Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Let's go!

Let's go!
Originally uploaded by Leaf Slayer

Tour 2009 was a great success. Dylan and I had been planning this tour for over a year. It was everything we hoped for. I'm trying to get motivated and do a full write-up but I don't know if that will happen. More photos here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

More Oregon 600K-XTR reports and photos

Here are a few links to ride reports and photos from the Oregon 600k-XTR. I'm feeling recovered and even went for a 30 mile ride on Wed. I also ordered my Super Randonneur medal from RUSA. 

For me rando "season" has now come and gone. I noticed the Michael Wolfe is hosting the Barlow Trail 300k brevet in July. I'm hoping that I can make some adjustments to my work schedule and get to ride it. I have a feeling it may take in Lolo Pass which would make for an epic ride.

Here are the XTR links:

Dave's Flickr set from the pre-ride.

Also there are more picture links posted on Krammer's blog. Cecil's report should be posted soon.

--Leaf Slayer

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oregon 600km-XTR

You're entering a world of pain, son.--Walter Sobchak

And how. As soon as the Oregon Randonneurs (ORR) 2009 schedule was posted I arranged for time off from work.  The route for the 600k brevet was an unknown at that time. I was hoping that the route from last year's 600k would be used. It was great. I would later find out that this year's first ORR 600k brevet would be organized by John "the Dude" Krammer. The Dude came up with an epic route--the Oregon 600k-XTR-- which would start and end in The Dalles, OR, running through central Oregon and consist of 21,000ft of climbing. When I first saw the route I became somewhat nervous--all that climbing and the pretty much guaranteed heat would make for an exceptionally difficult ride. While I rode I strong 600k last year I wasn't sure I'd have the same experience this year. But in a way I had no choice. I had to do the ride. I had arranged for the time off and I badly wanted to complete a Super Randonneur series.

I was able to arrange a ride out to The Dalles for Friday afternoon with Lesli Larson. We got out to the Comfort Inn at about 5:30 or so, got a room and then hung out with other randos. We got registered and then went for dinner at a mediocre Mexican restaurant. Ultra Randonneur Peg Winczewski also joined us for dinner. Who knows, maybe the food was good and I was just nervous. I had spent the early part of the day running around trying to tie up loose ends for the ride. Earlier in the week I decided that I would use Hammer Nutrition products for the ride which was quite a gamble as I had never really used them before. I had also needed to obtain a headlamp to attach to my helmet. I picked one up but had no idea whether or not it would remain on my helmet securely while riding. 

Surprisingly I was able to fall asleep early and woke up at 3:15am feeling rested and excited about the day. The start was scheduled for 4:30am. I had all my clothes laid out and the bike prepped. All that was needed was to get my water bottles together. My bike has three water bottle mounts. I filled a 24oz bottle with 4 scoops of Perpetuem and water and filled two 20oz bottles with water. I would carry a fourth bottle in my jersey pocket. I was using Polar insulated bottles which I knew from experience would keep my liquids a little cooler than if I used my regular bottles. All my gear would be going into my handlebar bag and jersey pockets. No saddlebag this time. I felt like I had over-packed for all the brevets this year and was determined not to make the same mistake. I was almost tempted to take the fenders off my bike as it wasn't supposed to rain but I figured that was just asking for trouble. At Lesli's request I even packed my rain jacket. It just seemed like if I didn't it was destined to rain on the ride.

Out in the parking lot people were milling about and seemed in good spirits. It was warm and not too windy with clear skies. I, surprisingly, found myself very excited about the day ahead. I wouldn't even really say I was that nervous at the start. What was there to be nervous about? Then I noticed Scott Peterson hanging out but not dressed for riding. He said he wasn't going to do the ride, I think due to the heat. Probably the climbing also as Scott rides a recumbent. I was bummed for him, and me. I had ridden much of last year's 600k with Scott and parts of brevets this year. I enjoy his company and figured I'd probably end up riding with him today. Scott is an experienced randonneur and so I figured he knew what he was doing.

Soon enough we were off into the rising sun pedaling along the Columbia River. The first control was 20 miles down the road in Rufus. I rode much of this stretch with Wiley Gibson who I had met on the 400k the month before. We pedaled and chatted at a reasonable clip. From Rufus we headed south and up. And up and up and up... It was about 51 miles to the next control in Condon and our route would take us through rolling hills and windfarms. We were treated to great views of Mt Hood to our right and, if we looked behind us, Mt Adams. The climbing was characterized by lots of false summits. There were some sections of rollers but mainly we were going up, as was the temperature. Still, in spite of the hills and heat I felt good and found a comfortable rhythm. I was soon riding alone which was fine. I had my iPod Shuffle with me and turned it on. I kept the volume low enough that I could still be aware of my surroundings. Interestingly the first song to cue up was an Ornette Coleman piece that was 20 minutes long. It seemed to match my mood and even the terrain. It was followed by a mix of tunes from The Cars, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Veddar, Billy Bragg and others.

