As long as you look good

Sunday, August 31st, brought the 2008 cycling season to a close with the Blackberry Criterium held during the Blackberry Festival in scenic Bremerton, WA. The 4/5 race started at 11:45, which as it turned out is horribly from a Seattle – Bremerton ferry perspective, as you either take the 8:45 and arrive two hours ahead of time, or the 10:15 ferry and arrive with about 30 minutes to go. I opted to ride down to the docks and hop on the 8:45, along with about 15 other riders doing the same thing. The weather was cloudy but holding, and so I was looking forward to a good 30 minute dry crit in Bremerton.

I arrived with Matt, another racer from our team. We checked out the course. It’s a nice rectangular ~1 mile course featuring a down-and-up along each long stretch. This meant that each corner would be nicer than most – people would be going slower due to the uphill, so less of a yo-yo effect when the pack straightens out to take the corner. Plus with a downhill on the beginning of each straightaway, it’d be easy to catch back onto the pack.

He and I kicked back at the Cornerstone Coffee, which was right there at corner 2. Around 10:45, we started getting ready to warm-up, only to see the skies open up. Well, here was the day’s squall – a short-lived hour long rainstorm right during our warmup. We all huddled, and about 11:30 went out for some quick warmup. The rain had brought all the oil to the top of the road, so the course was going to be sketchy. The warmup laps confirmed that, especially at turn 1 where there were a few manhole covers that would be super slick.

We started the race… the field was I believe 22 all together – a small showing. Some had held off registering when they got their due to the weather. Oh well. So, the race kicked off and we were off.



For the most part, the pack stayed together. A few folks got dropped throughout, but not many. The down-and-ups kept people together, and everyone behaved themselves going through the corners. I was fishtailing through turn 1 and 4, so I was content to dangle and hang to the outside.


At one point, Amara Boursaw caught me taking a drink… you can see me at the back on the right out of the way of people. Given how small the field was and with the down-and-up, it was easy to hop out of the pack to drink (as I didn’t want to have to brake or react quickly with one hand in slick conditions) and hop back in.


Anyway, at 4 laps to go, I made a minor tactical error. I was following a straggler and taking a drink, and then Matt and another guy took off from the front. The pack sprinted ahead, and I was gapped and promptly dropped – just couldn’t catch back on. Well, I wasn’t thinking I was going to be in it for the sprint finish, and I was close enough to finish without getting pulled, so I rolled it on in for a high teens finish.


Even though it wasn’t pack sprint, I will say that this is the first crit I’ve finished. Yeah, an easier one compared to Des Moines or Twisp, but I felt better about cornering and better about staying with the pack. So, perhaps I am getting the hang of these!

Yeah! and Ouch!

First the data

The Yeah! I biked 20 miles up a hill with Ruben today! We biked from Sunriver up to Mt. Bachelor (the main lodge) at 6400 feet. It was more of a mentally daunting task then physically. I don’t think the grade was more than 8% at any point, mostly probably a 3-5% grade…although this was my first time biking above 1 mile up. We took 2 hours to get up, had a great latte and snack at the lodge, then flew back down in 1 hour.

Ruben split off from me and went to the Pauline lakes (another 17 or so mile out and back). I gave him the rest of my food and water and headed back to our condo. My plan was to take the long way around passed the airport and stables like I had done with Joe yesterday.

The Ouch! As I was making a left into Sunriver, there was all this gravel. I saw it too late and completely came down on my left side (hip, shoulder and hand). I couldn’t move for a good few minutes (felt like forever) but eventually was able to get up with the help of this wonderful woman who stopped and helped me out. My front handlebars had been wedged under the frame with the force of going down, but other than needing to re-tape my handlebars, I think the bike is fine. (I heart steel frames).

I biked back to the condo the long way anyway – probably stupid but keeping my leg moving seemed to be the right thing to do. My shoulder was stinging from the wind on the road rash up there – and I’ve ripped my older jersey (I guess it’s a good thing I bought extra in this last batch).

The interesting thing was the pain hit once I got home and took off the shorts, THAT’s when the pain got bad. I guess the shorts were putting compression on my hip. Darn. Just as I was healing too. Now Ibuprofen and ice are my friend. I guess this gets me out of cleaning the condo though.

Cold Toes to Mt. Bachelor

My cousin Joe (who was riding my old Allez with platforms over the SPDs and his sneakers because he forgot his clipless shoes) went from Sunriver up towards Mt. Bachelor on this rainy cold morning. (Data). The goal was between 20-30 miles.

