Friday, August 19, 2011

Fanno Creek Trail

So after the debacle of too much biking, I settled down to read the Junior Woodchuck Guide to recovery. I took most of the next week off, scaling back my gym workouts, etc, and when it appeared Fluffy the Cat would be unable to ride, I planned to re-visit Banks to Vernonia.

Unfortunately, my legs were still toast when Saturday rolled around and my motivation was already at the top of the climb...but I was still in bed. Since my motivation had such a large head start on me, i elected to skip it entirely and sped the day watching Hard Knocks reruns.

What, you think I made the wrong decision? Child...please.

I did go to the gym a couple times this week, and this evening Smokey the Bear's wife suggested he needed a ride...and I know I needed a ride but would probably not get one in tomorrow. Checking the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook's weather page, we elected to ride Fanno Creek Trail after work.

Unfortunately, overworking your legs and then over resting them is not, despite all received wisdom to the contrary, a good way to build up leg strength and pedaling speed.

So I set off with the speed of an elephant and the strength of a cheetah. Had I but consulted the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, those efforts might have been reversed. I did not...I also neglected to check the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook to maps, had a brain cramp, and was riding the bike lane-less Allen Boulevard in rush hour traffic.


So instead of a nice, leisurely ride to where I was meeting Fluffy the Cat for our evening ride, I pushed myself hard to get past the dangerous portion of my ride as quickly as possible and by the time I arrived at the trail head I had averaged nearly 17 mph. Of course, it was less than 2 miles, so pushing that hard is no big deal.

We then set off on a nice, leisurely ride. (Have I mentioned I LOVE the map my ride app?)

Sadly, I was pedaling with all the oomph of a vaguely spastic rutabaga. There were spurts of pedaling brilliance...I actually had my highest speeds going UP hills. By far. I was power-pedaling from the base of the hill to the crest, increasing speed on almost every hill.

It was honestly as close as I have ever come to the mythical "dancing up hills" biking nirvana. The downside is flats and downhills had me noodle-legging it along at frenetic paces that can only be exceeded by the speedsters of the animal kingdom. Like...anything faster than a slug. That has been salted.

Fluffy the Cat was less noodle-legged, proving this when he totally velodromed me for about a quarter mile just as the ride was coming to an end, sprinting for about a quarter mile at speeds in excess of 23 mph.

In the end it was a beautiful night for a ride, and checking in at a shade over 20 miles was perfect. We got back in the flow, we got a ride in, it was relaxed, and the rutabaga will be vanquished on the next ride.

All hail the Junior Woodchuck Guide to Cyclings wisdom on maintaining the gains you have made by not skipping it for two or three weeks...

Another ride is in my future. Will Fluffy come along?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Banks to Vernonia

This event also explains why Saturday I went for a solo ride as he was, quite rightly, engaged in family activities.

For quite some time I have wanted to challenge myself on Banks Vernonia. I wanted to push myself to my limit, to see how quick I could ride this trail, climb those hills, destroy the downhills.

Knock Knock

So I started planning for the ride. I ate half a pizza Friday night to "carb-load".

Knock knock knock

I also had some popcorn. I took Friday off from exercise as a rest day. I was psyching myself up to open the can of crushinator on that ride. There was just this faint, nagging voice in my mind as my legs were still sore and tender from the excessive mid-week ride I reported in my last post where I got gassed after a mere 24 miles. What if I could not get the can of crushinator open?

You see, unlike most cans, the Can of Crushinator has no pull-tab, no bottle-cap easily ripped off by a bottle opener. The Crushinator Can is a custom designed job that can only be opened through mass expenditure of effort...spinning with extreme speed, mashing with incredible power, whichever you prefer...and maintaining that for a considerable amount of time. It takes strength, endurance, and will-power to get that can open...and to keep the lid off.

Knock knock knock

Excuse me a moment, I believe someone is at the door.

Sure enough, as I open the door, there is HuedewLou.

"Just yesterday you talked about a warning you once received." He delivered the cryptic message, smiled, and with that he was gone.

What could he possibly have meant?

