Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier In One Day)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It was an early start to a very long day! I was up when my alarm went off at 3:00 AM. I got dressed, got my bike into my car, stretched and then I was out the door for the 10 mile drive to the start at the Enumclaw H.S. At the high school I enjoyed a hearty breakfast, courtesy of the local rotary and lions club, of scrambled eggs, sausage, juice, waffle, hot oatmeal, and coffee. It was a foggy morning. The marine layer was thick, seems to be the weather pattern this month, causing condensation on my glasses as I rode. So I had to remove them for the first 58 miles of the ride.

I left the start with the rest of the riders at 5:00 AM. The streets were quiet and the traffic, well there wasn't very much. At each major intersection though we had a police officer there making sure we crossed without difficulty. The route continued through the towns of Buckley, South Prairie, Orting, and finally arriving at our first rest stop in the town of Eatonville. I was averaging almost 16 mph when I reached Eatonville but the course was downhill to Orville Road (mile 13) and then flat and then a very gradual rise to Eatonville. But this would soon end.

A "hill" greeted me as I left Eatonville. From Eatonville (elevation 800 feet) we had a gradual climb for the next 25 miles. Our second rest stop was at mile 58.2 (elevation 2010) just half a mile from the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.

Mounthaven rest stop mile 58.2 just half a mile from the park entrance. The fog begins to clear just as I leave the rest stop.
Approaching the park entrance and the start of the 18 mile climb to the summit near Paradise. Next rest stop is 18 miles up at Inspiration Point. This was also our first checkpoint. As we entered the park we had to show the ranger and members from the bike club our number.

The ride from the park entrance to Longmire (6 miles to Longmire from the entrance) was beautiful. The climbing began as soon as we entered but it wasn't too bad . . . yet! The ride up was along the river and through the most beautiful lush forest I have ever seen. After 6 miles I reached Longmire and here the climb stiffened up. Plainly put, it got pretty steep! So from the park entrance we went from 2010 feet to 4800 feet in less than 18 miles. But the rewards upon reaching Inspiration Point were well worth the effort of the climb.

This picture was taken about a quarter mile from the Inspiration Point rest stop. I just had to get this picture of my bike with Mt. Rainier in the background!
Approaching Inspiration Point and the third rest stop at mile 75.1.

And this is why it's called Inspiration Point but this picture does not do justice to the real thing!
I reached the summit around 11:30 AM. That 16 mph average quickly went down once the climbing began. But I made up some time on the sweet 13 mile descent from the top of Inspiration Point. As I cruised down I passed Reflection Lake and was so tempted to stop and take a picture but I didn't; I just enjoyed the view as it went by. After the thrilling downhill the three mile climb up and over Backbone Ridge began followed by another sweeeeet five mile descent to Box Canyon and our fourth rest stop.

After leaving the rest stop I continued downhill past Ohanapecosh to the junction of highway 123 and the start of the last steep climb of the day, Cayuse! This climb was 11 miles long, very steep, with no shade, and starting 99 miles into the ride! Talk about a long 11 miles . . . it was brutal. Like I said there was no shade at all on this climb up Cayuse. The sun was beating down, and the hill just kept on going and going. I had to rest a few times because I was getting very over heated. I passed a few little waterfalls on the climb up and they created a very cold breeze as I went by. I was tempted a couple times to jump into one! :D And my water was quickly disappearing but 7 miles into the climb there was a water and sanican stop at the Deer Head Trailhead. Thank God because my two water bottles were almost empty. There was this wonderful man spraying riders with a spray bottle and I tell you it felt wonderful! And a wonderful older woman filling our water bottles for us. Refreshed and with full water bottles I continued up the last 4.1 miles to Cayuse Pass and the junction of highway 410. Oh I forgot to mention that we passed through three tunnels on the RAMROD ride. The bike club put up these neat signs that said Bikes In Tunnel but I didn't stop to get a picture. The tunnels were cool and dark but thank goodness not too long. The final tunnel was just 2 miles from the top of Cayuse . . . onward and upward!

