(working title: "Fly Dumbo, Fly!")
A couple of weeks ago I stepped way out of my comfort zone (to somewhere in the next galaxy over) by registering for the Seattle International Randonneurs Tahuya Hills 600km brevet. I needed to complete a 600 to earn my Super Randonneur award. I set myself to do this in December 2008. Then, well, as some of you know, things happened. In the rear view mirror now, and I am physically much stronger than I was back then.
I would be doing this ride without a ride partner. In territory I was not familiar with.
Stressed. Made lists. My lists had lists. Packed food. Picked out clothes. Stared in total disbelief at the weather forecast (sunny, 80's). Made my co-workers crazy. (They were very supportive.) Got lots of very good advice from best friends ever (varied from supportive to swift kicks in the butt). Was buried under an avalanche of replacement 650B tires. Loaded everything into shiny red Element on Friday, and drove north. Got to the hostel (oh, INTERESTING neighborhood), and easily found dinner at one of the 5 million Asian restaurants in the neighborhood. Did last minute organization and had an early bedtime.
Up at 4:15. Loaded everything up, then ate my breakfast (Cheerios, fruit, milk, and Greek yogurt). Drove to the start - interesting, in that every road I wanted to take wouldn't let me go there. But I did find it, parked, got my bike and drop bag and headed over to register.
Got a big HI! from Mark and a "You are going to ROCK IT!" (and a hug) from Vinny. Checked in. Found Mike R, one of my tire saviors. Chatted with Jennifer C. Stood around. Decided I could start with dark lenses and a vest instead of the light jacket.
And then it was 6am, and off we went. As the first 11 or so miles of the route was heading east through Seattle, Mercer Island and suburbs, on both roads and bike paths, my goal was to keep a pack in sight so I would not get lost. I did have to stop and fiddle with my bike computer pickup (learning: check the bike computer functionality BEFORE starting the ride). Chasing the pack, I eventually heard a Hi Lynne!, which turned out to be Narayan. We are internet friends, but have only met in person once. So I stuck to him like a burr! You know, there's not a lot of contiguous flat at the beginning of this ride.
Eventually we were out of the city and on roads with real names and no turns every 0.2 miles, so I could relax and ride. May Valley Road was really pretty. And riding along and so forth. Narayan said that this route was one of the perms he rides often. He clearly wasn't going to get misplaced here. And then... secret control! Cards signed, off again.
I'd leapfrog several riders along this stretch - Narayan, Jeff, Mitchel, and Jennifer. Eventually we popped out on Rt 410, which I remembered from the SIR Chili Feed several years ago, except we were going the other way. The first control was in Buckley. Bought some water and a Starbucks Doubleshot, took care of business and headed out. The water went into the water bottle and the hydration bottle (either Gatorade powder or Nuun, depending on what my mood was). Narayan had said he was aiming for Total Control Efficiency. He was very efficient. So much so that his water bottles were sadly waiting for him on the counter in the store. I'd gone to the next major turn (1.7 miles) to spot him heading back :-)
More riding and then eventually arriving at the Eatonville control in the company of Jennifer. Found Alan W heading out of the Truly Scrumptious Bakery, but I was not stopping there - time suck. Stopped at the grocery, more water, another Doubleshot, and a sandwich and banana. I also applied sunscreen.
Jennifer and I headed out; this started the long gradual ascent of the day, heading up to the National Park (we didn't go quite that far). Lots of pretty lakes, farms, scenery and so on. I actually passed several riders (!) Every time I passed Jeff - "you go get 'em!". Made me smile every time. Met Mill - I've seen his name on ride results lots of times, but never connected the name with the face. Really gradual climb. Up. Stopped to get a picture of a pretty lake outside Elbe; Jennifer came by at that point.
Through Elbe, continuing up. I was moving right along.
There must have been a tailwind. The grade increased a bit, up to "slightly annoying". A bike bell jingled behind me, and it turned out to be Noel (of the pink socks in the Stayton Safeway and the cue sheet on a napkin after the fleche). We rode together all the way to the summit. The road varied in quality ("potholes all over"), so some attention did have to be paid to it. I was quite ready to get to the summit, and the amazing descent down Skate Creek Rd.
