Friday, September 7, 2012

The journey of 4000 miles had a pretty soft start. Linda drove us to Newport, we carried our bikes to the water and dipped the rear wheels in the Pacific. A quick photo op and we were off. We only went .1 mile when we saw a bakery so we stopped for a pastry and cup of coffee. Then we got down to business and rode the 60 miles to Corvallis. It was Danny's first time on a bike in several months, so we took it pretty easy. He felt strong by the end of the ride and his bike and my old Brooks saddle worked well. We overnighted in Corvallis, doing last minute packing and shopping. It was also a last chance for Linda's home cooking and to sleep in our own beds for a while. Today will be the first day loaded, and we'll have a flat 40 miles to Coburg. Tomorrow will be uphill river grade to McKenzie Bridge. The following day will be our first pass fully loaded, crossing the Cascades at McKenzie Pass. Beyond the pass we have a route, but no schedule. The time pressure will be supplied by trying to make it over the Rockies at Jackson Hole before the snow flies.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A brief update about what I've been up to for the past couple of years. I'd been working way too much, and too hard, in 2010 and that prompted some thoughts about alternatives. On the drive to the start of the SIR Crater Lake 1000K in September 2010, my son Benny, the tall ship sailor, talked about helping him with buying a 40' wooden boat from his major professor that he could live aboard. During the 67:48 ride from Bremerton to Crater Lake, I gave it lots of thought and decided I'd rather do it myself and let Benny visit than vice versa. I started doing research about the cruising lifestyle, and by the start of '11 settled on an objective with Linda of retiring, selling the house, buying a boat and sailing away within three years. I broke it into a project, with stop-continue checkpoints and started executing on the plan. My sailing experience was long ago and limited, so the major activity was coming up the learning curve. I joined a sailing club, took several sets of lessons, and by September of '11 chartered a thirty eight foot Island Packet in the San Juans for a week with Linda, Benny and my friend Mark. We survived the week and have continued up the curve with another week this June on a 37' Pacific Seacraft in the Apostle Islands. It turns out that sailing is not good practice for randonneuring or bicycle racing, so I had to cut back to just casual cycling and commuting. Two things happened in June that have changed my plans. HP offered an early retirement package, which pulled up my retirement date to 8/31/2012. Linda, however, still needs to work through June '13 to qualify for her retirement benefits. The other significant thing was that my son Danny got laid off from his job, and the severance is allowing to take the summer and fall off. He's hiking the Pacific Crest Trail now, and asked me to ride across the country with him, starting in September. I'm back in the saddle again, working to get back the cycling fitness I used to have, anticipating an early September departure for a 10 week loaded transcontinental ride. The boat plan will restart in January, after I'm back home. I may be able to keep executing on the boat plan and also randonneuring next spring. The current target is to have the house sold and be living on a boat in the Puget Sound by July 2013. That's the news from here. I'll be updating my blog from on the road, and my son will also be updating his We'll also be using a SPOT Tracker to update facebook.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Touring the San Juans by ship, longboat and bicycle

Two of my sons had summer jobs as members of the crew of the Hawaiian Chieftain, a gaff rigged topsail ketch (tall ship) from the Historical Seaport of Grays Harbor.

Benny was the engineer last year (the ship has a couple of diesels) and the bosun this year. Teddy was an able seaman before the mast. They went aboard on 6/26, and sailed around the coast of Washington and the San Juans for most of the summer. The Chieftain and her sister ship the Lady Washington visited various festivals, hosted a couple of summer camps aboard and ashore in the San Juans and took visitors on excursions. They had a passage from Anacortes to the San Juans scheduled, so my other son Danny and I planned to take a ride on the ship and then do a (ferry assisted) bike tour of the islands.

