Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 recap, part 2

Thursday, 31 December

When I was writing up the on-the-bike highlights of 2009 yesterday, I tried to think of the biggest adrenaline rush or biggest drama. Of course it came to me on my ride yesterday afternoon: the episode with a yellow jacket under my jersey. I'd say stripping off half my clothes in a farm valley and suffering 4 stings at once qualifies as drama. There was also a very long ride that qualified as the worst day of the year on the bike, but we don't need to remember that!

So, the numbers.

Total bike miles on the road: 12,333 (assuming no catastrophic events deter me from the usual ride home from work this afternoon). Surprisingly, that is down from 2008 (12,693).

Total days with no bike miles on the road: 29 (same as 2008). I was on vacation for 11 of those days, supporting a women's team at the Cascade Classic for 4 of them, at all-day cycling meetings for 2 of them, and sick for just 1 (something to be thankful for!)

Month with the most miles: May, with 1653 miles.

Month with the least miles: November, with 757 (that was the month with 11 days off the bike for vacation).

Most miles in one week (7 days): 599.

Number of rides of 100 miles or more: 16

Three longest rides: 193, 151, 137 miles. (Longest ride in 2008 was also 193 miles, but at a different race.)

Number of times I rode a trainer: 19. 12 of those were indoor Computrainer time trials at CycleU, and 3 of them were on days when I could not ride outside. No, I don't ride my trainer much.

The biggest bummer of the year was the awful weather at early-season races. I didn't see much point in racing when it was 38 degrees and snowing/raining; weather kept me out of 5 races in March. The flip side of that was the spectacular weather all summer; never was a long ride in the mountains cancelled because of weather.

Thanks to all who raced and rode with me in 2009. I thoroughly enjoyed almost all of it. Here's to more happy miles for all in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 recap, part 1

Wednesday, 30 December

Tomorrow I'll churn out the annual statistical review of my cycling year, but here are some of the non-quantifiable highlights of 2009:

Favorite ride: Seattle to White Salmon

Favorite race: Elkhorn stage 4 (2009 version)

Most exciting race result by someone I know: Lisa M at elite nats

Most heartbreaking race result for someone I know: Mick losing Elkhorn by 1 second

Biggest buildup and corresponding letdown of my race season: Ring of Fire

Most amazingly bad place to stay: Ukiah

Two favorite pictures of the year, more for what they evoke to me than any artistic qualities they might have:








Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday hilarity

Sunday, 15 November



I saw these hilarious things in first one holiday catalogue and then another. They seemed like a good trendy detour in my hat-making "career." And so I've been cranking them out and inflicting them on innocent friends (just like I do with regular hats). They are pretty funny when you think about them: most wine bottles are either lying flat in storage or are uncorked and emptied. But I suppose every cab needs a cozy. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Temporary retooling

Sunday, 18 October

Following up on Ring of Fire and its mockery of my goal-setting, I figured it was time for some time off the bike and a little change up for mental rest from long miles on the bike. I picked a local 10K running race that benefits the scholarship fund at the University of Washington. I had 4 weeks to recover from ROF, retool, and retrain to run 6.2 miles.

The goals I set were to reduce my bike miles and to finish the race in less than 60 minutes (I don’t run fast, either!). I failed at the first one—or, at least, bike time was not given over to running time. Somehow I managed to do all my training for the event in the morning (I got up at 4:55 once) before I rode to work. Never did I run on the weekend, and only once did I shorten up my ride to work.

My race time (53:12) was not mortally embarrassing and certainly better than the 10-minute miles I was prepared for. While there were a lot of people a lot faster than me, there were more who were slower: my time was 2 minutes faster than the average, I was 371 out of 868 runners, and 17/64 in my age group (in which nearly everyone is younger than I am). I used bike racing tactics: I took the shortest line through all the corners, and I found big guys to run behind in the headwind sections, even if I had to sprint a little to catch up to them. And I found another sport where tons of people pass me going downhill!

Most interesting to me is my recovery. I have some gentle aches and pains from 53 minutes of pounding my joints (knees, hips) but I am not tired. (I tried to ride some extra miles on my bike after the race, but one of my pedals seized—some kind of sign, maybe?) I guess that means I didn’t run hard enough, but it also means I benefited from my enormous base of miles/fitness. My goal here was not to become a runner but to focus on something besides cycling for a while, to set myself some new goals.

A bonus: only one of all my training and racing miles was rainy!

Next training program: super slow at the gym. I know that will hurt! And I'm jonesing to ride a century again, even if it's only metric and even if it's on the rain bike.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Triple century in Hood's hood

Monday, 28 September

Since there’s snow above 4,000 in tomorrow's weather forecast, and temps tomorrow aren’t supposed to reach 60 down here at sea level, I’m pretty sure I’ve just had the year’s last weekend of glorious summer riding. And what a weekend it was!

Early Saturday morning I sent the hubby off on a 300K adventure with the Oregon Randonneurs. Then I drove to Mt. Hood Meadows and set out on my own adventure. It was cold up there!! And the first 8 miles or so were downhill. Too cold for bare skin! But next was 8 miles of steady climbing on FR 44, and very soon I was shedding more layers than I had pockets for. Because this is an empty road on a busy day, I was kinda worried about encountering bears foraging for winter hibernation at my early hour. Instead, I encountered woodcutters harvesting last winter’s blowdowns. For the top several miles of the climb, there was a chainsaw running about every quarter mile. No bears to be seen.

The temperature increased rapidly as I dropped down the 17-mile descent toward Dufur. Rolling along the valley into town, I felt a bee sting me just under the collar of my jersey. Ouch—and much flapping of clothing with one free hand. Satisfied the bug was gone, I kept pedaling. Two or three minutes later, it stung again, still under my jersey. This time I slammed on the brakes, dropped the bike, unzipped my jersey, and just about stripped off all my clothes in an attempt to get the thing away from me. End result (which I could not see at the time): 4 stings. Not much to do, though, besides keep on riding (and swearing a lot from the pain).

After Dufur comes the “gentle climb” of Dufur Gap Road. It is pretty, and the views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams at the top are wonderful, but it is a long grind. And no ROFers to chase this time. Then down to Tygh Valley, left on 216, and eventually to Maupin. Exactly as planned, my ride buddy was sitting in the city park, eating potato chips, and checking race results with his iPhone. I found some ice cream, and then we backtracked to Tygh Valley, following the route for his brevet. A two-mile climb brings you all the way up out of the river canyon and onto what I am told is officially named the Columbia River Plateau. From there it’s sort of false flat as you head west into the trees on the slopes of the Mt. Hood foothills and then it’s about 20 miles of real climbing (with a couple short descents) back up to Meadows. There was a consistent headwind for this whole section of the ride. I love hearing the wind in the trees above my head but am not so enamored by pedaling uphill into a headwind.

My total distance on Saturday was 122 miles, just shy of a metric double century. Three major climbs, plus two that were a couple miles long. Most of this was the big loop from Ring of Fire, but starting in the middle. It was noticeably different to have fresh legs for 44 and tired ones for 48, when usually it’s the other way around.

Sunday was a team ride, starting in Hood River. We headed east, through the “microwave” wild fire acreage, and to The Dalles. Looped around on Eight Mile, Emerson Cutoff, and Boyd Loop to get to Dufur. On Eight Mile, the hills are tight and close, almost claustrophobic, but from Boyd Loop you can practically see forever: orchards, vineyards, mountains, valleys, trees, farms. Then we went the opposite way over my Saturday route on FR 44, down to highway 35, but turned right to head back to Hood River. I managed to stay with the group until Dufur (5 flats on other bikes and a headwind gave me recovery and shelter) and then was on my own. My only other trip up 44 was on a cloudy day, and I had no idea there were so many luscious views of Hood all the way to the top. Just past the summit, I think I could pick out what is now the top of Mt. St. Helens above a nearby ridge. 101 miles for the day.

So 223 miles in two days, a double metric century and a regular "English" century. Not a cloud in the blue, blue skies. Warm enough to be summer, cool enough to ward off heat exhaustion. Wind but not gale force. Little critters (chipmunks, squirrels, pikas) but no bears. Riding on parts of courses from at least 11 races. Great ride company for parts of both days, and great hosts in between the riding. Priceless.

It’s going to be tough to transition to riding around Lake Washington on my rain bike.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ring of Fire / End of Season

Tuesday, 15 September

The Ring of Fire time trial is one of my favorite races, a superb finish to a season of racing, and a nice signal for the end of summer. This year I logged more long rides as training, and I thought I was as well prepared as I ever could be. I had been working on my “ultra” nutrition all summer, I took the time trial bike in the hope of getting in some faster miles on the flatter part of the course, I was rested for the event and ready to go. I was reasonably confident of beating the 193-mile women’s course record for the 12-hour race.

However. The nagging thought in the back of my mind through all of this was that weather had severely limited my racing all year. I skipped a bunch of early season races when it was 38 degrees and precipitating (rain, snow, whatever). The first stage at Cherry Blossom was abysmal because of Gorge winds, and the first day at a training camp in May was about the worst prolonged period I’ve ever had on a bike because of incredible winds. The last stage at the Elkhorn Classic was shortened by 80% because of cold precip. But July and August had been good (too good?), and I had done at least six rides in the mountains of 120 miles or more.

