Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pineapple Express

The moment the weatherman utter these words, skiers around the northwest shutter and hang up their skis for a few weekends and watch the snow melt before their eyes. Unseasonably warm, humid air gets blown in straight from Hawaii and bombards the west coast with torrential rains. The cold drizzle of January gets drowned by heavy rains and temperatures in the 50s. The snow level jumps up to 8 or 10,000 feet and people living in the river valleys bring out the sandbags and the pontoon floats as they watch the water creep closer to their front doors. I decided this would be an exciting weekend to go for a ride.

Although the thermometer read a balmy 51 degrees at 6:30am on Saturday morning, leaving the house in the pouring rain reminded me of diving into the cold water of a swimming pool. Instantly water was running down my face and splattering on my rain jacket. Scott was the only one crazy enough to join me for a ride during this deluge. We spent the first few hours on the bikes verifying the forecasted 10-15mph winds out of the south west. Bent on the drops battling headwinds with a hose in the face was shocking to the system. Finally, the sky started to brighten and we turned west to head over the hills in Capital Forest. Rivers of water filled the swollen drainage ditch beside the road on the climb up Bordeaux. The trees provided a shelter from the winds and rain; the patter and splat of large drops fell around us on the road.

I was nervous about getting across the Chehalis River as it typically spills its banks each winter. Water had filled the wetlands and spread into the nearby fields, but the road was high enough to escape flooding today. We followed the valley into Elma and then turned west and back into the rain towards Grays Harbor. My speedometer jumped between 12 and 13 mph even though we were at maximum effort. The only hope was that this wind would continue for the return trip. I couldn't pass by the coffee shop in Montesano. The sweet pastries and hot coffee tasted better today than ever before. We squeezed the water out of our gloves and pushed on to our turn around of Cosmopolis. We picked up our time stamped receipts and turned around to head for home.

Hot soup with crackers, bread, maybe another cup of coffee? Chips? maybe. I had a warm vision of what I was going to eat at the grocery store back in Montesano. Mostly the soup from the big pot sitting in the deli section, but not today. The soup pots stood empty and the deli was closed. Devastated, I settled on a turkey sandwich, the Randonneuring standby. My lunch disappointment was pushed aside, or blown aside by the much anticipated tailwind. The rain even started to let up a bit as we cruised back to Elma at 20 mph. We followed quiet roads back along the Chehalis River into Oakville. The post lunch food coma dulled our pace but sparked up some conversations as we pedaled through a light mist and even patches of clearing sky.

First ride of 2011 (r35)
For a brief second I considered taking off my rain jacket, but that would certainly make it rain again. Small showers chased us back on familiar roads, and a pleasant tailwind kept us motivated. We crossed through a few places with water still running over the roads including one spot that you could feel the current pulling the bike to the side even though it was only 4 inches of water. We left in the dark and wet and returned in the same fashion. A steaming cup of hot chocolate with whip cream ended our adventure. I wondered if a hot shower would feel good after being wet all day, and was glad to find out that it did. I still feel like a sponge that has soaked up as much water as possible. It will probably take a trip to the heat of Texas in May to dry me out. That's right, Stampede 1200k will start on May 11th, more details to follow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recap and Finish 2010

Brevets and Permanents I did in 2010
I haven't posted anything since May about my rides, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been riding. This has been my busiest year to date. In June I completed my first 1000k ride in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. My body wasn't ready for the heat and sun on this ride, but I scraped through and enjoyed every minute. Twelve days later I was back in the saddle on the Cascade 1200k. This year I managed to get the ride safely (without getting hit by a car while commuting in 2008) and finished the ride with a big smile on my face. After a stomach bug on the first day, I recovered and finished in good time. John and I decided it would be fun to ride to the start of the famous 3 Volcanoes dirt road 300k. I'm glad I had fenders because we finished in a nice shower. It can rain any time of the year in the northwest. The Boarder to boarder 1000k stretched the flattest part of Washington from Canada to Oregon and back. This became my fastest long ride yet. In Oregon, I crashed when I got a flat tire on a descent during a 600k. I finished the ride and must not have been too hurt because I took another spin around the Cascades on the summer 600k. I could bare to miss an epic adventure down the coast for the Crater Lake 1000k. We followed the coast and then turned up a mountain to wind our way to Klamath Falls. I was able to get good weather on this ride and camped out in a bivy sack for the two nights.

These long rides set me up for a goal I never new I had. My first year Randonneuring I read about the few crazies who had just become K-Hounds (riders who completed 10,000k of events in one year). I felt like I had enough after 4765km of riding that year. When I finished 8200km last year, I knew that it was possible for met to reach 10k. This year on November 11th, I pedaled around Thurston County with a group of friends to 10,000km. 

I couldn't stop there because I still had an consecutive r12 on the line. I have been riding 200k every month since March 2008. Scott and I found the only day of sunshine in December and pedaled the familiar route up to Brinnon and managed to get back just before the sun set. 

After this busy year, I could only think of one thing to do on New Years Eve that would wrap up 2010 and spring me into 2011. I worked until 6:00 pm and ran home to gear up for one last ride. I didn't want to repeat the frozen toes of the 300k I did last year, so something shorter would be more enjoyable. A quick and easy 100k around the block and I might even be home before midnight. The weather was a crisp 25 degrees and the sun had set when I turned on my light to pedal out of town. I knew this route so well that I was only glancing at the cue sheet. There were only a few cars on the road as I left town, most were already at home or off at parties. 

Entering Rainier at 11:00
Reset to 00:00
I enjoy riding at night in the solitude and quiet. Sometimes I feel like a train following the track of my cue sheet into the dark. The air bit at any exposed skin and I had to readjust my layers. In Rochester, I stopped in the busy gas station and was bedazzled by the bright lights and lots of people. I picked out a Snickers bar and saved my receipt for the control and headed back onto the rural road for the next town. In Tenino, I pulled over for my first warm up break. I could feel the temperature falling so I pulled over and popped the top off my thermos. I sipped on the watery hot chocolate I made before I left, but it tasted like the best hot chocolate I had ever had. I slipped on my down jacket over my other layers and set back off down the trail. My headlight reflected in a million diamonds of frost shining on the trail. It was so thick, I was leaving tire tracks behind me and could feel the frost crunching under my tire. I quickly left the trail for the safer, salted shoulder of the road. From Rainier, I headed back home along familiar roads. I could tell it was getting closer to midnight when I starting hearing the pop, pop, bang of fireworks. I was approaching Lacey when I realized how close it must be to the new year. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of my clock on the new year as the sky erupted around me in jets of color. 

Cold but happy in Rainier
Without wasting any more time, I swung back into town and headed home. Immediately, I hopped straight into a hot bath with a big bowl of soup. All the toes were cold but functioning and quickly warmed up in the heat. This will be the first ride of my p12 award which is awarded for completing 100k each month, a shorter version of the r12. I can't wait for the new adventures waiting in 2011!