Ten Thoughts I had During my First Randonneuring Ride

The French are so fancy. They have a great word for everything. Instead of saying “Hey, let’s go on a really long bike ride for no good reason”, they say “Let’s go randonneuring.”  I’ve been wanting to try out this sport for a while and last Friday offered the perfect chance, a night start 100k, or a populaire.

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The Night Start 100k hosted by the Seattle International Randonneurs ride started in Snohomish at 7pm and took place mainly on the Centennial Trail, offering a great opportunity for rando newbies to test out our legs in a non-intimidating, welcoming environment. I’m obviously alive to tell my tale and over the course of 100 kilometers had a lot of time to think. Here are some of the things that went through my head during my first randonneuring ride.

1.       1 kilometer didn’t take very long to ride. 100 of these won’t take very long at all. (This was probably 10 minutes into the ride.)

2.       Sleeping more than 4 hours the night before would’ve been a really good idea. I had grand plans of going to bed early, hydrating well, and starting the ride fresh, but that all got thrown out the window with Thursday’s Point83 ride. You’re only 29 once, right?

3.       I wonder what my tire pressure is at right now? Should it be higher?

4.       Gnats don’t taste like anything when they fly in your mouth at a high rate of speed. The people on Naked and Afraid™ should design a gnat trap and eat lots of those for protein. (I think this is when the sleep deprivation started to set in.

5.       Do you really need three bollards on each end of a rail trail? Seems like two is perfectly sufficient to keep motorized vehicles off, while not impeding cyclists.

6.       Math is really hard at 12:30 in the morning, you’ve been riding bikes for 5.5 hours and subsequently figuring out that you have 13 miles left to ride and not 7 is really defeating to your morale.

7.       Strava is unnecessary and counts way too slow. Turn it off and enjoy the ride. The checkpoint will be there regardless.

8.       My knee hurts when I’m clipped in. It’s probably time for a bike fit to have that looked at.

9.       Running over a slug makes an awful squishing noise.

10.   Maintaining a 9mph average speed over 62 miles is actually pretty easy, it’s just a matter of not stopping as much as I usually do. I think I might be able to get into this rando thing.

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Community Through Biking

Thursday night I crashed on my bike...twice. Thankfully, neither of mine were very serious and I was able to ride away from both of them, albeit with a few broken spokes, bruises, and an out of true wheel. One other good friend I was riding with that night got into a much more serious crash and both broke his collar bone, four ribs, and some additional injuries requiring a number of stitches. Since Thursday, we've also been coming to grips with the news that the daughter of one of our friends that we ride bikes with has perished in the earthquake and landslide in Nepal.

The aftermath of Fred's crash and news of Bailey's death on our community have been hard, to say the least. But they've also been an opportunity for our community to come together as a group and show our support for each other. At Harborview on Friday night, we overheard nurses talking about how Fred was the most visited patient they'd ever had. Riding the elevator to his floor playing "The Boys are Back in Town" helped remind us about the fun we had just had the weekend before, taking logging road shortcuts and dirt trails to Ben Country. Fred is an integral member of our community, and it hurts all of us to see him in pain and hurting. 

While at the hospital, we realized that because Fred had somehow called 911 for himself the night before, the fire department most likely still had his bicycle. Using Seattle's Real Time 911 service, we tracked down the fire department who picked him up, called them, and confirmed they still had his bike. Madi, Dan, and Kyle then went to the fire station and hauled his bike back home. Seeing Madi's instagram post (below) that Fred's bike was safely back in our hands was a very proud moment and really hit home that we have a community that truly cares about each other. Gives me a lot of hope.

Fred's Bike

As I mentioned earlier, our community is also reeling from the news of the death of Bailey Meola. Bailey is the 19 year old daughter of Scott Meola and Rachelle Brown and was trekking through Nepal's Langtang Valley when the earthquake struck in late April. This article talks about their great trip and the search to find them. I did not have the chance to meet Bailey before her trip, and have just recently gotten to know Scott and Rachelle through bike riding. As their family deals with this tragedy, our community has rallied to support them, first financially with an Indigogo campaign for a mission to search for them, and now emotionally (as best as we can) through what is sure to be an unbelievably horrendous time.

