Saturday, April 29, 2023

Only As Fast As My Eyes Can See

I feel like I used to go faster down hills. Now I seem to really give my brakes a workout. I guess I can only go as fast as my eyes can see, and sometimes they don’t do a very good job!

Today was the Cascadia Super Gravel (or as we call it, the Super G). Once again, a bunch of us signed up for the 50 mile course. I had posted our attempts at pre-riding the 30 and 50 mile courses on Facebook. Needless to say, those had not gone well (I mean, it was a good ride, but not the full course either time). The last effort was just two weeks ago, and there was still a lot of snow. Not today!

But let’s start at the beginning. Stephanie was kind enough to pick me up at the nearly butt-crack of dawn of 6:45 (okay, it was plenty light out). The 50 mile race mass start was at 8:00 at the Evergreen Gun Club out at Mima. We were ready to go in good time. I took the following photos of my friends, as the start would be the last time I would see them until the finish (they are all way faster than me).






Quite a few 50 milers. Amongst all these riders, I was once again the oldest female. 

The start was my favorite…singletrack…not! Actually, it wasn’t too bad. It’s a pretty wide trail. The trickiest part was all the people all at once. Very slow. But hey, I don’t go fast anyway! There were also several giant puddles. A couple could be ridden around, but most were just ridden through. 

We popped out onto E9000 just where the end of the Mima Falls Trail reaches E9000. We did all the climbing up to D4000. Nothing terribly special. I’ve done this climb numerous times. I did quite quickly take the sleeves off my jacket. Oh! I didn’t mention the weather! It was spectacular! I wore shorts! I even put sunscreen on! The temps out on the course were going to crest 70 degrees. That was up in the Forest where it’s always cooler! Eventually, I took my vest off too. It was the warmest Super G I’ve ever experienced. 

I got to the first Aid Station. Kyle (who did the 12 speed modification on Sly) was there. A lot of the people were just flying by (racing, I guess). Not me. I told Kyle that since I pay to do this ride, I’m going to stop at every Aid Station. I had a banana and an oatmeal cream cookie. 

Continuing on, they must have recently put new gravel down on the C-Line. It was dry, dusty, and very sketchy. There was also quite a bit of traffic (hmmm…nice day, everyone heads to the Forest). Fortunately, I was wearing a “dust protector” Buff. 

Going down C-Line was the 50 mile route. The 30 milers went up toward Puke Hill. We hit Sherman Valley Rd, and returned to gravel at C9000. It was a decent climb with moments of downhill. The dead end was where the hike-a-bike to get across the creek began. Kyle, back at the Aid Station, had given me a little intel that they had made it easier to get across the creek, and up the other side. 

The beginning of the hike-a-bike. Follow the arrows. 

There was a tree across the creek that someone had planed so we could walk across it. I wasn’t confident I could balance on the log AND take my bike across. There just so happened to be a guy who had just taken his bike across, and was doing some stretching. I asked if he could help me get my bike across. He easily took my bike, and I walked across the log. The new trail up the other side was much less steep. It was still muddy, but at least I could heft my bike up. 

The guy and I met up with another guy at the other side of the trail. They took off, but were soon walking (me thinks insufficient gearing). I had so much mud in my cleats, I had to dig it out with a stick so I could clip back in to my pedals. Once I could clip in again, I shifted into the “dinner plate” in the rear, and pedaled past the guys. 

At the top, I stopped to take this photo. 

That’s the Sound way out there. 

And this photo as I was doing the up part of B8000.

Coming down B8000 to the B-Line, I was reminded why we don’t really ride in the Forest in the summer. The road was dry and loose (this was true for many of the roads today). Up the B-Line, where they have recently logged, the road is now wide open, and has a lot of tree debris. Sadly, it’s kind of been ruined. 

The second Aid Station (and the one run by Joy Ride) was at the top of the B-Line. They had pretty much run out of water (Kyle was bringing more), but Brian was nice and gave me what he had left in a Nalgene. Kyle passed me on B5000 headed to them. 

