Cycling

Quick weekend in Tahoe

Posted on Jul 20, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

This past weekend I made a quick trip down to Tahoe. I left Thursday morning and was home by Sunday night. A nine hour drive each way, much of the trip was spent on the road. The goal was to race in the Tahoe Trail 100.

The plan was to make the trip down take two days with most of the driving front-loaded so I could rest on Friday in preparation for the race.

Love this car, love this land.

Love this car, love this land.

Following  a casual departure from home, I made a stop in Oakridge for lunch at a deli that could have been right out of 1950 had it not been for the TV entertaining the owner’s daughter. I’d been wanting to get to Oakridge, and I suppose I can now technically check it off, but it’s most known for its mountain bike trails, which I didn’t get a chance to play on.

From Oakridge I made my way down to Klamath Falls, basically the last city on your way out of Oregon. Like much of Oakridge, it seems this is a town that time has more or less passed by. The downtown, while beautiful and well-maintained, was very much pre-1950 in architecture and feel.

Morning sunrise.

Morning sunrise.

The next stop was Alturas, California, where I had planned to sleep. I had done prior research and found some free places to catch some rest, but, well, the lesson learned is that National Forestry sites are difficult to read. While I did manage to enjoy their wildlife refuge and one of the best Mexican meals I’ve ever had, the spots I had scoped for sleeping were 20 minutes in the wrong direction. Following dinner and some riding around town, I had some energy to burn so I decided to invest more in my driving.

Around 9pm I was starting to feel a bit tired and began scoping out places to sleep. I have removed the seats from the back of the car and my luggage only took half of it so I had a solid 6′ spot in the back for bed, but you can’t just sleep anywhere… Well, it turns out you can… or at least if you’re a trucker you can. They were all over this very lightly traveled highway, but I’ve yet to really push the limits in a passenger car. I was about to pull into such a turnoff for the night (they can be tough because as soon as you see one you’re past it and it’s important to find one where you won’t have headlights in your windows all night) when I passed a campground sign. I was in the middle of nowhere and that was the extent of the signage. Two to three miles up the dirt road, I came across the Ramhorn Springs Campground. This campground is hardly maintained, won’t show up on any guidebook, and I couldn’t see anything as dark as it was when I arrived, but in the morning I’d find it was in great shape and had absolutely spectacular views of the sunrise. It was absolutely perfect. In the morning I donated (free with donations suggested) $2 to maintenance (I peed once – the extent of my actual usage) and was on my way.

With my AirBnb not available until 3pm, I had plenty of time to kill so I set my sights on Kings Beach after passing through Reno and back into California. There, I’d grab some great coffee and breakfast, and spend a few hours soaking up [too much of] the sun reading and catching up (I ended up pretty burnt on my legs and half my body). Luckily, my place was ready early so I shot over there and got settled before it was time to head to Northstar for the preface stuffs, which included registration and a [shortened] course pre-ride with some pro riders, and a riders meeting. From there I grabbed some pretty solid Italian and retreated back to my place to tune up the bike and get in bed by 8. I set my alarm for 5am and wouldn’t get to sleep until around 2 or so due to some noisy neighbors. Lesson learned? Maybe stick with camping?

The next morning was the big event. I had a goal of 5:15 for the 100km, but had absolutely nothing to base that on; I just knew that would get me in a smoking fast heat at Leadville. To back up a bit, the reason I was doing this race was solely because as a new participant at Leadville I was placed in the absolute back starting corral, which means I’d have to pass countless folks who would be hours slower than me, and likely have no chance at a shot at a sub-9 hour finish, which earns the ultimate prize. At the end of the day I qualified to start probably in about the front 1/4 of riders so all is good.

Shred.

Shred.

The race itself was fast and long. We started early, but it was a hot day and the final hour or two were in near 90 degree heat. In the post-race survey I suggested they start an hour earlier. My ride went very well – no crashes and the bike held up just fine. I did learn that the water bottle holder on the bottom of my downtube cannot be relied on as I lost one of my two bottles on a fast descent only a few miles in. The race was very well supported with aid  stations just about every hour (at my pace) so if I kept the pace up and stopped to refill my single bottle at every station I’d be fine. Still, that bugged me as I really didn’t want to be making stops every hour, and what if I lost that bottle too? About 20 miles in my prayers were answered as I came across someone else’s lost bottle. This was not the first time I’ve grabbed someone else’s bottle and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Regardless of how many times I do it, though, that first swig carries so much unknown – what if the person was drinking vodka? Or poison and I die? Luckily, that hasn’t happened. I’d carry that bottle in my pocket the rest of the race and only have to stop at every other station.

