Instead of doing a recap, I will just point out that Tina and I now reside in Boulder, Colorado. Approximately six months after moving here, the pandemic hit and now we are two months into our new life of spending nearly all of our time at home. Not only that, only a couple weeks into that isolation, what should have been a low-key, enjoyable trip to a local bike park ended up with me breaking my clavicle and requiring surgery to set it right.
On one hand, we are extremely lucky in that we both have jobs that allow us to work remote and those positions are fairly stable. On the other hand, this is most definitely not what we imagined our 2020 would turn out to be and it has been a rough adjustment.
No coffee shops, no friends visiting, no hiking in local parks, outdoor trips are canceled, no travel back to the PNW to see friends and family, and so many unknowns about the future. It feels like a weird holding pattern where nothing is real and the future seems almost nonexistent. Welcome to limbo.
Well...this is a bugger of an entry to write. First off, I am not terribly pleased with either Strava or Garmin Connect as a training platform.
Garmin is convenient in that it automatically uploads all activities recorded by my watch and shows significantly more detailed data than Strava does. However, except for their Calendar view (which is superior to Strava's) I simply do not use its website or iOS app very often. Their devices record so much information and their platform is attempting to provide so many features, that you simply get frustrated by how poorly organized everything feels and your inability to view your data in a way that works best for you. My fingers twitch thinking of how I would improve their entire UX and add a handful of critical data visualization tools. Oh, and for the love of god could I please have the ability to add an activity manually? (Update! Tina has shown me where to add a manual activity in the Garmin Connect web application! Woot! She still had to go searching for it, so I think the point stands that their apps have a problem with organization.)
Strava swings the other way. Their pages for viewing an activity are the gold standard in visual presentation. I genuinely enjoy using their iOS app and I find myself reviewing my activities on it immediately upon completion. There is a solid social component to the platform, and its segments and flyby features are truly fun. But. Their primary focus is almost entirely on biking and running, which means other activities are given little attention and Strava's tools frequently ignore them. I find every single Training tool of theirs frustratingly limited. If you want a truly complete picture of your training via powerful search and data visualization tools, Strava does not deliver. I am also still pretty annoyed that they refuse to give users back a chronological feed–a feature they replaced with a "smart" feed over three years ago.
There are two other tools worth mentioning here too. Ride with GPS has really upped their game this past year, and if you are only into cycling I highly recommend it. If they ever expand into other sports, I suspect it would be a fantastic training tool. There is also Training Peaks, a platform designed by people who love entering data in ugly interfaces and then analyzing it with even uglier graphs. I barely last more than a few minutes in their application before I run away. As a UI, it genuinely offends me.
Sorry about that little diversion. While trying to write this entry, I spent time in both Strava and Garmin trying to find a way to easily visualize the last five months of training...and it was frustrating to say the least. So, instead, I will speak in less analytical and more conversational terms.
As a whole, the training went well, perhaps even better than expected. We only decided to start training for the Picnic at the beginning of January, which left us with less than five months to get in shape for what is essentially an Ironman Triathlon's worth of effort. We also decided that we were unwilling to focus exclusively on Picnic training as there were other activities–like downhill skiing and bouldering–that we still wished to continue doing. A challenge to be sure, but doable, especially since Tina and I are normally fairly active individuals.
There were a number of factors that added to this challenge though. Training in winter, especially for biking, is particularly difficult as the weather has a tendency not to cooperate. We had an entire week of snow, ice, and below freezing temps that made road biking for any significant distance impossible. And while we both bought warmer biking clothes, it is hard to push yourself out the door when it is 28 degrees and windy. Oh, by the way, hill climbing with freezing cold air? Hell on the lungs.
Both of us got sick too. I had a sinus infection that took me out of commission for over a week, and it took me nearly three weeks to fully recover both my strength and breathing ability. Then, the biggest challenge for me was the rolled ankle that happened in mid-March at the bouldering gym. The bike trainer and pool helped keep me active, but I lost more than two weeks of solid training time because of it. All and all, with two illnesses and an ankle injury, my true training time was less than four months.
