Little by little, the numbers kept creeping up!
I know! I know! We are usually more pleased when we see our numbers GO DOWN! How in the heck can those creeping numbers be good? Let me show you:
So, let me start at the beginning. Several months ago, I set my sights on the Cascade Classic Seattle to Portland Bike Ride. I had remembered reading about STP last summer and the news article never really left my imagination. What would that be like? Could I really stay focused long enough to make it happen? I was fairly confident that my mind could handle the challenge. But I was not sure my body was fit enough to handle the challenge.
Fast forward to July 8, 2011. Thom drove up to Seattle with me. Both of us have not had easy driving experiences in Seattle so scouting out the start line the night before seemed like a very good idea. And true to our experiences, we did in fact have a few “scenic” side trips to the start line! (DH had decided that the way to drive in Seattle is to realize that whatever lane you are in is always the wrong lane and as soon as you decide to change lanes, it is still the wrong lane!)
All of our scouting though did prove fruitful. We got to the start line with plenty of time to get me into the very first two-day-rider wave at about 5:15 am. Lots of people were camped out at the start line. The sunrise was gentle and seemed to signal a good day ahead.
I was bundled up expecting nasty weather but it turned out that the entire ride was actually quite awesome weather. Not too cold. Not rainy. Not too windy. Captured in my mind’s eye is the sun glistening and shimmering over the calm waters of Puget Sound, the various lakes and rivers along the way. Peaceful.
The exit from Seattle was dotted with intersections controlled by police who kept us moving at a very fast clip. I was conscious of pacing myself but I found out quickly that when you are surrounded by thousands of other riders, the draft that you ride inside makes going 16-18 miles per hour not that hard. My normal clip is between 12-14 miles per hour so zooming at 16-18 miles per hour without the aid of a hill was quite fun!
My first “food” stop was about 24 miles in. This was the first of many stops along the way to fuel up on water, fruit, carbs and protein. The organizers and sponsors did an excellent job stocking the stops with just the right thing of any rider. The longest lines were always to the honey buckets, but in an oddly ironic way, the lines were a “relief” from all the sitting you do on such a long ride.
At about the mid-point for day 1 (about 100 miles per day), Thom met up with me and we sat for a while and had an early lunch. I was feeling hungry more than anything. We had already braved THE HILL (oh yeah.. that hill is now seared in my mind as THE HILL… lots of crowd moaning and groaning) so we deserved every morsel of food we had at this stop.
The sun was really beginning to warm up the day s it was time to pull on the shades. I was now heading into the part of the ride that would take more strength. I had been riding the wave of nervous energy for the first 50 miles and now, it was about keeping that energy steady for the next 50.
It turned out the the ride after THAT BIG OLE HILL was quite pleasant. We wove through the countryside dotted with cattle, rivers, pastures and a 14-mile bike path complete devoid of any kind of noise except the spinning of our wheels. I coasted into the mid-point at Centralia Community College where the welcoming committee of volunteers put a nice exclamation point on to the end of day one.
We drove up to Olympia where our “scenic” drive to the hotel made us chuckle. After a long epsom salt soak, I felt refreshed enough to do a bit of exploring with Thom. We took a walk around the Washington capitol, picked up some yoghurt at the store, and ate an early pasta dinner where Ariane, David, Paola, Brianna and I met up for lunch back in October! After dinner, A I promptly fell asleep by 6:30!!
A friend had suggested compression tights which I did end up getting. AMAZING! I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a bit more tired that on day 1 but NOT SORE! Thank you, Jan! We headed back to Centralia and I set out for day 2 by 6:00am. I knew that the day would be slower and indeed it was. The route promised to have lots of “rolling hills.” The challenge? You have to go UP before you get to go DOWN! I had many more moments of 7 mph going up a hill than on day one, but I also got many more 25 mph going down. At one point, I actually clocked 35 mph. OH WHAT A GREAT FEELING THAT IS! (Until you realize that there will HAVE to be another up hill to remind you that nature always has her ups AND downs!)
The plan was to meet up with Thom one more time before he headed into Portland to wait for me at the finish line. Lots of great little “mini” stops along the way. One guy at the 113 mark has been making a special recipe of banana/cinnamon bread for the last 18 years! His table was piled high of this delicious little snack. Hit the spot after one of those rolling hills that seemed to go on forever. Just a really nice and personable guy being nice to thousands and thousands of riders. Pretty impressive. Another little stop in a town that seemed to only be a few blocks long where the locals put on a pancake breakfast. I did not partake as my stomach was still asleep and not wanting much food. I was sticking with the basics but the gesture did not go unappreciated. Their mileage sign captures the moment for me… The miles had been creeping up and now I was way more than half way to Portland. It felt AWESOME!
And now the REAL test of my resolve. I was tired! I had not hit the wall but I was finding that I had to stand more often to relieve the sore rear! The small hills seemed much larger than I am sure they really were. After meeting up with Thom at mile marker 173 or so, I was not only hungry, but beginning to calculate more often how much more I had to go. At mile 188, that last big stop, I relaxed on a nice little hill, gathering up the last bit of energy to finish off my ride. I had a nasty twinge in my right heel/ankle that was left over from my HM a few weeks earlier. It was calling my attention but I found a way to push harder with my left foot giving my right foot more of a break for the last 25 miles or so.
My eyes kept tabs on the odometer … realizing now that I was super super close. I stopped a few times to text Thom and Brianna so they could start heading to the finish line. We headed over the bridge into Oregon and I felt a hug tug on my heart. I was “home” and heading towards the goal line. I could almost say “I did it!” I could feel the emotion bubbling up and urging me on. All of a sudden my pace that had slowed to about 13-14 miles per hour got a jolt and I was pushing 15-17 miles per hour. At the St. Johns Bridge.. a gorgeous old London-style bridge, I stopped on last time to let Brianna and Thom know I was super close. A gentleman had stopped to call his wife and he encouraged me by telling me I had been setting a good pace. I was surprised!! and even that little comment really gave me energy to keep going.
THE SLOWEST part of the entire ride was that last 4 miles or so heading into Portland. We seemed to hit every single red light. And someone decided that one last hill at the very end of the ride would be the true test of our mettle. LOL. YEAH RIGHT! Didn’t they think that the prior 200 miles were enough!?!? But you could hear the cheering from families and friends from a few blocks away, so even a poorly placed hill was not going to stop any one of us now. When I picked out Thom, Brianna, Sean and Patty out in the crowd, I felt all of the support I ever needed lift me right over the finish line. They handed us a “finisher’s patch” as we gingerly got off our bikes, careful not to trip in front of all those people! The joy I felt started in my tippy toes and surged all the way to my smile.
So there you have it. I went from 0 to 204 in two days… and proud of it!
And… as is now a wonderful pattern: Thom, Brianna and friends have encouraged me all along the way. Your voices accompanied me along my trip and I thank you for that.
QUOTE: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Michael Altshuler
MANTRA: “Road work ahead.” DBH
P.S. Yes.. I am signing up for STP 2012. I think DH and I have a new tradition!