Monday, September 29, 2008

A Tale Of Two 600K's (mas o menos)

John M.- Sal, you seem to get lost a lot.
Me- Yep.
John M.- So, what GPS device are you asking for this Christmas?

The "mas o menos" is because the Windy Ridge 600K turned into a 400K (details below) and the Desert RIver 600K turned into a 403 miler (ditto for details).
First the Windy Ridge. As the time for getting my 600K in for the season approached, I chose it as it was all new terrain, advertised as very scenic and I was scheduled to be on call for the weekend of the OR event.. In preparation for the climbing involved, I kept the clothing to a minimum, but could not bear to leave my 3 lb camera behind. The Windy Ridge was as advertised- scenic and difficult. The day started with views of Mt Rainier. As the day went on the altitude began to take it's toll. The climb to Windy Ridge had an exhausting combination of steep intervals and disrupted roads (see photos)
Sept. 13 SIR 600K

- first time in 3 years that I had to walk the bike. This was offset by the spectacular and surreal sights of the Mt St Helen's blast zone returning to life.
Much of the time I was on my own, which in past rides has been a poor prognostic sign. I did have the opportunity to chat quite a while with Jan Heine. I asked at the Windy Ridge control "How am I doing on time?". He replied diplomatically- "you're OK for now but you should stop taking photos". He followed that advice by offering to lighten my load by taking my camera with him- advice I heeded as I had slowed down considerably. Our chat illuminated various aspects of randonneuring:
Stopping for pictures- Jan confirmed there was an penalty beyond the time lost in actually stopping to take photos or whatever else is done while stopping- it's a moment of inertia thing. He didn't think the weight of the camera was consequential, but sheepishly admitted he took it off my hands so I wouldn't have an excuse/reason to waste time/energy on photos.
How much to eat while riding- In my 1st DNF I felt that eating lots had hampered my efforts. Then my research came up with the theory that one could absorb no more than 200-300 Kcal/hr of food. So, I was trying to adhere to that intake. At the control Jan kept offering PB&J sandwiches. His rationale- when you're climbing you burn up calories as fast as you're getting them in. If you're in a less demanding state, then fat stores can be burned. It was a successful intervention.
He's a fan of the cyclotouriste mode- just not on brevets. I'm still resistant to a fast time being the sole purpose of a brevet. It seems though, that what gives a Brevet/permanent it's meaning (and it's magic) is the time limitation. If it can't be completed within the rules an empty feeling ensues- not to mention not getting credit for the ride.
At the 2nd Packwood control I met up with Matt M. and Robert H. who were calling it a ride due to Robert's Achilles' tendinitis. It was getting late at night and I would be going up a 3rd pass- it was tempting to join them. I kept on and reached White Pass way later than I had hoped for. Due to my poor choice in clothing, my IQ had decreased to about my body temperature. My sole priority was getting off that pass. As such when I misread the cue sheet direction to a control shortly after the pass, I could not consider any other option than the most direct route down the mountain. That this would result in a DQ did not enter my thoughts. I was more preoccupied with trying to control my bike while shivering violently.
I saw a second tier Ingmar Bergman movie "The Hour of the Wolf"- when I was much younger and more impressionable. The concept resurfaced with me during med school/internship/residency where it seemed that a disproportionate amount of bad stuff happened around 2-4AM. The scientific explanation is circadian rhythms. My experience with that time period in randonneuring has been that I'm much better off showered, tucked in and indoors during those hours. On this brevet, at about that time I found myself falling asleep on the bike and still about an hour away from the Naches control. Eventually, I found a safe spot to sleep and thankfully had heeded the organizer's requirement to bring a survival blanket. I made it to Naches with about an 90 minutes before the time limit. I turn in my card, and told Ryan I could not find the info control after White Pass. After returning from my shower Geoff asks if I see any point in continuing. As it turned out by staying on the main road I had taken a 3 mile shortcut. I went through all the stages of loss- denial (wrong instructions), anger, bargaining(I'll ride extra miles), depression and eventual acceptance (rules are rules). The ride ended at 400K and 3 passes.
Three days after, a new stage developed- the story doesn't have to end this way. There was no lingering overuse stuff, so I asked one of my partners at work if we could trade weekends of call. I presented the reason as a bike ride not having any importance or consequence except for me. He looked at me and said- "do you really want to do this or would I make your life easier by saying no and take you off the hook?"
So Friday afternoon finds me with Andrew and Cecil driving to The Dalles. The ride began much more auspicously. You have to like starting a 600K with a sub-6hr statute century as the first leg. I had Cecil and Andrew's good company much of the way- they are a chatty and erudite pair. The weather was not what I had hoped for, but it was a very scenic ride in many stretches.
Sept 2008 OR 600K

