Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ironman Training Day 21: Noodle Flips?

Jeff and I shared a lane at the pool Friday morning. Neither of us wants to be caught by the other, so it has the (not so subtle) effect of making us both swim just a little bit harder! :-)

After our workout, we amused ourselves (and the lifeguards) by trying to do flip turns. I can sorta kinda do them, as in: I flip, push off the wall, and usually end up in the right direction. But most times I'm too deep or off center or twist too soon, etc. If feels awkward and makes me feel out of breathe. So, I rarely even try.

So off I went to youtube in search of some videos that would break down the process a bit. I found what looks to be a great series of drills. I'm going to give them a try over the coming weeks and see if I can get the rhythm down. I know there's no flipturning in an Ironman, of course, but I do a pool-swim tri every May, and if I can learn the skill I can improve my swim time for that event. Last year I was 2nd of 19 in my age group and this year I'd like to win it!

Here are the 5 videos for learning to flip turn.






Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ironman Training Day 20: The Zombie Apocalypse

I like Fun Runs. Give me a theme (New Years Eve run, the Muddy Buddy, the Shamrock Run, etc.) and I'm happy to don a costume and go get sweaty with a bunch of other like-minded, fun-loving athletes. (Though I draw the line at Underpants Runs and the World Naked Bike Ride. There's some things the world just doesn't need to see.)

So, when Cecil sent me an email with the subject line "re: Zombies!!", my curiosity was piqued. It didn't take much to persuade me, as well as our partners in crime Lynne and Jill, to sign up for the Zombie Apocalypse 5K Run.

The only question was: Zombie or Survivor? Just like running from a grizzly bear, I figure I don't need to be the fastest runner to survive and escape from the Zombies. I just need to be not amongst the slowest! And really, the only Zombies I care about being faster than are Lynne & Cecil, so with a 2 minute headstart, Survivor it is!

I'll let you know if I survive the onslaught.

++Click here to see The Oatmeal's take on the Zombie Apocalypse. Warning: link is not work-friendly or for those with delicate sensibilities. But then again, zombies are neither delicate nor sensible...++


Had a great run this morning. 4.4 miles in 46 minutes, with just 2 minutes of walking. Knee started talking to me at mile 3. Must take care not to do too much too soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ironman Training Days 17-19: Stick a fork in me

Monday, Day 17

After Sunday's long run, and only 5 hours sleep, I wasn't expecting to have a great cycling class on Monday morning. Despite my low expectations, however, I had an *amazing* class and hit all the target numbers. Who woulda thunk.

This workout was all about building power in Zone 4 (105-120% of Threshold Power). We did low cadence (60-70rpm) climbing intervals, spending ~30 minutes of the hourlong workout in zone 4. We finished the class with 4 shorter (30-60 second) intervals at Zone 5 or higher efforts. Our final effort was an all-out 30 seconds. I averaged 381 watts for that last one with a max of 462 watts. Whew. Stick a fork in me, cuz I'm done.

Tuesday, Day 18

Jeff & I stayed up late on Monday night making HOMEMADE Pumpkin-Sage Ravioli. The results were fantastic. But another late night, after more than a week without a rest day, meant that I made the decision to blow off the morning's swim and take a rest day instead. Good call.

Wednesday Day 19

I got nearly NINE hours sleep last night. Pure HEAVEN. Of course, that meant I was sound asleep by 8:30pm. Late night party animal I ain't.

Had another great class at C-Velo this morning. We rode with Robbie Ventura again, which is always fun (I could look at that man's legs all day). We spent the class working mostly in zones 3 and 4, following along as Robbie pacelined with his team (low zone 3 in the draft, high zone 3/low zone 4 when pulling), simulated bridging gaps to chase down race leaders, etc. It was a fast paced, constantly changing class that kept us on our toes.

I'm getting to know some of the folks in class a bit (it's always the same crew). One of the other gals is in her 60s. She's very inspirational: runner, triathlete, and in the kind of shape I'd like to be in "when I grow up." We're both signed up for the Pacific Crest Half Ironman in June, so it will be fun to compare training notes with her as the season progresses!

Ironman Training Days 15-16: Busy Weekend

I need a weekend to recover from my weekend!

Saturday, Day 15

Saturday marked my second weekend taking Rick's 8am cycling class at C-Velo, followed immediately by Jennifer's Yoga for Cyclists class at the same studio.

