a notice that it is really "Three High Passes of the Cascades". Okay. Now the record is clear.

I've wanted to do this Permanent for quite a while. So when the weekend opened up and the weather looked good, choosing this was a no brainer. Then the weather started turning too nice ... as in too hot. A forecast of mid 80's on the west side and mid 90's on the east side had me waffling. Bunnyhawk suggested riding on Sunday instead ... a much cooler forecast. Tempting. Very tempting. But no. I don't do well in the heat and the only way I'm going to get over that is to do some riding in it.

So I do what I can to prepare for the heat. Make sure I will have enough water ... three bottles should do it .. with some Ensure as backup. Enough food to eat along the way. Light color clothes to reflect rather than absorb heat. Remove fenders and backup light since it isn't going to rain and I shouldn't be riding in the dark. Take the counter-clockwise approach to the route - we should get two of the three climbs out of the way before noon - while it is cooler. Start the ride as early in the day as possible.

Since the ride starts at Greenwater and the only service open at that time is Buzzy's Cafe ... which opens at 6:00 AM ... we will start at 6:30. There are eleven riders - Erik Anderson, Bill Gobie, Dave Harper, Josh Morse, Vincent Muoneke, Eamon Stanley, Ken Ward, Charlie White, Michael Wolfe, and myself. Most of us get there a bit before six. I'm fiddling with my bike on the deck when Buzzy opens the door and gruffly says "They can't leave their cars here all day." While folks move their cars I go in and ask to order ... it is only Buzzy and I can tell service is going to be slow. Fortunately I should be able to get my bacon, eggs, & hash browns in time to eat and leave by 6:30. The others drift in and order. At 6:20 or so I go up to the cash register and ask to pay ... a couple of others, who had just had coffee, join me. Buzzy appears overwhelmed. When I pull out my Visa, he swears. Cash register breaks down. It is apparent that asking for a receipt is not going to be practical. Buzzy realizes that something is burning in the kitchen and leaves. I sign the VISA receipt and head out. It is now about 6:30, so those of us who are ready take off.

Michael Wolfe zooms off, with Vincent following closely. Erik Anderson, Charlie White, Ken Ward, Dave Harper, and I ride together for a while, then Erik & Charlie move out ahead as the grade increases. Ken, Dave & I mostly rode together until shortly after the turn back onto 410. The ride down from Cayuse Pass on SR-123 was fantastic ... the rode was redone last year and we had 5 or 6 miles of an effortless 35 mph descent. That was fun. I was glad to have my jacket and leg warmers on though. At the turn onto SR-12 I take them off ... no need for them on the climb up and the next descent won't be that chilly.

We make it to the top of White Pass and then stop for a sandwich at Silver Beach resort ... site of the overnight on last year's spring 600K. Since it is now warm and it is about 50 miles to the next certain water stop at Clifdell, we load up on water & ice. There is a bit of a head wind as we continue down 12 towards Naches, so it seems to take forever to make it to the 410/12 intersection. I've gone through one of my bottles. I have two insulated bottles and one regular water bottle. The water in the remaining insulated bottle is cold ... the non-insulated water is warm ...the insulation does make a noticeable difference.

I get into a good rhythm and begin to move out ahead of Ken & Dave. About ten miles up from the turn there is a store on the left that is open. I go in and restock with water & ice. Thinking Ken & Dave must have passed by while I was inside, I go on, hoping to catch them at Clifdell. They aren't there of course ... apparently still behind me. Not knowing how far back they are, I press on. I love the climb up Chinook. This road is fairly quiet, in pretty good shape, and is so scenic. While hot, it has been manageable ... plenty of water and an Endurolyte every half hour seems to be keeping me in decent shape. Still, the last five miles are pretty brutal ... the grade is "only" 5-6 %, but in the heat and after 125 miles and some 9,000 feet of climbing so far every 0.1 mile just ticks by ever so slowly. I have to stop every 1 - 1.4 miles to catch my breath for a minute and drink. Fortunately there is a bit of cloud cover now so it isn't as hot as it could be. But I finally make it to the top. Even though there are 27 miles to go, I feel as though the ride is complete. The rest of the ride is almost all downhill ... I can practically coast in.

