Tag Archives: STP

Cycling through the seasons

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Time has a way of going quickly when you are busy doing things that you love.

As I approach the end of my fifth year of post-corporate life, I continue to be amazed at the lack of white space on my calendar. There are always upcoming events to train for, the actual events to experience, and then the very brief period of rest and recovery before ramping up for the next one. The year 2016 has been a stampede of events upon events. Looking ahead, I expect 2017 to be even busier!

When I last wrote, CFL and I were training for Seattle to Portland (STP), a two-day, 206-mile bike ride. We’d never done a century ride before, much less two of them back to back. While we were among the slower riders in the throng of 10,000 cyclists, we got it done. We even managed to have some fun along the way.

We were all smiles at the start!

Enjoying a few miles of off-highway riding on a very nice bike trail.

Still smiling!

At a food stop on Day 2, in front of the “World’s Largest Egg” in Winlock, WA.

My triumphant arrival at the finish line!

We’d barely had time to recover from STP when we were off for our second Ride Around Washington. Last year’s ride had taken us from Ilwaco on the Washington coast, approximately 400 miles to Walla Walla in eastern Washington. This year our group of 250 cyclists returned to Walla Walla and then rode another 400 miles all the way up to tiny Metaline Falls in the far northeast corner of Washington state. Our ride took us through the rolling hills of the Palouse.

We crossed over into Idaho a couple of times. Coming out of Lewiston we rode the historic Spiral Highway, which winds up 2,000 feet in eight miles. Such fun on a 95 degree day!

On our last day we crossed the Pend Oreille River on this beautiful bridge. Although it looked scary, it wasn’t.

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I stopped to look directly down through the open grate at the river below.

We were happy to see this sign at last.

Finish line beers are the best beers!

Overall, it was a wonderful ride. I managed to complete it without injury (unlike last year) or any significant aches or pains. We relaxed and took our time, and still managed to find time for an ice cream stop most afternoons.

A mere week after returning from RAW, I tried something new — I competed in my first duathlon! I’ll never do a triathlon because I refuse to get in the water, but the idea of run-bike-run has always appealed to me. When a local duathlon was announced, of course I had to register.

The course was a 5K run through a county park, followed by a 21.5 mile bike ride (two laps of rolling country roads), and finally by the same 5K run again. Although I’ve done run-bike for fun several times, I only had one chance to practice run-bike-run before the event. I was totally mystified as to how the Transition area would work, but the friendly volunteers provided helpful tips on how to stage my bike and where to go as I finished one phase and moved on to the next.

I had no idea how much time I’d need during the two transitions. Therefore I had no idea how long the entire event would take me, but I roughly estimated I could do it in under 2:45:00.

Although it was mid-August, it was a cold, foggy morning. This made the first 5K easy enough. I shivered at the starting line, grateful for my arm warmers (sleeves). Then off we went — me at my usual slow, happy pace near the back of the pack.

Finishing the first 5K, I ran through the chute and found my way back to my bike. As I’m a wimp who doesn’t yet clip into my bike, I didn’t have to worry about changing my shoes. I simply removed my helmet, took a quick swig of water, and then I was on my way. Arm warmers are pushed down now! Although it was still foggy, I was well warmed up.

I’ve never raced a bike before, and I really had no idea how fast I might complete the 21.5 miles. It turned out that I can ride quickly enough when I’m motivated. I made up a lot of time on this section of the event.

Coming from a run to the bike, my legs do just fine, but going from the bike back to running is a lot harder. I sort of stumbled through the second transition, but I stashed my bike safely and found my way back out on the course.

I ran the second 5K a minute faster than the first one, even though I walked up the one big hill.

Another triumphant (if slightly bedraggled) finish line arrival!

My finish time of 2:33:02 was good enough to finish 20th out of a field of 39 — not bad for my first duathlon!

I’m now totally hooked and I can’t wait to do another one.

After mid-August, things got a lot quieter. I was training for a half marathon to be run in early November, but a nasty bout of shingles in October ended my racing plans for the year. Since my recovery from that, I’ve resumed running and riding but without any particular goal in mind other than daily mileage.

So now we’ve cycled through the seasons and found our way to late December. Our calendar is filling up with big plans for next year, but that will have to wait for another post.

Slow Happy New Year!

Countdown to STP

Time flies! It seems like just the other day I was barely starting to get comfortable riding my bike again after many months of focusing on marathon training. Suddenly Seattle to Portland (STP) is only a week away.

STP is 206 miles. That’s two back-to-back centuries, roughly 103 miles each day!