And I was in a warm and comfortable bed during the witching hours.
The second day began sunny, warm and still. This encouraged us to become a little complacent. Then the combination of wind and climbing came. "The English Patient" contains a quite poetic recital of names given to the desert winds. As you read the ride reports of the participants you can imagine what we were calling the offending winds and relate to the following-
"(Herodotus) writes about a wind, the Simoon, which a nation thought was so evil they declared war on it and marched out against it in full battle dress. Their swords raised."
Jan H. holds that effort is much more effective when climbing and that downhills are the time to relax. I fell off Cecil's pace on the climb past Mabton when I figured going from zone III to zone IV perceived effort was netting me about a .5 MPH gain. It was too early to risk exhaustion.
Upon arriving in Bickleton, I realized that finishing out of time was likely if I could not improve my pace. My response to the challenge of making the Goldendale control on time remains the most gratifying episode of this randonneuring season. It's like, I don't relish being put in that position, but the sense of accomplishment/transcendence of my percieved limitations in dealing with it is one of the reasons I remain involved in this loony sport.
I continued to feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed on the last leg. There was a long, fast descent past Goldendale that was encouraging. Then I blindly followed the cue sheet. I'm compulsive and, most of the time, functionally so. But the trait gets the better of me at times and this was one of them. Andrew asked- "couldn't you tell that you were going away from The Dalles"- No. Reading the previous posts which alluded to the unsafe nature of Hwy 14- didn't register with me. I was locked on that I should look for my next turn in 10.3 miles. Once I reached that on my odometer, I hoped that the distance was off by a bit and kept on going. Then I called Paul and my spirits sank. I had two chances to call it a night and get sagged in. All I knew then was that I needed to do the route and finish the ride.
As it turned out, I had company in straying the course, but everybody else figured it out before I did. Because of this, Paul gave credit for the detour and homologated the ride. It was a humanistic approach to "grading" a difficult ride and I'm grateful for it. I do know that when I was done, it did not feel like a "win", but it did feel like I did what I had to do.

John M- Paul cut you a lot of slack.
Me- That's one way of looking at it.
John M- congratulations on the SR.
Me- thanks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Credit Card Randonneuring

Looking at my August schedule, it became apparent than keeping the (R12)x2 going would be problematic. The only open weekend was the last one. This left no fudge room in case of bad weather/health/mechanical trouble/etc. An added issue was that the SIR/OR brevets fell on dates that were taken up by other commitments. So, it became an opportunity to experiment. Among the permanents available was a Newberg to Newport 200K. I asked Geri if she could drive me to the start, then meet me at the end and make a long weekend at the coast. It didn't take much to twist her arm. Luckily we were able to get lodging at the Sylvia Beach Hotel for the Labor Day weekend. The hotel has a literary theme to it-lots of books, no TV's, internet access or radios. Geri had wanted to stay there for quite some time; and became quite enthusiastic about the trip. I was kinda bummed about riding by myself, but figured that I needed the experience and the mileage- permanent on Saturday, easy day on Sunday, ride back to Salem on Monday-as I had Jan Heine's September 600K on the books.
Whoever is in charge of these things gave me good weather on my riding days. There were just a few sprinkles on Saturday. I had 6 bonus miles from missing a turn and a flat. That, however, serendipitously put me in the most scenic part of the ride illuminated by just wonderful late afternoon lighting. As a bonus I arrived about 20 minutes before sunset at the Yaquina Head lighthouse.
Unfortunately, the weather on Sunday was less than cooperative, so a long ride for Geri and I was cut quite short . It was fun to do non-bike stuff and we ran into some family at the Rogue Ale Brewery.
I thought I would try the most direct route back to Salem. Geri had warned me about Hwy 20. Once again she got a chance to say, "I told you so." The first part- old US 20 was quite scenic and restful. The following segment was a winding, narrow 2 lane hwy with not much of a shoulder and full of RV's and other large toy-towing large vehicles in a hurry to get back home from a 3-day weekend. It would have been a pretty drive, otherwise, and I'll give it a try on a less hectic weekend.

