Out for a Ride

I was off the bike for over three weeks following our STP ride. Normally I don't ride the week after that event anyway but this hiatus seemed a bit much.

My wheel damage from STP was irreparable. The hub eyelets had been stretched out and the wheel would never be true again. I ordered a new one from Neuvation but that took a week to get to here. Tony offered up a spare for me to use but we were away the two weekends following STP anyway and I wouldn't have had time to ride. My new job is keeping me busy as well so there's another excuse. I could probably come up with one for every day off the bike if I wanted to.

Sometimes I feel like after STP my season is done anyway. I don't have any other events to train for so feel less of a commitment to riding. Wrong approach. I went out last Wednesday for a post work spin and kinda got my ass handed to me. It was a solo ride but I was shocked at how much my fitness had deteriorated over 3.5 weeks.

Today began the start of the rest of my season. Krista and I rode a paced-down 106km and we both felt great! No pressure to start at a certain time or (in Krista's case) get back in time to hit the books. Nor was there any pressure on myself to see my average speed increase. We just went out for a ride because we wanted to. I have to say the motivation is back! I often feel like I over analyse my training for STP and it's nice to not give a shit every now and then. I still had the computer rolling and my HRM on but I wasn't terribly concerned with the data or how the numbers stacked up against previous rides on that same route.

We took our time at the farmers market in Steveston, enjoyed our scones and coffee and I wouldn't have preferred it any other way. We were just out for a ride!


Bringing it in

We agreed an half hour at Centralia for lunch was ample time. Any more than that and we’d start to seize up and get used to being off our bikes. We took a quick look around for Tom And Theresa but couldn’t see them in the sea of spandex and bikes so off we went.

Fueled by caffeine
The traffic was very light leaving Centralia so we rode two up at a light pace to give our bodies a chance to digest and chat to each other. We slowly worked ourselves back into a pace line and picked it up again – Winlock coffee was beckoning us! I was amazed at just how fast we made it to our favourite little espresso hut in Winlock. It’s right across the road from an STP mini-stop but we always b-line it to the hut. Doug was kind enough to buy us all iced americanos; refreshing, hydrating and caffeinating! Just what the afternoon needed.

The bikes need some shade too.
Fully recharged, we paced back up for the long haul. The sun was beating down hard on us and our efforts were rewarded with a short stop at Castle Rock (aka. the Cruise Missile school). There is an actual cruise missile on a pedestal in front of this school – only in America. One of the worst things we saw that day was a cyclist get hit by a car right at the entrance. We didn’t actually see him get hit but heard the screams for 911 and all the commotion surrounding the event. We would later find out the accident was entirely rider error – he just turned right in front of the car and they had no chance to stop. The poor driver was absolutely traumatized.

We left the “missile base” and pedaled toward Oregon – so very close at this point. Cruising through Longview we were stopping at a light when my ride nearly ended. Shifting down into my largest cog my chain jumped off and wedged between the hub and cassette. I skidded to a halt and Doug nearly crashed into me because of my sudden lock-up. I cursed my bike that had treated me so well for so many kilometres. How dare it do this to me at this point in the ride – at any point in the ride. I broke out my Leatherman and began surgery but the chain wasn’t going to budge. I really thought my day was ending right there in the shitty little town of Longview. Scram Jet (Tony) jumped in with his iPhone and started looking for nearby bike shops, Doug took over surgical duties and I flagged down a support motorcycle. T located a bike shop and Krista set off armed with a list of necessary tools and his phone while I worked with the support bike to try to get a tech support vehicle near us – they were all at least 1.5 hours away! I felt bad that my bike was holding up our ride and somehow I was also responsible. Then Doug shouted the best words I heard all day “I got it! She’s all good!” After a quick call to get Krista back to the group, I did a mini test ride to confirm we were good to go. It was true. My wheel wasn’t but I could still ride. Let’s effin’ roll!

Next up we hit the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon and felt an encouraging wind on our right cheeks. We were going to have a tailwind! We lined it up after the bridge and really got going again. We held a very strong pace with the wind pitching in but were still hangin’ it out there. The approach to St. Helen’s food stop was a very welcome sight. It’s an excellent stop for recharging with all the great food and drink. We stayed little longer than normal there to rest up for the home stretch but it was well deserved.

The entrance to Portland was different this year and a very pleasant surprise. The St. Johns Bridge was light in traffic and smooth in surface. It also provided a spectacular view of the city and our final kilometres of the day.

Well earned by all
Best group EVER!
The final stretch into Holladay Park was lead by Doug. The newest member of our group deserved to be in front for his first Double Century ride. It’s an amazing feeling riding into the park with all the cheering and clapping. It’s a phenomenal way to end such a long day in the saddle; a real feeling of accomplishment. We got our “1 Day Rider” badges and b-lined it for the beer garden for some Fat Tire Amber. Beer never tastes as good as it does after this ride. We conversed with other riders at our table and discovered they had been hanging on one of our pace lines earlier in the day and loved it. Nice feedback.