I think in the end, I would have preferred another full month of training. When we walked up to the Columbia River on our first attempt, I felt finishing was possible but I did not feel as solidly prepared as I would have liked. Another few weeks of swimming definitely would have been prudent, especially given how punishing the swim ended up being. More brick days combing multiple activities with longer distances would have helped teach our bodies to push longer when tired too.
In the end, the best way to judge your training is by your results. While we did not do the full Picnic, we still accomplished a significant chunk of it and in the expected amount of time. If we had had time for a brief nap and a pot of coffee, it is quite possible we would have completed the entire Mt. Hood Picnic as planned.
What stands in my mind is how I felt afterwards. The next day, after 12 hours of sleep, I felt pretty damn good. A bit of tightness, a bit of soreness but no worse than I normally felt after one of our hard training days. I forced myself to take a full week off to rest and recover, but I felt completely capable of continuing our training regiment. That speaks to how effective the past five months ended up being. We were attempting to train our bodies to simply grind out hours and hours of exercise without breaking down. It worked.
After our first Mt. Hood Picnic attempt was foiled by wind, windsurfers, and stormy weather on the mountain, we decided to reevaluate our route for the swim and also wait for a more solid weather window before trying again. On Sunday evening, we took a gander at the weather forecast for the coming week and determined that both Thursday and Friday were looking promising. Dan volunteered once again to kayak with us during our swim, providing a welcomed safety buffer on what is perhaps the most challenging part of this little adventure.
No other parties were available to provide support, so we decided to do the picnic self-supported with no crew providing any food, water, or aid. This required that we divide our gear into two parts and use two cars, leaving one at Timberline Lodge and leaving the other at the start/finish in Hood River. Also meant that after the first section of biking, where Dan would meet us to say hi at least once before heading home, we had no real bail out options if things went wrong, say at 1am on Highway 35. So it goes.
Getting to the Start.
Thursday morning rolled around and while there was a chance of light rain on the mountain and moderate winds at Hood River, the forecast otherwise looked good. So, we packed up both cars and drove to Timberline Lodge. Unlike last time–when we had Dan in his kayak, a support person in my car, a friend joining us for the climb, and additional friends planning to meet us at the finish–this time felt decidedly low key.
Dropping off Tina's car at Timberline went smoothly. Found a nice parking spot in the overnight area, filled out the permits to avoid thinking about them later, checked the gear one last time, and then drove my car with the bikes atop down to Hood River.
Driving down, we eyed our predetermined break spots and also attempted to get a feel for the road from a biker's perspective: steepness of the grade, thin or non-existent shoulders, rumble strips, places that still had gravel debris from the winter, etc. I still had concerns about biking along the highway at night, but I kept faith that a Thursday night would be reasonably quiet.
Funnily enough, the first 35 miles or so of driving, there was no wind to be seen. The trees were becalmed. That is until we were about 10 miles from Hood River. Ah, there was the wind. Oh, and look! The windsurfers are out! Yay!
We parked near the Hood River bridge and walked up the shore to one of our possible starting spots, a beach at the very end of the Best Western property. Our thought was that with the strong Columbia River current and the Hood River's inflow, our best strategy was to simply start further upstream. Then, when we reached Washington, we would swim upstream prior to crossing so we would have a healthy buffer of space to get back across.
Thinking it over and seeing the waves, we decided to try our second, more conservative starting spot at Koberg Beach, a full mile upstream of the Hood River bridge. This turns out to have been wise choice.
We suited up for the swim and Dan drove us over to the Koberg Beach in his car, where we helped him carry his kayak down to the beach. With relatively little fanfare, we put on the rest of our swimming gear, inflated our orange buoys, and got into the water. As with our previous open water swims in the Columbia, we took a minute or two to acclimate to the water temperature and then swam off towards Washington. Our first waypoint for the crossing was the end of a spit that sticks out from the SDS Lumber Company property. After reaching the spit, we would swim around its tip and ultimately land on a sandy beach on the Washington shore.
In only 20 minutes, I reached the spit and was feeling pretty solid. The waves jostled and rolled me a fair bit in the main channel, but after our previous attempt it felt manageable. Simply a matter of timing my strokes and breathing at the right time. Every so often a large wave would catch me, but I simply rolled along with it and kept my mouth shut to avoid swallowing water.
