Sunday, January 26, 2014

Practically in my Backyard!

For today's dirt ride, I only had to ride a mile to get to the start! We met at Horizons Elementary. There were just four of us today--Brian, Derik, Michelle, and I. There was some speculation that last week's ride was a little too epic for some--perhaps a bit too much of an adventure. My thought is, it is all about the adventure. If I want same ol' same ol', I'll stick to the roads! But, I digress...

Brian and Derik were on their purposely-built-for-this-kind-of-riding bikes. I was on Stella, and Michelle opted for her single-speed cross bike (she heard some crazy talk about the route being flat). Speaking of bike choice, this is our third ride. Michelle has ridden a different bike for each ride. Here's a short interview of sorts I did with Michelle while out riding today (well, waiting for Derik to sort out something with his bike).

This just shows that, within reason (meaning, maybe not a race bike), any bike can be a dirt ride bike! Even Stella has been doing quite well! 

We spent the first few miles on the road--Yelm Hwy to Spurgeon Creek, then into a gated community (gate was open). In the neighborhood, there was a closed fence gate that we went around onto a moss covered, but still paved, road. That took us to another fence gate that we went around. My guess is this "access" road allows for an alternate entrance/exit from the neighborhood in the event of an emergency. 

We came out to Evergreen Valley Rd., which I have ridden many times. As we were riding, I looked at Derik's rear tire and thought to myself, wow, he is running a pretty low pressure. About that time, he looked at his tire and realized he had a flat. Okay, so he didn't mean to have that low of a tire pressure. We pulled off, coincidentally, at a driveway that has a sign on the fence with a picture of a big dog that says, "My dog can make it to the fence in 2 seconds. Can you?" Fortunately, although the gate was open to the driveway, there was no dog in sight. 

Michelle and I rode ahead while the guys changed the flat. At the stop sign, instead of going left onto Johnson (which goes back out to Yelm Hwy), we went right, down the "Dead End" road. We got to the gate at the end of the road and circled back to the guys. As they were on their way, we turned around again. 

The sign at the gate said "JBLM--No trespassing". We lifted our bikes over the gate, and heaved ourselves over as well. It's Sunday, I doubt the Army guys would be out on maneuvers. The guys also decided that if we were "caught", they would let us gals talk us out of it. Hmmm...

We did a bit of climbing. The only thing that made it challenging was the looseness of the rocks and dirt. Well, that and the fact that I have zero clearance through my fork for the bigger tire. The noise of the bits of sandy gravel spewing out through the fork was somewhat annoying. I told the others that maybe the gravel would "file" the inside of the fork enough to create more clearance. Derik was skeptical of that possibility. 

We reached the top where we had a nearly 360 degree view of the forest below. It wasn't as high as Minot Peak from last week's ride, but it was still in the sunshine and pretty awesome. Since we were at the top (for now) that meant we got to go down. I was tentative at first, but then I just held on and let Stella fly (okay, maybe fly is not the best term--bump along crazy-like would be a more realistic visual here). I'm still not descending as fast as the others, but I chalk that up to less experience, and a greater  desire to not crash.

After some more ups and downs, we popped out at Hwy 510. But, no need to go out onto the road. We stayed parallel to 510 until we came to a "T". Left went out to the road, so of course, we went right. Our fearless leader, Brian, didn't exactly know where right would take us, but hey, that's what makes it an adventure! Except for a couple of steep get-off-and-walk hills (for Michelle and I), the road was fine and just brought us around behind the Casino (although we couldn't see it), and back to JBLM property (or maybe we never left).

We went through a mud puddle section and came out to the gravel road I did last year. However, they have widened, and regravelled it. It was kind of loose, but Stella handled it well. Since I knew where we were, I knew there was a steep downhill and uphill coming. Funny thing--last year I picked my way down at a snail's pace, afraid if I let go of the brakes I would be dead for sure! This time I went about 100 times faster, and kept wondering if it was the same hill (but, I'm sure it was!). 

This time, we didn't follow the same road out to Rainier Rd that I had taken, but instead, turned onto a somewhat muddier and bumpier road (FYI--coarse crushed concrete does NOT make for a smooth road surface). Here's a video of part of that road. You'll see we even went through a rather large puddle! 

