SIR Spring 200K brevet.
There is absolutely nothing that makes this tired old dinosaur feel young again like a really strong day on the bike. After last week's 'interesting' ride from Portland back to Seattle (only half of it in the rain with the only positive thing I could say was "at least I've got a tailwind"), I pretty much rested this week. Yeah, I rode every day, but totally without motivation or any kind of aggressiveness. I was pretty pooped out. So after a good massage on Friday evening, I went home and got everything ready for the 200K, wondering how I'd do, how strong I'd feel, knowing the whole time that this is a course that has nearly 6,000' of vertical, multiple 10%+ climbs including one that is 15% for at least a half mile and one right at the end that is just brutally difficult, and lots of long, grinding rollers (not my favorite type of course but really great for those guys training for PBP). I had lots of questions, but went into the day thinking if I could finish in 10 hours or so, it would be a pretty good day.
With a 7:00 am start time, it was necessary to get out of Seattle early, meaning before any hint of light except for a monstrously big moon on the western horizon. As big as it was, I couldn't imagine what it would be like when it rose about 12 hours later.
There was hardly anybody there when Paul and I arrived, but it wasn't long before there were over 100 charged up cyclists all standing around.......
......waiting for Greg Cox to make the opening announcements.
Finally, we were off! The course started out with a very nice descent down into the valley, where we seemed to meander about for a while. For a brief time, there was a little left over fog that was very pretty, but a bit dicey as the cars trying to pass us were faced with incredible glare, making it quite difficult to see any oncoming traffic, as well as us.
Not long after that, however, we made a left turn and in just a few moments were met with THE WALL.
As I approached, it really didn't look "all THAT bad", especially with a little downhill to build up some momentum. RIGHT, Boothby. Momentum. That was quickly dissipated as the grade went from 4% to 11% to 15% in very short order. It seemed to level off just a bit for a short time, then pitched up again, this time even steeper. According to my computer, the steepest pitch is 16%, but according to some mapping software, one section is 18%. I believe the software. Especially since I was starting to develop side stitches near the top. I was very relieved to see a gang of SIR control workers at the top. Of course, there was Mark Thomas, always at the ready whith his telephoto lens and friendly, yet sadistic grin. All the way up the hill, I'd wanted to pull my camera out and take a photo, but I was afraid to take a hand off the bars for fear of falling down. I rode past Mark wanting to say that I would like to rappel down that cliff and do it without my jacket on so he'd get the full impact of my Seattle Randonneur jersey, but didn't have wind to do it. Or the courage. He would have said, "GO FOR IT, BOOTHBY!" As would have about 30 others who were trying to survive the pain. Luckily, it was still only 35 degrees F. out, so at least we weren't overheating.
Now, my ride strategy on 200Ks is really simple. Ride out with the fastest group I can hang onto either until the first control or the first big climbs, then let them go and settle into a nice relaxed pace for the remainder of the day, drifting back, visiting with folks who come up and eventually pass me and still finish within about 10 hours or so (my typical attention span). I'd managed to leech my way into a line with Dave Harper, Mark Roehrig, Peter Rankin, Wayne Methner and a few other guys working a nice fast pace about 3 or 4 mph faster than I would typically be able to ride by myself. This was GREAT!. We got up and over the cliff, and I had to sit back and do some deep breathing for a few minutes to get rid of the cramps. But somehow, I managed to hang on with these guys. I'm not used to being that strong, then I figured out that it wasn't just my strength. Mark was hacking and wheezing his way along, so I figured out that on his worst day, I can struggle and hang on. Many chuckles under my breath about that one. But I took my turns at the front, remarking once to Mark that he must really enjoy drafting off us small guys to which he responded, "Yeah. My kneecaps thank you."
