Monday, June 8, 2009

Pioneer Spirit

One of the biggest rides put on by the Portland Wheelmen each year is the Pioneer Century on the first Saturday of June. Last year it was my first century ever - my previous longest ride being just shy of 80 miles. It was a breakthrough for me, a personal goal, and a very satisfying accomplishment. Plus it's a beautiful ride. Since that time I've tucked a couple more centuries under my belt, along with a 200K. I figured I'd celebrate the anniversary with a return.

I had some pre-ride preparation anxiety. After sunny and 80's a couple weeks ago, we've had some weirdness in the sky. Cool, showers, a big thunder/wind storm Thursday. Friday was forecast to clear but it never did and I rode home from work in the rain. I still didn't know Friday night which bike I'd ride (Nishiki with fenders or Poprad w/o). And I don't even want to talk about the multiple contingency clothes I laid out. And then there was my knee...

Saturday dawned cool and cloudy, a little damp. I decided to trust the forecast (clearing) and took the Poprad, dressed in light wool, and tossed in the cheap vinyl rainjacket just in case. Fortunately it never made it out of the car. I got to Canby about 6:45 and the parking lot was already busy - the course opened at 7:00 and while there were a number of loops folks could ride starting much later, most of the 100-mile riders like to get out there ASAP, including me.
I picked up my packet, futzed with my clothing some more - despite the gray clouds and occassional drops I was really trusting the forecast and ditched the tights and waterproof socks, opting for the new (happy birthday to me!) SS wool, shorts, and light windbreaker. It proved to be perfect. 

I left alone and rode alone for the first 10 miles, just warming up and enjoying the farm scenery. I got passed for a few fast folks, and then a paceline of not quite as fast folks  went around me and I decided to fall in. At one point there were 7 of us sharing pulls and this went on quite well for about 10 miles. One guy flatted so he and his partner dropped out. Then our lone woman dropped off as we entered Mollala, and finally, the big hill leading up to the first rest stop blew the rest of us apart. But it was fun zipping along in a train while it lasted. 

My knee started getting a little sore right at the beginning of the ride and I was anxious about that. This has had me really nervous recently. I have never, ever (knock on wood) had any knee issues. But this started up the last 20 miles or so of the RACC, and has nagged me for the last month or so. It's right on the surface and top of the right knee cap, and internet/self-diagnosis points to saddle position induced tendon strain. Of course it probably doesn't help that I adjusted my saddle height right before RACC, or that I went for a run the day after, or that I have ridden my bike 20 miles/day nearly every day since. But on the other hand, after a week or so it wasn't too tender and seemed to be getting better, and this last week I hardly noticed it at all. I figured if it really started bothering me I could pop a couple "vitamin I" for the pain and infamation, and if I needed to, bail after the first 55-mile loop. Fortunately, the pain never happened, and while I noticed it if I thought about it, I didn't really. A huge relief. But I also decided to be smart and skip the run on Sunday. 

The section of the ride from Mollala up Sawtel Road to the high point at Kokel Corner (1500 ft.) and back down Maple Grove is the best part of this ride if you like hills like I do. You have great views of the Willamette valley in a mix of farmland and forest - well, mini-forest as most of it is actually Christmas tree farms - and the road is smooth and the downhills eye-watering. 

The century ride is actually 2 loops out from the Clackamas County fairgrounds, the first one 55 miles and the second 45. I was back from loop 1 about 10:45 and stopped at the car to change. I didn't need to, but knew I could probably ditch the windbreaker and some of the food I was carrying. Plus, the day before the ride Dennis from BRM had dropped off the new kit and I wanted to display it, but with the threat of rain had opted for the wool. Now that the weather (and I) were warming, I figured what the heck, and dressed in the red & gold. I walked over to chat with these guys, and check out these, and these. Chris D commented on the BRM presence and said he liked the shoulder picture. The Man himself was busy at the fajita grill, but Chris D speculated on whether they could talk him into a similar Jersey portrait. The consensus was that CK wouldn't go for it. Their plan was to shut down the fajita line at 2:00, which meant I was going to have to hustle on the 45-mile loop if I was getting anything besides cookies post-century. 

I kind of surprised myself by how casually I took the second loop - no food, no jacket, just pedaling along. I knew coming in on the first loop that I had a tailwind, and I remember thinking "this is going to bite me at some point." It did. The last 8 miles or so into St. Paul were pretty brutal with the headwind. One of the guys I was chatting with at the start of the the morning was speculating on the potential road debris from Thursday's storm. The section near the Willamette river from Champoeg to St. Paul was where I really noticed it, especially anywhere that cottonwoods bordered the roads there was lots of sticks and branches on the shoulder. There were plenty of folks out with chainsaws and trailers cleaning up their yards and mini-farms. I saw a couple teenagers working on the branches of a downed tree that was easily 6 feet in diameter and had fortunately fallen parallel to their house. Thankfully the hop vines seemed to survive the winds just fine. Between the BRM "No Grain No Gain" kit, and the acres of hops, I was feeling like a rolling 2-wheeled homebrew.
Just before St. Paul, when I was about ready for a break from the saddle and some munchies,  I came to Heirloom Roses. These guys grow and sell some of the most beautiful and hardy roses you'll find anywhere. My wife gave me one of these for my birthday several years ago and this year it put on quite a show. Last year I pedaled through, but since the headwind had me a little winded, I was carrying a camera this time,  and roses were on parade just up the valley, I decided to stop.

The rest stop in St. Paul was well stocked and I fueled up for the final leg and headed out with a group of 4 other guys, but not before taking a picture of a really nice mixte.  J. P. Weigle made one sort of similar to this. You don't see many with that single-to-double top tube design. For that matter, you don't see many mixtes when you're out riding a century. Maybe in France. The world needs more mixtes, I think.

It was nice to work in a paceline again, especially with the headwind. I figured eventually we'd get to the point in the loop when the headwind turned tail and with about 15 to go that happened. Our group dwindled to 3 and then 2 when we hit Donald and one guy decided he didn't want to continue in with an empty water bottle. So Mike and Mike took turns towing each other into Canby. MIke #2 was doing his first century ever and feeling it, so I kept up the banter hoping it would make the final miles roll quicker and they did for both Mikes. I stopped at the car to ditch my bike and change my shoes. It was 2:10 when I got in the fajita line, but they were still serving. They asked if I wanted one or two. What a silly question.

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