 There was a secret control run by Eric Ahlvin which was great. He had water, ice, sodas, watermelon and other items on hand. It was good to get off the bike for a few minutes and refill the bottles. My water was holding out but it was better to top them off as services between controls was very limited. I can't recall if Eric's control was at the very top of the climb or not but soon enough I was passing the sign for Cummings Hill Summit (3310ft) and descending into Condon. Condon was a nice quiet town. I got my brevet card signed at a grocery store and filled up the bottles. I headed out with RB and Wiley although I would fall off the back on the way to Fossil. The temperature continued to rise and so did the road after passing through Fossil where I was able to refill my bottles. By this time I was keeping all 4 bottles filled. I should also mention that I was ingesting between 1 to 3 Endurolyte caplets every hour ago. The Perpetuem continued to go down smoothly and I felt fueled. 

The stretch of road through Fossil and up to Butte Creek Pass was probably my favorite of the ride. The conifer lined road seemed to gradually climb offering nice views of valleys and forested hilltops although not dense forest like you usually picture when you think of Oregon. This was a dry high desert kind of forest if that makes sense. Towards the top of the Butte Creek Pass I had the first twinges of a cramp but nothing serious. I continued to drink water and down Endurolytes. At the top of Butte Creek Pass (3788ft) I had caught up with Rick Blacker one of the many SIR riders who had been making the trek to OR to complete ORR brevets on top of doing the SIR series. From Butte Creek Pass it was a nice long descent and then along the John Day River into Spray. I lost contact with Rick on the descent. He was pretty fast. I commented to him later in the day on his speed and he said "That's because I'm fat!" I don't know, Rick seems pretty fit and fast to me. 

By the time I got into Spray, which was the 200km point, it was miserably hot and unpleasant. There were a number of bikes parked at Lone Elk Market. Walking into the market I was blasted by cool air as they had the AC cranked up all the way. The woman working the counter wasn't very friendly and seemed pretty stressed out although I couldn't tell why. I bought water and tried to eat a burger. A burger? Yeah, I know, I have no idea what was going through my mind. I ate a few bites of it and downed a soda. I put the chips that came with it in my HB bag. I had been taking in Perpetuem and Hammer Gel pretty regularly so I felt fueled up. I think I may have pedaled out of Spray with a few people and that maybe Ian said something along the lines of  "Only a 100 more miles to go until the overnight control." Only a 100 miles and two major climbs. And the heat was now truly problematic for me. I fell off the back and just rode at my own pace trying to turn the pedals smoothly.

At Kimberly I came across Vincent Muoneke and Geoff Swarts who was laid out on the side of the road with bad cramps. He looked pretty miserable but Vincent was patient and encouraging. I had ridden a bit with Vincent and he's about one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. He seemed 100% committed to helping Geoff put the cramps behind him and see him through the ride. I would play leap frog with them as I pedaled through the stiffling heat. The road was open and exposed, offering no reprieve from the sun. There were numerous turn offs for the John Day Fossil Beds which I would have loved to have checked out but not today. I eventually arrived at Cant Ranch where Eric Ahlvin was manning another control. The Cant Ranch offered fresh water and a very very inviting plush green lawn and shade trees. My feet were hurting  pretty bad as I was getting hot spots on the soles of my feet. I took off my shoes and jersey here and sprawled out in the shade of the tree. I wouldn't say that I felt bonked it was just that the heat had been so intense. I pretty much am worthless on the bike in anything over 75 degrees and for much of today the temperature had been in the 90s.  

Soon enough I was putting my jersey and shoes back on, topping off my bottles and heading up the road to the info control before tackling the next climb. After turning right US-26 I would head west towards the next control at Mitchell. I passed a sign that said 80 miles to Prineville. Wow, that seemed like quite a ways to go still. Soon after passing the sign the road started going up. The terrain seemed to change a bit. There were more trees and it was clear that I was climbing. I soon came across Wiley on the side of the road. He looked wrecked and told me as much. He said he hadn't been able to keep anything down since 3:30pm. I'm not sure what time it was when I came across him but that had definitely been a while ago. I asked what he was going to do and he didn't know. I asked if I could help in anyway and he said no. He declined my offer to stay with him and so I pedaled away. 

So this climb was exceptionally long but I just kept turning the pedals and taking on water and fuel. There were a couple of what seemed like steep sections although everything gets sorta skewed after 150 miles in the heat. The road seemed to flatten out a bit and I was pedaling along thinking about Wiley. I remember thinking "So this is how it happens on Everest when people pass by others in distress." I was feeling somewhat guilty about leaving him on the side of the road. Literally as I was thinking about this he comes up behind me on the bike! He still looks worked but said he just started taking small sips of water and fuel and started feeling better. He was literally like the Beck Weathers of this brevet. We rode together for a while. As we reached Keys Creek Summit I fell off the back. Again, I was determined to ride at my own pace and not expend too much energy chasing wheels. 

