Thursday, May 28, 2009

Seward Park Race, May 28th Edition

This past Thursday was the Seward Park (road? circuit? crit?) race, and once again I had to stealthily leave work early to get there in time for the 5:30 PM Cat 4/5 race. Made it with plenty of time, partially thanks to the other racer that I pacelined with all the way down Lake Wa Blvd to the park at 36-40 km/h. Another nice warmup for the race.

This was my fourth mass-start race so far, which puts me 40% of the way to being Cat 4! (I didn't think the Seward series count for upgrades but from what I hear they do.)


Kira came to the race and got some nice pics of me trying to hang in there. Thanks, baby!!

That would be me in the blue Seattle Rando jersey, taking the hard turn (really the only corner on the course):
A side-shot:

Sprinting out of the corner, one of the funnest parts of the race, and just after this was one of the few spots it was relatively easy to move up in the pack (on the downhill just after this):

Watching the 3/4 race - looking for clues on what to do, and what not to do:

Check out this great shot Kira took of a few of the 3/4 racers. If I'm not mistaken, the guy on the left won the 4/5 crit! No wonder he's winning the race every time, he's a damn 4. Figures. (But congrats to him for killin' it!)

Thoughts on the race

Once again, it was a ton of fun, but a lot of hard work too. I'm getting more confident in the pack, and moved around a lot more than before. In previous races I'd pretty much stay at the (ever-shedding) back of the pack and just hang on. I'd be in what I could have sworn was the middle of the peloton, but all of a sudden I look back and nobody's there.

This time I moved around and got in more or less the middle of the peloton, which was interesting - I just made sure not to overlap wheels more than necessary, and to generally just "protect my front wheel" as they say. In a sea of bikes, it was actually kind of easy to lose track of where I was course, and where the road is going.. but you can just follow wheels and bodies.

There seemed to be more sketchiness than usual, and a lot of people yelling at other races to "hold your line!" and "watch out". I felt bad for one rider in a Rabbobank kit who seemed to be getting yelled at a lot, and I heard someone say "watch out for Rabbobank" towards the end.

Somehow nobody seemed to crash, and the race went on as the usual pattern goes: first few laps are tough, then it cools down. First prime stretches out the pack, then we regroup. Repeat for second prime lap. Then a few laps later, after we've all regrouped, a sprint is launched 200-300m from the finish.

I got a little daring towards the end, and squeezed through a gap between a pair of handlebars that was not much bigger than my own bars... on the climb no less. It was that or slow down, and slowing down on the uphill at the end of the race means it's over. I wasn't going for first, so maybe I shoulnd't have pushed it, but I think I ended up top 20 or so out of the 50 that started.

One thing that was interseting was watching the usual winner set up his sprint. I'd never been close enough to see where it's launched when going this direction, but today it was launched at the base of the uphill. An older First Rate Mortgage rider, who seems to be experienced and just sitting in, rolled up beside the pack and nodded/said "go" to the sprinter guy of the same team, who then broke from the pack and gave it his all. And I'm pretty sure he won.

So if one wanted to win this race, unless you can beat him in a sprint (he's won the last few), another option might be to go off the front a little earlier, say one lap earlier. Then the question is can you hold it? One day I'll find out I hope.


Seward Park race 5/28/09:
Duration: 29:33
Distance: 18.515 km
Elevation Gain: 361 m
Min Max Avg
Heart Rate: 167 190 180 bpm
Speed: 5 85.8 37.5 kph (23.3 mph)

Interesting to compare to the last few races - seems like my avg HR for the race is notching down slightly, which I would hope points to increasing fitness. I guess I'll find out next Saturday at the Ballard Crit!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Go At The Seward Park Cat 4/5 Race

Last week I didn't go to the Seward Park race, in preparation for the big ride that was coming up. But now the big ride is over, and my legs aren't sore like they were from Sunday to about Tuesday. Last time I went to the race I felt decently strong towards the end, and had big plans for "next time."

Yesterday I took a little spin down to Seward Park just to warm up the legs, and make sure they could still do some hard work after all the riding on Friday/Sunday (640 km total). Felt pretty weak, actually, but then again it was the first ride since Saturday.

