Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brooklyn 200k

Brooklyn, New York and Brooklyn, Washington share the same name, but couldn't more different from each other. On Tuesday morning I set out battling Lacey, Washington rush hour traffic to visit the small logging town on Brooklyn for the second time this year. I felt like a migrating salmon fighting the upstream traffic as I rushed to get out of town. Each turn I made, the roads became smaller and quieter until I reached the Littlerock General Store. From here there weren't any more vehicles. I stopped in and savored the a fresh cup of coffee and sunshine. The gas station manager was surprised to see a Randonneur mid week. I couldn't tell if he was relieved or disappointed when I said I was the only rider today.

After a quick stretch, I set off into the fog that was thick in the foothills of Capitol Forest. I followed the familiar roads west managing to outrun all of the local dogs in the valley. Finally, up ahead a sign read "pavement ends". Gravel had become a staple of mine this winter. As the mountain passes become snowed in, I'm finding local adventures by seeking out harder and gravely roads. These roads reward me with beautiful views and swollen streams from the heavy winter rainfall. Many days I'm the only person on the road passed by a confused driver in a big pickup truck. Today, is an exception and a dozen gravel trucks pass me filled with gravel to resurface the road I am on. This time the descent was a little slower as my tires sunk into the fresh rock. It still was easier than last year when we had to cary our bikes over a washout. In no time I was back on the pavement and enjoying the sunshine of Brooklyn, a treat in western Washington in December.

Some day I am going to stop and explore this town, but not much was open at 10:30 as I whooshed through. The Brooklyn Tavern was still closed and only a dog was interested in my presence. Just when you think the gravely hill climbing is over, this ride treats you again with an equally challenging climb up and over the ridge to Raymond, Washington. With my stomach growling, I began to envision the Subway sandwich just over the river. I found a sunny window and engulfed a sandwich. The only evidence a sandwich existed was the slight smell of onions on my breath. A local asked me where I was riding to and from. They were surprised that I came from Olympia and told me to be carful out there.

With fresh legs, I pounced on the large rolling hills into Montesano. The first of the headwinds occasionally gusted around a hill and made me work in the little chainring. By now the sun was setting and my legs were getting tired. The ride back from Grays Harbor is rarely exciting and I needed some caffeine to perk myself up. I discovered a new coffee shop in town on the main street. The soup from the grocery store and hot cup of joe warmed me up. I had to make a choice at this point, ride the cold dark windy miles back to home or sit and take a nap in the waning moments of sunshine. Of course I set off again without a nap and was rewarded for my efforts in Elma. I came around a corner and saw a new round white billboard, no...water tower?No, a huge full moon was rising above the trees. The thought of having the extra light on the way home was encouraging.

With an ever shortening distance home, I hesitated to stop, but a bulging bladder marked a good time to put on the warm layer and reflected gear. It is convenient that this ride finishes in the city I live in. Without needing to read a cue sheet, I fly through the intersections, battling traffic again. I bike past my house and then climb the last hill to Lacey and the official start/finish. The Starbucks attendant asks if I am doing some kind of scavenger hunt, and I say simply, "yes, a bicycle scavenger hunt." "Cool" he grins. This marks my 22 consecutive month of riding at least one 200k per month, bringing me closer to my annual goal of 8,000k of official events.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hors délai 100k

A few weeks ago I convinced a 3 of my coworkers that it we should ride the 100k popular. This was going to be the first Rando event for two of them. We all knew ahead of time that it would be a wet and wild ride around the hills of Seattle. When the alarm went off at 6 am it was raining hard, but as I was finishing packing the rain stopped. It was nice and quiet outside but now as snowing very hard and sticking to the ground. There were three doubtful riders standing in the parking lot when I showed up. We went inside to check the highway weather cams of seattle. By this time the ground was covered in a heavy, wet snow. It looked like it wasn't snowing in Seattle at that time, so we packed up and made the snowy drive up to the city. By the time we made it to the ride start, a brave group of 38 riders were assembled getting ready for a wet ride. We started about 30-45 minutes late from the start. Luckily there were some large hills at the start of the ride to warm up our cold muscles. It was raining but there wasn't any snow on the road.

