26 August 2008

Olympic S24O

With little more than an inquiry from Kent about taking a little spin for a couple days, I was in from the start, knowing that the summer was rapidly coming to a close. Matt jumped on board while the others had commitments preventing a foray into the woods (I've been on that side enough times). The weather was cloudy and warm Sunday morning, though the NOAA forecast was less positive:

Sunday: Rain likely after noon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 68. South wind between 8 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Sunday Night: Showers likely. Cloudy, with a low around 54. South wind between 5 and 8 mph becoming calm. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Monday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 65. Calm wind becoming north northeast around 6 mph.

On the edge of being potentially epic-miserable, lesser fools might have had the sense to cancel said plan. With divine foresight, Matt said "I'll also bring a big tarp in case we're hanging out in the drizzle." Yep.

I had sort of a plan, that wasn't really a plan, to camp higher up in the Olympic Mountains and so on Sunday morning we all met up on the west side of the Hood Canal Bridge for a quick jaunt to Quilcene. The weather was good with a stiff southern wind. We met up and there was a general consensus for no hurrying - calm progress would be the order of the day.

We arrived at Logger's Landing restaurant for breakfast - tasty home-made corned beef hash and eggs, and by the time we left it was raining. We started our route up on Penny Creek Rd. to FS Rd. 27, a fairly nice old paved road which gains about 4000 ft to our overnight spot. For the next 4 hours plus we clawed our way up, "thinking pure thoughts" (ala Frank Zappa) about that next sunny morning we'd be appreciating. My idea was to get to Sink Lake below Mt. Townsend, which would require a short hike, but as adventures don't occur without a healthy dose of error, I choose the wrong trailhead turn and we ended up in basically an overgrown parking area at the dead end of a long gravel road. Oh well.

Now near 4PM and unlikely the rain would stop, we made camp. That tarp came in real handy - otherwise we'd be trapped in our bivy sacks for the next 12-14 hours. With the tarp, we had some moderate shelter from the drenching rain for heating water, eating and chatting, all very civilized. We decided two things could change this from merely miserable to horrid. Wind or cold. Either would have tipped the balance toward the less pleasant end of the outdoor experience. By 8PM we'd eaten enough, bear-bagged the food and gone to sleep. Three distinct snores were the only sounds for miles around. I woke up a few times, waiting till the last possible moment to put on my soggy cold shoes to go take a leak. (Hadn't considered the value of a few plastic bread bags until then). It stayed calm and foggy all night and kept on raining.

Sometime after 5:30AM everyone was up and the immediate decision was made to bail on the "up and over route" for the direct descent back to the Logger's Landing for hot food! There was no squabbling. I love a good fast drop in crappy conditions, so it wasn't long before we were packed and flying down. Wet road, slippery with moss and cracked pavement made it a good skill building exercise and twice Matt headed for the woods on a curve, but stayed upright! Kent was on a 60" fixed with a single front brake so he was more controlled. The Pereira did well with it's loaded lowriders and handlebar bag and I could take my hands off the bars and stretch my arms on the straight-aways. No shimmy at all.

About an hour later, we were down and biscuits and gravy hit the spot along with a few cups of coffee. The rain continued. We headed up Center Rd. north to Hwy 104 where Kent and Matt would head east, while I would continue north to PT. All in all a good effort, but much like spending 24 hours inside of Tupperware. We said our goodbyes at the bridge and I stated that without a doubt the sun would be shining in PT, and by golly, just 4 miles from my house I saw my shadow and felt the warmth. I should have brought sunglasses.

Photos by Kent here >>
Kent's blog post here >>

18 August 2008

SIRs RUSA 10th Anniversary 200 km

What a fine day for a ride! Beautiful sunshine to start the day and very alert volunteers were out in force for the once-in-a-lifetime RUSA 10th Anniversary brevet. There were nearly 50 riders ready to go and despite the previous week of hesitation on my part, I was really glad to be there. Test rides the week before took the Pereira out of the mix as an incessant creak from the front wheel was driving me crazy and I couldn't resolve it. Eddy O was the backup as there would be little need for fenders.