We regrouped at the end of the spit and then slowly swam around the spit checking for boat traffic while avoiding a few large pylons. About 10 minutes later we had navigated the rocks near shore and made landfall. A few photos, a quick snack, and then we were ready to swim back across.
Our endpoint on the return swim was the Best Western beach area, which would give us plenty of space before the Hood River bridge. Since we expected a strong current again, our actual aim was for a tall tree about 500ft upstream from the beach itself.
Tina and I started out together but once we passed beyond the protection of the spit, the waves and current took hold and we both focused on our own swims. Dan was there to watch over us, so we knew someone was keeping an eye on the other person. I think about halfway across is when I realized that the return swim was going to be more of a battle than I had expected. The waves had gotten a bit larger, and it was obvious I was working harder to make forward progress while still being pushed unrelentingly downstream.
Remembering last week's attempt and definitely not wanting to have a repeat, I dug in and just kept swimming. I counted strokes, kicked harder, and kept my sighting breaks as short as possible. The last five hundred feet or so, the current noticeably lessened and the waves got weaker. In what felt like forever (but was only 35 minutes since leaving Washington), I reached the protective log barrier surrounding the hotel's dock and hopped up to check where Tina was.
Tina was a few hundred yards away and swimming close to the bridge, but since Dan was with her I hopped off the log barrier and swam to the dock to finish my swim. Once on the dock, I sat down and took a few seconds to rub out a cramped calf. For a minute or two, I thought I might have to walk off the dock and down the shore to meet Tina, but she pushed hard and made it to the dock only five minutes after me. After a few deep breaths, she hopped onto the dock and our Columbia River swim was complete!
Biking to Timberline
Dan took our victory photo and then piloted his kayak back towards Koberg Beach. Tina and I took a few more selfies and then slowly walked up to the car. The swim had been damn hard and we both mentioned how much we had struggled to get back across. Tina said that if we accomplished no other activity that day, the swim itself had been a solid achievement. I agreed.
There was no stopping at this point though. Instead we took a leisurely hour to peel off our wetsuits, rinse the Columbia off, drink and fuel up, change into our bike kit, do a couple videos, assemble our bikes, and do the final organization of our packs. Right around 6:45pm with Dan watching, we started our bike ride to Timberline Lodge, only 47 miles and 7300 ft of elevation away.
The first hour went smoothly. Our legs warmed up nicely and the climb out of Hood River felt good. Then, right around 8pm, just a minute or so after Tina recorded a video on her bike saying how well things were going, she hit a piece of glass and got a flat. What's even funnier is that we were less than a mile from our first scheduled break spot at the Hood River Ranger Station.
Ladies and Gentlemen, over the next hour and a half, we traveled less than one mile. We replaced her tube with a brand new one and by the time we reached the ranger station, it was losing air. Not in the same spot either. No siree, this new tube got a tiny hole on the opposite site of its valve. Either it had an existing weakness or it got damaged during installation. We first tried to patch this tube but the patch would not hold. So, we patched her original tube and that is the tube she used for the rest of the bike ride.
The sun had set during our little bike maintenance fun, so we put on our bike lights and continued on. Dan promised to meet us at our next break spot at Cooper Spur Rd. just in case we had any further bike tube issues.
The biking at night was simply lovely. The traffic was even lighter than we expected. There was no moon so you could barely see much beyond your front light, which made it so you could not tell how steep the road was or what was too far ahead. You simply biked and kept your eyes on what was immediately in front of you.
We made it to Cooper Spur Rd. in what felt like no time. In fact, we beat Dan there. We grabbed a quick snack, thanked Dan and wished him safe travels home, and continued on our way.
The next segment had a mile section where there was virtually no shoulder and small piles of gravel on the edges. This is the section that concerned me the most during our planning and what encouraged me to buy new, brighter lights to ensure we were as visible as possible to vehicles. The small section went off without a hitch. We were through it in about 7 minutes and not a single vehicle was seen. So much for that.
Our next scheduled break spot was the turn off for Mt. Hood Meadows, but we stopped a couple miles beforehand as it was getting chilly and we both needed to add a top layer. We skipped the Meadows break spot and enjoyed a fast downhill in the dark before stopping again for a quick snack and the adding of a bottom layer and shoe covers.
