On Friday Joe, Jackie, Aaron, and I left our home in Bonney Lake around 9:00 AM for Winthrop. We were going over so that I could ride in the 2009 Native Planet Classic. I had signed up to do this ride almost eight months ago and here it was just a day away! We decided to take the "scenic" route over to Winthrop. The scenic route being the north cascade highway. This way I could check out the course I would be riding tomorrow. You see the course is over Washington Pass, starting from the town of Winthrop to Diablo Lake then turning around at Diablo Lake and returning to Winthrop. Here is an elevation profile of the course:
Around noon we arrived in the quaint town of Marblemount, WA. This town sits just before the start of the scenic north cascade highway. Many cyclist ride this rode and I can see why. Low traffic, scenic views, and Alp like climbs (so I've heard from people who know)! We had lunch at the Buffalo Run Inn and Restaurant. You can tell that a lot of cyclists stop here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner by the sign immediately inside the door:
The food was delicious! Joe, Jackie, and I had buffalo burgers and fries and my son Aaron, always the adventurous one, had an ostrich burger with onion rings. Aaron liked the ostrich burger but he did not think that either Jackie or I would have enjoyed it. He said it had a strong taste, almost like liver, and was very dry. I think he's right. I'll stick with buffalo burgers! Mine was scrumptious! After we finished lunch we continued our drive to Winthrop. Driving towards Winthrop I got an eye full. I'm glad I got to see the course before tomorrow's ride. Mentally it helped prepare me for the ride just a day away. And left no doubt in my mind that it was going to be a very difficult ride.
We arrived in Winthrop around 2:00 PM. We stopped at the Winthrop Red Apple for a few provisions and then checked into our cottage in town. We always stay at the Rivers Edge Resort just a block away from the main intersection in Winthrop. I love that place! We had a full kitchen, two bedrooms with king size beds, and a deck with a hot tub that overlooked the Chewuch River. All the comforts of home. I texted Jennifer to see when she would be arriving and she texted me back saying that she didn't get out of Tacoma until 6:00 PM and probably wouldn't see me until the morning of the ride. She got in, I later found out, after 11:00 PM!
Joe, the kids, and I went out for dinner. Then we walked around town and enjoyed the sights and shops. Finally, around 8:00 we went home where the kids and Joe watched TV and I went to bed. I needed all the rest I could get before my big day tomorrow!
The alarm went off at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning and I quietly got up and started my coffee. I dressed and packed my backpack for the days ride. That backpack was a big mistake on my part. I have never ever worn one on any of my road rides and why I decided to carry one on this ride I will never figure out. I think because of that pack on my back it caused the severe back spasms that I had about three quarters of the way through the ride. But more about that later. I enjoyed my coffee and two pieces of toast. I was going to make myself some eggs too but my stomach was very upset for some reason so I just settled for the toast and coffee. Joe woke up and lubed my chain and pumped my tires for me. What a wonderful sweetie of a husband! Then my kids got up to say good luck and see me out the door. Before leaving Joe had to take these pictures of me:
I was ready! I left the cottage and biked the two blocks to the "red barn" in Winthrop. Waiting there for me was my friend Jennifer:
I took a picture of her at the start and she took one of me too. Don't I look excited?!
And so we set off around 6:00 AM for Washington Pass. We were excited and happy and ready for the challenge. For the first 15 miles we stayed pretty much together. Chatting and laughing and just enjoying the surrounding country side of Winthrop. After we passed Mazama the flat valley floor of Winthrop began to disappear and the start of the climb began. Immediately Jennifer began to get further and further away from me. She was a much stronger and faster climber than me. I told her to go and not wait for me. We had agreed to this in the beginning. We would try to stay together but being realistic we knew we were in different categories. So off she went as I continued up at my slower pace. My legs and lungs felt strong and great. My training for this ride was not the best and I was worried. I really did not train on any "big" hills or "long" climbs. I chatted with other riders and discovered that many of them trained for this ride by starting from the town of Cle Elum and riding over Blewett Pass to Leavenworth and back. Something I should have done but now it was too late. But I seemed to be doing really good and I was in great spirits as I watched the summit get closer and closer.
