Monday, December 31, 2012

2012--3 Big Tours, 1 Big Change, Many New Friends

As I sit awaiting the final moments of 2012, I am reflecting back on all that I accomplished these last 12 months. Uh oh, I feel a recap coming on...well, alright, here goes...

Big Tour #1 was, of course, New Zealand. I realized my dream of doing a bike tour of New Zealand to celebrate my half century mark. I spent two weeks touring the North Island with Leandra. We had a fantastic time and I think we would both list the highlight being the Black Abyss Waitomo Cave Tour. We spent 5 hours underground, abseiling, zip-lining (called Flying Fox in NZ), and tubing down an underground river while gazing at glow worms. It was an amazing adventure! In Wellington we spent a couple of days touring the Capitol city of New Zealand before going our separate ways--Leandra (unfortunately--that dang job) home, and me on to the South Island.

I spent 3 wonderful weeks touring from Picton to Queenstown along the West Coast of the South Island. I met great people, Dick and Pauline, who I saw three times, and Gerald, my Austrian hero, who gave me a ride out of the pouring rain to Fox Glacier. I'd have to say my South Island highlight would be my Heli-Hike on Fox Glacier. Taking a helicopter up to the glacier and then spending 2 hours hiking around and into the various ice features was worth every NZ dollar! I also had a fantastic adventure jet boating up the Dart River in Aspiring National Park. Between all these adventures was some of the most scenic biking I have ever done.

Upon returning home, I had just three months before my next tour of 13 days around the Olympic Peninsula with my good friends Christian from Germany and Carol from Tacoma. We called our little tour group the "C-Bikekateers". Carol and I rode from my house to Port Townsend where we met up with Christian (he flew to Vancouver, BC) and continued our tour around the Peninsula. We stayed in Sequim with some great friends of Carol's--Sue and Lee, and got to go kayaking in the waters near Dungeness Spit and the Dungeness River (it's really hard to paddle upriver). In Port Angeles, we stayed with Sue's son and girlfriend, Casey and Brigid. Christian and I took a day and rode up to Hurricane Ridge (it was 4 1/2 hours up and 45 minutes down--Woo Hoo!). Of course it rained a number of days, but we survived it (a rainy day at Lake Quinault was spent lounging in the lodge instead of riding around the lake--awwww, too bad...not!).

Three days after I returned from the Peninsula, Lorraine and I did the STP in one day. It was a long long day, but we both got our 1-Day Finisher patches!

Lorraine, Annette, and I squeezed in a week at Lorraine's cabin near the end of July. Although the river was too high and too cold to float, we managed to put in a number of hours by the pool as well as a few nice bike rides.

In mid-August I was off again on Betsy, my Bike Friday folding bike. This time to do the Canada part of the Pacific Coast Bike Route (and then some). This was definitely a multi-model tour with a train ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC and 19 separate boat rides out of 21 days. I did the Sunshine Coast and visited both sides of Vancouver Island. A highlight was a 5 hour ride on the passenger freighter, MV Frances Barkley, from Port Alberni to Ucluelet through the Broken Island Group. The scenery was spectacular and I even saw a couple of whales!

I returned to Washington via the San Juan Islands. On Orcas Island I rode to the top of Mt. Constitution where I scattered a small amount of my mother's ashes. It was a good feeling to have been able to honor her wishes.

I spent September pretending that I didn't have a car. I had actually been keeping track of the miles I had driven since January 1st. My goal was to drive less than 5000 miles for 2012. By September, I had driven just 1700 miles. So, I sold my van to my dad. It's been great!

In October, I saw a Facebook post about a Women's Meet-the-Team ride. I asked if I could come, and that was the beginning of my latest adventure. There is truth to the statement, "Never say never!" I said I would never race. Well...I joined the OOA Racing Team and, starting in March of 2013, I will be doing just that. I think the racing will be exciting and all that, but what has been the best part is all the new cycling friends I've made through this endeavor. I ridden more miles with more people (and had more fun) in the last 3 months than I ever have (except maybe the STPs). I have also worked harder to keep up than ever before! There are some crazy-fast cyclists, and I'm not just talking about the guys!

I also got to ride with the Go Get It Gals, Taryn, Michele, and Peggy. We had a blast riding in Peggy's home territory around Mossyrock. Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to get to have so much fun! Our latest GGG adventure was a snow day at White Pass. I tried my hand (or feet?) at snowshoeing and had a blast!

I finished out 2012 with a challenge to ride my bike 500 km in 8 days. I accomplished it in 6 days of riding (took Day 6 off to go snowshoeing and finished on Day 7).

As for 2013, I'm looking forward to racing, touring (Austin, TX to Memphis, TN--actually Little Rock AR), and hanging out with the Go Get It Gals (Taryn, Michele, Peggy, and whoever else has the GGG Spirit!)! I think it's going to be another amazing year of ADVENTURE!!!

Happy New Year to ALL my friends, old and new!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 7--Time For the Dance of Joy!

Woo Hoo! I finished the Rapha Festive 500 Strava Challenge! I did it in 6 days of riding and 7 total rides. Today's ride of 46.1 miles put me over the top with a total of 321 miles or 516.5 km (103%).