Up to this point we had seen only a dozen vehicles or so since Cooper Spur Rd. When we reached the junction with Highway 26 and merged onto it, vehicles were on the road almost constantly. It was a bit jarring to go from a dark, quiet highway where I spent most of the ride in the middle of the lane to having trucks zooming past you every minute.
Just after 12:30am we reached the bottom of the Timberline Road and the beginning of our last bike climb of the night. We took a nice fifteen minute break to light up the sign for pictures and fuel up a bit. While the climb up Timberline Road was not bad, we definitely felt tired. We had been going pretty steady for almost 9 hours and had not slept at all. I also think the swim took far more out of us than we expected, which made everything that came after it just that much harder.
The Backcountry Ski
But we made it to Tina's car by 2am and, while tired, we still felt like giving the summit a go. Unfortunately, we were moving a bit slow, so by the time we had eaten our prepared food and drinks, stowed our bike gear, changed into our mountaineering clothes, and organized our gear it was already 3am.
That is a pretty late time to start for a summit climb, especially when you are already dragging. Unfortunately, with the long break after our swim to recover and then the bike flats, we simply were behind schedule and had no time to even take a short nap.
Still. We went up. Just slower than we have ever gone. And, I will be honest, there were multiple times on the way up when I thought I was about to fall asleep on my skis. Just beyond Silcox we agreed that our new goal was the top of Palmer. We were too sleepy and still had a long bike ride back to Hood River ahead of us. Also, it promised to be a bright, sunny day which means lots of sun exposure on the slopes and an increased chance of rock fall higher up on the mountain. Zzzz + meh = nah.
When we reached the top of Palmer, the sun had not yet hit the slopes and, let me tell you, those slopes were pretty darn icy and hard. So, we took a short little nap and waited for the sun to appear and soften up the snow a bit. Even with 30 minutes of sun, the ski down was fairly lousy. Only when we reached a freshly groomed trail below Silcox did we start enjoying ourselves.
Biking to Hood River
Getting back to the car was a nice feeling. All that remained was the bike ride back to Hood River. While it was 47 miles, it was almost entirely downhill and we had oodles of time to do it in. But first, we went into the W'yeast Day lodge and took another long break, where we closed our eyes, ate snacks, and drank fluids.
Just after 9:30am, we were all ready for biking and started the fun descent from Timberline. Brrrrr was that descent chilly with the cold mountain air and shade! Thankfully, we were down in no time and the wind + speed woke us right up.
The majority of the bike ride back to Hood River was delightful. It was warm but not hot. There was about 1500 ft of climbing but it was easy to switch to our lower gears and just crank it out. The only exception to this delight was when we approached Hood River, where a headwind made
the flats a bit more effort than we would have liked. Also, our second wind was starting to fade and we were getting sleepy again.
Even with a few pauses for food and photos, we reached the Columbia River in three hours and thus ended our second attempt at the Mt. Hood Picnic.
All said and done, we did 2.1 miles of open water swimming, 94 miles of biking with 8800 ft of elevation gain, and a 2500 ft backcountry ski. That is not too shabby.
However, it is not quite what we planned and that does frustrate me a bit. I would have loved to have gotten that summit too. That was the dream goal and it felt almost within reach.
That swim though, it was really damn hard. There was a distinct moment out there when I thought I might not make it back across to Oregon. Again. Only when I was three quarters of the way across did I know for sure I was going to reach that dock. And then on the bike ride we got three flats, which cost us well over an hour of time. That exhaustion and the loss of time put us in a uncertain position when it came to the climb. The smart choice was to let the summit go and make sure we got home safe.
We are not intending to do a third attempt this year. Honestly, the idea of doing that swim again is unappealing and finding a new goal/project sounds like way more fun. If I ever try to pull off this again, I think starting the swim a few hours earlier would provide a nice cushion for unforeseen issues and allow a possible nap prior to the climb. Also, during this entire adventure, I only had two chocolate covered espresso beans and a cup of tea's worth of caffeine in a sports drink. I think coffee prior to the climb would have been a real game changer too.
We are discussing our next projects right now, so hopefully I will have something cool to share with you soon. Until then, enjoy my Mt. Hood Picnic photos and videos on Flickr.
