Saturday, September 2, 2017

Swift Summit 200 / 100

I succeeded in my goal to make it to the start line of the Swift Summit 200/100.  My morning started at 3:30am at my mom and dad's house in Albany, which is pretty close to the start line in Lebanon.  My dad rose with me and gently hovered in the background, his hands crossed in his humble way.  After watching me wolf down a bowl of oatmeal and head out the door, he stopped me to give me a hug and said  "You are strong and you are brave.  Just remember to have fun!".

Entering town, I saw our Race Director, Trevor, at the Lobby Cafe and ran in to grab my second cup of coffee*.  I was so excited my heart was racing, and had been since the night before.  Being interviewed a few evenings earlier by the Sprocket Podcast only added to the pressure build up.  I dropped my drop bag and had bib number 224** pinned on to my back.  I had hoped for 211, with my special affinity for type II fun, and the number eleven in general.  It had been my messenger number, and therefore my name, for a couple of years.  Since then, I often notice a mile post 11 sign, just when I need a boost.

It was dark and chilly at the start line and I was glad to have my bunchable pink jacket with me.  I watched Mark slide in just in time, and madly pack his bike while Trevor spoke.  Although harried, Mark took the time to run over and give me a hug and a "Bonne Route".  Trevor's speech included the usual "look out for tracks and deer, turn left at the bottom of the hill" type announcements.  Then he went on to name the fallen, the killed endurance riders from this year.  I touched the MH sticker on my bike in honor of Mike Hall. After a silence, he read a poem.

I was honored to be queuing up with this bunch of amazing athletes, and somewhat incredulous to even be counted among them.  Trevor announced that we had some accomplished endurance bike racers in our midst and that he'd like to call them up.  Then he said my name.

Time froze.  Me?!  I'd never gotten a call up before, and he was calling me up and calling me up first?  My strategy of staying within myself immediately went to crap while I rolled my bike up to the front.  He called up others then, Kraig (winner of this year's Steens Mazama 1000), David for the Steens Mazama, Route 66 and TransAm, and Mark for his RAAM finishes.  And of course, Rob English, who'd go on to win today's event.

The group finally rolled out and I let myself drift to the back.  I knew if I rode with the pack, I'd chase and wear myself out too early.  As it was, our neutral rollout was at a 20mph pace.  The dark and chill exhilarated me and I missed a turn***, which luckily added only a couple of miles.  I pledged to pay closer attention for the rest of the day.

The alternating woods and countryside were simply glorious.  Watching the horizon dimly lighten and brighten over the span of an hour felt like having a front row seat to a pretty great sky show.  I rolled into the first control, in Lacomb, ten minutes later than my 8:30am goal time, but with plenty of time before the 10am cut off time.  "I better hurry up!" I thought to myself.  Before leaving, I recited my "blackout poem" to the volunteer.  These were hand created by our Race Director and mailed to us in advance.  I loved mine so much I'd memorized it.
Riding around Foster Lake made me feel sentimental for some reason.  It was so beautiful and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to see it in this way on this day.  Coming around the more populated southern edge of the lake, I noticed much of my water was already gone and wished I'd pocketed a third bottle****.  Luckily, a laundromat presented itself and I dashed in, bike and all, to fill up.

Below is the one photo I managed to take all day.  I was trying to capture the sweetly stenciled Swift Summit logo, but was too harried to notice it was blocked by my basket.  
The next control, Arturio's house, was coming soon.  I imagined there'd be a slip & slide and lounging racers scattered on the grass.  Instead there were a couple of nice ladies sitting in lawnchairs behind a table laden with fruit and chips.  I recited my blackout poem to them and munched on some chips while madly taking my jersey off to re-pin my number, which had come loose and was flapping in the wind while I rode.  Next year, I'll sew it on.

I had done quite a bit of math on the way to Arturio's, and calculated I'd be a half hour earlier than my goal of 12:30pm.  As expected, I rolled in at 12pm, an entire 2 hours before the control closed.  The climbing began in earnest after that.  Fern Ridge doesn't seem to have any ferns and felt like more of a mountain than a ridge, but the views were grand.  

Finally the uphill it turned to gravel.  The hill and the gravel were hard but not impossible.  The downhill portion felt sketchy and I had to coach myself not to fall: "Relax, roll right through, float float!" I yelled.  

