Sunday, June 01, 2008

La Lanterne Not-Quite-So-Rouge, Continued

Chapter the Third: In Which I Enjoy Some Instant Karma, Resign Myself to Walking Up A Hill, And Rely On My Intimate Knowledge of the Mid-Willamette Valley So As to Go Off Course Only Once.


5:00 A.M.

Sunday morning came down on me like a 16-ton weight on a man armed with a banana. It seemed as though I had barely closed my eyes when the alarm went off. The temptation to hit the snooze button was strong, but I had already set the alarm as late as I dared; I had no margin of sleep error. Opening my eyes was much harder than closing my eyes had been, partly because they were swollen from exhaustion. As my favorite Irving Berlin tune ran in my head, I groped my way toward the sink, where I ran cold water and stuck my head under the flow. . . . .

Thus "refreshed," I began to call roll on my various body parts: Head? Still there, and not hurting (although my higher reasoning functions were contemplating calling in sick). Shoulders and back? Present, and not hurting. Quads, knees, calves and ankles? Again all present and again surprisingly limber and pain-free. Nether regions? As well as could be expected after 218 or so miles. Actually, better than expected, and here's why: BABY POWDER. Yes, my friends, I said baby powder. Not Bag Balm, not chamois cream of some variety or other, not Desitin. After years of using various lubricants or going without anything in my shorts, I decided to try a "dry" protectant. To be specific, Burt's Bees Baby Dusting Powder. A few shakes in the shorts at the beginning, and a couple times later in the ride, and I completed the ride without any abrasions, chafing or boils. I will, of course, need to repeat the experiment on the 400 to rule out the chance of an anomalous result . . . and I am not sure how well it would work in the rain. But I digress....

Having confirmed that mens and corpore were both sana, I dressed, prepared my snacks for the day (more PB and Nanner sammiches, more raisins, another energy bar, another muffin), packed a clean pair of shorts into my pannier, gathered up the rest of my gear and headed downstairs to check out and roll out.

It was sometime around 5:30 A.M. at this point, and other riders were up and moving around. Lesli was taking pictures, and captured me in full zombie mode:

Morning, Day 2 [5 a.m. ish]
Originally uploaded by agfachrome25

The hotel owner had opened the breakfast room early, and I grabbed a hard-boiled egg and a handful of cherries. I was not very hungry, because I had eaten quite a bit of food before going to bed less than three hours earlier. I figured I'd stop and eat my muffin after riding for a little while. After loading my excess gear in the car and checking out, I was ready to roll. I headed out at 6:09 A.M. I had briefly reviewed the cue sheet and was happy to see that I had, at one time or other, ridden on almost every road listed. There were a few street names I did not recognize, but for the most part it appeared I would be in familiar territory. Indeed, because the territory was so familiar to me, I did not really notice on that first glance that there were a few, um, "errors" on the cue sheet. More on that a bit later . . . .

As on Saturday, Sunday started off with perfect cycling weather. Slightly overcast, cool without being chilly, and very little wind. I had over four hours in which to travel the 40 miles to the first control in Independence, so I was taking it easy. As I rode down River Road toward St. Paul, I noticed a number of hot air balloons taking off. I assumed it was some sort of Memorial Day event. I recalled that there was a similar balloon event going on at the same time as last year's 600(of which I only did half).

Early Morning Riser

About 12 miles into the ride, I realized that I had somehow changed my bike computer's mode to "Wheel Size 2." which is the setting for my other bike, which has a different tire size, thus skewing the distances. Dang! I switched back over to WS 1, but my daily stats would be somewhat questionable. I was not too worried about not being able to match distances on the cue sheet, because I knew most of the roads and the turns and because I had a "navigator" function I could use to measure individual "legs," but I was kind of bummed that my post-ride stats would be inaccurate. It's that OCD thing, again.

I stopped in St. Paul to eat my muffin and check out the rodeo grounds. It was a very large muffin, and took some time to finish, but I was in no hurry. The final control closed at 11:00 P.M., and I fully expected to be pulling into it at 10:59. But having finished my muffin and taken the requisite "I was here" photo, it was time to move on. The bustling metropoli of Keizer and Salem awaited.

