May 17, 2010
Pal Lynne had recommended the Monster Cookie Metric Century to me as a way for me to ride that distance this spring. When it became clear that Oregon Randonneurs wouldn’t offer an official populaire (100k brevet) until next fall, the Monster Cookie became pretty much my only option for an organized ride of that length.
When I say “organized ride”, let me emphasize that the Monster Cookie is NOT a populaire, NOT a randonnee, NOT a ride where one has to be self-sufficient to quite that degree. In this contest, “organized ride” means that there are sag and mechanical support vehicles, fully-stocked rest stops and a lunch stop that includes catered box lunches for riders who pre-registered (including me and Lynne). Having not done any ambitious riding other than a couple of St. Johns loops and a Rocky Butte climb over the winter, an “organized ride” turned out to have been a good choice for me.
We arrived at the state Capitol building and Lynne was amazed at how crowded it was at 8:00 am. There were easily two to three thousand cyclists lined up to get their packets and a couple hundred more lined up for same-day registration. By 8:40, after Lynne was accosted and greeted by a dozen or so of her Portland Velo buddies, we were off. We’d been given a cue sheet, but didn’t need it; the route was well-marked with painted symbols on the road and, well, there were so many participants that we were never actually alone on the road – for the entire day.
The route was a loop from the state Capitol to beautiful, historic Champoeg Park and back again, taking us through Salem suburbs and out into the gently rolling farmland of the Willamette Valley. The sun came out from behind the clouds and warmed things up quickly. I’d started the day in wool jersey, arm warmers, and my long-sleeved OrRando jersey as a sweater. I’d shed the long-sleeved jersey at the first rest stop, 15 miles in. As advertised, the rest stops for the Monster Cookie were well-stocked with good basic bike food: fruit, bagels with peanut butter and jelly, and, true to the ride’s name, lots of cookies. Along with the regular choices – chocolate chip, peanut butter and such – were Mexican wedding cookies (Lynne’s favorite) and coconut macaroons (which were basically small and densely packed coconut sugar-bombs). I ate two and stuffed two more in my jersey pocket for the road.
As we rolled along, admiring the rich green colors of the spring fields, faster riders passed us clad in jerseys from all over, including club jerseys from Oregon, Washington and northern California, indicating how popular this ride had become. Portland Velo, one of Oregon’s largest cycling clubs with nearly 500 members, was well represented with several groups passing us and shouting hello to Lynne as they did. Due to a bad winter flare-up, I was under-trained for this distance and focused on maintaining an even pace of around 12 mph. Lynne told me to let her know if we got too fast for my comfort. Mostly it was fine. I let Lynne know that I would probably deal with most of the uphills by sprinting up them so as not to lose momentum, and that she could pass me on the way back down (I love to climb but I’m not a confident descender). Lynne’s strength is not climbing (it’s endurance, and she can ride my butt into the ground) so she was fine with that suggestion. We leapfrogged each other over the gentle rollers that dotted the route, and continued our conversation when we’d caught up to each other again. Most of the time I fell behind Lynne but it was not a problem, and she patiently waited for me to catch up again.
We turned onto the familiar road that led us to Champoeg Park, our lunch stop. Pal Cecil, who’d been nursing an injured foot and had graduated from her walking boot a few weeks ago, had arranged to meet us at Champoeg for our lunch stop. She’d ridden there from her home in Portland, making for a round trip of about 50 miles. (Cecil doesn’t exactly over-train, she under-rests.)
Lunch was catered for pre-registrants. My turkey sandwich was not bad, and a pile of potato chips and some fruit helped round out the meal. We sat on the grass in a sea of bikes and their colorfully-clad riders, chatting and joking with Cecil, who was in excellent spirits. After lunch, my knee-warmers came off; the temperature had warmed into the 60’s. We said goodbye to Cecil, who rode back to Portland. Although I’d been careful to stretch during the lunch stop, my legs still felt stiff and thick as we climbed the slope out of the park. I shed the arm-warmers soon after we were back on the road.
