Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kings Valley 400k. Better. Sort of.

Ah, the 400k.  My most challenging distance.  And this year, a more challenging route as well.  More vertical feet, and a possible 100km stretch with no services whatsoever.  On the plus side, a new route with new places.

Pacific Ocean at Spanish Head

After a long lecture conversation with my coach on how I did not eat anywhere near enough on the fleche ("You had so little calories I am really surprised you could ride this long."), I rummaged around and found my old running watch, which had a working countdown timer, and set it to go off every 15 minutes.  Made up 5 packets of Skratch electrolyte drink (140 calories) and 5 packets of Carbo-Pro/EFS mix (350 calories).  Packed a lot of food, mostly Allen Lim's yummy rice cakes, Clif Builder Bars (protein!), and Shot Bloks.

Planned my "big" eating locations, and added those to the cue sheet, along with all the summits.  I like to know these things.

Received my new headlight, so had an evening soldering session in the garage.  It is mounted the same place as the previous light, but I am getting a new rack so as to mount it ahead of the handlebar bag.

After obsessing over the weather, also tossed in my lightest SP rain jacket, helmet cover, and booties.  Otherwise I was planning to wear pretty much what I wore on the fleche, and it was supposed to be warmer.

To make it more fun, an NPR reporter was going to be following us around :-)

Arrived at the LaQuinta Friday evening, just as the other 3/4 of our hotel room showed up.  Checking in, unloading, faffing...  and in bed by 9:00.  3am was going to arrive awfully early.

Up we got.  I made the sad discovery that I had forgotten to bring my knee warmers.  Michal offered up his tights, but they'd be really long, and too hot.  I figured I'd be ok.  I didn't need them at the moment.

Food swaps, and Cyndi had a nice breakfast for us all.   My contribution was single serving Egg/Swiss Cheese/Mushroom/Onion fritatta (protein!).

Signed in, chatted with other riders, and it was 4am and off we went.  Lesli and I were the only women in the crowd, and I didn't see her or Michal after about 5 miles - they were going for time.  We did have a bit of a ride together at the start, so Michal got to see the wonderfulness that is my new headlight (more on that later).


Bit of a puzzlement when I realized we didn't actually go THROUGH Dayton, but it was fine, and probably shorter getting to Amity.  There is a new market on the corner, so I went in to get some more water.  Lonnie was leaving just as I arrived.

Baby trees near Amity

Ballston Rd, on to Sheridan

My timer was going off every 15 minutes, and I was taking a big bite of something and drinking every 15 minutes.  For the whole ride.

The shoulder on Hwy 18 has not improved.  That stupid rumble strip goes right down the middle of it, leaving precious little space to ride.

Made nice time to Grand Ronde, which was a planned meetup with Angela from NPR, as well as a Real Food stop.  I am instructed to learn to eat "gas station sandwiches".  Grand Ronde offered made to order sandwiches, so I got my sandwich order underway, and walked around the store getting a Mocha Doubleshot and more water and getting the card signed, with Angela in tow.  Collected water bottles and sunscreen, and settled on the bench to eat, talk, prepare bottles and apply sunscreen.

evidence of eating, Grand Ronde

Angela from NPR interviews Jeff

While I was engaged in all those things, Jeff A rolled up, and we joined forces.  Bidding farewell to Angela, we headed up to Sourgrass Summit.  It didn't seem to take long... "wait, what, this is the summit?"  Zipped down to Hwy 101, where we turned left, and it was all new roads from here until Independence.

Ocean view


Jeff on Slab Creek Rd

Then we turned onto Slab Creek Rd.  After hearing for years how awful the pavement was, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually pretty darn good.  Less good heading up, but new pavement heading down.  A very pretty climb, and since it wasn't killing me, perhaps I was not attacking it hard enough.  The downhill was way fun!

Pronto Pups in Otis

From there we ended up in Otis (more water; Jeff bought pepperoni sticks), then a bit more on 101 and off onto East Devil's Lake Rd, along the backside of Lincoln City.  It rolls a whole bunch there.  Lots of very, very nice houses, a summer camp where I have attended events, and some High Water.  I rode through it very slowly.  My soles touched the water, but never went under.