As I'm writing this I'm contemplating the upcoming 600K. I was describing it to a colleague at work, who summed it as- "it's a challenge and I think you're nuts".

Friday, August 15, 2008

Road Trip

I first heard of the Banff-Lake Louise area from Geri. It has been on our short list of destinations for the 11 years we've been together. The area came up this year as I heard of anxiety in Rando circle around the lottery for 100 spots in the 2008 Rocky Mountain 1200. I had no desire to participate, but I thought the area would make for a good week-long trip and Geri enthusiastically agreed. We decided that driving would make more sense than flying as Geri had been told it was a great drive and five years had passed since our last road trip vacation.
We loaded our 2 bikes and 2 travel bags into Geri's 34 MPG hatchback and were off to Canada. We're each other's better half in many, many respects- in this case Geri is an indefatigable driver and I can't stay awake in a car for more than an hour. We left Salem at 5 AM. I was asleep 2 hours later and dozed off and on for the next several hours.
Geri had been enjoying the drive despite my nonparticipant status.

Shortly after crossing the OR-ID border, she woke me up- "nimrod, you're missing some great scenery!". Subsequently the drive turned as advertised. The already spectacular terrain was augmented by stormy weather.

We arrived 16 hours later to Canmore, which was our base for the week.
The weather thankfully improved through the rest of our stay. Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise have lots of great road bicycling routes. However, the crown jewel has to be the route from Lake Louise to the Columbia Ice Fields. Geri and I did it by car and we both thought that was the most scenic drive either of us have experienced. It was then that I developed marked envy for the RM1200 participants for experiencing that magnificent stretch of earth on a bicycle. And we didn't get to take in Jasper. As we were driving back home, my thoughts were on plotting the return to see that area in a bike credit card touring manner. 10 days or so, 50-100 miles a day, stop in different towns, stop each day for a good dinner and a comfortable bed. The stats for this trip: 2000 miles in the car, 200 miles on the bike, great memories and a can of bear repellant as a souvenir.
Can't wait to see that area with more snow on the mountains.

Canmore, Alberta 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Celebrity Sightings

I'm not much on roadie culture in general and professional cycling in particular- find it hard to spend my discretionary reading time on that crowd.  One of the exceptions is Chris Horner who unfailingly comes across as a good guy. So when SIR's site included the entry "Chris Horner is a class act" I clicked to read the story. It reinforced all the prior accounts about him-strong rider, even better person. In the synchronicity that sometimes occurs, being a shutterbug, I recognized the name of the photographer-Heidi Swift-as I was reading the signup for the Timothy Lake brevet.

As it turned out, I wound up spending a good chunk of the ride with her group which included Natalie Ramsland, a noted Portland area frame builder and Salvatore Bondi, who aside from being a tocayo, was a strong rider and generous with his wheel.

It was a day for good company, optimal weather and a very scenic route put together by Michael Wolfe.

Timothy Lake 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


"Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man"
St Francis Xavier
"Sal, you just gotta be odd"
George Brookshire, 1968
And so it was that when I first heard about bicycling down Haleakala about 12 years ago being a Maui attraction, my reaction was "how about riding up the volcano?". Hawaii had never been high on my list of places to go, so that notion was in a relatively cold space on my backburner until this summer. A family function was taking place in Maui. Luckily, I found a continuing ed. course that I could attend and thus use it to write off airfare and lodging. My date with the hill was on.
My initial plan was to go up the whole 10K foot climb and then down for a 88 mile ride. But between the conference and family function schedules, I only had a 6hour time slot available. So Geri left me off at Kula. I took 2 water bottles on account of the heat and my 3 lb camera on account of the scenery. I did not take any food- hey, it's only a 22 mile ride one way, right? and I figured the ride down would be effortless and thus not requiring calories. The ride, at the speed I was going, was not particularly demanding for the first 6000 ft of climbing. The geographic and climate change during such a short distance was quite remarkable- lots of photo ops with views that pictures do no justice to.
Haleakala 2008

