Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hot Footing It To The Beach (And Back)

The annual "Reach the Beach" century was held this past Saturday (May 17). It is a fundraising ride for the American Lung Association. There were five routes to choose from, starting in various cities in the state and ranging in length from a 25-mile mountain bike ride to a 103-mile "century." All five routes ended at Cape Kiwanda, in Pacific City. The sponsors advertise it as a "season opener." Yeah, right. That assumes my riding season closed at some point. For most participants, however, it IS a season opener; I must have overheard at least 40 conversations that included the words "first time I've been on my bike since September." I am guessing that by the end of the day at least some of those folks were wishing they'd put in just a few more miles in the saddle the week or two before.

Lynne, Jason and I decided to ride the 103-mile route, which started at an elementary school in Beaverton. Our plan was to then spend the night in Pacific City and Lynne and I would ride home the next day. Jason's wife and daughter would drive out to join us for the night, and then Jason would drive home with them. Jason hasn't been riding much lately, and so was content with one day of riding. I am training for a 40-hour, 600 kilometer ride this coming weekend, and so needed as much saddle time as possible. Lynne has wisely decided NOT to attempt the 600, but she nevertheless was willing to spend another full day in the saddle.

The ride started at 7:30 Saturday morning. Lynne lives about 5 miles from the start, so I spent Friday night at her house. We took our overnight gear to Jason's house, so that his wife could bring it to the beach (and back!) in their car, thus allowing us to ride the non-rando (as in "faster") bikes since we would not have to carry luggage. Or at least more luggage than could be carried on the fast bike.

Ready to Ride (TM)

Saturday morning, we were up early. Lynne had cooked a big pot of steel-cut oats the night before and I had brought some left-over fruit salad from home, so breakfast was easy and quick. We had prepped our bikes the night before, and so that part was also easy. Our plan was to meet Jason somewhere on Murray Road and ride with him through the neighborhoods to the start. This involved Lynne giving me a little tour of the less-odious parts of Beaverton (houses, schools, some businesses, but only skirting one mega-mall). The weather was forecast to be hot and sunny, with highs in the 90s; at 6:30 it was already 60 degrees and we were all wearing the bare minimum of clothing necessary to cycle comfortably yet remain presentable (to the extent anyone is EVER presentable in Spandex or Lycra-based clothing). It was the first time I'd set out this year without arm warmers, leg warmers, a rain jacket and long-fingered gloves. I did have socks on under my cycling sandals and I would eventually remove even those (with dire consequences to be revealed later -- cue ominous music).

A lot of Oregon riders wait until the last minute to register for rides in order not to sign up for a ride and then not do it because of bad weather. The simple solution, of course, would be to acquire the proper equipment to allow riding in any weather . . . Anyway, that meant that the packet pick-up line was very long. I had picked my packet up at a pre-ride event last month, but Lynne and Jason had to wait in line.

Lynne and Jason Wait To Sign In

I took advantage of the time to eat my second breakfast (a giant vegan muffin from Black Sheep Bakery by way of New Seasons) and visit the "blue rooms."

Once Lynne and Jason had their packets and had fastened their ride numbers to the jerseys and bikes, it was time to leave. In past years the first part of the ride was a rather unpleasant trek on Highway 99W, a busy roadway with bad shoulders. Last year they wised up and introduced a new route. I skipped the ride last year, so this was my first experience with the change. It was a definite improvement; following a number of my favorite hilly back roads through Sherwood. The only problem was that there are some fairly technical descents on those roads, and there were a lot of inexperienced riders - I saw one guy run off the road on a steep hairpin (he was okay) and witnessed a whole lot of near misses when inexperienced riders took up the middle of the road and then hit their brakes. I just did my best to hold my line and avoid the wobblies.

After having spent the last few months doing only unsupported randonnees, it was odd to be on a ride that was not only supported, but supported to a ridiculous extreme. There were 7 rest stops between Beaverton and the beach, averaging out to about one every 15 miles. Each rest stop was extremely well-stocked with food and fairly well-stocked with water. Water was the primary concern for everyone, though, because it was already well into the 80s by mid-morning. The line for water at the third rest stop, which we reached at about 11:00 AM was about four times as long as the line for the blue rooms.

Water Line

Lunch was in Amity, about 45 miles into the ride. There was a sandwich "bar" at which riders could make their own enormous deli sandwiches. I wasn't all that hungry, so just made myself a small peanut butter and banana sandwich and chased it down with some chocolate pudding. By this point it was very warm and my feet were starting to overheat. So I decided to take off my socks. I had been slathering on the sunscreen all day, but forgot to add my newly naked feet to the sunscreened territory. That was a mistake.