The 15 miles to the final rest stop passed without incident, though I did have to walk my bike up the steepest hill of the ride because by then I was getting quite tired. Lynne waited for me at the top, and greeted me with a smile. There is no shame in walking your bike up a hill, especially when you’re riding 62 miles in a day. We chatted and leapfrogged each other some more, with Lynne doing most of the riding at the front because I was getting more fatigued.
At the last snack stop (located at the church where the first stop had been), I refilled my water bottles, ate some more macaroons and fished around for the gel-blocks that had been part of my rider’s packet. I opened the packet and tried one, flavored “blueberry-pomegranate”, and immediately regretted it. It tasted hideous. I looked at the packet. It contained four gel blocks, labeled a “one day supply”. I can’t imagine living on a pack of these on a full-day ride. I gave the rest to Lynne and grabbed a couple more macaroons for the road.
The last twenty miles were tough. I was really fatigued by now, and even the bucolic rural scenery wasn’t enough to bolster my flagging legs, which had turned to rubber. I choked down a macaroon, gulped some water, and kept spinning. The only bright spot was that my trick knee hadn’t really bothered me all day, except on the hill I’d had to walk up. The sun was beginning its descent in the late April sky, and the breeze from the river cooled me as we entered the suburbs of Keizer. In the heart of suburbia, on a street lined with neat, middle-class homes and trimmed lawns, we passed three girls staffing a lemonade stand. They called out in their best middle-school singsong, “Lemonade, all money goes to charity!” That was enough for us. Lynne did a quick U-turn, I followed, and I handed the girls a dollar bill for two glasses of cold lemonade. It was exactly what I needed with six miles and change left in the ride, and by the time we rolled into downtown Salem and the Capitol came into view, I was more than ready to get off my bike. After a bit of faffing, we were back in the van and heading home. We capped it off with dinner at County Cork before calling it a lovely day.
Total distance (according to my cyclometer): 61.9 miles.
Average speed (according to Lynne’s much fancier computer): 12.1 mph.
— Beth Hamon
October 9, 2009
Cross Crusade, Race #1, Portland
By Beth Hamon
I had a nice calm morning to gather everything up, make a few last-minute wardrobe adjustments based on the weather report and enjoy a simple breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, juice and coffee before my sister Sari came and picked me and Liz up at 11:30 in her truck.
Once at Alpenrose, Sari and Liz situated themselves in bleachers seats inside the velodrome. I alternated between checking out various parts of the course on foot and chatting with Liz, Sari and pal Lynne for the first twenty minutes or so. Liz and I checked out a little of the Singlespeed race and I led Liz around to the end of the velodrome and showed her where the sick run-up was that I had tried out at the last cross clinic. Liz’s eyes grew big and she gasped, “You have to run up THAT?”
“Well,” I replied, “I plan to walk. But yes.” We stuck around and watched as the Singlespeed class (almost entirely men) made their way around the course to the run-up, and we cheered our friend Joel Metz mightily as he clambered his way up the more than 45-degree hill of clodded, hard-dried mud. Then I excused myself to go do some easy spinning as a warmup. At the conclusion of the Singlespeed race the course was opened for a very brief practice lap, so I rode the part I hadn’t seen at the clinics and called it good. I didn’t want to totally blow up before my race. While out on my warmups, I ran into — gasp! — another Bella. Kari (Carrie?) and I greeted each other and chatted briefly before wishing each other a good race and heading off to complete our respective warmups.
Twenty minutes later, I was near the back of a huge field of all the combined womens’ classes (A’s, B’s, Masters 35’s and 45’s, and Beginners). We chatted amiably among ourselves while we waited to begin. I was happy to see my co-worker Hazel line up next to me on a bike she’d finished building up earlier that morning (!!). She said this was her first cross race and she wasn’t seriously planning on finishing. Then, we were off.
Although it had rained overnight, the course was mostly dry by the time of the race, with only a few damp patches of something that had once been mud. This made the course fast — and bumpy. In short, much of it was similar to the feel of the course at short-track. The primary difference was that the ‘cross course was less technical and success depended more on just going hard, rather than on any special bike-handling skill. Reminding myself to stay within my own race, I tried hard to keep a steady (albeit slow) rhythm throughout the event. My goal was to finish, period. If I was able to complete three full laps, that would be bonus. If I could only complete two, well, fine.