Sweetpea of the Rodeo

River Road through Keizer is a wide, busy commercial street, lined with strip malls and medium-box stores. It has two lines in either direction, as well as a center "safety" turn lane. As I rode merrily along in the bike lane (which appears in fits and spurts along the length of River Road - sometimes it's marked for bikes, sometimes it's just a shoulder), a true patriot (I know because he had a yellow ribbon) in a Lincoln Navigator passed me at a high rate of speed with less than 6 inches to spare (possibly even less than 4 inches - it was scary close). Having made his point, he then moved into the other lane. Grumble grumble grumble. About one mile later, as I entered Salem, I noticed the flashing lights of a motorcycle police officer on a side street over to the left. I glanced over to see that said officer was in the process of writing a ticket to Navigator-Dude (for speeding, I presume). I yelled out "Hooray!," and the officer looked over at me. I called out to him that Navigator-Dude had just minutes earlier passed me unsafely. The officer smiled and turned back to have a little chat with Navigator-Dude.

At this point, I was assuming that I was the very last rider to be passing through Salem. I had started late, I was riding slowly, and I was stopping a lot to take pictures, eat, and mess with my computer. I work in Salem, and so was not paying a lot of attention to the cue sheet. I knew where I had to go, and I went there. Consequently, it was not until I had gone through downtown Salem that I noticed that the cue sheet had a few, um, problems. Problem #1 being that it told riders to take Liberty Street south. Liberty Street is a one-way street, northbound. Oops. That should have been COMMERCIAL Street, which is the southbound component of that particular one-way couplet. Problem #2? The cue sheet indicated a distance of 1.4 miles from the turn onto Liberty (aka Commercial) to the next turn, a right on Owens. That should have read 2.8 miles. Oops again. Problem #3? According to the cue sheet, almost immediately after turning onto Owens (.3 miles to be precise), riders were to "cross bridge to Independence." Yeah, well. Here's the thing. There's no bridge there. Instead, the bridge to Independence is another 10 or so miles further south. Like I said, I know Salem, and up to that point had not been misled by the errors, but even I was taken aback by that last cue - I even did a little back-tracking to check that I had simply never noticed a bridge in all the times I had ridden through that section. But as I was backtracking, I saw John Henry ride by in the direction that I had believed to be correct. John Henry not only works in Salem, he LIVES in Salem, so I figured he knew what he was doing. So I turned around and rode back in my original direction. 10 miles later, River Road led onto a bridge over the Willamette and into downtown Independence. It was about 9:30, and I had made it to the first control with an hour to spare. I noted a few of the faster riders pulling out of town as I rode in, and was surprised that they were not further ahead.

The last time I had been in Independence was on the Fleche. Then it was in the wee hours of the morning and there was nothing open except a bar, so I had to get an ATM receipt to prove I had been there. At 9:30 on a Sunday morning I had more options. I stopped at the market to get my card signed and purchase a second (third?) breakfast. After confirming that all the "hot case" offerings contained meat (except for the jojos, which did not appeal to me), I hit up the dairy and produce cases for an eclectic combination of yogurt, a banana and a microwave bean burrito. By this time I had been in Independence for a least 10, if not 15, minutes - maybe more - but as I came out of the public restroom I ran into Lesli, who had only just arrived. When I expressed shock over this, she explained that she, Peg and Jennifer had gotten lost in Salem and had ended up taking the wrong bridge across the Willamette. They then followed SR 22 to the Independence turn-off, and came into town from there, adding a few extra miles to their tally along the way. While we were discussing the matter, Mike Johnson rode up, having done the same thing. For all I know, John Henry and I may have been the only ones who came over the River Road bridge! After assuring them that they were all where they needed to be and making sure they all knew where they needed to go next, I rolled out.

The next control of the day was in Waterloo, another town that I had previously visited on the Fleche. I hoped that this time the store would be open so that I would not have to knock on someone's door to get my card signed. To get to Waterloo I first had to take the Buena Vista ferry back across the Willamette. The ferry did not begin to run until 9:00 A.M., so faster riders had to take an alternate route back over the River Road bridge. I much preferred the ferry. In fact, a ferry ride makes any bike trip infinitely more fun, whether it is the ferry from Cleggen to Inishbofin or just a short domestic hop across the lazy Willamette.

Buena Vista Ferry

I had to wait some time for the ferry to slowly make its way across the river to me, and I assumed that the riders I had left in Independence would soon be catching up to me. But they had not arrived by the time the ferry reached my side of the river, and I crossed over alone.

(Yes, I had many songs running through my head this day . . . one of the joys of riding alone is that I can sing to myself with no one to complain about my musical choices or ability. But again I digress . . .)