At the Summit I put on my vest and turned on my lights. There was still some light in the sky but it was fading. The traffic had been minimal for most of the day but I didn't want to take any chances on not being seen. I don't remember much about this descent but I think it was pretty long and fast. In Mitchell David Rowe was running a control in the park. As I pulled in there were a number of randos present. Everyone looked pretty tired. Dave was incredible here, getting water and Gatorade for folks. He also was making sandwiches and Cup-O-Noodles for people. I had Noodles and two bottles of Gatorade. I may have also had some chips or something. As I was getting ready to leave it was now dark. I think I left around 10pm and was hoping to reach the overnight control in Prineville by 2am. This would allow me time for a shower, food, 90 minutes of sleep and I could leave by 5:30am. 

So I left with Wiley who was continuing to make a great recovery. He soon dropped me as the road went uphill and I was all alone in the dark on road as it headed up to Ochoco Pass. It was here that I entered the rando-twilight zone. The climb wasn't too steep or anything but my legs were feeling heavy and I was just feeling fatigued after the miles and the heat. I wouldn't necessarily say I was bonked, or at least I wasn't as spectacularly bonked as during previous rides. My thinking did start to get a odd though. It was so quiet and dark on the road. The sky was overcast for the most part and there was no traffic. The only light was from my headlamp and Ixon IQ. I kept looking at my cycling computer, which was off a few km, and trying to figure out how far I had until Prineville. I also should mention that The Dude's cue sheets were in miles only. So here I am, pedaling on unfamiliar roads, alone and in the dark, trying to calculate how much longer I have until the next control and trying to figure out how off my computer is. It was maddening. I eventually made it to the Ochoco Summit right before midnight and started the descent. It was better than climbing but the descent actually seemed pretty tame, not what I was expecting given all the climbing. I knew from here I only had about 29 miles to go and no more climbs but I just couldn't make the bike go fast. I was sorta cruising along and started to feel sleepy. This was actually scary. Started counting pedal strokes and even talking to myself to stay awake. I though about laying out at the side of the road and just waiting for one of the riders behind me but I was so close to the control it seemed better to just try and keep moving forward. I was regretting not picking up a space blanket at REI when I got my headlamp. I was starting to have thoughts of DNFing at Prineville. I also started telling myself things like "I'll never do anything longer than a 300k ever again. Ever!" and "This is ridiculous, what was a I thinking?"

I very fortunately came across Rick taking a nap on the side of the road. He woke immediately and jumped on his bike. The next thing I know I'm feeling awake and my legs seem to have power again and we motored into Prineville at about 15 to 20mph after about 45 minutes later. At Prinvelle there was food and familiar faces. It felt oh so good to get off the bike and eat some real food. People were tired but there was still smiles and laughter (of sorts). The Dude and Dave Read had quite a spread laid out for us. Thanks! I felt like it was going to be okay. I took a short shower, prepped my stuff for day two and went to sleep for 90 minutes. I ended up sharing a room with Marcello who had DNF'd a couple of miles from the Cant Ranch. I'm not sure of what happened but I think the heat may have been too much. Hell, he still rode 150 miles in blazing heat. Not bad at all. I actually couldn't believe that I had made it this far. Alex Kohan had also DNF'd, I think due to stomach problems.

Soon enough I was being awakened but I felt great. I was excited for the day ahead. While I still had 130+ miles to go two big climbs, I was confident I would finish even if it was at 8:29pm. I headed out of Prineville with Wiley, Ian and Erik Anderson. We had a nice pace going and good conversation. Everyone was in good spirits. We stopped at the Madras Safeway for donuts and other business and were soon back on the road. We had an incredible descent into Warm Springs where Eric was again manning a control. He had water and ice which was great. It was quicker getting it from him than going into a store. It was starting to heat up and we had some serious climbing between here and the next control. There were others at the control including Cecil who seemed to be riding strong and in good spirits. 

I immediately fell off the back on the climb out of Warm Springs but wasn't worried. Slow and steady was the order of the day for me. Not long after starting the climb my front tire flatted. I got the tube changed quickly but by now it was hot and it seemed like the heat had increased. I continued up the climb which was followed by a steep descent with switchback which was followed by a longer climb with switchbacks. Wether or not this climb was steep I can't say. Everything was kinda skewed by this point. In the moment it was difficult but I just kept turning the pedals at a steady pace. I eventually reached the top and the road rolled and dropped into Simnasho. Along the way I had great views of Mt Jefferson and Mt Hood. I also had caught up with Cecil here.

As we rode into the Simnasho control there were quite a few other randos present--Alex Kohan, Rick, Ian, Wiley, and Erik. Peg and Lesli would arrive shortly after Cecil and I. Soon enough I was pedaling out of Simnasho and caught up with Cecil again who I would ride with into Maupin. The ride was pretty uneventful. It remained hot. It was good to ride with someone at a similar pace and have some conversation, although we pretty much talked about the business at hand--randonneuring. There was a another great descent into Maupin where I purchased a gallon of water, ice and some Fritos. I was feeling tired and hot but in good spirits as it seemed I was on target for finishing up within the time limit. I was still a bit worried about the next two climbs. The first being up out of Maupin through some canyon and then a longer climb up Tygh Ridge. I may have the wrong name there, I'm not sure. 