Eric asked me to lead out folks to the first turn but that lasted all of 10 seconds as I was swamped by the first half of the pack. With a number of friends back from bike tours and 1200s, I was out-gunned from the start. A couple of us, Al, Trudy and Lyn formed a little chase group and motored our way to the Bad Carb Control. It was a quick in and out, but I somehow got a few cookies and was conscripted into poem writing for the newsletter by the irascible Maggie...Peter Leikio and I got some time to chat before heading onto the shaded roads to Banner Forest. He flatted and that was the end of our conversation unfortunately; little did I know then I would be experiencing the same many times later on. Met up with James McKee and swapped tales of parenting...he's got a way more ambitious plan than I!

Rode too with Cindi who I met at PBP 2003 - nice to reminisce about an evening of pure adrenaline as we raced across France in the dark with a couple of BC women (which also did in my Achilles for the remainder of the ride). After the info control our group formed up again and we cruised into Belfair and the Good Carb Control at Twanoh State Park. I consumed a few potatoes, orange slices, an egg and V8 for extra go power. Started out a little slower this time and had to keep reminding myself that there was still 120 km to go and the day was getting hot already.

There was constant banter about the relative flatness of the ride. I must have been hallucinating because it sure seemed like a fair amount of climbing to me! I did enjoy going down Newberry Hill Rd and the generally rolling terrain though. Crossing north of Poulsbo I stopped to see the caveman at Valley Nursery who did not complain while I soaked my head under the water can. The mist was cold and very refreshing - it also amused the people in their cars who gave me a thumbs up. Hopping onto Bond Rd. and then Big Valley brought on more heat and a good headwind, plus the start of flats. None were blowouts, just a constant stream of leaks that kept me on the side of the road more often then I like. Made it to the Liquid Carb Control at Hood Canal Brewery and enjoyed some delicious brats and spuds with a handful of chips. What a perfect location! A regular outdoor BBQ with a shady spot to sit for tire changing too.

Even making it to the Liquid Carb Control was no respite as my tire went flat soon after leaving the control. This time I was out of tubes and then an angel on a Colnago landed nearby and graciously gave me a new tube - thank you Dan Turner!! That made all the difference and heading back into Bremerton on Central Valley Rd. and Tracyton Beach Rd was a joy. I didn't even know Bremerton had a bridge until I rode over Manette Bridge. What a spectacular end to the ride and I was good and tired.

Big thanks to all the volunteers: Peter Beeson, Catherine Monro, Eric Vigoren & Maggie Williams for organizing and providing such cheery support! I will try to write a poem...really....

13 August 2008

Handling Adversity

Watched the very riveting women's gymnastics last night and thought about a few randonneuring challenges as the US hopes for gold turned to silver. As I saw Alicia Sacramone teeter off on the beam at the very start of her routine, you could see every bit of anguish at what that meant for her, the team and the country. The look on her face was of such contained emotion I thought she would burst. Amazingly, she held it together as millions of people were watching her every move with cameras from all angles. She didn't break, and even after falling on the floor routine, kept it pretty together emotionally. That is the part that really stuck with me, her ability to maintain composure, however tenuous, despite what I would consider to be the most pressure a human could stand outside of combat. Bravo.

I thought back on what effects a problem or challenge in randonneuring seem to have on different folks, when numerous flats, physical ailments or simply the tiring efforts a long ride take on your mental control. Before I got to Mortagne au Perche in PBP and was beyond the time cut, I felt like I was done, but unlike Alicia I didn't have hundreds of cameras and viewers all over the world focused on my agony. I can't imagine what that was like and would rather not. What I did feel was that whatever it takes to keep focused on the goal is what matters, you can't do anything about some of the circumstances, but you do have control over how you handle the adversity. May I continue to have the fortitude to maintain when the going gets rough. There are some role models out there.