Portland 600km Brevet ride report (long)
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  1. #1
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    Portland 600km Brevet ride report (long)

    There are so many ways to mess-up a nice bike ride.

    I was riding my first 600 km rideÖ 380 miles to be completed in 40 hours. I was excited and nervous. There were only 6 of us starting the ride. Randonneuring is not yet in the cycling mainstream in PortlandÖ or maybe anywhere.

    We started out at 6:00 on a cool gray morning. We all rode together through town, from 96th & Sandy, along Marine Drive, across the St. Johns Bridge and onto Highway 30. The pace was brisk, but manageable. The cool grayness edged toward a light hint of a mist. It was one of those mists that sneekily thicken toward a shower. I finally put on my jacket, but not until Iíd already gotten a wet.

    A couple people dropped off the ďleadĒ group to put on jackets or deal with flats. I call these lead groups in brevets the ďalphas.Ē They ride hard and doggedly and donít stop for anyone. In the 4 brevets that Iíve ridden, Iíve started with the alphas and then dropped off over time. This ride was no different. By about 40 miles I eased up and watched the alphas ride off.

    The route took us across the Longview Bridge, which for a longtime has been one of my two least favorite stretches of road. I hated it because over itís Ĺ mile thereís just a 2 foot-wide sidewalk, an 18-inch curb, and a 3 foot-tall railing ďprotectingĒ a 200-foot drop to the Columbia River. But the sidewalk is gone now, and a nice normal shoulder is now in itís place. So the Longview Bridge is now off my least favorites list.

    The route headed north into rural Washington. The control in Vader was a shuttered store in Vader. This was a problem. In brevets, controls are required stops where your brevet card is signed and your arrival time written in. A closed store means no signed card. A nice old guy happened to meander by at that point, which was amazing because Vader shows almost no activity off the highway passing alongside the town. By that time, another randonneur rode up, and our local resident pal told us about the two other stores in town. We stopped by the now main store/gas station, where our cards were graciously signed, and we rode off together.

    Iíve forgotten the name of my temporary riding companion. He lives in Victoria, BC, and has been randonneuring since the 80ís. I would guess that heís 15-20 years older than I am. After riding and chatting for awhile, I realized that the pace was a bit too brisk for me and told him I was going to slow down a bit. I was amazed to watch as he just pulled away. These old randonneurs are tough!

    The route went through Centralia and right past the doorstep of McMenaminís Olympic Hotel, so what better place to stop for the lunch? Jane and the girls happened to have stopped to shop in Centralia on their way to the cabin, so we met for lunch. It was a very nice brevet break/lunch.

    North of Centralia and just south of Olympia the route branched westward toward Highway 101. Highway 101 in this area is a 4-lane freeway. The shoulder is nice and wide, so the fast traffic wasnít too much of a nuisance. The next control was at the Texaco gas station/food mart at the exit for Steamboat Island. As I got off the highway I saw three cyclists standing and talking to each other. I happily thought I had caught the alphas, but no, they were just three local riders. Well, at least that made sense, it would have been odd for me to catch the alphas.

    Again, the Texaco control was shuttered and this time fenced, for good measure, so I had to improvise another control. Luckily, there was a market next door, and they graciously signed my card entered my arrival time. It was getting late in the day, so I put on my reflective vest/sash, put tights on over my shorts & knee warmers, and headed back out onto the road.

    The route split off of Highway 101 at the town of Shelton, a small lumber mill town at the crook in Hammersley Inlet, one of five main fingers at the south end of Puget Sound. It was nice to ride along the inlet for a bit since Jane and the girls and I had kayaked there last year, except I was riding past the crook up toward the head of the inlet, and our kayak trip had gone from Shelton toward the mouth.

    This was a nice pleasant part of the ride, heading towards Bremerton. Rolling hills, pleasant pavement, water and marshes every once in awhile. Arriving at the edge of Bremerton I was looking for a Cash & Dash store as my next control. I turned onto the road toward Tacoma, but soon realized that wasnít right. I then back-tracked toward Bremerton itself, but realized that was wrong, too. Finally I realized that the Cash & Dash was the mini-mart next to the Texaco where I made that first turn. You could see the Cash & Dash sign if you looked very, very closely. So I finally got to my control. It was a nice store because it was WARM. Stops are where I tend to get coldest, so a warm store was very nice.

    Another randonneur arrived while I was still snacking. John Kramer hasnít been doing these for years and years like lots of the others, but heís been doing this longer than I have. Anyway, we rode off together into the darkening evening toward Tacoma.

