Sunday, July 13, 2008

STP 2008 - Seattle to Portland Before The Sun Goes Down

326 km (203 mi) done! So it's not a 400k brevet over mountains, but it was still a challenge. And lots of fun. Great weather, good scenery, and mostly good roads - the 2008 STP.

Here I am finishing in Portland at 5:44 PM, very glad to be out of the sun, and done.

I'd flatted just outside Kelso, and the old tube wouldn't fit anywhere else, so I threw it over my shoulder. 
You know, like how they did in the old days:

My Approach to the STP

I had a goal to finish the ride at least faster than how long it took last year, which was 14.5 hours (7:30 PM) finish time.

I didn't really plan on going faster per se, just getting off the bike less. This ride is so organized that there are plentiful rest stop every 20 miles or so. You could bring no money and probably get by on this ride! In fact since (most) riders pay $80+ to do this ride, that's what you're supposed to do.

But now that I've been getting into the rando scene, the prospect of treating this like a 300k brevet was what I had in mind. Meaning, I would skip just about all of the official rest stops, try to minimize off-bike time, etc. I thought I could do it with stopping only three times, which was a little too bold - but I ended up only stopping about five times during the ride:
  • 100 km: Roy, bought water w/ ice, gatorade, cinnamon roll, peanuts at a gas station (~10 minutes)
  • 159 km: Centralia, half way - ate free ice cream, PB&J sandwich, and an orange slice. Only spent about four minutes here (last year was more like an hour at the half-way point). This rest stop was crowded with other riders, in the usual mayhem of strangers that is the STP.
  • 168 km: Chehalis, more water w/ ice, chips, peanuts, jerky/cheese combo pack
  • 230 km: Lexington area, stopped at a gas station, enjoyed some more ice & shade
  • 299 km: Scappoose, bought water, mountain dew w/ ice. Sat in the shade for a few minutes.
The Ride

I left the house at about 4:25, and since I did a last-minute seat position change on the road, I knew I wasn't gonna make the official start at Husky Stadium - so I just followed Roanoke down to where the route goes, cutting off maybe two miles of the route. At about 5 AM I joined the riders, passing just about everyone I saw at 35-40 km/h (23-25 mph) - yeah, too fast for a reasonable start to a double century!

At about Seward Park a mini-peloton of about 10-15 riders caught up with me doing 40+ km/h - and thought I didn't hop onto the paceline right away, I ended up catching up to them and following a wheel or two for a while. The group ended up being split on Rainier Ave, and all of a sudden just four of us were left.

Eventually a guy in a full Garmin-Chipotle team kit (complete with crash-scars!) caught up to us, as did a few other random riders. While my plan was to avoid big pacelines altogether and do this ride more or less solo, the opportunity to cover so much ground at once just couldn't be passed up!

The Hill

At "the hill," a 300-foot climb that isn't all that bad, our average was just above 32 km/h or 20 mph! I've never averaged 20 for more than a half-mile, so this was a real surprise! But I knew my body couldn't push it like this forever, and I took it pretty easy on "the hill" in Puyallup.

Our little group split up pretty well at that point, and I never saw the Chipotle guy again. At the top I kept it solo for the most part, and just ignored pacelines that shot past.

I skipped the big rest stop at about 50 miles, and I'm pretty sure the guys that were ahead of me stopped at it. I kept on pedaling, skipping the crowded parking lot and long lines, in favor for pushing another 10 miles for topping off a 100k (62 mi) and getting supplies at a convenience store. The fast paceline I'd ridden with earlier passed me here, but I let them go. I'd decided that from this point on I was on a solo ride, more or less.

So for the next 10 miles I kept a pace of only 25-28 km/h (15-17 mph), and was mostly being passed. But I'd end up seeing just about all of those jerseys again, and even though many pacelines came by at their 40-45 km/h pace, I held off and just rode on.

Mostly because I didn't want to ride above a comfortable pace, and blow it too early. Or maybe I'd already done that.. But not stopping all that much meant that even thought many other riders rode faster than me, I kept seeing them again, and again.

