Video of RAMROD

Day’s Verse:
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles…

Isaiah 40:27-31

One of the other riders in our group, Blake, brought a video camera along on RAMROD. Here’s his compilation video, which runs 3 minutes and does an excellent job capturing the feel of the ride. I make a few appearances. Look for black & white kit and helmet streamers.

Edited to add: There was another course photographer on the way. Here’s a (fairly dramatically overexposed) picture he got of me.
BH1_1960.jpg

RAMROD Ride Report

Day’s Verse:
For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.

Isaiah 40:27-31

Well, here it is, two days after RAMROD, and I still haven’t written about my experience yet. What to say? I’ve been thinking about this ride since January. I trained for it intensively for 16 weeks before the ride, and rode with an eye towards preparing even before that. In that time, I’ve eaten innumerable Clif bars, drunk endless bottles of Ironman Perform (lemon-lime), consumed uncountable pounds of pasta and oatmeal, and pedaled millions of strokes and thousands of miles. It’s been one of the pre-ride rainiest seasons anybody can remember, and several times I rode soaking wet and cold, refusing to let bad weather derail my training. I’ve spent so Saturdays away, Ian has an entire Saturday routine that doesn’t include me.

So you could say that I’ve been keenly anticipating this ride for some time. Yes. Of course, everybody’s fear was that it would rain, but as Thursday approached, it became increasingly clear that we would have excellent weather: clear, sunny, and warm but not too hot.

Wednesday evening, Dad and I ate yet another pasta dinner together at Mom and Dad’s house. We packed the car and laid out everything we wanted beforehand. And at about 8:00 pm, I went to bed. We planned on leaving the house by 3:45 am (and that means getting up by 3:15 am), which is early enough that it’s hard to decide whether it qualifies as “extremely late tonight” or “outrageously early tomorrow morning.” The previous couple mornings I had prepared for this hideous wake-up time activity by getting up ever-earlier, and Wednesday woke up at 4:00 am. This meant that when I turned the light out at 8:00 pm, although I was excited for the ride and it was still light out, I actually fell asleep fairly easily.

My body woke me up at 3:00 am on Thursday morning. This worked well. I put on my kit, to which I’d already affixed my number (one less thing to forget), and made myself yet another bowl of oatmeal. It was so early, Carmel didn’t even know what to do. After breakfast, we loaded the last few things into Dad’s car and hit the road just about on time. The sun had not yet risen, and we enjoyed the benefit of highly-responsive stoplights that changed in our favor as soon as we pulled up. It took us almost exactly an hour to reach the start line in Enumclaw.

Of course, we needn’t have hurried — with 17 people in our group, it took the usual inexplicably long time to get us all together and ready to ride. About 5:30 am, we were all there, provisioned, bathroomed, and ready to roll. Here’s a picture of some of us waiting at the start line.

As we left, we passed through a narrow start lane where volunteers removed one of two detachable numbered tags from our jersey numbers. This was their way of counting which people had started the ride. When we finished, they took the matching tag and presumably paired it with the one they obtained at the start, to ensure all the riders made it off the course safely.

Then we rode. We rode in a very long “paceline” — that is, people in the front rotated through, taking turns pulling. After a certain amount down in the line, that system fell apart and people just rode without rotating to the front. We rode fast, averaging about 21 mph for the first 30 miles. I took my turn pulling a couple times, and then decided to let stronger, faster people do the work. At one point the group got split up, and I chased down the clump of people ahead of me, riding in the high 20s for sustained periods. When we pulled into the stop in Eatonville* at mile 30-ish, I decided that was plenty of that; we still had all the climbing left to do, and I needed my legs to last another 120 miles. However, the route was quite beautiful, all these rolling green hills, the sun rising against Mt. Rainier, the air cool and fresh and clean… it was heavenly. Here’s a picture of the group very early on.

Here’s a picture one of my riding buddies took at the rest stop in Eatonville.

Just before Eatonville, one of my friends — Heather — had the misfortune to have a mechanical that the wrench at the stop couldn’t fix. Her official RAMROD was over at that point, but she did manage to redeem the ride by getting her bike fixed elsewhere and doing the last part of the ride.

After Eatonville, we left in a large but reasonable-sized group, but fairly quickly split into increasingly small groups. This was good. I let the fast people go off and be fast (and they were; they finished 100 people ahead of me, and I only ever saw them once on the rest of the ride), and rode with a group that went a pace I could sustain. I pulled a fair amount for the next 25 miles and felt fresh, strong, and overall great. The sun continued to rise, giving us fabulous lakeside reflections of wooded hills lit by morning sunlight with clear, light blue skies. One of the guys I rode with, Blake, had a video camera that he kept whipping out. I hope I get to see some of the footage, because it was really beautiful. No pictures of that stage, sadly. GPS battery held out through this point, astonishing me.