At last we were, sadly, forced out to Rainier Rd. near the other end of Spurgeon Creek Rd for the rest of the ride back to Horizons. Michelle was ready to be done. Remember, she was on a single-speed. I was repeatedly amazed at her ability to get up some of the hills just purely muscling it out. As for me, it was super granny gear for sure! 

Once again, it was a great ride! And, the coolest thing of all is that it was practically in my backyard! How lucky is that??? In all, it was 37.5 miles, and 1,541 feet of elevation gain in 3 1/4 hours. Awesome!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Can Something So Hard Be So Much Fun?

...Or, "Stella's Hike-a-Bike Adventure"

Today was the epic Minot Dirt Ride. The whole ride was far more epic than I was ready for. Fortunately, Brian also did not want to do the whole distance (not because he wasn't capable, but because his training plan did not call for a 6+ hour ride, but more like a 2 1/2 to 3 hour ride in Zone 2/3). He told me that I could do the shorter distance with him (although, his Zone 2/3 is more like my Zone...geez, I don't even know...27???). I did get new tires (Kenda Happy Medium), and I was excited to try them out, so I agreed. I also found out Michelle was coming too. Yay!

Brian picked Stella and I up close to 8:00. This ride was starting in the tiny little burg of Porter (it used to have a grocery store, but now it appears to have only a tavern). Porter is on US 12 between Oakville and Malone, along the Chehalis River. It was probably an old logging town back in the days of such places, as it sits, sort of, between Capitol Forest and Chehalis Forest. Today's ride would take place in Chehalis Forest.

As we were getting ready, more and more people showed up. Once everyone was set (about 20 of us), DJ, the one who had mapped the route, gathered everyone for a pre-ride meeting. We determined who was doing what route, the long or the short. Most would be doing the long route, but about 5 or 6 of us would do the short route. Once again, we were on all kinds of bikes. Today we really covered the spectrum of bikes as we had one gal on a fat bike (meaning it has really fat tires--like 4"), and two on skinny tire road bikes. I envied the fat bike because I thought that would be fun. I did not envy those on the road bikes!

We headed off south out of Porter. We were on the road for the first few miles--South Bank Rd to Sund Rd, then to Raspberry Rd. From there, it was onto the dirt. We went around a gate, then headed into the forest. I was going along pretty good. There was a slight downhill, and then we began the first climb. It was pretty long. At one point, DJ passed me and said there was still quite a bit of climbing to go, so now would be a good time to shed a layer. I was warm, but not boiling hot, so I just unzipped my jacket some. It was slow going in super granny gear, but I managed to make it to the top without getting off to walk.

At the top, all of us short-route people (and a few of the long-route people) regrouped. Once everyone was sufficiently rested, we continued. Not far up the road we began the hike-a-bike section. I think it's a good thing I didn't know about this before the ride. I may have had second thoughts. It started out with these little gullies. At the first one, Trisha had just passed me. She got off her bike and pushed it through. I was glad to see her do that (she was on a mountain bike), because I didn't think I could ride it. I remounted Stella only to go a short way before having to dismount again for another barrier. I got back on and rode another short distance, and came upon...well...a very deep gully! I thought to myself, "Holy crap! How am I going to get to the other side of this?" Very carefully!!! I kept one hand on Stella's front brake to keep her from taking off like a runaway train, and slowly picked my way down the muddy, grassy bank. At the bottom was a small creek. I really did not want to get my feet wet! I pushed Stella through the water, and took a giant step over. Then, I had to heave-ho Stella up the other side--no easy feat!

We did some more of the gullies, then came to another of the deep gullies. I made it down and up, but there was a pile of debris that we still had to go around. Brian came back, after getting his bike through, and carried the front of Stella while I carried the back. On we went.

The next big gully was really the Granddaddy! As I came to the top, and was trying to figure out how I was going to negotiate this one, Brian came back and just picked up Stella himself and carried her through the whole thing! What a guy! I had enough trouble just walking myself through! I don't know how he did it, but I was very very greatful! Here is a link to a video. It begins as I'm just coming out of the second deep gully and goes through the last big one.

Not long after that last gully, DJ came back to tell us there would be no more hike-a-bike sections. Whew, that was good news! 