Anyhow, I was out the door at 6:29. I had tried to go to be early Friday night but was still awake at midnight. Fail. I tried to sleep in. Was up at 4:45. Fail. So I might as well head out early.

 I had stopped at McD's for a nutritious breakfast* and was the first person at the Banks trail head.

By 7:05 I was on the bike and heading down the trail.

About the one mile mark my legs had a suggestion for me. "Call it a day. You are still worn down from your midweek ride and from over-doing it last week." Fortunately, I had my I-pod on so did not hear them.

Either that or I decided I could just will my way past this...that they would get warmed up if I just rode at a moderate pace**, I would get stronger later in the ride as I always do and I pushed on.***

I was spinning at a moderate pace and happened to glance down at the Map My ride function. 17.1 mph. Not bad for warm up. See, legs? If I had heard you, I would have pointed that out to you. I am not working particularly hard. Lets ride. Good thing I had been unable to hear my legs telling me to quit so do not know they told me that.

When I hit the beginning of the hill climb, I noticed a problem. Typically when we ride together and start the hill I am in about 23rd gear. (3 on the big ring, 7 on the small). This time I was slightly lower than that...2 on the big ring, 5 on the small. 13th gear?

At the 6 mile mark I was scuffling so hard to keep going I actually thought (and this is almost verbatim) "I could turn around now, go back to the car, and not one person would think less of me. But I would. I am going to finish this ride."

I put the hammer which I mean I started bouncing back and forth between the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th gears on the 2nd ring. I punished myself up the hill.

After all, the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook tells us to get better, you have to push yourself. If you just do what you can already do, you will never get better. So push myself I did. Actually got off the bike and pushed myself up the hill. Probably added a quarter mile per hour to the overall speed.

I kept rotating my legs, trying to lose myself in the music, but instead kept losing myself in "I have come x miles in y time and have z miles to go so I should finish at abc-thirty". Fortunately, I then had an event occur that changed my mindset.

One of the Beagle Boys showed up. He plumped his not inconsiderable weight on the handle bars and announced, "I am going to join you for the rest of this ride."


"So I can Escher you."

"Usher me where."

He laughed. If you have never heard a Beagle Boy laugh, it is not a comforting thing. "Escher, not Usher. Usher is a bad singer who should have never sold a single album, much less however many albums he has sold. He is a miserable excuse for a pop music star."

Although the Beagle Boys and Junior Woodchucks are traditionally enemies as we foil their nefarious yet oddly incompetent crimes with mind-numbing ease and regularity, one must always compliment them when they speak truth. I patted him on the back. This drew strange looks from the joggers I was passing**** who quite naturally could not see this fictitious character.

"So what did you mean you Eschered me?" I asked, panting a little from having climbed approximately a zillion miles at 99% grade.

The Beagle Boy started rapping. Because MC Escher is without a doubt the worlds greatest MC. He is also famous for paintings and drawings...such as the one where you start at the bottom of a staircase, go up one, go up a second, go up the third, go up a fourth...and are at the base of the first one.

In other words, he explained in his musical poetry, he had used skills learned from MC Escher to rap and alter reality so the entire route would be uphill.

There would be no average speed-enhancing downhill plummet. Just a continuous uphill climb until I passed the moon. Or out. As long as I passed, he would be happy. This statement would come back to haunt him.

The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook is wonderful, because it has advice for specifically this situation. When you encounter the unclimbable, expend more energy. And I did. Big ring to 3. Small ring to I go!

I was powering up the hill, hitting 17, 18, 19 mph...I was doing just as I hoped. I was literally willing my way past the fatigue, willing my way past the growing ache in my legs, willing my...

Knock knock

Uh oh. I am on a bike. In the middle of nowhere. There are no doors in sight. So on what could anyone be knocking?

I look around, and as you might suspect, there was Superman pacing me, carrying a door in one hand and knocking on it with his other.

"What can I do for you sir?" I asked, mustering as much politeness as I could with my legs on fire, my bike weighed down by the Beagle Boy, and the strange looks from  the older biking couple I was passing at the moment who heard the question but did not see the figments of my imagination it was addressed to.

