Sunday, July 15, 2012

The View of a Wheel

The 2012 STP is done! One day, 204 miles! Lorraine and I did it and so did Amy and Tony.

Lorraine, Annette, and I drove to Bothell Friday night and stayed with Lorraine's mom so we wouldn't have to get up so early Saturday morning. Our goal was to get off the start line before 5:00 am (One day riders could start as early as 4:45). Lorraine woke Annette and I up at 3:20. I had set the alarm on my phone for 3:15...PM. We were out the door at 4:00 and down to the parking lot of Safeway (across from the UW parking lot start line) at 4:25. Got the bikes unloaded, said goodbye to Annette, and rode over to the start line. Since we needed one last potty shack visit, we missed the first wave start at 4:45 (might not have made it anyway as there were quite a few people lined up). However, we made the second wave at 4:55. We were off!!!

The first 10 miles to Seward Park is called "The Blaze of Glory". It's not uncommon to see crashes, flat tires, and numerous water bottles, route guides, and other various items on the road. Lorraine lost her tail light (also very common). A guy broke a spoke not more than 5 miles from the start. The road is pretty bumpy and everyone is all pumped up and riding like mad. There is not a lot of room to maneuver as you are surrounded by cyclists. What amazed me the most was the number of stupid guys riding in this "Blaze of Glory" no-handed. I don't care how accomplished you are at no-handed riding, it's not a good idea when you are surrounded by all levels of cycling abilities! I lost Lorraine at some point in the Arboretum.

Near the Seward Park end of the ride along Lake Washington, the sun was just starting to peek over the mountains. As I made the turn at Seward Park to go up the one-block, short, steep hill, there was a guy crashed in the middle of the hill. How does one crash going uphill? I suspect he didn't get shifted until he was going up, lost momentum, and couldn't get out of his pedals fast enough. He was still trying to get out of the pedals while laying on the road. Only one crash, and that was at the end of the "Blaze of Glory"--that's not too bad!

The first stop comes at mile 24 in Kent. I rolled in there at 6:24. This year, unlike the previous years I did STP, they had bike racks to hang your bike on. This is a great improvement. In the past, bikes would just be laying all I've in the grass. Although it made for a great photo, it could be difficult to get your bike out from amongst all the other bikes.

I hung up my bike and went to the potty shacks, then some food. They had Odwalla juices. I had a bottle of juice, a piece of banana, and a mini Clif bar. Annette had driven to Kent and was there when I came in. Lorraine was just 10 minutes behind me. We both gave our vests (and Lorraine gave her arm warmers) to Annette. The weather was overcast, but not cold. Since I had already been at the rest stop for 10 minutes, I headed out. That was the last I saw of Lorraine until she finished.

When I got back on the road, my goal was to draft as much as possible for the rest of the ride. I was quite successful. I rode behind two Group Health (the main sponsor of STP) guys all the way to Puyallup. Talked to one of the guys. This was his third STP and first time doing it in one day. I lost them at the top of the Puyallup hill because they stopped to take a break, but I continued. No problem, I just hooked onto the end of another group. Coming through Roy and McKenna, the line was so long (about 30 riders) that it was a little crazy. The guy in front of me slowed down really fast which caused me to brake quickly as well. The guy behind me almost ran into me (thankfully, he didn't). Never figured out why the guy in front of me stopped so fast. That line finally broke up coming into Yelm. I picked up another couple of riders on the trail to Tenino. I did this most of the way to Centralia. I have little memory of the scenery; just the view of the wheel in front of me.

In Centralia, the lunch stop for one-day riders, I got my free Creamsicle and chocolate milk. I parked my bike and got in line for the potty shack. I ate my ice cream and drank my chocolate milk while waiting in line. Of the things you do at the rest stops, the main thing is waiting in line for the sani-cans. After that, I went to get some lunch. The line for the one-day riders' lunch was too long. I just decided to eat an almond and coconut bar I was carrying and then got back on the road. Since the weather had been foggy and misty for much of the way into Centralia, I hadn't drank that much water so didn't need to fill my water bottles. I spent 15 minutes in Centralia and was back on the road at 11:30. My average speed for the first 100 miles was 17.3! That is the beauty of drafting! The second 100 was not so fast.

I pulled out of Centralia, seemingly, all alone. Of course, I wasn't for long. Groups of cyclists would pass me and I would hook on the end for awhile, but some were going too fast for me to keep up. When I was alone, I would just hunker down on my aero bars and keep cranking the pedals.

The sun came out in earnest as I got to Napavine. I stopped at the top of the Napavine hill and switched to my sunglasses lenses. Ahhh, much better!

There are a number of rolling hills between Napavine and Lexington. I would either try to hook on to a group that was going too fast, or I would get behind someone that slowed down too much going up the rollers. There was also a headwind. I was okay with the headwind because I hoped it would change to a tailwind on the Oregon side (which it did), and it kept me cooler as the temps got up into the 80's.

