Monday, July 26, 2010

Seattle to Portland 2010

by Elisa

July 17 & 18, 2010 - The Group Health Seattle to Portland bike ride.  204 glorious miles between Seattle and Portland on roads that were both scenic and not so scenic.  Well okay - maybe some of the miles were not so glorious.  They were for the most part the back highways and biways that typically only locals frequent. 

The ride is split, for those who chose to take their time, into two days - 99.2 miles the first day and 104.8 the second day.  It is possible to complete the ride in one day - but I can only see one benefit from that - being done.  I am not sure I could have gone more than the 99 miles that first day.  Heck, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it another mile after the first 99.  The official half-way stopping point was in the town of Centralia, WA and more specifically - Centralia College.  We opted for the tent accommodations (= free) and a shower ($5).  I slept like a baby.

Backing up a bit - the weather for the first day was overcast and cool (54 degrees, if I remember correctly).  It wasn't until 1 p.m. in the afternoon were we able to strip down from our windbreaker layer and enjoy some sun rays. The route takes us through the back roads of Seattle along the shore of Lake Washington near Seward Park into Renton (distribution center area) and further into Auburn.  I have to say that after the initial 20 miles, I kind of forgot about the scenery and became more focused on the people and the biking. 

Michelle, Shawn & Greg gearing up to go!

Michelle striking a pose at the first free food rest stop sponsored by REI.  This was the first stop of many that we were able to practice patience.  The lines for the restrooms were LONG!

Lunch!  We found a spot away from the crowds.  Looking back on it it seems like we were the only ones around.  Hah!


Michelle & Shawn gearing up.  We practiced the two/three bike kick stand quite a bit.

Michelle & Shelly

Don't forget your sunscreen!  It finally warmed up enough to take off out jackets.

Shawn, Shelly & Greg

One of my favorite spots on the ride - a twelve mile (ish) bike trail  that got us out of the traffic and we were able to enjoy the comfort of being on our bikes.  Aahhhhh.

Michelle & Shawn

NW Adventure Chics!


Greg says 'Let's Go!'

What do you mean you are out of all you can eat spaghetti?  Bummer. 

Saddle up!  Day two.Just another line for the restroom.This is where I was saying "if I don't go any farther, I would have still accomplished something...120 miles is the farthest I have rode in two days" - and it kept going up one mile at a time.
The front and back of a three seater bike.
Yo Shawn.  Leave the yoga moves to Michelle.

Hands down the best part of the ride.  This bridge is located in Kelso, WA and spans the Cowlitz River.  When I came to work for General Construction Co. in 1999, I was assigned to this project.  I helped see this bridge get built.  I won't bore you with the details - but I can say that it was a sight for a sore butt!

The line-up of bikers waiting to be escorted across the Lewis & Clark Bridge that spans the Columbia River and separates Washington State with the State of Oregon. 

Couldn't leave out the unicycler.  He's the guy in front of the gentleman in the blue jacket.  Taking photos while riding a bike is tough work.

Now, ask me if I'd do it again.  Absolutely.  But, I would prep my butt better next time.  Ouch.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

Greg (a.k.a. "Dad"), Elisa, Me, Shawn, Shelley - STP Finish, Holladay Park, Portland, OR

Saturday, July 17, 2010 - 4:55 a.m. Kingston to Edmonds Ferry. If we didn't make this ferry, we were in trouble, it's a long drive around from Kingston to Montlake. But no worries, after boarding the boat we all made a bee-line to the cafeteria for coffee. Our adventure had begun. Dad, Shelley and Elisa had all dropped off bikes and gear the previous night at our place. My step mom, Lynn, loaded up the tents, pillows, sleeping bags and such in the truck. She was gracious enough to drive down and stake out a great spot on the grass for us at the Centralia College Campus, which is the official half way point for the ride.

We arrived at the Montlake parking lot near Husky Stadium at 6:00 a.m. and those of us who hadn't picked up our packets yet headed over to the packet pick-up booth, scoring an official STP water bottle on the way, and making a quick pit-stop at the port-o-potties too. We quickly pinned our numbers on our jerseys,  and attached numbers to bikes, helmets and any bags for the luggage truck. We only had one bag between us for the luggage truck, as most were safely with Lynn.  It was overcast and cool, so I opted to wear the provided STP tyvek jacket.