My start was at 7:23 a.m. Roughly the first 60 miles are mostly uphill as you climb through forest on the SE flank of Mt. Hood. The temperature and winds were perfect. I was surprised to be offered ice for my water bottles at the first two sag stops (whatever for?). Then a 20-mile descent down to the plateau of central Oregon brought a quick climb in temperature. A one-mile climb to the third sag stop (at about mile 90) convinced me that ice was a good thing, and I stuffed one jersey pocket with it (as well as my bottles). Gradual climbing continues relentlessly on Dufur Gap Road, where I still felt good. On the long descent from that summit, my speed went from 37 to 27 when I hit the headwind, which stayed with me for the next 5 miles of rollers. The heat and headwind combo sapped my energy, and the sun baked my brain, so that when I hit the flat stretch of 8 miles along the Deschutes River, I could muster no better than 18-20 mph with a substantial tailwind. I rolled into the start/finish to start my short (27-mile) laps, hoping to get the first two on the TT bike before tired legs would probably rebel at the unfriendly gearing.

The legs were not the problem. It was my head in the heat. Two miles up the first climb I knew I was going nowhere fast. I was only mildly dehydrated, which is a state I bear pretty well; this was just inability to bear the heat, which was registered by at least one rider at 97 degrees. I seriously contemplated getting off the bike for a rest (a nap was what I REALLY wanted), but (a) there was no shade and (b) I was afraid of rattlesnakes. So I kept pedaling. I have no technology on my TT bike, but I know my pace was very slow. Amazingly, however, nobody passed me in those 27 miles, which simply meant everyone else was suffering too. On the flat stretch of river road, I had so little strength, I could not go fast enough to ride in the aero bars. My power was probably at about 12 watts.

When I rolled into the start/finish after 139 miles, I told them I was done and got off the bike. There is air conditioning in the lodge, and I spent some time lying down inside, cooling off. Then came food and liquids. And then I could enjoy the general party atmosphere that dominates the parking lot around the finish line at this race. After about 2 hours, it occurred to me that I didn’t feel lousy any more and I could probably ride my bike. I still had 3/4 of an hour left in my 12, so I got back on the bike and put in 13 more miles. It was a beautiful time of day to ride: the sun was setting behind the Cascades, the temperature was in the 70s or low 80s, and Mt. Hood reigned supreme over the plateau. My legs still had lots of miles in them, even if my clock did not.

Your race here finishes wherever you are on the course 12 hours after your start. I happened to be at mile 13 on the 27-mile loop; backtracking involves a climb of at least 2 miles, so I chose to keep going “forward.” Within a mile, a car came in the opposite direction and the driver stopped and told me she had been sent out to pick me up. (The car had passed me dozens of times during the day, so I knew she was with the race.) My husband, who was attempting the 24-hour version of this race, was asking for me because his heat exhaustion and dehydration were so severe they were sending him to the hospital. 14 miles in the car under those circumstances seemed to take longer than they would have on the bike.

Hubby had been sick several times, been rescued by another rider’s crew, collapsed, and agreed that the hospital was the place for him. He had a support crew who would take him to The Dalles, which meant I didn’t have to sit in the ER with him in my sweaty exhausted dehydrated state. MCMC gave him 3 liters of fluid and sent him back to the race; there were 6 hours left in his 24 when he got back to Maupin, but he did not get back on the bike. I am so grateful to Mandy for retrieving me, Adrian (Adrienne?) for taking care of him, Ken for taking him to the hospital, and countless others for their genuine concern. I was clearly the bad wife, however, because other riders asked me for updates on his condition at least every 15 minutes. I have no cell coverage in Maupin and thus had no news, and his condition didn’t seem too complicated, but I guess I was supposed to be trying every means available to get updates from the ER (which is nigh impossible even when communications are good). Ironically, his recovery was faster than almost anyone else’s simply because those 3 liters went straight into his bloodstream while the rest of us had to wait for absorption into our systems.

The disappointment for both of us was huge. This had been one of our big goals for the season, a training focus for a long time, and a lot of thought had gone into our preparation. I am thankful of course that our hopes were dashed only by weather and that no one suffered long-term effects (a majority of racers were ill). But it doesn’t escape me that I planned, trained, and set goals specifically for this race—for naught. Sure, I am somewhat gratified that I felt really good on all the climbs, that my training worked, and that I really like my LandShark. Nothing hurt, I just had no energy.

Since the race failed to be a happy end-of-season benchmark, my recovery ride the next day included one big climb up from Maupin toward Grass Valley. There was virtually no traffic and nothing to limit the panoramic view at the top. Whenever I stopped to take pictures, I could hear nothing but birds and bugs and dead wildflowers rustling in the breeze. I could see some of the peaks I had “friended” this season: Hood, Jefferson, Washington. It was sweltering again, but I didn’t care. This was the end of my summer and reminded me how truly grateful I was for all the miles I put in this year. The camera could not capture the expanse and the simultaneous senses of freedom and desolation.

So for the end of my season I am left with disappointment but also the increased desire that comes from a sad result. But even more I am left with the peace and sanctuary that were so much a part of all my long rides in 2009.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Getting closer

Friday, 14 August




You have to understand, good pie crust is in my genes and is part of my heritage. My mother and my grandmother made such fantastic pie pastry that, as a child (and even to this day), I preferred pie crust to pie filling. They taught me well, and I can make a flaky, wondrous delight with flour, shortening, water, and a few grains of salt. But then shortening was condemned as the root of a lot of evil, so I substituted canola oil. Definitely not the same, but passable, and more work. Then my husband gave up wheat, which cuts out the whole flour thing. But apple tart is his dessert of choice, and it's gravenstein apple season, so I must bravely go forth and try to learn new pie-making skills.


The first recipe I found was a flop. It basically said you could substitute rice flour for wheat flour, and butter for shortening, and you'd be happy with the result. NOT. If you're not a pastry maker, it's hard to explain, but gluten is the thing that's in flour that makes a pie pastry too heavy and ugh-ly if you work the pastry too hard and beat down the gluten. So, if you start with gluten-free flour, it's pretty much a no-brainer that you've got a headstart to heavy and ugh. It came out like rich (that's the butter), dense, chewy pastry instead of a light flaky wonder.



Then I got some sound advice from a true pastry chef (thanks, Laura!) and inspiration from a county-fair, blue-ribbon pie making queen (that's you, Judy)--both of 'em bike racers. And did some more research in that giant cookbook called the internet. I narrowed my choices down to two recipes. Both called for weird things not in my cupboards (potato starch, xanthan gum, sorghum flour), so I had to go shopping.



I have to digress here. I have a "thing" about trying to make foods into things they're not just so they look like other foods. Tofurkey comes to mind. There are so many good foods out there that if you choose not to eat one (turkey, in this case), why not just admit you don't eat turkey and not pretend to yourself that you're eating dead poultry when you pretend to others that you don't eat dead poultry? I'm a vegetarian, but I try not to eat overprocessed foods--and most of those tofu-derived, fake meats fall into the category of things I don't buy. What's this got to do with pie crust? Well, maybe pie crust is meant to be just shortening, flour, salt, and water, and if you choose not to eat one of those ingredients, maybe you should just be content to eat apple crumble instead of having your pie and eating it too.


But I had to try. So this afternoon I stood (in my helmet and cleats) in the "natural foods" section of my supermarket (what are all the other foods they sell--"unnatural"?), pondering sorghum flour and other things I'd only seen as so many words on nutrition labels. I thought the recipe calling for xanthan gum would be the way to go because it only called for two things I didn't already have. But xanthan gum is $13 for a little package, and really what was I going to do with a pound of xanthan gum? So I opted for the white rice flour, sorghum flour, and potato starch recipe because those three items together cost less than xanthan. Not cheap, but not $13. Oh, and I also bought some shortening, on a tip from Laura.



My recipe rubbed against my pie sensibilities. Adding an egg is cheating! And no thanks, I don't want cinnamon in my pie crust. I'm not sure about vinegar, but I know a lot of people use it. Basically, though, I followed the recipe, substituting shortening for some of the butter. It rolled out better than my previous GF attempt and it hung together better in the pan. It smelled good while it baked (that was the apples, though), and it got nicely brown and a little crispy on the edges. Then we had to wait for it to cool.


I think I'd rate this attempt at a B+. It is definitely better than store-bought pie crust. I had more pastry than pie, so it was maybe a little thicker than it should have been, and thus a little heavier. The bits of the rolled edges were close to the "real thing." One noticeable difference is that rice flour is grainier than wheat flour, so at first bite the pastry is toothier. But when you eat the crust with the filling (like most pie eaters do, I suppose), it's really really close to a wheat flour crust. With some tweaks, I think this recipe will be a keeper. Maybe I'll have to let the PruPieMaster be teh judge....

BTW potato starch is pretty cool stuff. It's kind of like cornstarch, but heavier and not as...flighty. I'm looking forward to working with it some more.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cascade

Monday, 27 July

I've been going to the Cascade Cycling Classic longer than almost any other race. I always have a fun time in Bend. This year was no exception.