More wandering along, and we popped out by the Factory Outlet Stores.  Right after we turned onto 101, Jeff wondered if they had a Pearl Izumi outlet; I could get some knee warmers.  A bit of online research said no, but there was a Nike store, and a pair of running capris would do very nicely.  As I had worked at Nike for 22 months, I knew exactly what I wanted, and the store had it.  Most expedient trip ever in a Nike store.  First ever outlet shopping trip on a brevet, too.

Found Bill at Spanish Head, where pictures were taken.  Fabulous view of the ocean.
picture by Bill Alsup

Bill at Spanish Head


Another 4.5 miles and we turned east on the Siletz Highway.  It is so very, very, very pretty back there.  What with all this newfangled eating and drinking, I also needed to do more stopping.  We found an RV park where the manager pointed us at the facilities and told us the combination to get in. My bike picked up a piece of gravel in the parking lot and the rear wheel would not budge.  I popped the wheel out to get it loose while Jeff finished up.  He just realized that he can Wash His Face on rides!  A wonderful feeling it is, too.  24+ miles on the highway, flat to gently rolling.  We saw pretty horses (white ones with gold manes and tails), llamas, cattle, alpaca, sheep, goats...

Siletz River with camera strap

Evidence of participation

Eventually, we found Siletz.  Also Bill, who was finishing up.  We went into the market to stock up for the next possible services-free 100k.  I filled up my auxiliary water container (1 liter collapsible Platypus bottle), bought a sandwich and another Doubleshot, grabbed my sunscreen, and sat in the shade across the street to eat.  Lonnie joined us here - he'd gotten bonus miles by missing the Logsden turn and looking for it in all the wrong places.  He left before we did.  Hard to eat those sandwiches - the bread makes me choke.  Have to work on that.

Lonnie, Siletz

I was doing my major cue sheet flip and pressing the air out of the big ziploc bag I keep it in, when a townsperson came by: "what are you doing?  what are you posting there?"  Umm.  Nothing.  Very weird.  Most of the folks in Siletz were really nice, stopping to chat, wishing us a good ride and so on.

Some more pretty and rolling miles to Logsden, and we got there long before the store closed.  There are great murals painted on the outside.  I got a gentleman inside to sign my card; there seemed to be random locals socializing in there.  Topped off the water again.  He insisted on taking my picture with the murals, too.

Logsden Store mural

Not climbing yet

Pavement ends

Now the "fun" started.  The stretch between Logsden and Blodgett is the really hilly part.  Rolled along for awhile, again, not getting overly stressed, except to wonder where the mythical gravel stretch was.  Oh.  There it was.  Hardpack with loose gravel all over it.  Kept a steady pace up until the road banked and I started sliding down.  Walking!  The grade was 8-10%, so I couldn't even think about starting up on that.  A motorcyclist came by and asked if this was the way to Blodgett.  We sure hoped so, and told him what our cue sheets said.

Walked up.  Then walked down, because it was no less steep and slanted.  Finally to a place where I thought I might be able to start up.  Headed down, it started to get a bit too exciting, but I could see the pavement, and headed right for it.  Whew!

Then the next climb, which went up to Summit (which wasn't, but I already knew that), and went up and down about 5 or 6 times.  And finally we dropped into Blodgett about 7:30.  And the store was still open!  More water and a Sobe.  I needed a break from electrolyte stuff.

Rolling our way east


In theory, we had three more summits.  The first one was over before we knew it, the second and third ones rolled along for awhile.  The stretch on Hwy 20 was not too bad - big shoulder.  It got dark along here, but with my wonderful new Luxos U headlight, I could see much better, and took the descents a bit faster.  It also helped that the pavement was absolutely wonderful.

Ok, so it is dark now.  Our intermediate goal was to make it to the control in Monmouth before the Burgerville closed at 11pm.  And we did, by 20 minutes.  I got a kiddie cheesburger and a Coke.  Jeff ordered a bigger one.  My kiddie meal prize was pea seeds and a plant marker - I gave them to Jeff for his daughter.  He ate my fries, too.  Pulled on the running capris and long sleeved jersey over the short sleeve jersey and arm warmers.

And then I started to yawn.  Oh no.  Kept it going until Salem and the convenience store.  Bought a V-8.  No use of the bathroom allowed.  Ok then.  Not stopping there anymore.  Jeff knew of a good gas station store in Keizer on the way out, so we stopped there.  Got a Coke and put it in one of my bottles, and mixed up the very last drink mix I had (that is 10 packets of electrolytes, half with extra calories consumed.  A new record).

