Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just under the wire

Reaching the goal of a 200k and a 100k once a month every month may not seem like a big challenge but when you have national boards to study for, a relationship to focus on and family obligations it sure makes it tough.  So when the Facebook post came out for a Saturday morning 100k with Ray and company I jumped on it!  For an added bonus my brother Eric wanted to join, so he could pop his randonneuring cherry finally!

The morning started out well, I met Eric at his house at 08:30 to prep and drive to the start point, North Plains.  For this ride I chose to bring my commuter single speed (SS), a 42x16, because the route appeared pretty flat/casual and it has been one of my goals to do as many of these rando rides on my SS.  When I showed up with my SS Eric decided to swap over from his road bike to his SS as well since its the same gearing.  With a quick change over of lights and saddle bags we were ready to roll.

The weather was fairly mild out with no sign of rain on the 11 mile drive to the McDonalds start point, that soon changed.  Arriving about 7 minutes before 10:00 Eric and I started to gear up, another set of riders, Lynne and Bill, also showed up while we were changing so the total ride group would now be 6.  After fiddle farting around we got over to the check-in with Ray picked up our Brevet cards and cue sheets and saddle up.  

Heading out from McDonalds the rain started, not a surprise but a bummer.  Riding through the fine town of North Plains was pretty quick, then over the freeway towards Forest Grove on some moderately busy roads.  With the rain coming down pretty hard it was nice to have fenders, but they were truly of little use because the wheel spray was still huge from everyone but Lynne and Ray, who had the exteno-fender thingies.  

Riding through Forest Grove, now covered in road dirt, we hooked a left on to some familiar territory Fern Hill Rd, which has a brand new bathroom at the wildlife preserve, yay for me!  Breaking from the pack Eric and I headed to the bathroom for some much needed relief and a short break.  Eric was getting pretty cold in the hands and feet from not riding fast enough to keep his HR up, I was a bit cold but a second set of gloves solved that.  After about 20 minutes at the Wildlife perserve we headed on to try and catch the other riders.  

Back on Fern Hill Rd we were able to kick the speed and cadence up for Eric and get him warm, which was good for both of us.  At the end of Fern Hill Rd we hooked a left on to Spring Hill Rd and were promptly passed by group of road bikers.  Riding the familiar route from a few weeks prior we headed on for miles gliding around corners and over hills until we reached our eventual right hand turn on to the highway.  A short-lived jont on the highway to merge off on to Abby road towards Lafayette, and again merging onto quieter roads which were actually dry.  Rolling into Lafayette we caught up with Ray about 1/4 mile from the turnaround, a small hispanic grocery store.  Cruising in to the parking lot RB was waiting by the bikes and Lynne and Bill were inside getting some much needed fuel for the trip home.

Stripping off the wet gear to head inside for some snacks, Eric and I had little illusion that there would be much that he could eat (Gluten/Dairy free), or that I would want to eat (Dairy free Gluten sensitive). Finding my go to food of choice, a banana, I checked out and got my receipt and headed back to the bikes, Eric uncovered some gummy bears in the candy section and came out and we feasted on our spoils.  Quickly realizing that it was cold but not raining anymore we decided to start on our way back, hoping that the slight headwind that we felt would turn into a massive tailwind for the ride home.  

Since this route is an out and back it was a little easier to ride back because I didn't have to check the cue sheet for any of the turns or directions, at least until we got back to Forest Grove.  As luck would also have it we did have a small tailwind that helped keep our pace above average for SS's on a flat road.  Eric and I had a leisurely ride back chatting about all the stuff that is happening and how things in life are going, you know the great parts about riding with people you know well.  

Arriving back in Forest grove was also a bit of a reminder that the quiet country roads were behind us.  With a quick snack stop, about 4 miles from the finish, to keep from bonking we rehashed the ride and how it is a great to get out of our comfort zone and ride to areas we may never get to.  Eating the last of the gummy bears we headed to North Plains, where I got turned around we were treated to a second loop of the older part of the town.  After the second tour I navigated us back to the McDonalds and we changed out of our wet shoes and clothes and got our final receipt to end the ride.  Lynne was kind enough to give a quick tutorial on proper brevet card etiquette which also gave time for the last riders to roll in.   

We completed the ride in 5h 21m with the total mileage 63.75, I'm sure if I'd had my GPS it would have shown the actual ride time much shorter but who really cares, we finished!  As you may have also noticed there are no pictures of this ride, two things happened with that, rain and poor planning.  I bought a new point and shoot camera the other day that is water/shock/dust proof and forgot it boo, and secondly my gloves were so wet that if and when I took them off I had to spend 10 minutes getting them back on, not worth it, sorry folks.  However Eric enjoyed his first rando ride  wants to do another ride, maybe try his luck on a 200k next time...we'll see about that though.  Until next time!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

First 200k Completed...

