Sunday, August 29, 2010

Race Report: Portland Century Ride

The Scene: Wednesday night dinner with corporate executives.  Less than 3 days to the event.  Several glasses of wine into the evening.
Manager who shall remain nameless: "Sarah, what are you doing on Sunday?"
Me: "Running or biking maybe.  At least, I should.  Maybe I'll do nothing."
Him: "Want to do the Portland Century?"
Me: "Okay."
Him: "So-and-so (another manager who shall remain nameless) can't make it and I don't want to ride by myself."
Me: "Okay."
Him: "I think it's flat.  A couple of hills in the middle, but mostly flat."
Me: "Okay."
Him: "Seriously?"
Me: "Sure."
[Stunned looks all around.  I smile and nod and take another sip of wine.]

The scene: 05:00 on Thursday morning.  In bed.  With a slightly throbbing head and a very parched mouth.
Me: "Uh oh."
Husband: "Are you okay honey?"
Me: "I have to ride 100 miles on Sunday."
Husband: "This Sunday?"
Me: "Yep."

[Cackles of laughter fill the room.  I pull up the website and check out the course.]
Me: "Uh oh."
Husband: "Are you okay honey?"
Me: "There is 6000 feet of climbing."
[More cackles.]

Date: August 22, 2010
Course Description (from race site):
This is the route that sparked the ride: a century that's all about Portland, from start to finish. For the most part it's a flat loop but the hills, and some of the greatest parts of the ride, come around Bull Run (Portland's drinking water source). This is extreme climbing with fast descents on narrow, winding roads. You'll want to take those descents slowly, even if you're an experienced rider, for the sake of safety.

Fast forward to Sunday morning...  I wake up at 04:30, because I have to be downtown by 06:00 and I have yet to get my bike ready, mix bottles, or even determine if I have clean tri shorts and sports bra.  I grimace when I realize that I haven't been on my bike since Vineman.  Race stickers and crusted gel drippings are all over everything.  I enlist Ken to help me clean the bike, pump tires, and load the car.  He's not amused.  I try on a few outfits, but everything seems to have shrunk in the wash.  Uh huh.  I settle on head-to-toe Ironman garb.  I might as well look the part.

I meet up with Mr. Nameless at the starting line.  It's still pretty dark, so we hang out with a cup of coffee and small chatter.  I keep hoping that a tornado or some other natural disaster will hit Portland and the ride will be called off.  No such luck.  Shortly after 06:00 we roll out.  At like 19-20 mph.  Oh dang.  This is going to hurt.  The first few miles are fast and furious.  But Mr. Nameless has only ridden 45 miles in one shot.  Ever.  I know that if I can just hang on for the first half, the second half will be easier.  Once we get out of town, we hit a bit of a headwind.  And a slight, but very steady, incline.  My bike computer wasn't working.  Which was a good thing, because it turns out that we were working incredibly hard to muster all of 14 mph.  Push, push, push for the next 20 miles.  We come into the first aid station and I'm wiped out.  I eat 3 or 4 cookies.  But I turn down one of these awesome looking pound cake delights:
Shortly after the stop, we hit a big climb.  Mr. Nameless turns out to be a good climber and dusts me.  I think how cool it would be to grab onto the side of a passing car and get pulled up the hill.  Like they do in New York city.  Unfortunately, there is no traffic out by Estacada early on a Sunday morning.  I take a breather at the top and pull out the course map, expecting to see that I've conquered the first big hill.  In reality I had just huffed and puffed my way up a tiny blip on the elevation profile.  My heart sinks.  I mentally kick my own ass for getting so out of shape in such a short time frame.

The middle part of the ride is sort of a blur.  There were more rest stops with more cookies.  And a lot more hills.  Big hills.  I had to take a lot of breaks, and then had to frantically try to clip in when I got going again.  I zig-zagged when I could.  I never walked though.  And I cried once.  But only once.  And then Jenn sent me a motivational text message and inspired me to put on the big-girl panties.  I finally made it to the top of the last hill, let out a whoop, and then flew down the most awesome of awesome downhills.  At like 50+ mph.  I passed dozens of people.  Some tried to hang on behind me, but nobody could.  This is why I ride!  (And this is why I need to switch up my gearing before IMCdA...)  I made it to the aid station outside of Troutdale at Blue Lake park and was reunited with Mr. Nameless GoodClimber.  I ate a huge slice of greasy pepperoni pizza.  It turned out to be magic pizza.