Ian, Cecil and I pedaled out of Maupin and along a the Deschutes River for a few miles. The river looked so inviting! And there were so many great campsites along the way. Unfortunately there was no time for camping. The end was approaching but not without some work. We crossed over the river and began and steepish climb through a canyon. I don't know that I would call this climb steep under normal circumstances but today it sure felt steep. The miles in my legs and the unbearable heat were just too much. Three times I found myself stopping just to do something other than pedal. I kept the stops short and in the shade, just long enough to recover a bit. Cecil caught up with me a little while after cresting the canyon and descending down toward US-197. She told me that according to her computer there was one spot on climb through the canyon that where it was 109 degrees! I felt validated in my fatigue. 

So turing right onto 197 we were greeted by a sign that inferred the climb to the top of Tygh Ridge would precede for the next 5 miles. I was so cooked here. I guess I was bonked but this just felt so different. But regardless I knew now that after this climb that was it and I'd be descending into the The Dalles. I lost contact with Cecil on the climb and just noodled on up, stopping here and there just because. I still couldn't tell where the summit was but Eric had driven up to us an Maupin and advised that there would be jugs of water waiting for us at the top. I was doing okay on water but it was good to know I didn't have to conserve it other than leaving enough to reach the summit. About part way up when I was stopped I noticed Peg and Lesli ascending behind me. Eventually I reached the summit where Eric  had yet again parked his car at the side of the road and was offering encouragement. He had chairs set up and, as promised, there was water. Rick and Cecil were there but soon left. I waited to leave with Peg and Lesli as I hadn't really gotten to talk with them much during the ride. It really felt like the ride was in the bag now unless I crashed or had a serious mechanical.

Soon enough Lesli, Peg and I were descending down towards the Columbia Gorge and The Dalles. The pavement was pretty busted up on the shoulder and there was a fair amount of traffic on the road so this put a damper on our descent. Still, we were descending not climbing! We soon made the turn onto 8 Mile Rd which was an awesome back road into The Dalles. At this point I was feeling pretty certain that I wouldn't do another 600km brevet again, or even a 400km for that matter. 

It felt so good to finish! Just getting off the bike and walking into the hotel room to get my brevet card signed I felt like a new man--happy, laughing and tired but not beaten. Krammer presented each finisher with a personalized trophy of sorts that included a tiny cut-out highlighting the elevation of the ride. I finished with about an hour and 5 minutes to spare. My slowest brevet ever and I could care less. I was a Super Randonneur.

I showered and Lesli and I got the bikes packed up. We had decided to head back to Portland which was great. It would mean I'd back home with Beth and the cats for tonight. We stopped at McDonalds so Lesli could get coffee. Like an idiot I ordered food which I could not stomach with the exception of a strawberry shake. For whatever reason we both spaced out on getting water. I was pretty parched as we talked on the ride home about all the psychological ups and downs you go through. Lesli was already encouraging me to do the Cascade 1200k next year.

This brevet was the toughest ride that I've ever done. But in spite of the heat and the climbing I had a really good time. I didn't suffer crippling cramps at all and while I guess I bonked, it wasn't the worst bonk I ever experienced which says a lot given the length of this ride and the conditions. I know I would have suffered much more, and probably DNF'd, if it hadn't been for the encouragement and assistance of the organizer (John Krammer) and the volunteers--Dave Read, Dave Rowe, and especially Eric Alhvin who was present at many of what should have only been info controls. Thanks!

The next morning I was up at 6am spending time with Beth before she went off to her teaching internship. Less than 12hrs after finishing I was emailing my friend Dylan in San Francisco asking if he thought he might want to tackle the Cascade 1200k next year.

--Leaf Slayer

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Three Capes 300km

As expected I awoke shortly before the alarm was to go off. So at 4:45am I found myself awake and excited about today's brevet--the Three Capes 300. For whatever reason earlier in the week I wasn't too excited. I think part of it was because the forecast was calling for rain. After the rainy 200k the idea of riding 300k in the rain was not too inviting. Fortunately the forecast had changed to a chance of rain in the afternoon. That I could deal with. 

I had worked 12hrs the day before and then pedaled home after which Beth and I drove out to the Forest Grove Grand Lodge to spend the night. We figured this would be better than driving out at 4:30am. I hadn't gotten to sleep until midnight so I hadn't slept as long as I wanted but I figured my excitement and enthusiasm for this ride would make up for it. I had done it last year and loved it.

One thing I wasn't excited about was my lack of food. I had a dry bagel, dried apricots, and water before I left the room to go to the start in the parking lot. I couldn't help but think I needed something more like an Odwalla Super Food and some type of egg mcmuffin thing. Fortunately I was able to grab a muffin and a small cup of coffee at the start. It was nice seeing folks and chatting a bit while ogling people's bikes.

Soon enough we were lining up for last minute instructions before taking off out of Forest Grove. I quickly found myself in a group of 6 or so people that formed a functioning paceline that took us up to the first control at Timber pretty quickly. I can't remember for sure but I think we were motoring along Gales Creek Rd at about 38kms an hour. It felt great--no rain, no headwind, and happy randos turning the pedals at a good clip. 