We got just to over 4700 feet from about 4150… and turned around just before the road became “Edison Ice Cave Road”. We did the whole thing in about 2 hours (including a stop for espresso on the way back).

The ride up the hill was nice a really easy grade – well except for the killer headwind for the first 6 or so miles as we crossed the valley. Down with the tail wind was just fun, except for that cold wet rain. Joe liked my fenders and I have a rooster tail on my jacket since I was using my newer fenderless bike.

Ruben’s plan is to do the same route only make it all the way to the to top of the pass at Mt. Bachelor. I may actually try joining him even though it goes to 6700 feet – and just turn back early if I need to. It’s “only” another 10 miles or so from where Joe and I turned around.

Sunriver 50

Ruben and I woke up at 8, found the “50% chance of showers” wasn’t, and hopped on our bikes. From Sunriver, we went west out route 40, down forest route 4270, then back on route 42 (data)

This was a gorgeous ride. The first part was a pretty low grade constant climb to close to 5000 feet (from 4100). Then we had this beautiful downhill to the Crane Prairie Reservoir. We were lucky our route didn’t take us past 4270 – route 40 just to the west of there was a forest fire.

My leg was much better (like at 85-90%) and we were able to average 15.4 mph. There were *no* services – it was one of the few rides where I just wasn’t going to be able to stop at a store for food or water. The forest was my friend a couple of times too. I even asked Ruben if we saw a bear or coyote would we be able to outrun them, he said yes. (We did see some kind of large animal scat by the side of the road, so they were definitely out there).

A first timer’s RSVP 2008

Because this is yet another of my long write ups, here are the requisite stats. BTW, if you use, don’t ever combine stats over 24 hours. ’cause if you do it will muck up things like your average heart rate which becomes like 27. Or your speed. So ignore those.

And pictures.

Anthony asked Ruben and me at lunch after the ride what the best part of RSVP was.

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Was it that Ruben rode with me on an almost double century? That was pretty great. Was it that Anthony also rode with us and was riding strong? Also good. Was it the beautiful ride? Coffee in Snohomish? A great stop in Mt. Vernon? The lack of rain? Chuckanut drive? A massage at the mall in Bellingham? The fun crossing the border? The ferry? The water park in the heat of the day? Seeing Vancouver from the hill in Burnaby?

I think the best part was that I completed the whole ride “with dignity” on an injured leg that didn’t get re-injured in the process.

I hurt my left glut and piriformis muscle a few years ago playing softball. Last year it got bad enough I did PT. It got better but not 100%. I played softball again this summer, and was careful as I could be until our semi finals, then finals when it was completely pulled a mere 6 days before the ride. Then I went on a 50 mile ride around lake WA on Monday with Anthony the next day. Maybe it was a bit much. So I got a couple of quick appointments to get some PT because as I said to Anthony in email “not riding is not an option.”

The with dignity thing: Ruben said he had 3 goals for RAMROD: Finish, Finish without cramping, Finish strong. He felt he did the first 2. Anthony said the only goal should be “finish with dignity” – meaning if you finished so hard you make yourself throw up, you at least have cleaned the vomit off your face.

Day 1, After a false start and running back to the house for my cycling gloves, Ruben and I rode down to U village and around rather than going over the 65th street hills to get to Magnusson to give my leg time to warm up. We met up with Anthony, got our “Sherpa service” to have our bags sent to our hotel. We were on the road by 6:50, up and over the lake, through Woodinville. We climbed the first hill where Ruben saw Wendie and cousin (?) Megan. Ruben waited for me and Anthony, then we wound up passing Megan, looking for Wendie. Turns out Wendie had just made it up and down her first big hill – a tough part for her and she was ahead of us!

Our next stop was Snohomish for coffee. MMM. Then onto the Centennial trail where we passed Wendie and Megan. We took a slight diversion into Lake Stevens for a food stop, then continued on. I was really looking forward to the downhill part of the trail, but the route took a right just before we started our descent. We continued to climb through some very pretty areas, although some of the roads were not-so-fun chip seal. It was also starting to heat up and I was having some problems with my front deraileur rubbing – something I tried to fix at one point and ALMOST made it really bad, but only made it slightly worse.

I had to down shift very low for most of the hills so I’d lose Anthony and Ruben… which was frustrating, but I could really feel exactly where my leg could and couldn’t go. As I explained to the guys, it was like biking on one leg – I wasn’t really having any pain on the flats, but I had absolutely NO power on the uphills from that leg.

