Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tahyua Hills 200k Brevet 2008: Up. Down. Up. Up. Down. Repeat.

After getting a DNQ result in my last 200k, I was dead-set on finishing this one with credit. No speed/time goal in mind, besides doing the ride at something above the randonneurs' minimum of ~9 mph, or 15 km/h.

This route is known for its inclines, and in a similar fashion to the Olympic Peninsula, and the Puget Sound islands (Vashon, Bainbridge, etc) lots of hills is what you get. Not huge, maybe 400 feet at most, but some were quite steep. And as you can see from the elevation profile, there were lots of them!

You can find the map of the route here: [map]

Check out the elevation profile of the route here: [elevation/map]

I heard quotes of 8-9 thousand feet of climbing for this 209km/130 mile brevet. A good warmup for the RAMROD (coming up on Thursday)!

The Ride to the Ride

I made it there with time to spare, as the Ciocc is pretty good at carrying me at ~36-40 km/h (23-25 mph) on the flats, but on the hills it's mostly up to me, and going up Delridge on the way to the ferry dock at 5:30 AM, I took it easy.

The sun was still rising, the air cool. But my wool jersey, and the effort, was plenty to keep me warm.

On the right you can see what Seattle looked like (well, minus the slight blur) from under the Viaduct.

Riders queueing up for the ferry to Southworth:
From the ferry, you could see Mt. Rainier:

Southworth to 1st Control

Riders getting ready to roll:

After the pack rolled out at 7:00 AM sharp, the usual filtering of the riders took place. The first 10-20 km were true rolling hills (you could keep your speed over the top of most of them), and Chris, Joby, Robert, and I stayed together, but after a while Joby & I ended up riding with two other riders, at the front of the pack.

I really wasn't planning on trying to do this brevet fast, but the itch was there and I scratched it! My speedometer wasn't working, but I'd guess we cruised at about 40 km/h for a while, the three of us trailing behind a really fast guy on a Litespeed.

But I knew I couldn't hold this pace forever, and planned on taking it easy after the first control. We made it to the gas station at about 8:20 AM or so, 40 km into the ride. The really fast guy spent about four minutes there, and then rolled out. I bet he finished first!

At the first control:

Joby & I bought some water, snacks, etc, and shortly Chris rolled up, followed by Robert. We rolled out together, probably 20-25 minutes after arriving. Probably too long to spend at the first control in a ride, but for this one I wanted to stick with the trio.

To The Next Control

Light rain started coming down, and after a quick stop to put on rain jackets, I was donning my brand-new Rapha "softshell" jacket - glad to put this thing to use, considering I spent lots of dough on it! It worked perfectly, and fits way better than my old jacket; this one doesn't flap in the wind, which I always hated about the old one.

After about 10 minutes of rain, it stopped as quickly as it started. Luckily the jacket is breathable enough that I didn't need to take it off! Another advantage over my old Shower's Pass jacket.

During the next stretch we ended up pacing behind a fast tandem, and tacked on to their paceline. Again I have no idea of our speed, but it was definitely a decent one! None of the climbs were too bad at this point, and after a while the paceline seemed to slow down, so I broke out of it and went up the road.

I knew we were close to the next control so it wouldn't be long before the paceline would catch up eventually. Rode alone for the next few kilometers, and made it to the next control at Kay's(?) Corner, a gravel patch overtaken with a tent, volunteers, and lots of bikes!

The famous SiR support was there, making sandwiches, offering water, mechanical service, the works! Thanks a mil' to everyone who helped out with the ride. Shortly after I got there the tandem's paceline showed up, perfect. Back with the trio.

I spent another 20-25 minutes here at least, eating chips, the falafel wrap I'd brought, chatting, and downing liquids. The word was that the next section was where the hills really were. As Mr. Burns from The Simpsons says, "Excellent."

The Real Hills Begin

500 meters or so after the control, we started going up. And up. And up. And down. Then back up. We caught up to a bunch of riders that had left the control before us, many of them we'd see throughout tbe day.

The roads in this section (Kitsap Nat'l Forest?) were great! Pretty narrow, no center line, but no traffic either. Surrounded by trees, trees, trees. We saw a small deer too!

A pic of Chris rolling through said tiny road:

We started pacelining again, I think with the same tandem from before. Somewhere along this section I went off again on my own, passing lots of people. It wasn't that I didn't like riding with everyone I was with, it was that my legs said, "we've got the energy, lets see how far you can go fast(er) for?" OK, let's do it.

So I rode alone for a few kilometers, then one guy that I'd passed caught up and passed me on a climb. It was so easy to "give up" on some of these climbs, and switch down to 39x25 (my lowest gear) and soft-pedal up the incline. I passed him on a big downhill somewhere along the way, and after the right on to Seabeck-Holly(?) Road, more big climbing started. In fact I think we went uphill for about six kilometers or so, but without a cyclocomputer it was hard to be sure. It started steep, and got less so as it went on. But it went on for a while!

Rode alone for the remainder of this portion until the next control.