I was thinking about a credit card style trip and some B&Bs, but ran out of time to make reservations. Danny has been intrigued by ultra light backpacking so we decided to try ultra light bicycle touring. I had my Rando bike with a large Carradice seat bag and an Ortleib

handlebar bag. Danny had his cross bike with two large Ortleib panniers and a rack top trunk. We each packed one set of on bike and one set of off bike clothes, sleeping bag and pad and an ultralight 8’x10’ nylon waterproof tarp Linda had made. The tarps, were thin and small enough

to stuff in the pocket on the Carradice. Combined with some stakes and some parachute cord we could have a shelter for only about a pound. We were going to be near civilization so we planned to eat in restaurants rather than carrying food or cooking gear. Getting the bikes and gear organized was a last minute exercise and we got out of Corvallis around 10 on a Thursday. We stopped in Portland for lunch and to pick up a map at Powells’ and then headed north to Anacortes, arriving in time for a great dinner at the Brown Lantern.

Friday morning I had to do some work (a conference call and presentation through the miracle of remote computer access and hotel WiFi). After that we had some time to kill until the ship came in so we rode across the Deception Pass and down to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. We had a great BBQ lunch, and a nice ride around the island while we watched the Prowlers and Hornets in the pattern at the Naval Air Station. We got back to Anacortes with a little time to spare, and managed to grab a shower and get aboard the ship as they were offloading a group of campers. We set our bikes on the galley roof and the ship headed back out to sea at 6 pm after only two hours in port.

The Chieftain and Lady had been booked for commemoration of the Pig War at English Camp on San Juan Island and they had to be there at dawn. The wind wasn’t favorable, so the diesels were used for the passage. Nonetheless, it was a great ride. We were happy to see Benny and Teddy, hear about their adventures and see how they fit in the crew. We had dinner as they threaded their way through the narrow passages and ship and pleasure boat traffic of the islands. Eventually it got dark and the Chieftain proceeded to feel her way into the narrow passage past Roche Harbor and into English Camp. The passage was not a lot wider than the Willamette at Corvallis and the ship is 80 tons and 104 feet long. There was no moon, the crew was posted as lookouts at the front of the ship and the mate watched the radar in the cabin below and called up headings to the captain. It was a tense passage, but eventually we found the bay and discovered it was full of small boats, probably there to see the tall ship. We dropped the anchor at around 1 am and settled in for a short night. We were scheduled to fire a cannon salute for the flag raising at 9:00 am.

We woke early and the Lady Washington arrived while we were having breakfast. The Lady is twice as big, has half the horsepower and only one screw, so they’d anchored outside the passage overnight and done it easily in the daylight. The Chieftain weighed anchor and carefully maneuvered among the anchored yachts in close to the fort on shore. As the appointed hour approached, the guns were prepared and run out. Benny was the gunner, so he did the work. Three 3” cannons were loaded with black powder and at exactly 9 am the first one was fired. The half pound of black powder made a flash I could feel 20 feet away, a cloud of smoke and a big bang that echoed back from the hills around the Bay. Another cannon was fired on shore and the Lady joined in as Benny fired the last two guns.

After the salute, the Chieftain was skillfully anchored close to shore with the aid of a lead line, two anchors and a line to a tree. The last demonstration of seamanship was when the bicycles and Danny and I were offloaded into the longboat and we sailed to shore. We passed through the
re-enactors in their 17th century wool with our bicycles and lycra and proceeded up the hill and out of the National Park.

The ride around San Juan Island was a low traffic road along the marine cliffs. We hadn’t gone a half hour when we saw an Orca (killer whale) paralleling our course. He kept a touring cyclist pace just offshore until we turned inland an headed for Friday Harbor. We had lunch and then caught the ferry to Orcas Island.

By the time we got to Orcas, the day was quite warm. Danny wanted to cycle that island because it was described as the “most challenging”. We headed toward Moran State Park over several steep rollers in 90F heat. We scored a spot in the “primitive campground” and settled in. We set up our tarp, grabbed a quick shower (3 minutes/50cents) and headed downhill a couple of miles to Olga for supper. We arrived at the well reviewed Olga Café at 6:15, to find they had closed at 6. The other café in town had also closed at 6, so we were faced with several miles uphill to get back to our campsite and our iron rations. When we turned around we noticed that clouds had been building behind us on the descent and we immediately heard thunder. Uh oh.

