09 August 2010

Three Volcanoes 300km - Top Ten Ride

Despite having spent the last two months basically off the bike, the motivation to ride the Three Volcanoes 300km again after 5 years was strong. It would be the final ride to complete the series and possibly the last brevet for a time as I review my goals for the coming year. It would be a fitting ride - nothing better than mountains and gravel roads for a whole day!

I made it to the Packwood RV Park around 5pm and had a nice dinner and beers at the Blue Spruce Inn. They were very friendly and I was obviously the only patron who didn't live in town, but I've always enjoyed the place. Afterward I headed back to the camp to prep for the early start and get into bed early. Joe Platzner came over and we chatted while I laid out my gear, then I headed over to his campsite (much nicer than mine!) and enjoyed the smoky fire and blueberries and cherries he brought along. We had a really nice chat and it was a relaxing way to ease into sleep mode. By 9:30 it was lights out in the orange bus. I slept well and woke up 10 minutes before the alarm. Had a nasty sore throat and knew a cold had begun, but figured it was early enough in its course that I could make it through the day. Met Ward Beebe putting a good dose of sunscreen on in the restroom and we both looked rather sleepy. Then it was on the bike and off to the start at the Shell station. Hoping to see some wildlife on the route, I was startled by an elk that ran out from the bushes behind me and could hear its heavy hoofs echo as it ran across the highway. One goal checked off and I hadn't even begun the ride!

About 50 riders were at the start, and Mike Richeson and Robin Pieper were handing out cards and cue sheets. Everyone seemed pretty psyched about the ride, as it truly is one of the best SIR has to offer and much discussion surrounded the issue of tires. I opted to just stick with the usual Michelin ProRace 700x25 tires I've been using. Some folks went pretty big, with Amy Pieper and Peg Winczewski on the Co-Motion tandem with 700x42s. They would be the first to even try this route with a tandem, but as both are "strong as bulls" (insert Russian accent), they would have no problem.

Everyone pacelined out to Randle, which seems to be the normal method of rushing to the first climb and I stopped to peel off a layer as the climb up FS Rd 25 began. I like riding alone and really wanted to revel in the whole experience, so blowing up on the first ascent was not the plan. Most everyone else was long gone as I made my way up in the quiet morning. As we came to the first control at Iron Creek the sun had risen and the day looked great weather-wise. I made sure to stock up on water at every opportunity, as the last time it was very hot. Three bottles with over 90oz. of water was just right.

Next up was Babyshoe Pass. This is my favorite part of the ride and I had enough energy to power up the front side and fly down the back. Got up to 30mph on the descent which was exhilarating. When I got back on pavement I got to see Mt. Adams towering over the road and I was all smug knowing I had enough food and water for the nice long trek to Trout Lake...except that one of my big bottles was gone! Alas, though I usually compress the cages before such rides, but obviously didn't do it and was now down to only one empty bottle and one full small one. Oh well, it wasn't overly warm, so I knew it would be OK. A while later Ian Shopland came riding up and asked if I'd lost a bottle. Yes! It was even still full, a tribute to the well sealed Zefal lid (so tight I can't even get it off sometimes). Thanks Ian!

We descended into Trout Lake where we could get some good grub and watch the annual parade. It was funny talking about how many parades most of us have been through, in and near while riding brevets. What could possibly be the connection? Time of year of course, but maybe it's just a general sense of pride each community feels when this band of merry riders comes through. Who knows. Along with the usual townies, the rando crew overwhelmed K's Corner as everyone stocked up on burgers and a variety of huckleberry shakes, pies and lemonade. I had a Mt. Adams burger in honor of the great peak. Delicious!

Subsequent climbing was pretty pleasant as the heat never quite materialized and fighting the cold that gave me chills all day. I think I only took off my arm warmers twice. The roads were mostly free of traffic which is always a joy. Felt pretty good on the bike with only my right knee acting up on occasion and a good headache. Taking it slow was the best medicine and thankfully I had some Hall's cough drops for the sore throat. Off and on during this section I would run into a few other riders while we ambled toward Northwoods. I was looking forward to another bunch of food and soon had a scrumptious turkey and provolone sandwich provided by our fab volunteers with some Cool Ranch Doritos - yum. Though I had been riding with Ian a bit, he headed off before me and I opted to get prepped for the last climb and deteriorating weather. A few raindrops and cloudy skies indicated that our run of sun was about to end.

