Old La Honda and Tunitas Creek

As always, we’ll start with the stats: Lauren and Ruben, although I can’t really account for the difference in the elevation gain between the two.

Ruben and I are visiting some friends in the bay area while Elias attends a camp down here. The original thought was that Ruben would do the Vineman Aqua Bike. Although he decided not to do that ride, we decided to still bring down our bikes for some rides. In particular it’s been his goal since getting the new bike to bring it down and re-do the Old La Honda hill climb. Details of the grade of this climb are here.

Ruben did a bit of research and found a bunch of interesting rides on this site, and of course goes right to the “hilly” section. We both wanted to get out to the coast so we picked this ride with 54 miles and purportedly 4700 feet of elevation gain. The author said he did it in under 4 hours.

I almost bailed on the ride this morning. We woke up later than I had wanted to and I just was feeling a little off and nervous about a few things. For one – the hills and the feeling like I would be slowing Ruben down. Two: I promised to be home in time to pick up the kids from camp if our friend dropped them off. Now when I initially read it, I noticed Old La Honda was on there, but this morning Ruben said it wasn’t. Turns out it was.

We took off around 9am, and it was still cool and cloudy in the Palo Alto area. Even heading westbound through Stanford, I told Ruben I was feeling like I was biking through water. He said it was because we were going up hill slightly. Also my bike was having trouble, the chain was skipping in some of the gears when it was on the front chain ring. We biked through beautiful Portola Valley, and as I was looking at my Garmin, I noticed it was about 40 minutes into the ride. I thought that I’d eat soon, but I also realized that I tend to warm up about 45 minutes into anything (like about the time I get to Seward park from home).

For whatever reason though, I forgot to eat something. Big mistake. We got to Old La Honda and I was still dragging, but some part of me really wanted to do it again and prove that I had gotten to be a stronger cyclist. Ruben was going to stay with me, but I told him I knew he wanted to attack the hill because he can and that I’d meet him up at the top (and I’d call if there was trouble). I also didn’t want him to stay with me because then I’d feel pressure to do more than my pace and I really didn’t want to be rushed. So he went off.

The first part wasn’t too bad and I was feeling pretty good about it. I hadn’t gotten into my lowest of low gears – I was in the small front chain ring . I forgot how long the hill was – I seemed to remember 1.3 miles, so some how I figured I would be done in 15 minutes, that maybe I could do it without getting into my granny gear, and that I could do it without stopping. Boy did I get that wrong. By 10 minutes I was starting to get a little tired, but knew I could keep going. I saw a Lara bar on the ground and realized Ruben had dropped it so I stopped and picked it up, but got right back on the bike. I passed the 2 mile mark, then the 15 minute mark and there were still more switchbacks and I started to get a little frustrated. About 2/3 of the way up I started to notice my breathing was changing, I was wheezing. I tried to change my breathing and catch deeper breaths, but I was just gasping for air. I started to get fuzzy headed too. I switched into my lowest gear and kept plodding along, frustrated and crying on and off.

I wound up finally reaching the top about 32 ish minutes after I had started, practically fell off the bike and just sat on the road crying and feeling like I was going to totally hurl. Ruben had been up there for about 10 minutes (watching a deer for a large part of it). He sat with me, and asked if I had eaten, and I told him no, but that I had found the food (his hint that I should have). When things mellowed out a little bit, I ate some sports beans and drank water.

At least I had done better than the last time I did this (sometime in the 2004-2005 time frame), where I seem to remember coming in just over 40 minutes, which according to the Felix Wong site is a category ‘B’ rider. So I guess it’s good: I bumped up a category.

I was a bit concerned about going on – I had no idea the hill profile going out to the coast, much less going back. Ruben asked another cyclist who came up the same road what he knew and told us it was mostly down hill to the coast, with a few rollers at the end. He also told us that the way back was less of a steep climb, but it was more exposed. We checked the time and even though we knew we weren’t going to be coming back up the way we went down, we thought the other way up wouldn’t be as steep either.

Boy we wrong.

So most of the ride down was pretty easy, although I think something is going on with my bike. I keep feeling very unstable on down hills – it may be the new tires (with less tread on the sides, or there may be something going on with the frame. I don’t feel very comfortable going over 25 miles an hour. Ruben is much more confident than I am. I was also still not feeling quite right (still kind of fuzzy headed). At one point I got very frustrated and angry and unfortunately for Ruben, he got the brunt of it (I have since apologized). But other than my bonky outburst, the rest of the ride down 84 to the coast was uneventful.

We stopped briefly at the one store in San Gregorio and I used the bathroom. We thought there might be a store or something on the coast, so didn’t buy anything to eat there. We did ask the woman if she knew anything about the ride up Las Tunitas. She said the hill starts about 3 miles in and continues only up from there.

Lauren on PCH near San GregorioAbout 1/2 a mile later, we were on the coast and things felt better but there was no place to get something to eat and we didn’t have any official lunch on us – just regular ride food (bars, sharkies, etc). We also noted there were some markings on the road – big arrows going our way. I wondered if a supported ride had gone through there earlier this month/year.

Turning onto PCHOur next turn had us going up a hill that is about the size of the “hill” on STP – 400+ feet of elevation gain in a mile. On the way up we saw the same guy who gave us some information at the top of Old La Honda zip out in front of us and disappear fast up the hill. On the way down I had to stop – I wasn’t about to let a beautiful vista just zip by because we were on our bikes. Enough of going fast to get someplace, I wanted to stop and enjoy the ride. So we stopped to look out over bluff and take some pictures. We met a woman with a french accent who was unloading bagels, books and some peanut butter from her bike. She was biking from San Francisco to San Diego. She did ask us if we knew about how bad the hill is near Big Sur but we couldn’t help her out.