He pointed at the speedometer, the Beagle Boy, my legs, then at himself. "I just wanted to point out you are not me."

I stuck my tongue out at him, plugged my ears and rode straight into a tree. Wait, that is not the Junior Woodchuck way. I respectfully replied, "No, sir, but you are a fine individual to emulate."

Nevertheless, my legs had heard his words and I slowed down a bit. then I crested the hill.

Typically when we reach this point we have been following the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook suggestion on hill climbing. We ride a reasonable pace a gear or two under the peak of our capability, conserve energy and have lots of juice left.

This, by the way, is one reason Robert tres is such a good riding partner. He actually reads the Guidebook. I just flipped through the comic book version. Even worse, I pretty much just looked at the pictures and did not read the words in the little bubbles.

So when we ride together we do it right and have energy left at the end of the ride. Included in that is energy for bursts of speed in situations like this where we crest hills and ride downhill.

And I did increase speed...but whereas in fresher times I can rightfully expect to exceed 20 mph with ease with numbers like 24 and 25 not unheard of, this time 20.1 seemed like almost too much effort.

Then I hit the switchback.

Someone decided the best way to handle this one valley is a twisting, turning mile or so sharp downhill...followed by re-climbing all that height in half the distance.

I had never before failed to climb the hill on the way out.

I trust you noticed the word "before" in the preceding sentence.

Because this time, about 80% of the way up I was willing my way up the hill. I cannot use the small ring and was down to gear three in the second ring. But I was going to force my way up that hill using pure will power.

Until Hal Jordan, in his Green lantern uniform, pointed out I was not a Green lantern. Hence my will power was not, in fact, the strongest force in the DC Universe. My legs gave out, i dismounted and shamefully walked the rest of the way up the hill.

Epic fail. And a testament to how fatigued my legs were. Fortunately, there is a good deal of downhill after that and I was clicking off miles at a respectable pace...not the 23 or 24 mph I have planned to ride that section some day...I never got past clicking 6 on the small ring and 3 on the big ring...but I was still about 21.

Also, it was misting on me, making the path a bit slick.

Then something happened about mile 17. I noticed the Beagle Boy had disappeared from the handlebars. It did not take me long to figure out where he had gone. He had turned himself into a gall stone.

At the risk of sounding unbelievably disgusting, the rest of my ride felt like I was passing him. I told you that word would come back to haunt him...yes, I was in agonizing pain in the sphincter region, but he was in worse shape...he was in my colon being passed. Just sayin'.*****

So adding to the leg fatigue, leg pain, shortness of breath, and mist, now it was miserable to sit on the seat. The insides of my thighs were screaming at me.

A wise person would have turned around. I grit my teeth and committed to riding at least 40 miles. So I pushed on. Every rotation of the pedals hurt the backside. I made it to the 20 mile mark and stopped.

It was my second stop of the ride...the first one being when I simply could not get up the switchback.

I spent a couple minutes there and sent the first Map My ride report back...and it was at that moment I noticed a major, major problem.

See, Map My Ride said I was 31 miles into my it turns out, I STILL failed because now it has been updated and says just 19.75 miles...which means I fell a half mile short. Anyway, it nets out to 13.94 miles per hour...more than 2 mph short of my goal.

With no leg strength left, my liquid gone, and standing there pondering calling a friend or brother to pick me up and drive me back to the car so I did not have to sit on the seat again it did not look good for a quick return trip.

I did get up to 17 and 18 mph at points re climbing the hills I had just descended...but I also spent time at 10 or 12 mph.

And the switchback defeated me worse than it ever has. I was mentally destroyed at that point and did not even attempt to climb past the first switchback. Honestly, it felt so good to be off the seat that I was looking for excuses to get off the bike.

Somehow, someway I got to the crest of the hill and put the hammer down one final time. For 7 or 8 miles I was in the top two gears...except now I was hitting all the uphill traffic and people were riding 3 and 4 wide, not getting over to let me ride by, even though they could see me coming.

One thing I did not mention in my rant about safety that got moved to the other blog is how the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook feels about riding etiquette. It feels quite strongly.

