Yesterday I rode my first 300K of the year, the scenic Three Capes 300K.
The forecast called for rain and wind, so I rode my new touring bike and brought along a rack with a change of clothes (in case the weather improved), along with the usual complement of four tubes, pump, tools, and candy. There are frequent services along this route, so I took off my third water bottle.
We left at 6:00 AM from Forest Grove, and made our way out to Highway 6 and about 5 miles toward Timber on Timber Rd. As is usual, I struck out on my own at the start. Not because I'm trying to race anybody (I'd certainly lose!). Rather, on a cold morning picking the pace up for a few miles gets my blood flowing. The first control was about 22 wet miles from the start, and I made it there in a little over an hour. This was a staffed control; those are always nice because you can get your card signed quickly, and the volunteers are always friendly. Literally about a minute after I got there, the lead group arrived including all the usual suspects; Del, Mike, Craig, Phil, and several others whom I didn't recognize. I waited for them, and returned to Highway 6 with the group.
The climb up Highway 6 isn't steep, but it's reasonably sustained. I'm not sure what the elevation gain is, but I'd guess maybe 1000 feet over perhaps 10 miles. Mike and another rider sped off the front, and I hung back with Del, Phil, and Craig maybe half a mile behind. The top of Highway 6 is Rogers Camp. This is where I staged an unintentional breakaway last year, which resulted in me covering the next 50 miles solo. This year, however, it was Mike and the mystery rider that were already in the lead. At the top of the climb I sprinted out ahead, assuming the others were right behind me, but it turned out they weren't.
5 miles or so down the descent I caught up with Mike, and continued chasing until we caught the other rider. Note to self: If you see a rider on a single-speed with a RAAM fender, you probably can't hang with him. The other rider turned out to be John, one of the local long-distance racers. The three of us rode on to Tillamook, but a few hundred yards before the Three Capes scenic turnoff, Mike flatted. Twice. While we waited for him to fix the flat Del, Craig, and Phil raced on by. That was the last I would see of Del, but I'm used to that.
With Mike's tubes replaced the three of us turned onto the scenic drive to the first real climb of the day. It's a gorgeous ride, but for a bike route the roads sure are terrible! Starting the climb I could see that Del and gang didn't have much of a lead on us, but since I'm fat and slow everyone eventually biked on out of sight. Mike and I were left pretty much alone, until I flatted on one of the descents perhaps a mile before the Netarts control. Drat.
A few more riders passed me as I fixed my flat tire, and I rolled in to the Netarts control solo. I had a cup of chocolate milk (thanks Bert!), refilled my water bottles, then headed on down the road. A few miles past Netarts there's a sudden 600 foot climb over Cape Lookout. The elevation gain is deceiving – it feels bigger than it is. The weather had been going from merely "pretty nice" to "absolutely gorgeous", so I took a break halfway up at Andersons Point to take off my raincoat, and eat a handful of chocolate covered raisins. A year into my randonneuring experiment, I'm still trying to figure out what kind of food works for me; I'm not sure the raisins did the trick. Last year at this point in the climb there were hang-gliders launching from here over the ocean, but this year the pulloff was deserted.
Last year I rode this section with Mike, and we maintained a fairly torrid pace until Grand Ronde, at which point I bonked and rode the remaining 60 miles or so in complete pain. This year I kept the pace considerably slower riding into Pacific City, where I stopped at a Shell station for an open control. The station had a few baked goodies, so I bought a mini pepperoni pizza, a 32 oz. Pepsi, and 32oz. of Gatorade to top up my bottles. The pizza really hit the spot.
The route at this point became somewhat like Reach The Beach in reverse. From Pacific City there's a long but gradual climb up to Sourgrass Summit, then a pleasant downhill through farm country to Grande Ronde. Dick passed me about halfway up the climb, but I caught up in Grande Ronde thanks to the wonders of gravity and my superior girth. Last year we ended up with an uncharacteristic headwind at this point in the ride, but fortunately that was not in the cards this time. Dick and I bounced back and forth a bit, never riding together but always within about 50 yards of each other, up through Amity. The route at this point changed from last year, with a lot less riding on highway 18 in favor of some more backroads.
Notably, there was a 6 mile stretch into Ballston which was utterly fantastic. The tailwind made for an effortless 30mph section for the majority of this leg. In Ballston I picked up a half-melted ice-cream sandwich from the general store while Dick headed out on his own. I ate the sandwich on the bike, and eventually got Dick in my sights again right around Amity. Either the Ballston tailwind or the ice-cream sandwich motivated me on the way out of Amity, and I was able to maintain 25mph for quite a stretch. About 10 miles out of Amity, I chanced to look behind me right as I was being swept up by Mike, Craig, and Phil! I had assumed they were way out in front, but it turns out they'd taken a break in Amity, and presumably hopped back on their bikes and chased on when they saw Dick and me riding through town.
When we hit Lafayette the tailwind became a headwind, and it started to sprinkle again (though the sky was still mostly clear). The group wasn't really working "well" together and I was getting hungry again, so when we hit North Valley Road, I stopped for a few minutes to eat some Mike & Ikes, and drink some water. The ride back to Forest Grove is scenic, but there was a stiff headwind and rolling hills, so I slowed way down here. In hindsight I probably should have hung on to the group, but in a way I'm kind of glad that I rode most of this ride solo.
I rolled into Forest Grove at 5:58 PM, 11 hours and 54 minutes after the start of the ride. For 186 miles I had 10 hours 45 minutes of saddle time, for an average speed of 17.3mph.
Overall I'm pretty pleased with the result. I had set an arbitrary goal to finish under 12 hours, and I wanted at least to beat my last year's time of 12 hours 30 minutes. Better yet, last year's time included riding with Mike quite a bit, and this year I had probably 25 minutes of unplanned stops to deal with flat tires. I'm committed in a few weeks to riding a 360K fleche, and the 400K (~250 miles) is on May 19.
As I mentioned, I'm still trying to figure out the nutrition thing. The pizza I had on this ride is the most substantial food I've eaten on any of the longer single-day rides, and I'm sure that's partly what leads to me running out of gas with a lot of riding left.