Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Please Sir, May I Have Another?"

Happy May Day! And a glorious day it was! A perfect day to go ride a Gran Fondo! An even more perfect day to ride a Dirty Gran Fondo! The Green Team was the sponsor of today's ride. There were several course and distance options to choose from. Karen, Michelle, and I chose the Dirty Medio course. This was advertised to be 66 miles with 30 miles of gravel. In the end, it wasn't exactly that, but I'll get to that in a moment.

The start was at Rochester Primary School in...wait for it...Rochester (surprise!). Because it's a Gran Fondo, which is not a race, it was a mass start regardless of which route everyone was doing. 
Riders getting ready.

There wasn't a ton of riders, something like 62 or so, for the whole thing, but it was a good group start. There were lots of teammates, and other people I know. We tried to convince Andy and Katie to do the Dirty Medio with us, but they had their group plan for the Medio Road. 

The weather at 9:00 was already plenty warm enough to go without arm and leg warmers. Karen even ditched her vest at the last minute. I had sun sleeves on, but that's just because I hate putting sunscreen on my arms. 

Our initial plan was to stay with the tandem (pretty good drafting there!). However, early on, they got a flat, so no more tandem drafting. We passed a bunch of people, and found ourselves in the front. We could see the other large group ahead of us, so we decided to try to catch them. We were working hard, rotating amongst the three of us. We were gaining on them, but then the rollers started. Michelle made the call to stop the chase and let them go. Thank God! At that pace, we were going to be dead before we even hit the gravel! We caught up to, and passed a couple of people who had dropped off, but the rest of the group was gone. Of course, we didn't feel too bad, as the bulk of that group were on road bikes, and we were on our gravel bikes (Hal Jordan, my cross/gravel bike has 40mm tires).

We made the turn onto Garrard Creek. Before long, we were climbing up. That climb was, pretty much, the longest climb on the pavement (of course, we had to do it from the other side, coming back).
After the climb--good shadow picture, and you can't really tell, but Karen has Wonder Woman socks on with little mini capes.

More miles on the pavement, then we came to the turn to go to Brooklyn (left to Brooklyn, right to Oakville). At the turn was a rest stop. They had such treats as bananas, oranges, string cheese, and croissants. We didn't feel the need to spend too much time there, so I grabbed a croissant, and ate it while we continued riding (well, half, then stuck the other half in my jersey pocket--yep, just stuffed it in there). 
Gathering goodies.

The sign at the turn said, "Brooklyn 11 miles". What? Shouldn't it be 15 to make 30 miles of gravel roundtrip? Curious! Even when we made the turn, the road remained paved for a few more miles. Finally, we saw this sign.
Woo Hoo--gravel time!

Immediately, the road started going up, rather steeply up, in fact. We stopped where it leveled out just a bit to let some air out of our tires. Then we continued to climb. Every time we went around a corner, or came to another hill, Karen and Michelle said, "Please Sir, may I have another?" I said, "No thanks, I'll pass." That was not allowed, so I said, "I'll gladly pass mine on to another!" Finally, I caved, and towed the partly line by saying, "Please Sir, may I have another?" too. 
Karen and Michelle asking for, and getting, more hills.
And the climb continues...strangely, there was a guy parked here who warned us to be careful on the descent. Thing was, we had lots more climbing before we actually started the descent. Some might worry that we may have forgotten the warning (then again...we're not stupid).

The descent was fun. Michelle was, of course, flying down. Karen and I were a bit more cautious. I managed to hit a few potholes that were in the dappled shade, and thus difficult to see until I was right on them. As Katie would say...Hang on Bitches! At times, John, from the Green Team, was in front of me. He had 28mm tires. I stayed back a bit in case he wiped out (he didn't). 

Before we knew it, the gravel was over (for the way out, anyway). Hey, that wasn't very many miles! By our calculations, we figured it was about 8 miles or so. Then we were on the pavement for about 3 more miles into Brooklyn, and the turnaround point at the Brooklyn Tavern. 

We made it! 

One of those fancy weather stations.

