Thursday, July 18, 2013

STP

Jeff the Rando joined me in riding this year's STP as a loaded tour. His wife drove us up and dropped us off Friday evening to camp on the rather wet, freshly irrigated soccer field.  I remember when there were only a dozen tents set up on that large field, before they installed the sprinkler stystem.  Not only is the crowd of campers larger, the field is smaller, with the addition of a nice new running track at the University of Washington. 

We planned to leave at 7am but rolled over the empty and closed start line at 8am after a relaxed breakfast at Starbux.  It felt a little like that Steven King book where those airplane passengers land in a time after the present but before the future has gobbled up everything.  We eventually caught up to a few straggling riders, many suffering from the phenomena known as first mile flats.  We paced for several miles with a couple on mountain bikes, who we'd see again and again over the next two days.  This couple had a hand signal (touch helmet) for a silent "car back" warning.

Silence is nice, and pretty rare on this 10,000 person event.  Instead of looking at it as a bike ride, I view it as all of humanity coming out to spend a couple days riding bikes.  As always with a huge tidal wave of people, there are the scuffles and irritations that can happen in crowds.

"ON YOUR LEFT!" shouts are my personal pet peeve.  Somehow some of these folks seem to think that this warning, at high decibels, is not just necessary, but absolutely mandatory.  I expect people to pass on the left.  A few ladies even yelled at me for not yelling a passing warning to them, which is pretty surprising considering their sub-10mph pace.  Warning gently "left side" only seems appropriate if a rider appears to be swerving or weaving or as if they might dart in front of me.

But, I'm not here to complain.  On the contrary, it was a very enjoyable weekend on the bike.  Having Jeff around was a lot of fun.  Seeing the costumes and the funky bikes is always interesting.  My favorite weird bike was ridden by a guy with very muscular legs.  As I came up behind him, I thought to myself, geez this guy rides bow-legged.  What a bad bike fit!  But as I got closer, I observed that what we had here was a genuine badass.  This gentleman was riding a Schwinn Stringray with 16" wheels and a banana seat. 

There were at least three turtle teams to be found.  The first was just a couple in matching jerseys with a giant turtle emblazoned on the back.  They seemed to enjoy my accusation that they were the fastest turtles I'd ever seen.  The man called me Scorpian bootie as he egged me on to let him draft.  I didn't know why til later when I remembered the Castelli logo on my shorts.

Just like on the Tour de France, one could find chalk markings on the road encouraging riders.  There were also rhyming signs along many parts of the route.  My favorite sign read: "Attention STP riders!  Mike Peterson is fast.  DRAFT him!".

I abstained from using the organized rest stops and instead went rando-style, meaning I bought all of my food at gas stations, which suits me great because they always stock my favorite combinations of chips & soda, necco wafers & strawberry milk.

Arriving in Centralia at the beer tent, there was more evidence at how this ride has grown.  What used to be a modest beer garden has erupted into a huge series of tents and tables chock full of riders enjoying their hops and a replay of the Tour on TV. 

After dinner, with a stomach full of spaghetti, I plunged into the pool and swam across to appease the strict lifeguard's demand that any slide user pass a swim test.  Then, on to the slide.  A huge yellow tunnel that twists and turns and dumps you in.  Kicking out lactic acid while swimming is a great recovery device.

Sunday started with a walk to the drive-thru coffee stand for an Americano, while a parade of cyclists rode by, already on their way to Portland.  The first twenty five miles are the prettiest.  Rolling hills through countryside, cool temperatures and the promise of spending all day in the saddle feels sweet.

Stopping for banana bread is a tradition.  So is Gene not recalling my name.  He and his wife Susan have been serving free banana bread to STP riders for ten years now.  There are so many exchanges and conversations and observations, it's hard to keep track.  Like the bicycle built for four with dad on the front, mom on the back and two boys in the middle.  Or the couple of gals at the convenience store riding their first STP and having knee pain.  They asked how many I'd done and I counted.  9.  How is that even possible?  Suddenly they were asking advice.  I told them to take ibuprofin and buy a foam roller.

Stayed with Jeff pretty steadily through to the Longview Bridge, which was extra congested because of a three car accident.  When the group of cyclists were released, we actually caught up to the line of cars ahead of us and passed them.  Then, down the huge bridge descent, into Oregon and onto Route 30, which would be our home for the next 45 miles.

Burgerville in St. Helens was a madhouse.  I've stopped here every year and remember feeling grateful I was the only cyclist who knew about it.  Not anymore.  This and so many other things have changed over the years.  I recall riding with Ryan and Sarah the first year.  We created a system of check nicknames, which we still use today (see comment on blog entry Pedalpalooza B).  And I recall riding with Ryan the second year.  We called ourselves hot soup & crackers, inspired by my Campbell's Soup jersey.  The cute little lunch diner we found is now a mini mall.

And that about says it all.  Every cute little lunch diner you ever find will one day become a mini mall.  Does that mean you stop going and find another cute little lunch diner?  Maybe.  But keep in mind, whatever diner you find will eventually become a mini mall.  Whatever small group ride you attend, may eventually become a huge event ride.  Whatever first time things you start doing, may eventually become a decade long, or more, endeavor.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bike MS Write-Up

Things to Think About as You Prepare for a Long Ride (or) Even Freshman Riders Can Rock Bike MS.

