Monday, June 22, 2009

Nous Allez! Ride report

Seventeen hundred and one riders. $6.9 million dollars raised. After day one we had used all of the medical crinkle tape. By day two getting Advil was becoming more difficult. I got mine from the doctor's personal stash - he was a rider too but happened to drop by the medical tent when I was there.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the first time I participated in a charity event like this, so the whole experience was new to me. I have seen thousands of riders together before, but this was different - I was now one of them. Collectively we were slowly freezing as we stood around in our riding tights waiting for things to get underway.

A feeling of intimidation swept over me as I looked around me. Easily four fifths of the riders here were on road bikes of one sort or another, most either aluminum or carbon fibre in construction. These bikes were all less than twenty pounds, while mine probably came in close to double that with everything I had on it. Could I hope to keep up? As I kept looking around I did identify other mountain bikes and that did make me feel better.

Speeches. Stretching. Then finally, Starting! The ride started on time and we stormed the gate with helicopters watching above. It felt good to finally be riding - it was cold standing around in a parking lot and it felt like it would rain. Best to leave Surrey as soon as possible.

Our first pit stop came at 35 km and was at the border. We had to line up with the cars but they did have two lanes dedicated for cyclists. News broadcasts were advising drivers to avoid the Peace Arch crossing at all costs. None of them looked too pleased to see us ride past. If it comes as any consolation, it still took me about 45 minutes to clear the border. The only ones getting through quickly were those who had a Nexus pass.

One thing about the border though was that it thinned out the pack considerably. No longer did I have to push through dozens of cyclists clogging the roads. Now they came in groups of 4 or 5 at a time. I was starting to get a little confidence. Or maybe it was just warming up some. Either way, I found myself at the next pit stop filling up on oranges and bagels with peanut butter. I did not want to run out of energy from a lack of food. This plan almost backfired as I wasn't able to eat all of my lunch - I was still full from all the snacks at the pit stops!

The stops were fun though and I am glad they were so frequent. The support crew were friendly and helpful - there would always be people cheering for us as we arrived at a stop - a welcome crew, I guess. All I know is that poor lady with the bull horn must have been pretty hoarse by the end of day two. Yes, that guy is wearing denim coloured tights.

The lunch stop was 88 km into the ride, at Lake Padden Park. It's ok if you don't know where that is, I certainly didn't. What I do know is that getting there required us to ride up a long, slight climb to the top of some hill with a lake on it. I made it up but was feeling some pain in my right knee. It was time to visit the medical staff.

My leg was wrapped up, they gave me some Advil and told me that should get me through the day. I tried getting some good photos of the lake but they didn't turn out. Just as well, since this blog post is already too long.

I got back on the road - only one more pit stop before arriving at Edgewater Park, where we would be spending the night. The route out of Lake Padden should have been fantastic - lots of curvy downhill with very little traffic. Unfortunately I was faced with a headwind that kept me from gaining any speed at all. Still, I made it into that stop and then on to the camp in good time. It had warmed up and turned into a nice day after all.

I checked in my bike and then collected the gear I had checked in at the start line. This process took mere minutes and worked very well. The tents were all set up and ready. The tent pictured here was reserved for one of the guys who raised the most money. A nice gesture, I thought.

My tent mate, Simon, arrived at camp about 15 minutes ahead of me and was unpacking. We spent the afternoon chatting and relaxing - trying to remember when we passed each other, things like that. Both of us were already tired but we knew we had to eat and drink as much as we could first. We did turn in early but neither one of us could say we slept 'well'.

It rained in the morning but that stopped by the time the ride was ready to start again. Still, the roads were wet and once again we were cold. Simon and I rode in the same pack for a while until I noticed a rider with a flat tire and no pump. I stopped to lend him mine while they continued on.

So many riders passed me while we got his bike working. I know it's not a race, but the people I rode with were getting further away. Once he was patched up I was ready to press on, sore knee be damned.

Eventually we got on to the Centennial Trail. This was a fantastic paved bike path that we took for many miles. I only wish I was with those road riders for this part - I'm sure they went fast. It was during this stretch that I came across Theresa and her crew, the Screamin Beavers. Theresa has done some technical writing for us at the office so of course I had to do some trash talking as I caught up to them. We rode together for a while but eventually I pulled ahead, hoping to catch up to Simon. At one point the Beavers made an effort to catch me which added some fun to the ride. They chased me into the lunch stop but I didn't see them after that.

I'm glad they did however, because at lunch I spied a couple riders from earlier in the day, before my delays. Robbie and Dan were also hoping to catch up to some faster riders, so we decided to make a go of it. We set out straight away before cooling down. Riding with this pair was fun and we stayed together to the finish line, at the University of Washington. The last twenty kilometers or so were still on a bike path, but they were rough as we were all pretty saddle sore and roots had pushed bumps into the pavement. I remember one rider laughing because we all groaned as we went over the same bump.