Pacific view north to Half Moon Bay from the hill   Ruben on the coast

Our turn was at the bottom of the hill. A little while later we saw a sign for a Bike Hut with snacks and drinks. I think both of us were hoping for an espresso drink but we were ok with whatever we found.

Lauren at the Bike Hut     Bike Hut description

At first I thought it would be closed on a weekday. But it said open. It was an honor system shack with organic snacks and water, bike tools, bike books and a sign in sheet. There was an explanation of how they opened in Feb 2009 and how the Tour De California had gone by earlier this year. It was wonderful. Basically it’s on this organic farm called Potrero Nuevo – they are trying to grow organic food that’s affordable for low income folks. We signed the book and thanked them for having such a wonderful spot and even got to thank the owner in person when he came in to check that there was enough water.

The first part of the Tunitas creek climb wasn’t so bad and I had largely recovered from the earlier problems I had. My legs were tired, but I wasn’t feeling tight in the chest. But true to the woman’s estimate, about 3 miles in the road got steeper. I knew it was 6 more miles to the top, but I was hopeful they weren’t too steep.

Boy was I wrong.

First off, I swear my Garmin wasn’t changing distance. I looked down and saw it said 35 miles. A few minutes later it still said 35 miles. Then a few minutes later it did creep up to 36 miles. I saw a sign on the ground saying 5 miles to go. And this was the easy part. At 4 miles to go, all of a sudden the wheezing started again. This time Ruben was with me and heard what was happening. I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point we stopped – I just couldn’t catch a breath at all – it felt like I was drowning and I was losing my mind. After things subsided a bit, I started to walk up the hill straddling my bike. Ruben got me to get off my bike and I used it to hold me up as I continued to walk. He insisted on taking the bike from me and we walked for about 1/2 a mile. I ate and drank a little bit. The unfortunate thing is neither of us brought our inhalers – I have problems in the cold, not the heat! I suspect what happened was that the particles in the air down here are so different from those up in Seattle (most notably the Eucalyptus) that it trigged the asthma.

When I felt better we got back on the bikes and I tried again. (at this point I think we saw the 4 miles left sign). This time I stopped just as I started to wheeze so it didn’t get so bad, but I was pretty dizzy. We kept trying to calculate how fast we could make it back, even if we were walking to the top. I knew we couldn’t make the whole way home in time to get the kids so I asked if Ruben wanted to go ahead. He wouldn’t leave me – which was probably a good idea considering how desolate it was (we saw 1 car on the whole ride up).

At this point the grade was much easier – only about 4-7% as we later found out. It turns out that the 2 miles I had to walk a 1/2 mile each on were about 9-11% grades AND on one there was 1200 feet of elevation gain (even according to Ruben’s data which is better than mine). the other hill was “only” 800 feet.

The ride down (on Kings Mountain Road) was not easy either. It was about 5 miles of downhill – on a bike that was still feeling weird (or maybe it was my head). There are a LOT of switchbacks that say 15mph and they really mean it. There were two or three cyclists that passed us, but they obviously knew the road way better than us. Both of our hands were hurting by the time we hit the bottom (and I thought at least it wasn’t just me). But I was totally and utterly exhausted.

When we got down to the corner where Portola meets Sand Hill, we saw the markings on the road for the tour De California going left. Ruben indicated he was going right, but I seemed to remember that the cue sheet said to go left. But I couldn’t read it that fast and I just followed him. I said something to him about a mile down the road and he looked down and said that I was right. So we had to turn around and do another roller in reverse. But this was an indication to me that it wasn’t just me being effected by the ride – superman Ruben was also getting tired. We also missed another turn that may have taken about 1 more mile off the route, but it turned out to be ok. We just took Sand Hill back to Alma back to our friend’s house. We got home around 3, Ruben didn’t even change, just grabbed some food, left me at home to shower and change, and went to get the kids. He even got there 10 minutes early and got to see their projects.

Now I almost didn’t write this up because I was feeling so cruddy about how relatively “weak” I am in comparison to Ruben (and how I feel like I slow him down) and because of my falling apart the way I did on this ride. I felt almost “drunk” with tiredness and lightheadedness through dinner. Even now, 9 hours after I got home, I am still a little light headed and hungry. However, knowing just how hard it was, I don’t feel so bad. Would I do it again? Yes. But this time with no time limit, on a tuned up, wheel-trued bike and carrying my inhaler and a better camera. The pressure of feeling like I was going to not make it home on time and the bike issues really exacerbated things, but not having my inhaler was a real problem.

Seattle Century Year 2

Just a quick post: Ruben and I met up with Chris and Andre at 7am at the start of the Seattle Century. I had met Chris (who lives in Ravenna) and Andre (who lives in Nome Alaska) last year on the same ride. Andre also had a friend with him named Steve.

Here are the stats.

We skipped the first stop in Bothell – which had moved from last year from across the bridge to the place where the “Killer Chickens” live and went onto the second stop at Marymoor. Although the though of Fried Chicken at the second stop was not too thrilling to my morning stomach, it was a little odd not to see it there this year. Steve was splitting off from us at this point to do a modified 50 mile loop and would meet us in Issaquah.

The next section on the century route had the hill – up and over to the Snoqualmie river valley. The stop was at Cherry Valley elementary. My problem: my stomach wasn’t “booting up” this morning and getting food into me was a little difficult. I couldn’t quite get myself to eat the yummy Dave’s Killer Bread.

This year there were no problems with the signs on Cherry Valley Road as they used the Dan Henrys instead of posted yellow signs that could be turned around. However I’m grateful for those signs – I wouldn’t have met Chris and Andre if it wasn’t for the tricksters that tried to turn us around.

Next stop was my favorite. Remlinger Farm and Peach Raspberry pie. Oh man, it totally hit the spot. I also bumped into Brandy, who was also doing the century, as I was leaving. She was arriving as we were leaving, but we got to chat for a bit before we headed out.