We parked our bikes and went inside to see about some refreshments. The Brooklyn Tavern is billed as the most remote tavern in Western Washington. It's in the heart of logging country, so one can guess the usual patronage does not arrive in Lycra on a bicycle! But, that was the case today! The pickings, as far as food goes, were pretty slim. Apparently, there were hotdogs. Karen, and Michelle had beers and chips. I, not being fond of beer, but being super fond of sugar, had a Coke and a Snickers. It was delicious! Karen and Michelle had used the restroom, and said it was a must see. Let's say, this was the only slightly suitable photo I could take and put on this here blog!
Yes, that's part of a tree that looks like...well, I think you can tell.

We enjoyed our break at the Tavern, but still had to ride back the way we came. The climbs going back  didn't seem quite as steep (except for one part) as the ones coming out. Or, maybe it was the Coke and Snickers (and I had finished off my croissant). 
Selfie with Karen and Michelle coming along.

We caught up to John and Dave, both Green Team guys. The descent down was great, but I still managed to hit a few potholes (maybe even the same ones I hit going out?). We returned to the pavement with the five of us riding together.
Dave, John, Karen, and Michelle

We pulled into the same rest stop. I had another Coke and a string cheese. Karen and I added air to our tires with the floor pump they had. Then John and Sheila (?) arrived on the tandem. As we left the rest stop, Michelle said to get on the tandem's wheel...which we did. I asked them to not go terribly fast as I had just guzzled a Coke and string cheese, and didn't want to hurl while riding. They were kind, and didn't hammer the pace...mostly.

We just had one more big climb to get back to the top of Garrard Creek. As I was coming down, John and Sheila, with Michelle on their wheel, came flying past me. They went by so fast, there was no way I could get on Michelle's wheel. Karen was ahead of me, and the same thing happened to her. Down on the flat, Michelle let the tandem go, and waited for us to catch up. 

When we got back to the intersection of Garrard Creek and Manners, we had a command decision to make. The official route went right, up Manners to Lincoln Creek, then up Michigan Hill back to Independance Valley. We could do that, OR...we could simply turn left on Independance Valley, and save us a few miles, and a couple of big hills. We decided we were good with going back on Independance Valley. We all knew we could make it going over Manners, but we were just as satisfied by not doing it. 

We arrived back at the school at about 2:15.
The finish line!
Back to the car--thanks, Katie for taking the photo!

The three of us decided we had a really good time! Sure, there wasn't as much gravel as we thought, but it was fine. We couldn't have asked for a better day, weather wise! Please Sir, may I have another!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chapters 2 and 3 in the Saga of Tilmann--The Earth From Space, and Wheels of Awesomeness!

Today was a big day in the Tilmann Saga. Just to refresh memories, and update, I brought Tilmann home in March. At that time he was just a frameset.
Remember this?

Because I want to use the Gates Carbon Belt Drive system, Tilmann needed to have a frame modification (splitting the rear drive side seat stay to be able to get the belt on). Since he was being modified anyway, we decided to have the extra stuff removed, like the cantilever brake posts (Tilmann will have disc brakes) and the cable guides on the top tube. So, Tilmann went back to the shop so he could be admitted to the "hospital" for his reconstructive surgery. The work was done by a guy named Cory. 

So, now Chapter 2 begins. Post surgically, Tilmann has some "scars". Oh, his modification surgery went beautifully, but...well, that's what plastic surgeons are for, right?
The raw wounds.
Close-up of the seat stay split.

I met Derik at the shop, and we took Tilmann out to the plastic surgeon (aka Powder Coater). One of the most difficult decisions I've had to make was what color Tilmann should be. There are thousands of choices! In order to choose, I decided the color had to have meaning. Tilmann is a Surly World Troller. Hmmm...World...Earth...aha! Tilmann would represent what the earth looks like...from space!

Blue would be the main color, then I'd use the white decals for the clouds, and try to incorporate some green. The brown would be represented by my Brooks saddle. I was thinking abstract, you know? Well, as we are talking to Jeff at Forever Powder Coating, he starts saying how he could easily airbrush clouds, and he could use green and brown to make the continents...WHAT??? You can do that??? SO COOL! He can also airbrush the world SURLY in a "cloud" font! Way more awesome than I ever thought it could be! 