Robert Tres and I make a point of allowing faster riders to have a clear path when overtaking us, and to leave plenty of space when they are going the opposite way so as to not inhibit their ride. It is common decency and courtesy.

I have words to say to all those spandex and jersey wearing group ride creeps on the trail today. I choose to keep them to myself. Suffice it to say they are not kind words.

Anyway, the I-phone sucks up a LOT of juice and I was getting shut-down warnings. Fearful of losing my return data, I saved it and turned off the phone. What I got was decent...but at scarcely over 15 mph average in the direction I typically go faster, it was a huge disappointment from my preset goal.

I had no way to gauge my speed the rest of the way back, but I knew it would be slow. That trail is the roughest portion, and every vibration spoke straight to the Beagle Boy still crawling around my buttocks. Painful.

I did the last 4.6 or 4.7ish miles, whatever it was, in 18 less than 13 mph, probably closer to 12.

Now, on the one hand, this day was an epic failure. I started out discouraged thinking I had screwed up my ride before it started. I missed my speed goal by 2 or 3 mph. I fell short of my mileage goal. I failed to accomplish either switchback climb. I was in more pain than I have been in from riding a bike since launching over the handlebars on the BMX-type bike I mis-jumped the ramp on  when I was like 9.

On the other hand...I finished what I believed at the time was my assigned distance. I overcame any and all obstacles to stick to it to the bitter end, rediscovered how important it is to have a riding partner, and somehow, despite all that, managed to enjoy the ride. A lot.

I will be back, Banks-Vernonia. Robert Tres and I will defeat you many times together, and I will take another crack on you on my own. I am studying the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook now. It will teach me that which I need to know.

* Some part of this sentence may contain lies It may even be just one word that is false. Who knows? The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook does...

** Of course, my plan here was to push myself from start to end of the ride. Something about this statement and the one preceding the asterisks above does not make sense. If only I could figure out what it was...

*** In truth, within the first mile my goal changed drastically. Prior to the ride, I was shooting for a 16 mph - 17 mph average for the entire ride. At this point it changed to "finish the ride and hope I get stronger so my time is good." This is a hard admission for me to make, but the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook tells us to be honest with ourselves. Lots of planning for whenever this challenge would take place...and it was shot down in 5 minutes.

**** I passed numerous joggers and bikers on my route out. I think they started at various trail heads further up the trail towards Vernonia.

***** As disgusting as that image is, in truth I started getting a really intense and genuinely painful feeling I needed a bowel movement. It truly hurt to sit on the seat. A lot.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mid-week idiocy

When one first joins the Junior Woodchucks, they are taken deep into the depths of their psyche and given a stern warning by that little known fourth Woodchuck cousin, HueDewLou.

"One day, Junior Woodchuck, you will be tempted to ignore the collected wisdom of this book. You will think you are mightier than you are, wiser than you are, stronger than you are and you will attempt that which is beyond you.

"Your life would be infinitely better if you did not do this, but you will do it anyway."

After some busy times and the Springwater Corridor ride, I did my standard workout Sunday afternoon, took Monday off completely...the first day i did not exercise in nearly a week...and then did my standard workout again.

The following day it was a gorgeous night and after work I decided to take a short bike ride. So I started on the Fanno Creek Trail.

The going was slow because there are numerous street crossings and the trail was very busy. I then busted up Hall Blvd. at a pretty stiff clip, and in a car what I did going down the hill into Cook park would be known as either "burying the speedometer" or, more accurately, "outright stupidity". But it was fun.

I then began the ride Robert Tres and I do out towards Sherwood. And about the 15 mile marker, I suddenly realized something.

I had ignored the wisdom of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook. I had thought I was mightier than I actually am, stronger than I actually am, and wiser than i actually truth, I needed to heed the guidance of the Guidebook and take a rest day.

The problem here is...I was 15 miles into the ride! Of course, that included a couple of side trips, so I was actually only 11.8 miles from home...but still...I would have to ride back.

Consulting the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, I noticed it said in cases like this, ride conservatively. Gear down, pedal slower, and take relaxed ride home.

