Sunday, August 24, 2008

Baker Lake 400k: We Ride From Sunrise to Sunset, and Beyond

For some reason I assumed this brevet would be easier than the Three-Pass 400k we did back in May; a reasonable assumption, I thought. Well I was wrong!

I mean the May 400k went over Snoqualmie, Blewett, and Stevens passes! And it had some tough hills in the last 80k. So I figured the Baker Lake 400 would be tough, but not quite as hard, and that I might be able to "beat" my time of ~19:20 on the last 400.
Well the Baker Lake 400k was just as hard, if not harder, and some parts were more challenging than anything I've ever done before. Take for instance Burbee Hill "Road" - I'd esitmate it was an 8-9% grade, but I know for sure that it was covered with gravel. The tire tracks were just about the only rideable part, the rest was too loose. Even then I could only hold 4-5 km/h going up it!

Part One - Before Sunrise

I left the apartment on Capitol Hill at 4 AM, heading for the start in Redmond. The route to Redmond is a familiar one, and with just about zero traffic, there was little to hold me back from making decent time getting there.

The I-90 bike trail was of course empty, as was I-90 itself. A shot of I-90 Bike Trail at 4 AM:

When I got to "downtown" Redmond, I found the start of 202 West, and took it. But about a mile into, I starting doubting that I was on the right street. For some reason there were no signs of any help, and the one I did see just said "Redwood Rd" (which I now understand decodes to "Redmond-Woodinville Road"), so I turned around. It was 15 minutes before the start, and I was basically lost! But I knew I was close.

Now doubting my own doubts, I turned around again, luckily heading back in the correct direction towards Mark's house. As I finally approached it at about exactly 6 AM, I saw the confirmation of many bike headlights turning out of his driveway. I was late, but only by minutes.

I quickly got my brevet card and got on my way, trying to catch up to the riders ahead of me. Not that I wanted to get ahead of anyone in particular, just that I didn't want to spend the whole next 20-some-odd hours alone!

Part Two - Sunrise to Sunset

Sunrise Over Redmond:

Sunrise Over the Brevet:

An incline in the beginning of the ride:

Snohomish - 7 AM - we made quick time getting here, and by now I'm with the front group.

The Centennial BIke Trail - takes you from Snohomish to Arlington

The road to Darrington:

Darrington, I think:

The Accident

At the store in Darrington we heard news that the road we were about to take to Marblemount, Highway 530, was closed. A biker told me nobody was allowed to go up there because of it. Oh no, could this be the end to our ride?

Geoff said he thought maybe cyclists would be allowed to pass, and we hadn't seen Kevin or any of the riders at the front turned around yet, so it was worth the ~25 km trip up the road to find out if we could get around the scene or not.

They let us pass, but I wish I could block out the scene from my memory - a maroon sheet covering what must a been the bike + rider, and bits of who-knows-what scattered on the ground. Not something you see every day, or want to. But it was a good reminder of the frailty of life, and just how quick a sunny day could turn into your last. [news story]

Prelude to the scene:

Marblemount - after a great ride down Cascade River Road, we finally made it to Marblemount, a quintessential WA town.

Highway 20 on the way to Concrete:

Concrete, WA

Just after this point I missed the turn back on to E Street (the cue had two directions on one line!), and took a 4 km detour.

In concrete is where we met up with Burbee Hill, a real challenge. But if it gets you to views like this, then it's all worth it!

Getting closer to the resort:

Heading towards the resort was interesting, because the road was never flat. And you could see the faster riders coming the other way, and just how far they were ahead of you. My hopes of catching up to Andy and the crew were dashed, as I saw them pass when I was still 4-5 miles out from the turn around point. My detour was a costly adventure in terms of time!

After a snack at the Baker Lake control, I was off again, glad to be just about half way through with the ride. Oh yeah, at this point we were about 20 miles away from the Canadian border!!

Now back on Highway 20 heading west to Sedro-Woolley, the sun is setting.

Part Three - After Sunset

It was getting dark just as I got to Sedro-Woolley, at roughly 8 PM. The next 37 miles were to be in dark, alone, on Highway 9. I've done this road a few times, but always in the daytime. In the day it's a really busy road, almost annoyingly so. But at 9-10 PM there was very little, sometimes I wouldn't be passed by anyone for up to 20-30 minutes! It was just me, the stars, and my E6 headlight to guide the way.

After what seemed like forever, I made it to Arlington. Street lights and other humans were a welcome sign of civilization, after two or three hours alone in the dark! I saw Peg at the Arlington control, also glad to see another rider.

It was about 8 PM at this point, and there was still much ground to cover. Granite Falls was the next stop, less than 20 miles away. But it took quite some time to get there!

About a mile after leaving Arlington, I heard a wssk-wssk-wssk as I rolled. There was a piece of what look like fishing wire extending from my tire, so I yanked it out. Noise gone.

But whatever it was put some holes in my tube, because not five minutes later I was fixing a flat. Luckily I found a street light to fix it under, my helmet's light isn't all that great. You can see how dark it was in the background here - and there was some rustling in the bushes next to me, never found out what that was.

Granite Falls - 12 AM

I arrived at the "24 hour" control to find it closed. So I just signed my own card and continued on.

And after quite a few turns, and a lot of uncertainty ("Am I going the right way?"), I made it back to Mark's house in Redmond. It was 4:30 AM, way later than I'd expected to finish.

Kira was kind enough to come scoop me up, seeing as how the ride home might have taken another two or three hours. Thanks, baby!!

As all SiR brevets have been, this one was wonderful too, and highly recommended! Official Ride Results: here

Ride Stats

Distance: 450 km (402 brevet + 24 commute + 4 lost) (my 2nd longest ride to date)
Brevet time: 6 AM to 4:30 AM (22.5 hours)

A bunch more photos on flickr.


Robert H said...

Awesome pictures edition. I need a cheapie camera that I'm not afraid to drop for these rides. I've been using my iphone lately but am pretty paranoid about breaking it out. Jane would kill me if I broke it! Good job on the finish. Don't worry about the time, you spent a day riding your bike. It doesn't get better than that.

brett said...

The sunrise picture is awesome, the cloud looks somewhat like a dragon