    This being a Portland brevet, we were routed on the largest possible highway connecting Bremerton & Tacoma. John & I rode together well. A State Police car had pulled someone over, and we had to go around them. The only problem was the rumble strip along the fog line. I liked the rumble strip as a barrier from cars approaching from behind, but to have to cross on a descent in the dark was unpleasant. But, after slowing to a reasonable speed, it was fine.

    Passing through Gig Harbor I noticed a small sign off the road in the darkÖĒCyclists must exit highway.Ē I asked John if he saw the sign, but he hadnít. We got off the highway and noticed a detour sign and a sign on the on-ramp ahead saying ďNo Bicycles.Ē I guess they meant it.

    So we followed the first detour sign and soon realized that there were no more detour signs. I had noticed off to the side a bike path with a detour sign coming from the other direction, so we decided to try that route. The path took us back toward the highway and, at itís end, had detour signs for our direction. The signs routed us around and eventually through a construction site and onto the Narrows Bridge. The bridge has a marginally-rideable sidewalk, except at the bridge towers where there are steps. It was fascinating to look down from the bridge into the lighted caissons 300 feet below being built for the new bridge. Just 5-7 miles south of the bridge, and in sight during daylight hours, is Anderson Island where Jane & the girls were staying at the cabin. I gave a wave as I passed by.

    After the bridge we headed into Tacoma. It was almost 11PM and we decided to stop for some warm food while we could. We stopped at a Subway shop just before they closed. The two women there were gracious and nice, and we ate our fill past closing time.

    We rode off through the quiet Tacoma streets, moving quite well. There were lots of turns, and I realized afterwards that the route zig-zagged us through Tacoma. It was fine to do at that hour, but it seems funny to be making up brevet distance in the middle of a good-sized city.

    As we were getting toward the edge of Tacoma, I had this idea that I had not closed the pocket on the saddlebag where I keep my wallet. I stopped and checked. The pocket was open, and my wallet was not there. My heart sank.

    What to do? I thought I had put the wallet in the pocket. John had been riding behind me and thought for sure he would have seen it fall. He has a Schmidt hub and lights, which give great illumination. But there were a couple dark descents where we would have separated a bit. HmmmmÖ Do I ride on and abandon my wallet with its cash, credit cards, drivers license, office card key, etc. to the streets of Tacoma, or do I go back and look for it. Our Subway stop was 10 miles back. The backtrack distance was manageable. The added 20 miles would make my 380 mile/600km ride an even 400 miles, but I could do that. I was pretty certain I had put the wallet away. Also, I couldnít ride back on the wrong side of the road because it would be just insanely dangerous. So I reluctantly decided to go back. John lent me some money so I wouldnít be penniless out on the road, we exchanged cell phone numbers, and parted ways.

    Riding backwards on a brevet cue sheet is not easy. Instructions to turn right & left on certain roads are backwards, and I was looking at the shoulder on the other side of the road as much as I could. And street names change so the street you turn onto in one direction is not the same coming from the other direction. So I drifted off the return route a bit, but recognized a street name at one point and got back to the Subway shop without any excess miles.

    Once there I turned around and retraced our original route. I slowed on the fast, dark descents, and scanned to road as best I could. Tacoma uses lots of drip tar to patch rods, so looking for a black wallet in the dark was not easy. I felt certain that it would be along one of those descents, but when I finally got back to where John & I split I realized that the wallet was gone.

    Dang. Now itís 2:30AM, I have the $40 John lent me and I continue on to the next control a couple miles away. I get there, get my card signed, and chat with the 7-11 worker as I take stock.

    The next section of road heads into a very dark quiet area behind Fort Lewis. Iím discouraged after not finding my wallet. After the orange juice at 7-11, I have less than $40. If I get chilled or sleepy I canít pay for a motel room. My safety margin has dwindled down to my Mylar emergency blanket because Iím already wearing all the clothes that I have. And Iím chilled like I usually am at a stop. I ask the clerk where I am (my route sheet doesnít include a full Tacoma city map), and realize that Iím just 10 miles or so from the ferry landing for Anderson Island, where Jane & the girls are staying at the cabin.

    I decide to abandon and head toward the ferry landing. The 7-11 clerk shows me how to get there on a store map. By this time, I know the streets of Tacoma pretty well, so I ride straight there. Itís 3:30 when I get to the ferry terminal. Itís a small county ferry, not a big Washington state ferry, so the terminal is a small building the size of a little cafť. The next ferry is at 7AM. I lock my bike, wrap myself in my Mylar blanket, and settle onto a bench for some warmth and rest, so to speak.