As I climbed towards Washington Pass I noticed the temperature dropping, the appearance of snow, and my breath as I breathed the cold air in and out. It felt great on the climb but I was worried about the descent down towards Diablo Lake! It was going to be quite frigid at the start of the descent from Washington Pass. I was thinking, "I should have brought along my long finger gloves". All I had on were my fingerless ones! Oh well too late to worry about it now.
Finally, at 9:11 AM I reached the summit and the Washington Pass rest stop. Jennifer was there eating some wraps and cookies and was ready to go to the sanican before continuing on. We talked briefly and then she was off while I ate and restocked my fuel and hit the sanicans too. About ten minutes after Jennifer left for Diablo I finally left too. And what a descent those miles were. The first 11 miles were bone chilling. My fingers (I figured this would happen) were frozen and numb after five minutes. I couldn't even feel them! It was so damn cold! And wouldn't you know a headwind and crosswinds were with us the entire way down to Diablo. It helped slow the speed down (but not by much as it was steep!) It was a blast! I never felt so exhilarated! My bike was sweet! She loved the speed. After that slow ascent this was just too much fun! The miles down towards Diablo Lake just ticked by quickly and before I knew it I was on the last steep descent towards the lake. The distance from the top of Washington Pass to Diablo Lake was 34 miles. After my food and bathroom stop at Washington Pass I started for Diablo around 9:47 AM, at a little past noon I was at the lunch stop and Diablo Lake! And there was Jennifer! She had just finished eating and was heading to the bathroom then she said she was going to start back. She said I was never very far behind. This really helped to pick up my spirits. I wished her good luck on the climb back up out of Diablo! If you look at the elevation profile you can see it was quite a steep 5-7 miles! I sat and stretched my legs and back and enjoyed all the good food at the rest stop. One thing I must give the organizers is their awesome rest stops. They were stocked with real food! Hot coffee! And delicious cookies, power bars, nuts, and fruit. Finally full and stretched I hit the bathroom before starting my return trip back towards Washington Pass and Winthrop. And I was right the 7-8 mile climb out of Diablo was a killer! It was very steep (I'm guessing about an 11% grade or more). My speed out was 5.3 mph. Finally I made the top of the short climb out of Diablo Lake and was treated to a short downhill section before the slow long climb back to Washington Pass began. The headwind and crosswinds were back and they were dealing out their punishing assault. At the second reaching of Washington Pass I stayed there for a good half hour just stretching my back. It began cramping so bad about 80 miles into the ride that I had to get off my bike many many times to massage and stretch it.
Looking at the time I finally got back onto my bike and started down Washingto Pass for Winthrop. I was coming down at 45 mph. The winds were picking up and I had to hit the brakes and to maintain a speed between 35-38 for the majority of the descent. When the winds seemed to die down I would open it up. The miles flew by quickly. What took me three hours in the morning to climb took me less than two hours descending. The last 15-18 miles were on the rolling and valley floor terrain. Near Mazama a strong headwind greeted us. Fatigued and spent I was struggling against the headwind and valiantly trying to hold on to a 14 mph speed. As I pedaled along I heard a honking and then saw a gray truck go by. The tail lights lit up and it did a u-turn and came back. Seven miles from Winthrop and the finish Joe and my kids went out looking for me. They were worried. It was so late and they were concerned I had died on the mountain! They stopped and they said I looked terrible. My face was salt encrusted and my pedal stroke looked "tired" but that's not how they described it! They asked me if I wanted a lift back. I was so tempted. You don't know how badly I wanted to jump into the truck and tell Joe to put my bike in the back but no . . . I told them I loved them and thought their concern for me (to come looking for me) really meant the world to me but I had to finish. Only seven more miles to go . . . no way was I going to ride back now. I did give Joe my dang backpack though! After hugs and kisses they left. I watched the truck disappear down the highway towards Winthrop. When it was out of sight I got back on my bike and pedaled on. About an hour later I came rolling into Winthrop and the "red barn" was there. I made it! I headed right inside the barn and gave the massage therapist my money and had the best massage ever. After the massage I cycled the two blocks back to the Rivers Edge Resort and our cabin and walked in the door. Joe, Jackie, and Aaron were there and I was finished! I showered and we all went out for pizza and ice cream! What a day, what a ride, I did it!