Tuesday, July 27, 2010

RAGBRAI - Sunday

When I lived in Iowa in the nineties, the state motto was, "Iowa - A Place to Grow." Sometime before I left they changed it to "Iowa. You Make Me Smile." I always liked "A Place To Grow" better, but maybe they didn't like all the flood t-shirts in 1993 that said "A Place to Row." Needless to say, I was hoping that this ride would be a growing experience for me, in my riding and in my relationship with my dad.

Dad wakes me up at 5:45 am. This is WAY too late. By the time we get all packed up, I do my back exercises and we pump up the tires on the bikes it is 7 am. There are thousands of bicyclists on the road. It is swarming with all kinds of people going different speeds. We hit GIANT rollers. Imagine doing 2/3 of Mt. Tabor for most of 65 miles (okay it did flatten out a bit at the end). Dad and I can't seem to stay together. I'm faster going up and he's faster going down. We keep passing each other and when one of us looks back for the other we yell out "I'm here."

At one point we stop at the bottom of a hill all of the sudden. I'm in totally the wrong gear and when I get back on my chain drops. "Dad!" I yell out as I unclip just in time. He pulls over about 30 feet ahead. A very nice young man stops to put my chain back on. "I need a break, anyway," he says. We put it in a low gear there and I yell out, "I'm here" as I catch up to my dad.

He doesn't see me pass him on the hill (riding all the way on the left side of the two lanes [the oncoming lane] - as I did most of the day). He stops to wait at the next stop sign. I stop about a hundred yards ahead and call him. We meet again and ride this way - passing each other - back and forth on the hills. This is not how I imagined RAGBRAI being. I want to ride together as a team.

We get in to Storm Lake after 74 miles (my longest ride yet) and I feel high and weird. I call my husband and he says to eat so I eat a bar and drink a Gatorade. Then I take a shower at the shower truck and go to the hotel next to our campsite to use the bathroom. Walking back from the bathroom, I stop and puke my guts out. Several times (it even came out my nose). Oh man, I do not feel good.

I spend the next 5 hours sipping water and Sprite. The nice girl at the hotel saw me throw up and the next time I come to use the bathroom she runs to the kitchen to get me a bag of saltine crackers. Around 6pm I get in some convenience store (and therefore bland) food. It takes me 30 minutes to eat a poptart, but over the course of the night I managed to get in some crackers, cheese, cookies and pop tarts. It probably takes me 2 hours of slow, careful chewing to do that. I sleep fitfully and worry about tomorrow's 80-mile day.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I leave for RAGBRAI this afternoon! I've spent the week carefully packing everything I think I might need. Cycling clothes, bicycle beam, pedals, meds, clothing, flip flops, pillow, sleeping bag, MP3 player, camera, toiletries, lots of sunblock, maps, paperwork, wristbands, etc. The list seemed endless. I have to leave my netbook at home, unfortunately, so my diary will be pen and paper while I'm there. I'll update the blog with posts and pictures from the trip when I get home next week. Wish me luck. Cheers!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cycle Oregon - Sun

It's amazing how good it feels to walk after doing a long ride. Must be because we didn't get enough exercise. We took a walk last night into town, had a Black Butte Porter at the local pub and then took a walk down a country road where there were amazing views of rolling hills to the west and Mt. Hood in the east. While we walked we talked about many things, but before long we were tired and hit the sack.

This morning we both had stiff backs. This is slightly more of a problem for me so before we hopped on our bikes for today's ride we mobilized my SI joints. Teaching my dad to do this will be one of the keys to me surviving RAGBRAI. Below is the view I had we did this (lying on my back looking up at this beautiful tree).
We decided to do the 36-mile loop which started with some serious hills. I suppose we were heading west away from the Willamette Valley so that makes sense. We made it to the lunch stop by 9:30 in the morning so our our chicken sandwiches and Kettle Chips were more like "secondsies" than lunch. I actually had felt pretty sluggish during those first 13 miles and was feeling a little overwhelmed with my upcoming trip. Peter was feeling even better than yesterday.

During the second leg of the loop, however, I really perked up. I felt encouraged and reassured myself that I was riding my 46-pound hybrid and not my 17-pound road bike. That makes hills just a bit more difficult.

By the time we got to the second pit stop I was feeling great.