The next section was a fun downhill to another gate (unfortunately, I don't have anymore video as the first hour or so had filled up the SD card). We regrouped again after the gate. Of course the road continued up, but at least it was actually a dirt road! We came down again, but not a lot. I was really getting more confident with the new tires, and going much faster than last week. This was fun!

We came to a 4-way intersection. About the time we arrived there, Derik and Chip came flying down the hill in front of us. We had a brief discussion about which way we would go after climbing up to Minot Peak (what Derik and Chip had just come down). At this point, the remaining long-route people (DJ, Trisha, and Chris, as well as Derik and Chip) turned, and the 5 remaining short-route group continued up to the peak. 

I was going fine for awhile, but then the road became very steep. I finally had to get off and walk because my rear tire was starting to spin in the loose gravel. One would think it would be easier to walk. Not really. 

The fog was very thick near the top. As I got to where the radio/cell towers were, I couldn't see Michelle or Brian. I was beginning to doubt if I was in the right place, but then I heard Michelle's voice. And, just after that, I popped out into the sunshine! Apparently, the fog had just burned off. Brian said when he got to the top it was still foggy. It was beautiful being above the fog at the top! We could just see Mt. Rainier through the trees, and the Cascades off in the distance. Here's a photo of our group (and Stella) at the top.
That's Andrea, Jason, Michelle, and Brian

And, here's a selfie of me!

So, that steep uphill I had walked up, I now had to ride down. I was pulling on the brakes, down in the drops. I was going faster than last week, but it was still a little scary. After that steep part, the return back to where we were turning to go out to the paved road was a blast. I was going really fast (for me).  The tires were hugging the dirt perfectly. It was awesome!

The last section before the pavement was really bumpy. Front suspension would have been a plus. It felt like my brain was bouncing around in my head! It was a little crazy, but we all made it. I was amazed at Andrea as she went flying past me on this bumpy section. I don't know if she was trying to brake (but her hands were frozen), or if she meant to go that fast, but she didn't crash, so...amazing!

The rest of the way back was on pavement. Although we had only covered 24.8 miles, Strava says we climbed 2,947ft., and spent 3 hours and 5 minutes moving (about 4 hours total). It was really hard, but I loved it, and it was a great adventure! I can't wait until the next one!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A New Adventure for Stella

Last weekend one of the team guys posted a ride that was mostly on dirt and gravel roads. Believe it or not, I wanted to do it! But, I knew I would be too slow, and I also had a meeting in the evening. I ended up doing the Gran Fondo redo.

This week, they were doing another dirt/gravel ride. This one was shorter, and would be just Capitol Forest. Best of all, Michelle put out an email asking if any gals wanted to do it with her--doing an even shorter ride. That sounded like just the ticket for me to give this a shot! Two details had to be worked out for me to do this. One--I had to get a ride to the start (Mima Falls Trailhead). Secondly, it had to be okay to ride Stella. Brian agreed to pick me up (Michelle would bring me home), and Derik said Stella would be fine. 

I replaced Stella's trunk bag with a wedge pack under the seat, and put the mount on for my Garmin Edge Touring GPS. This would be a good opportunity to see how detailed the maps are, since I plan to use this when Connor and I do The Great Divide.

Brian picked up Stella and I a little after 9:00. To get Stella onto his roof rack, I had to remove the fender stays from the fork dropouts on the front. His rack is one where the front wheel is removed. With Stella loaded securely, and my bag of dry clothes stowed in the back seat, we headed for the hills!

The Mima Falls Trailhead is located off Bordeaux Rd. on Markham. Shortly after we arrived, everyone else rolled in too. We got our bikes ready to go. As I was reattaching the fender stays while holding the wheel with my knees, I thought, "Why am I holding Stella up with my knees? She has a kickstand!" Sheesh! 

Derik and Michelle arrived in their Campervan of Awesomeness. Michelle was also riding her touring bike! It's a beautiful Surly Disc Trucker--one would be hard pressed to find a sturdier rig. It was sporting  some 2" tires on its 26" wheels. It also weighed about 50 lbs. That makes for slow going on the uphills, but watch that baby fly on the downhills! Stella was happy to see another touring rig. Everyone else was on all manner of bikes--mountain, cross, and even a couple of single speeds. Here's a photo of the group of us.
Heather being the most fashionable with her pink pig helmet cover!

