Sunday, April 25, 2010

On The Road Again . . .

"It's just like riding a bike." Or so goes the cliché employed to encourage someone to try something that the person has not done in a while. But the thing about clichés is that they become clichés in the first place because they contain an element of truth. Thus, I found to my great relief today that, yes, indeed, I did still know how to ride my bike. Perhaps not as speedily or as far as I would like, but certainly more speedily and further than the average rider. Whew.

Today was the date set for the Salem Bicycle Club's annual "Monster Cookie" ride. A traditional "first ride" of the NW Oregon cycling season, the MC is a fairly flat 100K ramble through the Willamette Valley. For the past few years, I have gone down to the start in Salem and ridden it as a Double Cookie, riding the circuit twice for a full 200K. This year I knew that, after 6 weeks of enforced rest and with a partially healed fibular stress fracture, a Double Cookie was not in the cards. Plus, to be honest, organized "T-Shirt" rides have lost their charm for me. Too many people, too many potential accidents. So when friend Lynne mentioned that she and friend Beth planned to do the MC, I decided that I would ride from home to the MC's half-way point at Champoeg State Park and meet them for lunch. Lynne expected that they would be starting sometime around 8:30, and I figured they'd get to the park sometime between 11:30 and noon. If I left home by 9:00, I'd get there in time. As it was, I was out the door by 8:45. The weather promised to be warm, so I wore regular shorts, my "Why, Yes, I am a bad-ass cyclist" Gold Rush 1200 jersey and, of course, my always-stylish ankle brace.

There are a lot of ways to get from my house to Champoeg, some more scenic than others. Because I had a deadline, however, and because I wanted to avoid hills, I took the most direct--and least scenic--route, which for the most part paralleled Interstate 5 down the Willamette Valley. The first 10 miles was the route I take daily (when I am not broken) from my house to the Barbur Transit Center. But instead of stopping at the TC and locking my bike in a commuter box, I continued southwest on Barbur to Tigard, where I turned south on 72nd Avenue. 72nd Avenue eventually became Boone's Ferry Road, which I took all the to Wilsonville, where my growling stomach suggested that I stop at Starbucks for a soy cocoa and one of the PB&J sammiches I had packed. Everyone else in Wilsonville seemed to have had the same idea; the Starbucks was packed. I finally got my drink and sat outside in the sun with it and my sammich, while the large man at the table next to me talked very loudly to someone who was not there about "mindfulness." I eventually figured out that he was not actually psychotic but instead had one of those teeny-tiny cell phone pickups in his ear. He quickly became much less interesting.

Hunger sated, I set off for the most unpleasant segment of the ride: crossing the Willamette River on the Boone Bridge, which just happens to be Interstate 5. This was the fourth time I've crossed on this bridge, and I have decided that I much prefer it to crossing the river via the bridge on Highway 219 to Newberg. The interstate's shoulders are wider and cleaner, and the rail preventing me from falling into the river is much higher. And today I had a strong tailwind, which meant I was over the river and back on the frontage roads in no time.

Once I crossed the river, it was an easy jaunt to the park. The last two miles were on the park's bike path, which runs along the river and is quite lovely. There were the usual number of oblivious, helmetless 4-year-olds on tricycles, but for the most part the trail users were well behaved.

When I arrived at the picnic grove reserved for the MC lunch, the joint was packed! I once again congratulated myself for not taking the regular route. Within a few minutes of arriving, I met up with at least 20 regular riding buddies, all of whom told me that they had seen Lynne and Beth and that they were still out on the road somewhere. I gave Lynne a call on her mobile phone and she said they were about 7 miles out. I figured I'd see them in about half an hour, so I wandered around and talked to people, hydrated and, um, dehydrated.

Soon enough, Lynne and Beth rode in. They gathered up their box lunches and we lazed on the grass talking about the usual things: bikes, bike riding, bike clothes, people we know who ride bikes, etc. And Greg says our conversations are boring. Humph! After about 45 minutes, it was time for Beth and Lynne to press on, and for me to head for home. I briefly toyed with the idea of taking a different route back, but all the alternatives involved more hill climbing than I thought would be wise at this stage of my recovery. Cue sarcastic comments about me exercising common sense . . .