We hit Marine Drive and were smacked in the face with a typical Marine Drive headwind.  The wheels fell off my partner, but I got my second (fifth?) wind.  Bring it on!  I was able to pull my weight on this stretch, and gladly took the lead.  The course had merged with the 50-mile route, and there were a lot more riders on the road.  A lot more riders to hunt down.  The last rest stop was around mile 90, just off Marine Drive next to Smith and Bybee Lakes.  Almost there!
The last 11 miles pretty much followed the Portland Marathon route.  It was fun to reminisce and think back on the memories of my first marathon.  And know I would be running these same streets in less than two months.  Whoops!  Snapped back to reality!  I better start training...  We cross over the Steel Bridge back into downtown, weave through the city streets, and FINALLY climb back up to PSU.  Out of nowhere the finish line appears and we're done.  Yeah!!!
A few beers and lots of traffic later, I'm home and ready for a bath and my jammies.  It's all I've been thinking about for the last few hours.  I climb out of the car, walk up the front door, and go to stick the key in the lock.  Except there is no house key on my key chain.  And Ken is in Hood River for the day.  And we don't have a spare key hidden anywhere.  I do, however, have a garage door opener.  And homebrew on tap in the garage.  So I pour a fourth beer, which is about 3 over my limit, and fall asleep in the patio chair.  I wake up to Ken coming home, with crusted drool on the side of my face, and a horrible kink in my neck.  Less than an hour later I'm clean and cozied up in my jammies.  And feeling very accomplished for the day.

Race Report: Haulin' Aspen Half Marathon

A few weeks ago, but seemingly months ago, I headed to Bend, OR with my home girl Angie for a little running and a whole lotta shopping and relaxing.  The pseudo-destination was a trail marathon put on by Fresh Air Sports, 99% on dirt trails through the high-desert manzanita brush, old growth forests, and refreshing creek beds.  The real destination was a girls-only weekend far away from reality.

Date: August 8, 2010
Time: I don't even know!  Or care!  Somewhere north of 3 hours.

Pre-race routine:
We headed over to Bend on the morning before the event (about a 2.5 hour drive), and then spent about 6 hours shopping and hanging out in downtown.  Cute boots, yummy meals, coffee stops, and tons of laughter filled our day.  In the evening we checked out beach cruiser bikes from our hotel (The Oxford, awesome place and highly recommended!), cruised around the neighborhoods, ate more yummy food, and got caught in a weird classic car show in the middle of town.  We topped off the day with a soak in the jacuzzi and indulging in reality television.  It might not sound like it, but it was the perfect day.
Race morning:
We went down to the hotel restaurant and consumed enough food for like six people.  No joke.  Clearly we weren't all that nervous about the run.  And there was no reason to be.  We had already decided that we weren't out there to race.  Or even to really run all that much.
Once at the race site, we did the typical routine of standing in porta-potty lines and trying to stay warm.  The full marathon start went off and then we mosied on over to the start line.  When the horn sounded, we sauntered on over the trail and took off at like a 15 minute mile.  Nice and easy.
The race:
Dust!  Elevation!  I was so out of breath in the first few miles that I was wondering if we should maybe switch to the 7-mile course.  I'm glad that we didn't, because it was a beautiful trail that I never would have seen otherwise.  And we had twice the time to catch up on months of back-logged girl talk.  I think we probably walked about half the course, often forgetting that we were in a race and not out on a leisurely Sunday hike.  Fun!

Too much time has gone by, so I'm having a tough time recalling all of the details.  The majority was single-track with moderate climbs and some tricky descents.  A few miles were uphill on an old fire road.  And I managed to find every single hidden rock and root on the path.  I should seriously consider investing in a mouth guard, face mask, and padding for trail running.

As is common with a trail race, the aid stations were spaced pretty far apart.  But they were well stocked and the volunteers were awesome.  The trail was very well marked, but it would be nice to have a few more mile markers along the way.  Overall, I have no real complaints.
The finish:
Sweet after party!  My limited experience with trail marathons is that they are low-key, no frills, and more about the experience of running instead of the glory of the finish line.  Almost to the point of being a let down when you're done.  Haulin' Aspen strikes a nice balance between that and the sensory overload of road races.  There was good looking food (I'm sure it tasted good too, but we weren't hungry yet), tasty beer, music, and an ice-cold creek for rinsing off in.  Since this is a point-to-point race, you need to take a shuttle back to the starting line to retrieve your car.  The shuttle vans were running regularly and we didn't have to wait at all to catch a ride.  I think they have the logistics nailed down now.
Yeah, I would do this one again.  In fact, I think we already set a date to be there again next year.  Can't wait!