Monday, April 02, 2007

3/31/2007 -- Birkenfeld 200k

I did the Oregon Randonneur's Birkie 200k on Saturday. The "Birkie" is our affectionate diminutive version of Birkenfeld, which is the turn around point for this ride. There're a lot of reasons to be affectionate towards Birkenfeld, but I get ahead of myself.

I woke up at 5 AM, ate a light breakfast, and took the MAX out to Hillsboro. I just missed a train, and the trip took longer than advertised, so I was sweating to get to the Grand Lodge for the the 7 AM start. Fortunately, I did make it with 10 minutes to spare, and got to roll out of the parking lot with the crowd (74 people!) I chatted with my friend David Rowe for a few miles, but when a group split off the front, I wanted to see if I could hang with them. It was a rather gloomy morning, and my fellow recumbent-riding partner in crime John Climaldi couldn't make this one, so I wanted to see if I could find some shelter in the lead pack (about 12 strong or so). After a yoyo-ing with them along the whole length of Gale's Creek to Highway 6, I finally fell off the back. Trying to match their pace on my bike, with it's own unique performance characteristics, plus suffering in the roostertails of the riders without fenders didn't sound like a fun way to spend 200 kilometers.

But I definitely learned that I was feeling punchy on that day. Randonneuring is not competitive, but everyone (well, most everyone) likes to go fast. It was clear that I had a yen to push myself on that day, in a way that I really don't when it's just me on the road. I've been just going out and riding by myself all winter, and I guess I didn't realize how much I missed having the yardstick of my fellow riders to measure myself by. So I wound up the cranks, and kept 'em spinning, thinking that some of those 12 in front of me were bound to fall off the back, and some of the folks just behind me would consider me their rabbit.

The course went up, and then down through Timber, a dilapidated little whistlestop on the Port of Tillamook Bay railroad. The road held some spectacular views of the coast range through the clearcuts. Then the road went up out of Timber, and started roughly tracking the Nehalem River as it made its random walk through the mountains to the ocean.

I was alone until the first control at Vernonia, where I caught Ira Ryan, who was prepping for a trans-Iowa race. I loaded up on tasty food at the control, learned that the rest of the lead pack was about 5 minutes ahead, and motored out of there as the stop filled with arriving riders. I caught a friendly rider on Keasey Road, and we chatted about 650c tires and recumbents for a little while until a downgrade carried me ahead. I saw the fellow again at the info control at the end of the road.

Riding back to Stoney Point Road I realized one of the charms of the out-and-back format -- you get to see most of the people on the ride. I gave a friendly wave and a smile to all the outbound riders as I went by, and I recognized some faces that I hadn't had time to greet in the parking lot back in Forest Grove. Then it was time to make a left onto Stoney Point, climb up over the hill, and back down to the Nehalem River. I paused to gulp a can of Ensure.

Back in familiar territory. I ride this road every summer to go to OHPV's annual campout at Fort Stevens, so I know it well, and the conditions on it are such that my bike and its rider both shine. The weather was intermittently sloppy, but I found that my waterproof tights and wool jersey were plenty of protection. The jersey got wet, but never saturated, and always stayed warm. The large seat on the recumbent did a great job of providing extra insulation along my whole back, and kept my core plenty warm.

In the flat to rolling terrain, I once again wound up the cranks, and familiar landmarks kept passing by. Pittsburgh and Scaponia (which I amused myself by deliberately confusing it with an Outkast album). Big Eddy. Natal. Mist.

Near Mist, I caught a trio of riders from the lead pack. We all got into Birkenfeld right around the same time, and I bought a chocolate milk, took a quick restroom break, and hit the road again. I really wanted to challenge myself to stay on the road, and ride as efficiently as possible. The chocolate milk may have followed too closely on the heels of the Ensure (both are kind of rich), but they sorted themselves out by the time I was back within a few miles of Vernonia.

On the way there, I once again got to see the whole field of riders bound for Birkenfeld. Despite the sloppy weather, everyone seemed to be in good spirits.

I arrived back at Vernonia, and got a cran-apple-raspberry juice at the open control. Enough rich stuff, time to sweeten the mixture a bit. I got out of the store, though, and realized that my tire was flat. I also realized that though I had a spare tube, I had forgotten to bring a patch kit. So I put in the spare, and made a quick trip to the hardware store to get a patch kit for insurance. While I did, Dick Weber and Sam Huffman passed by, and David Rowe pulled up to the Black Bear Cafe with his group. Good choice by David and crew, I've eaten there before and its great.

With the tire holding air again, it was time to climb back up to Timber. I'd never traveled this road in this direction before, but I remembered that it was about 10 miles back to the highway 26 junction, and another 3 to Timber. I settled into my "keep pedaling" mode. Just keep the cranks turning, don't worry about whether your destination is around the next bend or not. Just be in the moment. And the miles melted away. I caught Dick just before Highway 26, and Sam just after.

I was somewhat trepidatious about the climb up to Timber, and then out of Timber. I wasn't sure if I'd pushed too hard for the first 100 miles or if I had enough left in the tank. As it turned out, I didn't need to worry; the climbs weren't bad at all. And before I knew it, I was at the summit beyond Timber, looking at a long, rolling downhill all the way back to Forest Grove.

I played it very conservatively on the twisty descent from the top of the hill, having noted several patches of gravel on the outbound leg, and then let the bike go when I rounded the last turn at the bottom. A few exhilerating miles swooping through the woods, and then I was back on familiar ground on highway 6. The Glenwood control came shortly after. At that last control, I upped the octane by opting for a 4-pack of Twix, which I figured would get my mixture to just the right place to let me power over the last 12 miles without bonking. Sam pulled up just as I was leaving, and we gave each other a friendly greeting.

Then it was back on the road, and I noted the first significant tailwind of the day. I've ridden Gale's Creek Road many times in both directions, and I don't remember ever going so fast either way. It was amazing to feel so fast and strong after giving such an effort for almost 120 miles. I passed the quarry, rounded a couple bends, and climbed up into the outskirts of Forest Grove. A mile or two later I was downtown. I got lucky with the lights, and was back at the Grand Lodge with an elapsed time of around 7:45.


Anonymous David said...

It was a fast 200K indeed, Michael. The air temp was just right for a sustained effort. What a beautiful route it was, and it was great to see your smiling face at the secret control, the turn-around, in Vernonia, and at the finish. As usual, you were in front of me, but I am closing the gap, my friend. Maybe one day I'll have the pleasure of drafting the bent rig of yours!


9:25 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

David, are you kidding? You're as strong as me right now! You only finished half an hour behind me. That margin is almost completely accounted for by your stop at the Black Bear in Vernonia. I think we'll be plenty well matched for our Nestucca expedition. Looks like Mr. Carmichael's training regimen worked pretty well for you!

10:56 AM  
Anonymous david Rowe said...

Fast forward ... here we go again ... Birkenstock (or whatever) 2008!

8:56 PM  

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