The sick runup was about three-quarters of the way through the lap. And it was very, very hard. I treated it like a sort of rock wall and just looked for foot-holds on the way up each time. And yes, I walked. There was no way I was running up that hill or I would simply blow up. To my surprise and delight, some of my cycling friends (Joel, plus assorted folks from Team Cthulu, Team Beer, and a couple of kids from PSU Cycling — go Vikings!) and even a co-worker of mine were at the top of the runup. When I pulled in, dismounted and appeared at the bottom they all screamed my name and shouted all kinds of encouragement, which I heard like bits of words phasing in and out, like an odd sort of petit mal seizure, between the loud clangs of dozens of cowbells. The noise was deafening, a little terrifying at first and then sort of thrilling; and I am convinced it helped me get up the hill. I made my way through the course laid out inside the velodrome, and was so happy to hear Liz, Sari and Lynne yelling for me as I dismounted and leapt over the barriers and completed my first lap.
As I began my second lap, I shouted out to a spectator, “Time?” — he looked at his watch and yelled back, “Two-twenty-five!” That told me I could definitely do a second lap, and MIGHT be able to complete a third lap if an official didn’t pull me first. All I needed to do was to keep going.
The second lap was a little harder physically, but I found better lines and was able to avoid getting hung up behind too many geared riders because the field had spread out more. Down in the turnaround at the base of the parking lot I skidded a tiny bit in some damp mud but otherwise managed to hang on. More shouts of encouragement from other members of Team Beer who had assembled in the grassy field near the pit area.
The runup was insane, and much harder the second time. This time, Liz was standing at the top of the runup and cheered me on. I didn’t see her among the dozens and dozens of spectators but I definitely heard her!
And just like that I was back in the velodrome finishing a second lap. The counter at the line indicated that there was one lap to go, so I went for it. Impossibly hard! I lost momentum getting stuck behind a junior who struggled to find a working gear (note to self: race Singlespeed class next year) and had to walk a little distance up a small, off-camber incline. As I re-mounted my bike, a photographer saw my tired look and suggested with a smile, “hey, you’re near the pit, maybe they can do a body swap for ya.” I laughed in spite of myself as I passed the neat rows of stacked wheels in the pit.
I found my momentum again, enough to get me around the parking lot and back to the –UGH! — runup. This time it felt impossible, and every step up was a struggle. But people were screaming and cheering me on and ringing cowbells in my ears, and somehow I made it to the top, and back into the velodrome for final pass.
A sloppy pair of barrier hops in the velodrome, and suddenly I was using my very last bit of energy to push across the line. I had ridden the entire time, and as a bonus I had completed three laps. I was insane with delight, and exhausted by the effort. This was the sickest thing by far that I have ever done on a bicycle. And the scary part is, I want to do it again. Carrie and I met up again at the finish and congratulated each other. She said the course had been challenging and that she was feeling pretty done. I hope there will be an opportunity for me to meet other Bellas at future Cross Crusade races and actually have a little more time to talk. Today I was on a tight deadline because my sister (my ride) had to get back as soon as my race was done, so I had to leave.
Results? They’ll be posted later online at the OBRA Web site. I assume I finished at the very back of the pack, and I do not care in the least. I rode the full time, I got in three full laps on a challenging course in a discipline I’d never raced before; and I am very, VERY happy.
August 10, 2009
By Beth Hamon
Mood: Glad it’s over - phew!
I arrived at 4:30 to do an easy-paced pre-ride. The moto track portion had been laid out insanely; Organizers decided to throw the kitchen sink into the course design for the closing night of the series and it showed: crazy transitions at odd angles, with a lateral drop-down off a grassy strip between two parts of the track onto the next section of moto track, and across that onto some gravel and back onto the moto track. The single-track sections through the trees were equally intense: several spots where the course zigzagged wildly back and forth so as to force riders to thread the needle between two closely-space trees.
