Sunday, June 03, 2007

It Was Istanbul, Now It's Constantinople - Nope, It's Istanbul Again

That damn song kept going through my head as I set out yesterday for the Portland Wheelman's annual century ride. See, it had been called the Spring Century, but before that it was the Pioneer Century, and this year they decided to go back to the old name, but with a new route. A figure-8 design with a 55-mile loop through the hill country southeast of Canby, Oregon and then a 45-mile loop through the flats around Champoeg Park. It was all too much for my little stuffed rabbit brain to hold . . . .

Anyway, I was really looking forward to the ride - I had gotten pretty bored with the old Spring Century route, and PWTC was promising more thrills and chills this time around. Only figurative chills, however, given that the forecast for the Valley was the upper 80s.

A friend, Nat, and I had decided to ride to the start from my house - he lives just about a mile northwest of me, we were headed southeast - it made sense for him to come to my place (plus that gave me five more minutes of sleep). I had estimated that the start in Canby was about 20 or so miles from home, with a few hills in between. Nat is an incredibly strong and fast rider, but also nice, so he was willing to slow down to my pace.

Nat and I left my house in Ladd's at just after 6:00 AM - I needed those five minutes for some last minute fussing with my cleats to see if I could resolve a hot foot problem I have been having. We rode down Division to the Springwater Corridor and took that over to Sellwood, then climbed up Umatilla toward 17th. We briefly contemplated pounding on another friend's door to see if she wanted to join us, but then decided she probably wouldn't have appreciated it. At the end of 17th at McLaughlin we turned off onto the bike path (lumpy lumpy tree roots) and then up to River Road. Rode River Road all the way down to scenic Gladstone (some really horrible pavement at the end there between Glen Echo and McLaughlin) and over the bridge to Oregon City, where the fun really began. By this time I had just over 14 miles on my computer. The sign said "Canby - 9 miles" but that was if we took 99E. Which we had no intention of doing.

In Oregon City we had to climb one fairly steep, but not too long, hill up from the river. Shortly after the climb up from the river we reached the Urban Growth Boundary. It was astonishing how quickly the landscape changed at the UGB - suddenly we were surrounded by lush farmlands, woods and assorted green growing things (also many sheep, moo-cows and one heartbreakingly cute foal).

Then it was 10 miles of rollers, with one long thrilling descent (more about coming back UP that hill later). Down, down, down, then up, and down, and up, and down - fun, fun, fun rollers all the way to Township Road, where we turned right toward Canby. We had planned to take the (relatively) new Rails to Trails bike path into town, but when we got there we could see that the ride was already in full swing on the path and we would have been riding against the flow. I didn't feel like doing my "salmon on a bike" routine, and so we stayed on the surface streets and headed into the fairgrounds. Got there at just about 7:45, I think (Nat was paying more attention to timing than I was). I was showing 24.9 miles, and an average speed of 14.9 at that point which I though was not so bad considering all the climbing we had done. For Nat, of course, that was akin to standing still.

Ran into some friends who had just arrived and chatted a bit - got our registration packets, ate some breakfast (the very tasty vegan pumpkin muffin in my pack had been calling me for the last 20 minutes) and performed various pre-ride rituals (reapplying sunscreen, folding map and putting in case, etc.) We met up with another friend of Nat, named Mark, and we were off for Round 2, the 55-mile loop. I could tell immediately that I was going to get a workout - Mark is as strong and fast a rider as Nat, and they were clearly enjoying the speed they could generate on the relatively flat first part of the course. But someone had told Nat that the Dan Henry's in some places might not be accurate and to be sure to double-check on the tip sheet (a problem I had encountered on another Wheelmen ride last year, so that didn't surprise me), so they were not going to leave me behind because I was the only one with the map reable and accessible. As it turned out though, the DH's all seemed to be fine . . .

