Portland Century Bike Ride

The Portland Century – Part 2

The Portland Century – Part 2 

The Hills

You can read Part One Here.

We left the Blue Lake Rest Stop and headed back to Marine Drive. I have no idea where we were. Michael’s cycling computer popped off his bike and fell off. We stopped so he could grab the computer and put it back on. Then a little bit later he hit a hole in the road and his water bottle shot OUT of the case, flew into the air and rolled into the street. It was kind of scary because there were riders behind us who were trying not to hit it. One cyclist stopped and grabbed it for Michael, which was very thoughtful. Weird flukes!

We biked into downtown Troutdale– totally quaint and cute but I didn’t stop for photos. We winded through to the Historic Columbia River Highway. It’s a familiar area (my aunt lives over there–in fact we bike right by her house!) but we’ve only biked over there once.

We had to bike across a very narrow bridge crossing the Sandy River–the bike path too narrow for anyone to really get by. There were some people walking across it so I waited on the other side before trying to squeeze through on the bike. The Sandy River looked crisp and inviting. It was starting to get pretty warm.


I used to spend summers in the Sandy River. Borrowing my aunt’s inner-tubes and leisurely floating down the river in the sunshine…perfect way to spend a summer. We biked along the W Historic Columbia River Highway for about 2 miles I think. It was much cooler along the river and it was shaded for most of it. This might have been my favorite part of the ride.

The course split. The 100 Mile Route riders continued on and we turned right across the Sandy River Bridge.

I stopped to take photos and drink some water. I knew what was on the other side of that bridge = THE FIRST BIG HILL. The challenge that had caused me anxiety all week. A few weeks ago Michael and I had driven this part of the course to see the hills before we signed up. I was nervous about this hill. It was a long, steady climb that looked very challenging.

The above photo was taken at the base of the winding hill. Michael had gone on ahead because he’s more conditioned for hills than I am. He promised to wait for me at the top. The photo doesn’t do justice to the hill because it bends around that corner and THAT’S where the hill starts. It’s along a cliff over the Sandy River–with a very small, low brick railing that really doesn’t protect you from falling to your death below (did I mention I dislike heights too?). I shifted my gears (thankfully Michael gave me a lesson the day before on how to use my climbing gears–the ones that I tried to use at Reach the Beach and ended up breaking my bike).

I turned the corner and saw the hill. I also saw a girl in front of me just give up and get off her bike. She wasn’t going to make it up that hill so she decided to just walk it. I groaned and put my head down, determined not to walk. I was breathing hard and my legs were working even harder but I was not walking. 

I got to the top and had a huge smile plastered on my face. I had done it! I’d faced the hill that had freaked me out for weeks and I did it. My heart rate went from the high 170’s to 136 in a matter of seconds. I stopped at the top to get some photos. The girl who was walking her bike had a friend waiting for her at the top. I saw them a few times on the course.

I got a break for a bit and went downhill. We wound through the country roads, passed Christmas Tree farms, vineyards and farms. It was a scenic area and I really enjoyed this part. And it wasn’t uphill the entire time.


The next challenge came up quicker than I was expecting it. I wasn’t quite ready for it either– it was the very short but VERY STEEP hill near SE Oxbow Drive. Oh my god, when we saw this hill on our practice run it was the second part of the ride that caused me anxiety. It was short and steep, the kind of hill that looks like a wall–AND it turns around a corner. I shifted my gears and just went for it. Left and right I saw cyclists giving up and walking their bikes up the hill.


They were dropping like flies. It wasn’t very encouraging to see and I forced myself to look down and not at the other cyclists who couldn’t make it up the hill. I shifted to the max and PUSHED it. I was panting and breathing so hard I thought I’d pass out. I stood up a few times as I pedaled to see if I could climb the hill easier that way and then sat back down on the saddle. I was halfway up the hill and a guy on a very nice bike passed me, struggling just as hard as I was and seeing him go on his bike gave me renewed energy. He hadn’t given up either.

I was almost to the top of the hill and my legs were screaming at me. I was sort of rocking back and forth in the saddle to get more momentum and finally made it to the top. I pedaled a few more yards and then pulled over to the side to take pictures and catch my breath. I had done it! I had faced both challenges and rocked them! My entire body felt like Jell-O. I don’t know if it was nerves or adrenaline but I was shaking as I was trying to stand still and take photos.

I looked back and saw more and more people walking their bikes. I felt so good that I hadn’t had to walk!



I biked on and eventually found Michael down the road waiting for me in the shade.


We only had a few more miles to bike to get to the next Rest Stop. It was a gorgeous part of the ride! Gentle rolling hills through farm lands, with Mount Hood in the distance.


Despite the hellacious hills, this was my favorite leg of the race. It was jus so pretty!

The Rest Stop at West Orient School was the lunch stop. They had lots of fruit, Pepperidge Farm cookies, salty tortilla chips and Dave’s Killer Bread for sandwiches. And ICE! I filled my water bottles with ice and the cold water was fantastic!


I had half a sandwich with salami, a slice of cheese, mayo and mustard. It was like the best sandwich ever. 🙂 One of the great things about The Portland Century: the food at the Rest Stops were fantastic. I felt like I was eating the WHOLE TIME–which was weird. I do think that doing this helped me a lot, though, because I never crashed. I never felt hungry or irritable or exhausted. In fact, I brought several GUs to have along the ride and never ate any of them because the food at the Rest Stops were good enough to get me through.

