105 miles

The alarm was set for 5AM; my brain woke up at 3.

In a few hours, I would find myself pulling out of a suburban middle school parking lot to ride my bike to the beach – 105 miles over the hills and through the woods.

A bird and the slow grey glow of dawn kept me company before the alarm went off. I had spent the week traveling for work and my mind was swimming with everything but the day’s task of riding a century.

I don’t quite remember how it happened, but we were compelled to register for the American Lung Association’s Reach the Beach charity ride and raised some serious money for the cause. We even did some training. And though Bill and I regularly bicycle in almost every conceivable fashion (mountain, road, touring, mountain touring, commuting, utility), we’ve never ridden a century. Never.

I gave in and got up at 4:30. Unlike most mornings, I paused and thoughtfully considered my outfit for the day. It was 43 degrees at the house. The forecast said partly cloudy, a high of 71. I would have to be strategic about my layering system: warm enough at the start to keep from freezing; non-bulky layers for storing in my jersey pockets when it warmed up 105 miles later.

(If there is anything more unflattering on a woman than knee warmers, it’s having a jersey pocket stuffed with knee warmers.)

It had warmed to 47 degrees when we arrived at the start, almost tropical by comparison. Bill shed his heavy duty puffy to unload the bikes while I surreptitiously observed other people’s bikes and clothing choices, both envious and pleased. We met up with the SERA Velo group shortly before 7AM and rode west together under clear, cold skies, never to fully reunite until the end.

The first 13 miles rolled by quickly, breaking out of the suburbs and into a patchwork of farms, fields and orchards. I was feeling sluggish and unfit until I passed some dudes on fancy bikes in fancy outfits on a small hill – and wondered how they were possibly going to make it 105 miles with all that heavy breathing and groaning.

The first real climb started at mile 15, a graceful sweep of asphalt under dense tree canopy to the top of a ridge that overlooked the Chehalm Valley. It was a beautiful road to climb and we soon found ourself blasting 39 mph down the backside of it into Newburg for our second rest stop. Hundreds of people milled about, drinking coffee and snacking on bananas, dancing in the port-a-loo line to keep warm. This was the start of the 80-mile ride to the coast. Admirable, but no 105 miles.

The ride was a blur between mile 22 and 50. The roads flattened to pancake elevation and we cruised along at 18 mph, riding at right angles along farm plats, past winery entrances, and through small odorous hamlets in Yamhill County. The flowering clover turned acres of hillsides deep red and perfumed the air with its sweetness; everything was electric green and bursting with new growth. Despite my lethargy, this was turning into one really fine ride.

I was really happy to see pudding cups at the lunch stop, but I didn’t have much of an appetite so it was with a heavy heart that I passed them by. We had arrived before the bell curve of the pack, and were able to grab our lunch quickly and picnic in the sunshine in the parking lot of the Amity High School. I nursed a cup of coffee to boost my energy level and relubed my chamois, which is one of those things that makes cyclists really, really different from other people.

A few miles from lunch, one the ubiquitous all-male pacelines whooshed past us and I, probably breaching some unspoken cyclist code, sped up to tag onto back of it. Sucked into their speedy vortex, I found myself effortlessly pedaling along at 20 mph, the miles ticking by at an alarming rate. I did my pulls and before I knew it, I was at the next rest stop and Bill was no where to be seen. Somewhere along the way, I had dropped him for six strange men. I kind of felt like a bad wife at that point.

trying to figure out where I dropped Bill

I waited for him at that rest stop for a while but he never showed up. I saw one of the SERA Velo riders pass by and knew that he couldn’t have been behind him, so I got back on my bike and hoped to catch up.

My six new friends were starting back into the ride, too, so I joined up with them again for a fast and furious ride to the Grand Ronde rest stop at mile 77. When I turned into the stop, I immediately saw Bill and cheered a little cheer. There was no way to lose him on this ride, but I didn’t like being separated – especially coming into the finish. I wanted to do this century together.