I think this sums up the day!
I’d have to say this was my best STP yet. I’m sure Krista, Scram Jet and Doug would agree. Perfect weather, pace and group. There’s nothing else I would’ve rather done that day.

My ride stats for Seattle to Portland 2011:
Distance: 326.4 km
Ride Time: 10:31:24
Average Speed: 31.0 km/h
Maximum Speed: 56.7 km/h
Average Cadence: 74 rpm

Total Time (incl breaks and techs): 14:06:19
Calories Burned: 7992
Average Heart Rate: 128
Maximum Heart Rate: 183
Fat Burn Zone Time: 4:25:01
Fitness Zone Time: 9:41:18     


STP 2011: it all boils down to this

I suppose I'll ride a couple hundred miles tomorrow.

When you boil things down you get an intensified flavour; a high concentration of the good stuff if you will. STP was definitely a concentration of our good stuff. The ride was, without question, our strongest and best effort of the season!

Our travel to Seattle on Friday was ideal. We had no traffic, minimal border wait, a good little lunch at Trader Joe’s and mini shop at REI in Bellingham. On to Seattle where we off-loaded at the hotel with military precision.

Scram Jet getting his shit together
We had plenty of afternoon left to walk to a nearby bike shop and prep all our kit for Saturday’s ride. Krista had made reservations at an Italian restaurant near the start so we could drop the car Friday night and walk back to the hotel whilst digesting. Dinner was great and gave us an opportunity to connect with Mark and Doug before the ride. Doug was going to ride a one day and Mark was doing the two day – it was STP number 2 for both of them. Good food with friends allowed us all to share our pre-ride jitters.

This just screams VIRGO!!!!!

Back to the hotel to relax, put back some melatonin and attempt sleep.

0330 Saturday.
Here we go again!
In a semi-conscious state we fumbled on our kit and arranged our gear. Down to the hotel breakfast buffet at 0400 for as many carbs, fruit and coffee as we could stomach at such an unfamiliar hour. At 0430 we saddled up for the short ride to the start line. Grabbed our bags out of the car and dropped them at the Portland bound trucks. We lined up just as the first wave of riders blasted off. Cool air and nervous twitching blew through the pack as we waited our turn. Ten minutes later we were sent on our merry way. Just the clicking of shifters and whirring of chains filled the air as blinking bike lights perforated the slowly fading darkness. We managed to stay close together despite the dozens of riders eagerly riding together.
"Why am I doing this?"

I think it was somewhere around the 30-35km point that we noted a shiny carbon Helios go blazing by us – it was Doug! We called out to say hi but were sure he was going way too fast for us to ride any distance with him. He pulled back and joined up with us anyway. This would be to my good fortune later in the day and really all of our benefit. We stayed together as the miles rolled by and were soon at the “HILL.” This is the only place I like to show off a bit on the whole ride. I like hills and am pretty good at them. I stood on the 7% grade and rocketed past almost everyone – just cuz I could. Doug was right there with me and we all regrouped at the top. Spanaway Food Stop was calling to us.

Feelin' fresh!
When we got to Spanaway it was time to ditch the jackets and turn off lights. The glorious sun was lighting our way beautifully so it was time to load up on sunscreen, food and liquids. Doug decided at that point, he would join us for the rest of the day – excellent!

From that point on we were holding a pace line clinic swapping out pulls every 3 min at a pretty steady 32-40km/h! Plenty of folks hung on our back for stretches but then came Tom and Theresa. They jumped right in on the rotation and made our four a six. Not a bad deal to pull for 3min and basically rest for 15min. They hung with us all the way to Centralia and said we were the first sensible pace line they saw that day. I was amazed to look at my computer and see that we had ridden the first Century in under 5 hours! Our average speed was high and so were our spirits. We were working well together with our new team member and eager to have lunch. It wasn’t even 1100 yet!
There's nowhere else I'd rather be at this point

To be continued…


Final Training Recap

I got in two final rides to cap off this year’s STP training. I won’t ride at all this week but rather start my “time shifting.” I get up a bit earlier each morning in preparation for our 5:00am start on Saturday. Today was 6:00am and I’ll advance it by 20min each day so ride day is less of a shock to the system. This seemed to work well last year.

Saturday I did a sprint out to Horseshoe Bay and ripped out my fastest time ever! It has been a goal of mine to crack the 30km/h average speed barrier on that run and I did it with 30.6km/h! Very happy with that effort.

The rest of Saturday was spent cussing out Shimano as I replaced drivetrain components to rectify my lousy shifting. A new cable earlier in the week didn’t really help. It improved the situation but I was still missing shifts often. A new chain was equally ineffective. A new cassette still wasn’t the magic bullet I sought. It turns out the root of my frustration was cable housing. From now on I’ll replace the housing and cables all at once. My tech efforts on Saturday proved worthwhile as Sunday’s ride was flawless. Every gear change was perfect at keeping my cadence steady and strong!