Danny and I pushed uphill at a pace which was a balance between beating the rain and eliminating the benefit of our showers. We finally ended up at our camp sweaty but ahead of the rain and settled in to test our ultralight shelter against the thunderstorm that was rapidly approaching. Our supper was 2 cliff bars, some peanuts and some crackers with peanut butter and water. It wasn’t deluxe, but we’d had a big lunch and only ridden 40 miles, so we figured we’d survive. We were snug in our shelter and could hear the thunder approaching

We’d rigged the tarps with one as a ground cloth and the other stretched between a taut line about 3 feet off the ground and some stakes. It worked fine as a sun shade and when the rain was light and vertical. The gust front showed the limitation of the fundamental design when it immediately swept rain in the open end of the shelter. Our first step was to lower the front. That worked for a while, but when the heavy rain started drops bounced off the ground and into our space. We realized at this point why tents are low to the ground on all sides. If we’d anticipated this, we could have rigged the tarp like an a frame, draped over the taut line. By now the rain was heavy and the ground was wet, so changing our architecture would be a damp proposition. We decided to bring Danny’s bike inside the tarp and stake it down between us as a central support and stake the tarp down on all sides. That worked pretty well as a fundamental architecture, and after some minor adjustments we endured an impressive thunderstorm.

The next morning was steamy and hot and we were hungry. A couple more Cliff Bars were first breakfast. Our bike clothes hadn’t dried overnight, so we put on our “off bike” clothes and cleaned up the camp. First objective was to climb Mount Constitution before riding into town for breakfast. The climb turned out to be quite steep, even with low gearing and an “ultralight load”. It was about two thirds of a Mary’s Peak climb. At the top we had a coke and climbed the lookout tower for the fantastic view of the San Juans and Vancouver Island. It was a fast chilly descent off the mountain and then rollers back to East Sound. On the way into town we saw a sign for a pancake breakfast at the American Legion, and “all you can eat” was just what we were looking for.

After breakfast we rode back to the ferry terminal at Orcas. We had a pleasant ferry ride back to Anacortes and then rode the long way around to our hotel to miss the ferry traffic. Next morning Danny dropped me off at SeaTac for a business trip to Chicago and kept the car for another week in Seattle and Tacoma. We’d had a great time on the boat, seen the San Juans and learned about ultralight bicycle camping. In three days we rode about 100 mile, and saw most of the nice roads. It was a good place to ride, but without enough roads to go very far. Next time we go to the San Juans, it’ll be sea kayaking or bare boating.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Race Across Oregon

“Fortune favors the prepared mind” Louis Pasteur

My preparation for RAO included my body, the stuff and the crew. Plenty of endurance and intensity training had prepared my body for RAO. Preparation of my bicycle included fitting my Serotta Legend Ti with a compact crank and long cage derailleur to enable a low gear of 34 x 34. I installed aerobars and swapped in my Rolf Elan race wheels (light and semi aero). I installed the Brooks Pro with Ti rails, for relative comfort and lightness (for a Brooks). My spare bicycle was my Co-motion Ristretto. Besides the spare bicycle I had three levels of backup lights, spare wheels, tires and tubes. I had plenty of clothes for any eventuality, including a loose seersucker jersey Linda made for very hot weather (soak in a cooler before wearing, douse continuously with ice water). I had plenty of food, but was planning to use Perpetuum and had pre-mixed enough for the ride. The crew was selected based first on their willingness to do it, and second on their compatibility. Dan Youngberg, the crew chief, had ridden one team RAO and been crew chief on four team RAOs. Dave Kamp was a two time Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) Ancienne and a veteran of multiple 100 mile footraces, so he knew very well how a body would perform under duress. My son Danny had ridden multiple long tours with me and raced as a junior on teams I’d coached so he knew me and my approach to racing and riding. A couple of days before the race we converged at Dan’s for a practice ride and worked out signals, hand-ups and close following. When we finally left for Hood River I felt well prepared.


My first objective for RAO was safety for myself and the crew. My second objective for RAO was to finish within the time limit of 48 hours. My projection based on various Rando events (PBP, RM 1200) was for 44 hours. After riding large sections of the course and sweeping the XTR I knew that heat and wind could slow me down to the point where the 48 hour limit could be in doubt.