I probably saw 150 riders descending and encountered no one ascending. The road was rated as bike hazardous- much to my relief, cars were very courteous and supportive- lots of thumbs up signs (as opposed to middle fingers). Things got innaresting around 9000 feet of elevation- in addition to the scenery, the ride itself got a little breathtaking. Ger was waiting for me at the top. I remarked that I had a bit of a headache along with some nausea. It had also become about 30 degrees cooler. I looked covetously at her windbreaker- in similar circumstances you'd be thinking of stealth cross-dressing, too. Between assessing my condition- sweaty, nauseous and with a headache and the time left before we were scheduled to meet with the rest of the group, she objected strongly enough to keep me from wanting to push the issue. Downhill miles are junk miles anyway, I rationalized. So my bike and I got in the car and we drove down the volcano.
It was such a great ride, I was planning a whole day set aside for the 10K round trip version on a future visit. Until Hawaiian Airlines informed me on the return flight that I needed to pay $80 for my 38 pound, 26 inch bike case "because it's a bicycle" which is corporate-speak for "we feel like it and there's nothing you can do about it". Well folks, there is something I can do about it. If there are tourist areas and airlines with bike-unfriendly policies- boycott them. If it cramps their style to handle luggage containing bicycles, it cramps my style being on their plane. Make sure your friends and colleagues boycott them also. If you have access to public forum/publications, inform them about predatory behavior. Support airlines that value cyclists. Aloha.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Covered Bridges 400K

I was looking forward to this ride as a marker for progress (or lack there of). Since starting Randoneering in 2007, I’ve done lots of brevets, but oddly enough only one 400K. That was in AZ, where I showed up under-dressed (forgot that the desert gets cold at night-especially in early spring) and had the pleasure of experiencing a wind that contributed to a 20% DNF rate. So, here’s my chance to demonstrate some improvement. The weather forecast was auspicious. The route was familiar (for the most part).
Despite last month’s experience with cutting it close to start times, I still managed to not make my goal of getting to the start sufficiently early to assure a calm and adequately prepared start. Andrew Black was in graduate attire- took his picture w/o a chance to ask why he was in that getup. Then took off. About 2 miles down the road Susan France flagged me down to give me my control card- so much for an orderly and adequately prepared start. Thanks, Susan.
My spirits soon got past that poor-rando-form episode. The weather was perfect and Oregon was at it’s picture-perfect best. There was plenty of good company. Despite my goal of a sub 20 hour ride, I couldn’t help to stop for photos. Since I had my Garmin GPS security blanket, I did not feel compelled to stay with a group.
Covered Bridges 400K 6/14/08

The problem with GPS devices is the battery. My plan was to conserve power by using a backup odometer and use the Garmin the latter part of the ride when fatigue and darkness would make it more necessary. Well, the GPS should have been on- Bill Schell and I wound up with 7 bonus miles on account of not consulting the GPS gizmo when faced with a directional ambiguity. Intervention as a result of that experience is finding a mini USB battery/recharger. I don’t know how it will work in rainy weather though.
Back to the ride- we were soon joined by other groups and were able to benefit from friendly pulls- especially a tandem who soon found themselves with several old farts attached to their wheel. I ran out of gas the last 100K or so. Part of this had to do with passing less than ¼ mile away from my house. Then, the “no mas” thoughts were going past ideation to planning when we stopped at the Plaid Pantry and found that there was NO COFFEE. When recounting that to my wife, she observed- now you know why there were so many French DNF’s at the 2007 PBP.
But other than feeling like it, I had no good reason to quit, so with Bill’s good company we finished in less than 21 hrs. I was greeted by John Maurice’s bright-eyed and happy face. Joanne signed me in. It was great to see those two at the end- what a different ending it would have been if I had quit in Salem. I didn’t accomplish my time goals. But it was a day with great weather, scenery and company and my body was telling me I had given a good effort; that qualifies as a successful ride.
I hung out for a bit, then headed for my sister-in-laws house in Dundee which is only 3 miles away from the finish. I had anticipated being tired, and had obtained a key to let myself in. A ½ mile away from her house, I was stopped by a Dundee policeman- who observed that I was driving erratically. I gave him my story. He asked if I had been drinking- my reply was “are you kidding?’ and after checking my paperwork advised me to be careful driving the last ½ mile. I feel fortunate that he was simpatico to my circumstances as he could have made a case for careless driving and made it a very expensive bike ride. So, randonneurs beware: the police are aware of us and our fatigued state after riding.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fruit Flies and Cycling