We flew down a hill into Arlington and tried to decide what to do. We were hungry (and I think I was starting to bonk and I wasn’t drinking enough again)… but stopping for lunch didn’t seem quite right yet. So we stopped at a 7-11 and I introduced Ruben and Anthony to the joys of eating corn nuts on a ride. They each got a Rock Star energy drink – none for me thanks! Oh and bummer to the guy who lost a chain and was looking for a bike shop or ride support. I hope he was able to complete the ride.

Onwards we went and got to Mt. Vernon with very little trouble except it kept getting hotter and hotter. The stop at Mt. Vernon was great and I was introduced to Dave’s Killer Bread with peanut butter. I’m hooked. I also stood in a long line to have the one bike mechanic tweak my deraileur. It still rubs, but I’d rather that than have the chain fall off. At least I hadn’t lost my rear brake pad like the guy on the tandem. At least he found a replacement.

The next part of the ride was through the north part of the Skagit flats in the mid-afternoon. Can you say WINDY? Terrible cross and headwinds. As bad as going up a hill for my leg. Fortunately I had Ruben “legs” Ortega in front of me – I’d say breaking wind, but really he hadn’t had the spicy corn nuts yet (those came later).

We made a turn to the north onto Chuckanut drive at Bow WA, and I took some advil knowing the hills were coming. Interestingly the wind just completely died as soon as we hit the hilly part. But it was hills. Again I was slow, but steady, I was noticing that I was having a little less pain, but then again, I had taken the advil.

Chuckanut drive is just beautiful – the views, the park up there (I really want to go camping there with the kids). I met back up with the guys at the top of the last hill where there is always (apparently) a lemonade stand. The lemonade was just ok – not as great as the stuff that one high school kid was selling as a fund raiser for Matthew’s beach park on the Burke Gilman trail a few years ago, but satisfying, hydrating calories.

We took the hill down into town, passed the first two bag stops. We had to come off the route by about 1/2 a mile to get to our hotel. Little did I know the other official bag drop was literally two blocks from our hotel – had I known that I wouldn’t have paid for the Sherpa service. oh well, it did go to benefit some really cute Rugby college boys.

We wound up finding a Rite Aid with a massage chair, a TV, a water fountain and a blood pressure machine – we were hungry but this was quite a draw for about 5 minutes. Ruben got low score on the BP/heart rate. We crossed the parking lot and had dinner at India Flavors – a passable Indian restaurant. Ruben and Anthony ate voraciously, but I wasn’t so hungry…

We crossed the street and checked out hte movie theater – not much was there, so instead we found a woman giving massages in the massage chairs. I got a 15 minute massage that did just the trick on my neck and hip. Anthony got one too. In between I got some ice cream (’cause there is always room for ice cream in the separate ice cream stomach). We closed the mall and went back to our rooms for the night.

The next morning we had a barely passable breakfast in the motel, chatted with a few other riders and left around 7am. We took the 1/2 mile jaunt back to the route and wound up on a fantastic stretch of road. It was still cool, the roads were beautiful and there was no wind. Interestingly enough, the leg was better! Well not perfect but about 75% as opposed to just not functional the day before.

One bit we saw: We were coming up to a stop sign and saw a guy go down. He was still for a moment, then started writhing around holding his arm. It was a total “stop and drop.” I thought we were going to need to wait for help with him, he looked really hurt. He got up and started swearing up a storm at the woman he was with – presumably his wife because who else would put up with that?!??! In no uncertain terms she apparently needed to learn how to tell people when she was stopping.

Umm, dude? Didn’t you see the big red octagonal STOP sign? It said STOP. No one else is in front of you except your wife and the STOP sign. Perhaps it’s time to prepare to STOP before casting aspersions. Having had enough of his tirade, we left him and his poor ride partner and headed on towards the border.

On the cue sheet there is one cue that says “Do not cross the ditch into Canada”. I was wondering about that. There’s a great picture in the gallery of Anthony commenting about the ditch and the border and I’m cracking up.

The border crossing was fine, except that Anthony didn’t have a bib number, but she let him through anyway.

A bit later we hit the “wall” – a steep 1/3 mile climb. Again I lost them. I had been feeling pretty good up until then, but that hill made the ache come back. There was a woman walking here bike up the hill – holding the rear wheel up. She was going to wait for support at the top of the hill because her rear deraileur had completely broken. Bad news on that one! Ouch!