Groups were rolling out about every 15 minutes, starting at 4:30 a.m. and continuing on until 7:30 a.m. There were about 10,000 cyclists who participated in this 30th edition of the ride. The STP is not a race, it is a celebration of cycling and all sorts of riders on all kinds of bicycles come out to join the fun. That said, from 4:30 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. the riders who roll out are aiming to complete the 204 mile route in one day, and they make good time. Not that anyone is timing them.

Our group rolled out at 6:30 and headed off across the Montlake Bridge and on along the shores of Lake Washington. We were on the two day ride plan, thus the camping gear.  More than a few cyclists got tangled up in crashes the first day of the ride. Most were minor incidents due to lack of experience riding in a group and people forgetting that there were 100's of cyclists behind them that they needed to communicate to regarding stopping, slowing, turning etc. By day two everyone had settled into a nice groove and the constant communication got almost silly. Almost.

How did we feel day one? Great! The sun popped out around 1 p.m. and we filled up at the REI food stops in Kent and the lunch stop in Spanaway. The food is "free" or included with your entry fee, however you want to look at it. Either way, it sure is nice to have food and beverages waiting for you every 25 miles or so. As the day wore on, butts and legs began to tire and chafe, or chafe and tire, respectively.

Rolling into the Centralia College Campus was bliss. I grabbed a free Darigold Refuel Chocolate Milk and chugged it down while my Dad and Elisa were off finding Lynn and our campsites. Aahhh, laying in the grass in the sun, knowing we didn't have to get back on our bikes for a while was delicious. Live music was playing and there were massage tents set up for those who were interested. Elisa took advantage of a great massage  before we set up our tents, lined up for the showers, then headed off to find dinner.

Azteca is where we ended up, as the food booths had mostly been wiped out by the time we decided to mozy out and get a real meal. I've never gone through so many bowls of chips and salsa waiting for a meal before; we were tempted to eat the plates by the time our food arrived. Needless to say, the town was swarmed and swamped with hungry riders.

10:00 p.m. Sleep.

5:00 a.m. Wake. Take down tent, etc. find bathrooms and breakfast. Coffee!!

6:30 a.m. Roll out. "Hey lady, slow down! You're going to fast, I have to stand up for the next 100 miles!", my husband shouted my way, getting quite a few chuckles from nearby riders. Yes, despite the padded shorts and Body Glide, our rears were feeling a bit tender. Some more than others.

Day 2 was rolling and hillier in general. The stretch between Centralia and Winlock offered quiet country roads and short ups and downs. Lot's of fun. More coffee was had in Winlock, plus a breakfast sandwich or two by some in our party. Then it was on to the lunch stop through more rolling, country roads. We arrived at the lunch stop in Lexington still cycling in clouds, with a gentle, light rain meeting us here and there.

We found Elisa, who had gotten ahead of us at the last pit stop, already in the long, but steadily moving lunch line. By the time we ate and used the facilities we were all shivering. Would the sun come out soon? We hoped for it, but it was still before noon, so time would tell.

As we had all been riding our own pace and kind of wondering where the others were for the first part of the day, we decided to stick together and use the pace line to help each other out from Lexington to the Lewis and Clark Bridge and on to the finish line. I wanted to make sure we all made it to the finish line in good shape, and together, so we could celebrate our accomplishment as a group in Holladay Park.

Riders get escorted over the Lewis and Clark Bridge in large groups by the Goldwing Touring Association. We ended up at the very front of the group of about 200 riders. Shawn, my husband, decided to scream up the bridge ahead of everybody. Elisa, Shelley and I all stuck together and shook our heads at all the water bottles littering the side of the bridge where they had been rattled loose by the jarring action of wheels going over the expansion joints. Luckily, we didn't lose anything, as there is no stopping allowed on the trip over the mighty Columbia into Oregon.