Our idea of swimming back and forth across the Columbia, biking to Timberline Lodge, climbing Mt. Hood, and then biking back to Hood River has always required a 24 hour period when nearly everything aligned perfectly. The weather would have to be favorable both at Hood River and on the summit of Mt. Hood, a vertical distance of 11,000 feet. We would both need to be feeling strong enough to continually exercise for nearly 20 hours straight, while remaining safe and injury free. Finally, multiple pieces of gear would have to work flawlessly.
Last Thursday was not that day.
To start off, Tina had caught a cold nine days prior and still had a congested nose and cough on Thursday morning. Despite much hand washing, I finally caught her cold on Monday and was still feeling under the weather. We felt physically strong but obviously not 100%.
And then the weather. The Hood River forecast a few days beforehand had looked promising, but the closer we got to Thursday afternoon the more obvious it became that there was going to be Wind, with a capital W. The mountain forecast had also started promising, but Thursday morning NOAA reported that there was a “30% chance of thunder-snow” on Mt. Hood with possible wind gusts exceeding 30mph. Oof.
Still, all of our gear was packed up and a fantastic crew were ready & willing to support us. Besides, the forecast is frequently wrong on the mountain and though sick we still felt ready. On Thursday afternoon, we drove to Hood River from Portland and arrived at our starting point behind the Best Western hotel shortly after 3pm. After consulting with our kayaker, we suited up and moved down to the dock. Right before 4pm we got into the water, calmed our breathing from the bracing temperature, and started our swim.
The swim to Washington went reasonably well. The water near shore was mildly choppy and we felt the current almost immediately. By mid-channel, the waves were significant enough that we were timing our strokes to the swells to ensure we were able to both effectively swim and breathe. Tina and I were separated within the first ten minutes and only with considerable effort could either of use our buoys to rise above the waves and find the other person. Thankfully, Kayaker Dan kept us both in sight, which alleviated any real worry. After only 30 minutes, we arrived on the Washington side of the Columbia, safe and sound. I made landfall about 200 feet further downstream than I originally planned, but it was an easy swim up the shoreline to meet Tina. We then continued upstream a bit further and hopped onto a dock to take a breather and eye our return trip.
The route for our return swim was meant to take us towards the sandbar that is adjacent to the the primary recreation site for all of Hood River (the city). This sandbar is created where the Hood River, flowing down from the flanks of Mt. Hood, meets the Columbia River. While we modified our swim route to compensate for the Columbia River's current, we did not factor in the inflow of the Hood River. Honestly, I simply did not expect it to be strong enough to cause much difficulty. Also, the sandbar reaches out halfway into the river, so that seemed like a nice buffer between us and any trouble. This was not the case...
As we swam back towards Oregon, we both aimed at a point upstream of our final destination to make sure we compensated for the Columbia River's current. Despite this adjustment, we both discovered that we were moving downstream far faster than we were moving across the river. The water flowing in from the Hood River combined with the Columbia flowing around the sandbar was pushing us right back towards Washington. No matter how hard we swam, the combination of the current and waves was making it extremely difficult to get across.
When I realized that I was quickly approaching an area where windsurfers were zooming about, I made a judgement call and reversed course to head back to Washington. Tina had aimed herself further upstream but–as Strava showed later–she was following a similar path to mine. When Dan informed her that I had turned around, she did too.
Reaching the Washington shore was fairly speedy. Unfortunately, my landing spot was down a steep rock slope with a railroad track atop and then another steep, brush-filled hill up to the highway. After a vexing climb up to the road, our support vehicle picked us up and we drove back to Hood River.
Once there, we walked out to the edge of the sandbar and compared our Strava-recorded routes to where Google Maps said we were currently standing. While not exactly close to the sandbar when we turned around, we were probably no more than 500 feet from the first bit of dry sand. Tantalizingly close.
Back at the car, we mulled over our options. We had already swam two miles and neither of us felt too exhausted, so we could have potentially kept on going. Heck, we even considered trying the swim again as the windsurfers were starting to clear out as dusk approached. However, the wind report for the bike ride seemed unfriendly and the large cumulonimbus cloud covering Mt. Hood seemed to suggest that our climb was unlikely to be successful.