I took a few laps on the course, it feels way different (slower) solo. Without the competition, and more importantly the draft, I was doing 13 mph up the hill when we seem to normally do 20 or so. Definitely made me think a little differently about my plans of "breaking away," though I looked for a good spot to do it anyway, just in case I felt good when the time came.

Pre Race

I left work early, but it's always hard to get out when you want to. Got back to the house in time, and left with time to spare. But since I needed to get there in time to sign up and pin on my number, it was a bit of a race to the race, yet again. OK, so I burned a few matches on the way down again, but I'll count it as a warmup.

There was enough of a tailwind so that I was cruising at 36-40 km/h (23-25 mph), although I certainly wasn't soft-pedaling. Heart rate was around 175-180 bpm, damn I really was pushing it!

Upon rolling up to the start area, I heard someone call out my name. Holy shit, it's Ryan Hamilton, another randonneur! And in my category?! Sweet.

I met Ryan riding out to a 600k last year, he's an accomplished, and fast, rando. On one of the 600k's last year with four passes, he finished 27 hours! If any rando should be out there racing, Ryan's definitely one of them! Was happy to see him at the race, though tentative about making any promises about working together. At this point, I'm mostly trying to hang on!

I paid my $10 and started pinning on my number, something I should have done before the ride. I've seen more experienced racers joke about a "Cat 5 parachute" and I think I devised a pretty sweet one.. It wasn't flapping in the wind too much, but it wasn't sitting quite how I wanted it, oh well.

Lined up, in the back. Damn. I should've just squeezed into the middle or something.

Ryan was smart about it and had lined up in the first third or so, out of the 50-60 riders in the Category 4/5 race. I ended up smack dab on the back of the pack, which is not a good idea for a number of reasons.

During the pre-ride instructions they said we were doing clockwise this time, the reverse of what I'd done the previous two races. Any tactics I'd devised, and all the envisioning I'd done about when/where/how I was going to do it was now out the window. I've heard it's a fun direction, and it is - but it's also a little more challenging.

They warned us not to get on the right side on the downhill going this direction, since the curb bows out to the left just before a hard right turn at the bottom of the hill, so you would end up getting spit out into other riders. Sounds interesting, hopefully I can remember it in 30 seconds!

The Race

They were off and it seemed like ages between the time the front started rolling and we did, at the back. That's basically starting at deficit of a few seconds, but soon enough we were on the downhill. This direction is a shorter but steeper downhill, with a nice tight turn at the bottom. The uphill is more gentle, but longer. I was on the inside (right side) on this turn, which is somewhat of a mistake because it's a slower line. Guys in front of me were braking when I wanted/needed to be jumping!

The real difference with this direction was the 140-degree turn. I was still somewhere near the middle of the pack when we got back to it (a full lap), and on the right side of the road. You really get squeezed on the inside of that turn, and slowed down to what seemed like 10 km/h. And from that you're sprinting again to catch up.. repeat for 15 laps.

Going the other direction you can keep more speed going through that tough turn, but I'm sure it will get easier with practice. Also I seemed to be in too big a gear for some reason after the turn, even though it's at the top of the hill. So I'd end up sprinting from 10 km/h in 53x13 or so.. doable but not a good way to conserve something for the finish! I had to make sure to downshift before that turn so I was ready to get back up to speed.

By the second lap you can tell that people are getting blown off the back. At one point I swear I was in the middle of the pack, but looked back to see only a few straggling riders behind me! They say you should be passing two or three people for every one that passes you in a mass start race like this, so I should've seen the signs that nobody was really swarming around any more.

So it was time to move up.

I found that I could move up pretty well after the downhill, on the flat-ish section leading to the uphill. Just get to the outside, or find a gap, and go. Of course, when I say "go" here that means accelerate from 45km/h to 55 km/h, so you really have to dig to make any ground on the other racers.

I eventually settled in to about the middle of the (shrinking) pack and just tried to be efficient. No point in spending time in the wind when you can be on a wheel, so I made sure not to lose contact with one. Of course on the prime laps the pack gets stretched out, but I held on with the peloton and just kept on chugging.

The laps started to just go by and while I was hurting, I knew that if I could hang on I'd be better off in the future. Kind of like "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." At some point, you have to really push yourself in order to improve. Push yourself over your limits, and hold them there for a little while. It hurts, but it makes you stronger. At least I hope.