Our next stop was Preston and the Talking Rain site. The cold ActivWater tasted SOOOO good. We stretched and took off our shoes. And fortunately for Chris they had the pasta salad, although I avoided it this year.

Once again the ride on the highway was a thrill, but my back tire felt like it was coming out from underneath me. I wondered if it was the cross winds or if something else was going on. I took it slower than the rest of the gang. Still it’s quite the rush to be on the highway for an exit!

In Issaquah we met back up with Steve and headed towards Bellevue up Newport Way. The question became: would they have us go up the killer Zoo hill this year and this year they did not – they even eliminated the killer approach to the killer hill. We were all very grateful for that.

The Mercer Island stopped moved from last year at Luther Burbank Park to the Lid Park. Unfortunately we missed out on the strawberries for strawberry shortcake. Ruben came up with the good idea to use the jelly on the poundcake and put the whipped cream on that. It did in a pinch.

The last bit of ride was uneventful, but a little slow. It was heating up (I think the final temp was in the mid 80s, although the original forecast was for the low 90s). I was a little behind on calories and felt it. Brandy caught up to me on the last stretch on the Burke Gilman trail and we chatted about the various events we’ve done or are planning to do.

The dinner was great as always, although they were slow on getting the salmon out. I couldn’t stop touching the ice sculpture. I was pretty wiped out. Ruben, still energetic was talking about getting home and trying to convince me to go up 65th. I told him if I rode home at all it would be around to U Village and even then I may ask for a pick up to get up the hill. In the end, he went up 65th and I went around and even made it up the hill (with Chris along to help motivate me), but Ruben only got home about 5 minutes before I did.

It was a good ride, great company and food, and I really wasn’t sore after (although I did do an ice bath).

A newbie’s version of STP in one day

This is pretty long, so here are the short bits:

Stats. Photos are at Marathon photo- Ruben is 4655 and I’m 4654.

Highlights from the trip:
– It’s amazing what a body can do on little sleep.
– Ruben recovers from tumbles exceedingly well.
– Ruben and Matt are fantastic for sticking with me even though I’m slower than him.
– Riding 202 miles with a flashing princess crown.
– “It’s a small world” even on a bike ride with 10,000 people
– 0 flats for 3 people.
– Compression on a bruise helps.
– Food, food and more food.
– The 3 H’s kicked my ass mid-day – heat, hills and headwinds.

Longer story:
My story starts the Wednesday before when I went down a water park slide. I turned sideways at the end of the slide’s cement ramp, the plastic sled I was riding came out from under me, I skid on my back on the concrete and the sled flipped over and it’s handle hit me in the “gutter” between my leg (panty line) and the girl parts. It hurt, but it was hard to see so I didn’t ice it all day. The resulting bruise was at least 2″ x 4″ and the worst shade of black and red and really hurt once the bathing suit came off. I iced it and put Arnica on it for 2 days and got pretty low – all that training and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do the ride.

When I came home on Friday – I tried sitting on my bike. It was a little painful, but ok. I went for a 5 minute ride on my bike outside, including a short 1 block hill, then put the bike on the trainer. I did 1/2 an hour and it was ok but I didn’t want to overdo it.

Being ever prepared, I wound up making a few contingency plans
a) Getting on the bike at 4:30 am, hurts to much, punt and get in my car and drive SAG for Ruben
b) Stopping anywhere in the first 10 miles, finding a bus and getting home that way
c) Stopping at REI, calling someone for a pickup.
d) Stopping in Centralia – I had packed a separate bag and sent it with Rich and Joanna’s bag (with MK). Rich and Joanna said I could spend the night in their room if I had to.
e) Stopping any time between Centralia and Portland – Liz, the sweetheart she is, who was driving SAG for her hubby and friends, was even willing to come back and get me if it got to be too much.

Then there were the super secret contingency plans
– I gave the 18 year old instructions on how to find us on the route so if I had to I could call and beg him to come pick me up and take me home
– Ruben carrying enough cash in his pocket that would get me by cab anywhere.

Still even with all these contingency plans, I was a nervous wreck.

Elizabeth and Greg kindly hosted a carbo load party which was a lot of fun. Stephen, Kristina, Erik (with Laura), Joan (who wasn’t riding, but joined us for good wishes), Rich, Joanna, Ruben and I got to partake of the yummy chicken burritos and limeade. Elizabeth gave out our prizes for the STP supplemental training program. During this I was being a little bit Princessy about not sending in “points” – just what I had done to train for the week and leaving it up to Elizabeth to determine points so my prize was a princess crown that blinked! This *obviously* had to be attached to my helmet.

The rest of the evening was about ride preparations and I got into bed around 10. I started to fall asleep reading, but when Ruben came in, I woke up. I realized I had forgotten a few things on my bike, got up around 11:30 and put on a back light and pumped the tires. My heart was pounding and kept singing “Help I’m Alive” by Metric to myself: “http://www.lyricsbay.com/help_im_alive_lyrics-metric.html” –

Help, Im alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer
Hard to be soft, tough to be tender
Come take my pulse, the pace is on a runaway train
Help, Im alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer, beating like a hammer

I tried sleeping on the couch to keep from waking Ruben. He came down and tucked me in anyway. I wound up getting about 2 hours of sleep, waking up right after a dream and realizing at least I got 1 cycle that included REM sleep. It was just before the alarm went off at 3:45 am. I went upstairs and Ruben was also waking up. He told me he only got 1 hour of sleep.

Getting ready was pretty uneventful. We left the house at around 4:30 and it was still dark and I had no front light so I had to take off my amber sunglasses to go down the hill to the starting line. I was pretty nervous and tentative as we started out and kept my speed down. We saw a lot of other folks with bikes on their cars on the road, plus a few other cyclists as we came closer to the parking lot. The cars were backed up a long way. I’m glad I live close to the start.

