Monday, March 23, 2009

SIR Spring "Chili Feed" 200k

Initially, I did not plan to ride the SIR Spring “Chili Feed” 200k, as I have so little down time any more. But when Joshua Bryant posted a request for a ride to Kent on the Saturday morning of the brevet, I decided otherwise. After all, even though the ride was real tough for me last year (seat and knee problems), I had fond memories of the carpooling and “chili feed” parts.

Joshua met me at my place in SE Portland at 3:00 AM. After some French toast and tea, we loaded his bike and were heading north on I-5 by 3:30.

We would have gotten to Kent in plenty of time except for an ill-timed restroom/coffee stop somewhere between Olympia and Lacey. The only open business was a Sheri’s restaurant, selling rot-gut coffee for over $2/cup. We also had a hard time finding our way back to I-5 north, but with the eventual help of a convenience store clerk, finally righted our course.

We pulled in behind a long line of parked cars in Greg Cox’s neighborhood, and immediately set off on getting dressed and registered. I stopped a little too long to admire TRFKAF’s (Cecil’s stuffed rabbit’s) new Shower’s Pass rain vest, and ended up starting about 4 minutes after everyone else. Nevertheless, I caught up with a number of people fairly soon, and had company all the way to the first control in Dash Point.

Eric Vigoren caught up with me somewhere around Auburn , and we hopscotched a bit to Black Diamond. It was fun for me to learn more about Eric … not only that he’s working on an R-40-something … but also about his non-cycling (UW) exploits.

I brought along a couple of peanut butter jelly sandwiches, so I wasn’t into the bakery thing in Black Diamond. However, I am into espresso machiattos (my favorite control beverage), but that drink wasn’t in the barista’s repertoire. Her approximation was pleasant enough, though.

Originally uploaded by Seattle Randonneur

If not speedily, I at least rode steadily up to Greenwater, a big improvement over last year. A bike fitting and a few orthodics later, last year's knee pains thankfully stayed away for the most part. I tried to take pictures of a lot of the riders returning down Hwy 410, but my camera wasn’t behaving well. The old point-&-shoot Coolpix rebelled against my shoot-&-hope tactics.

My less-than-a-full-night’s-sleep the night before caught up with me in Greenwater. There were about 18 bicycles parked there when I arrived, and none when I finally left. But I really needed to sit down with my 2nd pbj sandwich, which was accompanied by a V8 fruit juice concoction. I was hoping for something a little more nourishing, but the inventory of that general store caters more to motorcyclists' diets rather than bicyclists'.

There were still a dozen or so cyclists heading up to Greenwater during my descent. A little before Mud Mountain Dam Road , I starting leap-frogging with Paul Whitney and another gentleman (whose name escapes me now) all the way to Enumclaw. Since this was my 2nd time on this brevet, I was able to navigate to the Circle K control much more efficiently this time ‘round. I arrived at 4:20 PM, and decided to make quick work of Enumclaw, and try to make it back to the finish in under 11 hours (which made the last 20 miles a bit of a push). One hour, 35 minutes, and one rainstorm later, I succeeded.

As I approached the Cox’s home, I noticed Joshua’s bicycle already mounted on the back of my car. What I didn’t know was that he was napping inside the back. He had already had his fill of chili and veggies.

My final time of 10:55 was 2 hours and 3 minutes better than last year’s painful 12:58. Other benefits of coming in sooner were 1) I had daylight all the way!, and 2) the party at the Cox’s was a lot more active than when I arrived last year. Not only that, it was still daylight during the drive down I-5 almost all the way to Centralia!

Things that worked well this ride:

  • Bolted on fenders! Since my bike has doubled as a cyclocross bike, I cycled all of last year with rubber-banded (easily detached) fenders, which were prone to rattle quite noisily. Ah, blessed silence!
  • Wardrobe: My new Showers Pass jacket (the most expensive article of clothing I own) in combination with my first ever wool jersey (newly acquired Woolistic “Oregon Randonneurs” model) were quite comfortable and effective.

Thing that doesn't work well:

  • My bike still shimmies when I let off the handlebars. It seemed more pronounced on this ride, as I was carrying less weight in my handlebar bag than usual. I may start experimenting with different forks, as I know my bike is too short and steep for optimal randonneuring.

Many thanks to Greg and Mary Cox and all the SIR volunteers for a wonderful event.

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