Monday, June 9, 2008

Seattle Rando's Four Pass 600k - My First DNF

Here I am in Enumclaw at the end of the ride - thanks to Kira for this shot! I love the accidental color-combination.

This was my first 600k and I was extremely excited about it. I got more sleep than before, and woke up at about 2 AM feeling as good (well as you can waking up that early). I was on the road by 3:15 and heading to Issaquah. No rain yet, so I was hopeful that it would stay that way.

On Mercer Island I was passed by Jan Heine & Ryan Hamilton(?), two riders also heading out to Issaquah for the Brevet! It was great to ride & chat with them, even if my fender was embarrassingly-sqeaky! Always nice to connect a name to a face. Thanks to you guys for showing me that new route to Newport Way, and for answering my many questions about riding food, etc. I learned a lot in those 30 minutes! For instance Jan said he was only going to spend 21 minutes at the overnight control at Rimrock Lake. Wow.

Issaquah to Skykomish (106km/66mi) - the ride got under way at 5 AM and I rode with Chris for all of this portion. We thought Robert was ahead of us, but he passed us in a peloton of 20+ riders when we stopped to put on rain gear. We got to Skykomish at 9:49 A.M. - at the Deli I had hot chilli & a latte - an interesting combination of food, but I kept it down at least.

Stevens Pass - we slogged up this, passing a few riders, fending off the light rain. It wasn't too cold, and the climb went surprisingly fast. At the top I wished for more gloves, as both paris I'd brought with me were wet (note to self: use one pair of gloves at a time, especially when a wet pass descent is coming up). The third pair I'd brought were waiting for me at the overnight control at the 400k mark.

The descent was cold, and my hands were freezing. I slowed down and let Chris go - the wind-chill was just too much. At the rest stop near the bottom of the pass it was sunny, and I spent way too long (~30 minutes) sunning myself and drying out all my gear. I eventually used some alligator clips and hung my wet gloves off my handlebars to dry them, it probably looked funny.

I enjoyed the rest of the ride all the way to Leavenworth, where the next control was.

Leavenworth - 188km/117mi 3:22 P.M. I pulled into the gas station that was serving as the control. Jennifer Chang was there, along with a few riders from Oregon Randonneurs. I rode with them out of the control, and turning on to Highway 97 there was an insane headwind - a taste of what was to come. It's about 32km/20mi from there to the top of Blewett Pass, and luckily it wasn't always a headwind.

Blewett Pass I rode with Dan Teeter for a while coming up the pass, and eventually slowed down to where I couldn't keep up anymore. Jennifer was climbing well, and I could only watch them disappear around the corners. Going this direction on Blewett seemed much harder than the other direction, and the climb seemed to go on forever. At the top we ducked behind a shed to get out of the wind, unaware that there was a food/water stop about 100 yards up the road! Brad (?) was there to offer smiles and water, both of which helped.

The descent was cold, and extremely windy. I could barely hold 20 mph going down the pass, and some gusts just made it feel like you were going backwards. Jennifer caught up to me and we rode together, trying to paceline our way through the wind.

After finally cresting on Highway 97 towards Ellensburg, we finally got a tailwind - going downhill I was crusing at 65 km/h (~41 mph), it felt great. Then on the flat section it was, as promised by the ride-organizers, indeed still a tailwind which we enjoyed. Finally, covering some ground to catch up on time.

Ellensburg (282 km/175 mi) - rolling in at 8:51 P.M. we found Dan at the Quiznos here, and sat down for a bit of real food. Probably spent too long here, which was the running theme of this brevet for me. By the time we left it was getting dark, time to start the night riding. Before the brevet I couldn't decide how much sleep I was going to get, e.g. do I ride straight through or sleep? Well with 75 miles to go to get to the overnight control, the only choice was to keep riding until we got there.

We rode through a Canyon (Canyon Road?) on the way to Yakima, it was very scenic even if it was pitch black out. Traffic was starting to die down, and the stars were very bright - I haven't seen the Milky Way in years, it seems. It never gets old though. But riding and looking up at the sky at the same time aren't a good idea, so I tried to keep my eyes on the road.

Narayan caught up to us somewhere along this road, and the three of us rode for quite a while together. I was thankful to have company at this point - riding by myself I probably would have just slowed to a crawl. I felt OK, energy-wise, but going uphill wasn't my strong-point on this ride.

We rode through Yakima (I kept thinking about how part of the "Echelon Network" was supposedly stationed here) & Selah, and when we finally turned on to Highway 12 we were greeted with a super-strong headwind. Narayan was having cramps in his legs, and was ready to call it a day. We tried to talk him out of it, and he rode with us for a little while but couldn't keep up. He eventually called in and gave up - a tough decision to make, but little did I know I'd be facing a similar decision in the near future.

Luckily it was about 2 AM by this point, so the traffic had died down from what was earlier a hellish road I'm sure. The shoulder is small in most spots here, and even goes away - and the rumble-strip blocks the rest. This 10-mile section seemed to last forever, and headwind didn't help. At the "secret control" we ate a sandwich and Jennifer took a 5-minute nap sitting in her chair. Dan was there, he had aparently given up somewhere along the way. He looked tired, but happy to be done with it all. We finally pulled out at about 3 AM, and I believe were officially the last two riders on the course!