We rolled out from the trailhead shortly after 10:00. There were 10 of us, but we would quickly split into two groups of 5--the faster guys, and us three gals with the two single speed guys. We took Bordeaux up to the E-Line. There we hit the dirt road, and climbed steadily. It was raining, but not really windy--much better than yesterday's ride.

Stella, in super granny gear, negotiated the uphill just fine. Here's a link to a YouTube video I did of the first bit of the climb on the E-Line. At one point, I was ahead of Michelle and Heather, so I turned around and went a little ways back down. See if you can name that tune I am playing on Stella's front disc brake.

We came to a short downhill section. Stella did fine. Then we were back to climbing. The next bit of downhill was a little steeper and a little longer (actually, a lot longer). Usually, downhill is the sweet reward for climbing, right? Well, that may be true on the road, and it may also be true on a dirt road. However, on Stella, it was a little nerve-wracking. I really wanted to go as fast as the others, but I wasn't sure how Stella would do with her less-than-knobby tires. So, I braked. Because I was so toasty warm from all the climbing, my glasses totally fogged up. I finally stopped and took them off. I know it's pretty bad when I can see better without my glasses! 

I continued my cautious descent, really envious of those with heavier tread tires. I actually looked forward to the uphill parts. That was good, because there were a lot of uphill parts--nothing that Stella couldn't handle though. On the downhills when I would get behind, Heather always came back to make sure I was still coming. I thought that was mighty nice of her!

After a particularly steep climb, we took a brief food break. We looked at my Garmin (which did show all the forest roads), and determined we were not too far from the D-Line. Derik had told Michelle we would come out at the top of the first climb from US 12. Heather thought we would come out at the very top of the D-Line. 

The next descent was not only steep, but quite bumpy. In order to be able to continuously brake, I had to be in the drops. I really wanted to go faster, but when I tried it, I did not feel like I had control. Since a face-plant into the dirt was NOT on my agenda, I kept on pulling those brakes. 

Heather was, again, waiting for me. We met up with the rest, and soon popped out onto the the top of the first climb from US 12. Yep, Derik was right. That meant we still had a large amount of climbing to do to get to the top of the D-Line. But, it was paved, so no biggie. Michelle told the two single speed guys to go ahead, and not wait for us at the top. They would get too cold for the descent. She also told Heather not to wait either. Since Michelle was my ride home, I would stay with her. Besides, Stella and Michelle's Surly were pretty well matched.

The steep parts of the climb up to the top were much easier on Stella than either Tessa or Star. Even though Stella is by far the heavier gal, that mountain gearing makes for pretty easy climbing. Especially without any panniers! From the top, the remainder of the ride was downhill back to the trailhead (okay, with a bit of flatness on Bordeaux). 

Back at the vehicles, I was lucky to get to take advantage of Derik and Michelle's Campervan of Awesomeness to change out of my soaking wet clothing. I felt bad because we would not be waiting for the other 5 (doing a longer route), which included Derik. Yes, the Campervan of Awesomeness would be gone by the time Derik got back. He would not have a nice dry and warm place in which to get out of HIS soaking wet clothes. 

Bikes secured on the hitch rack (no need to remove anything on Stella), Michelle and I headed for home. All told, the ride was 26.7 miles, and nearly 3 hours. Even though I was nervous on the downhills, it was really fun. I think I'll get a set of knobbier tires ,because I definately want to do it again!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Power of Opposable Thumbs

Or the lack thereof if you don't have them!

The weather report said 100% chance of rain, but the temps wouldn't be that cold. I headed out to meet Debbie at the park with the team. When I got there, I told the guys not to worry about Debbie and I. 

The route was Johnson Creek clockwise. That meant we would head in the direction I had just come from. Debbie and I were quickly separated from the team, but that was fine. Vaughn even passed us with his broken derailleur (he was just going home).

We rode to Rich Rd, then to 89th. I think the team would have turned on Fir Tree and gone over to Rainier Rd, then to Steadman. I decided Debbie and I would do the Kerri Duke route which meant we would get on the trail from 89th.

The rain was coming down and the wind was blowing. My hands were already feeling the cold. I had mistakenly worn my regular gloves instead of my lobster gloves. In 45 degree weather, the regular gloves should have been fine. However, when you add wind and rain, they, apparently, are not so good. Debbie didn't have shoe covers on, so her feet were frozen (combined, we would have had one completely comfortable person--or, one completely miserable person--depending on how you look at it...).

