Sunday, August 28, 2011


Got in a couple great rides this past weekend. Saturday was mountain biking with Titanium Cancellara. With some bushwacking through a recently logged stretch, we were able to connect the old Burnout Rd.-Land of the Lost-Pine and Cedar Lakes loop, one of our faves but one that had been out of comission for almost a year now. Above, Scott picks his way down toward what remains of the Ender Trail and the Rockyard. Just follow the ridge in the direction of Lost Lake, which you can see in the above pic. (Pine and Cedar lakes are on the ridge beyond Lost Lake.)

Here's a shot that looks a lot like the top photo except when you zoom in and see that Titanium Cancellara was being buzzed by ...

... a Titanium Hummingbird! Cool. It was great to connect this loop again; we bushwacked for probably a half-mile through serious ankle-buster underbrush, but saw a route where we could probably cut the bushwacking in half. Burnout Rd. has four (or five) killer steep stretches and of course, the climb back up to Pine and Cedar is a mega-hill. In all, I rode 28 miles with 3,600 feet of elevation gain. And broke a chain. And was eaten by mosquitoes as Scott and I (mostly Scott) fixed it.

Sunday, I rode the Rabbit Ride for the first time. This group road ride leaves out of Fairhaven Park and is essentially a ride of the Colony Road loop (about 30 miles) at race pace. Self-seeded groups leave at 3-minute intervals with the goal being to catch the groups that leave before you; slower groups leave earlier, faster ones later. Despite my 3-1/2 hours spent climbing up and down the Chuckanuts the day before, hubris made me join the fastest group and I surely paid. I had a heck of a time hanging on to wheels and my time at the front was short and puny in power. Oh well, did the best I could, hung on for most of it before I ended up in no-man's land on my own. Still and all, a great ride and I spent the rest of Sunday totally dead!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Click here for my story on today's Seattle Times website about biking in Bellingham.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Been mostly taking it easy since the Shasta ride. Took me almost a week before I felt sorta human again and was able to get in a three-hour mountain bike ride on Galby with the Titanium Cowboys. Always a good time. Then it was off for a few days holiday with the family, sans bike. First to Chelan for the glistening waters of that amazing lake, the ultra-fun waterslide park and skatepark (see above), which the boy Baker carved up but good on his scooter.
Then down to Bend, Ore., which we’d never been to before. A very cool high desert town with lots of sun, lots of heat and lots to do. Funny story about Bend--five minutes after checking into our hotel, I note a Nissan Pathfinder parked outside the lobby with "Official Vehicle" painted on the side. I look inside and who's behind the wheel but Chris Horner!

I tap on the window and with a big as-if-he-knows-me grin, he rolls it down, thrusts out his hand and gives me a big "How's it going, man?" He was super affable, said he's recovered from his crash, concussion and subsequent blood clot suffered in the Tour de France and feeling great. No more racing this year though. He was genuinely nice to my son too, who was with me. A truly satisfying brush with greatness. 

A few other tidbits: For a change of pace, I'm hoping to pick up my running again. I've been ultra casual about it since I broke my collarbone in spring 2010. I was so eager to get back to cycling afterward that I paid almost no attention to getting my running legs back. So now it seems newish and funnish and out of the ordinaryish. Anyway, one of my favorite places to run is Lake Padden where, just a couple weeks ago, a friend of Titanium Cancellara's spotted a cougar on the trail. And not even on one of the back trails (or horse trails), but rather right on the main 2.6-mile loop that hugs the lake. Thankfully, it slunk (izzat a word?) away fairly soon after being spotted.
And in related something-else-to-keep-in-mind news, B'ham chiropractor and stud triathlete Erik DeRoche wrote on facebook that up on Galbraith, he came across a fishing line strung across a trail and hung with hooks. That's just seriously f'ed up. 
In unrelated news, the Mount Baker Hill Climb (I'll never call it Ride 542) is still going on despite the road not opening to Artist Point this year. I understand that registration is down for the September 11 race which is a shame because this is one of Washington's true gems. You can't beat the scenery, you get the road to yourself and if you're not particularly hill-inclined (ha, a pun), this is the year to do it. That last 10.5-mile climb is 2 miles shorter in this year's version and climbs about 650 fewer feet. (2,350 feet as opposed to 3,000.)
Last two: I gots a story about some of my favorite outdoor schtuff in the latest Adventures NW, available now.
Lastly, early this week I turned frickin' 50!

Friday, August 12, 2011


I’m a few days removed from the Shasta Summit Century and have had time to reflect on my 10-plus hours in the saddle. Here are my thoughts, all sorta bullet-pointed.

• It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than the 2006 Ironman Coeur D’Alene which I did in 92-degree temps. There, however, I was able to stop every mile during the marathon and shove ice and cold sponges in my cap, my shirt, everywhere. I tried that here (and the Shasta aid stations were terrific) but during a bike tour/century ride, aid stations are fewer and it's farther between each one.

