Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reach the Beach

Kasia & I and two of our friends did the "Reach the Beach" ride from Portland to Pacific City this past Saturday. The ride itself was well organized, but our experience was, in a word, nightmarish.

We planned to hit the road about 7:00am, but I had mechanical problems with my bike (I thought it was a rear hub issue, but it turned out to be a disc brake problem). We finally hit the road about 8:40am. By then, it was already getting warm.

More mechanical issues (lazy rear shifting, mostly due to my stupidly-placed Bento Box) were resolved at the first rest stop, but this caused even further delays.

The 100-mile route had about 3200 feet elevation gain, with 2200 feet in the first 20 miles. So, in theory, the remaining 80 miles should have been a piece-o-cake.

Except for the heat.

The official highs in the Portland area on Saturday were in the 93-95 range, but temperatures on the road were much higher. While cruising down the sun-baked asphalt, my friend Emily's cyclocomputer showed 104! Throw in a fierce headwind, and it was like cycling in a desiccant-filled convection oven.

The heat was killing us. Our pace slowed, and our rest stops lengthened (and we added a few impromptu side-of-the-road rest stops as well).

Kasia is from Poland, and just cannot handle heat like this. (I'm a native Texan, so I may have some genetic advantage here.) By the time we reached the half-way point, Kasia was running out of steam and feeling nauseous and dizzy -- classic heat exhaustion symptoms. We put her on a SAG wagon and she rode in air-conditioned comfort the rest of the way to Pacific City. My friend Emily was also feeling bad by this point, so she SAG'd it, too.

That left Mike (Emily's boyfriend) and me. We were starting to feel time pressure (we had to make it to Pacific City by 7:00pm to get the bus back to Portland), so we picked-up the pace and pressed on. We decided to make the Sheridan rest stop as fast as possible, and we succeeded -- fill water bottles, eat a banana, hit the road.

Mike started winding down a bit by the time we hit the Grand Ronde stop, so we decided to make this a longer rest. After one baked potato with everything, a banana, lots of water, a few cookies to stash in the Bento Box, and some quiet time in the shade, we hit the road.

By this point, Mike had set a new personal best for single-day distance, but was fading quickly. He's a strong guy and in good physical shape, he's just relatively new to this. I suspect he just needs more saddle time -- by this time next year, he'll likely be a very strong cyclist.

We had 2 hours to complete 25 not-so-hilly (but certainly not flat) miles on dead-tired legs. Press on regardless.

At the 95 mile point, we met another SAG wagon. It was 6:30pm, and we had allegedly had 8 miles to go. Mike was done, so he opted to SAG-it the final 8 miles.

I'm somewhat familiar with the Pacific City area -- Kasia & I have biked around here before. Mike & I met this final SAG wagon near where Little Nestucca River Road meets Highway 101, and I was rather sure it was only about 5 miles from there to the finish line.

Just in case the SAG driver was correct, I cranked the speed up to 16-18 (not that impressive, but I was dead tired and the headwind was not helping). I made it to the finish line just in time to put my bike on the truck, change t-shirts, and jump on the bus back to Portland.

Overall, this was one of the least-fun organized rides I've ever done, but only because of elements unrelated to the ride itself. The ride was well organized, the route was mostly well marked, the volunteers were friendly and helpful, and the food at the rest stops was great.

If the temperature had been lower (the high that day was 30 degrees above normal), and if my bike had behaved, then I'm sure we all would have finished, and we would all have had a great time.

We're all planning to do this next year, although we'll do some things differently. We'll probably arrange to leave a car at Pacific City for the trip back to Portland. This would eliminate the pressure to finish by a certain time to catch the bus. It would also allow us to spend a night or two in Pacific City (great town!) before returning.

Next year!

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