Hot foot haunted me in the final stretch to control number 3 in Brownsville, or "Brownsville 1" as I had come to think of it.  We'd have three control stops in Brownsville, and my drop bag would be available at each.  Brownsville 1 closed at 3pm and my goal had been to get there at 2pm.  I was a half hour late.

The volunteers welcomed me as if I were their long lost best friend.  They took my bike from underneath me, filled my bottles and set up a bucket of ice water for me to stand in.  After a couple of sublime minutes standing in ice water, they urged me on, telling me I had 45 miles to complete in three hours.  So I put on my shoes and raced westward, looking forward to the long flat section.

I had envisaged this section would be my time to shine.  I'd have 110 miles on me, be fully warmed up and ready to roll fast, head down, hands in the drops.  There was just one tiny thing I'd forgotten - the north headwinds that the western Willamette Valley is famous for, which always kick up in the afternoon.  The dirt devils and yellow brown countryside scorched.

I decided to finish singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall before doing any race math.  I suspected my situation was dismal, but knew pedaling was really the only thing I could do.  After we passed around the last bottle of beer, I realized I needed to average 18 mph for the next hour or so.  I was working hard to maintain 12mph.  

Soon the route turned north again onto Falk Road.  "FALK" I screamed joylessly.  I saw a lady up head walking a bike and slowed down to suss her out.  She had heat stroke and was cramping and I stopped to hug her.  She started crying and I urged her to call in and get rescued, then said goodbye and pedaled on.

A few miles later, I saw another pair standing by their bikes by a mini-mart, with a large bottle of water on the ground.  I asked if they'd be using it all and they offered me some.  They told me they were done racing and riding straight to the brew pub finish line in Lebanon.  I told them they were a bad influence and left quickly.  Although I felt little hope of making it at this point, I didn't want to quit until I knew for sure I couldn't make it.

I don't quit.  I won't quit.  I will just pedal and sing and some magical tailwind will fast track me to Brownsville 2 and all I'll have to worry about then will be the Crowfoot and Brownsville 3 controls.  That's what I kept telling myself anyway.  At 5:20pm, I had 10 miles to go.  There was no way I could get there in 10 minutes, so I stopped and took a break on a small bridge over a little creek.

I thought for sure I'd cry.  I always cry when things get rough.  This was my first DNF (did not finish) in a big event; surely I'd be crushed.  Instead, I looked out over the creek and felt strangely peaceful.  I texted Trevor that I was scratching (bike racers scratch or abandon, we don't quit!).  

Then I texted my mom and dad and told them.  They were extremely sympathetic, imagining I'd be in mental agony over the defeat.  They offered to pick me up but I wanted to go for a little ride before facing my fellow racers.  I pedaled on and enjoyed being honked at angrily by some gangly teenage boys in a pick up truck.  If they only knew how much they motivate me and my kind.

It was on that last stretch that I finally figured out the "swift" in the race title referred to the birds in the valleys, not speed. I was checking out a big metal playground slide for sale when KP passed me as if I was standing still.  His number 211 was just barely visible as he blurred by.

Soon I was turning off the quiet alley and into the finish line party at Conversion Brewing.  Everyone screamed and cheered while I madly made the cut throat signal to indicate I hadn't finished.  I needn't have worried, everyone would know that because I wasn't presented with a finisher's cap.  You can bet I'll be back to finish up my business next year.

* mistake number one: my heart was already racing, I did not need a second cup of coffee.
** mistake number two: I was too shy to request a number I like.
*** mistake number three: I should've accepted a friend's offer to borrow their garmin.
**** mistake number four: I should have carried a third bottle, I was always low on water.