To my shock and amazement, once I got the hang of it most of these posed no problem. During the pre-ride there was one particularly SICK tree-crossing where, as you passed between the two trees, you also had to negotiate a very deep, badger-sized hole; the only way to avoid getting your front wheel stuck in the hole and doing an endo was to find a narrow line around either side of the hole — while not hitting either tree. VERY hard! And guess what? I DID it. Let me tell you that there is nothing to boost your confidence like nailing hard, technical stuff on your bike. The single-track portion of the course was actually LOTS of fun.
Most Surreal Moment Of The Night: minutes before I had to go line up for my race, a couple of professional salsa dancers from Caracas, Venezuela put on an amazing dance exhibition in the center lot. Riders milled around for a little while to watch them perform; several rode right past them, either oblivious, or staring, incredulous. I giggled as I watched a muscular Cat 1 rider roll by, stare for a moment at the dancers, and mouth the words, “what the f**k?!”
Finally it was time to race. The Cat 3 Womens’ field was quite large tonight — no surprise as it was easily ten degrees cooler than last week, when most fields were much smaller than usual — and very friendly and chatty. The start lap was long and tough, with the surface of the moto track mostly large chunks of sun-hardened dirt that made traction difficult and bike-handling worse. I somehow managed to stay upright as we took the first corner, and to my surprise and joy I was NOT the last one into the turn! (I got passed by everyone by the time we’d left the moto track, but whatever.) I made it through the grassy drop-down — terrifying, but somehow I stayed upright, even though my rear had a frightening fish-taily feeling as I dropped.
The only real bummer on the first lap was when I began riding the long rhythm section of rollers in the center of the moto track; I topped the first roller too fast, caught a little air and crashed when my front wheel landed first. I did a neat little part-splat, part-shoulder-roll; immediately got up to drag my bike out of the way of whomever was behind me; got on, and kept riding. I would feel the scrapes on my arm and leg later. For the time being the adrenaline was doing its job and keeping me mostly numb to the pain.
Even though I’d geared down for tonight’s race, putting on a larger cog at work, I still could not work up the momentum I needed to top most of the steepest berms on the moto track without getting off and running or walking up. I wasn’t worried about walking up, as I’d set a goal for myself of finishing three laps by any means possible; even crawling was a viable option. Still, the moto section took a toll on me. As we entered the single-track part of the course I was able to breathe a little bit. I could see Liz and Itai standing near the baby-whoops, waiting for me to come around. I noticed with an odd disappointment that someone had filled in the badger-hole (for safety, presumably), and now it was just a little dip in the track. My lungs burned from the heat and dust and exertion; on a short straightaway here and there I managed to sip some water on the fly but it was never enough to really help. I made it through the baby-whoops, heard Liz and Itai both yell my name, and perked up; someone was here rooting for ME and boy did that feel nice. I blew through the singletrack section, getting hung up once as I tried to thread between two trees and again when I had to do a run-up to the back bleachers behind the moto track. I panted my way back onto the moto course for another lap.
I made it through the moto section a second time — the drop-down onto the grass was still JUST as scary, and the crunchy, chunky terrain just as hard to negotiate — and gasped my way back into the singletrack again. The second time I left the singletrack, I powered up the path to the back bleachers, not wanting to do another run-up and this time having no geared bike in front of me to kill my momentum. YESSS!
By the time I left the singletrack section I could hear the bell ringing the final lap for the leaders. I huffed and puffed my way onto the center rhythm section (where I’d crashed the first time), and remembered to watch my speed this time. But as I topped the first berm, my left calf seized up — CRAMP! OUCH! — and I nearly fell off my bike again from the pain. A course marshal down on the ground asked if I was okay. I yelled back, “yeah, it’s just a cramp.” He yelled back at me to stretch it and ride it out if I could. I got on my bike, tentatively stretched the calf, winced in pain and resumed riding. I made it through the rhythm section, hit the banked turn and gritted my teeth as the pain returned.