About the author: I am a bicyclist, some might even say a serious one.  I delight in all things bike.  I even work in the bike industry, as the Marketing Coordinator for Western Bikeworks, the premier bike shop sponsor of BikeMS.  There's no kind of bike-riding I don't like, although distance road riding is my favorite. - Maria Schur

As you embark on your next hard ride, consider your head as the most powerful tool in your arsenal. Although training and fitness matter, the higher truth is that endurance events happen up top, in the brain.  Bryce Courtney states it simply in his book The Power Of One: “...The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses..."
 
One mental preparation trick is to peek at a map of the route several times in the days before the big ride.  Visualize the start, where many experienced riders still get butterflies from the excitement.  Picture what you'll be wearing: "cute power" really does help!  If you look good, you feel good and if you feel good, you can rock whatever it is you want to rock.  Maybe even jot down some strategies to re-read over breakfast on the big day.  Things like breathe deeply, smile, enjoy the view.

Make a list.  Forgetting your shoes or helmet can be a ride killer.  Double check for essentials before leaving home in your car: shoes, helmet, water bottles, sunglasses.  Pump your tires up to pressure the night before and doublecheck them before bed.  It's way more fun to fix a flat at night at home than in the morning at the start line. 

Time equals distance.  Using a bike computer is a great way to is get the feel of how long it takes to ride certain distances.  If the idea of riding 33 (or 100!) miles is overwhelming, consider the time instead.  You'll be pleasantly surprised to see how a little math can help you calculate your finish time.  Don't forget to factor in rest stops.  They may feel short, but six ten minute stops adds up to a whole hour.

Train!  There are a ton of great training guides you can follow.  Riding your goal distance spread out over a week for several weeks in a row will help your performance on ride day.   Resting is as important as training, especially in the three or four days before the event.   See if you can add an hour of sleep for a few nights.  Eat and drink healthfully. 

The day of the ride: eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty.  A general rule of thumb is 100 calories and a full water bottle per hour, but every body is different.  Use your training rides to determine the types and amounts of fuel you need to feel good.  Consume the same electrolyte drink and food you've been training with.   Inside info: Western Bikeworks will be providing Louis Garneau's LG1 electrolyte replacement powder.

And remember, all of this will pay off.  You'll have fun.  You'll accomplish a physical feat.  You'll make friends.  You'll experience beautiful vistas.  You'll enjoy a celebratory feast.  But, most important, you'll be making a difference by raising money to fight Multiple Sclerosis.  Charity rides like this spread good health to participants and recipients alike.  Thanks for riding!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pedalpalooza 2013, Part B


Pedalpalooza 2013 is over.  It's sad to see it go, but it's also happy because it means summer is officially here.  The rain has subsided, the mercury is up high, and my summer legs have arrived.
The Chutes and Ladders ride was an absolute hoot.  We were supplied with maps and a die.  Ready, set, go, roll your die and ride that many blocks.  If the map and the chalk marking on the road tells you to, you can skip ahead on the course using a ladder or lose ground on a chute.  Look out for the double-chute!
Another great event I had the privilege of attending is the Rocky Butte Sunset Dance Party Potluck Picnic Ride.  This ride deserves its seven word title.  I joined a group of cyclists in the grass at Irving Park, but didn't recognize a single person.  Then the leaders welcomed everyone to this year's Bike Play ride and I flashed back to college days when I started freshman year in the wrong class.
After roaming around the park and finding the Rocky Butte riders, I was happy to see many friends in attendance.  We rode over to the butte and watched the clouds clear up just in time for a spectacular sunset show. The potluck picnic portion of the party was a total success.  I brought a box of honey stinger waffles to share and munched on a banquet of offerings from others, including a pretty orange daisy.
At the last minute, I was elated to be invited to the dropout prom.  The sprint there also put me on top of the world - from Rocky Butte to Colonel Summers Park in 20 minutes ain't bad.  I didn't have a dress or time to stop for one, but the orange daisy made for a nice corsage.
After a non-Pedalpalooza road ride around Sauvie Island the next day, I rushed home to change into a paisley dress and raspberry beret just in time to jet off to the Bowie vs. Prince ride.  Lots of purple and creativity were in attendance, like the papier mache Prince head pinata, the lady dressed as a dove with tears drawn on her face and someone dressed as a royal prince.
The sound system finally arrived and we rode and rocked out to our favorite tunes while pedestrians cheered us on.  One of the best parts of Pedalpalooza parade-style riding is overhearing murmurs of "I love Portland" from both witnesses and participants.  We met up with the Bowie group and let them beat us at tug of war.  Then, on to a dance off, which I missed as it was late and I was tail-light-less.
Up again the next day with another bike and another outfit, this time for my very own Pedalpalooza ride - the second annual Swim Across Portland.  The forecast called for rain again this year and it did sprinkle on us, but not enough to ruin swimming.  Five of us headed over to Grant Pool for splashy fun and succeeded.  The City of Portland public pools disappointed me for the next two pools, which were closed and gated, even though I had been assured in advance that they only ever close for thunder and lightening.
Leaving Pier Park in St. Johns, we lucked out to pass by bike polo.  It's come a long way in the time since I saw my first game.  The mallets appeared standardized and the ball was bright orange, making it much easier to spot.  Most of the wheels had spoke protectors and the riders were unbelievably adept at track standing and maneuvering the ball around the court and into the goal.
For my last ride of Pedalpalooza, I joined Erinne and friends for a frisky early ride up to Forest Park.  Gnar was shredded.  Bunny ears were mounted.  Fun was had and mud was everywhere.  And thus closes another Pedalpalooza packed full of fun and friends and play.