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Local Legends

The day started with a mechanical, on the MAX train.  Apparently the train's brakes wouldn't stop stopping, so several riders had to ride from Beaverton to Hillsboro while the rest of us hung around Maggie's Buns eating pastries and drinking coffee.  When we rolled out, the head count was ten guys, two chicks.  I had invited the other chick, Erinne, who is a fun and strong rider.  She made it to the top of the massive gravel climb first.
I first met Erinne on this road, the Trask River Road, in 2012 during the Velodirt Rapture, which I rode twice.  The first year, I took my road bike with 32mm tires, and the second year I rode my "vintage" fully rigid 26" wheel mountain bike.  The latter was like riding a couch, so I opted for that steed on this latest adventure.
The second, and third, and fourth and fifth mechanicals all happened on the Trask River road.  There just comes a point where skinny tires lose out when confronted with lots of chunky sharp gravel.  I did notice that the rim tape had a sharp seam and used some pink duct tape to cover it.  Maybe that helped.  The impressive part was the 13 year old kid riding the bike with the multiple flats, his strong legs and good attitude under duress.
Also impressive is the gentleman in orange pictured above.  He rode a fixed gear and had a spare cog strapped to his saddle bag, along with a full sized chain whip strapped to his top tube.  At the top and bottom of each major climb, he'd pull over and change out his gearing.  He never coasted, and he never complained.

By the time we got close to the brew pub in Tillamook, the headwind had started in earnest.  Erinne and I worked together, or, well, okay she pulled me the entire time, and we finally made it to beer.  The Bike Concierge was right on time to scoop us all up and take us back to points east.  

I really appreciated the thorough ride leadering, support, planning, pre-ride communication and route details offered by our organizer.  Cheers, Gugie.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Us Versus Them

Photo credit: Keith Olenslager
I've been thinking a lot lately about two types of behavior: rolling coal and the human chain.

Rolling coal, in case you're unfamiliar, is when a vehicle with a diesel engine, usually a large pick up truck or SUV, deliberately spews black toxic fumes at bicyclists.  Yes, deliberately.  These fumes are toxic, especially to those humans who use their lungs in athletic pursuits like cycling.

The human chain is from a story I heard that took place at a Florida beach.  A couple had been out swimming and got caught by the rip tide.  They had been pulled out quite a ways and were in deep trouble.  The onlookers at the beach, all strangers, linked together to form a human chain and saved the couple's lives.  This is some top level human heroism.

I've experienced both types of behavior on rides.  The rolling coal phenomena, which should be pictured next to the word "sociopath" in the dictionary, is dangerous.  It is extreme bullying.  There's an imbalance of power (and intelligence) when a diesel truck, weighing in at approximately 2000 pounds, veers at, revs their engine and blows fumes at a 150 pound human atop a 25 pound bicycle.

If I ever met one of these drivers, I'd dare them to ride a bike, but I suspect they wouldn't even if they could.  I can't help but wonder though, if they read the story about the human chain, would they count themselves as one of the heroic types who would've taken part in that rescue?
Photo credit: Keith Olenslager
On the human chain side of things, most drivers I encounter slow down and go around.  Some motorists will even stop to check on cyclists doing roadside repairs, or offer water.  Cycling acquaintances are totally willing to ruin their ride to spend all day fixing seven flats with me.  Friends are willing to drop everything and come rescue me when an eighth flat will destroy me.  Pro tip: always check your rim tape when installing new tires.



Friday, July 14, 2017

The Oregon Out-n-Back, with Team U-Turn

photo credit: Paula Funatake
What had once been a terrifying, epic adventure of a ride has morphed into a fun and almost easy vacation tour with friends. Changing the route to an out and back helped, although it made for a challenging day five and day six, as the OC&E trail is pretty dang bumpy.  Knowing what to expect as far as stores and distance really helped.  Having drinks at the Fort Rock Tavern not once, but twice, was terrific fun.

Thorn flats plagued us in the first several miles, but we won out.  While I fixed one, Linda stopped to rest with me.  She was feverish and seeing spots and had to make the tough decision to turn back to Klamath Falls, leaving eight riders.
When we rolled into Sprague River, a lady in front of the deli called us over.  "We're closed now but we have cold drinks for you!"  She mentioned her husband's legendary reuben sandwiches and reminded us they close at 2pm.

As expected, we encountered gates and more gates, and bumpy red stony gravel.  We encountered several cows to be cooed at and coaxed ahead so we wouldn't collide.  Finally sunset and a steep hillside hike to camp by the Sprague River, so named for the way it snakes across the land.  Sprague is a native word meaning snake, which describes the river perfectly.
photo credit: Paula Funatake
I spilled a beer in my tent that night but was so tired I just flipped my pillow over and went to sleep.  But, not to worry, the mess was still waiting for me when I woke up.  I sprayed everything down, packed up and climbed up out of the ravine to the red pathway.