After several days of pondering whether or not I would do my first 200k on Saturday 01/12/13, mostly due to the changing weather in the area...from snow all weekend to freezing temps with clear skies, I finally bit the bullet and got up at 06:00 to meet the ride owner, Ken, at Grand Central Bakery in Multnomah Village at 07:30.  Opting for the day with freezing temps, start temp was near 28F. I layered up as best I could, with double gloves and leg warms under my cold weather tights.  After my usual dillydallying at the start point I got on the road and headed West towards Hillsboro 08:05.

The ride to Hillsboro was pretty cold but had low traffic as expected at 08:00, there were lots of stop signs and lights plus the excitement of icy roads.  The temps had not gotten any warmer on my way there, in fact I could swear that it actually got colder.  Once I got into the Silicon Forest part of Hillsboro I got to experience the Semiconductor Factory Effect (as it has been called by some), which is when it's cold enough for ice and snow the Fab's put out enough steam to actually make snow or freezing fog happen.  It's like a microclimate, which is fascinating, if you are in a car with a heater and not on a bicycle at 09:00 getting frost accumulating on your gloves, jacket and face...    
Freezing Fog in Hillsboro
After riding through the fog in Hillsboro I headed northwest to a small town called North Plains.  About 6 miles out from North Plains I had to stop and remove one of my three shirts so that I wouldn't sweat too much as I was already feeling the sweat on my base layer which was not a good thing.  Shirt removed and stuffed in my rear seat pack I was off to the first stop North Plains Grocery, which is run by a friendly woman who insistently told me that it is far too cold to ride my bike today.  Agreeing with her as I was emptying my water bottles in her sink because the water was icy and had frozen the nozzles shut.  After a quick banana and fresh water I headed southeasterly towards Forest Grove, which would be the next "big" town before I got to the turn around point of McMinnville, time 10:01 miles 25ish.

The ride through Forest Grove was pretty benign, low traffic, wide shoulder and freezing temps.  Once through civilization it was out into farm country on some gorgeous low traffic back roads.  After many miles of wetlands and fields I finally stopped to eat a snack and snap some shots of the area, which were also the last shots that I took of the day...mostly because getting my gloves on and off was becoming very difficult. 
Laughlin Road 
Cruising on from here I encountered the only gravel section on the route, which was more hard packed dirt with a sprinkling of gravel mixed-in for good measure.  The road was actually in better condition than many of the asphalt roads I have ridden on, which was a surprise.  Thankfully the sun was finally starting to break through the fog allowing for the frost to melt, bad part was I was still on a dirt road, which meant I got pretty muddy.  After the mud road it was on to McMinnville, which was about 20 miles out.

All good things do have to come to an end and that was when I had to ride into McMinnville.  Highway 99 is a bit more heavily traveled with lots of debris on the shoulder; likewise, there is no shoulder over the bridge to get into town which puts you in traffic.  After navigating through the city to the historic old town, I found a pizza joint that had several slices still available, so I partook in a slice of Hawaiian and plain cheese, time 13:18, mile 62ish, temp 35F.

After getting out of the busy part of town I was back on the scenic roads that I had grown accustom to. The wind had finally started to blow, which was a slight surprise, since I hadn't had any wind yet due to the fog earlier.  Now it was time to put the head down, tighten up and ride fast enough to stay warm, without sweating, which is harder in a headwind than one may think.  By the time I got to the gravel road the wind had started to die down, which was nice, but short lived.  After traversing the mud and gravel I was back on asphalt and cycling back into the headwind.  After winding back to one of the longer stretches of road I could see the fog again, hoping that the wind would calm down in the fog was at least a good thought, just not a reality.  Mind you that these winds are only 6-9mph winds, but it was the temperature, 33F in the sun, that made it more difficult.  Once back in the fog I also noticed the shift to colder temps again, below freezing judging by all the frost and ice on the trees, roads and wetlands.

Rolling into Forest Grove I was hoping to make it to Hillsboro before or at dark, because at least I know my way home without directions from there.  Rolling back into North Plains, the wrong direction due to missing a turn, for the last control on the ride the store owner again reiterated her earlier statement about it being too cold to ride a bike.  In total agreement with her I bought some almonds for a little fuel and headed out, Time 17:01 108ish miles.

Getting back out on the road I realized pretty quickly that my water was once again frozen, so it was going to be a longer ride back than I expected (having to actually stop and twist the top off my bottle to drink).  My predictions were correct, I made it to Hillsboro by dark, which was also going to slow me down at least a little bit.  Winding my way back through Hillsboro and into Beaverton I was glad that I had my "Night Rider 350" light, it was bright enough to see the road at the lowest setting.  This was an improvement over other lighting options I have used in the past.  Finally, I rolled into the Lucky Lab Pub at about 19:05 completing a total of 130.9 miles in a total time of 11 hours 5 minutes.