Out of Salem/Keizer, north on River Rd, north until it turned into French Prairie (friend Don lives there), right on St Louis Rd.  I started wobbling.  Finally had to call a halt and get a short (bike computer says less than 5 minutes) nap.

Off again.  Tried to stay awake.  Kept smacking my face, eating caffeinated mints, drinking the Coke and so on.  It was just NOT working.  Finally, right after the turn onto Boones Ferry (10 miles out.  Sigh) I did stop.  Jeff said try for a longer nap, and I was out for 25 minutes.  I hope he was too.  Tweeting birds woke me up, and we headed out for the last bit.  I really felt much more alert, so maybe the pre-nap caffeine and the nap combined to perk me up.  Finished BEFORE sunrise, at 5:06am.  Only 1 sunrise on this ride.

Got to the hotel, found the control room, and gently woke up the control worker :-)  John Henry and I chatted for a bit, then I headed over to the elevator and my room.  Cyndi let me in, and I took a good long shower to scrub off all the rando crust.  Oh, that bed felt really nice.

Woke up around 9am, joined the others for breakfast in the hotel lobby.  Home just after 10am, Mother's Day Brunch, short nap, Timbers soccer match, home, in bed by 6pm, didn't get up until 7am the next morning...

Final Comments: Finished it up at 5:06am, which was about 2 hours longer than I personally wanted it to be.  But it was still 40 minutes better than last year's ride, and a more challenging route, with no bonks, or even the hint of a bonk.  Took rather longer to get sleepy as well.  My coach is delighted.

SPOT track is here (stopped tracking about 10 mi before the end, because I rolled over 24 hours.  I have learned something new)

Distance: 252.85mi (almost exactly matches RideWithGPS.  Finally got the computer calibrated!)
Pace: 12.57mph avg.  slower than last year, but more climbing on this one.
Total Time: 25:06; 40 min faster than last year.  Less faffing/sleeping
Vertical feet: 10031 according to RWGPS
All the pics here (lots of them)

Fiat Lux!
Ah yes, the new light.  The Luxos U is amazing.  Wonderful wide light throw and a good long distance down the road as well.  The previous light is a Supernova, backed up by an Ixon IQ, and this is much, much better.  I did not give the charging function a test, so I cannot report on that.  But the light on the road is very good; it doesn't wash out the surface.  Did I mention the wideness and length and brightness of the beam?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Let the Grey Geese Fly! Fleche 2013

Last fleche I participated in was back in 2008. At the time, and for several years after, I was pretty darn sure I did not want to do it again.  Last year, I wanted to, but the timing was sub-optimal.

This year, I found myself designing a route in November, assuming an Olympia finish.  There were two of us, and we quickly recruited two more.  Then one more.  And an alternate.  I continued refining the route, hunting for control locations, and getting the distance as short as I could.

The route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2235322

Things can change quickly before a fleche.  Two teammates withdrew to go ride some dirt.  The alternate suggested "next year".  Another person joined us out of the blue, which was good, because someone one got injured.

By now, you might be wondering about the origin of the team name?  It indeed has to do with arrows.  I am a fan of the S. M. Stirling Dies the Fire alternate future history, which is set in mostly in the Willamette Valley.  We are all from the Willamette Valley.  Seemed to fit.

By now, the route was finalized - EXACTLY 223.7 miles (360km).  Somehow I did not get as much done before the ride as I would have wanted, but the bike was cleaned (and wow, did it need it!), and I did a lot of mental packing.  Late Thursday, I did some, but not all, real packing.

Michal, Cyndi (Mrs. Michal, ace driver and cheering squad), and Keith all appeared later Friday afternoon.  Cyndi and I made the Coconut-Blueberry-Chocolate Chip rice cakes for the ride and dinner (Chicken and Spinach with Rice and Lentils).  Michal tried to get a nap.

Smiling at the start

After dinner we filled up bottles, did last minute faffing, answered the door ("Lynne, there is someone here giving away money! - I love in-person paycheck delivery :-) ), and then coasted over to the Village Inn, our official start point.  Fitz and Cyndi drove over, and we all had pie.  The riders also had some coffee.