We rolled into the first control and I figured that was that, now we start the rollers and I'll never be able to keep up. But as the morning went on, I was feeling stronger and stronger. Trying to keep up with Dave is never an easy task for me, but for once I didn't feel like I was struggling. The new section of the Centennial Trail was smooth, wide open and a really nice reprieve from some of the busy traffic we'd started to have, and I knew the free ride was just about over. Yep, Arlington Heights and Jordan Road. I've been over Jordan Road only once before, and each of those little bumps in the road just about killed me. Not this time. Standing in the pedals, taking my turn at the front, kicking back when I was in back, making sure I kept enough calories and liquid in the tank. DANG! Another secret control. I should have filled up with water there but I didn't, thinking there was a control in Arlington. Wrong, BUCKO! After the control, I was riding along, by now huffing and puffing and wondering how long before the big bad wolf blew my house down. I figured about 4 more miles (we were 6 miles out of Arlington). As we came up to the roundabout, though, I was feeling stronger again, though, still thinking there was an Arlington control and thinking with maybe 5 minutes off-bike, I could hang with the gang all the way to Sultan. Then it happened. I saw a sign. I had to stop. I had to take a picture. I couldn't let it go. As I pulled out, one of the guys asked if I was okay. "Yeah, I said, just need to get a photo. I'll catch up to you at the control." Well, I got the shot
and actually managed to catch up to them since they had to wait at a light. I saw Wayne pull off into the MacDonalds and everybody else rode on. I wondered what was going on. I was sure there was a control. I figured they were going to stop at another place and grab something to eat and drink. It's another 25 to Sultan. Finally, I realized they weren't stopping and decided I needed to stop and check my cue sheet. I'd run out of page and couldn't see the directions from there to Sultan. Sure enough, no control. I stood there and watched them ride off, trying to decide whether to forge on with less than a half bottle of lemonade/water or turn back. I went on, but now alone.
Ahhhhhh, peace and quiet. Time to relax. Time to smell the flowers and actually be able to look at the scenery,
try to spot eagles and listen to the breeze up in the trees. I missed the company, but like the solitude, too, and thought if I didn't drop my pace, I might catch them in Sultan and if I could just do a splash and go, I might be able to hook back up. Just after getting onto Lake Roesiger Road, I caught up to Eric Nillson and rode along with him the rest of the way into and out of Sultan. Between his melodious drive train and my debris rub on the front fender, we were a regular randonneur's band. All we needed was a horn section, but Dave Harper was long gone by that time.
Finally, after taking a brief foray in the wrong direction, turning off Old Pipeline Road a little too early, we dropped down that steep descent on Reiner Road and Old Owen, dropping into the valley, where we had an excellent view of the mountains.
Wayne had caught up to and passed us again, and I got to thinking about the last time I'd seen him on this road back in 2008 on the 400K. 90 degrees and going the other direction. DANG I was miserable then, but like today, I had been riding strong all day. I looked down and realized it was just exactly half as warm today at 45 degrees.
Peter and Mark were still in the control when we got there, but before I could pee and get through the check out, they were gone again, never to be seen again til the finish line.
After lubing Eric's chain and fussing with my fender a little more, we were off again, but as we made the right turn onto Ben Howard Road, I needed to stop and take a picture again, and let him go. He would have waited, as we were enjoying the company, but I knew that I was going to stop several times between there and High Bridge Road so pretty much insisted he go on without me.
There was this lovely little waterfall, see, and I just needed to stop and enjoy the solitude of the moss growing off the logs, the sound of the rushing water and the peaceful aroma of the near springlike air.
And a bit further on, as I looked back over my right shoulder, I was treated to the most glorious view of the Snohomish River and the fresh snow on the mountains behind me.
Going up Ben Howard Road from the east, it just sort of meanders upwards, never really steep, and with almost no traffic, it was just an incredibly spendid part of the ride, along one of my favorite stretches of road in the Northwest.
Well, okay, there is this one little 11% bump in the road:
But then the road drops like a rock down into the valley where several old farms dot the landscape
and I got to visit one of my old friends, a tree that was hundreds of years old when it died, and remains standing in defiance of the passage of time.
