Sunday, May 24, 2009


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


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!