In 2016 McWoodie Honored the black and orange in the fabled NW classic.
This is his report:
Let the games begin!!
Following the advice of Hank “I’ve only done RAMROD 17 times and would do it again if I could use an oar” a.k.a. The Coroner.... Mike, Steve and I had a prompt (yet slightly painful) departure at 4:15am with a goal of getting to the start line in Enumclaw around 5:30-5:50 (“before all the fast guys have left” said Hank). En route to Enumclaw, I shared two RAMROD rules with RAMROD virgin Steve: “don’t have your nose in the wind for more than a minute, and be sure to be in a large group after the last food stop.” More on this later…
True to Hank’s words, we rolled through the starting line at 5:45am along with two fast looking Audi riders. Looks did not deceive, and it turns out the Audi team has their own version of Big John. The larger of the two guys proceeded to take 5 minute 25mph pulls and the second guy would occasionally come around him to take his own pull. It took them about 45 minutes to get smart and finally accept the offers from us to do some work and the 5 of us worked well together, flying past many groups who had rolled earlier. A good sized train eventually formed behind us, but we kept rotating through with just the 5 of us to keep things safe (at least for us). Right before the Eatonville food stop we were joined by a guy named Josh who was riding strong and joined our rotation.
At Eatonville, the Audi guys found 7-8 of their teammates and it looked it might be a little while before they got the group momentum to roll, so after saying “thanks”, Steve, Mike, Josh and I got back on the road. On the first small climb out of Eatonville, Josh and I started to pull away from Mike and Steve. I let Josh go off ahead and drifted back to Mike and Steve, where Mike proceeded to implore me to go off ahead. Accepting the reality that we may actually all be happier that way, I bridged back up to Josh and we got to chatting. I learned he had quite the road racing season this year, though he’d never ridden RAMROD. Hmmm, this could get interesting. Riding towards the park entrance, we wound up in a paceline with 6 other guys. Which then became 5… then 4… then 3… and by the time we rolled into the food stop at mile 56 it was just me and Josh again, though we weren’t going all that hard.....
Tell me when it just starts to tickle.......
We grabbed food and drink. Just as Josh and I were getting ready to leave, Mike and Steve rolled in on the heels of a nice train of the Audi guys. We chatted for a bit (they seemed to be doing well) and I headed off towards the park with Josh to start the climb up to Paradise. We set a pretty steady pace. Occasionally Josh was going harder than I wanted to (I didn’t want to leave Zone 2) so I would drift back onto his wheel for a bit before coming back for some side-by-side conversation. It seemed like we were at the top in no time.
The descent into Box Canyon was fun and fast. I really felt the Dolomites descending form and was taking the sweeping turns at close to full speed and pedaling hard on the straight aways to build max speed. Seemed like I barely touched my brakes. Rolling into the food stop, I felt a slight cramp twinge and thought “that’s weird, never gotten cramps before on a descent – maybe I shouldn’t have been having quite so much fun”, so made sure to do a little stretching while wolfing down chocolate croissants and fruit – and pounded a teaspoon of salt that was there for the potatoes. Couldn’t hurt. Threw an extra banana in my pocket for good measure too.
Climb McWoodie, Climb!
I climb so well they gave me this stupid shirt....
Soon after leaving the food stop, the trouble began. We were at mile 88 and I started to feel cramps simultaneously in both adductors and called out to Josh who was pulling to stop for a second. I did a bit of stretching and pondered what the remaining 65 miles were going to be like. We started riding again, dropping the pace, but within 5 minutes I cramped again. Not sure what was going to be in store for me for the rest of the day, I told him to go on ahead. Ate the extra banana and did some more stretching, then set out at a pretty easy pace. At this point, I was in clear violation of Rule #1: “no nose in the wind for more than a minute”, finding myself riding solo all the way out of the park and up towards Cayuse pass. I was able to gradually lift the pace and went back to a Zone 2 effort up the climb. All on my own, I eventually started to catch and pass riders, but was trying to keep things easy to keep the cramping at bay.
Squashing Cramps is a lot like Squishing Gramps
I caught back up to Josh at about mile 104 (right at the water stop). He was starting to feel the distance and I left him to ride at his own pace to the top of Cayuse feeling glad we had talked earlier about “sometimes it’s harder to ride slower with others”. I waited for him at Cayuse for about 5-10 min. When he still had not arrived when a strong looking group started to descend, I elected to join them. Two cars being too cautious about passing cyclists took a little fun out of the descent (I wound up passing one of them on a straighter section), but the speed was fast with no use of the brakes until hitting the deli stop at Crystal Mountain.
The usual deli-stop feeding frenzy ensued. Josh rejoined and we sat in the shade with the other group eating for a while. We seemed to be out ahead of a lot of people. I kept looking around for others to roll in so we could have a nice big train into the headwinds along 410, but few were arriving. After a bit too much sitting around, Josh and I decided it was time to get moving even if it meant going out on our own (a clear Rule #2 violation).
Fortunately, the headwinds on 410 weren’t too bad and we had a good pace going. We caught a solo rider who joined us and rode with him until Josh got a flat. We stopped to change the flat (the other guy kept going), and about half way through the process, magically as if out of the woods, a woman materialized with a floor pump and offers of food and water. Gotta love the supportive spouses of RAMROD riders. Just as the flat was fixed, a big train of riders came past so we jumped on our bikes and jumped on the train. Although the train was going a little slower than we were on our own, we were doing a ton less work which was definitely welcome at this point.
We turned off of 410 towards Mud Mountain road. Josh got another well-timed flat as the large group seemed to be gearing up towards a sketchy Cat 6 sprint to the finish. So, we stopped and patched that (as my new spare tube had a puncture -argh!), then ripped down Mud Mountain road and rolled into the finish. Cold drinks, ice cream, a rinse off with a hose, and a lounge chair in the shade were perfect. Mike and Steve rolled in about 1:45 later. As mandated by tradition, we grabbed dinner at Hank’s favorite Enumclaw Mexican restaurant and headed home at 6pm with zero traffic.
Tourists.........My numbers: Elapsed time: 9:05. Rolling time: 7:51. Average speed 19.5mph. Number of rules violated: 2. Max Avg Power (20 min): 244W (low end of Zone 3). Distance 153 miles. Elevation gain 9.259. Garmin thinks it was a 5297 calorie day. Time to start eating, again…
Thanks to McWoodie for sharing. He shared an earlier ride here.