Coming out of the banked turn I could see them waving the checkered flag at the finish. I could also see the Singlespeed/Cat 2 field anxious for the last Cat 3 riders to finish so they could start. I looked ahead of me to one more set of rollers and another couple of hard banked turns before I’d have to top the final berm and roll to the finish. I was most of the way through a third lap. And then, as I headed into the last set of rollers, my calf screamed. And I screamed. Out loud. People stared as I nearly fell over from the pain. And that’s when I knew I could not ride anymore. I pulled off after the second roller and hobbled off the course. I haven’t seen results yet but I’m sure I won’t get credit for a third lap. I MAY even get DNF’d. No matter. I rode nearly all of it and I’m happy that I pushed myself.
UPDATE: Checking results, I found out I’d been given credit for three laps. Not sure how they did the math but I am STOKED! Yippee!
After the cold chicken dinner, a ton of water and some beer, the crazy team relay and the raffle and the podium ceremonies, when I finally got home at 10:45 pm, she told me how proud of me she was. “You’re a rock star,” she told me over and over. “You did something really amazing and you looked so strong out there!” Liz was proud of me for trying for a third lap. I have to admit that I’m a little proud of me, too.
This morning I am a little stiff and sore where I fell. The scrapes are not so bad, except the two biggest ones on my forearm and elbow. I’m not too sad about crashing; it was my first crash in four races and the law of averages dictated that sooner or later I’d have to have the experience. What I’m proud of is that I got back up quickly and kept going. That felt good.
I am nervous about cyclocross. Mostly nervous about learning to mount and dismount on the fly. Extending the pins in my pedals and switching to my touring shoes seemed okay; I had a stiffer show but with still plenty of grip, and I didn’t slip off my pedals once. plus, the extra traction on the soles helped me do the run-ups without feeling like I was going to slide back down the berms. But there are free clinics on Wednesday nights at Alpenrose and I hope to make at least three of them before ‘cross season starts in October.
I am really, really glad I gave this a go! I’d like to come back and do it next year, and hopefully do more of the races in the series if possible.
January 21, 2009
By Beth Hamon
Beth and friends in Brevet gear, ready to ride
Inspired by the recent accomplishments of my friends Lynne and Cecil (who completed their R-12 in December — they rode a 200km brevet every month for 12 months in a row!), and wanting to enjoy a ride with them without killing myself, I suggested we put together a “shorter” route of 25 to 30 miles. I further suggested that since I’d shown Lynne and Cecil my Smith & Bybee Lakes loop already, that Lynne put together a West side route for us. I called it an Inspiration Ride, to honor my friends for their achievement and to inspire all of us to get out and enjoy riding more in the coming year. Lynne obliged with a beautiful countryside loop beginning and ending in Hillsboro.
It took about 90 minutes to get to Hillsboro from my house, including riding to MAX. We set out from Longbottoms Coffee, a favorite starting point for many Washington County bike riders, and within five miles had found our first (and it turned out, most significant) climb of the morning. Jackson Quarry Road was quiet and still, with many white patches of frost still on the road at 9:45 in the morning. It was a good workout, and the beginning of my being able to find my groove for the ride. Going down the other side of the hill was another story; I don’t care for rapid descents and this was pretty fast, but with some nice turns that broke things up a little.
By the time we’d ridden through the Jackson Quarry area, I’d warmed up quite a bit in my winter tights, two thin wool shirts and a heavy wool sweater, and a wind shell. I traded my heavy winter “lobster” gloves for ragg wool ones and shed the shell, which I didn’t need again the rest of the ride. My shoes had nylon booties over them and I had toe-clip covers too, so my toes never got uncomfortably cold.
Near North Plains, we encountered a group from Portland Velo, the other club that Cecil and Lynne hang out with. Almost entirely men, the group rode lighter bikes with narrower tires than ours; they looked like sleek stallions gearing up for the big breakaway. They passed us with care and a few friendly hellos. They turned one way and we turned the other at the “T” in the road after our Jackson Quarry climb. At length, one of their number caught up with us; he’d started the ride with Portland Velo but decided to hang with us awhile, preferring our gentler pace on his fixed-gear bike. Dan was charming and an easygoing companion and it was nice to meet him and talk about bikes with him as we rode.