Rick worked us hard, and we spent most of our class working on building power at higher cadences. It really taxes me aerobically to work at cadence intervals of 95, 100, 105 & 110 rpm. But these drills definitely work. When I had my VO2 Max tested 2 years ago, I could barely hold 80 rpm during the test. But now I do threshold power tests comfortably at 92-94 rpm. I've always been something of a masher, but Rick is quickly turning me into a spinner. See, miracles ARE possible!

After Rick made jello of my quads, Jennifer proceeded to make jello out of my core. That, of course, is not very difficult, because the wimpy, weak muscles around my middle aren't even deserving of being *called* a "core". Oy vey, have I got some work to do.

After class I ran some errands (including dropping some serious cash at the Bob's Red Mill store - I just don't know how those Paleo people survive...), then returned home. Having just had my tri bike fit completed, I was anxious to take it out on the road for a real test drive.

The new fit is fantastic. I was only out for just under an hour, but I had NO trouble staying in the aerobars. The tweaks Stephanie made to my saddle hight, fore-aft position and the angle of the bars really made a difference there. The only thing I'm not totally sold on yet is the cleat position on my right shoe, but I'm going to give my body time to adjust to it.

And the bike really moves. I predict good results this coming season! :-)

After all that, did I sleep well on Saturday night? Why yes, yes I did.

Sunday, Day 16

For my 40th birthday 2 years ago, I ran the Girlfriends's Half Marathon in Vancouver, WA. It was my first ever half, and having just lost nearly 40 pounds, it was a very emotional day for me. Last year and this year again, I signed up for a repeat. Last year I took alot of time off my first year's result and was thrilled. Fast forward to 2011...Boy, what a difference a year makes.

I quit running in June. On top of all the mileage for PBP (upwards of 1000 miles per month from May to August), the tendons in my legs just couldn't handle the additional stress of running. I had to give it up. I was hoping to resume running in early September, after PBP, with the idea that I could salvage enough fitness to at least *finish* the Girlfriend's Half. Sadly, that was not to be. With the tendonitis in my left knee unhealed, I made the decision a month ago that I had to pull out of the event.

On Sunday, I carpooled to the start of the race with Jill & Catherine. My original plan was to go for an hour long run while they raced, then to join them at the finish. Instead, I decided to start the race with Catherine. I matched her pace for the first 3 miles, then short cut the course on the way back, for a total of 7 miles. I walked a bit in the last 4. My knee started talking to me somewhere around mile 6. Best not to push too hard yet.

In all, 6 of my girlfriends ran on Sunday. I'm so lucky to have such active, fun-loving friends!

Catherine (left) and Jill pictured above, wearing big smiles post-race.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ironman Training Day 14: Cramping

15 minutes into my run this morning, I found myself doubled over in agony, unable to run another step. I clutched my abdomen, closed my eyes, and tried to breathe deeply and slowly as the waves of pain washed over me. Sitting on the curb in the dark, I vaguely wondered what the occasional passing motorist might be thinking as they passed, their headlights lighting up all the reflective bits on my apparel. Is she sick? Injured? Homeless? Yet, no one stopped to check on me.

Five minutes later, recovered, I stood up and resumed my run.

Everyday, my inbox fills with emails from the various newsletters I'm subscribed to: Runners World, Triathlete Mag, Lava, Active, etc. Newsletters with training ideas, nutrition advice, run techniques, race day strategies, tips for beginners, apparel news, etc. But it's extremely rare that I see any discussions of the physical challenges that we face specifically as FEMALE runners, cyclists and triathletes.

You know what I'm talking about... Our hormonal cycles affect everything we do, often rather dramatically. Just a few examples:

-Some women, like me this morning, suffer debilitating menstrual cramps during workouts. Other women can barely get out of bed, much less exercise, on certain days of the month.

-Pre-menstrual water weight gains affect how our exercise apparel fits. Waistbands may feel snugger. Bras may feel too tight. Our breasts may hurt when we run. Earlier this week, I had to mine my dresser drawers for sports bras that were a full cup size larger to accommodate the swelling and provide enough structure and support for the extra weight of my breasts.

-Managing our flow during exercise is a challenge. Tampon strings may rub. Pads may chafe. We may find ourselves far from home in unexpected need of feminine supplies (usually while wearing something other than black bottoms!)

-Race days become more complicated. Where to stow the extra tampons on your bike or during the run? How to manage your hygiene when the "bathroom" is a port-o-john without a place to wash your hands?

-Our appetites change. We experience cravings and may seek out foods that are not necesarily conducive to helping us maintain an optimal weight.