At the rest stop around mile 55, I looked around and realized we’d left a number of my buddies behind, including Dad. We regrouped at the rest stop — which had food that I didn’t eat; I had my own Clif bars, and somehow riding after having eating chocolate croissants sounded terrible. At every opportunity, though, I used port-a-potties and refilled my water. I diligently drank at least 1 bottle per hour, and ate almost one Clif bar per hour, working hard on consuming the recommended nutrients. It really helped, I think, too, even though it felt like I kept constantly choking down more food or pulling out that bottle again. After a while the bottles and cages got so coated with partly-dried sugar stickiness that they started forming some kind of adhesive that made it nearly impossible to remove the bottle from the cage. I had to start rinsing the bottles and cages off, and even then, the problem wasn’t fixed until I got home and used soap on both surfaces.

Back to the ride. After that second rest stop, we gathered up our group — which continued to shrink — and headed into the park. I had to let out a whoop of excitement when we officially passed through the gates into Mt. Rainier National Park, it was just so exciting! As we rolled through, park rangers called to us to slow down and spread out. Then they read out our bib numbers to other people with clipboards. I assume this was to keep “bandits” (non-registered riders) from joining the ride, a practice most strenuously discouraged. I was number 809**, but they read it as 808 initially. I wonder if there were any repercussions for the real number 808…

Entering Mt. Rainier National Park really marked the beginning of the serious climbing. The first big climb was up to Inspiration Point, which people talked about as the road to Paradise. I know Paradise is a place in the park, but I couldn’t help but mentally agree: It felt like a road to paradise. The huge old-growth trees, with the sunlight filtering through; the winding road; the glimpses of the mountain’s snowy peak; the bridges over rivers somewhere far below; it was just wonderful. Partway up, the two guys — Craig and Jay, both people I knew from Earthdreams and previous RTS rides — I was riding with stopped for pictures. All we had were not-very-good cell phone camera pictures, but here’s me with Craig.

We took a short detour for a better view, and the guys took some more pictures. When we pulled back onto the course, we passed Dad, who had apparently been not far behind us and got ahead while we were enjoying the astonishing vistas. The valley was so far down (and we’d ridden that entire way up!), the river down there winding through the trees, with the mountains marching off into the hazy distance… Well, more of the same, but never boring. I couldn’t have accommodated my camera in my pockets, but I wish I had some way of recording some of the panoramas we saw.

When we got to the top of Paradise, after about 20 miles of climbing, there was a water-and-bathroom stop. We peed, refilled bottles, and I saw Dad. He wasn’t feeling too hot, but we took a happy picture anyway. It was so much fun, I could hardly contain myself.

Then we started the descent from Paradise, and it was glorious. The road wasn’t in the best condition, but the views of the mountain in Reflection Lake; the lupines and other wildflowers blooming on the sides; the valleys; and did I mention THE MOUNTAIN?! Holy smokes, it was so fabulous. I know I keep saying that, so I’ll try to move on now. Craig took this picture of me on the way down.

Because of all the views I kept wanting to gaze at, I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road. I really needed to keep my eyes on the road, too, because it was somewhat winding, the guard rail protecting us from thousand-foot-tumbles wouldn’t stop a child on a trike, and the road had a lot of frost heaves and cracks. I followed Craig’s line, since he’d done RAMROD before and had an idea of where to put himself to avoid the worst of the road (in the oncoming traffic lane, often, but we only saw about 3 cars going the other way, so it was fine). I believe this picture, by one of the official course photographers, was taken on the descent from Paradise, although it may’ve been the next one, coming down Backbone Ridge.

Backbone Ridge was the next climb, and it just didn’t feel like that big of a deal. It was short and sweet, with a good descent that we were able to fly down. I practiced cornering, something I’m generally no good at.

Then we got to the bottom of the climb to Cayuse Pass. I took off my arm warmers and vest (which came off for every climb, and went back on for every descent). Thus far, Craig, Jay, and I had been holding back, saving energy for the climb up Cayuse. When we got to the start of the climb, Jay decided he was going to take off. We waved goodbye to him and took our time, riding at a pace that allowed us to have a (slow, multi-pause-per-thought) conversation. It was so very peaceful and quiet. We hardly saw anybody, bicyclist or motorist.