Halfway through the race, which was a two lap ordeal, I was at 2:40, but I had taken it really easy so while a 2:35 final lap was possible, I really had to pee, replenish my snacks, and get my chain lubed. Rather than risk my health, bike, or happiness, I spent five minutes at the halfway point to handle those things, effectively throwing away my shot at 5:15, but also making the final lap a lot more casual and enjoyable. While the result splits look a bit funny due to the break counting in my second lap, doing the math shows I ended up pretty much riding even splits, which I’m really pleased with. I did run out of “go” in the last hour, but I think I can mostly attribute that to the heat and not forcing myself to drink enough. This is the second time I’ve done that and I won’t make the mistake again.

I ended up finishing in 5:30 for 100th place overall. I’m happy with it. Of note, I rode the entire first lap with a woman named Julie. What was amazing about Julie is that she was in her fifties and on a singlespeed as I, nearly half her age, was constantly rowing the gears. We had some solid conversation, but being much more experienced and a local who knew the trails, she skipped the break I took halfway through and I wouldn’t see her again. When I got home I looked her up. Oh, no big deal. Really nice lady and a pleasure to ride with.

GPS | Results

Following the race I collected my finishers medal, got a quick massage, drank a bunch of beers, and got a great night of sleep.

Didn't get eaten.

Didn’t get eaten.

The next morning I went for a short ride (I actually felt great for this – could massage be as good as the pros say it is?) that included a stop at the Donner Memorial State Park, grabbed some more outstanding coffee and breakfast, showered, packed it all up, and hit the road. I booked it home – for future reference, it can be a nine hour drive if you keep it tight and fast.

Overall, it was a great trip. The drive down to Tahoe is beautiful, fast, and stress free. Mountains, forests, desert, alpine, open plains. Awesome. I plan to do it a lot more often and am definitely going to put this race and a short vacation in Tahoe on my calendar for every year.

Random notes:

  • A lot of towns have more road signs pointing to them than they have residents
  • Google Maps destroys Waze for finding long and obscure routes

The summer that can’t stop, won’t stop

Posted on Jul 10, 2017 in Cycling, General | 0 comments

Another two weeks down and another few things worth noting.

High Desert Omnium

I did this event a few years back and had a chance to get back down to Bend for it again this year. I almost didn’t after being hit by a car two nights before it, but that turned out to be a non-issue. Ugh.

Left home early Saturday morning to arrive shortly before the time trial and the Bend Municipal Airport. I did pretty well in the TT last time, TT seems to be a strength for me, and I had an actual TT bike so I was pretty stoked for this. Any other year, I would have likely won this stage with my 27mph average, but the group was exceedingly strong this year and I was only able to nab 4th. Worth noting, the top two guys in my category would have been very competitive/almost assuredly podiums for the weekend in the Pro/1/2 field. Triathletes and time trialers aren’t handled very well in the cycling upgrade system, but that’s life in 4/5.

GPS | Results

That afternoon following lunch and some rest, we made our way back to the airport for the criterium. I hate criteriums. High speeds, lots of turns, lots of traffic. I hate them lots. Since I hate them so much, I typically dangle off the back of the group, which is a great way to waste tons of energy as the yo-yo effect (any sort of slowdown ahead is multiplied the further back you are, which causes you to have to work a lot harder to get back up to speed) is real, but it’s where I’m comfortable so it’s where I stay and how I lose. Luckily, this time it proved a saving grace as there was a nasty crash that took out most of the group about halfway through. Being on the back, I had plenty of time to recognize the crash and avoid it. About six of us were lucky enough to miss the mess, I tried to hold onto the top few strong guys, failed, and was happy with another 4th. Despite EMS showing up, everyone was relatively okay following the crash. A separated shoulder, a smashed helmet, some trashed lycra, and a stiff neck were the results.

GPS | Results

The next morning we made our way up to the Edison Sno-Park for a relatively flat 100km race in the mountains. It’s a funny race that keeps on dragging on with everything being decided in the final 5-6 miles, which is an increasing ramp up to the finish. There was some shuffling of the pack on the final hill, I recognized the stronger guys, when they made a move I followed, held onto them for a good bit, and was able to score yet another 4th with solid gaps in front and behind. It was a really strong finish and I’m really happy with it. Of note, the top four finishers in my 4/5 race were only beat up the final hill of the day by the winner of the Pro/1/2 race. Yeah, strong group.

When all was said and done, my three 4th place finishes placed me in 3rd overall for the weekend a good bit [in the points] behind those two guys that absolutely crushed the field in everything. I returned home with a 12oz Hydroflask Coffee Mug for my efforts ($60, lots of calories, $40 in gas, an entire weekend). Bike racing is good.

