Reflecting on 5,000 Miles So Far in 2021

The highlight of my 2021 rides: Two times up the ascent to Elk Rock on the way to Mount St. Helens. One of my favorites.

It’s been a long year in a weird world. And the only constant has been my cycling exploits, much as it was last year when things were just starting to get weird.

Last year I made one of the biggest purchases I had ever made. After a few days of searching for a new bike to replace my 2007 Specialized Tarmac Comp (itself a very good bike), I found a Trek Emonda with a 62cm frame at the Trek Olympia store. One day in October, I brought my friend Chris with me, and went and picked the bike up.

The next day, Chris and I rode together and logged 64 miles in the saddle. I was able to pick up a couple Strava segment KOM’s on each direction of the Pe Ell McDonald Road ascent, and I knew this bike was going to absolutely fly up the hills and be a pretty punchy experience.

Things really kicked into high gear after buying that bike, and they never really slowed down. I picked up a Wahoo Kickr indoor trainer from my friend Trey, signed up for Zwift, and began riding virtual miles in my own house — complete with the simulated feel of climbs and descents via changes in resistance on the trainer.

The in-game screen on Zwift, which simulates different environments and courses, bringing a fun element to indoor cycling.

Zwift really pushed me to be better this year, and there’s one part of it that really helped: Pace Partners. These in-game “bots” stay at a consistent power level, ensuring that anyone who follows it or stays near it has to do the same. This helped me figure out how to regulate myself on climbs and sprints, especially when it comes to not burning myself out on segments when I still had a bunch to ride later.

As a result of all the riding in Zwift, when the spring cycling season began, I shot out of the gate like a cannon and was mowing down 40-mile and 50-mile rides with relative ease compared to what I had done in 2019 and 2020.

Organized rides came back this year, including the Columbia Century Challenge, which this year was staged out of my hometown of Rainier, Oregon. This ride was a grueling course of 110 miles with more than 7,000 feet of elevation gain. We climbed 1,200 feet in the first four miles alone on that one.

This llama at mile 106 of the Columbia Century Challenge wouldn’t talk to me. What a poophead. At least there’s a cool view of Longview, Washington in the distance.

The very next week, a bunch of us got together and rode the Tour de Blast, another grueling ride of 7,000-some odd feet of elevation gain. After having ridden up to Elk Rock with the boys two weeks earlier, we were back at it, but this time biking from Toutle Lake High School to Johnston Ridge and back.

I seemed to GAIN energy as I went along, and I finished that ride on a 20-mph sprint back into the high school.

Look at my bike leaning against this wall. Never mind the mountain behind it. Pssssh.

Then the NEXT week, I had to put on my ride organizer hat and direct the annual Ride the Willapa, the biggest bike ride in Lewis County. This year we had 225 people register for our scaled-down event, and because of the searing heat, 160 showed. I was still happy we got to put this event on and am eager to help with it again next year.

Sometimes the ride director has to serve as the water gopher too. That’s the way it works.

Those events were cool, but honestly the best part has been getting to ride with so many good people. I do more than my fair share of riding alone, but this year has consisted of everything from slow gravel rides in the National Forest to pace lines to the Castle Rock Bakery and back with the good people of the Lewis County Over the Hill Riders.

There are still three months and change to go in this year, and barring injury I am projected to hit at least 7,500 miles if I keep up my current pace. Let’s see what happens from here!

The Lewis County Over the Hill Riders & Cowlitz County Corncobbers (LOL) at the Columbia Century Challenge. GREAT PEOPLE!