I could go on, but you get my point. Why is it that these topics never come up in the flood of "Tips, Tricks and Top 10 Lists" we see all around us? With so many women participating in running events and triathlons these days (I read recently that there are now more WOMEN competing at the half marathon distance than there are men), why is it that there's so little discussion of a topic that concerns just about every woman who participates in these events?

Are we prudes? Are the mags and websites afraid of alienating or (more likely) grossing out their male readership? Do we think that these sorts of topics are best discussed in whispers with our girlfriends?

I don't have the answer, but it puzzles me, and I wish it would change. It would be nice if we could be "grown-ups" and talk about ALL the things that affect us as athletes.

Along those lines, I want to give a shout out to Nicole DeBoom of Skirt Sports. Nicole, a former professional triathlete and Ironman Wisconsin Champ, is expecting her first child with her husband, professional triathlete Tim DeBoom. She's been blogging through her pregnancy, and this morning's post totally cracked me up. I loved that she was so open and honest, talking about something that every woman who has had a baby experiences, but might not be considered a topic for such public consumption. So kudos to you, Nicole, for writing such a frank post.


Despite this morning's challenges, I ended up with a decent run. I've "graduated" from R3W2 to R4W1. The knee is still a little tender on these runs, but it's slowly getting better. Not perfect, but I'll take it for now.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ironman Training Day 13: Peanut Butter

Hello. My name is Susan Otcenas, and I have a peanut butter problem. Crunchy. With salt.

I don't know what it is about peanut butter, but I crave it. Constantly.

I'm allergic to milk. When I was a kid, I would eat my Rice Krispies with peanut butter. A big blob of peanut butter on my spoon, dipped into the cereal repeatedly, until one or the other was gone. Ah, the memories! But, I'm all grown up, and now I like my peanut butter straight up, no krispies required.

This is especially problematic when I'm trying my best to be in "weight loss mode" as I am now. The hungrier I am, the harder it is to resist the siren song of peanut butter! I've finally resorted to banishing it from my household. I simply have no self-control. If it's in the house, I will move the spoon from jar to mouth to jar to mouth until it's gone.

Sigh. Today I tried to drown my peanut butter sorrows in a pint of sweet cherry tomatoes. It wasn't quite the same somehow. But at least it curbed the hunger.


Swam another mile this morning. All three 500s were sub-11:00. I consider this to be progress.

Here are some swim-specific poolside exercises, courtesy of Adam's Peanut Butter!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ironman Training Days 10,11,12!

Wow, I've been so busy this week I've barely had time to sit down!

DAY 10

Monday morning saw me back at the cycling studio. Note to self: 3 beers and 5 hours sleep on a Sunday night are NOT conducive to a successful class on a Monday morning.

After some warmups and one-legged pedaling drills, the main body of the class included two 15 minute intervals at 90rpm. We began at around 110% of threshold and stepped it down 10 watts every minute for 5 minutes, then brought it back up 10 watts each for 2 more minutes, then finally held threshold for 8.

The first interval went pretty well. I nailed the power levels. But the SECOND interval was uuuuuuuuuugly! When all was said and done, I averaged 20 watts lower on the second than the first. Harumph. That'll teach me to get to bed earlier!

The graph below shows the two 15 minute intervals. Green is cadence, which I maintained at 90. Power is yellow, which is clearly lower on the second interval. Lower power, higher heartrate (red). Not good.

DAY 11

One mile swim, 5.5 mile run, all before 7am! Not a bad way to start the day!

I feel like I had a bit of a breakthrough on my swim kick. My first two sets of 500 were nothing to write home about. But my LAST set was amazing. I can't exactly describe what I was doing differently, but I was moving much faster. I swam a 10:28 500! This will sound ridiculously slow to a real swimmer, but it's a solid 30 seconds faster than any of the 500s I've done in the past two weeks.

Between each of my 500s, I did a 50 yard kickset. I think that helped me concentrate on kick efficiency, and that translated into me paying more attention to it on the last 500. All I know is that it worked, and I will try to replicate it again tomorrow.

After my swim, I changed into run gear and (mostly) ran the 5.5 miles home. I'm still rehabbing my knee, so I did Run 4 Walk 1 x 11. 56 minutes back to my house put me at 10:10 per mile. I think that's not half bad for a run/walk.

In the afternoon, I went to Sweetpea and had a complete cleat fitting, and got the fit on my tri bike dialed in. I'll post a picture when I get it from the fitter. We made quite a few adjustments, and I'll be interested to see how it feels on the open road.