GPS | Results

June Short Track

In case you’ve not been paying attention, I’ve been making a strong effort to get better at mountain biking this year. Part of that was committing to the Short Track series, which runs June through July. The last time I did this event, I was close to dead last. A year later and it’s clear my work has paid off by winning Cat 2 for the month of June. I didn’t win any races outright so I’m not smashing the field and in the wrong class (the one time I was leading I got lost, was passed by five riders before figuring out my way, and passed all but one of them back), but I’ve been consistent with 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd place finishes so my point gap is pretty large. Hoping I can hold it through July and win a 12-pack instead of a 6-pack 😉  Yes, I also may have too much fun with the photographer.

Mount Adams Summit Attempt

On July 4th a few friends and I made an attempt to summit Mount Adams. It didn’t go as planned, but part of the group followed Rule #1 of mountaineering (when in doubt, bail) and made the most of our day with eating and drinking our way home.

This is pretty much a 1.5 day hike (you have to start stupid early or camp halfway up) so we did end up spending the night on the mountain so +1 to my nights spent outside this year.

The plan is to give it another go perhaps at the end of the month. Going to be a long and grueling day.

Mount Tabor Series

Since the start of June I’ve also been racing up and down Mount Tabor almost every Wednesday night. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the series very much with a generally sloppy group, some peculiar officiating, and bogus series prize decisions (1st place Pro/1/2 female received the same $20 as 5th place in Men’s 5), but I digress. When I had a decent race I fared pretty well, but more often than not I was left shaking my head and unsatisfied, and for that reason I had no qualms missing a few races. Still, good enough for 8th overall. Not sure I’ll be committing to the series much next year.

Mount Hood Endurance Classic

This slotted nicely into my training “plan” for Leadville (the plan is to ride a lot, mountain bike a lot, and ramp race distance up to 100 miles via other races). This was my first endurance race in the plan and it clocked in at 45 miles and 7000ft of climbing over some technical and difficult terrain on the east side of Mount Hood. It was a small/unsanctioned/fun race so results didn’t really matter, but they were collected on the honor system and of course I got 4th… my favorite place. The trails were absolutely amazing and it was great to learn of them. Much more technical than I’ll be facing in Tahoe or Leadville, but the length of time and amount of effort were really good at helping me figure out my hydration and nutrition needs, and to dial the bike and myself in for long efforts.

Half the field was my team, which was really awesome. I’m hoping to plan a camping weekend around the event next year.

My moving time was 5:15, which I’m very pleased with considering the terrain. Overall time more like 5:24 with two stops for mechanical issues (shifter almost fell off and a cleat twisted when I slammed a rock with my pedal). Apparently I’m also really talented at hiking my bike as I scored a Top 5 all-time time more or less walking up an unridable hill for roughly an hour. Hells yeah!

Biggest accomplishment other than my hiking ability? No real injuries. Spending five and a half hours on a mountain bike comes with its share of bumps, bruises, and minor cuts, but that was it.

We washed the race down with impromptu/undie bathing in the freezing cold Hood River and some beers at Mount Hood Brewing.

GPS | Flyover | Results

What’s Next

Later this week I hop in the car to head to Tahoe for the Tahoe Trail 100. This is a corral qualifier (so I don’t have to start at the back of the pack and deal with traffic all day) for Leadville and is apparently 75% fire-road – great for my abilities, and very similar to Leadville. Very excited for this.

Following that, another weekend in Bend to hang out with Molly and listen to some music, maybe another attempt at Mount Adams, and then… another long road trip, but this time to Leadville… the crux of my year. So soon! Already kind of feeling it in my gut. I’ll be fine. I think.

Race: Barton Park Road Race

Posted on Apr 26, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

18057845_1775096625850424_8187806973124088326_nDouble the number of road races as last year and we’re just getting started!

I hadn’t planned on doing this one, but my legs were feeling good after a light week of travel/not riding, and two friends/teammates would be in my group (pictured) so I went for it. The weather was more of the same with temperatures in the 50s and rain. At this point I’m used to it.

The race was to be seven laps of a seven mile loop with a significant climb near the end of each lap. We ended up doing eight laps due to an officiating mixup that apparently also happened last year, but them’s the breaks.

I found myself pulling the pack through the entire first lap, which I never want to do, but with speeds as pedestrian as we were going (18ish) it really made no difference. That lap we would call a scenic one. It gave me a casual look at the hill. It wasn’t too long and wasn’t too steep, but changed grades a few times and would require me to use my front derailleur, which has been finicky ever since I got my bike (yes, I’ve tried everything short of getting a new drivetrain). I’d have to be extra careful at the crest of the hill to not drop my chain as things leveled out and hit high gear, where the race would ultimately be decided.

Round and round we went with the lead group dwindling every time we came to the hill. What started out as 25 riders was down to 12 or 13 when we hit the hill the final time. I felt pretty fresh and hit the incline pretty well, but ran out of gas just as it hit its final grade increase, gapped from the lead five, which then became four for a sprint finish that I was not present for. All in all I’m pleased with a 6th.