• Because of the heat, I felt horribly nauseous from the four-hour mark on, which was the start of the second climb. (The high was 86 degrees but riding all day on the shadeless tarmac felt much hotter; the ambient temperature was about 100.) I also reached a point on both the third and fourth climbs where I couldn’t elevate my heart rate above 130 (usually on rides like this, I try to stay right around 150) and I began to wonder if I was doing damage to myself. First time I’ve ever had thoughts like that. During these climbs my interior monologue was filled with personal vows: this is the last of the ultra-long stuff. No more Ironmans, no more 50K running races, I’ll probably never do a 100-mile mountain bike race, etc. They’re just not my strength and I don’t want to do permanent damage. Give me three-, four-hour events, but that’s it; Shasta is my swan song to the long stuff. I’m turning 50 in a few weeks so the time seems right.
Mark Clausen and I. Photo by Adam Morley.
• Truthfully, I have no idea how I made it to the end of the final 14-mile climb (with its 4,150 feet of elevation gain) to the foot of Mount Shasta. When I hit the lunch spot after climb 3, I was done and though disappointed, I knew I’d gone as far as I possibly could. So I lay in the grassy shade for what seemed like hours, commiserating with some dude who was going through the same thing I was. I couldn’t eat or even drink anything; I just wanted to go back to my air-conditioned hotel room, lay in bed and watch the Yanks-Red Sox game on TV. At some point though, I realized I was beginning to feel only regular horrible, as opposed to I-want-to-vomit-up-my-guts, shoot-me-now-please-and-put-me-out-of-my-misery horrible, as I'd been feeling. So I got on my bike to pedal back to my car at Mount Shasta City Park.

• Luckily, the route to the park was the same as to get to the final climb and, since I wasn’t feeling quite so bad, with the help of my Garmin 500, I did some quick math. I’d ridden 100 miles to that point and climbed 10,000 feet which I’d done only once before (RAMROD ’04). But if I could just make it another 3 miles or so, I’d have 11,000 feet—my biggest day of climbing ever, so I’d at least be able to salvage something. So I did that. Felt a little more horrible, but not terribly horrible. Then figured I’ll try for 12,000 feet. Did that. Then I figured out where the halfway point of the climb was, then the two-thirds point, then what time does darkness hit? OK, I should be able to make it to the top by then. Bit by bit I fought my way to the top. Meanwhile, however, the heat nausea was back (along with the I-want-to-vomit-up-my-guts, etc.), my upper hamstrings started barking (never had that before) and again, my heart rate wouldn’t elevate past 128. (Lower down on this climb it had more or less been normal.)

• By the time I reached the top, I was certainly relieved, felt some feeling of accomplishment but also was a bit concerned. Other than making a pedaling motion, I couldn’t move my legs very well and at the summit aid station, getting off my bike and trying to walk to get some of the lovely peanut butter-filled pretzels was sketchy. But I’d made it to the top and that's all I cared about. I got me an orange sody pop, soaked myself with ice water and just sat there admiring the views. At 14,162 feet, Shasta is a mega mountain and from our 7,800-foot vantage point, the panoramic vista was incredible. Then it was on to the descent.
This shot is from the hill climb race the day before the century ride. Black Butte is the peak in the foreground, Mount Eddy in the distance.
• Note that at the top, I soaked myself with ice water which at the time felt terrific. However, on the descent this proved to be a problem—weirdly, the exact opposite problem I had on the way up. For by now, the sun had lowered enough that the road was fairly shaded—I swear, I would’ve paid thousands of dollars for any amount of shade during the first nine hours of this ride—and with the 6- to 8-percent downhill grade spurring my bike to speeds of 40-plus m.p.h., it wasn’t long before I was freezing cold. Shivering uncontrollably, in fact, with my bike weaving and wobbling no matter what I did. This had turned into a comedy of errors. And all I wanted to do was get the cuss off the cussing mountain. Alas, I made it down, back to City Park where I ate lasagna and traded Shasta war stories with Seattle’s Mark Clausen and Adam Morley, with whom I’d ridden much of the first 60 miles.

• All this said, this ride and routes are highly HIGHLY recommended. Organization and food are tops. The course is well marked and the towns—Weed, Edgewood and Mount Shasta—are small and traffic doesn’t seem to be an issue. (Though we did see at least one police officer parked by an intersection seemingly itching to hand out tickets to riders who didn’t come to complete stop. I heard about riders being warned about riding too fast on the Castle Lake descent too.)
The 5:30 a.m. start made for early preparations.
• Here’s how the day started: After meeting at City Park at 5:30 a.m., Mark, Adam, Cliff (whose last name I forget) and I rolled out, about 40 minutes before sunrise. The first climb begins at about 13-mile mark (Parks Creek Summit: 13 miles long; 3,800 feet gain) so we were nicely warmed up by the time we hit it. The climb itself is mostly one-lane forest road with some bumps and potholes here and there but ride organizers made sure to highlight them with orange spray paint. Nice safety touch for the descent, which was screaming fast. First climb out of the way we headed for Climb 2. ... which didn't start until after the 60-mile mark. In the meantime you meander across scenic flat and rolling ranchland with giant Mount Shasta overlooking all. Beautiful yes, but by this point the sun is getting ever higher and hotter and truthfully, this stretch through the valley was like pedaling through a furnace. By the time we started climb 2 (Mumbo Summit: 10 miles; 3,300 feet gain), I was roasting, sweat dripping from my arms to my hands and off my handlebars, my jersey totally unzipped and flapping behind me like I’m a school boy with a paper route. (See previous ad nauseam comments re: nausea, etc.)