Voltaire- "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien."
Fritz Menninger- "the greatest enemy of good is better"
NY Times-Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter Isn’t Better
A NYT article on the cost and benfits of learning as observed on any creature with a nervous system seemed to have relevance to the above quotes as I was nursing my latest ouwee. This year the goal has been more speed, more watts, less mileage. I had started doing pylemetric exercises last winter as an alternate way to stimulate muscle and address the need for bone stimulating activity (cyclists are not the bone density champs of the sporting realm).
I took 4 days off the bike after my low cadence 300K, but felt restless enough to want to do my pyelometric stuff 3 days after . I felt OK the next day, which is my day off, so being a nice day and having a new gizmo (Garmin 705), why not do a challenging ride. I was very happy with my effort and it was a great ride. The next day, however, I woke up with a painful heel. Fortunately, my achilles (s/p surgery in '94) was normal, but the pain was inferior and lateral to the tendon insertion site. Dx is retrocalcaneal bursitis. Another overuse injury to add to my collection.
My physical therapist welcomed me back with a smile, and remarked that I had managed to stay out of PT for nearly a year. She did some not-so-gentle massage around the affected area, applied an iontophoresis patch and cleared me to return to bicycling but avoid jumping until I was fitted with orthotics. She concurred that the mechanism of injury was the cumulative stress of the 300K together with the jumping exercises. The King's Valley brevets were coming up. The 600K was tempting- near home, pretty route, good friends signed up for it, but the 200K had the same things going for it. My heel nuisance, while resolving, pretty much insured the latter choice. On 5/22 I put a new pair of Gran Bois 26c on my brevet bike. I had never used this brand before. They were a little wider than the tires I normally use and some folks felt they were prone to flats. Other reports were quite positive and so were worth a try. Another modification was cutting out a hole on the portion of the shoe overlying the bursitis along with some strategically placed moleskin.
I arrived at the start with only a few minutes to spare, hastily assembled my bike, signed in, got my card and within seconds, the ride started. And so did a squeaking sound on my bike. As noted previously, I'm directionally challenged and much prefer the security of being in a group. Thus, staying in the group took priority over figuring out the source of the squeak. Once noted, my fellow riders politely ignored said noise and provided pleasant conversation on various topics. Along the way, the effect of my two week layoff on my fitness made it evident that I would be in cyclotouriste mode. Thus I started putting my camera to use.
Kings Valley 200K

That damn squeak persisted and I figured the most appropriate action was to put up with it by meself. As the weather was warming up, the clouds clearing and I was going through a particularly pretty section, I was quite happy to be on my own. I stopped several times to move things around to see if I could stop said squeak- no such luck. Toward the last 20 miles, 2 wayward randonneurs caught up with me. They were from WA and being unfamiliar with the area, had taken a wrong turn early on the route and wound up 10 miles from the coast and about 50 miles away from the first control! At the time they met me, they had already rode 90 some miles without going through any of the controls. Of course they noticed my squeak right away, and one of them figured out the source- the front fender rubbing on the tire. We couldn't find a quick fix for the problem, though. As they were happy to find someone familiar with the territory, they put up with my squeaky wheel until near the end.
Once I was home, some judicious filing and my fender problem was solved. Lessons learned and relearned-
I know I feel much better when I have some time to relax and make sure the bike is mechanically sound before the start of the ride. I hope I remember this the next time I'm reaching for the snooze button.
For me, brevets longer than 200K have effects that persist for longer than several days. I'll likely lay off anything more taxing than a recovery ride until I feel good and rested.
Improvements in non-bicycling physical activities will exact a short term price in bicycling initially. Doing something new involves making mistakes- it's hard to know the effects of one activity on another physical function. Hopefully, a synergism occurs that helps with overall function. Or back to the fruit flies- it doesn't help a fruit fly to develop new skills. It seems that the ones who do develop new skills don't survive compared to the ones who stay with the tried and true. Thus fruit flies haven't changed much in the past four thousand years or so. Humans on the other hand have changed significantly over the same time period because they benefit from learning- for the most part.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Missed My Granny