It started heating up quickly and we stopped in the shade to stretch.  More gates and finally that fateful left turn that I missed three years ago.  I'm determined no one shall ever miss that turn again.  Most of us rolled by the Thompson Reservoir, but one smart rider stopped for a swim.
From there, we forked off on a rutted doubletrack dirt road that seemed unfamiliar to me.  Soon it degraded to nothing more than rocks, and a big bulldozed pile of earth.  We forged ahead, carrying our bikes over fallen trees for about forty minutes.  It was as if my friends invited me to go on a mountain bike ride on the way to dinner, and I one-upped them by suggesting we swing by the gym too.

The Cowboy Dinner Tree lived up to its reputation once again.  We enjoyed amazing food and service, along with that special intimate feeling of indulging in a well-earned feast together.  Stomachs distended, we slowly dragged ourselves to camp just a mile south. Matt took off early the next day, his sights set on reaching the Crooked River by nightfall. 
The five remaining riders rode through Silver Lake the next day, stopping at the beloved Mercantile.  The proprietor asked if we were "Outback riders" and told us we are always welcome in Silver Lake.  He said the scuttlebut about litter or bad behavior was simply not true and that he enjoyed seeing us pass through.  He pointed us to a spigot to refill our water, and to the cutest port-a-potty on the planet.
Arriving at the Fort Rock Tavern, the barmaid informed us we each had a shot awaiting us, courtesy of an earlier rider.  It was still early, but we didn't have far to go, so we sidled up to the bar and took our time.  A local lady came in to offer the owner fresh rhubarb.  I grew up eating fresh rhubarb, the farmer kids' version of super sour candy, and my mouth watered.
I followed the lady outside with the hopes we'd strike up a conversation and maybe I'd have the nerve to ask her for some rhubarb.  Instead, I walked outside and she turned around and said "Want some rhubarb?".  The folks out in this part of the state are downright generous.  I took her up on it and now I have a new favorite riding snack.  They're tangy and sweet, moist and full of electrolytes, and she gave me enough to last for the rest of the trip.
We dragged ourselves the two hot unsheltered miles from the tavern to the Fort Rock itself, and holed up in the shade for the rest of the day.  We flew kites, swapped stories, and continued having fun until almost dinner time.  Then we continued north to Cabin Lake, which has neither a cabin, nor a lake.  Luckily some nice ATVers offered to share their large supply of water with us.
The next morning we said our goodbyes as two riders continued north, and the remaining three of us did our U-turn to get back to Klamath Falls in time for the train.  Every out and back ride feels like a spool unwound and rewound, giving you a new perspective on where you've come from and where you're going.

We headed for the tavern again, then several dusty miles before stocking up at Silver Lake.  We made it to the Thompson Reservoir again, taking advice from the rider who swam there days before.  It was idyllic and empty of campers.  We chose a site, set up camp, and made our dinners.  It was a bit buggy, so we sprayed ourselves.  The golden hour was approaching, so we headed down to the dock to photograph the lake.

There was a loud whining noise coming from somewhere, and I guessed it was a chainsaw up on the ridge.  Except that we were in the middle of nowhere and there weren't any humans anywhere nearby.  I was halfway out onto the dock, and my friend was at the very end.  As I turned to look at him, I noticed a dark cloud between us.  Mosquitoes, hundreds of them!  "RUN!!!!"  We ran full speed back to our site and slid into our tents like sliding into home.  The rest of the evening was spent stranded in tents, but by morning the bugs, and their drone, were gone.
The three of us slowly picked our way through the cowpies and sage bushes littering the OC&E trail.  We rolled into a sweet camp spot on the Sprague River early enough to take a nap before dinner.  It was barely buggy compared to the previous evening.

The next morning, our loads light, we headed south for our last day of riding.  We couldn't wait to get to the Sprague River deli and its now famous reuben sandwiches.  It was the best reuben I'd ever had in my life, and that's not just the miles talking.  While we waited for the ruebens, we scarfed a couple of homemade apple turnovers that have forever ruined any other apple turnovers for me.

We experimented with some parallel paved roads with names like "Bliss".  We fantasized about organizing an "Outback light" that could be done on road bikes with minimal kit.  On the trail in between, we met a couple of genuine cowboys on horses.  They urged us to close the gates behind us, as they'd be driving cattle through soon.