It was gorgeous. I did stop and take one picture, but I was mostly enjoying the descent. Dappled sunlight, trees leafed out, the creek rushing down by the roadside, people camping. All good. Then it leveled out, and I could see what had to be Packwood down the road. I was also looking at the clock. Packwood was at 200km. My riding time was less than 10 hours. Oh my.
Saw two deer as we crossed the bridge into Packwood. And, at the control, I was at 9:27 total time. My fastest 200km ever. By about 40 minutes!
There were many, many riders at the Packwood control. I had a bit of a problem finding a place to lean my bike! Joined Jennifer inside - water, sandwich (hummus in flatbread), another Doubleshot. Changed into clean shorts. And then off again, headed for Morton.
The ride to Morton was 33+ miles on SR-12. Gently downhill, very busy road, but with a really wide shoulder. It was HOT. Bike computer said 93 degrees. While I don't quite believe that, it was hot. I was zipping right along, thinking I was drinking enough. This road is my new standard for long and deadly. Peoria Road and Buena Vista Road have been eclipsed.
So, riding along, and then I heard the merry jingle of bells and... "Lynne! You are working too hard! Join in!". 8 riders, happily zipping along in a double rotating paceline. I was quickly brought up to speed on how it worked, and we were off. Chatted with Corey of the pretty blue bicycle and Andy, who told me that as a newbie 600 rider, I had to buy all the guys snacks at the finish. My reflective mudflaps got lots of love (not that they were needed on this ride). They've got some real fans in Seattle. While this was great fun, we did eventually hit an uphill, at which point I had to back off.
Finally got to Morton, and, while it was not a control, there was a convenience store. I stopped... and darn near fell over. Just like my first 400km attempt last August. I was shaking and nauseous. Dave H, who was sitting on a bench outside, looked at me and said: "when I feel like that, it is time to quit."
Me: "I. am. NOT. quitting. this. ride. here". Sounded very heroic, anyway. Went in and bought some juice and Fritos. Sat inside for awhile getting them down. Alan W. took one look at me and brought me a gel and a Coke. Chris W. sat there awhile, and then they moved on. I was getting chilly inside, so took my food and drink back outside. Dave: "do you have a jacket? Put it on. Do you have arm warmers? Put them on." Which I did. Mind you, it wasn't cold! Worked my way though the food and drink, and finally stopped shaking and felt much less nauseous. Right at 7pm I headed off for Centralia, 41 miles away.
Some ups and downs, but nothing particularly stressful. I saw no other riders along this stretch. The sunset was very pretty. I tried to keep drinking and eating. The eating was a TJ's Sesame Crepe (I have a stash in the freezer at home), which was mostly chewing and eventually forcing myself to swallow.
Crossed over 300km at 9:13pm, for a total riding time of 15:13. Best 300k time ever by 2 hours! I was really not at all sure what was powering my bicycle, but this was amazing, even though I didn't feel all that great.
Then finally full dark and into Centralia, riding slowly to catch the street signs. And then onto Factory Outlet Row (Harrison Ave) and into the control at the Chevron (10:35pm). No riders there. I was looking for something hot and salty, and they had Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup. The kind clerk heated it up for me. I was slurping it down, when Narayan rode up with Dan?. Dave H appeared shortly afterward and promptly sat down on the floor slumped against a cabinet. I don't think he was having a good day.
We elected to ride on to Elma (35 miles) together, and found a few more riders on our way out of town. They were pacelining and I was shamelessly staying to the back and being a wheelsucker. I was waiting for the stars to come out, since it was a clear night. Eventually two of the guys dropped back, and the three of us continued on. (Did I mention that there were only 4 women registered out of a total of 75 participants?) I was glad they knew where they were going. I only had to hang on. We did back the pace off a bit a few miles before Elma (thank you!), and arrived at 1:35 am.
Did not get sleepy on the bike at all. Not once!