There were so many things that contributed to a great week. Best find this year was Le Cakery, where you get to pick the flavor of your cupcake and the flavor of your frosting; it's a really good thing there's not a place like that around the corner from me the rest of the year! Thump Coffee was a great place to drink super good coffee (if I can tell a difference, it must be good!), catch up on email, watch the Tour, and people-watch the who's who of the Bend cycling community (thankfully I had a guide who recognized them; I did not, for the most part). The scenery around Bend of course is marvelous, and the level and amount of competition in the bike races prove that riders in the NW will race in the summertime if you give them what they want. And having Jadine and Mike share their honeymoon with about 600 other bike racers made this year's trip to Bend unique! :)

But the thing that made the week most special for me was people:
  • The host housing friends who welcome you back year after year.
  • The teammates and support staff who work so hard together to make it all happen, even in the face of bad luck, illness, and injury.
  • The "kid" I haven't seen in years but ran into out of the blue on the crit course who now owns a bike shop in Boise.
  • The man who came up to me at the crit and said his son was at a national junior team camp (?) with the son of an old friend of my husband. His son's name is familiar in Oregon bike racing, but how did this guy know me just walking down the street in Bend?
  • Four of the Hagens Berman guys, melting into a bench outside an ice cream shop in downtown Bend. After I'd chatted with 2 of them for at least 10 minutes, one of the other 2 says "I don't think I know you"--as in, why are my friends so chatty with this old broad? The fourth was too shy to say much at all. :)
  • The commissaire from Seattle who shared a table with my team director and me during our morning coffee/Tour/email ritual and offered up a little of the officials' side of the race.
  • The OBRA official who didn't hesitate to let me register for my husband while he was stuck in a rental car nightmare. Everybody else had to show their license, but my magic words that afternoon were "I'm Mick." :) I did have to repeat them several times as I moved through registration because everyone in the process wondered why I was at packet pick-up for an event with no (amateur) women's field.
  • The woman behind me in buffet line at the meet-the-sponsors pasta feed for the women's race who had crewed for a two-person relay team at Race Across the West. She was astounded that I had even heard of the race (RAW and Cascade draw from pretty different cycling communities) much less that I knew riders and other crew at that race. I tried to get her to try the 6-hour Ring of Fire TT this September.
  • The Bend cyclist who killed the women's Firecracker TT on July 4 who was part way up the time trial course, cheering for my rider AP.
  • The race staff who always had time to say hello and answer my questions.


  • Cycling is such a small world and for the most part a close-knit, supportive community. It is fascinating to go to an event as big as Cascade and see how parts of your world are connected to each other in ways that don't involve you that you would never imagine. I stopped in to see a tandem friend at his bike shop in Bend and to thank him for advertising some other friends' used tandem on his email list. Totally coincidentally, a clothing line they rep was hanging on the wall next to the tandems in the shop.

    So much better than Facebook.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Bliss on a bike

    Monday, 13 July

    Back in May, at training camp in north central Oregon, I agreed with Terri that it was spectacularly beautiful country but, due to lack of “real” trees and bodies of water, I wasn’t sure I could happily live there. My riding this weekend was at the opposite end of the spectrum: Friday and Saturday featured so much riding among the close quarters of hills and evergreens that when at last I got to that plateau east of Mt. Hood, it felt comforting, like coming home.

    My two-day bike journey this weekend was from my home in Seattle to Hood River, with a stopover in Packwood. Friday’s ride was nothing hard to figure out, and I had ridden all of the roads before, just not strung together in this order. The worst traffic was in the first two miles (I forgot to bypass Lake City Way at rush hour). There were very few cyclists on my route out May Valley, down past Hobart to Ravensdale, then past Palmer-Kanasket Park en route to Enumclaw (it was STP weekend, so nobody was out training on Friday!). Mud Mountain Road out of Enumclaw was so peaceful—and it was fun to read the years of race exhortations written on the road. Then the reality of 410 traffic all the way to the top of Cayuse Pass. Somewhere along there (mile 70 in this day’s ride), I counted 15 cars going by me in one mile. Not so bad. Since the Stevens Canyon Road is closed and drivers can’t make a loop through Mt. Rainier National Park, there wasn’t much traffic after the top of the pass. Better yet, there is no road construction this summer on 123. It’s pretty much downhill all the way to highway 12, and then rollers the last 7 miles into Packwood.

    The weather was a good friend. I had a perceptible tailwind on all the southerly sections (almost the entire route) of my Friday journey. Mountain thunderstorms were in the forecast, and, sure enough, the big puffy clouds forged into ominous blackness as I got to Crystal Mountain. No thunder and lightning, but the cloud cover was a wonderful relief for the long climb up Cayuse Pass. It was pretty chilly at the top, with lots of snow still lurking in the woods. By some fortunate wind-swirling-in-the-mountains effect, I also had a tailwind boost heading west along 12 into Packwood.

    Packwood is not exactly civilization (no cell phone coverage), but it has more than one restaurant and a supermarket. And elk. And, last weekend, the Sports Car Club of America. Fun to see people who geek out about something besides bikes!

    Saturday’s ride started along the course of Cascade’s High Pass Challenge: west on 12, south on 131, then continuing south when the state road turns into forest service road 25. The climbing here is long and steep and slow (especially with a backpack, especially when you know a long day in the saddle lies ahead); I kept reminding myself that I’d done this on a tandem. Eventually you come to the turn for the Windy Ridge overlook at Mt. St. Helens—I kept climbing south on 25. Finally you crest a ridge and your close-up view of a million trees is gradually replaced by territorial views. After all the meandering through forest, I wasn’t sure what direction I was facing. I was surprised that the first peak to emerge into sight was Mt. Hood! A couple more bends in the road, though, and I was looking NW straight at Mt. St. Helens. Eventually the road dropped back into the forest as I descended toward the Swift Reservoir. Once at the junction with FR90, I was on familiar roads. 90 follows the Lewis River drainage NE to the junction with FR23. Persistent climbing here—not steep, and some sections with a great tailwind. I saw a few other cyclists going the opposite direction on this road, and I stopped at the only campground to get water. At mile 80, I counted the vehicles that went by me in a mile: zero. It was another 1.8 miles before any traffic passed—in either direction! Yes, these are quiet roads. The abundant trees were a bonus on a 90-degree day; I was thankful for so much shade on the road.

    I was delighted with my faulty memory when the anticipated climbing on FR23 was mostly just rollers for about 10 miles before the descent, which brings amazing views of Mt. Adams. Finally I got to Trout Lake for coke and cookies and another water bottle refill. From there, it’s 22 miles mostly trending downhill toward the Columbia River and the end of my journey in Bingen, where I found our car, drove across the bridge (no bicycles or pedestrians permitted) to Hood River, and then out to The Dalles and the trek south to Maupin.

    As I drove up out of the Gorge onto the plateau of central Oregon, everything was bathed in hazy soft pre-sunset light, the hills and fields were golden, and Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson were sentinels over this vast space. The closed-in feeling of riding under tree cover all day was lifted and I truly felt that all my worries and fears were gone and that I was returning to a familiar, comforting space. Such a contrast to the emotion in May near Antelope and Shaniko where the scenery is similar but I missed shades of dark green and blue.

    I did have plenty of worries and fears to release into the great wide open. There were the issues of being a solo female rider whose transportation was a device whose mechanics she doesn't grasp very well. Have you ever noticed that things (shoes, pedals, saddle, unknown bike things) are particularly prone to squeaking when it’s hot? Other niggles weighed heavier. After a poorly calculated trip last year, I was more cautious in mapquesting this year’s epic ride, but forest service roads are not well documented. I was slow (8-9% with a backpack yields low speed) to cover some sections of the route, giving me much time to think that I would never get there. And then there were practical issues: Where exactly are you supposed to seek shelter in a forest in a thunderstorm? Are those frequent piles on the road that look like dog poop actually bear scat (had to be—no dogs live out here)? What if deer run out in front of me when I’m going 30 mph down a descent? What if I miscalculated the distance by 30 miles again this year?

    When you’re riding solo, there is too much time for such things to mess with your mind. My trip was perfect. The weather was summer-hot but not miserable, not wet, and certainly not cold. I had plenty of food and water. There was minimal traffic but just enough so that I probably wouldn’t be stranded out there for 3 days in the event of a mechanical catastrophe. The distances were almost exactly what I’d calculated: 123 miles on Friday and 137 on Saturday. I was blessed with tailwinds on important parts of the route, with headwind mostly only as I approached the Gorge (where there is always wind). Motorists were considerate (!). The biggest critters to cross my path were chipmunks. No issues with feet or saddle or bike or backpack. The up-close, clear-air views of Rainier, St. Helens, and Adams are things you cannot even imagine from the cityscape. I rode for miles and miles where the only sign of humanity was the road I was on and the only sounds were birds, bugs, and breeze in the trees. Bliss.

    On the third day of my weekend, I got up at 5:30, waited patiently (making hats, of course) in a parking lot for the show that is Race Across Oregon (a 517-mile, nonstop bike race, if you didn’t know) to come through the tiny rafting mecca of Maupin, kissed my husband as he climbed off his bike at the end of a relay leg down cruel, demon-filled Bakeoven Road, leapfrogged his team on to Dufur and up FR44, and drove on to the finish line at the Cooper Spur ski area. An inspiring group of 4 riders and 4 crew, Koenig’s Kronies were the first to finish the race on the new route. Congratulations to them and every other competitor in the race!

    Weekends don’t get much better than this. I feel truly blessed by the good fortune that led to my perfect ride and by the family and friends who checked up on me during my travels.

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Gluten-free-ness

    Monday, 29 June

    Since my husband embarked on his gluten-curtailed diet at the beginning of March, I have only hesitantly worked my way into the realm of GF baking. Most recipes call for weird things that I can't find in my supermarket or that cost $12 per pound. I got muffins and brownies dialed in, and I think my GF waffles are better than the white-flour original, but didn't venture any further afield. Bob's Red Mill makes a lot of great GF baking mixes, but I am not a mix person and like to bake from scratch. Since Bob's also offers a huge line of GF flours and other baking products, it was just a matter of time before my GF pantry had enough options.


    Last week I got an urge to bake again. First up was strawberry shortcake. Yes, fresh local strawberries are mighty tasty on their own, but who doesn't like shortcake? This recipe was a 100% success on first try, straight from a Google search, and incredibly simple.




    Next up was raspberry chocolate shortcake. This was pretty much brownies with vanilla yogurt and raspberries on top. It disappeared before I got the camera out.