Ryan was doing well, and seemed to be up in the first 10 riders the whole time. I wanted to get on his wheel but there were 20 riders in between us, it was harder than it might sound to choose your spot once the race is going.

The final lap came, and I didn't want it to be over! I needed more time to move up if I was going to do anything useful at the finish. I felt like I was at my limit, but had enough in the tank to keep it going, and sprint a bit, at the finish.

On the final uphill before the finish, I moved up into the top 15 riders or so. As we got closer to the line, people started to go and then we all went. But someone up ahead gave up, and all of a sudden was coasting backwards through a sea of sprinting riders. After barely skirting around that guy, I ended up getting boxed in by other riders and the curb, and could only watch the final sprint from a short distance away. Damn, and I could sense myself accelerating faster than some of them, but it just wasn't to be. Bad placement in the pack during the race had indeed come back to get me in the end.

But I had a ton of fun! Not sure how Ryan did, but he must've been up near the front at the end.

Post-Race Thoughts

I was super glad to have hung on with the pack again, and especially happy to not crash. There were some people that couldn't hold a line very well this time around, and there were some close-calls, but not involving me. It's definitely becoming easy to see how you could get sucked into a crash pretty quickly.

Since it was a sunny day the pack was bigger, and the pace was faster than last time when it was wet. I think I had a better chance in the rainy race - I wonder if that was from the smaller pack or the slower speeds? Or both?

Also going this direction the turn at the bottom of the hill squeezes the pack way more than it does the other way, and changes the race. Glad to have done it once now so I'll know how to take it next time.


Duration: 28:13
Distance: 18.217 km
Elevation Gain: 354 m
Min Max Avg
Heart Rate: 166 193 182 bpm
Speed: 5.2 82.7 38.8 kph (24.1 mph)

No power data, but I'm sure it was similar to last time. The powertap hasn't been working for the last week or so, and I thought it was just the batteries in it. But after replacing them, I noticed some chalky green residue on the chipset, e.g. corrosion on the inside.. Could all those rainy rides with it this winter have done it in so quickly? Need to take it into the shop soon.

Here's the graph for the race itself (blue line is speed in km/h, dashed blue line is 40 km/h), orange line is elevation, and the red one is heart rate):

And the graph for the ride down, the race, and the ride back. Somehow part of the ride back got chopped off, but at least I captured the hard part of going all the way up Madison St at the end.. fun.

It was a great day for racing, and I hope to make it out there next Thursday as well, rain or shine. Xoming up on June 6th is the Ballard Crit, and I think I'm going to give it a shot. Also a road race down in Ravensdale that I want to try the day after that. I just need to keep the 600k coming up on June 13th in mind, as I don't want to be drained going into it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Big Commute + SIR 400k Brevet: North Bend, Ephrata, Omak, Etc

When I first saw that this year's Spring 400k was starting in Ephrata, 180 miles east of Seattle, I was a little dismayed. So far the brevets had started 20-60 miles away, reasonable distances to ride to the ride. I enjoy riding to rides of all sorts, including brevets. The biggest ride to a ride I'd done was the extra 76 miles I tacked on to Ramrod last year.

But eventually I got the idea to just ride out to the start of this brevet too. Not since last year had I done Snoqualmie Pass, and I've been itching to see snow on mountains close up for quite a few months. With a day off from work Friday before the brevet, I had plenty of time to get there before the brevet start at 5 AM on Saturday in Ephrata.

So this wasn't a last minute decision at all - I'd been planning to ride out for quite some time when the day came. The initial plan was to camp out in Ephrata, but I think that might have been biting off more than I could chew. I went as far as to pack up a sleeping bag, mat, and bivvy in a Carradice "Junior" bag, and somehow all that fit in there. Commuted with the extra four pounds on the rear of the Pacer, but in the end I just rented a hotel room. Maybe I'll camp out next year, or on the upcoming 600k.

So all I needed was a little bit of extra energy, lots of patience, and a bike, to get myself out there. And once I found a nice alternate route from Cle Elum to Vantage (skipping I-90 on that section) the deal was sealed. You can see my route to the ride on Google Maps.