My strategy was the “Tortoise strategy”. I planned to strictly limit my efforts during the first day so I wouldn’t “hit a wall”. In the first day riders and follow vehicles are in sight so it’s easy to go too hard giving chase. I planned on riding with a heart rate monitor and setting a target for each phase. I also planned minimal time off the bike except for one hour sleep break before dawn of the second day. It would give me an intermediate goal and also focus my rest in the time of the day when I would have been at a low point anyway. The second day would be the time to use up the energy conserved in the first day and recovered during the sleep break.

The race

Friday before the Race we finished loading the van, had lunch and then headed for Hood River exactly on schedule. We checked in, had the bike and vehicle inspection and then headed to the racer, rookie and crew meetings. At the rookie meeting I met the other racers and found out there were 3 50+ upright racers. I also found out that to qualify for Race Across America (RAAM) I only needed to be less than 25% slower than the fastest 50+. Qualifying for RAAM seemed doable and become my third objective. I went to bed early and slept well, well enough prepared there was nothing left to worry about.

In the morning I rolled out of bed, had a light breakfast and quickly got my bike to the start line. Race Director George Thomas briefed us and we left at 5 am for the parade start out of town. We rolled out without much drama and spun up through the lovely Hood River valley towards Highway 35. The racing started with the turn onto Highway 35. I paid attention to my heart rate and let several riders pass me on the climb, without raising my pace. It was a beautiful cool morning and a nice ride toward Bennett Pass. Everything was working great. Eventually we got to the point where the support vans could leapfrog and the crews cheered on all the racers. I rode near Sandy Earl for a while and then left her as the hill got steeper. I was sure she’d finish, so I felt that if I was slightly ahead of her I’d be on target. Eventually I crested the pass and began the long rolling descent to Tygh Valley.

After the race I’ve been able to reconstruct the order of racers at the time stations. During the race it was much more confused, with a glimpse of a racer ahead or behind, and an occasional crew van by the side of the road.

At Tygh Valley Time Station (73 miles) I was 15th and there were all 22 solo racers were in the race. I was executing the “Tortoise” strategy.

From Tygh Valley we were on the dry side of the Cascades and the day got hot. It was quite hot on the exposed climb out of the Deschutes Canyon and stayed hot on the rollers into Moro. We also started to fight a cross/headwind.

At Moro Time Station (121 miles) I was still 15th out of 22 solo racers. I passed David Rowe while he was in the time station, but he caught me on the climb out of the John Day Canyon when I took the time to put on the seersucker shirt and get multiple handups of ice water for dousing on the climb. It was the hottest part of the day and the ice water made a big difference. After the climb the road is on a high plateau with various valleys, and the weather started getting cooler. We were about 180 miles into the ride when I caught David again. Riders are allowed to ride side by side for 15 minutes during the race, so we took this opportunity to ride together for a while. He was suffering from the effects of heat on his digestion and had slowed down to the pace of the tortoise (me). I was also feeling a little queasy and commiserated with him. It was a beautiful time of the evening as we rode along. Eventually he went ahead to the next time station when I stopped to install lights for night riding.

At Heppner Time Station (207 miles) I was 11th out of the 21 solo racers remaining. David came in 2 minutes ahead of me and we left the time station ahead of him.

It was still light as we climbed out of Heppner, but the evening was nice and fresh. The road to Ukiah has a big steep climb and I was suffering somewhat from lack of calories. I’d finally given up on warm Perpetuum and did this portion of the ride on Mountain Dew and Triscuits. They settled my stomach and provided caffeine, salt, fluid and carbs. After a long descent to Vinson the road to Battle Mountain was a long steady uphill. The teams had started 4 hours after the solos and had been passing me since Hepner. I could see their flashing lights for miles, so there was something interesting to watch. It was cool and I was at about the halfway point of the race, still keeping a reasonable pace. I was stopped by the side of the road refilling my pockets with Triscuits when David Rowe came by. He looked much improved. As we approached Battle Mountain the road steepened for a while and it seemed like the summit was right around the corner. After the summit I was rewarded with a long pedaling downhill to the manned time station at Dale.

