Cecil picked me up at 7 am, giving me another hour of sleep because I wouldn't have to take TriMet to Forest Grove. It was balmy and in the high 50's when we left my house. When we got to Forest Grove it was perhaps four to five degrees cooler but still not terribly cold. I chatted with other riders and we all admired each other's bikes. I even snapped a few photos but... bad news: my camera farted because I took too many pictures (anything more than 7 or so is a real risk, more than the camera can handle saving I guess. Someday I'll find a cheap, small digital camera that doesn't fart its memory into the ether after taking seven pictures. Of course, I'd have to learn to deal with memory cards and stuff and maybe that's more hassle than it's worth. When I have the money to actually spend on it I'll do some serious research.)
So I can't show you the two insane guys who did the whole ride on big-wheel unicycles, or the woman who rode an "egg-beater" recumbent with two sets of cranks operate by all four limbs, or pal Dave's recumbent with its full-body fairing in lime-green lycra, or any of the cool, beautiful lugged steel road bikes that showed up as well. The unicyclists especially made my morning; one had a Magura brake kit and a set of aero bars attached to his rig that turned everyone's heads. One of the pleasures of a ride like this is the time spent pre-ride staring your eyes out at all the bike porn. Really sorry I can't share.
Today's menu: bottles of fruit juice mixed with water; a can of mandarin oranges (a rare treat), granola bars, pop-tarts, and a container of noodles and cottage cheese leftover from last night's dinner -- it's delicious eaten cold the next day -- and a bottle of Ensure in case the thought of solid food made me queasy later. I also brought along a tablet of a new supplement I'd tried and liked at Interbike, called Zym. You drop the tablet into a bottle of water, shake it up until the tablet dissolves, and drink. I'd use it when I emptied one of my bottles of juice-mix.
There was a faint hint of a sprinkle as we were sent off at 9 am. I enjoyed the cool flicks of drizzle on my cheeks and the feel of finding my rhythm in the pedals as thirty or more of us threaded our way out of Forest Grove. I felt good, awake and reasonably rested with almost seven hours' sleep. The ride to the first control felt fast and took no time at all -- and when I got there I was surprised at how fresh I felt. Knowing that I'd be among the slowest riders, I stuck with my plan to make my stops as short and efficient as I could. I got my card signed, ate a granola bar, drank some more juice-mix and resumed my ride. On the way out of the parking lot at Longbottom's I ran into waves of Portland Velo riders, also out for a ride to Verboort. Wearing slinkier bike clothing and riding lighter, less-encumbered bikes than mine, they didn't just rider faster than me, they looked faster than me, too. We smiled and wished each other a good day of riding, and in a flash they were gone.
Washington County is in full fall color right now and everywhere I looked I was greeted with magnificent displays of leafy color. Geese flying overhead as I pedaled towards Jackson School Road made the day feel wistful, as if the geese were taking the longer days away with them. The air was damp and tasted tangy, and burned my throat a little, from the decay of leaves and needles that fell from the trees even as I rode past.
I was remembering to hydrate early and often and it was definitely helping. I'd blown through my first bottle of juice-mix before I'd ridden the first twenty miles, and stopped at a park indicated on the cue sheet to refill my bottle and add the Zym tablet. It tastes like vaguely-carbonated, almost-lemonade; in other words, it wasn't sickly sweet like Gatorade and didn't set off my gag-reflex like Heed. It was more than tolerable, and that meant I'd drink it so that was good.
I turned onto Dairy Creek Road and the fun began. I'd mentally prepared myself for this part of the ride, since I'd ridden it before, by telling myself "they're just false flats, nothing fatal and you'll get through them, and besides it's pretty up there." And it worked. I rode the whole way to Snoozeville without stopping more than a couple of seconds to adjust clothing or unwrap a pop-tart. (Note: it's true, I was once one of those people who could ride no-hands, and occasionally I could unwrap candy bars as I did so. But that was a very long time ago and today when I need to unwrap something I generally stop and pull of the road to do it.)