So I geared up, stood on the pedals and pushed the pace up as stiff as I could.

My legs were screaming, the Junior Woodchuck counselor was weeping, and my legs were kind of suggesting they had seen me do smarter things.

Ha! When have I done anything smart? I mean, besides joining the Junior Woodchucks.

Well, I reached the end of the trail and was completely gassed. So gassed, in fact, that over the last 1.1 miles I was so slow it dropped nearly 2 mph off the average speed for my entire ride!!!!

Turns out the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook was right...oh, and here is the route

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Springwater Trail

A cursory inspection of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook says to take weather into account when riding and be sure to get in at least one ride a week during the summer.

Never one to question the vast, incontrovertible instruction of the mighty tome of wisdom, Bob Tres and I decided to ride the Springbrook Trail. The first time we did this we both experienced complete bonkdom, with legs unable to move, arms that had fallen off and a desire to never experience this again.

The second time we rode it we actually hit the 50 mile mark, a moment I am still proud of. At that point our distances were increasing by leaps and bounds.

But the I-phone has a Map My ride function, so we thought we would try it again.

This time we picked a very warm day and started out.

Due to the crowded conditions we had to pause to check the Junior Woodchuck Guide to Cycling. Much to my surprise, it did NOT in fact tell us to increase speed, weave maniacally in and out of pedestrian and other biker traffic, and bunny hop the back tires after striking someone with our front tires.

Well, any good Junior Woodchuck knows when their is a discrepancy between his intentions and the Guidebook to always obey the Guidebook. So we proceeded at a rather modest place for several miles until the crowds thinned out.

Ironically, this allowed us to also obey the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook about starting slow and allowing time for a warm-up.

I have never been good at that and, when first starting a ride, I almost always feel fresh and powerful, with the result my pace tends to be...what is a good word for the thought "unreasonable, unfair and downright idiotic"? Ah, I have it...aggressive.

Well, with our forced warm-up, we then got to the trail proper. And the ride proceeded at a good pace. In fact, the only thing slowing us down was stop after stop after stop after stop for roads.

We ate up the miles, made the tun and headed back.

The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook says to stay hydrated on long rides. I took a 20 oz water and supplemented that with a soda. Robert Tres took two larger liquids and refilled them with water as an intelligent rider would do.

On a completely unrelated note, Robert Tres seemed to get stronger as the ride wore on while I wore down earlier and quicker.

Anyhow, coming out of the turn-around, we decided to open a can of whoop-smurf on the candy trail. I was blasting along at slightly over 20 miles per hour for 4ish miles, then we dropped the speed and took turns drafting off each other for a while.

Even though our speed was anywhere from 1 to 7 miles faster coming back than going in, we got passed by two pairs of riders.

The first caught us at the light. And they then showed the difference between solid recreational riders like Robert and I and REAL bike riders.

This short, slightly built woman blasted off the line at a speed conservatively estimated to be 3 parsecs past light speed. She could have outdone the Millenium Falcons' time on the kessel Spice run.

Once they got up to speed, her partner took the lead and she drafted.

In short, she spends the energy getting the explosive start, then rests while he maintains speed. Pretty clever.

At the next light, I blasted off behind them, neglecting to mention my plan to Robert in clear violation of Junior Woodchuck Guide to Cycling etiquette...but he kept right up anyway.

And we kept up with them for about a mile. However, we had a goal of stopping at a station for water and I knew I would run out of steam in another mile or two, so I deliberately throttled back to a reasonable speed and in seconds they were gone.

The other group that passed us was some guy about 19' tall. I just remember hearing "on your left" and looking over at kneecaps...then looking up, and up, and up to see this guy whose seat was about level with my head...and I sit upright.  He was not working at all and just blew by us.

With all that, despite being more fatigued by far on this ride than the much tougher Banks-Vernonia trail, we stayed above 15 ph almost all the way back to the car, a very impressive performance for us.

Great ride, but big mistake; the sun actually gave me a burn on my knees and arms. Next time we will ride the Banks-Vernonia when we need shade and this one...well...seldom because it just is not as good a ride because of all the interruptions and forced stops that break up the rhythm.