The Dog

Near the top of the hill, or what seemed like it was about to the be the top, a medium-sized brown dog came sprinting at me, dragging a red leash (rope?) behind it. I guess all the cyclists passing by was too much for it to resist! It came at me from the left, and I was too stunned to do anything but keep on pedaling, hoping that my pace was great than its. It really wanted a piece of my calf, I could just tell.

But in the end I just rode away from it, I'm really glad the scare worked out for me. I heard later that it didn't work out for someone else, and they had their ankle nipped, but nothing too serious.


I was expecting at least an intersection, a stoplight, something to denote a "town" called Seabeck, the next control. But I think Seabeck is really a codename for about four shops (general, massage, pizza, gifts, espresso) that line the waterfront. About 10 riders were already here, enjoying water, ice cream, chips, the good stuff (there was probably someone hiding in the portapotty, snorting some kind of secret Hammer powder, shunning any solid food).

I bought peanuts, Lay's chips, water, and an "Arizona" Green Tea, those drinks are so good. For this ride I'd decided to stay away from sugary things like I used to eat on rides, like Snickers/Payday bars, Cokes, etc. Trying to focus on salty things, at least when it comes to food. And I can say that it worked! No upset stomach, the first time in a while on a long ride.

Before too long Chris showed up, and Joby & Robert weren't too far behind. We sat at a picnic table outside the store and enjoyed being off the bikes, stuffing our faces with something or other.

I spent at least 40 (yes 40!) minutes here, but at this point we had plenty of time in the bank, as 13.5 hours are given to riders to complete this 200k. So there was no rush, no pressure, just a nice day for a great ride with some hardcore cyclists.

Anderson Hill Road, and More Hills

The scenic lead-up to Anderson Hill:

The next big ascent was apparently Anderson Hill Road, which everyone said was the worst climb of them all. We rolled over some scenic roads (above) and finally made the left turn that brought us to our next big one.

This hill felt like 7-10% grade, and went for a km or two. The worst part was the sun beating down on you, with no wind or breeze to cool the skin. That and the fact that my 39x25 wasn't really an easy gear on this hill!

We finally got to the top and stopped for a mini-break on the side of the road. Somewhere along this portion Robert fell behind the three of us, and we never actually saw him again. This section featured some decently long climbs, but nothing steep. We passed a "high-powered rifle" shooting range, which sounded, of course, really loud with each gun clap. I pictured the occupant in the house across the street cringing with each shot, but hopefully they're OK with it! I was glad to be gone from there.

This road seemed to go on forever and ever, and went slightly up as well. Somewhere along the way I swear I saw a motorcyclist shake his head in disgust at me/us, and this was probably the case given what happened to Chris about 30 minutes later: At the intersection just before the next control, we were stopped waiting for the green light. About 30 motorcycles were taking a right, passing us going the other way. Apparently one of them looked Chris in the eye, and then spit a sunflower seed at him! That's a new one.

Brevet riders at the last control before the finish - after this, "just" ~30 miles to go!

After surviving some stretches as long as 10km on Highway 3, and a little bit on Highway 16, and even doing a "victory lap" at the roundabout because we missed the correct turn, we finally made it to much nicer roads. Meaning, they were two lanes with less than 10 cars/second passing you by.

I was definitely tired by this point of the ride, but not done. Although close. Had this been more than a 200k I would have taken a long break, but we trudged on.

Climbing "One Mile Hill" I believe - this was taken over the shoulder, while moving:

On the approach to the ferry - now those are rolling hills! Looks even cooler in real life:

I'm cutting out a lot of the rest of the ride, and possibly other tidbits worth mentioning, for the sake of brevity. For instance we passed through Silverdale during their "Whaling Days" festival, which meant parking on the shoulder, and lots of pedestrians crossing the road. And lots of bass coming out of cars/trucks for some reason. But maybe that's always the case out there?

At 5:30 PM or so we rolled into the finish, happy to be done! We and had to wait for about an hour and a half for the next ferry - but luckily the corner store had decent sandwiches (fresh as of two days ago), and soda w/ ice - mmm.

We told war stories from the road, and pondered what happened to Robert. Hope you made it! Sorry we didn't wait for you, I kind of feel bad about that...

Ride Stats
Distance: 209 km + 23 km commute to the ferry = 232 km or 144 miles.
Ride start time: 5 AM
200k time: 7 AM to 5:30 PM or 10.5 hours (for reference the fastest was probably closer to 7 hours!)

Official times will be posted here. A few more photos here.


Jim said...

Congratulations on finishing the brevet!

Laura Vecsey said...


My name is Laura Vecsey, content director for We really need a cycling enthusiast/expert to post on our site and serve at the Seattle Cycling Examiner. Wonder if you might be interested? We can talk if so.



Robert H said...

You are getting famous around here!
I made it. I'll have a blog up shortly. My day went to hell after Anderson Hill Road. 4 flats, 3 chains dropped and a 10 mile detour. If I had a ride home, I might have taken it!