I met up with Debbie on McCorkle and we rode in the one direction I hadn't gone yet--southwest. We did McCorkle to Tilley, then down to Goddard. From there we worked our way to 183rd and over to Sargent Rd. We took Sargent to Littlerock and Littlerock back to Maytown. Maytown brought us back to Tilley (on Maytown we passed the decorated scrub that has been spruced up with some new Christmas ornaments and a nice blue tinsel garland). When we turned back onto McCorkle, my computer clocked over the 36 mile mark which was my official finish of the challenge. I stopped and took a photo to commemorate the occasion (see photo below). From there I had about 9 more miles to go with the first thing being, going back up the hill on McCorkle (see other photo below). Uggggg!

So, to recap the last 7 days, I managed to go every direction from my house. All the rides had some element of a loop to them. I think if I could print clear maps of my rides and overlaid them one on top of the other, the overall picture would be some kind of crazy looking flower. It wouldn't be pretty.

I also learned a few things. I now have a pretty good idea, for training purposes, what the maximum number of hours I could devote to riding per week would be (less than what I did this last week, that's for sure!). I also have the winter weather riding gear fully dialed in, complete with variations for minor changes in temperature.

I nailed the nutrition this last week. Dave's Killer Bread Sin Dog (organic whole grain bread rolled with cinnamon, sugar and raisins, then rolled in sesame, sunflower, and pepita seeds--a small 2 oz slice packs a wallop of 200 calories) was easy to wrap up and carry. That, in addition to the Hammer Gel flask (I learned to not try to close the flask with my mouth unless I wanted to risk pinching my lip in the lid--ouch!), kept me fueled for the long miles. And, finally, I learned when riding this many miles in a Pacific Northwest winter, it's gonna rain...a lot. I went through almost a whole bottle of chain lube and I've accumulated at least 10 pounds of dirt and pine needles on the floor of my garage!

Will I do it again next year? Well, it's like childbirth--right now, with the fatigue fresh in my mind, I'd say, NO WAY! However, after a year passes, I'll probably not remember the pain and exhaustion, and I'll think, yeah sure, I can do it! What's 500 kilometers??? Piece of cake!!!

For now, I think I'll go take a NAP!

Total miles for today--46.1 (74km)
Total kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--ZERO, ZIP, NADA!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 6--Not a Bike Ride or...

The Go Get It Gals Go Play in the Snow!

Who says you can't take a day off from the bike during a 500km challenge? You can if you only have 36 miles to go and two days to do it!

Today was another adventure with the GGGs. We headed up to White Pass for a day of fun in the snow. Taryn, Michele, Peggy, and I all met at Peggy's in Mossyrock (thanks again for the ride, Taryn!), where we piled into Peggy's husband's big Dodge truck, and Peggy drove us up to the pass (thanks, too, Peggy!).

Even though it was a Saturday and the kids are still off from school, we got a primo parking spot in the lot (after being on the verge of dropping me off, when we see a car pull out--"Close the door! Close the door! Go Peggy! There's a spot! GO GO GO!!! Put your signal on!"--racing an SUV who turns out wasn't heading for the spot anyway. See, even parking is an adventure when you're with the GGGs!).

I was going snowshoeing (with my new snowshoes I got at the Girls' Night Out at REI), Taryn was tearing it up with her snowboard, and Michele and Peggy were skiing. After we got all our gear situated, I headed over to the Nordic Center (a yurt) and the others headed for the slopes. We made a plan to meet in the lodge at 4:30.

I got my trail pass ($15) and a map of the trails at the yurt. The gal gave me an idea of how long it would take to do the whole snowshoe trail (a couple of hours). I had plenty of time. I went back outside and put my snowshoes on and started walking. Snowshoeing on the groomed track is pretty easy.

I wasn't exactly sure where I was going, so I just followed another family that seemed like they had done this before. The kid kept traipsing off into the deep snow, so I gradually got ahead of them. I was on the cross-country ski trail (it's okay, snowshoes can go there--just have to stay to the side). I knew there was a snowshoe trail down closer to the lake, but I couldn't see how to get there. After awhile I came to a place where someone had previously walked through to the snowshoe trail. I went that way too.

I worked my way around Leech Lake (hmmmm...named for its occupants?) to the picnic area. From there I pulled out the map to see where I was supposed to go to do the Falls Loop. I couldn't find the snowshoe trail (I did, however, find the PCT, but realized that was not the way to get to the Falls). I followed the Nordic track around until I found the snowshoe trail again at the junction to Dog Lake Loop. From there I was back on the snowshoe trail all the way to the Falls. There were some pretty steep sections and I was grateful to have the climbing bar on my snowshoes (where your heel is raised up so, even though you are going uphill, the snowshoe stays flat on the ground).

I made it to the waterfall where I took some photos and had a little snack before continuing around the loop. This time I stayed on the snowshoe trail back to where I should have picked it up near the picnic area. I figured out why I couldn't find it, but I won't go into that. It was no big deal. It just meant I didn't go the same way twice!

