Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I seem to be in a groove of doing a long ride about every two weeks this spring. Last Saturday it was the RACC Century - The Ride Around Clark County, put on annually by the Vancouver Bicycle Club. I had never heard of this ride until just after last year's edition - but it seems plenty of other folks have since it's one of the more popular local supported events, apparently. After riding it I can see why - it's a beautiful course.

I briefly considered riding to the start, and next year I'm committing myself to doing just that. But Clark County was - before this ride - a big blank spot in my cycling experience and I wasn't entirely confident I could get myself to the start by bike without bumbling around the suburbs. Plus it was raining, which is becoming a pattern for my long rides so far this year. The course
 opened at 6:30 and I was checked in, pinned, and riding just before 7. 

The 100-mile route initially followed the same course as the shorter routes (18, 35, 65), so the day began with a fair number of us headed east through wide, smooth, quiet suburb streets to Lacamas lake and the first rest stop. Somehow - at 17 miles - this came sooner than I was expecting. I wasn't really hungry so I didn't linger long before heading around the lake and into the more rural sections of northeast Clark County. There were plenty of rollers but no big hills leading to the east fork of the Lewis river. One of the riders I talked with mentioned the hills really started after the second rest stop at Moulton Falls. My lower back started getting sore during the six mile stretch along Lucia Falls road- a good excuse for a few minutes off the bike - and I was glad to reach the second rest stop where I walked back up the road to snap a couple
 pictures and stretch the legs a bit for the anticipated climbing. 
The VBC volunteers had really loaded up the rest stops and they're well-known locally for their "trail putty" ("road putty" would sound too gross, no?) which is a mix of peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk. I'm not sure how the powdered milk would sit with me for the long haul, but it would be interesting to try this stuff as a primary fuel for a long day. The combo of fat/protein/carbs seems just about ideal. I ate some along with a couple cookies, a banana, and a pbj, and saddled up.  
The next 30 miles or so had the biggest hills of the day, though there was never anything that felt endless or over-steep. Somewhere along Jenny Creek my computer quit on me at 62.99 miles. I stopped a couple times to adjust the magnet and check the wires but got nothing, so I was riding "blind" for the rest of the ride. I decided all I could do was zen it and I didn't worry too much about it since the Dan Henry's were clear. But I did realize that if this had been a self-supported brevet, the loss of the odometer would have been more problematic.

One thing I really look forward to on long rides - well, anytime really, - is a good cup of coffee. Or two. I usually start my morning with tea and save the coffee for when I get to work and the day is rolling. There was coffee at the beginning of the ride but I wasn't ready yet. Of course, the rest stops didn't have any; I suppose under the assumption that it's a diuretic and can't be good for you on a long ride. For me, the psychological benefit is more than worth any piddly risk of dehydration. Besides, it's mostly water. I know for myself I can hydrate just fine on coffee, and it sure taste better than lemon-lime Gatorade. Anyway, at about mile 89 or so there was a series of home made signs for a water/snack stop some enterprising girls had set up in their driveway. They were selling bottled water and giving away (with a donation jar) cookies & rice crispy treats. I started to ride by before calling over my shoulder "You don't have any coffee, do you?" Turns out they did and it was good. 

I had heard horror stories about a couple of hills in the final miles of this climb that seem designed to inflict physical and psychological pain on weary riders. Maybe it was the coffee, but I really didn't see what all the fuss was about since they were over almost before they started. After getting a break from the rain for the last couple hours, it started up again as I rode into Vancouver, but I made it back to Clark College relatively dry before the big storm hit. I was home - with more coffee - when that happened, and hoped everyone was off the course by then.