The climb up B5000 was the same as always. I wasn’t really thinking about how long it is because I’ve done it a lot, and what was coming next was “The Wall”, the long, steep climb up C4000. 

Nice view of Rainier from the beginning of “The Wall”. 

And so the climb begins…

I managed to make the climb all in one go without stopping or walking. I had done it two weeks ago, so I knew I was capable. Still, that sucker has some pretty steep sections! I glanced at my Garmin a couple of times and saw 17%! And that wasn’t when it was so steep I was popping wheelies! 

Two weeks ago, this was covered in snow!

At the turn to do Greenline 6, I went up to the singletrack and reaffirmed my decision to stay on C4000. It would be longer, but not sketchy singletrack. 

Even walking would have been tricky. 

There are drops and scary stuff…no thank you. 

I did go up the road past the trail to take a photo of the view. 

St Helens to the right, Adams to the left. 

I also saw this. 

Yep, that is a baby in a backpack on an ATV. 

I returned to C4000, and made my way to where the singletrack came out at the C-Line. 

Still snow in those mountains!

I went down the C-Line to D1000 and the final Aid Station. 

This guy had been cooking bacon! This was where all the routes came back together. 30 and 50 would stay together for the remainder of the route. The 100 milers still had an extra bit to do on the E-Line before finishing on E9000 and the singletrack trail with the rest of us. 

D1000 to D3000 was the same as always. Of course it wouldn’t be a Super G without one more bit of spicy. We went off D3000 down a very very steep and rocky road. Just as I turned onto this road, I saw an Aid Car coming. Then I saw another one. I thought, oh, that can’t be good! I guess there were two people who had crashed (did I mention how steep and rocky it was?). One guy had to be airlifted. 

I had to stop to let my brakes cool, and rest my hands. On another Super G, we had gone up this road (walking of course). I’m not sure which was worse! At the bottom was the final hike-a-bike to get back to D3000. 

This isn’t even the steep part! The pickup coming up was also a rescue vehicle. 

And now for some more hike-a-bike. I was able to ride parts of it, but when it would do these drainage ditches, I kept snagging my pedal. I walked the rest of them. 

There was also two creek crossings. 

Trail I could partly ride. 

Second creek. 

Once I was back on the gravel road, I knew there was nothing else that was tricky. There were still two more climbs, but I’d done those many times. 

It was nearly 3:30 when I finished. Most of my friends were still there. Steph and I went to the van so I could change, then we went back for pizza. 

Makaela and Brad both took 3rd in their respective categories. Apparently, the men’s category winners got Wahoo Roams as prizes. Makaela asked about the women. Shouldn’t they also get Wahoo Roams? Lee (the guy in charge of prizes) gave her and the 3rd place women’s finisher Wahoos! Then, while I was eating my pizza, Steph looked at the results, and said I had won my category. Of course, I was the only one in my category…again (it seems strange to me that I was the only one in the Women 50-65 category)! As we were walking out, I saw Cam. I asked him if I got a prize for winning my category. He directed me to Lee. While I didn’t have the guts to ask for a Wahoo, I did get a digital tire pressure gauge, one of the special mugs, and a 1st place finisher “medal”! More importantly, Lee thanked me for all I do for the cycling community. He said he reads all my posts about the rides! That means a lot to me!

So now my scheduled gravel races are finished. Now it’s time to plan some bikepacking trips with my friends!

Friday, April 7, 2023

Dresses for wherever you’re headed

Plus, a podcast episode about quiet knowledge.
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Sunday, March 5, 2023

The One Where I Win Wearing Borrowed Boots

This past weekend 6 crazy uh…intrepid cyclists travelled all the way to Montague, California to race their bikes on the gravel roads near Mt. Shasta. This was the Shasta Gravel Hugger…a race where, on the website, it says, “We can’t possibly have snow four years in a row!” Yes, yes you can!

The steeds of Scott, Karlye, Greg, and me. 

Greg came and picked me up Friday morning at 7:15. We loaded all my stuff (so we thought) and went back to his house, where Scott, having picked up Karlye, arrived. We then loaded all of Greg’s and my stuff into the back of Scott’s truck, and hit the road. 