While I've done quite a few passes last year, I've never done one without being on a brevet or official ride. Riding into the mountains by yourself feels like you're taking on the whole world. Yes it's a little daunting, but when things get scary you know you're at least breaking new ground.

Short version

I did about 155 miles on Friday, riding from North Bend to Ephrata. Then on Saturday I did about 250 miles (409km), riding from Ephrata to Twisp-area, to Omak, and back to Ephrata. Definitely the most riding I've ever done over a two day span. (About 400 miles in all, or 640km)

The full photo set can be found on flickr.

To read about the 400k only, jump here.

Read on for the long version.

North Bend To Cle Elum

Lucky for me, Kira was OK with dropping me off in North Bend Friday morning - just so I could shave off 30-50 miles depending on how you get out there. North Bend is the last town before ascending up to Snoqualmie Pass, so it's a good place to start when doing Snoqualmie.

Test ride in North Bend after breakfast at Mc D's:

Now on I-90. Traffic was light, but loud. It was chilly, but not too bad. Once you get on the road it doesn't seem as scary as when you think about it. But there were a lot more (tiny) rocks on the shoulder than I'd remembered.

The sun had been rising for a while, but was hidden behind the mountains for the first hour or so of the ride. Unfortunately it disappears behind the mountains soon after this stretch, until you hit the summit. From last year's 400k over this pass I'd remembered to pack cold weather clothes, even if it's going to be a hot day. (A road sign said it was 34F near the top)

I was sporting thick wool socks, booties, wool knickers, two base layers, one wool, long sleeve wool SiR jersey, Ibex wool vest, and long-fingered wool gloves, and a hat.

The grades were gentle for the most part - my Garmin unit showed somewhere between 0% and 6% grade. Last year I was riding an unloaded Ciocc on this pass, and was able to do just about all of it in the big ring. Not so much on the Pacer, I was chugging along at 16 km/h for a good chunk of this ascent.

Snoqualmie Pass summit - 3,022 feet. It's not really a hard climb to get up here, but you certainly notice it.

View near Snoqualmie Pass summit:


The Pacer at Keechelus Lake on I-90. It felt a lot colder in this section, and my ears and hands were freezing. I added wool arm warmers, skull cap, and thicker gloves to block the chill. Felt great after that. Somehow last year I pushed through here in a short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, and short fingered gloves.

Near Cle Elum my alternate route put me on Bullfrog Road, an excellent back road. I didn't know it would be this nice from looking at the map, but I was hoping for scenes like this instead of the drab views on I-90 from Cle Elum to Vantage. I was in luck.

Cle Elum - quaint:

Breakfast in Cle Elum at the Bakery. So good.

After Cle Elum I took Higway 10 towards Ellensburg. From the map it seemed like there wasn't anything between these two towns, so I stocked up on water & food. I brought about 8 packs of Clif Bar Shot Blox, which are my new favorite ride snack.

I was definitely impressed with the views offered on Highway 10 on the way to Ellensburg:

I kept saying to myself "it just doesn't get better than this." But that's the great thing about finding new roads, there's always something more impressive, or at least different, around the next bend.

River view on the way to Ellensburg.

Now in Ellensburg:

Gardenburger in Ellensburg. The fries were pretty good here too. (At one of the two "U-Tote-Em" burger places in town):

Pacer at burger joint in Ellensburg:

Now on Vantage Highway, on the way to Vantage. No stores for 60km, which isn't too big a deal, but you need to be prepared. I had a third water bottle just in case. It's a foldable thing used for camping, which works nice since space in my luggage was limited. Every square inch counts. So when it's not in use, it's tiny, but unfolds to hold about 24oz. of liquid.

Because you can't have too much water for a long stretch like this:

Rocks and road on the way to Vantage - traffic was really light along this route, and there were very few big rigs. Quite the opposite of I-90:

Pacer with Mt. Rainier in the background. This was near the Wild Horse Wind Farm. We drove through here on the way back to Seattle on Sunday, and went to the visitor's station - a 3-mile climb up to the top, getting close to the huge turbines (Diameter of the rotors is apparently bigger than the wingspan of a 747). That visitor's center would make for a great control on a brevet..

