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Sunday, November 11, 2012

More Ache than Elation: Verboort Populaire 2012

A brief respite on the Trestle.
Weather. It's unpredictability is...predictable.

The big plan for Friday, November 2 was ride the thirty-odd miles from my home in Portland to Forest Grove, where I would be staying at the McMenamins Grand Lodge. I needed to warm up for all the riding on Saturday, and it would give me a reason to check out some different roads out there. And everything looked good in regards to the weather when I made plans earlier in the week, as the forecast called for a sunny Friday. As the week progressed, the forecast got progressively worse, to clouds, to a chance of showers. Ah, chance of showers ain't too bad, I thought to myself.

As always, I left the house on Friday afternoon later than I planned (1:30pm). Needing fuel, I stopped at a local tacqueria for a burrito. This is when it started pouring. Damn. On the MAX I go. And the rain didn't let up until I was safe and dry in the Grand Lodge.
The bunkroom at Grand Lodge.

I got to the Lodge at 4:30. Ed showed up after 8. We got a bunk room, which was reasonably priced ($40 plus tax.) We enjoyed McMenamins limited tap selection, talked about the day ahead and bikes in general, and got to bed fairly early.

It was an easy two-mile ride to the "town" of Verboort, the start and finish of the Verboort Populaire. There was a few dozen riders mulling about in the misty dawn, talking, drinking coffee, getting ready and all that. I saw a few peeps that I know, like Andy, Russ, and Laura. I signed a waiver, paid a registration fee, and got my brevet card and cue sheet. The route was different than last year's Verboort ride, about one-third of it on roads I had never been on before. Cool.

Nine o'clock came and the riders departed. The route first veered south to Forest Grove, then westward along SR 8 (Gales Creek Road). While the scenery outside of Forest Grove is nice, and the road doesn't have that much traffic, the road is shoulderless and the little traffic on it is going fast, making me a little uneasy. While the short section of SR 6 had an okay shoulder, the traffic volume increased. The big respite came when I turned onto Timber Road, the road I hadn't been on before, and would be on for the next twenty miles. The traffic dropped off drastically, and the scenery improved. There was a pretty decent climb on the section of Timber Road between SR 6 and US 26, and the summit was shrouded in fog. And on the descent I passed through the "town" of Timber, at one point a busier depot on the rail line to Tillamook, now a collection of houses and a Post Office. The only bad thing that happened on this section was getting chased by dogs. (At least I didn't have a crazy driver yell at me to "Get off the road" like a few other riders had.)

Timber Road dumped me into Vernonia, which was a control point and refueling stop. I wolfed down a cinnamon bun and got some more coffee, then turned around to head down the Banks-Vernonia Trail. The B-V is an old rail-trail that I've been on many times before, but it's always a good ride. The only issue this time was all the wet leaves on the trail. I had to be extra cautious at points, but at least I didn't crash like a few other riders.
Quiet, bucolic Timber Road.

The last eight miles of riding from Banks were on mostly quiet backroads that I'd traveled before. I got into Verboort at 3:24 pm, 6 hours and 24 minutes after the start, and about 50 minutes before the official end of the ride.

So yes, I successfully completed my second randonneuring-related event. But I didn't feel the elation I had when I completed the Verboort Populaire in 2011. Yes, I was tired and aching afterwards, just like I was in 2012. But up to that point I had no idea if I had "what it takes". 2011 proved it. So this year I knew that I could do it. But this year I was hoping I could do it better. And in my mind, I didn't measure up. In my mind, I felt like I failed.

Why did I feel this way?

The first twenty or so miles I felt okay. But as I closed in, and had more and more folk pass me, I reached a point outside of Vernonia where no one was passing me anymore. Was I last? I knew I was not a fast cyclist, and there would be speedy folks on light bikes finishing a couple hours before me. But the thought that I was dead fucking last was not a good one. Am I this bad of a cyclist?

I don't like competitive athletic events, and have avoided them for pretty much all my adult life. Yes, I was picked last in gym class and all that. I never got into racing,* though admire some aspects of it from a distance. So doing all the "hard-core" cyclists things were never a part of my bicycle lifestyle. Randonneuring seems like a good fit because the emphasis isn't on racing, per se. But just because you're "racing against yourself" doesn't mean there's a little bit of competitive nature in there. And now I was feeling it. I was behind.
Happy riders.

When I got into Vernonia, other riders were taking a leisurely break at the coffee shop, ordering full lunches and all that. I got a cinnamon bun and coffee, wolfed it down while standing, and took off. Which is I guess more in tune with what real randonneuring is about, but it would have been nice to enjoy myself. I went as fast as I could down the Banks-Vernonia Trail as the conditions would allow, and every time I saw a headlight in my rear-view mirror** I sped up a little more.

I may not have felt this way if I had found a riding partner or group. But I didn't. While Ed is a friend, he is a much faster rider than me. He finished a full hour ahead of me, and knowing Ed's riding ability, he probably "took it easy" with the riding and took a decent break in Vernonia. Russ and Laura had a bit of paceline action going on when they passed me, and I tried to keep up for a bit at the end of the pack, but they were going just that much faster than me. So I biked alone for most of it, except for brief moments where I might talk with another rider or riders for a couple minutes.

All this left me a bit depressed for a few days, until I talked with my friend, super-randonneur Theo, on Tuesday's Election Night shindigs. He helped put things in perspective for me, as he tends to ride alone because he's not at the same pace as others. My mood brightened.

Will I randonneur again? Most likely. Things like this remind me that it isn't always easy, and I have work to do in the long-distance department. Beyond 100km rides, I want to attempt a few 200km rides, brevets. These are true rando rides, and if I complete at least one 200k, I get my name in a book somewhere in France. A worthy goal, indeed.

More photos here: Verboort Populaire, 3 Nov 2012 on flickr

*Can we not talk about Lance?
**Yep, bike headlights. This is randonneuring we're talking about, so you could tell who the true believers were because they had good LED dynamo-powered lights.


  1. Awesome job Brother,you dind't "fail",you finished! Nice job,old friend-hopefully one day we ca actually share a ride together :)

    The DC

  2. yes, impressive! if i tried i would be behind you, i promise. even the little organized rides take me a lot longer than anyone else. but they're still fun, especially if you got to explore new roads!

  3. I think you did fine, but I get what your saying. I wanted to try one of the two 200km official randonneuring rides in the Edmonton area this year but I didn't feel ready for it. I have the sinking feeling that one might actually have to TRAIN for that.

    Lance who?

  4. Chin up old boy, the average person wouldn't contemplate riding such a distance. That makes you exceptional!
    I used to psych myself out a little by imagining riding my motorbike at 100kph for a whole hour and thinking how far that would be. But it's mind over matter, isn't it? I completed quite a few twenty odd years ago when training for mountainbike races, must set my self some new challenges...

  5. Hey! I just found this post:) (actually, I sort of just remembered about your blog:) And despite whatever you say here about being behind, I'm pretty sure those "happy riders" were behind you. heh.

    I totally get what you're saying about speed, like if other people are going fast it's hard not to feel like you should be going fast too, and if you're not going AS fast you're not as awesome. But that's kind of bullshit, and I had way more fun on this ride going slow than I have on other ones trying to keep up with people. It's nice when you can just go your own pace and not feel bad about it, even though it's sometimes hard to give yourself permission to do that. Ingrained competition and all. But don't give in! Randonneuring especially should be about exploring! (I think:)

    heh, actually funny story: we saw you ahead of us and thought "hey! let's catch up!" and then suddenly it seemed like you were going WAY faster. heh. I guess, reading this now, that probably you were. ;)

    ( -stasia )


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