Meanwhile, back at my house, a bag with a pair of Lake 304 boots remain sitting on the floor of my bedroom. 

We made the nearly 8 hour drive, with a couple of potty stops, and a stop for a picnic lunch in the frigid temps at a rest stop somewhere in Oregon. Karlye brought all the fixins for sammies, and it was good (even though we were freezing). The rest of the drive was uneventful (I did discover I’m not great at knowing colleges and their mascots…a little game we were playing masterminded by the co-pilot, Greg). 

We arrived at the Air B&B. Makaela and Brad, who had come in the day before us, were out on a ride scoping the route (particularly the longest climb). The weather was beautiful, just a little chilly. 

Because we arrived early enough, we were able to drive over to the start in Montague, and pick up our ride packets and timing chips. Brad and Makaela met us there on the way back from their ride. They said the climb was no big deal. 

Packet pickup

The start and finish for the ride. Notice the nice weather. 

The only one not picking up a packet was Greg. He had missed the online registration deadline. Now might be a good time to mention the weather forecast for the day of the ride. It wasn’t looking great. It was going to be cold, with a very good chance (or I should say bad) of snow until about 1:00. The chance of snow was so great that they had shortened the course. We were doing the “Half Hugger” which, in its original form, was to be 63 miles. It was shortened to 47 miles. They also delayed the start until 11:30 (for the Half Huggers). Greg decided to wait until morning to commit to paying an extra $50 for same day registration…see what the weather did. This was fortuitous. 

Mt. Shasta (good thing I took this when I did…the day before the ride).

We all returned to the house, and unloaded our stuff. We made a great dinner of lasagna, bread, and salad. Makaela and Brad had an amazing gluten free, vegan pasta dinner. It was Brad’s birthday, so Makaela put a candle on a muffin, and we all sang Happy Birthday to him (I did a video but didn’t take a photo). We spent the evening laughing and playing “Hearts”. Scott won (lowest score), and Brad had the highest score. 

Makaela and Brad cooking. 

As I was getting my stuff ready for the next morning, I went to find my boots. Uh oh…no boots! First I thought I had left the bag in Greg’s car, but then when Greg’s wife said there were no boots, realized they were probably still in my bedroom. Greg asked what size shoe I wore. My feet are rather long, and since hiking the AT, I can’t tolerate shoes squishing my toes. Greg brought out his boots (Fiziks). I tried them on and, with two pairs of thick wool socks, they fit good enough. But, this meant Greg wouldn’t be able to ride. I told him I could probably get by with my Hoka boots, but he said I could wear his. He wasn’t too keen on doing the ride (because of the weather, and the added cost…but, mostly the weather). This just made the decision for him. I was most grateful, and hoped the boots would work okay (same cleats, fortunately). 

Morning rolled around, and it looked like this. 


Karlye and I also downloaded the “Handshake” route (35 miles) in case we decided the Half Hug was too much. We headed out to the start, hoping against hope that maybe it wasn’t snowing in Montague. HA!!! 

It was kind of snowing, then stopping, then starting again. At the park, we got our bikes ready (timing chips had already been installed, but we still needed to put numbers on). I donned the boots. 

There would be a bit more toe overlap, but I could handle it. 

I made sure I could clip in and out, and rode around a bit. It was snowing again. 

Sly ready to go. 

While I think about 100 of the registered riders didn’t show, there were still quite a few people. 

Snowing…so different from the day before. 

We all got off the start line together, but that was the last I would see of Makaela, Brad, and Karlye. 

In there somewhere…

There I am! Greg took these photos. 

The paved roads were clear, and we were on pavement for the first few miles or so. The snow was coming down pretty good, and was less than optimal as it hit my face. Snow accumulated on my arms and the top of my helmet, periodically falling off in big clumps (it was that wet, sticky kind of snow).

The group, as a whole, took off at a blistering pace, and soon, I was near the back. I did manage to pass one or two people (one guy had a flat before we had even gone a mile).