    Irish soda bread is a versatile quick bread. It's great for toast at breakfast or with cheese any time of day. But the "real" recipe is just wheat flour and soda and buttermilk. In Ireland, they have a coarse-ground flour that's much coarser than anything you can buy here, so I puzzled over what GF product might provide a similar texture. I ended up using a lot of coarse-ground oatmeal (a couple of quick pulses in the blender). For a fuller flavor, I added buckwheat (which is not really wheat and is GF). I also used corn flour and soy flour to round out the flavors. It all worked well, but next time I will back off on the buckwheat--it has a pretty strong flavor. And maybe a drop of molasses will help give some depth to the buckwheat flavor? And I might try adding some steel cut oats for more texture. Maybe I can get the Irish Heritage Club to make a gluten-free division in its soda bread competition next St. Patrick's Day?

    Finally, I tackled buttermilk pancakes. I think I used 5 different flours in these. Again, I used too much buckwheat, and next time I'll substitute some ground oats. When the batter was the right texture for buttermilk pancakes (lumpy), the pancakes were too dry. But I added a little more buttermilk and they were great. No pictures, but pancakes are pancakes. :)

    Post-pancakes, we went on a 75-mile tandem ride. Melinda was in the group, and I remember her moaning one morning before a ride years ago that she had made pancakes for breakfast and was regretting it because they were "gut busters." Not so with GF pancakes. If you've ever had a feeling of being way too full after eating something with white wheat flour, I encourage you to try a gluten-free alternative. Even if you're not gluten intolerant or celiac, I'm pretty sure you'll notice a (happy) difference. You can eat lots :) and still not have that lead weight feeling in your stomach!

    How to stoke a tandem

    Monday, 29 June

    We had a perfect little spin on Saturday: Newhalem to Mazama and back over the North Cascades Highway. I got a handicap by dropping my husband off in Marblemount, making his ride over the pass 15 miles longer than mine. This time he got to Mazama just 5 minutes after I did (I stopped to take too many wildflower pictures!).

    Two cycling clubs were having big outings on this same route, so there were lots of cyclists on the road. They all spent too long at sag stops, and I passed the last ones at Easy Pass. Mick passed a tandem in Newhalem on his ride east and noted at the time that the stoker was not paying attention to the task at hand (riding a bike) while the captain toiled away on the front. After our leisurely refueling stop in Mazama, we headed back west--and saw most of those folks coming down from Washington Pass. We encountered that same tandem about 3 miles west of the summit of the pass, climbing at a pace that could not have been greater than 5 mph. The stoker, as they would say in Ireland, had not a bother on her; the captain looked absolutely wrecked, as if he had been towing a car all that way. Her attitude seemed to be "honey, why are we going so slow?" while he did not look like he could pedal the bike another 10 feet.

    I got all my training on how to be a tandem stoker from tandem captains. This woman was apparently taught by another stoker, one who must've thought that stokers were ornaments, just there for show and maybe to provide verbal support ("nice effort, way to go, looking strong"). Lots of people tease stokers for not doing any work and getting a free ride, but I have honestly never figured out how to ride that way. If you want to go fast, you have to pedal hard. If the road goes uphill, you have to pedal harder. Is it really possible to sit in the stoker compartment and do your nails or knit a hat?

    We took our tandem out on Sunday, and there were a few climbs where I was tempted to try out this different approach to stoking. But I could not do it. Partly because I wanted to get home sooner rather than later, partly because I want to ride the tandem again, but partly because it would just seem wrong. Apparently I need to go to stoker school and get brainwashed. But then I would have to find new captains because nobody I ride with now would have me back under those terms!

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    June-uary indeed

    Monday, 22 June

    Another successful Elkhorn Classic has come and gone. They're different every year, but Baker City always rolls out the red carpet and gives us a warm welcome, and Ernie and so many with OBRA do a marvelous job in putting on the production that is a stage race.

    There were a lot of transitioning riders in this year's women's peloton. Okay, there were just plain A LOT of women riders this year. Some were getting back to racing after injury or illness, some had to sit out the race due to illness or obligations (thanks, Judy!), some were rethinking their commitment to competitive cycling, and some were racing for the first time. It was so good to see anxieties overcome and confidence regained.

    Stage 1 was different this year because of the direction of the wind. I am usually hating life by the last 25 miles (it's a 75-mile road race), but there was a tailwind for most of the last 40 miles, including up The Climb and over all the "rollers" that are usually brutal. There was an early pee stop and then a short shower (the men's fields got more rain) around the first feed zone, and it was kind of eerie to race between windmills when the sky behind the white towers and blades was stormy black. We rode past a field of mint, which smelled fantastic. It was a good race, no heat exhaustion or dehydration. Wind is my friend when it's behind me!

    Stage 2 was a different TT course for 2009. They took out all the hills. It was okay except for an awkward, contorted, contrived finish. This year we finished on Main Street, which involved two 90-degree turns in the last quarter-mile. The problem was getting us set up for those last two corners through a busy intersection. I'm not used to having to pick out a race chute between orange cones in the middle of the road with a sharpish bend after 11 oxygen-deprived miles. I don't care how many people are waving and pointing and trying to direct you along the course, it suddenly becomes a different event.

    Stage 3 was a crit. Dry. Uneventful. Loads of primes.

    Stage 4 was the anomaly this year. It was 45 degrees and raining in town at race time. The stage is 105 miles and finishes up an 8-mile climb. It was snowing at the finish when we were supposed to start. While everyone realized it would not be snowing still after we finished 105 miles, the fear was for riders who got hypothermic (or nearly) somewhere out on the course. It's one BIG loop, and while there are road signs pointing to some far-off towns, the course does not ride through anything you might call a town. No coffee shops, certainly. Nowhere to warm up and wait while you hope for a ride if you decide to DNF. So. With very short notice, the start times were delayed 30 minutes and the course was changed to "the short way" to the top of said climb--same Dooley Mountain, but climbing up the side closer to town. 10 miles of flat road, 8 miles of climbing. In the cold rain--and most of the cycling clothes you had brought with you.

    Much to my surprise, there was no distinguishing the end of the neutral start. We continued to roll out the flat road. The pace picked up a little, there were a couple of faster stretches, but it was all just a nice warm up and never single file. Eventually we made the left turn, started the climb, and still the pace was social. So "social," in fact, that we had a little deja vu with some surge-and-brake issues we battled on Friday. One woman's frustrated reaction was to swear. Then she realized you're not supposed to do that in a bike race (lest you might get DQed) and she apologized profusely. That was pretty funny because we all shared her sentiments. Finally Alice took off at the front of the group and the race was on. The group just kind of dispersed. I followed the other Landshark in the peloton for a long time and let Molly do the work of making a gap between dropped riders trying to take up the whole road. Eventually Molly fell back and I just kept riding a steady tempo. At one point I had a train of about 6 riders behind me. Some of them fell back and a few passed me. The 3K sign came sooner than I expected, and the finish was pretty fast after that. The rain eased up on the climb, and since the climb is not steep, it was really a nice little race.

    The pro-1-2 men started 10? 15? minutes after the women did, and I was very (pleasantly) surprised that we finished before they caught us, especially given the easy spin nature of our ride out of town. The finish line was barely controlled chaos, because the officials couldn't see riders' numbers buried under 19 layers of clothing (pin your numbers to the outer layer, people!), because it seemed that every third rider had a personal support vehicle that had driven to the top (where parking is minimal), and because riders were milling around. But that kind of barely controlled chaos is pretty fun. My husband started 45 minutes after I did, so I stood there in my wet clothes, drinking hot chai, wrapped in a blanket, huddled under a tent, until he came through. Then we climbed in a truck (thanks, Claire!) for the ride back to the start and a hot shower and another breakfast. Good times. :)

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Adventure no. 2

    Tuesday, 9 June

    Last weekend was the second round in my adventure travels this summer. And the adventuring part didn't even involve my bike. I took the train from Seattle to Bingen, which is across the Columbia River from Hood River, OR, site of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. The only time train travel makes the news is when it's disrupted and passengers are diverted to buses. My only expectation about this trip was that I would eventually get to Bingen.

    The adventure started with a bus ride from the end of my street. It's a route I never take because it goes downtown (where I never go). I think the Kingdome was still standing the last time I was at the King Street Station, but I managed to find it. Have you ever noticed that it's impossible to tell where the "front" of that building is or where the front door is?

    My train ticket said I had a "reserved" seat, but that's not the same thing as a specific seat. So I had to stand in line for a rather elaborate ritual of getting an assigned seat before the train arrived from parts north (it starts in Bellingham and goes to Eugene). When I got on the train, my assigned seat had already been given out to a rider from Bellingham. This was not a good sign, but I managed to find an open seat (next to a very chatty man from Bellingham from whom I learned much about senior services in Whatcom and San Juan counties), and the train left on time. Completely uneventful ride after that. I did not venture to the lounge car to sample the food--I have awful memories of train food from a trip to Montana ages ago. I read a little, dozed a little, and people watched a lot. The train itself is pretty quiet, but there were some noisy parties of two and four that kept the chat level up. The women in front of me were griping bitterly about going on bike rides where people ride too fast and couldn't possibly enjoy the scenery they were riding through.

    I had a two-hour layover in Portland, so I got to venture out into the Pearl. Found a nice coffee/chocolate shop, tried not to drool on the goods in the Pendleton home store, and almost walked over to the yarn shop.

    The train from Portland to Bingen was altogether different. It's the Empire Builder and goes to Chicago. Most of the folks had checked their luggage and were loaded down with bags of snack food and bottled water. Mmmm, two or three days of sitting in a train seat and eating granola bars. But the cars on this train are bigger, and passenger seating is on the "upper deck" so the view is even better. Since the train follows the Columbia from Vancouver to Bingen, I made sure I got a window seat on the view side. And a great view it was. Mt. Hood peeked out, and we saw a bunch of kiteboarders as we got into the Gorge. But I was definitely ready to get off in Bingen.