Fitz and Cyndi came over to see us off

And, at 7pm, we started out.  The cue sheet was only 2 pages long, and most of the first page was going the first 24 miles to Banks.  A couple of short stops along the way, to add clothes and such.

Michal had gotten a new GPS, had loaded the route, and was trying to get it to prompt him for turns.  The key word here is trying.  Some badmouthing of the GPS user experience ensured.

But wait!  Heading west on Meek Rd, we spotted three cyclists approaching!  It was The Ladies' Tea and Crumpet Society, the OrRando women's team which started in Albany at 1pm.  A short visit, and a round of pictures and we were off again.

You run into the most interesting people out riding!

Got a look inside Keith's windsock on his recumbent. - big storage compartment in back, and a nice storage arrangement in the front.  I think he had a microwave, video game console, fold-out bed and hot tub in there.

Onto the Banks-Vernonia trail.  It felt a little more claustrophobic in the dark.  I couldn't ride next to or close to anyone.  Michal and Keith found a cyclist sleeping off to the side of the trail; no blanket or anything.  He said he was ok.  Perhaps alcohol was involved.

Our control in Vernonia was the Cedar Side Tavern (nothing else open just before midnight.)  We got our cards signed, and were apparently very entertaining to the very relaxed crowd.  One woman assured us that she could not ride the length of Vernonia (!) without getting exhausted and told us to watch out for log trucks (note: no log truck sightings).  Ate a savory rice cake.

Cedar Side Inn, Vernonia

Then north, with the next maybe stop the Birkenfeld Store.  We did stop briefly and snack, but they were very closed.  Guess the late night is Saturday.  We pulled on some more clothes.  It was about 43 degrees and just downright chilly.  By now I was wearing shorts, knee warmers, short socks, shoes (you know, those toe covers would not have been a bad thing to bring along), ss wool jersey, wool armwarmers, ls wool jersey over that, windbreaker and my Windstopper reflective vest.  A wool cap and shortfinger gloves with the DeFeet wool gloves over those.  In other words, all the clothes I had with me.

Keith playing with the lighting outside The Birk

Michal at The Birk

I mentioned to Michal that I had forgotten to put Mr. Happyface in my bag, and it might have come in handy.  Michal: "well, I wasn't going to tell you, unless your neck really started hurting, but I've got ours along." :-)

Water stop was at the Elk Refuge, 13 miles down the road.  Before we got there, I had to pull over and close my eyes for 10 minutes.  Oh, this isn't going to be good...

The bathrooms were unlocked, and joy of joys, heated!  Keith headed into one, I went into the other.  I finished, Michal came in and left.  I went in to fill bottles, came out, and found Michal sitting on the ground with his shoes off.  Keith was apparently still in the bathroom; Michal was beginning to wonder if everything was ok.  At which point Keith poked his head out and cheerfully informed us that they were heated!  We all went inside for a few.  The SMART rider (clearly not me) would have brought a snack along and eaten it.  Need to get into the "if you stop, stuff something in your mouth!" mode.

Now we were starting the climb over the Coast Range.  It was dark and chill.  And I kept needing to nap.  Passed over the summit, and it seemed way too easy to get there.  Perhaps because of the stops and not entirely speedy pace.  Much zipping of jackets and such (we were all wearing everything we had), and the long-ish downhill to Olney.  The store wasn't open yet there, but it was just before 6am.

What with all the stops, Michal finally figured out how to get his new GPS to prompt him on turns.

A few more naps, including one at the big Hood-to-Coast/Portland-to-Coast Relay camping field ("hey, I've slept here before!"), and it started to get lighter.  No need for headlights to see.  But still no actual sun.  Just before Astoria, the sun did put in an appearance and I looked right at it, in the hope that it would perk me up.  It actually did.

Route planning note.  I routed us the shortest way to the Pig 'n' Pancake, because I didn't want another control.  So Michal and I rode that way, which meant UP (4 stair-step climbs) and then DOOOOWWWWWN (that was very, very steep, with a stop sign, and then gravel).  We found Keith at the Pig 'n' Pancake, sucking down coffee.  He had ridden around, which is flat. Keith had no cue sheet - "hey, I am just going to ride along with you all!"   Breakfast ordered all around; I didn't do a great job eating all of mine.  The waitress and adjacent diners were a bit amazed at our riding plans.  We were outside our time window, but the slowest time was way slower than we would be riding in the daylight.  I was positive we'd get back on time.  Michal was a bit stressed.  Keith was cheerful and continuing to crack bad jokes.