I remembered last year's 3 capes as the most scenic of the Oregon 2007 brevet season. With a very favorable (by Oregon Spring standards) weather forecast, my hope was to have a faster time. I figured 2008 would be a year to decrease mileage, replenish long term physical reserves and explore different approaches and equipment (no buying more bikes, though). One thing I'm sure of is that my 2007 mileage was not sustainable on a physical, professional or family/friends level. So, less miles and try to get more out of them. BTW I don't believe in or like the term "junk miles", but if there are time/energy limitations, a goal oriented approach is needed at least part of the time.
A few things to tinker with:
Controls: One thing that I've noticed was that the longer I rest at a control the more sluggish I feel when resuming. Is this a cause or consequence?- Don't know. But only by experimenting can I find out if increasing fatigue is the cause for the longer stays. So, my goal was to get the card signed, do bladder breaks and keep moving.
Food: I know large food boluses don't agree with me and that nutritional value has to take precedence over any other factor in rides over 200K. So, it was back to Perpetuem.
Also, since I'm not doing anything longer than a 600K this year, I can see how much junk I can leave out of my trunk. I have been using a small handlebar bag and a small saddlebag for the past month and am going to see if that's enough storage for this brevet season.
Camera: Chose film over digicam for this ride as the film camera is more compact. Choice was also inspired by Leslie L., who had said she was bringing her film camera.
Wheels/tires: My choices were my Kysriums/Vittoria Open Corsa/11-27 cassette which are my fair weather setup or Mavic Open/Vittoria Pave/11-34 cassette which is my rainy day setup. I chose slightly lighter hoops over better granny gear cause I'm a weight weenie and had been using that set of wheels recently and didn't feel like swapping.
The start was cold but only my hands really felt it. As we're going up the first climb, John Maurice remarks that this brevet is fairly flat for a 300k; "don't feel that way to me" was my reply. But after the first control, there was a nice long descent. Together with warming weather and a flat and very pretty section which followed renewed my hopes for a better time. It was also great fun to hang out with the usual suspects. I enjoyed talking (photo)shop with Nate and Leslie and very pleased to see Nate lugging along his Olympus SLR which is probably close to his age. John, in addition to maintaining his flat ride assessment, was asking how I was liking my Perpetuem diet.
Then came the Second of the Capes. Less than halfway through the ride I found myself spinning (if you can call it that) 40 RPM up the incline and thoroughly regretting my choice of equipment. By the time I reached Pacific City I knew I would have difficulty meeting last year's time, let alone improving on it. I was moving quite deliberately over the Grand Ronde pass when I was joined by Peg W. We shared the hospitality of the motorized users and argued over who had been called sweetie by one of the gentlemen in a pickup truck. "I think he liked you" cooed Peg. I insisted the overture was directed towards her. Finally Peg remarked-"you realize we're arguing over someone with 3 front teeth".
We were joined shortly after arriving at Grande Ronde by several more Randonneurs. At that time, my only goal was finishing within the time limit and was quite happy to have folks to lallygag with. I had similar levels of fatigue at PBP and an AZ 600K that remains my only DNF. It also was clear that it would behoove me to have company as my nighttime navigation talent is minimal.
I was part of various groups for the last stretch for the last 30 miles and relied on Cecil for the last 10 miles or so for navigation and commiseration- I felt that any little bump on the road felt like a hors-category climb and she was feeling likewise. Alas, we earned in a few bonus miles by making a wrong turn less than a mile from the finish. Ouch.
Lessons learned-
I will never, ever do a ride longer than 200K without a 34t cassette again. It's hard to evaluate the effect of carrying less stuff, using light wheels/tires when you're having engine failure from grinding along at 40-50 rpm for a couple of hours.
I felt badly about being less than helpful with nighttime navigation but I don't think my sense of direction will improve anytime soon. So I got a Garmin GPS device the next day. It only has 15 hours of battery life max, but if I only turn it on when it's needed for navigation purposes, it certainly should be sufficient for 600K and under brevets. We'll see.
As for camera choices, I'm glad I took my Leica. I don't use it enough. I'm limited to one lens, one film speed and color or B&W. That approach has its charms.

