Friday, April 17, 2015

Flèche Flop

I honestly wasn't thinking much on riding a Flèche this year, but Jason K, the Montana RBA said he wanted to be on my team.  Ok then.

Team composition was a bit fluid there for awhile, but we ended up with me (ORR), Keith and Fatima (SIR), Steve (ORR), and Jason (Montana).  Wonder if we had the most rando clubs represented on one team?  Should there be an "award" for that? :-)

The past couple years, our route has been out to Astoria on the coast, then up through Naselle, South Bend, Raymond, Montesano, Elma, and McCleary to finish in Olympia.  On paper, not so difficult a route.  In reality, if it is going to be raining anywhere, it will be there, all the rain in the world is in Raymond, the terrain is constantly undulating, and the four climbs out of Raymond will totally remove your will to live. (yeah, it will take a few years more for me to forget this).

So I thought I'd borrow Susan O's Ladies Tea and Crumpet Society route, and adjust it as necessary.  Her version started in Albany, but, given that the team members were coming from the Seattle area, Montana, and Vancouver, WA, getting us all there would be problematic.  So I planned a loop from a coffee shop near my house, coming back BY my house for one of the controls, and adding a control at the Skyline Tavern, to verify that we went into North Portland that way.  And then we were on the original route, with only two more intermediate controls.  And EXACTLY 360.0km.  I always aim for the Lowball award, and have won it the past two years.

I was also on the SIR Flèche committee, reviewing many other routes.  And it was still Passover, which meant a little more advance planning on what to eat.  I don't avoid kitniyot, so it was not an unsolvable problem, but it did eliminate pop tarts and other pastries as a calorie source.

Then a last minute review of our cue sheet revealed that many turns had not been cued by the mapping app I used.  Ack!  Much line by line review and update of the cue sheet.

Oh yeah, it was going to rain, starting Friday night.  Heavily.

Keith and Fatima took the train down on Thursday from Olympia and caught the MAX out to the closest transit station, where I met them, and we coasted back down to my house.  Jason's kids were delivering him on Friday morning; we'd meet Steve at the start; he was taking the MAX from the Expo Center just over the bridge in Oregon.

(With any luck, the pre-event stress would evaporate the next morning)

We planned to start at 10am, which was a sensible hour.  Since we have to ride for 24 hours, there is no advantage to start early.  Leisurely wakeup, tasty breakfast and coffee, and a coast down to Jim and Patty's Coffee.

Bikes at the Jim and Patty's start control

Steve was there, so introductions all around.  Then someone came up to me... "Lynne?  Is that you?" It was Tess from our last Errandonnee!  We immediately handed her all our cameras.

We look so fresh and cheery at the start

And, at 10am, off we went.  Our first control was at St Francis Church, in Roy.  We could have invaded the school office, but that might be construed as creepy.  Fitz offered to drive out and meet us there.  My schedule had us there at 11:45, so I suggested he be there by 11:30, park at the church end, and don't bring any puppies..  It was sunny and clear; the winds were light, and we got there just as he was driving up, a bit before 11:30.  I told everyone "15 minutes!", and we were signed and away.  Fitz went off to taste some wine.

Control worker, St Francis Church in Roy

Donate here

I pick nice roads

Now into the headwind portion of the ride, but it really wasn't bad at all.  South to Forest Grove, then along the bike path on the north side of Hwy 47.  It got us most of the way to our Old Hwy 47 turnoff, but there are a lot of roots at the beginning.  Another control at the Lake Store; 15 minutes. I had some rice pudding along, and consumed it there, along with a V-8.

Steve and Keith, Lake Store control

More of a headwind until we turned east on North Valley; up and down the rollers, and through Newberg onto Hwy 219.  Traffic on 219 during the week is awful.  Crossing the Willamette River... Ick.  Then we turned east again to get to Champoeg Park, our next control, which verified we were on the south side of the Willamette River (no way back over until Wilsonville).  We were up on time, and would only have a crosswind for a bit, and then a tailwind for the balance of the ride.