Don J (the organizer) said he was happy to see me, and that other riders had told him I was in a bad way in Morton. Ooh. Didn't realize I looked that bad.
Most of the riders were already in. Ate some pizza, grabbed my drop bag and headed off to my room. 4 women, I knew where I'd be. Some riders were already there sleeping, Jennifer was finishing up in the shower. I got a wonderful shower, brushed my teeth (amazing!), took out my contacts and gave myself 2 hours and 15 minutes to sleep. The women that were there vacated the room while I was in the shower, so I had a bed all to myself.
Up at 4:15 (creak. groan). Put the contacts back in, grabbed my stuff, and went in search of breakfast. I had an English muffin with lots of butter, some juice, and one of the avocados from my bag. Then found my bike, rearranged the contents of bags, refilled bottles (thanks Don J!), and hit the road at 5:50am.
Somewhere on W Highland Rd, I crossed over 400km. Fastest ever, there too. Although it would not be hard to beat my only previous 400km time :-)
The sun was rising right into my face. I had to stop and shade my eyes from time to time to see the road signs. So happy to finally turn into some direction other than east! Found Jennifer along here; we leapfrogged for quite some time. Got to the Potlatch control. Alan W was eating a sandwich; I thanked him for his help the day before. Doubleshot (trend here?), water, potato chips. I looked at Corey's pretty blue bike again, and asked if he built it. Yeah, he's that Corey. Off again, working my way to the control at Tahuya.
First a nice ride on SR-3 along the Sound. Cute houses, views of the Olympics. Then, looping down the other side of that branch of the Sound, heading toward Tahuya. Not so much fun. Headwind, and the rollers got more annoying. I stopped to put on sunscreen, and kept heading west. The road seemed to go on forever, and I was starting to hear the banjos. This should have been a hint to EAT MORE.
Finally found the road I'd turn onto on the return bit, passed some riders headed that way, and FINALLY, the Tahuya control. Elaine J (Mrs. Organizer) offered me yummy chocolates, asked how I was, got me some soup and a Sprite, watched me get a sandwich (apricot jam w/brie on flatbread) from my bag, gave me some Tums and told me I couldn't leave until I ate it all. So we sat and chatted and I ate it all. Thank you Elaine!
Time to go climb some hills. There had been much on the SIR boards about the deadly Tahuya Hills. Mostly it was along the lines of "you are going to DIE, fool!". My co-worker Carl (that would be Cat 1 racer Carl) told me that as long as I wasn't pulling 500 watts (as IF) and trying to race up them, they were really quite doable. I was banking on that.
First hill (Tahuya) - mostly not too bad. I'm a stander on climbs, and, if they aren't too long, can stomp up an 8% grade with the best of them. I can also spin up really steep stuff (like, say Bald Peak), but perhaps not with over 300 miles just ridden. But there was no rhythm to these hills. They'd go up and down and back up again. But the time I'd gotten to the top of the first one, I'd probably climbed it 6 times.
Second hill (Dewatto) - the bottom is quite nice and very pretty. The early climbing isn't bad. But then the climb transitioned to a road with no center line. And the climbing got steep. More of the up and down.
Then a nice descent and immediately into the third hill (Seabeck Holly Rd). I found myself staring at a wall. No. Walking IS an option, and I did. It was 12% the whole way up. Before I started up, a huge group of Harley riders came by. Every single one raised their left hand and made what I would call a Hook'em Horns sign. Never did figure out what that meant.
Once at the top of that ramp, it rolled for quite some distance; nothing over the top hard.
Then another fun descent into Seabeck, which was a control and I was hungry. One of the riders there (wow, still other riders around!) pointed me at the cafe and said the soup was really good. I went in and found more riders, and sat down with Corey. Ordered the full bowl of the soup and slurped down every single bit. No problems eating!
Great rant from a local on "those da*n motorcyclists on their hogs, making that loud blatting sound all day and those bicyclists who think they are such hot stuff for riding 373 miles and...." He was grinning through the whole thing and Andy was teasing him on it. Asked him how old he was... My response: "I'm older than that!". Snicker.