Coming into Monmouth, we marveled that we had done more than 85 miles in just two days. I remember when doing a 100 miles in 7 days felt like a huge accomplishment. As we cycled across the finish line, volunteers were cheering and wooping, blowing bubbles across the road and handing out ice cream sandwiches and creamsicles. High-fiving and toasting with our ice cream sandwiches I felt a little emotional about this weekend being over (and about what I will be enjoying/endeavoring/enduring (ack!) next week. I'm going to miss my husband so much! We both had (and still have) that pleasant sensation you get when you've had enough exercise. And, funnily enough, those celebratory ice cream sandwiches we ate - they were made in Iowa.

Cycle Oregon - Fri and Sat

A year ago I took my first ride up to Mt. Tabor. I had dusted off my old hybrid bike that was in desperate need of a tune-up and taken my friend Leslie's advice about how to ride to this great extinct volcano. One trip up to the top and I was hooked. I wanted to ride my bike everywhere. I know it was a year ago because that weekend Leslie did her first Cycle Oregon event - the weekend ride in Monmouth. I thought it would be a great anniversary celebration of getting bit by the bug to do it this year with my husband.

We signed up for this weekend getaway BEFORE my dad suggested that we sign up for the RAGBRAI lottery. It is amazing how little I've thought about it since all my riding attention has been focused on RAGBRAI for months now. But, as I was packing Friday morning it seemed like this weekend would be a great test run for the BIG ride (which starts a week from tomorrow). First thing I learned: Pay attention to the list you've been compiling since March. (Don't forget your Itty Bitty Book Light).

Western Oregon University is a sweet, idyllic campus complete with red brick buildings and lush green grass. We decided to rent out a dorm room (making this an especially cushy test run for RAGBRAI) and they even let us bring our bikes into our room. Unlike RAGBRAI the food is included and it seems like standard bike event/dorm cafeteria food. Last night was spaghetti and meatballs, salad, fruit and little cheesecakes for dessert. Breakfast was eggs, potatoes, ham, more fruit, and coffeecake. Amusingly, the regular coffee supply kept running a bit low and I got a big kick out of watching a couple do their best to tip the enormous container of coffee at an angle to get the last little dregs of it out.

So, we started out this morning at about 8:30 riding out of Monmouth with riders of all sorts. About 5 miles into the ride, I shouted, "Stop!" and I got off to take a picture of some espaliered apple trees. A cyclist passed us and yelled, "Cycle Oregon?" "Yep!" we yelled back. The road was beautiful and windy with a nice shoulder and the river snaking off to the left. A few more miles went by and we didn't see any signs. We really started to wonder when we passed that same cyclist and he was staring at a map. Hmmm... When we saw the sign that said, "Entering Salem," we knew we'd made a wrong turn. We looked at the map and realized that we were on South River Rd when we were supposed to be on Riverside Dr.

So, we turned back and about 5 miles later we saw the obvious place where everyone was turning. Completely missed it. So, our first pit stop that was supposed to be a little under 10 miles in actually ended up being close to 20 miles. Peter's front derailleur was acting up so he got in the Bike Gallery line while I used the facilities, got us snacks and juice. They had a sports drink I hadn't ever tried before (Gleukos or something like that) that I filled our water bottles up with. Then I went back to wait in line with Peter.

The people in front of Peter had actually done RAGBRAI last year. "You're going to have so much fun!," the man said. "There is just so much food and drink!" (I don't think he means water). When the bike mechanic looked at Peter's bike he easily adjusted the derailleur, noticed something wrong with the headset and fixed that, and then said, "Your tires are totally flat!" Jokingly he said, "This is the most maladjusted bike of the day!" Peter said something about his tires on his car often getting embarassingly low. The bike mechanic said, "Do you drive a Toyota?" "Yes!" said Peter. The mechanic laughed and said, "Makes sense. You buy good equipment so it will tolerate you not taking care of it." We laughed about this for miles.

When you are like me and you like taking pictures, it means you keep passing the same people over and over again. I always tried to be courteous and say, "On your left!" It is so much nicer when people do that. The scenery was beautiful. Red barns, fields of squash, corn as high as a St. Bernard's eye, wheat swaying in the wind. At the last rest stop there were even horses right by the road! I'm a sucker for farm animals.