Jason, North Valley Rd

North Valley Rd

Champoeg Park control

I was optimistic.

Champoeg Park control

One troll driving a dump truck on Arndt Rd.  Then NORTH (cheers all around), over the Willamette River again, on the Boone Bridge (I-5 shoulder).  Getting over to turn left on the offramp was a bit challenging, but then we were in the relative quiet of the Wilsonville Industrial Park.  Paused at the gas station at the other end; I called to say we were 13 miles out.

The stretch on Boones Ferry through Tualatin was possibly the best I'd ever ridden it.  Not to say there weren't traffic lights and traffic, but the bit where one really wants a bike lane and it goes away was pretty good this day.

We pulled in 45 minutes ahead of the original schedule.  I was starting to think that we'd need to scrub some time in Centralia. (Hubris)

Yummy dinner all around.  We picked up our food supplies for the second part of the ride. I changed, because my jersey developed a hole in one pocket.  Pulling it off, I discovered it also had developed a big hole in the arm!  Fabric on both arms is threadbare, so I guess it will go onto a second life as a cycling cap.

The jersey disintegrated

Maybe we spent a little too long there - I had budgeted 45 minutes, but we used up another 15 or so.

Time for the one real climb of the route. I ride up there, I swear.  Yes, a climb but not killer.  Hah.  I never realized NW 119th was so very freaking steep.  (Of course, I ride it from home; only a couple of miles with fresh legs!) I was never so happy to see the stop sign for Skyline as I was that night.  We rollered west to the tavern.  Passing the cemetery, I told Jason this was the highest point on the ride.  So there went all our time cushion.

Keith sped our stop though there by plopping $5 on the bar and asking the bartender if she wanted to make the quickest, easiest tip ever.

Skyline Tavern control

Cards signed, off we went.  Time to descend NW Germantown.  This is a technical descent - steep, with sharp turns.  I cautioned everyone.  It was dusk, but not full dark.  Oh, was that rain I felt?

What with all that, I had fun.  We regrouped at the bottom, crossed the St John's Bridge (pretty!), and worked our way through St Johns and the industrial areas to get to the I-5 Bridge crossing approach.  From the south, crossing the bridge is a bit of a maze, with a lot of stupid crosswalk action.  If only we could just directly cross over Tomahawk Island Dr to the bike path...

Crossing accomplished, we were now in Vancouver, WA, and in Steve's territory.  We got to the Vancouver control at the Muchas Gracias drive through, and had our cards signed by a patron and bike racer in the line for something to drink.  Stood outside in the rain, polished off our drinks, ate a bit and pressed on.  There was an unplanned stop at a Minit Mart, so some could stock up on food items.

Muchas Gracias control in Vancouver, WA

We had made up a bit of time, but were still behind.  Then we entered into the neverending up and down section, which none of us knew was coming.  Except maybe Steve.  Sharp little climbs, short descents, and up again.  It didn't let up.  The rain was quite well established by now.  I just couldn't get any speed up those climbs.  Slow progress.  Somewhere in LaCenter I thought to look at my tires.  The front was definitely squashy.  I pumped it up and we set off again.

There was a bit of bonus riding in Woodland, but, given all the time I had spent with the cue sheet, we didn't get too far before I allowed that this was not the correct way to go.  Another c-store pause, and off again.

We then had our 4+ miles on the I-5 shoulder leg of the route.  It was either that or climb Green Mountain.  We did have a big, wide shoulder.  So, of course, the rain increased.  I noticed that all the semis were moving over a lane before passing us.  That was so thoughtful of them!  This was the flattest part of the route from Vancouver!

Sadly, we had to exit, and return to the undulating terrain.  Through Kalama.  Another 10 miles to Kelso, our next control and 24 hr restaurant stop.  I was pretty sure Kelso was mythical and imaginary by this point.  Finally, pulled into the Shari's, contemplated my now-flat front tire, and realized I wasn't coherent enough to deal with it at that exact moment.  Went inside and sat.  And shook.  Yes indeed, had a great bonk going on.  Everyone else got something to eat.

