Friday, October 16, 2009

A Catch-Up Post

The longer I go after posting to this blog, the harder it is to get started again. So here's a bit of a catch-up for the last three weeks.

Mount St Helens

After flying high with a fun 1200k brevet on the plains and a fastest-ever 200k permanent, I came crashing back to earth. In Icarean fashion, it was a too much ascent that caused the big descent. On a Wednesday (9/23) a collection of usual permanents suspects met in Winlock for a permanent up to Johnston Ridge Observatory on Mount St. Helens (and back). For years, I've meant to do the organized Tour de Blast ride, but somehow never got around to it. Geoff's Winlock-MSH-Winlock permanent wraps the same climbing in another 40 or so miles of gentle rollers to get the magic 200k distance for the permanent.

My performance peak came early as I staved off a convenience store stop in Castle Rock with a timely spotting of an espresso serving bakery. After that, it was a bit of an ugly-fest for the rest of the way up to Johnston Ridge. I augmented my usual climbing prowess with a series of rookie mistakes - not enough sleep, not enough food, not enough hydration, and starting the climb too hard. The 4000 foot climb to Johnston Ridge is interrupted by a 1500 foot down hill, making it more like a 5500 foot climb (somehow the whole route was 9000 feet of climbing). By the time I reached the top I was a bit of a wreck.

But it was a beautiful course with great views of the mountain, so it was a good day anyway. More than 50% more elapsed time than the last 200k (nearly 12 hours total), so back to normal!

Barlow Trail

The next order of business (Saturday, 9/23) would be the Barlow Trail 300k put on by the Oregon Randonneurs. Michael Wolfe, who has recently moved from Portland to Seattle, created this route, pre-rode it during the summer, and then had to postpone the event because of record heat. (Warmer, even, than that I enjoyed on the XTR.) Somewhat humbled by my torturous ascent of Mount St. Helens, I asked Michael about the climbing on this ride. "I'm not gonna lie to you, this is a challenging ride" was not really the reassurance that I sought. My usual riding buddies were iffy as well. Geoff thought that some rest would be a good idea. Vincent was about to leave for the Endless Mountains 1240. Might good sense prevail? Not likely - there was a ride to do. As Geoff's e-mail put it, "Sanity is overrated; suffering is temporary; I’ll be there." So Friday, Geoff, Vincent, Michael, and I are carpooling to Portland. Well, to Sandy, OR, where the ride would start.

The ride was spectacular. Michael was right, it was challenging, but the suffering was modest. We followed the Clackamas River upstream in the morning.

We left the river to climb through the forest on some delightful roads.

One in particular was made all the more delightful by a relative lack of traffic. The paucity of cars could be attributed to the fact that instead of a bridge over Anvil Creek, the road simply ended on one side and restarted on the others. No problem for intrepid randonneurs, but not so good for cars.

We screamed downhill towards Maupin and the Deschutes River. Without the incinerator heat present on my only other trip to Maupin (on XTR), the town seemed quite pleasant. I even felt like eating this time. Geoff and Vincent joined me for a nice sit-down lunch. As with the XTR, we left Maupin for a stretch downriver and upwind along the Deschutes.

A familiar climb brought us out of the river to Tygh Valley. The painful, guardrail-sit inducing, never-ending climb up Tygh Ridge from the XTR was not on this route. Instead we headed for Wamic Market,  climbing out of the valley on a different road.

After fueling up at the market, we headed into the hills on the Barlow Road Route towards Barlow Pass.

We felt pretty good on this stretch and climbed well.

It was dark when we reached the summit and then descended and climbed to the last control in a chilly Government Camp. At this point I was acutely aware of my mistake - forgetting my arm and knee warmers - so I begged for a soup stop before going on. The tomato soup at the Ice Axe Grill did the trick. After donning every item of clothing I had with me, including my always-carried but seldom-used Gore jacket, we zipped down the hill to pizza and beer at the finish in Sandy.

A great ride. Glad I didn't miss it.

Watching a Race

The following weekend brought something different. Bob Brudvik and I headed down to Southern California to crew for SIR member Chris Ragsdale on the Furnace Creek 508 ultramarathon cycling race. Being in the crew van gave us a front row seat for Chris's impressive win over rival (and winner of the last three FC508s) Michael Emde. The FC508 bills itself as “The Toughest 48 hours in Sport” with a race course that is 509.58 miles long and has a total elevation gain of over 35,000′, while crossing ten mountain passes, and stretching from Santa Clarita (just north of Los Angeles), across the Mojave Desert, through Death Valley, to Twenty Nine Palms. An already difficult event was made even more challenging this year by DNF-inducing winds gusting to 60mph+ (and not tailwinds, either!).


Watching a race is all well and good, I suppose, but I needed a ride. Happily Geoff was game for a weekday ride up to Mt Rainier on the Sunrise Climb permanent from Black Diamond. A picture is worth a thousand words.

A wonderful day.