I followed the tire tracks onto the first gravel section. The snow was sticking more on the gravel, but it wasn’t slippery. I was managing just fine. I passed another woman on a short rise (she would later pass me when I stopped to take a photo). 

The snow continued to come down, but off in the distance I could see some blue sky. Eventually, the snow stopped. At the base of the largest climb (the one Brad and Makaela had pre-ridden), I had to pull over to take these photos. 

Blue sky!

The photo doesn’t do justice to how pretty it was. 

The road going up. 

For most of the climb, there were clear tracks like in the photo above. But, the higher I went, the more snow there was. I caught up to Scott (who was also taking photos), and rode by. Shortly after that, on a little bit steeper part, my rear wheel started spinning out. I couldn’t get traction to get started again, so I walked for a short bit until there was a clear spot. Just after I got back on, we reached the top, and the Aid Station. Scott and I both downed a small can of Coke, then took off again. 

The descent…oh my! That was very very scary! Scott, of course, took off like a demon. I was carefully riding the brakes, occasionally with one foot out, saying such things as, “I don’t like this!” and “Slowdownslowdownslowdown!” as I rode/slid my way down the hill. The self-talk was nonstop until I made it to the bottom. I tried to ride as much as possible in the non-tracked snow (Mother Nature’s brakes). 

I was so glad to get to the flat part, and even the next climb. There were more scary bits, but I gradually lost elevation, and got to clearer tracks. Those clearer tracks were somewhat muddy, but I was okay with the mud. 

Small sections of pavement were interspersed amongst the gravel. Those were the best, and I could take a bit of a breather. There were two guys who I kept passing, then they would pass me. At one point, one of the guys goes off into the snow toward one of the route signs, and promptly falls over. When I caught up to him, I said, “Why did you do that?” He said he went over to read the sign…it said “Hole”. 

I spent most of the time riding by myself, but then riders would fly by me. They were the ones doing the “Full Hug” route (was supposed to be 100 miles, but was shortened to 80). I would watch them fly by (sometimes in snow), and wonder how they were going so fast in those conditions! Maybe if you go really fast, you won’t have time to slip and crash…nope, not putting that theory to the test. 

The miles ticked by, sometimes slowly, and other times faster (a slight downhill paved part where I was going 16.8). I finished the last bit of gravel, and had just 6 miles to the finish. Then the wind picked up (well, I turned into it). I knew this would happen based on the forecast, but it still was a bit of a blow (no pun intended). It was a long straight road. I just put my head down, and ground it out. The last turn, and the route went through a muddy, puddle strewn section. Really??? Why???

I crossed the finish line to cheers from the gang. Greg took this photo. 

Makaela took this one. 

I got my burrito, and we headed back to the house. How did we do? Brad won his category (Men 50-59), Makaela and Karlye just missed the podium, coming in 4th in their categories, and Scott came in 15th in his category (same category as Brad). I won in my category (Women 60-69)! Of course, it turned out the only other woman in my category didn’t show…so, I won AND I was last too! Brad had gotten some chocolate for his win. We didn’t stick around for the podium for my category. 

Back at the house, we all showered and debriefed. Karlye, who had previously come down to ride, had met a guy named Jason. He is the guy who made the chocolates for the winners. She texted him (or he texted her). She invited him for dinner, and told him to bring his chocolates (so we could buy some). When he arrived, I told him I had won, but didn’t get any chocolate. He let me choose from the selection he brought. He also brought us a big bag to share. We had tacos and chocolate! It was delicious! 

Jason started making the chocolates when he couldn’t find any that were dairy, soy, and gluten free. His main job is as a elementary school science teacher, but he makes and sells chocolates on the side. His company is Jason Friendly Foods. He has a website where I can order more ( The chocolate is very good. 

We stayed up a surprisingly long time, but finally hit the hay. We woke up to more snow, but it didn’t matter. We were going home. It’s amazing how pretty it is…when you don’t have to ride in it!

The route by the numbers. 

My “win”.

We all said we would come back again, but would prefer better weather! Next time, I won’t forget my boots!!!