The weather had been holding fair, but as I pedaled into Talbot I could smell the rain coming, and some drops plopped on my helmet. It had been warm enough when I left the hotel to go without a jacket or limb warmers, but I decided that I should suit up, just in case the rain got heavy. I pulled over in front of the Talbot fire station to unpack my rain gear. I was in the process of pulling on my leggings when Susan, our RBA, drove up. She had been out scouting the course for the upcoming Covered Bridges 400. We chatted for a few minutes, and I warned her that she may be getting an earful from some disgruntled lost riders. She said she'd already gotten some phone calls, but that everyone had eventually worked everything out. I mentioned that I had expected the riders I had left in Independence to have caught up with me, and she said she was going in that direction and would check up on them. We parted ways and I continued on toward Waterloo, still more than 30 miles away.

I knew that I would have to take a rest break before Waterloo, and noted that the route would pass through Jefferson. There is a very nice market in Jefferson, with a clean toilet and a functioning hot cocoa machine (after 275 miles of cycling, my standards for "very nice" are quite low). The threatened rain had never really materialized, but it was still cool enough that hot cocoa really hit the spot. As I sat on a bench outside the market sipping my cocoa, it occurred to me that I should call Greg and let him know my status. I had forgotten to call him on Saturday, and realized that he might be a tad bit anxious about my well-being. It was coming on noon, so I figured he'd be awake. He was happy to hear from me, and even happier to hear that I was not calling to ask him to come get me. Not that he could have done so even if I had asked, because I had left the car in Newberg. Having finished my cocoa and phone call, I had no good reason to delay getting back on the bike. Despite all the time I had wasted, I still had seen neither hide nor hair of the other women or Mike. I was beginning to get a little concerned. I knew that Lesli had been having mechanical problems off and on, and that both she and Jennifer were nursing bruises from their brief encounter with the railroad tracks the night before. I hoped that they weren't having more problems.

As I rode from Jefferson to Lebanon, through Gilkey and Crabtree, I could tell that sometime earlier than had been some torrential cloudbursts - the roads and fields were soaked, and there was a lot of standing water. The day was warming up and it was getting humid. I crossed my fingers and hoped that I had missed the rain entirely, and then quickly uncrossed them because it is hard to shift with crossed fingers.

The route from Jefferson to Lebanon is meandering, to put it mildly. To make matters more interesting, some new cue sheet "issues" arose. The directions called for a left turn off of State Route 226 onto Tennessee Road. Tennessee Road is not well-marked. At the intersection with 226, the road to the left is Tennessee, and the road to the right is something like "Old Bridge." The only visible sign, however, is for Old Bridge. The sign for Tennessee is hidden by a tree. Fortunately, I had been there before, and knew where to turn. There was also a small sign under the Old Bridge Road sign that indicated that "Tennessee School" was to the left. Once I turned, I was able to see the road sign that had been hidden from view, and confirmed that I was on course.

If getting on Tennessee (School) Road was difficult, staying on it was even more difficult. Over the course of 8.5 miles, I encountered three "T" intersections, none of which was very well-marked. Each time, I guessed which way to turn, based on my knowledge of the direction I eventually needed to go. I soldiered on, and was relieved when I finally ended up in Lebanon and could once again count on the roads being marked. Mike Johnson finally caught up with me in Lebanon; he and the women had taken a wrong turn on the way to the ferry, and had once again collected a few extra miles. He said they weren't far behind. We rode together into Waterloo, where we once again encountered some faster riders on their way out of town. The store was open, and I got my card signed and purchased a large bag of potato chips and some string cheese to go with my sandwich. A few minutes later, Peg, Lesli and Jennifer rolled in and purchased similarly healthy food stuffs. Susan drove up while we were hanging around eating, and passed out cans of V-8 juice (mmmm, SALT!) and more bananas (mmm, POTASSIUM!)

Jennifer, Peg, Lesli and Susan in Waterloo

I finished my lunch and headed out for the next control in Scio. This was the shortest leg of the day, only 19 miles, but for me it was the most difficult. I had stayed in Waterloo too long, and my leg muscles had declared a wildcat strike. This was a particularly bad time for labor unrest, given that the only true climbs of the day were on this leg. I was struggling to keep my speed above 12 mph, and the other women quickly caught up to me before too long. We rode together for a while, but then we hit the "real" hills, and I was done for.