After a bit of hemming and hawing, we slowly decided that we would rather save our energy and try the whole shebang again when conditions were more favorable. That decided, we went out to dinner with our support crew and had some exceptionally tasty beer. Ooo la la!
Early on Friday morning, we woke up and checked the weather station data up on Mt. Hood and also loaded up Timberline Lodge's webcams. The conditions looked pretty miserable. 40mph gusts had been recorded over night and the webcams showed that it was currently raining with the entire area socked in by a thick cloud. We made the right choice. Seems highly unlikely we would have climbed in those conditions and even biking to and from Hood River would have been treacherous.
While disappointed, we intend to try again. We have definitely learned more about how the Columbia River operates near Hood River and have discussed alternative swimming strategies and locations to give us a better chance at succeeding, especially if there are wind and windsurfers about.
Wednesday - 10 laps on Tabor (2.5 miles, 1385 ft) and 7 miles of bike commuting
Thursday - 30 minute chilly, open water swim in Columbia (0.8 miles)
Friday - 1 hour bike ride (16.5 miles, 955 ft)
Saturday - Full day of bouldering at Horsethief Butte.
The taper continues! These little rest weeks before a large event are hilarious in how things just feel wrong. Little niggling issues with your joints seem to appear (why is my right knee hurting when I did absolutely nothing yesterday?), while you feel both oddly sluggish but also a little too energetic.
Tina has sadly caught a cold and has been battling it for the past week. And, my seasonal allergies appeared in all of their histamine-releasing glory and the resulting medication has left me feeling somewhat drowsy. Naturally, this was the perfect time for me to reduce the amount of caffeine I am consuming in order to increase its effectiveness during the Picnic. Ugh.
Also, I have gained a few pounds. Nothing noticeable in the mirror but the scale has informed me that for these past three days I have been consistently five pounds heavier than I was during my training. Ruh-oh, I had better stop eating all of these chocolate wafer cookies from Trader Joe's! Ha ha ha, that's not going to happen! In fact, I have eaten five while writing this very paragraph...
This coming week only has a bike ride, maybe a swim, and then that's it. Two full days of rest and then The Picnic! It's almost here!
Wednesday - 40 minute swim (2000 yds) with 5 miles of bike commuting
Thursday - 10 laps on Tabor (1293 ft) with 7.5 miles of bike commuting + 2 hours of bouldering at NE Circuit
Friday - Easy day with 3 miles of bike commuting
Saturday - 4 laps across Willamette River near Sellwood Bridge (1.3 miles) and 2 hours of bouldering at NE Circuit
After our three-sport day last Saturday, we decided to sleep in on Sunday morning and then went out to a leisurely breakfast. None of our normal group was bouldering so we did a short session in the afternoon instead.
Since we are about 2.5 weeks away from our planned Mt. Hood Picnic date, this is the week where we start tapering to help absorb all of the training that we have done these past four months. We also decided we wanted at least one or two more open water swims under our belt before the Picnic too.
So, there are plenty of articles out there about tapering. To say there is a lack of agreement on the best approach would be an understatement. Too many factors come into play for there to be a definitive strategy: activity/event, training strategy, nutrition, the athlete's physical characteristics, other stressors in the athlete's life, and even the season of year. The whole point though is to recover and rebuild. Get your body as healthy and functional as possible. Regain your energy.
My tapering strategy for this week was to reduce the amount of time exercising (less laps in pool, less time on bike, less stair repeats) while still going out and training at a level that feels like, for lack of a better phrase, a solid effort. Keep the intensity strong but less of it. Also, if my body feels a bit drained, I am taking that extra day off. It is no longer the time to push myself harder.
Wednesday - 15 laps on Mt. Tabor stairs (1,962 ft) and 7.5 miles of bike commuting
Thursday - 2.25 hour bike ride (28.25 mi, 2625 ft)
Friday - 1.25 hours bouldering at NE Circuit
Saturday - 2000 yds open water swim in Columbia River + 2 full laps from Mosier over Seven Mile Hill to Chenoweth and back (46.5 mi, 6333 ft) + Backcountry Ski up past Silcox Hut (2.3 mi, 1218 ft)
Felt kind of worn out this week starting on Tuesday night. The swim was longer than normal, but I think I may have been fighting off a minor cold as there seems to have been a bug going around Portland. Naps were required almost every single afternoon.
