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