DAY 12

Back to the cycling studio! Today's workout was labeled "intense hill climbing intervals" Geez, you ain't kidding. The main workset was 50 minutes, which included 33 minutes at or above threshold. Most of the climbing was done at 55-60 rpm, so these were steep, power building hills. 10 hills in all. TEN!

I did pretty well until the 9th interval, when I was starting to lose some steam (surprise!). I made a joke about getting gapped, to which the coach responded by making us do a 15 second out-of-the-saddle surge to catch back up! :-)

This was a very hard workout.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ironman Training Day 9: Portland Marathon

I volunteered at the Portland Marathon today! I joined the Red Lizard Running Club at their aid station at mile 24. When I arrived at 12:30, the folks passing though the aid station were at 5hr30min. When I left at 2:15, the participants were at 7hr15min. Most were walkers at that point, and many were really hurting. I was very impressed by their perseverance and did my best to cheer them on and letting them know they were rockstars to me. Having never done a marathon myself, I can hardly imagine how tired they must have been as they grabbed some water, electrolytes and gummy bears from the Red Lizards. I hope I helped make their experience just a little better.

Congratulations to all the participants today! You are amazing!

Ironman Training Day 8: Bike, Yoga, Weeds

Saturday October 8th.

Busy Day! 8am cycling class. Today's focus was on cadence work at tempo wattage (high zone 2, low zone 3). Specifically, we did cadence ladders while attempting to maintain the same wattage throughout the ladder.

0:30 at 90 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm
1:30 at 95 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm
2:30 at 100 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm
3:30 at 105 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm

We did 3 10 minute sets of the above ladder, with 5 minutes Zone 1 recovery in between each ladder. I did pretty well on the first 2, but started to get fatigued on the 3rd.

The blue highlighted areas are the 3 10-minute work sets. The cadence is in yellow, where you can clearly see the rpm step up throughout each set. The pink line is the wattage #. The first 2 sets look good, but on the 3rd, I can see where I was having a hard time maintaining power, especially towards the end. Finally, the red line is my heart rate. It really increases alot as the cadence goes up. I struggle at the higher cadences (though I'm getting much better) and my HR really goes up alot. I hope to see some improvement in that as the winter progresses.

After class, I stayed for a one hour yoga session. The instructor is a cyclist, so she's familiar with the imbalances we have. I let her know that I was a yoga novice and encouraged her to guide me as much as she felt necessary. As the class progressed, it was clear I have alot of work to do on my core and upper body strength!

I spent three hours in the afternoon pulling weeds at my rental house. To say that my arms and neck are sore today would be an understatement!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ironman Training Day 7: Bonk!

My friend Jill has a 5 year old son named Liam. When Liam was very small, probably less than 2, we started playing a silly little game. I'd tap his nose with my finger and say "Bonk!". He'd erupt in giggles. We would do this over and over until one of us (usually me) tired of the game.

As he got older, he learned to bonk me back. He'd tap my nose and cry "Bonk! Sometimes we would tap noses instead. Bonk! As he's gotten bigger and stronger, he now occasionally raps his (hard!) skull against my forehead and cries "BONK!". We both laugh and usually things devolve into a massive tickle fight. I'm big enough that I usually win that game. :-)

This morning found me in the pool again at 5:30am. I had a great first 500 yard swim (10:58) and was midway through the 2nd 500 when ... BONK!! Holy crap! Startled, I stood straight up in my lane, to discover that a man had SWUM RIGHT INTO ME, crashing into my head!

Likely embarrassed, he started laughing hysterically. In hindsight, I suppose it *was* funny, but at the time I was irritated and more than a little thrown off kilter. He apologized and I asked him to be more careful paying attention to where he was swimming. He'd apparently just entered the pool, and didn't look to see the circle pattern of the lanes before charging ahead the wrong way down my lane.

As I made my way to the end of the lane, I realized my head and the bridge of my nose hurt. I rested for a bit, and the lifeguard came over to make sure I was OK. After a while, I resumed my swim.

My second 500yards of the day was 11:20. Total distance for the day: 1600 yards.

Ironman Training Day 6: Day late and a dollar short

Yeah, I should have posted this yesterday. I suspect this won't be the last time I'm late!

