Snowlandia

Would a rare snow day in Portland keep us off our bikes? Heck no! We rounded up a crew and explored the local snow day scene on Mt. Tabor.

Song “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.

Lewis and Clark Ultra Cross “Race” Ride

This event popped up on the OBRA calendar and immediately caught my eye. A 58 mile “cross” race in Gifford-Pinchot National Forest was bound to take me to some uncharted territory, destroy my legs, puncture some tires, and leave me in a dreary eyed happy post-race stupor.
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Brevet #2 Unnamed Double Track

The physical reminder of the ride still lies in my bones, not because it was jarring, but because of the movements of the bike resonating along an uneven path have left their song in my memory long after we hung up the bikes for the day.

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I got Raptured

The Rapture.
Friends described this ride as epic, others as fun.

Deets: 70 miles of logging roads over the coast range and back again with zero services and 6800 ft of climbing. Sounded like a challenge and something I thought I would come out with a smile and calling fun as well. Epic bike rides are what I love and live for. The Rapture pushed me a little far.

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I knew I was on my own for most of the day, as the friend I came out with was riding single speed, and others I knew I wouldn’t be able to pace with as they took off out of Flying M like this was a race. The ride starts with climbing out of the gate, about 2900ft in the first 10 miles. It had started spitting rain and the temps dropped, I was feeling utterly ill as I watched a fellow rider eat a hardboiled egg at the top of this summit, but I meet up with some fine ladies from Ironclad, Sharon, Alana, and Anna C and rode out the rest of the day with this troupe, so thankful I wasn’t on my own for the remainder.

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The rest of the ride was both grueling and beautiful. My emotions swung from absolute relief to utter despair. The climbing was brutal and never ending, until it turned into a screaming bone rattling descent requiring all your attention not to wipe out. I pushed speeds descending and practiced cornering. I fell in love with my Black Beauty, especially with 37mm tires!

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

As the day was coming to a close, we had one more bitch of a climb on a road called Puddy Gulch. I could only have imagined what the road would have been like wet, as I thought the road was aptly named Pudding Gulch. I was the last to the top and totally relieved when the remainder of the ride’s altitude profile fit in my gps screen. Once back to the ranch, I had plans to cook up a burrito dinner, but I was ready to put this ride and myself to bed. The Velodirt crowd and many others stayed the night, broke open a piñata, and partied. I headed home.  I was pretty  wiped out and just as I was thinking “where is my garmin?” I saw a blue piece of plastic fly off the top of my car. Recovered and barely scathed, I held onto the strava proof!
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Sunbathing on Otto Miller & Other Spring Delights

When the Portland area weekend forecast in April calls for sun and temperatures in the 70s it is pretty much the law that cyclists must get out and ride. So we planned a 75+ mile ride that would take us up Saltzman for some gravel, down Springville, up Rock Creek to Skyline, down Rocky Point Rd, out Dutch Canyon, up Otto Miller, down Dixie Mountain, then back to town via Skyline and Germantown. Plenty of climbing and gravel for all!

Ride stats: 80 miles, 7,000ft climbing, 6 hours moving time, 8 hours elapsed time

Jenn made a little GoPro video that captures the essence of the ride and glory of the day:

This ain’t no speedy training ride

The day started out foggy and misty. Courtney’s headset was messed up and we were running late to meet the group at River City Bikes. By the time we arrived to tell everyone we had to wait for a mechanic to help with the headset there were 19 cyclists ready to ride. I expected about 8, so it was awesome to see so many people who wanted to join the madness!

The RCB mechanics took pity on Courtney and fixed her bike up, then we were on our way about 30min later than we’d planned. Then there was a flat tire on Front Ave. 2 miles in to the ride. A few people were antsy to get moving and we made good time to Saltzman. We climbed out of the foggy clouds and up into the sun!

By the time we all regrouped at Skyline the ride was already taking longer than planned and four riders decided to peel off so they could finish riding earlier in the day. Another flat tire struck on Springville, and two more riders departed in the interest of time. Down to 13 riders we rolled on to Rock Creek, soaking up the sun on our skin and spandex. Yet another flat tire hit us, so we took our time heading up Eliot to Skyline, gawking at baby cows and pointing at a pair of bald eagles in a tree. We all gasped in awe as the eagles took flight, their massive wings beating in the warm spring air, soaring off over the valley.

