Saturday, October 30, 2010

Columbia River Run 400k (Oct 2010)

Super Seattle Randonneur Geoff Swarts organized a couple of late-season 400k brevets out of Wenatchee for October 22nd and 23rd that peaked my interest. The first reason they got my attention was there would be new territory to see. But more significantly, if I finished another 400k this season, that would mean having completed the equivalent of two Super Randonneur series (in addition to the Oregon Blue Mountains 1000k) during the 2010 season, something that I didn’t think was in the realm of possibility a couple months earlier.

The first 400k was called the Eastern Washington Loop, and would leave East Wenatchee at 12:01 AM on Friday the 22nd, heading out to George, Lind, Ritzville, Odessa, Ephrata, and back. The second 400k was called the Columbia River Run, and would go from East Wenatchee up to Tonasket and back, leaving at 6:00 AM on Saturday the 23rd. I thought this pair of rides was a brilliant idea for anyone in the market for 800k with a proper night’s sleep in the middle.

But I was only in the market for 400k, and the latter suited my schedule better. Susan Otcenas was also interested in riding 400k, as she hadn’t done that particular distance yet this year. Also, the 23rd was her birthday, and what better way to spend it than pedaling your new Sweetpea for 250 miles.

Susan and I tentatively agreed to carpool. But a few days before the ride, I got a most interesting conflict … the opportunity to pick some grapes up at Syncline Winery near Lyle, WA on Friday morning. After Susan and her partner Jeff agreed to pick me up in Goldendale on the way to Wenatchee later that day, the extra little gig was on! (Harvesting grapes has always been on my wish list, and this was a serendipitous opportunity.)

Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
So on Friday morning, I took an extra half day off work and headed up to Syncline to lend a hand in picking syrah grapes. After a couple hours of filling buckets, we were treated to an informative tour of the facilities by winemaker and founder James Mantone.

From there, I drove to Goldendale (via Centerville, on the route I missed during the Bikenfest 200k earlier in the month). I checked with the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce for a safe place to leave my car, then established phone contact with Susan and Jeff just before they arrived. After loading my LeMond, Jeff drove the remaining 2 ½ hours up to Wenatchee.

The three of us checked in at the “East Wenatchee Inn at the River,” then were joined by Geoff Swarts and Lyn Gill at a local Mexican restaurant. It was then off to sleep before the 6:00 AM start.

lake chelan
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
There were a grand total of eleven riders at the start, and within one mile we had crossed the Columbia River on a pedestrian/bike bridge. I kept up pretty well with other riders for about 20 miles (till around the town of Entiat), then I started to fade on the Navarre Coulee Rd grade up to Lake Chelan. Vincent Muoneke started on the slow side (as he was experiencing tendonitis after the previous day’s 400k), then passed me shortly after the first contrôle on Lakeshore Dr. The rest of the ride (except for the last 5 miles) would be solo.

linear trees
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
After Pateros, I was truly in new territory, as the Northern Cascades 600k route six weeks earlier turned off at this point towards Twisp and Winthrop. This time, though, I was riding along the varying Northern geographies of the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers. Kind of desert-like, but well-irrigated desert. (Agriculture’s big up here.) After Brewster, I stopped for some warm protein at the KFC in Omak. Twenty-three miles later, I arrived at the turnaround town of Tonasket (which is almost spittin’ distance to the Canadian border). From that town’s Shell station, I texted the following to my Facebook friends:

     in Tonasket, WA with 2 1/2 hours in the bank.
     215k down. 185k left back to Wenatchee.
     No leisurely riders on this 400k, so it looks
     like another lanterne rouge at this distance.
     Left hamstring/quad/thigh is pretty sore.
     A lot of time in smaller gears.

nocturnal whirring
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
The return trip took some slightly different (as in quieter) roads between Omak and Brewster, but still essentially parallel to the Okanogan River. It got dark well before Omak, and started to rain around Brewster. South of Pateros (before Hwy 97 crossed the Columbia) there was a State Patrol Officer detouring traffic because of a prior fatal accident. The officer waved me through, and by the time I arrived “at the scene,” the last barricades were being removed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the ride happened well after the town of Orando, about 5 miles from the finish. There was a quasi-familiar car pulled over to the side of the highway with its flashers on. Nothing registered initially, but I finally figured out that the driver calling me over was Jeff Mendenhall. Turns out Susan was in the car. At first, I thought they had driven out along the route to see how I was doing. (Quite unnecessary, I thought!) Then Susan asked me if I wanted company for the rest of the ride. What I didn’t realize was that Susan had seriously bonked a couple hours earlier (to the point of nausea), and that Vincent had called Jeff to drive out, warm her up and revive her. By now she was ready to continue the ride, and my late arrival on the scene gave her the final impetus to finish it off.

jeff and susan
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
The two of us rolled into the East Wentachee Inn at the River at 5:59 AM, one minute under 24 hours. Jeff greeted (or re-greeted) Susan with a small birthday cake he had bought in Leavenworth (and pedaled back with). Both Susan and I finished later than anticipated. I could reason that two 600k’s within the previous six weeks had slowed me down. But Susan’s experience was clearly more scary and dramatic.

I’m glad to have done that ride, and completed two “super randonneurs” for the year. And I’m really grateful for Susan’s and Jeff’s lift from Goldendale to Wenatchee and back. Also, many thanks to Mr. Swarts as well for putting this ride together. I don’t know how those monster-mileage SIR guys do it.

Pictures are here on Flickr.

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