It'll take a few weeks as he has quite a few bikes he's working on, so you'll have to stay tuned to see the end result.

Now for Chapter 3. Derik and I returned to the shop. Last week we had discussed him building the wheels this week. I asked him when he wanted to do that. Turns out, he had time today, and I had time to watch him! I'm hoping to watch as much of the build as I can because I want to know Tilmann inside and out. Besides, it's not every day you get the opportunity to watch a Master Wheel Builder, not only build wheels, but build your wheels! 

Derik started with the rear wheel. He had already cut the black DT Swiss spokes to the correct lengths. The rear hub is a Rohloff Speedhub 500/14. We had to put small washers on the spokes as the spoke holes on the hub are a little big. I helped with that. I tried to be his assistant where possible (without trying to end up like the Sorcerer's Apprentice). To that end, I just handed him the spokes. He did everything else. I watched, and learned...a lot! There is a definite art to building a wheel. And loads of patience required!
The Master at work.

A shot of Rohloff awesomeness!

The finished rear wheel.

The front wheel's hub is a Schmidt Son 28 generator hub. It will power both a headlight and taillight, annnnndddd...have a USB port for charging my electronics! 
The finished front wheel.
The mark of a hand built custom wheel!

I got to show off the wheels to a couple of friends/teammates who happened to be in the shop. Jeff asked how much the rear wheel weighed, so we weighed it.
5.78 lbs. Apparently, the Rohloff hub is not even the heaviest internal geared hub out there.

So, yes, it was a big day in the saga of Tilmann! I can't wait to get the frame back and see the earth from space...on a bike frame!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

If the 8 Year Old Can Do It...

My local bike shop, Joy Ride Bicycles, held a Ladies Beginning Mountain Bike Ride today. Heather asked if I'd like to come along on Mama Cass. Well, of course I would! Now, MC is not really a mountain bike, you know, doing singletrack and technical stuff. It's not her forte. Her wheel base is too long for sharp turns, and her tires could be knobbier (granted, the tires she has on now are pretty worn). But, I was assured that the trail we would be riding was not too difficult, nor technical. The only other issue was getting to the trail. We would be starting at the Fall Creek Trailhead in Capital Forest. Michelle agreed to pick me up. All I had to do was ride to the shop (just 3.4 miles from my house), and she would meet me there in her Rialta van. Mama Cass rode inside as Michelle already had two bikes on her rack. 

We met up with Heather and Jeff at the trailhead. They had several bikes with them (there had been a demo day yesterday). One by one, people started showing up. We ended up having 14 of us, counting me, Michelle, and Heather. Two were 8 year old girls, Scarlett and Rell (not sure of the spelling). Scarlett's dad was there, and Rell's mom. Jim was riding ahead to take pictures. Nikki rode with Rell. Some of the gals rode demo bikes from the shop. 

It was raining, but by the time we were ready to go, the rain had mercifully stopped. The trail would be a little muddy though.

Once we were all outfitted, we rolled up the road to the start of Lower Little Larch Trail.
Through that opening in the fence is the trail.

The trail was probably the narrowest singletrack I had ever ridden (which is not to say too much as I have not done much mountain biking--even the trails outside of Winthrop were not really skinny). And, yes, it was muddy. Down we went. Scarlett was in front of me. I tried to stay back a bit in case she stopped suddenly or crashed. We came around a corner, then had to go up. We all walked up (on the next two times, I was able to ride up part of it). From the top of that part, it was mostly downhill or flat.

Scarlett did a great job. I was perfectly happy to go slow behind her. I must confess, I watched where she went, to determine how I would go (yep, let the 8 year old lead the way!) I hoped that if she could do it, so could I. At the very end of the trail, there was a steep downhill bit. We all walked it (the second time, Scarlett rode it, so I did too). 
Rell and Nikki coming down the steep bit.

After the first time through with everyone, we split up into two groups. One group was going to go longer, and the others would do the same loop again. I opted to do the same loop again as MC's tires did not seem to be up to snuff to do a more difficult trail (I was skidding down the hills, and sliding in the mud--which was fun...sort of). 