It was kind of odd going passed all the other baggage trucks for midpoint lodging… finally we got to our Portland bound truck and dropped off the bags. Then we waited where the espresso cart used to be – it wasn’t there this year :(. It turned out that Erik, Rich and Joanna missed the first wave, but we decided to go anyway because we knew it would be a long day ahead.

I noticed it was starting to get a little lighter out and I relaxed a little bit more. We saw the rider with bib number 10,000 pass us on Boyer. What caught our attention was him saying loud enough for us to hear “yeah, I had to pay extra for it.” (it was raising money for Cascade’s Major Taylor project).

Our one major incident happened in the first 6 miles of the ride. We were going down the S-turn to Lake Washington Blvd. I was apparently ahead by a little bit and came around the 2nd curve on the inside. So did Ruben, only he got crowded out by folks who cut the curve closer from the center. He had a choice of going into the curb or trying to jump it, so he did. The tumbled over the bike, going down between two big boulders on the side of the road! I saw someone tumble and was worried, but had to keep going as people were behind me. Then the yellow sleeves of his jersey caught my eyes. I immediately pulled over even though others were whizzing past, got off the road and ran up the hill calling his name. Other riders were calling out “He’s up, he’s ok,” but I thought that was the end of the ride anyway. I was really glad to see not a scratch on him, and he didn’t even seem to shaken. His front brakes didn’t work but other than that the bike seemed ok. With a little adjustment he could go on and we debated stopping at Seward for a check. Strangely, part of me relaxed more thinking our trip was “pre-dinged.”

We saw one of the skateboarders early in the ride – on the flat part of Lake WA Blvd. Either I was really early or he started later than normal (I usually pass him on the trail between Yelm and Tenino).

We passed the Seward park stop as Ruben didn’t feel like stopping and we got to the top of the Seward park hill right at 45 minutes. We stopped briefly to have a bite to eat and fix the speakers which kept coming off both our bikes. Erik came by right then with Matt T (they both work at Amazon, but apparently the wives know each other) and said “What, a flat already?” We got on our bikes and started to follow him. I noticed almost immediately that he had a flat. He commented that it was because he teased us and pulled over (Matt stuck with us and we figured Erik could catch up). Unfortunately Erik apparently and a bad spare and CO2 cartridge, so he took some time and eventually hooked up with Rich and Joanna.

The ride to the REI stop was really uneventful. The winds were fairly calm and there wasn’t that much traffic early in the morning. Happiness was the early day bonus of relatively clean restrooms and a pretty quick stop. Ruben and I shared an Odwalla and a peanut butter tortilla, and I had had some fruit. I also checked on the bruised area which was hurting but not getting any worse, so I decided it was ok to press on.

Between REI and the Puyallup hill we wound up with 2 folks on the tail of our pace line. She was a chatty woman – an engineer from Boeing. We lost her on the hill though as she was surprisingly slower than me on the hills. I passed a few people – maybe only 5. Ruben and Matt were waiting at the top, but not for too long. I didn’t stop at the top and they caught up. Ruben saying he passed 97 people (he was aiming for 100). Yes he counted.

Ruben at SpanawayRuben was really good about reminding me to eat at 45 minute intervals. I ate something as we were riding, but I don’t remember what – maybe more sharkies. Mitchel caught up with us on the way to the Spanaway stop and rode with us for a brief bit before catching up with his train of folks. I wanted to skip Spanaway and go to the Safeway that I recalled was just beyond the stop from last year. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember how far beyond the official stop it was (it’s only 3 blocks) and Ruben needed the restrooms. So we stopped to get food, water, and wait in the LONG lines for the port a potties. There was a “standing room only” port a potty for men, which prompted a discussion with the women about how the rest of the men would be going into the sit down ones and will make it smelly for the girls, but we had no solution to the problem as we can’t really stand like guys can. I saw Ruben’s old co-worker Jude in the line. He’s also working at Amazon now, and it appears he may be in the same area of Amazon as Matt (as we discovered much later at St. Helens in Oregon).

Lauren and the Rice Crispie treatThe food at Spanaway was at least good (Whole foods!) so that made up for it. This was one stop where they had Rice Crispie Treats but I couldn’t find any peanut butter to put on them. I had some fruit and took a packet of cookies to go. Still the next time I *will* go to the Safeway instead.

Our next section was non stop from Spanaway (at mile 53) to Tenino (at mile 85). I missed the start of the Yelm/Tenino trail, but Ruben and Matt hopped right on. I got on at the next entrance. This is where I started to feel the heat again. And once again I looked longingly at the really cool lake next to the trail and wondered “why can’t I stop and just go swimming.” Ruben said “that’s a different kind of ride, not the ride we’re on right now.” I know he’s right but that lake looked SO darn inviting.

We made Tenino in amazing time. It was only 10:30 am, and I think we had only been on the bike around 4.5 hours. This was amazing time in my book. The highlights were Ruben buying a diet coke (which tasted so damn good at the time) and a chocolate no bake cookie. But nicer was the “clean” bathrooms with a real toilet, real soap and real running water.

Matt and his "doppio"The last 15 miles to Centralia were also uneventful, except for my toe starting to fall asleep from cramping in my leg. Ruben saw a coffee hut on the way into town that had a frozen coffee drink. We tried to find another coffee place that was more on the way to town but eventually circled back to it. It was the “best frozen mocha ever.” Matt asked for a doppio but got a third frozen mocha because they don’t know what doppio means in Centralia. Ruben discovered his mocha could fit between his aerobars and once again thought the aerobars were the best father’s day gift ever. I carried mine in my left hand (which meant I couldn’t high 5 the kids waiting near the college), but I did ride through the spray of water the mocha in one hand. Someone took a picture, but I didn’t see it on Marathon photo. It was epic.