I drew my breath in sharply several times during the ride at how impossibly beautiful the countryside was. The valley below me was filled with a dozen shades of pure gold with nutty browns in the background, and flaming reds added here and there that punctuated the scene like brilliant splats of color, as if someone had flicked a fully-loaded red paintbrush onto a mostly green and gold canvas. The beauty helped me get through the false flats -- or maybe it was all the regular re-fueling? I ate and drank my way to the top of the hill at Fern Flat Road, and Marcello was waiting there to give me encouragement, sign my card and top off my water bottles. Deciding that I wanted SOMEthing in the water besides water, I mixed what was left in the half of each water bottle together, then devided it between the two bottles and topped them both off with water. That way, it wasn't totally disgusting and I had something more than just water to keep me going. I finished the noodles, had a bite of granola bar, thanked Marcello for organizing the ride, and left.
Riding back down the false flats of Dairy Creek was my reward for going up them. it felt SO good! I was actually surprised at just how good I still felt, some 35 miles into the ride. I got passed by some late-starters who'd crept up behind me, and continued to admire the simply amazing scenery unfolding before me. Off to the west, rain clouds began to cover the hilltops and the air grew heavier. Within ten minutes it was raining again, though not very hard. I liked the feel against my legs, even as it soaked into my tights a little. I was sweating pretty well under my rain jacket (which doubled as a windbreaker) and every now and then I'd open up the zipper to ventilate a little. As soon as I started to feel the slightest chill I'd close the zipper back up. On the way out of Dairy Creek I ran into pal Dave, who was patching his second flat of the day. He waved me on saying he'd catch up. When he leapfrogged me a few miles later, he asked me how I was getting home. When I told him I'd planned to take transit, he frowned and offered to take me home; he said he wouldn't be waiting around too terribly long for me at the end, not at the pace he was riding. I thanked him and said if he was still there when I finished I'd take him up on his offer, but not to wait around too long. He pulled away and was soon out of sight. (Recumbents may be slow on the hills but wow! on the flats they just fly.)
At Banks I ate the canned oranges, readjusted some clothing, stretched my legs a little and resumed riding. At none of my stops did I sit down to rest for even a couple of moments. Instead, I ate while standing and walked around my bike a little to keep my legs from stiffening up. It seemed to be a reasonable approach. As I headed out of Banks I also felt the first little twinge of High School Knees. (I got into cycling more seriously as a high school freshman, after a running injury to both knees forced me off the track team -- and out of running for good. Occasionally, my knees still twinge when I overdo and some of it may be related to the old injury.)
By the time I got to the final info control at the end of Cedar Canyon Road, I was feeling ready to wrap up my ride. I answered the question (those were some pretty bedraggled pom-poms), tucked the card back in my bag and turned onto what had become a rainy Highway 6. Then came Stafford Road, which I had completely forgotten about in my mental preparations. UGH! I rode about a hundred feet, stopped and got off and walked the bike for about a fourth of a mile. Then I got back on and rode the rest of the way up the hill, and it took a lot out of me to do that.
At Stohmayer everything felt familiar enough -- and flatter -- so I could find my groove again. But my knee was starting to hurt now and I had to shift down to an easier gear than I would have liked just to keep pedaling. Then, a surprise. About three and a half miles from the end, when I was totally ready to stop riding, I heard a voice behind me: "hi, Beth." it was Bill, a riding friend of Cecil and Lynne's. He'd gotten to Forest Grove very late and started almost an hour after the main group, and here he was, having caught up to Yours Truly, Miz Lanterne Rouge herself. I assumed he'd pass me and keep going but he wanted to chat. We talked about bikes and racing and blogging and enjoyed the last 3.5 miles of the ride, finishing together in Verboort at the sausage Festival. And having him there at the end probably helped me make my best time ever for a 100k populaire: 6 hours, 19 minutes. I was shocked and happy that I had done so well -- and felt so good at the end. Dave was there to congratulate me. He offered to wait while I got a hot dog, but the festival fare wasn't really for me, so I stretched for a few minutes, slammed the bottle of Ensure , and showed Dave the way back to Forest Grove and the Grand Lodge.
I got home at the impossible time of 4:30, and felt really, really good about my ride and my whole day. Days like these, where everything comes together, I enjoy riding my bike, and I get through the hard parts to feel good at the end, are gifts for which I am truly grateful.
Total for the day, including the ride back to Forest Grove: 65.7 miles.