Monday, August 15, 2011

Portland Bridge Pedal.


Had my first long bike ride - wow!- It was like flying! 
Like flying while getting punched in the vagina! - Sarah Silverman

Many of my favorite ladies on the internets frequently post about different races and other monumental physical achievements in their lives (see: Cat, Clare, Jasmine, Sarah, and Mandy). And while I normally don't fit in the same physically fit category as them, today I participated in my first biking event, so I'm going to write about it too! Whether you care about it or not! Yayyy! Since I've never written about something like this before, I wasn't quite sure how to make it not-boring, so, apologies ahead of time.

While the Portland Bridge Pedal is in no way a real "race"--while we were swooping down the far end of the Marquam Bridge they had volunteers on hand to warn us to "slow down" so no one got hurt, if that gives you a picture--I did get to wear one of those made-of-neither-paper-nor-plastic number things* on myself. Which I had never experienced before! The only other thing like this I've done was the Walk for Hunger in Boston, which was awesome and exhausting and which I did twice, but we only got stickers; no pinning involved. So it was pretty exciting!

But seriously, what is it made of?
* Also, so I didn't really have an official number or anything, but I still got to pin something to myself, so it counts.
 PS: All of the photos are really poor quality, since they were taken with a not-great camera, while I was exhausted and sweaty. Oh well.

The Bridge Pedal is a remarkable event in its own right. Portland is a city divided by the Willamette River, and while its official nickname is the City of Roses, it's also known as the City of Bridges, for the many awesome bridges that connect the West Side to the East Side. (I am obviously an East Side kind of girl.) The Bridge Pedal closes down, or at least severely limits traffic on, ALL OF THESE NUMEROUS BRIDGES.  (As well as many streets and a big section of the 405, a major city thoroughfare.) This includes the top portions of the Marquam and Fremont bridges, which carry heavy interstate traffic. This is quite a logistical feat. The fact that the city, for one morning each year, helps to essentially shut down the city just for a family-friendly bike ride, is pretty freaking awesome.

But in addition, I've had a personal thing going with the Bridge Pedal for a few years now. At my old job, where I worked 10+ hour days every weekend day every weekend, and which was in a suburb on the West Side that I had to cross a bridge to get to, I got snagged by the Bridge Pedal at least twice, two years in a row. Meaning, when you're sleepily driving to work and discover you can't cross any bridges and you need to cross bridges to get to work, you find yourself in a bit of pickle. (I eventually made my way to 205 each time, a pretty circuitous route.) This was the last cell phone conversation with my boss I remember about it:

Me: "Hey, so all the bridges are closed--"
Boss: "Ohhh, it's the Bridge Pedal."
Me: "Right, and I didn't know, so I'm driving all over the place and will be at least twenty minutes late--"
Boss: "Wait, didn't this happen last year, too?"
Me: "Uh, yeah."

And I told myself, Jill, one day, you are not going to be working 10 hour days every Sunday. One day, you will be ON those bridges on that Sunday in August. You will be IN the Bridge Pedal, enjoying the city you live in! And yes, finally, that day has come!!*

* Okay, so I still work every Sunday, at a different job, but I requested today off, so. 

There are a few different courses you can choose in the Bridge Pedal; the 6 bridge one which covers most of the main bridges downtown, the 8 bridge which includes another downtown bridge and the St. Johns Bridge way north of downtown, the 10 bridge which includes all of that and the Sellwood Bridge, way south of downtown, and which crosses one of the other bridges twice. (I find this to be a little disingenuous, really it should be 9 bridges, since you only cross 9 bridges.) The 10 bridge pedal is around 35 miles; the 6 bridge is 13; and the 8 bridge was around 25. I've been biking quite a bit lately and wanted to push myself while not dying, so I thought the 25 mile one was a good choice. Although considering I biked to downtown and back from my house as well, that adds on another 10 miles, and I also crossed the Hawthorne bridge an additional time each way, so really I pretty much did a 10 Bridge Pedal (according to their way of counting bridges). And hey, that was probably too much detail, but in conclusion, I win.

My route. Via.

I left my apartment at the bright and early time of 6:00, making it to downtown by about 6:30, and then we took off from the starting line at 7:00. From the starting line until after the first two bridges or so, everyone is pretty jam-packed--thousands of people from all over participate in this thing--and when you're on a bike, this can be a bit scary. But after that it started to thin out a little and really be enjoyable. 

