For the past week, I've been on the road. Writing this, I am sitting in the Eugene airport, waiting for the first of three flights that will take me back to the Hub City by tonight. The rain is falling outside, making it a little easier to leave the Pacific Northwest.
|Typical Pacific NW rain pic, courtesy of Horizon Air, doing biz as Alaskan, code-sharing with AA|
Just like last year, Life Time Fitness organized its Leadman Epic 250/125 triathlon in Bend, and once again I was the head referee. Last year's race had bought me a lifetime ban from USAT when I worked what eventually became an unsanctioned event (USAT had shown uncooperative with the race organizers, who then yanked their sanction at the last minute), but not having to deal with USAT this year has actually been quite refreshing.
Life Time Fitness gives me complete autonomy in assembling my crew and also in making my travel plans, and since it is a fairly long way to travel I like to build in a little extra time. I arrived last Wednesday here in Eugene and then, after spending the night (and visiting two brewpubs/taprooms, Rogue and First National) I picked up my car on Thursday morning to get to Bend for the first of the athletes' briefings that afternoon. At that point the weather was still bright and sunny, and the drive through the Cascades along the McKenzie river was spectacular. To think that I had seen the lava fields of Lanzarote just a few weeks ago and now to travel through similar terrain here!
|Oregon's wildfires over the past few years are a stark reminder of how vulnerable this paradise is|
The next three days were taken up with preparations for the triathlon and the actual race itself. Still, there was time for R&R. Last year, for example, I had not been able to squeeze in the time for a tour of the Deschutes Brewery, so I made sure I’d get to do so this year.
Let me tell you, if you happen to go to Bend, you most certainly should allow some extra time for the almost-hour-long visit. For example, you’ll learn that brewery employees are entitled to one beer, after the shift, at Shifties, the on-premise employee break-room with its own tap. Our guide told us, with a bit of a smirk, that that one drink is an Imperial Pint (16 oz.), not a regular one. I also learned that, were I a Bendtonian, I could become a pro bono member of Deschutes’ taste testers, a role that requires some rather extensive training, seriously. I’m not so sure whether I’d like to try to find the distinction between “rancid,” “leathery,” “astringent,” or “floral.” And those are just the tastes. The olfactory notes are much more involved. And talk about all the German equipment in that brewery, starting with that 20-foot-diameter brew-kettle and ending with a …, hell, I can’t remember—we did get to taste quite a bit.
|I'd hate to work here—all those restrictions|
|This 20-ft tank came from Germany and caused major transport headaches|
For lunch on Friday, at the newly established Rat Hole Brewing, I met up with one of my crew members, Dave, a referee from Seattle whom I have known for many years thanks to my former involvement with the Lake Stevens 70.3; he expressed the same frustrations with USAT and WTC (he was never paid for last year's 70.3), and he has not even renewed his USAT membership. And on Friday night, I had dinner at 10 Barrel Brewing with my driver from last year, Jeff. We caught up with each others' lives and still made it to bed at a decent time to be fit for Saturday morning's early transfer to the race start at Cultus Lake.
|The Bike Friday in bondage mode ....|
While up to then the weather had been sunny and warm, racers were greeted by a high temperature of 61 degrees at the lake—and that was in the water! The air temperature was in the mid to high 30s, and all day long there were intermittent showers that made life on the bikes (the athletes’ bikes and our motos) pretty miserable. Heck, I kept hand-warmer packs in my double gloves all day long! In other words, the conditions were truly epic for this Epic event. But our officiating crew of three held up, only a few of the racers were too cold to finish the race, and nobody crashed or worse. Racing for 125 and 250 kilometers in these conditions is truly a feat.
|No kidding: 61 degrees in the water was the warmest temp of the day|
Because of the nature of this race, with a very long swim, pack formation is really not an issue. We monitored especially the opening 15 miles on the bike very vigilantly and never saw any drafting. In other words, it was a penalty-free race, despite the fact that we had almost 400 racers on the course. That’s just the nature of ultra-distance triathlons—there's just not much of an opportunity to draft. It's pretty lonely out there, most of the time.
|Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, like getting there|
This year's event featured the awards ceremony on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. Belt buckles (similar to those awarded for meeting certain time limits at the Leadville 100 mountain bike and running races) were awarded to those who beat the clock. Several of our officiating crew hung out for a while in the Deschutes Brewery-sponsored VIP area, and then it was finally hit-the-rack time.
|My driver, Jeff, proudly displaying beer tokens that he scored in highly illegal ways|
|Drivers Jeff and Bill, ref Dave, Risk dude Chris from Philly, and yours truly, from as left as it comes|
The weather, unfortunately, did not improve much for the remainder of my stay in Oregon with showers here and there and a steady drizzle last night in Eugene. Nevertheless, I rode the Bike Friday (I had chosen a different travel bike this time than the Ritchey, thanks to the leg) out to Worthy Brewing in Bend, a fairly new brewery that makes fine beer but has an owner who apparently is quite, well, abrasive toward cycling officials—at least that's what I was told during Sunday morning’s breakfast at Brother Jon’s with Dan (a USAC national commissaire) and Kate (an accomplished artist), my two local friends. You know the type: somebody with a lot of money who sponsors a team or two, builds himself a brewery, and is a type AA personality Masters racer who thinks he can boss the officials around. But, as I said, the beer was good.
My last evening in Bend was spent at the Crux Fermentation Project, quite possibly the finest of Bend’s breweries.
|A bit of an enhanced vision of the Imperial IPA at Crux|
I doubled the number of local friends when I had a very nice conversation with one of the participants of the race (and his wife) who gave me a lot of feedback that I have already forwarded to the race director. See, officials do more than sit on motorbikes. Thanks for the nice evening and the ride back to the hotel, Casey and Amy.
Yesterday’s drive back down to Eugene would have been spectacular if it had not been for the crummy weather. I took the scenic route via McKenzie pass, through massive lava fields and deep-green forests, the moss hanging and the moisture dripping from the branches. Lovely. Before checking into the hotel I went by the makers of some of the world’s finest tandems, Co-Motion Cycles. Judy and I had bought a custom titanium tandem from them, one of fewer than a dozen they ever produced. Company owner Dwan, whom I have known for at least 20 years, took me on a personal tour of the production facility, which was super-interesting
|Building frames ....|
|...and painting them|
After that I briefly stopped by Bike Friday and then finished my industry visits with a tour of the Rolf Prima wheel building facility. Interbike, the big industry show, took place last week in Las Vegas, and I missed it for the third year in a row, but seeing the Co-Motion and Rolf Prima world headquarters somewhat made up for that.
|1,500 years old, that lava|
After getting checked in at the Hilton (where I was once again treated to a sweet suite upgrade, just like every time I have stayed there) I dropped off my rental car at the airport and rode the bike back to the downtown hotel. While I packed up my stuff the mist became a drizzle that later changed into a light rain, but that didn’t keep me away from visiting three more new places in my-ever-growing brewpub and taproom list: Falling Sky Brewing, 16 Tons, and The Cannery were my last beer stops for this trip.
|... beautiful ...|
I put the finishing touches on this blog entry whilst flying in seat 6B from Seattle to Dallas. Life is good, onceagain. I love to travel, and I’m already looking forward to this weekend’s State Championship road races in Fort Hood before I go on my mileage run to Seattle next week. As always: Please stay tuned.