The ride continued smoothly until we took a break to fix a flat. At each control, the brave volunteers kept giving us encouragement even though we were well behind the the time limit. Discovery Park was our downfall when we took the wrong bike path and biked around in circles for a few minutes. I can navigate rural county roads in the night with no sleep, but give me an urban park and all bets are off. By this time, the weather was improving and we set off in the correct direction and were pushed up a few of the larger hills by a nice tailwind. As we changed directions to head out to Alki Point, we got to battle a headwind. It was good to be in a group taking turns as we ground out the miles while talking and laughing.
The heavy wind blew the clouds away and the sun was shining as we warmed up with cup of noodles, a Rando staple. It's amazing how quickly the weather can change the mood of the day. The sun warmed us enough to ditch the rain jackets and we were laughing and smiling as we pedaled back to the brewery. I enjoyed the end of the ride after I realized we weren't going to make it into the finish before the time limit. Instead of trying to push to make up time, I could just enjoy the sunny ending of the ride along Lake Washington. When we pulled up the Big Time Brewery, the few volunteers cheered us to the end and plopped a big pizza down on our table. We sat around talking about the next ride and then the next ride after that. There are so many roads to pedal...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Year Ago

It's amazing how quickly a year of cycling can go by. I have been getting requests about what kind of crazy riding I've been doing, so this blog will be an attempt to document those moments in something more than just a series of milages, speeds and weather. (What would randonneurs talk about other than those things?) My coworker Lizzie calls our sport randonoodling this blog's name is in thanks of her making fun of me. It's funny because it's true, randonoodling perfectly describes winding in loops around and around the state.
A year ago, I decided to see how far I could push myself bicycling. I already had a 300k and a 2,000 mile recreational tour under my belt so I physically, I was ready. Mentally, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My experience in the extreme stems from other sports in the outdoor arena. I spent the last 8 years learning how to backpack, rock climb, mountaineer, and ice climb. So the idea of waking up at 4 in the morning after no sleep to ride a bicycle on a paved road seemed simple enough.
I learned quickly, that things were much more complicated that it appeared from the outside. I immediately missed the comfort of a large backpack to carry all of my extra clothes, food and water. I just couldn't believe that the little handle bar bag was supposed to carry everything need. Maybe I actually didn't need all of those things. As I expected, navigation and survival skills I learned in the mountains transferred to the bicycle, but applying chamois cream was still a learning experience.

Randonneuring gave me new challenges with every ride and I was ready to ride the world. I finished the spring/early summer series (200k, 300k, 400k and 600k) and even attempted a 1200k in my first year. A little old lady and her car put an end to that ride. (I got hit the day before the ride and had mechanical problems 570 miles into the ride and couldn't finish). But later that summer I rode my own 1200k solo in three sections a few weeks apart across my home turf in the midwest. December 31 marked my 4,000k of events that I rode in my first 9 months of riding. At this point I couldn't stop, not even when a snowstorm almost ended my goal of riding 12 months in a row. No, I just switched to the studded tires and road to Brinnon, WA just to get a 200k ride in for the month. It paid off and in February I finished my longest riding goal to date. The R12, 12 consecutive months of riding 200k rides.

Now, a year later, I begin again with my 13th month of riding. I guess it's continuing rather than beginning. Either way, here I am, still riding my bicycle.


In the fall of 2007, shortly before leaving for the bike tour down the Pacific Coast, I unknowingly opened a new door in my cycling career. Bill Stevenson and Corey Thompson have both recounted the tales of the Randonneur while at work. Occasionally, I would see the well broken in saddles of Rick Blacker and the large handle bar bag of Paul Johnson as they came in to replace another set of tires or yet another chain. Earlier in the summer I found myself on many of the century ride classics such a the Daffodil, 7 Hills and the lesser know OTP (Olympia to Portland). One day while looking for new shoes, Dan Fender turned and said I should join the crew and give Randonneuring a try. The 300k was not far away and in the warm, long daylight months of the summer. I had biked 125 miles, how hard can an extra 55 miles be? Not to mention that the ride started in Olympia, my home town. With no more excuses, I started my first ride on my trusty Bianchi Volpe. The feeling of being on the road all day, following the back roads around scenic Washington with the sun beating down was enough to get me hooked. After returning from my bike tour, all I could think about were bicycles and riding. I got the bug and I got it bad. It was easy to map out my summer of cycling while sitting at computer watching the rain come down. I quickly scribbled dates down for the entire season and started asking questions about why my narrow race saddle hurt so badly and how to eat while riding.