Monday, March 16, 2009

Snoozeville-Shamrock Rain Festival

Heavy clouds let loose
halfway through too numb to shift
welcome to Snoozeville

Part 1
When I first heard about randonneuring and the whole idea of long, non-competitive, self-supported rides, I knew I had to try it. Long rides are like meditation for me.  With randonneuring I could spend the day on a bike and see a lot of country, but I'd also get the social aspect of joining others if I wanted. Plus, a "rando," while not a race, is still a timed event, with the rider required to check in at designated "controls" and finish the ride within a specified timeframe. Theoretically, a rando rider could amble along at a very leisurely 15km/hr and still make the cut. But that's assuming no breaks, detours (accidental or intentional), flats, mechanical issues, muffins, naps, or picture taking. Route finding and problem solving are as important as endurance, which makes it even more appealing to me. And on Saturday I finally got my randonneuring fix.
The Snoozeville Populaire is the first event on the Oregon Randonneurs schedule and it's been on my calendar for months. Even though I've ridden a couple centuries, I was still nervous. Since I was determined not to drive, that meant a 4:30 A.M. wake-up to allow time for dressing, oats, stuffing the pockets and catching MAX at 6 for an hour-long train ride to Hillsboro. It also meant standing around the parking lot getting chilled once I got there. First lesson: it doesn't take 45 minutes to get checked in. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, but I met a couple people, admired a lot of bikes, and after a brief pre-ride pep talk,  we all headed out at 8 just as the rain started.

The route toured Washington county toward the east slope of the coast range. It felt fairly flat, especially compared with my ride last week. By the time we hit Dairy Creek for the out and back to Fern Flat and the first control, we were pretty spread out and I was finally warmed up. Being the total rando newbie I am, I didn't really know what I was supposed to do with the brevet card I was given. I mean, I knew there were questions to answer, and I knew that sometimes there would be volunteers at the control and sometimes not, but no one really explained how this all worked, and I was kind of embarrassed to ask (guy thing). So at Fern Flat - my first rando control point ever - I kind of flubbed it. I handed my card over and the volunteer signed it as I munched and chatted, then I tucked it away and headed back down the road. It wasn't until about 5 miles later that I looked at my cue sheet and realized that I was also supposed to answer a question about the color of the flags on the fence at the control. Dang! I figured that since the card had been signed I was probably OK, but the thought crossed my mind of conspiring at the next control to see if I could nochalantly bring up flag colors in the conversation and sneak my answer in late. One thing for sure, I knew I wasn't riding back to the control.

The ride from Dairy Creek through Banks and into Forest Grove was kind of rolling and really, really wet and windy. It felt like no matter which way the course turned, I had a headwind. Other than a spare pair of socks in my pocket, I was wearing everything I brought. The Swobo top and knickers were working fine, but my old thrashed Burley shoe covers had been taking on water steadily, and my hands were also wet and chilled. At one point I hit a roller and tried to shift to my small front ring and was surprised to find I didn't have the hand strength to nudge the left lever. I figured this ride would be a shakedown for hopefully longer rides and I got sucked in to making a couple miscalculations based on the fact it wasn't raining when I got up and the forecast was for a high of 50. Honestly, based on my normal 10 mile commute, I was more worried about overheating and having to strip layers than I was on being so chilled. Second lesson learned:  bringing layers you don't use beats first stage hypothermia every time. My rag wool gloves and waterproof socks weren't doing me any good in the closet at home. And a bag for extra stuff just moved higher up the wish list.

Pulling into Forest Grove, I was really glad Gregg was maning the control at Maggie's Buns. The cue sheet said "on the left," but I didn't realize it was on the left around the corner, and if Gregg hadn't shouted out, who knows when I would have figured it out. My hands were stiff enough I almost asked him to unzip my pocket to pull out my card - my manual dexterity was shot. As it was, it took me about 5 minutes with teeth and numb fingers to get my gloves off. I spent a couple minutes in the bathroom with the hot water tap, a couple more with the Most Necessary Cup of Coffee ever, and hit the road. 
That had to be the most revitalizing coffee break I've ever had. The last 15 miles flew by, partly because I knew it was the last 15 miles and I pushed myself hard enough I actually warmed up. But I also realize that had this been a 200K brevet, I would need to do things differently to keep from having to abandon the ride. Cruising along Evergreen on the last 5 miles, I was anticipating the coldest part of the day still to come; an hour-long cool-down on MAX in wet clothes. I was glad I didn't drive, but admitted to myself it sure would have been nice to have a dry change of clothes and a beer at the finish. Ah well. The train wasn't as bad as I feared and my knickers were bone-dry when I got home. I love wool.

Conclusions after rando # 1:  I'm still not happy with the way my bike feels on these longer rides. I suspect the stem is too long, and maybe I still don't have a saddle that's going to go the distance. My lower back got sore early and while short breaks off the bike made all the difference, I'd prefer it if it didn't happen at all. I imagine the cold and tense shoulders contributed as well. I'm curious how River would have handled the ride? It's probably a less stiff bike, but I was nervous (justifiably it turns out) about riding without a computer, and the 27-inch tires on it are maybe less than ideal. Maybe I'll pick up one of these this week. And like I said, some kind of bag is going to be needed. I didn't even bring a camera (Partly because of the forecast - thanks John and Gregg for the photos!)
I don't feel like I've earned the right to call myself a "randonneur" yet. Somehow, the 100k distance feels more like a rando with training wheels. I really want to ride the Birkie Brevet, and if I finish that, I'll feel like the training wheels came off. For now, I'm still a wanna-be.

Part 2
I was hoping that the clouds would have wrung themselves dry in time for the second act of my mini-epic weekend, but there was no such luck. Shamrock Run morning dawned with more cold, wet, and wind. For me it meant more oats, more layers, and more MAX, and I joined a considerably larger group than Saturday's where, once again, I got to stand around getting cold while waiting for the 15K run to begin. If I had been sensible, I would have signed up for a shorter distance, but that would have felt like cat-ing down, and since the registration fee was the same, I figured I might as well get my money's worth. Plus, I've got a thing for running up Terwilliger, and in Sunday's rain and headwind, the climb turned out to be the full-meal-deal. Once we got started I warmed up pretty quick and the run was surprisingly comfortable. I didn't notice any fatigue from Saturday, and hammered it pretty hard the last two miles. Once I crossed the line I didn't have any desire to hang around in the rain for the complimentary beer and chowder, so I handed my tickets to someone heading into the beer garden and boarded the #15. I made it to PMC in time to grab some dry clothes I had stashed in our car and was dressed and dry in time to join my family for the service and potluck after, where I loaded both my dinner and my dessert plates and did more than my part in draining the coffee pot. A good weekend.


  1. (rando) Not to worry, we've ALL been there. See you on the longer rides!

  2. Ah, we've suckered in another one :-)

    I hope someone eventually explained to you that if there is a live body signing cards at an info control, you do not need to answer the question, since the only reason to answer the question is to prove you were there!

    See you at the Birkie!

  3. Oh, and another thing - before springing for that Ostrich Bag at Velo Orange, check out Acorn's new randonneuring bag - Lynne just got it and it looks like it may have some better features and benefits . . . .

  4. I like the Acorn bags a lot. Site says not taking orders until May :( Is there a local source, or mail-order only? I think I may be stuck with a backpack until I can fund something a little more functional.

  5. About canvas bags: Email me off-blog. I can help.

    About randonneuring: Even the shortest distances are fun. Perhaps we'll run into each other at one of these later this year. Sounds like you took it all in stride and had a good time.