Vantage to Ephrata

In Vantage I upped on water and continued on. I knew that the most challenging part of the whole ride was coming up. Not a climb, but the Columbia River bridge on I-90 at Vantage. Somehow, while WSDOT does a great job of considering cyclists on I-90, this bridge doesn't even have room to walk across it.

Approaching the bridge, the shoulder just disappears. I stopped to wait for a gap in traffic, but there weren't really any gaps. Just had to go for it if I wanted to continue..

So I went for it. I tried to hug the rail, staying as far right as possible and just trying to stay in a straight line. The first truck that encountered me, a smaller white moving truck, gave me a nice honk. Did I mention this is an uphill grade here? It was going to be a long crossing, even if it's only 200 meters long..

I'd turned on all my rear lights, and put my reflective gear back on just to be safe(r) on this crossing. For the first half, things seemed to be working out. Cars and trucks were going around - I mean there are two lanes to choose from, after all..

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, I was buzzed by an 18-wheeler, traveling easily at 70 mph. The damn thing passed with what seemed like inches, but it's hard to tell when they're going that fast. I was lucky not to be sucked under its wheels..

I was both shocked with disbelief and livid with anger that this truck had seemingly decided to give me a scare - that it plain just didn't see me. I realized exactly how close I'd just come to getting squished - I could have died on that fucking bridge.. but there wasn't much time to ponder this event, I was still only about half-way over it, but the rest of the crossing was uneventful. When I got to the other side I had to stop and take a breather, and reflect on how much I hated that bridge crossing.

(Side note about the crossing: Was talking to Peter Beeson after the ride, who has done the Cannonball ride that does this same bridge. He said the trick is to take the lane, forcing traffic to go around you, instead of giving them space to squeeze by. Sounds counter-intuitive, but this is the case in many traffic situations and I think he's right.)

I wish I'd been able to see what trucking company it was, all I remember was some red on it. Oh, if I could call their "How's my driving?" number and give them a piece of my mind..

The Pacer at the scenic overlook just off I-90. I still can't believe I made it across that thing alive.

One of the gazillions of semi's I encountered along the way. Either you get used to them, or they'd drive you crazy. But I was only on I-90 for about an hour from Vantage to the Ephrata exit, so I didn't have to spend too much time with them.

Highway 28 to Ephrata. While the view was OK here, I hated that the road was just straight with no surprises around corners. And the shoulder had cracks every ten feet or so, for about 20 miles. Bu-bump, bu-bump, bu-bump..


At about 5:30 PM - 12 hours after starting - I rolled into Ephrata. Hooray! I didn't feel too tired, but I was hungry and a little sunburned. I'd put on sun block but had missed a few spots. After checking in I was really happy to have a shower, air conditioner, and all these things I would have missed had I been camping.

A nice lay-down dinner in Ephrata - I ate just about the whole pizza, and saved a few slices for breakfast.

"Main St" in Ephrata:

SIR 400k brevet start in Ephrata

At 4:15 the next day I rose to ride again. At about 5 AM the pack of about 50 riders was ready to roll:

After the usual pre-ride notes, we hit the road. A left out of town and we were quickly on desolate roads; the views reminded me of that OR 600k last year.

Even though I'd ridden out the day before, I didn't feel that much different than a usual brevet start. Meaning, I felt just as groggy as usual at 5 AM. But I was happy to be on the road and feeling strong.

The road turned up, and the pack thinned out. Kole was certainly off the front, I don't think I ever actually saw him. (He finished in about 17 hours!) Joe P. & I joined up, and rode with about 6 other people in a nice double paceline for a little while. The roads seemed empty except for bikes, and the sun was just coming up. It was going to be a long, but great, day.

Before too long we came upon this. A road of loose sand, gravel, and rocks. A straight gravel road would have been easier to ride on. (This was presumably paved a week ago when they did the pre-ride)

You can see the tracks of riders looking for a good line to ride on. You'd find something that seemed firm, then plow into a big patch of untouched dirt, or a huge rock. I heard a few people walked it, and I'm sure more than a few took a spill on this - I had to walk one uphill section, but walking four miles sounded worse than struggling at (what must have been) 5 mph or so.

But on the plus side, it had great views!

