|SIR 2002 600 km Ride Report|
|In some ways, my second year of randonneuring has proved to be far more arduous then the first. Last year I had the luxury of ignorance and a whole lot more riding under my butt. This year has been quite different. Between family and business issues, I haven't had the same motivation to get out and put in the miles. In addition, the weather this year has been unnaturally nice and I am not a fan of riding in nice weather, I enjoy the cold and wet. I think that's why I enjoyed the 300 km so much. Also, this year, with peer pressure and all that, I opted to ride the brevets and Fleche on a fixed gear. Some of you can guess where this madness stems from...the indomitable Kent Peterson. Actually though, the fixed was great, but on the 400 km it dawned on me that I really enjoy coasting at max speed downhills...so, for the 600 km I swapped the kit on my Heron Road for the old triple and a derailleur.
I was graciously invited to spend Friday night at Mark and Chris Thomas' house in Redmond and the start of the ride on Saturday. That gave me a good chance to arrive early enough to do a final check of things and listen to Mark's hacking cough as he explained his accident with the car door. A few stitches and some back trouble but he was going to ride! Sounded like Tyler Hamilton in the Giro.... Chris got us all set up with food and sleeping spots, everyone got there own bed and towels and I settled down for the first long pre-brevet night that I didn't have to pay for. Peter McKay came over and also spent the night and we shared the "junk room" an amazingly large space with something on every square inch of floor (as kids will do) and we dozed off by 10 or so.
The next morning I awoke to a large contingent of randonneurs all mulling about, checking bikes and packing bags. Everyone except Kent and I had a drop bag and carrying any extras I need with me would ensure that though I was now a "coastie" I still retained some credibility...the extra weight would make me stronger whether I wanted to be or not.
We all headed out and I hung with the front pack of riders and I enjoyed some good chats with Greg Cox along the way. The first two controls at Cumberland (8:16AM) and Greenwater (8:44AM) I only needed my card signed and water then over Cayuse Pass to the known secret control at Ohanapecosh. It was a beautiful morning and the climb went pretty quickly, though some riders started gaining on me and Greg Cox passed me when I stopped to put on some arm warmers for the descent. At the stop Greg and I immediately dug into the stupendous amount of sandwich goodies Wayne had laid out, including iced Gatorade and trailmix. Wow, this was a feast! I stuffed down a turkey sandwich and headed out, knowing that a bunch of folks would be soon following. A quick drop to Highway 12 and then the climb to White Pass which I hit at 2:19PM. It was a hot climb and for one of those rare times I popped off the helmet for extra cooling. The views were fabulous and I could see Rainier and the Tatoosh behind me as I headed up.
I guess that's one the advantages of nice weather that I sometimes overlook on these rides...when it's clear blue skies and sunshine, the beauty of this area is stunning and were it not for all the traffic, would actually be a nice place to live...I was nearly brushed off the road by some yahoo with his snowmobiles sideways on a trailer. Their skis hung over the white fog line as the fool weaved his way up the pass. Being a native Minnesotan and formerly well versed in all types of snow travel, I wished on him a farmer's field with low fences...
At Naches I found the road and made my way up and over the ridge to Selah. I just loved this part of the ride and the views over the fields and orchards. The early evening air was slowly cooling and even the climb up Maple Way was bearable in the sun. I hadn't seen anyone since White Pass except Mark Vandekamp stopping in Naches, but knew there'd be some regrouping at Selah.
I took a longer break in Selah before latching onto a group of riders including Ed Hustad, Stan Reynolds, Mark Vandekamp and Bob Brudvik. We attempted a few paceline efforts, but with the winding road and hills and headwinds, soon fragmented into just a bunch of guys heading for Ellensburg. Ed, Stan and I managed to pretty much hang together, though both of them are much stronger and block the wind more effectively...any time I got in front to pull I'm sure it was like not having anyone there at all!
We saw Wayne on the road near the motel in Ellensburg and in retrospect I should have just stayed there knowing what I do now about what the next 60 miles would be like. We all stopped at the gas station Subway shop and prepped for the fast approaching darkness. I ate a turkey sub with olives and tomatoes and shared some chips with Kent who'd come in a few minutes later. I made some calls home to say good night to my daughter and to some friends staying in Leavenworth who were going to wait up for me to come through at around midnight or so. I let them know the ride may take a bit longer, but I wasn't sure. In fact, I hadn't a clue!
I slowly pulled my self away from the food and drink and headed out into the intense wind. It was good and dark now about 9:00PM and the lights were on. I had just bought a Princeton Tec Aurora for a helmet-mounted lamp and it was perfect. About three ounces and zip-tied on was really secure. I could use for map and computer reading or see street signs, so the 3 LEDs were bright enough. They also had a variable settings so I could use what I needed. 50 hours on high is enough even for a 1200 km, so I think this light will prove itself. I saw three sets of taillights ahead, Kent, Bob and Greg. I struggled to reach at least one but only did after about 45 minutes of concentrated riding. We were riding up a hill in the dark and all I could think was "Get me the hell out of here!" The wind was so loud and buffeting in the darkness that it became truly surreal. I caught Bob and slowly got near Greg at the top of the hill before we raced down the other side into absolute stillness at the intersection with Highway 97. It was bizarre. We were all sort of shell-shocked and greg said "I have never felt so much like quitting than I do right now". At that he lay down in the dirt by the guardrail and we all did likewise to catch a quick nap before the ascent of Blewett Pass.