Fortunately Kelly was waiting in the Village at a bookshop figuring I would be done around 18:30 or so.  She came and picked me up and we headed to the ride organizer, Ken's, house to drop off my RUSA Brevet card to get it stamped and approved.  The ride was officially done!
Completed Brevet Card

Now I have to figure out which 200k to do next month, and if I can talk anyone else into riding with me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Action List

I am not one for doing New Years Resolutions, I feel they are crap and a waste of time.  What I do try to do is change small things in my life by making a list and posting it somewhere I will see it every day.  Last year I made quite a few goals, and surprisingly, I accomplished a fair majority of them; moreover, they helped me shape what my list would include this year.  Last year some of the big goals that I wanted to complete were: Lose weight [done, dropped 30 lbs], complete the Insanity Workout [done Jan - Mar 60 days of the hardest workouts I have ever done], Eat out less and cook more [done, limit myself to 1-2x a week with a budget of $30] and another big one was to bicycle more [done, around 4000 miles for the year].  All these goals were accomplished through hard work and difficult choices but I did them, they made me stronger, healthier and happier.

So why am I blabbing about this in my cycling blog?  Because I feel it is important to lay the ground work for understanding what I want to accomplish this year.  I have a smaller goal list started this year, but I will add to it as the year moves forward and I come up with useful goals to work on.  For this year one of my big goals is to ride 10,000 km from 1/1/13 - 12/31/13.  This will be a challenge with grad school coming to a finish (board exams, thesis and clinic) but I feel that I can do it. It works out to approximately 6213.7 miles, which is not that many more than I did last year.

Why is this goal important to me and how do I plan on doing it?  Fitness and weight management have become an important part of my life over the last 24 months, and I feel that sticking to attainable goals is important.  6k miles is not that much really, when you figure in commuting, touring and training it should be a snap.  I also plan on doing a second set of goals this year that relate to me completing the first, I plan to do an R-12 and a P-12, both of which are Randonneuring awards accomplished by completing certain rides in an allotted amount of time.  R-12 = 200+km single rides once a month for 12 consecutive months and a P-12 = 100+km single ride once a month for 12 consecutive months.  This should be fun, if you want to learn more go to www.rusa.org and check them out!  

Other goals I want to complete are: lifting weights 3x a week to increase my strength and flexibility, meet up with an old friend once a month, and blog about all my cycling and other experiences on a weekly basis, if not more (we'll see how that one turns out...).  I bought the weight set over my break, I have the phone numbers of friends and have had this blog for almost a year.  As I progress through the year I hope to keep everyone up-to-date on the progress of my goals.  I may even post a before and after photo from last year to this year to show the results of my weight loss.  Until next time...

First Ride of the New Year

The new year is upon us and knowing this I felt the need to hit the gym for a spin class and then the road for a nice 30 mile ride.  The spin class is a new adventure for Kelly and I, we both like cycling but Portland, Oregon doesn't always allow us the luxury of warm, dry and windless riding.  So on Sunday we gave spin class a try, and both liked it.  The upbeat music and fun groups and instructors make the pain almost bearable...almost.  For those who haven't attended a spin class I recommend at least giving it a chance to see how it goes, it is a fun way to burn LOTS of calories.  Go on give it a try.

Mt. Hood from the middle of the I-205 Bridge 
The road ride that I embarked on this afternoon was with a friend from school who has recently gotten into cycling.  I enjoy riding with him because we can have both school and non-school conversations all while enjoying the unseasonably nice, albeit cold, weather.  Our ride started out from NE Portland Near 15th and Going, and took us in a fun loop back to the same area.  The ride started with a balmy temperature of 36 degrees, and really never got any warmer.  We headed through NE Portland to the delta park area where we could hook into the bike path that would lead us into Vancouver aka Vantucky.  The I-5 bridge crossing was a first for Abe, which like most people who cross it the first time comment on how much of a climb there is to get over to the 'Couve.  With the perfect amount of layers we zigged and zagged through historic Fort Vancouver, then into "old town" Vancouver (more like ghost town Vancouver).  Dodging frost and ice on the shoulder we found ourselves near our midpoint stop, my parents house.  Stopping and warming our toes and fingers with some hot coffee, emptying the bladders and chatting with my dad we suited back up for the big descents for the day the I-205 bridge.  For those who have never ridden across the bridge, it is 2 miles of dust, noise and exhaust with some pretty nice views of Mt. Hood.

Abe Enjoying the Tailwind on the bike path
Mt. Hood From the Marine Drive Bike Path
After the cold and windy descent from Vancouver to Portland we decided to head back west on Marine Drive and use the tailwind to our advantage.  Well played!  With almost zero effort we were able to cruise a modest 18mph for the entire 7 miles, what a joy!  Alas all good things and tailwinds must come to an end, and heading back up 33rd towards Abe's house we were buffeted by and COLD ESE wind, which made the last push home a bit harder than either of us wanted.  After navigating the sketchy overpass back into urban life we meandered the remaining 3 miles uphill with remorse that such a beautiful day was coming to a close and that school was starting up tomorrow.