24 August 2010

Portland Century 2010

On Sunday - August 22 - Bryce and I rode the Portland Century. It was the second time I had ridden it and the first for Bryce - not only that, but he had just (as in, less than 48-hours prior) returned from a month-long family trip that saw far more gin & tonics than bike rides.

We started off feeling good and riding fast. The new pavement on the Springwater is niiiiice. We got into a nice rhythm and were moving along having a great time when we were joined by some guys that I guess really wanted to get into a draft train. They wouldn't pass and kind of pushed along behind us.

We rode like that for a few minutes, with me in front, until finally there was some oncoming traffic, some confusion and I got dropped off the back. I hung back about 50 feet watching Bryce lead the train. He was hauling ass, and seeming to enjoy himself, so I didn't want to shout something like, "hey, wait for me!"

I found myself riding alongside this dude named Carl. He was a nice, outgoing guy who's buddy had bailed on him so he was talking to everyone (particularly women) that came into sight (he also was totally jacked on too many shots of espresso). We rode along talking as he cheerfully greeted everyone that we passed.

As we approached the first rest stop, there was a couple walking in our opposite direction. I was riding to Carl's left, so I slowed down to drop behind him. As I did this, I glanced down to grab my water bottle and heard Carl very cheerfully say, "Good Morning!" I looked up, checked to make sure I was clear of the couple, looked up the path toward Carl  - who was now in front of me by about 15 feet and a bit to my left - and watched as he flew up in the air and over his handlebars!

At some point, I threw my water bottle and grabbed my handlebars in order to avoid Carl, who had landed on his head directly in my path. Fifteen feet may sound like a lot, but at 15 mph it's roughly three-quarters of a second. I narrowly avoided both Carl and his bike, screeched to a stop, and hopped off my ride, expecting to be dealing with a broken collarbone or some other horrible, maimy-type injury. Instead, Carl was up and staring at the source of his problems; a steel divider post (the kind to keep cars off, but can be removed for emergency vehicles). He had clipped it with his left crank - which, along with his right brake lever, was not looking all that great.

Luckily, we were right at the very first rest stop, which had a mechanic. But no Bryce.

I wished Carl luck and got back on the road, hoping to catch Bryce - while sending him a text saying something like, "hey, wait for me!" Bryce said that he pushed along at the front of that train for a while before realizing that I was no longer in it. He said that he then rode along slowly waiting for me to catch up, and finally stopped when I sent him a text telling him about Carl's accident.

It was somewhere after the first hill, but before the second rest stop that we encountered Carl again. He said that the mechanic was able to get his bike going, and that he had a little road rash, but was feeling fine. His helmet had a nice ding in it.

We rode with Carl to the second rest stop. I think it's my favorite. They have strawberry shortcakes. But then again, maybe the one at Fireside is my favorite. They have all the fixin's for a beautiful ham & cheese sandwich on Dave's Killer Bread. Just what I needed at that point. However, the pizza at the Blue Lake rest stop was not what I needed. I thought it was, but then I walked over and saw them pulling a glistening pepperoni pizza out of the oven. At that point, I had ridden almost 75 miles. Pizza was not an option. Especially if I was going to ride another 25 miles!

The watermelon at Smith & Bybee Lakes was awesome and exactly, exactly what I needed.

So yeah. They have the foods at the rest stops pretty dialed in. In addition to the strawberry shortcakes, sandwiches and pizzas, they also had plenty of bananas and other fruits, granola bars and energy bars, as well as water and Gatorade and Heed mixes.

There was a decent amount of climbing. I think somewhere around 6,000 feet - which feels about right for 100 miles. Anything less would be flat and boring. Right?

It rained a little, enough to cool things down, but not enough to be truly wet, but enough to make roads slick. Some of the windy roads would have been fun to scream down (a little faster than I did...), but I really had to keep my speed in check. At one point, we came across a guy who had wiped out on a hairpin turn. He had about a dozen people with him and looked OK (he passed us a few miles later...) so we kept going.

We also had a fun encounter with that 1%. You know, the 1% that want to kill someone someday somehow. I was ahead of Bryce on a downhill moving along at 35-40 mph when a car passed me at what felt like a crazy-close distance. Had I been startled, I would have wiped out. Instead, I fixed my eyes on the road and kept riding. Now that I try to remember, I really can't even recall the make, model, color or even what state the car was from. I think it was a beater blue mazda - but I really don't remember. All I wanted to do was survive!

Bryce later told me that the car also passed close to him, but he didn't realize how close until it passed me. From his perspective, the car missed me by about six inches (or less) - and that's not including the dog who's head was hanging out the window. Bryce tells me that had the dog moved, he would have hit me.

Do people like that understand that making someone wipeout on a bike at 40 mph is potentially fatal? My guess is that they don't. These are the same people that get all road ragey. They have absolutely NO idea of the deadly, destructive force that they wield when they get behind the wheel of a car.

Oh well. I survived, and on we rode. Up and down. Up and down. And around.

I had a "clipless moment" in front of a crowd of about a dozen at an intersection in Troutdale. I stopped, went to clip out, couldn't, reached my had out, and actually caught myself on the sidewalk! I was then holding myself up with one arm at like a 45-degree angle, while attempting to clip out. Finally, I clipped out and was able to stand - to the applause of the crowd!

We were about 60 or 70 miles in when my right knee started to creak. And hurt. And hurt.

At around 75 miles, we ride along the mighty (windy) Columbia - and my pore knee didn't get a break. The headwind is so strong that in order to standstill, one must pedal. There is NO coasting. Bryce and I tried to draft off each other, but at some point I lost him (his knee was also hurting, but hurt less when he pedaled less hard - my hurt no matter what, so I figured that I'd get the pain over with faster if I rode as fast as I could). Luckily, a couple on a tandem dropped in behind me when I passed them, only to give me a break a few minutes later.

By the time we got to the last stop at Smith & Bybee Lakes, I was ready for beer (after inhaling three watermelon slices), but I had to make it through downtown Portland first. I've really come to love city riding over the past couple of years and even get all Kevin Bacony in it sometimes, but not when I've just ridden 90 miles, my knee hurts like hell, and I want beer. traffic lights and the pedestrians were all laughing at me as I rode through the obstacles, determined to drink all the free Widmer beer that I could.

After a weird ride along the Naito Parkway (I think I would have preferred Broadway) and up one last hill we made it across the finish. Luckily, the Widmer tent was about twenty feet away.

Four beers and a whole lot of yummy salmon and asparagus later, I was ready to head home. My super-smart wife (who rode the half-century) had brought the boys and the car. I piled in, crawled out at home, took a shower and went to bed.

The end.

p.s. I woke up Monday morning feeling a bit sore but not in any pain. By Monday evening, I was fine. Not like 2008 when I had a horrible - HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE - case of chaffing. This year Chamois Butter saved my ass (that should be their pitch-line, "Chamois Butter. It'll save your ass!").

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