Arriving back in Klamath Falls, we stopped on the bike path to wait for a traffic light, and I noticed I'd lost a rack bolt.  I felt lucky it didn't cause a crash and quickly replaced the bolt.  We reunited with Chris and Paula, who we hadn't seen since day one, and drank our fill of beer.  Much later, we stumbled to the neighboring Maverick Hotel.  After showering, I realized I'd left my cap behind at the bar.  There were police and ambulances swarming the place, but I managed to slink in and out unnoticed. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spoke Card Rules, Part Two


When you are handed a spoke card, it is your duty to immediately put it on your bike, unless you have radially laced wheels.  If that's the case, you can wait until later and use teensy zip ties to attach it to the spokes, at your own risk. 


Proper spoke card installation requires a slight spreading of the spokes so that each half of the spoke card is safely nestled between two spokes.  Unless you use this method, your spoke card is likely to fly away as you ride away.

 
I prefer spoke cards to be centered on the non drive side of the rear wheel, across from the valve stem.  To each their own, but this is the best method.


If you must double up on spoke cards, place them opposite each other but reading the same direction.  And, always, but always, and only, place spoke cards on the bike you rode for the ride the spoke card was designed for.


That concludes today's special pedantic message.  See you at Pedalpalooza!




Monday, May 15, 2017

Tour de Beavs, part SIX!

We've developed a few fun traditions in the six years since we first hatched the idea of an all ladies weekend ride to Corvallis.  One is to stop and pose for pictures in front of the KEEP OUT tunnel.  One day maybe we'll peek inside.
Another is to stop and share a bottle of champagne, which used to be stashed in a secret location, but this year, Head Beaver Linda actually toted it out for us in her top tube bag.
We enjoy long leisurely rest stops at our regroup points.  Getting lost isn't deliberate, but seems to happen every year.
We've agreed on a new tradition of allowing me to select a different brew pub for Saturday lunch every year, triggered by learning that the ten miles from Gilgamesh Brew House to River Road is pretty hilly and narrow and curvy.

Until next year, "Lightly loaded ladies on your left"!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Shakin It Down

Photo credit: Paula Funatake
The day started out a bit rough.  A mere glance at the GT Backwoods, fondly referred to as "my Outback bike", revealed play in the hub.  A lot of play, and not the good kind. Luckily, Linda was on hand and able to tighten everything down.  My shifting sucked the whole weekend, but I later learned that was due to a bent derailleur hanger.  This is why we have shakedown rides - to reveal problems with gear.

The gang all met in the 'Poose, as per planned, and we were off to the liquor store by 10:15am, only a smidge later than scheduled.  Once we stocked up on necessary supplies, we headed up to the Crown Zellerbach Trail, or the CZT. 
At first the CZT is a nice little paved path, not dissimilar from the Springwater Corridor.  After a little while, the pavement starts to degrade and little pebbles take its place.  Soon it's only pebbles.  The eight of us arrived at Cater Road without incident and began the climb up to Boozer.

Ah, Boozer Road.  It's gravel, it's past a blue gate, and it all started years ago during the Randonnerd BS (Brevet Series) when we were scouring the map for fun road names.  Turns out Boozer is more than just a cool name, it's a cool place with tantalizing views and permission to tip one before noon.
Photo credit: Paula Funatake
Because logging roads often change shape, we found ourselves exploring spurs that led nowhere.  We u-turned several times, and finally found ourselves on the way to the Yankton Store.  I have many good memories from randonneuring days, eating pie and hiding out on the porch from all sorts of weather.

We climbed some rolling hills on the paved portion of Pittsburg Road, then said goodbye to the tarmac and hello to a surface I like to call "beginner gravel".  It's actually paved, but hasn't been maintained except to be covered in friendly pea-sized gravel.  My hand drawn map indicated we just had four miles on Pittsburg, but it was fourteen, so I must've left the "1" off.
Two angry snarling dogs, like those who guard the gates to hell, gave chase and tried to take a chunk of my calf as a souvenir.  So, I dug deep down and got my Alpha Bitch voice out.  I was still hoarse days later, but those dogs whimpered home.

Arriving at Apiary, we happily climbed up the couple miles to Camp Wilkerson, where the camp host told me the "Adirondacks" (their term for leantos) were closed and they didn't have my reservation.  I looked back at seven solemn faces and asked if finding my reservation on the phone would change anything.  Suddenly she found it and directed us to our spot.  She warned us of a wedding and that some guests may trudge through our campsite on the way to the parking lot.