Sunscreen is a Good Thing

Earlier in the ride we had enjoyed a very slight tailwind. After Amity, however, we "enjoyed" a brutal headwind and we "enjoyed" it all the way to the beach. Fun times. The temperatures continued to climb, and by the time we got to Sheridan I had a headache. Another rider kindly gave me some of her ibuprofen, which helped. It also helped to stand under the water mister that the volunteers had erected, at least until the water made the sunscreen on my forehead run into my eyes. Ow!
What helped the most, however, was the seemingly endless supply of watermelon at that rest stop. I read somewhere that eating watermelon helps to cool overheated bodies; I believe it.

The stretch from Sheridan to Grande Ronde is the most unpleasant portion of the ride. It's not very pretty and the route forced us to ride on the shoulder of Highway 18, a very busy road, for an extended period of time. The shoulder there is narrow, and bordered by very deep rumble strips. Hitting one of those the wrong way on a bike can have disastrous consequences. As it was, I hit one while holding my camera. My camera went flying and hit the road with an ugly thud. "Good thing I bought that damage insurance," I thought to myself. Wonder of wonders (miracle of miracles), the camera survived the fall. I am assuming, of course, that had I NOT purchased that insurance the camera would have been destroyed. The funny thing is that there is a perfectly LOVELY road that parallels Highway 18 that we could have taken instead, but to get there would require crossing the highway and I guess the ride organizers were concerned about holding up (or dodging) traffic. We would take that road on the way back Sunday . . .

At Grande Ronde I was finally hungry. Fortunately, this was the second "lunch" stop, and so they had baked potatoes and veggie chili.

Mmmmm, Hot Potatoes

They also had cookies. Lots of cookies.

The last 25 miles (or so) from Grande Ronde to the beach were the prettiest part of the ride, as we climbed over Sourgrass Summit of the Coast Range and into the Siuslaw Forest on Little Nestucca River Road. We finally reached Cape Kiwanda at about 5:00 PM, just in time for one beer in the beer garden before we needed to meet Jason's wife at the beach house we were renting.

Beer Garden

Our friends Diane and Ron were also staying at the house. Ron had social plans for the evening, and Jason went out for dinner with his family, so Lynne, Diane and I ordered a pizza. We soaked in the hot tub for a while and then it was time for bed; we had another ride in the morning, after all.

Morning arrived much sooner than any of us would have wanted, and we once again prepared to ride. It was cool and misty, but we were pretty sure that it would warm up before long, so we wore only light layers that could easily be shed. We met up with two of Diane's friends, Tess and Martin, for the ride back.

The Unreach Team Assembles

Early Morning River Mist

We retraced our route from Saturday with a couple of significant changes. First, we avoided the ugly part of Highway 18 between Grande Ronde and Sheridan by taking Yamhill River Road instead. This is a great road, and has recently been repaved, making it even better. We could see a rider on Highway 18 who clearly didn't know about this "secret" route. We felt sorry for him.

Lynne on Yamhill River Road

The Road Not Taken

We reached Amity at noon and stopped for lunch, getting sandwiches at the deli and lounging in the park. It was pretty hot at this point, and it felt good to sit in the shade for a while. We still had at least 50 miles to go, however, and so we reapplied our sunscreen (this time I remembered my feet) topped off our water bottles, and headed out. We retraced Saturday's route as far as North Valley Road, but then veered off towards Hillsboro, thus avoiding some of the climbing that we had done at the beginning of Saturday's ride. Temps were in the upper 90s at this point, and water was at a premium. We had topped off in Lafayette, but then had a good 30 mile stretch of no services. By the time we reached the Forest Hills golf course, we were parched.

Checking in with Fitz

Shortly after leaving the golf course, our group split up. Tess and Martin were headed southeast to the start point of Saturday's ride to pick up Martin's car, and Lynne, Diane and I were headed northeast to Lynne's house. Either way, we all had about 20 more miles to go, and exhaustion was setting in. The last stretch before Lynne's house required navigating some very busy roads in Hillsboro and Beaverton, but Lynne knows those roads well and showed us the safest ways to get where we needed to go. We reached her house just about 11.5 hours after we started; hot, tired, and happy to be (almost) home. Diane and I threw our gear in my car, loaded the bikes on the rack and headed back to Portland. I dropped Diane off at her house, came home and ate the world's biggest burrito, drank a well-earned beer, and went to bed.

Saturday's stats:

107 miles
Saddle Time 6:58:54
Total Ride Time 9:52:52
Avg Speed 14.6 mph
Max Speed 41 mph
Total Elevation 3297 feet
Max Elevation 966 feet
Average incline 2%
Max incline 11%
High temp 99 degrees

Sunday's stats:

114 miles
Saddle Time 7:58:17
Total Ride Time 11:22:55
Avg Speed 14.3 mph
Max Speed 38 mph
Total Elevation 2711 feet
Max Elevation 680 feet
Average incline 1%
Max incline 7%
High temp 94 degrees

The rest of my pictures are here
Lynne's pictures are here
Lynne's write-up is here

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