Then up and over the Astoria-Megler Bridge - 4 miles long.  And we were in Washington.  A pause to peel off extra layers - we kept them on because it was windy up on the bridge, but now, with the sun up, it was already over 60 degrees!  With a stiff NNE headwind.

We rode across that

Warming up

Long stretch headed north to Raymond, via Naselle.  Lots of sloughs adjoining the river which feeds into Willapa Bay, and a set of relentless little climbs.  Eventually we popped out on the flats, and headed into Raymond.

Columbia River

Keith and bonus photographer shadow

Michal, hydrating


After a bit of discussion we decided to stop at McDonalds - they did have coffee.  I got a mocha frappe, with chcolate and whipped cream in addition to the coffee.  Ice cream headache!  It was right before noon, and we were back within our time window.

Then Raymond to Montesano.  Discussions on the proper pronounciation ensued.  I pronounce it like everyone else in Huntsville, Alabama pronounced it, which isn't anywhere near the proper Italian pronounciation.

Mr. Happyface made an appearance at least once.

Marcello had warned us that it was surprisingly hilly between Raymond and Montesano.  The route profile had 5 little lumps, and, indeed, starting right out of Raymond, there they were.  Slog up, pedal down.  I was counting, and was happy to leave #5 behind us.  Lots of logging through there.

Into Montesano, quick stop for water and a sweet rice cake.  Water in the bottles, water dumped on heads...  Off to McCleary.  The road between Montesano and Elma is possibly the worst chipseal job ever, with 3 levels on the shoulder.  The furthest right was original smooth pavement, but it varied in width and had loose bits of gravel on it.  Once we got to Elma the road improved some.  Michal tried to pull me, but I was not mentally alert enough to draft.

I kept apologizing for being slow and kept being told to quit apologizing.

Some up and down, and FINALLY into McCleary, our 22 hour control.  About 15 minutes before the 22 hours.  My toes had been killing me, so Michal told me to take off my shoes first thing.  I did that, and then stretched out on the sidewalk for a 5 minute rest (not to be confused with a nap).  Cold water appeared, bottles topped up, various potions mixed in.  Cold water dumped on heads.

On to SR-8, and the nicest pavement of the entire ride.  Big wide smooth shoulder bounded by a rumble strip.  Noisy, but I didn't care.  The headwind didn't seem quite as fierce.  Mostly.  There was a gentle climb for about 10 miles, then a wonderful downhill all the way to our exit.  Michal's GPS was confused, but I knew where I was.  A few more miles then into Olympia, where we stopped and checked maps.  And, at 6:50pm, rolled up to the front door of the Governor Hotel, where the Ladies' Tea and Crumpet society, Cyndi (volunteering!) and another volunteer came out to applaud.

Smiling at the finish as well

Pictures.  Soda.  Beer. Chips.  Strategizing on dinner.  Asta and Susan recommended a BBQ place a few blocks away.  So, after some sitting and eating and talking, we all went and got showers, then came downstairs to find Susan and Asta and Lesli ready for another dinner :-)  Tasty beef BBQ.  Walk back through downtown Olympia - pretty lively place!  Early bed.

Wandered down for coffee and first breakfast at 8am, knowing we'd have a nice banquet at 9am.  Found many riders in the breakfast room, with the same plan.  At 9am we all drifted into the banquet room.  Mass quantities of very good breakfast and fun people.

Each team got up and described their ride.  One team went for a serious amount of off-road.  While there was a cue sheet, there as also Ian, who knew where to go.  The serious distance team did, well, serious distance with serious vertical feet.  The Ladies' Tea and Crumpet Society had a strict schedule and stuck to it.  We finished in time, which is all, really, which is required.  360km, 3 machines finish together.

While there were no official awards,  we obviously got Lowball (shortest distance) and Slackers (least climbing).

Keith was planning on riding back.  So was Asta, so they joined forces.  With no arm-twisting at all, Susan joined them.  They finished somewhere around midnight.

Evidence of participation

And all the pics