True to her word, we did see a few people make their way through our sweet little site.  One of them was the bride and we stopped her to compliment her badass bride style of combining a traditional white dress with hiking boots and a denim jacket.  I joked that we should crash the wedding later for free booze.
Photo credit: Paula Funatake
I stuck some candles in some cookies and blew up a balloon to wish one of our group a happy birthday.  Everyone ate dinner, comparing cookstoves and sharing tips.  I learned that the MSR fuel canisters have a chart on the side showing how to figure out how much fuel is left, by floating the tank in water.  Who knew?

We cheer-led, directed and critiqued first one fire starter, then another.  We enjoyed Fire and Ice cocktails, along with beer dragged all the way out there in a fork-mounted growler.  We sat a little out of the rain and a little too far from the campfire to feel its heat, so decided to move the whole business.  Soon our swill was gone and my old joke about wedding crashing came around again.
Photo credit: Paula Funatake
Four of us ventured into the dark and across to the wedding hall, which was dark and quiet.  We crept into a side door and along a hallway.  As expected, there were big jugs of beer and no one around to drink them.  We heard voices and I panicked.  "ABORT! Abort mission!".  We ran out, and two dark silhouettes pursued.  "Hey!  Are you the bikers?  We have extra beer for you!".  Yes, Virginia, there really is a unicorn.

The next morning we took off to find Camp 10 Road.  I've seen and admired this line on the map and have been dying to try it for some time.  When we found it, it looked pretty steep and very unmaintained.  As it had been raining for the last hundred or so days, we decided against Camp 10 Road and continued on Apiary to Highway 47 and the CZ trailhead.

Parts of the CZT were muddy and there were several downed logs.  One rider, on a single speed mountain bike with a backpack, handily bunny hopped two logs while ducking under another.  My knees weakened at the sight of this.
A great adventure was had by all.  We shook down not just our gear and bikes and campstoves, but our team.  It's a grand team comprised of many types of riders and we'll all be conquering the Oregon Out 'n Back later this month together, so stay tuned.  Or, unplug, and join us!








Monday, May 1, 2017

April Three Speed Ride

April has come and gone, and so has the Society of Three Speeds' April Challenge, without yours truly completing it.  There were five parts to the challenge.  One: ride fifteen miles.  Two: ride five off road miles.  Three: ride up a big hill.  Four: Make coffee outside.  Five: Ride to an overnight destination.

The hosts of an April 1st party themed "Turn it up to Eleven" agreed to turn it back down to three the next day and join the Society of Three Speeds for a romp.  My plan was to camp in their yard to complete part five of the challenge, until I learned that the overnight requirement was not to camp, but to travel to a overnight destination other than a friend's house. I slept over anyway and the next day my gracious friends fed me and we all hopped on our sweet three speed bicycles to meet the group at a new park in Northeast Portland, named the Khunamokwst.
A nice sized gang gathered and ogled each others' bikes, while our leader, Shawn, instructed us on the ride and the rules of the challenge.  Then off we went on a twenty mile country ramble through urban landscapes.  We rode on unimproved roads, gravel roads, and even single track.  We climbed a huge hill, stopped to make coffee and even rode on a nice little dirt pump track.  All on our vintage three speeds, and dressed nicely for the day.
After all the bike fun, we stopped for beer and dinner and learned that we'd all completed parts one through four of the challenge during today's ride.  Alas, the rest of my April weekends were already busy and I didn't know how I could possibly complete part five - the overnight.

I brainstormed with my friend Emee, who dubbed us the Three Speed Queens, and she suggested we throw caution to the wind and stay at a McMenamin's on a school night.  The plan was made and so was the reservation.  Then I fell sick, quite sick, and postponed it a few days.  Still sick, we had to cancel altogether.  And then April ran out.  I'm sad to have "failed" at completing the challenge but glad to have "won" at kicking off spring on a sweet steed with some rad riders.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

MH

Spring was proceeding with its usual vigor.  I was amped up and ramping up while watching, or dot-watching, the IPWR. The Indian Pacific Wheel Race is an annual self-supported bike race across the southern coast of Australia and attracts the world's top level ultra endurance athletes.  This includes one of my personal bike mentors, Nathan Jones, the organizer of the TransAm bike race, inventor of a little race called the Steens Mazama 1000, and a badass athlete himself.