Back at the picnic area, I continued on around the lake. I thought this was going to be easy (the other side of the lake was easy), but it was really the hardest part. It could have had something to do with fatigue on my part, but it was really quite twisty-turny and up and down. I employed my climbing bar a couple more times. It was also through the trees and, at times, the trail was very narrow. I remained conscious of not stepping on the snowshoe with the other foot and therefore face-planting into the snow. There were a couple of close calls.

I returned to the yurt after circumnavigating the lake. Even though I still had plenty of time before meeting up with the gals, I had done 3+ miles and was ready to call it good. I returned to the truck and put my snowshoes and poles in the back. Then I went over to the lodge to check out the offerings (the hot chocolate was pretty good) and wait for my pals.

They came in about 4:15 and we all went back to the truck. We all agreed it was a great day. I, for one, have to admit I was happy to have a day off from the bike. Getting to spend it with the GGGs made it the best! Below are some photos from my walking in a winter wonderland (yes, that song was playing on an endless loop in my head).

Tomorrow I'll be back on the bike to put this Festive 500 Challenge to bed!

Total miles today--0
Total kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--the same as yesterday

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 5--In Two Parts

I really wanted to take it easy today because I am going snowshoeing, for the first time, tomorrow. I don't imagine there is too steep of a learning curve, but it might be good to not have too sore of legs to start with. Besides, I rode a lot yesterday.

I did what I'm now going to call "The Hat" route. On the map, the route looks just like a hat (picture a pointy hat with a dangly ball on top--almost like a Santa hat). It is the Chehalis Western Trail to the Yelm/Tenino Trail, Y/T to Tenino, Hwy 99 back to Rich Rd, 89th back to the CW trail and back home. It is 31.3 miles roundtrip. Since I really wanted to take the whole ride easy, I wore my new heart rate monitor and tried to keep my heart rate around or below 120. That seemed to equate to 14-15 mph (on the flat). I didn't quite keep within the 120 range when I was going uphill out of Tenino, but I didn't want to take forever to get up the hill either. I can't say as I was all that tired when I got home, but that was the plan, anyway. There were a couple of times where I wanted to go all out just to see how high my heart rate would get, but I forced myself to save that for another day (oh, and I'm sure there will be MANY other days!).

So, I got home just before noon. I took a shower and got dressed in my "commuting" bike clothes for Part 2 of today's ride. I was headed to play Mah Jongg (ancient Chinese tile game played with actual tiles--not on the computer) with my friends, Debra, Elaine, and Mary Beth. First, however, I had some errands to do. The first, and most important stop, was for some lunch (at Subway of course!). After lunch I rode into town (Lacey) to the credit union to cash a Christmas check (thanks Dad!) and then to Super Supplements to get more pro-biotics. From there I rode over to Elaine's. We played an hour and a half or so of Mah Jongg, then I rode home (with a quick stop at Safeway to get some food for tomorrow). Total miles for Part 2 was 15.8.

And for the first day since I started this challenge, there was no rain!!!

Total miles for Day 5--47.1 (75.8km)
Total Kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--58 (36.1 miles)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 4--Some Sun, Some Rain, and Some Wind

What else is new?

I thought I might make it through Day 4 of the Festive 500 without getting rained on (it would have been a first). But, more on that later. Today's direction was north-ish, but I started out going west--just to the trail though. I took Chehalis Western to the Woodland Trail and rode it to the end at Woodland Park. I got on Pacific, but turned off at Steilacoom Rd to go down to the Nisqually Valley that way instead of on Pacific. I knew I would come back up Pacific, so I wanted to go a different way down. I, generally, try to avoid out and back as much as possible. Consequently, maps of some of my rides look like dumbbells. When the only way to Tacoma involves a short stretch on the freeway, it is difficult to make it a loop (although, if I wanted more miles, there is a way to do that--it does involve more freeway riding).

So I rode the usual way to Northwest Landing/Dupont and down to Steilacoom on the water. I stopped for a potty break at the little park near the Anderson Island ferry dock, then continued along the water to Chambers Creek canyon. The wind was pushing me along and there were occasional sun breaks (I was foolishly hoping the wind would turn around for the ride back). It was quite pleasant. I came up the canyon and turned left. I rode along Grandview to 27th, and 27th up to Bridgeport/Jackson. As I was riding toward the Narrows Bridge, a car started honking at me from a ways away. Jackson is a four lane road. There is no shoulder, so I take the right lane enough that cars need to change lanes to pass me (none of this try to squeak by me business!). Anyway, I signaled for the car to change lanes and held my position. The old guy in the old car continued to honk at me as he drove around me and proceeded to give me the finger as he continued down the road. I just shook my head and kept going. What an ASS!

I had planned to ride across the Narrows, but it was too windy to be fun, so, instead, I turned onto the path up War Memorial Park. I rode up to the next street and turned left (this is the bike route to 6th St.). Instead of turning right to go to 6th, I went straight across the pedestrian bridge over Hwy 16. I wanted to do the suggested bike route to avoid the overpass, exit, and on-ramp to 16. It goes over the pedestrian bridge, then back down to Jackson on the other side of the overpass. From there, there is a bike lane again (I think it is ridiculous that there is no bike lane on Jackson from 27th to the other side of the overpass--poor planning if you ask me).