At Dale (285 miles) I was 9th out of 18 solo racers remaining. Dave massaged my legs and I got completely out of my bike clothes and set a goal of 45 minutes of sleep while the crew brewed up some soup. I woke on my own after 40 minutes, disoriented and with no door handle on the inside back door of the van. Thankfully, the crew heard me and let me out. I got dressed, had some soup and got ready to face the rest of the race. The complete sleep and soup stop was 1:06.

My objective was to depart the sleep stop about dawn, and sure enough the sun came up during the next 6 mile climb. It’s a great psychological lift to see the sunrise on the second day and I felt good. Unfortunately, the sunrise revealed lots of clouds and as I climbed to the top of Meadowbrook pass I was exposed to a very strong and gusty head/crosswind. It was so strong on the exposed portion I thought I might be blown over the guardrail. I got off my bike and walked a hundred yards past the most exposed portion and then got back on for a windy and hairy descent. There was another short climb but by the time I reached the top of Ritter Butte the sun was shining brightly, the wind was calm and the roads were just damp. I’d hit the tail end of a dissipating thunderstorm just at the top of the previous mountain, and now the world was all shiny and bright. My digestion had settled down and it was a glorious morning. I passed several RAO support vans with riders near them but couldn’t tell if they were solos or portions of teams. In any case I cruised through Long Creek and then down a great descent into Monument. From Monument I was in the John Day River Canyon and the headwind picked up and the temperature quickly rose. At the time station in Spray I left the bike in the sun in the parking lot for less than 5 minutes and my computer recorded 112 degrees F. At this point I was doing math in my head and the headwind and remaining climbs were starting to put a finish within the time limit in doubt. The great feeling of the cool downhill had vanished with my time margin in the heat and headwind. I told the crew we needed to be more expeditious during our stops and rolled out of town. The crew replenished ice and gas while I pushed hard towards Fossil.

I didn’t know it at the time, but at Spray (358 miles) I was 7th out of 14 solo racers remaining. I’d passed two solo racers at Long Creek that had been ahead of me the whole race. They abandoned before Spray. I suspect the heat and headwind were demoralizing.

The next stage had a couple of the hardest climbs of the ride. The heat and headwind continued to Service Creek, and then the road turned the wind to a crosswind and tilted upwards. It was a long hot climb to Butte Creek Pass, followed by a downhill, another kicker and a long downhill to Clarno. The heat continued to be intense and the headwind was strong and so gusty that I had to stay out of the aerobars and pedal on the descent. At the base of the Clarno grade my thermometer read 99 degrees. I changed into the seersucker jersey and doused myself with ice water. The climb was almost completely exposed to the sun and a merciless cross-headwind. I climbed steadily and it took an hour and a half to grind up the 2300’ climb. As I neared the top I could see a thunderstorm sitting just to the left of the pass. The gust front hit in the final portion of the climb and at the top the temperature had dropped to 69 degrees. I changed into warmer clothes and started the descent to Antelope. After a short while the rain from the thundershower arrived so I stopped for rain gear and to allow the crew to install fenders. By the time I was ready to go, the rain was done. When we reached the base of the next climb I removed rain gear and fenders. Some time was lost in the rain exercise, but I was just glad it was only an exercise and not actual rain.

At this point I’d gone 425 miles in 36 hours and I had a hundred miles to go and 12 hours to do it. My computer said I’d climbed 31000 feet, so I expected another 10000 feet to climb. I figured another 50 miles of headwind. The good news was that it was much cooler on this side of the thunderstorm, so I could digest food. Also, it was the last 100 miles, so I could ramp up the effort. I settled down into the aero bars to time trial the gradual descent on Bakeoven road. Eventually I saw flashing yellow lights, and pulled David Rowe into sight. I was pushing against the clock so I made a clean pass with just a quick word in passing and gapped him out of sight off the back.