At Timber I got my card signed and headed back down towards Wilson River Hwy (6) which would climb up over the coast range and then descend down to Tillamook. I had left the Timber control alone but caught on with Dave Rowe, Eric Alhvin and a view others whose names I can't recall and we started ascending Hwy 6. At one point we were passed by a guy that was definitely a few years older than me. Dave or Eric, I can't recall who, told me the guy is 68 and quite the ancien. Not too long afterwards our group split up with Dave and Eric riding up ahead of me and a few others drifting back behind me. The climb is great. Although there is a fare amount of traffic the shoulder is generous and the cars seemed to give me space. Before I knew it I was at the summit and feeling good. The scenery is amazing--lush green heavily forested hills (mountains?) shrouded in mist. The descent is not very technical or steep which is probably good for me. You definitely pick up speed just after the summit but soon enough it mellows out and becomes a very gentle descent. A few miles down it seemed like it was trying to rain. Because of my vest, reflective sash and my bikes minor shimmy while riding no hands with a handlebar bag I stopped to change out of the vest and sash and put on my rain jacket rather than try to do all this while pedaling. That just seemed like an accident waiting to happen. Right as I was zippering up my jacket a group of 3 or 4 riders buzzed by me. Prior to stopping I had looked back and I figured I'd have a chance to change and jump on. I was mistaken and there was no chance of catching them without a major effort which just didn't seem smart, or even realistic. I continued on feeling good and enjoying the scenery. I figured I'd maybe catch up with those folks at the Tillamook control.

A few miles out of Tillamook John Krammer and Ian (from Olympia) came motoring by and I was able to jump on. John seemed content to pull us all the way into Tillamook. Ian and I did take some pulls but eventually John rode away. The headwind into Tillamook was stiff but soon enough Ian and I were pulling into the Tillamook Safeway to get our brevet cards signed. Surprisingly it was only about 9:45 which meant I had covered the first 102km in less than 4hrs. I was impressed with myself but feeling tired and in need of food. I had been eating fig bars and some dried apricots but felt I needed a little more.   I had a muffin and an Odwalla which seemed to fortify me. A group of randos from Washington showed up while I was eating and I headed out towards the Three Capes with them. They were a friendly group of folks and I would have liked to have ridden more with them but about halfway up Cape Meares I found myself drifting off the back. I considered trying to catch back on but wasn't too hopeful. The climb is fairly steep and all of a sudden my legs were feeling very heavy.

I settled into my own pace and rode over Cape Meares. This was followed by a nice descent down into Netarts. I was content riding alone but cautious as it seemed like I could feel vague twinges of cramps. I was hydrating regularly but was getting worried nonetheless. It was extremely overcast and the air thick with moisture. It started to rain at one point which was a bit demoralizing but I continued to turn the cranks, looking forward to a sandwich at the Pacific City control. Maybe a kilometer or so into the ascent of Cape Lookout I experienced an excruciating cramp in my thigh. I stopped, got off the bike, stretched and walked a bit. I got back on and proceeded to cramp again. I walked few steps and then got on the bike, much better. I knew this climb was the steepest and so just tried to concentrate on turning the pedals and enjoy the scenery. It is incredibly beautiful here but that didn't seem enough to improve my mood which was deteriorating as I slipped into the pain cave. I had another instance of cramping but not as bad and was able to slowly reach the summit where I got off the bike for about 3 minutes before making the descending into Sandlake. I was feeling a lot better just being at the summit and that much closer to Pacific City.  

I was soon on the bike, descending down into Sandlake. The road is pretty deteriorated but still fun. As the road flattened out and went past Sandlake there was a bit of headwind and the air remained wet. I stopped briefly at the Sandlake general store and had a bottled Frappacino which I figured would get me into Pacific City. I'm not sure how smart that was but I was having a hard time deciding what to get which was a clear indicator that I was bonked. Not long after leaving the store I cramped again. As I was walking it out another rider, Barry, came along. He was riding his first 300k and he stopped to make sure I was okay. We ended up riding into Pacific City together and I would end up riding the rest of the brevet with him.

Soon enough we were at Pacific City. I felt better immediately just being there. It meant the worst of the climbing was over and that I was at the halfway point. I had a half a sandwich and a small bag of chips. I now felt great. I don't know much about nutrition and what works but real food seems to work really well. I had tried to eat a Cliff Bar earlier and just couldn't get into it. I felt like I was eating clay. A few other folks--Scott P, RB, and Josh--showed up and we chatted with them while eating.

Not long after leaving Pacific City we were on Little Nestucca River Rd, a gentle climb that would take us over the coast range and spill us out into Grande Ronde. We were making good time and I had had no further cramps. Barry made for great company and we talked a lot about bikes and cycling. Barry is also in a similar line of work and so we talked a lot about that. At Grande Ronde I ate the other half of my sandwich and had a Pepsi. We then continued along on the twisting and gently rolling hills into the Ballston, our final control before Forest Grove. 