I thought of riding all the way to Point Defiance, but that would have been more miles than I wanted. So, I just rode Jackson (turns into 26th N) to 6th and started heading home from there. I rode back to 19th on 6th. As I was getting close to Jackson again, I started looking for a possible side street that would parallel it. I turned on 70th which took me back over to 27th. At Bridgeport and 27th I turned into the bike lane and rode to Cirque Dr. I was thinking of staying on Bridgeport and doing Gravelly Lake, but there was more traffic than I felt like dealing with (I was still pissed at the old geezer who honked at me). I rode Cirque Dr. back over to Grandview, then back the way I had come along the water. I, again, stopped at the park by the ferry for a snack and potty break.

The rest of the ride was just the way I had come, except this time it was raining. Fortunately, the part on the freeway is only 3/4 of a mile. It rained pretty heavy until I came down to the bottom of Old Nisqually in the valley. Then it tapered off to just a little rain. When I got back to Pacific, the sun even came out for a short while! It warmed up my legs that were cold from the rain and wind. Yes, the wind had NOT turned for me, so most of the ride home was in a headwind with occasional crosswinds.

I was thinking of a 50-60 mile ride, but by the time I got home I had gone 68.6 miles. I guess that's just less I have to do to finish this challenge!

Total miles for Day 4--68.6 (110.4km)
Total kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--133 (82.6 miles)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 3--Hey! I Found the Snow!

For Day 3 of the Festive 500 Strava Challenge I decided to head West. I looked at the weather and it seemed to be pretty decent in that direction. I planned to take it a little easy today insofar as I wasn't going to go all out pounding the pedals. Counting the 69 mile ride on the 22nd (that, unfortunately, didn't count for the Challenge), I have ridden 172 miles in the last 4 days (really just 3 riding days--I didn't ride on the 23rd).

Once I got past Cooper Point Rd on the Westside, I started seeing bits of leftover snow from yesterday. It was about 45 degrees, so I wasn't really worried about it being icy, but I went down Mud Bay Road a little slower than usual because there was still some snow on the shoulder and, well, I felt like being just a little cautious.

I headed out toward Steamboat Island Rd on Madrona Beach Rd. I even stopped at the Subway at Steamboat Island to use the restroom (apparently, if I'm not pounding the pedals, some of the fluid I excrete actually ends up in my bladder and is not just sweated out--go figure!). From Subway, I got on Hwy 101 heading toward Shelton. I was noticing more and more snow! Still, the temps were in the 40s. Although I didn't try plowing through any big clumps, the little bits I did go through we're pretty slushy.

I had chosen a route that I have not done except once before, a long time ago. I got off 101 at Old Olympic Hwy to the right. At first I thought I might have to stay on 101 because Old Olympic is not a major road. Turns out it had been plowed too, and was fine. There was a good amount of snow on the side of the road, but the road itself was clear. There is no shoulder anyway, so I was mostly riding out in the fairly deserted lane. Below is a photo of Old Olympic not too far off 101. It's funny, because the other time I went this way, I remember going up a really steep hill just past Hurley Waldrip (the part on the water side of 101). Today I went up a rather long hill, but it didn't seem nearly as steep as my memory of it!

As I was going up the hill, I noticed it was getting really foggy. I almost stopped to take another photo as it was quite pretty. As I came around the corner, I could see it wasn't fog in the air but, smoke. There were several emergency response vehicles taking up the other lane. At first I thought it was some major house fire but, I think it was a controlled burn exercise. For one thing, the "house" was just a small mobile home. And, for another thing, they had a table set up across the street with coffee and snacks. Unless this is some new thing where, when you report a fire they don't just come put the fire out, but they also serve coffee...I think it was planned. As I rode by the coffee table, I said to the fire fighter, "And here I thought it was getting foggy!".

I continued on Old Olympic to Bloomfield Rd. There I turned and followed Bloomfield around Totten Inlet. This is quite the up and down road and also rough chipseal. This might be a good time to mention a little risk I was taking today. Last night when I was cleaning and preparing my bike for today's ride, I noticed that the rear tire was delaminating from the sidewall. This is the third Specialized Armadillo tire that has done that. I returned both the others and will do the same with this one. I've only been running this tire since mid-October. I've had good luck with the Armadillos on Stella, but not so on Star. The risk, of course, is that the tire could blow out completely and then, well...I'd be screwed. Not much one can do if that were to happen. So, you are possibly wondering why, when I knew about it, did I ride anyway? Chalk it up to two things--one, I needed to get miles in for the challenge, and two, it was a calculated risk. The last two tires that this has happened to were much further along in the delaminating process, yet those tires didn't blow. I just kept checking the tire for increased delaminating. Yes, it was a little annoying when I was riding on smooth pavement and could feel the whomp, whomp, whomp of the slight bulge in the tire, but it was holding up well.

Bloomfield comes into Kamilche Point Rd. I remembered this, but when I actually got there, it seemed that I should turn right. As I began to turn, I noticed a "No Outlet" sign. Hmmmm...I guess I should go left. So I went left. As I rode along, I could see water to my right. Later, when I looked at a map, I saw that was just another finger of Totten Inlet. I was going the correct way.