We figure we did about 50 miles with our little detour and I definitely felt like I could have done more. The distance of tomorrow ride is still being debated, but we will do at least 35. It's amazing how nice it is to get away even for just a little while. And, I could definitely get used to long rides completely supported with food, drink, and rest rooms. The pleasant company of other people who love riding and picturesque landscapes are awfully nice too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sending Off Amie

Yesterday, we went for a thirty mile ride in the heat. It was my first real ride in hot weather and I was happy to give my body at least a taste of what I might be experiencing in Iowa. As I rode, I pictured in my mind riding through corn fields with their yellow tassles blowing in the breeze. I visualized miles of highway and rolling hills. I saw white farmhouses, red barns, grey silos and old beat up, rusted Chevy pick-up trucks. I imagined my back doing well from start to finish and the feeling of accomplishment I'll have upon reaching the Mississippi.

As I rode, I felt a sense of sadness knowing this was my last long ride on Amie before I had to take her to the bike shop to be boxed up. Boxing up the bike takes a couple of days and shipping requires at least 12 days. She'll arrive in Sioux City before I do and be assembled before I even get there.
Today, I just had time for a quick trip up to Mt. Tabor. As I rode along the bike streets, zig-zagging my way around the new freshly painted street markers I thought about how much I love Portland. I do this every time I leave for a trip...remember how much I love home. So as I rode I took pictures of roses, the symbol of my city.

When I got home I marked Amie up with a silver marker so the bike shop will know how to put her back together just like my PT and I like her. Then we loaded her on the car and I drove her to the bike shop with a twinge of sadness and worry in my chest. "This is sad," I said to Peter and the bike mechanic smiled. "It's hard to be away from her for a few days, huh?," he said. See you again in Iowa, Amie. Oh, what an adventure we'll have.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

60.1 Miles

When I was 10 years old, I swam for a competitive swim club called the Kansas City Blazers. During this time, I participated in a Swim-a-thon and went around the neighborhood collecting pledges (most were a dollar a lap). I was used to fierce 2-hour practices, every day, so I made it past 2 hours pretty easily. And, I just kept swimming, and swimming. No food, no water, just lap after lap after lap...hundreds of them. Eventually, I was the only one in the pool. Later still, I was the only one in the pool, and there weren't even any parents (except my mom) or kids outside the pool. This memory has the feeling of myth to me because the details are a little smudgy (did I swim for 3 hours, 4 hours?), but just like a good myth the important feeling is there. My first soaring endorphin high happened when I was all alone swimming in that pool. My memories of childhood are more like snapshots than videos. But, I remember so clearly reaching my arm out in the water and feeling that I was an unlimited being. I could swim across the ocean. I could swim forever. Not too long after that, my mom reached her hand into the water and pulled me out. "You're done," she said. "You've done enough." My parents very graciously told me to tell the neighbors they could just give me twenty bucks (instead of the hundreds of dollars they owed me).

I had this feeling today. I've had it since that amazing swim, but every time it happens I feel like that kid in the pool. I could just keep swimming. Today it happened at about 45 miles and every ache and pain just evaporated. I felt like I was one with my bicycle. I could have just kept on riding.

Today's ride was all about the miles. I wanted 60, and I wanted it bad. I started with a trip out to Gresham then headed back home. This got me to exactly 40 miles. I went to the bathroom, refilled my water bottles, drank a thing of coconut water, walked Dexter. Then I was off. I rode over Tabor and down to Maywood park and stopped to take a picture of the festivities. I realized that I had been so focused on getting to 60 miles, I'd forgotten to take any pictures. This was my first.

I turned around a little after Maywood Park and headed back towards Tabor, but to get up to 60 I rode up to Rocky Butte and then home. Along the way I snapped the picture of the flower below (sweet pea?) along the I-205 bike path. About 3 miles from home I started to feel my body again (mostly my back).
Riding home I saw a picture of a house so nicely decorated for the Fourth of July. I thought this seemed rather nice (you don't see that much) so I stopped for a pic.
When I got to my house I was a 59.2 so I rode down the street a bit, saw this cute cat lounging in the street and when I got back home I was a 60.1. My body feels good. I remembered to drink lots of water when I got home (thanks, Darryl!), got some protein and carbs in me and then settled in (after showering) with some blueberry tea and an ice pack on my back.
Now, I'm going to go call my dad and tell him about my accomplishment and say, "I'm ready! Let's do this thing. RAGBRAI, here we come!"