Josh caught on with us somewhere around Sheridan and so we basically kept together although not working in a pace line. Interesting thing about Josh is had ridden to the start from Portland! Tough. I really owe a lot to Barry and Josh, there company did a lot to keep me motivated and turning the pedals at a good clip. While I wasn't cramped or feeling horrible, I was a fatigued. There were a few times when I would drift off the back but eventually caught back on. I wasn't having cramps but I was feeling fatigued and was wanting to be done. We made a brief stop in Amity but not like last year where me and four other folks sat down for pizza slices and cookies. This year was about sitting on the ground outside a gas station convenience store. 

As we were completing our final leg I continued to drift off the back but would catch back on without too much effort. Last year I did this ride in something like 15 hrs 15 minutes. This year I was shooting for under 14 hrs in my effort to do my super rando series with R70 honors. It was looking like a sub 14hr ride was possible but it would take effort. Turning onto SR 47 which would take us the final kilometer into Forest Grove it appeared I had about 5 minutes to finish in under 14hrs. I wasn't even sure if I had the correct time. We picked up the pace, hit the red light at Pacific which seemed to take forever to turn green, and motored into The Grand Lodge getting our cards signed with a few minutes to spare. I'm not sure but I think my time was something like 13hrs 56min. 

This ride was without a doubt one of the most epic rides I've ever done, and one of the most difficult. I really need to get a handle on what works for me staying fueled up. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made was not having Accelerade in my bottles. I've used it before and in combination with Nuun electrolyte tablets seems to do a good job of keeping me going in-between controls where I can grab some kind of "real" food--corndogs, jojo fries, tacos, sandwiches, etc. 

I'll probably work towards completing the upcoming 400km in less than 70% of the alloted time although I'm not sure it's realistic. We'll see. R80 is doable. I think where this will all fall apart is on the 600km at the end of May which has a significant amount of climbing. I'll just be happy to finish that ride within the time limit. But if I do I'll have achieved my main goal of becoming a "super randonneur".

My bike performed well but I was disappointed with the shimmy that develops when riding no hands with a front load. I'm not sure that I had more in it than on other rides but for whatever reason the shimmy seemed more noticeable on this ride. Maybe I'll look into getting low trail fork made for it. Most likely I'll do nothing and just deal with it. I remain very happy with the Jack Brown tires, I have yet to get a flat with one. I wouldn't mind getting a lighter set of wheels for the Hilsen, perhaps next year. While the current set (36h XT hubs on Salsa Delgado rims) are heavy they are dependable. I would also like to carry a little less stuff with me. 

Big thanks to Josh and Barry for their company for the last half of the ride. And a super big thanks to Cecil and Lynne for organizing the ride. 

I slept well last night and woke up this morning and followed cyclingnews.coms coverage of Paris-Roubaix which is always exciting. I'm very much looking forward to the Covered Bridges 400km.

--Leaf Slayer

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Confederacy of Dunces

So I finally finished A Confederacy of Dunces. My friend Kevin first suggested this book to me about 15 years ago. I tried to start it a few times but for whatever reason I just could not get into it. I couldn't even get past the first page. That seems so strange in hindsight.

In January of this year I picked up a copy at Powell's and decided I was going to read it. I was finally able to get past the first couple of pages and wouldn't say I fell in love with it but I was certainly entertained. I had anticipated I'd read through it in a few days but after getting about halfway through I found myself reaching for other books, or not reaching for any books. Any time I picked it up I enjoyed it but I wasn't necessarily making time to read. Or rather, making time to read it. I read two other books during this time including one I plowed through in a few days--The Lost City of Z

Earlier this week I realized I had less than a hundred pages left and wanted to finish it so I made the time to read. Just this afternoon I finished it. As I was reading the last couple of pages I found myself anxiously wanting to know what would happen and not wanting the book to end. When I closed the book I felt satisfied. It feels good to have finally read this book and I look forward to discussing it with others. I wish I had discovered, and read, this book 20 years ago as I probably would have liked it more. It also probably would have read differently to me at age 22.

So what is A Confederacy of Dunces about and what did I think of the story? It was a fun read. Since this blogging thing is new I'll take the easy way out and advise you to follow the link at the top of the page to read a synopsis on the Powell's website. You can also read other's reviews. What I wanted to do was finish the book and write something about it--anything--even if it was only about the reading process.  But I must admit that while I'm finished with the book I'm not finished with Ignatius J. Reilly. I'll write more about him in the future. I owe it to him.

For the past year my reading has been falling off. I'm revisiting a headspace I was in for many years, that of liking books and the idea of reading them but not really doing it. Around the time I was finishing graduate school, something changed for me with reading that I had never experienced and reading became something I needed. I felt the same pull to reading that I felt to cycling. I've had periods where my enthusiasm for cycling has wavered but it always returns. I'm hoping that my enthusiasm for reading books is returning. I have to have to something to do while I'm recovering from brevets.