A bit more than halfway up the 12-mile climb, we came to a much-needed water stop. Cayuse is the steepest climb, and it’s also the third one. By then you’re fairly tired, you’ve been drinking quite a bit, and it had a good number of open, sunny stretches that could’ve been really blistering if it was any hotter. The stop felt good. I rinsed my bottles and cages off for a slight improvement in on-bike bottle extraction, a gain lost not long after as I spilled more sticky energy drink all over. After the halfway stop, Craig and I got separated. I pulled ahead, increasing speed to a whopping 8 mph or so. I got to the top feeling quite good, much less tired than I would’ve imagined. (Don’t get me wrong, I was tired. Just not exhausted.) Jay was waiting at the top, and we then waited for Craig.

When Craig pulled up, he looked pale and unwell. We made him drink a bottle of water with an electrolyte tablet in it, and then we just rested up there for a while. When Craig started perking back up, we began the fabulous 10-mile descent down Cayuse Pass to the lunch stop. Actually, they call it a deli stop, because you eat a sandwich there regardless of what time you arrive. Anyway, we had a great flight down the mountain, and the guys’ superior mass translated into dramatically superior momentum over the distance. However, I caught up with them as they soft-pedaled to the deli stop.

At the deli stop, we saw the fast Earthdreams people! They were just leaving. This was a tad disappointing, because I’d been hoping to ride with them (read: “suck their wheels”) the last 40 miles, which are known to have pretty stiff headwinds most of the way back to Enumclaw. However, I wasn’t about to give up my bathroom, water, and food break just to keep up with those guys, so they went off and finished very early while the rest of us sat around and ate. As we waited, more of our group rolled in, including Dad, so we gathered a good number of people to work together those last long miles. Here’s me and Dad at lunch.

The last miles were the hardest for me. My GPS, which had miraculously held out until about 3 miles after the lunch stop, finally died. I had no way of knowing what time it was, making eating and drinking on schedule impossible; I didn’t know how many miles we had left, making pacing incredibly difficult; I didn’t know my speed; and the wind was fierce. Our Earthdreams crew ended up in a larger group of Lakemont Cycling Club riders and some other miscellaneous people, none of whom we knew. The speed kept vacillating, one minute fast, the next slowing down, so it was impossible to get on somebody’s wheel, even if I’d wanted to — which I didn’t, because I didn’t know any of them. It’s not smart to draft off a rider you don’t know.

In short, I kept having to put on spurts of extra speed to make up gaps in the line that formed as people slowed then sped up. It wasn’t pretty, and I started getting really fatigued. Francis, who I know, filled in a gap for me at one point, and boy did it hurt to grab his wheel and hang on. At that point he told me we had 20 miles left. I just put my head down and soldiered on, refusing to let them drop me even though I was so, so tired. I’m sure that was a nice section of road, but I don’t remember it at all. Just the pain and refusing to give up. Dad, I’m sorry to say, continued to not feel his best, and got dropped somewhere along the way. I was completely unaware of anything beyond the wheel in front of me, so I don’t know when that happened. Turns out we were riding at a pace around 22 to 25 mph, which is why I struggled so hard every time I had to catch up.

Happily for me, after we turned onto the delightfully-named Mud Mountain Road, Francis pulled over for a pit stop. Most of the group continued on, leaving us with just a few people, most of whom I knew. We did the last 10 miles together, and at one point Craig even gave me a little push so I didn’t fall off the wheel in front of me. Heh, there’s something to be said for riding with big guys who can put out a lot of power.

Then we finished! We rolled in, they gave us a little patch that says RAMROD 2011, took our finishing tag off our bibs, and called out our names. And there were a bunch of the fast people, many of them showered, looking all fresh and perky and annoying me. I took myself off to find the free ice cream truck, and by the time I’d consumed my fruit Popsicle, felt much better. I couldn’t get at my chocolate milk or food, since it was all in Dad’s car and he had the key, but I just sat and chatted with my buddies. We shot the breeze, rehashed the ride, exclaimed over the excellence of the weather and the ride in general, and looked at pictures of ourselves the official course photographer had posted. I bought mine for $10. I think it was worth it.

Dad rolled in a while later, very tired. We took a while recovering, taking showers, and generally getting combobulated. Then Dad heroically drove home again, dropping me off at my house with my zillion bags of stuff.

And that was RAMROD. I can hardly wait for next year. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to High Pass Challenge, the next big ride.


* Eatonville may sound familiar because I did an OSPI training there back in the spring. I got snowed, rained, and sleeted on during that three-day stay. Happily, my second Eatonville experience, with RAMROD, was infinitely nicer.

** Later I learned that the numbers are assigned in reverse age order. So the oldest rider on the course is number 1, and the youngest is number 800-something. I must’ve been close to the youngest, with a number of 809. I wish I’d known that when I was riding! Gives me a whole different perspective on when I pass people.

