Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Pre-Ride

[Picture Hint: Click on the photos for larger versions]

On July 14, my randonneuring club is having its "July Grab Bag" brevet. It's a set of 3 loops, each roughly 100km, and riders have a choice of doing 200 or 300 km. I volunteered to pre-ride the route yesterday, in order to make sure there weren't any problems like road construction or washed out bridges that would require detours. Like this, for instance, where 4th Street in Gervais used to be:

This would be my first pre-ride, but I was joined by Rickey Smith, a veteran randonneur. I had a goal - finish the 300 km course in less than 16 hours total. Rickey had a system that, assuming nothing went wrong, would get us done in 15. "1 mile every 5 minutes, 12 miles every hour, 100 km every 5 hours." Including stoppage time, that translated out to an average riding speed of 15 mph. The route seemed pretty flat, so I figured it was possible.

The loops each started and ended at the Travelodge in Newberg, Oregon. I stayed there Friday night because we planned to leave at 5 AM and I did not feel like getting up (and getting the dogs up) at 3 AM in order to drive from home. I met up with Rickey in the parking lot at 4:55, and we were off. The first loop took us roughly NE to Forest Grove and then back down through and around Sherwood to Newberg. Most of the roads for the first 30 miles were familiar because they are all parts of various PDX Velo routes. Some of the other roads I hadn't ridden since 1993. Boy had some things changed - a lot more development, for one thing.

The cue sheet ended up being incorrect for one part of the ride through Sherwood - we wasted about half an hour and gained about 5.5 miles in distance trying to figure it out - our average speed also took a beating because we were going so slowly looking at street names and the distance markers. We finally figured out (with the help of passing motorists) were we needed to go. The most interesting part of the first loop was a long climb up Kruger Road, followed by some truly thrilling technical descents on hairpins. At one point I was going so fast I missed our next turn, and had to backtrack. Fortunately, it was at the end of the hill, and so I did not have to back track uphill . . .

Although we made up some time after Sherwood, we missed the "100km every 5 hours" mark by 5 minutes. A friend of Rickey's was waiting for us there, to join us for the second loop. Sadly for him, the second loop was the least interesting part of the day. He complained a lot. But Rickey said that he ALWAYS complained a lot. I started calling him "Eeyore."

Eeyore . . .

By this point it was about 75 degrees, but getting hotter by the minute. The first 7.5 miles (and last 7.5 miles, for that matter) of the loop required us to ride on 99W, which is a major state route and, in this particular part of the state, very busy. This is "wine country," and the wine tasters were out in force. Fortunately, it was still relatively early, so at least most of them weren't tipsy already. In any event, we rode hard and fast to get off that road ASAP.

Once we got off 99W, the second loop became quite enjoyable. Rolling roads through peaceful vineyards and pastureland. Very little shade, however. What shade there was had been taken over by roving gangs of freshly sheared alpaca.

At around km50 of the second loop, we were hot, tired and very hungry. Fortunately, our next control point was a Dairy Queen on Highway 18.

I'm pretty sure the last time I went to a Dairy Queen was sometime in 1970. It could easily be another 37 years before I go to one again, if ever. We arrived there at the same time as a bus load of some very scary children. I am pretty sure they were The Children of the Corn out on a field trip. At least my milkshake was cold and I had a chance to change into fresh shorts. Aaaah.

Feeling somewhat refreshed, we set out for the second half of Loop 2. The roads on this half were busier, and the shoulders more narrow. We didn't spend much, if any, time enjoying the scenery- we just wanted this part to be over. Rickey and I needed to begin the 3rd loop no later than 3:30 if we were going to finish before sunset, and I wanted as much "down" time between Loops 2 and 3 as possible. With the added incentive of getting the heck off of 99W before we were run over by a tour bus full of winos, we made it back to the Travelodge by 3:04. Despite the DQ delay, we had managed to get back on track with Rickey's "5 hours - 100km" plan!

By 3:30, we were in the road again. This third loop went east of the Willamette River and followed the same roads as almost every organized ride I have been on - so I could pretty much operate on autopilot. But we still had to watch the cue sheets carefully to make sure they matched up for those riders who may not be on autopilot next week.

Outside of St. Paul we rode through the hop fields. The last time I had been through, in June, the hops had been about 6 feet high. Now they were much taller.

For the first half of the ride, we had a tailwind and so were able to quickly click off the clicks. The scenery was bucolic - acres and acres of vegetables, berries and, surprisingly to me, cultivated wildflowers (is that an oxymoron?)

We followed the same roads home, as we did out, and so battled the wind that had been helping us earlier. But we were still pushing a good pace and figured we would be back well before sunset. So our new goal was to come in under 15 hours. But push as hard as we could, we just couldn't do it - we pulled into the Travleodge lot one last time at 8:16 PM - 15 hours and 16 minutes after we first left. I was thrilled - I had broken 16 hours. Rickey was bummed because if we hadn't lost time in Sherwood on the first loop we would have been back in 14:45. He'll get over it.

Total distance: 190.8 miles
Total time: 15 hours, 16 minutes
Saddle time: 12 hours, 56 minutes
Faffing around time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (45 of which - at least- were at the DQ)
Avg. Speed: 14.7mph riding, 12.7 including stoppage time

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