Looking at the time (2:30am), I had realized that if everyone stayed with me, there wouldn't be enough time.  So I proposed they go on without me.  I'd catch the morning train from Kelso to Olympia.  It would be ok, really.  Jason fixed my flat.  With more forceful urging on my part "would you all get GOING please!!!", they finally left.

I finally ordered something to eat, and managed about half of it.  After some discussion and negotiation with the night manager, I brought my bike inside.  He didn't think it was secure anywhere else, but perhaps some rules were bent.  I remain very appreciative of that.

There was a dry base layer in my bag, so I pulled that on, wrapped myself in my mylar blanket, and passed the next 5 hours dozing off and on, drinking some coffee, and picking at my food.  The day manager came in, and it was still ok that I was there.  Nice folks.

Friend Cyndi, who was driving northward to meet her husband's team in Olympia texted me at 5am(!), offering a pickup, but I already had the train ticket.

At 8am, I packed up, and relocated to the train station.  It was warm in there, and they had many magazines to leaf through.  The train was supposed to be there at 9:10.  At 9:10, they announced a delay.  And another delay.  And another.  And finally:"we don't know when exactly it will get here". There had been an accident on the tracks; a freight train had killed someone :-(

On the off chance that I might get lucky, I called Cyndi.  She was in Longview, a couple miles away, having breakfast with the team, and would be right over as soon as they left.

I was so lucky.  And Cyndi was happy, because she wanted company for the rest of the drive!  We stopped for lunch in Centralia, and arrived at 1:30 or so.  I didn't see my team, or anyone else in the lobby, so checked in, and got a shower and nap.

Through Facebook, I did know that my team finished with 7 minutes to spare, with Keith keeping everyone moving along.

I went down just before 4, to find folks in the lobby, waiting for more teams to finish.  Teams finished, cards signed, and, at 5pm, I decided it was sundown somewhere, and rummaged around in Josh's cooler for a non-hopped beer.  Alaskan White.  Tasty.  Visited with Sherri L (I know your husband and son!), Cyndi and Steve (when he wasn't dozing).

Steve catching up on his sleep afterward

Michal's team appeared before 6pm, having ridden ALL THE WAY FROM EUGENE.  They were happily toasted.  Signed cards.

Then some of us started thinking about dinner.  My team and Joe L's team joined forces and invaded a pizza restaurant.  The usual jokes about everyone ordering one column of the menu were made, but seriously, everyone except for Steve and me ordered and consumed an ENTIRE PIZZA.  We split one, and that was plenty.  I also enjoyed a hard cider. Our pizza was really late arriving.  It finally arrived, and we got it comped, because it was forgotten.

Back to the hotel, teasing Jason about crossing a street without waiting for the pedestrian cross signal, because he is from Montana, and they don't have traffic lights there.

At which point, we all just went up to our rooms and crashed.

Wandered down the next morning for the hotel's continental breakfast, which mutated into many tables shoved together with many riders visiting.

Then the banquet, which, as always is lots of fun.  There were more than a few teams which abandoned in the cold and wet :-(  There were also many more teams which persevered through challenging conditions (snow, mountain passes, cold, wet, headwinds, cancelled ferries, OMG reroute!) and finished.

Best quote: ""do you want to do a ride long enough that you will briefly wish you'd never been born? YES!" from the Cutters.

Andy dozing at the party

Lowball (shortest legal distance) was again achieved.

I came away with a short sleeved SIR wool jersey, after a couple years of jersey supplier fail.

And, silly me, I have already drafted up a route which is also 360km exactly, and 2300 fewer vertical feet, avoiding much of the undulating stretch.  I am sure it needs more work, but it is a good start.

Failure analysis: I didn't eat enough.  What with the terrain, I didn't feel confident in removing a hand from the handlebars to even drink.  And the tire should have been changed the first time it went squashy.

Jason's writeup
All my pictures

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