Another run/walk day. R3W2x10. (Run 3, walk 2, 10 sets). I'm really liking the run/walk strategy as a means of getting back into run shape without overly stressing my knee. I also feel like I run faster on each run segment because I give the run muscles a break during the walks (as opposed to slogging along on a constant, slow run without any breaks). I'm thinking about getting myself a GPS watch so that I can more accurately record the distances I'm going, and to track my progress on building speed.

I'm currently running the Brooks Ghost. They are very comfortable, and have plenty of room in the forefoot for my extra-wide flippers (er, feet.). I also have a pair of Saucony Kinvara shoes (minimalist) that I wear when I want to feel fast. They weigh nothing!

Brooks Ghost

Saucony Kinvara

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ironman Training Day 5: Riding with Robbie

Robbie Ventura, that is.

This morning's cycling class featured hill climbing intervals. Low cadences (55-60rpm) at threshold or higher (180-200watts). Our coach, Rick, has installed an excellent projection/sound system at the studio. Today we utilized a Robbie Ventura RealRides video for motivation. These videos have some definite pros and cons.

Pro: Beautiful scenery to look at
Con: Robbie can talk in full sentences at 400 watts, making *my* power #s looks totally puny
Pro: Robbie's beautiful legs to look at
Con: It's always sunny in the videos, which makes me jealous of those Californians
Pro: Did I mention Robbie's beautiful legs?

We did 4 big hill intervals of 11, 9, 5 & 4 minutes. Hard work! I was absolutely soaked by the end of the class. But my legs felt great. Very fresh. I think my month of rest did me a lot of good.

Left knee: mostly OK until the end of the 3rd interval. I opted to do the last (4th) one at 70-80rpm to avoid overtaxing it.

Today's motivation:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ironman Training, Day 4: It's a Miracle

It's a miracle: my bathing suit still fits.

I was in the pool at 5:20am, delayed from my 5am goal by hitting the snooze button a few too many times (must break that habit.) Getting re-accustomed to going to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 pm is going to take some adjustment. 8:30 would be better, but I was happy to be in bed with lights out at 9pm last night.

Today's goals were:
1) Swim 1600 yards (1 mile)
2) Swim 1 continuous 500 yard set, to set my "baseline" time for that distance.
3) Reacquaint myself with the water, and try to swim smoothly, not quickly.

I'm fortunate to be able to swim at Tualatin Hills Parks and Rec's facility at 158th & Walker. It's a 1st class swim center, with a true Olympic-sized pool. 25 yards x 50 meters. This time of year, the 5am-7am lap swim has the lanes arranged in the 25 yard direction. In the spring, they will be switched to the 50 meters direction.

The pool is never crowded at this time of day. Half the pool is taken up by the swim team and masters groups that are coached there, while the other half is reserved for open lap swim. I've been going to this facility for years, and the same dozen or so people always turn up at 5am. This morning I shared a slow lane with a gal named Li, who as far as I can recall, has *always* been there every time I go swimming. Li is a slow, metronomic (is that a word?) swimmer. I can usually judge how well I'm swimming on any given day by whether I gain on her, or she gains on me!

After a 500 yard warmup broken into 50 to 100 meters, I swam a 500 yard "TT". "TT" being in quotes because my only goal was to swim the whole thing without a break, with the best form I could muster. I think setting a baseline of where I started from will be motivating as I progress through the season. Sooooo, I ended up swimming TWO 500s in a row. The first at 11:33, the second at 11:52.

I can't decide if I'm happy or disappointed. On the one hand, I'm happy that I'm even ABLE to swim 500 yards continuously without needing to stop for air. OTOH, those times mean I have a loooong way to go to simply get back to my former snail-like fitness, when I managed to swim 500 yards at just under 10 minutes. I'd *like* to get my 500 yard times down to 9:00 or less, so clearly I have oodles of work to do.

I finished off with a final 100 yards, bringing my distance for the day to 1600 yards (a nice neat mile).

Today's inspiration:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ironman Training, Day 3

So, I'm signed up for Ironman Canada on August 26th, 2012! After spending September doing not much other than loafing around and eating (a.k.a. recovering from Paris-Brest-Paris), Saturday October 1st was the my first "official" day of training for Ironman Canada.

Ironman is one of those "bucket list" things that up until last year I doubted I would ever accomplish. But after putting in the time and training to do the half-iron distance event at Pacific Crest in June 2010, I realized I could train for and complete an Ironman if I really wanted to.

I've spent 2011 mostly on my bike, preparing for Paris-Brest-Paris. After the Canby Gator Grinder Triathlon in May, I completely quit swimming. In June, with some tendonitis developing in my ankles, I decided to quit running as well. That left me with plenty of time to train on my bike. By July 31st, I'd logged 5220 miles, and by the end of August, post PBP, I was well over 6000.