In a few seconds we realized that the temps had plummeted and staying there was affording no real break, so we started for the top. We just started pedalling and going up, there was really not much else to do. I was so very tired at this point and I assume it was about midnight or 1:00AM AND WE WERE STILL CLIMBING. It was a long three hours since we had left the control.... I could not stop yawning and was getting chilly even with all my clothes on including a balaclava. As long as I rode I was nearly warm, but my weaving around was not good. There were no cars but I'm sure Greg and Bob thought I was ready to stop. At one point we stopped to think about a rest, then Greg opted to head off and try to find the Mineral Springs Resort. We never saw him again and it turned out he just kept going to Leavenworth. Bob enjoys riding with other people and for the first time on any brevet I rode with someone for an extended period. I'm sure he could have gone much faster, but he said it was OK to just meander along with me. Near the top and about 2:00AM I had to stop. We just pulled off the road and then heard someone call out if we were OK. It turned out to be Mark Thomas and he couldn't figure out what weirdness we were up to. We put the bikes down and laid in the dirt and went to sleep, it was that easy. 30-some degrees and we were out. Of course, we might have died there as well, but in about 15 minutes the shivering got so bad that it work me up.
Feeling better we finished off the unmarked pass at last and headed down to Highway 2. The decent was cold but despite being tired I kept the bike on the road and my Schmidt/Lumotech setup worked flawlessly again. Eventually we got near Leavenworth and passed a mailbox with "J O N" written on paper plates tacked to it. I knew that was Dave and Julie's welcome sign but when I glanced at my watch I figured my welcome would be short-lived if I came barging in then. It was 3:15AM!
Anne Marie was at the control and we scraped the dregs of the beans and rice the earlier arrivals had left and then headed to a shower and bed as Stan Reynolds was suiting up for the climb over Stevens. He looked wide awake and was asking about services at Nason Creek, which would also be a good place for a quick rest. I was asleep by 4:20AM and didn't even care when I got up, as long as I made the next control closing. Bob seemed all ready to go still and maybe some of the NoDoze he'd consumed earlier had not gotten done with him yet, but I was spent. Ed Hustad was heading out and Bob took the warm bed then Dave Read took the other and I crashed on the fold-out. There was not alot of chit-chat.
About 7:00AM Bob pops open the door and light streams in over me and says it's time to go...I guess that was good because I might have just kept sleeping! I told him again he could go ahead and probably save a few hours but he seemed happy to just cruise up the pass and back to the finish together. We had some good long talks about life and riding and kids and after nearly 20 hours riding together had covered most world issues too! In our own little way we had carved out some sanity and I enjoyed the conversation. At the top of Stevens Pass Orin had also caught us and we all took some time to eat and bundle up for the descent. As we were standing there Peter Mckay came by with his family and bid us safe riding as he had decided to abandon at Leavenworth. Peter had tried the 600 km pre-ride the week before and had hit a car and wrecked his front wheel in the first few miles so this was not his week! It made me think how much one goes through to complete what is essentially a completely optional routine of suffering...uhmmm, I do like this sport, it's simply madness sometimes!
As we get ready to head out, Bob has a rear flat and finds a tack firmly lodged in the tire. A quick change and we are on our way down. Two weeks before I was dreading this downhill on the fixed and now I could savor all of it as "coastie". I got into my most aero tuck, the one that allows me to keep up with the heavier riders and launched myself. I only got up to 71 km/h but at least I wasn't spinning my femurs out of my pelvis at 180+ rpm like last time. I just cruised and didn't touch the brakes until I got near the bottom to pull off the jacket. Ah, that was nice!! We pulled into Skykomish at 12:55PM and stocked up on some food and beverages and chatted with the station owners who are getting quite familiar with our routes. They knew all the passes we'd crossed and where we were going next.
Bob and I picked up the pace after this and Orin opted to go his own pace, so we soon were pumping out the final 100 km and enjoying the weather and scenery. Except for Sultan. This little strip city nightmare was fraught with vicious old white men who seemed to hate cyclists. After nearly bucking into the backend of a white Taurus station wagon who's driver purposely slammed on the brakes in front of us we spent all our energy to pick up the pace and get the hell out of there. Finally on Ben Howard Rd. we found some peace and quiet again. But we also realized in our haste that we had little water and no stops till Carnation until we came upon this great little resort and RV campground with a store. What a great find! They had water, Coke, batteries, a pool; all the things a randonneur needs and everyone was friendly too. We stocked up and headed out.
We missed the closing of Sandy's and went to the Texaco for a ice cream and then took off for mark's house and the finish. Novelty Hill was a good crawl and Bob didn't have a triple, so he attempted some cross road weaving to lessen the grade, but the traffic was too heavy. I waited for him at the top and thought how much Kent must have hated this hill! Even on my fixed I was able to climb the steep hills because I ran a lower gear than Kent or Mark, but that advantage was lost with the descents. A few more turns and more steep, little hills and then one more before we got to the finish. I was sure that Wayne the organizer hated us for some reason...the last mile I heard Bob yell "oh, sh*t!" as we turned onto yet another climb. Finally we pulled into the driveway and that was it. I had made it!
Since the 300 km in mid-April I had only ridden 6-700 km of training rides, using the 400 km, the 436 km Fleche and this to fill in the gaps and my body definitely was feeling the effects of not enough riding. And I had spent the last 6 months on a fixed gear until this weekend. Fortunately my perseverance was greater than my fitness. I'm discovering more and more how much the mind plays a part in these long-distance endeavors and as long as you think you can do it, you will do it. With that idealistic nonsense aside, I will start riding a whole lot more miles for the Rocky Mountain 1200 km!
375 miles (600 km) in 36:43 hours
Lessons learned: Ride more!
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