• Partway up climb 2, I decided I’m going to skip climb 3 (Castle Lake) and go right to climb 4, the 14-mile one to Mount Shasta. That’s the longest, highest, most scenic one and to me, the one that counted the most. But descending from Mumbo Summit, I thought what the heck, I’ll give Castle Lake (7 miles; 2,200 feet) a try. Not a good move. This was the hottest part of the day, where my Garmin registered 100 degrees and where my heartrate first showed a reluctance to go above 130. I got to exactly the halfway point—1,100 feet of the climb gave me 10,000 for the day—and pretty much couldn’t turn the pedals anymore. I was done. After calling my wife for some moral support, I turned around and headed down to the lunch stop, which is pretty much where I started this narrative. Somehow I was able to muster another 4,700 feet of climbing. Total stats for the day: 130 miles; 14,754 feet of climbing; ride time of 10 hours and 23 minutes.

• I don’t think I would do the Super Century again but since I love riding the area—it really is spectacular—I’d be interested in riding the Saturday morning hill climb race (the 14-mile climb to Mount Shasta) and then on Sunday, riding a personally customized century or thereabouts. Maybe the first and last climb, or just the three–Mumbo Summit, Castle Lake, Old Ski Bowl (the 14-mile one)—that are all close to the city of Mount Shasta. Apparently, a lot of people did this or similar rides.
Near the top of Parks Creek Summit, climb 1.
• Pretty cool: I added two new road biking events this year— Mount Shasta Summit Century and the Chelan Century Challenge and they’re probably my new Number 1 and 2 all-time road rides.

Monday, August 08, 2011


More words and pics to follow in coming days ... The updated post is here.
About two-thirds of the way up the Everitt Memorial Highway climb to the foot of Mount Shasta. It's the last climb of four, 14 miles long with 4,100 feet of elevation gain. 
Me, relieved to have finally reached the top of that last climb (7,800 feet). In all, I rode 130 miles with 14,750 feet of climbing. Toughest thing I've ever done.

Some incredible (he wrote facetiously) over-the-shoulder photography whilst riding.

More incredible photography whilst riding. Seattle's Mark Clausen and I make our way up the first climb (Parks Creek Summit; 3,800 feet in 13 miles). This is before things got crazy hot.
Me, at the 100-mile mark, when after climbing 10,000 feet despite feeling ickily nauseous for hours--the heat just killed me--I was pretty darn sure my day was done. For a contrast, see above pic taken 15 miles later, and 4,700 feet higher up Mount Shasta.

More from the road to Mount Shasta. It's got to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited!

Monday, August 01, 2011


Above photo is from the Bellingham Herald website--John Clark and I are the blurred riders; the in-focus dude is someone who rode with us all day but whose name I unfortunately forget.

Given my super-strenuous, epically repetitive ride just two days earlier (four times up the last 8 miles of the Mount Baker Highway; 9,100 feet of climbing) I was kinda sorta fearing Saturday's Tour de Whatcom. Certainly, 105 miles is long and is never something to be taken lightly. But more than that, I knew that given the mostly flat route, the pretty much perfect weather conditions (60s, 70s and sunny) and that all three Titanium Cowboys were riding, that at some point a group mindset of "How fast can we do this?" would take over. And it did. We rode the last 100 miles in 4 hours and 54 minutes My first sub-5 hour century! Cool.
(Way too complicated to get into, but very simply: John Clark and I rode the 4 miles to the start from our homes and then finished the route 4 miles before the end, so I'm counting the last 100 miles of riding as an even century.)
John Clark, Scott Young and I at the Birch Bay aid just stop just before the annoying, head windy return ride to Bellingham.

Fairly early on (I think it was near Lake Samish) we hooked up with two other riders (photographer Tyler Mitchell and a nice guy whose name I forget) who were able to share the workload for the rest of the ride. This was key because, like I say, I wasn't at my strongest. Odd thing about riding so hard for so long is that you don't get a chance to really talk to one another; you're just kind of taking turns rotating off the front. Wouldn't want to ride like this all the time, but every once in a while it's fun. 
Our Tour de Whatcom group of five.
Seems to me that in just a half-dozen years or so that the Tour de Whatcom has become insanely popular. Which I hope doesn't begin to work against it. All rides (105-miler, 50-miler, 25-miler) have staggered starts so that they return to Bellingham at roughly the same time. This clogged up a lot of the roads in the north and northwest corner of the county and we saw some odd-slash-dubious choices being made by both riders and vehicle drivers. And the Ferndale Rd.-Slater Rd. intersection was backed up for a few hundred yards with both cars and bikes, something I'd never seen before out in the county. Perhaps in future editions, someone needs to be stationed there to direct car and rider traffic. You'd hate to see riders get hit taking unnecessary chances while trying to cross Slater Road.

But all in all, a great day. Next up, the Shasta Summit Century on Sunday. Yikerz!