3 Capes 08

Monday, March 24, 2008


That's the highest HR I saw on my computer this month; only one heartbeat off my highest recorded reading. So, why does this merit posting?- because I had not seen anything close to this number since last summer. It provides some objective evidence that I'm close to, if not completely, recovered from the long term fatique that set in last fall.
With that increased friskiness came more options as the new season began this month. I had been looking forward to SIR's Chili Feed brevet. New terrain, a chance to get out of town and a large contingent added to the sense of anticipation. The weather forecast dampened my enthusiam a bit as it did not look promising for photo-ops, but I decided to bring a camera along regardless. The morning began with a steady rain. I was glad that John and Joanne had decided to drive to the start from the Kent Best Westerm. Geri and I had a good look at the hill that I would have had to climb to get to the start while driving to have dinner the night before. Geri had offered to give me a ride to the start if I wasn't able to hook up with John and Joanne.
The rain, the dark, the hustle and bustle at the start of the ride were sorta deja vu all over again.

The snake of red lights at the start of the ride along with the sense of "not quite in control" that rain, darkness and steep downhills brought had a quality that was flat out deja vu and was my sensory highlight of the event.
My priority during the 1st half was to keep up with the mix of riders I found myself with, some of which were familiar faces. A paceline which had formed in the flats after the first control fell apart on the hill prior to the Black Diamond Bakery control.
The following interval felt sluggish. Contributing factors were actually having to read the cue sheet, uncertainty of directions as my computer mileage was off, tightness from staying too long at the control and being bummed at riding by myself. Luckily I only made one wrong turn with a minimal distance penalty. A few riders passed me to both annoying and reassuring effect. Nothing looked particularly photogenic.
Helped by Dave Rowe's friendly wheel I made it into Greenwater. A short stop but enough to provoke a good case of Raynaud's phenomenon. Thereafter, a dyssynchronous return to Kent, including yet another wrong turn.
Dyssynchronicity is, if it's confined to a hobby, not something to lose sleep over. But it makes no sense though to feel bummed about a leisure activity, and so I think about why. Back to too many options. Be social?, ride fast?, take pictures?, eat stuff I like? As I pondered these questions, Beth Hamon and David Rowe posted blog entries that helped me organize my thoughts . Not an easy task which is why this entry posts 2 weeks after the subject Brevet. Doing the right thing requires a truthful answer to the question- what do I want? At this time, if riding fast is the goal, then there's not much room for anything else. I do better with company and that's independent of drafting. I also need to be less self indulgent with chow- for me that means using Perpetuem. My friends know that I have not tasted that stuff since August. Speed is not going to be my goal every time I get on a bike, but sometimes going as fast as I can for a given distance is what I need.

Monday, February 18, 2008

February Sturm und Drang-not.

I grew up in hot to mild weather environments where a warm, sunny day was the default setting- NW Mexico as a kid, So. Calif and the Bay area as an adult. Not having experienced much inclement weather, the variety of weather conditions of the PNW held an attraction dismissed by foul weather refugees as the product of inexperience. Well, 14 years later, I'm still here. My attraction for the variety the PNW offers is leavened by the close relationship one develops with Mother Nature when you commit to spending large chunks of time outdoors on a bicycle. During much of the Fall and Winter Her message is, if not "fear Me", certainly "respect Me". As with other temperamental entities, it's a relationship that can be rewarding, but demanding. I say demanding, but not irrational- Alaska and the upper Midwest come to mind as a frame of reference.
So in the dead of winter, I was bracing for a cold, wet and windy Permanent. I was twice daily looking at the weather forecast that at the start of the week predited a partly sunny weekend. As the weekend neared, I allowed myself to anticipate, if not expect a dry permanent. I can imagine randonneurs in more temperate climates puzzled over someone getting psyched about a "partly sunny, lows in the low 30's and highs in the low 50's" forecast.
I met Lynne at the parking lot and commented what a pretty morning it was. She replied it's 32 degrees right now. We then joined Cecil and Andrew at the Coffee Cottage and embarked on a thoroughly pleasant day.