Lauren and Ruben in CentraliaWe headed through the college to the other side and the best part for me – getting to go to the 1 day rider stop! For me! I felt so special! It was also my best Century time ever – 5:50 ride time, 7 hours total time. I had this sudden vision of being in Portland by 7:30 or 8pm.

I went immediately to the first aid tent to ask about the bruise. They immediately gave me some ice and asked if I needed ibuprofen. There was a really nice nice MD there who was willing to go actually look at the horrible thing in a stall in the bathroom. She said that I had bled under the skin (as opposed to just bruising?), checked a couple of places, and then gave me the go ahead to go on if it wasn’t too painful. Liz and I touched base and I told her I was going on. I also sent a text to Erik and Rich who were staying in Centralia (at Great Wolf Lodge) to tell them I was going on.

I ate a 1/2 a sandwich (PBJ or turkey? I can’t recall but I think it was PB&J) while I iced my bruise and it did feel a lot better after that. While riding I took to sticking the ice in my shorts which helped my hip which was bugging me from squeezing the seat more than I normally do to avoid sitting down fully on the bruised parts. I also wound up in my aerobars a lot more, even following Ruben, which is NOT a smart thing to do, but was necessary especially the second half of the day.

We stayed in Centralia for about 1/2 an hour, and then had a fairly easy ride to and through Chahalis. As we were going across I-5 for the second time Ruben and I saw a dust devil of straw kick up right in our path and we both had to ride right through! I wound up with a piece of straw in my handlebars and I think something irritated my eye… it was a very weird experience to have the wind speed up like that as we rode through it.

Then things got hard. It was getting hot already and the headwinds picked up. To top it off we were getting to the hilly part of the ride. The hill from the valley up to Napavine was particularly hard for me. In fact I was passed by unicyclist on the uphill! I told the guys I needed break for food a the top of the hill and also because my leg cramped. I filled my water bottle and almost choked on the water I tried to drink out of the hose.

The EggOur next supposedly quick pit stop was in Winlock. The stop took a little longer because Matt and I wanted to reapply the chamois butt’r. On the line for the bathroom I saw guy-gal tandem team I had seen on many other Cascade rides and Ruben saw on RAMROD last year, but I still don’t remember their names. I begged some ice off the gas station folks and put the pack back on my hip in my shorts to keep the pain down and took more advil.

We skipped the stop in Vader and made quick work of the hill there. Ruben and Matt were not having to wait too long for me at the top of hills, but the heat was hard for me. My stomach was a little upset, but I continue to eat something, or at least drink my now warming Accelerade. I had to stop at Castle Rock to give my leg time to uncramp so my toe would stop hurting. I also got more ice, at a little more, and checked in with Liz who was already in St. Helens waiting for Brad and crew.

On one of the hills in the 7 miles between St. Helens and Lexington I started to think I really had a flat. It’s just that my legs were starting to really feel like I had nothing left to give. I didn’t quite understand as I was eating and I should have had enough energy not to bonk. But the 3 H’s (hills, headwinds and heat) were just getting to me. The irritation of the bruise and my toes weren’t helping either. Nor was the lack of sleep which was starting to hit me. We had been on the road for 11 hours.

We took a longer stop in Lexington and was able to recharged my GPS a bit. We saw Jude & his crowd resting as if they had been there for a little while already. I sat on the ice I had left from Castle rock but it was almost all melted and there was none at Lexington. I was really tired from lack of sleep the night before and just wanted to curl up in the shade. I saw Ruben laying on the bench and was jealous for his little shut eye.

After the 20 minute or so stop, we were back on the road through Longview and then Kelso. Near Kelso had some jerk scream “Pedal Mother f-ers” from his car as he passed going the other way. Nice.

The headwinds were pretty incessant at this point, although we had heard from someone else on the road that there was a tailwind on Route 30. I was hopeful, even as the horrid cross wind was blowing me sideways as I crossed in the single file line across the bridge in to Oregon (one day riders do not cross in waves as the 2 day riders do). I lamented that this year I didn’t have Ruben’s camera to take a picture.

Usually there is a lot of “found treasures” on the downhill side of the bridge – water bottles, rear lights, etc that have come off bikes as they go over the expansion joint. There’s not nearly as much even at the “tail end” of the 1 day riders as we were. It was nice not to have to avoid that stuff.

The tailwind for the first 10 miles to Goble on route 30 was GREAT. We really picked up speed AND the road was mostly in the shade by this time of day which really helped. At this point I was seriously craving a Diet coke to help settle my stomach, for the caffeine and probably for the salts in it. Worst was the light headed feeling I was getting as I was staring at Ruben or Matt’s wheel/chain. We arrived in Goble with my legs shaking.

There was no diet coke at Goble! I was really disappointed and the Gatorade was a really crappy alternative but I bought it anyway. I ate some cheddar/peanut butter crackers I found in my jersey that I had picked up in Lexington. y. I had salt crackers that i Had picked up along the way and some gatorade. There was “only” 40 miles left. We had made such great time in the first half of the day and the second half was just sheer exhaustion. I likened the ride at that point to working in the garden all day until I was completely exhausted and then still having to ride from my house to Redmond and back. What’s usually a *really* easy ride seemed so hard at that moment. However, as tapped out as I was, stubbornness won out and I knew I had to make it on my own.

Unfortunately the wind got a little squirrely again and our precious tail wind was no more. We did have another stop at St. Helens, where I ate some more pretzels and grapes. There wasn’t any popcorn which is what I was really craving. Because this is the stop where I usually love to have the oreos (and I was so sad when they were out last year), I force myself to eat one of the 2 oreo cookies I took. I threw the other one out because I knew I needed the salt more. I thought more about Diet Coke (there was none) and also the story of Silvia K having chicken soup on her Iron Man ride. Chicken soup sounded really good at that moment.