By the last "free food" stop in St. Helens the sun was out, we were tired, and the mellow music drifting out from the High School snack shack made it hard to drag our butts off the grass and back to our saddles. My Dad noted that some riders were calling it quits and catching rides at this point. We managed to get going after a prolonged break and really focused on using the pace line to pull our group to the finish together successfully.

After a seemingly wild goose chase through the city of Portland, we arrived finally at Holladay Park. Hallelujah and Amen! Where's the beer garden? My Dad bought a round for all after our bikes were all safely loaded in the bike truck bound back to Seattle. Everything tastes better after you've busted your butt for hours, and the Fat Tire Ale did not disappoint. As an added bonus, a friend of Elisa's was there to greet us and she offered us FOOT MASSAGES. It was as if the Gods had descended to bestow more blessings. Cold beer and a foot massage after 204 miles on the bike. Amen again.

And then run! Run, run, run to the bus. Oh, no! The last bus to Seattle leaves in, what?! 5 minutes. I was scrambling to change out of my riding clothes, forget about a shower. Elisa, Shelley and I were jogging out of the women's dressing room and I saw my husband waving me over to the panini stand in the hotel lobby. "We're going to miss the bus!", I yelped, as I eyed the sandwiches on the grill. We took them lightly grilled and ran. Whew. We made it on the bus and there were many jealous riders eyeing our sandwiches, and yes, they were delicious.

Home through traffic. Arrive in Montlake @ 11:00 p.m. Sunday, July 18.  Retrieve bikes from bike truck. Prop eyes open. Head home.

What a journey.

Ride on folks!  - Michelle

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Time to Share

I feel that I am now ready to share about what has been going on in my neck of the woods.  It's time to put it out there  in order to heal and to maybe make some connections with others that are experiencing similar struggles.  I do believe that we all struggle with something and yet feel that we are all alone.  We are not alone.

After an eight day hospitalization, I was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder.  The hospitalization came about after four nights of little sleep and two seizure like episodes that had me on top of the world.  I was HAPPY!  Picture Will Ferrell in the movie ELF when he arrives in NYC for the first time.  My point of view of the world was one of change and my filter was way off.  I was going to fix all the global problems and I thought I was someone of grand significance. 

What started it all was husband and I went to see a marriage counselor and the first visit sparked something in my brain to trigger it to fire just a bit differently.  My husband and I didn't even really say anything at that meeting, the counselor just simply told me that I needed to 'FEEL'.  Feel?!  What do you mean?  I am strong, feelings are a sign of weakness.  Those that know me would probably agree that I don't show emotion.  Oh - but I am still full of emotion.  Lots and lots of emotions and because for so many years I have been unable to show or speak them - they have been bottled up inside and are now ready to blow.  I was on a mission to show happiness and to help other seek happiness as well.

I had been taking care of myself (body) with exercise and diet.  My mind was constantly being challenged with opportunities, but my spiritual side of my self had been in a gray spot.  I grew up in an ultra religious home early on and went to school at a Christian school, until 4th grade.  Church and God were something that I learned right along with walking and talking. 

So what do you suppose was the first thing I discarded when I felt it safe to do so?!  You got it.  I was not raised in the right church environment for me.  But it was my experience.  I learned from it and continue to learn from it.  I've gone back to church a few times and haven't felt the right place yet.  I would rather go to the mountains and look at the beauty that surrounds us.  That to me is God showing his beauty and grace.  Until I was put in the hospital. 

Now I look at everything as having a purpose.  God is in control and is guiding my life and the lives of those around me.  We are all on our own journey and are all able and capable of making choices that will change directions, but God is ultimately in control. 

I have good days and I have bad days.  The bad days are mostly self inflicted as I am still learning how to retrain my brain and when I say bad - I don't mean horrible - just days that I am thinking more than I should.  My short-term memory is horrible.  My long-term memory isn't much better.  My thoughts still travel way out into left field and I have nights where I am unable to sleep.  I struggle with my patience level, which isn't good when I need to have extreme patience with three small kids.  My husband is now needing to the work of two during this time of recovery and he deserves more credit than anyone.  But all in all we are doing well.  I am surrounded by a huge network of friends that are looking out for me and my family.  I AM BLESSED!