Nathan had tucked the IPWR into the back pocket of his own personal trans world quest.  So I dot-watched and cheered and commented and was inspired by the derring-do of Nathan and these other cycling legends.  I watched MH chase KA across the map, and enjoyed the comments theorizing on why and how and where every rider was.  The MH dot stopped moving for a while.  He must be sleeping.  I kept checking and finally saw an ominous yet vague announcement from the race organizers that they'd keep us updated on an incident.  Later that evening, the race was called off and the incident was  reported as the death of Mike Hall.
There's a certain gripping grief that comes when a stranger you admire dies.  When the stranger is a celebrity to you, a legend of your own sport, a friend of many of your friends, and the loss is tragic and unnecessary.  A car crash.  I don't care about the details, I only care that someone good is gone and that cars continue to take away good people, whether from the inside or the outside, and it's all normalized into "accidents".  F that.

"The show must go on" often translates to athletic events, but in this case, the IPWR organizers decided to fade to black.  Drop the curtains, the show is over.  There's no more going on now, we've lost one of our own and he'll never come back.  Fin.

I have utmost respect for the racers that did continue to ride, and can barely imagine the pain and emotional trauma this whole story created.  Everyone reacts differently.  For me, blubbering publicly about a man I only met once seemed perfectly appropriate.
The following week, Velocult hosted a sweet memorial get together for Mike.  They had a slide show with inspirational pictures of this heroic rider, and a book to sign, which would be sent to his family.  I was honored to receive a small sticker, which I immediately put on my bike.  Tailwinds, MH, and thanks for the inspiration.





Saturday, April 8, 2017

Freds vs Fasties

We all know what a Fred is: a dorky cyclist in spandex, likely wearing a mirror sticking out from his face, a fluorescent yellow jacket and tight tights.  There are many strata of Freds, from the clubbies to the commuters to the weekend warriors, to those who've never even heard the term Fred.

When Freds are finished being Freds, they either retire to the couch or move on to become Fasties.  These Fasties regularly follow "the rules", often without even knowing about them.  Their equipment is top notch and well-maintained.  Their bodies are fit from cycling, as well as cross-training.  They wear precisely the right kit for conditions.

When I showed up to my first Sauvie Shootout, I already knew I'd be the lone Fred, or Wilma, among a group of sharp Fasties.  I arrived five minutes early, prepared as well as I could be for the rain.  My bike was equipped with full fenders, including buddy flaps.  I wore a wool layer under my raincoat, water resistant bibs and booties.  Like a baby, I was fully swaddled and ready to squall.

Everyone was friendly, despite their serious athletic looks, and we rolled out just after 9am.  I managed to stay with the group as we wove our way through the Pearl District to that steep little downhill leading to Saint Helens Road and Highway 30.  The stale green light the Fasties enjoyed was red for me.

In the ride description, the leader suggested the inevitable flat tire sufferers ride the Island in a counter-clockwise direction so finding the group would be easy.  I saw one, then another, road side flat fixers.  Courtesy demands cyclists offer each other assistance, but I knew these riders had it all so I just said hello.  Finally, many raindrops later, I arrived on the island and decided to ride counter-clockwise, even though I hadn't been slowed down by a flat. 

It was a very wet day.  The rain never let up, the road was good and soaked, and many lowland fields had become nice little lakes.  Continuing on, huffing and puffing, I pushed to chase the invisible nemesis of the group.  They appeared on the horizon, like a speedy little wagon, a posse of five or six riders almost blind from pouring on the effort. 

Another dude fixing a flat appeared in the ditch. About ten minutes later, he passed me.  A few minutes after that, a drizzle of riders chasing the initial pack went by in the other direction.  Everyone looked blurry to me. 

I had planned to skip the store, but saw another flatted rider there, so I stopped to say hello.  His frame pump's mouth had been uncovered and full of grit so he gratefully borrowed my tiny travel pump.  I'll blame that few minute hiatus for the group beating me off the island after their two laps to my one.

Aptly named, the Sauvie Shootout is like a small caravan riding like they're being chased, losing riders along the way and never looking back.  I was glad to get my heart rate up, eat a fat slice of humble pie, and get shot off the back by the Fasties, and I can't wait to go again.