Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eden's Gate 400k (2011 version)

400k isn’t really my distance (on a bicycle) … at least not at this time. While I have never DNF’d that distance, I have been the last finisher or co-finisher on all five 400k’s ridden prior to last Saturday (April 16). It’s a weird distance that feels disproportionally longer than 300k. On the longer 600k distance, there’s usually a rest/sleep stop near the middle. But the 400k generally goes straight through. Tough on those who haven’t gotten full night’s sleep beforehand.

On my previous encounter with the Eden’s Gate 400k (in May of last year), I simultaneously PR’d and co-lanterne-rouged. This year, though, I did neither, even though my finish time was very close to the time of my very first 400k ever, the “Covered Bridges’ back in May 2007.

Here’s my 400k history:

~ May 2007, Covered Bridges 400k, 24 hr, 50 min
~ May 2008, Three Passes 400k (SIR), 26 hr, 52 min
~ August 2009, Alsea Falls 400k (ORR), 26 hr, 30 min
~ May 2010, Eden’s Gate 400k (ORR), 23 hr, 28 min
~ October 2010, Columbia River Run 400k (SIR), 23 hr, 59 min
~ May 2011, Eden’s Gate 400k (ORR), 24 hr, 45 min

I could tell at the outset of this year’s Eden’s Gate 400k that I wasn’t setting any land speed records. My thighs and knees were sore at the very beginning. My 100k splits neared the 6-hour range. (I have managed two 200k’s and one 300k with 5-hour 100k splits, but they’re rare.) And it rained ALL afternoon.

About 40 riders started out from Wilsonville well before sunrise (a number having come down from Seattle). Within one hour I came across a bunch of them standing at Meridian and Whiskey Hill Roads (East of Hubbard). In their midst was Jennifer Chang (a consistently cheerful randonneur from Seattle), who had been hit by a car. Fortunately, she was talking coherently, and her limbs moving. Seeing how she was getting plenty of care and attention, I eventually moved on, to the accompaniment of distant sirens. The incident, though, provoked a sort of melancholy pause for much of the ride. So I was glad to learn later she’ll be fine … badly bruised … but okay … as her helmet and bike took most of the brunt.

david by tangocyclist
david, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

Early in the ride, my rear fender started rattling. (It had been quiet during the previous two brevets.) When I got to Sublimity, though (by which time the rattling had gotten really loud), I discovered the fender had broken in two, severed right behind the upper mounting bolt. I purchased some shoestring and duct tape from the local convenience store, and did what I could to mitigate the noise coming from the rear half. It kinda worked for most of the rest of the ride (till about the last 40 miles, from Salem on).

I rode mostly solo from Stayton to Scio, surviving the steep rollers of Cole School Road and passing through the Schimanek Covered Bridge. Once in Scio, I opted for the local coffee shop, where the “barrista” hadn’t heard of an espresso macchiato per se. (Silly me, did I think this was Portland? Or Italy?)

For much of the rest of the ride, I saw quite a bit of Joel Metz, Lesli Larson, Sarah Tripodi, David Parsons, and Kevin Brightbill, plus some of Lynne Fitzsimmons and Michal Young. Typically, they would all arrive at each covered bridge or contrôle ahead of me, at which point I would catch up. This happened in Sweet Home, Mohawk Post, Harrisburg, and then again later on (with Joel, Leslie, Sarah, and David) in Independence and Salem.

hoffman covered bridge by tangocyclist
hoffman covered bridge, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

At the very wet Mohawk Post contrôle (about half way into the ride), Jeffrey Arrasmith and Holden Hughart arrived just as I was leaving. I had spotted the afore-mentioned septet (J, L, S, D, K, L & M) about 20 minutes, and found them 24 miles later in Harrisburg. One bag of corn chips later, we all (except for Kevin) headed out on very smooth Peoria Road (the smoothness placating my patched rear fender). This was the segment on which I felt strongest. Lynne and Michal eventually dropped off, while the remaining five of us continued through Albany to a shopping center off of Springhill Road. The shopping center was all buttoned up for the night, so we just ate from our stashes at an outside table.

After pulling ahead, Joel, Lesli, David and Sarah were leaving Independence as I checked in at a local ATM. Eleven miles later, I caught up with them on the outskirts of Salem, then once again they took off ahead. Fourteen miles after Salem, the four of them missed the right turn onto Keene Rd. After making their correction, they passed me somewhere around Arbor Grove or Butteville Roads. By this time, I had more-or-less run out of gas. Plus my rear fender had gotten annoyingly noisy again.

At 5:45 AM (24 ¾ hours after the start) I arrived at the finish in Wilsonville, where Susan France and Amy greeted me in the hotel lobby. Amy drove me home afterwards, noting later that I fell asleep about three times while trying to text my status update to Facebook.

Aside from the fender issue, the Ahearne itself worked fine. The wider and more upright bars seem to help upper body tension issues (particularly after 300k).

And now the 600k, coming up on May 7th. Why did I sign up for the Flèche Northwest between then and now?

(Pictures here on Flickr)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Three Capes 300k

My 5th annual ride of the 3 Capes 300k occurred on the 26th of March. Even though I have finished all five of ‘em, each attempt has produced a much different result:

 2007: 16 hours, 41 minutes
 2008: 19 hours, 5 minutes
 2009: 17 hours, 55 minutes
 2010: 14 hours, 53 minutes
 2011: 15 hours, 50 minutes

This year’s 2011 edition started familiarly enough … Westbound in pre-dawn Forest Grove. I stayed up with some faster riders (a number of them from Seattle) out to Stringtown Rd, but once again fell off their pace up Gales Creek Rd. I was passed by a few more riders going up to Timber Road, but didn’t dawdle at the turnaround contrôle. Ascending up the Wilson River Hwy took longer that I anticipated. And then I struggled on the long descent to Tillamook. Last year I was able to catch John Kramer’s and Mike Richeson’s wheels during that segment, but this year I couldn’t keep up with anyone, and was in fact passed by about a half dozen riders.

Once in Tillamook, I made relatively quick work of the contrôle at the Shell station (less time-consuming than Safeway), opting to eat a micro-waved burrito on the run rather than waiting in the store for it to cool.

clara at the coast by tangocyclist
clara at the coast, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

I heard it was rainy in Portland that day. The Oregon coast, however, was only intermittently drizzly, and actually quite pleasant. It was my Ahearne’s first trip to the Pacific Ocean, and she did quite well.

‘Round Netarts I rode some with PPB veteran Joel Metz, then closer to Pacific City I was joined by Lesli, Sarah, and John Henry. They eventually pulled ahead, and by the time I arrived at the Stimulus Espresso Shop, a long time-sucking line had formed between them and me. I forged ahead (falling down in the sand on Pacific City’s main drag), and once again did the quicker Shell Mini-mart contrôle thing.

On Little Nestuca River Road, I enjoyed the company of Seattle Randonneur Noel Howes (riding a pretty 650b Belinky), then forged on ahead to Sheridan before stopping for fuel (which included some Muscle Milk … closest thing there to Ensure). Stopped to take a picture at the Ballston contrôle of three faster riders (John Henry, Tim and Bruce) who had a real good paceline going. Then my last stop (before the finish) was at my favorite porta-potty in Dayton, where I added a layer of clothing and reflective gear.

Again, last year I was able to catch a wheel (of a nice SIR rider) almost all the way from Sheridan to Forest Grove. But this year, it was all solo. Soreness in my left knee kept me from pushing very hard. But I did keep pedaling, and managed to finish well under 16 hours. Only about one hour of that time was off the bike.

My photos from the ride are here on Flickr.