Saturday was our last really hard day of training prior to starting our taper, so we decided to make it a three sport day. We also finally purchased our triathlon-specific wetsuits and needed to practice our open water swimming. Let the fun begin!
So, first step was driving to Hood River and doing at least a mile of swimming. The water temperature was somewhere in the 53-55°F range with a solid wind blowing in from the west. The air temperature was only a few degrees warmer, so suffice to say it was neither a warm nor pleasant swim. We survived though and I gotta say my wetsuit helps me float amazingly well. The water is damn cold on my head, but as a whole I feel pretty confident in my ability to swim the Columbia, if the weather cooperates.
Next, we dried off, grabbed food and a hot drink, and drove the 10 minutes to Mosier, where we changed into our bike gear. Our plan was to bike from Mosier, over the top of Seven Mile Hill, down to Chenoweth, and then back. And then repeat it once more for good measure. Thankfully, the sun was out and the wind was blowing, so we had a tail wind for the climb out of Mosier and then joyfully biked into the wind on the climb back up from Chenoweth. The first lap was ok, but the end of the second lap was brutal as the wind speeds had slowly increased throughout the day. I got to the summit on that last lap and was hurting pretty bad. The downhill to Mosier did not alleviate the pain much as the wind was blowing hard enough that even the steeper grades required pedaling and a firm grip on the handlebars.
Our third sport was to be a backcountry ski up the Palmer snowfield from Timberline Lodge. However, we were hurting so much at the end of the bike ride that we almost went home. I am so glad we took the time to refuel and drive up there as the backcountry ski was leaps and bounds better than the swim or bike ride. In fact, I would say it was probably one of my favorite outdoor activities of the year.
The sun was setting and the snow was firming up, but the temperature was perfect (I started in a t-shirt) and the views were spectacular. We only went an hour but everything just clicked. My legs felt better, the mountain glowed, and the ski down felt almost easy. A pleasant end to a very challenging day.
Tuesday - 50 minute swim (2,150 yds) with 5 miles of bike commuting + 1.5 hour bike ride (20 miles, 1654 ft)
Wednesday - 20 laps on Mt. Tabor stairs (2800 ft) and 7.5 miles of bike commuting
Thursday - 1 hour bike ride (16.5 mi, 958 ft)
Friday - 47 minute swim (2,125 yds) with 5 miles of bike commuting
Saturday - 3 cool, windy laps biking to McKenzie Pass from east side with lunch break in Sisters (75 miles, 6,246 ft)
After the previous Saturday's potent combo of Lost Lake biking and skinning up Mt. Hood, our normal Sunday bouldering session lacked oomph. After about 90 minutes of relatively easy climbing, I found my energy levels quite low and decided it was not worth pushing myself much harder. Thankfully my normal rest day is Monday and I recovered well.
The rest of the week was fairly moderate with an additional couple laps on Tabor but mostly keeping the training going in preparation for another hard Saturday.
So, on Friday night we drove down to Sisters, Oregon and camped out at Cold Springs Campground with the intention of checking out McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway on Saturday. Plan A was to go across the pass towards Belknap Hot Springs, if it was passable, and do two out and back laps. Saturday morning was quite chilly (33°F) and we started out layered up. By the time we reached the pass, the sun was out and it was reasonably comfortable with a light wind. Unfortunately, the plows had stopped only a few hundred meters beyond the Dee Observatory, so we were blocked by about five or six feet of snow from continuing over and beyond.
Plan B was simply to head back down to Cold Springs, turn around, and do a total of four laps up to the Dee Observatory with a lunch break in Sisters. The second lap was sightly warmer but also slightly windier. Saw a number of additional bikers this time too. We then zoomed all the way into Sisters and enjoyed a nice lunch at Melvin's Market. The wind had definitely picked up and while in Sisters it gusted so hard that it picked up Tina's entire backpack off a table and tossed it many feet away.