    The rest of the weekend was filled with water bottles, feed zones, watching for poison oak, and two short but fun and scenic rides on my bike (which got to Hood River by car, not train). The weather was cooler than expected but there were some spectacular views of Mt. Hood on Saturday.

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    Small engine repair

    Monday, 1 June

    Saturday was the OBRA masters road race. Old biddies like me (and ones a lot younger than me too) got to race two laps (32 miles) on a hilly course just across the river from Longview. It was a perfect afternoon for a bike race, maybe a touch warm but that was just conditioning for the hotter races ahead this summer.

    Since there were three age groups racing together in my race, I wrote the numbers of those in my age group on my arm before the start so I could keep tabs on them. The course goes up and down a bunch early on, but we stayed together. About miles 4-7 are mostly up and finish with the second most significant climb on the course. That's where a pair of riders (one in my age group) split the race to bits. Two of us managed to stay with them and two more caught back on. So we were a group of six for the descending portion of the course, and we worked well in a paceline to keep the speed up. Unfortunately, the last two to get on got popped for good on a roller about two miles from the end of the lap.

    The 16-mile loop finishes up a 1K climb that's nice and twisty and not severely steep. About halfway up, I realized I was not exactly holding on to the wheel in front of me and before I knew it, they had a gap. Blah. I figure I should bury myself and work on closing the gap, but they are driving it up there and all I can do is keep the gap constant. Blah. 16 miles to go. Three ahead, two immediately behind, the rest who knows where. TT time!

    The first mile of this course has stunning views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, but I promise I did not see them during the race. The three ahead were in sight and I was trying to at least hold the gap constant. Up and down, twist, turn, and they're out of sight simply because you can't see very far. Somewhere out there where I'm trying to pretend that I'm motoring along and holding off the riders behind, I pass a sign at the end of a driveway that says "small engine repair." This is exactly what I need! Clearly I do not have a large engine, and clearly it needs some tuning up so that it can reach higher RPMs and thus have better acceleration. I make a mental note to consult the yellow pages when I get home and see what can be done.

    I knew I would lose time on a group through the downhill stretch, even more when I realized how much of a headwind there was. Pedal, pedal, pedal. This is where I figured out that this entire race was going to take me less time than the climb at training camp from the John Day River at Clarno up to Hamilton. That climb had been hard work too, so a little mental self-flagellation convinced me to keep the pressure on and try to hold off the field behind.

    Somewhere around about mile 2 or 3 of my second lap, I realized that the official for the race was following me. At one point, she went up the road to check on the front group, but she came back and followed me. So long as she was right there, I figured there were no riders close behind her or she would've pulled over to let them pass. I also figured she wasn't giving me any time splits to the riders behind in order to keep a fire lit under me. :) After the race, she told me I was the "first chase group" (a kinder phrase than "last one to get dropped") and hence that's who she was following.

    There's a flat straight bit of road before the final climb, and I couldn't see anyone behind me. There was a photographer just after the road tilted up, and when I asked he said he couldn't see anyone either. I didn't exactly soft pedal the finishing climb, but at least I didn't have to try to hold off a closing stampede. So I finished 4th overall, 2nd in my age group. I don't think the order of finish would've been much different if we had just done 16 miles. Turns out the break of three was probably the biggest group on the road--the field behind was shattered into onesies and twosies with huge time gaps between.

    Since 32 miles seemed a bit short for a day's effort, I rode the loop backward after the race. Funny how the pitch of a road looks so much different going the opposite direction. And how you see so much more when you're not oxygen deprived with race blinders on!

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    812

    Sunday, 24 May

    Yesterday was the Lewis and Clark 12/24 hour time trial, which starts and finishes in Hockinson, WA. It features miles along some beautiful scenic rivers (including the Columbia) and the best in-your-face view of Mt. St. Helens I know. The Gorge winds were a nice tailwind (ahhhhh) but that meant headwind on a long stretch through Cougar. Since last year I'd managed to forget how many tough little hills there are, in addition to the main climb over Old Man Pass. The day was sunny but not hot--perfect! The field size at this race had tripled since last year, its first year in existence, so it wasn't quite so lonesome out there. In addition to a detailed cue sheet, all the turns were marked on the road.

    Highlights? The view of St. Helens. The Washougal River Road. The dogwoods blooming on the Old Man Pass climb. The vanload of teenage girls that passed me screaming every positive thing they could think of. The fantastic support from the race organizer, his volunteer crew, other riders, and the support crew for those other riders. Have you ever had folks do the wave for you as you ride by? Coming one step closer to successfully managing the mental and physical aspects of riding for 12 hours (still working on the feet).

    After the big loop of 140 miles, you fill up the rest of your 12 hours with laps on a 9.6-mile circuit that is mostly not flat. I did 5 of those plus 2 miles. I was pretty spunkless when I started my short laps. After switching my "nutrition" to coke and tortilla chips, I got perkier. No, I'm not advocating junk food for long rides. But I realized that most every other day of the week, I get tired and hungry sometime after 4 pm and my body is just programmed that way. Whether I eat in that period or not, I feel better after that time has passed. Yesterday was no exception. I had taken pretty good care of myself up to that point and was able to "just" pedal through it. But it makes for a tough mental battle.

    This morning, the winner of the 24-hour race asked me how many miles I had ridden in the last 10 days. I had to get out a calculator to tote them up when I got home. 812. And I worked every day last week! The riders who do 24-hour races and more don't quite understand why I don't take on something bigger than these piddly little 12-hour TTs. I can't quite tear myself away from dinner at dinnertime and bed at bedtime....

    This is such a fun race, and thanks to Glenn for thinking it up and putting it on!

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Camping

    Tuesday, 19 May

    It's been a few years since I last did a training camp, and the bar was a little higher this time: bigger hills, bigger miles, better roads. I shan't bore you with an inch-by-inch description of the 500 miles I rode in 4 days--we mostly followed the route of the 2009 Race Across Oregon (we had to detour around a couple of roads still under snow). But here are some of my favorite things about this "camping" experience, in no particular order:

    The wildflowers. Some I recognized, many I did not. Some were fragrant enough to smell on the bike. Yellows, blues, white, and red. I have research to do to find out their names, including the tall weed I came to think of as Oregon saguaro because of its shape.

    The mountains. We were looking at these all the time, not riding in them. The most stunning views were around Antelope and Shaniko; you could see every peak in the Cascade range from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Rainier--all at once, from the same spot. The mountains look different across the central Oregon plateau than they do from the west side; somehow the eastern plateau is like a pedestal that sets up each peak with no foothills to distract the eye.

    The camaraderie. We were a small group of riders, each with different goals and expectations. One was training for the Trans Portugal MTB race. Two were training for the first part of RAAM, which is the Race Across the West. One was from Houston and learning how to ride up (and down!) real hills. Sometimes I got to ride with another person or two (thank you, Mick, for riding with me through the nuclear gorge winds), much times by myself. It is interesting how rapport builds through shared suffering and shared enjoyment.

    The learning about myself. How I can come back from the depths of the black mental abyss caused by trying to ride in gorge winds. What hurts the most after 150 miles on the bike--and the better corollary: how much does NOT hurt after 150 miles! Finding the legs to get in a boys' TTT paceline after 75 or 100 miles. Discovering that, outside Seattle, I am a coffee snob (and an addict who needs her tasty morning caffeine).

    The riding and the roads. After the first day, the riding was exactly what I had hoped for. Seemingly endless but not-same miles through beautiful, changing terrain. Virtually empty roads. The feeling of being a tiny speck in a huge expanse without feeling lost. In a few places, the chip seal was not the best friend, but for the most part the roads were smooth, sans potholes. Bits and pieces of the route were familiar from the old Columbia Plateau stage race, and it was interesting to ride some of those backward ("I thought this was flat!").

    Seeing the difference between central and eastern Oregon. We weren't far enough south of the Columbia to be in Bend's high desert country, and the creased hills of central Oregon were still green--but with scant foliage. Eastern Oregon has trees and more compact hills. Before we went to camp, I looked at a map and realized how close we would come to La Grande. And when we reached the first false summit of Battle Mountain, it looked like La Grande. Welcome to eastern Oregon.

    Isolation. Two miles out of The Dalles, we lost cell phone coverage for 4 days. No laptop, no internet. No news (OK, there was a TV one night, but basketball and baseball aren't my idea of "news"), no phone. I did not miss any of them. At all.

    Franklin Hill. In the first stage of Columbia Plateau, the cat 1-2 men did an extra section that none of the other categories rode. I knew there was a climb, and this weekend I got to ride that climb. OMG. It's one of those where you can pick out stretches of the road on the mountain above you. It must be a 5-mile climb. Wunderbar. I think I smiled all the way up. It's a climb that would shatter any race, but you can see the world around you every inch of the way as you climb higher and higher.

    The climb from Clarno toward Antelope out of the John Day drainage. The rider from Houston told us afterward that this was an 11-mile climb. Same idea as Franklin Hill--you could see parts of the road winding around hilltops above you, in and out of sight. The view this time was east toward the Blue Mountains. The trees were scrubby junipers, so no shade (good thing we were there at 9 a.m.) but nothing to block your unlimited horizons. This climb is going to be incredibly difficult at RAO. Most riders will do it in the dark, and they will not be able to see the top, however far away it is.