I eventually came back to Old Olympic Hwy. This time I did turn right. I went under 101 where Old Olympic then becomes Hwy 108. I took 108 to Hurley Waldrip, and rode Hurley Waldrip back to 101. From 101 was another little bypass on Old Olympic again, then back to 101 to the Steamboat Island exit. This time I stopped at Subway, not only to use the restroom again, but to also eat some lunch (I thought it might look kind of bad to stop twice in one day at the same Subway just to use the restroom).

From there I came back down Madrona Beach to Mud Bay. Instead of going to Tumwater Hill, I came through town. I thought about stopping at the bike shop to exchange the tire, but I was wet (big was raining!) and more interested in getting home.

Total Miles for Day 3--55 (88.5 km)
Total Kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--244 (151.6 miles)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 2 and a Merry Christmas to You!

Christmas Day and the rain is coming down. It's about 37 degrees and I've got a plan to log 30 miles before my third son arrives on the train from Eugene.

As I look out from the garage, I notice there is ice on the windshield of the car. I check the driveway and find it is not icy. Good news! I hop on my bike a little before 9:00 (the boy's train arrives at 11:00) and head out for a two hour slog in the rain.

I get on the trail at the bridge over Yelm Hwy. All is quiet on this Christmas morning. As I head north on the trail, I pass a few people out for walks with their dogs. I wish them a Merry Christmas as I pedal by.

I reach the end of the trail at Woodard Bay. I leave the trailhead parking lot and continue north on the road. At Libby I turn right. As I continue north, I toy with doing Fishtrap Loop, but opt to turn at 81st. It is still in the upper 30s and raining steadily. Turning on 81st means I have to go up the steep hill to Zangle, but I figure that will serve to warm me up. Not that I'm that cold, but I can feel the cold water seeping into my shoes. My New Zealand possum/marino socks were still wet from yesterday, so I have other, seemingly less warmth locking, socks on. Just have to pedal faster...

I ride the ups and downs of Boston Harbor Rd back into town past Priest Point Park. Due to the lack of traffic, I easily navigate the intersections of State and 4th and turn up 4th to Eastside. From there I head over to the Woodland Trailhead. From the trailhead I know how many miles it is to home. I calculate I'm going to be just shy of 30 miles. When I get to the bridge over Yelm Hwy, I continue on to the 67th/Horizons trailhead and ride through Horizon Point and back to the house. I think of riding over to the train station to meet the boy's train, but I am now rather cold and, instead, head straight for home and a hot shower. As I walk in the house, it turns out his train was early and he is already home.

Day 2 of the Festive 500 is complete.

Total miles for Day 2--30.8 (49.6km)
Total Kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--206.5 (128.3 miles)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 1 of the Festive 500 Challenge...Avoiding Roads That Lead to the Mall

Yes, it is December 24th and the first day of the Festive 500 Strava Challenge! My plan for this first day was to pound out as many miles as possible. You know, knock off a good chunk of those 500 km. I also wanted to avoid the crazy last minute Christmas shoppers heading to the nearest mall. Initially, my plan was simple. Ride the road to Yelm (going the opposite direction as the mall goers), get on the Yelm/Tenino Trail, ride to Tenino, go on Hwy 99 (a potential get-thee-to-the-mall road) to 183rd, 183rd to Sargeant Rd, Sargeant to Littlerock, Littlerock to Maytown, Maytown to Tilley, and so on, to home. I thought that would be around 75 miles. I knew this route because I had done it several years ago. Then I remembered that I had not done that route exactly. Instead of getting on the trail in Yelm, I had ridden to Bald Hills, then Vail Rd, and Vail Cut-Off back to the trail near Rainier. Okay, I thought, I'll extend it to include that section.

I did, indeed, ride out to Yelm on the road and on to Bald Hills Rd. But, at Vail Rd. I continued on out toward Smith Prairie (there is only the prairie and cows out malls...besides, cows don't go shopping on Christmas Eve--they get their shopping done long before or they make all their Christmas gifts--usually milk and cheese). There were some headwinds and crosswinds, but not as bad as the last time Debbie and I went that way. More importantly, there were very few cars (my plan was working!).

I worked my way around Lawrence Lake and returned to Vail Rd. on 153rd. There seemed to be large amounts of traffic on Vail, so instead of going on Vail, I crossed it and stayed on 153rd. I hadn't been on this part of 153rd, but I had a pretty good idea where it would lead to (not a mall). Sure enough, it turned into Mattinson Rd. which came to 148th. I followed 148th back into Rainier. There I got on the Yelm/Tenino Trail as planned.

It was raining again (had been off and on for most of the ride--if it wasn't outright raining, it was misty). As I rode down the trail, I thought to myself, when I get to Tenino, I'm not going to want to continue on Hwy 99 to 183rd. There would likely be wind, rain, and lots of traffic. I don't normally mind traffic. There is a good shoulder on 99 and there would be very little debris as there aren't many trees on that section.'s Christmas Eve and that makes it all different...right? Anyway, as I came to where Johnson Creek Rd heads off from Hwy 507 (across the hwy from the trail), I decided I would do Johnson Creek/Skookumchuck/Crowder roads back to Tenino. Then I could head home from there up 99 to Rich Rd and back on the Chehalis Western Trail.

