Saturday, July 5, 2008

Apparently I even have standards when it come to free beer

I wanted to post earlier, but I'm still waiting on the bulk of the photos from last weekend. It was an incredible day, and a great ride overall. I've done quite a few long days in the saddle like this now, but each one certainly takes on its own flavor. This one was my single longest day over the handlebars, both in distance and time. And from the outset, this day was to be dominated by the heat of the overhead sun. And humidity.

I was staying overnight with Jess's aunt and uncle in North Plains, west of Portland, extremely gracious hosts they were. I left North Plains at 5:20am, with a 13 mile ride ahead of me just to get to the starting line. But that short ride was easily the scenic highlight of the day. The wheat fields and weatherworn farms lining my route were absolutely stunning as I watched the sun crest the hills to the northeast. There were some high wispy clouds that lit up flourescent yellow, the breeze was still cool, and the smell of the grasses is better than the livestock farms on my Snohomish Valley rides.

I arrived at Nike HQ in Beaverton earlier than most so I just hung out until my team arrived. We coordinated meeting up via cell phone and we geared ourselved out with gels, gatorade and numbered stickers. Snapped the photo to the right. Mark is our team captain, in center. Robert, to the far right, is something like 25 years my senior and this would be one of the last time I saw him that day. After this he took off at a 30mph clip and we wouldn't see him again until we were on our way to loop around Haig Lake (he was finishing it). I think he finished around an hour and a half ahead of us. Well that's what an arsenal of bikes equalling my annual income and personal trainer buys you (and I guess a lot of hard work, nice work Robert).

Two major crashes in the first 15 miles, one right in front of me and one I may have caused. I was cruising along (still trying to catch Robert at this point) and Team Starbucks was churning by, I tucked onto the back of that train along with a couple of other dudes and we caught Robert's group swiftly. He moved over a little and let their group take the lead for awhile. I think he was riding nearly abreast with the last few guys in the Team Caffein paceline, I was about 5 bikes further back. Then the last guy in the paceline went down. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. I yelled out rider down and I braked and swerved to keep from running him over. The two guys right behind me swore as they swerved to keep from hitting me. We all spun around to check out the carnage, and to call for help. The rider was moaning, then passed out. I learned later that he had hit the back of his head hard on the pavement, hard enough that his helmet straps cut into his scalp which explained the trail of blood coming from underneath him onto the dirt. I also heard that he was okay, no broken bones, just a concussion. I moved off a bit and waited for Mark to catch up to us. Robert took off though, there was nothing more to be done. Mark was right behind me only about a mile back, but it took him about 5 minutes to catch us. Turns out he was the other crash!

There was a sharp right turn about a mile back and the police and ride support had the road closed off for us and everyone was cruising around it. The bike traffic was still fairly thick though, this still early in the ride, and there was lots of jockeying for position. I noticed that virtually no one was in the actual bike lane though, so I cut inside and cruised around the bend to the right of the painted white line. I didn't know it, but Mark saw my path and tucked right on my wheel to do the same. What he didn't see was the orange traffic cyclinder someone had decided needed to be right in the middle of the white line. As I carved the turn it came into view for him and he was headed right for it. He tried to steer wide, but there wasn't time. He hit it square and launched (this is all his account, I didn't see it happen, I just keep on going-totally oblivious) high in the air. He landed, laid out on his back, his bike, hard next to him. The yellow clad volunteer in charge of manning the corner rushed over. Mark took quick inventory of his parts, none were broken, so jumped up. Did another quick rundown of his bike, also faired okay, and took off. The volunteer was stunned from the recovery I hear!

Luckily that was the last of the day's misadventures. Ahead of us lay the only notable climb, but it was a slog. The heat of the day was upon it, around 85 degrees and 100% humidity, a precursor to the spectacular thundstorms that would show up later in the evening. There were two bursts of climbing. First was a steep incline that went straight up the grade and took us over to the valley on the south side. Then we followed the base of the ridge for a mile and turned straight up the grade again, this time on the steeper backside. Yikes. After about 1200 feet, legs sore, we made it up to a left turn at around that took us the rest of the peak, but at that point we were more closely following the contour lines and the road was of a less purgatorial incline. I beat mark to the top by a little bit and had time to snap this photo on my phone. You can see some of the vineyard rows behind me, looking south over Yam Valley wine country. I texted it to some friends, their words of encouraging reply came streaming in over the next several rest stops: nice!

The decent was next. Mark and I gained speed quickly and passed a few riders who asked if they could latch on. "Sure, if you can keep up!" I got a few yards ahead of Mark while slicing a hairpin and the strangers landed between us. After that it was raw speed for the next 10 minutes. I lost my speedometer magnet after the first few minutes of the ride (after not having to touch it for 3 years! wtf). But at the bottom the other riders reported our descent at about 50mph. heh, nice.

The rest of the ride was pretty, and hot, and humid too. We stopped for rehydration at every one of the stops. The support and sponsors for Livestrong were great, they certainly went all out making the rider experience was excellent. The cool mist blowing out of the inflatable arch at the finish line was an especially nice touch. Beyond famished, the cheeseburger waiting for me was the best flipping cheeseburger I've ever had.

Hanging around the expo for awhile we started to feel human again, and not like vomiting (I'm not used to this humid high heat). They were serving beer, and it was free, but it was Michelob Ultra only, so I skipped that (come on, this is Portland, and you only bring Michelob? Really?) There was a DJ giving out prizes. Unexpectedly he waltzed his way over to me and I happened to be the first guy he talked to that rode the century ride (there were also 70 & 40 mile rides, and a 10 and 5k run I think). Impressed i got interviewed on the jumbotron for a few minutes then he handed over a gift cert for a full roof rack courtesy of Yakima (conveniently located ajacent to Nike in Beaverton, who knew!?). I'm really excited about that, and I can return the back rack I've been borrowing from Crash for the last year, or pay it forward, whatever he likes. At any rate, thanks Yakima! Woot!

At this point the skies had clouded over and one or two drops of rain may have been felt (no drop in temp, mind you, still flirting with 100 degrees). I rode with Mark back to his car and I retrieved my iPod and and unloaded some of the stuff he was nice enough to haul home for me. It was time to get back on the road. I retreived my bike from the lock up volunteer crew and hit the road again. 13 miles back to North Plains. After the cheesburger and plenty of iced tea I was ready. I was surprised at how reinvigorated I felt and the ride home was the fastest I had ridden that day since the climb in the first quarter of the mileage.

Thanks everyone for your support! I was genuinely surprised at the amount of support I recieved. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to ride this again next year, and some of you will certainly have to join me out there.

Susie, I have your 50 armbands, let me know if you want more.

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