--Leaf Slayer

Monday, March 30, 2009

NW Pedersen Rd

NW Pedersen
Originally uploaded by Leaf Slayer

When I left the house for my ride today I was thinking maybe I'd do Dutch Canyon/Dixie Mountain. But as I was leaving Portland and turning onto Hwy 30 heading West I realized I just didn't want to ride 30 all the way out to Scappoose. I was still feeling pretty fatigued from the 200k and from a short ride yesterday. So at Newbury I headed up to Skyline and then dropped down into Washington County, still not quite sure where I was headed. I rode familiar roads over to NW Mason Hill Rd where I headed back up to Skyline.

At NW Jarrell Rd I hung a right. Jarrell is a dirt road that I've often thought about riding and checked out on Google Maps but never actually ridden. It looked inviting as the pavement gave way to hard-packed dirt with thicker tree cover on the both sides of the road. The road descended for a short while before heading uphill. I came to a fork where I could remain on Jarrell by turning right or continue straight on NW Pedersen Rd. I chose Pedersen as I knew it would spill me out right by NW Beck, a road I've ridden many times as an alternate to Skyline.

As I wound up Pedesen I came across a property that was home to quite a few peacocks. Of course they started making a racket as I rode by. A little further up the road there was a gaggle of geese who began to hiss at me. To tell you the truth, they looked pretty menacing and I expected them to rush me. Fortunately they let me pass with only a warning.

I soon came to the end of the road at a familiar intersection where I stopped briefly for food before taking a Beck and Rock Creek back to Old Cornelius Pass Rd and up again to Skyline. After descending back down Newbury I was riding the shoulder of Hwy 30 heading back into Portland when someone in a car going in the other direction yelled out "Faggot!" I'm not sure why they did that but I think it's safe to assume they have some feelings of aggression towards cyclists. I guess I was supposed to feel insulted but since I'm not homophobic it didn't work and only highlighted their own ignorance.

All in all it was a pretty fun ride.

Here's a link to a photo set documenting the ride and a link to the route.

--Leaf Slayer

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Birkie 200k

I awoke at 4:50am, 10 minutes before the alarm would go off and would soon be off to do the Birkie 200k. Surprisingly I had slept soundly and felt rested. As I fell asleep last night I was experiencing a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Before getting out of bed I noticed that I did not hear the sound of rain. I pushed back the curtain behind the headboard and although it was still dark I could see the streets were dry. The forecast was for rain all day. Could it be that the multiple weather reports I had been obsessively checking yesterday were wrong? I got out of bed to make coffee, eat and get ready. Beth would not have to get up for another hour at which time she'd be driving me to the start in Forest Grove.

This is the Oregon Randonnuer's first brevet of the year and my first of four steps towards earning "super randonneur" honors which means completing 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k brevets all within the alloted time.  Last year I completed 200k, 300k, and 600k brevets successfully but had unfortunately been unable to work the 400k into my schedule. Oh well, I wasn't a RUSA member anyway so if understand correctly, I wouldn't have officially been a super randonneur anyway.

I loaded up the bike in the car and Beth drove me out to Forest Grove. For a change I had actually laid everything out the night before and had the bike ready to go. This would be my first brevet on my A. Homer Hilsen which is sporting a new Berthoud handlebar bag. The Hilsen isn't optimized for a front bag but from the rides I had previously completed with the bag on the bike it would be easily manageable. Really the only problem is that at low speeds the front end shimmies when riding no hands and fishing around in the bag.

As we left Portland it started to rain and continued to rain all the way to Forest Grove. Beth dropped me off and I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of people gearing up for the ride. I was thinking that the majority of people would bag it given the forecast. There were a fair number of folks from Washington state present. I also saw folks I had met last year and briefly said hi as I checked in. A guy named JP introduced himself to me and we chatted a bit. I had previously had some internet contact with him on the Road Bike Review forums. It's always nice to meet people face to face. I was bummed that I didn't get to talk with him more but we ended up riding at different paces. 

While waiting for the start it was raining but not hard. Soon enough everyone was called to the start. Some instructions were given and then we were off. I found myself heading out of town in a group of about 5 or 6 people, only one of whom I knew, Eric A. Last year I rode the last half of this brevet with him and Dave R., both of whom had a fair amount of rando experience to share with me. There was a faster group ahead but I definitely was not going to put any effort into catching them. In fact the pace out of town was a little higher than I was intending to ride at. I sensed I was being none too smart. But the excitement of the brevet finally happening, the light rain, and the hope that it would stop raining at some point in the future fired up my legs. I chatted with Eric a bit and also with a guy named Ian who had come down with friends from Olympia. Michael M. was in the group too.

The route out of Forest Grove follows Gales Creek Rd with a right turn onto SR 6 for a few miles followed by a right turn onto Timber Rd. There the road starts to head up but nothing too steep. Still, I found myself falling off the back. We climbed up to Timber which really wasn't too bad and then dropping down the other side. The country here is beautiful in spite of the sections of clear cut. After crossing SR 47 I was able to catch back on with some folks and we took Timber Rd into Vernonia together. I wouldn't say we were in a paceline, not everyone's fenders were adequate for that, including mine. My rear fender is good but my front fender is too short and sends spray forward onto the back of whoever I'm riding behind. The rain continued but scenery was still pretty and the section of Timber Rd between SR 47 and Vernonia is flat for the most part with a few mild bumps in the road.