We left the Rest Stop–I hadn’t had to pee since the second rest stop. I think I was sweating it all out of me. I was sucking down water and water with electrolytes like crazy. We biked through countryside in the middle of nowhere (I felt so lost) and Michael was far ahead of me. There were several parts of the Century where I was riding along by myself. I’m not sure if the Century is less popular or if the riders had started earlier than us? But it was kind of strange (and kind of nice) to be biking along country roads alone. It was nothing compared to Reach the Beach where we were always biking with groups of people.

We biked through Boring, Oregon and turned onto a back road. I saw a humongous hill ahead of us. I’d caught up to Michael and another group of cyclists. I had no idea where we were going and when I saw that hill straight ahead I chanted, “Please turn right, please turn right!” The cyclists ahead of us did turn right! Thank the goddess! No more monster hills!

We winded through another rolling country road, through trees and next to a cool creek, and then I knew where we were! The Springwater Trail was right ahead!

Stay tuned for the Conclusion….

QUESTION: How do you stay positive in challenging situations?

It’s Taper Week!

Warning: “Be aware that tapering may cause the following conditions: weight gain, phantom pains, heavy legs, anxiety, depressed mood, an urge to run extra miles or to run harder, the urge to eat more than you need to and many other conditions you haven’t felt during your regular training.”

Taper week is usually a struggle for me. For one, what am I going to do with all my free time??? Suddenly not having a regimented workout/training schedule means LOTS of free time. Second, I start to have “phantom” pains and I stress out that I’m injured.

When I did my first race, a 5k, I had a forced rest week because I got the flu. For two weeks leading up to my race I was sick as a dog in bed. I wasn’t fully healed, rested or well enough to run that race but I did it anyways and it was a struggle every step of the way.

Shamrock 8k

For my second race, an 8k, I did the proper taper and rested for several days leading up to it. I had a good race. My last race was Hood To Coast. I ran my last run, and PR’ed! about 5 days before the big day. I swam a few times that week before I ran HTC too but that was a relaxing, almost-impossible-to-injury-myself activity.

Hood to Coast

Runner’s World had a good article about Tapering“Remember: During this final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo.” Tapering is important because your body needs the rest and time to repair before Race Day. It can Make or Break your race!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Phantom Pains: it’s totally normal to have new and weird aches and pains. In fact, before every race or event I’ve felt like something new was broken on my body. I was convinced that I was injured and wouldn’t be able to participate. Not true! It’s just nerves–the mind playing tricks on me.
  • Skip the weight training and difficult cardio a week before. The last thing you need before Race Day is a tweaked muscle.
  • Take it easy. That means no gardening, no strenuous activity, DO NOT TRY NEW THINGS! I made the mistake of pulling weeds before the Shamrock Run last year. Oh my god were my hamstrings beaten up! Stupid mistake.
  • Get lots of rest. Sleep when your body needs it.
  • Carb Load. Start eating more carbs but don’t overdo it until the night before when you can really carb load! 🙂
  • As the Big Day approaches, you may become irritable, cranky, nervous, excited…all normal feelings. Take it easy. Meditate, relax, go for walks in the outdoors, anything to keep you positive and upbeat.
  • Buy your sweetie something special for putting up with your cranky butt during Taper Week!

The taper length depends on what you’ve been training for. It can be 7 days to 3 weeks. If your taper is too short you risk being tired on race day. If it’s too long you risk losing some of the fitness you’ve built up. I think the decision lies with the individual person. Only they know their bodies and their training to date.

The Portland Century Bike ride is Sunday, August 21st. Just a short week away. If you are a newish reader, the back story is this:

In May of 2010 Michael and I biked in our first organized ride, Reach The Beach. I was a newbie biker and also training for the Hood to Coast Relay Race. It was a busy year with a lot of training but on race day we successful completed it! For RTB I biked 55 miles and Michael did the 80 mile route. We loved the organized rides and wanted to do more of them.

The Portland Century is a 100 mile bike ride throughout the Portland Metro area. It’s one of the most popular organized rides in Oregon as well. The original plan when we decided to do this ride was to do the full 100 miles. A few months ago the route was changed and those 100 miles were full of insane hills–out of our abilities. We decided to switch to the 70 mile route:

“This route features some of Portland’s best off road paths and routes. You’ll pedal a stretch along the gorgeous Historic Columbia River Highway. You’ll cruise back to the finish line along the Springwater Corridor, passing Jenne Butte, Powell Butte and Johnson Creek along the way. The course is relatively flat and travels along scenic, low traffic roads.” The route is seen here.

My training has been going well. I started commuting to work by bike and eventually biked the whole way from the house.  Michael and I did some long bike rides. My weekly mileage was averaging between 50-65 miles. I feel pretty confident. I’d hoped to get my mileage to 80 for the week before the Century and didn’t, but I got close.

Now it’s Taper Week. This means:

  • No hard/long bike rides this week. I might bike to work Tuesday.
  • Limiting carbs. I think I’ll go back to the Slow-Carb diet thing for a few days. That means soups and salads with protein for lunch and the normal non-carb foods we already eat for breakfast and dinner.
  • No sugar. This will be hard. But I’m going to try and avoid dessert all week. No candy, no chocolate. I will eat fruit though.
  • No alcohol. See above–it’s just carbs and sugar!
  • No weight lifting. The last thing I need is to be sore or pull a muscle.
  • No gardening! This is such a stupid mistake that I’ve made too many times. I do NOT need sore hamstrings before the race!
  • Foam Roll every single day this week.
  • Drink lots of water this week.

The exercise I will be doing is swimming and walking, maybe an easy jog or some yoga. It’s going to be a long week!

QUESTION: How do you handle taper week? What’s the biggest challenge for you?