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".