I was starting to get worried about the climbing aspect of the 55-mile loop because the info was that there was over 3,000 ft. elevation gain and for the longest time it seemed as if we were on pancake-flat terrain. I had this vision of a wall, and I wasn't looking forward to it. Mark knew the area pretty well, and he said that it appeared the climbing would be up a road called Sawtelle. Yep. It sure was. But it was one of those LOOOOOOOOOOOONG gradual hills, not a short sharp shock. There was a rest stop at what I thought was the summit (silly me, I forgot that Oregon is the land of the false summit). Got some melon, trail mix, refilled my water bottles and had the repair guy check out the annoying chirping that had developed somewhere on my bike ab out 5 miles back - I thought I just needed some lube, but it turned out to be loose chain ring bolts (4 out of 5) - possibly a result of last week's fall down, go boom incident. Anyway, once those were tightened the only noises left were the ones the bike usually makes (a random assortment of creaks and dings to which I have become accustomed). Ran into a few more friends at the rest stop and I talked about how much less difficult the course was than we had anticipated. Aah, hubris. Some day I will learn. Heading out, I quickly realized that we were NOT yet done with climbing - rats. On the other hand, it helped to be going slowly, because the views were spectacular. Particularly one vista of a clear cut that had since been completely filled in by scotch broom (yes, I know, clear cutting is bad, and scotch broom is invasive, but it was beautiful nonetheless). Nat and Mark were riding too fast for me to take any pictures - I would have lost them for sure if I'd stopped for even a moment.

Toward the "real" summit we came across a water drop - the PWTC had left cases of bottled water on the side of the road and chatted with other riders - I mentioned the chocolate milk "drop" at the Gaston Store on last week's Oregon Randonneur's ride (where a rider who had gotten to the control before us had left a carton of chocolate milk outside the store for us), and how the locals were surprised to see us pick up and drink from what they thought was litter. Another rider told me about being in a train station in Amsterdam many years ago when he was in the service and finding a roast chicken, a loaf of bread and half a bottle of wine in the trash - he said it was the best meal he'd had in weeks. . .

And on that note we finally headed downhill. Yee-hah. On the first descent I really thought I would at least break 45, if not 50, but only managed to get to 44.9. I let it all hang out on Maple Grove, but still only got to 46.1. If it had been a liiiitttle bit longer, or not had that pesky stop sign at the bottom, maybe I would have hit 50 . . .oh well.

Wandered back to Canby and realized that no matter how they redesigned the route, I still had to go up that hill and over the river on Knight's Bridge Road. I don't know why I hate that hill so much - it's not long, and it's not steep - but I really hate it. Anyway, cars were backed up because the road gets narrow there and there were a lot of riders. Some expletive-deleted 20-someting with a shaved head in a beat up mini-pickup was blasting his horn repeatedly and swearing at everyone. Always enjoyable. .

LUNCHTIME! Arrived back at the fairgrounds showing exactly 80 miles at 15.7 average. Lunch was being catered by a local components maker named Chris King. Rumor had it that he was also a gourmet cook. Before the ride I had been talking with one of his employees and he had been raving about what we would eat - fajitas. Although in concept that sounded great, I wasn't so sure that's what I needed when I still had another 70 miles of riding in hot sun. But the mushroom fajitas smelled sooooooooo good. Given the choice of one or two, I asked for one tortilla with two servings of filling . . . conjuring up shades of last year's (pre-return to vegetarianism) Tour de Franck's "two hot dogs was one hot dog too many" incident on MacNamee hill . . .

Chris King Makes Hubs

And A Damn Good Fajita

Saw many friends at lunch, had a nice chat and then off for Round 3, the 45-mile loop. One friend jokingly told me I would hate it, that it was too flat, and I suggested to Nat that maybe we should just do the 55-mile loop again. Nat just looked at me funny . . . and I decided to stick with the flat. We had thought that if worse came to worst maybe we could bail out somewhere and just head home, but looking at the map we realized that there really was no feasible bail-out option. Oh well, we were committed.

The 45-mile route was indeed pretty darn flat - some minor bumps just to wake us up, but otherwise uneventful. These roads were all familiar to me, but strung together differently than in past rides. At one point we were passed by some yahoo in a pick-up honking his horn and waving his middle finger - it was the same yahoo from Canby earlier in the day - now he was clearly out to harass the riders. Grr.