The temperature warmed quickly, wind was minimal and the route very benign and scenic. I'm familiar to many of the roads on the route, but usually in the context of difficult weather or a more demanding pace. Since Mother Nature was in a kinder, gentler mood it was a good opportunity for photos.
3 Prairies Feb. 08

Nietzsche, schmietzsche- after the last two Permanents, I needed a ride like this.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Cyclist in Winter

Winter officially began about 3 weeks ago, but it has been feeling like that for 3 months. The trainer is being used more often along with the thought that there has got to be a better way to go about this indoor cycling thing. TACX knows this:

My reality is a little different. Wife banned the trainer from anywhere inside the house.

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I hate chandeliers anyway and the longest I can usually stay on a trainer is an hour, so I'll keep my present arrangement.
It's taking me longer to do 200Ks. Finished this latest one with a big 20 minutes to spare. Hey, one is supposed to get better with experience, right? As we were driving to the start in Newberg, the precipitation was a slush of rain and snow. Joanne chirpped that the forecast was for sunshine. I said if the roads were icy, I wasn't riding. We get to the parking lot and John discovered that he 1) did not have his main light battery. He felt that his back up light would be sufficient. Then he found out that 2) he forgot his rain jacket. "That's a show stopper" I muttered. Undaunted, off he goes back to Salem to retrieve the missing items. Joanne and I went to the coffee shop 3 blocks away to wait. At the agreed upon time I went back to the parking lot to look for Paul R. who had drove from Eugene. He had signed up for the same route unaware of our plans. We were happy to have another rider for company. My question for John was- who is Paul? When John was filling me in on the way up by starting with the fellow having some impressive randonneur credentials, I knew immediately who it was. I met him on Salem Bike Club's Peach Century. We both had our PBP jerseys on. He did PBP in less than 80 hours and with plenty of sleep. How am I going to keep up with this guy and a strong tandem?
I was going to take a picture at the coffee shop when I found that my digicam was DNS due to low battery. It spent the 200K in John's car. I've been using old school cameras for 40 years and digicams for the past 4 years and am decidedly ambivalent about the latter. Digital advantages: Don't have to scan, one camera body can serve for low speed, high speed, color and B&W film equivalents. Lots of options in a reasonably sized package. The quality of the Fujifilm S5 is good enough for my purposes. Up to 5 months ago, I could not say that about the prior digicams I had used. Digital disadvantages:between the battery and the camera basically being a computer, the thing either works as designed or not at all. Film advantages: Leicas are essentially very sturdy point and shoots. They have a bomb proof body and an overbuilt shutter. The meter is battery powered, but a spare battery is coin-sized. If for some reason (battery drained has happened twice) the meter doesn't work, exposure for negative film is forgiving and easy to estimate. The rangefinder mechanism is vulnerable, but if it goes out you can focus by guessing the distance. Disadvantages: output is limited to the loaded film's characteristics. Yes color can be converted to monochrome during scanning, but doesn't translate as well as I would like. Unfortunately, scanning technology is not evolving at the same rate as digicam technology (capitalism at work here).
We left about an hour past our official starting time. All of us were prepared for 200K in rain,wind and cold and we rode into a headwind/crosswind for the first third of the ride. There is a great little Mexican food place in Mt. Angel that we have used before as a control. The food and hospitality were wonderful. The tone for the ride was by then apparent- good company rather than competition. The weather also turned relatively benign.
We did have some rough spots on the way back. Hwy 47 was no fun at night in the driving rain with lots of cars, blinding headlights and a narrow shoulder. John and Joanne then had a flat in Forrest Grove with 3 tubes required to repair. We all thought however of our good luck: we were repairing it under an awning and with good lighting instead of say on Hwy 47. We were aware that Paul's R-12 string was at risk if he stayed with us. Much to his credit, comeradeship was more important than the award.
As stated above, we did get back in time. The completion time was nothing to brag about, the conditions were not confortable, no photos to show, but I very much enjoyed the ride due to the company I kept.