Monday, February 18, 2008

The Accidental Permanent

I didn't intend to ride a permanent yesterday. Since September, my longest rides have been around 100km. I've been hoping that SIR's winter training series, with its increasing distances would help me work back to longer rides. My participation in those rides has been a little spotty. Last weekend (Feb 9), I skipped our Vashon Island ride to participate in the WA presidential caucuses. The combination of my speed, the distance, the start time, and the ferry rides made it impossible for me to do both. Instead, Kevin Humphries and I rode from Redmond to meet Kent Peterson and Matt Newlin in Issaquah. We explored some trails, new and old, from Issaquah to Carnation (with obligatory stop at Sandy's Espresso) before returning to Redmond.

This Saturday, I planned to join the SIR folks for the North Bend training ride. About halfway through my drive to the start, a nagging feeling set in that I had forgotten something. I pulled over and determined that I was without cycling shoes. Oops. No ride for me.

Recalling that riding buddy Wayne Methner was planning to ride a permanent on Sunday, I sent him an e-mail. To be honest, I was nervous about attempting a ride twice as long as any I had done in the last 4.5 months. On the other hand, the route starts 2 miles from my house, so I wouldn't forget my shoes on the bike ride to the start.

Good weather was forecast, with sunny skies and temperatures in the fifties - quite a gift for a February ride in the NW. The morning started cold, however, and I rode down the hill in a sub-freezing fog to meet Wayne at the coffee shop. The first indication of the beautiful day to come was the delicate frost on the wool sleeves of my jersey.

The coffee shop picked yesterday to open late, so Wayne and I stood outside in the cold waiting for the shop to open and for the other riders to arrive. Happily the doors soon opened and hot coffee flowed. We were joined by Matt Newlin, Bob Lagasca, Mike Richeson, Albert Meerscheidt, and Jennifer Chang. The group represented a wide range of randonneur experience, from Wayne who is starting his 11th season in randonneuring, to Jennifer who is contemplating her first. She came along, she said, to see if she could ride 200km. I didn't say so, but that was my motivation as well.

We rode in a group along the Sammamish Slough and Lake Sammamish to the first control in Issaquah. Out of the control, we hit our first substantial hill. As the hills would do all day, this one immediately spit me out the back. We regrouped over coffee at Sandy's in Carnation. The fog burned off as we headed along the Snoqualmie and Skykomish valleys to Sultan, treating us to spectacular snow covered mountain views. On Ben Howard Road, the hills again separated my from the group. Instead, bad music from the seventies kept me company. Andy Kim's "Rock Me Gently" proved to be a very persistent companion all day. The song's infectious good mood matched my own. My dismay at my conditioning was no match for the joy of doing a long ride again on a beautiful day.

I lost my riding buddies again just outside Sultan. I briefly caught a glimpse of Wayne walking his fixed gear up a monstrously steep section of Reiner Road, but he was walking faster than I was riding. Crisp clear air and nice views kept me company to the far point of the route on the Jordan River footbridge and back to the Granite Falls control. The unexpected but welcome sight of parked rando bikes greeted me at the control. I fueled quickly and left with the group.

The 60km back felt great. Despite tired legs, I knew I'd make it back in time. After a long layoff, this knowledge was invigorating and wonderfully reminiscent of my early experiences in the sport, when I didn't yet know what I could do. With the other riders stopped occasionally for roadside repairs, traffic lights, and generous regroups, I finished with the group. Twelve hours for 213km - nothing to write home about, but a very gratifying day (and night) nonetheless.

Things that just worked: my bike - no mechanical problems; my new Supernova LED generator light - incredible illumination on the road; my attitude - unfailingly positive and just happy to be out riding; my riding friends - as he has since 1998, Wayne again provided the support and companionship that has helped me to the end of many a ride; and my ankle - although a little sore today, it took the distance jump well.