PS – Most of the pictures are Craig’s, with a scattering of other peoples’ included. I snagged them all off of Facebook, where you can see lots more if you really want.

Pictures and Excitement

Day’s Verse:
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

On my walk home today, I encountered a guy standing in this blue-and-glass box. He seemed to be talking to himself. What the heck?
Phone Booth

In Seattle, a bus passed me and when I saw it, I literally stood openmouthed for a good 30 seconds. Why? Because apparently now Community Transit has DOUBLE DECKER BUSES. This is so incredibly cool that I may have to ride one of them just for the heck of it, even though I don’t actually need to go anywhere on the route. (Community Transit primarily serves Snohomish County, and I don’t think I’ve ever had cause to use one of their buses.) I hope Metro and Sound Transit gets some double decker buses soon!

Finally, I’m instigating a new Calvin and Hobbes day. Once a week — whichever day seems best to me — I’m going to post a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. I’ll start us off with probably my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon ever: “Is this a trick question?”
Calvin & Hobbes: Trick Question

Two days until RAMROD. Not that anybody around here is counting.

Sunny Activities

Day’s Verse:
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.
Hebrews 11:1-2

I haven’t blogged since last week for one excellent reason: The sun made a prolonged appearance! To celebrate, I spent lots of time outside and got festively sunburned on the back of my shoulders, an area that sees the sun approximately 0.8% of the year (on a good year).

Taking advantage of the sun, I also shaved our front yard, not quite to golf course standards, but to a respectable length. Believe it or not, despite the frequent summer drizzles, the grass has mostly died off again for the summer, a fact for which I am profoundly grateful. I don’t like mowing. Never have, but regardless it’s been one of my chores in homes that have a yard since I was big enough to push the mower. Now Ian and I tend to split the mowing duties pretty fairly, so I can’t really complain.

I also used the sun to dry clothes, which always feels both old-fashioned and glowingly, self-righteously environmental; of course, read books outside; and, also of course, went for bike rides. Nothing extravagant*, though, because RAMROD is this coming Thursday, the 28th. We’re all cautiously optimistic about the probability of rain on RAMROD, but rain or shine, I’ll be on my bike in Enumclaw at 5:30 am on Thursday, heading for Mt. Rainier.

My goals for RAMROD: (1) To finish; (2) To have fun riding with my friends; and (3) To average above 17 mph. But (3) is really a far, far third after the first two, and I’ll be quite happy with just achieving those. On Sunday Dad and I picked up our RAMROD packets, which contain the all-important numbers that are required for legitimate riders to prove you belong (and, more importantly, that you deserve to get the FOOD at rest stops). After six months of thinking about this and training for it, RAMROD is really happening. I just have to not do something dumb like trip on a stair and break my ankle between now and Thursday. I imagine Cadel Evans feels this way but much more so, having finally won the Tour de France.

That’s more than enough bike talk. I’ll leave you with this picture of Ian, who’s doing something that I really love because it’s so him. (He got 20 out of 48 Star Trek trivia questions right, a truly impressive feat, given the absurd detail of the questions.)
Star Trek Trivia

* I’m quite sure Ian would say it was extravagant. I rode 230 miles total during the week. On Saturday I rode 75 miles at an 18.8 mph pace with about 4500 feet of climbing with my riding buddies, but neither that afternoon nor in subsequent days did I ever feel tired or sore. I did eat three pieces of pizza at the nerd party we went to that afternoon, though.

In which I, too, talk about the weather

Day’s Verse:
…all the underground springs erupted and all the windows of Heaven were thrown open. Rain poured for forty days and forty nights.
Genesis 7:12

Here’s the view out our bedroom window this morning.
2011-07-21 Weather
I’m not trying to jump on the “whining about Seattle’s pathetic summer weather” bandwagon because I’ve been riding that wagon in person for a while already now, if not on this blog. You can’t tell, but there are rain drops on the window. Frankly, it’s depressing. We don’t get much nice weather around here anyway, and all winter we console ourselves: “Yes, we’ve got 9 months of heavy overcast, minimal daylight, and frequent rain. But the summer makes up for it by being so pretty!”

Sadly, our hopes this summer have been deeply disappointed. We’ll get a day, or half a day, of summer-like weather — clouds, yes, but some blue sky, and temperatures in the mid-60s to mid-70s — but by the next day, it’s faded back to low 60s and drizzling. At first we thought, “Oh, this will pass and we’ll get some nice summery weather soon.” But as the weeks drag on with no change in sight, people are starting to get a little desperate. Last weekend we postponed our bike ride from Saturday to Sunday in the hopes of nicer weather, and instead got colder, rainier weather.