We also saw Jude and his crew again. I suspect they were arriving at the stops before us and leaving usually just before us. This time we left before they did.

Fortunately the road continued to be shady AND it was getting cooler! The lack of heat was allowing me to do better. And best of all, the wind mostly stopped and our pace picked up. Matt kept riding off faster than I could start, but we’d eventually catch up and joke that our “peloton” had caught him.

I had to stop at Scappoose to use the bathroom, which I should have done in St. Helens, but Ruben’s calculations were that we were going to get in right at 9 if we didn’t start to leave right away. Matt bought me a diet coke while there, and then we were off, with Matt in the lead. We passed Jude & co on the road – they had started out after us from St. Helens but didn’t stop at Scappoose. We caught up to Matt again (inside of Portland city limits, which is 10 miles from the finish) and he did a great job leading at the end, pulling at 21-22 mph. I don’t know if it was the salt or the sheer will just to be off the bike, but I was keeping up.

We finally peeled off route 30 and cheered! I did pretty well at attacking the bottom of the “last hill” at Montgomery park, but totally petered out at the top. Some guy pushed me for about 10 feet and I told him I loved him. He said I shouldn’t tell his wife.

Coming in at the end – near downtown – is much easier on the 1 day ride than the 2 day ride. There is a LOT less traffic and a lot fewer people. We saw folks from Portland dressed up for their Saturday “night ride.” I commented that there were no photographers on the bridge like there usually is for the 2 day ride. Ruben and wound up at the tail end of one group and slowed down enough so that we were the only people in the chute when we were. I turned on the blinky Tiara light and did the princess wave as I came in.

Somehow Ruben, Matt and I managed to catch up with Liz, Brad and Mitch at Andina for a fabulous dinner AND stayed awake until almost midnight. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and the next thing I knew it was 9:30 am.

Day 2: We woke up at 9:30 and had breakfast with some friends before heading to the finish line. We found Mitchel and saw some riders coming in looking splotchy from rain drops. I overheard stories of lightning and hail and wondered if Linda, Rich, Joanna, Erik or Mark got hit with it. At one point I saw some my old Danskin in Training teammates (Brandi and Jennifer) arrive looking strong and fit. I never did see the other teammate – Sharon. Ruben and I waited with Mitchel to cheer Linda and Nadine (from Team in Training) come in. Ruben and I also waited for Joanna and Erik – who were told by Rich and Marc to go ahead without them as it had started to rain pretty hard and they were still 1-1.5 hours away. Rich and Marc came in around 5:15pm and Stephen and Kristina and their crew came in apparently around the same time. Most importantly – everyone was safe (albeit a little wet)!

Erik  Mitchel and Lauren   Joanna, Lauren and MK

I want to thank everyone for all the support, not just for doing the ride uninjured, but being my back up in case I needed an “out” from being hurt. An especial thanks to Ruben who really stuck with me even though I was so much slower than he normally goes. It meant a lot.

Seward Park, Clockwise, 5:30

After my first outing at Seward Park, I figured I’d try it again. Same course, a few weeks later. This time I started towards the front and stayed there for the first couple of laps, which worked OK. I then started to drift back, and found myself dangling.

Horrors!

However, I was getting more comfortable with the sweeper – and as it turns out for the 5:30 race, the hill is where everyone just collects again. So, I’d be off the back, go through the sweeper without breaking, carry my ~210 pounds of momentum through the back stretch, and slot in with the pack as they were moving up the hill. Worked great.

Pack finish, and I was pretty happy with that. Max O’Neal, the junior on our team, managed 8th – good for him!

PR: Flats (no points!)

This week was laid back, as it was the annual PR BBQ. Which means it was cold, cloudy, and threatening rain. Also meant flats – just flats, not point per lap. Ah well. I, Max (our awesome junior), and Eric (Michael’s brother) were in the race. Lots of attacks tried to go, but everything was covered. Bunch sprint at the end. I had a crappy line, as it turns out. Max got 8th – good for him!

Trek to Camano Island

It appears this is becoming an annual event. We have some friends who have a place on Camano Island, so we’ve been getting up early and biking there. Matthew arrives later – last year with a friend, this year with Elias and his girlfriend. Last year I was only able to make 76 miles going straight through to their house, This year’s goal was to make it the “long way” around the south end of the island before making it to their house (the route Ruben had done two years ago).

Stats from this year are here.

Details:
I woke up at 5am on Saturday, partly to get ready and partly to see how dark it is at that time (I’m trying to determine if I need to buy a light for a 4:45 start time for STP). After the usual running around and last minute watering of all the poor pathetic plants and dealing with my GPS which wouldn’t boot (Ruben let me use his), Ruben and I were on the road at 6:25 – a little later than my goal start time of 6am, but reasonable.

The weather was cool for the start – we needed our arm warmers. We started by going straight to the BG trail – up the hill at NE 82nd to 30th NE, then across 35th NE to NE 95th. Only after we descended onto the trail did Ruben mention that we should have taken the “fast cyclist route” – down 35th to Lake City Way up to Lake Forest Park. I’ve never done that and considering there were SO few people on the road, it would have been a perfect opportunity. Oh well next time.

By Bothell I was starting to feel hungry, which surprised me until I realized that we had gotten on the road a little later than expected and breakfast was wearing off. It was odd to really “feel” the calorie deficit. As if reading my mind, Ruben, who promised he’d remind me to eat every 45 minutes, tells me it’s time to eat. I had a package of Sharkies out of the bento box as we passed under 405.