When I got to Tenino, I, once again, changed my plan. Not only did I decide to just completely avoid 99, but I also realized it wouldn't be quite as many miles as I had hoped for. Instead I got back on the Yelm/Tenino Trail and rode back to the trail junction with Chehalis Western and turned onto Chehalis Western. Then I just rode the last 12 miles home.

If you were to see the Strava map of the ride it kind of looks like a preschooler's attempt at the number 8--a little messy, but definitely a figure 8.

Total miles for Day 1--73.4 (118.13 km)
Total Kilometers remaining of the Festive 500--381.87 (237.28 miles)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A New PBS Special...

"Intrepid Cyclists Fight Wind Across the Not-So-Frozen Tundra"

Okay, not really the Tundra either--definitely a prairie though. A very windy prairie!

Since this was a Saturday Team ride, we started at Tumwater Falls Park. One of the guys called the route (supposed to be a 75 miler), and we took off riding in the direction I had just come from. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 riders. The good thing about riding toward my house is that I know I won't have to do extra miles to get home. I can just peel off when we get close to my house.

We didn't go right by my street, but turned on Rich Rd. We took the back way off of Rich, then back to Rich, and over to Fir Tree Rd. We rode Fir Tree to Rainier Rd. Once we were on Rainier Rd, we were dodging branches and pine boughs galore. There happened to be a very large branch taking up most of the shoulder. I saw it in time to swerve around it as did most of the others. Unfortunately, one of the other gals didn't see it in time. She tried to bunny hop over it (it would have required a full-sized RABBIT JUMP), but wasn't successful. She went down. She said she was okay, but her front wheel was messed up (sound familiar?). Her and her husband turned back.

The rest of us continued on to Spurgeon Creek Rd which brought us back to Yelm Hwy. We continued out Yelm Hwy. At Meridian, a number of riders turned to do a shorter route out Evergreen Valley. There were 10 of us left (3 of us original 6 women). At Hwy 510 we went right and rode single file to a road a short way past Red Wind Casino (and off the Reservation). We turned right, regrouped, then crossed the hwy and headed down a road that goes onto the JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord--Army and Air Force Posts). This was a pretty decent road with very little traffic.

We continued on this road (do not know the name of it--maybe at some point it is Range Rd?) down to a bridge over the river. There was a closed gate on the other side of the bridge. We had to shimmy through a narrow opening on the side of the gate. Then it was up the hill (I once read something that said you can look at a map and tell where the hills are based on the blue lines--rivers. You always have to go down to the river, then back up the other side.).

Once we were back up, away from the river, and out on the prairie going past the gun ranges of the Army Post, the wind really picked up. A guy I met today named Tim was great at protecting me from the wind. He would signal me to tuck in tight behind him (which I gratefully did). At several points we had a nasty crosswind. Tim would signal me to move to whichever side took me out of the wind. Due to his frequent protection, I was able to stay with the group--even when we were over 50 miles into the ride. He is one totally awesome dude! He also made sure everyone else was keeping up too. If a couple of people, or even several, fell back, he would drift back and pull them back to the group.

We made to the turnaround at the Scouts Out Gate (this is a much more substantial gate--not sure we could go around this one even if we wanted to--there was a sign about it being an ID Checkpoint). From there it was just back the way we had come. I heard someone say it had been 17 miles since we turned off Hwy 510.

Not too long into the ride back, Jean got a flat. Ron took over and changed it for her (I've heard this is fairly common of the guys--they probably think we women can't change a flat fast enough. Truth is, and I'll admit it, they are probably right. The fastest I have ever changed a flat is 15 minutes and that was in my garage.).

We continued on and a few more miles down the road, Jean got another flat. Ron did the honors again and, at least for the rest of the time I was with Jean, she didn't get another flat.

We shimmied around the gate at the bridge again and climbed the much steeper hill up the other side. Prior to that, I was falling back a little. DJ asked if I was okay. I said I was "good enough". I knew my way home, so I was fine. He said no one was going to be dropped anyway. I hooked on to his wheel and he pulled me back to the group. This is typical of most of the guys on the team. They are very kind and helpful. There are a few who are not so nice, but I don't keep their names in my head.

Back at 510, some of the group (Jean and my new friend, Tim, included) were going to throw in another leg down Reservation Rd to the Nisqually Valley. A few of us opted to just head straight back at Yelm Hwy. I made the turn from 510 to Yelm Hwy. No one was with me for about half of the ride back until Dave and Bob (?) caught up to me. Dave told me to hook on his wheel, so I did. The wind was pretty nasty. Dave made sure I stayed with him. The only problem was that his buddy flap is not so buddy-friendly. I finally fell back a little just so I wouldn't be hit with so much dirt and water. I was close to home anyway, so it was okay.

Other than the wind, the weather was quite nice for most of the ride. We even had some nice stretches of sunshine! It only started to spit some rain with about 15 or so miles to go (for me).

