Sunday, May 18, 2008

Seattle Rando's May 2008 400k - Three Pass Ride Report

Climbing Snoqualmie, Blewett, and Stevens, plus more in one day was a 249-mile (400km) adventure. The fastest riders did it in 14 or so hours. See previous entries for photos of this route, as well as a route profile & map.

5:03 A.M. Start control, North Bend - I was walking into the bathroom at the hotel when I saw the peloton outside roll out. Dammit! Chris & Robert waited for me, thanks guys.

5:15 A.M. My first time riding on the Interstate (I-90 in this case), and it's not so bad. The most jarring part is the noise, with large pickups towing cargo that were easily the loudest vehicles it seemed.

The other jarring thing about the Interstate is oversized trucks carrying large houses or in this case large cubes wrapped in black. Even with those things five or six feet away (if not more), when it passed you get pushed to the right by the large vehicle's air-displacement. But we only had a few of those go by.

6:00 A.M. Chris G., Robert and I caught up with the main pack of riders - easy to spot with 30 or so blinking lights and all the reflective gear. We passed a group of 10-15 riders, and then caught up with 20 or so more.

There seemed to be spots of cold followed by warm spots, and the temps were easily in the upper thirties! My short-sleeved wool jersey + arm warmers were plenty, even with just shorts on. Although my fingers & toes were freezing! But the up-close views of snow-covered peaks were worth it.

Then I wanted to see just how fast I could do the climb, so I stood, shifted up, and accelerated to 25-28 km/hr or so, after climbing at 20 km/h for the first few miles of the climb.

6:30 A.M. Snoqualmie Summit Reached the West Summit quicker than expected! It wasn't too steep, probably just 5% or so. I wouldn't say this climb is necessarily easy, but it was the easiest of the day. It was a great feeling to see the road finally turn down and offer not a chance to rest, but a chance to go faster!

I was actually surprised that the most I was hitting was 50-60 km/h (30-35 mph), but it was still fun to cover lots of ground at once.

7:00 A.M. The end of the big lake I raced at 40 km/h past the big lake at the summit, and finally caught up with what seemed to be the front group. (Actually Chris Ragsdale, Jan Heine, Urs Koenig, and others were probably doing 50 km/h on the flat sections of I-90.) I was happy to reach them, and just sat on Bob Brudvick(?)'s wheel for a while. I had burned a few matches catching up, after all!

Bob flatted and a guy with a mustache (thanks for pulling!) and I kept on truckin, pulling at 32-40 km/h on the flats around Easton (I think that's were we were). The bridge with no shoulder was fine, and a big-rig even pulled over to the left lane to give us room to pass. You just gotta watch your back going through there!

7:55 A.M. Control #2 in Cle Elum - enjoyed some chocolate milk and snacks at the gas station and got my brevet card signed, and headed on. Probably spent 10 minutes or so here. By the way, Payday candy bars of one of my new favorite riding foods (it's the one with caramel & peanuts).

The flat section before the Blewett climb (this is on Highway 97 heading north) was quickly over, and the climb began. I was keeping a 25 km/h (~15 mph) pace, so it wasn't too steep - just a lot of up. A rider passed me at maybe 28-30 km/h, and it was all I could do to hold his wheel.

After maybe 5 km of that I let go, watched him disappear into the forest of concrete & trees.

10:00 A.M. Blewett Pass Summit - I think this was about 100 km into the ride. It wasn't too bad, but it took quit a long time and a lot of energy. The last few km's of it were steeper than the rest, and made me glad that I'd switched from an 11-23 in the rear to an 11-25. Also glad I'd dropped the big Carradice bag in favor of stuffing my pockets with tools and everything else I needed.

Luckily two volunteers happily served snacks & water at the top, and said that the "leaders" had passed through there at 9:20 A.M., just 40 minutes earlier. Not that I think I could catch up to them, or that I could hold their wheel even if I did, but I was happy to be keeping good time.

I waited a little while to see if Chris & Robert were coming up any time soon, but after 10 or 15 minutes I bombed down the 30 km or so descent. Again nothing really over 50-60 km/h, but still fun. More great scenery, but now showing rock faces & desert-like plants in addition to snow-capped peaks.

11:20 A.M. Leavenworth Control - ate one of the two black bean, rice & cheese burritos Kira was nice enough to make for the ride. It really hit the spot, thanks baby! Bought more food, V-8 juice, and water. Having a third water bottle mounted on the handlebars was great, even if it took away some hand positions. I never ran out of water, even with 80 km in between some of the populated (e.g. at least having a convenience store) between some of the controls.

It's at least 95F degrees by the point, and I heard someone say "100" and I believe it. I didn't wear sun-screen, but even though I wanted to get a little sun I ended up getting doused by it all day and was more or less burnt by this point.

1:00 P.M. Heading up Stevens Pass - Chugging along up Highway 2 heading west, and caught up with the group that left the control a few minutes before me. We pacelined for 10 km or so, then stopped for water at a rest stop. At this point I'm really fucking hot, but at the same time I'm glad I'm not cold. Cold hurts, hot is just uncomfortable.