My goal each moment of the day is to remain PRESENT, to LISTEN and to ask myself - What do I FEEL right now? 

So with that, I leave you as I feel I need to turn my attention back to my household and the two non-napping children that I have been ignoring while I type this.  Please keep me in your thoughts as I attempt the 31st Annual Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (200 miles in 2 days) this coming Saturday.  I've found it necessary to back off on my weekly training schedule and focus on recovery.  I have still been biking, but the longest ride I've completed for quite some time is a 40 miler a few weeks back. 

I have felt that I needed to get that off my back in order to move forward with the adventures to come!

Taking a leap of faith,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Timber Town 10k

Port Gamble, WA. Sunday,  July 11, 2010. - One way to get a really good running workout in is to line up for a race. You are almost guaranteed to push yourself a little hader than you would just heading out your front door for your usual, or in my case lately, not so usual, loop. I have been slacking off a bit as far as running is concerned in lieu of embracing summer and focusing on the bike, as the STP is looming. If you don't know what the STP is, it is Cascade Bicycle Club's annual one or two day ride from Seattle to Portland. This year it will be July17th and 18th. Yep, next weekend.

But back to the trail race. Part of the Roots Rock Trail Running series, the Timber Town 10k starts in a grassy meadow, up the trail a bit from the main trailhead in Port Gamble. My husband and I had it penciled on the calendar, so recent slacking or no, we were going to give it a shot. We didn't want to miss out on all the fun and great prizes. Plus, we didn't want to miss the chance to earn points for the series, a serious matter, for sure.

After parking in the grassy lawn near the race start, registering, and hitting the bathrooms, we ambled up the lane with the other runners to the starting line scratched in the dirt. The next thing we knew Poulsbo Running's Chris Hammett had shouted "Go!", and we were trotting off through the lifting fog, across the meadow and on into the single track trails leading to the main forest roads. Heading, seemingly, up and up for the first couple of miles.

Again I had failed to warmup properly and my stomach was a bit off - I"m blaming it on all the ice cream cones and Dove bars I have indulged in since it finally warmed up around here after the Fourth of July weekend. Plus, a consistent lack of sleep this last week due to the late night and wee morning yipping of the eight week old German Shorthair Pointer my husband arrived home with last week. (That's another story.)

Or maybe I was just running too hard up the hill. Hm. Anyway, after ambitiously passing two runners on the twisty single track, I found my stomach rebelling and had to pull off in the bushes to regroup. I was immediately passed by said runners, as well as another, one of the local elementary school principals who happens to be a devoted trail runner himself. "Hi Charlie!" I gasped. I certainly didn't want him, or anyone else for that matter, to see me hurling trailside at only two miles into the race-the finish line would be so much more appropriate. So I took a deep breath, focused my mind on controlling my nasea, and got myself going again, hanging on to Charlie's heels as best I could.

After another half mile of rollicking single track, we crossed a logging road and Charlie, apparently tired of me breathing down his neck, graciously encouraged me to go ahead of him. I plunged ahead into the skinny, wooded trails again, hoping I would make it to the finish line without tossing my cookies.

Happy day! I soon found my rhythm and settled in, enjoying the romp through the forest; a smile plastered to my face. It truly is a great way to start your day. Even if you're feeling a bit queazy. Seriously. The second half of the course offers exhilerating downhills on trails and roads, with just a couple short, sneaky inclines toward the final mile. After sipping the water at the aid station, I dumped the rest on my head and felt relieved by the coolness. Aaahh. Now to push hard to the finish.

Half a mile from the finish I stuttered at a wrong turn, following the runner in front of me. We both quickly realized we needed to stay on the main road to the finish, and we were off again. As I approached the finish line I could see my husband and heard him shouting, "strong finish!" and I decided to make it just that.

We milled about by the finish line, watching more runners come in, rehydrating and grabbing some fruit and bagels while we waited for the awards. We knew there would be some great prizes from the dynamic duo of Chris and Brooke Hammett, owner's of Poulsbo Running and the race organizers. Raffle prizes included a pair of shoes, Smartwool shirts, socks, hats, an Amphipod running belt (which I won, hooray!), and lots of other great prizes. Shawn and I both earned points in our age group for the Roots Rock Trail Series. I took first place in my age group and Shawn took third place in his.