The next control at Rimrock was part-way up White Pass, which we were on. We only had maybe 20 miles to go, but at this point that seemed like a lot. I took a few minutes of rest in a ditch on the side of the road on this stretch, and just looked at the stars (and I think Venus was up too) - we were so close to a warm bed, but I was just so tired. It felt good.

I slowly made my way up, and caught up to Jennifer again. My cyclo-computer had reset somewhere along the way, so without knowing exactly where we were we got slightly confused. It seemed like hours and we just kept going, but saying, "did we pass it? should we go back?" A dog was in the road, and trotted next to us for a good 5 miles! It was a pace car of sorts. Mark Thomas later said that other riders had the same experience - what a great dog! It must've been excited that there was something out at this hour besides cars.

Rimrock - "Overnight" Control (401km/270mi) - at 6:42 A.M. Sunday morning we finally made it in. Even though we were the last two there was no lack of support from Brad and the other volunteers. Many riders were leaving at this point (they probably got in at a reasonalbe 12-3 AM), and we were quite the spectacle for some of them - one guy even took pictures. Well I've always wanted to ride through a night and I guess I'd just done it.

The only bad part here was that we were losing time, and needed to leave by 8 AM. After a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and muffins (thanks!!) I took a 30 minute nap. By 8:10 A.M. we were on the road again - not much rest, but some. We needed to get to the next control by 9:56 A.M. and were only 21 miles away - but there was White Pass in between us. (Eight miles up, ~12 miles down)

White Pass was not very steep, and in the interest of time I decided to stand up and "sprint" my way up it, or at least push 25 km/h or so. It was Jennifer was behind me but not by much. At the top I calculated that I needed to keep a 40 km/h (25 mph) pace coming down, which I somehow did.

At 9:55 I pulled into the control at the intersection of Highway 12 & 123 - one minute before the closing time of the control! A bunch of volunteers were there, offering food, mechanical services. They were awesome and really helped me keep going.

Cayuse Pass - "Only" 16 miles, and it started out easy enough. Once we entered the "Rainier Natl Park" the road started to steepen, and I really slowed down. Jennifer passed me at this point, she made it look easy! She was gone, up the "hill," and I was just chugging along.

Eventually I got a second wind, and started topick up speed. The most I could do was about 12 km/h, but it was usually closer to 8 km/h or so (5 mph). I felt the classic, "I've got 10 km to go, going 10km/h - one hour. At 8 km to go, now going 8 km/h. Damn, that's still an hour! 5 km to go, 5 km/h..."

Eventually I saw Jennifer again, way ahead of me. I eventually caught up to her when she stopped, and kept moving, slowly, towards the top. Near the top I felt good, and the 10-foot snow-wall on the side of the road looked very fresh. There was snow on the side of the road almost all the way up, but this was lots and lots of it. Cool, I love riding near snow (just not ice).

At the top I was excited to start the descent, but again time was pressed. I had to be in Greenwater by 2:08 P.M., and it was about 12:30 by this point. I forget the exact numbers but I was in another situation where I needed to keep a 40 km/h pace from there to the next stop. The downhill was very fast, and of course went by quick. On the flatter section heading to Greenwater I wasn't sure if I'd make it in time.

Greenwater (497 km/309 mi) - I made it here at 2 PM sharp - only eight minutes to spare! I saw the Oregon Randos again, and a few more riders that were heading out. I felt like I was finally making contact with the rest of the riders again, and could catch up on time.

After Greenwater I headed out alone, cursing the cold shade of the trees but enjoying the fact that the passes were over with, and the rest of the ride should be much easier. I was starting to feel the sleep-deprivation effets, and even had a few instances of "did I just dream on my bike?"

Then my problems started. Flat tire. No problem, although I had to chuckle since I was bragging to Chris the day before that I'd been flat-free for all of the brevets so far. This is on Highway 410, which has a foot-wide shoulder just small enough to ride on - but it's not a nice place to fix a flat. With a new tube installed, I go to use my pump. Hmm that's weird, it feels "sticky" and won't seem to work. After yanking on it a bit, all of a sudden I was holding two separate pieces in my hand - oh shit.

No cell phone, and I'm all alone. What to do? I tried my best to make the pump work again, but it was a lost cause. I knew Jennifer was behind me, and I figured she'd show up eventually. But there's wasn't anywhere to wait on this road so I just walked with the bike, heading towards Enumclaw. After 30+ minutes of just walking, a nice couple in a station wagon (w/ bike rack) pulled over and asked if I needed help. You bet I did!

Ironically, as we were pulling away I looked back to see Jennifer coming around the corner, so she probably could have saved my ride. But being in a warm car, off the bike, I'd given up in every way possible. My bike was already on the rack, and I decided I could do without finishing. A decision I regret, but oh well. Kyle & his wife, who's name I forget, were also riders and Kyle had done the RAMROD a few times, so he knew how crazy Cayuse Pass is. Thanks to them for stopping!