Despite the ride’s perfection, we only did 135km. Mostly to test Krista’s setup  and knee. That seems to be fixed and she’s feeling much more confident about next weekend’s double Century. Far more important than any distance covered.

I don’t think we’re going beat our previous times by much (if at all) this year. We’ve had some pretty disjointed training and the weather has done its best to screw us over as well. I’m not making excuses, rather being a realist. I think we all had lofty aspirations for this year’s ride but will just be happy to finish in daylight. I'm sure we'll all be smiling at the end because, after all, that is why we ride.

A few of my training stats to show I wasn’t completely slacking off:
Road training – 3388km (37 rides)
Trainer spinning – 453 (approximate)
Most distance in one week – 357km
Longest ride – 206km
Number of Centuries – 3
Number of 100+km rides - 13
Training sessions – 67 (some are off-bike workouts)
Total training time – 162:55:45
Calories burned training - 105534



Breakdown Averted!

Just barely at that. We had planned on a longer ride on Sunday but cut it in half for various reasons. Man did I ever dodge a bullet.

On the return leg of our shortened ride I noticed my rear derailleur shifting was getting balky and inaccurate. I made a couple of on-the-fly barrel adjustments but they only helped temporarily. A couple of sweeps through the cassette and the shifting was askew again. My frustration mounted but with only 10 or so kilometres to go, I figured I would just do a proper adjustment at home.

Later that afternoon I attempted to get my gears back in order but the cable kept stretching out. The afternoon was winding down and I didn’t feel like walking down to Obsession for a new cable – it would have to wait.

Krista picked up the cable for me today and as I went to install it this evening I happened on a startling discovery. My old cable was in complete tatters inside the shifter body! This would explain the stretchy cable. A derailleur cable is 20 or so very fine stainless steel wires braided tightly together. At the contact point inside the shifter body only 3 were holding on for dear life!
Three little piggies got me alllllll the way home!

Had we gone for a longer ride (as planned) I probably would’ve been reduced to a single speed somewhere along Hwy 99. That would’ve made for a very long and arduous ride home.

The lesson learned here is that I probably should change those cables every season. Although the front shifter cable looks fine, I’ll be changing it this week as well. It may just save me a big headache.

One more tip. Whenever you do any work on your bike, always take it for a spin around the block to run through all your gears, check your brakes and listen for any new noises you may have not heard before. It’ll make you next ride less eventful.


Ride Packets: check!

No thanks to Canada Post and the government, we have no snail-mail service. We were to have our ride packets sent to us via this service but it wasn’t meant to be.

Krista and I were going to make a little road trip down to Bellingham to visit the REI and Trader Joe’s yesterday. We changed our plans slightly and decided it best to head further south and pick up our group’s (and a couple friend’s) ride packets right from the Cascade offices. We also changed it up and went to the REI flagship instead of the Bellingham store. The more I read about this inconvenient postal strike/lockout the more I’m glad we made the effort. I’m sure we’ll all sleep better not wondering when/if we’ll get our ride packets. The folks at Cascade seemed quite happy we did as well and are refunding us the extra amount paid for mailing. Solid folks they are!

So now our trip is all set. We even scouted a place for dinner the evening before STP and Krista made a reservation. So despite Canada Posts best efforts, we’re better organized than ever for this ride. We just need to log a few more rides and we’re good to go.

Famous last words….


Allergic to Centuries

Okay maybe it’s just the cottonwood blooming but anyway you cut it, this weekend's rides were trying.

The original plan was to knock out a Century to Squamish on Saturday. After hitting Deep Cove then Whytecliff we turned around because of rain on the Sea-to-Sky. Plan 'B' would be to complete the Century by way of UBC and SW Marine in Vancouver. By the time we hit Park Royal mall I couldn’t take it anymore – my allergies won. There was no way I could do another 100km with this kind of attack. The allergy med I took earlier in the morning came up a huge FAIL! It’s near impossible to ride when you’re completely stuffed, sneezy, runny and coughing (because you have to breathe only through your mouth). The group consensus was to Kevork the ride and re-try on Sunday. We still got 70km in so not a complete waste.

This morning I front-loaded with a different allergy med and we set off on our Century to Fort Langley. Again my allergies were active until around Pitt Meadows but, thankfully, nothing like the previous day. We got to Fort Langley and rode a 32km loop around the area to bring the day’s total to 166km.
Chili bootin' across the Golden Ears bridge!

We were all a bit on the sluggish side today. Tony’s still not 100% and Krista was battling some knee pain (that I think we may have figured out now). I felt fine after my allergies cleared up but totally hit the wall at the end of the Barnett. Definitely not our fastest Century on record and at the end we were just happy to be done. We’re riding a bit out of sync when it comes to timing our breaks but other than that, I feel we’ll be ready to tackle the STP in a few weeks. Time sure flies!