We paused briefly to hit the restrooms at that park in Woodinville and then got onto NE 175th. As we headed up the hill on Woodinville Duvall Road, me as typical plodding along, I get passed by a guy in a Cycle U team outfit. He is obviously trying to catch “speedy” Ortega who is up the hill. He caught Ruben at the top and passed him as Ruben waited for me.

We caught up to the guy again just at the left to Broadway. At this point there were 2 of them. We went on ahead. but a little while later they came speeding by. I was still sort of waking up by this point and not quite zippy enough to see if we could form a pace line with them. We eventually saw them again in Maltby, at the gas station just before we crossed 522. I commented that we were slower, but we kept passing them because it appeared they were having to stop more.

Broadway was *wonderfully* quiet – few cars but we did see a lot of cyclists. Just before we dropped down into the Snohomish valley, Ruben noted the time (food time) and said we’d eat in town – I thought that might be a little long – the stomach clock was starting to go off as I started to feel it again, but we were going down hill so I held off. As we dropped into the valley I notice the winds were starting to pick up as the day warmed up. We were chugging along with a cross breeze, and near the airport guess who caught up! Yup the two guys, and two other guys had joined their ranks. They were doing a really “official” pace line with the lead guy only staying in the lead for a short time then pulling to the left. Round and round they went. We were slightly bad about our cycling etiquette and didn’t ask to join, we just latched on, but when the formerly lead guy pulled in, he pulled in in front of Ruben. I was at the tail end.

Eventually one guy decided to fall in behind me. I told him we promised to take our time at the front. But by this time we were practically in Snohomish. I thanked them for the pull and Ruben and I stopped for coffee at the Java Inn. We sat out front drinking coffee, eating biscotti and orange bread, and watching the other cyclists go by. One in fact saw us and turned around to get coffee too. This was our longest stop of the day at 20 minutes.

Back on the road, we hooked up with the Centennial trail. Near Machias we saw someone had set up a couple of bicycle stands for a mini tri or brick. There was a woman hanging out and watching the gear. I felt a little sluggish trying to keep up with Ruben who was trying to do closer to 17-18, so I finally reminded him that we were going uphill slightly. Eventually the trail starts downhill and we just really flew until we hit the end of the trail. We stopped briefly, I called Elias who was up (but Matthew wasn’t, of course), and used the lovely port-a-potties.

The trip through Arlington was pretty uneventful, except to note that the sign on the bank on 530 near the highway said 87 degrees. It was warming up and by that time I guess it was 80, but it did feel pretty hot! We stopped at the gas station just before the highway, and I got some corn nuts and vienna wafers. I saved the corn nuts, had 1.5 of the cookies because 1 fell on the ground and I could only save 1/2 of it. We also filled our depleted water bottles.

The wind had really picked up by this point. We started on Pioneer Highway through through Silvana (blink and you’ll miss it!), but then we veered off onto some smaller roads that meander and eventually hooked back up onto Pioneer highway as it climbs up from the valley to Stanwood. The only nice thing about the meandering was at the very end we actually were riding into the wind for about a 1/4 mile… and suddenly our speed went up 3mph! The hill up from the valley really burnt me out last year, but this year I noticed it was much easier and commented to Ruben about that.

We reached 532 and made our left, through the “downtown” part of Stanwood. There’s a hill that again, last year, was really tough for me. This year I used the construction cones as a way to do “hill repeats” – every three cones I’d upshift and stand in the pedals, then I’d downshift and spin for a bit to recover. We stopped at the top of the hill to eat, even in the sun, heat and with the noise of the cars.

We were able to make good time from there onto Camano Island and to the turn where we head southbound. I noted on the clock that it was 11:43 – not even noon! I was really happy with our time. And although we were getting hot, I was feeling pretty good. We hit the turn off for East Camano Island Road and had a decision: 2-3 miles to our host’s house or 20 miles around the southern tip. We knew Matthew, our SAG support, wouldn’t be there until 2, so we decided to brave the rollers around the southern tip. Fortunately there was a LOT more shade here, particularly on the east side of the Island. Most of the rollers I was able to handle pretty well, although I started to have that numbness in my foot again. We stopped again for another food/stretch break on the east side of the Island, and I asked for another stop on the west side. I’m discovering that part of the weirdness in the foot stems from my hamstring and calf cramping up. Ruben also noted his knee was starting to ache and was looking forward to icing it.

With 1 mile to go, and not having heard from Matthew who had my packet of recovery drink, Ruben and I had a decision: head straight to our friend’s house and wait for the recovery drink to arrive, or go passed our turn off to the Elger bay store for some recovery ice cream. Ice cream won out and we shared a Haagen Daas. Best. Ice. Cream. Ever.

It was an easy bit of cycling (< 1/2 a mile) to get to their house. The last part is a single lane dirt road and there was an oncoming car. This is where I almost bit it. I tried to pull out of the way into the deep gravel, but hadn't pulled out of my clips and almost went down. Fortunately I pulled out of the clips quickly enough and recovered, only looking like a dork. We arrived at their house, said our hellos, turned down the path to see Matthew showing up in the car! We both felt really good, but I was really happy having made the extra 20 miles of rollers. (My GPS said a total of 8,592 elevation gain, as did Ruben's) Funny post script: on the way home on route 532 heading to the highway, Ruben got a little confused once we passed the usual place where we turn onto the road in Stanwood. He said he didn't recognize the road, but then he realized he didn't because he usually doesn't drive home!

Joe Matava Crit

My neighbor Brian Cole convinced me to do Masters C/D in the annual Joe Matava crit in Burien. His wife was kind enough to watch my daughter along with his while we raced. We got down there to see the finish of the 4/5s, and Craig, one of my teammates, was already off – commenting how fast it was. Bad news. 😉 The course is along a minor hill, but it wears on you quickly. The start is a downhill, then a sweeping turn and then back up a hill, and then back around to the downhill. No real technical corners, just fast and a hill.