I ate what felt like my 50th peanut butter and jelly sandwich and prepared myself for the final climb over the Coast Range and down to the beach. I was riding strongly but had felt like I was in a fog all day. As if to reinforce my metaphor, the coastal clouds parted just then to reveal sunny blue skies. We hopped back on our bikes and started the gentle climb up to the pass.

The road had been recently repaved so it was in exceptional condition. The forest was lush and green and the sun felt magnificent, and I felt stronger and stronger as I climbed to the top. The only drawback was that I was now carrying almost all of my layers in my jersey pocket, which looks really, really ridiculous.

We crested the pass and gently rolled down to sea level along the Nestucca River. About ten miles from Pacific City, we hit the flats. A brisk headwind constantly pushed against us, so we tucked into small groups and hunkered towards the finish line. I watched my odometer click past 100 and into the 100+ zone, amazed that we felt so good, so strong, so happy. It’s a remarkable feeling to see that many miles in one ride. A remarkable feeling that we’re likely to pursue again very soon.

105.72 miles-ish

I would like to thank everyone who donated to the American Lung Association on our behalf. My family, friends, neighbors and associates are incredibly generous and I’m proud to have contributed to this organization, who continue do good work for those who struggle to breathe. Events like these always remind me that I’m extremely fortunate to be able to do the things I do without any issues, even if I am the type of wife who drops her husband for a speedy paceline.

Acadia Duathalon

After two days in the car to get there, I was excited to get out and explore some of the trails and carriage paths in Acadia National Park today. I didn’t have a proper map (with a proper scale or any indication of elevation change), so I had to go out in Trail Commando Mode and make adjustments along the way.

Acadia National Park - view from Day Mountain

I didn’t just have all day to dally around, you see. I had to get to the middle of the Park to meet my parents for lunch by 1 PM so I had to construct a route that would enable me to hike on trails the whole way there. The first shuttle left Bar Harbor at 9:15 AM and I didn’t get to the trailhead until 9:40 AM. Complicating matters, I had less than a quart of water and no way to treat found water.

In the end, I wasn’t able to hike the whole way to Jordan Pond (water was the issue – and some biggish mountains that were in the way), but I did get to experience The Precipice Trail (Acadia’s hardest trail), have a ramble down the Beachcroft Trail to the Wild Gardens of Acadia, ride the free shuttle along the popular eastern coast (Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff, etc.), and squeeze in a nice little huff and puff up The Traid before descending to the Jordan Pond House for lobster quiche and about 20 popovers with butter and jam.

Jordan Pond and The Bubbles

I had originally wanted to start at The Beehive, but after the shuttle driver started talking about The Precipice Trail over the intercom as we approached it, I impulsively pulled the “Stop Requested” line and jumped out at this trailhead instead.

Here, I was greeted with this sign:

"The Precipice is maintained as a non-technical climbing route, not a hiking trail."

“CAUTION: The Precipice is maintained as a non-technical climbing route, not a hiking trail. Attempt this route only if you are physically fit, wearing proper foot wear, and have experience in climbing near exposed cliffs and heights. Allow three hours for a round-trip climb. Avoid this route during inclement weather or darkness. Stay on trail and do not throw or dislodge rocks onto hikers below. Persons have received serious injuries and others have died on this mountain side!”

This sounded perfect!

a little fall color on the Precipice Trail

The “trail” immediately started with a three-point scramble over boulders and roots. Without a discernible path to follow, the NPS uses blue marks painted on the rocks and trees to guide you. I hopped up and over and around and under giant granite boulders for several hundred feet before reaching the base of the cliff, where the real work began.

go, team!