Taking September as a recovery month was something I'd planned on. But ultimately, I was forced to do it. PBP did a number on my knees. I've never had knee trouble before, but the combination of the big miles I've ridden all year, the SIR 1000K in June, as well as PBP in August ultimately proved too much on my formerly healthy knees. I'm fighting some kind of tendonitis in my left knee and rehabbing it needs to be a top priority.

My goals during training are as follows:

1) Start off easily, to allow my knee to continue to recover.
2) Shed some weight. I'm starting at 145 (how embarrassing!) and want to get back to 130 by May (130 was my original WW goal, which I achieved in June 2009) and 125 by August (I was 126.5 in the summer of 2009. Lean but not skinny.) This will require a fair bit more discipline on my part than I've displayed this year.
3) Work on swimming. Swimming is my weakest link. My technique is poor, and I've never swum more than 3000 meters in one go. Plus, I tend to panic in cold water. So, lots of pool time is going to be necessary. I'll start with 2 days a week this month, but need to build to 3-4 days per week fairly soon. I may look into a swim coach.
4) Build power on the bike. 2011 was all about endurance. 2012 needs to be about building power and speed. Current threshold power is 181 watts. Would love to build that to over 200 by race day.
5) Run faster. I did lots of distance training in 2010 training for the half. Got my LSD runs up to 15 miles last year. And though I got faster, I didn't get *much* faster. I'll need to focus more on speed work in 2012.

I hope to use this blog to record my training and keep myself accountable. I'll also share what I learn along the way.

Day 1: Saturday, October 1st. - Easy 20 mile bike ride. Left knee felt OK. Not great, but OK.
Day 2: Sunday, October 2nd. - Easy run - R3 W2 x10 plus warmup and cool down. 54 minutes, 4.4 miles. Left knee felt OK. Felt some pain over the patella, but it faded during the workout. No post-workout knee pain or visible swelling.

Day 3: Today - One hour cycling class at C-Velo. Threshold Power testing. Avg 220 watts in 5min TT, 191 watts in 20min TT. --> Threshold Power = 181 watts. ZERO knee pain! I attribute that to concentrating on maintaining a high cadence, instead of powering through, which is what I usually do.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Speak Up

It's easy to complain or grumble when something or someone makes us unhappy. Usually we bitch to a friend, complain to a spouse, or dash off a comment at the end of a news story or blog post. Poor service, high taxes, rude waitresses... whatever.

But change doesn't happen unless we speak up AND speak up to the right people. When we feel strongly about something, we need to make our opinions heard. Politicians are elected to represent *us*, so when they hear from a lot of constituents on a particular issue, they tend to pay attention. They want votes, after all, so make your voice heard, else you have no right to complain later when a politician doesn't vote your way.

This week I sent a letter to Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey, after he suggested that bicyclists do not pay their fair share of the cost to construct and maintain our roadways. The letter was subsequently published by The Bicycle Transportation Alliance on the BTA's blog. You can read it here:

Have an opinion on something? Take 5 minutes and write a letter. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gazelle Madelief

I picked up my new Gazelle Madelief this morning. This latest addition to my bicycle stable came courtesy of the the BTA's annual Alice Awards and Auction fundraising event. I didn't go to the event with the *intention* to buy a new bike, but upon arriving, I fell in love with it.

Today being one of the first truly warm, sunny days we've had all spring, I decided to take the bike to make the 8-9 mile round trip to the bank. Did I *really* need to go to the bank today. Sure. But what I REALLY needed was some fresh air and sunshine.

Pedaling a single speed upright bike with coaster brakes is a new experience for me. I discovered that it tops out of speeds of maybe 8-10 miles an hour, after which there's no point in doing anything other than relaxing and coasting as the world slowly passes by. And, I discovered that this was perfectly OK with me! At 8mph, there's no hurry. At 8mph, there's no sweating. At 8mph, I could look around and appreciate the sunny day and warm breezes.

Of course, I also discovered a few things about biking in the suburbs that is not readily apparent at 15-20mph.

Turning left at big intersections was an eye-opener. I'm typically a vehicular cyclist. I take the lane when I ride, and when I need to turn left, I cross the travel lanes and use the left hand turn lane. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do at 15-20mph. At 8mph, it was uncomfortable. I couldn't accelerate to merge. Nor could I move speedily through the intersection when the left signal activated. Hhhmmm. On the trip home, I decided that at 8mph, the sidewalk and pedestrian signals seemed like a better way to get through these intersections.

