Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rapture ride!

After missing the inaugural VeloDirt Rapture Ride in 2011 because of a sprained ankle and the 2012 version for some completely lame and unremarkable excuse, there was no way I'd be left out of the ride when it came back around for this year.

So, I met up with Jennifer for a carpool at 8 and, only a few minor wrong turns later, we were pulling our bikes off the rack and assembling everything we'd need at the start point, the Flying M Ranch a few miles west of Yamhill. There was a decent group of riders -- three dozen, maybe -- with probably 75% cyclocross bikes (or similar), plus a handful of hardtail, FS, or rigid mountain bikes.

Out of the gate, I found myself on the tail end of the "lead" pack, a handful of fat and fist dudes wearing kits from teams they actually belonged to, on fancy and fast-looking modern bikes.

Then, of course, the first hill came, and I got passed and passed and passed and passed. Didn't fall off the back by any means, just firmly settled into somewhere around the 70th percentile of riders. I also stubbornly tried to get up in my 39T middle ring and avoid the smallest ring of my triple, which meant at one particularly bad ramp my cadence halted to a near-stop, and I barely unclipped in time before having to walk my goddam bike at mile four.

The terrain for this first stretch -- which gained 2400 feet in about nine miles -- was some of the worst on the ride, with a bunch of golf-ball sized rocks in place of more traditional "gravel". Here and there you could find a worn-down truck path to follow and ride more smoothly, but those had a bad habit of starting and ending abruptly, leaving you to swerve across deep chunky sections in order to find the next more rideable portion.

The road rolled up and down a little bit for a while, and I got to the top of a big descent at mile 14 after a little less than two hours. Yep. Still, the hardest part of the ride was done; the next dozen miles were almost all downhill towards Trask County Park, then the "summit" of the return trip over the coast range was over a thousand feet lower than what I'd just done.

For the first mile or so of descent, I rolled down cautiously and conservatively, as the road surface stayed fairly poor (though much better than some portions of the climb). After lifting my Trek up and over a second gate, though, things took a turn for the better -- the road turned into softer and smoother dirt, and I let myself pick up more speed as I started to lean into turns, pass the more conservative (i.e., smart) riders, and bunny hop (I know, it's not really a bunny hop if you just lift up on clipless pedals) some potholes and other debris.

Then -- unsurprisingly -- that whole coming-in-hot thing bit me in the ass. At a 130-degree turn at mile 20, I low-sided and went down fairly hard on my left side.

Instead of bitching about that too much, though, here's a handful of optimistic ways to view that crash:

-Gravel and dirt is much softer than asphalt
-It was an "inside" corner so I wasn't at risk of sliding off the side of the road
-I didn't actually slide at all, basically stuck in one spot
-Nobody was following too close and I wasn't run over
-Other riders WERE close enough to quickly attend to me, one kind guy hosed out my wounds with his Camelbak
-I generally avoided breaking valuable bike parts by taking most of the impact with my body

I wound up with a nice scrape on my knee, some smaller scratches on my arm, and -- most painfully -- a gash right where the pinky meets my palm. After making sure I could walk and the bike could roll, I waived on the few people who had stopped behind me, then gingerly re-mounted and rolled super-cautiously down the last couple of winding turns before reaching Trask County Park and cleaning off my wounds (with the only tap water available anywhere on-course!).

I first fashioned some first aid with chamois cream/kleenex/armwarmer (instead of bacitracin/sterile pad/gauze); but a few minutes after that, an AWESOME rider whose name I forgot rolled up with an actual first aid kit and I got myself properly wrapped up and felt a big mental boost for the last 38ish miles back to the ranch.

The tap water at Trask is super sulfuric (i.e., rotten eggs); I figured I'd just make some tripe-strength Gatorade from powder mix to mask it. And, it mostly worked (if I took care not to breathe in while drinking it), if it was sickeningly sweet and almost syrupy. Oh, and a bit of the powder blew into the cut on my hand... citric acid and (trace amounts of) salt, not a good feeling.

I was briefly tempted to bag the rest of the ride and instead go see my grandma in Oceanside, but I realized that I'd have no way to tell Jennifer that I was abandoning her carpool; and, for that matter, her house was only about ten miles closer than the endpoint back at Yamhill.

So, it was back onto gravel, and back into a climb. I had met Maria shortly before my crash; we relaxed together for a bit at the campground, then wound up riding together for nearly the rest of the way home.

Like I had expected, going up along the Trask River was much nicer than our initial climb out of the ranch. It had turned into a legitimately warm day, but we enjoyed fairly thick tree cover and abundant shade.

My minor crash wounds quickly moved to the back of my mind; instead, though, I started to get just plain tired. Maria and I rolled up the hills at a less than brisk pace, and I made liberal use of my 30/32 low gear. At mile 46, we came upon the Barney Reservoir; Maria had a story or two about getting giardia from drinking dirty water, so I held back from scooping handfuls of the lake straight into my mouth; I did, however, thoroughly douse myself to at least cool off. A short bit later, though, we came across two of the organizers from 21st Ave Bicycles using a chemical water treatment on a little roadside stream. We each had about ~6 ounces of water left at that point, so they were kind enough to mix up a potable bottle for each of us to help bring us home.

There was a little bit of climbing left; by mile 50 or so, we'd gained probably 6500 feet of elevation, which basically marked the end of the day's hard work. I was weary enough (and still slightly bleeding) to take the last descent back down to valley level at a fairly cautious clip.

The ride's last "bail out" option was at mile ~57 -- a direct turn towards the ranch would end my day in five miles, or the "official" route had an extension for another 700 miles with some nasty little hills. I didn't hesitate, immediately deciding to take the easy way in.

Rolled into the start/finish area just before six: 7:39 total elapsed time, and about 6:30 riding time, good for a moving average of just under ten miles per hour.

I pulled off my socks and shoes and bibs, made a bee-line for the Base Camp kegs, and stuffed myself with chips and salsa, and bullshitted with my fellow riders for a while 'til the 21st guys got the grill up and running.

I think I went though five or six beers, a good half-dozen tacos, and another 30-40 ounces of water in two-ish hours I spent at the endpoint before we drove back... and somehow I was still hungry and thirsty by the time we reached Hwy 26.

I'll definitely be using North Fork and Turner Creek roads again -- as a highway-free route to get into Tillamook. Toll Rd & Murphy Camp might have to wait for next year's Rapture event. Oh, and then there's my nascent idea to find a similar logging route between Timber & Foss... it's gonna be a fun summer, at least if I can keep the rubber side pointed down.

(photos to be added later)

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