Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Storm Chasing

Actually, that title is more about storms chasing me. They haven't caught me yet, but ...

I went out for a ride yesterday afternoon. We are into the rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest, so every day when it isn't raining, or if there's a good clear window of time, the bike's siren call seems to get louder. There have been three days in the last two weeks when I have actually gotten out. Today may end up being another. If this keeps up, I'll have to buy more cold weather gear (or do laundry more often).

So yesterday seemed like an opportune time to go see how far the Burke Gilman trail goes to the west. A quick ride down 15th led me to it, and a turn to the right sent me the direction I wanted to go.

I can see the allure of the trail right now. It skirts along several urban areas, allowing you to ride without having to constantly watch for cars (except where the trail crosses roads). Watching for other cyclists and for pedestrians is another matter, but at least right now there aren't as many out there as during the summer or on a weekend.

The Burke Gilman ended quicker than I expected it to. I knew it would end, but I didn't think I'd gone that far when it did. So I hit some urban streets (with at least some markings for cyclists from time to time) and headed further west through Fremont/Ballard, rather than crossing a bridge toward downtown. I will have to cross one of these days, but yesterday wasn't the day.

Right about at the Chittendam Locks (aka, the Ballard Locks) I picked up trail again and followed it as it curled north along the western shore of northern Seattle, ending up at Golden Gardens Park. From there I had two choices. I could turn around and go back the way I came, or I could climb this heinous-looking hill up the ridge. MG and I had driven on it before, so I knew it would be steep. Looking to the southwest, I noted that the clouds - dark clouds - were starting to mass and move in my direction. Going south would be toward them. I climbed the hill.

Now maybe I'm just used to climbing by now. After all, I usually rode some very steep stuff back in TN. I've also ridden a goodly portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway several times. (Sitting here typing this, it is very hard to reconcile just how far away those places are now.) I kept preparing myself for the climb to be worse than it was. I am out of shape, after all, having not ridden very much this year (I've had other stuff going on, OK?). I also haven't been climbing since I finally went cold-turkey off of the beta-blockers. But it wasn't so bad. That's not to say that it was easy - it wasn't - but it wasn't what I'd mentally prepared myself for. Maybe that was the difference.

I got to the top and realized that the quickest way back to the house was to head due east on 85th. A glance over my shoulder at the clouds motivated me to get going, perhaps a little faster than I meant to. 85th rolls a little as it crosses north Seattle, and I was out of the saddle moving quickly up each uphill section. I crossed several major roads, rode with a lot of traffic (but was able to maintain about the same speed, mostly), and finally turned down Wallingford to get from 85th to 80th. I figured that crossing the bridge over I-5 on 80th would be a little better than doing it over 85th.

After the bridge, a quick right on Banner Way led me to 75th, and then it was only about 4 blocks or so back to the house. I jumped off, headed into the house, stripped off my outer layer and sat in a stupor due to pushing harder than I'd meant to. But I felt justified about five minutes later. When the clouds reached the house.

And then it rained for a while (and I dozed off dreaming of riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Crossed Up

I went to see my first Washington State cycling event today. It was the Woodland Park Grand Prix event (First Annual, they say, but I don't think the 'First' denotes 'Annual' until after it has been repeated).

I actually didn't even know about the event until this morning over breakfast. I was eating my breakfast while flipping through the most recent Seattle Weekly independent newspaper when I saw the notice for the race. The first heat was to start at 9:30am, but since I had to have MG at the airport at 9am (closer to 9:10, actually), and it's a 30 minute drive back, I figured I'd miss the start anyway. Of course I only barely missed it, since I have seen very few race events that have actually started on time.

It was a long and winding course. Most of the races I've attended/scored/officiated in Knoxville, TN have been a bit shorter, I think, but maybe not. Maybe it only seemed that way. Now that I think of it, the lap times were fairly similar.

The weather cooperated with the race, which is to say that it was cold and drizzling. That's the way a cyclocross race should be though. A little snow and it would have been perfect.

I hung around near the finish line to watch the last half of the first heat, the second heat, and part of the third. It was a little strange being at a 'cross race where I wasn't either racing or officiating. I'm way out of shape for participating, and I haven't had any local race contacts to do any officiating, though I did talk to a couple of guys today and offered my services in future events if needed.

To be honest, though, I did get to do my small bit to help out. The race announcers were working from on top of a truck near the finish line. At one point during the second heat the wind gusted and blew a couple of their start lists down to the ground below. I walked over and retrieved them for the guys and handed them back up, wet as they were. Not much, but at least I got to do something useful.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

... Found

The keys have been located. I spent a goodly amount of time last night looking high and low before it suddenly occurred to me where I'd stuffed the keys to my bike locks. I'm not going to say where I found them. I may want to use that hiding place again. It obviously worked pretty good this time, eh?

So, with that crisis averted, I found myself with the ability to actually go for a ride this afternoon. I had a few chores and such to finish first, so it was almost 3:30 before I got out there, which limited my ride time. Why? 'Cause it gets dark here early. Like, before 5:00 (actually, sunset was at 4:39 today according to Yeah, I have lights, but I'd rather not have to carry them if I don't have to.

I did have one chore that I waited to do, figuring that I could easily accomplish it by bicycle. Thus, I left the house and headed straight to the Post Office box first thing (1 piece of mail, which is better than wasting my time on none). Having done that, I headed ENE to a spot just north of Lake City where I thought I could pick up the Burke-Gilman Trail according to Google Maps. Google Maps lied. That's my story, anyway, since I refuse to entertain the thought that I could have misread the map, like maybe if I thought it said 137th instead of 157th or something. No way. They lied. I can't back that up, though. They must have corrected it while I was out riding, thus obliterating the truth of it. Yeah.