Just before reaching the turn for Johnson Creek, I asked Debbie if she would prefer to stay on the trail instead. It was really raining, and the headwind was merciless. At least the trail would be shorter. She agreed, so we rode the trail (and Old Military Rd) into Tenino. By the time we were getting close to Tenino, my hands were frozen claws. Debbie's feet were frozen bricks. Debbie broached the possibility of having Chad come pick us up in Tenino. I have never once in my cycling life given up on a ride and called to be picked up. Never! However, I was ready to give up. We pulled over under cover at Subway so Debbie could call Chad. At the same time, though, we noticed it was suddenly remarkably brighter. When Chad didn't answer, we decided the weather was better enough to keep going. Plus, I figured we had to get to a tailwind at some point! 

We didn't want to go up 99, so we rode over to what becomes 143rd to Tilley. With the wind at our backs for the first part, it was not bad. The rain had even stopped (just briefly, anyway)! My hands thawed a little bit.

On Tilley we continued with the tailwind, but the rain returned. Soon, my hands were, again, useless claws. In order to shift, I had to use forearm strength. My fingers could nolonger push the shift levers on their own. 

When we got to McCorkle St., we opted to turn there so Debbie could just go home (she would retrieve her car at the park later). I left Debbie at her street and continued the rest of the way on my own.

When I got home, I was pretty well soaked. Even with the "waterproof" shoe covers, my feet were squishy with water. With my frozen, claw-like hands I was unable to unbuckle my helmet. My thumbs were there, but non-functional. I tried repeatedly, but finally gave up and had my husband unbuckle it for me. Getting the shoe cover Velcro undone was also a challenge. I managed to grab the edge between my fingers and heel of my hand and peel them off. Pulling the tights off? Also a challenge. I don't think I would do well on a polar expedition!

Of course, this could have been avoided if I had just worn my lobster gloves. Lesson learned! I will never again underestimate the power of opposable thumbs!

My total ride was still 47 miles. Not bad for so much rain and gale-force winds! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Finally Finding the Paved Road

Last February I did a couple of blog posts about the road through Fort Lewis from Hwy 510 to Rainier Rd. (well, I didn't make it to Rainier Rd. on the first attempt, but I did on the second). At the time, I was looking for a road that was paved, but I never found it. A couple of days ago, I was talking to Brian (a fellow teammate who also works at Joy Ride Bikes), and somehow got onto the topic of this, supposedly, paved road. Brian tells me there IS a paved road that goes through from 510 to Rainier Rd. This time I get more information.

Of course, now I am itching to do this road. So, even though it's raining, I decide to head out and give it a shot. I needed to do an hour and a half of a lower threshold ride anyway. Slowing to dodge potholes should keep the heart rate down. I figured it would only be around 25 miles or so.

I went out Yelm Hwy to 510 as I did before. Not far after the casino, I took the right turn across from the left that does the JBLM route. As I reached the place where I previously went right, sure enough, although the road straight was narrower, it was, indeed, paved. I was still paralleling 510 just as Brian said I would. Soon, I came to the end of this road. As I got there, I realized I could have stayed on 510 to this point because there was a turn-off there also. 

I turned right again and started a gradual climb. This time I was confident I was on the correct road. The pavement was pretty decent. There were occasional potholes, but someone had done a nice job of spray painting arrows to avoid them. At one point, a section of pavement seemed to be fairly new--nice and smooth. 

Several minutes later I heard the unmistakable whup-whup of a big helicopter. At a brief moment of clearing through the trees, I could see one of the big Army (not a Chinook) helicopters hovering low on some kind of maneuvers. At first I was a little nervous, but it seemed far enough away. Earlier, a car had passed me, but it wasn't a military vehicle. I continued on.

I went up and down hills, and dodged the occasional pothole. At a point when I thought I should be getting close to Rainier Rd. (not quite), a military hum-vee passed me going the other direction. I waved. Oh, I forgot to mention, I was recording a video as I was riding this road. It occurred to me after passing the hum-vee that, since I was on military property, perhaps video was not a good idea. However, I kept it running. Either they didn't care, or didn't notice the Go Pro on my helmet, because they didn't turn around and come after me. 