Total miles: 69
Average Speed: 17.2mph

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Chickened Out

I figured I would be the only woman on the night ride tonight. I knew Jean wasn't going to be there. Jean and I are the only regular night riding women. What I didn't remember is that the Tuesday night ride usually goes north. North has more hills than south--a lot more hills (okay, that's not too hard as going south really has no hills). I can't keep up with the guys when it comes to hills (I can't keep up with Jean either, but at least I can stay closer).

When Brad arrived at the start and said we would go north, I told them I would probably just ride to the end of the trail, then ride back. They said they would wait for me if I wanted to continue with them, but I don't like making them wait--especially when it's cold and rainy. If they are not going at a pretty decent clip, they get cold (I, on the other hand, have NO problem staying warm).

I stayed up with them to the end of the trail (not too hard as there was a bit of a tailwind and it's slightly downhill). From there I told them I would head back (such a chicken am I). I had no problem heading back on the trail by myself, but Chris said he would come back with me. I told him I didn't need him to do that, but he said he was supposed to do a recovery ride (flats) anyway. Turns out he was hoping we would go south too. Chris is a nice guy and I enjoyed his company on the ride back. We rode back as far as the bridge over Yelm Hwy. Chris went right to head back to the trailhead and his car. I actually continued on the trail and got off at Horizons. I rode through Horizon Point to Yelm Hwy. I was still a few miles shy of 30 miles and I wanted at least a 30 mile ride. I turned left onto Yelm Hwy, rode around to Ruddell. I continued on Ruddell to 54th where I turned and rode back through the neighborhoods and came out of the Lakepoint neighborhood back to Yelm Hwy. This time I continued across the Hwy back into Horizon Point and home from there clicking over 30 miles as I pulled into the driveway.

I feel bad for chickening out and not doing the whole thing, but it was still a good ride.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Accept the Challenge!

The Rapha 500 Strava Challenge, that is.

On today's ride, fellow teammate (and who I found out about Strava in the first place), Jean, told me there was a new Strava challenge. For those who don't know, Strava is a website that allows you to track your rides (or runs), creating a map, and telling you the distance, time, and elevation gained. It also tells you how you measure up to other Strava users on certain segments of many routes. It will also tell you if you better your own time on a segment from a previous ride. It's a handy website. The way I track my rides is via the iPhone app. You can also use a GPS device such as a Garmin, then download the info to the website.

Periodically, someone, or a company will put up a challenge. Make no mistake, these challenges are not easy (if they were easy, I don't suppose they could call them challenges). Jean completed a difficult challenge of riding 60 hours between the middle of October to the 10th of November. There was another that challenged participants to run 50 km over a specific weekend in early December (I couldn't run 50 km over the course of a whole month--let alone a weekend--but, then again, I'm not the running sort. Running just reminds me how much I like biking.).

Anyway, the Rapha 500 Challenge is to ride 500 km in a time period from Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve. That's a fraction over 310 7 the middle of the Pacific Northwest (Too bad Dillon is coming home for Christmas--I could go visit him for that week and do all those miles in the glorious, warm sunshine of Austin, Texas!). Oh, and one of those days is, of course, Christmas. If you have done the math, you will know that means I have to average 44.5 miles per day.

What is the great reward for accomplishing this epic feat? A most awesome...woven patch. Oh, there are some prizes for people who, on the Rapha website, tell the best story about their challenge experience, but most will get...a patch. Well, a patch AND the supreme knowledge that I rose to the challenge and was successful! Yeah, I suppose that is the greater reward (but that patch could be pretty cool...).

So, I have joined this challenge (and so have another 7000+ people so far). Now I hope for temps above freezing along with no snow or ice for those 7 days. It's gonna be epic!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Same Distance, But a Whole Different Set of Miles

Shortly after I arrived at the start for tonight's Night Ride, Brad, our fearless leader, said, "You wanna do something different?" Instead of going north or south, we would go west. We would head through downtown, over to the Westside, go along West Bay Drive and...whoa!...wait a minute! West Bay Drive means that big-ass hill! Aiiyiyi! Brad seemed to think we would be concerned with the fact that we would have to ride through downtown traffic. I have to say, that was the least of my concerns. Oh well, nothing to do but gear down and pedal! Actually, Jean and I agreed, the steep part of the hill is not so bad. It's that the hill continues on and on.

We didn't do French Loop which was just fine with me. As much as I like that road in the daytime-- in the dark?...not so much. Instead we came out on Division, then rode to Cooper Point. From there, the next part is a bit of a mystery to me. We turned off Cooper Point toward Evergreen, but I don't know what road it was. All I know, is we ended up going through to the other side of Evergreen. The part behind Evergreen was the reverse of a route that Jean, Jo, and I had done several weeks ago. I had a pretty good idea where we were by least some of the time.

We came out on Delphi. At Mud Bay, we continued on Delphi down the hill. As usual, I can keep up on the flat or downhill. On the uphill, it's a different story. I really need to work on that! Delphi has a couple of good hills on the way to 62nd. Brad, Ron, and Jean were kind enough to slow down and let me catch up. Once we got to 62nd, I was able to keep up for the rest of the ride (that would be because there weren't anymore big hills--except Henderson). At Henderson and Yelm Hwy, I turned and headed for home while they continued down Henderson and back to the start.

