Well, for a variety of reasons, this was one of the hardest 600s I've done in the past 10 years! Partly due to a lack of mileage and just plain forgetfulness about what sort of effort is entailed in such ventures, I blindly headed out at 5AM with about 50 more prepared and motivated folks to finish this awesome route within the appointed 40 hours.
A few weeks ago after the 400 km I mistakenly felt like I could do a pretty fast time, but I only got on my bike for a piddly 100 miles in three weeks and that didn't quite do it for preparation! Decided to choose a lighter bike this time (Merckx Corsa-01) and test out some battery lights and low-spoke count wheels too. Nothing like trying a whole slew of new things at once. Risky, but you never know until you try!
I'd gotten some good sleep over the past few days and the night before, so the early start was no problem. Steve Davis was staying at the Motel 6 too and we rode the couple miles to the start. I missed a good breakfast so had to snack a bit and then collect some food early in the ride to eat. Not a great way to start, but it worked. The ride along Ben Howard was really nice and I got to the first control at Skykomish by 9:30 with Jennifer. Spent about 15+ minutes getting my act together - a long stop for an early control and she had gone on without me (smart girl). The climb up Stevens was the usual noisy traffic but I felt great and motored to the top when I noticed a little twinge in my left achilles. This being an ongoing issue, I changed to a higher cadence and lower gear and felt better pretty quickly. We had a nice reprieve on the Old Cascade Highway and Jennifer saw a bear! I missed it. Soon we were over the top but the descent is slow but the ride into Leavenworth along the river was really beautiful. What a sunny day after the whole week before was just plain wet!
I got caught at the intersection before the Subway for a long spell and chatted with some cuties in a pickup who were curious about our adventure. They were mightily impressed with it all and I felt all manly telling it. I got a half sandwich and some chips and ate with Mike who was giving updates to his sweetie. Slammed down a nice lemonade and stripped down to shorts and got on the road for Blewett Pass. That one is very gradual and pretty, with good shoulders and not too much sun. In a short while I was at the top where Amy and Robin had set-up a secret control with snacks. James had carried a sandwich to the top and was going to throw it away, but I snatched it and enjoyed a nice warm meatball sub...must have had it in his jersey....very tasty!
Another fairly slow descent - none of these passes has much in the way of a steep drop, but it was nice to rest the legs and cruise. The winds were pretty light though, so it was a good feeling to know that wasn't going to be a challenge. In Ellensburg, Noel, Ian and I stopped for something different than the usual speed grub - at a little Italian place I had a nice Ceasar salad and a root beer. It felt good after just too much bread. They headed out before me and I finally got going only to stop a moment later for some extra PayDays and nuts as there wasn't much else in the next 120 km.
As the light began to fade I came up on Jennifer, Dave and Steve heading into the Yakima Canyon. This was one of the highlights of the route for me and I should have been there a bit earlier to get the full sunset light show, but it was still pleasant. I did manage to acquire about 100 gnats and other flying creatures in my beard but the mustache kept them out of my mouth. Better to breath through the nose anyway as it's supposed to keep your heart rate down. It got really dark and I finally put on all lights (one Cateye single LED and a small Cateye 3 LED) and they did a good job. I'd never ridden with anything but a generator hub and Schmidt light before, so this was a new experience. Not sure I'd want them in a really nasty night with rain, but they were fine. Ian and I had a good chat while riding through some of the fabulous valleys around the area.
Made it to the Silver Beach Resort overnight control around 2:30AM which would give me a good amount of time to eat and sleep for a few hours. I roomed with James and Chris who both had drop bags and actually showered...they smelled good and I just crawled into the sack with a dry wool top on and crashed. Hope I wasn't too offensive, but I've never taken a shower on a 600 km and wasn't about to start - there's no sense when you have nothing clean to change into!
I was up before Don came in to wake us and got some pancakes and ham with coffee and a yogurt and banana for dessert. The rain was coming down hard, but knowing that there was only 200 km to go made it palatable. It was also not too cold with all the climbing up White Pass and the descents were much more fast and fun, so I never really got cold. Had I been more prepared I might have brought some booties and wool gloves, but it turned out I was on the inside edge of adequate.
Corey and Ian had a control at the turn for SR-123 to Cayuse and they tanked me up with a nice mocha and some water. We shared our secret CapForest MTB handshake but I didn't stay long so I could get on with the last climb of the day. That control was a nice reprieve for many - all crowded around the space heater under the tent! The climb was sweet - quiet rain in the trees and very little traffic. Waterfalls cascading from the cliffs and wisps of low clouds hanging in the vibrant green forest. It was truly magical. I rode with a number of folks on the way up, Joe Llona, Tom Brett, Mike Huber and a few more of us were all winding our way up in a long line, always getting closer to the top and speed decreasing every mile. The snow depth increased proportionately. The minute I got over I cruised down the other side and on to Greenwater for a nice cup-o-soup and some chocolate milk with Dave Harper and Mike Huber and eventually Joe again as we headed for Redmond.
The last stretch was long, I kept yawning and was feeling the previous 33 hours of effort. I finally had to let Dave and Joe go as my achilles was hurting and I was just not able to keep a reasonable pace any longer. We regrouped at the Shell station control where Dave had just flatted and Joe provided moral support. It almost happened again as the tire bead had come off the rim after it was inflated, but he saved it in time. We left for the last 16 km and finally arrived a bit after 5 or so. It felt good to be done!
Brad and his wife had plates of pasta ready to eat with beverages and snacks and a few of us sat around chatting in the driveway. Noel made sure to point out my totally useless tail light mounting which was completely blocked by my saddle bag...a well-deserved ribbing as it really was bad. 10 years later and there's still things to learn!
A big thanks to Jeff Tilden, Brad Tilden & Don Smith plus the intrepid pre-riders and volunteers who made it all happen. Hard ride for me, but very memorable!