We finally made it off that hellish stretch and took a left on Highway 2. Somehow I didn't get a flat on it. Eamon Stanley joined Joe & I for the short ride to Farmer, where Mark & Bob were eagerly awaiting with coffee, muffins, and jokes.

At the control in Farmer. Mark joked to "look out for the gravel" as we approached. Heh.

Back on the road, heading into what seemed to be an abandoned land. Farms appeared every few miles or so, but besides them there wasn't a lot going on. I thought it was a great way to spend a few hours, for sure:

The views were somewhat dynamic, even if it was all fields for now:

I rode alone for most of this stretch, until I stopped to take off layers and two riders caught up. I think one of them was Dave, the other Joe, but I can't remember. We rode together for a little while, but as the road started to turn up I stayed in the big ring (oddly feeling actually strong) just about all the way up.

I didn't realize it, but we were climbing a pass! Soon after the left on to McNeil canyon road we were at the summit. McNeil Pass - 3100 feet. Higher than Snoqualmie Pass! From the elevation profile of the ride and how it looked, we came up the easy way. It barely felt like a big climb. The descent was great! Saw a few locals chugging up the other side of the pass, one with a Ramrod jersey on.

I kept thinking the riders behing me would catch up, which was a good way to keep the pace up. (I wasn't using a cyclo-computer at this point since the Garmin had long ago run out of juice)

Turned on to Highway 97 and kept chugging along, even taking off my booties while riding, since I didn't want to stop at all. Just wanted to make good time and not waste any.

Highway 97, heading towards Pateros:

The Pateros control. It felt good to have a few slices of pizza here and refill on water. I filled up the third bottle just in case the next stretch took longer than expected.

On the way out of this control we were held up by a parade of bikers, complete with "corkers" holding traffic at bay. Having done more than a few Critical Mass rides, I couldn't really complain (some locals did). See the video of the parade here.

Highway 153 towards Twisp:

More great views:

With old buildings along the way too. But when you see those "Pass With Care" signs you can guess that there were probably a few head-on collisions at this very spot. Spooky.

At the control at the turn on to Highway 20, I had a great PB&J sandwich made by a volunteer (didn't get his name). Thanks! Also got more water, and generally enjoyed being off the bike.

When I got to the control there were 20 or so riders there, with bikes strewn about. A few, including mine were leaning against some mail boxes. A local drove up to check her mail, and I apologized for the bike that was in front of th mail box, although it wasn't even blocking her from opening the door. Her response to my overly-generous apology was "Typical."

That's all she said, and stomped off with her mail. Uhh, Ok. I guess she meant typical cyclists not getting in her way and generally not causing problems? You're welcome, I guess. Next time I just won't say anything I suppose.

This stretch seemed to hate bicycles in general. On the way up Loup Loup Pass, a few other riders & I were honked at by passing cars (e.g. one honk per rider), and then a guy in a pickup flipped us off going the other way. They must have had a rowdy gang of randos come through her and beat people up or something, because for some stupid reason they hated us. A lot. Whatever.

At the top of Loup Loup - 4,020 ft - the grades weren't bad going up, and if I was on the unloaded Ciocc I probably could have been in the big ring the whole way up. But in was in the small ring, just glad to be moving, on the Pacer.

On the way down Loup Loup (I think):

The way down was nice, and there wasn't a big headwinds like there are sometimes around here in the passes.

I was trying to catch a rider up ahead, if for nothing else just to make things interesting. When you're going that fast, it comes down to how fast can you spin?

I eventually caught the rider but then stopped minutes later for a photo op. I guess I was making up for lost time by going fast previous to this.

The descent went on, and on, and then turned into a 1/2-mile steep ascent, that was interesting. Once again, it seemed like we went up the "easy" side of the pass, but maybe it always seems like that.

Sounds like they do this pass the other direction on the Cascade 1200, so there's always an excuse to get out there again.

A Pioneer Museum in Okanogan:

Strange architecture/design in Okanogan - a lot of the town's businesses were surely struggling, and many were closed. That little town is hurting.

We passed through the saddening Okanogan and then were soon in Omak, which seemed to be doing a little better. I got off track here and added a few bonus km's, what else is new. Back on track I found the Conoco control and enjoyed some cheese sticks and lots more water.