I have it from a reliable source that in the local Native American dialect, "Scio" means "land of impossible rollers." Okay, I made that up. But I am not making up the rollers. They are impossible. The problem with the rollers in Scio is that they are not the fun kind where you can use your momentum from a descent to carry you (for a way, at least) up the next climb. Instead, the hills are spaced just widely enough apart that all your momentum is dissipated in the trough before you start climbing again. In particular, there are two roads in Scio that I would pay good money not to have to ride up. One is Cole School Road, the other is Richardson Gap. Sadly, both those roads are repeat offenders on Or Rando brevets and permanents and I have struggled up (and sailed down) both of them. On this particular day, the evildoer was Richardson Gap. Up to now, I had been keeping pace with the other women, but I lost them on the Gap. When the incline hit 15%, I decided that there was no shame in walking, especially when the alternative was to fall sideways into a ditch. So I dismounted, walked a few meters, got back on and pedaled a few meters, dismounted and walked, got back on and pedaled, dismounted and walked, got back on and pedaled . . . you get the picture. By the time I got to the top, the others were well ahead of me but had slowed down enough that I caught up with them by the time we all rode into Scio proper.

The Scio Market is interesting. The last time I had been there was on a permanent earlier in the year. At that time we had ridden into the control with only moments to spare, and then waited in what seemed like an interminable check-out line to get our cards signed. That same line was there this time around. I was determined not to spend as long at this stop as I had at Waterloo, but at the same time I was definitely feeling the strain of the ride and needed to rest. I got some more hot chocolate, ate my second sandwich and prayed for a second wind.

(photo by Lesli Larson)

To be perfectly honest, though, I felt pretty damned good considering that I had ridden more than 320 miles at this point and had only had 2 hours of real sleep in the last 36 or so . . . but that didn't stop me from feeling a wee pang of dread at the thought of the 55 miles I still had to go. I took comfort in the fact that the next section consisted of roads that I have ridden on fairly regular basis in the past years, either on brevets, permanents, or the many supported rides that take place in the Valley throughout the summer. I knew that the biggest challenge was going to be the 15 mile slog on Howell Prairie Road. But if I could just get through that, I'd be doing okay.

It was closing in on 5:00 P.M. at this point, and I was starting to calculate how long it would take me to finish. I had to consider the fact that I was now stopping to rest on a fairly regular basis. I also had to factor in the inevitable decrease in my speed once it became dark. But even so, I figured I could get back by 9:30 P.M. if I didn't have any mechanical trouble or flats (or fall in a ditch or get hit by a car). I had lost sight of Peg, Lesli, and Jennifer somewhere around Aumsville or Shaw. MIke had left us all behind in Waterloo, and I was now convinced that I was the last rider. But I was still going to get in with an hour and a half to spare (at least I hoped to) and so was on the whole fairly pleased with my performance so far.

The stretch from Shaw to St. Paul is - how can I put this nicely? - boring as hell. Flat farmland, with only the occasional wrecked car or guard llama to perk a rider's interest.
Guard Llama Hard at Work
Accident on Howell Prairie

I pedaled along, singing to myself, and concentrated on keeping a sensible pace. The sun was setting, but I held off turning on my lights as long as possible. The drag from my SON hub is minimal, but I was so tired at this point that any drag would be too much. Susan had been through earlier and had marked a left turn on Keene Road that I would otherwise have missed (my intimate knowledge of the Valley having been surpassed by my extreme exhaustion) and shortly after the turn, I came across Susan herself. I figured she was out looking for me, the lone straggler, and I assured her that I was just fine. I mentioned something abut being the last rider, and she said that she had not yet seen the other women, or John Vincent. I was shocked. I had assumed that John had gotten ahead of me in Salem, because I had not seen him since then, and I KNEW the women were well ahead of me. Susan wondered if perhaps they had missed the turn on Keene, and set off looking for them. I pressed on, and turned right onto River Road. I had checked to cue sheet, and noted that I would take River Road to State Route 219, which would take me back into Newberg. I pedaled happily along until I reached an intersection with 219, and turned in the direction of Newberg (there was a helpful sign). Up ahead, I saw Susan's truck again. She waved me over and I asked if she'd found the others. "Yes," she said, "they'd gone off course." Oh. Okay. "You do know that you're off course, too, don't you?" Um, no, I didn't know that. I pointed out that I was on 219 and I was headed toward Newberg. True enough, Susan said, but you're a lot further east on 219 than you would have been if you had taken a dogleg on River Road about 5 miles back. Oops - I skipped right past THAT line on the cue sheet. So much for feeling smug. So instead of being 5 miles from Newberg at this point, I was closer to 8 miles out. Rats. It was almost 9:00 P.M. If I was going to finish by 9:30, I was going to have to find some reserves and sprint. "Sprint" being a relative term, of course. I merely had to average 16 mph for the next half hour. Piece of cake.