Well, I found the trail anyway, but not until after I wandered about for a little while (nothing wrong with that, though. Tolkien said "Not all those who wander are lost"). There weren't as many people out on the trail today as there were a few Sundays ago. Maybe the cooler weather kept them in. Or maybe there was a good football game on TV. I don't have TV right now, so I wouldn't know. I do plan on having it before le Tour de France next summer, though. I mean, I'm not crazy or anything. Still, I won't complain about less trail traffic. Maybe I should just become a die-hard winter rider so I can spend the next several months getting back in shape without having to dodge runners, walkers, young families who stretch out across the width of the trail and act indignant if you alert them that you'd actually like to pass their precious like tykes on his and/or her tricycle, ... the list goes on.

I did get home just before sunset, at about 4:35. And then, just as I was carrying my bike up the front stairs and before I could get my keys out and go inside, my cell phone started ringing and I had to stand outside talking for the next 10 minutes until I could hang up and dig my keys out of my carryall. How does she do that? How does she always know when it's a bad time to call? How?!?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Lost and ...

Hmm, now where did I put those things?

Well, I'm back in Seattle, and it has actually been raining here over the last few days. I know, crazy, huh? It was nice enough on Wednesday after I got back, but I didn't have an opportunity to ride my bike that day. I had to go retrieve my dogs (no pun intended) from the kennel and get the cat from the vet's and grocery shop and ... well, you get the idea. And then it has rained.

It's supposed to be a little nicer than that on Sunday according to the Weather Channel. I'd like to get out there if I can, but I have a little problem right now. What could that be? Well, I can't find my key.

OK, so what does a key have to do with cycling? Everything, when it's the key that goes to the lock that is wrapped around all of my bikes in the basement. Why did I lock them up if they are in the basement? Well, I'd heard of a rash of local break-ins lately, and since we were gone for 12 days, I figured that if someone did break in, I wasn't going to make it easy on them.

Except that now I haven't made it easy on myself, either. I feel certain that wherever I put that key, at the time I thought I would have no problem remembering where I'd left it. Ha! Shows how much I know, huh? Hmph.

So, here's hoping I can find the key to that lock, or at least find the other key that goes to my tool case where my hacksaw is, by the time the rain lets up for a while. Of course, some folks back home think I've got until April.

Man, I sure hope they're wrong.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

12 Hours of the Hill of Truth Report

What a muddy mess it was. And that was just in the Start/Finish area.

The race started at 11 am on Saturday under cloudy skies. It wasn't raining then, but there had been some rain overnight which, combined with all of the rains over the last few weeks, meant that the trails were fairly saturated.

I was in the field where the race started, and just after that I headed out to walk the route backwards. I walked up Saddle trail to the top of the ridge. I noted that it wasn't muddy there, but that the leaf cover on the trail was still intact at that point. It wouldn't take too many tires going by to change that, and reportedly, it didn't.

I stood at the top of Saddle for a long time, waiting for everyone on their first lap to go by. There were a couple of guys out there who were riding one lap on a tandem, so I had to make sure I saw that. I'd planned on getting a lot of photos, but light scattered light rains came along, and MG called me and wanted to talk for about 10 minutes, so I didn't end up getting a whole lot of shots up there. I did see the guys on the tandem, though.

After that, I continued on walking the route in reverse, policing the trail a bit as I went along (straightening out some markings, picking up a front fender, finding someone's race number...). I stopped once in a while to try a shot or two, but it just wasn't working out with the occasional light rain and the poor lighting conditions in the woods (and I don't think it's a good idea to hit racers with a flash in their eyes - unlike at least one other guy I heard about).

I ended up following the course all the way to the top of the Hill of Truth, which was maybe about half of the way around, and then turned and headed back to the Start/Finish area to hang out with everybody instead of wandering around with a camera and not taking very many pictures.

I had originally planned to head back out into the woods to try taking some long-exposure shots to get some light trails from the racer's headlamps, but by the time it got dark enough the rains started up a little harder than before, so I just stayed put. I did end up giving Jay a couple of breaks by taking over the scoring briefly.

The race itself ended up looking a lot like a war of attrition. Several teams ended up dropping out early, even before dark. By the time it had been dark for an hour I would guess that only half of the racers were still going. It had to be miserable out there. It was wet, it was muddy, and it was getting colder. Sometime around 9:30 or 10 pm the clouds parted and the moon came out. The bad thing was that the clouds had helped keep the temperature from dropping very fast. So it got cold quickly then, though I was at least prepared for that.

I saw riders come in with so much mud you couldn't tell what color their clothes or bikes were supposed to be. One guy came in with mud, grass and leaves trailing from his rear derailleur almost touching the ground. As people started leaving across the evening the camp area around the Start/Finish began to resemble dark brown peanut butter. Several cars and trucks lost traction and had to be pushed out. I saw ruts about 8" deep out there. I was happy that I had parked over in a gravel lot further up the road.

The race ends at 11 pm, but that only means that racers aren't allowed to start a new lap after that time. The last rider out had left at about 10:50 pm, so we had to wait until she got back near midnight before giving out the prizes (since the team she was on did place in the top three in their division). I helped with that, then helped break down the PA system, and then left.

I had planned way back in September that I would camp out with everybody else that night, and had left enough gear in my truck in Knoxville to do it. If it hadn't rained so much, I would have. Instead, I headed back to my truck, got out with no problem (and no mud), and went back to the house to sleep in a warm, dry bed.

In 11 years of the 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth, they had never had rain fall during the race before last night. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Let's hope next year the race can be 'in the dry'.