Finally I reached the top of Cayuse Pass at 3:07 PM! Woot woot! It only took me just under two hours to climb Cayuse! But the downhill from the top of Cayuse to the Deli stop 8 miles below only took me 12 minutes. It was one thrilling ride from Cayuse Pass to the Deli Rest Stop. The road was in great shape and there was hardly any traffic! I was flying down at 40+ mph! My overheated body quickly cooled and I felt like I was flying. It made me think of the Tour de France, coming down a steep mountain stage in the Alps or Pyrenees. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and it made me smile from ear to ear! It was pure pleasure and excitement. Finally I reached the park's exit. After exiting the park, a few yards ahead, I turned right onto Crystal Mountain Blvd and into the Deli Stop.

The people were great and the food tasted wonderful. After a day of cookies, fruit, bagels, and peanut butter, a ham with Swiss sandwich, with lettuce tomatoes and a side of salty chips and a bunch of grapes . . . I was in heaven! I stayed a little too long at the Deli stop, leaving at 4:11 PM.

Only 35 miles to Enumclaw and the finish line. You're probably thinking all downhill to Enumclaw, well that's a half truth. The first 15 miles were nice. But after Greenwater there were a few little climbs left to do. Nothing bad but after a day of climbing through the park they were tough. And there was a headwind . . . of course there was! Finally 27 miles after leaving the Deli stop I saw an officer at the Mud Mountain Dam turn off waiting to help us cyclists make the left hand turn off of highway 410 onto Mud Mountain Dam Road. He yelled out encouragement as I turned, "You are almost there, only a little over 9 miles to the finish!" I thanked him and continued on. There was a sweet fast downhill off mud mountain onto the Enumclaw plateau and then I was on the out skirts of town.

About half a mile before the finish there was one more officer stationed at a busy intersection to help us again cross highway 410. And then it was just two and half blocks to the finish line. Finally there was the school where it all began only 13 hours and 11 minutes ago! As I approached people were clapping and cheering and woot wooting for me as I entered the finish and crossed the line. I made it! I crossed around 6:11 PM and a great guy handed me my official 2010 RAMROD patch! He told me job well done and reminded me to go and get my ice cream, which I did! It was delicious! The perfect treat at the finish line! :)

Total miles 148.13, average speed 12.9, ride time 11:28, total time 13:11, and elevation 10,127 feet of climbing.

A BIG THANK YOU to the Redmond Cycling Club for a day of cycling I will not soon forget! It was an A+++ ride and all the people involved, support, rest stop folks, officers, just everyone were great! You made my ride a very memorable one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 STP

On Saturday, July 17th I rode in the 40th annual STP (Seattle to Portland) bike event. You can do the ride in either two days, 102 miles a day, or you can go for the gusto and do the ride in one day, all 204 miles. I chose the latter. I've been training for this ride since early March and all those weekend training rides paid off.

My day on Saturday began very very early. I wanted to get a head start on the other riders. I did not want to deal with the 10,000+ riders that would be starting at 4:45 AM. This year I just didn't want to deal with it. It was surreal being the only one on the road so early in the morning. But I wasn't alone for too long because apparently other cyclists had the same idea. I met a few riders who like me also went for an early start. I chatted with a few of them but we mainly pedaled alone in those early hours. Except for me and the other lone cyclists we had the entire streets to ourselves for quite some time. It was so peaceful riding during those early hours.

Our weather for Saturday morning was pretty chilly. We had the typical pacific northwest marine layer that rolled in over night. It was pretty thick too and would not burn off until 1:30 PM. It actually made riding nice. Not hot or wet but very comfortable. In fact I think it was the perfect kind of weather for such a long ride.