We did the loop again. When Heather asked the little girls if they wanted to go a third time, they both said, "NO!" Instead, we did another bit of trail from the campground. The girls were happy to spend a few moments playing by the creek.
That bit of color in the bushes is Scarlett.
Hanging out at the bridge while the girls explore the creek.

The trail we were on came out at the parking lot of the trailhead. When we got back, the grill was fired up and there were burgers to be eaten.
A multipurpose table of food, bike lube, pedals, and tools!

While we were eating, another gal showed up. Heather asked if she wanted to ride. She did, so Heather went back out with her to do the loop again. After I finished eating, I decided to go out and do the loop again myself. I met up with Heather and Aubrey as they were coming back. Heather asked Aubrey if she wanted to go again. Heather hadn't had a chance to eat yet, so Aubrey and I went back ourselves and did the loop again. It was just as much fun the third time! 

Just as we got back, the other group rolled in. I asked Karen how it was. She said it was really fun, and not really more difficult than Lower Little Larch--just longer. I asked her if she wanted a mountain bike now. Of course, yes, but the one she had ridden was $4000. Okay, so maybe not that one (but so hard to go to a Corolla when you know what it's like in a Cadillac)! 

Afterward, I thought maybe I would have liked to demo a bike. But, it's a good idea I didn't, because then I would want one, and...well...I just shouldn't! I think the day was a resounding success! Everyone had fun, and I think Joy Ride will be selling a couple of bikes!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Win For OOA Cat 4 Women... wasn't me...of course!

After a two week (well, really, just one weekend) respite from the string of races in February and March, we were back for another race before the next break. Today was the Vance Creek Road Race (VCRR). This is one of OOA's sponsored races, so we provided all the volunteers to run the race. Brad did a great job gathering all the volunteers. It takes a lot of people to staff a race. There has to be two drivers for each race group, and usually two people on each corner. For this race, there were 5 corners. Plus, there has to be someone at the finish, and someone to do the podiums. Then, multiply that by 2 as there are morning and afternoon races. Anyway, you get the picture. The Cat 4 Women raced in the morning, so we volunteered for the afternoon races (the longest races).

The race was held out near Elma at the defunct Satsop towers, now the Satsop Development Park.
One of two cooling towers.

Today, the OOA Cat 4 Women were represented by Jean, Debbie, Julie, Jasmine, Makayla (Jasmine's younger sister), and me. Yep, another 6 strong OOA group of gals! This was Makayla's first road race with Cat 4 Women. She's just 13 or 14 years old (but was not the youngest in our race--the 12 year old that raced IVRR also raced). Debbie and I drove out together.
Warming up on our trainers.

We've been having awesomely warm weather this past week, but today the sun decided to go into hiding. In fact, it was quite chilly. There was a bit of wind that didn't help matters. Fortunately, I had the appropriate kit for a cooler day.

Twenty five of us Cat 4s lined up to start. One notable difference to the last time I did this race was that Erik (the race promoter...and fellow teammate) had reversed the course (the road had less gravel in the counterclockwise direction). A bunch of us OOA gals came out last Wednesday and pre-rode the course. I tried to convince myself counterclockwise was going to be easier. I'm not sure I ended up convinced. 

We were in a neutral rollout until we were through Corner 1. From Corner 1 we had a long downhill. The shoulder was smoother than the chipsealed road. Since I knew what the shoulder was like from pre-riding, I knew I could ride it. So, I coasted along the shoulder to the front. I also wanted to get away from the 12 year old junior. She's still pretty sketchy. There were some uphills, but they were short, and most had a downhill leading into it.

I spent time on the front after Corner 2, but then managed to get on a wheel of someone who came up from behind. We went through Corner 3, and after awhile, I was on the front again. This time, when I didn't want to be on the front any longer, I just peeled to the left, and the next gal came up, then rotated in front of me. As we were going along the narrow farm road, here comes Julie up beside me! At one point she said, "So this is what it feels like up here!" This is, of course, only her third race! She protected me for a bit, which was awesome. 