As for why I have not uploaded the video with this blog post, well, I didn't quite position the camera far enough back on my helmet. It is a lovely video of the road in front of my wheel. I'm sure, even if the Army guys somehow tracked me down and demanded to see my "spy" video, they would look at it and say, "Oh, nevermind. You can keep it." Yeah, it's that bad. As I was watching it at home, I kept trying to tip my head back in some weird effort to make the camera tilt up too. It didn't work. Hmmm...lesson learned.

Anyway, I finally came out to the prairie section that Rainier Rd. goes through. I was met with a rather strong headwind. Fortunately, I didn't have too much farther to go. Before long, I could see the cars travelling along Rainier Rd. Woo Hoo! I made it, and all on pavement! No dirt or gravel this time!

From there it was about another 7 or so miles until I was back home. The total ride was just over 26 miles. The section from 510 to Rainier was about 9 miles--about a mile more than the gravel/dirt road (also came out farther south on Rainier than the gravel way). Ride time was 1:48. Pretty close to my 1:30 plan.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gran Fondo Redo

Like I said in my previous post, I had another chance to complete the Gran Fondo today.

I started out with the Team (Jean and I being the only gals). Jean had afternoon plans, so she would turn back at Tenino. I stayed with the guys until the bottom of Tono Rd. Tono is a long climb, and I knew they would get to the top long before me. I was fine with letting them go. I had a long way to go on legs that were a wee bit tired from yesterday. I didn't want to use up all my matches on the first long climb.

It was frosty in the shade, so I was cautious coming down the other side of Tono. All went well, and I was soon back into the sun on Big Hanaford Rd. The team was going over Halliday, another lengthy climb. I opted to go on Tzietzel instead. It is a little longer, but no climbing involved. I was much more interested in the miles than the climbing.

I rolled into, and promptly out of Centralia via Reynolds Rd. I stopped briefly in Galvin to pull out a snack that I ate while continuing down Lincoln Creek Rd. The next climb was Michigan Hill. I was dreading it, but then I realized, I have raced up Michigan! Today, I can just spin up it! And, it wasn't that bad! 

At the top of Michigan I glanced to my right (I was going to the left) and got a eye-full of Mt. Rainier. I had to take a photo.
As an aside, the road in this photo is Prather. This is the hill I didn't think existed yesterday. As you can see, there is clearly a hill, and that is only a small part of it!

I came down the other side of Michigan, through Rochester, up Littlerock Rd to Littlerock, and over to Delphi. My original plan was to follow Delphi to Harrison, then back into downtown. But, as I came up to 62nd, I realized I could head home via Black Lake and Sapp (the same as yesterday), and still complete the Gran Fondo. Since I was more than ready to be home, I opted for the shorter route.

I pulled into my driveway. Before I got too comfortable, I double-checked the Strava App. According to the app, I had gone 83.6 miles, or 135km. Whew! I did it! 130km in one ride! I think I will take a rest day tomorrow!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

As Maxwell Smart Used to Say...

...Missed it by that much!

I signed up for another Strava Challenge. This one is called the Gran Fondo 1. I have to do 130km in one ride between Jan. 1st and Jan. 31st.

Jeff had mapped out a 71 miler that, with the addition of the miles it takes me to get to and from the ride, would give me about 84 miles--enough to complete the challenge. Now, that doesn't mean I can do 84 miles at the pace of the guys! But, no problem! Gather the Chicks! Jean and I put it out there that we wanted to do the whole route, but at a Chick Ride pace. We had 6 of us that agreed to do, at least, most of it (Jean and I would still do the whole thing). 

So, we made our plan...

We would start with the guys at the park and stay with them until the intersection of Case and Maytown Rds. There, we would regroup with just the gals, and continue on. Maria was going to meet us at Case and 183rd (the next major intersection). As we were riding along, at a reasonable pace, with the guys, Jeff suggested we stay with them until 183rd. I was a little nervous because there are some hills after Maytown Rd, and I was afraid we would drop some of our gals. Jeff convinced us that they would not hammer that section, so we agreed to "try". Well, we did it! We managed to all stay together! As we neared 183rd, we could see Maria heading our way. She turned around, and joined the group.