    I wake at 6:30. The county ferry shares the dock with the ferry to nearby McNeill Island State Penitentiary. A shift change of guards is milling around as I peek out from my soggy (on the inside), crinkly Mylar shell. Mylar blankets do their job, but just barely. I called Jane to tell her Iím coming across, and she met me at the ferry.

    So, I abandoned my 600km brevet. I had ridden a total of 260 miles, about 400 km, by the time I got to the ferry. 40 of those miles had been criss-crossing Tacoma. I felt good and strong, so it was frustrating to stop. It turns out that I had left my wallet at the Subway shop. When we eventually got home, it turns out that the nice folks at the shop found it shortly after we left and called my home, but no-one was there.

    I could have resumed the ride, but I was now on the island, with family, and had lost my focus for the ride. Dang. My wallet will now be deep in my saddlebag in a pouch tied to the bag. Iíll keep a little cash separate and accessible. Itís amazing how such a little thing can mess-up a nice bike ride.

    But on the bright side, thereís another 600km brevet in 3 weeks being organized by the Seattle rando group. The ride is in a beautiful region of Washington State. Iím planning to do that ride so I can complete my first brevet series, and because itís fun to do these long, long rides, in a perverse sort of way.

  2. #2
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    Still and all, a great accomplishment

    Thanks for the excellent ride report. Next year I hope to complete the Portland brevet series, if I can find the time. I am surprised there were not more riders, and that there seemed to be a lack of comaraderie/moral support.

    How frustrating to DNF due to an administrative matter like the wallet. I'm glad that it turned out as well as it did, and you should be very proud that the ride did not defeat you.

    Maybe I will see you next year.
    "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    somethings not right

    I just did 225 miles on Friday with 4 other guys. We did a loop from Highway 19 over Santiam Pass to Bend, over Cascade Lakes Highway to Highway 58 and back across Highway 19. The loop is actually 268 miles. I bailed at 225.

    I am willing to try anything 2 times. 3 if I don't throw up on the first 2. But I am having a difficult time finding any reason why for doing these ultra-marathon rides.

    Good luck on your next adventure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdehner
    Thanks for the excellent ride report. Next year I hope to complete the Portland brevet series, if I can find the time. I am surprised there were not more riders, and that there seemed to be a lack of comaraderie/moral support.

    Maybe I will see you next year.
    Thanks for the good words. "Administrative matter" does sum up the spiral of a mess brought about by foregetting the wallet.

    I didn't mean to give the impression that the guys on the ride weren't supportive or friendly. I had nice conversations with everyone I rode with, but ultimately everyone is doing it at their own pace. So it makes sense for folks to ride on, unless there was a serious problem or injury.

    Hope to see you out there next year. If you have any schedule conflicts, check out the Seattle rando group for otrher rides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ORdirtydown
    I just did 225 miles on Friday with 4 other guys. We did a loop from Highway 19 over Santiam Pass to Bend, over Cascade Lakes Highway to Highway 58 and back across Highway 19. The loop is actually 268 miles. I bailed at 225.

    Good luck on your next adventure.
    Thanks.

    Was that an orgajnized ride or did you guys just do it on your own? I think I'd heard about an organized ride like that...

    The brevets are a bit more insidous than a bolt-out-of-the-blue mondo ride. The 200km at the start of the series is a reaonable 130 miles, then the 300km & 400km slip in innocuously, and lo and behold the 600k comes up. After the 400km 3 weeks ago, I as tired worn for a week. Two days ago I did my second 400km, as a truncation of the 600km, and feel very energized. I don't get it...

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    Recovery

    Quote Originally Posted by PdxMark
    After the 400km 3 weeks ago, I as tired worn for a week. Two days ago I did my second 400km, as a truncation of the 600km, and feel very energized. I don't get it...
    BTW, do you have any tried and true recovery techniques or rituals that help you snap-back after an especially long or hard ride, such as massage, meditation, hot tub, special foods, etc.? I am interested in what folks do to speed recovery.
    "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdehner
    BTW, do you have any tried and true recovery techniques or rituals that help you snap-back after an especially long or hard ride, such as massage, meditation, hot tub, special foods, etc.? I am interested in what folks do to speed recovery.
    No. Generally a hot bath and some food are the best that I can muster.

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    recovery

    After a really long hard one (like 210 miles on a fixed gear), I mountain bike in easy gears for a week. Good for a change and uses lots of different muscles. Good change for the mind, too.

