I have a general rule that I do not drive my car to ride my bike. It just doesn't make sense to me to drive 5, 10, or 20 miles when I can just as easily hop on my bike, ride to the start and then ride home afterward. Of course, almost all my rides start within 20 miles of my home, so that's easy enough for me to say. Sometimes, though, I just have to suck it up and take the car. Like this weekend, for instance, when I decided to ride the Seattle Randonneurs' first 200K of the 2008 season. I decided that I just did not feel like riding my bike the 180 or so miles to Kent, Washington. So on Friday I packed up the car and headed North on I-5 for the Emerald City of Seattle. I planned to spend the night at my brother's house in North Seattle and then in the morning drive down to Kent for the ride. Friday was my mother's 76th birthday (not to mention "Pi Day" and the anniversary of Albert Einstein's birth), and she was staying with my brother (another reason I drove up, so I could bring her back to Portland with me) so we all went out for Chinese food at the very good Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon.
I set my alarm for 4:30 AM (after finally convincing Mom and bro' that I REALLY needed to go to sleep), and woke up to the sound of heavy rain on the skylights. Ugh. Oh well, I was prepared for rain - heck, I was prepared for snow, because I knew we were heading up into the foothills of Mt. Rainier.
I was out the door by 5:15 - I had not had any tea yet, but assumed that (this being Seattle, after all) I would find a coffee house open somewhere along the 32 miles between North Seattle and Kent. Happily enough, there was a Starbucks open by the Renton IKEA - probably for those early morning bargain hunters.
I arrived at the start pretty early, but there were already at least 50 other riders there, with more arriving as the seconds passed. Over 100 riders started, I believe. And it was raining heavily. My friends Lynne and Bill had also driven up, and had scored beds in the organizer's house (which was where the ride started), so they had little to do to get ready but roll out of bed and into their clothes. Yes, I was jealous. Because it was so cold and wet, it took me a while to get all my gear together - my fingers sort of stopped working for a while. But I was almost ready when Bill and Lynne rolled up, and we were off. The ride began with a long, steep, swift downhill. I knew, of course, that meant that the ride would end with some sort of UP-hill, but I put that out of my mind for the moment.
Not too long into the ride, I realized that my new computer was not registering. Given that being able to follow the cue sheet required me to know how far I had traveled, I pulled over to figure out what was going wrong. Lynne and Bill went on ahead - I figured I'd catch up to them at some point. I spent a considerable amount of time screwing with the spoke magnet and pick-up before I figured out that I simply hadn't mounted the receiver correctly. Dur. Oh well. By this point, most of the riders had passed me by - so I hoped I'd be able to figure out where I was on the cue sheet and then do whatever math was required to figure out my actual mileage. Fortunately, I caught up with another rider at a red light - Gene, a Tacoma Wheelman on his first brevet - he knew the roads and was very friendly and great company.
We soon caught up with Lynne and Bill on the first climb of the day. Gene pulled ahead, and Bill dropped off, and Lynne and I rode together to the first control. There we chatted a bit with Mark Thomas, who was checking our cards, and split a tasty vegan muffin I had brought from home. Lynne demonstrated how she had customized the rain cover for her Bell Metropolis helmet.
We caught up with Gene and his friends (as well as another Or Rando member, Paul Scherlie) in Auburn, and rode with them most of the way to the second control at the bakery in Black Diamond. We went down the main street of Auburn as a group, taking the lane - it was a biker invasion. There's a long climb just before Black Diamond, at which point our group broke up. I was ahead of Lynne - a little further ahead than I thought, and so did not realize that she missed the turn off to the control. When I had gotten there, Gene was waiting directing traffic, and I thought that Lynne was close enough behind me that he would still be there when she reached the turn. Oops. So she got a little extra mileage in. She made up for it with a giant cinnamon apple bun with cream cheese frosting.
I helped her a little with that. The bakery was warm, friendly, and filled with soggy, hungry cyclists. On the way into Black Diamond, we had seen dozens of cyclists headed in the opposite direction, and got a little confused because we knew our route did not go back that way - it turned out that another cycling club was also out for a rain ride, and had started from the bakery (all the best rides involve bakeries).
It was a new experience to be on a long ride where I did not know ANY of the roads. Well, that's not exactly true - there was a stretch toward the end of the ride that I knew from RAMROD two years ago - but most of the route was a complete mystery to me. Lynne had looked at a map the night before, and so had a vague idea where we were going, but I was completely turned around. It was kind of fun, but also kind of disorienting. At one point we were riding along the edge of Puget Sound, and I thought it was some lake EAST of Seattle. Silly me.
It poured rain off and on for the first 84 miles, and so the scenery wasn't much to look at - mostly gray and dark and shadowy. We did get a couple good views of the sound from Dash Point, and later on we saw some nice snowy foothills around Mt. Rainier. Of course, we never saw Rainier itself. That would have been asking too much.
The route was pretty hilly. According to my nifty new computer, the total elevation gain was just under 5800 feet. Our highest point was just over 1600 feet near Greenwater. That was also where it was 38 degrees and sleeting! Hot chocolate never tasted so good. There were only two climbs that I would consider difficult, though. The first one came at about the 45 mile point - a 1.5 mile climb with a grade between 6 and 8%. The good news was that it less than two miles from the end of that climb to the aforementioned justifiably famous Black Diamond bakery. The second tough climb was toward the end of the ride - only another mile or so in length, but this time the grade was 8 to 11%. Ouch. There was also a long slug on Hwy 410 to Greenwater, but the grade on that was gentle - no more than 2 or 3% at any given time - it just never seemed to end.
At the finish, the organizer, Greg Cox, had opened up his house for a chili feed. Vats and vats of delicious chili, cornbread, sweets, fruit, lasagna, salad, trail mix. And a shower for those who brought their own towels. Which I had. It was good to be clean.
Equipment report: I was in full-on raingear mode. I wore my uber-reflective "Don't-Hit-Me Orange" Bell Metropolis helmet (sans custom rain cover), longsleeve wool jersey, Showers Pass jacket, Terry long shorts, Craft "Storm" tights, wool socks, PI Mid-Alp Gore-Tex boots, and Sugoi Resistor booties. On my hands I had my Descente "Wombats", covered by my Sasquatch S'mittens I was completely dry, head to toe, for the first five hours. Well, not completely dry. My hands were wet, but they stayed pretty warm as long as I kept moving. If we stopped for any extended period, my fingers would freeze up. At hour five, my left sock began to feel quite wet, and by hour 5.5 my right sock was wet as well. My boots weren't filled with water the way some of my other shoes can get, but there was definitely some sloshing going on down by my toes. I think that it must come up through the holes in the sole where my cleats are attached. Lynne's feet (same boots, same booties) were also wet. Fortunately, I had extra socks with me, and changed them out in Greenwater. I stuck in some chemical toe warmers for good measure. I had also brought spare dry shorts, but never needed them because the Craft tights were completely waterproof. Hooray for Swedish technology! The Sugoi booties are great, but they have one major flaw. They do not appear to be made for riders who actually stop at stop signs and put their feet down. I have had mine for less then three months, and already have shredded the toes.
Total Ride Time: 11 hours 59 minutes
Saddle Time: 9 hours, 44 minutes, 5 sec
Distance 127.92 miles
Avg. Speed 13.1 mph
Max Speed 45 mph
Total Elevation Gain 5794 feet
Avg. Climb 3%
Max Climb 11%
Avg Temp 40 degrees
Did I mentioned it was muddy?