At the Vernonia control, which is staffed, I got my card signed and ate three chocolate chip cookies. It would have been nice to hangout for a while and have some coffee and chat but I was pretty wet and figured the longer I was off the bike the harder it would be to get back on it. A group of us left for the out and back info control on State St. As we headed back towards Stoney Pt Rd I found myself driving off the back of the group. Stoney Pt Rd is a bit of a climb and I passed a person or two but never really caught back on with Eric and Ian. I descended back down to SR 47 and slog out to Birkenfeld.

The 33 or so kilometers to Birkenfeld store were rough and I entered the "pain cave" psychologically and physically. The rain just would not stop and I was starting to get cold. My core was was warm thanks to a wool undershirt, wool jersey and a lightweight Showers Pass jacket I had purchased the day before. Although in hindsight I realize that I should have purchased the next jacket up. The jacket I purchased, a Double Century, is light and fairly breathable but not as waterproof as their other models. On my hands I had a pair of wool gloves and on my feet wool socks. These were soaked and my feet were feeling a bit numb. My thumbs also got pretty numb. But worst of all were the sever leg cramps I started to experience. They didn't force me off the bike but anytime I picked up the pace I could feel them coming on. I realized that I had not been taking on fluids as often as I should have or eating. I had one bottle with an electrolyte supplement in it and another with Accleraid. Both work great, all you have to do is use them, something I wasn't doing. Because of the wet, cold and cramps I started to get down on myself. I felt like I had broken my main rule I had set for myself of staying properly hydrated and fueled. I ate part of a sandwich I had, an energy bar and just tried to accept my fate and ease up and just pedal at a pace I could comfortably maintain. 

A few folks passed me as I headed towards Birkenfeld including the father and son team of Alex and Keith. As I got closer to Birkenfeld I started looking for the "leaders" returning. Sure enough a group of four came by looking strong followed shortly afterwards by Michael W. on his recumbent who managed a friendly wave as I snapped his picture which unfortunately came out horrible. I've never spoken with Michael but I follow his blog and the guy has done some epic one day rides for which he has posted the routes including three new permanents pending RUSA approval.

Pulling into the Birkenfeld store there was quite the array of bikes leaning up against the porch of the store. I walked in to get my card signed, some water and some food. Entering the store there were quite a few people sitting at tables eating sandwiches and happily chatting away. I was hit with hunger induced rando indecision in which one enters a store on a brevet and finds themselves surrounded by food and unable to decide what to get. I ended up getting water and some cashews. I decided not to sit down and not to hangout as I was dreading how much harder it would be to get back onto the bike. 

I mounted up and headed back towards Vernonia feeling better. I continued to stay hydrated and pedaled at a comfortable pace. It continued to rain. I had really been hoping that it would have eased up by now but no chance. For whatever reason I felt better and maintained my pace riding the final kilometers into the open control at Vernonia with a few folks but I'm not sure who, possibly Michael M. I can't recall. Once in Vernonia I got my card signed, purchased some chicken strips and water, chowed down and left, riding out of town with Scott P. It was nice to chat with him, last year we had ridden much of the King's Valley 600k together. I continued to yo-yo back and forth with him and a couple of different people along Timber Rd. I was sorta dreading the short steep climbs up to Timber but they weren't so bad. I was feeling much better physically and psychologically which was a huge relief. There was even a brief period when the rain almost stopped.

Turning back onto SR 6 we stopped at the Glenwood open control and got my card signed and purchased a caffeine fortified dairy beverage. After getting back on the bike I felt much better. In fact I even had "the eye of the tiger" there for a little while but then the rain started pouring and fierce headwind but the kabash on that and I just pedaled into Forest Grove with Michael M. Knowing that the ride was coming to an end was a huge relief.

We leaned our bikes up outside the Grand Lodge and got our cards signed. I think my time was like 9hrs 26 minutes. About an hour slower than last year. Soaked and hungry I still felt great. And best of all Michael had agreed to give me a ride back into Portland. 

This was the longest rain ride I have done and I hope it stays that way. But who knows this is Oregon. I have to admit, I was a bit down on myself about the time. I had actually been hoping to get a better time than last year. A few days prior to the Birkie Jan Heine had posted a message on the Google Randon group about Cyclos Montagnards which would be recognizing R60, R70, and R80 honors for people who complete brevets in 60%, 70%, and 80% of the alloted time. Per the responses on the Randon group this has created quite the controversy for some. I see know controversy and think it's fine. In spite of what I perceived as a "bad" ride I think I may have actually managed to just squeak in with R70 honors. Go figure.

Learning what works and what doesn't work for me with randonneuring continues to be a process. In spite of some time spent in the pain cave on this ride, a day later I'm very happy with what I accomplished and had a really good time. It was great meeting some new people. Hopefully I'll get more and better pictures on the next brevet. I'm very much looking forward to the Three Capes 300k in two weeks.

--leaf slayer