Roots rock! - Michelle

Up next in the series: Port Gamble Half Marathon, August 8th, 2010

Our new pup and future trail hound. It's hard to resist this high energy surprise. Okay, we can keep her. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes stretches 71 miles from Plummer, Idaho to the town of Mullan. It is a paved trail and is a cyclists dream. Clean, scenic, mostly flat, few street crossings (I don't think we came to more than three stop signs for 45 miles!) with bathrooms placed regularly along the trail, although no running water is to be found at these bathroom stops, so stock up your bottles at Harrison, or at one of the other towns further east.
We started our ride at the Plummer trailhead, where it is mostly downhill all the way to Harrison. After Harrison the trail is flat and straight. There is a beautiful bridge crossing over Lake Coeur d'Alene along the way to Harrison from Plummer near Chatcolet. The wind was at our backs the whole way out to Gap Rock (about 45 miles from Plummer), which we didn't fully realize until we started on our return journey. No wonder the first 45 miles felt so easy!

Gap Rock rest stop is located just after the trail crosses under Interstate 90. We enjoyed the shaded picnic bench and were entertained by the chipmunks as we took a short break before making the return journey. Our new plan was to stop in Harrison on the way back for burgers and drafts. It was a good carrot to keep us going as we were getting tired and the wind was no longer our friend. This would be the longest ride any of us had done within the last two years, and what a great place to do it!

The Chain Lakes section graced us with blue heron and bald eagle sightings, as well as cows and horses. Numerous recumbent bike groups were taking advantage of this wonderful trail as well; we must have seen at least twenty recumbents.

The intrepid cyclists arrive at Harrison, ID. Where's the burgers?

A trailside pub delivers the goods, plus outdoor dining and a great view.

Chatcolet Bridge allows bike and pedestrians to cross the south end of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Ninety Miles! Whew. What a great ride. I think we are all ready for the Seattle to Portland (STP) ride coming up mid-July.

Pedal on folks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Experiencing Thai Massage

I love getting massages. My husband is pretty good at giving a good massage himself, but nothing beats a  full hour of professional massage. I've had deep tension releasing massages, hot stone massages, therapeutic massages, Swedish massage, sports sounds like I get massages all the time, doesn't it? Well, the truth is, I treat myself to a massage after a big event, such as a marathon, and my husband signs me up for a nice massage from time to time, usually around Mother's Day or my birthday. So, really, I'd say I splurge for a professional massage about twice a year-and I'm always glad I did.

So here was something new, one of the yoga instructors (who also is a licensed massage therapist) at the yoga studio where I teach is getting a new type of massage certification in Thai Massage, and she has been putting her new skills to test on the rest of us down at the studio (bummer for us, lol). I gladly offered  my bod up to practice new techniques on, not really knowing what it was all about, but always up for a new adventure.

I think I timed it right, because I don't think Michelle needs anymore practice getting her new massage techniques down. I guess it pays to be the last guinea pig! Ninety minutes is the minimum time for a real Thai Massage and it can be continued for up to three hours. The massage is conducted on a mat on the floor with the use of different yoga props, including bolsters, blankets and pillows. Clients wear comfortable, stretchy clothing, such as you would wear to a yoga or fitness class. There is no use of oils or lotions. It incorporates yoga postures and breathing, as well as traditional massage techniques. Also, the massage therapist will use his or her feet to massage different muscles. No, she didn't walk on me but pressure was applied using the feet, and it felt fabulous. I found myself wondering if she was using her hands or her feet at times, often I wasn't sure which it was. At the end, I felt stretched, aligned and most of all, relaxed. It was a great experience and I highly recommend it.

Massage, a great addition to your overall long term health maintenance plan. If you're interested in giving it a try, Michelle is offering a discount throughout the month of July. Contact info. is below. Enjoy!

Michelle Clemens, LMP
Nationally Certified
Therapeutic Massage and Body Work


Well Being  Health Center
19337 Jensen Way NE
Poulsbo, WA 98370

Happy Massaging!