    Fossil. This small town wasn't any "better" or more interesting than the others we passed through or stayed in, but it was familiar from Columbia Plateau. Same mercantile, same Shamrock--but we did not have to sleep in a tent on the lumpy football field! And the route out of town on Sunday morning was a gentle little 4-mile climb through a picturesque valley. Fossil still reminds me of Ireland in many ways because of the green, grassy hills and occasional trees.

    A successful training camp, me thinks, with challenges both mental and physical, time to relax and socialize and share impressions, many opportunities to learn, and fantastic, supportive, inspirational fellow campers.

    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Just race

    Mothers Day

    I wanna do a race that's just a bike race. Not part of a series or an omnium or the Washington Cup. I'm tired of races where nobody's racing for that event but for some grander prize. Last week it was a two-race omnium. Nobody on Sunday knew anything about the prize list for that day's race, they could only focus on who had how many points in the omnium and who was most likely to win the trip to Minnesota. Thanks to the strangeness induced by the omnium format, another rider said that race featured "the most negative racing" she had seen in a while.

    Yesterday's race at Ravensdale was part of the Washington Cup series and it featured some of the dumbest racing I've seen in a while. It was all about securing more WA Cup points and not about racing the best race on the day. Sure, it's great for team tactics, until the wrong teammate is up the road in a break. I watched someone chase down a break, but then stop her chase 25 feet from the break and sit up and no one else closed the gap or countered. Huh? It was weird racing all day, and once the right split occurred, the "pack" had to work harder at not catching the break than the break could organize itself to work to pull away from the pack.

    It seems we get no races for the sake of racing. Good road races are all part of the Washington Cup, so good racing goes out the window for the sake of making sure the right riders get more points. The LWV series is just that, a series, so by race #2, it won't be about racing but about manipulating the racing. I guess there's a reason that no one says road races or crits are the races of truth.

    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    Eight hundred ?

    Thursday, 7 May

    This morning's Seattle Times says "the average American now spends 800 minutes a month talking on the phone." That's more than 13 hours. These average Americans can't find time to exercise, or mentor kids, or cook more nutritious meals, or volunteer to help clean up a local park, or get enough sleep. Wow.

    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    Propriety quandary

    Wednesday, 6 May

    Those "massacred" in my workplace on Monday were given yesterday to stay at home and figure out how to cope with the bad news, but they still have to work for the next 60 days. So they'll be back in the office today. Since there was no official announcement that cuts were made or to whose positions, that means officially nobody knows there were cuts. When I see these people, do I adhere to the official line that we don't know they were "reduced," or do I be sympathetic and thereby admit that we were gossiping about them all day yesterday when they were out?

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    Monday massacre

    Cinco de Mayo

    The man who had to do the deed referred to it as "the Monday massacre." Staff positions in my department were reduced by 3.5 yesterday. That's out of about 40, and most of those are not FTE to begin with. And there will be another round of cuts in 60 days. Okay, I know I work in an insular place and everybody is suffering through this and I'm extremely lucky that my position was not on that list. That doesn't mean it hurts less. We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our department next Monday. Who's going to feel like celebrating anything?

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Gear shortage

    Monday, 4 May
    Black Monday, I think

    I had to skip the first half of the Westside Omnium this weekend because of a work commitment. That seemed to work out pretty well, at least in terms of weather. I missed the dumping rain at the finish and sliding out in the corners that some folks seemed to have suffered at Glenwood. Sunday's weather was just about perfect; we were all able to work on moving our tan lines up our legs by shedding the knee warmers.

    I thought my bike was set up perfectly for the Longbranch course, with compact gearing and 11 speeds. That, of course, presumes that I could use all 11 cogs on the cassette. Sadly, I discovered the first time up the 15% hill that I was not going to be using the 4 lowest gears on my bike. The chain would skip, eventually, every time I dropped the gear to something low enough to get up the hill. My speed would go from 5 to 2 mph and I'd have to hurriedly shift up and pedal in order not to tip over. For a while I was in denial, figuring maybe it was just one bad cog and if I shifted all the way to the bottom, I might spin ridiculously but at least I'd spin. Not so. So I clambered up that hill (the follow official asked me afterward what was up) 5 times with an rpm of about 30. I would get dropped every time, but I guess I saved time and energy by not having to shift up so much at the top and I managed to get back to the pack on every lap but the last. The feed zone climb was not so bad because the steep section at the bottom was shorter and the two pitches after that weren't so steep. Hard, yes. Shrieking pain in the quads like the 15%er, no. Needless to say, there will be some mechanic consultation happening before I take the bike up another 15% grade.

    It was a curious race. Two hard road races in an omnium format with a huge prize on the line to the winner. There was less emphasis on winning Sunday's race outright than winning the omnium overall. It made for some very strange spells in the race where virtually nobody in the pack would work because of the few riders scattered up the road--either they were teammates or they had no omnium points and weren't worth the trouble of chasing down. The course at Longbranch is enough to make sure things never get very boring, and there were race dynamics going on for a good long time. Afterward, I realized it was the first Washington road race I've finished this year; at long last, we seem to have moved out of snow season!

    Friday, May 01, 2009

    Mega miles in the month of May

    May Day

    If all goes according to plan, May will probably be my biggest mileage month of the year. For those of you who abide by training programs, I could say this month is carefully planned to make sure I have the endurance to finish Elkhorn. :) And how appropriate that the promoter posted a reminder today about the good times that await at Elkhorn. Some of my miles will be long, "junk" miles, some will be shorter (how can a mile be longer or shorter?) with greater intensity. There is some epic climbing built into this "training program" too.

    So to kick things off on the first day of May, I tacked an extra 5 miles onto my commute, for a grand total of 33. If my daily average is that measly sum, I'll barely get over 1000 miles this month. I aim to do better than that--stay tuned!

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    DRVTT fun

    Monday, 27 April

    This weekend was the fun little Deschutes River Valley Time Trial stage race in charming Maupin, Oregon. Two days, three time trials, for a total of 82 miles of racing.

    The weather was cool but sunny and dry. Conditions were made more, um, interesting by wind speeds in excess of 25 mph on Saturday. Since I don’t much like riding in the wind, I was positively delighted to be racing tandem.

    Stage 1 is 26 or 27 miles—stokers don’t keep track of these things. I think the elevation gain is something like 1,600 feet, and most of that comes in the first 4 miles as you climb up from the Deschutes through Maupin proper. Then a nice descent, flat, rollers, a twistier descent, and then 8 miles of flat road (with cattle guards) along the Deschutes. There were savagely windy stretches around miles 4-6 and 24-27, making for especially good fun with a disc wheel. Tandems were the third category to start, and we were last in our category because we won the event last year. So lots of rabbits up the road. We knew we had some tough competition this year, and although we had caught all the other tandems by the top of the climb, we were highly motivated to do our best to hold them off on the descents and flat stretch. We did, and we had the fastest time overall for the stage. This never happens; we give credit (?) to all the wind. Having a leadweight anchor (me) on the back of your bike is helpful on rare occasion.

    Stage 2 is about 8 miles of hillclimb. I was expecting this to be hatefully hard and that we would get blown sideways for 7.9 miles. As soon as we rounded the first hairpin and started climbing in earnest, there was a nice little tailwind boost. Big-ring climbing is my kind of climbing! Somewhere around mile 4 or 5 (the promoter sets out mile markers for every one of the stages), the road turned and was no longer as sheltered (i.e., we got up out of the river canyon). One gust sent the tandem three feet across the road. I was very happy to be leaving the driving to someone else and just kept pedaling. I could see that the road turned in a couple hundred meters, and we would have a tailwind again. But there were a more (and more frequent) crosswind stretches before the finish. We did not win this one and lost our spot at the top of GC.

    Stage 3 is 23.x miles of mostly uphill on the way out and mostly downhill on the way back. The wind had mostly subsided for Sunday’s stage, but we did definitely have a tailwind on the way out and a headwind all the way back. Last year we utterly bogged down on the way out on this stage, mentally and physically. On the tandem, there’s not much opportunity to vary your position, and 23 miles of climbing is pretty static. We made an effort this year to stand more often, and I devised a little scheme to keep me mentally distracted. Stokers are tasked with providing more power than drag, so I have to keep my head down (i.e., quit looking around). Watching the captain’s bottom bracket is only interesting for so long. I could only see those mile markers when they flashed by in my peripheral vision, and there was never time to see the number (which is painted only on the front). But I started counting them off from the start, and after the really tough first 4 miles of switchback climbing subsided and we settled into a rhythm more or less, I started counting how many pedal strokes we did per mile. Okay, admittedly we are not climbers who spin our way up hills, but I was surprised at how few revolutions it took to travel a mile. The mile with the fewest had 190-some, and the mile with the mostest had 260-some. They were typically about 220.

    While I was engaged in counting to 200 over and over, my captain was keeping his eye on our closest tandem competition up the road. At first it was pretty lonely out there, because all the single bikes ahead of us in GC flew past us on the steeper part of the climb and the undulations in the terrain were close together so that you couldn’t see too far ahead. The second-place tandem started 2.5 minutes in front of us on this stage, and after a while we could see them (but no one else) off in the distance. A few miles from the top, we started to catch the slower riders in other categories. By the Bakeoven summit (turnaround), we had the gap on tandem 2 down to about 20 seconds. And then we lost a chunk of time. After 23 miles of plodding uphill, we had to turn the bike around an orange cone in the middle of a narrow road with no paved shoulder. We didn’t pedal enough and the bike went 2 inches wide. I was watching the front wheel and when I saw it was going to go off the pavement, I figured it would be fine because the gravel shoulder was even with the pavement; there was no sharp lip to negotiate getting back onto the road. Ha. The gravel on the shoulder was soft as mush and our front wheel sank instantly. The bike tipped over and we both hit the ground. The poor official at the turn didn’t know what to do to help us; neither of us could get unclipped from our pedals and it took some time to get untangled. I feel sorry for the rider who came into the turn after us (but someone assured me later than he probably didn’t lose much time relatively speaking for a 47-mile TT). I honestly cannot remember hitting the ground, and I have nary a scratch or a bruise. Mick did not come out so easily and took scar tissue off old battle wounds on his left knee. He was oozing blood by the finish but I couldn’t see this from my “vantage point.”