I realized that I've gotten out of touch with what it feels like to be a slower/less confident cyclist. I've become so confident in my abilities over the years, that I've forgotten how fast and scary suburban high-speed traffic must feel to the transportation cyclist who only rides to get from point A to point B, and oftentimes does so on a bike not capable of moving very quickly.

As I navigated my way over the Highway 26 overpass (on the sidewalk, in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic) it also impressed upon me once again how terribly UNconducive to cycling our suburban roads really are. And that, if we truly want to see an increase in the ridership here in the suburbs, we simply must find a way to make our roads feel safer and more accessible to the folks riding along at 8mph.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oregon Coast 600K Pre-Ride Report

I rode the Oregon Coast 600K route this past weekend (April 30th - May 1st). I rode it solo, which I must say is way tougher than riding on event day. Even though I often ride much of a brevet alone, I guess I like the comfort and comraderie of meeting up with other riders at the controls and out on the road. Just knowing that there are others out on the road the same time, conquering the same challenges, is comforting. Riding it alone was a whole 'nother ballgame, and often very lonely. Many thanks to Lynne Fitzsimmons who sent me encouraging text messages throughout much of yesterday. It sure helped keep my spirits up as I got tired!

Now, on the the report!

Start: Grand Lodge. Departure at 6am. Riders should arrive early enough to get checked in, drop your (small, please!) overnight bag with the me or Susan France, and be ready for pre-ride announcements at 5:55.

Mile 10: The Banks-Vernonia Trail is now 100% paved! This resulted in several route changes this year. Riders will now enter the trail at the newly built trailhead in Banks. Water and restrooms available. Riders will STAY ON THE TRAIL for it’s entire length to Vernonia. Do not exit the trail at Stubb Stewart like last year. (BTW – there’s a LOT of wildlife on the trail. In addition to startling scores of birds and a surprising number of rabbits, I also nearly crapped my pants when a HUGE coyote leaped out of the underbrush just to my left, dashed across the trail, and then crashed into the underbrush on the other side. Um yeah, I was wide awake after that!)

Mile 23: New info control on the Banks Vernonia Trail.

Mile 46: I got a flat tire here. This matters not a whit to you, but sucked for me.

Mile 53: Birkenfeld Store – This is not a control, but stop if you are cold, hungry or need a break. I let the proprietor know the group is coming through. He promised to put on a large kettle of soup. Might be baked potato soup, which I can tell you from first hand experience is quite yummy.

Tank up – you’ve got a big hill to climb over the coast range!

Mile 107: Take note: The info control location has changed, which shortened the long flat, sucky, headwindy stretch heading north at Ft. Stevens. You’re welcome.

From here, the route is mostly flat until after Seaside. Shoulder is in good shape and mostly swept clean. There’s a ton of traffic on 101 on the weekend, though, so be vigilant. This will be the most heavily trafficked stretch of road the entire weekend.

Tank up – it’s gonna get hilly. Three big hills to climb between Seaside and Nehalem. If you’re hungry, Angelina’s in Seaside (on the right in a little strip mall before the Pizza Hut) has tasty panini. I recommend the Chicken Parm.

Mile 196: Pacific City. Last services until Lincoln City. For a fast control, I recommend going to mile 197 (the intersection @ Brooten) and going to the Shell Station.

The 3 mile stretch of road leaving Pacific City is in moderately poor shape. I got a flat on this stretch on the March 300K thanks to a pothole.

Tank up – Slab Creek Rd stands between you and sleep.

Mile 208: Slab Creek Rd. A mile or so BEFORE this, you’ll see a road on the left called North (N.) Slab Creek. Don’t take it. (Trust me, I made this mistake last year in the dark, and it sucked.) It’s in terrible, terrible shape, parallels 101 for about a mile or so, then dumps you back onto 101. Then just beyond that is the entrance to Slab Creek Rd. That’s the one you want. Slab Creek Road is in poor shape in some places. Lots of cracked pavement and some good-sized potholes. This is particularly true in the first couple of miles. Might not be so bad for those of you fast enough to get there in the daylight, but in the dark (and it’s VERY dark – after the 1st couple miles there are no houses and no street lights) it felt like I had to maneuver around quite a few tire-eating holes. Slab Creek climbs 6 miles to the info control, then climbs some more after that before finally descending. The descent is twisty and steep and most of you will be doing it in the dark. I was happy to have both my generator light and a helmet light that I could use to look ahead into the turns. Fortunately the pavement on the descent is in better shape, but still, please use caution.