I make it in at 6:45 ... 12 hours and 15 minutes. Maybe I'm getting so where I can ride in the heat! One thing I learned about riding in the heat ... don't take yogurt covered cranberries. The yogurt melts and makes quite a mess.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why do I do this?

Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, after several hundred K of riding on our latest multi-day, multi-metric bike ride, Mark Thomas turned to me and asked ... "Why are we doing this?" I don't remember if this was before or after his bout of dry heaves that day, but there was certainly an element of "Are we nuts?" in the question. Of course, the answer is we are.

Putting that reality aside, as well as my daughter Jessica's oh so accurate observation that "but they're miserable dad!" after helping out on last falls' mountain 600K ride, I have come up with 10 reasons why I go on these long rides. These aren't prioritized in any way.

1. Adventure

Taking off with a couple of friends to ride my bike from Portland to Glacier, 1,000K, without any support or riding on my own through the mountains overnight on a 600K are adventures. Adventures are cool. How often do we get the chance to do something like that? And, just as important, how often do we grab that chance and run with it? (Note to wife ... I know, too often)

2. Camaraderie

Randos are a special breed ... each eccentric in their own way. Yet they are very similar and I enjoy being with them (Birds of a feather flock together?). This is true of the Northwest Randos (both SIR and OR) in general, but also of Mark Thomas and Vincent Muoneke in particular, with whom I've ridden at least a dozen multi-metric rides this year alone.

3. Scenery

Living in the beautiful Northwest, we have access to a wide variety of stunning countryside ... the Palouse, the North Cascades, the Olympic Rain forests, the Columbia Basin Desert, the Pacific Ocean, Lake Coeur d'Alene, and so much more. Riding my bike has given me the opportunity to enjoy those sights up close.

4. Reality

As in escape from ...

5. Sounds & Smells

Now there are some smells that I don't particularly relish ... not so fresh road kill and some farm smells come to mind, but the opportunity to fully experience the sense of smell is a definite plus. One example is the processing of onions in Paterson along the Columbia River ... it almost brought tears to my eyes!

It may be a bit silly, but some of the things I remember most from my rides are sounds:

- the variety of sounds that water can make from snow-melt going over the
North Cascades ... from a drip, drip, drip to a gurgle to a rushing torrent,
- the squealing of a baby elk as it tries to run to its mother,
- the scraping of a deer's hoof on a tree stump.

These are sounds you'd never hear driving by in a car. Grinding one's way up a mountain pass provides lots of opportunity to look & listen.

6. Wildlife

Over the past year I've seen fox, deer, bear, elk, moose, snakes, mice, turtles, salamanders, naked pedestrians, skunk, ferret, beaver, seals, heron, eagles, and probably a few other that don't come to mind at the moment. Sure beats the mall ...

7. Eccentric

Sure what we do is a bit weird and not for everyone. But it is nice to be different.

8. Accomplishment

Completing a long brevet gives one a sense of accomplishment ... having overcome real physical and mental challenges...something that not everyone can do. This is true for all of the long brevets, but especially the very long ones. There were probably only 150 riders who rode a 1,000K or longer ride last year ... and a small subset of that (a dozen?) who would have done two or more in a year.

9. Healthy activity

Fundamentally biking is a healthy activity. Okay, I'm ignoring the three or four 911 calls on our rides last year - several broken shoulders, dehydration, and such, but you can trip and break your neck going down the stairs at home.

10. Self-destructive behavior

As a Myers-Briggs INTJ Type, my personality type tends to overdo gratification of the senses ... binge and overindulge compulsively. No point in biking a little; it has to be a lot. Two 1,000K and two 600K rides in six weeks probably qualifies as excessive and overindulgent.

I'm sure I could come up with some more reasons ... like since I just burned 36,000 calories on the ride this weekend I'm not going to worry about having an extra slice or two of pizza ... and, hey, it is just plain fun (most of the time anyway).