The descent into Maupin is twisty but it was made even more difficult by the strong gusty wind. It was the only descent I had to ride the brakes, because of the squirrelly winds. We made a fairly quick stop at the time station and got back on the road. My digestion was completely recovered so I wolfed down some potato chips, a latte and a quarter turkey sandwich. At Maupin (458 miles) I was 6th out of 13 remaining solo riders. One of the other riders had passed me while I was in the control, so on the climb out of the Deschutes Canyon I passed him back. This was the stage of the race where I needed to see and chase other riders to keep my pace high and to get the psychological boost of passing. At the top of the plateau I could see flashing lights in the distance so I settled into the aero bars and time trialed after them. I closed the distance and did a clean pass of Karen Armstrong. The false flat was long enough I could gap her out of sight behind me. At this point it was about sunset and we were turning across the wind and getting into the shelter of some trees, so the wind was less of a factor. The flat sections and chases after rabbits had let me put some time in the bank so I only needed to ride 60 miles and climb Mount Hood, but I had 9 hours left to do it. I was also the leading 50+ rider, so barring disasters it looked like I’d finish and qualify for RAAM. Pretty much every part of my body hurt, so I focused on just getting finished and not getting passed.

The long climb up Tygh Ridge was one that was familiar from the XTR 600. I could see flashing yellow lights in the distance and settled down into a long chase up the hill. It seemed like I was slowly closing the gap when the lights went around a corner up the hill. My motivation level and speed dropped and I never saw the rider ahead. Over the top of Tygh Ridge we could see the wind farm across the Columbia River, the red lights on the windmills flashing in unison. We could also see lightning from a storm to our east. No problem, we were going west. We bombed down the hill and took the left turn toward Dufur and Forest Road 44. It was a two hour grind up the 4% grade on FR44. The only excitement was when the crew saw some headlights behind us. I figured it was Karen, gaining on the climb, so I picked up the pace and eventually gapped the headlights out of sight off the back. The descent to Hwy 35 was twisty and my headlight was marginal. The van couldn’t quite keep up on the tight turns I’d be headed into the darkness hoping the van would come around the corner behind me before I’d run out of light. Eventually we safely arrived at Hwy 35 for the descent to the turn off to Cooper spur. I was ready for the ride to just be over. Every time I coasted my legs would turn to concrete and it took real effort to get them turning again. From the turn off it was another 4 miles up a 5 % grade. Dan had forgotten the PA was on and mentioned to the crew that the headlights were back. I heard him and didn’t want to get pipped at the line so I sprinted the last couple of uphill miles to the finish. At the finish I got my finisher’s medal and we’d just taken a couple of photos when Karen Armstrong rolled in, 2 minutes back.

At the finish I was the fifth solo finisher, the fourth upright (not recumbent) solo finisher and the first master over 50 years old (my division). Of the 22 solo racers that started, only 10 (45%) finished within the time limit. 2 more finished late and 10 did not finish.

My finishing time was 45:16 after 517 miles. I spent a total of 2:20 off the bike, including 1:06 for the sleep break, of which 40 minutes were actual sleep. My altimeter measured 40045’ of climbing. Maximum temperature was 114 and minimum was 45. Maximum speed was 45.4 mph and overall average was 12.6 mph. My computer estimates that 21000 calories were burned.
The preparation and strategy paid off in successfully achieving my objectives for the race. It was the hardest ride I’ve done. There were many beautiful and fun portions of the race, and the difficulty only served to increase the sense of accomplishment.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

RAO training

This spring has been a series of long rides, building the endurance base for RAO. After a humbling 300K, I did a hard ride around Alsea falls and then a confidence building 200 mile weekend to the coast. I followed the route Corvallis, Blodgett, Nashville, Siletz, Lincoln City to Pacific city and met Linda at a B&B. Coincidentally, there were some bicycle racers that I knew at the B&B and our breakfast conversation comparing Randonneuring to road racing was like describing a strange planet. The route back was via the Little Nestucca, Grande Ronde, Wilamina, Dallas and Monmouth. I rode my own pace and felt strong rolling back to Corvallis. The ride confirmed that the difficulties on the 300K could be avoided with rest, adequate food and reasonable pacing.