On Mountaindale Road we began leapfrogging with another, larger group of riders, most of them wearing vivid kelly green and yellow team kits from Bike-n-Hike. There were quite a few younger riders in this group, some looking as young as pre-teens. They passed us in a large wave; a couple of rides at the rear of the pack seemed almost afraid to pass me and I waved them on with a smile. They disappeared almost out of sight. My knee was starting to bother me a little and I slowed to give myself a break, knowing that I’d catch up with Cecil and Lynne at the top of the next gentle climb. A few miles down the road, I was surprised to see the Bike-n-Hike group stopped, their numbers scattered so far out into the road that I was forced to cross the yellow center line to get around the group. As I passed, I slowed and called out that they should move over onto the shoulder more to be safe. They ignored me. As I rode on, Cecil circled back to complain to me about it. We both agreed it was stupid, and that the youngsters in the group were being taught a bad lesson. “Stuff like that is why Washington County can’t stand bicyclists!” Cecil exclaimed. A couple of miles later, rounding another bend in the road, we were overtaken by the team one last time, with their follow van cutting a very wide path around the three of us and crossing the center line of the road, though there was plenty of shoulder for riders and therefore no need for the van to cross the yellow line. I hoped they wouldn’t have an accident. At the intersection of Mountaindale and Dairy Creek (where I would normally turn onto Dairy Creek if this were the Snoozeville route), the Bike-n-Hike team turned right and we continued on Mountaindale. That was the last I saw of them.
Stretches of Mountaindale were absolutely bright and beautiful, with manure-covered fields glinting in the hard winter sunshine and the green hills in the distance losing their frost as the sun landed on them.
At length we crossed Sunset Highway and approached the tiny town of Roy. Church services were just getting out and Lynne mentioned that the church had a public restroom. We stopped to use it, refill our water bottles and adjust our clothing; by now the sun had warmed things up a lot. Cecil checked her thermometer (I think she had one in her phone or something) and announced that it was a balmy 50F. Arm warmers and middle layers came off, though I was comfrotable enough in my wool sweater that I just left everything alone. We were about 7 or 8 miles from the end of our ride and I saw no need to readjust much myself.
After leaving Roy we also left the bucolic countryside behind, riding through what quickly became a suburban subdivision and then over onto Evergreen parkway. By now both of my knees were hurting quite a lot, though I didn’t complain out loud. And my stomach began to feel queer. When we turned onto Evergreen we found ourselves riding into a light but steady headwind, and between that and the way I was feeling I could not keep up at Cecil and Lynne at all. I watched them shrink in the distance and decided not to worry too much about it; I knew where I was, had a cue sheet and knew that we were only about four miles away from the coffee shop. Then, I felt a wave of nausea overtake me, and I knew I had to stop and pull of the road for a minute. Last night’s raclette — did I mention we’d had friends over for a little raclette and fondue party? — caught up with me, and while it wasn’t terribly dramatic, it wasn’t exactly pretty either. I felt better right away, resumed pedaling and I found myself catching up with Cecil and Lynne, who had slowed when they didn’t see me behind them anymore. They patiently chatted while I collected myself, and then we set out at a much gentler pace for the last mile and a half to the coffee shop. (One of the things I enjoy about doing these more social rides with Lynne and Cecil is that, while they can totally kick my butt, they never make me feel bad about it. If we’re out for a social ride they are happy to ride with me, rather than race ahead as they would have to for a timed event. I greatly enjoy riding with them when there’s nothing at stake!)
There, we found Dan, who had regrouped with some of his Portland Velo buddies and was enjoying lunch. We did the same, though after feeling sick I opted for a simple bowl of oatmeal and some fruit. I felt much better after eating, though my knees hurt the whole way to the light rail and all the way home from Killingsworth Station. Still, it was a good ride with friends and I hope we’ll do it again soon.
Total, actual route: 32.96 miles.
Total including travel to and from ride: 41.57 miles.