Mile 222: Lincoln City I’ll be in room 114, which is immediately off the lobby on the left hand side. I’ll have your drop bags, and some snacks and drinks. If you are very hungry, though, you may wish to hit up the Safeway or the 24hr Shell Station, both on the right side of 101, just before the Motel 6. The Motel 6 does not serve breakfast, and at the hour in which most of you will be departing, there isn’t any place open to get breakfast (I left at 5:30am and LC was a ghost town at that hour.). However, the rooms have a microwave and a fridge, so you can buy food and make your own breakfast.

Please respect the other hotel guests by keeping quiet in the hallways. And, if it’s raining, which it looks like it may be, please be respectful of the carpets and the linens. We would like to be able to use this hotel again in the future.

Please drop off your overnight bag with me no later than 6am on Sunday morning (the control closes at 5:48). I’d like to be able to get a few hours sleep before making the drive back to Portland. If you DNF at this point, please do not look to me for a ride home. My vehicle will be filled with overnight bags and can not accommodate bicycles.


I’ll just come right out and say it. I think Day 2 is really challenging, more challenging than the route profile makes it appear. (But maybe I’m just out of shape!) Particularly from Lincoln City to Blodgett, this course will throw a lot of curve balls your way. It’s likely to be either very cold or very wet (last year we had the extra bonus of getting both. This year it was just very cold and foggy for my pre-ride. But rain is in the forecast…). The terrain is surprisingly hilly, including a real doozy of a climb between Nashville and Summit. And there’s a nice gravel section thrown in for good measure. On the bright side, the route is stunningly pretty, and there’s virtually zero traffic all the way to Blodgett.

Mile 252: Siletz. Your first opportunity for services since LC. The café is reportedly open at 5am. When I went through around 8am, the OPEN sign was lit, but the café looked dark. I did not investigate further, as I didn’t need anything at that point. The grocery is open at 7am.

Miles 260: Logsden store. Opens at 8am. I let them know you are coming. OVERNIGHT RIDERS: Answer the info control in lieu of getting a signature.

Mile 270: Two miles of gravel. The ascent is less than a mile and the surface has a lot of hardpacked areas. It was dry this weekend, so it wasn’t a tough climb. Could be slick in the rain. USE CAUTION on the descent. There’s a lot of loose gravel, some washboarding and potholes. It’s also fairly twisty. There’s no guardrails or edge of road markings, so overnight riders will want to be especially cautious.

Miles 274: The old Nashville store is now a food bank. They open at 11am. They won’t sell you anything, but if you need water, a rest room or snacks, they are happy to provide. A small donation would be appreciated.

Put your climbing legs on, there’s a steep climb on the way to Summit. Don’t let the bridge troll get you on the way up. Oh, and word to the wise: Summit is a lousy name for the town….

Mile 282: Blodgett. Store opens at 9am. OVERNIGHT RIDERS: Answer the info control in lieu of getting a signature. Everyone else: stock up on fluids and food because there’s not much of anything after this until Dallas 30+ miles later.

28 miles on Kings Valley Highway – it’s hilly and I hope you don’t have the soul-sucking headwinds I had for most of the length. If you find yourself needing a break, especially if it’s raining, the Ritner Covered Bridge would probably be a nice spot to get out of the rain for a few minutes.

Mile 315: Dallas. This is an open control, and you have tons of options here. I used the Subway (on the right after making the turn at Jefferson) as my control because I find the Safeway just beyond it to be a bit of a time suck. The Safeway, however, has a nice deli and several hot soup options, which I was very grateful for last year when it rained a lot on this brevet.

Mile 348: Dayton You’ll want to use the market at the end of the Webfoot Rd leg as your control. There’s not much else in Dayton, but the market is reasonably well stocked. OVERNIGHT RIDERS: The market is CLOSED from 2am to 7am. If you arrive during these hours, please go 5 blocks off route to the US Bank on 3rd Street and get a receipt from the 24 hr ATM machine there.

Mile 350: Lafayette Last services before the finish.

Mile 373: Grand Lodge at Forest Grove. Susan and/or Susan will likely be in the small meeting room at the top left of the stairs from the parking lot. If you bring a towel and $5, you can get a key to the showers and the outdoor soaking tub. Highly recommended!