I took another rest week then three progressively harder weekend rides. The Covered Bridges 400K was flat and fairly fast. I rode with Kramer and Dave “Ready to Ride” Rowe. We rode with Dick Weber for a while around the halfway point, but he was riding at a pace slightly above what I could sustain. We let him go, and then caught sight of him again with 50k to go. He saw us and picked up the pace until he was out of sight. He came in coincident with us and confessed to a minor wrong turn. The lesson learned was to ride at my own pace and watch the route.

The next week was SIR’s Ephrata 400K. It was a hilly 400K with plenty of wind and heat. I rode much of it alone, good practice for RAO. I had a tough patch on Loup Loup Pass during the heat of the day, when I couldn’t eat for a while, but was feeling good by the end of the ride and pounded in the finish.

The following week was the XTR 600K pre-ride. It was a hot and hilly 600K. The write up’s on Kramer’s Blog; the short version was beautiful scenery, pretty hot, plenty of climbing and a good time. It was 3/4 of an RAO in the same area, Rando style. It was excellent endurance training.

I took a week off the bike and helped Kramer with the actual XTR 600K. My job was to man a secret control and then sweep (not sag) the course to deal with any heat related problems. I brushed up on first aid for heat stroke and heat exhaustion and stocked the cooler with ice and water. I essentially moved through the controls very near the closing times and got to see another side of the Brevet than I usually do. The temperature was about 5 degrees hotter than the pre-ride and for several people that meant they couldn’t really eat and digest food. That slowed them way down and they were up against time pressure, which meant they didn’t get much sleep or recovery time. They certainly showed a lot of persistence in the face of adversity.

After my rest week, it was time to head east again for a Credit Card Tour. My friend Brian has organized these tours for the past 11 years and this is only the second one I’ve been able to attend. Luckily it was on some of the same roads that the XTR and RAO use. The plan was four days on fast bikes with minimal stuff (carry one set of off bike clothes, wear one set of bike clothes, wash them every night). I rode the Serotta I plan to use on RAO with a large Vaude seat pack. Brian, John Wilson, Harry Phinney and I carpooled from Corvallis to the start at Prineville where we met our friend Dave Gast. Harry had fallen at home before the ride, and showed up with a sore wrist. We advised him to suck it up, probably just a sprain. The ride from Prineville along the top of Lake Billy Chinook was nice. By the time we got to the descent to Lake Simtustus, there were black storm clouds behind us and we could hear thunder. Even with a fast descent we couldn’t beat the storm and we took shelter in a Café in Warm Springs just as the gust front arrived. We ate sandwiches as the water poured down and heard reports of 60 mph winds and golf ball size hail just down the road, in Bend. We rode up toward Simnasho and got detoured to Kahneeta (incorrectly) by a downed power line. The director of security drove us back up around the power line and to the top of the hill. We missed a great climb, but with the detour our total distance to Maupin was still 104 miles.

We overnighted at the Imperial Lodge on the Deschutes in Maupin. The next morning we said good bye to Harry as he headed home to get his wrist checked (turned out it was broken). We continued north on River Road then climbed out of the canyon to lunch at Moro. A tailwind blew us through the wind farms to the John Day river crossing and then into Condon. At Condon we had great milkshakes at the soda fountain and an excellent steak dinner at the Elks Lodge.

The next day we raced the rain toward Heppner and took a right at Hardman ridge. We were in a short cold rain and then rolled south through high forests toward Kahler Basin. The road through the basin was new to all of us and was one of the highlights of the trip. It emptied into the John Day canyon at Spray, a short down river grade to our overnight at the Service Creek Lodge. That was an excellent stop with friendly people and outstanding food.

The last day we had to push the pace to get Brian home for a graduation party. We rode Oregon 207 to Mitchell then Highway 26 over Ochoco for the long pedaling downhill into Prineville. Overall it was a great trip and a good reminder why credit card tours are my favorite type of riding.

The credit card tour was the transition between endurance training and intensity training for RAO. It was essentially a 600K spread over 4 days and the recovery every night let me push harder than Rando pace on the climbs. After that I did a three week block of increasing intensity, hill repeats and multiple trips up Mary’s peak and Alsea falls. My last training ride on 6/28 was a race pace century with a climb up Mary’s Peak, Alsea Falls, over to Harrisburg and back up the valley into a strong headwind.