A KOMO news meteorologist wrote a blog post titled Seattle: Home of the 78-minute summer, and people went nuts talking about it. The Seattle Times even reported on the response to that post, it drew so much buzz. A week ago, Cliff Mass wrote a blog post titled This is getting bizarre, then followed it up with another post titled Why do we suffer? It’s not a good sign when meteorologists are at a loss to explain our pathetic weather. They are even having a hard time predicting what’s coming — many days will call for rain, and we’ll get a bit of sun; but then, too, days listed confidently as partly sunny turn out to be 60° and heavy drizzle.

I’m having a hard time believing that people in the midwest and on the East Coast are cooking in 100°+ temperatures. We haven’t seen a day above 80° all year, and only maybe one day legitimately in the 80s. At this point, I’m oscillating between feeling depressed and resigned about this weather pattern. All I’m really hoping for is a miraculous break on July 28, when we ride RAMROD. I’m riding it no matter what, but man… 150 miles up and down mountain passes in 60° rain isn’t my idea of fun.

Sigh. Maybe it’s time to think about a trip to somewhere east of here.

If I Had A Million Dollars

Day’s Verse:
When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens:
the more you get, the less you are.

Proverbs 1:19

I could buy a fur coat, but not a real fur coat, because that’s cruel.*

Or I could buy the 20-foot animatronic triceratops from Hammacher Schlemmer and still have $650,000 left.

Receiving the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog always gives me pause. For example, on the same page that lists the triceratops, they list the hand fitness trainer ($29.95), the under seat rolling carry on ($99.95), and the cat’s phantom mouse teaser ($29.95), among other items. It just makes me wonder what they’re thinking, not just about the products — although I have to wonder, what’s wrong with a squeezy ball, a backpack, and a piece of string, respectively — but about why they put these things together on a page towards the middle of the catalog. Is there some secret internal logic to the product organization and display that I’m just not fathoming? This will keep me up at night, you know.

In fact, the entire catalog makes me wonder. First of all, who dreams up products like the specialized potted plant hand truck, the phototherapy hairbrush, the elliptical machine office desk, the extremely ugly remote controlled rolling beverage cooler, the two story inflatable black cat, or — honestly — any of the other products listed? (Sorry for so many links; it’s really hard to single out just a few of these amazing products.) Why does H-S think it’s a good idea to sell this stuff? And most of all: Who buys these things, and what are they thinking??

I will say, though, that in a future life I hope to write copy for Hammacher Schlemmer. For example, what could you say about the posture improving saddle seat (which looks, frankly, like guaranteed misery for every second of the victim’s seated experience)? Here’s an excerpt of what some talented ad copy writer dreamed up:

This saddle seat helps you replicate an equestrian’s healthy posture to reduce back fatigue and discomfort while seated. Its gentle forward slope shifts the pelvis forward and raises the buttocks above the knees, resulting in semi-standing posture that discourages slouching. [My thought: I imagine so! It would also discourage sitting.] … Unlike traditional chairs that can restrict blood circulation in the legs, the saddle seat does not exert contact pressure on the back of the legs, reducing muscle fatigue. [It sure looks like it’d exert uncomfortable pressure other places! I’d rather have pressure on the back of my legs, thanks very much. Also, reduce fatigue? WTF?]

It would take some true genius to come up with anything to say about most of these products, and yet each one has its own detailed, superlative-laden copy. Amazing.

I will leave you with this final product call-out. Without cheating and looking at the link, what would you say this is for, and how much does it cost?

*If you haven’t heard the live version of BNL with Weird Al on the accordion for that song, check it out now. No, the video isn’t great, but it’s what I could find.

It’s Like They Say…

Day’s Verse:
And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish.
Hebrews 6:10-ish

One bad egg can rot the whole barrel. They’re coming apart at the knees. We’ll burn that bridge when we get there. Ah, the happy world of cliches, especially mis-quoted cliches. Where would people be without cliches to fall back on when genuine articulate communication fails us? Ian and I have a magnetic cliche set on our fridge, and we really do get many hours of enjoyment out of it. Here are some of our recent cliches.

Magnetic Cliche 1

Magnetic Cliche 3

Magnetic Cliche 4

Magnetic Cliche 5

Magnetic Cliche 2
I particularly try to use “there is no I in eyeballs” whenever I can. Which, yes, isn’t too often. But still, if I use it around you, now you know where it came from.

For a not-so-quick ride report for this weekend, click beneath the fold. Continue reading “It’s Like They Say…”