At Case and 183rd, we bid goodbye to the guys. We continued on, doing a little rotating paceline (spending just 1 minute on the front before drifting to the back). In Grand Mound, we abandoned the rotating, and I took the lead on 99. There was just too much traffic, and I knew where we would turn.

We exited Old 99 at Oregon Trail Rd, then turned onto Prather. I was thinking that Prather would be pretty easy. I even mentioned to Geraldine that I thought it was strange that we wouldn't have to climb to get to the top of the ridge before going left down Michigan Hill Rd. The reason it was so strange was because I was wrong! We definately had to climb. However, it wasn't as bad as either side of Michigan Hill.

We did the thrilling descent down Michigan Hill to Lincoln Creek. As we were pedaling along Lincoln Creek Rd on our Way to Manners Rd (another hill to go back over the ridge), Maria noticed Debbie's wheel was quite wobbly. She had had a flat a couple of weeks earlier, so we thought maybe her wheel just wasn't completely in the dropouts. We stopped, released the QR, and tightened it again. Debbie thought that made it a little better, but the wheel was still wobbling. I told her if she brought to my house later, I would true it for her. 

Manners Hill wasn't too terrible, and the ride down the other side was fun. We cruised along Independence Valley with Jean, Maria, and Debbie trying to decide where the finish was for IVRR (a road race that I did not do last season). I think they might have finally decided where it was, but...who knows--memory is pretty fickle when it comes to races.

After a chow/Ibuprofen break on 188th, we rode over to Moon Rd. The route called for us to go left, then loop back to Moon Rd after US 12. But, Maria still had to ride all the way back to Rainier, so she wanted to head straight back on Moon without doing the extra loop of 3 or 4 miles. We decided we would all go that way to stay together. I was worried about getting in enough miles for the challenge, but did it anyway.

As we were doing the rollers on Gate Rd, Debbie called out that she had a flat. Upon closer inspection, we realized the reason for her wobbly wheel. She had a broken spoke (what's the deal with spokes breaking? I broke one on last Thursday's Night Ride!). She also had a did Cindy (well, I'm not absolutely convinced Cindy actually had a flat--she hadn't inflated her tires before the ride today, so it's possible that her tire was just low, but we didn't want to get a short distance down the road only to have to change another flat). Maria and I worked with Debbie to fix her flat, and Geraldine helped Cindy. Since the spoke was hitting the seat stay, I wrapped it around its neighbor. It was clear now that the spoke had been broken all along. The good news was that she could at least get to Littlerock where her husband could come get her. The wheel appeared to not be any more wobbly than it was. However, there is always the increased potential of breaking another spoke once one is gone.

Debbie, Cindy, and Maria turned off toward Littlerock. Geraldine, Jean, and I continued up Waddell Creek Rd (me still chasing that Strava Challenge, and Geraldine chasing a personal goal of a 70 miler--her longest ever). 

The climb up Waddell isn't too bad, but I was starting to feel the miles in my legs. Maybe it was because I was on my race bike (nice weather and dry roads means a good day to haul out Tessa--I did swap out the rear race tire for a Schwalbe Durano Plus--there's still a bunch of sharp stuff on the roads), and I wasn't used to the different gearing. Who knows?...

Jean and I said goodbye to Geraldine at Dephi and 62nd. She was just moments from home (and it looked like she would achieve her goal). Jean and I came down to Black Lake, around to the other side of the lake, and up and over Sapp. At Capitol Blvd, Jean headed right to home, and I went left.

As I neared my neighborhood, I was over 80 miles according to my computer but, just to be on the safe side, I took the long way around to my house. When I stopped, I double checked Strava to make sure I had gone at least 80 miles. It said 80.5 (my computer is off a little as it said 82 miles). Woo Hoo! I had done it! I went ahead and uploaded the ride. When I got into the house, I checked Strava to see the finisher's badge. Much to my surprise, it had me listed as 99% complete at 129.6km. WHAT??? I was .4km short? Ahhh, CRAP! I guess 130km is a little longer than 80 miles. It is, in fact, 80.7 miles. Had I known that, I could have done one loop around in my neighborhood and been good. I missed it by that much!

But...I have another chance tomorrow! The planned route is 81 miles (that's without the ride to and from the start). Legs willing, I will really complete it tomorrow!