After too long at the rest stop (maybe 20-25 minutes), lots of water, and some time with the shoes off (ahh, that felt good!), I was off again. Saw a sign that said 19 miles (~30 km) to Stevens Pass, presumably to the top of it. Well, no choice but to continue! The great views await.

Periodic waterfalls let of cool air that felt great - I stopped in front of a few of them and enjoyed the "air conditioning."

2:00 P.M. Not there yet, but still turning those pedals. Snow lines the side of the road, and it's much cooler now at ~2k feet of elevation.

3:20 P.M. Summit at Stevens - 220km into the ride, just about halfway. The last 5 or 6 km were steeper than the rest, but my 39x25 tackled it fine. I didn't stop, just switching to the 53-tooth ring and got in the drops for a big descent.

I took the lane since those big drainage grates take up most of the shoulder, and kept a 60 km/h (40 mph) pace. I could sprint up to 67 km/h or so, but couldn't seem to even break 70! There must have been a headwind.

The views are epic, and the sky is clear, showing all of the snow-covered peaks surrounding you. I saw a guy walking a bicycle (w/ trailer, no less) up the last section of Stevens coming up the other way - ouch. I think going the other direction would be much harder, I felt bad for that guy but I had a descent to enjoy!

4:20 P.M. At the 3rd control in Skykomish - Skykomish is apparently made up of lots of trees, a road, and a gas station. But what a welcome sight! More water consumed, and some snacks to boot. Getting ready for a long stretch of Highway 2 that won't be fun.

This stretch features a few bridges sans shoulder, and shoulders that got as small as about 2 inches. Cars were giving me plenty of space though. This was a boring section, especially alone. But again, the views (of moss-covered trees) were amazing.

I ran over a snake somewhere in this section - I saw it, but thought it was already dead, so I didn't swerve around it. It was a little 1-foot black snake, coiled up. After bumping over it, I looked back and saw it slither back into the brush! Oops, sorry snake.

6:00 P.M. McDonald's in Sultan - actually I'm not sure what time I got there, but I made the mistake of getting a whole, super-sized, value meal here. Well I guess I just needed some real food - sure, this wasn't real food, but it would do for now! A coke with ice never tasted so good.

6:20 P.M. Sultan - Vincent & I rolled out from the Mc'd's, and (finally!) took the turn off of Highway 2 on to Old Owens Rd for some rolling hills. Sure enough, not long after that turn we encountered the first of many steep sections. At this point I'm pretty tired, and my hands are killing me.

(I used some new gloves on this ride, but they don't have good padding. My right pinkie & ring fingers are kind of numb! Hope that goes away. Also used some different shorts than the usual knickers, but these old shorts have next-to-no padding - mistake!)

~8:30 Secret Control just off Dubuque Road - Vincent and I were really tired at this point, but continued on. Some cheese & bread, water, really hit the spot here. Thanks to the volunteers for running this!

~9:00 P.M. Control in Paradise Lake - Mark Thomas happily gave us water and encouragement. At this point I thought I'd left my control card at the secret control, remembering I never got it back from the volunteer!

Mark made a call to the secret control, to see if it was there. It was not. A few minutes later, and Vincent pulls it out of his pocket! Guess he'd had it for the last hour or so, thanks Vince! That was really relieving. Even though this isn't a PBP year I still want credit for all this suffering.

10 P.M. almost in Carnation(?) - this section seemed to go on forever, and at this point I'm definitely ready for the ride to be over. But there's still more road to cover. The moon was almost full, but didn't seem to light up anything really. Or maybe I was just in that negative mode that happens when you run out of stamina and motivation.

12:20 P.M. Final control in North Bend - finally back where we started, 20 hours and about 20 minutes from when we'd started. That last section of road seemed like it went on forever!

Brian was at the finish line, along with a few rando's that had finished earlier - some of which is was ahead of for lots of the ride, but in the tradition of the tortoise and the hare, I went too fast out of the gate and paid for it at the end.

The pizza & drinks were great, although I for some reason had the hiccups and my stomach felt a little queezy. It was probably that #3 from McDonald's that was not helping me at this point.

Thanks to all the organizers & volunteers, and thanks a mil to Robert & family for the ride! This wouldn't have been possible without you. See you on the 600k!

Edit: Robert posted some great pics from the ride on his flickr account - thanks dude!


Mark said...

Congratulations on a great ride. 600km next. You'll kill it.

Robert Higdon said...

Awesome. The ladies took stupid amounts of pictures. I'll be posting something soon. I just need to process everything. You did great!

Anonymous said...

Hey, JP here. I'm the guy on that Blue Raleigh pro. You had a fast ride! In fact, if my math is correct, and I'm still a bit incoherent, you finished in 19:20.

Anyway, great tough day. I was 3 hours behind you. I ate, drank, and slept more after that ride than I thought was possible. See you on the 600, I suppose.