What all of this has shown to me- from the friends helping pick me up off the street when I crashed, to rallying around Fred at Harbrorview, to bringing him ice cream as he heals, to sitting together meditating on Sydney and Bailey, is that there is community through bicycling. The outpouring of love and support that I have seen for my fellow bicyclists over the past week has been like nothing I have ever experienced in any other community. There is truly something special happening here. As I continue to process everything that has happened over the past week and what exactly this community is capable of as we come together for each other, it was important for me to put these feelings of gratitude and appreciation into words. All too often, I think we forget how great of an opportunity we truly have and how blessed we are with the amazing folks around each other. This is my way of saying thank you to those people I ride with. You all make Seattle a better place to be, and a better place to ride bicycles.

Bike Camping 101

This past Saturday I headed out on my very first bike camping trip with Point 83 on one of the annual trips, Ben Country. This was the 10th anniversary of the Ben Country trip and excitement was high as 60 of us met at the Bainbridge Ferry bright and early at 9am for the 9:35am boat. I quickly realized that I had more stuff loaded on my bike than anybody else (2 back panniers, a tent, and a sleeping bag), and that as already the slowest rider in the group on a normal ride, it was going to be a challenging 63 miles with the extra weight.

Frank the Tank, fully loaded and ready to go. Turns out, she was loaded a little too well.

 

As we rolled off the ferry and started riding, my suspicions were correct, I needed to figure out a way to get rid of some gear if I had any hope of keeping up with the group for the rest of the day. Thankfully (and lucky for me), we had a support truck following us throughout the day with water and beer, and thirteen miles into the ride, I was able to unload my bike! The rest of the day, my only worries were the massive elevation climbs, dirt trails, and ill fitting bike I had decided to ride.

I guess I should clarify, right now, I own three bikes: my road bike (Mary Kate), my mountain/touring bike (Frank the Tank), and my city/free/not mechanically sound but super cute bike (Ashley.) The only bike that has wide enough tires for the gravel paths, a strong enough frame,  and also has a rack for stuff is Frank the Tank (pictured above.) While I love this bike dearly, and find her great for Thursday night Point 83 rides, for anything more than 20 miles, she's wildly uncomfortable. Probably a few sizes too big, too long of a reach, just not quite right.

As the miles wore on, scenery changed and it became evident that we were getting closer to our destination in the Olympic National Park. The hill climbs got bigger, and we eventually climbed a mountain pass. I hit my fastest descent of the day, topping out at 40mph on the backside of a 5 mile climb. Feeling the cool air rush over my face and through my hair, wind screaming through my helmet as I shot down a highway shoulder is a feeling that you definitely don't get in the city. Quite an amazing thrill.

Around mile 52, my friend Jen and Sarah, who drove out to the camping trip drove past me,  and I gave into temptation and flagged them down. With aching shoulders and numb feet, we loaded up my bike onto the car for the last 11 miles into camp (or so we thought.) As we drove into the camp, we saw signs that warned of road closed ahead for washed out road, with absolutely no idea what that held in store.

Soon enough, we got to the end of the road and indeed, the road was super crazy washed out. Like avalanche style washed out. Back on the bike I went for the last 4 miles, including up and over switchbacks for some hike-a-bike sections that nearly left me for dead.

The absolute beauty found at the campground left me so inspired to do more bike camping. Lessons learned:

  • Pack less (or at least consolidate into 1 pannier)
  • Dead bike tubes work super well for lashing things down to a rack
  • Rainier Beer- amazingly refreshing after a long day on the bike (I already knew this, just reinforced even more)
  • Need to get a smaller sleeping bag
  • I can't wait to go again!!

Here's my full route from Saturday. Pretty proud of my 52 miles with 3300 feet of climbing.

Look at that climb at the end!