And so home I went, down the bike path, through Butteville, over the river on the interstate, up Boone's Ferry Road through Tualatin and


Scream, scream, scream. Slam on brakes. Execute perfectly timed emergency turn. Scream some more, and try not to puke. Look up to see SUV continuing on with no indication that the driver ever saw me.

What to do, what to do. Do I chase after said SUV, and risk being shot by some road-raged, roid-raged muscle baby, or do I take a few deep breaths and ride on, grumbling to myself all the way home about asshole SUV drivers? As I pondered my options, I noticed that the van had pulled into a parking lot about a block away. I decided I really needed to say something to the driver. So I rode over to the parking lot, and came up beside the SUV; the driver was a young woman of about 30, and when she rolled her window down at my signal, I could hear her stereo blaring. No wonder she did not hear me screaming.

"Did you see me?"

"Yes, I saw you."

"Really? Because you almost KILLED me!"

"What? Wait, do you mean did I see you just now in the parking lot?"

"No, back at that light, where you turned right and cut me off."

"Oh my God! No, oh my God, no I didn't see you, oh my God, I am so sorry, oh my God please believe me, on my life I didn't see you - oh I can't believe I did that, oh my God, I am so sorry."


The thing is, she really was sincere. But that did not absolve her from almost killing me. But we had a very nice conversation about right hooks that kill cyclists and how to not do that, and what started out as a confrontation turned into what all those annoying media-psychologists like to call "a teachable moment." I still wanted to puke from my adrenaline rush, but I no longer wanted to punch her. And I do think that she will be much more careful from now on. Or at least for the next week or so.

We went our separate ways, and soon enough I was back in my "I'm just happy to be riding" mood. Which lasted for all of about 10 minutes, at which point I hit the 12% climb leading up to the intersection of 72nd Avenue and Pacific Highway (99E). Funny, I don't remember the hill being that steep when I went down it. Fortunately, it is a short hill, and I made it to the top without too much pain. Oh, there was pain, alright, but it was bearable.

I then proceeded to bonk. 10 miles from home, and I could barely stay upright. It did not help that I had just started the longest climb of the day, or that there was a headwind. So I stopped and ate the not-very-good energy bar that I had packed for emergencies. You know the one--the one that you got free on some ride sometime in the last few years and don't like, but you pack in your bag "just in case"? Yeah, that one. Well, I had reached the "just in case" point. Bleh.

Bar ingested, I set off again, pedaling slowly up Barbur Boulevard to its crest at Capitol Highway. From there it was a long descent into town (not counting a couple of bumps in Hillsdale), across the river (again!) and home. On my way up Division toward the house, I noticed that the new "bike-friendly" pub at SE 12th and Division was open for business. Greg was home, and so after I showered he and I walked down the street for some beer and peanuts. Just what the doctor ordered.

All told, I rode just under 63 miles in 4.5 hours (not counting the 1.5 hour lunch break). Five hours later, I feel fine, but the ankle could use some ice. I need to work on my endurance, I guess. I never thought I'd have to say THAT.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Diminished Expectations and Deferred Gratification

I had me some plans this season, yes indeed I did. After last year's epic mileage (just under 10,000) and equally epic near-death experiences, I was set to mix it up a little and add running to the athletic stew that is my life.

Well, once again, my best-laid plans went and ganged aglay.

Yes, I know I am recycling the same photo from my last post, but what can I say - not much has happened since then. Actually, that's not quite true. At least now I have a diagnosis. "Distal fibular stress fracture" and tendonitis in the peroneal tendons that go around the fibula. Fun times.

What does this mean? Well, I can kiss off the triathlon I planned for May 8. And the 5K I planned to run on June 19 does not look so great, either. That half-marathon in October? Yeah, I'll probably be able to do that, but probably very slowly.

"But what about riding?," you ask. Good question. Maybe, just maybe, I'll still be able to do a full SR series, but the Or Rando summer series is notoriously tough, and I will have lost at least 3 months of serious training. But I continue to hold out hope.

Until I heal, I'll just keep singing my new theme song.