Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tough Day

Bob Brudvik (coming down from Artist Point): "You ok?"

Me (heading up): "I'm a little sick, Bob."

Bob: "I can tell."

Today I offer a break from the relentlessly cheerful series of posts about brevets and permanents that litter this blog.

Yesterday SIR held a 200km brevet. Dan Turner hosted the start and finish at his house near Bellingham. The route took us through Glacier, where Steve Hameister lived. Steve passed away on a brevet earlier this year (see posting below) and we planned this ride as a memorial to Steve. The beautiful course, similar to the Mount Baker Climb permanent that I rode in July, took in some of Steve's favorite roads.

The day started well enough, if a bit early. I met Peter McKay and Bob Brudvik at a park & ride in Lynnwood for the drive up to Bellingham. At Dan's house we saw a good turnout of 44 riders, some of whom had spent the previous night there. On the relatively flat terrain of the first 45km or so, most of us rode together, offering a good chance to catch up and chat. (Picture below by Peter McKay, before things got ugly).

I started to worry when we hit the first good hill (Reese Hill) just east of Sumas - I had very little energy available for the climb. At a refueling stop in Glacier, it was pretty clear that the day would be a struggle, and I gave my car keys to Peter and Bob, so they wouldn't have to wait for me at the finish to retrieve their bags from my car.

I'm not sure what went wrong - maybe a combination of things. Maybe because I'd been feeling a bit under the weather all week. Maybe because I only slept for about three hours the night before the ride. (Chris had just come home late from a weeklong hiking trip in Arizona and I was eager to hear of her adventures). Maybe because I'm still recovering from PBP and from all the riding beforehand. Maybe because of something I ate. Maybe because I didn't eat enough at the start of the ride.

For whatever reason, I just felt lousy. Twenty miles of uphill did nothing to make me feel better. Two bouts of nausea on the way up took a toll on my attitude as well. Many riders passed me on this climb. I spoke for a few minutes to Albert Meerscheidt on the way up, before I had to tell him that I was having enough trouble being good company to myself and that I really couldn't be sociable at all.

On the way up I contemplated quitting twice. At one point I came very close to turning around to ride back. A bit later, Mike McHale came by in his car. He had dropped out with knee problems (related to a bike-car incident a couple weeks back) and was cruising up the hill taking pictures. He offered me a ride back to the start. Despite the temptation, I declined, muttering "I think I can make it." At that point, making it up to the turnaround at Artist Point became the grim focus of my afternoon.

SIR riders are generally friendly and encouraging. As I started to see descending riders, they almost always called out a cheery "you're looking great" or "almost there" to me. In my grouchy state, however, this just annoyed me, largely because I knew perfectly well that neither statement was true.

Eventually, I made it to the top. In addition to SIR member Vic Ringkvist, the stop was manned by Anita Hameister, Steve's widow, and friends. I was looking forward to meeting her and that had served as extra motivation during the miserable climb. Instead of a nice conversation, however, all I managed was a brief hello and introduction before I collapsed on the pavement in a light-headed fog. We agreed that we'd talk more at the finish, when we both assumed I'd be feeling better.

Sunshine, food, drink, friendly ministrations, and the promise of a great downhill worked together to generate a revival of body and spirit. I headed out with Don & Elaine Jameson's tandem, thinking I'd catch a draft back to the finish. They descended like a rock falling off a cliff and soon I was behind. Apparently they waited a while in Glacier, but I was too slow to catch up, especially because I succumbed to another wave of nausea on the way down.

It was a long, slow stretch into the wind from Glacier back to Dan's house, but I was feeling a lot better and arrived to a happy gathering of cyclists. With some trepidation, I partook of post-ride pizza and beer. Luckily, it was not only tolerated but welcomed. I took advantage of Dan's house for a shower and started to feel human again.

We presented Anita Hameister with a framed display of SIR memorabilia. Peter McKay and Bill Dussler had created a really nice display with a backdrop of the new Seattle jersey along with the medals that Steve had earned this year (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k, 1000k, fleche, and Super Randonneur), his official PBP brevet card, his PBP frame plate, and his PBP scan card. In addition, the case contains two items that I had carried over to France and had taken with me on the ride from Paris to Brest and back: Steve's SIR PBP name plate and a small sachet of Steve's ashes. Jon Muellner, Bill Dussler, Peter McKay, and I each carried some ashes on our bikes at PBP to honor Steve's dream of Paris-Brest-Paris.

Anita appeared to appreciate the gift and the opportunity to meet and talk with many of Steve's fellow riders. For me it was a nice ending to a less than perfect day on the bike.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mountain Populaire

A few years back, Jan Heine and Kent Petersen put together a ride just east of Seattle that climbs up a down a devilish collection of hills. The ride starts with a tough climb up Cougar Mountain and ends atop Squak Mountain. With around 6000ft of climbing in 70 miles, the ride is often called our Un-populaire.

On Sunday, around 50 riders turned out on a beautiful morning. I rode down from home (with a coffee stop, of course) and met the others at the park & ride where we started. This year, Jan is still in Europe, so Kent was there with help from Matt Newlin and Narayan Krishnamoorthy to start us off.

Other than the searing pain in my lungs and legs, the first climb was spectacular. Certain turns rewarded us with views of Lake Sammamish below and Mount Baker in the distance. My hill climbing "prowess" also afforded me the opportunity to see most of the other participants as they passed me on the way up. At the top, Bob Brudvik, Greg Paley, and Mike McHale were waiting for me (as they would throughout the day). Mike rode strongly despite a recent encounter with a car that left his leg battered and torn. Bob and Greg are always strong.

Descending back down to Newport Way merely set the stage to climb back up again. As with the prior climb, Matt Newlin was at the top (on the other side of the street this time) to mark our cards. Some nice riding took us to Tiger Mountain for climb 3, where Rene Comeaux was waiting, signing our cards, and offering a new rando delight - gummy Life Savers.

Up and over the Sammamish Plateau we went, followed by a nice ride through the Snoqualmie Valley to Carnation. Sandy's Espresso in Carnation is one of our favorite coffee stops anywhere. Their hospitality and coffee did not disappoint. The omnipresent Matt Newlin signed our cards. Bob Brudvik (new caffeine addict) and I (old hand and pusher) ordered triple shot espresso drinks to fortify us for the last two climbs. (Photo courtesy of new rider Brad Bleck - blog).

The climb over Tolt Hill Road is steep but not too long and the climb up Duthie Hill Road is relatively gentle and soon we found ourselves back in Issaquah. The cruelty of this ride is highlighted when you pass the delightful Issaquah brewpub at 100+ kilometers on your way to the dastardly hilltop finish. As you climb up Mt. Olympus Drive, the cross streets have mountain names. A final twist of the knife is when you pass Mt. Everest street, which should, by all rights, mark the high point. But no, more climbing awaits. Kent was at the top with cold drinks, SIR 100km populaire pins, and hearty congratulations.

After riding back down the hill to the park and ride, we retired to the aforementioned brewpub for some food and carbohydrate replenishment, accompanied by the telling of many PBP tall tales. A good day!