Monday, July 6, 2009

SIR 1,000K Washington Coast Pre-ride

Am I more tired now than after the Portland - Glacier 1,000K two weeks ago? Geez, I don't know. I'm tired, no doubt about it. If I look at the pictures of the three of us - Mark Thomas, Vincent Muoneke, and myself at the end of each ride, I'd say we're more tired now than at the end of that ride. At least we look more zombie like. A midnight start, a 440K day one, and then it being the 2nd 1,000K in two weeks (on top of 2 600K's shortly before that) probably give the nod to this ride.

So where did we go? We started out at the Bainbridge ferry terminal at about 11:30 PM on Thursday and headed west to Port Townsend, and then around the Olympic Peninsula, ending day one a bit before 11 PM in Aberdeen. We had a nice breakfast in Sequim and enjoyed the great views of Lake Crescent (left) from the very narrow, curvy shoulders of US-101. A not so pleasant climb up from the Lake in the heat and searing sun ... probably only mid 80's, but we're used to the cool, cloudy, rainy NW ... before a late lunch in Forks. The heat was especially hard on Mark ... he almost lost what little of the lunch that he did eat.

From there it was down the west side of the Peninsula ... we made it to Kalaloch ...and I nearly froze. It was cloudy and cool ... the ocean was probably there somewhere, we did hear it...and eventually saw a little of it. It was a long stretch from there to the day's end in Aberdeen ... with one more stop at Amanda Park near Lake Quinalt where it was hot again ... 85 or so. One of the high points of the day was a surprise when we got to the motel ... Trudy had left us some cold bears and Arby's sandwiches when she left the drop bags ... they hit the spot! After 440K and 23 hours of riding, we were wiped.

Day two was trouble ... a cumulative lack of sleep (3:45 AM wake-up) and horrible coffee at Denny's almost put Mark over the edge. Starting the day with almost losing your breakfast is not a good way to start. Fortunately Mark's stomach eventually settled down and we were able to pick up the pace shortly after Westport. However, that was when Vincent's bike started making more noise. It came and went, our diagnosis was a possible bottom bracket problem. Vincent was not a happy camper, as he had just taken the bike in to have that very issue looked at. When we reached Raymond, Vincent called his son to have him bring a replacement bike to the next control. of course this was the farthest distance from Seattle at Ocean Park on the Long Beach peninsula. But it all worked out ... the bike held out till then, his son made it there with the replacement bike, we had a much needed lunch, and we were back on the road. If our pace on the 2nd half of the day was similar to the first half, we wouldn't finish until 1:30 AM. Ugh.

We did pick up the pace though. The rollers that were so tough when we rode south were not so bad going north ... don't know why. We rolled into Aberdeen around 11. while Lacrosse had thrown us a parade two weeks earlier, Aberdeen welcomed us with fireworks ... it was distracting to say the least ... but spectacular and memorable. No Arby's for dinner tonight though. we had stopped and eaten in Raymond, 25 miles earlier, so we weren't famished. I did have an Ensure and a beer before bed. 770K of 1,015 K done. Great progress.

Day three was by far the shortest day, with "only" 245K to go. And we got to sleep in ... til 5:20 anyway. Don Jameson, the ride organizer had driven down to pcik up the drop bags, so we were able to take care of that detail before we left ... thanks Don!

Aside from starting on empty, the day would be relatively easy. It didn't feel that way though. Lots of rolling hills and that nasty, nasty chip seal took its toll. Here are Mark and Vincent at the top of Walker Pass (right).

We were back on familiar roads ... the ride from Aberdeen to McLeary was much of what we had ridden on the Fleche back in April and then the ride north from Shelton on US-101 to Quilcene along the Hood Canal was one we've ridden on permanents several times this year alone. From Quilcene to Port Hadlock on Center Road ... with chip seal, sun, and hills was one we were glad to get behind us... now only 37 miles to go! The ride across the Hood canal bridge was much more pleasant ... and safer, now that the east half of the bridge has been replaced ... but it is still a stressful experience. On the way to Poulsbo, up an 18 % grade my Garmin insults me by "auto-pausing" as I climb ... apparently so slowly (3.5 mph at one point) that it thought I was stopped and it should stop recording.

We make it to the end with time enough before the next ferry to stop at a convenience store for a beer and chips for the ride back to Seattle ... what a nice way to end.