The last couple of weeks were just easy daily commutes and plenty of work on the logistics of bike, wheel and spare bike prep. I felt ready and rested by the time of RAO.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Respect the ride

I spent my spring break cycling. Linda and I visited her folks in Phoenix, and I brought a bike along for company. It was a two day drive to Phoenix. Three days of getting up at the crack of dawn riding hard and getting home in time for a swim before dinner. The weather was cool in the morning, hot in the afternoon and windy all the time. It was my spring training camp, so I rode hard all three days. Sunday 4/5 was a very windy 70 mile loop just north of Phoenix enlivened by a 30 minute impromptu time trial when I saw a cyclist gaining on me in my mirror. Monday was 60 miles of hills in the beautiful Salt River Canyon. Tuesday was a 50 mile hilly training ride from Apache Junction to the end of the pavement beyond Tortilla Flat. I could live the snowbird retiree lifestyle, but I’d need to take some rest days.

We zipped back home quickly then I was up to Forest Grove for the Three Capes 300 km Bevet. I learned a lesson on this ride about recovery time. I hadn’t had enough and it showed up 100 km into the ride. The first third I felt great and was on track for a personal best. The pace was 28.5 kph, which is fast for a rando bike with fenders, generator, lights, food and water for a day, a headwind and a couple of good size hills. Then the miles in Arizona and the lack of quality recovery time caught up to me and I had to slow way down. Caffeinated hammer gel gave a quick burst of energy, but wasn’t adequate; I just needed to keep my heart rate down in the recovery zone. The second 100 km my pace dropped to 19.8 kph, with a little more headwind and the same amount of climbing. Lots of people passed me on the hills. I moderated my pace to stay in my recovery zone, and made up some time by keeping the control stops very short. The active recovery helped a lot, and riding with Susan from Vancouver and RB also helped me pick up the pace in the last third of the ride. It had an average of 24 kph, which is about average for me on a flat 300K. In fact, with the short stops at the controls, this was actually my personal best 300K. It sure didn’t feel like it at the half way point.

The lesson for me is to “respect the ride” and allow adequate recovery time. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a bad day on the bike; this ride made me remember it can happen to me and I need to be adequately prepared. I’ll be back for this 300 K next year, better rested.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inversion Haiku

We’ve had an inversion this weekend. Cold settles into the valley overnight and then it takes all day to warm up. Sunday morning it was 28 degrees with brilliant sunshine and no wind when I left home on my mountain bike to meet the dirt bags at the Circle Bean. The 8:30 departure time came and went so I finished my coffee and headed out for a solo ride.

Riding alone was OK. I’m working through the sudden death of my friend Rosemarie last Sunday and used the steep climb up Chip Ross Park to compose a letter to her husband in my mind. It was good to be alone on a Sunday morning in the Church of the Spoked Wheel. God’s hand work was all around. At the top of the hill I came out of the trees into the brilliant sunshine with the letter about half done.

The singletrack to the base of Dan’s Trail required my full attention. It’s been dry for more than a week and the trail is all rideable downhill. Climbing up Dan’s toward Dimple Hill, the ground had thawed enough that there were a few muddy spots. A couple required short walks. At one point I came around a corner and was accelerating up a short steep pitch when the rear wheel encountered a root. The wheel spun with a br-a-a-a-p sound as the lugs slipped past the root. Forward motion stopped and the wheel went sideways along the root. I was down in an instant, still clipped into the bike. The trail was soft duff and damp soil, so there was no pain, but it took a while to get unclipped and back up.

Dimple Hill is about 2500’ and just poking into the warm air above the inversion. It was in the 50’s and calm at the peak, but there was a steady wind rustling the tops of the trees. I put all the clothes I’d shed on the way up back on and plunged back down the cold. By the time I got down to Oak Creek there was ice next to the road in the shady spots. Out in the sun on the way home it rapidly warmed up and by the time I got to Bald Hill Park there were plenty of families and dog owners enjoying the sun.

Inversion Haiku

Frozen mud below
Climbing the cold shady trail
Warm spring wind above