All together, we made our way down Skyline at a good clip all the way to Rocky Point Road where we descended the sweeping, swooping curves and enjoyed the view over the city. The Scappoose Shell gas station was our water and food stop, not exactly the most picturesque destination. It was Jenn’s one year birthday for her Cervelo R3, Lucy, so she got a birthday cupcake to share. The perfect sugary treat before a big climb!

Dutch Canyon, can we marry you? Oh, you’re already with Otto Miller. That’s cool.

Four more riders left us to head back to town early, leaving a solid crew of nine to finish out the ride. Dutch Canyon was the kind of perfect country road you could ride all day long; rolling hills, smooth pavement along verdant fields in the valley, blue skies and sun and such fresh air! Truly a little slice of cyclist heaven.

Then we reached the beast known as Otto Miller, a wicked gravel climb that just. keeps. going. Up and up and around another switchback, then up some more. But the top of the climb was so worth it! A grassy field in the sun! A grassy field in the sun, now full of weary cyclists eager to shed shoes and jerseys and lay in the grass awhile. We chilled, we goofed around, we worked on our sunburns. It was so perfect, the kind of mid-ride break that only happens when you’re not in a hurry. Cristina rode on some rusty antique farm equipment.

The descent down Dixie Mountain was hard, slow, and pretty sketchy for me. Deep, loose, large gravel isn’t awesome on 23mm tires. I think my average descending speed was about 4mph, which means I climbed Otto Miller nearly twice as fast as I descended Dixie Mtn. Sigh.

Bombing down Skyline and a parking lot dance party

Returning to pavement was most welcome after all that gravel, and we tore it up on Skyline. Next to Dutch Canyon this was maybe the most fun pure riding part of the day. I was feeling strong and played tag with Brie and Cristina the whole way, working on my sprinting and drafting skills. In no time we were at Cornelius Pass Road to fill up water bottles at the Plainview Grocery. Temperatures were soaring for a mid-April day and a few people took turns soaking their sweaty heads in the water faucet outside. Cristina’s portable speakers were still going strong and a dance party broke out in the parking lot!

Then it was time to make the final push home, up the part of Skyline up to the elementary school that we’ve dubbed “Jenn’s Hill” because she can crush it, yet it always crushes the rest of us. I don’t know what it is about that grade, but dang, it’s hard. Next stop, Germantown for a hair-raising descent down to the St. John’s Bridge then the fast, flat spin back home.

By the end of the ride all I could think about was the delicious barbecue burgers we were going to have soon, taking a shower, and how awesome that ride was. At some point on Skyline, Cristina said to me , “I can’t think of a better way to spend a day!” And she is so, so right.

 

Riding to race v. racing to ride

Now that I’ve started racing a little bit and have two wins under my belt for the week (Tuesday PIR and Rose Garden Circuit Race #3) I’ve been thinking about racing versus riding. I’m a Cat 5 racer not because I don’t ride, but because I don’t have race experience. But what people think when they see Cat 5 is “Oh, you’re a new rider”, and while I don’t think they mean to condescend it is a little frustrating to come across that sentiment when I just did a 115 mile freaking Rapha race. But that got me thinking about people’s motivation to ride, and my own motivation to race.

Through the winter our pals from various cycling teams rode with us to stay fit and train for the racing season, and for the love of riding. I was just riding to ride. And when I race it’s for fun, to see how I like it, and to ride differently from my norm. How hard can I ride for how long before I can’t hang on anymore? Do I have it in me to sprint one more time? It’s not the same as sprinting for the county line signs on a recreational ride, knowing that you’ll all stop for water in 15 miles and take a break.

Making the mental shift from “it’s just fun, and oh look at the pretty scenery” to “this is a competitive strategy and I need to be alert at all times” has been hard for me in longer road races. I don’t want to miss out on the views, the wildlife, the camaraderie of cyclists riding together. The competitive side of me wants to win or at least finish well, and when I don’t I can beat myself up about it a bit. After my 10th place Banana Belt finish I was pretty frustrated, and it took an amazing ride in The Dalles to remind me why I love cycling. In a weird way, racing is my intervals training for my long weekend rides.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is fun and I look forward to next week’s race line up of Monday and Tuesday PIR then the Rose Garden Circuit Race finale, and I hope to win again. But what I’m really looking forward to most is the ride we have planned for the weekend. A spirited 70 miles, lots of climbing, a good bit of gravel, portable speakers, and some awesome cycling ladies riding for the love of the ride.