We came through Corner 4, and once again, Julie came up beside me. She asked if I wanted her to get in front of me (I was sitting second wheel at that time). I would have definitely let her do that, but we were coming up to the long climb. I knew it wouldn't do any good as neither of us would be able to stay up with the group. The climb really broke the group apart. I saw Jasmine and Makayla go shooting up, little sister on big sister's wheel (like they can...I can't). Most of the peloton passed me up the hill. I was wheezing like a donkey. I could hear Jean and Debbie breathing hard behind me. Apparently, at one point, Jean yelled that I was losing them. I didn't hear that over the very loud beating of my heart, and the even louder sucking wind I was doing. At the top of the long part (but not the top top), I started to cough, which then led to gagging. Fortunately, I got it under control before I hurled the Shot Blocks I had consumed before the race. 

There was a teaser downhill, but then the road went back up (at a gradient requiring the small ring again). Just before Corner 5 was the 1km sign. We climbed through Corner 5, then it leveled out a little. There was one more downward slope before we turned right to go up again to where the finish line was. Of course, we had another lap to go.

I caught up to a few gals, one of which was Courtney from Starbucks. I said, "Let's see how many we can catch up to on the downhill." So we set out to do that. Coming down the hills between Corners 1 and 2, we ended up with a good size group. We wanted to get some rotating going so we could catch up to the group in front of us, but it was only Courtney and I doing the pulling. Occasionally Laura, from Spokeswomen Racing would fly by, but then she'd slow down. Her teammate, Mary would do the same. It was not organized at all. We came through Corner 2 with Courtney and I still doing most of the work. Laura and Mary were still there along with several others. Finally, after Corner 3, we had shed the others, and it was just the Spokeswomen two, and Courtney and I. Laura and Mary finally started to do some pulling, but they clearly weren't well versed in the art of rotating. Then, the follow car went around us. We still kept going as fast as we could. Once we got a decent rotation going, we started gaining on the group of 8 or so in front of us. Then we were back! We went by the follow car, and got back in the race! The group we caught up to was not the leaders. I was somewhat surprised to see Emily in the group. She was trying like crazy to get the group to work together. Makayla was also in that group. Once Courtney and I joined in, the rotating started working better. Emily was still shouting orders, but it was getting smoother. But, here's the problem. This is not the lead group. So, some of the gals are basically cooked. They've done as much as they can. They struggle to take any kind of pulls (even a rotating paceline). Makayla was doing a great job, but she was also very tired. She hung in the rotation pretty well. Emily kept having to tell people not to "drop anchor" when they would rotate off the front. She'd say, "Keep pedaling, keep pedaling!"

We came through Corner 4 again. The follow car went around the whole group. We were still rotating, but fewer and fewer gals were taking part. Then...the hill...again. I went by Makayla--she just didn't have much left. Most all the Starbucks and Bike Sale gals that were in the group took off (well, maybe not so much took off, as much as I slowed down). At least this time up the hill I didn't end up gagging!

I finished alone, 9 seconds back from the gal in front of me, but 39 seconds ahead of Makayla, for 16th place. I finished similar to IVRR. of all...JASMINE WON!!! I'm so proud of her! She raced a perfect race!

Congrats, Jasmine!!!

It was a good race for all of us! Also fun to have our teammates cheering us on through the corners!

Of course, we got to do our own cheering as Corner Marshals for the afternoon races. Debbie and I were on Corner 1.
Yes, it was still cold, only now, we were just standing around--even colder!

The Pro 1/2 guys had to do 6 laps (that's three times as long as our race!). Even the 1/2/3 Women had to do 5 laps (a very good reason why I have no desire to upgrade to Cat 3!)
Here's the guys.

After the guys went by for their 6th lap, and the women went by, we were done. We turned in our vests, stop signs, and walkie-talkies. We stopped at Ranch House BBQ for some dinner.
Pulled pork followed by their signature Bourbon Pecan Pie.

Now a break until May 14th, and the race I am really hoping to do well in, OVRR.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Not a Yellow Brick Road, But a New Bridge in the Emerald City!