Dr. Ken came in as I was leaving, and he filled me on in on Anderson Hill Road. I made it halfway up the first ramp and then walked it to the top. The second ramp had a big drop beforehand, and I made it to the top. Walked the third ramp. Then more manageable rolling climbs and a reasonably level stretch, and on into Port Gamble, the final on-course control. Port Gamble is way too cute for its own good.
Found Dan at the control, but the store had closed, so I had to use the info control question and watch him eat his ice cream cone :-( He offered up some wonderful cookies as consolation. I ate them both.
Dan headed out, and Ken arrived. I finished the cookies and we headed out together. It seemed really chilly on SR-104, so I pulled over and added layers, and turned on the lights. It wasn't anywhere near dark, but it had clouded up a bit.
And finally, Port Gamble Rd. Ow. Some ridiculous climbs there. I walked another one. But there was an amazing descent, a bit more riding, past the casino, over the Agate Pass Bridge, and we were on Bainbridge Island.
Only 6 miles to go. Three long grinders. Again, that feeling of hearing the banjos. I thought people actually LIVED on Bainbridge Island, but clearly not along SR-305. At this point, the body, which had done amazingly well all weekend was..."can we be done now plz?"
Found the turn at the Final Control sign, found the hotel. Mark was out in the parking lot and took my bike. I wobbled into the room. 8:22pm. Got the card signed. Mark: "and I expect to see that on Facebook in 22 seconds!". Thought I should call Fitz first. He didn't pick up, so I was getting ready to update my status, and he called back :-)
Congratulations all around!
Then some pizza and Squirt, visiting with Narayan, Corey, Dan, Ken, Don, and Lyn Gill. Lyn was there giving massages. I wasn't moving so well, so I got one. Thank you Lyn!
Then eventually headed off to catch the ferry back to Seattle. Both Lyn and I missed it, so I sat in her car and visited while we waited. Duane W rode down, and I went over and joined him. As I was not from around there, I figured I should stick with someone who knew the "bikes on really big ferry" routine. We loaded and hooked our bikes over a railing. Then we all (Duane, me, Lyn, and Don J) went upstairs. I couldn't even tell that we were moving. And my legs started twitching again, so I had to get up and walk around :-)
Docked, and Duane pointed me in the direction to get back to the start (a couple of miles). Rode through Seattle down 1st Ave S just after 11pm. Fun, in a surreal sort of way. Stuffed everything in the car, drove back to the hostel, unloaded the car, and finally got a well-deserved shower and bed.
Aftermath: up the next morning at 8, had breakfast, and drove home. Stopped in Centralia and consumed 1250 tasty calories at Burgerville. Then went into work for a couple of hours. I may have even done some work.
Tip of right little finger is numb. Outsides of big toes are numb. Two days later, the rest of me is not so badly off. I am sore, but not dying. The post-ride migraine set in today. Blah. Must forage for some medication. I think there is some in my bike bag.
The 600km medal is ordered. The Super Randonneur application will be in the mail tomorrow.
373 miles, 12.96 riding average. 38:22 total ride time - approximately 9:27 off the bike.
All the pictures here
Thank you Natalie, for building me such an amazing bicycle!
Thank you everyone who sent me texts and FB messages (they show up as email on my phone) during the ride! I felt you pushing me along the whole ride.
Thank you co-workers, who had to listen to me stress out for a couple weeks.
Thank you Narayan, Dan, Ken, Andy, Corey, Jeff, Chris, and Jennifer for riding along in my general vicinity. Thank you Narayan and Dan for the company from Centralia to Elma!
Thank you Alan W for your help in Morton.
Thank you Michal for riding the 300 and 400 with me, and for all your messages during the ride.
Thank you Fitz for putting up with a high-maintainence wife the weeks before the ride.
Thank you to Don and Elaine for putting on such a great ride, and thank you to all the volunteers!
and finally, BIG thank yous to Cecil (enabler in chief) and Susan O (other enabler) for supporting me, for advice, for encouragement, and for believing in me when I wasn't entirely sure I could believe in myself.