Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fun With Weather, or What A Difference A Year Makes

This past Sunday was the 4th Annual Barlow Century. This organized ride is put on by a LBS, River City Bicycles, as a benefit for a very cool non-profit called b.i.k.e.


The route begins in Gresham, Oregon and heads east (and UP) to Lolo Pass on the flank of Mt. Hood. It's not all THAT much climbing, only about 6500 feet over 97 miles, but the climbs are mostly of the long, grinding variety that can be pretty tiring.

Last year, the weather was beastly hot. In the upper 90s for most of the ride - 104 by the time I headed home. This year? Well, this year it rained. And rained. And rained. I came prepared with wool jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, rain capris, rain jacket (hooray for Showers Pass, the best jackets in the universe) (no, they don't pay me to say that - but they can if they want too . . .)

The feature point of the ride is an 8+ mile climb up an old forest road to Lolo Pass Summit. It has just enough steep pitches to make it interesting.

There's one little hair pin that pitches up so quickly that if you have not geared down in anticipation you are fairly likely to fall down. Last year I watched two different riders "turn turtle" at that point. Fortunately, when you are only going 3 miles an hour, it doesn't hurt all that much. It's just embarrassing. The key is to immediately jump up and exclaim "I meant to do that!" It's sort of amusing to see how slowly you can ride and still remain upright - at one point I was at a whopping 2.7 mph. It took me almost exactly one hour to get from the start of that climb to the rest stop at the end, which is about 15 minutes less than I had budgeted (Yay!)

It had been pretty much drizzling all day, but just as I reached the top, the heavens opened and the rain began to come down in buckets. Well, no actual buckets, just lots of rain. Riders were huddling under a canopy, and every once in a while you'd hear a yelp when water that had been pooling on top of the canopy suddenly broke loose and poured down the back of someone who hadn't QUITE made it all the way underneath.

Usually, I really look forward to the descent from Lolo. The road down is wider and less technical than the road up, and there are only a couple of gravel patches to watch out for. This time, however, I had to factor in slickness from the rain, longer stopping distances, and that whole "can't see through wet glasses" problem. That, plus when the rain hits your face at 35 mph, it's a lot like running into a cactus at full speed. But I was still able to get going fast enough to be practically hypothermic by the time I got to the end. With a lot more climbing to go, however, I warmed up soon enough. The most interesting part of the descent was hearing the rain hit the high-tension electrical lines that run down the valley next to the road. Snap! Crackle! Pop! Sizzle!

At the end of the day, I had put in 118.3 miles and burned a whole lot of calories. Of course, I also took in a whole lot of calories . . .

Gourmet fig bars at every rest stop, it was hard for me not to be piggy . . .

I'm the one on the right . . .

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