I’m riding my bike daily, averaging about 35 miles a day over the past few weeks. However, I haven’t been able to do enough of the really long training rides that I’d hoped to do. I’ve only done three rides over 50 miles. There simply haven’t been enough spaces on the calendar to fit in enough long rides.

The other day CFL and I finally managed to ride a significant distance together… 71 miles. Not the 90+ miles I’d wanted to do to feel confident that I can ride 100 miles, but it will have to do. We finished our ride feeling good. I’m further buoyed by the fact that we did that ride just two days after we rode up to Hurricane Ridge.

The road up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park (which we locals call “backyard national park”)is considered one of the classic cycling climbs in the country. From my house, it is 5,100+ feet of elevation gain in 19 miles. That’s a big deal, and I came though it feeling GREAT! I felt much better at the top than I did a year ago, when I’d given myself a 6-mile head start by driving up to the Olympic National Park gate rather than simply riding from home.

Coming down was kind of scary, though. Not because I didn’t feel confident of my ability to handle my bike at 30+ MPH on a narrow mountain road. My bike and I handled the curves just fine. The problem was that we went through a layer of fog/mist on the way down. The temperature plummeted and I started to shiver uncontrollably, which produced some interesting wobbles on the bike. I was actually experiencing mild hypothermia. We stopped at the campground at the park gate, where I held my hands under the hand dryer in the restroom for at least five minutes, until I could begin to feel them again and my shivering arms and legs settled down. From there I was able to safely ride the last 6 miles, bursting back into the sun just as we reached the city limits.

Lesson learned. No matter how warm the day may seem, I won’t ride up there again without carrying WARM layers for the ride down.

Anyway, at this point I’m about as ready for STP as I’m ever going to get. I figure that once we get on the road, we’ll be carried along by adrenaline and the combined energy of the nearly 10,000 other cyclists riding with us.

We’ll be among the slower riders, but we’ll finish. Slow and happy, one pedal stroke at a time!

 

Back in the saddle again!

Spring in the Pacific Northwest is a magical time of year. The days get longer, quite obviously, increasing by minutes from day to day. At yesterday’s solstice, we enjoyed a full 16 hours, 4 minutes of sunlight, bookended by long twilights. It’s hard to sleep much past 5:00 AM this time of year.

The long days couldn’t arrive at a better time! With my April marathon and June half marathon now behind me, I’ve turned my full attention to cycling. The Seattle to Portland (STP) ride is now less than a month away. That’s 206 miles, two back-to-back century rides amidst a throng of 10,000 cyclists. My longest ride so far this year has been a paltry 47 miles, but at least I’m now riding almost daily and spending as many hours as possible in the saddle.

Given that I live in the Pacific Northwest, that often means riding in the rain. I found myself cringing at the idea of riding my expensive road bike on a trail that, while paved, can get muddy in places. So I bought a second bike. I call it my a-rainy-day-is-not-an-excuse bike. The geometry is essentially the same as my road bike, but it’s heavier and sturdier, which means it’s a bit less twitchy and a lot less fussy on messy surfaces. I’m enjoying going back and forth between the two bikes — now when I get back on the road bike, it feels even faster!

I do most of my training rides solo. I stay close to either home or the car, riding a series of long loops or out-and-backs so that I’m not too far out in the middle of nowhere should anything go wrong. On those rare occasions when CFL and I can synchronize our schedules, we’ll do a longer ride to a destination together. For the most part, however, he does his training his way and I do my training my way.

His way mostly involves riding up hills. Last year, in preparing for Ride Around Washington (RAW) I rode at least twice as many total miles as he did (and spent many more hours), but he did a lot more hill-climbing. To my surprise, he came through RAW at least as well as I did, so this year I’m trying to include more hill training.

We are fortunate to live right at the foot of a world-class hill! Hurricane Ridge, at 5,242 feet, is one of the highlights of Olympic National Park. It’s also considered one of the best, most scenic cycling climbs in the USA. I live at an elevation of 300 feet. The top of Hurricane Ridge is 18 miles from my front door. That’s a lot of hill climbing in a very short distance!

For me the climb is a long, slow slog. The grade varies from 6-8%, which is not impossibly steep — but it’s nearly constant. It certainly gets the heart pumping, especially near the summit when the elevation becomes a factor. So far this year I’ve only made it halfway up, whereas CFL has gone the whole way several times. The views are spectacular, and the adrenaline-packed descent is the final reward for the climb.