My GPS seems to not like calculating elevation properly anymore (it’s about a year old and cost $400 so why would I expect it to?), but the proper race distance was around 55 miles and 3300ft of climbing.

I’m currently sitting in 2nd of the Cat 4 BAR (Best All-Around Rider) standings, which I can’t really make sense of other than I’ve done a time trial and most others haven’t. It’s a moot point because I’m Cat 3 in cross, I don’t know what in mountain bike, and a beginner at track (I really hope to try it this year if the rain ever abates) so those results won’t count towards it. What it does mean is I’m knocking on the door of Cat 3, which is probably where I’ll live forever unless I have a lot of trouble finding a job and put in a gross number of hours; age isn’t exactly on my side at this point unless I go to Master’s racing, which I’m going to avoid until I truly feel myself slowing.

Race: Kings Valley Road Race

Posted on Apr 10, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

It’s not often that I preregister for a race many days in advance. It’s never that I preregister for a race given a grim forecast. It’s 100% of the time I do both that a grim forecast turns into some of the most miserable weather a human being can endure. This weekend made me one for one. Sub-40 degree temps, downpours, constant spray from wet roads and no fenders, sleet, etc. Finishing was a moral victory and that’s what I did. As you can see in the results, upwards of half of some fields did not finish.

This was a 56-mile and relatively flat race. Given my talents (diesel engine) it should have been a day for me to excel. I ended the race with the lead group, but when asked to answer the sprint call, the legs did not answer. Following the race and the day afterward my legs felt perfectly strong so I think this was more of a survival mechanism shutting them down rather than a training/muscle/cardio failure. Regardless, I could really stand to do more long riding rather than the daily 1-2 hour sessions I’ve been getting in all winter. Road season will benefit from it and Leadville, the big goal, will too.

I finished 10th of 25 in my category, but we rode with the “faster” category too (I actually beat a larger percentage of them than my “slower” category) so you could say roughly 25th of 60. Nothing to write home about, but I’m pleased for my first road race in a long while (I dehydrated/bonked in my one and only last year so this is a clear improvement).

Following the race a few of us went back to the local watering hole for some drinks and burgers. Sometimes cycling makes you question your sanity, but those questions are answered when you treat yourself to some suds, massive piles of beef and fried potatoes, and don’t feel an inkling of guilt for it.

Nothing cooking this week or weekend so it’ll be a big week for training as long as I can escape the rain  that’s forecast for every damn day. Next week starts the two weekly weekday circuit races and the weekend brings another road race, all of which I’ve penciled into the calendar.

[GPS]

Dalles Mountain 60 errrrr 56 or 57ish

Posted on Mar 28, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

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A few weekends ago was this annual unorganized gravel ride on the Columbia an hour and a half east of town. Last year was my first and I had fun so I went and did it again.

Nothing too noteworthy to report. The weather was absolute garbage to start (high 30s and raining), but around 2/3 of the way in the sun poked through, serving to dry and warm. The midway gas station chicken tenders were key. They didn’t have a full order when I got to the register so I got a steep discount to boot. WIN. We had great team turnout, which makes a miserable day all the more palatable. Our reward was beers and burgers at Pfriem in Hood River. Nomnomnom. And no, it’s not 60 miles. [GPS]

Technical notes for my future self:

  • Year 1 I learned to not use road pedals; they don’t handle mud at all.
  • Year 2 I learned that CX race gearing is not great for days of long slippery climbing; was forced into a stronger than desired effort because I had to keep the cadence up.
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Yes, I brought the box of wine again. This time I’ve found a brand I really dig, and it’s French so that keeps with the cycling theme really well.

Race: Jack Frost Time Trial

Posted on Mar 5, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

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Finally, not a loss (although my check engine light came on during the ride home so continue to FML). Not a win either, but third, and bested by second by only .2s over 20km.

I did this race two years ago and while I put in a faster pace (average speed) then, I placed 12 positions worse. I noted then that it was windy that day, but it was clearly even windier today as times were roughly 3:30-4 minutes slower (I was 2:30 slower). There was also an additional .5mi this time around. Cliff’s – slower speed, much better result, I’m faster… I think.

I also borrowed a TT bike this go around, but after a few rides I wasn’t able to get comfortable or feel efficient on it. The night before I even popped it on the trainer and completely overhauled my positioning. No idea if I got it right or even close to right, but it had to be faster than my road bike… right? It had a power meter and my wattage was right around what I would have expected based on previous hard efforts of this length on the trainer, but low considering my FTP – maybe my FTP is off? I mean another 23 watts for another 29 minutes in theory? Something ain’t right.

I don’t think they had awards or anything so just some pride earned. Would have been nice to get 2nd for the additional upgrade points, but I’m hopeful I’ll be reaching 3 before the season gets into full swing.

[GPS]