Once off of Ben Howard Road, I saw Eric a short distance ahead and started to up my speed a little bit, getting passed by a few racers out for a short little sprint, apparently, since they went by me like I was standing still and I looked down and was hitting it at 19. Show offs! I thought it might have been Jan and Chris doing their second lap, but I wasn't quite sure.
I caught up to Eric at the info control, snapping a picture of the bridge sign as I rode by, figuring to fill in the blanks for both controls in another 15 or so miles at the next one. He jumped back on his bike, chased me down and we were off, chatting the whole way until we reeled in (I think) James McKee who had stopped briefly at a portapotty. I recognized that as the secret control from a couple weeks ago and chuckled to myself about how we just keep criss-crossing this area with all of our rides. Three of us working together made for some pretty quick work and we made that distance in no time, but had a little bit of trouble finding the next info control. I was needing a bathroom in a bad way by that time (hey! I'M OLD. What do you expect?) and one of the other strategies I use on brevets is that I really like to finish pretty much alone. It is a time of quiet reflection for me. A time to talk to my higher power, give thanks for all the many gifts in my life, ponder the great mysteries of the universe, wonder what time the moon will rise and all that sort of happy horse crap. It's just a bit of a habit I've gotten into over the years. So once again, I let them go. It would have been a whole lot stronger to stay with them, especially with the headwinds I was now going to be faced with. No matter. It gave me the opportunity to see something I'm really not used to seeing. I've seen a lot of cars up on blocks today, but this is the first house up on blocks. And I mean REALLY up on blocks. I've worked in insurance for a long time and heard about FEMA and their requirements after Katrina that everyone along the shoreline in Biloxi abandon their property unless willing to put them up on 8' - 12' high flood basements. Well, now I got to see this lovely proram live and up close in my own backyard, and it gave me just that much more to ponder.
Ain't that a lovely sight? Wouldn't you really want to live there? Well, I guess Joe and Jane Doe-American didn't find it so appealing halfway through the process, either. Seems like we could simply build our house on some sort of an inflatable pontoon or something, so if a flood came, we could simply blow up the 'boat' so to speak. I guess that wouldn't work to save the cows though, would it? Ah, well, time to ride on. No wonder it takes me so long to finish a brevet. I think too doggone much!
The afternoon had warmed considerably and the Cascades peered out, giving me a really nice valley vista.
I looked down at the computer and it was registering 59. Warm, sunny and turning out of the wind. What could be finer? BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE.
I'm now faced with just four more miles and it is all uphill. I know it is all uphill because I drove up it this morning. I know it is steep. I know it is long, and I've been dreading riding up this hill since 2004. Jim assures me that it isn't "that bad", that he's done it several times - on a tandem. I know I can make it, I just don't WANT to. Wah! Get over it Boothby.
But I start up, and then I see a gang of cyclists coming. Then I see ANIMAL FARM. What's up with that? I see a pig, a few goats, a horse, a pony, a sheep and maybe a miniature donkey, all lolling about the yard like a cheerleading section at the Tour de France. And not one sign of human life. I'm really thinking I've got to take a picture of this. But I don't want to get passed by 10 bikes. Quickly, I grab the camera, stop, take the shot
then stand and punish my legs almost all the way up the hill. I WILL NOT BE PASSED ON THIS HILL!
Finally, the turn on to 64th St. SE, and just another short little climb and I'm onto the home stretch. Riding down 76th toward Jim and Ann's (I think every time I ever came here it was dark!) was marvelous, with a little pond and windmill across the street, giving me a little reward for that climb.
And then I was done!
There was food and beverages, lots of great company and Robin, Bob and Amy there to greet me in typical Rando style.
and after 9 hours and 4 minutes on the bike, I changed clothes and waited for my carpool buddy to show up so we could go home. That left me plenty of time to eat a plate of lasagna, some salad, some chips and dip, a coke, a cup of coffee and a couple more bottles of water. I FELT GOOD, too. So totally different than my dumb stunt last weekend in the rain.
Sheesh! That Boothby. He's some kinda looney tunes.