Centralia - Half Way

Only stayed here for about 5 minutes, compared to the hour or so we spent here last year. Rolled out with a guy on a Ramboullet, who also rides with SIR! It's a small world I guess.

The Rest of the Ride

In between Chehalis and Winlock, I ran into a guy in a red jersey that I'd ridden with briefly on the Barlow Pass ride a few weeks ago. While riding with him, I saw a small black bug flying towards me, and it came straight for my neck! It must've been a bee, because the damn thing got stuck in the front of my collar, and stung the shit out of me! The pain wore off after a few minutes, but I'd forgotten how much those things hurt. Luckily I'm not allergic..

Just before Kelo/Longview, I was thinking to myself about how I'd flatted at a particular corner last year, and was glad not to have flatted yet.. So guess what happens about a minute later? Yup, flatted. No big deal, but I did find out that I was riding on an already-patched tube, and that my spare tube had a short stem on it, which my semi-aero Ksyriums don't work well with. Should've checked that before I left the house I guess..

I spent at least 20 minutes fixing this flat, far too long for a simple tube change, but with the short stem on the tube, it was a challenge pumping it up correctly. While I was fiddling with it the original fast paceline I'd ridden with 100 miles earlier, now with 10 more riders in it, passed me! I even heard one of them remark, "Hey there's that one guy."

It was the classic tortoise & hare scenario, but this flat ruined any chances of finishing before them. Not that it matters, but it makes for good pacing!

With the flat fixed, I rode on to Longview, and was really happy to hit the Lewis & Clark bridge, which meant about 80 km (50 mi) to go. I, for some reason, sprinted up the bridge, passing a bunch of people. Guess I was in my favorite riding terrain: tilted.

After the bridge I stopped for more water/ice, and bought some food I never ate. I hadn't really had a real meal by this point, and my stomach was protesting for sure. Left the store just behind a rider with a McDonald's team kit on - looked like a racer. Let him ride away though, I didn't want to do someone else's pace. But I figured I'd see him again.

The Last 50 Miles

The last stretch of the STP (Highway 30) is strip-mall hell, with five lanes of traffic. But at least at this point you know you're close to the end! I stopped in Scappoose for more supplies, and spent a while recovering from the sun here. Talked a bit with a local rider, who was asking about the STP. I didn't say anything, but at that point my stomach was turning, and I felt kind of queezy. But I answered all the questions, and enjoyed some ice water. "Laugh on the battlefield, cry in the dojo," I think is how the old saying goes.

The last 30km were slow but steady, and I saw quite a few familar jerseys (people that had passed me earlier in the day) go by. But I was ready to be done, for sure! Had this been a 400k I certainly would have had to stop for real food, but I plowed on.

Coming into Portland I saw the familiar sites like that bridge you cross to get into Downtown. While I felt slightly ill, I looked at the time and knew that I'd met my goal for this ride, and had cut off 1.5 hours from last year's time!

Thanks to all the riders I rode with, all the support staff, and Cascade too - I'll be out next year, with a goal of cutting off even more time! 

Left Seattle at 4:45 AM
Arrived in Roy, WA at 8:05 AM
Centralia College at 10:15 AM (100 miles, 161km, roughly halfway)
Scappose at ~4 PM
Finish in Portland at 5:44 PM

STP Ride Stats

Distance: 323 km, 201 mi
Time: 13 hours overall
Average Rolling Speed: 28.6 km/h (17.7 mph) (This was 31 km/h at the halfway point, and 30 mk/h at 150 miles - those last 50 were much slower than the rest, for sure)
Flats: 1
Rest stops skipped: 15
Snakes seen: 1


Robert H said...

Great job. If you do it next year, I'll join you on the one day.

Anonymous said...

"I even heard one of them remark, "Hey there's that one guy.""...

I think this was me!

I was riding this bike ( and wearing a Huskies jersey.

Hope to see ya next year!

matt m said...

Hey yeah I remember that U-W jersey! Man you were hauling ass, leading that double-paceline for quite a while at 25 mph if I recall correctly.

What time did you fast guys finish?