    So off we went, with maybe a little more adrenaline but also maybe a little more apprehension. I vividly remember that last year we didn’t pedal for the first 5-7 miles after the turn. Not so this year. The headwind meant we could just about spin our 55x11, although I think a few times our cadence was, like, 125 (which is brutal on a tandem, going downhill). About a third of the way down, I could feel misery setting in. My arms hurt, my legs hurt, and sitting on the saddle was none too fun. There were some blessed moments of not pedaling and also some short uphill stretches, which used different muscles. I cheered myself by looking up and counting Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams, a glorious who’s-who of Cascade peaks. Then I started looking for mile markers again, this time to see how much longer I had to suffer. When I finally saw one coming, I was sure it would tell me we had 5 miles to go. No, 9. Ouch. Of course, we were picking off single bikes on the descent like it was open hunting season, and I did have to be thankful that at least I was getting my suffering over with quicker on the tandem.

    The last 4 miles of course are down the steep hairpins we climbed on the way out. These are a huge mental challenge for me because the bike is going far faster than I would ever choose to negotiate these turns, and we actually pedal on the straightaways between the hairpins. I did pretty well here this year, and I just about had fun on the righthanders. The left turns still freak me out, but I focused on breathing (as opposed to holding my breath and getting stiff) and not looking over the edge. Last year, we dove past other riders in some of the turns, but this year we were behind a guy who was taking a good line and traveling pretty fast, so we just followed him down to the finish. Although tandem 2 rode away from us after the turnaround, we managed to beat them by a few seconds on the stage.

    This is always a fun race, and we knew it would be tough this year. Jim and Heather (tandem 2) are both riding well this season (which is especially great news for Heather), and I still remember being soundly beaten by them in an uphill sprint finish (with a different captain) a couple of years ago. Their “give it everything” competitive spirit helps to boost mine as well. They had the second fastest time on stage 1, and it was kind of fun to shake up other riders’ conception of tandems by having the fastest times on a hilly course. Thanks to Mick for a great race—and I’m sorry you got all the road rash. Thanks to George and Terri for putting on such fun (if diabolical) events, and to Greg for the ride back to the start after stage 2.

    Our prize? Free entry into another time trial in Maupin in September. We made our hotel reservations before we left town!

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Why no Willamette?

    Thursday, 23 April

    Take a minute to mourn with me. The bad news came down on Tuesday: this year's (and probably any subsequent year's) Willamette Stage Race was cancelled due to apparent lack of interest on the part of the cycling community. How can this be?

    Earlier incarnations of this race had bigger fields than the promoters were able to handle, or so it seemed. Those promoters' versions of Willamette failed because of problems on their end (sponsorship "issues", mainly). This time, the race failed because not enough people wanted to race their bikes.

    Where are all those Northwest racers who love a good, epic challenge and know the roads around Eugene are some of the best we've got for riding and racing? The other races on the local calendar this weekend are hardly overpowering draws: a time trial stage race in Maupin (don't get me wrong--DRVTT is an awesome weekend of racing with fantastic promoters) and a road race in Washington on a somewhat unselective course (except for selection due to crashes because of fowl in the road and silt from winter floods on the road).

    We keep losing more of the best races on the calendar. I am so sad to see Willamette go the way of Columbia Plateau and HP. You can't blame these Willamette promoters: Mike and Sal worked so hard to think through and provide for all the minutiae in race organization. You can't blame the weather: it can be 80 degrees and sunny this time of year in Eugene. You can't blame local agencies: it is tough (expensive) to get permits out of Lane County, and still Willamette was going to take in some exciting, beautiful road courses.

    We can only blame ourselves for letting this one get away.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Number 400

    Earth Day

    My brother emailed to ask if I gave up blogging for Lent, so I guess it's time for an update. Turns out this is blog entry number 400 for me, so even if I've been quiet for a few weeks, that apparently is not a typical trait for moi.

    For about 3-4 weeks (until yesterday), I was working three paying jobs, one of them my regular full-time "real" job. In this economic climate, one cannot complain too much about being paid from three sources, but together they did not leave much time for training and even less for blogging. But now I'm back to just the usual two--and hopefully they'll both continue. My real job is at the University of Washington, and all we don't know is how big the hammer is that will fall when the legislature makes its budget. Rumor has it that the staff cuts in my department will be in the double digits. "Grim" does not begin to describe the work atmosphere.

    In the better news department, the peas are up in my garden, there should be rhubarb to harvest in a couple of weeks, more potatoes seeded themselves this year, the parsley is taking on science fiction proportions, the herbs that looked dead after three months of frigid winter have burst back to life, and the fruit bushes and trees are just about to leaf out. I started some sunflowers indoors and will transplant them outside soon.

    Bike racing on the tandem this weekend, and plans for epic huge miles during the month of May. I hope I'm up to all of them. Stay tuned!

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Elusive

    Monday, 30 March

    Last Saturday was one of the best road races on the NW race calendar. And it snowed. All day. It didn't really stick to the roads, and hundreds of people paid their money and at least started the race. Not I. Riders who "finished early" came back to the community hall at race registration shivering uncontrollably and lacking their full mental capacities. They were so cold that their bodies were diverting energy to things other than their thinking processes. It was interesting--if not very motivating--to see. Racing and 36 degrees with heavy wet snow are just not compatible.

    I had spent the last few days convincing myself I could race in the rain on this course. It poured here a couple years ago, and I survived. So I would overcome the blehs I had in the rain at Mason Lake and just do it. Visualization might work for some people, but you have to visualize the right thing. I did not dial in the snow part of the equation.

    So here we are more than a month into the race season and I have completed a sum total of one road race. I never imagined that weather would be a consistently determining factor in getting to the finish line. Needless to say, I am more than a little worried about the prospect of a stage race this weekend. Maybe I should race the masters women's category after all....

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Earth Hour

    Friday, 27 March


    Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. local time, turn off your lights!

    3,900 CITIES AND TOWNS IN 84 COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD WILL TURN OUT FOR EARTH HOUR.

    NEWEST GLOBAL ICONS: The European Union Headquarters in Brussels, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing will all go dark for Earth Hour.

    http://www.earthhourus.org/main.php

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Helmetless horror

    Wednesday, 18 March

    I don't rant here very often, but some messages deserve endless repeating.

    A woman who works where I do died last week after colliding with a car while riding her bike to work. Harborview staff actually came here to tell her husband (who was in a meeting and unreachable by phone) that his wife was brain dead. She was not wearing a helmet; neither she nor her husband ever did when they rode their bikes. Medical personnel told her family she would still be alive if she had been wearing a helmet.

    No matter who you are, how invincible you are, how long you've been riding, how good your bike-handling skills, how quiet your street, how short your ride, how long you've ridden without ever falling down, if you get on your bike without a helmet on your head, you are not only an idiot but an idiot with no thought of those who love you (or even those who only like you) who might have to hear that you're brain dead in some hospital. If you don't care enough about yourself to think you need a helmet, at least care for those around you and reduce the potential for tragic news.

    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    Consistency

    Sunday, 1 March

    Today was the Icebreaker time trial near Black Diamond. Eleven years ago (less one week), I also raced on that course. My time on March 7, 1998, was exactly the same as my time for my second race on that course today: 25:04. If you had told me in 1998 that I'd be racing there in eleven years, I don't think I would have believed you. And if you had told me I would race TWICE, I am sure I wouldn't have believed you.

    Race conditions today were just about perfect: a wet road for less rolling resistance, but no rain and virtually no wind. It was the first time I can ever remember being able to see the downhill on the course on the way out--it's so slight. And the way back is hard, but you know it's going to be and you just dig that little bit deeper. On my first ride, it took a while to settle into a gear after the start and after the turnaround, but both times it happened to be the 55x12 again. It is so much fun to roll out that course: it twists and turns with the only straightaways being before the turnaround and the finish. Since I failed to have much dialogue going on in my brain during last week's race, today I tried to remember to keep telling myself to ride harder.

    After a 20-minute pause (spin, drink water), I started again. Ride number two was a bit interesting (and 29 seconds slower). I usually go out as hard as I can from a TT start and back down in bits until I find something I might be able to sustain. Well, there was no sense of going hard at the start of number two. It was just right back into the same rhythm. I guess that's good, but I missed the sense of "OMG I can't keep doing this!" But then it got really weird. I could not focus. Not my brain but my eyes. I was looking between the bottom of my helmet and the top of my glasses, and everything was all fuzzy. This was disconcerting and almost like not having a good sense of balance. If I tipped my head back and looked through the glasses (they're not prescription), I could see but my head was most unaero. I did this for about two miles, feeling like I was riding by instinct (which probably does not involve pushing oneself to one's limits) while trying to figure out the vision thing. I kept moving the glasses around, and I guess I finally found a better spot because the problem disappeared and then I felt like my brain was better focused on racing. Surprisingly, the way back seemed shorter the second time around--interminable, but shorter. :)

    I rolled up and down and chatted with a few folks after ride number two. Only as I was walking the last 20 meters back to my car did I discover that the front brake was rubbing the tiniest little bit, just barely audible. Good for 5 seconds off my time, don't ya think?!