So I sprinted. A few miles ahead of me, I could just make out a blinking red light. Susan pulled up beside me (again!) and I asked if that was Lesli's tail light. Yes, it was. Okay. I now had a rabbit to chase. And boy howdy, did I chase that rabbit. Mile after mile, I closed the distance between us, and finally caught up with them at the west end of the bridge over the Willamette, two miles outside of Newberg. We rode into the finish as a group. I felt bad because I had not had a chance to switch my tail light out of "there's no one behind me so I can be bright and flashing" mode, and I was sure that I was giving Peg seizures, but they were gracious about letting me pretend that I had been able to keep up with them all along.

Because neither Jennifer nor I had completed a 600 before, Peg told us that we should ride into the finish ahead of her and Lesli. Jennifer appeared to have as much energy at the end as she had Saturday morning, and was darting around like a hummingbird. At one point she mistook an office building for the Travelodge, and darted into its driveway. That would have been okay, except she darted straight across my path in a classic right hook. Fortunately, I still had some reflexes left, and managed to turn out of her way in the nick of time. After that we all called out the directions at her to make sure she went the right way. We rolled into the final control at 9:25 P.M., 38 hours and 25 minutes after we first rolled out.

"Home" at Last

We signed our cards and turned them in; I ate some chips, loaded my bike on the car, washed up and changed into my clean, fleecey, non-spandex post-ride clothes, bummed a beer off of Scott Peterson (to be drunk after I got home) and hit the road - this time in my car. Greg was waiting for me at home with more beer and a giant greasy pizza.

Mission accomplished.


Day One:

Miles 222.51(I am not sure where the extra 4 miles came from)
Saddle Time 15:56:29
Total Elapsed Time 19:02:00
Avg Pedaling Speed 13.9 mph
Max Speed 37 mph
Total Elevation Gain 8051 ft.
Max Elevation 723 ft. (Logsden Summit?)
Avg Climb 2%
Max Climb 11% (somewhere on Slab Creek Road)
Calories expended 10,036

Day 2:

160 miles (extra miles somewhere on SR 219)
Saddle Time 11:56:28
Total Elapsed Time 15:16:00
Avg Pedaling Speed 13.3 mph
Max Speed 31.5 mph
Total Elevation Gain 2490 ft.
Max Elevation 503 ft.
Average Climb 2%
Max Climb 15% (Richardson Gap)
Calories expended 6,000

Fuel (not counting post-ride binging):

2 large muffins
2 hard boiled eggs
4 peanut butter and banana sandwiches
1 Rice Krispie Treat
1 Great Harvest "Trek" Bar
3 bags potato chips
36 oz hot chocolate
Subway veggie "wrap"
Payday Bar
1 packet Ritz cheese and cracker sandwiches
3 small boxes of raisins
1 burrito
5 small cans V-8
4 bananas
1 Paley Bar
1 peach yogurt
1 packet Jelly Belly "sport beans"
1 package string cheese
4 20 oz bottles Sobe "Life Water" (pomegranate/cherry - basically a fancy-pants Kool-Aid)


Lesli L said...

Happy for your strong finish and relieved that Jennifer didn't take you out in the final stretch.

Wish I could bring you along as a pool reporter for future rando events.

beth h said...

Your feats of derring-doo-dah stagger me.

..::wild applause as thousands cheer::..

See you at Livestrong.

Judy said...

I bet one of your songs included the words "me and Julio down by the schoolyard..."

Congratutations!!!! Very impressive (although it makes my little half-marathon seem like a gentle stroll). Still, we're pretty studly!!! XXOO JM

Cecil Anne said...

"I bet one of your songs included the words "me and Julio down by the schoolyard..."

Indeed it did. The same line, over and over and over and over . . .

We aren't doing so bad for a couple of 47-year-old women, huh? (OK, one 47 and one almost-47 . . .)