By the time I got to Castle Rock Highschool, I was in need of a little bit longer break. Up until then, I had spent, at the most, 10 minutes at the other rest stops (except 15 in Centralia). In Castle Rock I bought a bottle of Gatorade and a Reese's. I went into the Highschool where they have the flush toilets. I even took off my gloves and washed my hands with soap and warm water (a luxury not available with sani-cans)! I had my sun sleeves on and I wet them down with cold water from the water horses. All in all, I was only there for 20 minutes, but it seemed longer.

I skipped the Lexington stop since it is only 7 miles after Castle Rock. From there it was not too far to the Lewis and Clark bridge over the Columbia River at Longview. One-day riders do not get escorted over the bridge like two-day riders do on Sunday. If you are going over the bridge on Saturday, you're on your own. However, there is a decent shoulder, and it is not an issue. In fact, because there aren't 250 cyclists going over at the same time, it is easier to get that nice downhill speed coming down the other side of the bridge. That might be where I hit my maximum speed for the day of 36 mph.

Once on the Oregon side, it's more rollers but, with that nice tailwind, they weren't too bad. I was still, occasionally, hooking onto someone's rear wheel, but not for very long. At one point, there was a line of about 6 riders. The guy at the end, who I was behind, kept drifting back, then standing up to pedal to catch up to the line (I'm sure to get his butt off the saddle). That was too exhausting for me to maintain, so I let that one go.

I stopped at the Gobles mini-stop for more Gatorade and a brownie. The min-stops are typically fundraisers for various organizations (usually youth groups), so I don't mind purchasing food from them. From there it was 10 more miles to St. Helens, the last STP sponsored food stop.

At the St. Helens stop they had watermelon. It tasted so good I had two slices! I also soaked my feet in cold water and took off my sun sleeves. It was 5:00. I texted Annette to let her know where I was, then got back on the road for the last 30 miles.

I rode with a gal who was doing her first STP (and in one day like Lorraine). At one point, I was following her (we took turns leading). She reached into her jersey pocket and pulled out a bar. Apparently, it wasn't what she wanted, as she put it into another pocket and reached in again. She pulled another bar out of the pocket which also was not what she was looking for. She put that in the other pocket and reached in yet again! I rode up beside her and told her it looked like she had a magic bottomless pocket of food. She said she did have a lot of food and asked me if I needed anything. I told her I had my own bottomless pocket of food (at that time I had a pocket with a brownie, Rice Krispie Treat, Clif Shot Blocks, and a granola bar a kid had handed to me as I was going down the road).

The gal (never caught her name) stopped at the last mini-stop in Scapoose to get more water. I stopped, but only briefly (ate the other half of a package of Shot Blocks).

The last 20 miles were interesting in that the route did not go the same way it had gone in previous STPs. Instead of going all the way into Portland on St. Helens Rd., then over the Burnside Bridge, we turned off and went over the much more scenic St. John's Bridge. There was one last longish hill to get up to the bridge, but it was a great way to go.

After the bridge we worked our way To Willamette Ave., Rosa Parks, then Vancouver Ave. to the Rose Quarter. There were bike lanes the almost whole way. At the Coliseum, we returned to the usual route for the last 1/2 mile to the finish. As usual, it was stoplight after stoplight. Finally, the Finish Chute was there, I was riding down it, and my sixth STP (second in one day) was completed! I finished at 7:14pm for at total time of 14 hours and 20 minutes, with a ride time of 12 hours and 14 minutes, and an overall average of 16.6 mph. Not too bad for a 50 year old!

Lorraine completed the ride, coming in at 9:15. When her son asked her how it was, she said it was the hardest thing she has ever done--even harder than childbirth! Which reminds me of part of something my dad says about things that are difficult, it's something something, and "makes childbirth a pleasure". Now, how my DAD would know what childbirth feels like??? I don't know...

Anyway, we did it! We both survived! AND, I HAVE NO PLANS TO EVER DO IT AGAIN!!! Give me 1000 mile bike tour anyday!

Here are some photos. Some are not so good, but you get the idea.


Tiffany Wallace said...

WOW!!! I'm just grinning reading this. My gosh Colleen, great job to both of you! :)

DJL said...

Greetings, and congrats on finishing.

I'm very interested in finding out more about the person you saw lying in the road just past Seward Park. My friend and his wife were doing the 2-day trip, and my friend was switching between and upright and a recumbent. His first switch was to occur at the top of the Juneau St hill. He was at least a half-hour late when I texted him, which I believe prompted him to call me from Seward park. He had crashed somewhere nearby, and ended up with a concussion and short-term memory loss. He has no memory of what happened, and we are trying to reconstruct the accident from possible witnesses. If the person you saw was about 60, close-cropped white beard, and down on his left side, then I'd really like to contact you directly.

Again, congratulations on your accomplishment (his wife finished the 2 day trip with little difficulty, but he ended up with a better set of bruises and stitches).

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

astrodave100 (at) gm**l (dot) com