    A couple of moments of levity. Annette started a minute behind me on ride number one. About halfway back from the turn, I heard a disc wheel coming by. I was really impressed for a split second--and then immensely relieved when I realized it had to be Flavio. And as I was rolling up and down the road between races, I kept seeing people in these new-fangled aero helmets with earflaps (to cut down on drag for anyone with ears like W's, I suppose). They looked like something out of the original Star Wars movie to cover up Princess Leia's cinnamon-roll hairdo.

    So the prelude to the race season is over. I like easing into things with two time trials. I get into the routine of getting to races and getting ready to race, but the events themselves are short and I can still get home in time to....sit around, read Facebook, and cook some pretty tasty gluten-free muffins.

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    A little of everything

    Sunday, 22 February

    Today was a real mix. A race and a training ride. Drizzle, sun, wind, 62 degrees, and snow. 55x12 and I don't think it hurt enough.

    Today was the 2009 edition of the Frostbite time trial. An elongated course this year to make sure we got the full, advertised 9 miles. A lot of really fine dirt on the road (left behind by the January floods) mixed with the occasional light drizzle and mocked anyone with white on their team kit. In my preride of the course, there was absolutely no wind; the flags hung limp against their poles.

    I am always a little concerned before the first TT of the season about the switch from the compact gearing on my rain and race bikes to the monster 55-tooth chain ring on my TT bike. Within 500 meters of the start line today, I had a huge grin on my face. It is so much fun to go fast. :) But you can't breathe hard through a grin, so that was short lived. I spent the vast majority of the race in my 55x12--I guess I adjusted to the bigger chain ring okay.

    In retrospect, I had too much fun and don't remember suffering enough. And since there are still no results, I keep trying to remind myself that if it wasn't a mental struggle to maintain the effort, then it wasn't enough effort and my result probably won't be great. At least I know I have to push myself harder next week at the Icebreaker TT.

    Immediately postrace, I got a phone call from my husband, who was stranded about 10 miles away (on a solo training ride) with a broken chain. I went and picked him up, we went for coffee, met up with some BlueRoosters on their training ride who also stopped for coffee, and then set out on a little spin of our own. It was a hard ride, definitely more "tempo" than "easy spin" with two good climbs and a few rollers and some long, gradual draggy stuff into a stiff headwind. But beautiful scenery, really balmy sunshine, and STILL snow patches beside the road out by Lake Roesiger. Two hours of that and we were back at the car; I drove home, he rode.

    It was a good day. TTs are just fun!

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Hat explosion

    Presidents' Day


    In an attempt to get rid of some of the odd bits of yarn I have and also to inflict my hats on a greater audience, I've been making new hats to take to the bike swap next Sunday. Baby hats, kid hats, adult hats, even one "team" hat--all with yarn leftovers. Priced accordingly. See you at the swap!

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    One of our own

    Friday the 13th

    Hot local bike racer makes the news. See #10:

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/seattles-sexiest-2009/Content?oid=1098595

    Can you really "ride the Alps" in 130 miles?

    (Don't worry, it's probably OK to view this at work, even if it is The Stranger.)

    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    Lemon meringue unpie

    Saturday, 7 February

    Making a whole lemon meringue pie for two people seemed like a bad idea: too much of a really good thing. But apart from the sugar, the lemon filling and meringue aren't really that heavy/fattening/"rich." So I made half a recipe and put it in ramekins--without any pie crust. All the lemony flavor and light meringuey goodness without the high-fat pie crust. Mmmmmm!


    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    The community mourns

    Wednesday, 4 February

    In a tragic bike-car collision in Ballard this morning, we lost cyclist Kevin Black of the Alki Rubicon team. My thoughts and prayers go out to Kevin's family and friends and teammates and especially to his two little girls.

    Details of the accident have not been released; the Seattle Times' story is here.

    Ride safe, and hug the ones you love. Often.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Bend

    Tuesday, 3 February

    Wow! Congratulations to Bend, Oregon! According to rumors flying around the internet today, in 2009 and 2010 that city will host not only cyclocross national championships but also elite road national championships. That's more than a small feat for a state that is not a member of USA Cycling, whose championships these are. Much credit is due to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association for the incredible job it has done to grow excitement and enthusiasm and familiarity for cycling in local communities (government, sponsors, volunteers). Hosting road nationals is not a money-making venture, so obviously the right pieces were able to come together to make things happen for Bend. What great news to launch the 2009 road season!

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Vicarious stress

    Wednesday, 28 January

    Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting in my department about budget cuts. The size of the cuts won't be known until the legislature adopts a budget, but fear of the unknown is great. People express this fear differently. Some are angry, mainly with those "at the top" who are pretty sure to be secure in their jobs. Some are critical, because without specifics management cannot take concrete action and seems ineffectual. Some are nearly desperate, throwing out un-thought-through suggestions as if grasping at straws. Discussion went on for nearly 90 minutes. It didn't bring any results or tell us anything new.

    My job is probably not in jeopardy, so my fears are mainly for my colleagues, my department, and morale in the workplace. But when I got on my bike to ride home, I felt exhausted and had no energy. Maybe the emotions of others at that meeting were so strong that the stress transferred to me? Maybe fear took a physical toll on my well-being? If so, this does not bode well, either for my workplace in the months ahead or for our society where so many are under similar stresses.

    I keep thinking of the man in LA who murdered his wife and five children and then committed suicide because of his debts and job worries. We all need support networks, which means we all need to be someone else's support. We need to check in with people we know who face uncertainty and stress. We need to help each other find ways to relieve that stress, even if it's only listening.

    Sorry to be sappy. Maybe the physical manifestation of others' fears was more tangible for me because I could feel it in my performance on the bike, but how will it play out for others in terms of road rage, domestic violence, and so many other ways we humans have devised to "vent"?

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Where was everybody?

    Sunday, 25 January

    The forecast today was for subfreezing temps overnight with a dusting of snow, and then pure sunshine for most of the day. Um? We had more than a dusting last night, and the temperature was right at freezing when we got up this morning. So no early-morning bike ride (snow on the driveway is a good clue that road conditions might not be the best for bikes). Did some chores and headed out at 12:30, after it had warmed up 2 whopping degrees and just exactly as it started to snow again.


    The original plan was to ride around the south end of the lake, but that seemed less than a good idea in case the snow started to stick. We went as far south as U Village and then headed north on the bike trail. At Lake Forest Park, Mick had had enough and went home, but I wanted to ride out the trail a little farther. It was snowing pretty hard but not sticking at all. And I had the trail all to myself. Between Bothell and Redmond, I saw a handful of runners and maybe 2 cyclists. It was peaceful and beautiful with the snow coming down.


    On the way back, I figured it would be good to throw in a little climbing, so I went up Hollywood Hill. This was the most wonderful part of the ride. I love the snow--usually--and it was amazing to be a part of it, to see it on the trees all around me, and to be able to ride my bike through it all. The view at the top would have been spectacular if the forecast had been right; you look straight out to the Olympics from here. Today, well, you couldn't even see Seattle.
    What great good fortune to have two beautiful rides in one weekend--and beautiful in such different ways!

    Saturday, January 24, 2009

    LandShark Loveliness for the WooHoo100

    Saturday, 24 January

    The big FRM team ride today was from Kenmore to Anacortes via Granite Falls. Of course, a bunch of folks would be turning around at someplace(s) as yet unknown rather than doing the whole, epic ride. Me, I was hoping to get to Granite Falls with the group and then toodle my way home via Lake Roesiger or Monroe. Ha. We got as far as the UW Bothell campus and my rear derailleur cable broke. I sent them all on their way with good wishes and headed home. 9 miles on my 34x12 was interesting; I had to walk about 100 meters at the top of a short, steep hill but otherwise just tried to stay on top of the gear.

    At home, it was a simple process to set up my new LandShark for its first real ride, and I was back on the road in a matter of minutes. I had no real plan but headed toward Snohomish. Temps were cold, and I was vigilant for ice. I was a little unnerved in Clearview, where there had been LOTS of freezing fog which was just beginning to drop off the trees onto the road. It was like riding through mini hail storms.

    Coffee and raspberry bar in Snohomish, then, what the heck, let's see how much nicer it is to ride the light bike on that bear of a back way to Monroe. Lots nicer, that's for sure. There's one absolute monster of a climb where I pretty much have just one speed. But today I was able to "accelerate" (from 6.4 mph to 6.7 mph) in the last 100 meters. There's also a bunch of draggy 2-3% road on this route, and I absolutely flew along (I'm pretty sure there was a tailwind). There are a couple of nice descents, too, and I was really hoping to get the bike up to 40 mph. I never got over 34, but the bike is rock solid with no little flitters (that's a highly technical bike review term, you know!).

    It was a wholly uneventful ride. Nothing got sore from being on a new bike for the first long ride. I kept thinking how nice it was to have a custom bike that fit me, instead of me having to fit the bike. (The only other custom bike I have is the tandem, and there are limits to the custom fit of a stoker compartment.) Near the end of the ride, I realized that it was also my first long ride on a new saddle. I've been riding Avocet O2s on all my bikes for years, but sadly they are no more and I had to find something new for the LandShark. Hooray for Erik Moen's perfect suggestion--I don't even think about what I'm sitting on!

    At the end of the day, I'd done 19 miles on my rain bike and 81 miles on the LandShark, the first century of the New Year! The Chinese New Year starts on Monday, so I guess it was good timing. :)

    P.S. to Brian, Mr. "Nobody Here Knows What De-Icer Is": There is de-icer all over many, many roads in Snohomish County, on SR 522, in Woodinville, lots o' places. Maybe it's just that nobody in West Seattle knows what de-icer is?