Joe & I rolled out of this control together, having "stocked up" just like the cue sheet warned us to do. Mark said he'd be on this stretch, since it was 60(?) miles with no service.

The view of Omak Lake from Columbia River Road heading away from Omak:

There were a bunch of big black beetles crossing the road, and Joe suggested I try to get a close-up of one of them.

The next one we saw happened to be sticking it's butt in the air, maybe trying to dig?

I thought about dropping it in the dirt, but I figured I should let natural selection do its thing instead.

The "secret" control on this desolate stretch before Electric City, which was still 30 miles away. I (stupidly) tried to DNF here, but not because of any physical ailment. I was just tired of being on the road I guess, and asked Mark if they had room in the car. The thought of being carted around in a car full of food sounded more than tempting.

But they didn't have room, so the only option was to carry on. I'm soooo glad this was the case, as in the end it would have been a pointless DNF, just out of mental lazyness.

A Cup-O-Noodle really hit the spot here:

This was at about 7:30, and it was getting dark soon. Before I left this control I threw my reflective gear back on, and flipped on the dynohub. Joe had left minutes earlier, so I was trying to catch him. This stretch of road was more of the same beauty we'd been seeing all day, but it was slowly being wiped away by darkness.

There was a two-mile climb, at roughly 10%, coming up to Nespellum(?) and Highway 155(?). I made it up the climb without dying and still felt decently strong, although I hadn't caught Joe yet.

At the turn on to the highway it was officially night time, and I was alone. The party-drivers were out in full force, honking at bikes, yelling, etc. I feel guilty for thinking this, but at the time I thought, "don't you have a head-on collision to cause right now?"

I think I was generally grumpy from being on the road so long, and energy levels were getting lower. The Shot Blox were still good, but I was definitely tired of the Nuun tablets in the water I'd been using.

I was also kind of hating riding at night, not being able to see much beyond the road in front of me, and still having "only 50 miles" to go. When speeds are approaching 12 mph average overall, that sounds like a long way at 9 PM.

After what seemed like hours of riding through the dark tunnel, I made it to the Coulee Dam area and finally caught up to Joe & another rider. We were soon at the Electric City control, where I enjoyed potato-cream soup, water, and chips. Thanks to Shane (I think) for the soup, it really hit the spot.

Joe had left this control before me, which makes sense because I normally end up spending too much time off the bike on these long rides. I was on a mission to catch him, and had a new-found source of energy. I have no idea what speed I was doing, but it felt like it was at least over 15 mph (25 km/h), which is faster than what I usually do at night or at the end of a long ride.

I could see Joe & a few other riders' lights in the distance, and it gave me a "rabbit" to chase. When I finally caught them, I decided I wanted to finish this thing as soon as possible, and just kept going. Before too long I couldn't see their lights behind me, and knew I was making good time.

The next stretch was very desolate, but the stars were out in full force. I of course had to stop a few times just to remember what the Milky Way actually looks like. After the turn on to Highway 17, we were on the home stretch and it seemed to be mostly downhill.

Without a cyclo-computer, I had only the mile markers and cue sheet to keep track of how far to go. I was glad to be within 20 miles of the finish. At about 10 miles from the finish I passed a rider sitting under a street light next to his bike, looking very still.

I circled back and asked, "You OK?" which apparently woke him up - he was doing that crazy thing randos do called sleeping on the side of the road. Said he was waiting for someone to come along, that he felt too tired to ride alone. Sounds good to me, I was actually getting tired of riding alone too.

I think his name was Will, can't remember. Another rider, Noel, joined up with us and the three of us cruised into Ephrata, 22-ish hours after starting. Woo hoo! Vincent and a few other faster riders were in the finishing hotel room, and gave us a hearty applause upon entering. What a great group of people!

Another brevet in the bank, and one step closer to Super Randonneur for this year. During this ride I thought about how I probably wasn't going to do the 600k coming up, since I learned how much I hate night riding. But of course, after about 24 hours the "randonesia" sets in, and the dark memories give light to grand stories and fond figments of imagination. You bet I'll be at the 600!

Huge thanks to the organizers of this great ride, and all the volunteers. It was a wonderful journey.