Hank and Evo in... Paradise
Self-serving preamble: When I do these long-winded reports of century plus rides, they are largely for my benefit and so I may touch on some minutia that may be better left unsaid in a more prose-driven medium.
This was my fifth or sixth RAMROD, but it was the first time I didn’t stay overnight in Enumclaw. In addition to saving a few bucks, I figured it would be just as dark in my bedroom at 3 as it would be in a hotel at 4:15. I was right.
I met Hank at his place and we quickly loaded my two bags and my bike in his car. One bag was for all my ride stuff (helmet, clothes, bar, bottles) and one for the post ride shower (towel, soap, shorts, etc.). The two bag system worked well. Another local rider was joining us and the three of us headed out with the slight hope of finding coffee.
Not a lot was open at 4 AM so we drove straight to the start. There also wasn’t much traffic at that hour, so the drive went pretty fast. Hank secured his favorite parking spot and in no time we were dressed and filling our jersey pockets for the miles ahead.
Fumble, fumble, fumble..
In an absolute fluke, we rolled out at the exact time we had planned to start, 5:45.
We settled into a paceline with some friends Hank knew including two tandems, and although the pace was slower than I would have liked, it was going to be a long day and I didn’t mind saving my bullets. To fend off the morning chill I had arm warmers and a throw away T-shirt over my jersey. To top off the look I had 98 cent cotton gardening gloves. While I may have looked like an idiot, if we came to a spot where we had to stop and pull weeds before continuing, who would be laughing then?
Go tandem go !
At the first rest stop, with 33 miles behind us, I folded the T-shirt and left it for an uncertain future. Leaving the rest stop Hank and I passed the tandems on a rolling uphill and despite not pushing the pace; we didn’t see them again until the rest stop just before the entrance, sixty miles into the ride. At that stop we ate and refilled bottles. I found a home for the cotton gloves and we pulled out with the tandems for the featured event of the day, the trip through the park.
Note the gloves on the saddle..
Entering the park.
As we passed through the entrance to the park, the tandems bid us adieu as we began the 3,500 foot climb to Paradise. Hank, Mark and I were ahead of our group and Hank pulled away. I couldn’t attack with a teammate in the break, so I hung with Mark until he decided to slow it down.
Up we go.
As we climbed up the canyon with the Nisqually River to our right I was still in my big ring and I was just blowing past riders. I wasn’t killing myself, but it was as if the other riders were stopped. In a short time I spotted Hank ahead and steadily closed the gap. I was warming up and rolled down my arm warmers. We chatted and I snapped some pictures. We took turns pulling and when I noticed I had gapped him, I backed off.
Crossing the Nisqually River
At 4,800’ the RAMROD officials stood at the junction shouting, “Right turn, right turn.” Hank and I continued on the gradual left and rode to Paradise, which is no longer on the official RAMROD course. I had harbored visions of having to hide my number and behave like a fugitive, but this was not the case. We caught and passed three other riders and took in amazing views of Rainier.
We stopped at the parking lot and snapped some pics. This detour added 650’ of climbing and a few miles.
Hank is glad to be at the high point.
The descent back to the road was a blast as it is a one way road and you can go apex to apex without fear of oncoming traffic. In no time we were at the next food stop and enjoying more food. We now had 90 miles and 6,500’ of climbing behind us.
Time to fly
My stomach was less than happy and my post ride analysis is that I mixed Hammer products (complex carbs – Maltodextrin) with other drinks (simple sugars) and the resulting combination was not good. I will put this to the test this weekend at our team training camp.
Leaving the food stop we had a short climb that is always confusing. If you expect the climb, then when you do it the climb ends fast and you think, “that was nothing.” If you discount the climb, then at some point you think to yourself, “is this ever going to end?” I was somewhere in between and thought, “that rise up ahead had better be the top.” It was.
The descent was a joy and my ride performed wonderfully. I felt like I could lean over until my handlebars would touch the pavement and not lose traction. There are three 180 degree turns and I just leaned into them and let it fly.
Note the car passing us. We tried to avoid having a "Hoogerland" experience.
I call this one thirty three point seven..
The route here goes north and climbs steadily. I felt strong, but a twinge in my left quad necessitated my letting Hank get away as I just kept it spinning. I unzipped my jersey (full zips are the absolute best) and continued passing riders. There is a water stop four or so miles from the top and on this hot afternoon I stopped and refilled as I was down to half a bottle.
Leaving the stop the road turns west and gets steep. Many riders were weaving as they tried to fight their way to the top of Cayuse Pass. I was surprised to see so many in death march mode. In theory, everyone who does this knows what they are getting into.
The turns near the top hide the actual summit until you are almost there, and everyone who rides up that road is looking for the top. At the top was another checkpoint and I didn’t even unclip. After hearing them call my number, I just rolled on down to the deli stop at 120 miles.
I know you aren't supposed to have port a potties in your pictures, but sometimes you are so glad to see them, they deserve some honor.
Here we ate sandwiches and chips, drank soda, sat down and waited for the rest of Hank’s friends to arrive. Hank and I had shared our undertraining woes and we were not looking forward to the final 33 miles. In addition to a nasty headwind, on our winter forays to Crystal Mountain we had seen huge potholes and cracks in the pavement that we had been dreading for many months.
As we rolled out the tandems took the front. Hank was right behind them, and I was two riders behind Hank. In no time we were going 25 miles an hour. Then the tandems switched and we kept the same speed. Nobody else pulled on the flats. When we hit an uphill Hank would break the wind for one tandem and I led the other. Then back into formation and we flew down the road.
We blasted past four riders from Byrne who jumped on. Ten miles later when we turned off highway 410 and soft pedaled for a moment the four took off without a word. A handful of other riders had also tagged on and they were thanking us as if we had saved their children from a fire. Hank and one of the tandems caught the Byrne riders and let them know a thank you was in order and what they had done wasn’t cool.
In no time we were on 456th and then making the left turn to the finish line. After showers and food we could once again pass as normal people. I burned 6,000 calories and climbed 10,000 feet.
This was a different RAMROD experience for me. First I didn’t have a lot of focused training for the event, just a decent base and our July 4th ride. Second I usually cook it the first 60, this time was really casual. Third, I usually climb better than most, creeping by slower riders and getting passed myself. This time we blasted past riders and nobody passed me on an uphill. What is with THAT ?, Fourth, the dreaded parts were easy. The long slog after the deli stop was easy. I remember the miles after the final descent from Mud Mountain dam feeling like forever. This time they were nothing. Fifth, I wasn’t sore afterwards. I wore compression tights for 28 hours after finishing, but I was able to trot up stairs, sit on an airplane etc. with almost no discomfort. I was more sore on Wednesday from my weight workout Monday than I was the day after RAMROD. Sixth, I didn’t overthink it.
Notes to self: Those Assos bibshorts cost a lot and are worth every penny. Don’t mix energy drinks. Arm warmers were nice. Take the little spray sunscreen next time. I think my pedals have reached the end of their life. Skip the hotel, dark is dark.