I got back home at the same time I usually do (8:00). The distance was a tiny bit shorter at 34 miles, and the terrain was vastly different, but it was still a great ride.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Birthday Night Ride in the Rain

The night ride was new for me tonight. We went North on the trail and then the road back. The weather report was for just 20% chance of rain so I went with my purple jacket (not waterproof) and my red vest (also not waterproof). I also did not take my helmet cover. Yeah, that was a mistake. It started raining shortly after I left my house, but I thought, "It's okay, it's not raining very hard".

Six of us met at the trailhead. We headed back up to the trail. We cut over to the I-5 trail, then crossed Pacific at the light. We got back to the Chehalis Western Trail and went over I-5 and Martin Way on the bridges. The rain was, well, starting to come down quite a bit heavier and...the wind was blowing. Nice!

At the end of the trail at Woodard Bay, we decided to do the medium length route back--due to the wonderful weather. So we went down Woodard Bay to Libby and on out to 81st. There is a steep hill up 81st to Zangle. It's kind of funny, but the hill didn't seem as steep in the dark as it does in the daylight. Which is not to say I wasn't wheezing like a donkey at the top of the hill. I just wasn't completely dropped by the others.

We got to Boston Harbor Rd. and rode that back to Gull Harbor, then 26th. At South Bay, Jean and I went left and headed back to the trail. The guys went right and headed back to the start.

Jean and I rode to the bridge over Martin Way. There, Jean turned back and headed for her home and I continued on the trail. At this point the rain had tapered off...for awhile. By the time I got home, I'd been riding in the rain again for the last 15 minutes or so. I was well-soaked to the bone, but not cold, so that's good.

The one piece of waterproof clothing I had on was my neon yellow gloves. Waterproof gloves are not so waterproof when the water is just running in through the top. They do, however, keep the water in the gloves quite well! Both my hands and feet were squishy with water, and far more wrinkled than 51 year old hands and feet should be!

Total miles were just 31. With the 11 miles I did earlier today, I didn't quite get to 51 miles, but it was still a good day of riding!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wind and Doing Our Part for Trail Maintenance

Okay, maybe not trail "maintenance", but definitely trail clean-up. I'll get to that in a moment.

Today's weather forecast? 80% chance of rain, 48 degrees. A pretty good chance of getting wet, but not necessarily cold (if properly dressed). As I left my house to meet up with Debbie at Twisties (her and her husband own the frozen yogurt shop--pretty tasty stuff), it was indeed raining. Got to the shop just before 9:30. As Debbie pulled up, the rain was tapering off. The wind, however, was a bit on the gusty side.

We headed out Yelm Hwy toward Yelm. Oh yeah, the wind was definitely blowing; side gusts mostly. Once we got onto Hwy 510, I expected to get a tailwind. Well, no such luck. It was still with the side gusts and occasionally a blast head-on. But, it was no longer raining (had stopped not long after we started). We stopped at one point so I could remove my rain jacket (love that jacket, but I do get quite warm--could have something to do with all the layers I have on underneath--long sleeve lightweight wool shirt, short sleeve team jersey, AND Endura jersey/jacket--but, hey, it is December!). The temp was actually between 52 and 57 degrees throughout the ride. Due to the wind, it didn't seem quite that warm.

Once we were on Bald Hills Rd the wind really became a factor. There are not that many trees out on the prairie to block the wind. There were places where Debbie and I thought we were going to get blown sideways off the road. Fortunately, if that would have happened we would have just landed in soft, squishy, wet grass. We managed to stay upright.

Once again, I thought when we made the turn onto Lawrence Lk Rd the wind would be pushing us along. True, there were microscopically brief moments when that did happen, but, overall, still not in our favor. After doing the section of 153rd that took us to Vail Rd, we made a stop at the Minimart so I could refill my water bottle. I don't usually go through that much water (I know I should drink more, I just don't...usually), but the wind seemed to suck the moisture out of me.

After the stop, we continued onto Vail Rd., completely changing direction. Still no tailwind...aaarrrrgggg! Vail became Vail Cut-Off which we rode to Hwy 507. Finally, on 507 we would have a tailwind! But...that would involve backtracking into Rainier to pick up the trail which we would then just head...straight back into the wind! Instead, we sacrificed the tailwind in favor of pushing the bikes up the rocky trail across 507 to the paved Yelm/Tenino Trail.

From there it was the trail back to Lacey. Now for the trail clean-up part. As we came up to the train tracks next to Waldrick, we noticed a bunch of big rocks covering the trail (looks like a car had not quite made the turn near the tracks). First we rode through, but then we went back because this is the usual route the night ride takes. Headed south, the riders would not see the rocks until they were right on top of them. Some of these rocks were big enough to cause a cyclist to crash (God knows we don't need that happening!). We cleared as much of the rocks as we could. What was left would require a broom (and, therefore, not as dangerous).

It started raining just as we got back to Yelm Hwy. Once we returned to Twisties and Debbie's car, we decided we deserved some frozen yogurt...and hot chocolate! Even though our average speed was just 15mph, it felt like most of the 52 miles we rode was uphill (it's not really), thanks to the wind. But, we managed to do the majority with no rain. That's something anyway!