In Enumclaw I called Kira and asked for a ride - luckily she was home, and graciously came and got me. A while later we were packing the bike into her car and heading to Issaquah to get my drop-bag.

Even though I didn't complete the ride, it was still a great experience. I did a triple-century, something I never envisioned doing a year ago. I rested in a ditch, something I've wanted to try out. And a I learned that no matter how prepared you might think you are, something can still go wrong. Maybe I'll carry a backup pump from now on (I don't want to use Co2 cartridges, they seem wasteful to me personally). It's just ironic that I carry spare spokes, backup lights, a backup tire, spare cleat screws, a slew of tools, so I thought I had all the bases covered.

Physically I feel OK, although some finger-numbness is back. My legs are a bit sore, but not too bad. I might even go for a spin tonight just to see if I can. The only thing that's bothering me is the fact that I didn't finish the ride - but there will be many opportunities in the future to do something similar, and next time around I'll know more of what to expect, both from me (e.g. a tendency to sit around at controls) and my equipment.

Thanks to the ride organizers, and the volunteers too. I can't imagine doing these rides without their smiling faces!

Ride Stats:
Total Distance: 16 mi commute to start + 315 mi of brevet = 331 mi or 500+ km, my first triple-century!
Start time: 3 A.M. Saturday June 7th
End time: ~3 P.M. Sunday June 8th (36 hours overall, with 30 minutes of sleep)


Anonymous said...

331 miles and 4 passes. Way to go Matt! It may be a DNF but you gotta' love those personal bests.


Robert H said...

You survived all of the toughest and most beautiful sections of the ride. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Congratulations.

kreger said...

you know you have become a monster when you get to say that you started the ride and you have to give the DATE not just the TIME. 300 miles, my helmet is off to you.

you doing flying wheels next week? 100 miles should be a nice active recovery ride at this point right?


matt m said...

I'm gonna be out of town next weekend, but i've got some other rides coming up: STP, S2S (Seattle -> Spokane), and RAMROD.

But I'm not quite to the point where 100 miles is "easy" - a mile is a mile is a mile. Or 1.6 kilometers.

Anonymous said...

Joe P here.

That was one heck of a ride. If you have any regrets stop and take a look at the little cycling mileage map at the bottom of your web page.

Did you think all those other peaks were easy? I thought not. Now look at the size of the last data point and compare it to the rest of the chart. Wow! Nice Job.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap!

I can't believe you didn't finish! You looked GREAT at the bottom of White Pass and as you rode off to slay the dragon I would have bet a pay check on you.

I suspect this will gnaw on you a bit, which I think is a good thing.

I DNFed the 4 pass in '02, it was also my first 600, and like you I made a bad (strategic) decision that led me into someone's car for a ride home. Take heart, you got much farther than I did.

Anyway, long story short, I got back on the bull and rode the Orrando 600K two weeks later. It was not nearly as hard a ride, but I felt a need to get that 600K monkey off my back. Look the calendar over, pick a 600, prep for it then go out there and giterdun!

You should feel good about your ride, but you and I both know you would feel better if you had stuck it out.

christopher said...

i was sad to hear that you had called it in. but don't let a little DNF get in the way of the pride you should feel for pushing as hard and as long as you did. just think of your efforts as training toward crushing the next one. see ya soon.

Eric Thrasher Troili.. said...

Classic photo..! It could be used as an ad for DEX.. "DEX.. Where is the nearest bike shop..? I need a new pump fast..!"..

BTW.. Just curious here.. What were the matches for..? You know you can replace the tube, right..? You didn't have to torch the whole bike..!

Anonymous said...

What a bummers of a timing! I was taking a power nap and getting a quick bite to eat, while you were stranded on the roadside! I am truly sorry that you didn't get to finish the ride.

But, my thought is that you'll give another "go" at it before the season is over. Right?


matt m said...

eric: i must confess that when i got to enumclaw and made the call, i bought a pack of camel lights (they don't sell american spirits, my cig of choice in enumclaw apparently) for the hour-long wait until my ride came. old habits die hard i guess.

jennifer: yeah the timing was only a few minutes off - had i wanted just a bit longer i could have used your pump! but no worries, at that point the warm car was too much to pass up. and yeah i'm definitely gonna shoot for the next 600k in september! see you on the road..

Unknown said...

I had my pump come apart in 2 pieces in the middle of the night and I was all alone in the back...I couldn't fix it. If you have one of those Morphs... they tend to unscrew themselves (probably vibration). You should be able to screw th rod back into the plunger and get u-self back in business.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on making it as far as you did. Your determination was inspiring to me as I watched you ride in and out of the White Pass control. That ride, with the rain, wind, and climbing is one tough spin! I was probably as disappointed to see your DNF as you were to stop the ride, but, my friend, you are to be proud of it. Hope to see you on future events.
Dan Teeter

matt m said...

@Susan: well at least i'm not the only doomed by a bad pump!

@Dan: it was great to meet & ride with you! i couldn't hold your wheel going up blewett but the pacing definitely helped me get it done eventually (that climb seemed to take eons!)

we'll finish that route next time around, no doubt!