We're off to see the Wizard! In this case, the Wizard being the new 520 bridge across Lake Washington. Debbie and I went to Seattle to do the Emerald City Bike Ride today. The weather was perfect. 

We arrived at Husky Stadium at about 7:00. Our plan was to get ready, ride over to the start, get our t-shirts, and bring them back to the car before starting the ride. When we got over to the start, I took one look at the huge crowd, and decided we would wait until the end to get our shirts.
The shirts were on the other side of the crowd at the green tents.

Instead, we joined the throng of people waiting to go in the next wave. There were a lot of people, and a bunch had already gone! I saw ride numbers as high as the upper 6000s. Okay, not as many as the STP, but still a lot of riders, and a lot of kids too. Afterall, the longest option was only 20 miles. And some people only did the bridge part. 
No kidding!

We slowly advanced up to the start. Then, once we got the go ahead...we slowly walked our bikes up to Montlake. Then we continued to walk toward the Montlake Bridge. It was beginning to look like it was a bike walk rather than a bike ride. When we got to the Montlake bridge, a guy stopped us to allow some space saying, "We need to get you riding." Hallelujah to that!
Waiting to cross Montlake. Those people coming the other direction had already been across the bridge.

They had put carpet on the grated bridge deck, which was kind of weird to ride on, but at least we were riding! After Montlake we turned to get on the 520 bridge. 
For awhile we were on the old 520. Then we crossed to the new bridge.
New 520!

The route simply went across the bridge, then turned around and came back. 
Debbie riding on the new 520 bridge.
What a great day!
At the turn around. Note the cluster of people. Everyone was taking tons of photos. I took this one of Debbie and I. 

Then we rode back across the bridge. We saw all kinds of bikes! I saw more Bike Fridays than I've ever seen (even in Eugene where they are made)! There was every type of cargo bike and trailer/tag along with lots of kids. Even a kid on his balance bike (that was going to be a long haul for the little guy). We also saw several "unicorns". Actually, they were unicycles, but Debbie called them Unicorns so...why not! From then on, I made sure to point out all the "unicorns".

When we got back to the Montlake bridge, there was another bottleneck, as there was no carpet on that side of the bridge deck, so people were walking. We got back to riding just after the bridge. Next we rode over to the 7th street entrance to the I-5 Express Lanes. Yep, we had the entire Express Lanes South to ourselves!

Although it was very loud with the traffic above us and beside us, the novelty of riding in the middle of the freeway was very fun! 

We exited into the International District and came to the one rest stop of the route. They had a variety of snacky stuff including something they called "cream puffs". When you think of cream puffs, you think of something sweet, right? You expect to bite into this little puff of pastry, and experience sweet cream filling (hence the name "cream puff"). Sweet these were not. I believe, instead of sweet cream, they were filled with something along the lines of a soft cheese. Now, that's not to say they tasted bad, it's just the expectation was something sweet. Fortunately, the chocolate croissants were actually chocolate croissants. The fortune cookies were a nice bonus too. I think they were specially made for the ride as my fortune was something about many miles and snacks.

After the rest stop, we went up toward Amazon to get onto the Mountains to Sound Greenway. I was on this on my last day of my tour last summer. We rode through the I-90 bike tunnel, and then got onto Lake Washington Blvd. We went along the lake in the reverse of the STP.
Lake Washington.
Warm enough to take the jacket off!

We went up through the Arboretum, and back across the Montlake bridge (for the third time) to the finish.
We're baaaack!

We got our t-shirts, and tried some nasty probiotic drink stuff (seriously, it was yucky--the cream puffs that weren't cream puffs were better). Then, we went back to the car where we ditched our t-shirts and ride numbers before setting off to ride Burke-Gilman Trail north to Kenmore (because, 20 miles is not enough on such a nice day in the Emerald City). We rode as far as the Sammamish Greenway Golf Course before turning around and heading back (about an hour out and an hour back).
Burke-Gilman Trail.

We went to U-Village for some lunch and a little shopping around, then headed for home. It was a great day for a bike ride in the Emerald City (even if there wasn't a yellow brick road)!