I did make it to the top and slugged on for a while until I caught up with the guys again. We did a quick pit stop at a gas station somewhere in here and the guys got more rock star and Ruben got spicy corn nuts and decided this was the breakfast of champions: spicy corn nuts and diet Rock star. I decided not to draft him quite so closely.

There were a LOT Coming up to the ferry that crosses the Fraser River that we skirted around. We did boogie a bit and managed to be just about the last people in line they were letting across for that ferry. We were on just after the motorcycles – one of which back fired just as she fired it up. That was loud.

The ferry took only 15 minutes or so, but then we got stuck behind a big dump truck backing onto a construction site for about 5 minutes.

The next bit of the ride was a bit “functional” – kind of like route 30 in Oregon, and getting as hot. No shade. Ugh. But we did get into a fantastic paceline until I hit a hill (which of course I lost the guys again). I was good about catching up on the downhill/flats after a hill – I don’t think they were holding back too much. The next bit was stop and go as we hit the next food stop – and a much needed water refill in in Haney/Maple Ridge.

Oh should I mention I got Oreos on each stop?!??!? There were oreos here too. MMMM oreos.

I’m not recalling much of the next bit, except that it was very hot. There was one section where we were on this gorgeous bit of trail by some water in the middle of the city. Some guy had 3 dogs loose on the trail and we had to stop to pay homage to the dogs. Oh there was one mis-step with the cue sheet where the road was under construction and just had been turned into a cul-de-sac – so we had to walk our bikes over the curb.

By the time we got to the Port Moody stop, I needed more water again. I found the water fountain on the other side of the bathrooms and there was nirvana. A water park. I immediately took off my shoes and socks and went through, – then called Ruben and Anthony to come down and have a look. We spent longer there than we expected, but it was SO worth it.

The next bit was excruciating – along the Barnett Highway (7A) in Burnaby. It was just like route 30 only with a horrible headwind. Even Ruben was having trouble with it. We managed to pass a few guys, then got passed by a great paceline with a guy in a U of M (Go Blue!) jersey and another guy in an Illini Jersey. We hooked on and things became a bit easier (amazingly it gets easier the more folks on the line) – But again, I lost them on the hill. Ruben stuck with me, but Anthony pushed to keep up with them – and asked a question I was curious about: how do they get to push so fast on hills? What kind of training do they do? The answer? A lot of interval training. As much as I hate it, I’m going to have to start to do more interval training.

The next part of the ride was more annoying than anything. We were on a bike route but it was one where the cross traffic has the right of way. We had to stop every couple of blocks. We knew we were within 10 miles so didn’t stop, and tried to keep hydrated and fed. I just was looking forward to “real food.”

The thing that kept me going was when I saw the Vancouver skyline! Then we were in the Asian district – where one of the other riders asked if anyone wanted to buy heroin (apparently we were near a street notorious for that). Then we went through the Gaslight district – and it was shady and cooler. I knew there was one more “small hill” which a few riders said really wasn’t anything. I also knew we were ending in Stanley park – so I expected the hill IN Stanley park. We went up one or two small hills (and my chain fell off twice so I had to stop and fix that)… I lost Ruben behind me at a light or something.

I turned right and saw some people cheering. I thought “oh we must be getting kind of close”. Then I hammed it up for the photographers. I didn’t look for Ruben because I thought we ended in a park. Suddenly I see some some guy tell me to make a right turn into a garage?!?!?!? I’m thinking “This is some weird way to get to Stanley park”

That’s when I realized “this IS the finish. we’re at the finish hotel”

It was over.


Well as weird as that was, I got over it. First order of business, I collected my bag, then took a wonderful shower. We got our free beer/wine and left the “party” which really seemed a bit lame actually – although Ruben and Anthony did spot a very nice looking girl giving out the drink tickets. I could totally tell why they liked her – long hair, she ahem, presented, well… and she had these great glasses. Nerdy and yet cool all at the same time. I mean even I understood why she was stunning.

After we tore our eyes away from her, checked “out” with the finish line folks (and had grabbed our finish line badges (yea you pick those up at the party), we asked the concierge for a good sushi place – Tampopo. We had a quick bite to eat there, picked up some coffee and munchies that never made it out of the coffee place went back to the hotel to collect our bikes. We met up with my sister Jacki who had arrived with perfect timing, loaded the bikes and headed south.

Jacki wins the iron butt award for 6-7 hours total driving to Canada and back to collect us.

We arrived home close to 7pm, safe and sound and ready to ride again.