So that's the report. I might wax philosophical about the implications later, but for now, I wanted to record this new experience for what it was. One hell of a good ride.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Forecasting rain

Gone are the hopes and delusions of two hot and sunny days this weekend. Reality has taken it's place, with a weather forecast of a decidedly mixed nature. We will have rain. We will have cloud. There is a slight chance of sun. How very typically Northwest.

So yesterday I finally got some fenders. It wasn't as straightforward as I hoped because my bike wasn't really built to have fenders installed.
Consequently, most fender designs just don't work. I did manage to find some plastic ones that will at least give me some coverage though. Today I am going back to get some rain pants and a breathable cycling jacket. Possibly get any other last minute odds and ends too.

I was out for a quick ride this morning, just to make sure I still feel good on the bike. This week has been pretty relaxed though, without much riding so that I can be well rested for this weekend. To that end I managed to get a photo of this guy today. There were a lot of herons out, I guess because the tide was low. This was the best photo I got since most of them were pretty far away from the seawall. Either that, or the photo just turned out blurry.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The ride is this weekend!

I was on the phone with my parents this weekend when a strange but delightful thing happened: my Dad gave me a hard time for not blogging more regularly. He was subtle about it but got his point across - he gets bored waiting to see if I have updated things or not. I suppose if I wanted to I could introduce him to the wonders of RSS feeds but that might be rushing things a bit. I gave them a lesson on how browser tabs work recently - maybe I should see how that goes first.
In other news, the taser graffiti artist strikes again! It seems I am a bit behind the times in reporting this one - the office staff went out for lunch at a local eatery and noticed this on the way back - but some of them were blase about it since they noticed it a few weeks ago. Why I was not informed is still under investigation. More on this as it develops.

Oh, remember that little tree I posted about last time? Seems we have had our first garden casualty. A local squirrel decided to dig it up and make a midnight snack out of the chestnut that was 'planted'. Perhaps it was the same squirrel who planted it. This leaves a grand total of zero plants in my garden this year. At least I have been out on the patio to barbecue some tasty meals (well, manage the BBQ while Holly cooks something amazing.) You can see Louise strategically positioned to make nice with our neighbors, who like to reach through the fence to pet her. They often are cooking up something tasty and Louise remains hopeful although it hasn't panned out for her yet.

Oh, and yes my ride to Conquer Cancer is this weekend. I've been trying to get the last few things together in preparation. The anticipation is certainly building and I'm getting nervous about forgetting something. I'm sure I will, I just hope it's nothing too crucial.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Packages arrived

Today has been a good day. It has taken me several rewrites of this post, but here it is. My enhanced driver's license arrived today, courtesy of CSIS (the Canadian version of the CIA, in case you don't know). I was worried that it would not arrive before my bike ride to Seattle. This would have been a minor problem as one of the main reasons for me getting the card was for that trip across the border.

In short, it's smaller and more weather resistant than your typical passport document, something I didn't want to have to bring if not needed.

In addition to my EDL, a package also arrived from the Cancer Foundation - my check in kit, along with the ride jersey was here! I had to restrain myself from geeking out too badly - my first impulse was to fasten the rider card to my bike, slap on a sticker and try on the jersey - but I remained calm. (I did try on the jersey though.) Now all that is left for me to do, aside from ride my bike as much as possible in the next week is to get medical insurance and decide if I will stay in a hotel or in one of the provided tents. I feel somewhat guilty about tenting it as I know my snoring will probably keep up everybody around me. Oh, and making the arrangements for Holly to make the trip too - that is also yet to be done.

So: like the little tree? We left some dirt outside over the winter (mostly sand used for the paver stones) and I think a squirrel decided to bury a chestnut in it. Now we have this little sapling, growing like a weed.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Weak link in the chain

Two days ago I installed a new chain on my bike. Regular maintenance, it was working fine but starting to stretch. I figured a new one before the big ride was only prudent. I changed it, went for a 10 km ride, all was good. I was happy.

The next day I rode over to ICBC and back - about a 2km round trip. On the way back the chain broke. I can't recall ever breaking a chain before. Luckily it was a short walk back to the house, and even luckier, I had not yet thrown out the spare links from my new chain.

I am not 100% sure why the chain broke, but I have suspicions. I connected the chain correctly but as you can see in the photo the link appears to be stretched. That would certainly explain the pin working it's way out. So I am not sure if I picked up a crappy chain, did something wrong or just had a bad link. I was able to replace the broken parts and things seem to be working ok now but the new join does seem a bit stiff. It's only noticeable when the stiff link goes over the reverse cog on the derailleur though, and only under no load (ie. pedaling backwards while coasting).

Needless to say, I'm packing my chain tool and the rest of my spare links to take with me on all my rides for the next while.