I lasted about 20 minutes or so into it… I followed Brian on the start, but he had problems clipping in, thus I was already on the back. I took the first corner (which is done at speed) a little cautiously at first, which of course meant I was off the back yo-yo-ing. Ugh… power sprint up the hill to catch up, and repeat a few times. The C/Ds also kept up the pace. After a few laps, I and a number of others were getting gapped. I managed to keep finding someone to give me a bit of recovery, but then I was staring at the back of the main pack moving downhill… ugh. Went as fast as I could, and started taking corner 1 pretty quickly, but I couldn’t catch up. Two laps later, pulled.

Good news for Brian though… he stuck with the main bunch, and managed to sprint for second! Good work.

I remembered reading Dessa’s blog from last year… stay in the front, conserve momentum. Yup, pretty much… burned far too much on the corner. Next time!

PR: CCW with S-Curve

Today was the only date on the calendar going down the S-Curves. This is the most technical race, and I think the hardest, PR offers. Rather than racing down a decently steep hill and then up a curvy, gentler hill (or the reverse), racers have to descend a technical double-hairpin. Those not in the front then need to sprint up a small rise to catch on.

I personally lasted for 4 laps – the preme lap, to be precise. I wasn’t in the back, but even in the middle it was tough as the yo-yo effect was that severe. People kicked it up a notch on the preme, and while I was finally able to catch back on as the pack descended, I was done. Waited for a lap, hopped back on at the end to finish it out, did another few laps… but oof. Tough race. Each sprint at the bottom of the S-Curves was over 1000 watts for me… which is up there with PPL sprints. Oof!

Mazama Weekend trip report

The Redmond Cycling Club (http://www.redmondcyclingclub.org/) ran their Mazama weekend trip this weekend. It its a 2 day trip that is 75 miles from Marblemount, WA to Mazama, WA via North Cascade Highway 20 and then back the next day. 6800 feet of climbing the first day and 4800 feet the second. I was fortunate to get a ticket because Mitchell Shoenfeld decided he wanted to not risk complicating an injury, and so I was able to buy his ticket off of him and do the trip.

Summary: Do this ride! The weather on the trip can be tricky as it has been known to snow and sleet some years in June, but if you can find a sunny weekend like this one, I have not ridden such a dramatically pretty stretch of road. Highway 20 parallels a river that leads up to a set of dams and lakes for Seattle City Light and then climbs up Easy Pass, Rainy Pass and Washington Pass at 5700ft. Having support on the ride is a requirement as there was definitely a need for extra water and food along the ride. By splitting the ride to two days, you get a chance to socialize with a bunch of bike enthusiasts and hang around the Mazama Country Inn and use the swimming pool, hot tubs, and just lounge on the porch.

Day 1 Highlights:
Driving up to Marblemount meant leaving Seattle at 5:30 to get up to the parking lot by 7:30 and start the ride. There we 3 different groups climbing the hill. The Bellingham Bike Club, Redmond Cycle Club and a third group. SAG wagons powered by the family members of one of the RCC group brought our bags and food and water up the passes. With all the riders climbing up we were in good company for our 8am start in ascending the mountain. The first and last 10 miles are relatively flat, which means of the 75 miles about 55 miles of it are either ascending or descending. The ascent is relatively fast as the grade averages about 3.2% over the total distance. The amazing part is the spires that rise over Washington Pass are stunning and still had snow fields by the side of the road. The descent off the mountain was uneventful other then being fast and almost running into a brown bear! I was screaming down the road at 35mph when a bear popped out across the road 50 yards ahead of my bike. I slammed on my brakes (slightly skidding) as did an oncoming car. We both waited until the bear crossed the road and made sure no other bears were following. The Mazama Country Inn was a great stop on the east side of the mountains. The weather was a warm 85 degrees and the RCC members were all in a great mood after the ride. Everyone was social and talking and either hanging around the pool, jacuzzi or the dining room. We ended up staying out until around 10pm when everybody went to bed for the next days ride.

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Day 2 Highlights
Day 2 had everyone waking up around 6:00 to 6:30 for a 7am breakfast and 8am ride start. People were up early talking and breakfast was pancakes, oatmeal, granola, fruit and egg souffles. The ride starts with 10 miles flat and 10 miles of climbing up to the Washington Pass. I was a little worried about the climb first thing in the morning, but it was a beautiful morning and the road was clear and the climb was just finding the right gear. The descent past that point was swift, but with the persistent wind coming from the west there was a lot of speed shaved off what should have been an equally fast ride. The only thing to note coming back was that the views down the canyons and gorges were beautiful, and I got two flats on the way down. The first was easily replaced and patched, but the second happened 3 miles from the end of the ride, and without a spare, I had to ride the last 3 miles with a flat rear basically riding on the rim. Given that I need my bike next weekend for STP I will need to make sure that tire and spare is ready to go as it has had 3 flats in the last 200 miles of riding.

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Seward Park, Clockwise

Northwest Velo (aka First Rate Mortgage) hosts the main Seattle Thursday night twilight crit series at Seward Park. Finally in my third season of racing I had a free Thursday night and went over for the 5:30 (4/5) race – 15 laps of fun along a 0.8 mile loop at Seward. I biked over from Amazon, paid my $10, and set off.

The course starts from the hairpin turn. Clockwise, there’s a false flat, then a nice descent, into a big sweeping left turn. This then rises and falls a bit, so there’s plenty of momentum, until a short, fast uphill. This brings you back to the hairpin turn, where things yo-yo.

My first time through, I was naturally cautious on the sweeper and turn… and managed to last maybe 15 minutes before getting dropped. I tried to at least stay away without getting lapped, but on Lap 14 (of 15), I was lapped going up the hill. Drat! Ah well, still a good workout, and good experience.