    I crave meat after a long ride. I give the body what it wants (usually).

    Doug

    Quote Originally Posted by mdehner
    BTW, do you have any tried and true recovery techniques or rituals that help you snap-back after an especially long or hard ride, such as massage, meditation, hot tub, special foods, etc.? I am interested in what folks do to speed recovery.

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    good training

    If nothing else, look at it as good training, both for the body and the "administrative" issues. All long rides are good -- you learn something every time that you probably can't learn on shorter rides.

    I tend to prefer rides with easily navigable and/or well marked courses. I like to just ride and not worry about whether I'm on course. I hate looking at maps and route sheets during a ride. I would probably have a bad attitude on a randoneering ride with unmarked detours, etc.

    Another good place to carry money/ID/debit card/car key is inside a small Ziplock bag inside your Camelbak down at the bottom. Almost zero chance of falling out.

    Doug

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    The General organized it.

    RS organized the ride. We paid his wife $150 for the day to drive the sag vehicle. The rule was that if anyone got more than an hour behind they would have to get in the sag wagon. Fortunately, we all stayed together. The climbs separated us but not by much. We re-grouped at the top.

    Richard and Jim are doing Race Across Oregon solo. Damien, Brice and myself are preping for the Cascade Cream Puff 100. Those other 4 guys are much better cyclist than myself. Damien, Brice and Jim completed the 268 mile ride. Richard got in the sag wagon with me. However, he started his ride in Eugene at 1100 PM. He did about 380 miles in about 22 hours.

    I am still trying to find my strength in cycling. I like hanging out with people that challenge me personally. Otherwise, I pretty much suck at all disciplines of cycling.

    Quote Originally Posted by PdxMark
    Thanks.

    Was that an orgajnized ride or did you guys just do it on your own? I think I'd heard about an organized ride like that...

    The brevets are a bit more insidous than a bolt-out-of-the-blue mondo ride. The 200km at the start of the series is a reaonable 130 miles, then the 300km & 400km slip in innocuously, and lo and behold the 600k comes up. After the 400km 3 weeks ago, I as tired worn for a week. Two days ago I did my second 400km, as a truncation of the 600km, and feel very energized. I don't get it...

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    Drink, eat, sleep, drink, eat, sleep, ...

    I try to get my weight back up to my pre-ride weight as quickly as possible by drinking lots and eating, but not overeating, whatever my body asks for. Most of the time weight loss thrills me, but using big rides as bullimic exercise is a bad plan that my legs pay for.

    I'm usually pretty sleepy for a few days after anything 300k or longer and nap without guilt.

    Spend lots of time lying down with my legs raised. I have no idea whether or not it does anything beyond feel good, but it damned sure feels good. I also do this at controls and find it refreshes my legs for the next leg of the journey.

    Run or lift weights rather than ride for exercise for 3 or 4 days so I use different muscles to get my workout. I still commute (9 miles each way) but do it as transportation, not exercise. Sometimes I commute with one of my gearie bikes to make it even easier.
    We have nothing to lube but our chains.

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    600k is a big ride.

    Sounds to me like you're ready to get it done next time. Forgetfulness, caused by lack of oxygen to the brain I suspect, is pretty normal to me when I'm doing brevets. After my only 600k I left my shoes, gloves and helmet at the end of the ride. At least the bike and both wheels made it home. Keep at it. Comin' east for BMB?
    We have nothing to lube but our chains.

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    You have strong friends!

    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydownOR
    I am still trying to find my strength in cycling. I like hanging out with people that challenge me personally. Otherwise, I pretty much suck at all disciplines of cycling.
    Wow. I'd feel out of my league with friends like that too. I think you're plenty strong. You just need friends who are not so amazingly strong. You might find brevets to have a more manageble pace. Enjoy the riding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rusa1586
    Comin' east for BMB?
    Eventually, but not this year. Being my first rando year, my goal was to complete a SR series. Next year I plan on the Davis 1200k ride, in part because my folks live very near there and I grew up in the area. PBP 2007 is the target... BMB will get fit in there somewhere.

    Once I complete the SR series this year I'll be switching my bike over to fixed gear in preparation for a one week tour in September. It will include one 200km day with lots of climbing. Then I think I'll try to ride my bike fixed gear in at least a 200k brevet next year, and maybe a 300k... I'll switch back to multi-gears for the 400k & longer rides...

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    Amazing! Riding 260 miles is impressive. Thanks for the report.

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