After lunch, we started back towards McKenzie Pass. The first 10 or so miles the wind was either nonexistent or a constant, wearying presence. Once we passed the first snow gate though, it started becoming an energy vacuum. Windy Point lived up to its name and wind gusts made steering challenging as our front wheels would try to turn as the wind caught them. The last half mile felt like going straight into a wind tunnel.
We reached the pass and I simply laid down on the pavement to recover. A fourth lap uphill into that wind was out of the question. On the upside, the ride down had a powerful tailwind and it was fascinating how often I was using my brakes to prevent myself from going too fast. So, even with a shorter distance and elevation than planned, this was probably one of our most exhausting days ever. Thanks, wind!!
Wednesday - 1 hour swim (3000 yds) and 5 miles of bike commuting.
Thursday - 18 laps on Mt. Tabor stairs (2400 ft) and 7.5 miles of bike commuting
Friday - 1 hour swim (2,725 yds) and 5 miles of bike commuting
Saturday - 2 laps biking Lost Lake Rd. (54 miles, 6400 ft) and 2 laps backcountry skiing Palmer Snowfield (7.7 miles, 4500 ft)
So. This was a pretty decent week. My swim on Tuesday had me enjoying an entire lane to myself, which made it easy to accumulate fast laps. Thursday involved unseasonably warm temperatures, and since I had not done Tabor laps in a while I decided to put in some time on the stairs to give my leg muscles a non-bike workout.
And then, there was Saturday. Hee hee. Oh boy, I was still feeling those Tabor stairs in my calves and hamstrings when we started our first lap up to Lost Lake at 7am. The early morning weather was cool and the sky was solidly overcast. The sun had not even peeked over the eastern hills when we started, and there was a light, cool wind blowing from Mt. Hood. I think I spent the entire first lap just stretching out my muscles and getting them motivated to climb 3200 ft. Towards the top there was a couple of feet of snow on the sides of the road and it was at least 10 degrees cooler than at the car. The normally speedy descent had to be checked because the upper road was wet from snow melt and quite slick.
The second lap was still tiring but the sun was out and my body was suitably warmed up. According to Strava, my elapsed time was faster the second lap but it did not include my quick bathroom break at the Lola Pass junction. The descent was exhilarating and I may have pushed it a bit on the rolling hills and flats.
Back at the car, we quickly snacked, cleaned up a bit, and packed up for the hour drive up to Timberline Lodge. When we reached Timberline, it was both warm in the sun but chilly if you sat around thanks to a cool wind coming off the mountain. The skin up was steamy though. The sun beat me down a bit and the last thousand feet up to the top of the Palmer ski lift was rough. I actually had to count steps to keep myself moving. The ski down in the corn snow was lovely, if a bit tiring.
After a break for food and water, we started our second lap up Palmer. Tina really wanted to make it a 10K day for elevation, which we estimated required going most of the way back up. More wind had come in with some darker, heavier clouds to the west, which meant this was a chillier lap. By the time we stopped to turn around, visibility had lessened and I had to quickly put on more layers and my warm ski gloves. The corn snow had frozen and it was challenging to distinguish sky from ground, so it was not the greatest fun skiing down.
Being done felt quite amazing and we had a nice dinner at Mt. Hood Brewing Co. before heading to Portland. Solid day of training.
Our original plan was to do two laps on Mt. Defiance on Saturday. However, the Starvation Ridge trail had a small landslide, requiring a 30 minute detour to get around it, and then we hit snow about 2/3rds of the way up. Immediately past Warren Lake–and still an hour from the summit–we got enveloped in a rather nice snowstorm with wind. On the way down we made the call that perhaps another lap of Defiance was not worth it, so we headed over to Dog Mountain and did a lap there. Dog Mountain had no snow but the wind up top was whipping pretty hard. By time it was all said and done, it was 6:30pm, which made for a fairly long day. We considered a second lap on Dog Mountain but decided we wanted dinner more than we wanted to be out hiking past 9pm. Weird, right?
It does seem a bit odd that we keep on bouldering twice a week, despite it not really contributing to our Picnic training. On the flip side, I sent a v6 and two v5s this week, and it does provide some manner of cross training as well as socializing with friends. By the end of the month, I suspect I will only boulder once a week and use that "free time" to do another swim or bike ride.