Looking forward to the descent off Elk Summit I noodled my way to the top - most of the time was inside the clouds, so visibility was decreasing along with the light. With only 100km left I knew I'd be in before 11pm, so I was on about the same pace as 2005. Too bad we didn't have the views like last time though. I saw Dave Rowe, Jon and one other rider getting rain gear on for the descent, but I just kept going. It was another thrilling drop through the clouds and I had a blast hopping cracks and straining to see ahead. The E3 light worked pretty well, though it was crooked, but definitely was bright enough. Too soon though the end came and Kole, Jennifer and Frank all caught me on the flats, just as I knew they would. I do much better just going up and down!

I tried to stay on the "Kole Train" but couldn't jive enough to maintain it for more than a few miles so slowly I watched their lights fade away in the rain. I stopped at Bennett Rd. for a quick snack of homemade chocolate chip bars and slowly rode the remainder of the ride looking for elk in the dark. For some reason, we passed a perfectly good end of the ride at the Shell station and kept going to the Four Square Church...unknown as to the meaning of this gratuitous few kms...maybe some conspiracy of some sort. All was well though when I saw Robin and he offered me a chilly beer to distract me. My 2010 series had finished!

James and Andy showed up soon after and Andy and I headed to the pizza place before they closed - James was actually going to drive home that night! All I wanted was some food, shower and sleep as my cold would soon catch up to me full force. We ran into Noel, Ian and his girlfriend (who were now off for two days of hiking) all lounging in the warmth of the booth. The staff were very nice to us as we only got there 10 minutes before closing and I was so appreciative of their service! Soon headed back to camp and by midnight was fast asleep in the orange bus. A very good day on all accounts.

Chris Heg has some photos and a great write-up of the ride here.

02 August 2010

Chris Ragsdale's World Record Ride

What an amazing weekend! I had the pleasure of being one of the support crew for Chris Ragsdale's attempt on the 24 hour road distance record and the first 1000km road time record. Both of these are daunting for an endurance cyclist, even someone as fit and motivated as Chris is. They are basically individual time trials on the open road with just your mind, body and crew...a fairly lonely endeavor and exceptionally challenging.

Chris heading down Best Rd. on Lap 21
It was honestly one of the most emotionally and physically intense efforts I have ever witnessed and the outpouring of desire to see Chris succeed was humbling. We all love Chris - he is sometimes so nice and soft spoken you'd hardly know what he is capable of when on a bike - and to help him make this happen was really special. It felt like one huge community goal, albeit with only him to take the brunt of the suffering!

He started at 7AM Saturday July 31st on a 10.8 mile circuit in the Skagit Valley outside La Conner with the base at the Queen of the Valley Inn. The course was chosen for it's relative flatness, a combination of only four right turns and minimal places to have to stop at lights (one must follow the rules of the road) along with a good time of year for weather.

His initial laps were very fast with the first at over 25mph! While the day went on he kept a good buffer until the evening when a series of flats ate away the minutes. Tension was in the air as the crew scrambled for repairs and plans for contingencies. The spare Cervelo had no aerobars, so was a slower option, but he still could pound out the miles. The main bike was a Lightspeed TT bike with a disc rear and a variety of front wheels depending on wind issues.

As the night wore on the fatigue began to set in and it was a monumental effort for Chris to stay awake and focused. We realized he was not going to get the necessary time to beat the 24 hour record so everything switched to the 1000km. It was hard for Chris to accept - after all the planning and energy I think he felt quite down...but of course, between our insistence and his fortitude, the new goal became everyone's mission!

I became a roving cheerleader during the long dark night before dawn - always one the most difficult aspects of riding around the clock. I went from one point near Highway 20 and another back off Best Road back and forth so I could be there for him a couple times per lap. Not sure how it went as I would see him for about 10 seconds as he roared by each time, but wanted to show we were rooting for him all the way!! The orange VW bus got in some serious time in the Skagit...

Sleepy but looks good!
Morning dawned and he was still going, really amazing to see. Some laps were slower and some faster, but his biggest challenge beside physical fatigue was the need to sleep. He was so tired! At times, he would stop and we'd get to him and try to re-focus him and get him going again and he would slap his own face a few times to wake up (we would have done the same!) then he's continue on for another lap. What awesome effort! At 24 hours he'd reached 494 miles and ate a the fried egg and cheese sandwich the Jan from the inn made. Very good people there!! 

Chris just kept pounding it out till he got on the last lap - as he passed my cheer spot on Best he let me know he was on the final stretch - I quickly headed to the little white line on La Conner-Whitney Rd and met up with Chris' wife Lara and his mom who came all the way from Michigan to see him. Soon others came and we all waited as Chris came up the road. Finally done!! 1000km. 31:40:10. You are the best Chris!! Congratulations!!

The official finish line.
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