I was in a "zone" those first few hours and didn't stop for quite sometime. In fact my first rest stop was the Yelm ministop at mile 71.4 just before we jumped onto the Yelm/Rainier/Tenino Trail (Okay okay I did stop a few times at convenience stores and a gas station). I refilled my water bottles and drank a large bottle of powerade, ate two cookies, and a bag of trail mix before continuing on. I got onto the trail and was on it for 13 miles before returning to the road. At mile 86 I stopped at the Tenino ministop to use the bathroom and all the fast riders were beginning to appear. I was no longer alone but was quickly seeing more and more cyclists on the road with me.

I reached the half way point in Centralia just before 11:00 AM. As I rolled in I was offered a large chocolate milk which I drank down quickly. It was delicious! In Centralia free food was offered to the one day riders. Good thing for me because I was hungry! I devoured a turkey and cheese sandwich and a rice crispy treat, filled my water bottles, drank a large bottle of powerade and used the sanican before getting back on my bike and continuing on.
I skipped the next two ministops at miles 105.85 and 113.55 and finally turned in at the Winlock rest stop at mile 120.3. Here they were selling hamburgers, hot dogs, polish sausages, and all kinds of goodies. Hungry again I bought a hamburger and a drink and found a table and sat down and enjoyed my feast. I talked to this really cool guy who was doing the STP for the 31st time! Wow, I was impressed. He told me about some years where it was so hot you wanted to die and other times of pouring down rain. He experienced it all! After we both finished eating we said good luck to each other and I continued on. I left this rest stop at 1:30 PM. This was also about the time the sun finally burned through the marine layer and blue skies appeared giving us sunshine for the rest of the day.

I stopped quickly at mile 143.9 to use the sanican again. Only nine miles to the Oregon border from this stop. Crossing the Lewis and Clark Bridge was a bit scary. The bike/pedestrian path was narrow and there were huge, rough, expansion joints on the bridge too. They were pretty bad but I managed to get across. I wanted to stop and take a picture of the "Welcome to Oregon" sign but the decent was fast and the turn too sharp making it pretty difficult to stop so I just continued on.
At mile 173.85 I reached the final rest stop at St. Helens H.S. Here they were serving some great food so I helped myself to a delicious mini turkey wrap and a white chocolate chip cookie. I rested a bit longer here but finally was on my way again. Only 30 miles left to go! It was the longest 30 miles of the day but finally I saw a sign that said "10 miles to Portland" I was excited. I could also see the bridges of Portland in the distance. I was getting close! The sun was getting low and the shadows were getting long. It was a beautiful evening. The sky was blue and clear and the air "shimmery". Cyclists were beginning to accumulate as I approached the city. With 5 miles left to go I was swallowed up by a group of about 15-20 riders. Together we cruised through the streets of Portland. It seems we hit every single red light once we entered the city streets. We were all laughing and chatting and passing our energy on to each other. We were almost to the finish and we were all excited!

At mile 201.9 we reached the Steel Bridge and rode onto the lower-level pedestrian walkway. We were lucky because there was practically zero pedestrian traffic on the bridge as we crossed.
With less than two miles to go we became electric and animated. As we passed people on the sidewalks of Portland we could hear them clapping and cheering for us as we rode by. Then there it was the finish line! I made it! I did it! It was thrilling, exciting, and totally rewarding as I crossed the finish line. I could hear the announcer call my number as I crossed and I could see the smiles and hear the cheers. A man handed me my 1 day rider patch and congratulated me. And there was my husband waiting for me. As sweaty and stinky as I was he came over to me and gave me a big hug and kiss and told me how proud he was that I did the STP in one day. I crossed the line at 7:37 PM. Over 15 hours ago I was in Seattle and now here I was in Portland. My ride time was 13.49, my average speed was 14.7, and my total miles was 203.19. What a day, what a ride, what an experience.

Vader ministop at mile 127. Only 25 miles to the Oregon border and 76 miles to Portland.

Me crossing the finish line in Portland.
I did it! Woot woot!
I'm proud of this, my one day rider patch!