The trail turned into a series of scrambles and traverses as it zigzagged its way up the cliff face. Views to the north and Bar Harbor were outstanding on this mild September morning, and I was turning into a sweaty mess as I used all of my body parts to pull and push myself up the wall. Iron railings and grip bars provided some comfort in the really exposed spots.

the "railings" were comforting

this nice guy demonstrates how not to fall

The first 20 minutes of the hike was like being in a rock playground but the higher I climbed, the more exposed it got and the more I became aware of the potential for death or dismemberment. Or at least a really nasty head injury.

exposed much?

go go gadget legs!

blocky staircase

For a good portion of the trail, the route uses natural features in the rock or the rock itself for climbing, but near the top of the cliff, the trail builders had to install iron wrungs and ladders to get up vertical sections of the wall. I climbed these, trusting that they wouldn’t pull from the granite and send me plummeting to my death.

don't look down

iron rung ladders

iron ladder

The views were outstanding along most of the trail but got better and better the closer I got to the top of Champlain Mountain. The trail is most exposed at the very top of the cliff and then abruptly flattens and ends with a gentle ramble between stunted pine and heather on smooth granite faces to the summit.

Bar Harbor from the Precipice Trail

following the blue marks to the top

cairn on top of Champlain Mountain

view of Bar Harbor from Champlain Mountain

Cadillac Mountain from Champlain Mountain

I checked my watch at the top and noted that it took me 45 minutes to climb up. That gave me about two hours to get to Jordan Pond. I was out of water, sweating like a cut onion, and eyeing the little brown-water tarn on top of Champlain Mountain wondering if giardia was really that bad.

Common sense prevailed. I couldn’t keep going on my route to Jordan Pond without refilling my little water bottle so I headed down the Beachcroft Trail to the Wild Gardens of Acadia Nature Center, where there were bathrooms and potable water.

little tarn on top of Champlain Mountain

The trail down, while easier than the Precipice Trail, was still challenging. The upper part was particularly slow going as I stutter-stepped down granite faces and downclimbed the steep bits. My right knee has been been bothering me for the last couple of weeks and it barked its unhappiness each time I jumped down from a boulder.

I'm pointing to where the "trail" goes

the "easier" way down from Champlain Mountain

It took about 35 minutes to get to the Nature Center, where I filled my water bottle and looked at the maps to strategize. Without more water capacity, there was no way I was going to be able to climb Cadillac Mountain (the shortest way to Jordan Pond), so I pulled out the shuttle schedule and decided to take the next bus to a place where I could jump on a trail to The Triad, get a view of Seal Harbor and the mountains on the west side of the island, and then hike down in time to meet my folks for lunch. The trails were steep and a combination of mixed woods and granite.

Beachcroft Trail

woodsy Beachcroft Trail

wooded trail

not food.

Jordan Pond Trail

also not food.

Jordan Pond

I arrived at the Jordan Pond House at 12:58 PM and proceeded to enjoy a delicious lunch on the lawn overlooking Jorden Pond and The Bubbles.

Filled with food and running from a blustery front coming in rapidly from the southwest, I mounted the rental steed my parents brought in their car and went riding up Day Mountain for a view of Seal Harbor and points south. The views weren’t worth the long ride up (compared to my hiking views from the morning), but I did get to see a little-viewed section of the Park and didn’t really see anyone the entire time.

a section of carriage road

Carriage Road Blair Witch

view south from Day Mountain

ferns

carriage road on Day Mountain

After descending Day Mountain, I traversed the Park to Eagle Lake, past Bubble Pond and Cadillac Mountain, to the free shuttle stop on the highway. After looking at the shuttle pick up times and noting that it only took them 5 minutes to get into downtown Bar Harbor, I decided to ride back to town on the highway.

All told, I think I hiked about 5 miles and rode about 15 miles but without a proper map, I’ll never really know.

Racing the Dark

The Portland Twilight Criterium.

Where very fit men in very skimpy outfits pedal very expensive bikes around six of Portland’s very small blocks for one very long hour. Probably for a very small cash prize.

One of the many reasons I love living in the city.

I settled down on the curb in a potential crash zone (only one, in the Cat 3 race) and happily people- and race-watched for a couple of hours on this gorgeous, sultry summer evening.  The photographs tell stories more about the fans and spectators than the racers themselves. It’s really hard to snap a photo of someone traveling 30 miles an hour at dusk. Especially after two beers.

As always, click on an image to view its larger version or to start a slideshow.