Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Volcanoes vs Farmland

The alarm went off at 5am.  I tried to roll over and stretch but my legs were stiff from Gold Sprint races Thursday night.  Luckily we had a flat day on tap.  Insert foreboding music here. 

As we left the Marsee Bakery in Sellwood, the sky started doing that underwater blue thing it does just before sunrise.  We chatted about what our day would be like.  That's when I learned this ride would not be flat, not even close. 

Every single route listed on the Randonneur USA website lists elevation gain.  But this route was calculated in a different way, different even from routes by the same organizer.  The descent loss was subtracted.  So, instead of an easy 3000 feet of elevation gain in 125 miles, we had 7300 feet to climb.  Most of the climbing was at the beginning and end, creating a nice torture sandwich for my useless hamstrings.  

The other thing I learned was that this was the first permanent route I'd ever ridden, back in January of 2012.  I didn't recognize it because that route included a descent down an unpaved trail in Forest Park and this one did not.  It's amazing that I continued doing rando rides, with this route as my introduction.  It's a long, tough day.

But, after all, this was just another bike ride.  We pedaled on together and watched the sun rise.  Soon, one rando, the same dude who lost his crank on the Mill City Coffee Run, fell over.  Turns out he had replaced his crank and pedals and couldn't clip out.  He was laughing before he even hit the ground and wasn't hurt.

Soon we were at Clackamette Park and comparing info control questions.  That's when crank-lost, fell-over guy announced his rear derailleur was not working at all.  Rando-Jeff tried to help him troubleshoot it, but without success.  So, this nice rider whose name escapes me, headed home.  Rando Laura said something to him that really got me thinking.  "Now you have a whole day to do whatever."

The remaining four of us did not have a whole day to do whatever, but instead, needed a whole day, almost fourteen hours as it would turn out, to ride our bikes.  Worse problems have existed in mankind.  In fact, there is no better problem.

The fifteen minutes lost trying to fix the derailleur seemed meaningless at the time.  Onward to the Barton store.  This is a nice control stop.  There are two bathrooms, lots of food choices, and even a comfortable place to sit.  We probably spent close to a half hour there, but that didn't seem to matter.

Up, up, up Highland Butte for an info control we couldn't find.  We snapped a picture of the street sign after losing ten minutes sniffing around for a non-existent road sponsor sign.  Ah, what's ten minutes.  Soon, Laura flatted.  Twenty more minutes, tossed into a ditch.

We were hungry for lunch when we passed through Canby, so we spent a good half hour at the Thirftway relaxing and enjoying snacks.  It wasn't a control, so that's a shame.  Then west, across the valley, and the bike path into Champoeg Park, then Newburg.
The stop at the Coffee Cat cafe seems like something from a different bike ride on a different day.  Was this our second lunch or third?  Back out and onto Mountainview Drive.  The gravel didn't phase me this time.  I pushed hard and then it was over.  A voice in my head repeated: float on top, just float. 
Spring Hill Road.  Gaston.  My favorite hill. Will I ever get sick of these places?  We lost one more rider as we rode near Hillsboro.  Some folks have more important things to do than ride bikes into the night.  I was jealous as we said goodbye.  Now we were three.  The frogs were singing on Zion Church when beer started calling to me.  "Beer" my legs and I whimpered together.

North Plains.  The Rogue Brew Pub.  The guys ordered burgers.  We drank beer and told high school stories.  Paid our check, had our brevet cards signed and came out to find a dark sky.  Only a few cues to memorize before the Old Cornelius Pass climb began.  The moon looked down at us as we climbed up and up, passing by the church on Skyline at last.

Many pedal strokes and pants later, we found ourselves at the top of Old Germantown Road.  A long steep descent with tight switchbacks, but nicely paved and much easier than the old route's dirt path.
As we arrived back in Northwest Portland, all eyes were on the clock.  The race to Sellwood began.  One rider missed a light: and then we were two.  Sprinting in the dark on the Springwater bike path, up through the nature reserve, then, finally, unceremoniously, anticlimactically, screaming into the Seven Eleven for our final control.


  1. About those climbing estimates on the RUSA website -- they're not very reliable. TrimbleOutdoors significantly understates the climbing on rollers; RWGPS overstates rollers; some people low-ball the estimates; some high-ball them; some rides have no climbing estimate indicated at all. (Do a Perm-search for North Carolina perms and you'll see about 8 routes with no climbing estimate indicated. 1 of those routes is flat, 3 are VERY FLAT, 2 are 'free-routes' designed back in the day {i.e., before last year, when 'free-route' meant the rider had to propose the route, etc., etc.}, 1 route is definitely not flat, and 1 route is DEFINITELY N-O-T flat.

    Further examples: go to the Perms-page on my blog; compare the climbing estimates indicated there with the climbing estimates I originally sent in when I created the routes. Some pretty big differences.

    All I am suggesting is "don't put too much credence in those climbing estimates," Instead, talk to people; maybe the route-owner will give an honest assessment. Unless, of course, the route-owner is a good friend, and who knows what lies a good friend might tell you !

  2. I forgot to ask -- did you make the finish control within the time window?

  3. Thanks for the comments, skiffrun! I know not to trust the elevation gain ratings in general, but would expect that they'd all be calculated in a similar fashion, especially those by the same perm owner. In this case, and only this case, the elevation loss was subtracted from the overall gain. Extraordinarily misleading. Instead of a pretty flat day, it was a dang hilly day.
    I don't know if I made the time window, waiting to find out. Not sure if time arriving at the control counts vs time on receipt after waiting in a long, slow line...