By your third bridge or so, though, you are starting to hurt a little. Because the thing is, even though a lot of bridges might seem to be pretty flat, almost every one makes a sort of arch over the river, and you are pedaling up hill for half of those suckers. I want to write another entry about biking in Portland in general, but let me tell you: this is not a flat city, and the bridges are just the start of it. I did feel a bit of a competitive edge come out during the downtown section--which is really weird for me--and passed quite a few people, but by the time we got to St. Helens Road, it was back to normal for me because I didn't care anymore and everyone was passing me. Phew.

I somewhat dangerously tried to take a picture of every bridge I crossed while on my bike, so here they are, every crappy-quality-one! The only one I missed was the Ross Island, and while I actually have some sentimental attachment to the Ross Island since it's the one I cross the most, and it is pretty from the water, let's be honest, you're not missing much on the surface.

 First, waiting at the starting line. I got there pretty early, so there was a TON of people behind me too. The first bridge we crossed was the Hawthorne, which I took a picture of later on my way home, which is at the top of this entry.

This is a truly awful picture, but, this was the Marquam. We met up with the 10 bridgers here and it was hectic and scary. Also, the people in front of me here are amazing Canadians. Their hats are rimmed with Canadian flags. Can't beat that.

The Burnside.

The Broadway.

The Steel. When we first biked onto this bridge, a MAX train was crossing, and it really looked like it was going to hit us. But then the tracks curved and it didn't. So that was cool.

The St. Johns!

Taking a break on the St. Johns with my trusty steed.

The Fremont. Again, hard to capture in pictures, but this felt so epic.

In the middle of the Fremont there was an amazing Japanese Taiko band. You know. Just some taiko in the middle of the Fremont Bridge, no big deal. This was in fact so cool that it made me emotional and I may or may not have cried a little. OKAY DEAL WITH IT I CRY A LOT.


At the finish line there was this old-people marching band group, which I feel like Kathy and I have seen around once before. This also may or may not have made me cry, because seriously, who can deal with old people marching bands?? They are so happy! There are so many khaki shorts!! It is just too much!

Home, and sweaty. Yeah, this picture probably isn't necessary, but it, you know, proves I did it or whatever.

Some other random notes:
  • I took a few breaks when I really felt like my legs were dying, and the breaks were so totally helpful. I thought that it'd be hard to get back on the bike after getting off of it for a few minutes, especially if I was on a hill, but I actually felt refreshed and energized each time. Listening to your body apparently works!
  • I bypassed the first official break/snack station because I didn't want to deal with the crowds of people and their bikes. This paid off, however, because just a few blocks away in the St. Johns neighborhood we passed by a house with a family giving away free lemonade and brownies. I was made aware of this development by the two small children who were yelling "FREE LEMONADE AND BROWNIES! FREE LEMONADE AND BROWNIES!" over and over. Yet almost everyone was biking past them! What a travesty! It's FREE LEMONADE AND BROWNIES PEOPLE! Whatta combo! Sure, I could have gotten a healthier banana at the break station, but you're supposed to eat local, right? That banana came all the way from Ecuador, but this brownie came from THIS HOUSE RIGHT THERE.
  • After the brownie, I actually did stop at the second break station, and I did pick up a banana. And then I put it in my backpack, because I immediately realized there were like TWENTY BOXES OF COOKIES AT THE NEXT TABLE. So I obviously stuffed down a peanut butter cookie and a chocolate chip, because who can say no to cookies?
  • And then at the finish line there were people handing out ice cream bars and fudgsicles! So my arm reached for the fudgiscle because my body really can't say no to free chocolate! But in actuality it was only 10 AM and I was already on sugar overload and as I started eating it my body began to say no, and I had to throw most of it away. Lesson learned: It's hard, and I know it goes against everything you know, but in the future Jill, you - do - not - have - to - accept - every - free - food - item.
  • While we obviously rode the surface of all the bridges, we also biked underneath quite a few of the underbellies of bridges too, hence passing a lot of homeless encampments. This felt hard and awkward for me. Like, we paid $25-$35 to bike, for fun, for a few hours. You could use that to buy many meals. I don't know. Just a constant reminder that the homelessness in this city is crazy and awful.
  • On a lighter note, I passed quite a few things I had never seen before, including the area where the mounted police unit get to train/walk their horses! HORSIES!
  • If I do anything like this again, I need to invest in some of those dorky padded biker shorts, and an extra padded seat, pronto. I was in some pain for quite awhile.
  • Best quote of the day: "KEEP RUNNING!!" from a six year old on the sidelines.
Next up on the docket: I'd like to do a bike ride somewhere else in Oregon or Washington. And I'd also like to try running a 5K. And if we're around, maybe the 10 bridge next year. Maybe.

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