Two short weeks after STP, we’ll do Ride Around Washington again. This year we’ll ride 437 miles in 6 days from Walla Walla, WA to Metaline Falls in the far northeast corner of the state. Although it’s another huge goal, it’s not as intimidating as STP because there are only 250 cyclists, and we are well-pampered with catered meals, hot showers, and luggage services. It’s a sort of traveling summer camp.

After that, I’m flirting with the idea of doing a duathlon. There’s a local one planned in mid-August: a 5K run, a 22-mile bike ride, and another 5K run. A triathlon is out of the question because I refuse to get in the water… but run/bike/run? Yeah, that’s tempting.

It’s good to be back in the saddle again!

Picking up the pieces

How do I pick up the pieces after not blogging here for six months? Obviously, I’ve been doing a lot more slow happy LIVING than writing about it. Generally, I like it that way, although I do feel pangs of guilt when I visit my blog admin page and see that no one comes to visit because there’s never anything new to see.

After our big cycling tour last August, I parked the bike and returned my focus to running. I had only nine weeks to train for an October marathon. That didn’t end well, as I wrote about elsewhere. It was late October before I felt like doing much of anything again. The bike stayed mostly parked, and I rode it only a few times before the weather turned too wet for pleasant cycling. I ran a 10K in December, immediately before we made a road trip down to California.

We drove 3,300 miles in ten days and visited a handful of relatives and friends along the way. It was hectic. At least the weather cooperated… except for the day we drove through a sandstorm in 25 degree weather with 30 mph winds. Good times!

We brought our bikes with us on the off chance that we’d have time to ride with a friend in San Diego. Indeed, we had just enough time for a leisurely 13 mile ride around Mission Bay on Christmas Eve.

We’re always very careful about securing our bikes and usually don’t let them out of our sight. When we travel we lock them onto the bike rack on the back of the car. Wherever we stop to eat, we try to grab a window seat so we can watch them. At night we bring the bikes into our motel room with us.

When we finished our delightful San Diego bike ride, we left the bikes locked on the rack for an hour, while we showered at our friend’s apartment in a nice neighborhood. Then we walked outside to leave.

You guessed it. Our bikes were gone. The lock was cut through, cleanly and professionally.

My bike was insured; CFL’s was not. We both learned a very expensive lesson. No more external bike racks for us, no matter how expensive or sturdy-seeming the lock. We’ll carry the bikes inside the van — and we probably won’t let them out of our sight even though locked inside the van.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in my next bike, so I’d ordered it within a couple of weeks. When I bought my last one, disc brakes weren’t yet widely available on road bikes. But disc brakes are so much better on the wet, slick surfaces that are so common in the Pacific Northwest! And on my long hilly rides last summer, my hands took a beating trying to stop my bike with its old-school caliper brakes. So disc brakes were a must for me. While I was doing that favor for my hands, I figured I might as well go the next step and get electronic shifting — push-buttons are so much easier on small hands than the long throw of the shift lever! And well, I wanted lighter wheels too. The insurance settlement (which took depreciation into account) covered less than half the cost of my new bike.

Bottom line, I ended up with a very nice bike — a bike that I’m still afraid of because it’s SO nice. I’ve only ridden it 42 miles in the month that I’ve owned it. One reason I’m not riding much is that CFL is still waiting for his new bike… which is back-ordered until May. The other reason, off course, is that I’m marathon training again. After April 2, I’ll be ready to focus on cycling again. Well, except for that half marathon on June 5.

But then, when our local trail looks like this, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about cycling! Yes, it’s mudslide season again.

We call this one the Big Puddle. It’s at least 10 yards long and several inches deep. Some people go around it on the berm at the right, but the berm itself has become so muddy that I don’t attempt it. I simply turn around at this spot.

Come this May when the puddles are a distant memory and CFL finally has his bike, we’ll get serious about cycling again. We have two big rides planned for this summer. We’re doing STP (Seattle to Portland)! We’ll be somewhere near the back of the pack of 10,000 cyclists for this 2-day, 200+ mile bike ride. And we’re also doing RAW (Ride Around Washington) again. On this year’s route, we’ll pick up where we left off last year in Walla Walla and ride 437 meandering miles through the Palouse region, all the way to Metaline Falls — the tiny town that is as far north and east as you can go in Washington state. We 250 cyclists will outnumber the good citizens of Metaline Falls.

Thus while we may be getting off to a relatively slow start in 2016, we have many long training rides ahead of us. To say nothing of hikes, long runs, and the utterly non-negotiable daily walk. I’m averaging nearly 20,000 steps a day so far this year. For me, that adds up to nearly 10 miles a day on foot.

Now, it’s almost time for my daily walk. See you on the trail? Watch out for that puddle!