I was tiring some and so was not pushing as hard as earlier and it seemed as if no matter where we turned we were fighting the wind. The thermometer on my computer was showing 97 by the time we got to the rest stop, but I am sure that was road surface interference - at the rest stop in the shade it went down to 86. At the rest stop, folks were dunking their heads under the water faucets and then heading over to the food table - the volunteers were handing out paper towels and asking folks to towel off before dripping on the food. It reminded me of the sweaty bald guy on T10K that had run over and dunked his head in the barrel of ice water that, up until then, people had been using to fill their water bottles . . . .eeeeeew! The rest stop food was great, especially the boiled tiny red taters in individual baggies with salt . . .

Hot foot had set in with a vengeance by this point - so I took off my shoes and walked around on the cool shaded concrete. Aaaaaahhh. Reapplied sunscreen, soaked my little helmet cap in cold water and we were off again. 100 miles down, 50 to go. For a brief period the sun went behind some clouds and it got noticeably cooler. Then the clouds went away and I started sweating again. When we reached Donald (pop. 895), there was a train coming through and blocking the road. A long, slow train. I noticed a corner shop and I thought, "Well, since we have to wait for the train anyway, I'll go get a Diet Coke (my energy drink of choice)." Sadly, they were out of it, so I had to settle for a Sprite. But it was cold, and that was all that really mattered at that point. As we set off again, I noted that one good thing about stopping in such heat is that the sweat builds up on your skin so that when you start riding again you get a nice cool feeling while it evaporates . . . simple pleasures (or cheap thrills).

The rest of the ride back to Canby was uneventful. The 45-mile loop was not nearly as spectacular as the 55-mile one, but that could also have been because it was more familiar territory.

Knights Bridge Road again! Aargh.

Back at the fairgrounds I showed 126 miles at 15.9. They were in the process of taking everything down, but there was still plenty of watermelon, soda, potato chips, addictive Costco trail mix, and Gatorade to go around. Nat and I discussed the various options for a return trip - two of which involved hills, another involving 99E (yuck!). We opted to go back the way we came. Somehow I managed to forget the very long time I had spent descending in the morning and how fast that descent had been at times. Oh well, what goes down must go up. And I would get to go down that steep hill to the river in Oregon City, right?

Nat after 125 miles.

We left the fairgrounds for Round 4 at about 4:00 PM, maybe a little later and headed out to the bike path (no opposing stream of bikers to deal with at ths point, just the usual hazards of people with jogging strollers and dogs on long leashes). I was definitely slowing down at this point. Nat was fresh as a daisy, or at least was riding as if he were. I told him not to worry if he lost sight of me on the hills, I was going to be gearing down and spinning them. I discovered that I could remain upright at less than 4 miles an hour. It helped to know that a really fun down hill was on its way. Of course, at less than 4 mph, is was going to take me a while to get there.

We reached the top of the hill over the river in Oregon City at 5:00 - we each called home at this point to say to expect us in about an hour (with 15 miles to go I was being optimistic). Greg wasn't home, but I left a message to fill the tub with cold water and set out the beer and salty pickles . . I hoped he would pick it up.

There was one last stretch of climbing to go, but only one particularly steep section - nevertheless I was dreading it, and was so happy to get it over with. From there it was a relatively straight and completely flat shot home. Got home to find a cold bath, beer and an enormous quantity of homemade ceviche awaiting me. Mmmmmmmmmm. I soaked, I drank, and I then proceeded to eat EVERYTHING else in the house that wasn't nailed down.

151.7 miles in under 10 hours of saddle time and almost exactly 12 hours total time. Average speed 15.4.
6464 feet elevation gain.

I had been thinking I would go for a short ride out to Stevenson WA today, but changed my mind.

More pictures from the Pioneer 100 here:

My friend Lynne's Pictures here:

Next up, the Oregon Randonneurs Hot Springs 300K:

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